8.29.2013

Witness of Charity



Pope Francis and the Witness of Charity In this Year of Faith
By Sister Therese Touma, from a paper submitted for her studies at Boston College

"In this Year of Faith, the People of God have also been urged to witness to their faith through increasing their practice of charity.[1] In seeing to our neighbor’s needs, we are serving and loving Christ himself, this is powerful. “As you did it to one of the least of these brethren, you did it to me.”(Mt 24:40)  Consequently, all Christians by the nature of their baptism are invited and challenged by the Gospel to carry the light and healing of Christ to all those who are in need especially to those who are broken, suffering and poor. It is through this call to love Christ that we are to reach out in humility and care for our neighbor by helping them in their physical needs, and journey of faith. I have witnessed and seen in my own ministry, the great impact of living a disposition of self-giving love, hospitality and forgiveness, especially when it comes to cultivating openness and dialogue in relationships. On the other hand, I also believe that if we truly desire to grow in holiness and intimacy with Jesus then our desire to reach out in love will grow and intensify, even amidst all confusion, poverty and persecution. We learn from Jesus, who was meek and humble of heart that the focus is always on loving and bringing humanity to salvation. I too perceive that the focus of the New Evangelization is on loving our neighbor (where they are at) and upholding their sacred dignity as son or daughter of God.

In the task of the New Evangelization, the witness of charity, joy and holiness assists people to visibly see that the living and transmission of the Catholic faith can be affective in bringing many others to the everlasting fountain of God’s healing love and grace. Without being conformed to him in love, without the presence of the Spirit, it is impossible to confess him as Lord (cf. 1 Cor 12:3) and recognize (and serve) him in the other. Charity can take many forms, on an individual and parish level, such as cultivating; a sense of hospitality, welcome, compassionate love, friendships, and service to those in need in the community especially in reaching out to those who have drifted away from the faith. Each baptized person, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit has an essential role to play in sharing and making known the saving love of Christ.
Pope Francis, in his charismatic being and witness of charity has put his own unique twist on the New Evangelization as he models by his compassionate (and fatherly) deeds the need to “go out” and serve the poor, oppressed and the marginalized.  In his “going out” he is mirroring the missionary identity of the church, and showing us what the church is not about, maintenance. Pope Francis’ solicit care and promotion for social justice is a powerful and silent proclamation of his faith and love of Christ.  According to Dulles, personal witness is the most effective form of evangelization[2] as “people today put more trust in witnesses than teachers, in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission.”[3] It is refreshing to see the New Evangelization in action through the humble works and missionary efforts of Pope Francis. He is effectively saying this is how it is done; follow me in going out of yourselves so that we can effectively build up the Body of Christ together."




[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Door of Faith  (Porta Fidei), no. 14
[2] Avery Cardinal Dulles, Evangelization for the Third Millennium , 92
[3] Paul VI. Evangelization in the Modern World, no. 21

8.23.2013

Assumption Pilgrimage 2013 - Ohio

We enjoyed several days of prayer and visiting with our friends at the National Shrine to Our Lady of Lebanon in celebration of the Dormition of the Mother of God.

8.16.2013

Daily Prayer, Daily Peace



Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. May the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Joseph her most chaste spouse, holy Saint Maroun, hermit and physician, and all the blessed angels and saints who stand in adoration before the throne of God, pray for our parents, for our neighbours, for the suffering souls in Purgatory, and for us. So we begin, and so may we conclude. Amen.

Prayer is a conscious turning of the attention to God. In that movement of attention, heart and mind are animated and raised as one. Prayer is a lifting of our souls to an awareness of the divine presence; here, now, and beyond all here and now.

Holy are you, Lord God. Holy are you, and all-powerful. Holy are you, and immortal. God All. God Alone. Unimaginable light. Unimaginable darkness. Have mercy on us.

Sleep, waking and prayer. Each is a world in itself. In sleep we are strictly circumscribed: we have no voluntary movements. Our senses are limited, and our minds are captive to dreams. In waking, we have more freedom: we can move around. Our thoughts are more orderly and manageable. Open to our environments, we can interact with others, and receive impressions. The waking world is infinitely larger than the sleeping.

And the world of prayer surpasses the waking life in the same degree that the waking life transcends the sleeping. In prayer, not only are we open to everything in the world, we are also open to the influence of the supernatural. The purpose of sleep is to refresh us so that we may enjoy healthy lives. The purpose of waking life is that we may come to know, love and serve God. Worship is the highest activity we are capable of, and true prayer always contains an element of worship.

In prayer, our spirit can fit wings to our earthly shoulders and fly, if not to heaven, then at least above the earth. We can receive impressions of a fineness and beauty that nothing on earth can ever give us. When the spirit prays, even words can disappear, just as the stars are invisible when the sun reigns in the sky. A friend of mine, a practical man, and not at all a dreamer, recounted to me the following story, which I retell with his permission:

“An event I can’t forget during my early 20s was when I went alone to a naval base overseas on a technical course. Everything was going against me financially. My luggage was delayed. I couldn’t even purchase a call card because my bank card was inactive. The question in my mind was: “Why me?” After all, I have always been a religious person. So I went for a walk, not knowing where I  was going, asking myself this question. Unexpectedly, I found the base chapel illuminated. It was empty. I walked in the door puzzled, feeling very upset and lonely - I had never felt worse in my whole life. I sat inside for a period of time saying nothing at all, not even saying a single prayer. When I got out of the chapel I was full of joy and peace.”

Because it is a contact, and even a quest for contact with God, prayer is always available, whatever we’re doing. Prayer is a world in itself, like life beneath the sea, or life above the ground. While the universe of prayer is here within us, always available, it is the most unexplored territory of all. It’s less travelled than the desert, the Antarctic or the jungles of Borneo.

Yet, we bear the portal to prayer inside of ourselves. We only need to open that door and enter that world. Prayer is not simply an addressing of ourselves to God, it is also an opening of ourselves to him. It is always helped by feeling our smallness, our humble condition before him.

Some times are better for prayer than others. The worst times are “later on”, “tomorrow” and “I should have yesterday”. The perfect time to enter the prayer life is now – right now, whenever I am reminded of it. Even if I have no time to take out my rosary, or to sit or kneel for five minutes, I can still pause for a moment, collect myself for three seconds, centre my attention, call on God, acknowledge his greatness and my weakness, and ask him to help. But if I have indeed prayed, and not just thought about praying, then things won’t be exactly like they had been four second ago: I will have confidence in his reality.

Morning Prayer

Morning is a natural symbol. Every day, God speaks to us through natural symbols. Cultural symbols, such as flags or alphabets, point beyond themselves. Through God’s natural symbols of day and night, God tells us that life knows a beginning and an end. Each morning announces a fresh start. The dawn tells us to arise and praise God, for he is good, and stands over and above the ever-changing world.

Morning is a perfect time to dedicate the day to him, whatever it may bring, as an unconditional offering. What better than to pray that our beginning may be a good one, and that we may live it worthily. It is a fit time to reflect that we do not know what the day will bring, except that everything which can happen to us must happen in accordance with his laws. The very fact of morning calls us to thank God for preserving us through the night, and for the gift of another day – a present greater than all the treasure that all the rulers of the world could offer. Here is an ancient Syriac hymn, 1,650 years old, which can also be said as a prayer:

The Light of the just and the joy of the upright is Jesus the Messiah, our Lord. Begotten of 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 drawing upon us; the power of darkness is fading away. From the true Light there arises for us the Light which illumines our darkened eyes. His glory shines upon the world and enlightens the very depths of the abyss.

Death is annihilated, night has vanished, and the gates of hell are broken. He brings salvation and grants us life. He ascends to his Father on high. He will return in glorious splendour and shed his light on those gazing upon him.

Our king comes in majestic glory. Let us light our lamps and go forth to meet him. Let us find our joy in him, for he has found joy in us. He will indeed rejoice us with his marvellous light.

The angels and guardians of heaven will rejoice in the glory of the just; crowned with victory, they will sing hymns and psalms. Stand up then and be ready! Give thanks to our king and Saviour, who will come in great glory to gladden us with his marvellous light in his Kingdom.

Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.

Preparing the Day

It is also a good idea to use our morning prayer to prepare for the day before us. Morning prayer can be an oasis of peace in each and every day. Even if we know there’ll be trouble later on, why should that disturb our prayer? The trouble will be there when we come back. Let it abate for that short period. We won’t suffer.

Part of the reason people let their prayer lives drop is that they don’t see sufficient benefit in prayer. But then, do they try to connect their prayer life with their daily life? Without that connection, how can the benefit flow?

We could rejuvenate our Christian lives each morning. If you don’t know where to begin, make the sign of the cross and ask God to clear your head. Start with a formulated prayer. Here is one, beautifully phrased, this time from the Latin tradition:

Remember, Christian soul, that this day, and every day of your life, you have God to glorify, Jesus to imitate, the angels and saints to invoke, a soul to save, a body to mortify, sins to expiate, virtues to acquire, hell to avoid, heaven to gain, eternity to prepare for, time to profit by, neighbours to edify, the world to despise, devils to combat, passions to subdue, death perhaps to suffer and judgment to undergo.

Use any other prayers you know, and then summon into your mind the likely events of the day. Is there something you’re looking forward to? Something you’re afraid of? Maybe bring that to mind. Where is my Christian duty in that event? Do I have to forget God?

Is it a question of relationships? Is there money involved? Status? Am I worried about how I’ll look? Do I appreciate that the most important thing in my life is my relationship with God, and that no other issues, not relationships, money or anything else need to stand in the way of that? And if suffering cannot be avoided, do I accept to suffer in order to mortify the passions, or to offer atonement for my sins?

Rather than letting the anticipated difficulties ruin our peace, why not let our peace make us better able to deal calmly with the difficulties, robbing them of their power to touch our minds? Part of the problem is that we have seen so much anger, anguish, anxiety and worry that we have a recorded voice in our memories, which tells that we must get upset, that we don’t have the right not to be fearful. But fear is only nature’s means of getting us to move out of harm’s way. Once we’ve done what we can, fear serves no purpose.

Conversely, if it is something I am looking forward to, will I forget God, in my happiness? Success can be a great trap: we can too easily become self-satisfied, even puffed up and proud. Morning prayer can be a time to contemplate our pleasant expectations in a peaceful light, and to thank God for them.

So never let your state of mind put you off your prayers. Let your prayers change your state of mind. Let each morning be a morning of prayer, a morning of peace. Amen.

This was written by a priest of the Maronite Church. Of your mercy, please pray for him.

8.12.2013

Events August 10th

 First Profession of Vows at the Pauline Sisters in Boston.

Our Lady of the Cedars Festival (Boston) for the Feast of the Dormition. 

8.08.2013

The Cross, Resurrection & Discipleship Today

The Cross, Resurrection & Discipleship Today

Here is a video Sister Therese Maria developed for her classes at Boston College.  The following is the text explaining the video content and lesson.


Maronite Charism
The unique charism that I am highlighting in this reflective video is the centrality of the Cross and Resurrection, and our call to discipleship today, as viewed through our Maronite Catholic spirituality, music/icons and liturgy.
The Cross and Resurrection of Jesus, as emphasized in the prayers of our Divine Liturgy are a source of “hope, joy, strength and salvation.” Each year in September, we celebrate the feast of the Exaltation of the Cross (and the beginning of the Season of the Glorious Cross) in our Liturgical cycle, and worship the life-giving cross with sacred hymns and psalms. To illustrate with an example, in the Gospel procession we sing the following scriptural words, “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18) Another captivating excerpt taken from a hymn in the Liturgy of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross which expresses our adoration and confidence in the power of the Cross: “Now the Church in every place honors and adores your cross, for she has been saved from sin to inherit life on high…May the children of the Church find shelter and their strength in the shadow of your cross.” As visually seen in the icons throughout the video Jesus’ death is life-giving. It does not stop at the crucifixion. In our Maronite theology we eagerly await with joy Jesus’ victorious resurrection and prepare ourselves with prayer, sacrifices and good works for his second coming.   
In addition, the Feast of the Glorious Resurrection for us is the “feast of all feasts” where we gladly celebrate Christ’s victory over death, sin and darkness, and praise him, proclaiming “Christ is risen! He is truly risen!  In the prayer of forgiveness for the feast of the Glorious Resurrection we rejoice and cry out: “On Friday the King endured pain and was crucified, and today victory has been achieved by his resurrection! On Friday a lance pierced his side and today in his compassion the waters of Baptism flow! On Friday he was crowned with thorns, and today he has adorned his Church with a crown of splendor!” We believe as Maronites that Jesus Christ in his humanity and divinity was raised up by the power of God. The Resurrection of Jesus is seen as a great light, a source of reconciliation with the Father, and new life as children of God.
Connection between Maronite Icons & Discipleship Today
I chose to incorporate the Maronite Icons to accentuate both Jesus’ humanity and divinity, and I believe this is key in teaching the youth a balanced Christology; Christ is fully divine and fully human. I intentionally begin with a high Christology following the Maronite Liturgical cycle, at the Incarnation where the angel Gabriel announces to Mary that she is going to be the Mother of God, and then integrate this with a low Christology focusing on the life, healings, teachings, death and resurrection of the man Jesus of Nazareth. Specifically, I see the Icons of Jesus’ public ministry of teaching and healings (such as the parable of the Prodigal Son and the healing of the Hemorrhaging Woman) as an effective way of connecting the youth to the person of Jesus Christ, and to their own call to discipleship today. These visual Icons and the stories and lessons they convey have a powerful impact on the imagination, especially for young people who are on the whole visual learners.
My hope is that in viewing these icons and listening to the oud (traditional Arabic string instrument) playing in the background, the youth will reflectively enter into Jesus’ world of compassion, humility, and unconditional mercy, and grow in their desire to bring about positive change in this “messy” world.  In essence, discipleship is following the radical way of Christ, in denying oneself (letting go of the ego) and taking on his humble mindset of living out his compassion (especially to those in need); to extend the just and hopeful reign of God. Purposefully, I inserted photos of service and mission, such as working in food pantries to show the reality of what discipleship could entail in living out the fruits (joy, love, light, dignity) of the Cross and Resurrection. Paradoxically, the cross, which appeared to be a sign of defeat over Jesus of Nazareth, actually reveals the emptiness of all oppressive power and social/political structures. On the other hand, the resurrection of Jesus reinforces the liberating reign of God among us today. My ultimate aim in this video presentation is to empower the youth to be instruments of Christ’s grace, in continuing Jesus’ liberating and healing work of redemption in our communities, by being disciples of solidarity, peace and hope; so urgently needed in our present world.

8.02.2013

Synergy - Working with God


Sunday, July 21, 2013. 9th Sunday After Pentecost.
1 Corinthians 3:9-17. Matthew 14:22-34.
Homily by: Father Fran├žois Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church / 451 West Madison Avenue / Placentia, CA / 92870-4537

The word ‘synergy’ has become a popular, yet overused word. Many people throw this word around in presentations and there are many books that use the word ‘synergy’ in the title. Three of many examples include the following:

- Beyond Design: The Synergy of Apparel Product Development, 3rd Edition by Myrna B. Garner and Sandra J. Keiser (Jun 28, 2012)

- Food Synergy: Unleash Hundreds of Powerful Healing Food Combinations to Fight Disease and Live Well. Elaine Magee (Mar 4, 2008)

-  Synergy: The Unique Relationship Between Nurses and Patients by Martha A. Q. Curley (Oct 31, 2007)

Mark Latash in his own book entitled ‘synergy’ said:
            “The word ‘synergy’ has recently become very common in both scientific and nonscientific fields. This word is used in the names of companies, cereals, methods of education, interactions among humans and animals, and certainly in basic and applied studies of movements.” (p.1. Mark L. Latash, department of Kinesiology, Penn State University. Synergy.)

Mostly, this word is used today to refer to a cooperation with others that produces a result that neither party could have achieved on their own.

However, much before it became a word that so many people threw around to sound sophisticated, Saint Paul used this word to refer to the relationship that we have with God.

In today’s letter to the Corinthians, Saint Paul says: “we are God’s co-workers.” (1 Cor. 3:9) Here the Greek word ‘synergy’ is translated as “co-workers” because this word literally means ‘to work with.’

This is a very important word and concept in our Catholic tradition because it is used to emphasize that neither God nor us work alone.

However, before humans were created, God did work alone. The book of Genesis focusses on this in the first verse which reads quite simply:
            “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”

Then in the third verse there is a further emphasis on God creating both alone and instantaneously:
            “And God said, ‘Let there be light’; and there was light.” (Gen. 1:3).

Although God created the first humans, after that He was only a co-worker in the creation of the life of every other human that was later created. God no longer worked alone, but began to synergize with humans.

In every aspect of our life, God still invites us to be co-workers -- to be in ‘synergy’ with Him. In the letter to the Corinthians that we read today, Saint Paul emphasises that we are co-workers, that is ‘in synergy’ with God, and also that we are co-workers/in synergy with each other. Saint Paul says: “According to God’s grace which has been given to me, as a wise builder, I laid the foundation, and another builds upon it.” (1 Corinthians 3:10)

This is an important point in our spiritual life to not think that either God works alone or that we work alone. We can neither say that God can do whatever He wants, nor can we say that we can do whatever we want. God works with us to encourage us to make good things happen in our life and when we work with God those things come to fruition.

The source of every good thought and every good thing we do is a gift that God Himself has given us. God has put the Holy Spirit in us to encourage us to do good thing and it is our response that determines whether the good that needs to get done, actually gets done. This is what working ‘with God’ / synergy means in the Christian tradition and as used by Saint Paul.

We have another example of synergy in the Gospel we read today. When Saint Peter sees Jesus walking on the water, he says: “Lord, if it is you, order me to come to you over the water.” (Mt. 14:28)

With Jesus’s invitation and his own strong faith, Saint Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on water. However, when Saint Peter saw the wind he began to sink. Saint Peter focussed on his own fears and forgot that it was Jesus who had given him the power to walk on the water.

When Saint Peter saw himself sinking, he turned once again to Jesus and said:
            “ ‘Lord, save me!’ And Jesus at once stretched out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind fell.” (Mt. 14:30-:32)

When Saint Peter was working in synergy with Jesus, he was able to do anything even walk on water. The invitation to walk on water came from Jesus and Saint Peter could only be sustained by staying focussed on Jesus.

This is a great example of ‘synergy’ with God and an inspiration for all of us to turn to God in our every need regardless of what it may be. When we to realize that true success is only achieved when we are working with God, then we can see God as the source of every inspiration and also see God as our our strength in accomplishing the good we need to do.

Very often we are like Saint Peter who turn to God only when we are not doing well, then forget God when things are going smoothly. Working with God means to remember God in times of difficulty as well as times of strength.

There were a group of scientists who got together and decided to tell God that human knowledge has developed so much that humans no longer need God. God said, “Ok, so let’s have a test to make sure that what you’re saying is true. I created a human person from the soil that was on the ground. Are you able to do that?”

The group of scientists said “of course we can. Watch this.” They went and got a big pile of soil and began to experiment. Then God said: “Wait a minute, that’s my soil. I made that. If you think you’re so smart, go get your own soil.”

It is good to think that we are smart, but it is even better to know that every good quality we have is a free gift of God that is to be used in ‘synergy’ with Him and how He intended us to use it.

The readings of today encourage us to ‘work with’ God and with others. This is the kind of synergy that helps us grow as men and women of faith.

In everything we do, let us remind ourselves that God is the source of every good inspiration and God is also our strength as we work hard to get those things done. We are in ‘synergy’ with God when we work with God and when we work for God.