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Catholic Heroes . . . St. Mariam Of Jesus Crucified

September 14, 2021 saints No Comments

By DEB PIROCH

Her parents had tried so hard to have a child. Again and again they had a little boy, one after the other dying in infancy. After losing 12 boys, Mariam’s mother said to her father: Let’s go to the Holy Grotto in Jerusalem and pray to the Blessed Virgin to intercede for a girl.
Mariam’s parents were Greek Melkite Catholics, and hailed from what is Syria today, descendant of the early Church in Antioch where followers of Christ were first called Christians. This was a predominantly Muslim area.
The two journeyed over a hundred miles on foot to pray at the Holy Grotto in Jerusalem for her birth. And naturally, their prayers were answered: This baby girl was born on the eve of the Epiphany 1846, and they named her in honor of the Virgin, Mariam Baouardy. After ten days she received Baptism, First Communion, and Confirmation.
Shortly thereafter her parents were blessed with a little boy who lived, whose anglicized name means Paul. Sadly, though, both her parents died when Mariam was two, and she went to live with her paternal uncle. Paul would be adopted by a maternal aunt, and the siblings never saw one another again.
Mariam’s story shows her inclined toward holiness at a young age. At five she was already fasting on Saturdays, and picking flowers for the Holy Mother. Stories say her flowers didn’t bloom and wilt, but would take root in the vase. Her faith took root wherever she was planted.
At age 13 the family moved to Alexandria. From there, she was promised in an arranged marriage to her aunt’s brother in Cairo. Her consent had never been asked, and she was very upset. She had wanted to give herself in marriage only to God! As she was already having mystical experiences, she heard a voice say first, “Everything passes! If you wish to give me your heart, I will remain with you.” And, the following night, she heard mixed with her prayers, “Mariam, I am with you; follow the inspiration I shall give you, I shall help you.”
Mariam told tell her uncle that she would not, could not, marry and why. He tried to persuade her, then became verbally antagonistic. Next he beat her. He relegated her to the lowest duties of the servants, in the kitchens. Around this time one of the servants, a Muslim, pretended to be her friend. She tried to get a letter to her brother for help. The Muslim’s only intent was to woo her away from Christianity. On September 8, 1858, she made clear to him this would never happen. It was the Feast of Our Lady’s Nativity and he cut her throat.
Here Mariam was not so clear on what happened to her. She dreamt that a nun in blue rescued her and stitched her throat. Then she was with her deceased parents and the Blessed Virgin. But someone told her; it was not yet her time. She was unclear how long she was there, but recalled having the most amazing soup ever, she kept wanting more. It was promised that she would have it again in her last hour.
And the lady in blue who was nursing her told her, prophesying: “You will receive the habit of Carmel in one house, you will make your profession in a second, and you will die in a third, at Bethlehem.” She later believed the one who saved and cared for her was the Blessed Virgin. Once healed Mariam was left at the Church of St. Catherine, and back on her own two feet. Her voice, however, retained some hoarseness and she had the throat scar the rest of her life.
After a few years she reached Marseilles and tried to be admitted for some time to an order. It was not so easy. She was fasting severely, she only spoke Arabic, and so on. And she noticed a man following her who held a child by the hand. She asked him at one stage to stop shadowing her. He smiled and said: “I know that you want to enter the convent and I will follow you until you are in the convent.” It was St. Joseph keeping an eye on her.
The Sisters of St. Joseph took her in, though she was illiterate and only knew Arabic. This order had other such sisters in chapters in the Holy Land. But she still attracted attention — for instance, she was often found in ecstasy. And then signs of the stigmata began at age 20. Bleeding of the heart, in 1866, was the first to manifest. In her vision she saw Christ much offended, with coals of wrath in His hands. She put her hand to her heart and asked Jesus to suffer for Him but to have mercy on sinners. When she was found, her hand was covered in blood.
Her novice mistress commanded the bleeding to stop, which it did. And then she asked that ecstasies cease in the presence of other Sisters of St. Joseph, so as not to attract attention. After Mariam’s two years as a postulant it was discerned that she should leave and join the Carmelites instead. Perhaps the supernatural signs unsettled them, but the nuns actually voted by a majority not to keep her in their convent, which was hard for Mariam. But in all things obedient, together with her former novice mistress, she joined the Discalced Carmelites in Pau, France in 1867.
Approximately a year later she received the full stigmata, which felt to her as if she were gathering roses for Mary, only the roses had thorns. And when she came to herself these areas where thorns stung were still there but swollen; the next day the scabs fell off and bleeding started, and so began her lifelong stigmata. May 24, 1868, she experienced Transverberation of the Heart. From then on till her death, her heart would bleed often, staining her clothing.
In 1870 she was sent on a trip with sisters to Mangalore, India, to help establish a Carmel. There she would also make her profession. The priest was angry at her, thinking she was influenced by the diabolical and ordered her back to France. She obeyed in humility. This was in 1872, and once back, she began to levitate. This she did frequently and more than once was called down in obedience from hovering at the top of a tree in ecstasy! Three years later she was sent to help build a monastery in the Holy Land.
Sr. Mariam had the misfortune to break her arm in the Holy Land and even worse, gangrene set in. The disease spread and soon she found it difficult to breathe. She passed away at the age of 33, like Our Lord Jesus Christ, her final words being, “My Jesus, Mercy!” Pope St. John Paul II presided over both her beatification and her canonization.
How can one fit the richness of any life into a few words? This special mystic experienced ecstasies from childhood, but lived a life no longer than our Redeemer’s. She saw the Lamb of God, and was devoted to the Holy Ghost, whom she felt needed much more attention paid to Him. And her stigmata? In her simplicity, the “little Arab” as she was affectionately called, did not realize its true honor. She called it her “humiliation” or the “wretched marks.” But she was happy to suffer the pain for God.
What she suffered during Holy Week was always the worst of the entire year. We leave you with a description of what she offered up Good Friday 1868, according to her Mother Superior. What fascinates is she seems to have relived the process of the crucifixion with our Lord:
“The next year at Pau, France . . . the stigmatist was truly on the cross; all her wounds reopened and the blood flowed from her head as well. We cannot conceive the intensity of the suffering she experienced. First she felt her legs pulled one after the other; and the same with her arms; then she felt her nails being driven in. . . . Later, the heart bled as usual, and immediately after that, the wounds began to heal. She remained very weak all week and continued to suffer from her knees which were injured, swollen, and full of bumps, perhaps resembling those our Lord must have had after all His Falls. At certain moments, even her cheek became red as if someone were slapping her in the face.”
What our Lord endured for us!
St. Mariam died in 1878.
We are indebted to various online sources, including mystics.
com.

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