Talk on Vocations and Halloween Fun

Maronite Servants at Fall River
On Saturday evening, October 24, the Maronite Servants attended the Halloween Party at St. Anthony of the Desert, Fall River.  The night started off with “Trunk-or-Treat” packed with candy, chips, which the children and sisters received with great enthusiasm. The night continued with decorating pumpkins; crafts; and popping Caspar balloons!

On Vocations - St. Mary’s in Dartmouth
On Sunday evening, October 18, Sr. Therese Maria gave a presentation to the teens in the confirmation program of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church in South Dartmouth. Sr. Therese Maria first addressed some myths and facts about what religious life actually entails, and then gave the teens a brief introduction on who we are as Maronite Servants of Christ the Light.
Sr. Therese Maria explained to the teens that each one of us has a vocation, that is, a calling from God and a special purpose in our lives, and she considered some of those vocations in detail. Many are called by God to come together and form holy marriages; some are called to lead a chaste single life of service; while others may have a vocation to priesthood or religious life.
Sr. Therese Maria explained, in general, what it means to be a consecrated religious, and highlighted the three vows religious take on their profession day, that is, obedience, chastity and poverty. The evening finished with Q&A, with the teens raising some excellent questions such as, “Are there reasons that a person cannot be a religious?”; “What is the process for becoming a religious?”   


Maronite Servants on Pilgrimage in Paris

by Natalie Salameh

The Maronite Servants have recently returned from a visit to France, during which we took our weeklong annual retreat in Lisieux (from September 25 to October 1), and a pilgrimage visiting the holy sites in Paris (October 2 – October 8).

Our pilgrimage in Paris began with a memorable visit to France’s most celebrated Cathedral, Notre Dame de Paris. The French Gothic architecture and stunning stained glass windows of the Cathedral were marvelous to behold. Our Lady had a special gift awaiting the Maronite Servants upon their arrival. It so happened that the day of our visit was the first Friday of the month and the relics of Our Lord’s Crown of Thorns are presented for veneration. The Crown is a circle of canes bundled together and held by gold threads. The thorns were divided up over the centuries by the Byzantine emperors and the Kings of France. There are seventy, all of the same type, which have been confirmed as the original thorns. The Maronite Servants had the great privilege of venerating the Crown (with great eagerness and enthusiasm), which was displayed by the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre after the celebration of a beautiful Divine Liturgy. What an awesome start to our pilgrimage!
The following day we found ourselves in Rue-de-Bac; home of the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal and the tombs of St. Catherine Laboure and St. Louise de Marillac. The Chapel was built in 1815 and was dedicated to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. In 1830, it was privileged with the extraordinary events of the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin to St. Catherine Labouré that marked it forever. Between July and December 1830, Sr. Catherine, a young novice at the time of the Daughters of Charity, received the extraordinary favor of conversing with the Virgin Mary on 3 occasions. In this Chapel, the Virgin Mary came in person to reveal her identity through a little object, a medal, which reads, O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee. On December 8, 1854, Pope Pius IX proclaimed the Dogma of Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception. What great joy we experienced in not only praying beside the bodies of these most holy women, but celebrating Divine Liturgy in this hallowed Chapel, which has preserved the chair the Blessed Virgin sat in during her apparitions!

A couple of streets down from the Chapel of the Miraculous Medal was the Chapel and Shrine of St. Vincent de Paul, which holds the body of this great saint. The first thing we noticed upon entering the Chapel was the glass reliquary containing his body high above the main altar. After climbing the stairs behind the altar, we arrived to venerate his relics. His face looked so serene and peaceful, as if he was simply sleeping. St. Vincent de Paul is known all around the world for his charitable works and is hailed as the “Champion of the Poor”.
It was a great joy for us to celebrate Sunday’s Divine Liturgy and the Feast of the Most Holy Rosary (October 4) in our Maronite Cathedral in Paris, Notre Dame du Liban (Our Lady of Lebanon). We were blessed to meet the Rector of the Cathedral, Fr. Fadi Elmir, and spend time greeting our devoted Maronite parishioners. We are indebted to Fr. Fadi for also taking us to meet His Excellency, Bishop Maroun Nasser Gemayel, who is the first Maronite Bishop of the Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in Paris. Our visit with Sayedna Gemayel was very fruitful, as he expressed his affirmation and support of our charism and mission among our Maronites worldwide.

Our next stop on our Pilgrimage in Paris was Montmartre, which is Paris’ highest hill that overlooks the entire city. Montmartre is primarily known for the white-domed Basilica of the Sacré-Cœur (the Sacred Heart of Jesus) on its summit. The Basilica is absolutely breath-taking, not only for its location, but also for its art depicting Jesus’ exposed heart aflame with love for us as He appeared to St. Margaret Mary Alacoque in 1673. The Crypt of the Basilica boasts a beautiful side Chapel dedicated entirely to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It was in this very side Chapel in 1887 of the then unfinished Basilica that St. Therese consecrated herself to the Sacred Heart of Jesus during her pilgrimage. The Maronite Servants were privileged to pray in the same spot that St. Therese prayed in all those years ago, and celebrated Divine Liturgy in this breath-taking Basilica.

We also prayed in the other, older, church on the hill, Saint Pierre de Montmartre, which claims to be the location at which the Jesuit order of priests was founded, and also a Church St. Therese visited on her pilgrimage in Paris. I might just add that this was our only rainy day throughout our whole stay in France; apart from that, the Lord blessed us with very fine weather.

We visited and prayed at the Basilica of Notre-Dame-des-Victoires (Our Lady of Victories). This Church is also famous in the life of St. Therese. St. Thérèse felt the motherly love of Our Lady throughout her life. On the Feast of Pentecost 1883, when she was ten years old and suffering from a mysterious and debilitating illness, the statue of the Blessed Virgin smiled at her in all loveliness, and Therese recovered. Later, Thérèse began to doubt whether the Virgin really had smiled at her. That scruple departed in November 1887, in the church of Our Lady of Victories. She recalled:

“I realized that she [Mary] watched over me, that I was her child, and so I could not give her any name but Maman (“Mommy”), because that seemed so much more tender than ‘Mother.’ ”

It was also in the Church of Our Lady of Victories that Therese implored the help of the Blessed Virgin in realizing her vocation. The Church now has two beautiful side Chapels, one dedicated to Therese and the other dedicated to her recently canonized parents, Louis and Zelie Martin. We had the special honor of not only celebrating Divine Liturgy at Our Lady of Victories but also of offering Midday prayer with the Benedictine nuns who were in attendance that day. They chanted the Divine Office so beautifully and harmoniously that an overwhelming sense of peace came over us.

We visited and prayed in many other Churches in Paris, apart from the ones mentioned above, but our visits would simply be too long to recount in detail. These beautiful churches included St. Sulpice, St. Merri, St. Leu-St.Giles, St. Germain, St. Eustace, St. Pierre and Notre Dame de La Salette. One of my most memorable visits was to the Church of St. Leu-St.Giles in rue St. Denis. This Church currently holds a rare relic of St. Helen, mother of St. Constantine, in a glass reliquary at the base of the Crucifix, which we were able to venerate behind the altar. It is also the capitular church of the Knights of the Holy Sepulchre, who continue to assemble there.

You and your intentions and loved ones were remembered in prayer at all these holy and venerable sites.


In Defense of Christians

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Maronite Servants on Retreat - Lisieux, France

By Natalie Salameh
 The Maronite Servants have recently returned from a visit to France, during which we took our weeklong annual retreat in Lisieux (from September 25 to October 1).

During this Year of Consecrated Life, a generous priest benefactor (wishing to remain anonymous) sponsored us for a retreat in Lisieux, meditating on the spirituality of Saint Therese of the Infant Jesus. Lisieux is the site where Saint Therese lived as a Carmelite nun in the late 19th Century and died at the age of 24 from tuberculosis.

St. Therese is now known all over the world as the “Little Flower” who showed us her “little way of spiritual childhood” to Jesus. She believed in doing small things and offering small sacrifices with great love. She took her assignments in the convent of Lisieux as ways of manifesting her love for God and for others. St. Therese knew from her life that God is merciful love, and her confidence in His love knew no limits. Her “little way” puts holiness of life within the reach of ordinary people, and helps us to live with confidence in God’s love for us.

It was a great privilege over the week of our retreat to pray in the great Basilica dedicated to St. Therese that was built on the highest hill overlooking the city of Lisieux. Construction of the Basilica started in 1929 and finished in 1954, and can hold up to 4,000 worshippers. The Basilica features the most beautiful mosaics, and not only holds relics of St. Therese, but also the mortal remains of Louis and Zelie Martin, St. Therese’s parents, who will be canonized as saints in the Vatican on October 18. We celebrated a beautiful Divine Liturgy in the Basilica on Sunday, September 27, in honor of St. Therese’s feast day. It was so great to see the Basilica filled with devoted pilgrims from every nation and race.  

The Basilica is located close by the Carmelite Monastery, where St. Therese spent 9 years as a nun. The Carmelite Monastery is currently the home of the mortal remains of St. Therese, along with that of her three other sisters who were also Carmelite nuns; Pauline, Marie and Celine. On the evening of Saturday, September 26, we participated in a beautiful procession during which the relics of St. Therese were moved from the Carmel Monastery to the Basilica in honor of her feast. We experienced such a strong sense of “church” that evening.

Part of the Carmelite Monastery has been transformed into a museum, showcasing the belongings and writings of St. Therese, including the holy habit she once wore. We spent a number of days looking and praying over these belongings, and reading about the many favors and miracles St. Therese performed for people all over the world. We had the great privilege of praying Divine Liturgy in the small Carmel Chapel on several days, and listening to the sisters offer Morning Prayer in French. The Lisieux Carmelite Monastery is still the home of many nuns.
Our next stop in the journey and life of St. Therese was Les Buissonnets. Louis Martin and his five daughters moved into “Les Buissonnets” in Lisieux in 1877 after the death of his wife, Zelie. Therese, who was the youngest of the five Martin daughters, was about 4 years old at the time, and she would remain at “Les Buissonnets” until the age of 15 when she would leave for the Carmelite Monastery. In the backyard of “Les Buissonnets” there was a very moving monument that depicted a re-enactment of when Therese sat down with her father to ask his blessing to become a Carmelite nun. They shared a very special father-daughter bond. She was his “little queen” and he was her “king”.

It was also at “Les Buissonnets” that St. Therese says that she received the greatest grace of her life on Christmas Day in 1886; the grace of conversion. On that day, the then fourteen-year-old Therese hurried home from Midnight Mass at Saint Peter's Cathedral. In France, young children left their shoes by the fireplace at Christmas, and their parents would fill them with gifts. By fourteen, most children outgrew this custom. But Therese, being the youngest and most spoiled, continued to have presents in her shoes.

As she and her sister, Céline climbed the stairs to take off their hats, their father's voice rose up from the parlor below. Standing over the shoes, he sighed, "Thank goodness that's the last time we shall have this kind of thing!" Thérèse froze, and her sister looked at her helplessly. Céline knew that in a few minutes Thérèse would be in tears over what her father had said.
 But the tantrum never came. Something incredible had happened to Thérèse. Jesus had come into her heart and done what she could not do herself. He had made her more sensitive to her father's feelings rather than her own. She swallowed her tears, walked slowly down the stairs, and exclaimed over the gifts in the shoes, as if she had never heard a word her father said.

During our visit to Les Buissonnets, we prayed over the very fireplace that this event took place and walked up the steps that Therese herself came down on that Christmas morning having been changed by Jesus forever.

On our last day of retreat, which was the actual feast day of St. Therese on October 1st, we visited Alencon, the birthplace of St. Therese, and first home of Louis and Zelie Martin. Alencon is about a one hour drive from Lisieux. St. Therese spent the first 4 years of her life in Alencon before moving to Les Buissonnets. The home has been transformed into a Museum, and boasts a very beautiful chapel in which we celebrated Divine Liturgy that morning. It was absolutely amazing to see how everything has been preserved including St. Therese’s toys; her father’s fishing poles, and her mother’s lace work. It was here in Alencon that St. Therese gave the Maronite Servants a big gift. The sisters at the museum granted us permission to pray in the very room in which St. Therese was born, and in which her mother died. This room is enclosed in glass and access is not granted to all pilgrims; this was very special to us. I was personally very moved as venerated St. Therese’s cradle and the bed in which her mother died.

Thanks be to God for such a wonderful retreat! Walking in the footsteps of St. Therese, we felt she was walking with us. We took your intentions and petitions with us at every holy site and prayed for them before every relic. May St. Therese bless you all abundantly and shower down upon you bouquet of roses! Next week’s blog will feature highlights from our pilgrimage in Paris (October 2 – October 8). 


Remember Who You Are

Jesus lifts us up in the knowledge of our sacred dignity and how truly loved we are.