Frederick of Prussia is rebuked by the General of his Hussars, a Catholic

January 2, 2014

When the Seven Years War was ended, the great General Zeithen became one of Frederick of Prussia’s greatest favorites. He was often invited to dine at the royal table, and always occupied the place of honor at the King s right hand, unless there happened to be some Prince of the royal blood present.

Now this General was a devout Catholic, and faithful in the practice of his religious duties.

Frederick II of Prussia

Frederick II of Prussia

One day the King sent him an invitation to dine with him, as he had invited a number of guests that day. But Zeithen sent an answer, asking the King to have the goodness to excuse him from attending on that occasion, as it was one of the days on which he had the custom of going to Holy Communion, and he wished to keep himself in a state of recollection and devotion all that day.

Not very long afterwards, when he went to the Court, the King began to taunt him. “Well, General,” he said,” how did you get on the other day at that Communion of yours?”

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At these words the King laughed, in which he was joined by all the courtiers around him, who thought it was an excellent joke.

But Zeithen raised his head with great dignity, and walked over to the place where the King was standing. Having bowed to him, he said in a voice firm and solemn: “Your Majesty knows well that I am a brave soldier, that I have fought courageously for you and for my country; and you know, too, that I am ready to do more still yea, to die if needs be in defense of our rights and liberties. But there is over us a Being more powerful than you or I, or all men together our God and Savior, Who, to redeem the world, shed the last drop of His Blood.

Frederick the Great was depicted listenig to Te Deum in the Charlottenburg palace chapel after winning the battle. Painting by Oskar Begas

Frederick the Great was depicted listenig to Te Deum in the Charlottenburg palace chapel after winning the battle. Painting by Oskar Begas

Now, I will not stand here and permit Him to be offended by words of irony and disrespect, even by you, O King, for in Him is centered my faith, my hope, all my consolation. Had it not been for the protection He granted to our arms, we never could have gained the victories we did gain, and if you do not honor Him, then you need not expect to see your country prosper. This, then, is what I have to say to you; I hope your Majesty will excuse me.”

The King, instead of being angry at his boldness, was greatly moved, and could not refrain from shedding a tear. He laid his hand upon the General’s shoulder, and said to him: “Happy Zeithen, I respect your religion and its practices. Follow them faithfully as you are doing now, and I promise you, you will never again hear from my lips words like what you heard today.”

Rev. D. Chisholm, The Catechism in Examples (London: R & T Washbourne, Ltd., 1919), 56-7.

Short Stories on Honor, Chivalry, and the World of Nobility—no. 348

 

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