Visiting Lebanon

By Sister Marla MarieAfter 40 years, I was blessed to return to Lebanon for a mixed visit of pilgrimage, of sharing with my relatives, and spending time with the different Maronite foundations of religious.
March 25, the Feast of the Annunciation, was an appropriate date to land in beloved Lebanon. This feast is the biblical image and inspiration for the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.
Above are pictured various scenes from my first day of visiting from the sea to the snow covered mountians, to the Maronite Monastery to family and friends. I will be posting details and photos of this visit in the coming days and weeks. You are with me in my prayers.

We've been "Maron-ated!"

By Carrie Fortney
When my husband Rodger told me that he wanted to join the Catholic Church, I thought he was crazy! But I wasn't surprised. The Holy Spirit had been preparing my heart for "drastic change" -- I just didn't know what form it would take. It is by the grace of God that He brought us to the Maronite Church. We joined the Catholic Church in May 2007, from evangelical Protestantism, and although the only things we knew about being Catholic were Maronite, due to canon law we were automatically Roman rite -- even though we had never been to a Roman Mass. We are so grateful that the respective Bishops allowed us to transfer to the Maronite Church. Since then our lives have been utterly transformed by the grace of God through Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit, especially through the Mysteries (sacraments), prayer and the lives of the Saints. The Lord has brought us closer to Him-- He has plunged us to depths unknown to us before. The Maronite Church’s Divine Liturgy, prayers, iconography and music are so rich and beautiful and have brought to us a fuller understanding of Sacred Tradition and Scripture. And since the Maronite Church is an Eastern Catholic Church we have gained new perspectives of Faith and Tradition that all Catholic’s share, while also causing us to appreciate even more the diversity in cultures and traditions that make up our Catholic Church. St. Maron, pray for us!


Visiting Scranton

A New Maronite Podcast

By Carrie Fortney

The peace of the Lord be with you! Hello from Roanoke, Virginia, USA -- home of the latest Maronite podcast "The Maronite Daily Readings." If you are unable to attend daily Divine Liturgy, like myself and my husband Roger, or maybe you would like to spend more time in Scripture than you have been, we invite you to join us for the daily Scripture readings from the Maronite Divine Liturgy. All it takes is five minutes. Just click on the "Maronite Liturgy Daily Readings" link on this blog page or go to http://web.mac.com/maronitereadings and click on "Podcast." We incorporate music and beautiful photography from Lebanon and the Middle East with the Scripture readings. We pray this experience will be one of prayerful meditation on God's Word for you.


Visiting San Diego

Lead Me, Lord

By Mary Najem, San Diego

The St. Ephrem Youth Group prayed the rosary on Thursday, March 5, 2009, as we do every week at our regular meeting. That rosary was special to us because we were blessed to have Sister Marla Marie join us, and give us a talk about her vocation and the Maronite Church.

I was inspired by her vocation because it seemed like something many of us could relate to. One thing that I learned from Sister Marla Marie is that we all have a vocation. Vocations are something that come not only in the form of becoming a nun or a priest, but also a calling that could happen in a marriage or single life. Sister explained that when she first heard the calling of our Lord, she felt that she was unworthy. Just like Sister Marla Marie had felt, I too feel unworthy of becoming a nun; but just like the word that lightened Sister Marla’s heart when she was approached by two nuns prior to her vocation, “who is?”

Many women, as well as myself, look too far into the long term, and like Sister Marla Marie said, one must take it day by day. If I heard the calling of the Lord I would definitely say yes because, how could one really say no? I pray every day for God to lead me to the right path, whatever that maybe. We all need to pray for God to allow us to realize the path he wishes us to pursue, and what our vocation in life must be.

A quote that always gets me through the day is “When life knocks you down to your knees, just remember that you are in the perfect position to pray.” Through prayer, all things are possible, and by following the Lord and his calling, we can only hope that our gratitude is evident to the Lord for the many sacrifices that He has given us.

Living My Maroniteness

By Bernadette Bousamra of Sydney Australia

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I write to you from our Maronite Eparchy of Australia ‘Beit Maroun’. I met Sister Marla during her visit to the Maronite Heritage Centre where I opened our community’s museum on its day off. Sister was intrigued to know how the Australian Maronite youth are eager to learn about their traditions, and she asked me to write a snap shot about my life experience.

I was introduced to my Maronite heritage at home and through my Primary School. Bishop Ad Abikaram, when he was installed Bishop of Australia, emphasised the importance to knowing our heritage so to know where we are heading. I was lucky enough to attend a Maronite Primary School in Australia, then was transferred to a Latin Catholic High School to complete my high school studies. I have experienced a phenomenal difference between the practices and rituals of the two Catholic Rites.
In Australia, despite the fact that there are over 50,000 Maronites, the community did not know what “Maronite” is nor did they know if they were Christian. I used every bit of information I could to explain our similarities and differences. Most of my information came from my parents, parish priests and church groups such as the Marium Apostolic Movement and the Adult Faith Formation. At many occasions at our Solemn Divine Liturgies our current Bishop, Ad Abikaram, would always emphasise to us “you must live out your ‘Maroniteness’ as it is a way of Life”. As you can see, our Eparchy helped the evolving English Language rebirth a Noun of ‘Maronite’, to a new log in our hearts ‘Maroniteness’. In the last 6-7 years, Bishop Abikaram has reached out to a wider Australian community and we have found the courage to say we are Maronite and live the ‘Maroniteness’.
Currently, I witness my ‘Maroniteness’ by studying Theology at university and continue to take part in as many activities and committees that our unique Eastern Church has to offer. Personally, I believe it’s best to keep your faith and hold it up as an everyday living, especially because you are a part of the wider Catholic and secular community. So if you are ever in Australia, don’t hesitate to come and visit the Maronite Heritage Centre located at the St Maroun’s Cathedral Hall, 627 Elizabeth St, Redfern on Saturdays from 11am to 3pm.


Living the Sign of the Cross

(Kathie Homsy, a young adult at St. Joseph's Maronite Church in Sydney shares her reflection after attending a retreat afternoon directed by Sister Marla Marie speaking on the theme of: Living the Sign of the Cross.)

After spending an afternoon in spiritual reflection with Sister Marla Marie and other women of virtue, I discovered something simple yet extremely profound… the Sign of the Cross defines who I am. When I cross myself daily and utter the Trinitarian formula, I am identifying myself with the Christian faith and surrendering to God the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.
When I recall all the times throughout the day that I feel the urge to make the Sign of the Cross – as soon as I wake up, at every meal, upon entering a car, passing a church, before prayer, at bedtime, etc., I realize not only does every aspect of my life connect to the Cross but my life is the Cross. It represents who I am as a person and as a Christian. It is the reason for my existence. It is my purpose in life.
I often tell myself that I am blessed to be carrying a very light cross. There are times when I crave a heavier cross in the hope of drawing closer to Christ’s passion, but then I begin to complain about trivial things that inconvenience me and I convince myself that I do not have the strength to bear my own burdens. Thankfully, Christ bore them for me and freely sacrificed Himself on my behalf. Christ’s Cross and my cross are virtually one and the same.
Christ invites me to join Him at Calvary; to put myself in Simon the Cyrene’s place and lay my hands on the Cross of Life; to comfort Mother Mary at the foot of the Cross while her heart is being pierced by a sword; to stand beside the Beloved Disciple and gaze upon Christ’s scourged body in adoration while His enemies mock Him; to develop the virtue of humility as the good thief did and recognize Christ’s innocence and my sinfulness; to answer Christ’s call and crush His thirst for souls... especially mine.
I wholeheartedly accept Christ’s invitation to become one with the Cross. Denying myself, taking up my cross and following Christ has become my desire and objective in life. I am learning to die to myself, embrace the cross with a look of love and enter into true discipleship with Christ. The Cross is everything and without the Cross I am nothing. Nowadays, whenever I perform the ritual and recite the powerful prayer that is the Sign of the Cross, I can confidently echo the famous sentiments of Constantine and Saint Paul, “In this sign I shall conquer” because “I no longer live but it is Christ Who lives in me.”