The Christchurch Mosque Massacres: “What Can Men Do Against Such Reckless Hate?”

The mass shooting at the two mosques in Christchurch NZ on Friday, where 49 worhipers were killed, and dozens others were injured, is the latest tragedy to make headlines. I wish I could say it’s unbelievable.

As I thought about the shootings, the more I was reminded of the scene between Aragorn and King Theoden in Helm’s Deep, from Tolkien’s “The Two Towers”.

“So much death – what can men do against such reckless hate?”

The answer isn’t found merely in policies and parliaments, because the source of hate isn’t due to a lack of laws, or legal loopholes. Natural solutions are insufficient against supernatural problems, and while they’re necessary to maintain order, provide structure, and mete justice, they don’t address the heart of the problem. Hate springs from the heart of men, and no law can prevent its rising. Politicizing tragedy perpetuates the hate, and in short order, the motives and intentions of those pointing fingers becomes the issue, rather than the issue itself.

The best response to reckless hate is reckless love. It sounds insensible and nonsensical to the world, and to be honest, it sounds that way to most Christians too. But we know as Christians, by the example of Jesus’ life and death, that is the only response. Our real enemies are not flesh and blood, but powers and principalities, the spirit of the world, the enemy of mankind. When we instead battle against our fellow man, we reignite the fire of hatred that Christ’s love, as shown on the cross, has already extinguished.

Evil’s power lies in its ability to make us despair and feel hopeless. It endlessly batters against our hearts, minds, and souls, tempting us to believe all is lost. It convinces us we’ll be safer if we sacrifice more freedom, eliminate the Other – the “bad people” – or compromise priniciples. We feel helpless in the face of these tragedies: “There are so many problems, how can we possibly solve them all??” some ask. “What can Man do?” The truth? God doesn’t expect you or me to solve all the problems. He expects us to love with a reckless love. That’s what Christians are expected to do. Today, tomorrow, every day.

“Ride out and meet them.”

Aragorn suggests to King Theoden to meet the enemy head on, to battle with blade, and beat back the onslaught, and not cower in fear. Christ commands us to meet the enemy head on as well, but not with weapons. Or tweets, memes, and carefully crafted statements. We are called to love our neighbor and our enemy – sometimes they are the same person – and we can only do that by going out to meet them. Which can be a messy business. Following Christ ought to make us courageous, not cowardly. He has defeated death. He has told us to not be afraid.

“For death and glory?” “For your people.”

Loving our neighbor isn’t for our own glory. It’s for God’s. If our glory is the objective, then what we’re doing isn’t love. We go out to meet them, becoming a witness of the power of Christ’s love. We do it for the people – His people – one person at a time.

“The sun is rising.”

The Son has risen. Accuse of me of reading more into Gimli’s line, I don’t care. Jesus is our strength in our daily struggle against evil, because He has already won the battle. First and foremost, we must battle the evil within our own hearts. We start there, and then by loving our neighbor, God’s grace can work on their hearts, and love then spreads. God loved us first, while we were still sinners. We hold no claim to refuse to love others for that which God deigned to do for us while still imperfect.

“Let this be the hour when we draw swords together.”

Let this be the hour when we go out and meet them. Let this be the hour when we fight with reckless love. Let this be the hour we inconvenience ourselves with intentional acts of kindness. There will be future tragedies – none of us are so naive as to believe otherwise. No one is guaranteed safety. No one is spared from the effects of others’ exercise of free will. But may it never be said no one ever witnessed the love of God in us, because we failed to show the love we profess to possess.

Let us be the ones to show what can be done against such reckless hate.

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A Memento Mori Lent

Here we are, the start of another Lenten season. The older I get, the more I anticipate and look forward to it. It’s not because it’s one less Lent I will have to endure (although that’s true) – or that I’m one year closer to being exempt from fasting (also true, but surely I kid). I believe it’s because I’m gradually becoming more mature in my faith, and deepening my love of Jesus Christ.

I think my affinity towards Lent was sparked after reading Sherry Weddell’s Forming Intentional Disciples, and going through the Called & Gifted program several years ago. C&G brought my faith to a whole new level I didn’t think possible, and to this day, I still consider myself a disciple of Christ, following wherever He leads me, trusting more and more in His word. I have become more aware of the moments where God is leading me to exercise my charisms. Tis a beautiful thing when it happens.

And I believe this is is another one of those moments, a nudge towards something I hadn’t considered.

This Lent, I’m using the Memento Mori Lenten Devotional, by Sr Theresa Aletheia Noble, FSP, and published by Pauline Books & Media. Sr Theresa (@pursuedbytruth on Twitter) tweets and talks on the ancient Christian tradition of memento mori – “Remember your death” – and her enthusiasm for this practice inspired me to purchase the devotional and journal. I have zero expectations on what my faith and life will resemble on the other side of Easter. How will I be changed? What will my life look like?

Sr Theresa succinctly explains why this practice is important, in the devotional’s Forward:

Remembering one’s death is an absolutely essential aspect of the Christian life not only because it helps us to live well but also because it helps us remember what Christ has done for us. Jesus trampled death! Memento mori is not a momentary trend but an ancient practice encouraged by Scripture, Jesus, the Church Fathers, and many of the saints. With the grace of God, memento mori has the power to change your habits and lead you to holiness.

So here we go. Day 1 on the path to changing habits and increasing holiness. Putting out into the deep, talking about death. Who’s with me?

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Posted in Catholic, Death, Lent | 3 Comments

PARISH REPORT: Greeters Give Mass-goers Sanitizer, Safety Masks to Combat Flu

ACMPress – GREEN BAY – Parishioners attending Mass this weekend at Sts. Tyrne & Koff in downtown Green Bay were given things other than smiles and handshakes by greeters. They were handed masks and small bottles of hand sanitizer upon entering the gathering space.

The greeters may have been smiling, except they were already wearing masks. Oh – and definitely no handshakes.

Director of Hospitality Sue d’Fedde explained to ACMPress the need for the health and safety items. “It’s been a rough flu season, so we want the parishioners protected as much as possible. Wearing masks during Mass seemed a practical, simple way to accomplish that, and liberal use of hand sanitizer will go a long way to reduce the spread of germs.”

Many of the parishioners seemed grateful for the preventative measures, as more than half of the congregation at each Mass wore the supplied masks throughout the entire liturgy. Many could be seen applying sanitizer before and after the Our Father.

“It’s necessary we take precautions,” d’Fedde said. “While I prefer people just stay home altogether, I recognize some people still believe attending Sunday Mass is important. Sanitizer and masks seemed a prudent compromise.”

Nobody was exempt from the new health and safety rules. The altar servers, the contemporary choir, the ushers, and even Fr. Ben Adrill, pastor at Sts. Tyrne & Koff, wore masks. Several parishioners told ACMPress after the 10:30 AM Sunday Mass that the contemporary choir never sounded better.

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Moses’ Rejection Letter for “Exodus”

Approximately 1300 BC

Mr. Moses
1 Mt Nebo Lane
Pisbah, Plains of Moab

Dear Mr. Moses:

Thank you for sending your manuscript, Exodus, to Promised Land Publishing. However, it doesn’t meet our needs at this time. Or at any time, for that matter. In all honesty, of all the submissions I read each year, yours is the worst I have ever had the misfortune of editing. Actually, I take that back. Gilgamesh Vs. The Zombie Warriors of Uruk was far worse, but at least that technically followed some basic literary rules.

I’m breaking protocol on your behalf, Mr. Moses, and returning your manuscript, complete with my notes. This doesn’t mean I’m suggesting you rewrite it. Maybe by seeing your mistakes, you’ll be dissuaded from pursuing a writing career, and stick to what you know best: tending sheep, leading people through a desert, speaking with God…

I’ve reprinted several passages as examples.  Your text is in black; my notes are bracketed in blue.

One day [describe the day: was it hot? Had it just rained? Was it breezy? You have to draw your reader into the events here with imagery!], when Moses had grown up [how old? 15? 25?] he went out to his people and looked on their burdens [you gotta give me more here – describe the scene. Show, don’t tell! What does he see when leaving the palace? Does he wander through the marketplace? Set up the contrast between his privileged life and the poverty of ‘his people’. Show the burden of slaves working in the mud pits, of carrying straw on their backs. Show Moses’ feelings at seeing the slaves struggle to keep up. Is there someone he recognizes, that evokes pity? Is there some slave girl he has feelings for?]; and he saw an Egyptian beating a Hebrew [again, show don’t tell!!!!], one of his people [we’ve established that – doesn’t bear repeating]. He looked this way and that, and seeing no one [huh? How is this possible? All these slaves and overseers, and no one else is around? Describe this scene to make it more believable!!!] he killed the Egyptian [four words for a fight to the death? Action!! You need to show the reader what’s happening here!!] and hid him in the sand. [Did the Hebrew help him? Did he swear him to silence? Did the guy even say thanks??] When he went out the next day [that’s it? No meditation on this murder? No regret, or pride in exacting justice? He just offs the Egyptian, goes home, and goes out the next day??? I’m beginning to think Moses is a psychopath…], behold, two Hebrews were struggling together; and he said to the man that did the wrong [how do we know this? Who are these two men? Are they brick carriers? Mud men? Why were they fighting? Obviously Moses saw it start, because he knows who was wrong!], “Why do you strike your fellow?” He answered, “Who made you a prince and a judge over us? Do you mean to kill me as you killed the Egyptian?” [Wha—-? This is the same guy he helped the day before? Or is it someone different? I can’t tell. Out of all those 1000’s of slaves, he just *happens* to come across the same guy? Didn’t Moses recognize him? You can’t have coincidences like this without some believable explanation. Not good.] Then Moses was afraid, and thought, “Surely the thing is known.” [You need to build up the suspense before hand. More tension. The reader ought to have info that Moses doesn’t, so they can see the noose tightening around him, and wonder if he will escape. You’re just springing this on the reader with no foreshadowing, and the reader won’t care what happens to him.] When Pharaoh heard of it, he sought to kill Moses [How did the Pharaoh hear of it? Again – I can’t repeat this enough! – SHOW DON’T TELL!!!!]

But Moses fled from Pharaoh, and stayed in the land of Midian [Huh? Just like that? How did he flee? Did he steal a horse? Take a chariot? On foot? Leave under the cover of darkness? Did he have to elude palace guards? Did he even say good-bye to his mother? You got a guy wanted by the Pharaoh, and he *just* flees???]; and he sat down by a well [Come on. Really?] Now the priest of Midian [does he have a name?] had seven daughters [do they have names?]; and they came and drew water [do they see Moses? Does he talk to them? Do they talk to him?], and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. The shepherds came [What shepherds? Who are these guys? How many are there? Are they rivals? Former employees out for revenge? Give these shepherds a background so that the reader will care what happens to the seven daughters!] came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them [helped who? The daughters or the shepherds? Unclear…], and watered their flock [This is confusing. The girls ran off and just left their flock? Does this happen regularly to them?].  When they came to their father Reuel [Finally! The name of another character!], he said “How is it that you have come so soon today?” [So…I take it the shepherds who harassed the daughters never did that before? This is the first time it’s ever happened? This part of the story needs so much work and development…]  They said “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” [But…but they were driven off just 3 lines ago!! How did they know this? Did they hide somewhere and watch?] He said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why have you left the man? [I was thinking the same thing, but okay.] Call him, that he may eat bread.” And Moses was content to dwell with the man [Just like that? Give the reader more of the conversation, of what Moses tells the man about why he left Egypt – set up conflict! Perfect opportunity here!], and he gave Moses his daughter Zipporah.  She bore a son [What, right away? What’s happened during those nine months or so? Develop Zipporah a bit, and his daily life – for instance, what ever happened to the shepherds?], and he called his name Gershom; for he said “I have been a sojourner in a foreign land.” [Nice touch – need more like this!]

Now Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian [Wait – I thought the guy’s name was Reuel! Which is it?]; and he led his flock to the west side of the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God.

Then the anger of the Lord was kindled against Moses and he said, “Is there not Aaron, your brother, the Levite [What?!? How does Moses all of a sudden have a brother? There’s been no mention of him anywhere! Did he flee out of Egypt with Moses? Did he come out later? This is just bad form – you can’t be making up characters out of thin air and expect your readers to maintain interest.  If Aaron’s important to the story, you got to introduce him earlier.].  I know that he can speak well…”

I’m sorry if I come across harsh and overly critical, but it’s deserved. Frankly, I doubt any publisher will touch this. The only way people ever read this manuscript is if you self-publish.

Good luck, Mr. Moses.


Beniaiah Jehoiastein
Promised Land Publishing

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