Saint Charbel Makhlouf was born on May 8, 1828, in Biqa-Kafra, a small village nestled in northern Lebanon’s high mountains. His parents, poor by means, had five children, with Joseph, later known as Charbel, being the youngest. Brought up in a devout family, he developed a deep-seated piety and love for God from an early age. His childhood was marked by solitude, prayer, and detachment from worldly concerns.
At the age of twenty-three, he left home, drawn towards a religious vocation as a monk and hermit. He joined the Lebanese Maronite Order, established in Lebanon in 1695 and officially recognized by Pope Clement XII in 1732.
Charbel first resided in the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouk, located north of Jebeil, before being transferred to the Monastery of Saint Maroun at Annaya, which was part of the Lebanese Maronite Order. Here, he continued his Novitiate until 1853, taking vows of Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience, and adopting the name “Charbel.” Despite facing trials and doubts from some about his vocation, including his own family, he remained resolute and unshaken in his path.
After professing his solemn monastic vows, Charbel was sent to the Monastery of Kfifan, where he studied theological subjects and was ordained a priest in 1859. Subsequently, he was posted back to the Monastery of Saint Maroun in Annaya. His humility, fidelity to duty, and virtuous life, akin to an angel’s, made him a revered figure.
He spent sixteen years as a priest at Saint Maroun’s. His superiors, recognizing his deep desire and calling for a hermit’s life, permitted him to move into the hermitage of St. Peter and St. Paul in 1875. Located approximately a mile from the monastery, he lived there, practicing mortification and self-denial, which served as an inspiration to all.
For Saint Charbel, living as a hermit was not just a vocation, but a divine calling. The goal of his religious life was the sanctification of his soul through faith, hope, and charity. He strived to achieve this by means of prayer, manual labor, fasting, and self-detachment, all to a heroic degree. For twenty-three years, he lived as a hermit, until his passing on December 24, 1898.