Saint Sharbel Makluf, priest
Born as Youssef Antoun Makhlouf (1828-1898) in Bekaa Kafra in northern Lebanon, St. Sharbel was a Catholic Maronite monk and priest. He lived as a hermit from 1875 until his death. His reputation for holiness prompted people to seek him to receive a blessing and to be remembered in his prayers. He kept a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament.
Those close to God have become doctors of souls
From the letters of St Ammonius, hermit
You also know, my dear brethren, that ever since the transgression came to pass, the soul cannot know God unless it withdraws itself from men and from every distraction. For then the soul will see the adversary who fights against it. And once it has seen the adversary, and has overcome him every time he engages it in battle, then God dwells in that soul, and all the labour is changed to joy and gladness. But if the soul is overcome, then there come upon it grief, boredom, and many other kinds of heaviness.
This is why the holy fathers also withdrew into the desert alone, men such as Elijah the Tishbite and John the Baptist. For do not suppose that because the righteous were in the midst of men it was among men that they had achieved their righteousness. Rather, having first practised much quiet, they then received the power of God dwelling in them, and then God sent them into the midst of men, having acquired every virtue, so that they might act as God’s provisioners and cure men of their infirmities. For they were physicians of the soul, able to cure men’s infirmities. This was the need for which they were dragged away from their quiet and sent to men. But they are only sent when all their own diseases are healed. For a soul cannot be sent into the midst of men for their edification if it has some defect of its own. And those who go before they are made perfect, go at their own will and not at God’s. And God says in reproof about such, ‘I sent them not, but they ran of themselves’ (Jeremiah 23:21). For this cause they are neither able to guard themselves, nor to edify another soul.
But those who are sent from God, do not want to go away from their quiet, knowing that through it they have obtained the divine power; but in order not to disobey the Creator, they go for the spiritual edification of men, in imitation of Him. For as the Father sent His very Son from heaven to heal all the infirmities and sicknesses of men (as it is written, ‘He took our infirmities and bore our sicknesses’ Isaiah 53:4), thus all the saints who come among men to heal them follow the example of the Creator of all, that so they might be made worthy of adoption as sons of God. And as the Father and the Son are, so these should be, unto the ages of ages. See, beloved, I have made known to you the power of quiet, and how it heals on all sides, and how God wills it. That is why I have written to you, that you may be strengthened in what you are doing, and know that it is in quiet that all the saints grew, and for this reason the divine power came to dwell in them, and made known to them heavenly mysteries; thus they drove away all the oldness of this world. And he who is writing this to you has by means of it attained to this measure.
Many monks at the present time have been unable to persevere in quiet because they could not overcome their self-will. For this reason they live among men all the time, since they are unable to despise themselves and flee from the company of men, or to engage in battle. Thus they abandon quiet, and remain in the company of their neighbours, receiving their comfort thereby, all their lives. Therefore they have not been held worthy of the divine sweetness, or to have the power dwelling within them. For when that power looks down upon them, it finds that they receive their comfort in this present world and in the passions that belong to the soul and body. As a result it cannot overshadow them any more, for love of money, human vainglory, and all the soul’s sicknesses and distractions, prevent that divine power from overshadowing them.
Show yourselves strong in what you do. Those who depart from quiet are unable to conquer their passions or to fight against their adversary, because they are subjected to their passions. But in your case, you overcome the passions, and the power of God is with you.
O God, who called the Priest Saint Sharbel to the solitary combat of the desert and instilled in him all manner of devotion, grant us, we pray, that, being made imitators of the Lord’s Passion, we may merit to be co-heirs of his Kingdom. Who lives and reigns with you.
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