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Panoramic Views > North > Al Batroun > Saint Nimatullah al Hardini & Blessed Stephan Nehme

Saint Nimatullah al Hardini and Blessed Stephan Nehme

Kfifan and Two Modern Saints

When speaking of Man, one finds his nature to be complex, attractive, enigmatic, brilliant, and drawn by fantasies. He has morals, customs and principles of unending variety, with his concepts, sentiments and personal tendencies. This Homo sapiens, capable of great achievements of holiness science, and art, or deeds of crime and terror, swings between good and evil. But any man who devotes himself wholeheartedly, with love and strong will, to any discipline, science, art or road to sanctity, whatever you will, can reach the highest summits, becoming a saint, a scholar or an artist.

In Lebanon, in simplicity of life, in faith in God, people led a life that could not be more holy, drawing nourishment from the light, the Good News, sacrifice and purity. Once one spoke of the miracle of Greece, on account of that country’s achievements in the realms of philosophy, thought, vision and civilization. Can one not speak likewise of the miracle of Lebanon in the realm of holiness? Lebanon a great Nation, bound in a small and mountainous country on the eastern shore of the Mediterranean, crowned with eternal snows, whose sons have all had the experience of sanctity, a land which in the shortest of times has given numberless saints to humanity – saints in their hundreds and thousands, as in a hive of bees.

This bold Lebanese, who despite the terror imposed by the Ottomans and others has been able to stand upright through the ages, finding refuge in prayer, in the blue robes of the Virgin, in the mystic light of the Lord, radiating from the churches and the monasteries built by the sweat of monks toiling with the blessing of God.

There was no Cluny here with its three thousand monks, for our communities even in their golden age never counted more than some eight hundred monks. These ascetics devoted their time to meditation, prayer and hard manual labor, as farmers, raisers of livestock, builders, carpenters, tailors and bakers, while each religious house had its particular note, charm and taste of its bread.

There were seminaries and novitiates, where every monk had to spend some time receiving his proper formation, before being appointed by his superior to some particular monastery where he would pass the rest of his life. These places were just a few hours’ walk from one another, making an earthly paradise given over to God.

Two monks draw our attention, one learned, a scholar, an administrator, and the other a simple peasant brother, barely literate. But each labored in his own domain, day and night, offering all his effort to God, two beautiful and holy souls.

One was Saint Neamatallah Kassab el-Hardini, that is to say from the village of Hardeen. The other was Blessed Stephan Neami el-Lehfedi, from Lehfed. Their monastery was that of St. Kyprianos at Kfifan, nearly thirty-five miles from Beirut at an altitude of some 1,500 feet. The name Kfifan means the little locality, where some old houses with roofs and arcades were to be found.

In the nearby village of Kfifan there are some surviving basements and old inscriptions dating back to the emperor Hadrian. Several wells surrounded by a wall on the north side of Kfifan still exist with traces of a fort. But what distinguishes Kfifan is the historic monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justinian, going back to the Crusades of the 11th century, and once the seat of the Maronite patriarchate. In the village there are also several churches.

This is the place, the foundation, where hundreds of holy monks would be called to follow the road of religion. Two of these have now been raised to the altars. One of them was Saint Neamatallah el-Hardini, novice-master, teacher of philosophy and liturgy, thinker and researcher, a fine man, robust and tireless, who chose closeness to God as the atmosphere for his activity. Poor, pure, chaste and obedient, he passed on his faith and his way of life to all his pupils and successors, among them Saint Sharbel Makhlouf and Blessed Brother Stephan.

Born in 1800 in Hardeen, a locality in the heights of Batroun, he had as maternal grandfather the Reverend Father Yusuf Yaacoub of Tannoureen, and grew up in a family that was strongly united and deeply Christian. As a boy he often helped his father by working in the fields. He pronounced his vows on October 20th, 1816 and was ordained priest on September 30th, 1823. He celebrated Holy Mass with great piety and when he was ill he accepted his suffering and died on Christmas Eve in 1858. Miracles were attributed to him soon after his decease and he was canonized in Rome on May 10th, 1998.

We have already mentioned another great saint who also lived at Kfifan. This was Blessed Stephan Nehme, born in Lehfed in 1889, the youngest of three brothers. He entered the monastery of Kfifan in 1905 and died on August 30th, 1938 at the age of 49. At the present time his body is still intact.

All day long the monk Stephan used to repeat, “God sees me.” He lived under the tutorship of God, as a worker. Trained as a carpenter, he looked after the grounds and the farmland of the monastery, “laboring in the vineyard of the Lord.”

Pious, praying with deep love, united to the Lord in meditation, and studious, he was called by his brethren the Little Angel. It is said that it was he who discovered the subterranean spring of the Badger, el-Ghoreir, still kept in order and bubbling up near the house of his birth.

In the basement of the monastery of Kfifan he passed every day before the mortal remains of Father Hardini, praying and asking his aid in carrying his daily cross. Having pronounced his vows in 1907, he lived always submitting to the orders of his superiors. He recited the Rosary morning and evening and was always ready to lend anybody a hand. In 1951, thirteen years after his death, the monks opened his tomb and found his body intact.

The monastery of Kfifan has become famous, a unique place of pilgrimage with its two great saints of our own times. The faithful flock there from all sides and now the light of the saints of our land shines over all humanity.

Joseph Matar - Translation from the French: K.J. Mortimer

- Saint Nimatullah al Hardini and Blessed Stephan Nehme: >> View Movie << (2013-09-01)
- Kfifan Monastery - Church: >> View Movie << (2013-11-15)
- Kfifan Monastery - Museum: >> View Movie << (2013-11-15)



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