And St.Sharbel’s Messages
By Edward J. Brice
Father George Sebaali, the pastor and host of the event, is one of many priests to open their churches and hearts to visitors from near and far. The occasion was the appearance and testimony by Raymond Nader,  a Lebanese nuclear engineer with a wife and three children.
Thanks to our bishop, H. E. Stephen Hector Douehi, Raymond Nader was invited to speak at our Maronite parishes in line with the program of spiritual renewal in this jubilee year. Mr. Nader's visit was approved and blessed by Bishop Béchara Rai, Bishop of Byblos and President of the Committee for Socio-Pastoral Initiatives of the Maronite Church; Bishop Roland Abou Jaoude, Patriarchal Vicar and President of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communication; and Brother Nour, the General Supervisor of Télé Lumière - an ecumenical Christian television station sponsored by the Assembly of Catholic Patriarchs and Bishops in Lebanon since 1995. Mr. Nader is employed by Télé Lumière.
Mr. Steve Asad, a parishioner of Saint Elias Maronite Church in Roanoke, escorted Mr. Nader into the church where Mr. Nader had presented his testimony the night before. As he knelt in his pew, Mr. Nader was indistinguishable from the other worshippers who were praying or meditating.
The Liturgy was inspiring as always. Father Sebaali's moving homily was a fitting prelude to Mr. Nader’s testimony. As Mass ended, those who knew Raymond or had seen his picture on “Saint Sharbel’s Hand Web Site”, greeted him warmly. Raymond Nader would be recognizable if one were to run into him in New York City, Los Angeles, or Wheeling, West Virginia. Why? He is one of those people you know forever once you have met them in person or seen their picture. He seems not to have changed from the 1990s when his pictures began to appear in Maronite literature.
Raymond told the crowd that his life story and the messages he has received - - and which he is to pass on to us -- will "change the dark corners in your lives." He asked: “What are we doing in this world? Rushing! Running! Making money. Having a family. Having a home. And still we keep running! We come into this world and we begin running. Let us pause and reflect before life passes us by and we feel that we have done nothing in preparation for our journey toward Him.“
He continued: “My quest for answers to the meaning of Christ began when I was a young boy. My grandfather was a priest. One day, when I was only five, I was helping my grandmother bake the host wafers. I asked my grandfather: ‘What do you do with these?’ He said: ‘I take them to church; I put them on the altar; and I pray over them. Jesus descends, comes into the hosts, and I give them to the people. Thus Jesus enters their hearts and they start loving God and one another.’ Maybe it was then, when I had this light inside my head. And I became focused on finding the answer to how Jesus descends from Heaven and comes into the hosts, and then my grandfather gives them to the people, who in turn, begin to love God and one another. I used to ask who Jesus is and grandfather used to tell me: ‘Jesus is God, Who created the whole universe, Who created the earth, people, and nature.’ Still, the question grew in my mind: ‘How is it possible that God who created all men, nature, and the universe can come into this host to make people love one another.’”
Raymond’s quest grew with him. At universities in Lebanon and England, he studied cosmology, physics, and engineering, and still he did not have an answer.
His grandfather died in 1975, the year in which the war in Lebanon began. Raymond’s experience with death was to change him forever. “… Walking behind white wooden caskets”, he buried many friends and neighbors. He saw that "Right and wrong are changing daily, but the Gospel has not changed in 2000 years.” He then realized that "the answers are not to be found in science and the world, but in the unchangeable Gospel." Now his quest was on track.
Raymond began coming to pray in Annaya at the hermitage of Saint Sharbel. He visited there regularly each year from September to Christmas in order to meditate, read, and find peace. On November 9, 1994, he had his first experience of Saint Sharbel. Raymond was outside the hermitage in the open air reading the “Parable of the Talents,” praying the rosary, meditating, and asking God for a stronger, closer relationship with Him.
It was a cold night, typical of those in Annaya, when Raymond sensed a change in the atmosphere. Here is Raymond Nader’s description of events of that night: “A warm breeze, a hot wind blowing, motionless flames on my lighted candles which were not flickering in the wind." He began to analyze the situation and thought he might be delirious. He said that he sensed and heard nothing in that environment. Rather, he sensed "an extraordinary light" which was "colorless, like clear water, smooth, loving." He felt like “a tiny drop in this ocean of wonderful light.” And then "a voiceless voice,” much clearer than a human voice, without words, or language, spoke inside his soul. Raymond described this occurrence as “a wonderful feeling, deep, complete, peaceful, joyful, tender, loving and an affection that exceeds by far all the pure affection in the hearts of all human beings. When I felt all those things inside me, a voice, His voice, said: ‘I am those feelings in your heart.’ I know this voice! I knew Him from before I was born and HE KNEW ME! I wanted Him to take me with Him and He said, ‘I am always here, I don’t go anywhere.’ I felt once again the same tranquility and peace, and the same affection returned.'"
Raymond continued, “I regained my senses of hearing and seeing… but tears were falling although I was not crying. It was 3:35 a.m. Four hours had gone by like seconds.” The experience ended. The candles had burned out in the four hours. Raymond was trying to make sense of all that had happened to him, but could not, for that wonderful feeling continued to burn within his soul. He gathered his bible, candles, and other belongings and headed for his car. “At that time,” said Raymond, “my reasoning was unable to find even a small argument. In my mind I was looking for an analysis, but in my heart I was so comfortable. The same feeling was still burning inside me. I needed a proof that I was not dreaming. Near the statue of Saint Charbel, I felt something hot on my arm. It itched and I thought something bit me. I continued on my way. My arm was getting warmer while the rest of my body was cold. I got to the car, thinking that something bit me on the arm. I took off my sweater and rolled up my sleeve. I saw [the imprint of] five fingers on my forearm. They were engraved like a hand on my arm and encircled by a red glare as if imprinted through fire. But I felt nothing but warmth. I drove home. When my wife saw my arm, she made the Sign of the Cross and asked me whose hand [print] it was. Then I felt a great relief. I needed no more proof. What had happened to me was real!”
Raymond placed himself under the authority of the Church and complied with the Church’s request to document the event, after having been evaluated physically and psychologically.
In the past six years, Raymond has had the same experience ten times. Raymond said: "Saint Sharbel is performing miracles not to amaze us but to remind us that we are not here by chance but for a reason. I will summarize the most important elements of his messages:
- "The love of the Lord must be without limit;
- We must love all human beings.
- This love comes from prayer.
- We all belong to the Real World and the only way is Jesus Christ.
- Every human being is like a lamp to enlighten the world, a lamp created by the Lord to give light; if these lamps become ornaments -- fake and opaque -- they will not emit light.
- We are travelers from Darkness to Eternal Light.
- There are too many ships facing and confronting tides and winds, but only the Ship of the Lord is strong and has a Wise Captain. Only the Lord’s Ship will reach the shore safely.
- Be a witness for Jesus Christ!
- Be monks in this world; we need hermits; and we are all called to be saints.”
Raymond said that the only way we can live up to these messages is by:
- Always making the sign of the Cross and invoking Jesus’ name;
- Becoming true members of the Church which is carrying the plan of salvation;
- Reading and meditating on the Holy Gospel; and
- Receiving Holy Eucharist.
Raymond ended his testimony saying: “The greatest treasure is that we are the children of God who loves us unconditionally.”
Raymond then talked about “The Family of Sharbel”, which started five years ago. This sodality is headquartered at the Monastery of Saint Maron, the site of Saint Sharbel’s tomb in Annaya. Membership has grown to 1,500 young people who attend Mass and hold a procession each week in honor of Our Lord Jesus Christ and Saint Sharbel. Raymond added: We pray that Lebanon becomes the land of love and peace.
After his talk, Raymond answered questions, one of which has always been a dilemma for Christians: If Christians are persecuted and killed, should they fight against those who persecute and martyr them? Raymond’s response was: Christians should live a life of prayer; prayer is more powerful than the atomic bomb.
Raymond offered to show the mark on his arm but stipulated: “I am not a holy person, you will not receive any blessings if you touch the mark on my arm. But if you wish to see it, I will be happy to show it to you.”
However unfashionable the terms "piety," "goodness," "virtue," "prayerfulness," and their synonyms have become today in the West, Raymond Nader rehabilitates these words and restores them as positive and acceptable attributes despite our secularized society. Can anybody remember a relative or friend in the past who was noted for praying, was non-judgmental, always kindhearted -- yet was a regular guy or lady -- perhaps a lovable mother, sister, grandparent, older neighbor or friend? Were such people found only among the pioneer and first generation immigrants who are all deceased by now? They still are found among ordinary villagers in the mountains of Lebanon and among our people in the USA. We can all be what Raymond is now; we just have to open our hearts to the “Voice.”
The greatest impact of Raymond Nader's visit may well have been the strengthening of one's faith in Christ and His promise that His Church will never fade away: "The gates of hell shall not prevail against it!" Perhaps we may hear “Tender Voice”, feel this immense love, and someday repeat Raymond’s words: “I heard silence and then I heard everything. In silence I heard the Word.”
We wish him continued success on his tour and in establishing technical and financial support for Télé Lumière via “Friends of Télé Lumière.”
Father Sebaali and his parishioners were warm and hospitable. They made us feel welcome. We enjoyed their beautiful church with its stained glass, the fine landscaping and adjoining buildings. The feeling that we were among family was pervasive from the moment we entered the church until we returned to our cars for the return home.
It was a memorable day and one we shall treasure.
 For complete and detailed information
about Raymond Nader’s encounters with Saint Sharbel, check Mr. Nader’s
official site at URL:
 Télé Lumière, the only Catholic television station in the Near East is a most effective means of spreading the Gospel and of encouraging besieged or isolated Christians who can now receive that station’s televised messages of Christ and His Gospel.
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