All Saints Day & Modern Martyrs – UPDATE

Chapel & Tomb of St. Philip Neri, Chiesa Nuova, Rome

Podcast of the Readings for All Saints Day via the USCCB

Late yesterday, word began to come of a “bloodbath” during Mass at Baghdad’s Syrian-Catholic cathedral. Details are still emerging; it portends nothing good:

The terrorists, some wearing suicide vests, had taken over 120 faithful hostage at the Syriac Catholic Church of Our Lady of Salvation, one of Baghdad’s largest, during Sunday mass and demanded the release of al Qaeda prisoners in Iraq and Egypt. “This tragedy represents a new and terrifying change in strategy by terrorists” said an anonymous source from the Catholic community in Baghdad, “it means all Christian parishes in Iraq are in danger”. An Iraqi affiliate of Al Qaeda claimed responsibility for the attack. It said in a statement posted on radical Islamic websites that it was an action against the Coptic church in Egypt.

The pope has denounced the attack:

Benedict said he was praying for the victims “of this absurd violence, made more ferocious because it was directed against unarmed people gathered in the house of God.”

More on the attack here. It seems 3 priests were killed

Last night a visit from a friend prompted a look at pictures from our recent trip to Rome, where we are reminded of the martyrs who helped to build the church.

St. Bartholomew, Apostle, Martyr, (Basilica St. John Lateran)

Even today, in Vietnam and Africa, in the Middle East and elsewhere, people suffer for their faith, while Western Civilization has so lost sight of the disciplines of prayer and fasting and the integration of the life of faith into each act of each day, that it does not surprise us to read stories about Western women finding liberation in the hijab, and daily prayer times.

Lynne Ali remembers the night this hit home for her. ‘I went to an old friend’s 21st birthday party in a bar,’ she reveals. ‘I walked in, wearing my hijab and modest clothing, and saw how ­everyone else had so much flesh on display. They were drunk, slurring their words and dancing provocatively.

‘For the first time, I could see my former life with an outsider’s eyes, and I knew I could never go back to that.

‘I am so grateful I found my escape route. This is the real me — I am happy to pray five times a day and take classes at the mosque. I am no longer a slave to a broken society and its expectations.’

Catholic lay people have always had the Liturgy of the Hours, which bring us to formal prayer throughout the day; we have always had modesty. Sadly these women seem not to know that, either because we have not taught it or because Christianity has become so watered-down that there is no understanding of the Christian spirituality commensurate with what they are looking for.

More on that from the experts:

“He who really wishes to become a saint must never defend himself, except in a few rare cases, but always acknowledge himself in fault, even when what is alleged against him is untrue. . . .What we know of the virtues of the saints is the least part of them.”
— St. Philip Neri

What God wants most of all for each one of you is that you should become holy. He loves you much more than you could ever begin to imagine, and he wants the very best for you. And by far the best thing for you is to grow in holiness. . . . When I invite you to become saints, I am asking you not to be content with second best. I am asking you not to pursue one limited goal and ignore all the others. Having money makes it possible to be generous and to do good in the world, but on its own, it is not enough to make us happy. Being highly skilled in some activity or profession is good, but it will not satisfy us unless we aim for something greater still. It might make us famous, but it will not make us happy. Happiness is something we all want, but one of the great tragedies in this world is that so many people never find it, because they look for it in the wrong places. The key to it is very simple – true happiness is to be found in God. We need to have the courage to place our deepest hopes in God alone, not in money, in a career, in worldly success, or in our relationships with others, but in God. Only he can satisfy the deepest needs of our hearts.
– Pope Benedict XVI, during his recent trip to the UK, cited here, via here

New Theological Movement: Feasts of All Saints and All Souls, Hidden in the Mass

Fr. James Martin has a nice piece up at Huffpo, where he sort of dares the Huffpoians to read further about saints.

On the paradox of orders as proof of God’s existence

In defense of religious freedom

From the UK: Religious Freedoms clashing with Gay Rights

Anyone can be a saint, but one can’t be timid

The Secret Disciples

Music for the Day

Bishop Kevin Farrell:
the Saints of Baghdad
Bishop Timothy Dolan: the Greatest Family
Pope Celebrates All Saints Day

Get Religion notes the difficulty the NY Times had in revealing exactly what sort of church was attacked. Good catch.

About Elizabeth Scalia
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  • dymphna

    We have the LOH but who really prays it? How many average Catholics even know it exists? As for modesty I’ve seen more tail on display at church than I have at the office party. Modest women are made fun of and called overly pious frumps. For a young English woman Islam probably does seem like a step up.

  • Ellen

    My sad and cynical self says that some of these women would scorn modesty and prayer presented by Christianity, but they embrace Islam because it’s exotic.

  • pst314

    “Catholic lay people…have always had modesty. Sadly these women seem not to know that, either because we have not taught it or because Christianity has become so watered-down….”

    And because our leftist/secular elites systematically and ceaselessly denigrate Christianity. Although they make make periodic pro-forma statements that they only hate extremist, intolerant “Christianists”, in reality their words and actions show that they oppose any Christianity that is more than just a vehicle for socialism.

  • Susan T.W.

    Ellen, I think you are right.
    FYI, November 14 has been set aside for Christian organizations to specifically pray for the persecuted church worldwide. The Catholic Church is also under persecution in Vietnam, Iraq,
    Communist countries, Middle East. Though not Catholic, I informed our area’s Bishop in case he wanted to spread the word to the parish’s congregations.

  • dry valleys

    Lauren Booth, a relative of Blair’s by marriage, converted to Islam recently. Personally I think it is a terrible thing that they voluntarily join a sect which, by any objective measurement, is deeply unpleasant.

    I am always dismayed when I see fellow leftists who are uncritical of a religion that certainly has no time for their values. (I know some like-minded people to me read this site- have a look at the book “Does God Hate Women?”, written by atheists, if you want this borne out by proof).

    In all honesty I am not bothered what these bishops think, it’s just the standard-issue stuff they always say when they can’t broadcast their views unchallenged. Yet in fact, a secular liberal state is the best defender of people to observe a religion or not bother (Which is why we need to be vigilant in defence of the rights of those whose “apostasy” might even get them killed).

    Talking about Christians fleeing the Middle East (which was given book-length treatment by William Dalrymple in “From The Holy Mountain”, which saw him going around what was once Byzantium).

    In a state which neither favours nor disfavours religion, there would be no persecution of the sort employed in communist regimes, or in lawless countries like Iraq where people kick off against unbpopular minorities at any chance (did you see btw that Tariq Aziz was a Christian, & there was far less persecution in past times than there is now?) or in clerical fascist states where opponents of whatever sect (including Muslims such as the Ahmadi sect, who even find themselves under threat in Britain now, Sufi, etc).

    But there would not be state funding going to religious schools as it does in this country. There would not be laws priviliging the church of the kind that used to exist in Catholic countries, either.

    In fact, you don’t actually have to be an atheist to support secularism. The United States of America has a secular state with a strongly religious culture, whereas other countries like Sweden are secular without being especially religious.

    I saw this about someone calling for religious unity in the face of “aggressive” secularism. Yet, as I said, if he is that keen on integrity he should be attacking his own government rather than cynically playing at culture wars.

    PS- I didn’t answer the door last night, some kids knocked a few times but they didn’t get any sweets from me :)

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  • Jackie Parkes

    Thankyou for the depth of this post..

  • Mary

    Out of the depths I call to you, LORD;
    Lord, hear my cry! May your ears be attentive to my cry for mercy.
    If you, LORD, mark our sins, Lord, who can stand?
    But with you is forgiveness and so you are revered.
    I wait with longing for the LORD, my soul waits for his word.
    My soul looks for the Lord more than sentinels for daybreak. More than sentinels for daybreak,
    let Israel look for the LORD, For with the LORD is kindness, with him is full redemption,
    And God will redeem Israel from all their sins.

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  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Ellen, like you, I suspect that, for such women, the appeal of Islam is that it’s “exotic”, and wonderfully third-world; certainly, I don’t see the same respect accorded to modest Jewish, or evangelical Christian women, who are usually dismissed as narrow-minded, man-hating frumps.

    And, in view of recent events, such as the massacre at the Iraqi church and recent, foiled, Fed-Ex bomb plot, I am surprised—and appalled–that any woman could embrace the hijab, and Islam, or find in it some sort of wonderful refuge from sin.

    Sins of the flesh are bad; sins against one’s fellow man: murder, hatred, oppression, are far worse. These foolish creatures are certainly looking for something, but they’re not looking in the right way, or the right place. . .

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    And, by the way, there are plenty of Western women who are not slaves to a “broken society”, etc., etc., etc., or who need an “escape route”; a lot of us don’t find adapting to 7th Century standards of feminine modesty and good behavior appealing—because, hey, we weren’t the ones who wasted our youth drinking, partying and giving into peer pressure! (Remember us? You called us “Prudes” and “Goody Two-shoes” and “Religious fanatics”! way back when—not to mention “Puritans”, and “Killjoys.”)

    Sorry, us “Killjoys” will hang onto our own faith—and our own, God-given, individuality, thank you very much! You didn’t like us when we were “Prudes”, and you don’t like us now you see us as “wantons”, and infidels; s’okay! We’re used to living with your disapproval!

    There are lots of happy Western women: secular, or in convents; Orthodox Jewish women and Christian women in loving communities, where forgiveness and acceptance are realities, and not based on some shame/honor code. This idea that western women are all miserable slaves of a “Girls Gone Wacky” society, desperately strict codes of modesty, and a religion—ANY religion (no matter how violent, or theologically dubious) to make them happy, is nonsense.

  • Pat

    One of your best posts–thank you. And thank God for the witness of these modern day martyrs.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Pray for the persecuted church.

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  • Fuquay Steve

    Ah, nothing like being flayed! Beautiful statue and suffering beyond comprehension. It occurred to me that the backs of our Church fathers are broad and strong – we just need to climb on.

  • CV

    Heartbreaking news about the Christian martyrs in Iraq.

    I wonder if women who choose Islam are simply unaware of news reports like the horrifying news out of Iraq, or just general information about the very low status they’ll hold in their new religion.

    Do they hear reports about stonings etc. and rationalize and/or dismiss them? I can’t imagine why someone who wasn’t born into those severe cultural restrictions would willingly choose that role. The irony, of course, is that Christianity is so often unfairly characterized as having an oppressive patriarchy.

    Like Ellen, I tend to think there’s often a cynical explanation…the exotic character or the fact that you really stand out with the old (Western) crowd (hijab or burqua notwithstanding).

  • simeon

    Yes, and let us not forget that while Catholics, Jews and other Christians are persecuted for their faith in islamic nations (can you say “Indonesia,” etc.?), our American bishops announced yesterday that they did not want us to feel obligated to go to Mass today to honor the Saints and martyrs. That would be “inconvenient” since the celebration falls on a Monday. After all, if they can move Assumption Thursday to Sunday, what else can’t they do to water down the faith?

    Indeed, how many of you heard from your pulpits yesterday regarding the Feast of Christ the King? Did your liturgy celebrate this great and NEEDED Mass? Or was it more important to talk about “Halloween”?

    It is not a coincidence that Catholics were massacred on this great feast to Christ our King; may the souls of these new martyrs rest in peace.

    While bishops condemn Israel, they cower at confronting islam. Wake up, people.

    There is a reason why our Church instituted the Feast of the Holy Rosary, the Angelus and why Mary appeared at Fatima with the moon under Her feet. She is fighting the battle against the enemies of God! Are you with Her, for She is with Him.

    Arise O Warrior Queen and let God’s enemies be scattered and let them that hate Him and His people flee from before Thy holy foot!

  • dry valleys

    Did you hear there has been a bomb in Istanbul? They don’t know who is behind it, they suspected Kurdish militants but those have denied it. Be it an Islamist sect or just someone who had read a website & decided to kick off.

    I would have liked to go to Istanbul so I could see the Byzantine, Ottoman & modern Turkish legacy. Almost as if it were three places on one spot/

  • OldLineStateDad


    The liturgical Calendar shows that the feast of Christ the King falls on November 21st this year. Why would a sermon for All Saints day/eve, or whatever the bishops decided yesterday was, cover a feast that occurs later in the month?

    Fully agree with you on the bishop’s decision to turn All Saints Day into the religious equivalent of federal holiday this year. The cynic in me thinks they were looking at the bottom line of how much the collection plates would suffer tomorrow when they made their decision.

  • simeon

    OldLineStateDad: Yes, I know. But that’s was my point, if elusive.

    That today’s hierarchy has so changed the liturgical calendar and watered it down, that I believe not even the Saints would recognize it. If you remember, the feast was originally to be held the last Sunday in October, until the “modernists” of the ’60s began radically changing the calendar. Since Pius XI was the pontiff who instituted the feast and took his name from St. Pius X, I believe we have forgotten what this great incorruptible taught the Church: beware of modernism.

    OldLine, what would the Saints think of today’s weak Mass and liturgy, especially in the light of evil events like in Baghdad? Are we invoking the Hand of God’s Protection, or as Israel learned so many times when, in the Old Testament, they ignored God’s Sovereignty, they learned their enemies made easy prey of them.

    We seem to be on the same page; I am advocating a return to Sacred Tradition in the Mass, liturgy and worship of God, and the honor due His Mother and His friends and family, the Saints.

    We must, once again, become the Church Militant working in conjunction, not against, the Church Triumph.

  • Andrew B

    Tragic news about the newest martyrs in Iraq. It is also tragic that modern, Western women think that the only alternative to slutty debauchery is Islam. What a sad, strange world we live in.

  • OldLineStateDad

    Well, the 60′s and hence, pre-Vatican 2 Church were before my time, so that’s explains my ignorance on the original date of the feast. Moreover, I’m not sure what happened in Baghdad was a result of a weak Mass or Liturgy, especially since Iraqi Christians, probably use a different, more Conserative rite than those of us in the West.

    I further fail to see the attraction of Islam to western women, except that it appeals to the inner desire for authority of those individuals of a socialist bent. You know the type, those who want to suppress dissent, rather than engage in honest debate. Islam initially spread through “Conversion by the sword,” and still has a very strong intolerant streak to say the least.

  • AvantiBev

    I am so tired of the clap trap of the hijab as modesty. It has nothing to do with modesty but with as disordered a view of woman as that of Hollyweird and USA pop culture has. Come on Catholics, pick up some real books about Islam not just the pap being shoveled by Karen Armstrong and Saudi-funded John Esposito.