To Pray the Rosary for Persecuted Christians in Iraq

Join Catholics worldwide on Tuesday, Nov. 23 as we pray the Rosary for the persecuted Christians in Iraq. This is yet another effort to strengthen our Iraqi brothers and sisters in Christ. My friend Dan told me about this proposal and referred me to a website promoting it.

How fitting these prayers will happen Tuesday, when we pray the Sorrowful Mysteries. Christians have been praying the Rosary for 800 years. They are powerful prayers.

Sister Lucia of Jesus told us: “The Most Holy Virgin in these last times in which we live has given a new efficacy to the recitation of the Holy Rosary. She has given this efficacy to such an extent that there is no problem, no matter how difficult it is, whether temporal or above all, spiritual, in the personal life of each one of us, of our families, of the families of the world, or of the religious communities, or even of the life of peoples and nations that cannot be solved by the Rosary. There is no problem I tell you, no matter how difficult it is, that we cannot resolve by the prayer of the Holy Rosary.”

(Thanks to Catholic artisan Sarah Harkins for use of this photo of one of her handmade clay rosaries.)
Most Christians in Iraq, who have lived in the region since nearly the time of Christ, belong to the Chaldean Catholic Church, part of the East Syrian Rite of the Roman Catholic Church, maintaining full communion with the Roman Catholic Church.

Widespread persecutions of Christians began in Iraq in 2003 after the fall of Sadaam Hussein. Hundreds of thousands have fled the country, seeking asylum in Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. Thousands also have sought refuge in the Detroit area.

From a high of 800,000 Chaldean Catholics in Iraq, only 400,000 remain. Muslim extremists are persecuting them for their faith. The worst attack on Christians in modern history happened on the vigil of All Saints’ Day, when two priests and 58 other worshipers were slaughtered in Our Lady of Salvation Cathedral in Baghdad.

Let us join their sorrows to ours. As we pray the rosary, let us entwine all sorrow to Christ’s. Here is Danielle Rose, who wrote a song for each of the Sorrowful Mysteries, singing of the Agony in the Garden.YouTube Preview Image

Because of the King on the Cross

Today Catholic worshipers across the globe are commemorating the Solemnity of Christ the King. Pope Pius XI established this feast day in 1925 in the wake of what was supposed to be the “war to end all wars” as a way to combat secularism. We need this feast day now, more than ever.We end the liturgical year meditating on a King who died without a Kingdom in this world, a King assassinated by political authorities who found his message of love and redemption deeply threatening.

I struggled to write words to express what it means that Christ has dominion over our lives. Instead, I found the words in today’s reading, in a letter St. Paul wrote hundreds of years ago from a prison to the Colossians. I found an image painted nearly  400 years ago, by Diego Velázquez, that shows us both Christ’s human suffering and His transcendent divinity.

When I read Paul’s words and heard them at Mass Saturday evening, they burrowed into my heart.The Colossians had been converted to Christianity. But they were being pressured to accept false doctrines; so are we. I encourage you to to read these words out loud, and slowly. Christ explains everything. We exist because He gazes at us with immeasurable love.

Brothers and sisters:
Let us give thanks to the Father,
who has made you fit to share
in the inheritance of the holy ones in light.
He delivered us from the power of darkness
and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,
in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation.
For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers;
all things were created through him and for him.

He is before all things,
and in him all things hold together.
He is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead,
that in all things he himself might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell,
and through him to reconcile all things for him,
making peace by the blood of his cross
through him, whether those on earth or those in heaven.

Because the Church Helps Us Discern a Solution to the Immigration Question

Guest Post by James P. McCollum Jr.

Mr. McCollum is a Houston lawyer who mostly practices immigration law. He is a graduate of The University of Texas Law School and a graduate of Duke University. I grew up with him in suburban New York, where we called him “Jimmy.” In recent months, we have reconnected in cyberspace and it has been wonderful to share thoughts about our  faith. 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that prudence is the “charioteer” of the four “cardinal” virtues. Prudence is the virtue that enables a person to discern true good and the right way to achieve the true good.

Webster’s Dictionary teaches us that the word “cardinal” is derived from the Latin cardo, meaning hinge. Therefore, Webster’s first definition of “cardinal” is: 1. on which something hinges or depends; fundamental; principal; chief.

St. Anthony the Great defined intelligence as the quality that permits a person to judge what is good and what is evil. An intelligent person thus avoids what is evil and harms the soul and cares for and practices what is good and profits the soul, greatly thanking God. St. Anthony the Great was a “Desert Father.” He lived as a monk in Egypt in 250-350 AD.

The word “discern” may be specially used to describe a process of thought, analysis, meditation, contemplation, and prayer in arriving at a solution to a question. One supposes that any larger question in one’s life may be “discerned.” It goes without saying that in the process of the discernment, you seek the counsel of others. But ultimately it is the one person who discerns God’s will in arriving at an answer, or, in secular terms, in discerning the truth.

In contemporary society, the agnostic questions the notion that there is a “true good” or that one may distinguish “good” from “evil.” This notion that there is no “true good” may be disproven in the way people deal with the very tribulations that befall us every day. Peace arrives through an ordered and reasoned response to these perceived difficulties. A virtuous person is equipped to meet these challenges with equanimity.

Prudence guides the judgment of our conscience and enable us to act accordingly. A hallmark of prudence is the lack of timidity or fear in applying moral principles to particular cases for the good.

But how does one arrive at the right thing?

St. John of the Cross, the Spanish mystic of the 15th century, teaches in “The Ascent of Mt. Carmel” that if you do a good action, you must do it for the glory of God in order for it to be truly good. If you are aware of yourself doing a good action; or if you are doing a good action so that others may see you do a good action; then the action is not perfect.

Why is it that some people are so aware of this larger perspective and are great humanitarians and others are not? Why is it that some great social problems go unsolved year after year? Is it because prudence cannot be discussed in a sound-bite?

In the Civil Rights movement, great Americans took courageous action on behalf of African-Americans. Bobby Kennedy, for example, spoke as no other politician since Lincoln in framing contemporary problems in a larger perspective.

The alien has no vote and no influence. Where will we find the leader who stands up for the impolitic?

The United States is a deeply religious country. And even where there is no stated religion, there are deeply spiritual forces at work. The Congress may yet find the courage and farsightedness to discern a solution to the question of immigration. It would be refreshing to hear a leader speak in terms of the four cardinal virtues as Bobby Kennedy spoke unabashedly of love.

“For the LORD, your God, is the God of gods, the LORD of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who has no favorites, accepts no bribes; who executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and befriends the alien, feeding and clothing him. So you too must befriend the alien, for you were once aliens yourselves in the land of Egypt.”

To Send Supplies to the Christians in Iraq

Sending letters to the Nuncio was a great idea to let our embattled brothers and sisters in Iraq know we care. And with a little help from our friends (like the Anchoress and Father Robert Barron and many other bloggers—thanks!), the letter post  “read ’round the world” was shared by 384 people on Facebook and resulted in 2400+ people reading the post. We’re not sure how many e-mails the Nuncio received, but we will let you know what we find out.

But many asked us about how to send relief in the form of food and supplies. Sending donations that can be turned into food, clothing, and shelter is an idea that many of us would like to put into action now.

Good news! I think I’ve found a few ways that you may be able to help in this manner.  Iraqi Christians In Need, is one such organization based in the United Kingdom. This group was was also mentioned in an article dated a month before the latest attacks about Chaldean Catholic refugees in my home state. From the U.S. based ICIN website, I found this You Tube video with only 57(!) views. Take a look,

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From the ICIN website in the U.K., I found the video below with David Frost and Father Nezir Seeman, the chaplain to the Syriac Catholic Community there.

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Other avenues to help might be through Aid to the Church in Need. They are an organization that has been helping persecuted Christians the world over since 1947. And the Catholic Near Eastern Welfare Association is another possible alternative.

Full disclosure time: I have donated through ICIN, whose US offices are near where I live. But this post is not a solicitation for either one of these three entities. You may contact your local parish  to see what your local diocese may be doing in order to aid the Church in Iraq too. Or look to your own favorite charitable organizations as well.

And please, keep assaulting Heaven with your prayers.

UPDATE:   A letter to President Obama.

For Thoughts Like These On Martyrdom By Archbishop Sheen

Martyrdom has been on our minds here at YIMCatholic lately. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote that “death is the affirmation of the purpose of life in an otherwise meaningless existence.”

Our Lord led by example, was killed, and buried, by the well meaning and peace-keeping Proconsul named Pilate.

Jesus was an irritant, see, and Pilate, though knowing in his heart that He was innocent, had Him killed anyway. As Father Ronald Knox put it so simply, such is the way of the world. With Our Lord’s Resurrection though, the Game changed and the God of Ecclesiastes unveiled a Heaven sent major revision to the meaning of death.

Sometimes during the Memorial Acclamation at mass we say “Dying you destroyed our death, rising you restored our life. Lord Jesus, come in glory.” (cf. 1 Cor 15 3-23). He leads by example in all things, because if He did not, Christianity would have been stillborn right there at the foot of the Cross. Instead, after Pentecost, former scaredy cats who hid in fear boldly proclaimed the Gospel in a manner that puts real flesh on the phrase “what…you want to live forever?!”

I don’t think there are any words I can offer to succor the families in Iraq left behind in the wake of the deaths of their loved ones. Archbishop Fulton Sheen has a short chapter in his wee book The Power of Love, though, that reminds us that there is more to the picture than meets the eye. Perhaps these thoughts may provide both solace and hope for the persecuted in Iraq and the world over.

Those Who Suffer Persecution by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

“Blessed are you when all men speak well of you, when you are popular and in the limelight,” is a beatitude of the world.

Let the Lord come into a world that believes that our whole life should be geared to flattering and influencing people for the sake of what they can do for us, and say to them: “Blessed are you when men hate you, persecute you, revile you,” and He will find Himself without a friend in the world, and an outcast on a hill with a mob shouting His death and His flesh hanging from Him like purple rags.

This Beatitude is really the Beatitude of the blessedness of being persecuted, or the happiness of being a martyr. In its full statement it runs: “Blessed are those who suffer persecution in the cause of right; the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs. Blessed are you, when men revile you, and persecute you, and speak all manner of evil against you falsely, because of Me. Be glad and lighthearted, for a rich reward awaits you in Heaven.”

When Our Lord spoke of the world, He did not mean the physical world or the cosmos, He meant the spirit of the world which was arrayed against Him and His followers; a world which would one day kill his servants and think it was rendering a service to God, a world that is composed of human nature organizing itself against Divinity.

The Christian is bidden to be happy as Peter and the Apostles were when they were permitted to incorporate themselves to the Cross of Christ in order to share in the glory of His Resurrection. To be tolerated sometimes is a sign of weakness; to be persecuted is a compliment. The mediocre survive.

The persecuted person shows that his belief is taken seriously and the cause for which he stands must be eliminated if evil is to conquer. True it is that evil men are persecuted, but they do not come within this Beatitude, for as Saint Paul said: “If I should deliver my body up to be burned and have not the love of God and my neighbor in my heart, then it profits me nothing.” A martyr must die for the faith, not for his property, nor his good name, nor for the sake of the Party. Self-made martyrs are numerous, but they have no place in the ranks of those who are promised the Kingdom of Heaven for taking the Cross of Christ on their shoulders.

One would expect that a person who is humble and unselfish, merciful and loving of mankind, should expect a peaceful end, but the Lord who made human hearts knew better. He, therefore, closed His Beatitudes by showing the treatment He would have us expect from the world.

Martyrs, witnesses to the Divine Love in the world, are promised the Kingdom of Heaven. They do not possess it merely because they suffer and endure; they rather suffer and endure because they already possess the Kingdom in their own hearts. One great and mysterious fact that is not generally known to the world is that wherever there is persecution on account of the Faith, it always results in a vast catch of souls for the Kingdom of God. Tertullian was right when he said: “Blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

The triumph of truth in Heaven is not enough; it must also have its glorious revenge in the very theater of its humiliations and conflicts. The world must see how mistaken it was in rejecting Divine Love, and must be forced to exclaim again with Julian the apostate: “Oh Galilean! Thou hast conquered!”

From today’s responsorial Psalm, “The Lamb has made us a kingdom of priests to serve our God.” Amen.

Update: To Send Supplies to Iraqi Christians.

Because the Saints Are Alive

Back in November of 2007, it never would have crossed my mind that I would stand in front of my parishes RCIA group giving a talk on the Communion of Saints. And yet three years later that is exactly where I found myself.

A few weeks ago I asked our readers here for pointers on what I should cover. Then, I put together a killer slide show and even planned to show a clip (or two) from the movie The Reluctant Saint.

I really hoped to just knock the cover off the ball with a presentation that would be no less than a tour de force which would leave everyone completely dazzled at the adventure that they individually, along with the rest of the Class of 2011, were embarking on.

I should have known better.

Have you ever heard the phrase “God writes straight with crooked lines?” And let’s not forget the secular saint named Murphy of “everything that can go wrong will” fame. Because on Sunday, my stunning slideshow was viewable only by the two or three people in the front row because my whiz-bang marvel of a Macintosh computer didn’t have the right connection cable doohickeys to hook up to the projector. Even the USB cable that was there was inoperative.Yikes!

But like they say, “the show must go on.” The RCIA Director asked me if I had a prayer to start the class with and I said yes: “Lord, Help!” like Abba Macarius taught me. Other than that, it was adapt, improvise, and overcome time as I crossed the line of departure.

I think that first class turned out ok anyway, and as I was playing to a packed room, I was glad that I had your suggestions and my slideshow/crib notes to refer to. I remember that my own RCIA class, in a different parish, had 8 people in the class between catechumans and candidates. I am happy to report that my current parish has 50 people in the class of 2011. Saints be praised! And by Monday evening, we even had the slide show bugs worked out. Whew!

The main theme of my talk was this thought: the saints are alive and they are a lot like you and me. And just like none of our own lives have turned out as we thought they would (show of hands please? Uh-huh.), neither did the lives of the saints. That wasn’t a hard leap of faith for me to make a statement like that since, right on que, even my equipment was unusable. Lord knows, I was living another unplanned moment.

As we say in the Marines, Press on. I started off with an example of the episode in the life of St. Vincent de Paul when he was captured by Barbary Pirates and sold into slavery. His example of having faith that everything would work out to God’s benefit is inspirational to me.

I introduced them to a few others of our family members too. Because as Henri Nowen once wrote,

Through baptism we become part of a family much larger than our biological family. It is a family of people “set apart” by God to be light in the darkness. These set-apart people are called saints. Although we tend to think about saints as holy and pious, and picture them with halos above their heads and ecstatic gazes, true saints are much more accessible. They are men and women like us, who live ordinary lives and struggle with ordinary problems. What makes them saints is their clear and unwavering focus on God and God’s people. Some of their lives may look quite different, but most of their lives are remarkably similar to our own.

The saints are our brothers and sisters, calling us to become like them.

So I introduced them to some official saints like the flying “jack-ass for Christ” (Joseph of Cupertino), The Impaled Deacon (Benjamin), my favorite Catholic widow (Blessed Marie of the Incarnation), and the guy who helped a robber make off with his own stolen property (Macarius the Great). And of course Our Mother, Queen of All Saints. And I couldn’t help ad libing about the Desert Fathers,  Saint Al (Alphonsus de Liguori) and Big Terry (Teresa of Avila) too. I also asked the sponsors to share with the class their Confirmation names and we learned even more about our family in the Church Triumphant in that way too.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I let them know that I was a rookie Catholic just a few years removed from where they were sitting. And I told the Monday evening class an abbreviated version of how the uncanonized saint Blaise Pascal sent me running to the chartroom for a major course correction. We glanced at Thomas Merton as the college wise guy and juxtaposed that with what became of him after he became a Catholic. And I had a good time, while losing all track of time talking about the saints.

The main thing about the saints is that they put Christ first in their lives. Their stories aren’t fairytales but well documented and true. Whether we are talking about the original Apostles (all martyred except for St. John), or the ones I named above, they put into practice the following command,

Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength. Take to heart these words which I enjoin on you today. Drill them into your children. Speak of them at home and abroad, whether you are busy or at rest. Bind them at your wrist as a sign and let them be as a pendant on your forehead. Write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:5-9).

And their lives were never lived only for themselves, but for something far, far greater than that.

Which brings me to the conclusion of this very long post. Toward the end of the Monday evening session, one of our Deacons brought the concept of time into focus for us all. While we live constrained by time, which for us only moves forward, God is not bound by time, or clocks, watches, or chronometers. He is timeless and all that is, was, and will be, is already known to Him. Though God Himself came into time (during the Incarnation as the Son of Man, and whenever it suits Him now) Our Lord is now seated at the right hand of the Father, and therefore no longer bound by time either. Backwards, forwards, sideways, up or down, God is not bound by time as we are.

And this is also true for the saints in the Church Triumphant in Heaven. They are in communion with God in all His glory as well. This is why we can ask them to pray for us and why they can perform miracles in our time too.

In fact, as our Deacon so clearly explained it, when we go to Mass, the entire Church is present there along with us. Not just in my parish, but at every Mass in every parish the world over. We men and women in the Church Militant (slogging it out on our pilgrimage through time on earth) are not the only ones present. Listen to the Liturgy, he explained, and hear us invoke the saints like we do in the Eucharistic prayer here,

In union with the whole Church we honor Mary, the ever-virgin mother of Jesus Christ our Lord and God. We honor Joseph, her husband, the apostles and martyrs Peter and Paul, Andrew James, John, Thomas, James, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Simon and Jude; we honor Linus, Cletus, Clement, Sixtus, Cornelius, Cyprian, Lawrence, Chrysogonus, John and Paul, Cosmas and Damian and all the saints. May their merits and prayers gain us your constant help and protection. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Because the saints are alive, just as the departed faithful in Purgatory are. Which is why during the Mass we also pray for the faithful departed too,

Remember, Lord, those who have died and have gone before us marked with the sign of faith, especially those for whom we now pray, (names deceased loved ones whom the celebrant or parishioner wishes to offer before God). May these, and all who sleep in Christ, find in your presence light, happiness, and peace. Though Christ our Lord. Amen.

Afterwards, I thought of a new slide to add to the end of the presentation. I searched Google and couldn’t find what I was looking for, though I’m positive I’m not the first to think of this. But I couldn’t find what I was looking for so I made this “Venn diagram” of the Church below. Because the Church, like God Himself, is One in Three. And all of His Church members are alive and present together at Holy Mass.

Thanks be to God.

I Just Met Nickleback (Music for Mondays)

Feast of St. Albert the Great 

Lead Guitar, Rhythm Guitar, Bass, and Drums.  This is the Golden Mean ratio of Rock ‘n Roll, folks. It is like π, a constant that is both routine and mysterious.

Proven, like the four man fire-team of a Marine rifle squad. Robust, like the Ford V-8 engines, big-block or small, that spanked the whiz-bang V-12 Ferrari’s (large and small) at the 24 Hours of Le Mans four consecutive times (1966-1969).

In a word, classic. Much like the Catholic Church, now that I think about it.

However, without lyrics that mean something, it is all for naught. But when the poet sings to us too, while jamming out tunes that get our hearts and our feet moving? You get the classic four piece bands that legends are made of: The Beatles, the Who, U2, the Eagles, and the band I’m bringing to you today:

Nickleback.

Now out of Vancouver, Canada this band was unknown to me until two days ago. That’s right, I must live under a rock because they have been making music since 1995. Thankfully, I have some friends who pull me out of the cave every once in a while and introduce me to “new” old bands making music that I may like.

But I’m not the only one of my friends who never heard of them. Their Facebook page has 4,911,324+ adoring fans (and only two of my friends “like” them?!), which makes even Anne Rice’s fan page seem (and ours infinitesimally so) insignificant. I hope the following clips will help explain their appeal.

If Everyone Cared. Have you gotten involved in our letter writing (actually, e-mail writing) campaign? The Nuncio at the UN has offered up his Diplomatic Pouch so we can send messages of encouragement to our brethren in Baghdad. Have you thought of making a donation? Sure, it’s a small thing. But what if we do nothing? Nothing will get done. I think Chad Kroeger & Co. knock the cover off the ball here. Watching this I can’t help but think of Dorothy Day.

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If Today Was Your Last Day. I have no idea if these guys are Christians. But listen to the lyrics and watch these scenes unfold and you may only be concerned about one thing: am I living life as a true Christian, or like a pretender? I know I fall short.

Nickelback – If Today Was Your Last Day from Nickelback on Vimeo.

Never Gonna Be Alone I have sons and a daughter too. And time is certainly fleeting. Before I know it, my children will be on their own. But even if I’m gone tomorrow, Our Lord, The Church, and the Faith, will still be here for them. So they’ll never be alone either. Thanks be to God.

http://c.brightcove.com/services/viewer/federated_f9?isVid=1

For the last two, I have to send you to You Tube. Please excuse any commercials.

Far Away. A young couple, the husband a fire-fighter. He, or she, could just as easily be a police officer or in the military. It’s a tough career on families. My wife got a phone call like this once, and though she got her husband back too, it took a little longer than this.

Savin’ Me. Some of Nickleback’s songs are about getting drunk and crazy, Burn It To The Ground, for example. The usual silliness that rock bands sometimes dip into, right? Think of Van Halens’, um, “thought provoking” songs. There is a time and a place for songs like BITTG, but this song is not like that at all. There is a longing here that comes through loud and clear.

Show me what it’s like
To be the last one standing
And teach me wrong from right
And I’ll show you what I can be.

Because My Pope Loves Libraries!

Libraries have always been one of my favorite places on earth. Just ask anyone who knows me. I’m especially fond of public libraries. But  private ones are nice too.

Pope Benedict XVI is a gifted writer so it probably comes as no surprise that he loves books and libraries as well. But I still love it when my Pope says that “we are keeping the library!”

Far from being simply the fruit of the accumulation of a refined bibliophile and of a hobby of collecting many possibilities, the Vatican Library is a precious means — which the Bishop of Rome cannot and does not intend to give up — that gives, in the consideration of problems, that look capable of gathering, in a perspective of long duration, the remote roots of situations and their evolution in time.

And why, pray tell, are the Vatican Libraries worth keeping?

From its origins it conserves the unmistakable, truly ‘catholic,’ universal openness to everything that humanity has produced in the course of the centuries that is beautiful, good, noble, worthy the breadth of mind with which in time it gathered the loftiest fruits of human thought and culture, from antiquity to the Medieval age, from the modern era to the 20th century.

And for another reason,

…nothing of all that is truly human is foreign to the Church, which because of this has always sought, gathered, conserved, with a continuity that few equal, the best results of men of rising above the purely material toward the search, aware or unaware, of the Truth.

Which I reckon means we will be keeping our astronomical observatory too. And another great thing about the Vatican Library and our Pope’s love for the same? Just this,

In the Vatican Library, all researchers of the truth have always been received with attention and care, without confessional or ideological discrimination; required of them only is the good faith of serious research, unselfish and qualified.

All are welcome!

You can read the full article from ZENIT here (h/t to Athos at Chronicles of Atlantis for posting on this).

To Dedicate this Song to the Memory of the Martyrs of Baghdad

I remember listening to America’s Top Forty with Casey Kasum while I was growing up, do you? While I was fooling around at You Tube preparing for the MfM music post, I replayed the beautiful Hail Mary prayer that is in Arabic that I posted on Friday. I soon realized that there is a ton of Christian music in Arabic posted over there.

So like the people who used to call in to Casey (who is of Lebanese Druze family heritage), and to Wolfman Jack (and other disc-jockeys too), I would like to dedicate this song to my brothers and sisters at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad Iraq.

Peace Be Upon You Mary. This is in Arabic, though I’ve translated the title (Assalamou Alayki Ya Maryam) into English. I don’t kid myself that I understand Arabic fluently, but I know what the first line means and this sounds beautiful nonetheless.

After listening, click on the title here and you will be transported to You Tube where video after video of other Christian hymns and songs in Arabic can be found.

Yes, as Webster once wrote, the Holy Spirit is definitely on-line (and so is the Body of Christ).

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And I’ll dedicate this one too (let’s pretend it’s “Two for Tuesday”).

Pax Christi.

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Because Christian Martyrdom Sheds No Innocent Blood

Originally posted back on September 16th, the Feast of St. Cyprian, I am breaking this post out of the archives again. The recent killings of parishioners at Our Lady of Salvation in Baghdad bring the title of this post into stark relief with the events that transpired there on All Hallows Eve. St Cyprians words do not alleviate the pain, nor do they erase this tradgedy from our minds. But they do point to something larger than ourselves: the truth in the title of this post points to the Truth of the Word Incarnate.

—Feast of St. Cyprian

Today is the day we commemorate the fellow you see in the icon to your left. Cyprian was beheaded for refusing to worship the false gods of the Roman Empire.

There was no separation of church and state, see, so the state decided to make an example of Cyprian, and thousands of other Christian martyrs too. The state, the Empire, lost the war against Christianity, and collapsed like the house of cards that it was.

On days like this, when the Catholic Church reveres a martyr, I am struck by a signal truth: the only innocent blood that was shed is that of the martyr. In other words, they didn’t go out with “a bang”, trying to bring as many down with them as possible. To me, that fact alone proves the supernatural Truth of the Way.

As a Marine, I promised to put my life on the line for the safety of the citizens of my home country. I promised to willingly take lives, and perform duties that would facilitate the taking of many lives, in order to fulfill this pledge. I took an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, against all enemies, foreign and domestic. The Marine Corps taught “my hands to fight, and my fingers to war.”

I am retired from the Marines now. As such, I am no longer bound by this oath made by men. As oaths go, it is a fine one. But now, my sword has been turned into a ploughshare and my time and talents are no longer to “be exercised any more to war.” Not temporally, anyway.

Below is a letter St. Cyprian wrote to honor those who fell as martyrs, and to encourage those who may fall in the service of Our Lord. The martial symbolism is not lost on me. Nor is the call to spiritual arms. But as you read the letter below, keep in mind that each of these martyrs never lifted a sword against their oppressor. And they each, as Cyprian does, knew who the oppressor really is, and that lifting a sword against a mere pawn of that oppressor was, and still is, pointless.

Sun Tzu once wrote that,

All men can see these tactics whereby I conquer, but what none can see is the strategy out of which victory is evolved.

St. Cyprian saw the strategy, and so does every Christian who dies as a martyr. This is one of the myriad paradoxes of our life of faith. I believe Sun Tzu would understand this since he said,

Confront them with annihilation, and they will then survive; plunge them into a deadly situation, and they will then live. When people fall into danger, they are then able to strive for victory.

If Sun Tzu would have been alive when the missionaries first came to China, I think he would have understood the Way.

Here is a portion of St. Cyprian’s thoughts on martyrdom,

St. Cyprian’s 10th Epistle

Cyprian, to the martyrs and confessors, continued health in Christ our Lord, and in God the Father:

I am exceeding glad, and heartily congratulate you, brethren, most blessed in your great endurance, when I hear of your faith and courage, in which your Mother the Church triumphs. Indeed she triumphed before, when a judicial sentence drove the confessors of Christ into exile, without shaking their constancy. But your present confession is as much more glorious and honorable than that, as the sufferings have been greater, through which it has been maintained. The combat has been greater, and greater has been the glory of the combatants.

You have not been deterred from the contest, but you have been rather the more excited to the battle, by the prospect of torture: and you have returned, firm and undaunted, with an unshaken devotion, to the struggles of the hottest engagement. Some of you, I hear, have already been crowned; some are pressing towards the crown of victory, and stand ready to grasp it; and all the glorious band, upon whom the dungeon has closed, are animated with an equal and mutual ardor to carry on the contest.

This is as it ought to be with the soldiers of Christ in the army of the saints; that effeminacy may not enervate, that threats may not terrify, that racks and tortures may not move the integrity and stability of their faith. Since He is greater who is in us, than he who is in the world; and no earthly infliction has greater power to cast us down, than the Divine help has to support us.

Of this we have the proof before our eyes, in the glorious contest of those of our brethren, who were the leaders in this conquest of tortures; and afforded an example of constancy and faith, while they rushed again and again on the battle, until the battle was overcome. In what words shall I proclaim your praises, O brethren, most invincible! With what device of the herald shall I blazon the strength of your fortitude, the endurance of your faith!

You have borne the most exquisite tortures, even to the consummation of your glory; nor have you yielded to torment, but rather torment has yielded to you. Your martyrdom has crowned those sufferings, to which your tortures refused to put an end. The severity of infliction was thus continued, not to the overthrow of a dauntless faith, but that it might transport men more rapidly to their Lord.

The spectators wondering at the celestial contest, the contest of God, the spiritual contest, the battle of Christ, saw his servants standing, with a determined voice, with a mind untainted, with heavenly virtue; without the arms of this world, indeed, but strong in the panoply of faith. The tortured stood more unmoved than their torturers; and the crushed and lacerated limbs overcame the instruments of cruelty. The fierce and often repeated lash could not overcome their invincible faith, although their very vitals were laid open with repeated stripes, and the frequent blow fell not on the body, but on the wounds of the servants of God.

The effusion of blood might have extinguished the flames of persecution, might have assuaged the very fires of hell with its glorious stream. O how noble was that spectacle! In the eyes of the Lord how sublime! How great, how acceptable in the sight of God, that fulfillment of the oath, that pledge of the devotion of his soldiers! Since it is written in the Psalms, the Holy Spirit speaking also to us, Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.

This is indeed a precious death, which has purchased immortality; which has received the crown as the consummation of virtue. How did Christ then rejoice! How willingly did he fight and conquer in such servants of his; confirming their constancy, and giving to all those who believed in him according to their faith!

He was present, as if the contest were His own: He strengthened, encouraged, and animated those who fought for Him, and for the honor of His name: and He who once conquered death for us, continues to conquer death in us. When they shall deliver you up, says he, think not what ye shall say; for in that hour it shall be given you what ye shall say: for it is not ye who speak, but the Spirit of your Father who speaketh in you.

The present combat afforded an evidence of this truth. A word full of the Holy Spirit broke from the mouth of the most blessed martyr Mappalicus, when he exclaimed, in the midst of his tortures, to the Proconsul, Tomorrow shall you see a struggle indeed! And what he said with the witness of a courageous faith, the Lord himself fulfilled. The heavenly struggle was seen; and the servant of God received his crown in the height of the anticipated contest.

This is the struggle which the Apostle Paul describes, in which we ought to run so as to obtain the crown of glory: Know ye not, says he,

that they which run in a race run all, but one receiveth the prize ? So run, that ye may obtain. And every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a corruptible crown ; but we an incorruptible.

Again, describing his own contest, and in immediate anticipation of being offered up, he says,

For I am now ready to be offered, and the time of my departure is at hand. I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith: henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day: and not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing.

This struggle, therefore, appointed by the Lord, undergone by Apostles, Mappalicus, in his own name and in the name of his companions, promised that the Proconsul should see. Nor did he disappoint the expectation that he had excited: he exhibited the contest he had promised; he bore off the palm which he deserved.

Let me, then, exhort those of you who remain, to follow that most glorious martyr, and the rest who shared in his engagement; who were patient in tribulation, who were victorious over the rack, and stood like soldiers and comrades unbroken in faith.

That those whom the bond of one confession and the walls of the dungeon have already associated, may also be associated in the consummation of virtue and the heavenly crown. That you may dry, by your joy, those tears of your Mother the Church, which she sheds over the fall and ruin of many; and that you may confirm those, who are yet unshaken, by your example of endurance.

When your turn shall arrive, and you too shall be called to the fight, quit yourselves valiantly, and endure with constancy; well assured that you fight under the eyes of the Lord, who is present with you, and that you march to glory through the confession of his name. He is not such a master as to look on his servants from afar; but He himself struggles together with them; with them He advances to the conflict: He himself, in the successful issue, both bestows and receives a crown.

St. Cyprian, pray for us. You can read more of this letter on the YIMCatholic Bookshelf.