Both World Wars Were A Catalyst For Religious Growth; What Future Tragedy Will It Take For Another Revival?
Sadly it often takes tragedies for religious faith to grow. It seems an unfortunate part of our fallen nature. We have been hit by a spate of tragedies as of late; in its wake we often see churches full of worshippers seeking answers where once there were but a few. Following both world wars, there existed a religious resurgence that unlike the recent tragedies did not ebb and flow. It remained constant due in large part to the horrific loses of human life.
Modernism was alive and well and condemned by the likes of Pope Pius X even before the Guns of August began in 1914. The Catholic and Protestant churches were increasingly seeing relativistic elements entering their seminaries. However unlike recent times, they were quickly addressed. Though we are gaining the upper hand, it has been 40 years since Pope Paul VI lamented that “The Smoke of Satan” had entered the Church. In my just released book; The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I speak about the positive events occurring within the Church, as well as those movements who aim to do us harm. In addition, the book delves into how we got into this mess in the first place.
Following World War I there was a great return to religious devotions, especially those having to do with the Blessed Mother. The events of Fatima which had occurred during the war and were being followed closely around the Catholic globe. As I mentioned in my article on the Schoenstatt Movement, the likes of Father Josef Kentenich chastised theological authorities who were giving short shrift to these devotions as well as those who dismissed popular devotions to those who recently passed away like the future Saint Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower.) Father Kentenich reminded these scoffers that Jesus did indeed say that we must become like little children if we are to enter the Kingdom.
The well heeled of Europe and many American ex pats found their way to Paris to rebel against the religious side of the equation. On the whole, they were a gloomy lot who seemed to drown their sorrows in all matter of drink and sexual exploits which only made them more unbearable. Some even found their way to more exotic locales like Casablanca, as did the fictional Rick Blaine (Humphrey Bogart) in the epic film Casablanca. Continue reading
President Barack Obama’s debate performances could never equal the expectations of the secular faithful. Many on the far left envisioned an American society where religion was about as important to the populace and politically influential as it is in Sweden. The land of the midnight sun has been a great hope to liberals ever since religion began to erode there in the 1950s and abortion became commonplace in the 1960s. Governor Michael Dukakis famously poured over Sweden’s great Welfare state enterprise to see what he might learn, which of course led to his electoral demise in 1988.
With all of his rhetorical skills, President Obama could never make Americans have a come to Pierre Trudeau, Willy Brandt, Jose Luis Zapatero (pick your favorite Western Democratic Socialist) moment like many Americans have a Come to Jesus moment over failings in their lives. Instead of realizing that not everyone can be suckered into buying Big Government swampland, the Left has taken their frustrations out on the President. If only he were talking more about rising and falling oceans and making them believe we are the ones we have been waiting for; the Left attacks the messenger and not the message.
Frank Rich, the New York Times columnist laments about this in a long New York magazine article. The writer for the Old Gray Lady states the Americans are somehow too dumb to become like Europeans and surrender their lives to government and not God. He sees little hope and concludes the Tea Party will always prevail in the American persona rather than government control. Talk about a brain trust, can you imagine the anti-religious nuggets thrown around the water cooler when Bill Keller, the former New York Times editor was present. You may recall Keller infamously dubbed himself a “Collapsed Catholic,” fortunately reported to us by former Newsweek Religion Editor Kenneth Woodward, who is not Catholic and hardly a friend of conservatives, but a principled man who couldn’t take any more of the Times’ hypocrisy directed at the Church. I would strongly suggest you read this The New York magazine article for if conservatives mouthed these same thoughts about minorities instead of suburbanites and rural residents, we would be blacklisted.
In my just released book, The Catholic Tide Continues to Turn, I note how the Left turned on Al Smith (the first Catholic standard bearer) after he formed the Liberty League in the mid and late 1930s and told Americans he could no longer support President Roosevelt. This startling development occurred after a number of questionable instances came to light including the Supreme Court Packing Case and the Roosevelt 1938 purge of Conservative Democrats. By 1940 unemployment was still at 14% and if had not been for World War II who knows how long unemployment would have remained in double digits. Continue reading
Recently two momentous events in Western and Church History passed with hardly a mention. Actually, these events may be better known in the Muslim world than the Christian world; the Islamic army’s desecration of St. Peter’s in Rome, along with St John Lateran and other churches in 846, and the stunning defeat of the Islamic military onslaught by Charles the Hammer Martel at Tours, France in 732. Though these two events occurred over 100 years apart, they do point out that until the Ottoman-Turkish Islamic defeat in 1683 at the gates of Vienna; Europe was facing a never ending threat from radical Islam. Yet how is it that according to the mainstream media it was the fault of Christians, and specifically Catholics? In my last article, I wrote of the naval Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the land at the Gates of Vienna in 1683. Some wondered why I didn’t right about Charles the Hammer Martel and some of the earlier Islamic incursions into Europe. Now is a good time to delve into that subject. (For more on Charles the Hammer Martel and the Battle of Tours please read this excellent article by my colleague Donald McClarey.)
Ask most practicing Catholics, Evangelicals and mainline Protestants who Charles the Hammer Martel was and you would probably get blank stares. Perhaps a few young people might be under the false impression that he is some sort of up and coming professional wrestler. However, you would probably stand a better chance of having someone in the Islamic world tell you about Charles the Hammer Martel. The same might be true for the sack of Rome in 846 by Muslim forces who disembarked at Ostia (the Tiber port) and marched right into Rome desecrating holy sites like St Peter’s and St John Lateran and leaving the Eternal City with their plunder. Many in the western world might be surprised why they have never heard this and why those who reside in the Islamic world are better informed of these events than in the Western World. Let us peer back into time to see what we can learn about the past and what it might mean for the future.
It is said that God can make the best out of the worst. As Charles Martel grew older and realized that his mother was simply a consort of his regal father, Charles must have realized that he could have been abandoned to poverty, or worse yet aborted (if that had happened Christianity might have been confined to Ireland!) Charles must have developed a thick skin and a courageous spirit that enabled him not to run at the first sign of trouble. Europe was in a state of near panic by 730 as the well seasoned professional Islamic Army had laid waste to much of the Middle East and North Africa leaving the homes of those past saints like Augustine in ruins. Europe was in the Dark Ages, armies were merely feudal in their makeup, a far cry from the type of regimented units needed to stop the largest invading armies Europe had seen since the days when Rome ruled the world. Continue reading
The target of the Notre Dame Cathedral seemed a bit out of place. Every other Al Qaeda target listed by the captured Ahmed Sadiqui was secular in origin, be the Eiffel Tower in Paris, the Brandenburg Gate and Alexander Platz TV tower in Berlin, or the United Kingdom movements of the British Royal family. Why Notre Dame (which means Our Lady in French i.e. the Blessed Virgin Mary) and why not any other churches like St Paul’s in London or St Peter’s or St Michael’s in Munich make the list which has caused world governments to issue terror warnings and travel updates? To understand this question one has to understand the mindset of Al Qaeda. To the tried and true jihadist, Western Europe was almost under their control until two critical events occurred; the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and the Siege of Vienna in 1683, when Our Lady intervened and stopped the Islamic armies in their tracks.
Now some would falsely point out that the Crusades of the 11th and 12th centuries were western victories and thus Islamic sore points, this is far from the truth. The Crusades actually were seen as a great victory in the Islamic World. Though we are now told by those in the mainstream media that the Crusades were a heinous act, they were in fact a small defensive action taken by the west to defend themselves against the Islamic armies who had been invading historical Christian lands for centuries. Long before they were Islamic lands, the Middle East and North Africa were filled with vibrant Christian centers and revelatory figures like Saint Augustine. The very argument that Christianity was not appealing to the masses was left empty by the need of the Islamic armies to have a military conquest. Now my colleague Joe Hargrave has written a great piece on the Crusades which I highly encourage you to read. It is not my intention to go into any further detail about the Crusades for this article. I would again refer to the above link for Joe’s article or a similar article I wrote entitled; A Review of Al Qaeda’s Little Reported On War Against The Catholic Church.
Getting back to the 1571 Naval Battle of Lepanto and the land battle outside the Gates of Vienna in 1683; they were the turning point for Islamic military conquest and military failure. Islamic armies would never again threaten the heart of Europe. The hoped for world Caliphate did not come to fruition. To the militant jihadist it must have seemed as if defeat was snatched out of the jaws of victory. For the faithful Christian, especially the faithful Catholic the Islamic defeats were miraculous seen as the Hand of God working through His Son Jesus Christ and specifically His mother Mary.
A sophisticated attack to kill Pope Benedict XVI was appearently foiled in London by Scotland Yard. The Middle Eastern Intelligence website Debka, normally on top of such matters reports that the attack was foiled at the last possible moment. Several men are in custody. Obviously this is still a breaking news story. However, while many people will say the Holy Father and the police were lucky, the faithful look to providence as the answer. How ironic that this is the feast day of the famous German Saint Hildegard. Something to ponder on this momentous day. May God keep our Holy Father healthy! Below you will find my article that appeared last week which discussed Al Qaeda’s little reported on war against the Catholic Church. UPDATE: Police in London have released those arrested.
As The September 11 Anniversary Nears, A Review Of Al Qaeda's Little Reported-On War Against The Catholic Church
While most of the world mourns the nearly three thousand who were brutally murdered by Al Qaeda on September 11, 2001, many assume all of Al Qaeda attacks stem from a warped political motive. Most may not be aware that since the day of its inception many of Al Qaeda’s targets have involved the Catholic Church and her holy sites.
Less than one year before the September 11, 2001 attacks Al Qaeda was planning a spectacular Christmas attack at the large and historic Strasbourg Cathedral in France. While this attack was foiled, an attack on the Catholic cathedral in Jakarta, Indonesia was not thwarted, resulting in the deaths of several churchgoers and those on a nearby street.
Yet, five years before this brazen plan, an even more sinister plan was nearly carried out by the chief planner of the September 11, 2001 attacks, Khalid Sheik Muhammad, which he coordinated to coincide with the visit of Pope John Paul II to Manila for World Youth Day in January of 1995. The plan called for the pontiff to be killed along with countless of the faithful who was planning to see him in Manila that day. Incidentally, some speculate that the crowd that came to see the Polish pontiff that day was nearly the same size that came to see his funeral some ten years later. Some speculate it may have been the largest religious gathering at one place in our known history, some five to seven million strong.
Marian apparitions have always been a sign of God’s love. It truly is one of His greatest graces, which physically shows us the Blessed Mother along with her love, words of encouragement and warnings about the world in which we live. Sometimes the Church Militant heeds her call, but sadly often it doesn’t. This article will only cover a handful of Church approved apparitions (this can be a little tricky, more on this later,) but what it will show is that often the Blessed Mother appears in lands that have experienced great suffering with often more suffering to follow. Her message to bring the world closer to her Son and live according to Jesus’ teachings is one of God’s greatest graces, something that is often met with violent, evil attacks. The miraculous events surrounding her appearances often take place in the presense of great vistas; a window of sorts into God’s loving handiwork. The said could be said about Jesus at The Transfiguration and the Sermon on the Mount.
Something to keep in mind before we begin; during the early days of the Church investigative bodies were the last thing the Church was worried about at a time when the Church was trying to literally stay alive during an array of persecutions. Following the Protestant Reformation, a more detailed structure emerged for investigating appartions. They often took a long time to investigate in order to prevent any hoaxes. Most reported modern day apparitions are not approved. In the 20th Century only 8 of the 300+ reported apparitions were approved. This link from the University of Dayton, a Marianist institution, which houses the largest collection of Marian Apparitions, might be a helpful.
The year was 1300. Though parts of Spain remained under Islamic control, a liberated area, near the Guadalupe River would reveal an amazing find. A cow herder named Gil Cordero would be told by the Blessed Mother to dig, and there he would find holy treasure. Though laughed at by his fellow villagers, his faithful dig yielded a secret burial vault that would house many relics including that of a lifelike carving of the Blessed Mother. It was said to be carved by St Luke and transported to Spain in the sixth century by Bishop Leander, a relative of Pope Gregory the Great.
The vault had been placed there as Islamic armies were making their way to Spain. The lifelike carving, which still exists today, was said to have been processed through the streets of Rome around the year 590 AD, at the direction of Pope Gregory the Great. He had been given the famous carving while he was Papal Legate in Constantinople.
The famous pontiff had ordered this procession during a terrible plague and famine that had engulfed the city, some one hundred and fifty years after the Roman Empire had collapsed. As the procession ended, the assembled crowd saw the Archangel St Michael sheathing his sword, signifying that the famine and plague were over. (One can still see the statue of the Archangel St Michael atop the Castel Sant Angelo which commemorates this momentous event.) The carved statue of the Blessed Mother was then sent to Spain where it remains today, seemingly unscathed after spending years underground during the Muslim conquest.
Years later a young Italian navigator named Christopher Columbus would come to pray at this now famous shrine. He was at the end of his financial rope in seeking backing for a “new way to India.” Soon after his prayer, he was granted an audience with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the rest is history. Few know about this religious side of Columbus. Even fewer know that when he first caught sight of what would be known as the Americas, he had minutes before ordered his crew to pray the Rosary. In gratitude, he named one of the islands he discovered for the site at which his prayers were answered back in Spain, the isle now known as Guadeloupe. Continue reading