Bkerke, December 15, 2011

 “I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people:
A savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.” (Luke 2:1-11)

1. In the middle of the night, 2011 years ago, the light of the glory of God shone on simple shepherds over the Bethlehem cave, and his angel came to announce to them and through them to the whole world, the Good News: “A savior has been born for you who is Messiah and Lord.”  At the same time, in the skies over Persia, a unique star appeared, prompting pagan scholars to see it as a sign of the birth of the King of the Ages to come (Matthew 2:1-2).  They came to Bethlehem: simple shepherds from near, and rich magi scholars from afar. They prostrated in homage before the Divine Child and presented Him with the gifts of their faith, hope and love.  He reciprocated by sharing with them the Divine nature.  We, in Lebanon, the East and in the countries of expansion, likewise prostrate before the nativity cave to be enlightened by the Light of Truth announced to the whole world, and to be sanctified by the grace of the Divine life bequeathed to us.  The echo of the words of Pope Leo the Great, resounds in the depths of our hearts saying, “Christian, acknowledge your dignity, and become a sharer in the Divine nature, refuse to return to the old baseness by degenerate conduct” (Sermon 21, On the Feast of the Nativity, Para 3).

2. It is a joyous occasion for me, on behalf of the Patriarchal See, His Beatitude and Eminence Cardinal Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, their Excellencies the Bishops, the priests, monks and nuns, and all the helpers here to express our best wishes to our brothers and sisters in Lebanon, the Middle East and the countries of expansion and to all citizens here and broad, at the birth of our Lord Jesus, Redeemer and Savior of all people, and the coming of the New Year 2012.  Prayers accompany these good wishes so that the Divine Child may shower an abundance of graces and goodness, and bless the coming year with peace, tranquility and a dignified life.

3. Christmas – a Cave, a Star and a Tree.
            The Cave reminds us of the Incarnation of the Word of God, as Luke recounted in his Gospel. It also presents us with examples to emulate, such as humility and poverty, two models that Christ our Lord followed because of his love for humanity, impelling us to change from within, through the grace of the One who entered our humanity. “The Son of God,” says Pope Leo the Great, “has so united Himself with us and us with Him that the descent of God to man’s estate became the exaltation of man to God’s” (Sermon 27, On the Feast of the Nativity, Para 2).
            O how impoverished we are and in great need for God’s love to abide in our hearts this Christmas, as it abided in the heart of His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and the hearts of the saints!  O how impoverished we are for that love that would enrich us with human sentiments and ethics in our dealing with others and in all our communication, especially on the part of the authorities and representatives of the nation in Parliament and the Cabinet, that we may live the beauty of “communion and love” in our own family, in our social family and in our national family.  Communion, first and foremost, is union with God at the committed spiritual level and union with all people at the level of relations, where every individual, group and member of society may give his/her cumulative worth; thus, a diverse and integrated society is established.  Love is the bond of that communion, its springhead and its goal.

O how impoverished we are and how much we need humility before God and man that we may be able to leave the darkness of pride and egoism; the darkness of pretension and self sufficiency; the darkness of refusal of the one who differs in opinion and aspirations; from the darkness of forcefulness, haughtiness and the branding of others with treachery!
           O how impoverished we are and how much we need the virtue of poverty of self and enrichment in God; poverty manifested in detachment from personal interest and from personal material and sectarian gains at the expense of the common good.  Every person in authority is in need of this virtue; the one who is without it, is the weakest of the weak.

4. Christmas is a Star; and that Star is Christ is the “Word of God made flesh” (John 1:14), Who entered into a perpetual dialogue with every person, enlightening him on the path of life, revealing to him the splendor of truth amidst the darkness of perplexity and of lies.  This Star led the magi to the new born Messiah.  When the Star vanished over Jerusalem, the magi logically went looking for Him at the king’s palace, where might, culture and knowledge were, but He was not born there.  God does not appear where worldly power dwells, or where there is the power of riches or the power of weapons, or the power of authority.  But the Word of the Holy Scriptures informed them that He was to be born in Bethlehem and that Word appeared anew in the Star which led them to the place of His birth among the humble and the lowly.  There, the King of the world was born, to indicate that His Kingship is freedom and love.  This King is not born except in the hearts of the truly free: those free from self, from their own whims, from their own perversions and from the enticements of the world.  The King is born in the hearts of those who truly love God and love each and every person.  They alone respect freedom in all its dimensions and witness to this love in their works and the exercise of their responsibilities.  Come brothers and sisters; let us search for the Star in the Word of God, Who erected His tent in the Church and made of Her “the pillar of truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

            5. Christmas is a Tree, decorated and lit. This, in fact, is the Church, sparkling with the light of Christ, Her founder Who abides in Her; in fact, She is one with His Mystery.  She is Christ in His fullness.  This is how the Apostle John saw her: “the holy city, a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband to be a new earth and a new heaven” (Revelation 21:1-2). This reality is present wherever people live in communion and love, vertically united to God through the Divine Word, prayer and the grace of the sacraments and, horizontally united with all people through solidarity, connection, cooperation and integration.
            The Christmas Tree, with its twinkling lights is the Face of the Church reflecting Christ, the Light of the Nations.  Glad tidings of joy are proclaimed to all people through His Gospel. His Gospel is the light of truth to minds, the light of healing grace to souls and the reviving light of love to hearts.  This sparkling Church, like the Christmas Tree, is charged by Her Master to proclaim His Gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15); this Gospel decorates the Church with saints, prophets, martyrs and confessors.  Come all you Christians!  Let us decorate the Church with different kinds of talents and gifts, which the Holy Spirit poured out upon us and upon every person that we may be an “added value” in our society.
            6. Greetings to all from in front of the Cave, Star and the Tree.
            You who are in Lebanon we salute you and congratulate you on the Feast.  Come  let us build the nation with its mission, and live in the diversity of our Christian and Muslim communities among others, and in the diversity of our cultures, aspirations, opinions, and political and national choices, along with the beauty of our unity, solidarity and connections, and be for each other and our Lebanese society an added value.  This is how Christians and Muslims wanted Lebanon to be when they invented their National Pact in 1943, and committed to living together, to be an added value for each other.  After nearly seventy years of experience, let us renew our National Pact through a new social contract and continue writing the history of groups that have decided to live together in peace and overcome each crisis that comes their way by virtue of their geopolitical position.  Let us build an “added value” state with stability and radiance of its role on the shores of the Eastern Mediterranean, within the Arab milieu, and the international community.
            7. You who are in the countries of the Middle East we salute you with the best wishes of Christmas, in peace and hope, as you endure the tribulations of wars, conflicts and conflicting claims, having before your eyes and consciences many questions concerning the future and our common destiny.  In the midst of darkness, may the light and glory of God shine on you as on the night of the Nativity of Christ the Lord when the angels chanted: “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth and good will toward men” (Luke 2:14).  We look forward with you, through the wishes of Christmas and the New Year, to the birth of a real Arab Spring, one of peace and stability based on religious, cultural and ethnic pluralism, equality of citizenship and democracy, and distanced far from the singleness of race, religion, confession and opinion.
            8. You who are in the countries of the expansion and under every sky we salute you and congratulate you on this Feast. May the light of Christ the Lord shine upon you with all His gifts and graces, and unite us with the joy of His Nativity, for He has been united with every person through His Incarnation.  To you are our best wishes that the New Year may be filled with peace, goodwill and success.

            To us and to all people in the darkness of this world, the proclamation of the heavens is renewed: “To us is born a Savior” (Luke 2:11).  And we proclaim the message of peace and hope: “Christ is born! Halleluiah!


Christmas Play - New Bedford

On Saturday, December 10 we gladly assisted and participated in the children’s Christmas  Concert and Play at Our Lady of Purgatory, New Bedford. Various children from the parish, ranging from the ages of one to fourteen re-enacted the nativity. Following the play, they performed a selection of Christmas carols both in Arabic and English.  Abouna Jack Morrison, pastor, accompanied on the piano while the children sang, under the direction of Matthew Thomas. During the well attended evening of family gathering, singing and celebration, Santa came and surprised the children with a visit and some goodies.

Holiday Entertainment

Christmas Pageant at Our Lady of the Annunciation Melkite Cathedral
We were invited to attend the Children’s Christmas Pageant at Our Lady of the Annunciation Melkite Cathedral, Boston on Sunday December 18.

Pauline Sisters’ Christmas Concert
On Sunday, December 11 we attended the Pauline Sisters’ Christmas Concert in Jamaica Plain, Boston.


Eastern Catholic Vocations Fair

On Sunday, January 22nd, 2012, the  Eastern Catholic Bishops of the United States of America   (USCCB Region XV) is  pleased to host the first ever Eastern Catholic Vocations  Fair at the Ukrainian  Catholic National Shrine of the Holy Family in Washington,  DC, from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm.  The Eastern Catholic Bishops of  the United  States  invite all students in the area as well as interested people  to come on by and learn about the importance of Christ’s call in  your lives to  the priesthood, diaconate, and religious life.  This is also a great chance to learn about the various Eastern  Catholic Churches that  are here in the USA, serving a diverse community of immigrants from countries like Iraq, Lebanon, Romania, Syria, Ukraine and  many others, but also serving generations of Americans over the years.  Come and see! For more information, check  out our facebook  page: www.facebook.com/EasternCatholicVocationsFairUSA
Or contact: Rev. Paul J. Makar  215-627-0143


Sunday of the Revelation to Joseph

(From Prayer of the Faithful According to the Maronite Liturgical Year)
Joseph, the spouse of Mary, lived a life of obscurity and devotion to him suffered the same lot during the first centuries of the Church. However, we find that Jerome praises his virginity; John Chrysostom spoke about his sufferings and his joys. It is said that Helen built a church in his honor at Bethlehem and a feast has been celebrated in his memory by the Eastern Churches since the ninth century.
The Maronite Church celebrates his feast on the fifth Sunday of the Season of Announcement and also on March 19.

From the day of the announcement of Gabriel to Mary and her Virginal conception, three months had already passed. During this time, Mary kept silent. Although the consequences could have been disastrous to her reputation, she revealed the great mystery to no one, not even Joseph, her betrothed, or her relative, Elizabeth. She trusted in God and knew that he would reveal the great mystery in his own time and in his own way. The Lord did just this.

According to Jewish law, betrothal was equivalent to marriage. Even before cohabitation, if a man desired to leave a woman, he had to give the bride a written divorce. If the groom were to die, the bride was considered to be a widow. If the woman was found guilty of adultery, it was the duty of the man to repudiate her publically (Deuteronomy 22: 10-29; Leviticus 20: 10).

When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he could not understand how something like this could have happened. Mary continued to be modest, kind and compassionate. Saint Jerome describes Joseph's confusion: "Joseph, knowing the chastity of Mary and admiring what happened, hid in a silence the mystery he was unable to understand." Just as Mary respected the mystery, so also did Joseph. However, he decided that it was his duty to send her away in silence, even though he would have to suffer. They would have to separate rather than unveil the mystery. The Holy Family began with this martyrdom of self in the face of God's mystery.

God intervened in a dream, which Joseph did not doubt as coming from heaven. God told Joseph that Mary was pregnant through the power of the Holy Spirit. He also gave Joseph his role as the "father" of the family: "Mary will give birth and you will call him Jesus. This child will deliver people from their sins" (Matthew 1: 21). A great responsibility was given to Joseph and, like Mary, he accepted the will of God.
Joseph was called to be the humble servant of God, Jesus and Mary. He would do all his duties in silence. He would serve, protect, provide and die before even seeing a miracle. His entire life became one of love, immolation, sacrifice, work and self-effacement. He would take Mary to Bethlehem, flee to Egypt, bring Jesus and Mary out of Egypt, look for Jesus in the Temple-and die in silence. This was his mission and he accomplished it because he trusted in God. Joseph has often been compared to the Joseph of the Old Testament, the son of Jacob. As Joseph of the Old Testament saved Egypt and its neighbors, may the Joseph of the New Testament save the Church and all those who come to him. "Go to Joseph. He has the riches of the king! The king has entrusted to him the distribution of his goods!"


Maronite Servants' Appeal

Our visit with His Beatitude, Patriarch Beshara Rai, October 2011.
Sister Therese Maria and I are looking forward to moving into the convent, God willing, in the coming weeks. We are thrilled! And we can’t wait to share our home with all of you.
The Mother of the Light Convent will allow us to host retreats and spiritual gatherings for our beloved friends of Maronite parishes across the country. But we need help in getting there.

We recognize these are challenging times for many families including our own Maronite Servants community. We appreciate whatever support you’re able to contribute. Please know we are good stewards and we wouldn’t ask for help if it wasn’t badly needed. Unfortunately, our operating budget is already in the red due to unforeseen circumstances beyond our control.
During this time of giving, I humbly ask that you consider adding us to your Christmas list. Your tax deductible donation can be offered by mail (see Support Us link above) or via our online PayPal option on our website. Thank you.Opening our convent is costly but the gifts it will offer are priceless.
From our home to yours, Merry Christmas. God Bless you.
Sister Marla Marie and Sister Therese Maria
Please read our Winter News 2011.


Marriage or Friendship?

by His Excellency, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour

No one should be against true friendship, whether friends are of the same sex or opposite sexes. Friendships are good, and they can be very deep and fulfilling. The ideal of friendship as a union of hearts and minds in which each one loves the other’s good as his or her own is beautifully exemplified in the friendship of David and Jonathan: “The soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul” (1 Samuel 18:1). Likewise, friendship was hardly absent from the life of our Lord. Jesus taught the value of ultimate sacrifice in terms of friendship (John 15:13); he wept over the death of his dear friend Lazarus (John 11:35); revealed his inner most self to his Apostles in order to transform them from servants into friends (John 15:15); brought Peter, James, and John closer to him than the others (Mt 17,1; Mk 9,2 Mark 5:35-43); and was closest of all to the ‘Beloved Disciple’, who reclined on his chest at the last supper (John 13:23).
Friendship, however, must not be confused with marriage.
Listern here to more of this reflection. 


Radiating His Light at the Institute of Religious Life Meeting - Boston

Consecrated men and women, and laity at IRL Boston.

 (C) Fr. Thomas Nelson, O.Praem., is the National Director
of the Institute on Religious Life,
(L) Michael Wick, Excecutive Director
By Sr. Therese Maria Touma
On Saturday  November 11th we attended the Institute of Religious Life (IRL) Regional Meeting at the Basilica of Perpetual Help, Boston, M.A.  This year’s meeting was titled, Sacred Liturgy and the Consecrated Life. The day of recollection included three spiritual talks, Divine Liturgy, adoration and benediction.  

One of the talks titled The Holy Mysteries: the Eucharist as the Radiant Light for the Consecrated Life was presented by Sister Marla Marie. In her reflective presentation, Sister highlighted the beauty of our Maronite Church within the Easter Catholic Churches, sharing some of our Maronite spirituality, theology, icons and music utilizing power point slides for illustrations. 

The second part of Sister Marla Marie’s presentation explained the Holy Mysteries by taking three rituals in the Divine Liturgy and relating them to the life of the consecrated persons.  Sister discussed the ritual of the Lighting, the symbolism of Incensing, and the prayer of the Transfer of Offerings. 
Sister Marla Marie referenced Church Documents such as Vita Consecrata (Consecrated Life) to help emphasize her point of how we can enter more deeply into the Mystery of the Eucharist, so that it can become who we are to others.

Some highlights that stood out for me were the beautiful prayers that were shared visually and vocally from the Divine Liturgy, while Syriac music played in the background.  Another highlight was the symbolism of the incense used in the Liturgy. We as Religious are to be that pleasing aroma ascending to God as we offer up our daily prayer, worship and sacrifices. As consecrated men and women, we are called to lay down our life as a living incense.

In reference to the prayer of the Transfer of Offerings, Sister Marla Marie shared that we are model Mary’s receptivity in receiving The Word, Jesus in her heart and body.  We are to receive Jesus into ourselves so that we can be fruitful in radiating his light to others.

The Institute on Religious Life (IRL) promotes and supports the growth, development, and renewal of the consecrated life—particularly vowed religious life—as a gift to the Church and an evangelical witness to the world. We include and engage bishops, clergy, religious, consecrated and lay faithful in a collaborative apostolate of prayer and service, guided by the magisterial teachings and rich heritage of the Church. More information at: www.religiouslife.com


Interview of Bishop Gregory on the Patriarch's Visit

Interview of His Excellency Bishop Gregory J. Mansour on the recent visit to the US of His Beatitude, Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai. 


‘Desiring His Light’ – Reflecting on My Retreat

By Sister Therese Maria Touma, Maronite Servant Novice
I have just concluded my six day silent retreat. The theme of this year’s retreat was “Desiring His Light” and under the direction of Mother Marla Marie, I was given online conferences by the late Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J. on selected Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola. This was a blessed time for me to receive new graces:  to thank the Lord for great things He has done in my life and will continue to do, to progress in self-knowledge, and just be still and know that the Lord is here with me, loving me, in His Word, in the Eucharist, in the Mystery of Penance and in the beautiful nature surrounding me (here in Dighton).
I enjoyed this precious time of retreat, and through spending more time with the Holy Scriptures, my desire to live Jesus’ light and beatitudes, and to love Him whole heartedly have intensified. In listening to the invaluable conferences I was enlightened in many ways. In particular, I came to appreciate more deeply how my religious vocation is not a gift just for myself and for my own holiness but for the salvation and sanctification of others. I am called by God to be a channel of grace, to reach out to others by using my gifts and talents to build up His Kingdom of love here and now. I am to be a witness of Christ’s love, mercy, healing and joy, and to put others in direct contact with His warmth and light.  What an awesome privilege and responsibility!
As Maronite Servants of Christ the Light we take six to eight days for silent retreat each year, and monthly we have recollection days (we call them Hermit Days) where the sisters spend the day in solitude and prayerful reflection following an annual theme. Overall my days of retreat were well-balanced and structured with scheduled conferences, meditations on Scripture, reflective walks, Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, spiritual direction and sharing, daily Divine Liturgy and Divine Praises, fasting, video clips on the life of Christ, and creative art.   I am grateful for all the time, love, and attention Mother Marla Marie put into preparing and facilitating this retreat for me. May I with the grace of God generously live out the fruits of this retreat.  


Sundays of the Church & Season of the Birth of our Lord

(Taken from Faith of the Mountain- Monsignor Dominic Ashkar)

Our Christian worship is based on the Person of Christ, His Incarnation, Death and Resurrection. The purpose of this worship is to involve the faithful in the Mysteries of Christ, helping them to reflect upon them, shaping their lives according to the same pattern and at the same time, sanctifying the element of TIME.
The Church spreads the Mystery of Christ throughout the year. That is what we call the Liturgical Year. The Liturgical Year becomes educational, helping the believer to live the Mystery of Christ gradually. That is why we see the whole thirty-three years of Christ's life condensed into one year.

The Liturgical year in the Maronite Churc begins on the First Sunday of November. These Sundays that prepare the Feast of Christmas are as follows:
Consecration of the Church
Dedication of the Church

Announcement Sundays:
Announcement to Zachariah
Announcement to Mary
Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth     
Birth of John the Baptist
Revelation to Joseph

The six last Sundays prepare us for Christmas.  These Sundays remind us of the Plan of Salvation.  The two first Sundays are not directly part of the liturgical year but they were included at this particular place because it coincides with the Jewish Celebration, the Consecration of the Temple.

The first Sunday is called the Consecration Sunday and the second is called Dedication Sunday, but the historical meaning is one: the Commemoration of the Consecration of Churches and Altars. The Commemoration of the Consecration of the Church is celebrated on the First Sunday of November. And if there are 8 Sundays between the first Sunday of November and Christmas, both the Consecration and the Dedication will be celebrated. But if there are only seven Sundays, only the Consecration is celebrated and the Dedication is dropped. 

The Dedication of the Church means the celebration of the Consecration of the house of God (material buildings), and the Church (the body of Christ).


Bishop Mansour Welcomes Patriarch Rai

Welcome Patriarch Bechara Rai
"The Maronite Catholic Church is led by an extraordinary man. Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai is a prayerful man, but does not hide behind prayer. He is a sincere man but is not shy in reaching out to others. He is “strong, loving and wise” as Saint Paul encourages his disciple Timothy to be. He is practical, intelligent, faithful and relies completely on God. He represents the best of what the Maronite Church, her prayer and way of life have to offer.
He is not a political man, nonetheless, he is unafraid of speaking the truth or to say what is not politically correct, as long as it is true and promotes “communion and love”. He has stood before the most powerful and has also been a friend to the lowly. He is as the Psalmist urges us to be: strong with the strong, meek with the humble, and astute with the crooked.
The Lebanon in which he lives is divided. It is not easy to describe these divisions as Christian/Muslim or Sunni/Shiite, the divisions seem more like political parties and/or personalities opposed to those who think differently. One might be able to describe it as “every man for himself”.
However, in the midst of this “winner takes all” mentality comes a father, a Patriarch, a man who prays and dreams of something greater.
I hope and pray that the Maronite Church throughout the world, as well as every citizen and friend of Lebanon will come to respect and love the wisdom of our Patriarch, and embrace his vision of a Maronite Church and a Lebanon in dialogue with others.
Please join me in welcoming His Beatitude, Bechara Peter Rai, Maronite Patriarch of Antioch and All the East."
+ Gregory J Mansour
Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn

See the Bishop's Blog for an Open Letter to President Obama which begins: "I am terribly disappointed with the rebuff of Patriarch Bechara Peter Rai who is the Catholic leader of the Maronites worldwide and one of the most respected Christian leaders in Lebanon and the Middle East. The motto of his coat of arms reflects his personality and is call for 'communion and love.'"


Formation of The Maronite Patriarchate

Here is a brief historical note on the patriarchate as we welcome our Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai who began his inaugural US visit on Oct. 4 and will conclude on Oct. 23.  The Maronite Patriarch is the head of the largest Catholic patriarchal church.

Formation of The Maronite Patriarchate
This series from the “Faith of the Mountain” deals with the Maronite Patriarchate which means Glory-Asceticism-Testimony. It reveals and shows a way of life and recalls a glorious struggle and an uninterrupted testimony for Catholicity and human right values in the midst of the Middle Eastern religious plurality.
Maronity is Martyrdom
In fact the Maronite Patriarchate was a necessity during the darkness of a vacancy; it was in that time a martyrdom to replace the murdered Antiochene patriarch. While the others had run away, the Maronites were steadily ready to offer themselves.
The Patriarch is consecrated a Head, a Father, a Guide, and a Civilian Ruler; he is a Symbol of Unity, a “father and an example of our faith" in a biblical sense. If we recognize him as our Head, we will be faithful to our Ancestors’ will, we confess and foster our Unity, and we rescue our Church, as a distinguishing minority, from fusion in the melting-pot of this huge world.
The Apostolicity of The Antiochene See
The Incarnate Word of God arose within the context of the Roman political structure. By order of their Master, the Apostles pushed themselves forward to the cities where the civilized world of the Roman Empire was centered and it was quite natural that Antioch, “the Queen City of the East", should be the first center for Apostolic activities. This is proved by the fact that it was in Antioch that the followers of Jesus Christ were for the first time mockingly called “Christians” (Acts XI, 26).
According to Church Tradition, the See of Antioch was founded by Peter the Apostle who was joined by Paul and Barnabas. There, in Antioch, one of the first conflicts within the Church developed between Peter and Paul concerning the necessity of circumcision for Gentile converts to Christianity. Other conflicts followed during the early centuries; this is indicative of the dynamic nature of that Christian Community. As a result, the Patriarchate of Antioch has the right to claim greater antiquity and fuller apostolicity than all the other ancient Christian Churches.

(Taken from the catechetical series: Faith of the Mountain)


Maronite Teens from North Carolina attend World Youth Day 2011

By Cecilia Romero

Seven teens from the North Carolina Maronite Church of St Michael the Archangel had the wonderful opportunity to attend World Youth Day which was held August 15 to August 22, 2011 in Madrid, Spain.  The teens were led by Mrs. Marie Van Heusen. Also with the group was Seminarian Ian Van Heusen who gave several spritual talks and Cecilia Romero who served as a translator. Father Samuel Najjar, pastor of St Michael the Archangel along with many parishioners and friends, spiritually and financially aided the group to participate in this pilgrimage.

World Youth Day is an even held every two years in which teens and young adults from all over the world come together to witness their Catholic faith. Many Maronites from Lebanon and Australia were also present in Madrid. Reports from the media estimated that three million people traveled to WYD Madrid. There were many events  which culminated at the Sunday Mass at Cuatro Vientos airfield led by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI. More reports about World Youth Day will be featured in future blogs.


Maronite Patriarch's Visit to the US

NOTE:  If you would like to attend any of the banquets, contact the host parish to purchase tickets.  St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River is hosting a banquet on October 18th after the 6:00PM Liturgy, tickets are $100.  Reserve now by calling 508/672-7653.
Brooklyn, NY—September 27. Maronite Patriarch, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai-- the head of the largest Catholic patriarchal church--will be making his inaugural visit to the United States from Lebanon October 4 to 23, 2011. 
The Patriarch arrives in St. Louis, Missouri on Tuesday, October 4. He will then undertake a vigorous pastoral schedule which will take him to Peoria, IL-- October 9; Chicago, IL-- October 10; Cleveland, OH --October 11, Houston, TX--October 13; and Los Angeles, CA--October 13-16.
The last week of his trip brings him on Monday October 17 to Uniontown, PA, October 18 to Fall River, MA, October 18 to Petersham, MA, and October 19 through 23 to NewYork. He is scheduled to meet with Ecumenical leaders Thursday, October 20 at the national headquarters of C.N.E.W.A. and with United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, in New York on Friday October 21.
In announcing the itinerary for the Patriarch’s visit, Bishop Robert Shaheen and Bishop Gregory Mansour, said that the Patriarch, as father and head of the Maronite Catholic Church, was coming with the purpose of “visiting his flock.”
The Maronite Church is the largest of the six Eastern Catholic patriarchal churches, with an estimated 3.3 million faithful around the world and in full communion with the Holy See in Rome. There are 45 bishops throughout the world, two eparchies (Dioceses) here in the United States. His Beatitude’s full title as Patriarch of Antioch and All the East reflects the responsibility he has for the Maronite Church in Lebanon and the Middle East, and from this perspective he serves as a principal of unity for Catholics of the Middle East.
“While the Patriarch is coming to visit his flock here in the United States, as the full schedule of his visits attests, nevertheless, we must not forget that he is also concerned with the broader issue of the future of Christians in the Middle East, as well as the wellbeing of the Lebanese state which was deliberately created to be a home reflecting the conviviality between Christians and Muslims,” Bishop Gregory has said.
While in New York, the Patriarch will hold press conferences—on October 20, at the offices of the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA); and on October 21, at the United Nations sponsored by the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See.
For press information and interviews please contact:
Monsignor George Sebaali at (804)-270-7234, or 804 -240-9820 (Cell) and email gmsebaali@aol.com or log onto www.stmaron.org or www.usamaronite.org.


Maronite Chapel of Our Lady of Lebanon Dedication - D.C.

            Washington, DC, September 26, 2011 The new Maronite Chapel of Our Lady of Lebanon at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception was dedicated on Friday, September 23, 2011.  The Most Reverend Gregory J. Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, presided over the ceremonies.  Joining Bishop Mansour were Cardinal Donald W. Wuerl, Archbishop of Washington and Chairman of the Basilica’s Board of Trustees who was the homilist; Archbishop Timothy P. Broglio of the Archdiocese for the Military Services; Maronite Bishop Robert J. Shaheen, Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon; Bishop Stephen Hector Doueihi, Bishop Emeritus of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn; Monsignor Walter R. Rossi, Rector of the Basilica; several priests and seminarians associated with the Shrine; and more than one hundred Maronite Catholics and other Catholic faithful who attended the momentous occasion. 
“This is a beautiful day for the Maronites and for the National Shrine,” commented Bishop Mansour.  “The Church breathing with both lungs.”

Monsignor Rossi added, “With the dedication of the Chapel of Our Lady of Lebanon, one of the most ancient Eastern Churches is now represented at the patronal Church of the United States.  The Chapel visibly expresses the beauty of another distinct community in the Roman Catholic Church, the Maronite Church.   Deep gratitude is extended to Bishop Gregory Mansour and the entire Maronite Community for their support of this project and most importantly for their devotion to Our Lady.”

The Chapel of Our Lady of Lebanon features a unique design, depicting a small Lebanese stone church.  The Chapel was designed by the St. Jude Liturgical Arts Studio of Havertown, Pennsylvania.

The nation’s only Maronite Seminary, Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Seminary, which is located close to Catholic University of America in northwest Washington, D.C., celebrated its 50th Anniversary that evening, along with the 50th anniversary of the ordination to the priesthood of Seminary’s Rector, Chorbishop Seely Beggiani. 

Bishop Mansour and the Maronite Church in America now await the arrival of the Patriarch of the Maronite Church, His Beatitude Bechara Peter Rai, on his first pastoral visit to America beginning on October 2.  Patriarch Rai is scheduled to visit the United Nations and multiple cities during his three-week trip to the United States and be featured at gala events across the country.  More details can be found at www.stmaron.org. 


Images of Light in Our Maronite Tradition

Taken from "Captivated by Your Teachings", by Father Anthony J. Salim

Images of Light
In the midst of doubt, darkness --whether physical, or spiritual, intellectual or emotional--can be dispelled by light. Our Maronite ancestors knew this truth, and they were fond of expressing much about the spiritual life in terms of light, which pervades the whole Tradition. As you pray the liturgical services, the image of light appears again and again. God is light; the Kingdom is one of light; faith is light in our souls. This image is prominent in the thought of the East. Nowhere is this seen better in the Maronite Tradition than in the Noohro, or .Hymn of Light,. in Morning Prayer of the Divine Office
(Safro). It says, in part:

The light of the just and the joy of the upright is
Christ Jesus our Lord.
Begotten from the Father, he manifested himself to us.
He came to rescue us from darkness and to fill us with
the radiance of his light..
Day is dawning upon us; the power of darkness is fading
From the true light there arises for us the light which
illumines our darkened eyes..
He brings salvation and grants us life.
He ascends to his Father on high.
He will return in glorious splendor and shed his light
on those gazing upon him.

This emphasis on light is not mere poetry. Light is a strong and vibrant image of the reality of God’s Presence among and power in us. Most of all, its very characteristic –brightness - is cause for our hope, on many levels of our life, here and hereafter.   The Maronite Divine Service begins with the Lighting of the Church. As the lights of the church are turned on, and the candles in the sanctuary are lighted, the Congregation sings:

In your light we see light,
Jesus, Lord of light.
You are true light
who enlightens all creation.
With your light enlighten us,
gladden us with your bright dawn.
Pure and holy One,
you dwell in heaven.s bright light.
Keep destructive hate and hardship
far away from us.
Help us live in righteousness;
help us purify our hearts..


Saint Shayna (or Abramius) & Saint Sassine- September 15

(Translation from the Maronite Martyrology)

Saint Abramius, also called Shayna (which means protection), was from Antioch, chief of a band of thieves. One day he wanted to rob a convent of nuns. He and his fellows dressed up as monks and entered the convent to rob it. The nuns received them in and one nun started washing his feet following the customs of the time and the place in receiving guests. One of the nuns was sick and paralyzed. She anointed herself with the dirty wash water and was healed. When Abramius saw this miracle along with the righteousness and holiness that reigned in this convent, he was so moved and immediately touched by grace that he decided to repent and give up his sinful way of life. At once he revealed his identity to the nuns and told them about his purpose for entering their convent. And to prove that, he showed them his hidden sword then put it in their hands to indicate granting them protection; therefore he was nicknamed Shayna meaning protection. He and his fellows became monks and ended their lives in works of repentance and asceticism. Shayna became their prior in the monastery. Through his guidance he converted a great number of pagans, then died in peace.

Saint Sassine was the bishop of the city of Cozikis. The governor of Cozikis arrested him. He bravely admitted his Christian faith. The governor got angry and ordered him to offer up to idols. He refused and began demonstrating that pagan worship and its superstitions are vain and that the Christian religion is the true religion. The governor raged and ordered him to be tortured. They tied him to untamed horses until his body got smashed. Then they whipped him hard but he held fast in his faith. They threw him in prison shackled with iron cuffs. When King Constantine the great rose to power, he defended the Church and liberated her from persecution; he released the holy bishop and restituted the bishopric seat to him. When the Arius heresy appeared, and the first Nicene Council convened in the year 325, Sassine began debating the followers of Arius and confuting them with his sound demonstrations. Then he returned to his seat spreading the teachings of the Nicene Council.
Galius was an enemy to Constantine and the Christians. He arrested bishop Sassine and inflicted upon him the worst tortures. He was beheaded and dies around the year 328.

Mahrajan - New Bedford

On Saturday September 10th, the Maronite Servants attended the Our Lady of Purgatory Mahrajan at Holy Ghost Park, South Dartmouth. Pictured here are the parish children entertaining the crowd with traditional Lebanese dancing.


Convent Blessing –Dartmouth

By Sister Therese Maria Touma
On Saturday  August  27th, the Maronite Servants happily welcomed His Excellency, Bishop Gregory Mansour to their convent in Dartmouth. In between his pastoral visit to the parish of Our Lady of Purgatory, New Bedford, Sayedna came to bless our home and growing community.  We were deeply touched by his spontaneous and simple gestures and blessing, as he dedicated everything in our home, including our mission and the two present members to God, and to the building of His Kingdom of love and peace. After the blessing, we offered Sayedna and Abouna Jack Morrison (pastor of Our Lady of Purgatory) hospitality and refreshments in the main vestibule of the house.

We thank God for Sayedna Gregory, and we as a Maronite Church are truly blessed to have him as our shepherd, loving father and spiritual guide. We appreciate his dedication and ongoing support as we continue to establish our mission as Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.  Our prayers are with you Sayedna wherever you go!  
Note to our readers:  We are not yet living in Mother of the Light Convent due to delays in renovations, but anticipate to "officially" move in within a month's time. 


Cape Ann - Liturgy

We attended Divine Liturgy celebrated by Chorbishop Joseph Kaddo (representing His Excellency, Bishop Gregory Mansour) at St. Ann’s Church Gloucester, M.A. This Liturgy was offered for the deceased and living members of the Cape Ann Lebanese Community, September 6, 2011.


Richard’s Blessed Road to Recovery

By Sister Therese Maria Touma
On our recent visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon in Ohio, I interviewed Richard Loutfi (25), from Brooklyn N.Y. about his terrible attack in Queens, N.Y. which had left him with brain damage and other physical limitations. On the upside, we also discussed at length his journey of recovery and the good that has come from this tragic event, a deeper conversion to the faith and a greater appreciation for the gift of life and especially the simple things in life!
I asked Richard three main questions:  What happened to you on the night of your attack?   How did it affect your life?  How has it changed you as a person?  Here I share a summary of our conversation:
On August 15, 2009 Richard was viciously attacked and robbed by a group of men in Queens, N.Y. on the evening of the Feast of the Assumption. He was left unconscious and wounded in the street. When he woke up hours later, he heard a woman’s voice tell him to “go and look to your left to get help.”   Richard sensed that it was the Mother of God.  Once Richard managed to get up, he went to get help and came across two men, who saw him bleeding from his nostrils and ears. So the men called the ambulance, and Richard was immediately rushed to Jamaica Hospital Medical Centre.
At the hospital four trauma responders worked rapidly to control the pressure and bleeding from his brain, so that they could then transfer him to undergo brain surgery. After the extensive brain procedure, Richard was bed ridden for a month. His body was weak, his speech had been severely impaired, he had no strength to walk and function as he would normally do. He had to go to rehabilitation to re-learn how to walk and talk, and he continues with rehab to this day.
Furthermore, as a result of the attack, Richard suffered post traumatic stress and paranoia. He lost trust in all his friends. He became quite angry towards the world, the police, and even his closest friends. He lost contact with all of his old friends and broke of his relationship with his girlfriend. He was quite shattered emotionally and physically from the hurtful incident.
However, today Richard happily stated that he is now at peace with God and the world, as he has made many new friends who are sincere and supportive. Most importantly, he attributes his healing and recovery to the grace of God and the Mother of God. This event has completely changed Richard for the better as he has become happier as a person, as he has put his full trust in God, through the power of prayer.
Two years later, Richard is now speaking at a 90% capacity and walking with the help of a cane for balance. Spiritually, Richard has grown closer to God and his love and devotion towards the Mother of God has grown tremendously. He is now spending more time in prayer, and loves to pray the rosary each day.
In conclusion, Richard shared some beautiful thoughts, he said,  “I don’t take things in life for granted, especially the beautiful gift of life. I smile now when bad things happen, I smile when I see the sun, I stop to smell the flowers and take in the beauty around me. I thank God constantly for his creation and the gift of his peace. I am happy I can see, walk and feel…I am alive and at peace with God.”


Meeting with Bishop Coleman - Fall River

The Maronite Servants met with Most Reverend George W.Coleman, bishop of the Fall River Diocese.  The Sisters introduced themselves to His Excellency and shared about their mission and convent in Dartmouth, Massachusetts.  This was a courtesy visit to meet the local ordinary of the Latin diocese in which Dartmouth is located.  Bishop Coleman gave the Maronite Servants a beautiful blessing on their mission. 

Feast of the Assumption -- Ohio

Last weekend August 13-15th the Maronite Servants drove to North Jackson, Ohio to attend the 46th Annual Assumption Pilgrimage at the National Shrine of Our Lady of Lebanon. It was a blessed weekend filled with many graces, as we joined our Maronite family in joy to celebrate the feast.  Some of the highlights included Maronite, Latin and Byzantine Liturgies, Spiritual conferences, candlelight processions, Maronite Vespers (Ramsho), Confessions, and the Paraclesis to the Blessed Virgin.

May the powerful prayers of our Blessed Mother continue to guide and strengthen our Maronite Servant mission, and we especially pray for an increase in religious vocations to our community. 


Marina the Monk

By Guita G. Hourani

This is Part I of a three-part article on Saint Marina the Monk. Part I narrates her hagiography in the Maronite tradition, gives an overview of the most important references pertaining to her story, relates legends about her relics and describes her Office and Ode. Part II deals with her churches, sanctuaries, cults, and iconography in Lebanon and Cyprus. Part III uncovers the author’s newly discovered Ode in honor of the Saint written in Arabic with Syriac scripts (Garshuni).

There are six well known saints with the name of Marina or Marinos – Marina the Monk (or Marina the Syrian), Marina the Martyr of Antioch, Marina of Spain, Marina of Alexandria, Marina of Sicily and Marina the Cistercian (Clugnet 1904: 564- 568). However, there are most likely two who have truly existed -- Marina of Antioch who accepted martyrdom for her faith and Marina the Monk who suffered the consequences of her imposture as a male monk in the Monastery of Qannoubine, Lebanon (Clugnet 1904: 568).
Léon Clugnet states that the confusion pertaining to all of the other saints named Marina is due to the translators and the copyists’ attribution of the saint’s origins to their own countries or other countries that they felt better fit the Saint’s life. This is why we find that the Greek version of Saint Marina’s life places her birth in Bethany; the Coptic version in Egypt and some of the Latin places it in Italy (Clugnet 1904: 265 footnote # 2).
According to the most ancient accounts on Saint Marina the Monk, only one place of origin could be hers -- Lebanon. Clugnet resolves that until new discoveries are made, the only origin of Saint Marina must be the one known to us according to tradition and since the only tradition about this Saint is found among the Maronites of Lebanon, then Lebanon is to be considered the land of her birth (Clugnet 1904: 565). The Maronites resolutely believe that Marina originated in Lebanon and that as a monk she has lived and died in the Monastery of Qannoubine in the Holy Valley of Qadisha. J. Fiey in turn concludes that Marina in question is truly a local saint of Lebanon, victim of imposture (Fiey 1978: 33).
Marina was disguised as a man in order to join her father in the monastery. She was later accused of fathering a child. She did not defend herself from the crime she was accused of, but with humility accepted the severe punishment that was pronounced against her by the Abbot: to leave the monastery and to raise the child. She spent the rest of her life living ascetically and looking after the child. Her identity as a woman was only revealed after her death.

Monastic life in the fifth century was much more a cenobitic life, which is a communal ascetic life, than anchoretic, which is a solitary ascetic one. The Cenobetic monasteries had small but separate cells where the monks lived, this made it possible for Marina to conceal her identity. With her male name, short hair and clothes, but mostly with her ascetic living, which changed her body’s biology, hence made her lose much of her womanhood appearance and physical nature, Marina was able to go on living at the monastery with a disguising identity until her death.
As to the century in which this Saint has lived, Clugnet agrees with F. Nau that it must be the fifth century since there were great details in her legend presented in the Syriac Manuscript Nº 30 dated 778 AD, folios 70r-76v of the Monastery of Saint Catherine in Sinai (Clugnet 1904: 565, 593).
(To read the rest of the article click here.)