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) is 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 Saint Sharbel in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City on Saturday, October 28, 2017. The chapel is the first of its kind outside Lebanon.
"Saint Sharbel now watches over you from Fifth Avenue at Saint Patrick's Cathedral, " said Cardinal Dolan, Archbishop of New York.
“Saint 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 blessing and dedication at the cathedral. Cardinal Dolan, along with Bishop Gregory J. Mansour of the Maronite Eparchy of Saint Maron of Brooklyn, also participated in the ceremony.
The artistic mosaic sanctuary depicts Saint Sharbel wrapped in a luminous halo in the Lebanese mountain, near the Saint Maron monastery in Annaya, Lebanon, where his tomb is located. Saint Sharbel is surrounded by flourishing cedars and crystalline waters of the Mediterranean, a symbol of spiritual life.
Antoun Sehnaoui, chairman of Societe Generale de Banque au Liban, is the sponsor of the chapel, dedicated in honor of his parents, May and Nabil Sehnaoui. He sparked the idea and made arrangements for this beautiful shrine to be created in the renowned Saint Patrick's Cathedral in Manhattan, NY. Maronites all over the world can be proud of this accomplishment and visit the shrine of our beloved Saint Sharbel right in the heart of New York City.
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 1851, at the age of 23, he left his family and village to start his first year of novitiate in the monastery of Mayfouk. He chose the name “Sharbel” in honor of a second century martyr in the Antiochene Church.
In 1852, he moved to the monastery of Annaya for his second year of novitiate. There, on November 1, 1853, he professed his monastic vows of chastity, poverty and obedience. He received his formation in theology at the monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justina in Kfifan between the years 1853 and 1859. Father Nemtallah Kassab El-Hardini (canonized on May 17, 2004) was the teacher of Saint Sharbel and his fellow seminarians.
On July 23, 1859 Saint Sharbel was ordained priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order. He spent 16 years (1859–1875) in the monastery of Annaya, praying and working in the fields with his brother monks. He was unhesitatingly obedient to his superiors, faithfully observed all the rules, and lived a life of sacrifice under austere conditions.
His request to move to the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, on a nearby hill, was approved after his superior witnessed the “miracle of the lamp.” One night, Saint Sharbel asked a worker at the monastery to refill the oil lamp that he was using. Although the worker filled it with water instead of oil, the lamp still gave light as usual and kept burning throughout the night.
On February 15th, 1875, Saint Sharbel entered Saints Peter and 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 suffered a stroke while performing Divine Liturgy. He died on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1898, and was buried in the St. Maron Monastery cemetery in Annaya. Following his death, people started to report seeing lights around his tomb. When Church authorities opened the tomb, they found Saint Sharbel’s body incorrupt and exuding sweat and blood.
On April 15, 1899, the Maronite Patriarch allowed the body to be transferred to a special coffin, which was placed in a new tomb, inside the monastery. On December 12, 1925, his beatification and canonization were proposed for declaration by Pope Pious XI. Because of the exuding of sweat and blood, Saint Sharbel’s coffin and tomb had to be changed several times through the years.
In 1950, Saint Sharbel’s tomb was opened in the presence of certified doctors and members of an official committee from the Church and the Lebanese government, who verified the integrity of the body. Immediately, healings proliferated in an amazing fashion. Tens of thousands of pilgrims of different religions and communities flocked to the monastery of Annaya, asking the intercession of Saint Sharbel. 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.
On October 9, 1977, Pope Paul VI presided at the canonization of Blessed Sharbel. At the time Bishop Francis Zayek, head of the U.S. Diocese of St. Maron, wrote a pamphlet entitled “A New Star of the East.” Bishop Zayek wrote: “St. Sharbel is called the second St. Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon, the first Confessor of the East to be raised to the Altars according to the actual procedure of the Catholic Church, the honor of our Aramaic Antiochian Church, and the model of spiritual values and renewal. Sharbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.” The bishop noted that Sharbel's canonization plus the beatification causes of others prove “that the Aramaic Maronite Antiochian Church is indeed a living branch of the Catholic Church and is intimately connected with the trunk, who is Christ, our Savior, the beginning and the end of all things."
St. Sharbel has performed miracles in over 133 countries around the world to people from various religions including Christians, Muslims, Buddhist, Hindus, Jewish, Druze, Alawites & Atheists.
Since 1950, the year the monastery began to formally record the miraculous healings, they have archived more than 29,000 miracles. Prior to 1950, miracles were verified only through the witness of a priest. Now, with more advanced medical technology available, alleged miracles require medical documents demonstrating the person’s initial illness and later, their unexplainable good health.
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