Friday, July 2, 2010

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The Marketing of Saints

Proud to be LebaneseIf you happen to have a Lebanese friend, you might have spotted the enthusiasm in his or her speech when they tell you about Lebanon and its wonderful culture. They must have told you—at least once—about how smart  right and competent Lebanese people are, and about the fact that many of the successful people in the world—in different of disciplines—are of Lebanese origins. Of course, it is true that many important figures, both historical and actual, are either from Lebanon or have Lebanese roots ; to give a random example (out of many), the richest person alive today, according to Forbes’ World’s Billionaires List, as of March 10, 2010, is Carlos Slim Helua Mexican Telecom giant of Lebanese origins.

The reason we (Lebanese people) regard those facts as important is because our country is a tiny one, with a population of about 4 Million people (the same as the city of Los Angeles, California). Even more, when you consider the fact that Lebanon has been going through war and political instability for the past three decades, the pride we feel when we learn about a new successful Lebanese individual becomes justified.

As much as I love to hear about people, from my country, receiving worldwide recognition, which usually portrays success, wit, courage and hard work, there is one special category “celebrities” which I regret hearing about: it is our beloved saints. It seems Lebanon is also a great “originator” of sainthood, with 4 out of 5 appearing in the last decade.

Since 2001, two Lebanese saints have been canonized by the Vatican and two others beatified:

One other saint is of Lebanese origins—St. Charbel; however, this one has been recognized by the Vatican as a saint a long time ago (October 9, 1977).

Saints of Lebanon

Last week, when I first saw the billboard sign with the picture of monk Estephan Nehmeh and a message announcing his beatification on June 27, 2010, I was stunned. Brother Estephan NehmeFirst, because I had never heard about this man (neither did my friend, a dedicated Catholic, who was riding in the car with me). Second, because it’s hasn’t been long since the latest beatification of Father El Kabouchi, and honestly the Lebanese people—at least many of those whom I know—haven’t gotten used to idea yet, that we have a new saint from Lebanon, and some of them can’t even remember his name. And last but not least, it was very interesting to see this billboard sign next to another one, advertising a trance music concert (and by interesting I mean ironic). It’s funny how religion is resorting to the same marketing techniques used for commercial purposes. I wonder if one day they will even sell tickets to those who wish to attend the beatification of a new saint—which I’m certain will be in the near future?

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