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July 24 — Feast of St. Charbel

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By Marc Massery (Jul 23, 2018)
When Christ died on the Cross for the salvation of the world, He left nothing behind. He had no home, no money, no wife or children, no possessions at all. The very clothes on His back were stripped away and even His blood drained from His body. In His final breath, He gave away all He had remaining; His mother He gave to the apostle John, and His spirit He offered back to Abba.

Christ lost everything to gain it all back. To become saints, we must model our lives on the sacrifice of Christ and empty ourselves, too, so that He can fill us with His grace. Though He may not ask us to die a violent death as He did, many saints have taken extreme steps to imitate His sacrifice in a non-bloody manner.

In the early 19th century, high in the mountains of Lebanon, Youssef Makhlouf dreamed of giving his life to Christ in a radical way. In his youth, he tended to his family's cows helping to keep his mother and four siblings well fed. After his father died, Youssef worked for his uncle in the fields while his mother made plans for him to marry and have a family.

In 1851, at age 23, Youssef left home unannounced to join the Lebanese Maronite Order. Two years later, he took the vows of chastity, poverty, and obedience at St. Maroun's Monastery in Annaya, Mount Lebanon. With these vows, he gave up the future of a wife and children and promised to never take any possessions for his own. His family did not attend the ceremony; they were not allowed. Youssef, now Br. Charbel, belonged entirely to the Lebanese Maronite Order.

Even after having been ordained a priest in 1859, Fr. Charbel still desired to give himself to Christ in a more perfect way. In 1875, he received permission from his superiors to spend his remaining years as a hermit. High above the Kadisha River in the caverns of northern Lebanon, Fr. Charbel spent thousands of hours in prayer and penance at the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul. Without the comfort of regular human interaction, he observed an even more severe asceticism than he had in the monastery. He ate one meal per day, performed manual labor, observed continuous silence, and slept no more than five hours per night on the ground with a log as his pillow. Even his clothing was a penance; beneath his black habit, he wore a hair shirt meant to irritate the skin in mortification.

In 1898, after 23 years of prayer and penance as a hermit, Fr. Charbel died, having suffered a stroke while saying Mass. His brother monks buried him in a common tomb without a casket, as was customary for the order. Not long after his death, a light emanated from the tomb. After more than a month of this supernatural marvel, the Church granted permission to open the grave to investigate. They discovered that his body was in perfect condition. He looked as he did the day he died. Furthermore, they found that his body mysteriously emitted a mixture of blood and water, reminiscent of Christ's last moments on the Cross. Several doctors examined his corpse and could not give a medical explanation for either phenomenon. For the next 67 years, his body remained in perfect condition and continued to drip blood and water.

On July 24, we celebrate the Feast of St. Charbel Makhlouf, OLM, who was canonized in 1977 by Pope Paul VI. In emptying himself of all possible comforts, this saint was filled with grace, allowing God to work through him more powerfully. Since St. Charbel's beatification in 1965, St. Maroun's Monastery in Lebanon has received hundreds of thousands of letters from around the world, many reporting miracles and wonders worked through this simple hermit's intercession. At St. Charbel's canonization, Pope Paul VI said, "[We] need people who offer themselves as victims for the salvation of the world, in a freely accepted penance, in an unceasing prayer of intercession ... in a radical way [St. Charbel embodied] a spirit from which no faithful of Christ is exempt ... a path salutary for all." If we empty ourselves of our worldly attachments, we, too, can live more like St. Charbel, more like Christ, so that God can fill us more entirely with His grace.

In the summer of 2013, I traveled to Lebanon with my sister and cousin to see family. We visited the Kadisha Valley where St. Charbel lived, and we hiked its cliffs, some reaching several thousand feet high. These peaks, sanctified by the prayers of holy men throughout the centuries, continue to act as a barrier between the busy modern world and this sacred place of contemplation. We followed an unsteady path to a cave fashioned into a chapel. A stone altar stood against the back wall, and votive candles provided just enough light for us to discern an icon of St. Charbel. Pilgrims like us frequent these caves, hoping for a taste of the detachment from the world he endured.

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C.A. Wharton - Feb 28, 2019

2/29/2019 I just saw your request (on 7/27/18 Feast of St. Charbel) for oil Blessed by Father Rookey for healing. I would be happy to send you some.

Christopher Damiani - Dec 19, 2018

5 years ago my mom at the age of 69 was diagnosed with multiple myeloma - to this day with prayers to St. Charbel and my Lebanese friends who traveled to Lebanon to get some blessing s etc. my mom has been doing fantastic recently. Like yesterday they found a nodule in her lung that has grown rapidly. She is going to a pulmonologist where they will do a biopsy. I believe it is cancerous and needs to be removed ASAP as do they. I need all your prayers as I believe will cure my mom. She is my best friend. God bless. Spread the word

C. A. Wharton - Jul 27, 2018

Dear Theresa Molthan... If there is any possibility of receiving a cotton swab with Fr. Rookey's healing oil for blessing the sick in my area, I would be so grateful to learn what might be required. St. Charbel is a saint for our times and we need to create a greater awareness of his life offered entirely up out of love for Jesus. Thank you for sharing this story, Theresa, and I am so grateful for this article.

Theresa Molthan - Jul 25, 2018

Hello Anne Rooke, St. Charbel has been a saint that I have been close to since early childhood. St. Charbel, Father Mary Rookey, and St. Padre Pio were all included in an icon that I wrote of Our Lady of Guadalupe for Blessed Sacrament Church, Ontario Oregon in 2017 (which took three years to write.) Olive oil blessed by Father Rookey in 2001 was used in the icon. He blessed one bottle of oil for healing and one bottle for my icons. I would be happy to send you photos of some of the icons I wrote using Father Rookey's healing oil. God Bless

anne rookey - Jul 25, 2018

St. Charbel, St. Padre Pio, and Father Peter Mary Rookey are all wonder workers! Pray for us!

Keith - Jul 25, 2018

Lest there be some confusion for those readers that are not familiar with the Maronites, I would like to point out that the "Maronites," the general term, are the Maronite Church, which is one of the Eastern Rite, uniate (full communion with the pope)churches. The Maronite Church has several orders within it, including "LMO," the Lebanese Maronite Order, to which St. Sharbel belonged. It is a common error to think that the "Maronites" are an order, rather than a complete Eastern Rite Church.

We now have two new Maronite orders of monks in the United States: the Maronite Monks of Adoration in Petersham MA, and the Maronite Monks of Jesus Mary and Joseph in Oregon, near Portland. (The Oregon monks are constructing a monastery across the state border in Washington.) Both can be found by searching on "Maronite monks" plus either "petersham" or "oregon."

Jim Schrang - Jul 24, 2018

Had severe swelling in my feet and legs and knew it could not be congestive heart failure (CHF) being a retired FDNY Paramedic. Well I received a magazine in the mail and was drawn to read about this Wonder worker of Lebanon, Saint Charbel. After reading the article I decided to ask his intercession. First, he had me stop all diet soda and research what is in it. After less than two days the swelling was subsiding. Well several weeks later it is basically gone except for a spot on both feet. The swelling in the legs is totally gone! Then today I was at Mass and thought the priest mentioned St. Charbel Feast Day. Got home, could not find the Feast Day in the article but was going to have a Mass said in gratitude to him anyway. Well I get to the Marian's site and who pops up, but St. Charbel's Feast Day! Coincidence, NO SUCH THING!!! Praise Our God for such helpers and thanks St. Charbel, love ya!!!