By Connie Berry
UTICA — St. Maron died in the early part of the fifth century leaving a legacy of healing and asceticism. The Eastern Rite Maronite Church takes its name from the monk who legend tells us chose to live and sleep outside rather than in his tiny hut. The spiritual leader of a group of hermits, St. Maron was known for his ability to heal both body and soul.
With its strong Lebanese roots, the parish community of St. Louis Gonzaga Church on Rutger Street in Utica celebrated its 100th anniversary and the 1,600th anniversary of the death of St. Maron with a special liturgy Feb. 20. Bishop Robert Cunningham joined Chorbishop John Faris and Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, archbishop of Galveston-Houston, Texas, for the celebration. Msgr. Francis Willenburg and Deacon Paul Salamy were there as well as other church leaders.
Cardinal DiNardo, the first-ever cardinal from Texas, is chair of the U.S. Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, serves on the board of the National Catholic Partnership for Persons with Disabilities, is on the board of directors of Catholic University and is an advisor to the National Association of Pastoral Musicians. He is also a member of the Pontifical Council for Migrants.
Cardinal DiNardo was in Utica to help celebrate the anniversaries and to visit his old classmate, St. Louis’ pastor Chorbishop Faris.
The cardinal was welcomed into the church just inside the doors with a hymn sung in Arabic. He was incensed nine times as a sign of reverence and respect,
according to the church program book. The Service of the Holy Mysteries according to the Antiochene Syriac Maronite
Church was the title of the celebration. Parts of the service were spoken in Arabic, Syriac and English.
Cardinal DiNardo delivered the homily
first noting the snowy and slippery conditions that morning. He said he wasn’t sure he would make it to the church. “You have unusual weather here,” he joked.
He told the assembly he grew up in Pittsburgh among many Eastern Rite Churches where the Maronite Christians were known for their distinctive cuisine. Cardinal DiNardo expressed his happiness in being able to attend the service and preached on St. John’s Gospel, the Raising of Lazarus.
John differs from the other Gospels, Cardinal DiNardo explained. “The public figure of Jesus begins to fall away [in the Gospel of John],” he said. “‘Now is coming the hour’ …whatever happened up till now is important but cannot equal what will come.”
He recognized that the Maronite church would presently be in the Pre-Lent stage, whereas the Latin Rite “sky dives into Lent on one day,” Ash Wednesday. St. Maron took very seriously the central beatitude, Cardina DiNardo said, “Blessed are the pure of heart. Blessed are those who are not attached to anything except God,” he said.
Maintaining an attachment to God alone in light of contemporary culture is a challenge, he said.
Cardinal DiNardo said his respect for
their leader, Bishop Faris, led to his selecting their pastor to serve with him on the pro-life committee with the U.S. bishops. “We talk a lot about the culture today,” Cardinal DiNardo said. “It is our faith that says we must respect life from the moment of conception to natural death. I ask the Maronite Church and this church to always be clear on the question of life.”
At the end of his homily, Cardinal
DiNardo joked that, “John and I go way back. … I’m silent on many things.”