Twentieth Sunday In Ordinary Time

August 15, 2016 Column Father De Celles

“What I Did on My Summer Vacation.” I was surprised and gratified by so many of you who warmly greeted me after I returned from vacation last week, even though I’d only been gone for 8 days. It’s nice to be missed.

As for my vacation, I have to say I had a wonderful time on my trip to Alaska. Although I usually prefer warm or even hot weather, the 65˚ highs of Anchorage were a welcome respite from the 99˚ weather here. But more than that I had a great and relaxing time visiting friends and seeing the great outdoors of our nation’s “Last Frontier.” Although I was staying in Anchorage, I spent most of my days driving or hiking around the wilderness that surrounds that city and encompasses most of the state. I was amazed how green it was, and the combination of high mountains next to the blue-green waters of the ocean, sounds, inlets, rivers and glacial lakes was breathtaking. The highlight of the trip had to be the day we set out from the small port of Seward and took an 8-hour cruise around Prince William Sound, out into the ocean a bit, and through the Northwestern Fjord. On the way to visit various islands, cliffs and glaciers, we also saw a few forms of animal life we don’t see much of in Virginia: humpback and killer whales, porpoises, harbor seals, sea otters, sea lions, a black bear and puffins, not to mention about 7 bald eagles. (Elsewhere I also saw grizzly bears, moose, porcupines, elks, and even a wolf).

It was an amazing trip, and very relaxing. And my friends who were hosting me couldn’t have been more gracious and generous with their time and attention.

In all this, I couldn’t help but wonder that there are people who don’t believe in a God who has a plan for His creation. Sitting on top of a mountain picking blueberries and crowberries while surveying the valley below, and the surrounding and distant mountains, I could not help but see the hand of God. And how could I not see His gift when every day forecasters predicted showers and all we encountered were a few clouds, some light mist, and a lot of sun.

In short, I had a great and very relaxing vacation, thanks be to God. And I hope all of you have had or will have a similar opportunity to relax this summer.


“Islamist Terrorists,” and “Religious War.” As I’ve mentioned here before, sometimes people are critical of my use of the term “Islamist Terrorists.” They say, as many do, that Islam is a “religion of peace,” and that terrorism is not exclusively the property of Muslims, and that Christians also do violence in the name of God as well.

A few days back Pope Francis entered into this debate during one of his off-the-cuff airplane interviews, in which he shared his opinion that, “It’s war, we don’t have to be afraid to say this… a war of interests, for money, resources. … I am not speaking of a war of religions. Religions don’t want war. The others want war.”

Not all agree with this position, including the folks at war with us. A few days later ISIS issued a statement in their propaganda magazine ‘Dabiq,’ saying: “This is a divinely-warranted war between the Muslim nation and the nations of disbelief…Indeed, waging jihad – spreading the rule of Allah by the sword – is an obligation found in the Koran, the word of our Lord… The fact is, even if you were to stop bombing us… we would continue to hate you because our primary reason for hating you will not cease to exist until you embrace Islam.”

In the 16th century millions of Catholics decided to protest and deny certain fundamental teachings of the Catholic Church, including the Eucharist, the authority of the Pope, salvation by faith and works, authority of Sacred Tradition, etc. In response many faithful Catholics said that these “Protestants” were no longer Christians. Over time the Catholic Church has officially recognized that although they have some egregious misunderstandings of the fullness of the truth, they still follow Jesus as their God and Savior, and are validly baptized, and so are still Christian.

Today, millions of Muslims around the world hold that the killing of innocents is called for by their religion. Who are we non-Muslims in the West to presume to have the authority to claim that they are not Muslim, or that what they do is not based on their religion, when they believe it is? Even other Muslims don’t have that authority. They may say these terrorist/jihadi-Muslims (commonly called “Islamists” vs. simply “Muslims”) are wrong-headed or heretical or Muslims, but who can really say they are not “Muslim,” any more than a Muslim or a Catholic can say a Protestant is not a Christian, or vice versa.

And even if it were possible to say they were so out of touch with the central teachings of Islam that they were in fact not Muslim, could anyone say that the set of beliefs which they believe to be divinely revealed do not constitute a “religion”—call it, if you will, Islamism, or Jihadism? Protestants and Catholics both agree that Mormons are not Christians because they deny (among other things) the Unity of Divine Trinity, but we still acknowledge Mormonism as a religion. Even more to the point, all Christians would agree that Muslims are not Christian, but we would never say that Islam not a religion.

So it seems to me that the religion of Islamist-Muslims (or “Islamists”), believes that God requires them to wage war against those who do not hold their same beliefs (even other Muslims), and are engaging in a religious war, or war of religion. Theirs is not a religion of peace, but of war against “infidels.” Maybe we are not fighting for religious reasons, but they are.

(By the way, I know of no existing Christian sect or group which systematically espouses a similar notion of God’s will commanding the death of unbelievers. So I don’t think it’s accurate to compare other religions’ teachings or behaviors with this aspect of Islamism).

I realize that I seem to be disagreeing with Pope Francis. But remember, we are free to disagree with him on matters of prudential judgment, especially when they are not directly related to defined doctrines of faith and morals, and when he speaks about them in non-authoritative/official ways (i.e., in off-the-cuff airplane interviews). We must always respectfully consider his perspective, but we are free to disagree. God bless the Pope!


The Assumption. This Monday, August 15, is the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Since it falls on Monday this year, it is NOT a Holy Day of Obligation—you DO NOT have to go to Mass. Even so, why wouldn’t you want to go to Mass on this great feast?  So we’ll still have a special schedule of Masses on Monday: 6:30am, 8:00am, 12:00 noon and 7pm.


Oremus pro invicem. Fr. De Celles