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STORY OF OUR STAINED GLASS

Mother Teaching Him Prayers: His mother teaching to pray in their humble house in the mountain village of Beqaa-Kafra near the Cedars of God.

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BRIEF HISTORY OF THE MARONITES

The first Maronites originated as an ecclesiastical grouping of Christians who assembled around the hermit monk Maron.

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Father Charbel

 Father Charbel, a Lebanese Saint

Beatification and Canonization

Miracles of Saint Charbel
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Biography

 

Vocation

Saint Charbel is the first Confessor of the Eastern Church raised to the glory of the altars in modern times. He was born on May 8, 1828 in the little village of Biqa-Kafra in the high mountains of Northern Lebanon from poor, but respectable and devout parents. He was the last of five children; two brothers and two sisters were born before him into that blessed family. When he was baptized, he was given the name of Joseph. He learned a profound and sound piety from his parents and cultivated these seeds of sanctity with generous care, with continuous prayer and, since his adolescence, with a life inspired by detachment and denial of worldly vanities, always seeking interior and exterior solitude. At the age of twenty-three he left his parent’s house to go as a novice to the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouk at the North of Jebeil. Some time later he was transferred from the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouk to the Monastery of St-Maroun at Annaya of the Lebanese Maronite Order, where in 1853, after the two prescribed years of novitiate, he pronounced the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, choosing the name of Charbel who was an old Oriental martyr.

Humility, poverty and Chastity

His mother and other members of his family, having found his shelter, reached him and begged him to go back home, but it was useless, because he refused firmly and persisted his vocation. He renounced the pleasure of seeing his home, his relations and even his mother for ever, having made up his mind to die to the world and to cut off all ties with it in order to devote himself completely to God, without any reserve.

After pronouncing his solemn monastic vows, the St- Charbel was sent by his superiors to the Monastery of Kfifan to finish his religious studies. He was lucky to find there two professors who were well known in the Maronite Order for their virtues and their theological and ascetical learning, namely the R.F.Nimatallah Al-Kafri and the R.F.Nimatallah Kassab Al-Hardini, whose cause of Beatification has already been placed before the Sacred Congregation of Rites. Following the teaching and the example of these two outstanding Fathers, Blessed Charbel laid to heart the seeds of virtue and monastic perfection.

St-Charbel was ordained priest in 1859 and then went back again to the Monastery of St-Maroun in Annaya. There he performed all his holy services in a very edifying way, while carrying on every kind of manual work. He ac- accomplished all the duties of monastic life with deep humility; perfect obedience, strict poverty and heroic chastity that made him resemble an angel.

Hermitage

St-Charbel had already spent in the Monastery of St-Maroun sixteen years of severe ascetic life, always in prayer, mortification and self-denial, a life which he had chosen to be able to advance quickly on the way to God, when he was allowed in 1875 by his superiors to retire to the hermitage of St-Peter and St-Paul in Annaya, a property of the Monastery of St-Maroun, one mile from the same.

The hermit does not live independently in the solitude of his hermitage, but he remains at the disposal of his superiors, following a very severe and strict discipline. Thus, in the Eastern Church, Hermetic life is a true state of religious life and belongs to the Constitutions of the Lebanese Maronite Order founded in Lebanon in 1695 and approved by Pope Clement XII in 1732.

St-Charbel chose this solitude not to live according to his own mind, but to practice virtue and his religious vows in a heroic way. Contemplation, manual work, fasting, continuous prayer, short rest on a hard couch, hair shirt… all these ascetic practices are the programmed of his daily life. In such a way, for twenty-three years, from 1875 when he entered the hermitage to 1898 when he died, Blessed Charbel dedicated himself with all his strength to a solitary life of perfection, penance, and mortification.

First miracles and end of worldly life

God wanted to reward tins soul purified by His Love allowing St-Charbel to perform extraordinary deeds during his life. Once lie set his brethren free from a snake by asking the animal to go away; while saying his Breviary, his lamp was lighted with water; he cured a mad person by saying a prayer and the imposition of hands; while going to visit a sick person he was aware of his death before reaching his house, and obeying his superiors, he was able to free with holy water some fields invaded by grasshoppers.

On December 16, 1898, while he was celebrating Mass, at the Elevation of the Host, when – according to Maronite Liturgy – he was saying this prayer: «Father of Truth, here is Your Son, Victim of Expiation; here is the Blood which intercedes for me, it is my offering, accept it» he suffered an apoplectic stroke from which he never recovered. He remained between life and death for eight days, repeating the prayer mentioned above, and on the 24th of December, on Christmas Eve, at the age of seventy, he died and entered Heaven comforted by the Holy Sacraments of the Church.

He fought the good fight.

Sixteen years at the Monastery and twenty-three at the hermitage were lived in this holy way. His life was marked by a special devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Blessed Virgin Mary. During the 39 years of his priestly life Blessed Charbel used to celebrate holy Mass every day after a long preparation and he used to finish with a thanksgiving which lasted not less than two hours. He went night and day to chapel to visit the Blessed Sacrament and to say many rosaries before the picture of Our Lady. Therefore, prayers, fasting, mortification, penance for the love of God, all this made up his life and he could really say with S. Paul at the end of his life: «’I have fought the good fight. Now I await the crown of justice from the Lord». Tim. 4).

The fame of holiness, which surrounded St-Charbel during his life, spread even more after his death. On the evening of his burial in the churchyard of St-Maroun Monastery, his superior. Father Antonio El-Michmichani wrote in the Convent’s register:«0n the 24th of December 1898 was called to God after receiving the Sacraments of the Church, the hermit Father Charbel Makhlouf of Biqa-Kafra, struck by paralysis. He was seventy. Because of what he will do alter his death, I need not talk about his good behavior and, above all the observance of his vows, and we may truly say that his obedience was more angelic than human». These prophetic words have prodigiously come true, because hundreds of miracles have been obtained through the intercession of St-Charbel at Annaya near his tomb and all over the world.

Here is what the doctor charged to examine this fact wrote: «According to science and conscience, we must say that an eye so ill and for so long was certainly lost for ever. Therefore we cannot explain how it has been cured, certainly not through natural means. We need to consider this extraordinary fact with great humility, and to attribute it to an Almighty Will that operates only by divine grace. There is no other explanation, and it is certain that we have seriously sought an explanation without finding one».

Indicating remains

During forty-five nights after his death an extraordinary brightness surrounded his tomb, according to many witnesses. The apparition of that light as well as the enthusiasm of the faithful who tried to steal the remains of this holy man, made the Ecclesiastical Authority to open the tomb four months afterwards. It was in the middle of winter and the body, because of the bad conditions of that place, was found floating on mud. To everybody’s surprise, the body was in-corrupt as if it had been buried that same day. We must speak of a prodigy that happens even to day: a blood-like liquid is dripping all the time from his body, challenging the laws of nature. This liquid is taken devoutly in a cloth, which often gives relief to the sick, and sometimes it cures them.

In 1927 there was a new burial and his tomb was placed in the crypt of the Monastery. This happened again in 1950, 1952, and in 1955 and each time it lies been noticed that his bleeding body still has its flexibility as if he were alive. Since the opening of his tomb in 1950, the miracles attributed to Father Charbel have become more and more numerous, especially with regard to spiritual graces, conversions, and mystical fervor. Around this blessed tomb there is a sense of faith and piety which attracts pilgrims from every place and there arrive, from all over the world thousands of letters which are kept in the archives of the convent. Every day, people from different countries come to venerate his tomb and there they receive the Sacraments to renew their spiritual life and to find solace around the tomb of this hermit of the 19th century.

And the crippled shall walk

The two cures which have been acknowledged as miraculous by Pope Paul VI now reigning, and which are valid for the Beatification of Father Charbel Makhlouf, happened during the Holy Year 1950.

The first case is that of Sister Maria Abel Kamari S.S.C.G who suffered from sharp pains caused by a gastriculcer. She had been operated on, but without success and she went on suffering for fourteen years, compelled to stay in bed, unable to take food, and three times she was so near to dying that she was given the last Sacraments. Such was her condition, when on July 12, 1950 she was taken on pilgrimage to Father Charbel’s tomb in Annaya. She could not even walk to the tomb, but when she was there after long and fervent prayer she felt new strength in her body, and a few minutes later she got up without any help and started walking, followed by the people who cried that it was a miracle.

Since then Sister Maria Abel Kamari has never had any trouble. She is perfectly well. The second case is that of Mr. Alessandro Obeid. A branch of a tree had struck him on his right eye; this in the year 1937, and this caused a break of the retina so that he lost his sight. Mr. Oubeid visited many doctors, but it was useless till the end of 1950, when suddenly the eye was cured after many prayers near the tomb of Father Charbel in Annaya.

Here is what the doctor charged to examine this fact wrote: «According to science and conscience, we must say that an eye so ill and for so long was certainly lost for ever. Therefore we cannot explain how it has been cured, certainly not through natural means. We need to consider this extraordinary fact with great humility, and to attribute it to an Almighty Will that operates only by divine grace. There is no other explanation, and it is certain that we have seriously sought an explanation without finding one».

He opened the way

The example of Charbel, monk and solitary for the love of God, induces us in the midst of this restless and materialistic world, to be silent in order to meet God and to establish an interior desert in our souls and to listen to the appeals of grace. This is a desert which does not make one poor; but rich, a solitude which does not cut us off from others, but which attracts souls to pray and which gives the world the graces necessary for salvation for the glory of God.

Each one of us will be able to follow St. Charbel according to his own measure, escaping from the world when it is an enemy to God and from sin that kills the life of our souls. In fact the Church presents the Hermit of Lebanon not only to our veneration, but also as a model to all Christians.

« Glory to the Father who crowns the struggles of the Saints, Glory to the Son who shows His power in their relics, Glory to the Holy Spirit who works through their mortal remains to give us a comfort in every sorrow».

(Maronite Divine Office)