a monk, priest, and a hermit
Saint Charbel Makhluf, O.L.M. (or Sharbel Maklouf),(Arabic: مار شربل, May 8, 1828 – December 24, 1898) was a Maronite monk and priest in Lebanon. During his life he obtained a wide reputation for holiness and he has been canonized by the Catholic Church.
Orphan and shepherd
He was born Youssef Antoun Makhluf on May 8th, 1828, one of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chidiac. They lived in the village of Bekaa Kafra, possibly the highest in the Lebanese mountains. His father, a mule driver, died in August 1831, returning from corvée for the Turkish army, leaving his wife a widow to care for their children. Later she remarried a man who went on to seek Holy Orders and became the parish priest of the village.
The young Youssef was raised in a pious home and quickly became drawn to the lives of the saints and to the hermit life, as was practiced by two of his uncles. As a young boy, he was responsible for caring for the family’s small flock. He would take the flock to a grotto nearby, where he had installed an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He would spend the day in prayer.
In 1851, Youssef left his family and entered the Lebanese Maronite Order at the Monastery of Our Lady in Mayfouq to begin his training as a monk, later transferring to the Monastery of St. Maron monastery in Annaya, located in the Jbeil District near Beirut. Here he received the religious habit of a monk and took the name Charbel, after a Christian martyr in Antioch from the 2nd century. He made his final religious profession in the Order on 1 November 1853.
The young monk Charbel then began his study of philosophy and theology at the Monastery of Saints Cyprian & Justina in Kfifan, in the Batroun District of Lebanon, to prepare himself for receiving Holy Orders. Among his professors at the seminary was Father Nimattullah Kassab, who was himself later also declared a saint. He was ordained six years later, on 23 July 1859, in Bkerky. He was then sent back to St. Maron Monastery, where he lived a life of severe asceticism in the monastery.
In 1875, Charbel was granted by the abbot of the monastery the privilege of living as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, a chapel under the care of the monastery. He spent the next 23 years living as a solitary hermit, until his death from a stroke on 24 December 1898.
Death and miracles
Charbel was interred at St. Maron’s Monastery on Christmas Day of that year. It was reported that, during the transport of his corpse, the inclement weather conditions hindered the pallbearers in carrying out their duty.
“Father Charbel died on the eve of Christmas; the snow was heavy. We transferred him to the monastery on Christmas day. Before we moved him, the snow was falling rapidly and the clouds were very dark. When we carried him, the clouds disappeared, and the weather cleared.” Statement by George Emmanuel Abi-Saseen, one of the pallbearers
A few months after his death a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb. The superiors opened it to find his body still intact. Since that day a blood-like liquid flows from his body. Experts and doctors are unable to give medical explanations for the incorruptibility and flexibility. In the years 1950 and 1952 his tomb was opened and his body still had the appearance of a living one.
Among the many miracles related to Saint Charbel the Church chose two of them to declare the beatification, and a third for his canonization. These miracles are:
- the healing of Sister Mary Abel Kamari of the Sacred Hearts
- the healing of Iskandar Naim Obeid from Baabdat
- the healing of Mariam Awad from Hammana.
- Nohad El Shami:
A great number of miracles have been attributed to Saint Charbel since his death. The most famous one is that of Nohad El Shami, a 55-year-old woman at the time of the miracle who was healed from a partial paralysis. She tells that on the night of January 22, 1993, she saw in her dream two Maronite monks standing next to her bed. One of them put his hands on her neck and operated on her, relieving her from her pain while the other held a pillow behind her back. When she woke up, Nohad discovered two wounds in her neck, one on each side. She was completely healed and recovered her ability to walk. She believed that it was Saint Charbel who healed her but did not recognize the other monk. Next night, she again saw Saint Charbel in her dream. He said to her: “I did the surgery to let people see and return to faith. I ask you to visit the hermitage on the 22nd of every month, and attend Mass regularly for the rest of your life”. People now gather on the 22nd of each month to pray and celebrate the Mass in the hermitage of Saint Charbel in Annaya.
17AUG13. Sin el FIl, Beirut, Lebanon.