Brother Estephan Nehmeh – Feast day 30th august
“God sees me
“Blessed is the one who has adorned himself with the knowledge that leads to God.
“Love does not need science, because it comes from the heart” are some of his most famous words.
He is Youssef, son of Estephan and Christina Badwi Hanna Khaled from the village of Lehfed- Jbeil. He was born in March 1889. He is the youngest of a family of four boys: Sarkis, Nimatullah, Haykal and Youssef, and two girls: Toufika and Froussina.
He was raised in a village and agricultural environment, but he learned to read and write at the school of Our Lady of Graces, in Saki-Rechmaya, near his native village, and belonging to the Lebanese Maronite Order.
Source of the Badger
One day, Youssef (Brother Estephan) was tending his cows in the nearby fields. Suddenly, he saw a small badger and chased it, but it entered a cave in the ground. Youssef noticed that there were traces of water. So he dug, and water gushed out of the bottom of the cave, like a spring known today as the “Badger Spring”.
His entry into the Novitiate
In 1905, two years after the death of his father, he entered the Novitiate of the Lebanese Maronite Order, at the monastery of Saints Cyprian and Justine – Kfifane, at the time of the man of God, Father Ighnatios Dagher Tannouri who was the novice master. Two years later, on August 23, 1907, he took his monastic vows and took the name of Estephan, the patron saint of his native village, and the namesake of his father. And he was appointed to the lay brothers.
His service in the Order
Brother Estephan spent his life in the Order, working in the gardens and fields of the monasteries, where he resided: Monastery of Our Lady – Maïfouq, Monastery of St. Anthony – Houb, Monastery of St. Chalita – El-Qottara, Monastery of St. Maron – Annaya, Monastery of Our Lady of Help – Jbeil, and Monastery of St. Cyprian and St. Justina – Kfifane. In all these monasteries, he was in charge of the field in addition to his work as a carpenter and builder; he worked with the monks, his confreres and the workers, in silence, with love and respect. All testified to his uprightness and honesty. He was everywhere the faithful disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ, reflected his figure, and transmitted the Good News to all those who lived with him.
He never knew idleness. He lived according to the constitutions of the Lebanese Maronite order and its spirituality in all fidelity, imitating the holy monks, sharing his time between work and prayer, until his death on August 30, 1938 at the age of 48. He was buried in the monastery of Kfifane. His body is kept safe and sound. The cause of beatification was presented on November 27, 2001. Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed his heroic virtues on December 17, 2007. He will be the fourth after his brothers: Charbel, Rafqa and Nimatullah, sons of the Lebanese Maronite Order.
Spirituality of Brother Estephan
He kept repeating: “God sees me”.
He distinguished himself by his silent presence which reflected his hidden life with Christ. He lived his sorrows with patience, although he was never ill! He had a strong body construction, he only wanted to live in the presence of the Lord who sees everything! This was reflected in the vivacity of his work. He was careful, fair, giving everyone his right. That is why he earned the respect and love of all those he worked with. He was a man of prayer and a disciple of the earth which was a school of holiness and a source of spirituality for him.
He knew the importance of the land and its true value. He worked hard, even kneading the earth with the sweat of his brow. He strived hard to reach the ladder of monastic perfection, to meet the Light of the eternal Word. His life reflected a famous Lebanese maxim: “A satisfied ploughman is a hidden Sultan”. He would rise before dawn, to pray and work, taking the example of Jesus Christ, our Master and Lord.
His face reflected innocence, wisdom, peace and love. Her eyes shone with the light of the Gospel and of faith. Her bright smile never left her lips.
His gentle heart was as strong as the rocks, it was tender full of love, pity, affection and generosity. Silently, he contemplated the ears of wheat and the fruits of the fields. Whenever he looked at the sun, he longed for the radiant happiness of the face of Christ in all its glory and splendid goodness and he raised his life from stone to stone on a solid foundation as he paved the stones of the fields.
Tools of his daily work
The ordinary tools of his daily work were the goad, the saw, the pick, the lever, the mow, the hammer and the chisel, etc., which he used to carry out his different projects, inside the monastery or in the fields around. He took care of all his tools, and used them with devotion and deep respect, since they were indispensable to him. But Brother Estephan used other tools, of a spiritual nature, such as the word of the Gospel, prayer, meditation, the rosary, the Divine Office and Mass, in community. His whole life thus became a great act of love, a generous gift of self to God and a true journey to heaven without return.
He never took a step back from the violent winds that were unleashed in Lebanon during the First World War. He carried his cross, renouncing himself and following his Master, without hesitation and with full confidence. That is why God raised him and will raise him even higher, on the altars of the whole Church, as Blessed and Patron Saint of the Church, of the Order, of Lebanon and of all the workers of the whole world.
Father Antonios Nehmé Superior of the monastery noted in the ephemeris of the monastery, just after the death of Brother Estephan Nehmé, the following short summary: “Departed this transient life on Tuesday, August thirty at seven o’clock in the evening, Brother Estephan Nehmé, the Lefthanded, was an active lay brother, zealous in the interest of the monastery, having a strong constitution, a healthy organism, peaceful, far from quarrels, temperate, expert in manual work, fulfilling his obligations and observing his vows, accomplishing all that was entrusted to him in an impeccable manner.”