If St. Charbel kept his faith while living in silence, being away from loved ones and sleeping on cement for decades — then I can certainly keep my faith through little bumps in the road.
That’s what Lebanon’s patron saint has taught me.
This weekend, Lebanon celebrated Eid Mar Charbel, or the feast day of St. Charbel. My village held a special mass for him, drawing more than 100 people — ranging from tourists and locals, to mothers and doctors, each touched by the saint in their own way.
After mass, the priest led us down a winding, one-mile path to a St. Charbel shrine. As we walked, singing Arabic hymns along the way, there was a breathtaking view of the green mountains and steep valleys to our right, and orchards of apples and bright flowers to our left. One of the people leading the line held a cross, the other a picture of St. Charbel — symbolizing our goal to follow Jesus and St. Charbel’s paths.
St. Charbel lived a quiet life — only to make a loud splash after death. He made major sacrifices: saying no to marriage, leaving his family behind and spending 23 years in total silence as a hermit. During those years, he focused on praying and fasting. He’d sleep only a few hours on the hard ground. His intentions were never to become a famous saint, but to get as close to God as possible. After death, he performed countless miracles around the world, which drew attention to his story. He’s become an example of how to say no to selfish desires, dedicate oneself to prayer and stay faithful even through the most difficult times.
The walk to his shrine gave me chills. Not only was it beautiful to see so many people coming together to pray — but being surrounded by the stunning view of the mountains of Lebanon, where St. Charbel found deep faith, was enlightening.
In fact, every time I come to Lebanon, I find myself enlightened in one way or another. Often, it’s because I’m faced with challenges. This trip in particular, it’s been the hard work of becoming a freelance journalist in a foreign country. When I’m in a challenging phase, and I’m far from home, I find myself turning to God more than ever. And if I can stay faithful through a difficult time, then — like St. Charbel — my spirituality will only grow.
That’s what St. Charbel means to me. In this video, I ask the people of Mazraat El Touffah what he means to them.