Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Do Muslims and Christians Believe in the Same God and the Same Scriptures?

I wrote the following to Raymond Arroyo, news director of Eternal Word Television Network and author of a best-selling Mother Angelica biography, today:

I'm just wondering if you would consider bringing up some of the points I raised below the next time you talk to a Church leader who teaches that Muslims and Catholics believe in the same God and share the same Scriptures?

Looking at what Muslims actually believe and applying common sense make me think that they aren't following the same God. They believe in one God, sure, but they think we don’t because we believe in the Trinity.

For example, here are some things I learned when I recently met some Muslim evangelists (believe it or not) at the Santa Clara County Fair. I was there to help out at the Pro-Life booth for a few hours, and during a break I wandered over to the Muslim booth, where I got a free Qu'ran and a booklet about the Blessed Virgin Mary. Two young Muslim women and a man came to the Pro-life booth later. I asked one woman if Muslims believe in the Scriptures, and she said that they believe that they were rewritten. If they believe the Scriptures were rewritten, that would necessarily mean that they believe the Old and New Testaments are not true, wouldn’t it?

It is ridiculous to claim that we have a lot in common with Muslims because they are a people of "the book," because if they are a people of the book, that book is not the Bible, it is the Qu'ran. The Qu'ran stories from the Old Testament are in extremely altered form. For example, the Qu'ranic version of Abraham's sacrifice and the story of Ishmael and Isaac are vastly different in the Qu'ran.

If Muslims believed in the Jewish and Catholic Scriptures they would know that the Jews were the Chosen People and that Christ is God's only son.

They instead believe that they are descended from Abraham's son, Ishmael, and that the Hebrew Bible is wrong about God's intention to give salvation to Abraham's descendants through Isaac.

The common canard is that Muslims venerate the Virgin Mary, but they certainly don't believe the child miraculously conceived in her womb was God's Son. I found out from quotes from their Qu'ran that were included in one of their booklets that Mohammed taught that it is a abominable sacrilege to teach that God had a Son. The Qu’ran also teaches that Jesus picked one of His apostles to be transformed to look like Him, so that when Christ was crucified, it was actually the apostle who stood in for Him. So they believe that Jesus wasn’t crucified.

It seems obvious that Mohammedenism is a man-made religion. Luther made up his tenets of faith by accepting and rejecting revelation as it had been taught by the Catholic Church, and Mohammed with a similar kind of hubris did something quite similar. (The Catholic Encyclopedia quotes others who see simliarities between Mohammed and Luther also.) This is just a tip of the iceberg on the disagreements between Muslims and Catholics. It is misleading to state that we are similar, because what they believe is not the truth and what we believe is the truth.

Muslims believe in a religion that was revealed to one man, the prophet Mohammed, and the belief system that he taught contradicts the beliefs of Jews and Catholics. He claims to be a prophet of Allah, who could not be the same God we worship, because the God that we worship did not send salvation through the children of Ishmael and did not send Muhammed as his prophet. The life of this "prophet" is evidence that he was not a holy man. His heaven is an abomination to Christians who see heaven as eternal bliss in the presence of God .. ... Just a few thoughts. From your sister in Christ in San Jose, Roseanne

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Sacred Music; A Letter from Deacon Bill; Latin in Worship

The St. Ann Choir is singing some sterling sacred music at Our Lady of Peace Church off Great America Parkway in Santa Clara this coming Saturday 10/7 at 7:30 p.m. at the monthly First Saturday Tridentine Mass.

One main counter-revolutionary goal of traditionalists among the sacred music community is to return to the singing of the songs of the Mass instead of singing hymns at the Mass. Singing the songs of the Mass is in harmony (no joke) with the act of worship, while singing hymns at Mass is discordant.

Some accounts state that American Catholic Churches have replaced the traditional Latin Mass chants with a Protestantized set of rousing (or depressing as the case may be) hymns to an extent not seen in other countries because the Protestant influence is very great in the US. (This this may be the result of a misinterpretation of ecumenism.) The current Pope is solidly behind a return to the use of sacred chant and other music from the Church's long tradition of worship music (think Mozart Masses, for example) which Vatican II documents call a priceless heritage of the Church.

One of the choir members edits the Santa Clara Weekly and is advertising the choir's performance, and she will write an article afterwards about it. (She is the one who plans to publish an article from me about my lost trip to Prague in November, which also mentions the St. Ann Choir.)

I asked everyone in my email list to come cheer us on (prayerfully and silently of course).

Now for my latest adventure followed by some excerpts from Raymond Arroyo's bio of Mother Angelica that show that the goals of EWTN and the St. Ann choir are quite similar in many ways, with a craving to return to the beautiful and the reverent in the celebration of the Mass.

My latest adventure was actually a letter I got Saturday from Deacon Bill Steltemeier, Chairman of EWTN. When I was at the 25th anniversary celebration in Birmingham I took a photo of him on stage that is cute because he turned the whole fan thing around by taking photos of those of us who were taking photos of the people on the stage.

I met Deacon Bill the first time I went to the Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament back in June, and I told him that I was inspired by the fact that I had somehow gotten into Arroyo's World Over Live show as an audience of one the night before, and that I thought that the next thing would be that I would be able to meet Mother Angelica. Deacon Bill told me her health was so poor that she only got out of bed for a few minutes every day, so meeting her was out of the question. Can't trust all inspirations, I guess.

Anyway I sent a photo to Deacon Bill of him with his camera, along with a photo of Raymond Arroyo squeezing my hand and me beaming away, plus the Arroyo interview article I published in San Francisco Faith. I wrote Deacon Bill that I had started watching EWTN after my Israeli pilgrimage last November where I met Fr. Joseph Mary Wolfe. Because he was such a good pure priest, I started watching EWTN Masses to see if I could see more of Fr. Joseph.

Deacon Bill wrote me that when he repeated to Fr. Joseph what I had written about him being such a good pure priest, that Fr. Joseph blushed.

He also said there is only one Raymond Arroyo and that whereever he goes Raymond gets into things. He said that in the photo I sent him of the two of us, I made Raymond look good. Smile.

Here is a Catholic court jester link I found that shows celebrity look-alikes, and Raymond's celebrity look alike is Pee Wee Herman. Dittmann saw the resemblance before I ever chanced upon that website, but I didn't. In his defense, I have to add that Raymond is a much handsomer, vastly more intelligent, charming, and articulate not to mention hysterically funnier version of Pee Wee, always impeccably dressed in a very good suit. When I first met Arroyo after hearing him speak at the EWTN 25th anniversary in San Francisco, I said, "Did anyone ever tell you you're a riot?" He said, "Well, I"ve started a few."]

Deacon Bill also said that if I come back to Huntsville and get back to the shrine I should say hi to him. And he sent me two mini-books
written by Mother Angelica. One of them called The Healing Power of Suffering is grabbing my attention and working on my heart.

Deacon Bill said his wife and he both enjoyed the picture of him with the camera. He added, "Keep up the good work." And then he added to his official signature "Love, Bill" with a smiley face.

Ain't that cute?

Love, Roseanne :-)

PS. One tie-in with what St. Ann choir is trying to do is that at EWTN, the ordinary (repeated) parts of the Mass are sung in Latin chant [except of course the Kyrie Eleison (Lord Have Mercy)--which is in Greek]. You may be interested in the following, which describes some misunderstandings about the actual intention of the Second Vatican Council as regards the Latin Mass, the use of chant, and which direction the priest is supposed to face, which were illustrated by Mother Angelica's struggles with the National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB), as detailed in Raymond Arroyo's NY TImes bestselling bio of Mother Angelica.

At EWTN's chapel they sing the Gloria (Glory to God), the Sanctus (Holy, Holy, Holy), Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), Pater Noster (Our Father) in Latin. According to Arroyo's book, Mother Angelica turned to Latin because she was distressed at the changes in the English translations that the American bishops were promoting in the early 90s. FIrst she set some of her nuns to reviewing the documents of Vatican II. "The nuns discovered that the Second Vatican Council had never intended a wholesale abandonment of Latin in the new Mass. Quite the contrary, the official council and papal documents encouraged the retention of Latin and use of Gregorian chant in the renewed Liturgy. . . .

"Though the Monastery [while it was still located in Birmingham before it moved to Hanceville] celebrated the new Mass of Vatican II, the priest with his back to the people, the sounds of the service, and the old devotions were often mistaken as a throwback to a bygone era. In point of fact, it was much closer to the renewal foreseen by the Second Vatican Council--and it was beaming into nearly every diocese in America."

On the topic of the priest facing away from the people (ad orientem) the book details a momentous struggle between Mother Angelica and Bishop Foley of Birmingham in concert with the 'National Council of Catholic Bishops (NCCB). The NCCB was up in arms over Mother's choice to have the friars say the Mass facing away from the people. Bishop Foley issued a decree banning ad orientem Masses as "'an illicit innovation or sacrilege' of the priest turning his back to the people," but Mother Angelica eventually won her struggle because Cardinal Ratzinger was on the same side.

"Cardinal Ratzinger had long espoused the virtues of the ad orientem priestly posture, saluting its theological emphasis--principally the unified orientation of the priest and the people offering sacrifice to God rather than to one another." A fax came from the Vatican Congregation for Divine Worship and Discipline of the Sacraments ruling against Bishop Foley's decree of prohibition.

Bishop Foley and his cohorts lost that battle, but the bishop got in another lick. When Mother Angelica dedicated her new 55 million dollar Shrine of the Blessed Sacrament in Hanceville with its golden fixed altar, centrally located gold tabernacle, massive gold altarpiece (reredos), and eight foot monstrance of gold and precious stones, the bishop couldn't ban ad orientem Masses, but he could and did ban televising them. Mother Angelica dug in her heels, and no Masses have ever been broadcast from the new Shrine, because all Masses at the Shrine are always said by the priest in the ad orientem posture.

Meanwhile, EWTN beams Masses from the original much-humbler chapel in Birmingham adjacent to the TV station 75 miles away in Birmingham, and there the Mass is sung mostly in Latin chant with the exception of the homily, readings, and some prayers, but with the priest facing the people.

I think it's important to note that the Vatican sent Cardinal Alfonso Lopez Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to preside at the Mass and join the final EWTN 25th anniversary celebration that was held in Birmingham. Bishop Foley came too. The Mass was said facing the congregation.

Pope St. Pius V's, G.K. Chesterton's and Benedict XVI's Lepanto, With a Little Serendipity Thrown In At the End

As I prepared to sing Latin chant and polyphony at the St. Ann Choir at Our Lady of Peace Church at 7:30 this evening on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, I was drawn to do some googling to find out more about the Catholic victory at the Battle of Lepanto that is celebrated today.

As some of you know, the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary was instituted by Pope St. Pius V after the victory of Catholic forces over the Turkish Muslims in the Gulf of Lepanto (Gulf of Corinth) Greece in 1571.

A National Catholic Register article on 9/26/2006 referred to the current disturbances with Muslims after the Pope's remarks in Bavaria as "Benedict's Lepanto." I don't know yet whether I agree about the parallels drawn in the article, but it's an interesting thesis. The writer said that the current Pope is using another type of weaponry in the current conflict, that of dialogue on faith and reason.

Quote: "For [Benedict], dialogue means telling the truth in love, no matter what the consequence – even when it infuriates." []

Hmm ...

Back to October 7, 1571: It is said that the sainted Pope St. Pius V learned immediately about the Lepanto victory by supernatural means. A rousing account of the significance and history of the battle from includes this passage of what happened after the victory:

Quote: "Don Juan [of Austria, Philip II's illegitimate half brother] at once sent ten galleys to Spain to inform the King, and dispatched the Count of Priego to Rome. But Pius V had speedier means of communication than galleys. On the afternoon of Sunday, October seventh, he was walking in the Vatican with his treasurer, Donata Cesis. The evening before he had sent out orders to all convents in Rome and nearby to double their prayers for the Victory of the Christian fleet, but now he was listening to a recital of some of his financial difficulties. Suddenly he stepped aside, opened a
window, and stood watching the sky as if astonished. Then, turning with a radiant face to the treasurer, he said,
`Go with God. This is not the time for business, but to give thanks to Jesus Christ, for our fleet has conquered.'"

The Muslim Turks had been on a wave of conquest for centuries. The last holdout city on the island of Cypress had recently fallen. As G.K. Chesterton wrote in his poem about the battle, Venice was threatened. Some say the battle of Lepanto helped turn the tide of conquest and save the Christian world from total dominance by the Muslim Turks.

You can read the quite stirring Chesterton poem at:

We Catholics believe that Our Lady of the Rosary's powerful intercession helped save the day. Interesting enough, the general's ship had two banners one with Christ Crucified on it and other with the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Miguel Cervantes author of Don Quixote fought in that battle and spent five years afterwards in a Barbary coast prison. How about the following for colorful language and gritty details?

Quote: "1571 Cervantes participates in the Spanish naval victory at Lepanto, against the Turks, under the command of don Juan of Austria. Cervantes loses the use of his left hand, for which he becomes known as "the Gimp of Lepanto." (This is politically incorrect language and you won't get such a candid translation of "El Manco de Lepanto" at Wikipedia. I think, however, that out of respect for Cervantes and naval warfare, my final translation would be, "The Lost Hand of Lepanto.")

"1575-1580 Cervantes is held prisoner in Algiers by Barbary pirates for five years. He tries to escape four times. Cervantes' ransom is super-steep because, upon capture, he carried letters of recommendation from don Juan of Austria. This led the presumptuous and greedy (and no-doubt smelly) pirates to believe that Cervantes was a man of high birth and, like John McCain when he was shot down over North Vietnam, a real "catch."

Totally by accident, as I was about to send the above in an email, I somehow double- clicked an old message from October 16, 2000! in my inbox that is about this very topic. This is too much serendipity for me to handle. Honest. Read it and see!

Subject: The Rosary: A Cherished Prayer
Date: October 16, 2000 7:28:19 AM PDT

The Rosary: A Cherished Prayer

By Father William Saunders

My Protestant friend was asking me about the Rosary — where it came from and what it means. Could you help me so I can tell her? — A reader in Haymarket

The Rosary is one of the most cherished prayers of our Catholic Church. Introduced by the Creed, the Our Father, three Hail Mary's and the Doxology ("Glory Be"), and concluded with the Salve Regina, the Rosary involves the recitation of five decades consisting of the Our Father, 10 Hail Mary's, and the Doxology. During this recitation, the individual meditates on the saving
mysteries of our Lord's life and the faithful witness of our Blessed Mother. Journeying through the Joyful, Sorrowful, and Glorious mysteries of the Rosary, the individual brings to mind our Lord's incarnation, His passion and death, and His resurrection from the dead. In so doing, the Rosary assists us in growing in a deeper appreciation of these mysteries, in uniting our life more closely to our Lord, and in imploring His graced assistance to live the faith. We also ask for the prayers of our Blessed Mother, the exemplar of faith, who leads all believers to her Son.

The origins of the Rosary are "sketchy" at best. The use of "prayer beads" and the repeated recitation of prayers to aid in meditation stem from the earliest days of the Church and has roots even in pre-Christian times. Evidence exists from the Middles Ages that strings of beads were used to help a person count the number of Our Fathers or Hail Marys recited. Actually, these strings of beads became known as "Paternosters," the Latin for "Our Father."

The structure of the Rosary gradually evolved between the 12th and 15thcenturies. Eventually 50 Hail Marys were recited and were linked with verses of psalms or other phrases evoking the lives of Jesus and Mary. During this time, this prayer form became known as the rosarium ("rose garden"), actually a common term used to designate a collection of similar material, such as an anthology of stories on the same subject or theme. Finally, during the 16th century, the structure of the five decade Rosary based on the three sets of mysteries prevailed.

Tradition does hold that St. Dominic (d. 1221) devised the Rosary as we know it. Moved by a vision of our Blessed Mother, he preached the use of the Rosary in his missionary work among the Albigensians, who had denied the mystery of Christ. Some scholars take exception to St. Dominic's actual role in forming the Rosary since the earliest accounts of his life do not mention it, the Dominican constitutions do not link him with it, and contemporaneous paintings of St. Dominic do not include it as a symbol to identify the saint.

In 1922, Dom Louis Gougaud stated, "The various elements which enter into the composition of that Catholic devotion commonly called the Rosary are the product of a long and gradual development which began before St. Dominic's time, which continued without his having any share in it, and which only mattained its final shape several centuries after his death." However, other scholars would rebut that St. Dominic not so much "invented" the Rosary as he preached its use to convert sinners and those who had strayed from the faith. Moreover, at least a dozen popes have mentioned St. Dominic's connection with the Rosary in various papal pronouncements, sanctioning his role as at least a "pious belief."

The Rosary gained greater popularity in the 1500s. At this time, the Moslem Turks were ravaging eastern Europe. Recall that in 1453, Constantinople had fallen to the Moslems, leaving the Balkans and Hungary open to conquest. With Moslems raiding even the coast of Italy, the control of the Mediterranean was now at stake. In 1571, Pope Pius V organized a fleet under the command of Don Juan of Austria, the half-brother of King Philip II of Spain. While preparations were underway, the Holy Father asked all of the faithful to say the Rosary and implore our blessed Mother's prayers, under the title Our Lady of Victory, that our Lord would grant victory to the Christians. Although the Moslem fleet outnumbered that of the Christians in both vessels and sailors, the forces were ready to meet in battle. The Christian flagship flew a blue banner depicting Christ crucified. On October 7, 1571, the Moslems were defeated at the Battle of Lepanto. The following year, Pope St. Pius V in thanksgiving established the Feast of the Holy Rosary on October 7 where the faithful would not only remember this victory, but also continue give thanks to the Lord for all of His benefits and remember the powerful intercession of our Blessed Mother.

Mindful of the action of Pope Pius V, our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, in an Angelus address given in October, 1983, stated, "The Rosary also takes on fresh perspectives and is charged with stronger and vaster intentions than in the past. It is not a question now of asking for great victories, as at Lepanto and Vienna, rather it is a question of asking Mary to provide us with valorous fighters against the spirit of error and evil, with the arms of the Gospel, that is, the Cross and God's Word. The Rosary prayer is man's prayer for man. It is the prayer of human solidarity, the collegial prayer of the redeemed, reflecting the spirit and intent of the first of the redeemed, Mary, Mother and Image of the Church. It is a prayer for all the people of the world and of history, living and dead, called to be the Body of Christ with us and to become heirs together with Him of the glory of the Father."

The fact that our Church continues to include the Feast of the Holy Rosary on the liturgical calendar testifies to the importance and goodness of this form of prayer. Archbishop Fulton Sheen said, "The Rosary is the book of the
blind, where souls see and there enact the greatest drama of love the world has ever known; it is the book of the simple, which initiates them into mysteries and knowledge more satisfying than the education of other men; it is the book of the aged, whose eyes close upon the shadow of this world, and open on the substance of the next. The power of the Rosary is beyond description."

- Fr. Saunders is dean of the Notre Dame Graduate School of Christendom College in Alexandria and pastor of Our Lady of Hope Parish in Potomac Falls.