A warm embrace of the faithful from all over Galilee welcomed the Custos of the Holy Land, Fr. Francesco Patton, on 29 September at the Franciscan Convent in Mujeidel, near Nazareth, on the feast-day of the Archangels. A Franciscan shrine dedicated to the archangel Gabriel built in 1903 stands here. Under the attentive guidance of the Superior of the convent, Fr. Fadi Shallufi, this shrine has regained in recent years the importance and the participation it had lost following the 1948 war, when the St Gabriel Archangel convent in Mujeidel hosted a very active parish and a school run by religious.
The Father Custos, accompanied but the Custodial Vicar Fr. Ibrahim Faltas and by the Discretes of the Holy Land, Fr. John Luke Gregory and Fr. Rashid Mistrih, paid homage to the shrine, defining it “an oasis of spirituality made beautiful by work and prayer,” with clear reference to the initiatives of the local community aimed at redeveloping and improving the site. Here, Father Francesco inaugurated some works that the laborious local faithful, together with the Superior, have contributed to creating recently.
Mass was held in the presence of hundreds of faithful from the Latin parishes in the whole region In the courtyard next to the small shrine of St Gabriel Archangel and at the foot of the statue of the Virgin Mary – inaugurated for the occasion.
The mass opened with the entrance of the statue of the archangel Gabriel carried in procession. Immediately afterwards, the superior of the convent, Fr. Fadi Shallufi, thanked the Custos and the Discretes present and welcomed them on behalf of the whole local community. He then extended his welcome to Fr. Wojciech Bołoz, Guardian of the Convent of the Very Sacred Annunciation of Nazareth, to Fr. Ricardo Bustos, Guardian of Mount Tabor, and Fr. Carlos Molinas, Director of the Casa Nova in Nazareth. With these words, Fr. Fadi wanted to express to the Father Custos, who had come from Jerusalem for the occasion, the closeness of the Franciscans of Galilee and of their communities.
In his comment on the readings, Fr. Patton, who presided the eucharistic celebration, explained the meaning of the feast-day of the archangels: "This feast-day suggests to us in the first place that God loves us, is interested in us and this is why he sends to us his messengers who bring his great announcements and make us feel that God is close to us in the concrete situation in which we are living and with the needs we have." The word "angel", he emphasized, means precisely “messenger,” and on this horizon, we have to ask ourselves which message the three archangels are delivering to us and, above all, how we, conscious of the wisdom of this announcement, can become in our turn messengers in the world and for the world: "If we welcome the announcement and the friendship of the holy archangels Gabriel, Michael and Raphael, we are then also called “angels”, i.e. messengers of the same announcement.
From Gabriel, who announced the birth of Jesus, we can learn to carry the same announcement of salvation "so that faith is born and kept alive in the hearts of the people we meet;” from Michael, who is close to us in the fight against the Devil and against Evil, we learn how to be close to the most fragile, helping them “not to despair of the grace of the Lord and the possibility of defeating evil and sin in their lives;” from Raphael, who brings us the medicine of God, we learn how to become "announcers of the love that heals, the love that redeems and the love that saves.”
At the end of the celebration, the Father Custos rewarded some local faithful who recently have stood out for their generosity and their contribution to developing the shrine, making possible the redevelopment of the gardens and of the areas close to the convent. Two local families, Mr and Mrs Abtesam and Ryad Jbaly and Mr and Mrs Sami and Hala Nassar, featured in this moment of sharing. With them, two parishioners of Nazareth received from the Custos an icon showing the Annunciation, for their help in setting up and preparing the event.
Today this shrine is no longer a parish, but a place where many activities have been started, including spiritual retreats; each week there are pastoral activities that attract faithful from all over Galilee, with the intention of awakening and educating people to study in depth the Holy Scriptures and to understand even better the spirit of the pilgrimage.
Filippo De Grazia