Carmelite Founder Elevated to Sainthood

Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the founder of the first Indian religious Order for men, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), will be canonized in Rome as a saint on November 23 by Pope Francis.

Chavara was born in Kerala, India in 1805. He joined the seminary at an early age and was ordained a priest at the age of 24. Soon he was noted as an ardent and exemplary priest in the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India. On January 3, 1871, at the age of 66, he was called to his eternal reward and his mortal remains are venerated in the monastery church in Mannanam, the Mother House of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate.

St. Chavara had three great devotions in his life. The first was to the Holy Eucharist. He spent many hours before the Blessed Sacrament in adoration and is known for introducing and spreading the 40-hour Eucharistic adoration in Kerala. The second was his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, which he inherited from his pious parents, Mary and Kuriakose. He was instrumental in the spread of the rosary and the special May devotion to Mary. Third was his special devotion to the Holy Family.

He saw a great need for spiritual renewal of the local Church. That gave him the vision to establish two religious orders: one for men and the other for women. The Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI) was founded in 1831 and was officially formed as a religious order in 1855 – the largest to start in India. The order ministers in 30 different countries of the world with more than 3,000 professed members including 1,800 priests. Many of those priests currently serve in the Diocese of Shreveport. In 1866 he founded the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (CMC), which has now more than 7000 nuns serving in numerous countries of the world.

Chavara took pioneering steps in 1864 to establish schools as an integral part of every parish church, which paved the way for the widespread literacy in the state. He also started the first Catholic printing press in Kerala and made available to the people religious and devotional books on faith and morals. A major accomplishment of his was the establishment of a charitable institute for the sick and destitute. The institute also offered the sick and destitute a peaceful place to die.

The miracle needed for his canonization was the cure of a young girl named Mary Jose. She was born with a very serious squint and it was cured without any surgery through the intercession of Chavara.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara inspires us to be genuine disciples of the Lord, to be a people nurtured by the Lord in the Eucharist, and to have a childlike devotion to Mother Mary. He was always a man of God who led a simple life and had a great vision beyond his times. So let us ask for his intercession: BLESSED CHAVARA, PRAY FOR US.

by Fr, Philip Pazhayakari, CMI Provincial Coordinator

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