Friday, 28 December 2012

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).

1 comment:

  1. More books, articles, images, videos, prayers, etc., On Saint Chavara available at :-