Born in the village of Beqaa-Kafra (Lebanon), he was orphaned in early childhood and was brought up by an uncle. In 1851 he became a monk at the monastery of Our Lady of Mayfug, taking solemn vows in 1853. He was ordained priest in 1859. He lived in the monastery of St Maro at Annaya (Gibail) for 15 years in all, delighting in singing the Office, working in the fields, and reading especially The Imitation of Christ. In 1866 he became a hermit in a purpose-built house owned by the monastery. The regime included fasting all the year round without meat, wine, or fruit: he slept on a mattress of leaves on the floor with a block of wood for a pillow. There, like Antony and Seraphim, he lived the regime of prayer and penance and experienced the temptations of the hermits of antiquity. This lasted for over thirty years.
In 1898, celebrating Mass in the Maronite rite, he suffered an attack of apoplexy just before the consecration. He was carried to his cell and died eight days later, on 24 December.
Some months after his burial, well-versed phenomena occurred. The body was fresh and incorrupt and was placed in a new coffin, where a reddish perspiration (sometimes called ‘blood’) flowed and caused the monks to change his clothes twice a week. In 1927 the Patriarch initiated an enquiry and the body was reburied. In 1950, after liquid was observed on the wall of the tomb, the body was found fresh and incorrupt again. Instantaneous cures and miraculous healings were claimed, some of the beneficiaries being non-Christian. The body was then reburied under concrete. This whole extraordinary story provides a modern, verifiable account of phenomena frequently claimed for medieval saints and frequently derided.
One of Sharbel's prayers may be quoted: ‘Father of truth, behold your son who makes atoning sacrifice to you. Accept the offering: he died for me that I might have life.’ Sharbel was beatified at the Second Vatican Council in 1965 and was canonized in 1977. Feast: 24 December.
P. Daher, Vie, survie et prodiges de l'ermite Charbel Maklouf (1953);other Lives by J. Eid (1955), M. Hayek (1962), and S. Garofalo (1965);see also D. Attwater, Saints of the East (1963), pp. 184–6;Bibl. SS., viii. 568–9.