Those who have sought the intercession of an obscure Lebanese saint have reported cures of everything from gastric ulcers to cancer.
The saint, Sharbel Makhlouf of Biqa-Kafra (also spelled Charbel) was born in 1828 and was known for his complete detachment from the world in a monastery and then a hermitage. The miracles followed a life of extreme detachment. “His mother and other members of his family, having found his shelter, reached him and begged him to go back home, but it was useless, because he refused firmly and persisted in his vocation,” says one account of his life. “He renounced the pleasure of seeing his home, his relations, and even his mother forever, having made up his mind to die to the world and to cut off all ties with it in order to devote himself completely to God, without any reserve.”
Ordained a priest in 1859, Sharbel was known for his deep humility, strict poverty, perfect obedience, and long devotions, at the same time that he tended assiduously to manual work. His labors were interrupted by brief periods of rest on a hard couch. A life of fasting and continuous prayer was said to have given him the aura of an angel.
And the miracles began. Once he set a man free from a snake by asking the animal to go away and on another occasion purged the fields of devastating grasshoppers by using holy water. His life was one of dedication to the Blessed Sacrament and the Blessed Virgin Mary.
On December 16, 1898 — while Sharbel was celebrating Mass, at the elevation of the Host, when according to the Maronite liturgy he was saying, “Father of Truth, here is Your son, victim of expiation; here is the blood which intercedes for me; it is my offering; accept it” — he suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. Eight days later, on Christmas Eve, Sharbel was taken to heaven.
Since that time, hundreds if not thousands have claimed miracles after visiting his tomb at Annaya. The first case used for his beatification involved a nun who had been suffering a severe gastric ulcer for 14 years (so bad she was compelled to remain in bed) and though unable to even walk up to his tomb, was brought there and after long fervent prayer suddenly was able to get up and walk normally. That was in 1950. There was also a case in 1937 of Alessandro Obeid, who had lost his sight during an accident that destroyed his retina — but who regained his sight after visiting Sharbel’s mysterious and powerful grave.
“According to science and conscience, we must say that an eye so ill and for so long was certainly lost forever,” testified one doctor. “Therefore we cannot explain how it has been cured, certainly not through natural means. We need to consider this extraordinary fact with great humility, and to attribute it to an Almighty Will which operates only by divine grace.”
A third case involved the miracle of Miriam Aouad of Hammana, who suffered from “incurable” cancer of the throat but was healed in 1967. [See one such miracle.]
“Rigorous asceticism, and a profound union with God, continued to characterize the monk’s life,” notes a website dedicated him him. “Deeply devoted to God’s Eucharistic presence, he suffered a stroke while celebrating the Divine Liturgy of the Maronite Catholic Church on December 16, 1898. He died on Christmas Eve of that year.
“St. Charbel’s tomb has been a site for pilgrimages since his death. Hundreds of miracles are believed to have occurred through his intercession with God, both in Lebanon and around the world.”
“The miracles continue with those who have discovered this potent intercessor. Canonized in 1977, Sharbel’s main message is to be prayerful in the midst of a clamorous materialistic world — to establish an inner desert where we can listen to the appeals of Grace.”
One must escape from the world when it is an enemy of God and from sins that kill the spirit.
It has been reported that Saint Shabel appeared recently to some who were begging for a miracle and commanded them, “Go first to the confessional and cleanse your souls.” The bodily cures followed spiritual recovery.
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