Memorial of St Alphonsa Muttathupadathu
St. Alphons was born in Kudamalur, in the diocese of Changanacherry, India, on the 19th of August 1910 the last of five children. Her mother, Maria, gave birth to her prematurely in her eight month of pregnancy, as a result of a fright she received when, during her sleep, a snake wrapped itself around her waist. A few days later, on the 28th of August, she was baptized and received the name Annakutty, meaning small Anna.
Suffering and sadness was hers for her childhood. Her mother died three months later. As a baby Annakutty was first taken in by her grandparents. Her grand-mother, a pious and charitable woman transmitted the faith and the love for prayer to little Anna.
Annakutty received her first Holy Communion on the 11 of November 1917. This day was so etched in her memory that writing to her spiritual father, many years later she said, “Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my divine Spouse. Your reverence knows it well”.
In the same year at the age of seven, she began to attend elementary school where she also established a sincere friendship with her Hindu friends. Anna then went to live with her aunt Anna Murickal, to whom her mother, before she died, had entrusted her as her adoptive mother. Her aunt was a demanding woman and at times even violent. She demanded obedience from Annakutty in everything she did.
Anna had grown to love the Carmelite nuns who lived in the Monastery close by, a love not entirely shared by her aunt. It was here she would spend long hours of prayer at the altar. Seeing this her aunt was determined to get her married and end this desire to be a religious nun. In order to prevent her aunt from getting her married she deliberately placed her food in a heap of burning embers. In her own words she says, “My marriage was arranged when I was thirteen years old. What had I to do to avoid it? I prayed all that night… then an idea came to me. If my body were a little disfigured no one would want me! … O, how I suffered! I offered all for my great intention”.
But the attempts to get her married did not stop with even the mistress of formation conniving with her family to get her married. “O, the vocation which I received! A gift of my good God! God saw the pain of my soul in those days. God distanced the difficulties and established me in this religious state”.
It was Fr. James Muricken, her confessor, who directed her towards Franciscan spirituality and put her in contact with the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. The period from 1930-1935 was marked by grave illness in her life. About one week after the beginning of her novitiate, she had a haemorrhage from the nose and eyes and wounds on her legs. The illness deteriorated, to such a point that they thought she would die. Heaven came to the rescue of the holy novice. During a novena to The Servant of God Fr. Kuriakose Elia Chavara, a Carmelite who today is a saint, she was miraculously and instantaneously cured.
Commencing her novitiate once again, she wrote the following proposals in her spiritual diary: “I do not wish to act or speak according to my inclinations. Every time I fail, I will do penance. I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. I want to control my eyes with rigour. I will ask pardon of the Lord for every little failure and I will atone for it through penance. No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain and if I have to undergo any humiliation, I will seek refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus”.
She was fully professed as a nun on the 12th of August 1936, the feast of St. Clare. She confided in her sister Elizabeth when she was only 12 years old: “Jesus is my only Spouse, and none other”. Jesus, however, wished to lead His spouse to perfection through a life of suffering. “I made my perpetual profession on the 12th of August, from that time, it seems, I was entrusted with a part of the cross of Christ. There are abundant occasions of suffering… I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfil this desire”.
Painful illnesses plagued her life, typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and the most serious of all, a dramatic nervous shock, the result of a fright on seeing a thief during the night of the 18th of October 1940. Her state of psychic incapacity lasted for about a year, during which she was unable to read or write.
In every situation, Sister Alphonsa always maintained a great reservation and charitable attitude towards the sisters, silently undergoing her sufferings. In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness. A tumor, which had spread throughout her organs, transformed her final year of life into a continuous agony of pain and suffering. Gastroenteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting up to forty times a day: “I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering… I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me”.
Sister Alphonsa quietly and joyfully brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists on the 28th July 1946. Forty years after her death, she was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1986 in Kottayam, in recognition of the numerous miracles through intercessory prayers to her. Pope Benedict XVI authorised Sister Alphonsa’s name for canonisation on June 01, 2007. On October 12, 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced her canonisation at a ceremony at Saint Peter’s Square and she was elevated to Sainthood on October 12, 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI.
Compiled from various sources