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.
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 too.
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)1. “You must tell your Sp. Father also about the adoration with the angels which I have taught you at the age of 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 1 Mother Euphrasia – Letters, Translated and edited by Sr. Dr. Cleopatra, CMC, Vice-Postulator, Carmel International Publishing House, 2013. 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”. Signed/- 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.
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.
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 them. 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 address.
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.
Euphrasiamma, a Member of the 0llur Convent
I Though many who came from Ambazhakad went back, Euphrasiamma continued as a member of the 011ur Convent. Most of her life till she died in 1952 was spent in the 011ur Convent. In between she had occasion to go to Ambazhakad twice and be a mem-ber there for two, and two and half years respectively and once to the Convent at Manalur for six months. When the 011ur Convent celebrated the Golden Jubilee of its foundation on 24th of May 1950 Euphrasiamma also was lucky to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of her Profession. This divine pravi-dence adds to our joy.
Last Days of Her Life
Three days before her death while she was making her confes-sion to Rev. Fr. Louis CMI, the then Novice Master, he felt that everything was not all right with Euphrasiamma. So he asked the sisters to take her to the sick room. Before long she lost her ability to talk. Soon, last sacraments were administered to her. She remained radiant, with a divine light on her face, the rosary within her moving fingers and a small crucifix on her breast. To all those who came running, hearing about her critical stage, she gave her blessing and a smile. Because she couldn’t raise her hand by herself in blessing, many of those who came, lifted it up and placed it on their own heads and thus received her blessing. While thus waiting for the time to be eternally immersed in God her divine Bridegroom, on 29th of Au-gust 1952 at 8:40 p.m. the holy soul flew to her eternal residence.