Learning from Saint Sharbel

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
(An excerpt from a reflection given at Our Lady of Purgatory during the visit of the Relics of Saint Sharbel.)

The Church is so good to give us saints to be our companions on the journey to heaven -- our journey of becoming saints.  They are our encouragers, our inspiration, our role models for holiness.  Saint Sharbel can teach us many lessons by his life example, and I will focus on a few to to help us to be more intentional Christians.
St. Sharbel was devoted to:  prayer, eucharist, and humility.  Let’s look briefly at each of these.

There is a saying, “show me a man who is favored, and I will show you a man of prayer.”  We easily see that St. Sharbel is favored. Through this Saint’s intercession, God has worked many signs and blessings.

Even while Sharbel was a monk, he was known for miracles: he saved his brothers from a poisonous snake by ordering it to vanish; he recited his prayers by the light of a lamp, which a brother monk purposely filled with water instead of oil, and it gave light; he obeyed his superiors and saved several fields from a plague of grasshoppers, by sprinkling them with holy water; he cast out demons, and healed sick people. 

Sr. Natalie Sayde venerating the relics at
Our Lady of Purgatory Church. 
God has and continues to work great blessings through the hermit monk St. Sharbel. This January when these relics were at the Maronite parish in Phoenix AZ, a young Mexican mother of four was healed of her blindness.    
So well loved in his lifetime and even more after his death.  Why? How? The answer is prayer.  “show me a person who is favored, and I will show you a person of prayer.”

As a child and young man, Youssef (Sharbel’s name before becoming a monk) would daily pray at a nearby shrine to the Virgin Mary while he tended the sheep in his mountain village of B’aa Kafra in north Lebanon.  After entering the monastery at age 23, he distinguished himself in his faithfulness to prayer, meditating on Scripture each day, offering the rosary, the Divine Liturgy, contemplation. And 16 years later, Sharbel desiring deeper prayer entered the life of a hermit living austere penances and prayer. 

We learn how to pray from this holy Saint.
Often times when we come before God to pray, and ask him to remove from our life circumstances we don’t like.  When God doesn’t, we get upset, frustrated.  We may begin to think that “God doesn’t care about what is happening to me.”  The truth is, God does care and he always hears our prayers.  Prayer is less about changing things and more about changing us.
When we spend time in prayer, the one thing that should be changing is us.  In faith, we enter the presence of God when we pray, and in his presence we are changed. As we spend time with God, we find rest from our trials and a strength to continue on.
St. Sharbel, teach us how to pray.

St. Sharbel was devoted to the Eucharist.  It is said that he would awake early and spend those hours preparing himself to offer Divine Liturgy (the Mass), then after Divine Liturgy he would spend the rest of the day in prayerful thanksgiving for receiving communion. Saint Sharbel followed the path of the hermit fathers by kneeling austerely before Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, praying quietly to Jesus day and during the night. 
While celebrating Divine Liturgy on December 16, 1898, he suffered a stroke saying the words: “Father of truth, behold your Son, the sacrifice in whom you are well pleased.  Accept him who died for me…” 
He then kept repeating these words until he died eight days later on Christmas Eve at the age of 70. 
What do we learn from St. Sharbel? He prayed the Divine Liturgy with devotion, affection and attention that he truly became what he offered: communion with Jesus in sacrifice and in new life.
St. Sharbel, teach us to love the Eucharist.

In the monastery, the monk Sharbel, diligently did hard, manual work in the fields, vineyards and served his priestly duties in an edifying manner.  Later on when Sharbel asked permission to live as a hermit, he continued faithfully in any work his superiors would ask.  A learned and wise man, Sharbel never refused or thought any work was beneath him.  He carried out his duties with joy and generosity always obedient to his superiors. 
Sharbel had a healthy self-knowledge and was in love with God his Creator.   He considered himself a sinner and “the least of all”, as he would often say. He knew he needed a Savior.
Humility is often misunderstood.  People think it’s a sign of weakness, a doormat. 
However, humility is actually a sign of great courage and deep spiritual understanding. In humility there is no fear. In humility there is no timidity. In humility there is only confidence—confidence, not in the self but in God’s loving protection.
I am sure St. Sharbel was inspired by these words in the Scriptures 1 Peter 5:5b-7:

“       And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another,
         for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”
        So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.
        Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”
            Saint Sharbel, teach us to be humble.


Relics of St. Sharbel -- Brockton and Boston

By Sr. Natalie Sayde

On Thursday and Friday, April 14th- 15th, the relics of St. Sharbel, which have been making their way across Maronite parishes throughout the U.S., arrived at the Parish of St. Theresa’s in Brockton, MA. In collaboration with Pastor, Fr. Tony Mouannes, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light led the faithful in the recitation of the rosary and Ramsho (Evening Prayer).
Mother Marla Marie also gave a presentation on the life and spirituality of St. Sharbel; helping the faithful to reflect on and apply some of the virtues that characterized St. Sharbel in their own lives, such as his simplicity and deep thirst for prayer.

On Saturday, April 16th, the relics were transferred to the Parish of Our Lady of the Cedars in Boston, MA, where Mother Marla Marie was invited by Pastor, Msgr. Georges El-Khali to speak on the life and spirituality of St. Sharbel.
A highlight during our visit to Boston was that both Mother Marla Marie and I had the opportunity of holding the relics for the faithful to venerate. It was a beautiful sight to see people of all nationalities and ages, making their way down the aisle to venerate the relics of this holy hermit who only loved and yearned for one thing in his life and the next – Christ Crucified.

St. Sharbel, pray for us!


Retreat with Star of the East Parish - Dartmouth MA

By Sister Natalie Sayde
During weekend of April 8-10th, the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light facilitated a retreat for 12 ladies from the Maronite parish of Our Lady, Star of the East at the Mother of Light Convent. The ladies journeyed on Thursday night (April 7) from Pleasantville, New Jersey and journeyed back to their homes on Sunday, April 10th.  The theme of the weekend’s retreat was the life and spirituality of Our Blessed Mother, Mary, depicted vividly in the four different mysteries of the Rosary.
Our Blessed Mother holds a special place of significance in our Maronite Tradition, and she is dear to the heart of every Maronite. Mother Marla Marie set the tone of the retreat by asking the ladies to reflect on what Mary means to them and why is she special in their lives. Many of them replied with a beautiful faith and simplicity that she is our Mother who holds our hands and leads us to her Son.
During the retreat, Mother Marla Marie gave presentations on the Joyful and Luminous Mysteries to help the ladies to meditate while praying the rosary. Mother Marla Marie emphasized that the Rosary is first and foremost a meditation, a means of contemplating the life of Christ while journeying with Mary. The women were guided in a holy hour of adoration before the Holy Mysteries in our convent chapel.  On the second day, the holy hour of adoration was one centered on the prayer of healing and forgiveness, as each lady was encouraged to lay their burdens at the feet of Jesus.
Each evening, we watched the movie, “Mary of Nazareth” which depicts the life of Mary from her childhood through the Resurrection of Jesus. The film vividly captures the essence of Mary’s profound faith and trust in God amidst the great mysteries that she lived with as the Mother of the Messiah. Many of the ladies were deeply moved, as they each shared on what captured them in the film.
The days of retreat were interspersed with prayer, presentations, recreation and relaxation, Divine Liturgy and confession. All of the women had a wonderful, rejuvenating time, and thanked us for helping them in their prayer life and spirituality. Some said that their lives had been changed by this retreat and they are returning to their homes as new women. Praise God!

“Mary of Nazareth is the woman of a full and total ‘Here I am’ to the Divine Will. In her ‘yes’, even when faced with the loss of her Son, we find complete and profound beatitude.” Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

If any are interested in holding a similar weekend retreat for the ladies of their parish, please contact Mother Marla Marie at 508/996-1753 or at sister@maroniteservants.org    


They Began to Understand

Homily of Fr. Herbert Nicholls, Diocese of Fall River, bi-ritual faculties in the Maronite Church, and chaplain at our Mother of the Light Convent.

On the first day of the week, Mary of Magdala came to the tomb early in the morning, while it was still dark, and saw the stone removed from the tomb.  So she ran and went to Simon Peter and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them, “They have taken the Lord from the tomb, and we don’t know where they put him.” So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb. They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter and arrived at the tomb first; he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in. When Simon Peter arrived after him, he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there, and the cloth that had covered his head, not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place. Then the other disciple also went in, the one who had arrived at the tomb first, and he saw and believed. For they did not yet understand the scripture that he had to rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned home. Gospel John 20: 1 – 10
Following the Octave of Easter, Holy Church presents through the next six weeks a catechesis on the mysteries of Baptism, Chrismation and Eucharist. Today’s passage from 1 Peter (cf 1 Pet 1: 1 – 9) is an ancient liturgical hymn of praise and gratitude which develops more explicitly the role and action of each Person of the Trinity.
By making His choice of Christians, the Father has destined us to a marvelous heritage in heaven. To attain this we need to love and believe in His Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Empowered to do so by the Holy Spirit, who earlier proclaimed salvation through the mouths of the Old Testament prophets, and now through those who preach that salvation has arrived through faith in the Gospel.
God brought about the work of His Redemption by His great mercy. For God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which He has loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, has made us alive again together with Christ.
Through the resurrection of Christ from the dead, the resurrection of the Lord marks the climax of His salvific work, for it assures men of their redemption and their own resurrection.
Hope of obtaining this inheritance of heaven gives us joy in the midst of trials which test our faith. St. Peter says that it is good to suffer trials because eternal joys cannot be obtained except through the afflictions and sorrows of this passing world.
St. Bede the Venerable says:
You should realize that God wants us to be happy and if you do all that you can, you will be happy, very happy, very, very, happy; although you will never be a moment without the cross…The cross is no longer a gallows. The Cross is now the throne from which Christi reigns..
I want to return briefly to the final verses of 8-9 from the above Gospel. Mary Magdalene and the others had not at this point witnessed the risen Jesus. Mary was convinced that someone had stolen His Body. The Apostles, Peter and John, not believing a robbery, but not yet ready to accept a miracle rushed to the tomb where they found the burial linens, folded neatly in place, and began to understand what Jesus had so often said during His ministry: concerning His death and resurrection.

The Apostles began to grasp the true meaning of the resurrection particularly after they had received the Holy Spirit who fully enlightens their minds to the revelation of the Covenant. Is it easy to imagine the surprise and elation of the other Apostles when Peter and John tell them what they found in the empty tomb? If you think it is easy, go back and read the reaction of Thomas in the gospels.


“Who will roll back the stone?”

Reflection of  Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh

Christ is Risen! Truly He is Risen! El Massih Kam! Hakan Kam!

The following passage from the Gospel of St. Mark was proclaimed on Easter Sunday in the Maronite Church:

Still reeling from the torturous passion and death of their Master on the Cross on Friday, St. Mark tells us that these women came to the tomb “very early” on Sunday to anoint the Body of Jesus (cf Mk 16: 2). St. Mark doesn’t tell us the exact time these women set out for the tomb, but we do know that it was at the crack of dawn. That is the time of day when most of us are trying to rouse ourselves from sleep, while functioning on ‘slow motion’, edging our way toward the coffee machine.

But for these three women, it was almost like they couldn’t wait for the sun to dawn on that day and for the Sabbath to be over so that they might perform this beautiful service of love of anointing the Lord. They were consumed with zeal to anoint the Anointed One, showing us that nothing is ever too hard, nothing is ever to strenuous, when we act out of pure love. They were so consumed with their task of love and service that they completely forgot one major obstacle, the large stone blocking their way to the Body of Jesus. It was only during the course of their journey to the tomb that they began to ask themselves, “Who will roll back the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” (Mk 16: 3).

Usually most of us before we set out on undertaking our task will plan and calculate to the umpteenth degree on how we are going to go about it, and we try and foresee any issues that may arise. But the Gospel shows so vividly that these women thought of nothing else but getting to Jesus to perform this beautiful service. If we are honest with ourselves most of us are always consumed by the obstacles in performing our deeds of service; the first thing we see in our lives is the large stone blocking our way, and this usually makes us slow to act or discourages us altogether. But these three women are a beautiful testimony of how God takes care of all our worries, concerns and obstacles, if we let Him, if we TRUST. O boy, is that hard for us mortals. Why is it so hard for us to trust God? The answer is simple. We think that by planning and calculating things ourselves, we can control various situations, and let’s face it, if we are honest, we like to be in control. But in the above Gospel passage, we see clearly that God is really the One in charge.

No sooner had the women arrived at the tomb, they found the stone rolled back, the obstacle was removed by no doing of their own (cf Mk 16:4). All they did on that Sunday morning was set with love to serve the Lord, and God took care of the rest. The lesson here is that we must allow Divine Providence to act in our lives, we can’t plan everything, and believe me, we control nothing. Let Him be Who He truly Is, Our Savior. Let us all strive to become like these three women consumed with zeal to serve the Lord in all the little ways we can, and let God take care of the rest.