Beata Madre María Ràfols

by Father Gregorio Emmanuel Hidalgo, SSP

María Rafols

A “mother” for abandoned children and the poorest among the poor of the Madrid neighborhoods of the nineteenth century, María Rufols Bruna was born in Villafranca del Panadés, province of Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, on November 5, 1781.
After the death of her father, a hard-working and honest miller, she entered the 1794 women’s monastery of Saint Gervasio of the Hospital Order of St. John of Jerusalem.
In 1803 he had the opportunity to carry out harsh charitable tasks on the occasion of the plague that occurred around Barcelona. In the same year he met Father Juan Bonal, who was for a long time his spiritual director.

The Awakening of a Noble Mission
She arrived in Zaragoza on December 28, 1804. He was part of the group of twelve sisters and twelve brothers of Charity that Fr. Juan Bonal had gathered in Barcelona to take over the services of the former Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Gracia, founded in 1425. That’s how they answered the call from the Board that governed it.
His first visit was to Our Lady of Pilar to put in the hands of the Lady that new and risky mission. From there he left for the hospital, a great world of pain where, under the motto Domus Infirmorum Urbis et Orbis (House of the Sick of the City and the World), sick, inso mindless, abandoned children and all kinds of underdogs would shelter.
The brothers were unable to overcome the obstacle course and by the age of three they had already disappeared.
So, the Hna. She became co-founder, with Father Bonal, of the Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Santa Ana, so that, in the manner of the Daughters of St. Vincent de Paul in France, they would take care of the sick who abounded in Madrid at a time marked by the French occupation of Napoleon Bonaparte, who after deploying their military dominance in the colonies and possessions of Spain , I now wanted to submit to the Spanish Kingdom.
In 1807 this first religious community was initially moved to Huesca.
Some Sisters of Charity of Santa Ana will count among the first to face the phlebotomy examination, before the Board of the Hospital in full, in order to practice the operation of the bleeding, so prevalent in the medicine of its time. With Maria Rufols as superior, they stayed and increased in number. Its leader knew how to navigate the pitfalls wisely, tireless charity, and a heroic mettle that immediately began to dawn.

The military site of Zaragoza
At the beginning of the War of Independence the role of the sisters was very prominent. His charity reached very high heights, especially when the hospital was bombed and set on fire by the French. Between the bullets and the ruins, Maria Rufols exposed her life to save the sick, asked for alms for them and deprived hemselves of her own food. And when everything was missing in the city, he risked moving to French camp, to prostrate himself to the marshal-in-chief and get care for the sick and wounded.
When the French withdrew on 14 August 1808, the Hospital de Nuestra Señora de Gracia was in ruins. Mother Rufols took care of placing the sick in various official and private buildings. He rescued religious and artistic objects. He got aid, which he insistently requested from General Palafox. More than four thousand wounded and sick moved to the Royal House of Mercy. On December 10, 1808, a new siege began. The situation in the city was tragic because of the spread of new plague epidemics. Mother Rufols, accompanied by two sisters, appeared before Marshal Lannes on a request for help. They were granted food and safe conduct. He cared for the prisoners, interceded for them and achieved the freedom of some.

The fruits of faith and patience
After the occupation of Zaragoza, the Board imposed new constitutions on the sisters and on 12 November 1811 accepted the resignation of Mother Rufols, who was in charge of the sacristy. He then went to Orcajo (Daroca).
After the march of the French, in 1813, he re-directed the Inclusa or Asylum-Cradle of the Hospital that cared for orphaned or homeless children,1 where he will spend practically the rest of his life. There he wasted love, dedication and tenderness with orphaned or homeless children, the poorest among the poor. It is the longest chapter of his life, the most hidden, but certainly the most beautiful. She’ll be the attentive mother of those children she’s out of her way.

Now the Carlist War
The splashes of the first Carlist War are also reached by Maria Rufols,2 at a cost of two months in prison and six years of exile at the Hospital de Huesca, even though the trial sentence declared her not guilty. It follows the fate of so many others banished by the slightest suspicion or slanderous denunciation.
But prison, banishment, humiliation, slander, suffered with peace and without a complaint, made him enter fully into the group of those Jesus calls blissful: those persecuted for justice, the peaceful, the merciful. On his return, he simply returned to the “Inclusa”, with children who do not know of wars or hatreds, but who intuit love.
In 1826 she was again elected superior until 1829. In 1834 she entered the prison of Preachers, accused of complicity in a conspiracy against queen regent Maria Cristina de Borbón. Two months later she was released, and the following year she obtained a sentence that exempted her from guilt, but was banished to her hometown. The six-year banishment could have changed him to Huesca, where since 1807 there was a house of the brotherhood of Santa Ana. In 1841 she was authorized to return to Zaragoza and returned to the Hospital intended for the Inclusa.
He retired in 1845 for having his resentful health and spent a season in Belver de Cinca, Huesca. She died on August 30, 1853, near the age of seventy-two and forty-nine to be Sister of Charity. Her body and altar are located in the chapel of the Novitiate of the Congregation of Sisters of Charity of Santa Ana in Zaragoza.

In 1926 his process of beatification was opened, sixty-three years after his death. Between 1926 and 1932 documents written by her were found more than a century ago, texts that were dictated directly to her by the Sacred Heart: spiritual councils, a kind of spiritual testament, a long and thorough relationship of her death. In the last two documents found in 1931 and 1932 (written in 1815 and 1836), there are surprising prophetic gifts about many events that occurred in recent years prior to its discovery and publication, such as the institution of the Feast of Christ the King by Pope Pius XI, the prediction of the religious persecutions that were to test the faith of Spanish Catholics , the persecution of the Society of Jesus initiated by the Republic, the official Consecration of Spain to the Heart of Jesus, the social struggles that would shake the life of nations, the spiritual fruit to follow from the knowledge of these writings, the details of the desecration and finding of the miraculous image of the Helpless Christ, among others.
His beatification process was suspended in 1944, as Pope Pius XII signed a “dilata” with which he kept braking for almost forty years. She is finally beatified by Pope John Paul II, fifty years later, on October 16, 1994.
Mother Rufols is not only a complete and heroic woman, but an example for so many Catholics who, in the midst of limitations and difficulties of all kinds, must spread God’s love to full hands among the poorest who fight for life, the present and the future. Ω

1 Originally, in the distant 1563 it was a Brotherhood to gather the convalescents who came out of the asylums-hospitals in the Convent of Victory, near the Gate of the Sun; but later, in 1572, the work of collecting newborn children, who were abandoned in the streets, churches or portals of the capital, the expositions, will be taken on.
2 The first Carlist War was a civil war that unfolded in Spain between 1833 and 1840 among the Carlists, supporters of the infante Carlos María Isidro de Borbón and an absolutist regime, and the “Isabelinos” or “cristinos”, defenders of Elizabeth II and the regent María Cristina de Borbón, whose government was originally moderate absolutist and ended up becoming liberal to obtain popular support. It was formerly known for Spanish historiography as the Seven Years’ War or the First Civil War.

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