Archive for the ‘Melkite (Eastern Catholic)’ Category

Duty is not a dirty word

Sunday, May 27th, 2012

Today is Pentecost, the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the disciples.

For the last ten days, my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA) has been praying the nine-day novena to the Holy Spirit. In the midst of this novena, a 40-hour devotion was held in front of the Blessed Sacrament.

I tried to live up to my duty and participate fully in this prayerful time but fell flat after the fifth day of the novena. Still, I was looking forward to mass this Sunday in my church.

However, duty called.

King George VI understood about duty, despite his stuttering which made speech making nearly impossible.

Attending to my duty

As some of you already know, my husband Rich is a deacon in the Melkite Church which is Eastern Catholic. The liturgy is celebrated in the Byzantine tradition. It is a beautiful celebration that touches greatly upon the mystery that is our faith.

My feet of clay

I am not always up to the lofty state of mind that one needs to be in to attend these liturgies. It requires that you stand for pretty much the whole hour. This is a challenge for my bad feet and sore back.

The liturgy is entirely sung. Everyone sings which is commendable but the singing isn’t always good. Unless I am caught up in the Spirit of God, the singing can prove to be quite distracting.

I am not proud of the fact that these minor matters get in the way of worshipping God during these liturgies. But they do.

I really wanted to worship at my parish where the music can soar. But duty came first.

Saying goodbye

Rich had told me earlier in the week that a longtime and key member of his church (Our Lady of Perpetual Help), Corinne, was leaving the state to be near her children. This woman had served Our Lady of Perpetual Help for 30 years and would be sorely missed.

Corinne had been one of many at Our Lady of Perpetual Help who had welcomed me as one of their own.  I wanted to say goodbye and wish her well.

Duty called, and I chose to attend liturgy at my husband’s church rather than our own.

Where duty led me

Each morning I dedicate my day to God with a prayer that Henri Nouwen prayed. In part it says, “I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

I attended the liturgy. As a result, I experienced a gentle outpouring of the Spirit which I know I would have missed had I not done my duty.

The Spirit brings life

It began during the homily as Fr. Paul spoke of different times in the Scriptures when the Spirit was mentioned. He recalled Ezekiel 37 when the prophet Ezekiel saw the valley of dry bones come alive again into living, breathing people because he did his duty by obeying God and prophesying over them. A valley of bones rose to new life as a result.

The Spirit promises

Fr. Paul also mentioned Joel 2:28 and the promise of the Spirit:

It will come about after this
That I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;
And your sons and daughters will prophesy,
Your old men will dream dreams,
Your young men will see visions.

What had the Spirit done for me?

It was then that I began to reflect upon the remarkable yet quiet transformation that had been going on in my life since I lost my mother two years ago.

In thinking about those readings, I realized that I was like those dry bones in the valley, brought back to life. I was dreaming dreams again. All of this because of the outpouring of the Spirit into my life.

Personal Pentecost

I began to experience a personal moment of Pentecost, becoming suddenly very aware of God’s presence pressing in on me from all sides. Rather than feeling oppressed, I felt liberated, deeply loved, and grateful for the wondrous gift God had bestowed on me in the wake of my grief.

And all this I was privy to because I had opted to do my duty.

Duty can be beautiful

Doing one’s duty is the most basic reason for doing anything. But as frail humans, sometimes it’s all we’re capable of at that moment.

How wonderful God is that He will bless my performance of duty! Because I had demonstrated to Him an openness to whatever He had in mind for me, I was able to receive His blessing.

Duty had opened the door.

I had prayed it that morning and performed it through my duty: “”I am ready for all, I accept all. Let only your will be done in me …”

Lay down your burden

Tuesday, July 5th, 2011

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

I just loved the homily given on Sunday by our pastor, Monsignor Mike Foley. He shared a true and compelling story of how he applied the above verses from the gospel reading to his own life.

Several years ago, Monsignor Mike was pastor to the largest parish in our diocese, St. Ann’s in Milford, MA. With approximately 3500+ families in the parish, St. Ann’s at one time had 5 priests to serve. Back in the early 2000′s, the death of a pastor caused the bishop to effectively “shuffle the deck”, redistributing pastors and promoting an associate to pastor to fill the various needs of the diocese. Monsignor was at the bottom of the deck. In the end, he was left alone at St. Ann’s without even the help of a deacon because the deacon was sick. He would not be able to get extra help for at least 3 months. On top of everything else, it was during the height of the sexual abuse scandal which rocked Boston and surrounding communities.

Monsignor knew he was in trouble. He described the various ways he could have reacted:

  • Get angry with the bishop
  • Work himself to death
  • Or turn to the Lord in prayer

He decided to turn the Lord in prayer. At at time when one would think more hours would need to be devoted to work, Monsignor Mike took 2 extra hours (together) out of his day to spend time with the Lord in prayer. He confessed his need and allowed the Lord to give him rest. He took the will of God (His yoke) on his shoulders, surrendering his own will for what he thought ought to be done, and surrendering the will and expectations of others.

In the end,  God showed him how to prioritize his work, helping Monsignor in his decision making, and ultimately, remaking the vision of the parish.

Monsignor Mike really shared from his heart. At one point, standing in front of the altar, he pointed back to the gospel book stating, ” I know that it works to allow God to carry your burden. I’ve lived it!”

All the while I’m marveling at the fact that this holy priest would spend 2 solid hours in prayer. As always, he, in essence, fertilized the desire already in me to deepen my prayer. It’s so helpful when God sets before you such wonderful examples like Monsignor Mike. We at St. Luke the Evangelist in Westboro, MA are so fortunate!

East meets West at confirmation liturgy

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

I had the pleasure last night of attending confirmation at my parish (St. Luke the Evangelist, Westboro, MA) with an extra added treat – watching my husband Rich serve as deacon.

For those of you who may not know, Rich is a Melkite Catholic, part of the Eastern Byzantine tradition. It is rare for Eastern and Roman Catholics to serve together but thanks to Bishop Robert McManus who granted permission, Rich was allowed to serve.

This was a wonderful blending of East and West and a sign of greater unity in our Church. Unity is something near and dear to Bishop McManus who only a few weeks earlier, attended a Lenten Supper fundraiser for Lebanese Orphans at Rich’s church, Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Worcester. Here he shared details of his recent trip with the Greek Orthodox Bishop, Metropolitan Methodias to the Holy Land.

Rich (aka Deacon Elias) has worked with the young people at St. Luke’s for many years, attending the confirmation retreats, even before he was ordained a deacon in 2010. It was particularly moving for Rich to assist the Bishop as he anointed each confirmation candidate.

Here’s a slide show of the liturgy:

I wish to offer my thanks to Bishop McManus and to Monsignor Mike Foley, pastor of St. Luke’s, for allowing Rich to serve. This has been a personal dream of mine for many years as Rich’s vocation came from time spent weekly in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament at St. Luke’s.

God is good!

Advent reflections from
Archbishop Joseph Raya

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

I’m reading a wonderful book by Archbishop Raya called Christmas: Birth of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ and His Private Life. Archbishop Raya was a prominent Melkite bishop (Melkite being one of the Eastern Catholic churches). Here is a quick bio from Wikipedia:

“Joseph Raya (August 15, 1916 – June 10, 2005), born in Zahlé, Lebanon, was a prominent Melkite Greek Catholic archbishop, theologian, civil rights advocate and author. He served as metropolitan of Akko, Haifa, Nazareth and All Galilee from 1968 until 1974 and was particularly known for his commitment to seeking reconciliation between Christians, Jews and Muslims. He was also a leading advocate of celebrating the Divine Liturgy in vernacular languages.”

Books written about Eastern spirituality are often very dense and hard to read because the treatment of the faith is done in such a deep way. What I love about this book (besides the fact that the type is larger and easy to read :-) ) is that it’s easier to read than most, though still pretty deep. I want to share with you passages which struck me which I hope will bless you in your Advent journey.

from pages 9-11:

. . . St. Paul calls this generous attutide of God kenosis, or “emptiness”. He said that Jesus Christ possessed a state that was divine, yet He “did not cling to this quality with God, but emptied himself to assume the condition of slave, and he became as men are.” (Phil 2:6, 7)

Kenosis of God Our Lord

Kenosis was for our Lord Jesus Christ such a sublime and sincere attitude that He forbade His apostles to talk about what everybody called “miracles,” since for Him these were simple acts of love in favour of the poor and the needy. He called Himself, in the Gospel of Mark, “Son of Man.” He corrected the young man who called Him “good Master” by telling him, “There is no good but God Himself.” (Mk 10:18). The story of His passion is in every single detail a stunning story of one who is above and beyond human humiliations and blows and even killing. Through the unfolding of this whole amazing event He did not complain, or hurt by any word those who scourged Him, insulted Him and made a mockery of Him. Even after His triumph and resurrection He did not stoop down from His majesty to show them how wrong they were. This attitude of kenosis was one of the most glorious characteristics of the love of our Lord for our humanity and of His identification with us, His respect of our freedom.

Thus God the Son emptied Himself at His very incarnation and birth from all the appearances of glory and the majesty of His divinity in order to appear in the human form which we know and are familiar with. This kenosis Saint Paul calls also “condescension.” Saint John Chrysostom says, “The condescension of God is when God does not appear as He really is, but according to the capacity of the one who seeks to contemplate Him.”

After having contemplated this kenosis and condescension of the Lord, Saint Gregory of Nyssa (330-400) exclaimed:

If You had not hidden your divinity . . . who would have been able to sustain Your glory? You came down, O beautiful One in a form we can look at, and we can comprehend. You came down, but You covered Your divinity with the mantle of our flesh.

And Saint John Chrysostom (354-407) writes again:

God empties Himself in order to draw us closer to Him and allow us to follow Him to the mountain where He showed Himself to the apostles as He really was: Divine and the very essence of divinity.

Saint Irenaeus (c.200), Bishop of Lyons in France, explains further that the “Word of God manifested God first in creation. But He kept His Trinity and indivisibility a secret from humanity who were not yet ready for such an intimacy. Otherwise,” he continued, “man would have despised God.”

You can purchase a copy of Christmas: Birth of Our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ in His Private Life through Madonna House Publications.

My husband Rich’s first step towards ordination

Wednesday, March 31st, 2010

My husband, Rich, took his first step towards ordination as a deacon by being blessed as Reader and Sub-deacon. Rich is part of the Eastern Catholic Church, having joined the Melkite Church 5 years ago. The Eastern Church is not well known among Roman Catholics and it is a secret that needs to be told. Hence, I asked Rich some questions about his journey to the diaconate, and I’ve illustrated this post with pictures.

On October 12th, you took your first step towards ordination as a deacon by being blessed as a Reader and Sub Deacon. Can you please describe what this first step means?
Yes. There are two “minor orders” one goes through in the Eastern Catholic Church’s Diaconate journey. The order of Reader is the ministry that of course reads the Scriptures at liturgy but also is commissioned to read the Word of God itself in study and for others. The order of Sub-Deacon is the ministry involved in assisting the Deacon at liturgy as well as being commissioned to take care of the Holy Place or the altar area. These orders are always the steps towards becoming a Deacon.

From the photos, can you briefly describe the ceremony and some of the rituals, such as the trimming of your hair, washing the bishop’s hands, and carrying the towel on your shoulder?
The primary ministry of all of the clergy and minor orders is service – to God, his Church, and his people. The washing of hands (as shown in the picture) has always meant to cleanse in preparation, so the Bishop does this. The trimming of the candidate’s hair (also shown) is called tonsure which is a very ancient ritual and symbol. It represents the candidate offering a piece of himself to God in a special way. During the liturgy the candidate wears a towel on his shoulder and carries a pitcher and bowl meant to remind him that he is, above all else, a servant.

Often someone being ordained as a deacon takes on a new name. You chose the name Elias. Can you please describe why you chose this name?
Many candidates choose to take a name of a saint they honor and or are devoted to. They may choose to use the name only in liturgical functions, or perhaps take on the name at all times. I originally chose not to take a new name but changed my mind after a very profound spiritual experience last year involving the death of a child named Elias out of our parish. The experience taught me a lot of lessons about myself and my vocation, none which I will ever forget. I took his name in honor of him and his memory. Elias is also of course one of the Prophets.

You became a member of the Melkite Church, having been a practicing Roman Catholic all of your life. When did you decide to join the Melkite Church and what series of events influenced your decision?
The Melkite Church is one of the Catholic churches, just like the Roman one is. It was Pope John Paul II who asked that the church breathe with 2 lungs, the Eastern as well as the Western. It is sad that, particularly in this country, most Roman Catholics don’t know anything about this. I don’t know how many times a week I explain it, truth be told. Maybe that is one of the reasons I was brought here.

I found this church clearly by accident on a field trip in the year 2000 with some Confirmation students. After the pastor, Fr Paul Frechette, explained the origins of the Melkite Church, I was intrigued by it, so I decided to explore it and here I am. I wasn’t looking for anything and it hit me right between my eyes. Funny how God can work like that. I found that it spoke to me spiritually

When did you feel a call to your vocation as Deacon? Did you ever hear such a call before, earlier in your life?
I have been in active ministry most of my adult life and I always felt called to join formal ministry. When I learned of the diaconate I was interested in it and eventually found it to be my calling in life.

Describe briefly the years of study, prayer and discernment you have gone through in pursuing your vocation. think the fact that it takes 4 years is important. There is a lot to learn and to take in. The added dimension of it being my faith makes it harder at times. One could study, let’s say, computer programming for 4 years and it probably wouldn’t have any impact on one spiritually. Not only am I reading and studying, but I am also learning profound lessons for my spiritual life. I can read a paragraph and spend weeks if not longer trying to understand it and live it. One also has to take this time and ask himself if it is really for them, which is the discernment. Our classes take place once a year for two weeks about 10 hours a day. During the rest of the year I study around 2-3 hours a week, write papers, and work in my church activities. I have always had an active and deep prayer life which helps greatly.

Are there other people who have been influential in your journey? Who are they?
My life long partner and wife Susan of course, who has an active ministry of her own. She understands the spiritual life and is very supportive of this work. It is true what they say about the spouse being involved, they have to be. We have enjoyed hours and hours sharing all of the things I am learning and she helps me understand it at times. My pastor, Fr Paul, has been very influential in my journey as well as a close friend and mentor. It was he that taught me about this Church and led me in the right directions for learning and understanding it. I also look to Fathers Steven Labaire and George Lange as influential to my vocation and appreciation of liturgy.

Rich currently serves at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish in Worcester, MA.

Here is a slide show of all the pictures from this special day: