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Lebanese saint’s relics to make historic Denver visit

Pieces of bone from the remains of the Lebanon-born St. Rafka, proclaimed by St. Pope John Paul II as the “sixth wound of Christ” for the pain she endured from a shoulder wound akin to Christ’s, will be flown to the Denver International Airport Oct. 25 after touring the country.

It is the first time in history the relics of a Middle Eastern saint will tour the United States for veneration and stop at a Lakewood parish.

For two days St. Rafka’s (or Rebecca) relics will stay at St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church in Lakewood during which all faithful are invited to visit and venerate. St. Rafka Church is a Maronite-rite Catholic church in communion with Rome.

“It is a great sign of the universality of the vocation of these saints like St. Rafka,” said Father Andre Y-Sebastian Mahanna, pastor of the church. “St. Rafka’s remains or relics coming here is a clear indication that God in his divine will ordered such a great spiritual event to take place from the East to the West.”

Pope Francis gave a decree of blessing with extraordinary indulgences for faithful who honor St. Rafka’s life during the 100-year anniversary of her death this year until March 2015.

Last week, the relics left the Lebanon Beirut International Airport and traveled to churches in Minneapolis, Houston, St. Louis and more before its arrival in Denver. Sister Raghida of the Lebanese Maronite Order of Nuns, escorted the relic with Father Paul Azzi, a Lebanese Maronite monk, who is the procurator of the cause for sainthood of Maronite saints.

At St. Rafka Parish, faithful may participate in a series of celebrations and liturgies to venerate the saint. Families may watch an animated film or a TV documentary on the saint’s life.

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Mother Martha Bassil, L.M.O., superior of the convent of St. Joseph Jrabta in Lebanon, who collaborated with Father Mahanna on contributing to the film, wrote that St. Rafka is a tool for the new evangelization and a gift to not only Maronites but for all Catholics in the Church.

Father Mahanna said, “God has a will to call upon his saints from the lands of the Middle East, from Lebanon, the guardian gate of the Holy Land to come here and guard the message of the Gospel from distortion and coldness of faith.


St. Rafka relic tour
The tour of St. Rafka’s relics will stop in the Archdiocese of Denver. Here is a schedule of the planned events after the relic’s arrival.

When: 5 p.m. Oct. 25- 9 p.m. Oct. 26
Where: St. Rafka Maronite Catholic Church, 2301 Wadsworth Blvd., Lakewood
What: 5 p.m. Oct. 25 reception of relics; 5:30 p.m. movie for children; 6:30 p.m. anointing of sick, 9 p.m. Oct. 25-8 a.m. Oct. 26 Benediction and eucharistic adoration; 10 a.m. talk by relic custodian; 1:30 p.m. TV documentary; 5:30 p.m. international rosary
Details: Call 720-833-0354 for further details and a full schedule


St. Rafka: The apostle of suffering

St. Rafka Al-Rayes
St. Rafka Al-Rayes

St. Rafka Al-Rayes, declared a saint for the entire Church by the late Pope John Paul II, lived most of her life in a monastery, sharing in the pain of Christ’s passion.

She was born in Himlaya, a village in Lebanon, on June 29, 1832. She was the only child to her parents and her mother died when she was 7. When poverty hit her family, she was sent to work for a prominent family and returned four years later after her father remarried.

Over time, Rafka began to dream of entering monastic life at Our Lady of Deliverance in Bikfaya, Lebanon. She visited the monastery and entered the Congregation of St. Mary in 1953 despite protests from her father and stepmother.

Rafka spent her time working in the kitchen and teaching catechism to youth and establishing a school for girls. She later joined the monastery of St. Simon el-Qarn in Aito, a Lebanese Maronite order, in 1871, and began a life of prayer, austerity, sacrifice and silence.

Rafka once prayed that she could join Christ on the cross. Unbearable pain overtook her and all attempts to cure her failed. She spent 29 years of her life sharing joy and laughter, despite becoming blind, completely paralyzed, and suffering from dislocated bones and bony protrusions. On the feast of Corpus Christi, she dragged herself from bed into the church to be with the Blessed Sacrament.

She died in peace on March 23, 1914 and was beatified on Nov. 17, 1985. St. John Paul II called her “the guide and the example for the sake of the adoration of the most Blessed Sacrament.”


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