Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara’s Message to Parents

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Pious Joseph

  1. A good Christian Family resembles to heavenly abode. All the members in the family who are either related by birth or bonded in nuptial relations shall regard the elders in high esteem and live together in unity and solidarity. Every person shall maintain highest dignity and aim salvation in all his words and deeds.
  2. Your children are divine investments and they shall be brought up in the best way possible and you shall extend to them all kinds of protection. They are to purified in the Holy Grail, made his disciple and to be committed to Him on the Day of Judgment. This is the responsibility that Lord Jesus has assigned to you.
  3. All the members in a family shall have a deep rooted love for one another. This underlying love can bring in peace and friendship in the family, which in turn enables them to face the troubles and tribulations with utmost calm and thereby they overcome all the tragedies in life.
  4. In every family there shall be order and peace and they shall always have concern for eternal salvation. It may be noted that many a good family had plunged into utter ruins owing to its absence.
  5. They shall be given good books worth reading. The parents shall take special care that undesirable publications do not reach them. Possessing indecent publications is like keep fire on a haystack.
  6. You shall take extreme care in the upbringing of your children. You shall make it a daily practice that you will remember them in your prayers.
  7. Parents shall keep a close watch in the educational pursuits of their children. It must be ensured frequently that they do not be trapped into undesirable friendships.
  8. Parents must also be very moderate in blaming and punishing their children. Gentle words carry more weight than high-sounding outcries.
  9. Children must be taught to say their prayers at an early stage. Let them grow up in a strong faith of God.
  10. Your daily routines shall be punctual and in order. It shall not be like a loose bound book.
  11. Parents shall also ensure that their children are given ample freedom when they attain the age of discretion to choose their vocation.
  12. Parents shall also see that they prepare there will when in good health and discretion and that the family property may be divided according to the rules and customs in force.
  13. It is the sacred duty of the children to respect their parents diligently. They shall be taken care of as a treasure in their old age and sickness. Such children are eligible for the grace of God.

   14. Your relationship and friendship shall be highly prudent. It shall be ensured that               your friendship is extended to morally and ethically good people.

  1.  Responding with a vengeance is cruel. It must be borne in mind that a good character can be expected from a person of reason and patience.
  2. Do not drag petty differences into courts of law. That can move hearts into farther zones.
  3. Do not borrow money from others. Such insolvency can lead even your children to trouble after your life.
  4. Do not expose your opulence. Be humble in words and activities. You must also discard luxuries in marriages. A burning fire in haystack is momentary. But a small light shedding from a little lamp can remain for a very long time.
  5.  Luxury and miserliness are the two sides of the same coin. Both can lead you to evil designs. Your money should be utilized for common good. Otherwise you will be doing unethical things.
  6.  You shall keep relationships with God-loving people. Material gains shall not be your sole aim.
  7. Industriousness shall be maintained in your homes. Do not while away your time. Sloth leads you to many vices.
  8. Liquor is a major vice and shall not be allowed to enter your home. Many families have been destroyed by this evil.
  9. 23. Be upright in your business activities. Whatever you amass through dishonesty and tricks can be dissolved like a mass of snow.
  10. There shall not be any day in your life, which is not devoted to others with some kind of help. God will not count that day as part of your life. You must also see that alms-seekers are not driven away.
  11. Your servants shall be given appropriate remuneration. Do not talk ill of the poor and the weak. If you do so their tears shall bear witness against you in the heavenly court of God.
  12. There is a panacea for maintaining the divine light in your homes. That is the Holy Mass conducted in the church. Make sure at least one member of your family attending it daily.
  13. Is it sufficient to attend the holy mass on Sundays and on the days of obligation? No! That day must be devoted for reading good books, doing good things and for listening to gospel discourse. You must also find time to visit the poor and the sick.
  14. You shall not default your family prayer at any cost. You shall say your prayers with all members at the appointed time. Let that be a witness to others as well

Sayings of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara to Children

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Pious Joseph

            “The children are treasures entrusted to the families by God to sanctify their souls with his precious blood, and make them His ministers in this world, and to return them to Him on the day of final Judgment.”   St. Chavara

  • Children, you are God’s investment in the hands of your parents.
  • The Children who have love of God and fear of God will love and respect their parents
  • Trust your mother; God will hear the mother’s request like the baby’s request.
  • Wisdom and purity should be spiritual food, like food for natural growth.
  • Go to school regularly and recall what is taught during the week
  • Laziness fosters evil habits.
  • Let your friends be those who love God.
  • Good friends will make you good.
  • Keeping of bad books is like hiding fire in straw.
  • Regular reading of good books and meditating on it will illumine the mind.
  • Attain punctuality by means of a regular time-table.
  • You angels will be turned to devils, if you fall into evil situation.
  • You ought to reach home before evening and take part in the evening prayers.
  • Your attire and sanctity ought to be according to your age
  • Immoderate attire will only lead you to evil.
  • Let your ability be in piety regulating your life and controlling your senses.
  • You ought to love truth and justice.
  • What earn by deceit and theft will melt like snow.
  • Your profession must be according to your knowledge and age.
  • Let there be no day in your life in which you did no good to others.
  • Let not the insult and quarrels of others be a cause of hatred and enmity.
  • Do not insult or trouble the poor.
  • God decides your vocation and you choose it.
  • When you choose your partner in life, choose one who has a good character and good manners
  • Even if you are grown in age and maturity you have to accept your parents and submit to them
  • Do not hate your own brethren.
  • It is the duty of children to look after their parents.
  • Do not be the cause of your parents shedding tears on account of you.
  • The humble man is the greatest among men.
  • Since you belong to God, you should be given back to God.

The Uplifter of the Dignity of Women

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Kiran George

            The problems faced by women can be traced from beginning of the world. Many people came forward to fight against the evils, marginalization and problems faced by women throughout the history. Chavara was a person who sensed the need to empower women, to uplift the dignity of women and had taken bold steps o actualize it.

            The status of women in the 19th century the time of Chavara was very pathetic. As it was a patriarchal society there was no freedom either at home or in the society for women. The education for them was restricted till adolescence. Low caste women were forbidden even the elementary education they were denied share of the family property. Women had no right to go for job and earn money. In the church women were not allowed to participate in retreats conducted in the church grounds. They had no representations in parish councils. Consecrated lie for women was unknown. In fact their role in society was only child bearing, rearing and working for the comfort of everyone in the home.

            To uplift the status of the women Chavara as a pioneering effort formed a religious community for women in 1866 presently known as CMC. The members of the congregation were to give education and training to girls so that future mothers would be enlightened to instruct and guide their children. By training Chavara had the idea of teaching te girls handicraft, making rosaries, scapulars and artificial flowers.

            As Chavara had the idea of making women itself as the agents of their progress he played a crucial role in starting a boarding house attached to convent for the residential study of the young girls. The first boarding school was opened at Koonamavu. Attention was give to the intellectual, mental, social and spiritual development girls. In short Chavara had vision of empowering women in all spears and he fulfilled it.

Contributions of St. Chavara to Dalits

Nuns hold Indian flags and a picture of new Indian saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara before a canonisation ceremony led by Pope Francis, in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican

Fijo C.V.

            Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805-1871), a renowned social reformer, was a native from the land of Kerala in India.  Being a spiritual leader, the major orientation of his life and activities was for the empowerment of people.  The social situations of Kerala during his life time were deplorable due to the existence of a caste- oriented and socially unequal society. People belonging to the higher castes enjoyed many privileges while the lower castes were neglected and oppressed. Government jobs and general education were denied to people of the lower castes. They were not allowed even to walk along public roads. Untouchability and such evil customs were predominant and accepted practices in the society.

            Chavara worked hard to raise the status of his fellow beings and provide them better chances to progress through innovative initiatives and opening opportunities for everyone to flourish and progress.  Today Kerala is holding the highest literacy rate in India and people are enjoying equal social status and the fruits of development. In 1846 the monastery at Mannanam started a new institution of Sanskrit studies where the seminarians and students from any caste or religion sat together and studied. For the poor students he arranged the provision to supply study materials, clothes and mid-day meals, which even the government schools were not providing at that time. he opened another school at the neighbouring village Arpookara. Near Arpookara Thuruthumali hill he was built a Chapel and school for the converts from the Pulaya caste.

            St. Chavara is a luminary not only in the spiritual and ecclesial levels. He was also one of the topmost social reformers India has even seen. He visualized a society when all people can live in the joy of the children of God, enjoying equality, freedom and prosperity.

Religious Congregations for Men and Women

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Bibin Thomas

      God in His loving providence provides saints for the Church for her spiritual renaissance. Saints Francis of Assisi, Dominic, Benedict, Ignatius of Loyola were selected for the spiritual renewal of the Church in the right course of time. They started religious congregations and motivated people to lead saintly life. St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was instrumental to begin indigenous religious congregations for men and women and became the trend setter in the flourishing catholic movement in Indian church, particularly the Syro Malabar Church.

            By the words of saint Chavara, from the first page of his chronicle, we may allude to the request fathers Palackal and Porukara (Rector & Spiritual animator of Saint Chavara) 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).

        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.

            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.

Printing Press

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Arun Jose

In 1846 Saint Chavara took essential steps in opening a printing press for the Church in Kerala. At that time there were only two printing presses in Kerala, one owned by Protestant missionaries and another run by the state government. First he approached the Protestant missionaries to get technical help to start a printing press. However, they refused to help. Hence, he somehow got permission to see the press operated by the government at Thiruvananthapuram, took mental note of its details, made a mini sample press with his own hands and asked a carpenter to make a full size press according to his model. The Carpenter was successful in implementing the plan of Saint Chavara. Thus the dream of Saint Chavara to begin a press for Catholics was realized.

It was from this press that the first Malayalam daily newspaper, Deepika (Torch-bearer), came out in 1887. He was also the first Indian to start a printing press in the private ownership.  Chavara has proved his interest in printing press and publication by situating press with great pain and struggle to awakening the Kerala church specially in the field of literatures, devotional prayer books and many people especially young men and women were acquired knowledge on their mother tongue and various news about kerala church and news from other prominent areas.

Upavisala or Home for the Destitute

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Arun Jose

Chavara was very much compassionate towards the poor and marginalized people of the society. In the history of the life of the Church in Kerala, before the time of Chavara, there was no charitable institute as such, where the aged persons or orphans were cared for and protected. There was no pious association to help the dying in a spiritual way.

The home for sick and aged which Chavara started in 1869 at Kainakary. It was a home to give refuge and care to the sick and old who had no one to look after them, and to prepare the dying brothern to face a happy death  in a spiritual way. This was the beginning of the organized humanitarian work of the Kerala Church (Mundaden, 2008).

Inorder to give food and clothing to the poor, Fr. Chavara had also bought few acres of land for financial support near the Mannanam Monastery.

Literary Works

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Nixon Mathew

            St Kuriakose Elias Chavara was a literary genius who is considered as the apostle of Christian literature in his time. His contributions can be divided into two categories namely literary (poetic) writings and spiritual writings. 

Compunction of Heart (Atmanutapam)

            Written in epic (Mahakavyam) style, Compunction of Heart (Atmanutapam) is the most significant work of Kurikoose Elias Chavara. The book treats life of Jesus from birth to ascension into heaven and life of Mary from ascension of Jesus to assumption of Mary into heaven. The main significance of this is the self-reflection of Chavara Kuriakose which has been beautifully entwine in the work.

Dirge (Parvam/Pana)

            Keeping in mind the custom of relatives and friends keeping vigil around the dead body of a family member, Dirge was written in order to sing loud on occasion like this. Rather than emphasizing on the suffering in purgatory, our attitude towards the dead is given importance.. In order to inspire the listeners to be kind towards the dead, the poem contains ten parables.

Martyrdom of Anastasia

            The story of St. Anastasia who suffered martyrdom under Emperor Valerian has been written in beautiful poetic form. It is a minor epic (Khandakavyam). It is written in boat song (vancipatt) style .

Meditation Colloquies (Dhyanasallapangal)

            It was a sort of spiritual diary which he wrote between 1866 and 1868. The book is a standing testimony to the fact that Chavara was a master of spirituality and attained highest levels of mystical experience.

Oru Nalla Appante Chavarul (Malayalam)

            St Chavara had written a letter to his parishners at Kainakary. It contains lots of exhortations which are to be practiced in Christian families.

Chronicles

            Under the title of “Mannanam Nalagangal” Fr Chavara recorded all the events that had been taken place during his time and it explain before us the personality of St Chavara.

Eclogues

            Fr Chavara had written 10 eclogues or liturgical dramas in 1859. The first Indian drama is Neeldarpan was published in the year 1860.  So, he can be considered the father of Indian drama particularly Malayalam drama.

St. Chavara: The Star of Renaissance

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Joice Jacob

            The nineteenth century of Kerala society was a dark age. Even though tremendous changes took place in Europe in the fields of language, science, literature and other social realms in the sixteenth century, this God’s own country was far behind in those areas and was under the slavery of ignorance and unjust caste system. In that Dark Age of such a social scenario, there rose a light of life named Kuriakose in Kainakary. He was a wonder worker through God – human relationship. He lived ahead of his time. He moved among the people of his time doing all the good and favours that he could do and left behind him the fire of renaissance. He walked the less travelled path. He was not a follower of the traditional paths. But he made new paths. It is glimpse of the pioneering works of St. Chavara.

            The ordinary people were ignorant about education in the nineteenth century in Kerala. Sanskrit was taught in some of the Brahminic Kalaries only; and that was restricted only for the male children of the Brahminic family. There were one or two English schools run by protestant missionaries. Saint chavara knew that ignorance is a curse and that only through education the evils of ignorance can be removed. In the first half of the nineteenth century, admission to schools was denied to children from Dalits and other socially and economically backward communities.

            Fr. Chavara set up schools where admission to students irrespective of caste, creed and status was guaranteed. He provided educational facilities for girls. He gave new direction for the ‘Pallikkoodam’ movement. As the vicar general, he issued a circular which made it mandatory for every church to have a school attached to it. In fact he threatened the reluctant church.Afterthis, thousands of schools sprouted in state. It was in the end of the twentieth century, mid-day meal was introduced by government. One and a half century before this, Fr.chavara provided food for the students of the poor family.

            He set up India’s first home for the poor at kainakary which continues till today. He gave written instruction on how funds should be collected to run this home.Fr. Chavara had written as many as ten eclogues. This is even years before the famous Indian Dramas were written. “Anasthasiyayude Rakthashakshyam” is considered to be the first short poetic work in Malayalam. “Athmanuthapam” is the first mystical writing.

            There was no press for catholic during his time. So the literature and libraries of spiritual needs were little. Fr. Chavara started a press at mannanam by taking many difficulties from all the parts and started the press and liberated the dead literary field of Malayalam. He did not study architecture; but he built kerala’s first double storied building at mannanam. This press is the mother of “Deepika”, the first Malayalam daily. Again his seminary at mannanam was Kerala’s biggest building at that time.

            He is the founder of first indigenous religious congregations for both men and women: CMI and CMC. Some of the other his first of its kind contributions is the way of the cross; tie coconut (kettuthengu), catechism class, forty hour adoration, pidiyari, handcrafts. He is remembered for his various contributions to the religious, social, cultural development of Kerala. He was endowed with exceptional leadership qualities.

Social Background of Kerala in 19th Century

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Rony Scaria

            Society was divided in lower-caste and upper-caste. Upper-caste consists of Brahmin, Kshetria, Vaisya and Shoodra. Lower-caste consists of ezhavas, Parayas, Pulayas, Arayas, Ulladas etc. In Kerala Shoodra community was constituted by Nairs. The kings were emerged from this Shoodras. Brahmins possessed the superior possition in caste hierarchy. Nairs have the second possition in the society. Yathavas, Ezhavas, Asaris,Kollan, Mukkuvas, etc. have lower position than nairs. The untouchables constituted Vannan, Malayar, Parayar, Panas, etc.

            Each caste was instructed to keep a fixed distance from their upper-caste. Nairs were considered as untouchable by Brahmins. Nairs were required to keep a distance of sixteen meters from Brahmins. Ezhavas could keep 32 meters and Pulayas should keep 64 meter distance. Like this Ezhavas required to keep 16 meters and Pulayas to keep 32 meters distance from Nairs. The distance should be different from place to place. An Upper-caste lost his purity if any untouchable touch him. Some castes considered which as unseeabls. A Brahmin do not see an Ullada. If he so an Ullada he lost his purity. Such Brahmins could not entered in his house without bathing. The lower-caste did not pass near to the bathing pond of higher-caste. The lower-caste should be always conscious to keep distance from upper-caste. The sound produced for the arrival of upper-caste is known as Teendadal.

            The feudal system and political conditions in Malabar strengthen slavery and caste system. Exchange of land was companied with the exchange of slaves. Slavery was practiced as hereditary their exist the system that given slave for rent. Travenkoor and Cochin was under the control of local rulers, while Malabar was under British rule. So Caste system was more power full in Travenkoor and Kochin. When a lower-caste wanted to buy card from post office, he should put money on a; leaf and should go away. The upper-postmaster should take the money and put the card at the same place and after his return; the lower-caste should take the card. Ezhavas never get jobs in government service. Even Dr Palpu did not get a job; only because of he was an Ezhava. In early period, Brahmin was got only get a job. They completely control the administrative system.

Brahmins interpreted Puranas and Ithihasas according to their selfish motives and claim the honourship of the epics. They also claim the honourship of temple lands. The possessed right of doing ritual in temples. The lower-castes were prohibited to use public roads. They were civierly punished if they entered in to public roads or pass near to a high-caste .They prohibited to use foot wares, umbrellas, and costly ornaments and dress.

Evil cast system and blind faith in religion increasingly grown. Animal sacrifice were increased hen, goat etc killed mercilessly. Vannattimatu was one of the most prominent customs in Travenkoor and Malabar. The dress washed by Vannatty was called Mattu. It believed that death, delivery etc created pollution. The first menses of a girl o is known as Thirundukuli. This was celebrated largely. Generally Nair and Teen considered it as a big custom. It was a four days celebration and in the day. There was a procession which consisted of elephants.