Originally, when Our Chancellor, Sir John Piunno, asked me to make this presentation, I had planned to present a series of slides taking you through the holy places in Jerusalem, Israel and Palestine, but unhappily, 11 September changed my mind, I have therefore changed my topic. Today I wish to create for you two comprehensive pictures. The first picture will be concerned with the people and places of the Holy Land and some statistics about the issues there.
In my second picture, I am going to look at the history of the Crusade because, as you have probably heard following the events of 11 September, the Muslims of the Middle East and elsewhere take great exception to the word “Crusade.” This weekend we are going to be immersed in the values and traditions of those Crusades, so it only is fitting that we look at the Crusades realistically and truthfully to evaluate exactly what they mean, especially in light of what happened on 11 September.
I am a citizen of the City of New York. I was born there. From the window of my office on the 15th floor of the Catholic Center, I used to look at the World Trade Center and the TV towers that crowned it. As you well know, they are gone. Their destruction was fueled by an ideology that was born in the land we call “holy” and complicated by the problems and conflicts there. So today, we are going to look at that land we call “holy” against the background of 11 September.
In the State of Israel, there are 4.9 million Jews, 936,000 Muslims, 133,000 Christians, 101,000 Druze, and about 152,000 others, resulting in a total population of 6.2 million people. Ironically, the Christian population of 133,000 constitutes only 2.1 percent of the total population of Israel. If you figure out the percentage of population of the 6 million or so Jews in the United States, which has a total population of 280 million, guess what figure you get? 2.1 percent. I find this a very interesting twist. However, the influence of the Palestinian Christians in Israel does not compare to that of the Jewish community in this country. Yet, they constitute exactly the same percentage in Israel as Jews constitute in the population of the United States. Within the West Bank and Gaza there are roughly 2.9 million people, giving us a total for the entire region of 9.1 million people, only approximately 175,000 of whom are Christians.
My fellow Knights and Ladies and Investees, Jerusalem is our hometown. The only religion ever born in Jerusalem and Bethlehem is Christianity. When you read the Gospels, you get the impression that Bethlehem and Jerusalem are far apart. They are not. You can walk down the hill from Jerusalem to Bethlehem. The only religion that has come from this region is Christianity. Islam came from Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Abraham, the father of the One God of Judaism, came from a place called the Ur of Chaldea. Chaldea is in modern Iraq. Abraham was an Iraqi by modern-day boundaries. At God’s command Abram, later Abraham, came from Chaldea to Hebron, a village about 32 km south of Jerusalem. To this day, his tomb and the tomb of Isaac and Jacob are in the cave of Machpelah, which is now a mosque and a synagogue. If you look verycarefully at the roof of the mosque, you will discover that originally the mosque was a Crusader church. The Crusaders had built a church over that site at the time of the Crusades; the church was taken from us and is now used as a mosque and synagogue.
Here we are with people moving and names changing. Earlier I talked to you about the Assyrians and the Babylonians. Well, they are modern-day Iraqis. I talked about the Hittites and the Phoenicians. They are now the Syrians and the Lebanese. The Persians are now the Iranians. Names change all the time. We tend to think everything else changed, too. If you read the Bible, however, you realize the battles taking place in the Holy Land today were taking place 3,000 years ago. We changed the names of the people and places that is all. We still face the same problems.
Now my second picture has to do with the Crusades. To make life a little simpler for everyone, I have put next to events in the Holy Land some of the events taking place in the larger world at that time, to give you some reference to who was doing what to whom, and at when it was all happening.
Important to us, of course, is the preaching of Mohammed and the Arab conquests that followed the death of Mohammed. Also important is the Great Schism of 1054, when the Christian church split into the Church of the East, Byzantium, and the Church of Rome in the West. We have here Alexander Comnenus appealing to the pope, Pope Urban II. Pope Urban was not only the ruler of the church but also the civil ruler of Europe. He was asked by the Emperor of Byzantium to deal with the Turks. Pope Urban was a very astute man. In 1187 he had established peace in Europe. He had established the Truce of God and the Peace of God. Warfare in Europe was pretty well controlled. You couldn’t do battle on certain days. You couldn’t attack the church. Youcouldn’t do this and you couldn’t do that.
The pope had worked everything out very nicely, but he was left with an excess of military energy in Europe. His warrior barons, his military families, had nothing to do because he had circumscribed their activity by means of the Truce of God and the Peace of God. So when Alexander came along, Urban thought it would be a great idea to use the military force of Europe to conquer the Turks. “We will recapture Jerusalem!” was his rallying cry. We will take it back and make it safe for pilgrims. We will take back that which has been taken from us.”
The first Crusade preached by Peter the Hermit was an unmitigated disaster. It ended in Asia Minor in a place called Nicea because the Crusaders were ill equipped to handle the military strength of the Turks. However, Godfrey of Bouillon and Raymond of St. Giles, professional soldiers from military families, continued their march through Constantinople and Asia Minor. On 15 July 1099, Godfrey recaptured the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Urban had achieved his goal, but he died in 1099. Godfrey was now in charge of Jerusalem; the Muslims no longer held it. However, I have to admit that thisblessing was not unmixed.
Extreme actions within the corps of Crusaders had led to atrocities against both Jews and Muslims; those atrocities have not been forgotten. When you talk to someone from the Middle East today and you use the word Crusade, a red flag goes up. In the East, people still think of “the Crusades” as having happened last week. When we attacked Iraq, they said “Oh, there go those crazy Western Christians. They’re having another Crusade against the East.” This is their view and perhaps it might help us understand why we sometimes encounter hatred that is difficult to explain.
Sad to say, the level of violence that accompanied the Crusaders in Jerusalem was to plague them in the future. However, historical evidence does indicate clearly that the Crusaders were responding to obscenities directed against the relic of the True Cross as well as sites held sacred by Christians.
Not wishing to be made king of Jerusalem, Godfrey asked to be appointed as advocate of the Holy Sepulchre. He was a very austere, humble man. He slept on a straw mat. He ate sparingly. He believed Christ was the only king of Jerusalem.
Lest the victories of the Crusaders be considered a great military achievement, I must honestly point out that the local Muslim fiefdoms were in total disarray when the Crusaders arrived. There was no strong Muslim leadership and internecine warfare prevailed. Some of the Muslims were Arabs and some Turks, the Turks having come from Central Asia. They did not like one another. Often Christians would ally with one against the other because there was so much internecine hatred in that place at that time. The Crusaders’ first victories were more often over small, disassociated groups rather than the massed armies that later characterized Islam in that part of the world and confronted the Crusader kingdom of Jerusalem.
In 1100, Godfrey died and Baldwin Le Bourg became Baldwin I of Jerusalem. He did take the title of king. Around the same time, St. Bernard of Clairvaux was founding his abbey; later on he became integrally involved in the Crusader movement. Baldwin was very capable, and he led several Crusader expeditions. He succeeded in increasing the land holdings of the kingdom by going to war with Egypt. You will notice that a French strain was becoming associated with Jerusalem; eventually the kingdom of Jerusalem became known as the Frankish kingdom. To this day, “the Franks” is the name used by the local population in speaking of Christians.
In 1123 Baldwin was taken captive and held as a hostage. It is important that those of us in the West understand the concept of hostage. Ransom was very prevalent in the Middle East at the time. If you were not ransomed, you could be sold as a slave. A dead king had no value, but a live one was priceless. Hostage-taking is still a favorite political mechanism in the Middle East. Think about the events in Lebanon a few years ago when hostages were taken. We should not be surprised because this outlook goes back to the time of the Crusaders when kings and soldiers were taken hostage to be sold into slavery or ransomed. Ultimately Baldwin was ransomed.
On the horizon there was danger and that danger was Zengi, the Atabeg of Mosul, modern-day Iraq. He began to realize that Muslims had to come together. They could not remain individual fiefdoms. He had to bring them together to form a Muslim force to fight the Frankish Christians. In 1127, the Atabeg, leader of Mosul, captured Aleppo. He began to pull the factions of the Muslim world together under his leadership. Sala A-din, the man we call Saladin eventually came to the fore.
Baldwin died in 1131 and was succeeded by Fulk of Anjou. Fulk of Anjou became king because Baldwin II had arranged an advantageous marriage. Throughout the Crusader kingdom successful intermarriage helped preserve the peace, the land and the power, as well as the money. Fulk of Anjou became King of Jerusalem as a result of his marriage to Melisende, who was heiress to the throne. Many of the Crusaders were the second and third children of their fathers, who would not inherit fiefs in Europe, so their goal was to establish their own fief in the Holy Land. As a result, there were fiefdoms inTripoli, in Edessa, in all the cities along the coast. Meanwhile Zengi was building up central power.
The Crusaders were busily involved with the line of succession. In Europe, the succession of popes during this period was rather frenetic. They came in twos: Innocent II, Honorius II, Calixtus II. It took some time to get to the fours. I think it was Innocent the Fourth.
In all honesty I must admit that not all Crusaders fought for the cross. This sad truth would prove eventually to become a problem, because the Crusaders began fighting among themselves to preserve their property in the Holy Land.
In 1134 both Fulk and John Comnenus, Emperor of Byzantium, died, one in April, the other in November. The pope, too, died and was followed by Pope Celestine II. Eugenius III broke the sequence of twos. In the meantime – and this was an extraordinarily significant happening in the Holy Land – Zengi captured the Christian City of Edessa in modern Turkey. Well that was akin to capturing Rome. You know what happened immediately – a new Crusade. Christians had to win back Edessa. Zengi, that “crazy Muslim,” took the city from us; we had to get it back. As the new Crusade progressed, Zengi died. He was followed by his son, Nur-ed Din, who inherited his throne in Aleppo.
Meanwhile St. Bernard was traveling around Europe preaching the Crusade and trying to convince Louis VII of France and Conrad of Germany to take the cross. They agreed to do so.
They were now off to the Holy Land, but the part of the Holy Land they were interested in was not Jerusalem but the region north of Jerusalem. Melisende was still the regent in Jerusalem, which was occupied and controlled by the Christians. They planned to fight in what would be modern-day Lebanon and Syria but bogged down in Asia Minor (Turkey).
Melisende’s regency ended when Baldwin III came to the throne. He proved to be a very able warrior and diplomat. In 1158 he married Theodora, the sister of Manuel Comnenus, the Emperor of Byzantium. Thus an alliance was crafted between Byzantium, Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the Crusader Kingdom in the Holy Land. Meanwhile, Nur-ed Din was busily fighting sometimes his own people and sometimes the Crusaders. His main interests were land and control, but control was pre-eminent. We now had Baldwin III on the throne and an alliance between Byzantium and Jerusalem, but in 1162 Baldwin III died.
At this point I have to introduce a name that became very important, Reynauld of Châtillon. He was a wild man of the West, hated by his fellow Crusaders. Reynauld was a scoundrel. We will see later on he was imprisoned by the Muslims, held as hostage and released for a ransom. Reynauld married very favorably to become the kerak of Moab, thus gaining control of the lower part of the Negev Desert, where he raided passing caravans. These activities so annoyed Saladin that he chopped Reynauld’s head off when he caught him in 1187. Reynauld was put in prison by Nur-ed Din. Baldwin III died and was succeeded by Amalric.
In the meantime, back in Europe there were problems in the church because Frederick Barbarossa was at war with the papacy. The pope fled to France. My friends, those were not stable times. We think we have problems. Our current problems in the region mirror those of the Crusaders. The more things change, the more they remain the same.
In 1169, Saladin, who was a Kurd, not an Arab, rose to power. He was a general of Nur-ed Din. He was sent to Egypt to try to control the Caliphate of Egypt under the Fatamids. They were Shiites, not Sunni Muslims, but they were very decadent. All of a sudden, as a result of his assignment, this general became the master of Egypt bydefeating the Egyptians in battle.
In 1171, Saladin returned Egypt to the Sunni fold. Many of the great Muslim universities such as Al-Azhar in Egypt were actually founded by the Shiites, who are now primarily in Iran. In 1171 they were driven out of Egypt and control returned to the Sunni who today constitute the majority of the world’s Muslims (some 90 percent).
Meanwhile over here other things were happening: In Europe Thomas à Becket was assassinated in 1170. Then in 1173, there was a break between Nur-ed Din and Saladin.
Happily for Nur-ed Din, he died before he was attacked by Saladin. Two months later Amalric also died.
We had a new king in Jerusalem, Baldwin IV. Interestingly, he was born a leper and so is called the leper king. He acceded to the throne of Jerusalem at the age of 13. Alas, as a leper he was destined to die in 1185 at the age of 26.
Interestingly, he proved to be a very good warrior, but, more importantly in later life he was a skilled diplomat, busily arranging marriages to preserve the kingdom because he knew he would have no heirs. Therefore, his main concern was the preservation of the City of Jerusalem under Christian control and the Kingdom of the Crusaders. Baldwin brokered several truces with Saladin, who never defeated him even when, in later life, he was carried around in a special chair because his arms and legs had totally disintegrated and his aides burned incense around him because of the odor created by his body. He was an esteemed military leader even when his body had totally collapsed. He arranged a truce with Saladin to maintain the strength of the Crusader Kingdom. In 1185, when he died, the boy Baldwin V became king under the Regency of Raymond who was Count of Tripoli.
Intrigue in the Crusader Kingdom and the death of Baldwin V only one year later led to the coronation of Guy of Lusignan, king of Jerusalem, as the result of an arranged marriage. But on the 4th of July in 1187 something happened that was horrendous to the Crusaders and the Holy Sepulchre. It was the Battle of Hattin – a misadventure from the very beginning led by our friend Reynauld of Châtillon. He went up to the top of a hill with no water supply in July, the hottest month of the year. The Crusaders waited there in metal armor to attack the next morning – when Saladin chopped them to pieces. Of course, as soon as Saladin had captured Reynauld of Châtillon, as I mentioned earlier, he chopped his head off. Duplicitous in his dealings with his fellow knights, he was not mourned by them at all. From Hattin the angered Saladin marched through the Galilee to Jerusalem, which he captured on 2 October. The City of Jerusalem which was never again to be the capital of the Crusader Kingdom, which kingdom was now limited to the coastal regions of Israel and modern-day Lebanon with Acre as its capital.
As these events were taking place in the Holy Land, the reaction in Europe was what you would expect. We were going to have a new Crusade, we had just lost Jerusalem, get with it!
Meanwhile Genghis Khan was unifying forces in Mongolia and Frederick Barbarossa, a German, decided that he now wanted to join the French and the English. He took his crusade into the northern country of Syria. He was also a skilled Arabist who spoke the language and was learned in matters Islamic. Some of his fellow Crusaders mistrusted him because of this.
As all of these events took place, a new Crusade was being preached in the West. Henry II of England and Philip II of France, who also became known as Philip Augustus, reconciled their differences in order to take the cross and reconquer Jerusalem. In 1189 Frederick Barbarossa joined their Crusade. To this mix was added Richard the Lion Hearted who, in order to obtain resources to support his part of the Crusade, sacked Cyprus, a largely Christian area, in 1191. So here we are with these famous names of history – Barbarossa, Richard the Lion Hearted. What did Richard do? He went off and attacked the Christian community in Cyprus in order to gain the wealth necessary to support the army he was supposedly leading to Jerusalem. Alas, Richard marched on Jerusalem in 1191, but things were not going well at home. He made a deal with Saladin to allow pilgrim access to the Holy City and returned to England in order to resolve his political problems there. On his way back to England, he insulted Archduke Leopold V of a fief in Germany that is now in Austria. Richard was imprisoned in a place called Durnstein. Interestingly about a week and a half ago I was in Austria, in Durnstein, where Richard the Lion Hearted had been imprisoned. A huge ransom, tons and tons of gold, was paid by England to get Richard free from Leopold. The reason I mention this little sidelight is that we Christians are not always understanding of one another. Here’s a king coming back from a Crusade in the Holy Land. He insults Leopold. What does Leopold do? He slaps him in prison and demands a ransom. A very, very difficult time in history.
Saladin died in 1193 and, thanks be to God, his heirs argued for the next eight years, so there was a little bit of an opening here for the Crusaders. The Frankish Kingdomstruggled on and in 1199 a Fourth Crusade was preached. Meanwhile Richard died and John Lackland became the leader of England.
Now the most tragic of all the Crusades began. The Fourth Crusade, conceived to free Jerusalem, ended up a hideous misadventure in Constantinople. The Christian West raped, pillaged, and stole from the Christian East in 1204. As a matter of fact, on 4 May of this year, as a pilgrim to Athens, Pope John Paul II spoke about the sack of Constantinople when he publicly asked God’s forgiveness for the times when the sons and daughters of the Catholic Church had sinned against their Orthodox brothers and sisters. Sad to say, still another Crusade was preached and initiated in 1209, since by this time crusading had become very popular. This Crusade was fought in Europe against the Albigensians, Christians against Christian heretics.
Then there was the Children’s Crusade, sad to say, was the most pathetic of all the Crusades because its victims were children, victims of Muslim arms, weapons and whatever else they were using. It was a tragedy to lead those children into such a morass. A dismal failure and a tragic use of humanity, the Children’s Crusade was an unmitigated disaster.
In 1215 the Fourth Lateran Council intervened and the Magna Carta was promulgated. The Fourth Lateran Council was very interesting because one of its proclamations was that the crossbow was a weapon that was out of proportion and therefore could not be used. You say the crossbow, a weapon out of proportion? Yes. Soldiers had gone from steel plate and armor to chain mail armor. With the high-speed velocity of a crossbow’s projectile, one could pierce the chain mail and kill the man inside. It wouldn’t bounce off the way a regular arrow would bounce off armor plate. Why did the council even talk about chain mail? Because most of the people wearing chain mail were stationed on the parapets of castles. They were warrior bishops. They did not want crossbows used against them because their chain mail armor made them vulnerable. Therefore, the council declared the crossbow to be a weapon out of due proportionality under the criteria for a just war.
A new pope came in. If you were a new pope, what would you do at this time? Have a new crusade. That’s the way it went, my friends, at this period of papal history and rule over parts of Europe.
Pope Honorius III proclaimed the Fifth Crusade led by Cardinal Pelagius, a warrior bishop. The Crusades ended disastrously at a place named Mansourah in Egypt. In 1229Frederick, the Emperor of Germany, had obtained a treaty ceding Jerusalem to him not for the Crusaders but for the kingdom of Germany. This treaty provided safe access to the holy places for the pilgrims, but in 1244 Jerusalem was again lost to the Turks.
A new leader arose, Louis IX of France. He failed in his efforts to re-conquer the holy places due to the actions of his brother, Charles of Anjou, who had become master of Italy during a papal interregnum. Charles diverted Louis to Tunis in North Africa to engage Charles’ enemy, the Emir of Tunis. As a result, Louis’ troops were ravaged by disease in 1270 in Tunis. He himself died of disease and was carried back to St. Denis in France. The fate of Jerusalem was sealed. St. Louis, as he later became known, was a Defender of the Faith, but he lost his life before he even got to Jerusalem. Twenty-one years later, in 1291, nearly 200 years after the preaching of the First Crusade, the last of the Frankish Crusader strongholds fell to the Mamelukes of Egypt. The Crusader kingdom was no more.
Sadly, greed for land, power and wealth had caused some of the Crusaders to forget their allegiance to the cross and the Holy Sepulchre. The turmoil in the Holy Land and in Europe and the manipulation of bloodlines to control power, wealth and money were certainly not in accord with the teaching of the Gospel, nor were they in accord with the strictures and code of chivalry that we embrace this weekend. Sadly, even Eastern Christians, misunderstood by the Latin or Roman Christians, were often the objects of Crusader violence and zeal.
Earlier I mentioned that I was building two comprehensive pictures. The first comprised the people of the Holy Land, the statistics, and I want to talk for a few moments about 11 September and its meaning for us today.
Regarding the second comprehensive picture, I will talk very briefly about our responsibilities as Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. Essentially, as Knights and Ladies, we are to exemplify a code of chivalry espoused by those who genuinely took the cross to demonstrate their zeal for the Tomb of Christ, the place of Christ’s Resurrection, and the glory it deserves.
Into the first picture, that of the land and the people, I will put the 11 September 2001 events in New York and Washington, D.C.
Some years ago a historian named Barbara Tuchman wrote an interesting book entitled The March of Folly. In it she offered the hypothesis that it is folly when a government pursues policies clearly contrary to the government’s self interest despite the fact that there are alternatives available and despite the fact that the governments’ leaders know there are other courses of action. To illustrate this hypothesis she selected what she called four tragic moments of history. One of them, somewhat a model for the others, was the Trojan War, which we read about in the Iliad, and the famous Trojan horse. Many on the ground in Troy said, “It is madness to open the gates of Troy and allow this horse to come in because it has to be a ruse by the Greeks.” Of course, we know that ancient story so well; it was a ruse. There were voices, even in the Iliad, who said, “Don’t do it. It’s not good for us; it’s too dangerous for us,” but the people did it anyway.
Her second selection was that of the Renaissance papacy, in which, so to speak, the pope fiddled while Rome burned – at the painful division of the Western Church, the loss of the Protestants, the fragmentation of Christianity in the West. The Renaissance popes, while creating wonderful monuments in Rome such as St. Peter’s Basilica, led scandalous personal lives. Their indifference to events in Northern Europe was so great that ultimately the church was split, that split remains to this day. They knew what was going on; they could have chosen a different course of action; they did not and that was folly.
The third folly identified by Tuchman was the loss of the American colonies under King George the Third. Her analysis is a fascinating description of what was going on in England at that time as well as what was happening in the colonies and among the ministers of government. People knew what was happening. They were aware of the social pressures and they knew the popular sentiment in the colonies.
Nevertheless, they pursued a policy of national self-interest that ultimately prevented the Empire from maintaining control of the colonies.
Her final example was the military incursion of the United States in Vietnam. The U.S. walked in on the heels of the French. The U.S. went into the same morass that the French had abandoned. To this day this topic is widely discussed in our country as scholars attempt to determine the exact nature of our folly.
On 11 September 2001, a terrorist group literally hijacked Western technology, a technology they loudly condemned, and used commercial airliners loaded with fuel as weapons. We in the West had never designed these planes to be used in war, but in the eyes of the terrorists these airliners, with innocent civilians aboard, could be used as weapons of destruction. They did not have to go to the armament bazaars of the world, of which there are far too many. Rather, they saw in an airliner filled with people going to weddings or meetings or family gatherings or to funerals, a massive weapon of destruction. Was theirs another folly? Why awaken the “sleeping giant”? What kind of a response did they expect? In their acts of terrorism, did they act against their own self-interest? Was it for them folly to take on a superpower while operating from Afghanistan, a country whose continuous history of warfare has stalled its development since the Middle Ages?
Please God, a carefully planned and well-ordered response to their attacks will reveal that in the long term their acts were folly. On 18 October 2001, I attended the Al Smith dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in Manhattan. Our guest speaker was Vice President [Richard] Cheney. It was the first time he had appeared in public since September 11.
I interject his statements today because I think they are pertinent, because they demonstrate a sense of government and direction. He said there is a defense plan and it is on schedule. You will see some of it on television: weapons that are directed toward specific targets, smart weapons. You might even read about some activities in the media, but there are other activities that you will neither see nor hear about, because our government will tell no one of our covert acts. It is a long-term plan that will remain in effect throughout the lives of most people in this room. We have made permanent changes with which people will have to live. We will now be involved in a just implementation of this plan, which will respect civilian immunity – unlike the plans of the terrorists – but focus relentlessly on the perpetrators of the 11 September atrocity and on all terrorists.
This morning I have illustrated how this region of the world, which encompasses what we call the Holy Land, which has been a hotbed of terrorism, military adventure and misadventure over the centuries. In that region of the world the Code of Hammurabi is alive and well … “An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.” Alas, with the potency and availability of modern technology it has become “Two eyes for an eye, two teeth for a tooth.”
As Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, whose roots are in the very region which is the source of so much violence over the years, how are we to respond?
Pope Paul VI, in restructuring the constitution of our order, spoke in terms of our responsibility to self-discipline and generosity. Whoever does not have a deep willingness to strengthen these traits in his or her life will never become a true Knight or Lady. Zeal for self-renunciation in the midst of a society of abundance, generous aid to the weak and those without protection, courageous struggle for justice and peace are the characteristic virtues of the Order of the Holy Sepulchre. Exemplary moral conduct and true Christian feeling are the prime requisites for admission to the Order. The practice of the Christian faith must be shown in the heart of one’s family, at work, in obedience to the Holy Father, in involvement in Christian activities in the parish and the diocese, in diligence and ecumenical spirit and above all in active interest in the problems of the Holy Land.
I hope I presented some of those well-recognized problems. I will continue to propose what I believe are some solutions. The incredible complexity of the history of the region and the fact that this is the birthplace of Christianity is daunting to understand.
What can I do, you ask. Our lives are further complicated by today’s media which keeps us posted on every atrocity or attempted atrocity and what seems like a total disregard for civilian immunity in time of conflict. The constant viewing of this manifestation of original sin, and I emphasize that definition, a manifestation of original sin that is alive and well today, is most depressing.
What to do? Perhaps we should consider turning off our television and turning to prayer for God’s peace. I note this citation on the screen for you. It came from what you probably figure was a prominent theologian or saint.
“We have too many men of science, too few men of God. We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”
Would you like to know who said that? General Omar Bradley in 1948 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Do not be so naïve as to believe that military-oriented people are unfeeling or unthinking. They are always on the first line and therefore are very sensitive to issues of life and death. We do not face a simple problem. This profound statement by a military leader clearly defines the balance that is needed. That balance is prayer.
Many years ago, the three Hail Marys and the Hail Holy Queen of a previous era said after each Mass, successfully brought down the Berlin Wall and folded up the Iron Curtain. I propose to you that we pray for the peace of Jerusalem. Turn off your television and ask God to bless the actions of our government – that it might defend us appropriately, respecting civilian immunity and seeking justice for those who innocently lost their lives to an ideology that sees the Christian West as an enemy to be punished. We must evaluate claims of hate honestly and determine how we can best confront them. But we must support our government in its response, balancing justice with military might, knowing as Christians that we are called to a higher value. To that end I propose the lesson of 11 September 2001 is a call to us to be better Christians in a world where we still have original sin. We cannot be naïve and think that everybody is good. We must rely on God’s grace to show us the path to be preached to all His creatures.
I end my presentation this morning with a poem written by apoet in New York City, Edward Markham. He lived on Staten Island, and he couldlook across to Manhattan Island.
“We are all blind until we see
That in the human plan
Nothing is worth the making
If it does not make the man.
Why build these cities glorious
If man unbuilded goes?
In vain we build the world unless
The builder grows.”
Our work as Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre is to make the builder grow. Thank you.