Faith for the Journey of Life

My Thoughts on Faith, Life, and 2,000+ Years of Catholicism / Christianity

29 September 2006

St. Benedict and Pope Benedict XVI

[Author's Note:] This installment was originally written last year for another one of my Blogs but in light of the recent attacks upon Pope Benedict XVI, I have decided to update it and re-post it here.

Our current Pope derives his name from the great Saint Benedict, a man whose faith and life in the pursuit of Christ’s ideal initiated a spirituality and devotion to God that resonates to this day. It is difficult to summarize the spiritual impact that St. Benedict had upon Europe in just a few words. St. Benedict did not invent monasticism, nor was he the first to develop a Rule of Order for monasteries. St. Benedict took monasticism in new spiritual directions, reforming it and fostering its growth. His order devoted itself to teaching children, feeding the poor, preaching the Gospel, serving the sick and infirmed, and honoring the Father through prayer and worship. Under St. Benedict’s example and his Rule of Order, monasteries and monks spread Christianity and preserved European civilization. With its piety and simplicity, St. Benedict’s Rule was widely adopted and followed. As Church historian H. W. Crocker III has written, “He is the consummate example of the best of the Church.”(100).

For many years now, Europe has been in spiritual decline. In his book Memory and Identity, the late Pope John Paul II summarized Europe’s spiritual growth and post-Enlightenment decline. “So-called ‘Enlightened’ European thought tried to dissociate itself from this God-Man, who died and rose again, and every effort was made to exclude him from the history of the Continent,” he wrote. “This approach still has many stubbornly faithful adherents among thinkers and politicians of today.”(97).

Today, Europe is in need of spiritual revival. “There’s no doubt that the Catholic faith is doing better just about everywhere else in the world except Europe,” moral theologian Pia de Solenni wrote last year in the Catholic weekly Our Sunday Visitor.

It has been widely reported that Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger adopted the name of Benedict as a signal of his desire to renew Europe spiritually. Numerous popes throughout history have drawn inspiration from St. Benedict. Pope St. Gregory the Great included him in his Dialogues, describing his miraculous deeds and faith. Pope Pius XII called him “the Father of Europe.” Pope Paul VI declared him to be Europe’s patron saint. Thus far, sixteen popes have taken his name, including our new one. Of those Benedict popes, one has been canonized and another beatified.

In 1979, Pope John Paul II exhorted Europe to follow St. Benedict’s example. Now in 2006, a new Pope is drawing inspiration from him to renew Europe. Can one man really change the spiritual nature of Europe? At various times in Europe’s history, individual men and women have changed the spiritual nature of Europe. With the assistance of the Holy Spirit, it can be done again. In the 6th Century, a man named Benedict led Europe to a new spiritual plane; in this 21st Century, may God empower a new pope named Benedict to lead Europe back to its Christian heritage.

[Sources: Pope John Paul II’s Memory and Identity: Conversations at the Dawn of a Millennium. NY: Rizzoli, 2005.; H.W. Crocker III’s Triumph: The Power and Glory of the Catholic Church (NY: Prima Publishing, 2001); Pia de Solenni’s “Pope Benedict XVI could bring hope back to Europe.” Our Sunday Visitor: 8 May 2005: 13.]

27 September 2006

Pope Benedict XVI, Islam, and Religious Tolerance

Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI ignited a world-wide firestorm of controversy and Muslim outrage with a speech at Regensburg University in Germany about faith and violence.

My purpose for this installment of my Blog is not to condemn Islam. The ferocity of Muslim responses, however, compels me to put forth a few words in defense of my Pontiff.

It is regrettable that a great many in the Muslim world have completely missed the point of the Pope’s remarks.

In condemning religious justifications for violence, the Pope quoted – without endorsement – remarks by the 14th Century Byzantine Emperor Manuel Paleologos II: “Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

At no time in that speech did the Pope endorse the Emperor’s words, agree with the Emperor’s words or state that the Emperor’s words are the official position of the Catholic Church with regard to Islam.

[Please let me make this abundantly clear – my quoting of the Emperor’s words in no way means that I agree with the Emperor. We have already seen too well the effects of words being taken out of context.]

Muslim outrage to the Pope’s words was immediate and virulent. Salih Kapusuz, the deputy leader of Turkey’s ruling party, went so far as to compare the Pope with Hitler and Mussolini.

Sadly the vehement response by many Muslims is indicative of the religious intolerance that is prevalent in much of the Muslim world. In many Muslim countries, including our own ally Saudi Arabia, the mere mention of the name of Jesus is grounds for imprisonment. In many Muslim countries, Muslims who convert to Christianity are often killed. Ottoman Turks – the predecessors of Salih Kapusuz – massacred upwards of 1.5 million Armenian Christians between 1915 and 1923. Muslims such as those in Hamas, Hezbollah and Iran are fanatically committed to the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. The September 11th terrorist attacks were committed by radical Muslims inspired by radical Muslim theology. Christians and Jews both face persecution, imprisonment and death in many Muslim countries from Egypt and the Sudan to Indonesia.

If those who are condemning the Pope had taken the time to read what he had actually said, they would clearly see that the Pope was not condemning Islam but condemning those who use violence to promote religion and those who use religion to justify violence. The Pope was advocating the use of faith and reason to achieve peace.

For a religion that declares itself as being peaceful, the widespread, violent reaction to the Pope’s speech contradicts that notion. A peaceful religion does not respond to insult by setting churches on fire, burning religious leaders in effigy, committing murder, and making death threats.

Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor the late Pope John Paul II have been untiring advocates for peace and have struggled against violence in the name of religion. The recent outrage at Pope Benedict’s remarks is illustrative of the obstacles that proponents of peace (Christian, Jewish, Muslim and secular, among others) face in the Muslim world.

25 September 2006

Who is God?

Since all life begins with God, we should start this Blogging journey with God.

Who is God? Certainly neither this Blog nor all the blogs in the world could not adequately answer this question.

But for discussion purposes, let me briefly answer who God is to me. As a Catholic Christian, I believe that God is all-powerful, eternal, without beginning and without end, all-knowing, and all-seeing. God exists everywhere. God created everything simply by willing it into being. God has incomprehensible power at His disposal but He also has incomprehensible mercy and love for us. Just as God's power has no bounds, neither does His love and mercy. As Saint John records in that famous passage (John 3:16), God so loved the world that He sent His only Son into the world to redeem it. God is actually Three in Being - the Trinity. He is God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Three in one and one in three, a concept that is sooooo beyond human comprehension that it must be accepted on faith alone.

Who is God? Well this post was just to give you a basic frame of reference for who I believe God is. Essentially I shall continue answering this question with each subsequent posting.

Vivat Jesus!

Life is Journey...Have Faith

Life is journey whose ultimate and eternal destination is determined by faith and how that faith is used. Whether you acknowledge it or not, your journey began with God and will ultimately end with Him or without Him.

In this Blog, I will share my thoughts on the journey of faith. I have been blessed by our most merciful God with many wonderful faith experiences and with knowing many faithful people. It is to His glory and in humble appreciation for His blessings in my life that I dedicate this Blog

Though I would like to believe that my writings have some inspiration from God, I do not claim any special revelation from Him per se. He did not speak to me from a burning bush like He did with Moses. He did not call to me directly like He did with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Elijah or any of the other Old Testament prophets. He did not send the archangel Saint Gabriel with any special messages. He did not send His Son to find me on the shores of Galilee like He did with Saints Peter, Andrew, James and John. He did not send the Blessed Mary with messages like He did with Saint Bernadette.

No, God does not speak to me in such dramatic, direct fashion. Nevertheless, I do believe that God does speak to me. He speaks to me through the Bible. He speaks through the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Roman Catholic Church. I believe that He speaks through the words and actions of others. I also believe that God talks to me in the silence of my heart during prayer. But I do not believe that I am the only one that God is conversing with.

As the title indicates, my Blog is about the Journey of Life and the Faith that is required for it. This is a very broad topic and at this point, I have no road map for where this Blog is going to lead. I pray for inspiration and I follow that inspiration wherever it leads me.

Basically, my postings will fall into one of five categories:

1. Christian / Catholic History
2. Catholic Theology
3. Catholic Personalities (Popes, Saints, Ordinary People, etc.)
4. Faith and Other Religions, including non-Christian religions
5. My Own Faith Journey

Hopefully, you will find something useful in what I share via this Blog.

Vivat Jesus!