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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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More Craziness: Child Killed as a Motorcycle Racer!

Again, what the heck is going on? We got 14-year-old girls trying to circle the globe alone in boats and now we have a dead 13-year-old boy who got killed motorcycle racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway! When I was a kid young teens rode bicycles but were not allowed to ride motorcycles. There is a big difference in weight and speed. A boy this age is probably only in seventh grade. Peter Lenz of Vancouver, Washington, fell off his bike and was run over by another motorcycle. The injuries were severe and he did not make it. We are told that he was “an accomplished rider.” Now come on, how can a 13-year-old boy be an accomplished anything… that is unless he is Mozart writing concertos at 5 years-of-age? By the way, composing music is not usually harmful to your health, motor vehicles frequently are.

Making matters even more bizarre, the rider who struck him was 12-year-old Xavier Zayat! Yes, you heard me right, a mere sixth grader! That is grammar school guys, come on! The news report says that it was not certain that the boy’s parents were even in town. As with the boat-girl, why would parents allow their kids to take such risks with their lives? These kids reach speeds as high as a hundred miles an hour! Is there a lot of money and fame involved? I am really scratching my head. Competing with riders from 12 to 18 we are told he was a rising star. Well, that star has certainly set now and on a boy who should have had his whole future ahead of him.

If you ask me, young teens should not be allowed to race motorcycles until they are old enough to have a regular driver’s license. Yes, I would shut this bizarre business down. The more we hear about this, the stranger things become. We are also told that he had been riding for six years… motorcycles! That means he started when he was only 7 years-old! Yes sir that is what I want to see coming down the highway towards me, a first grader on a Harley! Not!

Missed by a few strong critics of this post and advocates for such racing, here are words I shared in the comments section below:

I should add, my deepest condolences to his family. While I might not understand why children are allowed in such a sport, the tragedy here is real and painful. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. May he rest in peace.

Why Did Pope John Paul II Kiss the Koran?

Although a number of years have passed, many still wonder, why did Pope John Paul II kiss a Koran presented to him? The debate rages on.

FATHER JOE:

Is it not a book that speaks directly against the Catholic faith? Does it not reduce the Son of God to a mere prophet? Did not the popes of the past demand its burning? The answer to all these questions is YES, and yet what the Holy Father did was more complicated than what the anti-Catholic and/or sedevacantist spin-doctors might say about it.

One critic argues that it was a blasphemous act, showing his “hatred” of God and his apostate defection from the true faith. It was none of these things. The Pope is on the record about the differences between Catholics and the followers of Islam. Let us look at the situation. The Pope longed to go to Iraq in order to walk in the footsteps of Abraham, claimed as a “father in faith” by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Pope John Paul II saw firsthand the depth of man’s inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. Our history as a world is written in blood. As illustrated in his repeated “mea culpa,” he strives for a new understanding between peoples where dialogue, tolerance, and cooperation will replace anathemas, persecution, and rivalry. Abraham is an integral figure of unity in turning things around politically. Looking at the incident in question, the Holy Father received a delegation that included the Shiite Imam of Khadum Mosque, the Sunni President of the council that operates the Iraqi Islamic Bank, and a member of the Iraqi Ministry of Religion. The invitation of a papal visit was renewed. They even went so far as to say that it would be “a grace from heaven.” While Iraq has been guilty of real violations of human rights, this Islamic state was the most tolerant of Christians than any of its Islamic neighbors. Many Catholics held positions in government, commerce, education, etc. The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon (Iraq), His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, was a major spokesman for the delegation. He applauded the Pope’s actions and words as a true sign of concern from the Successor of St. Peter. (Christians represented 5% of the 20 million people in Iraq. Catholics of the large Chaldean rite [implementing the Aramaic language] and of the smaller Latin rite represented 80% of all Christians there.) It was said that a papal visit would confirm the faith of Christian believers while showing forth a genuine love for all in this mostly Muslim nation.

The Koran was a gift to him from the delegation. Islamic peoples are not casual in the giving of gifts. It represents the giver. They knew perfectly well that the Pope was a Catholic Christian, but they gave to him that which was regarded as most important in their life, their own holy book. Thus, at the end of the audience, the Pope showed his deep appreciation to this intimate self-donation, by bowing and kissing the Koran as a sign of respect. Such a gesture ran totally against the grain of crusades and condemnations. It did not mean that the Pope accepted all that was in the book, only that his love for the Muslim people, and the Iraqis in particular, was genuine. He makes the first move, not in the capitulation of our faith, but in the recognition that the followers of Jesus and those who cherish Mohammed should not be engaged in name-calling, or worse, killing each other. The Pope appreciated the suffering of the Iraqi people, particularly the women and children. It showed he did not look down upon them but had a genuine respect for them within the brotherhood of man.

DISCUSSION

COLETTE: I am thinking he does not know what the Koran says about Catholics. Was he pressured into it? Did he wrongly think this is was consistent with ecumenical dialogue or what? I cannot imagine any good reasons. There are none. Let’s face it— it was a crazy thing for a true Roman Catholic Pontiff to do. Would the leader of Islam do this with the Bible?

FATHER JOE: It seems to me that the Holy Father opted for the moral high ground. We cannot worry that such respect would not be reciprocal. His teachings clearly professed his faith in Jesus Christ. This gesture to the Koran is not dissimilar from his kissing the soil of nations he visited. It is a sign of human respect, but not a profession of faith or an imprimatur upon the Koran. The book was a visible symbol of a people and the Pope showed them welcome. It might also be seen as an invocation for peace between the Christians and Moslems.

RAY: I suspect that many of you do not know much about Islam. The Pope understood Islam and recognized the many messages we hold in common. People, who feel they must hate something, in order to love something else, are the reason why there are world wars and much suffering in the world.

FATHER JOE: True Christians hate sin, not sinners. One might show human respect to something like the Koran, particularly given its antiquity and meaning to so many; however, this is all a Christian and Jew can do. It is not our book. We neither acknowledge it as inspired nor as inerrant. We do not claim it as God’s Word. Indeed, it conflicts in many places with what God has genuinely revealed to us as his truth.

MANNY: It just goes to show that John Paul II saw the light before he died. I love this picture even though most so-called Christians are fearful of his simple act of kissing the Koran. He was a good man who had all the qualities of one who will go to heaven, even if he was not necessarily following God’s religion of choice. People in general need ever more to practice what they preach. We need inter-faith knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of other faiths. The religious hatred toward the Koran is very disturbing. This just goes to show that FEAR is the root of all evil. It is a shame that people from supposedly religious Christian backgrounds have commented in a very non-religious way about the Pope’s kissing of the Koran. He kissed the Koran out of respect, realizing that the three religions of the Middle East are not as dissimilar as some believe. He respected Islam. This is something that religious Christians should applaud and not criticize. Anyway, may he rest in peace.

LOLA: I read a third of the Koran and could not go any further when I read that a husband could hit his wife if she misbehaved. It is written that it is okay to kill Jews when they have been given two previous warnings. Jesus never said to kill anyone; he was the prince of peace. There are major contradictions! Well, I suppose I have read more of the Koran than most Moslems and more of the Bible than most Christians. The Pope kissing the Koran was not a wise thing to do. One can accept a copy of the Koran as a gift without compromising your own beliefs. This should especially be so for the Pope, who is the big honcho of the Catholic faith. Maybe the reason we have so many different religious beliefs is because God wants to test the tolerance of our hearts before we are taken home to him? One last comment, if you have half-doubted your faith then you have only half-believed. Just because your parents were of a certain religious faith, it does not mean that you should follow in their footsteps and maybe become a puppet on a string.

FATHER JOE: Christians can follow in the footsteps of parents and the long line of the saints and still not be puppets.  We, as Catholics, seek objective truth, both as revealed by God and in nature itself.

PAUL: I believe that what he did was an extremely spontaneous gesture of respect for Muslims, but not a belief in Islam per se. He was the kind of man who would even debase himself on behalf of others. If it were not a spur of the moment decision – if he had had time to think about it – he would not have done it because of the confusion it engendered. As the successor of Peter it is not his place to do such things. Like most of the fruits of Vatican II (thus far) it has caused more disorder and faithlessness than it has engendered. But because it was a holy act, just as it was a Holy Council, as Catholics, we should believe that it was ultimately good. An interpretation of it which enhances the faith will eventually prevail. The upcoming changes to the language of the Mass, the Motu Propio, etc. are the beginning of this with respect to Vatican II. But even clown masses and celebrants wearing cheese hats probably have a place in the Church of Christ. And popes make mistakes too. They are only human.

RYAN:

Kissing something is not necessarily a gesture of complete acceptance: It can signify love or respect. Think of this in the eyes of a Muslim. They are giving their most holy book, the holiest of their possessions to this man. To them, it is the word of God. What an honor for the Pope (or any person) to receive this most precious gift from them. His kiss was a show of respect and love for the Muslim people, not the Koran’s message itself.

My thoughts drift back to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy and his companions come to a very poor village where the people are starving. They are presented with food that would make most of our stomach’s turn. Still, when his companions are shy about eating, Indy urges them to eat anyway: the food offered is the equivalent to a week’s offering in the village.

Biblically, we can look at Luke 19:1-10 (among others) for guidance. Zacchaeus, though rich in possessions, realized the meaninglessness of hoarding his riches upon the arrival of Jesus. He gives half of his belongings to the poor, and pays back the extorted four times over. Upon seeing this, Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Always look at the giver, and not the gift. Jesus looked at the former, and all Christians should follow his example. His blessed Pope John Paul II followed his way, knowing full well that his obedience to Christ would cause him to be smeared. May we all be as brave as him.

MISTER JOE:

Wow, Father Joe!!! What a master stroke of Spin Doctoring Genius you display in your defense of the Pope’s kissing of the abominable book. I think you should go to work for the Democratic Party and tow Clinton’s line, “It depends on what you mean by ‘is.’”

Do you even have the slightest idea what is written in that book? For that matter, did the Pope have the foggiest idea what is written in it? What I have read in it is nothing less than satanic and demonic.

If you are really interested in knowing what the Quran says, then you must learn the Arabic language, and then find an un-sanitized copy of the Quran (in the Arabic language) and read it for yourself. A friend, who was working in Saudi Arabia, brought back to the USA a Quran he had obtained from a mosque, after befriending a mullah.

However, I seriously doubt that you will indulge in such undertaking.

FATHER JOE: I have read the Koran. Make no mistake about it; the book is full of errors and fanciful stories. Have you read it? Interpretation of the Koran is difficult because of inconsistencies. Some argue that earlier texts for mercy or toleration are superseded or made void by the later more harsh statements. Pope Benedict received death threats when he charged the Islamic community with disavowing violence. Unfortunately, the Koran is the source for such sentiments as espoused by the so-called Moslem extremists. Pope John Paul never said he agreed with the book or that it was inspired. He offered no act of worship or submission to a false religion. In the interest of peace, he welcomed his visitors by humbly accepting that which they most cherished. The kiss was not one of adoration but as in the liturgy, a kiss of peace. We can pray that it may have a transformative effect for good.

SIBYL: The true sons (and daughters) of Abraham are those that believe Jesus is The Christ, Savior and LORD, The I AM…that He is the Model, The Ikon of Man, Husband, Friend, Brother. See Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, John 8, Acts 3 and 13, Romans 9, Galatians 3.

FATHER JOE: Then what about the Jews?

SIBYL: John Paul II made a grave error in kissing the book Mohammed wrote.

FATHER JOE: Such was a gesture of human respect, not divine worship. His guests knew that. There can be no doubt that the late Pope was a Catholic and not a Moslem. While you can disagree about an act of courtesy, it would be wrong to view this as a grave religious error. Your fundamentalism is showing. I am reminded of a Protestant iconoclast insisting that kissing statues and images is idolatry.

SIBYL: Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church Catechism’s # 841 is extremely dangerous and misleading.

FATHER JOE:

[CCC 841] The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

There is nothing outside of God’s providence, even the sins and errors of men. God’s will cannot be circumvented. While this speaks to the plan of salvation, the rest merely takes the Moslems at their word. They believe in one God. Monotheism is a higher and truer form of religion than polytheism. This is a basic appreciation from the philosophy of God. They look upon Abraham as their father, as do the Jews and in a spiritual way, as do Christians. The Pope and the catechism never say that Islam is fully a true religion. Such can be said for Catholic Christianity and for Judaism. All that is good in Judaism is embraced by the Church. Salvation comes from the Jews.

Moslems believe that God the Creator is the one true God who must be adored. They also believe that God is merciful and the final judge of all. Their religion has many errors, but about these essential points, we are in agreement. Notice how short the statement is. There is much about which we disagree. However, you would not even allow this small fragment of concurrence.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a perverse mixture of the worship of the goddess of Ishtar, Judaism, and Christianity. Mohammedism produces a malevolent, mendacious, misogynistic male, full of hate, lust, lies and death, domination, bondage, war. In fact, Mohammedism produces the anti-christ, the opposite of Christ, who is Love, Truth and Life, who gives freedom, joy, life and peace.

FATHER JOE: There are plenty of antichrists in Christian garb as well. Anyone who sins and who refuses to repent is opposed to Christ.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a metastasizing political religious system that does not tolerate or abide anything but domination and submission to its dictums and dogmas. You shall know them by their fruit.

FATHER JOE: (I suspect that given style transitions, you are quoting something.) Yes, but we should not be quick to judge. Further, we should not scapegoat an entire people because of the sins of a few. Some would judge of all Catholicism by the sinful acts of sick priests or by the abuses of Catholics in history.

WILLIAM: I can’t understand what’s so controversial about this event; it was a beautiful gesture by a beautiful man. If anyone could be seen as a great Christian, I think it would be the late Pope John Paul II. May he rest in peace.

CHRISTINE: I now know why our churches have emptied. We are no longer strong.

SHUKOUR: I believed there is no such thing in the Koran as a directive to kill Jews.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, there are directives in the Koran for what is apparently murder, both toward the Jew and the Christian. Often castigated as infidels or idolaters, the language is that of intolerance. Reconciliation is only recommended if one’s Judaism or Christianity is renounced for Islam. Radical Islam stresses such passages as below and does not cower from using violence for its ends:

[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

[3.28] Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming.

[3.85] And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

[5.33-34] The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (This literally means, convert or die! When Pope Benedict XVI recently recommended that world Islam denounce such violence, millions of protestors chanted and displayed signs, “Kill the Pope!”)

[8.12] When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

[8.60] And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.

[8.65] O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand. (This is sometimes translated as, “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.”)

[9.5] So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

[9.28] O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is Knowing Wise.

[9.29] Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

[9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! (Literally this is interpreted as “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”)

[9.123] O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).

[22.19-22] These are two adversaries who dispute about their Lord; then (as to) those who disbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire, boiling water shall be poured over their heads. With it shall be melted what is in their bellies and (their) skins as well. And for them are whips of iron. Whenever they will desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning. (Here torture against Jews and Christians is recommended.)

[47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish. (This is sometimes translated as, “Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them.”)

SHUKOUR: Do you know that most of the prophets of Islam were Jews that include Jesus a.s., Moses a.s., etc.

FATHER JOE: No, I did not know that and the reason is simple, it is a lie. Moses and Jesus are embraced and reinterpreted by Islam, but they did not preach or teach the dictates of Islam. Islam was only founded by Muhammad in 622 AD. Although he argued that his was a restoration or purification of Judaism, historical research shows this contention cannot be sustained. Islam represented something new, although with many borrowed elements. Angered when Christian monks uncharitably expelled him as stupid from their community, Muhammad set off to create his own religion. He combined elements of the various tribal religions and their gods with that of the Jews and Christians. The majority of converts to Islam in its first days came from polytheistic tribal religions. A large number of deities were worshipped, including that of the moon and the goddess of the sun. Christians and Jews were initially invited into the movement, but Muhammad’s so-called revelations became increasingly antithetical to their beliefs and practices.

SHUKOUR: In the Koran, a chapter is devoted solely to Jesus a.s.’ mother, Mariam or Mary who happens to be Jewish.

FATHER JOE: Salvation comes from the Jews. Mary was a Jewish maiden. Muslims accept the Catholic teaching of her as a virgin giving birth to Jesus. However, despite the teachings of Christ and that of the apostles, they reject that he is both God and Savior. Jesus is much more than a prophet. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Muhammad could never get his head around the Trinity. Indeed, the Koran errs in its description of the Trinity as believed by Christians.

SHUKOUR: No mention of Muhammad s.a.w’s mother. We, Muslims should be angry that Muhamad s.a.w’s mother was not mentioned and considered to be the greatest mother and woman for Muslims to follow instead of Mary.

FATHER JOE: Muhammad was purported raised early on by a nurse. Halima. As a baby, Muhammad seemed to have epileptic seizures. It was feared that he was demon possessed. His mother took him back but then quickly died and he was passed off to his grandfather. Evidently, there is not much one can say about his mother. However, Muhammad had access to the Christian gospels. Luke especially, spoke a great deal about Mary. Such becomes a source text for Muhammad’s reworking.

SHUKOUR: But we Muslims accepted wholeheartedly and loved and revered Jesus a.s.’s mother to be followed especially in the concept of motherhood and the excellent characteristics of a woman accepted by God!

FATHER JOE: Yes and no, for while Muslims love and respect Mary to a certain degree, they would not understand her as the chief of the saints in offering intercession, and the full significance of the Catholic dogmas.

SHUKOUR: The Koran also mentioned that since Christians and Jews are peoples of the book; that we, Muslims, should engage them in the kindest manner and that Muslims should engage them in dialogues in a friendly manner.

FATHER JOE: Yes, there are places in the Koran where such sentiments are expressed. But then they are spoiled by sections espousing forced conversions and violence. Interpretation of the Koran is problematical. Since it is not consistent, some authorities argue that the later harsher stipulations overrule or abrogate the earlier statements for friendship. Unlike the Bible, where we see progressive revelation realized in Christ where the primitive harshness of the Old Testament is replaced with the admonition for love and mercy in the New, the Koran seems to grow more intolerant as Muhammad became increasingly frustrated and unsatisfied. Further, while as a priest I can show human respect to Muslims, Catholics neither believe that Muhammad was a prophet nor that the Koran was inspired or from God. This statement alone would earn a Christian (or Jew) imprisonment and maybe the death sentence in certain Islamic strongholds.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, Muslims also revered Jesus a.s. and Muslim children were told fascinating stories about Jesus a.s., his birth, his mission etc.

FATHER JOE: Yes, and Christians would judge the refashioned stories as largely fiction.

SHUKOUR: Muslims revered Jesus a.s. second to Muhammad and the only difference with Christian belief is that Muslims believed that Jesus a.s. never dies on the cross but was taken up into heaven by God as God loved Jesus a.s. so much that he (God) did not want Jesus a.s. to suffer the torture.

FATHER JOE: Christians regard this as both as unsubstantiated and as blasphemous. We regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but not as a prophet. Christians understand Jesus as a divine person with a complete human nature. Jesus suffers his passion and death as his great redemptive work to save us from our sins. Further, we believe that Jesus Christ conquered the grave by rising from the dead, ascending to the Father and now sits on his right hand, and that he sent his Holy Spirit to inspire and to protect his Church. Islam rejects the entire kerygma of salvation as understood by Catholics.

SHUKOUR: Muslims believe that Jesus a.s. is still in heaven and are eagerly waiting for him (Jesus a.s.) to return in order to bring peace in the “now troubled world” of ours.

FATHER JOE: Catholics believe that Jesus is in heaven but that as God he cannot be limited to heaven. We believe, as the true Scriptures and the sacred traditions of the Church teach; that he is present in the gathered assembly and Church; he is present in the Word proclaimed; he is present in his priests; and he is present in his sacraments and the Eucharist.

SHUKOUR: And also, Muslims do believe in the Bible brought by Jesus a.s. as words of God. It is believed as a holy book and is one of the cornerstones of the faith of Islam that include the Koran, Torah etc.

FATHER JOE: No, Muslims do not believe in the Bible. They approve of elements only. They place the authority of the Koran over that of the Bible.

SHUKOUR: That which is taught in the Bible, Torah, etc. is also contained in the Koran as a full guidance of a way of life approved by God!

FATHER JOE: There are purloined elements of the Bible in the Koran, as well as from the now defunct tribal religions which Muhammad encountered. However, the Koran rewrites, subtracts and adds to the biblical testimony.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, I’m just sharing with you a bit about Islam, the Koran and about the Muslims so that we can avoid a misunderstanding.

FATHER JOE: I can well appreciate your effort, but from my perspective, and I say this respectfully, the misunderstanding is yours.

EYNAR: Is it so hard to understand? He was a real Muslim in his heart. To kiss the Koran is more than to accept it. So Christians, are you more clever and faithful than him? I really love him as a Muslim.

FATHER JOE: Really, it is not so hard to understand. There is no such thing as a “Muslim in his heart,” just a recognition by the Pope that the one God of Christians is the one God worshipped by Muslims. The Pope taught and lived the Catholic faith. His witness is part of the public record. As a Muslim you can love the late Pope. But while he also displayed human respect, he professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was the visible head of the Church established by Jesus. He believed in the Trinity, and thus that Jesus is divine and human.

CHUCK: I was fascinated with your collected, inspiring discussion and explanation of Christian teachings. My intent is to educate myself on the truths of Islam as my son has recently become fascinated with a young Muslim girl. I am torn by the impulse to protect him from becoming complacent in his religion in an effort to win her affection. On the other hand, he has been raised to love and accept all people. Although their relationship is still in its infancy, can you say something about serious relationships between a Muslim young woman with religious parents and a Christian young man with the same? Mind you that I have received advice from other Christians to “stop the relationship immediately.”

FATHER JOE: The Archdiocese of Washington tried to impose a moratorium on Catholic-Muslim weddings a number of years ago. Given that such marriages have an extremely high failure rate, as much as 90%, such relationships are very problematical. I would advise against such dating. Respecting practicing Muslims and having romantic relationships must be distinguished. The former is admirable, the latter is precarious. It is best not to allow such things to heat up. If the young lady wants to convert to Christianity that would change the dynamics in their favor; however, she might face alienation from her family. Indeed, in some countries a conversion of this sort could bring imprisonment, torture or even death.

JESSICA:

How can the “Vicar of Christ’s” actions be justified? The Quran, Surah 4:157 it states:

YUSUFALI: That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.

He kissed a book that undermines all of Christianity. Without the Death and Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST there is no Christianity or Catholicism. Or for that matter no “Vicar of Christ.” And this was done by a man who claims to be infallible? And yes I do sound upset, because I was Catholic, I went through RCIA twice. Two times because I wanted to learn as much as I could before I agreed to accept the teachings of Catholicism. Given the history of the church, etc. there was a lot to accept. But John Paul II’s actions were…. I can understand him wanting to make peace with the Iraqi peoples, or stepping into a Mosque, even accepting a Quran. But kissing the Quran? No. And no I do not believe that he is Muslim, or accepted Islam. I believe he is Catholic. But he sinned. He went against GOD. The one question that I ask is WWJD?

FATHER JOE:

It seems that upon this question I must continually return to cover old ground. No Christian contests that the Koran is a non-Christian book which speaks against many of the tenets of our faith. Not only does it deny the redemptive work of Christ but also his divinity. Further, despite an inconsistency in its remarks, there are sections which disparage Christians and admit violence against them for purposes of conversion. It is quite clear from the late Pope’s books, letters and talks that he believed and taught the Christian kerygma. That is why there is silliness to such debates as this. The question that anti-Catholic fundamentalists and sedevacantist traditionalists ignore is this: Given that the Pope is a Christian, why did he kiss the book? It was no action of apostasy. Rather, it was a gesture of respect and benignity to his visitors and world Islam. Any legitimate answer brings us back to the fact that the Pope is both a religious leader and a head of state. Christians must seek to live in peace with the world’s one billion plus Muslims. What would you have had the Pope do, throw the book back into the faces of his guests? Would you have preferred that he spat upon it? While it may not be our custom, gifts are traditionally kissed. Men even kiss men in parts of the Middle East and Orient. Place yourself for a moment into the cultural setting of the Islamic representatives. The Koran signified their greatest treasure. It stood for them and their identity as a people. The Pope’s gesture said to them, that despite our differences and difficult past history, we love you and want to live in peace with you. The tactics of the past meant both adversity and bloodshed. What would Jesus do? While we can argue prudential actions, I think he would seek the same aims as the Holy Father. The Pope is the visible head of the Church and Christ is the invisible head. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. What would Jesus do? I think that in the Pope we have already seen it. However, modern day Pharisees and scribes are aghast and filled with hypocritical rebuke and disdain. Just as Jesus was rejected by his own for association with tax collectors, sinners and gentiles; the Holy Father was slandered for reaching out to the great historical enemies of Christianity. As an aside, your comment confuses infallibility with impeccability. Within certain constraints, and regarding faith and morals, Popes are infallible but not necessarily sinless. The Popes even have priest confessors.

If you were a convert who has since left Catholicism, then you apparently could not think and believe with the mind of the Church on other matters, too. I will keep you in prayer that you might one day return to the safe harbor of faith… before it is too late. We know how you feel about the Koran, but I would urge you to read the writings of the late Pope and his successor. You might take special benefit from the Bible, particularly the Gospels, and the universal catechism. The latter work was promulgated under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Since you have spent time reading the Koran, you should at least spend a little time reading the Church’s books. It is funny in a way. You condemn the Pope for kissing the outside of a book while you evidently opened the Koran and read a portion of it. The latter was once an offense given that the Koran was on the Index of Forbidden Books. What would Jesus do? Jesus will never abandon (as you have) the Church that he founded.

Questions & Answers About Prayer, Fasting & Blessings

What is the prayer book from which priests and religious read?

Called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviary, it is one of the principal ways, along with the Mass, that the Church seeks to pray unceasingly throughout the world. Priests and religious use the Breviary as a staple in their prayer life. It is a form of prayer mandated for them and optional for the laity. It structures prayer during the day: Office of the Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.

What constitutes this book?

It consists of Scripture lessons, readings from the Church fathers and saints, prayers composed by the Church, and most prominently, the psalms. The psalms are recited and chanted because they were the prayers Jesus would have known by heart and prayed daily. The psalms consecrate the Breviary as the prayer book of Christ. There are also hymns in the book. Several editions and translations exist. In the United States there is both an edited one volume and a complete four volume set.

What is the purpose?

It insures prayer and gives unity to the Church’s prayer all over the world. When used by priests, it allows them to imitate Christ in rendering constant intercession for the people.

What is the origin of the Angelus prayer?

Churches would call people to prayer three times a day by ringing the church bell. This was introduced by Pope Urban II in 1095 AD to invoke Mary’s protection upon the crusaders. After the conflict, it was retained as a special way to thank God three times a day for the blessings of redemption merited through Christ.

What is the Rosary?

What is it not? The Rosary is a collection of many prayers into one; and yet, it is a simple prayer, introduced by St. Dominic in the thirteenth century and highly approved by the Church. It is called the Rosary because it is composed of a series of beautiful prayers and meditations about the principal stages in Christ’s life, which are strung together one after the other like a garland, in other words, like so many beautiful and fragrant roses. Christ’s life is divided into the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayers in the Rosary? Is it not vain repetition?

Is it vain repetition to breathe one breath after another? Does a lover ever tire of telling his beloved, “I love you”? No, there is nothing vain here. Like the angels who eternally praise God as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we say certain holy prayers and praises over and over. The core prayer is the HAIL MARY, sandwiched between an OUR FATHER at the beginning of each decade and closed with a GLORY BE and an optional FATIMA ASPIRATION. There are five events recalled and meditated upon. The opening prayer is the APOSTLES’ CREED and after an OUR FATHER, three HAIL MARYs are said (for an increase of faith, hope, and charity). The Rosary concludes with the HAIL HOLY QUEEN.

Outside the Rosary, other prayers of importance for the Catholic would be the ACT OF CONTRITION, the REGINA CAELI (substituted for the Angelus during the Easter season), GRACE BEFORE & AFTER MEALS, the STATIONS OF THE CROSS, and various novenas and litanies, etc.

Why do Catholics also do things like fast?

Actually, there is far less of it than there used to be. Fasting and abstinence (avoiding meat) was once much more strictly regulated. Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood the change regarding Friday abstinence. It was not utterly revoked. Rather, one could substitute another form of penance or mortification. Many people either did not know this or simply failed to sacrifice something else. Catholics fast because Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:12). Indeed, he told us to fast (Matthew 1:16,18). Also, St. Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 4:10) and the other apostles did so too (2 Corinthians 6:5). Good people under both the old and the new dispensation have fasted as a sacrifice to God, to firm up their discipline, and to prolong their life (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Why do Catholics abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and are asked to render some similar penance on Fridays throughout the year?

It is not because meat is bad, but precisely because it is good. We abstain as a small sacrifice in remembrance of the death of our Lord on a Friday. Today, the Church requires that Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are both to abstain from meat and to fast.

What is a blessing?

It is a holy action whereby the priest invokes the divine blessing on persons or things, just as Jesus did when he blessed children, bread, fish, and other objects.

What does the Church bless through her ministers?

The Church blesses houses, fields, persons, and about any object that can benefit people.

Why does the Church use holy water?

It is a suitable substance, reminding us of our baptism and faith, to bless people and things. It is a wonderful symbol (sacramental) to wash us from venial sin and to protect us against the evil spirit.

When do Catholics use holy water?

Catholic Christians sign themselves with the water upon entering and leaving the church. They also use it at home: upon rising and retiring, before prayer time, upon going out, etc.

Why are people sometimes sprinkled with holy water at Mass?

It is because we should be cleansed and sanctified when we enter into God’s house and his abiding presence there. We also recall our baptism.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.