Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival

It’s time once again for Sunday Snippets. We are Catholic bloggers sharing weekly our best posts with one another.  Join us to read and/or contribute. To participate, go to your blog and create a post titled Sunday Snippets–A Catholic Carnival. Make sure that the post links back to here, and leave a link to your  snippets post on our host, RAnn’s, site, This, That and the Other Thing.

Snippets from the past week:

Christians in the Arab world: A guide – The Week

How many Christians live in the Middle East?

Between 10 million and 12 million. The Middle East is the birthplace of Christianity and home to some of its oldest communities, but the Christian population has dropped dramatically over time, especially over the last decade. When Christianity was founded 2,000 years ago, it spread rapidly across the Roman Empire, into Egypt and westward. Mohammed began the Arab Muslim conquests in the 7th century, spreading Islam across the region, but he allowed Christians to continue practicing their religion. Christians remained a majority in parts of Iraq until the 14th century, when raids by Central Asian warlord Tamerlane decimated the community. The 20th century saw another precipitous drop, because of low birthrates and emigration among Christians. In 1900 Christians made up 25 percent of the population of the Middle East; by 2000 they were less than 5 percent. And then came the Iraq War.

What effect did that war have?

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, sectarian tensions long kept in check by Saddam Hussein erupted into civil war between Sunnis and Shiites. Christians — Aramaic-speaking Assyrians with an ancient lineage — were caught in the cross fire. In the decade since the invasion, more than half of Iraq’s Christians have fled to refugee camps in Syria or Jordan, reducing a prewar population of more than a million to some 400,000, mostly in the relatively tolerant enclave of Iraqi Kurdistan. In October 2010, just a few months after U.S. combat troops left, militants of al Qaida in Iraq laid bloody siege to Our Lady of Deliverance Church in Baghdad during Sunday evening mass, killing 58 people and wounding 78 more. “This tragic event sent a powerful message to Christians in Iraq — they are in grave danger and should leave the country,” said Tiffany Barrans of the American Center for Law and Justice. Christians in Arab Spring countries would soon feel the same way.

Why did the Arab Spring alarm Christians?

Many Arab countries were ruled by secular dictatorships that ruthlessly repressed Islamic extremists and democrats alike. The revolts that began in Tunisia in late 2010 spread to Egypt, Libya, and then Syria. Many Christians declined to support the democratic uprisings, at least at first, because they feared that the fall of a dictator would mean the rise of an Islamist state. Once the dictators fell, Christians were branded anti-revolutionary and suffered a backlash. Islamists won large majorities in most of the post-revolutionary elections, and in some places, notably Egypt, they rewrote the constitution to give Islam a more central role in government and law.

How are Egypt’s Christians treated?

Egypt is home to the Copts, the Middle East’s largest Christian community, with some 8 million adherents. They consider themselves direct descendents of the ancient Egyptians, and still use the Coptic language, a derivative of ancient Egyptian, for religious services. Dictator Hosni Mubarak allied himself with the Coptic pope and protected the community in exchange for its support. Now Copts say the Muslim Brotherhood government of Mohammed Mursi is refusing to let them build churches and failing to crack down on a wave of violence against them. Islamic extremists bombed the Two Saints Coptic Church in Alexandria during the 2011 New Year’s mass, killing 23 people and strewing body parts around the church. Later that year, a huge mob of some 3,000 Muslims burned the St. George Church in Edfu and torched nearby Christian homes. When Christians protested outside the Maspero state TV center in Cairo in October 2011, soldiers brutally attacked protesters, killing 27. “Maspero completely traumatized the Coptic community,” said Heba Morayef, the director of Human Rights Watch in Egypt. “Feeling they were not protected by the law has created a climate of fear.” Fear has also taken hold in the war zones of Mali (see below) and Syria.

What is happening in Syria?

via Christians in the Arab world: A guide – The Week.

Discernment — How can I learn God’s Will for me? : The Integrated Catholic Life

Discernment — How can I learn God’s Will for me? : The Integrated Catholic Life.

Did Pope Francis Say That Atheists Can Get to Heaven by Good Works? |Blogs | NCRegister.com

The Homily in Question

On Wednesday, Pope Francis gave a homily based on the Gospel reading of the day (Mark 9:38-40), in which the disciples have told a man to stop casting out demons in Jesus’ name because he doesn’t follow along with them.

Then, according to Vatican Radio’s maddeningly incomplete and poorly edited transcript of the homily:

The disciples, Pope Francis explains, “were a little intolerant,” closed off by the idea of ​​possessing the truth, convinced that “those who do not have the truth, cannot do good.”

“This was wrong . . . Jesus broadens the horizon.” Pope Francis said, “The root of this possibility of doing good – that we all have – is in creation.”

Pope Francis first applies this principle to non-Catholics in general, engaging in dialogue with an imaginary interlocutor:

“‘But, Father, this [person] is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can. He must. Not can: must! Because he has this commandment within him. . . .

“Instead,” the Pope continued, “the Lord has created us in His image and likeness, and has given us this commandment in the depths of our heart: do good and do not do evil”:

“The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone!

So far so good: Christ redeemed all of us, making it possible for every human to be saved.

What About Atheists?

Now we get to the subject of atheists, as the imaginary interlocutor asks:

“‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone! And this Blood makes us children of God of the first class! We are created children in the likeness of God and the Blood of Christ has redeemed us all! And we all have a duty to do good.”

Here is where “the usual process” might be helpful in clarifying the pope’s thought. Everyone, when speaking off-the-cuff, encounters occasions where things could be further clarified, and this may be one of them.

We can be called children of God in several senses. One of them is merely be being created as rational beings made in God’s image. Another is by becoming Christian. Another sense (used in the Old Testament) is connected with righteous behavior. And there can be other senses as well.

Here Pope Francis may be envisioning a sense in which we can be called children of God because Christ redeemed us, even apart from embracing that redemption by becoming Christian.

This, however, was not what caught the press’s eye.

Pope Francis continued:

“And this commandment for everyone to do good, I think, is a beautiful path towards peace. If we, each doing our own part, if we do good to others, if we meet there, doing good, and we go slowly, gently, little by little, we will make that culture of encounter: we need that so much. We must meet one another doing good.”

via Did Pope Francis Say That Atheists Can Get to Heaven by Good Works? |Blogs | NCRegister.com.

Don’t create sacrament of ‘pastoral customs,’ Pope preaches :: Catholic News Agency (CNA)

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Fr...

emblem of the Papacy: Triple tiara and keys Français : emblème pontifical Italiano: emblema del Papato Português: Emblema papal. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Vatican City, May 25, 2013 / 06:31 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Pope Francis warned that some Christians establish the eighth sacrament “of pastoral customs” when they insist on protocol instead of seeking to meet spiritual needs.

He made his remarks during his May 25 homily on the Gospel reading from Mark 10 in which the disciples rebuked people who were bringing children to Jesus.

“I remember once, coming out of the city of Salta, on the patronal feast, there was a humble lady who asked for a priest’s blessing,” Pope Francis recalled in the chapel of St. Martha’s House.

“The priest said, ‘All right, but you were at the Mass’ and explained the whole theology of blessing in the Church. You did well: ‘Ah, thank you father, yes father,’ said the woman. When the priest had gone, the woman turned to another priest: ‘Give me your blessing!’

“All these words did not register with her,” the Pope underscored, “because she had another necessity: the need to be touched by the Lord. That is the faith that we always look for, this is the faith that brings the Holy Spirit. We must facilitate it, make it grow, help it grow.”

via Don’t create sacrament of ‘pastoral customs,’ Pope preaches :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

Approach the Lord and Receive His Light

From a commentary on Ecclesiastes by Saint Gregory of Agrigentum, bishop Approach the Lord and receive his light

In the words of Ecclesiastes: Light itself is delightful, and it is a great boon for the eye to have sight of the sun. Devoid of light, the world would be without beauty and life would be lifeless. That was why Moses, who saw God, said in anticipation: And God saw the light and said that it was good. To reflect on the true and eternal light is even more fitting for us. This light is Christ who enlightens every man who comes into the world, the savior and redeemer of the world. He is the one who became man and sank to the very depths of the human condition. As David said: Sing to God a hymn to his name, make a highway for him who rises to the west. His name is the Lord, rejoice before him!

This light he called delightful and foretold that it would be good to see the sun of glory. In the days of his incarnation, he said: I am the light of the world. He who follows me will not walk in darkness but will possess the light of life. On another occasion he said: This is the judgment: the light has come into the world.

Sunlight, then, is a symbol. What we see with our eyes foretells the coming of the Sun of Justice. He was a most delightful light for those who were worthy to be instructed by him personally. He was also a radiance to those who saw him with their bodily eyes when he lived on earth as a man among men. It was not just any man they saw, for he was true God. He made the blind see, the lame walk, and the deaf hear. He cleansed the lepers, and by a simple command he raised the dead back to life.

Now it is our supreme delight to behold him and contemplate his divine splendor with the eyes of our spirit. When we participate in and associate with that beauty, we are enlightened and adorned and this is our delight. We take delight in being saturated with the sweetness of the Spirit, in being clothed in holiness, in achieving wisdom. Finally we are filled with a joy that comes from God and endures through all the days of our earthly life. In the wise words of Ecclesiastes: A man may live for many years, but he will experience happiness throughout his days. For all who gaze upon the Sun of Justice, he is their supreme delight. David spoke of them: Let them be joyful before God and be jubilant with joy. Indeed he even said: Rejoice in the Lord, you who are just, for praise befits those who are upright.