Saint John the Baptist was a precursor for the many holy priests who are being persecuted for preaching the unadulterated Gospel. As the son of a priest, St. John the Baptist’s preaching led to his beheading. Yes, preaching the fullness of the truth comes at a great price, sometimes costing one’s priestly ministry or even one’s life. Nevertheless, it is shocking because some holy priests are not being handed over by a secular force like King Herod, but by their own bishops and religious superiors.
William Wallace, the thirteenth-century famed Scot whose life was chronicled in the Academy Award winning film, Braveheart, is no longer a past hero. His fortitude lives on today in the hearts of many priests. The same could also be said of St. John the Baptist. Many striking similarities exist between Wallace and heroic priests, namely, their fatherliness, their experiencing betrayal, and their courage.
William Wallace was a father to many of his men, warriors like himself, who became orphans after their own fathers were killed by the English tyrants. During 2020, many of us felt like orphans when our own bishops and priests withheld the sacraments from us. Thankfully, some priests were bold enough to find creative ways to feed their flock and hear their confessions.
Feeling helpless, many of us began to watch these courageous priests’ homilies online—priests whose sermons resembled William Wallace’s moving speeches before battle. These priests were not willing to capitulate to the government’s draconian measures. Yes, oppression and cowardice from their secular and religious leaders became the catalyst for William Wallace and these holy priests to lead their people to true freedom.
One of the most memorable and disheartening scenes in Braveheart occurs when Robert the Bruce betrays William Wallace, harkening back to Judas’ kiss. Tragically, many faithful priests and even the laity have been betrayed by the Robert Bruce’s of our time, the cardinals and bishops who continue to follow a different Gospel than the one taught by Christ. They do this by willingly allowing pro-abortion politicians to receive the Holy Eucharist and homosexual priests to prance through their dioceses.
After a woman portrayed Jesus during the Stations of the Cross at the 1993 World Youth Day, Mother Angelica said in a most disenchanted tone, “I’m so tired of you liberal Church in America.” How about Our Lord Himself, who once declared: “Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites: because you are like to whited sepulchers, which outwardly appear to men beautiful, but within are full of dead men’s bones, and of all filthiness” (Matt 23:27). What Father lets his children run across a dangerous intersection and get killed? Even worse, what father lets his children plunge into sin and go to Hell? Courageous priests proclaim what their children need to hear, not what they want to hear. And just as William Wallace courageously led his men into battle for their freedom, so also with these brave priests. These priests want nothing more than to lead their parishioners in the battle for their spiritual freedom, something far greater than earthly freedom.
These courageous priests are also loving and sympathetic contrary to those they call out. The latter are only filled with hate and intolerance. They do not fly the banner of Christ the King: one of love and mercy, but a felt, rainbow banner which attacks all who oppose them. Yes, they are the hypocrites of today whom Our Lord called out in St. Matthew’s Gospel. They are the divisive ones. They do not build bridges; they burn them down by disobeying Church teaching, remaining silent on moral issues. No, they do not care for their children, but only confuse and starve them by their ambiguous teachings and shuttering her church doors. Sadly, these are the wolves in sheep clothing (See Matt. 7:15).
Even though some bishops have removed these courageous priests or transferred them to a small country parish, they will never silence the truth. These bishops have only inspired the next Braveheart. And these zealous priests will only increase while these bishops and their liberal Church will die off. The Church they have sought to destroy is not their Church. It was never theirs. It belongs to Christ. It belongs to St. John the Baptist. It belongs to holy priests whose only mission is to lead their parish family to Heaven, not to abuse or abandon them.
In the words of William Wallace, “Every man dies, not every man really lives.” Every pope, cardinal, bishop, and priest will one day die, but not every one of them will live a saintly life. Yes, it seems as if only a handful of Church leaders are willing to lead their sheep into battle, and even die for their sheep like Christ. Echoing the words of William Wallace: “Holy Father, cardinals, bishops, and priests, would you trade one chance to be brave enough to tell our enemies, especially those in the government, that you may take our lives, but you’ll never take our freedom to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass!” Or will you lie in your bed for the rest of your life wishing you would have fought harder for Christ and His Church rather than yield to her foes?
Should our shepherds continue to be derelict let them heed the words of Bishop Athanasius Schneider, “But the higher the clergy, the stronger and stricter will be the judgment, because they had the task of being vigilant and protecting the flock from disease and danger and did not, and they even collaborated in spreading disease and danger, and acted as wolves in sheep’s clothing.”  The disease Bishop Schneider refers to is not a disease of the body; rather, it is a disease of the soul. Diseases like liberalism, modernism, socialism, and above all, sin kills the soul.
As evil continues to envelope the Church and world—and it will only get worse—the laity longs for courageous priests: priests who celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass as if it were their first, last, and only Mass. Priests who are not afraid of death. Priests who are more concerned with the state of our souls rather than the state of politics. Priests who seek to defend human life, especially the unborn, rather than live a comfortable life. Priests who unapologetically proclaim the truth. And priests who will fiercely defend their people from unnecessary government restrictions and forced medical experiments.
In the meantime, the laity cannot expect the Church to give us fierce preachers from the pulpit, great lovers of the Holy Eucharist, and martyrs in the confessional, if we are not willing to sacrifice for our families and die daily to sin. The home is the seed of future saints, the school of the Cross and the school of courage. With God’s help, courageous parents can raise up an army of holy children destined to be bold priests, religious, married, and single for the Lord. But for now, we must pray fervently that our priests, will have the courage to lead us in the battle against the flesh, the world, and the devil—even unto martyrdom, if it means saving our souls and those of our children! Yes, we need you William Wallace’s of the Church. For only those who are willing to die with Christ, will truly live.
 Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Christus Vincit: Christ’s Triumph Over the Darkness of the Age (Brooklyn, NY: Angelico Press, 2019) 135.
Patrick O’Hearn is an author and acquisitions editor at TAN Books. His subjects of interest include the lives of the saints and the interior life. He is author of Parents of the Saints: The Hidden Heroes Behind Our Favorite Saints (TAN Books, 2021).