ധ്രുവദീപ്തി: Christianity //
St. Chavara // A Multidimensional Saint //
A Symbol of Sanctivity With In Our Reach //
Dr. Thomas Kadankavil CMI
(Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on February 10, 1805 at Kainakary, in Alappuzhy District, Kerala in the syrian catholic church of St. Thomas, the Apostal. At the age 13 he joined the seminary at Pallipuram, and was ordained priest in 1829. He collaborated with Fr. Thomas Palackal and Fr.Thomas Porukara in laying the foundation for a reliegious house on 11th May 1831 at Mannanam. As the two senior fathers were dead not long after the laying of the foundation stone, Fr. Vhavara had to shoulder himself the main responsibility of giving shape and life to the newly started religious community. The new religious community received canonical approbation on 8th December 1855,with the name Servants of Mary Immaculate. On feb.13th 1866, Fr. Chavara founded the congrgation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC) in collaboration with Fr. Leopold OCD a missionary priest. He attended to the all round spititual social well being of the St. Thomas Christians in the nineteenth century in Kerala. Besides he was a prolific writer, a poet and above all a mystic. His complete works have been published in four volumes. In short the history of the church in Kerala of the 19th century was in a sense the history of the endowers of this great soul and his followers. He died on January 3, 1871. In the present article an attempt is made to outline the principal eliments of Chavara's vision of sanctity revealed through his words and deeds).
| Dr. Thomas Kadankavil CMI |
Sanctity as a Goal
In the chronicles of the Mother house of the Congregation of Mount Carmel at Koonammavu Fr. Chavara wrote," In this land of Malabar where the faith was preached from the very beginning, there were no monastries or convents and the virtues of religious life were only spoken about. The men can at least opt to become priest and live chastely. The womenfolk can only get married and live in the world. Even if any of them wishes to remain a virgin and chaste there is no means for it. It was as a response and solution to this situation that the religious community for women was estableshed in 1866.
One of the great grieves of Chavara was that there were not monastries or convents in Kerala, although the christian faith was preached there from apostolic times. Similarly the absense of of holy models, or saints was another cause of great concern for Chavara. Though we have innumerable witnesses who have attained sainthood in the long history of faith stretching through the centuries (Heb 12; 1), we still seem to harbour the feeling that it is beyond our reach., or unattainable in our place and time. As a challenge to this attitude, Chavara let his light shine, and brightened up the world with his pesonality and service appearing as a prayerful, angelic, simple, devout, obedient, resolute, scholarly, practical and effective model, leader and hero. Holiness was his goal and he thought it to be achievable. On his death bed he confided to his confreres that by the grace of God he had never lost his baptismal innocence. It was not a false confidence of self esteem on his baptismal innocence. It was not a false confidence of self esteem on his part. On the contrary he confesses his unworthiness in unmistakable terms.
| St. Chavara|
Sentiments of Repentance
The holiness of the life of Chavara, and the sentiment of repentance he has poured out in his works, The Grief of a Soul, Meditational conversation, may appear to be puzzling. When one think that Jesus has asked to be perfect even as our Heavenly Father, a man enlightened by the divine light would see that he has no spiritual worth to boast of , and that he is an insignificant sinner. Chavara's sense of repentance can be understood in terms of the following three factors:
1)- The awareness of the sinfulnessand weakness of a soul which is previleged to have glimpses of the vision of divine glory.
2)- the thought that one has not adequantely expressed one's gratitude for the great gifts one has received from God.
3)- the thought that the whole purpose of the incarnation, passion and death of Christ was for our redemption from sin. As a member of mankind all these sentiments are relevant in any holy soul.
Thou art the Lord of all, all blameless, all pure
I am a worthless sinner, thy weak servant;
I feel immensely sorry (because of my weakness)
Knowing how glorious you are and so fully virtuous
You are my father and my creator
Your love is unchanging and sure
yet when I think of my sins
How can I dare to appear before you.( 11, 5: 142-150).
The same sentiments is expressed in his Meditational Conversation. " How did you permit me, a mean worm of a servant, to enter your Holy of holies where the Lords of the sky are trembling ? Oh God who extolled the purity of the sanctuary by thretening to disqualify those who desecrate its holiness, and their children up to four and a half generations, how do I dare to enter the sanctuary when you are truly present.( 111, p.38).
Not only does he think of the glory and greatness of God; he thinks also of the gifts which he has received and for which he has not shown sufficient gratitude.
What is this Oh Lord! You are so bountiful to me and yet let the water of a sea of mercy flow endlessly over me. Why you have been so generous, I ask:
And I know that is due to your love for this
ungreatful man..; Oh my heart, remember your deeds
And also how ungrateful you have been.(11, 2:56-64).
Where there is a deep perception of the divine holiness and goodness there also is found a genuine sense of gratitude, sorow and repentance. He expresses his gratitude for all that he had and all that he is. To know the depth of his gratitude one has to glance through the early sections of the Grief of a Soul, where he thanks God even for those things which we do not ordinarily recognize as gifts. He asks himself why God has created him? He finds an answer to it in God's mercy.
God who was master from the beginning
Has created me also as the son of Adam.
What is the reason for this?
Nothing but your mercy, oh God, who has no beginning (11,1:1-4).
With gratitude he remembers God's gift of good natured parents,the gift of baptism, the early education, good health, and protection from sickness and danger to life.The hidden source of of his deep sentiment of repentance is built upon the bed rock of God's love, the gratitude we owe him and man's ingratitude and the consequent sorrow. Chavara organized his thought and activities in such a way as to make his whole life a loving oblation to the merciful love of God. //-