Saint Alphonsa…Our Alphonsama…

Saint Alphonsa was born on the 19th of August 1910, in Kudamaloor a village in Kottayam district in Kerala. She was born to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu, they named her Annakutty. She was baptised on the 27th of August 1910 at Saint Mary’s Church. At a very young age Annakutty experienced the loss of her mother, so she was raised by her aunt Anna Murickan. Despite her early years being filled with sufferings from her foster mother, Annakutty was greatly loved by her aunt and foster mother Anna.

In 1916, Annakutty started school in Arpookara. On the 27th of November 1917, she received First Holy Communion. A year later in 1918, she moved to a school in Muttuchira, where she lived with her aunt and family. Annakutty received many marriage proposals from various reputed families. During this time Saint Theresa of Lisieux appeared to Annakutty and revealed to her that she would become a saint. Saint Theresa became Annakutty’s role model as they have many similarities in their lives.

Annakutty decided that she will sacrifice all worldly, material aspects of life and desired to dedicate her life completely to Jesus Christ. However, her foster mother wanted her to be married to a well-off family. Since Annakutty was so beautiful and well mannered, she was loved by everyone. In order to avoid her foster mother’s attempt to get her married, she fell into a pit of burning chaff. Annakutty thought no one would want to marry her if she would burn herself to ruin her external beauty.

After many attempts to get Annakutty married, her foster mother finally allowed her to join the religious order and so she joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. In 1927, Annakutty moved into the poor Clare’s convent in Bharananganam. On the 2nd of August 1928, she received the postulant’s veil and took up the name Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception. In 1929, she started teaching at Malayalam High School at Vazhappally, later she resumed her studies in Changanacherry, while working as a temporary teacher at a school in Vakakkad. Two years later on the 19th of May 1930 Alphonsa received her religious habit and entered the novitiate of the congregation at Bharananganam. On the 11th of August 1931, Alphonsa completed the novitiate, took her first vows and became a religious in the Catholic Church. Later on the 12th of August 1936 she took her permanent vows. People often referred to her as Alphonsama due to her loving and caring nature.

For most years as a nun, Alphonsama endured serious illness and suffered significantly due to her deteriorating health, therefore she was often unable to teach. In December 1936, through the intercession of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara she was cured from her illnesses. However, on the 14th of June 1939 Alphonsama was severely affected by pneumonia which weakened her further along with an incident whereby a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. Alphonsama’s health continued to worsen over the years.

On the 28th of July 1946, aged 35 Alphonsama died in Bharananganam, Kerala, in the Diocese of Palai. Almost immediately after her death her tomb in Bharananganam has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported on various occasions especially by the children of the convent school she taught at. On December 2nd 1953, Cardinal Eugene Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsama was declared a Servant of God. In 1985, Pope John Paul II formally approved a miracle attributed to Alphonsama’s intercession and she became Venerable Sister Alphonsa.

On the 8th of February 1986, Alphonsama was beatified along with Kuriakose father Ellias Chavara, by Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic pilgrimage to India. Alphonsama was canonised on the 12th of October 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI. In the homily Pope Benedict XVI recalled Saint Alphonsa’s life as one of “extreme physical and spiritual suffering”.

Saint Alphonsa is the first saint of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church. She is the patron saint against illness and diseases related to feet. We celebrate the feast day of Alphonsama on the 28th of July.

Alphonsama faced great sufferings throughout her life. From experiencing the pain of loss of her own mother to living with serve illness, the heavenly Father gifted Alphonsama with a fuller share in the Passion of His beloved Son. Regardless of all the challenges and difficulties she faced in life, Alphonsama accepted all the sufferings with great love for Jesus. Her love for Jesus allowed her to live her whole life with sufferings and she desired to remain on her sick bed even to the end of the world if it meant that she was able to love Jesus more and more.

Dear God, when we face challenges, difficulties and sufferings help us to accept them with a heart that trusts in Your plan for us. Give us the grace to carry our cross with love, faith and hope in Jesus Christ. Our dear Alphonsama, please pray for us that we may overcome the trials of life and teach us to do it through prayer and penance just like you did. Saint Alphonsa, pray for us. Amen.

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