Man of Miracles:
Charbel Makhlouf, the Hermit of Lebanon
He is called
"the hermit of Lebanon" and is still held in high regard even now, 100
years after his death in 1898. His name: Charbel Makhlouf. The Catholic
church was convinced of his sanctity by miracles which happened in his
name after his death and as a result he was officially beatified. Benjamin
Cremeís Master has confirmed miracles connected with Charbel which took
place in Sweden some five years ago, and also revealed that Charbel
is one of the Masters living in the Middle East. Share International
has collected information about him and a number of miracles attributed
to him. This article appeared in the October 1997 issue.
After 16 years of strict asceticism he was granted permission by his superiors to withdraw from the world and become a hermit. In a hermitage near the monastery he lived the rest of his life in prayer and contemplation, frequent fasting and manual labour.
Tradition has it that Charbel showed ample evidence of extraordinary gifts during his life. And so it was, for instance, that he was able to rescue fellow monks from a poisonous snake simply by asking the creature if it would mind going away. There are also tales of clairvoyance and healing associated with his name. Even at his death, on 24 December 1898, it was noted in the Monasteryís records.that he was expected to remain active after his death. In a dedication to him his obedience was described as "more angelic than human".
The expectation that the world would be hearing more of Charbel was soon fulfilled: his grave was immediately surrounded by an "extraordinary brightness", according to a booklet produced by the Monastery about its most famous son. The light only finally faded after 45 days, unlike public interest which continued to wax brightly: pilgrims even tried to steal pieces of his remains, which gave the authorities a reason to open the grave. The body was found floating in mud but was itself completely free from signs of deterioration "as if it had been buried that same day." It was noticed that a "blood-like liquid" exuded from the body ó a phenomenon which can still be seen even now. The liquid is caught in a cloth and, according to the Monastery, has over the years been responsible for many cases of healing.
In this century his grave has been opened four times, the last time being in 1955, and each time "it has been noticed that his bleeding body still has its flexibility as if it were alive".
The beatification of Charbel followed the healing of a nun, Sister Maria Abel Kamari. She suffered serious intestinal problems, could not keep food down, had been bedridden for 14 years and had already received the sacrament of extreme unction three times. In 1950 she was taken to Charbelís grave and on praying suddenly felt a powerful surge of energy and was able to stand unaided. Since then Sister Maria Abel Kamari has been completely free of her previous ailments.
More recently, in 1992, some of Charbelís "miracles" reached the Western press. Swedish papers and the British daily, The Guardian, printed the story of 15-year-old Samira Hannoch who reported having had a vision of Charbel in her home near Stockholm. Since then oil has been pouring from a portrait of Charbel and has been associated with a number of healings.
A couple of months later, in January 1993, another incident occurred, this time in Lebanon, with 59-year-old Nouhad El-Chami in the main role. Nouhad, a mother of 12 children, suddenly became paralyzed as a result of a narrowing of arteries in a very advanced stage.
On 21 January 1993 Nouhad had a "dream".
"Two monks came towards my bed. One of them, St Charbel, came nearer, uncovered my neck, put his hand on it and said: ëI have come to operate on you.í I turned my head to see his face, but I couldnít, because the light coming from his body and eyes was too blinding and powerful. I was so confused, and asked him: ëFather, why do you want to operate on me? The doctors didnít say I need an operation.í But St Charbel said: ëDefinitely, you need an operation, and I, Father Charbel, have come to do it for you.í I looked towards the statue of the Virgin, placed near me, and said: ëHoly Mary, please help me; how are these monks going to operate without anaesthestic or sutures?í Then I realized that the Virginís statue was standing between the monks.
"Suddenly, I felt a terrible pain under Charbelís fingers, which were rubbing my neck. When St Charbel finished the operation, the other monk approached, put me in a sitting position, and placed a pillow behind my back. He reached for a glass of water, put his hand behind my head and said: ëDrink this water.í ëI cannot drink without a straw,í I said. He replied: ëWe have operated on you, and now you will drink this water; then you will stand up and walk.í
I woke up and felt water running down my throat, and found myself sitting in the same position as the Father had placed me in. Suddenly I felt a burning in my neck, and unconsciously put my hand there, to find out what was happening. Then I realized that my paralyzed hand had become normal again; I felt my [paralyzed] foot moving normally under the blanket. I got out of bed in a semi-conscious state and knelt before the picture of St Charbel and the statue of the Virgin, to thank them. I went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror; I saw two wounds of twelve centimeters each, at both sides of my neck.
"I went to my husbandís bedroom and turned on the light. My husband looked at me and shouted: ëWoman! How did you get here alone? Now youíll stumble and fall and a new catastrophe will be added upon another!í I raised my paralyzed hand and told him: ëHave no fear, St Charbel operated on me, and now I can walk.í"
This story, described in a second booklet published by the Monastery in which Charbel lived, has a follow-up to it: after another dream, in which Charbel appeared to her, Nouhad discovered that there was oil flowing from a portrait of the Saint. This has continued up to the present moment, as our colleague in Lebanon, Nabil Matraji, was able to verify for himself: "It is an amazing sight," he said. However, it is not only Charbelís portait in Nouhadís home which oozes healing oil. The same phenomenon is happening with oil flowing from the portrait of a fourth century saint ó the founder of the Maronite Order, St Maron (given in the English and American reference books as St Maro) after whom the order was named. The same Maron, so Nouhad learned in a later dream, was the second monk who had helped in the operation which cured her.
One of the things she was told, reports Nabil Maitraji, was that Charbel had blessed an oak tree in her garden and that the sick could be healed by using its leaves.
In an article in Al-Anwar on 10 September 1996 Nadia Sader described what happened to her when she drank a brew in which oak leaves from Nouhadís tree had been soaked. Nadiaís illness had progressed quickly and aggressively and within a short time she was totally paralyzed; she suffered tremendous pain and expected to die at any moment. Her mother-in-law suggested trying the oak leaves which had been blessed by St Charbel ó an idea she complied with only after much persuasion.
"As I drank the hot liquid, I felt a burning inside," she told Al-Anwar. "It was horrible, indescribable. I was suffering from my chin down to my right foot. I was howling, screaming, from pain and also from fear. Suddenly I saw the most wonderful scene in my life: I saw the heart of Jesus, red like blood, beating. The heart was all surrounded by light and my children were standing around it. Then I lost consciousness.... People around me saw my right foot making violent movements, rising up and falling down with an unbelievable force. I remember nothing of all of this. [Later] the gathering saw my left foot making the same violent movements as the right one had done before. It was so violent that I fell down on the floor. My foot continued its sudden movements with more power than three men were capable of restraining. I was still unconscious. I stayed in bed, weakened, till the morning of the third day, when my little child woke me up; only then did I know I had been cured, and I was able to walk again normally and serve my family."
Nadia Sader still did not know what to make of it all, wavering between belief and non-belief, even after several more appearances to her of Charbel and Jesus. "I have snatched you from your deathbed, and you still donít believe?" Jesus asked her. Nadiaís home became a place of pilgrimage where icons of Jesus, the Virgin Mary and St Charbel exuded oil but Nadia herself continued to swing between faith and fear, especially after a medium told her that the oil had evil origins and was the work of the devil.
Only after repeated appearances of Jesus to her did Nadia finally admit that she was convinced. She subsequently began receiving messages from Charbel. The following are quotations from these messages: "Always ask for the healing of the soul, and donít fear the illness of the body." "Pray for the living, because most of the living are dead, and the dead are living."
Raymond Nader, a Lebanese electro-mechanical engineer, carries with him quite spectacular evidence of Charbelís activities: on one arm he has five fingerprints literally burnt into his skin. The scorched fingerprints have already renewed themselves six times.
Raymond Nader told his story earlier this year, in April 1997, in front of the TV cameras.
On 9 November 1994 he spent a night in the hermitage where Charbel had lived for 23 years. He wanted to meditate and had lit five candles. It was a still, cold night. "Suddenly," he told Murr Television, "I felt warmth around me in the cold night, and a fiery, warm wind began to blow. However, to my great surprise the flames of the candles were steady and still. I tried to reason scientifically, but I thought I might be dreaming or hallucinating. Suddenly I lost my five senses. There was no more warmth or wind or flames. I was in a different world, a world bathed in light. Not the usual light we know, not white, but transparent like crystal water. The light didnít come from a specific direction, but from everywhere. It was a billion times brighter than the light of the Sun....
"In that light I felt a Presence, I couldnít see it, but I was aware of it. ëNo, you are not dreaming, YOU ARE MORE AWAKE THAN EVER.í The Voice came from nowhere and yet from everywhere. I heard it in every part of me, not with my physical ears. It expressed itself to me with no words, no sounds. The Presence presented itself to me as a ëfeelingí of deep peace, and joy and love. At a certain moment I felt that this experience had come to an end. I wanted this joy and peace to last for ever, and if the Presence couldnít stay, I wished at least it would take me with it; but He made me understand that He is always here."
Gradually Nader returned to normal consciousness. "I looked at the candles with astonishment: they were totally consumed. My watch indicated that four hours has passed in a blink of an eye. I left the hermitage, and on the way to my car I felt heat in my arm. I thought it might be a scratch, or an animalís sting. But the heat grew stronger. I took off my pullover, and in the light of my car saw five fingerprints on my arm, showing every detail of human fingers, including the wrinkles and the nails. It was very hot, but there was no pain at all, only itching. For five days it oozed blood and water."
Dr Nabil Hokayem, a plastic surgeon, one of the most famous surgeons in Lebanon, confirmed that it was a second-degree burn.
On the occasion of the Feast Day of Charbel on 15 July in 1995, Raymond Nader had a new and extraordinary experience while visiting the Monastery of St Maron.
"On my way to Charbelís hermitage, I saw a procession ahead of me. I recognized the monks of the monastery, but at the end of the procession was a very old priest. I approached him to ask a few questions. As I came closer to him, everything around me changed. All sounds disappeared, but the old priestís voice resounded inside my head."
It was then that Nader heard one of six messages which he attributes to Charbel. With each message the fingerprints on his arm were renewed.
The following are quotations from these messages:
"The Lord has created each human being to shine, to enlighten the world; you are the light of the world. Each man is a lantern meant to shine; the Lord has provided a clear and transparent glass to the lantern, to enable that light to shine and illuminate the world; but they are taking care of the glass and forgetting about the light; they are caring about the glass shape, colouring and decorating it, until it becomes thick, opaque, preventing light from shining forth, and thus is the world drowned in darkness. The Lord insists on illuminating the world. Your glass must become transparent again. You should realize the purpose for which you are born in this world."
"Christ knows what is in your hearts, and it is your hearts that he wants. Donít seek for the truth outside the Christ; when you know the Christ, you will know the Truth and you will be free. The Christ wants you to be free. Fear not, and be sure that the Christ has defeated the world."
"The Church of the Christ is a rock upon which are being shattered the waves of evil. Christ is the way. Crosses of light will flood the Earth."