SAINT MARON BY FATHER JEAN EL DAHDOUH
Dear friends, the cassock I am wearing today is the traditional Maronite costume worn by hermits and monks like St. Maron himself and all the others to follow him until this very day. If you are wondering, I am not a ninja fighter today but a Maronite monk bearing testimony through my cassock to our Maronite heritage.
Every year, on the ninth of February, more than ten million Maronites from all over the world celebrate St. Maron’s day. On this day, they pay their respect to the great founder of the Maronite church, Maron the priest, the hermit, the father, the leader and the saint. They remember what they have been exposed to, since the 4th century, both good and bad times. They pray for peace, democracy and freedom in Lebanon, their home land, and all over the world.
In Lebanon, where there are seventeen different confessions of Christians and Muslims, February the 9th is a national holiday where the whole government is shut down.
Maron’s influence on the Syriac group of Christians in the fourth century was so great that they took their name after him; Bet Moroon, “Maronites.”
Through this holy man God has performed many miracles and wonders. Even among his followers, one can find some twenty saints, four of whom are women. In recent history, the Maronite church has given the church more saints, among them St. Charbel, St. Rafka, and St. Nimatullah.
The Maronites have endured continuous persecution for the last 16 hundred years, offering their blood in martyrdom for the sake of their faith and freedom. Our Maronite brothers and sisters in Lebanon are in danger of disappearing. It is our duty to pray for them and help preserve Christianity in the land where it was born 2010 years ago.
The first Maronites came from the Syriac branch of Christianity, the direct descendants of the people who received the faith from the apostles. The Maronites are people of faith who are always willing to sacrifice themselves and what they have for Christ’s sake as a gratitude for sacrificing himself on the cross on their behalf.
Thanks to the heroic efforts of the Maronites, Lebanon became a land where Christians lived freely. Thanks to so many Maronites like patriarch Elias Hoyek who went to Europe in order to obtain the freedom of Lebanon after 400 years of occupation and persecution by the Ottoman Empire.
Although the roots of the Maronite church are rooted in Lebanon, this church is now flourishing all over the world, including Minneapolis. Besides many dioceses in Lebanon, the Maronites have their own bishops and diocese in Syria, Cyprus, Egypt, Europe, Australia, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, the United States and Canada.
We, as Maronites should be very proud (in a humble way) to belong to this rich and old tradition that is probably the closest to the era and area that Jesus lived in some two thousand years ago.
All of us, old and young, have a duty to preserve this precious tradition that is ours.
My appeal to you on this feast of your father is to hold on to the richness and virtues of your Maroniteness, and to translate it into faithfulness, patriotism and loyalty.
Faithfulness to human, social and family values, a faithfulness that has characterized your ancestors, and manifested, among other things, by charity, solidarity, forgiveness and dialogue.
Allegiance to the country of Canada, that has embraced and cradled you like a mother, binding you strongly to herself, with ties that go beyond personal advantages or gain.
Loyalty to a people, generous in its giving, rich in its harmonious cultures, and whom you enrich with a culture you brought from a holy land that raised great saints all through its history.
Today, let us examine our consciousness and see how loyal and committed we are to this great and rich tradition that cost thousands of martyrs.
Our ancestors are the direct descendants of the apostles and Jesus himself. Our liturgical language is the same language that the son of God spoke, and our mother land is the land where Christ and his mother Mary and the apostles walked upon; our forefathers are the Phoenicians who have discovered the first alphabet, and the first people who sailed the oceans.
In order for this Maronite church to continue to flourish and grow, the spirit of Maron must be followed with love and unity.
Let us imitate Maron as he imitated Christ his lord, and like him follow Christ with simplicity, faith and humility.