Beshara Abou Mrad

Protrait of Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O., Melkite Priest

Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O.,

Melkite Priest

An Eastern Curé d’Ars

The Holy Synod in June 2009 studied the announcement from Pope Benedict XVI of a Year of the Priest 19 June 2009 to 19 June 2010. In order to commemorate the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the death of Jean-Marie Vianney (April 25 2009), patron of parish priests throughout the world, the Synod suggested some commemoratory activities: firstly, to address a letter in the name of the Patriarch and the Holy Synod to all priests; second, to present the Servant of God Beshara Abou Mrad, Salvatorian Father, as a model for parish priests; thirdly, to prepare a congress for all priests of the Melkite Church; fourthly, to publish some leaflets about the priestly vocation and fifthly, to organize meetings in the various congregations, schools, universities and parish movements so as to invite young people to consider the priesthood as a vocation.

A committee was appointed under the leadership of Archbishop Selim Ghazal to supervise the whole celebration of this year.

In September of 2009 the Melkite Patriarch started preparations for the letter, taking into consideration eventual suggestions from bishops.

The following presentation was given by His Beatitude to His Holiness at their meeting on September 19, 2009 in Castelgandolfo.

Beshara Abou Mrad B.S.O., Melkite Priest –

An Eastern Curé d’Ars

This little presentation aims to draw out from the discourses of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI the characteristics of the spiritual life of Saint Jean-Marie Vianney that are to be found in the life of Father Beshara Abou Mrad.

Curé d’Ars Father Beshara Abou Mrad

The Curé d’Ars dedicated himself with all his might to shepherding his flock, making his chief priority the religious education and edification of the people confided to his care.

The pastoral zeal of Father Beshara Abou Mrad and his devotion to his parish were shown through his motto taken from the Prophet Ezekiel, “I have placed thee as guardian of this people and for each soul that is lost, I shall require in its stead thine own.”(Ezekiel 17:3) This strong conviction created in him a huge respect for the priestly ministry and for the service of souls.

The Curé d’Ars dedicated his life to humble, patient work. He undertook to be the faithful servant of the holiness of the service entrusted to him, so he decided to make the parish church his home: he went into it before sunrise and only went out after the angelus prayer…

The parishioners of Deir Al-Qamar would speak with respect and veneration of Father Beshara. According to them he is a saint, as they never saw him but with arms outstretched in prayer: he would spend his time in church, ceaselessly repeating hymns to the Mother of God.

Old people from the parish tell how, having been woken by the sound of the bell, they were astonished to see their priest already kneeling before the altar, meditating in deep silence.

The Curé d’Ars used to visit all sick persons and their families and take care of orphans… by his own witness he taught his parishioners.

Father Beshara, following his Saviour’s example “took upon himself people’s frailties and bore their sicknesses.” He continually visited all the families, giving special care to all its members, both young and old. He took care of the sick and suffering, offering them heavenly nourishment and helping them bear their illness, and above all ensuring that the dying received the sacraments.

The Curé d’Ars affirms, “Good works cannot match the sacrifice of the Mass, because they are the work of humanity, but the Liturgy is God’s work.” He was convinced that the life of the priest is dependent upon the Eucharist.

Before the Church of the Annunciation was built, Beshara Abou Mrad used to begin the day with Mass in one of the houses among the villages he served. Nothing could stop him celebrating Mass – neither cold, nor rain, nor unseasonal weather.

People from the region recall how often they helped him cross the river by ladder because of torrential currents. Seeing their astonishment at his zeal, he would say to them, “What rain, what cold? Could I leave you without Mass?”

The Curé d’Ars sought by preaching and other means to enable the rediscovery of the meaning and beauty of the sacrament of Reconciliation, which is, according to him, an inseparable condition for receiving the Eucharist. And it is unforgettable how crowds used to flick from all over France to make confession.

The reputation of Father Beshara in the villages in the Saida region and the districts around Deir Al-Qamar, made him a source of blessing for the people of those villages who would come to him. In fact, he would spend most weekdays hearing confession. He would go from school to school and church to church, spending hours hearing the confessions of several hundred people, taking back the lost sheep to the Father’s house. Everybody wanted to go to him for confession and receive his blessing. As a result he no longer had enough time to pray. Therefore, so as to be able to pray, he decided to sleep in church under the pretext of keeping alight the sanctuary lamp in front of the Holy Sacrament.

The poverty, chastity and obedience of the Curé d’Ars were an example to be followed for the priests of his day. He was poor among the poor. What was his he considered as belonging to others. His life was entirely dedicated to God and his Church.

The vows of poverty, chastity and obedience were like an eighth sacrament for Father Beshara. In fact he lived like the most deprived of the poor. In his room there were but a bed and a wooden crate that he used as a wardrobe … he gave the presents he received to the poor, withholding nothing for himself.

He would habitually eat as the poor did. Father Malatios Khoury said of him that he ate half what others ate. The countless sacrifices and mortifications that he made and the hours of prayers that he spent in front of the Holy Sacrament were so many tokens of his chastity. For Father Beshara, God’s will was manifest in the will of his superiors.