Monday, May 2, 2011

To Be Both Catholic and American

Something I've debated in my  own head from time to time. Being both Catholic and American just don't gel sometimes. Osama bin Laden's death has brought this to the forefront of my thinking today. I happened to see it come across Twitter last night, and shocked, wanting to verify, I went to They didn't have any information yet, just the banner at the top of the page announcing that the President was giving a late night television announcement. To be honest, I was terrified that there had been another terrorist attack, or some of our troops had taken such heavy losses that he felt he needed to make a special announcement. That maybe all the buzz on Twitter was just buzz created by some other, awful event.

To be totally truthful, when I heard about bin Laden, I was relieved. Then shocked that they had at last found him. Then proud. Then glad. Then, when seeing some of the people gathering places and actually celebrate, I felt uncomfortable, and had to stop and identify why this predictable reaction would make me uncomfortable.

 I think it's only natural to have mixed emotions about such a huge event. Something that quite frankly, I think needed to happen the way it did. Not one to give props to the president often (he gives himself props often enough, in my opinion), I think it did show some forethought and planning and good handling of the situation. The 24 Navy Seals did attempt to take him alive into custody, he resisted, using his own wife as a shield, which is despicable, and in the end, was killed. He had been brought to justice at that point - and I am glad about that fact. The part I am uncomfortable with is the actual celebrating. Honestly, and I think this is because I am both a Catholic and an American, I am experiencing some culture clash within my own heart.

Because I am an American, and very patriotic, my heart is glad that a monster has been brought to justice. I think the method was just, the mission was just, and it needed to happen. His body was disposed of in a just and proper manner, in accordance with his faith. In my American opinion, perhaps more than he deserved. The burial at sea, where there can be no shrine or pilgrims, was just. I am proud of the way that was handled - it shows Americans understand basic human dignity even for those who showed no mercy for others. This I can wrap my Catholic heart around.

But the dancing in the streets? The chanting and celebrating? It gives me a moment or two of pause. How does this make us better as a nation? I can understand the need to take a moment, even appreciate what the death of Osama bin Laden means - justice. I hope that is what they are celebrating - justice, rather than death. I hope the celebrations would be the same even if he had been captured. I hope it is a sense of relief, rather than joy, that leads people to celebrate. And I hope they understand that he was only one man. There are others more than ready to take up where he left off. There will be calls now to bring our soldiers home. That the war is over, as the leader of Al Qeada is dead. I think this means we are safer. It does not mean we are safe, and for the time being, we may be in even more danger, as his followers have vowed their "revenge", incited even more, I am sure, by the clips of Americans celebrating.

I'm not sure that any of this even makes sense. So often, as a Catholic, I am called to be counter-cultural. I think this is truly one of those times. I am not at all, not one bit sad that bin Laden is dead. I don't think I need to be, as a Catholic. I think he met his just fate, the result of waging an unjust war against the US. He had to know it would happen one day. It has taken me all day, though, to feel as though I need to pray for the repose of his soul. To abandon the "let him rot in the fiery pit of hell" thoughts, and turn instead to what Christ would have wanted. I think, in my belief, at least, that he is in a moment of reckoning. Christ would not want even one of his lost sheep to face hell, though we know the "fall like snow flakes into hell". Does this man's fate burden Him? I am sure it does. His hatred for Christianity not withstanding, I am sure that the Lord wanted him for His Kingdom. Just as He wants all of us.

So, I have waged an internal war within my own heart today. Part of me thinking "Who are you?! Some bleeding heart liberal??!! Sympathy for a mass murderer who hated all you hold dear?!" To the other half of my soul thinking quite simply, "I am called to pray for this soul. I don't have to be sad that he died, but I have to pray for his soul."

You would think by the time I hit 40, I would know how I feel about things, wouldn't you? I have these same questions about capital punishment, of course, just as many Catholics do. I hold to the church's teaching, that it is not for man to decide - but it's hard. I am an American - I think justice should be served. I think it was in this instance, and now, I need to pray for the soul of the man who finally paid for his actions and his hatred.

 From the Vatican, Father Federico Lombardi, said in a brief statement this morning. Here is an English translation of his statement:
Osama bin Laden, as we all know, bore the most serious responsibility for spreading divisions and hatred among populations, causing the deaths of innumerable people, and manipulating religions for this purpose.
In the face of a man’s death, a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibilities of each person before God and before men, and hopes and works so that every event may be the occasion  for the further growth of peace and not of hatred.


  1. Megan,
    I loved to find your blog by "coincidence", There is no common to find a name such as Daughter of Mary in Blogland, and then the title of this post call my attention. I understand what you mean... I think we have at least 2 things in common: I am also Catholic, but I am Costa Rican and live in Costa Rica, a couuntry that does not have army. I am almost 40 too, and I havent finished to understand how I feel about some things eaither... But I know for sure that God made us all and what He wants is that every human being be saved, so I think that over all our human/patriotic feelings, we can still go and pray for a soul that we could think is very distanced from God. He is the Judge... so if Jesus could give His own life to save the humanity, we can act according to His image, and at least say a pray for those that hurts us and forgive (in our hearts) to those who offends us...Isn't that what Jesus did? It is no an easy choice, I know it for sure, but it is what He asks from us.
    Be strong! Your feelings are right, God knows you, so does you know that besides all bad, LOVE (I mean GOD) will always overcome.
    You have a friend here in "blog land" who will pray to our Mother to protect you and guide your heart.
    I don't know if all this makes any sence for you, I just feel I need to share this.


    Ps. I have a blog for my crafting jobs, so if you want to go and visit me anytime, you will be more than welcome.

  2. HI Vivi! It sounds like we have a lot in common, thank so much for your comment, it made perfect sense to me! I agree that we must pray for those who seem so far from the Lord, and I am grateful every day for the guidance of the Blessed Mother. I have a special devotion to her, and I love it when another Catholic understands this devotion. She is a gift to us, no? I am grateful that Christ gave His mother to us, and I try to be what the Lord wants, and what the Blessed Mother would have me be. I am going to pop over and check out your blog! I have a post coming up about card making that you might enjoy. Thanks so much for stopping by, I truly loved your comment. We may live thousands of miles apart, but it sounds as though our hearts are in much the same place. Blessings to you, Megan


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