In Bekaakafra

His Father is Antoun Zaarour Makhlouf from Bekaakafra, his mother is Brigitta Elias Yaacoub Al Shidiac from Bsharre. His two brothers are Hanna and Beshara and his two sisters: Kawneh and Wardeh and he was the youngest of the family. He was born on the 8th of may 1828 and was baptized at the church of Our Lady of Bekaakafra. The original name of Saint Charbel is Youssef and he changed it when he joined the Maronite Order. His father was a simple peasant like most of the villagers, he lived from cultivating his land, his mother did the housekeeping. Both were pious and good people, they raised their children and gave them a solid Christian education.

The Village of Bekaakafra

In 1831, Antoun Zaarour had a donkey which he used for work in the area of Majdlayya (a village between Zgharta and Tripoli). One day he was caught by men believed to be followers of Emir Bashir Al Shahabi (some sources say Ottomans), and was forced to a corvée by transporting amassments from Majdlayya to Jbeil that were meant to be sent to Beiteddine. On his way back from Jbeil to Bekaakafra he reached Gherfine where he got very sick, he died and was buried. His widow took care of the family and her brother-in-law Tannous Zaarour helped her. Brigitta used to flee the coldness of winter and poverty and take her kids and cows to her parents at Al Khalidya where she helped them amassing olives, and where she used to stay for around four months.

Later on, Brigitta married Lahoud Ben Gerges Ibrahim on october 1833 and she moved with him to the area of Shlifa and Btedhi where he owned lands. Around 1850 Lahoud became a priest and was named Priest Abdel Ahad. He did not serve in Bekaakafra but in the Baalbeck area and he died around 1853.

Youssef lived as an orphan with his uncle Tannous who raised him with his siblings as they remained at their father's house after their mother's marriage. The mother often visited them, and the kids took care of each other, their uncle and other close family members looked after them.

Youssef learned to read and write according to the traditions, at the school of the village in the monastery of Saint Hawshab, the priests of the villages were his teachers. He always carried a book of prayer in his hand and used to work in his father's land, away from people and from socializing, and he liked loneliness. He often looked after the cow in his family's field called The "Bheiss Fortress" where he used to sit on a large rock shaping like a cave, the book of prayer in his hand. Later on the place was called after him "The Saint's Fortress". He used to wait for the cow to finish grazing and talked to her saying: "sleep now flower, now your time is up and it's my turn, I need to pray". He prayed while the cow was asleep and he asked her not to wake up before he finished his prayer because he cannot talk to God and watch over her at the same time, and God is more important! He used to spend long hours in prayer.

Inside the village of Bekaakafra

Everyday he knelt down in the church never looking to anyone, often went to a cave to pray, where he had placed a picture of the Virgin and a bouquet of flowers, and brought incense with him. This cave is now called the "Saint's Cave". He was so dedicated to prayer, so pious, disciplined and polite, he never missed a holy mass or any liturgical celebration to the point that the children of the village used to call him "The Saint" to make fun of him, but they failed to realize that soon he will become one, and that the whole world would be calling him Saint Charbel!

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