I need not tell you that this is a picture of Muslims claiming the public space to pray their salat. Observe, however, that this act of submission to Islam takes place right in front of two historic places:
- the Arch of Constantine, commemorating the Battle of the Milvian Bridge (‘in this sign thou wilt conquer’);
- the Colosseum, where St Ignatius of Antioch, student of St John the Apostle, was fed to the lions as a martyr of the faith.
This site the Muslims carefully chose for an act of aggressive protest on Friday, gathering in the thousands, after Italian authorities ‘shut down a number of so-called “garage mosques” to avoid young people becoming radicalized’. The Italian policy is sensible. Thomas D. Williams reports, ‘Until now, Italy has shown itself to be remarkably resilient to attacks from Islamic terrorists and has been proposed as a model for counterterrorism for the whole world, in part because of its willingness to deport radicalized individuals seen as a threat to national security.’ I fully support Italy’s sensible measures and believe that backing down in the face of protests would bring to Rome what has happened to Paris. Through both violence and public shows of Islam’s demographic strength, Christianity would be silenced in the public spaces of Italy.
But it is not the time to complain. It is the time for Italian Christians, seeing their country’s public spaces invaded, to act in the Name of the Lord. Let action begin in the places sacred to the faith of Jesus Christ. The main struggle is not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities. It must begin with the true faith, with love for our Lord, not with resentment. So the Muslims pray; let the Church pray too.
As the sun is ready to set on Saturday, a procession – with litanies said and Psalm 16 (15 in the Roman reckoning) sung – goes up to the Arch of Constantine, which marks in stone the victory of Christ and the conversion of the Roman empire to the Christian faith. For why? thou shalt not leave my soul in hell; neither shalt thou suffer thy Holy One to see corruption. Reaching the Arch, the procession of believers moves anticlockwise thrice around it, and the office of Vespers begins.
Deus, in adiutorium meum intende.
Domine, ad adiuvandum me festina.
Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto.
Sicut erat in principio, et nunc et semper, et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.
Lumen hilare, known in Greek as Phos hilaron.
As dusk falls, candles are lit, for light but also to signify the light of Christ, while the hymn Lumen hilare is sung. Then follow the Psalms and the rest of the office, concluding with the Magnificat and the final prayers.
In this way the Muslims may be kept from driving the worship of the Lord out of the public squares, if Roman Christians faithfully and visibly gather at landmarks of the faith to give their praises to God in Christ. Let that be the beginning of a response to the land’s invasion by an aggressive Islam.