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Catholic Heroes… St. Mariam Baouardy

August 15, 2019 saints No Comments

By CAROLE BRESLIN

In the Bible, there are numerous references to Galilee with about 80 in just the New Testament. Galilee is an area in northern Israel and it includes the city of Nazareth, Mt. Tabor, and the site of the Sermon on the Mount. In John 1:46. Nathaniel responds to Philip, who told him of Jesus, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Some recall this as, “Can anything good come out of Galilee?
The answer was yes then and it was yes in the nineteenth century. Good can come out of Nazareth. On January 8, 1846 a girl was born in the city of Ibillin, a small village between Nazareth and Haifa. Her parents, George Baouardy and Mariam Chahine, were Greek-Melkite Catholics.
Before the baby girl’s birth, Miriam and George were childless and made a pilgrimage to Bethlehem to pray at the manger for the grace to have a daughter. Like Sarah, who bore Isaac; the wife of Manoah, who bore Samson; and Elizabeth, who bore St. John the Baptist, Miriam conceived soon after the pilgrimage and bore Mariam. The next year her brother Boulos was born.
Mariam suffered a loss familiar to many saints when she was only three years old — her father died. A few days later, her mother also passed away, having entrusted her children to the care of St. Joseph. While a maternal aunt took Boulos, a rich paternal uncle adopted Mariam. It was the last time she ever saw her brother.
Mariam enjoyed a loving and comfortable atmosphere in the home of her uncle. Her relatives fostered her faithful formation, and so she developed a deep love and fervor for her Christian faith.
Mariam especially appreciated the wonders of God’s creation: light, landscape, and the sounds of nature. Yet she understood well the temporary nature of created things when compared to the eternity of heavenly realities.
Just after Mariam made her First Holy Communion in 1853, Mariam’s uncle and aunt moved to Cairo, Egypt to improve their life. Things continued comfortably until she was 13 years old and her uncle began making plans for her marriage. He arranged a marriage between Mariam and the brother of his wife, who also lived in Cairo.
The preparations continued without trouble until the night before the wedding. That night Mariam had a profound religious experience, making her realize that she was not called to a marriage vocation, but to a vocation as a religious.
The next morning she informed her uncle that she could not marry. He became so angry with her that he beat her ruthlessly. Even though he treated her terribly from that day, Mariam remained firm in her decision to enter the religious life and give herself completely to God.
As a result, Mariam became lonely and depressed by the rejection and ill-treatment. In an effort to find solace, she wrote a letter to her brother, seeking his assistance. She obtained the help of a trusted family servant to deliver the letter. However, when the servant learned of her sadness, he tried to win his way with her, suggesting that she give up her religion and convert to his religion — Islam.
When she refused his offerings, he pulled his sword and cut her throat. He then took her and dumped her body in an alley — the date was September 8, the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary’s Nativity.
Mariam considered her recovery a miracle. A lovely lady dressed in blue, whom Mariam later identified as the Blessed Virgin Mary, had carried her to a grotto, stitched her wounds, and cared for her. She also taught her things of God. After one month, the lady led her to a church, where a Christian Arab family hired her as a maidservant.
After one year, she joined a caravan going to Jerusalem in hopes that she could see her brother. When she visited the Holy Sepulchre, she was inspired to make a vow of perpetual virginity.
Mariam did not find her brother, so she boarded a ship bound for Acre in northern Israel. Stormy weather, however, forced a landing in Beirut. Seeing this as divine Providence, she stayed in Beirut, once again finding employment as a domestic servant. Her trials continued when she went blind. For 40 days an inexplicable blindness afflicted her, but she regained her sight just as suddenly.
Soon after Mariam recovered her sight, she had a bad fall leaving her unresponsive, but once again she recovered. She stayed with this family for many months, endearing herself to both family members and servants. However, she felt they gave her too much honor, so she decided to leave them.
Thanks to the kindness of a generous patron, Mariam traveled to Marseille, France, again finding employment as a maid in an Arab family, this time in May 1863. While serving them, she applied to several congregations seeking admission, but because she looked like she was only 13 — although she was 19 — and because she had health issues and a ruined voice, she was rejected.
After many disappointments, Mariam finally received acceptance from the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, which had several candidates from Palestine. Our Lord marked her entrance to this congregation with the special favor of the stigmata. She believed it was an illness, but continued working hard in the kitchen and laundry. The nuns who noticed it became disconcerted as she received more special graces. Thus, after two years, she was not allowed to stay.
Mariam then went to southwestern France to the Carmel of Pau, a discalced community, in June of 1867. She had followed Mother Veronica of the Passion, who sought to found a new community of religious sisters to serve in India.
In June both women received the Carmelite religious habit and Mariam took the name of Mary of Jesus Crucified. In 1870 Mariam joined the first group of Carmelite Apostolic Sisters who went to Mangalore, India. Then after two years, she returned to Pau where she made her profession of solemn vows on November 21, 1871.
Her travels resumed when she went to Bethlehem in September 1875 — the beginning of the first Carmelite community to be there. Sr. Mary of Jesus Crucified stayed in Bethlehem for the rest of her life, during which she continued to receive many mystical graces from God.
When she went to Nazareth to establish another Carmelite community, she received a vision revealing to her the exact location of the biblical city of Emmaus.
She returned to Bethlehem to supervise the construction of the new monastery there. As she was carrying refreshments to the workers, she fell down the stairs, breaking her arm. The resulting injury never healed properly and gangrene developed. She died just a few days later on August 26, 1878 at the age of 32.
Pope St. John Paul II beatified Sr. Mary on November 13, 1983 in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican. On May 17, 2015 Pope Francis canonized her. Her feast is celebrated on August 26.
Dear St. Mariam Baouardy, you faithfully persevered in following the will of God in the midst of all your trials and tribulations. During difficult times, obtain for us a special grace of accepting God’s will with docility, and to trust that God will provide the means for us to follow His call. Amen.

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(Carole Breslin home-schooled her four daughters and served as treasurer of the Michigan Catholic Home Educators for eight years. For over ten years, she was national coordinator for the Marian Catechists, founded by Fr. John A. Hardon, SJ.)

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