( May 8, 1828 – December 24, 1898), born as Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in Bekaa Kafra in northern Lebanon, was a Syriac-Maronite monk and priest, canonized by the Roman Catholic Church.
Youssef Makhlouf was born on May 8th, 1828, in the village of Biqa-Kafra in the Lebanese mountains. He was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, had died when Youssef was only two years old.
In 1851, he took holy orders at the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq, relocating to St Maron monastery two years later. Here he adopted the name ‘Charbel’. He was taught by Father Nimatullah (who later became Saint Hardini) in the Seminary of Kfifan between 1853 and 1856, where he studied philosophy and theology, and was ordained six years later. He was then sent back to St. Maron Monastery, where he took a vow of silence following the example of the 5th-century St. Maron. He spent the next 23 years living as a solitary hermit.
Charbel lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death from a stroke on December 24, 1898. He was interred at St. Maron’s Monestery on Christmas Day of that year. It was reported that, during the transport of his corpse, the inclement weather conditions lessened to enable to pallbearers to fulfil their duty. Lights and supernatural phenomena at the grave were also reported.
“Father Charbel died on the eve of Christmas; the snow was heavy. We transferred him to the monastery on Christmas day. Before we moved him, the snow was falling rapidly and the clouds were very dark. When we carried him, the clouds disappeared, and the weather cleared.” Statement by George Emmanuel Abi-Saseen, one of the pallbearers.
Beatification, canonization and attributed miracles.
In 1925, Charbel’s beatification and canonization were proposed by Pope Pius XI. In 1950, Charbel’s image reportedly appeared in a photograph taken by Father George Webby, a Maronite Priest of Scranton PA, United States, during a visit to the monastery where Saint Charbel had lived. Because of this appearance Charbel’s 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. Several post-mortem miracles are attributed to him, including periods in 1927 and 1950 when a bloody “sweat” flowed from his corpse, soaking his vestments.
In 1954, Pope Pius XII signed a decree accepting a proposal for the beatification. On December 5, 1965, Pope Paul VI officiated at the ceremony of the beatification of Father Charbel during the closing of the Second Vatican Council. In 1976, Pope Paul VI signed the decree of canonization. The 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 have been attributed to Saint Charbel 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, 1993, she saw in her dream two Maronite monks standing next to her bed. One of them put his hands on her neck and operated on her, relieving 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 recovered her ability to walk. She believed that it was Saint Charbel who healed her but did not recognize the other monk. Next night, she again saw Saint Charbel in her dream. He said to her: “I did 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”. People now gather on the 22nd of each month to pray and celebrate the Mass in the hermitage of Saint Charbel in Annaya.