The Roman Martyrology
Saint Charbel (Joseph) Makhluf, priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order, who, in search of a life of austere solitude and higher perfection, withdrew from the cenoby of Annaya in Lebanon to a hermitage, where he served God day and night in supreme sobriety of life with fasting and prayer, arriving on December 24 to rest in the Lord.
The hermit who lived in contemplation
This humble hermit lived his life in absolute hiding, in prayer, in meditation and in penance.
The radicality of his journey in the following of Christ includes him among the brightest stars and he has been able to reflect the celestial light in his life, like a beacon that pierces the spiritual darkness of this time.
He attended school learning to read with psalms and liturgical texts in Syriac. At the age of 14, he was already withdrawing to pray in a cave just outside the village, today called "the cave of the saint". No one has ever worked in such a surprising and incisive way as he did.
Youssef Makhluf, was born on May 8th of the year 1828 in the village of BqaaKafra, which rises 1800 meters above the holy valley, in the northern Basharre district of Lebanon. He was the fifth son of a peasant family, Father Antun and mother Brigitte Chidiac. He was preceded by two brothers, Hanna and Bechara, and by two sisters Kaoun and Wardé.
In 1831 Youssef remained an orphan of his father at the age of three, under the tutelage of Tannous the paternal uncle. At fourteen he retired to a cave outside the village to pray for hours (today it is called "the cave of the saint").
At twenty-two, despite being opposed by his uncle, and feeling called to monastic life, he goes to the monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq, and enters as a novice choosing the name of Charbel, which in Syriac means "history of God".
After the first year of novitiate, he was transferred from Annaya to the monastery of Maifuq for the second year of studies. On November 1, 1953, the novice clothed the monastic habit and pronounced the solemn vows before the superior, Father Antonios Al Bani.
He was transferred to the Monastery of San Cipriano of Kfifane, where he studied philosophy and theology for five years under the guidance of Nimatullah Al-Hardini, known as "the saint of Kfifane".
He was ordained priest at the patriarchal headquarters of Bkerke on July 23, 1859. Father Charbel returned to the monastery of Annaya, where he remained for fifteen years; as a result of his request he obtained a hermit in the nearby hermitage at 1378 meters above sea level only twenty minutes from the convent of Annaya, where he underwent the most severe mortifications.
His practice of poverty was total, both in clothing and in food and in his cell. He never accepted the least money. He committed himself to watch over the vow of chastity and to watch over his senses, which makes us think about what hard struggles he had to face Charbel.
Father Charbel's prayer became continuous. He spent much of the night in prayer. He celebrated Mass very carefully, imploring divine mercy for men.
Father Charbel reserved an important place for manual work alongside his missionary and contemplative activities. In every season he devoted himself to domestic and rural work.
The asceticism of Father Charbel was discreet, without anything spectacular, had a profound adoration and an extraordinary simplicity of heart with a filial abandonment to Christ.
Living in God and for God, Father Charbel became a link between heaven and earth. A priest among men, he never remained indifferent to their afflictions and interceded with God for all those who were recommended to him or who had been led to him.
While celebrating Holy Mass in the Siro-Maronite rite, on December 16, 1898, at the moment of the lifting of the consecrated host and the chalice with wine and reciting the beautiful Eucharistic prayer, he took a stroke; transported to his room, he spent eight days of suffering and agony until December 24th he left this world.
After some months after the death extraordinary phenomena happened on his grave, this one was opened and the body was found intact and soft, put back in another box, it was placed in a chapel, and since its body emitted of the reddish sweat, the garments they had changed twice a week.
A commission of physicians verified the integrity of the body and the persistence of the blood-sweat detected already half a century earlier.
In the process of canonization are mentioned: the miraculous and instantaneous healing from a malignant ulcer of Sister Maria Abel Kamari on July 12, 1950. The recovery of the sight of a blind man, certainly Iskandar Obeid, happened while the faithful was praying on the tomb of the future Saint in 1937 and the healing of a terminal throat cancer of Myriam Aouad occurred instead in 1967.
On 5 December 1965 Pope Paul VI declared Charbel Makhlouf blessed and proclaimed him holy on 9 October 1977 during the World Synod of Bishops. To convince the Church to take this step were the scientifically inexplicable healings attributed to the great mystic.
This Lebanese hermit spent his life in hiding, and after his death he lit up the valley around his grave. His body remained incorrupt for seventy-nine years, from 1898 to 1977, and continued to drip a reddish liquid with miraculous properties. Padre Pio of the Eastern Church of 1800 was defined.
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