Saint Holds a Lesson for Suffering Lebanese

So Says Patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites

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BKERKE, Lebanon, JUNE 8, 2001 (ZENIT.orgFides).- The model of the first Lebanese-born saint is a unique source of inspiration for Christians in that beleaguered country, says Cardinal Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir, patriarch of Antioch of the Maronites.

Rebecca Pierrette Ar-Rayes (1832-1914), virgin and nun of the Lebanese Order of St. Antony of the Maronites, will be canonized by John Paul II, together with four others, this Sunday. Known as the «flower of Himlaya,» the village where she was born, she offered her health to God and suffered acute physical ailments for over 30 years.

«Rafqa´s life reflects that of her Maronite community,» the 81-year-old patriarch told the missionary agency Fides. «She is the saint of suffering and pain.»

Moreover, he said, her example will help her countrymen «discover the salvific value of suffering shared with Christ by a fragile creature.»

«Rafqa suffered many tribulations during her life, such as her implication in the 1860 Chouf massacres, and several times she endured the torment of forced exodus from one region to another,» Cardinal Sfeir added.

He concluded: «These are experiences that the Lebanese have lived through in recent years, which impels them to see in Rafqa´s sanctity a stimulus to overcome their difficult conditions of life with confidence.»

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