It’s not hard to find God’s presence
in Francis of Assisi, Vincent de Paul
or Mother Teresa. These holy people
touched many lives and are world figures.
But God works also in the lowly
and hidden, as God did in the little
village of Himlaya, tucked in the cedarrich
mountains of Lebanon.
There, Boutroussieh Ar-Rayès was
born to poor, devout Maronite Catholics.
Her mother died when Boutroussieh
was seven. At 11, she already worked as
a maid to help support the family.
At 18, she entered a community of
teaching sisters where she was called
Sister Anissa. She lived a quiet life
teaching young girls for 18 years. In
1871, her community merged with
another that had a similar charism.
Each sister could choose to join the
new community or enter a cloistered
community. At 39, Anissa chose the
cloistered Baladite Order. She took the
name of her deceased mother, Rafqa
God writes in crooked lines and tosses
us about until we are where God wants
us to be. Rafqa was serenely happy in
her new home. She did the daily chores
of cloistered life with a joyful spirit.
We are reminded of St. Thérèse of
Lisieux and her little way, doing ordinary
things extraordinarily well.
One sister who lived with Rafqa at
this time stated, “During my stay with
her she was simple-hearted, happy in
every situation; she had no temper...
was never angry or disturbed. Nor
did anyone become angry with her.
We all agree she became a saint because
of her good-heartedness.”
But what is the cost of loving in all
the ordinary circumstances of life with
its moments of coping with frustration,
experiencing selfishness or holding
back anger to show a kind face?
Sanctity demands that loving price
from all of us. Accomplishing the great
things depends on the call of God.
June 29, 1832 Born in Himlaya, Lebanon
July 12, 1871 Transferred to cloistered monastery in Aito,
Lebanon, where she later prayed to be one
with the sufferings of Jesus
March 23, 1914 Died in Gerabta, Bartroun, Lebanon
June 10, 2001 Canonized by Pope John Paul II in Rome
God was not finished with Rafqa. In
1885, the 53-year-old religious went to
chapel to pray. In her own words, “Seeing
that I was in good health and that
I had never been sick all my life, I
prayed to God in this way, ‘Why, my
God, are you so far from me? You have
never visited me with sickness! Have
you perhaps abandoned me?’”
That very night she began to experience
extremely severe pain in her
head. The pain moved to her eyes and
lasted 29 years. Doctors could find no
cure. In time she became blind and
crippled, having movement only in
her wrists and hands.
Through it all, she remained joyful,
even grateful to God for the gift of suffering.
She said, “I have no right to
Most of us go kicking and screaming
any time we feel a little pain or discomfort.
What makes a person embrace
suffering? Perhaps the answer lies in
this: Rafqa was so in love with her Lord
that she, like Francis of Assisi, wanted
to identify with Jesus in all things, even
in his suffering.
While she didn’t move physical
mountains, she taught us the power
of love in the midst of pain. Once more
God raises up the lowly.
Next: Gianna Beretta Molla
“In the sufferings which never left her for 29 years of her life, St. Rafqa
always showed a passionate and generous love for the salvation of her
brothers, drawing from her union with Christ, who died on the cross, the
force to accept voluntarily and to love suffering....May St. Rafqa watch over
those who know suffering, particularly over the peoples of the Middle East
who must face a destructive and sterile spiral of violence. Through her
intercession, let us ask the Lord to open hearts to the patient quest for
new ways to peace.”
—homily from the Mass of beatification