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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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Benedict Joseph Labre: Benedict Joseph Labre was truly eccentric, one of God's special little ones. Born in France and the eldest of 18 children, he studied under his uncle, a parish priest. Because of poor health and a lack of suitable academic preparation he was unsuccessful in his attempts to enter the religious life. Then, at 16 years of age, a profound change took place. Benedict lost his desire to study and gave up all thoughts of the priesthood, much to the consternation of his relatives. 
<p>He became a pilgrim, traveling from one great shrine to another, living off alms. He wore the rags of a beggar and shared his food with the poor. Filled with the love of God and neighbor, Benedict had special devotion to the Blessed Mother and to the Blessed Sacrament. In Rome, where he lived in the Colosseum for a time, he was called "the poor man of the Forty Hours Devotion" and "the beggar of Rome." The people accepted his ragged appearance better than he did. His excuse to himself was that "our comfort is not in this world." </p><p>On the last day of his life, April 16, 1783, Benedict Joseph dragged himself to a church in Rome and prayed there for two hours before he collapsed, dying peacefully in a nearby house. Immediately after his death the people proclaimed him a saint. </p><p>He was officially proclaimed a saint by Pope Leo XIII at canonization ceremonies in 1883.</p> American Catholic Blog Today offers limitless possibilities for holiness. Lean into His grace. The only thing keeping us from sainthood is ourselves.

 
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