Historical examples of loyalty in times of adversity are inspiring since they prove that something that seems so difficult is in fact possible. One example that stands out is the case of the two sailors charged with caring for the young heir to the Russian throne Tsarovich Nicholas in the early twentieth century.
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Their names were Klementy Nagorny and Andrey Deverenko, both sailors in the Russian Imperial Navy leading up to and during the Russian Communist Revolution in 1917. Their duty was to protect the young Tsarevich Nicholas from injuries due to his hemophilia. They performed their duties well and as a result received the gratitude of Tsar Nicholas and his wife, the Tsarina.
Both were loyal when times were good. Then the Communist Revolution exploded in Russia. Both sailors were faced with a test of their loyalty to the royal family.
When the moment of truth came, Deverenko caved in to pressure from the communists. He then abused the young Tsarevich and ordered him around as though he was a servant and not an Imperial Prince. No doubt such behavior pleased his revolutionary masters. Deverenko’s loyalty was not true loyalty; his was a loyalty that lasted only as long as the good times.
Nagorny, on the other hand, remained loyal unto death. He was mocked and even beaten for his loyalty to the Imperial family as well as to the Tsarevich.
During the Imperial family’s trip from Tobolsk to the house of special purpose at Yekaterinburg, Nagorny, who shared a cabin with the Tsarevich, heard screams from the daughters of the Tsar. Nagorny left his cabin to intervene and as a result was severely beaten. His loyalty was profound and based upon authentic virtue.
During the Imperial family’s final imprisonment at Yekaterinburg before their cruel and bloody execution, Nagorny continued to stay with then and care for the Tsarevich. One day one of the Bolshevik guards tried to steal a watch from the young Tsarevich. Nagorny intervened. He was confined and then executed a few days later.
What can be a greater example of true and faithful loyalty?
The Catholic Encyclopedia defines loyalty as: “constancy in allegiance to God or the things of God; steadfastness in fidelity to a person or cause, organization or enterprise.” Nagorny was an example par excellence of constancy and steadfastness to both a person and a cause. What cause? The cause of hierarchy and order. Nagorny sought nothing for himself; he sought only to serve hierarchy with admiration and fidelity and gave his life to defend it.
As was the case with Derevenko, loyalty is easy where no test or sacrifice required.
The true test of loyalty exemplified by Nagorny is to remain loyal when the chips are down, when all manner of sacrifice is required, even unto death.
Loyalty is very much viewed as a military virtue. To remain loyal despite hunger, thirst, danger, injury or death is the epitome of the true soldier. Loyalty does not mean the absence of fear, it means remaining steadfast despite one’s fears.
This example of loyalty can also be a lesson for faithful Catholics. For members of the Church Militant, true loyalty lies not just in going to Mass every Sunday, or even daily, in an air-conditioned or heated church, or going to confession, or offering daily prayers at a time of one’s choosing. While these practices are certainly very admirable and are good indications of loyalty, true loyalty includes all of that, plus so much more.
True loyalty to Holy Mother Church lies in sacrifice. What kind of sacrifices? All manner of sacrifices are necessary, especially in today’s times. Being an active participant in the Church Militant is a true measure of authentic loyalty. What does that mean? Like Nagorny who was faithful to the Imperial family, being faithful today means standing up for what is right at all times and in all places without weighing the cost. For Catholics, it means exhibiting the total measure of loyalty to Our Lord Jesus Christ and to the Church He founded.