On the way to Bethlehem we visited a Carmelite Monastery established by the
Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified. Blessed Mariam Baouardy child of Galilee,
Palestine. Her family originated in Damascus, Syria. They were Christians of
the Melkite Greek-Catholic Rite. Mariam’s parents had 12 sons; none survived
their infancy. That’s why they traveled to Bethlehem to beseech the Mother of God for a girl-child. They did so. At the Grotto of the Nativity of Jesus they poured out their request in prayer. On January 5, 1846, the eve of the Epiphany, an infant daughter was born. Ten days later in the local Melkite Church she received Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist. She was named after the Virgin and called, Mariam. Two years later a baby boy was born. He was named Boulos (Paul). The tiny family had a short time together. Both mother and father died within a few days of each other. A maternal aunt from took tiny Paul into her home; Mariam was adopted by a paternal uncle in Ibillin. Mariam dwelled in the comfortable home of her uncle receiving all proper care and attention. One incident from the time of her childhood revealed significant insight into her forming character. It took place in her uncle’s orchard. She kept a small cage filled with small birds, a gift given to her. One day she desired to give them a bath. Her child-like well-intentioned efforts caused their death from drowning. Their death broke her small heart. Grief-stricken she began to bury them when deep inside she heard a clear voice, “This is how everything passes. If you will give me your heart, I shall always remain with you.”
When Mariam was eight years old her uncle left Palestine with the entire family and settled in Alexandria, Egypt. She was not to see her beloved Ibillin till shortly before her death in 1878.
According to oriental custom, Mariam, then age 13, was promised in marriage. Her adoptive uncle reacted with wild rage when he saw that Mariam would not marry. Nothing would change her determination. He then resorted to treating her as a hired domestic, giving her the most difficult kitchen tasks and subjecting her to a position lower than his hired help. In her isolation she turned to a Muslim domestic for some assistance. The young man encouraged Mariam to reveal her personal troubles. He became outraged at her uncle’s treatment of her and played upon the mind and feelings of the young girl. He introduced conversion to Islam as a remedy to Mariam’s problems. His words and actions focused young Mariam directly upon her Christianity. She denied his advances and loudly proclaimed her faith in the Church of Jesus. “Never! I am a daughter of the Catholic Apostolic Church, and I hope by the grace of God to persevere until death in my religion, which is the only true one.
Her so-called protector, furious at being rejected by this little Christian became violent. He kicked her to the floor and then drew his sword and slashed her throat. Thinking her dead he dumped her bloody body in a nearby dark alley. It was 8 September 1858. What followed was a strange and beautifully moving story, told years later by Mariam to her Mistress of Novices at Marseilles, France. “A nun dressed in blue picked me up and stitched my throat wound. This happened in a grotto somewhere. I found myself in heaven with the Blessed Virgin, the angels and the saints. They treated me with great, kindness. In their company were my parents. I saw the brilliant throne of the Most Holy Trinity and Jesus Christ in His humanity. There was no sun, no lamp, but everything was bright with light. Someone spoke to me. They said that I was a virgin, but that my book was not finished. When my wound was healed I had to
leave the grotto and the Lady took me to the Church of St. Catherine served by
the Franciscan Friars. When I left, the Lady in Blue had disappeared.” An Arab Christian family, the Najjar, hired her to work for them. Some years ago she went to France. Mariam entered Carmel at age 21. She took the name of Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. Little Mariam Baouardy, now known as Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified, was professed on 21 November 1871 as a Carmelite Religious. Prior to that action she was subjected to severe supernatural adversities. One of the most terrible was diabolic possession for a period of 40 days. She persevered in her simple child-like faith in God the Son and His Holy Mother Mary. Her rewards were those reserved for the most privileged of humans. She was fixed with the stigmata of her crucified Savior, experienced levitations, knowledge of hearts, prophecies, possession by the Good Angel, and facial radiance. Again and again she would say, “Everything passes here on earth. What are we? Nothing but dust, nothingness, and God is so great, so beautiful, so lovable and He is not loved.” Sister Mariam of Jesus Crucified had an intense devotion to the Holy Spirit, Possessor of the Truth without error or division. Her prayer was: “Holy Spirit, inspire me. Love of God consume me. Along the true road, lead me. Mary, my good mother, look down upon me. With Jesus, bless me. From all evil, all illusion, all danger, preserve me.” This simple prayer has gone around the world. Sister Mariam was instrumental in the founding of a missionary Carmel in Mangalore, India, in 1871, and in Bethlehem of Palestine. On 5 January 1878, Sister Mariam entered her 33rd year of life. One day in August she fell while working in the convent injuring herself severely. Gangrene set in quickly and spread the infection to her respiratory tract. She never recovered from this trauma. On 26 August 1878, she suffered a life-threatening suffocation attack. She died soon after murmuring, “My Jesus, mercy.” It was ten minutes past five in the morning. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II.