Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On February 9, 2010, at the beginning of the Jubilee Year of Saint Maron, 1600 years after his death, our Patriarch, His Eminence and Beatitude Nasrallah Peter Cardinal Sfeir, wrote a beautiful message, his 25th Pastoral, entitled Saint Maron, What it means to be Maronite, and the Mission of Lebanon. (for the entire Pastoral see www.stmaron.org) One could spend hours to mine the treasures of this letter which forges a profound vision for Maronites throughout the world.
The Patriarch writes in the beginning of this Pastoral:
Our Church was not built after a name of a See or Apostle, but rather took its identity from the radiance of a man and a monastery: the Maronite Church, a Church of asceticism and adoration attached from the beginning to a solitary man, not a man of rank or a Church leader.
What a powerful testimony to the truth that one person can make a difference if that person follows Christ! The Patriarch then writes about the heroes of faith, Sharbel, Rafka, Hardini, etc., and summarizes that the Maronite Church returns to its essence each and every time one of her sons or daughters strives for holiness. He then quotes Bishop Hamid Mourani who wrote about the meaning of our lives of holiness when lived together in community with one another:
The faith lived out by the hermit Maron became the inner strength of a people’s history. “As for the successive migrations from Syria (in the 5-10th centuries), the Maronites gave them one meaning, that is, giving up land, wealth and comfort in Syria moving toward a poor land where anxiety and austerity prevail, so they could preserve their faith and remain attached to their freedom … This event is not a simple historical fact among others… it is the very beginning of a new history, the history of the Maronites.”
This can also be said of the migration of Maronites throughout the world. They left everything worldly, as the late Archbishop Francis M. Zayek would always tell us, to possess one thing, the freedom to live, to worship and to raise their families in the faith which they inherited, and to pass on that faith to others.
Later in the Pastoral the Patriarch moves his thoughts to Lebanon by quoting the late Father Michel Hayek who wrote:
“Lebanon has no right to exist haphazardly; she either has a mission for humanity in the East and the world or she ceases to exist.” This is her historical calling, and that is the meaning of what his Holiness Pope John Paul II described when he said that “Lebanon is more than a country, it is a mission”.
The Patriarch reminds us that Christian life itself is not haphazard, it has a mission. There is meaning to life! The family has a mission, the Church has a mission, Lebanon has a mission! The Patriarch was trying to teach us something so very profound: when we strive for holiness, something beautiful happens in our family, in our Church and in our society. We become what God desires.
This same wisdom shows forth in the constant theme of Pope Benedict who so often repeated: “open your lives to God, you lose nothing and gain everything!”
May we continue to strive for holiness as did the saints, for each time we do, the Maronite Church, in fact the entire Church, returns to Her very essence: a missionary Church, a field hospital as Pope Francis describes us.
Happy Feast of Saint Maron!
+Gregory John Mansour
Official Prayer for the Jubilee of Saint Maron
you called your chosen one, Saint Maron, to the monastic life, perfected him in divine virtues, and guided him along the difficult road to the heavenly kingdom.
During this jubilee year, commemorating 1600 years since the death of your chosen one, Saint Maron, when he was called to the house of your heavenly Father;
We ask you, through his intercession, to immerse us in your love that we may walk in your path, heed your commandments, and follow in his footsteps.
May his holy example resonate throughout our lives.
With your love, may we achieve that final destination reached by our father, Saint Maron, and carry your Gospel throughout the world.
Through his intercession, may we attain the glory of the resurrection and everlasting life in you.
Glory and thanks are due to you, to your blessed Father, and to your living Holy Spirit, now and for ever. Amen.