All posts by Subdeacon Steve Crate

Raised in Trinitarian/Presbyterian/Quaker tradition, Steve converted to Maronite Catholic in 1978 when his first son was Baptised and Christened. Both faiths have a Trinitarian basis for explaining God and so fit with his lifetime faith. Steve also had developed a Contemplative Prayer practice which has monastic historical basis and is the foundation of the Maronite Church from St Maron forward. He was ordained a Lector, Cantor and Subdeacon in the Maronite Catholic Church on October 24, 2010. He continues to serve in a voluntary ministry at St Joseph Maronite Catholic Church in Waterville Maine. Steve is a retired Rehabilitation Counselor, teacher and writer. Steve recently was hired as part time Spiritual Care Coordinator at Northern Light Inland Hospital in Waterville.

Guest Blog -Lebanese of Waterville Maine

By Larry Grard
WATERVILLE – Upwards of 75 people packed the Redington Museum parlor on the evening of Thursday, Jan. 10, for a presentation of Waterville’s vibrant Lebanese history, sponsored by the Waterville Historical Society.
Tom Nale and Joe Jabar, both of whom have deep roots in the city’s Lebanese history, provided informative and intriguing half-hour talks.
“What a great turnout on a lovely day,” Historical Society President said, a light-hearted remark considering the frigid temperatures outside. “We have two pillars of the community, both members of the bench, here for us.”
On Feb. 13 at 5:30 p.m., the cultural series will continue with a lecture on Franco-American Women in Waterville. There is no admission charge.
Nale spoke first on Jan. 10, detailing how his Sittoo (grandmother in Arabic) and Giddoo (grandfather), and many other Lebanese immigrants, endured the trip to the United States in the early part of the 20th century. The famine of 1918 had wiped out half the country’s 800,000 people.
“They were caged with chicken wire in the worst part of the ship with little food,” Nale said. “They sang songs.”
One group of Lebanese immigrants landed first in Canada, and traveled at night by foot to reach Waterville.
The great majority of Waterville Lebanese are Maronite (Eastern Rite) Catholics, and they were quick to organize a Maronite church of their own. The first family, that of Abraham Joseph, had come to Waterville in 1888. Two years laater, Lebanese families were attending Roman Catholic Masses at Sacred Heart and St. Francis. But by 1924, Father Awad came from the old country to establish the first Maronite church in the city. Today, the gorgeous St. Joseph Maronite Catholic C hurch on Front Street faces the Kennebec River, looking east.
The immigrants built tenements along the riverside, in an area known as “Head of Falls.” Those houses were torn down in the late 1960s.
“I can tell you where each and every house was on Head of Falls,” Nale said. “That was because I had a paper route. Me and Joe were altar boys, and we went to the church after our routes. When Joe and I were serving the church was absolutely full from front to back.”
The mills attracted most of the Lebanese, French, Polish and other immigrants to Waterville, but some Lebanese were Phoenicians, who were merchants. Al Corey had his famous music store on Main Street, and the Peter Joseph family only recently sold Joseph’s Market, which is still in business a stone’s throw from the church.
“We were all known as cousins,” Nale said. “To work on the railroad was a dream for those men. It was not hard work.”
Sen. George Mitchell became the city’s most celebrated Lebanese, although for a time his older brother, the late Johnny “Swisher” Mitchell, claimed that mantle. Swisher led undefeated Waterville High to the New England Basketball Championship in 1944.
Jabar referred to the Earl Smith “Water Village,” which explains some of the tenets of the Maronite religion. St. Maron was a monk in the hills of Lebanon.
Jabar’s father was born in Waterville in 1905, making him one of the early first-generation Lebanese. In 1922, George Jabar and Phillip Nagem became the first Lebanese boys to graduate Waterville High.
“He made $17 a week at the mill,” Jabar said of his father. “Then he got $20-$25 as a weaver. He became a union organizer in the 1930s. He was a natural.”
Those first-generation Waterville Lebanese instilled in their children the need for education.
“We had eight siblings in our family,” Jabar said. “Seven of them went to college.”
The Lebanese kids – including Swisher Mitchell – made the Boys Club their second home. Jabar said there is a 16 mm tape available of Waterville’s victory over Somerville, MA, in the New England final.
“Swisher would dribble, dribble, dribble,” said Jabar, who wasn’t a bad athlete himself in the mid-1960s. “He kept the basketball.”
The Redington Museum will be open to the public from Memorial Day week to Labor Day. Hours are 10-11 a.m. and 1-2 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday.

Fasting Maronite Faithful

The Maronite Church was founded by a monk named StMaron and continues to be a tradition based on monastic practices. St Sharbel is our most recent model of a faithful servant. In the Cana Week Monday Safro the First Prayer shows the sacred focus of fasting

“FIRST PRAYER
Lord, have mercy on us and save us.
O God, may we submit to this holy fast
and accept it with all our will, with joy and good cheer; do not make us strangers to the reward given to those who fast.
Walking in the way of penitence and mortification we shall arrive in the eternal kingdom where we shall praise your glory, for ever. Amen.”

So what is the expectation of the faithful during Lent?  The 1736 Synod of Mt. Lebanon states:

“Every weekday of Lent (Monday through Friday) is a day of fasting and abstinence from meat and dairy products (eggs, butter, milk, etc.) Fasting involves eating and drinking nothing at all (except water and medicine) from midnight until noon. The rest of the day normal meals can be taken, but without meat or dairy products. Dairy products are excluded because they are animal byproducts. Saturdays and Sundays are exempt from fasting and abstaining, as are the following four feast days: St. Maron – February 9, The 40 Martyrs – March 9, St. Joseph – March 19 and the Annunciation – March 25.” This is a wonderful goal but not a requirement. The requirement now is fasting on Ash Monday and Good Friday.

I like to use an analogy of tuning a musical instrument.  To be perfect one needs to use a tuning fork. But if you tune by ear it still may sound ok. This is not precise but acceptable with some. The same with these kinds of suggested practices. Following the original 1736 practices is like using a tuning fork to be precise and ultimately closer to the perfection of Creation. But the current practices are OK. Jesus does give us the freedom to choose. The consequences or rewards of those choices are subject to multiple interpretations of the Magesteruim and our prayerful reason, but in the end are a mystery. I would suggest the Magesterium has the wisdom of the ages for the most part. That is the subject of another blog.

Starting Over with George Smith

An editorial article in our local paper by George Smith inspired me to write him a short letter. Rather an email not a letter. We don’t write letters anymore except those who want to use script to send a very kind and personal note to a friend. Anyway Georgia’s article was about starting over. The gist of his article was that we all at times in our life must start over. We reach a point where our mistakes, foibles and tragedies have overcome us and we give up at least for a moment. Then our faith takes over and some of us give up and give in and accept that no one’s perfect and that we must start again from where we know is a perfect beginning. George is an amazing man, for you see he has ALS. And even in the midst of this disease he continues to write and share his thoughts about life, the outdoors, and our great state of Maine. Remarkable, and sad. But his article says it all. For it seems to me that every morning when he wakes up and realizes he has ALS he must start over again understanding accepting living with this tragedy and trying to make lemonade from the lemons life has given him. He seems to have done a great job with this challenge. Thanks George for a great article.

Chimney Pond…. Almost

Saturday, August 25, 2018, I climbed the trail from Roaring Brook to Chimney Pond in Baxter State Park with my older brother Doug the III, and my younger brother Jeff. I made it to the 1 mile marker at Basin Pond which is 2.2 miles from Roaring Brook. I am disappointed I could not make it all the way to Chimney Pond but proud of my effort. Just gives me something to shoot for next year.

We three are the last in our family of origin. Our brother Rob died in 2001, at age 40, from pancreatitis, my Mom, Sally in 2004, at age 73 from emphysema and my Dad Doug Jr. in 2008 at age 82 from TTP complications. Just half of my family of origin left in 2018. We miss them all but have continued our relationship as brothers. We enjoy getting together often to eat, play family board games or hike.

AT Chimney Pond

It was a drizzly day, the rocks were wet and slippery so it was very slow going. Add to that the fact that I was 70 lbs heavier than the the last time I was here more than 20 years ago when we climbed with my Dad and family (see insert). It was August of 1976, Daniel was only 7 years old, Matt just out of high school. I had been working on the Brennan campaign. Dad was 70. Also with us was Doug Crate, Jeff Crate Gabe Crate, Paul Crate, Zach Crate and of course Allison who took this picture.

So here we are. I am way out of shape, my brothers wanting to continue the family tradition started many years ago by my grandfather at Camp Katahdin. When he would bring up boys from Friends Central outside Philadelphia for a 6-8 week camping experience that included climbing Mt Katahdin .

I was exhausted as we climbed. I had the great fortune of using some walking sticks loaned to me by my barber Joe at Headquarters on Main Street in Waterville. I had my hair cut the day before our trip and he mentioned he had them and that I would be welcomed to use them for support. Boy was I glad I had them. Without them I would have fallen flat on my fact. Joe has done a lot of hiking, including part of the Appalachian trail and when I told him of my goal he was happy to contribute to my effort. Thanks Joe.

Interesting conversation as we climbed the trail. Doug a Zen Contemplative Christian, Jeff an evangelical Christian and me a Maronite Catholic all had our views about spirituality, but in the end all centered on Christ. So for me it was a successful ecumenical and family affair. We also talked about wives, mostly how appreciative of them we were and of course we talked about our children. Jeff has the most grandchildren, then Doug.

A great day for the Crate Family.

Are we too hard on ourselves?

It is sometimes hard to admit it but I fight with myself daily. Internally that is. LOL…. At first you may have imagined me throwing myself down and swinging like Joe Frazier or Mohamed Ali, beating myself into submission, but that certainly that is not what I am talking about, although my emotional turmoil seems at times just as painful as a boxer at the end of 10 gruesome rounds. What I am talking about is trying to do the right thing, giving the benefit of the doubt in all situations, in spite of my bias or preconceived notions.

I suspect some of the more sophisticated thinkers in the political correct world might have you think they are inclusive, have NO prejudice and are never bias toward any one at all. But, I do not believe it. They just have a better sense of politeness and possibly a much better filtering skill. I am losing my filtering skill. I am tired of filtering everything for fear of hurting someone’s feelings. Is that terrible? Yes, my mother would say. I really miss my mother. She is the one person who loved me unconditionally no matter what I did. She would tell me to stop beating myself up, forgive my self and keep trying to be the best-version-of-myself. Onward.

Anyone but the above

I’m extremely disappointed in our political system now. When I was younger we had politicians like Edmund Muskie, George Mitchell. Bill Cohen, Bob Dole, John McCain, and yes Susan Collins. These people disagreed reasonably and still remained cordial. The rhetoric and extreme drama that I have seen in the political debate makes me believe that our country is headed for the dump. I will not vote for anyone who does not remain positive in their political process. I’d rather see newbies who run for office and maintain integrity without the negative campaigning then see the kind of negative destructive verbal jousting that has become the norm. The constant nipping of political correcting instead of focusing on substantive policy decisions is driving me bonkers. There was a time when I could disagree with a neighbor or some other public figure and simply let the process take it’s course. Now, even disagreeing becomes a moral affront. I simply do not understand it. What ever happened to friendly competition? You know, like when we played marbles in the school playground the the one with the most “steeley’s ” always seems to crush all the others. I never held that against those champions of the marble game and eventually, I decided it was not worth the aggravation. I stopped playing marbles. I did not whine about it. You know the saying “take your marbles and go home”. That is what I did. But now it seems like this is not an option. It is better to stay in the game and keep whining, I think not. Grow up people you have a country to govern.

Divided but Moving Toward the center.

I sense today, maybe it’s the summer weather changing to autumn, that our country is beginning to cooperate in the political arena. People are tired of the divisiveness and fighting. They simply want our Congress to work for all the people. As of today I see the extremes moving towards the center for the overall good of this wonderful country we live in. Sending my prayers to all so we can work together and make this nation better than in the past. We can become our best self as a country. I send my gratitude to the police officers serving for this honorary week. I hope we all can continue to work together for the good of our nation. Thanks be to God. Amen.

Spiritual Life Balance

Hello,  today I am sharing my thoughts about how I am learning to balance my spiritual life with my worldly life with the hope that you will gain insight from my writing and make good decisions in your daily life.  Balance is critical to our health and wellness. Balance is critical to our spiritual development. When we are balanced we thrive.

My approach to learning spiritual/life balance is from an educational perspective. You know the saying

” Give a person a fish they will eat today, teach them to fish and they will eat for a life time.”

Once you learn to fish you still need to discern which catches to reject and throw back and which to keep and [eat] use. Learning this promotes balanced function in you and in the world. When we are balanced we are happy, compassionate, and function well in our individual lives and the community.   Individuals find this balance in their lives by identifying the [catches] various internal and external systems (beliefs, people, organizations, etc.) that support their life, including work, family, friends, faith based organizations and learning resources then consciously strive to attend to these systems by caring and supporting them.  Avoid your feelings and get it done. A good strategy for keeping on task and not letting our feelings sidetrack us is by reviewing The Constructive Living Maxims by David Reynolds. These sayings, used as a thoughtful break from possible down sliding and/or overwhelming thoughts, will help you overcome the feelings and take your next step to achieving balance in your life, community and workplace. Taking time for silence also helps. Some good sources for learning about silence include the monastic tradition of St. Maron, the Desert Fathers, St Sharbel, and Poustinia as well as Holy Silence as described by author J Brent Bill in his book  Holy Silence.

The internet is also a great resource and has the potential for provide enormous, inspiration opportunity and insight. I believe the internet is a physical, or at least a metaphorical, manifestation of Carl G. Jung’s collective unconscious. Which includes all the good and unfortunately the not so good of humanity’s conscious and unconscious thought, values, behavior and spiritual awareness. We must discern the difference as we explore the internet and stay true to our Creative Source which supports and encourages our life. For me this is best manifested in the Eastern Christian Maronite tradition.

Human cooperation will increase when the bridge between traditional, conventional thinking and progressive thinking is strengthened. This melding includes practices regarding individual healing, community and economic development, spirituality and education. We are all humans on this earth. We each have individual needs and differing approaches to meeting those needs. Failing to work through these conflicting views in a collaborative and peaceful way can destroy community living. There seems to be a prejudicial gap among various groups that is keeping our communities from seeking this collaboration. In spite what some think these differing groups are not mutually exclusive. This is not an either or, black or white, kind of debate or discussion. Every individual has their own perspective. Promoting and expanding our differences causes more conflict and discord. We certainly must understand and respect our differences. But that is where it should end. We should pay attention to the concepts that bring us together. This page promotes a collaborative mission encouraging a democratic and ecumenical tolerance for people with different cultural, community, economic, religious and personal values. It supports and embraces all the common core values of being human. This perspective will help sustain your balance.

Some of the common core values that we all strive for include an individual vision to live a peaceful and secure life filled with human cooperation, love and joy. And…gratitude Creation which helps maintain and nurture this view.

Another important part of living on earth is economic opportunity, people all over the world must have a reasonable way to make a living in the community they live. The source of this economic opportunity must be ethical and transparent. It must maintain human dignity. Only then will it sustain the individual, the community and the world.

We each must feel secure physically, economically, emotionally and spiritually. A significant part of this philosophy is that individuals take personal responsibility for the development of our local communities, workplaces and themselves. Working in your local community is a great start. Volunteer in your local community or place of work to make it a better place.

This strategy is primary for individual human development that then impacts our communities.  These concepts are universal and can be applied by any human being, community or workplace that is striving towards more balance and continuity with the environment they exist it. This awareness creates a paradigm shift, which occurs when this practice becomes part of everyday choices. It then moves each individual entity from an isolated self preservation perspective to a local and world community preservation perspective. We realize we are all connected in some way. We center our self, then, when we cooperate with and attend to the systems that sustain and support our existence, individual, community and global balance is achieved because we each cooperate with multiple systems and ultimately the source of creation. These systems, including our own thrive. Community and the individual is born, balanced and sustained through individual focus and effort and community cooperation

Thanks for visiting my web page. Stay in touch

Keep the Faith

 We are the People Makers

WE frown they hide their heads,

We smile they come alive
WE hurl belief at them
and,… they come forth from dungeons and succeed.

“Take care of yourself by caring for humanity”
Subdeacon Stephen

Copyright (C) 1997 – 2017 Stephen C. Crate, CRC
Permission is granted for academic use of this material if cited appropriately.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others.
Mohandas Gandhi

Divine Connection