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His Grace, Bishop JOSEPH’s Address to the 53rd Sweetheart Ball
May 21, 2011
Beverly Hills, California

Beloved in Christ:

This evening, I would like to begin with a moment to reflect upon the legacy of Marion Deeb; she built up this event from its earliest days and guided many generations of young debutantes through the process leading up this event. Though she is not physically with us, her spirit is present here tonight through our love for her.

Marion provided our young women a unique opportunity to learn about the dignity of womanhood. In these times where formality is scorn and propriety is derided, Marion insisted that the young ladies of the Debutante Ball understand that their femininity was something precious. The modern world reduces gender roles to mere physical attributes. This is why women are often times only praised for their bodies, rather than for their character, virtues and values. They are looked upon in terms of what they have physically, rather than for who they are.

When we see the unhappiness in this world, we often think it is because we lack something. We wish we looked differently or had something more. We think that by changing what is physical, that which is not physical will also naturally change. But, this is not so. Having things or not having things has very little to do with happiness.

We, as Christians, believe that God is the source of all blessings. He has blessed us with our physical possessions including the bodies that He created us with. Our happiness comes from our acceptance of these gifts and from our gratitude for them. If we are not grateful or not thankful, then we can never be happy.

If our bodies are gifts from God, then they are holy. We should treat our bodies with respect and dignity, because the respect we have for ourselves is based on our respect for God and for His generosity. If we disrespect our bodies with unhealthy or unclean living, then we are not truly grateful for this precious gift of human life that He has given us.

I urge you young people to remember to be grateful to God Who created you and who loves you more than any human being can. No boyfriend or girlfriend will ever love you the way God does, nor will the people of the world love or appreciate you the way our Lord does. Do not seek to please the world, but only to please God. Enjoy the blessings you have received from God without forgetting that He is the source of your blessings and that He will ultimately ask you what you did with them.

I would like to remind you that moral living, as taught by the Church, is taught in two places: both in the Parish and in the Home. This Debutant Ball, along with the good example of your parents, should encourage and supplement the instruction you have received through the Divine Liturgy and the preaching of the Divine Word. Just as we clergy will answer to God for our ministry, so too your parents will answer to God for the manner in which they raised you. If they try to be your friend by allowing you to do as you will, then you will not grow up properly and they will be held accountable. Be patient with your parents when they correct you, because they are trying to do that what pleases God, the One Who will reward you both. Your family should strive to learn from the Great Family of the Church, as well as from the priest who ministers to you. If you ignore what they teach, you will lose your way to the Heavenly Realm.

Our dear Marion sought to teach young women how to properly treat themselves and to appreciate the gift of young womanhood and its value. She tried to share with young women the beauty of poise and composure. In a challenging world, Marion hoped that our young women would rise above mediocrity thus avoiding the pitfalls of a disappointing life.

There is a new generation of women who are continuing in Marion’s ministry, and tonight I encourage them to continue their hard work for our community. Tonight is not just a celebration, but a ministry, a commitment and an affirmation to the nobility of this cause. I urge you to remember that as Orthodox Christians your task is to aid in the social development of our young women so that they might live lives in keeping with their spiritual calling.

We pray that our merciful God enables us to continue our ministry and our life on this earth.

Beloved debutantes, tonight you are elegant and radiant! Everyone is so proud of you and I am proud of you too!

May God bless you all.

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