Monday, March 23, 2015

Two New Saints: Blessed Marie-Alphonsine (1847-1927) and Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified (1846-1878)

This biblical salutation opens our Pastoral Letter, prepared in the See of the Apostle, James the Less, the first Bishop of Jerusalem, which brings us a double joy. This year is dedicated to Consecrated Life, which coincides with the canonization of the two daughters of the Holy Land: Blessed Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas from Jerusalem, foundress of the Congregation of the Rosary Sisters, and Blessed Mariam Baouardy from the village of Ibillin, foundress of the Discalced Carmelites of Bethlehem, who, took the religious name Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified.

The news of the canonization of these two holy women is a blessing from heaven on our land, devastated by violence yet persevering in our longing for peace and justice. This long-awaited announcement of the double canonization, restores in us our trust and hope in Christ. The Lord wants to comfort our country, torn apart by conflicts and wars, and our people who continue to suffer and endure through injustices. Nevertheless, divine grace has always given rise to saints, who reveal to us the face of Christ, “meek and humble of heart”, full of love, mercy and forgiveness. Despite their human weaknesses, these saints imitated Christ, and continue to do so, in this most Holy Land, where God Himself walked!

The tribulations which we endure encourage us to become saints, through the example of our two holy women. This is not something impossible to do. Mother Marie-Alphonsine was humble on earth and is now “great in the kingdom of heaven.” She attained spiritual motherhood for a multitude, in becoming the foundress of a religious congregation so dear to our hearts.

Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, was a living symbol of God’s love. From her childhood, she understood that everything here on earth was passing and mortal, and that only Christ prevails in eternity. She entered the cloistered Order of Discalced Carmelite nuns, whose presence in the Holy Land is deeply appreciated. It is a discrete presence of prayer, meditation, humble work and absolute consecration to the Lord.

The Divine Master said: “Let your light shine before men!”(Mt 5:16) This commandment, reminds us always that Jesus himself is the “true light that gives light to everyone,” (Jn 1:9) and gives to humanity, prudence and strength. Christ is the only Light, all others are but a shadow of the truth. It is Jesus who gives splendor and radiance to living beings and everything that is good and beautiful. As saint Justin of Nablus said, “They are but rays of the Sun, who is the Word Incarnate.” (cf. Dialogue with Trypho cp. 121)

 Our two new saints are lamps for our path. Their love and faith inspire their religious families, the faithful in the Holy Land, the Middle East and the entire world. In their lives, they resembled in their vigilance the “faithful servants who awaited the return of their master,” (Lk 12:36) as well as the wise virgins who waited patiently for the arrival of the Bridegroom. For this reason they have entered into “the banquet of the wedding feast of the Lamb” (Rev 19:9). There is no risk of remaining in “in outer darkness,” neither for them nor for the people who follow them!

They were simple in greatness and great in their simplicity. Their simplicity did not extinguish their greatness. Their entry into holiness manifests the victory of virtue over vice, of light over darkness, of love over selfishness, and of faith over indifference and rejection of God. The integrity of their life glorifies God. It exults their gifts and good deeds, just as the holy Virgin Mary proclaimed in her eternal canticle, the Magnificat : “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour; for the Almighty has done great things for me and Holy is his name.” (Lk 1: 47 ff).

Our two new Saints, through an exemplary life, their silence and recollection, their fidelity amidst suffering and their heroic selflessness in sacrifices, offer us a magnificent lesson which can be summarized in the words of the Lord Jesus : “the one who perseveres to the end will be saved” (Mt 24:13). And, like Saint Augustine, we can exclaim: “Can you not do what these young men and maidens can?” (Confessions 8: 27). As Christ asks of us, our two Saints entered the narrow gate. Unfortunately, “few will manage to succeed” (Lk 13: 24). But for them, the door which was initially “narrow” became wide open to get to Christ !

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