Newly ordained priest opened up to truth through St. Faustina

  • August 25, 2009
{mosimage}TORONTO - As a 23-year-old, it wasn’t easy having to leave war-torn Lebanon to settle in Toronto. As he struggled to get a job and get over the culture shock, Fr. Mounir El-Rassi, who was ordained Aug. 15 at St. Michael’s Cathedral, said the challenges of a new life in Canada initially gave his faith a hard slap.

“I felt a spiritual darkness or desolation, and I thought I made the wrong decision coming to Canada,” said the now 42-year-old El-Rassi. “I was assessing everything and I was praying, but I was kind of in a dry mode.”

El-Rassi had arrived in Canada in 1990 with two of his brothers, sponsored by an aunt. After three years of living in spiritual trenches, the rest of his family — two more brothers, a sister and his parents — immigrated and El-Rassi hit a turning point in his faith through the writings of  St. Faustina. Until then, bombarded by North American media and exposed to a much more individualistic culture, he felt as though God had left the world, that people in society no longer knew “how to be nice to their neighbours,” he said. But the revelations he found in St. Faustina’s works awakened some truth.

“This specific revelation impressed on me and began to slowly open my eyes to what Our Lady was doing in the world and for everyone in this world, and that God is present and did not abandon (us),” El-Rassi said.

So from there, realizing that people really did have the freedom to choose good or bad, he began to pray more, read Scripture, go to church more often and help in parish life. He started his involvement at Toronto’s Annunciation parish and later moved to a Melkite parish, Jesus the King in Thornhill, where he assisted in the Mass, led altar servers and did First Communion preparation and Sunday catechism.

He later felt called to the priesthood and developed a strong focus.

“Two themes were important to me: the unity of the church, the Eucharist which is the focal point of unity and the salvation of the world. (And) I can truly say that the role of the Virgin Mary is very strong in my vocation,” El-Rassi said.

As his ordination was celebrated on the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Toronto Archbishop Thomas Collins reminded a packed cathedral that Mary is an important central figure to the Christian life and to the priesthood.

“She gave us a total example of obedience to the will of God,” Collins said. “All of us are called to have that surrender to the Lord.”

El-Rassi originally began his studies with the intention of serving the Melkite eparchy in Canada, but transferred to serve the archdiocese of Toronto where he completed a practicum and spent a year at St. Barnabas parish in Scarborough for his internship. He will now serve St. Joseph’s parish in Mississauga where he said he will most look forward to baptisms and promoting family life and family prayer.

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