Abouna Yacoob HaddadBy Fr. Ghattas Khoury
Abouna Yacoob, in English Father Jacob, was a Capuchin Priest, from Ghazir, Kesrwan, Lebanon. He joined the Capuchins after, he returned from Egypt. His life was trusting God, and the Rosary is a witness to his devotion of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He used it in his traveling during the nights from place to place, to preach and teach all over Lebanon and Syria.
Aboona Yacoob was a Maronite who joined the Franciscan life to labor in the vineyard of the Lord. He consecrated his life to preach the Word of God, and rescue the poor, the orphans, and the handicap. What he achieved in his life is a miracle. He was respected by the politicians, and religious from all the religions.
If we describe him; his appearance and his personality are similar to Prophet, Saint Elias, with his long beard and brown cassock, with his large eyes and large eye brows which enhanced his respect.
His vocation was matured through his experience in life and his skills as a teacher which helped him to understand the difficulties and the struggling of the Lebanese Family during the turn of the Nineteenth Century. The Lebanese society was facing the two movements, such as moving from the agricultural civilization to the industrial society and the immigration from the towns to the cities, and from Lebanon to Egypt and America.
Khalil Haddad, the oldest son of the Family went to Egypt to become an Arabic teacher, at Saint Mark High School, Alexandria, Egypt. He started to earn money and send it to support his father who was raising his large family. Suddenly, Khalil, his name before his religious life, surprised him by losing his job seeking the religious life. Also, it was difficult to his father to see him join an order that is living in poverty.
After his perseverance, Khalil join the order of the Capuchins, and studied philosophy, and theology to be prepared for the ordination. During that time, Brother Yacoob was active preaching in the villages around the monastery. He was ordained a priest, January 11, 1901. On his way to his hometown, Aboona Yacoob Haddad had an accident. The horse carriage fell into the pit. He was deeply wounded, and two people were killed. The providence of God protected him. He survived miraculously and celebrated his first Mass with his family.
In the first incident was a remarkable event in his life. Probably, the accident shaped his monastic life. He considered it as a providence his life was spurred to do good. Even though he was disturbed by the death of those who were traveled with him, he celebrated with courage the Mass. Every mass is similar to his first one. Like many saint the Eucharist is the source of his courage and his activities.
After his ordination, Aboona Yacoob was active to spread the spirituality, of Saint Francis, among the laity. He encourages them to join the Third Order. Many clergy joined the order. September 14, the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is the Day of the Convention and pilgrimage of the Order to Our Lady of Lebanon, Harissa. With these activities, Aboona Yacoob was a good preacher, a Master of Retreats for the Clergy, and the Laity. Mostly, he walked during the night praying his Rosary, preparing his homilies, and meditating. Those who knew him, said, he was a good confessor.
During World War I, Aboona Yacoob, was in charge of the Capuchin Order in Lebanon. After, Turkey entered to the War against France; The French Capuchins were obliged to leave Lebanon. They trusted their proprieties to the Lebanese Capuchins. Aboona Yacoob was head of the community. Aboona Yacoob did his best to rescue the people from starvation. He used to travel from place to place to bury the dead and rescue the living. He was in peril to be executed, but his honesty rescued him and Saint Louis, Latin Cathedral of Beirut.
After the war, Abouna Yacoob with the French soldiers started the soup kitchen all over the place to rescue the people, who survived the starvation that eliminated a third of the country. He faced a large number of orphans and widows and neglected people. He trusted the Providence of God and the French government to rescue the despaired people. He started his school system, a small gathering, and orphanages in different places.
With that, his heart was with the young Lebanese who left their country seeking a new life. This new chance is a peril of losing the morality, and the Lebanese identity. His dream was to have a Cross, over a mountain, a sign of hope for the living, a sign of life for those who died without honoring their bodies, because of the war and starvation, and a sign of protection for the emigrants. He started his project of the Cross, May3, 1923. He consecrated the Church, September 14, 1923, Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.
After opening the building, Aboona Yacoob found an elderly priest living without dignity. He took him to live in his nursing home. Many elderly people lived there. Every day, the number was growing. Aboona Yacoob was seeking help from the women of the Third order. They were the nucleus of the Franciscan Sisters of the Holy Cross. The Franciscan Sisters were trainers of the new order. Sister Marie Zoghib was the first Mother Superior of the New Order.
In 1937, Abouna Yacoob started to work with the municipalities and the Lebanese Government to receive more handicap, and psychological cases. The place started to grow by receiving people. They were in need of food and water. Finally, with the help of the Lebanese Government, Abouna Yacoob provided water to the place.
The Last project was the Christ the King. It is a place, a nursing home for the clergy and a place of prayer and retreat.
Abouna Yacoob was a man of God. He was dealing with the reality of life with experience and with the eyes of the Lord. The Holy Spirit was his inspiration. His life was stable and harmonious. He lived an ordinary life. He prayed regularly, fasting like others. In his life, he did his best to do charitable works. He let God do the impossible.
He is a typical Lebanese. He was concerned of emigration of the new generation.
Aboona Yacoob died at the age of 79 years old.
During his life, he received many awards from the governments of France and Lebanon. Most of all the people recognized him as a saint. Recently, the Church has declared him, Honorable, in the future he will be declared Blessed.