Maronites March for Life 2017

By Sr. Therese Maria  Touma, MSCL

“A society will be judged on the basis of how it treats its weakest members; and among the most vulnerable are surely the unborn and the dying.” Saint John Paul II

On January 27th, the Maronite Servant Sisters participated in the 44th annual March for life in Washington DC. We joined our voices with over half a million people from across the nation standing up to defend the unborn.

What an amazing and powerful statement we made to the entire world: Life is sacred from the womb to the tomb. We prayed, marched, celebrated and witnessed to the dignity and sanctity of life with His Excellency Bishop Gregory Mansour and over 100 fellow Maronites.

The night before the March we participated in a prayer vigil for Life at Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Washington DC. We came before the Lord as a church family to love and thank him, to implore his mercy, healing and peace for those who have had an abortion and/or those who perform, assist or encourage abortions.

The theme for this year's March for Life was the Power of One. There are so many inspiring stories that we heard that revealed the impact that one person can have in building a culture of life. In essence, to be Pro-life is to be Pro-Woman and Pro-baby!

The 2017 March for Life was truly historic, peaceful and moving, including speeches by Vice President Mike Pence, and Kellyanne Conway, counselor to the President. In particular, Mia Love's testimony stirred my heart as she recounted her immigrant parents' story; and how they considered aborting her over 40 years ago. Mia is a living testimony of what could have been and how one life can make a vital and positive difference in our society.  She is the first black woman Republican in Congress. What a gift and hopeful witness Mia is in demonstrating how we can reach our full potential by valuing the sacredness of life.

Let us continue to pray and sacrifice in defense of the dignity of human life: born and unborn. 

“Christ needs you to enlighten the world and to show it the "path to life" (Psalm 16:11). The challenge is to make the Church’s "yes" to Life concrete and effective. The struggle will be long, and it needs each one of you. Place your intelligence, your talents, your enthusiasm, your compassion and your fortitude at the service of life!” Saint John Paul II


St. Macarius the Egyptian – January 19

by Fr. Herbert Nicholls, homily at the Mother of the Light Convent

Macarius was born in Upper Egypt about the year 305 and spent his youth in tending cattle. Desirous to serve God  with his whole heart he forsook the world, living in a small desert cave in continual prayer and the practice of austerities. He spent nearly 60 years in the desert in penance and contemplation.

There were at that time 3 deserts nearly adjoining each other. The first and the one chosen by Macarius was that of Skete on the borders of Libya. The second was Cells, a name given because of the many hermit-cells with which it abounded. The third called Nitria, broached in the Western Bank of the Nile River.

The austerity of these desert monks was extraordinary. But Macarius went far beyond the rest. God had given him a body capable of bearing the most extreme rigors. His fervor was so intense that whatever spiritual exercise that he heard or saw another practice, he would adopt for himself.

Macarius routinely would eat once a week on Sunday. One day when he was tortured with thirst, a disciple begged him to drink a little water, but Macarius chose to content himself with repose in the shade a while. Macarius said, I have never eaten, drunk or slept as much as nature requires. But to go against his own inclinations he did not refuse to drink a little wine. But then he would punish himself by abstaining from drink for two or three days. He used to often say in prayer, O God come to my assistance, O Lord make haste to help as you know best!

As one can imagine such intensity of devotion must be met with intensity of temptation. For Macarius the strongest temptation was to leave the desert and return to the world. These temptations overcome, became for Macarius the strength to guide others who sought the rigors of desert living.

One young man came admitting to the saint that he was routinely molested with temptations of impurity. Macarius was convinced that the trouble was due to indolence. Accordingly, he advised the man never to eat before sunset, and to meditate fervently at his work, to labor vigorously without slackening. The young man faithfully complied and in a short time was freed of his spiritual struggle.

Certainly we have mentioned some severe practices which today would no doubt be discouraged by a spiritual director or psychologist. However, I do think that apart from the extremes even the psychiatrist today would see the value in these disciplines as a corrective to physical, emotional compulsions or what we would call temptations.

In another instance, a wealthy young man, seeking spiritual advice from Macarius was told to go to the burial place and “upbraid the dead”! And after a short time to go back and “flatter them”. When the young man returned Macarius inquiried, What answer did they give you? To which the young man replied: None. Macarius replied, Then go and learn neither to be moved by abuse nor by flattery. For if you die to yourself and to the world, you will begin to live in Christ. Receive from the hand of God poverty as well as riches; hunger and want as readily as plenty.

There was still another grave temptation with which Macarius had to struggle. A woman falsely accused him that he had threatened her with violence if she did not submit to him. For this alleged crime, Macarius was dragged through the streets, beaten and insulted as a “hypocrite hiding under the garb of a monk”. Macarius suffered these indignities with patience saying, Well Macarius, now you must work the harder for you have another to provide for…But in turn God revealed his innocence. The woman falling into labor in extreme anguish was not able to deliver until she named the true father of the child. The furor of the crowd against Macarius turned to admiration for his humility and patience.

Macarius knowing that the end of his life was approaching made a pilgrimage to the neighboring desert of Nitria and exhorted the monks who were living there. These young men were so moved that they fell at the knees of the holy man of God. Macarius advised them, Woe my young brothers. Let your eyes pour forth floods of tears, lest we fall into that place where tears will only feed the flames in which we shall burn.

Some historians style Macarius as one of the disciples of St. Anthony the Great, but it is more than likely that Macarius was divinely inspired by an early anchorite monk of the Egyptian desert.

The great saint of solitude died in the year 395. I could find no formal date of canonization but his name is commemorated in the anaphoras of both the Coptic and Armenian rites.      


Bishop Gregory Mansour On Amoris Laetitia.

Bishop Gregory with Pope Francis. 
An series of seven audio conversations on Amoris Laetitia between Bishop Gregory Mansour, Bishop of the Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn and Father Boniface Hicks, OSB, a Benedictine monk of Saint Vincent Archabbey, in Latrobe, Penn. Bishop Gregory Mansour and Father Boniface discuss Amoris Laetitia.

Please take time to listen to these insightful conversations that study each chapter of  The Joy of Love,  a post-synodal apostolic exhortation by Pope Francis.  Bishop Gregory begins by giving a background and summary.  


The One Who Is Above All

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on January 12th at the Mother of the Light Convent

In the Gospel Jesus speaks of the one who is above all (cf. Jn 3:31), the one who has come from heaven…who is designated to bear witness to what he has seen and heard and to proclaim the word of God. 

Now how does St. Paul reach out to perform this ministry? Firstly, let me recall the words of Paul from another source when he says, I do not hand on to you anything new; what I hand on to you, I have received; and I have received it not from any other man but from Jesus Christ Himself. Paul is referring to his experience along the road to Damascus.

I think we need that in the context of both the Gospel and Paul’s testimony to the Corinthians. Strangely, he begins by saying, I boast, I boast, over and over. A man who boasts generally is not listened to and is turned off very quickly. But Paul is using irony. He says, “I am not boasting as a man of earthliness, I am boasting as a fool- a fool for Christ’s sake, and I dare to boast of that!”

In his reflection, Homilies on II Corinthians, [24], St. John Chrysostom wrote: St. Paul is acting like someone of illustrious race who has chosen to dedicate himself to leading a holy life and who feels compelled to sing the praises of his mentor in order to take down certain people who pride themselves in a life of vanity. Is Paul’s boasting a way of acting in vanity? No! Because the only reason he boasts is to humble the people of vanity.

St. Paul begins his apologia, pointing out his merits, in contrast to those of his opponents. On the score of race, ethinicity, he is their equal; on the score of being a minister of Christ, he is even better qualified. And on the score of his physical and moral sufferings, one cannot but help be moved by this account which provides us so much more information about his life which is not contained in the Acts of the Apostles.

This list is not exhaustive, and much more suffering still lies ahead of him, we can find the prophecy of Ananias already being fulfilled: I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name (Acts 9:16).

Again, we find in the homily of St. John Chrysostom, [25], these comments: No matter how terrible they may have been, the physical evils passed over quite quickly and left behind a great consolation. But what afflicted Paul, what oppressed his heart, what caused him great anxiety was the pain caused by the laxity of the faithful. Without distinction they had become lukewarm! It was not only the behavior of prominent members that caused him pain for he was indifferent to no one. He ranked all Christians, irrespective of their social status, as dearly beloved children of God.

By boasting about weakness, he is boasting about those things which worldly eyes see as weakness, failure, humiliation. It is in this weakness that he humbles himself to call himself a fool – a fool for Christ’s sake.