Emotion for Blessed Mariam Baouardy’s letters
“Letters of the Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified”, published recently, have been “received and read” with emotion in Sister Mariam’s native village of Ibillin on Friday, December 2nd. Bishop Giacinto-Boulos Marcuzzo, Latin Patriarchal Vicar for Israel, held the appointed conference at the Melkite parish church.
This initiative, part of the yearly planned festive program, recalling the beatification (November 13), was coordinated by the parish priest, Father Michel Toomeh, and the Parish Council. Some hundred faithful of the parish, many of whom members the Legion of Mary and of the youth movement, attended the event.
To begin with, Bishop Marcuzzo briefly presented the books written on the Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified: that of Fr. Estrate, the doctoral thesis of D. Ilario Antoniazzi, those of P. Buzy, P. Brunot, K. Fleckenstein, Gori, Brair, Misleh, L. Hazboun, etc… , highlighting the arabic publications. He also presented the beautiful CD produced by Fr. Francesco Zampini, director of “Telepace” in the Holy Land, who was present at the conference.
The conference itself consisted of two parts. Firstly, the bishop presented the external appearance and materials of the book. The Carmelites of Bethlehem collected these 215 letters of the Blessed from the own archives and from those of the Latin Patriarchate of Jerusalem. This 560-page book was published last March, under the Carmel Editions and the Cerf distribution, as part of the Living Carmel collection. The letters are presented with very useful introductions and the several annexes are also very valuable. Sr. Mariam Baouardy, who could neither read nor write, was assisted by various “secretary-sisters”. Therefore the style of the writings is quite various, but the process of thought is deeply the same throughout the work. Sr. Mariam wrote from Bethlehem, from 1867 to 1878, to most diverse people: the prioresses and sisters of Carmel communities, where she had lived, to friends and benefactors, especially to Mrs. Dartigaux; to priests, especially to her spiritual fathers, and bishops; to the Patriarch of Jerusalem, V. Bracco (55 letters), to cardinals, to Pope Leo XIII and even an outstanding letter to “Our Father, the prohet Elijah”. Fr. Estrate, Betharramite, received the largest number of letters (115), among which the longest letter (10 pages).
The second part of the conference was more conceptual and most important. Reading these letters, mostly unpublished until now, one really discovers the soul of the Blessed, a wealth of information and historical details, the immense wealth of her spirituality. The publication of this book creates need for a new book on the life of the Blessed. This correspondence features a deep sense of humanity, an incredible transparency, an unexpected psychology, a very strong religious sense, a repeated reference to the Holy Spirit, a continual reminding of the Sacred Heart and a sincere and disarming simplicity, a surprising courage. As a matter of example, she ends her letter to the Pope, writing in the third person: “The little maid writing to you is a poor lay sister covered with sin and misery. Nothing in her is good except for one small thing that the Lord, and nothing but the Lord gave her: that she never did anything out of human respect and that she speaks out the truth…. ”
Upon the end of his presentation the speaker was literally bombarded with questions about this or that detail of the correspondence, of which, moreover, we find no letter to her parents in Galilee. It is not easy to understand why. The bishop was pleased with a very specific question, even though a little off topic, showing a great attitude in our community: “What can we do to achieve and accelerate the canonization of our Blessed”?
In answering this question Bishop Marcuzzo said, “Being that these letters of the Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified provoke such engaging questions, they truly deserve to be published, and we strongly congratulate the Carmelites of Bethlehem for this wonderful book : “mabrouk!”.