God’s Mysterious Ways

By Tresa Van Heusen
“The Lord works in mysterious ways.” A phrase we often hear, or often say ourselves. This phrase may seem truest when you are able to look back over certain events in your life and see how the Lord has guided your life to help follow his will for you. I find this phrase comes to mind frequently these days as I examine events over the past eight years of my life and how they have lead me to this day on a discernment retreat with Sister Marla Marie and the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. All of this came to be with the help of my parents, three priests in the Maronite Church, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

A little over eight years ago, if you had asked me what a Maronite is, I would have had no idea! In 2001 my parents moved to Fayetteville, North Carolina. As whenever they move, they were quickly looking for a Catholic Church to call their new parish. At first they worshiped at one of the many Latin Rite Catholic Churches in the city, but for different reasons my father did not feel at peace in the church. My father noticed a small sign leading off the main road near their house that read “Catholic Church” and he was intrigued. So, one Sunday my parents decided to attend this small church, Saint Michael the Archangel, nestled inside a residential neighborhood. Following the Liturgy, my parents greeted the pastor of the church, Abouna Jack Morrison, and were immediately asked to volunteer in different ways. My parent’s enjoyed the Liturgy, the closeness of the parish and pastor, and found their new home at St. Michael the Archangel.
When my mother first informed me they were attending a Maronite Catholic Church, my first response was – “you can’t go there, it’s an Eastern Orthodox Church.” My mother then began to educate me that Eastern Rite Churches are members of the Catholic Church and full in communion with the Pope.

Over the next five years I began to learn about this beautiful jewel in our universal Catholic Church – the Maronite Church. It was fascinating to learn about the richness of our Catholic Church and I enjoyed attending Divine Liturgy whenever I was visiting my parents in North Carolina. I never had any intention of seeking out a Maronite Church for myself, but I always enjoyed worshiping at St. Michael’s during my visits.

In August 2006, I was in the middle of a move and visiting with my parents in North Carolina for a few weeks before departing to my new home in Atlanta, Georgia. I was due to depart early in the week, but because of car troubles I had to stay a few extra days. The night before I finally left, the new pastor at St. Michael’s held a parish meeting. Interested in meeting the new priest, I went to the meeting with my mother. The new pastor, Abouna Sam Najjar, gave an opening talk with some information about himself. A few times in the night he mentioned his home parish in Atlanta – Saint Joseph’s Maronite Church. I was excited to hear there was a Maronite Church in Atlanta and sought out Abouna Sam at the end of the evening to ask him about this. While my first thoughts were that I would enjoy visiting the church and possibly go to Divine Liturgy every so often, I was surprised when I discovered the parish was located right where I intended to live in the city.

I arrived in Atlanta on a Thursday. My first Saturday I went in search of St. Joseph’s Maronite Church, introduced myself to the pastor, Abouna Peter Boulos, and was there understand the Maronite Liturgy, I quickly fell in love with the spirituality and beauty of the liturgy and found my new home.

Now, three years later, I find myself reflecting upon these events while I visit with Sr. Marla Marie in discernment to join the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. At the time these events took place over the years, I was not aware they were part of any bigger picture for my life. I thought it was interesting to learn more about the Catholic Church, but did not realize it was all leading me to this moment where I feel strongly the Lord is calling me to serve in life. Although these events seemed as mere coincidences, I now see more clearly that there are no coincidences in life and I recognize these events as great blessings from God. It is with great joy that I continue the application process in the hope to enter the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light in February 2010.

(The photo above shows Sister Marla Marie and Tresa aboard the Mayflower II in Plymouth Rock, Massachusetts. Ancestors on Tresa's paternal side, the White Family, came to America on the Mayflower, 1620. Peregine White was the first white skinned baby boy born in America.)

Discernment Retreat

Sister Marla Marie and Tresa Van Heusen and were blessed to have a five day retreat (August 17-21) at the Trappist Abbey of the Genesee in Piffard, New York. Abbot John Denberger offered enlightening conferences on the vocation of religious life. Tresa is an applicant with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.


Our Teachers

“Of special importance withinTradition is the witness of the Fathers, or Teachers (Maronite liturgy uses these terms interchangeable), in the early Church. These are believers who possessed the gift of being able to explain the Faith on which they reflected. Their writings have been of enormous importance for understanding the development of the teachings of the Catholic Faith as well as the interpretation of Scripture according to their respective Traditions within the general Tradition of the church. Because the writings of men were considered authoritative in this area, they are often known as the “Fathers” of the Church.
Of particular importance are those Teachers who lived during the time of the Apostles and were taught by them. They are known as the ‘Aspostolic’ Fathers. Some of these include: Clement of Rome, Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Papias, et al. The value of their writings lies in the fact that they are so close to the time of the Apostles.
In addition to these, there were other Teachers who followed the Apostolic Fathers and continued to reflect on the mysteries of the Faith and to develop its theological understandings. These so-called ‘Sub-apostolic’ Fathers wrote in different regions of a Christianity now expanded beyond its Eastern Mediterranean origins. Included here are such people as the Syriac Teachers, which include Ephrem, Aphrahat, James of Sarug, and a host of Greek and Latin writers.
The whole Church has always valued the writings of the Church Fathers, and they remain essential to the knowledge of the development of the Church’s biblical/theological Tradition. We do well to be familiar with their writings, drinking deeply from their teachings.”
Icon of Saint Ephrem the Syrian
(Used with permission from page 124 of the book, “Captivated By Your Teachings”, by Father Anthony J. Salim, 2002.”

Assumption Pilgrimage 2009

Photos from the Maronite Servant's trip to the 44th annual Assumption Pilgrimage at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in North Jackson, Ohio. Sister Marla Marie attended with Tresa Van Heusen, an applicant with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.


Divine Liturgy at the Monastery

The Divine Liturgy is the life of the Church, and it is always a joy and awesome blessing when a Monastery is able to celebrate around the chapel altar. This joy was ours on August 10th when Abouna Jack Morrison celebrated the Holy Mysteries at Mother of the Light Monastery in Weymouth, MA.

Tresa Van Heusen proclaimed the reading, and Sister Marla Marie and Therese Abouzied formed the small congregation. Tresa is visiting for a three-week monastery experience as part of her applicant journey of discernment to join the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. Please keep Tresa in prayer during this time of discernment, and offer prayers for more holy vocations.
As at every Liturgy, you the faithful were remembered in our prayer. May His radiant light illumine your mind and heart always.


Saint Maron's Relic

"Ornament of the Divine Choir of Saints"
By Guita G. Hourani
As monasticism thrived in Antioch and Mesopotamia, a hermit named Maron emerged with ascetic life. The earliest written records about Saint Maron (1) are found in Historia Religiosa of Theodoret (2), and in a letter of John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople (344-407).
St. Maron’s fame circulated and attracted people from every region. He cured not only infirmities of the body, but applied suitable treatment to souls as well. He planted for God the garden that now flourishes in the region of Cyrrhus (3). A product of his planting was the great James, to whom one could reasonably apply the prophetic utterance, 'the righteous man will flower as the palm tree, and be multiplied like the cedar of Lebanon'. (4)
Treating souls and bodies alike through divine cultivation, St. Maron underwent a short illness and passed away. A bitter war over his body arose as an adjacent village came out in mass and seized this desired treasure. (5)
Saint John Chrysostom, Patriarch of Constantinople dedicated his 36th epistle to Saint Maron while exiled in Cucussus (6), Armenia, around the year 405:
"To Maron: We address ourselves to your honour and we hold you constantly in our mind and carry you in our souls. Write to us often so we might be cheered by learning constantly about your health and receive much consolation as we sit in solitude. And above all please pray for us". (7)
A church was built in his name and a sarcophagus containing the Saint's body was housed in it. It is believed that later the Saint's skull was transported to Apamea where they built the famous Saint Maron Monastery. According to historian Al-Mas'oudi:
"There was dedicated to him a great convent located in Hamah. Around it were 300 cells, inhabited by monks. That convent was sacked by the many raids of the Arabs and by the cruelty of the Sultan.”(8)
Patriarch Istephan Duwayhi in his book T'arikh al-Azmina tells us that when the first Maronite Patriarch Youhanna (John) Maron settled in Lebanon during the 8th century:
"He built a monastery after Saint Maron's name and put Saint Maron's skull in it to heal the faithful. That’s why the monastery is called "Rish Mro" Syriac for Maron's head (9).
Luigi Jacobilli in his book Vite De' Santi e Beati Dell'Umbria (10) asserts that in the year 1130 A.D., Saint Maron's skull was again moved to Foligno, Italy.
“In regard to the relics of St. Maron, Jacobilli affirms that the Saint's skull is now preserved in Foligno after being transferred three times. The authenticity of the first transfer [from Syria to Sassovivo] is recorded in the Chronicon Monasterii S. Crucis Saxivivi, the other two transfers are noted in the archive of the Church in Volperino and the Town Hall of Foligno.” (11)
Saint Maron left a legacy behind him that flourishes today in a people named after him- the Maronites, found all over the world. Saint Maron's feast day is celebrated on February 9th which is an official national day in Lebanon.
(1) Other spellings: Maro, Maroun, Marun, Maroon.
(2) The text of Theodoret is published in "Patrologiae Graecae", vol. LXXXII, 1864, column 1417 and 1419 and that of John Chrysostom in "Patrologiae Graecae", vol. 51.3, 1862, the 36 epistle, column 630.
(3) Cyrrhus, Cyr, Quros, or Hagioupolis, is now Huru Pegamber in Eastern Turkey. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, vol. I, (Oxford, 1991), pp. 574-575.
(4) Psalm 92:12.
(5) Theodore of Cyrrhus. A History of the Monks of Syria. (Michigan, 1985), p. 119, note # 3.
(6) Cucusa, or Cucusus is now in Turkey.
(7) AbouZayd, S. Ihidayutha: A study of the Life of Singleness in the Syrian Orient: From Ignatius of Antioch to Chalcedon 451 A.D., (Oxford, 1993), p. 363.
(8) Al-Mas'oudi, Le livre de l'avertissement et de la revision,1897, p. 211.
(9) Khoury-Harb, A.The Maronites, p. 40.
(10) Jacobilli, Luigi. Vite de' Santi e Beati dell'Umbria, l. II, (Foligno, 1656), pp. 134-138.
(11) Ibid., column 1195 and 1196.

Abridged and reprinted with permission from back issues of the Journal of Maronite Studies, January 1997 Vol 1, No. 1. Guita G. Hourani is the chairwoman of MARI (The Maronite Research Institute).