The sculpture was commissioned by the town of Cascia, and executed by a young Lebanese Christian named Nayef Alwan, who used a rock hewn from the hills of his country. After a visit to St. Peter’s Square for a blessing from Pope Francis, the 20-foot statue of Rita was erected with great joy at the intersection of the roads between Cascia and Roccaporena.
Christians of Lebanon have a long and deep devotion to St. Rita, and so they took great pride in the fact that St. Rita’s statue was hewn of stone from their country, and sculpted by one of their own.
Now, they have a giant statue of their own, from the hand of the same artist, this time of their beloved fellow countryman, Saint Charbel Makhlouf, O.L.M. (or, Sharbel Makhluf), whose arm is raised in blessing above them.
Located in Faraya, a touristic area popular for skiing 27 miles north of Beirut, the monumental statue is 88.6 feet tall, 30 feet wide and weighs nearly 60 tons.
Lebanese Cardinal Bechara Peter Rai, patriarch of Maronite Catholics, consecrated the statue on the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Sept. 14. [… It] represents an expression of gratitude for the healing of a boy through the intercession of the saint in combination with medical treatment.
When 14-year-old Michel Salame first complained of a headache in the summer of 2016, his parents didn’t think it so unusual, as he had been playing soccer and it was a hot day. But Michel’s symptoms quickly deteriorated, and he developed a tumor on his forehead, although not cancerous, and suffered from seizures.
A high-risk surgery was needed, coincidentally on the feast of St. Charbel, with a follow-up surgery a few days later. [His father, Elie Salame] told the Register: “I was praying that maybe the operation wouldn’t be necessary. But St. Charbel sent me a message to go ahead with the second operation.”
Both surgeries were successful, and, as part of his treatment, Michel continued with medication. Now, he is a healthy and thriving 15-year-old. “I can’t say for sure if it is a miracle or not, but for sure, St. Charbel helped us with this huge crisis,” Elie Salame said. The statue was the family’s way of giving thanks for their son’s healing.
Lebanese sculptor Nayef Alwan was commissioned for the monumental statue, with Elie Salame providing the specifications he had in mind. “I just wanted to have it big,” Salame said, “so that it can be seen from all over when it’s lit, to protect Lebanon and all Lebanese — all religions.”
The gigantic St. Charbel statue is Alwan’s first work in fiberglass and resin — so that it would be durable to withstand wind, rain and snow in Faraya, at 6,070 feet above sea level.
Alwan carved the original from cement and clay. It was then fitted with a mold and constructed at a marine industry company by a team of some 60 people, comprised of Christian, Druze and Muslim workers. … “It was a big challenge,” Alwan says of the yearlong project. “But it was for St. Charbel, so you just make the Sign of the Cross and go forward and don’t have to worry about anything. I felt it very easy,” he explained.
Read the rest of the story, here.
St. Charbel is well-regarded by many Lebanese Muslims. In 2016, Lebanese journalist Roula Bahsoun, a practicing Shiite Muslim, spoke openly about her feelings for the saint, whose relics she visits each month at the Annaya monastery,
Physicians in Arizona cannot medically explain the recent restoration of a woman’s eyesight after she had prayed to Charbel to heal her blindness.
Her sister-in-law heard that the relics were coming and that St. Charbel had healed a blind boy in Mexico. Gutierrez is neither Maronite nor Lebanese, but as a woman of faith she prayed for the saint’s intercession. He’s had a great track record of healing, even after his death in 1898.
Not only was her vision restored, it was restored to 20/20, said Dr. Anne Borik, one of several physicians to examine Gutierrez. “The pressure in her brain got to the point where it caused damage to the optic nerve. After this happened, the optic nerve looked completely normal, with no signs of damage or atrophy,” she said in an interview “There’s nothing in the medical literature that anything like this had ever happened.”
St. Charbel, monk, priest, powerful intercessor, and healer, pray for us!
The transporting of such a huge statue is pretty entertaining to watch: