The Grace of the Call

Religious life is a particular form of consecrated life, and, as the year of consecrated life opens, it would be helpful to begin in the beginning, that is to say, to begin with consideration of the call or vocation to religious life. By understanding better this grace, we will also learn what prepares the seedbed of vocations, what helps to discern and what will sustain them to the end. The Servant of God, Father John Hardon remarks that the call to religious life is a grace from God, given to some but not to all. He writes: Somewhere near the heart of a religious vocation is the idea that God chooses certain people to imitate His own Incarnate example of the religious life. [...] Jesus Christ was the first religious. His life and preaching inspired men and women from the dawn of Christianity to sell all they had, give the proceeds to the poor and follow Him.... We must come to understand better than we have done so far that a vocation to the religious life is just that: a distinctive call from God, choosing certain individuals for this way of life.1
Promoting the Maronite Servants vocation.  
The discernment of the call to religious life and the response to it requires three things: faith, prayer and sacrifice.2 Without faith, no one could recognize Christ and his life as the model for all Christians and especially for religious. Without prayer, no one could hear the call or desire to respond by imitation of Christ. Without sacrifice, no one could persevere in responding to the call to leave all things for love of Christ. These three conditions best prepare the soil of the heart to receive the seed – in this case, the seed of a call to religious life. The lack of these dispositions renders the seed fruitless.
To appreciate the importance of these necessary conditions for hearing and responding to a vocation, I will attempt to draw a parallel between the three types of fruitless soil in the parable of the seed (Matthew 13:1-23) with the three conditions of the "good soil" that enable the seed to take root, thrive and be fruitful. In the Gospel, Our Lord speaks of these conditions as necessary for Christian discipleship. All the more, then, are they necessary for religious life.


Maronites - March for Life 2015

Some of our Maronites getting ready to join the March
Our Maronite faithful with Bishop Gregory  joined with hundreds of thousands of pro-lifers for the annual March for Life in Washington January 22, 2015.  In the 42 years of legalized abortion since the Roe v. Wade decision, almost 58 million children have been killed in abortions. Stand up for the dignity of human life and join in our Maronite efforts, contact:
Marise Frangie, MS, FCP        
Office of Family and Sanctity of Life 
Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn  

Our Seminarians and the CFR's who marched with our group.


"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."

Copyright © 2015 Father Francois Beyrouti, All rights reserved. 
About fifteen years ago I was driving with someone who bought a new fully loaded car. He was so proud of this car that as we were driving he kept saying “look, look” then he began to press almost every single button and turn every single knob in the car.
Finally it came time for the most impressive feature that not many cars had: ‘the cruise control.’ “Look, look, you press one button” he told me “then you take your foot off the gas pedal, and the car keeps going at exactly the same speed.”
He was so excited he lifted his knee a little higher and was driving with one knee next to the steering wheel: “look, look, my foot is not on the gas pedal” he told me. 
He then got a little too excited and in addition to lifting his knee he also took both hands off the steering wheel and said: “Look, look no feet and no hands.” I immediately grabbed the steering wheel and said: “That is not how cruise control works. You can take your foot off the gas pedal for a few minutes but you can’t take your hands off the steering wheel even for one second.”

We sometimes live our spiritual lives like we are driving a car with cruise control. We believe in the basics of our faith, but then take our feet off the gas pedal and say: “Look, look, I’m still a good person. I don’t need to learn new things about the Bible.” 
We feel that the speed we are going at seems just fine. Maybe we then start to take one hand off the wheel by skipping our daily prayers or not praying at all and say “Look, look, I’m still making good decisions in life.”

We then might end up taking the other hand off and start to drive down the highway of life with our feet nowhere near the gas or brake pedals and our hands nowhere near the steering wheel and we say “look, look.” But if we do not hold on to the wheel and remind ourselves that our spiritual lives cannot be lived in cruise control then we will not be on that spiritual highway for very long.

We heard in today’s Gospel: “Jesus began to preach, saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” (Matthew 4:17)

Many people have understand the word ‘repent’ in different ways. One way to understand this rich word is by understanding how cruise control works. We are full of exciting features just like any new car. But despite all these features we always have to keep our eyes on the road and our hands on the steering wheel. We always have to be careful and we can never completely let go of the steering wheel.

We may be a talented athlete or singer, we might really excel in school, we might be very successful at work or other aspects of our life, but these will not endure if we take our hands off the steering wheel.

Professional athletes and singers practice for hours not because they are not good but because they want to make sure they are the best they can be. They are the best in their field because they are willing to spend ten hours a day to make sure that their performance is as close to perfect as possible.

We can say the same about our faith. The saints are great examples for us. They spent many hours a day praying, they spent many hours a day reading the Bible or spiritual books, and they put great effort into repenting of every thought or action that is not consistent with being a follower of Jesus.

They did not spend many hours praying because they were bad people but because they wanted to be better people.

They did not spend many hours reading and studying the Bible because they did not know what was in it, but because they wanted to see how their lives can better reflect what is in it.

They did not put great effort into repenting of every thought or action because they had so many of them but because they knew that even the smallest thought or action if allowed to grow will have a negative impact on their lives and decrease the intensity of their love for Jesus.

We should enjoy our talents and accomplishments, but even small faults can undermine everything. For example, ask people who smoke how they started and many will say “I just wanted to try it once but then got hooked.”

Ask someone how he or she became an alcoholic or developed an addiction to gambling and they will say “That first time was so enjoyable.”

Ask anyone who has ruined their lives and the lives of their family because of infidelity “What happened?” and they will tell you “It started so innocently.”

The word ‘gospel’ means good news and the good news of Jesus Christ is that we all need to repent. As we start a new year, it is important for us to think of the word ‘repent’ in a very positive way.

We are superstar athletes, we are master musicians, we are top scholars, we are successful in every aspect of our life, we are made in the image and likeness of God, and we are more brilliant and more holy than we have a capacity to appreciate. But, that whole world of ours could easily crumble if we do not turn away from even what we may consider to be small sins and ‘repent.’

Cruise control is a great and exciting invention but if it is not used correctly we will hurt ourselves and others. Spiritual cruise control is even more dangerous because even after we do much damage we are sometimes blind of what we have done.

Sometimes we get distracted and sometimes we swerve but the word ‘repent’ reminds us that to get to our destination we have to keep our feet near the gas and brake pedals in order to learn wisdom, our hands on the steering wheel in order to remain firm in our intentions, and our eyes on the road in order to stay inspired by the good that we want to accomplish.

Today in addition to all the wonderful things we are doing let us also look for and ‘repent’ of any harm we may have done to ourselves or to others.

When we find the courage to ‘repent’ let us rejoice because when we repent we are not saying that we are bad people but are saying that with God’s help we can be so much better.
Copyright © 2015 Father Francois Beyrouti, All rights reserved. 


New Year Resolution

By: Father Francois Beyrouti
451 West Madison Avenue
PlacentiaCa 92870

A man once prayed: “God this has been a great day. So far I have not gotten upset at anyone. I did not lie. I did not steal anything. I did not swear. I am so proud of myself that I have not done anything wrong today. But in a few minutes I will be getting out of bed so I will definitely need your help to make sure that the rest of the day goes just as well.”
Our prayer this morning may be very similar, so far we have not done much wrong but we are going to need some help from God to make it through the rest of the day.
Also, as we start a new year we could all say how great it has been so far. We are so excited that everything is going well this year: we have not gotten upset at anyone and we have been kind to our family and friends. For everyone here today, you can also be proud that in the year 2015, you have come to Church every single Sunday. This indeed has been a great year, but in a few days we are going to need a little more help from God.  ‘We need a little help from God’ should be our focus every hour of every day in every year.
This is the time of year when most people make resolutions. However, before we make resolutions it is important for us to clarify our reasons for making them and the overall goals that we are trying to achieve. For example many people focus on losing weight, but that is not a goal. Better health is the goal. Another resolution may be that I want to stop arguing with a friend or family member. Once again that is not a goal in itself. The real goal is to have a greater peace of mind in your life and to have healthier and more functional friendships.
When we keep our focus on the overall goal of our resolutions we will enjoy the process and because we are enjoying the process we will be more successful in achieving not only our particular resolutions but more importantly our long term goals that will endure. Therefore if you have already set some resolutions ask yourself how those resolutions fit into your overall long terms goals for your life.
In addition to the resolutions we have already made, what are some of our spiritual resolutions and what are some of our overall goals for this year as individuals and as a Church? In today’s epistle, Saint Paul tells Saint Timothy: “As for you, always be steady, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfil your ministry.” (2 Timothy 4:5)
This verse focuses on four points. Three of these points are resolutions and the last is the long-term goal. “Be steady,” “endure suffering,” and “do the work of an evangelist” are resolutions that we can make. We all want to be consistent and reliable, we all want to be patient when someone wrongs us, and we all want to learn more about our faith and share it with others. But why do we want to do these things? Are they simply nice things to do or do we want people to like us because they see these qualities in us? If these are reasons for having these resolutions then we will not endure.
The fourth part of that sentence “fulfil your ministry” gives us the overall goal. We are mostly used to thinking of ministry as something that a priest does but we all have a ministry. The challenge for all of us to focus on what is our ministry?
There are various degrees of ministry. You may be a father or mother, a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a student or teacher, an employee or employed. You have a ministry in your various roles in life. How well are you enduring in your responsibilities in these ministries and how well do you endure suffering when difficulties arise?
“My parents are annoying.” “My children are irresponsible.” “School is too difficult.” “My students don’t put any effort into their work.” “My work environment is so unpleasant.” We can come up with many more problems with people and the situations around us, but by doing so we will be overlooking our ministry to those people and in those situations.
You are a father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, student, teacher, employee, employed, whether you like it or not. We need to embrace our roles and realize that these are parts of our ministry in life. The fact that we will have difficulties in these roles should be taken for granted. That is exactly when we need to say: “In a few minutes I will definitely need your help to make sure that everything goes well.”
As we begin this new year with excitement and with many resolutions, let us also focus on our bigger life goals. Happiness in all these aspects of our life can best be achieved by inviting God to work in our lives.
We may have resolutions to be better at something, but our larger goal for this year should be to thank God for all the blessings He has given us and to find ways that we can make these blessings grow this year. So far everything has been going well this year, to make sure that the rest of the year goes just as well we will need a little help from God.
Copyright © 2015 Father Francois Beyrouti, All rights reserved.


Year of Consecrated Life- “Wake Up the World!”

By Sister Therese Maria Touma
Pope Francis declared that a Year of Consecrated Life be celebrated throughout the world which began on Sunday November 30 and concludes on February 2, 2016. In his message, the Pope underlined the key goals to “look to the past with gratitude, to live the present with passion and to embrace the future with hope.”  The Pope also expressed his expectations for the yearlong observance: “that consecrated men and women would be witnesses of communion, of joy and the Gospel, and go evermore to the peripheries to proclaim the Good News.”

This Year for Consecrated Life concerns not only consecrated persons, but also the entire Church.  Pope Francis asks that the whole Christian people “be increasingly aware of the gift which is the presence of our many consecrated men and women, heirs of the great saints who have written the history of Christianity.”

The Pope counting on religious “to wake up the world” by their radical witness of Gospel living and Christ’s merciful compassion. In answer to this call to wake up the world and raise awareness about the gift and beauty of religious life, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light will be developing a Vocation Curriculum for parish religious education programs and are available to give presentations and witness talks. Please invite us to your parish to share on religious life. We also plan to have an Open House on March 8 and a Day of Prayer on September 13 (details to follow).  

Join us in praying for vocations. Currently, we have a few women discerning with the Maronite Servants and one who is ready to enter in June. Be assured of our daily prayers for you and your loved ones.

Prayer for the Year of Consecrated Life
O God, throughout the ages you have called women and men to pursue lives of perfect charity through the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
During this Year of Consecrated Life, we give you thanks for these courageous witnesses of Faith and models of inspiration.  Their pursuit of holy lives teaches us to make a more perfect offering of ourselves to you.  Continue to enrich your Church by calling forth sons and daughters who, having found the pearl of great price, treasure the Kingdom of heaven above all things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.