Friday, 28 December 2012

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.


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