Al-Hardiny, the Saint of Kfifan
A short biography of the life of recently beatified Al-Hardiny of Lebanon, including his practical mysticism and the miracles which he performed for both Muslims and Christians.
Lebanon, the land of Phoenician traders, inventors of the alphabet, and the most famous Law Faculty of the Roman Empire, has never been rich in mineral resources - its real and true fortune was of a spiritual kind. Many great 'saints' walked this holy land: Maron, Charbel, Rafka and Hardiny to name but a few. One of them, Al-Hardiny, was recently beatified by Pope John Paul II, and in the July/August issue of Share International was confirmed a 4th-degree initiate by Benjamin Creme's Master.
Joseph Kassab, best known as Al-Hardiny, was born in 1808 at Hardine, a village in north Lebanon, the fourth child of a pious Maronite family of six children. As a child, Joseph was devoted to religious practice, preferring to spend time on his own praying, rather than playing with other children or at social gatherings. Sattoot, a young girl who was the same age as Joseph, recalled 70 years later: "Joseph Kassab and I used to look after our cows in the pastures. He would always ask me to look after his cows saying he was tired and wanted to sleep, whereas in fact he would go to a cave and kneel down and pray for hours in front of an altar to St John."
He received a good education in all aspects of religion and learnt to read Arabic and Syriac. At the age of 20, Al-Hardiny gave up all his earthly belongings and entered the religious life. He was ordained priest and rapidly progressed from the post of professor adjunct of theology to Director of School at Kfifan, afterwards becoming professor in moral theology and seven years later Assistant General. His mandate was renewed twice during the next 13 years, until he contracted pleurisy and died on 14 December 1858 at the age of 50.
Al-Hardiny was always reluctant to take positions of authority in his Order. "Even when he was Assistant General," said Father Al-Kafri his biographer, "he remained humble and chose to look after himself, refusing to have a special servant to accompany him and attend to his personal needs, as was the custom in the Order at the time."
Father Al-Hardiny was a practical mystic; he never agreed to enter a hermitage, a widespread practice among the early Lebanese monks. Instead, he considered that those who struggle in everyday life have the greater merit. The ordinary everyday life is a continuous martyrdom, he observed, for the monk must always be a model to his brother monk, guarding himself from becoming a source of scandal, while the hermit lives alone, away from all external temptations. Al-Hardiny believed that everyone should follow his own vocation - some choosing solitude, and others choosing the common life.
He was against severe and rigorous rules. One rule introduced was to forbid the monks the right to smoke, and Al-Hardiny was the only one who dared object to these rules, stating calmly: "We should lighten the load we put on the monk and on his consciousness, because the greater the pressure, the greater the explosion." He added: "If we tighten the arch it will eventually collapse."
Two major rays dominated Father Al-Hardiny's life (see ray structure*). His 6th-ray personality, combined with a 3rd-ray soul and mental body, turned him into "A Man of God and a Man of Science".
His 6th-ray personality manifested clearly in his unbounded love and his deep devotion to Christ and the Virgin Mary. "Pray without ceasing" was the motto of Al-Hardiny, who never took afternoon naps, and indeed never stopped praying. While everyone else retired to their rooms before midnight, he would remain in church until morning prayers. Bishop Youssef Mahfouz recalls: "He had a real gentle way toward others; the kindness of his character and his virtues made him a person who would avoid all occasions to hurt others. While he was very strict with himself, he was always very lenient with his colleagues."
Along with the virtues of his 6th-ray personality, Al-Hardiny manifested the qualities of his 3rd-ray soul and mental body through his intellectual, philosophical work. He was a Professor of Theology, especially versed in moral theology, and became famous in the art of book-binding. His biographer tells us: "While Father Al-Hardiny was a strict and austere monk, he also loved learning and culture. He was the promoter of the cultural renaissance in the Maronite order of the Lebanese monks, and a virtuous teacher. He loved his students and was always concerned about their welfare and education. He wanted all the monks to receive a broad education to enable them better to fulfil their priestly duties."
Model of detachment
Obviously, Al-Hardiny excelled in the art of detachment, which is the keynote, par excellence, of a disciple who has passed through the Great Renunciation initiation. Alice Bailey stated in her book Initiation Human and Solar that "the life of a man who takes the 4th initiation is usually one of great sacrifice and sufferings. All is renounced, friends, money, reputation, character, standing in the world, family, and even life itself."
According to Bishop Youssef Mahfouz, "Al-Hardiny was completely detached, even from his parents. He left Hardine to enter the Order, never again to visit his parents or village. If he had to travel in that direction he would do so by night when no one would see him. Al-Hardiny never tried to please people, never concerned himself with what to eat or what to drink, never ate meat except when he was so ordered by the doctors and his superiors, and he was not overcome by grief nor overjoyed by happy events." Faithful to his qualities and virtues, he lived his life according to the motto "Ora et Labora" (pray and work). Thus, Al-Hardiny, who was always jovial according to his contemporaries, became the model to be followed and a good example to those around him. His most famous disciple Father Charbel Makhlouf is now one of the Masters of Wisdom*.
Shortly after Al-Hardiny's death, his tomb was opened and remarkably his body was still intact, showing no sign of decay. After several miracles had occurred posthumously, his body was exhumed and placed in a coffin near the church which, even 148 years after his death, Christians and non-Christians alike still visit.
Some of the miracles that Al-Hardiny performed during his life were recorded in the investigation of his sainthood. In one incident the brother who was in charge of the provisions at the monastery told his Superior that the storeroom was very low in food. The Superior inspected the wheat containers and found they were half empty. He returned with Al-Hardiny, who stood at the door, blessed the water, sprinkled the containers and left. A short time later, the brother in charge began shouting joyfully: "The containers are so full that they can't hold any more." Another incident related to Brother Maroun Maifouki who was making a fire to keep the many ants from carrying away the wheat. Father Al-Hardiny asked the brother to follow him, blessed the water and told him to sprinkle it over the wheat and the ants. The next day, Brother Maroun noticed that the ants were carrying only the tares and leaving the wheat in place. The astonished monk reported this to Al-Hardiny, who asked him not to tell anyone else. Yet another example of Father Al-Hardiny's powers occurred when a goatherder came to ask Father Al-Hardiny to bless some water. One of his goats was dying, but as soon as the shepherd sprinkled the animal with the blessed water it got up and returned to the pasture.
After his death, numerous miracles were performed by Father Al-Hardiny, on both Muslims and Christians: A Druze woman, who was infertile, had made a vow that if she had a child she would take him to visit the tomb of Al-Hardiny. She also promised to have him baptized - but had failed to tell her husband. Some time after the child was born she set out on the road to Kfifan to visit Al-Hardiny's tomb. On the way she was very apprehensive about telling her husband that she had promised to baptize the newborn. When she arrived at the Madfoun bridge, about three hours from her destination, she noticed that the child was not moving. She shook him, but to no avail - the child was dead. She was afraid, but she said nothing to her husband and continued carrying her dead child to the tomb. There, she placed the child near the coffin and retired alone to weep. She was afraid her husband would punish her and blame her for the death of their only child. However, she had great confidence in Father Al-Hardiny. Her tears were of both fear and hope. Once more her wishes were granted, and her child began to cry. A monk from the monastery called her saying: "Lady, come, your child is crying". "What!", she replied, "my child is crying? But he is dead." She ran inside, found the child crying, and held him saying: "My son was dead but now he has come alive!" She began to praise and shout so loudly that the entire monastery population came to see what had happened. Her husband and his family found out about her vows, and agreed to let the child be baptized.
Another incident involved Mariam Semaan who worked as a cleaner at the Kfifan monastery. She had known Father Al-Hardiny when she was young, and even saw his body when they opened his tomb. Later, Mariam had an eye disease and completely lost her sight. One day, while crying about her misfortune, she recalled that God performed miracles through the intercession of Father Al-Hardiny. Having no money, she asked her father: "Do you have a cent?" - for they were very poor. "I want to offer it to Saint Al-Hardiny so that he can cure my eyes." However, the next morning when she awoke, she realized she could see again. "My eyes," she reported, "shine like a diamond; 65 years have passed, and I don't feel any more pain."
Bishop Joseph Al-Khazen reported: "My late mother had a weakness in one eye, and was struck with a painful disease that made her lose sight in the other. Doctors tried in vain to relieve the pain. One night the pain was so severe that she appealed to Father Al-Hardiny to heal her. She promised to offer him a chain of gold as a sign of gratitude, then fell asleep. During the night, she dreamt she saw a monk placing his hand on her head, saying: 'Be calm, my daughter, your sight will be healed'. The next day, she told us joyfully that Al-Hardiny appeared to her and told her she would be healed. Soon afterwards she was completely cured - her eye had returned to normal."
On 7 September 1989, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Decree of the Heroism of Father Al-Hardiny and he became "Venerable". During May 1996, a beatification inquiry was set up to authenticate another miracle that took place through the intercession of Al-Hardiny. The inquiry focused on Andre Najm, a young Lebanese man terminally ill with leukemia, who asked Father Al-Hardiny to help him - and was totally cured. One year later, on 7 July 1997, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Decree of the Authenticity of this miracle and the Venerable Al-Hardiny was beatified on 10 May 1998, the first anniversary of the historic visit of the Pope to Lebanon.
*Al-Hardiny's ray structure: S: 3; P: 6 (4); M: 3 (7); A: 4 (6); Ph: 3 (7). PoE: 4.0 - given by Benjamin Creme.
**See article on Charbel Makhlouf in Share International, October 1997.
Bibliography: The Blessed Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini (booklet) by Bishop Youssef Mahfouz, published by the Lebanese Maronite Order, 1998; also: The Daily Star; L'Orient-Le Jour; Al-Nahar; Al-Anwar.