Palmyra and Ramadi

The Feast of Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

The real situation on the battlefield in Syria and Iraq is, as always, difficult to gauge but some significant events seem to have occurred over the last week.  First the Islamic State took over Ramadi, the Iraqi government’s last urban stronghold in western Iraq, on May 17.  Now last night the caliphate seized the Syrian city of Palmyra, 300 miles away which is littered with natural gas fields and sits at a major road junction that controls the passage between eastern Syria and Damascus and the Iraq/Jordan/Syria border area, not to mention being the site of some of the most fantastic Roman ruins in the Middle East.

The Islamic State has clearly recovered from the setback it suffered in late March and early April when it lost control of the city of Tikrit in north central Iraq and withdrew in the face of pressure from the Iraqi government and Shi’ite militias.  Predictions at that time of the road to Mosul being opened and the looming end of the Islamic State seem however to have been out of place.  To be able to launch near simultaneous succesful major operations at opposite ends of a large battle area is not indicative of a force that is planning on disappearing any time in the near future. What does the future hold now?

Who knows? is the only real honest answer an honest man can give at this point.  I would just make a couple of observations based on the facts as I perceive them to be.  The Islamic State’s road of advance is probably much easier in Syria than it is in Iraq.  For all of the Iraqi army’s demonstrated incompetence the country does have one advantage that Syria does not possess: it is solidly majority Shi’a and the Iraqi Shi’ites know that the Islamic State would massacre them and annihilate the shrines that are sacred to them if they ever lose control of Iraq.  They will fight to the death and, as disorganized as they can be, they have the numbers to hold off the Islamic State for a long time if not indefinitely.  Baghdad alone is a Shi’a majority city with a population in the several millions where Shi’ite militias that are armed to the teeth are in total control.  The Islamic States does not at present possess a force capable of dislodging them from that city and I suspect they know it.  Not to mention that Iraq possesses a long land border with Shi’a Iran and supplies will keep coming over that border to keep the Islamic State from advancing into the Shi’a areas of the country.

Syria on the other hand is a different story.  Bashar al-Assad’s Alawites comprise only about ten percent of the population.  Most Syrians are Sunni Muslims, and while they generally oppose the Islamic State their opposition is not, nor could it ever be, as fanatical as the Iraqi Shi’a.  Palmyra is a big deal, not just because of the ancient artifacts but because it sits at a road junction where the major highway that crosses the Syrian Desert from the Islamic State’s stronghold in eastern Syria and western Iraq branches in two with one spur running on through a couple of other junctions to the Damascus region and the other turning east toward the city of Homs. There are reports circulating that the Islamic State now controls half of Syria, geographically speaking.  That might be true in theory, but probably ninety percent of that half is empty desert in the east that was long abandoned by the regime.   The population in Syria mostly resides in the far west of the country near the Mediterranean littoral and in the south in the regions around Damascus.

Whatever happens now I think that it is safe to say that the post World War I political order in the Middle East that existed on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003 will never return.  It is difficult to see that the Iraq/Syria border will ever be put into place again save by a simultaneous miracle recovery of both Bashar al-Assad’s state and the Iraqi government  And the only way that Iraqi government could conquer Anbar province in the west is likely with a campaign of sectarian genocide that would shatter the region, and there is nothing in Anbar to merit that effort save possibly revenge and national pride.  What will come of this we don’t know?

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and for their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary confraternity!

Requiescat in pace Francis Cardinal George

April 18, 2015

Francis Cardinal George, the recently retired Archbishop of Chicago died yesterday, April 17, 2015.

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago (1937-2015).

Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop Emeritus of Chicago (1937-2015)

Requiem aeternam dona ei Domine, et lux perpetua luceat ei.  Requiescat in pace Francis Cardinal George.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

The Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy

Divine Mercy Sunday

It’s official.  The Holy Father Pope Francis has declared an Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Divine Mercy in the Bull Misericordiae Vultus to begin on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception December 8, 2015 with the opening of Holy Door in Saint Peter’s Basilica and to end on the Feast of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, November 20, 2016.

The world is in trouble.  Large swathes of the leadership of the Catholic Church have lost their faith and aren’t afraid to show it in public.  Morality, as a result, has simply evaporated in what was once the Catholic world.  And with the evaporation of that morality the political and cultural bonds that hold both our societies and the international order together are fraying and threaten to come apart at the seams.  Trouble is coming.  The world is indeed in such great need of Divine Mercy.

If you are not Catholic, become Catholic.  Avail yourself of the Sacraments while there is still time.  If you are Catholic and have not been to Confession in some time then GO TO CONFESSION.  Receive Holy Communion frequently.  Be a beacon of mercy to those who have done you harm.  Take advantage of the Indulgences that the Church will offer during the upcoming Holy Year and apply them to the most desperate souls in Purgatory.  Live your life in a state of grace and you will have nothing to fear.

I will leave you with this statement that Our Lord made to the Secretary of His Mercy as recorded in paragraph 965 of Saint Faustina’s diary and you can make of it what you will:

Souls perish in spite of My bitter Passion.  I am giving them the last hope of salvation; that is the Feast of My Mercy.  If they will not adore My mercy, they will perish for all eternity.  Secretary of My mercy, write, tell souls about this great mercy of Mine, because the awful day, the day of My justice, is near.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

Strange happenings in the Baltic

The Feast of Saint Turibius of Mongrovejo

What is going on in the Baltic?  A story this week about the Russian ambassador to Denmark’s outburst over his host country’s participation in the NATO missile defense shield brought this to my attention.  Last August Denmark, being a NATO member, agreed to have radar for NATO’s new missile defense system installed on one of its frigates.  The Russian ambassador to that country Mikhail Vanin decided to make it known last week decided to make it known in one of the country’s largest newspapers that Russia was not happy with that decision.  He declared that Denmark did not seem to be “fully aware of the consequences” of that decision, and that Denmark was now “part of the threat to Russia.”  And just in case the Danes did not get his point he baldly stated that “Danish warships will now be targets for Russia’s nuclear weapons.”

And then there is this other story emanating from Sweden that has received precisely zero attention in the Western media.  The chief analyst for the Swedish security police Wilhelm Unge, addressing a news conference on the topic of increased Russian intelligence activity in his country, made the astonishing claim that “we see Russian intelligence operations in Sweden – we can’t interpret this in any other way – as preparation for military operations against Sweden.”  Huh?  Russian military operations against Sweden?  Is this 2015 or 1618?

Mr. Unge gave reasons for his assessment that included increased Russian military activity in the Baltic including exercises that seemed to be rehearsing bomb runs on Swedish cities, the mysterious submarine incident in November, and the alarming estimate that one third of Russian diplomats operating in Sweden were believed to be intelligence officers.

So what to make of this?  The world is changing.  We all know that.  Russia feels worried and threatened.  And Russia is a big power.  The Russian leadership and a decent sized segment of the Russian populace seem to believe beyond a shadow of a doubt that the Maidan demonstrations that started in Kiev in November, 2013 that led to the ouster of former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych one year ago were an attempt to rip Ukraine out of Russia’s orbit and make Kiev, the birthplace of the Russian state and people a millennium ago, a full fledged member and advance base for the anti-Russian North Atlantic alliance.  Whether you share that opinion or not the Russians seem to believe this wholeheartedly and that would seem to put all options on the table for them.

If Russia were ever able to put its troops on Swedish and/or Finnish territory (one would seem to go with the other), however that would come about, the world as we have known it would be over.  Russia would own the Baltic and its bombers would be in short range of most major European capitals.  Neither Sweden nor Finland are members of NATO so in theory, and if the political circumstances were agreeable, Russia could launch military action against either of them without triggering the mutual self defense clause.  I suspect that Russia would only ever do something like this if it were desperate and felt that an attempt to overthrow the world order was its only way out.  But on the other hand Europe is so weak militarily that it is now relies on the American nuclear deterrent as its sole defense against a Russian onslaught, if Russian ever determined to make that move.  Pray.  Pray the Rosary.  Write a letter to Pope Francis and beg him to join with the bishops of the world to consecrate Russia to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

A blanket of silence

The Feast of Saint Joseph: Patron of the Universal Church

A blanket of silence fell over the Catholic media on March 17, the Feast of Saint Patrick.  Usually the Saint Patrick’s Day parade in New York, with the reigning Cardinal Archbishop of that diocese serving as grand marshal, gets a fair bit of coverage or at least a mention.  Not so this year.  Not a word on EWTN.  Nothing on New Advent.  Not a word on Father Z, even his usual Litany of Saint Patrick to counteract the hedonism of most celebrations of the holiday was missing.  Nothing.  Nada.  The silence was deafening.

Why should this be so?  Could it be that the Archbishop of New York Timothy Cardinal Dolan was marching at the front of a parade that included open homosexuals marching under their own banner celebrating their active homosexuality right past Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, a cathedral built in honor of a man who in another age drove the practice of homosexual sex out of pagan Ireland?

Only at Church Militant TV did they cover this and they did a bang up job.  And you can see, if you click the link, what happened to Michael Voris when he tried to ask Cardinal Dolan a question about his choice to be grand marshal of this parade.  But this is the Church hierarchy that we have in this country in these times.

Pray for Cardinal Dolan.  Pray for all of our prelates.  We need them.  We need them to be drawn back from the open embrace they give to the world.  We need them to believe, and we need them to act as a successor to the apostles should act.  We cannot do what we need to do without them.  Ask Saint Joseph, their Protector and ours, to intercede on their behalf and ours.  That our Lord might forgive us our sin of pride which so dominates this era of human history and may liberate us from out of the snare of the hunters.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.

 

 

The Islamic State threatens to conquer Rome

February 16, 2015

The Islamic State today released a video that purports to show the beheading of twenty one Egyptian Coptic Christians who had been kidnapped during December and January around the Libyan city of Sirte which is around 250 miles east southeast of Tripoli on the Mediterranean coast.  An armed group who has sworn allegiance to the Islamic State, in a strange echo of what took place in Mosul last June, seized control of government buildings in Sirte on Saturday. The executioners of the hostages vowed that the Islamic State will “conquer Rome, by Allah’s permission, the promise of our Prophet.”    The Egyptian government launched retaliatory airstrikes on the eastern Libyan city of Derna, a stronghold of Islamic State militants, on the Mediterranean coast about halfway between the Egyptian border and Benghazi.

So will the Islamic State launch an attack on Rome from its new base on the south shore of the Mediterranean?

I doubt that we will see armies flying the black flag marching up the Via della Conciliazione anytime soon.  The groups loyal to IS are one of a hodgepodge of armed militias fighting in the internecine warfare that makes up life in post Qaddafi Libya.  And they are far from the center of the Islamic State’s base of operations in the landlocked area surrounding the Syria Iraq border.  If these armed Libyan IS affiliates ever do manage to carve out some territory on the Libyan coast, hold it, and somehow maintain regular communication with IS central in Raqaa and Mosul they may use it to transport terrorist operatives to Italy and southern Europe or follow that tried and true ancient Muslim practice of launching assaults on Mediterranean shipping, but we are a long ways from that at the present moment.

However we should all note that the world is changing.  The current geopolitical chessboard that puts several obstacles in the path of the Islamic State is growing shakier by the day and the seemingly calm period that we have all lived through since the collapse of the USSR in 1991 is now likely over.  The divisions between Russia and NATO over Ukraine and Russia’s proper place in the world are daily hardening and growing deeper.  While the cease fire agreed to in Minsk may hold for a time it is already looking shaky and will certainly not bring a long term solution to this problem.  Catholics should prepare themselves for the fact that conditions are being created for something this generation has deemed unthinkable, a general war in Europe, to take place.  We shall see.

If that does come to pass, and even if the continent were to avoid the nuclear annihilation that would always be a looming prospect in such a conflict, Europe (and North America) will be changed forever.  Maybe the NATO alliance will fracture and since this seems to be Vladimir Putin’s ultimate goal (add to that the abysmal qualities of the current leadership in NATO countries) we should not dismiss the possibility.  If this happened then southern Europe would be more open to Muslim harassment and attack than it has for several centuries.  And if the whole of Europe were weakened by some conflict with Russia then it would be exceedingly vulnerable to such threats.  Again we shall see.

The Muslims have always had the dream of conquering Rome.  They conquered the ancient Catholic Sees of Antioch, Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Carthage in the first great wave of Islamic conquest in the seventh century.  They took Constantinople during the great explosion of Turkish power in the fifteenth and immediately after tried to move into Italy at Otranto but Rome was saved by the death of Sultan Mehmet II.  They have always wanted Rome but have never been able to lay a finger on it save for one raid in the dark ninth century where Arab marauders actually managed to accost the city and break into old Saint Peter’s basilica (then outside the city walls) before being driven off and never (yet) returning.

So now at least some Muslims are remembering who they are and what their religion is about.  What should Catholics do?  WE SHOULD REMEMBER THAT WE ARE CATHOLIC AND WHAT IT MEANS TO BE A CATHOLIC.  We should learn the teachings of the Church and live them.  Participate in the Sacramental life of the Church.  Go to Confession.  Live your life in a state of grace.  If one is able he should learn Latin and pray the Divine Office in Latin.  Pope Benedict XVI reinstituted the Breviarium Romanum as an optional form for the prayer of the Church when he brought back the Tridentine Mass in his Motu Proprio Summorum Pontificum.  Use it. Those Latin words of the Psalter were translated by Saint Jerome before the end of the Roman Empire, when the Mediterranean was still a unified Catholic sea.  Learn them.  Pray them.  Those words are older than Islam.

And pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as a pillar of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity!

A prayer for our time

February 9, 2015

The longer form of the St. Michael prayer, written by Pope Leo XIII:

O glorious prince of the heavenly host, Saint Michael the Archangel, defend us in the battle and in the fearful warfare that we are waging against the principalities and powers, against the rulers of this world of darkness, against the evil spirits.  Come thou to the assistance of men, whom Almighty God created immortal, making them in His own image and likeness and redeeming them at a great price from the tyranny of Satan.  Fight this day the battle of the Lord with the legions of holy Angels, even as of old thou didst fight against Lucifer, the leader of the proud spirits and all his rebel angels, who were powerless to stand against thee, neither was their place found any more in heaven.  And that apostate angel, transformed into an angel of darkness who still creeps about the earth to encompass our ruin, was cast headlong into the abyss together with his followers.  But behold, that first enemy of mankind, and a murderer from the beginning, has regained his confidence.  Changing himself into an angel of light, he goes about with the whole multitude of the wicked spirits to invade the earth and blot out the Name of God and of his Christ, to plunder, to slay and to consign to eternal damnation the souls that have been destined for a crown of everlasting life.  This wicked serpent, like an unclean torrent, pours into men of depraved minds and corrupt hearts the poison of his malice, the spirit of lying, impiety and blasphemy, and the deadly breath of impurity and every form of vice and iniquity.  These crafty enemies of mankind have filled to overflowing with gall and wormwood the Church, which is the Bride of the Lamb without spot; they have laid hands upon her most sacred treasures.  Make haste, therefore, O invincible Prince, to help the people of God against the inroads of the lost spirits and grant us the victory.

A magnificent oration!  Rich in Sacred Scripture and clear in meaning.  A prayer for our days if there ever was one.

And for those of you troubled by the reference to the enemy of mankind ‘changing himself into an angel of light,’ don’t be troubled.  This is the phenomenon present in every age, but particularly present in our own age, of the ‘shining darkness.’  Think how many ideas or impressions you have had in your own life that if you would only follow them then you would find peace and contentment.  But there is always that other voice in your head telling you to hold back and wait a while.  Consider the possibilities before you take the leap.  And after further reflection (God forbid don’t follow these false lights) and experience you see that these following these supposedly good things will lead to nothing but disaster.  The men out there know of what I speak.  That woman over there sure is beautiful.  And really she does look fine, so why not just let your mind wander and wonder a bit, it is only natural after all.  But we all know to what perils that leads now, do we not?

Now magnify this to the level of human history and the myth of human ‘progress.’  How many horrible ideas that have killed millions of people and possibly destroyed millions more souls at first seemed alright.  In fact they were good and precious and why not?  Why shouldn’t we all be prosperous and rich and if my neighbor won’t let me be rich and prosperous and ‘happy,’ then I will just take all of his stuff and his very life if that stands in the way.  You see how this works.  We have so many examples of it on a mass level since the Masonic coup d’etat in France of 14 July 1789, and humanity just won’t learn.  The only answer to this continuing downward spiral of humanity is the Catholic Church, her Sacraments and her Teaching.

Pray the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary on Monday for the See of Constantinople, the Sorrowful Mysteries on Tuesday for the See of Antioch, the Glorious Mysteries on Wednesday for the See of Jerusalem, the Luminous Mysteries on Thursday for the See of Alexandria, and the Sorrowful Mysteries on Friday for the See of Carthage; for their liberty and their salvation and the restoration of their ancient position as pillars of the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church in communion with the See of Peter in Rome; for the conversion of the Jewish people and the conversion of the Muslim peoples.  And join the Rosary Confraternity.