The Miraculous Life of St. Charbel

Today, we celebrate the Feast of St. Charbel, also spelled Sharbel, a Maronite monk from Mount Lebanon.

“St. Sharbel ranks among Lebanon’s most celebrated religious men,” noted Marilyn Raschka in an article published by ONE magazine in July 2009.

During his life, the hermit performed numerous miracles and inspired the lives of those who sought his counsel. Even after his death in 1898 at the age of 70, he has touched the lives of countless more. As did the legendary oil lamp that once illuminated his cell, Sharbel’s memory still burns today, inspiring pilgrimages, parish shrines, internet chat-room conversations and even a feature film.

Born Youssef Antoun Makhlouf on 8 May 1828, Sharbel grew up in a remote mountain village near the Cedars of Lebanon. He entered religious life at the age of 23, leaving his village home to serve Christ as a priest and monk in the Maronite Catholic tradition at the Monastery of St. Maron, in the village of Annaya, north of Beirut. He was given the name Sharbel, after a second-century Christian martyr, and lived at the monastery for 16 years before retreating to a nearby cell to live as a hermit in ceaseless prayer, which he did for the remaining years of his life. He died quietly on Christmas Eve 1898 and was buried near the monastery.

While Sharbel never traveled much further than a couple days journey from his boyhood home, stories of his miraculous works during and after his life have spread throughout the world. He is said to have cured a madman by reading from the Gospel and to have protected crops from locusts by sprinkling them with water that he had blessed. In the last century, pilgrims to the saint’s tomb have attributed numerous miracles, two of which were made public before Sharbel’s beatification in December 1965 and a third before his canonization in October 1977. …

Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims from around the globe visit St. Sharbel’s hermitage and tomb. … The holy site also attracts others besides Christians. Among the crowd was a young Syrian Muslim couple.

“People with good hearts come here,” said the husband simply about the experience.

Nearby, a group of Indian men and women, who live in Lebanon as guest workers, looked on excitedly. On their day off, they made the pilgrimage to the former home and burial place of the holy Sharbel. The women, their saris glistening in the sunshine, said they came to pray for peace. The men, said they came to pray as Hindus, but felt close to their Christian brethren.

Watch this video from Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s 2018 visit as CNEWA’s chair to the shrine of St. Charbel in Lebanon:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, Archbishop John Michael Miller and Bishop William Francis Murphy visit the shrine of St. Charbel in Annaya on their 2018 pastoral visit to Lebanon. (photo: Michael La Civita)

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