A woman of vision - who set out for the uplift of the families convinced the potential of women and the need for their education committed for the salvation of souls
A woman of courage – A courageous and empowered women who ventured Family Apostolate breaking away all the social norms and restrictions on women trusting in God
A woman of prayer – Who reached the ultimate union with God living always in His loving presence.
Birth and Childhood of Mariam Thresia
Mariam Thresia was born in 1876 when Kerala and Puthenchira. Chiramel Mankidiyan is a very famous family of Puthenchira. There are three branches: Ollur, Aranattukara and Pazhuvil for this family. This Mankidiyan family belongs to the Ollur branch. There have been some famous priests and nuns from this Chiramel family. Since one of the ancestors had been the head of the village for a long period and there have been a few Mankidiyan families, the area is still known as ‘Mankidimukku’. It is a historical fact that one Mathew from the Chiramel Tharakan family saved the Maharaja of Cochin from the invasion of the Zamorin of Kozhikode, and for that he was given the hereditary title of ‘Tharakan’. All these bear witness to the fame of the Mankidiyan family.
Mariam Thresia was born as the third child of Thoma Chiramel Mankidiyan and Thanda from the Mangali family of Thuravoor, on Wednesday 26, April 1876. Following the custom, she was baptized seven days after her birth on Wednesday 3 May 1876 in the parish church of Puthenchira by the parish priest, Fr. Poulose Maliekal Koonan. She was given the name Thresia after St. Teresa of Avila. The godparents were Antony Chiramel Mankidyan, her paternal uncle, and his wife Anna. Since her mother had a deep knowledge of God, She could impart proper faith formation to her child Thresia. Mariam Thresia always had an inner quest to know more about God and the divine mystery. It led her towards God and interior life who said “From child hood my soul pained with intense thirst to love God” (Autobiography). This thirst might have helped her exclaim that “The knowledge of God is the greatest knowledge than every other knowledge” (Exhortation 14).
When her mother Thanda died in the year 1888, Thresia was only 12 years old. She adopted the Blessed Mother as her own mother and found consolation in it. After the death of her mother she received all sorrows, pains and hardships with surprising equanimity. She was consoled by the celestial visions, especially those of the Holy Family when she was tortured by the devil with trials and tribulations. Mariam Thresia had undergone severe diabolic attacks, physical tortures and mental agonies. Eventually she conquered the powers of darkness and exorcised the evil Spirit from the places and the persons while ministering the families. She was blessed with mystical experiences. Jesus would come to her often in different forms from her younger days. The name ‘Mariam’ was added by the Blessed Virgin Mary to her name ‘Thresia’ to make her ‘Mariam Thresia’ on 8 December 1904. The Holy Family would comfort direct dine and play with her as though she were a member in the Holy Family. She was given the hearts of Jesus Mary and Joseph during the years 1904-1906. Even though the signs of the passion of the Lord had begun to be shown in her from 1905, God imprinted in her the five wounds of Jesus visibly in 1909, thus making her the stigmatic in India. Jesus would celebrate the Holy Eucharist in her room and give her the Holy Communion. She used to fall in to ecstasies which sometimes lasted for the following day. Her heart was fierce with an arrow by the angel on five different occasions revealing about it to the spiritual father as, ‘wound of love’. Jesus put a stone studded ring on her hand symbolizing the spiritual betrothal. She was blessed with the gift of a reading hearts and visions of purgatory, hell and heaven a number of times. She was a mystic in action who amalgamated contemplation and action.
This courageous daughter of Kerala who was filled with love of God and compassion towards the neighbor dedicated her whole life to God for serving the family or domestic church which is the basic unit of society. God had been preparing Thresia for thirty-eight long years through temptations, sufferings and misunderstandings to be the foundress of the Congregation of the Holy Family. She who wished very much to be united with God in solitude and His children in service was sent by the then Vicar Apostolic of Trichur Bishop. John Menachery to the Carmelite Convent at Ollur. But Mariam Thresia realized that her way of life was different from that of the Carmelites. She informed her spiritual father of this. The people of Puthenchira, who understood the value of her services, requested the bishop to bring her back to them. Bishop Menachery could easily discern the will of God regarding Thresia when he considered together the desire of Thresia, the opinion of Fr. Joseph Vithayathil and the wish of the people of Puthenchira. So he said, “It is not the will of God that you stay in this convent, so you may return to your own place. Your spiritual father will build a house for you there”. Saying this, the bishop sent Mariam Thresia back home on 26 January 1913, after two months of discernment process at Ollur. The bishop asked Fr. Vithayathil to build the “Ekanthabhavan” (The House of Solitude) for Thresia.
Mariam Thresia responded to the situation in the grass – root level gathered the families guided them to God and deepened their relation ships in the families in an innovative way. She offered her life to sanctify and uplift the families with a transformative spiritual touch, and prompted the people to live as the children of God by compassionate services. Mariam Thresia visited, consoled, counseled, prayed and led every kind of family to God. During the family visits she would offer prayers, mortifications and services for the restoration of persons and families to main strata of religious and social life. Her visits to the families with prophetic fortitude were scorned by a few. She had to swim against the current to get accepted this novel style of Family Apostolate by the society and the hierarchy of the church. They yielded finally to the evidence of the good results of it.
The First House of CHF - ‘Ekanthabhavan’ (The Holy Family Convent) at Puthenchira
As instructed by the bishop, Fr. Joseph Vithayathil made plans to construct the House of Solitude. The land for the building was donated by Maliekal Koonan Kunjuvaried Ittoop. Fr. Joseph Vithayathil started the construction at his own expense. When it reached up to the plinth-level, he found it difficult to continue the work for lack of funds. Mariam Thresia comforted him, saying that she would find the money needed by begging. With much reluctance he agreed to it. She went with a companion to Njarakal, Chakkarakadavu, Pallipuram which at present is in Ernakulam Diocese and other nearby places seeking help. And within a short time, the House of Solitude was completed.
As Fr. Joseph Vithayathil was not feeling well, he sent Thresia and a companion with a letter to the bishop, seeking permission to bless the house. The next day, 23 September 1913 the bishop deputed his secretary, Fr. John Ukkan, to bless the House. In the presence of Fr.Joseph Vithayathil, other priests and parishioners of Puthenchira, Fr. John Ukkan blessed the House of Solitude. The people of the place met all the expenses for the same. Mariam Thresia, who loved solitude very much moved to the newly blessed house on 7 October 1913. Her companions: Mariam, daughter of Varunny and Rosa Karumalikkal, Kochumariam, daughter of Ittiera and Acharu Maliekal Koonan, and Thanda, daughter of Kunjuvaried and Thresia Maliekal Koonan were with her during the day for prayers and apostolic activities. They took turns in staying with Mariam Thresia at night. They started to live with her from January 1914 onwards. On 14 May, 1914, this community was elevated to the status of religious congregation – Congrergation of the Holy Family (CHF)
GROWTH OF CHF
Mariam Thresia could start three convents in the land donated by the people who were attracted by her holiness and admired her services in the families. Mariam Thresia who touched the core of the families was enlightened by the wisdom that it was necessary to impart the knowledge of God to uplift the families. This insight was appreciated and encouraged by Fr. Joseph Vithayathil. Thus the Holy Family School came to existence in 1915 at Puthenchira, her birthplace. Mariam Thresia’ s foresight gave form to another new vision , A boarding house was founded in 1918 in Thrissur to provide English Education to the daughters of CHF. The fragrance of Thresia’s life started to spread far and wide. As many joined her to follow the new way of life, the first house could not accommodate all. Convents came to existence at Kuzhikkattussery in 1918 and at Thumbur in 1926 through the strong divine intervention. Along with convents schools were also added.
Last Days of Saint Mariam Thresia
At the time of the blessing of the convent and chapel at Thumbur six Postulants received the veil and seven Novices were given the religious habit. On account of the rush of the people assembled, a portion of the railings of the sanctuary collapsed and fell on Saint Mariam Thresia’s leg as she was kneeling and praying there. She did not take the wound seriously. She was taken to a doctor at the Government Hospital, Chalakudy, who prescribed for an operation. After the operation she was kept in a building of the diocese adjacent to the hospital. Even though she was given all the care and attention in the treatment because she had high diabetes, the doctor felt that the disease was serious. Her condition started deteriorating gradually. When it worsened and was declared fatal, she was brought to Kuzhikkattussery on 7 June 1926 and Fr. Joseph Vithayathil gave her the anointment of the sick and the holy viaticum.
The following day the Sisters and the formees of the convents of Thumbur and Trichur came and joined with the Sisters of Kuzhikkattussery and Fr. Joseph Vithayathil and prayed for her. She called all of them near and spoke her last words, “My beloved daughters, why are your hearts troubled like those of people of little faith? Both You and I know that I shall not be relieved of this illness. If it is the will of the heavenly Bridegroom that I leave you this soon in responding to His invitation, let it be fulfilled. Our congregation is still an infant. You should not forget that it is your responsibility as members of this Congregation to foster and nurture it. Behave with sincerity and love your superiors. Love each another, help each another”.
After this farewell note, she entrusted Fr. Joseph Vithayathil the whole responsibility of the congregation. Thereafter at her own request she was laid down on the floor on a mat while her spiritual father and the Sisters knelt down and prayed for her. She kept repeating the ejaculations very prayerfully and consciously after her spiritual father. Saint Mariam Thresia was very peaceful and calm at the moment of intense pain and suffering and submitted to the will of God.
In the evening her condition became critical. Fr. Joseph Kayyalakam, the vicar of Puthenchira church, came there, at her last moments. At 10 p.m. repeating the ejaculatory prayer after Fr.Joseph Vithayathil “Jesus, Mary, Joseph I entrust my soul and my body into your loving hands” the blessed soul passed away for her eternal reward. The house was filled with deep silence and great sorrow. During that night of tears and sobs, surprisingly all the jasmines blossomed in the garden. A crown of jasmine flowers was placed on the head of Saint Mariam Thresia and the coffin was decorated with it. The people who believed in her holiness thronged to have a glimpse of the ‘saint’.
Funeral and Burial
The whole of Puthenchira stood still at the departure of Saint Mariam Thresia. As Bishop Francis Vazhapilly, was out of station, Msgr. Mathew Edakulathur, Vicar General of Trichur Diocese, officiated at the funeral service at 6.00 p.m. on 9 June 1926 in the presence of Fr.Joseph Vithayathil and many other Priests, Sisters, Brothers, the public and the sorrowful members of the congregation. The body was buried with tearful prayers in the tomb specially prepared in the ground of the chapel under construction. Rev. Fr. Joseph Kayyalakam, the vicar of Puthenchira church, delivered the homily. He narrated her holy life, her apostolate and the growth of the CHF in a very touching manner. He concluded his words saying, “though this funeral is conducted in a very simple manner, the time will come when another saint like the ‘Little Flower’ will rise up from this tomb.
To the Honours of the Altar
Canonization is an official act of Catholic Church, declaring one of its deceased members as a model for Christian living and worthy of public veneration, and entering the name in the authorized list known as the canon. There are four stages for the canonization in the Catholic Church: Servant of God, Venerable, Blessed, Saint.
Normally the cause of Canonization can begin after 5 years of the candidate’s death. In the case of Mariam Thresia, her spiritual father strictly instructed the Congregation that the process to be started only after his death. He died on June 8, 1964. He had submitted all the related documents such as the letters written by Mariam Thresia, her History and the biography written by him, to the Bishop Mar George Alappat, the then Bishop of Trichur on November 20, 1957.
The bishop first instituted a preliminary investigation through Msgr. Sebastin Chereath to ascertain if there was a cause sufficiently well grounded to start with. Then after the appointment of Rev. Fr. Simeon de la Sagrada Familia OCD (Rome) as postulator, on 2nd May 1975, and a historical commission was set up to collect and examine all the documents regarding Saint Mariam Thresia on 6th May, 1975. The three members of this commission were very Rev. Msgr. Thomas Moothedan, Rev. Fr. Anslem CMI, and Rev. Fr. Antony Anthikkat (Convener). In 1975-1976 the historical commission made a list of 198 eyewitnesses, visited all the relevant archives and obtained written testimonies from several individuals, especially those who might not be able to depose later in the diocesan inquiry tribunal. This historical research was conducted according to the norms laid down in the Motu Propio of His Holiness Pope Pius XI dated 6 February, 1930 and 4 January, 1939. There were 146 documents and submitted to the Diocesan Inquiry Commission.
With the erection of the Diocese of Irinjalakuda in 1978, the documents for the cause of Saint Mariam Thresia was transferred from the Diocese of Trichur to the new diocese, as within this territory her tomb was situated. The process of exhumation and identification of the mortal remains of Saint Mariam Thresia was conducted on 3 Saturday January 1981. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints issued on 25 June 1982 its Nihil Obstat (no objection) for the canonical introduction of the cause. They also sent a questionnaire containing a set of questions to be put to the witnesses and an ad hoc diocesan inquiry tribunal of three judges, a promoter of faith, a notary, an adjunct notary and a cursor (errand official). Since the purpose is to collect information in an authentic manner, and not make a judgement, this body is rather an inquiry commission than a tribunal. The cause was officially introduced on 24 April, 1983 and in forty five sessions between 14 May, 1983 and 24 September, 1983 the tribunal heard 18 witnesses, including four ex officio witnesses, of whom three were the members of the historical commission. The Acts of the tribunal together with the connected documentation were sent to Rome, and a declaration of the validity of the process of 1983 was issued on 8 November, 1985.
The next step is to write and present the Positio super virtutibus to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. It should contain sufficient information for the experts of this Congregation to arrive at an informed opinion. In the case of Mariam Thresia, the Positio is a huge volume of 810 pages of large size paper (A4 or 210x297mm). It has two parts: Part I called Informatio, contains the biography followed by the proof of Mariam Thresia’s practice of Christian virtues; and Part II called Summarium, contains the evidence gathered from the depositions of the witnesses and the writings of Mariam Thresia as well as other documents. The Positio of the Servant of God Mariam Thresia was written by Rev. Dr. George Nedungatt SJ, appointed collaborator by the postulator Fr. Simeon de la Sagrada Familia O.C.D. (Rome) on 12 January 1995 at the request of the then Superior General Rev. Mother Mary Benitia CHF. The collaborator had taken over the Summarium already prepared by Sr. Pavana CHF, revised it slightly, added some further pertinent documentation and wrote the Informatio, from which this details have been extracted. The positio was submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 8 August, 1996.
The Positio had been written using mainly the information furnished by a total of 18 witnesses, who had deposed under oath in the Diocesan Inquiry Tribunal of 1983. Of these witnesses, 15 were eye witnesses, including 4 sisters of the Congregation of Holy Family. The others were outsiders.
The causes are divided into two kinds: historical (ancient) and modern (recent). A modern cause is one in which evidence is collected chiefly from witnesses, whereas a historical cause is one for which there are no witnesses, and the evidence is based exclusively on historical documents. The cause of Mariam Thresia was a modern cause, and the fact that out of 18 witnesses, 15 were eyewitness, leaves no doubt about the matter. The Positio together with the Relatio et vota was submitted to a Panel of nine theologian consultors, who were asked to formulate their answer to the question “an constet de virtutibus…in gradu eroico, in casu et as effectum de quo agitur” (i.e., is it certain that the Servant of God practiced virtues in a heroic degree in the case as presented and with regard to the matter in question?).All the theologian consultors cast a positive vote while presenting their written observations in a session held on 9 October,1998.
Now it was the turn of the third panel of consultors of the Pope, the panel of cardinals and bishops, who are members of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints. They examined the Positio together with the Relatio et vota and the observations of theological consultors. They met on 15 April, 1999. Cardinal D. Simon Lourdusamy from India was the ‘ponens’ or keynote speaker. They gave a unanimous affirmative vote. It is to be noted that these panels have only a consultative vote, the final decision or judgement being reserved to the Roman Pontiff, who is the only judge (technically speaking) in the whole process. In his presence and with his approval, on 28 June 1999 a decree of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints was read and promulgated stating that the Servant of God Mariam Thresia Mankidiyan had practised in a heroic degree the Christian virtues. In all, nine decrees were read and promulgated that day, five on virtues and four on miracles, of which two were in view of canonization, while others were in view of beatification. Obviously, only a summary of each of these decrees could have been read in a single session lasting less than two hours. It is customary for the function to take place in the ‘Hall of Pope Clement IX’ in the papal palace in Vatican attended by the cardinals and bishops of the respective panels, the postulators and the “actors” or their representatives.
With the promulgation of the decree the Servant of God Mariam Thresia became entitled to be Venerable. What was still needed for the beatification of Mariam Thresia was the evidence of a miracle attributable to her intercession. The healing of Mathew Pellisseri’s congenital club feet which had taken place in 1970-71, was enquired into by a Diocesan Inquiry Tribunal in 1992. The tribunal sat from 28 April, 1992 till 26 July, 1992 in Thrissur, in whose territory the miracle had taken place. This tribunal heard 23 witnesses, including Mathew, his parents and four doctors. The validity of the process was declared by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 22 January, 1999. The relative documentation and evidence were submitted to a panel of five doctors appointed by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, all university professors teaching in faculties of medicine. They returned their expert opinion and a unanimously positive vote on 6 November,1999 that the sudden cure of Mathew’s club feet at the age of fourteen had no scientific explanation. Their vote and relative documentation were gathered in to a fresh document called Positio super miraculo of 179 pages written by Rev. Dr. George Nedungatt SJ and submitted to the Congregation on 23 December, 1999. It was examined by a panel of six theologian consultors, who in their session of 5 January, 2000 concluded unanimously that the healing in question was a miracle that took place through the intercession of Mariam Thresia. Likewise, after examining the Positio and the Theologians’ written observations, the Commission of Cardinals and Bishops met on 18 January, 2000 and unanimously confirmed the vote of the Theologians. The decree stating that this was a genuine miracle that had taken place through the intercession of Mariam Thresia was read by the officials of the Roman Congregation in the presence of the Holy Father Pope John Paul II on 27 January, 2000 and with his approval promulgated. The function was almost a replica of the one of 28 June, 1999 on the virtues, this time it was on a miracle. In that long session 12 decrees were read in all, 2 on virtues, 7 on miracles, and 3 on martyrdom.
This time the decree did not confer any new title but entitled Ven. Mariam Thresia to beatification. And it was for the Pope to do so. That same evening of 27 January 2000 the postulator was notified by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints that the beatification of Mariam Thresia was being scheduled to take place on 9 April, 2000.She was raised to the status of ‘Blessed’ by Pope John Paul II on 9 April, 2000 at St. Peter’s Square Vatican.
The Major miracle took place by the powerful intercession of Mother Mariam Thresia is explained below by the eyewitness herself:
“Since June 2006 I work as a staff nurse at the Neonatal ICU of the Amala Medical College, Thrissur. Our day shift begins at 08.00 and ends at 19.00 (with a break in the afternoon). However, it often happens that we join duty a bit earlier than the scheduled time and leave some time after the service hours normally end. In fact, on 9 April 2009, the day when the condition of Christopher Joshy (Baby of Mrs Shiby Joshy) turned extremely critical, I left the neonatal ICU only by 19.30. This baby was born in the morning of 7 April 2009, and was admitted to the ICU in a very critical state due to severe respiratory problem. The same day evening the director of the Hospital, Fr Paul Achandy administered Baptism in periculo mortis to the Baby.
On 9th April in the evening about 5.00 pm after his evening rounds, the Consultant Neonatologist Dr Sreenivasan informed the father of the baby about the seriousness of the condition of his child, adding that he could inform the near and dear ones about it. Then around 7.00 pm Sr Merly Mathew CHF, a staff nurse of the Amala, brought a relic of Blessed Mariam Thresia, touched the baby’s lips with it, and after saying a short prayer placed it beside the head of the baby. By 7.30 pm, when I was leaving the ICU, I saw a rapid and drastic change in the health condition of baby Christopher Joshy and that he was breathing normally. Immediately I contacted Dr Sreenivasan over the phone and informed him of this unusually sudden and radical change in the baby’s health condition. And it surprised him as well.
Truly I had thought that the baby would have only a few more minutes of life, for such severe was the struggle the baby had been making for inhaling a little bit of air. And that scene of the struggle for survival was truly unbearable for me to witness. I still remember that when I got out of the ICU to go home, I saw the relatives waiting anxiously outside the ICU to know about the baby’s condition. I told them that there was an instant and drastic change in the baby and that now the baby was breathing normally. I then saw them shedding tears out of joy.
These events are still very fresh in my mind because baby Christopher Joshy was born on the first birth-day of my child. Besides, I came to know of Blessed Mariam Thresia and of her intercessory power through Sr Merly Mathew, who also used to pray for my child’s recovery from ill-health through the intercession of Blessed Mariam Thresia. And it was from Sr Merly Mathew that I came to know that the relic of Blessed Mariam Thresia was brought and entrusted to her by Baby Christopher Joshy’s paternal grandmother Mrs Cicily Raphael and her younger son Joby Choondal. Definitely, this inexplicable healing of baby Christopher Joshy from Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome with impending respiratory failure increased my faith in God and in the intercessory power of Blessed Mariam Thresia as well. “
Dr.Srinivasan who treated the baby opined as below about this healing:
“In my opinion, the speedy and drastic recovery of baby Christopher Joshy from Severe Respiratory Distress Syndrome with impending respiratory failure and Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN) cannot be explained scientifically, given the fact that the medication and the treatment remained the same and had not in any way been modified. “
Dr V.K. Sreenivasan
The major miracle by the intercession of Blessed Mariam Thresia was approved unanimously by the medical team on 22 March 2018, approved by the Theologians on 18 October 2018, Sanctioned by the Cardinals on 05 February 2019 and final recognition was given by His Holiness Pope Francis on 13 Feb. 2019.
The date for the canonization was announced on 1, July 2019. Pope Francis declared her as Saint Mariam Thresia , on October 13, 2019, in a solemn celebration in Rome. The President of Catholic Bishops` Conference of India, His Eminence Cardinal Oswald Gracias inaugurated the National Level Celebration on 16 November 2019, expressing gratitude at the canonization of Mariam Thresia, Chirammel Mankidiyan. The Solemn Holy Eucharist and the Public meeting with Cardinal George Alenchery, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Bishops, Priests, many religious and political leaders and thousands of faithful made it remarkable and memorable. Her contribution to the Catholic Church is more important today, than ever before, in the context of broken family relationships and losing faith in God, seeking worldly comforts, in an era of cyber society
Milestones – St. Mariam Thresia