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Blessed Estefan Nehmeh, canonization 2010 Kfifan

 

 
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Blessed Estefan Nehmeh, canonization 2010 Kfifan
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Blessed Stephen (Estefan) Nehmeh (Cause for canonization in progress) - A Laborer in the Vineyard of the Lord Order the Collection Les sentiers de la foi)

Throughout his short life, Brother Stephen tirelessly repeated “God sees me.” This sentence defined his spirituality and showed the depth of his attachment to the Most High. He called on God to guide him, to enlighten him, to confirm him in his faith and to grant him the virtues needed for him to advance to holiness.

Born in Lehfed in the district of Byblos in early May of 1889, he was the youngest of six children, Nehmetallah, Sarkis, Haykal, Yussef, Toufica and Frosina. His parents were deeply pious and had him baptized in the church of Lehfed dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

His brothers and sisters nicknamed him “the little angel of our home” on account of his innocence and piety. He was very much attached to his mother, who taught him the principles of Christian faith. His father, a simple and pious man, also brought up his children in the fear of God.

In the village school he showed himself a studious pupil, learning to read and to write, and often going off alone to pray in the church. When he was watching his father’s sheep in the fields, he would go with his companions to pray in an ancient sanctuary dedicated to Saint Saba. When he was sixteen, he worked with his father and brothers in the fields, and one of his brothers declared that he had never heard him say a word out of place.

It is said that he discovered a subterranean source of water that he named Badger’s Spring, for he caused the water to gush up when he was running after a badger. Today this spring still flows abundantly and still cures those who pray for the intercession of Brother Stephen.

He early heard the call of Our Lord and was strengthened in his vocation when studying in a school of the monks at Saki Reshmaya, where he learnt Syriac. One winter’s night he secretly left his home and went to Kfifane, there entering the noviciate. Ten days later he donned the monastic habit, taking the name of his father Estefan. It was then in 1905 that he began his renunciation of the world and set out on the path to sanctity.

During the two years of his noviciate, Brother Stephen was in the habit of making a daily visit to the remains of Father Nehmetallah al-Hardini, asking him to help him carry the cross of Christ. He was happy to be taken in charge by Father Ignatius Dagher at-Tannouri. He took solemn vows on 23rd August, 1907, remaining a simple brother for the rest of his life. It has never been known why he gave up ordination to the priesthood although he had desired it deeply.

For thirty-one years he was moved around according to the wishes of his superiors, from Maifouk to Jbeil, to Hadab, to Qattara and to Annaya, finally ending his days in Kfifane. He worked in the monastery fields, plowing, planting and harvesting, and acting as carpenter and mason. The land became his school of life and the source of his spirituality.

He loved God first and foremost and loved others for love of God. He showed this during the First World War, feeding the hungry and protecting those in danger. The story is told of how he once wept on seeing a child vainly trying to feed from the breast of its dead mother. He took the child to the fields and looked after it. Quickly the children brought up in the fields multiplied in number, but he fed them with cow’s milk till the end of the war.

He was always saying the Rosary. Neither cold, nor labor, nor illness nor anything else prevented him meditating or distracted him from Our Lord. He had left the world to give himself body and soul to adoring God with love and humility. He passed away on August 30th, 1938 as the result of cerebral thrombosis.

In 1951, thirteen years after his death, when the monks opened his tomb to bury beside him Father Yusef as-Souraty, they found his remains intact. The news spread fast and the faithful flocked to ask for graces and cures. The religious authorities then closed the tomb and moved the body to another. A fragrant oil that the remains exuded effected cures. Pope Benedict XVI declared Brother Stephen a beatus on 17th December, 2007.

"I will get to paradise before you do."

To Father Yussef Keyrouz who was being ordained priest and said to him with some pride, “Tonight is the last time you will call me Brother,” he answered, “Do you think that the monks who are priests will get to heaven before the brothers? I will get to paradise before you do.”

His rosary in his hand.

Father Boulos Zahra: In the evening Brother Stephen would go to the chapel with his rosary and not leave it till dinnertime, then returning to pray till bedtime.

"He worked with us and like us."

Father Mikhaël al-Khoury: "We greatly admired him. He was a monk well known for his poverty, his obedience and his purity. Active, speaking little, he was an example for us all. If he had to reprimand someone, he did so in a low voice and with kindness. He worked with us and like us."
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