Vincentian Father Michel Ibrahim prepares to read from the Bible and pray with Joseph Mitri, whose family home in Beirut was severely damaged in the Aug. 4 port blasts. (CNS photo/Doreen AbiRaad)

BEIRUT (CNS) -- A personal visit from a priest can give strength to those whose lives have been turned upside down by the trauma and devastation of the Beirut port blasts.

"There is so much suffering," Vincentian Father Michel Ibrahim told Catholic News Service as he made his way through the stricken Beirut neighborhood of Mar Mikhael to visit families. "Everyone has a painful, heartbreaking story."

Yet, Father Ibrahim said, "many also have a survival story and have experienced God's powerful protection."

Selwa Al Chakhtoura considers it a blessing that her family was spared during the Aug. 4 blast, which killed almost 200 people, injured another 6,000, and displaced more than 300,000 people when 2,750 metric tons of ammonium nitrate detonated.

She and her grown daughter, Micheline, were driving through Beirut at the time.

"I will never forget the people in the streets, covered with blood," Al Chakhtoura told Father Ibrahim.

In the chaos, the mother and daughter were rushing to get home to Al Chakhtoura's apartment. Their family was scared but fine: All the doors leading to the kitchen and bedrooms were blown out, as were the windows of the apartment.

In the living room, with seating pushed together to make way for repairs, Father Ibrahim asked Al Chakhtoura to open his Bible and select a reading. She listened attentively as the priest read from the Second Letter to the Corinthians, "He is not weak toward you but powerful in you." The priest then invited her to pray the Our Father and Hail Mary with him.

"We have to pray because only Jesus can help and support us," Father Ibrahim told her.

He took the black cord necklace affixed with a crucifix and the Miraculous Medal from his neck and placed it around Al Chakhtoura's neck.


"I am giving you a part of me to keep with you always," he told her. Eyes wide with surprise, then brimming with tears of gratitude, she responded, "I am so touched, Father."

"Thank God for everything," she said.

A few blocks away, Father Ibrahim visited Joseph Mitri's damaged apartment, taking an electric fan to give Mitri some relief from the oppressive heat. The first time Father Ibrahim visited Mitri after the blast, he gave the devastated homeowner a framed image of St. Vincent de Paul, the founder of the Vincentian order.

Mitri, 55, was alone when the explosion occurred.

"In 15 seconds, everything from the last 30 years ... was taken," said Mitri.

The ceiling in the living room remained collapsed and open to the sky. Mitri said he is overseeing home repairs, while his family stays with relatives.

Mitri told the priest that, more than five weeks after the blast, he was sleeping on a mattress on the floor of an empty bedroom. At 2 a.m., he felt as though someone was telling him, "Get up." Although puzzled by the prompting, he nevertheless chose to go into the bathroom. He returned to find a large rock on the mattress, in the spot where his head would have been.

"That was Jesus, warning me," Mitri said.

Father Ibrahim handed the Bible to Mitri. They prayed together, under the open-air ceiling, framed by scaffolding.

"The support of Father Michel means the world to me. He visits me. He prays with me. This gives me strength," Mitri said.

We don’t have comments turned on everywhere anymore. We have recently relaunched the commenting experience at America and are aiming for a more focused commenting experience with better moderation by opening comments on a select number of articles each day.

But we still want your feedback. You can join the conversation about this article with us in social media on Twitter or Facebook, or in one of our Facebook discussion groups for various topics.

Or send us feedback on this article with one of the options below:

We welcome and read all letters to the editor but, due to the volume received, cannot guarantee a response.

In order to be considered for publication, letters should be brief (around 200 words or less) and include the author’s name and geographic location. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.

We open comments only on select articles so that we can provide a focused and well-moderated discussion on interesting topics. If you think this article provides the opportunity for such a discussion, please let us know what you'd like to talk about, or what interesting question you think readers might want to respond to.

If we decide to open comments on this article, we will email you to let you know.

If you have a message for the author, we will do our best to pass it along. Note that if the article is from a wire service such as Catholic News Service, Religion News Service, or the Associated Press, we will not have direct contact information for the author. We cannot guarantee a response from any author.

We welcome any information that will help us improve the factual accuracy of this piece. Thank you.

Please consult our Contact Us page for other options to reach us.

City and state/province, or if outside Canada or the U.S., city and country. 
When you click submit, this article page will reload. You should see a message at the top of the reloaded page confirming that your feedback has been received.

The latest from america

The real-life superhero Mattia Villardita was invited to the audience because of his everyday commitment to bring joy to suffering children — dressed as his childhood idol.
Molly CahillJune 23, 2021
Democratic compromise is not a moral evil. And democratic leaders, charged to seek it, are not public sinners. Neither should be combatted with excommunication.
Terrance KleinJune 23, 2021
Democratic mayoral candidate Eric Adams speaks at his primary election night party on June 22 in New York. Mr. Adams resisted the ”defund the police” movement and instead called for reform measures mostly having to do with bolstering accountability. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen).
Calls to “defund“ the police gained traction during last year‘s protests against racial injustice, writes Tobias Winright, but cities like New York are now taking a more careful look at public safety.
Tobias WinrightJune 23, 2021
A street child in Salvador, Bahia in Brazil in May 2019. iStock photo.
“In every large city in Brazil, you can now see a greater number of kids begging for money or selling candy on the streets than before the pandemic.”
Eduardo Campos LimaJune 23, 2021