Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès
Feast Day: March 23
Venerated: February 11, 1982
Beatified: November 17, 1985
Canonized: June 10, 2001
Rafqa was born in Lebanon in 1832. She was an only child. Her mother died when Rafqa was seven years old, and her father sent his daughter to work as a servant in a private home when she was 11 years old.
When Rafqa was 15, her father remarried, but Rafqa never got along with her stepmother, who wanted the young woman to marry a relative. Other family members also tried to arrange marriages for the beautiful Rafqa.
Rafqa asked God to help her determine her future. She realized that she wanted to become a nun. She joined an order called the Mariamettes. After she took her vows, Sister Rafqa was put in charge of the kitchen at a seminary. In her free time, she taught the village children about Jesus.
Wars between political groups were common in Lebanon. One day a battle began while Rafqa was teaching her young students. She saved a boy from certain death by hiding him under her cloak, risking her own life to do so.
When her superior noticed her gift for working with children, she asked Rafqa to be a teacher at one of the order’s schools. After only a year, Rafqa and another nun were asked to establish a new school for girls. She taught there for seven years.
Sister Rafqa was faced with an important decision. Her order was being combined with a different order. The nuns were given three choices: they could be released from their vows; they could become part of the combined order; or they could join another order. Rafqa prayed for the wisdom to make the right decision. Then she had a dream in which St. Anthony of the Desert appeared to her. She joined the Lebanese Maronite Order, a community devoted to prayer, silence, and sacrifice. It was a very different life than she was used to!
During her 26 years with the Maronites, Sister Rafqa grew even closer to our Lord. She experienced many problems with her vision and health but saw these problems as a blessing that allowed her to share in Christ’s sufferings. Eventually she lost her sight and was paralyzed. She died in 1914, and Pope John Paul II named her a saint in 2001.
We thank God for St. Rafqa. Her love for Jesus was more important than anything else in her life. Like St. Rafqa, we can love the Lord with all of our heart, with all of our soul, with all of our mind, and with all of our strength, as the Great Commandment teaches (Based on Mark 12:30).
Connecting to Be My Disciples®
Grade 6, chapter 15