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Introduction View Comments
By John Feister

Ten years after the horrific 9/11 attacks on the United States, we are left with many questions. Yes, there are questions of national security, of protecting our borders, of removing terrorism’s roots abroad. But perhaps the biggest long-term question for most Americans is, who are Muslims

Reactions to the terrorist attacks revealed a huge gap in our national mentality—we know almost nothing about Islam, one of the great world religions. When we heard the Muslim origins of the terrorists, and when we learned especially of their distorted, religion clad hatred for the Christian (and Jewish) West, we quickly overgeneralized.

Our ignorance of the growing presence of Islam in the United States became clear: Many of us equated Islam with terrorism. Here, in a nation founded on religious freedom, intolerance of people who hold religious beliefs new to many of us reared its ugly head.

As this month’s anniversary approached, we at St. Anthony Messenger began to ask ourselves what we, a Franciscan, Catholic publication, could contribute to greater understanding. You’re reading the product of our labors over many months. I promise you a rich serving of both inspiration and practical information—and perhaps a bit of a challenge as well.

In this issue you’ll find stories of cooperation among Christians and Muslims in U.S. communities. You’ll find here a primer on Islam and revisit the famous story of St. Francis of Assisi’s encounter with Islam in the 13th century. You’ll hear of Eboo Patel, a Muslim advocate for interfaith understanding, and of Deacon George Dardess’s path to the Catholic diaconate through Muslim friends. You’ll read how some people from different walks of life were changed forever by 9/11. We review some books about Islam for your further reading and offer an editorial nudging all of us beyond simplemindedness.

The bottom line: Let’s engage in conversation about Islam! Let’s overcome fear and prejudice about our brothers and sisters in faith. In doing so we follow St. Francis, who stands with open arms to all peoples, to all creation, holding forth God’s blessing.





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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog Heavenly Father, I am sure there are frequently tiny miracles where you protect us and are present to us although you always remain anonymous. Help me appreciate how carefully you watch over me and my loved ones all day long, and be sensitive enough to stay close to you. I ask this in Jesus's name. Amen.

 
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