On 23 September at the Franciscan convent in the village of Al-Mujaydel, near Nazareth, a joyous community of the faithful from Nazareth and Galilee warmly welcomed the Custos of the Holy Land, fr. Francesco Patton, on the feast-day dedicated to the Archangels and at the same time to celebrate the 120th anniversary of the foundation of the sanctuary.
This is where a Franciscan sanctuary dedicated to the archangel Gabriel stands. It was built in 1903, following the donation of the land to the Custody by the local Christians of Al-Mujaydel. The village lost some of its population after the 1948 war which decreed its decadence and abandonment.
Today fr. Fadi Shallufi is the superior in charge of the place which, under his vigorous leadership, has flourished again in recent years, becoming an important point of reference and meeting place for the local community, with pastoral activities and countless initiatives being started again which involve faithful from all over Galilee, pilgrims and visitors.
The Holy Mass, which was held in the open given the great participation, was introduced by the procession with the statues of the archangel Gabriel, symbol of the sanctuary. Fr. Fadi Shallufi welcomed the celebrants and extended a warm welcome to the Father Custos and to all the Franciscans present, from the various communities of Akko, Jerusalem and Ein Karem. The Custos of the Holy Land then wanted to give special thanks, on behalf of the whole Custody, giving a parchment certificate and a medal to the benefactors who have stood out for redeveloping and making the site more attractive.
In his comment on the readings, fr. Patton wanted to recall the meaning of the feast-day of the Archangels: «Angel means messenger and we venerate the angels as those who bring us an important message from God. Every time we listen to the word of God it is as though an angel were talking to us. And every time we are face to face with the word of God, we have to check whether we are in credulous like Zacharias or if our hearts are open to the word of God like Mary’s: if we trust the word of God then, like Mary, we experience the action of the Holy Spirit inside us, we experience the presence of Jesus in us and we feel that the word of God is taking us towards those who need help and salvation.
The prayer was that to “receive the grace of being able to listen to the voice of angels, letting us hear the word of God. The archangel Gabriel continues to bring us the word of God, the continues to speak to us of Jesus and to ask us to have faith to recognize through the miracles of every day that nothing is impossible for God.”
At the end of the celebration, the Father Custos blessed a commemorative plaque which will be placed in the garden of the Sanctuary, dedicated to all the deceased friars who have worked and served in this place, contributing to make the sanctuary more appreciated.
In a climate of joy, the celebration came to an end with refreshments offered by the local community of Al-Mujaydel, who in this way stressed the strong spirit of welcome which distinguishes them.