JERUSALEM – On Friday, June 15, 2018, acolyte Firas Abedrabbo was ordained a deacon. Five days before his ordination, the media office of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem had interviewed him about his preparation for this new step and the meaning of vocation.
Firas, in a few days you will be ordained a deacon. Can you, first of all, tell us who you are?
I was born in Jerusalem, in Palestine, on September 14, 1984, I come from an old Catholic family from Beit Jala. My father, Zarif Abedrabbo, passed away in 2011. My mother, Gloria, still lives there. My only brother, Farouq, is four years older than me and has been working in Qatar for over twelve years. He is married to Ghadeer and they had two beautiful little girls together.
How did you prepare for your ordination?
We are preparing to receive the ordinations at Latroun convent with the other four candidates from the Latin Patriarchal Seminary in Beit Jala. Thus the real preparation began before and during my years at the seminary and it will continue in another way after the ordination. I do not consider this step as an end but as a new beginning. Ordination should not be the ultimate goal, since it is not! This is how I prepare to receive it with joy and hope, having in mind two things: pastoral ministry as well as love and generosity in union with God.
In a sense, I feel ready to answer a definitive “yes” to God’s call, to commit myself. That said, no one can claim to be perfectly “ready” for ordination. This is not real life. The reality is that we are all in constant growth. As long as I am alive and my mission goes on, for me is a great source of consolation, joy and peace. My devotion, or the joy and the peace that flows from it, is not something “static”. Something that one gets once and for all. It is good that it is not, otherwise I will be weary.
How do you reflect upon all these years at the Seminary?
The years I spent at the Seminary knew many ups and downs. I thank God for the journey that lead me today to this new stage in my Christian life.The Seminary was also an indispensable period for the spiritual construction, conceived by the Church as a place of discernment and learning.
I had two distinct periods at the Beit Jala Seminary. I entered it for the first time in 2002, after high school, and stayed there until 2006. After that, I stayed at the Benedictine Abbey of Dormition, located on Mount Zion in Jerusalem, to live with them for six months. I then worked for half a year at the French Alliance in Bethlehem before joining the faculty of law at Birzeit University where I graduated in 2011. Eligible for a grant from the Consulate General of France in Jerusalem I was able to study in Toulouse for two years, after which I obtained a master’s degree in History of Law and Institutions. During these nine years of study and work, I have always felt a call from God, but I did not feel ready to answer it with complete freedom. It was after a spiritual retreat at the Emmanuel Monastery in Bethlehem that I decided to join the seminary of the Latin Patriarchate which marks the second period in 2015.
hese almost ten years of transition have changed a lot of things in me and at the Seminary. The point here is not to compare these two periods, but to be aware that their common realities – prayers, studies and friendships – brought me joy and perseverance. These three things will serve as a solid base for the rest of my priestly life, in the good moments of life, as in the most difficult.
The Lord has his ways. I glorify Him for all the love, mercy, and patience, He showed me during all this time of human maturation.
For me, a vocation is a inner call to adventure and conversion. A concrete manifestation of the Mercy of God in my life as a weak and fragile human being. An inner and constant call to the exit of the ego to learn to love truthfuly. The vocation has changed my life. God, who is the one calling, made me walk by paths that I could never have imagined or even spontaneously wanted to choose. I have the impression that this tension insinuated in my life by this call of the Lord, serves as a motor to push me forward, despite my temper which tends to seek more selfish tranquility. It helps me, in any case, to understand concretely the deep meaning of this sentence of Jesus, humanly incomprehensible: “For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and that of the gospel will save it” (Mark 8:35). We can say the same thing about the call to live the marriage. Love gives itself. There is no other way to say “I love”.
How do you envision your life as a priest in the future?
For the moment I do not know. I still do not know where I will be during the time of the diaconate. I have now finished my studies at the Seminary. I will certainly have a service or several to give here or there. It could very well be in the Seminary as elsewhere. Nothing is yet officially announced, but whatever the service that I will have to render, I think at this moment only one thing: to invest myself with all my heart, in the joy, the faith, hope and love.
Concerning my future life as a priest, I will rely on clearly identified pillars: prayer, studies and friendship. I will build on these pillars that will truly support my life no matter what it is and where it will be. In terms of mission or apostolate, I will give particular importance to the ministry of “listening”, which we generally call “spiritual accompaniment”. This spiritual accompaniment will go through prayer, teaching, the animation of retreats, family visits and the fact that I will strive to be at the disposal of the most fragile people such as the sick, the poor, the young people who feel lost and excluded…etc.
How does one choose to become a diocesan priest or a religious man?
I have chosen to be a diocesan priest at the Latin Patriarchate and not a religious man, it is first of all through my attachment to my people – the Palestinian people – , to the Holy Land and to the local church that I want to serve. The need to feel free with the ability to make personal choices and take responsibility for them was also a very important criterion in this choice. It is an essential aspect in my psychological construction and which is today an integral part of my personality. I have an immense esteem for the religious life, and more particularly for the monastic life. A French bishop once quoted me this sentence from the writings of St. Francis de Sales: “God can allow a false vocation to save the true one”. It is thanks to this quote that I have understood that the esteem that I hold for religious and monastic life, and which nourishes in me a true spirituality, will be the device by which God will save my life as a diocesan priest. All this so that He spares me from falling and living in this worldliness, in this superficiality, which stems from the three major temptations of a diocesan priest – activism, clericalism and self-referentialism – that could isolate from my “brothers” in the broad sense of the word.