St. Charbel [image taken from the website of the Family of St. Sharbel]
The Mystery of St. Charbel
Lebanon Report: So you were studying, you were at university?
Raymond Nader: Yes, I finished my school and then I went to the School of Engineering at the Jesuit University of Beirut. I graduated in electro-mechanical engineering. And then I received a scholarship to go to London and specialize in nuclear engineering. So I went to London, I specialized in nuclear engineering, I came back to Lebanon, and I studied in the nuclear field just by, by Providence. I didn’t want to be a nuclear engineer, because Lebanon is not a nuclear country.
So I just wanted to know more about the configuration of the universe, how the universe is working. To know more about the atoms. About the ingredients of the universe, how it is working. Just to know more about God. Because I was always asking questions, about creation, about God, about the purpose of life. “Why did God create us? What is the final destination? What is the purpose of life?”
I was always thinking about these things, apart from the Eucharist and the Mass and all these things. So the idea of God was the main axis in my life. Everything was revolving around it. Especially when I saw people dying.
I was always asking, “Why is there death? Why did God create people, if in the end they will die? Why are we investing in this world, since in the end, we lose all the investments?” Whatever you do in this world, you will leave it one day, and you will go. And I was always asking the same question — “If I die today, where will I be tomorrow? Is there something? Or is there nothing?”
So I was reading the Bible a lot, praying a lot, thinking a lot. Studying a lot. I went so deep into science. And then the mystery of St. Charbel… attracted me.
So I started going up to Annaya to pray, to meditate, to think, to find answers to these eternal questions of youth.
The first enigma was the body of St. Charbel. St. Charbel died in 1898. The first day, when they buried him in the grave, some mysterious light started going out of his grave. It was seen all around the area there, in all the country of Jbeil. He died on Christmas Eve, so the light started going out of his grave on Christmas Eve, and then the second day, and afterwards weeks, and months. And after five months, in May, they decided to open the tomb, to see what was the source of this light. There was no electricity, no fire, nothing. Just a strange light coming out of this …
Lebanon Report: Nuclear!
Raymond Nader: Nuclear, exactly. [Laughs.] So they opened the tomb. They took out the body of St. Charbel. It was like [he was] sleeping. Exactly like [he was] a sleeping man. So they changed his clothes, because the clothes were rotten, they put another set of clothes on him, and they put him in a box, in a casket. They realized, the second day, that he was sweating. They found some sweat on his forehead, on his face, on his hands.
Lebanon Report: And the body was not corrupt?
Raymond Nader: No, it was exactly like sleeping. It was moving [sic], flexible, and sweating. It was sweating a kind of liquid which was pinkish. It was a mixture of blood and water.
Lebanon Report: Like in the Garden of Gethsemane…
Raymond Nader: Yes, exactly. So they were cleaning the body, changing the clothes, every day. And he was always sweating. A big quantity of this liquid, this mysterious liquid, coming out of his body. So the monks there, they tried to treat the body of St. Charbel. So they put it in the sun, sometimes they would wash him.
Lebanon Report: Oh, my goodness. It became an experiment.
Raymond Nader: Exactly. Because they [didn’t] want to wash him every day, to wash his clothes. It was a burden for them. So they tried to treat it, to stop this sweating. And they didn’t succeed. He kept sweating. And then they received an order to [once again] put the body in the grave, and stop playing with it. And in 1950, another wave of light started coming out of the tomb of St. Charbel.
They took him out again, after 52 years. [His body] was still uncorrupted and sweating as well. They found his casket full of liquid. So they took him out of this liquid. And thousands of miracles started happening at the tomb of St. Charbel. In one year, thousands of people visited Annaya and were healed. Some blind people were seeing, some lame people were walking. And thousands of miracles happened. So they put him in a new casket, and they changed his clothes, and he kept sweating.
So after that, in 1965, he was beatified, and declared Blessed.
And then his body stopped sweating. And it was just [as if he were] sleeping.
And after that, the flesh of his body disappeared, and the only thing that remained was the skeleton and the skin. And it is in the same state now. So this mystery of the body of St. Charbel was an enigma for me, as a scientist.
So I started thinking scientifically about the body of St. Charbel. He was sweating for 67 years. So, making a small calculation, a huge quantity of liquid went out of the dead body. It’s against all scientific laws. You know, the first rule in science is that nothing is created, nothing is destroyed. Everything is transformed. So here there is…creation. A body of 80 kgs. gave 30,000 liters of liquid over 67 years, 2 liters per day. It was amazing. They were just washing the body, emptying the casket, giving it new clothes. And they kept doing this for years.
So as an engineer, as a nuclear engineer, I was thinking scientifically about this body. “How can this happen?”
So I started going up to Annaya to pray, and I felt deep down inside of me that St. Charbel is still alive. So, there is something that will happen after our death.
When I started going up to Annaya, I was 24. And I kept going up to Annaya for 10 years. I would go up to the hermitage, pray there, spend the night praying, meditating, thinking, trying to find the answers to these questions.
Two pilgrims on our September, 2022 Friends of Lebanon pilgrimage to Lebanon stand by the door to the cell where St. Charbel spent the last 23 years of his life. Charbel slept on the floor; visible through the glass is the log that he used as a pillow
“The flames of the candles were not moving”
Lebanon Report: And the civil war was still not finished?
Raymond Nader: No. I was going up during the war. During that time I was the Commander of the School of Officers of the Lebanese Forces. It was very close to Harissa, five kilometers [away]. I would finish there, come home to my family, take care of my family, my kids. And at night, at 10, 11, 12, it depends, I would take my car and I would go up to Annaya, spend the night, and then come back in the morning.
Lebanon Report: Did you ever sleep?
Raymond Nader: Yes, either a few hours before I went, or a few hours after I came back. I would go at least three nights per week.
Lebanon Report: You said you had a sense that [St. Charbel] was still alive. What was this sense?
Raymond Nader: You know, it’s not from my own experience, but when you are in Lebanon, you can hear the stories of St. Charbel everywhere. Every day, we hear stories that…he appeared to someone, he healed someone, someone went up to Annaya blind and came back with sight, someone was lame and he came back walking. A lot of miracles are happening, around the clock.
So I was hearing about St. Charbel everywhere. And in Lebanon, all of the Lebanese feel that St. Charbel is still alive. He is moving. A lot of healings are happening every day. So that’s why, when I used to go to Annaya to pray during the night, I was asking St. Charbel to give me a hint about what is going on on the other side of life.
So I would pray, read the Bible, meditate on the Bible, try to talk to Jesus, to find some clues about the “other life.”
And then, when I finished, I would close the door of the hermitage and go back to my car. While I was going, I always stopped and looked at the hermitage, talking to St. Charbel. I was telling him, “You know the truth. Please let me touch it. I want to know what’s going on on the other side of life.” And I would go back home.
So I was doing this for around 10 years, from 1985 to 1994.
And then, one night, it was November 10, 1994, my 33rd birthday.
That night, I went to Annaya, like every night. I usually would take with me the Bible, a few candles, to be able to read the Bible, because there is no electricity. I arrived to the hermitage at around 10, 10:30. I knelt down. I lit the candles and started reading the Bible. It was November 10; it’s extremely cold in Annaya, you cannot stand [outside] for more than a few minutes. So I started praying, like every day. And then, while I was praying, I felt a warm breeze, surrounding me. I felt warm; I was so happy to feel warm. But I was intrigued. “I am feeling warm in Annaya during the wintertime, in the hermitage. It is impossible.”
So I started thinking about this warmth I [was] feeling. And then, while I was thinking, this breeze was starting to be transformed into a strong, powerful, hot wind. So, in a few minutes, there was a hot wind blowing all around the place, shaking the trees, blowing the sand. And I was looking at the candles. I saw that the flames of the candles were not moving. They were standing still. There was a very strong, hot, powerful wind blowing and moving everything, except those flames of five candles. They were not moving at all.
So as a man of science, I decided to touch the flames, to make sure I am not hallucinating. I decided to stretch out my hand and touch the flames.
But before I moved, I was… transported to another world.
I lost all of my senses. I stopped hearing anything, feeling anything. I stopped hearing and feeling my body. I didn’t know at that moment if I was standing up or kneeling down. Then I found myself diving towards a huge light. It was like diving into the sun. I didn’t know where I was. I lost the notion of space. I started to not feel that I was inside my body.
So then when I went into this indescribable light — because I would never be able to describe it, because it’s something so strange, it’s a very powerful light. I can say frankly that it is billions of times more powerful than the sun. If you put the sun in this light, it would look like a candle. It’s so powerful, so bright. But it’s not the light that we know. So it’s not hot, it’s not burning. It doesn’t hurt the eyes. You could look at it for hundreds of years. It’s so smooth, so transparent. It looks like a crystal, like pure water. But it’s light, it’s not water. So powerful and so smooth at the same time. So bright and so clear at the same time.
And I felt a presence.
I felt that, “Someone’s here.”
I couldn’t see him. So I said to myself, “Maybe I am dreaming.” So this being, that I was not seeing, he said to me, “No you are not dreaming.” And he was talking without talking.
So he spoke to me without speaking, without any language, without a voice, without words. But it was extremely clear; he said, “No, you’re not dreaming,” without speaking. It’s hard to describe it but he was not speaking in Arabic, nor English, nor Spanish, nor French…
So when he talked to me this way, I said, “Maybe I’m not conscious.” Then he said to me in the same way, “Now you are conscious. You have never been as conscious in your life as you are now.”
So I started asking thousands of questions, in my head. First I said, “Ok, who are you, speaking to me?”
When I asked him who he was, he revealed himself to me in a special way. He didn’t show me his face, and he didn’t tell me his name. But when I asked him, “Who are you?” I felt something strange invading me. And then I started feeling something which is the most beautiful thing that a human being can feel. It was a tremendous feeling of peace, joy, freedom, and a huge — I don’t know how to describe it — it was a huge amount of love, tenderness, and affection. And then he said to me, “This is me.” This was how he claimed himself to be.
So he said, “This is me,” and at that moment I was so happy that I didn’t want to know anything — neither about this life, nor about the other life. All I wanted then was to stay as we were. So I said — I was speaking to myself — “I want to ask him to stay, and if he wants to go, to take me with him.” Then he said to me, “I am always everywhere.”
And then the light went off, and I found myself in the same place [as before]. What had changed was the candles. I looked at the candles and they were totally consumed.
I looked at my watch and it was 3:35 in the morning.
Four hours and a half passed like a second.
It was like I was out of space, out of time.
But even when I came back, I kept feeling the same feeling inside my heart. My heart was blowing [sic]. Full of peace, and joy, and love, and something that I cannot comprehend or describe.
Raymond Nader showing the mark he received on his arm on the morning of November 11, 1994 [image taken from the website of the Family of St. Sharbel]
Receiving the mark
Raymond Nader: So I went back home. While I was walking back to my car, I felt something on my arm. It was a slight pressure and a little bit of warmth. I didn’t think about my arm; I was thinking about the light, the candles, about this beautiful being that I was communicating with. And then, I started feeling that my sleeve was stuck to my skin.
So when I reached my car, and turned on the lights, I looked at my arm and I found five fingers printed on my arm, and blood and water coming out of the fingers. They were engraved in my flesh. So I started touching the fingers to see what was going on. I didn’t feel any pain. If you looked at it, and you saw it bleeding, you would say I should be screaming from [the] pain. But I didn’t feel anything. So I thought, again, that I might be hallucinating. So I went back home. The first person to see me was my wife, of course. And when she saw the fingers bleeding, she made the sign of the cross, and she asked me, “Whose fingers are these?”
So I was relieved, because I realized then that I was not hallucinating; my wife saw the same thing. And that night, I changed everything in my life. I decided to dedicate my life to Jesus Christ, to this light, to St. Charbel. So the second day, I left everything; I left my work, my activities — political, social, everything. I kept only my family — my wife and my kids. And I started a new life. We went with the founders of Télé Lumière, this Christian TV station. So I started this with them, we founded this TV [station], and I was dreaming of having a huge station, preaching and proclaiming Jesus Christ to the whole world — especially the Arab world. So we started a very tiny, small, TV station in Beirut, covering a few quarters of Beirut. And then we started growing.
So I had a dream of having this big TV [station], covering the whole world, and this dream came true. A few years ago we had nine channels broadcasting on six satellites, covering the whole world; different programs. Now we are passing through this economic crisis. We had 180 employees, now we are 30. We took down four of our channels, and we are broadcasting now on five channels, three satellites. And we are broadcasting in Arabic on these channels. And two years ago, we started an English channel. And I am still directing this TV station.
Lebanon is a very small country. This happened to me on November 10, and on November 11, all of the Lebanese were aware of what had happened in Annaya. It spread like lightning in Lebanon.
There was a rush of TV, and magazines, and radio, coming to interview me. So for a few days, I was becoming crazy [with] the media. It was like a wave of conversion for a lot of people. Especially the people who were fighting [alongside] me, the fighters of the Lebanese Forces, a lot of the army, a lot of people coming from all around Lebanon. We gathered every Friday night in Annaya. We had Bible study and then Mass, and then a procession from the monastery to the hermitage, praying the rosary. Thousands of people, every Friday, coming to Annaya to pray together. We reached 15,000 sometimes in the summer, during July and August. Between 10,000 and 15,000 people, gathered in Annaya to pray, have the Holy Mass, and then the procession to the hermitage.
And then we started the Family of St. Charbel. It’s a prayer group, which has now become like an organization. Now we are in 10 or 12 countries, where we have the Family of St. Charbel. People praying, converting, preaching. And so I kept going with this new mission, and then I went through the same experience several times a year: every time I see the same light, and some blood and water come out from the fingers [the mark on his arm] for a few days. Now it has happened 55 times, I think. And every time I receive a kind of message, I take notes, I give it to the Patriarch. Because these are the rules. And now, what I am doing is directing this prayer group called the Family of St. Charbel, the TV station, called Télé Lumière, and we founded this movement called the Liban Message movement, for reconciliation and spreading peace in Lebanon.
[End, Lebanon Report interview with Raymond Nader]