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.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara of Happy Memories

The saintly Kuriakose Elias Chavara had a profound understanding of death. His reflections on death were in tune with the theology and spirituality of his times which could very well be seen in the frightening and fearful picture which he shares through his writings. But he optimistically prescribes various means to safely sail across the troubled ocean to reach the Promised Land.  He looks up to Blessed Virgin Mary ‘as the strong vessel, strong enough to resist the tempest of the sea, which gives guarantee of safety and protection to passengers’ and St. Joseph as ‘the sailor who is familiar with the route and who would safely bring the passengers to a safe landing.  ‘The Confraternity of Happy Death’ of St. Joseph, +the patron of happy death was established by Kuriakose Elias and requested people to join so that they could confidently face death and reach heaven. He concludes a letter written to parishioners in Kainakary with the following words, “Each month, on this particular day read this and say the following ejaculatory prayer: “Lord accept the soul of this your servant in the home of the just.” This is my only request to you.

Toward the end of 1870, Chavara Kuriakose Elias knew that he was inching closer to death.  As Kuriakose Porukara writes, “As the Prior was aware by a special intuition the approach of his death, he was continuously preparing for a happy death.” In many of the churches which Kuriakose Elias preached in 1870’s he stated that this would be his last sermon and also repeated the same to the priests who had assembled for retreat. Even during the difficult times of his life, he was very particular in celebrating mass at 5:00 am and relied greatly on the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph.

He lost his eye sight during the last three months of this life on earth but instead of becoming irritated or sorrowful, he remained pleasant with a smile on his face. He suffered a lot during the last three days before his death.  On 2 January 1871, he made his last confession to Fr. Leopold and received Holy Communion. He told the members who were standing near his death bead, ‘Why are you weeping? Man, whoever he be, has to die one day. Now it is my time. For a few days, I was preparing myself as far as possible.” Then he revealed the secret which he hid from everyone , “By the grace of God I dare to say that with their help never had I an occasion to be deprived of the grace received in baptism.” After Fr. Joseph John of the Cross, the vicar of the Monastery of Koonammavu administered the sacrament, Kuriakose Elias Chavara blessed all the members who were present. When Fr. Leopold asked, “Father, how are you now? Are you happy? Are you peaceful at heart?” He replied, “Father, now I have peace and joy.” These were his last words and he lost his consciousness. On January 3, 1871, at 7:15 in the morning Kuriakose Elias Chavara breathed his last.

The funeral was held on 4 January, 1871. The funeral mass was celebrated by Fr. John of the Cross, the vicar, the sermon was preached by Fr. Mathai Kappil and Fr Kuriakose Eliseus Porukara conducted the funeral services. Fr. Valerian writes that ‘according to eyewitnesses the rush of people was such that it filled over the precincts of the church. During the funeral speech Fr. Mathai Kappil said, “Today the flag of Kerala has fallen.’ Then the bells rang and people burst out in loud cries.  Kuriakose Elias Chavara was laid to rest at St. Philomena’s monastery Church, Koonammavu. When this church was handed over to Latinites after the creation of Thrissur and Kottayam vicariates, the relics of Chavara was transferred from Konnammavu to Mannanam on 24 May 1899.  

Karmayogi: The Personality of Kuriakose Elias Chavara

The greatness of the personality of Chavara is reflected in the words of many of his contemporaries like Fr. Mathai Mariam Kappil, Mathai Mariam Palakkunnel, Bishop Louis Pazheparampil, etc. Many of the lay persons as well as historical writers could recognize the importance of the personality of Chavara and his contributions as relevant to all times and people.  The attribute ‘karma-yogi’ given by Prof. P. T. Thomas gives a clear idea of the towering personality of Chavara.

Prophetic Vision and Mission of Chavara
The continuous changes that happen in the society are the result of the one who has the sense of history, who knows the present condition and having a vision for the future.  Chavara is one among these visionaries who changed society.  The Chaldean leadership was not that much acceptable and pleasing to the indigenous group in Kerala.  In the 16th century, with the coming of the Portuguese, the Latin influence and dominance destroyed the unity and autonomy of the Indian church of St. Thomas Christians.  The Christians of St. Thomas wanted to have co-existence with the Portuguese, but they were for absorption, which resulted in conflicts.  Chavara as well as the Malpans had a conviction that no good can be expected from the Chaldean Church by re-linking Kerala Church with it.  One of the basic problems Chavara could understand is that of language, the difference in language used and known by the priests and bishops.  So to say, the condition of Kerala Church was that people were looking for a normal state; but the situation was entirely different, headed by one from different Rite, using Latin language and Rites for rituals and so on.
            The solution, Chavara could give was to get a few missionaries from Europe, who were ready to study Syrian language and to adapt Syro-Malabar Rite and later to make one among them as the head of the Church in Kerala.  Later Chavara wrote to Prefect of the Propagande Congregation, for two bishops: one for the Latin Church and another for Syrian Church, so that the wish of the people for bishop from their own rite will be satisfied and they will get united.  This request could influence many of the decisions of Rome during that time.
            Chavara along with Malpans started with the reforms to bring back the community to right track.  One of the steps for the reform was starting of the religious life in 1831 at Mannanam for men and one in 1866 for women.  Another area was the reform of the clergy in Kerala; training of the seminarians, giving retreats, making available spiritual books etc.  He introduced several schemes for the general renewal of Christian life, started schools and printing presses and contributed a lot to the literature too.
Humane Personality
            Chavara was a garden of virtues, so that he was loved and respected by all, his students, priests, bishops and lay people.  All considered him equal to a bishop.  He enjoyed the company of all, with no age or status difference.  His knowledge in different languages helped a lot in his ministries, teaching seminarians, liturgical compositions etc.  He also had an in depth knowledge in theology and Bible, which he could make use for the preaching and retreats.
Moral Dimension of Chavara’s Personality
            Chavara was accurate in all his accounts and was just to all.  He was very keen to see only the good in others.  Chavara was a prudent person in making decision and doing things, but he was ready to seek and accept advice from elderly persons.  When he had to correct others he was conscious not to offend them.  His foresight is evident in making funds for all the charitable activities that he started.  In solving problems and in dealing with the people involved in such things, Chavara was very prudent.  He professed a fourth vow, vow of humility, and was humble in all his words and deeds.
 He believed that all that he had were the gifts from God and he thanked God for all the blessings he received from birth till the day of last breath.  He expressed his faith in the Holy Catholic Church in all his activities.  He showed great trust in God’s providence.  He was a true devotee of Blessed Virgin Mary.  His love to God was out bursting in charity to the needy.  Through love towards the brethren and even to the people who offended him, he could prove that he really loves God.  He had great zeal for the souls, which he expressed through preaching, pastoral activities, writing good books etc.
            Chavara led a poor life, trusting in the providence of God, even when a number of projects he started without any fund in his hands.  He was very careful in the virtue of chastity.  According to him one who shows obedience to superiors and subordinates will be able to enjoy heavenly peace, making a mini-heaven around him.
 The true name that can be given to Chavara is ‘karma-yogi’, ‘a contemplative in action’, one who lived for others, out of love of God, along with this he made an intense prayer life too.  His prayer life which was started in childhood itself was properly brought up as he passed through different stages of life.  In the case of the congregation when started, it was following the Dominican way, contemplata praedicare (preach what has been meditated upon).  But in 1855 Carmelite spirituality was accepted and followed, a combination of both and gave roots in eastern, Carmelite and Indian spirituality.  Chavara considered this new face as that God willed, not because man planned.
 During the time of meditation, others could see him on knees, shedding tears for the whole time.  Chavara was influenced by St. Theresa of Avila and St. John of the Cross and he could go up in the levels of prayer experience.  He considered God as his Father and placed himself as His son in prayers and life.  Another specialty of his prayer life was the compunction of heart; he repented for the childhood follies and expressed gratitude for all the blessings God showered in his life.
Chavara spirituality is revealed through his spiritual compositions such as Martyrdom of Anastasia, Dhyanasallapangal, Atmanutapam, Parvam and other letters.  Most distinctive characteristic of his spirituality is the longing for the vision of God, the intense desire to see God.  His devotion to Holy Family is clear in adding a phrase “of the Holy Family” along with his name on the day of religious profession.  In his spirituality he considered the first and second persons of Holy Trinity and St. Joseph as father figures and makes prayers accordingly.  Similarly, he considered Blessed Virgin Mary, St. Theresa of Avila, the Holy Catholic Church and his own congregation as mother figures.  In his spirituality, devotion to the Blessed Sacrament can never be neglected.  He himself says that he wishes to be locked in the tabernacle with Jesus.
 His spiritual life is based on a family relationship.  As pointed out there are father figures and mother figures.  He considers himself as a prodigal son returning to his Father with repentance.  The rest of the humanity consists of his brothers and sisters.  With some members of the family, he has got more intimacy, since they are also of the same state as that of his.  Towards his spiritual children he has a paternal love too.  He extended his family relationship even to those who are in purgatory and prayed specially for them and reminded others to do so.
To conclude, the name karma-yogi is an apt name that reflects the towering personality of Blessed Chavara.  The great visionary and missionary in Chavara was a God-given gift for the whole Church, especially for the congregation.  He was an inspiration for the people of his time as well as the people who lived and lives years after.  He was a beacon of light who led people to Christ by becoming another Christ in his personality.  

Kuriakose Elias Chavara: A Faithful Defender of the Church

Kuriakose Elias Chavara considered the Church as his own mother. He was aware of the fact that being truthful and faithful to the Church was essential for salvation. Union with Pope and obedience and acceptance of the authorities appointed by the Pope are important in this regard. The Kerala Church was going through a challenging phase during that time. The ripples of  Koonan Cross oath  in the middle of seventeenth century which had divided the Church into Pazhayakuttukar (old party) Puthenkuttukar (new party) could be felt with great intensity during the time of Chavara. Kuriakose Elias Chavara defended the Church with valour as a faithful soldier of the Church.

The Roccos Affair
The people of Kerala were dejected of being under the foreign rule and there was a strong demand for a Bishop of their own rite. Bishop Roccos arrived in Kerala on May 9, 1861.  Even though he arrived unlawfully, the real fact was hidden from people.  He received a grand reception by Syrian Churches. Very soon majority of the Churches in Kerala stood behind Bishop Roccos. This unlawful Bishop and his companions caused a Schism like situation  in the Kerala Church. It is known as ‘Roccos Schism’ in the history and Kuriakose Elias Chavara had qualified it as ‘religious rebellion’ (vedakalapam).

Roccos and his companions travelled far and wide in Kerala with the support of Antony Thondanat and others and enjoyed the support of majority of the Churches. To be specific 86 churches fully supported Roccos and in 36 churches there were both groups. It was a natural response of the people who were reeling under the yoke of unmindful latinization by the missionaries and the Bishops and the requests for a native bishop fell in deaf ears.

The situation was alarming. Inorder to counter Roccos, on June 8, 1861, the Authorities of Verapoly officially appointed Fr.Kuriakose as the Vicar General of Verapoly of all the Syrian Catholics of Kerala. Kuriakose Elias was a champion of faith who even renounced an offer to be made bishop by the Roccos group. On hearing about this offer, he said, “My desire is not to be made a bishop, but to save my soul.” Fr. Chavara sent a circular to priests and laity asking them to refrain from encouraging the attempts of Roccos. The circular was strongly worded asking the faithful even ‘to be prepared to die at their hands in defense of unity of the Church.’

Kuriakose Elias had written to Vatican asking clarification for the legitimacy of Bishop Roccos arrival. The letter from the Pope praised Chavara for his zeal and devotion and expressed great regard for the act of approaching the Holy See in such a critical situation to discern the truth. The letter clearly stated that Roccos came to Kerala without the knowledge of the Pope.

Being aware of the letter from the Pope, Bishop Roccos had made up his mind to return; but his supporters  opposed it especially his followers like Avira Parayi didn't allow him to leave .  On 28 December 1861, Roccos was solemnly excommunicated. With much difficulty, the excommunication order was handed over to Roccos by Fr. Mathai Mariam Kappil, vicar of Koonammavu monastery.  He went around Kerala without showing any sign of repentance. But a second letter from the Patriarch reached Roccos which asked him to return back. He fell ill and was treated in Kochi. Roccos had a change of heart and was expressed in a letter to Vicar Apostolic. Vicar Apostolic entrusted Kuriakose Elias with the responsibility of hearing the confession, withdrawing excommunication on certain conditions and making arrangements for the Roccos travel. Even though the situation was volatile, Kuriakose Elias handled it well and Roccos was sent back to Mosul in a ship from Kochi.

From trying to bring together the separated faction which came to existence post Coonan Cross Oath to dealing with challenges from people like Antony Thondanatt, Antony Kudakkachira, Deneha bar Jona, Kuriakose Elias led from the front and ensured that unity of the Church of Christ in Kerala remained intact.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara: Founder of CMC Congregation

“There is no chance for the welfare of the world unless the condition of women is improved. It is not possible for a bird to fly on only one wing,” said Swami Vivekananda. Keralite women, being sidelined, were craving for a change in social attitude towards them and come to the mainstream. Rightly analyzing that women’s education was the ultimate means in this equalization process, western missionaries were in forefront in bringing about change. Kuriakose Elias Chavara too felt that a new religious congregation for women would be game changer for women in Kerala both socially and spiritually.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara founded the Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC) along with an Italian missionary Fr. Leopold Beccaro OCD on 13th February, 1866. The dream of starting a religious congregation of women was something which Fr. Chavara had been praying for long. While recollecting the day Fr. Leopold shared this idea, Chavara writes, “It seems that God has been pleased to fulfill something which seems difficult and for which I have been praying for long. In 1865, Rev. Leopold took me out for an evening walk… (and told me) there is a widow and her fourteen year old daughter. The girl is heiress to half the property of her father. She does not like to get married. Why not separate them from their home and accommodate them in a new house to be built on their own property, a little removed from the family house? Here other girls in like situation may be trained in handicrafts and virtuous ascetic life to become nuns.”

The permission to begin the congregation was granted by the Archbishop Bernadine OCD and treated them as third order of Carmelite nuns. The building of the first convent was not an easy task as contributions had dried up. But with the little they got a building was made, in the words of Chavara, “it was built of coconut tree and bamboo mats. It was divided into a prayer hall, a dining room and three other rooms.” It was with unconditional trust in the Lord that Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Leopold Beccaro started the first indigenous women’s congregation in India with four members namely Eliswa-a widow, her daughter Anna, her sister Teresa, and another young lady named Clara.

But the early life of sisters was challenging. Fr. Chavara writes, ‘The life of sisters in the present structure was very pitiable. Because it was made of fresh bamboos, bamboo mats that were not yet dry and unprocessed tender coconut logs, they fall easy victims to moths and termites. Hence there was need to construct a stronger and permanent building.’ To make a new building, initiatives like families setting apart ‘a handful of rice’ (pidiyari) everyday while preparing a meal for building a new convent were taken up. Priest even went around to various churches to collect money and even priests were contacted through letters to get contributions. The foundation stone was laid for the convent on 13th June 1866 and on April 27th 1867 sisters were shifted to a new convent in Koonamavvu.

This religious congregation for women branched off into Congregation of Mother Carmel (CMC) in the Oriental rite and Congregation of Teresian Carmelites (CTC) in the Latin rite. This religious congregation played a significant role in giving a new face to women upliftment. Taking women from the confines of homes and giving training, employing them in cottage industries, giving them education, ensuring spiritual growth, the Carmelite women congregation’s contribution to women and the Church in Kerala is immense.

The Birth of CMI Congregation and Kuriakose Elias Chavara

From Hindu rishis to Buddhist Monastics, India is a land blessed with the sages from time immemorial. Even though traces of Catholic monasticism could be seen in India, they didn’t stand the test of time. It needed Fr. Thomas Porkura, Fr. Thomas Palackal, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Bro. Jacob Kaniyanthara to begin an indigenous religious congregation which would play an important role in the growth of St. Thomas Christians in India.

The desire of the founding fathers was to lead a spiritual monastic life completely cutting themselves off from the affairs of the world. On communicating this idea to Msgr. Stabilini, the vicar apostolic, he was taken by surprise and shot back, ‘If erudite and educated priests like you retreat to forests for your own spiritual well being who will take care of the faithful?” He then asked them to start a monastery so that they could strive for their own spiritual growth together with working for the social, moral and spiritual advancement of brethren.

Unlike Europe, where monasteries were generously funded by Kings, establishing a monastery in Kerala was not an easy task. But Bishop Stabilini was confident that the generous Christians in Kerala would support this noble venture. He issued a letter asking people to contribute and himself gave Rs. 200 toward establishing the monastery. The permission to start the monastery was granted in 1829. After going around Kerala searching for a suitable place, the founding fathers zeroed in on Mannanam Hill. It was high enough and at the foot of it was water which would mean easy accessibility. Thus it was the ideal place for prayer/contemplation and also to serve the people.

The foundation stone of the monastery was laid on 11 May 1831. After a few weeks the Chapel was completed and blessed. Fr. Thomas Porukara and Chavara continuously resided in Mannanam from then on and Fr. Palackal, the Malpan was commuting between Pallipuram and Mannanam. Fr. Kuriakose Porukara write about the way the founding fathers lead the religious life, “As soon as they had achieved their intention in some measure, the fire that was burning in their heart began to emit rays of piety. Personal prayers, meditations, fasting, vigils, the very long Hudra [Canonical Prayer], the prayers of the three day fast, Raza [solemn liturgy] on Sunday and feast days, sung masses and sermons on special feasts- this was their routine….How wonderful it appears when we think of their spirit of poverty, eating very frugal meals, sleeping least comfortable.” A seminary too was started along with monastery to train both diocesan and religious priests. In 1844, Fr. Thomas Porukara and Kuriakose Elias Chavara were appointed Malpans by the Vicar Apostolic Francis Xavier Pescetto.

Fr. Thomas Palackal and Fr. Thomas Porukara passed away in 1841 and 1844 respectively. It was a testing time of the leadership of Kurikose Elias Chavara. But he successfully passed this test of fire by beautifully blending prayer and activities. With the religious profession of the first batch of eleven priests headed by Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara on 8th December 1855, the religious community in Mannanam became a canonically recognized religious congregation. Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was the first Prior General of the Congregation. The visionary leadership of Kuriakose Elias made sure that new religious congregation contributed to the social upliftment of the Keralite society and spiritual renewal of the St. Thomas Christians.

When Kuriakose Elias Chavara went back to the eternal abode on 3rd January 1871, he had established seven new monasteries besides Mannanam. They are Konnammavu (1857), Elthurth (1858), Plasanal (1858), Vazhakulam (1859), Pulincunnu (1861), Ampazhakad (1868),    Mutholi (1869).

Western Education and Kuriakose Elias Chavara Model Education in Kerala

The rulers in Kerala were convinced of the need for education. The western missionaries made good use of the favourable situation and established schools. The pioneers in the education field included London Missionary Society (LMS) who were active in South Travancore, Church Mission Society (CMS)  based in Central Travancore and Basel German Evangelical Mission in Malabar. But it required a humble school which Kuriakose Elias Chavara established in Mannanam to be a game changer in the Kerala scenario.

London Missionary Society (LMS)
The London Missionary Society’s main centre was in South Travancore. Rev. Mead who was part of LMS was a pioneer in female education. He spent more than half a century in educational work in South Travancore.

Church Mission Society (CMS)
The focal point of the activities of the Church Mission Society was in Kottayam. In 1821 a grammar school was started at Kottayam. The wives of Church missionaries played an important role in initiating female education. The Christian missionaries also started schools in Mattancheri and Thrissur. In 1818 Rev. J. Dawson opened an English School at Mattancheri and in 1837 Mr. Brandenburg started an English School at Thrissur.

Basel German Evangelical Mission
The main Centers of Basel Evangelical missions were Calicut and Tellicherry. In 1848 a Primary School was established at Kallayi which later became Malabar Christian College. The Brennan College of present had a humble beginning in 1856 as an  English school at Tellicherry.

Swati Tirunal and English Education
Swati Tirunal was born on 16th April 1813 as the Son of Rajarajavarma Valiya Koil Tamburan and Gouri Lakshmi Bai. He was genius with proficiency in eighteen languages. Being aware of the importance of English education, he opened an English school at Trivandrum in 1834.

The Advantage of  English Education 
The Kings and family members were interested in English. It was a royal language. As the British were ruling it created opportunities for employment and gave privilege and respect to the society.  But the slaves had a different story to tell.

Education of the Slaves
The low caste people lived in a pathetic situation in the eighteenth century. They were uneducated and were treated like animals. Education was a privilege and exclusive right of higher caste people.

In 1850 Anglican Bishop T. G. Rogant visited Thiruvathamkur and was disheartened at the sight of the wretched situation in which the low caste people were in. With the firm conviction that all are equal in front of God, he established educational institutions for them. 

Even though the Government of Kochi and Thiruvathamkur appreciated missionaries' education, they later turned against giving education to slaves. The influence of higher caste people is said to be behind such a change in mind.

Chavara Model of Education
In the midst of raging opposition against education of slaves from government and at a time when education for different castes under a roof was impossible, Kuriakose Elias Chavara did the unthinkable at Mannanam. He established an education institution where a Nair teacher taught Sanskrit (considered as the language of gods!) to the children of all the caste who sat in the same class without distinction. It was indeed a revolution, the ripples of which can be felt even now.

Language and Literature in 18th Century and Genius of Kuriakose Elias Chavara

The missionaries did a pioneering and exemplary work in Kerala with their substantial contributions to Malayalam language.  There are many notable individuals. Benjamin Baily translated books from English to Malayalam like ‘Upanishadhwakayanam’ ‘Bharathiya Theerthadakan.’ Clodius Bukanan translated Bible into Malayalam in1811. In 1818 Benjamin Baily gave a better translation of the Bible.

Dr. Gundert, a Basal Missionary considered Malayalam language as his mother tongue. His was a life dedicated to Malayalam language a visible expression of which is the 24 books he wrote in Malayalam. Notable ones include Pazhamcholmala (1850, Keralapazhama (1852)etc.

Story and Novel
The written language deeply influenced and refined the life and culture of the people during that time. It was Benjamin Baily who introduced  stories in Malayalam in the poetic language. He translated it from English to Malayalam like Randattinkuttikal, Bharathiya Theerthadakan etc. John Burnian, Arch Decon K. Koshy and Gundert have also made contributions in this field.

In 1858 Rev. Joseph Peet translated the novel of Mrs. Catherin, known as ‘Fulmoni Ennum Koruna Ennum Peraya Rendu Sthrikalude Kadha’ Some important novels which has evergreen status in Malayalam literature came up during this time like Pullelikkunju, in 1892, Kunthalatha in 1887 and Induleka in 1889.

Malayalam Drama
It was western missionaries who were instrumental in introducing and nurturing Malayalam Drama. The Keralites too jumped in making vital contributions to take it forward. The natives who took great interest in Malayalam drama are Nidherickal Mani Kathanar, Kandathil Varghese Mappilla, Kerala Varma Valiya Koyi Thamburan and C. V. Raman Pilla.

Grammar Books
The first grammar book in Malayalam was written by a missionary named Rev. Joseph Peet in 1841. It was his book that was taught in schools and colleges. In 1851 and 1860 Herman Gundert wrote Malayalam Bhasha Vyakaram. Rev. Geroge Mattam wrote the Malayalam grammar in 1863.

The first Malayalam - English dictionary was published in 1846. It was Rev. Richard Colins who wrote the first Malayalam-Malayalam dictionary in 1860.

Development of Science and History
The developments in language and increasing number of educational instiutions contributed to the development of science and history. In 1830 Chemistry began to be taught in Kottayam College. Scientific knowledge was helpful in eradicating Superstitions.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara was a literary genius. His contributions can be divided into two categories namely literary (poetic) writings and spiritual writings.  The literary writings include Compunction of Heart (Atmanutapam), Dirge (Parvam/Pana) and Martyrdom of Anastasia. The Meditation Colloquies (Dhyanasallapangal) and other short mediations come under the spiritual writings.

Compunction of Heart (Atmanutapam)
Written in epic (Mahakavyam) style, Compunction of Heart (Atmanutapam) is the most significant work of Kurikoose Elias Chavara. The original manuscript contains 143 pages with 3000 metric verses, running into 4023 lines. Divided into 12 cantons and following various poetic meters, the book treats life of Jesus from birth to ascension into heaven and life of Mary from ascension of Jesus to assumption of Mary into heaven. What makes the book stand out is the self-reflection of Chavara Kuriakose which has been beautifully introven in the work.

Dirge (Parvam/Pana)
Keeping in mind the custom of relatives and friends keeping vigil around the dead body of a family member, Dirge was written in order to sing loud on occasion like this. It has 1162 verses. Rather than emphasizing on the suffering in purgatory, our attitude towards the dead is given importance. The poem reflects the Catholic faith in communion of saints that is the communion among triumphant Church in heaven, Church suffering in purgatory and the militant Church on earth. In order to inspire the listeners to be kind towards the dead, the poem contains ten parables.

Martyrdom of Anastasia
The story of St. Anastasia who suffered martyrdom under Emperor Valerian has been written in beautiful poetic form. It is a minor epic. (Khandakavyam) It is written in boat song (vancipatt) style in order to move the listeners to action and sacrifice. This poem is said to be written during the time when the unity of Church in Kerala was challenged after the arrival of the bishop Roccos and gave the message to persist in faith in spite of sufferings, persecutions and even death.

Meditation Colloquies (Dhyanasallapangal)
The contemplative dimension and God-experience of Kuriakose Elias Chavara can be seen in full bloom in Meditation Colloquies. It was a sort of spiritual diary which he wrote between 1866 and 1868. The book is a standing testimony to the fact that Chavara was a master of spirituality and attained highest levels of mystical experience.

The other books of Kuriakose Elias Chavara include Dhyanakuripukal (Points for Meditation/Retreat), Prayers Chavara used to recite and Forty hour Adoration.

Printing Press at Mannanam
Being fully aware of the changes that books could make in bringing about substantial changes in the society ,Kuriakose Elias established printing press at Mannanam in 1844. It was the first Syro-Malabar Catholic Press in Kerala.  It published many spiritual books for deepening the religious life of the people. Jnana Piyusham was the first book to be published from Mannanam press in 1846.  Nasrani Deepika the first Malayalam daily was printed from this press in 1887.

Thus Chavara’s literary contribution to Malayalam is immense and it is rather sad that it has not been seriously taken note by the literary fraternity in Kerala.

Leadership of Chavara and Growth of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) Congregation

Source: Source:

Some of the leadership qualities we can find in Bl Chavara are fairness, vision, openness, dedication, integrity, planning and so on. Fairness is dealing with others consistently and just.  Vision is having a clear idea about the end or aim. Openness helps to listen to new ideas. Dedication is spending time or energy to accomplish the task. Integrity is the integration of outward actions and inner values. Planning is making certain assumption about the future. The greatest contribution of Bl. Chavara to the church were founding of two indigenous congregations.  He understood that his mother church did not have its own religious communities. Together with Fr. Thomas Palackal and Fr. Thomas Porookara he worked relentlessly for the establishment of the religious community. Due to their intense prayer experience many wanted Chavara to open monasteries at their own locality and so with the help of the archbishop he started different monasteries.
St. Philomina’s Monastery Konnammavu (1857)
The Archbishop wanted to have a religious congregation for Latin priests. So he enlarged the presbytery and appointed a priest and two scholastics there. But the experiment did not succeed. So he requested Chavara to take over that house and send three priests and two scholastic from Mannanam. As per the request, Chavara send Fr. Munjanatt, Scholastics Thoppil, Parapuram, and Kanatt koonammavu Missionary Fr. Marceline received them. Later Fr. Mathew Manjanat was appointed vicar to the monastery church.
Elthuruth Monastery (1858)
The northern part of Kerala felt the need of a monastery. So collected money and brought a large compound. Bl. Chavara called this place as God’s Island (El - Thuruth). On the feast of purification of the Mother of God, February 2nd 1858, Fr. Prior laid the foundation stone for the monastery as per the order of Vicar Apostolic. The bishop ordered to contribute excess  of income of the church for the construction of monastery. On 8 October 1866  the consecration of new chapel began under the leadership of Fr. Prior. In the course of time Elthuruth Monastery attained a status in the north equal to that of Mannanam in the south.

Plasnal Monastery (1858 - 1859)
Fr. Antony Kudakkachira was refused admission to the religious community at Mannanam. So he went with a vengeance that he would establish a monastery of his own. With the help of his parish he built a monastery. But unfortunately he and his candidate died while visiting Bagdad. Vicar Apostolic Bernardine asked Bl Chavara to take that monastery. But all those who were sent to that monastery had to come back due to sickness. So it was given up.
Vazhakulam (1859)
During the visit of Archbishop in Arakuzha parish Fr. Nambiaparambil informed that he was ready to give his property to build a monastery. On the feast of St. Joseph,  Fr. Jacob Kanatt was appointed vicar. Fr. Mathew Kalapurackal and Kurian Palackal and two brother co - operators from Konnammavu were sent to to the new monastery. On 1859 June 21 the new monastery was inaugurated.
Pulincunnu Monastery (1861- 1866)
After a retreat in the Pulincunnu parish by the TOCD fathers the people wanted a monastery there. They were ready to gift the chapel of St. Sebastian and the property around it to build a monastery. The work slowly progressed. First it was made a regular monastery and in 1872 it was became a seminary.
Ampazhakad Monastery (1868)
Earlier there was a Jesuit monastery at Ampazhakad and people were very much attracted to it. So vicar apostolic wanted to have a monastery at Ampazhakad. But the place was on the hand of a notorious person  called Mr Thomas Ittoop Kanichai. Due to some quarrel with his neighbour he was sent to jail. On that period he had a thought of donating the property to monastery.  Meanwhile Fr. Leopold was making inquires about the land. Finally they made an agreement with Itoop probably on 6 August 1867. But further development became difficult due to the quarrel in Kodassery family. With the help of Diwan the problems were settled down and the first members were Fr. Sebastian, Fr. Philip, Fr. Jacob and Fr. Mathew Maria. On December 15, 1868 they took the in charge of construction and collecting funds.
Mutholi (1869)
Bl. Chavara and Fr. Gerard OCD were on the way to Palai for helping the people to solve the problems of Rocos Schism and Padroado Schism. On that way they found this place. They made proper agreement with Mannor family, the land owners. In January 1871 the then pro vicar apostolic Philip OCD, laid the foundation. In 1875 Fr. Varkery Thaliath began to reside there and in 1878, on the feast day of St. John of the Cross, the Chapel was consecrated and the monastery was dedicated in his name.

Chethipuzha (attempts started from 1870)
The vicar of Changanaserry Fr. Cherian Chakkalayil happened to meet some of the TOCD fathers. He suggested having a monastery at Changanaserry as it would be helpful for the people. Bl. Chavara discussed this matter and wrote to Fr. Cherian to have an appropriate place for monastery. Fr. Cheiran suggested Chethipuzha. But at the same time the arrangements were being made for the establishment of Ampazhakad monastery. So Fr. Prior communicated this to Fr. Cherian. Meanwhile Bl. Chavara passed away. The foundation stone was laid only in 1883.
Affiliation of the Congregation to the OCD
Bl. Chavara prepared a set of rules based on the daily life the community was leading and submitted it for approval, but the Bishop Bernadine of Vearapoly sent him the Primitive Rule of the Carmelite Order. Bl. Chavara with the Bishop made appropriate modification and began the use of Reguala. In 1860 the religious institute of the Servants of the Immaculate Mother of Mount Carmel was affiliated to the Discalced Carmelite first order as the third order regular. All this happened because the bishop wanted others to be considered himself as  founder of this community. The Apostolic See approved the constitutions ad experimentum in 1885.
Implications of the Affiliation
It is to be noted that the affiliation made no much change in the life of the Institute. Its activities continued as before. The affiliation was effected in such a manner that the Prior General of the first order became the prior general of TOCD. He delegated Bishop Baccinelli, the Vicar Apostolic as the provincial of this community. The delegate appointed Bl. Chavara as the common prior. As a result the new member had to take vows to the VicarApostolic and to Fr. Prior and their successors.
Proposal to Make TOCD an OCD Province
During the time of 1st Vatican Council Fr. Leopold made arrangement to make TOCD as an OCD province. While Fr. Leopold was making the arrangements, the then prior General of OCD and Bishop Bernadine passed away. The new Prior General and Archbishop Leonard had a difference in opinion about this.  Fr. Leopold was called back due the difficulties with the new archbishop and the new OCD prior general entrusted all the affairs of the third order to Archbishop Leonard. So the effort to make TOCD an OCD province got stopped.
TOCD becomes CMI
In 1958, the name Third Order of Carmelites (TOCD) was changed to Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). The Congregation was granted pontifical exemption in 1967.  

Kuriakose Elias Chavara responds to the Divine Call

Kuriakose Elias Chavara led a very pious and holy life from his early childhood. Fr. Thomas Palackal, during a visit to Chavara family noticed the intelligent and saintly young boy Kuriakose. From the first glance Fr. Palackal understood that he was a worthy candidate for priesthood.  He then  asked the permission of his father to take him for priestly training.  He was just eleven years old then.  But his parents didn’t heed to his demand. But the family could not say no to the request of Fr. Geevarghese Thoppil, the paternal of uncle of Kuriakose.  The parent of Chavara felt that eleven years was too tender an age for Kuriakose to leave for priesthood.  So it was decided that Kuriakose will stay with parish priest for about two years ie from 1816 to 1818. In 1818 Kuriakose joined the South Pallipuram seminary of Thomas Palackal.

Kuriakose writes in Atmanutapam about the response of his mother on hearing about her son joining the seminary,
“When this good tiding reached the ears of my mother, her heart leaped with exultation
How good it is to give to God
One of the two sons.
Yet the pain of parting was there in her heart.”

There was no centralized seminary training system at that time. The system of priestly training among St. Thomas Christians was called malpanate. In the malpanate system an elderly priest used to give training and such a person was called malpan.
Pallipuram seminary was a malpanate, Fr. Thomas Palackal was its malpan (teacher)

Kuriakose Elias Chavara excelled both in learning and virtues. In Fr. Leopold’s words: “As his fellow seminarians, who are still alive, attest, the young Kuriakose was deeply interested in his studies in observing the rules [of the seminary], and in cultivating the fear of God, motivated solely by the desire of pleasing God. He never harboured any petty jealousy or bad blood against his companions, as was usual among the young, but was always kind and charitable towards them.”

Chavara received tonsure (asthapad pattam) in 1818, the same year he joined the seminary as his guru Fr. Palackal was convinced of the genuineness of his vocation. The tonsure was conferred to him by Most. Rev. Peter Alcantra, the Vicar Apostolic of Varapuzha.

Baptism by Fire

While Kuriakose was in the seminary, an epidemic swept across the region and his parents and his only brother passed away. Only his sister in law and her only daughter survived. There was intense for Kuriakose from his close relatives to leave the seminary and take care of the family. But he was deeply convinced of his divine call and stayed strong. Kuriakose Porukara writes about the situation, “He accepted this sad situation from the hands of God and offered himself, as he had learned from his parents, as the slave of the Mother of God and became more devoted to that Mother.”

Kuriakose Elias Chavara: A Priest

After receiving minor orders in due course, Kuriakose received diaconate in 1828 by Bishop Maurilius Stabilini. Kuriakose was ordained a priest in 1829 on the first Sunday of annunciation at St. Andrew’s parish Arthungal and celebrated first holy Qurbana at his parish at Chennankari.

Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was fully active in the establishment of the monastery at Mannanam after spending a short period for pastoral activities. After the establishment of the house of vision (darsanaveedu), Kuriakose Elias renounced everything in the world and in the words of Porukara, the first members were engaged in “prayer and asceticism, preaching and begging.”

Thus the life of Kuriakose Elias Chavara was deeply rooted in prayer right from the word go, which was reflected in the life and activities which he undertook in his life time.

Enlightened Administration in Travancore During the time of Kuriakose Elias Chavara

The rulers of Travancore during the time of Kuriakose Elias Chavara were Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bhai, Rani Gouri Parvati Bhai, Swati Tirunal, Utradam Tirunal Marthadanda Varma and Ayilyam Tirunal. In order to have a complete picture of the enlightened administration in Travancore the rulers before and after his life time is also significant. Enlightened Administration in Travancore begins at 1729 with the reign of Marthanda Varma and Dharma Raja. But after the death of this prominent leader, the successor, Balarama Varma and his ministry were weak in administration and public welfare. This resulted in a financial crisis in the state and they began to levy forced loans from prominent people. Against this injustice, Velu Thampi fought along with people in 1800 and became the Dalawa of the Travancore.

Velu Thampi Dalawa (1800)
The people of Travancore witnessed the efficient administration of Velu Thampi Dalawa. He purified the administration from corruption, promoted revenue collection, introduced education in the villages and ensured welfare and prosperity of major towns with network of roads, cultivation etc.

Ummini Thampi
The successor of Velu Thampi, Ummini Thampi also contributed to Travancore by increasing the financial strength of the state, establishing courts and jails, settling weavers, development of Vizhinjam Port etc. But Dalawa was unpopular even though these reformations were introduced.

Rani Gouri Lakshmi Bai (1810 - 1815)
Several Enlightened reformations were carried out by Rani Lakshmi Bai along with Munro, resident-Diwan. He introduced secretariat system, pattayam, auditing, thahasildar post and prevented smuggling, abolishment of slavery etc. which were hyperactive active on that time. Reformation of judicial administration, supervision of police department by Diwan, direct management of Davaswams by the government etc are also the milestones.

Gouri  Parvati Bai (1815 – 1829)
The regency period of Gouri Parvati Bai was a liberal administration. During her reign agriculture, communications etc were developed and restriction on trade removed with several export and import duties. Civic equality and social freedom were established, Therefore Christian missionaries were allowed for evangelization, and rent-free and free timbers was supplied for building the Churches. In addition, education for Syrians was considered.

Swati Tirunal (1829 – 1847)
This period is  known as the “Golden Age” in the history of modern Travancore. Major contributions of him are: encouragement of fine arts, Munsiff courts for petty civil and police cases, transfer of Capital from Quilon to Trivandrum, beginning of English education, charity hospitals, engineering and irrigation works, census of the population of the state etc. As a great reformer, he was called ‘Garbha Sriman:’ one who was the sovereign even from his birth.

Utradam Tirunal Marthanda Varma (1847 – 1860)
Utram Tirunal Marthanda Varma proved himself as a qualified leader. Improvement of finances of the state, liberation for slaves, permitting Shanar (lower caste) women to cover their upper body, education for girls, opening of first post office and modern factory for the manufacture of coir were his greatest achievements.

Ayilyam Tirunal (1860 - 1880)
Ayilyam Tirunal continued the great  reformations of predecessors. Along with Diwan, Madhava Rao he opened postal service to public, arts college established at Trivandrum, English, Malayalam, Tamil schools, and hospitals were opened over the state. Seshayya Sastri succeeded Ayilyam Tirunal and his major achievements was building  Kerala Government Secretariat. Travancore had taken its place in the front rank of the Indian states during his time.

Visakham Tirunal (1880 – 1885)
Most important reformation of his reign was the re-organization of police force and elementary education that made great progress under the system of grand-in-aid.

Sri Mulam Tirunal (1885 – 1924)
Major events of his reformation were in the field of agriculture. He made giant strides in the field of education with the co-operation of private agencies. Libraries, reading rooms were opened and hospitals, especially Ayurvedic Hospitals got special attention. Legislative Councils were formed and women were given power to vote.

Setu Lakshmi Bai (1924 – 1931)
Setu Lakshmi Bai's achievements include formation of village panchayats and abolition of Devadasi, animal sacrifice etc.

Sri Chitria Tirunal Balarama Varma (1931 – 1949)
The last sovereign ruler of Travancore took special interest in Legislative reformation. Industrialization was developed. The execution of Pallivasal Hydro Electric scheme and introduction of State Transport Services are bright spots during his regime.

Kerala Society in 18th and 19th Centuries

An understanding of the ground reality of Kerala in 18th and 19th centuries is essential to understand the significance of Kuriakose Elias Chavara’s contributions to the Kerala society. The 19th and 20th centuries witnessed the emergence of a new social order in Kerala under the impact of the diverse social economic and cultural changes. Even towards the end of the 18th century the traditional social structure had began to show signs of tottering.  Before we deal with the various stages by which the new social order was ushered in, now we shall briefly review the state of the society in Kerala in the 18th century and the first half of the 19th century.

Kerala Society in the 18th and 19th centuries
Kerala society was not based on the principles of social freedom and equality. Its chief characteristic was the deep chasm which separated the high castes from the low castes. In spite of the administration of the English East India Company in Malabar, the upper castes like the Brahmins, the Kshatriya and Nairs, continued to enjoy several privileges and immunities.

The law prevailed in the land was not equalitarian. The upper castes enjoyed exemption from the payment of land tax. The Brahmin even enjoyed immunity from death penalty. It was also the privilege of Brahmins Judges to give judgements in all important cases. The penal code was extremely severe as far as the lower castes were concerned. The death penalty was imposed upon low caste even for ordinary offences like theft, killing of cows etc. and  was some laws of our realm were thus set forth

1.      As to how questions regarding the adjustment of legal relations between person, the rights and duties of vendors and purchasers, and disputes concerning lands and tracts settled.
2.      As to how grave crimes such as causing death or hurt, highway robbery and theft, injuries and offences involving loss of caste are dealt with.
3.       As regard the question of how the laws specified above are ascertained.

Early administrative and social changes
The British and the Indian administrators introduced a series of administrative and social reforms with the view to modernising administration and the society in Kerala. The important one was the abolition of slavery in Malabar, then establishment of new society, concept of Government, etc. 

Shanar Agitation
Special mention may be made, in this connection, of the struggle of the Shanars of South Travancore to secure for their womenfolk the same rights in regard to dress as were enjoyed by the upper sections of the Hindus. There were so many problems in connection with this issue and they were helped by the Christian Missionaries. Later the British Government changed this law and they were given permission to put on the upper cloth.

Western Education and the work of the Christian Missionaries.
The different communities of the land, particularly the Nairs and the Christian, soon took to western education in order to become eligible for recruitment to Government service. The role of the Christian missionaries in the spread of western education and liberal ideas deserves special mention in this context.

Religious and Social Reform Movement.
The early decades of the 20th century witnessed the beginning of powerful social reform movement in Kerala, the impact of which was felt by the members of the upper castes too. Even Brahmins, kshatriyas and other upper castes came within the fold of these movements an advocated radical social reform. The prominent persons are:
Chattampi Swamikal
Kuriakose Elias Chavara 
 Sri Narayana Guru
Brahmanada Sivayogi
Swami Vagbhatananda
Vaikunta Swami
Vakkam Abdul khadir Maulavi ( Muslims)

Rise of Communal Organisation
The rise of communal organisation dedicated to the case of social reform helped to supplement the activities of these people. The most important of the social reform movement of Kerala was the agitation for removal of untouchability.   

Vaikam Satyagraha
Its aim was to get the approach roads to the Vaikam temple opened for the Avarnas of the Hindu community. One of the highlights of the Satyagraha was the Savarna jatha organised under the leadership of Mannath Padmnabhan.

Guruvayur Satyagraha
It was to get Guruvayur temple opened for all Hindus. Thus though the Guruvayur Satyagraha failed to achieve its immediate objective, it had helped to create a climate in favour of the eradication of untouchability. 

Temple Entry Proclamation
The temple entry Proclamation of the Maharaja Travancore came as a bomb-shell in orthodox Hindu circles, but it gave a massage of hope and good cheer to the down-trodden Harijans and other backward class.   

The last but not the least important factor that has contributed to the elevation of the new society in Kerala in decades is the emergence of the new economic and professional class and the increasingly important part they have come to play in public life. In recent decades, there has been a steady outflow of Keralites to foreign countries particularly to the Gulf area, in search of employment. This has led to the emergence of a neo-rich class which has come to exercise a deep influence on modern Kerala society and economy.  Thus a new and dynamic society is gradually taking the place of the decadent stationary society of the 19th and early 20th century.