Saturday, May 22, 2010

Islam Part 3,..(Muhammed)

For this third instalment of my blog series on Islam, I thought it best to offer a primer upon Muhammed, what we as westeners would consider the founder of Islam. That being said, this post will probably not be as long as others but will offer people an understanding of who Muhammed was and what context, culturally or politically he lived in.

Muhammed was born around the year 570AD in Mecca. As a child, he found himself orphaned at an early age and subsuquently was raised by his uncle. According to history, Muhammed was what we would know as an epileptic who would often find himself retreating in solitude to either decompress, or just meditate upon life in general. He would find himself working as both a shepherd and a merchant often travelling the Arabian peninsula as a trader. By the time he was 40 years old,..he had begun to receive his 'revelations.'

'Recite!' Was the command given to him by whom he claimed was the angel Gabriel. From this instant, Muhammed started preaching the idea that God is one God. He claimed to be the 'seal' of all the prophets, beginning with Adam, continuing to Moses, Jesus and finally to himself, all bringing about the same message that God is one, and He alone must be worshipped. From a scholarly perspective, it can be argued that Abu Bakr would be the one to copy down his 'revelations' as it was known that Muhammed could neither read nor write. Muhammed died around 632AD and almost immediately a schism occurred between his brother in law Ali and Abu Bakr. (Shia and Sunni.)

The next post will deal with Muhammed alleged revelations and its impact upon Christianity, as well as what can be problematic within the context of the post modern world. Till next time!

Our Lady of Fatima,...pray for us!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Islam Part 2,...God and/or Allah?

Welcome readers to part 2 of my expose on Islam. Today's post will deal specifically with the concept of God in Islam in contrast to God as we as Christian know Him. To recap, in the last post we did brief introduction to Islam and as was highlighted, I mentioned that it will be looked at from a Catholic perspective.

To begin, God or Allah as He is referred to by Muslims(and some Arab Christians) differs greatly from the Triune God revealed to us in both the New and Old Testaments. Stressing the point of absolute monotheism, Islam denies the metaphysical knowledge built upon philosophy as evidenced by many of their most prolific writers including Averoes (Ibn Rushd) or Al-Ghazali. To the muslim mind, God and 'Truth' are indeed one, but it is ultimately stressed that God transcends everything and therefore can compromise what the human intellect can capacitate as an absolute. An example of this could be found in mathematics,.the simple objective truth that 2+2=4 does not need divine Revelation to sustain it. It is a formula based upon natural law and through reason can be discerned as objectively true. Islam, on the other hand would counter and say that should the Qur'an reveal a statement contrary to that absolute, 2+2=5,.then that would be true, because Allah wills it. From this standpoint, we bring up the idea of whether or not God(Allah) can tell a lie or change His mind. To the Christian, this becomes absurd, because God is Truth. In the Qur'an however we see examples of verse abbrogation, (replacing one verse with another...)which subsuquently once again runs into metaphysical problems. Examples of this include posing the question to Islamic scholars over whether or not Jews and Christians are saved, or damned. An entire book can be written on this subject, but I feel this should suffice as a 'primer.'

The Christian concept of God, the Trinity, bases itself on Revelation, substantiated by reason. Saint Augustin wrote on the Trinity that God is Love. This was revealed to us by Jesus, and amplified through human experience and reason. Love has/is/always will be a mystery. The very idea of 'Agape,' or unconditional love finds itself written into the heart of every human being on the planet. God, therefore making man in His image, out of love, freely wants us to love back, not command us into loving Him(Islam) because that would not be love, that would be fear. For 'Love' to be made manifest, it would require a 'Lover' a 'Be-Loved' and the action of 'Loving.' In this relationship, we have expressed the Christian understanding of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Islam, because this is not properly understood, there strict monotheism runs into problems with regards to who God(Allah) is addressing within the silence of eternity.

I know that these posts will be a little deep, but from this starting point (and that is all it is,,.) we can begin to lay a foundation for how muslims think. The next post will be about Muhammed, and his message.

Our Lady of Fatima,....pray for us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Since the inception of 'Confessions,' I have received numerous emails asking me to comment on Islam, muslims, and the Church's relationship to muslims, specifically Vatican II's 'Nostra Aetate.' That being said, I have always felt that when I presented Islam, I wanted to make sure that I would not be accused of being unfair or biased, but instead render a balanced view of Islam celebrating its common points that it shares with Christianity, and then showing where it differs. At this point, I am reminded of a line Pope John Paul II used in his book, 'Crossing the Threshold of Hope.' To paraphrase, he wrote, -In the Qur'an, ninety-nine names are attributed to Allah (God), some of them very beautiful names. Not one of them is Father. He (God) is ultimately a God of majesty, never Emmanuel.- That line, has helped me understand that dialogue with muslims is almost always very difficult.

The following is from Nostra Aetate,...

- The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honor Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting.-

To begin, Islam. The very word, especially for a Westerner conjures up visions of September 11th 2001. It would seem that every left of center loony toon (probably on the payroll of the New York Times...)rushed to reassure the American public that this attack was in no way representative of Islam as a religion. Commentators came out of the wordwork to tell us quickly assuredly that Islam was a religion of peace, and that Islam meant 'peace.' Hmmm,..well not quite. I feel that definetely a 'primer' on from a purely metaphysical standpoint, the Islamic religion, and subsequently, the Islamic understanding of God,..(or lack thereof...)is needed to fully contextualize the muslim mind, in relationship to the natural law and finally the base philosophical concept of what is 'good.'

As it stands, Islam remains the last great heresy that arose out of Christianity(Aprocryphal)in the Arab world. At its beginning, Muhammed began to experience revelations from who he said was the angel Gabriel commanding him to 'Recite!' The revelations at first were pure and simple, only one God. To the arab mindset prevailing at the time, this was a truly shocking revelation especially in light of the pagan/polytheistic customs that were prevalent. Muhammed sincerely believed that his revelations were confirming the Christian message and later, he saught guidance from a Christian monk,..well a Nestorian one. Only later when the revelations did not square with the Christian dogma of the Trinity(which he misunderstood) the Incarnation(which he misunderstood) and the Redemption through the Cross(which he misunderstood) did tensions begin to arise. For right now this is an introduction, as my next posts will feature more of an academic exercise in showing the muslim view of God, Jesus and salvation through the muslim lenses. I pray to undertake this task with objectivity as well as sensitivity. I will make a case however. As you know I am a Catholic, and my position will be from the Catholic perspective.

Next post: The Islamic view of God.

St Thomas Aquinas.,,,,pray for us!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Sin Within 05-11,....nuff said!

A Farewell worth mentioning

This past Sunday I learned that the Pastor at my Church would be leaving on Sabbatical at the end of August. My parish has had the same Pastor for the last ten years and subsequently, he felt it was time to recharge his batteries. While the people who know me knew that he and I had many different theological disagreements, I never once questioned his integrity as a man. Without going into specifics, this man had a warm quality about him,.'approachable' was a word often used to describe his very character. Ecumenical relations and social justice was/is his specialty and he always used his popularity (as he is a local radio personality)to advance causes drawing a common good. From a social standpoint, he understood his priesthood within the context of the Church's preferential option for the poor and always put himself out for what he thought was the good of his flock. From a personal standpoint, I can remember as far back as 2003, my uncle lay dying with cancer and he never hesitated to annoint him despite the fact that my uncle was way out of his diocese. He even waited to celebrate his funeral Mass late, to accomodate my uncle's son.

Father, even though you and I understood the Second Vatican Council differently, I wish you well, and rest assured my prayers will be with you. May Our Lady of Fatima cover you with Her mantle so that when you return, you will as a faithful son of Holy Mother Church.

God Bless Father.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Faith in Lord Stanley's Cup...

To begin this title is a little misleading, but it should grab the attention of my readership quickly. I'll begin with some reader's digest bulletpoints of who I am and a little of my personality. I am Canadian, fluently bilingual living in Quebec, a passionate Catholic, socially very conservative, and possess the temperament of a huge Montreal Canadiens fan/with a heavy accented WWE pro wrestling attitude. I do not pretend to be politically correct and if you have read my introductory blurb, you can surely see that I live that moniker.

While watching the NHL playoffs, I've made it a point to watch the pregame ceremonies which in Montreal, can have all the pageantry of a Papal High Mass. I don't mean to be blasphemous, I just want to hammer a point regarding not only its entertainment value, but also its beauty. The announcers on one of the pre game shows made references to certain quirks and rituals that players often engage in before hitting the ice. For instance, Patrick Roy used to speak to his goalposts, and later Jose Theodore and Mike Rebeiro would play soccer in the hallway. All little things that the announcers made light of,.but that I could not stop thinking about. Father Gabriel Amorth, the chief exorcist in Rome once remarked, that when Faith declines, superstition increases. Enter Josh Gorges.

Everytime Josh Gorges steps onto the ice, he makes the Sign of the Cross. Now the Lord asks us not to judge, but I still can't stop wondering. Why does he do it? As Catholics, no doubt we are used to getting dragged through the dirt on nearly every issue, stuff that other faiths would not tolerate, (Britney Spears' Rosary Necklace...)but is this an act of sincerety, not just another superstition? Everytime, a member of the Faithful makes the Sign of the Cross, we communicate by our body language a particular witness. We at once recall our Baptism, making us children of the Father, and affirming our belief in the Ressurection. Hopefully, this is what Mr. Gorges attests to. The danger of equating the Sign of the Cross with superstition, is that one can make of it a magic formula, instead of a living witness. Hopefully one day, Josh Gorges will be given the opportunity to articulate his Faith, so that sadly it will never be questioned, or equated with other forms of superstition.

Sacred Heart of Jesus,...Have mercy on us!