Saint Rafqa

Boutrossieh Rayes was born in Himlaya on June 29, 1832. Her parents taught her the love of God and daily praying. When she was 7, Boutrossieh lost her mother. Her father remarried 4 years later. Now Boutrossieh was beautiful, pleasant, humorous, pure, and tender with a serene voice. When Boutrossieh turned 14, her stepmother wanted her to marry her stepbrother, and her maternal aunt wanted her to marry her cousin. Boutrossieh did not want to marry either of the men and this caused a great deal of discord in her family. She asked God to help her deal with the problem. Soon after, she decided to become a nun and went straight to the Convent of Our Lady of Liberation in Bikfaya.

On February 9, 1855, Boutrossieh commenced her novitiate at the convent in Ghazir and chose the name Anissa (Agnes). She served in religious instruction and kitchen service, and she assisted the Jesuit mission during the Shouf massacres of 1860. Upon the merger of her congregation with another, Anissa chose to move to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

At the late age of 39, Anissa began her novitiate into the monastery of St. Simon al Qarn and then on August 25, 1873, she “professed her perpetual vows of poverty, chastity and obedience in the spirit of the strict Rule of the Baladita Order.” Her new name was that of her mother, Rafqa.

Rafqa spent 26 years there. She was a role model to other nuns, recalling the regulations, praying, living in austerity, sacrificing, and working in silence. On the first Sunday of October 1885, she asked God in prayer to make her a part of his divine pains. God responded immediately. She suffered from terrible pains in her eyes for 12 years, while she remained patient, silent, praying in joy, and sharing the pains of Jesus.
In 1897, the blind Rafqa was one of six nuns sent to found the order’s new Monastery of St. Joseph in Jrabta, where she remained for the last 17 years of her life, bearing increasing pains and immobility.

On March 23, 1914, Rafqa rested in peace. She was declared role model for the Adoration of the Eucharist in the Jubilee year 2000 and canonized Saint for the Whole Church on June 10, 2001.