First Woman Saint of India

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Pilgrimage

Devotees irrespective of caste and position, from far and wide visit the Rooms at Bharananganam & Tomb of St. Alphonsa at St. Alphonsa Shrine Church Bharananganam seeking her blessings. St. Alphonsa lavishly showers grace on those whoever asks of her. It is a wonderful sight to see the pilgrims go back with contentment and consolation.

A. BHARANANGANAM

Now Bharananganam where her mortal remains were interred has become the Lisieux of India as predicted in her funeral speech by Rev. Fr. Romulus CMI. It is now a celebrated place of pilgrimage where many flock to seek solace both physical and spiritual. Bharananganam has become a spiritual haven in the Church, a beacon of hope for the heart broken and a sanctuary for the children of God.

The Rooms

The room where St. Alphonsa lived and died in the Bharananganam convent is preserved intact with the cow dung plastered flooring and the traditional roofing. A lively statue of the saint adorns the centre. The portraits of St. Little Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara CMI who through a vision healed St. Alphonsa of her many ailments make the room a sacred place where three saints met. Another appealing sight is a lifelike statue of the Saint as laid up in the casket kept in the same room.

St. Alphonsa Museum

Immediately after the death of Sr. Alphonsa, the Bishop and the religious authorities asked the sisters of the convent not to destroy nor burn anything that belonged to Alphonsa. Accordingly, everything including the clothing, umbrella, sandals, the mat, broom and all her belongings was taken good care of.*

The verandah, certain rooms, and the refectory of the convent in which the saint lived were converted to construct the present Museum. The history of the saint from her birth including her Canonization at Rome is displayed through pictures in the chronological order. Numerous articles including the clothing, umbrella, sandals, the mat, broom and all things used by Saint Alphonsa are kept here as relic. The letter and the memento sent by Bishop Kalacherry of Changanacherry when at her prayers the Malaria of the bishop was transferred to her, is an added attraction. Books, CDs, DVDs, Cassettes etc. on Saint Alphonsa, are displayed here. The portals of Divine Home of St. Alphonsa at Bharananganam beckons you to inhale the fragrance of her holiness.

The St. Alphonsa Museum is an authentic and wonderful site that preserves invaluable holy materials used by and related to the Saint. The F. C. Convent at Bharananganam and the numerous sacred treasures preserved within stand as the glowing earthly tribute to the holy life of SAINT ALPHONSA, THE FIRST WOMAN SAINT OF INDIA.

B. KUDAMALUR –

The Birth Place of St. Alphonsa.

Kudamalur is an extensive village area which is stretched about 7 kilometers north from Kottayam in the southern banks of River Meenachil. Almost 800 years ago, Kudamalur had been famous as the capital of the kingdom of Chempakasserry. The remnants of the fortresses and trenches were found to be seen until about 75 years back.

The Kudamalur church was believed to be founded and built by the king of Chempakasserry. The exact date of its foundation is not known. Historical facts about Kudamalur church are available from the beginning of the 16th century.

The traditional belief about the beginning of the Kudamalur church is that the King of Chempakasserry when faced with irresistible hardships due to diabolic interventions, at the suggestion of one astrologer built a small church and brought four Christian families to Kudamalur for worship in the church. The Muttathupadathu family was one among the four families brought to Kudamalur by Chempakasserry Raja. The old church at Kudamalur, which still exists, is believed to be built in the year 1505 A.D. By that time Kudamalur parish became extended to the surrounding places like Kumarakom, Kiliroor, Iykarachira, Edackad, Parampuzha, Mudiyoorkara, Arpookara etc.

New church

To compensate for the insufficiency of the space for accommodating huge number of people belonging to the parish, a new church – spacious and beautiful was built in 1971. Now those who visit Kudamalur can see the new church with its modern architectural elegance and the old church which stands as a historical monument with architectural beauty and style of antiquity.

It is in this parish of Kudamalur that Joseph Muttathupadathu and Mary his wife of Puthukkary Family lived in their ancestral house. St. Alphonsa whose maiden name was Annakutty, was born on 19th August, 1910 as the fourth child of Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu. She was baptized at the local parish church on 27th August of the same year. The baptismal font where the saint was baptized is still kept as a sacred treasure in the old church, which is a site for the pilgrims to visit. Annakutty received the First Holy Communion on 27th November, 1917 in this church. The house where St. Alphonsa was born and brought up has become a Pilgrim Centre under the name "Alphonsa Bhavan". Mr. Joseph Muttathupadathu, the venerable father of St. Alphonsa was called to eternity in the year 1951 when his elder daughter and family were residing with him. Later in the year 1975, the FCC Deva Matha Province Changanacherry bought the birth house and the surrounding plot of land and converted it into a pilgrim centre. Keeping intact the main part of the birth house, a wonderful protective structure was built encompassing the house. A beautiful chapel also is put up in the same campus. The room where St. Alphonsa was born, the cot used by her, the history of the FC Congregation, the beautifully depicted 20 mysteries of the Holy Rosary etc. are added attractions to the pilgrims.

C. MUTTUCHIRA

Etymology

The village Muttuchira became world famous with the fragrance of the saintly life of St. Alphonsa. Muttuchira is a small section of the Kottayam District in the state of Kerala to the south west of India.The etymology of 'Muttuchira' is quite interesting. As the area was mostly of plains with low altitude, people of the locality used to cultivate paddy in the fields by fixing up 'prop' (Muttu) and 'barrage' (Chira) to store water for cultivation. Hence the term Muttuchira. In 1742 King Marthanda Varma conquered the kingdom of Vadakkumkur which was ruled by the local king Mamalassery Kaimal. He brought the first Christian family to that place and gave them land to settle down in the market area of Muttuchira. Thereafter a lot of Christians from Kodungalloor, Paravoor, Palayoor etc. settled there increasing the number of the christians in Muttuchira.

The magnificent church in the Roman architectural style at Muttuchira was built about 150 years back. An ancient Persian Cross decorates the wall of the old church. The main attraction of the church is its lofty tower.Muttuchira has got an important role in moulding St. Alphonsa. The mother house of the saint viz. 'Puthukkari family' was located in 'Valachira' under Muttuchira parish. Of the two daughters born of Luca – Aley couples of Puthukkari family, the elder one Annamma was married to Pailochan of Murickan family in Muttuchira parish itself. The younger one Mary was married to Muttathupadathu Pazhooparampil Joseph of the Kudamaloor parish. St. Alphonsa was born as the fourth child of the couples Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu. Because of the untimely death of her mother soon after her birth, Alphonsa was brought up by her maternal aunt Annamma in the Muricken house Muttuchira, during her infancy. After completing her class III in Arpookkara Thonnankuzhy Govt. L. P. School (Kudamalur), St. Alphonsa continued her studies in Muttuchira Govt. School. During this period, St. Alphonsa was under the tutelage of Annamma Muricken. She received the Sacrament of Confirmation at Muttuchira church on 21st January, 1925 along with other 421 children from Mar Thomas Kurialasserry Bishop of Changanacherry.

Muttuchira and St. Alphonsa are two inter related names written in golden letters in the annals of history. The Muricken house where St. Alphonsa lived stands today as a living monument of her saintly life. The house which was built in 1840, is still kept and maintained in its original state. The family prayer room, the cot and other objects which our saint used, the historical ash pit in which she burned her legs to destroy her beauty so as to escape the imminent marriage, the stone tub that was used to treat her burned legs, the well from which she drew water etc. reminisce one of her virtuous and heroic life. Till 2009 this house was owned by the descendants of Annamma Muricken. Now the house and the surrounding plot of land is in the safe keeping of the FCC Alphonsa Province Pala who maintain it as a sacred pilgrim centre. The devotees who visit the tomb of the Saint and the Convent at Bharananganam prefer to visit Muttuchira too. The small village of Muttuchira now stands as the glorious memorial of the holy life of St. Alphonsa.

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