The Catholic Church will mark the 5th anniversary of the canonization of St. Marie-Alphonsine Ghattas which took place on May 17, 2015.
The Church acknowledges the genuineness of her spiritual experiences, introducing them as examples and intercessors for faithful.
Mother Marie-Alphonsine was born in Jerusalem on October 4, 1843 to a very devoted Christian family. Her father was called Daniel and her mother, Catherine. Family Ghattas are Bethlehem-born, but some of its members left Bethlehem and lived in different towns of Palestine: Bethlehem, Beit Jala, Beit Sahur, and Jerusalem.
It was in Jerusalem that Marie-Alphonsine lived with her family. Her mother attended Mass every day. Her father enjoyed hosting at home neighbors and friends every evening, in order to recite the decade before a statue of the Virgin Mary. It was the tradition in many Christian families in Jerusalem.
At her birth Marie Alphonsine received the name “Sultana” (“Queen” in Arabic), a forename linked in many ways to Queen Virgin. Then, her parents preferred to add the name of Mary at her baptism.
After many years of stiff opposition from her father, Sultana – 17 years old then – received in the evening of 30 June 1860 the habit of the Sisters of St Joseph of Apparition on Mount Golgotha in Jerusalem. She got on that day her name in religion: Marie-Alphonsine, which she kept until the end of her lifetime.
Sr Marie-Alphonsine was keen about the mission, for apostolic action, keeping at the same time a calm, devoted, pensive and serious personality. She was characterized by an astounding humbleness, avoiding exposure on all occasions, preferring to act in silence in order to please primarily God but not humans.
In Bethlehem, she started to receive apparitions from the Holy Virgin, who sent forth important messages regarding the foundation of a local congregation that will carry the name of Sisters of Rosary, restricted to Arab girls. These apparitions lasted for four years. It was during those apparitions that the Holy Virgin referred the seer to a Latin Patriarchate priest, Fr Yussef Tannous, who will become her spiritual father and then the visible founder of the congregation, as the humble servant of God preferred to remain in the shade.
After many complications, hardships and sufferings, Sr Marie Alphonsine got permission from the Holy See to leave the congregation of the Sisters of St Joseph of Apparition and join a new one in 1880. She received the habit of Our Lady of the Rosary in 1883.
The Saint took care of concealing the mystery of apparitions she had received. Nobody knew about them except for her spiritual father. She opted for silence during her lifetime. She preferred living a life of abnegation, and the secret remained hidden for 53 years. It was thanks to the wisdom of the spiritual father, Fr Tannous, who had requested her to put down in writing what she had seen and heard during her visions, through which the Sisters, after the death of Sr Marie Alphonsine, were able to discover the reality about the foundation of the Congregation.
She said: “I decided through love to Mary, and in Her veneration, to obey Her voice and to sacrifice my life in the Congregation of the Rosary, putting my trust in the help which my Mother will bestow on me, believing that she will walk always walk along with me and will support me”.
Few days before her death, as she felt the impending encounter with the Most-Beloved and with her Holy Mother, she seized the opportunity of a private meeting with her sister in blood and religious life, Mother Anne, to confide to her: “After my death, go there to where I tell you, you will find two booklets handwritten by me. Take them and hand them over to Patriarch Barlassina”. Mother Anne found the two booklets which include an account about the apparitions, sealed with red wax. She took them away and presented them to Mgr Marcus, asking him to tell the Patriarch. She fulfilled thereby the will of her dead sister.
As he did not master the Arabic language, the Patriarch asked Sister Augustine to translate to him these pages, then ordained Mother Superior General to bring back the original two manuscripts. It was then that the full reality behind the foundation of the congregation was revealed to the sisters, struck with astonishment as to the heroic humbleness of their unknown founder.
On the other hand, through the intercession of Mother Marie-Alphonsine two miracles took place, one for beatification and the other for canonization.
POPE FRANCIS’ REMARK ON HER CANONIZATION
At her Canonization on 17 May 2015 in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said:
“An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among us, His disciples, in the image of His own unity with the Father. Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of His passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of His poverty, His virginity and His obedience and this same love, calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Maria-Alphonsine Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit. Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. “
PRAYER TO ST. MOTHER MARIE-ALPHONSINE
Heavenly Father, we, your children, implore you to grant us your grace goodness and to adorn our souls with the divine and human virtues, as you did with your handmaid Saint Marie Alphonsine.
We ask you, Saint Marie Alphonsine – you who asked the Virgin Mary to heal your father, after he had sustained burns, and implored her to make him allow you to join the convent- and we beseech you today to implore God the Father so that he (He) would grant us the grace that we need, and we will praise him and thank him, (Him) while reporting joyfully ” Your will be done”. Amen