September 18, 2009

Sept. 26 Mass at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral to remember ‘Little Flower of India’

By Mary Ann Wyand

She is lovingly called the “Little Flower of India” by Indian Catholics.

St. Alphonsa Muttathupandathu, a Poor Clare nun from India known for her holiness during a lifetime of suffering, was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI on Oct. 12, 2008, at St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican.

Archdiocesan Catholics are invited to participate in a eucharistic liturgy celebrated in her memory at 6:30 p.m. on Sept. 26 at SS. Peter and Paul Cathedral, 1347 N. Meridian St., in Indianapolis.

The Mass is sponsored by the archdiocesan Office of Multicultural Ministry. Capuchin Franciscan Father Bernard Varghese is the celebrant for the multicultural Mass.

Father Varghese, who was appointed associate pastor of St. Louis Parish in Batesville on Sept. 8 by Archbishop Daniel M. Buechlein, came to the archdiocese from the Capuchin Provincialate of Kerala, India.

St. Alphonsa’s feast day is observed on July 28, the date of her death in 1946. Her body is interred at St. Mary Church in Bharananganam, India, which has become a pilgrimage destination.

She was born on Aug. 19, 1910, in Kudamalloor, Kerala, India. During her childhood years, she often talked about her desire to enter religious life.

However, her aunt, who became her foster mother, continued to pursue possible suitors for marriage against her wishes.

At age 13, she deliberately stepped into a fire pit behind her home to disfigure her body and destroy her beauty. She suffered severe burns on most of her body, and her legs and feet were permanently scarred and disabled for the rest of her life.

In spite of her poor health, continuous sickness and disability, she constantly spoke about the need to accept suffering cheerfully.

Thousands of people, especially those suffering from disabilities of the feet and legs, have reportedly experienced miraculous healings by praying to St. Alphonsa.

During the beatification liturgy on Feb. 8, 1986, in Kottayam, Kerala, India, Pope John Paul II said “she came to love suffering because she loved the crucified Christ [and] learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord.” †

Local site Links: