A HUMBLE AND SIMPLE SAINT
Sr. Alphonsa was a humble and simple nun of the convent of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation at Bharananganam near Pala, Kerala, South India. From her early years, Sr. Alphonsa experienced great trials and suffering. She endured not only physical pain of great intensity, but also the mental distress of being misunderstood and misjudged by others. Sr. Alphonsa accepted all her sufferings with serenity and grace, with an unwavering trust in God, convinced that suffering would purify her life and serve as a sacred sacrifice for the sanctification of sinners.
On Sunday, 28 July, 1946 her saintly soul flew silently to her Divine Spouse. The next day, 29 July 1946, witnessed her simple funeral attended by a limited number of nuns, parishioners and relatives. At the Requiem Mass her special Spiritual Director, Rev. Fr. Romulus CMI gave a prophetic sermon, "With the most profound conviction in my heart I affirm that we are attending the last rites of a saintly person. If the world had realized her intrinsic worth, unprecedented crowds from all over India would have assembled here…..If God wills, this Bharananganam will become the Lisieux of India. Pilgrims, not only from Kerala but from all over India, will visit this holy place that has entombed her chaste body. If it is the will of God, not only the bishops of India, but even the cardinals as well, will come to pray at the mausoleum of this virgin who led an obscure life here on earth….If it is so, you may ask the meaning of these rites for the repose of a soul. What I feel personally is not to pray for the repose of her soul, but to pray for the intercession of one who is in heaven.”
She was declared a Servant of God by H. E. Eugène Cardinal Tisserant on 2 December, 1953. She was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II on 9 July 1985. She was beatified (conferred the title ‘Blessed’) by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam on February 8, 1986. She was elevated to sainthood on 12 October 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI in the St. Peter's Square, Rome. She became the second saint from India after Saint Gonsalo Garcia. She is the first woman saint from India.
While declaring Sister Alphonsa as a Saint, Pope Benedict XVI said, “She suffered herself to heal the suffering of others”. That was a great tribute to this loving soul.
In a world that shuns suffering and pain, seeking only prosperity and publicity, St. Alphonsa’s life demonstrates the sanctifying power of suffering in silence and the significance of trials and tribulations in Christian life. Her tomb and shrine are at Bharananganam which has become a major pilgrim centre of India.
St. Alphonsa is a patron saint of the Cherupushpa Mission League (CML), the biggest Missionary Organisation for Laity in Asia. It was her mission and vision of love without condition, sacrifice without calculation, service without compulsion and suffering without complaint which motivated Mr. P. C. Abraham Pallattukunnel (Kunjettan) and Rev. Fr. Joseph Malipparambil to organise the CML at Bharananganam on 3 October, 1947. The motto of CML is: ‘Love, Sacrifice, Service and Suffering’
The prophetic words of Rev. Fr. Romulus, CMI were fulfilled by her canonisation and finally on 11 February, 2014 when a group of about two hundred Bishops including several Archbishops and four Cardinals representing the 167 catholic dioceses in India visited the shrine at Bharananganam together and knelt down to seek her intercession. This historic incident was during the 31st plenary assembly of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) held at Pala from 5 to 12 February, 2014. The Cardinals, who visited the shrine on 11 February, 2014 were H.E. Oswald Cardinal Gracias, H.E. Telesphore P. Cardinal Toppo, H.B. Mar George Cardinal Alencherry and H.B. Baselios Cardinal Cleemis Catholicos.
The secret of her greatness is that she understood well the meaning of her sufferings in the light of the life and teachings of Jesus. She became a saint by doing little things with great love. It is the easiest way to reach our heavenly abode. May her life be a guiding light to illumine our path, deliver us from the shackles of this world and lead us to eternal glory.
We have to endure a lot of trials, troubles and tribulations in life. In moments of despair and depression we may ask God why we are constantly being exposed to suffering and pain.
Life is not a bed of roses but a path of thorns. God gives us burdens; and He also gives us shoulders! Christian life is like a tea bag. Its real strength is revealed only when it is dipped in hot water. Stumbling blocks and stepping stones differ only in the way we use them. Adversity is the best university.
© By: Prof. Dr. Babu Philip, Darsana Academy, Kottayam-686001, Kerala, India ( Former Professor, Cochin University of Science & Technology, Fine Arts Avenue, Kochi-682016, Kerala, India), Prof. Mrs. Rajamma Babu, Former Professor, St. Dominic's College, Kanjirappally, Leo. S. John, St. Antony's Public School, Anakkal, Kanjirappally and Neil John, Maniparambil, Ooriyakunnath, Kunnumbhagom, Kanjirappally, Kottayam-686507, Kerala, India.
For more moral stories, parables and anecdotes for students, catechists, teachers and preachers, kindly visit our web-sites:
This is Story No. 305 in the second site. Please click ‘Older Posts’ at the bottom of a page to read previous stories and click 'Newer Posts' at the bottom of a page to read newer stories in these sites. Please click on a word in the 'Story Themes' to read stories on that theme.