Pope Francis gave another one of his wonderful homilies this week. This one is on the devil, evil and Jesus’ triumph over both of them.
Pope Francis gave another one of his wonderful homilies this week. This one is on the devil, evil and Jesus’ triumph over both of them.
I had a small discussion with one of Public Catholic’s most faithful — and interesting — readers the other day.
I had published this post calling for prayer for persecuted Christians. This particular reader said that we need to do something about this and not just pray. It made me smile when I read that because he’s right: We need to do something.
And we will.
If we pray.
Why would anyone recommend prayer in the face of this onslaught of slaughter? One reason is that the persecuted Christians themselves ask for prayer. Every time I talk to someone who lives in an area where Christians are subjected to violent persecution, I ask them how I can help them. Invariably, they ask for prayer.
You’d think they’d ask for a rocket launcher, or at least a few grenades.
I think the answer is that these people are people of faith, just like us, only they no longer carry around the burden of the accoutrements of faith that weigh us down. Every person I have ever talked to who has been through violent persecution for Christ has both a strength and a gentleness that sets them apart.
The things we think are so important have been stripped away from them as they come face to face with the question that we all wonder how we would answer: Will you die for Him?
I think that once a person looks into the reality of that question, not as a hypothetical, but as an actual life or death decision that they are making, they are changed. The fires of persecution seem to burn away the chaff of people’s lives and the ones who persist and do not yield learn what sustains in time of grave peril.
I think that is why they ask for prayer.
That is one reason to pray, because the people we want to help have asked us to pray.
Another reason is because entering into this arena of Christian persecution paints our faces on the devil’s dart board. We will be assailed and attacked, slandered and maligned for speaking out for persecuted Christians. This is the natural course of things when anyone defends God’s children. We need prayer for the strength it gives us as we do this work.
The next reason to pray is because we need direction. Not only that, but we need God to raise up Christians everywhere to fight this plague of violence. We need to pray and pray and let God work.
Prayer is the key to doing God’s will. Not that He is likely to put a burning bush that is not consumed in our paths. But that prayer keeps us in contact with grace. If we want to do something about persecuted Christians — and I hope sincerely that every one who reads this does — begin with prayer. I don’t mean one Rosary or some small bit of jingoistic something you learned as a child. I mean walking with the Lord in prayer day after day after day.
Just pray and wait. If God wants active work from you, you’ll know soon enough. If, on the other hand, He wants you to be a permanent prayer warrior, do that.
I was thrilled with what the reader said that day. Excited. Because I think he’s the kind of person who actually will do something. I do not want to stifle anyone in that. I only ask that in all the doing, we pray and wait on the Lord lead us first.
All work for God begins with prayer. That’s a truth of life in Christ as I know it.
The Roman Catholic Bishops of the Middle East and East Africa said that the pope’s efforts for peace are changing the dialogue in their countries. They call it a “miracle.”
I read Father Dwight Longnecker’s fine post, Bergoglio’s List, and it sort of pushed me over the edge I’ve been standing on for a while. Be forewarned: There’s a rant coming.
Pope Francis is like Blessed John Paul II in that he has lived through times when the devil was ascendant and incarnate in his country. He has, in the same way that Blessed John Paul II did in World War II and then under Communism, witnessed and lived through times of great evil. Like Blessed John Paul, he responded to these terrors with Christian courage, fealty and love.
As the article Father Dwight quotes says,
In his Argentina, between 1976 and 1983, Jorge Mario Bergoglio lived through the ‘years of lead’ of the military dictatorship. Kidnappings, torture, massacres, 30,000 disappeared, 500 mothers killed after giving birth in prison to children who were taken away from them.
… In front of three judges, Bergoglio was hammered for three hours and forty-five minutes with insidious questions, above all by the attorney Luis Zamora, the lawyer for the victims. A key passage of the questioning comes when Bergoglio is asked to justify his meetings with the generals Jorge Videla and Emilio Massera, in 1977.
… The “list” of Bergoglio is a collection of highly diverse personal stories, which make for exhilarating reading, whose common characteristic is that the people in them were saved by him.
… There is Alicia Oliveira, the first woman to become a judge in the criminal courts in Argentina and also the first to be dismissed after the military coup, non-Catholic and not even baptized, who went underground and was taken by Bergoglio, in the trunk of his car, to the college of San Miguel, to see her three children.
There are the three seminarians of the bishop of La Rioja, Enrique Angelelli, who was killed in 1976 by members of the military in a staged auto accident, after he had discovered who was truly responsible for numerous assassinations.
There is Alfredo Somoza, the scholar saved without his knowledge.
There are Sergio and Ana Gobulin, who worked in the slums and were married by Father Bergoglio, he arrested and she wanted, both saved and expatriated with the help of the Italian vice-consul in Argentina at the time, Enrico Calamai, another hero of the story.
I posted a pro life homily Cardinal Bergoglio gave in which he spoke of the children in his country who live in the dumps and search these dumps for their subsistence.
Our Holy Father has seen the devil looking at him through the eyes of another person. He has lived through times when the devil had absolute control of the government and military of his country. He has been forced to help people without letting his left hand know what his right hand was doing because secrecy of this degree was the only key to survival.
He has seen small children cast out to fend for themselves in dumps.
I am sick to the marrow of my bones of hearing the carping about the way he does the liturgy or how he dresses. I know that the liturgy and the way it is presented is important to some people, but I think we should all remember that the liturgy is not a show. It is prayer. The mass is an hour-long prayer (half hour on weekdays) in which the sacrifice at Calvary is brought home to us and then presented to us in the body and blood of Our Lord for our strength as we go forward in the faith.
Jesus Christ, the living Son of God, is wholly present in His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity in the Eucharist.
I respect the hunger of those who love the liturgy for its beauty and draw sustenance from that beauty. But some of the people I’m reading are dangerously close to making an idol of it. The point is Jesus Christ and Him crucified, risen again and ever present to us on all the altars of all the Catholic Churches of the world.
I think Pope Francis “gets” this. I think he also knows that the mass is prayer and that prayer comes from the heart. There is a whole world out there beyond the borders of the United States, and that world is a butcher shop. The mass, as prayer and re-enactment of the sacrifice of Our Lord, has to speak to people whose reality is far different from ours.
Who knows better what those children in the dumps need; us in our American self-absorption, or the Pope who has walked with them for decades? Who can best address the Church to the people who are suffering and dying for the faith; us, or the pope who has lived with the terror of a killer government himself?
I believe the Holy Spirit gave us this pope for these times because he is the pope we need. He is the pope for those people who are suffering and dying in this butcher shop world of ours.
I think that God gave us this pope at this time because He loves those children in the dumps, those who are unjustly imprisoned, beaten, tortured, raped and murdered. He loves them.
Our problems here in America are — every one of them — things we could solve ourselves if we’d just stop being such cowards. The reason our faith is being successfully attacked from every direction in this country is because Christians are colluding with the attackers by their silence, their tacit support in what they watch and say, and by their actions in how they live their lives.
We don’t need the pope to excoriate those who attack Christ in this country one more time. How many times do the popes have to reiterate Church teachings on the sanctity of human life, gay marriage and all the other evils our debauched society loves more than Christ? Does each pope have to say it five times? Or is it 20?
Maybe the problem isn’t that the popes haven’t told us, but that we aren’t doing our part. We don’t need more excoriation, and we don’t need more obsession over the details of the liturgy.
We need Christians who will follow Christ and stand up for Him, come what may.
The people who need the Holy Father’s active help are those who can’t do for themselves: The ones who are at the mercy of the evils of this butcher shop world.
Here in America, our problem is our own lack of faith in God, which makes us cowards. Christians all over the world are suffering and dying for Jesus. We need to get on our knees and pray for faith like that. It is the answer to all our problems.
Elizabeth Scalia has heard the call.
I’m talking about the call to prayer for persecuted Christians around the globe.
Pope Francis issued a call to prayerfor the persecuted church earlier this week.
According to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, one hundred thousand Christians have died for their faith each year in the last decade. That works out to 11 Christians martyred for their faith every hour for the past ten years.
Can you imagine the outcry if this was one the groups that fashion says we should care about? Just consider the sentence 100,000 _______ were murdered because of they were ______ each year for the past ten years. Supply the name of any group whose rights we hear daily that we are supposed to care about.
Now, go back and substitute the word Christians, as in:
100,000 Christians were murdered because they were Christians each year for the past ten years.
See what I mean?
Christian bashing is far more popular in today’s world than defending the human rights of Christians. Every time I post on the issue, I get a spate of comments telling me that no such problem exists. There are usually a few profane and truly ugly comments mixed in with them. I delete these things the same way I would swat a fly; the same way I delete Holocaust deniers and gay bashers and woman haters; with speed and quickness.
Pope Francis is right. We need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. If you’re one of those people who has been observing this carnage and wondering What can I do? here’s you answer. Get on your knees and start praying.
I wrote a Novena for the Persecuted Church a few weeks ago. You can find it here:
The Washington Post published an opinion piece by Reza Aslan, the Muslim writer-about-Jesus.
I’m not going to go into the this-guy-is-not-a-Christian-he’s-a-Muslim stuff because I don’t think it really matters. You can find the same garbage he writes in this opinion piece on the Discovery Channel, National Geographic and other places all over television every Christmas/Easter.
These are the same lies that are trotted out by Christian bashers all over the internet. You can find them repetitively blah-blahed any day of the week at certain portals right here on Patheos. There are also the hyper modernist Christians, such as the Jesus Seminar, who put this stuff out there, feeding the attacks against Our Lord from within.
Mr Aslan lines up the same old bogus arguments in a list of five, labeling them the “Five Myths about Jesus.” These “myths” are, for those who don’t want to click on the thing: Jesus was born in Bethlehem, Jesus was an only child (Mary is ever virgin), Jesus had 12 disciples, Jesus had a trial before Pontius Pilate, Jesus was buried in a tomb. Each of these is a myth, according to Mr Aslan.
His reasons for these opinions of his are as flabby and obvious as his motive: He’s not a Christian and he wants to tear down Christianity.
The really great thing in all this is that it points out quite eloquently the fact that Christianity is different by far from other religions, specifically Mr Aslan’s faith. Can you imagine if Mr Aslan had written a similar opinion piece about Islam? What if he had decided to debunk the Prophet Muhammad?
The question here wouldn’t be whether or not those “intolerant” Muslims decided to criticize Mr Aslan’s objectivity or say that he was wrong in his assertions. Rather, the question would be where Mr Aslan would hide to keep from being killed.
Christians have been roundly criticized for criticizing this Christ basher. They have been called bigots for pointing out that, as a Muslim, Mr Aslan just might have an agenda in his “scholarship.” They have, as usual, been labeled bigots and intolerant extremists for standing up for their faith.
On the question of the inevitable calls for death and beheading of anyone who dares to say even one criticism of the Prophet Muhammad, there is a “tolerant,” oozy silence.
But the facts are the facts. Christianity is radically different from any other faith on this planet. There is no other empty tomb. Every good thing we believe today about the value of the individual human being and the individual human life has its foundation in the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth.
The fact that the Church is under such attack in the Western world today is a direct consequence of this one thing: Christianity teaches that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God and that there are certain moral requirements and consequences attendant to that fact.
We may not kill with impunity. This teaching raises the ire of those who wish to kill through eugenics, euthanasia, abortion, embryonic stem cell research.
We may not degrade other human beings. This teaching raises the ire of those who wish to degrade through pornography, prostitution, egg harvesting, surrogate pregnancy.
We must use our sexuality as a mutual, life-giving gift between a man and a woman united in the sacramental covenant of Holy Matrimony. This teaching raises the ire of everyone who wants to live outside this boundary.
These things, and not the veracity of the Gospels, are the source of the popularity of the attacks on Jesus.
Mr Aslan is just riding the wave of anger against anyone who tells our nihilistic, narcissistic culture that there are moral limits on what they may do. They are using him with their phonied up “tolerance” to attack what ails them, which is anyone who says their sins are sin. He is using them to attack a faith other than his own in the name of a phonied up scholarship.
This is standard stuff for us Christians. We have to put up with being attacked, defamed and now, blatantly discriminated against as part of our faith.
But we know something that these people refuse to believe: Jesus Christ is the Lord of Life, and those who persist in following Him to the end will live forever.
For a different take on this same article, check out Joanne McPortland.
I’ve talked quite a bit about people who — without being aware of it — are guided by satan in their actions.
Is there another side?
Of course there is! For every rapist, batterer, abortionist, thief, pederast there is any number of good people, living the Gospel day by day.
Here are some examples:
1. Sister Angelique Namaika, a Roman Catholic nun, received United Nations recognition for her work helping women whose lives have been destroyed by the atrocities committed against them in Congo’s civil war.
2. Hernan Prado of Argentina lost his brother when he was murdered as he sat in his car with his two children on September 6. “I am a Catholic and I believe in Jesus Christ,” Prado said, “If God forgives us every day and gives us the chance to start over, how can I not forgive somebody else?”
3. Little Sisters of the Poor filed the first class-action suit about the HHS Mandate. “Like all the Little Sisters, I have vowed to God and the Roman Catholic Church that I will treat all life as valuable, and I have dedicated my life to that work,” Mother Loraine Marie Clare Maguire, superior of the congregation’s Baltimore province said.
To join the conversation about The Geography of Memory, a Pilgrimage Through Alzheimers, or to order a copy, go here.
The Geography of Memory a Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer’s, is a personal memoir, written by a woman whose mother died at the age of ninety after a long slide downward into dementia.
Jeanne Murray Walker writes about growing-up in Nebraska during the 50s against the backdrop of her mother’s slowly worsening dementia. She describes her efforts to participate in her mother’s care, despite the fact that she lived half-way across the country from her mother.
Caring for a dying parent seems to rip open the seams on the bag of memories we all have inside us. I experienced this when my father was dying. Things you thought were lost in the fog of time step out of the backdrop and present themselves to you, complete and fresh. I suddenly remembered my father as he had been when I was a tiny girl. I saw his face, heard his voice from back then. The experience taught me that we don’t forget. We simply file away and lose as the detritus of our daily living piles itself on top what happened back when.
Evidently, Mrs Walker experienced something like that when her mother was sliding down. This book is the result of those awakened memories from her life, built around the backdrop of her mother’s slow leave-taking.
Mrs Walker’s mother was a magnificent woman. She was one of those kind-as-Christmas, tough-as-a-Missouri-rail-spike fundamentalist Baptist women I grew up around and have known all my life. The faith people follow shapes them in powerful ways that are reflected in their overall character. It also infuses them with strength and a kind of power that people without faith, or with only a wishy-washy faith, simply do not have.
This woman lost her husband at a young age, and was faced with supporting her three children back in the 50s and 60s, when career opportunities for women were limited mostly to jobs that paid less simply because they were “women’s work.”
Fortunately, she was an educated woman for those years, a nurse. She told her kids that she would never afflict them with a stepfather and pushed on with the business of bringing home the bacon, paying the bills, and, as we say in this part of the world, raising them right. The Baptist church, with its simple theology and rock-ribbed certainties, formed the spine on which she built this life and raised her kids.
When her only son died of asthma, she did not despair. She kept going and going, right through what sounds like a beautiful second marriage after her children were grown and on into an interested and interesting old age.
Her mind began to betray her when she was in her mid 80s and then slowly unraveled itself as she aged into 90. Even though her daughters managed her care and placed her in what sounds like the best care facilities, she basically traversed this path alone.
But The Geography of Memory is really about Jeanne Murray Walker rather than her mother. It tells the story of how Mrs Walker traveled the country in an exhausting round of visits and suffered the pain of separation from her mother during the time her mother was slowly dying. It describes honestly the confusion, pain, anger and exhaustion Mrs Walker felt while doing this.
It also tells the story of what it was like to be raised by this woman. It is a memoir of a time, place and people that could only exist in the middle of America. The rock-ribbed faith and equally rock-ribbed courage of this woman infuse the daughter’s life with a strength that allows her to step out and move on.
This is a familiar story to me. I know women like Mrs Walker’s mother. I grew up around them. I have also seen their daughters’ ability to separate and spread their wings, something that only really great mothers give their children. Read through that lens, The Geography of Memory is as much a book on the lost art of courageous child-rearing as it is a book about the slow declines of old age.
Mrs Walker’s mother was never diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and I doubt that was what was wrong with her memory. This thing that happens to most elderly people is a slide backwards into childhood and, ultimately, confusion. It’s as if the brain becomes disorganized; a tangled heap.
I haven’t had a family member with Alzheimer’s, but I’ve seen a lot of it in my constituents. The word “alzheimer” has become a catch-all for the various dementias of old age. But it is a specific thing all its own that does not, so far as I can see, only strike the very elderly. My constituents with Alzheimer’s are different from the way Mrs Walker describes her mother. With them, it’s not so much a matter of losing their way to the bank as it is not knowing what a bank is. Over a period of time, they go blank. Instead of being a tangled heap, their brains seem to be hollowed out.
The reason I’m saying this is because it matters in how we treat our older people.
The Geography of Memory is a beautifully written memoir about a magnificent woman and her magnificent daughter. The lessons it teaches are about living far more than they are about dying. Perhaps its sweetest lesson is that the memories of our lives are worth telling.