Editor’s Note: Doyle Baxter is a student at Xavier University, who is currently studying abroad at the Sorbonne in Paris, France.

The news arrived slowly. First we heard that two people had been shot and killed. Then it was ten…twenty…thirty. We later caught wind of the hostage situation in the Bataclan theatre. Paris was under attack, but I was safely away for the weekend in a hostel in Reims (about 45 minutes away by train). As you well know, 129 people were gunned down and slaughtered by Islamic Extremists. There were so many emotions: I felt that I had abandoned my city and the good people who had adopted me; I felt anger against the Islamic State and their agents who had attacked such a wonderful place; I felt sadness for the victims and I asked God to pour his mercy out upon them. But I did not feel fear. I was roused. I wanted to act.

I returned to Paris at the end of the weekend and the place was overwhelmed with tension. Security had been heightened at the train station and the Metro ride home was unusually tranquil. I walked into my apartment, being greeted by my homestay mother and brother. I set down my bags, but I couldn’t just unpack my things like it was just any other Sunday night, coming home from a weekend away. I knocked on my homestay brother’s door. We talked for the next two hours. He had been at home in the apartment, just a short 4-minute walk from the Bataclan. He heard gunshots and sirens; he saw death on the streets. Nearing the end of the conversation, he said to me: “Don’t let this make you think less of Paris; it is a great and beautiful city.” I responded by telling him that I was not afraid; that I felt guilty for not being here during the city’s hour of need; that I will stay, even if things get worse before they get better.

I desire more than anything to act. I want to fight to defend this city that has adopted me as a son. And I am sure that you too have felt similar things. How does the Catholic man respond to these attacks? What can he do, even if he is halfway across the world in the United States? Ultimately, I think our response is threefold.

I) Name the Enemy. The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant has declared war on us, the Christian West. We cannot be content to call these attacks simply “atrocities of extremists,” or to say, “ISIL does not represent Islam.” Such lukewarmness is a victory for secularism and is counterproductive to the Christian’s response. Unlike Christianity, where the fundamental relationship with God is one of intimacy and love, in Islam the fundamental relationship with God is that of slavery and fear.  Understanding this context is essential.  Do not take me to mean that all Muslims are extremists—they are not, I personally know many who are wonderful people.  However, knowing the enemy is the first step to fighting them. And let me be clear, ISIL is our enemy.

II) Repent & Believe. When we pray the Our Father we say, “Thy Kingdom come.” This is a prayer for the outpouring of both God’s mercy and His wrath upon the world, for Christ’s glorious return to judge the living and the dead. And yes my brothers, we should be praying for God’s wrath and for Christ’s Second Coming. But when we do so, we have to remember that God’s wrath is an extension of His mercy and His love. Just as a loving father disciplines his sons, God does the same to us, His sons. God’s vengeance and God’s wrath, which are inseparable from His mercy, are opportunities for us to come back to Him; ultimately they are expressions of His unfathomable love for us. At the same time, it is important to keep in mind that God’s wrath is never selective—if we pray for it, it will come out upon the entire world, even ourselves. We too have committed sin, not one of us is exempt. And while the sin of the Islamic Extremists is apparent, we need to look with even greater sadness at our own indiscretions. Let us take up our crosses daily, following Christ to Calvary, and repent for all of our sins. Further, we must pray for the conversion of the entire world: radical Muslims and secular Westerners alike. Gentlemen, I urge you to examine your consciences and go to confession, to practice fasting and abstinence, and to “repent and hear the Good News” (Mark 1:15). Because only after we have converted ourselves can we hope to be an instrument of conversion for others.

III) Do Not Be Afraid. Jesus told us that He “came to give life and life in abundance” (John 10:10). This is our strongest weapon against radical Islam: to not be afraid to live life to the fullest. The Islamic State—an agent of the devil—wants us to be afraid. They want us to cancel our sporting events and our study abroad semesters; they want to crush our spirits and to live our daily lives in fear. We cannot succumb to their wishes, even though it seems so difficult to do in light of recent events. As Fr. Carron, President of Communion and Liberation, recently stated in response to the Paris attacks: “Evident before our eyes is the fact that the life of each of us hangs by a thread. We could be killed at any moment, in any place, at a restaurant, a stadium, or during a concert. The possibility of a violent and ferocious death has become a reality also in our cities.” How can we justify our lives and give them meaning if they can be taken away from us so easily? We do so by living unafraid. It is better to live greatly and perish than it is to live weakly and endure. Through the lens of the Christian faith, we can look into the face death and say with St. Paul, “Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?” (1 Corinthians 15:55) Christ, our Lord and Savior, has conquered death and given us life eternal. Christianity enables us to find meaning, even in the most tragic of times, even in the most mundane parts of everyday life. “It is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8).

Gentlemen, I hope you do not take my words lightly—we are at war. And while most of us will never see the deserts of Syria or Iraq or face the Islamic Extremist bearing his black ISIL flag, we must begin our attack with bravery and courage. Name the enemy and do not allow him to be protected by lukewarm secularism. Repent and believe, conforming yourself to Christ, perfecting yourself in virtue, denouncing your own sinfulness, and praying for His coming. Be not afraid. Face each day with strength and honor and the knowledge that Christ has won the victory for us.

  • fr l.p.b.

    Chevalier du Christ dont j’ai croisé (sic) le chemin
    Sois heureux , tu rayonne la paix de ton Maître
    Verbum car factum
    Merci de toi
    ton fr.Laurent Paul

  • Pat_h

    I’ll be frank that when I saw this headline, I cringed. I’m not part of the extreme right wing all Muslims are bad camp, but I am realistic about the nature of Islam (including the fact that a lot of Muslims are ignorant of it). Far too often we’ve seen members of the Church take refuge in relativism in response Islamic attacks.

    ISIL, or perhaps we ought to now credit it with partial success and call it the Islamic State, may be extreme, but in its extremism it reflects to a significant degree the extremism of its origin. While I realize its debated by some, what seems most clear is that it started as a Gnostic heresy and then evolved, either very rapidly or perhaps slowly, into a violent religion in its own right that sought and sanctioned its own spread by violence. That most Muslims today do not act violently does not wash the endorsement of violence from its foundational text and it does not remove Islams’s history of violent expansion. There’s really no ability for faithful Muslims to accommodate other faiths except by ignoring that, which in fact they often do. ISIL is, on the other hand, fully loyal to that history, although it appear to have evolved beyond it in that it feels very comfortable with killing other Muslims of nearly any stripe.

    Here in the west, on the other hand, we’ve become so accustomed to the washed out civil concept of faith that we often tend to believe that the primary virtue in life is accepting anything, which our contestants here do not believe at all. I think there’s a real chance radical Islam may in fact win for this very reason, in that they know what they believe and stick to it. It’s attracting the young in search of meaning in the west, and its expanding in Europe where Christianity seems afraid to stand up and proclaim what its for. While western protestant churches debate how far from the Letters of St. Paul they shall depart from, and the Catholic church debates on whether it will accommodate to some degree what Christ told us was adultery, the churches empty, and the mosques stay full. No wonder.

    Part of that is that we seem to be afraid to say what we mean. We need to stop that.

    Fine entry here.

    • Pat_h

      In reply to my own comment here, but expanding on it a bit, in my Parish, the Parish Priest, whom I deeply respect and admire, has arranged to have a interfaith service for peace soon which will feature the Priest, a Rabbit, and an Imam.

      Well, I’m not going. Yes, I’m in favor of Peace, but Islam is a corruption of Gnosticism, which itself was heretical. Granted, it’s a religion today, but one with a violent organic text. It may be narrow minded of me, but I won’t attend such an event, as I don’t care to pretend that Islam shows any real signs of becoming something else, nor will I pretend that its on equal footing with Judaism and Catholicism.

  • adelaida cantona

    I find this message very powerful which starts to bring healing. It is a message of surrender to God our source of hope. it is a message the brings life in the midst of seemed no life at all because of the worst event happened. it is a message that tells that God is in control of our life if we will allow Him. Let us pray for God’s grace to work in us/ through ISIS that all of us will be converted to God’s goodness and love, not to perceive God from a distant and with fear but with love, mercy and forgiveness.
    Many thanks for this response.

  • Pierre

    Name the enemy. I would dare to say, with great humility, that the Politicians in France are France’s own enemy. The Politicians have given France up, they have turned it into a vassal State for the American Empire.

    In 2012, it was an already know fact by Intelligence that there was no such thing as “moderate rebels” in Syria and that the financing of such groups would lead to the emergence of ISIS.

    “Declassified US Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) document from 2012 confirms that the main component of the anti-Assad rebel forces by this time comprised Islamist insurgents affiliated to groups that would lead to the emergence of ISIS. Despite this, these groups were to continue receiving support from Western militaries and their regional allies.”
    (http://www.judicialwatch.org/document-archive/pgs-287-293-291-jw-v-dod-and-state-14-812-2/)

    It is also very obvious, especially to the people in charge that funding the destruction of nation states leads to the growth of instability and terrorism. Maybe instead of standing behind French President Francois Hollande, perhaps the French people should demand his immediate impeachment and arrest?

    France funding Syrian rebels in new push to oust Assad
    (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/07/france-funding-syrian-rebels?CMP=twt_gu)

    It was also stated by Assad himself in an interview with the French Media that the largest percentage of the European terrorists coming to Syria are French.
    (http://www.parismatch.com/Actu/International/Our-Interview-with-Syrian-President-Bashar-al-Assad-661984)

    It is also a well known fact that Saudi Arabia, an alley of America and France is a major financier of terrorism. (http://www.theguardian.com/world/us-embassy-cables-documents/242073)

    This hasn’t stopped France for making large arms contracts with Saudi Arabia. “France: Saudi Arabia’s New Arms Dealer (http://www.nationalinterest.org/feature/france-saudi-arabias-new-arms-dealer-13533)”

    “French President Francois Hollande thus backs the kingdom that backs the forces that backed those who carried out the Charlie Hebdo massacre. He also backs a kingdom that allows donations to flow to ISIS, which he now identifies as responsible for the latest atrocities.”
    https://consortiumnews.com/2015/11/14/how-saudigulf-money-fuels-terror/

    • Pat_h

      France can hardly be regarded as a vassal of the United States. France’s role in the Middle East is older than our own and quite independent of ours. Indeed, France’s policies through the 1960s were sometimes diametrically opposed to our own, and in a way France today is living with the byproduct of having become a highly secular state that retains very close traditional ties to a number of Islamic nations which have not secularized to the same extent. France’s recent policies in regards to North African nations have often been more advanced than our own, in terms of development, and we have lagged behind France in involvement in Libya and Syria, perhaps wisely, or perhaps not.

      FWIW, I think every western nation’s approach to Syria was highly naive, and like it or not, the only political entity that had recognizable western influence there was the Baath Party, which is fascistic. That’s not good, but at least it was a western oriented secular party that was at odds with Islamist forces and supportive of Christian and Alowite minorities (and perhaps the Druze minority as well).

      France has been the target here not because of the United States, but because its active in the world and it has been particularly active in northern Africa since World War One. It has a large Islamic population to start with, not all of which has gone the French secularized route.

      I’m not condemning France in any of this, but what I will note is that France is admirable in not having caved into secularized whimpiness the same way many other European populations have, but France was also a leader in running from this Catholic roots. The recent attacks in France have laid bare those roots and shown really that Europe without the Church isn’t really much of anything, and this is particularly true of Catholic nations. The Church is still there, and France’s culture, no matter how much it might pretend otherwise, retains strong Catholic influence. As part of combating this evil in the world, France, like the other Roman Catholic nations of Europe, needs to return to Church.

  • Knights of Saint Xavier

    Mr. Baxter’s analysis is a breath of fresh air in the midst of soft-headed emotivism regarding the present crisis. Would that more commentators took an approach that is similarly honest, straight-shooting, and charitable. For these things are not incompatible, but on the contrary, mutually complementary and indeed inseparable. Vive la France!