A Nun or a Priest from Your Family?

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
In speaking with parents about vocations, many are often reluctant to have one of their children devote their lives as a nun or priest. Yet at the same time, they are happy if someone else’s son or daughter is called to serve. These same parents readily acknowledge the need for vocations - as long as it is not one of their own. After all, they have plans for their son or daughter which perhaps include a future grandchildren, maybe a business or medical career.
I try to gently remind them that God also has plans. God's plan for our life is what we call a vocation. It is a blessing and honor to have a son/daughter called by God to the vocation of a priest or a religious.

Join me in prayer for parents and young people to have an open heart and mind to God's call, and to respond with trust and generosity.

Pope John Paul II realized this struggle for some parents, and spoke to them in his Apostolic Constitution on Consecrated Life (1996).

“I address you, Christian families. Parents, give thanks to the Lord if he has called one of your children to the consecrated life. It is to be considered a great honor — as it always has been — that the Lord should look upon a family and choose to invite one of its members to set out on the path of the evangelical counsels! Cherish the desire to give the Lord one of your children so that God's love can spread in the world. What fruit of conjugal love could be more beautiful than this?
We must remember that if parents do not live the values of the Gospel, the young man or woman will find it very difficult to discern the calling, to understand the need for the sacrifices which must be faced, and to appreciate the beauty of the goal to be achieved. For it is in the family that young people have their first experience of Gospel values and of the love which gives itself to God and to others. They also need to be trained in the responsible use of their own freedom, so that they will be prepared to live, as their vocation demands, in accordance with the loftiest spiritual realities.
I pray that you, Christian families, united with the Lord through prayer and the sacramental life, will create homes where vocations are welcomed.”


Maronite Youth Organization Retreat

Some of the retreat participants share their experience:

“It’s a great way to renew and grow spiritually.
…being able to share my beliefs with people.”
Prissilla Issa, Utica NY

“Listening and talking with the kids and helping them to grow spiritually is rewarding.”
John Dohar, Jr. Advisor, Youngstown OH

“I enjoyed the healing prayer – it was touching.”
Gabriel Moussa, Atlanta GA

“It’s a good time. …the talks are great.”
Zach Lewis, Utica NY

"The retreat is awesome."
Janine Kattar, Cleveland OH

"My favorite part of the retreat was the healing service."
Sarah Joseph, Pittsburgh PA


Reflecting on My Maronite Identity

By Kathy Homsy (A young adult from the Eparchy in Syndney. She is pictured above at the tomb of St. Rafka.)
Whenever I get asked by a Westerner about my religious beliefs I am forced to think about my answer before I reply. If I come out and say that I am Catholic, I would not be revealing my true identity; yet if I say that I am Maronite, I may be perceived as a non-Catholic. Therefore, my answer is never a simple one. It requires a long and informative explanation which will no doubt provoke many questions in order to be properly understood.

"Catholic" means universal and the Church has used this term since the beginning to refer to the universality and diversity of believers who profess the same true Faith albeit belonging to different traditions which are commonly known as Western Rites and Eastern Rites. The late pope, John Paul II expressed the Church's life and strength in a profound way when he stated that she breathes with two lungs - East and West alike. Due to a mass migration of Christians from the Middle East to the Western World, there is no longer, strictly speaking, a homogenous Catholic population in any western society. Catholics of all rites are now coexisting side by side and are struggling to educate their fellow brothers and sisters of the uniqueness and richness of their perspective Catholic traditions in the hope of gaining a deeper love and appreciation of the Faith.

I often joke around and tell Latin Rite Catholics that Maronite Catholics are the radical, fundamental and extreme members of the Church. I go on to brag about how we, Maronites, tend to be twice as pious in our everyday lives, twice as devotional to Our Lady and the Saints, twice as fervent in our prayers and hymns, and twice as willing to respond to God's call to religious life as other Catholics are. I guess Maronite pride is a result of the constant trials and tribulations experienced by our ancestors at the hands of Christian persecutors. I believe it is a miracle in itself that the Maronite tradition still exists today, and I thank God everyday for all the martyrs and steadfast preachers who were committed to preserving the Faith in the Holy Land of Lebanon, despite efforts by many to destroy it and wipe us out once and for all.

There are differences between the Maronite and Roman Catholic traditions. Adherents of both share the core beliefs and dogmatic teachings of Catholicism; however ecclesiastical law and practices differ. Although Maronites subject themselves to the supremacy of the Bishop of Rome, we answer to the Patriarch of Antioch, who is the head of all Maronites around the globe, and to his fellow bishops who are appointed to lead and guide the faithful in Maronite Eparchys worldwide.

Another difference has to do with the Seven Mysteries (sacraments). Priests administer the mysteries of Baptism and Chrismation (Confirmation) to Maronites at the same time whereas Roman Catholics usually receive Baptism as infants and Confirmation once they have reached the age of reason. Maronite men who are called to the priesthood have an option to marry before their ordination, however, Latin Rite men are strictly forbidden to become married priests. During the celebration of Holy Matrimony, Maronite spouses partake in a crowning ceremony which is omitted in the Latin tradition. The Eucharistic celebration in the Maronite Church is exceptional and is often compared to a High Mass in the Latin Rite. The frequent use of incense, the powerful prayers and exaltations contained in the anaphoras, and the Eucharistic narrative which is recited in Aramaic, combine to bring the worship of the early Church and ancient liturgical practices of Jews in the Old Testament to life. A unique aspect of the Maronite tradition - and perhaps my favorite - is the Prayer of the Faithful (Divine Office) chanted by our monks every morning and evening while the congregation joins in. This form of prayer is often preceded by the "Oum Allah" ("Mother of God") hymn and followed by the Holy Sacrifice. It truly is heaven on earth!

Lastly, the liturgical calendar, seasons, Gospel readings, and feast days vary between the two traditions. There is no ordinary time in the Maronite tradition, instead there are seven seasons that make up one liturgical year: Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passion Week, Resurrection, Pentecost, and Holy Cross. The readings during Divine Liturgy include passages from one of the New Testament letters, followed by the Good News taken from one of the four Gospels, which is welcomed by the acclamation of a Psalm. There is no reading from the Old Testament in a Maronite Liturgy.

Being a Maronite Catholic is a gift and a blessing. My role models are definitely the three glorious Maronite saints of Lebanon: St. Charbel, St. Rafqa, and St. Nemetallah, not to mention the extraordinary founder of the Maronite Church, St. Maroun. All four led a holy life and dedicated themselves to Christ and His Body, the Church. The best way for me to inform others of the rich Maronite Catholic heritage and portray the endless beauty of the Maronite tradition is to emulate the saints and martyrs who are a true imitation of Jesus and His Blessed Mother.

It is important for me to remain true to who I am. I was born a Maronite Catholic and I will die a Maronite Catholic. I am indebted to the Maronite Church and to the saints and martyrs who made countless sacrifices and offered numerous prayers to keep the flames of the Holy Spirit burning in the East. My mission is to light the same fire in the West, after all, Maronites are universal (Catholics).


NAM Convention 2009

These photos are of the 46th annual convention for the National Apostolate of Maronites hosted by Our Lady of Mt. Lebanon parish in Los Angeles.


Maronite Vocations Website

A new vocations resource for our Maronite Church in the United States is the website Vineyardofthelord.com . The site's title is taken from Luke 10:2 where Jesus is asking us to pray to God to send more laborers into his vineyard. "The harvest is plenty, but laborers are few..."
Creating and maintaining the website is the work of Fr. Armando El-Khoury, pastor of St. Rafka Church in Lakewood, Colorado. With the assistance of Fr. Dominique Hanna and Sister Marla Marie, the site features several Maronite resources to educate and promote vocations to priesthood and religious life, including videos, articles, essays, blogs, and photos. There are links to the Maronite Seminary, Vocation Directors of each Eparchy, and Maronite religious communities of men and women. (see below)
Visit the site and spread it to your mail list, especially to the MYO and MYA of your parish. Consider joining our national prayer effort for vocations explained on the site's link, "Pray for Vocations".

Religious Life
Third Order For the Laity
Church History Books
Liturgy Books

Get Involved
Pray for Vocations
Order of St. Sharbel

Sr. Marla Marie and Tresa Van Heusen, an applicant with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.