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Meet Sr Mariam Baouardy, ‘the little nothing’

Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues
Marilyn Rodrigues is a journalist for The Catholic Weekly. She also writes at marilynrodrigues.com. Email her at [email protected]
Cristina Leontini, with the Haifa nuns. Photo: Supplied
Cristina Leontini’s mother, Maria Capodieci, with the Haifa nuns. Photo: Supplied

A 19th century Palestian mystic can do much to heal the world’s divisions and teach us about love, says Cristina Leontini, a Sydney Catholic who has completed the first English translation of an extraordinary biography.

She launched the translation of Life and Thoughts of Mariam Baouardy, “the little nothing” by Italian priest Fr Francesco Zampini with a prayer service hosted by Melkite Bishop Robert Rabbat at St John the Beloved Melkite Catholic Church on the 26 August, the saint’s feast day.

The bishop described the life and example of the Discalced Carmelite nun, whose religious name was Sr Mariam of Jesus Crucified, as “a pearl of great price” and thanked Ms Leontini for her commitment to the task.

“Mariam Baouardy the ‘little Arab’, or to use her own self-description, the ‘little nothing’ has not been well-known in the West or as well-known as she deserves in the Middle East,” he said.

Cristina (right) with her mother at the remaining ruins of the house Mariam was born in at Ibillin near Nazareth. Photo: supplied

“She was a privileged soul and from her earliest years a true mystic, not only conscious of the supernatural but one for whom the divide between the earthly and the heavenly was of no consequence.

“She dwelt uninhibited in an interwoven reality reserved for the very greatest spiritual mothers, and this from her childhood.”

 Sr Mariam Baouardy, ‘the little nothing’. Photo: Supplied
St Mariam Baouardy, ‘the little nothing’. Photo: Supplied

Born to a Greek-Melkite Catholic family in a small village near Nazareth called Ibillin, Mariam was orphaned at a young age and later miraculously survived a murderous assault.

By the time she died aged 32 she was a nun in the Roman rite who had also worked and travelled, and was instrumental in founding a convent in Mangalore in India, and one in Bethlehem.

Bishop Rabbat said he hoped that St Mariam would intercede for all people who share a common Arabic heritage, regardless of their religious affiliation, to bring about “what the world cannot provide—fraternal harmony, regional peace and mutual respect.”

Ms Leontini told The Catholic Weekly that it is not the extraordinary phenomena St Mariam experienced—such as receiving locutions and stigmata—that matters most, but her humble message and the bridge she represents between the Eastern and Western churches.

Ms Leontini’s mother, Maria Capodieci, once lived in the Bethlehem convent as a postulant, and she herself volunteered for a year with Carmelite nuns in a convent in Haifa, teaching English.

Life and thoughts of Mariam Baouardy, “the little nothing” is now available in English.

It is where she learnt about St Mariam through the prioress Sr Mary Josephine, who also asked her to translate the book.

“God uses the little nothings in this life, and all of us at some stage in or life have felt perhaps like a little nothing , when we’ve lost jobs or loved ones, or a house, or there’s been sickness in our life, but it’s the little nothings that bring home that Gospel message … to perhaps touch even that one person that God has given you as part of your mission,” Ms Leontini said at the launch. She hopes readers will apprehend through St Mariam’s story something of the love of God that makes all hardships and sacrifices easy.

“She met that love of Jesus when she was about six years old and his words [of love] remained with her to the end,” she said.

“It was love that motivated her and love made any burden the easiest thing because it was God’s love that motivated her.”

To order the book email [email protected]

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