The Pope Is In Lebanon. You’re Upset? Bite Me.

Pope Benedict XVI is coming in a few hours to Lebanon in a visit that has been hyped up for months and which wasn’t even certain at a certain point as the situation in Syria escalated. And yet the Pope still decided to come here, as he should, in order to check up on his congregation or at least the part of it that cared.

Of course, the BDS can’t really complain and start campaigning against the Pope’s visit just because he visited Israel a few years back so at least we’re safe on that front. But in typical Lebanese fashion, you have people complaining. Complaining about what? About the Pope coming here in his expensive papamobile, wearing his expensive garments, holding his expensive Golden cross and preaching from expensive-looking churches.

Money, money, money… and none of it is for the poor. How Christian is the head of Christianity? Let’s go protest!

People seem to be forgetting that the need for an expensive papamobile only arose when assassination attempts targeted previous popes. But, you know, the pope doesn’t have the right for self security like everyone else. In Lebanon, the politicians that the people complaining about the papamobile follow have these massive 20 car convoys just to ensure their safety. When they give their speeches, they do so behind bulletproof glass. Why don’t we complain about them spending money? Yeah, because it’s much easier to target a pope who’s not allowed, supposedly, to spend money.

And the list goes on and on. What people seem to fail to realize is that the Catholic Church specifically has so many charities spread all around the world to help. And help they do. What people seem to fail to realize is that the Catholic Church gives money away but it doesn’t advertize it like the charities these people are madly in love with. Why? Because that’s not something the Catholic Church boasts about.

What these people fail to realize is that even in Lebanon, the role of the Catholic Church is more far reaching than they can think of. Do you know how many children have gotten discounts in Catholic schools just because their parents were passing through economic difficulties? But it’s very easy to criticize. “These catholic schools charge so much” is one of the things you keep on hearing. Yeah, because the teachers and employees working at those schools are doing so out of charity, right?

If any of the people complaining had been teachers at those schools, they would have forever held their peace. But it’s always easier to preach.

Did you also know that the Pope’s Cross isn’t made out of gold? It used to be. But now it only has a golden crust. Why? To symbolize the ongoing current in the Vatican to lessen the materialistic aspect of the Catholic Church while still keeping a grandeur to the position held by the pope. And if you have a problem with that grandeur then your insecurity is not really the problem of the Church. If you also have a problem with the grandeur of the Churches in Rome, then I advise psychological help.

When it comes to the people criticizing, I have to ask: before you preach about donating, how about you donate? What are YOU doing to the children of Africa lately? Is your brand new phone or laptop or car helping the children of Somalia eat?

When it comes to the people criticizing, I have to ask: why is it so easy for you to use the presence of Christians in the East in your political debates to either support or refute certain revolutions and then frown upon the visit of the head of the Church who’s coming here first and foremost to let these worried Christians know that they are not forgotten?

As far as I’m concerned, the Pope visiting Lebanon is such a welcome change from all the political uselessness we’re being bombarded with lately. At least now you’ll know that all the roads which will be taken by the Pope will be newly paved and for these three days Lebanon will be the most secure country on the planet and the Christians will lessen their nagging and the Lebanon he’ll see is the utopia of coexistence we dream about. And that is the miracle of Pope Benedict.

The Pope Might Cancel Lebanon Trip… For Security Reasons.

The September 14-16 visit of pope Benedict XVI to Lebanon is no longer set in stone and might be canceled at any moment, as reported by Naharnet. (Source).

The reason for that? The troubling situation in Syria and whatever effect it might have on the security of Lebanon.

The last Papal visit to Lebanon was in 1997 by John Paul II. Back then, the Syrian army roamed free in most of Lebanon and the Israeli army occupied the South. However, that didn’t deter the late Pope from coming in to see his people, who had been waiting for such a visit in persecution for a long, long time.

If Pope Benedict XVI ends up canceling his trip, I’ll be disappointed because of what such a cancellation represents: the fear of a Pope for his own life, when in reality there’s no threat, more so than the lives of the people he’s supposed to be visiting.

What a Pope’s supposed to do isn’t hide away behind security pretentiousness and actually visit the congregation that doesn’t have that prerogative and who has been through ordeals upon ordeals, partly because of the faith of which he’s the current “reference.”

The sad part is the pope actually visited Israel, Palestine and Jordan back in 2009. I guess there are no security concerns in Occupied Palestine. None at all.

A Vatican high-horse is better than Lebanese hole, apparently. Truly inspiring from the Pope. I feel more Christian already.

A Convent in Lebanon… Or a Farm?

The following is a picture taken in the Southern caza of Jezzine of a convent in the region of Atroune.

The place looks very forgotten. Do Maronite clergy know that a convent exists in this region? Or have they simply ignored its presence hoping no one notices?

Shouldn’t the presence of goats and sheep in a convent be at least frowned upon when the Lebanese Catholic Information Center panics about movies portraying people having sex in a convent?

Shouldn’t the MPs and the political representatives of the region protest about this when they’re so adamantly proclaiming themselves as the defenders of Christians in Lebanon? Or is the “70% myth” only applicable in political discourse to get their followers’ pride through the roof?

I guess we’ve officially seen it all in Lebanon.

The Case for Christian Easter Unity

What I'm celebrating

As I’m celebrating Easter Sunday today, Orthodox Christians are celebrating the day I had last week: Palm Sunday.

Following Palm Sunday, they’re going to have their own Holy Week, in which Jesus will go through what He went through this past week with Catholics, leading up to Him dying on the Cross yet again, before resurrecting.

That’s too much work for a deity in a couple of weeks, don’t you think? And quite redundant as well.

So I ask this. The fact that there are two Easters means that one may be right, the other may be wrong – or both may be wrong at that and Easter should be set at a totally different date altogether.

What Orthodox Christians are celebrating

I don’t want to go into who’s right and who’s wrong. That is besides the point. I don’t want Orthodox fanatics going all “Orthodox, Orthodox” on me, trying to prove they’ve got the correct Easter. And I don’t want Catholics to go all “holy Pope” in trying to prove theirs as well.

I also don’t want to hear about the various weather theories: it rained on our Good Friday, God must be on our side. It’s 2012 people.

There needs to be a credible approach towards setting a date for Easter that works for both sects, every year. I wouldn’t mind a twelve day vacation every time, as well.

If anything, being Christian is going beyond your pride, which I think is the only hurdle facing unifying Easter, and working towards the unity of the Church – at least when it comes to the crucification of Jesus.

Until then, Happy Easter to Catholics and have a great Palm Sunday, Orthodox people. Hopefully there will come a day where I can say Happy Easter to both every year, not on sporadic years where both Easters happen to be simultaneous.

He is risen.

 

The French Experience – Part 1

Let me tell you this… French weather is something.

You know it´s bad when you land in Lyon and, confident of the shorts and T-shirt you´re wearing, venture out of the facility only to find your face hit by ten degrees celsius.

Did I mention it was August 7th?

Let alone the fact that a typical Lebanese would never admit they´re cold when taken by surprise (we have this in Lebanon is the sentence we all say), I was freezing.

We met up with a French group who was more than welcoming. Imagine people you don´t know hugging you and innundating you with too many names, which at the time you thought would be impossible to remember.

We were then taken to the city of Lyon. We were supposed to vist the shrine of Notre Dame de Fourviere, which translates as Our Lady of Fourviere.

Located on a hilltop, it has the exact same statue of the Virgin Mary we have in Harissa in Lebanon, except it´s covered in a thin layer of gold, overlooking the city which it protects.

The church itself is huge. Have you ever been to a place where, despite being tired beyond measure, simply takes your breath away? That´s the church of Fourviere right there.

Pillars after pillars of marble, paintings and mosaics… the decoration inside is of epic proportions that our guide told us: “It´s very easy to get lost in the grandeur of the decor… but it´s the architecture that matters.”

Interestingly, there´s a small shrine for Harissa inside Fourviere – dedicated to Notre Dame du Liban. And based on what a good French friend of mine told me, the day the shrine was opened, the church had hundreds and hundreds of visitors attending the ceremony, something which is rare to be seen.

And then it was time for mass… now imagine the scenario: you haven´t slept in over 24 hours, you´re too tired to even open your eyes and you have to be attentive in mass because you, as a Lebanese group, are so important that you were placed in the first two rows of an overbooked cathedral.

Now imagine poor me trying every single way to sleep and make it look like I´m praying. Needless to say that I was unsuccessful. But you know what, that was one the best services I ever attended. Even though almost everything was different, I was mesmerized by how grand everything was. You had too many priests, too many readings and yet they all fit in so little time. The order of events in mass, which we´re used to as Maronites, is out of order in a Roman Catholic mass.

And then there´s the singing… there was a full-blown band called Malak performing the chants in church. And I got goosebumps when Claire sang a chant that I had never heard before: Couronnees D´etoiles.

And since we were V.I.P during mass, we were asked to chant something in Lebanese as part of the mass. So when I was leaving church, a woman stops me and asks: “Vous etes des Libanais?”

I nodded. She proceeded to say that her mother, who passed away nine years ago, was also Lebanese. And when we chanted in Lebanese, she imagined her mother standing between us and chanting with us. She hugged me in thanks and left.

I guess my first few hours in France were a success…

Sophie’s Choice – Movie Review

I have been intrigued by this movie ever since I read a newspaper article about how great Meryl Streep was in it. The fact that it was also referenced many times on The Big Bang Theory doesn’t hurt either and I recently got the opportunity to watch it.

Sophie’s Choice tells the story of Sophie (Meryl Streep), a Polish Catholic and a survivor of the Nazi concentration camps. As part of her new life in the United States, Sophie falls in love with Nathan (Kevin Kline), an American Jew. The relationship is abusive at times and great at other times, but through the good and the bad, Sophie sees Nathan as her reason to live. The movie is told via a narrative by the older self of the character Stingo, a writer who decides to take up residence in the same house where Sophie and Nathan live. Soon enough, Stingo befriends the couple and starts to fall for Sophie as she starts telling him her life in flashbacks.

Sophie’s flashbacks are the most interesting part of the movie. They reveal the intricate details that have made Sophie who she is in the movie’s present time. They reveal her darkest secrets, the truths she chose to keep hidden, and most importantly, the gut-wrenching choice she was forced to make, one that will shake you to your core.

To say Meryl Streep was great in it would be an understatement. Meryl Streep is an acting Goddess. There isn’t any role that she doesn’t nail to a point where further nailing cannot take place anymore. She works with the Polish accent perfectly and even throws in some German dialogue there for good measure. When Sophie gazes into the distance, looking at her past, the gaze goes right through your soul.

The movie, however, I felt was overstretched. It runs for over 150 minutes and sometimes drags on. I thought the focus on the relationship with Nathan became borderline obsessive sometimes. The flashbacks, which are the best part in my opinion, are interspersed throughout the movie and sometimes feel underdeveloped. I definitely wanted to see more of them. Moreover, you could easily consider the movie as a vehicle for Meryl Streep to shine. The other actors in it are simply accessories for her character’s weaknesses and strengths to get across.

Overall, Sophie’s Choice is a movie that solidifies what most of us already have in our head, that Meryl Streep is, simply, the best.