Today, July 24, is the feast day of St. Charbel (Sharbel) Makhluf of Lebanon.
Today the Church celebrates the holy memory St. Charbel Makhlouf, a Maronite Catholic monk from Lebanon, known for his piety, and called by many the hermit of Lebanon and the Wonder Worker of the East. Charbel was born Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in 1828, in North Lebanon. His father died when he was only a child, and the boy was raised by his uncle, who opposed Makhlouf’s piety. He sneaked away at the age of 23 to join the Baladite monastery of St. Maron at Annaya. This is where he took on the name Charbel (sometimes also spelled Sharbel) in memory of a convert who was martyred during the persecutions of Emperor Trajan in the early 2nd century.
For a time, Charbel was sent to a monastery in Kiffan to study philosophy and theology in preparation for his ordination, which took place in 1853. He then returned to the St. Maron monastery, where for 16 years he performed his ministry and monastic duties with an undivided heart. After 16 years of this, he was granted permission to live as a hermit on a nearby hillside. He lived there in solitude, in total abandonment to the Lord, for the next 23 years, until his death. Many miracles have been attributed to St. Charbel since his death, including a bloody sweat that flowed from his body several times between 1927 and 1950 and the healing of many pilgrims who had visited Charbel’s grave or had seen the saint in visions. St. Charbel was canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. His tomb remains a popular destination for pilgrims, both Lebanese and non-Lebanese, Catholic and Eastern Orthodox. St. Charbel is one of the Incorruptibles, saints whose earthly bodies have not decomposed after death – from the time of the early Church, this has been considered a sign of very great sanctity.
St. Charbel belonged to the Maronite Church of Lebanon and the Near East, comprising one of the largest groups of Arab Christians in the world. This sui juris church is one of the Eastern Catholic churches in communion with Rome. Fore more information on the Eastern Catholic churches, please visit our Eastern Catholicism specialty store. We also recommend this book:
Pope John Paul II often said that the Church has two lungs (East and West) and it must learn to breathe using both of them. Remembering saints like Sharbel helps the Church to appreciate both the diversity and unity present in the Catholic Church. Like all the saints, Sharbel points us to God and invites us to cooperate generously with God’s grace, no matter what our situation in life may be. As our prayer life becomes deeper and more honest, we become more ready to make that generous response.
When Sharbel was canonized in 1977, Bishop Francis Zayek, head the U.S. Diocese of St. Maron, wrote a pamphlet entitled “A New Star of the East.” Bishop Zayek wrote: “St. Sharbel is called the second St. Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon, the first Confessor of the East to be raised to the Altars according to the actual procedure of the Catholic Church, the honor of our Aramaic Antiochian Church, and the model of spiritual values and renewal. Sharbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.”
The bishop noted that Sharbel’s canonization plus other beatification cases prove “that the Aramaic Maronite Antiochian Church is indeed a living branch of the Catholic Church and is intimately connected with the trunk, who is Christ, our Savior, the beginning and the end of all things.
(Saint of the Day Lives, Lessons and Feast By Leonard Foley, O.F.M.)
A Prayer for the Intercession of St. Charbel
O Merciful Father, through the Holy Spirit, you chose Saint Charbel as a voice crying in the wilderness. His monastic life is an example to Your Church. In the Scriptures he discovered Your Holiness as Word Made Flesh, and darkness gave way to light. In the Eucharist he encountered Your Divinity as Bread of Life, and the poverty of this world gave way to the treasures of Your Kingdom. In prayer he experienced Your Silence as Mystery Present, and lonelieness gave way to communion. Through the Virgin Mother he embraced Your Son as Lover of Mankind, and hostility gave way to hospitality. We now beseech You, through his intercession, to change our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh, and to grant our special request …. We give praise to You, Your Only Begotten Son, and to Your Holy Spirit. Amen.
St. Charbel, pray for us and for the persecuted Church in the Middle East.
He lives with his lovely wife and eleven kids in northern Colorado.