Support persecuted Christians in the Middle East at Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast

Aaron Lambert

The plight of Christians in the Middle East continues to go unheard by much of the world. Still, organizations such as St. Rafka’s Mission of Hope and Mercy persist and fight to make the voices of the persecuted heard.

Once again, this year St. Rafka’s Mission of Hope and Mercy will be hosting the fourth annual Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast Aug. 17-18. A special Mass for peace gathering various local religious leaders will take place at the Cathedral Aug. 17 at 6:30 p.m. and the prayer breakfast will be the morning of Aug. 18 at 7 a.m. Both events are open to the public.

The breakfast has become something of an annual tradition since the launch of the Peace, Love and Co-Existence (PLACE) Initiative in 2014 and is co-supported by Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila and Bishop Elias Zaidan from the Maronite Catholic Eparchy of Our Lady of Lebanon in the U.S. Special guests to this year’s breakfast include Chaldean Archbishop of Lebanon Michel Kassargi and keynote speaker Matt Schlapp of the American Conservative Union.

St. Rafka’s Mission of Hope and Mercy will be hosting the fourth annual Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast Aug. 17-18.

Among the topics discussed at the breakfast will be a look back at how the legacy of President Ronald Reagan and St. John Paul II can help to advance the cause of religious liberty and save the world’s persecuted Christians.

Father Andre Mahanna, pastor of St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church and founder of the Mission of Hope and Mercy, wrote a letter to pastors of the Archdiocese of Denver outlining the importance of the breakfast and its goal of raising $50,000 this year to directly cover emergency medical needs of the 4,500 families the mission serves in Lebanon.

“The prayer breakfast comes as a response for a much needed and necessary effort to raise awareness about the persecution of Christians, especially in the Middle East,” Father Mahanna wrote. “Our goal is to raise $50,000 that will go directly to Archbishop Michel Kassargi, covering the emergency medical needs of 4,500 families. These refugees’ living conditions are so extreme that babies are dying on the steps of hospitals due to the lack of funds.

“Our breakfast is an example, where by, the Eastern and Western lungs of the Church come together in an effort to try and stop this humanitarian crisis.” he continued. “With guidance from the Holy Spirit, it is our hope and our mission, that through this event and with your help we will increase a renewed faith and hope in our fellow Christians by assisting in their liberation from ongoing persecution.”

Ecumenical Prayer Breakfast

Friday, Aug. 17
Mass for Peace, 6:30 p.m.
Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception

 

Saturday, Aug. 18
Prayer Breakfast, 7 a.m.–1 p.m.
Knights of Columbus Hall
1555 Grant St., Denver
$100 per person; sponsorships available

Visit missionofhopeandmercy.org for tickets.

COMING UP: Meeting Christ in the Mass and sacraments

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As Catholics, we recognize Jesus’ Eucharistic presence to be the source and summit of our faith. Nonetheless, we can take His presence at Mass and in the tabernacle for granted. We pray through our liturgical rituals, but our words and gestures can lack meaning when we simply go through the motions. When we use the beautiful ritual of the Mass and sacraments to guide our prayer, however, they can lead us into a deeper encounter with Christ.

Two recent books can help us to understand the Mass and sacraments better and to approach them with fresh eyes: Christopher Carstens’ A Devotional Journey into the Mass: How the Mass Can Become a Time of Grace, Nourishment, and Devotion (Sophia, 2017) and Msgr. Nicola Bux’s No Trifling Matter: Taking the Sacraments Seriously Again (Angelico, 2018).

Carstens takes us on a “devotional journey into the Mass” to approach it in “a more profoundly spiritual way” (29).   He writes with a broad sacramental vision which embraces not only the Mass but also the symbols surrounding it. A great example of this comes from the first chapter, “how to enter a church building,” which reflects upon how to approach the physical building of the church itself. “So the door to the parish church, which stands before us now — is no ordinary entrance. It appears different because it is different: it is a mark of God’s house and a sign protecting those within, as at that first Passover. It is an entrance into the Great King’s city and His Temple . . . where we touch God, as in Jerusalem” (13-14). Carstens uses a “sacramental principle” to help us recognize “how God communicates with us through sensible signs” (9).

This devotional journey takes the reader through the stages of the Mass to perceive the deeper reality that we access through faith. In order to reap the fruit that God wants to give us at Mass, Carstens teaches us that “proper disposition . . . is paramount” (88). Through all of the outward actions, signs, and rituals, God aims at “something deeper:  . . . the heart of man. . . . the undivided love of man” (60; 61). For this reason, in the need for intimacy with God, “silence is an essential ingredient for both individual and corporate prayer” (35). The participation and prayers we offer at Mass should foster our relationship with God. The “conversation should take the form of prayer — a prayer of surrender” (92). Taking a devotional journey through the Mass, with Carstens’ help, should prepare us to enter into this conversation of surrender more fully each week.

Msgr. Bux, an Italian priest and professor, takes us deeper into the sometimes-forgotten history, theology, and liturgy surrounding the Mass and the sacraments. He walks us through each of the sacraments, building upon the teachings of the saints (especially St. Ambrose and Padre Pio), but also the difficulty of experiencing the spiritual reality of the sacraments in the modern world. He also leads us deeper into the Mass, “the greatest and most complete act of adoration,” noting the “interdependence between the Eucharist and the other sacraments: . . . they flow forth from the Eucharist and flow together into it as to their source” (86). The centrality of the Eucharist comes from the fact that through it we enter the heart of God.

The other sacraments reinforce this contact, as “we touch Christ” through them. This entry into the divine life begins at baptism and deepens in confirmation. Bux supports restored order confirmation, speaking of the need for strengthening and equipping for battle at an earlier age, rather than giving into the flight that usually occurs after it is received in the teenage years. When it comes to confession, Bux speaks of how “Christ pardons everyone who recognizes himself to be a sinner,” though the sacrament aims at “sincere, overwhelming interior repentance that brings the soul to be reconciled with the Creator” (103; 104). He also speaks beautifully of how through the sacrament of marriage, “spouses participate in the power of [Christ’s] love” in their love for each other. “Their love, responsible fecundity, and humility, their attitude of mutual service and their mutual fidelity, are signs of Christ’s love, present in them and in the Church” (166).

Both authors teach how to appreciate and enter into the Mass and sacraments more fruitfully, so that, in Bux’s words, we can experience “a prolongation of the liturgical life of the Church” in our own lives (196).