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Beacon of faith: Lebanese town builds giant floating rosary at sea

May 16, 2024 Catholic News Agency 0
Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world’s largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. / Credit: Joe Abdel Sater

ACI MENA, May 16, 2024 / 05:00 am (CNA).

A Lebanese Catholic man has created a giant rosary that floats upon the Mediterranean waves.

Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, built the world’s largest rosary on the ocean on May 11 — with the help of family and friends — on the feast of Our Lady of the Seas.

Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world's largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater
Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world’s largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater

The idea came to Abdel Sater during his daily contemplation of the sea.

For six months, he perceived the outlining of rosary beads on the water’s surface. Compelled to make this vision a reality, he received blessings from the local parish priest, Father Ferez Tawk, and from the mayor. However, executing such an ambitious undertaking was no easy feat.

“For a month, I puzzled over what materials to use — wood or foam?” Abdel Sater recalled. “How could I secure the rosary’s shape against the shifting currents?” But, as he put it, “divine providence facilitated things.”

An illuminated icon on the waves

Stretching 100 meters (about 330 feet) across the water, the finished rosary is comprised of white plastic gallon jugs representing the Hail Mary beads and larger blue ones for the Our Father prayers. The cross is made of wood.

“I dove down and tied the beads with rope, anchoring them to the rocks below,” Abdel Sater explained to ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner. “So despite the changing tides, the rosary’s form remained intact.”

Outfitted with lights, the installation casts a luminous glow at night.

Though forced to temporarily move it ashore due to rough waters, Abdel Sater hopes to soon re-float his unprecedented creation, which he has submitted for inclusion into the Guinness Book of World Records.

Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world's largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater
Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world’s largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater

A community united

For the Parish of Sts. Takla and John, the floating rosary provided a centerpiece for celebrating the feast of Our Lady of the Seas on May 11. As Tawk explained: “We gathered parishioners to offer a Mass giving thanks to Our Blessed Mother. This endeavor symbolizes our Eastern Catholic devotion to Mary.”

Reflecting on the profound symbolism, Tawk noted that “alone, rosary beads lose their meaning. As Catholic faithful, we’re those beads and our community binds us together through life’s crashing waves.”

Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world's largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater
Joe Abdel Sater, a swimming instructor in the seaside town of Bouar, Lebanon, built the world’s largest rosary on the ocean. With the help of family and friends, his vision took shape and was launched on May 11, 2024, during the feast of Our Lady of the Seas. Credit: Joe Abdel Sater

“Without that communion, even the strongest believer can be swept away,” Tawk said. “But by walking together with Jesus as our anchor, we can withstand any storm and find redemption. Thus, we become like Mary, who stood firm in her faith under the cross, understanding that Jesus’ sacrifice is the beginning of salvation.”

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This article was originally published by ACI Mena, CNA’s Arabic-language news partner, and has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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News Briefs

U.S. bishops make ‘the suffering of Lebanon’ priority with election of Maronite to key post

November 20, 2022 Catholic News Agency 2
Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles is the chairman-elect for the U.S. bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace. / Screenshot of YouTube video

Baltimore, Md., Nov 20, 2022 / 04:00 am (CNA).

One of the two Maronite Bishops in the United States was elected to lead the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Committee on International Justice and Peace this past week in Baltimore. 

Bishop Abdallah Elias Zaidan of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon of Los Angeles, who originally hails from Lebanon, spoke with CNA after his election about the Church’s role amid the political and economic turmoil in his home country. 

“The Lebanese people are suffering,” said Zaidan, who will serve a term from November 2023 to November 2026. 

“Definitely with all the difficulties Lebanon is facing — and now, Lebanon is somewhat ignored — it’s not a priority for many of the countries, especially with the war in Ukraine and other fronts.” 

The committee’s mission is to advise the U.S. bishops on international issues. Zaidan, who has been a committee member, was chosen as chair over Archbishop Nelson Pérez of Philadelphia by a vote of 148-95. He succeeds Bishop David J. Malloy, of Rockford, Illinois. 

Zaidan listed a plethora of struggles causing instability in the country including its seeming inability to elect a new president, its devalued and inflated currency, and high unemployment rates. 

“Plus, everything is becoming more expensive and employment is very high in Lebanon because of the uncertainty and corruption, and unfortunately you don’t have the basic infrastructure from electricity and other people have to do it on their own,” he said.

“Plus, everything is becoming more expensive. Unemployment is very high in Lebanon because of the uncertainty and corruption,” he said, adding that due to a lack of infrastructure for electricity and other necessities “people have to do it on their own.”

Zaidan said that if Lebanese citizens have family outside the country who can financially support them in small ways “that little hundred dollars makes a big difference for them.”

But, he added, “if they don’t have anybody it’s very difficult and that’s why people would like to leave.”

Despite the many unfortunate circumstances burdening the Lebanese people, Zaidan said that the Church in Lebanon is doing whatever it can to be close to the suffering people. He praised the work of Caritas Internationalis, the church’s humanitarian arm, in using its resources to keep people alive.

“Often the priest is what we call the main person you go to because he knows his people. He knows who are the needy, who don’t have any other one to help them,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many priests are calling their bishops and taking the initiative to assist their flock.

He said he wanted to send a message of thanks to the parish priest in Lebanon and to “commend him for standing with his people and being part of that and serving them with all the difficulties going through himself and to stay there and do his best for his people.”

Zaidan also urged “everybody here and wherever they are to first keep Lebanon in your mind. Keep our brothers and sisters in your mind, in your prayers, and whatever you could spare here could make a big difference in Lebanon,” he said.

Zaidan said that Christ is closest to the people who are suffering and needy. 

“We need to know [that] anyone who’s in need, whatever you do to the least of my brothers and sisters, you’ve done it to me, Christ told us,” he said. Zaidan said that there are many inspiring stories about people who are in need, and who assist someone who is in a worse situation than they are. 

“It’s amazing,” he said. 

Zaidan said that the Maronites in Lebanon played a significant role in making Lebanon a great country. He said that Maronite Patriarch Elias Hoyaek de Helta who served from 1898-1931 “was instrumental in making Lebanon great as in its own borders today.”

Zaidan said that it’s important for Lebanon to be a “beacon of hope” and a “haven” for Christians in the Middle East. 

“Lebanon, as John Paull II said, is a message between the East and the West, between the Christians and the Muslim — and also among the Christians — between the Catholics and Orthodox, as well.

“It’s a unique mission from that perspective,” he said. 

Zaidan said that many Lebanese migrated to the United States over the past hundred years.

“We always think about Lebanon as the mother church and the branches who are spread all over the world and are present in different parts of the world,” he said. 

“Hopefully, we could bear fruits and let the mother church enjoy some of those fruits as well,” Zaidan said.

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