Friday, 28 December 2012

Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara: On the Way to Sainthood




Kuriakose Elias Chavara was a unique blend of a social and spiritual revolutionary whose contribution to the society in Kerala and the Catholic Church is immense. He was a visionary who initiated reforms in the Church as well as in the society. From being the founder of the first Indian religious congregation, Carmelites of Mary Immaculate to establishing a sanskrit school for students of all castes in a predominantly caste ridden society, Kuriakose Elias Chavara was man of faith in action.

Witness to Chavara's Holiness during his Lifetime
The Tahshildar of Meenachil once said about Kuriakose Elias Chavara, “Those who complained against such a great man, a person endowed with divine grace, were very bad people and reserved the anger of God.”  He was not the lone figure who recognized the saintliness of Chavara. At the sight of this holy person, ordinary people used to say, “Here goes the man of God.” During his life time people from all walks of life adorned recognized his greatness by calling him, ‘Servant of God,’ ‘Divine person,’ ‘man of divine vision’ etc…

After the Death of Chavara
Two biographies of Kuriakose Elias Chavara were written after his death in 1871. They were written by his confessor and spiritual director Fr. Leopold Beccaro OCD and his successor Fr. Kuriakose Porukara.  Being well aware of the fact that Chavara was a saint, Fr. Leopold distributed the copy of the last testament along with his cassock, dress etc and asked the monasteries to cherish them as sacred relics of their holy founder. Fr. Leopold wrote in his diary on the day of Chavara’s death, ‘O beautiful and holy soul pray for me.’It  was he who took the initiative to start the process of canonization but he had to leave Kerala as a result of a conflict with the Vicar Apostolic Mellano.

It is also notable that the St. Thomas Christians had sent petitions to Pope Pius IX extolling the moral authority, prudence etc. of Chavara Kuriakose. Written in popular poetic style, the purathana pattukal portrays the greatness of Chavara’s holiness which was well known to the people of Kainakari.

Servant of God, Venerable and Blessed
The CMI congregation, still in its early years of growth could not take forward the cause of Chavara Kuriakose. The turning point was when Eugene Cardinal Tisserant, the then prefect of Oriental Churches visited Kerala in 1953 and is said to have advised Fr. Maurus Valiyaparampil to begin the process for Canonization. The process gained momentum with the Congregation for oriental Churches introducing the cause of Kuriakose Elias Chavara and authorized the Bishop of Changanaserry, Mar Mathew Kavukatt to institute the informative process on the life and virtues of Chavara. Fr. Placid Padiapara CMI was appointed  the postulator and Fr. Maurilius Kakkanatt CMI was the vice postulator at Mannanam. From the time the cause was introduced in diocesan curia in 1955, Kuriakose Elias Chavara was called ‘Servant of God.’

A Position or a position document describing the introduction of the cause and virtues of the servant of God Kuriakos Elias Chavara was prepared. The work on position was completed in 1977 and was submitted to the consultants whose response can be either positive, negative or reserved. The response was indeed positive and Pope John Paul II after being informed of the findings, ordered to prepare a decree, the conclusion of which reads, ‘It is evident that the Servant of God Cyriac Elias Chavara practiced the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity towards God and towards brethren  and also the cardinal virtues of prudence, justice, temperance and fortitude and those connected with the same, in a heroic degree, in case and for the effect in question.’ The decree of the heroic virtues was promulgated in 1984 and from then he was called ‘Venerable.’

The cure of a six year old boy, Joseph Mathew Pennaparampil, who was born with a club feet was accepted as the miracle needed for the beatification. On 8 February 1985, Pope John Paul II in his visit to India to India declared Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Alphonsa Muttathupadathu blessed.

The Kerala Church and especially CMI congregation are prayerfully waiting for the moment when Kuriakose Elias Chavara will be declared a saint.



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