St. Charbel Makhlouf was rooted in the faith of his family, supported in particular by his loving mother.
St. Charbel has become a very popular saint among Roman Catholics, as well as those who follow the Maronite tradition. When St. Paul VI canonized him in 1977, he singled out the role his family had in developing his vocation to the priesthood.
St. Paul VI chose to first highlight St. Charbel’s family in his homily for the canonization.
It is important at least to note to what extent the Christian environment of his childhood rooted the young Youssef in the faith — that was his baptismal name =- and prepared him for his vocation: a family of modest peasants, workers, united; animated by a robust faith, familiar with the liturgical prayer of the village and the devotion to Mary; uncles dedicated to the hermit life, and above all an admirable mother, pious and mortified to the point of continual fasting.
According to the website Family of St. Charbel USA, “Youssef was very pious, so much so that his fellow villagers used to call him ‘the Saint.’ Daily he used to take his small herd to the fields where he would let them graze while he went to a nearby grotto to fall into deep prayer in front of an icon of the Virgin Mary. This grotto became his altar and his first hermitage.”
St. Charbel’s father died when he was young and it was up to his mother to bring him up in the faith.
St. Paul VI praised St. Charbel’s mother and quoted her in his homily.
Listen to the words that are reported of her after the separation from her son: “If you weren’t to be a good religious, I would say to you: ‘Come back home.’ But I know now that the Lord wants you in his service. And in my pain at being separated from you, I say to him, resigned: May he bless you, my child, Charbel, a man drunk on God.” The virtues of the home and the example of the parents always constitute a privileged environment for the blossoming of vocations.
The example of St. Charbel’s family reminds us how important the family is in fostering vocations to the priesthood and religious life. A family’s faith can propel a young child to embrace their vocation at a young age and maybe even to lead a life of extraordinary holiness.