Who Are The Maronites ?
The Maronite rite is one of 22 eastern Catholic rites that is in full communion with the Holy See of Rome. Like the latin rite churches that most US Catholics are familiar with, the Maronite rite has all the same core elements of the latin liturgy. The difference is in the expression and style and tradition of the liturgy. The Maronite Liturgy traces its heritage back to the community founded by St. Maron, a 4th-century Syriac monk.
Within the one Holy Catholic Apostolic Church, there are in fact many churches which maintain their own traditions of theology, liturgy, spirituality, and government that are quite different from those usually associated with "Roman," or Latin (Western) Catholicism.
As most of us realize, the Church began in the East. Our Lord lived and died and resurrected in the Holy Land. The Church spread from Jerusalem throughout the known world. As the Church spread, it encountered different cultures and adapted, retaining from each culture what was consistent with the Gospel. In the city of Alexandria, the Church became very Egyptian; in Antioch it remained very Jewish; in Rome it took on an Italian appearance and in the Constantinople it took on the trappings of the Roman imperial court. All the churches which developed this way were Eastern, except Rome. Most Catholics in the United States have their roots in Western Europe where the Roman rite predominated. It has been said that the Eastern Catholic Churches are "the best kept secret in the Catholic Church."
St. Charbel is one of the most beloved Saints of the Maronite Church. It is said that there are more miracles attributed to the intercession of St. Charbel than that of Padre Pio.
Brief History of the Maronites
written by Claude and Jennifer Karam
The Maronites began in the Near East in an area known as the Fertile Crescent, which today comprises the countries of Lebanon, Syria, Jordan and Israel. Their common language was Aramaic, the same language spoken by our Lord Jesus Christ in the holy Family at Nazareth, as well as at the Last Supper. Aramaic is still used by the Maronites in various hymns and parts of the Mass, especially at the Consecration.
Of all the Eastern rite Churches, the Maronite Church is the only one known by the name of a person—St. Maron. Born in the middle of the fourth century, St. Maron was a hermit, who, by his holiness and the miracles he worked, attracted many followers. After his death around the year 410, his monastic disciples built a large monastery in his honor, from which other monasteries were founded.
The followers of St. Maron, both monks and laity, were always faithful to the teaching of the Pope. The Maronite Church is the only one among the Eastern Churches that has always maintained its bonds with Rome and the Successor of St. Peter. In fact, in 517, as controversy continued to rage over the decisions of the Council of Chalcedon (451) regarding Christ as “true God and true Man,” persecution of the Maronites broke out which resulted in the martyrdom of 350 Maronite monks on account of their defense of the Council’s decrees. Because of this, the Maronites were also known as the “Chalcedonians.” Even today, on the feast of Saints Peter and Paul, our liturgy prays: “O Lord, preserve your children from all error or deviation, grant us to live and die proclaiming: ‘Our faith is the faith of Peter, the faith of Peter is our faith!’” During the seventh century, the Maronites again suffered persecution and fled for refuge to the mountains of Lebanon. There they maintained and grew in their Christian faith and culture. At the time of the Crusades, close bonds were established by the Maronites with the West which have endured to this day. Later on, the Holy See sent missionaries to Lebanon, and in 1584, Pope Gregory XIII established the Maronite Seminary in Rome. Thus throughout history, there have been continuous and close relations between the Maronites in the East and western countries in Europe.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s the Maronites experienced yet another mass persecution under the Ottoman Turks, who mistreated them for their faith. Three hundred thousand Maronites were forced into the mountains by the Turks, while another one hundred thousand were left to die of starvation while stranded with no means of self-sufficiency. At this time many Maronites migrated to North and South America or Australia, bringing with them their faith and tradition. In Lebanon, the Maronites remained the most dominant group until the Lebanese Civil War in 1975. Currently, the Maronite Church consists of 26 eparchies (dioceses) spread throughout North and South America, North Africa, and Australia.
Saint John Paul II spoke eloquently of the Maronites, as well as the other Eastern rites of the church when he said, “…I listen to the Churches of the East, which I know are living interpreters of the treasure of tradition they preserve. In contemplating it, before my eyes appear elements of great significance for fuller and more thorough understanding of the Christian experience…the Christian East has a unique and privileged role as the original setting where the Church was born…Tradition is the heritage of Christ’s Church…Tradition is never pure nostalgia for things or forms past, nor regret for lost privileges, but the living memory of the Bride, kept eternally youthful by the Love that dwells within her. In this perspective an expression which I have frequently employed finds its deepest meaning: the Church must breathe with her two lungs! …the vision of the full communion to be sought is that of unity in legitimate diversity.”