SAINT KURIAKOSE ELIAS CHAVARA (1805-1871)
Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on February 10, 1805 at Kainakari, Kerala. At the age of 5 he began his studies in a village school called Kalari. When he was 13 he joined the seminary at Pallipuram for his Priestley training. While he was in the seminary, his parents and his eldest brother died of an epidemic. On 29 November, 1829, he became a priest.
Saint Chavara was instrumental in founding two Catholic religious Congregations – one for men, Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) and the other for women, Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), for the Spiritual renewal and all round development of the society.
He initiated a social, cultural and intellectual awakening in the civil society of Kerala. He pioneered the social reformation movement of the society ahead of other social reformers which include Chattampiswamikal, Sahodaran Ayyappan, Sree Narayana Guru, Swami Dayananda Saraswati, Raja Ram Mohan Roy etc.
He directed that every Church should start a school attached to it and encouraged children even poorer sections to attend the school. He started free mid-day meals programme for school children by mobilizing resources by ‘Pidiyari’ (A handful of rice). The Diwan of Travancore C P Ramaswami Ayyer, after the example of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara
introduced mid – day meals in Government schools in 1936.
In 1846 he established the first catholic Sanskrit school at Mannanam. Starting seven ashrams and a convent in different parts of Kerala, Chavara initiated a spiritual movement among the people of Kerala. He founded a ‘Home of Charity’ to take care of the destitute, the beggars, the uncared sick and the old. He also organized the first voluntary charitable association in Kerala for self-help among the needy.
Even in the midst of such manifold activities, he found time to write several literary and spiritual books in prose as well as verse. Among them, ‘Anastasyayude Rakthasakshyam’ is the first narrative poem and ‘Nalagamangal’ the first chronicle of history in Malayalam. He knew several languages- Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit, Syriac, Italian and Portuguese.
Essentially, however, Saint Chavara was a man of prayer and great charity. He lived for 65 years and died on 3rd January 1871. His sanctity was first recognized by the church, when Pope John Paul II beatified him at Kottayam (India) on 08 February, 1986. Later he was canonized as a “Saint” at Saint Peter’s square, Rome by Pope Francis, on 23 November,
2014. Saint Chavara is the heavenly patron of all CMI and CMC institutions. Let us pray to him to intercede before God for all our needs, especially for success in our studies.