Saint Charbel , or Sharbel, (مار شربل, May 8 1828 – December 24 1898), born as Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in Bekaa Kafra in northern Lebanon, was a Maronite Catholic monk and priest, now venerated as a saint.
He was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Youssef was only three years old. At the age of 23, he joined the Monastery of St. Maron
, Lebanon, and took the name 'Sharbel ' in honor of a second-century martyr. He was taught by Father Nimatullah (who later became Saint Hardini
) in the Seminary
between 1853 and 1856.
He professed his final vows in 1853 and was ordained six years later.
Following the example of the fifth-century St. Maron
, Sharbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament
. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.
On December 16
, Sharbel was struck with an illness while celebrating the Holy Mass
. He died on the Christmas
Eve of 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 to a special coffin. Hordes of pilgrims
started swarming to the place to obtain his intercession
In 1925, his beatification and canonization were proposed for declaration by Pope Pius 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, it was reputed that the variety of healing incidents multiplied. Again, a multitude of pilgrims of different religions started flocking to the Annaya Monastery seeking the saint's intercession. Several post-mortem miracles are attributed him, including periods in 1927 and 1950 when a bloody "sweat" flowed from his corpse, soaking his vestments. His tomb has become a place of pilgrimage for Lebanese and non-Lebanese, Christian and non-Christian alike.
Beatification and canonization of Saint Sharbel
In 1954, Pope Pius XII signed a decree accepting a proposal for the beatification of Sharbel Makhlouf, the hermit. On December 5, 1965, Pope Paul VI officiated at the ceremony of the beatification of Father Sharbel during the closing of the Second Vatican Council.
In 1976, Pope Paul VI signed a decree of canonization of Blessed charbel. That canonization took place in the Vatican on October 9, 1977.
Among the many miracles related to Saint Charbel the Church chose two of them to declare the beatification, and a third for his canonization. These miracles are:
- the healing of Sister Mary Abel Kamari of the Two Sacred Hearts
- the healing of Iskandar Naim Obeid from Baabdat
- the healing of Mariam Awad from Hammana.
A great number of miracles were attributed to Saint Sharbel since his death. The most famous one is that of Nohad El Shami, a 55-year old woman at the time of the miracle who was healed from a partial paralysis. She tells that on the night of January 22
, she saw in her dream two Maronite monks standing next to her bed. One of them put his hands on her neck and made her a surgery that relieved her from her pain while the other held a pillow behind her back.
When she woke up, Nohad discovered two wounds in her neck, one on each side. She was completely healed and retrieved her ability to walk. She believed that it was Saint Sharbel who made her the surgery but did not recognize the other monk. Next night, she again saw Saint Sharbel in her dream. He said to her: "I made you the surgery to let people see and return to faith. I ask you to visit the hermitage on the 22nd of every month, and attend Mass regularly for the rest of your life”. The second monk is widely believed to be Saint Maron
Since then, and according to Saint Sharbel's will, people gather on the 22nd of each month to pray and celebrate the Mass in the hermitage of Saint Sharbel in Annaya.