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Archive for April, 2011

Pope Benedict making the Sign of the Cross

 

Over at Catholic Answers, I came across this this link on a forum posting.  The minister at a very large Methodist Church in Texas has a series of sermons about different Christian faith traditions, in very charitable and ecumenical presentations. 

The series started with his appreciation of Roman Catholicism.  I listened to it and was very moved.  Not only would Protestants brothers and sisters benefit from it, but we Catholics as well.  Overall, the pastor gave a very fair presentation.  (A couple of his historical dates seem influenced by his Protestant background, e.g. the date of the establishment of Roman papal authority.)  But his historical overview is generally acceptable.  It’s what he has to say about the things he appreciates in Catholics where this sermon gets going, and surprising.  I’ve never known any Protestant to admire our Purgatory beliefs, for instance.   What else does our Methodist brother appreciate?  Not surprising: our commitment to life issues, our steadfastness against cultural attacks, and our work with the poor.  Oh, and of course, Authority.  Surprising: Sacramentals, liturgy, reverent ritualized prayer, candles, and the Sign of the Cross.  He even tackles the sex abuse scandal.

I got a bit choked up listening to it.

Here is the minister, Dr. Ed Robb, preaching on “Why I appreciate the Roman Catholics“.  (there is a video option as well).  Take time to listen to it; it just may make you appreciate your faith more.

The Woodlands UMC

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For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.  Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord.  Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them, for it is shameful even to mention the things done by them in secret; but everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for everything that becomes visible is light. Therefore, it says: “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will give you light.”

Ephesians 5:8-14

Yesterday, we attended the Confirmation of the oldest son of a family with whom our family is close. It struck me during Mass that this passage from the second reading applies very aptly to the young people; indeed to all of us.  This entire chapter of Ephesians gives good instruction on the importance of right thinking.  In our modern context, it is a sure shield against moral relativism.

Pray for our Confirmation recipients.

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The uprisings in the Arab world continue to spread and the next target may well be Syria.  Ed West, the journalist blogger I linked in the previous entry, writes about the possible collateral effects should the current Syrian dictatorship be the next to fall.  I myself have not wished to see any of the Arab dictators toppled because the map seems to be moving to ever more increasing Islam fundamentalism, but Mr. West’s observations regarding Syria cause me to be especially prayerful for the outcome.

But whatever our sympathy for reformers, should we be so eager for regime change? Perhaps we should be sceptical. Because if the Assad family go, there’s a fair chance that the language spoken by Jesus Christ will go too. Syria is a predominantly Sunni Muslim country but it also has significant Shia and Christian minorities. The Assads themselves are Alawites, a Shia sect of Islam dismissed by hardline Sunnis as “little Christians”, who celebrate Easter and Christmas and use bread and wine in their religious services. Whatever else they’ve done, the Assads have managed to keep the country, a mix of Sunni, Shia, Druze, Alawite and Christian, free of conflict. After what happened in Iraq, especially to that country’s poor Christian minority, do we dare risk the same thing in Syria? I’m not even sure the Israelis, the Assads’ arch-enemies, want that.

Syria has an awesome Christian heritage. Damascus itself has a beautiful Christian quarter with a relaxed, slightly Gallic atmosphere, and such treasures as the house of Ananias and an Orthodox cathedral on Straight Street, where St Paul had his conversion.

And about 40 miles north and 5,000 feet up there’s a town called Maaloula, nestling on a narrow stretch of hillside road and accessible only through one road (which still has a gate), where Aramaic is still spoken as the main language, which Lonely Planet compared to finding a Latin-speaking town in the Umbrian hills. There one can visit a fourth-century Orthodox convent of St Sergius and Bacchus, and hear the Lord’s Prayer in Aramaic (when I went it was full of Iranian Shia women in chadors, as Shia Muslims revere the shrine). It’s an incredible scene.

Read the entire essay here.

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Are you familiar with what is happening in the Ivory Coast?  That is the African country with the contentious presidential election last fall, which most Westerners would not have noted at all if it weren’t for the fact that the Ivory Coast happens to be the largest producer of cocoa beans.  So those of us chocoholics may have read the headlines a few months ago that our chocolate may be rationed. But as to the details of what is happening in the Ivory Coast, who really knows and who cares and anyway, the reporting on it has been woefully superficial, so you know, who cares?

Well actually, I care…and not only because of the impact on cocoa bean production.  And I think you should care too.  Because if you are reading this weblog, the situation in the Ivory Coast probably affects you, too.

To bring you up to speed, in case you are one of the 98% of Americans who have no idea what is happening there: the election last fall resulted in a Northerner winning, and the incumbent Southerner refusing to leave office, and civil violence ensued and continues.   The “international community”, whoever that is, has found the election to be valid and support the Northerner’s cause.  The U.N. has “troops” there to uh, protect something, maybe civilians and of course the usual aid groups like the International Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders are also there.  But the largest charitable organization on the ground in the Ivory Coast is the Roman Catholic church.  That is because the Ivory Coast has been an increasingly Catholic Christian nation in the last decades.  In the 1980s, the estimate of Christians was 1/8th of the population.  However, recent estimates are that nearly 1/3 of the population are Christians, largely Catholic Christians.

The other large faith tradition in the Ivory Coast is Islam.  Perhaps 1/4th of the population are Muslims.

Demographically, the northern areas of the country have more Muslims, receiving a large influx of immigrants from Muslim neighbors to the north.  The southern parts of the country are where the Christian populations have remained and thrived.

Today, I read the sad news that an estimated 1,000 civilians from the southern village of Duekoue have been found massacred.  The machete-hacked bodies were found by aid workers in the places in which they fell.  The UK Telegraph report says that these civilians were killed by supporters of the Northern winner after his forces gained control over the village in the ongoing civil conflict.

An estimated 40,000 civilians fled to to the local Catholic mission, which is sheltering them as best they can, but the priests report that they are desperately low on food.

The Telegraph report has the usual quote from a U.N. official in charge who says they had no idea the killings were occuring.  (I would think it is hard not to notice 40,000 people running to the church, and the sounds of 1,000 souls being slaughtered likewise would seem hard to miss.)

Anyway, I’m blogging about this not because of what the newspaper reported, but what it failed to report.  The paper tells us that the supporters of the Northern winner slaughtered thousands of Southern villagers.  What it didn’t tell us was that the folks who died were predominantly Christians, living in a predominantly Christian town and those who murdered them were predominantly Muslim, coming in from Muslim territories.  That is the underlying reality to the political situation and civil violence.  To continue to ignore the importance of this obvious religious violence is proof again of the brazen bias of the major media.

For instance, despite the liberal BBC erroneously reporting 3 days ago that it was the forces of the incumbent president (a Catholic) who was doing the butchering in Duekoue, I note that they have not printed a retraction in light of the today’s revealed atrocities of the (Muslim) rebels.  In fact, reviewing the BBC reporting of the past days infuriated me for its bias, carefully edited reporting and slanted headlines.  The primary method taught in journalism schools must be how to report only the facts that support the opinion the media puppet-masters decide you should form, and the shameful BBC reporting is proof that they are nothing if not leaders in the sleight-of-hand shenanigans of the liberal press.

I have said it before, but the most persecuted faith people in our world today are we Christians.  The mainstream media will not tell us that. But it’s true

As for me, I’ll be praying for the incumbent president, Laurent Gbagbo, a Roman Catholic and a man who very possibly may be killed by rebel forces in the coming days.  When his government falls, I believe we will be looking at the next Ethiopia, the next Somalia, the next Nigeria or the next Sudan. I’ll be looking forward to how the liberal press will gussy up that tragic development.

***Please pray for our Christian brethren in the Ivory Coast, and persecuted Christians throughout the world.  May God bring the martyred to eternal rest in Him and extend mercy and justice to the living and the dead.***

 

Note: I just stumbled upon this blog under the Telegraph’s banner which also derides the biased press coverage.  Check out Why does media coverage of conflicts such as Ivory Coast ignore history, religion and demographics? by Ed West.

 See update as of May 12, 2011

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