Saint Rafqa's Convent
St Joseph El-Dahr Jrabta (1897-1914).
On November the 3rd 1897, Rafqa went with 5 nuns from the monastery of St Simon El Qarn- Aito to the monastery of St Joseph El-Dahr Jrabta, Batroun.
The nuns were: Ursula Doumit (mother superior) from Maad (1870-1935), Massihieh Alwan of druze origins from Broummana (1843-1916), Angelika Howayek from Helta (1840-1913), Takla Doumit, aunt of Mother Ursula Doumit from Maad (1857-1901), and Marina Sader from Kfifane (1865-1932).
The reasons of moving to Batroun's coast were: the harsh weather especially during winter in the monastery of St Simon; the monastery was very far from populated areas; Batroun area being empty of a monastery for the Lebanese Maronite Nuns; Mother Ursula Doumit was sick and was forced to live on the coast, or she will be paralyzed and spend the rest of her life in bed.
Because of these reasons, the brother of mother Ursula Doumit, priest Ighnatios Doumit decided to build a monastery for the Lebanese Maronite Nuns on the coast of Batroun.
He met the priest Youhanna Basbous who appreciated this initiative and gave the Lebanese Order a school that he had built in Jrabta in 1865. That's how the construction of the monastery of St Joseph-Jrabta began, near the school in March 1896, with the efforts of priests Ighnatios and Youhanna and mother Ursula.
On the 3rd of November 1897, and with the approval of the Maronite patriarch who was Youhanna El- Hajj (1817- 1898) the Father Superior of the Lebanese Maronite Order, Abbot Martinos El-Chemaly, from Daroun (1849-1902), gave the permission to six nuns from the monastery of St Simon El- Qarn, Aito to go to the monastery of St Joseph El-Dahr, Jrabta. Mother Ursula Doumit was selected as the mother superior until her death in 1935.
The nuns of the monastery of St Joseph were best known in the implementation of the Regulations and obligations of the Order.
They were said to be:" As befitting ascetics who left everything to worship God, doing all the necessary prayers and contemplation, strengthening the rules of the hermitage life, working without any complaint with their tender hands and happy hearts". Which made the monastery of St Joseph like a piece of paradise on earth:" for its inhabitants looked like the inhabitants of paradise, where no sin ever took place…"
Rafqa lived there with 11 nuns and two novices. Rafqa loved the nuns dearly and considered them as her natural sisters.
She prayed continuously. She used to participate in reading prayers of the divine obligation, especially that she memorized them by heart.
She did everything in its due time: "prayers work and everything according to the regulations. Her mortifications, fastings and sacrifices went beyond imagination. When she became paralyzed and stayed in bed, she continued to maintain the obligations of the regulations except for going to the church. People visited her from nearby, to ask for her prayers and intercession. Everybody knew her as the Saint-nun".
Rafqa used to do everything perfectly and "preferred God to anything… her heart never loved anybody, but God. She always loved Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph" even when she died, she remembered them and asked for their intercession.
In the monastery of St Joseph, she continued the path of suffering previously begun in the monastery of St Simon in 1885, until she died nailed to the cross of pain and passion.
When she arrived to the monastery of St Joseph in 1897, her right eye was like an empty hollow, with no eye. She could barely see with her left eye which was like a lamp with no oil and its wick was burnt, with a little left, showing sometimes a little light and the other times showing no light at all.
She spent two years like that in the monastery of St Joseph (1897-1899), then she became totally blind. However, the pain in her eyes wouldn't leave her in peace, day and night, until she died.
In addition to total blindness, Rafqa suffered from nose bleeding which caused the total weakness of her body. She used to bleed around four times a week, and each time she used to lose a liter of blood.
Pain spread all over her body which became dislocated. What remained intact were her hands to work; her ears to listen; her tongue to chant; her stomach to eat and her mind to think and contemplate.
The weakness of Rafqa's body began around 1906. Her bones were dislocated and she became paralyzed in 1911.
In 1996, she felt unbearable pain in her sides and toes. The bones of her right side became dislocated and it moved backward from its original place, then disappeared from her body leaving a hollow with no trace of wound. So, it was the case of her right knee. The bones of her left side became dislocated too and went out of their place piercing the skin and became apparent. The bones of her shoulders were dislocated too, piercing the skin and touching her neck. She stayed lying on her right side until her death. Therefore, Rafqa became in 1911, three years before her death, a pile of bones transported by her sisters in a sheet in order to remain one piece.
Rafqa suffered a lot from her shoulder's wound and she used to repeat: "for God's glory, in participation with Jesus's shoulder wound".
She used to invite the nuns to pray six times a day: our Father and Hail Mary for the sake of Jesus's shoulder wound which hurted Him a lot when He lifted His cross to carry it to the Golgotha.
In the monastery of St Joseph, Rafqa refused to be examined by doctors, unlike what happened in Saint Simon's monastery, but she was well treated by the nuns and especially by the mother superior Ursula Doumit.
Rafqa honored and adored the Blessed Sacrament while she was in the congregation of St Mary. She continued doing that, until her last breath.
What happened to her in the monastery of Saint Joseph, when she became dislocated, is a living proof of her continuous commitment to this adoration: she crawled to the church to participate in the mass on the day of the Blessed Sacrament. Once, she chewed the Blessed Sacrament as if it was honey and remained without eating all the day.
Rafqa became an offering, for she was so united to God, present in the Blessed Sacrament incarnated in the Host and the Wine.
That's how she saw the light for an hour while she was blind. She enjoyed seeing the nuns before going to God.
She also saw the celestial glory set for her after her long and bitter struggle, when she saw the beauty of celestial paradise and enjoyed the celestial happiness in her dream.
Three days before her death, Rafqa couldn't speak, so she looked at heaven with her heart and mind.
On the eve of her death, she asked to bid to her sister's farewell. They came, tears in their eyes, they all kissed her hands and asked for forgiveness. Then, she took the Blessed Sacrament repeating: "let me take my provision with me".
She accepted the Extreme Unction and murmured: "Oh! Jesus, Mary and Saint Joseph, I give you my heart and myself; take my soul".
On the 23rd of March 1914, at dawn, it was Ash Monday, she rested in peace. Her face shined with a smile. On the next day, a humble service was celebrated, attended by some monks from the monasteries of Saints Kibrianos and Yustina in Kfifane and from the monastery of Saint Aabda in Maad, in addition to men and women coming from the nearby villages.
She was buried in the common cemetery of the nuns in the monastery of St Joseph El-Dahr, Jrabta.