Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Catholic awareness

On Holy Saturday evening, the Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI baptized into the faith Madgi Allam. Allam is a deputy editor of “Corriere della Sera” (“Evening Courier”), Italy’s largest-circulation newspaper, which is based in Milan and takes a center-right political stance.Allam, 55, was born in Egypt and writes on Islam and on Arab politics and culture. He has been a supporter of Israel, has condemned Muslim fanatics, and has defended the Pope’s Regensburg speech. After Allam criticized Palestinian suicide bombings in 2003, threats were made on his life, and the Italian government provided him with a police guard, which he still has. He will need it all the more now that he has renounced Islam and become a Catholic. Allam had been a nominal Muslim. He did not perform the customary five-times-a-day prayers facing Mecca, and he did not undertake the Ramadan fast. (above courtesy of Karl Keating)
On Easter Sunday “Corriere della Sera” published Allam’s open letter to the editor. Addressed to Paolo Mieli, the letter is a moving proclamation of faith. Let me quote a few passages from it.
Allam said, “Yesterday evening I converted to the Catholic Christian religion, renouncing my previous Islamic faith. I finally saw the light, through divine grace, the healthy and ripe fruit of a long gestation lived in suffering and in joy ...

“I am particularly grateful to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI, who has imparted to me the sacraments of initiation--baptism, confirmation, and Eucharist--in the Basilica of St. Peter in the course of the solemn celebration of the Easter vigil.”
Then the new convert showed that he had no intention of playing down his adherence to his new faith. Referring to his baptismal name, he wrote:

“I have assumed the most simple and explicit Christian name: ‘Christian.’ Since yesterday, therefore, my name is ‘Magdi Christian Allam.’” He continued this way:
“For me [this is] the most beautiful day of my life. To acquire the gift of the Christian faith on the memorial of the Resurrection of Christ from the hand of the Holy Father is, for a believer, an incomparable privilege and an inestimable good. ...
“[This is the] authentic religion of Truth, of Life, and of Liberty. In my first Easter as a Christian I not only have discovered Jesus but have discovered for the first time the true and unique God, who is the God of Faith and Reason.”
What Allam says is truly beautiful. His heroic witness to the faith is also something which is inspirational. He talks in his letter about his almost certain death sentence from his own community because of his conversion to Catholicism saying:
“I will face my fate with head high, with back straight, and with interior sureness of one who has the certainty of his faith.”
How many Catholics in this country appreciate this or even acknowledge the fact that conversion to Catholicism actually makes a personal demand on us, and for some that demand is the complete sacrifice of our lives. Jesus isn't some nice man in the clouds waiting with his raindbow stole and his wooden cup.
The lamb, who died and gave Himself for us is the One, True God of Faith and Reason. If Jesus died for our sins, then why would he not want us to change our lives and turn away from sin as some members of the Church suggest? In that case would the cross be necessary?
What Allam has done has not only been shocking to his community and to the world, it should be a spiritual shock to us too. We need to start asking what demands God is making of us and be prepared to face that demand with that simple and herioc faith that Allam is showing. Back Straight, head held high and the and interior sureness of one who has the certainty of faith.

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