SAINT EUPHRASIA: THE PRAYING MOTHER
Lives of saints show us the way they trod to reach the heart of God. God puts His seal of sanctity on their lives – the lives lived for Him and His children. Blessed Euphrasia, a Carmelite nun, lived every moment of her life loving and worshipping God and serving Him in her fellow creatures, her suffering brothers and sisters.
Ollur, a small village near the Trichur highway, you will find an old and a bit imposing structure very close to the main road. That is St. Mary’s Convent of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel. Countless pilgrims rush to this strange but attractive place, with great reverence believing in the sanctity of the life of Mother Euphrasia. The tomb of Blessed Euphrasia has become a place of prayer and thousands of people come to pray, beg her intercessory prayers and thank her for favours received.
After a long span of spiritually fruitful life of 75 years, Blessed Euphrasia found eternal rest in the Lord on 29th August 1952. She was confined to the cloister for more than 50 years and suffered quite a lot those years from physical illness. A humble, hidden and silent life spent for God and fellow creatures. Her main occupation was prayer with penance. Despite the weaknesses of her frail body, the trials and sicknesses of old age, Blessed Euphrasia spent herself for others and discovered immense joy in doing so.
On the Boarding side of the St. Mary’s Convent, Ollur, the night after Christmas 1950, we the Postulants were getting ready to receive the habit of Carmel the next day, the Golden Jubilee of the St. Mary’s Convent, Ollur, founded in 1900 and the Golden Jubilee of the Profession of Mother Euphrasia and companions. We heard someone calling us, “Come and get the blessing of Mother Euphrasia. She is waiting for you on the Convent side”. At once, we all went down and walked to the Convent side. There she was: an old nun with a toothless smile waiting for us. She blessed us and told us to become very fervent brides of Christ and love Jesus without measure with an eager heart, and to be wise virgins. But I was thinking afterwards why is it that they called us to get Mother Euphrasia’s blessing and not the Mother Superior’s!
Then after that year, on May 27th we came to Ollur Convent for our novitiate. Then I used to watch Mother Euphrasia behind me walking fast to join us in our prayer. I used to see her sitting in the corner on a small bench in front of the chapel. She would sit and pray there, always looking at the Tabernacle and the big statue of our Immaculate Mother on the top of the altar. We used to watch this tireless Praying Mother. She was about 75 then. As we were novices we were not allowed to talk with the senior sisters. We knew that she was the Novice Mistress of our Novice Mistress.
But there had been occasions when we could see and talk to her, that is, when we get high recreation. I remember one such day when we all, 23 in number, lined up and went to the recreation hall of the senior sisters. Being the youngest, I was with the last two or three novices. We passed by the bench where the old sisters were sitting, and asked, “Mother aren’t you well?” Hearing our simple question, Mother Euphrasia had a hearty laughter along with the other sisters. I still remember the place where I asked that question, and Mother Euphrasia laughed shaking her head and opening her mouth.
Once I remember I got a penance, to kneel, in the refectory and say a prayer after taking off the white veil which we were wearing. I did it without much difficulty and went back to my place. But then the next day Sr. Marthina, my companion, got a harder penance from the Novice Mistress. She was to take off her veil and toke (head dress) too exposing the shaved head. Well, it was difficult to do. But Sr. Marthina did it. There was a swishing sound from the sisters when she did it. Afterwards when the Superior said ‘Praise be to Jesus’ to start the recreation, no one said anything but remained silent. Then Mother Euphrasia blurted out, “This need not have been done!” There was dead silence. I was very happy to hear those words, because it made me clear that Mother Euphrasia had a merciful heart and she did not agree regarding the penance with the Novice Mistress who was her own disciple.
Birth and Baptism
Mother Euphrasia was born on 17th October 1877 in the ancient Catholic family of Eluvathingal Cherpukaran Anthony and Kunjethy in the Kattur village of Edathuruthy parish. Her father was well known, as a wealthy man of determination and power. Her mother was a virtuous woman, daughter of Chalissery Ittikuru Porinchu of Aranattukara. The eldest child was christened by the Vicar, Rev. Fr. Mathew Ukken in the Edathuruthy Parish Church on October 25th, the eight day of her birth and was named ‘Rosa’, the name of her paternal grandmother according to tradition. The couple had three more sons and a daughter.
Rosa’s Early Life
Rosa fully inherited the parental virtues and she was blessed with certain inborn qualities of her own. Stubborn and short-tempered at times like her father, she insisted on obtaining whatever she wanted. Her mother Kunjethy was simple, unassuming and docile, though she also came from a wealthy and prestigious family. She was extremely calm and composed with a deep spirit of prayer and great devotion to the Mother of God. Rosa received this precious treasure from her mother – a spirit of prayer and deep devotion to the Blessed Mother. This genuine, loving and prayerful family atmosphere was greatly conducive to the spiritual growth of young Rosa who grew up with great zeal and fervent desire to love God and offer herself totally to Him.
At the Age of 9
“At home I asked my mother, after prayer what is meant by ‘Queen of Angels’ in the litany after the Rosary. Then mother told me about our Holy Mother and angels. She told me that they adore the Lord and are always near Him. Somehow Father! I thought much about it. Went on thinking without sleep. Then a very beautiful lady came to me and called me. Let us adore the Lord! Adore the Lord with the first choir of angels. Saying thus, came to me at each hour. Three days continuously this beautiful lady made me do it. With that all the hours were impressed in my mind. I will never forget it. My Father, I didn’t know this person at that time, now I know. Then I was (9) years old. Tell your father and mother to take you to the Convent, saying this [she] left” (Letter 30, 18 Feb.,1904, p.158). “You must tell your Sp. Father also about the adoration with the angels which I have taught you at the age of 9 [nine]. I like that very much”. “She also commanded me to inform in detail how once she cleared my doubt about it” (Letter 30, p. 156).
Prayer with the Angels
Mother Euphrasia wrote in Letter 31 in February 1904 about this prayer with the angels: From morning 4’O’ clock onwards you must adore the Lord along with the 1st legion of angels, the Seraphim, for yourself and on behalf of others. Practise the virtue of humility. From 6’O’ clock onwards together with the 2nd legion of angels, the Cherubim, you thank him for yourself and others. Pray for love of God. From 8’O’ clock onwards join the 3rd legion of angels, the Thrones; you must offer to God yourself and all people and love God. Pray for the virtue of purity. From 10’O’ clock onwards join with the 4th legion of angels, the Dominations, pray for yourself, for sinners, souls in purgatory and for the dying. Pray for divine grace. From 12’O’ clock onwards together with the 5th legion of angels, the Virtues, do reparation offering Jesus’ holy blood, for yourself and for the ungrateful human race. Pray for perseverance. From 2’O’ clock onwards join the 6th legion of angels, the Powers, and pray for the growth of the holy Church. Pray to overcome your temptations. From 4’O’ clock onwards together with the 7th legion, the Principalities, pray for the Holy Father, Bishops and priests. Pray for getting fervour in evangelization. From 6’O’ clock onwards, joining the 8th legion of angels, the Archangels, praise and glorify the holy mysteries of my divine Son’s incarnation, nativity, death, resurrection [and Mother’s Immaculate Conception]. Pray for yourself and for all people. Among these the Immaculate Conception was added by Mother Euphrasia. From 8’O’ clock onwards together with the 9th legion, Guardian Angels, pray for increase in holiness and perseverance till the end, of the Carmelite Congregation and other Congregations. Listen to the whisperings of the Guardian Angel. Also said you would join the Carmelite Congregation. Later, I have been informed that [this prayer] is very pleasing to her” (pp. 160 f.).
The Divine Call
Rosa was fortunately blessed with the rare joy of offering herself to Lord Jesus Christ. She had offered her virginity forever to the Lord and desired to become the bride of Christ. But her father wanted to marry her off to a very wealthy family which would add to his prestige. In her confrontation with her father, Rosa said: “I want to become a nun”. Her father was furious and said that he would never allow Rosa to be a nun. If it is necessary the younger girl Kochuthresia could go. This did not pacify Rosa. To add to the confusion Kochuthresia fell ill and died soon. The little girl was buried in the parish cemetery. This made Anthony think again and worried whether God will take even Rosa away. Broken hearted, he agreed to Rosa’s desire.
In the Boarding of the Carmelite Sisters
On October 24th 1888, Anthony took his daughter to the Boarding house in Koonammavu, run by the Carmelite sisters, specially intended for training those who desire religious life. The Carmelite Convent in Koonammavu was the first indigenous Convent in Kerala founded by Blessed Chavara Kuriakose Elias and Fr. Leopold Beccaro, the Italian Carmelite Missionary. Rosa was very happy there as she found all that she was desiring for, prayer life, fervent love of God and joyful community life. The well-disciplined prayer life in the Boarding made Rosa feel that she was in second heaven. Prayer was given priority there as Rosa did in her life.
Rosa had the rudiments of education from the local Asans (tutors) in Kattur which was the custom at that time. In the Koonammavu Boarding, the girls were taught Tamil, Malayalam, English, Mathematics and Music. Besides, they were given training in needlework, drawing and handicrafts like making flowers, rosaries, etc. Rosa had a special talent in needlework and drawing. Her handwriting was beautiful, although she was not very smart in her studies.
Rosa’s life was full of trials and she tried hard to overcome them. There were times when Rosa would have been sent back home for treatment and improvement of health as she fell too often a victim to ill health. She was very much grieved when the authorities said that she did not have the health to stay in the Boarding. She was afraid whether she would be sent back home. Her only solace at such times was the Immaculate Mother. She prayed to the Blessed Virgin with much confidence and trust. “Mother, am I not your daughter? Permit me to become a member of your Congregation and consummate my sacrifice”. She stood close to that maternal heart and Mother Mary took her in her charge and protected her like the apple of her eye.
In 1889, in the month of September, Rosa had an attack of rheumatism and her frail body was exhausted and she lost the lustre of her eyes. Treatment was in vain according to expert medical opinion, but it was not possible to send her home for lack of proper conveyance. As her condition grew worse, the nuns arranged to administer ‘Viaticum’ to her, when they found her sinking. Then, as all of them fixed their eyes upon her, there came a strange incredible change. Rosa’s pale little face suddenly beamed up with life, and beauty. Her eyes got back the lustre and her face became extremely beautiful and joyful. She stretched out her arms as if she was receiving somebody very dear to her. The onlookers were startled as she got up and sat showing perfectly regained health.
The Miracle of Healing
Rosa had only a smile to offer as the nuns surrounded her with queries. But she could not escape from the Superior. Rosa explained how she had the vision of the Holy Family – Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and how she was told that she would definitely have a long period of life as a nun before she would embrace death. The Superior was prudent enough to note down all the details and when Rosa went over to the Convent in her own diocese in 1897; this note was also sent to Bishop John Menachery, the Bishop of Trichur.
There was also an added note by the Superior: “Before this event happened it had been decided to send her home without allowing her to join the Convent. Because of this event and also because of this child’s modesty, devotion and well-disciplined life, it was decided to accept her in the Convent”.
Sr. Agnes of Jesus
Superior, Koonammavu Convent.
(Mother Euphrasia Letters, p.371)
Division of the Dioceses
In 1887, two Vicariates were formed from the Diocese of Verapoly, for the Syrian Catholics in the north, Trichur, and in the South, Kottayam. On the basis of repeated requests for local Bishops, there was a further division in 1896 and the three Vicariates of Trichur, Ernakulam and Changanachery were formed and local bishops were appointed in these. Mar John Menachery was consecrated and installed as the first Bishop of Trichur. He was a great man with deep spirituality, prudence, courage, action, prophetic insight, administrative capacity and above all a great devotion to the Mother of God.
A Convent in Ambazhakad
Bishop John Menachery assumed charge of his diocese on October 25th 1896. Able and far-sighted, this holy Bishop before long opened a Convent in his Vicariate on 9th May 1897. It was St. Joseph’s Convent, Ambazhakad, the first religious house for women in the diocese of Trichur. It was the house donated by Ambazhakad Kanichai Kunjannam. Sisters belonging to this diocese, were brought there from Koonammavu – Sr. Rose Beatrice, a perpetually professed sister, four novices and one aspirant. Along with them came also 9 boarders who were preparing to enter the Convent. Rosa, daughter of Cherpukaran Eluvathingal Antony was one of them.
It was Fr. Mathew Chiramel who brought them from Koonammavu in obedience to the orders of the Vicar Apostolic. They set out at 3 p.m. on 7th May 1897. The parents of the girls who were about to enter the convent also had accompanied them. They sailed in large country boats. They landed at Mala the next morning and proceeded on foot to St. Teresa’s Carmelite Monastery, Kottackal. They enjoyed a loving and hearty reception from the priests of the monastery and resumed their journey to Ambazhakad. It was four in the evening when they reached their destination where they were given a rousing reception by a vast crowd who had gathered there. Thus they stepped within the borders of their own diocese – those firstborns.
Sister Euphrasia of the S. H. of Jesus
The blessing of the St. Joseph’s Convent and official inauguration of the first Convent of the Diocese of Trichur was on 9th May 1897. The next day, 10th May, 9 of the boarders were to be hooded. A solemn High Mass was sung to usher in the momentous event. Rosa’s life’s dream at last found its realization. What a precious day! On that day she received a new name, Sister Euphrasia of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She surrendered herself completely to her Heavenly Spouse. She bequeathed her all to Him without keeping a wee bit to herself, a total submission to the will of God. Henceforth no two wills, no dual path – just a single way, the holy will of God. Her entire soul and all its faculties must become one with God. Her body should be consumed in the furnace of suffering. Hereafter, she shall be naught of herself but completely of Christ’s and His Mother’s. It was through Mary that she offered herself to God. It was she who received her gift.
Under the Discipline of the Mistress
Sr. Beatrice, a finally professed sister from Koonammavu, was appointed as the first Superior. Sr. Rosa, the eldest of the four newly vested ones, became the Novice Mistress. Both Sr. Beatrice and Sr. Rosa were very influential on many levels and very close to Sister Euphrasia. They knew each other deeply. Especially, the prudence, holiness, loving discipline and religious formation she received from Sr. Rosa was very helpful in Sr. Euphrasia’s life. Sr. Rosa was particularly destined to share and witness all the spiritual experiences, illnesses, sufferings and joys of Sr. Euphrasia as Mistress and later as Superior, whereas Sr. Beatrice especially had the good fortune to die enjoying the tender services and prayerful assistance of Sr. Euphrasia in the last days of her life.
Assistant to the Main Formator
The superiors recognizing and appreciating the striking qualities and virtues of Sr. Euphrasia and fully acknowledging the worth of her disciplined and exemplary life appointed her Assistant to the Novice Mistress. Besides this, she was asked to comfort and take care of the sick sisters. Those duties she performed with great care.
Bishop John Menachery
Bishop John Menachery who had read the letter Mother Agnes sent from Koonammavu and recognising the need and importance of spiritual direction commanded Sr. Euphrasia when she came to Ollur to confess with him and also receive his spiritual direction. Thus the Bishop became Mother Euphrasia’s Spiritual Father till his death in 1919. We have with us Mother Euphrasia’s Letters from July 28, 1900 to August 1919 – about 79 letters which had been handed over to us by Bishop George Alappat who had great appreciation for the sanctity of Mother Euphrasia.
Mother Euphrasia inherited her father’s weakness of short temper. It was a real martyrdom fighting against this nature. She writes to her Sp. Father: “My father, I was a very short-tempered person. But now this defect does not show itself in anything. I don’t know when he will raise his head next” (Letter 17, 1 Jan., 1902, p.103). She did not hesitate to inform also the results of the battles: “When I was in the novitiate, in that time of small battles, I had felt extreme anger and anguish about small things so as to kill myself. But now by the grace of God these things are not there” (Letter 13, 2 Nov., 1901, p.89). Mother Euphrasia understood the meaning of the Word of God: “From the time John preached his message until this very day, the Kingdom of Heaven has suffered violent attacks and violent men try to seize it” (Mt. 11:12). Mother Euphrasia came to know of her pride, lethargy and desire for pleasure and made use of these as occasions to practise virtue. She did not withdraw from the battle tired and weary, especially seeing her failures. She became more humble. Just like a child she trusted in God. She opened her heart to the Mother of God and holding her hand, she put each step forward.
God entrusts big things to those who are faithful in small things. The superiors who were deeply convinced of Mother Euphrasia’s great spiritual wealth and responsibility, appointed her Novice Mistress in 1904. Before long was evident the unique ability of Mother Euphrasia in moulding the daughters of Carmel in the love of God as exemplary sisters in the spirit of the Congregation. Her only desire was that her little sisters, whom she loved like herself, should grow in holiness. The majority have found Mother’s strict formation useful. But all could not equally appreciate the purity of her intentions and her zeal. She insisted on disciplining the tongue specially on four occasions:
1. When one superior leaves and another one comes.
2. When we take up somebody else’s office.
3. When members of another convent come to our convent and when we go to other convents.
4. When the mind is upset or agitated.
Kissing the Feet
The Mistress very seriously handled the faults against charity. Her instruction was that if there had been any ill feeling or offence between the novices, only after reconciliation they could go to sleep. Her instruction is that the sister, who had an offence against another, should kiss the feet of the other and beg pardon. Mother Euphrasia would be at ease only when she saw that friendship was restored.
Decree on the Heroic Virtues
The Decree on the Heroic Virtues from Rome clearly states: “The Servant of God accepted joyfully and humbly the charismatic gifts with which the Lord entrusted her, holding herself unworthy to be chosen for such special favours. On account of the continuous practice of Christian virtues, which she treasured as well as the celestial gifts, many people went to her to ask her counsel and prayers.” An instance of it we can see in the advice given to novice Maria Louisa who was doubting her religious vocation and thought of going home, and finally to the Mistress and waited in fear. The Mistress’ door was opened. Mother Euphrasia smiled and peered into her eyes and before she could say anything, Mother said: “I have understood everything. You need not say anything. I’ll see to it. Go in peace, child”. It was an instance of the charism of Word of Knowledge. Never did this temptation trouble her again. This shows how she knew the evil machinations of the powers of darkness to send away God’s chosen ones from consecrated life.
Relieved of the duties of the Novice Mistress, Sister Euphrasia was appointed in 1913 Mother Superior of the Ollur St. Mary’s Convent. Mother Euphrasia told her Sp. Father, the Bishop: “My Father, let me tell the truth, I feel that if I go to some forest or wood, I can spend this earthly life without being known to anyone” (Letter 38, 14 July 1905, p. 207). But God’s plan was different. She accepted it, for in her mind nothing against the will of God found room.
Entrusting the Administration to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
From the very beginning Mother Euphrasia entrusted her administrative task to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. She first of all installed a beautiful statue of Sacred Heart of Jesus in the central part of the Convent. Mother Euphrasia began and ended her day before this Sacred Heart. As she passed that way, she would look at it with utmost love. After 10.30 in the night, when the chapel doors were closed, Mother Euphrasia would stand before the Sacred Heart Statue that she installed and pray and converse with the Lord for a long time. Even after midnight the sisters, who had got up in the night, had seen her praying before the Sacred Heart statue. Even today with a graceful look and an open heart that statue is there. Everyone in the Convent goes there and prays as the sisters pass there. Now this place is turned into Euphrasian Museum and all people who come here pray with great devotion.
Care and Concern
Mother Euphrasia loved the sisters entrusted to her care. She was an example to her daughters in prayer, zeal, keeping the rules, silent suffering and hard labour. She desired that no one should be slack in virtue. So she would correct their faults when she saw. She could not bear worldly tendencies creeping into the religious life; similarly indolence and lack of a sense of responsibility.
Mother was thoughtful of the needs and weariness of the sisters. She wanted to give good food to the sisters even when the financial situation was bad. She used to be very happy when there were more than usual food items to serve. Often God used to grant her desire through the help of generous people. Even after the expiry of her superiorship there was no lessening in her love. She always showed care and concern for the sick and the weary.
Once it so happened when the sisters came to the refectory, there was no food whatever. Without hesitation Mother Euphrasia told them to go to the Chapel and thank God. While they were praying, the parlour bell rang. Mother Euphrasia went to the parlour. She saw how the Lord loved and helped her. From the house of Akkara Augusty a big basket of bun and a big bunch of banana were brought to us. Mother Euphrasia called back the sisters from the Chapel and they were happy to realize how the Lord was mindful of them.
Reaching the Depths of the Soul
Mother Euphrasia’s love and concern was not only in external things: her piercing look used to reach the depths of the soul. Once a sister was on her death bed; many nursed her standing round about her. The death struggle was long; she didn’t die as expected. They looked at each other. Seeing this, the Superior Mother Euphrasia went and prayed with folded hands before the tabernacle; then she returned to the sick sister. She requested the sisters to leave the room for a short time, in order that she may speak to her alone and so they went. Then she softly asked the dying sister whether she had to seek forgiveness from anyone. With tearful eyes she related to Mother how she had hurt a superior with her rude behaviour and requested Mother to write a letter conveying her feeling of repentance and regret and begging her forgiveness. The sister breathed her last most peacefully even before the bearer of the letter reached the addressee.
Transferred to Manalur but Returned Soon
On April 14th 1916 Mother Euphrasia, after the end of her term as Superior, was transferred to Manalur Convent. There she was made Assistant Superior. But she was laid up there with rheumatism and developed other physical ailments. Besides, she had high fever and was vomitting blood. As the climate there was not good to her and no proper treatment available, she had to return to Ollur after about six months.
Attacks from the Evil Spirits
The Lord handed over Mother Euphrasia to be tempted by the evil spirits. From 1st November 1902 (Letter 24) to 17th September 1911 (Letter 64) – for about 8 years and 10 months Mother Euphrasia was suffering attacks, temptations, pains and troubles from the evil spirits. Unimaginable, horrifying, murderous things had occurred by way of trials. Mother Euphrasia wrote:
“My loving Father! What shall I write about the past things. Even when I remember worry and anxiety come. . . . Those evil spirits, with terrible revenge and insufferable dreadful anger, some dreadful and new terrible acts were doing to me more than they would do to a wicked animal with great cruelty the whole night, to destroy my poor soul and my vow of chastity within a moment to ruin me and take me away. During the day often they did with power. During three nights from my room to the front courtyard of the Convent and in the Church they did some worst things. Finally, the previous day of the feast of St. Teresa in the night at 11.30, heard a voice, bring before me. That moment, how I don’t know, I fell there. . . . This time the cruel wicked ones did not allow me to do anything with my lips, even to pray an aspiration, they had closed my mouth tightly stringing together” (Letter 55, 21 Oct., 1906, p. 271).
After that Jesus and Mother Mary and St. Joseph all came to console her, help her and strengthen her. It was after all those horrifying trials and sufferings that the Lord said, they were defeated. After that heavenly spirits ministered unto her. It was the Lord’s will that Mother Euphrasia win over the evil spirits in all the trials and the evil spirits acknowledge that they were defeated by her.
The Chosen Vessel
Mother Euphrasia was the chosen vessel of God to experience the sufferings of the Lord Jesus and to become a friend of His Passion. In various ways Jesus had shown to her His sufferings during the Passion and had requested her to remember, pray and comfort Him. This thought of Christ’s Passion was always in Euphrasia’s mind, intellect and heart. She often kissed the Crucifix which she wore on her chest and experienced the living presence of the Crucified. She became helpless when she thought how to make proper reparation for the Crucifixion, bloodshed and the sufferings of the crucified Saviour. By scourging herself, wearing a thorny waistlet, kneeling on hands and stones, using a stone for pillow, eating only once a day and that after making the food tasteless; she tried to comfort the suffering Christ. She also offered to the Lord her love and affection in return to those who scorned and hurt her, and accepting the accusations of the superiors without any self-justification and receiving wholeheartedly the mocking words and gestures of the sisters, tried to console the Lord who suffered for her and for the whole world.
The Praying Mother
Relieved of responsibilities and external work because of her ailments, Mother Euphrasia’s chief responsibility became the apostolate of prayer itself. Night and day her life rotated round the axis of prayer. Her love of prayer which grew from childhood onwards deepened in her soul the awareness of prophet Elija of Carmel, “I stand before the living God”. Witnesses say that the way she walked about with eyes cast down, deep in prayer, evoked the presence of God even in those who saw her. Externally she was always pleasant, cheerful and composed and the secret was that she was constantly experiencing the divine presence in her soul. Only through total compliance with the grace of God, can anyone reach such a state.
Union with God
Mother Euphrasia reached the heights of prayer. Her heart was always united with God. She herself wrote: “For about four months I see one thing in me myself. I thought, not to inform you. That is, if I am involved in any work or conversation, I clearly see in my mind, one person speaking to my heart never leaving with great loving affection. Since this has started well, there is no disturbance at all. My Father, sometimes I become a fool. Why, because when I do some act or speak, without my knowledge my mind is suddenly drawn to that great love. By this I forget what I am saying or doing. Sometimes it has happened near loving Father also” (Letter 65, 1 June 1912, p.310). She tells her Sp. Father to pray that Union with God be there always never leaving: “If it is pleasing to God not give me any visions but the grace to last in the union of heart with Him till death and increase in the same, please pray. . . . I have a great fear that I may go wrong in the visions sometimes. The Union with God no one will come to know very soon” (Letter 67, 1 Jan., 1917, p. 314).
The Tabernacle Watch
Mother Euphrasia used to get up at 4’O’ clock in the morning and reach the chapel at 4.30 a.m. Then she would be so absorbed in prayer that she wouldn’t be knowing the hours passing. Till 8’O’ clock she would be fully immersed in prayer, the holy sacrifice of the Mass and thanksgiving. Then she went away for other things for about an hour. After that she came back and stayed till 11.30 before the tabernacle. In the afternoon she came again to the chapel at 2.30 p.m. She would continue in that way for about two to three hours. Then at 6’O’ clock again for the religious exercises of the community like meditation and canonical hours. After the night prayer which began at 8.45 p.m. to 10.30 till the chapel doors are closed she is before the Eucharistic presence. Then again at least for about two hours before the statue of the Sacred Heart which she installed. She went to sleep usually after midnight. But it does not mean that she was sleeping all those four hours.
Mother Euphrasia was not able to kneel for a long time as she had pain, weariness and numbness. An unexpected fall also caused damage to the bones and severe pain in the legs. Hence, usually she sat in front, in the corner of the prayer room, close to the sanctuary looking at the Tabernacle and the statue of our Immaculate Mother.
Holding the Crucifix
There is a one-and-a quarter foot long Crucifix in Mother Euphrasia’s room. She used to be immersed in contemplation peering at the crucifix and holding it close to her bosom. Sometimes, in contemplation she would be in ecstasy for two to three hours forgetful of everything. Her roommates were witnesses to this. On such occasions it would be impossible to take away the Crucifix even if they try forcibly. She wrote her Sp. Father thus: “Father, the sole consolation of my heart is to pray looking at the Crucifix and shedding tears” (Letter 64, 17 Sep., 1911, p.300). Her room, which she covered with white curtains to separate it from other sisters staying there, was another church to Mother Euphrasia.
Mother Euphrasia tells us how, when she experienced lethargy, tiredness or dryness, she overcame these: “Euphrasia, this is your last retreat. Get up at once and do with fervour. Don’t know whether [you] will get these days of grace and merit again. Why did you renounce the world and come here? To practise virtue? Hey! or to seek comfort? Asking thus, I jump up embracing and kissing the Crucifix, thus I overcame when it came, by the help of God” (Letter 27, 4 July, 1903, p.136). Mother Euphrasia very frankly says how she struggled hard to overcome natural tendencies.
A Frugal Eater
One meal a day at noon – some rice and a little of vegetable curries only. Even that with taste made less. Other times some black coffee or kanchi water; no fish, meat or egg. And also Mother did not take fruits, pastry or other preparations. If she got such, she would give to the sisters who were weak or tired. She was delighted to serve others and see them eat. With the permission of the Confessor or Superior, even that one meal would be given up sometimes. For this reason she was openly criticized by the others in the community. Then she would say: “Daughter, I am very fond of good food and sweets, but I do this to mortify my flesh”. This showed the real struggle of her mortifications. Only then many realized that she was actually putting up an un-compromising fight against her natural inclinations. Once it was banana for tea. But Mother Euphrasia did not eat it, she kept it. When the Sr. Agnes, the P.T. teacher came back from the school, Mother Euphrasia gave it to her. When Sr. Agnes said, “Mother you take it”, Mother Euphrasia replied: “Daughter, it is not I who is doing P.T.; so I don’t need it and made her eat it. An unselfish mortifying act!
Constant Practice of Virtue
Mother Euphrasia writes her Sp. Father: “Father, the one joy in my heart is that even if I have not practised any big virtue, yet I have a consolation greatly in my heart, that by the grace of God I have not abandoned myself to the desire of self-will and passions and the pleasures I could enjoy if I want. With reference to all the pleasures I could enjoy, I used to say like this on all occasions. For eternal happiness now we can control this. We can enjoy later, saying this on each occasion I used to cheat my lower part and walk. Please pray that I can fulfil this to the end till death. I have started to hold on to this from the day of my Vestition. I know very well that I have the desire to enjoy the pleasures of the world, the talent to it and the methods to get these and the joy and contentment getting this. Not because I don’t know. But only with the fear whether it may cause some dislike to my loving Jesus and Holy Mother that I am doing only what is needed” (Letter 78, p. 339).
A Mother to the Children
The school children came running to her whenever they could, in the intervals and after class, especially when the examinations were near. Mother Euphrasia was happy to receive the children who were backward in studies and they mostly benefitted from her. Those who had no hope to pass, especially came to her and entrusted their worries with her. She would say, “Don’t worry, you would pass”. And they used to pass.
Usually the X standard students officially would come to the parlour and request her prayers. Once it so happened, the Xth class students came to the parlour and spoke to her. Then she asked, “Is 40 pass enough?” The students said “Yes”. Because never so many would pass. The evaluation was very strict. When the results were announced 40 passed! They were happy. But there were 50 students in the class! They regretted that they did not say 50.
Seeking the Praying Mother
People sought after Mother Euphrasia to get prayer support, and solutions to their problems. She began to be known as “the Praying Mother”, and “the holy nun of the Cherpukaran family”. The news of the power of her prayer reached far and wide. People from here and there came seeking her. They came for healing, to get prophetic advice for their kith and kin and also for prayer for the return of the lost. Because of her charismatic gifts – the word of knowledge, the word of wisdom, gifts of healing, faith, prophecy, discernment of spirits, gift of tongues, etc., she was able to help many many people.
Won’t Forget even after Death
Mother Euphrasia had to use for her bath, an oil prepared from breast milk. For this she used to send small dishes home through the children. They were enthusiastic to bring her that. It was a good occasion for them to see and relate with the virtuous Mother. They were really thirsting to hear her thanking them smiling with the words: “Children, Mother won’t forget this even after death”. Many are those who used this trump card and got favours during her life and after death.
Once the daughter of an Ollur family was in the Ernakulam hospital looking after her husband. The lady was praying to Mother Euphrasia, “Mother, haven’t you told us you won’t forget even after death; my husband is very sick. Please help and give him healing. Praying like this she dozed off in sheer weariness. After some time when she woke up she looked at her husband. She was so shocked to see him sitting and smoking. She asked him, “What happened?” Then he said: “Well, after praying when you slept, a Sister came smiling and touched me and just went off. Immediately I got up, I felt all right. You were sleeping and since I didn’t have anything else to do, I smoked. She blurted out: “O! it is Mother Euphrasia!”
Devotion to the Holy Mother
Mother Euphrasia always had with her 153-bead Rosary. She was always seen praying this rosary in hand. To Mother Euphrasia it was a joy to praise the Mother of God praying the rosary. She had no weariness in praying it. At times when the sisters pass through the chapel, she would call them, showing the rosary, to join her to pray. She usually would say all the 15 mysteries together, then only she would be satisfied. The rosary was a great chain of love between the Holy Mother and the devoted daughter. Looking at the statue of the Mother of God, she used to converse and be glad as if she was speaking to a living person. During such occasions, her face used to brighten up and become expressive. The Rosary is a strong weapon she used to save souls from purgatory and for the repentance and salvation of sinners and for the Church, in response to the call of the divine Mother to mankind from Lourdes and Fatima. Mother Euphrasia offered herself fully in prayer, especially praying the rosary.
Faith Miracle Praying the Rosary
Mother was praying sitting on her small bench close to the sanctuary. There was a sound of crying. A novice came running to the chapel with some clothes in hand. Mother Euphrasia held her in affection and asked her what happened. The young sister tried to explain somehow showing the dress in hand: “I am asked to leave the Congregation; I am given the lay dress to put on. I ran to this side saying, let me tell Jesus, Mother Euphrasia and my Novice Master. Because I am sick only they are sending me away. My brother and a doctor with him are in the parlour. Mother, please help me. Do not send me away from this Congregation”. Then Mother Euphrasia told her: “For the time being daughter, you do one thing – go and kneel before the Superiors and say, Mother please permit me to stay in the Congregation nine days more. Even after that, if my health does not improve, I shall leave after bringing my people”. Moments of tension and anxiety. All were waiting to see the novice leave. No time to think. That little sister did not have the courage to tell the superiors. She ran to the confessional and somehow made Fr. Louis CMI understand her problem. Along with the compassionate father, she went and did everything as Mother Euphrasia said. Reluctantly though, she was allowed to stay 9 days more. Her people returned home.
The novice went to Mother Euphrasia again. Then she was given a panacea: “Daughter, say 9 rosaries a day for 9 days. One of them I will recite with you in the chapel. Pray to our Blessed Mother continuously. Your sickness will be cured. You will stay till death in the Convent doing humble services and glorifying God”. It was Sr. Gaspar whose food pipe was getting thin and narrow; she could not gulp down any food; she could swallow some little liquid only, even that with difficulty. A lot of treatment had been done through the convent and family, but of no use. Sr. Gaspar prayed very faithfully as Mother Euphrasia said. Every day Mother Euphrasia used to enquire about her sickness. On the 4th day she was able to drink kanchi without difficulty. From the next day onwards rice food also. Then by the 8th day, she was perfectly all right, as had been said by Mother Euphrasia. On the ninth day the family people came with the doctor Sr. Gaspar was examined very closely. The doctor said that there was not even a trace of her sickness, for sure!
Praying for the Souls of the Dead
Mother Euphrasia was very enthusiastic to help and liberate the souls of the dead by prayer, penance and practice of other virtues. The chain rosaries she recited, Holy Masses participated and all other pious exercises she performed, she offered for these helpless souls. She was as vigilant to make others pray as she was to pray herself. If any sister’s relative died, she used to run to the chapel with that sister and pray together. Every year on 2nd November, she would be absorbed in prayer for the dead. She used to call anyone whom she saw and would pray together. She would be getting as companions the boarding girls also to pray and receive indulgences. Many witnessed that Mother Euphrasia kept on a striking relationship with the dead. Souls used to come to her and request her prayer for their release from purgatory.
Just to cite an example. It was past midnight Mother Euphrasia came to her room to rest. Immediately there was a knock on the door. Mother opened the door. A sister was standing there and told her, “Mother, I am Sr. Barbara; I just died and I am sent to purgatory; please pray for me. One of the women helpers of the Convent who was sleeping nearby had come out from the room to see who had come late in the night. But when she heard Sr. Barbara’s words, she ran away trembling with fear.
With Broom and Bucket
Mother Euphrasia’s humility, service-mindedness and availability were remarkable. After the sisters went to school, Mother Euphrasia would start with broom and bucket to take water and wash the bathrooms and latrines clean in a very enthusiastic way. Similarly, if she found any place dirty in the Convent, she would rush there to clean up the place. She eagerly took up the menial tasks of the community. The reason for her great success is that she had for herself a humble attitude. She did not conceal how her family was reduced to poverty, declined from high economic prosperity. She was only happy in others knowing about it.
Caring for the Sisters Coming to the Convent
It was a time the Convent had to bear up with adversity and abject poverty so strongly that the inmates had not even a full meal a day. Some of the kind and generous local people who were affluent and some magnanimous priests also helped them to pull on. The newly opened convents were really very very poor. Sisters from the neighbouring convents of Chiyyaram, Kanimangalam and Ollur Fatima would come to Ollur St. Mary’s Convent, the Mother House, for various purposes. Dead tired of the journey on foot, the sisters would be awfully hungry and thirsty and their sight would break the heart of Mother Euphrasia who would at once go over to the kitchen not only to serve the sisters some food but also prepare some packets of food to be sent to their convents too. All those who come to the Convent would leave only after seeing Mother Euphrasia. When she saw them she would with great affection ask, “Children, did you get something to eat?” Mother’s loving welcome and comforting words had been a good tonic to get rid of all weariness.
One Word and Look
Mother Euphrasia was extremely humble. Her eyes could see the needs of others; her heart could take away pains by the touch. She had a great skill to melt away the severe sorrows of others by a word, a look, a smile or a touch. Like the inmates of the Convent, people from outside also had received such loving, caring experiences. Problems regarding property divisions, drinking, poverty, marital difficulties, ailments and family quarrels, Mother Euphrasia was enthusiastic to patiently listen to, even find solutions for them. This tender-hearted Mother was touched by others’ sorrow.
Miracle of Healing
The three months old only Son of Maprani Varunni was laid up with severe eczema. The skin was peeled off from the whole body and became a full sore. Pieces of flesh started to fall off. They put him in the plantain leaf. The child’s mother ran to Mother Euphrasia. Mother listened to that woman’s pain with compassion and comforted her as much as possible. Mother promised that she would pray and assured her that her son would be healed. She prescribed a panacea to her – prayer and penance. She surely did what Mother Euphrasia told her and within a few days she came back to Mother Euphrasia to report the healing of her son!
Palackal Kochumariam lived near the Convent and worked in the Convent. She used to prepare for the sick old sisters some native medicines and hot water for bath. One day when Kochumariam saw Mother Euphrasia, she ran to her and said: “Mother, I have a splitting headache. I can’t do any work”. Then Kochumariam narrates: “Mother Euphrasia took a drop of oil she was using and rubbed it on my forehead. She was whispering something. I did not know what she was saying. I felt, she was praying. Whatever it was my headache was gone. Never again did I get such a severe headache”. Mother Euphrasia might have prayed in “Tongues”.
Kochuthressia was companion to Mother Euphrasia in her room in the night for some time. One day she started to groan and roll with severe stomach pain. It was past midnight. She tried to control herself and conceal her groans in order not to awake Mother Euphrasia who was on the cot. But suddenly as if somebody awoke her, Mother got up and asked the maid what happened. Then the child told Mother Euphrasia, her pain, and Mother drew a sign of the cross on her belly and went to sleep. Strangely enough the maid slept peacefully.
A Case of Deliverance
Moyalan Antony started a kind of sickness like epilepsy at the age of 12. But this was a case of fear caused by the evil spirit. One night while going back from the shop after buying sugar, he got frightened when a group of dogs ran after him, and fell down. Every month at the same time, he had the fainting and barking like dogs. Although many medicines were given, he was not cured. Years passed with the recurring sickness. When it became unbearable to him, Antony went with his sister to see Mother Euphrasia. Mother listened to him patiently and comforted him and blessed him placing her hands on his head. Mother went to her room and wrote a long prayer to the Mother of Immaculate Conception, and wrote her name under it and signed. Antony was to pray this without fail every day. The whole family was also asked to pray. Antony had to receive the sacraments of Penance and holy Eucharist once a month. Every Saturday he had to fast practising sufficient mortifications. He was given a pendant with a relic to wear on his neck. No need to take any medicine. He would be healed on the anniversary of this day of visit, she foretold. Antony did everything as Mother said. On the anniversary, he saw the Mother of the Immaculate Conception saving him from the evil one and got complete healing! Mother’s promise was fulfilled. Never did Antony have that sickness again. That was a case of deliverance. Mother Euphrasia was filled with the charisms of the Holy Spirit even before the Charismatic Renewal came to India.
Sr. Bruno Comforted
Sr. Bruno was very thin, very tall. She was always worried as a novice whether she would be sent back from the Convent. Once when she was about to climb the stairs, Mother Euphrasia went to her and told her a secret: “Don’t be afraid of anything daughter”. To Sr. Bruno’s mind, it was a rain of honey. She was relieved of her worry for ever. Mother Euphrasia’s prophetic words gave her peace.
Dont Lose in Virtue even if You Lose in Money
Mother Euphrasia had great pain and sufferi