Friday, April 20, 2018

Syriac Spirituality

Subject: Themes in Syriac Spirituality (Video) — Seely Beggiani – Maronite Seminary
Posted by Maronite Seminary

Maronite Clergy Enrichment Conference
Maronite Seminary
April 17, 2017



Early Syriac Theology by Seely Beggiani:

Early Syriac Theology with Special Reference to the Maronite Tradition  Available Now on Amazon.com

Sunday, March 18, 2018

March News

Carrying the Cross

I was really worried...Monsignor was announcing that he was being transferred after 34 years of ministry to our parish.  It was more devastating than I imagined - the elderly, the adults, and the children crying.  My thoughts raced to those in our close-knit parish that I knew had health issues--we hadn’t ordered the AED machine yet!  It’s funny how you think of things like that in time of crisis.   I also forgot about the Sunday School session between the liturgies.   Those poor teachers had to deal with the children’s questions: “Will we go with him to his church?”   “Who will marry us?”  “Who will lead our retreats?”  “Who will take care of our Festival?”  I was bombarded by the adults: “Why is he being punished?”  “Who will baptize my babies?”  “Who will bury me?” 

Monsignor has given his life for his flock for all of these years and has been a source of wisdom in our area.  He has been a “24-hour priest” when others have taken days off or gone on vacation.   Even when he has gone home to visit his mother in Lebanon, he checked on us frequently, giving instructions over the phone.  His primary focus has been the children and their education.  I am thankful for his long efforts in the editing and publishing of many of the Maronite formation books for our parishioners across the United States.  We as a parish are inconsolable.

Monsignor said that we must remember we are in the season of Lent. He said that Christ had to carry his cross, and just like Christ, we must now carry ours in times of transition. “But, as we carry this cross, we must never lose sight of the fact that the Holy Spirit is there to guide our path. The Holy Spirit has been guiding the church on Earth for 2,018 years. He’s not going to stop guiding us now. We just need to stay united and have faith that he will show us the way to move forward.”

When I check in with religion coordinators and pastors across our eparchy in August and September about the religious education programs, so many times they will tell me that they are in transition because the pastor has just been changed.  Many parishes have no religious education classes at all for their children.  This is a situation that is difficult and frightening, not only for the parents and children but their teachers and priests.  It is so easy to give up when there is change, but the children of the parish still have to be educated.  Priests cannot give up on their ministries.  Parents cannot give up on insisting that their children be educated in their Maronite faith and traditions. And, teachers cannot give up on their mission to guide our youth in the formation of their faith.   


That is why I implore you now to consider volunteering to help Fathers Vincent Farhat and George Hajj with an Intereparchial Religious Education Committee.  To those who have already volunteered, God bless you.  To those who are considering, hesitant, or don’t believe they are well-enough versed in our catechesis to add value, remember that Jesus told his disciples, “Do not worry about how or…what you are to say; for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that very hour what you ought to say.”  To continue our Maronite educational programs, rally to this cause with complete faith in the Holy Spirit.  If you are able and willing to help, please email me at  cathysgeorge@gmail.com and I will pass your names along to the priests

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Lenten Letters

Blessings to you during this Season of Lent!

Here are several Lenten activities that you may want to use with your classes or your families.  
Have you ever wanted to read the whole Bible?   Here are readings for the Bible in One Year.  It is certainly doable with these readings!

Here are some Lenten suggestions for students, adults, families:


Many of my students have asked me for a refresher about what they believe as Catholic Christians.  I hope this PowerPoint is helpful, especially since our students often have difficulty standing up for their beliefs.  

Thank you, Sister Therese Maria for this Going Deeper article:  

Going Deeper: Freedom And The Present Moment


I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)

by Sr. Therese Maria Touma, MSCL

In Going Deeper this monthexcerpts from chapter two (Freedom and the Present Moment) of the book Interior Freedom written by Jacques Philippe are shared for further reflection. We are encouraged to take some quiet time to invite the Holy Spirit to guide us to prayerfully ponder some of these ideas on growing in interior freedom. According to Philippe, interior freedom requires that a person have the capacity to live and embrace the reality of the present moment. He affirms that it is only then that we can truly exercise our freedom. (Pg. 81) 

In today’s fast-paced and hi-tech society it is difficult to be “present” in the present moment, and in particular to be attentive to the person before us. There are so many distractions, advertisements, social media, and competing voices clamoring for our attention. Moreover, it is easy to get stuck dwelling on our past mistakes and/or be bogged down by the demands and anxieties of the future. If we are honest with ourselves we realize that we have forgotten how to embrace the gift of the “now,” where God is communicating to us his life, tenderness, and merciful love. 

I appreciate Philippe’s thought on how the merciful presence of God is found within each instant of our lives: 
“Every moment, whatever it brings, is filled with God’s presence, rich with the possibility of communion with God. We do not commune with God in the past or the future, but by welcoming each instant as the place where he gives himself to us. We should learn to live in each moment as sufficient to itself for God is there; and if God is there, we lack nothing. We feel we are missing this or that, simply because we are living in the past or in the future instead of dwelling in each second. There is something very liberating in this understanding of the grace of the present moment. Even if the whole of our past has been a disaster, even if our future seems like at a dead end, now we can establish communion with God through an act of faith, trust, and abandonment. God is eternally present, eternally young; eternally new, and our past and future are his. He can forgive everything, purify everything, and renew everything.” (Pg. 82)

In addition, Philippe provides practical insights to assist us to be aware of the “shadows of the past,” thoughts and attitudes that make us fret about old disappointments and choices. He aptly suggests that we should genuinely ask God‘s forgiveness for past mistakes and grow from them; he goes on to advise that while seeking to make restitution for any injury caused, we should humbly surrender things into God’s hands with confidence, living in the present and trusting that God will work everything for our good. (Pg. 86)

When we are overwhelmed by thoughts of how much we still have to do, feeling threatened by our inadequacies, or paralyzed by the feeling that we are not good enough, we are encouraged to make an act of faith and hope, such as: thank you, God, for everything. I trust in you. Philippe emphasizes that nothing can please God more than us coming to him with child-like trust and relinquishing to him the messiness of our daily lives:
“I firmly believe that you can bring good out of everything I have lived through. I want to have no regrets, and I resolve today to begin from zero, with exactly the same trust as if all my past history were made up of nothing but faithfulness in holiness.” (Pg. 87)

To avoid the mistake of burdening the present with the future, Philippe suggests that we reflect on the lesson contained in the Gospel (Matthew 6:25-34) about abandonment to God’s providence, and to ask for God‘s grace to live it. He notes that living in the present and relying on God’s providence does not mean being negligent or imprudent. Indeed, we need to plan for the future and consider tomorrow’s undertakings. But we should do it without agonizing or being anxious. Often this added stress thwarts us from putting our hearts into what we need to do and prevents us from being open to the grace that God desires to offer us. (Pg. 87)

It no surprise that things don’t always happen in life as we anticipate or hope. Philippe points out that most of our anxieties and worries turn out to be entirely imagined. He writes: “That difficulties we anticipated become very simple in reality; and the real difficulties are things that didn’t occur to us. It’s better to accept things as they come, one after another, trusting that we will have the grace to deal with them at the right moment than to invent a host of scenarios about what may happen—scenarios that normally turn out to be wrong.” 


If there was one take away point from Philippe’s chapter: it is to do our best in being mindful of the present where God is and to be intentional in putting our whole heart into whatever we are doing at that moment.  

Let us pray: Heavenly Father, give us the grace to be mindful of your loving and merciful presence in each moment of our lives. May we strive to do your will, knowing that it is in doing your will that we find true peace and freedom. Amen. 

If you have any comments or questions regarding this topic and/or other recommended spiritual resources please email Sister Marla Marie Lucas: sister@maroniteservants.org    

Monday, January 1, 2018

January Blessings

Here are some great ideas from Sister Janet Schaeffler, OP, author of GEMS (Great Endeavors Mined and Shared), a newsletter with great ideas for parishes.

Some invitations to extend to our parishioners:
Invite the families of the parish to reflect on one (or more) of these topics; share their thoughts via the Sunday bulletin, the parish website, etc.:

  • What song reminds you of God?
  • What is your favorite Scripture passage?
  • What book did you read this year which deepened your spirituality, your awareness of God?What is your favorite tradition practiced in your family (prayer, seasonal, celebrations, etc.)?Where did you see God today? 
  • See When God Winks: http://www.whengodwinks.com/  Watch the video on this website. It is so uplifting for the new year!

Invite parishioners to pray with photos and paintings.


Encourage – and provide resources for – prayer at home, for individuals, spouses, and families.


Sister Janet recommends some faith formation resources you might want to use in the coming year:


Tuesday, December 12, 2017

December Greetings!

This year, our third-grade teacher, Jeniffer, wanted to involve the whole school in the Nativity.  She turned the social hall into the town of Bethlehem and each class took a part in the Gospel narrative.  As you can see the pre-school classes and the lower grades were angels and sheep.  The middle schoolers were the townspeople and their children.  The high schoolers were the major characters:  Mary, Joseph, Gabriel, shepherds, Kings, Herod, Caesar, etc.  Of course, we always have a baby in the parish to be Jesus!  It was a great success and families filled the hall to watch!

We have been using FORMED with our high school youth.  They particularly responded to the "What Am I Here?" segment.  We followed up with a PowerPoint Presentation on Choices and Commitments.  We also talked about their most important values that they carry through life.  

Here are the presentation and the values worksheet:
Choices and Commitments
What Are Your Values?

For keeping current on what is happening in our church today, I recommend subscribing to Our Sunday Visitor Newsweekly (www.osv.com/OSVNewsweekly).   The December 10th article is entitled, "How to engage children in the faith," by Sarah Dickerson.  She gives age-appropriate tips to help keep our children involved in everyday prayer life.  

Thursday, October 26, 2017

October Notes

This is the season for Penance/Reconciliation preparation.   
Below are three presentations for sacrament/mystery preparation that can be used in your parishes. At the same time, we struggle with the events across the world with episodes of violence and how our children react with faith and hope.  I am attaching a PowerPoint presentation that can be used and adapted for older children and adults. 
THE SPIRITUAL DEVELOPMENT OF A CHILD

THE SEVEN MYSTERIES/SACRAMENTS

THE MYSTERY OF PENANCE/RECONCILIATION

WHEN BAD THINGS HAPPEN

FORMED
We are experimenting with the YDisciple part of FORMED (www.formed.org) with our high school group.  We started with the "Follow Me" segments and they really responded to the third segment on friendship.  I will try to keep you posted.  If anyone else is using the program, please respond to me by email.  The biggest drawback that I can see is that you must have adequate Internet access in your facilities to use the program. 
For a wonderful outline of the FORMED program, please read this article from Saint Louis Gonzaga Church:
FORMED ARTICLE

Here is October's "Going Deeper In Our Spirituality" article:

God is Realistic
By Dr. Anne Borik


As we continue to explore the book authored by Fr. Jacques Philippe entitled Interior Freedom, I would like to suggest a simple ABC approach that will help us understand more fully this concept of Interior Freedom.

A: Accepting Ourselves
What often blocks the action of God's grace in our lives is our failure to accept our own weaknesses. We must accept ourselves just as we are, if the Holy Spirit is to change or transform us. According to Fr. Philippe, accepting ourselves is one way to "set grace free" in our lives, thus paving the way for deep transformation leading to interior freedom.

B: Be available to God
One of the most important things in our lives is not so much what we can do as leaving room for what God can do. Jesus said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing." We must have the humility to recognize that we cannot change by our own efforts, it is a gift of God's grace. Interior freedom results when we accept this gift and let God act by being available to Him.

C: Consent to what we are
According to Fr. Philippe, "People who hate themselves cut themselves off from God." This attitude or behavior is offensive to our Father. It is important to accept ourselves or consent to what we are with all our deficiencies and limitations in order for God to change and transform us. Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In other words, happy or free are those that consent to the fact that they are nothing without God.

In conclusion, Jesus said, "Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy burdened, and I will give you rest." There is no better form of "relaxation" or interior freedom than to rest in the tenderness of a Father who accepts us as we are, who wants to be available to us if we allow Him and who loves us unconditionally if we give Him our consent.

Sister Theresa Maria, MSCL, recommends this link to other spiritual resources and articles which you might like to explore:


Monday, September 4, 2017

Catechist Materials for 2017!  Please take a look at these documents!
2017 Poster
What is Evangelization?
Catechetical Certificate
2017 logo
Christian Discipleship
Catechist Prayer Card
Taking the First Step
By Their Fruits You Will Know Them
Catechesis and Church's Commitment to the Family
New Evangelization and Social Justice
Letter to the Pastors

2017 Table of Contents
Go & Make Disciples
Accompanying Youth and Young Adults on Their Journey


Sister Therese Touma sends us another  Going Deeper Article


While recently visiting my favorite beach I was grateful to feel the powdery soft sand on my feet once again and hear the familiar sound of the ocean waves breaking at the shore line. As my mind wandered, I began to reflect upon God’s awesome love and generosity in creating and sharing such natural beauty with each one of us. As the days passed I became much more aware of the presence of God around me.  Whether in the picture-perfect sunsets or the natural flowers, which covered many of the green spaces, it was easy to find God in all things through the eyes of gratitude.
One might say that although it is easy to find God in the beauty he has created, the greater challenge in life is finding God in difficult situations. Pain and suffering, loneliness and isolation are not situations where one expects to find God easily. Rev. Edward Slattery has written:

“Suffering is neither holy nor desirable in itself, yet when we glimpse the presence of God in the suffering, as that which sustains us in the midst of our sorrow, then we begin to find consolation in our deprivation, peace in our heartache, solitude in our loneliness, for we begin to identify ourselves with our Beloved suffering Christ….in short, suffering opens us up to God.”

In these difficult circumstances we can also experience God’s presence and movement in our lives just as real, perhaps even more real, than the beauty of the beach and sunset. The only conditions required are that we also listen with humility and openness, and willingly accept his grace into our hearts. We may be able to find that God walks right beside us in all things, if we are just open to, and aware of, his presence and love.

Vivian M. Akel