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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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Joseph Benedict Cottolengo: In some ways Joseph exemplified St. Francis’ advice, "Let us begin to serve the Lord God, for up to now we have made little or no progress" (<i>1 Celano, </i>#103). 
<p>Joseph was the eldest of 12 children. Born in Piedmont, he was ordained for the Diocese of Turin in 1811. Frail health and difficulty in school were obstacles he overcame to reach ordination. </p><p>During Joseph’s lifetime Italy was torn by civil war while the poor and the sick suffered from neglect. Inspired by reading the life of St. Vincent de Paul and moved by the human suffering all around him, Joseph rented some rooms to nurse the sick of his parish and recruited local young women to serve as staff. </p><p>In 1832 at Voldocco, Joseph founded the House of Providence which served many different groups (the sick, the elderly, students, the mentally ill, the blind). All of this was financed by contributions. Popularly called "the University of Charity," this testimonial to God’s goodness was serving 8,000 people by the time of Joseph’s beatification in 1917. </p><p>To carry on his work, Joseph organized two religious communities, the Brothers of St. Vincent de Paul and the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul. Joseph, who had joined the Secular Franciscans as a young man, was canonized in 1934.</p> American Catholic Blog The image of God! This is what it means to be human! We are not just a bunch of cells randomly thrown together by some impersonal forces. Rather, we reflect an eternal God who knew us from before we were made and purposely called us into being.

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