St. Mariam Thresia: A Pragmatic Mystic

The winter of 1909 was unusually cold and cruel in Puthenchira, Kerala. Smallpox began spreading and many were dying without medicine and care. People were frightened to the extent that the affected individuals were condemned to be burned alive along with their hut or buried alive. Wherever you spot bonfire, there you could hear the helpless screamings out of pain. Vaccination could not reach to the southern tip of this tropical land in the beginning of 20th century. It was during this time a brown robe clad nun and her companions took the brave decision to take care of such suffering people irrespective of caste, gender and religion. It was unusual at that time and strange for young women to go out of their houses. Political situations were also worse. Caste system was widely practised. Despite oppositions, with courage and trust in their Master they served the sick and the dying. That nun was St. Mariam Thresia who was canonized on 13 October 2019 at St. Peter’s square. One needs to look into her past to understand the source of her strength and valour. Her Femininity reflected various hues like that of a ray reflected by a prism.

Thresia was born on 1876 April 26 in Thrissur district of Kerala. From childhood, she was oriented to God and prayer. She used to do mortifications and voluntarily take fasts from the age of nine. Though her father and siblings didn’t like this, her mother understood her. At the age of 12, she lost her mother. She overcame this by taking Mother Mary as her mother and by starting a friend circle with three other ladies. They went through houses visiting the sick and old. Her prayer life didn’t stop her from reaching out to the needy. She had many visions, ecstasies, locutions etc. She is the first woman from India to receive the gift of stigmata of the Lord. She also suffered from dark nights and tormentations from the devil. She faced all this with the help of her spiritual father and now Venerable Fr. Joseph Vithayathil. Even the then Bishop Mar Thomas Menacherry suspected her as a hysteric and schizophrenic but Fr. Joseph stood by her as he was her confessor. Once the Bishop ordered an exorcism on her and another time he strongly insulted her. Though the church authorities were harsh on her she obeyed them with complete obedience. Seeing her humility and perseverance the bishop approved her dream to start a house for the poor. Later being satisfied with her conduct and life Bishop himself started a congregation for her and appointed Thresia as its General. The congregation was named after Holy family because of the devotion of Thresia to the Holy family. She was 38 when she began the Congregation of Holy Family. She knew families were the places where problems began. Therefore charism of her congregation stressed on family apostolate. According to the mandates of Fr.Vithayathil she had written many letters and autobiographical notes and spiritual experiences. These are enough to tell the state of perfection that her soul achieved. Her soul was burning with love of God and people. It was impossible for an unlettered woman to write deep mystical matters that only a sage or mystic can write.

Thresia became a saint not through the miracles but through her life of prayer and action. She never stepped out of her village except to meet the Maharaja of Travancore for a help. Though she didn’t travel much she could start a big revolution in Kerala. She could become a beacon of hope for the women and people at the peripheries. She started boarding schools, dispensaries, orphanages etc. She wanted her nuns also to be educated and efficient. Therefore she sent her nuns for higher studies. She was a woman with great vision – A nun who changed the conventional notion of being a nun. She was a mystic who was concerned about the world.

Mariam Thresia became a saint by doing ordinary things with extraordinary love. She had a large heart for understanding the pain of the other. She was a contemporary of St Alphonsa and she could live with St Euphrasia in the Carmelite convent for a few days. There is a common thread that connects their lives. Three of them were known as passion flowers. All the three had intense spiritual experiences and had to undergo many trials and sufferings. They all burned with love for Christ the crucified. All three of them had strong resemblances with the life of St Theresa of Lisieux. It is a wonder and divine work for sure that He raised three saints at the beginning of a century which had two world wars. Their lives helped people to face the difficulties and they still help many. I believe lives of saints are a beacon of hope and assurance of the presence of a loving God who is concerned about the world He created. Life of St Mariam Thresia reiterates it.

By Deslin Paulson SJ
Kerala, India


Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus is a new hope for us. Hope for a better life, life from the shackles of darkness to light. God created light to dispel the darkness (Gen 1). The land of Egypt was land of darkness to Hebrews. Yahweh became their new hope; He rescued them out of darkness. Jesus says, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” The life which Jesus promised to us, comes only when another sacrifices life. Its only when a grain of wheat falls and dies a new life springs up (Jn. 12:24). For me Resurrection is not just a mysterious event. It is an event that unfolds many other events – the Pentecost, the conversion of Paul, the early Christian community, etc. It is an event that shapes many other events in the history. It is an event that gives meaning to sacrifice done by so many people like Jesus so that others may have life. For me Resurrection is not just Jesus conquering death, but Resurrection of Jesus is a ray of hope to those in darkness – darkness of depression, feeling lonely, calamities, diseases, war, migration, trafficking, etc. Resurrection is strength to those willing to suffer and sacrifice life so that Justice prevails and others has life. The gospel of Luke 4:18 speaks about it: Jesus came to heal the broken hearted, release those in chains etc.


In this time of pandemic, who are the broken hearted? How will we heal them as followers of Christ so that the Resurrection will be a new hope for us and for others? Who are in chains (in need)? How can we unchain them so that the Resurrection will bring light in their life and in our life too?

No one experienced the resurrection. What all experienced is the Jesus post resurrection. But, Jesus offers us an opportunity to experience resurrection if we can become a ray of hope to someone in need, in times of trouble be a beckon of strength; be a grain that sacrifices itself to give new life. Resurrection is nothing but a new life.


Wellington Patil
Vidya Jyoti, Delhi

We are different, but not opposed…

Two lines struck me from a book of Gilles Deleuze.

The beautiful soul says: we are different, but not opposed…

The beautiful soul is in effect the one who sees differences everywhere and appeals to them only as respectable, reconcilable or federative differences, while history continues to be made through bloody contradictions.

When we start learning the language, one of the initial group of words we learn are antonyms (good × bad, white × black, high × low). They teach us categories, which are the exact opposite to one another.

Now the question that could be raised is, are white and black really opposites? Yes, they are different colours, but are they opposites (contradictions)?? Yes, when the reflection or absorption of light is considered, white and black surfaces behave extremely differently (may be like opposites). But in many other occasions (to sit on a chair which is white coloured or black coloured doesn’t make much differences), white and black surfaces behave exactly in the same way.


Thus, two concepts ( black and white) are considered opposite from certain perspectives, but are similar when we look from many other perspectives. I accept that the first perspective as opposites is very important especially for the studies in science and for the purpose of classification. Now the question that emerge is, whether that first perspective (as opposites) have completely dominated the narrative of white and black or the other narratives (they are similar with regard to many properties) have also got sufficient attention?

When we still faces the problems of caste-ism (high v/s low), racism (black v/s white), gender (male v/s female), question of rights (citizen v/s non-citizen), this analysis of narratives do give a sufficient hint. I am just raising some questions on the stories of words which are considered opposites? Do give a thought…

Arun Simon SJ
Paris, France

The Missing P(i)e(a)ce

Many of us have tried to solve jigsaw puzzles. I have. As a kid it was one of my favourite indoor pastimes when alone. Jigsaw puzzles entail completing the picture by putting the right piece in the right place in the right way. There are those moments while playing, when a gap in the picture really troubles us and we desperately look for that one piece which will fit into that gap. While looking for that one piece, we find others that seem similar and make us momentarily glad. However satisfaction comes only when we find that particular piece we are looking for.

missing peace0000

In many way’s life is like a jigsaw puzzle. There is one piece that we are obsessed with; and we give such great importance to it that at times it takes away the joy of all the other pieces we have found so far and put in place. This urge for that particular piece is so great that we don’t notice the other pieces which are also needed to complete the picture. Many times, in life we behave like this, we fix our eyes on something and in that fixation, we are so desperate for it that, we forget to be thankful for all we have at times even forget to enjoy what comes our way. It is thus so important to go for the right piece at the right time. If we are behind the wrong piece at the wrong time it will only frustrate us and will take happiness away from us.

In life there is a time and a place for everything just like there is a time and place for each piece in a jigsaw puzzle to be put in its right place. Completing the jigsaw puzzle is all about looking for, finding and placing the right piece at the right place at the right time. Thus, it won’t be wrong to say life is like a jigsaw puzzle where you search for the right thing at the right time and place. Finding it is what makes you happy and helps you attain that inner peace. For if we are after the wrong piece at the wrong time, then this missing piece will result in us losing peace in life.

Lenoy Jose SJ
DNC, Pune

Can Kashmir redeem India?

***The views in this article are personal.

On August 5, 2019 The Indian Government abrogated Article 370 of the Constitution which gave special status to the state of Jammu and Kashmir and split it into two union territories. It was carried out by heavy deployment of troops, imposition of section 144, curfews and communication blackout. Omar Abdullah, a former Jammu and Kashmir chief minister and Pro-Indian politician lashed out calling it a “betrayal of trust” and that “GOI has resorted to deceit and stealth”.

Indians were a divided lot on this move. Those, far right and supporters of the RSS backed BJP, flexed their muscles and celebrated it as a ‘masterstroke’ and a ‘Historic move’ one necessary to integrate Kashmir into India (or was it to propitiate the ‘gods’ of Hindutva?). Others spoke out against it and mourned the slow death of democracy. Many simply saw the unmistakeable force of ‘Fascism’. Kashmiris definitely were voiceless. A decision that affects their identity, land and future was taken without their consent.


The impunity with which the Government put nine million people under Lockdown and bulldozed through a bill in the Parliament is a telling sign of where India is headed. As a peace loving, secular and democratic country, much more is expected from its citizen to speak ‘truth to power’. And yet the response of the Indian mass and its media is worrisome. The complacency or lack thereof to speak the truth and protest freely without fear is a red flag too grave to ignore, else the chilling words from Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale could sooner happen, “That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on.”

Painting Pakistan the ‘evil one’ has so far managed to put the high-handedness of India in Kashmir apparently justifiable. This narrative reasons that since Pakistan based terrorists operate in Kashmir, Indian Army could terrorize Kashmiris under the guise of national security, development, and so on. It did galvanise the Indian mass against its neighbour and surely the Indian media played its role. Yet nothing can be further from the truth than this narrative being used as a smokescreen to distract citizens from critical issues like human rights violation, failing economy and unemployment.

India’s descent into Majoritarianism and authoritarianism has never been so vivid than that of the abrogation of Article 370. In her article “India needs to reset its moral compass” in the Washington Post, Rana Ayyub wrote “But Indian democracy has developed uncomfortable amnesia, as if Kashmir has ceased to exist in our imagination.” So it remains to be seen whether the Indian mass wake up and act or rather fool their memory claiming ‘everything is fine’.

Kashmir and Hong Kong, both a legacy of British imperialism, today fight for autonomy and democracy. And to supress this fight India has joined the ranks of China to muzzle people’s voice not exempting brute military force. Joshua Wong, a well-known face of the pro-democracy Umbrella Movement in 2014 and now of the ongoing protest in Hong Kong twitted about the spirit of Hong Kongers, “In David vs Goliath battle, we never give up & step backward”.

For now Kashmir is up in a ‘David vs Goliath’ like battle against India. Leaderless and under-siege, will a ‘David’ rise up from among the infamous ‘stone pelters’? Or will their resistance wear off under Indian repression? However it unfolds, the story of Kashmir will indicate the health of Indian Democracy and hence of India.



David Mao


An Aadhar card is all you needed to avail of services in plenty,

Your personal information would continue to remain private wasn’t any more a guarantee,

To reveal the Unique 12-digit number is something that none can force,

The Aadhar is mandatory no more and services can be availed using another source.


To visit Lord Aiyappa was the desire of some women who aged between ten and fifty,

However, into the temple of Sabrimala they were forbidden a dignified rightful entry,

The supreme court lifted the ban that prevented entry to women,

Saying that any form of devotion cannot be subject to discrimination.


Section 377 of IPC was being used as a weapon to harass the members of the LGBTQ community,

Resulting in discrimination and deprivation of equal opportunity,

The supreme court struck down section 377 implying the decriminalisation of homosexuality,

Because it said that consensual sex between two adults was covered under their right to privacy.


What happens to a person who has been reduced to a vegetative state?

Is a continued existence of total dependence on the ventilator their only fate?

The court has recognised their right to die with dignity as a fundamental right,

Hence, the acceptance of passive euthanasia and living will are results of this fight.


According to section 497 of IPC, adultery was considered to be an offence committed against a married man by another man,

Women were not treated as human beings but rather as possessions or things as per this 1s50-year-old law or plan,

Husband is not the master of the wife and legal sovereignty of one sex over the other is wrong,

Regard to be made for social progression, perceptual shift, gender equality and gender sensitivity was the supreme courts song.


Wesley D’Costa SJ
Vidya Jyoti, Delhi.

Jesuit Hockey Parivar

“Great things happen when God mixes with humans.” So was it at Ambatha when we decided to start Hockey. Coaching in hockey wasn’t something I had expected. I was shocked to see 60 boys present on the ground in the evening after the announcement was made in school. We had only 4 hockey sticks and that also of men’s size given by Br. Tommy. However, this did not hinder us from starting our training. This difficulty was somewhat similar to a Gospel passage where the apostles mentioned to Jesus that they have nothing more than 5 loaves and 2 fish. So we mentioned our plight to Jesus. After a notice in Samachar (Newsletter of the Bombay Jesuits), we received a call from David Mao my novitiate companion mentioning, that Uplat community had 40 hockey sticks. We went on a bike to collect it but couldn’t bring it on the same day because of some riots. We returned a little disappointed but now certain of getting something better than nothing. Hockey sticks were brought after a few weeks and the training in stick work commenced. What I found more interesting was that our community even started focusing on the diet of the players. Not only that, even the FC nuns helped us with medical aid in cases of injuries.


The first tournament was played on the school ground amongst the boys. Our intention was to participate for the district matches but that dream came to an end for the first year as the registration time was over. We felt the boys had worked hard and deserved to play a match against some schools. So what was the alternative? We contacted St. Stanislaus for a friendly match. With this move two goals were achieved. First, the boys played with one of the best school hockey team in Mumbai and second they got an exposure of an Astro Turf gournd. St. Stanislaus and St. Xavier’s College community helped us with goalkeepers’ kit and few more sticks. The entire journey appeared to me like a Jesuit Hockey Parivar.

The following were the results when we participated at the district level. Under – 14 boys and U -17 girls secured 3rd place. Under 14 girls and U -17 boys secured 2nd place. We also participated in Junior Nehru Hockey Cup and the results were as following at the district level. Under 17 girls secured 2nd place. Under 15 and U -17 boys secured 3rd place. Thanks to all who made it possible.


Jackson D’Souza SJ
Prabhodhan Vastigriha & Vidyalaya
Ambatha, Nashik

Friends for a Purpose

The Catholic Church is venturing into dialogue and collaboration with those of other faiths. Vatican II in its document Nostra aetate (In our times) on ecumenism with all Non-Christians states ‘The Catholic church rejects nothing that is true and holy in these religions. She regards with sincere reverence those ways of conduct and of life, those precepts and teachings, which though different in many aspects from the ones she holds and sets forth, nonetheless often reflect a ray of truth which enlightens all.’ Substantiating this ideal, Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth (JDV), Pune offers a course on ‘Philosophy of World Religions.’ As part of the course, the second year philosophers of JDV went on a pilgrimage to various religious places in Pune.


At first, we went to a Gurudwara where we attended a prayer service followed by Langar, a meal which promotes equality among Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. One cannot but admire the valour and humility shown by Sikh brethren. Then we went to ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) temple in where we had an interactive session with the head priest. Elaborating on karma, he quoted the Bible, “As ye sow so ye shall reap.” He surprised us even more by saying that every priest in their movement reads the Bible. We further proceeded to the Ramakrishna mutt. Here we had a talk given by one of the priests of the mutt. He focused his talk on the premise, ‘Self realisation is God realisation.’ We got to know of Ramakrishna who had a vision of Jesus merged with his body and he kept the picture of Jesus in his room and burnt incense before it morning and evening. Even today his followers celebrate Christmas every year. The talk was soul moving and a humbling experience for all of us. We finally visited the Jain temple and returned home.


The whole day visiting different religious centres in the city raised many questions about our attitude towards other religions and cleared many prejudices about other religions. Religion, in general, brings more division than unity in the world. In today’s context where religious fanaticism and fundamentalism is at its peak, one is forced to introspect one’s attitude towards other religions. Not so surprisingly, other religions have high regard for Christ and Christians. Though once we believed that salvation is attained only through Christianity, we accept and respect every other faith today. Being Indians, it is of Paramount importance to recognize the truth in other religions. The bigger task here is how can we, led by God, work towards the betterment of the world and our country in particular. I would like to quote Pope Francis, “From indifference and opposition, we have turned to cooperation and Goodwill. From enemies and strangers, we have become friends and brothers.” I firmly believe that we can as brothers and sisters of this great nation work towards the growth of the country. This course together with the experience of visiting different religious places has certainly put us on the right track.


Casimir Eelaraj SJ.

JDV, Pune

The Plight of BAGANIS

“HUM AYE NAHI HAME LAYA GYA HAI” (We did not come, we were brought here!) With these words Mr. Benedict  Bhengra, a Santhal tea garden worker corrected me when I told him that your ancestors came here on their own. He has given his 40 years of life in the tea garden. He said that, there ancestors were BROUGHT here they did not come on their own. Like any other Indian, the foreign missionaries also felt that they do not have their own etymology. “We were treated as beggars and still we are. We are looked down upon and they (missionaries) always felt the need to help us rather than understanding our ways of living” he added. He was grateful to the missionaries for bringing them to the gardens but he regrets that he had to live behind his past, his land, his identity his know surroundings, his people and everything that he called his own.

Benedict and his family were brought to Assam from Jharkhand as workers so that they could live a better life and could make a living. The world of the tea gardens which looks so green and beautiful from outside has its own sublime ugliness which is not seen by an outsider. The tea garden workers do not have an identity of their own. What they could call their own is left behind. They live in tiny houses, given to them by their owners. The missionaries always treated them well and tried to give them a life of dignity. Most of workers are converted Christians, who took a new name, a new identity and a new selfdom which was again given to them and chosen not by them.


They worked hard during the day to make the tea garden a profitable venture and in the evening, they strengthen their faith. With the passage of the missionaries tea estates become more profit oriented. With the change of management, the values and the concept on which the tea garden also changed. People were less important than the money. They were deprived of their land, identity and traditions to make them civilized. But have they really become civilized? Or have they turned into slaves? Unfortunately they ended becoming bonded laborer to tea gardens. But, the tea garden workers remain submissive to what was in store for them. No one ever thought of revolting or even protesting for they do not feel that what is being done to them is injustice. They consider it as their destiny and they feel that they have no other option but to keep living their lives in these gardens.

They learned a new way of life called “BAGANIS” which means those belonging to the garden. They do not have many dreams and their world begins and ends in the garden. But the pain of living like a foreigner agonizes many of them. Many feel that their children should have a better future than them but they do not see much hope. Now they cannot go back to their homeland in Jharkhand and here all they see is nothing but acres of land covered under tea plantation. The whole dialogue with Mr. Benedict has made me ponder over the lives of tribals.  I was left with the question: Is there a possibility of change? Can there be a better future for them?

By Sch. Vivian Lopes
Vidya Jyoti, Delhi

To fall or not to ….

“All happy families are alike. Each family is unhappy in its own way”.

A few years ago, I was travelling on a sleeper class train from Chennai. A lady wearing a purdah sitting on the opposite seat was curiously watching me talking to my family over the mobile phone. She was pale, weak and old. The deep dark circles below her saddened eyes conveyed the sufferings she was undergoing.
“Sir – you were speaking in Marathi. Are you a Maharashtrian?” she asked me in Marathi language. I thought she was a Marathi Muslim.
“No – I am studying in Belgaum.”
“Are you a Punekar?” She asked. People from all religions and caste speak this language – especially in Belgaum, which is also influenced by Marathi culture, and many youngsters migrate to Pune for jobs. So she should be smart to make right guess. I nodded.
“I was also a Punekar, later I got shifted to Karnataka….”
I just smiled. Suddenly she said:
“Sir – you resemble my uncle when I met him 30 years ago” I saw tears rolling out of her eyes. So I asked her calmly: “What happened?”
“I just remembered my parents….” she said. We began talking and she told me about her life story that would pull anybody’s heart-strings. 

“I was originally from Ahmednagar district. My father was a post master and mother, a school teacher. We were Kulkarni’s (Brahmin priestly class). My parent’s dream and my aim was to become an IAS officer. They sent me to a reputed convent school for better education. But there, I acquired a taste for chicken. Though my parents were strict vegetarians, they allowed me to eat it outside with friends…”
While I was doing my first year B.Sc, I used to visit a non-vegetarian restaurant with friends where I met this boy – who would come very stylishly dressed and he had a bike. He was so nice, well-mannered and soft-spoken. He said that he too was a graduate from a reputed college and was running his family business, a food-processing chain and supplying meat for this restaurant.
Then, we began to meet in the Library, college canteen, coffee shop. Gradually, our friendship turned into a steady relationship. We fell in love.

For both of us, our families did not agree for the marriage. We did make efforts to convince our parents, but my orthodox mother was against my getting married to a non-Brahmin. Similarly for him, not everybody in his family were happy with us. However, one day I eloped with him – spoiling the dreams of my parents.

We married according to the Islam tradition for which I had to convert to Islam. The first few days went very well – I thought it was the seventh heaven. One day, in the evening, I received a phone call from a good college friend, who also was married and had settled in Bangalore. Seeing me talking over the phone, my husband accused me of having an extra marital affair. It was a great shock for me and we had heated argument. He said: “You cheated your own parents – that means you cheat people. How do I know you that you’re faithful to me? ” (She was crying when she explained this)
My tough days had just begun – he would beat me every day. (I remembered – my parents would never even bear tears in my eyes let alone hurt me). I was not allowed to talk to anyone and I had become a slave in Hijab and purdah. I was totally dejected, frustrated and depressed. After marriage, we lived in a rented house, and although he was working in a firm, the expenses were increasing, so I wanted to take teaching as a profession in some private school, and therefore, shared my desire with him. I tried to explain him two persons working will give sufficient relief from the growing family expense heads. But he was reluctant and rigid to the idea of me taking up a job. I thought that he had no love for me anymore and somehow was restraining me from progressing further. The truth struck me later that his cousin was trying to induce these evil thoughts in him and somehow persuading him to divorce me.
I shared my problems with a good lady in the neighbourhood, who took up my case with the local Imam – Moulavi (Muslim priest). He was a gentleman and listened to me. He called my husband to discuss about it – but, it didn’t work and ended up in talaq (divorce). He married another girl when I was pregnant. The good lady in my neighbourhood took care of me, as I gave birth to a baby boy. The kind Moulavi advised me that I should take care of my son, as he’s still not a teenager. He’ll be needing care and attention in his academics. I applied for a teaching job in a nearby school. After a week, I was to join the school, and carry my credentials to work in a prestigious school. After a couple of years, one day I saw in the newspaper that my ex-classmate passed the IAS exam and was a topper among the state candidates. I cried throughout the night – My dream and reality! Who was to blame?

To cut short the story, she lost her son, when he was 3 years old, due to a serious illness of food poisoning. I believe all these setbacks were the result of my parents curse. “I am suffering extremely from the painful experiences now…“Sir, many times I thought about suicide. But I need to suffer the results of my bad karma in this life itself. My parents curse will chase me. I may have to take another birth to suffer this. I have pained my parents so much…” she again started weeping. “I am guilty of all sins. I don’t deserve to pray even for a pain-less death”.
I have been to Chennai for treatment – psycho-therapy” she said. She was just 46 then, but appeared in late 60s!

I was speechless for some time. I am not able to assimilate her story the way she told me – I could not comprehend the intensity of the experiencer.

I had to get down in Londa to catch connection train to Belgaum. Before getting down she asked: “Sir, you didn’t utter a single word after listening to my story.”
What to say? I smiled at her, blinked my eyes, and said: “Please stop eating Chicken…”
She suddenly laughed: “I stopped it long back…” she paused for a moment and said: “Sir, I am laughing for the first time after so many years! I felt like I am a small girl talking to my uncle.” It was heartening to see her happy face.
“Sister – your parent’s atma would understand your situation and would definitely forgive you…”
“Thank you sir – I am waiting to reach them soon and fall on their feet. I want to wipe their feet with my tears”
I told her good bye and left.

-Robinson Mudaliar, SJ