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.)


Marriage or Friendship?

By + Bishop Gregory J. Mansour and Dr. Robert P. George
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. While friendships are unions of hearts and minds, marriage by its nature unites hearts, minds, and bodies. While friendships come in different degrees and kinds of commitment, marriage calls for a permanent and exclusive commitment as well as sexual complementarity. While friendships can be shaped by a variety of pursuits, marriage is naturally fulfilled by, and provides the best possible context for the conception, care, and upbringing of children.
This is by no means to deny that spouses should be friends. But marriage is more than an especially deep friendship. Marriage, unlike ordinary friendship, is a comprehensive union oriented to procreation. Its unique commitment is sealed, embodied, and renewed by conjugal acts—acts of the sort that are in themselves apt for procreation, though, of course, procreation does not always result from them. Where children do come, the loving marital bond of husband and wife offers them the distinctive parental contributions, including the gender role modeling, of both a mother and a father, putting the child’s needs first. The possibility of truly conjugal acts, and thus the possibility of marriage itself, depends on the reproductive complementarity of the sexes.
Marriage, as the Church so beautifully teaches us, has both procreative and unitive significance, and these two dimensions of the overall marital good are connected in a profound way. Marriage obviously serves the noble end of handing on the gift of life. At the same time, marriage, including its sexual dimension, is an end in itself; it fulfills spouses even when they cannot conceive a child. Just as it is wrong to think of marriage in its sexual dimension as a mere recreational activity that can be detached from its procreative meaning, it is an error to suppose that marital relations are valuable only as a means to conceiving and rearing children. Conjugal acts in their openness to new life are honorable and meaningful in themselves because they truly unite husband and wife as “one flesh”—as Jesus, recalling Genesis, teaches us (Genesis 2:24; Mark 10:8; Matthew 19:5). When the gift of a child comes of the spouses’ “one flesh” union, it is certainly a cause for great joy. Even where a child is not conceived, however, this union expresses and embodies the marriage as something valuable for its own sake.
The debate about same-sex “marriage” often refers to a “right to marriage” and an opposition to this “right.” The absence of sexual complementarity makes the marriage of two people of the same sex impossible: they cannot realize the procreative sort of union—including the bodily union—distinctive of marriage. Something that is impossible cannot be “denied” to anyone; nor can anyone have a “right” to it. Moreover, no one has a right to have the law or the institutions of the state call something other than what it is. Truth itself demands that we recognize as marriages only those unions that truly are marriages. Two persons of the same sex can have a deep friendship; they can support and care for each other very much, but that relationship (whether chaste, as it should be, or unchaste) must be called and treated as what, in truth, it is: a deep friendship, not a marriage.
If two friends, two relatives or any two persons want to have the state recognize their relationship of mutual care and support for purposes of benefits, medical visits or inheritance, the state may grant that request by legal contract as long as it does not obscure the truth and purpose of marriage. In other words, as long as the state does not treat non-marital partners as if they were married – for example, by making the existence (or presumption) of a sexual relationship a condition of receiving benefits – it can legitimately honor contracts that facilitate people’s capacities to care for and support each other.
However, marriage is different and has something truly and profoundly valuable to offer society. It is the foundation of the family: the original and best “department of health, education, and welfare.” Nothing is better than the healthy, marriage-based family as the place in which children are loved, cared for, and taught to be productive, creative, upright, and responsible. By recognizing true marriage and supporting it, both law and culture help to ensure that as many children as possible know and are known by, and love and are loved by, the mother and father through whose marital embrace, by the grace of God, they were brought into being, and in whose permanent marital love their greatest security is to be found.
Certainly, unfortunate things happen, and this is also true of problems in marriage. No one can guarantee that every child will have the great benefit of being nurtured and educated by his or her biological parents in their loving matrimonial bond. That is why, thank God, we have possibilities to help those children for whom what is ideal is not possible. Adoption and foster-parenting are great gifts. They are to be supported and encouraged. May God bless every adoptive and foster parent who provides parental love and support to a child who is in need. They are heroes.
Still, it is our obligation, each one of us, to do all that we can to make the ideal situation available for as many children as possible. And that is why not only our state and national governments, but each of us individually, is under a solemn obligation to support the institution of marriage—true marriage—and to stand against any effort to redefine or undermine it. As individuals, we can support marriage through our daily actions by being faithful spouses or upright single people, and by supporting the marriages of our family members and friends. The Manhattan Declaration states:
“To strengthen families, we must stop glamorizing promiscuity and infidelity and restore among our people a sense of the profound beauty, mystery, and holiness of faithful marital love. We must work to change ill-advised policies that contribute to the weakening of the institution of marriage, including the discredited idea of unilateral divorce. We must work in the legal, cultural, and religious domains to instill in young people a sound understanding of what marriage is, what it requires, and why it is worth the commitment and sacrifices that faithful spouses make.”
We need not, and we must not, redefine marriage and reduce it to a form of sexualized romantic friendship. Yet we need not prevent same-sex friends—whether they are chaste, as true love between them demands, or involved with each other in a sexual way—from caring for each other, arranging their finances together, and/or seeing to their practical needs. However, marriage must always have special recognition, rights, and responsibilities that are distinct from friendships of any type. Otherwise, the blurring of friendship and true marriage will lead to an erosion of marital norms in the public mind and, soon enough, a weakening of these norms in practice. Marriage must be recognized by the formal institutions of law as a special form of human communion that unites one man to one woman faithfully in a profoundly personally meaningful and socially indispensable bond.
Let us then say Yes to marriage; and let us say Yes to friendship; and let us say No to confusing friendship with marriage.
+ Bishop Gregory J. Mansour and Dr. Robert P. George


Qorbono at the Convent in Dartmouth

Abouna Jack Morrison celebrates the Qorbono at Mother of the Light convent.
Refreshments on the front porch followed the Divine Liturgy.

My 2011 summer experiences with the MaroniteServants of Christ the Light
By Evette Franjieh
As my freshman year at Umass Dartmouth came to a close, I found myself helping Sister Marla Marie at the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light’s new convent in N. Dartmouth. I am so blessed to have the Sisters about ten minutes away from my University, so that during the year I can always look to them in mytime of need or stress and share Divine Liturgy in their new home. 
I volunteered to help clean the convent and spend some quality time with Sister Marla Marie and Sister Therese Maria. I write this only a few days after I have visited with the sisters. My first encounter with them in July was a quick visit to the beach for a picnic supper and walk. Sister Marla Marie prepared a quaint picnic for us and Sister Therese Maria shared God’s messages to me during our walk on the beach. It was very enlightening to have the endless water, the serenity of the small beach, and the presence of the Sisters with me.

Because I was attending a summer course in Chemistry, I was not able to attend Sunday Liturgy. My mother so happened to mention this to the Sisters at Sunday Liturgy, at St. Theresa’s parish in Brockton.  Therefore,on Friday, July 29th, I attended the Divine Liturgy at the new convent. It was the first time that the Divine Liturgy was held in the new chapel. After the refreshments, Sister Therese Maria and I dusted and cleaned the sacristy. I enjoyed cleaning and conversing with Sister Therese Maria because it grounded me and offered an air of humility.  Their new home has developed quite nicely since my last visit in May, although, there is a lot of work and time to be had. I know that in time, next year I will seek their guidance and prayer more often and that they will always be there for me.