Wednesday, August 4, 2010

The Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church in America

I’ve been trying to research the Eastern Orthodox tradition to write a convincing article about a small movement to build a Maronite place of worship in Baton Rouge, La. I have not found much information other than what has recently been encouraged and said by Pope Benedict XVI.

He said in his June visit to the Maronite Church of Cyprus, “Together with Christians throughout the world, we are part of that great temple which is the Mystical Body of Christ. Our spiritual worship, offered in many tongues, in many places and in a beautiful variety of liturgies, is an expression of the one voice of the People of God, united in praise and thanksgiving to him and in enduring communion with each other.”

The Eastern Orthodox Church has a varied history with popular saints such as John Chrysostom out of Antioch and Saint Maron, an ascetic monk who led his followers toward Lebanon establishing the Maronite Church. The area of Syria extends north of Israel and Iraq today and surrounds most of Lebanon. According to history many people were converted to Christianity throughout Syria up until the 7th century when Muslim Turks forced conversion.

Today in Lebanon, where the Maronite Church was founded, all Christians are threatened by a pressing culture that surrounds them. In an interview from 2000, of a Syrian Catholic Bishop, the Bishop speaks of the diaspora of Christians from Lebanon and how they often choose to move to the United States to enjoy a free Christian lifestyle rather than struggle in an overpowering Muslim culture that tries to dominate in a secular state.
This is the main reason why it is important for Roman Catholics to pray for our Eastern Orthodox brethren that remain in unity with the Holy See. As long as there are zealous Christians that teach Truth in the Middle East, then there is the chance for peace.

Father Charbel Jamhoury has come from Beirut to Baton Rouge to help establish an Eastern Orthodox Maronite Catholic Church. His mission is the greater mission of the Church. Pope John Paul II spoke frequently of the brotherhood of Churches and the of the successors of Peter “joined together in a multiplicity of organically united groups.” As Roman Catholics we are called to pray in solidarity with the mission of the Eastern Orthodox Catholic Church and the mission of establishing communities to strengthen Catholics in our American cities too.

Please pray a novena with me for the success of Father Charbel’s goals in Baton Rouge. I found a prayer for church building, funny enough, at an Eastern Christian blog by Father Stephen. Please let it start your prayer each of these nine days.

O Lord our God, whose might upholdeth all creation: Stablish the work of our helpless hands; And make this lowly church a place for the showing of Thy glory; and for all peoples a house of prayer pleasing in Thy sight. We pray Thee: Hear us and have mercy.