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Prophet of Peace: Elias Chacour View Comments
By John Feister

“My peace is my gift to you,” Jesus said to his followers. But this Easter the land where Jesus once walked, the land of today’s Israelis and Palestinians, is anything but peaceful. In this exclusive St. Anthony Messenger interview, we talk with Archbishop Elias Chacour, whose archeparchy (archdiocese) in northern Israel includes the land of Galilee, where he grew up. Archbishop Chacour was at the University of Dayton in Ohio last year to attend a graduation of family members and to receive an honorary degree for creating the first Arab university in Israel. Now 73, he remains a busy man! He had just flown from across the world and would be returning in just two days to attend a dinner with the president of Israel.

Chacour’s painful childhood story is documented in several books he has written, which have been translated into 20-plus languages. His most famous is Blood Brothers. We started our interview with a bit of that personal story, because it is such a key to his life’s work as a peacemaker. He tells about his youth passionately, in painful tones. As he continues, though, settling into a friendly, unassuming style, it is clear why he has been nominated three times, in the 1980s and ’90s, to receive the Nobel Peace Prize. Once a remarkable parish priest who built a pioneering, inter-ethnic school system against all odds (see Page 16), he was named to lead the church in his region, as archbishop, in 2005.

Q: I know that Biram, near Nazareth, is the village of your youth, one of the many villages from which Palestinians were expelled after World War II. What happened there?

A: Where I was born was a village in North Galilee, a Christian village. All the inhabitants were Christians and Catholics. In 1948 we were deported, evicted from our homes by the military and promised that we would be out for only two weeks. But the two weeks did not end; now it’s 64 years later. We were reduced to refugees in our own country, to deportees in our region. We took refuge in a nearby village
where some houses had been emptied. And we lived there, waiting for the time to return. And the time did not come. We wonder if it will ever come.

Q: So it’s not a dead issue to you, all these years later?

A: It will never be a dead issue, as long as we are living! And those who ought to understand our position most are the Jews. They say, “We were here 2,000 years ago; we are returning.” We say, “We have been here that 2,000 years, but 64 years ago, we were deported by violence and we will return.”

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John Feister is editor-in-chief of this publication. He has master’s degrees in humanities and in theology from Xavier University, Cincinnati.

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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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