- Saint Charbel, a Saint from Lebanon
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Life of Saint Charbel Also Read The Call of the Desert
From the Church of the Hermitage to the Church of the Monastery
From the book, Three Lights From the East, by Father Mansour Awad.

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The Burial

At 3:00 o'clock in the afternoon of that day, the customary funeral service for monks and hermits was held in the church of St. Maron Annaya. When the liturgical prayers of the funeral were completed, those participating believed that the life of Father Charbel and his memory on earth had ended, and that this was the last prayer Father Charbel would attend in the church of the monastery.

The funeral was very plain. No one person eulogized Father Charbel because each and everyone present was in conversation praising Charbel for his attitude, his piety and his sentiments. He lived quietly and wanted to die and be buried without notice. His attitude about living and dying was in conformity with his humble life. In this sense, the fact that it was snowing and was frigid cold helped to simplify the funeral ceremonies. Moreover, the superior of the monastery, Father Anthony Mishmshany, well known for his prudence, his sagacity and his appreciation of pious monks, was absent for several reasons, one of which was that the Maronite patriarch, John Peter Hage was ill, and had died. Therefore, the fathers at the monastery of St. Maron did not know what to do in the absence of the superior to honor Father Charbel at his death in a manner befitting his sublime virtues.

After the funeral, the monks were about to carry the body to the common grave of the monastery, when some of them came up with the idea of placing Father Charbel in a coffin for the purpose of keeping him separate from the bodies of the other deceased monks. However, the vicar responded: "We cannot go against the rules without consent. According to our by-laws, we cannot bury the monk in a coffin without the permission of our superior."

This is what the eye-witnesses, Brother Francis of Artaba, said in this respect (page 105 of Investigation): "On the glorious feast of Christmas, the funeral of Father Charbel took place. When the time came to bury him, some of the monks wanted him to be buried alone in a special place because the common grave was full of water. They felt he should not be buried there because he was a saint. Others, among them, the vicar to the superior, insisted that he be buried in the common grave. The vicar said 'If he is a saint, he will preserve himself.' And so Charbel was buried in the common grave."

Saba Bou-Moussey, another eye-witness, testified as to the flow of people who came to attend the rite of the funeral. "We went to the monastery to attend his funeral. We found crowds who had travelled from all areas around the monastery, Christians and Shiites-Moslems from Hojula and its neighboring villages, the expression of sadness and sorrow on their faces attesting to the greatness of this loss. Most of them had not been asked to come. They came of their own volition out of respect for and to receive a blessing from Father Charbel."

Brother Francis Artaba and Saba Bou-Moussey were not the only ones to testify. Many of those who were present at the death and burial also testified. We limited ourselves to two witnesses taken from the official investigation, for the simple reason of showing the source of our information (Father Mansour Awad wrote this account before Charbel was canonized in 1974).

After the funeral, the body of Father Charbel was carried on the shoulders of his brother monks to the common grave. All tongues were saying to him, "We congratulate you, O saint! Remember us before God. Pray us, so God may have mercy on us, and grand us a happy death."

The Burial of Saint Charbel In the Common Grave at St. Maron Annaya

The funeral ended and there was a complete silence, like an eloquent euIogy to the hermit who spent all his life in silence. The fathers of the monastery approached, carried the holy body and placed it at the entrance of the common grave of monks. The custom was that in the funeral of clerics, members of the clergy carry the priest's body first in procession and then to the grave. There, despite the freezing cold, a crowd of people gathered, among them women who had come to see the face of Father Charbel and to have a perfect view of the monk who had not allowed a full view of his face to ever be seen by women. It was the first and the last me they would see him, so they believed. None was able to foresee the future and know what would happen to this man of God and to his body. Who was capable of rolling away for these women, for their sons and daughters, the stone God used to seal the life of Father Charbel, the hermit, and place it at the door of death, the door of this grave, so they, the women, could see the face of Father Charbel before the day of Resurrection? The entrance of the grave was narrow and low to a degree where it was level with the ground, even below it. It was open!

Some clergy and lay people entered the grave to prepare a place for the body of Charbel. There they found no other body of the deceased monks preserved. They gathered the bones of the dead and placed them to one side.

What worried those who entered the grave to prepare a place for Charbel was the fact that the floor was full of mud and water leaking profusely from the ceiling and the eastern wall and especially through the door. The floor of the grave in the winter was like a little pond. When the condition of the grave was reported to the Vicar, in the absence of the Superior, he gave orders to have two planks placed on the floor of the grave over two large stones. When this was done, the body of Father Charbel was lowered into the grave and placed on two planks. His body was purposely positioned in such a way that it rested where the main altar was located.

In spirit he could join the monks in their prayers, meditations, Masses and visits to the Blessed Sacrament. Since it was impossible for him to be buried in the church, he was buried as close to it as possible.

All the monks and lay people who had accompanied the body of Father Charbel into the grave knelt down in the mud and kissed his hands and his feet. All were crying. The water was dripping on them from the ceiling and their feet were immersed in mud and water up to their ankles. After they came out of the grave, they put the stone over the entrance and covered it with dirt and snow. Then the final prayer was said by one of the fathers. They all were saying, "He is a saint! Lucky him." Others said, "It is a shame that he is buried in the mud! If the Father Superior were here, he would not have allowed Father Charbel to be buried but in a proper coffin."

Our description of the funeral of Father Charbel is not our own; we obtain it from the description of the grave as reported by the official investigation of 1926 on the burial of Father Charbel on December 25, 1898.

[The author is repeating details about the grave: again stating that there were no preserved bodies there, only bones, and mud and water. As a lawyer, Fr. Awad wanted to ask witnesses and consult records just to prove his facts. The body found uncorrupt later in the grave was indeed that of Father Charbel.]

After the burial, everybody returned home, telling their families about the ceremony, about their feelings, about how miserable the grave was and describing the mud and water, which filled it. They told their relatives, "No doubt the body of Father Charbel will decompose quickly because it is buried in a pond of mud and water. Father Charbel humiliated his body in life and now he seems to want to have it mortified after death, so it will be totally annihilated before God. He wanted his bones to be mixed with those of his brother monks, so he wouldn't have any privileges over.

A Prophecy in the Recording Of Father Charbel's Death

A week after the death of Father Charbel, the Superior of the monastery, Father Anthony Mishmshany, returned. He was a prudent, scholarly, and very intelligent and pious monk. When he learned of the death of Father Charbel, he said:

> This is a monk who knew how to best utilize his years when a monk, or a novice, or a student, and whenever he was stationed, at the monastery of Kfeefan, at the monastery of St. Maron Annaya, or at the hermitage. To him we can easily apply the saying of Pope Sixtus V: "Give me a monk who observes his spirit and the letter of his monastic rules and I will beatify him in his life! "The hermit monk observed the monastic and hermitic rules in spirit and in behavior all his life. <

He sanctified the Monastery of St. Maron when he lived there; he sanctified the grounds of the monastery by the sweat of his brow for eighteen years, plowing the field day after day, except on Sundays and holy days. His work was continuous prayer. He sanctified the hermitage by the monastic life, which surpasses ordinary human capability. He sanctified the vineyard of the hermitage also, by his hard labor without his ever tasting of the grapes it produced. His entire life was a chain of fruitful work of soul and body. He detached himself from everything in order to dedicate himself totally to God. All his actions were performed by virtue of supernatural grace.

This hermit will sanctify the cemetery of the monastery. From his grave, he will watch over the monastery, the hermitage, the neighborhood, the Order, the Maronite Church and Lebanon. I have a deep feeling that Charbel will be of great importance in his death. People outside the hermitage never felt his presence when he was alive as we did, because he was secluded in the monastery and on top of the mountain, living as a hermit. He was absolutely forgotten. But, in the grave, even if he is concealed, even after his body goes to the earth from which it was taken, his ashes will be holy and God will use him to perform great things. I am very sorry he died while I was away. I wished I was present to receive his blessings, which, to me, would have been like the blessings of Abraham to Isaac, like the blessing of Isaac to Jacob, like the blessing of Jacob to his children. If I were here when he died, I would have placed him in a closed coffin. To preserve his bones as sacred relics.

Then this wise Superior went straight to the grave, knelt down in the mud nearby where Father Charbel was buried and prayed for half an hour. The monks, knowing that he was there, came and knelt down behind him. Most of them thought he was praying for the repose of the soul of Father Charbel. However, he was praying to Father Charbel, asking his intercession on behalf of the monastery where he had lived, for the hermitage where he had spent twenty-three years glorifying God, for his companions residing in these two places, for the Order and for the Maronite Church, because he believed Charbel was a saint.

When the Father Superior stood up, the monks noticed the tears pouring down his face and onto his beard. Then he addressed his community saying, "With the death of Father Charbel, we have lost the lightning rod which was protecting the Order, the Maronite Church and Lebanon with his saintly life. We pray God will have mercy on us and grant that the mission of his servant, Charbel, will remain with us here on earth, just as God promised the house of David that their lamp would be extinguished on earth for the glory of his servant, David." I the Father Superior lifted up his eyes and prayed, "Lord, for the monastery, for the Order and for Lebanon, preserve the lamp of water, which you lighted for your servant, Charbel, in a miraculous way. Preserve this lamp shinning in his body, so that it will illuminate our way in this darkened world. Deliver us from the dangers that surround us. Help us to walk in the path of poverty, chastity and obedience, which we promised to follow in this life when we made our solemn vows. May we reach Heaven, the Promised Land, from this lamp of exile? Amen!"

Afterwards, the Superior entered the monastery and went to his room, closed the door and knelt down in prayer. He took the Record of the Dead, blessed himself with the sign of the cross, and recorded the death of Father Charbel in this way:

On the 24th day of the month of December 1898, Father Charbel, the hermit of Bkakafra, died after suffering a stroke and receiving the Sacraments of the dead. He was buried in the monastery's grave. He was sixty-eight years old. Father Anthony Mishmshany 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 where we can say that his obedience was angelic, not human.

The Superior of the monastery, Fr. Anthony Mishmshany, knew Father Charbel very well. He knew the miracles God performed through Charbel during his life; he valued his monastic virtues and the sublimity of his monastic perfection in the hermitage. When this Father Superior recorded the death of Charbel, no doubt he was inspired to predict the future miracles we have since seen with our own eyes of which thousands of people throughout the world have heard. In fact, the phenomena taking place continuously around the tomb of Father Charbel, especially since April 22, 1960, is enough to tell us what this great Father Superior omitted to say regarding the life of Father Charbel. Blessed be God who uses His people to record what God has decreed for all eternity.

This prophecy of Father Anthony, which he had written in the Record of the Dead, was forgotten until the events of February 20, 1950 of which we will speak later. I was appointed Defender of the Faith by his Beatitude, the Maronite Patriarch, Anthony Peter Areeda, by a decree, dated March 19th, to open the tomb of Father Makhlouf and to inspect his body in the = of the Medical Committee.

Sections: 1  2  3  4  5  6   |   << Previous :: Next >>

From the Church of the Hermitage to the Church of the Monastery
From the book, Three Lights From the East, by Father Mansour Awad.
Also Read The Call of the Desert
+  Home + Life + Miracles + Photos + Links  + + + +

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