A graceful mother invites you to Mokama
On the first Sunday of February people of all faiths flock to this graceful mother invoking her name for the pressing needs and touching moments of their life believing in her just like the waiters at the wedding feast of Cana – “Do whatever he tells you”
By Joe Palathunkal
Mother Mary is an abiding image of grace and love all over the world and Patna’s Archbishop late Benedict J. Osta SJ (1931 – 2014) had a favourite line from William Wordsworth whenever the allusion demanded: “Our tainted nature’s solitary boast”. He had been referring to it so often that after many years even now it comes to my memory so easily.
You will be convinced of this most meaningful poetic line when you visit the Our Lady of Divine Grace at Mokama, 90 km east of Patna, capital of the eastern Indian state of Bihar, on the southern banks of the great river Ganges, the lifeline of Bihar.
Built in 1947, this beautiful house of the Mother of Nazareth had been inviting her children to her in thousands from all over the Hindi-belt – Allahabad, Benares, Calcutta, Ranchi, Delhi and other far-flung regions of the northern India. Now it has become the most visited Marian pilgrim centre of the north, perceptibly emerging as the Velankanni of the northern India.
On the first Sunday of February people of all faiths flock to this graceful mother invoking her name for the pressing needs and touching moments of their life believing in her just like the waiters at the wedding feast of Cana – “Do whatever he tells you”. Most powerful command from a mother ever pronounced in human history.
February is an ideal month for the feast of Mokama as it is the last phase of a severe winter and all around it is a spread of yellow mustard flowers as the region is predominantly agricultural one and the shrine is surrounded by farmlands. When you see the simple people flocking to this mother, your own faith gets rejuvenated.
At the end of nine days of novena and prayers when the final day arrives on the first Sunday of February the crowd increases to attend the Mass and prayers which start at six in the morning and goes on till four when the much awaited annual procession bearing statue of Mother Mary begins and concludes with a solemn Mass usually celebrated by the Archbishop of Patna or other ecclesiastical dignitary.
On 10 September 1919 when Pope Benedict XV established the Patna diocese, he might not have foreseen that the mission established in the nativity of month of Mother Mary will have such a hailed pilgrimage spot in her name. Nor the first five Jesuits from Missouri, USA, who landed in Bihar in 1921 ever envisaged it.
But beyond human calculations Mother Mary has her own way of establishing her reign in the hearts of simple people as we can see from Fatima, Lourdes or Guadalupe. Mokama is an eloquent witness to it.
But this hallowed spot had its own sad moments too when two gentle Catholic priests died here shedding their blood – American Jesuit Father Francis Martinsek in 1979 and Father Mathew Uzhuthal in 2005.
Yet, they too have made this a historically significant pilgrimage spot. Every Christian mission is inevitably connected to Calvary, and Mokama is also a veritable proof. Remembering these priests could be part of this pilgrimage as well.
The Nazareth hospital in the same campus reminds you of the healing touch of this loving mother, a significant attribute of every Marian pilgrimage centre. Lourdes or Velankanni, it is very much there.
In Velankani Mary is addressed as Our Lady of Health. During the feast days there are special prayers and Mass for the healing of the sick in Mokama and this is one occasion people pray very fervently than any other time.
On a personal note what I remember most about Mokama is a Mass I attended in the shrine, indeed a unique Mass for a simple reason – I was the lone participant for a Mass offered by a lone priest. But on the feast day in February it is just the opposite.
In 2019 when the diocese of Patna celebrates its centenary, Mokama will be telling the living history of a Catholic faith planted and nurtured by so many missionaries from USA and other parts of India and the prayerful contributions from their hearts by many Catholics from the land of freedom.
Images in this atricle are taken from Mokama Catholic Shrine Facebook Page
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)