Maronites March for Life 2014 - DC

We joined with the thousands of peaceful protestors in this year's 41st March for Life on Wednesday January 22 in Washington DC.  His Excellency, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour led our Maronite group in the rosary as we braved below zero temperatures joining with people from all over the country gathered outside at the National Mall.  Even Pope Francis sent his support and tweeted  "I join the March for Life in Washington with my prayers. May God help us respect all life, especially the most vulnerable."
Bishop Gregory in the procession at the Vigil Mass for Life at
the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception.
Sister Marla Marie, Sister Therese Maria and  Rachelle Semarani (a discerner) joined the Vigil in the packed Basilica.  This photo is taken from our seat, three rows from the front looking to the back of the Church. 


Resolutions for the Spiritual Life

There were three birds sitting on the side of a lake. One bird decided to fly away. How many birds were left?

The most common answer is that if one decided to fly away there would obviously be only two left. This is not the correct answer.

The other common answer is that if one decided to fly away, the other two would also fly away because birds often fly together. Therefore, some say that if one bird decided to fly away, there would not be any birds left on the side of the lake. Although this is a possibility, it is also not the correct answer. 
I will repeat the question and emphasize the key word.
There were three birds sitting on the side of a lake. One bird  d-e-c-i-d-e-d  to fly away. How many birds were left?

That one bird o-n-l-y  d-e-c-i-d-e-d  to fly away, but did not  a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y  fly away, so the correct answer is that if one bird d-e-c-i-d-e-d  to fly away there would still be three birds on the side of the lake, until at least one bird  a-c-t-u-a-l-l-y  flew away.

Today is the first Sunday of the new year. We are also celebrating the Baptism of our Lord, which we call the feast of the Theophany.

Around this time of year there is a big increase in health club memberships because many people d-e-c-i-d-e that they should be exercising more often. There are also many people who  d-e-c-i-d-e  to start a diet. These and other new year resolutions will not get us anywhere if we only d-e-c-i-d-e to fly in a new direction but do not pick up our feet.

In addition to any resolutions we have made, it is also important for us to set some spiritual goals for this year. 
There are four important areas that we all need to keep working on in our spiritual life:
1)     Prayer.
2)     Reading of Scripture.
3)     Fasting
4)     Forgiveness.

Last week, I spoke about how prayer is about talking and listening to God. We most often think about prayer when we come to church. Therefore, it is important to see this time in Church as being very precious. Sometimes we develop a very lax attitude of coming late, taking a break during, or leaving early. The Divine Liturgy is the most important thing we do during our life because we are bringing to God all the activities of our week and preparing for the week to come by reflecting on Scripture and receiving His body and blood. I will focus more on the importance of the Divine Liturgy this year. One thing we can also do immediately to improve our prayer-life is to turn to God for guidance or thank Him at least once a day. However we pray, a little more prayer will bring us closer to God and help us discover something more about ourselves.

The second important point for us is to read Scripture a little more frequently. Saint Jerome said: “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.” Although it is not always easy to understand everything in the Bible, the more we read, the easier it becomes to understand how all the parts are related to each other. All it takes is a few minutes a day. To help us, Bishop Nicholas Samra and Deacon Sabatino Carnazzo (our director of Religious education) will be coming on Saturday, February 15 for an all-day seminar starting from 9:00 am.

The third important point is fasting. More than ever we need to fast; especially since we are surrounded with such abundance. We are very privileged to be able to buy as much of we want, of almost anything, at almost any time of year. Setting some of these things aside helps us to better appreciate what we have and not take these things for granted. Also, there is an almost universal Christian custom of not eating meat on Friday in order to remember the crucifixion of Christ. This little gesture better helps us to incorporate our faith into our daily actions.

The fourth important element is forgiveness. Forgiveness enables us to move on. It helps us to lesson our burdens by overlooking the things that are not that important while focusing on the things that are. We cannot forgive if we are not strongly convinced that we are capable of making mistakes. When we realize our own weaknesses and shortcomings then it becomes much easier to forgive.

To demonstrate this point, I will ask you another question. A ball and a bat cost $1.10. The bat costs $1.00 more than the ball. How much does the ball cost? 
Most people will either not answer because they are afraid to get the wrong answer, or they will be certain that the ball costs 10 cents. Neither will get you the right answer. It is difficult to get the right answer if you are not willing to be wrong at least once. You will also not get the right answer if don’t understand why 10 cents is the wrong answer despite how confident you are that it is not 10 cents.

This and the first question about the three birds help us to realize how limited we are. When we answered both we were absolutely certain that we had the right answer. However, the high level of our certainty frequently in this and other matters does not necessarily correspond to reality. Despite our best intentions, we are sometimes wrong. When we realize this, we will also appreciate that despite the best intentions of our family and friends sometimes they are unknowingly wrong. That is precisely when we need to learn to forgive them in their weaknesses.

Forgiveness helps us move on from our own shortcomings, helps us to move on from the shortcomings of others, and allows those around us to also move on from their own shortcomings.

Theophany is the feast of Christ’s baptism but it is also the feast of our own baptism. It is the celebration of cleansing and new life. We grow in our spiritual life when Prayer, Reading Scripture, Fasting, and Forgiveness are part of our daily resolutions. 
Let us grow in our decisions to grow spiritually, but also in very practical and real actions so that we are not left on the side of the lake observing life from a distance.

By Father Fran├žois Beyrouti
Holy Cross Melkite Catholic Church
451 West Madison Avenue
Placentia, CA     92870-4537
Church web page: www.holycrossmelkite.org


What Is Conscience Protection For?

What Is Conscience Protection For?                                                           Immediate Release

By Aaron Matthew Weldon

If you follow commentary on the court battles over religious liberty here in the United States, you will occasionally read statements that refer to a need for “balance” on matters of conscience protection.  The thinking for some seems to be that people of faith, or even simply people of good will, should be able to compromise on their convictions when those convictions don’t conform to the expectations of the broader culture.  For example, the ethics committee of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has argued that health care professionals should simply refer patients to other providers for services, such as abortions, to which they morally object.  It’s as if they are saying, “Sure, you may feel like abortion is evil, but this is a pluralistic society, so you have to give a little. Nobody’s asking you to perform abortions, so just keep quiet and let women make their own choices.” 

 But conscience is not a bargaining chip in a negotiation.

Conscience is not merely a feeling, as if I am acting in good conscience whenever I do what feels good.  Rather, conscience is a means by which one grasps the truth.  In political matters, my conscience guides me to the truth about how I ought to act with respect to family, neighbors, local community, and nation.

The right to follow one’s conscience is more than a right to be left alone.  It is the right to pursue the truth and to act in accord with that truth.  When we follow the dictates of our consciences, we act in accordance with the truth as best as we can understand it.  In other words, we submit to the law of our loving Creator, not to a coercive agent such as the state.  When we obey our consciences, we conform our lives to the truth that makes us truly free.

When the state attempts to coerce individuals and entire communities to act against their consciences, as it is doing now with the HHS “contraceptive mandate,” it is usurping the place of truth as the guide for the lives of its citizens.  However, as Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI, affirms, “truth is not a product of politics.”  When a state seeks to order the lives of its citizens as if truth were a product of politics, then it has radically overstepped its bounds.  It becomes a tyrant rather than a servant.  People who seek to do what is right, who order their lives to the truth, cannot compromise on conscience, for such a compromise suggests that one should willfully act against what is right.

We need to be clear in our actions and our witness about what we are for.  Court battles may be necessary to seek protection from a state that would seek to step beyond its proper boundaries.  But the freedom that is gained in a court victory is a freedom from coercion.  Ultimately, religious liberty is freedom for the pursuit of truth and of lives lived in accordance with what is good.  In all our actions, as entrepreneurs, artists, teachers, construction workers, and public servants, we must be people who seek the truth and strive to perform the good in all that we do.  We can refuse to compromise on matters of conscience and work to protect our right to religious liberty with confidence, knowing that we do what we do so that all people may seek to live the truth.

Want to help protect conscience rights? Learn more and make your voice heard. Visitwww.usccb.org/conscience. Watch our video about three women whose rights of conscience have been violated: “Speak Up for Conscience Rights Today!”  Then send your email to Congress in support of the Health Care Conscience Rights Act.

Aaron Matthew Weldon is a staff assistant for the Secretariat of Pro-Life Activities, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. For more information on the bishops’ pro-life activities, please visit www.usccb.org/prolife.

Speak Up for Conscience Rights Today!


Sunday After the Birth of Our Lord

O Lord, by your marvelous birth you saved us!
O believers, the Word is made flesh, During the night,
the savior of all was born.
Adam’s sin is canceled by the crying of a child and David rejoices at his heir.
O Herod and people of Israel, why are you troubled?
The Magi come to him, offering him their gifts.
The angels awaken the sleeping shepherds.
The love of the Lord is poured out all creatures below.
Blessed are we for we are raised higher than heavenly
Mary, worthy are you to receive the most beautiful of creatures.
His is the glory of the universe.
As the archangel predicted, worshipers come to the cave at
Bethlehem and the truth is made manifest.
The star of Jacob appeared and enlightened those in
The mystery of salvation is begun and fulfilled in the Word.
The astonished people proclaim:
Wonderful are you, O Lord our God, who lie in a crib like
the poorest of poor.
You were made man to redeem all of humanity; all you
peoples glorify him.
Sing out and praise him with the most beautiful of hymns.
Let us cry out, the sun has appeared.
The promise is fulfilled and our salvation is accomplished;
let us give him thanks at all times.
Only Son of the Father, begotten before all time, you promised that you would become flesh in time; you became the Son
of Mary, the daughter of David.
Kings from foreign lands come to adore the infant in the crib; the baby is venerated and glorified.
Isaiah’s promise of a blessed and wonderful birth is fulfilled.