Interior Freedom

(Reprinted from the Maronite Voice, October issue)

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
The “Going Deeper” page will explore interior freedom based on a book authored by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. Published in 2002, “Interior Freedom” has quickly become a modern classic in spiritual reading. Philippe, a French priest in the Community of the Beatitudes, charts an accessible path to reach and live true freedom.  In the next eight months, a different Maronite parishioner will offer a reflection on one of the chapters. You are encouraged to purchase a copy and follow along in this spiritual discussion (see below).

Often when we think of freedom, we think of getting whatever we want, when and as we want -- no constraints.  I remember hearing the phrase, “freedom isn’t free” after 9/11 while I was missioned in New York City.  There was a lot of talk about freedom in the days and months following the tragic terrorist attacks, and it caused me to reflect.  Patriotism was at a high and so was a renewed appreciation for the men and women in the military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
We all desire freedom and are indeed created for true freedom. However, our culture more secularized than in previous years, is offering us a mistaken idea of freedom.    The first chapter of Phillipe’s book explores the subject of freedom and acceptance. He bases the book on the spiritual truth that freedom is found at the source – God.  The path to God is guided by our living out the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
Phillipe says, “We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is not happiness without love, and no love without freedom.” (pg. 13) Therefore, freedom is a gift from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it gives value to love. It is not a freedom from someone or something but a freedom for a greater good, for someone --God. 
If our freedom is based on being unconstrained and pushing ahead with our bucket list, then we are mistaken and our loves become enslavements that take many forms (i.e. selfishness, addictions, bad relationships, etc.).  This is a false idea of freedom and it derails our ability to choose authentic love, to pursue what is best for us.  With freedom comes responsibility not license.  This great dignity God gives to us needs to be cultivated and guided by virtue so we can choose responsibly. Our freedom is at the service of seeking the good for ourselves and others.  This is love and it leads to true happiness. 
“Another fundamental mistake about freedom is to make it into something external, depending on circumstances, and not something primarily internal,” writes Phillipe (pg. 15).  Our Lord, the Mother of God and the saints are the role models we need here.  He adds “People who haven’t learned how to love will always feel like victims; they will feel restricted wherever they are. But people who love never feel restricted.” (pg. 21) Phillipe sites St. Therese of Lisieux as the one who taught him that “our inability to love comes most often from our lack of faith, and our lack of hope.” (pg.  21) 
Our depth of living these virtues is the sure path to happiness because they help us to develop true interior freedom.  A person who is truly free will flourish in spite of obstacles and even because of them.  Happiness is theirs. Interior freedom is made possible because Our Lord paid the ultimate price.
In our discipleship as a redeemed Christian, we are challenged to reject false freedom for authentic interior freedom. Our happiness will grow in proportion to the kind of person we have become in living out faith, hope, and charity. The following chapters of this book unfold the living out of these virtues which set us free.
Prayer: Dear God, may I use my freedom to seek and choose the good, the true and the beautiful.   
 (Interior Freedom, Fr. Jacques Philippe, Scepter Publishing, 2007.  Available as a Kindle or paper copy via Amazon)  


National MYA Workshop – Chicago

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
We had a successful National MYA workshop in Chicago this past weekend. Fr. Pierre El-Khoury and the generous parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Lombard, IL, hosted the young adult gathering with their welcoming hospitality. Father Tony Massad, Pastor of St. Rafka Church in Livonia, MI, and Sister Therese Maria, Eparchial Coordinator of the Maronite Young Adults and the National Executive Board diligently worked together to offer an awesome weekend of spirituality, fun and fellowship for the 215 young adults who attended from across the country.
We were blessed to have His Excellency Bishop Elias Abdallah Zaidan, Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, with us for the weekend, along with guest speaker, Karlo Broussard from Catholic Answers who spoke on the theme of defending the Christian faith. Karlo was excellent in exposing the dangers of relativism, so prevalent in our secular culture today, and also why the Catholic faith is the true faith.

As part of the dynamic program of prayer, presentations, confession, Liturgy and ice breakers, the young adults also made blankets together for the Chicago children’s cancer society. A beautiful weekend of blessings!


Our Lady of Purgatory Church Celebrates 100 years

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

Over the weekend of September 29 – October 1, the sisters had the great privilege of participating in the Our Lady of Purgatory (OLOP) Church parish centennial celebrations.

On Friday, September 29, Divine Liturgy was offered for the sisters at the Mother of Light Convent by Bishop Gregory Mansour of the Eparchy of St. Maron, Brooklyn, and Bishop Michel Aoun of the Eparchy of Jbeil, Lebanon, and Fr. Fadi Rouhana, Administrator of OLOP. This was the first time in Maronite Servant history that we hosted two bishops at the Convent. On Friday evening, we attended “100 years of sights and sounds” hosted by the OLOP parish at the historic New Bedford Whaling Museum. This multimedia presentation gave us a beautiful snapshot of the history of the parish, including its trials, joys, sorrows, and vocational fruits. In addition, all parishioners over the age of 75 were honored. This was followed by a social hour in the Observation Deck.

On Saturday, September 30, the sisters were blessed yet again with Divine Liturgy at the Convent offered by the two bishops, Chorbishop Kaddo of St. Anthony of the Desert, Fall River and Frs. Fadi and Herbert Nicholls, our chaplain. We had in attendance other parishioners of OLOP. This was followed by breakfast in our sunroom. At 12.30PM, the sisters were invited to attend lunch with the bishops, Maronite and Latin Rite priests of the Diocese of Fall River, and a number of parishioners at the OLOP Rectory. Following lunch, Bishop Gregory and Sr. Therese Maria engaged the children of the parish with games, dance, and song, and a Q & A. At 5PM, the sisters attended a special hour of adoration at the parish with Exposition and Benediction, with the bishops and priests in attendance, to ask God’s continued blessings on the parish for another 100 years. The evening concluded with the Grand Hafle Banquet of celebration at the Venus de Milo Restaurant in Somerset.

On Sunday, October 1st, the Church was beaming and well attended as Bishop Gregory Mansour celebrated the Pontifical Liturgy of Thanksgiving. Chorbishop Michael Thomas, Vicar General of the Eparchy, who was born and raised in the OLOP parish, gave a beautiful homily on why the Church was (and is) called Our Lady of Purgatory. The only Church in the world, outside of France, to hold this name. Simply put, the Church was so called because of our deep reverence for the Mother of God and our belief in her intercessory power for the dead. Divine Liturgy was followed by a parish-wide brunch at the Century House in Acushnet, where all were able to celebrate the establishment of the Maronite faith in New Bedford for the last 100 years. May God grant the parish another 100 years!