Posted by: Fr Chris | January 6, 2018

A Fundamental Change: Sunday after Theophany Sermon

In the gospel today, we heard a verse adapted by St Matthew from the prophecy of Isaiah chapter 9:

Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali,
the Way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan,
Galilee of the nations
16 the people living in darkness
have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
a light has dawned.”

The land allotted to the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali

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The majority of the people in Galilee were pagans who lived in darkness, but Theophany is a feast of lights in the dark of January to show how powerful J’s presence is.

His light pierces the physical darkness with the bright illumination of churches at night, and the spiritual darkness of those who lived either as pagans or under the influence of paganism. The Israelite tribes of Zebulon and Naphtali were given this northeast corner of the Holy Land to live in. By the time of Isaiah the Jews who were still living there had trouble holding onto their faith and customs, and this was even more so in the time of Christ.

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Jesus calls the fishermen to become fishers of men

The Galilean Jewish population was looked down upon by the Jews living in the region of Judea and Jerusalem. Those Jews saw the Galilean Jews as not being orthodox enough and the province was called Heathen Galilee by Judeans. However, the Jews living there were also open to new ideas and they were also looking for the messiah. Jesus comes with a radical preaching as He calls the disciples to follow Him, not for military glory but instead to heal the sick, to feed the hungry, to clothe the naked, to teach the way of God to those who do not know God — and the core of His message is of the need to repent.

Repent

From that time on Jesus began to preach, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” It was a constant theme of  John the Baptist’s preaching, of  Jesus’ preaching, and in the messages of Our Lady to the world at her various apparitions in the 19th and 20th centuries: repent.

To repent:  in English: to feel or express sincere regret or remorse about one’s wrongdoing or sin. But in the original Greek it is much stronger – a transformative change of heart; especially a spiritual conversion.

Looking at Hellenistic Jewish writings, scholars have found that for Jews living at the time of Jesus, “repentance” meant “a fundamental change in thinking and living.” For the New Testament, this change is a necessary ingredient in accomplishing God’s plan for salvation and community for everyone.  A FUNDAMENTAL CHANGE – in the core of my being, in the depths of my soul, in the deepest part of my heart, in the chambers of my mind – CHANGE from one way of living to a totally different one.

Bats in North America have been suffering from a fungus on their noses. It has killed nearly six million bats in their dark caves – but now a cure has been found: light. Showing a little ultra-violet light on the bats kills the fungus and saves the bats. Saving the bats means saving the ecology as they have a critical role to play in nature and in our food supply.  What does this have to do with the sermon?

As it happens, next week is Zacchaeus Sunday – that means the preparation season for Great Lent begins in January, since Easter is April 1st. Lent is of course THE time to repent – not only of sin, but to do this – have a transformative change of heart, have a spiritual conversion, to be open to the Divine Light which kills all sin!  This is already the time of the year therefore to start asking myself:

What must I repent of?       What must I convert to?   What must I change inside of me in order to follow Christ more authentically?

There is a famous painting of Jesus knocking on a closed door. The door has no handle. The person inside the house must open the door and answer Jesus’ knock. If not, Jesus will walk away.

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Jesus does not want people who say, oh it’s too hard, God understands. He wants people willing to break free of the chains of sins, to turn away from that darkness of sinful lives to His shining light. Jesus Christ is  the Son of God who says in the Gospel of Saint John:”I am the true light. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness.”  Jesus is the light that kills human sins, enabling us, empowering us, to fulfill the roles He has assigned to each of us in His world.

Everyone has a darkness to walk away from. The child who refuses to play nicely, or to do chores in the house without complaining. The adult who doesn’t like the co-worker or boss and makes it known to everyone. The soul who resorts to alcohol, or marijuana, or other drugs, or pornography rather than God’s grace. The person who says I go to church for two hours on Sunday, what more does God want?  Funny how we expect God to be attentive to us for the whole 168 hours of the week but people can resist giving Him more than Sunday worship time.

Jesus invited the apostles to follow Him – they abandoned careers, families, bank accounts in order to walk with Him. And the key here is that Jesus walked with them, as God once walked in the Garden with Adam and Eve every evening at sunset. He walked with them and worked with them as they were then, gradually leading them to change from followers to apostles.

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Take up your cross and follow Me; walk with Me. 

He wants to walk with me – say that to ourselves – He wants to walk with ME.

He wants to be there the whole time, knocking on the doors of our hearts and minds.  We have to open the door from inside and let Him in, and when we let Him in, He comes with His bright light of love and grace to pierce the darkness of our hearts and minds and let the light kill our bad habits, our sins. But we have to open ourselves to that light – and then like the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali, we will each indeed see a great light – one of grace and God’s energy working with our free will to become new people this year, different from last year, people who are aware that God is indeed walking with each of them.           

Christ is among us!

Posted by: Fr Chris | January 4, 2018

An ongoing legacy of ISIS – Christian Children’s Traumas

Christian Children ‘Have Been Through Trauma No Human Being Should Ever See’
By Stoyan Zaimov

Christian children in conflict areas around the world are suffering through trauma that “no human should ever see,” says Open Doors USA, one of the biggest persecution watchdog groups in the world.

“The next generation of Christians in the Middle East, in Asia, in Central Asia, in places like Iraq and Syria, places like Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan and Afghanistan — these young Christians have been through trauma no human being should ever have to see,” David Curry of Open Doors USA told Mission Network News in an article posted on Tuesday.

“How can something good come from this? We’re going to help reach out, rebuild, and give some deeper context for these kids, give them assistance, give them the care they need so we can have a strong and healthy Body of Christ,” he added.

Curry said that in many terror attacks, such as the killing of nine Christians at a church south of Cairo last week, it is children who suffer the most.

“We have the ability as adults to sort of contextualize things, even in the most difficult situation. But imagine a child in that circumstance,” he noted.

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He recalled the story of a young man named Noah from Iraq.

“His experience was like so many others. In the middle of the night, he was awakened by his parents and told, ‘ISIS is coming to attack us because we are Christians.’ So he had to leave everything in his house, even his most precious toys, everything. And when he came back, it was all destroyed,” Curry said.

The Open Doors CEO argued that many children have to ask questions that people in the West don’t have to deal with.

“Oftentimes, we see kids, like I was speaking with just last week, these young people from Iraq, their personal faith is so deep because they’ve had to decide, ‘Am I willing to die for this?'” he said.

Other Christian children are ostracized in communities where their faith is a minority, and are being singled out for deciding to follow Jesus, Curry added.

Some of the deadliest terror groups in the world, such as the Islamic State, called on attacks during the holiday season regardless of whether children are present.

A recent IS video from Somalia demanded “lone wolves to attack during #Christmas and #NewYearsEve, and to hit nightclubs, churches, and markets, regardless of the presence of children.”

Children have been kidnapped and used as soldiers by radical groups, and have even been forced to kill themselves and others. The IS-linked Boko Haram in Nigeria forced at least 135 children to carry out suicide bombings in 2017 alone, according to a report by the United Nations Children’s Fund.

Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF director of the Emergency Program, said in December that there is a major disregard of international laws that protect youngsters, with children “being targeted and exposed to attacks and brutal violence in their homes, schools and playgrounds.”

During the three-day Third Archon International Conference on Religious Freedom in Washington, D.C. late last year, Curry explained that major human rights abuses in North Korea, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere begin with the persecution of Christians.

“This is the issue, I think, of our time. I say that with confidence because persecution, … and particularly the persecution of Christians, is the tipping point in every major crisis around the world,” he said at the time.

It is worth noting that in 2015 the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child reported that Christian and Yazidi children were beheaded, crucified, or buried alive, while mentally handicapped children were used as suicide bombers. In addition, children as young as eight were either used as soldiers or to provide blood transfusions for ISIS “warriors” — Go to http://www.cnewa.org or https://www.churchinneed.org/  to donate to funds that will directly help persecuted Christians. 

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 23, 2017

Remember Persecuted Christians this Christmas

I couldn’t say it better myself. May all the world be open to the Prince of Peace and HIS PEACE . 

Wrecked Catholic church in Nineveh Plain, Iraq 

From Candice Malcolm

Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year. That is, it’s a wonderful time of year for us in North America, where we enjoy vast religious freedoms and the ability to observe religious holidays without fear, harassment or persecution.

Sadly, this is not the case for millions of Christians around the world. Christians have become the most persecuted religious group on the planet, and we in the West are not doing enough to defend and protect Christians under attack in other parts of the world.

Nowhere is this plight more evident than in Christianity’s biblical homeland in the Middle East – where deadly attacks against Christians have become commonplace.

On Palm Sunday 2017, Islamic State militants waged a callous attack against Coptic Christians praying in their church. Two suicide bombers struck and killed 44 people in one of the deadliest days for Egypt’s already threatened Christian population.

While many Egyptian Muslims condemned the attack — many rushed to give blood, and three female Muslim police officers were killed trying to protect Christians — this type of violence in the Middle East is only intensifying.

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Refugee with all her belongings in a Catholic church 

Countries that once boasted significant religious diversity, including Iran and Turkey, no longer have any tolerance for minorities; the Muslim population in these countries now surpasses 99%. In other Middle Eastern countries that once housed sizeable Christian and Jewish minority communities, including Syria, Iraq, Egypt and Jordan, hostile political environments have forced many in these communities to flee.

Even in Lebanon, the only country in the Middle East where Christians are constitutionally granted a political stake, Christian numbers are dwindling. Christians once made up nearly 80% of the population. Today, less than one-third of Lebanon’s population is Christian.

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Burned out church in Qaraqosh, used for shooting practice by ISIS, then torched 

Christians, Jews and Muslims coexisted in the Middle East for centuries, but a new strain of Islamist extremism is making life unbearable for non-Muslims. Religious minorities are increasingly treated with suspicion or outright hostility across the region, and a rising zealotry has made intolerance the new norm.

This intense persecution and mistreatment of minorities has been highlighted under the cruel reign of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, but it can be traced back one hundred years to the fall of Ottoman Empire.

As the Ottoman Empire collapsed, a group of Turkish nationalists called the Young Turks began targeting and slaughtering Christians, particularly those in the Armenian community. While the new Turkish empire tried to hide its ghastly crimes, a German diplomat and ally to the Turks wrote that there “no longer was doubt that (the Turkish government) was trying to exterminate the Armenian race in the Turkish Empire.”

In the end, at least two million Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Christians were murdered by the Turks. Surviving Christians fled to the West, or into Iraq and Syria where they were protected – until the Islamists took over and began slaughtering Christians in their own genocide.

This intense hatred towards Christians has led to a drastic reduction in the Middle East’s Christian population. As recently as 1910, roughly one in five people in the Middle East were Christian. Today, it’s less than four percent.

We are witnessing an exodus of Christians from the Middle East. It’s textbook ethnic cleansing, and yet, the world remains silent.

This Christmas, we should pray for the safety and survival of ancient Christian communities in the Middle East, and we should demand that our politicians provide aid and protection to the world’s persecuted Christians.

Posted by: Fr Chris | December 12, 2017

The Bully of Asia

If ever there was a country that pushes forced abortion, sterilization, and absolute control of its citizenry, Communist China is it. This new book explains, the author, Steve Mosher,  how China

  •  invented totalitarianism thousands of years ago
  •  has killed 400 million of its own unborn citizens in an effort to speed up economic development
  • has economic power, built on stolen American ideas, factories and jobs, now rivals our own
  • believes its superior race and culture give it the right to universal deference
  • teaches its people to hate America for standing in the way of achieving its narcissistic “dream” of world domination
  • believes in its manifest destiny to usher in the World of Great Harmony
  • publishes maps showing the exact extent of the nuclear destruction it could rain down on the United States

l’s dream of “engagement” with the People’s Republic of China and its “peaceful evolution” toward democracy and freedom. Wishful thinking has blinded us to the danger we face and left the world vulnerable to China’s overweening ambitions.  My book is a wake up call.

The author  is director of the Population Research Institute knows China as few Westerners do. He writes: As a visiting graduate student having exposed the monstrous practice of forced abortions, he became the target of the regime’s crushing retaliation. America has about a decade to respond to the challenges posed by the Bully of Asia. After that it will be too late.  PRI is a leading pro-life charity and activity.

Go to https://www.pop.org/donate/bully-of-asia/  and for a $25 donation, you will get the book in first-class mail for Christmas.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | November 25, 2017

Week to remember Persecuted Christians

It is incredibly sad that there should even have to be a week like this – but conditions for Christians are worsening in nation after nation, including the so-called Western countries of Europe and North America. While many  of us may face harassment or ridicule for our beliefs, that pales compared to what is happening in many Muslim nations, China, North Korea, Laos, Cuba, India— the list is unfortunately long.

Solidarity in Suffering 470 wide

In the Roman Rite, today is the feast of  Christ the King, the last Sunday before Advent. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops is designating this Sunday and following week as a special time to commemorate the Suffering Church in the Near East. Jesus is indeed our King – and that drives  certain people to inflict as much pain as possible on those who follow Him: from President Xi of China who is ordering pictures of Christ to be replaced with his photograph to the  Muslim fanatics who seek to terrorize Christians into Islam.

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Christians across south China are being pressured to remove crosses and holy pictures in their homes and replace with the new Great Leader, President Xi.  What greater proof is there that  Communism hates God? 

Christianity in the Near East  http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/christians-in-the-middle-east/backgrounder-on-christians-of-middle-east.cfm

Catholicism in the Near East – http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/human-life-and-dignity/global-issues/middle-east/christians-in-the-middle-east/backgrounder-on-catholic-churches-in-middle-east.cfm

Four Ways to Help – instead of more “stuff” think of giving to one of these Catholic agencies

Aid to the Church in Need is an international papal
foundation that provides pastoral and humanitarian assistance to the
persecuted Church around the world. Our objectives are: to support and
promote the Church, especially in countries where Christians are
suffering persecution or discrimination; and to further the other
charitable work of the Church by providing practical assistance and
pastoral care for persons in need, especially those who are living in,
or are refugees from, such countries. Each year, we fulfill more than
5,000 projects through our spiritual and material aid programs. Our
shared goal: To help strengthen the Church and keep the Faith alive.
Website: http://www.churchinneed.org/ Tel: (800) 628-6333
http://www.churchinneed.org/pray_for_persecuted_christians/

Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA) has been a lifeline throughout the Middle East, Northeast Africa, India and Eastern Europe for more than 90 years. Founded by Pope Pius XI in 1926, CNEWA works for, through and with the Catholic Eastern churches. In the Middle East, our activities are diverse, from
helping to form priests to serve the people of God in Egypt to providing irrigation to farmers in southern Lebanon
— from providing the best in neonatal care in Jordan to supporting sisters in Iraq — from providing emergency relief to Syrian refugees to counseling for war-scarred children in Gaza. CNEWA connects you to your brothers and sisters in need. Together, we build up the Church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage
dialogue and inspire hope.
Website: http://www.cnewa.org Tel: (877) 284-3807

Catholic Relief Services (CRS) is the official overseas relief and development agency of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. CRS helps people in great need, including Christians and other minorities across the Middle East who are the target of persecution. We are on the frontlines in the “cradle of Christianity,” supporting people and communities regardless of race, creed or nationality. Our deep partnership with the
Catholic Church allows us to respond quickly and deliver lifesaving assistance with a commitment to full recovery. First established in 1943 to support refugees fleeing war-torn Europe, our mission is rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ. We provide lifesaving emergency relief in times of crisis, as well as address chronic poverty and injustice through innovative, sustainable development programs. Through our dedication to
operational and programmatic excellence, we work to deliver maximum impact and full accountability to our supporters and the people we serve.
Website: http://www.crs.org Tel: (877) 435-7277
Knights of Columbus is the world’s largest Catholic fraternal organization, whose first principle is charity. That principle continues to guide the Knights’ projects in communities throughout the United States and around the world. The Knights first began assisting Christian refugees in the Middle East in the 1920s in the aftermath of
World War I. More recently, in the aftermath of ISIS’ recent genocide, the Knights of Columbus committed more than $15 million to supporting Christians and other religious minorities primarily in Iraq and Syria. Because the Christian refugees in the region have often been overlooked by American government and UN aid programs, the
Knights have focused on providing these neglected communities – and the others they care for – with funds for medical care, food, clothing, housing and general relief. In addition, the Knights of Columbus has committed $2 million to save the predominately Christian town of Karemles. The Knights also led advocacy and awareness
campaigns in support of the genocide designations by both houses of Congress and the Secretary of State. Website: http://www.ChristiansAtRisk.org Tel: (800) 694-5713.

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Burned out church in Qaraqosh, Iraq, 2017

Posted by: Fr Chris | November 20, 2017

Presentation of Our Lady, 21 November

This is the sermon I am giving at the vigil service tonight:

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Glory to Jesus Christ.

Today’s feast comes from a popular book written in Syria in the mid-100s – The Protoevangelium of James. That book created stories and traditions that the author wrote in order to fill in the gaps of our knowledge of the lives of Jesus, Mary, and St Joseph outside of the gospel. But it does have valid theological points – the early  Church firmly believed in the specialness of the conception of Our Lady in the womb of her mother, the virginal conception of Jesus on Mar 25, the celibate union of Mary and St Joseph, the perpetual virginity of Mary, the bodily assumption into heaven of Our Lady after her death, and that she had a unique role in Christian life as the Theotokos (Mother of God) . From these roots our full understanding of God’s working in the Second Eve has grown.
In particular, the story claims that as a little girl Mary is placed inside the temple sanctuary, in the Holy of Holies, the spot where the high priest only went once each year. Obviously that did not take place – no child would have been allowed in there. But it is making a theological point – she who would become the living tabernacle of God is worthy of being in the holy place where the Ark of the Covenant once stood. The Ark held the Ten Commandments – she is the Mother of the Incarnate Word, through Whom the Father gave the Commandments; the Ark held manna from heaven – Jesus in her womb is the Living Bread of Heaven; the rod of Aaron that blossomed was in the Ark – Mary has life inside of her through the power of the Holy Spirit.

She is the new temple – and through the redemption achieved by her Son we are living temples also. Humanity is redeemed through the incarnation of Jesus in her womb, through His passion and resurrection.  Mary points the way in the icons – her hand points to the child Jesus in her arms, her head bows or turns toward Him. Her life is most especially given for her only Child the God-Man Whose birth we are preparing for.

Another aspect of the story is Mary living apart from the world, the first cloistered convent. The point the story makes is for us – we must live apart from the world’s temptations. We live in the world, but we do not have to be of the world. The world has many good things about it – but there are also fallen things, things that can look extremely attractive to the human mind and human desires.  But for the Christian, living out our destiny in Jesus Christ has to be the most attractive thing to do – our churches are beautiful to both glorify God and draw us into Him. Our calendar is filled with various holy days and customs to renew us, year after year, in God’s love and great mercy.

Mary did not look back on her hidden, quiet life in Nazareth. She looked forward: to the birth on Christmas, to raising God’s Son, to supporting Him with her presence on Calvary, testifying to the power of God on Pentecost, and supporting us with her prayers from heaven.

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So also for us – we have to look forward.

Our sins are forgiven – let us work not to sin more; we are called by God Who is Love -let us strive to bring His love to others;

we are invited to this heavenly banquet at every Liturgy  – let us work at appreciating its power and the immense gift given to us by Jesus in His Body and Blood.

And let us use this feast as an opportunity to keep the rest of the Christmas Fast as a time of thinking, pondering, praying, loving, acting so as to bring joy to Christ’s Heart, and thus help further His work of redemption.  Christ is among us.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | November 9, 2017

Never Again? Kristallnacht in 2017

On the night of November 9-10, 1938, the Nazi regime unleashed a wave of “spontaneous” violence across the entire Third Reich, including newly annexed Austria.  The name basically can be translated as Night of Broken Glass from all the windows smashed in Jewish businesses, homes, and temples.

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Broken shop windows of Jewish business

Thousands of Jewish businesses were looted, Jewish synagogues burned while firemen poured water on adjacent buildings so as to prevent the fires from spreading, and Jewish men and boys sent off to the concentration camps built in the previous five years to hold the Nazis’ political opponents and undesirables.

Synagogue ablaze 

With this carefully managed nation-wide assault, the Nazis’ planned to drive out all of the Jews remaining in Germany and former Austria – except since they refused to let them leave with any real wealth, and due to anti-Jewish diplomats in Canada, the United States, Latin America, and much of Europe, there were few refuges left for Jews in 1938.

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Stepping from the murderous Night of Broken Glass to the organized mass slaughter proposed at the Wannsee Conference of January 20, 1942, was a very short step indeed.

From that Conference came the ideas of mass executions in the conquered regions of the Soviet Union by the dreaded Einsatzgruppen  of the SS and locally recruited henchmen (carefully recording how many Jews, Communists, and presumed partisans were shot), then the gas chambers of death camps, and starving the inmates of the ghettos to death. This documentary details the work of the Einsatzgruppen, with interviews of survivors, but be aware there are photographs taken by the executioners. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gLUgou38QGo

Be aware that the German film showing happy residents of Lemberg (Polish Lwow, L’viv today) at being delivered from two years of Soviet terror is accurate – but they would quickly learn that they were sub-humans in Nazi ideology. The mass killings of Jewish neighbors and townsfolk  has left many of the local Christians who witnessed it emotionally numb and damaged to this day, as Father Patrick Desbois has learned in his mission to uncover all of the mass graves of the region. This was worsened by the Soviets’ forbidding them to ever speak of it, as the emphasis was on commemorating the Soviet liberation of 1944-45, not Jewish deaths. 

As awareness of the scope of the Holocaust grew after 1945, the slogan “Never Again” became associated with it. Initially it referred to “never again” would there be a mass slaughter of Jews, later it grew to encompass all genocides. Unfortunately, genocides have taken place since, in full view of the entire world thanks to mass media, in former Yugoslavia, the Great Lakes region of Africa, Cambodia, Communist China, Nubia and Darfur in Sudan. However, while killings of Jews continued in different nations, especially in Israel and the occupied West Bank, it seemed that at least that lesson had stuck.

Now I wonder. The BDS movement (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) movement against Israel over the Palestinian issue has steadily degenerated into hatred of Israel and the Jewish people, as repeated demonstrations on university campuses often show. Equating Israel’s mistakes regarding the Palestinians with Nazism and calling Jewish Israelis Nazis is beyond offensive, yet it continues to spread in Europe and North America.

The Netherlands saw 75% of its Jews deported to death camps under Nazi rule, often with the help of Dutch collaborators: over 102,000 innocent people slaughtered because of their identity as Jews, be they Christian, religious Jews, or secular. Yet today’s observance of Kristallnacht in Holland was marked with presentations that frankly are anti-Semitic: cf. https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-anti-semitism-watchdog-outraged-by-anti-israel-kristallnacht-speakers.

Watch this interview with a survivor of Kristallnacht – https://www.timesofisrael.com/dutch-anti-semitism-watchdog-outraged-by-anti-israel-kristallnacht-speakers/.  How in the world can there be people who think commemorating the atrocities of 1938 by condemning Israel and Jews?

Bad enough that in Berlin, commemorative Stolpersteine, or “stumbling stones” ,which are put in front of the houses or on streets with  the names of Jews taken from their homes and murdered, have been dug up before Kristallnacht this year.

The site where the Stolpersteine were stolen in Neukölln, Berlin (picture-alliance/dpa/P. Zinken)

On Long Island, a local mother took a photograph of a car with the bumper sticker “Proud Anti-Semite” on it driving on Route 110! Proud? How can that be?

'Proud Anti-Semite' bumper sticker a sign of the times, ADL says

How can any American ever carry a Nazi flag? Or shout “Away with the Jews!”?

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Hatred of “others” never brings about any good results. The Soviet Communists did it to their opponents, lumping them into categories: bourgeois middle-class; believers; clergy, monks and nuns; supposedly wealthy peasants (kulaks); people from the wrong ethnic groups (Germans, Chechen, Ingush, Kalmyks, Crimean Tatars, Greeks, Karakai, Karakalpaks, Jews, Balkars, Turks, Finns and Estonians who lived near Leningrad). Chinese Communists did it to intellectuals, monks, nuns, believers, engineers, anyone who could be considered an “enemy”, a category that continues to shift to this day. Racism gets us nowhere. Ditto for class hatred, anti-Semitism, sexism, anti-Catholicism, and all the other anti’s floating around today in our enlightened world.

That news stories for Kristallnacht today contain stories of anti-Israel BDS activists and Holocaust deniers stuns me. That the internet is filled with Holocaust denial is tragic: too many young people do not have a critical sense when surfing the Net and think that if someone took the time to publish it, it must be true. Talk about fake news!

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On this Kristallnacht anniversary, may all people of good will step up and dotheir best to counter hatred, and remind Americans and others that God made everyone in His image and likeness, male and female, and He saw that it was good. Deliver us, O Lord, from  hatred. Lead us, O Lord, to peace.

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Posted by: Fr Chris | November 8, 2017

100 Years of Communism

A recent study showed that 32% of Millennials believe more people died under President George W. Bush than under Josef Stalin! 44% would prefer life in a Socialist country than a capitalist one; 7% would even WANT to live in a communist state. That is the legacy of American education. check it out here: http://victimsofcommunism.org/annual-poll-release-shows-americans-still-have-a-lot-to-learn-about-communism/

This article from Catholic World Report by Filip Mazurczak gives a good overview of books and movies that would help those poor students of history – and other Americans – learn more about what Communism has brought to the world. You can access the original at http://www.catholicworldreport.com/2017/11/06/a-catholic-guide-to-great-books-and-films-about-communism/

Tuesday, November 7th marks the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, which began the expansion of communism across the world. Whether in Russia or Eastern Europe, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Cambodia or Ethiopia, everywhere communism was implemented it led to a staggering loss in human life through mass shootings, man-made famines, or concentration camps. French historian Stéphane Courtois, himself a onetime believer in Marxist-Leninism, has estimated the number of victims of communist rule at 100 million, which means that the hammer and sickle has killed many more people than the swastika. And yet not only do most young people not learn about this horror and evil at high schools or universities, but it’s not uncommon to hear seemingly well-informed academics, politicians, or journalists to naively romanticize communism. Note, for example, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau who, rather than being grateful for never having to live under communist rule, has only praised Cuba’s butcher Fidel Castro. On today’s solemn anniversary I have compiled a list of some of the best books and films on the subject so that you can learn more about the tragic fruits of Marxism-Leninism.

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Soldiers plunder an Orthodox church in Russia, 1929s

A helpful, quick introduction to the history of communist oppression is Communism: A History by Richard Pipes, one of the most accomplished historians of Russia in the West. Prof. Pipes served as President Reagan’s advisor on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. Pipes publicly sparred with Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, easily the best known dissident from behind the Iron Curtain, on the relationship between Russia’s political culture and the nature of the Soviet regime. Regardless, both Pipes and Solzhenitsyn are worth reading. A good introduction to the latter is the novel One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, set amidst the cold, hungry misery of the gulags where inmates anxiously await their ten-year sentences to end, only to have more ten-year sentences slapped on them. One Day’s significance extends far beyond its Soviet setting and is a reflection on man’s cruelty under extreme conditions.

Another canonical novel about Stalinism is Arthur Koestler’s Darkness at Noon. It tells the story of Rubashov, an old Bolshevik unfailing in his belief in communism who is unexpectedly imprisoned and tortured in the lead up to a show trial. While Rubashov is a fictional character, there were many real life Rubashovs whose orthodox belief in the Soviet state did not save them from falling victim to Stalin’s paranoia.

Communism as an ideology was based on anthropological lies, and it forced people into lying to survive. Czech dissident (and later president) Vaclav Havel’s classic essay The Power of the Powerless is the best known take on this theme, using the memorable image of the green grocer who places a placard reading Workers of the World, Unite! in his window. The green grocer does not believe in this slogan; whether he does or not is irrelevant, because he has to display a slogan he potentially rejects in order to not be harassed by the state. A much less known, but equally powerful work dealing with communism’s inherent dishonesty is Leopold Tyrmand’s The Rosa Luxemburg Contraceptives Collective: A Primer on Communist Civilization. Tyrmand left his native Poland in the 1960s and arrived in the United States, where he was shocked to see a large part of the intellectual elites harbor naïve illusions about communism. He wrote this book to explain communism from an insider’s perspective to Americans blessed to live in a free country.

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Starving Ukrainian Children, 1933

While the number of infamous crimes wrought by communism is too long to be listed in this article, one that undoubtedly deserves mention is the Holodomor. In 1932-1933, Stalin starved to death at least four million (some estimates go much higher) Ukrainian peasants in order to wipe out political dissent after they resisted the collectivization of agriculture. Ukraine’s Black Earth region boasts of the most fertile soil in Europe, which would make a famine unlikely under natural circumstances, but Stalin deliberately starved millions of Ukrainians by sending officials to seize their wheat. The fact that Microsoft Word underlines “Holodomor” in red as I write this shows how relatively little known this tragedy, undoubtedly one of the biggest mass murders in European history, is. A good primer on the Holodomor is Harvest of Sorrow by the late British Sovietologist Robert Conquest.

No communist leader has enjoyed such a positive image in the mainstream media (one that many democratically elected officials would likely envy) as Fidel Castro. Cuban-American writer Humberto Fontova has written a fine book that deconstructs the myth of Fidel as a cool ladies’ man and ardent critic of American imperialism whose heart is always on the side of the poor. Fidel: Hollywood’s Favorite Tyrant engagingly shows how prior to 1959 Cuba, despite all its troubles, was one of the most prosperous societies in the Americas, yet as a result of Castro’s destructive rule, marked by death squads, growing poverty, and prison camps with appalling conditions, thousands of Cubans risk their lives floating on inner tubes in shark-infested waters to escape to Florida each year and Cuban political prisoners inject themselves with the HIV virus to shorten their misery. Fontova’s book is impossible to put down and, despite the grim subject matter, is replete with sarcastic humor that will have you laughing out loud. Fontova’s Exposing the Real Che Guevara and the Useful Idiots Who Idolize Him is equally enthralling.

Chairman Mao, who was the de facto ruler of the People’s Republic of China from 1949 to 1976, holds the unenviable record of being the twentieth century’s biggest butcher. Historians estimate that he killed up to 70 million of mostly his own people, far more than Stalin and Hitler combined, during peacetime. And yet there was a time when Mao’s Little Red Book was a trendy fashion accessory at Berkeley and in many Left Bank Parisian cafes. A fascinating chronicle of Mao’s rise to power from an undistinguished, eccentric schoolteacher to becoming history’s biggest psychopathic mass murderer thanks to the Kremlin’s support is Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s Mao: The Unknown Story.

In addition to these books, there are also many excellent films about communism. Latvian director Edvins Snore’s documentary The Soviet Story, which includes interviews with many esteemed historians and former Soviet dissidents such as Vladimir Bukovsky, begins by showing young, clueless hipsters parading around in T-shirts with the hammer and sickle. By the end of the film, anyone who ever entertained the idea of buying such a shirt will undoubtedly be burning with embarrassment.

One of the best dramas about communism is the 2006 German film The Lives of Others, which received a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. The Lives of Others depicts the Stasi, East Germany’s secret intelligence agency. The film painfully and memorably depicts the humiliating tortures of the Stasi.

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The Berlin Wall, built to keep East Germans inside their informant-filled society 

The late Polish filmmaker Andrzej Wajda directed numerous films about communism. Two deserve special note. One is 2007’s Oscar-nominated Katyn, about the Soviet massacre of 22,000 Polish reserve officers (among them Wajda’s father). The Soviets falsely blamed the Germans for this crime for almost half a century. The film is less about the murder of the Polish officers itself and more about how totalitarian regimes function on the basis of blatant lies. Wajda’s last film, last year’s Afterimage, depicts the real-life story of Polish modernist painter Władysław Strzemiński, a lifelong communist who fell out of favor with Poland’s Stalinist government for believing that art should depict one’s subjective sensory experience rather than have an obligatory political undertone. Afterimage is a sad film, showing how Strzemiński’s resistance to socialist realism led the regime to throw him out of the artists’ union and prohibit him from buying paint and eventually food. Hungry and abandoned, Strzemiński died of untreated tuberculosis.

More lighthearted is Milos Forman’s The Firemen’s Ball. While Forman later gained fame in the United States for directing such masterpieces as Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, he was one of the leading stars of Czechoslovak New Wave in his native country. The sardonic Firemen’s Ball shows the party firefighters throw for their colleague’s eighty-sixth birthday. The party is a disaster and a microcosm showing the absurdity of communism, a political system that forces people to steal, that presents ugliness as beauty, and that ultimately brings about its own destruction.

Many great books and films have been made about communism, which in terms of absolute numbers is the most murderous ideology in human history. Hopefully, this reading and viewing list will show you its dark side, which most liberal arts professors conveniently ignore.

Posted by: Fr Chris | October 13, 2017

International Community Looks on While Christian Persecution Worsens
By John Newton
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The persecution of Christians is worse than at any time in history — but it is being largely ignored by the UN and the international community, according to a report launched today (Thursday, 12th Oct).

The new Persecuted and Forgotten? report, launched at a meeting in the Houses of Parliament this afternoon, concludes that the persecution of Christians reached a high water mark in 2015-17 — with growing attacks on the faithful by Daesh (ISIS), Boko Haram, and other fundamentalist groups.

According to the report, produced by the UK office of Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need, the international community has failed to adequately respond to the needs of Christians attacked by militant extremists.

Persecuted and Forgotten? states: “Governments in the West and the UN failed to offer Christians in countries such as Iraq and Syria the emergency help they needed as genocide got underway.

“If Christian organisations and other institutions had not filled the gap, the Christian presence could already have disappeared in Iraq and other parts of the Middle East.”

The report also identified growing problems in certain majority Islamic countries and authoritarian states such as Eritrea and North Korea.

Report editor John Pontifex said: “In terms of the numbers of people involved, the gravity of the crimes committed and their impact, it is clear that the persecution of Christians is today worse than at any time in history.

“Not only are Christians more persecuted than any other faith group, but ever-increasing numbers are experiencing the very worst forms of persecution.”

Although the report found in the countries under examination that many faith communities have suffered at the hands of extremists and authoritarian regimes, it concluded Christians have experienced the most hostility and violence.

The report supports this claim with a series of examples showing the extent of the problems facing Christians in each of the 13 core countries it assesses in depth — as well as providing an overview of the state of religious freedom for the country’s various denominations.

Persecuted and Forgotten? found that members of China’s 127 million-strong Christian population have suffered increased persecution following new attempts to bring Christianity in line with Communist ideals.

More than 2,000 churches and crosses have been pulled down in China’s coastal Province of Zhejiang — and clergy are still being routinely detained by authorities.

During the campaign of genocide by Daesh and other Islamist militant groups in the Middle East, Christians were disproportionately affected by the extremists.

In Iraq, more than half of the country’s Christian population became internal refugees and Syria’s second city of Aleppo, which until 2011 was home to the largest Christian community, saw numbers dropping from 150,000 to barely 35,000 by spring 2017 — a fall of more than 75 percent.

Despite national governments and international organisations having determined that a genocide has taken place, local Church leaders in the Middle East have repeatedly said that they feel forgotten by the international community.

A number of bishops in the region have accused the UN of overlooking the needs of displaced Christians, despite pledging to deliver aid “neutrally and impartially”.

Extremism has been a growing problem in Africa — particularly in Nigeria where Daesh affiliates Boko Haram have displaced more than 1.8 million.

In one diocese alone — Kafanchan — within five years, 988 people had been killed, and 71 Christian-majority villages had been destroyed, as well as 2,712 homes and 20 churches.

At the launch in the House of Lords, to be chaired by Lord Alton, Archbishop John Darwish — who has overseen the care of Syrian Christian refugees denied UN aid — will give a first-hand report about the crisis that has faced Christians and ACN’s John Pontifex will present the findings of Persecuted and Forgotten?

Other speakers are to address various aspects of the report.

Bishop Matthew Kukah from northern Nigeria will speak about Christians living with violence from Boko Haram and other extremist militants.

Work resettling displaced Christians in the towns and villages they were driven out of by Daesh in northern Iraq will be described by Father Salar Kajo, who helps oversee the programme returning displaced families to their homes on the Nineveh Plains.

ONCE THE TARGET OF ANTI-CATHOLIC SENTIMENT, COLUMBUS IS OFTEN SLANDERED BY THOSE WHO MISREPRESENT HIS LEGACY

An 1846 painting depicts Christopher Columbus and members of his crew on a beach in the West Indies after arriving on his flagship Santa Maria Oct. 12, 1492. The work was commissioned by the U.S. Congress and installed in the Capitol Rotunda in 1847. Landing of Columbus, 1846, by John Vanderlyn

Driven in large part by political correctness and partisan academics and activists, it has become fashionable in recent years to criticize Christopher Columbus and the holiday named in his honor. A closer look, however, reveals the famed explorer to be a man of faith and courage, not a monster.

Many of Columbus’ modern critics rely on a warped and politicized reading of history, and it is not the first time the explorer has endured such attacks. When a resurgence of anti-Catholic bigotry erupted in early 20th-century America, Columbus was a favorite target then as well.

Despite animus among some groups today, the majority of Americans view the explorer positively and with pride. In a K of C-Marist poll from December 2016, 62 percent of Americans expressed a favorable opinion of the explorer and 55 percent said they were in favor of Columbus Day, the holiday named for him. By contrast, fewer than 3 in 10 view Columbus unfavorably and only 37 percent oppose the holiday named for him.

Nonetheless, there have been political efforts to strip Columbus of honor, and the question of whether to continue to recognize Columbus Day is under review in many places. Some states and municipalities have removed the explorer’s name from the holiday or eliminated the observance entirely.

A COURAGEOUS JOURNEY OF DISCOVERY

Unfair attacks on Columbus, past and present, should not be allowed to obscure the truth about the man, his voyage and his motives. Born in Genoa, Italy, Columbus was a deeply Catholic explorer who was willing to go against the grain. He believed he could reach the shores of Asia by sailing a mere 3,000 miles west across the Atlantic. Such a passage would establish faster and easier trade routes than were possible through overland travel or by sailing south and east around Africa.

Scholars of his day calculated the distance to the Orient across the Atlantic at well over 7,000 miles, out of practical range for ships of the day. Those who were skeptical of the admiral’s proposal did not hold that the earth was flat, as popular myth has suggested, but rather that it was much larger than Columbus believed. Despite his miscalculation, after 10 weeks Columbus did indeed find land — not the outskirts of the Orient, as he went to his grave believing, but an entirely new continent.

Later, as a nation began to coalesce out of the American colonies, its leaders recognized the admiral’s legacy. “Columbia” served as an informal name for what would become the United States of America. The eventual designation of the nation’s capital reflects the esteem the founders had for the Genoese explorer.

Beginning in the 1840s, waves of European immigrants swelled the ranks of Catholics in the United States, and along with that came an increasingly anti-Catholic, anti-immigrant backlash from the Protestant majority. Catholics were subject to discrimination, slander, ridicule, anti-Catholic propaganda and sometimes mob violence.

It was within this hostile climate that Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in 1882. He and the founding Knights chose as the Order’s patron Christopher Columbus — one of the few Catholics considered a hero of American history. Father McGivney believed the explorer represented both Catholicism and patriotism at the very root of America’s heritage, thereby symbolizing that faithful Catholics also can be solid American citizens.

A decade later, as the Order celebrated its patron on the 400th anniversary of his discovery, President Benjamin Harrison proclaimed a national Columbus holiday. He called for “expressions of gratitude to Divine Providence for the devout faith of the discoverer, and for the Divine care and guidance which has directed our history and so abundantly blessed our people.”

Colorado became the first state to establish Columbus Day in 1907, and others soon followed. In 1934, with strong urging and support by the Knights, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Congress made Columbus Day a federal holiday, mandating its first annual observance on Oct. 12, 1937.

This statue of Christopher Columbus, dedicated by Italian-American residents in New Haven, Conn., was erected in 1892 in Wooster Square Park. In 2004, restoration of the statue was partially funded by the Knights of Columbus. Vandalized 2017. 

ATTACKS OLD AND NEW

As the 1992 quincentenary of Columbus’ arrival in the New World approached, vocal opposition to Columbus was heard from partisan and revisionist historians and activists who were often critical of Western civilization as a whole. That year, the city of Berkeley, Calif., changed Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, and several other municipalities have made similar moves, often explicitly as a means of dishonoring Columbus. These now include Austin and Los Angeles – FCZ 

In response to one such initiative in Baltimore, Eugene F. Rivers III, founder and president of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, published an op-ed article Dec. 2, 2016.

To celebrate one cultural group does not require that we denigrate another,” he wrote. “Rather than renaming Columbus Day, why not add another holiday, Indigenous Peoples Day, to Baltimore’s calendar in honor of Native Americans?”

The 20th century ended with criticism of Columbus and Columbus Day in certain quarters, just as the early 20th century had seen similar opposition.

When the Ku Klux Klan was revived in 1915 and targeted Catholics, Jews and minority groups whom they considered a threat to the nation’s “Native, White, Protestant” identity, one of their targets was Columbus.

The Klan opposed the observance of Columbus Day, trying to suppress celebrations of the holiday at the state level. Klan members published articles calling Columbus Day a “papal fraud” and even burned a cross at a Knights of Columbus observance in Pennsylvania.

Today, one can still hear echoes of anti-Catholic prejudice in the modern attacks. For some, Columbus’ sponsorship by Spain and introduction of Christianity and Western culture to the lands he discovered make him immediately suspect. The new wave of anti-Columbus attacks go so far as to say that Columbus intended nothing good.

“These criticisms primarily charge Columbus with perpetrating acts of genocide, slavery, ‘ecocide,’ and oppression,” explained Robert Royal, president of the Faith and Reason Institute and author of 1492 and All That: Political Manipulations of History (1992).

Nonetheless, a closer examination of the record reveals a different picture.

The dominant picture holds him responsible for everything that went wrong in the New World,” wrote Carol Delaney, a former professor at Stanford and Brown universities, in her book Columbus and the Quest for Jerusalem (2011). In her opinion, “we must consider his world and how the cultural and religious beliefs of his time colored the way he thought and acted.”

In a 2012 Columbia interview, Delaney further explained that Columbus found the native peoples to be “very intelligent” and his relations with them “tended to be benign.” He gave strict instructions to the settlers to “treat the native people with respect,” though some of his men rebelled and disobeyed his orders, particularly during his long absences, Delaney added.

Columbus’ voyage made the Old and New Worlds aware of each other for the first time, eventually leading to the founding of new countries in the Western Hemisphere. Diseases inadvertently carried to the New World by the Europeans caused the greatest number of casualties by far, killing some 90 percent of native populations according to some estimates.

“There were terrible diseases that got communicated to the natives,” Delaney said, “but he can’t be blamed for that.”

A RENEWED DEFENSE

According to Royal, arguments against Columbus by modern critics often constitute a “new, contemporary form of the ‘Black Legend’” — anti-Spanish propaganda dating back to the 16th-century that stereotypes Spanish explorers as uniquely cruel and abusive.

The writings of Bartolomé de las Casas — a 16th-century Spanish Dominican priest, historian and missionary — exposing the abuse of the native peoples are often cited in an effort to impugn Columbus. But while de las Casas lamented the suffering of indigenous people, he also admired and respected Columbus for his “sweetness and benignity” of character, his deep faith and his accomplishments.

“He was the first to open the doors to the ocean sea, where he entered the remote lands and kingdoms which until then had not known our Savior, Jesus Christ, and his blessed name,” de las Casas wrote in his History of the Indies. While cognizant that Columbus was human and made mistakes, de las Casas never doubted the explorer’s good intentions, writing: “Truly, I would not dare blame the admiral’s intentions, for I knew him well and I know his intentions are good.”

According to Delaney, Columbus “fervently believed it was the duty of every Christian to try to save the souls of non- Christians,” and it was this passion that “led him on a great adventure, an encounter such as the world has never seen.”

Not surprisingly, popes since the late 19th century have praised Columbus’ mission of evangelization. Pope John Paul II, while celebrating Mass at a Columbus monument in the Dominican Republic near the 1992 quincentenary, said the crossshaped memorial “means to symbolize the cross of Christ planted in this land in 1492.”

In a speech to the young people of Genoa in May, Pope Francis talked about how a disciple of Christ needs the “virtue of a navigator,” and he pointed to the example of Columbus who faced “a great challenge” and showed “courage,” a trait he indicated was essential to becoming a “good missionary.”

As it did a century ago, the Order is defending Columbus today. When Colorado lawmakers weighed a bill to repeal Columbus Day as a state holiday earlier this year, the Knights of Columbus helped lead the opposition. Recalling the Klan’s earlier efforts to oppose Columbus Day, the K of C noted that the measure was not a progressive step but rather “regressive as it takes us back to what the Klan outlined in the 1920s in order to promote ethnic and religious resentment.”

The Knights of Columbus has defended its patron from unfair attacks, urging that he continue to receive official recognition as a man of faith and bravery. Columbus represents the kind of heroic courage and religious faith that inspired the establishment of the United States. Although he surely holds special meaning for Catholics and for Italian Americans, Columbus is a figure all citizens of the New World can celebrate.

For this reason, Supreme Knight Carl Anderson said in his annual report this year, “We will continue to defend the truth about Columbus and Columbus Day.”


GERALD KORSON writes from Fort Wayne, Ind.

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