Saint Sharbel Makhlouf was a monk and priest who loved the solitude of prayer, the reverence of worship, the reflection of the Holy Eucharist, and the freedom of Simplicity. He sought God early in his life and lived the monastic vow until death.
St. Maroun Monastery today, after Saint Sharbel's death, became one of the most popular places of pilgrimage in Lebanon. St. Sharbel spent 16 years at St. Maroun Monastery. Prayer, manual work, rigorous asceticism, contemplative silence and a great devotion to the Eucharist made up his life.
The isolated hermitage of St. Peter and Paul (home to but 3 monks) stood 1350 meters above sea-level. St. Sharbel spent his last 23 yeas as a hermit, living a holy life hidden in Christ. He followed a strict religious practice and carried out a severe ascetic way of live.
Cardinal Bechara Rahi, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, inaugurated a chapel to Lebanon’s St. Sharbel in St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. The chapel is the first of its kind outside Lebanon.
"St. Sharbel now watches over you from Fifth Avenue at St. Patrick's Cathedral, " said Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
“St. Sharbel is a sign of hope for Christianity and for all the people of the Middle East who suffer in difficult circumstances,” said Cardinal Rahi at the Oct. 28 blessing and dedication at the cathedral. Cardinal Dolan, along with Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of St. Maron of Brooklyn, also participated in the ceremony.
The artistic mosaic sanctuary depicts St. Sharbel wrapped in a luminous halo in the Lebanese mountain, near the St. Maron monastery in Annaya, Lebanon, where his tomb is located. The saint is surrounded by flourishing cedars and crystalline waters of the Mediterranean, a symbol of spiritual life.
Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born on the 8th of May, 1828, in the small village of Bekaa-Kafra in the high mountains of Northern Lebanon. His parents were poor but religious, and their fifth child was attracted at an early age to prayer and solitude. As a young boy, he spent a great deal of time outdoors caring for the family's small flock. He would take the flock to a grotto nearby, where he had installed an icon of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He would spend the day in prayer. This grotto became his alter and his first hermitage.
In spite of the opposition of his family, he left home at the age of twenty-three and entered the Monastery of St. Maroun at a place called Annaya. Ordained priest in 1859, he spent sixteen years there before receiving permission from his reluctant superiors to retire to the nearby hermitage of Saint Peter and Paul.
It had taken over seven years for his wish to be granted. Only exceptional monks were allowed such a privilege. A sign that he was ready to leave the secure environment of the monastery came about in a strange way. Given a request to prepare an urgent report, Sharbel sat down at night to work on it. To his dismay he found his lamp had run out of oil. He asked one of the monastery’s lay servants to fill it for him. By way of a joke the servant filled it with water, but was amazed to see that the lamp lit up immediately and continued to burn brightly. The Superior, when advised of this, removed the lamp to check it for himself. To his amazement he found it was indeed full of water. He took this as a sign from above that Sharbel was ready to live the severe life of a hermit.
On February 15th, 1875, Saint Sharbel entered, the St. Peter & Paul hermitage, which belongs to the monastery. He spent his time praying and worshiping. Rarely had he left the hermitage where he followed the way of the saintly hermits in prayers, life and practice. St Sharbel lived in the hermitage for 23 years. On December 16th, 1898 he was struck with an illness while performing the Holy Mass. He died on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1898, and was buried in the St. Maron Monastery cemetery in Annaya. A few months later, dazzling lights were seen around the grave. From there, his corpse, which had been secreting sweat and blood, was transferred into a special coffin. Hordes of pilgrims visited to get his intercession. And through this intercession, God blessed many people with recovery and spiritual graces.
In 1925, his beatification and canonization were proposed for declaration by Pope Pious XI. In 1950, the grave was opened in the presence of an official committee which included doctors who verified the soundness of the body. After the grave had been opened and inspected, the variety of healing incidents amazingly multiplied. A multitude of pilgrims from different religions started flocking to the Annaya monastery to get the Saint Sharbel's intercession. Prodigies reached beyond the Lebanese borders. This unique phenomenon caused a moral revolution, the return to faith and the reviving of the virtues of the soul.
St. Sharbel has performed miracles when he was alive as a Catholic Maronite Monk and Hermit, after his death on December 24, 1898 and to this current day in over 133 countries around the world. St Charbel has performed miracles to people that are sick, disabled, mentally ill and dying from various religions including Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Jewish, Druze, Alawites & Atheists.
St Maroun’s Monastery in Annaya, Mount Lebanon receives hundreds of thousands of letters every year from people who want to share the great news of miracles, cures and wonders performed by St Sharbel.
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