top of page

His Life On Earth

​Saint Sharbel Makhlouf was born in Bekaa Kafra on May 8, 1828. Bekaa Kafra is a small mountain village, the highest in Lebanon and the Middle East, 5118 feet (1560 meters) above sea level, in the region of Bsharri (North Lebanon). In its vicinity are the ancient Cedars of Lebanon, called by the Lebanese, “the Cedars of the Lord.”

​Bekaa Kafra overlooks the valley of Qadeesha, where Sharbel had two uncles living as monks in the monastery of Saint Anthony of Kozhayah. They were a source of inspiration and models for him.

 

The Cedars of Lebanon. Image by Fr. Shadi Beshara

​He was baptized on August 16, 1828 with the name of Youssef Antoun Makhlouf. He was the fifth child in a poor, yet respectable and devout family, having two older brothers and two older sisters.

His father died on August 8, 1831 as he was returning home after compulsory enlistment in the Turkish Army under the Ottoman rule in Lebanon.

Along with other children, Youssef learned Arabic and Syriac from the priest of the village.

​Youssef was very pious, so much so that his fellow villagers used to call him “the Saint.” Daily he used to take his small herd to the fields where he would let them graze while he went to a nearby grotto to fall into deep prayer in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary. This grotto became his altar and his first hermitage.

In 1851, at the age of 23, he left his family and village to start his first year of novitiate in the monastery of Mayfouk. He chose the name “Sharbel” in honor of a second century martyr in the Antiochene Church.

In 1852, he moved to the monastery of Annaya for his second year of novitiate. There, on November 1, 1853, he professed his monastic vows of chastity, poverty and obedience.

He received his formation in theology at the monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justina in Kfifan between the years 1853 and 1859. Father Nemtallah Kassab El-Hardini (canonized on May 17, 2004) was the teacher of Saint Sharbel and his fellow seminarians.

On July 23, 1859 Saint Sharbel was ordained priest of the Lebanese Maronite Order. He spent 16 years (1859–1875) in the monastery of Annaya, praying and working in the fields with his brother monks. He was unhesitatingly obedient to his superiors, faithfully observed all the rules, and lived a life of sacrifice under austere conditions.

 

​​The Hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul i n Annaya, Lebanon. Image by Fr. Shadi Beshara

His request to move to the hermitage of Saints Peter and Paul, on a nearby hill, was approved after his superior witnessed the “miracle of the lamp.” One night, Saint Sharbel asked a worker at the monastery to refill the oil lamp that he was using. Although the worker filled it with water instead of oil, the lamp still gave light as usual and kept burning throughout the night.

 

​​​February 15, 1875 marked the first day of his life in the hermitage. There, he continued to live for 23 years. He spent his time in prayer, contemplation, and worship, as well as in diligent manual labor in the fields and vineyards. He was a model of self-sacrifice and total detachment from the world.  Saint Sharbel reflected the grace and strength that God had granted him through living the monastic virtues of chastity, poverty, and obedience. He never left the hermitage except by request of his superiors who would ask him to go out to heal the sick.

He followed the path of the hermit fathers by kneeling austerely before Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, praying quietly to Him, and immersing himself in Him throughout the night. He came to be known as “the saint inebriated with God.” During his life, Saint Sharbel not only healed people from physical diseases, but also from spiritual ones, even casting out demons.

While celebrating the Divine Liturgy on December 16, 1898, he suffered a stroke and endured eight days of terrible pain calmly, silently, and prayerfully. Saint Sharbel kept repeating the prayer he could not finish in the Divine Liturgy: “Father of truth, behold Your Son, the sacrifice in whom You are well pleased. Accept Him who died for me…”. He would also repeat the names of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, as well as Saints Peter and Paul, the patron saints of the hermitage. He died on Christmas Eve, 1898, and was buried at the monastery on a very cold and snowy day. Only a few monks were able to attend his burial ceremony.

Saint Sharbel’s superior, Father Antonios Mishimshany wrote about him in the monastery’s records of the dead: “On the 24th day of the month of December 1898, Father Sharbel, the hermit of Bekaa Kafra, died after suffering a stroke and receiving the Sacraments of the dying. He was buried in the monastery’s cemetery. He was sixty-eight years old. Father Antonios Mishimshany was the superior of the monastery. What God will perform after his death will be sufficient proof of his exemplary behavior in the observance of his vows, to a degree such that we can say that his obedience was angelic, not human.”

His Life After Death

Following his death, people started to report seeing lights around his tomb. When Church authorities opened the tomb, they found Saint Sharbel’s body incorrupt and exuding sweat and blood.

On April 15, 1899, the Maronite Patriarch allowed the body to be transferred to a special coffin, which was placed in a new tomb, inside the monastery. Pilgrims began flocking to his tomb and praying for his intercession. God granted many of them physical healings and spiritual blessings.

One of Saint Sharbel's Old Coffins in the Monastery of St. Maron  in Annaya, Lebanon.  Image by Naanouh Productions

Saint Sharbel’s cause was officially presented to Pope Pius XI on December 12, 1925.

Because of the exuding of sweat and blood, Saint Sharbel’s coffin and tomb had to be changed several times through the years. On July 24, 1927, the body was transferred to a third tomb.

In 1950, Saint Sharbel’s tomb was opened in the presence of certified doctors and members of an official committee from the Church and the Lebanese government, who verified the integrity of the body. They wrote a medical report and put it in a box inside the coffin. Immediately, healings proliferated in an amazing fashion! Tens of thousands of pilgrims of different religions and communities flocked to the monastery of Annaya, asking the intercession of the holy hermit. Saint Sharbel’s body continued to bleed and perspire for sixty-five years after his death.

Beatification of Sharbel

Pope Pius XII approved the decree recognizing the heroic virtues of the future saint on April 2, 1954. His Holiness Saint Paul VI presided on December 5, 1965 over the beatification ceremony of Saint Sharbel in the Vatican at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Council.

The decision for the beatification of Saint Sharbel was based on two miracles:
 

  1. The miraculous healing of Sister Maria Abel Kamari, S.S.C.C, from a gastric ulcer on July 12, 1950. Sister Kamari suffered from a liver, gall bladder, and kidney dysfunction. Her intestines were also stuck together. She would vomit most of her food with blood. Her right hand became paralyzed and she needed help to walk. Three times, she was on the brink of death.

  2. The miraculous healing, near the end of 1950, of Mr. Alessandro Obeid, who regained sight in his right eye, which had been blinded in an accident in 1937.

 

Icon of Saint Sharbel.

Canonization of Sharbel

​On October 9, 1977, His Holiness Saint Paul VI presided over the canonization ceremony of Blessed Sharbel in the Vatican basilica. The miraculous healing of Miriam Awad from throat cancer in 1967 was accepted as the official miracle for canonization. Biography comes from https://www.familyofsaintsharbel.org/biography.html

In Baton Rouge many parishioners have experienced personal miracles, through the intercession of St. Sharbel and the power of God.

bottom of page