Light of Love Retreat – Recharging with the Word

By Natalie Salameh
On Sunday, May 25 to Monday, May 26, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted an overnight retreat for young women at the Mother of Light Convent focusing on the theme of God’s sacrificial love for each of us.  This retreat was an opportunity to carve time out of busy schedules and recharge with the Word of God, and rediscover the meaning of true love.

It’s very easy for us today in our fast-paced, modern to lose the meaning of true love in our lives. As Sister Therese Maria explained in the retreat’s first presentation, we are all too familiar with the fleeting and superficial love offered by the world.  This is glaringly obvious whether we pick up a magazine or turn on the television. We live in a culture of individualism; it’s all about “me”, “my” and “I”. In our world, we are offered the “Hallmark” idea of love.

But what of Christ’s love for us? Christ was nailed to the cross with open arms and hands; he only knew how to give, not to give and take. This is the true, real and meaningful love that we are all searching for in our lives.

The women were able to see how Christ demonstrated true love in the Scriptures in a lectio divina (divine reading) on the Gospel scene of the repentant sinful woman who bathed the Lord’s feet with her tears and was forgiven her many sins (Luke 7: 36 – 50); and the First Letter of John, reminding us that God is love, and he who loves is of God.

In the evening, we watched the movie Frozen, and afterwards gathered around a bonfire discussing the film’s themes of sacrificial love and self-offering.

The next day, we delved into Pope Francis’ latest encyclical, Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), in which the Holy Father warns us to beware of jealousy, enmity, division, vendetta and so forth. The Holy Father reminds us that we are so fortunate Christ came and gave us the “Law of Love”. He says:
How good it is to have this law! How much good it does to love one another, in spite of everything. Yes, in spite of everything! (#101)

That is after all, how God loves us! Despite our deficiencies, limitations and imperfections, he still gives us the supreme and awesome gift of being called sons and daughters of God.

Fr. Ed Nedder, Pastor of St. George Maronite Church in Rhode Island, was also in attendance to offer the Mystery of Penance and the Divine Liturgy.  The retreat concluded with a walk on the beach. There is often no greater reminder of God’s love for us than the creation he has given us to enjoy. 



Class at the Maronite Seminary – Washington DC

By Natalie Salameh
On Sunday, May 18, Mother Marla Marie addressed the congregation of Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Washington DC, and updated them on the various developments that have occurred in recent times to the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light. Many parishioners remembered Mother Marla Marie, and recollected how she had begun her mission in that very parish in 2008 as the foundress of a new community of religious women for our Maronite Church. The parishioners were delighted to see the growth of our community, and the fruits of their prayers.

On Monday, May 19, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were able to enrich and deepen their knowledge of the Maronite tradition by attending class with Chorbishop Seely J. Beggiani, former rector of our Maronite seminary.

Chorbishop Beggiani was gave the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light greater insight into our Syriac spirituality, with a particular focus on Syriac sacramental theology. In the East, we call the “sacraments” of the Church, “mysteries.”  As Chorbishop stated, the fact that the Maronites call the sacraments, mysteries is indicative of the spirituality of our Syriac Church Fathers, such as St. Ephrem.  In our Syriac Spirituality, God is “Mystery”. But God, the Infinite and Hidden One, wants to be known by us, as far as He can be known. According to St. Ephrem, God is revealed in His creation and His scriptures, because He has poured Himself and His love into the objects of His creation, and so holy things surround us.

For instance, we learned that the symbolism of our rite of Chrismation comes from Jesus being anointed by the Holy Spirit before the beginning of His public ministry. We are therefore chrismated (anointed by the Holy Spirit) in order to begin our lives of public witness and ministry of the Gospel. We were very grateful to Chorbishop Beggiani for taking time to explain and teach us about the Mysteries of our Maronite Tradition, so that we, in turn, may be able to share this wealth of knowledge with our people in our mission of catechesis.


Week-end Highlights

MYO Meeting
On Friday, May 9, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted the monthly MYO gathering for the teens of the Our Lady of Purgatory Parish at the Mother of Light Convent in Dartmouth.
The theme of the night’s discussion was sacrificial love, based on the movie, Frozen. This movie portrays a number of Christian themes, such as love for the other, persevering trust, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  The teens entered into a good discussion with a focus on how to best identify and demonstrate true love in our lives.

Maronite Faith Formation – New Bedford
On Saturday, May 10, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered Maronite Faith Formation (MFF) for the children of the Our Lady of Purgatory Parish in New Bedford.
The theme was on the season of the Glorious Resurrection, and our Maronite devotion to the Blessed Mother during May. The children did a craft creating the resurrection scene, followed by a decade of the rosary and May Crowning.  We concluded with a celebration enjoying games, pizza and cake.

Ramsho and Supper with Bishop & Priests
On Sunday, May 11, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light hosted their monthly Ramsho and Supper at the Mother of Light Convent and were blessed with the presence of his Excellency, Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, Chorbishop Joseph Kaddo, pastor of St. Anthony of the Desert in Fall River, and Fr. Jack Morrison, pastor of Our Lady of Purgatory in New Bedford, and several parishioners from our Boston and Brockton parishes.
 Ramsho (Maronite Evening Prayer) was for mothers on Mother’s Day and led by our priests, followed by a picnic with lots of fellowship and sharing.

The Maronite Servants extend their warmest wishes to all mothers with a prayer that Jesus and his Blessed Mother will shower blessings upon them. Thank you for all you do for us!


First Communion

By Natalie Salameh

On Sunday May 4, the Feast of Our Lady of Lebanon, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light attended the First Holy Communion Liturgy of the children at Our Lady of Purgatory Parish, New Bedford.

The children were radiant throughout the Liturgy, and Fr. Jack reminded them in his homily that on this special day of their First Holy Communion, they are the “biggest winners”. They are “winners” because they can now approach the communion table as often as they like to feed on the bread of angels. Fr. Jack reminded us all that true happiness in this life does not consist in “winning the lottery”, as we have something much better or rather someone much better, who is always in our hearts and by our sides.

The children were each presented with Bible to remind them that the Word of God is a treasure of infinite value, and should be given a place in their lives alongside the Holy Qorbono.  The Liturgy concluded with the singing of the Maronite Hymn, “Mother of God”, and the incensing of Our Lady’s icon, a Maronite ritual commonly known in Arabic as Ziah el Adra. The Church was a sea of blue in honor of Mary and the privelege of crowning Our Lady was given to one of the first communicants.

Parish celebrations were held in the social hall which included the exchanging of gifts, and the cutting of cake!    


Celebrating Pope Saint John Paul II - Sleepy Hollow NY

On Friday, April 25 to Sunday, April 27, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were invited by Father Naji Kiwan, Pastor of the Blessed John Paul II Maronite Mission in Sleepy Hollow, NY, to participate in the weekend festivities the Mission held in honor of the canonization of their patron, now Pope Saint John Paul II.

On Friday, April 25, the Maronite Youth Organization (MYO) of the Mission, and a number of other teens arranged and attended a concert by the Catholic band, Full Armor. The teens sang and danced along with the band, and Sr. Therese Maria was chosen by the band to sing and dance along with them. (see photo)

On Saturday, April 26, we attended the vigil Roman Catholic Liturgy at the Immaculate Conception parish which shares its facilities with the Mission, and was concelebrated by his Excellency, Bishop Gregory. J. Mansour and Fr. Naji. The Vigil Liturgy was followed by a beautiful Gala Dinner at the Knollwood Country Club in Elmsford, NY. It was absolutely wonderful to see the Maronite Catholics, the Roman Catholics and those who celebrate Mass according to the Tridentine Latin tradition, all coming together to commemorate and honor the new Saints, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII.

I think each Catholic tradition learned something new about the other that night and most importantly, that we all really are one Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. The night brought new meaning to the phrase, the “Universal Catholic Church”.

On Sunday, April 27, his Excellency, Bishop Gregory, celebrated Maronite Divine Liturgy, concelebrated with Fr. Naji and Fr. Christopher, pastor of the Roman Catholic Parish of the Immaculate Conception. The Liturgy was followed by a brunch in the parish hall, where the parishioners not only celebrated the canonization of their patron, St. John Paul II, but also celebrated and honored the 10 year anniversary of the installment of his Excellency, Bishop Gregory.

It was a blessed weekend for this Mission to commemorate the canonization of their Patron, but also for the Catholic Church as a whole. May the prayers of our new Saints, Pope St. John Paul II and Pope St. John XXIII be with each of us in our personal journey towards sanctity.

We extend a big thank you to Fr. Naji Kiwan for including the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light in the weekend’s festivities.