By Fr. Richard Kunst
When Pope John Paul the Great was criticized for canonizing so many saints, he acknowledged that he did, indeed, deliberately raise more saints to the altar than any of his predecessors, because he believed we are living in a time that needs saints as witnesses more than ever. There have been books written about the people he canonized and beatified, and it is quite refreshing to read about many of them, because we can identify with people from our own era who lived a heroic faith life.
As much as I like hagiography, the study of the saints, I have to admit that many of them, living in a different era, seem to be a bit untouchable, or even unreal. In many cases they became “kitsch,” entering so much into the piety of worldwide Catholicism that they became little more than statues. I am reminded of St. Therese of Lisieux who has rightly been called the greatest saint of modern times. Her statue seems to be in a majority of churches, but I’d like to know how many people in the pews actually know anything about her life.
Reflecting on the life of St. Charbel calls to mind a common frustration among my brother priests and me. On a regular basis, many people come into Mass late. Often they are so late they miss one or two of the readings. It is even more common for whole portions of the church to be empty after communion. While we are happy that these people at least come to Mass, think of the contrast between our experience and that of St. Charbel, who would spend hours in prayer both before and after receiving communion.
We would never go to a movie late, or leave before the story was over. Why in the world, then, would we do that with the Divine Liturgy where heaven and earth meet?
St. Alphonsus de’ Liguori (1696-1787), born 130 years before St. Charbel, believed that if we didn’t receive our first communion until we turned 100, we would still not have sufficient time to prepare. At another time, he said that once we receive communion, twelve angels surround us, worshiping what we just consumed. Obviously, that is not dogma, but it is food for thought if we are tempted to leave Mass early.
The saints are always icons of having lived the Gospels, including those who seem to be so different from us. St. Charbel is a great example of this. I pray to him that through his intercession more people will grow in awe and reverence for Christ’s Eucharistic presence. —Father Rich
St. Charbel, pray for us!
Blessed Pope Paul VI canonized Charbel Makhluf on October 9, 1977.
The Divine Liturgy for this feast was celebrated by Father Theodore Trinko (Institute of the Incarnate Word). “The Family of Saint Sharbel” participated in the celebration along with the Lebanese community in the area, as well as other pilgrims of the National Shrine.
Father Trinko concluded: “Everything in him was God’s and because of his generosity he received the promise of our Lord, a hundred times more than he gave up in his life, and eternal life and in the age to come. We can imitate Saint Sharbel’s generosity, and all of us can say yes to God no matter what He asks and no matter what He expects from us. Cheap souls will never make it to Heaven, and we will never save ourselves if you continue to put limits on what we will give to God.
At the shrine of Saint Sharbel, the Family of Saint Sharbel offered complimentary prayer cards to pilgrims.
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The National Shrine Grotto of Our Lady of Lourdes & The Family of Saint Sharbel, USA invite you to the Celebration of the Feast of Saint Sharbel at the National Shrine Grotto, on Saturday, July 18, 2020.
Confession: 10:45-11:45 am
Holy Mass: 12 pm, followed by the Blessing with the Relics of Saint Sharbel
All Masses will be held outdoors at the Grotto Cave and we can only accommodate 350 attendees per Mass. Please bring hats, water, and umbrellas, and follow ushers' seating directives. In the event of inclement weather, Mass may be cancelled and will be announced. Please keep checking the announcement on the website of the Shrine.
Hope you can join us in prayer on this blessed feast of Saint Sharbel.
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Family of Saint Sharbel, USA.