Saint Charbel Makhlouf
One of the
of Our Time
PART 7: AFTERLIFE
The episodes of the afterlife of the holy hermit Charbel Makhlouf plunge us into a wholly supernatural and miraculous atmosphere. At midnight of the very night following Charbel's death, Brother Elias Mehrini was praying before the Blessed Sacrament, when he saw a light well forth from the tabernacle, float over Father's body, then rise and return to the tabernacle.
On the night following the burial, a great, mysterious glow which
seen to rise and fall alternately over Father Charbel's tomb was also
observed by many lay people living in houses across from the monastery.
The same phenomenon was to repeat itself for forty-five nights. Here is
the testimony of a peasant, George Emmanuel: "An extraordinary glow
appeared over the cemetery, and we peasants saw it from our homes
situated across from the convent."
Another witness, Tannous Chehade's widow Milade, attests: "The body was exhumed because of the repeated appearance of the light. I saw it three times myself. The monks to whom we reported the fact didn't want to believe us. But Father Anthony AI Michmichani, the Superior of the monastery, came to our home across from the monastery and saw the appearance of the light for himself . . ."
Some non-Christians also saw this light. Father Charbel had begun to bring the light to the non-Christians themselves here. A particular aspect of Father Charbel's mission emerges from this series of incidents. Both the frequent appearance of this light and the enthusiasm of the faithful who wanted to come and make off with the remains of the holy hermit caused the ecclesiastical authorities to open the tomb of the servant of God. People all around were only speaking of Father Charbel as of "the Saint".
On April 15, 1899, three months after the burial, after having solicited and obtained the required authorization, they proceeded to the opening of Father Charbel's tomb in the presence of the Superior of the convent, of the monks and lay people, of whom ten witnesses had attended the burial a few months before. All these witnesses were unanimous in attesting that the rainwater which had penetrated into this cellar, had made gullies in the cemetery and had left Father Charbel's tomb in the mire . . . and Father Charbel's body was floating on this mud. Here is the testimony of Father Joseph Younes who is still living at Annaya: "His hands were resting upon his chest, holding the cross. His body was tender, fresh and supple; there was a certain white moldy substance like fine cotton on his face and hands. When Saba Bou Moussa wiped away the mold, his face and hands looked like those of a sleeping man. Bright red blood mixed with water flowed from his side."
His body did not show a single sign of corruption and all its limbs
were intact, tender, flexible and bending at all the joints. His skin
retained its freshness and the muscles their suppleness. Not a hair of
his beard or a hair of his head had fallen; the trace of the iron chain
which the hermit wore around his hips was quite visible.
In the midst of the astonishment and of the respect of those assisting, the body was solemnly transported and placed in a wooden coffin with a glass top. It was placed in a little oratory of the monastery where crowds were to file past day after day for 27 years.
On the day following the first exhumation, the Prior came to pay his
pious respects to an old friend whose memory he venerated. He remained
motionless with amazement, for the body which the evening before had
been left in a state of thorough cleanliness was soiled anew. Beads of
perspiration were flowing and glistening from all the pores of his
body. Clear blood mixed with water was slowly trickling from his right
side. Because of this prodigy, the monks were obliged to change
Charbel's blood-stained habit twice a week after that. Rumor of these
events spread to the monasteries and neighboring villages; this was
attributed to Charbel's well-known holiness. More and more
extraordinary graces were being obtained throughout Lebanon.
This is what Doctor Elias Elonaïssi
of Lehsed, Lebanon, declared:
"At the Convent of Annaya, I saw the body of the Servant of God, Father
Charbel. As I approached the bier which contained him, I smelled an
odor like that which
emanates from living bodies. After having attentively observed and examined the cadaver, I remarked that the pores gave passage to a matter not unlike sweat. This fact is strange and inexplicable according to the laws of nature for a body which has been inanimate for so many years. I have begun the same examination over again many times at different periods, and the phenomenon was always the same."
Here again is the testimony of Doctor George Choukralah, one of the
most famous doctors of Lebanon, who examined the body thirty-four times
over a period of seventeen years. "After having examined this intact
body many times, I was always astonished at its state of conservation,
and especially at the reddish liquid sweating from it. I even consulted
good doctors at Beirut and in Europe during my numerous voyages-----no
one was able to explain the fact to me. So unique is this phenomenon
that perhaps no doctor has seen the likes of it; perhaps the history of
medicine has never registered one quite like it. I never tire of
searching to see whether a body in the world was ever conserved like
that one." He concluded by saying: "My personal opinion, based upon
experience, is that the body is conserved by a supernatural power."
Thus, all the testimonies, all the inquiries, all the examinations and
observations have shown that the conservation of the body on the one
hand, and the continual blood-type sweat on the other, are two
prodigious facts which surpass nature.
Because of the persistence of these facts, the Superiors of the pious monk addressed themselves to Rome to ask for the beatification of Father Charbel. In 1925, Pope Pius XI asked for the opening of the cause. Everything was performed according to the instructions given. Since the veneration of which Father Charbel's body was the object was not authorized before Rome's decision, it was decided to bury the body once again. On July 24, 1927, in the presence of an immense crowd, the body of Charbel was clothed in priestly garb with his head covered with the monastic cowl, and he was buried anew in a tomb prepared in a wall of the crypt. Two stones separated the coffin from contact with the soil. Minute cementing assured the preservation of the tomb, which was as scrupulously sealed off as the tomb of Christ. A brief narration of the life, death and the two burials of the Servant of God was written up by the Commission and signed by one of its judges, by the Defender of the Faith, by the notary and numerous assistants, also sealed with the seal of the Commission and then placed in a metallic cylinder at the same time as a medical report in French concerning the state of the body to that day, prepared by the most famous doctors of Lebanon. These documents were placed in Father Charbel's coffin. Where the tomb was, an epitaph recalled the important dates in the life of the saintly hermit, from his birth until this day, July 24, 1927.
Prodigies are still continuing to multiply today by the intercession of
Father Charbel. During the Holy Year 1950, numerous pilgrims went to
pray in the oratory connected to the tomb of the holy hermit and
suddenly remarked that water was beading on the wall of the tomb and
arrived into the oratory. The Superior, Father Peter Younes, was
advised of the fact and noticed that the liquid was not simply water,
but a viscous kind of product. He feared that the coffin and the body
would be found deteriorated, and therefore decided to reunite the monks
and had the tomb opened in their presence. This was on February 25,
The tomb and the coffin were found dry and in a perfect state, such as
they had been placed there tn 1927. The extremity of the coffin was
beaded with a bloody type liquid which reached the oratory itself.
After having pointed out the fact to the Superior General of the Order
and to the competent ecclesiastical authorities, they proceeded with a
new opening of the coffin on April 22nd of the same year. In the
presence of great religious and civil authorities as well as before a
of doctors, the following facts were observed-----the
sweat of blood which
had already been observed since 1899 and until July, 1920, was still
oozing forth in the same way as at the time of the preceding exhumation
and burial. It spread over the entire body, having impregnated the
priestly vestments. A part of the chasuble was rotted, as well as the
bottom of the wooden coffin. The bottom of the zinc coffin was split
open at the foot. The tube which contained the attestations was
deteriorated by rust; the attestations had remained intact, however.
The witnesses remarked that all the vestments were literally imbued
with the serum type liquid and were spotted here and there with blood,
especially the alb. However, the body conserved all its suppleness, and
its arms and legs could be bent.
While this examination was being pursued, the Monastery and the
of Annaya were invaded by numerous crowds that came in from all
regions, though they had not been forewarned of the meeting of the
Commission. Among them were a number of sick and infirm people. Cures
as sudden as they were astonishing were produced even before the end of
the meeting of the Commission. The crowd shouted out its joy. The body
was placed back into a coffin in the cave, however, the stones
of which were carefully cemented, for fear that in its enthusiasm, the
crowd would seize the coffin and the body and make off with them. Ever
since this day, a continual wave of crowds have unceasingly come from
all corners of Lebanon asking for help and protection from the holy
In August, 1952, they spoke of opening Father Charbel's coffin again,
provisionally. Large headlines were spread out on the front page of the
big European newspapers: "Will the body of the Monk of Annaya, dead
fifty-four years ago, still be found intact?" The incredulous smiled,
and certain ones pretended that time must have done its work. But on
August 14, 1952, these words could be read: "Nature has suspended its
laws!" That is true. The body of Charbel Makhlouf appeared intact in
its flesh. By the wounds which were known for so long, blood continued
to flow pure and odorless as from a fresh wound. And from everywhere as
in 1927 and in 1950, incessant cries rose "Miracle! Miracle!" Vox
populi! . . .
This time the body was exposed from the 7th until the 25th of August,
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