|MAY 2005||THOSE WHO LED US||
Pampadi Kuriakose Mar Gregorios was effectively an un-canonized saint of Malankara Church who had been a simple and humble priest of the Most High Lord of Heaven and a man of great faith who possessed the spiritual gift of love. He shared his spiritual gifts of love and kindness to countless numbers of people around him from all religious and social sects. Though he was not attributed or claimed for building big churches, instituting any significant organizations, acquiring great worldly knowledge and academic distinctions or for exposition of great administrative excellence, his life was a true testament of his faith, humility and charity. Beyond the Church administration, he was a bishop concentrated more in celibacy, holy life and compassion to poor. He was a man revered by not only his community people but also by all with out any caste or class for which a befitting evidence is that the land for the Tabor Dayara was offered him by a Hindu leader. His blameless life, ascetic vigor and compassion to poor had attracted people of all religion.
Very explicitly, the power of prayer is needed for the Church above all her excellences in its organization and governance in order to lay all the plans before God and to seek for a proper guidance and choices especially in the period of crisis as the prophet Samuel did behind the Kingdom of Israel. The tearful prayers of this saint, while sitting at a corner of the Pothenpara Dayara off Pampadi Town, was a great source of inspiration, courage and for providences from God for the Church and to all its layers of administration and leadership. He was a minister who considered hardship and suffering of this world as blessings from God. He had the vision of spirituality not to alleviate the hardships but to glitter in the hardships by Grace of God.
This great sage of Tabor was born in the traditional Karingamattom family in Pezhamattam near Pampadi to Chacko of Moolakkara house and Ilichi of Veloor Vellikkottil house. The child was baptized and given the baptismal name as Kuriakose. He grew up in a very pious family, which had to undergo a lot of financial hardships. The family atmosphere and special prayer and worshipping practices at home had greatly strengthened young Kuriakose in his faith. As a child, Kuriakose was the apple of the eye to all in his village.
At the age of five, as per the custom of that time, Kuriakose started his alphabetic education under the discipleship of Madathil Asan. That was an age in which it prevailed racial and occupational untouchabilty. Young Kuriakose was very compassionate with low caste people and he made very thick friendship with low caste and downtrodden co-students. It was his great fervency to carry coconut, sugar-candy, molasses etc. to the school and distribute it among his untouchable friends.
Though his father desired Kuriakose to be a priest, he had great doubts whether he could afford even the dress-code and a decent living for his son as a priest. Nevertheless, Kuriakose humbled himself, accepting the call from God and obliged to the desire of Mar Dionysius, to get ordained to the order of a priest. At the age of fourteen, Kuriakose was ordained to the first order of deaconate in February 1989 at Pampadi Church. Subsequently Dn. Kuriakose joined Old Seminary, Kottayam, for theological studies under the discipleship of Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan and Madathil Alexander Malpan. He had learned Syriac language, preliminary theological lessons and sacramental procedures from this Seminary. As per the instruction of Malankara Metropolitan, the deacon had proceeded to Parumala Seminary for further theological studies. During that time, his father expired and the family plunged into an aggravated financial crisis.
On July 8, 1906 Dn. Kuriakose was ordained as priest and on the very next day as a Ramban by Murimattom Paulose Mar Gregorios [Later raised as the First Catholicos] and consecrated the first holy Qurbana at Pampadi Church. Kuriakose Ramban started living at the Pampadi Church. During this time he initiated to renovate the Church building and annexed a small room to it. His modus of operandi for the construction work was that he first announces his desire and civil plan of construction after Sunday Parish service. On the very next day onward, a battalion of volunteers come to the site and starts collectively to do the work. Ramban will provide sufficient food to all for the full day. He was getting a lot of food item from the villagers as gift and all the food was distributed to them. His primary teacher Madathil Asan conducted a preliminary elementary school in the annexed room of the Church building. Ramban had great pleasure to provide sweets and noon food to all the children studied in that school.
Further, Ramban Kuriakose was appointed by Mar Dionysius to assist the Manager Kallasseril Punnose Ramban [later consecrated as the Third Catholicos] at Parumala Seminary. His stay at Parumala with St. Gregorios had a great influence in his life to follow the footsteps of this saint to mature in his ascetic and prayerful life. Rambachen was assigned also to teach Syriac to the Deacons in the Seminary. In addition, he was engaged for drafting reply letters on behalf of Malankara Metropolitan. Ramban Kuriakose was blessed with a neat and beautiful curved italic handwriting in Syriac and Malayalam. He always used to write with a special feather pen dipping in ink. As a personal quality of Ramban, he was very prompt in writing his daily diary, which exposed his grandeur and discipline of his life.
Ramban Kuriakose had the rare opportunity to consecrate holy Qurbana in Syriac as per the instruction of Mar Abdulla Patriarch and in his presence while the Patriarch was living in Old Seminary at Kottayam on a visit to Malankara. Also Ramban had the fortune to minister the ailing Catholicos Mar Basalios Paulose during his last days.
As the Ramban wanted to detach himself from any worldly desire and wished to submit himself to God's will through prayer and contemplation, it was his great desire to build a small Dayara to seclude himself from the worldly personal attachments and to live a prayerful ascetic life of humility and devotion in the continuous presence of the Lord. However, finance was a great hindrance for fulfilling his dream. Understanding the desire of his disciple, his teacher Madathil Asan offered him a piece of land at the Pothenpara forest which was abode of even wild animals that time. With this offered land and with support of Cheriyamadthil Jacob Kathanar, with a great dedication in Lord, Ramban dug a well and constructed a small thatched cottage at this place as a Dayara. During the dawn, Ramban started the day's work without any money in his hand for paying the workers except his great confidence in Lord that there will be some way God will show before the day end. Very astonishingly on every day, some how or the other, Ramban received sufficient money to pay the workers for the day, out of the magnanimity of villagers who loved him and he loved them. Before moving to Dayara, Ramban took three days fasting prayer. He himself consecrated Dayara with the help of Cheriyamadam Jacob Kathanar. He moved to this unprovided and unfurnished Pothenpara Dayara and started living there.
Ramban had many visitors to this remote Dayara. It was a practice of Ramban that he will not sent anybody from the Dayara without giving sufficient food irrespective of cast or creed of the visitor. Vattasseril Mar Dionysius visited the Dayara and he was the one who suggested the name of Dayara as Tabor.
Ramban's faithful servant and steward was a deaf man who lived with him and attended him for more than 65 years. He was of extraordinary grasping power and of great devotion to his master. He was very normal except his deafness. This incapability was never a hindrance for communication as they fluently convened each other through sign language and gesture. This deaf man loved his master so much and considered the Dayara and its promises as his own. He had a great contribution for the horticultural uplifting of the Dayara premises, gardening and planting coconut trees and mango trees. He brought water from a distant pond for irrigating the trees. He was very bold to express his innocent views to his master and reciprocally Thirumeni was so affectionate to this deaf and granted him the full freedom in the Dayara. With the contact of this prayerful ascetic sage the deaf also was very pious with prayer, fasting and other sacred observances. Also this faithful servant had self-assumed faithfully and honestly the stewardship of the Dayara, especially to feed and satisfy all class and creed visitors, which was habit of Ramban from childhood.
1929 Feb 16, Kuriakose Ramban was consecrated as a Bishop with title of Gregorios by Basalios Geevarghese II. He was the first Bishop consecrated by the third Catholicos as he himself was consecrated as the Catholicos only one day before this. It is noteworthy that the Amshavadi given to Kuriakose Mar Gregorios during the consecration was that which belonged to Parumala Mar Gregorios, the first saint of Malankara. As the life of Pampadi Mar Gregorios was also mostly in the same footsteps of the Great saint at Parumala, this heredity of the Amshavadi is to be considered as shawl inherited by Elisha from his master Elijah.
The newly consecrated Metropolitan was given the charge of Kottayam Diocese. Also he was designated as the Guidance Consultant for the general activity of the Church, being the Trustee of the Catholicate Trust initiated in 1934. Church administration was not a big concern for this Yogi. However to administer he did not have any hesitation even. All were alike to him without any partiality and he did not bother to achieve any worldly qualifications, as his wisdom was the faith in God.
Pampadi Thirumeni was very particular to observe the traditional sequences and to use lyrical wordings of all worshipping services. If anything went wrong any time, he grieved about it and corrected it. He was very strict in his tri-hour prayers, lent and fasting. All those who came in contact with him, had the great experience of their burdens of worldly life fanned off by the wind of the presence of this Godly man. It was a very special experience for each who came in contact with Thirumeni as he shared everybody's concerns and worries; helping, praying and inspiring them. He put the needs of all whom he meets before his own. He had setup a model for the compassion to all his co-beings. He shined as the champion of the poor. He considered the compassion to the poor as equal and most required as the prayer. Virtually he hungered to feed the hungry, denounced the luxuries to cloth others, and lived in a poor state to uplift the downtrodden, lived in huts to house the houseless and thrown away everything for everybody, exactly as the good Samaritan spent everything what he had to the wounded man he came across. He was a man who had done all his charity work hidden from the mass. However many who experienced of his warmth and compassion had reported many experiences with Thirumeni.
Though he had gone through utter poverty in his childhood and faced with day-to-day hardships for the maintenance of the Dayara, Thirumeni had a strong faith in the providence from God for 'daily bread'. He never bothered to store anything for the next day, as he believed in true sense of the essence of Lord’s Prayer ‘give us our daily bread.' One day a poor harijan old lady approached in the Dayara and requested him some help for her one-day meal. However there was nothing available in the Dayara to give her, money or material, except the rice for the dinner. Thirumeni ordered his deaf servant to give the remaining rice to the old lady. The deaf being very practical and innocent and concerned about Thirumeni was defiant and informed Thirumeni that the rice available will only be sufficient for the day's dinner and that cannot be shared with the visitor. The servant vehemently opposed Thirumeni and kept adamant to his views. Eventually he was forced to oblige to his master and the full rice was given to the poor visitor. No sooner the poor lady left the Gate of Dayara, few people entered the gate with rice, vegetables, coconuts etc. enough for more than a week, as a share of some function in the house of a rich man of the village and send same to Thirumeni. This was a great witness even to his deaf steward about the assurance of the confidence and dependency on Lord.
Another incident of his compassion is revealed through an incident reported. A beggar who used to beg around Pampadi Township collapsed on the road. Somebody had informed Thirumeni about this incident. Immediately, Thirumeni rushed to the Pampadi town and had seen the fainted man in the shed near the road and made arrangement to treat him and give all the help. However, the man died after few days. Thirumeni took hold of the corpse and brought the dead body to the Pampadi Valiya Church and buried there with full honour as his own churchman.
He was helping many poor students for the studies with out informing anybody. His charity pattern was without trumpeting it in any way. Once a college student of Tiruvalla wrote Thirumeni about his difficulty for paying his fees. Thirumeni replied the boy that he will help him to pay the fees. Somehow Thirumeni forgot to arrange the fees till the last date. On the last date he suddenly remembered about his promise to the boy and sent a man personally to Tiruvalla to pay the fees in time.
Once a beggar inflicted with leprosy came to Dayara for begging and stood under a tree near the gate. While seeing the beggar standing off, Thirumeni beaconed him to come into the Dayara. The leper was afraid to move forward. As he was hesitant to come near, Thirumeni went to the gate and caught hold of his hand and brought him inside the Dayara, seated him, gave food and followed him to bid him at the gate.
Once a young man approached Thirumeni for some job or some help to maintain his family as he lost his job. Thirumeni had nothing with him to offer that man. Thirumeni searched around and as he could find anything to help that man, he told him to take the milking cow in the Dayara. But the man hesitated to take the cow, as it was the source of milk for the Dayara inmates. Then Thirumeni ordered his deaf servant to untie and give the cow to the man. Even then, the man was not ready to accept the cow. Eventually Thirumeni himself untied the cow and gave it to the man. Very reluctantly the man was forced to carry away the cow and the family was maintained by selling the milk of that cow.
Once there was an epidemic plague in the Kunnamkulam area. He had rushed to Kunnamkulam and started serving the affected people and desired to live with them and extended all possible services and shown his willingness even to die with them. He visited house by house, prayed and extended all the helps to them. Many people prevented Thirumeni to go to the epidemic area. But nobody could prevent this human lover as he ventured and continued his services saying, 'Let me die if God will so'.
Sermons given by Pampadi Thirumeni were awe inspiring and simple in nature. His main theme was to utilize with all materialistic blessings and abilities to love each other with out any boundaries or limit to all human. His preaching was well manifested by his own life pattern. He always reminded the people to be aware and conscious of four things: death, judgment, salvation and hell.
Through his Kalpana and sermons he strongly condemned liquor addiction and desired to relieve the families from this social evil. Through his ecclesiastical letters and through Parish administrations, he identified all infected with mortal diseases or insanity, orphans, handicapped, poor widows etc. in the whole diocese and extended personalized services to each. He gave special instructions to all parish priest to visit the families and inform him of the about the needy ones.
Once the Aprem Patriarch enquired about Pampadi Mar Gregorios to the Third Catholicos Mar Basalios Geevarghese II. The Catholicos, with out any hesitation, opinioned about Pampadi Thirumeni and told to the Patriarch that Mar Gregorios is the second in holiness at Malankara after Parumala Mar Gregorios. The spiritual strength gained by prayer, fasting and charity was the sole investment of Pampadi Thirumeni. During the service of Holy Unction given to Pampadi Thirumeny, Augen Mar Timoteos talked about him as a man fully lived heavenward while he lived physically in this world. He lived a life totally unaware about this world, and virtually he was travelling to heaven throughout his life time.
He exposed same personality to poor, wealthy, low class, high class and all type of people and all kind. He did not have any type of discrimination to anybody. This was the very approach of his personality. Thirumeni had many poor visitors both Christians, non-Christians and that too, young and old. If any habitual visitor is missed to meet him for a day, he was keen to personally enquire about him.
Due to severe fasting and night prayers, Thirumeni became sick before ageing. 1965 March he became sick and bedridden and hospitalized. Augen Mar Themotheos gave Holy Unction to Thirumeni. April 5, 1965 this great sage of Tabor breathed his last and his tomb is at Tabor Dayara.
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