Who am I?
My name is Marie-Claude, in 1974 I became Sister Claire-Marie in a contemplative monastery in France. At the time of the Lebanese war I felt a strong call to join the Christians of the Middle East and to go to Lebanon. I got the necessary permissions to leave the cloistered life to undertake this mission. Since 1994 I have participated in the foundation of this community of the Unity of Antioch in this monastery of Saint James in Syria where we live.
I was raised in a large and happy family, we are eight brothers and sisters and now 30 little cousins and 5 second cousins. The Lord keeps us united in the faith and the love of life.
How did I meet the Lord?
I met the Lord in my family life. We lived a simple happiness; there was a joy, laughter and family prayer in the evening. I met Him more personally at the age of 11 and a half, on the day of my profession of faith in my parish. There I tasted the joy of being His forever and I immediately sought a way to consecrate my life to Him, which I did when I joined the Carmel. I met Him again when I met Mother Agnes Mariam of the Cross. Thanks to her help I was able to descend more deeply into myself to discover the abyss of my misery that was imploring the abyss of His mercy. Since this meeting, which continues until now, I relived the miracle of my birth: the free gift of my life, the mystery of my creation by the breath of God. I learned to find myself again, there where my happiness is, constantly leaving a false idea of myself that wants to impose itself on me. Now I meet Him at every moment; I am happy to continue this adventure within myself, with my brothers and sisters, to discover with interest where it is that He awaits me.
How did I get to know the Monastery?
During the Lebanese war I saw a great misunderstanding between the mentality that I knew in France and the tragedy of the war in Lebanon. I could not rest in my vocation; I had to look for a way to physically join those who were calling me from within. When I was about to give up and leave everything in the uncertainty of what seemed like a wild dream, I heard from the mouth of my Prioress in front of the whole Community gathered in procession – it was August 15th – the call of Pope John Paul II at the Angelus: "Lebanon is more than a country, it is a message, it challenges the consciences of each one of us."
That “each of one us” was me, I was certain; and Lebanon came to me. I came to Lebanon at the end of August 1993 with the absolute certainty that I arrived into my 'homeland'. Since then each step prepared the next without any programming on my part: JESUS hides me in a little corner from where I was always able to see without seeing, to understand without understanding, to feel in the darkness of my heart the beautiful plan he was conducting.
How do I experience life in the Monastery during this war?
Following the paths of Providence, I followed Mother Agnes to the Monastery of St. James here in Syria, a great construction site that lasted from 1994 (July 14) to 2000 (September 14, the day of erection and the foundation of our Order, the Unity of Antioch). We never thought a war like this could break out in such a simple, family-oriented, and hospitable country.
In fact it is the whole of Syria that is becoming St. James-the-cut-in-pieces (our patron). Our Monastery gathers or collects many forms of humanitarian aid, mainly due to the effective action of Our Mother, Agnes Mariam. But we are not called to the forefront of this action. We live day by day the genesis or the construction of an ‘ark’, or a family. In this family everyone is invited and given the mission to be who he or she is. The Lord wants us to represent humanity in our small number, to give the sign of the humanity that is here, as in Bethlehem.