Thursday, July 24, 2014
Today, July 24, is the feast day of Saint Sharbel (Charbel) Makhlouf, a Maronite Catholic monk from Lebanon. Sharbel is known for his great devotion to contemplative prayer and has been called "the hermit of Lebanon" and "the Wonder Worker of the East."
Saint Sharbel was born in 1828 in the small mountain village of Beqa-Kafra, Lebanon. His family was poor, but pious and had a great devotion to the Blessed Mother. As a child, Sharbel tended the sheep in the fields, where he built an outdoor shrine to Our Lady, spending hours in prayer. As he matured, he also spent time reading Scriptures and Thomas a Kempis's “The Imitation of Christ,”which was was his favorite book.
At the age of twenty-three, he left his family to enter the Lebanese-Maronite Monastery, Notre-Dame de Mayfouk, later transferring to the Monastery of St. Maron monastery in Annaya. He received his religious habit and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. Sharbel was ordained in 1859. The priest-monk lived and served in the monastery for 19 years, showing great devotion to the life of prayer, manual work, and contemplative silence.
He spent the last twenty-three years of his life in solitude at a hermitage near Annya. Saint Sharbel suffered a stroke on December 16th, 1898 while celebrating the Holy Liturgy. He was reciting the prayer, “Father of Truth, behold your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to you. Accept this offering of Him who died for me.” He fell to the floor holding the Holy Eucharist in his hands. He died on Christmas Eve, 1898.
Sharbel was known for his mortification, obedience, and chastity. He was gifted with occasional levitations during prayer, and he had great devotion to the Most Blessed Sacrament. He celebrated Mass close to noon so as to devote the morning to preparation, and the rest of the day to thanksgiving. In all things, Sharbel maintained perfect serenity. His charity and kindness endeared him to all, both Christians and Muslims.His tomb has been a site for pilgrimages since his death. Numerous healings of the body, heart and mind have been obtained through his intercession. Hence, he is known as the Miracle-Worker.
He was beatified in 1965 by Pope Paul VI and canonized by Pope John Paul II in 1977.
When Sharbel was canonized, Bishop Francis Zayek, head of the U.S. Diocese of St. Maron, 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.”
A Prayer for the Intercession of St. Sharbel
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 loneliness 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.