VATICAN CITY, MAY 14, 2004 (Zenit.org).- A Maronite priest and monk who will be canonized this Sunday was a pastor of souls known for his care of Muslims as well as Christians.
Nimatullah Al-Hardini will be the third canonized saint from Lebanon.
“Very attentive to the Lebanese community mosaic, in his mission he made no distinction between Muslims, Druses, or Christians,” said the postulator of his cause of canonization, Father Paolo Azzi, on Vatican Radio. “What was essential for him was to save souls as he sought to save his own.”
The future saint — known in the world as Youssef Kassab — was born in Hardine, in northern Lebanon, in 1808.
At age 20 he entered as a seminarian in the Monastery of St. Anthony in Qozhaya and chose the name Nimatullah, which means “grace of God.” He was ordained a priest in Kfifan on Christmas Day in 1833.
Nimatullah lived the contemplative dimension of his vocation in daily life through love of his religious brothers and of culture, the biography issued by the Holy See says.
Indeed, “his erudition was not one of being enclosed in himself, but rather a missionary openness toward those in need of his charity and knowledge,” Father Azzi explained.
Nimatullah Al-Hardini first founded a school in Kifkan and later in Bhersaf to instruct youth for free.
Moreover, “he played an exceptional role in charitable works during the massacre of Christians in 1845,” the postulator said. “He stayed with every family and orphan; he helped them, taught them, and prayed for them.”
Under the Ottoman Empire, the civil situation in Lebanon was as difficult as that of the Maronite Church and of his religious order. It was at this time that he coined a motto: “The most intelligent is the one who can save his soul.”
Nimatullah spent days and nights in Eucharistic adoration, and prayed the rosary continuously.
At age 43, he was named by the Holy See as general assistant of the order for three years. He was entrusted with this office on two subsequent occasions. Out of humility, he refused the nomination to be abbot general.
As a professor of theology at the major seminary, he had Charbel Makhlouf, a future canonized saint, as one of his students. Makhlouf was at his teacher’s bedside when he died.
Nimatullah Al-Hardini died at 50 in the Monastery of Kfifan on Dec. 14, 1858. His cause of beatification was presented in Rome in 1926, together with that of the monk Charbel (canonized in 1977) and Rafqa, a Lebanese Maronite nun canonized in 2001. Nimatullah was beatified on May 10, 1998. John Paul II will canonize him Sunday in St. Peter’s Square.
Father Azzi said that Blessed Nimatullah’s message is one of “love, peace and hope. Nimatullah’s nation is a nation that has always lived a continuous Holy Week. It has followed the path of hope to overcome despair.”
Nimatullah’s canonization “is an open letter addressed to the Lebanon, which has suffered much, and to the Lebanese, who need peace, and to the martyred land of the Middle East,” the postulator concluded.