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Able and walking: cause clincher

Anna Muttathupandathu will become Saint Alphonsa on October 12. And more than 6,000 believers from Kerala are flying to Vatican City to witness her canonisation, reports Ramesh Babu.

india Updated: Sep 27, 2008 22:44 IST

Anna Muttathupandathu will become Saint Alphonsa on October 12. And more than 6,000 believers from Kerala are flying to Vatican City to witness her canonisation. Ten-year-old Jinil, busy playing with his brother Jubin, some 25 kilometres from the saint-to-be’s tomb, is going as well. After all, he has played a pivotal part in her canonisation. It was Jinil’s testimony that finally clinched Sister Alphonsa’s sainthood.

Born club-footed, doctors had written off a cure saying he would never be able to walk. His parents, Shaji Joseph, a sales tax inspector and mother, Lissy, had begun their rounds of speciality hospitals. When medicines failed to cure, relatives suggested they make a trip in 1999 to Alphonsa’s chapel in Bharaninganam and pray.

The Josephs placed the child on the tomb and prayed for hours together. That very night, little Jinil started walking. “We are happy we played a key role in Sister’s attaining sainthood. We, on our part, are indebted to her for all our happiness,” says Lissy Joseph.

Jinil has also become a tourist attraction of sorts. Those who visit Alphonsa’s tomb also take time out to visit the Josephs. At times, the parents are pestered to reveal the ‘exact words’ of their prayer ‘that fateful day’.

Even the doctors who treated Jinil vouch for the miracle. “Jinil was born in my nursing home. His condition worsened with each passing day. I couldn’t believe it when he was fully cured,” says Dr Eliayamma Cora who has been quizzed by the Vatican representative to prove the legitimacy of the miracle.

It is said that when Sister Alphonsa was on her death-bed, her mentor, Father Kuriakos Chavra, an 18th century church reformer, appeared before her and blessed her.

Interestingly, in her journey to sainthood, she has pipped him to the post. “Most of the miracles attributed to her were proved, and they convinced the Vatican to move quickly to canonise her,” says

Father Mathew Arackaparambil, vice postulator of the canonisation process.

“Miracles are still happening,” claims Sister Goratti of the Alphonsa Bhavan in Kudamaloor. Recently, a terminally ill new-born was cured after her parents prayed three consecutive days at the saint’s ancestral home.”

Bharaninganam has a museum that houses Alphonsa’s habit, a hand fan, books, a wooden cup and other belongings. These serve as a major attraction for pilgrims. “I have given myself up completely to Jesus. Let him please Himself in his dealings with me. My only desire in this world is to suffer for love of God and to rejoice in doing it,” reads a letter on display that Alphonsa had written a few of months before her death.

Anna Kutty died young but she left behind many stories. As a teacher, she was an epitome of love and patience, says her student, 85-year-old Thomas Kalappura. She taught him Malayalam and mathematics in Vakakkad School between 1932 and 33. “It is a glorious moment for believers in the country,” says Father Paul Thelekkat, spokesman of the Syro-Malabar church. Her good looks are still fresh in the mind of 99-year-old Lakshmi Amma, her former classmate from Thonnakuzhy School. “We used to call her Venna (butter) Kutty,” she says remembering Anna who will become Saint Alphonsa.