The Scent Of Jesus!

From Estephan the monk

Brother Estephan was revered and very respected by everyone, people admired his righteousness and his true piety, and the exceptional virtues that he had. With his charming character, everybody loved him for what he represented. Superiors used to compete between themselves to have him in their monasteries, as a joy for the convent. He was the exemplary monk for the people of the monastery, including the fathers and brothers, he was the lighthouse for the workers, and the example to follow for everyone else with his good behavior. Everybody spoke about the holiness of his soul, and if he ever heard an unnecessary or bad discussion he showed his displeasure on his face, and the discussion would end immediately out of respect for him.

Monastery of Kfifane, where Blessed Brother Estephan
spent most of his monastic life

Beshara Nehme witnessed:” I first met him when he was a student at the institute of Our Lady of Mayfouq, at church he was a living example of faith and of the spirit of piety to anyone who looked at him, especially for us children”.

His nephew witnessed:”when we were young men, sometimes we used to meet with him, and we always saw in him the good example. The good news that we used to hear about him from the Maronite Order, were like the perfume of the Christ that was scented everywhere”.

His nephew the priest Boulos witnessed:”my uncle made me want to be pious, and he was the one who encouraged me to the priesthood and gave me the good example. I used to see in him the Christ with his humbleness and meekness”.

His niece, Sister Marina witnessed:”Every time I saw him he lectured me about ethics and good behaviors and he said to me: “beware my daughter, a girl is like glass, if she is damaged she will fade. Preserve your religious duties and keep away from the unethical manners of the girls of this generation, and do not follow fashion”. He made me want the religious order with his love and wisdom, as I never dreamt to join the monastery. He proceeded to ask for an acceptance for me to join the monastery, but his early death didn’t let him finish the job, so I blamed my luck! But on one night I saw my uncle Brother Estephan and he said to me:”do not be scared, I did not die, I’m alive!” so I told him: what about my vocation? He answered: “do not be scared, leave it to God and all will be fine”. On the next day I was granted the acceptance and I joined the monastery”.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Tuesday 31st of May, 2011

Tuesday of the sixth Week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 3:13-21
13 Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let those of us who are mature be thus minded; and if in anything you are otherwise minded, God will reveal that also to you. 16 Only let us hold true to what we have attained. 17 Brothers and sisters, join in imitating me, and mark those who so live as you have an example in us. 18 For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. 20 But our commonwealth is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will change our lowly body to be like his glorious body, by the power which enables him even to subject all things to himself.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 11:17-27
17 Now when Jesus came, he found that Lazarus had already been in the tomb four days. 18 Bethany was near Jerusalem, about two miles off, 19 and many of the Jews had come to Martha and Mary to console them concerning their brother. 20 When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went and met him, while Mary sat in the house. 21 Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died. 22 And even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you." 23 Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again." 24 Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day." 25 Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26 and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?" 27 She said to him, "Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, he who is coming into the world."

Al Hardini At the Monastery of Annaya

From Al Hardini the monk and the priest

After the end of his mandate as vicar general, Al Hardini was sent to the monastery of Annaya, and he was still relatively young, to be the novices teacher. On the 25th of July 1848, the general authority appointed him as the agent of the monastery of Annaya. He contributed to the development of the monastery, as several lands were bought during the period of his agency, besides the lands bought by his brother the hermit Alishaa. The Wakf of the monastery was also created. Father Al Hardini used to go frequently to the monastery of Kfifane to teach Theology.

The Monastery of Saint Maron Annaya with the new Church

During those difficult days, Al Hardini often visited his brother the hermit Alishaa to share with him his worries and to confess to him. Alishaa used to ask him with insistence to join him at the hermitage where he can live in peace and serenity and told him: “it would be appropriate for you to leave the monastery and come to this hermitage and spend the rest of your days here away from the noise of the world, here you can fully concentrate on prayer and meditation and you can have peace of mind”.

Al Hardini used to answer Alishaa:” Those who thrive in their life with others will have a greater reward, because they have to endure a lot, be patient and be submitted to others wills and bear with the feeble. Life with others is like a continuous martyrdom as a monk cannot act according to his taste or character, but he should always make sure not to offend others. He should always be careful about his job and behaviors, to keep his reputation clean among his brothers. As for the hermit, he is alone, away from external temptation, spends all his time in prayer and work in the field, while at the monastery the monk is subject to strict obedience. In the hermitage one cannot be the target for premeditated evil acts, while living with others exposes the monk commonly to such acts, therefore we must live in the monasteries with our brothers the monks and endure patiently and firmly any despise or abuse that we may incur, then our reward will be greater and we will receive atonement for our sins as the Lord says:”the one who stands firm to the end will be saved” (Matthew 24:13). A good doer in the monastery is an example to others, yet I think that everyone has a vocation, people are not alike, some are called for hermit seclusion, some for life with others, and this is my vocation and I have embraced it since the beginning”.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Monday 30th of May, 2011

Monday of the Sixth Week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 3:1-12
1 Finally, my brothers and sisters, rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is not irksome to me, and is safe for you. 2 Look out for the dogs, look out for the evil-workers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3 For we are the true circumcision, who worship God in spirit, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put no confidence in the flesh. 4 Though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. If any other man thinks he has reason for confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law a Pharisee, 6 as to zeal a persecutor of the church, as to righteousness under the law blameless. 7 But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith; 10 that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 11:1-16
1 Now a certain man was ill, Lazarus of Bethany, the village of Mary and her sister Martha. 2 It was Mary who anointed the Lord with ointment and wiped his feet with her hair, whose brother Lazarus was ill. 3 So the sisters sent to him, saying, "Lord, he whom you love is ill." 4 But when Jesus heard it he said, "This illness is not unto death; it is for the glory of God, so that the Son of God may be glorified by means of it." 5 Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. 6 So when he heard that he was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was. 7 Then after this he said to the disciples, "Let us go into Judea again." 8 The disciples said to him, "Rabbi, the Jews were but now seeking to stone you, and are you going there again?" 9 Jesus answered, "Are there not twelve hours in the day? If any one walks in the day, he does not stumble, because he sees the light of this world. 10 But if any one walks in the night, he stumbles, because the light is not in him." 11 Thus he spoke, and then he said to them, "Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awake him out of sleep." 12 The disciples said to him, "Lord, if he has fallen asleep, he will recover." 13 Now Jesus had spoken of his death, but they thought that he meant taking rest in sleep. 14 Then Jesus told them plainly, "Lazarus is dead; 15 and for your sake I am glad that I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him." 16 Thomas, called the Twin, said to his fellow disciples, "Let us also go, that we may die with him."

Charbel The Apostle

From Charbel the Hermit

Father Charbel was neither a pastor nor an envoy, but every time he had a chance to serve any soul he did it with great joy. He used to listen to the confessions of those who asked him, among them his brothers the monks, the priests and believers. His guidance was always useful and righteous. He was often called to visit the sick and the mourners, he always did his best to comfort them and prayed for them and for the sick, and helped them surrender their problems to Jesus and put their faith in him.

The Statue of Saint Charbel outside the Monastery of
Saint Maron Annaya

He always prayed for the sinners as well as for the welldoers, he often mentioned them during his celebration of the holy mass. Father Charbel was not a homilist, but he never frustrated anyone who asked him from any  advice or guidance. He was always obedient to the Superior, whenever he ordered him to celebrate the holy mass in a church outside the monastery, either on a Sunday or on a Feast day, he complied joyfully and when he finished he went back immediately to the convent without talking to anyone.

When his Superior ordered him to participate in a ceremony of funeral in any of the surrounding villages, he followed strictly the order and abided by going straight to the church. When villagers saw him, they run to him and asked him to pray over water and to bless them, while the Superior and the other priests went first to the house of the deceased then to the church to celebrate the funeral. Father Charbel used to participate to the liturgy of the funeral and return immediately to the monastery afterwards.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Sunday 29th of May, 2011

Sixth Sunday of the Resurrection: appearance to the Twelve

Letter to the Romans 10:1-13
1 Brothers and sisters, my heart's desire and prayer to God for them is that they may be saved. 2 I bear them witness that they have a zeal for God, but it is not enlightened. 3 For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. 4 For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified. 5 Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it. 6 But the righteousness based on faith says, Do not say in your heart, "Who will ascend into heaven?" (that is, to bring Christ down) 7 or "Who will descend into the abyss?" (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). 8 But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach); 9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. 10 For man believes with his heart and so is justified, and he confesses with his lips and so is saved. 11 The scripture says, "No one who believes in him will be put to shame." 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and bestows his riches upon all who call upon him. 13 For, "every one who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved."

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 24:36-48
36 As they were saying this, Jesus himself stood among them. 37 But they were startled and frightened, and supposed that they saw a spirit. 38 And he said to them, "Why are you troubled, and why do questionings rise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself; handle me, and see; for a spirit has not flesh and bones as you see that I have." 40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. 41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, 'Have you anything here to eat?' 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate before them. 44 Then he said to them, "These are my words which I spoke to you, while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms must be fulfilled." 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and said to them, "Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things.

Blessed Brother Estephan Nehme's Daily Activities

From Estephan the Monk

Brother Estephan used to wake up very early in the morning for the holy mass, after receiving the holy Eucharist he used to have a time of meditation, then a morning prayer with the believers. After that, he used to prepare the necessary tools for the work in the fields with the laborers.

Monastery of Our Lady of Succor (Al Maonat) Jbeil, where brother
Estephan used to be the chief of the field

They used to walk the oxen by couples on the way to the land for cultivation, Estephan followed them to the work place with the chaplet in hand praying the rosary. Once on site, he used to put his rosary on a large rock, spread the seed over the land for them to begin their work, and went back to his chaplet to continue his prayer, while watching carefully all the laborers on the field. At noon he sits with the workers to have lunch, then afterwards he spreads again the seed over another portion of land for them to continue their work, while he goes back again to prayer till the end of the day.

After the end of the day in the field, the workers gather all the tools and walk the oxen back, while Estephan follows them praying his rosary. When they reach the monastery the workers take the oxen to feed them while Estephan goes to the church, which he never leaves before supper time, after supper he goes again to the church and stays late in the night. This was his daily life all year long when he was in charge of the lands and fields of the monastery.

According to a witness: “He was always ready early in the morning sometimes before dawn, preparing the oxen and waiting for the workers to show up, while praying his rosary. We used to begin our day with him by the prayer of the Angelus with Estephan on his knees. While we worked on the soil, He often carried stones and built walls, reaped the wheat and collected it, and carried alone a large and full bag to the mill, while we sat down under the oak tree eating the fresh fruits that he has collected for us. When the noon bell rings he used to stop his work, kneel down wherever he was standing, even on rocks, and recite the Angelus. At the end of the day we used to pray the Angelus again, in the same way that we have started our day”.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Saturday 28th of May, 2011

Saturday of the Fifth Week of the Resurrection

First Letter to the Philippians 2:19-30
19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I may be cheered by news of you. 20 I have no one like him, who will be genuinely anxious for your welfare. 21 They all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. 22 But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel. 23 I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me; 24 and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself shall come also. 25 I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need, 26 for he has been longing for you all, and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill. 27 Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. 28 I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. 29 So receive him in the Lord with all joy; and honor such men, 30 for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete your service to me.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 17:24-27
24 When they came to Capernaum, the collectors of the temple tax went up to Peter and said, "Does not your teacher pay the tax?" 25 He said, "Yes." And when he came home, Jesus spoke to him first, saying, "What do you think, Simon? From whom do kings of the earth take toll or tribute? From their sons or from others?" 26 And when he said, "From others," Jesus said to him, "Then the sons are free. 27 However, not to give offense to them, go to the sea and cast a hook, and take the first fish that comes up, and when you open its mouth you will find a coin; take that and give it to them for me and for yourself."


Al Hardini Vicar General

On the 17th of February 1845, the Vatican issued an apostolic order for the designation of the General Authority of the Maronite Order. Father Saba Al Akouri was appointed Superior General, and fathers: Boulos from Mtein, Al Hardini from Hardine, Karubim from Bkassine, and Hanania from Aramoun, were appointed vicars general.

With the chaotic situation that was prevailing at the maronite order at that time, and with the influence and interference of the political authorities, many monks were pushed to protest against such nominations. Some of them went even further and broke in into the monastery of Tamish, and confiscated the documents and registers of the superior’s office, as well as the seals of the superior and the vicars general. The Superior was forced later on to have new seals forged for his office for the year 1845.

As for father Al Hardini who was aware of the situation, he dismounted the seal related to his position and hid it at the corner of the outside lintel of the window in his room, then he closed firmly the window. When the conspirators reached his office, they asked him for his seal in a respectful way, saying:"reverent father please give us the seal" and he answered them:"the seal is not with me, sons". Al Hardini was the only vicar general who saved his seal thanks to his wisdom and common sense.

During Al Hardini's time and according to the monastic rules, every vicar general had a private servant who accompanied him and served him. Al Hardini refused to have someone dedicated for his service, and he continued to serve himself. On the other hand, he kept on traveling frequently to the monastery of Kfifane to teach the brothers.

Monastery of Saint Rock (Mar Roukoz) Ajaltoun

On the 26th of September 1845, Al Hardini took part in the congregation of the vicars general upon which   many important resolutions were taken such as the decision to build the monastery of Saint Rock (Mar Roukoz) Ajaltoun, and to convert some of the Order’s locations into monasteries like: Al Kattara, Jdeideh, Ashash, Saint Yaacoub Al Hosn, Kobbayh and Rimat. On 1847, the northern passageway in the monastery of Annaya was built. Higher education was introduced to the order as well as foreign languages, and several elite monks were commissioned to the "Jesuit fathers school" in Ghazir for this end. Also on 1847, the Zeghzeghi family donated a house to the Maronite Order in Hammana which was converted later on into a school for the villagers.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Friday 27th of May, 2011

Friday of the Fifth Week of the Resurrection

First Letter to the Philippians 2:12-18
12 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; 13 for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. 14 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, 15 that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain. 17 Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all. 18 Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 18:18-22
18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them." 21 Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" 22 Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Saint Charbel's Daily Activities

When the morning bell at the monastery of Saint Maron Annaya rings very early in the morning, father Charbel could already be seen on his knees at the door of the church, holding his book of prayer against his chest, his head inclined, and praying. He celebrated the holy mass early and left for his work without any delay or pause, taking with him his rope and pick. On his way to work, whether near or far, he held his chaplet in his hand and prayed all the way, never talked to anyone on his path, not even looked right or left. If anyone greeted him by:”Praise God”, he answered:”God Bless You”.

When he reached the place where his superior has instructed him to go, he would immediately begin his work with enthusiasm and motivation. He worked with all his power, continuously without taking any break. He dug with his pick without raising his head, sweat poured from all of his body, and his clothes would become all sweaty. He never took the hood off his head to wipe his forehead from excessive sweat. He built walls, collected stones, and did all kinds of earthworks. His eyes never left the ground during work, sometimes his hands trembled from extreme fatigue, and his palms were cracked from the excess of hard work.

Monastery of Saint Maron Annaya and its surounding lands

In winter time as in summer and harvest time, he never took the hood off his head. When others used to have time for a rest, to have cold water and to chat, he used to sit alone by himself never talking to anyone, not even drinking a drop of water.

When the bell rang for prayer he knelt down, raised his hands and prayed, then got back to work. If the chief of the field was late to call him to lunch at noontime, he never objected. All that was heard around him was the sound of his pick against the stones, or against the earth that he was digging, otherwise silence was his companion and his friend.

The other monks and all the workers used to revere him a lot, they had a lot of respect for his virtues and they avoided to discuss casual subjects in front of him. No one dared to joke in front of him, or talk to him about any news or stories because he didn’t care about anything that was happening either in the Order, in the country or even in the world. His only preoccupation was God and his work, leaving everything else to the Divine care.

He always stayed at work until sunset, and if the chief of the field stayed late, he used to stay with him and worked with the same enthusiasm of the day. He never drew the chief’s attention to the end of the day. In the evening, he used to collect a large amount of logs of wood that he carried on his back all the way to the monastery with the chaplet in hand, praying. During the days of heavy rains or snow, Sundays and feast days, he was either at the church or in his room.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Thursday 26th Of May, 2011

Thursday of the Fifth Week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 2:1-11
1 So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any incentive of love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, 2 complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. 3 Do nothing from selfishness or conceit, but in humility count others better than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:11-20
11 How is it that you fail to perceive that I did not speak about bread? Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and Sadducees." 12 Then they understood that he did not tell them to beware of the yeast of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees. 13 Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do men say that the Son of man is?" 14 And they said, "Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." 15 He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" 16 Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." 17 And Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. 19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." 20 Then he strictly charged the disciples to tell no one that he was the Christ.

Permanent Peace

Brother Estephan was known to be meek, calm and serene, he never got angry but was always patient, kind and merciful with everyone. His life was very organized, he never complained about people, food or any other matter. He always followed Jesus words:” blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God”. He loved peace and hated disputes between people, he used to interfere quickly to resolve any argument using his wisdom and experience about things, and restore peace in the hearts.

Monastery of Our Lady of Succor (Al Maonat) Jbeil,
at the time of Brother Estephan

Brother Estephan was the chief of the field belonging to the Monastery of Our Lady of Succor (Al Maonat), and he had cultivators with him working on the land of the monastery. On One occasion, one of the cultivators was yelling and swearing loudly at the ox which was not responding (as oxen usually get used to their master's voice and obey him to go right or left or to stop), so he started to aggress the ox and poke it with a sharp needle, and the ox was becoming more nervous and uncontrollable, and was about to break the yoke.

Brother Estephan used to dismiss any worker who misbehaves or uses any bad words, but on this occasion he came to the cultivator and told him:”Let me handle the ox, go and have some rest”, and he started slowly working on the land again, and the ox obeyed him and returned to normal.

After that the cultivator had a rest for some time and has smoked a cigarette, Brother Estephan called him back to his work, and as the ox has calmed down, he said to him:”Do you see? when you calmed down, so did the ox”. The cultivator thanked him and apologized for his inappropriate words.

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The Gospel Of The Day: Wednesday, 25th of May, 2011

Wednesday of the Fifth Week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 1:21-30
21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If it is to be life in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. 27 Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, 28 and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear omen to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. 29 For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, 30 engaged in the same conflict which you saw and now hear to be mine.    

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 16:21-28
21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men." 24 Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. 25 For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life? 27 For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done. 28 Truly, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom."

Al Hardini The Spear

From Al Hardini the monk and the priest

The first conflict inside the Maronite Order began in 1832 when father Aghnatios Bleibel was imposed by the political authorities for the position of Superior General of the Order. He founded a party to back him up for the position as well, to satisfy his personal goals, justifying his wrongdoings by the need to preserve the political interactions in the region. Once he became Superior, he began disposing of the Maronite Order’s funds and general interests for his own purposes and for his followers, he started spending the Order’s money on the people of his region and on his supporters in other regions, to earn their sympathy and to ensure being re-elected.

This conflict has created divisions and uprisings inside the Maronite Order, which has worried a lot the higher religious positions, and which has resulted in spiritual, cultural and material damages in the Order. Al Hardini in the meantime was patient, surrendering it all to the will of God, putting his faith in the Divine Mercy, consuming his body with fasting and penance in atonement for the sins, insults and blasphemes that have been incurred by the Holy Eucharist, and the severe disturbance to his beloved Order.

A statue of Saint Nehmatallah Al Hardini at the monastery of Kfifane

But the grace of God upon the Maronite Order did not deprive any Maronite convent from tens of righteous monks like father Al Hardini. They were the spear which defended the Order, and God with his Mercy spared the Maronite Order because he found in it more than ten righteous people. Al Hardini was melted by pain, penance and non-stop hard work and prayer, he spent his lifetime in a continuous martyrdom, sanctifying himself by the strict obedience to the monastic rules when so many were breaking them. He had a memorable saying:”The wise man saves himself”.

Father Saba Al Akouri convened his friend and superior of the monastery of Kozhaya, Al Hardini, in an attempt to alleviate the pain of his monks after the big quake which has caused the resignation of father Nehmetallah Awwad Al Hasrouni, the superior of the monastery, and also to safeguard the convent against any eventual hostility from Emir Amin’s side, the son of Emir Beshir The great and patriarch Youssef Hobeich.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Tuesday 24th of May, 2011

Tuesday of the Fifth Week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 1:12-20
12 I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14 and most of the brothers have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice. 19 Yes, and I shall rejoice. For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I shall not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 1:35-42
35 The next day again John was standing with two of his disciples; 36 and he looked at Jesus as he walked, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God!" 37 The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. 38 Jesus turned, and saw them following, and said to them, "What do you seek?" And they said to him, "Rabbi" (which means Teacher), "where are you staying?" 39 He said to them, "Come and see." They came and saw where he was staying; and they stayed with him that day, for it was about the tenth hour. 40 One of the two who heard John speak, and followed him, was Andrew, Simon Peter's brother. 41 He first found his brother Simon, and said to him, "We have found the Messiah" (which means Christ). 42 He brought him to Jesus. Jesus looked at him, and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).

Saint Charbel's Physical Description

Saint Charbel

Saint Charbel was 1.6 meter tall, he had a straight posture, his body was very thin and his biceps flimsy like thumbs, his fingers were long and thin. He had a long pointed nose with clear details, a regular mouth and average neck, a wrinkled forehead, a long hair like all the other hermits as per their habits. He had a rounded and delicate face radiating light and inspiring God’s presence in him.

He used to attract all hearts to him, and through his face one could see happiness, meekness, serenity, and comfort of the heart. His face reflected his piety and his love for God at every moment. The color of his face was dark, brown and suntanned. The excess of penance and long night prayers have made him very skinny, but he walked fast even in his old age, and he was fervent in all his duties.

During prayer, Saint Charbel's face was enlightened by a magical and intriguing light, the heavenly graces were abundently overflowing from him as Jesus has become his strength, his wealth, and his constant joy.

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The Gospel Of The Day: Monday, 23rd of May, 2011

Monday of the fifth week of the Resurrection

Letter to the Philippians 1:1-10
1 Paul and Timothy, servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi, with the bishops and deacons:2 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 3 I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, 4 always in every prayer of mine for you all making my prayer with joy, 5 thankful for your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. 6 And I am sure that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. 7 It is right for me to feel thus about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. 8 For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus. 9 And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, 10 so that you may approve what is excellent, and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Luke 22:28-34
28 "You are those who have continued with me in my trials; 29 and I assign to you, as my Father assigned to me, a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel. 31 "Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers." 33 And he said to him, "Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death." 34 He said, "I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you three times deny that you know me."

The Chief Of The Field

From Estephan the monk

After his novitiate period, brother Estephan mastered the carpentry job pretty well, to the point that it was said about him that he never lets the handle of the saw to cool. With the carpentry job he spent all his monastic life in the Maronite Order for 31 years, working in the convents and in the fields and vineyards.

Monastery of Saint Artemius (Mar Shallita) Al kattara

During the period from 1907 to 1938 and according to the orders of his Superiors, Brother Estephan moved to several different monasteries: Our Lady of Mayfouq (1907-1910), Saint Antonios Houb (1910-1913), Our Lady of Mayfouq again (1913-1922), Saint Maron Annaya (1922-1925), Saint Artemius (Mar Shallita) Al Kattara (1925-1928), Our Lady of Succour (Al Maonat) Jbeil (1928-1938), and finally Saint Cyprian and Justina Kfifane (1938). All these rotations were a holy trip for him and a constant spiritual evolution from matter to light, by praying, serving, and being attentively silent.

Brother Estephan lived all his life with the freedom of spirit, he knew that whoever sins becomes a slave to sin even if he were a monarch. That’s why he had a clear conscience, never feared anyone with regards to the truth, and his only aim was always to please God. He always interceded for the laborers and workers but also never allowed them to use any bad words. Whoever dared to swear in his presence was immediately fired as he used to give him his daily pay and ask him not to come to work on the next day.

Brother Estephan was the chief of the field of the monastery. There was a man from Jran working on his donkey in the monastery of Kfifane. The assistant brother used to ask the laborer to do additional works for free after the end of the day, and used to tell him: God will compensate you. When brother Estephan knew about it, he came to the laborer and told him:” you are tired from work, and at the end of the day you need to go home to feed your donkey and get some rest and do your homework, I am the chief of the field, don’t listen to the brother if he asks you for an extra work after that you have finished your job for the day”.

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The Gospel Of The Day, Sunday 22nd of May, 2011

Fifth Sunday of the Resurrection: Peter receives his Ministry

Letter to the Ephesians 2:1-10
1 And you he made alive, when you were dead through the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. 3 Among these we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of body and mind, and so we were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), 6 and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Holy Gospel Of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 21:15-19
15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."

Charbel Succeeds to Alishaa

From Charbel the Hermit

When father Charbel moved to the hermitage, the wishes of hermit father Alishaa were fulfilled, as he had discovered Charbel’s call for hermit seclusion. Father Charbel used to serve the holy mass for Alishaa and used to take care of his daily necessities and bring him food and beverage from the monastery.

The Hermitage in Annaya

After that Father Charbel had served Alishaa in the hermitage for six years, and after that Alishaa had spent in the hermitage of Annaya forty four years and a half, he died on the thirteen’s of February 1875 and was buried on Sunday the fourteenth of February. On the next day, the Superior of the monastery father Elias Al Meshmeshani ordered father Charbel formally to stay at the hermitage. Charbel stayed at the hermitage with the hermit father Libawos Al Ramati, then father Makarios Al Mishmishani joined them on the 25th of April 1880.

Father Charbel used to come to the monastery to bring the weekly needs of food and beverage to the hermits, and used to put the provisions in a hemp bag and carry it on his back all the way to the hermitage. He used to do that because he considered himself a servant of God and of his brothers.

The Gospel Of The Day, Saturday 21st of May, 2011

Saturday of the fourth week of the Resurrection

First Letter to the Thessalonians, 5:12-28
12 But we beseech you, brothers and sisters, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves. 14 And we exhort you, beloved, admonish the idlers, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 15 See that none of you repays evil for evil, but always seek to do good to one another and to all. 16 Rejoice always, 17 pray constantly, 18 give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 19 Do not quench the Spirit, 20 do not despise prophesying, 21 but test everything; hold fast what is good, 22 abstain from every form of evil. 23 May the God of peace himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24 He who calls you is faithful, and he will do it. 25 Beloved, pray for us. 26 Greet all the brothers and sisters with a holy kiss. 27 I adjure you by the Lord that this letter be read to all of them. 28 The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.    

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint Matthew 14:22-33
22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." 28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

The Gospel Of The Day: Friday 20th Of May, 2011

Friday of the fourth Week of the Resurrection

First Letter to the Thessalonians 4:1-12
1 Finally, brothers and sisters, we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus, that as you learned from us how you ought to live and to please God, just as you are doing, you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from unchastity; 4 that each one of you know how to take a wife for himself in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no man transgress, and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we solemnly forewarned you. 7 For God has not called us for uncleanness, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you. 9 But concerning love of the brothers and sisters you have no need to have any one write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another; 10 and indeed you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. But we exhort you, beloved, to do so more and more, 11 to aspire to live quietly, to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we charged you; 12 so that you may command the respect of outsiders, and be dependent on nobody.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 6:22-27
22 On the next day the people who remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 However, boats from Tiberias came near the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the people saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, "Rabbi, when did you come here?" 26 Jesus answered them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you seek me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you; for on him has God the Father set his seal."

The Curing of Najib El Khoury

From Charbel The Hermit

Around 1873, doctor Najib Beik El Khoury went severely ill and was nearing death. His mother asked for father Charbel to come and pray over him hoping that he would be healed. As his father was also a doctor, he knew that his case was critical and uncurable. When the messenger reached father Charbel, he told him to come by night. Then the messenger explained to him that the patient’s situation is critical and cannot be delayed, and they needed to move instantly. Then father Charbel said:”I will leave now with you, but I do not want anyone to see me”. He said that out of his humbleness because he didn’t want to attract people’s attention to him.

The Way to Saint Charbel's hermitage in Annaya

When they reached the patient’s house, his temperature was very high and he was in a coma. He had typhoid. Father Charbel prayed over him and wiped his forehead with a wet handkerchief of blessed water. The patient opened his eyes immediately after being in a coma for several days and said two words:”Father Charbel!” Then his mother told him to kiss father Charbel’s hand and he did.

Father Charbel then said to those who were present:”Praise God, he is cured, give him something to eat”. First they hesitated because the patient had typhoid and it was believed at that time that food might ruin him, but father Charbel insisted on them to feed him and he left. Afterwards, they gave him food, he ate and was relaxed.

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A Hard Worker

From Estephan The Monk.

Brother Estephan was an exemplary monk in observing and abiding by monastic rules, always doing what the Superior has asked him to do, preserving his monastic vows, moving from a job to another or from a monastery to another as instructed by his superiors, without being attached to anything. The superior cautioned him at table once, so he knelt down immediately in front of everybody: the general authority, the superiors, the monks and the novices asking for forgiveness. He was a true image of a maronite monastic saying, that a monk’s weapons are his chaplet and his knees, meaning prayer and humbleness.

Brother Estephan (the 2nd from the right, fist row) with other monks.
Photo Taken on August 16, 1929

He was pure like an angel, decent in his way of dressing and speaking, never mentioned any bad word. He liked the laborers and used to ask them to refrain from saying bad words.

Taking the example of the Christ who didn’t have a place to lay his head, brother Estephan was of a great integrity, preserving the holy vow of poverty, working as a poor little worker for God and for the Order. He never carried any money and didn’t possess any of it. When he sold anything from the field he used to give the money to the Superior. His clothing was poor and didn’t have a shirt, his superior dressed him with his own shirt upon his death. His robe was clean and he washed his clothes by himself with his hands, he never lost his time but was always praying or working in the field or in the carpentry.

He seldom left the monastery, and his visits to his parents in Lehfed were rare. If he had to go to Lehfed, he used to go on a quick visit and come back in the evening to the monastery, and resume work on the second day. On one occasion he was returning from his hometown and there was heavy rains, some of his parents intercepted him, Tannous Elias Nehme among them, and urged him to stay in the village, but he went on with his trip back to the monastery in spite of the heavy rain because he was not used to sleep outside his monastery.

His nephew witnessed once that Estephan made some carpentry works for a new room in his brother's house newly built, when he finished his work he said to his brother: the cost of the wood is two liras that you have to pay, but as for my pay I asked the Superior to waive it for you. Then someone who was present asked: why won’t you keep the two liras for your brother’s house as well? He answered that he didn’t want to have money from the wakf in their home.

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The Gospel Of The Day: Thursday 19th of May, 2011

Thursday of the fourth week of the Resurrection

First Letter to the Thessalonians 3:1-13
1 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, 2 and we sent Timothy, our brother and God's servant in the gospel of Christ, to establish you in your faith and to exhort you, 3 that no one be moved by these afflictions. You yourselves know that this is to be our lot. 4 For when we were with you, we told you beforehand that we were to suffer affliction; just as it has come to pass, and as you know. 5 For this reason, when I could bear it no longer, I sent that I might know your faith, for fear that somehow the tempter had tempted you and that our labor would be in vain. 6 But now that Timothy has come to us from you, and has brought us the good news of your faith and love and reported that you always remember us kindly and long to see us, as we long to see you. 7 for this reason, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and affliction we have been comforted about you through your faith; 8 for now we live, if you stand fast in the Lord. 9 For what thanksgiving can we render to God for you, for all the joy which we feel for your sake before our God, 10 praying earnestly night and day that we may see you face to face and supply what is lacking in your faith? 11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you; 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love to one another and to all men, as we do to you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts unblamable in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.

Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 6:16-21
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea rose because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat. They were frightened, 20 but he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

The Monk, The Teacher

Al Hardini was ordained a priest on the 25th of December 1835, he was very motivated, determined and devoted to serve God and his brothers the monks. He stayed until 1838 as monk in the monastery of Kfifane teaching literary theology, syriac language for the brothers and teaching children. He also helped in the liturgical services like baptisms, funerals and holy masses. On the 18th of August 1838, and after a recommendation from his friend father Saba Al Akouri Superior of the monastery at that time, he was elected by the monks of Kfifane to accompany Father Al Akouri to the general electoral congregation which took place on the 10th of November 1838.

Monastery Of Kfifane

Besides teaching theology, the authority appointed him as a responsible for the novices affairs in Kfifane for six years (1838-1845). He never looked at his position with pride, but considered it a service, he endeavored to do the common good and to praise God. He always gave his opinion according to the wisdom gifted to him from the Lord, he acted according to the rules and his living conscience without compromise, he had a great integrity and was focused on one purpose: God and the Maronite Order. He liked common good with a loving but wise attitude and he acted fairly with everyone. When reproaching misbehavers, he mixed strictness with humbleness and love to make it easier for them to accept the rules, and he often took the punishment that he imposed on misbehavers to teach himself being more merciful and to be an example for them to follow.

He always incited his students to be serious and motivated them to be loyal to God and to the Order. He taught them literary theology in light of the Holy Spirit, sowed in their hearts the monastic virtues besides education, he advised them always to combine education with good virtues because if education is not accompanied by piety it becomes a burden on oneself and on the church as history shows. He was a living example of piety and righteousness for his students, he always recommended not to waste precious time as joblessness is the mother of vices, and he taught them more by his behaviors than by his words.

The Gospel Of The Day: Wednesday, 18th Of May, 2011

Wednesday of the Fourth Week of the Resurrection.

First Letter to the Thessalonians 2:13-20
13 And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. 14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus which are in Judea; for you suffered the same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, 15 who killed both the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose all men 16 by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they may be saved. So as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has come upon them at last! 17 But since we were bereft of you, brothers and sisters, for a short time, in person not in heart, we endeavored the more eagerly and with great desire to see you face to face; 18 because we wanted to come to you I, Paul, again and again but Satan hindered us. 19 For what is our hope or joy or crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus at his coming? Is it not you? 20 For you are our glory and joy.

Holy Gospel Of Jesus Christ according to Saint John 6:1-15
1 After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2 And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. 3 Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. 4 Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5 Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, "How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?" 6 This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, "Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 9 "There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?" 10 Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12 And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." 13 So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten. 14 When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!" 15 Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

A First Sign!

In 1865, a wave of locust, a nasty species of grasshoppers particularly destructive to vegetation, invaded the Batroun area, and the Government was unable to counter this plague. The monks of the Maronite Order were also trying hard to clean their fields without any success. Then the Superior of the monastery of Saint Maron in Annaya, Father Roukoz Al Meshmeshani ordered father Charbel to pray on water and to spray it over the lands of the monastery in order to avoid the complete stripping of the vegetations. So Father Charbel did as he was instructed to and he walked in the fields spraying water and talking to the grasshoppers, and all the vegetation belonging to the monastery survived devastation.

Monastery Of Saint Maron Annaya

In July 1869, during father Roukoz Al Meshmeshani’s mandate, Charbel was working in the field like a modest servant. On one evening he was watching over the goats belonging to the monastery and it was harvest time, and the monastery had asked for help from a few harvesters. After the monks had finished their meal, the harvesters stayed for dinner, and they were around 30 men. As food was being served, Charbel came to the “Kararji” (the monk responsible for the provisions in the monastery) and asked him for some oil for his lamp. The Kararji yelled at him as he was busy with the dinner, and asked him:”why didn’t you come earlier during the day? as a punishment, there will be no oil for you tonight, Go”. So he obeyed and went back to his room.

The servants had placed a bench transversely to bar the way for him, so he stumbled and fell on the floor but did not say any word or complained. Then one of the servants in the monastery at that time: Saba who was 13 years old came to him and took his lamp to fill it with oil, but in fact he filled it with water. Father Charbel took his lamp to light it, and it lit. The Superior had instructed during Charbel’s absence not to light any room after the evening bell, so he woke up on that night and saw the light and went out of his room to see where it came from, and it was from father Charbel’s room. So he asked him: “didn’t you hear the bell? Haven’t you vowed obedience?”. So Charbel knelt down and asked for his forgiveness saying:” I came back from the field and I still have one prayer, I didn’t know about this restriction”. The servant Saba was outside the room and he heard the conversation, so when the superior left Charbel’s room Saba confessed to him that he took the lamp but the Kararji wouldn’t give him oil, so he filled it with water from the outside jar. The Superior went back and dismounted the lamp and emptied some liquid in a cup and realized that it was water. At that moment he couldn’t hide his emotions and the news quickly spread in the monastery.

Charbel had expressed to his Superior on several occasions, his wishes to become a hermit, but Superiors usually do not allow seclusions in the hermit easily. But after the incident of the lamp, on the next morning, the Superior called Charbel and told him that he had no objection if he wanted to become a hermit. Charbel answered:”There is a big difference between my will and your orders, for I have made vows and I can’t act according to my wishes, so if you give me an order I will obey and go”. Then the Superior said: “Go”. So Charbel knelt down in front of him and asked for his blessing, The Superior prayed over him and gave him his blessing. Then he stood up thanking him and hurried to pick up his prayer books, his mattress and blanket, wrapped it all with a cord and put it over his back. He passed by the church and visited the Holy Eucharist and left for the hermitage.

By this, the hermit, father Alishaa Al Hardini’s request was fulfilled and Charbel joined the hermitage. Father Charbel used to serve him and bring him his necessities from the monastery like food and beverage and serve the holy mass for him. He kept on doing this for six years.