During the Lebanese war (1975-1990), Raymond returned to Lebanon to be with his parents and compatriots. He enrolled in the Lebanese Christian Forces and participated in various battles defending the Christian community. He served as a high-ranking officer and was the Commander of the school of officers.
At the end of the war, he returned to civilian life and worked as the CEO of a Swedish Company in Beirut.
Since 1985, he would regularly pray and go on spiritual retreats where he would spend time in meditation and prayer. One of these locations was the hermitage of Saint Sharbel, located in Annaya, Lebanon.
On the night of November 10, 1994, Raymond was praying in the cold open-air in front of Saint Sharbel’s hermitage. During his prayer, he was given a new experience of God’s love, fatherhood, and care. Here is a brief account of his story:
“I was praying, as was my custom of many years, and this time in front of Saint Sharbel’s hermitage in Annaya. I found myself in another world… everything had stopped. I could no longer see the candles I had lit, nor the trees, nor the ground. I could hear no sound at all. I could not feel my body. I started seeing – but not with my eyes – things I had never seen in my life. I stopped hearing with my ears, but started hearing things I had never heard before. I started feeling in my heart what I had never felt before as if my heart was no longer made of flesh and blood. I saw a strange and amazing Light unlike any light I had ever seen; it was a sea of light that extended from one end of the universe to the other. The sun would look like a small candle compared to that Light. It was not a natural light; despite all its strength, it neither dazzled nor burned. The Light was soft and smooth, gentle, yet strong and powerful at the same time. It had a crystalline color and was an extremely clear and pure Light. I felt as if I were a tiny drop of water, swimming in a very great sea of wonderful crystal Light. I felt very safe like a tiny baby swimming trustfully in the water of his mother’s womb. I felt indescribable joy and great amazement!
I felt as if I were perhaps standing, sitting, or swimming or something else that I do not know. I was either present before a great being or in the heart of a very powerful and marvelous being. This presence is the perfection of power, knowledge, compassion, and love. I felt as if I were in contact with one being while, at the same time, I was in contact with all the creatures of the universe. It seemed that the whole universe had become one and I was a part of it. As if the universe melted in this Light, and so did I. I then entered into a dialogue with that Light. It would talk to me without words, without voice, without language, but in a way clearer than any words, and more eloquent than any language. That Light was talking directly to my soul and addressing my mind and my heart directly -without passing through my ears or my eyes or any of my earthly senses, of which I was no longer aware of."
I said to myself, “I must be dreaming.” He answered me in His way and in His language, which is devoid of words, sounds or languages. He made me understand – in a very clear way that can neither be misinterpreted, misunderstood nor wrongly explained – that I was not dreaming. Yet, I repeated to myself, “I am certainly not conscious.” In the same marvelous and clear way He explained to me that I was at the pinnacle of consciousness and that I had never in my life reached a level of awareness of my existence as I had at that moment. It was as if He were telling me: “You are now more conscious than you have ever been in your life. You are at the most conscious moment of your life.”
Then I started wondering: Where am I? What is this Light? Who is this talking to me? At that moment, I felt the most awesome sensation a person can ever feel: a very great peace, an indescribable joy, an intense and absolute happiness. It was a complete and wonderful clarity, a pure and strong love that exceeds by millions of times the love that exists in the hearts of all human beings together… a great and tremendous love, yet unlike that of humans, a different one. A great divine love which only that Light can grant.
As I was overwhelmed by that wonderful feeling, and completely melted in it, I ‘heard’ Him telling me: “This is me.” It was as if I had known Him for a very long time, since my birth, or even perhaps before I was born. I felt as if He knew me perfectly since I was formed in my mother’s womb and even before that. As if He knew every atom of my body; and knew each cell of my brain. As if He knew the thoughts of my soul, and my feelings far better than I did. I felt completely naked in front of Him and I felt that the Light went through my body from one side to the other. This Light does not cast shadows; He passes through everything… I felt that He entered every corner of my heart.
I wanted that Light to stay permanently. I wanted to remain in Him always and that if He wanted to go away, that He might take me with Him. But He answered me in His way as if He were saying to me: ‘I am always here and everywhere; I do not go anywhere. I am always in time, and out of it; in space and out of it.”
This mystical experience lasted for four hours. Raymond was trying to make sense of all that had happened to him, but could not, for that wonderful feeling continued to burn within his soul. He gathered his Bible, candles, and other belongings and headed for his car. He explains:
I saw [the imprint of] five fingers on my forearm. They were engraved like a hand on my arm and encircled by a red glare as if imprinted through fire. But I felt nothing but warmth. I drove home. When my wife saw my arm, she made the Sign of the Cross and asked me whose hand [print] it was. Then I felt a great relief. I needed no more proof. What had happened to me was real!”
This miraculous mark on his arm and in his heart changed his life. Raymond placed himself under the authority of the Church and complied with the Church’s request to document the event, after having been evaluated physically and psychologically.
Dr. Nabil Hokayem, a Beirut plastic surgeon, examined the mark on Raymond’s arm three times (1994, 1995 and 1996). In his professional opinion, the mark is a third-degree burn that destroys both the upper and lower layers of skin. The doctor said the first time he saw the burn, he wanted to treat and bandage it as usual, but Raymond declined, saying it did not bother him. Besides the lack of pain, the doctor explained it was unusual that the burn did not leave a scar, but instead would just slowly fade until it had “healed totally.”
Raymond remains convinced that Saint Charbel imprinted it on his arm to assure him that his experience of God’s presence was as real as the mark on his arm. After five days the wound healed completely by itself, leaving no scar.
Thousands of people have joined the “Family of Saint Sharbel” since 1995, under the guidance of the Maronite Church authority and it has spread to other countries. Its main objective is to truly live by the Gospel, the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Church.
After 9 years of experience and close observation by the Church (as per the rules to accept new groups within the Church), the Family of Saint Sharbel received the official recognition as Ecclesial Community in 2010.
In 1996, Raymond joined Tele Lumiere, the Christian TV station based in Lebanon, broadcasting to the Middle East and the whole world. He is the Executive Director of Tele Lumiere’s satellite channel, Noursat.
Since 2000 Raymond has been traveling the world promoting Tele Lumiere and Noursat and working on expanding the coverage of the station to the whole globe, improving its programs and equipment, and establishing “the Family of Saint Sharbel” groups (USA, Poland, Ukraine, UK, France, Australia…), believing deeply that Christ’s message of love, peace, and understanding among people should reach every heart on Earth.
In 2007, deeply touched by the words of Saint Pope John Paul II “Lebanon is more than a country, it’s a Message”, Raymond founded “Liban Message Movement” (or Lebanon the Message Movement), with an objective of working on reconciliation and building bridges between different Lebanese parties torn by wars. Being the president of “the Family of Saint Sharbel”, the president of “Liban Message Movement”, and the executive director of Noursat, Raymond is dedicating his life to the service of our Lord, spreading His Good News, and inviting people to respond to the call of God so every human being would achieve the Will of God in his life which is to become a saint by following the example of Jesus.
So far (2020), Raymond’s encounters with Saint Sharbel have been repeated 100 times. All of them occurred at Annaya in Lebanon except for 2 times at the church of Most Holy Trinity Monastery in the US. During these encounters, the mark is renewed once or twice a year. He has so far received 45 messages, sixteen of them are currently published.
 Location of the Monastery of Saint Maron and the Sanctuary of Saint Sharbel (http://saintcharbel.com/)
 Detailed video testimony: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UatXxxzk_Y&t=307s&ab_channel=FamilyofSaintSharbel-USA
 Catholic News Agency article (2019)
 Love One Another Magazine (8/2007)- http://www.loamagazine.org
 It was first approved by the Bishop of Jounieh, Antoine Nabil Andary (Patriarchal vicar), the late Maronite Patriarch Nasrallah Boutros Sfeir, a member of the Council for the Apostolate of the Laity, and then by the Council for the Apostolate of the Laity, pursuant to Canon 18 of the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches, and Canon 575 of the same Code.