About a week ago I was at a barbecue. An early spring Friday night, there were beers in hand, coals kicking out heat, and a general sense of calm- another week’s labors laid to rest. It was a good crowd- friends and friends of friends. Conversation was flowing and eventually it turned to the matter of getting the grilling underway. One who was present mentioned that he’d step out to get a bite to eat as this was a barbecue and he could not eat meat as it was a Friday during Lent.

I was a little puzzled because earlier in the conversation he had discussed being Syrian and I just never thought of Catholicism being practiced in Syria. I was brought up Catholic. The nuns at my church were mostly from Ireland and we’d get visiting priests and deacons from all over the place- the Philippines, Mexico, Germany, even Boise in the distant land of Idaho! Now I consider myself an atheist, but I do enjoy reading about various religions and while I get that there are probably Catholics in every country it just seemed a little -I don’t know- improbable that I would meet a Syrian Catholic. So having a couple beers in me and enjoying the warm night air, I went ahead and asked him: Are you Catholic or is this just some kind of spiritual exercise you’re doing?

And then I was introduced to the Syriac Orthodox Church.

Read the rest of this entry »