In recent weeks, there has been a lot of reporting about what Pope Francis said about Islam. Many articles, even from supposedly respectable establishments, blatantly misquoted him (as has become almost the norm), to pretend that he claimed the Koran is “prophetic”.
Obviously, these misquotations are ridiculous and frustrating, but what our pope actually did say is actually, in my opinion, far more concerning.
Let me be clear before I go any further. I am going to criticise Pope Francis. Pope Francis is the legitimate pope, the successor of St. Peter, and he has my respect and loyalty as a Catholic. But all popes can be, and are, wrong about some things when they are not speaking ex-cathedra, on behalf of the Church.
For the sake of the truth, and those who would be harmed by falsehood, it must be said: Pope Francis is very wrong in some of his statements on Islam.
One particular quote, from Pope Francis’ apostolic exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, illustrates the essence of some of his recent comments:
“Faced with disconcerting episodes of violent fundamentalism, our respect for true followers of Islam should lead us to avoid hateful generalisations, for authentic Islam and the proper reading of the Koran are opposed to every form of violence.”
What is Authentic Islam?
It’s a little odd to think about, isn’t it? The pope is entrusted with divine authority over Catholic doctrine, but since when can he declare the authentic version of a false religion?
Now, I don’t believe that the pope used the word ‘authentic’ in this quote to mean what is actually true about Islam. In that sense, we know that the Koran contains many false teachings, Muhammad is not a prophet, and Islam is a heresy. That is obvious enough in the many fundamental contradictions between Islam and Christianity (for example, Islam denies Jesus’ divinity, and His death and resurrection). Pope Francis would certainly not disagree with this, even though he might not use the word heresy.
What Pope Francis most likely meant is that one who reads the Koran and the authoritative Muslim writings, and honestly believes them, should be opposed to every form of violence, or that what Muhammad intended to teach was opposed to every form of violence.
This, however, is also completely false.
First of all, not even Christianity is opposed to all forms of violence. The Church not only largely supports just war theory, but also understands the obligation to defend the innocent, especially for those in positions of care over others. This applies very widely, from national governments to parents who must protect their children.
But the error in this statement goes further than a technicality. The evidence is abundant and clear – from Islam’s own authorities – that Muhammad was a violent man, taught and commanded his followers to do violence, and that both he and his companions were violent in the same ways that modern Islamic terrorists are.
According to the Koran and hadith (Muslims’ approved histories of Muhammad’s life), Muhammad personally beheaded the men of a Jewish village. He ordered attacks on peaceful caravans. He led military invasions of cities and nations. He tortured a man for money. He kept slaves, and on at least one occasion raped one of them. He even delivered a revelation to his followers (claiming it was from God), telling them they were allowed to rape their female captives (Koran 4:24).
All these things come, not from “islamophobic” sources, but from Islam’s own most authoritative writings. And all these things were done by the man who for Islam is the highest example of human conduct (Koran 33:21).
Witness of the Saints
Further, the various saints who wrote about Islam throughout the centuries were well aware of its violent teachings, and not afraid to point it out. For example, in Summa Contra Gentiles, St. Thomas Aquinas delivered a crushing rebuke against Muhammad:
“He did not bring forth any signs produced in a supernatural way, which alone fittingly gives witness to divine inspiration; for a visible action that can be only divine reveals an invisibly inspired teacher of truth. On the contrary, Mohammed said that he was sent in the power of his arms – which are signs not lacking even to robbers and tyrants.”
Similarly, St. Juan de Ribera said of Muhammad:
“…he introduced and promulgated his message with robberies, murders, and blood-shedding, destroying those who did not want to receive it, and with the same means his ministers conserve this today…”
Obviously not all Muslims act like this. Here in Canada, we all have friends and neighbors who are Muslims and are perfectly peaceful, good people. I certainly do. I can only assume Pope Francis is looking at people like this to judge Islam, and getting a favourable impression. It’s quite natural to get that impression, living in the western world.
But, the question must be asked, do the values of those ‘nice’ Muslims sound like the authentic values of Muhammad? Or, do they sound more like the values of the modern, western world, a mix of Christian and secular moral influences?
On the other hand, when we look at ISIS, we can look at almost any atrocity they committed, and see that Muhammad acted in a similar way.
Why this Needs to be Corrected
One of the reasons I respect Pope Francis is that I truly believe he tries to always act with great love. In this way he tries to be Christ-like. His statements about Islam are certainly a manifestation of that. He doesn’t want Muslims to be offended or hurt. He wants us to come together and work out our differences with dialog, and to live in peace.
However, what I think is missing in his statements is our Lord’s radical and fearless honesty. He certainly did not seek to harm anyone, nor offend anyone unnecessarily. But neither did he shy away from naming the Pharisees a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34), and publicly humiliating them, along with the Sadducees.
Why did Jesus do this? Certainly not for the sake of attacking them or their followers, but to warn them to turn away from false teachings and follow him. And in the same way in this day and age, the vicar of Christ should not be afraid to forcefully warn people away from heresy, that they may follow him.
This is why I believe Pope Francis should not have said what he did, and why I feel the duty to speak out. Because people are being drawn into the fold of Islam, away from the true faith of Jesus Christ. And statements like this play into their hands.
As Catholics, we must continue to pray for our pope, and in particular that he would learn about the reality of Islam, and speak out about it. We also need to pray for the defeat of violent Islamist supremacists around the world, and the conversion of all Muslims (even the peaceful ones). May God give His Church the grace to prevail.
“Are you done your shopping yet?” Do you get asked this a lot every Christmas season? I do, even by random strangers. It is weird. Yet, it seems almost everyone is wrapped up (no pun intended), in the busyness of the season. It may seem cliche, but I have been asking myself the question, “how am I going to grow closer to Jesus this Advent.” Of course there is the standard and very important things like going to Mass, prayer, and Confession, but really, what is going to differentiate this Advent from all other Advents? I am personally tired of going through these Liturgical Seasons that God gives us through His Church and come out seemingly the same. Do you ever feel the same way?
I think we have all become accustomed to is the story of Christmas. We see manger scenes everywhere, yet, I think we’ve lost touch with the sheer magnitude that this cutesy little creche represents. Though there is much to say about the beauty of the Incarnation of Christ in the Womb of Mary, I want to take a moment and focus on the difference between a few key players in the story of Christmas and why they matter today.
“No room in the inn.” This saying was coined by the good ol’ innkeeper in Bethlehem. St. Joseph and Mary had just travelled approximately 80 miles (130 km approx.) by foot and most likely a donkey to carry Mary. The average person walks at a pace of 5.0 kilometres per hour (km/h), or about 3.1 miles per hour (mph). With this in mind, it most likely would have been at least a four day’s journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. The divine bun in the oven was just about ready and the innkeeper, stone-faced, told the holy family to go sleep with the cows. He missed his chance. Life got in the way of him being able to see the very thing in front of him that could change his life forever. He was too worried about money, his business, and his reputation to allow God into all of those things. The very Person who gave those things to the innkeeper was rejected, and He wasn’t even born yet. One of the greatest cosmic events in recent history was literally happening over-top of that inn and he was too busy looking at his own personal interests to pay attention.
While everybody else was worrying about their own interests there were some people looking: Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar. The three kings or Magi who travelled from afar to find Jesus. These three men recognized the star rising in the east and came prepared, knowing that the star would lead to the King. So, they travelled what would have most likely been a four-month journey to find Jesus. They left everything just to pay him homage. They had their priorities straight because they looked up from their temporal affairs to seek the King of Kings. Tradition holds that these three magi later converted to Christianity and were martyred and their relics are now housed in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany.
Seek the LORD while he may be found, call upon him while he is near; let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts; let him return to the LORD, that he may have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon. – Isaiah 55:6-7
The season of Advent is given to us as a reminder of two things: the coming of Jesus at His nativity and the second coming of Jesus at the end of time. Advent is meant to remind us that Jesus came in mercy in the manger, but is also coming with wrath and justice at the end. There will come a time when Jesus will bring fire to the earth and our prayers for mercy will go unheard. Scary business, indeed, but true. The little Lord Jesus asleep on the hay won’t be the cutesy plastic figurine that we’ve made Him out to be. He is King with justice and mercy in His hand and right now, we are in a time of great mercy. Advent is a summons for us to stop and look up, and seek the Lord anew. We are called by Christ this Advent to seek Him in new and fresh ways.
Look up from your cellphone and speak to that family member you have been struggling with talking to.
Look up from the things you have to do and spend quality time with the people you love and get to know their heart better.
Look up and see the needs of others, the poor and less fortunate. Learn to give the gift of being present to someone you do not know. Don’t just give money, give your heart.
Look up and outside of those things you are comfortable with. Listen to that band you’ve never heard of, listen to a talk about something you’re not familiar with. Take a risk and see how the Lord guides you and speaks to you.
Look up from your religious ‘duties’ and spend quality time with Jesus and get to know His heart. Don’t just do the formatted prayers you’ve committed to do. Try to enter more deeply into personal prayer with the Lord. Go into Mass or into Confession with the firm intent to be changed and to change afterwards.
Yet, this call can go unheard, just like it was for the innkeeper. We can get so wrapped up in the stuff we have to do and get done, to look seek Him in the midst of it. The three magi are called wise for a reason. Who will you be this Christmas: a wise person or just a busy innkeeper who let another Christmas go by?
The Virgin, weighed
with the Word of God,
comes down the road:
If only you’ll shelter her.
-St. John of the Cross
In the spring, there always seems to be a sprinkler going, a dog barking, or the songbirds from Bambi singing about springtime. In the summer, there is always a boombox playing somewhere or kids hanging out outside. In the fall, there is always noise as the leaves rustle in the wind. It seems that every season brings with it a different kind of noise.
The winter is coming upon us in Canada. The days are shorter. The nights grow longer. I do love the winter regardless of the cold and the loss of daylight. To me, there is something about this season (liturgically and environmentally) that brings me the greatest sense of peace. In my old neighbourhood, I loved being outside in the winter. I lived not too far from a small wood with fields on either side by the schools. It was always unbelievably silent in the winter. It was like the world was on mute.
I sometimes wonder if the night Christ was born was as silent as some of the winter nights I experienced. The answer? Probably not. He was surrounded by animals. Shepherds showed up later, and if you have ever been near sheep, there is usually always some sheep trying to start up a ‘baa-fest’. The wise men came as well, bearing their gifts. There was probably always something going on. There was probably always some kind of noise.
As Christmas approaches, I think we need to prepare in our hearts a place that is silent, peace-filled, and reverent. Adoration Chapels are an amazing place to encounter silence. People came from all over to come and adore Him and spend time with Him. In a sense, the wise men and shepherds demonstrated the the distances people would go to see the newborn King. Shepherds travelled from a few fields away and the magi that travelled thousands of miles. Both came to honour the babe in a manger in a humble stable, and both bowed to Him.
How far would we go to spend time with Christ in silence and in what ways can we do this?
There is the obvious way of going to adoration at your local church. Unfortunately, not every parish has perpetual adoration, but adoration and benediction are celebrated at most parishes weekly. The benefit of perpetual adoration is that you can go whenever you like. There is a beautiful silence in an adoration chapel. I can’t even explain it. Each time I go, there is a sense of peace. I can almost hear in my heart, “I am here, and I have been waiting for you.” I reflect in my heart that the Eucharist before me is also the little infant that so many years ago was visited in a humble manger.
The other way is in this way: silence your heart. Silence your mind. Listen. Shut everything down around you, and do this daily. Welcome Him into your heart. We should meditate on the joyful mystery of the incarnation and the nativity, and remind ourselves of His sacrificial love that He showed so profoundly on the cross. At this time of year, I can imagine Him sleeping soundly in the manger, and then opening His eyes and staring at me, and then He smiles. In the blink of an eye, His eyes meet mine again, but this time, He is on the cross.
This time of year is filled with business. Malls are flooded with people buying Christmas presents. People host Christmas parties for family and friends. Students are all coming home to be with their family members whom they haven’t seen in months. I won’t forget to mention the Christmas music that is also blaring everywhere. There is a lot of noise, and while it is all for the sake of celebration, we should show Christ our King homage in quiet humility. This Christmas, I encourage you all to take time to make silence and to make room for Christ again. Spend time with Him in the Blessed Sacrament. Talk to Him in your prayer at home, and during the day in your heart. Please pray for me this Christmas season. I will be praying for you.
I found this incredibly informative about where you can attend adoration.
There once was a King. The King had a heart of pure love. If you could see it, you would see its ruby red, yet snow white glow. Out of His pure love, He desired a bride, and He searched high and low across the world for a woman fit to be his bride. He found her in the slums of the poorest, dirtiest village in the world. The woman he found to be His bride was the most homely woman, with an unbearable stench. She was selfish, lustful, adulterous, and dishonest. Despite this, the King’s desire was for her, and He knew that she was capable of loving Him purely, one day. The King grew so fond of the woman, and wanting to demonstrate His love for her, he gave up His castle and moved to live in her village. Through their time together, the woman changed. She had never experienced such love in her life. She marries her King and they moved back to the castle where they had many children, more than the number of the stars, “and they lived happily ever after.”
Everyone loves a good story. Whether it is told to them, watched in a movie, or read in a book, stories are something we can relate to, that we can become a part of. Over the past few weeks, I have been watching an amazing T.V. show, “Once upon a Time.” The series is about fairy tale characters, cursed to our world, who have forgotten who they really are. One boy living in their real world town of Storybrooke knows something is up and fully believes that all the people in his town are from this fairy tale world that his storybook speaks of. His mother is said to be the savior who will be able to break this curse and enable them to return home. And so begins his search for her and the redemption of the fairy tale characters.
This story had reminded me in a very real way about what draws me into stories, but in particular, fairy tales. Fairy tales are a place where I can escape to. They have stood the test of time, and are something I love and desire to be a part of. I spent much time questioning why, and I came to realize that it is because it is modeled after the attainment of Salvation, of being able to spend eternity with God after a lifetime of serving Him faithfully, in seeking and fighting to live virtuous lives.
In fairy tales, everyone is seeking a happy ending, from the heroes to the villains. They also relay to us eternal truths, from the importance of purity and innocence, to unconditional love, and the choice we have to overcome evil in our lives. They also show the effect that vices like selfishness and jealousy have on ourselves and others. Fairy tales clearly demonstrate the difference between good and evil. Most of all, they reflect our desire for good to prevail and obtain the happy ending that we desire. The good is something that has to be fought for, and as in all the fairy tales we know, that is the only way that good prevails. And the good always wins.
A common theme in fairy tales for many people, especially the villains, is that they feel that the happy ending they want is not attainable. We too often find ourselves feeling the same. Here is the good news though – our happy ending is attainable.
“If I find in myself desires which nothing in this world can satisfy, the only logical explanation is that I was made for another world.”
C.S. Lewis said it so well in this quote. No matter what, we find that our desires here are never fulfilled permanently. We are loved, complimented, praised, cared for, but it never satisfies us. We buy things, and are happy over the newness in our lives, but only for a time, and then it wears off. Our mood changes, or circumstances happen, and we no longer feel the same happiness or satisfaction. We can take comfort and joy in knowing that as baptized Catholics, we are part of something bigger, the family of God, and will hopefully one stay spend our eternity with Him in eternal happiness. As Catholics, we understand that we have been created in the image and likeness of God. Our vocation as such is to live in eternal happiness with God (in this world and the next), and we fully experience what it means to be human when we freely direct ourselves towards our eternal destiny. This is the happy ending, the “fairy tale” ending we have been created for. Only we can choose that end.
A wonderful way to be reminded of this end that I am created for is through attending and participating in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. There is truly something supernatural about it, as it is something like the “magic” in fairy tales, in that it is something far beyond our understanding. It is mystical and awe-inspiring. It is in the Mass that Christ gives Himself to us, who we consume, Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. I am fulfilled, yet thirst for more of God Himself, because in this life, the Beatific Vision has not yet been attained. What a great gift and grace that has been given to us, in Christ dying for us, to make eternal life with Him possible.
In fairy tales, “living happily ever after”, is modeled after Jesus Christ and His Church. The virtues which the heroes demonstrate are the way by which they are able to live happily ever after. We are the children, with the Church as our mother. The Church is royal by way of her husband, Jesus Christ, and we too are royal by our Baptism. We are the princes and princesses, like those of fairy tales. Infinitely more than your greatest desire, Our Lord desires so deeply for you and me to know how stunningly beautiful His bride, the Church is, and subsequently how infinitely deep His love for us is. The more you get to know Jesus Christ, the more you experience and feel that desire of God for us. In the end, God does not condemn us to Hell, or make us go to Heaven. We are choosing that now, as we live our lives, and make the choices to be with Him or reject Him. May we choose our King now so that when we die, we too may live, “happily ever after” with Him in Heaven.