Rafqa Pietra Choboq Ar-Rayès was born in the Matn District of Lebanon in 1832. At the age of 14, her family tried to marry her off, but the young woman did not want to be married, and, as the family did not agree about which man she should marry, it was beginning to cause serious divisions in the family. So she walked to the convent of Our Lady of Liberation and became a nun. She spent several years going here and there as she was asked, sometimes to very dangerous places. Eventually the order to which she belonged was merged with another order, and the nuns were offered the opportunity either to join the new order or to find another one; Rafqa decided to join the Baladite Order (Ordre Libanais Maronite), in which she remained the rest of her life.
In 1885, Rafqa began to experience severe pains behind her eyes; she eventually went blind and her eyes would bleed regularly. She continued, however, to do her work in the convent, spinning wool and participating in prayers, and when the Baladites founded a new convent in 1897, she went to help found it. While there, she began to suffer severe pains in her legs and joints; her wrists and fingers actually became disarticulated so that she could no longer use them. She was literally falling apart. But she continued to participate in the life of the convent in the small ways she could. She died on March 23, 1914, and, as she was canonized by John Paul II in 2001, her feast is recognized by Maronite Catholics and Latin Catholics alike.
As it happens, this year her feast is particularly appropriate; it falls on Wednesday of Passion Week, which the Maronites often call the Wednesday of Job, on which they celebrate the Anointing of the Sick during the Rite of the Lighting of the Lamps.
Feast of St. Rafqa
2 Corinthians 1:1-7; Luke 10:38-42
To God be blessing, Father of mercies,
God of all comfort in all trouble;
they who suffer may comfort by God's grace,
for as Christ's suffering is in them,
so His consolation is in their hearts.
Only one thing is needful for our souls;
only one thing cannot be taken.
Holy Face of Jesus Christ Crucified,
You gave Rafqa the love undying,
and she did not cease to love in all things.
With fortitude, Rafqa, you bore the cross;
He said, "Follow," and you followed Him.