24 July 2012

A saint from Lebanon whom the Church honours today

St Charbel Makhluf (8 May 1828 0 24 December 1898)


O God, who called the Priest Saint Sharbel Makhluf
to the solitary combat of the desert
and imbued him with all manner of devotion,
grant us, we pray,
that, being made imitators of the Lord's Passion,
we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom.
Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

St Sharbel (or Charbel), baptised Youssef (Joseph),  is the only Lebanese saint, as far as I know, on the universal calendar of the Church, though not the only saint from that country. One of his teachers, St Nimattullah Kassab Al-Hardini, was canonised by Blessed Pope John Paul II in 2004. St Sharbel, who lived for many years as a hermit, was beatified by Pope Paul VI on 5 December 1965, three days before the end of the Second Vatican Council. Pope Paul said of him, . . . a hermit of the Lebanese mountain is inscribed in the number of the blessed, a new eminent member of monastic sanctity is enriching, by his example and his intercession, the entire Christian people. May he make us understand, in a world largely fascinated by wealth and comfort, the paramount value of poverty, penance and asceticism, to liberate the soul in its ascent to God . . .

Both these saints were priests and monks and Maronite Catholics. Their biggest numbers are in Lebanon but there are also large communities in Argentina, Brazil, the USA and Australia.

Pope Benedict will visit Lebanon from 14 to 18 September. The country, with a population of around 4,200, 000, went through a civil war from 1975 till 1990 in which anywhere between 150,000 and 230,000 died. 

'Green Line', separating East and West Beirut 1982

At the moment there are an estimated 50,000 refugees from neighbouring Syria in Lebanon. Syria had been involved in the Lebanese Civil War.

Fifty-four percent of the people of Lebanon adhere to Islam, half of them Shia Muslims and half Sunni. Thirty-four percent are Maronite Catholics, five percent Greek Catholics and eight percent Orthodox.

May St Sharbal obtain many graces for the people of Lebanon, especially during the visit of the Holy Father.

I have posted this video a number of times. It was made in a shopping mall in Beirut during Easter 2011. I just love it as a joyful proclamation of the Resurrection, in Arabic, in a country where the people know what suffering is.

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