Two weeks ago, on Holy Saturday, we got thousands of new brothers and sisters who were welcomed into our Catholic family and into the arms of Holy Mother Church. For those of us who were blessed to be cradle Catholics and raised in the faith since childhood, let us (1) grow in appreciation and understanding of our own baptism and (2) never grow lukewarm in the faith, especially since many people who have chosen to convert to Catholicism have lost families, friends, and sometimes jobs (e.g. in those cases where Protestant pastors have become Catholic) all because they wanted to follow Jesus. Hopefully if we remember this, we will never take our faith and our Church for granted.
Click on this post to read more about a Muslim journalist who was baptized by the Pope on Holy Saturday.
Below is a cool youtube video that should make you proud to be Catholic; it was made for Catholics who have fallen away from the faith, but I think that it does a good job to encourage us who struggle to follow Christ and to encourage our non-Catholic brothers and sisters to consider the faith.
***** For some reason, youtube decided to make this video unavailable...hmmm...wierd...anyway, click here to view this very cool video by Catholics Come Home; at the bottom of the page, click on "Epic". *****
ROME, Mar 24, 2008 / 09:30 am (CNA).- A day after he was received into the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict XVI during the Easter vigil, Magdi Allam, a widely known Italian Muslim, wrote a letter to his own paper on Easter Sunday in which he issued a twofold call: first to he encouraged other Muslims who have converted to Catholicism to come out publicly and secondly he called on the Church to be “less prudent” about converting Muslims.
The 55-year-old Egyptian-born convert is deputy editor of “Corriere della Sera,” one of Italy’s leading newspapers, and often writes on Muslim and Arab affairs.
In 2006, when Pope Benedict made his Regensburg speech that many Muslims perceived as depicting Islam as a violent faith, Allam defended the Pontiff’s remarks.
He also infuriated some fellow Muslims with his criticism of extremism and support for Israel.
His criticism of Palestinian suicide bombings generated threats on his life in 2003, prompting the Italian government to provide him with a sizeable police protection force.
Allam said at that time that he had continually asked himself why someone who had struggled for what he called "moderate Islam" was then "condemned to death in the name of Islam and on the basis of a Koranic legitimization."
Word of the conversion of a high profile Muslim was only made known on Saturday when the Vatican announced that one of the seven Catechumens to be received in to the Catholic Church by Pope Benedict at the Easter vigil was Muslim.
Although Allam never prayed five times a day facing Mecca and never fasted during Ramadan, as is required of all Muslims, he did make the pilgrimage to Mecca with his deeply religious mother in 1991.
Reacting to his conversion, the Union of Islamic Communities in Italy –which Allam have accused as having links to Hamas- said “he is an adult, free to make his personal choice.”
But Yahya Pallavicini, an Italian Catholic who turned to Islam and is now vice president of the Islamic religious community in Italy, said he respected Allam's choice but said he was "perplexed" by the symbolic and high-profile way in which he chose to convert.
"If Allam truly was compelled by a strong spiritual inspiration, perhaps it would have been better to do it delicately, maybe with a priest from Viterbo where he lives," Pallavicini told ANSA news agency.
In his “letter to the editor” published on Sunday by Corriere de la Sera, Allam explains that it was a meeting with the Holy Father which allowed him “to see the light, by divine grace, as the healthy and ripe fruit of a long process.”
Allam also explains that his decision came “as a gradual and deep interior meditation that I could not avoid, considering that, for five years, I have been living a shielded life,” in reference to the police protection.
“Yesterday has been the most beautiful day of my life, when I chose the most simple and explicit name. Since yesterday, my name is Magdi Christian Allam,” he wrote.
Explaining the stages of his conversion, Allam said that “at some point I had to take action” after discovering that “the roots of evil are intrinsic to Islam, that [it] is physiologically violent and historically conflictive.”
The convert also gave thanks to “the embrace of high prelates of great humanity,” mentioning Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone and “especially Bishop Rino Fisichella who has personally followed me on the spiritual road to accepting the faith.”
Bishop Fisichella is the Auxiliary Bishop of Rome and President of the Pontifical Lateran University.
But Allam says that the most decisive factor was his meeting with the Pope “whom I have admired and defended as a Muslim for his brilliance in presenting the indissoluble link between faith and reason as the foundation of true religion.”
He praised the Pontiff for agreeing “to personally give me the Sacraments,” thus launching “an explicit and revolutionary message to a Church up to now too prudent regarding the conversion of Muslims.”
Addressing Corriere’s editor in chief Paolo Mieli, Allam writes: “you have asked me if I fear for my life. You are right. I realize what I am going up against, but I will confront my fate with my head high, with my back straight and the interior strength of one who is certain about his faith.”
According to Allam, in Italy “there are thousands of converts to Islam who peacefully live their faith. But there are also thousands of Muslim converts who are constrained to hide their new faith.”
In his open letter, he finally expresses his hope that these former Muslims “from the Pope’s historic gesture and my testimony may be convinced that the time has come to come out from the shadows of the catacombs.”
Allam explained that his conversion was “a slow and gradual process. Since I was little I was aware of the Catholic world because I went to Italian-run Catholic schools in Cairo…and this allowed me to learn about the Catholic religion from the inside in a correct way.”
However, he pointed to two factors that influenced his conversion: the threats he received for questioning Islam, and the person of Pope Benedict XVI.
The threats he began receiving beginning in 2003 led him to reflect not only on the reality of Islamic extremism and terrorism but also on Islam as a religion. “I was forced to analyze the Koran and the works and thoughts of Mohammed, and I discovered that there are profound ambiguities that allow for violence and terrorism to be legitimized.”
“The second factor was having met various Catholics with whom I felt completely in tune, as we shared the same values. Of course the most influential person in this conversion was this Pope, Benedict XVI, who I had never personally met before my baptism during the Easter Vigil,” he revealed. Allam says that was the “first and only time” he personally encountered the Pope.
“As a journalist, I followed all of the activities of Benedict XVI and was completely fascinated by this thinking. I completely shared his concept of the indissolubility between faith and reason. I was always fascinated by this Pope because he is not only a great man of faith, but also a great man of reason. I think that many fear the Pope not because of his faith but because of his reason, his ability to challenge them in the realm of reason,” Allam said.