In January 2012 I went to San Cristobal de las Casas, in Chiapas, Mexico, for the wedding of a friend.
One day I went walking around town and visited a few churches. In one I saw the image of a saint with ribbons on his arms.
The image seemed very non-Mexican but it was there, right next to an image of the Virgin of Guadalupe. It was the image of St. Sharbel Makhlof, a Lebanese Maronite monk who lived in the nineteenth century. Today his feast in celebrated in the Catholic Church.*
St. Sharbel never left Lebanon and spent most of his time in a monastery, living most of the later years of his life as a hermit. He was revered as a wonder-worker after his death.
Lebanese Maronites who immigrated to Mexico (and other parts of the Americas) brought their devotion to the holy monk Sharbel with them. (He was canonized in 1977.) Though many of them became Roman Catholics, they kept their devotion to him. Now many people write their petitions on colored ribbons and place them on the arms of St. Sharbel.
The holiness of a monk is spread to another continent, reminding us of the catholicity of the Church, the People of God.
We are one.
That oneness, that solidarity is reflected in the saints who are revered far from their homes.
That solidarity can also be practiced as we remember the Middle East, torn apart by so much conflict these days.
Saint Sharbel, pray for us, asking the Lord to grant us peace – in Honduras, in Latin America, in Lebanon and Syria.
The Maronites are Catholics, with a strong connection to the Patriarchal See of Antioch, who celebrated the Eucharist with a different rite but are in union with the Catholic Church and the pope.