Saint Sharbel or Charbel Makhlouf is one of the best-known saints in the Middle East.
He arouses admiration and universal awe because of the extraordinary miracles and signs wrought through the power of his intercession, which made him known among Lebanese people as the “Miracle Monk of Lebanon.”
The original name that was given to him by his parents Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf and Brigitta Elias Chidiac, was Youssef (Arabic for “Joseph”). Born on May 8, 1828, in a small hilltop village from the region of Bsharri (North Lebanon), called Bekaa Kafra (5118 ft. above sea level), Youssef was the youngest of five children: Hanna, Beshara, Koun, Warde, and Youssef.
He was baptized on August 16, 1828, in the Maronite Catholic Rite, and grew up with devout faithful parents in a joyful Christian environment characterized by mutual love, daily prayer and hard work. He lost his father at the age of three, then was raised by his mother and Ibrahim, his stepfather, who was an upright and devout deacon.
At the age of fourteen, Youssef felt the call to the monastic way of life, but it was only at the age of 23 that he decided to enter the monastery in Maifuq where he spent the first year of his novitiate. The following year, he moved to the Saint Maron monastery in Annaya, where he entered the Maronite Order where he took his preliminary vows and took the name of Sharbel on November 1853. He completed his theological studies in the Saints Kobrianous and Justina monastery in Kfifan – Batroun -, and was ordained to the priesthood on July 23, 1859, in the Maronite Patriarchate at Bkerke.
Following in the footsteps of his two hermit uncles in the hermitage of the St Antonious Kozhaya monastery, Fr. Sharbel entered, on February 15th, 1875, the Saints Peter and Paul hermitage (which belongs to the monastery), where he spent 23 years of his life praying, kneeling austerely before the Holy Eucharist, and immersing himself in Jesus throughout the night, which made him to be known as “the Saint inebriated with God.”
It is worth mentioning that his request to move to the hermitage was approved after his superior witnessed what would be known as the “miracle of the lamp”; One night, Fr. 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.
On December 16th, 1898, Sharbel, the hermit, was struck with an illness while performing the holy Mass. He died on Christmas’ eve, December 24th, 1898, at the age of 68, and was buried in the St Maron monastery cemetery in Annaya, with only a few monks attending his burial ceremony.
Following his death, people reported seeing dazzling lights around his tomb. When Church authorities opened the tomb, they found Saint Sharbel’s body incorrupt and exuding sweat and blood. There, his corpse was transferred into a special coffin inside the monastery. Since then, and through the intercession of Saint Sharbel Makhlouf, God has been blessing many people with many graces from physical recovery to spiritual healing.