Beatified at the conclusion of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council in 1965, and canonised seven years later, Saint Charbel Makhluf represents an important figure in the life of the universal Church. Born to lowly stock in Lebanon in 1828, he became a Maronite monk and priest in his twenties, living a life of strict asceticism in the monastery. In 1875 he was permitted to become a solitary hermit and remained so for twenty-three years until his death on Christmas Eve 1898. For almost seventy-five years after his death, the monk’s body remained incorrupt, and many miracles are attributed to his intercession.
How, though, does Saint Charbel represent an important figure in the life of the universal Church? Simply because he reminds those of us who are Latin Catholics, that is those who are members of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church, that we are part of a rich tapestry of Christian tradition united in the one true faith in the Church of Christ. The Catholic Church comprises twenty different other ritual Churches, many of which celebrate their own liturgical rites and all of which operate under a different body of canon law than do we. This diversity, which is perhaps one of the greatest hidden treasures of the Catholic Church, is not a diversity of doctrine or dogma, but simply of expressions of the one, unchanging, apostolic faith in Christ. Indeed it is for the same teachings that we profess in the relative calm and comfort of our own lives, that our fellow Catholics of other rites are shedding their blood today in many parts of the world. We are united to them in faith, and by the blood they shed for the Christ into whom we are all incorporated.
By his canonisation, then, the intercession and example of Saint Charbel has been extended to all Christians—east and west—as a universal beacon, leading the entire flock to the good shepherd. Let us pray that through his prayers more and more may come to one sheepfold which is the Catholic Church, that in unity of faith we may be brought to the fullness of life in the kingdom of heaven.