George Dunlap, December 23, 2020. The last line in Chaput’s keynote prayer breakfast…we serve God best by living our faith with the kind of passion and joy that touches the hearts of others, and through them, reshapes the world. Are we welling to live a life of “Roland” (The Song of Roland)? Are we spiritually prepared to be the rear guard for others…?
One of the great legacies of our cultural history is La Chanson de Roland (The Song of Roland). It was composed a thousand years ago, in the mid-11th century, and it tells the story of the Battle of Roncevaux Pass. The battle took place on the border of Spain and France in A.D. 778, during the reign of Charlemagne. The story goes like this.
Charlemagne has been fighting in Spain against that country’s Muslim occupiers. The campaign has been a success. He now leads his army back to France to rest. But the pass he must use, Roncevaux Pass, is narrow and treacherous. So he leaves his favorite captain—Roland, a great Christian knight who’s beloved by his men—to command the rear guard and secure the entry to the pass. If there’s trouble, Roland will blow his horn, Oliphant, to signal his need. So Charlemagne and his army disappear into the pass.
What happens next is this. Roland’s stepfather betrays him. Roland is ambushed by a much larger Muslim force seeking to attack Charlemagne from the rear. Roland and his men fight heroically, and before they’re finally overwhelmed, Roland puts Oliphant to his lips. The sound of the great horn echoes along the pass. Charlemagne hears it, turns his army, hurries back, and crushes the enemy. But of course it’s too late for Roland and his men. They’ve done their duty and protected their friends, but they’ve given their lives doing it.Continue reading