Italy is filled with saints’ relics, including those you may not realize are believed to be there (including St. Athanasius, St. Mark, several other apostles, etc.) (Spiritual Experiences in Italy Series)

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It should be no surprise to anyone that Italy is filled with saints’ relics. This is not only due to the Roman empire’s expansive control over the ancient lands which served as the setting of the history of Christendom, but also because the Lord Christ and His followers often were killed or otherwise afflicted at the direction or by consent of the Roman government (with the Coptic Church contributing so many martyrs, as attested to by the early church historian and bishop Eusebius, that the Coptic Church’s calendar was readjusted to remember the most infamous persecutor of Christianity, Diocletion).

And then, years later, beginning around the time of Emperor Constantine, the Roman empire fostered and eventually vigorously promoted the advancement and spread of Christianity, as well as reverence to heroes of the faith. Frequently that enthusiasm motivated problematic/troublesome behavior, with certain individuals choosing to take advantage of people’s devotion to the saints by selling fake relics, and sometimes even stealing (or protecting, depending on perspective) bona fide relics to sell them or bring them to Italy for safeguarding (think Venice, St. Mark the apostle).1

Here are several of the sites associated with saint relics that were of particular interest for me: Continue reading

Top 15 Religious Experiences During My Visit to Egypt and Paris (with PHOTOS)

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My wife and I had the blessing of visiting Paris as well as various parts of Egypt this year. It was our first visit to both places (I was born in Egypt but hadn’t returned since coming to the U.S. when I was about 4 years old; my wife, Egyptian as well, had never been to Egypt). I encountered a number of expected and also unexpected sights that had a notable impact on me from a religious perspective. Both Paris and Egypt have a lot to offer in that regard, and here are my top 15 experiences:

Continue reading

“Your crying baby is distracting me at church” — What should the church do?

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Who hasn’t experienced the distraction caused when a young child cries or gets too noisy? From the priest, to the deacons, and all the way down to the people surrounding the father and/or mother with the child, the tension and frustration is almost palpable. The parents too are distracted, not just by their noisy child, but by the emotional disturbance they feel when inundated with all of the varying glances they receive, with all those eyes telling them: “Quiet that child down, or leave.” And if it is deemed a sufficient nuisance to the priest (at least in the Coptic Church), many, if not most, will give the parent the “silent treatment”—that moment in liturgy when the priest stops praying, joining the chorus of dissenters in silence, sending a clear message to the parent(s) in the absence of prayer: “Your baby is distracting me and the entire church. We won’t move on until you’ve done something about it.”

What is the church to do? From the clergy to the lay person attending the service, how has the church historically viewed noise in church, and the place of children? Today, what should be our stance? Continue reading

Where is St. Mary buried? Understanding why the ancient Church until now celebrates the Feast of St. Mary

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Tell me, where is St. Mary buried? If you know anything about the ancient Apostolic Churches, you’ll know that they love to pay respect to the relics of heroes of the faith, “of whom the world was not worthy” (in the words of St. Paul [Hebrews 11:38]). You would think that with all the honor and adoration given to St. Mary, the Orthodox and Catholic Churches would be lining up in droves to get a glimpse of her bodily remains! Well, the answer to “where is St. Mary buried” explains why we celebrate her in August (15th in Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Churches, 22nd in the Coptic Church).

The answer is: Continue reading

Should the Pope Learn English (and/or Other Languages)?

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The Pope left the city of His Holiness’ papal see to visit us here in the U.S.A., and you would think that gesture alone would be understood as speaking volumes about his love for us, yet in spite of that, I have heard and read countless times that the Pope is not doing enough to reach out to us in our own language. People, some without restraint, have been outspoken about their disappointment, and some have unfortunately expressed themselves to a point that may be deemed as disrespectful. Look at some of the comments left (usually anonymously) on CopticWorld.org under various posts related to His Holiness’ visit: Continue reading

“THE POPE”: Before There Was Two, There Was Only ONE

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After getting word that His Holiness Pope Tawadros II will be visiting my parish here in the U.S.A. soon, I thought it appropriate to write this post to inform Copts and non-Copts alike about the eminence of the original papacy: the Coptic papacy.

It all begins with this: whenever anyone (not Coptic) says “The Pope,” who do they mean? The head of the Roman Catholic Church. As for myself, however, whenever I hear/see that title being used to exclusively refer to the Catholic Pontiff, a small part of me cringes in grief at the ignorance.

Why?

Because “The Pope,” for almost one millennium, used to exclusively be understood by all of Christendom (including Rome) to refer to one archbishop, and it wasn’t Rome’s; it was the Archbishop of Alexandria, the head of the Coptic Church. This is not a matter of uninformed, personal bias just because I am Coptic; this is a historical, well-established fact. Continue reading