"Love follows knowledge."
"Beauty above all beauty!"
– St. Catherine of Siena

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Ash Wednesday: 21 Christian Martyrs and Pope Francis’ Finest Hour

I assume every human being at this point has heard about how ISIS has cut the throats of 21 Coptic Christians in Libya.  What is particularly shocking is that these poor men had nothing to do with the war.  They were in Libya strictly as laborers trying to earn something for their families.  They did nothing other than just be Christians.

Pope Francis had a magnificent statement in response, worthy of highlight:  

“They were killed simply for the fact they were Christians,” Pope Francis said.

“The blood of our Christian brothers and sisters is a testimony which cries out to be heard,” said the Pope. It makes no difference whether they be Catholics, Orthodox, Copts or Protestants. They are Christians! Their blood is one and the same. Their blood confesses Christ.''

This was the Holy Father’s finest hour.  It brought me to tears today.  And today these savages have burned alive a number of recent captives.  The news isn’t clear on the specifics of that yet, but I think the numbers will be shocking.  They seem to be raising the ante, killing more and doing it by more horrific means.  If unchecked this will surely lead to genocide.  I’ve never seen western countries, especially my own, be so impotent.  Unless we take aggressive action, this is not going to turn out well and the consequences may be of catastrophic proportions.

On Ash Wednesday we need to pray for the lost souls, pray for peace, and pray that western governments realize what this is leading to and change the floundering and ineffectual course we’re on.  Perhaps I am not worthy of the Holy Father or of Christ Himself by saying this, but we need to do more than prayer.  We need to fight these people, if you can call them people, and frankly the only way to stop them is to kill them.  Evil must be stopped.

Two years ago I presented T. S. Eliot’s poem, “Ash Wednesday,” to commemorate this day.  Then I posted my favorite section, Part II of the poem.  This year I’ll post Part III, a mysterious section of Eliot looking at his sinful self.


At the first turning of the second stair
I turned and saw below
The same shape twisted on the banister
Under the vapour in the fetid air
Struggling with the devil of the stairs who wears
The deceitul face of hope and of despair.

At the second turning of the second stair
I left them twisting, turning below;
There were no more faces and the stair was dark,
Damp, jaggèd, like an old man's mouth drivelling, beyond
Or the toothed gullet of an agèd shark.

At the first turning of the third stair
Was a slotted window bellied like the figs's fruit
And beyond the hawthorn blossom and a pasture scene
The broadbacked figure drest in blue and green
Enchanted the maytime with an antique flute.
Blown hair is sweet, brown hair over the mouth blown,
Lilac and brown hair;
Distraction, music of the flute, stops and steps of the mind
over the third stair,
Fading, fading; strength beyond hope and despair
Climbing the third stair.

Lord, I am not worthy
Lord, I am not worthy

The stair case I believe is an allusion to Dante’s Purgatorio.  The person the narrator is looking down is himself!, “the same shape twisted on the banister.”  That man is me today, outraged and wishing hell for a lot of people.  Lord, I am not worthy.


  1. Hell in a handbasket or any other conveyance seems to be where the world is heading. You are right that we should be praying our heads off. Perhaps this Lent our sacrifices can be offered for this incredible horror.

  2. What Kelly said. We decided to offer our daily family lenten rosary for just that. And you're right Manny.