Blessed Mariam’s feast: “she encourages all her Eastern brethren”
BETHLEHEM: On Monday, 26th of August, Blessed Mariam’s Feastday was celebrated at the Carmel of Bethlehem. Mass was presided by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, His Beatitude Fouad Twal, with three other Bishops as concelebrants: Bishop Kamal Bathish, Archbishop Emeritus Charles Vandame, SJ of N’Djamena, (Chad); and Assumptionist Archbishop Louis Pelâtre, Apostolic Vicar of Istanbul, along with twenty other priests. The message of the “young Arab girl” beatified in 1983 (liturgically commemorated on August 26thAugust) is a strong sign of encouragement for the people of the Middle East, in an extremely tense context of the Syrian conflict.
Mariam Baouardy was born in a village in Galilee in 1846. She took part in the foundation of the Carmel of Bethlehem. His Beatitude recalled in his homily, the various “mystical” phenomena that characterize her life should not obscure her fundamental qualities: her humility, deep fraternal charity and total surrender to the Holy Spirit. A large crowd of faithful packed the Church. Local officials were also present: Minister of Tourism of the Palestinian Authority, Ms. ola Ma’aia, and the Mayor of Bethlehem, Mrs Vera Baboun. Also present was Father William Marie Merchat from the diocese of Nîmes. He lived in the Holy Land and returns regularly. He continues to be involved in school pastoral work. As delegate of the Oeuvre d’Orient, he is in direct contact with the Superior of Carmel of Bethlehem, and works at promoting awareness to Blessed Mariam’s spiritual message. He is the author of “Praying for 15 days with Mary of Jesus Crucified”, and presented the Arabic translation to the Patriarch.
In the present situation of Christians of the East, the Patriarch reminded that “Mariam, a Christian from the East, addresses all her Eastern brethren. She encourages them to hold fast to their faith and not let loose any of their practices or of their Christian identity. In the midst of painful situations lived by the Christians of the East – whether in Palestine, Syria, Egypt or Lebanon – she is a sign of fidelity and hope, urging us to turn towards Christ”. The Patriarch continued: “Knowing her, introducing her life to others is a gift, which Christians can offer themselves, in testimony of support and reconciliation.” The Patriarch also stressed the example of humility, charity, pardon, which Blessed Mariam spreads around her to follow in a world which calls for vengeance, domination and violence. For the Patriarch, together with Mariam, we – as Christians – “live e in a different world which rejects all dark ages, wars and injustices”.
He encourages each of the Carmelites to pray because, for him, “the flame of prayer can only go higher and beyond the wars of the cloister, in order to join the people of this country (Editor’s Note: The Holy Land) and of the Middle East”.