St. Charbel Makhlouf (1828-1898), known popularly as the “Miracle Monk of Lebanon.” Charbel’s tomb in Annaya, Lebanon, has become known worldwide as a place of pilgrimage and miraculous healing. Upon Charbel’s canonization in 1977, Bishop Francis Zayek wrote, “St. Charbel is called the second St. Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon… Charbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.” Charbel is also known as a saint of unity, a figure who inspires the veneration of both Christians and Muslims in his native land of Lebanon. (image from Rosary Team, (link)

    Lebanon Report 2023, #5: Friday, June 2

    St. Charbel — The Mystic With Prescient Words for Lebanon Today

    By Christopher Hart-Moynihan, Director, Friends of Lebanon Project

    I have been thinking a great deal lately about St. Charbel, the beloved holy monk of Annaya, Lebanon.

    The reasons why Charbel and his life have been in my thoughts are simple. Last September, I traveled with a group of pilgrims to his tomb in Annaya, Lebanon, during our first Urbi et Orbi Pilgrimage to Lebanon. Our Friends of Lebanon were able to pray at the tomb of St. Charbel, celebrate Mass, and learn about the thousands of miracles that this saint has performed since his death. I was impressed, both by the evident spiritual power St. Charbel possessed and by the popular devotion to him both in Lebanon and worldwide — a devotion that many of Lebanon’s Muslims also share.

    Since that time, my thoughts have often returned to this question: could a solution to the problems of Lebanon be found in something as simple as returning to the words of St. Charbel?

    At first glance this might seem too simplistic — after all, what does a complex economic and humanitarian crisis have to do with the exhortations of a 19th-century monk? In a world inching perhaps towards a nuclear conflict, where technology has fundamentally altered the ways in which we relate to one another as humans — a world, in fact in which we now seem to be plowing forward towards creating non-human sentient entities with an intelligence to match or surpass our own — what wisdom can be gleaned from a man who lived his entire life in prayer and simple manual labor, who likely never traveled more than 100 miles from the place where he was born?

    As it turns out, a reading of Charbel’s homilies reveals a man whose wisdom, far from being out of place in the third decade of the 21st century, is in fact timeless. This is because Charbel speaks of timeless things: love, joy, sacrifice, and holiness. In focusing on these things, and pointing the way for us as well to cultivate them, this simple monk and hermit can, in fact, begin to serve as a guide for our time, as a model for people and nations to follow.

    I have previously shared the words of one of Charbel’s homilies, entitled Christ Is The Truth Of Incarnate Love, in this report. Recently I have been meditating on the words of another homily, titled And You Will Achieve The End For Which You Were Created. It seems to speak directly to a humanity that is constantly weighed down by suffering and struggle, trials and tribulations. Its words should be taken to heart by the political class that has created a financial and economic collapse in Lebanon, as well as by each and every one of us, as we face and overcome our own challenges.

    (This homily is part of a collection entitled Love is a Radiant Light: The Life & Words of St. Charbel, by Hanna Skandar. The homilies were collected in the last years of Charbel’s life, in the 1880s and 1890s.)

    I share the text of this homily below. I hope that it can be a source of reflection for readers as it has been for me. —CHM

    P.S. Below, I continue to share with readers the stories of Lebanese students who received Friends of Lebanon scholarship funding in 2022. After providing “short-term help” to Christian families affected by the August 4, 2020 Beirut Port explosion during the second half of 2020 and early 2021, we transitioned to “long-term support,” providing scholarship funds to 132 students in 2021 and 2022. We are still sending support monthly to our partners on the ground in Beirut to help these students continue forward towards their goals and we would like to ramp up this support with your help. Young people are the future of Lebanon, and if the next generation does not receive an education or leaves en masse to seek their future abroad, the country has no future. However, many students in Lebanon have had to discontinue their studies over the past three years and begin working to support their families as Lebanon’s economic crisis has deepened. If you are interested in supporting Christian young people in Lebanon, please click here (link) or on the red button below and make a donation.

    A prayer book written in the ancient Syriac language, a close relative of Aramaic, which is the liturgical language of the Maronite Church and several other sui iuris Eastern Churches

    “Their gleaning chains dazzle their eyes so that they no longer see the Lord’s face.” —St. Charbel, from his homily on the true end of man, reprinted below in its entirety

    And You Will Achieve the End for Which You Were Created

    by St. Charbel Makhlouf

    Why do human beings have to descend when the path of the Lord ascends? People are loaded down with many burdens that bend their back so much that their foreheads touch the ground, preventing them from standing up and raising their heads to see the face of God.

    They try to liberate themselves from them; everyone gets rid of them only to load themselves down in other ways, and finally they find themselves weighed down with even heavier burdens.

    Jesus Christ is the only one capable of liberating all human beings from their burdens for a slave cannot set another slave free.

    A human being is born tied up with cords and bound with chains to which he becomes accustomed throughout his life. Many are those who die without being freed from them. People get used to their chains. They cherish them as though they were an integral part of themselves so that it becomes difficult for them to set themselves free of them.

    Their gleaming chains dazzle their eyes so that they no longer see the Lord’s face. Their deafening racket prevents them from hearing His voice. They are so proud of the brilliance of their fetters and of their clanking that they cherish them. The chains may well gleam, but they are nonetheless alienating.

    Instead of polishing them, break them. Instead of making music with them, unfasten them so as to free yourself from them.

    The Lord suffers to see the people for whom He was made flesh, died, and rose again in order to give them life and eternal happiness, chained up and seeking their happiness where they will not find it.

    Your happiness in this world is not of this world, for if you were of this world you would have remained in it. Your happiness does not lie in material goods, for they will not procure it for you. Why do men run about seeking gold? A human being is much more valuable than gold! He is the son of God and his value is in himself. Gold does not liberate a human being from his attachments; it only makes them more splendid.

    Your happiness does not come from men who cannot offer it to you, because they do not possess it, and because no one can give what does not belong to him. Jesus alone is able to give you true happiness.

    Only human beings live between asphalt and concrete. Their minds become blackened like asphalt, and their hearts harden like concrete. Their intellects produce only dark ideas, and their souls become empty of any love. Human beings are like an inert, soulless matter, and some of them resemble stones.

    Proud as they are, they stubbornly seek happiness in sin, which causes them nothing but worry, sadness, misery, and emptiness. They have become proud with regard to themselves, towards one another, and towards God.

    Do you not realize that the Lord is able to reduce them to dust in an instant? But the love of our God is great. He loves human beings with an unending love because they are his sons and daughters. He wanted them to be the light of the world, in his image.

    [End, Homily of St. Charbel]


    Patriarch Rai Visits Vatican, Élysée in Attempt to Break Government Deadlock

Jihad Azour, now the likely consensus pick to become Lebanon’s next president. The country has had no president for eight months (image taken from wikipedia)

    Patriarch Bechara Boutros al-Rahi (alternatively written as “Patriarch Rai” in English) continued his efforts to resolve Lebanon’s political impasse, traveling to the Vatican on May 29 and France on May 30 as part of a diplomatic push to help break the deadlock that has left Lebanon without a President for almost eight months.

    At the Vatican on May 29, Patriarch Rai met with Vatican Secretary of State Pietro Parolin before being hosted at the Élysée Palace in Paris on May 30 by French President Emmanuel Macron.

    The leader of the Maronite Church has been maneuvering to unify the numerous Christian political factions of Lebanon behind a single candidate to replace former President of Lebanon Michel Aoun since Aoun left office last September. Over the past several weeks, there have been reports that many of Lebanon’s Christian political blocs had coalesced around the selection of Jihad Azour, a former Minister of Finance of Lebanon, as their presidential candidate.

    In a homily given on Sunday, May 28, the day before his trip to the Vatican, Patriarch Rai stated, “We thank God for what we hear about some consensus among parliamentary blocs regarding the future president, so that he does not pose a challenge to anyone, and at the same time possesses a personality that responds to Lebanon’s needs today and inspires internal and external confidence.”

    Azour, a Maronite Christian, is an economist and served as Lebanon’s Finance Minister from 2005-2008 under Sunni Prime Minister Fouad Siniora. During his term, he won respect when he organized the International Conference for Support to Lebanon — Paris III, which raised $7.6 billion in grants and “soft” loans, pledged by the international community, to aid Lebanon’s economic development.

    Patriarch Rai then flew to Rome to meet with Pope Francis and top Vatican diplomats, who stressed that they hoped a consensus would soon lead to the selection of a new president, and then on to Paris to meet with President Macron.

    Macron, following his meeting with the Patriarch, stated that he supported the Patriarch’s efforts to maintain unity in Lebanon, and said that he shared Rai’s “deep concerns” over the country’s crisis and “the institutional paralysis that has been aggravated by the vacancy in the presidency for more than seven months.” Macron also added that Lebanon’s Christians should remain “at the heart of the Lebanese state’s confessional and institutional balance.”

    In a press conference on May 31, the day after his meeting with Macron, Patriarch Rai said that he had been asked by both the Vatican and the French President to speak with all of Lebanon’s factions, stating: “We will talk to everyone without exception, even to Hezbollah, and the efforts will start today. What I understood is that there is an agreement by the Christian components over a candidate and I acted accordingly, because Lebanon cannot bear anymore.

    “The people are hungry and emigrating and the displaced (Syrians) are worsening the burden on the country,” the patriarch said.

    “They have agreed on Jihad Azour … and what’s important is for the rest of the components to endorse him.”

    With these words, Rai seems to be trying to combat a certain sense of “crisis fatigue” that has set in among the international community. It is still necessary to mobilize powerful groups within Lebanon, as well as external allies such as France, the Vatican and the United States to provide a truly lasting solution to Lebanon’s crisis. Yet several factors work against such a resolution at the moment. The main one, of course, is the intransigence of the country’s political class — perhaps, most notably, Hezbollah, the Iran-supported Muslim political party and paramilitary group which controls much of southern Lebanon — which allowed the country to go more than a year without a government in 2021 and now again more than seven months without a president.

    At the same time, there is also a lack of any attention-grabbing event to highlight the precariousness of the situation in the country.

    It has now been almost three years since the massive and tragic explosion in the Port of Beirut on August 4, 2020, and more than a decade since the outbreak of the Syrian Civil War in March 2011 precipitated a refugee crisis that saw Lebanon take in the most refugees per capita of any country in the world.

    Outside of Lebanon, the world’s attention has been diverted for more than a year by the grinding war in Ukraine and the overall challenges it poses to the post-World War II international order.

    (continued below)

The meeting of our Friends of Lebanon delegation with the Guardians of the Holy Fire, a group of lay leaders of the Orthodox community in Lebanon, in September 2022. The idea of a Day of Unity for Lebanon arose out a frank discussion of the challenges facing Lebanon during this meeting

    (continued from above)

    In this context, our Friends of Lebanon initiative is planning an event in Lebanon, at the end of September, to highlight and discuss issues relating to the unity of Lebanese Christians.

    We have shared our proposal for a Day of Unity with many of the groups we have been working with in Lebanon over the past several years (the outline of this event can be found here, in the March 2023 Lebanon Report).

    The purpose of this event will be to bring together religious leaders of Lebanon’s different confessional groups to discuss a “new beginning” in the spiritual life of Lebanon.

    As part of the Unitas initiative of Urbi et Orbi Communications, our small Friends of Lebanon group has always felt that spiritual change within our Christian communities must proceed and go hand-in-hand with positive political and societal change.

    Our Day of Unity for Lebanon will be a catalyst for this change, reminding the world once again that Lebanon is, in the famous words of Pope John Paul II, “more than a country — it is a message of peace to the world.”

In the Footsteps of St. Charbel: Our September Pilgrimage to Lebanon

    I would like to invite you to join us on our 2023 Inside the Vatican Pilgrimage to Lebanon!

    Lebanon is a small, beautiful country of seacoasts (see the above photo of the coastline north of Beirut), hills, mountains and rivers, and majestic cedar trees that has a history stretching back thousands of years, to the Phoenicians and the invention of writing itself in the city of Byblos.

    Tucked in between Syria and Israel, the country is a crossroads between Asia and Europe, between the Christian, Muslim and Jewish worlds. Christians have been here since the very beginning, and the Maronite Catholics are a treasure in the global Catholic community.

    Many have reflected on the unique situation and mission of the country as a special place of dialogue and living together which deserves to be supported and protected.

    Our trip is not only a pilgrimage to holy places and shrines, but also a time for us to go within, toward one place only — toward the heart of God, to that place where we find our own personal unity with Him.

    Our itinerary is a living itinerary. Each day could present unexpected encounters. Our prayer and hope is that we allow the Holy Spirit to be our guide.

    Come with us to Lebanon to encounter this ancient land where Jesus walked and to meet modern day saint!

Friends of Lebanon Scholarships    

    I continue here to share the stories of high school and university students who we have supported over the past two years. The remarkable resilience of these young people in the midst of extremely difficult personal circumstances gives us hope for the future. Even through unspeakable personal tragedies, they persevere and continue forward. Please help us continue to support them by making a donation here.


    Mike was a year and a half old when his dad died. He lives with his mother and sister. His mother was working in a nursery, but she stopped working due Lebanon’s economic crisis. Mike’s grandfather also lives with the family.

    Recently Mike’s mother has begun working again in a kindergarten, as an assistant teacher. She is receiving a very small salary and being paid in Lebanese pounds, which are constantly losing value due to hyperinflation.    

    Mike enjoys playing basketball and receives excellent grades in school.


    Peter’s father is in the ISF (Internal Security Forces of Lebanon) and his mother is unemployed. He is 17 years old and has a sister.

    Peter likes playing soccer and is a very motivated student. He is dealing with social anxiety due to a speech issue.        

Jad Bassam

    A student at Sports Academy School in Beirut, Jad was diagnosed with cancer in his feet in 2021. At the time, the doctors decided not to intervene and refrained from removing the tumor. The tumor continued to grow and in February 2022, Jad felt a sharp pain in his shoulder while at school. He had an MRI done, only to find that the cancer had metastasized.

    Shortly afterward, Jad stopped attending school in order to seek treatment for his cancer. Most of his teachers and classmates did not know about his diagnosis.

    Unfortunately, in May 2022 the doctors discontinued Jad’s treatment because it was no longer helping. He passed away a month later in June of 2022.

    After Jad’s passing, in addition to grieving their son and brother, Jad’s parents and siblings have been left to deal with an extremely difficult financial situation due to the accumulated hospital bills.

    Please join all of the Friends of Lebanon in praying for Jad.

    Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon him. May his soul and all the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.     

    Please consider becoming a “Friend of Lebanon,” and help us to bring “short-term help” and “long-term hope” to the land where Jesus Christ walked and performed miracles.

    As a “Friend of Lebanon,” you will be able to participate in our Zoom calls with the people we are working with in Rome, Beirut, and throughout Lebanon to support Christians in their ancient homeland.

    Please consider joining us.

    Christopher Hart-Moynihan 

    Director of Programs
    Urbi et Orbi Communications

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