St. Mary of Jesus Crucified
A woman endowed with a multitude of supernatural gifts, this remarkable Saint, who is affectionately nicknamed the “Little Arab”, was born Mariam Baouardy, to a Catholic family of the Greek Melkite Rite at Abellin in Galilee (between Nazareth and Haifa) on January 5, 1846. Orphaned at the age of 3, she moved to Alexandria, Egypt, where she was looked after by her uncle. At the age of 12, she was engaged to marry a young man, but since she had decided to remain a virgin, she separated from this man, even though this meant suffering persecution from those around her. Once, Mary was seriously wounded by a religious fanatic, who attacked her for refusing to convert to Islam, and left her for dead. Our Lady, appearing to her in a dream, miraculously healed her. After this incident, Mary went into domestic service, and, in May of 1865, she joined the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, in Marseilles, France. But while Mary was still a postulant, the community dismissed her, since they felt that with her mystical gifts (she had experienced the stigmata for the first time on March 29, 1867) she would be better suited to a contemplative community.
This is where Mary’s Carmelite journey began. She entered the Carmel of Pau, France, and received the habit on July 27, 1867, as a lay Sister, becoming Sister Mary of Jesus Crucified. She made her profession on November 21, 1870, in Mangalore, India, having traveled there with some Sisters to found the first cloistered monastery in India. Her mystical experiences continued while she was in India, and they were so extraordinary that the vicar thought she was being led by an evil spirit, and sent her back to Pau in September of 1872.
But this wasn’t the end of our Little Arab’s missionary activity. At Pau, Our Lord revealed to her that He wanted her to found a monastery in Bethlehem, and she worked towards this goal until she was able to leave for Palestine in 1875. The community moved into their new monastery on November 21, 1876, a monastery that had been built under Sister Mary’s direction. No sooner was this monastery completed than Sister Mary was already dreaming of making another foundation, this time in Nazareth. This dream was not to be fulfilled until 1910, after Sister Mary’s earthly pilgrimage had ended. She died in Bethlehem on August 26, 1878.
Even though she experienced just about every mystical experience imaginable, including stigmata, ecstasies, and prophecies, Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified was very humble and simple in her spiritual life, remaining faithful to Our Lord despite strong temptations from the devil. She had a deep devotion to the Holy Spirit, under Whose guidance she undertook her missionary work in the Holy Land. She also had a great love for the Church and the Pope. Having had only a minimal education, she was nevertheless able to give counsels and clearly grasp and explain theological concepts. She is a shining example of how Our Lord can make use of a soul that is humble and faithful to Him, in spite of any obstacles that lie in the way.
The feast day of Saint Mary of Jesus Crucified is celebrated by the Carmelite Order on August 25.