Wednesday, February 14, 2007

When I'm wrong ....

I usually have little hesitation in correcting my error. On a Catholic sewing e-list, a question was asked about a patron saint for knitters. I checked my various sources and in fact, there is no official patron -- there are patrons for weavers, wool workers, shepherds, and needleworkers, but none specifically for knitters. Seems bad doesn't it?

Anyway, turns out there is a saint who is unofficially the patron of knitters. St. Rafqa (or "Rebecca" for us English folks) was a Lebanese Maronite Nun who was canonized by the late Pope John Paul II in 2001. This is one amazing woman! Born into a Christian family in 1832 and losing her mother at the age of 7, Rafqa felt a call to religious life at the age of 14. However, it would take 13 years before she'd finally be able to enter the Mariamettes Convent at the age of 27, eventually becoming a Lebanese Maronite nun in 1871.

She suffered for years -- but never complained. From the Catholic Forum website: On the feast of the Holy Rosary in 1885, Rafqa prayed that she might share Christ's sufferings. Her health began to deteriorate, and she was soon blind and crippled. She spent as much of her remaining 30 years in prayer as she could, but always insisted on working in the convent as well as she could with her disabilities, usually spinning wool and knitting. By 1907 she was completely blind and paralyzed. In a 1981 medical report based upon the evidence presented in the Canonical Process, specialists in ophthalmology, neurology and orthopedics diagnosed the most likely cause as tuberculosis with ocular localization and multiple bony excrescencies. This causes unbearable pain, but Rafqa was thankful for her special form of communion.

Late in life her close friend and supporter, Mother Superior Ursula Doumit, ordered her to dictate her autobiography, and Rafka complied.

The Opus Libani website describes the following: One day, Mother Ursula noticed that Rafka seemed to be suffering much more than usual and, touched by pity for the poor sister, asked her, "Is there anything else you want from this world? Have you never regretted the loss of your sight? Don't you sometimes wish you could see this new convent with all the natural beauties that surround it--the mountains and rocks, and the forests?" Sister Rafka answered simply, "I would like to see just for an hour, Mother--just to be able to see you." "Only for one hour?" asked the Superior. "And you would be content to return to that world of darkness?" "Yes," replied the invalid.

Mother Ursula shook her head in wonder and began to leave Rafka's cell. Suddenly, the paralyzed nun's face broke into a beautiful smile and she turned her head toward the door. "Mother," she called, I can see you!" The Superior turned around quickly and saw the glow on Rafka's face. That alone was enough to tell her that her daughter was not teasing, but she wanted to be certain that the phenomenon was actual and not just a trick of the mind of the poor nun who had been blind for so many years. Desperately trying to conceal her emotions, she walked back to the bedside. "If it is as you say," she queried, "tell me what is lying on the wardrobe." Sister Rafka turned her face toward the little closet and answered, "The Bible and the Lives of the Saints--she could hardly contain her excitement. But, she reasoned, perhaps Rafka knew that these were the only two books in her cell as she had no need for others and the sisters who read to her usually only used these two titles--knowing that the invalid loved them best. Another test would have to be tried and this time, witnesses were called in the testify to the miracle.

There was a lovely multi-colored cover on Rafka's bed. Mother Ursula called her attention to it and began to point to the colors one by one, asking the newly-sighted nun to call out the names of the colors as she pointed to them. The three sisters who assisted the Superior in the test verified that Sister Rafka named each color correctly.

As she had requested, though, this new sight lasted only for one hour during which time she conversed with Mother Ursula and looked around her cell, at her sisters, and through the window to catch glimpses of the beauties outside. After this time, she fell into a peaceful sleep. The Mother Superior remained at Rafka's side for a short time and then decided to waken the nun to see if she would be able to see again...

Beginning four days after her death, miraculous cures were recorded at Rafka's grave: the first being Mother Doumit whose throat was slowly closing so there was fear she would starve to death. Elizabeth En-Nakhel from Tourza, northern Lebanon, was cured from uterine cancer, through Rafqa, in 1938, the miracle which permitted her beatification.

Her feast day is celebrated on March 23rd and we're working on getting her officially named: St. Rafqa, Patroness of all Knitters!

Prayer of St. Rafqa
Oh, Jesus Christ, our God and Lord, You imprinted Your image of salvation upon the life of Saint Rafqa and made her a beloved one and a loyal worker because she prayed and shared with You in the Mystery of Redemption.
We humble ourselves before You, with her prayers and a plea, so that You may bless the children, enlighten the youth, make the weariness of people an occasion of grace and goodness, give the sick and those who are suffering the grace of healing, joy and happiness, and grant what they request to whoever prays to You in churches and monasteries.

And as You have honored Rafqa by letting her see Your Heavenly Light, allow us throughout our life to live like her in faith, hope and love, to glorify and thank You with her, with the Blessed Mother and with all the Saints to the end of time.


Molly said...

This is such a great blog MAry, I love it, I only we lived closer so you could come to our knitting group.

The Bookworm said...

I'm so glad to learn St.Rafqa is the patron saint of knitters. I discovered her a while ago but had no idea of that connection.

Beth D. said...

This fall I will be teaching knitting and coordinating a service project with moms and girls from our homeschool support group - and would like to put a St. Rafqa card (as pictured in your blog) into each new knitters basket. Can you advise where I could obtain a small quanity of same? Thanking you in advance for your attention to this out of the blue request, I am
Yours in Christ
Beth D.

Mary G said...

Beth -- I am trying to get you a source; hang in there and I'll post as soon as I have a good source of holy cards!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much - I'll be checking back.
Beth D.

Anonymous said...

You have been so kind in responding to my request for assistance in locating holy cards for me - and I am humbly asking again if I may rely on your resources for the benefit of our support group. Please contact me at my email address Thanking you in advance,
Beth D.

Patricia said...

oh my....I had never heard of this saint before (I am not catholic) but what a coincidence her feast day is on my birthday!!!