July 23, 2017

Saint Charbel Makhlouf, Lebanese Priest and Mystic

Saint Charbel Makhlouf

July 24th is the optional memorial of Saint Charbel Makhlouf. He was born in the mountain village of Biqa-Kafra, Lebanon, the fifth child of a poor Maronite Family on May 8, 1828. Charbel exhibited preternatural spiritual abilities at an early age especially contemplation, prayer and solitude. At 23, over his parent’s objections, he entered the monastery of Our Lady of Lebanon and became a novice.

After two years of novitiate, in 1853, he entered the Monastery of Saint Maroun. Ordained a priest in 1859, he spent sixteen years there, totally dedicated to Christ, performing his priestly and monastic duties in an exemplary way. He practiced self sacrifice, ministering with an undivided heart before receiving permission from his superiors to live in the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul.

Charbel's companions at the hermitage were Christ, as encountered in the Scriptures and in the Eucharist, and the Blessed Mother. The Eucharist became the center of his life. He consumed the Bread of Life and was consumed by it. Though his hermit isolated from the world, the world had a great place in his heart. He would offer himself as a sacrifice so that the world would return to God. In this light, one can see the importance of this Eucharistic prayer in his life:
Father of Truth, behold Your Son a sacrifice pleasing to You, accept this offering of Him who died for me...
On December 16, 1898 while reciting the "Father of Truth" prayer at the Holy Liturgy, Charbel suffered a massive stroke. He died on Christmas Eve at the age of 70. Through faith this hermit received the Word of God and through love he continued the Ministry of Our Lord's Incarnation.

On the evening of his funeral, his superior wrote: "Because of what he will do after his death, I need not talk about his behavior". 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 1950 and 1952 his tomb was opened and his body was found intact.

The spirit of Charbel still lives in many people. His miracles include numerous healings of the body and of the spirit. Thomas Merton, the American Hermit, wrote in his journal: "Charbel lived as a hermit in Lebanon—he was a Maronite. He died. Everyone forgot about him. Fifty years later, his body was discovered incorrupt and in short time he worked over 600 miracles. He is my new companion. My road has taken a new turning. It seems to me that I have been asleep for 9 years—and before that I was dead."

At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, on December 5, 1965 Charbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI. On October 9, 1977 during the World Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul VI canonized Blessed Charbel among the ranks of the Saints.  O God, who called the Priest Saint Charbel Makhluf to the solitary combat of the desert and imbued him with all manner of devotion, grant us, we pray, that, being made imitators of the Lord's Passion, we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever. Amen.

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