St Rafqa’s ceremony an Aussie first

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Australia’s Maronite bishop, Bishop Antoine-Charbel Tarabay celebrated the feast day of St Rafqa last month in the first Australian parish dedicated to the first Lebanese saint.

“As we celebrate the Feast of St Rafqa, Lebanon’s first nun saint, we reflect on her blessed life, which she dedicated to the love of God, bearing pain and sufferings with patience and happiness,” the bishop said, presiding over the Mass at Austral.

“It is a privilege and a blessing to the Lebanese Maronite Church to have Rafqa among its saints.

“In 1885, Sr Rafqa made an unusual request of Jesus, asking to share in his suffering.”

Sr Rafqa began to experience pain in her head and later eyes, with medical professionals recommending surgery.

“During the surgery, she refused anaesthesia, and the doctor made a mistake, which caused her eye to emerge from its socket and fall to the floor,” Bishop Tarabay said.

“Sr Rafqa, instead of panicking, blessed the doctor, saying, ‘For Christ’s passion, god bless your hands and may God repay you’.

“This touching story about St Rafqa is an example for us to dedicate ourselves to mercy, taking her life as a guide in loving and forgiving others.”

Bishop Tarabay stressed the need to learn from St Rafqa, who trusted fully in the mercy of God.

“May St Rafqa watch after those who are suffering, in particular the people of the Middle East confronted with the destructive and sterile spiral of violence.

“By her intercession, we ask the Lord to enlighten the minds of political Leaders to search for new paths for peace, reconciliation and harmony between people.”