NOTICE: I am a practicing Catholic, active and in good-standing with my local diocese, who professes faith and loyalty to the Church. This ministry - my "little work" - is strictly a personal expression of that faith and loyalty, and not an officially recognized ministry in the Diocese of Honolulu.

~ Peter, Ministry Administrator

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Saint of the Month - August 2012: Saint Mariam of Jesus Crucified

St. Mariam (Baouardy)
of Jesus Crucified
The "Little Nothing" 
Feast: August 25th

This Carmelite mystic's life was filled with tales of extraordinary wonders that began from her childhood years, some of which would seem so astounding as to leave most minds skeptical, if not for the confirmed sanctity of this holy woman and the many credible witnesses who vouched for their veracity.

Born on February 5, 1846, to devout Christian parents in Abellin (Palestine), Mariam Baouardy was their thirteenth child; the result of fervent prayers offered to Our Lady after their preceding twelve babies died in infancy; a brother followed two years later.

Orphaned at just 2-years-old, a paternal uncle adopted her and she was treated very well until the topic of marriage was brought up when she was 12.  Although she was still quite young, the child had already planned on consecrating herself wholly to God through a vow of perpetual virginity, but her uncle would not hear any of it.  He attempted to break Mariam's will by treating her as a servant in his home, which tried her sorely.

"It is sweet to think of Jesus,
but it is sweeter to do His Will."

~ Words of St. Mariam

During this rough patch in her life, a male-servant in her uncle's household befriended Mariam, but he did so with the intent of converting her to Islam and marrying her, himself.  When she realized the servant's plan she rebuked him and professed her faith in Jesus Christ, which enraged the man who slashed her throat with a sword.  The servant then carried the maiden's limp body into an alley and left her there for dead, wrapped in a large rug.

What happened next was an escalation of supernatural events in Mariam's life.  She had a beautiful near-death experience of Heaven before awaking in a cave in the care of a mysterious nun in blue.  As it turned out, it was none other than the Blessed Virgin, who nursed her back to health (Mariam bore a deep scar and spoke with a hoarse voice for the rest of her life as a result of the horrible neck wound).  Our Lady then revealed to Mariam her entire life: how she would enter consecrated life in two religious institutions and die in the Holy Land.

Another photo of St. Mariam

Once she completely recovered, Mariam never returned to her uncle's home but instead was directed by our Blessed Mother to a neighboring city where she found work as a servant with a devout Christian family.  During a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, she met a mysterious young man who befriended and counseled her in virtue - she later learned it was an angel; one of several she encountered in her lifetime.

Following divine inspiration, in 1863 she boarded a ship to Marseilles, France, where she was employed as a cook in another home, and where raptures became pronounced.  A few personal visits from St. Joseph then led to her entrance with the institute of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition.

In the convent, Mariam's mystical gifts became even more manifest, mainly through Visions and prolonged Ecstasies.  To these were added visible Stigmata, beginning in January 1866, which bled weekly from Wednesday evenings to Fridays.  The novice was troubled since they caused misunderstandings and suspicion from some of the other nuns ... and it didn't help that she could barely speak French.  In fact, it was because of these varying phenomena she was ultimately denied final profession by a council of her peers.

Providentially, the Novice Mistress - Mother Veronica - was in the process of leaving the Sisters of St. Joseph to join the Discalced Carmelites.  She was a believer in Mariam's sanctity and arranged to take the mystic with her, and both entered the Carmel of Pau, France, in 1867; there, the future Saint took the name Sr. Mariam of Jesus Crucified.  Her new life as a Carmelite was marked with deep humility and a desire to abase herself to the point of referring to herself as the "little nothing".

"Everyone is sleeping and God so
full of bounty, so great, so praiseworthy,
is forgotten.  No one thinks of Him.
See, the whole nature praises Him, the
heavens, the stars, the trees, the grass,
all things praise Him; and man who
knows His kindness, who should praise
Him, sleeps.  Let us go, let us go and
wake the universe!"

~ Words of St. Mariam

In 1870, Sr. Mariam was one of several nuns sent to Mangalore, India, to establish a new Carmel there.  She continued to experience spiritual phenomena including prophetic insight, physical harassment from the devil, and consoling visits from angels.  The Stigmata, which had paused, returned during the Fridays of each Lenten Season ... and then, there were the amusing and remarkable incidents of Levitation in the monastery garden; how she floated to the top of her favorite tree without bending branches and would stand on the uppermost limbs in ecstatic rapture ... and sometimes sing of her love for God!

Mariam's "flights" happened often enough that they were clearly observed and documented by her companions.  A superior who was present at one of these levitations once unwisely commanded her to regain consciousness while Mariam was still atop the tree, which left her stranded on the uppermost branches.  The other nuns then had to fetch a ladder in order to rescue Mariam from her unusual predicament.

A depiction of St. Mariam's frequent flights
to the top of a lemon tree in the monastery.

As impressive as the visible signs were, the greatest graces Sr. Mariam received were unseen: she underwent the Mystical Marriage and, like her spiritual mother - St. Teresa of Avila - her heart was pierced with the dart of Divine Love by an angel!  This happened in May 1868 and it set her soul aflame with love for God, in particular for the Holy Spirit, whose Light she radiated whenever she spoke of Him.  In fact, her devotion to Him was so strong, she wrote to the Pope, urging the Pontiff to do more to promote the Divine Paraclete, as she felt there wasn't enough emphasis about the Holy Spirit in the Church.  Below is a famous prayer our Saint spontaneously composed while in ecstasy:

Holy Spirit, inspire me.
Love of God, consume me.
To the right path lead me.
Mary, my mother, look down
upon me.  With Jesus, bless me.
From all evil, all illusion,
all danger, preserve me.

In 1872, the Saint returned briefly to Pau before setting out to the Middle East to establish a new Carmel in Bethlehem.  She was happy at the thought of being able to pray for the conversion of her people on her home soil but Divine Providence would have it that she not spend much time in Palestine.  While assisting with the construction of the new monastery, Sr. Mariam had a serious fall that broke her arm.  The injury was not properly treated and it quickly lead to a gangrenous condition that claimed her life on August 26, 1878; she was only 32-years-old.

The Discalced Carmelite Order came to hold the memory of Sr. Mariam of Jesus Crucified in high esteem so it was with great joy they celebrated her Canonization on May 17, 2015.  Her tomb and relics are venerated in the Carmel she established, and she is invoked in a special way as a Herald of Peace and Hope in the war-torn regions of the Middle East.

A Reflection
  "Every person in the world that will invoke the Holy Spirit and have devotion to Him will not die in error."

 ~ Words of St. Mariam of Jesus Crucified

A Short Prayer
  Come, Holy Spirit, inflame our souls with the Fire of Love and the Light of God’s Divine Truth.  Amen.

+ An Interesting Anecdote & Testimony to the Special Significance of Relics +

This ministry has in its custody, a rare 1st Class Relic of St. Mariam - a small piece of bone from her body - and there's an interesting story behind it ...

Circa the late 1990s, I had a clear dream of a Carmelite nun who I didn't know or recognize.  She wore the Order's distinctive brown habit with the cream-colored mantle; was barefoot; and appeared rather short in stature, with a pleasant roundish face.  The nun approached from my left, stopped about 10 feet away from me, and then turned towards my direction.  Looking straight into my eyes, she smiled and spoke a single sentence before the dream ended abruptly: 

"I am coming to live with you."

When I awoke, the imagery in my dream remained vivid ... but I wracked my brain the whole day trying to decipher who the mystery nun was, and what her words meant.  I just didn't know.

Three days later, I received a small padded envelope in the mail from a priest and, when I opened it, a piece of paper fell from it onto the floor.  Upon picking it up, I was shocked to discover it was actually a holy card with a photograph - the same image as the second one shown above!  It was the Carmelite nun from my dreams and her name printed on the card was Blessed Mariam of Jesus Crucified (she was only Beatified back then).  I then looked into the envelope and there, inside, was the relic shown here.

I immediately understood what St. Mariam's words meant and she has occupied a place of honor in "Guadalupe House" ever since ... as well as, a warm spot in my heart.

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