Bringing New Life to an Old Monastery.

Friday, January 1, AD 2010

PHOTO: Maj. Jeffrey Whorton, a Roman Catholic chaplain, celebrating Mass at St. Elijah’s Monastery near Mosul in northern Iraq.

The United States Army hopes to restore St. Elijah’s Monastery, an ancient site of Christian worship stuck in the middle of a base in northern Iraq (New York Times December 18, 2009) | Photo Tour of St. Elijah’s Monastery in Iraq.

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32 Responses to Bringing New Life to an Old Monastery.

  • Pray for the persecuted Christians in Iraq.

  • Best to keep this quiet. I’m sure our president will not approve.

  • Bravo to the Army! May the monastery again become a citadel of Christianity in an Islamic land.

  • It is amazing to me how seemingly novel it is to see a warrior priest. The last episode of “V” on ABC had someone telling the Catholic priest that he has to choose whether he is going to be a solier or a priest.

    It seems to me our priests always have been soldiers.

    What a great picture!

    May God bless our priests, our soldiers and the poor persecuted Christians in all of the Muslim-occupied middle-east and Israel.

  • It’d be nice if those foolish soldiers hadn’t damaged the site with their war toys in the first place. And if they hadn’t placed their pagan insignia on the walls after doing so.

    This looks to me like a case of clean-up/damage control after a really embarrassing (but standard) act.

    [Editor’s note — blanket and unjustified speculation about the motives of the military in general edited for the sake of civility. Michael, while I’m not at all surprised that you disapprove of this action, I’d request that you maintain focus on the specifics of the story and elaborate further, if need be, on why you disapprove and condemn the restoration of a erstwhile Christian monastary as “Christo-Facism.”

    P.S. Given the increasingly polarized and problematic atmosphere that typically inhabits the comboxes, it’s my hope that you can help us carve out a space, perhaps only a small corner of space, in which our passions do not get the best of us — and in which we can truly be a “new voice” that reflects the possibility of a new Catholic blogosphere in 2010. – Christopher]

  • What a beautiful story of Hope–God bless this Chaplain and all of our military!

  • Daledog,

    Yeah, best we keep this on the down-low. Don’t want our agnostic President to get a whiff of this.


    Completely agree, let Christ reign!

  • Completely agree, let Christ reign!

    Yeah let “Christ” reign, at the hands of the U.S. military. This is precisely the definition of CHRISTO-FASCISM.

  • Michael — granted, your overall preference would be for the complete cessation of the U.S. military from Iraq and perhaps the disbanding of the U.S. armed forces altogether. We get the hint.

    That said, in the spirit of a worthy commenting policy and call for moderation and Christian charity, I’d like to pursue this further.

    Given the immediate situation, we have a Christian monastery formerly occupied by the Iraqi Republican Guard as a military base (and the cistern used for a latrine); subsequently damaged in a tank battle between U.S.-Iraqi forces, further vandalized by looters, and then re-occupied by United States troops . . . until a Roman Catholic Chaplain instigated a restoration of the establishment to its rightful purpose.

    At this point in time, would you agree with the intentions and actions of the Chaplain to restore the monastary?

    If not, why not?

  • At this point in time, would you agree with the intentions and actions of the Chaplain to restore the monastary?

    If not, why not?

    The monastery should be restored. But the u.s. Army should have nothing to do with it. Referring to it as a potential “citadel” — as Donald has done — is positively disgusting.

  • I will pray for the endurance of the monastery and the conversion of those who would probably like to see it razed the ground.

  • This is a fascinating a human story, which is probably why it draws ire from someone who sees the world with all the subtlety and humanity of an (anarchist) comic book. A couple more complete articles are:

    Some of the interesting points:

    – Dair Mar Elia was occupied as a monastery for nearly 1200 years before all 150 monks living there at the time were massacred by a Persian leader in 1743 for refusing to convert to Islam. The monastery has been a ruin ever since.

    – The local Christian population used to visit yearly on the feast of St. Elia, but this practice has mostly been abandoned since the 70s, when the Republican Guard built a major tank base around the monastery.

    – During their 30 year occupation of the site, the Republican Guard used the monastery’s sistern as a latrine and Iraqi soldiers carved graphiti on the walls through the standing buildings.

    – The area was the site of a major tank battle in 2003, and the eastern wall of the chapel was damaged at that time by a turret blown off an Iraqi tank (which was positioned right next to the chapel).

    – Coalition troops at first had no idea what the buildings were, and so painted over several areas of the monastery with white gloss paint, painted the 101st Airborne crest over the doorway, and most unfortunately, set the latrine waste in the cistern on fire. (Just for a good time? To get rid of the smell? Who knows…)

    – Since army chaplains and the army core of engineers have set about restoring the monastery and trying to get it on the Ministry of Archeology and Culture’s list of historic sites, they’ve discovered additional graphiti carved in the monastery walls by crusaders in the 13th century, and also the tombs of the monks, which local Christians had believed to be lost or destroyed.

    Whatever one thinks about the US’s mission in Iraq, it’s good to hear about this ancient monastery (long abused and unknown) is receiving some long needed restoration, and may in fact receive it long term through the Iraqi Ministry of Culture. And the Eucharist is once again being celebrated in a chapel which, for many centuries, was left empty, and in recent decades was actively mistreated. The stones once again witness the sacrements for which they were put in place. Those who put those stones in place could little imagine what would follow in the centuries to come. And yet, through it all, the sacramental life of the Church returns, Christ is present on the altar once more.

    How a Catholic can find that romance of the centuries and unexpected (and unintended) consequences uninteresting I do not know.

  • The notion that God can bring good things even out of what seem to be evil situations ought to be familiar to even the most poorly formed and ill-educated Christians.

  • I’m flabbergasted that a “self-identified” Catholic such as the Anarchist would find it disgusting to celebrate the sacraments in an ancient monastery is beyond me.

  • Referring to it as a potential “citadel” — as Donald has done — is positively disgusting.

    A citadel is the walled, central part of a city in which people take refuge in time of attack. Rather than being strictly military structures, citadels were often home to the most important areas of the city, and thus were in a literal sense the heart of the city. (The acropolis in ancient athens, for example.)

    Given that Iraq is a country in which Christians are struggling, to say the least, with much of the local population being sympathetic to the idea of burning churches and driving Christians out of the country, how exactly would a renovated monastery which once again became a center of pilgrimage and sacramental life not be a metaphorical citadel?

    What metaphor would be more appropriate to delicate, pacifist ears?

  • What metaphor would be more appropriate to delicate, pacifist ears?

    Just call it a monastery. Donald no doubt was intentional in his use of that word, what with its military connotations.

  • “May the monastery become a monastery of Christianity in an Islamic land.”

    Wow, that’s… Um… Inspiring. I don’t know why it is that pacifist anarchist prose doesn’t get more circulation with wordsmithing ideas like that.

    Or maybe, Michael, if the saints and apostles and even Christ can use military terminology in order to make metaphorical points, we can too. There’s a thought.

  • The citadel of Jerusalem is more commonly called the Tower of David. Presumably, Christ when mourned the destruction of Jerusalem He mourned the loss of the citadel as well. It’s really hard to believe that God considers citadels offensive or sinful, let alone using the term metaphorically. Aside from things like Communion with God and saints, the Sacraments, and plain old Truth, it’s good to be Catholic just for the reason and moderation.

  • I guess we need to stop using the term the Church Militant as well.

  • Darwin,

    When there is no other way to eliminate waste from a latrine, it can be burnt. Maybe they felt is was the best way to get rid of the waste.

    For more on the wonders of field waste:

  • Phillip,

    I’m surprised the anarchist didn’t catch that.

  • Wow, that’s… Um… Inspiring.

    I’m sorry you find Christianity itself to be uninspiring, and that you need to drop in militarism in order to make it exciting. What gets you off is no concern of mine though.

    Or maybe, Michael, if the saints and apostles and even Christ can use military terminology in order to make metaphorical points, we can too. There’s a thought.

    The difference between THEM and THIS BLOG is that the former did not have fascist politics and did not idolize the military. They used such metaphors precisely to SUBVERT military violence, unlike Donald, et al. You get the saints DEAD WRONG.

    I guess we need to stop using the term the Church Militant as well.

    If by “we” you mean most of the people who write for this blog, then yes, I suggest you stop using it because you are promoting neo-Constantinian Christo-fascism.

    Christians who take peace seriously will continue to use such metaphors in the way that they were intended.

  • Just when I thought TAC didn’t have enough meaningless, pointless, fruitless, waste-of-time, self-righteous, self-discrediting, morally stupid arguments to make and points to debate, MI comes along to save the day.

    Do you guys ever get the sense that MI should have his own theme music?

    “Quick! Someone used a vaguely-sounding military word to describe a monastery! Who will save us!? To whom shall we turn!?”



  • “Who will save us? To whom shall we turn?”

    Marx? 😉

  • The children! Won’t somebody think of the CHILDREN!!!

  • What about the steeenkeeng badgers?

  • Michael,

    So basically: You don’t think there’s actually anything wrong with the metaphor, you just like to harass people whom you consider to be bad people. If you didn’t consider us to be bad people, there would be nothing wrong with us using the metaphor.

    Got it.

  • It’s a sad spectacle for someone’s mind to be so bent by ideology that he can’t admit that his hated enemies ever do even one thing right, not even restoring a defiled monastery.

  • Someone please tell me why after Mass we pray, “St. Michael the Archangel defend us in BATTLE . . .

  • Carping over “citadel”?

    Some folks just have a craving to feel offended, I guess.

Advent and Anti-Christ, Part I

Sunday, November 29, AD 2009

Prior to his conversion to Catholicism, John Henry Cardinal Newman, soon to be Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman,  preached in 1835 a series of Advent Sermons on the Anti-Christ.  I have always found them extremely intriguing, and I am going to present them on each of the Sundays in Advent this year.

In this first sermon Newman gives us an overview of the Anti-Christ and the time of his appearance.  We see in this sermon Newman’s total command of history and how he uses this knowledge to draw out the implications of the few mentions of the Anti-Christ in Scripture.  Newman intellectually was always first and foremost a historian of the highest order and he puts this talent to good and instructive use in this sermon.  When Newman converted the Church gained one of the finest intellects of the Nineteenth Century or any century for that matter.  Much of Newman’s work concerned the working out of God’s plan for salvation through human history, and his examination of the Anti-Christ places that mysterious part of revelation into that plan.

“Let no man deceive you by any means:
for that Day shall not come,
except there come a falling away first,
and that man of sin be revealed,
the son of perdition.”

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21 Responses to Advent and Anti-Christ, Part I

  • How prescient Cardinal Newman was.

    Including Mohammad as a proto-Anti-Christ. Many have backed up Newmans assertion that heretical forms of Christianity such as Nestorianism contributed to the rise of Islam.

    Hilaire Belloc I believe (I don’t recall who exactly) called Islam another Christian heresy.

    How right he was!

  • You are right, Tito. Belloc said it in “The Great Heresies.”

  • Evil begets evil. But thanfully, God begets God, and what greater good is there than God?

  • I know we can’t know the timing of these things. I also know they will happen again and again with increasing frequency and severity until the final one; however, it sounds like the good cardical is talking of a conspiracy. Are we listening? Becuase it seems most people freak out and dismiss any time I hint of a conspiracy. Makes you think hmm.

    Could it be a liberal conspiracy? I am not referring to Demomcrat liberals or even Republican liberals, just liberal thought in general. Liberalism has some great aspects. I happen to like much of libertarian (the classical liberal) thought; however, liberal is also plagued with utility, permissiveness, license and radical individualism. Could this be the Devil taking us by the hand and making us his friends in our own undoing?

    Karl Marx certaintly thought so. He developed ideas, ideologies and an ‘economic’ theory that seek to do nothing other than totally destroy Western Civ. aka Rome aka Christendom. The tool he used to present his destructive agenda is Marxism/Communism and it’s newer forms of Critical Theory hidden away in liberalism, both the neo-con and the lefty-loony viriety.

  • Vince C.,

    I like the link in your name!

    I added it to our Catholic resources list.

    Keep up the great witness to our beautiful faith!

  • One point of clarification – John Henry Cardinal Newman is not yet identified as “Blessed” that is supposed to happen next year when the Holy Father visits England. Hopefully his canonization will follow sooner rather than later.

  • Let us pray for the conversion of the Antichrist, so that he, too, might enjoy the Beatific Vision and be an endless hymn of praise of God’s Mercy.

  • Thank you Dontex! I was gettting ahead of myself. It has been a long wait for we Newman devotees! I have amended the post.

  • The antichrist has always been at work ever since he decided to be greater than God. And his work is visible. Look at those that want anything that has to do with Christianity taken out, look at all the sexuality on TV, internet and so on. Look at sexual liberation men giving themselves to men, women to women “Because they gave up the natural order “ now where have I heard those words before; check out the driving force behind religions. Islam says that if one is not converted to Islam they need to be killed. Today the war is over oil, but after the crises is over, what reason will there be to go to war. I remember reading the story of the Jewish holocaust, and in a meeting of high ranking Nazi officials the final resolution was being discussed, and one general asked “ and after we do away with the Jewish people , who will be next “. After the oil war is over whom they will persecute.
    Read the story of Sodomma and Camorra why did God destroy them and see if those same reasons are not prevailing in our society today. Oh yes my dear brothers and sisters the anti-Christ is lose, angry and wild. He knows the day of the Lord is at hand. He also knows what awaits him.
    But fear you not because as the apostle said “IF I AM WIH THE LORD, WHAT EVIL CAN BEGET ME”
    Christ be with you all.

  • No Nick I’m afraid not! To pray for the conversion of the Antichrist would be in vain. He is confirmed in evil! It would be like trying to pray for the conversion of Satan and that you must know is impossible. The prince of Darkness is confirmed in Evil for all eternity.

  • I agree with Gabriel about Satan being confirmed evil for all eternity, though I am not sure if it is applicable to the anti-Christ.

    Satan, being created an angel by God has perfect knowledge. Angels are not human but are something akin to spiritual beings that had perfect intelligence. So when he consciously chose to oppose God it was final since in his own mind he thought better of himself instead of God.

    The anti-Christ will be a man, not an angle, so he (or she) will be imperfect, hence then he may still be able to repent.

    As Saint Theresa of Avila said, she still prays for Judas because we truly don’t know if he asked for forgiveness at the moment of his death.

  • Which antichrist? Nero, Mohammad, Marx, Hitler, or The Anti-Christ?

    I think many antichrists can repent but the final Anti-Christ, I am not so sure. He may be so closely tied to Satan that there is no hope for him. Isn’t he supposed to be slain and then rise again in mockery of Christ? If so, how is that possible unless Satan is completely animating and possesing him? If he is that given over to Satan I don’t think he can return to God, not that God wouldn’t have Mercy, but rather becuase the evil is so consuming that he wouldn’t consider surrender to God anything desireable.

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  • The Anti-Christ is Satan only in the form of a human being, just as Christ is God in a human form.
    Satan nor any of the fallen angels will be pardoned or can be pardoned for their sins and crimes, this is way they hate us humans so much cause we have the opportunity to repent they can’t and do not have the opportunity to repent. They knew and saw God as He is in all his glory.
    They literally saw and understood God but decided to go against him, freely and willingly.

  • Excellent point Rafael.

    Because they are angels they have perfect knowledge, hence they would choose not to repent if they were allowed to repent.

    I am not sure on this point, but the angels that followed Lucifer hated humans because God placed them above angels I believe.

  • I suppose it is possible that Anti-Christ is Satan but it is also possible that he is just another poor power-hungry, disobendient human given over to Satan through sin. Either way he is a problem and he loses.

    Tito, we are not above the angels. To my knowledge only one creature is above the angels and she is perfectly human, the Queen of men and angels, our Blessed Virgin Mary. The rest of us are lower than the angels and we are integrated with our bodies and struggle against our flesh. You are correct about the perfect knowledge of angels and their perfect and fixed free wills. Once an angel makes a choice it is eternally fixed. St. Michael will always serve God fully and Satan aka Lucifer will always be disobedient and he knows his time is short.

    I think Satan and the fallen angels (demons) rebelled against God not because He made us higher than angels but precisely becuase He made us lower than angels. I think when God showed them that He was taking human form, a lower form than an angel, their pride was bruised. The virtue opposite the vice of pride is humility. God humbled Himself to become a small, vulnerable, cold, poor, homeless baby. Satan went nuts and a third of heaven was cast out with him.

    Come Lord Jesus!

  • I see no evidence in Scripture that the anti-Christ will be an avatar of Satan.

  • No! I don’t believe the Antichrist is Satan himself. Satan also known as the dragon, the ancient serpent of old! Who gave his power, worldly glory, status to the beast, the Antichrist to make war with the saints and to conquer them and there was given to it (by Satan) power over every tribe and people and tonque and nation.
    And later, the beast or Antichrist was captured along with the false prophet who worked wonders to lead many astray and both were cast alive into the fiery lake of burning brimstone and also those that worshipped the image of the beast.
    Shortly after that St. Michael the archangel seized the dragon, the ancient serpent, who is the devil and Satan and cast him into the bottomless pit.
    Since Satan is the prince of this world he can give his power and earthly glory to whom he likes!!!!

  • To read what the church teaches on the Antichrist go to click on encyclopedia click A find and click Antichrist.

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