On November 22, 2009, Mother Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas was beatified at the Basilica of the Annunciation in Nazareth. Born to a Palestinian family in Jerusalem in 1843, she spent her whole life working among the poor of Palestine.
The beatification ceremony was presided over by Archbishop Angelo Amato, special envoy of Pope Benedict XVI. In marking this special day the Holy Father said: “The beatification of this very significant figure of a woman is of special comfort to the Catholic community in the Holy Land. It is an invitation to always trust, with firm hope in Divine Providence and Mary’s maternal protection.”
This Christmas the Palestinian Christians are facing terribly distressing times of occupation and economic strangulation. Beatification of this Palestinian nun gives them hope. Her example inspires them to persevere and also calls them to lives worthy of the Prince of Peace born in their land.
Mother Marie Alphonsine’s life parallels another saintly life, namely that of Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Both began their religious life in another order. Favored by apparitions of Mary, late in life they were called to a new apostolate serving the poor and neglected in their region. In the process they established new congregations of religious dedicated to this mission.
At an early age Marie Alphonsine joined the Congregation of St. Joseph of the Apparition as a postulant. In 1862 after her vows, she was sent to teach catechism in Bethlehem. There she also established religious associations promoting devotion to Mary through the rosary.
In Bethlehem, she was favored with several apparitions of Mary directing her to found the Congregation of the Rosary, a new order of nuns. Mary’s wish seemingly conflicted with Marie Alphonsine’s earlier vow of obedience taken when she entered the St. Joseph Congregation. After many trials and with the help of her spiritual director Fr. Tannous, she won dispensation to enter the new Congregation of the Rosary. On March 7, 1885 together with eight other sisters, she professed her final vows in the new order in the presence of the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, H.B. Vincent Bracco.
July 25, 1885 was a very special day in the life of Mother Marie Alphonsine. While she was assigned to Jaffa in Galilee with another nun, a young girl Nathira I’d fell into a deep water- filled cistern. Mother Marie Alphonsine threw her large 15 decade rosary into the well and invoked Mary’s help. The little girl was miraculously saved. The girl reported she saw a great light and a ladder shaped like a rosary saving her.
For the next 42 years Mother Marie Alphonsine labored in many villages and towns all over Palestine. In 1886 she established a new convent and school in Beit Sahour (‘town of the Shepherds’ Field’). Beginning in 1893, the next 15 years were spent in Bethlehem where in addition to her regular duties she established a workshop providing work and training for poor girls. In 1909 she was recalled to the Mother House in Jerusalem to care for the souls of the poor there. In 1917 she was asked to found an orphanage in Ain-Karem. There she devoted the rest of her life to prayer fulfilling Mary’s wish that the rosary be perpetually recited.
On March 25, 1927 Mother Marie Alphonsine returned her noble soul to its Creator while reciting the rosary with her sister Hanneh Danil Ghattas. For more information about the Rosary Congregation visit http://www.rosary-cong.com/ENGLISH.htm