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Saint Rafqa

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Saint Rafqa.jpg

Life

Spirituality

Rafka was born in Himlaya, within the Matn District, on June 29, 1832, coinciding with the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul, and was christened Boutrossieh, the Arabic equivalent of the feminine form of Peter. At the age of 14, she resolved to dedicate her life to the religious calling and promptly entered the Convent of Our Lady of Liberation in Bikfaya.

On February 9, 1855, on the Feast of St. Maron, Boutrossieh embarked on her novitiate at the Ghazir convent and adopted the name Rafqa, in honor of her mother. In 1871, Rafqa opted to pursue a cloistered lifestyle rather than engage in teaching, and, following a period of prayer at the Church of St. George, she resolved to join the Baladita Order, now known as the Lebanese Maronite Order of St. Anthony, established in 1695.

That very night, Rafqa experienced a significant dream involving three figures: one with a white beard, another garbed as a soldier, and the third an elderly man. One of them urged her to join the Baladita Order, prompting Rafqa to make immediate arrangements to journey to the Monastery of St. Simon in Al-Qarn.

On July 12, 1871, at the age of thirty-nine, Rafqa commenced her novitiate at the newly established monastery, and on August 25, 1873, she professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, adhering strictly to the Baladita Order's Rule.

In 1897, Rafqa was among a group of six nuns tasked with establishing the order's new Monastery of St. Joseph of Gerbata in Ma’ad, under the leadership of Mother Ursula Doumit. Rafqa remained there for the final 17 years of her life, during which her suffering intensified.

Three days prior to her passing, Rafqa expressed serenity, stating, "I am not afraid of death, for which I have long awaited. God will grant me life through my death." On March 23, 1914, just four minutes after receiving final absolution and the plenary indulgence, she peacefully departed this life.

On August 25, 1873, she solemnly professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience in accordance with the strict Rule of the Baladita Order. The nuns adhered rigorously to a structured daily regimen, characterized by prayer and manual labor. They diligently tended to the cultivation of vegetables and grain in the fields surrounding their convent.

In 1885, Rafqa experienced a profound spiritual struggle, questioning why God seemed distant and why she had not been afflicted with illness. This marked the beginning of a seventeen-year period of intense suffering as a blind paralytic. Enduring constant pain day and night, Rafqa embraced her affliction, desiring to share in the suffering of Jesus Christ. Despite her agony, she never murmured or complained, expressing gratitude to God for her suffering.

Rafqa steadfastly believed that her illness served the good of her soul and brought glory to God. She viewed her patient acceptance of suffering as a means of purifying the soul, likening it to the refining fire that purifies gold.

Despite her debilitating condition, Rafqa exhibited remarkable determination and faith. On the feast of Corpus Christi, she miraculously managed to crawl to the chapel, astonishing her fellow sisters. When questioned about this feat, she attributed it to divine assistance, stating that she felt compelled by God to make the journey.

Throughout her life, Rafqa remained grateful for the unique communion she experienced with God, even in the midst of her suffering, until her passing.

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