False Courage and True Courage

08/05/2015 Comments (132)

An unnamed prisoner of war confronts Heinrich Himmler at Shirokaya Street POW Camp in Minsk, USSR, August 1941. (By Heinrich Hoffmann Collection, Foreign Records Seized, Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

There is a curious and creepy fact I have noticed. It runs through things like Heinrich Himmler’s secret address given in October 1943 to SS troops carrying out the mass murder of Jews:

I also want to mention a very difficult subject before you here, completely openly.

It should be discussed amongst us, and yet, nevertheless, we will never speak about it in public.

Just as we did not hesitate on June 30 to carry out our duty, as ordered, and stand comrades who had failed against the wall and shoot them.

About which we have never spoken, and never will speak.

That was, thank God, a kind of tact natural to us, a foregone conclusion of that tact, that we have never conversed about it...READ MORE

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Jesus and Big Think

08/02/2015 Comments (10)

Etienne Parrocel (1696-1775), Jesus et la Samaritaine

The things we think big can be curiously small to God. We often make this mistake when watching the news, for instance. When the TV starts chattering about Washington or New York or inflation or politics, an incautious person could easily get the impression these things are important. But in light of the way God seems to actually deal with us this geopolitical Big Think stuff--like virtually everything on television--usually vanishes into microscopic insignificance.

Consider ancient Israel. Gobs of Old Testament ink are spilled on the fortunes of kings and the policies of princes. Just like when we watch the news, we may think we know what we're seeing. Real life is What Happens to Top...READ MORE

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If I Comprehend All Knowledge…

07/26/2015 Comments (12)

Some years ago, in Seattle, a tourist returned from the former Soviet Union with an odd souvenir of the old regime: a ten ton statue of Lenin. Shortly thereafter, this eccentric person died and the statue somehow wound up in the hands of the city, whose Wise Elders decided that, instead of being melted down and turned into something useful like a bedpan, it should be erected in a public location for all to admire.

A few sensible people protested this, pointing out that Lenin, after all, fathered a system that butchered more innocent people than any other creation of the human mind in all of history. These protesters had the curious sense that the funny hats and cute little signs which...READ MORE

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Is the Second Coming Necessary?

07/23/2015 Comments (14)

Ask any fan of Douglas Adams, "What is the meaning of the universe?" and you will be told: "42".

Adams, author of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was an atheist. Indeed, Adams cheerily explains in a last collection of his work called The Salmon of Doubt how he not only lost his faith (such as it was) when he was 18 but how, much later, Richard Dawkins' books The Blind Watchmaker and The Selfish Gene Explained it All for Him. And the explanation is this: "The universe we observe," writes Dawkins, "has precisely the properties we should expect if there is at bottom no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pointless indifference."

And so, Adams is delighted to say that the...READ MORE

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Our Culture's Sacred Stories

07/19/2015 Comments (11)

I can’t help but like Kathy Shaidle, the scrappy author of a Canadian blog called Five Feet of Fury. I’ve always had a weakness for people who tell you exactly what they think and never bother to mince words and Shaidle is all that. One of the most forthright critics of Canada’s Tyranny of Nice and a courageous proponent of free speech in the face of a Nanny State, she’s had her share of suffering, as have we all, but she is not the sort of person to demand that everybody Observe the Pieties on her behalf and she can often be screamingly funny when it comes to the sort of hushed silences we are expected to observe on behalf of the sundry movements which batten on human suffering as a way...READ MORE

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Puny Humans, Geocentrism, and ET

07/16/2015 Comments (7)

Our place in the cosmos has been a source of fascination since the first human looked up at the splendor of the night sky.  Every culture has reacted to the spectacle of the heavens with various sorts of religious awe.  Babylonians watched the stars for omens, as did the Chinese.  Petroglyphs in North America record novas.  Greek gods are bound up with the constellations.  Vanished cultures erected immense monuments like Stonehenge with an eye on the movements of the heavens.  Egypt was rocked by a religious reform movement led by Akhenaten, who worshiped one god: the Sun.

The sense of wonder about our place in the universe was not lost on the Chosen People either.  The Psalmist pours out...READ MORE

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From Juju to the Eucharist

07/12/2015 Comments (31)

As Protestant pundit Cal Thomas illustrates, people tend to deny any and all connection between themselves and the object of their hostility.  They rename sauerkraut “liberty cabbage” when at war with Germans and French fries “freedom fries” when mad at France and they try to pretend that Muslims and Christians “don’t worship the same God” ever since 9/11.  Protestants like Thomas are free (if you call it that) to try to overcome the Law of Non-Contradiction by main force.  But American Catholics who are in this mood do not have the same luxury. 

Not that they don’t try.  But two forces tend to stop them. 

First, there are atheists who tend to make treacherous allies in the Clash of...READ MORE

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Disgust is Not an Argument

07/09/2015 Comments (19)
James Gordon [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

The Umayyad Mosque, built by Christians as the Basilica of Saint John the Baptist, is considered the fourth-holiest place in Islam. The mosque holds a shrine which some believe contains the head of St. John the Baptist, regarded as a prophet by both Christians and Muslims alike.

– James Gordon [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Here’s something you don’t read every day. Some years back, the Middle East Media Research Institute reported the following:

Media Uproar Following Egyptian Mufti's Fatwa on Companions of the Prophet Muhammad Being Blessed by Drinking His Urine

An uproar in the Egyptian media followed the recent publication of a book by Egyptian Mufti Dr. Ali Gum'a in which he claimed that the companions of the Prophet Muhammad would drink his urine to be blessed.

Many people don’t know that a “fatwa” is not a “death sentence” but an opinion by a Muslim leader. Because of this many western readers, merely glancing at the story, assumed that somebody has yet again been sentenced to death for saying...READ MORE

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About Mark Shea

Mark Shea
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Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.