By Father Mieczysław Piotrowski TChr,
Saints are visible signs of the presence and activity of the invisible God. Through them, Jesus Christ unceasingly works miracles and wonders, by means of which he calls us to repentance and conversion.
Father Charbel Makhlouf was beatified by Pope Paul VI on December 5, 1965 and canonized on October 9, 1977. Throngs of pilgrims continue to visit the hermit’s grave, where many have been miraculously healed in body and spirit.
Saint Charbel’s mysterious photo
From the moment St. Charbel entered the monastery, nobody, aside from his fellow-monks, saw his face, and no one took his photograph. On May 8, 1950, the hermit’s birthday, four Maronite missionaries came on pilgrimage to his tomb. After praying, they took a photograph of themselves and the guard on duty. After developing the photograph, they found the figure of a mysterious hooded monk with a white beard standing next to the missionaries. Experts ruled out trick photography. The oldest monks, who had known Father Charbel, recognized him as the Saint himself, just as he had looked during the last years of his life. All subsequent portraits of the Saint were based upon this photo, including those displayed in St. Peter’s Square during his beatification and canonization.
The miraculous cures chosen for beatification and canonization
Among the thousands of miraculous cures attributed to St. Charbel’s intercession three were chosen to complete the processes of beatification and canonization. In 1936, Maria Abel Kamari, a thirty-year old nun, became seriously ill. She had extensive gastric ulcers. After two operations there was no improvement, and the nun was still unable to eat. She developed osteoporosis, lost her teeth, and her right hand was paralyzed. In 1942, her condition had become so serious that she was bedridden and continually on the verge of death. After receiving the Sacrament of the Sick, Sister Maria began to pray fervently for a healing through St. Charbel’s intercession. On July 11, 1950, at her urgent request, she was taken to the hermit’s tomb. When Sister Maria touched the tomb, she felt something like an electric shock go through her whole body. She dipped her handkerchief in the mysterious fluid which flowed from St. Charbel’s body and seeped through the marble sarcophagus. Upon daubing the affected parts of her body with the handkerchief, she immediately rose unaided from the stretcher and began to walk normally. Seeing this, the crowd of people began to shout with joy, saying that a miracle had taken place. She was completely healed from that moment on, as detailed medical tests subsequently confirmed.
Iskander Obeid was a blacksmith. In 1925, while he was at work in his smithy, a piece of metal severely damaged his right eye. By a strange coincidence, in 1937, again while working, he injured the same eye so badly that he could no longer see through it. Doctors decided to remove the eye. Despite the continuous pain the injured eye caused him, Iskander refused to have it removed. In 1950, he began to pray earnestly to St. Charbel for a cure. One night, he saw the hermit in a dream. The Saint asked him to make a pilgrimage to his tomb in the monastery at Annaya. Iskander made up his mind to go there on October 18. When he arrived, the pain in his eye was unbearable. After confession and receiving Jesus in Holy Communion, Iskander spent a long time in prayer at St. Charbel’s tomb. That night he dreamed he saw St. Charbel blessing him. When he awoke in the morning, he realized to his great joy that the pain had gone and that he could see out of his right eye. A medical board confirmed the fact that there had been a complete and miraculous regeneration of the damaged eye.
Mariam Assai Awad, a Syrian woman living in Lebanon, discovered that she had stomach cancer with secondaries to her intestines and throat. Operations in 1963 and 1965 proved to be of no help. From a medical point of view, Mariam had no prospect of a cure. She was discharged from the hospital and allowed to go home to die. Mariam began to call on St. Charbel’s help. One night in 1967, before going to sleep, she prayed fervently for a complete cure through the Saint’s intercession. When she awoke in the morning she found that all the symptoms of her illness had disappeared. The doctors of the local hospital were amazed to see Mariam moving about unaided. Detailed tests confirmed that she had been inexplicably cured.
Miraculous signs in Russia
Anatoly Bayukansky, editor-in-chief of the Russian monthly magazine Lekar (Physician), first learned about St. Charbel upon reading an article in the Belarus monthly Odkryvtsa. He learned that the Lebanese saint cured numerous illnesses and helped people to discover and embrace the treasure of the Christian faith. In 1997 Anatoly decided to run an article about St. Charbel (including his picture) in his magazine. The response was overwhelming. Over 5000 letters flowed into his editorial office from Russia and Belarus with personal accounts of miraculous healings and favors attributed to the intercession of St. Charbel. He found this all the more amazing since, after so many years of Communist-enforced atheism, the Russian people are not inclined to believe in miraculous cures, especially those attributed to a Catholic saint. In five subsequent publications of Lekar, Anatoly published photographs of St. Charbel, along with numerous testimonies of cures ascribed to his intercession. Readers wrote of being healed of every kind of incurable sickness: advanced cancers, paralyses, gangrene, unconsciousness, comas, as well as other, lesser, afflictions. Alas, Anatoly’s articles and books on St. Charbel were not well received by many orthodox priests and Russian journalists. He was severely criticized for propagating the cult of a Catholic saint, and some orthodox priests called on their parishioners to burn images of St. Charbel.
Anatoly Bayukansky made a pilgrimage to St. Charbel’s tomb. He took with him the letters sent to him by his readers, to place them on the holy hermit’s tomb. The pilgrimage greatly strengthened his faith. Since many of his incurably sick readers had received the grace of a total healing, he felt palpably close to St. Charbel and his miraculous intercession with God. Anatoly became convinced that everything is possible for those who truly believe and trust in God, and pray for the intercession of the Saints.
Prepared by Fr Mieczyslaw Piotrowski SChr
Address to St. Charbel’s Shrine:
Saint Marone’s Convent
Saint Charbel’s Tomb
Lebanon tel: 00961- 9 760130
fax: 00961- 9 760135;
The above article was published with permission from Miłujcie się! in November 2010