"In everything, sacrifice your selfishness" BI. Mariam Thresia.
Mariam Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan (1876-1926), was called during the first half of her life simply Thresia, the name given to her at baptism on 3 May 1876.
Since 1904 she wanted to be called Mariam Thresia as she believed that she was asked to add "Mariam" to her name by the Blessed Virgin Mary in a vision. She did so. And it was as Mariam Thresia that she was professed in 1914, the foundress and first member of the Congregation of the Holy Family.
She was born on 26 April as the daughter of Thoma and Thanda Chiramel Mankidiyan in the village of Puthenchira, Trichur District, Kerala. Though once a rich and noble family with extensive landed property, it became poorer and poorer as Thresia’s grandfather married away seven daughters one after the other selling the property to pay for each a costly dowry. To forget the poor straits to which the family was reduced Thresia’s father and brother took to drinking.
Such was the family background in which the future pioneer of the family apostolate was born. The third of five children, two boys and three girls, Thresia grew up in piety and holiness under the loving guidance of her saintly mother Thanda. As she wrote later in her Autobiography (a small document of hardly six pages written under obedience to her spiritual father), from early childhood Thresia was moved by an intense desire to love God.
For this purpose she fasted four times a week and prayed the Marian rosary several times a day. Seeing her thinned down at eight years of age, Thanda tried to dissuade Thresia from her severe fasts and night vigils. But Thresia wanted to be ever more in the likeness of the suffering Christ; to him she also consecrated her virginity when she was about ten years old.
Discerning Her Vocation
When Thresia was only twelve years old, her mother died, which was the end also of her elementary school education. She was now set on a long search to discern her own vocation in life. She longed for a hidden life of prayer and hatched a scheme in 1891 to sneak away from home and lead an eremitical life of prayer and penance in the solitude of the far away woodhills.
But this scheme proved too naive. She continued to frequent the church with three of her companions, clean it and decorate the altar. In her love for Jesus she wanted to be like him in his toil and apostolate. Hence she helped the poor, nursed the sick, visited and comforted the lonely people of her parish. She nursed even hideous and revolting cases of leprosy and small pox, often abandoned to their lot by their poor relatives who had no means of caring for them. Upon their death she took care of their orphaned children.
Thus a much neglected village of Kerala benefited from the charitable services of a genuine forerunner of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, the Nobel prize winning saintly foundress of the Missionaries of Charity. Both Mariam Thresia and Mother Teresa served the poorest of the poor selflessly and heroically, the former preceding the latter by half a century before the age of journalists of the flashing cameras and of television crews relaying instant news across the world and creating celebrities.
Thresia and her three companions formed a group of prayer and of apostolate. Breaking with the custom of not leaving the house unless accompanied by men, they were on the roads and visited the families in need. Revolutionary novelty in their little world, which did not spare its criticism (not without moralising clerical support) of "the girls taking to the streets"!
Thresia placed her trust in the help of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. She saw them frequently in visions and received guidance in her apostolate, especially for the conversion of sinners. She prayed for sinners, fasted for their conversion, and visited them and exhorted them to repentance. Her ascetical and penitential practices remind us of the extreme rigour of the ancient hermits and monks. She received several mystical gifts like prophecy, healing, aura of light, sweet odour. And like St. Teresa of Avila she had frequent ecstasies and levitations.
On Fridays people used to gather to see Mariam Thresia lifted high and hanging in the form of a crucifix on the wall of her room. Like the well-known Blessed Padre Pio of Pietrelcina, she too bore the stigmata, carefully hiding it from public view. Perhaps to help her keep humble amidst such mystical favours, the Lord let her be tormented by diabolical attacks and vexations (again like Padre Pio) almost all through her life. She was repeatedly submitted to exorcism between 1902 and 1905 by Father Joseph Vithayathil, the parish priest of Puthenchira, acting under orders of the bishop, who wondered if she was simply a play thing of the devils.
Thresia submitted to the bishop’s orders with exemplary humility, but the exorcisms seem to have made some people regard Mariam Thresia as a dubious saint, even as Saint Mary Magdalen, who was exorcised by Jesus Christ of seven demons, was eventually identified with the unnamed sinful woman in the Gospel of Luke (7: 36-50) on the wrong presumption that a possessed person must be a sinner. Mariam Thresia had also to fight temptations particularly against faith and chastity and she passed through the dark night of the soul.
From 1902 till her death she had Father Vithayathil for spiritual director. She opened her heart fully and confidently to him and followed his advice and obeyed him blindly. Of her extant letters fifty-three out of fifty-five are addressed to him seeking advice and spiritual guidance.
Death and Fame of Sanctity
She died at the Holy Family Convent, Kuzhikkattussery on 8 June 1926 of the fatal wound on the leg caused by a falling object received on the day of the blessing of the Holy Family Convent , "Thumpoor'. The wound defied cure owing to her diabetes. She was buried in the chapel of the Holy Family Convent, Kuzhikkattussery. After her death the fame of Mariam Thresia spread as she continued from heaven to succour the sick and the needy through miraculous favours.
In 1971 a historical commission collected the necessary evidence regarding her life, virtues and writings and presented it in 1983 before an eparchial (diocesan) tribunal, which also collected the depositions of fifteen of the surviving eye-witnesses. On 28 June 1999 the Congregation for the Causes of Saints promulgated a decree stating that the Servant of God Mariam Thresia had practised the Christian virtues heroically, and so she was entitled to be called Venerable.
Of the numerous miraculous cures reported the following one was examined canonically in 1992. Mathew D. Pellissery, was born in 1956 with congenital club feet and till he was fourteen he could only walk with great difficulty on the sides of his feet. After 33 days of fasting and prayer invoking the help of Mother Mariam Thresia by the whole family, his right foot was straightened during night sleep on 21 August 1970. And similarly after 39 days of fasting and prayer his left foot was straightened overnight during sleep on 28 August 1971.
Ever since then Mathew has been able to walk normally. This double healing was declared inexplicable in terms of medical science by as many as nine doctors in India and Italy and was declared a miracle obtained through the intercession of the Servant of God Mariam Thresia by the Congregation for the Causes of Saints on 27 January 2000.
This miraculous cure thus met the last canonical requirement for her beatification scheduled for 9 April 2000. Mathew Pellissery is grateful to be able to be present at this solemn celebration of beatification in Piazza San Pietro.
A must see location for Pilgims, Tourists and Students.
How to reach: Visitors can hire taxis from Mala town or travel by regular buses plying Mala, Kundai. The distance shall be from Mala to Kundai 5 km and from Kundai to Kuzhikkattussery Pilgrim Centre 1km.