July 9, 2020

St Rafqa Pietra, Mighty and Valiant Warrior of Faith (1832-1914)

Overview: ‘Become a nun in the Baladita Order’, a voice spoke to her.

Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès, O.L.M., also known as Saint Rafka and Saint Rebecca, is a Lebanese Maronite nun who was canonized, by Pope John Paul II, on June 10, 2001. ( i)

  • Born: June 29, 1832, Matn, Lebanon ; Died: March 23, 1914, Batroun, Lebanon
  • Recognized Catholic Calendar Feast Day Date of her Death: March 23
  • Place of burial: St. Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City
  • Beatified: November 16, 1985, Canonized: June 10, 2001, Saint Peter’s Basilica, Vatican City by Pope John Paul II
you can venerate Rafqa here, view her incorruptible body

Rafqa was born in Himlaya, in Matn District, Lebanon on June 29, 1832, the Feast day of St. Peter and St. Paul, the only child of Saber Mourad El Rayess and Rafqa Gemayel, and baptized Boutrossieh (pronounced in Arabic as the feminine of Peter). She lost her mother at age seven. At age eleven father sent her away to work as a servant for four years to Assaad Al-Badawi. of Damascus. When her service ended, she returned home, to find her father remarried.

On February 9, 1855, the Feast of St. Maron, Boutrossieh entered a convent in Ghazir and chose her mother’s name Rafqa. Her new name of Rafqa, (Rebecca), is the biblical name from Abraham’s great granddaughter and wife of his son Isaac. Tragedy struck, in 1860, when she witnessed the Druze slaughter of 7,771 indiscriminate executions of every age, the destruction of 360 villages, 560 churches, 28 schools, and 42 convents, in the name of their god. Sister Rafqa saved one child’s life by hiding him in her habit skirts. Rafqa, as most Maronites felt bitterly betrayed in this massacre. August 25, 1873, she “professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience to the strict Rule of the Baladita Order,”

I prayed to God in this way, ‘Why, O my God, have you distance yourself from me and have abandoned me. You have never visited me with sickness! Have you perhaps abandoned me. Rafqa continued in her account to her superior, the next night after the prayer “At the moment of sleeping I felt a most violent pain spreading above my eyes to the point that I reached the state you see me in, blind and paralyzed, and as I myself had asked for sickness I could not allow myself to complain or murmur.

John the Baptist while in Herod’s Prison, sent his disciples to ask Jesus, Are you the One?”

All Saints Over the Landouer Altar Albrecht Durer

Then, on the Feast of the Holy Eucharist, Sister Rafqa’s desire for the Holy Eucharist, caused her to crawl partially paralyzed, blind to our Lord’s Holy table, for a taste of the Heavenly bread of life. Her sister nuns report, never can they recall Sister Rafqa complain or whimper due to her suffering. She took on this blessed suffering, as Jesus has in His Passion. In her sacrifice of pain and infirmities, she often spoke of her joy, happiness and thanksgiving that Jesus, King of Love allowed her to suffer as she requested. She accepted her state in life; suffering, blindness, and paralysis, as if this was her nourishment to cross the fires, the fruit for her soul. In return God supplanted virtues of God’s graces of the Holy Spirit upon her soul, with smiling, quietness, calm; – love, joy, peace, patience, long suffering, self control and gentleness of spirit. These characteristics of St Rafqa, manifested daily to her fellow sisters as her life witnessed for us all. Despite her infirmities, she refused to exhibit, similar qualities of a person in her “handicapped”condition, (ie. without the Holy Spirit), she wasn’t restless, complaining, appearing on edge, figidity, with knees nervously bouncing as they sit, cell phone in hand, rustling with her hair, fingernails, or purse. She remained at peace with her human suffering, united with Jesus.

In her death she is proclaimed, one of Jesus Holy Saints. The miracles attributed and investigated are surrounding her place of burial, where people stopped and prayed. Before long some of them sick with cancer were being instantaneously healed ( A Catholic requirement for miracles). Her grave later exhumed found her body “in-corrupt”. The holy Catholic Church has proclaimed her a Saint, Patron of those with Cancer, and she joins the list of in-corruptibles. You may venerate her in our Church’s holy places within St Peter’s Basilica, Rome. Where many of our Popes lay in rest, below the sacrificial altar of Christ. Today the Christ’s True Church honors the Maronite religious, where millions of her faithful Catholics visit and pray.

Jesus, responded to John’s disciples:

Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, to the poor the gospel is preached:” (Lk7:22) (Isa29:18).

Maronite BLind and Crippled View her in Incorruptible St Peter’s Basilica

Rafqa in her human blindness shows us her vision of receiving the the King of Love at his altar. Though she could not walk, she crawled with a loving heart of a valiant foot soldier on the field of battle to receive His Body and precious Blood. Though blind in darkness, yet she saw her way to the Lord’s altar. Though she was not humanly deaf, her spiritual ears, on that morning of the Feast of the Holy Eucharist, heard her saviors call, “come and eat at my wedding feast.” Though being paralyzed (lame), she crawled as if in a Buffalo’s winter blizzard to reach the chapel. In her death, Sister Rafqa, witnesses to the truth of His gospel, with healing miracles, proofs of her rising, “the dead rise again.” As many people that touched the soil near her grave were healed. Jesus uses this holy saint to inspire his faithful flock, to pray for the dead, go to the cemeteries of your loved ones, and give proof of his Saints power of intercession for us. Thus the Apostles Creed is affirmed in the Communion of Saints. St. Rafqa witnesses for us, demonstrating Jesus shares in His glory, we can see his saints’ works in salvation. His saints in heaven intercede for His faithful militant church on earth. “May their prayers be with us. Amen. (iii).

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Who shall ascend into the mountain of the Lord: or who shall stand in his holy place? The innocent in hands, and clean of heart, who hath not taken his soul in vain, nor sworn deceitfully to his neighbor. She shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and mercy from God her Savior.
This is the generation of them that seek him, of them that seek the face of the God of Jacob. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in. Who is this King of Glory? the Lord who is strong and mighty: the Lord mighty in battle. Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and be ye lifted up, O eternal gates: and the King of Glory shall enter in.

Psalm 24:3-11

In sister Rafqa, Jesus shares his words of St John to us and to Moses, coming alive in the 21first century. “Fear NOT nor be dismayed’. (Jn14:1)(Dt.31:7-8). Though blind and paralytic, Rafqa witnesses to all that, this woman despite her infirmities, ( we call handicaps) she could not be denied the Eucharist, for her love of God she triumphed. If this blind, paralytic saint can be mighty, and a valiant warrior here on earth, so Can I!

foot notes (i) St Rafqa Wiki (ii) Adoration Chapel St Sharbel picture frame (iii) Ibid. iv (Psalm 24:3-11)

Daily Indulgence: A plenary on the usual conditions, on each day of the Octave, applicable only to the dead. RACCOLTA Page 472.

#592 The faithful who during the period of eight days from the Commemoration of ALL SOULS inclusive, visit a cemetery in a spirit of Piety and devotion, and pray, even , mentally for the dead, may gain.

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