St. Sharbel relics coming to Maronite churches

| November 4, 2015 | 0 Comments

Maronite Catholics have heard about the miracles — reportedly thousands of them. Some parishioners of St. Maron Maronite Church in Minneapolis say they’ve even witnessed them. Now, all Catholics have the opportunity to venerate first-class relics from the man credited with miracles claimed from Lebanon to the U.S. — St. Sharbel Makhlouf.

This picture of St. Sharbel, artist unknown, has been used for decades. Courtesy Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun

This picture of St. Sharbel, artist unknown, has been used for decades. Courtesy Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun

Contained in a hand-carved wooden reliquary, bone fragments of the 19th-century Lebanese saint were set to be on display at St. Maron Nov. 4-5 and Nov. 7-8, and at Holy Family Maronite Church in Mendota Heights Nov. 5-6.

“It’s exciting for people because we hear so much about St. Sharbel’s miracles,” said Chorbishop Sharbel Maroun, pastor of St. Maron. He credits the saint, his namesake, with clearing his younger brother’s hand full of warts.

Chorbishop Maroun was instrumental in bringing the relics to the U.S., where they will visit all 30-some Maronite Catholic parishes and some Roman and Byzantine Catholic parishes. This year, Maronite Catholics are celebrating the 50th anniversary of St. Sharbel’s beatification.

A man of many miracles

Born Youssef Antoun Makhlouf in 1828, St. Sharbel was said to have been a devout child from a young age, even blessing his toys with incense. He was also obedient and scholarly.

He became a monk in 1853 and ordained a priest in 1859. He spent most of his religious life at the Monastery of St. Maron in Annaya, where he became a hermit in 1875. At age 70, he died of a stroke on Christmas Eve of 1898 while celebrating Mass.

While some miracles were attributed to him even before his death, one of the most notable is said to have occurred soon after. The day he was buried, his tomb began to emit light. Then, upon opening his tomb a year after his death, monks discovered his body still intact and emanating a liquid. Even after changing his garments and re-closing the tomb, each time it was opened, his body would still be emanating the liquid.

Chorbishop Maroun said the 1950s were the heyday of reported miracles, and the saint didn’t discriminate; Jews and Muslims also credit St. Sharbel with miraculous healings and interventions.

Blessed Paul VI canonized St. Sharbel, the first Maronite saint formally canonized in Rome, on Oct. 9, 1977. On that day, the statue of St. Sharbel near his tomb reportedly perspired, and the bronze hands rose to bless the huge crowd gathered there to celebrate.

Chorbishop Maroun, who was there as a teenager with his parish youth group, said there were seven obvious miracles that day as evidenced by the people who had left their wheelchairs or crutches behind, having been healed of their paralysis through St. Sharbel.

Power of prayers

Elena Elkhouri, 52 and a parishioner of St. Maron, grew up in Lebanon during part of its civil war, which lasted from 1975-1990. She said St. Sharbel’s canonization was “perfect timing.”

“We needed this,” said Elkhouri, a wife and mother of four who came to the U.S. in 1984. “There was a spiritual revolution in Lebanon. Those [miraculous] signs were really helpful.”

She added: “When I look at St. Sharbel, I see what the power of prayers can do.”

Fellow parishioner Joan Moses said she never thought she’d have the opportunity to venerate St. Sharbel’s relics.

“I saw the reaction to everyone last year when the relics of St. Rafka came . . . just the presence and the different kind of prayer and veneration when something like that is in front of you in the church, is very overwhelming,” she said. “I felt like our community came together even more.”

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