THE FOLLOWING IS AN EXTRACT FROM THE 1996
THE RULE AND CONSTITUTIONS BOOKLET
WHAT IS RELIGIOUS LIFE?
When people think of Religious life they often have in mind the actual
Religious themselves - the Priests, the Brothers and Sisters. However,
we are all Religious; all members of the Mystical Body of Christ,
the Church. But being this does not mean that we are bound to pray for
many hours each day or commit ourselves to an unrealistic number of charitable
works, and so on. That is not what Religious Life is all about. It is something
fundamentally more basic, something much, much, more comprehensive.
What is Religious Life? The Programme of Religious Life is attaining
perfection, as described in the Gospel. What does perfection mean? Our
Lord Jesus Christ told us to be "perfect, just as His Heavenly Father is
Perfect." (Matt. 5:48) However, this is not possible - except by
the Grace of God. Then all is possible. The goal of Religious Life is to
be able to live - to the best of one's ability - a way of life which is
under the heavenly, inspired guidance of the Church.
Religious Life is not only a way of life, but, more, it is based on
an attitude in imitation of the Life of Christ, a Life of Perseverance.
It generally takes a lifetime to finally achieve this goal.
Religious Life does not mean living a life withdrawn from the world.
It is a Religious State within the Church, within the world. It is to this
state that Our Lord's Words - "You are the Light for the World" (Matt.5:14)-
can most readily be applied. In Religious Life one does not stand aside
from the problems of the world. The Salvation of the World is the deepest
concern of Religious. They cannot adopt the attitude that they are free
from the world's harshness. They cannot be indifferent. Indeed, they are
the answer, living and tangible - to the cries of human perplexity and
WHY A RELIGIOUS LIFE?
The Religious Life which exists today is organised in accordance with the
Laws of the Church. These Laws are derived, primarily, from the Gospel
- adopting Jesus' Way of Life and making it a norm by which to live. But
why should one follow this Way? Why have so many done so in the past? It
was and is the desire to imitate Christ through a personal attachment to
Him. It is the answer to the invitation: "Follow Me." (Matt.19:21)
The source of a happy Religious Life is a personal love for Jesus and
Mary which, in turn, urges Catholics to embrace a voluntary way of life
of which He is the example; which He has revealed as the best means of
following Him closely and of always being with Him. In any formation of
Religious Life we must learn to live together as the Apostles did with
Jesus; to leave all in order to follow Him; to love one another for His
Sake. Thus we must live the "Evangelical Life" which is the fundamental
duty of all Religious.
FOR A PERFECT EVANGELICAL LIFE
1. We must mould our whole existence, our life and attitude to life,
so that it is in accordance to the example set us by Christ, as portrayed
through the Gospels.
2. To live the Evangelical Life well demands that one has the
virtues of a child of God:-
(a) an unlimited love of the Father.
3. Tied in with this is the requirement of a completely fraternal
life with the desire to love all men as Jesus loves them and, following
His Example, to give ourselves unceasingly for them.
(b) unlimited trust.
(c) unconditional surrender.
4. Evangelical Life requires a conversion, a radical change of
heart in thought, affections and actions.
It would be impractical to lay down a specified time in which to achieve
this, as it is usually a lifelong endeavour. However, the time has come
for mankind to realise that values and attitudes are changing - mostly
for the worse. How many Catholics reading this could say that they are
striving to follow Christ, or are they not rather motivated by the changing
trends of the world? Does mankind in general heed the call, "Come follow
me", or do those hearing the call reply: "No", or, "Yes I will come, but
WHY A NEW ORDER?
There are many Orders which already exist within the Church today, each
with their own special characteristics which seem to cover virtually every
possible situation. With this in mind, we may well ask why is there a need
for a new Order - a new means of living the Consecrated Life? Surely there
is one already in existence which would be sufficient even for today's
The Church has gone through many rough periods in its 2000 year existence
but, no matter what troubles existed in the past, it has always come through
with flying colours. In most cases it was through the guidance of a particular
person that the Church was shown the way. St. Anthony, St. Augustine, St.
Benedict, St. Francis, St. Dominic, St. Teresa of Avila and St. Therese
of the Child Jesus, are just a few of the great souls who, through their
lives, showed in what way the Mystical Body had to adapt itself. Yet again
the time has come when the Mystical Body of Christ is in dire need of assistance.
She needs a light - a beacon - to lead Her through the confusion that exists
within Her as well as the world, today.
So, what is the Way? It is the comprehensive Religious Life of the new
Orders and Congregations being established within the Church during these
times - notably the Order of Saint Charbel. This Order, and these Congregations,
are preparing to re-evangelise the Mystical Body of Christ. They are guiding
lights, not just for Religious Priests, Brothers and Sisters, but through
their Third Branches for the whole world. They provide the way by which
the laity can achieve deep perfection.
What is it that makes the Order of Saint Charbel different from the
Orders and Congregations which currently exist within the Church? One of
the major differences is that it takes something of the spirit of the respective
Rules of St. Benedict and St. Francis - combining the deeper contemplative
life of the Benedictines with the practical, active, lifestyle of the Franciscans,
which, together, unite a life of Prayer with a life of active Spiritual
and Corporal Works. That is, a life which is half contemplative; half active.
Apart from this, the Order is quite similar to the traditional Orders in
approach and method except, possibly, for the fact that the lifestyle is
not as regimented as were the earlier ones.
It is within the Third Branch that other significant differences become
more apparent. There are many Third Branches, but never before in the history
of the Church has anyone tried to implement a third branch which has the
intent to make the laity live the Evangelical Counsels according to their
state. Never before has anyone incorporated a Married Priesthood within
a Religious Order.
A LIFE BASED UPON THE GOSPEL
People have been living in communities for many thousands of years. Man,
by his very nature, is drawn to the community way of life in his pursuit
of physical and/or spiritual security.
If this is the case, it seems only natural that the first Christians,
surrounded by an overwhelming majority of more-established pagan religions,
should join together in a bond of the same thoughts and desires - to live
the same type of Life as that instructed by Our Lord Jesus Christ. Not
only were these first Christians inspired by the Holy Ghost, but they had
the Apostles to teach them - the Apostles being the very men who experienced
the Gospel through their Master, Jesus Christ, at first hand, for three
years. What better source could possibly exist?
So, with the Spirit and Instructions from the Apostles, the first Christians
lived a common life - living with one mind - having all things in common
- praying with one accord - as one in heart and soul. All things were common
to them. True, they had to overcome difficulties, but they prayed, and
were guided by the Holy Spirit. They lived and prayed together, thus becoming
a model for all those in the future who might wish to live the Religious
"The whole community remained faithful to the teaching of the apostles;
to the brotherhood; to the breaking of bread; and to the prayers. The many
miracles and signs worked through the apostles made a deep impression on
everyone. The faithful all lived together and owned everything in common;
they sold their goods and possessions and shared out the proceeds among
themselves, according to what each one needed. They went as a body to the
Temple every day, but met in their houses for the breaking of bread; they
shared their food gladly and generously; they praised God and were looked
up to by everyone. Day by day the Lord added to their community those destined
to be saved." Acts 2:42-47 (Quotation of Holy Father - Communities -
L'Osservatore Romano - Ref. APPENDIX H)
Saint Charbel is from the Maronite Church, which takes its name from Saint Maron, an anchorite from the vicinity of Antioch, who, in the second half
of the fourth century, withdrew from the world into a monastery not far
from Apamea in Syria to live with and for God, as did those men of Eastern
monasticism who were thirsty for God and who were called "the intoxicated
Maron was famous for his holiness and through him the Lord granted many
healing graces, both physical and spiritual, to the great number of people
who went to him. Maron, at the price of both his life and that of his monks,
fervently defended the Catholic doctrine as solemnly defined in the ecumenical
Councils held in that region, and which was defended by the Supreme Pontiff.
Maronite history is marked by loyalty to the Pope; by martyrdom in its
defence and by the almost visceral love for religious freedom and tolerance.
The willingness to welcome religious minorities that have made Lebanon
their refuge is an essential part of the Maronite traits which have made
Lebanon the homeland of minorities. Both Christians and non-Christians
recognise these characteristics of the Maronite Church and her leading
role in Lebanon. An eminent position has always been reserved for the Maronite
Patriarch, as a symbol of national unity and as guardian of the characteristics
The Maronite Church has a patriarchal structure. The Patriarch bears
the title of "Patriarch of Antioch and of All the East". Antioch was the
See of Saint Peter before Rome.
Saint Charbel was born Joseph Makhlouf on the 8th May, 1828, the fifth
child of a rather ordinary peasant family which lived in the small village
of Beqa' Kafra in the Lebanese mountains.
As a child Joseph was strongly drawn towards the Religious side of life.
Often he would pray and contemplate the deeper meaning of life. This did
not prevent him from growing up normally, but, rather, made him a model
child. However, when a child, a goal was placed in his mind and heart -
to serve God through the Priesthood. This became his prime ambition during
his youthful years. Although a worthwhile ambition, his family did not
agree with it, and thus he was forced to submit humbly to their will, even
though inside he was drawn more and more towards a life of prayer; the
life of a monk.
This urge increased more and more until, finally, he left his home and
family and went to the Monastery of Our Lady of Mayfouq. Because of his
true devotion he was admitted, changing his name to 'Charbel'. He was twenty-three
This was the first step towards the goal destined for this young man.
After finishing his first year of novitiate he asked to be transferred
to the Monastery of St. Maron at Annaya. This was because he wished to
detach himself from all worldly thoughts - working solely for God - and
this Monastery offered better opportunities for seclusion. His request
There he portrayed a life which seems - to us, today - incredible. He
prayed for hours at a time; gave himself penances which even the others
thought harsh; obeyed all those around him; ate one meal a day - usually
the left overs - and drank only water.
This was his life, and it was the life he lived until his death. It
was the road he followed because it was the road God wanted him to follow.
Saint Charbel's life was based upon the life of Saint Anthony of Egypt,
the Father of Monks. He mirrored his life upon that of Saint Anthony, abandoning
family and goods - living a life in attentiveness to God. The more deeply
he based his life upon Saint Anthony and the other Fathers, the more he
buried himself in a life of Prayer.
Saint Charbel knew the necessity of prayer, for with true prayer one
can overcome all the trials which the world can present. Hour after hour
he knelt before the Blessed Sacrament, living according to the precept
of the Lord: "Pray without ceasing." He venerated the Mother of God with
so much love that his heart became like that of the Blessed Virgin Mary.
Saint Charbel's humility and charity are something all can imitate if
they wish. Not only did he, like a child, obey his superiors, but, because
he saw Christ in those around him, he did his best to obey them completely
The Elders used to say that a monk must not judge others or revile them,
be curious, jealous or backbiting, malign his neighbour in thought or word,
nor look into his affairs. These are the ideals which St. Charbel followed.
It was not easy, but with prayer he was able to overcome all temptations.
By making these aims their own, with the help of prayer, all may follow
in his footsteps.
In the Monastery at Annaya, at the end of his novitiate, he made his
Monastic Profession and took the Solemn Vows of Obedience, Chastity and
Poverty. This was in 1853, when he was 25 years old. From here he was sent
to the Monastery of Saint Cyprian of Kfifane where he studied for six years.
During his studies he was always among the first in his class, primarily
because of his discipline and love for what he was doing.
After finishing his Philosophical and Theological studies, Brother Charbel
was ordained a Priest on the 23rd July, 1858 at Bkerke. Afterwards he received
instructions from his superiors to return to the Monastery of St. Maron,
It was here that he spent sixteen years of community life, where he
became the "servant of the servants." He respected all, even the least
significant in the community. He led a life of work and prayer, always
choosing those tasks that were most toilsome and lowly. His continuous
prayer, prolonged fasting, acts of mortification - and his union with God
- made him an Angel in human form.
But this is not the end of Saint Charbel's life. The next level of achievement
along his road to seeking his goal was that of solitude - the life of a
hermit. He could not become a hermit immediately, however, because becoming
a hermit is extremely difficult. First, a hermit must be like a piece of
metal - tempered and strengthened to remove all impurities - and this is
done through community life. At first Saint Charbel was refused permission
to be a hermit - not because he wasn't ready, but because all Superiors
discourage their members from leaving the community. It was another test
along the way. However, with patience and humility, he prayed. Again he
asked permission which was granted this time, but not without the help
of a heavenly Miracle.
In 1875 he was authorised to enter the hermitage which was dependent
upon the Monastery of Annaya. A hermit's life is most difficult, but, through
prayer, Saint Charbel took all in his stride. Saint Charbel was a hermit
for 23 years and he achieved his goal of living for Christ as perfectly
as he could.
At 11.00 a.m. on the 16th December, 1898, while saying Mass, Saint Charbel
was struck by paralysis during the Consecration. He was carried to his
cell where, for eight days, still paralysed and in great pain, he kept
repeating the names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and the Apostles, Peter
On Christmas Eve, 24th December, 1898, he died, at the age of 70 years.
He was buried, but the body was not embalmed - nor placed in a coffin -
which was the custom of the area.
It was only after his death that the rest of the world began to know
about him. Almost immediately miracles began to happen. For 45 days and
nights after he was buried a strange light flickered around his grave.
Three months after his death the Patriarch, due to reports of many miracles,
ordered that Saint Charbel's body be exhumed.
When the body was exhumed it was found to be floating in a watery oil.
It was incorrupt and the clothes were intact. The body was reburied, in
a coffin, in the Monastery. The miracles continued. Twenty-nine years after
his death the tomb was again opened and the body was found to be still
Many thousands of people have been cured through his relics, especially
the oil which still flows, even today, from his body. And the cures continue
to this day!
Saint Charbel was beatified on December 5th 1965 by His Holiness, Pope
Paul VI. The ceremony took place at the closing of the Second Vatican Council.
On October 9th, 1977, during the World Synod of Bishops, Pope Paul VI canonised
Blessed Charbel among the ranks of the Saints.
WHY SAINT CHARBEL?
Saint Charbel is the model of this Order. He was a model of Christian unity
- a man of peace - of contemplation - and of corporal works. He was the
perfect example of piety, love and faith; renouncing all the riches of
the world; a perfect example of chastity and obedience; a living marvel
of God. He showed the world where prayer and physical works become one
and the same; where prayer and contemplation were the work of God; and
the work of God "to help his fellow man" become a prayer. This is the basis
of the Order, amalgamating the two together - the way Christ wished us
The Church in Lebanon is coming out of isolation and rediscovering the
authentic expression of her apostolic faith enriched and formulated by
the Eastern Fathers in the ecclesial communion which goes beyond the frontiers
of Lebanon and the structure of the Churches of various rites.
THE PURPOSE OF
Put simply, the purpose of the Order of Saint Charbel is to live the Life
of the Gospel - in its fullness. This aim is identical to that of many
other Orders, and it is, or should be, the objective of each and every
Catholic. It means following the instruction of Jesus Christ, Our Lord,
when He said: "Come follow Me." We intend to embrace the life set down
by the Order; to strive for perfection; to learn, and then show to others,
Christ, so that they, also, may learn of His Love for them, and the Love
of His Most Blessed Mother, Mary the Immaculate.
The Order is an example of the Light of Christ, He Who is the Light
of the World. And the way to live the life of the Gospel is by living the
way Christ intended - through the lifestyle of a Religious Community.
AIM OF THE ORDER
Generally speaking, the Order aims to bring about the Re-evangelisation
of the Church, to re-live the Traditions of Holy Mother Church, ensure
the unification of the between Eastern and Western Catholic Rites, to tie
in the old, the true, the traditional, with a new form of consecrated life.
A prime aim of the Order of Saint Charbel is to achieve the unification
of the Mystical Body of Christ. This will be realised through various degrees
of implementation. The need for unification is in response to a desire
described in the Holy Scriptures when Our Lord prayed to His Father that
all would be as one, as He and His Father were, and are, one; that there
be one flock under one shepherd. (John 17:21)
THE CHARISM OF
What then is the real Charism of the Order of Saint Charbel, that it will
be distinguished between other Orders? The main difference is that the
Mission of Atonement is the major factor in this Order. This part of re-evangelising
the Church speaks for itself. Why re-evangelise, as the Church has been
evangelised already? It is because the Mystical Body of Christ needs to
be renewed in a strong, determined faith - like a vow that needs to be
renewed in a Profession of Faith - which is done periodically by the Religious
faithful, But this must be enhanced by strong Spiritual and Corporal Works
of Mercy in a more profound and heroic manner, especially in these times
when the faith in Holy Mother Church has become lethargic, for this can
be seen in the great decline in vocations.
So, part of the charism of the Order is atoning for the abuse of Grace
and bringing forth new and vigorous aspirations to new heights of devotion
to Jesus and Mary - constantly requested by the true Magisterium, and mostly
by the Vicar of Christ.
This special charism is seen in the devotions and traditions of the
Church - both East and West - thus fostering the desired unity in a more
and prominent way. For example: through the devotions to the Sacred Hearts
of Jesus, the Immaculate Heart of Mary and the Most Pure Heart of Saint
Joseph. Furthermore, the great devotion to Saint Charbel, who originates
from Lebanon paves the way for a stronger bond and unity between East and
It is also to foster and integrate the various traditions that are wholesome
for our strong faith, handed down to us through various Fathers of the
Church, from the East and West, bringing forth unity that has been sought
after for many centuries.
It is to be noted that the most prominent part of the charism of this
new form of Consecrated Life is the lifting of the family into the realm
of a special Religious expressed vocation by taking Minor Vows; this being
a strong factor of bringing forth unity in the Mystical Body of Christ
for the three major forms of Consecrated Life, namely: Priests, Brothers,
Sisters, Married, and Single.
People living a vowed life bring forth the fruit of a Mystical Union
and Spiritual Foundation in the Mystical Body of Christ. Furthermore, the
Married state of life is a Community of its very own, and by joining this
special love between husband and wife into the bosom of the Community Religious
life, it too brings forth fruit that is desired and expressed in the Mystical
Body. (see the teaching of the Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, given about
the family on the 22nd November, 1981; Apostolic Exhortation, Familiaris
Further, by incorporating a Married Priesthood within the Order, the
Sacramental life of the family is enhanced, and the potential for vocations
to the Priesthood, greatly expanded.
The charism of the Order of Saint Charbel can stand on two main foundations:
true unity and true devotion, made up with the traditions of our faith
in a spirit of atonement and reparation to God. The Order documents are
self-explanatory on this factor.
THE FOUNDER OF THE ORDER
Throughout the history of the Church, specially chosen people have been
divinely inspired to assist humanity in their pursuit of Christ through
living the Life of the Gospel.
The Founder of the Order of Saint Charbel is William Kamm, known world-wide
as "The Little Pebble".