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Fr. Pathrose; Reading hymns of nature with camera

FR_PATHROS-Photo-by-HINDU
KUNNAMKULAM: Sans cassock, Fr. Pathrose could be mistaken for a professional nature photographer.

Impulsive and passionate about photography, the priest of the Syrian Church sets off with his backpack at the drop of a hat to destinations as far and rich in biodiversity as Nepal, Bharatpur, Tuticorin, Wayanad and the like to delight in the ‘camera moments’ that the nature offers to him.

“He’s a blink and you miss him-type,” beams writer and actor V.K. Sreeraman, who fostered the priest’s talents with the lens. “And, like me, he’s a resident of Kunnamkulam, widely known as Kerala’s haven for fake goods. But in reality, it has several original gems like Fr. Pathrose.”

In fact, the priest wears several hats: he’s the principal of the Bethany St. John’s English School at Kunnamkulam, a karate black belt, naturopathy expert and a poet.

A native of Nedumkandam in Idukki district, he enrolled himself in a seminary in 2000 before joining Plus Two.

“I used to write poetry and stories during that time, but when I enrolled for degree at the Catholicate College in Pathanamthitta, film personality and Professor Madhu Eravankara introduced me to the finer aspects of viewing a scene through the lens. Kathaprasangam artist Prasad Anchal further fine-tuned it into a love for nature,” explains Fr. Pathrose.

Starting off with a second-hand camera using film roll, he slowly graduated into wielding an ordinary digital camera before obtaining a DSLR.

The Forum for Arts and Cultural Events (FACE) instituted by Mr. Sreeraman organised the first exhibition of his nature snaps at Kunnamkulam along with those of seasoned lensman Manoop Chandran. The show has come to the city’s Durbar Hall now.

“It’s only recently that I realised I’ve shot over 1,000 pictures of birds and animals in the wild and from the Kole fields of Kunnamkulam,” says Fr. Pathrose, currently in Munnar on a photography sojourn. “Those who say everything in nature has been lost haven’t looked around. I’ve clicked so many rare birds. It’s a pleasure to see how they interact with their surroundings,” says the priest, eager to rush off to Kashmir at the next opportunity.

Father Pathrose is a man of many talents. Nature photogprahy is just one of them.

Source: S. Anandan / The Hindu

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Parents Left Behind?

elderly
The other day, I met a couple after the Sunday worship in the church premises and asked why they are not in a hurry to go back home as usual. They replied, “Our kids are staying back in Sunday school, we feel uneasy at home without them”. If this is the situation of the parents who can’t stay away from their children for a day, it is worth analyzing the situation of parents who have to live away from their children for a long time.

Compared with their counterparts in developed countries, Indian parents place greater emphasis on their children succeeding in work – published in a report titled “The Value of Education: Learning for Life”. Indian parents are willing to spend more to give their child the opportunity to study abroad as they believe students receive a more rounded education and experience abroad.

The feeling of grief and loneliness parents feel when their children leave home is called ‘empty nest syndrome’. It is not a clinical condition and is not a term you will find in many medical textbooks, but it has become a useful ‘label’ for the feelings of sadness and loss, which many individuals experience when their children fly the nest.

After marriage, the couples love each other and feel complete in the presence of each other. They don’t prefer to have an ‘outsider’ when they are together. However, subsequent to their attempt to achieve the completeness, a child is born strengthening their relationship. The child is not an ‘outsider’ rather the incarnation of their love, becoming an inevitable part of the family. For parents, their kids are always ‘small children’. They will continue to take care of them even if the kids are grown up. That is why the great grandmother, in spite of her age-related ailments, is worried about the health of her son who might have grandchildren. Parents who like to have their kids, always with them should understand that their parents also wish the same.

Our church has successfully completed an awareness program for the elderly and palliative care, an exclusive project for the ones left alone in their twilight years. His Holiness Marthoma Paulose Marthoma Paulose II termed it as a “burning issue” and needs to be tackled on an urgent basis and donated his own land for such a project. I would like to share from my pastoral experience, some practical suggestions for caring for aging parents in Kerala for those in the diaspora.

1. Be in love with your Parents

This is the most important responsibility towards your parents. This is possible only when you accept them as they are. They may have conditioning, habits and convictions that we may not agree with. Buckminster Fuller created the “Knowledge Doubling Curve” and his research revealed that human knowledge doubled every century up to around 1900. The end of World War II reduced that time frame for every 25 years. Today, some parts of our knowledge have advanced faster than others and on average, human knowledge is doubling every 13 months. With this rate of change in human knowledge, it is not surprising to see huge gap that builds between our parents and us.

We may have complaints about our parents on their attitude and bias towards our siblings, our lifestyles, religious and world views. We may succeed in substantiating that our parents are wrong. But we should always remember that they are our parents and understand that trying to change our parents’ lifetime of thinking is brutal and impossible in one or two conversations. We should love unconditionally and learn to accept them as they are and accept the fact that there is absolutely no replacement for our parents. We can persuade them with love, patience, and empathy. Though they may be wrong with many contemporary matters, ultimately they are responsible for our birth and growth. Usually, it’s said, “we can change our friend, we can’t change our neighbors”. But if we have enough money, we can move and change our neighbors too, but it is impossible to change our parents.

2. Be in touch with your Parents

Communication is a way of expressing our love. It is more relevant when we stay away from our parents. Parents are waiting to hear the sound of their children like Hornbill waiting for rain. We should make every possible effort to talk to them for a moment on a daily basis. This is not to convey some information, but a great opportunity to fill the vacuum in our parents’ home with our voice. We should encourage our kids to talk to our parents at least once in a week. Our parents want to listen to the sound of the small babies though they are not able to speak. They are in ecstasy when the grandchildren call them ‘appacha, ammachi’. We can make use of the modern technology to facilitate connection. We can train our parents to use Skype, WhatsApp and video calling. Today with smartphones and data connections, it is absolutely easy to connect on a daily basis by sharing our pictures, videos, and moments.

An old lady used to complain about her phone. Every time the personnel from telephone exchange found it worked. Finally, she asked a question, “Then why my children are not calling?”

Our kids can tell the name of the grandfather of Mahatma Gandhi as they learn it as part of history at school. Will they tell the name of their grandparents? I have noticed if somebody asks about their hometown to kids, parents would step in to say with pride “she/he doesn’t know it. She/he rarely visits there”. Is this actually a matter of pride, we should ask ourselves! We have a system of keeping the name with two initials, the short form of the family name and father’s name. Actually, it comprises the full address of that individual giving his identity. For example, K.A. George means George son of Kavunkal Alias. We misunderstand the house number given by the municipality as our address! When we go to Kerala we should find time to visit the older generation, seek blessing at their tomb and make them familiarize to the new generation.

3. It is your responsibility to take care of your Parents

Taking care of one’s parents is embedded in our culture. Parents are morally and legally obligated to care for their children when they are young. They provide shelter, food, clothes and above all, all the sacrifices they make on a daily basis. Isn’t it fair to ask that when children grow up and their parents become elderly, they take up the responsibility to provide a decent life for their parents? We should consider this as our moral obligation and not be forced as part of our adherence to the recently passed Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Act. Today our parents are more financially stable and independent, but that should not stand in our way to our responsibility as their children. His Holiness Baselios Marthoma Mathews II of blessed memory used to give a dhoti to his father every year, as said in an interview. Holy Father says, “Parents enjoy receiving from their children. Not because they need it. But getting it from their children is something special”. Every time when we give something, they share their joy by showing their friends “It’s sent by my son”. They want to prove that their children are taking care of them. We should give something to our parents from our income on a regular basis. It may vary according to our financial situation and their needs. However, we should give them something even in our financial constraints. We can never repay the debts we have to them. Giving something regularly is the external expression of this gratitude.

4. Respect siblings who take care of your Parents

We cannot define our responsibility towards our parents on the basis of money. Parents need our presence, love and care. Sometimes we are unable to fulfill this in a certain situation. If we are one of those lucky ones who have a sibling who could fill in for us, we should be grateful to them as they are fulfilling their responsibility as a vocation. They do the service when we discharge our job by sending something or showing love and care through phone calls.

It is a difficult job to serve parents in their old age, catering to their particularities and obstinate nature, it is essential that we don’t find fault in the care provided. Instead of giving suggestions like, “Give a new bedsheet to ammachi or provide a better blanket to appachen” we should be kind enough to take a few days off our busy schedule and physically give our sibling a break. We may have numerous suggestions in our one week stay with our parents overlooking all the great work our siblings do day in and day out.

It is necessary that we appreciate the efforts and services of our siblings to make sure they stay motivated as their work only gets challenging with time. Always be diligent not to give false promises, suggestions, and guidance. This is not the place to be tactful and smart by saying “If you come with us we could take care of you better”. We should realize the fact that we may not have the capability to take care of them for a week. Let us adore our siblings for their wonderful job. They do what we can’t do.

We all have reasons to be abroad, however, insubstantial, it may look to others, and there is no excuse for abandoning the care of parents in exchange for a career growth, life aspirations or financial gains. We should realize that as our parents live with the fear of aging without us and the uncertainty of how life will unfold, the mutual emotional support and bonding have no equivalent! Can we all make a commitment that caring for our parents is one of the top priorities in our lives because I can confidently say from the lives of many that the best years of their lives were the years with their parents’.

[Fr. Jaise K. George has completed the theological education from STOTS Nagpur and is serving as the Vicar of various parishes in the Diocese of Delhi. He is the Coordinator for the Pre-Marital Guidance Program, Diocese of Delhi. He is a research scholar in Psychology]

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His Holiness Pope Francis – “Marks of a Spiritual Leader”

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Some would say getting to see the pope was a once in a lifetime opportunity. Thousands of people got the chance to see Pope Francis. As others across the world, my experience was indescribable; literally made me cry. It was a feeling that is almost hard to describe of peace and tranquility and emotion and spirit. It was really just something. I consider a real honor and myself blessed. Hearing my multi tasked secular and spiritual life, “Live your life abundantly” – was the guidance from Pope Francis. Turning to a friend, I expressed, “wasn’t that an amazing?” I recall him saying, “Yes, and I am a Baptist.” Being a priest of the Indian Orthodox Church, the encounter showed the unifying power of Pope Francis’ papacy.”

Spiritual leadership as knowing where God wants people to be and taking the initiative to use God’s methods to get them there in reliance on God’s power. The answer to where God wants people to be is in a spiritual condition and in a lifestyle that displays his glory and honors His name. Therefore, the goal of spiritual leadership is that people come to know God and to glorify him in all that they do. Spiritual leadership is aimed not so much at directing people as it is at changing people. This is the quality I saw in His Holiness.

Pope Francis’ leadership style appeared to one that other people will come to glorify God, that is, he magnifies the true character of God. According to Matthew 5:14-16, one of the crucial means by which a Christian leader brings other people to glorify God is by being a person who loves both friend and foe. “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid, nor do men light a lamp and put it under a bushel, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven.” Pope Francis spoke of the reality of God’s promises to take care of us and to work everything together for our good grips of our hearts so that we do not fall prey to greed or fear or vainglory but rather manifest a contentment and a love and a freedom for other people, then the world will have to admit that the one who gives us hope and freedom must be real and glorious. When our hope is strong, we are freed from fears and cares that prevent the free exercises of love. Pope appeared to be a person who has strong confidence in the sovereign goodness of God to work everything together for His good.

Pope was very clear about why he felt so strongly about issues ranging from poverty to climate change. I fully understood because, it is about people and it is not the issues for the issues sake; it is how they impact on people’s lives. I could sense that there has been some resistance from some quarters of the Catholic Church about the Pope weighing in on what have traditionally been seen as more political issues. But, being a priest I could really read the writing on the wall that, the Pope sees all issues through the prism of its impact on people regardless of faith; it is not at all political and this is pastoral.

During his historic address to the U.S. Congress, he reminded of the “The Golden Rule” – “do unto others as you would have them do unto you”, from Matthew 7: 12. He also reminded us of our responsibility to protect and defend human life at every stage of its development. How much progress has been made in this area in so many parts of the world! How much has been done in these first years of the third millennium to raise people out of extreme poverty! He asked to keep in mind all those people around us who are trapped in a cycle of poverty. They too need to be given hope, he said. The fight against poverty and hunger must be fought constantly and on many fronts, especially in its causes. He recognized that, many Americans today, as in the past, are working to deal with this problem. It goes without saying that part of this great effort is the creation and distribution of wealth. The right use of natural resources, the proper application of technology and the harnessing of the spirit of enterprise are essential elements of an economy, which seeks to be modern, inclusive and sustainable. He said, he is convinced that we can make a difference and he has no doubt that the United States – and this Congress – have an important role to play. Now is the time for courageous actions and strategies, aimed at implementing a ‘culture of care’ and ‘an integrated approach to combating poverty, restoring dignity to the excluded, and at the same time protecting nature.

The charismatic leadership of Pope Francis appeared much like that of St. Francis of Assisi and the effect he had on audiences. He is following the example of St. Francis when he offers ancient wisdom as a cure for today’s climate crisis. St. Francis embodied the integration of care for the poor with care for the planet. The 13th-century saint inspired rich and poor, men and women, faithful and faithless to respond spiritually to the social problems of his age. He preached against greed and inspired many to live in voluntary poverty. St. Francis’s life was a model of humility, without judgment on the sin or failures of others. Though he is the patron saint of ecological spirituality, he did not consider himself a steward of nature. Rather, he viewed animals, elements and the planet as brothers and sisters, and he in their family.

His example teaches that care for the environment goes hand in hand with reverence for human beings — that everything is a gift. This concept is at the heart of Franciscan economics, which governs the Franciscan order.

When I heard Pope Francis throughout his six days of U.S. visit, he demonstrated a deep understanding of his Patron Saint, St. Francis. I believe the example of St. Francis can help us address our environmental problems. Now we know Pope Francis believes this as well — and that gives many great hope. In proposing integral ecology, the pope is calling us to bring together care for our planet and practical compassion for the poor. We cannot effectively protect the environment while more than three billion people are living in poverty. There is no absolute shortage of resources. Pope Francis is calling us to find new ways of sharing creation’s bounty. He is broadly endorsing the environmental movement and its goals but challenges us to take a more holistic, universal view. The integral-ecology framework asks us all to deepen and broaden our compassion, to care for creation and the poor in our neighborhoods and globally. The pope calls into question our own choices as individuals and as a society, urging us to act now.

He highlighted in his speeches that the wealthy countries, like United States, have a special moral obligation to dramatically reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We are responsible for the majority of emissions and need to transform our energy systems — generation, transmission and consumption. He said, poor countries are already experiencing climate disruption and are likely to disproportionately suffer its worst effects. Ingenuity and innovation are needed to create climate resilience — the ability to withstand the coming disruptions. About one-third of all humans, for example, live in energy poverty, defined as lacking access to modern energy for heating, lighting and cooking. He said social entrepreneurs across the developing world have demonstrated that renewable energy can improve the lives and livelihoods of millions of people. Solar home systems, clean-cook stoves and community micro-grids are examples of how innovation and entrepreneurship create exits from energy poverty. These practical initiatives help the poor cope with the climate disruption already underway, while improving the dignity of their lives. Pope Francis said that, the practical need to protect the climate system is real — but so, too, is the moral outrage of billions of human beings denied access to a dignified life. By invoking St. Francis, the pope called us to remember the fundamental interdependence of all life. Everyone has a role to play in the family; everyone can make a valuable contribution.

I was extremely impressed by Pope Francis’ call for ecumenism and unit. In his opening prayers, Pope Francis prayed that God the Father might send the Holy Spirit, Who will guide us to unity. During one of his speech, it is the Holy Spirit, he said, who gives the various charisms within the Church, who works through the variety of gifts in the Church, and who grants unity. Pope Francis asked that Jesus, who prayed for unity in His Church, might help us to walk along the path of “unity, or of reconciled diversity.” Pope Francis also spoke about the idea of “unity in diversity.” Unity is not uniformity, he said, but reflects the confluence of all the different parts that go to make it up.

He warned of the temptation of leaders – or rather, servants – to imagine that they are indispensable, a temptation that can lead to authoritarianism or personalism, which “does not allow the renewed communities to live in the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit, Pope Francis exclaimed, is the only indispensable actor in the renewal, just as Jesus is the one Lord. Pope Francis emphasized the ecumenical dimension of the charismatic movement, rooting it in our common Baptism. Unity among Christians, he said, must begin with prayer.

Pope Francis asked that we value the immense contribution which women, lay and religious, have made and continue to make, to the life of our communities. His Holiness asked that, with gratitude for all we have received, and with confident assurance in all our needs, let us turn to Mary, our Blessed Mother. With a mother’s love, may she intercede for the growth of the Church in America in prophetic witness to the power of her Son’s Cross to bring joy, hope and strength into our world.

The Holy Father said the people who walked with all their dreams and hopes, their disappointments and regrets, the people have seen a great light. The people of God are called in every age to contemplate this light, a light for the nations. The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light. One special quality of God’s people is their ability to see. To contemplate, even in moments of darkness, the light that Christ brings. He reminds us that Jesus tells his disciples to go out and meet the people where they really are, not where we think they should be. We should go out like the father who goes out looking for his son, and when he returns, embraces him. He moves us from the fray of competition and self-absorption and opens before us a path of peace. That peace which is born of accepting others; that peace which fills our hearts whenever we look upon those in need as our brothers and sisters. God is living in our cities. And God who lives in our cities want to be leaven in the dough, and relate to everyone, to stand at everyone’s side while they proclaim the wonders of the mighty counselor … the prince of peace. The people who walked in the darkness have seen a great light, and we Christians, are witnesses of that light.

Pope Francis’ common theme emphasized the significance of family, equality, justice, kindness, caring for the poor, sick, and the homeless. He called attention to those family members who are the most vulnerable, the young. For many of them, a future filled with countless possibilities beckons, yet so many others seem disoriented and aimless, trapped in a hopeless maze of violence, abuse and despair. At the risk of oversimplifying, we might say that we live in a culture, which pressures young people not to start a family, because they lack possibilities for the future. Yet this same culture presents others with so many options that they too are dissuaded from starting a family. How essential the family has been to the building of this country! And how worthy it remains of our support and encouragement! Yet I cannot hide my concern for the family, which is threatened, perhaps as never before, from within and without. Fundamental relationships are being called into question, as is the very basis of marriage and the family. I can only reiterate the importance and, above all, the richness and the beauty of family life. In these remarks, Pope said, I have sought to present some of the richness of your cultural heritage, of the spirit of the American people. It is my desire that this spirit continue to develop and grow, so that as many young people as possible can inherit and dwell in a land, which has inspired so many people to dream. He ended his historic tour, which I will cherish for eternity, with Apostolic Blessings: “God bless America!”

Author Fr. Alexander J. Kurien is the Deputy Associate Administrator at the Office of U.S. Government-Wide Policy
United States Government
Washington D.C.

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The Prodigal Son

prodigal-son
There was, once a prodigal son
Who vexed his father for his measure of wealth
And fled his home for friends and fun
To reckless ways of sinful mirth

But soon he met his weary days
Of hunger, thirst and fleeing friends
It flashed to his mind the splendor and grace
Far away of his father’s place

Sharp he woke up and ran a run,
And stopped not till he reached and found
His father waiting long for his son
With stretching hands and abounding love:

“Forgive me dad, my Lord, he cried;
With tears from eyes rolling down his cheeks,
I’ve sinned against you and Heavens indeed
Treat me as a servant at least in your folk”.

The father hugged him and kissed his face
And told “To my child will my love ever cease?
In you this day shall Heavens rejoice
And Earth rebound with Angels’ voice”.

Dr-M-Kuriakose
Dr M Kuriakose

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Remembering Rev Fr. P K George, the Apostle of North India

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“For many are called, but few are chosen” St Mathew 22:14.

Rev Fr P K George was born in a village in Mylapra, Pathanamthitta, Kerala. He had his primary school education in Mylapra. After schooling he acquired Diploma in Civil Engineering and my mother, Late Mrs Annamma Oonnoony, was his classmate for the Diploma course. My mother used to remember him as the most disciplined and religious student. From childhood he was closely associated with St. Kurakose Ashram (Attachakkal), he was related to Attachakkal Rambachan and he became his ‘spiritual’ GURU. After studies in Kerala, he moved to Rajasthan and served for the Rajasthan state government for many years. During this period he completed his Bachelor’s Degree. While serving in the Rajasthan Government, “the Divine call came” and Achen decided to dedicate his life for the LORD’s service. He left the government job and became a priest on 21-10-1971.

My association started with Achen from Obra, Sonebhadra district in UP (120kms south of Varanasi) in the year 1975-76 when I was an Engineering student at Gorakhpur. Since then, he was my “Spiritual Father” and had always stood with me as my guide and mentor during my happiness and sorrows. I had the opportunity to travel with him to many places in Eastern UP (1976-81) for the church related activities.

A true Orthodox Christian

We all know that the Orthodox Christianity spread to different parts of the world not by missionary work or through outreach activities, but it is purely based on the prayer and selfless life style of our forefathers. Achen, always led a life of prayer and he practiced what he preached” and prayed 7 times a day which included even mid nights. Irrespective of caste, creed or religion, people approached him for his blessings and prayers. Achen used to pray for them regularly. He had many disciples and well-wishers including Non-Christian North Indians. He had the unique quality of maintaining, a good relationship with people who came across in his life and used to be in regular contact with those people and thereby always preferred to “give rather than to take”

The Moving Church

There is a saying that “where there is a Bishop, there is a church”. In the case of George Achen, people used to call him a “Moving Church”. In the early 1970s, Achen stayed at Rewa, a small town of MP. From Rewa, he used to visit many remote places of UP, M P & Chhattisgarh. Once he left his headquarters, he used to return only after weeks after covering many places. Many churches/ congregations of Kolkatta and Delhi Dioceses of Eastern UP and north- western MP were formed during his stay at Rewa. From Rewa, Achen shifted his headquarters to Allahabad. From Allahabad, in search of his sheep, he could cover many places such as Rae-Barelly, Mirzapur, Badhohi, Varanasi, Gorakhpur, Robertsganj, Chopan, Obra, Renukoot, Singrauli etc. At that time reaching Singruli (from Renukoot) was very difficult. He used take lift in coal loaded trucks, tractors etc for reaching many of the destinations. Wherever he visited, he used to interact with all the people. He used to bring all Syrian Christians under one umbrella.

There is one anecdote; I will share……In the 70s when postal communications was the only communication facility available, we received a letter from Achen that he would be coming on a particular date. Achen had to reach Obra by bus from Allahabad (about 300 kms away) but Achen did not reach Obra on the day he had informed us. We were all worried but we had no way to contact him. However next day by afternoon, Achen reached Obra. We enquired about his delay. He told us that during his travel, he met one Mr Peethambaran who was residing at Robertsganj. Achen got down at Robertsganj and stayed with him for a day. There were about 8-10 Malayalees who were working in an electrical substation and in a nearby cement plant. Till 1981, Achen used to visit this place occasionally enroute to Obra, Renukoot and Singrauli areas. In 1980, LL HG (Dr) Geevarghese Mar Osthathios also visited this place, Robertsganj. Achen was the first Syrian Christian Priest to visit Gorakhpur where he conducted Holy Qurbana for 3 years. Achen used to conduct prayer meetings at various localities including Air force stations.

In addition to many remote places of MP and Eastern UP, Achen was the first Syrian Christian Priest to visit Gorakhpur where he conducted Holy Qurbana for 3 years. Achen used to conduct prayer meetings at various localities including Air force stations. At that time late Prof. E J John (former PRO of Malankara Orthodox Church) was Vice-Principal of St Andrews College and Mr. A V Paulose (Former Member, Railway Board and Senior Member of Hauz Khas Church) was in Gorakhpur for a short period.

The second anecdote ……….Achen visited my hostel two times and once stayed with me in the Hostel. I was the only South Indian and Christian student in my college. At that time, North Indians had a different perception about Christianity. However, Achen was able to gain many of my college friends as Achen’s “FANS”, till date many of my friends remember him. Few of my college friends were able to meet Achen during my daughter’s wedding reception at Noida and had many old memories to share.

From Allahabad, he preferred to remain in Ambala and he served the people from Ambala till he recently went back to Kerala due to illness. From Ambala, he used to travel to many places and he established many churches and congregations of Delhi Diocese. Few places which I remember are: Jaipur, Kota, Udaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodhpur, Bharatpur. Dholpur Punjab & Haryana: Ambala, Patiala, Bhatinda, Hissar, Pathankot, Chandigarh, Ludhiana, Jallandhar, Jammu, Sri Nagar, Haridwar, Dehradun etc

Discovery of a remote Christian Village in MP

During his travels Achen used to wear only his cassock (priestly garments). In addition, he used to wear the wooden black cross. Once Achen was travelling in a bus through a forest area in MP and the bus broke down and all the passengers got out of the bus. Seeing Achen in his cassock, a few villagers approached him and informed him that they were some Christians and no priest had visited them after independence. Achen stopped his onward journey and followed them to their village and spend one night with them. After returning to Rewa, Achen visited the Catholic Bishop of Rewa and informed him about the incident. Subsequently, Catholic Church re-established Christianity in that village.

Capability of Prophesy

Many people approached, Achen for his blessings and intercessory prayers. I have seen that all the advices/suggestion given by Achen to his followers was always fruitful and he always, submitted the issues to God Almighty through special prayers. I would like to share my personal experience about Achen’s advice. My daughter’s wedding reception at Noida was in November and the venue we had selected was an open lawn. It is not common to have rains in November. But that day, Achen asked me to keep in mind an alternate arrangement, if it rained in the evening. As I kept Achen’s advice in mind I could re-arrange the venue to a covered area in time as it rained in the evening.

Apostle of North India

Achen’s Contribution to Christianity in North India is unforgettable and I don’t think anyone could have taken so much pain in meeting people and fulfilling their spiritual needs in so many places in North India.

He had a monastic and celibate life throughout his life. At the age of 80, after serving the Church as a priest for about 44 years, Achen entered eternal life on May 23, 2015. In all respect, remembering Rev Fr P K George as an “Apostle of North India” is a true tribute to Achen.

May His soul rest in peace in the hands of our Saviour.

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We do not have to do it alone!; the Promise of the Resurrection

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Through the resurrection, there is a way out of our personal tombs of pain and suffering, of cynicism and despair, if only we will open our eyes, sit up, and see how the stone has been rolled away by a power far beyond our control.

As Jesus said in his Sermon on the Mount, “Do not worry about your life…for…indeed your heavenly Father knows what you need.”

The sun goes down, but the sun also rises. If winter comes, can spring be far behind? Human desperation and hopelessness are real, yet they can also be transformed into human aspiration and hopefulness. We are still concerned: who will roll away the stone at the entrance to our tombs?

We see that there continue to be wars and refugees from wars – cruelty and oppression, violence, accidents, and sickness.

We hear people cry out, with hurt, pain, and fear in their eyes.

We face the Easter Sunday with our questions and hope, with despair over our faults and the evil around us, with deep yearning for joy and goodness and life. Many live not knowing who will roll the stone away or how?

On this Easter Sunday, I want to assure you that the stone has been moved by nothing we said or did or prayed, but only through the gracious power of our loving and compassionate God through His only begotten Son.

We do not have to do it alone! The Easter message is to find the open door and actively to walk through it.

Prophet Isaiah says “…….the everlasting joy shall be upon our heads…and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”

Wishing you all a blessed Easter. May His Peace and Joy reign in our daily Christian life.

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Stigmata – Human Obsession for Signs and Wonders

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Many of you might have heard the news of a baby in Philippines, born with the stigmata of Jesus that became viral in the social media. While we want to know whether this is a hoax or not, we have seen a similar phenomenon earlier. St. Francis of Assisi was the first recorded stigmatic in Christian history. Later, Christian history records many numbers of comparable occurrences. Mother Susan, a nun of the Malankara Orthodox Church, residing in Kerala is also experiencing this.

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Stigmata refer to the wounds of Jesus that are miraculously reproduced in the body. On very rare occasions, the Catholic Church has accepted an occurrence of the stigmata as authentic but has never defined their origin or nature, thus allowing physical, psychological, and preternatural explanations for these phenomena. Ian Wilson, in Stigmata (Harper & Row, San Francisco), declares, “They [stigmata] are one of the most baffling and intriguing of medical and scientific mysteries.”

It is possible that people had unusual wounds or blood blisters in places on their body that could be related to certain wounds of Christ. But each of these cases would need to be rationally explained. Are the wounds real or forged? Do they match the wounds of Christ or is this a product of imagination or self-inflicted? Are they natural or divine? Could they be the product of satanic activity? (We sometimes forget that Satan uses religion to draw people away from what is important). The question to ask is, how blood spots mysteriously appearing on someone’s hands is an evidence of ‘sharing in the suffering of Christ’. Does the appearance of marks signify that the bearer is taking part in the suffering? If anything, these oddities minimize suffering. Obviously, there are few answers we can give or find about the stigmata.

We can only speculate and not be certain how the ‘stigmata’-wounds of the Passion looked on Christ’s body. But we do know that stigmata appear the same in all who are believed to have had them. Joe Nickell, a former detective and magician, investigates claims of the supernatural and paranormal for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, based in Amherst wrote a book on this topic in 1993. “Jesus most likely was nailed to the cross through his wrists. Once the notion that Jesus was nailed through the wrists became accepted, some stigmatics began to display wrist wounds. Here is my logic: Stigmata are supposed to be a reflection of the wounds of Christ, whatever those were like. If these were true manifestations, they ought to tell us where the wounds were,” Nickell said. Instead, stigmata appear “all over the place. There’s every kind of variant, and they keep changing.”

The evidence available is scanty with much of it supplied by supporters of stigmata. We do not see Stigmata mentioned in the bible. However, most of the occurrences started around 1200 years after the death of Christ, and there is a strong argument that it is a product of the superstitions in the darkness of the middle Ages. The Church is cautious about reported instances of the stigmata for two reasons: the possibility of a hoax (and thus all faith in God might seem questionable) and the possibility that some people could distort the meaning of the stigmata. For example, these marks might appear more central to a person’s faith than the passion-death-resurrection of Jesus, the Scriptures, the sacraments or many other things that are more central to the faith than the stigmata are.

Researchers of stigmata, even Catholic believers like the late Herbert Thurston, S.J., almost unanimously agree that such phenomena are best explained as bodily reactions to intense ecstatic and psychological experiences. The film- ‘Stigmata’, one of the most controversial religious movies, released in the year 1999 was highly controversial due to the manner in which it dealt with issues close to Catholic’s hearts. A Jesuit priest, one of the main characters in this film, discovers a connection between the stigmata and one of the Gnostic Gospels (4th-century religious writings condemned by the Catholic Church). The priest uncovers a plot to keep the gospels “truth” concealed.

Some modern “researches” has showed stigmata are of hysterical origin, or linked to dissociative identity disorders, especially the link between dietary constriction by self-starvation, dissociative mental states and self-mutilation, in a religious belief. Anorexia nervosa cases often display self-mutilation like stigmata as part of a ritualistic, obsessive-compulsive disorder. A relationship between starvation and self-mutilation has been reported amongst prisoners of war and during famines. A psychoanalytic study of stigmatic Therese Neumann has suggested that her stigmata resulted from post-traumatic stress symptoms expressed in unconscious self-mutilation through abnormal autosuggestibility.

BIBLICAL VERSES FOR CONSIDERATION:

“You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor print any marks upon you: I am the LORD.” Leviticus 19:28. It could be said that stigmata are cuttings in the flesh, which seems to contradict God’s command.

One verse sometimes referred to by people who want to defend stigmata, is found in Galatians 6:17 Paul wrote: “From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” The word “mark” comes from the Greek word “stigma” which means a tattooed mark or mark burned in by a brand. Now we know that it was against God’s law to mark one’s own body with cuttings, so Paul would not have inflicted them on himself, so what did he mean?

It was common in Paul’s day for slaves and sometimes soldiers to be branded, and followers of the cult of Mithra were also branded. In later times, the followers of Hinduism marked themselves with the trident of Vishnu. The mark or brand signified ownership, a scar of service and the initiate usually bore it proudly. But in the context in which Paul is writing, he is making a defense to the Judaizer, who practiced circumcision, and he refers to his own physical sufferings which he had had to endure for the sake of the Lord Jesus. These, he says, are his stigma or branding. The scars, scratches, and bruises in his body are proof of His ownership.

The Amplified Bible says: “From now on let no person trouble me (by making it necessary to vindicate my apostolic authority and the divine truth of my Gospel), for I bear on my body the (brand) marks of the Lord Jesus (the wounds, scars, and other outward evidence of persecutions – these testify to His ownership of me)!”

MY PERSONAL VIEWS AND THOUGHTS:

I am sure that stigmata exist as real wounds in some people’s bodies. I also believe visions, apparitions, signs and wonders have been seen and experienced by many people down through the ages and that stigmata are just one of hundreds of other similar marvels. However, it is not the authenticity of stigmata that should be our main interest; it is what these wonders are pointing to. The devil is able to perform signs and wonders too, for example, the wizards of Egypt were able to turn water into blood, as well as Moses, but the wizards were pointing away from God, and were fighting against Moses.

The Bible depicts that Jesus came to the world and gave His life as the ultimate sacrifice. Nothing can be added to or taken from the one great sacrifice. On the other hand, Stigmata is challenging the finality of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ because it seem to be extending it, and repeating it at least in some measure. It would therefore seem that, despite their absolute sincerity, those who manifest stigmata are not being worked on by the power of God. They are manifesting lying wonders with their force being either demonic or psychosomatic, or a combination of both. We would do far better if we put our trust in the finished work of Jesus than seek after people who seem to be in a state of crucifixion all over again. No one could bear the sins of the world except Jesus. It is futile to even imagine bearing those sins in our own body, and a great insult to God to think that we could HELP Him with the redemption of the world.

The media are always looking for ordinary people doing extraordinary things. And it is no surprise how the news about Jejomar Castillo, baby with stigmata of Jesus born on March 15 in Philippines went viral. We have entered the second half of the Great Lent; we meditate and reflect on the sufferings of Jesus Christ. This is a time when we are doing an unusually amazing job, staying focused but newsflash like this are too tempting. It is imperative we should keep our focus on the Cross. Can we compare anything with the sufferings and wounds inflicted on Christ? Can any human being share the pain Christ suffered for us? That is why our father in Christ, St. Thomas who proclaimed the faith in the resurrected Christ demanded to “see in his hands the print of the nails, and put his finger into the print of the nails, and thrust his hand into Jesus’ side (John 20:25)”. For a believer, these are personal marks of the identification of our Lord Jesus Christ who died for us on the Cross. I, as a believer, cannot find the same wounds in anyone or anywhere.

I pray for baby Jejomar’s speedy recovery but am greatly saddened by the so called believers’s responses: “Welcome to the Saviour”, “biblical return of Jesus Christ”. Holy Scripture reminds “O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified? “(Gal 3:1). This verse compels us to ponder if we wish to be foolish like the Galatians and be infatuated by events such as stigmata or we rekindle our faith in Christ, Our Saviour.

Christians must not waste time or devotion dwelling on miracles and wonders. These ‘stigmata wounds’ does not move me or ‘strengthen’ my faith in Christ, but I am stirred by martyrdom of the 21 Coptic Orthodox young men and the sufferings of the 72 year old sister who was ganged raped in Bengal, examples of true believers taking part in the suffering of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Let signs and wonders spark valuable conversation rather than being the manifestations of spiritual realities. Let us be filled with the Holy Spirit leading us into a life of holy living, not be in a state of awe and reverence for the occurrences of body marks corresponding to the crucifixion wounds of Jesus Christ.

*Fr. Jaise K. George has completed the theological education from STOTS Nagpur and is serving as the Vicar of various parishes in the Diocese of Delhi. He is the Co-ordinator for the Pre-Marital Guidance Programme, Diocese of Delhi. He is a research scholar in Psychology

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Prayer for the Victims of the Terrorist Attack at the Military School, Pakistan

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Dear Friends, Please join me in Prayer for the Victims (150 plus innocent children of all ages and teachers and those many wounded) of the Deadly Terrorist Attack at the Military School, Peshawar, Pakistan

Heavenly Father our Benevolent Lord, Creator and Sustainer of us all, hear us, Your children, at this time of intolerable pain and incredulity from the inhumane act. We come to You because You are our Savior and Benefactor Who grants peace and solace to those who suffer. It is only You that can heal our wounds and relieve our pain, especially of those crying families of those lost their loved ones in this inhumane act. We here by pray that you comfort the citizens of Pakistan at this time of terrible tragedy of trial and crisis. Shield them and us under the shadow of Your Cross. Grant to us, especially those families and friends affected by this inhumane act, Your Peace, Your Comfort, Your Touch, Your Love and assistance. Bestow solace and strength to the families of the innocent victims of the barbaric act of violence. Christ our eternal King and God, You have destroyed death and the devil by Your Cross and have restored man to life by Your Resurrection; give rest, Lord, to the soul of Your children who have fallen asleep in this tragedy, in Your Kingdom. Touch and heal those surviving families and friends. Work through the doctors, nurses, and emergency crews helping those many injured and their families. We too pray for the emergency responders, the heroes of today, the local and national law enforcement personnel, and the government officials responded and assisting the Victims. Help us and people throughout the world to comprehend that we are all your children. We are all brothers and sisters created in your image and likeness. Guide us to exist in harmony with one another, respectful of each other’s human rights and human dignity. We ask this of you, for You are a sympathetic and loving God and to You do we ascribe glory, to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit. Amen

— Fr Alexander J Kurien of the Indian Orthodox Church is the deputy administrator at the Government wide Policy (OGP) of United States government. The writer was blessed to visit this school twice

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The Impact of Hudhud Cyclone havoc at Visakhapatnam

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All of India rather the whole world came to know about the Cyclone HUDHUD that devastated Visakhapatnam, the city of Destiny also known as the green city at the east coast of India on the 12 th Oct, Sunday 2014. The Cyclonic storms crossed Tamil Nadu, Odisha and A P coast many times during the past, but none had hit Vizag city directly. This maybe the first time such a cyclone in massive proportion has struck the city. The once vibrant city of Visakhapatnam, ravaged by the unprecedented fury of Cyclone Hudhud has been reduced to debris.

The city presently has a population of around 2.5 Million. We are a little over 100 families of Orthodox Syrian Christians from Kerala native who are settled here of which a few are staying here for more than 60 years and all are the members of St. Stephens Orthodox Church, Visakhapatnam. By the blessing of God almighty our Church building and all the members are safe. The Keralites population at Vizag is around 30000. Our sister Church members of Marthoma Syrian church are also safe and sound. Kerala Kala Samithi, the Malayalee Association building and its auditorium has been destroyed. The international Airport building is smashed. This is an industrial cum tourist town and the Major Industries at Vizag such as the Hindustan Shipyard, Vizag steel plant, HPCL Refinery, NTPC power plant and all other establishment like Indian Navy, Port Trust, I T Sector, Tourist spots, film studios, fishing sector and many other manufacturing industries were shattered and operations were stopped at these industries for more than a week due to this obliteration.

Visakhapatnam was a fast growing city which at present is completely damaged with almost all the trees being uprooted and in a way the total green cover becoming almost invisible with the wind speeds of more than 200 Km/ hour speed. The suffering by one and all in the city is beyond anybody’s imagination and the poor bear the brunt. There were more than 50000 electrical poles which had collapsed and the city is filled with debris being cleared now area wise. It was a miracle that the Human life loss was limited to around 40 and thanks to the advanced weather technology observatory which forecasted the wind speed and timely intervention of Government authorities to rehabilitate the people to safer places from sea front. The rural area of neighboring 3 districts of Andhra Pradesh was also extremely devastated especially thousands of hectares of crops and horticulture plantations. It is touching to see the woes the lifestyle has taken in the urban and rural areas which have suffered especially without essentials like proper food, electricity, water, transportation and so on for more than a week. The Railway and Air traffic service have now restored in limited operations. The estimated loss in Vizag city alone immediately known is more than Rs. 70,000/- Crores.

We the Vizag citizens faced the tragedy with courage. The destruction of the property has not deterred their spirit and all show firm resolve to bounce back. The State Government is doing their best to reach all with a helping hand. I personally appreciate the Chief Minister of Andhra Pradesh Mr. N. Chandra Babu Naidu, for his determination and confidence level adding the support from Prime Minister of India and Opposition leaders and other philanthropists worldwide, who were present in the city from Monday and supervised the relief operation. With the help of many somehow the life is limping back to normalcy. The total restoration will take many more months and years.

In this tragic calamity I would mention with regret that the Orthodox Church hierarchy has never expressed empathy to the sufferers of Hudhud at Visakhapatnam or deputed anyone from the Church to convey their sympathy. I suppose the Orthodox Church is not bothered about such a level of National disaster. Our H.H. Catholica Bava Thirumeni and Other Metropolitans of Orthodox Holy Synod or any senior lay leaders of the Church Managing Committee did not offer any assistance to the victims. In my understanding there is not even a Bull (Kalpana) released by the Church hierarchy for peace, solace and to uphold the sufferers of disaster in their daily prayers. The Church did not extend any relief support or consideration to the victims, other than Mar Seraphim and Mar Chrysostemos who called the Visakhapatnam Orthodox Church Vicar Rev. Fr. Jacob Thomas.

I am not overstepping with comments on Malankara Orthodox Church Hierarchy but request that our Church should come out to help and pray for the victims of National and International tragedies in future. I am happy to note that various Government departments, Industrialists and many NGO’s are extending free service to Vizagites to get back to the normal life. At this point it is worth revealing that Rev. Fr. K.I. Varghese, Vicar of Orthodox Church Jagadhalpur, Odisha of nearest Orthodox Church to Vizag visited one of the rehabilitation camps on October 16, 2014 and distributed 300 food packets and Thanks to Fr. K.I.Varghese and all his parish members.

The writer Mr. Sam Cherian Karuvely is a Former Sabha Managing Committee Member of Malankara Orthodox Church
Courtsey Photo: The Hindu –Hoardings collapse due to high wind speed at Siripuram Junction as the very severe cyclonic storm Hudhud passes over Visakhapatnam on Sunday. Photo: K.R. Deepak

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Catholicos Baselios Didymus I – A truly Grand Pontiff

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His Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios Thirumeni was the Metropolitan of the Malabar Diocese in 1970. I assumed charge as the Resident Editor of Malayala Manorama, Calicut, on January 7, 1970, and the same evening I went to Chathamangalam, the headquarters of the Syrian Orthodox Church, Diocese of Malabar, to call on Thirumeni. Chathamangalam is about 18 kilometres from Calicut. Old Malabar extended from Palakkad to Kasargod.

At that time Thirumeni was in his late 40s. I had earlier visited all the newspaper offices in Calicut and by evening, I went with the then News Editor of Calicut, Thomas Jacob. Thomas Jacob is now the Editorial Director of Malayala Manorama.

I was a little surprised to note that the head of the entire Malabar Diocese lived in a small run-down house with unpolished windows and doors. The signpost of the Diocese was half tilted and the paint was peeling off. There was limited furniture in what was supposed to be “the headquarters”. Those days, the Patriarch faction and the Orthodox faction were united. Thirumeni was the Metropolitan of the united faction of the Syrian Orthodox Church in Malabar.

Despite his humble nature, I was awestruck by his commanding voice and personality. I took a quick look around and realised that he was living the life of a hermit. At that point of time, the Syrian Church did not have its own building even in Calicut city. A shed of the Manamel Family doubled up as the abode of the Syrian Church in the city.

Thirumeni had the grace and aura of an enlightened monk. At the first meeting itself, I developed a spiritual bonding with Thirumeni. He offered me and Thomas Jacob tea without milk and told us that he does not drink tea or coffee. Thirumeni observes fasting most of the time, a habit he acquired from the days he started his spiritual journey from Pathanapuram Dayara.

Just when we were about to leave, he told us that he had no telephone connection. Thirumeni said he would be grateful if I could help him get a land-line telephone connection from the Posts & Telegraph Department. There were no mobile phones those days. Apparently, Thirumeni had applied for a telephone one-and-a-half years back. I promised him to go to the P & T office in Calicut the next day itself and follow up the matter.

The Chief of the P & T Department, Calicut Circle, asked me in whose name the application was made. I said it was in the name of His Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios, Metropolitan, Malabar Diocese, Syrian Orthodox Church, Chathamangalam. The director said there was no application in the name of His Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios and gave the register to me. I went through the list and found a name which read: Miss Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios, in an application submitted a year-and-a-half ago and that too in general category. Both the director and I had a hearty laugh. The next day, Thirumeni got a land-line telephone connection at the Chathamangalam Aramana. He responded with a smile when I narrated the Miss Grace story.

Thirumeni had a second-hand, petrol guzzling Vanguard Car, which was too expensive to maintain. The Manamel Family chipped in to help convert it into a diesel car. Despite that, Thirumeni rarely used the car. He spent most of his time in prayers at the small Chapel attached to his Aramana.

Despite being the Head of the Syrian Church in Malabar, he shunned regal costumes and used simple Hawai rubber slippers. Years later, I had to prompt him to opt for a better pair of footwear.

During my ten-year stint in Calicut, I used to visit the Aramana twice a month. Thirumeni prayed in silence with me every time I visited.

Every 3 months, when he returned from his Pathanapuram trip, Thirumeni brought two bottles of ‘real golden syrup’ (made out of palm essence) and presented it to either my wife, Prema, or to my son, Jayant. He was very fond of little Jayant, who used to mischievously pull Thirumeni’s beard sitting on his lap and also playfully distract him while he was praying during his visits to our Calicut home regularly. Once, Thirumeni stopped his prayer and smiled at Jayant. That prodding did the trick. Not a scolding, but the gentle smile was a clear signal to pray and not to run around.

Thirumeni’s greatest contribution to Calicut was the Calicut Cathedral of our Church. He got a nice plot of land at Bilathikulam from a relative of Prem Nazir (film actor) at a concessional rate. The Cathedral was built at a cost of Rs70,000 in 1971. The architect was late Kanianthara Joseph Alexander, the then Town Planner of Calicut, who offered his services without remuneration.

During his morning strolls, the Founder Chief Editor of Mathrubhumi, K.P. Kesava Menon, who lived in Bilathikulam, would walk up to our Cathedral building site daily and enquire about the progress of construction of the Church building.

Menon, who had by then lost his vision, used to tell the contractor that he could visualise a grand church taking shape there with his mind’s eye.

Thirumeni roped in the then Catholicos of the Malankara Syrian Church, His Holiness Ougen Bava, to inaugurate the Cathedral.

I remember Kesava Menon, who was also present to grace the occasion, showering praises on His Grace Thomas Mar Thimothios.

The rift between the Patriarch group and the Orthodox faction had come to the fore, but the Patriarch group did not pose any trouble out of sheer respect for Thirumeni. The Patriarch group quietly moved away and built their own church near Malaparamba. The eventual split deeply pained Thirumeni, but his loyalty to the Orthodox faction remained steadfast.

A powerful and enterprising priest in Malabar those days was Mathai Nooranal Achen of Sulthan Bathery. The Bathery Church was built due to the untiring efforts of Nooranal Achen, who was also the secretary of the St. Mary’s College, Sulthan Bathery. A section of the Patriarch Group in Sulthan Bathery sought equal rights to conduct service at Nooranal Achen’s Church, where he conducted Holy Mass every Sunday without fail for two decades. This provoked Nooranal Achen, who even threatened self-immolation to dissuade the Patriarch group. Thirumeni convened many meetings in Calicut to find a way to help Nooranal Achen.

The then ministers (late) Baby John and K.M. Mani came out with a compromise formula which envisaged allowing the Patriarch faction to conduct at least two services a month. This was vociferously opposed by Nooranal Achen.

Thirumeni decided to go a satyagraha in front of the Sulthan Bathery Church in support of Nooranal Achen, a decision which shocked me. I tried to dissuade the soft-spoken Thirumeni from this, but he stuck to his decision.

The Patriarch faction later relented and built another Church in Bathery, ending the impasse.

Thirumeni had no interest in politics, but he shared a great rapport with former minister E.Chandrasekharan Nair of the CPI, mainly due to Nair’s exemplary character.

There is another interesting episode related to Thirumeni, which I am able to recollect. Kollamparambil Kurian Mathew (Mohan) invited Thirumeni to Kottayam Cheriapally to conduct his wedding with Usha, my wife Prema’s sister. The service was to start at 3 p.m but Thirumeni had not arrived by then.

Mohan’s family tried in vain to contact Devalokam Aramana to find out his whereabouts. Eruthikkal Kochachen, who was the Vice-Principal of C.M.S. College and also the Vicar of Cheriapally, promptly started the service at 3 p.m to avoid any confusion. Around 3.30 p.m., Thirumeni arrived in his Vanguard Diesel Car, put on his robes and took over the Service from Eruthikkal Kochachen. Later, Thirumeni apologised to Mohan’s family. He said after the long drive from Calicut, he had overslept at Devalokam. He never shied away from owning up a mistake, another mark of his greatness.

After I shifted to Malayala Manorama, Kottayam, in March 1980, we did not meet that frequently.

In 1995, he came all the way from Calicut to be present for the 25th wedding anniversary of Prema and me. This was touching.

During Thirumeni’s consecration as the Catholicos His Holiness Baselios Mar Thoma Didymus I at Parumala Church, when he saw me, he took a step down from the Sanctum and granted me a look which had all the warmth in the world in it.

His prayers were always with us in difficult times, helping us to choose the right path.

Everybody referred to him as Valia Bava (Grand Pontiff). Thirumeni was truly a Valia Bava, and our family friend. He understood my reluctance to be part of any Church Committee and graced me to uphold the ethical values cherished by a journalist.

The article is written by Mammen Mathew, the Chief Editor Malayala Manorama – originally published in Malayala Manorama English Edition on May 29, 2014