Learning from Saint Sharbel

By Sister Marla Marie Lucas
(An excerpt from a reflection given at Our Lady of Purgatory during the visit of the Relics of Saint Sharbel.)

The Church is so good to give us saints to be our companions on the journey to heaven -- our journey of becoming saints.  They are our encouragers, our inspiration, our role models for holiness.  Saint Sharbel can teach us many lessons by his life example, and I will focus on a few to to help us to be more intentional Christians.
St. Sharbel was devoted to:  prayer, eucharist, and humility.  Let’s look briefly at each of these.

There is a saying, “show me a man who is favored, and I will show you a man of prayer.”  We easily see that St. Sharbel is favored. Through this Saint’s intercession, God has worked many signs and blessings.

Even while Sharbel was a monk, he was known for miracles: he saved his brothers from a poisonous snake by ordering it to vanish; he recited his prayers by the light of a lamp, which a brother monk purposely filled with water instead of oil, and it gave light; he obeyed his superiors and saved several fields from a plague of grasshoppers, by sprinkling them with holy water; he cast out demons, and healed sick people. 

Sr. Natalie Sayde venerating the relics at
Our Lady of Purgatory Church. 
God has and continues to work great blessings through the hermit monk St. Sharbel. This January when these relics were at the Maronite parish in Phoenix AZ, a young Mexican mother of four was healed of her blindness.    
So well loved in his lifetime and even more after his death.  Why? How? The answer is prayer.  “show me a person who is favored, and I will show you a person of prayer.”

As a child and young man, Youssef (Sharbel’s name before becoming a monk) would daily pray at a nearby shrine to the Virgin Mary while he tended the sheep in his mountain village of B’aa Kafra in north Lebanon.  After entering the monastery at age 23, he distinguished himself in his faithfulness to prayer, meditating on Scripture each day, offering the rosary, the Divine Liturgy, contemplation. And 16 years later, Sharbel desiring deeper prayer entered the life of a hermit living austere penances and prayer. 

We learn how to pray from this holy Saint.
Often times when we come before God to pray, and ask him to remove from our life circumstances we don’t like.  When God doesn’t, we get upset, frustrated.  We may begin to think that “God doesn’t care about what is happening to me.”  The truth is, God does care and he always hears our prayers.  Prayer is less about changing things and more about changing us.
When we spend time in prayer, the one thing that should be changing is us.  In faith, we enter the presence of God when we pray, and in his presence we are changed. As we spend time with God, we find rest from our trials and a strength to continue on.
St. Sharbel, teach us how to pray.

St. Sharbel was devoted to the Eucharist.  It is said that he would awake early and spend those hours preparing himself to offer Divine Liturgy (the Mass), then after Divine Liturgy he would spend the rest of the day in prayerful thanksgiving for receiving communion. Saint Sharbel followed the path of the hermit fathers by kneeling austerely before Jesus in the Holy Eucharist, praying quietly to Jesus day and during the night. 
While celebrating Divine Liturgy on December 16, 1898, he suffered a stroke saying the words: “Father of truth, behold your Son, the sacrifice in whom you are well pleased.  Accept him who died for me…” 
He then kept repeating these words until he died eight days later on Christmas Eve at the age of 70. 
What do we learn from St. Sharbel? He prayed the Divine Liturgy with devotion, affection and attention that he truly became what he offered: communion with Jesus in sacrifice and in new life.
St. Sharbel, teach us to love the Eucharist.

In the monastery, the monk Sharbel, diligently did hard, manual work in the fields, vineyards and served his priestly duties in an edifying manner.  Later on when Sharbel asked permission to live as a hermit, he continued faithfully in any work his superiors would ask.  A learned and wise man, Sharbel never refused or thought any work was beneath him.  He carried out his duties with joy and generosity always obedient to his superiors. 
Sharbel had a healthy self-knowledge and was in love with God his Creator.   He considered himself a sinner and “the least of all”, as he would often say. He knew he needed a Savior.
Humility is often misunderstood.  People think it’s a sign of weakness, a doormat. 
However, humility is actually a sign of great courage and deep spiritual understanding. In humility there is no fear. In humility there is no timidity. In humility there is only confidence—confidence, not in the self but in God’s loving protection.
I am sure St. Sharbel was inspired by these words in the Scriptures 1 Peter 5:5b-7:

“       And all of you, clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another,
         for: “God opposes the proud but bestows favor on the humble.”
        So humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time.
        Cast all your worries upon him because he cares for you.”
            Saint Sharbel, teach us to be humble.