by Margherita Merone
It was my friend Mark, a maronite monk, who proceeded to tell me, synthesized, the life of this saint who achieved miracles going beyond the frontiers of Lebanon, so much that his intercession concerned people from all over the world, regardless of their religion.
Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born on the 8th of May 1828 in Beqaa Kafra, north of Lebanon, of Maronite parents, from whom he received a Christian education. As a small child he enjoyed praying and was attracted to the ways of living the monastery and hermitage offered, following the example of two of his uncles living in the monastery of Saint Antonius. He was raised by his mother, having lost his father. He was studious as well as a very kind child, to the point where he was called “the saint” in the village where he lived. He loved to play with friends but whenever he could, he would run into a cave, kneel and pray before images of the Madonna. This cave then became his place of prayer, his first hermitage, and then became a sanctuary and a place of pilgrimage.
At the age of twenty-three, he joined the Madonna of Mayfouq monastery, where he became a monk, leaving his home and village. After a year as a novice, he transferred himself to the monastery of St.Maroun at Annaya, and in this way, became part of the Lebanese Order of monks, under the name of Charbel, a martyr of the church of Anthioc in the II century. He pronounced the vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and six years later, became a priest. He dedicated himself entirely to the service of God, strictly following the rules of the monastery, leading a life of asceticism and mortification, and distancing himself from mundane ways of living.
When, regardless of the objections of his superiors, he retired to the hermitage of the Saints Peter and Paul, not far from the monastery of St.Maroun, he dedicated his days to continuous prayer, to silence, meditation, work on the land and the essentials. He lived in the ways of the saint Fathers, always spending entire nights in front of the Saint Sacraments, repeating all his prayers without ever faltering. He didn’t stop either when he started suffering from hemiplegia while celebrating mass, regardless of the strong pain he felt for several days. He died on the 24th December 1898.
It is said that after his death, the supernatural light that emanated from his tomb led to the transfer of his remains, which were oozing blood, with the authorization of the Maronite Patriarchate, to a special coffin in the monastery of St.Maroun at Annaya. Since then, pilgrims from all over the world have come to ask for intercession, there were many thanks and many were cured. Pope Paul VI presided over the beatification ceremony of F.Charbel in 1965, shortly before the close of the Second Vatican Council, and in 1977 signed the decree of canonization and F.Charbel was proclaimed a saint.
Among the numerous miracles he performed were, the healing of a nun suffering from ulcer for years and declared hopeless, that of a woman suffering from throat cancer and his most famous healing, that of a woman of fifty suffering from hemiplegia with double occlusion of the carotid artery. The woman said she had dreamt of two Maronite monks, very close to her bed, that one of them placed his hands on her neck and began a surgical intervention, whilst the other was behind her, holding her pillow. Upon awakening she realized she had a scar on her neck. The woman recovered and quickly regained the ability to walk. She recognized in Charbel the monk who had carried out the operation, because she claimed that he had appeared to her in a dream, telling her that he had mended her for people to see her cured and for them to turn back to faith.
Many of his miracles can in no way be explained by science, even though it is far from lacking eminent doctors research.
At the end of the story, my desire for meditation, for invocation, the need for prayer and intercession, and reflection on the sanctity of life, were all reawoken in me. Saint Charbel was a man, but decided to look up, to live in simplicity and humility, in a condition difficult to understand, in a world dominated by matter and where spirit is put aside. It is the example of these many saints that must reawake, in us, the path to virtue and sanctity.
Back home, I took the photo of St.Charbel that Mark had given me and that I had put in my diary, I looked at it for a few seconds, touched it, asked for a small, unpretentious grace and I replaced it. An hour later, I took it again, to thank him.
Editing by Gamy Moore