AN UNUSUAL MONK FROM LEBANON
FR. ANTONI TATARA
Who are we talking about? About beatified Stefanie Nehmé (1889 - 1938), a Lebanese monk who was beatified by Pope Benedict XVI in 2010, and now (since 2016) his canonization process is underway. It is worth getting to know his character, because he is an extraordinary man in his simplicity
No one is proclaimed a saint on the initiative of the Church; The Church proclaims somebody a saint whom people think of so. When a people proclaims the sanctity of a person, the Church is committed to establish the authenticity of this fact and announce it officially. These are the words of Father Elie Khalifé Hachema, Superior General of the Lebanese Maronite Order, to which Bl. Stefan, uttered in the context of his beatification. Father Elie added that in order to proclaim someone saint, beside the "voice of God's people" headed by his pastors, proof of that person's "heroic virtues" is also needed and "God's voice" expressed by at least one miracle through intercession of such a person. Whereas there were and are a lot of such spectacular events through the intercession of Bl. Stefan Nehmé.
A badger indicates vocation
Blessed Stefan, who was named Józef in secular life, was born in Lebanon, in Lehfed (about 50 km north of Beirut), on March 8, 1889. He had five siblings, and his parents were Stefan and Krystyna Badwi Hannah Khaled, practicing and very zealous Christians. He grew up in the atmosphere of hard work on the land, and at the same time in joy and constant gratitude to God for his gifts. Perhaps that is why Józef was calm, obedient, balanced, and additionally endowed with exceptional intelligence.
His biographers emphasize that he was well built, and thus - very physically strong. He liked loneliness and prayer, led cattle to the pasture, cultivated the land, and contact with nature aroused in him a growing desire for intimacy with God. He kept saying, "God is looking at me," because in the surrounding nature and its beauty he saw God's presence.
One day, when he was grazing cattle on the pasture - he was 14 at the time - he noticed a small badger who had hidden hinself in a rock cave that no one had entered before, because the entrance to it was too narrow. Curious, he somehow squeezed in behind it and there he discovered a spring of which no one had any idea, all the more so because the lands there are extremely dry. And so this hidden treasure - water - filled the whole area with life. The spring has been gushing water till today, and this water is considered miraculous. This event made Józef’s vocation memorable.
Joseph joined the Order of the Lebanese Maronites. He took the name Stefan to commemorate his deceased father. He was an ordinary monk. He worked hard physically and lived in close contact with nature. His stay in four Maronite monasteries is described in detail in the book presented here. Anyway this year Stefan was a tireless worker, strong, dynamic and hardworking. He always prayed. He loved the Holy Mass, the Liturgy of the Hours and the Rosary, and before making any decision, he said: "I will ask God because God sees me."
He was always smiling, never complaining about anything. Unlike the saints of his order - Szarbel, Nimatullah and Rafka - he was not a typical hermit, because he also had contact with people from outside the monastery, for whom he was a role model. He shared everything he had with those in need. He was even called "the father of orphans" because he also looked after children who lost their parents, due to various hostilities in Lebanon.
Unfortunately, he didn't have very good health, although he never complained about it. He suffered from a serious rheumatic disease, which led to his untimely death on August 30, 1938.
Life after death
Br. Stefan was buried at the common monastic cemetery of the monastery in Kfifane. His obituary wrote, among others: "He fulfilled his duties and faithfully obeyed religious vows, impeccably performing all the tasks entrusted to him." He also fulfilled these tasks after his death. It all began with the fact that in 1951 his body was exhumed, which remained intact. People through his intercession began to experience God's special favors.
It is impossible to list all the miracles that are attributed to his intercession. Some of them were described in the book presented here. One of the most famous is the one when Lara Noun, presenter of the Christian Arabic television Télélumiere, invoked his intercession and care when she got into a second pregnancy, and doctors said her child had died in her womb. The woman continued to pray. It turned out that the child miraculously came back to life. He was born healthy and lives up to now. And all this was caused by Br. Stefan Nehmé.
Another case is related to a 13-year-old from Sydney named Antonio. He suffered from untreatable epilepsy. One day, his mother was dreaming of a black bearded monk who said, "Now you will find peace." This dream did not leave her alone. Finally she discovered that this monk was Br. Stefan. She took her son on a pilgrimage to his grave, and there he was completely healed of his illness.
Yet another example of asking the Lebanese monk for a full life relates to a woman named Dalal. For 20 years she suffered from severe knee pain. Her condition was getting worse and doctors were helpless. When she asked for intercession of Br. Stefan, she was effectively and permanently healed literally at the same moment.
Nothing more nothing less. You just have to wait for the soon canonization.