Little by little

July 17, 2014

The self declared caliphate known as the Islamic State continued its advance in Syria seizing a natural gas field from Syrian government forces in the desert regions of Homs province near the ancient ruins of Palmyra, once the seat of power of the rebel queen Zenobia during the latter days of pagan Rome.

After its lightning advance through northern and western Iraq that captured the cities of Mosul and Tikrit and functionally erased the Iraq/Syria border in June the forces of the Islamic State have of late concentrated on seizing territory in Syria while holding on to their conquests in Iraq.  The Iraqi government has failed in each of its numerous attempts to take back the city of Tikrit over the past month.  The Islamic State has showed a disturbing ability to hold its ground on one front (Iraq) while continuing to advance up the Euphrates Valley in Syria and to seize oil fields and other economic targets both from other rebel groups and the Syrian government.

In other news the Syrian Kurds, who have established a functionally autonomous region in the far northeast corner of Syria over the last three years, have instituted compulsory military service for all Kurdish males in the region to defend against the jihadi onslaught.

Little by little the Islamic State is establishing itself as an entity that will become increasingly difficult to dislodge.  Not impossible but difficult and it will get more difficult with every week that passes.  A revolution is happening in the Middle East and we shall see what is to come.

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!

Our Lady of Mount Carmel

The Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel

Today is the great feast of the Carmelite order which was founded by a group of hermits on Mount Carmel in Palestine during the era of the Crusades in the twelfth century, and brought back into Europe during the succeeding centuries.  Mount Carmel is the battle between the prophet Elijah and the prophets of Ba’al during the reign of the apostate king Ahab in the eighth century before Christ, and the Carmelite order has always had a special devotion both to the Blessed Mother and to the prophet Elijah as the supreme examples of the mendicant contemplative life.

At the present moment there are anti-missile batteries on Mount Carmel placed there by the Israeli government to protect the nearby city of Haifa from rocket attacks coming either from Lebanon or the Gaza Strip.

Our Lady of Mount Carmel pray for us!

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.

The strange unwillingness to act

The Feast of Saint Kateri Tekakwitha (United States)

After its lightning assault on Iraq in June that put the city of Mosul in its grip and destroyed the Iraq/Syria border and its declaration of a caliphate on the Feast of Saints Peter and Paul the Islamic State seems to be in a holding pattern at the moment.  That is in fact a sign of strength for this entity.

The goal of these jihadist movements has always been to capture territory in the heart of the Arab Middle East and to hold it.  The Islamic State appears to be doing this and in fact is continuing its advance up the Euphrates Valley into Syria from what used to be the Iraq border and are now on the outskirts of the city of Deir az-Zour, the last government controlled city in Syria’s east on the Euphrates River.  Their obvious goal here is to dominate the Euphrates valley all the way from their stronghold of Raqqah, Syria to Haditha in Iraq.  They have wisely chosen to hold off launching a direct assault on Baghdad in order to strengthen their hold elsewhere.  Iraqi politics seems to be aiding them in this effort with the Kurds, Shia, and Sunni all doing their best to aid in the dissolution of Iraq.

 

 

The troubling thing about all of this is the utter lack of willingness on the part of the great powers in the world who are entrusted with maintaining its geopolitical stability to do anything about it.  Michael Young wrote an excellent column a few days ago comparing the Islamic State to the Bolsheviks in Russia in 1917.  It should be remembered that the Bolsheviks started as a small group of committed ideologues under a determined and ruthless leadership who were injected by the stupid policy of the German Empire into the chaos of Russia after the downfall of the Tsar in early 1917.  Even after seizing power in Petrograd during the October Revolution that year there were still one of many groups competing for power in Russia and they were not the one everyone thought would win.  It took them a couple of years to win the Russian civil war, but when they did they turned the Soviet Union into a superpower whose armies would reach the heart of Europe in 1945 and was able to constantly threaten the world order for three quarters of a century.  And it also should be noted that seeing this small group of radicals take over a great country like Russia gave Mussolini and eventually Hitler the confidence to believe that they too could do it in their own lands.  No one stopped them in the beginning when they were small and weak, and the world paid (and is still paying because the ideas of the Bolsheviks haven’t disappeared but are now only wearing a different mask and in many ways dominate the thinking of the formerly Catholic world) a dear price for that failure.  Will the Islamic State fizzle out, or are we making the same mistake again?

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.

Another small step toward the end of Iraq…

The Feast of Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his Companions

Another small yet not insignificant step toward the dissolution of that grand creation of a now long dead empire: the Republic of Iraq.  The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government Massoud Barzani today withdrew (in Arabic here) all Kurdish ministers from the cabinet of Iraq’s central government headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in Baghdad.  This comes a day after Maliki accused the Kurdish regional government of harboring terrorists from the Islamic State in its domains.

Turnarounds are always possible, but Iraq seems unlikely to keep on existing in the form we have known it.  I suppose that Iran could throw an immense weight of forces into fighting the Islamic State in both Syria and Iraq and make a supreme national effort to destroy the wannabe caliphate led by its remarkably uncharismatic khalifa before it gets a real head of steam going.  Possible, always possible but unlikely.  Or Russia could decide that they don’t want a jihadi empire rising up to their south and decide to give serious backing to Maliki, but after his lightning annexation of Crimea Vladimir Putin no longer seems able to get out of his own way in Ukraine so I would be dubious on that.

Or there could always be a good old fashioned divine miracle, but one really does wonder at this point why the Lord of history would be interested in saving the Iraq that we have known.  In any case those things are beyond my comprehension.

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.

Summorum Pontificum at seven

July 7, 2014 Today is the 7th anniversary of Pope Benedict XVI’s  motu proprio Summorum Pontificum that brought back the 1962 Missal of Saint John XXIII back into widespread use as the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite.  Thank you Pope Emeritus for bring back some beauty and some of the divine majesty of Catholic Liturgy back into the world! Now just for the heck of it why don’t we imagine this Mass being offered at a cathedral in Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, or Tunis?  It would be a different world.

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 status 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 return to the Sundays of Ordinary Time

The 14th Sunday of Ordinary Time

After a long but incredibly significant detour through the history of the redemption and salvation of mankind during Lent and Eastertide we have finally returned to the Sundays of Ordinary, or Ordered, Time.  The last Sunday of Ordinary Time that we celebrated was the 9th Sunday of Ordinary Time on March 2nd.  The season of Ordinary Time actually started on June 9, the Monday after Pentecost, but because of the Solemnities of Trinity Sunday, Corpus Christi (in the United States), and this year Saints Peter and Paul, this is the first trip back to the numbered Sundays.  And here we will stay until the end of November when the year will turn over once more at the beginning of Advent and the cycle of the Incarnation and the Redemption will begin anew.

This long march of the second part of Ordinary Time is always a good time to reflect on the Incarnation, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord that we have spent the first part of the year celebrating and to work on how we can incorporate these great Mysteries into the seeming mundanity of our day to day lives.  

And remember this: Ordinary Time is not ordinary!  It is just the less than wonderful translation chosen by the Church in the English speaking world to reflect the ordered nature of the Sundays that follow Christmas and Pentecost.  In the ancient calendar employed by the Extraordinary Form the Sundays of what we know as the first part of Ordinary Time following Christmas are simply numbered as the “nth Sunday after Epiphany” and those after Pentecost are numbered, unsurprisingly, as the “nth Sunday after Pentecost.”  Probably a better way to do it but those decisions are above my pay grade!

And remember all through Ordinary Time and beyond: 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 (now extremely troubled) 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 man who would be Caliph

The Feast of St. Anthony Zaccaria

Today the Islamic State released footage of a man they claim to be Caliph Ibrahim, better known to the world by his nom de guerre Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

 

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi addressing worshipers at a mosque in Mosul (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2014/07/140705_iraq_security_retirement.shtml)

Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi addressing worshipers at a mosque in Mosul (http://www.bbc.co.uk/arabic/middleeast/2014/07/140705_iraq_security_retirement.shtml)

Baghdadi apparently addressed worshippers at a mosque in central Mosul and declared that he was their (والي) or custodian/leader/guardian, there isn’t really a great English translation.  He also declared that while he was ‘not the best of you’ he expected to be obeyed by all Muslims if he followed Allah and advised of it if he erred though how well men like this take advice on their errors remains an open question.  His declaration of a caliphate and himself as caliph has met largely with scorn and derision from across the Muslim world, but time will tell.  If the Islamic State can continue to string together victories in Iraq and Syria then who knows?  Muslims from around the world who are starved for leadership (a condition we Catholics can relate to, though we are looking for a far different kind of leader; stop being so enamored with this passing world priests and bishops and Holy Father and just preach the Gospel!) may flock to him.  We shall see.

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.