Category: Blog

Growing up in the Maronite Church

Growing up in the Maronite Church by Bridget Shaia ’15

Although I now attend Mass at AQ every Sunday, I grew up going to a Maronite Catholic church with my family at home in Richmond, Virginia. The Maronite Church is one of 21 Eastern Rite Catholic Churches united with Rome. While most Catholics in the United States belong to the Western or Latin Catholic Church, these 21 rites are also fully Catholic and can be found in certain countries and immigrant communities. Many of the Eastern Catholic churches split from Rome at some point in history and have since resumed union with Rome, but the Maronites are one of two that have never broken from the Roman Catholic Church.

The origins of these Eastern rites can be traced geographically to a specific country or region, although all have ties to one of four major locations: Alexandria, Armenia, Constantinople (now Istanbul), or Antioch. The Maronites trace their roots to the country of Lebanon, and prior to that, to the city of Antioch, where Jesus’ followers were first called Christians. Many of the countries where these churches were founded are also home to an Orthodox branch of Christianity that never resumed union with Rome. For example, the Greek Orthodox Church is a counterpart to the Greek Catholics. Since the Maronites never split from Rome, they are the only Eastern Rite church without an Orthodox counterpart.

The Maronite Church was founded in the late fourth century by a Syrian hermit, St. Maron, and was later strengthened by the leadership of St. John Maron, the patriarch of Antioch from 685 to 707 AD. The Maronites endured a long history of conflict with various empires until 1943 when Lebanon became fully independent. Maronites now make up 22% of the Lebanese population, and Maronite churches can be found on almost every city street corner and in almost every small mountain village. The percentage of Maronites in Lebanon used to be much higher; there was a mass exodus of Christians from the country during the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990), during which many Maronites immigrated to the United States.

The Maronite Church today is led by Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi, who serves under Pope Francis as a Cardinal of the Catholic Church. There are now more than three million Maronites in the world, and more of them reside outside of Lebanon than within its borders. There are two eparchies (dioceses) in the United States, comprising around 60 parishes. There are also many Maronites in Brazil, Argentina, France, Australia, South Africa, Canada, and Mexico.

So you may ask, what’s the point? Why does it matter that there are 21 other kinds of Catholic churches? Well, in 1995, St. John Paul II called for the Church to “breathe with her two lungs!” and he urged Latin Rite Catholics to bridge the knowledge gap that exists between the Eastern and Western wings of the Church. In the same encyclical letter, he described the Eastern churches as “a special witness to that diversity in unity which adds to the beauty of Christ’s Church.” So it is this richness of tradition and added diversity and history that the Eastern Churches bring to the greater Catholic Church.

These differences in tradition are not differences in doctrine or theology, but simply evidence that the customs of Christianity have evolved in unique ways around the world. To give a few examples, my favorite part of the Maronite Mass is the

consecration, because it is recited by the priest in the language of Aramaic, rather than in English. Aramaic was the language that Jesus and his disciples would have spoken to each other, and the language in which Jesus would have said those words at the Last Supper. Preserving this liturgical language helps to preserve a vital part of Jesus’ culture and heritage. Communion is also given by intinction, where it is dipped by the priest into the wine and then placed on the tongue, rather than in the hands, to further signify its sanctity. The music and prayers during the Mass are rooted in the Eastern tradition, and certain practices like the sign of peace are slightly different.

There are a few other notable differences in the Maronite Church, as seen in the liturgical calendar and the sacraments. Lent begins on Ash Monday rather than Wednesday and includes all Sundays, encompassing fifty days instead of forty. Advent is replaced by the six weeks of the Season of Announcements during which various events leading up to the birth of Christ are commemorated. Additionally, the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, called Chrismation, are often given to a baby at the same time.

While the outward appearance of these traditions is markedly different from the Latin Rite Catholic Church many of us are used to, the principles remain the same. I am still just as Catholic, but the Catholic Church does indeed have two lungs, East and West. And it is by educating ourselves about the Eastern lung of our Church that we may better understand the diversity that lies in the unity of Rome.

Pope John Paul II. “Ut Unum Sint.” Letter. 25 May 1995.

 

Making the Most out of These Four Years

Making the Most out of These Four Years

Jacob Flores ’16

Television shows and Hollywood movies portray college as four years of little to no studying, binge drinking, and casual hook-ups. With this message being constantly perpetuated by the media, college freshmen often leave their faith at home and get sucked into this destructive culture. Luckily, during my first few weeks at Dartmouth I discovered Aquinas House. AQ has made my college experience completely different from what has been portrayed in pop culture. When you get to college, your parents aren’t there on Sunday mornings to wake you up and drag you to church. In turn, this forces students to decide if church is really important to them or not. My faith became my own here at Dartmouth. Aquinas House has provided the community and instruction for me to learn and grow deeper in the Catholic faith. As a religion major, I have encountered some of the toughest criticisms of Christianity. AQ is often the place where I seek answers to the difficult questions that are posed to Christians. For example, why aren’t there women priests? Is the Bible truly without error? Was Jesus both God and man or was he simply a good teacher? St. Thomas Aquinas, for whom Aquinas House was named, was a brilliant philosopher and defender of the faith. I strive to follow in his example, and I’m fortunate to be able to turn to those wiser than me at AQ when I seek answers to some tough questions.

On another note, AQ has helped me to find fulfillment. On a campus like Dartmouth, many seek fulfillment through good grades or high social standing. I have come to realize is that true joy and peace comes from becoming the man or woman that God has made us to be. We must decide daily to actively avoid sin and pursue righteousness. Some, on campus and elsewhere, desperately try to find happiness in alcohol, drugs, or pre-marital sex, but those activities can only provide short term pleasure. True happiness and peace cannot be sustained from those temporary pleasures. I believe we should use the short four years that we have at Dartmouth to take advantage of the faith resources set before us. After graduation, it will be difficult to find a church and a church community that caters to young adults. In part, Jesus established the church on Earth because he knew the great benefits of community. In Hebrews, St. Paul says it perfectly: “Since we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Since we are all sinners, God tells us to run with perseverance not perfection. He knows that we don’t also live up to His standard, but this verse also highlights the importance of running together. Working out is tough to do alone. Seeking to be like Christ is tough work too when you go at it by yourself. Pursuing God was meant to be a team effort and the church provides the sacraments and community to make it happen. Let take advantage of these four years of close-knit Christian community to encourage fellow believers to fight the good fight, finish the race, and keep the faith.

 

The Eastertide Rolls In

The Eastertide Rolls In

by: Christopher D’Angelo ’16

Growing up, my family and I went to mass only once or twice a month, and I was not seriously involved in a church until I came to Dartmouth. As a result, for much of my childhood, my knowledge of all things Catholic did not extend too far beyond my CCD classes and a basic understanding of the Bible. Even now, as we celebrate Jesus’ resurrection on Easter, I notice a striking deficiency in my understanding of Catholicism, namely my complete ignorance for the Easter season. While many people, non-Christians inclusive, have a decent understanding of the season of Lent and the associated sacrifice, it seems to me that the fifty-day period following Easter, known as Eastertide, has been largely neglected in our Catholic consciousness. Beginning on Easter Sunday, the first eight days of Eastertide are intended as a period for new members of the Church to contemplate the new life into which they have been received. For those who have completed the RCIA program and received the sacrament of Baptism, Confirmation, or the Eucharist, this is the beginning of a new chapter in their life. This initial octave of Easter is a time for reflection newness, as well as a time to begin living in a different, fuller way. These eight days culminate on the second Sunday of Easter, which since 2000 has been observed as Divine Mercy Sunday. On this day, based on Saint Faustina’s devotion to the Divine Mercy, Catholics are encouraged to make a Confession and receive the Eucharist, all the while contemplating the fact that Jesus died for the salvation of humankind. Forty days after Easter, we celebrate the Ascension of Jesus to commemorate when Christ rose to heaven under his own power in his resurrected body. In the Ecclesiastical Province of Boston, which includes the diocese of Manchester and thus us here at Dartmouth, the Ascension is celebrated on that Thursday, as opposed to being commemorated on the following Sunday. Nine days later, we commemorate Pentecost Sunday, when the Holy Spirit appeared in the Upper Room to the Apostles, who then went out and preached to Jews of many different languages. Often, Pentecost is referred to as “the birthday of the Church,” since with the descent of the Holy Spirit, Christ’s mission is completed and the New Covenant is initiated. But what does the season of Eastertide mean for a college student who goes to mass once or twice a month, and is wondering what to do after Easter? It is a season to reflect daily on the renewal of our baptismal vows that we made on Easter Sunday: to reject Satan, to affirm our belief in Jesus and the Resurrection, and to remember the unity of the Church. It is a time to do as Jesus taught right before the Ascension, to go out and “be witnesses…to the ends of the earth.” Finally, it is a season to rejoice in the sacrifice and Resurrection which we commemorated on that first Easter Sunday, and continue to let the Alleluias ring out on high.

 

“There’s No Vacation from your Vocation!”

“There’s no vacation from your vocation!”
There was a parish where I used to live that had an elementary school attached to it and every time the school was on vacation they had these words posted on their sign in front of the school.  The priest would then address the students during their weekly Mass and remind them that whether they are at rest or at play they can be at prayer and serve God! They never escape their vocation to love. I was so used to hearing this word, vocation, in the context of priests and religious. Everyone else doesn’t have a vocation, they are just laity (I also assumed that word meant lazy). One group of Christians served and loved and prayed, while the rest of us were served, loved, and prayed for by these holy people with vocations. Comical I know, but so easy to think and justify to myself. Holiness is for them over there in the robes and funny clothes, maybe even for the people with babies and growing children in their families, but not for me. I’m single, taking classes, enjoying my free time and leisure activities, laying around, reading, playing, working part-time, doing an internship, etc…
Over Spring Break don’t forget that whatever you do, do it with love. I didn’t know that I could start my day by offering everything I did, the chores, the errands, the leisure, the time with friends and family, the little instances of being annoyed with others, things not going my way, being disappointed, etc… as a prayer. I didn’t think God wanted those prayers, or even heard those prayers. Turns out it isn’t true, God wants all of you, cares about all of your day, and wants you to flourish with the gifts you’ve been given. This prayerful approach to loving others each day by the actions you take and the thoughts you think will bring change to your heart and glory to God. It isn’t always easy, and sometimes we forget. God understands that too, and is ready to help us get back up and to try again!
Don’t waste your break, have fun, offer to do a chore while you’re home to help your family. Take some time and notice what someone else in your family or circle of friends likes and do it with them or listen to a problem they have without trying to solve it, play, pray, and have fun!
“The glory of God is found in man FULLY ALIVE!” – Saint Irenaeus
 

Putting Stress into Perspective

Putting Stress into Perspective

By: Marissa Le Coz ’17

 

As any Dartmouth student can tell you, the atmosphere at the College is a very busy and frantic

one. Due to the accelerated ten-week term, we’re constantly being bombarded with papers,

midterms, and problem sets. I know that the past week has been academically stressful for a lot of

people, myself included, as we were in the thick of midterms.

While I don’t find academically stressful times particularly pleasant, I find them quite beneficial

for my faith life. I think that stress, while it is a hassle, brings a lot of important faith-related

matters to the fore, matters that I probably wouldn’t ponder if I were completely complacent with

my life.

I think that one natural question that comes up for people under academic stress is, “Why am I

doing this?” When I’m not too stressed, assignments just become a sequence of due dates to

check off the list, and I don’t put much direct thought into what greater purpose my studies could

serve. Stressful academic times are a great opportunity to remember that you are studying to serve

God. You’re studying to develop your God-given gifts that will give you the tools you’ll need to

fulfill His plan for your life.

Times like midterm week can also bring up the question, “Why am I stressed?” At face value, the

answer seems obvious. But it’s a very interesting moment to assess how much you let grades and

academics define you. It’s also a convenient time to put things back into perspective and

remember that eternal life is of far more importance than grades. Sure, you should work hard in

school, but it’s beneficial to remember that grades aren’t everything.

 

What are our students saying? From our Newsletter!!

About Service?  From Paul Kim ’17!

My name is Paul Kim and I am a member of the class of 2017.  Looking back on my Sophomore fall I can see how my experience at the Aquinas House has begun to evolve.  What initially attracted me to Aquinas House was the feeling of comfort, but now it has an added dimensions of discomfort.  Now, I do not mean discomfort in a negative way but in the sense of challenge.  Paradoxically, it is the sense of discomfort and challenge that attracts me more to Aquinas House than simply feeling of comfort.  As St. JP II said, “The world offers you comfort, you were not made for comfort, but for greatness.”  The community at Aquinas House challenges me to be a better person and to strive to love as God loves.  In that sense, AQ has become my family.  Everyday I must choose not to simply be consumed by the business that characterizes so much of our lives, but to sacrifice my time for those around me.  A few of my favorite trips are to David’s House to cook for families whose children are receiving care at DHMC and singing to the residents at Orford — a long-term care facility for people with advanced development disorders.  I have to admit that many times when I leave on these trips there is the nagging thought of “Should I really go?”  Will I be able to get my work done?  Get enough sleep?  When my own selfishness stares me in the face, I have to make the concrete choice between loving myself and loving God in others.  The joy I feel when I see someone smile from our service outweighs any grade I could get.  I thank God for his grace and providing this AQ community to support me in growing in real love.

 

From a Med Student – Ana Maria Dumitru!

My name is Ana Maria Dumitru, I’m now in my fourth year in the MDPhD program here at Dartmouth.  When I first moved to the Upper Valley, I was a little apprehensive about whether I would be “too old” to participate in Aquinas House events—I definitely didn’t want to be a weird grad student overstaying my welcome.  From the very beginning, though, what I found at AQ was a home away from home.  The facilities are beautiful, the Dominican priests are incredible, the staff at AQ are extremely welcoming and generous, and I’ve felt so blessed to be welcomed by the AQ community.  Whether you’re an undergrad or grad student, AQ has resources for all of your needs—spiritual, emotional, study-space-related, late-night snack, and coffee-related, it’s all there!  I’ve made meaningful friendships, grown in my relationship with God, and have found a safe haven on campus where I can be myself and be among like-minded people.  What a treasure AQ is for Dartmouth students!

 

From a Freshman – Angelina Lionetta ’18!

Hello, my name is Angelina Lionetta and I am an awkward freshman.  Luckily for me, I was fortunate enough to happen upon AQ in my first week.  I knew nobody beforehand, and pretty soon my days became a blur of handshakes, faces and names that I struggled to keep track of.  While it was exciting to meet new people from all over the world, and start new classes and jobs, I realized that I needed a home base, which I found in Aquinas House.  There were of course the organized events like Mass, brunch, community dinner, the ‘18 retreat, and the Halloween  party that welcomed me into this excitable, warm, Catholic family and have provided me with memories that I cherish.  I love the smaller occasions the most though, from choir practice to an impromptu movie night, or even just greeting fellow AQ’ers with a wave and a smile as I run around campus.  When my studies grew more difficult through midterms, papers, and finals, AQ graciously provided me not only a serene study space and critical snacks, but people to commiserate with and offer uplifting support and hope. I now have one entire term under my belt; 10 weeks that have yielded genuine friendships, a roller coaster of emotions, and a healthy dose of perspective.  Through it all, I am so grateful that AQ has become my home away from home and, most importantly, my family.  I look forward to the day I can help make AQ this special for someone else.