Patriarch Howayek was a man of great zeal and of awe-inspiring aspect, a highly respected leader and shepherd, and a father who was always present in the heart of the Church, constantly listening to the needs of the people, in particular to the needs of the poor and vulnerable. Patriarch Elias Howayek had grown up in a simple home and known poverty, and so he never forgot the less fortunate. When he had grown to manhood, completed his studies, returned to his homeland, and risen to ever higher office, he never forgot his origin and took care of the poor.
A man of desire
Just like the Prophet Elijah, he repeatedly said, “Zeal for your house has consumed me ”. He possessed a passionate character. He desired education and obtained it. He longed for the priesthood and received it. He was zealous for holiness and lived seeking nothing but God’s will.
His passion for God led him to pursue God’s will in all things, saying:
“My God I have no one but you and no Lord but you. My God, you are my strength and my support and my pride and my refuge; I have no support but you and no refuge but in you. You are my God and my Master and I have no one but you. I desire to love you, prepare me to love you ”.
He was a penetrative mind
Elias Howayek had one preoccupation in life, that of seeking truth, searching for the things of the spirit, and looking for the Eternal. He never tolerated falsehood, deception or ambiguity. He respected others and in turn was respected.
His vision was purifying fire, entering the depths of what he saw. His vision was transparent, revealing a spirit of infinite love. He attached himself strongly to Providence, depending on it, finding shelter under its wing. His driving force was the desire to serve God on one hand and humanity on the other.
He was just and righteous man
His vision made him stand out from among others and his life was lived out in fidelity to his words. In all his actions his main weapon was truth and he spoke the truth even though it at times cost him dearly. He was just in his judgments, bearing no dishonesty. Righteousness was the focus and foundation of his life. He befriended the Word Jesus and from this all his words issued.
Everyone trusted him fully, as he was loyal and faithful to his word. His declarations were constantly sought after as they offered freedom, built on unfailing faith and complete trust in Divine Providence.
His words expressed the love and faith that was nurtured in the depths of his prayers; as we read in Psalm 37: “The mouths of the righteous utter wisdom and their tongues speak justice. The law of their God is in their hearts; their steps do not falter”.
He possessed a prophetic and all-embracing vision
His vision was wide. He desired to establish the Maronite presence in distant places, among them Rome, Paris, Jerusalem and Egypt. He planned and constructed, wanting his institutions to be solid and strong. To this end, he strove towards renewing the Church through the formation of priests. A man of wisdom, every realization of him endured. Though a Founder, he desired to remain a servant, knowing that growth is only through God’s will, for nothing exists but through God.
He sided with the vulnerable
He rejected all forms of oppression. He put great effort into bringing all exiles back to their homeland, into freeing those who had been given harsh sentences of imprisonment and into reducing taxes and forced labor which were imposed without respect for justice.
He was the father of the poor
The poor person loves the poor and strives in solidarity with them. It was his view that low income was due to poverty of effort and ignorance; lack of education meant poverty and backwardness; neglect of the poor meant their loss of dignity; occupation of a country meant lack of freedom; distance from God meant degradation of the human being. As a result he committed his entire life to removing the causes of poverty and hardship from society.
He was a generous and open minded man
Although he received the highest honors, he died poor, possessing nothing. He would often say: “Give, give to all! There is no distinction for me between Christian and Muslim ”.
He was the father of families and their intercessor
He worked tirelessly for the development of humanity and the forming of families on the basis of scriptural virtues. By founding the Congregation of the Maronite Sisters of the Holy Family he intended to answer to the needs of families. Even today by his intercession he assures graces and blessings for families, in particular the grace of children for those who turn to him with deep faith.
“I cannot rely on politics but on God and this rosary”. On his way to Paris for the Peace Conference in the year 1919
I bessech You, my God
I beseech you,
my God to grant me the grace
to serve you according to your Providence.
I desire from you your presence
and your love,
and the fire of your love filling my heart.
Remove from it all leanings
and all attachments displeasing to you.
For I have consecrated my life
and all I am to your service and love.
Do with me as you will;
you are my Lord, Master and God
and I am your servant
and creation molded by you.
Yet I dare call myself
only the least of your children;
I call you my kind and caring Father.
To you be glory and thanksgiving forever. Amen