The Life of Saint Hardini
Father Hardini was born Joseph Kassab in the year 1808. His father was George Kassab and his mother Marium Raad, daughter of Reverend Yousef Yacoub. He had four brothers and two sisters, his brothers were ‘Assaf, Elias, Tanious, Yacoub and his sisters Masihieh and Mariam. Joseph’s brother Elias became Father Lesha’, the Hermit at Qozhaya, and later at ‘Annaya where he died. Father Charbel replaced the late Father Lesha’ at the hermitage in ‘Annaya. Joseph entered the school of the monks of St. Anthony at Houb from 1816 to 1822 and then entered the monastery of St. Anthony Ishaia and became a novice on November 1828. There he adopted the name Fr. Nimatullah Kassab Hardini, then he learned to bind books.
He professed his first vows on 14th of November 1830. After he finished his theological studies, he was ordained a priest under Bishop Seiman Zwain in the monastery at Kfifan on 25th of December 1833.
He became a member of the general council three times from 1845 to 1848, 1850 to 1853, 1856 to 1858. As a member of the council he continued to bind books. He taught in monastic schools, especially in Kfifan.
Father Nimatullah lived a very holy life. He was a man of prayer, totally “enraptured by God”. He spent days and nights in meditation, prayer and adoration of the Eucharist. The Virgin Mary was his patron and Father Nimatullah prayed Her Rosary. He was also a very humble, sensitive and patient person who lived his monastic vows of “obedience, chastity and poverty” to perfection. His fellow brother Monks and the people who knew him called him “The Saint” while he was still alive. One of his students was Charbel Makhlouf (St. Charbel), 1853 to 1858.
Father Nimatullah Hardini died in the monastery of Kfifan on 14th December 1858. He passed away after struggling ten days with a high fever which he contracted from the cold winter wind characteristic of northern Lebanon. He was only then fifty years of age. He died holding a picture of the Virgin Mary, his last words being: “O Virgin Mary between your hands I submit my soul.” People who were nearby at the moment of Father Nimatullah’s death witnessed a heavenly light illuminating his room and an aromatic smell which remained in his room for a number of days afterwards. When the then Patriarch, Boulos Massad, heard of Father Nimatullah’s death he commented: “Congratulations to this monk who knew how to benefit from his monastic life.”
Some time later, the Monks opened Father Nimatullah’s tomb and to their surprise they found his body had remained incorrupt. He was then removed and placed in a coffin near the church. After obtaining due permission from the local ecclesiastical authority, from 1864 visitors were allowed to see Father Neemtallah’s intact body until 1927. In that same year the Committee of Inquiry set up to investigate the Cause of Father Nimatullah finalised its investigation. Father Nimatullah’s body was then reburied in the curving wall of his monastic cell, before being transferred to a little Chapel where masses are celebrated for visitors.
He was declared Venerable on September 7, 1989. At the behest of his Beatitude Patriarch Nasrallah Peter Sfeir, his body was examined and placed in a new coffin on May 18, 1996. His body was recently transferred to a new coffin made of cedar and placed in the Monastery of Kfifan where people may visit.
Several cures have taken place through his intercession. These include the raising to life of a Muslim child whose mother claimed had died, the healing of a person with a neurological disease, the restoration of sight to a blind person and the curing of a person suffering from cancer.
The case of the curing of Andre Najm is of particular note due to its very recent occurance and thourough investigation by the international medical community that followed. Andre Najm, born on October 29, 1966 enjoyed excellent health for the first twenty years of his life. However in June of 1986 he began to experience a chronic fatigue and nervous breakdowns, unable to even walk a short distance. Many physicians in Lebanon and abroad treated him to no avail. He was suffering from a form of blood cancer and required frequent blood transfusions.
Miracles Performed by Father Nimatullah Kassab Hardini
During his life, Father Nimatullah performed many miracles due to his deep spirituality, his high virtues and his radiant soul that became united to its Creator through prayer. “The Saint of Kfifan” had the charism of prophesy and hence became known as “a man of vision.” On one occasion when he was teaching his students and facing a large wall outside the monastery of Kfifan, he had a sense that the wall was suddenly going to fall. Thereupon, he asked his students to move away just before the wall fell down, sparing all present from injury.
On another occasion, Father Nimatullah was divinely made aware that the barn where the cows of the monastery of Kfifan were kept was going to collapse on them (cows were then considered to be vital assets of the monastery). Father Nimatullah asked the monk in charge to change the place of the cows. At first the monk hesitated, but Father Nimatullah insisted and urged him to do so. After the cows were removed the roof of the barn collapsed and then none of the cows were lost.
Healing of the Altar-boy
On another occasion, Father Nimatullah wanted to celebrate his daily mass but his usual altar-boy did not arrive to church on time. Father Nimatullah then went to the boy’s room and asked him to get up and serve mass. The altar boy was not able to because he had a high fever. Father Nimatullah then requested the boy to stand up, whereupon he ordered the malady to “Leave him…” Immediately, the boy was cured and he went and served Father Nimatullah’s mass with joy and liveliness.
Father Nimatullah once prayed over and blessed the provisions’ box (which contained wheat and other foodstuffs) at the monastery of El-Kattara which was very short. After a little while the box was filled and spilled over. Everyone was stunned and praised God at what they saw.
While still alive his fellow monks and the ordinary people who knew him considered Father Nimatullah to be a saint. Often they would come asking him to pray for them and even bless water to be used on their land and for their livestock. His presence always imposed a special respect, reverence and solemnity.
After his death, God granted many healings and miracles through the intercession of the “Saint of Kfifan.” One such healing was granted to an Orthodox blind man, Moussa Saliba, from the town of Btegrin (El- Maten). Moussa Saliba visited Nimatullah’s tomb, praying and asking for his blessing. A deep sleep overcame Moussa Saliba, and then Father Nimatullah appeared to him and healed his eyes, enabling him to see clearly.
Another miracle occurred to a Melkite Catholic man, Mickael Kfoury from the town Watta El- Mrouge. An incurable illness was attacking both of his legs, which rendered them dry, devoid of flesh, and twisted to the point of crippling him. His doctors had abandoned all hope of a cure. Having heard of the miracles that Father Nimatullah was performing this man decided to visit Father Nimatullah’s tomb in Kfifan and ask for his healing. He slept the night at the monastery, and while he was in deep sleep an old monk appeared to him saying: “Stand up and go and help the Monks carry in the grapes from the vineyard.” He immediately replied: “Don’t you see me paralysed, how can I walk and carry the grapes?” The Monk answered: “Take this pair of shoes, wear them and walk.” The sick man then took the shoes and tried to stretch out his right leg, and to his surprise he was able to do so! He woke up and started to feel both of his legs which were now full of blood and flesh, and after he stood up he found himself totally healed.
On September 26, 1987 Andre accompanied family and friends to the monastery of Kfifane where he prayed fervently at the grave of Fr. Hardini. The people around him heard him say “I beg you, Fr. Al-Hardini, give me a drop of blood for I am so tired to the point where I can’t even beg for blood on the street.” He then asked to wear the monastic habit, moments later he was cured, and cried out with joy, “I wore the monastic habit, I am cured, I don’t need blood anymore!” Andre has not required any blood transfusions since that day, and in 1991 he married Rola Salim Raad. They have two children, a son named Charbel and a daughter named Rafca. Today, Andre is in excellent health.
On May 2, 1996, His Excellency Bishop Khalil Abi-Nader, retired Bishop of the Maronite Diocese of Beirut, obtained the permission of His Beatitude Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir to start the investigation of the miracle of Andre Najm. On September 26, 1996 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints began to study the miracle. On February 27, 1997 the five member medical team unanimously voted to accept the miraculous cure of Andre Najm, and on May 9, 1997, the seven member theological team also voted unanimously to accept the miracle. On July 1, 1997 the General Assembly of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, which includes twenty-four cardinals, accepted the miracle.
On July 7, 1997, and in the presence of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II, the Congregation for the Causes of Saints published a decree of accepting the miracle attributed to the intercession of the servant of God, Fr. Al-Hardini.
Nimutallah al-Hardini’s Beatification by Pope John Paul II was held at Saint Peter’s Basilica in Rome on Sunday May 10, 1998. The Maronite Church celebrates his feast day on the 14th of December.
These are a few examples of Father Nimatullah’s astonishing miracles. Father Nimatullah’s life was a miracle in itself. However, the greatest miracles performed by Father Nimatullah are the many people who have returned back to God because of his intercession and his way of life. This is especially so of many Monks who, realising the full depth and richness of Father Nimatullah’s example, have determined to walk on the same path of loyalty to their Lord Jesus Christ in order to be saved.
Chronological Time Chart on the Road to Beatification
|May 1925:||Pope Pius XI accepts the petitions for beatification of Father Charbel, Sister Rafca, and Father Neemtallah.|
|March 1926:||The assigned Committee meets at Bkirky in order to investigate Father Neemtallah’s cause for Sainthood.|
|September 1927:||The Committee finalises its investigations.|
|13 June 1966:||Pope Paul VI officially approves the furtherance of proceedings into Father Neemtallah’s cause.|
|7 September 1989:||Pope John Paul II declares Father Neemtallah Venerable.|
|18 May 1996:||After permission is given by His Eminence, Cardinal Nesrallah Sfeir, the tomb of Venerable Neemtallah is opened and his remains are transferred to a new coffin and his tomb sealed.|
|10 May 1998:||The whole Catholic Church, and the Maronite Church in particular, celebrates the beatification of Venerable Neemtallah in St. Peter’s Rome. This day is attended by thousands of Maronites from all over the world, coming to celebrate another blessed saint given to the world by the school of sanctity, the Lebanese Maronite Order.|