The winter here in Virginia was unseasonably mild. I say “was” even though it isn’t over because, as I write this, it’s over 70 degrees and the report calls for more of the same for the rest of the week. How can I call that “winter?”
The warm weather is a great blessing. Our bees are flying and bringing in pollen. Recently we visited Annapolis to pray the rosary at my parents’ grave at the Naval Academy with a glorious blue sky overhead and a dozen USNA sailboats navigating up and down the river. We’ve taken our grandchildren to the park on dates that last year saw us covered in two feet of snow. What a great start to the new year!
But for me the most important event anticipated is the 100th anniversary of Mary’s apparitions at Fatima. We don’t know exactly when the Angel of Peace appeared to the children but it was in the Spring of 1916. So, as we head into March, praying for peace is appropriate, especially in view of the violence ravaging our world. We desperately need prayers for peace. In many ways our own country looks like Paris in the early days of the French Revolution or like Europe in the 1930s as Fascism and Communism spread.
If I had to pick a few words to define our times, I’d say they are characterized by lack of reason resulting in chaos and division. The temptation is to just tune it all out and stop listening like a child covering up his ears and shouting, “La-la-la, I can’t hear you!” But we need to hear, listen, and respond with the voice of reason and faith, because the irrational world needs that voice.
Which leads me back to 2006 and Pope Benedict’s Regensburg Address discussing faith and reason. Readers may recall the firestorm arising from his quoting a 14th century dialogue between a Byzantine Emperor and a Persian intellectual. The emperor demanded:“Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.” The emperor…goes on to explain in detail the reasons why spreading the faith through violence is something unreasonable.
Violence is incompatible with the nature of God and the nature of the soul. “God”, he says, “is not pleased by blood – and not acting reasonably…is contrary to God’s nature. Faith is born of the soul, not the body. Whoever would lead someone to faith needs the ability to speak well and to reason properly, without violence and threats… or any other means of threatening a person with death”.
This quote was basically an aside illustrating the pope’s major point, that faith must be enlightened by reason. But due to Muslim rage he was painted as a bigot. What the pope said, however, was the truth. Islam is both a religion and a political system based on blind faith divorced from reason. Benedict went on to describe Islam’s view of God:
God’s transcendence and otherness are so exalted that our reason, our sense of the true and good, are no longer an authentic mirror of God, whose deepest possibilities remain eternally unattainable and hidden behind his actual decisions. As opposed to this, the faith of the Church has always insisted that between God and us, between his eternal Creator Spirit and our created reason there exists a real analogy, in which…unlikeness remains infinitely greater than likeness, yet not to the point of abolishing analogy and its language. God does not become more divine when we push him away from us in a sheer, impenetrable voluntarism; rather, the truly divine God is the God who has revealed himself…[and] has acted and continues to act lovingly on our behalf….Consequently Christian worship is…worship in harmony with the eternal Word and with our reason.
In a video called Blasphemy with Breakfast, Professor Scott Hahn described a breakfast meeting with an imam with whom he was scheduled to debate the Trinity. When Hahn called God Father, the imam, banged his fist on the table and accused him of blasphemy. God is so completely other that the human analogy of father is blasphemy in Islam. When Hahn called Jesus the Son of God he was again accused of blasphemy. The imam said Allah doesn’t love as a father. God is an owner and we are property; he is a master and we are slaves. There is no connection between the God of Islam and the God of Christianity.
Fulton Sheen believed Our Lady of Fatima was the link that would ultimately bring the Muslims to the Church. As we approach the 100th anniversary of Fatima, let us pray that all those deceived about the nature of God come to see him as a loving Father, one who wants us to use our reason to know Him, love Him, and serve Him.