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St. George

24 Jun

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There are three circles in Fuheis. The main circle in the city center where the driver dumped me from his taxi on that distressed day of a few days since. This circle is where the people live. It is the heart of the center of the village in its Christian culture. St George is really, like really big in the devotion of the people of Fuheis, almost all of whom are Christian to this day, in name at last, as,we might tend to ad. The center of the next circle is … well, get ready, you lovers of the Virgin

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remembered from the First Holy Mass

24 Jun

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(1) The first memory is that it was almost always referred to as Holy Mass, Sleman’s First Holy Mass. (2) His vestment was lovely and splendidly him and his spirituality and spiritual nature. On the back a large image of the Sacred Heart, and on the front a same-sized image of the Blessed Mother. It was made for him and given to him as a gift from the Rosary Sisters. His aunt had been a Rosary Sister and died just months ago, having wanted to see this day. (3) He is left-handed, putting the incense in the thurible with his left hand. (4) My, oh my. He has a very capable and pleasing singing voice. As he first began chanting the sign of the cross, one knew that this man will reverently and capably sing the Mass. (5) In the Profession of Faith for more than the usual moment, I lingered on the statement of faith about the “catholic” church: I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy “catholic” church. In this moment it felt “wholly” Catholic. (6) Before Mass, the First Holy Mass, that is, his friend and benefactor from Austria, a Knight of some sort or other, and I were amusing each other how each of us could not believe that we were present for this moment. I teasingly pinched his arm, “See, you are awake, You are not dreaming.” During Mass, the Austrian was sitting in the front row; I was in the sanctuary seated near Sleman, separated only by the deacon and Feras. I caught the Austrian’s eye and dramatically pinched my own arm. He smiled broadly from the front row. (7) The whole liturgy, as is every liturgical over here, was what most of us would describe as chaotic: multiple videographers and flash photographers walking back and forth, this way and that, up and back, crossing in front of people and walking right in front of everyone. Ministers at the altar moved about sometimes taking care of some duty, with seemingly no regard for what was going on, even walking in front of the person speaking or even crossing in front of the ambo during a reading and putting papers on the ambo as the preacher is reading his text. It was all, in our “western, American, everything has its moment and everything in its place” mentality, it was very distracting. But no one else seemed to be distracted at all. The preacher just kept moving along. ( 8) At the end of the First Holy Mass Abuna Sleman went to the ambo and spoke at length. I heard, “Shukran, shukran, shukran,” as he went through his mentions of thanks. The Austrian, the British Father Kevin and I perked up when we heard, “A warm welcome to my dear friends.” (9) And lastly, a couple times during Mass, it crossed my mind, as it probably crossed no one else’s mind who was present, or probably never crosses anyone else’s mind at all, but it came to my mind that a good caption for a photo of this man in this moment, a very handsome man, with a perfectly pretty face and a killer smile, smart and accomplished, with a lovely singing voice, with a sense of reverence and awe for life, with an obvious soul for God and a heart for family and service , “And the young, single women of the village wept.” Wept for joy, of course.

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“my Body, which will be given up for you”

24 Jun

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enchanted chanting

24 Jun

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With the first word and first note from his mouth at his First Mass, I turned to Father Faysal, sitting next to me in the sanctuary, “He has a wonderful singing voice.” Faysal smiled and nodded. God’s ears will be delighted to receive back in praise what He has given to Sleman to help him lift up the praise and prayer of the people.

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entrance procession

24 Jun

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It is the traditional practice of the people of Fuheis, Jordan, to celebrate a new priest from town. We might say that they got carried away. All they were doing was carrying the priest to the church. We get carried say, lifting up a quarterback or a coach, after a win. So why not they? The village of Fuheis won a big one for the Church! It is no wonder they – and Sleman – got carried away.

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little sister

24 Jun

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One of the surprises of the event for me was that Sleman has a 7 years old sister! With a touch of marvel and sadness I remembered that I left for the seminary when my baby sister, Peggy, was 4 years old. Looking back and pondering what I missed of her, I sometimes wonder, “What was I thinking!” Given that Sleiman’s sister was 7 at the time of his ordination, that means that he would have been in the seminary before she even born.

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after Mass

24 Jun

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As people took turns greeting Father Sleman, the rest gathered or mingled about in the church square.

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hearts: sacred and immaculate

24 Jun

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In the vestment that he wore at his ordination and first Mass, Sleiman’s heart was sandwiched between an image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on the front and the Sacred Heart on the back.

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tears

24 Jun

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Not one of best pictures, but one of the best moments: tears in his mother’s eyes. When the man to be ordained a priest lies flat on his face in front of the altar, and we chant the litany of the saints, something instinctively tells us that this is a significant moment. The tissues at his mother’s eyes tell a story.

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“Abuna”

24 Jun

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At the sign of peace that every priest extends to the newly ordained, I noticed that the Arab priests were kissing his hands before they kissed him. By the time I reached him, I had gone to school and learned. As it was mine to stand in front of him, I kissed both of his hands. I looked at him and simply said, “Abuna.” After I kissed both of his cheeks, he looked into my eyes with, “God bless you.” God has.

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