MYO Adore Retreat 2018 – Wise Men Still Seek Him

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

The MYO regional Christmas retreat for the Eparchy of St. Maron was on November 30 – December 2 at the Retreat Center of the National Shrine of Our Lady of La Salette in Attleboro, MA. The theme of this was the adoration of the Magi (Wise Men) with a focus on how we can adore Jesus as they did.

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated the dynamic group of over 100 teens and chaperones from several parishes which included, St. Maron’s in Philadelphia; Our Lady Star of the East in Pleasantville, NJ; St. Theresa’s in Brockton, MA; Our Lady of Purgatory in New Bedford, MA; St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, MA; St. Anthony’s in Lawrence, MA;  St. Anthony’s in Danbury, CT, and Our Lady of the Cedars, Boston.

Over the two days, the teens participated in a variety of different events and activities and prayer which included adoration and confession. God bless the Maronite priests who serve the above parishes that came to offer the Mystery of Penance to the youth. One of the icebreakers, which generated alot of excitement; was the “Christmas stations”. The chaperones from St. Anthony’s in Lawrence created six different stations at which the youth had to participate in different activities in as quick as time as possible. Some of the stations included putting on a Santa suit, eating Santa’s three oreos and drinking his milk, unwrapping presents with oven mitts and so forth. Friday night concluded on a festive note with a bonfire, roasting marshmallows and socializing, in the crisp air. The youth had fun after the bonfire by participating in a gingerbread house building competition, which the chaperones actually won for their creativity and effort.   

Fr. Joseph Daiif, Pastor of St. Theresa’s in Brockton, spoke to the youth on Friday night on the gift Jesus made of Himself in becoming man to save us. Sr. Therese Maria led the youth in adoration on Friday night, while Fr. Joseph gave benediction.

On Saturday morning, Msgr. James Root, Pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, spoke about the adoration of the Magi, and why their visit to Baby Jesus and their bringing of the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh were so special and important. In our small group discussions, following the talk, many of the youth commented that they learned a lot about the Magi themselves and the significance of their gifts. We encouraged the youth to think and reflect on their own personal gifts that they can place at the feet of Jesus this Christmas season.    

There was no better place to prepare for Christmas than the La Salette Shrine with their famous display of countless miniature lights and catechetical displays which switch on at 5pm everyday during the Christmas season. On Saturday evening, the teens made their way to the Shrine for the blessing of the Manger and the switching-on of the lights. They had some free time to explore the vast display of lights. The evening ended with lots of fun which included pizza and a dabke party.

Over the course of the weekend, many of the youth expressed their joy at having made so many new friends, at having this opportunity to bond with God and one another, and at being free to just be themselves and have fun. 


She Who Trusted!

A Reflection on the Announcement to Mary by Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL
In the Maronite Church, we are in the Liturgical Season of the Happy Announcements (Syriac: Sooborey), which are six Sundays that prepare us for the Glorious Birth of Our LordWe celebrated this past Sunday, the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, also known as the Annunciation (cf. Luke 1: 26 – 38).
Speaking personally, I know that I am so familiar with the story that sometimes I can gloss over its great significance, especially when I look at the person of Mary. 
By her ‘yes’ to God, her yes, I will be the Mother of Your Son, Mary made a total gift of herself to God and humanity. She held nothing back, she gave all – body and soul, and she gave without hesitation or delay. I think what I often miss in this Gospel story is that underpinning Mary’s ‘yes’ was her complete trust in God. 
Trust! That is difficult for us humans to do. As a result of sin and its consequences, we struggle not only to trust God, but each other. Now Mary was sinless, but that’s not why she had complete trust in God. I’m sure on a natural level, a human level, she had questions, “How is Joseph going to take this?”, What about if I become the object of slander and gossip in Nazareth?”, “What about if I bring shame on my elderly parents?”, “Who is going to help me raise this baby?” and so forth.
All of these questions would have crossed her mind at one point, but she silences them all with her deep trust in God, who she knows intimately as a Good Father. “God will take care of me, He will take care of everything because as the Angel said to me, nothing is impossible with God”. The Angel’s words to Mary must have been a great comfort to her, as they are to all of us today.
Sometimes, when I am faced with a difficult situation, or a trial, or a problem of some sort, I can be torn between two very different reactions. On the one hand, there is one part of me that says, ‘go and take this issue to God, He will take care of it because it is beyond your control’. But there is another part of me (a very human part) that doubts and questions when I consider the magnitude of the problem or trial I am facing, ‘How is God going to fix this? Is He even listening to me?’
When these kinds of doubts and questions arise, it becomes very difficult for me (and us) to give a wholehearted ‘yes’ to God as Mary did. The remedy is TRUST. I’ve discovered that trust is a choice, it’s a decision that has nothing to do with feelings or emotions, and it’s like a muscle that needs to be stretched and exercised like any other. 
I make little Acts of Trust everyday and I encourage you to do the same. When even a small, seemingly insignificant inconvenience arises in your day (as they do in mine), like being stuck in traffic, or spilling your coffee, or getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, make an Act of Trust – “Jesus, right now, I want to trust You. Jesus, take care of this situation for me. Mary, help me to trust God right now with this issue”. I repeat this prayer every time I feel myself becoming worked up or anxious about the same issue that keeps bothering me. I’ve personally noticed that the more I flex my ‘trust muscle’, the more I have seen God intervene in a truly wonderful and personal way, as He did for Mary, and I know He will do for you.
Happy Sooborey!