From anxiety to faith

I entered the crowd of pilgrims. It was hot. We sang a beautiful litany during which I fervently asked St. Sharbel to heal me from my anxiety.

I had been struggling with panic attacks for seven years. I had previously been engaged in Eastern religions and such practices as divination, but the panic attacks started in 2009 after my conversion. This had occurred thanks to the miraculous intervention of St. John Paul II. In those days anxieties haunted me several times a day, making it impossible for me to function normally.

Panic anxiety is a strange affliction. In fact, nothing is threatening the person, but the anxiety “grabs” him in a few seconds and paralyzes him. During an attack I would tremble all over, and sometimes it would last several hours. After a while, I couldn’t even work, because the anxiety was too powerful. The doctor to whom I went prescribed powerful tranquilizers and sleeping pills for me. I could hardly let go of them for an entire seven years. These medications saved my life several times, but at a particular moment I became addicted to them. That’s how it was for me until my pilgrimage to Lebanon.

St. Sharbel

The first time I heard about St. Sharbel was from my friend Margie in 2014. At the time, I listened to her in disbelief. There are so many wonderful saints in the world, and she found this Sharbel from a country that I had hardly ever heard anything about. Where the heck was Lebanon anyway? I had previously associated the name of the country only with the Holy Scriptures. Lebanon is mentioned there in more than 70 places, but for me at the time it was like the Leviathans – the Bible also talks about them, but who has ever actually seen one? Neither the country nor the saint made any further impression on me. But after a while, I heard about this Lebanese hermit again: my boss at work asked me one time whether I knew about him. My boss had been in Lebanon once and while there found out about St. Sharbel and the devotion that the people there had for him.

That’s where it stood when December of 2014 rolled around. During an Advent retreat I was anointed with St. Sharbel’s oil along with the entire community. I also saw a film about him. At that time I was struck by this saint’s humility – and that’s why I prayed for exactly this virtue when I was being anointed.

Sleep and the struggle for health

In February of 2015 St. Sharbel came to me unexpectedly in a dream. This happened in a hotel in Piła (Poland) during a business trip. That night I dreamed of being at confession. I was talking with the priest about how I very much wanted to develop the virtue of humility. I asked him how I could attain this grace, but he got up and stepped out of the confessional and gave me a portrait of St. Sharbel, telling me that I should pray to him for this grace. I awoke convinced that this had been no ordinary event.

On Wednesdays I always went to church for Eucharistic adoration. One time, right in the place where I always knelt, I found a pamphlet with the portrait of St. Sharbel. A certain time later I came across information about pilgrimages to Lebanon. It was summertime. Without entirely knowing why, I decided I would go. At the time, I didn’t think about the fact that I was going for healing, but I had a certain interest within me, and it attracted me to actually go and visit this Lebanese saint.

While preparing for the pilgrimage I read a book about St. Sharbel. I was already aware that there were more than 24,000 documented miraculous healings attributed to his intercession.

A priest with whom I was in contact at that time contended that my illness had a spiritual basis. I even underwent two exorcisms immediately after my conversion. However, my doctor claimed that my illness had only a psychological basis. For a year I took part in a so-called ‘behavioral therapy’ program for the treatment of anxiety. The program was supposed to help one take charge of one’s anxiety by explaining how it developed: what was happening in the brain and the rest of the body. A program of controlled breathing exercises was part of the therapy. I tried everything, but, unfortunately, nothing helped. On one occasion my anxiety was so powerful that I had to go to the emergency medical room, where they gave me tranquilizers intravenously.

Many times I asked the Lord Jesus to heal me; especially during Masses with prayers for healing and meetings with Catholic charismatics. I also went on a pilgrimage to St. Padre Pio in San Giovanni Rotondo, asking him for healing. At the time, I even believed that I had in fact been healed there. But no; the anxiety returned…

Either drugs or God

During the pilgrimage to Lebanon we went to the Sanctuary of St. Sharbel on September 22, 2015. Earlier in the morning we left the sanctuary of Our Lady of Lebanon on Mount Haris to take part in a procession that was held on the 22nd of every month. Dashing to the bus, I suddenly realized that I hadn’t brought my medicine case with my medications with me. I stopped the bus and rushed back into the hotel. I grabbed the medications, and half-way to the door I heard explicitly in my heart: “You’re coming for healing. You don’t need the medications.” For a moment I didn’t know what to do.

So I began a dialog with God: “You know that I’ve asked you many times for healing. The way the anxiety overwhelms me I can’t live without these pills! And after all, I’ve asked you so many times.” I always asked… But I also always had the pills with me, “just in case”. “Either you believe in the pills or you believe in Me”, I heard again. I needed to take that leap of faith. I decided. For the first time in seven years I left the medicine and went off to St. Sharbel’s Sanctuary at Annai, trusting in God alone.

Upon entering the monastery we joined the procession, which was proceeding down to the sanctuary from the hermitage. In front of us there was a monk with the Blessed Sacrament as well as Nohad Esh-shami, whom St. Sharbel had asked to have in the procession from the hermitage to the sanctuary every month. I entered the crowd of pilgrims. It was hot. We sang a beautiful litany during which I fervently asked St. Sharbel to heal me from my anxiety. When we reached the convent I started looking for his grave. I was running around checking various rooms not knowing where to find it and suddenly I found myself right in front of his coffin. I knelt down…At this moment I felt a severe panic attack. I thought: “Wasn’t I supposed to be healed? Why is this happening?!” Suddenly, instead of exploding as it used to, this fear simply disappeared! I remained at his grave waiting to see what would happen… But there was nothing happening. Deep in my heart I heard: “You are healthy.” From that time onwards (it’s been more than a year and a half) I have been taking neither any anti-anxiety medications, nor tranquilizers, nor sleeping pills at all.

To testify to the healing

Two months after my healing I was telling my doctor about what had happened. She was very surprised when I told her that I was no longer taking any medications. The doctor approached it with skepticism and proposed that I have a prescription “just in case”. But I told her that I didn’t need any more medicines.

I am very grateful to God for His healing me from this illness and for His introducing me to St. Sharbel. My friendship with St. Sharbel is more than a friendship. The way that this Lebanese saint lived and the relationship he had with God are a great example for me. I decided to become his apostle. I brought several dozen ampoules of his oil that I distribute to anyone who needs it.

Entrustment and multiplication

One time I was down to my last ampoule, in which there remained only a few drops of oil in the bottom. I had given the rest to those who had needed it. My friend from Gdansk visited me at around that time. Due to pain in her joints, she was hardly able to get out of bed. I started to tell her about St. Sharbel. She took it somewhat skeptically, but I finally managed to convince her to let me anoint the afflicted places with the oil. I reached for the ampoule, and it was completely full! This replenishment happened two days after I had performed my personal entrustment of my life to God, surrendering myself completely to His will.

For my birthday in December of 2015 I got an e-mail notification from an airline for a round trip ticket to Beirut at a special price. Without deliberating for long, I accepted this as a gift from St. Sharbel and bought the ticket. In April of 2016 I once again found myself in Lebanon, and thanks to a Lebanese acquaintance, I was able to recount in Arabic the testimony of my healing to Fr. Louis at the sanctuary in Annai. Mine was the first healing miracle in Poland in 2016, and was registered in their archives under the number 95/2016.

Since July of 2016 I live to evangelize. I left an international corporation – resigning from my position as a manager, from the stable income, from all the bonuses, perks, etc. God confirmed that He will utilize me and take care of me – and that is how it has been ever since. Praise be to Him for this goodness!