25 October 2014

ONGOING UPDATES: A Boko Haram Ongoing News Round Up

25 October 2014
24 October  2014
23 October 2014
20 October 2014
18 October 2014
17 October 2014
10 October 2014
6 October 2014
2 October 2014
1 October 2014
30 September 2014
25 September 2014
24 September 2014
20 September 2014
19 September 2014
18 September 2014
17 September 2014
16 September 2014
12 September 2014
11 September 2014
10 September 2014
9 September 2014
8 September 2014
4 September 2014
3 September 2014
2 September 2014
29 August 2014
28 August 2014
24 August 2014
15 August 2014
14 August 2014
27 July 2014
11 July 2011
10 June 2014
June 2014
2 May 2014
28 May 2014
30 March 2014
26 February 2014

ISIS Updates - October 2014

Given the great length of my original post containing daily updates on the activities of the Islamic State of Syria and Iraq, I thought it might be good to being a new post of ongoing daily updates here. I expect to do this each month.

24 October 2014
23 October 2014
22 October 2014
21 October 2014
20 October 2014
19 October 2014
18 October 2014
17 October 2014
16 October 2014
15 October 2014
14 October 2014
13 October 2014
12 October 2014
11 October 2014
10 October 2014
9 October 2014
8 October 2014
7 October 2014
6 October 2014
5 October 2014
4 October 2014
3 October 2014
2 October 2014
1 October 2014

Anti-Catholic sentiment continues to raise its ugly head

For decades, political cartoons - and rhetoric - were filled with blatant anti-Catholicism, right up until the election of President John F. Kennedy. Here are just a few examples (in no particular order):

Following the tragic assassination of President Kennedy, anti-Catholic political rhetoric became more subtle and nuanced. That is, until yesterday, when an attack against Mark Miloscia, who hopes to be elected to the Washington state Senate, when this cartoon was published online and widely circulate on Twitter:

The anti-Catholic smear was so blatant that The News Tribune ran a story on the ad.

Miloscia's opponent in the Senate race, to her credit, criticized the ad as an inappropriate attack. Shari Song wrote on her Facebook page:
There are lots of things in my opponent's record that are fair game to take issue with. But I respect Mark Miloscia’s religion and I certainly don't condone ANY of my supporters making attacks on that basis. I understand one of my supporters may have crossed the line of what is appropriate in that regard, and I've asked them to stop. This campaign should be about the issues, not personal attacks.
To be sure, anti-Catholic political cartoons have not ceased being published, but there do seem to be more of them in recent years, a trend which are to be disconcerting, at the least. Here are four, from 2005, 2010, 2010, and 2014:

To better understand both the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States of America and to therefore understand where it be may heading, there two essential books you should read:
  • Anti-Catholicism in America: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, by Mark S. Massa, S.J., and
  • The New Anti-Catholicism: The Last Acceptable Prejudice, by Philip Jenkins
If you still think the U.S.A. was founded for religious freedom for all, you're in for a bit of a surprise when you read the actual history of how Catholics were treated from the beginning. Maryland exists for a reason.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2014/10/24/3450087/mark-miloscia-hit-with-anti-catholic.html?sp=/99/296/#storylink=cpy

24 October 2014

Jesus: Squishy, feel-good, non-confrontational leader?

Over the years I've returned again and again and, yes, again to the popular conception - even among Christians - of Jesus as a nice guy.

Since it is a topic to which I will likely have to return again and again and, yes, again in the future because far too many simply will not open their Bibles and read even one of the Gospels, I was pleased today to see this tweet from Sister Miriam James:
I may have to start using this line in the future.

Behind, beyond, and sometimes ahead of the times

G.K. Chesterton once quipped, "The Church always seems to be behind the times, when it is really beyond the times."

Even so, every now and again the Church happens to be "ahead of the times," as evidenced today Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II sent her first tweet on Twitter as part of the celebrations for a new exhibit at a science museum in London:

She doesn't look as though she enjoyed it as much as His Holiness Pope (Emeritus) Benedict XVI did when he sent his first tweet almost two years ago on December 12, 2012:

Saint Bonaventure on hypocrites and the signs of the times

And therefore, he calls them hypocrites, for they were professing knowledge of the Scriptures like Catholics, rather than knowledge of the nature of things and of the stars like astrologers. But in reality they were paying more heed to the latter rather than to the former. And this is hypocrisy in Christian religion, to be more solicitous about the things of nature than about the things of grace....Therefore these are reprehensible, who take pains to consider the time of this rain and neglect to consider the time of grace, since through these sensible realities they can be led to spiritual realities. So they have abandoned the heavenly fatherland for the sake of the road thereto, and the face of the Lord for the sake of the Lord's footprints.

- Saint Bonaventure

23 October 2014

Have you ever seen a dog in a stroller?

The city of Rome is frequently said to be beautiful, mostly by tourists who are enamored by the ancient ruins, the baroque churches and facades, and the narrow, windy, cobble-stone streets.

Rome is a beautiful city (at least in parts) and you never quite know what you're going to see when you turn a corner. Such was my experience today when I joined a seminarian for lunch. As we made our way to what claims to be "the only lasagnaria in the world," we saw this most curious of sights:

No, your eyes do not deceive you. That is a dog being pushed in a baby stroller. Stranger yet, the dog seemed quite at ease.

Can you reach your Bible?

Whenever I heard someone say something like, "Jesus wouldn't turn anyone away," I ask them a simple question: "Have you completely read even one of the Gospels?"

Only rarely will someone - Catholic, Protestant, or otherwise - honestly answer with a, "No, I haven't." More often that not the question is simply ignored and the comments continue.

In one of his parables, he certainly indicates that he will turn people away, those who claimed to have known him but in reality did not (cf. Luke 13:22-30).

While it might be true that Jesus did not explicitly turn anyone way, he nearly did so with the Canaanite woman whose daughter was tormented by a demon (cf. Matthew 15:32-28). It was because of her humble persistence that he answered her request.

He let the rich man go away sad because he wouldn't sell all he owned (cf. Mark 10:17-22). He didn't run after him to comfort him, nor did he change his demands.

He even let the crowds abandon him when he spoke of the necessity of eating his flesh and drinking of blood (cf. John 6:60-71). Once again, he didn't run after them, he didn't change his words to appease them, and he certainly didn't say, "I was only speaking symbolically!" Rather, he turned to the Twelve and asked, "Do you also want to leave?"

Saint Jerome was quite right when he said that "Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." We cannot claim to know Jesus Christ if we have not read one of the Gospels (they aren't very long, and there are only four of them).

The next time someone claims to know what Jesus would or would not do, or what he would or would not say, without having read just one of the Gospels, I think I'm going to show this image and what for an answer:

Of course, I could end up waiting for a while.

22 October 2014

BREAKING NEWS: Pope Francis wears a baseball cap!

I know this is something I simply need to "get over," but headlines like this irritate me to no end: "Pope Francis tries on baseball cap during his general audience." Am I the only one who wants to know, "Who cares?"

It isn't that the daily activities of Pope Francis aren't important, but is his attempt to wear a baseball cap really all that newsworthy? I say "attempt" for a reason:

Perhaps he hasn't warn a baseball cap before. They haven't been as popular in most parts of the world as they have been in the United States of America.

Even if this were news, where were the same headlines when his predecessor Benedict XVI wore a sombrero?

Not just once, but twice:

Maybe that's why it wasn't news.

But what about the time he put on a hardhat?

What the policeman's hat he tried on?

He tried on several on styles of hats at his Wednesday Audiences, as well, but I don't want to spend too much time looking for them. Of course, though, we cannot that Benedict XVI also tried on a baseball cap:

Please, don't pay too much attention when the media reports about the activities of the Pope.

Italy's Economic Woes: After 35 years "without hardly ever working," an Italian has retired with a pension

When I tell people back home in the United States of America that the number one goal for many - if not most - Italians is not to work right now (with no real thought to increased work in the future), they are baffled and cannot imagine how this could be the case. Today, I can offer an example (even if a bit extreme).

Consider this story from The Telegraph of a coal miner who admits that, after 35 years of "work" for the coal company, "I reached the pensionable age without hardly ever working." He has now retired at the age of 52:
An Italian coal miner's confession that he is drawing a pension despite hardly ever putting in a day’s work over a 35-year career has underlined the country’s problem with benefit fraud and its dysfunctional pension system.
Carlo Cani started work as a miner in 1980 but soon found that he suffered from claustrophobia and hated being underground.
He started doing everything he could to avoid hacking away at the coal face, inventing an imaginative range of excuses for not venturing down the mine in Sardinia where he was employed.
He pretended to be suffering from amnesia and haemorrhoids, rubbed coal dust into his eyes to feign an infection and on occasion staggered around pretending to be drunk.
The miner, now aged 60, managed to accumulate years of sick leave, apparently with the help of compliant doctors, and was able to stay at home to indulge his passion for jazz [more]. 
I suppose, in some ways, it's a dream come true. It's also a prime example of the serious difficulties underlying Italy's economy.

21 October 2014

A Halloween Round Up

As we draw closer to the annual celebration of Halloween, we are likely to see repeated claims that Halloween is, at its root, pagan and even Satanic. This, of course, is simply not true and the origins of the celebrations as they have down to us today are a bit convoluted.

To help you prepare for Halloween and maybe to learn a little something or two, here are a few links that may be of interest to you (some of which I've posted before):

20 October 2014

Paprocki asks Catholics to pray the rosary to turn the tide - and hearts - of jihadists

Blessed Pope Pius IX once said, "Give me an army saying the rosary and I will conquer the world." He was not, of course, speaking of a political or temporal conquest, but a spiritual conquest, a conquest of hearts.

The same Pope referred to the rosary as "a weapon to put demons to flight" and urged Catholics to take up the rosary each day:
If you desire peace in your hearts, in your homes, and in your country, assemble each evening to recite the Rosary. Let not even one day pass without saying it, no matter how burdened you may be with many cares and labors.
The Catholic Gentleman offers several quotes from holy men and women regarding the rosary as, the words of Saint Pio of Pietrelcina, "the 'weapon' for these times."

In his weekly column in the Catholic Times in which he examines "how some define the word 'jihad'," the Most Reverend Thomas John Paprocki, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois, has echoed, in a certain sense, these words of the holy Pope, urging the faithful of his Diocese to take up their rosaries to turn the tide of jihadists:
While it pertains to Muslims to address and renounce such matters of Islamic teaching, I suggest for us Catholics that we turn to our Blessed Mother for her intercession by praying the rosary. Many parishioners pray the rosary together in church before Mass, a practice that I heartily encourage. Prior to the naval battle of Lepanto to repulse the westward expansion into Europe by the Ottoman Turks in the 16th century, Pope St. Pius V called on Catholics to pray the rosary. After the battle was successfully won near the west coast of Greece on Oct. 7, 1571, the pope attributed the victory to the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and declared the Feast Day of Our Lady of Victory, which we now observe as Our Lady of the Rosary each year on Oct. 7. Let us pray to the Queen of Peace for her intercession, that the whole world may be led to the peace promised by her son, Jesus, the Prince of Peace [more].
Let us answer Bishop Paprocki's call and ask Our Lady to intercede especially for the Middle East, the land in which she lived and walked and prayed, a land she loves very much.

19 October 2014

The Beatification of Pope Paul VI

"Today vast numbers of people still do not know Jesus Christ. For this reason, the mission ad gentes continues to be most urgent. All the members of the Church are called to participate in this mission, for the Church is missionary by her very nature: she was born 'to go forth'."

With these words - words which echo the words of his predecessor Pope Paul VI in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi (On Evangelization in the Modern World) written at the close of the Third Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops and released in 1975 - the Holy Father Pope Francis began his Message for World Mission Sunday 2014, which is to be observed today throughout the Church universal.

It was Pope Paul VI who said, "Those who have received the Good News and who have been gathered by it into the community of salvation can and must communicate and spread it," a reminder of which we are in continual need, especially in these days when too many Christians have forgotten the necessity of proclaiming the Gospel of Christ (13).

But these are not the only words from Evangelii Nuntiandi that seem particularly apt at this time. As the Cardinals and Bishops gathered these past two weeks for the Third Extradordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, perhaps should have spent more time reflecting on these prophetic words:
The split between the Gospel and culture is without a doubt the drama of our time, just as it was of other times. Therefore every effort must be made to ensure a full evangelization of culture, or more correctly of cultures. They have to be regenerated by an encounter with the Gospel. But this encounter will not take place if the Gospel is not proclaimed (20).
This split is becoming all too apparent with each passing day and needs to be honestly accessed and addressed.

My childhood pastor, Father John Beveridge, was deeply influenced by this exhortation of Pope Paul VI and through it brought the Systematic Integral New Evangelization (SINE) to St. John the Baptist Parish in which I was raised in Quincy, Illinois. Through the small faith sharing groups formed through SINE, I came to understand the Gospels more clearly and learned how to follow Christ more closely through the witness and encouragement of my fellow parishioners, especially those in my small group, to whom I am eternally indebted.

Reading through this exhortation again and again in high school and in college was one of the helps along the way as I sought to discern the Lord's will for my life. It was this sentence, above all, that struck me deeply:
Here lies the test of truth, the touchstone of evangelization: it is unthinkable that a person should accept the Word and give himself to the kingdom without becoming a person who bears witness to it and proclaims it in his turn (24).

For this reason - and in gratitude for Pope Paul VI's other prophetic witness in his encyclical letter Humanae Vitae - I was very happy this morning to be able to concelebrate the Holy Mass in Saint Peter's Square this morning for the beatification of this Bishop of Rome.

I left the Casa Santa Maria with five other priests. It is difficult to carry on a conversation with two other people as you walk through Rome (doing so with four others would be nearly impossible). So it was that I walked with a priest of the Diocese of Orange (whose Bishop - the Most Reverend Kevin Vann - is a priest of the Diocese of Springfield in Illinois) and who has family in Hawaii. As we walked we spoke of our mutual love for those blessed islands.

When we reached St. Peter's Square, the size of the crowds forced our group apart and I ended up with two priests who also live at the Casa, but with whom I did not walk (one from the Diocese of Lincoln, the other from the Diocese of Trenton).

After about an hour and a half of waiting in our chairs, the Mass finally began. After the Sign of the Cross and the Penitential Rite, the Most Reverend Luciano Monari, Bishop of Brescia, petitioned Pope Francis with these words:
Most Holy Father, I, the Bishop of Brescia, humbly request Your Holiness that the Venerable Servant of God, Paul VI, Pope, be proclaimed Blessed.
The biographical sketch of Pope Paul VI was then read by the Postulator of the Cause. Afterwards Pope Francis responded to the request of Bishop Monari, saying:
Acceding to the request of our Brother Luciano Monari, Bishop of Brescia, of many other of our Brothers in the episcopate, and many of the faithful, after consultation with the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, by our apostolic authority we declare that the Venerable Servant of God Paul VI, Pope, shall henceforth be invoked as Blessed and that his feast shall be celebrated every year on the twenty-sixth day of September, in the places and according to the norms established by Church law.

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

The veil over the official portrait of Blessed Pope Paul VI was then lifted as we sang, "Shout to the Lord, sing to the Lord!"

Someone needs to help the Holy See forget how to use Photoshop.
Next a relic of Blessed Pope Paul VI - an undershirt he wore when an attempt on his life was made in Manila - was displayed near the altar for the veneration of the faithful:

After the incensation of the relic, the Holy Mass continued in the usual way, beginning with the Gloria.

In his homily this morning, Pope Francis said:
When we look to this great Pope, this courageous Christian, this tireless apostle, we cannot but say in the sight of God a word as simple as it is heartfelt and important: thanks! Thank you, our dear and beloved Pope Paul VI! Thank you for your humble and prophetic witness of love for Christ and his Church!
In his personal journal, the great helmsman of the Council wrote, at the conclusion of its final session: “Perhaps the Lord has called me and preserved me for this service not because I am particularly fit for it, or so that I can govern and rescue the Church from her present difficulties, but so that I can suffer something for the Church, and in that way it will be clear that he, and no other, is her guide and saviour” (P. Macchi, Paolo VI nella sua parola, Brescia, 2001, pp. 120-121). In this humility the grandeur of Blessed Paul VI shines forth: before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.
After the Mass, Pope Francis rode through the Square in the Pope-mobile and I was able to get a good picture as he rode by:

The coat of arms is that of the Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI.
All in all, it was a beautiful morning and a great way to spend a Sunday.

Blessed Pope Paul VI, pray for us!