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Our Lady of La Salette

Conversion of young Arabs.

Above the cave that was sanctified by the fasts of the prophet Elijah, now in Carmel, is a magnificent shrine dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. All around are the buildings of the RR. PP. Carmelites; there is only one Muslim dwelling in the vicinity, that of a family one of whose sons became attached, some years ago, to a European painter who came to Syria, and to whom the religious entrusted the care of decorating the dome of the church. Ahmed, that is the name of the young Arab, had never studied; but naturally docile, intelligent and observant, he made such progress in the art of painting that, his master having abandoned his work without finishing it, Ahmed found himself skilful enough to complete it properly.

But while the young Muslim seemed to be completely absorbed by his work, another object captivated him even more: it was the majestic image of Mary and the piety of the pilgrims, who came to offer their prayers to the sweet Virgin of Carmel. The impression he felt became so strong that one day, finding himself alone in the church, he ran to prostrate himself at Mary’s feet… What should he say to her? He does not know; but he feels such a delicious attraction that he gets up with difficulty to go and take back his brushes and hurries back in front of the holy image, as soon as he thinks he is not seen.

However, his heart warms up more and more each day, and his soul is filled with the thought of the august Virgin. “One night,” he says, “while I was asleep, I saw her dazzling with light; with one hand she was holding her divine Child; with the other she was beckoning me to follow her. Struck by this vision, I went to kneel at the feet of Her image long before daylight. “O Virgin of Carmel, I said to Her, I do not know how to pray to You; but guide me, I beseech You, I desire to serve You and Your Son.”

Ahmed was in these dispositions, when a European arrived at the convent: he was a doctor, already elderly, who for some months had pitched his tent on a rock in Lebanon. The sight of the young Ahmed working in the church struck him. He approached him and asked him who he was: “Muslim,” replied the Arab, “but I want to become a Christian. – If it is sincerely,” replies the doctor, “come with me, I will facilitate the means for you.”

The young man accepts without hesitation. However, he had to obtain permission from his father to leave. So he goes to him and shows him the intention he has to become more skilled in his art and to learn the language of the Franks. Now, a favorable opportunity presents itself; it is important to seize it, if his family agrees. After much hesitation, the father finally gives his consent; he even allows him to take one of his brothers with him.

The two young Arabs soon joined their guide who, desirous above all to lead to a safe place those whom Providence had entrusted to his care, abandoned his clientele and came to settle in Zuhlé, a village situated in the eastern part of Lebanon. There, missionaries of the Society of Jesus had established a residence, and the population of this locality being Christian, the two brothers would be safe there: it was also there that grace would complete the work begun under the auspices of Mary. The two neophytes, for the younger one soon followed the example of the elder, made such rapid progress in the knowledge of Christian dogmas that it was not long before their greatest desire was fulfilled: the holy water of baptism flowed over their foreheads. Soon after, they were sent to Beirut where a trial awaited them. The news of their conversion caused a stir; their father came, boiling with anger, to rebuke them and force them to renounce their new faith; but the firmness of the new Christians remained unshakeable, triumphing over the urgings, tenderness and threats. Moreover, the hut humayoum was published in Beirut and no more constraint could be exerted on them. Since that moment, they have not ceased to advance in virtue.

“May the Divine Virgin,” adds the pious missionary who is passing on these details, “be pleased with the account of these two conversions which are due to her; they are two flowers born in Carmel and transplanted to Mount Lebanon. In this double capacity, they are Hers; for the glory of Lebanon was given to her as well as the beauty of Carmel.”

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