For centuries Iraq sheltered one of the largest Christian populations in the region. At one point Baghdad was the center of Christian scholarship in all of the Middle East, and pilgrims visited its ancient monasteries and its shrines to prophets like Jonah, Daniel, Ezekiel and Nahum.
Iraq was, after all, the place where Christians believed God created mankind. It was where Abraham was born, and within its borders rests the ancient cities of Nineveh and Babylon. The Gospel had arrived in Iraq from the preaching of one of Christ’s apostles who eventually converted nearly every Assyrian.
Now, what took thousands of years to build has been destroyed in a single decade, and in plain sight of the world.
Can it be that we have stood by quietly while nearly 2000 years of Christianity have been nearly eliminated from Iraq?
The Archbishop of Mosul told me when I met him in Iraq last month, “I am an archbishop and I now have no churches. I have nothing but God. I am not afraid of anything. I have lost everything.”
Behind the bombs and bloodshed, beyond the sectarian violence and political posturing, a war is raging against individual lives whose stories are as heartbreaking as they are numerous — like the Iraqi woman I read about yesterday whose only child, a beautiful 3-year-old girl, was taken by ISIS.
The mom and her husband were then driven out of the city and thrown out of a bus to walk for seven hours to the nearest city. To this day, they have no idea what has come of their precious child.
All of this happened for one reason: They were Christians.
Now that desperate couple, along with hundreds of thousands of others, lives as refugees inside their own country, facing a frigid Iraqi winter with insufficient shelter to survive it.
If something doesn’t happen, they will have survived ISIS, only to freeze to death. Then ISIS will win anyhow, and their only child will not have parents to come back to if she is eventually freed.
The cover of the monthly magazine published by ISIS recently featured a picture of St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, with an ISIS flag superimposed atop the Egyptian obelisk that adorns the entryway to the global Catholic Church.
That picture was a chilling reminder of the ambitions of these maniacs. The article promised that ISIS would break the crosses of the Christians and sell and trade their women.
This is what they have done there, and it is what they would like to do here.
Johnnie More has more at the link.
Read the whole thing.
Pray for wisdom for those in influential places who might have the ability to effect change. Pray for good to triumph over evil.
Pray for those affected by the world's weakness and apathy.
Stumbled over this nearly two year old post by Joe Hoover last night and was rather mesmorized by it:
It is mid-Lent and you stumble into a church, not because it is Lent or you have a habit of churchgoing but because you need a bathroom. You try to look like you belong there, bowing your head, making yourself a bit tense. They are just about to begin a service.
Something about the candles, the kid in the white gown holding the taper, the marble, the death, everywhere death and gloom and a lack of irony. This you want. Though you did not know it until now. Suddenly you can’t make yourself leave.
You will stay for the entire mass. And you will return, again and again.
One day you will sidle up to an usher in a green corduroy sport coat who frankly will be no help – who will not exactly fall all over himself to point you in the right direction to start becoming Catholic.
Which will only make you trust this place all the more.
You will go to a weekly class and they will tell you to find a “sponsor” (what is this, AA?) and every Sunday you will have to parade with your little group mid-service out of the church in front of the whole crowd, like a row of prisoners whose time in the activity yard is up.
Then one Saturday night you will put on a white “alb” which the harried woman whose smile you never believe and who is in charge of the whole thing has told you many many times “is your baptismal right to wear”.
And the embarrassing and surreal totality of water. They drench you. Water as you have never used it before. Water without utility. You are not swimming, nor drinking, nor cleaning, nor cooking nor washing. You are doing what? “Symbolizing”? Is that a thing one does?
You just know the feeling, the way it is on your skin. As if no argument can be made against this, if someone would ever want to. If a charitable friend might tell you, for instance, that your baptism is not really a thing that is happening to you – that it is a thing leveraged or constructed or something. But, no, it did happen to me. The water was really there. Damp towels to prove it. Why would I put myself through this bizarre pointless soaking if it wasn’t real?
Your logic actually doesn’t work that well, but for you it suffices.
And, truth be told, arguments are made against you, by people who know you, though they are never spoken out loud. You wish they would be! You want to hear them. Because really, you know better than this. You have no legitimate cover for taking such grievous measures with your life. There was no Catholic girlfriend, no pending wedding to become spiritually aligned for. There has been no vision, no astounding conversion story, no miracle of the internal organs. No bible passage randomly flipped to, revealing the foul depths of your nonetheless sacred heart.
And so people will just think you are not that smart anymore. Or maybe you never really were that smart. And once they realize this, that you went off the mental rails somewhere – or never were on those rails – they can then consign you to a part of their brains that understands this quaint, even touching turn to old-time religion.
As for you, while you could cite doctrines, beliefs and a bone-deep feeling, really it’s this: you are in the game. That’s all you really know. You’re on the field, and you want to stay there.
There's much more and it's provocatively called "You will become Catholic"... read the whole thing.
“It is one of the curious anomalies of present day civilization that when man achieves greatest control over nature, he has the least control over himself. The great boast of our age is our domination of the universe: we have harnessed the waterfalls, made the wind slave to carry us on wings of steel, and squeezed from the earth the secret of its age. Yet, despite this mastery of nature, there perhaps never was a time when man was less a master of himself. He is equipped like a veritable giant to control the forces of nature, but is as weak as a pigmy to control the forces of his passions and inclinations.”
~Archbishop Fulton Sheen (The Moral Universe)
The Taliban has killed dozens of children at a Peshawar school in a revenge mission for Pakistani schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai being awarded the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize.
Ahmed Rashid, an expert on the Islamic militants, told the BBC the insurgents had various reasons to attack the school, one of which was to send a message to the supporters of Malala, who advocates education for women and children.
In response to the events at the school in Pakistan, education campaigner Malala has condemned the "atrocious and cowardly" attack.
As reported by the Guardian, she said: "I am heartbroken by this senseless and cold-blooded act of terror in Peshawar that is unfolding before us.
"Innocent children in their school have no place in horror such as this.
"I condemn these atrocious and cowardly acts and stand united with the government and armed forces of Pakistan whose efforts so far to address this horrific event are commendable.
"I, along with millions of others around the world, mourn these children, my brothers and sisters - but we will never be defeated."
At least five militants entered the school, in north-west Pakistan, wearing security uniforms and massacred 126 people, mainly children, on Tuesday (16 December).
The Pakistani army officials said hundreds of students were evacuated but it is not yet clear how many are still in the building.
Rashid also believes the Taliban targeted the school to demoralise the military.
"Many of the soldiers and officers fighting the Taliban have their children in this school so this is an attempt to demoralise the military," he said.
The Taliban said the massacre was a "revenge" attack following an army offensive against Islamic extremists in North Waziristan and in nearby Khyber.
"We selected the army's school for the attack because the government is targeting our families and females," said Taliban spokesman Muhammad Umar Khorasani. "We want them to feel the pain."
This is an affront to civilized people across the globe and a rational reasonable response is necessary. The problem is that we don't have rational reasonable people in positions of influence who can do anything about it.
God help us deal with this evil.
Stephen Budiansky over at The Atlantic with a convincing look back at interrogation techniques that actually worked and were premised on treating the "enemy" like a human being:
Six months before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison broke into public view, a small and fairly obscure private association of United States Marine Corps members posted on its Web site a document on how to get enemy POWs to talk.
The document described a situation very similar to the one the United States faces in the insurgencies in Iraq and Afghanistan: a fanatical and implacable enemy, intense pressure to achieve quick results, a brutal war in which the old rules no longer seem to apply.
Marine Major Sherwood F. Moran, the report's author, noted that despite the complexities and difficulties of dealing with an enemy from such a hostile and alien culture, some American interrogators consistently managed to extract useful information from prisoners. The successful interrogators all had one thing in common in the way they approached their subjects. They were nice to them.
Moran was writing in 1943, and he was describing his own, already legendary methods of interrogating Japanese prisoners of war. More than a half century later his report remains something of a cult classic for military interrogators. The Marine Corps Interrogator Translator Teams Association (MCITTA), a group of active-duty and retired Marine intelligence personnel, calls Moran's report one of the "timeless documents" in the field and says it has long been "a standard read" for insiders. (A book about the Luftwaffe interrogator Hans Joachim Scharff, whose charm, easygoing manner, and perfect English beguiled many a captured Allied airman into revealing critical information, is another frequently cited classic in the field.) An MCITTA member says the group decided to post Moran's report online in July of 2003, because "many others wanted to read it" and because the original document, in the Marine Corps archives, was in such poor shape that the photocopies in circulation were difficult to decipher. He denies that current events had anything to do with either the decision to post the document or the increased interest in it.
But it is hard to imagine a historical lesson that would constitute a more direct reproach to recent U.S. policies on prisoner interrogation.
Do read the rest.
There's a lesson here, taken from The Good Book and taught as a central tenet of Catholicism. Every human being has dignity. No exceptions. Every.
Mark Shea is not letting up on those who call themselves Catholic while defending torture.
And the more you read Catholic teaching, the more you see that Mark is right on.
I spent most of yesterday and part of this morning with my granddaughter Amelia, she who will soon be 7 months old. To say here in writing that she brings me joy is to understate it to the nth degree.
Tonight, as I ready to end the day and tomorrow start a new one, I came across this song, one I've put up before, and it occurred to me that Amelia overwhelms me, and to be more particular and specific, God overwhelms me through her.
She has become a tangible expression and manifestation of His love and presence.
One day I hope to communicate to her how much He has embraced me through her, this post being one small step toward that goal.
I love you little Amelia. And I love how God loves me through you.
A number of them showed up on my reading radar and I was pleasantly surprised to see their stories in the Washington Post:
When Eve Tushnet converted to Catholicism in 1998, she thought she might be the world’s first celibate Catholic lesbian.
Having grown up in a liberal, upper Northwest Washington home before moving on to Yale University, the then-19-year-old knew no other gay Catholics who embraced the church’s ban on sex outside heterosexual marriage. Her decision to abstain made her an outlier.
“Everyone I knew totally rejected it,” she said of the church’s teaching on gay sexuality.
Josh Gonnerman, 29, a theology PhD student at Catholic University, writes for the spiritualfriendship site and speaks easily about embracing his gayness. When he came out in the mid-2000s, Gonnerman says, church leaders weren’t speaking about celibacy because they had “sort of thrown their lot in with the Republican Party” and wouldn’t talk inclusively in any way about LGBT people. The LGBT group he and Tushnet are part of at Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle, he said, has gone from more of a “support group” to something more upbeat that organizes social and spiritual activities for members — not all of whom accept church teaching on celibacy.
“There is this shift from the more negative to the more positive,” he said. “In the past, the Catholic approach was: ‘Oh, sucks for you’ [that you’re gay]. The emphasis was on the difficulty. Celibacy is being reimagined.”
Read the whole thing.
More times than not, I'll read or hear about nominal Catholics who struggle with the Church's teachings on a variety of issues. Attending Mass regularly, the Eucharist, gay marriage, you name it. The only authority many of them are willing to yield to is the authority that guides them on what to have for breakfast or what to tape on the DVR.
It's refreshing to read about people like Ms. Tushnet and Mr. Gonnerman who embrace the faith and attempt to bend to the Church's teachings rather than succumb to the authority of self.
God bless 'em. God give the faithful and those attempting to be faithful the same courage and strength.
I'm more than a little embarrassed to admit that until yesterday, I had not delved into the details of the "Our Lady of Guadalupe" story.
The Catholich Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year on Dec. 12, celebrating the day in 1531 when the Blessed Mother Mary revealed herself to a 57-year old peasant named Juan Diego.
As the story goes, Señor Diego was trekking toward Tepeyac Hill, now better known as Mexico City, when the Virgin Mary made her first appearance.
Juan Diego was a recently baptized indigenous Mexican who, on his way to Mass on Dec. 9, 1531, encountered a woman dressed in indigenous regal attire.
The radiant woman, who spoke the native Aztec dialect, announced herself as the “ever-perfect holy Mary, who has the honor to be the mother of the true God.”
In the course of several visitations, she asked Juan Diego to build a church dedicated to Christ on the site of a former pagan temple and promised to cure his dying uncle.
As a sign for the bishop, she told Juan Diego to find roses and other flowers on the hill, though it was the middle of winter. St. Juan Diego gathered the flowers, and Mary placed them into his cloak, known as a tilma, and told him not to unwrap it until he reached the bishop.
When Juan Diego unwrapped the tilma before the bishop, the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe had been miraculously imprinted upon it.
The image became the wellspring of a conversion movement the likes of which have rarely been seen before or since.
The fact that the Virgin Mother not only spoke to Juan Diego in his native language, but appeared to be wearing the dress of an Aztec princess sparked millions of conversions to the Catholic faith in just under seven years.
The shrine that was subsequently built on the spot, where the original tilma can still be seen, remains one of the most popular pilgrimage sites in the world.
But this post isn’t about the whole apparition story so much as it is about the tilma, Juan Diego’s cloak, on which the image of the Blessed Mother was imprinted. In the centuries following the event, some amazing and unexplainable qualities have been discovered about it.
Sewell goes on to chronicle four amazing characteristics about the tilma, excerpts follow:
1. It has qualities that are humanly impossible to replicate.
Made primarily of cactus fibers, a tilma was typically of very poor quality and had a rough surface, making it difficult enough to wear, much less to paint a lasting image on it.
Nevertheless, the image remains, and scientists who have studied the image insist there was no technique used beforehand to treat the surface. The surface bearing the image is reportedly like silk to the touch, while the unused portion of the tilma remains coarse.
2. People say it’s just a painting, yet the tilma has outlived them all, in time and in quality.
One of the first things skeptics say about the image is that it somehow has to be a forgery or a fraud. Yet in every attempt to replicate the image, while the original never seems to fade, the duplicates have deteriorated over a short time.
3. The tilma has shown characteristics startlingly like a living human body.
In 1979, when Callahan, the Florida biophysicist, was analyzing thetilma using infrared technology, he apparently also discovered that the tilma maintains a constant temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, the same as that of a living person.
When Carlos Fernandez del Castillo, a Mexican gynecologist, examined the tilma, he first noticed a four-petaled flower over what was Mary’s womb.
The flower, called the Nahui Ollin by the Aztecs, was a symbol of the sun and a symbol of plenitude.
Upon further examination, Castillo concluded that the dimensions of Our Lady’s body in the image were that of an expectant mother due quite soon. Dec. 9, the day of the unveiling, is barely two weeks from Christmas.
4. It appears to be virtually indestructible.
Over the centuries, two separate events had the potential to harm the tilma, one in 1785 and one in 1921.
In 1785, a worker was cleaning the glass encasement of the image when he accidentally spilled strong nitric acid solvent onto a large portion of the image itself.
The image and the rest of the tilma, which should have been eaten away almost instantly by the spill, reportedly self-restored over the next 30 days, and it remains unscathed to this day, aside from small stains on the parts not bearing the image.
In 1921, an anti-clerical activist hid a bomb containing 29 sticks of dynamite in a pot of roses and placed it before the image inside the Basilica at Guadalupe.
When the bomb exploded, the marble altar rail and windows 150 feet shattered. A brass crucifix was twisted and bent out of shape. But the tilma and its glass case remained fully intact.
Go and read the entire Sewell piece as there are more incredible details.
The story in and of itself is inspiring and I'm beating myself up for not knowing, until yesterday, more about it but the additional details surrounding the tilma is pretty special.
I can't help but wonder how many are as unaware as i was about the beauty and inspiration this Feast day brings.
Shame on all we Catholics who tell no one about it.
Guest posted by tim, The Godless Heathen
Looking forward to a slow, quiet weekend and recharging the batteries, so to speak, this weekend with no hunting, traveling or other shenanigans which I haven’t had a in a while. Only a handful of things to get done…besides naps to take, beers to drink and football to watch. Remember kids, The Heathen highly recommends occasionally tuning out and spending some quality time doing little or close to nothing once in a while. Does a body and mind good. Anyways I digress, sermon over…
The 115th meeting between Army and Navy football teams is tomorrow. Personally, as an ole Jarhead I’ll be rooting for Navy and who will be sporting the most badassery uniforms pictured below.
H/T Mad World News, where you'll find more pics.
And of course, not to leave out what Army will be looking like -
I kid, I kid.
Pic found at The Shirk Report, where you should heading to every Friday for some laughs.
Now that the Torture Report is out and we are discovering that the lies we listened to for so long (We only waterboarded three high value targets! We had to do it to save lives! Valuable intel! Are you telling me that some filthy terrorist is more important than an unborn baby in your sick twisted liberal mind?) are all exposed as appalling lies, it’s important to do an examination of conscience. Why? Because we Catholics consistently supported torture in larger percentages then the average American population. And the more we self-described as “faithful conservative” and “prolife” the more likely we were to do so. God’s name is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of us. (Romans 2:24)
The ugly fact is that in our fear and rage, we became the thing we hate.
- We defended the torture of innocents (indeed people who were on our side).
- We defended standing on the broken legs of prisoners (something out of a Gestapo or SS scene in a movie).
- We defended drowning.
- We defended dungeons and putting prisoners at the mercy of interrogators known to be psychologically unstable and having a history of violence.
- We defended forcing prisoners with broken feet to stand in stress positions.
- We defended non-stop torture for days and weeks.
- We defended 180 hours of sleep deprivation.
- We defended “forced rectal feeding” (aka “anal rape and humiliation”) that consisted of ramming hummus up the anuses of helpless prisoners.
- We defended refusal to treat bullet wounds and neglect leading to the loss of eyes.
- We defended dragging shackled, naked prisoners around around blindfold and beating them.
- We defended keeping prisoners in total darkness with only a bucket for their waste.
- We defended a system that had no clear idea who it was imprisoning and torturing.
- We defended a system that derived no intelligence to stop terrorist attacks, and that used gruesome torture to get information we could have obtained by conventional means, while generating lots of false intel from prisoners who said anything to make the pain stop. That false intel meant millions spent on wild goose chases.
- We defended a system that got its torture techniques from the Commies we used to fight, not imitate.
- We defended a system that mainly served to enrich contractors and shrinks who told it what it wanted to hear.
- We defended a system that lied to its own superiors.
- We–WE PROLIFERS–cheered for a system that “threatened to harm detainees’ children, sexually abuse their mothers, and “cut [a detainee’s] mother’s throat.’ In addition, several detainees were led to believe they would die in custody, with one told he would leave in a coffin-shaped box.
Detainees wouldn’t see their day in court because “we can never let the world know what I have done to you,” one interrogator said.
- We defended sexual assaults on prisoners by interrogators.
And all the while we did it, we offered an immense menu of Ticking Time bomb scenarios, garbage sophistries, and “what if?” fantasies about bombs under orphanages, all carefully designed to distract us from the reality of what we were defending by reinforcing our fear and rage. We told ourselves we were fighting an inhuman enemy that justified using any means necessary. And we became the monsters we feared.
He's not finished. Not even close. Read the rest.
I am one who once supported doing anything to take the fight to the terrorists. If you were to search this blog for the word "torture", you'd find the evidence.
I'm now however one who is attempting, and admittedly failing still too often, to live up to the tenets of my faith and Catholic teaching on this is crystal clear.
Phil Lawler has more on that point:
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (#2298) teaches: “Torture which uses physical or moral violence to extract confessions, punish the guilty, frighten opponents, or satisfy hatred is contrary to respect for the person and for human dignity.” When an interrogator treats his captor in a degrading manner, the human dignity of both men is violated; by treating his subject as something less than human, the captor becomes something less than human himself.
Defenders of the “enhanced interrogation” techniques say that it was necessary to put extra pressure on terrorist suspects, to extract important information that would save the lives of innocent people. That is a powerful, practical argument. But is it true? Expert interrogators question that premise.
A tortured prisoner might blurt out… anything. He may tell the truth, or he may say whatever he thinks his questioner wants to hear, whether it is true or not. Under extreme duress, he might not even know whether he is telling the truth or not; when pushed beyond their endurance, most people become lesscapable of speaking intelligently.
Even if it were true that torture could induce prisoners to give more accurate information, that would not be enough to justify an intrinsically evil act. Some defense experts claim that “enhanced interrogation” helped to ward off terrorist attacks. That is, to be sure, a powerful practical argument. But practical arguments are not enough to justify an intrinsically immoral act. How many women, finding themselves in difficult pregnancies, can make powerful practical arguments in favor of abortion?
A moral end does not justify an immoral means.
He too has more. You should click the link and read it all.
The part of us that believes the ends justify the means is the part of us that needs exposure to the gruesome details that are now coming to light because let there be little doubt.
We are losing our humanity.
By the way, because I know some might wonder, Mark has an older post up that helps define the word torture, for those who might be prone to ask. I used to go there myself, thinking that torture could be defined in such a way as to minimize what torture might actually be. Again, the Church is clear on what it is. Read Mark's post.
Don't lose your humanity.
For Christ's sake.
The wife and I attended a reconciliation service last night. Both of us entertained, if only for moments, the thought of skipping out. We'd had a long, stressful day at the office and were both pretty pooped. Thankfully, most thankfully, we pushed those thoughts to the side.
A couple of weeks or so ago, I wrote:
There seems to be so much ugliness in the world right now.
So much pettiness and the division that results. So much stubbornness and small-mindedness that leads to a deepening spiral of dysfunction. So much ignorance and presumption that can only end in discord and disagreement. So much arrogance that sees vice while ignoring virtue in others. So much madness that ignores God's maxim to forgive. And, of course, so much of my own inclination to engage in this ugliness, to sink to these depths, to wallow in this muck.
It's all ugly. It's all wrong. It's all sin. It's dragging us down.
What I believe is needed to set things right, to replace all the ugly, if only for the moment, is beauty, tangible beauty.
Last night, the wife and I experienced indescribable beauty but rather than attempt to articulate what was experienced myself, I'm letting Simcha Fisher do it for me:
It's the one place that no one would ever go for normal, worldly reasons. No penitent goes to confession to get ahead in life, or to make money, or to get a full belly, or to impress anyone; and no priest goes to confession to be amused or entertained. It's where we go to unload our miseries, to show our wounds and our infections, to take off the disguises that make us appear palatable to each other.
So, not beautiful. No, not especially.
Or is it? If the ugliness, the squalor, the sordidness, and the running nose were all that happened inside a confessional, then it really would be an ugly place -- just a latrine, a ditch, a sewer. But of course, the part where we lay out our sins is only the first part.
What happens afterward is more obviously beautiful. The priest reaches out and picks up the ugly little load you've laid in front of him. And right then and there, he pours the living water over it until the parts that are worth saving are healthy and whole again, and the parts that cannot be salvaged have been washed away entirely. What is useless is gone; what was dead is alive again.
This is beautiful!
And the beauty of absolution does one of those neat Catholic tricks where eternal things reach back in time and impart beauty wherever they want, regardless of chronology. The beauty of absolution makes the confession itself beautiful. Even though my sins are ugly, the very fact that I'm bringing them into the confessional has something beautiful in it: the beauty of trust that I will be forgiven; the beauty of believing that something real and life-changing will happen; the beauty of being willing to accept forgiveness even though I know that I don't deserve it; and the beauty of knowing that, whoever's turn it is to sit behind the screen, it is really Christ who is waiting to meet me.
If that isn't beautiful, then nothing is.
More beauty at the link. Don't miss it.
You need beauty. We all do.
What follows, from Harvard Business Professor Clay Christensen, is true... whether acknowledged or not by the cultural elite:
H/T to the Reverend Sensing.
With a Christian makeover of the original Leonard Cohen lyrics more fitting for the season, by the band Cloverton:
Al Qaeda militants killed American hostage Luke Somers and a South African captive in Yemen during a raid conducted by U.S. forces to rescue Somers, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Saturday.
President Barack Obama ordered Friday's raid because "there were compelling reasons to believe Mr. Somers' life was in imminent danger," he said.
Korkie was to be released on Sunday, the group said in a statement.
He and his wife Yolande had fallen into the hands of abductors in May of last year, but they subsequently let her go. On Friday, a team of local leaders was finalizing arrangements to reunite Pierre Korkie to his wife and children, the statement reads.
Gift of the Givers recently told his wife that "the wait is almost over."
"Three days ago we told her 'Pierre will be home for Christmas,'" the group said. "We certainly did not mean it in the manner it has unfolded."
The President condemned AQAP's killing of the two hostages and explained his decision to authorize the rescue attempt in a statement.
"Earlier this week, a video released by his terrorist captors announced that Luke would be killed within 72 hours," the statement said. "I also authorized the rescue of any other hostages held in the same location as Luke."
In a statement, Secretary of State John Kerry said that a recommendation to authorize the operation had been made to the President.
Obama offered his condolences to Somers' family.
"I also offer my thoughts and prayers to the family of a non-U.S. citizen hostage who was also murdered by these terrorists during the rescue operation," the statement read. "Their despair and sorrow at this time are beyond words."
An Osprey aircraft transported a team of U.S. Navy SEALs to the captives' location. A firefight quickly broke out, and the hostages were loaded onto the plane and flown to a nearby U.S. ship, a U.S. official said.
One of the hostages died before reaching the ship. The other died afterward.
Drones and fighter jets patrolled overhead during the mission.
The U.S. forces who carried out the mission are safe, a U.S. defense official said. Both the President and Kerry praised their valor.
Dear God, rest the souls of Pierre Korkie and Luke Somers. Dear God, comfort the loved ones left behind.
The Moonie-owned Washington Times has a story headlined Pope Francis: Koran ‘is a prophetic book of peace’. That would indeed be a shocking thing for a pope to say, not so much for the “peace” part as the “prophetic” part...
But that’s not the full quote. Let’s look at what he really said, emphasis added:
“You just can’t say that, just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists. We have our share of them (fundamentalists). All religions have these little groups,” he said.
“They (Muslims) say: ‘No, we are not this, the Koran is a book of peace, it is a prophetic book of peace’.”
Not at all the same thing. He’s not saying the Koran is a prophetic book or that it is a book of peace, just that Muslims say it is.
I would not be at all surprised if Francis thinks the Koran is a “book of peace,” because there are elements of peace in Islam. It’s simply foolish and reductionist to measure an entire faith by its worst elements, even when the worst elements are pretty bad. That’s what our enemies do to us. We shouldn’t then turn around and do it to others. A critique must be both honest and generous. With Islam, violence is baked right in the cake, but so is charity and devotion to God as well. Whatever we think of it, we have to consider the real thing, not a caricature.
More problematic is the, Hey we all have our nuts, amIright? comment from Francis. Christian fundamentalists are tacky and stupid and annoying, but only very rarely violent.
When a Christian goes fundie, you get Jack Chick and bad music and, sometimes, Eric Robert Rudolph.
When a Muslim goes fundie, you get the armies of ISIS, 9/11, jihad, beheadings, Jew-hate, and the destruction of civilizations.
Of the two faiths, one has tendency to violence and extremism that is rooted in elements of the faith itself, while the other does not. It’s a false equivalence.
But I get what he was trying to do.
You'll get what he's trying to do as well if you click over and read the rest of Tom's post.
Do so and pass this on.
Do your part to counter the crap that gets reported and then widely disseminated by the ignorant and the mal-intended.
Be on the side of the good and true.
The fact that there are some who will watch and listen to what follows and nod agreement with the message being conveyed should scare you. No, really. It. Should. Scare. You.
Via American Digest.
It's the thing these days to play the victim.
So why shouldn't Michael Sam do the thing:
Michael Sam believes he's not on a NFL roster because of the fact he's openly gay -- telling TMZ Sports he strongly believes he's got the talent to play in the league.
Sam was at LAX this morning when he was asked if he thinks NFL teams are shying away from him because of his sexual orientation ... or if it has to do with the level of talent he faced after college.
"I think I was the SEC Defensive Player of the Year last year ... so I don't think it had to do with talent."
Translation -- he believes he's on the outs because he's out.
The NFL bent over backwards to give this guy a shot... with a number of different teams... and yet, we get this out of the man.
Mr. Sam... you're not in the NFL... because you're not good enough to be in the NFL.
Now please... your 15 minutes has expired.
Exit stage left.
Before I get started here, let me confess what might ought to be obvious.
The word hell (twice) in the post's title is admittedly gimmicky. It's my sophomoric way of capturing your attention. If you're still reading, it kinda sorta worked.
It is however also relevant to what I'm trying to write about here so stick with me. I'll attempt to make it worth your while and make the connection.
I've been thinking of late about forgiveness... a lot... and exactly what it means.
As a Catholic, I'm forgiven formally of my offenses against God in the Sacrament of Reconciliation (also known as Confession) when I repent and seek His forgiveness.
So what is repentance? It is sorrow for sin (contrition) coupled with a resolute desire to avoid committing that sin again (purpose of amendment). In other words, my forgiveness is predicated on my repentance. If I have no sorrow for sin and if I have no desire to avoid committing that sin again, I have no forgiveness otherwise I would in essence be given license to continue to sin again and again and again.
God does not desire that I be free to sin with impunity. Can we agree?
Let me let those with more credibility, more depth, more integrity, attempt to convince you of what I'm attempting to articulate:
Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian "conception" of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins. The church which holds the correct doctrine of grace has, it is supposed, ipso facto a part of that grace. In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God. Cheap grace means the justification of sin without the justification of the sinner. Grace alone does everything, they say, and so everything can remain as it was before.
~Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Costly Grace
Or, put another way:
Confession without repentance involves self-deception and does us positive harm. The Sacrament of Penance does not operate like a charm, and absolution touches only those sins for which we are truly sorry.
~Fr. Alfred Wilson, Pardon and Peace.
That speaks hopefully with clarity and conviction, to the forgiveness we seek from God. God's forgiveness is not unilateral in that we must be contrite and we must be actively willing to avoid the occasion of committing that sin again.
Which brings us to the offering (and accepting) of forgiveness to (and from) each other.
The Lord's prayer teaches that we are to forgive those who trespass against us as He forgives us. We've established what is necessary to receive His forgiveness and how the Church teaches this through the mechanics involved in the Sacrament of Confession. We should then, as the Lord's prayer references, forgive those who trespass against us in like manner or we will encourage a continuation of those trespasses.
That's not to say we should be unwilling to forgive. An unwillingness to forgive will inevitably result in bitterness and an unloving disposition. We would in essence, by propagating that unwillingness, be falling into sin ourselves. We don't want to go there.
So what's the bottom line and where do we go from here?
The bottom line is that forgiveness is obviously serious and necessary. Without it, that word used twice in the post's title comes into play and we've already established (hopefully) that we don't want to go there. Hopefully. But forgiveness should not be taken lightly, should not be offered cheaply as it is not offered to us cheaply by God.
We should certainly be willing to forgive and this ad infinitum as to how often but I think it's clear that forgiveness is conditional and dependent on repentance. True reconciliation, with God first and foremost, and with each other, will only take place when true repentance is offered.
I'll close with this reminder from an Anglican priest (of course, we'll forgive his Anglicanism) that I think best summarizes the mindset we who seek true forgiveness, through true repentance, should adopt:
The Scriptural doctrine in regard to repentance is not, that a man must repent in order to his being qualified to go to Christ; it is rather, that he must go to Christ in order to his being able to repent. From Him comes the grace of contrition as well as the cleansing of expiation.
~Henry Melvill, p. 506. (Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895))
Let's be serious about seeking forgiveness by being serious about repenting, and let's be serious about repenting by seriously seeking His grace for both contrition and for purpose of amendment. This is not something we can undertake on our own. We need His help. And he offers that help lovingly, mercifully, willingly. Seek it. Seek Him. Even now.
Amen. And amen.
On his in-flight press conference returning from a three-day trip to Turkey, Pope Francis said that Muslim leaders around the world must speak out against violence and terrorism carried out in the name of Islam.
“I believe sincerely that it can’t be said that all Muslims are terrorists. You can’t say that. Just as you can’t say that all Christians are fundamentalists because we have them too, eh. In all religions, there are these little groups,” he said Nov. 30.
“I told the (Turkish) president that it would be nice if all the Muslim leaders, whether political leaders or religious leaders or academic leaders, say that clearly and condemn it, no?” he continued, explaining that “all of us need a worldwide condemnation, also from Muslims who have the identity who say ‘We aren’t that. The Quran isn’t that’.”
The Pope also offered a firm warning on the situation of Middle East Christians.
“Truly, I don’t want to use sweetened words. Christians are being chased out of the Middle East. Sometimes, as we have seen in Iraq, the area of Mosul, they have to go away and leave everything, or pay the tax which doesn’t do any good.”
Speaking of broader violence throughout the world, Pope Francis said he believes “that we are living through a third world war, a war in pieces, in chapters, everywhere.”
In addition, Pope Francis spoke about a particularly intense moment of prayer he had during the papal trip.
He explained that he came to Turkey “as a pilgrim, not as a tourist,” and “the main reason was the feast today to share it with Patriarch Bartholomew, a religious reason.”
“But then, when I went into the mosque, I couldn’t say, ‘No, now I’m a tourist.’ No, it was all religious,” he said. “I saw those marvels, also the Mufti explained the things well to me with so much meekness, with the Quran where it spoke of Mary and John the Baptist. And he explained it all to me and in that moment I felt the need to pray. And, I said to him, ‘Shall we pray?’ And he said, ‘Yes, yes.’ I prayed for Turkey, for peace, for the Mufti, for everyone, for myself because I need it. And, we truly prayed. And, I prayed especially for peace. Lord, let’s end wars. It was like that. It was a moment of sincere prayer.”
He also spoke about his visit with refugee children and said that he would like to go to Iraq.
“For the moment it isn’t possible. It’s not that I don’t want to go, but if I went right now it would cause a quite serious problem for the authorities, for security. But, I would really like to and I want to,” he said.
I'm seeing some Catholics bash the Pope's trip and of course, the Pope himself, whether it be over his meeting with Patriarch Bartholomew but particularly over his trip to the Blue Mosque and of course, certain fundamentalists are claiming that this is THE evidence to end all evidence proving the Pope is the anti-Christ.
Never mind that Pope Benedict spent time in the same mosque.
In the meantime, I'm sticking to the most Catholic notion that God's Holy Spirit has brought us this Pope, for this time, for sound reason(s) and sounder purpose(s) and I'm going to trust in His providence and not in what amounts to gossip fueled by ego and ignorance.
We all go through times of melancholy and to deny that there might be medical reasons for those times is to deny reality but there might also be spiritual reasons.
Monsignor Charles Pope, in yesterday's homily for the first week of Advent, gives related insight and advice culled from the Scripture readings for the day:
Isaiah distinguishes five ailments which beset us, and from which we need rescue. We are drifting, demanding, depraved, disaffected, and depressed. But in the end, Isaiah reminds us of our dignity. Let’s look at each in turn.
1. Drifting – The text says, Why [O Lord] do you let us wander from your ways, and harden our hearts so that we fear you not? Return for the sake of your servants, the tribes of your heritage.
It is a common human tendency to wander or drift. It is a rarer thing for people to reject God all of a sudden, especially if they were raised with some faith. Rather, what usually happens is that we just drift away, wander off course. It is like the captain or pilot of a boat who stops paying close attention. Soon enough the boat is farther and farther off course. At first things are not noticed, but the cumulative effect is that the boat is now headed in the wrong direction. He did not suddenly turn the helm and shift 180 degrees, he just stopped paying attention and drifted … and then drifted some more.
And so it is with some of us who may wonder how we got so far off course. I talk with many people who have left the Church and so many of them cannot point to an incident or moment when they walked out of Church and said, “I’ll never come back here.” It is usually just that they drifted away, fell away from the practice of the faith. They missed a Sunday here or there and, little by little, missing Mass became the norm. Maybe they moved to a new city and never got around to finding a parish. They just got disconnected and drifted.
The funny thing about drifting is that the farther off course you get, the harder it is to get back. It just seems increasingly monumental to make the changes necessary to get back on track. Thus Isaiah speaks of the heart of a drifter becoming hardened. Our bad habits become “hard” to break, and as God seems more and more distant to us, we lose our holy fear and reverence for Him.
It is interesting how, in taking up our voice, Isaiah, “blames” God for it all. Somehow it is “His fault” for letting us wander, because He let us do it.
It is true that God has made us free and that He is very serious about respecting our freedom. How else could we love God, if we were not free? Compelled love is not love at all.
But what Isaiah is really getting at is that some of us are so far afield, so lost, that only God can find us and save us. And so we must depend on God being like a shepherd who seeks his lost sheep.
Thus, here is the first way that Isaiah sets forth our need for a Savior. And so, in Advent, reflecting this way, the Church cries out, “Come, Emmanuel! Come, Lord Jesus! Seek and find us for many of us are drifting.”
5. Depressed - The text says, All our good deeds are like polluted rags; we have all withered like leaves, and our guilt carries us away like the wind.
One of the definitions of depression is anger turned inward. And while Isaiah has given voice to our tendency to direct anger and blame at God, here he gives voice to our other tendency: to turn on ourselves.
Thus, our good deeds are described as being like polluted rags. It may be true that they are less than they could be, but calling them polluted rags also expresses our own frustration with our seemingly hopeless situation: our addiction to sin and injustice.
Ultimately, the devil wants us to diminish what little good we can find in ourselves and to lock us into a depressed and angry state. If there is no good in us at all, then why bother?
There is such a thing as unhealthy guilt (cf 2 Cor 7:10-11) and a self-loathing that is not of God, but from the devil, our accuser. It may well be this that Isaiah articulates here. And from such depressed self-loathing (masquerading as piety) we need a savior. Come, Lord Jesus!
The Monsignor has more and it's all good stuff particularly for those who are unhappy or down in the dumps.
Read it, digest it and be helped. We are all in need of a Savior and especially in need of knowing of that need. You may be suffering in a way that is indicating that need. Seek help.
I’ve observed a general feeling in much of the world today that looks at the Catholic Church as an outdated group with quaint, if not retrograde, beliefs that just can’t leave well enough alone.
“Who cares if people of the same sex want to get ‘married?’ How does that hurt me?”
“What’s the big deal with allowing divorced and remarried people (without annulment) to receive Eucharist? If it makes them feel more connected to the God, then why not?”
“Why shouldn’t a priest be allowed to report child molesters who confess to them? Wouldn’t it be irresponsible not to do so?”
I’m sure you could think of more questions like these that you’ve encountered in your discussions about the Catholic Church. We are cast as moral busybodies who cannot get with the times.
The thing is that I can completely understand objections like this. They make total and complete sense…IF the Church is just a Church made by man.
But of course, we know that it is not. It is the Church of God. And God uses live ammo.
I recently directed a play. In it, some characters handle a small, unimpressive little cylinder They grab it, shake it, and toss it without much thought. But then they are told that it contains something that could destroy a good portion of the Earth. Suddenly, they freeze and hold the item gingerly and with the greatest of care. Fear and awe overcome them as they cannot take their eyes off of this object of immense power, taking in the grave consequence of its misuse.
The Catholic Church is like that cylinder. If all we are can be reduced to some fallible humans mucking about with our silly traditions, then of course forward-thinking people might find our steadfast resolution to be folly in the modern era.
But the Church is founded by Christ, our Lord and God. And the Church’s teachings are rooted in His teachings.
And God does not play around with our souls.
Christ was insistent to spread his message. He told the Apostles, “Go, make disciples of all nations.” It cost all of them (with the exception of John) their lives in martyrdom.
If Jesus only wanted them to spread His message so that some people could feel slightly better about their connection to God, then that would make Christ cruel. It would have meant He thought very little of the lives of His Apostles, to have them pay so heavy a price for so meager a goal.
No, the more logical conclusion is that He asked them to give everything because everything was on the line.
Mr. Grayson has more and sure it's preachy but it's truth, take it or leave it.
I left it for too long, while in that forsaken state having what is commonly called shelf faith, beliefs pulled out of the cupboard when some crisis or dilemma or need or event prompts it, and once dealt with, putting that faith back in the closet while trusting that God is satisfied with the token effort.
Thankfully, God, as He will for all of us, continued his pursuit of me and though my faith remains imperfect, I'm more committed now than ever to never put God on any shelf or in any cupboard again.
God help me with that commitment.
Fr. Martin R. Tripole answers the question we who claim the mantle of Catholicism ought to all be pondering:
When is the last time you saw someone display courage?
We know it exists among public servants: soldiers, policemen, firefighters. We know it existed among the first responders at 9/11. We find it in people who sacrifice their lives for the well-being of those dearest to them, such as a father who will dive into water to save a drowning son or daughter.
But how about in Catholicism? Does it demand courage to be a Catholic today? For most of our lives, the issue never arose. Traditional Christian values were commonly accepted in America: to put it succinctly, Catholic values and civic values largely coincided. But in recent times, we have come to realize that it doesn’t take courage to be a Catholic, but only a faithful Catholic. For example, it doesn’t take courage today to be a Catholic politician who is pro-choice, but it does to be one who is pro-life.
How ready are we to stand up for traditional Catholic values and beliefs today?
The Vatican has recently stressed the courage that marks men and women of deep commitment to the faith. Pope Francis called Benedict XVI’s decision to step down as Pope on February 28, 2013, an act of “a man of great courage and humility.” At the canonization Mass of John XXIII and John Paul II, Francis referred to the new saints as “two men of courage” who “bore witness before the Church and the world to God’s goodness and mercy.” The Pope fired up 500 youth at the Vatican on August 28, 2013, when he said, “I wanted to tell you this, to tell you: courage, go forward, make noise. . . . Please, go against the current. Be courageous, courageous: go against the current.” At his June 23, 2013, Angelus reflection, Francis urged everyone, especially youth, to “have the courage to go against the tide of current values that do not conform to the path of Jesus.”
But is Francis too quickly presuming that youth today experience a clash between the tide of current values and the path of Jesus?
"The days of comfortable Catholicism are past”
It would come as a bit of a shock, I think, to many Catholics comfortable with current developments in our society, to hear the Pope speak of a clash between current values and Jesus’ teaching. It would come as an even greater shock for them to hear the remarks of Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University, when he addressed the National Catholic Prayer Breakfast in Washington, DC, on May 13, 2014:
The days of socially acceptable Christianity are over. The days of comfortable Catholicism are past. It is no longer easy to be a faithful Christian, a good Catholic, an authentic witness to the truths of the Gospel. A price is demanded and must be paid. There are costs of discipleship—heavy costs, costs that are burdensome and painful to bear.
According to George, if one wants to be a good Catholic today, one must be “prepared to give public witness to the massively politically incorrect truths of the Gospel” regarding “Biblical and natural law beliefs”: about “the sanctity of human life in all stages and conditions,” about the “core social function of marriage” to “unite a man and woman as husband and wife to be mother and father to children born of their union.” To be sure, it is still possible to be “a comfortable Catholic” and “socially acceptable”; but to be a Catholic who professes openly fidelity to the teachings of the Gospel and Christ’s Church, one must be prepared “to take risks and make sacrifices,” “to make oneself a marked man or woman.” The “costs of discipleship” are high:
It is to expose oneself to scorn and reproach. . . . to place in jeopardy one’s security, one’s personal aspirations and ambitions, the peace and tranquility one enjoys, one’s standing in polite society. One may in consequence of one’s public witness be discriminated against and denied educational opportunities and the prestigious credentials they may offer; one may lose valuable opportunities for employment and professional advancement; one may be excluded from worldly recognition and honors of various sorts; one’s witness may even cost one treasured friendships. It may produce familial discord and even alienation from family members. Yes, there are costs of discipleship—heavy costs.
But why would Catholics accept such costs?
Do read the rest.