Friday, September 23, 2011

Mary and the Moslems

This was printed in the Umatuna, the newspaper for the Archdiocese of Hagatna, Guam, September, 25, 2011.
Last week’s column, entitled the “Long War”, concluded with a message from the Taliban vowing to assign the U.S. to “the dustbin of history”, and my promise to share a uniquely Catholic answer to the challenge of Islam.
First, we should clarify what we mean by the Long War, or Endless Jihad. Islam holds that all Muslims must wage Jihad until the whole world is subject to Allah. The fact that some Muslims believe Jihad to be a spiritual struggle and not a violent one does not negate the belief of Muslims who believe otherwise. 
The problem is that Islam has no central authority to definitively define Jihad or anything else in the Quran. Thus, interpretation of Quranic teaching is either the domain of the Imams (clergy), or, as is the Wahhabite view to which Bin Laden subscribed: “whoever can read the Quran can judge for himself in matters of doctrine.” In other words, the interpretation of verses like "Slay the idolaters wherever you find them” (Surah 9:5), is up for grabs. 
Islam considers Christians to be idolaters because Christians worship Jesus as God. Thus, we see the renewed persecution of Christians now unfolding in the Muslim world as secular regimes fall. In Iraq, Christian children are killed and nailed to crosses staked in front of their homes, and in Egypt, Christians are massacred at Christmas Mass. (Arab Spring?)
Moderate Muslims might decry such violence, but the Quran also has strong instructions about what to do about them: “If you do not go to war, he [Allah] will punish you sternly, and will replace you by other men" (Surah 9:38-39). 
But regardless of the conjecture of Muslim scholars, the actions of Muhammed provide the definitive understanding of Jihad, and there can be no doubt as to how he understood it. Europe may have been able to hold off Islam at the gates of Vienna and eventually drive the Moor from the Iberian Peninsula, but Christianity in northern Africa and the Middle East has never recovered from the sword of the Saracen.  
In 1953  Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote: “The Christian European West barely escaped destruction at the hands of the Moslems. The Church throughout northern Africa was practically destroyed by Moslem power, and at the present hour, the Moslems are beginning to rise again.”
Sheen also observed that Islam has never declined either in numbers or in the devotion of its followers, and warned: “At the present time, the hatred of the Moslem countries against the West is becoming a hatred against Christianity itself. Although the statesmen have not yet taken it into account, there is still grave danger that the temporal power of Islam may return and, with it, the menace that it may shake off a West which has ceased to be Christian, and affirm itself as a great anti-Christian world power.”
Today, with European economies collapsing, a Muslim majority in Europe assured by 2050 with Muslims out-birthing Europeans 3 to 1, and the U.S. on the verge of moral and economic implosion and about to commence a weary retreat from a decade of war in the mountains of Afghanistan, Sheen’s 1953 assessment is frighteningly real.
Sheen believed that the only answer to Islam is Christianity, but he believed that the conversion of Islam would happen “not through the direct teaching of Christianity, but through a summoning of the Moslems to a veneration of the Mother of God.” 
In “Mary and the Moslems”, Sheen relates that Muslims already hold Mary in high regard and that Muhammed himself placed her as the highest woman in Heaven. Sheen notes that there is more said about Mary in the Quran than our own Bible. Also, the daughter of Muhammed, “Fatima”, is regarded as the second highest woman in heaven next to Mary. In this, Sheen sees a sign:
“I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as ‘Our Lady of Fatima’ as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Moslem people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her Divine Son, too”. 
This is why I promised a “uniquely Catholic answer”.  Only Catholics regard Mary as the door to Christ, and, as regards Islam, she may well be the only door.
Sheen concludes: “Missionaries in the future will...see that their apostolate among the Moslems will be successful in the measure that they preach Our Lady of Fatima. Mary is the advent of Christ, bringing Christ to the people before Christ Himself is born...our missionaries should be satisfied merely to expand and to develop that devotion, with the full realization that Our Blessed Lady will carry the Moslems the rest of the way to her Divine Son.”
Let us pray.

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