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Saint Charbel

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Youssef Antoun Makhlouf was born in 1828 in Bekaa Kafra, North Lebanon. Raised with a devout Christian upbringing, he developed a fervent devotion to prayer. Influenced by his two hermit uncles, he embraced the ascetic life at the St. Antonious Kozhaya monastery, committing himself to a monastic and hermetical existence.

In 1851, Makhlouf departed from his family village to begin his monastic journey at the Our Lady of Maifouk monastery, followed by his admission to the Maronite Order at the St. Maron monastery in Annaya, where he assumed the name Charbel, in honor of a second-century martyr of the Antioch church. After professing his ceremonial vows on November 1st, 1853, at St. Maron’s monastery in Annaya, he pursued theological studies at the St. Kobrianous and Justina monastery in Kfifan, Batroun.

Ordained a priest at the Maronite Patriarchate in Bkerky on July 23rd, 1859, Makhlouf spent 16 years at the St. Maron's monastery in Annaya before relocating to the St. Peter & Paul hermitage on February 15th, 1875. Embracing a life of solitude and devotion, he adhered closely to the practices of saintly hermits, devoting himself entirely to prayer and worship.

For 23 years, St. Charbel resided in the hermitage, until his sudden illness during Mass on December 16th, 1898, culminated in his passing on Christmas Eve, December 24th, 1898. He was interred in the cemetery of the St. Maron monastery in Annaya.

Soon after, reports of luminous phenomena surrounding his grave emerged, accompanied by accounts of miraculous healings and spiritual blessings attributed to his intercession. In 1925, Pope Pius XI proposed his beatification and canonization. In 1950, a committee, including medical professionals, verified the incorruptibility of his body upon the opening of his grave. The subsequent proliferation of miraculous healings drew countless pilgrims, transcending religious boundaries and sparking a revival of faith and moral virtues, both locally and internationally.

As a revered figure within the Lebanese Maronite Order and recognized as a saint by the Maronite Church, St. Charbel embodies the essence of Maronite Catholic holiness and principles.

His profound reverence for the Most Holy Eucharist and unwavering kindness endeared him to all who knew him. Entering monastic life at the age of 23, he was ordained as a priest at 31 and subsequently chose the path of a hermit at 46.

Throughout his life, St. Charbel maintained a demeanor of humility, never lifting his gaze from the ground while in the presence of others. His devotion was evident in his unwavering focus on the altar and the tabernacle during prayer, symbolizing his constant communion with God.

Residing in the hermitage atop Annaya, which commanded a breathtaking view of the surrounding landscape, St. Charbel embraced a life of austerity and simplicity. Sleeping on a humble mattress of straw with a log for a pillow, he sustained himself with a single daily meal consisting of basic fare, eschewing meat and luxuries. Despite his labor in tilling fields and tending vineyards, he abstained from partaking in the fruits of his labor.

In the tranquil solitude of the Lebanese mountains, particularly at the Annaya monastery, St. Charbel devoted himself to prayer, meditation, and contemplation of God's wonders. For twenty-three years, he embraced a life of voluntary isolation, renouncing worldly distractions to deepen his connection with Christ in what can be described as a form of "Christian solitary confinement."

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