St Charbel and the Maronite Church

St Charbel who slept with a wooden block for a pillow and who lived spiritually and physically from the Sacred Host, is also a shining example of the spirit of sacrafice of the Maronite Christians, the largest Eastern Catholic community of the Arab Orient in union with Rome.
In this same spirit the people of Bleyka, Errame and Orne regions have been struggling for decades to build a church. For yeras they celebrated Holy Mass in their little shepard huts, or else out in the open air. Then, on the hundredth anniversery of the death of St Charbel, they began to build a new Church, knowing full well that their diocese of Baalbek-Deir-Achmar (35,000 faithfull) was surrounded by Syrian troops and the Shi’ite Hezbollah. But they hoped and prayed for peace in their country, and trusted in the intercession of St Charbel, to whom they have dedicated their church. But now the war, the refugees and poverty have exhausted their last reserves. Some are thinking about emigration, but the Church still gives them support and hope. They were here long before the advent of Islam; for centuries they herded sheep and cultivated the fertile soil of the highland plateau  among the mountain peaks of Lebanon. They want to live here and be at peace with everyone – as St Charbel taught when he spoke to them about Jesus. They are determined to finish their church. We have promised them £16,000. Like St Charbel they want to stay in the mountains – regardless of what happens in nearby Damascus or in Beirut.

Taken from…
Mirror – Aid to the Church in Need newsletter, Sept 2012.
Note on Maronite Church – Although reduced in numbers today, Maronites remain one of the principal ethno-religious groups in Lebanon. The Maronite Church asserts that since its inception, it has always remained faithful to the Church of Rome and the Pope.
Before the conquest by Arabian Muslims reached Lebanon, the Lebanese people, including those who would become Muslim and the majority who would remain Christian, spoke a dialect of Aramaic.
(wikipedia)

St Charbel – Wikipedia

Charbel, Sharbel, or Sharbel Makhluf, was a Maronite monk and priest in Lebanon. During his life he obtained a wide reputation for holiness and he has now been canonized by the Catholic Church.
He was born Youssef Antoun Makhluf on May 8th, 1828, one of five children born to Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Chiriac. They lived in the village of Bekaa Kafra, possibly the highest in the Lebanese mountains. His father, a mule driver, died in August 1831, returning from corvee for the Turkish army, leaving his wife a widow to care for their children. Later she remarried a man who went on to seek Holy Orders and became the parish priest of the village.
The young Youssef was raised in a pious home and quickly became drawn to the lives of the saints and to the hermit life, as was practiced by two of his uncles. As a young boy, he was responsible for 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.
Monk
In 1851, Youssef left his family and went to the Monastery of Our Lady in Mayfouq to begin his training as a monk, later transferring to the Monastery of St. Maron monastery in Annaya, located in the Jbeil District near Beirut. Here he received the religious habit of a monk and took the name Charbel, after a Christian martyr in Antioch from the 2nd century. He made his final religious profession in the Lebanese Maronite Order on 1 November 1853.
The young monk Charbel then began his study of philosophy and theology at the Monastery of Saints Cyprian & Justina in Kfifan, in the Batroun District of Lebanon, to prepare himself for receiving Holy Orders. Among his professors at the seminary was Father Nimatullah Kassab, who was himself later also declared a saint. He was ordained six years later, on 23 July 1859, in Bkerky. He was then sent back to St. Maron Monastery, where he lived a life of severe asceticism in the monastery.
Hermit
In 1875, Charbel was granted by the abbot of the monastery the privilege of living as a hermit at the Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, a chapel under the care of the monastery. He spent the next 23 years living as a solitary hermit, until his death from a stroke on 24 December 1898.

In 1954, Pope Pius XII signed a decree authorizing his Cause for canonization. On 5 December 1965, Pope Paul VI officiated at the ceremony of the beatification of Father Charbel during the closing days of the Second Vatican Council. Although Charbel was a Maronite Catholic, not a Roman Catholic, in his authority as universal head of the Catholic Church in all its parts, Pope Paul had the ceremony held at St. Peter’s Basilica and presided over it.
In 1976, Pope Paul VI signed the decree of canonization. The ceremony in which the Blessed Charbel was then declared a saint took place in the Vatican on 9 October 1977

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