Life of Saint Rafca, The Blind Mystic of Lebanon
|The Lily of Himlaya
She was born in Himlaya, a small village near Bickfaya (Metn), on June 29, 1832 and was given the name Petronilla as a reminder that she was a daughter of St. Peter, on whose feast day she entered the world.
The Land of Rafca
The Land of Rafca is Lebanon: a country, torn by four years of war, in search of peace and tranquillity. The wealthy, big powers have brought their conflicts there and are trying to resolve them there. The greatness of that Land lies in the fact that it has always been a land of refuge.
The Land of Rafca is the land of the Canaanites and the Phoenicians, and is mentioned with enthusiasm and wonder more than sixty times in Holy Scripture.
Like Therese of Lisieux, Rafca, “The Little Flower of Lebanon,” the “Purple Rose,” the “Silent and Humble Nun”, had to tell her life story to her Mother Superior some months before her death. Obedience to this request is the reason why today we are able to know something about this woman who sought for nothing else but to be forgotten by men and live only for God. However, the perfume of this violet immediately spread after her death and has attracted the attention of the ecclesiastical authorities.
The Cause for Beatification of the Servant of God, Rafca, is currently in Rome. It will now be up to the Holy Father to make the final decision regarding her virtues and the graces obtained through her intercession, as to whether he will elevate her to the ranks of the saints. As we anticipate and pray for this glorious day, we submit ourselves to the decision of the Church and patiently wait.
Bride of the Crucified
Rafca’s condition grew more serious. The pain she was enduring in her eyes became excruciating. Her Superior sent her to Tripoli for treatment. The treatments were most painful, too, and she lost a great deal of blood. However, during all of this time, she kept repeating, “With your sufferings, O Lord, for your glory.” …
The Total Gift
In 1897, a group of nuns from the convent of St. Simeon of the Horn moved to the new convent of St. Joseph Ad-Daher. Mother Ursula, who was to be the Superior of the new foundation, asked to have Sister Rafca included in the group. She wished to have her example before the eyes of the sisters as they met with the hardships that are always inherent in establishing a new foundation.
Sister Rafca spent the last seventeen years of her life in this convent which was to be the scene of her greatest sufferings, as well as of her greatest spiritual joys.
Rafca was not to disappoint Mother Ursula. Her example and assistance proved invaluable in establishing the new convent. The novices especially were impressed with the blind nun’s spirit of prayer, humility, and charity. Many years later, after her death, several of Rafca’s sisters who had either come with her to the new foundation, or who had been novices during the seventeen years that she lived at St. Joseph Ad-Daher and had never forgotten what they had observed of their sister’s life, testified regarding her holiness…
…Rafca suffered for seventeen years as a blind paralytic. Only God knew how much she had to endure. Her pain was continuous night and day, yet the other sisters never heard her murmuring or complaining. She often told them that she thanked God for her sufferings, “…because I know that the sickness I have is for the good of my soul and His glory” and that “the sickness accepted with patience and thanksgiving purifies the soul as the fire purifies gold.”
She was always quiet and calm, smiling, enduring even the greatest pain with patience, hoping in the Lord who promised to increase the glory of His faithful servants in heaven (Lk. 21:19).
By her patience, she can be compared to the greatest of the saints.
A Light Shining in the Darkness
A few years before she died, Rafca’s Bridegroom granted her two more favors to show His acceptance of her offering of herself as a Victim of Love.
One day, mother Ursula noticed that Rafca seemed to be suffering much more than usual and, touched by pity for the poor sister, asked her, Is there anything else you want from this world? Have you never regretted the loss of your sight? Don’t you sometimes wish you could see this new convent with all the natural beauties that surround it–the mountains and rocks, and the forests?”
Sister Rafca answered simply, “I would like to see just for an hour, Mother–just to be able to see you.”
“Only for one hour?” asked the Superior. “And you would be content to return to that world of darkness?”
“Yes,” replied the invalid.
Mother Ursula shook her head in wonder and began to leave Rafca’s cell. Suddenly, the paralyzed nun’s face broke into a beautiful smile and she turned her head toward the door. “Mother,” she called, I can see you!”
The Superior turned around quickly and saw the glow on Rafca’s face. That alone was enough to tell her that her daughter was not teasing, but she wanted to be certain that the phenomenon was actual and not just a trick of the mind of the poor nun who had been blind for so many years.
Desperately trying to conceal her emotions, she walked back to the bedside.
“If it is as you say,” she queried, “tell me what is lying on the wardrobe.” Sister Rafca turned her face toward the little closet and answered, “The Bible and the Lives of the Saints–she could hardly contain her excitement. But, she reasoned, perhaps Rafca knew that these were the only two books in her cell as she had no need for others and the sisters who read to her usually only used these two titles–knowing that the invalid loved them best.
Another test would have to be tried and this time, witnesses were called in the testify to the miracle.
There was a lovely multi-colored cover on Rafca’s bed. Mother Ursula called her attention to it and began to point to the colors one by one, asking the newly-sighted nun to call out the names of the colors as she pointed to them. The three sisters who assisted the Superior in the test verified that Sister Rafca named each color correctly.
As she had requested, though, this new sight lasted only for one hour during which time she conversed with Mother Ursula and looked around her cell, at her siters, and through the window to catch glimpses of the beauties outside.
After this time, she fell into a peaceful sleep. The Mother Superior remained at Rafca’s side for a short time and then decided to waken the nun to see if she would be able to see again…
From the Dust of the Earth
Charify Khoury, widow of Saad Peter Khoury, Mayor of Mazraat Ram (Batroun) declared on November 23, 1925:
My son, Peter, who was three years old, became very ill when his body began to store up uric acid. The quantity of acid increased to such an extent that his body became swollen and his eyes were closed. Dr. Elias Anaissi forbade him to eat anything except milk, but the child did not like milk and refused to take it. We used to put rose water in the milk and force it into his mouth, but he would just vomit it back up and finally refused to take any more.
The doctor insisted that the only medicine for his condition was milk and advised that if he didn’t take it, he would die, so we kept forcing him to drink the milk. I was very frightened. This situation continued for thirty or forty days and Peter was close to death.
I had heard about the miracles of Rafca, so I made her a conditional vow: “If my son gets well so that I can feed him any kind of food without hurting him, I will visit the Convent of St. Joseph with him.”
That very night I saw in my dreams an old lady with a cane in her hand. She told me, “Do not be afraid for your son. Give him whatever he wants to eat. He will not die”. I realized that this was Rafca.