St Charbel's Life
He is called "the hermit
of Lebanon" and is still held in high regard even now, 101 years after
his death in 1898. His name: Charbel Makhlouf.
The Catholic church was convinced of his sanctity by miracles which
happened in his name after his death and as a result he was officially
|Joseph Makhlouf was
born on 8 May 1828 to a poor family in Bikaa-Kafra,
a village in the highest mountains of North Lebanon. At the age of 22 he
decided to enter a monastery. At the end of his novitiate as
a member of the Maronite Order in the Monastery
of St Maron (Kfifane), he took the name of
Charbel, an earlier Eastern martyr.
After 16 years of strict
asceticism he was granted permission by his superiors to withdraw from
the world and become a hermit. In a hermitage
near the monastery he lived the rest of his life in prayer and contemplation,
frequent fasting and manual labour.
Tradition has it that
Charbel showed ample evidence of extraordinary gifts during his life. And
so it was, for instance, that he was able
to rescue fellow monks from a poisonous snake simply by asking the
creature if it would mind going away. There are also
tales of clairvoyance and healing associated with his name.
Even at his death, on 24 December 1898, it was noted in the Monasteryms
records.that he was expected to remain active
after his death. In a dedication to him his obedience was described as
"more angelic than human".
The expectation that
the world would be hearing more of Charbel was soon fulfilled: his grave
was immediately surrounded by an "extraordinary
brightness", according to a booklet produced by the Monastery
about its most famous son. The light only finally faded after 45 days,
unlike public interest which continued to
wax brightly: pilgrims even tried to steal pieces of his remains, which
gave the authorities a reason to open the grave. The body was found floating
in mud but was itself completely free from
signs of deterioration "as if it had been buried that same day." It was
noticed that a "blood-like liquid" exuded
from the body's a phenomenon which can still be seen even now. The liquid
is caught in a cloth and, according to the
Monastery, has over the years been responsible for many cases of healing.
In this century his
grave has been opened four times, the last time being in 1955, and each
time "it has been noticed that his bleeding
body still has its flexibility as if it were alive".
Sister Maria Abdel
The beatification of
Charbel followed the healing of a nun, Sister
Maria Abdel Kamari. She suffered serious
intestinal problems, could not keep food down, had
been bedridden for 14 years and had already received the
sacrament of extreme unction three times. In 1950 she was taken to Charbelms
grave and on praying suddenly felt a powerful
surge of energy and was able to stand unaided. Since then Sister Maria
Abel Kamari has been completely free of her
More recently, in 1992,
some of Charbelms "miracles" reached the Western press. Swedish papers
and the British daily, The Guardian, printed
the story of 15-year-old Samira Hannoch
who reported having had a vision of Charbel
in her home near Stockholm. Since then oil has been pouring from a portrait
of Charbel and has been associated with
a number of healings.
Nouhad El Chami
A couple of months
later, in January 1993, another incident occurred, this time in Lebanon,
with 59-year-old Nouhad
El-Chami in the main role. Nouhad, a mother
of 12 children, suddenly became paralyzed
as a result of a narrowing of arteries in a very advanced stage.
On 21 January 1993
Nouhad had a "dream". "Two monks came towards
my bed. One of them, St Charbel, came nearer, uncovered my neck, put his
hand on it and said: I have come to operate on you.
I turned my head to see his face, but I couldn't, because
the light coming from his body and eyes was too blinding and powerful.
I was so confused, and asked him: Father,
why do you want to operate on me? The doctor didn't say I need an operation.
But St Charbel said: Definitely, you need an operation, and I, Father Charbel,
have come to do it for you. I looked towards
the statue of the Virgin, placed near me, and said: Holy Mary, please help
me; how are these monks going to operate without
anaesthestic or sutures?m Then I realized that the Virginms statue
was standing between the monks. "Suddenly,
I felt a terrible pain under Charbelms fingers, which were rubbing my neck.
When St Charbel finished the operation, the
other monk approached, put me in a sitting position, and placed a pillow
behind my back. He reached for a glass of
water, put his hand behind my head and said: Drink this water.I
cannot drink without a straw, I said. He replied:We
have operated on you, and now you will drink this water;
then you will stand up and walk.
"I woke up and felt
water running down my throat, and found myself sitting in the same position
as the Father had placed me in. Suddenly I
felt a burning in my neck, and unconsciously put my hand there, to
find out what was happening. Then I realized that
my paralyzed hand had become normal again; I felt my [paralyzed]
foot moving normally under the blanket. I got out of bed in a semi-conscious
state and knelt before the picture of St Charbel
and the statue of the Virgin, to thank them. I went to the bathroom and
looked in the mirror; I saw two wounds of twelve
centimeters each, at both sides of my neck. "I
went to my husbandms bedroom and turned on the light. My husband looked
at me and shouted: Woman! How did you get
here alone? Now youmll stumble and fall and a new catastrophe will be added
upon another! I raised my paralyzed hand and told
him: kHave no fear, St Charbel operated on me, and now
I can walk."
This story, described
in a second booklet published by the Monastery in which Charbel lived,
has a follow-up to it: after another dream,
in which Charbel appeared to her, Nouhad discovered that there was
oil flowing from a portrait of the Saint. This has
continued up to the present moment, as our colleague in Lebanon,
Nabil Matraji, was able to verify for himself: "It is an amazing sight,"
he said. However, it is not only Charbelms
portait in Nouhadms home which oozes healing oil. The same phenomenon is
happening with oil flowing from the portrait
of a fourth century saint s the founder of the Maronite Order, St Maron
(given in the English and American reference books
as St Maron) after whom the order was named. The same
Maron, so Nouhad learned in a later dream, was the second monk who had
helped in the operation which cured her.
In an article in Al-Anwar
on 10 September 1996 Nadia Sader
described what happened to her when she drank
a brew in which oak leaves from Nouhadms tree had been soaked. Nadiams
illness had progressed quickly and aggressively
and within a short time she was totally paralyzed; she suffered tremendous
pain and expected to die at any moment. Her
mother-in-law suggested trying the oak leaves which had been blessed
by St Charbel s an idea she complied with only after much persuasion.
"As I drank the hot
liquid, I felt a burning inside," she told Al-Anwar. "It was horrible,
indescribable. I was suffering from my chin
down to my right foot. I was howling, screaming, from pain and also from
fear. Suddenly I saw the most wonderful scene in
my life: I saw the heart of Jesus, red like blood, beating. The
heart was all surrounded by light and my children were standing around
it. Then I lost consciousness.... People around
me saw my right foot making violent movements, rising up and falling
down with an unbelievable force. I remember nothing
of all of this. [Later] the gathering saw my left foot making
the same violent movements as the right one had done before. It was so
violent that I fell down on the floor. My
foot continued its sudden movements with more power than three men were
capable of restraining. I was still unconscious.
I stayed in bed, weakened, till the morning of the third day, when my
little child woke me up; only then did I know I had
been cured, and I was able to walk again normally and serve
Nadia Sader still did
not know what to make of it all, wavering between belief and non-belief,
even after several more appearances to her
of Charbel and Jesus. "I have snatched you from your deathbed, and you
still donmt believe?" Jesus asked her. Nadiams home
became a place of pilgrimage where icons of Jesus, the
Virgin Mary and St Charbel exuded oil but Nadia herself continued to swing
between faith and fear, especially after a
medium told her that the oil had evil origins and was the work of the devil.
Only after repeated
appearances of Jesus to her did Nadia finally admit that she was convinced.
She subsequently began receiving messages
from St Charbel. The following are quotations from these messages:
"Always ask for the healing of the soul, and donmt
fear the illness of the body." "Pray for the living, because
most of the living are dead, and the dead are living."
a Lebanese electro-mechanical engineer, carries with him quite spectacular
evidence of Charbelms activities: on one arm
he has five fingerprints literally burnt into his skin. The scorched
fingerprints have already renewed themselves six
Raymond Nader told
his story earlier this year, in April 1997, in front of the TV cameras.
On 9 November 1994 he spent a night in the hermitage
where Charbel had lived for 23 years. He wanted to meditate
and had lit five candles. It was a still, cold night. "Suddenly," he told
Murr Television, "I felt warmth around me
in the cold night, and a fiery, warm wind began to blow. However, to my
great surprise the flames of the candles were
steady and still. I tried to reason scientifically, but I thought I might
be dreaming or hallucinating. Suddenly I lost
my five senses. There was no more warmth or wind or flames. I
was in a different world, a world bathed in light. Not the usual light
we know, not white, but transparent like crystal
water. The light didnmt come from a specific direction, but from everywhere.
It was a billion times brighter than the light
of the Sun.... "In that light I felt a Presence,
I couldnmt see it, but I was aware of it. kNo, you are not dreaming, YOU
ARE MORE AWAKE THAN EVER. The Voice came from nowhere
and yet from everywhere. I heard it in every
part of me, not with my physical ears. It expressed itself to me with no
words, no sounds. The Presence presented itself
to me as a kfeelingm of deep peace, and joy and love. At a certain moment
I felt that this experience had come to an
end. I wanted this joy and peace to last for ever, and if the Presence
couldnmt stay, I wished at least it would take me
with it; but He made me understand that He is always here."
Gradually Nader returned
to normal consciousness. "I looked at the candles with astonishment: they
were totally consumed. My watch indicated
that four hours has passed in a blink of an eye. I left the hermitage,
and on the way to my car I felt heat in my arm. I
thought it might be a scratch, or an animalms sting. But the
heat grew stronger. I took off my pullover, and in the light of my car
saw five fingerprints on my arm, showing every
detail of human fingers, including the wrinkles and the nails. It was very
hot, but there was no pain at all, only itching.
For five days it oozed blood and water."
Dr Nabil Hokayem, a
plastic surgeon, one of the most famous surgeons in Lebanon, confirmed
that it was a second-degree burn. On
the occasion of the Feast Day of Charbel on 15 July in 1995, Raymond Nader
had a new and extraordinary experience while
visiting the Monastery of St Maron. "On my
way to Charbelms hermitage, I saw a procession ahead of me. I recognized
the monks of the monastery, but at the end
of the procession was a very old priest. I approached him to ask a few
questions. As I came closer to him, everything
around me changed. All sounds disappeared, but the old priestms
voice resounded inside my head." It
was then that Nader heard one of six messages which he attributes to Charbel.
With each message the fingerprints on his
arm were renewed.
The following are quotations
from these messages:
"The Lord has created
each human being to shine, to enlighten the world; you are the light of
the world. Each man is a lantern meant to
shine; the Lord has provided a clear and transparent glass to the lantern,
to enable that light to shine and illuminate
the world; but they are taking care of the glass and forgetting about
the light; they are caring about the glass shape,
colouring and decorating it, until it becomes thick, opaque, preventing
light from shining forth, and thus is the world drowned in darkness. The
Lord insists on illuminating the world. Your
glass must become transparent again. You should realize the purpose for
which you are born in this world."
"Christ knows what
is in your hearts, and it is your hearts that he wants. Donmt seek for
the truth outside the Christ; when you know
the Christ, you will know the Truth and you will be free. The Christ wants
you to be free. Fear not, and be sure that
the Christ has defeated the world."
"The Church of the
Christ is a rock upon which are being shattered the waves of evil. Christ
is the way. Crosses of light will flood the