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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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Alphonsus Rodriguez: Tragedy and challenge beset today’s saint early in life, but Alphonsus Rodriguez found happiness and contentment through simple service and prayer. 
<p>Born in Spain in 1533, Alphonsus inherited the family textile business at 23. Within the space of three years, his wife, daughter and mother died; meanwhile, business was poor. Alphonsus stepped back and reassessed his life. He sold the business and, with his young son, moved into his sisters’ home. There he learned the discipline of prayer and meditation. </p><p>Years later, at the death of his son, Alphonsus, almost 40 by then, sought to join the Jesuits. He was not helped by his poor education. He applied twice before being admitted. For 45 years he served as doorkeeper at the Jesuits’ college in Majorca. When not at his post, he was almost always at prayer, though he often encountered difficulties and temptations. </p><p>His holiness and prayerfulness attracted many to him, including St. Peter Claver, then a Jesuit seminarian. Alphonsus’s life as doorkeeper may have been humdrum, but he caught the attention of poet and fellow-Jesuit Gerard Manley Hopkins, who made him the subject of one of his poems. </p><p>Alphonsus died in 1617. He is the patron saint of Majorca.</p> American Catholic Blog People mess up, and it’s especially hard to watch as our children and other young people go down paths we know are likely to lead to heartbreak. Providing gentle guidance when it’s needed, and love even when that guidance isn’t followed, helps them to start fresh.

 
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