Vocation: Life Giving Vow of Obedience

By Sister Therese Maria Touma

My food is to do the will of him who sent me, that I may accomplish his work”
(John 4:34)

In reflecting back over the nearly seven years of my religious life, I can honestly share that I have tasted the beautiful fruits of living obedience, and have seen my self grow in self-knowledge, confidence in God’s mercy and inner freedom. On the other hand, the daily struggle to live out authentic obedience has been real and trying. Throughout my journey, I have stumbled (and in the process have been humbled) in my quest to love God undividedly and master my self-seeking and strong will, which wants to seek its “own” way.
Obedience is much more than something I do or my efforts in striving to listen and follow my superior’s directives, I have come to learn that it is essentially a gift from God. “This is one of the greatest gifts that God gives us in our vocation as religious, to enable us to share in complete self-giving which is the life of the Blessed Trinity, to be enabled to give him our last self-possession, our own will and judgment, and by giving it to him, to receive it back from him glorious and divinized, part even of himself.”
(The Mysticism of Obedience, Page 29)

To surrender each day in faith, my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding to God has been something I have cultivated with the help of my formator, Mother Marla Marie. Sometimes I have been successful and at other times I have taken back my will due to certain fears, difficulties, weaknesses and a lack of trust on my part. So what impels me in my religious life to obey to my superior? Simply put, it is because I love God, and I believe that it is God who is speaking to me in the person of my superior, and when I do my superior’s will, I do God’s will and thus I am united to God’s will in my loving obedience. As Bernard Lemming, S.J. asserts, to unite our will with God is to become sharers in his nature and to be one with his being. “God’s will IS himself. He is immutable.” (The Mysticism of Obedience, Page 28)

In imitation of the obedient, poor and chaste Christ who redeemed the world through his obedience to God the Father, I too as his spouse and as a Maronite Servant of Christ the Light am called to live out this radical vow in union with him for the salvation of souls. Christ came to do not his will but the Father’s will. “I have come down from heaven not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

My prayer is that I may always find great joy and beauty in seeking God’s will both in the small and grand assignments that come my way. Lord, grant me a greater trust and surrender knowing that you permit all things in your loving and wise providence.  

Lord Jesus Christ, take all my freedom, take my memory, my understanding, and take all of me. All that I have and cherished you have given to me. Take Lord Jesus, Take all of me. I surrender it all to you to be guided by your will. Your grace and your love, they are wealth enough for me. Give me these, Lord Jesus, I ask nothing more of you.

(Ignatius of Loyola)


Taking Up Spiritual Reading

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh and Sr. Marla Marie Lucas

“Spiritual reading is as necessary as the air you breathe,” St. Padre Pio
“Don’t neglect your spiritual reading.  Reading has made many saints,” St. Josemaria Escriva

If these two saints and many more recommend and insist on spiritual reading, then we should find out more about this powerful practice of prayer.  Spiritual reading can be explained simply as reflective reading of spiritual writings to help deepen our understanding of faith, and more so, our relationship with Our Lord.  St. Athanasius said: “You will not see anyone who is truly striving after his spiritual advancement who is not given to spiritual reading.”

The best sources of spiritual reading are the Scriptures (especially the Gospels), then the biographies of the saints, and spiritual writers from the early Church to our present day.  Many of these books can be found at Ignatius Press or Sophia Press, among several catholic sources on-line.  The lives of the saints offer a wealth of inspiration.  It is refreshing to find out that the saints are human too, just like us, with their own struggles and inner battles, giving us hope in our own.

I recently read the Life of St. Anthony of the Desert written by St. Athanasius. This Father of Monks was a formidable warrior in the struggle against demons and his approach to evil spirits was actually healthy and quite modern (considering he lived in the third century). He would often consider them of no importance at all, like flies at a picnic. These days there is so much fear surrounding demonic powers, but St. Anthony encourages us not to be afraid for they are powerless in the face of a baptized soul.

The benefits of spiritual reading are numerous. Our time in holy reading provides candid advice and counsel, and corrects and encourages us in our faith. Spiritual reading also enlightens our souls about the dangers and temptations that we may encounter, while giving us insight on how to handle these challenges. Most importantly, spiritual reading provides an opening for Our Lord Jesus to speak to our hearts to help us in our continued conversion. In the words of St. Jerome, “when we pray we speak to God; but when we read, God speaks to us”.  

The important point to remember is to go about this holy reading prayerfully, taking one’s time when reading, even if we can only devote 10 or 15 minutes a day. Spiritual reading is like meeting up with a dear friend for a chat. If there are points in your reading that have touched you, talk about them with the Lord, he is waiting to hear what you have to say because it is he who touches hearts.

Here is a site of suggestions for reading: www.listchallenges.com/50-books-every-catholic-should-read.  If you have any questions or would like suggestions of good spiritual reading, please contact the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light Sisters at 508-996-7753 or sister@maroniteservants.org


A Letter to a Young Adult Woman

Dear Young Woman,

God has given you many gifts: your beauty, your talents, your good heart, family, friends. So much to give thanks for. 😊

I just want to encourage you  to be careful how you dress especially in revealing your body parts. Praise God! You have inner and outer beauty but when you display your outer body like you have been on social media you become an object for other people, and unfortunately for guys a cause for lust.

As your sister I am encouraging to be more modest in your choice of clothing because I care for you and your soul. You don't want to lose your soul and become a slave to this world and fashion and what people think. You are precious! You are enough! You are a beloved daughter, a princess of a king, God the Father in Heaven.

I hope you understand where I am coming from. If I didn't care I would not have written. But I very much care. When I saw your 19th birthday picture in your white dress I felt like you were exposed to the world. Unfortunately, someone can take that picture (without you knowing) and do something gross with it. It is sad to see how twisted people today make profit from women or men dressed in very little clothing. I have a friend Leah Darrow (look her up) who was a successful supermodel in New York nearly lose her soul in modeling as she was forced to wear things that at first she thought was ok and then was made to feel very indecent and uncomfortable. Thank God she realized that this way of life and dressing was just making her feel empty as she was being used and objectified to gratify and please people's lust and selfish pleasures. She had a big conversion experience and asked her dad to come get her from New York as she feared losing her soul. Now she is a happily married mother of three and goes around the world speaking to young people about the importance of modesty and keeping your dignity as a loved daughter of God by the way you dress, act and live your values. Please let me know how you feel about what I have shared. God bless you
You are in my daily prayers. Sr. Therese Maria 🙏

Catechesis on St. Maron and Great Lent - Fall River

By Sr. Natalie Sayde
The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light offered a morning of catechesis on St. Maron to the children in the faith formation program at St. Anthony of the Desert, Fall River.
Sr. Therese Maria explained to the children the basic attributes of St. Maron’s character and spiritual life, and how he later became for us the Father-Founder of our Maronite Church.  St. Maron was born in the middle of the 4th century and was a priest who later became a hermit, retiring to a mountain in the region of Cyrrhus in Syria. It is believed that the place was called "Kefar-Nabo" on the mountain of Ol-Yambos, making it the cradle of the Maronite movement. His holiness and miracles attracted many followers, and drew attention throughout the empire.
St. Maron's way of life was deeply ascetical. He embraced a life of prayer, fasting and penance in the quiet solitude of the mountain. The children were shocked to learn that St. Maron lived his life in the open air exposed to the forces of nature such as sun, rain, hail and snow. 
Discussing and explaining the spirituality of St. Maron was a beautiful segway into our discussion with the children on Great Lent, which for Maronites begins on Ash Monday (February 27, 2017). Sr. Therese Maria facilitated an activity with the children that encouraged them to ponder how they can imitate St. Maron’s asceticism during this Lent (in an adapted form of course). Some children said they would say extra prayers for the conversion of souls, whilst others said they would be more attentive to the instructions of their parents.
For those parishes interested in having us attend for a similar morning of Catechesis, please contact us at 508-996-7753 or sister@maroniteservants.org
You and your loved ones have been remembered in our Novena to St. Maron:
O Lord accept the prayers we offer to you in memory of our Father, St. Maron. Bless and protect the people who bear his name, make us worthy of his holy legacy that we may carry the message of Your Gospel throughout the world. Grant faithfulness to his people and courage to his inheritance. Amen.