Teacher of the Generations and Patron Saint of the Sufferers
From the generous land of Lebanon, comes St. Rafka, the Lebanese Maronite Nun (1832 - 1914). She appears to the Church and the world as a mark of time with the beginning of the 3rd millennium.
The secret of her sainthood is that she embodied the image of Jesus, the Savior, with her weak body and simple life. Today more than ever, she appeals to the church to be a light for the world which is suffering from ignorance and loss and also to be a salt for the soil spoiled by evil, injustice and wars. The sainthood of Rafka is a confirmation that her country, Lebanon, is more than just a country. It's a mission of civilization, love and redemption for the Orient and the whole world. 1- RAFKA in the parental house, in Himlaya (1832 - 1859)
Saint Rafka was born in Himlaya, near Bikfaya in Northern Metn, on the 29th of June 1832; on Saints Peter and Paul's day. She was named Boutroussieh after St. Peter. Her father is Mourad Saber from El-Khoury family, known in Himlaya as El-Choboq family, descendent from the Maronite family El-Rayess in Bikfaya. Her mother is Rafka El-Gemayel. Priest Hanna El-Rayess baptized her in St. George's church in Hamlaya hamlet on the 7th of July 1832. Rafka's family, like all Maronite families, was based on strictness, holiness and purity of good manners. A family that embraces the teachings of the Bible practices and engraves them in the hearts of its children. At the age of three, her parents began teaching her the Cross sign, Our Father and Hail Mary. They also used to take her to the village's church to participate in the mass and liturgical prayers. The childhood of Rafka (1832 - 1839) was quiet and simple, tender and happy, austere and full of poverty in the modest maronite family that fears God and loves people. In 1839 and at the age of seven, Rafka lost her mother. She stayed alone with her father for 4 years until the age of 10. Thus, Rafka experienced hardships of life at a very early age and lived the sufferings and adults while she was still a child. She lost the tenderness of her mother and her poor father couldn't provide bread for her. Especially that, Mount Lebanon was witnessing disorders, troubles, disasters, fire incidents and destructions. All that happened after the Chehabite reign ended in 1841 and after the defeat of Ibrahim Pasha and his passing by Bhersaf's village and other villages like Beit Shabab, Bikfaya and Himlaya. Mourad went even poorer and was so sad to see that his daughter lacked tenderness and food. He was obliged to accept that she goes to Damascus and serves in the house of Assaad Badawi, a prominent maronite personage from Baabda. She stayed for 4 years (1842 - 1846), where she was a "role model for honesty, piety and chastity". Assaad Badawi's wife, Heleneh, treated Rafka as her own daughter. In the meanwhile, her father remarried a woman named Kafa and they had two daughters, Mariam and Shmouni. Mariam married Moussa Nassar from Bhersaf. Mariam's daughter "Hanneh" who married Daoud El-Jalkh, knew her aunt Rafka. She met her in the monastery of St. George in Bherdok around 1889, when she came to visit Beirut to treat her eye. She described her aunt, Rafka, as "tall and beautiful". Hanneh had a younger brother named Youssef. As for Shmouni who married Nassif Barhouche Bou Dakn from Bikfaya, she had a son named Youssef, living aboard. He knew his aunt Rafka and used to tell his wife about her. Rafka knew her sisters when she was still in the family house. She used to tell Mother Superior Ursula Doumit that she had two sisters from her father.
Rafka returned from Damascus at the age of fourteen, around 1846, to enter into a new family, where she knew only her father. She felt more distant than she ever was in Damascus. She began dreaming about someone to share with him her worries and ambitions. She missed Bikfaya, her mother’s homeland, so she went to her cousins from the Gemayel family. There, her dream came true when she met her mother’s relative, Priest Youssef Gemayel (1824-1892). In him, Rafka found the tenderness of a mother, the caring of a father and a guidance of a mentor, for he was a man of human and spiritual virtues. She became as one of his brother Fahim’s daughters, to whom he was like a father since their father died. Rafka began visiting St Michael’s parish, in Bikfaya, and Our Lady of Deliverance’s Monastery, where the Priest Youssef had established the congregation of St Mary in collaboration with the Jesuits. There, Rafka’s spiritual tendency began. She found in the Priest Youssef guidance and orientation. She learnt from his piety, virtues and experiences and he discovered the purity of her soul and her preference to seclusion, so he used to call her "Lily of Himlaya". Rafka trusted the Priest Youssef and told him about her desire to enter the monastic life at the Solitary Worshiper Nuns in the monastery of St Elias – Chwaya. The Priest Youssef followed the growth of the monastic vocation in the heart of Rafka. But, he did not interfere to make her enter into the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance at Bikfaya, where he decided to establish the congregation of St. Mary, in collaboration with the Jesuits. His dream became true at the beginning of January 1853. Rafka began visiting the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance and got closely to know the new congregation which she is going to be, someday, one of its sisters. While Rafka was dreaming and planning to devote herself to God, the others were fighting to get her married. Her stepmother wanted her to marry her brother, while her aunt wanted her to marry her son. A dispute arouse between the two. One day, while Rafka was coming back from the fountain, holding her jar, she heard them disputing badly because of her. She was so touched that she felt so sad and unhappy to what has happened and begged God to liberate her from this trouble. While she was contemplating and amid her sorrows and concerns, she thought of entering into the monastic life. 2- RAFKA in the Congregation of the Mariamettes (1859 - 1871) The monastic life didn’t came to Rafka’s mind by mere coincidence. This was her dream ever since she came back from Damascus to her father’s house in Himlaya. The dispute between her stepmother and aunt was the only direct reason to achieve this dream. Rafka never hesitated to go to the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya, where the Priest Youssef Gemayel had already guided her steps to enter into the monastic life. On her way, she met three girls. She told them about her desire to become a nun and asked them if they would like to join her. Two of them went with her to the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in order to enter into the monastic life. The third promised to follow them if they entered the convent and stayed. Rafka and her two companions arrived at the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in early May 1859. When she entered the monastery’s church, she felt deep joy and happiness. When she saw the icon of Our Lady of Deliverance, she heard a voice telling her: “you’re becoming a nun”. After visiting the church, the three girls asked to see the Mother Superior. She was, at that time, Sister Hanneh, daughter of El-Hajj Nasser from Bikfaya. The mother superior accepted Rafka immediately, without questioning her and refused the two others promising to accept them later on. Sister Hanneh accepted her without entering into small details of her life, for she knew her well from the time Rafka visited Hanneh’s brother-in-law, the Priest Youssef Gemayel, in Bikfaya. The congregation of Saint Mary that Rafka joined was established, on the 1st of January 1853 in the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya, by the Priest Youssef Gemayel and the Jesuite Father Raymond Estef, known as Father Sleiman (+1873). The congregation was known at the beginning of its establishment as the “Congregation of Mary’s daughters”. It took for a location the house of the Priest Youssef Gemayel before it moved to Our Lady of Deliverance Monastery. The Patron Saint of the congregation was St. Dorothy (+304), the martyr. The purpose of the congregation’s establishment was to sanctify oneself and others through educating and raising young girls. They presented 4 vows: obedience, chastity, poverty and mission. Rafka left home without notifying her father or her stepmother. When they heard that she entered into the monastery, they went to our Lady of Deliverance’s Monastery to take her back home. Mother Superior, Sister Hanneh, asked Sister Dorothy (daughter of Youssef Saouda from Bikfaya), teacher of the beginners back then, to inform Rafka about the visit of her parents. But Rafka refused to see them, telling Sister Dorothy: “ I would rather die than leave the monastery”. Rafka spent a year as a student, doing some chores in the monastery. Then, on March 19th 1861, St. Joseph’s day, she wore the Novice Robe. The Novice Robe was composed of a brown veil on the head, a blue dress and a short shawl over the dress. The novice had to spend 6 months of the novice year under the guidance of a senior nun, in order to test her and judge whether she was up to join the congregation and serve in it. On March 19th 1862, St. Joseph’s day, Rafka pronounced her temporary monastic vows: chastity, poverty and mission in the JesuitSchool in Ghazir. The Robe of the sisters was composed of: a long black dress and another short black dress over the first one, a black veil over the head and a cross on the chest. The first charge, given to Rafka in Saint Mary’s Congregation, was the kitchen service in the JesuitSchool in Ghazir, where she spent several years. She said about it: “I was in charge of the kitchen, I used to prepare food for students and it was tiring. Among the students were Patriarch Elias El-Howayek and Archbishop Boutros El-Zoghbi and your uncle Estphan Doumit (the Dominican monk). I did that for seven years and in my free time I used to learn Arabic, Calligraphy and Calculation”. While Rafka was in Ghazir doing the kitchen service, her superiors sent her to Deir El Qamar on a temporary mission, in 1860, where she helped the Jesuits in the mission and the nuns of Saint Mary in education. There, she witnessed the bloody massacres that occurred in Lebanon during that period. She helped people, mainly children, threatened with slaughter. She saved a small child from death. She said: “In that year (1860), the notorious bloody clashes and massacres took place. One day, I was walking in that town and I saw soldiers chasing a small boy in order to slaughter him. When the boy saw me, he ran to me and I hid him under my robe and rescued him form their brutality”. After almost a year in Deir El Qamar, Rafka went back to Ghazir’s school. She stayed there till 1863, when the religious authority transferred her into a school related to her congregation in Byblos. There, she spent a year teaching young girls with Sister Barbara Khalil from Beit Shabab. Rafka was one virtuous and pious nun. While in Byblos, she used to go frequently to St. John-Marcus’s Church to assist to the mass. She was, probably, the one who encouraged the Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament in this church and spread the tradition of adoring and honoring it in the city. The citizens of Byblos appreciated her distinguished style in teaching and educating; her morals, her mansuetude, her chastity and the serenity of her voice in the choir. They also appreciated her mastery of the principles of ecclesiastical melodies. Rafka became famous in all the villages of Byblos. The great benevolent Antoun Issa (1808 – 1890) asked her to go to his village, Maad, to teach and educate young girls. When she accepted, he got her the approval of the Maronite Patriarch who was then Boulos Massaad (1806 – 1890).
Our Lady of Deliverance's Church - Bikfaya -
In early September 1863, Rafka went to Maad and then Sister Agatha, daughter of Nasr El-Zoghbi followed her later in that same month, to help her educate the girls in the school established by Antoun Issa and named after his Patron Saint “St. Anthony the Great”. Rafka and Agatha lived in the house of Antoun Issa. Rafka visited only the sick parents of her students. She used to spend her time between the church, her domicile and the school. She was always decent, calm, and sweet, with a pleasant smile. Maad’s habitants knew her as having all the qualities of perfection as: silence, dignity, calmness, mildness, love and enthusiasm.With her piety and virtues, she became a role model of faith to the villagers. In addition to reading, writing and calculation, Rafka taught the girls catechism and prepared them to serve in religious ceremonies and processions. She used to insist on them being decent in church and used to tell them: “you have to understand very well that Jesus descends on the altar when the priest says the Holy words, at that time, bend your heads and contemplate in the Lord hidden in the Host and Wine”. She used to incite them to confess and receive Communion. She never used to hit the girls while teaching, althought it was a common tradition. She was always lenient and persuasive. That’s why her students loved and trusted her dearly. They even didn’t like to leave her and waited impatiently to meet her the next day. Rafka lived cloistered in Maad for around seven years (1863 – 1871). She only met her sisters, the nuns, during the annual spiritual gathering, held in the monastery of Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya. However, Antoun Issa and his wife were very much interested in her seclusion. In addition to that, the congregation of Saint Mary witnessed spiritual and financial crisis, around 1860. This crisis reached its peak in 1875.In 1860, the Jesuits began planning to unite the congregation of St. Mary in Bikfaya and that of the “Sacred Heart” in Zahleh into one congregation named “The Congregation of the Holy Hearts of Jesus and Mary”, since both of them had the same purpose in teaching and educating young girls. The crisis increased the union’s conviction of the Jesuits. On one hand, the western financial aids to Oriental Christians decreased. On the other hand, many Jesuits were obliged to leave Lebanon and Syria and return to France and Italy, after some of them were martyred in 1860. In 1871, the crisis increased. Its repercussion led to the union of the two above-mentioned congregations in 1875, known actually as “The Congregation of the Sisters of the Holy Hearts”. Rafka heard of the crisis while she was in Maad. She was preoccupied, especially that the Jesuits started to convoke the nuns of the two congregations and made them chose between joining the new congregation or going back to secular life. Towards this critical situation, Rafka entered into the Church of St. George in Maad and began to pray, asking God to show her the right way. She cried so much that she fell asleep. While sleeping, she felt an invisible hand grabbing her shoulder and heard an unknown voice telling her: “you’re becoming a nun”. When she went out of the church, she met Antoun Issa, so she told him about the crisis in her congregation and expressed to him her wish to enter the Baladite order. He tried to convince her to stay in Maad and continue teaching the girls and he promised her to provide her needs in order to continue her mission. Rafka thanked him and insisted on entering into the Lebanese Order. He pledged to facilitate her entrée to this Order. That same evening, she saw three men in her dream: the first is a monk with a white beard holding a stick; the second is a soldier and the third is an old man. The monk approached her and touched her with his stick and told her: “Enter into the Baladite Order”. After that vision-dream, all the sadness melt away and Rafka felt great joy.
In the morning, she went to Antoun Issa and told him about her dream and asked him to let her go immediately to the monastery of St. Simon El-Qarn, Aito. She even refused to continue the year in Maad.
Old Mar Semaan Al Qarn Monastery, Aito
3- RAFKA in the Lebanese Maronite Order:
Rafka always loved seclusion. She always dreamt of achieving her wish of living alone with Jesus. The crisis of the congregation was the direct reason to achieve her dream. When she insisted on going to the Monastery of Saint Simon, Mr. Antoun Issa hurried to accomplish her wish to enter into the Lebanese Maronite Order (OLM). He went with his nephew, Father Istphan Doumit to Bsharreh, where he met Father Superior Ephram Geagea from Bsharreh (father superior 1862 – 1875). He asked him to accept Rafka among the nuns of the monastery of Saint Simon. He also visited Archbishop Youssef Freifer (+1889) for the same reason. On July 6th 1871, Rafka was accepted in the monastery of St. Simon, she wore the Novice Robe on July 12th 1871. On August 25th 1872, she pronounced the solemn vows: obedience, chastity, poverty and humbleness, when Mother Ziara Mariam Assaf from Ghosta was the Mother Superior. Upon entering into the Lebanese Maronite Order (OLM), in the monastery of St. Simon, Rafka began a secluded life after being a center of attention in Himlaya and the congregation of St. Mary. She spent half her life in the Lebanese Maronite Order (OLM) living in prayers, contemplation, seclusion, work and pain (1871 – 1914). She lived 26 years (1871 – 1897) in the monastery of St. Simon El-Qarn, Aito and 17 years (1897 – 1914) in the monastery of St. Joseph El-Dahr, Jrabta. In the Monastery of St. Simon El Qarn in Aito (1871 - 1897) Rafka lived with 58 nuns, during her stay in the monastery of St. Simon presided be Mother Superior Ziara Mariam from Ghosta who was very devoted to the nuns and the service of the monastery. Rafka shared religious life with the nuns. They used to follow the regulations of the Lebanese Maronite Order (OLM) approved by the Apostolic See in 1732. They used to eat the simplest kind of food. They tended to severe fasting, austerity and lots of prayers. They used to fast till , almost all the days of the year. They participated in the mass and they received communion everyday. They used to celebrate the seven divine prayers around the year, contemplate for half and hour each morning and read spiritual books each evening. They used to visit the Blessed Sacrament many times a day. They used to make several novenas throughout the year. They used to celebrate the procession of St. Joseph in March; the procession of the Virgin in May; the procession of "the Sacred Heart" in June; the Rosary in October; the procession of the purification of souls in November; the procession of the Blessed Sacrament each Sunday and the procession of "the Sacred Heart" each Friday. As for work, they used to do all the chores in the monastery. They also raised silkworms and performed sewing works. Rafka outdid all the nuns in the above-mentioned practices. She progressed gradually in spiritual virtues and monastic perfection. Everybody loved her for she was so gentle and virtuous. The nuns of Saint Simon's monastery agreed on saying that "Rafka was sanctified because of her good intentions". Rafka lived according to the teachings and acts of Jesus. But she insisted on engraving His image in her heart and body. She knew Him as a teacher and role model, but she was longing for participating in His Passion. As the Cross and the Resurrection marked the invisible and public life of Jesus. Rafka wanted to mark her life with pain and glory, too. Rafka knew pain before asking for it. She saw it first in incurable diseases that most of the nuns suffered from, in the monastery of St. Simon, due to harsh weather, poor nutrition, extreme austerity and mortifications. She used to repeat: "God is tempting my sisters, some in blindness; others in sickness and I'm being left healthy". She got sick before asking for sickness and pain. That was before 1876 and 1878 when "...an abscess appeared on her stomach". Sister Hanneh Alwan from Aito said: "She suffered a lot from it, patiently thanking God for her pain, repeating these words: "for God's glory, in participation with Jesus' Passion". Rafka tasted salvation pain, so she loved the Cross and longed for bearing it with the Savior. Her wish was granted. On the Great Rosary Sunday in 1885, she entered into the church of St. Simon while the Sisters were taking a walk around the monastery. She began to pray. She, personally, talked about what happened" "When I saw that I'm healthy and I never witnessed sickness in my whole life, I asked God: "God, why are You distant from me? Why are you leaving me alone? Why have You spared me any disease? Have You forgotten me, after I adored You?" When i slept, I felt terrible pain in my head, which spread above my eye until I became like this... blind and paralyzed".Rafka asked for sickness and pain just to be closer to God. She forgot that she asked for sickness as she told one of the sisters: "At first, I thought it was an ophthalmia. But, after contemplating in pain and sickness I remembered that I asked God for that and He granted me my wish. I, therefore, thank Him for He has given me what is best to save my soul. Rafka suffered terrible pain in her head and right eye for four consecutive years (1885 - 1889) "Her right eye was red and swollen and the left one was inflamed". Rafka refused to undertake treatments. But the Mother Superior, Ziara Mariam from Ghosta and the nuns used to order her and she would accept, glorifying God for His blessing and thanking the sisters for taking care of her. She received all kinds of treatments in 1889, moving from one place to another in order to lessen her terrible pain. The mother superior sent her to El-Mina, Tripoli. She stayed, there, for two months in the Presbytery of Our Lady of Deliverance for the Antonine monks, accompanied by Kamla, the widow of Tannous Youssef Saliba from Houqa. Doctors examined her and pierced her neck to remove the swelling in her right eye. They caused her a painful and unbearable bleeding. When doctors failed to cure her, Mother Superior sent her to Seraal's village, where she stayed for a week in the house of the Priest Michael Maroun, who treated her in vain. So she went back to the monastery. One day, she was examined by Youssef Raji, cousin of Mother Ursula Doumit, who was the military doctor in Batroun's Court. He said that Rafka suffered from an incurable disease in her eye's nerves. In a last attempt, the Mother Superior sent her to Beirut with Saleh Doumit, uncle of Ursula Doumit. When she arrived to Byblos, she passed by St. John-Marcus's Presbytery where she met Father Estephan Sakr from Bentael. He took her to an American doctor who operated her right eye. During the surgery, he accidentally deracinated her eye, causing her a severe bleeding. Then, she continued her way to Beirut where she stayed at the lazarists monastery. The doctors, there, were able to stop the bleeding and she returned to the monastery of St. Simon with one eye. Two years, in 1899, after moving to the monastery of St. Joseph El Dahr, Jrabta, she became totally blind. Rafka spent the rest of her life in the monastery of St. Simon (1871 - 1879) and particularly the last 8 years (1889 - 1897): suffering from pain in her eyes, especially unbearable pain in the right eye. She couldn't bear to see the light, for it increased her pain. For that, she lived in a closed room, without any complaint at all. she was patient, thanking God, uttering His name, repeating those words when pain became more intense: "For God's glory, in participation with Jesus' Passion and with Your crown of thorns, my Lord". She used to do any possible chores when pain was at ease.
St. Joseph Monastery El Dahr, Jrabta
In St. Joseph Monastery El Dahr in Jrabta (1897 - 1914) On November the 3rd 1897, Rafka went with 5 nuns from the monastery of St. Simon El Qarn Aito to the monastery of St. Joseph El Dahr, Jrabta, Batroun. The nuns were: Ursula Doumit (Mother Superior) from Maad (1870 - 1935), Massihieh Alwan of druze origins from Broummana (1843 - 1916), Angelika Howayek from Helta (1840 - 1913), Takla Doumit, aunt of Mother Ursula Doumit from Maad (1857 - 1901) and Marina Sader from Kfifane (1865 - 1932). The reason of moving to Batroun's coast were: the harsh weather especially during winter in the monastery of St. Simon; the monastery was very far from the populated areas; Batroun area being empty of a monastery for the Lebanese Maronite Order Nuns; Mother Ursula Doumit was sick and was forced to live on the coast or she will be paralyzed and spend the rest of her life in bed. Because of these reasons, the brother of Mother Ursula Doumit, Priest Ighnatios Doumit decided to build a monastery for the Lebanese Maronite Nuns on the coast of Batroun. He met the Priest Youhanna Basbous who appreciate this initiative and gave the Lebanese Maronite Order a school that he had built in Jrabta in 1865. That's how the construction of the monastery of St. Joseph-Jrabta began, near the school in March 1896, with the efforts of Priest Ighnatios and Youhanna and Mother Ursula. On the 3rd of November 1897 and with the approval of the Maronite Patriarch who was then Youhanna El Hajj (1817 - 1898) the Father Superior of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Abbot Martinos El Chemaly, from Daroun (1849 - 1902), gave the permission to six nuns from the monastery of St. Simon El Qarn, Aito to go to the monastery of St. Joseph El Dahr, Jrabta. Mother Ursula Doumit was selected as the Mother Superior until her death in 1935. The nuns of the monastery of St. Joseph were best known in the implementation of the regulations and obligations of the Order they were said to be: "As befitting ascetics who left everything to worship God, doing all the necessary prayers and contemplation, strengthening the rules of the hermitage life, working without any complaint with their tender hands and happy hearts". Which made the monastery of St Joseph like a piece of paradise, on earth: “for its inhabitants looked like the inhabitants of paradise, where no sin ever took place...?” Rafka lived there with 11 nuns and two novices. Rafka loved nuns dearly and considered them as her natural sisters. She prayed continuously. She used to participate in reading prayers of the divine obligation, especially that she memorized them by heart. She did everything in its due time: "prayers work and everything according to the Regulations. Her mortification, fasting and sacrifice went beyond imagination. When she became paralyzed and stayed in bed, she continued to maintain the obligations of the regulations except for going to the church. People visited her from nearby, to ask for her prayers and intercession. Everybody knew her as the Saint-nun"
Rafka used to do everything perfectly and "preferred God to anything... her heart never loved anybody, but God. She always loved Jesus, Mary and St Joseph" even when she died, she remembered them and asked for their intercession.
In the monastery of St Joseph, she continued the path of sufferings previously begun in the monastery of St Simon in 1885, until she died nailed to the cross of pain and Passion. When she arrived to the monastery of St Joseph in 1897, her right eye was like an empty hollow, with no eye. She could, barely, see with her left eye which was like a lamp with no oil and its wick was burnt, with a little left, showing sometimes a little light and the other times showing no light at all. she spent two years like that in the monastery of St Joseph (1897-1899), then she became totally blind. However, the pain in her eyes wouldn't leave her in peace, day and night, until she died. In addition to total blindness, Rafqa suffered from nose bleeding, which caused the total weakness of her body. She used to bleed around four times a week, and each time she used to lose 1 liter of blood. Pain spread all over body, which became dislocated. What remained intact were her hands to work; her ears to listen; her tongue to chant; her stomach to eat and her mind to think and contemplate. The weakness of Rafka's body began around 1906. Her bones were dislocated and she became paralyzed in 1911. In 1906, she felt unbearable pain in her sides and toes. The bones of her right side became dislocated and it moved backward from its original place, then disappeared from her body leaving a hollow with no place of wound. So, it was the case of her right knee. The bones of her left side became dislocated too and went out of their place piercing the skin and became apparent. The bones of her shoulders were dislocated too, piercing the skin and touching her neck. She stayed lying on her right side until her death. Therefore, Rafka became in 1911, three years before her death, a pile of bones transported by her sisters in a sheet in order to remain one piece. Rafka suffered a lot from her shoulder's wound and she used to repeat: "for God's glory, in participation with Jesus' shoulder wound". She used to invite the nuns to pray six times a day: Our Father and Hail Mary for the sake of Jesus' shoulder wound which hurt Him a lot when He lifted His cross to carry it to the Golgotha. In the monastery of St Joseph, Rafka refused to be examined by doctors, unlike what happened in Saint Simon's monastery, but she was well treated by the nuns and especially by the Mother Superior Ursula Doumit.
Rafka honored and adored the Blessed Sacrament while she was in the congregation of St Mary. She continued doing that, until her last breath.What happened to her in the monastery of St Joseph, when she became dislocated, is a living proof of her continuous commitment to this adoration: She crawled to the church to participate in the mass on the day of the Blessed Sacrament. Once, she chewed the Blessed Sacrament as if it was honey and remained without eating all the day.Rafka became an offering, for she was so united to God, present in the Blessed Sacrament incarnated in the Host and the Wine.That's how she saw the light for an hour while she was blind. She enjoyed seeing the nuns before going to God.She also saw the celestial glory set for her after her long and bitter struggle, when she saw the beauty of celestial paradise and enjoyed the celestial happiness in her dream.Three days before her death, Rafka couldn't speak, so she looked at heaven with her heart and mind.On the eve of her death, she asked to bid to her sisters farewell. They came, tears in their eyes, they all kissed her hands and asked for forgiveness. Then, she took the Blessed Sacrament repeating: "let me take my provision with me ".She accepted the Extreme Unction and murmured: "Oh! Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph, I give You my heart and myself; take my soul".On the 23rd of March 1914, at dawn, it was Ash Monday, she rested in peace. Her face shined with a smile. On the next day, a humble service was celebrated, attended by some monks from the monasteries of Saints Kibrianos and Yustina in Kfifane and from the monastery of St Aabda in Maad, in addition to men and women coming from the nearby villages.She was buried in the common cemetery of the nuns in the monastery of St Joseph El Dahr, Jrabta.
a real picture of st. Rafka in her latest days
the old tomb where st. Rafka was first buried
4- RAFKA Venerable, Blessed and Saint (1914 - 2001)
Rafka returned to the soil, so the soil on her tomb became light and life. Three days after her death, her tomb shined with miraculous lights. The witness on that, were: Saleh El-Khoury from Maad, Durgham El Khoury Khairallah and Shahine El Farran from Sghar, a village facing the monastery of St Joseph. The first miracle made through her intercession, was with Mother Superior Ursula Doumit who cured from an abscess in her neck after putting on it soil from Rafka's tomb. Thousands of miracles poured: resurrection of a dead, cure from cancer, cure from paralysis, cure from Kidney and stomach diseases, cure from head diseases, cure from blindness, muteness, insanity and bleeding...The news of her miracles spread, people came from everywhere to Rafka's tomb, asking for some soil, in order to get the blessing of curing. The investigation on her virtues passed be the following phases:In 1925, the case of her beatification and sainthood was presented.On February 11th 1982, she was declared Venerable.On November 17th 1985, she was Declared Blessed. On June 2nd 1999, Pope John Paul II declared her a role model in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Jubilee of the year 2000.On July 1st 2000, the decision to declare her Sainthood was taken following the confirmation of the cure of Miss Celine Sami Rbeiz in front of Pope John Paul II in the Vatican. On June 10th 2001, Pope John Paul II declared her Saint for the whole Church. Conclusion: What Pope John Paul II said upon declared her Blessed serves the best to end this biography text:"The Blessed Rafka from Himlaya was "the salt of the earth and the light of the world". And this is the mission of all the disciples of Jesus. After taking a lot of the rich church's heritage and the monastic life, the new blessed gave her homeland and church, the secret taste of the existence, entirely enriched by the Savior's soul. She is like the light on the summit of the mountain.We can describe her with this beautiful verse of the psalm 92: "The righteous will flourish like a palm tree, they will grow like a cedar of Lebanon".
5- Miracles and Graces
Rafka went back to the soil where she was extracted. What was written in the Bible, was fulfilled: "Ashes to Ashes". Therefore, the soil of her tomb became a source of graces and blessings. People rushed to her tomb and took soil to heal the diseases: resurrection of a dead, healing from cancer, paralysis, kidney diseases, blindness, muteness, craziness and hemorrhages...
1905 - 1914 -She crawled, miraculously, to the church on the feast of the Blessed Sacrament. - She asked to see for an hour and she enjoyed seeing the sisters and the monastery.
- She saw the heavenly glory in a state of ecstasy and vision. - She chewed the Blessed Sacrament and stayed without eating for whole day. - March 26th in 1914, her tomb glittered with miraculous lights.
March 23rd, Rafka rested in peace, on Ash Monday. 1938 March, Elizabeth Nakhleh El Bathawi, From Torza was healed of a uterus cancer. This miracle was adopted in the Beatification case on November 17th 1985. 1985 November 23rd, the child Celine Sami Rbeiz, from Rmeil-Beirut, was cured of cancer. This miracle was adopted to declare Rafqa, Saint on June 10th 2001. 6- Phases of the case of her Beatification and Sainthood 1925 December 23rd, the case of her beatification was presented with those of St. Charbel Makhlouf and the Blessed Nemetallah Kassab El Hardini, to be Saints' cases Council in the Vatican. 1926 May 16th, a committee began the investigation on her sainthood. 1927 July 10th, her body was examined and transferred to a new tomb. 1928 May 2nd, a register of sixty miracles, done through her intercession, was written. 1968 July 1st, the case of her beatification was accepted. 1982 February 11th, the excellence of her virtues was declared and she was proved Venerable. 1985 In the beginning of November, her holy relics were transferred into a new tomb in the middle of the church. 1985 November 17th, Pope John Paul II declared her Blessed. 1999 June 2nd, Pope John Paul II declared her Role model in the adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Jubilee of the year 2000. 2001 June 10th, Sunday of the Holy Trinity, Pope John Paul II declared her Saint for the whole church.
the new tomb where st. Rafka is buried
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Lebanon - Batroun - Hadady Street - Batroun Plaza Center - 3rd floor - Phone/Fax:961 6 74 46 61 - mobile: 961 3 70 34 61