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New St. Sharbel spirituality center provides a place of ‘health and holiness’ through Eucharist

Votive candles imprinted with the image of Lebanese St. Sharbel Makhlouf are seen during an ecumenical prayer service Aug. 25, 2020, at Our Lady of Lebanon Maronite Cathedral in Brooklyn, N.Y. The Maronite Catholic Eparchy of St. Maron has opened a new spirituality center in Pittsburgh, under the patronage of St. Sharbel, known for his miraculous intercession. (OSV News photo/Gregory A. Shemitz)

(OSV News) — With Catholics in the U.S. marking the National Eucharistic Revival, a new spirituality center in Pittsburgh is encouraging deeper devotion to the Eucharist through the intercession of a beloved Lebanese saint.

The St. Sharbel Spiritual Life Center, which opened its doors Dec. 14, offers opportunities for worship, Eucharistic adoration, education, ministry, training and Scripture studies. The center operates under the direction of the Eparchy of St. Maron in Brooklyn, New York, in the Maronite Catholic Church, one of the 24 self-governing Eastern and Latin churches in communion with the pope that together make the global Catholic Church.

Situated on three acres, the center is adjacent to Our Lady of Victory Maronite Catholic Church, and includes a chapel, an extensive library, classrooms, prayer spaces, offices and kitchens.

Liturgies are celebrated Monday through Friday at the center by a rotation of priests from the Maronite, Byzantine and Roman traditions “as a sign of unity within the Catholic Church,” according to a press release from the organization. Opportunities for Eucharistic adoration and the sacrament of reconciliation are available each weekday.

On the 22nd of each month, the center will offer a liturgy in honor of St. Sharbel for the intentions of those present, with Eucharistic adoration, confession and veneration of the saint’s relic. Day retreats will also be offered in the coming months.

Maronite Bishop Gregory J. Mansour, who leads the St. Maron Eparchy, said in a statement that he and fellow Maronite Catholics are “supremely blessed” to be able to share the legacy of St. Sharbel.

“St. Sharbel is well known to Maronites and many other Catholics around the world, but now we will be better able to spread his devotion, his faith and — we pray — extend his blessings even further,” Bishop Mansour said.

Born in 1828 in Lebanon, Yussek Antoun Makhlouf was drawn from an early age to solitude, prayer and contemplation, likely inspired by the example of two uncles who had entered the monastery of St. Anthony of Qozhaya. Having lost his father as a very young child, the future saint quietly rejected his family’s exhortations to marry and undertake a trade, leaving home at age 23 to embrace monastic life. He was ordained a Maronite priest in 1859, living and praying at the monastery of Annaya.
In 1875, St. Sharbel received permission to become a hermit at Sts. Peter and Paul in Aannaya, abandoning his solitude only at his superiors’ request to visit and heal the sick. He died on Christmas Eve in 1898 from the effects of a stroke.

Immediately after his death, witnesses reported seeing lights around his tomb, and upon exhumation his body was found to be both incorrupt and exuding sweat and blood. St. Paul VI beatified the humble monk in 1965, canonizing him in 1977.

Miracles through St. Sharbel’s intercession continue to this day, center director Dr. Anne Borik, a Catholic physician, told OSV News.

Borik, a Pittsburgh native who now lives in Arizona, said she has had “a great devotion to St. Sharbel for years,” as her family worships in both the Maronite and Roman rites of the Catholic Church.

That devotion dramatically intensified after she headed up a medical team investigating the case of Dafne Gutierrez, an Arizona mother of five who became legally blind in 2014 due to a medical condition that increased pressure in her skull mimicking the effects of a brain tumor.

Gutierrez, then 37, had been an indifferent Catholic who knew nothing about St. Sharbel. She began attending Catholic healing Masses, and venerated a relic of the saint during one 2016 Maronite liturgy. That visit also included a return to the confessional and an anointing. Mere days later, Gutierrez’s sight was restored.

For Borik, the experience further inspired her faith since Gutierrez had, in her judgment, suffered “irreversible” damage from “constriction to the optic nerve” under “very, very high” pressure on the brain.

“When this happened, it totally turned my way of practicing medicine completely around,” Borik told OSV News, adding, “I (now) pray at the bedside with patients, and I’ve never had somebody refuse when I just offer, ‘Do you want me to say a prayer.'”

Borik, who also founded the St. Sharbel Global Prayer Net, an international prayer group hosted on the Mighty Networks app, said “prayer is such a powerful tool that we have for healing.” She indicated those who come to Pittsburgh’s St. Sharbel Spiritual Life Center will discover St. Sharbel is the perfect guide to lead others to “health and holiness.”

“It’s not really a shine,” she marveled, “but a life center.”

Gina Christian is a national reporter for OSV News. Follow her on X, formerly Twitter, at @GinaJesseReina

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