Who We Are?
The Antonine Maronite Order
A community of life at the service of the Church
Saint Roch Monastery
Antonine General House
Daher El Hossein – Dekwaneh
B.P. 55035 – Beyrouth
Tel: +9611 681 455, Fax: +9611 686014
Deep-rooted in a monastic tradition
The Antonine Maronite Order was established in late XVIIth century thanks to the initiative of Mons. Gebrael Blouzani, who was by then bishop of Alep. Bishop Gebrael Blouzani was known for his saintliness and his piousness, and is behind the reform of the monastic life at the beginning of the XVIIIth century.
In 1673, Mons. Blouzani established the monastery of Our Lady at Tamish and made it his see, applying therein a renewed type of monastic life.
After educating his monks, for a long period of time as stipulated in the regulations of the oriental monastic life, he chose from them a certain elite, in 1698, and sent them with the mission of rebuilding a monastery dedicated to Saint Chaaya, the monk from Alep. This monastery is located at the top of a hill known by the name Aramta located at the borders of Broumana village in the Metn region. There, the first monks built a new monastic community living the evangelical counsels (the religious vows of chastity, poverty and obedience) and working at the service of the church, within the social realities.
On August 15, 1700, on the Assumption day, the first mass celebration took place in the said monastery, thus inaugurating a new beginning for the oriental monastic life in Mar Chaaya ( St. Isaiah of Aleppo), site of a hundreds-year old monastic life.
Since then, our Antonine Maronite Order has been loyal to the tradition, to its religious heritage, to the image of the Christ praying at the top of the mountain or in desert places, announcing at the same time the Kingdom of God to the people, healing the sick and converting the sinners…The Antonine Maronite Order works constantly and stands as witness to the great source of the wealth of Christ to Christians and non-Christians alike, through the testimony of its children who answered the call of the Holy Spirit in a total self-abnegation and a total offering of oneself, as father Semaani says in his introduction to the Rules and Constitutions of the Order:
“…Seeing the exemplarity of your holy monks, their apostolate at the service of the community in order to announce the Gospel, as well as their merits in setting a good example and their obedience to their superiors in the Church, these monks are recognized by their superiors as well as by the people and constitute a pattern for other oriental families…
… by virtue of which your Rules are confirmed”.
Thus, the local Church takes into consideration the particularity of the Antonine Maronite Order and its mission in the service of the Church and neighbors, and it grants the Order its blessing, encouragements, and attention, and acknowledges it as being a confirmed expression of the oriental monastic life.
Within the same spirit, and urged by the Holy Spirit, Patriarchs Estephan Douayhi and later Blouzani and Aouad granted their benediction to the Order; then, in 1740, his Holiness the Pope Clement XII, confirmed the Constitutions of the Order by the papal brief “Father of Mercy” and granted it its canonical status of “a monastic congregation of pontifical right” along with the rights and privileges recognized to every monastic institution.
Charisma of the Antonine Maronite Order
Since its establishment, the Antonine Order came together within a non-Christian environment and faced several challenges to which was exposed the common life between different religions in Lebanon. However, the Antonine monks knew how to gain the esteem of others and how to reinforce their relations especially with the Druze Emirs of the Abil’Lamah family and helped some of them to convert to the Christian religion, especially in the regions of Broumana, Kornayel, Beit-Mery, and Chemlane.
In this spirit of reconciliation and dialogue, Emir Abdallah Kayed Bey Abil’Lamah, great protector of the monastery of Mar Chaaya, who participated efficiently in establishing this monastery, witnessed his grandsons Ahmad and Mansour acknowledge the Christian religion, thanks to the divine grace, while remaining faithful to their Druze traditions. Then, Bachir and Salim, sons of Emir Ahmad, then Amine and Ali, sons of Emir Mansour, adopted the Christian religion according to the Maronite confession. Thus, history shows that several Antonine monks accomplished their mission and vocation among Druze and Sunnite Emirs.
The Antonine monks undertook many other apostolic works – such as teaching, pastoral services, etc. – that were recognized by his Holiness Pope Benedict XIV through his correspondences with the maronite Patriarch and the Superior General of the Order where he calls to support the Antonine Order “considering its efficiency and its efforts aiming at strengthening the catholic faith among believers and the brotherhood with non-Catholics”.
It is clear that the cenobitism associated to the missionary life, lived by the founding fathers, was a typical pattern for the new monastic community.
Thus, many monks who lived long years within the community the evangelical counsels, were allowed to withdraw to a hermitage near the monasteries. And despite the wars and the exodus that the Order witnessed, history remembers the following names: Father Youhanna Jeitaoui (+1779), Brother Wehbe el-Hage Boutros (+1867), Father Serapion Chemali (+1888) and Brother Youhanna Hayek (+1888) who withdrew to the hermitage in the monastery of Mar Abda Mouchammar near Nahr El Kalb; Brother Kyriakos (+1843) and Brother Germanos Dirani (+1890) who withdrew to the hermitage in the monastery of Saints Peter and Paul in Kattine in the South of Lebanon, Brother Saba Nasrallah (1843-1900) who withdrew to the hermitage at the monastery of Mar Chaaya near Broumana; Brother Germanos El Ehdeni (+1890) who withdrew to the rocks near the monastery of Mar Sarkis and Bakhos at Ehden in North Lebanon… as well as many other names mentioned by believers as being “Men of God”.
Since the establishment of the Order, its history has been closely related to the history of Lebanon. Thus, the Antonine monks have endured persecutions, exodus and martyrdom.
During the years 1842-1860, which were particularly bloody in the history of the Christians of Lebanon, when complete villages such as Beit Mery, Salima, Zahle, Jezzine, Deir El Kamar, Rachayya, Hasbaya were sacked and burnt, their inhabitants were massacred, and the monasteries and churches were profaned.
In 1860, soldiers from the Ottoman army, headed by Arnaout, invaded the monastery of St. Roch in Dekwaneh and massacred forty monks. The Order was not spared either by the severe events that Lebanon witnessed during the long years of war that torn its territories between 1975 and 1990.
The violent bombings destroyed or damaged several monasteries, churches, and schools of the Order whether in Metn, in the South, in the Bekaa, in the North, or in Beirut, leading to the martyrdom of several monks.
And life prevails!
During World War One, the lot of the Lebanese people was made of destructions, massacres, hunger, and exodus. Ottoman soldiers did not spare anyone from their barbarism, nor monks neither monasteries. All monasteries of the Antonine Maronite Order located in the region of Metn were profaned, burnt, or destroyed, or else transformed into military barracks and the monks living therein were either thrown away or killed.
It was only after the great war that the Antonine Order was able to recover its monasteries especially thanks to the effort of the Superior General Youssef Aramouni. However, and until 1931, the novitiate was put on hold.
War ended and the officials in the Order immediately deployed their efforts to gather the Antonine family and continue their common fraternal life. First, the novitiate was permanently established in Mar Chaaya starting 1938, after being transferred from Mar Chaaya to Mar Youhanna in Ajaltoun or Mar Roukoz in Dekwaneh.
In 1941, the establishment of the Small Seminary or Postulate at the monastery of Mar Chaaya is considered a new beginning for the monastic life; young people who want to enter the Order were taken in charge since small classes and till the age of fifteen and were prepared for the novitiate where they get acquainted to the monastic life before they take their vows.
In 1949, the Superior General of the Order, who was then Abbot Boutros Lteif, decided to transfer the premises of the Small Seminar from the monastery of Mar Chaaya to the Monastery of Mar Antonios in Baabda. There, the postulants and young monks continued their studies according to the State’s curriculum and applied to the official exams aiming at acquiring the diploma of ending their school education in order to be able to start their ecclesiastic studies.
Then, starting in 1932, monks continued their philosophy and theology studies at Saint Joseph University of the Jesuit fathers in Beirut.
And since 1958, and upon the privilege granted by the Congregation for the Oriental Churches, and thanks to the support of Cardinal Akassios Kousa and the efforts of the Superior General of the Order Abbot Maroun Harika, the Antonine monks continue their majoring in philosophy and theology in Rome at the University of St Anselm of the Benedictine monks and at the Pontifical University of St Thomas Aquinas – Angelicum of the Dominican Fathers.
Later on, and with the support of Cardinal Albert Decourtray, the Catholic University of Lyon-France welcomed the Antonine monks who were known for their spirituality and their apostolic merits.
A liturgical renewal
Faithful to the teachings of their founding Fathers, especially to Patriarch Blouzani, the Antonine monks knew how to preserve the originality of the Maronite confession rituals and how to modernize them at the same time, as years went by.
That’s how in 1889, the Superior General Abbot Emmanuel Baabdati called for this very reason, the musician Father Girgis Aziz (a.k.a. Al Jezzineh), student of Professor Emile Boutek from Alep.
Also, Father Boulos Achkar who was also a student of Father El Jezzineh, and after taking specialized courses in sacred music in Italy and France, published a number of works namely “The Oriental Music”. When he returned to Lebanon, he deployed all his efforts in order to create choirs in the parishes and in schools; and among his numerous musical publications, we mention “the Sang Psalms”, “the Syriac hymns”, and “the Real Joy”.
The Antonine Order continued its efforts in the fields of sacred music and soon established the School of Music in Baabda, followed by the Institute of Music in the heart of the Antonine University.
All along the History of the Maronite community, the Antonine monks knew how to remain exemplary pastors working in the service of the mission they were entrusted, in the service of announcing the word of God. The Antonine Order is currently responsible of more than 30 parishes in Lebanon and abroad, thanks to the faithful and dedicated pastoral work of its monks. There is no doubt that one of the first fruits of these efforts was the establishment of the Center of Oriental Studies and Research (CERO) responsible for a number of pastoral and spiritual publications intended for faithful people of all ages.
Education and Teaching
Since the beginning, there is no doubt that education and teaching were among the main objectives of the mission that the Maronite Order has set in order to be at the service of the Church and of the Lebanese people. Several schools in monasteries prove it (Mar Chaaya, Jezzine, Baabda, Nammoura, etc), as well as the Antonine printing house and the magazine Kawkab Al barriyya (Star of the desert) in the early XXth century.
St Joseph School in Baabda which grew to become the Collège Antonin, is one of the first pedagogic institutions in the country and served as starting point for the establishment of several educational and technical institutions.
The Antonine University – Baabda – Hadath, as well as several other educational establishments gather more than 4000 students throughout the Lebanese regions: Collège Antonin at Haouch Hala – Rayak in Bekaa; School of Notre Dame de la Délivrance in Mina, Tripoli; school of Notre Dame in Hasroun, School of St George in Bauchrieh, International Antonine School in Ajaltoun, Antonine school in Talabaya, Bekaa; and Saint Joseph Technical school in Marjeyoun in the South. The Antonine Pedagogic Bureau insures the coordination among these educational centers.
These establishments are managed by Antonine monks who are trained and specialized in educational and cultural fields, not to mention the efforts the Order is deploying in the fields of catechesis and social works, like for example the Association for Justice and Mercy (AJEM) which works since 1996 in prisons and helps marginalized people.
Work is an integral part of every monastic life, and the constitutions reiterate the fact that monks “should earn their living by the work of their hands”. Work is a brotherly service undertaken in order to achieve a common interest, and without opposing to the blossoming of every brother on his own. In the regards, the agricultural dimension and the farming capacities have naturally found their place in the majority of monasteries, and the lands located around every monastery constitute a proof of the hard and meticulous work of the monks who transformed rocky and arid lots into fertile and productive lands. With time, economy progressed and agriculture was not enough anymore to face the daily necessities of life and the mission of the Order. Therefore, monks were obliged to diversify their manual works while preserving, at least in an important number of monasteries, the traditional agriculture especially of fruits, olive derivatives, milk products, wine and spirits.
Antonine missions in emigration countries
Although the founding Fathers did not undertake the matter of the expansion of the Order outside the Lebanese regions, the successive wars that the country underwent, especially since 1840 till the last war in Lebanon, have dispersed its children in several countries such as Brazil, USA, Canada, and other countries in the region, as well as in Europe. Thus, the Antonine monks had to spread the Word of God and put themselves in the service of Lebanese people who migrated towards more than one country: Turkey, Canada, Belgium, France, Australia, and Syria.
Statistics in 2021:
- 152 professed monks with a definitive commitment, among which 147 priests, 2 hermits. (average age 52 years old).
- 7 professed monks with a temporary commitment
- 1 novice
- 3 postulants
27 monasteries and educational and parish centers exist in Lebanon, 7 in the Diaspora among which we mention our formation center in Rome and the others are in Syria, Italy, France, Belgium, Canada, and Australia.
Monasteries, centers, and institutions
of the Antonine Maronite Order in Lebanon
No matter where he is, an Antonine monk always remembers his mission: to constantly remind the people that they are on a journey, a pilgrimage towards the Kingdom.
From the already established monasteries that are places for prayer and common fraternal life, the Antonine monks start their journey and embark in their mission, not only in all Lebanese regions, but they also go beyond the borders of the country.
Most of the monasteries of the Antonine Order were built or expanded by the monks themselves, as it shows in the documents preserved in the Historical Archives of the Order. As for the distribution of the monasteries among different regions, this constitutes a clear indicator of the objectives of the Order and its religious mission.
We present hereby, by chronological order of their establishment, the monasteries of the Order while describing briefly their history and mission.
Saint Charbel Monastery and Parish, Windsor – CANADA
(Established in 1977, Patronal day: third Sunday of July)
The praiseworthy success of the pastoral services rendered in Windsor (Ontario) and the neighboring towns by the Antonine monks such as Fathers Selouane Abou Jaoudeh, Youhanna Helou and Youhanna Dahdah between 1930 and 1977, opens wide the doors to the consolidation and the development of Order’s mission in Canada. Thus, and upon the request of Cardinal Carter who was by that time Archbishop of London-Ontario, the Order, aware of the necessity of its presence among the Lebanese who fled the war and emigrated to Canada, established the convent of Saint Charbel at Windsor in 1977.
The Antonine fathers settled down in Windsor to provide pastoral services at Saint Charbel church and contribute in the blossoming and integration of the Lebanese community which settled down therein. And through the spiritual education and socio-cultural training that rooted the Antonine fathers in the living tradition of the Antiochian Maronite church, these latter still serve Lebanon beyond the borders of the country.
5700 Outer Drive
Windosr, Ontario, CANADA
Tel: +1 519 966 3817
Our Lady Of Lebanon Parish, Toronto – CANADA
(Established in 1978, Patronal day: August 15)
The mission of the Antonine monks in Canada continues in Toronto and its suburbs through the services rendered in the Parish of Our Lady Of Lebanon. Furthermore, the community was recently asked to render pastoral activities for other Oriental Christians living in the town, and they were asked to help in Anglophone or Francophone parishes. The Antonine community in Toronto worked on spinning cultural relations between the Anglophone socio-cultural institutions in the town and with our educational and cultural establishments in Lebanon, in order to modernize our contribution in the development of the human being. The house also receives Antonine monks of the specialization cycle, whether in human and social sciences or in computer and technological sciences.
1515 Queen Street West
Toronto Ontario, M6R 1A5
Antonin House Toronto
4 Woodbank Rd. M9b5C4