- 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 Opening of the Tomb for the Second Time and the Removal of the Body

Then Saba Bou-Moussey reaffirmed the events of the opening of the tomb the second time and the removal of the body of Charbel as ordered by the Patriarch.

The tomb was opened and the body removed in the presence of Father Maroon Mishmshany, Father Joseph Mishmshany, and the hermit, Father Macarius, Charbel's companion in the hermitage. Also present were Brother Peter Mishmshany, Brother Elias Bmehreeni, Father Joseph of Ehmej. As of 1952, three of these people were still alive. The body was then placed in the middle of the church on the bare floor. We asked that the mold be wiped from the body, but Father Maroon, who was in charge, refused. The body was left in the church until morning.

Father Maroon came early to say Mass. He was very much bothered by the odor of the mold. The monks and I entered the church and found the water running from under the body; this was most unusual. The odor from the mold on the body was very strong. We carried the body from the church to the corridor in the monastery, placed it on a mat of hair, took off the clothes, and wiped the mold from it with a large piece of linen, which I kept at home. The odor from the linen was moldy at first, and then it began to emit a sweet perfumed aroma. I kept it as a precious treasure. Many would ask for a piece of the linen as a relic and I would give it to them.

When we finished wiping the mold from the body, we found it in perfect condition from the top of the head to the bottom of the feet. It was as if the soul were present. The hair of Charbel's beard was preserved with a little gray; the hair on his chest was white. One of his eyes was somehow sunken compared to the other because of the dripping of the water Iron the tomb's ceiling during the winter season. On the flesh of his waist, one could see the markings of a chain of wire, but there was no wound. They put another clean monastic robe on the body, placed it in a plain wooden coffin, without a cover, and laid it in a small place on the upper part of the north wall of the church called "Manbash."

Thus far, the testimony of Saba Bou-Moussey, May 10, 1926.

On May 15, 1926, the testimony of Brother Peter of Mishmash was taken. He was the server to the hermit, Father Charbel, and an eyewitness to events. He was among the first who took part in the burial of the man of God and one of those who inspected his body in the tomb and later removed it. He described in detail the condition of the body in the tomb when they took it out, confirming all previous testimony.

The Defender of the Faith asked Brother Peter, "Are you sure this body is the body of Father Charbel?"

Amazed at the question, he answered, "How can I not know Father Charbel? He is himself in all of his body; nothing in him has changed. In fact he looks exactly as he did at the moment of his death!" Then he said, "We took the body out. It was perfect as were the clothes covering it, even though they were stained with mud. The body and the clothes were not wet from the mud, and yet the handle of the shovel, which is made out of wood, disintegrated." This was the shovel that was left in the tomb when Father Charbel was first entombed. This pious and simple brother continued to give his account as others had, adding, "The body was perspiring. We would wipe the perspiration with our handkerchiefs and keep them as relics. I also filled a jar with mold and perspiration. When people knew that I had a jar containing a blessing from the body of Father Charbel, they would take some of its contents believing it would cure them from their illness."

It would have been enough to present the testimony of only two eyewitnesses. However, this event is unusual and of a great importance. For this reason, we prefer document the testimony of a few more eyewitnesses. We are certain that these testimonies will satisfy everyone who reads them, or any non-believer, amazed or not by the historic, unusual and astonishing events. We are relating what we learned officially, without any connivance, or motive of publicity. All testimony was taken in secret, where one witness did not know what the other witness had said. A witness could not discuss or tell anyone what the Judicial Committee had asked him, either before or after the inquiry, remaining silent under the most severe penalty of excommunication, of which no priest could absolve him, since absolution is a right reserved only to His Holiness, the Pope. Moreover, all the witnesses who testified in the cause of Father Charbel were old, pious monks, or lay people known for their deep faith and piety. Everyone of them would prefer to die rather than commit one mortal sin, especially one of this gravity.

Let us now listen to the testimony of Father Joseph of Ehmege, who in 1952 was still living at eighty years of age. In answer to question No. 46, he replied, "Yes, I was present when the tomb was opened and I saw the body of Father Charbel. I was sure it was him because his body was exactly as it was when he was alive, and there was no decay."

He also said in answer to question No. 48,

When the body was taken out of the tomb, the hands were folded in the shape of a cross. The body was supple, soft and flexible. On the hands you could see the traces of white mold, like cotton, and the same could be seen on his face. When the body was placed in the ground, Saba bou-Moussey wiped the mold from the hands and the face; then the hands and the face appeared as those of a living man who was sleeping. Then, Saba, who was suffering from a backache for one year since being struck by a thunderbolt, wiped his own back with the mold and was cured instantly! He threw his cane away. From the waist of Charbel's body, some red blood was oozing. Somebody filled a jar with the liquid. The body was intact and incorrupt.

Brother Elias Bmehreeny, of the Lebanese Order, and also an eyewitness, gave a brief testimony to corroborate what was said previously.

On October 12, 1926, the Inquiring Committee called on Father Elias of Ehmege, a fifty-year-old monk of the Lebanese Order, to be an exofficiol witness. He had spent thirty-two years in the religious order, and knew Father Charbel personally. He was present when the tomb was opened the first and the second times, and gave similar documented, detailed testimony. He concluded that Charbel's body was flexible, tender, exuding fresh blood as if he had died that very hour, with no sign of corruption.

Joseph Elias Abou-Sleiman, an associate-worker at the monastery, said, "When the body of Father Charbel was taken from the grave, the light which used to appear on the grave did not appear anymore. I saw the body, and recognized it as that of Father Charbel."

Just as significant is the testimony of Father Francis Sibrini on May 14, 1926, when the Chief Justice asked him to describe "the condition of the body when it was taken out of the tomb; was it dry or moist; was it exuding anything; did it have any sign of corruption?" Father Sibrini replied, "It was moist, flexible; its color, blackened; the stomach caved in, with the trace of injury where the iron cincture Charbel used to wear was tied. There was no sign of corruption. An unpleasant odor, of mold, however, was emanating from it. The body itself was perfect, as it was at the hour of his death."

About the body, he said, "The monks, obeying the orders of the Patriarch, removed the body from the tomb to the arc of the church. During the night, they placed the body on the roof to allow the mold and the dampness to dry out. In the morning they transferred it to a simple coffin and buried it in a location in the church where it was practically impossible for visitors to see it."

George Emmanuel of Annaya knew Father Charbel personally when he was alive, and one of those who carried his body from the hermitage to the monastery on December 26, 1898. He also took part in the burial of the "saint" in the monks' common grave.

His testimony is essentially the same as the other eyewitnesses as to the aura of light, the incorrupt corpse, and the subsequent transfer of Father Charbel's body to the staircase of the northern wall of the church.

The witness was giving his testimony inside the church. "When his clothes were removed, and others replaced them, I saw his hands, his feet, and his head. All appeared exactly as when he was alive; even his beard, his eyebrows and the hair on his head were the same but his right eye was a little whitened because of the dripping water. After the body was taken out of the grave, it was placed on the stairway in perfect condition." At this the Defender of the Faith asked the witness, "You sound like you know everything that goes on in the monastery; as if you are one of the monks. Did anybody teach you what to say? Did anybody promise you money?" The witness replied, "Father, do not be surprised. I was an employee in the monastery, then I became a co-worker. When visitors arrive at the monastery, or when something special happens, we, the coworkers, come to serve. On holy days of obligation, even on working days, we attend Mass at the monastery; we labor at the monastery. When it comes to opening the graves and burying the monks, along with all manual tasks, we perform these duties without pay. Nobody instructed me regarding Father Charbel, neither today, nor any other day. Moreover, when we heard of the excommunication reserved to the Pope concerning perjured witnesses, we trembled with fear. When you ask us a question, we think carefully and examine our conscience ten times before we answer. Moreover, I don't see that the monks are very much concerned about the beatification of Father Charbel. On the contrary, I see many faces frowning, especially the Father Superior's. The reason? There have been too many expenses incurred since the Inquisition Committee stayed here. And I think you, yourselves, have noticed the apathy."

Father Nemetallah Mishmshany, Superior of the Monastery of St. Maron Annaya, said in his testimony, "They removed him from the tomb because of the many lights which appeared radiating from the tomb; not for the purpose of worshipping him. As for the permission of the Patriarch, I don't know if it was written oral, since I do not have it among other documents in the monastery. The purpose of the transfer was to separate the corpse from the other bodies, to make it clearly identifiable. It gas he, Charbel himself"

Brother Peter of Myfook, well known in the Lebanese Order as one of the most venerable, respected monks, and who died on July 20, 1952, at the age of ninety-two, was asked the following questions: "Was the grave dry or wet? Did you, yourself, see the body of Father Charbel the day of the funeral, and when it was taken out of the grave? Was it the same body? And for how long was the body in the grave until the day it was removed?"

Here is his reply: "I placed him in the grave; along with others. Among them were Brother Francis of Artaba, and Brother Elias of Bmahreen. The grave was like a puddle of water and mud; water was dripping in abundance from the ceiling. Thus was the condition of the grave. When we removed the body, after less than five months, (the Superior had gone to attend a meeting of the Order), we found the shovel, which we had forgotten in the grave on the day of the funeral. The handle was rotted from the water and the dampness. We recognized the body of Father Charbel. It was he, himself; sound and incorrupt, the clothing and the body intact. I remember very well that his undergarments were dry, with no trace of moisture. Blood, however, was dripping from the body. We were incredulous at the fact that it had not disintegrated in that grave."

Now we see that the prophecy of the Superior, which he had written in the Record of the Dead, has been fulfilled. "We don't know when and if the chapter of his life will ever end. The years will go by, and he will stay forever with God."

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
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