St. John Paul II

The following Homily was given by Fr. Herbert Nicholls on October 23rd at the Mother of the Light Convent

1978 will remain forever a landmark year in the Catholic Church. Following the sudden but not unexpected death of Paul VI in August, the election of Cardinal Albino Lucini as his successor was swift and dramatic. His warmth and humility immediately endeared him to an astonished world that seemed to have grown hungry for the things of God but needed the reassurances of a smile before expressing that longing. But John Paul I who brought hope to the world would reign as its pastor for only 33 days. To many it seemed as if the new dawn had been merely an illusion.

But the conclave of October gave us an even more surprising Pope, the emergence of the first non-Italian Pope in more than 400 years. The months that followed the election of Cardinal Karol Wojtoyla brought intense interest in him as a sprirtual leader, and as a potential force for good in the world.

Though his election might have been a surprise to the world at large; he had been steadily “eyed” as he came from Poland as a young priest to study in Rome at the Angelicum. He went to France and Belgium to involve himself closely in the ferment of ideas and renewal that were germinating at the time.

He returned to Rome as a peritus for Cardinal Stefan Wyszynski at the Second Vatican Council. As such he played an important role in determining the emphasis of the Dogmatic Constitution of the Church (Lumen Gentium) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church (Gaudium et Spes).

Another aspect of this saintly man which attracted attention far beyond the frontiers of Poland was his prayer, faith and receptivity to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. On October 27, 1978 in his solemn inaugural address, the new Holy Father began: Be not afraid! Open wide the doors to Christ!

On March 25th, 1983, inaugurating the 1950th Jubilee Holy Year of Redemption, he said: Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God, grant that all of us may love you more. As in ourselves we live the mysteries of your life again. From the conception and birth to the cross and resurrection. Be with us through these mysteries. Be with us in the Holy Spirit. Help us to change the direction of the increasing threats and misfortunes of the world today! Lift man up again! Protect the nations and peoples! O Lord Jesus Christ, show how more powerful, in man and in the world, is the work of your redemption!

On November 10, 1994, he sought to prepare the world for the dawn of the Third Millennium with a burning hope for a new beginning, a new springtime that heralds the transformation of ourselves, the Church, our nations, and our world. He reiterated the words of his inaugural address: the words remind us that in this century we are to go forth with great hope on our journey to discover God’s love for us and with each step to realize the necessary condition of uniting our will to the will of God!

He is perhaps the papacy’s most prolific writer. He is the author of 14 encyclicals, 42 apostolic letters, 15 apostolic exhortations, 10 apostolic constitutions, hundreds of public addresses, numerous poems, five books, a number of plays, all this in addition to being the most traveled and most influential pope of the modern age.

The magnitude of this man’s accomplishments, world statesman, philosopher, Church leader has perhaps obscured his greatest role, that of humble pastor. He knew something about how men and women can find God, how they can come to understand the power of God released in their lives.

He was able to share this conviction that in each person’s journey there begins to change when the road to holiness begins to change. Ultimately a person’s only desire is to recognize and follow the light of God’s will. This not happen in one particular flash of light nor does it resemble a dazzling grand finale of fireworks. God’s inviting light gradually increases and probes deeper and deeper into the darkness of the human soul.

His supreme desire was that we come to embrace this faith that transforms the way we work, the way we relate to other people, and the way we live in the world. This was the simple message that he brought as he travelled the world. Sound bites or verbal bites cannot begin to encapsulate the greatness and the belovedness of this awesome servant of the servants of God.

On May 13, 1981, the Pope had the closest possible brush with martyrdom as a bullet pierced his chest. Protected by Our Lady of Fatima, the crown of martyrdom was not to be his. For the rest of his life he bore living witness to the value of suffering. The bullet devastated his health, developing Parkinson’s disease which produced loss of taste, loss of smell and loss of appetite. With that came a loss of saliva and loss of speech.

Thousands had gathered on Easter 2005, but when he went to the window to give his blessing he was not able to utter a word, not even a sound, and the crowd below was just as silent and in tears.

Seven days later, Saturday, April 2 at 10PM, the vigil of his beloved Divine Mercy Sunday, he crossed over the threshold of death, the threshold of hope, to be with the Redeemer whom he had so faithfully preached in word and deed.

In a world often deemed indifferent to religion, who would have guessed humble Polish priest would become a pope the world would mourn? Even among those who might be called “professional” Catholics there has been a sense of awe and wonderment at the life and accomplishments of John Paul II. Everywhere he went he drew crowds in the millions, in his native Poland, in the Philippines, in the United States, in Latin America and of course in Rome where he was nearly assassinated. It is difficult to imagine any other person living or dead who has seen or been seen by so many people who want to see him. Why?

We can touch his books, hear his words, see his videos, and he wants us to; but what he desires most is for us to discover that experience of faith that can change the world. Many thanks John Paul the Great!


Interior Freedom

(Reprinted from the Maronite Voice, October issue)

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
The “Going Deeper” page will explore interior freedom based on a book authored by Fr. Jacques Phillipe. Published in 2002, “Interior Freedom” has quickly become a modern classic in spiritual reading. Philippe, a French priest in the Community of the Beatitudes, charts an accessible path to reach and live true freedom.  In the next eight months, a different Maronite parishioner will offer a reflection on one of the chapters. You are encouraged to purchase a copy and follow along in this spiritual discussion (see below).

Often when we think of freedom, we think of getting whatever we want, when and as we want -- no constraints.  I remember hearing the phrase, “freedom isn’t free” after 9/11 while I was missioned in New York City.  There was a lot of talk about freedom in the days and months following the tragic terrorist attacks, and it caused me to reflect.  Patriotism was at a high and so was a renewed appreciation for the men and women in the military who paid the ultimate price for our freedom.
We all desire freedom and are indeed created for true freedom. However, our culture more secularized than in previous years, is offering us a mistaken idea of freedom.    The first chapter of Phillipe’s book explores the subject of freedom and acceptance. He bases the book on the spiritual truth that freedom is found at the source – God.  The path to God is guided by our living out the theological virtues of faith, hope, and charity.
Phillipe says, “We have this great thirst for freedom because our most fundamental aspiration is for happiness; and we sense that there is not happiness without love, and no love without freedom.” (pg. 13) Therefore, freedom is a gift from God, a fruit of the Holy Spirit, and it gives value to love. It is not a freedom from someone or something but a freedom for a greater good, for someone --God. 
If our freedom is based on being unconstrained and pushing ahead with our bucket list, then we are mistaken and our loves become enslavements that take many forms (i.e. selfishness, addictions, bad relationships, etc.).  This is a false idea of freedom and it derails our ability to choose authentic love, to pursue what is best for us.  With freedom comes responsibility not license.  This great dignity God gives to us needs to be cultivated and guided by virtue so we can choose responsibly. Our freedom is at the service of seeking the good for ourselves and others.  This is love and it leads to true happiness. 
“Another fundamental mistake about freedom is to make it into something external, depending on circumstances, and not something primarily internal,” writes Phillipe (pg. 15).  Our Lord, the Mother of God and the saints are the role models we need here.  He adds “People who haven’t learned how to love will always feel like victims; they will feel restricted wherever they are. But people who love never feel restricted.” (pg. 21) Phillipe sites St. Therese of Lisieux as the one who taught him that “our inability to love comes most often from our lack of faith, and our lack of hope.” (pg.  21) 
Our depth of living these virtues is the sure path to happiness because they help us to develop true interior freedom.  A person who is truly free will flourish in spite of obstacles and even because of them.  Happiness is theirs. Interior freedom is made possible because Our Lord paid the ultimate price.
In our discipleship as a redeemed Christian, we are challenged to reject false freedom for authentic interior freedom. Our happiness will grow in proportion to the kind of person we have become in living out faith, hope, and charity. The following chapters of this book unfold the living out of these virtues which set us free.
Prayer: Dear God, may I use my freedom to seek and choose the good, the true and the beautiful.   
 (Interior Freedom, Fr. Jacques Philippe, Scepter Publishing, 2007.  Available as a Kindle or paper copy via Amazon)  


National MYA Workshop – Chicago

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh
We had a successful National MYA workshop in Chicago this past weekend. Fr. Pierre El-Khoury and the generous parishioners of Our Lady of Lebanon Church in Lombard, IL, hosted the young adult gathering with their welcoming hospitality. Father Tony Massad, Pastor of St. Rafka Church in Livonia, MI, and Sister Therese Maria, Eparchial Coordinator of the Maronite Young Adults and the National Executive Board diligently worked together to offer an awesome weekend of spirituality, fun and fellowship for the 215 young adults who attended from across the country.
We were blessed to have His Excellency Bishop Elias Abdallah Zaidan, Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, with us for the weekend, along with guest speaker, Karlo Broussard from Catholic Answers who spoke on the theme of defending the Christian faith. Karlo was excellent in exposing the dangers of relativism, so prevalent in our secular culture today, and also why the Catholic faith is the true faith.

As part of the dynamic program of prayer, presentations, confession, Liturgy and ice breakers, the young adults also made blankets together for the Chicago children’s cancer society. A beautiful weekend of blessings!