Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara

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Kuriakose Elias



Chavara was born in Kainakary, Kerala 10-2-1805

Chavara was baptized at Chennamkary parish church 18-2-1805

Chavara was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary at Vechoor Church 8-9-1805

Chavara started his primary education in Kalari at Kainakary between 1810-1815

Chavara joined the parish seminary at Pallipuram 1818

Chavara was ordained priest at Arthunkal church . 29-11-1829

With Fathers Thomas Palackal and Thomas Porukara,Chavara founded the First Indian Religious Congregation for Men(CMI) 11-5-1831

Chavara popularized the Sunday Homilies and introduced retreats for Priests and laity in Kerala with other two founding fathers from 1830

Chavara established the First Syro - Malabar common seminary with other two founding fathers at Mananam from 1833

The devotional practice of the Way of the Cross' was started at Mannanam from 1838

Chavara was appointed as Malpan (futor of sacred subjects) examiner of candidates for priesthood and was authorized to give patents to the newly ordained to hear confessions and to preach in the Churches 16-2-1844

Chavara founded the first press and publishing house of Syro-Malabar Church atMananam 3-7-1846

Chavara founded the First Catholic Sanskrit School in Kerala at Mananam 1846

Chavara started the First Syro-Malabar Catechumenate for faith formation atMananam 1853

Chavara was the first professed religious priest in the Indian Church 8-12-1855

Chavara wrote 10 Eclogues (Shepherd Plays) and introduced them in the CMI novitiate at Koonamavu, the first dramatic presentation in the Indian languages


Chavara was the first Vicar General in the Syro-Malabar Church after the time of Archdeacons 8-6-1861

Chavara took the leadership in protecting the Syro-Malabar Church from the schismatic intruder bishop Roccos 1861

Chavara is the author of the First Malayalam Narrative poem -Anasthasyaude Rakthasakshyarn, an inspirational Martyr's story 1862

Chavara edited the Divine Office for priests, Compiled and composed Liturgical Rubrics - Thukkasa, liturgical calendar, set the Office of the dead for Priests, laity and children of the Malabar Church etc. 1862-1869

Chavara popularized the new 'May Month devotion of Blessed virgin Mary' from Mananam 1864

Chavara as Vicar General implemented the idea ' A school for every Church' in the Kerala Church 1864

In collaboration with Fr. Leopold OCD, an Italian Missionary, Chavara founded the first Indian Religious Congregation for women now known as (CMC) at Koonamavu in Kerala 13-2-1866

Chavara started the 40 Hours Eucharistic Adoration in Kerala at Koonammavu 15-2-1866

Chavara, supported by Fr. Leopold OCD, started the first boarding house and school in Kerala for girls at Koonammavu 2-1-1868

Chavara prepared the first Instruction Manual, 'A Testament of a Loving Father' for the Christian Families, first of its kind in the church 13-2- 1868

Chavara founded the first lay charitable organization, the 'Confraternity of St. Joseph for Happy Death' at Kainakary, Kerala 1869

Chavara founded the first Home of Charity • Upavisala for the sick, old and Destitute at Kainakary 1869

Chavara initiated the Catholic re-union movement of the 19th Century in 1869

Chavara died at St. Philomina's Monastery at Koonammavu on 3-1-1871

Chavara's mortal remains re-entombed at Mannanam the Mother house of the CMI Congregation 24-5-1889

Chavara's canonization process started at the congregation level on 21-12-1936

Chavara's canonization process officially started by Arch diocese Changanserry 9-12-1955

Chavara was declared Venerable by Pope John Paul II in Rome 7- 4- 1984

Chavara's beatification at Kottayam, Kerala by Pope John Paul II 8-2-1986

Government of India released the postal stamp considering Chavara's social reforms 20-12-1987

Government of Kerala fixed a large painting of Chavara in the Literary Academy Hall of Thrissur to honour Chavara as an eminent literary contributor to Malayalam Language of 19th century 4-5-2006

Life of Saint Chavara

Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10th Feb. 1805 of God fearing parents Iko (Kuriakose) Chavara and Mariam Thoppil of the Syro-Malabar Church, at Kainakary, near Allappuzha, Kerala. According to the local custom the infant was baptized on the 8th day in Chennankari Parish Church, Alappuzha.

From the age 5 to 10, he attended the village school (Kalari) to study languages, different dialects, and elementary sciences under the guidance of a Hindu teacher (Asan). Inspired by the desire to become a priest, he began the studies under the parish priest of the church of St. Joseph. At the age of 13 in 1818 he entered the seminary at Pallipuram where Malpan Thomas Palackal was the Rector. He was ordained priest on 29th November, 1829 at Arthunkal and celebrated his First Holy Mass at Chennankari Church. After the ordination he was engaged for some time in pastoral ministry; however he soon returned to the seminary to teach and also to officiate for the Malpan Thomas Palackal during his absence. Thus he joined Malpan Thomas Porukara and Malpan Thomas Palackal when they were planning to found a congregation.

In 1830 he went to Mannanam to direct the construction of the first house of the congregation of which the foundation stone was laid on 11th May, 1831. After the death of both the Malpans, Blessed Chavara took up leadership. On 8th December, 1855 he made the religious profession along with other 10 companions, under the name "Kuriakose Elias of Holy Family".

He was the Prior General of all the monasteries of the congregation from 1856 till his death in 1871. When, in 1861, a schism threatened the Church of Kerala with the arrival of Mar Thomas Rokos without proper credentials from the Pope, Blessed Chavara was appointed the Vicar-General of the Syro-Malabar Church by the Arch-Bishop of Verapolly. Blessed Chavara is gratefully remembered and acknowledged by the later leaders of the Church and by the Catholic community in general for his strenuous fight, strong stance , and effective leadership in thwarting `Thomas Rochos' intrusion and saving the church of Kerala from schism.

In 1871, on January 3rd, Fr. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, with a painful illness, died at Koonammavu monastery in Kochi, preserving his baptismal innocence. His mortal remains were later transferred from Koonammavu to Mannanam in 1889 and are piously kept in the St. Joseph's Monastery church.

Foundation of CMI Congregation

Frs. Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porukara and Kuriakose Chavara having the same motivation of starting a religious community life, had several occasions to meet together at the vicariate of Verapoly or at the seminary of Pallipuram to discuss the idea of a religious institute. By the words of blessed Chavara, from the first page of his chronicle, we may allude to the request fathers Palackal and Porukara placed before the bishop Maurelius Stabilini “Seeing that a lot of good has not been done due to the absence of a Thapasu Bhavanam (house of discipline) in Kerala even for priests, we desire to start a ‘Darsana Veed (house of vision) at least for priests”.

The Vicar Apostolic, finally on 1st November 1829, granted permission to establish a religious house. On May 11, 1831, the foundation stone for the proposed religious house was laid at Mannanam dedicating it to St.Joseph. This was the first indigenous religious institute for men in the Indian Church of modern times, known now as Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). Jacob Kanianthara, who later became the first professed brother in the congregation also co-operated with those three founding fathers from the beginning.

In 1841, Malpan Thomas Palackal, and in 1846 Malpan Thomas Poroukara died, leaving the whole burdens of organizing the religious community to Fr. Kuriakose Chavara. On 8th December 1855, Fr.Chavara with his eleven companions made their religious vows assuming Fr.Chavara as superior (prior) of the religious community.

Starting seven religious houses, besides the first one at Mannanam, in different parts of Kerala, the new congregation made great strides in the spiritual renovation in the Kerala Church. Seminaries for the education and formation of clergy, introduction of annual retreats for priests and laity, publishing house for the propagation of Catholic doctrine and social information, house for the destitutes and dying, special attention to start catechumenates, reunion movement, schools for the general education etc were among the few of various activities under Fr. Kuriakose Elisa’s leadership. Thus he focused the ministry of the congregation to educate the uneducated, to help them who desire to enter the catholic fold, to work for the reunion of separated brothern, to safeguard the well being of the countries and the world at large, aiming at the renewal of the church and society and willing to do all that are seen good for others A schism threatened the church of Kerala in 1861, creating a very critical situation. Fr.Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the then appointed Vicar General of Syro-Malabar Church, is gratefully remembered and acknowledged for his strenuous fight, strong stance and effective leadership in thwarting Thomas Rocco’s intrusion and saving the church of Kerala from the Schism.

A religious congregation for women

A religious congregation for women in Kerala was a great desire of Fr. Chavara. It was a long cherished desire of his and the result of several attempts one at Alangad in 1857 another at Puthanpally in 1859. In 1866, on February 13, with the co-operation of Fr. Leopold Beccaro, Carmelite Missionary, the first Carmelite convent of the sisters was inaugurated at Koonamavo, under the name “Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced”. The motive of starting such an institute of religious life was for Christian formation, education and empowerment of women folk.

An Author of many spiritual and liturgical books

Amidst his diverse and manifold activities, he found time and leisure to write a few books, both in prose and in verse like Atmanuthapan (The lamentations of a Repentant soul – a poem), Maranaveettil Paduvanulla Pana (A poem to sing in the bereaved house), Anasthaciayude Rakthasakshyam (The Martyrdom of Anasthacia), historical notes as Nalagamagal (chronicles) and Dhyana Sallapangal (Colloquies in Mediation). He took initiative in codifying the liturgical books like canonical prayers for priests and prepared the liturgical rubrics called ‘Thukkasa’, liturgical calendar and office for the dead etc. His eclogues are 10 Shepherd plays on the birth of Christ. His counsels to the Christian families given in the form of the “Testament of a Loving Father” is universally applicable and are relevant to this day. As an instruction manual for families already its lakhs of copies in 32 editions were circulated to the Christian families of Kerala.

A Man of prayer and a man of God

Essentially a man of prayer and intense charity, he stayed in close communion with God amidst his several religious and social activities, permeating his spirituality to all around him; so much so that he was accepted and referred to as a man of God during his life time. He was a great devotee of the Eucharist, used to spent long hours near the tabernacle. He introduced the 40 hours adoration in the Kerala Church. He considered himself as a child of Blessed Virgin Mary and became an instrument in spreading the Marian devotion in Kerala through the May month devotion of Mary and spreading the scapular and rosary. Similarly, he was also a great devotee of St.Joseph. He started a charitable association in 1868 with the name ‘Confraternity of St.Joseph for a Happy Death’ to help the poor and dying and also started a home of charity (Upavisala) with the same purpose in 1869 at Kainakary. He entrusted his whole life to the Holy Family as he added this name to his own at the time of his first religious profession.

His last days

It seemed that Fr.Chavara had an insight about his death much before he laid to his death-bed. He spent his last days at Koonammavu. In October 1870 he became very sick. He was totally blind for about three months. During this period he fixed a small note on the door side requesting visitors to speak with him only spiritual matters. He also wished that good spiritual books might be readout to him in his room. When all assembled around him in tears at his death-bed, on the eve of January 2, he said to them: “Why are you very sad, and are crying? Every man whoever he be, has to die one day. Now it is my time. As I had the protection of the Holy Family, I have never lost the grace I received in the baptism. I dedicate our little congregation and each of you to this Holy Family. May the Holy Family reign in your hearts”. After these words he asked for the sacrament of anointing. On 3 January 1871 at 7.30 in the morning he calmly slept in the Lord and was buried there. His mortal remains were later transferred from Koonammavu to the Mother House at Mannanam in 1889 and re-interred in the St. Joseph’s monastery chapel.


Instantaneous, total and stable cure for Maria Jose Kottarathil

The miracle that was considered for the canonization of Blessed Chavara Kuriakose Elias was the instantaneous, total and stable cure of the squint eye of Maria Jose Kottarathil. She is the youngest child of Mr. Jose Thomas and Mrs. Marykutty Jose Kottarathil. She has two brothers, George, the eldest who is a Seminarian in the Pala Diocese and Febin who pursues university studies. Maria was born on 5 April 2005 at Pala, Kottayam District, Kerala, and was baptized in the St. Thomas Cathedral Church, Pala. She had the defect of congenital squint (alternating esotropia) in both her eyes, noticed clearly by her parents as well as those who knew her from about four or five months after her birth.

The scientific investigation conducted by five medical experts into the defect of Maria Jose’s eyes confirmed the diagnosis that she had Alternating Convergent Squint (alternating esotropia) eyes for which surgery was suggested as the only remedy. However, before undergoing any operation or taking any medicine, all on a sudden the squint eyes were healed and the healing was total and stable. The study also revealed that the child with congenital defective eyes was not subjected to any treatment or surgery. Hence, this sudden, total and stable cure without any surgery was declared by all the doctors who studied the case or examined the child as medically inexplicable.

The family had, for various reasons, avoided the prescribed surgery and turned to God invoking the intercession of Blessed Chavara. On 9 October Mrs. Marykutty visited the ‘Room of Chavara” as well as the tomb and again on 12 October the parents with Mariamol visited the tomb and prayed intensely for the cure. After four days of intense prayer, on 16th October, as the child approached her parents after the evening prayer to say ‘praise be to Jesus Christ’ as per custom or practice in all Catholic families in the place, the latter noticed that the child could look straight and that the squint in her eyes disappeared. This healing was the result of intense prayer to God through Blessed Kuriakose Elias at his tomb at Mannanam where his mortal remains rest as well as at home, first of all, of Mariamol’s parents, especially her mother Mrs. Marykutty and, of course, of the entire family and their relatives and friends.

Subsequently, the child was taken to different doctors for examination and all of them without exception confirmed the cure which was unexplainable according to the medical knowledge available to them. Subsequent to it, the theological experts approved the theological element of the miraculous healing attributing it to the intercession of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara.

Thus, on 18 March 2014, the miracle was approved by the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints in the Cardinals’ Meeting which leads to the ceremony of canonization on 23 November 2014. Praise and Glory to God for He is Great. Club-footed Joseph

After the elevation of Fr. Chavara to the position of Venerable, the cure of the congenial deformity of the legs of Mr. Joseph Mathew Pennaparambil happened in the month of April, 1960 was approved in Rome as a miracle.

Joseph was born club-footed with congenial deformity of both the legs from his very birth itself. Joseph's family was pious but poor. Though his legs were deformed Joseph started going to school. He was always accompanied by his elder sister. It was when Joseph was seven years old that his family for the first time heard about Blessed Chavara and the many favours received through his intercession. From that time onwards the whole family started praying for the healing of the deformity of Joseph's legs through the intercession of Blessed Chavara with great devotion and faith. They experienced nothing special during this period, however, they continued to pray with faith. After almost a month, one day Joseph and his sister were going to school. As usual with the school going children in the pious families of the villages of Kerala, Joseph's sister told him to pray to Blessed Chavara for the cure of his legs and asked him to recite 1 Our Father, 1 Hail Mary and 1 Glory. As they both prayed and walked together, all of a sudden Joseph felt that his right leg started shivering. When Joseph pressed his right leg on the ground and tried to walk further his right leg became normal. He continued to have pain for a few days whenever he was walking, and later that pain also subsided.

This healing of one leg gave the family great joy and hope. The whole family started to pray with greater fervour and devotion for the healing of the deformity of the left leg also. They continued their prayer and petitions for quite some time. On the fine morning of April 30th, 1960 Joseph had started experiencing pain on his left foot. However, discarding the pain Joseph and his sister went to their elder brother's house.

On their way, the fingers of the left foot became normal and gradually his leg also became normal. Thereafter he could walk normally pressing both the legs on the ground. Joseph believes that it was because of the intercession of Blessed Chavara that he could walk normally. Joseph was 31 when this miraculous cure was considered in Rome for the canonization process in 1984.

Canonization process

The official canonization process of Fr. Chavara started in 1955 and on 7th April 1984, Pope John Paul II solemnly declared the Servant of God, Chavara the Venerable, On 8 February 1986, during his historic visit to Kottayam, Kerala, Late Pope John Paul II raised Venerable Kuriakose Elias Chavara to the honors of the Altar declaring him the ‘BLESSED’. In 1987 Government of India released postal stamps in honor of blessed Chavara for his humanitarian services to the country. In 2006 Kerala government honored him by erecting his portrait painting in the hall of ‘Kerala Sahitya Academy portrait gallery’ at Thrissur, considering him as one of the literary genius in Malayalam of the 19th century.

24 November 2014: Sainthood

The following is the full text of the address of Pope Francis to the faithful of the Syro-Malabar rite gathered for the canonization of Kuriakose Elias Chavara of The Holy Family and Euphrasia Eluvathingal of The Sacred Heart, at Saint Peter's Basilica on Monday, 24 November 2014:

“Dear brothers and sisters,

“I am pleased to join you in giving thanks to the Lord for the canonization of two new Indian saints, both from the State of Kerala. I take this opportunity to thank the Church in India, the Church in Kerala, for all its apostolic vigour and for your witness to the Faith! My heartfelt gratitude! Keep up the good work! Kerala is rich in vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Continue on this path, working through your witness. I thank Cardinal George Alencherry, the Bishops, priests, men and women religious, and each of you, dear brothers and sisters of the Syro-Malabar rite. I remember in a special way the Cardinal of the Syro- Malankara rite: thank you! Did you know that your Syro-Malankar Cardinal is the youngest member of the College of Cardinals?

“You have come to Rome in great numbers on this very important occasion, and have been able to live days of faith and ecclesial communion, praying also at the tombs of the Apostles. May this time of celebration and intense spirituality help you to contemplate the marvellous works accomplished by the Lord in the lives and deeds of these new saints.

“Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Euphrasia Eluventhinkal, who was a member of the religious Institute founded by him, remind each of us that God’s love is the source, the support and the goal of all holiness, while love of neighbour is the clearest manifestation of love for God. 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”. For her part, Sister Euphrasia lived in profound union with God so much so that her life of holiness was an example and an encouragement to the people, who called her “Praying Mother”. There are many consecrated religious here today, especially consecrated women. May you also may be known as “Praying Sisters”.

“Dear brothers and sisters, may these new saints help you to treasure their lessons of evangelical living. Follow in their footsteps and imitate them, in a particular way, through love of Jesus in the Eucharist and love of the Church. Thus you will advance along the path to holiness. With this hope and the assurance of my prayers, I impart to each of you and to all your loved ones my Apostolic Blessing. Thank you!”

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