Saint Charbel Makhlouf (also known as Sharbel, 1828-1898), “Hermit of Lebanon,” Maronite Catholic monk, and “Wonderworker of the East.” Pope Paul VI said of him, “a hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed, a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people. May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God..."
Youssef grew in maturity and piety. He spent hours each day praying and reading Holy Scriptures and Christian literature. His favorite book was Thomas a Kempis's “The Imitation of Christ,” which he began in earnest attempting to follow. Youssef served Mass every morning, and in that function, on the alter, he discovered the true purpose of his existence: to be, like his Savior, a victim to be offered, with Christ, to His Father.
“See how we find ourselves unable to endure for a single night, the rude cold of this chapel! How could this priest live here for twenty-three years, on his knees, like a statue before the altar, every night from midnight until eleven in the morning, when he rose to say his Mass? Blessed is he, for he undoubtedly receives at present his reward with God!” Saint Charbel also gained a reputation for holiness, and despite his wish to live in isolation, was much sought for counsel and blessing. He had a great personal devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, and was known to levitate during his prayers. He reportedly never raised his eyes from the ground, his face shrouded by his cloak, unless his gaze was fixed on the tabernacle during the Eucharist.
“O Father of truth, behold Your Son, victim to please You; condescend to approve [this offering], because for me He endured death, to give me life...”
“Because of what he will do after his death, I need not talk about his behavior.” A few months later, a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb. The superiors ordered the tomb to be opened, and they found his body perfectly preserved, incorrupt (as it remains today). Scientific experts and doctors have been unable to explain this phenomenon. Since his death, thousands of miracles have been attributed to his intercession, giving him the title “Wonderworker of the East.” Sick and infirm people of every religion and nationality have been healed: deaf, dumb, blind, paralytic, those with cancer, mental illness, and many others. God worked these wonders either when people touched the body of the holy saint, were anointed with the oily liquid that sweats miraculously from his precious remains, or when they touched cloth soaked with this liquid or which had belonged to him.
At the closing of the Second Vatican Council, in 1965, Charbel was beatified by Pope Paul VI who said: "Great is the gladness in heaven and earth today for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, monk and hermit of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Great is the joy of the East and West for this son of Lebanon, admirable flower of sanctity blooming on the stem of the ancient monastic traditions of the East, and venerated today by the Church of Rome.”
Saint Charbel is called the second Saint Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon…Charbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.” Saint Charbel lived a life of silence, mortification, deprivation and total gift of self, concentrating fully and completely on Christ. We might take a lesson from his simple acts of sacrifice and service, looking to our Savior with the same love, devotion, obedience, and longing exhibited by Saint Charbel.
The mountain heights of Lebanon
Resound with songs of joy;
The cedars of that ancient land
Stand tall as we employ
Our hymns of praise and thankfulness
For Sharbel's saintly ways,
Lived out in strict humility
That guided all his days.
True monk and hermit of the hills,
Saint Maron's modest son
Scorned wealth and comfort in his life
That heaven's crown be won.
Of Mary, heaven's Queen and Gate,
Devoted son was he,
Who cherished all the ancient rites
With great humility.
Fierce lover of the lowly life,
True father of the poor,
As you have done, so help us all
To struggle and endure,
That Christ be praised in ev'ry life,
That riches not ensnare
Or rule us in our daily walk;
That strong may be our prayer!
O Father, Son, and Spirit blest,
One God in persons three,
Receive this hymn we offer now,
And keep your Church e'er free
To follow, as Saint Sharbel did,
Enflamed with love so bright
That we, with eyes fixed firm on Christ,
May vanquish sin's dark night.
Why pray the Rosary every day for a year?
Each time the Blessed Virgin has appeared-- whether it be to Saint Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes; to Lucia, Jacinta, and Francisco at Fatima; or to Mariette Beco at Banneux-- she has asserted the importance, saving grace, and power of praying the Holy Rosary on a daily basis. Based upon her words, the Rosary is penance and conversion for sinners, a pathway to peace, an end to war, and a powerful act of faith in Jesus Christ. Pope Paul VI presented the Rosary as a powerful means to reach Christ "not merely with Mary but indeed, insofar as this is possible to us, in the same way as Mary, who is certainly the one who thought about Him more than anyone else has ever done."
To show us how this is done, perhaps no one has been more eloquent than the great Cardinal Newman, who wrote: "The great power of the Rosary consists in the fact that it translates the Creed into Prayer. Of course, the Creed is already in a certain sense a prayer and a great act of homage towards God, but the Rosary brings us to meditate again on the great truth of His life and death, and brings this truth close to our hearts. Even Christians, although they know God, usually fear rather than love Him. The strength of the Rosary lies in the particular manner in which it considers these mysteries, since all our thinking about Christ is intertwined with the thought of His Mother, in the relations between Mother and Son; the Holy Family is presented to us, the home in which God lived His infinite love."
As Mary said at Fatima, "Jesus wants to use you to make Me known and loved. He wishes to establish the devotion to My Immaculate Heart throughout the world. I promise salvation to whoever embraces it; these souls will be dear to God, like flowers put by Me to adorn his throne."