Pilgrimage to National Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon

We enjoyed several days of prayer and visiting with friends at the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon, North Jackson, Ohio in celebration of the Dormition (Assumption) of the Mother of God.

The pilgrimage began on Saturday evening, August 13, with a Divine Liturgy of the Roman Rite celebrated by Fr. Eric Orzech, Pastor of the Shrine of St. Stanislaus in Cleveland, Ohio, followed by a candlelit procession and blessing with the Icon of Our Lady of Lebanon.

On both Saturday and Sunday nights, we spent time in prayer, adoration and fellowship with the MYO of the parish with their Excellencies, Bishop Elias Zaidan and Bishop Gregory Mansour also in attendance. Both Bishops spoke to the teens on the role of Our Blessed Mother in our everyday lives and they emphasized especially during this Jubilee Year of Mercy, how Mary is the conduit of God’s mercy and grace in our lives. Do not be afraid to run to the Blessed Mother. Like a good mother, she is always there to nurture, guide and support us, her beloved children.

 Sunday, August 14, we were blessed to celebrate a Byzantine Divine Liturgy, offered by His Excellency, Archbishop William C. Skurla, Bishop of the Metropolitan Archeparchy of Pittsburgh, PA. Following Divine Liturgy, the Byzantine Tradition has a very beautiful ritual of burying the Mother of God on the vigil of her Dormition, a ritual they call the “Funeral of the Theotokos, the Ever-Virgin Mary”. We processed behind the tomb and shroud of the Virgin Mary, which was later placed in the chapel for all to venerate.

On the day of the Feast of the Assumption, Monday August 15, the Maronite Servants led the rosary with the faithful in the chapel every hour or so in the afternoon. We were also able to meet and greet hundreds of pilgrims that came from various places such as Utica, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Brooklyn, to name a few.

In the evening, Bishop Elias Zaidan and a number of other bishops and clergy celebrated the Maronite Pontifical Liturgy outside beside the shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. The Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon has been designated as an official site of pilgrimage during this Jubilee Year of Mercy with the Holy Door just outside the Prince of Peace Minor Basilica. In his homily, Bishop Zaidan emphasized that we should be running through this Holy Door like a child running towards its parents, and know with confidence that Jesus and Mary are there to meet us on the other side. 

We remembered you in our prayers during these holy days of pilgrimage at the Shrine. Our Lady of the Assumption, pray for us.


Our Lady of the Visitation

Homily of Fr. Herbert Nicholls

Mary is on a journey. She set off in haste to the hill country to the house of Zechariah and Elizabeth. Upon her arrival Elizabeth had no need for an explanation. She understood the meaning of the visit and who was entering her house. Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.

Only by the light of the Holy Spirit could one recognize the One who, by the work of the Holy Spirit, was conceived in the Virgin’s womb. Only by the light of the Holy Spirit can the Son and the Mother be recognized: How does it happen that the Mother of my Lord should come to me?

Then Mary begins to speak. The Mystery which she bore within herself is expressed: My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my Spirit rejoices in God my Savior, for he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness."
This joy projects itself into the future, from generation to generation; what great things the Almighty has done in Mary and through Mary have begun and will endure forever. Could this humble handmaid say of herself: All generations shall call me blessed? Could she have made such a claim? Yes, because these words were inspired by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. They would be fulfilled because they are words of the Spirit of Truth. And Truth is always humble.

Mary is on a journey. She set off in haste toward the hill country to take care of her kinswoman who was soon to give birth. For the first time Mary is seen as protectress. From the cross on Golgotha to the Cenacle at Pentecost her protection will extend in a discreet yet effective manner. It will extend over the Church, over nations, over every man, woman and child.    

Holy is the Name of the One who through the Cross revealed His infinite love, the love of God who became man so as to save mankind. On the Cross, He showed the might of His arm which raises up the lowly, and scatters the proud in the conceit of their hearts.

Holy Mother, you who believe, renew the faith of individuals and peoples who are tempted to yield to the spirit of moral indifference. Let waves of divine wisdom wave over the kegs of old wine. Let wisdom be born. May this wisdom enable each person to embrace not only what is visible and finite, but also the invisible and infinite; not merely what is temporal and destined for destruction but also the Eternal and Immortal.

You, O Mary, who especially became God’s dwelling place among men; in whom this Wisdom became flesh and blood never abandon this dwelling place, never abandon God. The world in its present form is passing away; but is it passing away never to return? You O Mother of the God-Man, already contemplate a new heaven and a new earth; the holy city, the new Jerusalem come down from heaven as a bride adorned for her husband. You see it. You already saw it in this world in your pilgrimage of faith. You see it now in God’s eternal dwelling. You are like the revelation and sign of the heavenly dwelling for us here on earth. He will dwell with them and they will be His people and God will always dwell with them.

Seat of wisdom, Mother of the Eternal Word, hasten once again to the many cities, countries, to every part of the world as you once hurried to your cousin Elizabeth. Set off again on a journey, a pilgrimage of faith that today’s men and women might recognize you and your Son.

Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb. How does this happen that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? How does it happen to you and to me—faith. Come, O Mother of the Lord. Journey with us O Mary; intercede for us, Mother of God. Amen.


U.S. Maronites at World Youth Day - Poland

By Sr. Therese Maria Touma

I along with Father Rudy Wakim pastor of Our Lady of Victory Maronite Church in Pittsburgh spiritually accompanied the 28  Maronite pilgrims from the U.S. who attended World Youth Day (WYD) in Krakow, Poland July 24-August 3, 2016. The pilgrimage week included Catechesis, Catholic Festivals, Praise and Worship, the Sacrament of Confession, the Way of the Cross, adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, daily Mass, and lots of walking and penances that are part of a pilgrimage experience.  WYD was attended by approximately 2.5 million young people from all over the world along with Pope Francis who presided over the Saturday vigil and Sunday Mass. 

What an awesome opportunity it was to see how young, vibrant and fully alive our Catholic Church is with so many different communities coming to together to witness, pray and share the joy of being a disciple of Jesus Christ. World Youth Day is truly an uplifting celebration of our Catholic Faith and a beautiful reminder of our call to be missionary disciples sharing mercy with those in need, by walking in solidarity with those who suffer or are persecuted or marginalized for the faith.

Two highlights from World Youth Day in Kraków, Poland was the vigil and adoration with Pope Francis on Saturday night. As one family we came together from all corners of the earth to praise, implore and thank our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. What a powerful moment it was of communion, solidarity and strength. I was inspired to see other young people on their knees praying for world peace and for all those who struggle.

The second high point for me, was being in the actual presence of our Shepherd, Pope Francis, welcoming him, listening to his words which nourish, encourage and challenge us to be those missionary disciples who share mercy and joy with all those who need it.  I look forward to the next WYD 2019 in Panama. Consider joining us!

At the Papal Welcome listening to Pope Francis' inspiring address to pilgrims from all over the world!
We are pictured with some of the Maronite Pilgrims from the U.S. in front of the Saint John Paul II Shrine.
Meeting With Youth from Poland and awaiting Pope Francis' arrival.

Participating in Mass at the Divine Mercy Shrine
Walking with our Maronite pilgrims from the U.S. to the field of Mercy on Saturday for the Vigil with Pope Francis and youth from all over the world.

Setting up camp for the Vigil and Papal Mass at the Mercy Field!
Sr. Therese Maria meeting with other Australian pilgrims at the Vigil.

We are pictured with the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy at the convent of Saint Faustina, Kraków Poland.


He Had Compassion on Them

By: Father Francois Beyrouti
There is more to reading the Bible than we often assume. We sometimes hear a passage in Church and think that we know it because we heard it before. The Bible is so rich that even if we read or hear a passage 100 times there is always something new that we can learn.

For example, today’s Gospel is usually titled “The feeding of the five thousand.” Jesus does feed 5000 but we often overlook a very important element of this Gospel. “Why did Jesus feed the 5000?” Yes, Jesus fed 5000 because they were hungry. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because the disciples told Him: “We have only five loaves here and two fish” (Matthew 14:17).

We focus on these two elements and sometimes focus on a third that Jesus prepared us for the Eucharist when he “looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds” (Matthew 14:19) or fourth that after “they all ate and were satisfied…they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.” (Matthew 14:20-21) These are all important elements of today’s Gospel but these do not fully answer the question: “Why did Jesus feed the 5000?”

Because of the nature of this amazing miracle we quickly overlook an important verse at the beginning of this story: “As Jesus went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (Matthew 14:14). There is a very important phrase within this sentence: “he had compassion on them.” This is important as it helps us to balance this story and focus not only on the great miracle of multiplying fish and bread but on why it happened.

Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because the crowds were hungry. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle because they only had five loaves and two fish. Yes, Jesus performed this miracle to prepare us for the Eucharist. But prior to all these and at the heart of today’s Gospel is that Jesus had compassion.

Why is this word so important? The word ‘compassion’ means ‘to suffer with.’ Compassion is not an emotion of pity, sorrow, or condescension. True compassion means that we suffer with the one who is suffering. Sometimes we know people who have had difficult lives or we see people who live on the streets and pity or blame them for their misery. This is not compassion. Compassion is the grace to feel the pain of the one who is in pain and to feel the suffering of the one who is suffering. This is a grace because when we feel authentic compassion we also feel the urgency to help the other out of their suffering.

The word ‘compassion’ is a crucial word to understand the life of Jesus. One of the Old Testament prophecies about Jesus is that He will be the suffering servant. You can read the full passage in Isaiah 53, but I will only read a few verses: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. [5] But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that made us whole, and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:4-5).

The Messiah as prophesied in the Old Testament would not only suffer with us but he would suffer for us. Therefore, when we read in today’s Gospel that Jesus had compassion on them, this does not mean that Jesus pitied them but that He was showing that He is the Messiah who is willing to suffer with them. Jesus was not eating a leg of lamb while the crowds were hungry. He was suffering with them. Then when Jesus performed the miracle He ate with them. Jesus therefore suffers with the crowds and then also rejoices with the crowds. Jesus felt their suffering in order to relieve it. This is why it is important for us to read the Bible slowly and carefully. The footnotes in a Catholic Bible also help us to see some of these connections.

That Jesus shows compassion throughout His life is an important element for us to focus on. This also helps us to understand that Jesus was not just a wise teacher or a miracle maker but that compassion was at the heart of everything He did and said during His life. The compassion of Jesus, that Jesus was ready to suffer with us during His life, helps us to understand why Jesus was willing to suffer for us with His death. Jesus did not look for suffering but was willing to suffer to show us how much He loves us. Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Philippians: “Jesus humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. [9] Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:8-9). It is within this larger context that we need to understand today’s Gospel.

When we first hear this reading, we might think the greatest miracle is that Jesus fed 5000, but when we look at this Gospel a little deeper we realize that the greater miracle is that God loved us so much that He was willing to be with us and also to suffer with us and for us. This is how Jesus shows us His compassion.
Copyright © 2016 Father Francois Beyrouti, All rights reserved.