Lent Retreat - Maine

By Natalie Salameh
On Saturday, March 22, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered a retreat for the parishioners of St. Joseph’s Maronite Church in Waterville, Maine. The focus of the retreat was the gospel parable of the Prodigal Son emphasizing the theme of repentance and coming home to the love and security of our Father’s tender care.

The morning opened with a meet and greet of the retreat participants, followed by the praying of our Maronite Morning Prayer (Safro) led by Father Larry Jensen, pastor.  Mother Marla Marie began the day’s first reflection followed by a Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) on the parable.  She explained that the younger prodigal son and the self-righteous elder brother both lived in the same house with a compassionate and loving father, but neither of them really knew their father. Both brothers were too closed in on themselves which prevented them from having a meaningful relationship with the father.

The parable of the Prodigal Son calls us all to a deeper conversion.  Mother Marla Marie was able to assist the retreat participants in applying the parable to their own personal spiritual journey. How many of us go to Church every Sunday because we are “simply doing the right thing” or “fulfilling our obligations”, but not really experiencing the tender embrace and mercy of our heavenly Father?

The afternoon of the retreat included an hour of adoration before the Holy Mysteries, with a deeply prayerful and meditative reflection on the sorrowful mysteries of the rosary. The retreat participants were also able to celebrate in Saturday’s Vigil Liturgy of the Prodigal Son, followed by a lentil supper with lots of sharing on the day’s thoughts and reflections.

Here are some thoughts from some retreat participants:

 “We had such an enriching day! The talks led to a very deep scrutiny of the Prodigal Son parable. This was richly enhanced by the quiet personal meditations throughout the day and in our Rosary prayer which made it truly a retreat in all our senses. I am positively changed and more closely bonded through this experience with my parish family”. - Lyn Rowden

 “The Sisters’ presentation opened up more dialogue among the Lebanese and non-Lebanese attendees which led to sharing questions and answers among the participants”. -Joe Rowden

 “It was a very valuable retreat; it helped us as individuals and as a parish to develop a greater understanding of our Lenten practices and sacrifices”. -Emily Fournier

A big thankyou to all retreat participants for their efforts and contribution on the day, especially to Fr. Larry for his warm welcome and hospitality. We truly felt at home.

For those interested in holding a similar retreat for their parishes, please contact the Maronite Servants of Christ: sister@maroniteservants.org. 



Source: Captivated by Your Teachings: a Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics
by Father Anthony J. Salim

5. You shall not murder. (NRSV)

The Church has traditionally restricted to the absolute minimum the instances when life may be taken: legitimate defense of self and of society. Recently, John Paul II has stated that the circumstances under which the State may take a life in capital punishment are “...very rare, if non-existent.” The other arena in which killing was more traditionally seen as permitted but that is seriously questioned today by the Church is war and the so-called just war theory. Nuclear holocaust, made possible by the unchecked arms race, as well as the technologizing of the means of war, render medieval images of hand-to-hand combat ludicrous and unconscionable. In the words of the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

Because of the evils and injustices that all war brings with it, we must do everything reasonably possible to avoid it (CCC 2327).The Church and human reason assert the permanent validity of the moral law during armed conflicts. Practices deliberately contrary to the law of nations and to its universal principles are crimes (CCC 2328).The arms race is one of the greatest curses on the human race and the harm it inflicts on the poor is more than can be endured (CCC 2329).

            No matter how it is rationalized, abortion remains in the Church’s teaching an act of murder against defenseless life. This crime against life carries with it a penalty of excommunication. In vitro fertilization is not permitted by the Church because in the process of fertilizing the eggs in a petri dish, more than one egg successfully treated become zygotes and capable of growing into viable embryos. Hence, when they are discarded human life is too. Biogenetics is a new and largely uncontrolled area. While scientists possess an increasing capability for good through better technology, the question still remains: how is this to be monitored and by what moral and ethical standards?
            Euthanasia is often whitewashed as “mercy-killing”; it is prohibited here as is suicide “with the intention of setting an example” (CCC 2282). However, in very many cases, other circumstances—such as psychological or emotional—come into play.
            This commandment also forbids the abuse of the body, mind and spirit and safety. Included are abuses of alcohol and drugs. The public sector has finally caught up to the moral wisdom of avoiding smoking, which has been proven to harm one’s own health and the health of others (in secondary smoke). Any reckless, irresponsible behavior is forbidden as contrary to the service of life.
            Since the opposite of death is life, we recognize here that the Catholic Church is a Church which respects life, from beginning to end, in the words of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, a “seamless garment.”
            Here we must also consider non-physical violence as well. Thus anything which degrades or diminishes the dignity of another is forbidden. This includes prejudice of any sort, notably, racism and sexism. Scandal, which leads another to do evil, is also forbidden. In short, any kind of violence is forbidden by the 5th Commandment.
            As usual, Jesus pushes the point to its extreme, to an ideal that always challenges:

You have heard that it was said, “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.” But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you. You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous (Mt 5:38-45). He also said: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall see God.”

6. You shall not commit adultery.

Adultery violates the trust that stands at the heart of the marriage commitment. When this Commandment was given, it was to protect the sacredness of family life, which included the love and respect spouses were to have for one another. When one of the parties committing adultery is married, it is bad; if both are married (not to each other), it is double jeopardy. Divorce is forbidden, because by it the bond between spouses and society’s bonds of family life are broken. Pre- and extra-marital sexual relations, however sincere, do not express the full commitment called for by truly Christian marriage. Of particular concern is the growing acceptance of unmarried Christian people cohabitating. It is widely but wrongly assumed today that engaged persons may live together and carry on an active sexual life without sin. It is claimed that doing so enables people to get to know each other better and thus the couple will have a better marriage. The realities point to the opposite. Couples often break up bitterly when they really learn truths about themselves that they don’t like; yet the emotional scars of undisciplined sex remain. In addition, cohabitating sends the wrong message to the very young that promiscuity is acceptable. The Church teaches that the gift of sex is to be used within the context of a committed, Christian marriage; and anything outside of that context is forbidden. This includes: fornication, masturbation, polygamy, the use of pornography, prostitution, rape (actually a sin of violence), incest and any abuse by adults perpetrated on children. While the Church condemns the use of artificial contraception, including sterilization and vasectomy, it does not prohibit the regulation of procreation by natural methods, such as natural family planning. The reliability of natural family planning methods has improved greatly. Considered under this Commandment are the virtues of chastity and temperance, which help us to control our strong sexual drives toward improper use of them and towards impurity. By this Commandment Christians are urged to use modesty, patience and discretion in dress and speech, for modesty protects the person’s intimate center (CCC 2533).


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MYA Lent Reflection

On Sunday, March 9, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted and facilitated an afternoon of recollection for the MYA of the Our Lady of the Cedars Parish at the Mother of Light Convent. The theme of the afternoon’s recollection was the love of God the Father.

Mother Marla Marie began with a meditation on the Gospel passage of John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

How many of us ponder the love of God the Father in His sacrifice of His only begotten Son, Jesus? We were willed into existence out of love, not by accident.  Mother Marla Marie explained that our soul has such a great dignity in the eyes of God because we are the work of His hands and saved by the blood of His only Son, shed freely for us on the Cross.

The MYA were also shown a short extract from the movie, “More”, which also included a poignant narration. The movie displays the heroism of a father, who is confronted with an extremely difficult choice, does he save his son, or does he save a train full of people? The father chooses to save the train full of people, but loses his son in the process.
Mother Marla Marie used this film to shed light on the infinite love of God the Father towards us, who did not hesitate to sacrifice His only Son as atonement for our sins.

The afternoon concluded with the Maronite evening prayer, Ramsho, and supper.

MYO to the Movies - "Son of God"

On Saturday, March 8, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light took the MYO of Our Lady of Purgatory parish to watch the newly released movie, “Son of God”.  The movie depicts the life, passion, death and resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ. The members of the MYO were quite moved, particularly during the scenes portraying Our Lord’s passion and crucifixion.

Afterwards, the sisters invited the group to the Mother of Light Convent for a pizza supper and a sharing on the movie. Each teen was touched by different parts of the movie. One was struck by Mary’s example throughout the passion of Jesus, particularly her surrender to the will of God, and Peter’s bitter tears upon his denial of Jesus moved another.  All the teens considered the movie a timely reminder of Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice for us, particularly during this holy season of Great Lent, as we meditate on the suffering of Jesus and the sorrow of Our Lady.


Weekend Highlights - March 1-2 2014

 On Saturday March 1, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light spent the evening at St. Theresa's Church Brockton with Father Tony Mouannes, pastor, and the youth and young adults of the MYO and MYA.
The evening was a planned as a Q & A format, where those present had the opportunity to ask Fr. Mouanes and the Maronite Servants any question on our Maronite Catholic faith and vocations.
The young people had excellent questions, such as, "why do we pray?", "what do some people find Church boring?", "why do people become priests or nuns?", "when should I go to confession?". The Q & A was followed with fellowship and sharing with a pizza supper.

On Sunday morning, March 2, the Maronite Servants catechized the children on the season of Great Lent at  St. Anthony of the Desert Parish in Fall River. The Sisters explained that Great Lent is part of running our race to receive the ultimate prize of eternal life.

On Sunday afternoon, the Maronite Servants attended the World Day of Prayer for Peace in Egypt, held at St. Andrew's Episcopal Church, New Bedford. The event was coordinated by Church Women United, and featured their Ecumenical Choir, and also our very own Our Lady of Purgatory (OLOP) Parish Youth Chorus. 
We sang two hymns in Arabic for those in attendance. One was dedicated to Mary, the Mother of God and Queen of Hope, and the other hymn was dedicated to those who work for peace.  The rehearsals were well coordinated by parishioner, Matt Thomas.