Sunday, December 7, 2014

Our Newest New Saint (To Be)

Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified - Mariam

Like the buses in Dublin, canonise a couple of Carmelites and another one comes around the corner. Yesterday we heard, with great joy, that our Palestinian sister, Blessed Mary of Jesus Crucified - or Blessed Mariam as we call her, is to be declared a Saint. The Holy Father has signed a decree approving a miracle through her intercession yesterday, and so she will be enrolled among the Saints next year. 

If you do not know about Blessed Mariam then you are in for a treat, she is one of the most personable of the Beati, a woman whose life was extraordinary in terms of her virtues (humility being foremost among them) and extraordinary in the phenomenon that surrounded her. She was a Discalced Sister who brought the Carmelite nuns back to the Holy Land, founding two monasteries there, one in Bethlehem -, her native town, and one in Nazareth. She was a lay sister, a hard worker and a mystic, possessing many charisms including levitation, prophecy and the stigmata. She was also a poet. Much misunderstood, she was asked to leave the first congregation of sisters she joined - the community of the convent couldn't cope with mystics, and so she arrived at the door of the Carmelites who accepted her: they had no problem with mystics - the more the merrier. 

Her early life was just as extraordinary ; she had the experience of being a martyr in her youth. Now you may think my saying that is strange, to be a martyr you have to be killed. Yes that is true, and in the strict sense she wasn't. But I shall explain. Mariam had a difficult childhood, she was orphaned and put into the care of relatives where she befriended a Muslim man, a servant of her uncle. He was very kind and she would often confide her sadness to him. One day while she was visiting him he suddenly demanded that she convert to Islam. 

Taken aback Mariam declined. Seizing a large knife he threatened her: if she did not convert he would kill her: she refused whereupon he grabbed her and began to behead her. She seemed to die, and even though the job was unfinished, he took her body and threw out into the street. She was not dead, a few days later she awoke to find herself in a cave being cared for by an extraordinary beautiful and luminous lady. She spent some time healing and eventually was able to leave the cave and return to her life. For the rest of her life she concealed the wound. After her death, as her body was being prepared the wound was discovered and a close examination by a doctor revealed that the vertebrae in her neck were so such a state it would have been impossible for her to survive, yet she did and seemingly without pain. The attack has been considered her "martyrdom" her survival miraculous. 

There are some good booklets about her life, you can order them from the Carmelite Book Service in Oxford. She is worth getting to know and praying to. May she intercede for all of us.

Blessed Mariam's tomb in the Carmel of Bethlehem

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