Saint of the Day – 25 March – St Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas (1843-1927) Palestinian Nun and Founder of the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem (the Rosary Sisters), the first Palestinian congregation, Mystic, Apostle of the Holy Rosary – born as Soultaneh Maria Ghattas on 4 October 1843 in Jerusalem and died on 25 March 1927 at Ain Karim, Jerusalem of natural causes. Patronage – the Dominican Sisters of the Most Holy Rosary of Jerusalem
Sultanah Maria Ghattas was born in Jerusalem on 4 October 1843 and baptised on 19 of November the same year. On 18 July 1852, she received the Sacrament of Confirmation from the hands of His Beatitude Giuseppe Valerga, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
At the age of 14, she joined the Congregation of St Joseph of the Apparition as a Postulant. On 30 June 1860, she received the Holy Habit of the Religious of St Joseph of the Apparition and took the name of Sr Marie-Alphonsine. Two years later, in 1862, she pronounced her three vows. In Bethlehem where she was assigned, she was entrusted with the teaching of Catechism. Besides, she founded Confraternities and Associations and promoted the devotion to Our Lady through the prayer of the Rosary.
She was favoured with several apparitions of Our Lady who revealed to Mother Marie- Alphonsine Her desire to begin the Congregation of the Rosary. The Virgin Mary appointed Fr Joseph Tannous as her Director to administer the Congregation of the Rosary.
Father Tannous rented for the first five postulants – including Sr Marie-Alphonsine – a modest house in Jerusalem in which they entered on 24 July 1880. H.B. Vincent Bracco, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, vested them with the Holy Habit on 15 December 1881. Mother Marie-Alphonsine went through many difficult time prior to obtaining the dispensation from her vow of obedience to the Superiors of St Joseph and the permission to enter the new Congregation of the Holy Rosary. Father Tannous was always there to help her during those critical times. On 6 October 1883, she received the Habit of the Rosary Congregation from the hands of Msgr Pascal Appodia, Patriarchal Vicar. On 7 March 1885, together with the first eight sisters, Mother Marie-Alphonsine was admitted to profession and pronounced her three vows in a ceremony presided over by Vincent Bracco, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem.
On 25 July 1885, Mother Marie-Alphonsine was assigned, together with another sister, to Jaffa in Galilee. There, one day, a miracle happened – Nathira I’d, a young girl, fell into a deep cistern filled with water. The only thing that Mother Marie-Alphonsine could do was to throw her large rosary of 15 decades in the well, to invoke Our Lady to help them and to go into the church with other girls to pray the Rosary. Nathira came out safe and sound, saying that she saw a great light and a ladder shaped like a Rosary which assisted her in climbing her way out.
In October 1886, she was sent to a new foundation in Beit Sahour (the Shepherds’ village) where, it was expected, she would open a school. In 1887, together with three sisters, she left Beit Sahour for Salt, the first mission in Trans-Jordan. Two years later she was sent to Nablus but soon taken to the Mother House in Jerusalem for health reasons. Once healed, she was sent to Zababdeh. In 1892, she was sent to Nazareth to assist Fr Tannous on his deathbed.
In 1893, Mother Marie-Alphonsine established a workshop in Bethlehem, to give work to poor girls. She remained 15 years in Bethlehem, at the end of those years full of zeal and enthusiasm, in 1909, she was recalled to the Mother House in Jerusalem where she remained till 1917, when she was charged with the foundation of an orphanage in the town of Ain-Karem. There she could return to her life of prayer to fulfill Our Lady’s wish that the Rosary may be recited perpetually.
On 25 March 1927, Mother Marie-Alphonsine breathed her last while praying the rosary with her sister, Hanneh Danil Ghattas.
Thus, Mother Marie-Alphonsine was distinguished by her total abandonment to the Divine Providence. She is the apostle of hope and trust in God and Our Lady. She firmly believed in our Lady’s words: “The Rosary is your treasure!”
His Holiness St Pope John Paul II announced the acknowledgement of the heroic virtues of Mother Marie Alphonsine on 15 October 1994 and in 1995 she was proclaimed “Venerable”.
On 22 November 2009, she was Beatified in Nazareth.
At her Canonisation on 17 May 2015 in St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis said:
“An essential aspect of witness to the risen Lord is unity among ourselves, His disciples, in the image of His own unity with the Father. Today too, in the Gospel, we heard Jesus’ prayer on the eve of His passion: “that they may be one, even as we are one” (Jn 17:11). From this eternal love between the Father and the Son, poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit (cf. Rom 5:5), our mission and our fraternal communion draw strength; this love is the ever-flowing source of our joy in following the Lord along the path of His poverty, His virginity and His obedience and this same love, calls us to cultivate contemplative prayer. Sister Maria-Alphonsine Baouardy experienced this in an outstanding way. Poor and uneducated, she was able to counsel others and provide theological explanations with extreme clarity, the fruit of her constant converse with the Holy Spirit. Her docility to the Holy Spirit made her also a means of encounter and fellowship with the Muslim world. “
The ceremony was attended by more than 2,000 Christian pilgrims from the Middle East and by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. Four days before the Canonisation of Marie-Alphonsine Danil Ghattas, the Vatican announced a treaty that reaffirms Palestinian statehood by the Holy See.
The members of the order she founded run schools, catechetical programs, clinics and orphanages throughout the Middle East.
Blessed Mother Marie-Alphonsine, pray for us and for the Holy Land!