St. Charbel (1828 - 98), a Maronite Rite Catholic religious, priest and hermit of Bekaa-Kafra, Lebanon, is considered by many to be the masculine counterpart of the Little Flower of Lisieux and one of the greatest saints of our times. He led a hidden life of profound virtue, humble labor and ardent fervor for the Holy Eucharist.
He left home at the age of twenty-three to follow the examples of two uncles by entering the monastic life of the Lebanese Maronite Order (a religious order WITHIN the Catholic Maronite Rite that includes most Catholics in Lebanon). He was profoundly devoted to the Holy Rosary and to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, which he said daily at 11:00AM. Why so late? Because he knelt before the Blessed Sacrament from midnight the night before (yes, eleven hours!) to prepare for Mass!
His obedience was absolutely perfect, going even so far as to obey the lay laborers at the monastery. His fasting and penances were severe. He separated himself from the world entirely, from his first entrance to the novitiate. His only contact with the outside world was at the request of his superiors, orders which he followed without question. His entire life, without the slightest exception, was completely supernatural. The stories of his heroic virtues, told by many who knew him, are fascinating enough especially since they take place in a land that Catholics are not much accustomed to thinking of as Catholic - Lebanon. It is even more interesting as he was a miracle worker in life and in death - the miracles were practically non - stop.
Fr. Charbel suffered a stroke on December 16, 1898, during the Offertory of the Liturgy...the high point of his day - his entire life was an offertory. He was reciting the prayer of the Holy Liturgy of the Maronite Rite: "Father of Truth, behold Your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to You. Accept this offering of Him who died for me..." As he fell to the floor, he kept his hands safely clasped around the Holy Eucharist. His companion, Fr. Makarios Al-Mishmeshani the Hermit, and some other monks helped him to his cell, where he continued to repeat that prayer until his death on Christmas Eve, 1898.
From April 22-August 14, 1950, exactly 350 miracles were recorded at his tomb...20 of the cured were Moslems. MANY, MANY more were recorded as his body remained perfectly intact (supple skin, flexible joints, no odor) for over 75 years after his death and exuded a miraculous liquid that healed a great number of crippled and sick people and converted many others, including Moslems to the True Faith. His casket rotted, he did not. The author of the book warns that the miraculous events surrounding the Saint's life are so great, that it is easy to lose sight of the essential - his holiness.
The Sacred Scriptures tell us that war is a punishment for sin. Consequently, sanctity is the ultimate solution to war. While the Middle East and specifically St. Charbel's beloved Lebanon has recently been torn asunder, let us all invoke him as we earnestly pray for peace and the conversion of non-believers...intentions dear to the heart of St. Charbel.
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