St Kuriakose Elias Chavara was the recognized leader of the people of God of his time. He was a visionary who integrated contemplation and action harmoniously in his life. Adorned with the gifts and fruits of the Holy Spirit, this man of God led a holy life preserving the baptismal grace all the while, and thus became a beautiful lamp and mirror not only for us but also for all the Christians of Kerala. He experienced the Eucharistic Lord as his own Father (Abba-Appa), and that divine presence itself became his ‘food and drink’, ‘breath and consolation’. The awareness of his own sinfulness and the sense of gratitude for the countless mercies he had received as a ‘son’ from God plunged him into the Abba experience. When remaining in rapt attention before the Blessed Sacrament praying Lord, do not distance yourself from me until I am united with you, God revealed the distress and the difficulties of the Kerala Church to him and unfolded the hidden and mysterious ways to uplift the people of God. All throughout his life, especially in times of fiery ordeals, like St Thomas he manifested his courageous faith in God and he declared “the Lord is my portion and cup” (Ps 16:5).
St Kuriakose Elias painfully realized that there was no canonized saints in Kerala Church which received Christian faith centuries ago and there was no setup for women desiring to lead a chaste life according to the evangelical counsels and no one for the uplift of women and children who were backward spiritually and materially. He desired to remedy the situation, and worked hard to make ‘an abode of sanctity for the girls of Kerala and a religious house for them to learn catechism and to grow up as good Christians’, after he had started a monastery (Darsana Veedu) for men at Mannanam.
He could establish the first convent with the support of Fr Leopold Beccaro OCD at Koonammavu on 13 February 1866 in spite of many trials and difficulties.
Submission to the will of God, trust in the providence of God, devotion to the Bl Mother, obedience to the superiors, especially to the ecclesiastical authorities and above all, the love that embraced even enemies were clearly visible in this ‘active ascetic’ who untiringly worked for the salvation of souls and for the unity and holiness of the Church. The essence of this spirituality of our founder father is the source of our spirituality.
Rev. Fr. Leopold Beccaro, an Italian Carmelite Missionary was a man of deep prayer and zealous action. He studied Malayalam language and wrote spiritual books imbued with the zeal to work for the salvation of souls, to help them practice virtues, to tend his flock and to give them spiritual direction. He found joy and consolation in the Blessed Sacrament and remained content even in the midst of sufferings, surrendering himself to the will of God.
The spiritual bond that developed between St Kuriakose Elias and Fr. Leopold and the discussions they had, helped St Kuriakose to realize his dream of starting a convent. They also exchanged their views concerning the apostolic services the sisters of Malabar (Kerala) could render. Thus, it was hoped that besides looking after their own spiritual needs, the sisters could teach girls catechism along with other virtues and train them in some handicrafts including needle work. Fr. Leopold co-operated with the establishment of the convent and took tireless efforts to direct his spiritual daughters in the way of perfection taught by
St Teresa of Avila. He has greatly contributed for the formation of the Carmelite spirituality in CMC.
Lives of saints show us the way they trod to reach the heart of God. God puts His seal of sanctity on their lives – the lives lived for Him and His children. St Euphrasia, a Carmelite nun, lived every moment of her life loving and worshipping God and serving Him in her fellow creatures, her suffering brothers and sisters.
Ollur, a small village near the Thrissur highway, one will find an old and a bit imposing structure very close to the main road. That is St Mary’s Convent of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. Countless pilgrims rush to this strange but attractive place, with great reverence believing in the sanctity of the life of St Euphrasia. The tomb of St Euphrasia has become a place of prayer and thousands of people come to pray, beg her intercessory prayers and thank her for favours received. What did make her life different?
Saint Euphrasia is a humble CMC nun who has personalized the prayer heritage of Carmel and lived according to the divine inspirations and rose to the heights of sanctity. For all of us who are called to be the beloved of God that is to be saints (Rom1:7), the spirit-filled life of St Euphrasia is an example and to take a peep into her holy life would be proper and useful.
St. Euphrasia Eluvathingal
(Our First Saint)
Rosa was born as the daughter of Elavuthinkal Antony and Kunjethi on 17 October, 1877 in Kattur which was in the undivided Thrissur Diocese and now in the Diocese of Irinjalakuda. Besides three brothers, Rosa had a sister also, but she died in early childhood. Even in the midst of all wealth and pomp in the family, little Rosa's heart desired only God. A good evidence of this is her offer of her virginity to God at the tender age of 9. After overcoming many obstacles she was able by the grace of God to become a member of the boarding of the Kerala Carmelite Congregation founded by St Kuriakose Elias Chavara in 1866 at Koonammavu. In those days it was the only place of virtue where the girls who desire religious life can go. There the boarding started in 1868 was taught orderly life and education and practice of virtue besides other handicrafts also were taught. This was a very good training place for the girls who desired religious life.
The Koonammavu convent was under the administration of Thrissur Vicariate, started in 1887, but in the re-division of the vicariate (Thrissur, Ernakulam, Changanassery) it came under the Ernakulam diocese. The first native Bishop of the Thrissur diocese Mar John Menachery brought the sisters who belonged to Thrissur diocese from Koonammavu. They were taken to the newly founded St Josephs convent Ambazhakkad, the first Carmelite convent of the undivided Thrissur diocese. Here on 10 May, 1897 the head-dress was given to Rosa Elavuthinkal who received the new religious name, Euphrasia of the sacred Heart of Jesus.
One of the important things that happened in the life of Rosa before coming to Thrissur is noteworthy. Rosa was always troubled by many serious sicknesses. From one such a very serious illness, she was saved by a miraculous vision of the Holy Family. The details of this vision and the reasons why she was allowed to continue in the convent were written in a letter by Sr. Agnes, the then mother superior and sent through the sisters to Mar John Menachery the Bishop. This letter was the cause to have special attention towards this nun and also to cause the Bishop to order her to report her spiritual state truly to him regularly. This virtuous virgin after receiving the Carmelite dress from Mar John Menachery on 10 January, 1898 began to deepen in personal love for Lord Jesus. On 24 May 1900, the St Mary’s convent Ollur was founded. That day itself Sr. Euphrasia along with others made her perpetual profession in this new convent and surrounded her whole self to Jesus.
The period from 1904-1910 when St Euphrasia was the Asst. Superior of St Mary’s convent Ollur and in charge of the novices was a period of innumerable graces. It was at this time that at the order of Mar John Menachery, St Mariam Thressia, the foundress of Holy Family Congregation came to stay at the Ollur convent in order to discern her vocation. It was mother Euphrasia who was the novice mistress who gave the necessary formation to St Mariam Thressia. More than mistress and disciple it was the coming together of two saintly souls guided by the Holy Spirit. In the deep experience of God both of them were close friends. Mother Euphrasia who was appointed superior of the St Mary’s convent Ollur from 1913-1916 served the sisters under her authority in a very exemplary way. She was able to do loving and kind services to all those who came into contact with her because of the divine love she received from the Holy Eucharist and the Sacred Heart of Jesus and her devotion to Mother Mary.
Mother Euphrasia grew in humility, poverty and holiness as she completely obeyed the will of God every moment. The whole life of this virgin was full of continuous prayer, penance and reparation. Mother Euphrasia who found contentment in loving Jesus, her divine spouse, was always in the forefront in receiving censure and abuses. All those who approached her she helped with motherly love, prayer and good advice. This prayer help she extended to souls in purgatory also. After a long life of 75 years, St Euphrasia, ‘the praying mother’ passed away in the convent at Ollur on 29 August, 1952. It was a wonder that the church bell at Cheralayam parish began to ring without stop at her death. To all those who prayed her intercession, the one who never forgets even after death, granted graces. God is revealing her great heavenly intercessory power through miracles and signs. This holy virgin who desired to become an unknown saint is raised today to the glory of the altar by the Almighty and the sweet fragrance of her sanctity is spread worldwide.
Mary Celine Payyappilly
(Servant Of God)
Mother Mary Celine was born on 4th July 1906, to Ouseph Payyappilly and Kochumariam as seventh child in Muzhikulam. She had her education in the Govt. school at Vattapparambu and became a CMC sister in 1928. She did her B.A. in Maharajas College, Ernakulam. She was a teacher in Ollur and Karukutty. In 1963, the different wings of TOCD (at present CMC) got united into one Congregation. She was elected first as the Superior General of Ernakulam and Kothamangalam Provinces and then the Superior General of the whole CMC Congregation. Her intense deep prayer life, spirit of sacrifice and foresight enabled her to overcome the difficulties and struggles of unification and the beginning of the Common House Generalate at Thaikattukara, Aluva. She could start the juniorate there, with the help of the seminary professors at Mangalapuzha. She also took initiative to begin the first prayer House Sanjoe Bhavan in Karukutty. It was she who planned and started the Nursery School, Primary School, Social Welfare Centre and Vocational Training Centre at Aluva. In 1968 she was re-elected as Superior General. During her term as Superior General for 11 years, she was able to bring about a spirit of prayer and unity among the members. In 1974 she retired and entered into deep prayer life at Sanjoe Bhavan, Karukutty. She left all her dear ones on 23rd April 1993 to receive the Heavenly Bliss.
Mother Mary Celine spent her whole time in prayer and sharing her God experience. With the crucifix and rosary in her hand, she was in deep contemplation and she had nothing else to speak about except God's love. She was an inspiration and model to all.