On August 4, 2020, in the city of Beirut in Lebanon, in the midst of an already tense situation among the people, in the midst of the pandemic, 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate which was stored in the city’s port exploded.
This explosion killed more than 200 people and injured more than 6,000.
It was one of the largest artificial non-nuclear explosions in recorded history. This terrible explosion left more than 300,000 people homeless; three hospitals were destroyed, and many churches were damaged.
One such church that was nearly decimated was Saint Joseph’s, run by the Fathers of the Society of Jesus (The Jesuits). Saint Joseph’s Church was built in 1875 and is an active parish.
Like many big-city parishes, the church is multi-lingual. Priests in the parish offer Holy Mass each weekend in English and French, as well as offering the Divine Liturgy in the Maronite rite. With the help of organizations like Aid to the Church in Need, almost $400,000 was raised to help in the rebuilding.
We need to recognize that the Church is bigger than our local parish; the Church is larger than just our diocese; the Church is greater than just what is lived in our particular nation. The Church that we believe in is — as we profess Sunday after Sunday, solemnity after solemnity — one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic. Those four marks of the Church remind us that it is the mystical body of Christ, and when one part of the body hurts, we all hurt.
The Church in the Middle East is hurting. They are suffering and, in many places, are under persecution. Martyrdom is a very real possibility for Christians throughout the Middle East. And because we are all members of that one body in Christ, because the Church is one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic, we have the re- sponsibility to care for our suffering members. So, how can we do this?
The first thing: Pray for those in the Middle East. Offer a rosary for the good Orthodox Christians, the Maronite Catholics, the Roman Catholics, all the people of Lebanon, and for all in the Middle East. Consider attending a Maronite Divine Liturgy, which is offered in the Maronite Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of Leba- non in Brooklyn Heights, to specifically pray for the Lebanese people.
A second thing: Have hope. It’s essential to recognize the Church has been through a great deal and will go through even more suffering. We live in a fallen world, yet it is a world that is redeemed by the passion, the death, and the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Barque of Peter is still sailing along the straits of time and space, hitting some rough waters, and yet, still journeying to our final destination — please God, eternal life.
A third and final thing: Give. Donate to Catholic agencies and help the citizens of Lebanon in need.
Thanks be to God that the Church is still very much alive and rebuilding in Lebanon and throughout the Middle East. Through the intercession of Saint Sharbel and Our Lady of Lebanon, may she know the peace that only Christ can bring.
Catholic Near East Welfare Association