During the massacres of 1860 in Syria and Lebanon, many Christians were murdered for their faith and because of sectarian tensions. Among them were the three Massabki brothers from Damascus, who were martyred there along with the Franciscan monks. On 9 July 1860, a fire had torn through the Christian quarters of Damascus and the Massabki brothers and some other Maronite familes had taken refuge in the Franciscan convent. At about eleven o’clock the Superior Father Emmanuel closed the Monastery’s doors and called everyone to the Church, where they prayed, made their confessions, prayed for the intercession of the Blessed Mother, participated in the Procession of the Holy Eucharist, and proceeded to Holy Communion. Then, all except Francis, who remained kneeling at the feet of the Sorrowful Mother, went up to the roof. Moments later, the aggressors entered and caught Father Superior Emmanuel, who told them, “Come, let me lead you to a treasure inside the church.” When he went up to the altar, he lit two candles, took out the Eucharist from the tabernacle to protect it, and said, “This is the treasure. I have nothing else.” He was then put to death. The aggressors saw Francis kneeling in prayer and recognized him, as he was a man of stature in the city. According to his nephew Nehmeh, who was twelve years old at the time and who hid and survived the massacre, the aggressors said to Francis, “Sheik Abdallah has sent us to save you from death; you, your brothers, your families, and all those who depend upon you for protection, on the condition that you deny your faith and convert…” Francis answered them, “Sheikh Abdallah can take my money, he can also take my life; but my faith no one can make me deny. I am a Christian and on the faith of Christ, I will die.” They replied, “We shall kill you then.” So Francis said, “I shall be with my Lord who told us ‘Do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul.’” The men killed him. The men caught Abdel El-Maoti in the convent yard next to the church door, and also asked him to renounce his faith to escape death. But he also refused. As for Raphael, who was hiding inside the convent, his fate was no better. When he refused to renounce his faith in order to escape death he remained in prayer, he was also beheaded.
These Martyrs teach us that to witness to Christ there always a price to pay. God invites us to take care of each other, to support one another in love. God wants to use us as his instrument to be his hands and feet in the world to love and serve and give witness to him following the example of the Saints who became a great instrument for God witnessing to His great love. No one is forgotten by God he loves us all and wants us to live as his family in peace, joy and love. We should not fear but trust fully in him and be ready to give our life in his service by serving one another and especially the poorest of the poor. Let us make time this week to reflect on how we serve the poor? How we love the broken? How we reflect God love to others? How we witness to Christ without fear or Doubt? To witness is to die to self that Christ may live in me.
Fr. Maroun El Kazzi