The Holy Hermit

San Charbel Makhlouf

He lived for God

Father Charbel was like the moon among the stars.
A radical practice of virtues and penance was imposed in this way overcoming all the other hermits.
He succeeded admirably in his asceticism to heaven, because his heart throbbed and burned with the love of God.

Penance as a way of life

Father Charbel inflicted penitence of all kinds and never complained about anything, always remaining serene as in suffering than in adversity.

When tribulations arrived, he did not grieve. He confided blindly in the Lord and repeated: God arranges things, it is his will! Or: We are pilgrims traveling to eternity.
He did not prefer health to the disease and did not mind the problems. No one has ever heard him say, "I'm hungry, I'm thirsty, I'm tired." When he was wrongly accused, even though he was not guilty, he knelt down and asked for forgiveness without exculpation.

He accepted pain as a way to do penance. He suffered from severe stomach pains, but refused to take calming without the permission of the superior, even when the illness became unbearable. He also suffered from chronic renal colic, which worsened in winter, but hid his state of health without complaining and did not ask for a doctor's visit. He never asked for fresh drinks in summer or hot in winter.

One day, while Fra Elias A1-Mahrini, in charge of agricultural work, worked in the vineyard with Father Charbel, the saint had a renal colic. He began to wriggle and bend his back, letting out a few complaints. Fra Elias invited him to return to his cell, but the hermit replied, "I can not because I would have a rest against poverty on the conscience," and he continued to work all day, silently enduring the pain.

In the evening, while the laborers ate lentils and salad, he ate the stalks of the vegetables. At dawn the colic hit him again. Despite the evil refused to rest. Despite the insistence of Brother Elias, the saint worked all day in the camps as if he were well.

When Father Makarios offered him some buttered rice, he refused, to respect the rule of hermits that limited this seasoning to solemnities. They then brought him a decoction of bitter herbs to calm the pains. The saint accepted, on condition that he did not sweeten it: because "the Lord Jesus on the cross drank vinegar and myrrh while it was at the height of thirst and suffering". Father Charbel wore a goat's hair shirt and an iron belt under his dress. Sometimes he would wrap his forehead with a branch and clasp his wrist with a bracelet, or step on the thorny shrubs with his bare feet and scourge himself, to inflict himself on voluntary penance. No one was aware of his pains and illnesses, which he carefully concealed.

Four years before his death he was struck by hemiplegia, which is the paralysis of half the body, from which he recovered, as his niece claims. For the problems of stomach the superior ordered him to wear woolen socks, but he wore them only once for obedience. In winter, the brothers slept in the kitchen at the hearth, to protect themselves from the intense cold. The saint, however, remained only a few moments near the fire, then withdrew immediately into his cold cell.

The saint's bed was an oak leaves pallet, covered with a goat carpet. A strain wrapped in a rag served as a pillow. Father Charbel slept in summer and winter without a mattress or blankets and often preferred to lie down on the ground.

Father Chabel fed once a day, never consumed wine or thirst-quenching drinks. His meal was a soup of vegetables and cereals.

Father Charbel overcame all the other hermits in the practice of virtues and penance. It required mortifications that were not mandatory, such as permanent fasting, incessant vigils, work during illness, frosty nights, refusal of medicines.

Already at the time of his novitiate in Maifouq he was called: "the Holy Spirit" of the community.

Might interest