Jesus said: “it is I”

The Lebanese scientist Raymond Nader had a mystical experience of the Real Presence of God. It took place on 10 November 1994, in the hermitage of St Sharbel in Annaya.

On the evening of 17 April 2015, at the shrine of St Sharbel in Annaya, Raymond Nader told the readers of Love One Another! about his extraordinary experience of the love and presence of God.

I was born into a Christian family. I was raised in a spirit of deep faith and practice of the Catholic religion. From my early youth, I looked for answers to the most important questions. I wanted to know something more about God: how did He create the universe? What is the sense and purpose of human life? Is there life after death? Yet what perplexed me most was the question of the Eucharist. I wanted to find out how the Creator of the entire universe could really be present in a morsel of white bread in the Holy Communion.

As a growing boy, I asked my grandfather about this. He told me in a few simple sentences that God is love, that He came down from heaven and became a real person, and that He instituted the Eucharist so that people would be able to accept His love and would love one another. He added: “As you grow up, you will understand better.”

But the answer didn’t completely satisfy me. I was one of the most capable pupils in the school. I started to read a lot, looking for answers to my questions and doubts.

In 1975, a long period of war began in Lebanon. The next year, as a fourteen-year-old boy, I entered the Christian defence forces to fight the Islamic armies. During the war, I confronted death on a daily basis; I was very much aware that at any moment I could be killed, and my earthly life finished. The dramatic experiences of war made me think a lot about life after death.

After finishing secondary school, I began studying engineering in Beirut; I received a grant to continue my studies in London, where I specialised in nuclear engineering. Those studies made me aware of how amazing the entire universe is – the microcosm and the macrocosm; that it is a visible sign indicating the existence of God the Creator. I believed that God exists, but because I have a scientific mind, I wanted to know Him also through my understanding.

After my studies, I returned to Beirut. The war was still going, so I entered the army, and as an officer I took part in the struggle for Lebanese independence. I established an officers’ school, where I lectured and prepared new groups of officers for service in the army. I worked as a nuclear physicist, but I did not neglect my spiritual life. Every day, I read and meditated on texts from the Holy Scriptures. I wanted to know God through the Holy Scriptures, but also through scientific research.

Since my childhood, I had been fascinated with Jesus. I loved Him very much. For me, He was someone truly exceptional. I read many books on philosophy, familiarised myself with the lives of the most distinguished people and understood that none of them could compare to Jesus Christ. He is the one and only in the history of all humanity. I was fascinated with the person of Jesus Christ, but to accept the truth that He is truly God was very difficult for me.

I had begun to read the Holy Scriptures when I was only seven years old, that is, from the time that I received my First Communion, and I still read it daily.

I entered an ever stronger relationship of love with Jesus, but I still did not understand the mystery of the Eucharist or the sense of His suffering and crucifixion. I sought answers to difficult questions. To that end, I began to visit the hermitage of St Sharbel. This saint is a great mystery to all of us, and especially to the world of science. For sixty-seven years after his death, his body discharged blood and plasma every day. During that time, St Sharbel’s deceased body emitted around twenty thousand litres of fluid. This is truly a great mystery, unexplainable from a scientific point of view.

A great many people in Lebanon and around the world have experienced various sorts of miraculous healings and conversions thanks to the intercession of St Sharbel. I looked for an answer to the question of life after death. St Sharbel in some way provided it through the signs and miracles that God worked through his intercession. Even though he died in 1898, a great many people experienced and still experience the truth that he lives and acts, and so our deaths are not the end, but the beginning of life.

From 1985, I started to visit the hermitage of St Sharbel daily to pray and meditate on texts from the Gospels. I carried with me some candles, as well as the Holy Scripture. Sometimes, I also read what was essential to my scientific work – publications about the latest discoveries in the field of physics.

After I married and had three children, I would first take care of all my familial duties, and later in the evening, when the children were asleep, I would go to St Sharbel’s hermitage.

A mystical meeting with Christ

On 10 November 1994, after ten years of daily prayer at the hermitage (there were only a few days when I did not manage to reach it because of heavy snowfall), I received an extraordinary sign from God. It was my birthday. I was driving to Annaya as usual at about 10 o’clock in the evening, then I would walk to St Sharbel’s hermitage. I had a regular ritual. First I prayed lying on my back with my arms spread out and looking up at the star-filled sky. This lasted for about half an hour. At those times, I grew in awareness of the greatness, omnipotence and infinity of God, the Creator of the entire universe. Then I would light the candles and read a chapter from the Gospel. I would meditate on the words I read, pray and return home.

The day was very cold, and, as usual, I prayed for an hour-and-a-half lying on my back. Afterwards, I knelt and lit five candles, and began to read the Gospel account of the ‘parable of the talents’ (Matt. 25:14–30). After this reading, I meditated over what talents the Lord God had given me, and how I made use of them for the good of others.

At a certain point, I felt that a very warm wind had begun to blow, and that it was growing warmer and warmer and stronger and stronger. It grew so warm that I took off my coat and sweater. I noticed that despite the violent wind, the flames burning on the candles were not extinguished, but remained as stable as light bulbs. I was astonished by everything I saw. I wondered: “How can it be that in the winter and at 1350 metres elevation (4400 ft) a strong, warm wind is blowing, and why don’t the candles blow out?” At first I thought I was hallucinating, so to assure myself, I wanted to touch the candle’s flame. Then I found myself in a different dimension of reality. The senses of my body ceased to function. I felt neither warm nor cold. I didn’t hear the rustling of the wind, the howling of the wolves or any noises of animals from the nearby forest. I didn’t see the hermitage, the mountains, or anything around me. All I could see was an amazing pure, crystalline light that penetrated everything and was completely different from anything we see with our eyes. I was immersed in light of extraordinary power, purity and strength. A colourless light that was at once transparent and gentle, not harsh or causing any discomfort. I could feel the personal presence of Someone who loved me infinitely. First I thought that it must be a dream, but I received a reply immediately that it wasn’t. It wasn’t expressed with words or in any language – it wasn’t a voice, but a very clear and distinct transfer of thoughts. Once again, I doubted and thought I must be unconscious. But once again the clear and distinct answer came to me: “You are very much aware and conscious, more so than ever in your life”.

I began to pose myself questions: “Who is speaking to me? Where am I? What is happening to me?” I was answered with a sense of certainty that it was Jesus Christ. Then the Lord Jesus said: “it is I”. He revealed Himself to me not physically, but through an experience of incredible love which cannot be described or expressed in human language, and through an internal peace, strength, power, contentment and indescribable joy. I desired with all my heart to be with Jesus forever, and asked Him not to leave, so that I could stay in that state forever. He answered that He is always with us; He never abandons us. Then the light disappeared. I knelt in that same place, saw the hermitage, the trees growing nearby and the mountains. I began to feel a penetrating cold, and the candles had burned out completely. I looked at my watch – it was 3:35 in the morning. I was amazed that five hours had passed since I had entered St Sharbel’s hermitage. I put on my sweater and my winter coat, cleaned up the residue from the burned out candles, picked up my Holy Scriptures, and went out to my car. On the way home, I thought about all the extraordinary events which I had experienced in the prior moments. I was filled with joy and peace, as well as the certainty of the tender presence of a loving God. I wanted to scream with joy and tell everyone that the One God exists in Three Persons, that Jesus Christ is the true God: the Son of God who became a true man, that He died for  us and rose again, that He forgives us all our sins in the sacrament of reconciliation, and that He gives us eternal life in the Eucharist.

St Sharbel’s hands

Returning to the car, I felt a warm, gentle grip on my right shoulder, but I hardly paid it any attention. Only when I had reached the car and taken off my sweater did I see that on my shoulder I had the imprint of a hand with five fingers, and that blood and water were oozing from it. It was a wound as though from having been burned. I touched it with my fingers, but felt no pain. On returning home, I showed the wound to my wife to assure myself that I wasn’t hallucinating. My wife asked me then whose hand was imprinted on my shoulder, and it was enough for me to assure myself that it wasn’t just my imagination, but a factual reality. I am convinced that this was the hand of St Sharbel. This was how the holy hermit chose to assure me that my experience of the presence of God at his hermitage was true; that it was no hallucination. I told my wife about the details of what had happened during my prayer at St Sharbel’s hermitage. The same mystical experience recurred forty more times, and the imprint of the palm with the bleeding wound appeared on my shoulder and remained for five to six days.

Three days after the first mystical experience of the Presence of God, I met the Patriarch Bishop of Beirut and the superior of the Maronite Order one by one and told them everything about the unusual experience. I also had to submit to a particular medical examination to confirm that this event had not been caused by my psyche. I also underwent a trial exorcism to be sure that I wasn’t being manipulated by the actions of evil spirits.


After this mystical experience of the presence of Christ, I resigned from my job as a scientist in order to dedicate myself to the work of evangelisation. I began to work in the newly established Catholic Television Télé Lumière (www. After a few years of this work, I became the station’s manager. We also established a St Sharbel prayer group. We meet every Friday. We start with study of the Holy Scriptures, then at 8 p.m. we celebrate Mass and recite the Rosary. The Prayer group has now existed for twenty years, and the membership is constantly growing.

It has more than 3000 members in Lebanon, and communities have also been formed in the US, Australia and London. These communities are made up of laity, similar to the Third Order Franciscans. Prior to joining a community, it is essential that one prepare oneself regarding the teaching of the Catholic Church, as well as the Holy Scriptures. Members must be witnesses of Jesus in today’s world; in a sense, they are lay monks who maintain a close unity with Christ. I am responsible for the community of St Sharbel, which is directly under the authority of the Patriarch.

After St John Paul II’s pilgrimage to Lebanon, I also founded a new movement called “The Message of Lebanon”. My inspiration came from St John Paul II’s statement that Lebanon should become a message of the Gospel for the entire Middle East. It is a socio-political movement whose goal is to introduce the principles of the Gospel into politics and the economy. We have been in operation since last year and The Message of Lebanon already has more than 1000 members. We wish to be obedient tools in God’s hands.

I have submitted my whole life to the service of the Church. Of course, I still take care of my wife and children. I bear witness to Christ and serve Him so that through my service the joyful truth of Christ’s resurrection and God’s mercy may reach everyone living in Lebanon and the Middle East.


On 24 July 1995, St Sharbel’s liturgical feast day, during the procession in the monastery in Annaya, an elderly monk appeared next to Raymond Nader wearing a hood over his head. Nader didn’t see his face, but he heard St Sharbel’s voice internally conveying to him the first message to be communicated to people. After finishing the message, the monk disappeared, and Nader felt a pain on his shoulder. The burn with the image of the five fingers appeared there, as it had on 9 November 1994. Raymond understood that it was a sign from the holy hermit. Since that time, Nader receives messages from St Sharbel every now and then. Here is a selection of some passages of those messages:

1“There is only one path that leads to full happiness in heaven, and that is Jesus Christ, the true God who became a true man. The path of maturing to love in heaven which Jesus takes us through is a difficult spiritual climb. Walking this path with Jesus, we should love one another with selfless, unconditional and unlimited love.”

2“In order to have love in our hearts, it is necessary to perpetually draw from love’s Source, which is Jesus Christ. Everyone without exception can draw from this one Source through daily, persevering prayer and the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist.”

3“Only Jesus can free a person from all his sins, problems and worries. He suffers greatly when a person redeemed by His blood falls into sin and does not go to confession, does not trust His boundless mercy.”

4“God wishes us to be free and happy. However, people seek happiness where they will never find it: on earth, in material goods, in careers, in authority, in succumbing to sensual desires or in other people. One can find full happiness only through uniting oneself in love with Christ.”

5“Love is a treasure that one may gain in the course of one’s earthly life, and which will last forever. All material wealth, fame, authority, social standing and various successes, together with death, will remain on this earth. At the moment of death, only love will matter.”

6“Love should reign in your hearts, and humility in your minds. Arrogance always leads to sin, and failure to forgive and hatred lead to eternal damnation. Pray and repent.”

7“Pray from the depths of your heart and God will hear you. Open the gates of your heart to Christ so that He may live there and grant you peace. Remember: pray from your heart, sincerely and with trust, and not only with your lips. The croaking of a frog will find its way to God more quickly than empty words which do not come from a person’s heart. When at prayer, listen to God’s voice. Unfortunately, there are few people who listen and understand, and even fewer who, on hearing, understand and put it into practice. So listen to what God is constantly saying to you in various ways, trying to the end to fulfil His holy will.”

8“Every person is like the lamp of God. His task is to illuminate the darkness of the world. The Lord God created each lamp with clear and transparent glass, so that light could radiate out and illuminate the darkness of the world. However, people forget the light and concern themselves only with the glass. They colour it and decorate it until it becomes so clouded that it doesn’t permit the light to radiate out. This is why such a great darkness reigns in the world. The glass of your lamps should once again become transparent, so that your light may shine in the world. That is why, after every serious sin, one should immediately go to confession, to remain always in a state of sanctifying grace – to shine the light of God’s love”.