Friday, April 11, 2014

ACN News - The calvary of Julienne: When a Catholic woman marries a Muslim man

By Jean-Claude Gaston

“Six years ago, when I first started college, I met my husband-to-be,” says Julienne, a young Congolese woman in her early thirties. A fervent Catholic, she has just emerged from four years of intense moral, physical and emotional suffering that marked her marriage to a Muslim man whose initial respect and tolerance of her faith turned out to be lie.

In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Christians form the overwhelming majority, with Muslims accounting for less than 10 percent of the population. Here, as is common of many cultures across the world, marriage is a goal and dream for many girls and their families, as it provides a significant social boost.  It is a source of great pride for the parents and provides economic gain.

Some young women are obligated to change their religion and practices in order to join the faith of the husband. When they object, it is often their impoverished parents who pressure them to accede. Under such circumstances, unions do not last long and the young bride has a very bad time of it. For Julienne, her marriage was a nightmare.

“He was a science student, a few years older than me, at the same school,” she recalls.

“I gave him all my heart and I loved him dearly. All seemed to be going well. I continued to regularly attend Mass and sometimes he would come with me to Church Sunday evenings.”

“There was not a hint of violence in his demeanor. On the contrary, he showed himself to be generous and loving. He only went to the mosque on the great feast days and swore that he would never oppose my Catholic faith.”

“A year after the start of our relationship, he came to visit me and my parents along with his own father and stepmother. My parents agreed and gave him my hand.”

“He took the fact of our relationship now being official as a carte blanche.  I began to notice changes in his behavior and in his attitude toward me. Little by little, he began to forbid me going to Church. ‘You know very well that I’m Muslim and so you must stop attending that Church where you worship “statues and pictures,” he would say.

“He began to plan his visits, our walks, almost always on Sundays and at such times that prevented me from going to Mass,” says Julienne, continuing her story.

“As time went by and the date of our wedding approached, he became more demanding and insistent: ‘There is no question of you attending that ‘Church of 666 [in an allusion to the Book of the Apocalypse],’ he’d say. ‘You have to start coming with me to the mosque and change the way you dress.” That became an almost daily refrain.”

“At that point I began to have serious doubts; insecurity and fear got a hold of me. I started to circumvent his vigilance to go to Mass some Saturday evenings. Sometimes I even pretended to escape our Sunday outings just so that I could go to Mass.”

“I decided to speak to my parents, to tell them of my intention to break off the engagement and give up on our impending marriage. But instead of finding comfort with my parents, they reprimanded me severely and threatened to disown me if I were to proceed with my plans.”

“They were strengthened in their opposition by my aunts and uncles who also were hoping to reap the benefits of my marriage to this son of a well-off family.”

“Despite my determination and the bond to my faith, I was forced to give in and had a traditional wedding according to traditional Muslim rites.”

This was the beginning of the calvary of Julienne, who suffered bitter humiliation, physical and emotional abuse, the denigration of her faith, and descent into near despair.

“I had all the comforts I could want in our home and even had a Jeep at my disposal. I lacked nothing, I had everything, except peace,” she recalls. 

“In the four years of our marriage, I knew no happiness in our household. On days that he was not traveling, my ex-husband would come home for lunch. Hearing the sound of his car on approach gave me chills.”

“It often happened that when he got home he wanted to make love, in always very rough and inappropriate ways, and right where he found me, and he would be extremely brutal.”

“He said to me openly: ‘You are my pleasure object; you have to do what I want and if you don’t want to, you can leave her and join the nuns. And even those nuns are there just to pleasure the priests.’”

Nonetheless, Julienne remained firm in her faith. “Whenever he was away from home traveling, I would spend two or three days intensely praying to Jesus, beseeching Him to transform my husband and return him to his senses.”

“I had my Bible and rosary, which I kept hidden where our food supplies were kept, in a part of the house where he almost never went.”

“A year into our marriage, he married a second woman, a Muslim this time. My suffering greatly increased. He did not spend every night in our home; he spent nearly every day with his second wife. He came to me only to satisfy his physical desires and in the brutal way he preferred.”

“He also began to beat me violently. ‘Your Church has made you silly and a hypocrite,’ he would say. ‘Continue praying to your fake virgin and ask her to help you.’”

Almost five years later, Julienne decided to end the marriage and sought refuge with one of her aunts. “When I had reached my limit and began to risk getting gravely ill, I left him without saying goodbye.”

“Taking advantage of his nearly always being away from home, I took three months to get ready to separate from this man. With my aunt’s help I escaped and moved in with her in Kigali. I didn’t even tell my parents I fled.”

“My aunt treated me with lots of affection and made sure I received psychiatric care to address my deeply traumatic experiences. Bit by bit, I came back to life, becoming a radiant woman again.”

“I kept going to Church, now in complete freedom, and renewed my relationship with the sacraments, including Communion, which I had to do without for several years.”

“A year later I went back to college and I have since graduated. I feel proud, free and independent.”

“Little by little, I have rebuilt my life,” Julienne affirms, “with determination, conviction and a big smile.”

For privacy and security reasons, names of both protagonist and author are altered. The writer who recorded this testimony is a correspondent for Aid to the Church in Need.

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.

Anti-Catholic imagery in Christian movies UPDATED

For a while now, I have been watching and recommending movies by Protestant film companies, otherwise referred to as Christian films.  We have watched many movies by Christian Films as well as PureFlix. However, this recommendation came to the end the other evening.

I had enjoyed a movie produced by the latter film company entitled The Book of Daniel. I thought it was good timing seeing as the reading of the day was about the three  young Jewish youths being placed in a very hot fire by King Nebuchadnezzar because they refused to bow down to the statue of the king.

However, it was before Mass the following morning that my mom brought something to my attention.  She asked me if I thought the statue looked a little like a pope.  I looked at her quite quizzically and responded with an emphatic "NO", that it was the statue of Nebuchadnezzar.  She insisted to me that it was an image of a Catholic pope.

Later that day, I fast forwarded to the image of the statue in the movie (which we watched via Netflix).  To my surprise, I saw that my mother was correct! (Although, to me, it looks more like St. Patrick without his bishop's mitre).

See for yourselves:

Statue of King Nebuchadnezzar from movie Book of Daniel
Since when is a pagan king depicted with a shepherd's staff, two fingers raised in blessing and with crosses on priestly vestments?

UPDATE: A reader actually found that the filmed appears to have used a Russian Orthodox statue of St. Nicholas as the model for Nebuchandezzar.

Picture source The following is how I pictured Nebuchadnezzar and I'm sure many others did too:

Picture source.

You can see there is a huge difference between the depiction by Pureflix and a Protestant bible illustration.

To be fair and to give the producers the benefit of the doubt, I contacted them via Twitter. But they did not respond.

In these times where forces of evil are persecuting Christians everywhere, I was hoping this persecution would unite us.  Sadly, it looks like Catholics are still not considered Christians by some who call themselves Christians, and who knows, something even worse perhaps.

Meatless Fridays in Lent - Two Recipes: Cheese Pizza and Veggie Sandwich

Here are a couple of meatless dinner or lunch ideas for your family.

The first is classical cheese pizza.  I would have preferred the traditional thin-crust New Jersey style pizza but the dough rose quite well that day.

If you click HERE, You will find my recipe for a simple marinara sauce as well as two more pizza ideas.

The second recipe is for a veggie sandwich.


1 fresh French baguette, split lengthwise and placed in a cold oven to preheat at 350 degrees.  While the oven pre-heats, your baguette will be perfectly warmed up and ready to fill.  The following is an approximate amount of the vegetables you will need.  Our baguettes are very thin so this would be sufficient for 4 people.

This is loosely based on the best submarine sandwiches Northern New Jersey has to offer.  To make it really authentic, you would need to use cold cuts and only lettuce and tomatoes, maybe onions but nothing else.  Also, you would use mayonnaise.  Just oil and vinegar.  At least that is how I remember the subs.


2 large ripe tomatoes sliced thinly
2 large ripe avocados sliced thinly
1 large sweet onion, sliced thinly
1 small head of lettuce, washed, dried and sliced thinly
2 large green, red or any color sweet peppers of your choice, sliced thinly
2 large cucumbers, washed well or peeled to remove wax on skin if any, and sliced thinly

Thinly sliced pickles
Thinly sliced Pepperocini
Thinly sliced pimento
Sliced black olives
Sliced cheese such as Swiss or provolone

Mayonnaise or ranch dressing (optional)
Extra virgin olive oil

When the baguette is heated through (top should be crusty, inside should be soft), layer all of your ingredients.  If using mayo or ranch dressing, spread thinly on inside of bread first before filling.  Sprinkle with oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. Serve immediately.  Serves 4 people for lunch or two for dinner if you have a bigger appetite.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

A Little Gem of a Museum - Home of the Brave

Ever since reading an article about this museum in Midweek, it has been on my mind to visit it. Actually, this little museum is not really open to the public because of a parking problem. At the present time, it is the final stop of the Home of the Brave tour. But we (three very happy ladies) got a personal tour by the curator. If you click the Midweek link above, you can read all about this World World II museum created to honor the brave men and women who served in our military.  All of the items were donated to the museum.  There is also a wall of heroes to honor the greatest generation when they visit the museum. Sadly, many are passing away.

I highly recommend this tour to visitors and kamaaina alike.  We really need to keep this part of American history alive.  Oh, by the way, the Home of the Brave Brewseum will be opening in the near future.  Stay tuned.

The following are photos.

As always, you can click the photos for better viewing.

The Nazi "souvenirs"

The Japanese "souvenirs"

You can see part of the Wall of Heroes
Betty Boop at the new Home of the Brave Brewseum


Father Philip Chircop, S.J. gave a Lenten mission talk this week. The second day's topic was fasting.

Father showed us positive ways we can fast.  His suggestions were good to put into practice not only during Lent but every day.
...Is not this the sort of fast that pleases me: to break unjust fetters, to undo the thongs of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break all yokes?

Is it not sharing your food with the hungry, and sheltering the homeless poor; if you see someone lacking clothes, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own kin?...
Isaiah 58 - on fasting.

1.   Fasting from judging other people and ourselves. Sometimes we can be very harsh and unforgiving with our own selves.

2.  Fasting from thoughts of illness (either emotional, physical or spiritual).  Father says people like being sick.  He gave the example of the paralyzed man waiting by the waters of the portico.  Jesus asked what seemed a strange question:  "Do you want to be well?"  He was expecting either a yes or no response.  Instead what He got was excuses from that man.
In these lay a large number of ill, blind, lame, and crippled.*

One man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years.

When Jesus saw him lying there and knew that he had been ill for a long time, he said to him, “Do you want to be well?”

The sick man answered him, “Sir, I have no one to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up; while I am on my way, someone else gets down there before me.”

Jesus said to him, “Rise, take up your mat, and walk.”
Immediately the man became well, took up his mat, and walked.
John 5

3.  Fasting from thinking small. If we expect little from God, that is exactly what we will get. God is ready and willing to shower with us with so many graces, yet we fail to ask Him for these graces.

4.  Fasting from words that pollute. This includes words that are violent. Check the newspaper, the internet, TV news programs, all they do is report to us negative news, bad news, violence in the world. We end up feeling there is to no good news anywhere. We too should instead use non-violent words.  For example, do we gossip?  Pope Francis has been quoted as saying that "gossip is murder!"  Father Philip has the following definition of gossip:  "Two people bonding at the expense of a third, (and that person is usually absent)."

Father instructed us to THINK before speaking.  In other words as yourself the following before you speak and if you answer yes to any of them, it would be better to keep silent.
T - is it TRUE
H - is it HELPFUL
K - is it KIND

5.  Fasting from discontent.  Feast on being content instead.  Be satisfied.  Be grateful.  Father's Lenten challenge is the following.  Since Lent is almost over, he asked us to continue until Pentecost.

Every night before going to sleep, think about and jot down 5 things you are grateful for and do this every night.  BUT, you cannot repeat anything you write down on your list.

A monk Father Philip knew once said:  "It is not joy that makes us grateful; it is gratitude that makes us joyful."

6.  Fast from negativity.  Remember LENT.


7.  Fast from worry.  Feast on trust.  (This is especially relevant for us as we will soon be celebrating the Feast of Divine Mercy and one of the Popes of Divine Mercy will be canonized. Jesus, I trust in You.)

Father enjoined us to be the best person we can be.

8.  Fast from gravity.  Feast on levity.

Father reminded us not to become stuck at the foot of the cross.  That may sound wrong for us Catholics who want to join Jesus and His sorrow mother at the foot of His cross, but what he also reminded us is what St. Augustine of Hippo said:  "We are an Easter people and Hallelujah is our song."  This beautiful Easter quote is often attributed to our beloved Pope John Paul II.

We currently have a pope who is not only filled with joy but also has a good sense of humor.  The Church will soon be canonizing another pope who was known for his witty sense of humor.

Father praised Sacred Heart Church because they have the complete set of the Stations of the Cross which includes the 15th station:  The Resurrection.  Let's not forget the Resurrection!

Father concluded his talk by stating:  "The church is not a refuge for sad people, the church is a house of joy."

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Souls that Love God

"Souls that really love God will never
neglect to pray for poor sinners."

- St. Alphonsus di Liguori

Monday, April 07, 2014

ACN News - Priest Killed in Syria

A priest helping Christians sheltering in Syria’s Old City of Homs has been murdered.

Dutch Jesuit Fr. Frans van der Lugt was shot twice in the head this morning, April 7. 

Speaking from Syria, fellow Jesuit Fr. Ziad Hillal told Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), “Fr. Frans was apparently killed by targeted headshots. We have received a phone report from a Christian who was with him in the Old City.”

Early reports suggested he had been killed by an unknown sniper who shot him while he tended his small garden. Later reports said that he had been abducted by armed men, beaten and then executed in front of his residence in Homes.

The 75-year-old Fr Frans van der Lugt, who had worked in Syria since 1967, had been looking after 89 Christians trapped in the Old City who were sheltering in an old monastery.

The number fell to around 20-25 in February 2014 after a three-day truce between warring sides allowed people to leave the Old City, but Fr. Hillal reported that the Dutch priest had remained to take care of those who could not leave.

Fr. Hillal accompanied ACN to Brussels on March 27th, 2014, to speak to EU politicians about the situation in Homs.

The priest explained why some Christians had remained behind in the Old City.

He said, “The UN representatives were urgently required to leave Homs and go to another city; we had to stop abruptly before finishing the evacuations.”

“Fr. Frans and the remaining 20-25 Christians in the city did not manage to leave in time.”

ACN has, to date, sent more than $3.3 million to projects in Syria, including support for Fr. van der Lugt’s work in the Old City.

During the EU visit, Fr. Hillal spoke with Fr van der Lugt via Skype discussing the present situation and the Dutch Jesuit’s upcoming birthday, which Fr. Hillal hoped to be in Homs for so he could celebrate with his confrere.

Fr. Hillal said, “For me, [Fr. van der Lugt] represents Christ in the world who is willing to lay down his life for his friends, who always gives us hope. He always asks how I am and does not talk much about himself.”

Speaking to ACN after the Jesuit’s death this morning, he added, “He was a ray of joy and hope to all those trapped in the Old City of Homs, waiting for yet another UN permission to evacuate.

“God have mercy on us.”

Fr. Hillal also said that at present it is not possible to reach the Old City to recover Fr van der Lugt’s corpse.

With picture of Fr. Frans van der Lugt, SJ (© ACN)

Editor’s Notes:

Directly under the Holy Father, Aid to the Church in Need supports the faithful wherever they are persecuted, oppressed or in pastoral need.  ACN is a Catholic charity - helping to bring Christ to the world through prayer, information and action.

Founded in 1947 by Father Werenfried van Straaten, whom Pope John Paul II named “An Outstanding Apostle of Charity,” the organization is now at work in over 145 countries throughout the world.

The charity undertakes thousands of projects every year including providing transport for clergy and lay Church workers, construction of church buildings, funding for priests and nuns and help to train seminarians. Since the initiative’s launch in 1979, 43 million Aid to the Church in Need Child’s Bibles have been distributed worldwide.

For more information contact Michael Varenne at or call 718-609-0939 or fax718-609-0938. Aid to the Church in Need, 725 Leonard Street, PO Box 220384, Brooklyn, NY 11222-0384.