Life of the Venerated Fr. Nimatullah Kassab Al-Hardini

 

On December 16, 1997, Fr. John Tabet, the Superior General of the Lebanese Maronite Order, held a press conference at the Catholic Center for Information in Lebanon to announce that His Holiness Pope John Paul II will beatify the Venerable Servant of God Nimatullah Hardini, professed priest of the Maronite Lebanese Order and the spiritual mentor of Saint Charbel.

The Beatification is scheduled to take place at the Vatican in Rome on May 10, 1998, the first anniversary of the Pope's pastoral visit to Lebanon.

Joseph Kassab was born in the year 1808. His father was George Kassab and his mother Marium Raad. He entered the school of the monks of St. Anthony at Houb from 1816 to 1822.

He 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.

Following the instructions given by the Maronite Patriarch Mar Nasrallah Boutros Cardinal Sfeir, the tomb was opened and the corpse was transferred to a new tomb on 18th May 1996.
Through his intercession many humble cures occurred: blind, paralyzed in a chair, child raised from the dead, cure of another child, cure of nervous system, cure of cancer.