Monks of the Brothers of the Cross - Nuns of the Sisters of Jesus Crucified Mary and Jesus Cross Lebanon Christian


THE HISTORY OF THE TWO ORDERS FROM FOUNDATION TO THE PRESENT

1- Foundation

1- The first nucleus (1985 – 1987)

Some enthusiastic young people who felt they could not find their own vocation in the existent religious orders began to meet together early in 1985 in the locality of Dair El Ahmar, Békaa, where with the consent of His Lordship Bishop Roland Abou Jaoude they built a chapel for prayer and contemplation, which turned into a small monastery named The Cross. The inhabitants of the locality helped them build it with a unique love and generosity.

When the first brothers numbered six, they agreed in writing about the spirituality they should live in their new religious life, laid down the first laws and submitted these to the Church authority. Thus, they leaded a life of meditation and apostolate, as the Lord Jesus did in his lifetime on earth along with his holy apostles.

The first guide

Father Boutros Mounsef, Lebanese Maronite monk, is one of the outstanding fathers of our time. He dedicated his life to Christ at the hand of the Blessed Virgin Mary in his religious life, was an ideal example of detachment and showed a rare keenness for saving souls. We heard some consecrated persons criticize him for his austere way of life and accuse him of disobeying the religious order authority – but these are accusations that we reject about the guide we have chosen. We used to accompany him on his visit to the General Curia and we assured ourselves about his obedience to that authority through the dialogue he maintained with all the abbots who succeeded one another in the Order and were delighted at his attendance and visits. How many of these asked for his prayers in front of us, considering him the saint of the order, acknowledging his courage and evident enthusiasm for the holiness of the Order and for the salvation of the souls! He offered the money he derived from collections made at Mass to the Order in the Econom General’s manager‘s presence before our eyes, although he handed money offered by benefactors over to the poor and widows, and we never saw him keep any of it to himself.

Thanks to his zeal, in his homilies he attracted the most hardened souls to repentance and to the confessional, and others to consecrated vocation. He founded so many brotherhoods throughout villages that his apostolate reached Syria. Many people in each village he went through spoke about miracles worked by his intercession. He founded the contemporary order of the Brothers of the Cross and marked it with the spirituality of the Fathers such as Saint Anthony, Saint Bacchus, Saint Aphram El Boustani, Saint Charbel and Saint Rafka.

For their part, the brothers and sisters often accompanied Father Boutros Mounsef the Lebanese Maronite monk on his round of visits to the poor and the sick throughout the Lebanese villages. Brothers made the most of his strong faith and teachings, consistent with the Church’s true creed, having never seen such enthusiasm for the Church, for the salvation of souls and for testimony of faith except among saints whose lives we used to read and who were rejected in their lifetime, such as Saint John the Baptist. Father Boutros served as the rock around which the Brothers of the Cross and Sisters of Jesus Crucified in Deir El Ahmar village used to gather. Had it not been for him, the two orders would not exist, because they, and the remaining religious orders owe him the flow of consecrated vocations. Many clergy are a pure testimony to this, since detachment and good behavior attract many strong vocations.

2- Under the authority of His Lordship George Abi Saber, Patriarchal Vicar (1985- 1989)

These first brothers accompanied by Father Boutros Mounsef paid a visit to Bishop Abi Saber to bring their life and message to his knowledge. He asked them to hold a three-month consultative meeting so as to as to prepare their rule in such a way as to let the Church and His Beatitude the Patriarch become acquainted with them. They notified him, thereafter, of their having chosen Father Boutros as their general guide. His Beatitude blessed this step and called upon Father Boutros to guide and watch over these. After they had prepared the new Rule together, they visited His Lordship and submitted to him a copy of their Rule. He read it and was highly satisfied with it.

3- Under the authority of His Lordship Bishop Philippe Chbayaa (1989 – 1995)

He watched over the Brothers and Sisters and loved them much. He formed them for four years on Christian teaching and the Catholic creed, and often took them along with him on his visits. His Lordship praised the Brothers for their poor life which encouraged people to accept God’s will, more specifically the poor, and eulogized their edifying message as they went through the streets and visited houses as the Lord Jesus and his apostles did, as a gesture of comfort to poor families and to the sick.

He admired and felt much delight in their shabby clothes, saying they were the finest of all clothes and would shine in heaven more than all other raiment.

As regular workmen, Brothers and Sisters contributed to building the Sisters’ convent where they lived in 1990, leading a common religious life open to the apostolate. Before the expiration of his term, His Lordship named Sister Louise-Thérèse (from the Congregation of the Holy Family) to help the Sisters.

4- Under the authority of His Lordship Bishop Boulos Mounjed El Hachem (1995- 1996)

Upon taking up his functions in his diocese, and learning about the Brothers dividing into two communities having each a Rule and spirituality of its own, Bishop Boulos El Hachem called upon them ( in October 1995 ) in an attempt to unite them. After they lived together nearly seven months at his request, each community submitted to His Lordship its own Rule. He said: “I will study both Rules; if differences are simple, I shall bring them into one single Rule. If these are substantial, each community shall go to a different bishop. I shall accept the one having a character comparable to the existing orders, and shall call on the one which does not have one to join one of the existing religious orders, because the Church does not allow the foundation of an order not having a character comparable to others. As for the spirituality which Imad, Brother Roufail, holds to and has developed in his Rule, there is no radical spirituality like it. I know that he does not insist on simple matters when we study the matter as a whole.”

It is to be noted that His Lordship Bishop El Hachem had absolutely nothing to do with the division of the community, for the moment of his enthronement in the diocese he found the brothers already divided into two communities.

Explanation

Upon closing his study of the matter of the Brothers and noting that each community insisted on the Rule it had chosen, His Lordship affirmed: “As long as there are substantial differences, each community had better be in a different diocese. I am ready to accept the community with a distinctive character as compared to the existing orders three months later”. So in accordance with Brother Roufail’s wish, the conservative community left Deir El Ahmar diocese in June 1996 after it had received a written certificate from his Lordship El Hachem, as a document vouching for the group’s credibility and for its being blameless of any disobedience to the Church.

Brother Roufail kept the traditional name of the community still known as The Brothers of the Cross and none of the first brothers objected, since they had wanted to change the name ever since 1995, to which Brother Roufail had not agreed then at that time for many reasons. So according to all the testimonies submitted by the bishops and advisers concerned with them, they were known under that name as of 1985 up to 2008.

2-The new departure

1- Under the authority of His Lordship Chucrallah Harb (1996-1999)

The Holy Spirit guided the brothers and sisters who left the Deir El Ahmar diocese to His Lordship Bishop Chucrallah Harb Pastor of Jounieh Maronite diocese. The latter had the greatest fatherly affection for them and enough time to acquaint himself with them and to guide them closely. Thus, it was the new departure with Brother Roufail who was one of the first six brothers remaining and pursued the course initiated by the Brothers of the Cross. His Lordship appointed Abbot Athanasius El Jalkh, then Vicar General of the Lebanese Maronite Order, as their guide. The latter guided them for over two years, looking after their training for Eastern monastic life until such time as he was elected Superior General of the his Order.

The advent of the Italian Father Constanzo Carioni, Capuchin friar, to hold spiritual exercises for the Brothers and Sisters

This priest visited the Church authorities and explained to them the reasons why he had come, discussing the ecumenical importance of a monastic community that would combine in its Rule the Franciscan spirituality and Eastern “Maronitism”, in entire obedience and respect to the Catholic Church, to the Holy See, to the bishops and to official teaching. He paid a visit to the community’s superior and Protector Bishop Harb and sensed his great paternal affection for the community and his defense of it with approval of its Rule. He is currently exerting efforts for the Church in turn to give approval, as is Abbot Jalkh, their official ecclesiastical visitor, who has show great understanding and has defended their radical spirituality.

Further, His Lordship the Bishop of the Tripoli diocese, Youhanna Fouad El Hajj, promised Father Constanzo to do his best to make the situation clearer to other bishops.
During his visit to the Apostolic Nuncio, he called on the brothers and sisters to exercise patience and to impregnate themselves with the Holy Spirit, using all means needed for a religious life consistent with Church law, and encouraging Bishop Harb, their guide, to do his best, even after the expiration of his mandate, to show affection for both new religious orders, to encourage them and to make them known among the hierarchy.

During Father Costanzo’s visit to Bishop El Hachem, who spoke about the radical monastic life of the community led by Brother Roufail, the bishop declared, as on on the occasion of one of the former meetings, before the brothers, that there is no other radical spirituality like that set forth and developed in the Rule by Brother Roufail, and that he delivered to him a certificate signed by himself, promising to speak in favor of the community to His Beatitude and the bishops.

During his visit to Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, he explained to him the progress made by the community. His Beatitude showed great interest in the number of those applying for entering orders, pointing out that he would like to observe something substantial so that he approve their Rule for a trial period.

2- The Mandate of His Lordship Bishop and Patriarchal Vicar Antoine Nabil Andari (2000 -2001)

His Beatitude Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir sent through the new bishop of Jounieh diocese Antoine Andari a notification expressing his satisfaction about the ascetic side of the spirituality of the Brothers of the Cross and the Sisters of Jesus Crucified, and communicated the readiness of himself and the Church to confirm these communities immediately as two new religious orders, for them to keep their genuine ascetic life, since the Maronite Church had lost that needed and essential pattern in the Orient. On the other hand, if the community wished to keep both the ascetic and the apostolic sides together, it would take more time to get to know their new spirituality more specifically that involved in a merger. This was why His Beatitude asked the Brothers of the Cross to undergo their training in one of the major religious orders and to show their ability by leading a serious religious life so that the Church could make sure further before the pursuance of their process. Bishop Andari announced in his homily while celebrating the Eucharist the initiation of a six months’ official training at the Trappist Monastery of Saint Savior, with the provision that Father Joseph Fahd should submit at the end of the training a report to Bishops’ Synod determining the future of the Brothers’ and Sisters’ communities.

Decision of the Bishop’s Synod

- His Beatitude does not see any objection to one of the bishops adopting the Brothers of the Cross and the Sisters of Jesus Crucified, on condition that they should be properly guided consistently with canon law.

- The probation and training period effectuated by the community upon the recommendation of the Synod of the Bishops at the Trappists’ Monastery of Saint Savior, there to follow regularly a monastic life and its requirements, was positive.

- Brothers and sisters showed throughout the period a satisfactory and positive ethical and spiritual behavior

- The matter of combining the ascetic and the apostolic life, which both communities hold to, is still pending.

3-The small flock under the shepherd

The way to stability and confirmation under His Lordship Bishop Becharra El Raai

Providence willed it that both communities should be adopted by Bishop El Raai, who himself declared to the founding brother that their obedience and devotion to the Church authority and its official teachings, as well as the testimonies of bishops and fathers who had guided them closely, encouraged him to admit the brothers and sisters in his diocese. Starting with the Jbeil diocese, under the impetus and blessing of His Lordship, who asked them to accept the invitation of any parish, on condition that the local bishop and vicar of the parish should give their approval, they started the Marian month in 2003 with leading devotion in Lebanese villages northwards and southwards as far as Syria, to Mary’s Immaculated heart.

His Lordship Bishop Bechara El Raai named Father Hanna Khadra, an Antonine monk, as spiritual and legal guide for the brothers and sisters, who reconsidered their Rule and rectified it. Father Khadra submitted it to His Lordship, asking for his approbation. This in fact was given on February 11, 2008.

Upon the request of the Sisters of Jesus Crucified, the General Curia of the Antonine Order entrusted Reverend Sister Esther Eid with the task of spiritually guiding the sisters.

With the consent of His Lordship, the parishioners of Machhalan offered a piece of land of ten thousand square meters for the building of a religious house, expressing their wish to see them stay in their parish. On September 1, 2006 on the occasion of the Feast of Saint Simon, Bishop El Raai officiated at the holy mass and said: “Not to own is the quality of these two communities; we respect their spirituality and do confirm that the land shall remain in their use, even after two thousand years, as long as their Order lasts.”

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