The Maronite Family
Chapter 1: Historical Background
First: Faith in God and Ecclesial Service
1. The Maronite Church is an Eastern Church deeply rooted in its geographical environment. The Maronite family has interacted with its Church, which has been its center from its very beginning until now. The community of faithful gathered around the church and monastery and adhered to the Christian faith and moral life implied by this faith. Moreover, the Maronite community along with its pastors courageously defended its historical identity, defying all religious, political, social and environmental risks that faced them.
1. Commitment of the Family to Spiritual Life
a. On Liturgical Life
2. The Maronite family has been strengthened by its Christian faith; it organized its daily life in the example of priests and monks and according to the liturgical prayers centered around the Mystery of the Resurrected Christ and the feasts of Mary and the Saints. Thus, liturgical life became a path of sanctification to each family. The families' spirituality was also carried out from churches and houses to the agricultural fields where all family members worked all day long, singing and praying, in a way that marked liturgical prayers with the agricultural aspect, to the point that Christ was called the "Good Farmer" and the Virgin Mary was given the names of "Lady of the Crops" and "Lady of the Wheat" and "Lady of the Vine"…etc.
The Name of God was spontaneously introduced in the family language in times of joy and sorrow. All houses, including the ones that were not particularly religious, were adorned with a holy picture, a small altar, and a cross that was thought to be a source of goodness, blessings, and safety. Religious practices were mixed with inherited customs and beliefs and performed with the conviction that these are somehow related to true worship of God. These practices revealed a simple faith profoundly influenced by interaction with the old religious and historical practices and traditions of the surrounding peoples.
b. Veneration of the Virgin Mary
3. The Virgin Mary, Holy Mother of God, was greatly venerated in the daily life of the Maronite family. This was revealed in liturgical prayers which dedicate a verse to the Virgin Mary in each melody, the night prayer, and the prayers of the great feasts such as Christmas, Lent, Easter, Pentecost, and during the Ordinary time and in other Marian feasts such as the Immaculate Conception, Nativity, Assumption and during the whole month of May, which was dedicated to her. Even the Sees of the Maronite Patriarchate were placed under her patronage. Maronite houses were decorated with by her holy icons around which all the family members gathered every evening to pray and recite the rosary, litany and sing "Ya Um Allah" "Mother of God O Merciful" and “Although your own body may be far away from us.” Moreover, shrines for the Virgin have been erected near houses and processions took place in squares and through the streets. Thus, we could say that Maronite spirituality is characteristically ‘Marian’.
c. Commitment of the Family to Pastoral and Social Life
4. The church parish was at the heart and spirit of Maronite villages. The Church is the center and the axis of the village, where houses and inhabitants gathered as one big family to participate in the Divine Liturgy and other liturgical ceremonies. The spiritual commitment to the Church consolidated social relations among Maronite families to a great extent so that they shared both joys and sorrows as they all in solidarity gathered whenever one of them needed help, each in his turn.
2. The Maronite Family in Living the Christian Mission
5. The Maronite family was not only faithful to its Christian faith, but it also developed a missionary spirit, which has been one of its historical constants. This spirit’s interaction with other religions which do not share the same faith resulted in openness and dialogue in conviviality.
6. The mission of the Maronite family was not only restricted to providing education for its children, but it also encouraged them to consecrate their lives in the priestly ministry and monastic orders. In order for Church institutions to grow and prosper, Maronite families also endowed their lands and property and helped in building churches and monasteries.
7. Maronite family life faced many challenges at the domestic and social levels. Like any other human family, it underwent relational problems among its members, as it underwent financial and social crises. However, the Maronite family continued to live in confidence and generosity, working in the land, praying, providing good education and giving birth to many children, which they always considered "God's gifts and blessings" despite the fact that many had to live in poverty.
Second: The Relation of the Maronite Family to the Land
8. Maronites were emotionally attached to the land which they considered as a loving mother who joins her children in closeness and cooperation. Thus, they worked hard, gradually changing it from a barren land to a fertile one that protected them from destitution, which became a means of survival, then a history, and a nation. This land also became a source of simplicity, contentment, stability and giving; the land was always there for the Maronite family in its most difficult times.
9. The Identity of the Maronite family was also greatly marked by the land seen as guarantor of freedom. Hence, the agricultural framework consolidated the bonds inside the Maronite family and promoted solidarity among all families within the same society.
Third: The Maronite Church and Human Values
1. The Family System
10. Similar to families in the ancient East, the Maronite family was based on a patriarchal system where the father is considered the first and the last reference of the family.
11. Therefore, "the man of the house" assumed his double role as a father and a husband for the good of his family by providing emotional, social and financial stability to his wife and children no matter what the cost may be, whether by working ‘from dawn to dusk’ or by being obliged to sometimes work away from his family.
12. This patriarchal mentality sometimes resulted in unfairness to a woman’s rights.
However, the woman and mother who were raised according to good Christian and social virtues, assumed a major role within the family; the Maronite woman contributed to the continuity of the family and marital unity through her devotion to her husband in both joys and distresses. She also safeguarded bonds with the extended family by willingly accepting her in-laws as her own parents and often sharing the same house. She accompanied her husband to his work in the fields, she wove silk, and she effectively contributed to providing money to the family and ensuring its comfort. With all her talents and capacities, the Maronite woman has always strived to enhance her children’s respect and love for each other and for their parents. She was considered the keeper of the moral identity, carrying it on to new generations by being a prayerful mother committed to the principles and values of the Gospel.
13. The Maronite family was also known for respecting the elderly, obeying the most educated of its members, keeping private family matters undisclosed, revering priests, and following the teachings of the Gospel in words and deeds. Thus, it acquired meekness, simplicity, faith and strength to face the many invasive attacks throughout its history.
2. The Love of Knowledge within the Maronite Family
14. The Maronite family was always characterized by its eagerness to acquire knowledge of scientific and religious principles. In the few schools founded in some monasteries or under "Oak trees," students used to divide their day between learning the basics of the Arabic and Syriac languages, religious education, mathematics and logic and between working in the fields. At all times, the Maronite family never hesitated to sacrifice its most valuable and precious in order to educate its children.
Fourth: From Earlier to Nearer Past
15. The life of the Maronite family did not remain that easy; it faced many complicated challenges caused by the tyranny of the Ottoman Empire; by the injustice of some Emirs and some officials who acted as mediators between the people and the Ottoman regime to collect taxes and impose forced labor in unfair ways; and by the hegemony of some families over the society.
16. All these factors had a tremendous influence on social and familial transformations, which led to the promotion of feudal families and cliques within families who supported each other but were not open to others and who even abused the rights of other families. The negative repercussions of this feudal system are still evident today.
17. Meanwhile, foreign missionaries arrived in Lebanon, established schools, educated the people and imparted to them the Western spirit. Also, the several revolutions of the 19th century, industrial, cultural and intellectual, influenced the Maronite society. Maronite society interacted with the positive and negative repercussions of those revolutions. In the meantime, foreign countries represented by consuls started to show partiality to a certain few denominations, not for the aim of protecting them as was pretended, but to preserve their interests in the region.
18. After World War I (1914-1918) was launched, waves of emigration greatly increased due to extreme poverty, destitution, dire social and political conditions, and despair, or due simply to the desire to seek adventure, education or freedom. Consequently, many husbands and fathers were compelled to leave their families who eventually were scattered. However, an advantage was that emigrants financially supported their relatives who stayed behind in Lebanon.
Chapter Two: The Current Situation and New Challenges
1. New Reality
19. Steady population growth, economic, social and political transformations, as well as development of life conditions and emigration were all factors that led to major changes in the Maronite family. The change of the family model from a large extended family to a smaller nucleus family, consequently limited its role within the social, economic, religious and national spheres. Moreover, the condition of women changed as they started to work outside their homes, a matter that affected the family life and life in general. In addition, dual emigration of families from the mountain to the city and from Lebanon to abroad also affected life patterns. All these rapid and successive changes caused challenges that require a profound consideration and analysis of the new reality in order to find appropriate means for renewal of the family in its holy mission of "humanizing society and spiritualizing its values."
2. Cultural and Religious Challenges
a. Confusion in the Essence of Faith
20. Emigration from villages to cities and immigration from Lebanon and all the East to America and Western countries have transformed the agricultural-based concept of the Maronite family into industrial and technical-based concepts. This has caused the Maronite family to face new ways of living regarding its Christian faith and its civilizational and cultural values. Thus, the interaction and encounter with other religions, the openness to Western culture that adopted laicization since the 19th century, the spread of atheistic movements that consider the human being as an absolute value and the rational movements which consider science and technology as the only means to liberate the human being and meet his needs, all instigated confusion within the Maronite family’s core of faith in God, and the Holy Trinity on one side, and the confusion between Christianity and humanism on the other side. In addition, there were those faithful who left the Church or who joined it, and they linked their commitment and religious practices to their perception of the clergy. Consequently, the confusion over the identity of the Maronite family manifested itself in many ways.
b. The Tendency towards Materialism
21. The pattern of consumption, which promotes individualism, materialism, and the logic of rapid profit, has turned upside down the scale of virtues that our families traditionally knew and followed. Consumption is a pattern that organizes economy according to the principle of meeting and increasing the needs of the individual at the same time. Since the need is a lack and a feeling of deprivation along with a desire to eliminate that feeling, the deterioration of values has become very obvious especially with the extension of consumerism to the different aspects of life including the sexual, cultural, professional and pastoral dimensions.
22. On Sexual Life: Our societies are now experiencing a certain permissiveness in sexual behavior. The content of newspapers, magazines, TV shows and billboards challenges the religious and moral values and leads to the loss of the human dimension of sex by distorting its image and affecting behavior and life in general. All these threats jeopardize the Maronite family in every region and country. This wave of looseness needs an attentive presence of parents, as it needs serious efforts from educational, religious, civil and media sources in order to contain it and curb its negative effects.
23. On Education: Consumerism has even started to contaminate education. For some, seeking education and earning degrees have become a means of ensuring an opportunistic productivity even though at the expense of serving the human being and the society. On the contrary, the hoped for principle that "learning and education should be in service of man and his progress for the good of the community and for the entire human race".
24. On Social Life: Consumerism, surrounds the Maronite families and has been penetrating some of families. Those families have been spending their time in fulfilling their needs and have become more and more unable to dedicate time to the cultivation of human relations as they it did before. The spirit of consumption in the family has promoted a superficial mentality focusing on physical appearance at the expense of the family’s tranquility and resources. Thus, the Maronite family lost one of its most important characteristics: contentment. Consequently, many parents were obliged to be absent frequently from their children, and thus renounced their educational responsibilities. This had a negative impact on all family members, especially the youth, some of whom sought an easy life seeking quick returns, while others were led to an unethical life of corruption and drug addiction.
25. On Professional Life: In this focus on consumerism, work loses its value and essence. Instead of promoting self-accomplishment, progress, and solidarity for the good of society, work becomes oriented towards fast profit in order to fulfill increasing materialistic needs. Luxury has become one of life’s priorities. In this new perspective, corruption is prevailing in all fields of work, and financial profit starts to justify the means even though at the expense of moral values. The Maronite family is not unaffected by this new reality, and today in most circumstances, it needs to regain a mentality of simplicity, contentment and boldness to protect itself from being immersed in this sphere of consumerism.
26. On Spiritual and Pastoral Life: The spiritual and pastoral life of the Maronite family has not been exempt from these waves of social change. One easily notices the reluctance of many to go to church except on important occasions. Among the positive initiatives in this regard is the establishment of religious education centers where Christians acquire theological knowledge from leading professors, who live fully by the teachings of the Church.
c. Living the Evangelical Values
27. In this new socially challenging context, the Church should aim to renew and improve her means of proclaiming the faith among her children. The Church’s current cultural challenge consists of her ability to live the evangelical values that foster a civilization of love in all aspects of public and private life and to witness to her faith in words and in deeds. Hence, this faith would provide a solid foundation to build a civilization that understands the nature of today’s man and answers his major questions.
3. Social Challenges
a. On the Change in the Family Model
28. The rapid change in economic and cultural conditions have contributed to the radical change within the family model, whose space and bonds have been reduced by changing from a large family that practices caring in the different situations and plays a role both in public and in private life to a nucleus family of only parents and children. Although this new reality has given married couples the possibility of building their marital life and sharing responsibilities and of being more engaged in the immediate education of their children, it has not given the family so far the possibility of discerning its new role and the dimensions of its mission in the prevailing circumstances.
29. The New Reality of Women: The new reality has led to major changes in women’s conditions. After working solely in the home and concentrating exclusively on family life, women started getting involved in educational, social, cultural, economic and political fields, motivated by the new requirements and needs, and by the necessity of self-actualization beyond the familial context. However, although this new pattern has been advantageous for women, it has also led to a certain decline in their educational role as parents, especially in establishing relations with their children and being constantly present to attend to their needs. In view of this fact, the inner family structure is to be reconsidered in order to preserve it as an oasis of peace, understanding and growth to all the members of the family through a more effective sharing of responsibilities between parents from one side and between all other family members from the other side. We should never forget to mention women who are still victims of oppression, which undermines their human potential at home and work due to the male dominant mentality prevalent in a number of families.
b. On the Difficult Economic Conditions
30. Due to several damaging wars which caused difficult living conditions at all levels, the bad economic conditions affected the family life, exercising pressure on all its members. This, in some cases, led to the forced emigration of the father or the constant work of both parents which deprives children of their caring presence. That has led to tensions and fatigue which negatively affect the relations within the family. Furthermore, there was an obvious lack of support from the public institutions on behalf of the family, which made our Lebanese family suffer the expense of medical care, education, housing, and, the needs of other special cases such as disabilities and others. As a result, the Church has taken some limited initiatives and has tried to improve her pastoral and institutional structures to accompany her children in all of life’s new patterns, and challenges. It should be noted also the solidarity among families experiencing hard times and the support from emigrants for their families in Lebanon.
31. This new reality has also had a great positive impact on the family’s social life. Those new conditions have motivated the Maronite family to be more open and to seek education. In addition, those conditions have promoted the education of women and progressively improved mentalities to recognize the equal dignity of men and women and their joint responsibilities within the family and the society.
c. On Accompanying the Process of Change
32. In this social framework whose aspects have changed, and whose religious, cultural and political factors have multiplied and whose economic activities have diversified in every direction, the Maronite family found itself facing a major challenge. The challenge urges her to accompany the process of change while holding on to her mission of protecting life and defending values, so that society would not lose its human image. It would be great if the Maronite family sees this challenge as an opportunity to achieve a positive quantum leap that puts her in a leading witness position to God. Following the new developments, the Church is also invited to forge a new modern-life pastoral attitude toward family without the constant nostalgia to the past and considering it as the only criteria, because life is in constant progress and stagnation means death. A new pastoral approach should support the family, reinvigorate its special mission, and promote its role as a school of virtues and a source of holy vocations.
4. Moral Challenges
a. On Cultural Pluralism and Globalization
33. In the past, the large family enjoyed rich human bonds and followed one specified and stable religious reference point that helped it greatly in making moral decisions and living by clear common values and principles. Today, we live in a society characterized by a pluralism of cultures and concepts, by an easy access and communication with different life patterns and by a scientific progress at all levels. Moreover, we are witnessing an opening in man's creativity and an early awareness that promotes responsible freedom among new generations. However, this apparently positive condition bears many traps because of the spread of a materialistic spirit, consumerist mentality and sexual libertinism. Two things in particular cause some of our Maronite families to get absorbed by this flow: The first is the lack of education built on critical thinking and discernment, whereas the second is a deficient understanding of, and fragile commitment to, living the Christian faith and religious values in one’s daily life. This reality confronts the Maronite family with mounting moral challenges in various fields so that it becomes impossible to face such complex challenges without assistance.
b. On the Concept of Freedom
34. Within this cultural pluralism, the family may face confusion in its objective view of moral choices. It often decides on the more convenient choice while disregarding the moral dimensions deeply related to the meaning given by man to himself, his purpose, and his own understanding of freedom. Such wrong choice definitely shakes the family foundations, especially when members of this family use freedom as an alibi for all deeds; while the fruits of a healthy upbringing on freedom are responsibility, solidarity and forming self and the other.
c. On Love and Marriage
35. According to Pope John Paul II, “The eclipse of the sense of God has led to the eclipse of the sense of man.” This eclipse, in man's definition of his identity, is the major reason behind the shaking of the set of values in our world today, starting with the concepts of love, marriage, reproduction and sacrifice. This eclipse also caused a regrettable permissiveness to some in relations that are morally and religiously rejected, and in the use of means that contradict the respect of life. There is no doubt that difficulty to find a job and housing problems are also challenges that impede marriage and stability in the emotional and familial life of our youth.
d. On BioEthics
36. We often perceive that a significant proportion of hospitals, doctors and Maronite married couples are ignorant or negligent of the Church’s teachings on the subject of bio ethics. Although scientific and technological progress, especially in genetics, has enabled humans to promote life through new means of combating diseases and plagues, it has offered solutions that oppose the dignity of human life and the concept of conjugal love and its relation to life. Prenatal exams and analyses revealing the disabilities or diseases of the fetus could allow treatment and serve the life growing in the womb. However, this sometimes promotes reliance on easy solutions by encouraging abortion to get rid of undesired pregnancies, disregarding the fact that life starts from the moment of conception and that respecting and protecting it is a sacred responsibility.
37. The Church must follow up, accompany and question each and every new discovery in this field, as she should spare no effort in spreading her teachings and conveying them to all concerned in family matters including clergy, counselors and married couples. Families should refer to the teachings of their Church to learn from her living heritage and endeavor to achieve responsible fatherhood and motherhood in all its dimensions according to its new context.
5. Special Cases
38. Today, our families are suffering from the hardship of certain cases resulting from wars, globalization and economic strains such as the elderly, the marginalized, the prisoners and the sick who need proper pastoral ministry and special attention from the Church, clergy and faithful. Although all the cases we mentioned are important, we elaborate on two such examples:
39. The struggle that some families with disabled members go through because of apathy and indifference of our society renders them alone in facing a harsh reality that surpasses their capacity and leads them to sometimes say "no to life if it is not normal." Thus, they would be unconsciously adopting the prevailing materialistic perception associating human dignity with physical wellness and productivity. In doing so, families would be denying their role in the heart of society to be the first witness of the absolute value of human dignity. Despite that our families do not easily abandon the weak among its members caring for the disabled and marginalized, yet, if left unaided, the difficult life of the disabled would constitute a great emotional, moral, financial and social burden on the rest of the family, which thus threatens its unity and well-being.
b. Family Breakup
40. A common belief is that family cohesion and solidarity are the major factors in safeguarding the nation, even in the most difficult phases. Those Maronite families in the Countries of Expansion also give witness to our family values in Western societies due to this cohesion and solidarity. Unfortunately, a new phenomenon is spreading in some of our Maronite families; it is family breakup. Instead of facing daily life hardships together, married couples choose separation or adhere to other religions or denominations in order to divorce. The breakup of a marriage is caused by many things such as the drift into the worldly spirit of individualism and selfishness, which eliminates all sense of sacrifice, and such as the serious misunderstanding of the Christian Mystery of Matrimony as a sacred covenant. Everyone knows the sufferings of all the members of those families, especially the children, as a result of the break-up and the compelling painful situations.
41. The challenge facing our Church today, in its institutions, parishes, and committed families, lies in establishing a special pastoral plan to educate the youth on the sacrament of marriage as well as closely following up on new families in order to reduce the risks of break-up and to help them face all difficulties resulting from disability and other special cases.
6. Signs of Hope
42. The family, which has previously grown in the "extended family" of the parish and a stable society, is called today to face the various changes and to strengthen itself from within. A great number of families are now aware of this reality and are trying to preserve the unity and solidarity of their children despite being spread out in various parts of the world. They hold to genuine human and Christian values and practice spiritual life in free conscious commitment, strengthened by their membership in apostolic lay movements, prayer groups and civic associations. All these are signs of hope revealed at the heart of our Church to prove that the future of the Church and humanity passes by way of the family. We still hope that every one of our Maronite families would recognize its vocation and mission and get inspired by the good experiences of its past and present, so that it would face the future while witnessing to God who is, in essence, One and Triune, a family united by love.
Chapter Three: Vocation and Mission of the Maronite Family
43. Like all Christian families, the Maronite family has a mission and a vocation to live by, wherever it may be. Let it get inspired by the Maronite Syriac Ritual of Crowning and go back to the spirituality on which it was founded in order to draw from its sources, the true meaning of its sacred commitment. The Maronite family should always refer to the universal Church’s teachings on the basic concepts of Christian marriage. Indeed, challenges and risks are countless, but the hand of the Lord protects the faithful and the devout family from temptations and leads its steps to well-being and holiness.
First: Spirituality of the Maronite Family Based upon the Maronite Ritual of Crowning
1. Marriage: a Covenant between a Man and a Woman
44. The peculiar and noticeable observation is that the Maronite Church uses the Syriac word “Shawtofouto” for the holy sacrament of marriage which means "communion." The same word is used at the beginning of the Eucharistic prayer in the Mass indicating the intervention of the Holy Spirit: “May the love of God the Father, the grace of the only begotten Son and the unity and indwelling of the Holy Spirit be with you forever.” This expression is inspired by the conclusion of the second epistle of Paul to the Corinthians 13:13 in which the apostle emphasizes the role of each of the three Divine Persons in the life of the faithful. Moreover, the Maronite Church uses the same word “Shawtofouto” for the communion. The Holy Spirit complements the love of the Father and the grace of the Son in consecrating the bread and wine in the Eucharist and in transforming them into the Holy Body and Blood of Christ from one side. On the other side, He also complements the mysteries of baptism and chrismation in the faithful who receives the Body and Blood of the Lord to become a living member in the mystical body of Christ. That is the culmination of covenant between God and the baptized children; it is the perfect example of the covenant in the Christian marriage.
2. A Covenant Built on Mutual Consent
45. Husbands and wives are united by a free responsible lifelong covenant based on their mutual consent, exactly as the Church is united in her faith and love by an eternal unbreakable covenant to her divine spouse, Jesus Christ. This is clearly manifested in the question the priest asks the couple in the crowning ritual: “Beloved son, do you agree to take this servant of God as your wife according to the teachings of the Holy Church?” “And you, beloved daughter, do you agree to take this servant of God as your husband…?” Also this covenant is manifested in the answer of the couple with a free, responsible and everlasting “yes, I do.”
3. A Covenant Built on the Word of God and His Bible
46. After exchanging vows and consent, the husband and wife put their hands on the Holy Bible, concretely expressing the joining of their hands with those of Christ, source of all love. Then, the priest celebrant puts his stole, a symbol of the authority given to him by the Church, on the couple's hands, and blesses them with the cross and declares them husband and wife in the name of the Most Holy Trinity before the present community.
4. A Covenant Built on the Blessing of the Cross
47. The husband and wife unite in their covenant to become one body according to God's plan. Therefore, the priest, by the authority given to him, blesses them with the cross in the name of the Most Holy Trinity. The cross is a symbol of victory and triumph since it became with Christ the only path to glory. It is the summit of marital life through obedience to the Father even to death, and through love even to self sacrifice. The blessing of the cross accompanies the journey of two persons carrying one another, exchanging their history, personal, cultural and emotional lives that enrich life and marital unity. Therefore, the two different individuals at first become "one flesh" and "one history of love;" they achieve their unity, and grow in the Church and society.
5. A Covenant Built on Faithfulness
48. The Blessing with the cross accompanies the husband and wife in their journey of mutual marital faithfulness. It first means that each is entrusted with the sanctity of the other and has to remain faithful to the covenant with the spouse. Day after day, the couple discovers that living as individuals is totally different than living as a couple. Thus, they sincerely endeavor to establish their family by exchanging love built on dialogue, respect, faithfulness, and are complementarity in all things. That is the royal path to marital happiness.
49. The two rings are the visible sign of marital faithfulness. As they indicate unity, love and sanctity, they remind the bride and the groom of the new and renewed grace and of the blessing accompanying them until death.
50. Christian marriage is a project of sanctification built on high virtues and values such as service, goodness, meekness, dedication, patience, fairness, righteousness, forgiveness and hope…all of these are fruits of the Holy spirit, source of peace and joy, which are reinvigorated by daily prayer, by listening to the word of God, and by meditation and participation in the holy mysteries.
51. Through mutual faithfulness, the married couple deserve to see their love crowned in glory and dignity. This is the meaning of the crowns the priest places on their heads; each becomes sovereign on the other's heart and life, and at the same time for the source of his/her dignity and glory. Through it, he/she will pride self without lording self over the other.
6. A Covenant Open to Life
52. Children are God's greatest gift. They are the fruits of great mutual love of the couple who become participants in creation with God.
"Co-creating" and contributing in the continuity of humankind is a primary goal of the Mystery of Matrimony: “Be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth, and subdue it.” (Genesis 1:28). Therefore, married couples should respect life as a gift from God and must always remember that their children are God’s children before they are theirs.
53. Fertility is not only restricted to reproduction, but it also encompasses careful upbringing and complete education of children, enabling them in their turn to establish a happy and blessed family in the future. In case the couple cannot bear children, adoption, for example, is another kind of fertility. The couple is called to be open to other families that need their gift, service and solidarity.
54. The essence of marital love is to be constantly fertile. It is called to surpass the limits of the small family and go beyond that, transforming it into a living cell within the society, a domestic church within the parish, bonded and committed to the service of every needy.
55. That is the spirituality our forefathers followed in the far and recent past. Their life had its hardships and flaws as well as individual, collective and national sufferings. However, they strived to lead their lives in the light of the victorious cross of our Savior. They gave us their faith as heritage and became a living and eternal model to follow.
Second: Marriage as a Joint Responsibility of the Couple
1. On Giving Life
56. In respect to today’s reality and its latest developments, the synod members urge families to be constantly aware of the mission of marriage and its nature of being fertile and open to life. Thus, the husband and wife should fully respect human life from the moment of conception because “abortion and the killing of fetuses are the most horrible of crimes”. They should not refuse to give life, whether physically through reproduction or spiritually through Christian education. Moreover, they are called to live responsible fatherhood and motherhood, which may require a natural family planning reached by a knowledgeable decision and an enlightened conscience in line with the divine principles and the Church teaching, and not driven by “selfishness, pleasure, and the unacceptable practices that prevent births”.
2. On Education
57. The members of the Synod also urge families to always consider rearing children as the main goal of the marital covenant. It is a joint responsibility that must not be replaced nor removed because it is equally assumed by the father and the mother. Rearing children is not only the parents’ duty, but it is also an “irreplaceable and inalienable” right. The ultimate objective of all Christian education lies in transforming the family home into a “domestic Church”.
3. On Economic Life
58. The Maronite family is called to assume a role in economic life ordered first of all to the service of the whole man and of the entire human community. Economic activity is to be exercised within the limits of the ethical boundaries enlightened by social justice principles according to God's plan for man. This position requires from the Maronite family to better manage its material goods according to the Christian spirit so that it is grateful to God for them since” “everything comes from God” (Sirach 11:14). It should not boast with arrogance because of it (Psalm 49:7), and neither worship its treasures nor work on investing them only for their own good, but keep in mind the good of others. Consequently, the Maronite family is being invited to enjoy a mentality of simplicity, characterized by a kind of asceticism and wisdom, leading to use any excess wealth in acts of charity and mercy. The share for the poor must constantly be allocated in the Maronite family’s budget whatever its material standing.
4. On Contribution to Social Development
a. Through Openness to Society
59. Since the family is “the first vital cell of society,” it cannot live secluded, uncared for, or opposing its milieu. Education within families is called to go beyond the framework of the "micro-society" and open up to the "macro-society." The principles of family education such as participation, gratuity and justice can pave the way to social relations. Therefore, the Maronite family must defend these principles and disseminate them in words and deeds, thus fighting violence, moral deterioration and corruption.
60. This role assumes that the Maronite family commits to work with the people of good will in various and open fields, such as civic education, economy, politics, media, justice, and social institutions and most importantly on respecting the rights of children and the marginalized.
61. In addition to these sought commitments, we could add authentic Maronite social tradition, which has rich and significant fruits, namely, gracious and generous hospitality. In this regard, it is inevitable to make an effort and to reinforce the conscious will so that the Maronite family would preserve this noble tradition, and would receive in its small ‘domestic church’ all those who mostly need participation and joy.
b. Emanating from Human and Family Rights
62. The horizons are widespread for the contribution of the Maronite family to social development by going beyond the framework of individual initiative originally emanating from a personal Christian sentiment into an effective general commitment through the ecclesiastic, social, national, international, governmental, or non-governmental organizations, which defend basic rights and preserve human dignity. Thus, this contribution would never be seen as a hobby or recreational activity, but as a commitment and mission.
Third: Participation in the Life and Mission of the Church
63. The Maronite family has a special ecclesial task that places it “at the service of the building up of the kingdom of God in history by participating in the life and mission of the Church”. Consequently, the Maronite family is invited to assume its responsibility in the Church’s mission within the world in order to contribute by living the characteristics of the Christian love, to the building of the virtues of faith, hope, and charity in a world desperately in need of them.
1. The Responsibility of Transmitting Faith
64. For a married Christian couple to participate in the life and mission of the Church, they must transmit the true faith to their children, considering it as the cornerstone of Christian life. Today's world has lost the essence of true faith, and religion has been reduced to mere practices, or fundamentalism, or even an obsolete habit. Thus, the Christian family should be open to faith by accepting the word of God, proclaiming it at home and in society, and becoming mature in faith through praying, reading and contemplating the Gospel constantly. Thus, it becomes an ‘evangelizing community’ participating in the prophetic ecclesial ministry by spreading the Word and through a “conjugal and family life sanctified by Christ himself”.
2. Contribution in Promoting Hope
65. In the face of despair, loss, and disregard, the members of the synod call upon all Maronite families wherever they settled to be a special sign of living and resonating Christian hope at home and in the family surroundings. Thus, each member of the family is a sign of hope for the other: the spouses for one another and for their children, and the children are the sign of hope to one another and to their parents.
While every human seeks true happiness from others, members of the whole Christian family await its first joy from heaven. The Christian family is confirmed in hope in front of the daily hardships, for it knows that it is in the hands of God the Father Who is faithful to His promises and always present in time of distress. Thus, hope gives meaning to hardships and makes us part of the salvation of humanity according to God’s plan.
3. Participation of the Family in the Life of Charity
66. The family is the natural and most suitable framework for a Christian to live the three theological virtues: faith, hope and, most importantly, charity, which is “the reflection of all the virtues”. The Christian family, enlivened living by divine love, lives charity through carrying out the conjugal, parental and filial responsibilities and overcoming all risks. Each of its members enjoys his/her full human dignity without any distinction between normal and disabled, healthy and ill, young and old. Love that is lived by all members of the family in a true communion, in heart and spirit, by the grace and for the love of God, renders the family “the way it should be, a community of faith, hope and charity”. Thus, charity becomes a missionary act in the Church, reviving “the spirit of holiness to which we are all invited”. In addition, it becomes, in the eyes of the people, a testimony to the reality of Christ because “it is by your love for one another, that everyone will recognize you as my disciples” (John 13:35).
67. From the universal Church to the domestic Church, from married couples to parents, to children and to each member of the family, the journey of developing man and achieving his sanctity remains the absolute purpose of all doctrines, plans and acts. The Family, through its direct and indirect responsibilities, has to seek sanctity for each of its members. All people should seek to achieve their own sanctity and the sanctity of others through complementarities, respect and defense of human dignity. Accordingly, the family should endeavor to guide and support the journey of sanctification in order to achieve the vocation of charity and happiness for all its members and for all members of society, whether married or single, engaged or widower or divorced, parents with or without children, since each has his/her dignity, vocation, role and mission in building self by accomplishing the kingdom of God within self and the world. Therefore, it is unacceptable for anyone, regardless of his/her condition, to marginalize one’s role and mission in cultivating the familial, pastoral and ecclesial community. Each is required to put his/ her talents, expertise and experiences at the service of evangelization, and the building up of the body of Christ.
68. “The Church trusts in families and depends on parents, especially at the horizon of the third millennium, to proclaim Jesus Christ to the youth so that they follow him wholeheartedly… Families enjoy a rich and lively spirituality…A family is a "small church," it is the school of love, and the first place for Christian and apostolic witnessing in words and deeds. The sacrament of love uniting a man and a woman reflects the unity between Christ and His Church…” (A New Hope for Lebanon, 46).
TEXT RECOMMENDATIONS AND ACTION MECHANISMS
1. The Maronite Family.
1. The Church, mother and teacher, carries the essential responsibility of preserving the dignity of the family, firmly establishing its foundations and improving its conditions. It is not permissible for Christian congregations in general and those responsible for it in particular, to disregard support for the family on the spiritual, educational, economic and political levels in helping it to fulfill its mission.
2. At the Level of the Parish/Familial congregations.
2. Erecting a committee for the family in every parish, to support the parish priest and aid him in providing care for the family.
-Establishing familial congregations in the parish to provide suitable circumstances for the family to live its Christian mission.
2.a: The family committee is to be composed of persons who would take care of family affairs.
2.b: Familial congregations are to be composed of 7 or 8 spouses who meet according to a program preset for this purpose (Refer to the guide of the Episcopal Committee for Family and Life Matters).
3. At the Level of the eparchy/ Committee for Family and Life Matters.
3.a: Erecting a “Committee for the Family” in every eparchy that lacks one.
3.b: Activating the “Committee for Family and Life Matters” in the eparchy, that it may be a support for the bishop in devising a pastoral plan for marriage and the family.
3.c: To consider preparation for marriage mandatory.
3.a: Providing formation to the members of this Committee on the preparation for marriage and accompanying the couples and take care of family affairs.
3.b: The Church is to commit to a serious and mature preparation of the faithful with respect to the Holy Mystery of Marriage. A common program unified in its basic outline is to be utilized in all eparchies.
4. At the Level of the Eparchy/the Listening Center.
4. A “Listening Center” is to be established in every eparchy operating in coordination with the parish priests to accompany families toward their benefit and success.
4. This Center would assume the following duties:
4.a: Provide spiritual direction as well as legal, social and medical consultations.
4.b: Listen to spousal problems threatening families with separation, and cooperating to find suitable solutions for them.
4.c: Preparing persons qualified to undertake such duties.
5. At the Level of the Ecclesiastical Institutions.
5. Urge Catholic schools and institutions in general, and the Maronite in particular, to embrace the working mother and aid her in shouldering her familial responsibilities from bearing children, staying up nights, upbringing her children and being there for them, so that her motherhood would not be a reason or an excuse for her to be laid off from her work.
5. Endeavor to promulgate the required legislation in this respect, with follow up from the Secretariat General of Catholic Schools and the Coordination Committee between universities.
6. A Specialized Institute up to the Standard of the Maronite Church.
6.a: Support the John Paul II Pontifical Institute for Marriage and the Family (Sagesse University – Beirut), for the formation of specialists in this domain.
6.a: Those who are chosen by the community (Parish Council, Pastor, The Committee of the Family at the parish, eparchial and episcopal levels) and nominated officially by the proper bishop are the ones who would enroll on this formation provided they are concerned in the pastoral ministry to the family.
6.b: The concerned eparchy is to strive to secure the biggest portion of the academic expenses.
7. Theological and Ethical Research.
7. Disseminating Church teachings concerning advancements in biological and medical sciences, and delving into the research of its theological and ethical aspects.
7.a: Incorporating the subject of Bio ethics into Christian formation curriculum.
7.b: Working with the Christian medical corps to foster respect for human life.
8. Familial Strife.
8.a: Expediting processes at the ecclesiastical Tribunals in the interests of justice and fairness, securing rights and settling litigations within the legally allotted time spans.
8.b: Complete the project of modernizing personal status laws.
8.a: Reconsidering Tribunal structures and their method of operation:
- Adopting abridged tribunal procedures whenever the law allows.
- Put an end to the stalling attempts at the hands of the parties or their attorneys.
- Allotting sessions and disseminating notifications without consulting the concerned person.
- Ratifying first instance decisions in abridged exceptional forms, anytime this is possible.
8.b.: Mobilize the Episcopal Committee for modernizing personal status laws in Lebanon.
9. Large Maronite Families.
9. The Synod encourages the rearing of large Maronite families as it appreciates the essential values of this endeavor and its belief that this is a gift from God, contributing to the evolution of the Church and society.
9. Drafting an economic and social plan to support large and needy Maronite families.
10. Family Prayers.
10. The Synod urges families to reestablish respect for prayer within the family and to widen the sphere of this prayer along with deepening of its contents to encompass the dimensions of the faith.
10. Utilizing the special family prayer book with contents arranged in accordance with the liturgical calendar, prepared by the Episcopal Committee for Family and Life Matters.
- Encouraging the prayer of the Rosary or the reading from the New Testament or the Psalms or other biblical sources.
- Encouraging the undertaking of new initiative in this respect.
11. Formation on the Pastoral ministry to the Family.
11. The Synod recommends listing “Formation on the Pastoral ministry to the Family as a subject in the curricula of seminaries and theology institutes.
11. Universities and formation centers are to deal with this subject.
12. Protecting Family Values.
12. The Synod urges the safeguarding of family values in scholastic and academic curricula and in the written, the audio and the visual media.
12.a: Coordination between the media and committees concerned with family affairs to devise educational and familial plans and execute them after careful study.
12.b: Establish a “pressure group” consisting of qualified persons to accompany TV programs and advertisements very closely and express their opinions concerning them for the purpose of influencing the media to induce them to safeguard family values.
. “Priests are not the only ones who, due to the fact of being ordained, are obliged to recite and chant the Divine Office; all those faithful present during the ceremony also sing with them the hours. All priests, monks, laity, and anyone who so desires, meet at midnight along with a large public gathering.”
J. Dandini, Missione Apostolica al Patriarca e Maroniti del Monte Libano, Cesana, 1656, p. 82.
De La Roque, Voyage de Syrie et du Mont-Liban, I Paris, 1722, p. 205.
. Fr. Youhanna Tabet, The Man of the Maronite Breviary: A Farmer and a Doctor, Liturgy and Humanities, 15, (1992), 77-140. Institute of Liturgy- Kaslik.
. Such as many practices of superstition like the evil eye, use of the blue bead and fortune-telling…
. Our Lady of Quannubine, Our Lady of Bkerkeh and Our Lady of Elije…
. « L’âme libanaise, isolée dans sa vallée […], vivant entre église et monastère […] s’est portée tout d’une pièce vers la Sainte Vierge […] comme un foyer d’attraction et de salut, et peu à peu, elle s’est fait ce que j’appellerai un tempérament marial [...] Il y a sur Mariam une solidarité, un unanimité qui m’ont frappé ».
GOUDARD. P, La Sainte Vierge au Liban, quoted by Mgr Béchara Chémali, loc. Cit, in Pentalogie, T. II, vol. 1, p. 440-441.
. Deprivation of heritage or education, push her into situations she does not have any opinion, as forced marriage. She suffered from gender discrimination, showing partiality to men as guarantors of the family descendants.
 Vatican II, Pastoral Constitution “Joy and Hope,” Gaudium et Spes, § 59.
. Pope John-Paul II: Speech given at the acceptance ceremony of the credentials of the new ambassador of the Czech Republic to the Holy See, the 23rd of April 2003.
. Such as abortion, contraceptives, etc….
. We refer to married couples who obtained marriage annulments, and others who resorted to other Churches to get divorce, in addition to the divorced persons who have re-married …etc.
. Apostolic Exhortation on the role of the Christian family in today's world, Familiaris Consortio 1981, page 154, § 86.
. "I will be near you and besides you to celebrate the Mystery of your marriage; I will also join your right hands with the hand of God," written by Saint Gregory for an engaged couple of his own acquaintance.
. The priest blesses the two rings asking God to “be a wall of protection for their bodies…” How many times did the priest place the groom's ring in the hand of the bride, meaning that he is entrusted to her, and then he puts the bride's ring in the hand of the groom, meaning that she is a talent on his hand on which he will have to give an account.
. Joy and Hope, § 52.
. Ibid., § 47.
. Lumen Gentium, 11, Familiaris Consortio, § 21.
. Joy and Hope, § 64.
. Catechism of the Catholic Church, § 2426.
. Saint Paul says "those who make use of the world as though they were not using it, for the world as we know it is passing away" (1 Corinthians 7: 31).
. Strive to end torture and violence, protect the weak, fight against wars, care for the sick, work to improve the quality of life for the needy, provide scholarships for children’s tuitions, and help the families that undergo various difficulties.
. Familiaris Consortio, § 49.
. Familiaris Consortio, § 51.
. Hope is the divine virtue by which we desire the Kingdom of Heaven and eternal life as our happiness, placing our trust in Christ's promises and relying not on our own strength, but on the help of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2346.
. Familiaris Consortio, § 17.
. Lumen Gentium, § 42.