Indian Catholics find spiritual inspiration in two new saints

Indian Catholics find spiritual inspiration in two new saints

Tapestry of Kuriakose Elias Chavara at Vatican City Nov. 21, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater.
Tapestry of Kuriakose Elias Chavara at Vatican City Nov. 21, 2014. Credit: Lauren Cater.

.- Two new Indian Catholic saints to be canonized by Pope Francis on Sunday were known for their deep spiritual life and their intercession in helping families, say two Catholics who find deep inspiration in their sanctity.

Fr. Isaac Arickappalil C.M.I. told CNA Nov. 14 that the canonization of the soon-to-be saint Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara is “an inspiration for all of us.” He said the Nov. 23 canonization is an inspiration for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, the order which Bl. Kuriakose founded, as well as for the Church in India as a whole.

“It gives us inspiration to be more spiritual,” the priest said, calling the canonization a time “to re-dedicate ourselves for the cause of the church, for the service of human beings and also (the) glory of God.”

The priest is a member of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, which Bl. Kuriakose founded in 1836. It is the first Catholic religious order founded in India. Fr. Arickappalil also serves as director of the Chavara Institute for Interreligious Studies in Rome, which is named after the religious order’s founder.

Bl. Kuriakose also founded an order of religious sisters called the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel.

This congregation will also receive a new saint, Bl. Euphrasia Eluvathingal, during the Nov. 23 canonization. Bl. Euphrasia, who died in 1952, served as the superior general for the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel for three years.

Among Bl. Euphrasia’s devotees is Sister Mary Julit C.M.C., who came to Rome from India in order to help the postulator of Bl. Euphrasia’s cause prepare for the canonization. The sister echoed Fr. Arickappalil’s excitement for the canonization of both her founder, as well as her order’s previous superior general.

The canonization of the two saints is a great moment for the Indian church, she said, because while the presence of saints and blessed is common in Italy, they are not as frequently found in Asian countries.

“I think there are many saints without calling them by name,” she said, adding that to have the official recognition of two saints from India is significant.

The religious sister praised Bl. Euphrasia’s spiritual life, saying “she lived the Carmelite spirituality and also humanity in its fuller sense.”

“It is said that another word for love is mercy and forgiveness, and she showed that a lot in her community life, to the sisters and the people she connected with,” she told CNA Nov. 17.

Bl. Euphrasia was “a real model” for the sisters of the congregation, Sr. Julit said. Although she mostly stayed inside of the convent for 50 years, she was able to attain the deep union with God implied in the phrase “be perfect as I am perfect.”

Known during her life as the “Praying Mother,” Bl. Euphrasia is frequently petitioned for problems with the family or fertility, Sr. Julit explained. She said that many childless couples who come to pray at the site of the blessed’s death end up having children afterward.

Sr. Julit recounted that when she traveled to the blessed’s place of death four months ago, she encountered an energetic little girl whose name was Euphrasia.

“I thought, in this age, why did her mother give her this name? And the mother told me they did not have children for 17 years, and then they prayed to (the saint) and the next year they had this baby-girl, so they vowed to give her the name of Euphrasia.”

Fr. Arickappalil explained that Bl. Kuriakose was a man similarly known for his efforts in building-up family life.

“He had a special devotion to the Holy Family. In another words, he was a person of families, he tried to renew them. He knew the Catholic life, the Christian life, is possible only if families are good,” the priest said.

Bl. Kuriakose gave parents concrete instructions on how to raise their children. He also instructed children about how to be obedient, devoted and respectful to their parents. He offered a series of retreats for families, particularly in schools and poorhouses.

“So he was very much devoted to families, and he tried to spread this devotion to the Holy Family and the Blessed Sacrament, and to Our Lady.”

Born in 1805, Bl. Kuriakose founded the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate with the help of a few friends. He was known for his efforts in bridging a schism that happened after the First Vatican Council, during which an unauthorized bishop came to India’s Kerala province and ordained priests without the Pope’s approval.

When Bl. Kuriakose saw what was happening, he fought against the bishop “for the unity of the church and he Catholic life,” Fr. Arickappalil observed. If the schism had not been eventually resolved in India, “the whole church in Kerala would have gone away from the Catholic church by now.”

“Only because of (Bl. Kuriakose’s) dedication, courage and selfless service to the Catholic Church, are Catholics still there in Kerala.”

It is important for the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate to have their founder canonized, the priest explained, because it means that the Church recognizes his spiritual accomplishments.

The two new saints are from the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an India-based Eastern Catholic Church in union with Rome.

The Indian community has organized several celebrations for the event, including a prayer vigil the night before the Nov. 23 canonizations. Sr. Julit is preparing the vigil’s texts.

Fr. Arickappalil explained that close to 20 bishops are coming from India for the celebration, including Cardinal George Alencherry, the major archbishop of the Syro-Malabar Church, and Cardinal Baselios Cleemis, the major archbishop of India’s Syro-Malankara Church.

In addition to the bishops, nearly 800 Indian priests will concelebrate in the Mass, while an estimated 10,000 pilgrims will come from all across India, primarily from its Kerala province.

Festivities for the Indian saints will conclude with a Mass of Thanksgiving on Nov. 24, which will be celebrated at the Pope’s altar in St. Peter’s Basilica.

Pope Francis will visit to greet the Indian community before the Mass.

Four Italians will be also be canonized on Sunday.
 

Tags: Church in India, Canonizations