St. Sharbel Makhluf
Although this saint never traveled far from the Lebanese village of Beka-Kafra, where he was born, his influence has spread widely.
Joseph Zaroun Makluf was raised by an uncle because his father, a mule driver, died when Joseph was only three. At the age of 23, Joseph joined the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya, Lebanon, and took the name Sharbel in honor of a second-century martyr. He professed his final vows in 1853 and was ordained six years later.
Following the example of the fifth-century St. Maron, Sharbel 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 followed a strict fast and was very devoted to the Blessed Sacrament. When his superiors occasionally asked him to administer the sacraments to nearby villages, Sharbel did so gladly.
He died in the late afternoon on Christmas Eve. Christians and non-Christians soon made his tomb a place of pilgrimage and of cures. Pope Paul VI beatified him in 1965 and canonized him 12 years later.
Blessed John Paul II often said that the Church has two lungs (East and West) and it must learn to breathe using both of them. Remembering saints like Sharbel helps the Church to appreciate both the diversity and unity present in the Catholic Church. Like all the saints, Sharbel points us to God and invites us to cooperate generously with God's grace, no matter what our situation in life may be. As our prayer life becomes deeper and more honest, we become more ready to make that generous response.
When Sharbel was canonized in 1977, Bishop Francis Zayek, head the U.S. Diocese of St. Maron, wrote a pamphlet entitled “A New Star of the East.” Bishop Zayek wrote: “St. Sharbel is called the second St. Anthony of the Desert, the Perfume of Lebanon, the first Confessor of the East to be raised to the Altars according to the actual procedure of the Catholic Church, the honor of our Aramaic Antiochian Church, and the model of spiritual values and renewal. Sharbel is like a Cedar of Lebanon standing in eternal prayer, on top of a mountain.”
The bishop noted that Sharbel's canonization plus other beatification cases prove “that the Aramaic Maronite Antiochian Church is indeed a living branch of the Catholic Church and is intimately connected with the trunk, who is Christ, our Savior, the beginning and the end of all things.”
Today in the Latin Calendar we commemorate S. Christina, Virgin and Martyr. A story about this commemoration can be found by Clicking Here.
St. Christina of Tyre, Martyr
Commemorated on July 24
The Martyr Christina lived during the third century. She was born into a rich family, and her father was Governor of Tyre. By the age of 11 the girl was exceptionally beautiful, and many men asked for her hand in marriage. Christina's father, however, wanted his daughter to become a pagan priestess. He placed her in a special room where he had set up many gold and silver idols, and he ordered his daughter to burn incense before them.
In her solitude, Christina wondered who had created this beautiful world. From her room, she was delighted by the stars of the heavens, and she constantly thought about the Creator of the world. She was convinced that the voiceless and inanimate idols in her room could not create anything, since they themselves were created by human hands. She began to pray to the One God with tears, entreating Him to reveal Himself. Her soul blazed with love for the Unknown God, and she intensified her prayer all the more, combining it with fasting.
Christina was visited by an angel, who instructed her in the true faith in Christ. The angel called her a bride of Christ and told her that she would suffer for her faith. Christina smashed all the idols in her room and threw them out the window. Shortly thereafter, Christina’s father visited her and asked where all the idols had gone. Christina would not speak, but summoning her servants, her father learned the truth from them.
In a rage, Christina’s father began to slap her face. At first, she was quiet, but then she told her father about her faith in the One True God, and that she had destroyed the idols with her own hands. Her father gave orders to kill all the servants who had attended his daughter, and he fiercely beat Christina and threw her in prison. Having learned about what had happened, Christina's mother came crying to her daughter’s cell and urged her to renounce Christ. However, Christina remained unyielding. The next day, her father brought Christina to trial and ordered that she worship the pagan gods and ask forgiveness for her sins. Instead, she gave a firm and steadfast confession of her faith in Christ.
Her father ordered that Christina be tied to an iron wheel, beneath which was lit a fire. Her body, turning round on the wheel, was scorched on all sides. She was then thrown back into prison.
That night, an angel appeared, healing her wounds and strengthening her with food. Seeing her unharmed, her father gave orders to drown her in the sea. An angel sustained Christina while the stone sank to the bottom, and she miraculously came out of the water and reappeared before her father. Her father subscribed this event to sorcery, and he decided to execute her in the morning. However, that same night, her father suddenly died.
Governor Dion was sent in his place. Dion ordered Christina to renounce Christ, but seeing her unyielding firmness, he again subjected her to torture. She was then thrown back into prison where Dion thought she would eventually perish. However, people began to flock to her, and she converted about 300 people to the true faith in Christ.
In place of Dion, a new governor, Julian, arrived and resumed Christina’s torture. Julian ordered that she be locked in a red-hot furnace. After five days the furnace was opened and Christina was found alive and unharmed. Seeing this miracle, many came to believe in Christ the Savior.
Finally, St. Christina was executed with a sword.
Troparion (Tone 4) –
Your lamb Christina, O Jesus,
Calls out to You in a loud voice:
I love You, O my bridegroom,
And in seeking You, I endure suffering.
In Baptism I was crucified so that I might reign in You,
And died so that I might live with You.
Accept me as a pure sacrifice,
For I have offered myself in love.
By her prayers save our souls, since You are merciful.
Kontakion (Tone 4) –
O Venerable Christina,
You appeared as a shining dove,
With a pair of golden wings
Alighting in the Highest Heavens.
Therefore we celebrate your glorious feast
And bow before the place that holds your relics.
Pray that we may receive grace and healing for body and soul.
Certainly you know that the great Lord when coming into the virgin's womb chose to appear contemptible, needy, and poor in this world. He did this so that human beings, who were utterly poor and needy, might be made rich in him in the kingdom of heaven that they will certainly possess. So, exult exceedingly and rejoice, filled with great joy and spiritual happiness.-- S. Clare of Assisi
Quote by S. Padre Pio:
You become sad at the little love you feel for God ... that desire to love is love. Who placed this yearning to love the Lord in your heart? Do not holy desires come from above?
Do not omit Holy Communion
Once, I desired very much to receive Holy Communion, but I had a certain doubt, and I did not go. I suffered greatly because of this. It seemed to me that my heart would burst from the pain. When I set about my work, my heart full of bitterness, Jesus suddenly stood by me and said, "My daughter, do not omit Holy Communion unless you know well that your fall was serious; apart from this, no doubt must stop you from uniting yourself with Me in the mystery of My love. Your minor faults will disappear in My love like a piece of straw thrown into a great furnace. Know that you grieve Me much when you fail to receive Me in Holy Communion". - (Diary 156)