Bl. Charles de Foucauld & Peace in the Middle East

Bl. Charles de Foucauld – a saint for our times troubled and violent times. 

"My God, if you exist, make your existence known to me,"  Bl. Charles de Foucauld

On Charles de Foucauld

                        by Joann Nelander

Never having seen the stars of glory,
‘Til encountering them in You.
A mansion of grace without walls
Sheltered him in desert wastes.
The good in his heart was God.

He was a monstrance
His life was Gospel
Preached by a beating heart,
On fire to win man for God.

He lived preparing to die.
He expected martyrdom,
And lived in happy anticipation.
Desert priest and brother of all,
Pray for us,
Who still don’t see the stars.

©2011 Joann Nelander

Civilization vs. Barbarity

Robert Spencer "As the Middle East Burns"

 

Silence is deafening as attacks on Christians continue to grow | Fox News

"If we Sunday people are indeed concerned about the survival of our ancient communities in the Middle East, we may want to heed the advice of the Saturday people:

Pray as if everything depends on God. And act as if everything depends on you."

Lela Gilbert is author of \"Saturday People, Sunday People: Israel through the Eyes of a Christian Sojourner\" and co-author, with Nina Shea and Paul Marshall, of \"Persecuted: The Global Assault on Christians.\" She is an adjunct fellow at the Hudson Instituteand lives in Jerusalem. For more, visit her website: http://www.lelagilbert.com.

via Silence is deafening as attacks on Christians continue to grow | Fox News.

Beyond a ‘Tea and Cookies’ Dialogue With Islam by National Catholic Reporter

Beyond a ‘tea and cookies’ dialogue with Islam | National Catholic Reporter.

by John L Allen Jr

ROME — Given the setting of the Middle East, Christians are compelled to pursue dialogue with the vast Muslim majority; in fact, it would be virtually impossible to avoid.

Several participants at the Oct. 10-24 Synod of Bishops for the Middle East, however, seem eager to push that dialogue beyond a “tea and cookies” stage, where the point is merely being polite to one another, into blunt talk about religious freedom, democracy, and what one speaker described as “satanic plans by fundamental extremist groups” to extinguish Christianity in the region.

While it’s not clear what real impact either the local churches of the Middle East or Catholicism generally can have on those fronts, there appears to be a strong feeling in the synod that it’s time to lay things on the line.

One such call came from Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros, a Greek-Melkite prelate in the United States.

“On one hand and in principle, the assertion of tolerance is clear in the Koran,” Bustros said. “On the other hand, and in fact, the laws of all the Arab countries, except for Lebanon where one is allowed to change religion, threaten death to all Muslims who convert to another religion.”

Mincing no words, Bustros added, “We ask here: where can tolerance be found?”

“The first principle of all societies is the equality of all citizens before the law,” Bustros said. “The respect for the conscience of each individual is the sign of the recognition of the dignity of the human being.”

Chaldean Archbishop Thomas Meram of Iran was equally candid.

“The Christian hears every day from loudspeakers, television, newspapers and magazines that he is an infidel, and he is treated as a second-class citizen,” Meram said.

Those words seemed to have a special resonance in light of a presentation to the synod by Ayatollah Sayed Mostafa Mohaghegh Ahmadabadi, who claimed that “in most Islamic countries, notably Iran, as it has been stipulated also by law, Christians live side by side and in peace with their Muslim brothers.”

Despite the pressures he described, Meram said that Christians “stand firm and solid and … become more courageous and proud of their faith.”

Maronite Bishop Paul-Emile Saadé of Lebanon said that accelerating migration out of the Middle East is robbing the Christian community of its “brains and specialized personnel,” violating their right to build a future.

“Their homeland is the land of their ancestors,” Saadé said, adding a clinching sound-bite: “The homeland is not a hotel.”

In that light, Saadé, it’s critical for Christians to engage moderate Muslims and encourage them “to stand firmly against fanatical extremist religious movements.”

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, President of the Vatican’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also delivered a blunt diagnosis.

“The churches and minority religions in the Middle East must not be subject to discrimination, violence, defamatory propaganda (anti-Christian), the denial of building permits for places of worship and the organization of public functions,” he said.

Turkson told NCR Friday morning that when he spoke about building permits, he was partly thinking of a situation in Egypt where a Coptic church is crumbling but local political authorities have so far refused to issue permits for repairs. Turkson said that it seems as if there’s a deliberate policy to allow the church, and eventually its faithful, to disappear.

Turkson also took on a resolution of the United Nations on “Defamation of Religions,” which decries words or actions perceived as attacks on a religion, and which has been backed by Islamic nations. Some Christian activists have criticized the resolution as a not-so-subtle way of criminalizing Christian missionary efforts and of defending the controversial “blasphemy laws” in some Islamic states.

“Promotion of the resolution against the Defamation of Religions in the framework of the United Nations should not limit itself to Islam, or ‘Islamophobia, in the Western world,” Turkson said. “It should include Christianity, or ‘Christianophobia,’in the Islamic world.”

“We can also promote the adoption, again within the UN framework, of a resolution on religious freedom as an alternative to the resolution on the defamation of religions,” Turkson said.

Fr. Raymond Moussalli, an official of the Chaldean patriarchate in Jordan, said that Christians in Iraq are under attack – and he describeditt in unstinting terms.

“There is a deliberate campaign to drive Christians out of the country,” Moussalli said. “There are satanic plans by fundamental extremist groups that are not only against Iraqi Christians in Iraq, but Christians throughout the Middle East.”

Moussalli pled for global outrage.

“We want to make the international community aware that it cannot remain silent in the face of the massacre of Christians in Iraq, the countries with the Catholic tradition, so that they might do something for Iraqi Christians, beginning with placing pressure on local government,” he said.

Perhaps the most emotional speech of the day came Archbishop Ruggero Franceschini of Izmir, Turkey, who is also struggling to lead the small Catholic community in Anatolia after its own bishop, Italian Capuchin Luigi Padovese, was murdered in June by his longtime driver. Though the driver’s motives remain murky, many have speculated that he came under the influence of extremist groups.

Franceschini said the “organizers” of the killing are now spreading “intolerable slander,” likely a reference to claims initially voiced by police sources in Turkey that Padovese had subjected his driver to homosexual abuse. Those claims have been strongly denied by church personnel in Turkey.

“The survival of the Church of Anatoly is at risk,” Franceschini said, “and this is a situation in which I ask you, gravely and urgently, to participate.”

Franceschini openly described “a dark plot of complicity between ultra-nationalists and religious fanatics, experts in schemes of tension,” which is targeting the Christian presence.

Turkson said that the Catholic church may not be able to directly influence either the political realities in the Middle East or internal debates within Islam, but it can, and must, speak out, because the situation is too dire for diplomatic silence.

Certainly yesterday at the Synod of Bishops, that seemed to be the spirit of things.

Index of Stories from Synod

Index of stories from the Synod of the Churched of the Middle East

Synod of the Churches of the Middle East – Pope’s Address

Pope Benedict XVI’s opening address to the Synod of the Churches of the Middle East on October 12th,
Feast of the Divine Motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The Maternal Heart of Our Lady

Dear brothers and sisters,
On October 11 1962, 48 years ago, Pope John XXIII inaugurated Vatican Council II. At the time, on October 11, the feast day of the Divine Motherhood of Mary was celebrated and, with this gesture, with this date, Pope John wished to entrust the whole Council into the motherly hands and maternal heart of the Madonna. We too begin on October 11th, we too wish to entrust this Synod, with all its problems, with all its challenges, with all its hopes, to the maternal heart of the Madonna, the Mother of God.
Council of Ephesus

Pius XI, in 1930, introduced this feast day, 1600 years after the Council of Ephesus, which had legitimated, for Mary, the title of Theotokos, Dei Genitrix. With this great word Dei Genitrix, Theotokos, the Council of Ephesus had summarized the entire doctrine of Christ, of Mary, the whole of the doctrine of redemption. So it would be worthwhile to reflect briefly, for a moment, on what was said during the Council of Ephesus, on what this day means.
Through Mary: Within the Intimacy of God Himself

In reality, Theotokos is a courageous title. A woman is the Mother of God. One could say: how is this possible? God is eternal, he is the Creator. We are creatures, we are in time: how could a human being be the Mother of God, of the Eternal, since we are all in time, we are all creatures? Therefore one can understand that there was some strong opposition, in part, to this term. The Nestorians used to say: one can speak about Christotokos, yes, but Theotokos no: Theos, God, is beyond, beyond the events of history. But the Council decided this, and thus it enlightened the adventure of God, the greatness of what he has done for us. God did not remain in Himself: he went out, He united in such a way, so radically to this man, Jesus, that this man Jesus is God, and if we speak about Him, we can also speak about God. Not only was a man born that had something to do with God, but in Him was born God on earth. God came from himself. But we could also say the opposite: God drew us to Himself, so that we are not outside of God, but we are within the intimate, the intimacy of God Himself.
God Born From Woman

Aristotelian philosophy, as we well know, tells us that between God and man there is only an unreciprocated relationship. Man refers to God, but God, the Eternal, is in Himself, He does not change: He cannot have this relation today and another relationship tomorrow. He is within Himself, He does not have ad extra relations. It is a very logical term, but it is also a word that makes us despair: so God has no relationship with me. With the incarnation, with the event of the Theotokos, this has been radically changed, because God drew us into Himself and God in Himself is the relationship and allows us to participate in His interior relationship. Thus we are in His being Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we are within His being in relationship, we are in relationship with Him and He truly created the relationship with us. At that moment, God wished to be born from woman and remain Himself: this is the great event. And thus we can understand the depth of the act by Pope John, who entrusted the Council, Synodal Assembly to the central mystery, to the Mother of God who is drawn by the Lord into Himself, and thus all of us with Her.
Christ Born to Create a Body for Himself
The Council began with the icon of the Theotokos. At the end, Pope Paul VI recognized the same title of Mater Ecclesiae to the Madonna. And these two icons, which begin and end the Council, are intrinsically linked, and are, in the end, one single icon. Because Christ was not born like any other individual. He was born to create a body for Himself: He was born – as John says in Chapter 12 of his Gospel – to attract all to Him and in Him. He was born – as it says in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians – to summarize the whole world, He was born as the firstborn of many brothers, He was born to unite the cosmos in Him, so that He is the Head of a great Body. Where Christ is born, the movement of summation begins, the moment of the calling begins, of construction of his Body, of the Holy Church. The Mother of Theos, the Mother of God, is the Mother of the Church, because she is the Mother of He who came to unite all in His resurrected Body.
Our Lady of the Cenacle: Mary at the Heart of the Church
Saint Luke leads us to understand this in the parallel between the first chapter of his book and the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, which repeat the same mystery on two different levels. In the first chapter of the Gospel the Holy Spirit comes upon Mary and thus she gives birth to and gives us the Son of God. In the first chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, Mary is at the center of Jesus’ disciples who are praying all together, pleading with the cloud of the Holy Spirit. And thus from the believing Church, with Mary at its heart, is born the Church, the Body of Christ. This dual birth is the only birth of the Christus totus, of the Christ who embraces the world and all of us.
Cross and Resurrection
Birth in Bethlehem, birth at the Last Supper. Birth of the Infant Jesus, birth of the Body of Christ, of the Church. These are two events or just one event. But between the two lie truly the Cross and the Resurrection. And only through the Cross comes the path towards the totality of Christ, towards His resurrected Body, towards the universalization of His being in the unity of the Church. And thus, bearing in mind that only from the wheat fallen to earth can a great harvest be reaped, from the Lord pierced on the Cross comes the universality of His disciples reunited in this His Body, dead and risen.
Mother of the Church and Queen of Martyrs
Keeping this connection between Theotokos and Mater Ecclesiae in mind, we turn our attention to the last book of the Holy Scripture, Revelation, where, in chapter 12, we can find this synthesis. The woman clothed with the sun, with twelve stars over her head and the moon at her feet, gives birth. And gives birth with a cry of pain, gives birth with great suffering. Here the Marian mystery is the mystery of Bethlehem extended to the cosmic mystery. Christ is always reborn in all generations and thus takes on, gathers humanity within Himself. And this cosmic birth is achieved in the cry of the Cross, in the suffering of the Passion. And the blood of martyrs belongs to this cry of the Cross.
The Fall of the Divinities
So, at this moment, we can look at the second psalm of this Hour, Psalm 81, where we can see part of this process. God is among gods – they are still considered as gods in Israel. In this Psalm, in a great concentration, in a prophetic vision, we can see the power taken from the gods. Those who seemed to be gods are not gods and lose their divine characteristics, and fall to earth. Dii estis et moriemini sicut nomine (cf. Psalm 81:6-7): the wresting of power, the fall of the divinities.
The Triumph of the Martyred Children of Mother Church
This process that is achieved along the path of faith of Israel, and which here is summarized in one vision, is the true process of the history of religion: the fall of the gods. And thus the transformation of the world, the knowledge of the true God, the loss of power by the forces that dominate the world, is a process of suffering. In the history of Israel we can see how this liberation from polytheism, this recognition – “Only He is God” – is achieved with great pain, beginning with the path of Abraham, the exile, the Maccabeans, up to Christ. And this process of loss of power continues throughout history, spoken of in Revelation chapter 12; it mentions the fall of the angels, which are not truly angels, they are not divinities on earth. And is achieved truly, right at the time of the rising Church, where we can see how the blood of the martyrs takes the power away from the divinities, starting with the divine emperor, from all these divinities. It is the blood of the martyrs, the suffering, the cry of the Mother Church that makes them fall and thus transforms the world.
False Divinities in the World
This fall is not only the knowledge that they are not God; it is the process of transformation of the world, which costs blood, costs the suffering of the witnesses of Christ. And, if we look closely, we can see that this process never ends. It is achieved in various periods of history in ever new ways; even today, at this moment, in which Christ, the only Son of God, must be born for the world with the fall of the gods, with pain, the martyrdom of witnesses. Let us remember all the great powers of today’s history, let us remember the anonymous capital that enslaves man, which is no longer in man’s possession, but is an anonymous power served by men, by which men are tormented and even killed. It is a destructive power, that threatens the world. And then the power of the terroristic ideologies. Violent acts are apparently made in the name of God, but this is not God: they are false divinities that must be unmasked; they are not God. And then drugs, this power that, like a voracious beast, extends its claws to all parts of the world and destroys it: it is a divinity, but it is a false divinity that must fall. Or even the way of living proclaimed by public opinion: today we must do things like this, marriage no longer counts, chastity is no longer a virtue, and so on.
The Marian Mystery
These ideologies that dominate, that impose themselves forcefully, are divinities. And in the pain of the Saints, in the suffering of believers, of the Mother Church which we are a part of, these divinities must fall, what is said in the Letters to the Colossians and to the Ephesians must be done: the dominations, the powers fall and become subjects of the one Lord Jesus Christ. On this battle we find ourselves in, of this taking power away from God, of this fall of false gods, that fall because they are not deities, but powers that can destroy the world, chapter 12 of the Apocalypse mentions these, even if with a mysterious image, for which, I believe, there are many different and beautiful interpretations. It has been said that the dragon places a large river of water before the fleeing woman to overcome her. And it would seem inevitable that the woman will drown in this river. But the good earth absorbs this river and it cannot be harmful. I think that the river is easily interpreted: these are the currents that dominate all and wish to make faith in the Church disappear, the Church that does not have a place anymore in front of the force of these currents that impose themselves as the only rationality, as the only way to live. And the earth that absorbs these currents is the faith of the simple at heart, that does not allow itself to be overcome by these rivers and saves the Mother and saves the Son. This is why the Psalm says – the first psalm of the Hour – the faith of the simple at heart is the true wisdom (cf Psalm 118:130). This true wisdom of simple faith, that does not allow itself to be swamped by the waters, is the force of the Church. And we have returned to the Marian mystery.
The Unshaken Foundations of Faith
And there is also a final word in Psalm 81, movebuntur omnia fundamenta terrae (Psalm 81:5), the foundations of earth are shaken. We see this today, with the climatic problems, how the foundations of the earth are shaken, how they are threatened by our behavior. The external foundations are shaken because the internal foundations are shaken, the moral and religious foundations, the faith that follows the right way of living. And we know that faith is the foundation, and, undoubtedly, the foundations of the earth cannot be shaken if they remain close to the faith, to true wisdom.
Entrustment to the Mother of God
And then the Psalm says: “Arise, God, judge the world” (Psalm 81:8). Thus we also say to the Lord: “Arise at this moment, take the world in your hands, protect your Church, protect humanity, protect the earth”. And we once again entrust ourselves to the Mother of God, to Mary, and pray: “You, the great believer, you who have opened the earth to the heavens, help us, open the doors today as well, that truth might win, the will of God, which is the true good, the true salvation of the world”. Amen