Growth of the Maronite Church in the United States – Five Necessary Components


Introduction

The Great CommissionI am excited and privileged to be at the forty-seventh Maronite Convention. “The Identity of the Maronite Church” and “Welcoming Non-Maronites into our Faith and Heritage” are two very important topics that are dear to my heart. Instead of treating them separately I would like to address them in the context of the growth of the Maronite Church in the United States – if I may say, “Looking at the whole forest rather than individual trees.”

The Maronite Church in the United States has definitely grown in the last three decades. There is a high probability that this growth is largely due to the influx of immigrants who left their homelands seeking a better life in this country. Thank God for immigrants! Their contribution has been tremendous to our nation and Church, yet the Church’s growth cannot only depend on the waves of immigrants coming from the Middle East. After all, we, as a Church, are called to abide by Christ’s Divine Commission “to make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:18-20). The growth of the Maronite Church in this country might have been limited in part because our congregations have been integrating mostly – if not almost exclusively – (Middle Eastern) immigrants. However, there are many other reasons why the growth of the Church was limited. My objectives are not to enumerate or examine them all, but rather to propose five necessary components that will Lead to the growth of the Maronite Church in the United States.

Growth of the Maronite Church

The growth of the Maronite Church outside the Patriarchal Territory is an old topic. It was addressed at the First Maronite Congress held in Mexico in 1979. In his conclusion to the article entitled, “In What Manner Shall We Revive Our Religious and Patriotic Heritage Overseas,” Bishop Abdo Khalife, then bishop of the Maronite Eparchy of Australia, posed the following question:

“Have we not arrived too late, even in countries like Australia that are countries of recent emigration? Was our religious and patriotic heritage dead, inasmuch as it must be brought to life? Superior Orders request us, the Bishops of the emigration, to leave them free, at least those of our sons [and daughters] who are born in the emigration countries, to be baptized, to marry, and to be buried among Latins. What would then remain for us, our Maronite Church, if the emigration were halted for one or another reason? If we do not put ourselves on guard right away, we shall attend upon, as I said before, the slow and certain death of our religious and patriotic heritage.”1

Bishop Khalife obviously had a pessimistic view of the future of the Maronite Church outside the Maronite Patriarchal territory. I do not share his pessimism for I believe that the Maronite Church has a tremendous theological, liturgical, and spiritual wealth to share not only with Maronites and/or Middle Eastern immigrants but with the world as well. However, the question the bishop posed in 1979 remains valid in 2010. “What would then remain for us, our Maronite Church, if the emigration were halted for one or another reason?”

No doubt that there are more Maronite churches in the United States in 2010 than there were in the 1980s. The increase in the number of parishes obviously corresponds to the larger number of Maronites attending Maronite churches today. How much has the Maronite Church grown in the last 30 years and what was the reason for this growth? Let us examine the figures.

The Official Catholic Directory is a helpful place to find information about the Western and Eastern Catholic Churches. The statistical data relevant to our eparchies, especially the data pertaining to the number of the faithful, is of importance to the topic at hand. How is this data gathered? In the Maronite Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon, for example, each priest submits a yearly report to the chancery. In it, he reports the number of people attending the church to which he is assigned.2 The chancery office tallies this information and reports it to the publishers of the Official Catholic Directory, which has been in existence since 1817.

The following graph is a visual representation of the Maronite population in the United States as reported by the Maronite Chanceries in Brooklyn and St. Louis and published in the Official Catholic Directory. The term “Maronite population” refers only to the people who attend Maronite churches. I acknowledge that Maronites, as well as Christians who belong to other denominations, worship in Maronite churches. The Official Catholic Directory does not distinguish between denominations and refers only to Catholic population to whom the Maronite Eparchies minister. Furthermore, there is no distinction between American Maronites, converts, and Maronite immigrants. The horizontal axis represents the year the data was published. The first year shown is 1975 and the last year is 2009. The vertical axis represents the Maronite population in the United States in thousands. In 1980, the Maronite population in the United States as reported by the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron3was roughly 30,000 and 55,000 in 1990.

growth_of_the_maronite_church_graph

In the early part of the 1980s, the data shows a slight increase in the Maronite population in the USA. In 1983, however, the Church lost the growth she had recently gained. The timing of the increase and decrease in the Maronite population is rather interesting. In fact, the increase coincides with the war in Lebanon that started in 1975 and the decrease coincides with the election of Mr. Bachir Gemayel president of Lebanon. Many Lebanese Maronites returned home because the president-elect promised a different Lebanon, a place of peace and prosperity. The Lebanese people did not have the chance to see if Mr. Gemayel could have been able to deliver on his promises for he was assassinated on September 14, 1982, shortly after his election. The assassination, that left many aghast, signaled “the death of hope,” a phrase coined by Fr. Nasser Gemayel. The Lebanese people were disenchanted with the situation in their country. Sadly this resulted in a major and dangerous Christian exodus to the United States and other countries. Fr. Gemayel estimates that over a million Christians left Lebanon between 1980 and 2010 and three hundred thousand of them emigrated to the United States.4 Interestingly enough, this exodus coincides with the gradual and steady increase in American Maronite population.

According to Ms. Guita Hourani, the director of the Lebanese Emigration Center and Lebanon Migration Museum and Archive, “There are no statistics collected by reliable agencies inside or outside Lebanon.” However, “The estimated number of the Maronites who have emigrated to the USA whether directly from Lebanon or from other places between 1980 and 2010 is 90,000 – 125,000 persons. Some have returned, some continue to circulate between the US and Lebanon or the US and the Gulf.”5

Bishop Samir Mazloum estimates that the total emigration from Lebanon between 1975 and 1990, i.e. the years of the Lebanese war, reached 980,000 citizens; over 60% of them were Christians. Out of this number, over 80,000 emigrated to the United States. After 1990, a portion of them returned to settle in Lebanon. Nonetheless, emigration remained quite high between 1990 and 2010. Out of the 700,000 people who emigrated during this period, 70,000 found refuge in our country.

Basing their data on the US Department of Justice, Immigration, and Naturalization Service, the Maronite Foundation estimates that 43,441 Lebanese permanently emigrated to the United States between 1991 and 2000; 10,284 students and 214,924 visitors and businesspersons entered during the same period. One is left to wonder, how many students and visitors remained permanently in the United States? How many of them are Maronites? How many Maronites migrated to the United States from other countries, i.e., Syria, Egypt, Cyprus, Holy Land and others?

Year
1991
1992
1993
1994
1995
1996
1997
1998
1999
2000
Total
Permanent
immigrants
6,009
5,838
5,465
4,319
3,884
4,382
3,568
3,290
3,300
3,386
43,441
Students
1,175
892
800
990
778
778
855
1,298
1,443
1,198
10,284
Visitors
24,766
24,900
22,913
20,775
17,350
17,350
18,320
21,571
24,534
21,475
214,924
Total
31,950
31,630
29,178
26,084
22,012
22,012
23,557
26,159
29,277
26,059
268,649

In 1983, the documented Maronite population in the USA was 30,000. After thirty years, it inflated by 150%! Coincidentally, the number of the Lebanese Maronites who emigrated to the United States is at least three times the Maronite population that was present in 1980. Naturally, they will seek Maronite churches to quench their spiritual thirst. Could this inflation be due to the number of Maronite immigrants? I believe that there is a high probability that this growth is largely due to immigrants who left their homelands seeking a better life in this country. Nevertheless, without reliable statistics, the researcher is left with many unanswered questions and to speculations.

A conundrum presents itself:

  1. What is the percentage of the Maronites of the 1980s and their descendants who still worship in a Maronite church today?
    1. If it is a large percentage, where do Maronites who emigrated to this country worship? Why don’t they attend their churches?
    2. If it is a small percentage, why did the descendants of the 1980s Maronites leave the Maronite Church? Will the progeny of today’s immigrants also eventually leave the Maronite Church like their antecedents?
    3. If Maronites are leaving their Church, why would others join?
  2. How effective has the Maronite Church been in keeping her members?
  3. How effective has the Maronite Church been in welcoming and converting non-Maronites and non-Christians?
  4. Has the Maronite Church been able to keep up with the increasing number of Maronite immigrants and other Christians seeking a spiritual refuge in the Maronite Church?

Regardless of the answers, the Maronite Church has a bright future indeed. The Maronite Synod reminds us that “the spirit of ‘the mission to the nations’ is distinctive in the Maronite Church. This new dynamic holds pleasant surprises for the future of the Church placing her at the heart of the mission of every Church and of her original identity.”6 Therefore, we need to refocus our efforts and rediscover our missionary zeal and abide by Christ’s commandment to “go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20).

Five Necessary Components that will Lead to the Growth of the Maronite Church

For this future to remain bright, the Maronite Church needs to continue to be relevant to the families who currently attend, the new immigrants, and to the general population of the United States. This can be achieved by implementing the following five components which will keep the Maronite Church relevant and lead her to grow in this country:

  1. Spiritual Renewal
  2. Quality of Worship
  3. Fidelity to the Maronite Faith and Heritage
  4. Stewardship
  5. Social Activism – Faith in Action

Some of these components are present to some extent or another in all our parishes. However, to be effective evangelizers, all of them must exist, at the parish and eparchial levels.

A) Spiritual Renewal

“I take my son to the Maronite Church for the culture, and to the Latin Church for spirituality,” a Maronite woman once told me at a Maronite Convention. Could this statement be a reflection of the status of the Maronite churches in our country; a place where secular culture is preserved for the most part and religion is marginalized?

The Maronite synod points out this phenomenon. “We are invited to be loyal to our Maronite heritage, not to what we have inherited of customs and traditions.”7 Furthermore, it states that “for many of our sons and daughters, being a Maronite has become an expression of a social belonging more than being an ecclesial belonging or being Christian. Many of our people are no longer Christians, neither in faith nor in lifestyle. They carry the name of Maronite and Christ on the surface. In reality, they live a divorce between faith and living.”8

Our churches are not secular institutions but places of worship. In every Maronite church around this country, faithful Maronites worship the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and are renewed by the Eucharist. However, the Synod is warning us about a potentially dangerous problem that needs to be addressed immediately. “[I]t is the duty of the shepherds to give due attention to all celebrations, whether they preside over them or their priests, that the temporal character does not overpower the religious character, transforming them into social gatherings and worldly manifestations with only a semblance of the religious.”9 “Therefore the Synod calls for soliciting all efforts and employing all resources (parishes, schools, institutions, mass media…) in order to evangelize them [the faithful] with the ‘new evangelization’ and bring them back into the pure Christian faith.”10 The new evangelization, which can happen with spiritual renewal, addresses “the widespread frightful ignorance among a great number of their [the patriarch and the bishops] sons and daughters who have little knowledge of Christian doctrine, and this includes graduates from ecclesiastical educational institutions.”11

“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 4:17). Christ calls his followers to repentance and conversion. Spiritual renewal is effective when the heart of the faithful is turned toward God in humility. “Conversion is at the heart of the Christian life. In conversion, much is shown about the one who seeks peace through repentance, and much is said about the One who bestows the forgiveness…Conversion-in-humility is indeed necessary for forgiveness. Unfortunately, especially as preached by some televangelists, the turn to God seems so easy that we miss the deep sense required for true conversion. Above all, we must constantly evaluate our radical orientation to God and live all aspects of our life in accordance with that radical choice of God. When we inevitably fail – for it is human to fail—we can turn back o our Loving Father.”12

Spirituality is the heartbeat of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church which “came into existence in the bosom of Saint Maron’s Monastery…This founding event had a great impact imprinting the Maronite Church, clergy, and laity alike, with a distinctive ascetic and monastic character that influenced her spirituality and her ecclesiastical structure.”13 “This founding gift was, and still is, evangelical par excellence in that she calls on believers to take seriously all that is required to walk in the footsteps of Christ…This charisma is embodied in continuous prayer, in raving about God’s word, in true repentance for the sake of the kingdom, in the simple life, and in brotherly solidarity as a testimony of love.”14

Spiritual renewal has several dimensions, which include but are not limited to Biblical Formation, Faith Formation, and Catechumenate process. By offering them, our churches become vehicles for the seeker to fall in love with God and for the faithful to return, join, and remain in the Maronite Church.

i) Biblical Formation

The Maronite Synod states that “to bolster the mission of our Maronite Church in the context of the Gospel, our Synod calls upon all Maronites believers to renew their faith through the apostolic dimension of the Church. This requires all of us to constantly return to the Deposit of Faith of the mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ, as we have received it from the Apostles and the early Church.”15 A return to the Deposit of Faith is a return to the Word of God as found in the Old and the New Testaments. It is a return to Genesis as much as it is a return to the book of Revelation and every book in between. This return is vital because, according to the Maronite Synod “there is a longing to get back to the Gospel and to discover the face of Christ and his followers”16 and “there is a longing for a spiritual renewal and for a return to a spiritual authenticity that springs from our knowledge of Christ and from our discovery of him as he is presented in the Gospel.”17 The Old Testament, if added to the Maronite Lectionary, would make it richer. We pray the Maronite Hierarchy to incorporate this important and indispensable part of the Bible into the Maronite Lectionary.

The Bible, the greatest love story ever written, is the Church’s quintessential book. The creation story, Adam and Eve’s fall, Noah, Abraham and the Promise, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and the Exodus from Egypt, the experience at Mt. Sinai, the Decalogue, Joshua, Judges, David, Solomon and the Temple, the Babylonian exile, the return to the Promised Land, and Major and Minor Prophets, they find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Son of God. The New Testament witnesses to the humanity of Jesus Christ, who was like us in all things except sin, and to his divinity. “The New Testament is about Jesus Christ. Each book reveals a different side of his mystery. These sacred writings tell us not who Jesus was, but who he is. More than mere historical documents, these writings have the power to change your life.”18 St. Ephrem teaches us that God reveals himself in three ways: Nature, the Old Testament, and the New Testament. They are his means to communicate who he is to us.

Praying, reading, and studying the Bible are vital means to know who God is and to abide by his will. On a human level, a man and woman can establish a meaningful and loving relationship through mutually communicating who they are. Could he become acquainted with his future bride just by having her telephone number and address? To talk to and see her are indispensable tools that could lead them to the altar. By asking her questions and responding to hers, they open up to each other and fall in love. Similarly, to love God and profess our faith in him is to know who he is as he revealed himself in the Holy Scriptures.

It would be impossible to discover God who is Love (1 John 4:8) without praying, reading and studying the Bible. They require much effort on our part. Let me share with you a personal story to illustrate this point. To learn Mandarin Chinese has been my passion for the longest time, yet I do not know a single word of the language. Twenty years have gone by and my proficiency in something I love dearly has not improved a bit. How could it when I have never taken a Mandarin language class in my life? Foolish of me to think I could learn it without taking classes and efforts on my part! Likewise, our spiritual growth will remain infantile without engaging in the study of God’s written Word.

ii) Faith Formation

Like a coin, the Deposit of Faith has two sides. The first is the Bible, Tradition the second. “The Document on Revelation from the Council [i.e. Vatican II] addresses the important question of the relationship of Scripture to Tradition. It affirms that both are important elements of our Christian life. Rather than being opposed to one another (as some might think), they both flow from a common source, and thus, they interact with each other to help guide us in our Christian life.”19

To be captivated by Jesus’ teachings is to be formed in the faith of the Church, which has a rich history, theology, liturgy, and spirituality. What were the contributions of Patriarch Douwaihy to the Maronite Church? What role did the Maronite College in Rome play in forming the Maronite Church? What is the Maronite Church’s theology of the Mysteries? What are typology and paradox? What is characteristic of Maronite spirituality and how can we live it? What did Sts. Ephrem and Jacob of Sarug teach? What is their influence on the Maronite liturgy? Church Fathers and the Saints are excellent witnesses to the spiritual growth that we should seek. They are experts in the field of responding to God’s unconditional love. Reading and studying the writings of these spiritual giants allow us to delve into the mystery of God and discover new ways to grow spiritually. “The whole Church has always valued the writings of the Church Fathers, and they remain essential to the knowledge of the development of the Church’s biblical/theological Tradition…We do well to be familiar with their writings, drinking deeply from their teachings.”20

Faith formation is for children and adults alike. The primary responsibility of seeing to the teaching their children falls on the parents – whether by themselves or by participating in the parish religious education program and/or Catholic school. The Maronite Synod states that “it is a must for them [Maronite Parents] to ensure that their children come to know their Church and her religious and spiritual traditions, and consequently affirm their identity and commitment to it, and raise their children on the belief in God and on carrying out their religious and social obligations that this faith demands.”21 Faith formation is a lifelong endeavor. No one is ever fully formed in the faith. It is an integral part of the spiritual journey that believers take toward God.

One of my parishioners wrote after returning from the 2006 Maronite Convocation,

“Our most important asset is our children, not only in our private lives but also in our parochial life. They are our future and the future of our parish and we should cater [minister] to them so they may continue carrying the torch for many generations long after we are gone … If we the parents, fathers, and mothers, willingly or unwillingly, foster a nonchalant or disparaging atmosphere in our families toward any subject, our children will pick up on it. That statement is especially true of our attitude toward our St. Rafka church…”22

iii) The Catechumenate Process

“According to the earliest practice of the Church, a person interested in exploring the possibility of a life commitment in faith in the Church was called a catechumen. This word comes from the Greek word katecho meaning ‘to echo.’ In handing on the faith believers echo in an effective way the teachings that have been passed down to other believers throughout the centuries…Therefore, this word–and others in English derived from it…–has come to mean, ‘to instruct.’”23 A catechumenate process is necessary for welcoming non-Catholics and non-Christians into the Maronite Church. It is an elaborate process whose objectives are to walk along and form the catechumen in faith. It is a faith formation process geared toward those who are outside the Catholic Church.

As of today, the Maronite Church does not have a systematic and unified way to welcome such people into her fold. All of our churches have seen a certain number of converts whose faith formation was left up to individual priest. However, the need to have such a process is of utmost importance: it emphasizes the Church’s evangelical roots, better prepares the clergy and the laity to welcome others into her fold and makes the Maronite Church a place for conversion.

Father Salim states that “[T]he Western Church has revived this program of the Catechumenate in its Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). This is laudable, and we in the Eastern Churches ought to study how to adapt the process for use in our own Communities, perhaps in the form of a Rite of Eastern Christian Initiation of Adults (RECIA). Can. 617 of the Eastern Code puts it in general, but clear terms:

Each Church sui iuris and particularly their bishops have the serious duty of providing catechesis, by which faith matures and the Disciple of Christ is formed through a deeper and more systematic knowledge of the teaching of Christ and through an increasingly stronger commitment to the person of Christ.”24

B) Quality of Worship

To be Maronite is to pray. Prayer can be private or public. Public prayer is praying the Church’s liturgies. The Divine Liturgy is the Church’s consummate prayer and the source of her unity. “…[T]he unity of the destiny of the children of the Maronite Church is manifested through unity in liturgy, prayer, and practice of the Mysteries in all Maronite churches.”25 “Their unity is also made manifest by the preservation of their ascetic character and their liturgy that sustains the faith and spirituality of their Church.”26

The quality of worship is important to the mission of the Church. The Maronite Synod reminds us that “as for the mission role, the parish must strive to carry witnessing and the Good News in its prayer, its way of life and its utterances…”27 The Maronite Divine Liturgy is beautiful and attractive. It is able to draw people to the Maronite Church and feed them the Body and Blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It is the Maronite Church’s spiritual well. “What a beautiful liturgy!” is often heard. Indeed, several characteristics make the Divine Liturgy captivating.

i) The Biblical Mindset

Christianity was born in a Semitic milieu, in the midst of our Syriac ancestors. “The Syriac heritage, in its theological, spiritual and liturgical dimensions, has been enriched by Syriac Fathers who expressed their Christian faith through a Semitic language [Syriac] that was very close to the language of the Old Testament.”28

The mentality of the forebears of the Maronite Church was and still is biblical. They were the first to accept the Word and abide by it. Paying a closer look at the Maronite Liturgies, we are able to find many biblical references which came from the Old and New Testaments. Syriac poet-theologians, especially St. Ephrem, were so engrossed in praying the Bible that they were able to weave together the biblical Deposit of Faith and produce liturgies like no other.

ii) Antiochene and Syriac Heritage

The Maronite Liturgy inherited the theological and spiritual wealth of the Antiochene Church and Syriac Schools of Edessa and Nisibis. As lofty as it may be, the Maronite Liturgy is engaging and still accessible to the people. St. Ephrem abhorred using philosophy in theology. Rather, he used his poetic talents to express the Christian faith with elegance. He used images that his hearers could understand and to which they could relate.

“Faith adores the Mystery” is the driving force behind Syriac theology. “God, the Infinite One, cannot ever be fully known. Yet…God has mysteriously shared something of the Godhead with us.”29 Once we were allowed to gaze into God the Father’s beautiful countenance through the eyes of His resurrected Son and without being consumed, we were left in a state of awe and wonder. No adequate words could describe who God is. We were left speechless and couldn’t utter anything else other than, “Wow!”

iii) Quality of Experience

The quality of worship is also reflected by the quality of experience the faithful have. To enhance the believers’ experience and allow the Liturgy to be an attractive means to welcome non-Maronites, it is imperative to pay attention to the quality of translation and music, the participation of the people, and the language used in the service.

(1) Quality of the Translation and Music

Our spiritual wealth lies in the theology that the Maronite Divine Liturgy carries. There are two trains of thought. The first one promotes a loose or inspired translation of the Syriac liturgical texts. This is the mindset of the Maronite Synod. “The [liturgical] work begins with establishing the Syriac text as the basis for the correct texts from which are expanded translations inspired by the original text and forms developed from the Syriac text.”30 Furthermore, this method allows for keeping intact the melodies.

The second one, to which I ascribe, is of the mind that the Syriac liturgical texts must be translated closely to the original. In this manner, the originally intended theology remains intact. Consequently, the translated lyrics will not correspond to the melodies. What about the tunes? We who grew up in a country like Lebanon are exposed to eastern and western music. It is easy for us to enjoy both. However, most of those who are born in the United are not exposed to eastern music. Consequently, the music may become an instrument of alienation and rejection. The Maronite Synod reminds us that “[t]he liturgy is a celebration, and the celebration belongs to the people.”31 Besides, “[t]he choir does not have the right to replace the people in it.”32 To engage the worshipers in song, Fr. Geoffrey Abdallah, Director of the Inter-Eparchial Music Commission states, “the Syriac heritage must be passed on to our worshipers in three different ways: 1. fidelity to Syriac text and melody so as to maintain our Syriac theology, spirituality, and chant; 2. for hymns other than Syriac chant, flexibility be allowed in the melody so as to be able to edit the text appropriately, and 3. new hymns inspired by the Syriac tradition and the local culture be composed for worship in the Maronite Church today throughout the world.” Syriac heritage must be translated as close as possible from Syriac and new composition should proceed organically, as the council encouraged the Eastern Churches,33 from that tradition in the local culture in which the Maronite Church finds itself. Faithful translations of the Syriac liturgies, Fathers, and spiritual wealth assures the handing the down of our Syriac theological, liturgical and spiritual patrimony as we received it from our ancestors in faith.

(2) Participation

How a church prays is another way to be true to our Maronite heritage and welcome others into our faith. To be Maronite is to pray. At one of the funerals, I welcomed those who were present and asked them to pray with such fervor that when our prayers reach the ears of the angels, they will flutter their wings in excitement and joy so hard that the lintels of the church would be shaken and the roof would be raised. They overwhelmingly responded. What an experience! The Church was at prayer. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of a community that prays fervently and earnestly?

(3) Use of the Vernacular

The languages used in our churches present a touchy and emotional subject with which it is hard to deal. As difficult as it may be, this topic must be openly addressed. Language is a means of communication. Without using the appropriate language, our success in evangelization will be limited. For the Maronite Synod, the Arabic language is a necessary tool of communication with the Arabic and Islamic societies. It is an effective means for evangelization. “Promoting the Arabic language is at the heart of the spiritual mission of the Maronites [in Lebanon and the Middle East], since it is an optimum tool linking them with the Arab and Islamic World. Their witnessing is first and foremost in Arabic and Islamic societies, and they cannot fulfill it as they [Maronites of Lebanon and the Middles East] ought to, with the desired effectiveness, except in Arabic.”34 What is the optimum tool linking us, who live in the United States, with the society in which we are part of? English, of course!

Concerning the Syriac and Arabic languages, the Maronite Synod teaches that Syriac is “the language of the spiritual and religious heritage”35 and “the language of the Liturgy and a fundamental element that needs to be preserved as much as possible. As for Arabic, it is not more than a local language that must inevitably be replaced outside the boundaries of the Patriarchal territory by the local language that worshipers are using.”36

“The Maronite Church benefited as well from the spirit of Vatican II, following the example of the Western Churches by translating the Maronite Liturgy and the book of the Holy Mysteries into the languages spoken in her new land. Accordingly, this measure has been vital to the efforts deployed to keep the Maronite youth of the second and third generations in their Church or to motivate them to return to her. Thus, the issue of preserving the old heritage by means of the Arabic language alone was resolved, opening new horizons in front of the youth who want to consider themselves as belonging to the new nations that embraced them and belonging by way of faith and spiritual heritage to the Church of their forefathers.”37 Obviously, converts are included in this statement. For the Maronite Church to grow in the United States, it is fundamental to make a gradual and much-needed shift to worship in English.

C) Fidelity to the Maronite Faith and Heritage

The plurality of Churches is a Christian wealth. Why would one choose the Maronite Church over another Church? When I am asked this question, I usually retort with an analogy. All men are similar. They have heads, eyes, mouths, arms, and legs. Why would a woman choose one man over another? The response is simply because she fell in love with who he is. She loves the way he treats her, thinks, handles himself in public, walks, dresses, talks, and the list goes on. He is different from the other men she has met. Analogously, all Churches are similar. However, they are also different. A believer who falls in love with God through the unique eyes of the Maronite Church chooses to remain in or join the Maronite Church. Who the Maronite Church is separates her from all other Churches and makes her attractive. Therefore, the need to be true to the heritage of the Maronite Church is essential to our evangelical Mission. The Maronite “presence in the Middle East and the world is a presence that aims first and foremost at proclaiming the Gospel and testifying to Christ with a ‘Maronite flavor.’ This ‘Maronite flavor’ is characterized by monasticism, prayer, asceticism, and spiritual effort.”38

The Maronite Church went through 800 years of Latinization.39 The Fathers of Vatican II call on Eastern and Western Churches to return to their ancestral traditions. “All members of the Eastern Rite should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement. All these, then, must be observed by the members of the Eastern Rites themselves. Besides, they should attain to an ever greater knowledge and a more exact use of them, and, if in their regard they have fallen short owing to contingencies of times and persons, they should take steps to return to their ancestral traditions.”40

The Maronite Church “evangelizes all people through the diffusion of the Antiochene, Syriac, Maronite tradition.”41 Uniquely Maronite Liturgies, traditions, and celebrations should be practiced in our churches. I will give a few examples for the sake of illustration. The Maronite Church has a beautiful and comforting funeral service. Sadly, this service is virtually unknown in our churches in the United States. Although it has existed in English since 1988, most of our parishes opt to follow the Latin custom of having what is termed the funeral Divine Liturgy. Funeral service in the Maronite Church has two parts: 1. The Order of the Christian Funerals (Jinaaz) and 2. The Divine Liturgy that accompanies the deceased celebrated three days after the funeral. The day of the funeral symbolizes the death of the person with Christ who died on the cross. Appropriately, the Divine Liturgy celebrated three days after the funeral emphasizes our hope in the Resurrection, for the one who died on the cross defeated death by being raised on the third day. We hope and pray that the deceased person is raised with Christ. It is unfortunate, that believers and grieving families have no access to the theology of death in the Maronite Church.

The celebration of the Mysteries of Initiation is another example. The Maronite Synod tends to contradict itself. On the one hand, it recognizes that “The Mysteries of Christian Initiation are considered a unit that cannot be divided; through it, one enters in[to] the life of Christ and by the same token in the community that lives in him.”42 On the other hand, it does not take the needed steps to correct the current practice of separating the Mystery of the Eucharist from the other Mysteries of Initiation. “Concerning communion after baptism, the norms of particular law enacted by the Synod of Maronite Bishops headed by the Patriarch should be followed until the time that Church authority adopts decisions conforming to the ancient Eastern Churches’ tradition. This consists in conferring the Mysteries of Christian Initiation in one single ceremony. In the meantime, the order of the Synod of Bishops should be implemented.”43 Unfortunately, the Maronite Church continues to follow the Latin practice of separating the Eucharist from the two other Mysteries of Christian Initiation (Baptism and Chrismation) although the three Mysteries administered at the same time is her ancient and revered tradition. Sadly enough, the practice of separating the Mystery of Chrismation from the Mystery of Baptism is sometimes being practiced in the Maronite Church, even though it is against Church’s tradition and Canon Law of the Eastern Churches forbids it!44

The Synod gives examples of Maronite traditions that are being violated today. Concerning liturgical vestments, it states that “the liturgy is to be celebrated while the priest celebrant wears all priestly vestments as is required by the ancient Maronite tradition. The con-celebrants will wear the stole over the Jibbi or the monastic garb otherwise the stole should not be worn over different attire.”45 It also touches on church architecture, “[T]the altar must be oriented toward the East in the internal architecture of the church, to be in accordance with the theological meaning and with the common eastern tradition.”46

Emphasizing what is unique to the Maronite Church allows it to share with the world her special history and “distinctive ecclesiastical, liturgical, theological, spiritual and organizational traditions.”47 This makes the Church Maronite.

D) Stewardship

Stewardship, in my opinion, may be analogous to babysitting and house-sitting. The person who babysits is responsible for the welfare of the baby until the parents return. A successful babysitter treats the baby as her own. A house-sitter makes sure that the house is clean, all the bills are paid and fixes anything that needs to be repaired. Her responsibilities continue until the owners of the house return. A house-sitter is successful if she takes care of the house under her responsibility as if it were hers. Regardless of how long she takes care of the baby or the house, neither is hers. The baby has his parents and the house his owners.

Similarly, we are stewards of the Maronite Church. It is God’s Church and not ours, yet we are responsible for her, for God has elected us to be his people, his witnesses and to welcome people into his Church. Our duty is to welcome people into the Maronite Church as if God himself were doing it. The bishops and priests are not the only stewards of the Maronite Church. “Since the mission of the Church is not limited to the clergy, but is rather the duty and the right of each baptized, the baptized has to participate in the work of serving this mission firstly in his [her] own parish…”48

i) Universal Church

After reading the 876-page Synod document, my impression is that the Church still does not see itself as universal, but Lebanese. In spite of my impression, The Maronite Patriarchal Synod went to a great length to state that “…[a]t her inception, our Maronite Church was not associated with any particular nationality, despite the fact that it sprang up in a Syriac environment…”49 Furthermore, “[T]he Synod is adamant that the Maronite entity not be confined to a nation or to one kind of nationalism…This means that the Maronite entity transcends national borders to attain the role of a universal Church. In this role, she manifests God’s work in history and in the world.”50It is also refreshing to read that “[t]he Maronite Church, on the existential level, is no longer a private church limited to a certain locality but has transformed into a Church with an international presence despite the fact that her heritage remains Eastern and Syriac.”51

Unfortunately, the world sees us as a Lebanese Church. One of my parishioners, who had no relations to the Maronite Church before his conversion and no relations to the Middle East, was proudly telling Latin seminarians that he was in the process of becoming a subdeacon in the Maronite Church. They retorted, “We didn’t know you’re Lebanese!” Every time I introduce myself as a Maronite priest, my conversation partner inevitably would reply, “Oh, I have Lebanese friends,” as if the two nouns “Maronite” and “Lebanese” were interchangeable. In Lebanon, the Maronite Church is never referred to as a “Lebanese Church.” However, this is common in the United States. The Latin Church is referred to as the “American Church.” I am proud of my Lebanese heritage and no one can take that away from me. My mission, however, as a Maronite and a priest is to invite others to come to Christ, hoping they will choose to love Him through the rich and beautiful traditions of the Maronite Church.

We have our work cut out for us! A refreshed and corrected image of the Maronite Church is needed. It is essential to be aware of the image we are projecting because with that image the world will respond. Let us remember that we are stewards of this Universal Church and her rich Maronite traditions. In the words of the Maronite Synod, “We are invited to be loyal to our Maronite heritage, not to what we have inherited of customs and traditions.”52

ii) Unified Vision

The Maronites in the United States need a unified vision. The least of our differences is which expressions to use to manifest who we are. We cannot seem to agree on using the same words. For example, should we use “Divine Liturgy” to express the Eucharistic celebration or should we use “Mass”? Is it an “Eparchy” or a “Diocese”? On a more serious note, there is a separation in vision between bishops, priests, and laity. The difference is not over terminology but rather over more serious topics.

Where do we get such a vision? In 2006, Bishop Robert Shaheen summoned an eparchial convocation. Forty-six priests, deacons, and subdeacons, one hundred and nine delegates representing thirty-two parishes and sixteen States answered their bishop’s call. The convocation gave us an excellent opportunity to learn more about the Maronite Church and discuss the Maronite Patriarchal Synod. Such convocations summoned on a regular basis are necessary to shape a unified vision for the Church in the United States and plan for the future. Under the leadership of our Eparchial Bishops, laity and clergy can forge a unified vision for their Church. The annual Maronite Convention could provide another forum through which faithful can learn more about the Maronite Church and her rich heritage and through which a unified vision could be developed.

To create a unified vision, a common understanding of the identity and mission of the Maronite Church is indispensable. There are five concentric dimensions of the Maronite identity:53 1. An Antiochene Syriac Church; 2. A Chalcedonian Church; 3. A Patriarchal Church With Ascetic and Monastic Traits; 4. Church in Communion With the Latin Church, and 5. A Church Present in Her Environment.

“Father, you need to give the people more than just God.” “I come to this church because there are Lebanese people. Otherwise, I wouldn’t come here.” “My only connection to the Maronite Church is Lebanon.” These comments and others like them highlight some of the laity’s misunderstanding of the Identity of the Church and her mission. Did she become a window through which the immigrant fulfills his or her emotional and nostalgic needs, rather than a vehicle to glorify God?

The Maronite Church is “before all else, the realization of the mystery of the One, Universal, Holy, and Apostolic Church in the special environment in which they [Maronites] were called to bear witness to their apostolic faith and to their evangelical values, and consequently not willing to be led, in their endeavor, into mere cultural, national, or political considerations…The Church is the salvific work of God the Father through His son Jesus Christ and the action of the Holy Spirit…”54 The Church exists for one and one reason only, to preach Jesus Christ. She has no other reason to exist. Otherwise, she would be like any other secular institution built on human whims, emotions, and needs. Unlike a secular organization, the Church is divine and built on Jesus Christ who promised, “The gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18).

(1) A Syriac Antiochene Church

What entices us to come to the Maronite Church is the Word of God proclaimed, preached, and witnessed to in an Antiochene and Syriac religious heritage. “To understand the Maronite Tradition, one must go back to Antioch, an imperial city at the extreme northeastern corner of the Mediterranean Sea. Antioch’s importance within the Roman Empire is well documented. In Christian terms, it was here that the followers of Jesus, the early Church, were first called ‘Christians’ (Acts 11:26). Both Peter and Paul, (the ‘Apostles’ of Acts of the Apostles) conducted ministries there, and here the faith of Peter took hold even before it was associated with Rome.”55

Antioch became known for its famous “School” of biblical interpretation. “This interpretation emphasized grammatical analysis of the text of the Scriptures, as well as an appreciation of the historical setting of the text. It also employed a limited use of ‘typology.’ Interpreters saw clearly how the people and events of the Old Covenant prepared the way for Christ in the New and called these events ‘types’…Finally, the School of Antioch fully appreciated the humanity of Christ.”56

Complementing the Antiochene heritage, the Syriac world of Nisibis and Edessa heavily influenced the Maronite Church’s Tradition. Syriac was the vernacular language of the people living in these two famous cities and many other places in the Middle East. “The East Syriac world was further to the East, in Mesopotamia. In the famous ancient Christian Schools of Nisibis and Edessa, biblical interpretation made a fuller use of typology than in Antioch. In addition, in the capable hands of interpreters and commentators like St. Ephrem, biblical thought was translated into a liturgical poetry rarely equaled in the Church.”57

It is in this world of two cultures that the Maronite Church was born.

(2) A Chalcedonian Church

Unfortunately, the early Church saw schisms which were due to theological arguments over who Christ is. The fifth ecumenical council, that of Chalcedon held in 451 A.D., taught that Jesus Christ had two natures: divine and human, i.e. “Jesus Christ is fully and truly God and at the same time fully and truly human.”

Furthermore, the council taught that Mary is the “Theotokos” or “Mother of God.” The Maronites adhered to the teachings of this council and many of them shed their blood to defend its teachings. The Maronite Church continued to be faithful to the teachings of this council when she was finally established in the early eighth century.

(3) A Patriarchal Church with Ascetic and Monastic Traits

The followers of Maron the monk became numerous and built many monasteries in Syria. The monastery of St. Maron was the main one and dominated all other satellite monasteries. “The Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church came into existence in the bosom of Saint Maron’s monastery…This founding event had a great impact imprinting the Maronite Church, clergy, and laity alike, with a distinctive ascetic and monastic character that influenced her spirituality and ecclesiastical structure.”58 When the Patriarchal See of Antioch ceased to have a Byzantine Patriarch, the Maronites, headed by the monastery of St. Maron, elected John Maron as the Patriarch of Antioch. Thus, the Maronite Patriarchate was officially established. “Thus, while the spiritual and monastic roots of the Maronite Church go back to Maron in the 4th/5th century, the ecclesiastical organization of the Maronite Patriarchate of Antioch dates to the 8th century. In other words, from this time the Maronite Church saw itself as a self-governing (sui iuris) Church of the Antiochene Tradition.”59

(4) A Church in Communion With the Latin Church

The Maronites never wavered from their communion with the Latin Church. Both Churches tremendously benefited from this communion. The Latin Church had access to the East through the Maronite Church who in turn gained the needed religious and political support to remain a viable vehicle for evangelization in an East that was increasingly becoming predominately Muslim.

(5) A Church Present in Her Environment

The Maronite Church manifests God’s presence in her environment insofar as while clinging to her ancient and revered Traditions, she is not afraid to change herself and engage and change the world in which she exists. The main mission of the Church is to evangelize, i.e. to witness to the love that God has for his people and be faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ, her Lord and Savior. Her children can only witness through what was handed down to them by their Maronite ancestors. For the Maronites to be loyal to their traditions, a return to their Antiochene Syriac roots is essential. “All members of the Eastern Rite should know and be convinced that they can and should always preserve their legitimate liturgical rite and their established way of life, and that these may not be altered except to obtain for themselves an organic improvement.”60

This organic improvement is dependent on knowing the Maronite traditions and understanding the people to whom the Church is ministering. Returning to our ancestral Traditions means to highlight our uniqueness from other Eastern and Western Catholic Churches while emphasizing our communion.

Through collaboration and working toward common goals, Maronites will remain loyal to their Church and her Sacred Traditions. Having a unified vision is essential so as not to confuse the clergy and the laity and encourages the laity to be loyal to the Church. Thus, the Maronite Church becomes a stable place of refuge for the faithful who are seeking the spiritual wealth of the Antiochene Syriac Maronite Church.

iii) Missionary Zeal

In 1959, Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, a Russian Orthodox priest, once wrote,

“To recover the missionary dimension of the Church is today’s greatest imperative. We have to recover a very basic truth: that the Church is essentially Mission, that the very roots of her life are in the commandment of Christ: ‘Go Ye therefore and teach all nations’ (Matt. 28:19). A Christian community that would lose this missionary zeal and purpose, that would become selfish and self-centered, that would limit itself to “satisfying the spiritual needs of its members”, that would identify itself completely with a nation, a society, a social or ethnic group – is on its way to spiritual decadence and death, because the essential spiritual need of a Christian is precisely that of sharing the life and the Truth with as many men as possible and ultimately with the whole world. Mission thus is the organic need and task of the Church in the world, the real meaning of Church’s presence in history between the first and the second advents of her Lord, or, in other terms, the meaning of Christian history. Obviously, not all members of the Church can go and preach in the literal sense of the word. But all can have a concern for the missionary function of the Church, feel responsible for it, help and support it. In this respect, each diocese, each parish and each member of the Church are involved in the missionary ministry.”61

I have shared with priests, nuns, and lay people that I am in the process of establishing a Maronite Mission in Cheyenne, Wyoming. They asked me, “Are there any Lebanese in Cheyenne? Any Maronites? So why do you want to start a Maronite Mission there?” “Because there are people in Cheyenne,” I answered.

The Maronite Church is missionary. To be missionary is to witness to the Resurrection of Christ. Some think that this is the duty of the ordained and those in religious orders. The Maronite Synod reminds us that “Christians are aware that through their baptism ‘in water and Spirit’ (John 3:5), they are like the disciples, sent into the world, equipped with the power of the Spirit, reviver of the Church and her living memory, to carry to the world the message of salvation in Jesus Christ.”62 It also urges the faithful “to witness to Christ in the world, turning his [or her] home and his [or her] workplace as well as his [or her] educational, familial, social, profession, and political interests into centers where he [or she] gives witness to God’s love in him [or her].”63

“Because the parish is a living witness of the risen Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit and the unity between its sons and daughters and between it and the other parishes, it has to be ‘intrinsically and obligatory’ an apostle and a declarer of the faith.”64

Maronite hospitality cannot be beaten! Welcoming all peoples into our Faith and Heritage is at the heart of the missionary dimension of the Maronite Church. We are called to be aware of and work toward this endeavor. The reason for it is neither for the Maronite Church to grow numerically nor to raise enough funds to pay the mortgage. It is essentially Maronite to be hospitable and to share with others the best of what Maronites have. Our faith in Christ is the best that we inherited. It is our duty and responsibility to share it with the world in a ‘Maronite Flavor.’

E) Social Activism – Faith in Action

I was once told that “Maronites are only interested in helping themselves.” It is hard for me to believe that it is so. The Maronite Church in Lebanon is a beacon of hope for all the Lebanese and the Christians of the Middle East. Despite the many difficulties she is facing, the Maronite Church, led by her Patriarch, has been an instrumental witness to the Gospel by protecting the weak and the oppressed and standing up to oppressors. She manages many projects to help the poor and unfortunate. Many schools, hospitals, orphanages are under the care and protection of the Maronite hierarchy. In the words of the Maronite Synod, “Morally, the Church bears the responsibility of defending the human person who yearns for freedom, liberation, and truth. Through that, she is the hope of the suffering downtrodden, the weak and the poor, in the evangelical sense of these terms. The Church needs to be, and this is what the Maronite Church is striving for, the alerting conscience, the critical intellect, the crying voice, the defender against every oppression and tyranny, and the bearer of the banner of social justice against every exploitation and partiality.”65

If the Maronite Church in Lebanon were to cease to exist today, the whole country will be devastated. Many important and critical social justice programs will be gone, and the population of Lebanon will be left to the tyranny of the strong. Could the same be said about the Maronite Church in the United States? What kind of social justice programs do we support as a Church? If the Maronite Church ceases to exist in the United States, would more than 75,000 people or so, who are counted among her faithful, be affected? That is 0.024% of the population of the USA.

The Synod understands that to be a Maronite is not to be egocentric but rather to prophetically engage the world and be open to it. “Maronites have not forgotten that the Church, being apostolic, is not self-centered…All Maronites are duty-bound in the name of Christ, each according to his gift…[to] witness, through prophetic boldness, to the apostolic dimension of the Church, contributing to the progress of the human beings in their various societies.”66 It quotes John Paul II who wrote,67 “In every part of the world, the mission of the Church is based on introducing Christ, the Son of God, and, to proclaim the salvation that God granted to all people. She has also unceasingly realized, through contemplating her Lord, the perfect Man, that she has a distinctive status in society for the purpose of freeing people from everything that hinders their human and spiritual development, because the ‘Glory of God is the living person.”68

For Maronites to be relevant in the United States, we must live our faith outside our Church’s walls and follow the lead of our brothers and sisters in Lebanon. It is imperative to create Maronite organizations to protect the poor and the marginalized, defend the rights of the unborn and the terminally ill. Maronites must gather their resources to feed the hungry, build homeless shelters, houses for battered women, and orphanages for the little ones who lost their parents. Ministering to those who are imprisoned is a Gospel mandate. No one needs to remind us of the words of Jesus as recorded in the Gospel according to Matthew, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). These are just a few examples to illustrate how the Maronite Church can live her faith in the world outside the Lebanese borders. This list is not exhaustive by any means.

It falls upon each pastor to make his parishioners aware of social justice issues and the needs of their brothers and sisters. “In addition to providing for the Church, the faithful are also obliged to promote the principles of social justice. Canon 626, §2 directs pastors to teach the faithful about the dignity of the human person, fundamental human rights, family, social, and civil life and the sense of justice which is to be maintained in the field of labor and economics so that there can be a true establishment of peace and a building up of peoples. Throughout her existence, the Church has had a special concern for the poor and therefore stipulates, as one of their fundamental obligations, that the faithful are to give to the poor from their resources.”69

Social activism, which is a Gospel mandate, gives the faithful an organized vehicle through which believers can practice what was preached in the Church and what was written by Church Fathers and the Saints and through which others can explore the Church’s mission and spirit. Thus, the Maronite Church would become more attractive for those who would consider joining it.

Conclusion

This paper was my attempt to answering the following questions, “How do we assure that Maronites remain faithful to their Church and her traditions?” and “How to introduce and welcome non-Maronites and non-Christians into the Maronite Church?”

Spiritual Renewal, Quality of Worship, Fidelity to the Maronite Faith and heritage, Stewardship and Social Activism (Faith in Action) are the five necessary and essential components that will help the Maronite Church to grow in the United States. The Synod states that, “…[t]he Church’s level of attractiveness is a direct correlation of her faithfulness to Christ and to the level of the reflection of the face of Christ through the face of her children, regardless of their ecclesial or social rank, for the Church’s hope is in Christ and in the Spirit who revives her every day.”70

“Now to him who is able to accomplish far more than all we ask or imagine, by the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Ephesians 3:20-21).

Endnotes
1 Abdo Khalife, “In What Manner Shall We Revive Our Religious and Patriotic Heritage Overseas?,” in A History and Record of the First Maronite World Congress, ed. Jacques Najm Sacre (Florida, Mexico: Jus, 1979) 153.

2 The same process happens in all Eastern Catholic Eparchies and Latin Dioceses.

3 Before 1994, The Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron was the only Maronite eparchy in the United States.

4 The author obtained the data concerning Lebanese and Maronite emigration to the United States from his sources in Lebanon by email.

5 Ms. Guita Hourani was gracious enough to share her estimates with the author under the stipulation that this information can be used only in this article to show to what extent the Lebanese Maronites immigrants have affected the growth of the Maronite population in the United States.

6 The Patriarch and the Bishops. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, 2008, ¶64.

7 Catechesis and Ongoing Christian Adult Formation. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶16.

8 Catechesis and Ongoing Christian Adult Formation. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶34.

9 The Patriarch and the Bishops. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶29.

10 Catechesis and Ongoing Christian Adult Formation. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶34.

11 The Patriarch and the Bishops. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶52.

12 Anthony J. Salim, Captivated by Your Teachings; A Resource Book for Adult Maronite Catholics (Tucson: E. T. Nedder, 2002) 255.

13 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church, Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶18.

14 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶27.

15 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶39.

16 The Church of Hope. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶22.

17 The Church of Hope. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶23.

18 Salim 122.

19 Salim 124.

20 Salim 125.

21 The Maronite Church and Education: One General and Technical Education. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶55.

22 Elie Homsi, “My Impressions of the 2006 Convocation at St. Raymond Maronite Cathedral,” Rocky Mountain Maronites April 2006: 3.

23 Salim 196.

24 Salim 196.

25 The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶33.

26 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, , ¶37.

27 The Parish and Pastoral Work. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶29.

28 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶49.

29 Salim 3.

30 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶26.

31 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶40.

32 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶39.

33 Decree on The Catholic Churches of the Eastern Rite, Orientalium Ecclesiarum. Vatican II, November 21, 1964, ¶6.

34 The Maronite Church and Higher Education. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶74.

35 The Maronite Church and Education: On General and Technical Education. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶3.

36 The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶28.

37 The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶26.

38 The Maronite Church in Today’s World. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶21.

39 Latinization refers to either the imposition of the customs of the Latin Church on the Maronites or the Maronite hierarchy importing Latin customs into the Maronite Church. Fr. Anthony Salim explains, “Simply put, ‘latinization’ means the process — imposed or voluntary accepted — of inserting customs from the Latin Church into Eastern Traditions. For Maronites, this process began far back in the Tradition. Contact with the West in the early Middle Ages (12th century), especially with the Crusaders, began the latinization process, which took its toll on Maronite traditions. On the one hand, there was pressure from Rome for Maronite Catholics to conform to a more western model of Catholicism. On the other hand, Maronites were eager to proclaim their communion with and loyalty to Rome; thus, Maronites readily embraced Rome’s Latinizing. This happened not only to the Maronites. Other Eastern Churches, for a time separated from the Catholic Communion and coming back into communion with Rome, often sacrificed some of their authentic and precious traditions, especially in the form of the Divine Liturgy and the sacramental Mysteries. Happily, this was not to be permanent. Rome itself reserved this process…It still remains for all the Eastern Churches that still cling to such latinizations to work hard to purify themselves. This is particularly necessary for any of the Eastern Catholic Churches that have a direct Orthodox counterpart, as reunion efforts between Catholic/Orthodox pairings will take latinization strongly into consideration” (Salim 104-106).

40 Vatican II. Orientalium Ecclesiarum ¶6.

41 The Patriarch, the Eparchy, and the Parish. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶24.

42 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶43.

43 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶46.

44 “Can. 695 §1. Chrismation with holy myron must be administered in conjunction with baptism [emphasis mine], except in a case of true necessity, in which case, however, care is to be taken to have it administered as soon as possible.”

45 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶12.

46 The Liturgy. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶48.

47 The Maronite Church and Culture. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶3.

48 The Parish and Pastoral Work. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶41.

49 The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶2.

50 The Patriarch and the Bishops. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶63.

51 The Maronite Church in her Global Expansion. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶40.

52 Catechesis and Ongoing Christian Adult Formation. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶16.

53 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod.

54 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶2.

55 Salim 99.

56 Salim 99.

57 Salim 99.

58 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶18.

59 Salim 103.

60 Orientalium Ecclesiarum ¶6.

61 Protopresbyter Alexander Schmemann, “Orthodoxy and Mission,” St. Vladimir’s Seminary Quarterly Fall 1959: 41-42.

62 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶39.

63 The Laity. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶1.

64 The Parish and Pastoral Work. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶18.

65 The Maronite Church and the Social Issue. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶19.

66 Identity, Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Church. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶41.

67 Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation: A New hope for Lebanon, ¶100.

68 The Maronite Church and the Social Issue. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶1.

69 John D. Faris, Eastern Catholic Churches: Constitution and Governance, (New York: Saint Maron, 1992) 138.

70 The Church of Hope. Maronite Patriarchal Synod, ¶22.

5 thoughts on “Growth of the Maronite Church in the United States – Five Necessary Components

  1. Wonderfully informative piece. I am working on my doctorate dissertation on Maronites and the reasons for continued loyalty to the faith among 3rd and 4th generation American Lebanese. Presently, my focus is the Maronites in Texas, however I am having trouble identifying a significant population of 3rd and 4th generation that continue to attend the Maronite services. I can appreciate the need for all American Lebanese decedents to be aware of their spiritual roots and would like to gain a better understanding of this group and the reasons why some continue to attend the Maronite Rite when so many have made the choice to leave the Rite and practice their faith within the Latin Rite. If you have any insight that will assist me in this study it would be greatly appreciated. Rose Bashara Karam: Rose’s email-address was deleted by thehiddenpearl.org

    • L Elias says:

      Please forward this to Rose. Hi Rose, my name is Lisa Elias, I am a second generation Lebanese American.my Uncle was one of the chosen three missionary priest sent to help build the Maronite Church in the United States. I personally have fought to try and grow our church and we are failing greatly. No one wants to listen the American Born who choose to be Maronite with Latin Fathers. We are pushed aside. My father died when I was 5 and I was baptized Latin, but my mother is Maronite and I choose the Maronite rite as an adult, however, I an still considered a Latin to many, as I cannot be re-baptized.
      We are failing to educate, we do not have schools that we can send out kids to. If we want our children to go to Chatholic schools then they go to Latin school, Latin Masses, and then are supported by the family, with no choices. Charter schools could be attached to out churches today and no excuses should be made.

      Also, our priest for generations have been forced to forgo our traditions and be unmarried to practice in the United State because of a man made law. Thanks to Pope Frances, this has changed slightly… But still leaves our traditions stunted by others ingnorance.

      Maronite parishes are not funded by the Archdiocese of the Latin and need their community to survive. If we do not instill the beauty and educate our children in our faith and allow our traditions of priest to marry and grow their families like other rites, we will die out.

  2. Guilnard Moufarrej says:

    Very Informative. I am an ethnomusicologist. My dissertation was on the funeral ritual in the Maronite Church and I am currently working on the issues of identity in the Maronite Church in the diaspora. I would love to get in touch with the author.

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