St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara | Saint of the day
Kuriakose Elias Chavara is the first canonised Catholic male saint of Indian origin and belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church based in the state of Kerala.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10 February 1805 at Kainakary, Kerala in a Nasrani Christian family as the son of Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara and Mariam Thoppil. Nasranis are Saint Thomas Christians (also known as Syriac Christians) who are the ancient Christians of Kerala baptised by St. Thomas the Apostle in the first century.
He is the first canonised Catholic male saint of Indian origin and belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church based in the state of Kerala.
He was the co-founder and first Prior General of the first congregation for men in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I.), and of a similar one for women, the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C.).
The name Kuriakose is derived from the Syriac Aramaic name Quriaqos. He was baptised on 17 February 1805 at St. Joseph's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Chennamkary. On 8 September 1805, St. Chavara was dedicated to Blessed Virgin Mary at St. Mary's Church, Vechoor. The Chavara family has derived from the ancient Nasrani family Meenappally in Kainakary.
In his childhood, Kuriakose attended the village school. There he studied language and elementary sciences. He entered the seminary in 1818 in Pallipuram where Palackal Thoma Malpan was the Rector. He was ordained a priest on 29 November 1829 and celebrated first Holy Qurbana at St. Andrew's Catholic Forane Church Arthunkal Alappuzha. His special intention during the first Holy Qurabana was the realization of the religious institute which was being contemplated by Palackal Thomas Malpan, Porukara Thomas Kathanar, Brother Jacob Kaniathara and himself.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara joined with two other priests, Palackal Thoma Malpan and Porukara Thoma Kathanar to lead a monastic life. The name of the community they founded was Servants of Mary Immaculate. The foundation for the first monastery at Mannanam was laid on 11 May 1831 by Porukara Thomas Kathanar. Palackal Malpan and Porukara Kathanar died in 1841 and 1846 respectively. On 8 December 1855, Kuriakose Elias Chavara and ten other priests took vows in the Carmelite tradition. He was nominated as the Prior General of Mannanam monastery. The congregation became affiliated as a Third Order institute of the Order of Discalced Carmelites. From that point on they used the postnominal initials of T.O.C.D.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara was a social reformer who initiated reforms in the Kerala society much before Narayana Guru(1853) Chattambi Swamikal(1853) and Vakkom Abdul Khadar Maulavi(1854).
Though he hailed from a Syriac Christian family, which occupied a higher social status, he played a major role in educating and uplifting people especially of the lower ranks of society.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara introduced retreat preaching for the laity for the first time in the Kerala Church. He popularised devotions and piety exercises such as rosary, way of the cross and eucharistic adoration. He was the Vicar General of Syriac Rite Catholics in 1861 in order to counter the influence of Mar Thomas Rochos on Saint Thomas Christians.
In co-operation with Palackal Thoma Malpan and Thoma Porukara, Kuriakose Elias Chavara founded an Indian religious congregation for men, now known as the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate. Chavara took religious vows on 8 December 1855 and took the name of Kuriakose Elias of the Holy Family.
In 1866, 13 February, Kuriakose Elias Chavara founded the first Carmelite convent for women at Koonamavu under the name 'Third Order of Carmelites Discalced' which would later become CMC and CTC Congregation in Syro Malabar Church and Latin Church respectively.
Kuriakose Elias Chavara died on 3 January 1871, aged 66, at Koonammavu. He was buried in St.Philomena's Forane Church, Koonammavu His body was later moved to St. Joseph's Monastery Church in Mannanam. His memorial is celebrated on 3 January as per the Syro-Malabar liturgical calendar. whereas his memorial is celebrated on 18 February as per the Roman Liturgical Calendar of the Latin Rite.
Scores of miraculous favours were reported by the intercession of Kuriakose Chavara. Sister Alphonsa, who later became the first saint of India, has testified in 1936 that Kuriakose Elias Chavara had appeared to her twice during her illness and relieved her suffering. St. Alphonsa had a holy relic of Kuriakose Elias' hair which was taken by one of his disciples Varkey Muttathupadathu. It was this relic which served Alphonsa to pray to Kuriakose Chavara and receive miraculous cure. The relic is now preserved in Mannanam.
The miracle which Rome approved for the beatification of Kuriakose Chavara was the cure of the congenial deformity of the legs (clubfoot) of Mr. Joseph Mathew Pennaparambil happened in April 1960. Joseph was born club-footed with congenial deformity of both the legs. On hearing that many miracles have happened through the intercession of Kuriakose Chavara, Joseph and his family started praying. They prayed almost a month. One day when Joseph and his sister were walking back from school, she asked him to pray to Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara for the cure of his legs and asked him to recite 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and 1 Glory be to the Father. As they walked reciting prayers suddenly Joseph's leg started shivering. Joseph pressed his right leg to the ground and he could now walk properly with right leg. They continued their prayers and on 30 April 1960, while Joseph and his sister was on the way to elder brother's house, the left leg too became normal. Since then he could walk normally. Joseph believes that it was the intercession Kuriakose Chavara which resulted in the miracle. Rome approved the miracle which led to the Beatification of Kuriakose Chavara as Blessed in 1984.
The miracle which was approved for canonization of Kuriakose Chavara to sainthood was the instantaneous, total and stable cure of the congenital squint (alternating esotropia) in both eyes of Maria Jose Kottarathil, a Catholic girl of age 9 from Pala in Kottayam District of Kerala State in India. Even though Maria was suggested to have surgery by five doctors, Maria and her family decided to pray to Kuriakose Chavara. On 12 October 2007, Maria visited the room and tomb of Kuriakose Chavara at mannanam with her parents. On 16 October 2007, the squint eyes disappeared. The miracle was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints on 18 March 2014 which lead to the canonization.
The official canonization process of Kuriakose Chavara started in 1955, Mar Mathew Kavukattu, arch-bishop of Changanacherry, received instructions from Rome to start diocese-level procedure towards the canonisation. On 7 April 1984, Pope John Paul II approved Kuriakose Elias Chavara's practice of heroic virtues and declared him Venerable. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was beatified at Kottayam on 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II in the course of a papal visit to India.
On 3 April 2014, Pope Francis authorised the Congregation for the Causes of Saints to promulgate the decrees concerning the miracle attributed to Kuriakose Kathanar's intercession. This confirmed Pope's approval of Kuriakose Elias Chavara's canonisation. On 23 November 2014, he was canonised at Saint Peter's Square by Pope Francis along with Euphrasia Eluvathingal. Pope Francis stated that "Father Kuriakose Elias was a religious, both active and contemplative, who generously gave his life for the Syro-Malabar Church, putting into action the maxim “sanctification of oneself and the salvation of others."
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