By Robert Cheaib
ROME, JUNE 28, 2012 (Zenit.org).- “Abouna (father, in Lebanese) Yacoub reflects Lebanon’s authentic face. Today we pray for his intercession and that of Lebanon’s saints so that the Middle East will return to be a model of peaceful coexistence,” said Cor-Episcopo Tony Gebran, chaplain of the mission for the care of souls of the Maronite Church in Rome, during a Mass last Sunday in the church of Saint Marun at Porta Pinciana.
The Eucharistic celebration included the blessing with the relics of the Lebanese blessed, donated to the church of Saint Marun by the Congregation of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross of Lebanon, founded by Abouna Yacoub, a Capuchin friar who was born at Ghazir, Lebanon, in 1875 and died on June 26, 1954, (June 26 is his liturgical feast day).
Gebran, who is also Legal Representative of the Maronite Antiochian Patriarchate of Rome, recounted during his homily the various works of charity carried out by Father Yacoub at a time of great poverty and serious problems of hunger, especially during the two World Wars.
Recalling the incredible energy that characterized the Blessed, the prelate mentioned several important institutions in Lebanon that go back to Abouna Yacoub who founded numerous “convents, hospices, schools and hospitals, the most famous being undoubtedly the Hospital of the Cross at Jal-el-Dib, established in 1930, not forgetting Saint Joseph’s Hospital of Dora (1949), Notre Dame du Puits (1941), Christ-Roi (1950), the schools of Broumana and Deir el-Kamar.”
Gebran said: “He sought Jesus’ face in the poorest.” Abouna Yacoub’s secret was his love of Jesus crucified and marginalized. He was a man “who planted the cross wherever he was.”
Gebran also spoke of the work for, in particular, elderly and sick priests to whom the tireless Capuchin dedicated the convent and great shrine of Christ the King (Christ-Roi), explaining that “the monument was erected where all the ancient kings left the seal of their rule, sign of the domination of the Rising Sun. And thus Abouna Yacoub wished to leave the sign of Christ King of the universe whose Kingdom is not passing as the kingdoms of the world.”
In the footsteps of Francis of Assisi
Summing up the life of the Blessed, Gebran explained that one of the most important teachings he left us is trust in the goodness of the Lord and in Divine Providence: “Abouna Yacoub invites us to believe in Providence, in the Lord who loves us and thinks of us.”
“He is a prophet of the 20th century. His prophecy was to serve Christ in the poor. By serving these brothers of ours, we serve Jesus Christ and see his suffering face,” he added.
Abouna Yacoub’s testimony is a confirmation that the history of Christians of Lebanon is “a history of sanctity,” hence “his presence in this Roman parish of the Maronites is a particular sign.”
Gebran then linked the Blessed’s figure to that of the Poverello of Assisi. “In the footsteps of his spiritual father, Saint Francis of Assisi, Abouna Yacoub lived the dimension of charity by not sparing any effort, any spiritual charism, any literary gift, and thus the whole of Lebanon experienced his pastoral dynamism.”
Finally, the prelate explained that the charism of the Blessed Capuchin is alive in the work of his spiritual daughters the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross of Lebanon.
The Mass was followed by a blessing with the Blessed’s relics and the whole congregation recited a prayer, written by Yacoub:
“O Jesus, my Lord, take my tongue and make me speak what you wish, make my silence be a dialogue with you! Take my ears and make them hear the voice of duty, your voice, O Jesus! Take my eyes, and make them see you in every face and every work! Take my hands and my feet, give them agility and consecrate them to your service and to the fulfillment of your every desire! Take my thought: illumine it with your splendid light! Take my heart: make it a throne for your love and your rest.”
A timely charism
Apart from the celebration, Mother Jeanne d’Arc, superior of the Community of the Franciscan Sisters of the Cross present in Rome, confirmed to Zenit the current importance of Abouna Yacoub’s charism, a charism of dedication to the poor, to elderly and sick priests and to the education of youngsters.
The superior explained how the Community, founded in 1930, operates mainly in Lebanon, Egypt and Jordan in a multi-religious context where “more than have of those looked after in the hospitals belong to other religions.”
Finally, Mother Jeanne d’Arc explained that the Franciscan Congregation is also present in Rome where it offers a service of hospitality for pilgrims visiting the Eternal City, as well as a hospice for students.