By Emily Lattouf, a postulant with the Maronite Servants of Christ the Light
As a Maronite, it’s not hard to love Saint Sharbel, especially since my family is from Baakafra, the village where Saint Sharbel was born (May 8th, 1828). I have always loved Saint Sharbel. I was born on May 6th which was close enough to his birthday that my mother gave me the middle name Sharbela. During my childhood visits to Baakafra, I would participate in the week-long celebrations leading up to Saint Sharbel’s feast day. The tiny village would be packed with people from all over!
Who is this Saint celebrated and loved by so many? As I got older, I realized that I did not know Saint Sharbel as well as I should. I knew about his life and how great he was because everyone “said so” and I would hear stories of different miracles. I decided to start reading up on Saint Sharbel. My relationship with him began to grow and my prayer life too.
What I love about Saint Sharbel is that he was a sinner in need of God’s mercy. He like us had to work on himself to become a saint. One of the last prayers he recited before having a fatal stroke during Liturgy in 1898 was “Oh Father of Truth behold Your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to You… many are my sins, but greater is Your mercy.” Saint Sharbel knew who he was in his relationship to God. He knew that He was nothing on his own, and he had confidence not in himself but in God’s mercy. He persevered in his trials. Can you imagine if he had said, “Lord what’s the point of working hard to become a saint, I cannot rise to you, I am a sinner” or “I am just so perfect I was born a saint.” If St. Sharbel lived in despair of his sinfulness or in an illusion of his own goodness, he would have given up the fight for holiness.
Instead of hiding his sins, he turned to God and prayed “consider the sin and consider the atonement; the atonement is greater and exceeds the sin.” St. Sharbel had such confidence in the blood of Christ.
Through the merits of Christ, may we run to the Father of Truth, as did Saint Sharbel, with the confidence of beloved sons and daughters.
“Father of Truth, behold Your Son, a sacrifice pleasing to You. Accept this offering of Him who died for me; behold His blood shed on Golgotha for my salvation. It pleads for me. For His sake, accept my offering. Many are my sins, but greater is Your mercy. When placed on a scale, Your mercy prevails over the weight of the mountains known only to You. Consider the sin and consider the atonement; the atonement is greater and exceeds the sin. Your beloved Son sustained the nails and the lance because of my sins so in His sufferings You are satisfied and I live.”