She Who Trusted!

A Reflection on the Announcement to Mary by Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL
In the Maronite Church, we are in the Liturgical Season of the Happy Announcements (Syriac: Sooborey), which are six Sundays that prepare us for the Glorious Birth of Our LordWe celebrated this past Sunday, the Angel Gabriel’s announcement to Mary, also known as the Annunciation (cf. Luke 1: 26 – 38).
Speaking personally, I know that I am so familiar with the story that sometimes I can gloss over its great significance, especially when I look at the person of Mary. 
By her ‘yes’ to God, her yes, I will be the Mother of Your Son, Mary made a total gift of herself to God and humanity. She held nothing back, she gave all – body and soul, and she gave without hesitation or delay. I think what I often miss in this Gospel story is that underpinning Mary’s ‘yes’ was her complete trust in God. 
Trust! That is difficult for us humans to do. As a result of sin and its consequences, we struggle not only to trust God, but each other. Now Mary was sinless, but that’s not why she had complete trust in God. I’m sure on a natural level, a human level, she had questions, “How is Joseph going to take this?”, What about if I become the object of slander and gossip in Nazareth?”, “What about if I bring shame on my elderly parents?”, “Who is going to help me raise this baby?” and so forth.
All of these questions would have crossed her mind at one point, but she silences them all with her deep trust in God, who she knows intimately as a Good Father. “God will take care of me, He will take care of everything because as the Angel said to me, nothing is impossible with God”. The Angel’s words to Mary must have been a great comfort to her, as they are to all of us today.
Sometimes, when I am faced with a difficult situation, or a trial, or a problem of some sort, I can be torn between two very different reactions. On the one hand, there is one part of me that says, ‘go and take this issue to God, He will take care of it because it is beyond your control’. But there is another part of me (a very human part) that doubts and questions when I consider the magnitude of the problem or trial I am facing, ‘How is God going to fix this? Is He even listening to me?’
When these kinds of doubts and questions arise, it becomes very difficult for me (and us) to give a wholehearted ‘yes’ to God as Mary did. The remedy is TRUST. I’ve discovered that trust is a choice, it’s a decision that has nothing to do with feelings or emotions, and it’s like a muscle that needs to be stretched and exercised like any other. 
I make little Acts of Trust everyday and I encourage you to do the same. When even a small, seemingly insignificant inconvenience arises in your day (as they do in mine), like being stuck in traffic, or spilling your coffee, or getting caught in the rain without an umbrella, make an Act of Trust – “Jesus, right now, I want to trust You. Jesus, take care of this situation for me. Mary, help me to trust God right now with this issue”. I repeat this prayer every time I feel myself becoming worked up or anxious about the same issue that keeps bothering me. I’ve personally noticed that the more I flex my ‘trust muscle’, the more I have seen God intervene in a truly wonderful and personal way, as He did for Mary, and I know He will do for you.
Happy Sooborey!             


Maronite Servants on Mission in Lebanon

By Sr. Natalie Sayde Salameh, MSCL

The Maronite Servants of Christ the Light were on a three week visit to Lebanon which consisted of one week of mission and apostolic activities. The last full week of our visit was dedicated to our annual silent retreat. 

We arrived in Lebanon on October 17, and our week of mission began with a youth gathering on October 20, with Bishop Michel Aoun of Jbeil and the youth of the district. The day was hosted by the Rosary Sisters in their college in Blat, Jbeil and was attended by 400 youth. The theme, “Plant Your Fingerprint”, consisted of spiritual conferences, Divine Liturgy and adoration and testimonials. Sr. Therese Maria gave a testimonial on the Maronite youth of America and the challenges they face today. 

We also attended another youth gathering in Zahle on November 3 with Bishop Joseph Mouawad. The theme was “What is my Vocation?” Bishop Joseph spoke beautifully on the gift of vocation, and what it means to ‘discern’ one’s vocation in life. We had a fun evening with the youth, and enjoyed the awesome choir of Mission de Vie.   

We spent a day with the Missionary Sisters of the Most Holy Sacrament in Jbeil. The sisters have a house of mercy for the elderly in Kfarmasshoun where spent the morning with the elderly, visiting and praying with them. In the afternoon, we went to the sisters’ school and orphanage in Beit Habbak, where we were also able to visit with the children and spend some time with the sisters there. 

On Wednesday, October 24, we visited the Sesobel Institute in Ain El Rehani, which takes care of 250 mentally and physically disabled children. We were with Mrs. Fadia Safi, manager of Sesobel. We experienced Sesobel first hand, from their physical therapy center and autism center to their textile workshop, just to name a few. It was a blessed day to spend with the children who taught so much about true happiness, and joy in the midst of their challenges.

The last couple of days of our mission week were spent with the team of Telelumiere. The sisters were able to film a number of short videos on various topics such as, vocations and our Maronite Servants’ congregation highlighting our tenth anniversary of foundation.  

On the day before we left, we visited with His Eminence and Beatitude, Cardinal Bishara Peter Rai, in Bkerke. In our conversations with the Patriarch, he touched upon the subject of vocations in Lebanon, and how vital it is for religious to be faithful and authentic witnesses of the Gospel. His Beatitude also spoke about his recent visit to Rome, where he participated in the Synod on Young People. He said it was a most fruitful Synod and highlighted how important it is for us to listen to the concerns of young people in our Church today.

Our visit to Lebanon and our apostolic activities were a great blessing to us, and filled us with so much joy. It was such a wonderful experience to meet and participate in the lives of so many people, to be able to touch their suffering and listen to and sympathize with their challenges in life. We thank God for these opportunities.