The relics of saint whose intercession has been linked to thousands of documented miracles will be on display in Phoenix Jan. 15-17.
St. Joseph Maronite Church is hosting the relics as part of the 50th anniversary celebration of the beatification of St. Charbel Makhlouf by Pope Paul VI.
First class relics are parts of a saint’s body that are venerated by the faithful, a practice that goes back to the second century AD. The relics of St. Charbel that will be on display in Phoenix include part of the saint’s skeleton.
Relics of St. Charbel
Jan. 15-17 at St. Joseph Maronite Church, 5406 E. Virginia Ave.
Confessions in English and Spanish available throughout
3 p.m., Jan. 15 — Spanish Mass in the Latin Rite celebrated by Fr. Bob Rossi
6 p.m., Jan. 16 — English Mass celebrated in the Latin Rite by Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted
9 p.m., Jan. 16 — Movie about the life of St. Charbel with English subtitles
Masses in various rites available throughout
Fr. Wissam Akiki, pastor of St. Joseph, said the church will host 13 Masses during the three-day celebration, including liturgies in the Maronite, Melkite, Byzantine and Latin Rite. Masses will be offered in English and Spanish and confession will be available throughout the event, with Bishop Thomas J. Olmsted of the Diocese of Phoenix presiding at a 6 p.m. liturgy Jan. 16. Bishop Gerald N. Dino of the Byzantine Catholic Eparchy of Phoenix will celebrate a Byzantine liturgy at 3 p.m. Jan. 16.
Eucharistic Adoration and the Rosary will also take place and a movie about the life of St. Charbel will be shown at 9 p.m. Jan. 16.
A visit to St. Joseph Church, Fr. Akiki said, reaches beyond the historical significance of one of the Church’s greatest saints. It’s about building faith in a world that seems to have lost sight of God.
“We are living in a world with no more commitment, no more values, no more love, no more faith,” Fr. Akiki said. “The relic of St. Charbel coming to visit us here, it’s to bring us closer to God, to have more faith in God, to be more united with God.”
Known as the “second St. Anthony of the Desert” and “the Perfume of Lebanon,” St. Charbel has touched the lives of both Christians and non-Christians.
“St. Charbel is not just for one side, not just for Maronite. It’s for Maronite, Muslim, Catholic or non-Catholics,” Fr. Akiki said. “St. Charbel is for all people.”
Across religions and denominations, there is devotion to the humble hermit who entered into religious life at 23 and died on Christmas Eve, 1898. A few months after his death a bright light was seen surrounding his tomb. When superiors opened the saint’s tomb, they found his body still intact. St. Charbel was beatified in 1965 and canonized 12 years later by Pope Paul VI.
The visit of the relics of St. Charbel is part of a U.S tour that includes stops at 91 Maronite churches. According to Fr. Akiki, there have been 26,000 miracles recorded in the monastery in Lebanon where St. Charbel once lived.
“Those are recorded, approved by doctor and by Church,” Fr. Akiki said. Many have left their crutches behind at the monastery after being healed. Stela Paolini, a Phoenix woman, visited Fr. Akiki Jan. 8 and told him the intercession of St. Charbel had healed her of cancer. The priest said he plans to forward her file to Rome.
Fr. Akiki emphasized the importance of focusing on God with the understanding that healing takes place by the power of God through the intercession of the saint.
“People have to know that the home for St. Charbel outside of Lebanon is here at St. Joseph Catholic Church,” Fr. Akiki said. “We need people to focus on more than St. Charbel. They need to focus on God, on the Holy Spirit, on the Eucharist.”