Saint Rafqa's Convent
Monastery of Saint Joseph ad-dahr, Jrebta. Saint Rafqa's Tomb.
The Monastery of Saint Joseph, Saint RAFQA’s Tomb, lies at 350 meters altitude on the plateau known as ad-Dahr at the foot of Mount Jrabta, in the Batroun area, North Lebanon.
The mother Superior of the monastery of Saint Simon at al-Qarn, Aytu, situated 1,150 meters above sea level, in a region with a reputation for its severe winter climate, sent one of her nuns, Sister Ursula Doumit, suffering from rheumatism, to pass the winter in her home village of Maad, following the advice of a doctor.
A brother of Sister Ursula Doumit, Father Ignatius Doumit al-Maadi. Full of zeal and enthusiasm, suggested building a monastery for the nuns on the coast. He reached agreement with Father John Basbous al-Maadi, who as early as 1865 had set about building a school on the lands of the village of Jrabta. By this agreement, Father Basbous was to hand over the school with all its real estate and movable property. For his part, Father Ignatius was to assume financial responsibility for the construction of a new monastery in the region to be given to the Lebanese maronite Nuns.
The necessary permission having been obtained on February 29, 1896, from Patriarch John Haj (1890-1898), in March of 1896 work began on the new building. Once the construction was finished, the Lebanese Maronite Order decided, on August 15, 1897, under Father General Martin (Martinos) Shemali (1895- 1899), to accept the bequests of donors.
From the beginning, then, this monastery which bore the name of Saint Joseph ad-Dahr, was intended for the nuns. On October 22, 1897, Patriarch John Haj confirmed the pious legacy.
During the same year the monastery was given to the Order. On November 3, 1897, six nuns from the Monastery of Saint Simon Stylites, al-Qarn, were transferred to the new monastery of Saint Joseph, among them Sister Ursula doumit, sister of Father Ignatius, and Sister RAFQA Shubuq ar-Rayyes (Saint RAFQA) of Himlaya. The Order then declared the monastery canonically erected.
The six nuns led a contemplative cenobitic life according to their religious Constitution. They built their monastery own hands, and with the aid of the Spiritual Fathers and Coadjutor Brothers of the Lebanese Maronite Order they planted olive-trees, fig-trees and vines. They also devoted themselves to certain forms of manual work, such as weaving and the making of liturgical vestments, for which they gained quite a reputation. Vacations to the religious life in the monastery abounded. Since the foundation in this monastery and at present the sisters actively engaged in their mission of prayer and work.
On of the nuns who stand out in the history of the monastery was Sister RAFQA (1832-1914), who bore terrible suffering with patience and resignation. After her death, a number of miracles occurred through her intercession and the earth of her Tomb has become a source of divine grace and many remarkable cures.
In 1926 the Order sent to Rome a request for her beatification, while the renown of her virtues spread and the faithful came with many others to the place of her burial, demanding relics.
The monastery was transformed into a sanctuary known throughout the world, particularly when Pope John Paul II (1978...) proclaimed the beatification of Sister RAFQA and proposed her for the veneration of the Church, on November 17, 1985, and her Canonization on June 10, 2001.
On May 24, 1949, the Order decided to build a hospice for elderly monks close to the Monastery of Saint Joseph ad-Dahr at Jrabta, which since 1980 has taken in laymen advanced in years. The nuns have transformed one of the rooms into a dispensary to give free medical revise to the region.
In August of 1987, 90 years after they had taken over the monastery, the nuns decided to build a new wing of two storeys as an extension to the old monastery, with the encouragement and advice of their Spiritual Father at that time, Emmanuel Khoury, who was Father General of the Lebanese Maronite Order, from 1992 to 1993.
Now by virtue of the new Statutes of the Lebanese Maronite Nuns, the monastery receives the postulants. They live there undisturbes close to the Tomb of Saint RAFQA, benefiting from the care bestowed by the nuns in charge of them.
The community of the nuns of Saint Joseph ad-Dahr at Jrabta continues to develop, encouraging religious vocations. At the present time the monks of the Lebanese Maronite Order with the help of the nuns look after this Sanctuary and its different requirements, so that the visitor there finds a place of prayer where he feels able to communicate with God by the intercession of Saint RAFQA.