Monday, September 26, 2011

The St Francis Xavier Crab Re-appears In Malacca

Sparking frenzy: A fisherman holding the rare crab (left) next to a normal crab.
The rare crab was reportedly last seen in the Straits of Malacca in the 1960s.

The re-appearance of a rare species of crab along the shores here has caused a stir among the people, especially Christians, due to a cross-like mark on its shell.

The crustacean, with the scientific name Charybdisferiatus, is a species of Malacostraca and is mainly found in Malaysian and Indonesian waters.

It was reportedly last seen in the Straits of Malacca in the 1960s.

The species is different from another commonly found species in the state and which also has a cross on its shell.

A fisherman from Tengkera here hauled a dozen of these crabs on Sunday, sparking a frenzy among locals who rushed to buy the crabs.

The fisherman, who only wanted to be known as Man, 65, said the crabs were considered scarce.

He claimed that the crab was last caught in small numbers in the late 1960s.

“Only minimal quantities of the crabs were caught. Many locals don't buy them to eat, but to preserve the shell as it's considered sacred,” Man said.

State Rural Development and Agriculture Committee chairman Datuk R. Perumal said the state would ask the Fisheries Department to record and monitor the landings of the rare crab.

“We may conserve the crab by breeding it,” he added.

A marine biologist, who declined to be named, said the crabs became rare after rapid development along the state coastline led to the deterioration of the mangrove swamps where the crabs thrived.

Legend has it that Saint Francis Xavier was sailing to Malacca from an Indonesian island sometime in the 16th Century when he was caught in a storm in the Straits of Malacca.

He then dipped his crucifix into the sea and prayed to God to calm the raging storm.

However, the crucifix slipped from his grip and fell into the sea. He prayed that he could get it back.

When he reached the shores of Malacca safely, St Francis saw a crab crawling on the beach and clutching the same crucifix between its claws.

Surprised, St Francis knelt down and recovered his crucifix.

He blessed the crab and the sign of a cross then appeared on its back.

Source: The Star

Please post your comments.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Angel Caught On CCTV Camera

Footage of an angel caught on a CCTV camera in Cilandak Town Square, South Jakarta, Indonesia on 11th September 2011.

Please post your comments.

Related post: Angel caught on Hospital camera (video)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Frequent Confession To Root Out A Particular Sin

A reader asked a priest a question and here is the priest's answer.

From a reader:

Just wanted to know if it’s really possible for an ordinary person like me to become holy? If so, must I go to confession as often as I deem it necessary. You see, I have sin in my life that has become repetitive and to be honest, I don’t see how I can overcome it without going to confession on a weekly basis. I desire greatly to grow closer to God, but I know there are things holding me back. What do you think?

I think that we all have to go to confession as often as is necessary. Would that priests in parishes heard confessions more often. Could they not hear confessions, for example, for a few minutes before Mass? Perhaps if their parishioners began to ask?

Sins which are habits are called vices. As with any bad habit, it is hard to get rid of a vice by just saying “No” to yourself. It takes both grace and elbow grease to get rid of bad habits.

Generally, the best way to get rid of a vice is to drive it out with another habit, a good habit or something neutral. Have a plan, form a battle plan in advance for what you are going to do instead when you note in yourself the pattern of behavior which leads to whatever habitual sin you may need to get rid of. For example, make a plan to… I dunno… scrub an oil stain out of the driveway… dust the Venetian blinds… turn off the computer and walk around the block… lift some weights… chop wood… rearrange the silverware drawer… go to the library…. Another part of the human dimension you have to tackle on your own is to avoid occasions of sin, those people, places, actions, etc., which you – after studying your own behavior with icy cold objectivity – you know have led you into the pattern of action that results in your sin.

Another thing: you need to be willing to suffer.

When we say no to our appetites, we suffer, sometimes a little and sometimes a lot, depending on what it is and how deeply engrained the habit is. In this suffering, however, you have an opportunity to unite your sufferings to those of the Lord and the martyrs in heaven and, through them be tested in your love of the Lord and be corrected.

It can be done. But it might not be easy. You might come up with some other strategies, but first you need to study yourself with brutal honesty and without the slightest shred of self-deception. That can be reinforced with your evening examination of conscience.

Also, the sacrament of penance gives you not only forgiveness for your sins but also helps against sinning, a strengthening against the occasions of sin.

“But Father! But Father!”, some of you may be saying. “This sounds so haaaard! We’re jist… jist… *sniffle*… only human.”

To which I respond, “And…. so…?” When did being human give us a pass? We are members of a race which fell. We have been redeemed, but we suffer from the effects of our fall. We can lose what Christ won for us. We are talking here about sins which could very well be vices, a sinful habit which could slam to a soul the gate of heaven opened for us all by the Lord by Calvary and the empty tomb. We are talking about eternal salvation… or not. And even if we might consider how some circumstances can diminish our guilt for objectively sinful actions, we must must must avoid any sense of presumption about our salvation, however fleeting.

We need fearful confidence. Call it confident fear, if you prefer.So, you have your part that you can do, on the human level. Then you must call on God to help you and ask your angel guardians to keep from you the Enemy of the soul who, though he cannot affect your will, can tweak your memories and passions. You can use constant prayer during the day. You can use the sacrament of penance as often as necessary. And yes, I do think it is possible for an ordinary person to become holy. I believe the Lord and trust in what He admonished and taught us and gave us during His earthly life.

Source: What Does The Prayer Really Say?

Please post your comments.


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

True Presence Of Jesus In The Eucharist

Even Demons Believe and Tremble – A Story about the True Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist

By Msgr. Charles Pope

It was almost 15 years ago. I was At Old St. Mary’s here in D.C. celebrating Mass in the Latin (Extraordinary Form). It was a solemn high Mass. I don’t suppose I thought it any different than most Sunday’s but something quite amazing was about to happen.

As you may know the ancient Latin Mass is celebrated “ad orientem” (towards the Liturgical East). Priest and people all face one direction. What this means practically for the celebrant is that the people are behind him. It was time for the consecration. The priest is directed to bow low, his forearms on the altar table the host between his fingers.

As directed I said the venerable words of Consecration in a low but distinct voice, Hoc est enim Corpus meum (For this is my Body). The bells rang as I genuflected.

But behind me a disturbance of some sort, a shaking or rustling in the front pews behind me to my right. And then a moaning or grumbling. What was that? It did not really sound human, more like the grumbling of a large animal such as a boar or a bear, along with a plaintive moan that did not seem human. I elevated the host and wondered, “What was that?” Then silence. I could not turn to look easily for that is awkward for the celebrant in the ancient Latin Mass. But still I thought, What was that?

But it was time for the consecration of the chalice. Again, bowing low and pronouncing clearly and distinctly but in a low voice: Hic est enim calix sanguinis mei, novi et æterni testamenti; mysterium fidei; qui pro vobis et pro multis effundetur in remissionem pecatorum. Haec quotiescumque feceritis in mei memoriam facietis (for this is the cup of my Blood, of the new and eternal covenant; the mystery of faith; which will for the many be shed unto the remission of sins. When so ever you do this, you do it in my memory).

Then, I heard another sound this time an undeniable moan and then a shriek as some one cried out: “Leave me alone Jesus! Why do you torture me!” Suddenly a scuffling as some one ran out with the groaning sound of having been injured. The back doors swung open, then closed. Then silence.

Realization – I could not turn to look for I was raising the Chalice high over my head. But I knew in an instant that some poor demon-tormented soul had encountered Christ in the Eucharistic, and could not endure his real presence displayed for all to see. And the words of Scripture occurred to me: Even Demons believe and tremble (James 2:19).

Repentance – But just as James used those words to rebuke the weak faith of his flock I too had to repent. Why was a demon-troubled man more aware of the true presence and astonished by it than me? He was moved in the negative sense to run. Why was I not more moved in a positive and comparable way? What of the other believers in the pews? I don’t doubt that any of us believed intellectually in the true presence. But there is something very different and far more wonderful in being moved to the depth of your soul! It is so easy for us to be sleepy in the presence of the Divine, forgetful of the miraculous and awesome Presence available to us.

But let the record show that one day, almost 15 years ago, it was made quite plain to me that I held in my hands the Lord of Glory, the King of heaven and earth, the just Judge, and Ruler of the kings of the earth. Is the Lord truly present in the Eucharist? You’d better believe it, even demons believe that!

Source: Archdiocese Of Washington

Please post your comments.


Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Forrest Gump In Heaven

That fateful day finally arrived: Forrest Gump dies and goes to Heaven. He is met by St. Peter himself at the Pearly Gates.

"Well, Forrest, it's certainly good to see you. We have heard a lot about you," St. Peter says. "I must tell you, though, that the place is filling up fast, and we've been administering an entrance examination for everyone. The test is short, but you have to pass it before you can get into Heaven."

"It shor is good to be here, St. Peter, sir," says Forest. "But nobody ever tolt me about any entrance exam. Shor hope the test ain't too hard; life was a big enough test as it was."

"Yes, I know, Forrest, but the test is only three questions. First: What two days of the week begin with the letter T? Second: How many seconds are there in a year? Third: What is God's first name?"

Forrest leaves to think the questions over. He returns the next day and sees St. Peter, who waves him up and says, "Now that you have had a chance to think the questions over, tell me your answers."

Forrest says, "Well, the first one -- which two days in the week begin with The letter 'T'? Shucks, that one's easy. That'd be Today and Tomorrow."

The Saint's eyes open wide and he exclaims, "Forrest, that's not what I was thinking, but you do have a point, and I guess I didn't specify, so I'll give you credit for that answer. How about the next one? How many seconds in a year?"

"Now that one's harder," says Forrest, "but I thunk and thunk about that and I guess the only answer can be twelve."

Astounded, St. Peter says, "Twelve? Twelve!? Forrest, how in Heaven's name could you come up with twelve seconds in a year?"

Forrest says "Shucks, there's gotta be twelve: January 2nd, February 2nd, March 2nd---"

"Hold it," interrupts St. Peter. "I see where you're going with this, and I see your point. Though that wasn't quite what I had in mind, I'll have to give you credit for that one, too. Let's go on with the third and final question. Can you tell me God's first name"?

"Sure", Forrest says smiling, "it's Howard."

"Howard?!" exclaimed an exasperated and frustrated St. Peter. "OK, I can understand how you came up with your answers to my first two questions, but just how in the world did you come up with the name Howard as the first name of God?"

"Shucks, that was the easiest one of all," Forrest replies. "Don't you know the Lord's own prayer? 'Our father who art in heaven, Howard be thy name...'."

St. Peter opened the Pearly Gates and said: "Run Forrest, run."

Please post your comments.


Saturday, September 10, 2011

The Case For Christ

This documentary The Case for Christ follows reporter Lee Strobel as he interviews a number of religious and historical scholars in order to find out if there is any proof of the resurrection, and to discover the historical veracity of the New Testament. In trying the case for Christ, Strobel cross-examined a number of experts and recognized authorities in their own fields of study. He conducted his examination with no religious bias, other than his predisposition to atheism.

Remarkably, after compiling and critically examining the evidence for himself, Strobel became a Christian. Stunned by his findings, he organized the evidence into a book he entitled, The Case for Christ, which has won the Gold Medallion Book Award for excellence. Strobel asks one thing of each reader – remain unbiased in your examination of the evidence.

If you need assistance in wanting to learn more about Jesus Christ visit this page or contact a group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

Please post your comments.


Five Pillars Of The Spiritual Life

In this audio series, Five Pillars of the Spiritual Life, Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., President of Gonzaga University, presents a rich practical guide for helping busy people develop a deeper prayer life. Spitzer presents five essential means through which the contemplative and active aspects of our lives can be joined, creating a stronger spiritual life. Contemplation allows God to probe the depths of our hearts and allows us to gain deeper insight into His truth and love. This exchange allows the freedom to love in the very imitation of Jesus Christ himself, " This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you." St. Ignatius of Loyola espoused the ideal of becoming "contemplatives in action." He was convinced that contemplation--the deep awareness and appropriation of the unconditional love of God--should affect our actions, and that our actions need to be brought back to our interior foundation. Fr. Spitzer shows that there are five essential means through which this communion can be attained, particularly for busy people: the Holy Eucharist, spontaneous prayer, the Beatitudes, partnership with the Holy Spirit, and the contemplative life itself. Fr. Spitzer invites viewers to contemplate the vast beauty and depth of the spiritual masters, issuing a call to a deeper spiritual life, entering ever more deeply into the heart of God.

Program Name Audio File Name - Click to download
1. First Pillar: Jesus’ Intentions in the Holy Eucharist
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., explains what the five pillars of the spiritual life are, and begins to discuss the first pillar of the Holy Eucharist.
2. First Pillar: The Holy Eucharist
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., proceeds further into his discussion on the Holy Eucharist, a priceless gift which causes us to contemplate upon the love and God and give thanks.
3. First Pillar: The Grace of the Eucharist
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., details the graces received in the Holy Eucharist as healing, forgiveness, peace, transformation, and Church unity, all of which are incorporated into the Liturgy.
4. Second Pillar: Spontaneous Prayers
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., describes sets of spontaneous prayers designed to petition for divine assistance or help, as well as specialized prayers in times of real suffering.
5. Second Pillar: Spontaneous Prayers, Part Two
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., shares sets of spontaneous prayers which offer and seek forgiveness. The motive of personal prayer should not derive from self-centeredness but out of the desire for submission to God’s will.
6. Third Pillar: The “Our Father” and the Beatitudes
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., enumerates the five petitions contained within the Lord’s Prayer as the model prayer form. He details the Beatitudes as means of living out the intentions of the “Our Father.”
7. Third Pillar: The Beatitudes, Part Two
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., reveals the empathy Christians are to offer to those in need as followers of Christ attempting to love as he loves.
8. Third Pillar: The Beatitudes and the Examen Prayer
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., relates that Christians are to mirror the merciful heart of Christ, who forgave and loved his enemies, performed works of mercy, promoted peace and worked for reconciliation among those divided by discord or error.
9. Fourth Pillar: Partnership with the Holy Spirit, Part One
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., shares that the Holy Spirit is the best spiritual director one could hope for, aiding the personal discernment process for finding God’s will in a particular circumstance by instilling a sense of lasting peace, guiding through distractions for clear perception, and finally providing inspiration to make proper decisions.
10. Fourth Pillar: Partnership with the Holy Spirit, Part Two
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., declares the Holy Spirit’s role in personal guidance, exhorting believers to constancy in times of spiritual consolation and desolation, leading to an increase in the theological virtues of faith, hope and love.
11. Fourth Pillar: Partnership with the Holy Spirit, Part Three
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., describes the role of feelings and emotions as natural to the life of faith. Consolations and desolations may come and go, but one should focus on growing in relationship to God—the end of the quest of the spirit and the giver of all true gifts.
12. Fourth Pillar: Partnership with the Holy Spirit, Part Four
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., distinguishes between the consolations and desolations which may come from God or the devil. Rules of discernment are given so as to retain clarity and focus amidst potential clutter and confusion.
13. Fifth Pillar: The Contemplative Life
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., offers practical guidance for active people who seek to develop a contemplative prayer life. Cultivating the “school of the heart,” contemplatives are encouraged to pray with the Scriptures and give thanks to God for his blessings, thereby receiving his consolation and revelatory insight.
14. Fifth Pillar: Eight Vehicles of Contemplation
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., relays eight means to come into contemplation, through giving thanks and praise to God; meditating on his life, his Word and his liturgy; practicing devotions, offering simple prayers and praying in silence. In these ways contemplatives remember to appreciate who God is in their lives, following his will and giving thanks in all things.
15. Fifth Pillar: How to Begin Contemplation
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., points out that a key element of contemplation is to recognize that God is love. God’s love is typified by the Scriptures, especially 1 Corinthians 13 and the Beatitudes of Matthew 5. God desires to bestow on everyone the highest good, salvation, and unconditional love.
16. Fifth Pillar: Vehicles of Contemplation, Part One
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., declares that thanksgiving is the proper response to contemplating the wonder of God’s creation in general, his creation of the soul, redemption through Jesus Christ and for the gift of one’s entire life.
17. Fifth Pillar: Vehicles of Contemplation, Part Two
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., conveys ways we can contemplate the wonder of God’s gifts to humanity: through the Eucharist, reading the Scriptures in general, and by meditating on the life of Christ in the Gospel following the method of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
18. Fifth Pillar: Vehicles of Contemplation, Part Three
Host - Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J.

Fr. Robert Spitzer, S.J., gives further examples of Ignatian Contemplation of the life of Christ in the Gospel, sharing how people living in the time of Jesus loved and trusted him. These meditations may be carried into devotions like the Rosary, simple prayers and the prayer of silence.

Source: EWTN

Robert J. Spitzer S.J. is a Jesuit priest, philosopher, educator, author, speaker, and retired President of Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. Father Spitzer is founder and currently active as President of Magis Institute, a non-profit organization dedicated to public education concerning the complementary relationship among the varied disciplines of physics, philosophy, reason, and faith. He is also the Chief Education Officer of the Ethics and Performance Institute which delivers web-based ethics education to corporations and individuals. He is also President of the Spitzer Center of Ethical Leadership, which delivers similar curricula to non-profit organizations.

Please post your comments.


Friday, September 9, 2011

The Real History Of The Crusades

The crusades are quite possibly the most misunderstood event in European history. Most of what passes for public knowledge about it is either misleading or just plain wrong

Misconceptions about the Crusades are all too common. The Crusades are generally portrayed as a series of holy wars against Islam led by power-mad popes and fought by religious fanatics. They are supposed to have been the epitome of self-righteousness and intolerance, a black stain on the history of the Catholic Church in particular and Western civilization in general. A breed of proto-imperialists, the Crusaders introduced Western aggression to the peaceful Middle East and then deformed the enlightened Muslim culture, leaving it in ruins. For variations on this theme, one need not look far. See, for example, Steven Runciman's famous three-volume epic, History of the Crusades, or the BBC/A&E documentary, The Crusades, hosted by Terry Jones. Both are terrible history yet wonderfully entertaining.

So what is the truth about the Crusades? Scholars are still working some of that out. But much can already be said with certainty. For starters, the Crusades to the East were in every way defensive wars. They were a direct response to Muslim aggression -- an attempt to turn back or defend against Muslim conquests of Christian lands.

Christians in the eleventh century were not paranoid fanatics. Muslims really were gunning for them. While Muslims can be peaceful, Islam was born in war and grew the same way. From the time of Mohammed, the means of Muslim expansion was always the sword. Muslim thought divides the world into two spheres, the Abode of Islam and the Abode of War. Christianity -- and for that matter any other non-Muslim religion -- has no abode. Christians and Jews can be tolerated within a Muslim state under Muslim rule. But, in traditional Islam, Christian and Jewish states must be destroyed and their lands conquered. When Mohammed was waging war against Mecca in the seventh century, Christianity was the dominant religion of power and wealth. As the faith of the Roman Empire, it spanned the entire Mediterranean, including the Middle East, where it was born. The Christian world, therefore, was a prime target for the earliest caliphs, and it would remain so for Muslim leaders for the next thousand years.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over.

With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed's death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt -- once the most heavily Christian areas in the world -- quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

Pope Urban II called upon the knights of Christendom to push back the conquests of Islam at the Council of Clermont in 1095. The response was tremendous. Many thousands of warriors took the vow of the cross and prepared for war. Why did they do it? The answer to that question has been badly misunderstood. In the wake of the Enlightenment, it was usually asserted that Crusaders were merely lacklands and ne'er-do-wells who took advantage of an opportunity to rob and pillage in a faraway land. The Crusaders' expressed sentiments of piety, self-sacrifice, and love for God were obviously not to be taken seriously. They were only a front for darker designs.

During the past two decades, computer-assisted charter studies have demolished that contrivance. Scholars have discovered that crusading knights were generally wealthy men with plenty of their own land in Europe. Nevertheless, they willingly gave up everything to undertake the holy mission. Crusading was not cheap. Even wealthy lords could easily impoverish themselves and their families by joining a Crusade. They did so not because they expected material wealth (which many of them had already) but because they hoped to store up treasure where rust and moth could not corrupt. They were keenly aware of their sinfulness and eager to undertake the hardships of the Crusade as a penitential act of charity and love. Europe is littered with thousands of medieval charters attesting to these sentiments, charters in which these men still speak to us today if we will listen. Of course, they were not opposed to capturing booty if it could be had. But the truth is that the Crusades were notoriously bad for plunder. A few people got rich, but the vast majority returned with nothing.

Urban II gave the Crusaders two goals, both of which would remain central to the eastern Crusades for centuries. The first was to rescue the Christians of the East. As his successor, Pope Innocent III, later wrote:

How does a man love according to divine precept his neighbor as himself when, knowing that his Christian brothers in faith and in name are held by the perfidious Muslims in strict confinement and weighed down by the yoke of heaviest servitude, he does not devote himself to the task of freeing them? ...Is it by chance that you do not know that many thousands of Christians are bound in slavery and imprisoned by the Muslims, tortured with innumerable torments?

At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.

"Crusading," Professor Jonathan Riley-Smith has rightly argued, was understood as an "an act of love" -- in this case, the love of one's neighbor. The Crusade was seen as an errand of mercy to right a terrible wrong. As Pope Innocent III wrote to the Knights Templar, "You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, ‘Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.'"

The second goal was the liberation of Jerusalem and the other places made holy by the life of Christ. The word crusade is modern. Medieval Crusaders saw themselves as pilgrims, performing acts of righteousness on their way to the Holy Sepulcher. The Crusade indulgence they received was canonically related to the pilgrimage indulgence. This goal was frequently described in feudal terms. When calling the Fifth Crusade in 1215, Innocent III wrote:

Consider most dear sons, consider carefully that if any temporal king was thrown out of his domain and perhaps captured, would he not, when he was restored to his pristine liberty and the time had come for dispensing justice look on his vassals as unfaithful and traitors...unless they had committed not only their property but also their persons to the task of freeing him? ...And similarly will not Jesus Christ, the king of kings and lord of lords, whose servant you cannot deny being, who joined your soul to your body, who redeemed you with the Precious Blood...condemn you for the vice of ingratitude and the crime of infidelity if you neglect to help Him?

The reconquest of Jerusalem, therefore, was not colonialism but an act of restoration and an open declaration of one's love of God. Medieval men knew, of course, that God had the power to restore Jerusalem Himself -- indeed, He had the power to restore the whole world to His rule. Yet as St. Bernard of Clairvaux preached, His refusal to do so was a blessing to His people:

Again I say, consider the Almighty's goodness and pay heed to His plans of mercy. He puts Himself under obligation to you, or rather feigns to do so, that He can help you to satisfy your obligations toward Himself.... I call blessed the generation that can seize an opportunity of such rich indulgence as this.

It is often assumed that the central goal of the Crusades was forced conversion of the Muslim world. Nothing could be further from the truth. From the perspective of medieval Christians, Muslims were the enemies of Christ and His Church. It was the Crusaders' task to defeat and defend against them. That was all. Muslims who lived in Crusader-won territories were generally allowed to retain their property and livelihood, and always their religion. Indeed, throughout the history of the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem, Muslim inhabitants far outnumbered the Catholics. It was not until the 13th century that the Franciscans began conversion efforts among Muslims. But these were mostly unsuccessful and finally abandoned. In any case, such efforts were by peaceful persuasion, not the threat of violence.

The Crusades were wars, so it would be a mistake to characterize them as nothing but piety and good intentions. Like all warfare, the violence was brutal (although not as brutal as modern wars). There were mishaps, blunders, and crimes. These are usually well-remembered today. During the early days of the First Crusade in 1095, a ragtag band of Crusaders led by Count Emicho of Leiningen made its way down the Rhine, robbing and murdering all the Jews they could find. Without success, the local bishops attempted to stop the carnage. In the eyes of these warriors, the Jews, like the Muslims, were the enemies of Christ. Plundering and killing them, then, was no vice. Indeed, they believed it was a righteous deed, since the Jews' money could be used to fund the Crusade to Jerusalem. But they were wrong, and the Church strongly condemned the anti-Jewish attacks.

Fifty years later, when the Second Crusade was gearing up, St. Bernard frequently preached that the Jews were not to be persecuted:

Ask anyone who knows the Sacred Scriptures what he finds foretold of the Jews in the Psalm. "Not for their destruction do I pray," it says. The Jews are for us the living words of Scripture, for they remind us always of what our Lord suffered.... Under Christian princes they endure a hard captivity, but "they only wait for the time of their deliverance."

Nevertheless, a fellow Cistercian monk named Radulf stirred up people against the Rhineland Jews, despite numerous letters from Bernard demanding that he stop. At last Bernard was forced to travel to Germany himself, where he caught up with Radulf, sent him back to his convent, and ended the massacres.

It is often said that the roots of the Holocaust can be seen in these medieval pogroms. That may be. But if so, those roots are far deeper and more widespread than the Crusades. Jews perished during the Crusades, but the purpose of the Crusades was not to kill Jews. Quite the contrary: Popes, bishops, and preachers made it clear that the Jews of Europe were to be left unmolested. In a modern war, we call tragic deaths like these "collateral damage." Even with smart technologies, the United States has killed far more innocents in our wars than the Crusaders ever could. But no one would seriously argue that the purpose of American wars is to kill women and children.

By any reckoning, the First Crusade was a long shot. There was no leader, no chain of command, no supply lines, no detailed strategy. It was simply thousands of warriors marching deep into enemy territory, committed to a common cause. Many of them died, either in battle or through disease or starvation. It was a rough campaign, one that seemed always on the brink of disaster. Yet it was miraculously successful. By 1098, the Crusaders had restored Nicaea and Antioch to Christian rule. In July 1099, they conquered Jerusalem and began to build a Christian state in Palestine. The joy in Europe was unbridled. It seemed that the tide of history, which had lifted the Muslims to such heights, was now turning.

But it was not. When we think about the Middle Ages, it is easy to view Europe in light of what it became rather than what it was. The colossus of the medieval world was Islam, not Christendom. The Crusades are interesting largely because they were an attempt to counter that trend. But in five centuries of crusading, it was only the First Crusade that significantly rolled back the military progress of Islam. It was downhill from there.

Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts.

When the Crusader County of Edessa fell to the Turks and Kurds in 1144, there was an enormous groundswell of support for a new Crusade in Europe. It was led by two kings, Louis VII of France and Conrad III of Germany, and preached by St. Bernard himself. It failed miserably. Most of the Crusaders were killed along the way. Those who made it to Jerusalem only made things worse by attacking Muslim Damascus, which formerly had been a strong ally of the Christians. In the wake of such a disaster, Christians across Europe were forced to accept not only the continued growth of Muslim power but the certainty that God was punishing the West for its sins. Lay piety movements sprouted up throughout Europe, all rooted in the desire to purify Christian society so that it might be worthy of victory in the East.

Crusading in the late twelfth century, therefore, became a total war effort. Every person, no matter how weak or poor, was called to help. Warriors were asked to sacrifice their wealth and, if need be, their lives for the defense of the Christian East. On the home front, all Christians were called to support the Crusades through prayer, fasting, and alms. Yet still the Muslims grew in strength. Saladin, the great unifier, had forged the Muslim Near East into a single entity, all the while preaching jihad against the Christians. In 1187 at the Battle of Hattin, his forces wiped out the combined armies of the Christian Kingdom of Jerusalem and captured the precious relic of the True Cross. Defenseless, the Christian cities began surrendering one by one, culminating in the surrender of Jerusalem on October 2. Only a tiny handful of ports held out.

The response was the Third Crusade. It was led by Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa of the German Empire, King Philip II Augustus of France, and King Richard I Lionheart of England. By any measure it was a grand affair, although not quite as grand as the Christians had hoped. The aged Frederick drowned while crossing a river on horseback, so his army returned home before reaching the Holy Land. Philip and Richard came by boat, but their incessant bickering only added to an already divisive situation on the ground in Palestine. After recapturing Acre, the king of France went home, where he busied himself carving up Richard's French holdings. The Crusade, therefore, fell into Richard's lap. A skilled warrior, gifted leader, and superb tactician, Richard led the Christian forces to victory after victory, eventually reconquering the entire coast. But Jerusalem was not on the coast, and after two abortive attempts to secure supply lines to the Holy City, Richard at last gave up. Promising to return one day, he struck a truce with Saladin that ensured peace in the region and free access to Jerusalem for unarmed pilgrims. But it was a bitter pill to swallow. The desire to restore Jerusalem to Christian rule and regain the True Cross remained intense throughout Europe.

The Crusades of the 13th century were larger, better funded, and better organized. But they too failed. The Fourth Crusade (1201-1204) ran aground when it was seduced into a web of Byzantine politics, which the Westerners never fully understood. They had made a detour to Constantinople to support an imperial claimant who promised great rewards and support for the Holy Land. Yet once he was on the throne of the Caesars, their benefactor found that he could not pay what he had promised. Thus betrayed by their Greek friends, in 1204 the Crusaders attacked, captured, and brutally sacked Constantinople, the greatest Christian city in the world. Pope Innocent III, who had previously excommunicated the entire Crusade, strongly denounced the Crusaders. But there was little else he could do. The tragic events of 1204 closed an iron door between Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox, a door that even today Pope John Paul II has been unable to reopen. It is a terrible irony that the Crusades, which were a direct result of the Catholic desire to rescue the Orthodox people, drove the two further -- and perhaps irrevocably -- apart.

The remainder of the 13th century's Crusades did little better. The Fifth Crusade (1217-1221) managed briefly to capture Damietta in Egypt, but the Muslims eventually defeated the army and reoccupied the city. St. Louis IX of France led two Crusades in his life. The first also captured Damietta, but Louis was quickly outwitted by the Egyptians and forced to abandon the city. Although Louis was in the Holy Land for several years, spending freely on defensive works, he never achieved his fondest wish: to free Jerusalem. He was a much older man in 1270 when he led another Crusade to Tunis, where he died of a disease that ravaged the camp. After St. Louis's death, the ruthless Muslim leaders, Baybars and Kalavun, waged a brutal jihad against the Christians in Palestine. By 1291, the Muslim forces had succeeded in killing or ejecting the last of the Crusaders, thus erasing the Crusader kingdom from the map. Despite numerous attempts and many more plans, Christian forces were never again able to gain a foothold in the region until the 19th century.

One might think that three centuries of Christian defeats would have soured Europeans on the idea of Crusade. Not at all. In one sense, they had little alternative. Muslim kingdoms were becoming more, not less, powerful in the 14th, 15th, and 16th centuries. The Ottoman Turks conquered not only their fellow Muslims, thus further unifying Islam, but also continued to press westward, capturing Constantinople and plunging deep into Europe itself. By the 15th century, the Crusades were no longer errands of mercy for a distant people but desperate attempts of one of the last remnants of Christendom to survive. Europeans began to ponder the real possibility that Islam would finally achieve its aim of conquering the entire Christian world. One of the great best-sellers of the time, Sebastian Brant's The Ship of Fools, gave voice to this sentiment in a chapter titled "Of the Decline of the Faith":

Our faith was strong in th' Orient,
It ruled in all of Asia,
In Moorish lands and Africa.
But now for us these lands are gone
'Twould even grieve the hardest stone....
Four sisters of our Church you find,
They're of the patriarchic kind:
Constantinople, Alexandria,
Jerusalem, Antiochia.
But they've been forfeited and sacked
And soon the head will be attacked.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the name of political ideologies. And yet, both the medieval and the modern soldier fight ultimately for their own world and all that makes it up.

Of course, that is not what happened. But it very nearly did. In 1480, Sultan Mehmed II captured Otranto as a beachhead for his invasion of Italy. Rome was evacuated. Yet the sultan died shortly thereafter, and his plan died with him. In 1529, Suleiman the Magnificent laid siege to Vienna. If not for a run of freak rainstorms that delayed his progress and forced him to leave behind much of his artillery, it is virtually certain that the Turks would have taken the city. Germany, then, would have been at their mercy.

Yet, even while these close shaves were taking place, something else was brewing in Europe -- something unprecedented in human history. The Renaissance, born from a strange mixture of Roman values, medieval piety, and a unique respect for commerce and entrepreneurialism, had led to other movements like humanism, the Scientific Revolution, and the Age of Exploration. Even while fighting for its life, Europe was preparing to expand on a global scale. The Protestant Reformation, which rejected the papacy and the doctrine of indulgence, made Crusades unthinkable for many Europeans, thus leaving the fighting to the Catholics. In 1571, a Holy League, which was itself a Crusade, defeated the Ottoman fleet at Lepanto. Yet military victories like that remained rare. The Muslim threat was neutralized economically. As Europe grew in wealth and power, the once awesome and sophisticated Turks began to seem backward and pathetic -- no longer worth a Crusade. The "Sick Man of Europe" limped along until the 20th century, when he finally expired, leaving behind the present mess of the modern Middle East.

From the safe distance of many centuries, it is easy enough to scowl in disgust at the Crusades. Religion, after all, is nothing to fight wars over. But we should be mindful that our medieval ancestors would have been equally disgusted by our infinitely more destructive wars fought in the name of political ideologies. And yet, both the medieval and the modern soldier fight ultimately for their own world and all that makes it up. Both are willing to suffer enormous sacrifice, provided that it is in the service of something they hold dear, something greater than themselves. Whether we admire the Crusaders or not, it is a fact that the world we know today would not exist without their efforts. The ancient faith of Christianity, with its respect for women and antipathy toward slavery, not only survived but flourished. Without the Crusades, it might well have followed Zoroastrianism, another of Islam's rivals, into extinction.

End note: Regarding the modern day reference to the crusades as a supposed grievance by Islamic militants still upset over them, Madden notes: "If the Muslims won the crusades (and they did), why the anger now? Shouldn't they celebrate the crusades as a great victory? Until the nineteenth century that is precisely what they did. It was the West that taught the Middle East to hate the crusades. During the peak of European colonialism, historians began extolling the medieval crusades as Europe's first colonial venture. By the 20th century, when imperialism was discredited, so too were the crusades. They haven't been the same since." He adds, "The truth is that the crusades had nothing to do with colonialism or unprovoked aggression. They were a desperate and largely unsuccessful attempt to defend against a powerful enemy." "The entire history of the crusades is one of Western reaction to Muslim advances," Madden observes.

Commenting on the recent scholarship of Oxford historian Christopher Tyerman in his recent, Fighting for Christendom: Holy War and the Crusades (Oxford, 2005), Professor Steven Ozment of Harvard writes how Tyerman: "maintains that the four centuries of holy war known as the Crusades are both the best recognized and most distorted part of the Christian Middle Ages. He faults scholars, pundits, and laymen on both sides of the East-West divide for allowing the memory of the Crusades to be 'woven into intractable modern political problems,' where it 'blurs fantasy and scholarship' and exacerbates present-day hatreds." Ozment notes how Tyerman also views "the Crusades as neither an attempt at Western hegemony, nor a betrayal of Western Christian teaching and practice." As Tyerman explains, the warriors who answered the pope's call to aid Christendom in the Holy Land were known as crucesignati, "those signed with the cross." Professor Tyerman considers the Crusades to have largely been "warfare decked out in moral and religious terms" and describes them as "the ultimate manifestation of conviction politics." He points out the Crusades were indeed "butchery" with massacres of Muslims and Jews, and that even among their contemporaries, crusaders had mixed reputations as "chivalric heroes and gilded thugs." However, as Ozment observes, Tyerman adds that rather "than simple realpolitik and self-aggrandizement, the guiding ideology of crusading was that of religious self-sacrifice and revival, and directly modeled on the Sacrament of Penance." See: Steven Ozment's "Fighting the Infidel: the East-West holy wars are not just history".

Whereas as support for the crusades was far from universal within Christendom, in contrast Medieval Muslim expansion through the military conquest of jihad as dictated by the Koran was directly supported by Islamic scholars, who provided a spiritual imperative for violence. For example, Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 1328), who wrote: "Since lawful warfare is essentially jihad and since its aim is that the religion is God's entirely and God's word is uppermost, therefore according to all Muslims, those who stand in the way of this aim must be fought." And by Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406), who declared, "In the Muslim community, the holy war is a religious duty, because of the universalism of the [Muslim] mission and [the obligation to] convert everybody to Islam either by persuasion or by force." (See: Robert Conquest's, Reflections on a Ravaged Century, reviewed at:

Classical scholar, historian, and commentator, Victor David Hanson, reviewing Christopher Tyerman's recent 1,000-page history of the Crusades, God's War (Belknap Press 2006), notes how Tyerman is careful beforehand to declare the political neutrality of his work: "This study is intended as a history, not a polemic, an account not a judgment…not a confessional apologia or a witness statement in some cosmic law suit." Tyerman's history then points out, as Hanson then succinctly summarizes, that "it was not merely glory or money or excitement that drove Westerners of all classes and nationalities to risk their lives in a deadly journey to an inhospitable east, but rather a real belief in a living God and their own desire to please him through preserving and honoring the birth and death places of his son." For the crusaders, religious "belief governed almost every aspect of their lives and decision-making. The Crusades arose when the Church, in the absence of strong secular governments, had the moral authority to ignite the religious sense of thousands of Europeans -- and they ceased when at last it lost such stature." Noting the widespread ignorance of the true history this subject among most modern Westerners, Hanson comments on how absent "is any historical reminder that an ascendant Islam of the Middle Ages was concurrently occupying the Iberian peninsula -- only after failing at Poitiers in the eighth century to take France. Greek-speaking Byzantium was under constant Islamic assault that would culminate in the Muslim occupation of much of the European Balkans and later Islamic armies at the gates of Vienna. Few remember that the Eastern Mediterranean coastal lands had been originally Phoenician and Jewish, then Persian, then Macedonian, then Roman, then Byzantine -- and not until the seventh-century Islamic. Instead, whether intentionally or not, post-Enlightenment Westerners have accepted [Osama] bin Laden's frame of reference that religiously intolerant Crusaders had gratuitously started a war to take something that was not theirs." (See:


Thomas F. Madden. "The Real History of the Crusades." Crisis 20, no. 4 (April 2002).

This article is reprinted with permission from the Morley Institute a non-profit education organization. To subscribe to Crisis magazine call 1-800-852-9962.


Thomas F. Madden is associate professor and chair of the Department of History at Saint Louis University in St. Louis, Missouri. He is the author of Enrico Dandolo and the Rise of Venice, A Concise History of the Crusades, The Crusades: The Essential Readings, and coauthor of The Fourth Crusade.

Source: Catholic Education Resource Centre

Related posts:

The Crusades: The Cresent And The Cross (a video documentary)

The Third Crusade: Saladin & Ricard The Lionheart (a video documentary)

The Crusades

Please post your comments.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Freeda's Testimony

Freeda testifies of how our Lord healed her of cancer.

If you need assistance in wanting to learn more about Jesus Christ visit this page or contact a group in your area listed in this worldwide directory.

Please post your comments.


Sunday, September 4, 2011

Tomb Of St. Peter In Rome - The Vatican Necropolis

St. Peter's Tomb in The Vatican Necropolis, Vatican City

Saint Peter's tomb is situated under St. Peter's Basilica and has been originally built by Emperor Constantine to memorialize the location of St. Peter's grave.

St Peter's tomb is located at The Vatican Necropolis, also known as the Scavi which lies under St. Peter's Basilica, at depths varying between 5 and 12 meters below the basilica.

Visits to the Scavi must be arranged in advance addressed to the Ufficio degli Scavi, Fabbrica di San Pietro by specifying the desired date and indicating the language in which the tour is to be conducted. Lasting about an hour and a half, the tour ends at Saint Peter's tomb before returning to the basilica. Due to limits placed by conservation efforts, only small groups of 10 to 15 people are permitted at a time.

The Vatican sponsored archeological excavations under Saint Peter's in the years 1940 - 1949 which revealed parts of a necropolis dating to Imperial times. The work was undertaken at the request of Pope Pius XI who wished to be buried as close as possible to Peter the Apostle. Peter is said to be buried there due to its proximity to the Circus of Nero where he was martyred. It is also home to the Tomb of the Julii, which has been dated to the third or fourth century.

According to the Vatican official website, a visit to the necropolis is a privilege. Due to the need to give careful attention to the conservation of this irreplaceable historical archaeological site, wherein lies the preserved original grave of St. Peter, only about 200 visitors per day are permitted in the necropolis.

Those who wish to visit the necropolis must make personal reservations in writing to The Excavations Office. Upon applications being approved, confirmations for visits will only be sent to those who will actually be visiting the necropolis. The visitor must always confirm his reservation in the way and during the time period given by the Excavations Office in positive responses to requests.

Reservations are only accepted in writing (by email, fax or directly in the Excavations Office.)
The Excavations Office

Fabbrica di San Pietro
00120 Vatican City

Tel. +39 06 6988.5318
Fax +39 06 6987.3017 - 6988.5518

The Excavations Office is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm, except Sundays and holidays.

The Excavations Office may be reached through the Holy Office Gate to the Vatican (through the colonnade to the left, on Via Paolo VI). The Swiss Guard will direct the visitors to the Office.

With your request to visit the excavations, please provide the following information:

  • The exact number of visitors.
  • Their names (in case of groups, the composition and provenance of the group is also needed [e.g. university, parish, etc.]).
  • Language desired for the visit.
  • The dates available during which the Office can arrange the visit (The precise time of the visit will be determined by the Excavations Office).
  • Contact information (an e-mail address, fax number, or full postal address) so that the Excavations Office may advise you about your visit.
Visiting the Necropolis via your computer.

If you do not have the opportunity to visit the tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican Necropolis in Rome, you can now visit the Vatican Necropolis right from the comfort of your home.

Walk through The Vatican Necropolis to see the original tomb of St. Peter:

Please post your comments

Friday, September 2, 2011

Doctors Of The Church: Who Will Be The Next One ?

When Benedict XVI named St. John of Avila a Doctor of the Church during World Youth Day Madrid 2011, the number of Doctors reached 34. The honor is given to those who made contributions to theology, which remain relevant, regardless of time.

But the question is who will be next? Well, according to Italian Vaticanist Sandro Magister, for now there are at least 17 candidates on hold. Eleven of them are male and six are female.

The one with the most progress is the case of French priest St. Louis Mary Grignion de Montfort. He founded the Society of Mary and came up with the phrase “Totus Tuus,” meaning “Totally Yours” used by John Paul II.

French priest, St. Vincent de Paul, who dedicated his life to helping the poor is also on the list.

Among the candidates are Spaniards, like St. Thomas of Villanova as well as St. Ignatius of Loyola, a knight who founded the Jesuits.

Several Italians are also being considered, including St. John Bosco, founder of the Salesian Order. Also Antonino of Florence, who was born in that same city and later became its Archbishop. St. Bernardino of Siena who preached all over Italy in the 15th century and St. Lorenzo Giustiniani. He was a bishop and the first Patriarch of Venice.

It also includes St. Cyril and St. Methodius, the two brothers who became missionaries of Christianity in the Slavic countries. Then, there's St. Gregory of Narek, who was an Armenian monk, poet, philosopher and theologian.

Among the six women are St. Brigit of Sweden, who founded the Bridgettine Order and St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, a French nun who was beatified in 1920.

There's also St. Veronica Giuliani, an Italian nun who was canonized in 1839 and St. Hildegard of Bingen, who is mostly known for her religious visions.

The Patroness of the West Indies, St. Gertrude 'The Great', is also on the list as well as blessed Julian of Norwich who was originally from England.

Pope Paul VI named one Doctor during his pontificate as did John Paul II.
Benedict XVI has named one so far, but it's still unknown if he'll name more in the future.

Source: Rome Reports

Related post: Doctors Of The Church

Please post your comments.


Pope Asks Forgiveness For 'Cradle Catholics' Who Did Not Evangelize

Pope Benedict XVI has asked forgiveness on behalf of generations of “cradle Catholics” who have failed to transmit the faith to others.

“We who have known God since we were young, must ask forgiveness,” said Pope Benedict to a gathering of his former students at the papal summer residence of Castel Gandolfo, south of Rome, on Aug. 28.

The Pope said an apology is due because “we bring people so little of the light of His face, because from us comes so little certainty that He exists, that He is there, and that He is the Great One that everyone is waiting for.”

The Pope’s comments were made at a Mass to conclude the annual meeting of his “Schülerkreis” or “Study Group.”

The gathering has taken place every summer since 1977 and draws together those who defended their doctoral theses in front of Pope Benedict during his years teaching theology at various universities in Germany.

This year they were joined, for the first time, by those who have more recently written their doctrinal theses on works of the Pope. Together, the 40 invitees had spent four days exploring the issue of the “new evangelization.”

The Pope based his brief introductory comments upon the words of the psalm of the day, Psalm 62, which describes the human soul that thirsts for God “like a dry and weary land.”

Pope Benedict said that believers should ask Christ—who is the living water—to send them “those who seek the living water elsewhere.” Just days after the success of World Youth Day in Madrid, he also asked for particular prayers for young people.

The homily for the Mass was delivered by another former student of the Pope – Cardinal Christoph Schonborn of Vienna - who spoke of the need for complete renunciation of self required by radical Christian discipleship.

“Only by not conforming ourselves to this world, can we recognize the will of God and make it the foundation of our lives,” he said.

Pope Benedict’s academic career spanned 26 years and saw him teach at universities in Bonn, Munster, Tubingen and Regensburg, prior to his appointment as Archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977. Despite his increasing responsibilities, he has always attended the annual gathering of his alumni, even after becoming Pope in 2005.

Source: Herald Malaysia

Please post your comments.