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Marth Anna or St. Alphonsa Muttathupadathu or St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception
Alphonsama.jpg
Marth Anna or Saint Alphonsa
First Indian woman Christian Saint
Born 19 August 1910(1910-08-19), Kudamaloor, Palai, India
Died 28 July 1946 (aged 35), Bharananganam, Palai, Kerala, India)
Venerated in Catholic Church
Beatified 8 February 1986, Kottayam by Pope John Paul II
Canonized 12 October 2008, Vatican City by Pope Benedict XVI
Major shrine Saint Alphonsama Church, Bharananganam, Kerala, India.
Feast 28 July
Patronage against illness

Saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu : Marth Anna : (Malayalam: അല്ഫോന്‍സാ മുട്ടത്തുപാടത്ത്; Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception; 19 August 1910 – 28 July 1946) is a Catholic Saint, the second person of Indian origin to be canonized as a saint by the Roman Catholic Church and the first canonized saint of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Oriental-rite Catholic Church.

Alphonsamma, as she was locally known, was born in Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Palai.She had a poor, difficult childhood and experienced early loss and suffering. She joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, and through them completed schooling and made her permanent vows in 1936. She taught school for years but was plagued by illness.

Claims of her intervention began almost immediately upon her death, and often involved the children in the convent school where she had taught. The cause of Sister Alphonsa began on 2 December 1953 in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Palai and she was declared a Servant of God. She was declared Venerable on 9 July 1985 by Pope John Paul II. Her beatification was declared 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam.

Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed for her intervention, many of them involving straightening of clubbed feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself. Two of these cases were submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as proof of her miraculous intervention. The continuing cures are chronicled in the magazine PassionFlower.[1]

On Sunday, 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced her canonization at a ceremony at St Peter's Square.[1][2]

Early life

She was born as Annakkutty (little Anna) in Kudamaloor, a village in the princely state of Travancore which was under the British Raj (now present day Kottayam district, Kerala, India) to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu. She was baptized on 27 August 1910 at Saint Mary's Church in Kudamaloor under the patronage of Saint Anna.[3] Anna's mother died when she was young, so her maternal aunt raised her. Anna was educated by her great-uncle, Father Joseph Muttathupadathu. When Anna was three years old, she contracted eczema and suffered for over a year.[1]

In 1916 Anna started her schooling in Arpookara. She received First Communion on 27 November 1917. In 1918 she was transferred to the school in Muttuchira. In 1923 Anna was badly burned on her feet when she fell into a pit of burning chaff. This accident left her permanently disabled.

When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation.[4] She arrived at the Poor Clares convent at Bharananganam on Pentecost 1927. She received the postulant's veil on 2 August 1928 and took the name Alphonsa. In May 1929 she entered the Malayalam High School at Vazhappally. Her foster mother died in 1930.

On 19 May 1930 she received her religious habit at Bharananganam. Three days later she resumed her studies at Changanacherry, while working as a temporary teacher at the school at Vakakkad. On 11 August 1931 she joined the novitiate. Anna took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936. Two days later she returned to Bharananganam from Changanacherry.

She taught elementary school, but was often sick and unable to teach.[1]

Health declines

Blessed Alphonsa01:33

Blessed Alphonsa

First woman saint of India.

In December 1936 she was reportedly cured from her ailments through the intervention of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, but on 14 June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened. On 18 October 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and weakened her again.

Her health continued to deteriorate over a period of months. She received extreme unction on 29 September, 1941. The next day it is believed that she regained her memory, though not complete health. Her health improved over the next few years, until in July 1945 she developed a stomach problem that caused vomiting.[5]

Death

Saint Alphonsa in her coffin

Saint Alphonsa's mortal remains lying-in-state in her coffin

She died on 28 July 1946, aged 35. She is buried at Bharananganam, Travancore (present day Kerala) in the Diocese of Palai.

Her tomb in Bharananganam has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported by some faithful.[6] The miracle attributed to her intercession and approved by the Vatican for the canonization was the healing of the club foot of an infant in 1999.[7][8]

Beatification

Part of a series on
Christianity
in India
India christianity
Background

Nasrani
Saint Thomas Christians
Malankara Church
Holy Apostolic Throne of St. Thomas
Ancient Crosses of India
Coonan Cross Oath
Synod of Diamper

People/Saints

St. Thomas the Apostle
Mar Sapor and Prodh
Thomas of Cana
St. Alphonsa
Blessed Kuriakose Chavara
Fr. Varghese Palakkappillil
Blessed Kunjachan
Blessed Euphrasia
Blessed Mariam Thressia
Blessed Mother Teresa
St. Francis Xavier
St. Gonsalo Garcia
Marthoma Metrans
St. Gregorios of Parumala
Antonio Francisco Xavier Alvares

Churches

Syro-Malabar Catholic Church
Syro-Malankara Catholic Church
Latin Catholic Church
Indian Orthodox Church
Jacobite Syrian Church
Malabar Independent Church
Mar Thoma Church
St. Thomas Evangelical Church
Andhra Evangelical Lutheran Church
Church of North India
Church of South India




On 2 December 1953, Eugène-Gabriel-Gervais-Laurent Cardinal Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification. Pope John Paul II formally approved a miracle attributed to her intercession and Alphonsa was declared Servant of God on 9 July 1985. She was then known as Venerable Sister Alphonsa. She was beatified along with Kuriakose Elias Chavara at Kottayam.

During the Apostolic Pilgrimage to India of Pope John Paul II , the pope said as part of his speech at Nehru Stadium, Kottayam on 8 February 1986:

"From early in her life, Sister Alphonsa experienced great suffering. With the passing of the years, the heavenly Father gave her an ever fuller share in the Passion of his beloved Son. We recall how she experienced not only physical pain of great intensity, but also the spiritual suffering of being misunderstood and misjudged by others. But she constantly accepted all her sufferings with serenity and trust in God, being firmly convinced that they would purify her motives, help her to overcome all selfishness, and unite her more closely with her beloved divine Spouse. She wrote to her spiritual director: "Dear Father, as my good Lord Jesus loves me so very much, I sincerely desire to remain on this sick bed and suffer not only this, but anything else besides, even to the end of the world. I feel now that God has intended my life to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering" (20 November 1944). She came to love suffering because she loved the suffering Christ. She learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord."[9]

Canonisation

Pope Benedict XVI cleared Sister Alphonsa's name for canonisation on 1 June 2007, a process that was started 55 years ago. She was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1986 in Kottayam, 40 years after her death, in recognition of the numerous miracles associated with her.

The miracle attributed to her intercession and approved by the Vatican for the canonization was the healing of the club foot of an infant in 1999.[7][8] She was elevated to sainthood on 12 October 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.[7][8][10] The final ceremony for the canonisation began on 12 October 2008 with the holy relics of Alphonsa being presented to the Pope by Sister Celia, Mother General of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, the congregation to which Sister Alphonsa belonged. Celia was accompanied by Vice Postulator Father Francis Vadakkel and former Kerala minister K. M. Mani, all holding lit candles. Speaking in English, the Pope declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, after reading excerpts from the Holy Bible. The Pope himself read out the biography of Alphonsa after the ceremony.[11]

In the homily, Pope Benedict recalled Saint Alphonsa's life as one of "extreme physical and spiritual suffering."

"This exceptional woman ... was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father", the pope stated. "By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the 'rich fare and choice wines' of the heavenly kingdom."

"(Her) heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial", the pope stated before the ceremony ended.[4]

Pope Benedict also invited people "to pray for reconciliation and peace for some situations that that are causing alarm and great suffering," specifically citing the civil war situation in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of the Congo, and "the violence against Christians in Iraq and India." .[12]

The ceremony was attended by around 25,000 people of Indian origin - many waving Indian flags - as well as a large delegation from India. A 15-member official Indian delegation, led by Labour Minister Oscar Fernandes, attended the ceremony.

Even as Sr. Alphonsa was raised to the realm of saints by the Vatican on Sunday, the Catholic Church in Kerala celebrated the canonisation of the first Indian saint from an Indian Rite. Across the State, church bells tolled as Pope Benedict XVI named her St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception.

The cemetery where the Franciscan Clarist nun was buried 62 years ago at St Mary’s Forane Church at Bharananganam has now been turned into the chapel which houses her mortal remains. The canonisation was greeted with the bursting of firecrackers and the toll of church bells. St Mary’s Forane church at Kudmaloor, the parent parish of the saint, also celebrated a special Mass.[13]

Feast

Thousands converge on the small town of Bharananganam when they celebrate the feast of Saint Alphonsa from 19 to 28 July each year; her tomb is becoming a pilgrimage site these days as miracles are reported by some devotees.[6]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 "Patron Saints Index". SQPN. http://saints.sqpn.com/sainta1g.htm. 
  2. Indian Catholics cheer their first woman saint
  3. "Patron Saints Index". SQPN. http://saints.sqpn.com/sainta1g.htm. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Beatification of Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Alfonsa Muttathupandathu". Vatican. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/homilies/1986/documents/hf_jp-ii_hom_19860208_stadio-kattayam_en.html. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  5. Malayala Manorama News articles about Sister Alphonsa, Kottayam, March 2, 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 "Sister Alphonsa's canonisation date to be decided on March 1". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/thehindu/holnus/001200802261751.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 "Malayala Manorama News Story, March 7, 2008". Malayala Manorama. http://www.manoramaonline.com/cgi-bin/MMOnline.dll/portal/ep/malayalamContentView.do?programId=1073753693&contentId=2512288&contentType=EDITORIAL&articleType=Malayalam%20News&BV_ID=@@@. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 "A life of suffering, Sep 02, 2007". The Hindu. http://www.hinduonnet.com/thehindu/mag/2007/09/02/stories/2007090250100500.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  9. "Beatification speech of Pope John Paul II". Alphonsa site. http://www.alphonsa.com/Content-13/BEATIFICATION.html. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  10. "Kerala nun Sister Alphonsa is now Saint Alphonsa, Oct 12, 2008". ndtv.com. http://www.ndtv.com/convergence/ndtv/story.aspx?id=NEWEN20080068465&ch=10/12/2008%201:51:00%20PM. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  11. "Sister Alphonsa becomes India's first woman saint". The Times of India. http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/News/PoliticsNation/Sister_Alphonsa_becomes_Indias_first_woman_saint/articleshow/3586924.cms. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  12. "Pope Canonizes India's First Woman Saint, Calls For End To Violence". UCAN. http://www.ucanews.com/2008/10/13/pope-canonizes-indias-first-woman-saint-calls-for-end-to-violence/. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
  13. "Catholic Church celebrates Alphonsa’s canonisation". The Hindu. http://www.hindu.com/2008/10/13/stories/2008101356541300.htm. Retrieved 2009-10-08. 
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