Mariam Baouardy, O.C.D. (or Mary of Jesus Crucified) (5 January 1846 – 26 August 1878), was a Palestinian Discalced Carmelite nun of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church. She was a mystic, who experienced the stigmata, and has been beatified by the Catholic Church.
She was born on 5 January 1846 (the eve of Epiphany) in the village of I'billin, the region of Southern Syria in the Ottoman Empire, now in Israel, to Giries (George) Baouardy and his wife, Mariam Chahine, both of Damascene ancestry. Mariam was their 13th child and first daughter, none of her preceding brothers had survived infancy. She was born after a trip the couple made a pilgrimage on foot to Bethlehem, some 70 miles away, out of desperation after the loss of their children. When they were later blessed with the birth of a daughter, they named her after the Virgin Mary, out of gratitude. She was joined by a new brother, Boulos, two years later.
Baouardy's parents both died from an illness in 1848, only a few days apart. The siblings were then each taken in by relatives on different sides of her family living in different villages, she being taken in by her father's brother who lived in the same village. The brother and sister would never see one another again. She was raised in a loving home in comfortable circumstances. As a child she had a marked spirit of religious fervor, choosing, for example, to fast at the age of five.
When Baouardy was eight, her uncle and his wife moved to Alexandria, Egypt, to improve their situation. Five years later, in 1858 when she was aged 13, in keeping with tradition, she was engaged by her uncle to his wife's brother, who lived in Cairo. The night before the wedding, she had a religious experience in which she felt called not to marry and to offer her life to God. Upon being told this the following morning, her uncle flew into a rage and beat her severely. Despite this, and the subsequent ill treatment she began to experience from her uncle, she stayed firm in her decision.
Nonetheless, Baouardy felt depressed and alone. She wrote her brother, then living in Nazareth, asking him to visit her. The young male servant she asked to deliver the letter drew out of her the cause for her sadness. Upon learning of this, he attempted to woo her for himself, inviting her to convert to Islam. She rejected his proposal, which caused the young man to fly into a rage, in which he drew a knife and cut her throat. He then dumped her body in a nearby alley.
Baouardy then experienced what she was convinced was a miracle. As she related later, a "nun dressed in blue" picked up her body and stitched her wounds, caring for her in some grotto which she could never identify. Her voice was effected for the rest of her life as a result of the cut, which a French doctor later measured as being 10 cm. (nearly 4 inches) wide. After being cared for by this mysterious figure for a month, she recovered enough to leave and find work as a domestic servant in the home of an Arab Christian family in the city. She would give most of the little money she earned to the poor on the streets.
After a year, Baourardy decided to try to meet her brother and traveled by caravan to Jerusalem. There she felt inspired to make a vow of perpetual virginity at the Holy Sepulchre. She then took a boat in Jaffa with the intention of heading to Acre. Due to poor weather, however, the boat had to stop at Beirut. Taking this as a sign from God, she disembarked and found work as a maid. After working there she suddenly became blind, a condition that lasted for 40 days, just as suddenly recovering her vision. Not long after that, she had a serious fall which seemed to leave her for dead. Her employer cared for her for a month until she revived, completely healed.
France and Carmel
In May 1863 a generous patron made it possible for Baouardy to move to Marseille, France, where she became the cook for an Arab family. While there, she felt called to enter a religious order. Rejected by the first groups to which she sought admission, in May 1865 she was accepted as a postulant by the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Apparition, who had communities in the Holy Land and already had several Palestinian candidates. It was at this point that she received the stigmata of Christ.
During the last month of this period of candidacy, the Mistress of novices, who had drawn Baouardy's life story from her, was replaced by Mother Veronica of the Passion. After two years as a postulant, Baouardy was up for a vote by the community regarding her admission to the congregation. To her shock and dismay, she was rejected by the Sisters who were charged with making the decision.
At that point, Mother Veronica had just received permission to transfer to the Discalced Carmelite monastery at Pau to prepare for her forming a new congregation of Religious Sisters serving in India, the Sisters of the Apostolic Carmel. She invited Baouardy to go with her, writing to the prioress of that community and recommending that they accept the young Arab woman. The prioress accepted Mother Veronica's advice and, in June 1867, both women went together to Puy, where they received the Carmelite religious habit and Baourdy was given the religious name of Mary of Jesus Crucified.
In 1870, Mariam went with the first group of Carmelite Apostolic Sisters to Mangalore, India. She served there for two years before returning to Pau. It was there she made her profession of solemn vows as a member of the Order. After returning to Pau for three years before returning to help found the first Palestine. In September 1875 she helped to found a new monastery in Bethlehem, the first of the Order in that region, where she lived until her death. During her whole life, she experienced periods or religious ecstasy frequently throughout the day.
In April 1878 Mariam played an important role in the identification of the Biblical Emmaus thanks to a private revelation. She died on 26 August 1878 in Bethlehem, from a cancer which had developed in her bones as a result of the fall she had while working in the monastery, which led to gangrene that spread to her lungs.
In I'billin a kindergarten, the Miriam Bawardi Elementary School and a junior high school are named after Mariam Baouardy.
- Neger, Doris C., O.C.D.S. (January–February 2001). "The Little Arab". Sophia 31 (No. 1).
- "Blessed Mariam Baouardy-The Lily of Palestine". Mystics of the Church.
- AEI (1999). Bethlehem Community Book. Bethlehem: Arab Education Institute. pp. 110, 111.
- "Bl. Mary of Jesus Crucified". Order of Carmelites.