Two Saints of Palestine: “remain in God and His love, to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus”
Rome/Jerusalem/Bethlehem – Sunday, May 17, 2015. These past days, a great joy filled the three holiest cities of Christianity: Bethlehem where Christ was born, Jerusalem where He was crucified and resurrected, and Rome where the two greatest apostles of the Gospel, Saint Peter and Saint Paul were martyred. It is the joy of the canonization of two Arab and Palestinian nuns, both great yet very humble, both foundresses and mystical.
This is the Land which the Father has chosen to bestow salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. On this very land, He has sown the grace of Holiness, as a reminder that this land, torn apart by hatred and war, is still a good land. A message of hope for what remains of Christians in this Land of Christ. And it is this hope that the faithful celebrated these past two weeks, to give thanks to God and express their desire to follow these two new Saints on the path of Holiness.
Throughout the Diocese, celebrations have been organized, including those held at the Carmel of Bethlehem, and the Convent of the Sisters of the Rosary at Mamilla in Jerusalem.
At the Carmel of Bethlehem, a prayer vigil was held on Saturday evening, where the faithful came in large numbers. During two hours of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament, the faithful followed one another to put on the mantle of prayer of the new Carmelite saint, imploring graces for themselves, for parents, for friends. There was continuous singing as animated by the dynamic choir of the Bethlehem parish. A vigil of prayer and praise, of simplicity, meditation and the sobriety of the Carmel.
From behind their grille, in silence and contemplation, but with much love and radiant faces, the Carmelites of Bethlehem participated in the vigil. They all celebrated the sainthood of the one who wanted to be called “the little nothing”, whom God has raised high.
In Jerusalem, a momentous vigil started on Saturday at 6:00 pm, opening the “Marathon of Sainthood” for 24 hours of prayer. Groups from several parishes and communities in the Holy Land, in succession, joyfully animated the vigil during the night, in prayer, in praise and thanksgiving, next to the relics of Mother Marie-Alphonsine, who was canonized on Sunday in Rome. It was a great joy for the Sisters of the Rosary, who, since the death of their hidden foundress, serve the Church of Jerusalem as well as all the children of God throughout the Arab world, with fidelity and devotion .
In Rome as well, an animated prayer vigil was held at the Dominican Basilica of Santa Sabina. Hundreds of Palestinian and Arab Christians came to the Rome from the four corners of the world to be present for this occasion. t
On Sunday morning, May 17, 2015, the Patriarch, Auxiliary & Emeritus Bishops of the Latin Patriarchate and several other bishops of the Holy Land, diocesan clergy, nuns, seminarians and faithful converged at Saint Peter’s Square and participated in the Pontifical Mass of Canonization celebrated by Pope Francis.
In his homily the Holy Father reminded the faithful that the message of saints is primarily, “to abide in God and in his love, and thus to proclaim by our words and our lives the resurrection of Jesus.” Referring to the new Palestinian saints, he carried on: “An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, 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 Mariam 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. So too, Sister Marie Alphonsine Danil Ghattas came to understand clearly what it means to radiate the love of God in the apostolate, and to be a witness to meekness and unity. She shows us the importance of becoming responsible for one another, of living lives of service one to another.”
The celebrations then continued in the streets of Rome as Palestinian, Jordanian and Lebanese flags waved in the joy of the Christians of the Middle East for the canonization of two daughters of the Holy land.
On Monday, May 18, a Thanksgiving Mass was celebrated at the Basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, led by His Beatitude Fouad Twal, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem with Bishops and priests of the of the Holy Land concelebrating, and attended by many men and women religious and faithful.
In his homily, Patriarch Twal explained the meaning of canonization, saying that the : “canonization of these two nuns is at the same time a blessing, a challenge and a hope for us all. It is a blessing that tells us that God guides the path of the Christian community in our country, making it fruitful and alive by holiness. It is a challenge for us, for it calls us to rise up to the level of their holiness by the grace of God. It is also a hope in these difficult moments and circumstances which overwhelm our country in these days, for our people and our faithful, reminding us that the last word in our life and our history belongs to God”.
The celebrations of this historic event for the Church of the Holy Land did not end there: Thanksgiving Masses will be held in the Holy Land and Jordan, according to previously announced program.
We present our wishes to the universal Church, the Church of Jerusalem and all of Palestine and the Middle East Christians, so that filled with the message of Hope, of Faith and of Love spread in the Holy Land, two thousand years after the Incarnation of the Sun of Justice, the message of Jesus Christ who is glorified by his Saints, together with the Father and His Spirit.