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In the north of Lebanon, meeting with Father Charbel at Saint Antoine Monastery
In the north of Lebanon, meeting with Father Charbel at Saint Antoine Monastery
Camille Devars Bex

After a long journey, I finally arrived at the monastery of St. Anthony for my appointment with Father Charbel. As I patiently waited, I glanced over at the church door, hesitant to enter and disturb the monks during their prayer or sacred readings.

As my patience wore thin, my mind began to wander until I was suddenly interrupted by the presence of nine monks, who were likely curious about my early morning visit.

My nerves were uneasy, and I found myself doubting how to approach a devout cleric.

A cheerful and welcoming figure suddenly appeared, accompanied by a young woman who offered us coffee. After sipping our coffee and exchanging a few pleasantries, I gathered the courage to ask my questions.

"Could you tell me about your career and life at Saint Antoine?" I inquired.

"I have been living here for two years now, and I pronounced my vows in 2009," he replied.

"What led you to choose this path?" I asked.

"I come from a very religious family, and I decided at the age of nine to become a monk," he paused and continued, "future monks are sent to the monastery of Tamich to study for five years. Out of these five years, two years are devoted to philosophy and three to theology. Once the studies are completed, one may present their perpetual vows and be ordained a priest. Living in a monastery can be summed up in two words: Ora and Labora."

Father Charbel provides an insight into the daily routine of the monks at the Saint Anthony Monastery. The day begins with a 7am service and mass, followed by a quick breakfast, and then the monks depart to fulfill their designated responsibilities.

Father Charbel himself is responsible for the reception of visitors, preparing the church for masses, baptisms, and hearing confessions from the faithful. Each monk is expected to contribute to the monastery in order to support the community.

In addition to his activities at the monastery, Father Charbel attends the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik where he studies music theory and practices singing, violin, and piano. He views music as a means of communication, communion, and a way of getting closer to the divine world.

As I prepare to leave, I inquire if Father Charbel had ever experienced doubts during his monastic journey, or questioned the path he had chosen.

For a moment, there is a hint of hesitation in his response. However, after a brief pause, his eyes light up and he responds, " Of course, I am human and life is made of temptations and difficulties, but each trial made me attach myself even more to my vocation."

Indeed, Father Charbel's unwavering dedication to his vocation is evident in the wisdom and determination he displays every day.

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