St. Sharbel, a Maronite monk from Lebanon. Wikipedia/public domain
The Eastern rites of the Church have produced stalwart saints.
One such saint, from the Maronite tradition, whose feast is celebrated on July 24, is St. Sharbel (also often spelled Charbel). St. Sharbel’s relics were on tour recently in the United States, with the tour ending in June.
Youssef Makluf was born on May 8, 1828, in the small village of Beka-Kafra in Lebanon. He was the fifth child born to Antoun and Brigitta Makluf. Tragically, Youssef’s father died when Youssef was only 3 years old.
Even at an early age, Youssef showed a special propensity towards prayer and good works — he was even nicknamed the “saint” by his young friends.
Youssef entered the monastery of St. Maron at the age of 23, taking the name “Sharbel,” which was the name of an early Christian martyr. He lived there for 16 years before moving to a nearby hermitage to live a life of prayer and solitude.
Sharbel was dedicated to the monastic way of life, suffering many bodily mortifications willingly and administering the sacraments readily. His reputation as a holy man spread, and he received many visits from villagers with prayer requests.
Sharbel had a deep devotion to the Blessed Mother and the holy Eucharist. He preferred to offer his daily Masses in the middle of the day, in order to spend the morning in preparation for the reception of the Blessed Sacrament and the rest of the day in thanksgiving.
At the age of 70, he suffered a stroke that would lead to his death shortly thereafter on Christmas Eve 1898.
Although Sharbel lived a simple life as a priest and monk, never traveling far from the village in which he grew up, his fame as a wonder-worker spread quickly after his death. On the evening of his funeral, Sharbel’s superior wrote, “Because of what he will do after his death, I need not discuss his behavior.”
Mysterious lumination was seen surrounding Sharbel’s burial site. His body was exhumed and found to be secreting blood and sweat, and entirely intact, though he had been buried in the ground without even a coffin. Sharbel’s body remained incorrupt for more than 60 years. It was medically examined by two doctors from the French Medical Institute of Beirut, who found there was no scientific explanation for such preservation.
Known as the “Wonder-Worker of the East,” his miraculous intercession has expanded to many countries, and hundreds of documented and undocumented miracles have been attributed to him. Although well-known for his intercession of physical healing, there have been many conversions credited to St. Sharbel, as well.
Sharbel was declared a saint in 1977 by Blessed Paul VI, who said this “new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people. … May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God.”
This is the message we can take away from the life of St. Sharbel. Unaffected by the affairs of the world, he lived a life devoted to Christ. May we always strive to do the same.
St. Sharbel, pray for us!
Liz Beller writes from
Front Royal, Virginia.