Saint Rafqa's Convent
Monastery of Saint Joseph ad-dahr- Tomb of Saint Rafqa.
The Monastery of Saint Joseph - Tomb of Saint Rafqa, is situated at an altitude of 350 meters on the plateau known as ad-Dahr at the foot of Mount Jrabta, in the Batroun district of north Lebanon.
The mother Superior of the monastery of Saint Simon the Stylites, al-Qarn, in Aito, a village situated at 1,150 meters above sea level, in a region with a reputation for its severe winter climate, sent one of her nuns who was suffering from rheumatism, Sister Ursula Doumit, to spend the winter in her home village of Maad.
A brother of Sister Ursula Doumit, Father Ignatius Doumit al-Maadi, a brother of Sister Ursula, 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 built a school in the village of Jrabta. By this agreement, Father Basbous donated the school and its property and Father Ignatius assumed financial responsibility for the construction of a new monastery in the region to be given to the Order of the Lebanese Maronite Nuns.
On February 29, 1896, Patriarch John Haje (1890-1898) granted his approval and in March of 1896 work began on the new building. Once the construction was finished, the Lebanese Maronite Order decided, on August 15, 1897, at the direction of Father Martin (Martinos) Shemali (Superior General1895- 1899), to accept the bequests of the donors.
From the beginning, this monastery, which bore the name of Saint Joseph ad-Dahr, was intended for the nuns. On October 22, 1897, Patriarch John Haje confirmed the pious legacy and the monastery was given to the Order.
On November 3, 1897, six nuns from the Monastery of Saint Simon the Stylites, al-Qarn, were transferred to the new monastery of Saint Joseph, among them were Sister Ursula Doumit, sister of Father Ignatius, and Sister Rafqa Shubuq al-Rayees (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 and enhanced their monastery. With the help of monks from the Lebanese Maronite Order they planted olive, 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. Vocations to the religious life in the monastery flourished. Since the foundation of the monastery to the present time, the sisters continue to be actively engaged in their mission of prayer and work.
One of the nuns who stand out in the history of the monastery was Sister Rafqa (1832-1914), who bore terrible suffering with patience and forbearance. 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 of many remarkable cures.
In 1926 the Order petitioned the Vatican for her beatification. Her reputation spread widely and the faithful flocked to the place of her burial seeking relics and her intercession.
The monastery was transformed into a sanctuary known throughout the world, particularly when on November 17, 1985, Pope [Saint] John Paul II (1978 ... 2005) proclaimed the beatification of Sister Rafqa and her Canonization on June 10, 2001.
On May 24, 1949, the Order decided to build a rest home for elderly monks adjacent to the Monastery of Saint Joseph ad-Dahr in Jrabta. Starting in 1980 elderly lay people were also admitted to the rest home and the nuns transformed one of the rooms into a free medical dispensary for the region.
In August of 1987, ninety years after they had taken over the monastery, with the encouragement and advice of Father Emmanuel Khoury, Superior General of the Lebanese Maronite Order, (1992 – 1993), the nuns decided to build a new two story-wing as an extension to the old monastery.
Now by virtue of the new Statutes of the Lebanese Maronite Nuns, the monastery receives postulants. They live there undisturbed close to the Tomb of Saint Rafqa.
The community of the nuns of Saint Joseph Monastery ad-Dahr at Jrabta continues to foster religious vocations. At the present time the monks of the Lebanese Maronite Order with the help of the nuns look after this sanctuary, so that the visitors may find a place of prayer and encounter with God through the intercession of Saint Rafqa.