Our Lady of Fatima – Pleasantville, NJ

by Sr. Natalie Sayde

During the weekend of September 15 – 17, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on mission at Our Lady Star of the East parish in Pleasantville, NJ. We were invited by Pastor, Fr. Kamil El-Choufeiti, to give a parish-wide retreat on the message of Our Lady of Fatima in this Centennial Year.

Our retreat began on Saturday morning with the children of the parish from 10AM to 1PM. The morning included a variety of catechesis, games, relays, crafts and activities as the sisters explained the Fatima message, and encouraged the children to pray the rosary daily.

We were then able to visit some of the sick and homebound of the parish before facilitating a retreat for the MYO of the parish from 3.30PM to 6.30PM. The MYO served in the Divine Liturgy at 6.30PM, at which time Mother Marla Marie gave a witness and presentation on vocations and our Maronite Servants mission. Mother Marla Marie also spoke on the same topic at Sunday morning’s Divine Liturgy.

In the evening from 7.30PM to 10.30PM, we delivered a  presentation on the Fatima message to the MYA of the parish, which included a recreational evening with an outing for ice cream.

On Sunday morning following Divine Liturgy and the coffee hour, we presented on the Living Fatima message to the ladies of the parish. This presentation was bi-lingual in English with Sr. Natalie Sayde translating in Arabic. The message of Our Lady of Fatima touched them deeply and made the recitation of the Living Rosary more meaningful.  The ladies, each in turn, entrusted their burdens to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.  

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend with the parish family of Our Lady Star of the East. We thank Abouna Kamil and the parishioners for their warm welcome, hospitality and support of our mission. 



Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross

The following homily was preached by Deacon Donald Massoud on Sunday, September 10 at St. Anthony of the Desert Maronite Church in Fall River, MA.

St. Paul tells us that the Cross is foolishness and a stumbling block to some, but to us who believe it is the sign of salvation (cf. 1 Cor 1: 18 – 15). It is beyond the logic of some who consider their wisdom and knowledge equal to God to understand that Christ had to die for our sins in order to provide us with the hope of salvation.

In today’s Gospel (Jn 12: 20 -32), Jesus says, “whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever hates his life in this world will preserve it for eternity”. He goes on to say, Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there also will my servant be. The Father will honor whoever serves me.

The phrase to “to lose one’s life” means to die; so Christ is calling us to come and die. He is not calling us to improve our earthly lives in comfort and wealth, but to let go of everything and discover authentic life – life in Christ Jesus.

The death to which we are called may not be the death of our bodies but the death of our old selves and coming alive into Christ’s way of living. It may be the death of our ways of thinking and wanting that do not reflect the life of Christ. In his letter to the Romans, St. Paul tells us, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern the will of God” (cf Rom 12:2).

The struggle between seeing life through the eyes of the world and seeing it through the eyes of Christ is not easy. Jesus’ vision often seems peculiar, while the world’s makes sense. “Be all that you can be!” “Live life to the fullest!” “Enjoy the good life!”

Many of us long to have good things in life, knowing full well that they can neither satisfy nor really give life in all its fullness. Christ calls us to stay with the struggle and trust that true life comes from Him. The world’s vision is captured in words like: buy, shop, have, eat, acquire, accumulate, consume. But Jesus asks, What profit would there be for one to gain the whole world and forfeit his life? (Mt 16: 26).

We are watching the terrible devastation in Florida. The governor was begging the people to obey the direction to evacuate. He told them, “we can help you restore your houses, but we cannot restore your lives”. The horror and sadness of those people who have lost not only all their material goods but also those of sentimental value has been very difficult to watch.

However, transformed into the mind of Christ, those words of acquisition are replaced by words like, “offer, serve, feed, and give”. Those who want to save their lives will lose it. Christ promises, “and those who lose their lives for My sake will find it”. Life is found in giving and serving because these actions best reflect God’s image in our lives.

This runs against the voices that want us to acquire, to hold on to, voices that are sometimes so overwhelming that they are hard to ignore. This was demonstrated clearly in the hurricane reporting. After watching cars jammed up on highways or waiting in line for gasoline and people huddled in shelters, we have a commercial telling us which car to buy, where to go on our next cruise, and how to stay well groomed and well dressed.

Christ’s invitation to us is for us to let go of our need to get, buy, keep, and accumulate and embrace the desire to give, feed and serve. It is also His promise to us for eternal life.   


St. Joseph, the Worker

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on September 4th, Labor Day,  at the Mother of the Light Convent

In the beginning of time, God gave us the vocation to work. It was not meant as a punishment but a means to bring creation to perfection. God actually commanded three different forms of labor:

1.      To increase and multiply – cooperating with Divine grace to bring a new generation of human persons into existence. Without God there is no respect for human life. From the very moment of its origin, to its last gasping breath, without God we are all at the mercy of one another. Without God we live until someone else decides that we have served our purpose for the good of society; and it is time that we be terminated. A world without God makes itself God.

Joseph took Mary and her child into his home and loved and cared for them. Joseph must have been a man without selfishness. The Bible says so little and yet so much when it says of Joseph: He was a just man, not just a man.

2.      To fill the earth and subdue it – to bring forth from the earth fruits and vegetables from the soil; medicines from plants and glass and computer chips from sand. God gave us this vocation to work in order to discover what it means to become more and more in His image.

The four Gospels tell us nearly nothing of the hidden years of Jesus’ life in Nazareth, but they are certainly not without importance. Most of Jesus’ life was not spent in preaching, but in laboring: making tables, chairs, maybe houses, whatever needs were presented. As He said often: He did whatever was pleasing to His Father. Though referring to His Heavenly Father, He no doubt did what was pleasing to His earthly father as well.

But skills and human formation were not the only teaching which Joseph passed on to Jesus. Joseph also knew the importance of faith formation. In these formative years, the human nature of Jesus learned to integrate human work into Divine plan. He learned to understand the meaning of the third form of labor.

3.      Have dominion over all living creatures by treating them as gifts of God. So great was Jesus’ appreciation for human work that He continued to use it in analogy to the Kingdom. Often He favorably mentions shepherds, farmers, physicians, housebuilders, servants, stewards, merchants, laborers, soldiers, cooks, tax collectors, and scholars. He compared the work of evangelization to the manual work of harvesting and fishing.

Realizing that work is so important to God, here are three suggestions on how to pray for understanding:

1.      Offer your work as a sacrifice to God as Abel did – offer anything and everything.
2.      Offer your gift for a specific intention – whether for yourself or for another, but never lift it without consciousness, intention truly makes it a Liturgy of the Hours.
3.      Many of the same virtues which we learn in prayer are the same virtues that help us to sanctify our work – perseverance, humility, doing it for the will of God. And the virtues that we learn working – punctuality, dependability, diligence, doing the best that we can, foster better prayer.

When work takes on this significance, we and our work can become the means through which God can sanctify others. That is why work is an essential part of life – not a punishment but a gift.

We have not been allowed to know when or how the life of St. Joseph came to pass. But most surely it happened in the presence of those dear to him – the Virgin Mary and Jesus, perhaps the family and towns people of Nazareth. At that time it was common for families to live closely together.

According to custom of the time the wake was held in the family home, and the nearest male kin would lead prayer. Perhaps Jesus might have prayed similar words to these:

My Father, and Father of all mercies, Father of Truth, listen to me, Your beloved  Son, who implores you on behalf of my earthly father, Joseph……by the work of Your hands, send the Archangel Michael, protecter of souls; and Gabriel, a familiar face and messenger of light to accompany the soul of my father, Joseph, until he pass beyond the straights of the terrible. This is indeed the moment in which he is in need of mercy. (History of Joseph the Carpenter, Coptic Version, 20-22)

Family is that place where we learn to put it all together and where Jesus learned to recognize God’s plan for our lives. It is the place where we learn to step out of ourselves, to accept others, to accept forgiveness…and if nothing else we might learn how to become not just a person, but a “just person”.