The Founder Archbishop Aftimos et Sayfi, of Happy Memory .
The name of the founder was Mokhaïl, son of Moussa el-Sayfi, originally of Baalbeck, and Katerina el-Debbas . He was born in 1643 from early childhood he followed courses of studies in the patriarchal residence, which in those days served as a seminary . His scholarship was enlarged thanks to this relations with the Jesuit, capuchin and other Latin missionary fathers who had begun to arrive in the East, until the extent of his knowledge earned him the title of Basket of Learning .
Mikhaïl was ordained Deacon by Bishop Neophytos el Saqezi in 1666 and then Priest in 1668, after which he worked in the patriarchal curia . But on account of his virtues and learning, the families of the city of Sidon ( Saïda) asked for him to be their pastor in succession to Archbishop Jeremiah . He was consecrated Bishop by Patriarch Cyril V in 1682, taking the name of Aftimos . Bishop Aftimos governed his diocese with energy and devotion, doing all in his power for the union of Christians with the Apostolic See of Rome, and finally his zeal for his Catholic faith was rewarded by imprisonment in the fortress of Sidon .
On his release from prison he made a pastoral visit of whole diocese, not forgetting his foundation of St. Saviour's . He then turned to Damascus, where he died on November 27th, 1723, as the result of gangrene caused by his fetters during his confinement . His funeral was the occasion of an extraordinary popular demonstration and he was buried in the sepulcher of the patriarchs of Antioch .
Perhaps the most important of his compositions was"the shining Guide between Church " , printed in Rome in 1710 and reprinted by the Franciscan Press in Jerusalem 1823 .
Archbishop Sayfi entered on his pastoral mission in his diocese, which in those days extended from the Damour River in the north to St. John of Acre in the south, and from the Sidon plain on the western side to the Teem Valley(hasbaya and Rashaya eastwards . His first concern was how to ensure the spiritural service of the faithful living in this areas . Thanks to his zeal, in a short time he was able to gather round him a number of priests who formed the nucleus of the monastic community that he was planning to create . This was about the year 1683 . They all lived together with him in the Episcopal residence as a religious community engaged in missionary work, until finally the premises were too small . The bishop then set about finding a place that would be the cradle for his new community, and Divine Profidence sent him a sign that led him to the fulfillment of his wishes .
Miracle of the Saviour .
In the spring of 1685, during a pastoral visit of his diocese of Sidon, Bishop Sayfi reached the village of Joun, where all the inhabitants of the surrounding districts came to greet him, carrying their guns on account of the many bandits plaguing the region at that time . One man had a gun of a new kind, having a steel firing hammer . A certain Deacon Athanasius Nasr accompanying the bishop took the weapon in this hands to examine it, but hi finger slipped on the trigger, causing the gun to fire and the lead shot to lodge in the breast of the priest Father Ibrahim Toutou standing in front of him, who fell to the ground . As soon as the bishop heard the shot, he shouted the words : " O Sauviour of the World" just as he was in the habit of doing and then rushed up with the others to see what had happened to the priest .
On reaching him, he heard the priest, say, " Do not worry, Master !" On removing the priest's clothes, his compani found the lead shot sticking to his chest without having done any harm . His Lordship saw in this miracle a sign from Heaven that he should build the monastery nearby and name it after the Saviour . He finally chose Mazra'at Mashmouchat el-Tahta on a hill east of Joun as the site of his religious foundation .
The building of the monastery .
The bishop rented the above-mentioned farm from its owner, Sheikh Qabalan el Qadi, and installed himself there with his monks in 1701 . He obtained permission and confirmation for the purchase from Amir ( prince ) Haidar Shehab in the Sidon law court and then in 1710 obtained his authorization to renovate the farm, calling it a " retreat for the monks, a storehouse for agricultural implements and a hostel for children of the way and followers of the path of every religion "
So in 1711 the first building at St.Saviour's rose up under the hands of the monks, it war composed of two roofed storeys running from east to west, each consisting of two rows of rooms facing each other across a corridor, forming what is now know as the Foundation Gallery .
Tomb of Father Beshara Abu Mrad 1853 – 1930
Father Beshara was from Zahleh and spent thirty-six years of his life serving souls with all possible zeal and energy in the villages and farmsteads of the valley around Deir el Qamar and in Sidon and its surroundings . HHHHe was out-standing for his piety and mortification and his burning love for his fellow men, particularly the poor and unfortunate, until all who saw how he lived called him " the Holy Priest " . The file for his beatification was presented to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints in Rome, after the closure of the proceedings in the Episcopal court of Sidon in 1993
St.Saviours School and Minor Seminary .
Ever since the very foundation of St.Saviour's there has been an active effort for instruction of a monastic character to prepare the monks for their priestly ordination and their work in the mission field . In the year 1828 the school began to follow a definite programme and organization, and students occupied the west side basements or ground floor earlier used as a residence for patriarchs .
In 1880 the chapel was built and dedicated to the Annunciation, and in 1901 the first floor on the north and west sides was constructed .
In 1931 the second floor was built as a large dormitory, now used as a theatre and study hall, as well as rooms for the priests on the west side and for students on the south side .
In 1955 the wing for the lay boarders on the east side was completed . Five languages were taught in the school besides philosophical subjects, theology, liturgy and music . Today it is a mixed secondary school, for boys and girls .
" The mustard seed grows into a great tree"
The missionary zeal that the founder Bishop Sayfi imparted to his monks has burnt brighter with every generation . His monks have gone forth from St.Saviour's carrying the good news to souls thirsty for God and for his Word . They scattered over the lands of the Levant, Lebanon, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, and then turned towards the diaspora in Italy, the United States of America, Canada, Brazil and Austalia, to serve those of their brethren who had emigrated . here they spread their spiritual, cultural and social message, for the benefit of the people and the glory of god . '
Here is a list of somme Salvatorian monasteries and social centres :
- monastery of Our Lady of the Dormition, better known as the Nivociate, near St.Saviour's 1775
1- monastery of the Archangel Michael in Ameeq,1760
2- Monastery of St.Georges, known as Deir el-Mazeira'at, the Farm Monastery, Kfarhuna, 1778.
3- Monastery of St.Thecla, Ain Jawzeh, Saghbeen, 1760
4- Monastery of the Prophet Elias, Rashmaya, 1735
5- The Salvatorian Social Foundation, Pridence House ( Dar el-Anaya) Salihiyeh
6- Friendship House ( dar el – Sadaqa) Zahleh 1979
7- Bishop Aftimos el-Sayfi Centre, Jiita, secondary school and residence for the senior seminarists, 2000 . The above are all in Lebanon
8- Monastery of Sts Sergius and Bacchus, Maaloula, Syrie, taken over by the Order in 1732
9- St. Basil's Monastery, Methuen, Mass.,USA 1953