The Revival of Christianity in Syria: Its Miracles and Martyrdoms (review)
THIS is a highly interesting pamphlet, written by one who evidently, from residence if not from official position, has means of being well acquainted with his subject. He has strong Oriental sympathies, and gives testimony to the wonderful fascination which Eastern life seems always to exercise on the Frankish stranger, when he takes to it in any degree. He gives us, incidentally, a curious abstract of the divisions and subdivisions into which both the Mahomedan misbelief and the schismatical or self-styled " orthodox " Christianity of the East are split ; and shows good cause to say that " Syria has always been cursed with races, tribes, and faiths enough to split up the country, and to cause all manner of confusion." This, however, is beside the chief object of his pamphlet ; which is to claim adequate European protection for some recent cases of conversion to Christianity ; some, indeed, to Protestantism, but mostly to the Church. Still more, perhaps, is the author anxious to give an account, though but too briefly, of the miraculous circumstances attending the conversion of the Catholic neophytes among this number. Both the miracles and the conversions are of a nature to recall those in the Acts of the Holy Apostles (e.g. the occurrences in the prison at Philippi) and the records of the early centuries of persecution. One soldier, converted after such preambula fidei as earnest prayer and meditation by the sudden appearance of our Lord to him, repeatedly broke his chains and bonds, at our Lord's command and that of His Blessed Mother ; so that, after his unexpected and indeed miraculous release, he was known among the Turks as " the soldier who broke four chains." Altogether, we should greatly desire to see the facts, barely enumerated in this pamphlet, increased by the addition of others which must be well known on the spot. It would be a labour of love, well worthy the zeal of some good Catholic layman, emulating the pious task of the protonotaries of old. Is the anonymous author in the way of doing this ? We cannot but think it might prove a powerful instrument towards the conversion of some nearer home ; if only as showing how earnest prayer, and seeking the Lord, is rewarded by the light of faith. " Behold, he prayeth," are words that rise to the reader's mind, and of which these conversions furnish a commentary, most interesting, as far as it goes, but leaving us to desire more and fuller details.