Christina Strain is a senior at my alma mater, the Catholic University of America, in Washington, D.C.
She is also a first generation American — her family fled pending death in Lebanon and then the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. Last weekend she wrote about her gratitude that she can worship in peace:
As I was walking to Church this morning, I couldn’t help but think how lucky I am. I was not followed or harassed by the police on my way; I did not have to pay off anyone to let me worship my God; throughout Mass, I did not worry that my small place of prayer may be a target of a suicide bomber; and I live in a country where Sunday exists within the weekend, an observed day of rest.
In 1914, my great-grandfather, Alfred Gemayel, sought refuge in Egypt after he and his brother, Pierre, were sentenced to death in Lebanon for opposing the oppressive Ottoman Empire. In Egypt he was able to raise a family and they lived in relative affluence and peace. When the Muslim Brotherhood became prominent in Egypt and threatened the Christians during the Arab-Israeli War, my grandparents, Elie and Jacqueline removed their family from danger by seeking refuge in New York, where my great-aunt Mary took them in. They left everything behind them so that their children and grandchildren could continue the practice of their faith without fear.
I don’t know if I would have had the courage to petition a king for my colony’s religious freedom as Lord Baltimore did. I do not know if I would have had the courage to sign the Declaration of Independence as our founding fathers have done. I do not know whether I would have been courageous enough to fight against an unbeatable army, nor have had the perseverance or energy to not lose hope for seven years as the American patriots did. I don’t know if I could have left my country of birth, my home, my family, my friends, my job, my language, to secure freedom for my posterity as Grandpa and Grandma did. I don’t know if I could have sacrificed space within my home, attention from my children, and money from my salary to ensure that others could enjoy my freedoms as Aunt Mary did. But the least I can do to show my gratitude, is drag my hung-over butt out of bed every Sunday morning and thank God for the blessings I have and do not deserve. So that’s why I go to church – because so many people have sacrificed everything they had so that I can.
May we all approach out Lord in gratitude today and everyday. And keep our fellow Christians in much more precarious situations throughout the world in our prayers.