1.19.2018

Yes, Lord, I Choose to Give All


(Sister Natalie Sayde will take First Vows as a Maronite Servant of Christ the Light on the Solemnity of St. Joseph, March 19, 2018, at St. Anthony of the Desert Church in Fall River, MA.  Please keep Sister in your prayers.)

by Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

As a consecrated religious sister, I will profess three vows – obedience, chastity and poverty. I would like to share on what these vows mean to me. When lived to the utmost, the vows are a radical gift of ourselves to God and His Church. He is the One who makes the living of these vows, not only a possibility, but a deep joy, for He is the One who lived them first. We strive to follow the example of the obedient, chaste and poor Christ – a very counter-cultural message in today’s age, as Jesus was in His.

Present in all of us since the sin of Adam and Eve, is the need to dominate and have our own way; to gratify our senses and pleasures in whatever way we wish; and to possess and amass as much as we can of the goods of this world. The three vows of obedience, chastity and poverty, when lived, counter these strong inclinations.

Obedience was the hallmark of our Maronite saints, and is the crowning jewel of all the vows. Why? Because the greatest gift that God gave to mankind is our freedom to choose, He gave us our will. In the vow of obedience, we say, “I give this gift back Lord, because I love You, and I want only what You will”.  For a consecrated religious, the will of the Lord is expressed through the directives of the lawful superior.  We strive to conform to that will in every way (in all things but sin of course). This is the ultimate gift of self that we could possibly give God, “it’s no longer what I will, but You will, O Lord”. Jesus was the obedient One, par excellence, consumed with the will of His Father, and not His own will.

Christ the Bridegroom has such an unconditional, exclusive love for His Bride, the Church. The Church will always be His radiant lily, His Bride without spot or blemish, His earthly Kingdom. In the vow of chastity, we are responding to this unconditional, exclusive love of Christ, by saying, “Yes, Lord, I will love You exclusively as well, You alone will claim the affections of my heart, so that I can love with Your love, Your Bride, the Church and her children, my brothers and sisters”. Married couples are called to a unifying love that is open to life, for the procreation of children. As a chaste religious, often called a spiritual mother, I am called to reproduce the image of Christ in the souls of my spiritual children. This can only be done by living out the grace of chastity, which God bestows, then empowers and sustains with His infinite love.

“Jesus is the pearl of infinite price!” These were the words Bishop Gregory said to me when I first met him while discerning religious life. In the vow of poverty, I am publicly professing that Jesus is indeed the only treasure that life affords. He alone is my wealth, my possession, my portion, I lack nothing. In Jesus, I am complete. In the vow of poverty, I give Jesus the supreme pleasure of His heart, that of looking after me and seeing to all my spiritual and temporal needs as He sees fit. I am free!

I am very happy to be taking this important step in my vocation journey, and more than happy to lay down my life in the service of our Maronite Church and our people.
 

         

1.12.2018

Going Deeper: Freedom And The Present Moment


“I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)
by Sr. Therese Maria Touma, MSCL


In Going Deeper this month, excerpts from chapter two (Freedom and the Present Moment) of the book Interior Freedom written by Jacques Philippe are shared for further reflection. We are encouraged to take some quiet time to invite the Holy Spirit to guide us to prayerfully ponder some of these ideas on growing in interior freedom. According to Philippe, interior freedom requires that a person have the capacity to live and embrace the reality of the present moment. He affirms that it is only then that we can truly exercise our freedom. (Pg. 81)

In today’s fast paced and hi-tech society it is difficult to be “present” in the present moment, and in particular to be attentive to the person before us. There are so many distractions, advertisements, social media, and competing voices clamoring for our attention. Moreover, it is easy to get stuck dwelling on our past mistakes and/or be bogged down by the demands and anxieties of the future. If we are honest with ourselves we realize that we have forgotten how to embrace the gift of the “now,” where God is communicating to us his life, tenderness and merciful love.

I appreciate Philippe’s thought on how the merciful presence of God is found within each instant of our lives:
“Every moment, whatever it brings, is filled with God’s presence, rich with the possibility of communion with God. We do not commune with God in the past or the future, but by welcoming each instant as the place where he gives himself to us. We should learn to live in each moment as sufficient to itself for God is there; and if God is there, we lack nothing. We feel we are missing this or that, simply because we are living in the past or in the future instead of dwelling in each second. There is something very liberating in this understanding of the grace of the present moment. Even if the whole of our past has been a disaster, even if our future seems like at a dead end, now we can establish communion with God through an act of faith, trust, and abandonment. God is eternally present, eternally young; eternally new, and our past and future are his. He can forgive everything, purify everything, and renew everything.” (Pg. 82)

In addition, Philippe provides practical insights to assist us to be aware of the “shadows of the past,” thoughts and attitudes that make us fret about old disappointments and choices. He aptly suggests that we should genuinely ask God‘s forgiveness for past mistakes and grow from them; he goes on to advise that while seeking to make restitution for any injury caused, we should humbly surrender things into God’s hands with confidence, living in the present and trusting that God will work everything for our good. (Pg. 86)

When we are overwhelmed by thoughts of how much we still have to do, feeling threatened by our inadequacies, or paralyzed by the feelings that we are not good enough, we are encouraged to make an act of faith and hope, such as: thank you, God, for everything. I trust in you. Philippe emphasizes that nothing can please God more than us coming to him with child-like trust and relinquishing to him the messiness of our daily lives:
“I firmly believe that you can bring good out of everything I have lived through. I want to have no regrets, and I resolve today to begin from zero, with exactly the same trust as if all my past history were made up of nothing but faithfulness in holiness.” (Pg. 87)

To avoid the mistake of burdening the present with the future, Philippe suggests that we reflect on the lesson contained in the Gospel (Matthew 6:25-34) about abandonment to God’s providence, and to ask for God‘s grace to live it. He notes that living in the present and relying on God’s providence does not mean being negligent or imprudent. Indeed, we need to plan for the future and consider tomorrow’s undertakings. But we should do it without agonizing or being anxious. Often this added stress thwarts us from putting our hearts into what we need to do and prevents us from being open to the grace that God desires to offer us. (Pg. 87)

It no surprise that things don’t always happen in life as we anticipate or hope. Philippe points out that most of our anxieties and worries turn out to be entirely imagined. He writes: “That difficulties we anticipated become very simple in reality; and the real difficulties are things that didn’t occur to us. It’s better to accept things as they come, one after another, trusting that we will have the grace to deal with them at the right moment, then to invent a host of scenarios about what may happen—scenarios that normally turn out to be wrong.”


If there was one take away point from Philippe’s chapter: it is to do our best in being mindful of the present where God is, and to be intentional in putting our whole heart into whatever we are doing in that moment.  

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to be mindful of your loving and merciful presence in each moment of our lives. May we strive to do your will, knowing that it is in doing your will that we find true peace and freedom. Amen.

If you have any comments or questions regarding this topic and/or other recommended spiritual resources please email Sister Marla Marie Lucas: sister@maroniteservants.org    

Are you looking for good spiritual reading? We highly encourage you to purchase and read this insightful book on Interior Freedom which can be found online.