Friday, August 9, 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013 - Litany Lane Blog: Devotion, Psalms 138:1-8, Genesis 18:20-32, Luke 11:1-13, Pope Francis Daily Homily - Closing Vigil Mass of WYD 2013, Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, St Thomas Catholics , Catholic Catechism Part Three: Life In Christ - Chapter 3: Gods Salvation Law and Grace - Article1:1 The Natural Moral Law

Sunday,  July 28 , 2013 - Litany Lane Blog:

Devotion, Psalms 138:1-8, Genesis 18:20-32, Luke 11:1-13, Pope Francis Daily Homily - Closing Vigil Mass of WYD 2013, Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, St Thomas Catholics, Catholic Catechism Part Three: Life In Christ - Chapter 3: Gods Salvation Law and Grace - Article1:1 The Natural Moral Law

Year of Faith - October 11, 2012 - November 24, 2013

P.U.S.H. (Pray Until Serenity Happens). It has a remarkable way of producing solace, peace, patience and tranquility and of course resolution...God's always available 24/7.

The world begins and ends everyday for someone.  We are all human. We all experience birth, life and death. We all have flaws but we also all have the gift of knowledge, reason and free will, make the most of these gifts. Life on earth is a stepping stone to our eternal home in Heaven. The Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, wonder and awe (fear of the Lord) , counsel, knowledge, fortitude, and piety (reverence) and shun the seven Deadly sins: wrath, greed, sloth, pride, lust, envy, and gluttony...Its your choice whether to embrace the Gifts of the Holy Spirit rising towards eternal light or succumb to the Seven deadly sins and lost to eternal darkness. Material items, though needed for sustenance and survival on earth are of earthly value only. The only thing that passes from this earth to the Darkness, Purgatory or Heaven is our's God's perpetual gift to us...Embrace it, treasure it, nurture it, protect it...~ Zarya Parx 2013

"Raise not a hand to another unless it is to offer in peace and goodwill." ~ Zarya Parx 2012


Prayers for Today: 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rosary - Glorious Mysteries


 Papam Franciscus
(Pope Francis)

Pope Francis July 28 -WYD 2103 Events :


Over 2 million attend prayer vigil with Pope Francis

(2013-07-17 Vatican Radio)
Pope Francis joined over a million young people on Copacabana beach Saturday evening, for a prayer vigil on the eve of the final Mass marking World Youth Day, 2013 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The centerpiece of the vigil was a Eucharistic procession. The event featured litanies and hymns, as well as the testimonies of four different young people.

In his remarks to the youthful pilgrims, Pope Francis focused on the image of the field of faith – the name of the venue at which the vigil was originally to have taken place, before the week’s inclement weather rendered it unusable: the field as a place to sow seed and raise crops; the field as a place of training; the field as construction site.

The Holy Father also had words of encouragement for the many young people around the world – and especially in Brazil, who in recent days and weeks have taken to the streets to call for the betterment of their societies in a spirit of greater brotherhood. “I encourage them,” he said, “in an orderly, peaceful and responsible manner, motivated by the values ​​of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to social and political concerns present in their countries.”

Please find the full text of Pope Francis’ remarks, below:

Apostolic Journey of Pope Francis to Brazil
Address of the Holy FatherVigil with Young People
(Rio de Janeiro, 27 July 2013)

Dear Young Friends,

We have just recalled the story of Saint Francis of Assisi. In front of the crucifix he heard the voice of Jesus saying to him: “Francis, go, rebuild my house”. The young Francis responded readily and generously to the Lord’s call to rebuild his house. But which house? Slowly but surely, Francis came to realize that it was not a question of repairing a stone building, but about doing his part for the life of the Church. It was a matter of being at the service of the Church, loving her and working to make the countenance of Christ shine ever more brightly in her.

Today too, as always, the Lord needs you, young people, for his Church. Today too, he is calling each of you to follow him in his Church and to be missionaries. How? In what way? Well, I think we can learn something from what happened in these days: as we had to cancel due to bad weather, the realization of this vigil on the campus Fidei, in Guaratiba. Lord willing might we say that the real area of ​​faith, the true campus fidei, is not a geographical place - but we, ourselves? Yes! Each of us, each one of you. And missionary discipleship means to recognize that we are God’s campus fidei, His “field of faith”! Therefore, from the image of the field of faith, starting with the name of the place, Campus Fidei, the field of faith, I have thought of three images that can help us understand better what it means to be a disciple and a missionary. First, a field is a place for sowing seeds; second, a field is a training ground; and third, a field is a construction site.

1. A field is a place for sowing seeds. We all know the parable where Jesus speaks of a sower who went out to sow seeds in the field; some seed fell on the path, some on rocky ground, some among thorns, and could not grow; other seed fell on good soil and brought forth much fruit (cf. Mt 13:1-9). Jesus himself explains the meaning of the parable: the seed is the word of God sown in our hearts (cf. Mt 13:18-23). This, dear young people, means that the real Campus Fidei, the field of faith, is your own heart, it is your life. It is your life that Jesus wants to enter with his word, with his presence. Please, let Christ and his word enter your life, blossom and grow.

Jesus tells us that the seed which fell on the path or on the rocky ground or among the thorns bore no fruit. What kind of ground are we? What kind of terrain do we want to be? Maybe sometimes we are like the path: we hear the Lord’s word but it changes nothing in our lives because we let ourselves be numbed by all the superficial voices competing for our attention; or we are like the rocky ground: we receive Jesus with enthusiasm, but we falter and, faced with difficulties, we don’t have the courage to swim against the tide; or we are like the thorny ground: negativity, negative feelings choke the Lord’s word in us (cf. Mt 13:18-22). But today I am sure that the seed is falling on good soil, that you want to be good soil, not part-time Christians, not “starchy” and superficial, but real. I am sure that you don’t want to be duped by a false freedom, always at the beck and call of momentary fashions and fads. I know that you are aiming high, at long-lasting decisions which will make your lives meaningful. Jesus is capable of letting you do this: he is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6). Let’s trust in him. Let’s make him our guide!

2. A field is a training ground. Jesus asks us to follow him for life, he asks us to be his disciples, to “play on his team”. I think that most of you love sports! Here in Brazil, as in other countries, football is a national passion. Now, what do players do when they are asked to join a team? They have to train, and to train a lot! The same is true of our lives as the Lord’s disciples. Saint Paul tells us: “athletes deny themselves all sorts of things; they do this to win a crown of leaves that withers, but we a crown that is imperishable” (1 Cor 9:25). Jesus offers us something bigger than the World Cup! He offers us the possibility of a fulfilled and fruitful life; he also offers us a future with him, an endless future, eternal life. But he asks us to train, “to get in shape”, so that we can face every situation in life undaunted, bearing witness to our faith. How do we get in shape? By talking with him: by prayer, which is our daily conversation with God, who always listens to us. By the sacraments, which make his life grow within us and conform us to Christ. By loving one another, learning to listen, to understand, to forgive, to be accepting and to help others, everybody, with no one excluded or ostracized. Dear young people, be true “athletes of Christ”!

3. A field is a construction site. When our heart is good soil which receives the word of God, when “we build up a sweat” in trying to live as Christians, we experience something tremendous: we are never alone, we are part of a family of brothers and sisters, all journeying on the same path: we are part of the Church; indeed, we are building up the Church and we are making history. Saint Peter tells us that we are living stones, which form a spiritual edifice (cf. 1 Pet 2:5). Looking at this platform, we see that it is in the shape of a church, built up with stones and bricks. In the Church of Jesus, we ourselves are the living stones. Jesus is asking us to build up his Church, but not as a little chapel which holds only a small group of persons. He asks us to make his living Church so large that it can hold all of humanity, that it can be a home for everyone! To me, to you, to each of us he says: “Go and make disciples of all nations”. Tonight, let us answer him: Yes, I too want to be a living stone; together we want to build up the Church of Jesus! Let us all say together: I want to go forth and build up the Church of Christ!

In your young hearts, you have a desire to build a better world. I have been closely following the news reports of the many young people who throughout the world have taken to the streets in order to express their desire for a more just and fraternal society - (and here in Brazil), they have gone out into the streets to express a desire for a more just and fraternal civilization. These are young people who want to be agents of change. I encourage them, in an orderly, peaceful and responsible manner, motivated by the values ​​of the Gospel, to continue overcoming apathy and offering a Christian response to social and political concerns present in their countries. But the question remains: Where do we start? What are the criteria for building a more just society? Mother Teresa of Calcutta was once asked what needed to change in the Church. Her answer was: you and I!

Dear friends, never forget that you are the field of faith! You are Christ’s athletes! You are called to build a more beautiful Church and a better world. Let us lift our gaze to Our Lady. Mary helps us to follow Jesus, she gives us the example by her own “yes” to God: “I am the servant of the Lord; let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38). All together, let us join Mary in saying to God: let it be done to me as you say. Amen!


Liturgical Celebrations to be presided over by Pope: Summer

Vatican City, Summer2013 (VIS)
Following is the calendar of celebrations scheduled to be presided over by the Holy Father for the Summer of 2013:

The Prefecture of the Papal Household has released Pope Francis' agenda for the summer period, from July through to the end of August. Briefing journalists, Holy See Press Office director, Fr. Federico Lombardi confirmed that the Pope will remain 'based ' at the Casa Santa Marta residence in Vatican City State for the duration of the summer.

As per tradition, all private and special audiences are suspended for the duration of the summer. The Holy Father's private Masses with employees will end July 7 and resume in September. The Wednesday general audiences are suspended for the month of July to resume August 7 at the Vatican.

Pope Francis will travel to Brazil for the 28th World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro from Monday July 22 to Monday July 29.  


  • Vatican News. From the Pope. © Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana. Accessed 07/28/2013.


July 25, 2013 Our Lady of Medjugorje Message to the World: “Dear children! With joy in my heart I call all of you to live your faith and to witness it with your heart and by your example in every way. Decide, little children, to be far from sin and temptation and may there be joy and love for holiness in your hearts. I love you, little children, and accompany you with my intercession before the Most High. Thank you for having responded to my call.”

July 2, 2013 Our Lady of Medjugorje Message to the World: "Dear children, with a motherly love I am imploring you to give me the gift of your hearts, so I can present them to my Son and free you – free you from all the evil enslaving and distancing you all the more from the only Good – my Son – from everything which is leading you on the wrong way and is taking peace away from you. I desire to lead you to the freedom of the promise of my Son, because I desire for God's will to be fulfilled completely here; and that through reconciliation with the Heavenly Father, through fasting and prayer, apostles of God's love may be born – apostles who will freely, and with love, spread the love of God to all my children – apostles who will spread the love of the trust in the Heavenly Father and who will keep opening the gates of Heaven. Dear children, extend the joy of love and support to your shepherds, just as my Son has asked them to extend it to you. Thank you."

June 25, 2013 Our Lady of Medjugorje Message to the World on the 32nd Anniversary of the apparitions: “Dear children! With joy in the heart I love you all and call you to draw closer to my Immaculate Heart so I can draw you still closer to my Son Jesus, and that He can give you His peace and love, which are nourishment for each one of you. Open yourselves, little children, to prayer – open yourselves to my love. I am your mother and cannot leave you alone in wandering and sin. You are called, little children, to be my children, my beloved children, so I can present you all to my Son. Thank you for having responded to my call.”


Today's Word:  devotion  de·vo·tion  [dih-voh-shuhn]  

Origin:  1150–1200; Middle English devocioun  (< Anglo-French ) < Late Latin dēvōtiōn-  (stem of dēvōtiō ), equivalent to Latin dēvōt ( us ) (see devote) + -iōn- -ion

1. profound dedication; consecration.
2. earnest attachment to a cause, person, etc.
3. an assignment or appropriation to any purpose, cause, etc.: the devotion of one's wealth and time to scientific advancement.
4. Often, devotions. Ecclesiastical . religious observance or worship; a form of prayer or worship for special use.


Today's Old Testament Reading - Psalms 138:1-8

1 [Of David] I thank you, Yahweh, with all my heart, for you have listened to the cry I uttered. In the presence of angels I sing to you,
2 I bow down before your holy Temple. I praise your name for your faithful love and your constancy; your promises surpass even your fame.
3 You heard me on the day when I called, and you gave new strength to my heart.
6 Sublime as he is, Yahweh looks on the humble, the proud he picks out from afar.
7 Though I live surrounded by trouble you give me life -- to my enemies' fury! You stretch out your right hand and save me,
8 Yahweh will do all things for me. Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever, do not abandon what you have made.


Today's Epistle -  Genesis 18:20-32

20 Then Yahweh said, 'The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin is so grave,
21 that I shall go down and see whether or not their actions are at all as the outcry reaching me would suggest. Then I shall know.'
22 While the men left there and went to Sodom, Yahweh remained in Abraham's presence.
23 Abraham stepped forward and said, 'Will you really destroy the upright with the guilty?
24 Suppose there are fifty upright people in the city. Will you really destroy it? Will you not spare the place for the sake of the fifty upright in it?
25 Do not think of doing such a thing: to put the upright to death with the guilty, so that upright and guilty fare alike! Is the judge of the whole world not to act justly?'
26 Yahweh replied, 'If I find fifty upright people in the city of Sodom, I will spare the whole place because of them.'
27 Abraham spoke up and said, 'It is presumptuous of me to speak to the Lord, I who am dust and ashes:
28 Suppose the fifty upright were five short? Would you destroy the whole city because of five?' 'No,' he replied, 'I shall not destroy it if I find forty-five there.'
29 Abraham persisted and said, 'Suppose there are forty to be found there?' 'I shall not do it,' he replied, 'for the sake of the forty.'
30 Abraham said, 'I hope the Lord will not be angry if I go on: Suppose there are only thirty to be found there?' 'I shall not do it,' he replied, 'if I find thirty there.'
31 He said, 'It is presumptuous of me to speak to the Lord: Suppose there are only twenty there?' 'I shall not destroy it,' he replied, 'for the sake of the twenty.'
32 He said, 'I trust my Lord will not be angry if I speak once more: perhaps there will only be ten.' 'I shall not destroy it,' he replied, 'for the sake of the ten.'


Today's Gospel Reading -  Luke 11: 1-13

The prayer of the Master
the prayer of the disciples

1. Opening prayer
Father of all mercies,
in the Name of Christ your Son, we implore you,
send us the Gift,
pour into us your Spirit!
Spirit, Paraclete,
teach us to pray in truth
in the new Temple
who is the Christ.
Spirit, faithful to the Father and to us,
as the dove has its nest,
plead within us incessantly with the Father,
because we do not know how to pray.
Spirit of Christ,
first gift to us believers,
pray within us tirelessly to the Father,
as the Son taught us. Amen.

2. Reading
a) To help us understand the passage:

The Gospel passage is divided into three sections:
vv. 1-4: the prayer that Jesus taught
vv. 5-8: the parable of the insistent friend
vv. 9-13: the teaching on the efficacy of prayer.

b) The text:
1 He was praying in a certain place, and when he ceased, one of his disciples said to him, "Lord, teach us to pray, as John taught his disciples." 2 And he said to them, "When you pray, say:

"Father, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. 3 Give us each day our daily bread; 4 and forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive every one who is indebted to us; and lead us not into temptation."

5 And he said to them, "Which of you who has a friend will go to him at midnight and say to him, 'Friend, lend me three loaves; 6 for a friend of mine has arrived on a journey, and I have nothing to set before him'; 7 and he will answer from within, 'Do not bother me; the door is now shut, and my children are with me in bed; I cannot get up and give you anything? 8 I tell you, though he will not get up and give him anything because he is his friend, yet because of his importunity he will rise and give him whatever he needs. 

9 And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 10 For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 11 What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; 12 or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? 13 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!"

3. A moment of prayerful silence- Like the disciples, we too come together around Jesus who prays alone. We gather around Him and in Him all our energies, every thought, every commitment and preoccupation, our hopes and pains… 

- Today it is we who are those disciples who see the Master praying and allow themselves to be involved in his prayer, which, evidently, was quite special. 

- Today his words are addressed to us, the invitation to trust in the love of the Father is addressed to us, We are so taken up with material things, so much seeking “all and immediately”, so spellbound by a thousand things, that then (and only “then”, after some event that shakes us) we discover that they are all really superfluous… 

- Today it is up to us to give voice to the prayer of the Master:Father, hallowed be your name…

4. Some questionsLet us use this occasion to examine our way of praying:
* What does praying mean for me: An obligation? A pause in the search of myself? Presenting God with a list of requests? A pause in the company of the Father? A simple and trusting dialogue with the One who loves me?

* How much time do I give to prayer: some every day? Or once a week or once a month? Occasionally? Systematically? Do I wait until I “feel the need” to pray?

* What is the starting point of my prayer: is it the Word of God? Is it the saint or the liturgical feast of the day? Is it devotion to our Lady? Is it an illustration or icon? Is it the events of my life or those of the history of the world?

* Whom do I meet when I pray: looking deep into myself, when I pray do I speak to one whom I feel to be a judge or to a friend? Do I feel Him to be an “equal” or someone who is “holy”, infinite or unattainable? Is He near to me or far and indifferent? Is He my Father or my master? Does He care for me or “is He busy with His own affairs”?

* How do I pray: do I pray a little mechanically, using set formulae? Do I pray using passages from the Psalms or other Biblical texts? Liturgical texts? Do I choose to pray spontaneously? Do I look for texts using beautiful words or do I prefer to repeat a short phrase? How do I use “the Lord’s prayer”? Do I more often find myself invoking God for some need or to praise Him in the liturgy or to contemplate Him in silence? Am I able to pray while I am working or in any place or only when I am in church? Am I able to make liturgical prayer my own? What place does the Mother of God have in my prayer?

5. A key to the reading
This passage presents prayer as one of the fundamental requirements and a key point in the life of a disciple of Jesus and of the community of disciples.

vv. 1-4: Jesus, like other great religious masters of his time, teaches his followers a prayer that will define them: the “Our Father”.

a) Jesus was praying in a certain place, and when he had finished one of his disciples said, “Lord, teach us to pray”: Jesus goes aside to pray. In Luke’s Gospel he does this often (5: 16), above all just before important events: before choosing the Twelve (6: 12-13), before soliciting Peter’s confession of faith (9: 18-20), before the transfiguration (9: 28-29) and, finally, before the passion (22: 40-45).

As Jesus prays, he arouses in his disciples the desire to pray like him. Clearly, it is a prayer that shows itself externally in a very special way and that certainly affects his preaching. The disciples understand that such a prayer is quite different from that taught by other spiritual masters in Israel or even by the precursor of Jesus. That is why they ask him to teach them to pray. Thus, the prayer that Jesus passes on to his disciples becomes the characteristic expression of their ideal and identity, of their way of relating to God and among themselves.

b) Father: The first thing that Jesus teaches on prayer is to call God “Father”. Matthew, unlike Luke, does not add the adjective “our”, stressing less the community aspect of the Christian prayer. On the other hand, the fact of invoking the Father, constitutes the best adhesive element of the community of disciples.

For a Jew of the first century, relationship with one’s father was one of intimacy, but also a recognition of the father’s authority over every member of the family. This is reflected in the Christian custom of calling God “Father”, whereas there is no certain evidence that the Jews of the time used to call God with the intimate term of “abba”. This term is none other than the emphatic form of the Aramaic “ ’ab”, the familiar and respectful term used for earthly fathers.

The fact that Jesus used to turn to God and called him abba, shows the new kind of relationship that He, and therefore his disciples, establish with God: a relationship of closeness, familiarity and trust.

In the classical scheme of Biblical prayer, the first part of the “our Father” deals directly with God, whereas the second part refers to the needs of humankind in its earthly existence.

c) Father, hallowed be your name: in the message of the prophets of Israel, it is God who “sanctifies His own Name” (that is, himself: “the name is the person”) intervening with power in human history, notwithstanding that Israel and the other peoples have dishonoured Him.. In Ezekiel we read: “But when they came to the nations, wherever they came, they profaned my holy name, in that men said of them, 'These are the people of the Lord, and yet they had to go out of his land.' But I had concern for my holy name, which the house of Israel caused to be profaned among the nations to which they came. "Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them; and the nations will know that I am the Lord, says the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land.” (36: 20-24). On the same subject we may also read: Dt 32: 51; Is 29: 22; Ez 28: 22. 25).

The subject of the verb “to hallow”, in Lk 11: 2, is God Himself: we are faced with a “theological passive”. This means that the first petition of this prayer does not concern human beings and their unquestionable duty to honour and respect God, but God the Father Himself who must make Himself known as such to all. Thus, we petition God to reveal Himself in His sovereign greatness: this is an invocation with eschatological connotations, closely connected with the following petition.

d) Your Kingdom come: the great event proclaimed by Jesus is the definitive coming of the Kingdom of God among us: “Be sure of this: the kingdom of God is very near (Lk 10:11; cfr also Mt 10: 7). The prayer of Jesus and of the Christian, then, is in close harmony with this proclamation. Asking in this prayer that this Kingdom be ever more visibly present, has, in fact, two effects: the person praying has to come face to face with the eschatological design of God, but also with the obligation of a radical willingness to serve His will of salvation. Thus, if it is true that we may and must present our needs to God the Father, it is also true that Christian prayer never has man and woman for its end, it is never a selfish petition, but its ultimate end is to glorify God, implore his full closeness, his complete manifestation: “Set your hearts on his kingdom, and these other things will be given you as well” (Lk 12: 31).

e) Give us this day our daily bread: we have come to the second part of the Lord’s prayer. The person praying has now put into place the correct and intimate relationship with God, and now lives in the logic of closeness to God who is Father and his/her petitions flow from this way of life. 

In Jesus’ time as in ours (almost!), bread is the most necessary food, the primary nourishment. In this case, however, “bread” stands for food in general and, more, all kinds of material needs of the disciples. 

The English term ”bread” is a translation of the Greek “epiousion”, found also in Matthew but not in any other Greek biblical or profane text. This makes it difficult to give a really reliable version, so much so that we are constrained to translate it according to the context. 

What is clear, however, is that the disciple who is praying in this way, is aware of not having much material security for the future, not even for his/her daily food: he/she has really “left everything behind” to follow Christ (cfr Lk 5: 11). Here we are dealing with a situation characteristic of the early generations of Christians. This is not to say that the prayer for “bread” may not be very useful for Christians of today: we are all called to receive all things from Providence, as a free gift from God, even if these things come from the labour of our hands. The Eucharistic offertory reminds us of this all the time: we offer to God that which we know well we have received from Him so that we may receive it back from His hands. This also means that the Christian of every age must not be preoccupied with his/her material situation, because the Father will take care of him/: “That is why I am telling you not to worry about your life and what you are to eat, nor about your body and how you are to clothe it. For life means more than food, and the body more than clothing” (Lk 12: 22-23).

f) Forgive us our sins, for we ourselves forgive each one who is in debt to us: The Christian, immersed in the salvation given by the Father with the coming of His kingdom, know that all his/her sins are already forgiven. This places him/her in the condition and obligation of having to forgive others, thus allowing God to render definitive the pardon of the Christian capable of pardoning (cfr Mt18: 23-35).

We are always hovering between the kingdom “already” present and kingdom “not yet” attained. A Christian who behaved contrary to the salvation already received from God in Christ, renders useless the forgiveness he/she has already received. That is why Luke says: “for we ourselves forgive”: Luke does not wish to place us humans on the same level as God, but only to make us aware that we can frustrate the saving work of God, within which the Father has willed to include us as an active element, to extend His every free pardon to all.

vv. 5-8: more than a parable, this is a similitude, because it illustrates a typical behaviour that arouses in listeners a univocal and spontaneous reply. In this case, it would be difficult to find anyone who would spontaneously reply “no one!” to the question“Which of you… ?” (v. 5) Thus, this passage wishes to show us how God acts through the filter of human behaviour, which is a poor copy of the behaviour of the Father.
The scene takes place in a Palestinian situation. Usually, anyone going on a journey would start at sunset in order to avoid the very high temperatures of daytime. In Palestinian houses at that time, there was only one room and the whole family used it for all the activities during the day as well as for sleeping at night by just spreading straw mats on the floor. 

The request of the man who suddenly has to receive an unexpected guest in the middle of the night, reflects a typical sense of hospitality in ancient peoples, and the explanation of the request for “three loaves” (v. 5) is that this was the normal meal for an adult.

The man who has recourse to his friend at night is the image of a disciple of Christ, called to pray to God always and everywhere, full of trust that he/she will be heard, not because he/she has worn Him out, but because He is a merciful Father who is faithful to His promises. Thus the parable shows us how a disciple should pray the “our Father”: with complete trust in God, loving and just Father, a trust that goes even to cheekiness, that is to “disturbing Him” at any time and to insist with Him in every way, certain of being answered.

Prayer, as a basic attitude of every Christian who wishes to really be a disciple of Jesus, is well expressed by the apostle Paul: «Pray always, in all things give thanks; this indeed is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you» (1Ts 5: 17-18) ; «Pray all the time, asking for what you need, praying in the Spirit on every possible occasion. Never get tired of staying awake to pray for all the saints» (Ef 6: 18).

vv. 9-13: the last part of our Gospel is that properly called didactic. It resumes the theme of the previous verses, emphasising the trust that must characterise Christian prayer, founded on the solid rock of faith. It is the faith of the praying person that opens wide the doors of the Father’s heart, and it is the very identity of the Father who loves to carry in his arms his children and to console themwith the tenderness of a mother (cfr Is 66: 12-13) that which must nourish the faith of Christians.
God is a Father who loves to receive requests from his children, because this shows that they put their trust in Him, for to ask they have to approach Him with open hearts, for asking urges them to look at His kind and loving face, for by asking (even indirectly) they show that they believe that He is really the Lord of history and of the world, and, above all, because their asking allows Him to show openly His delicate, attentive and free love, solely directed for the good of His children. What displeases the Father is not the insistence or indiscretion of His children in asking, but that they do not ask sufficiently, remaining silent and almost indifferent to Him, that they stay away with a thousand respectful excuses, such as “He already knows everything”, etc. God is certainly a Father who provides all thing and takes care of the daily life of His children, but, at the same time, He also knows what is best for them, even better than they do. That is why He pours out on Christians so many good things and, above all, the gift par excellence: the Spirit, the only truly indispensable gift for their life, the gift who, if allowed to act, will make them authentic children in the Son.

6. A time of prayer: Psalm 104
To the merciful and provident God, who created the marvellous harmony of the cosmos and who placed in it humankind as His “vicar”, let us sing the psalm:Bless Yahweh, my soul, Yahweh, my God,
how great you are!
Clothed in majesty and splendour,
wearing the light as a robe!
You stretch out the heavens like a tent,
build your palace on the waters above,
making the clouds your chariot,
gliding on the wings of the wind,
appointing the winds your messengers,
flames of fire your servants.
You fixed the earth on its foundations,
for ever and ever it shall not be shaken;
you covered it with the deep like a garment,
the waters overtopping the mountains.
At your reproof the waters fled,
at the voice of your thunder they sped away,
flowing over mountains, down valleys,
to the place you had fixed for them;
you made a limit they were not to cross,
they were not to return and cover the earth.
In the ravines you opened up springs,
running down between the mountains,
supplying water for all the wild beasts;
the wild asses quench their thirst,
on their banks the birds of the air make their nests,
they sing among the leaves.
From your high halls you water the mountains,
satisfying the earth with the fruit of your works:
for cattle you make the grass grow,
and for people the plants they need,
to bring forth food from the earth,
and wine to cheer people's hearts,
oil to make their faces glow,
food to make them sturdy of heart.
The trees of Yahweh drink their fill,
the cedars of Lebanon which he sowed;
there the birds build their nests,
on the highest branches the stork makes its home;
for the wild goats there are the mountains,
in the crags the coneys find refuge.
He made the moon to mark the seasons,
the sun knows when to set.
You bring on darkness, and night falls,
when all the forest beasts roam around;
young lions roar for their prey,
asking God for their food.
The sun rises and away they steal,
back to their lairs to lie down,
and man goes out to work,
to labour till evening falls.
How countless are your works, Yahweh,
all of them made so wisely!
The earth is full of your creatures.
Then there is the sea,
with its vast expanses teeming with countless creatures,
creatures both great and small;
there ships pass to and fro,
and Leviathan whom you made to sport with.
They all depend upon you,
to feed them when they need it.
You provide the food they gather,
your open hand gives them their fill.
Turn away your face and they panic;
take back their breath and they die and revert to dust.
Send out your breath and life begins;
you renew the face of the earth.
Glory to Yahweh for ever!
May Yahweh find joy in his creatures!
At his glance the earth trembles,
at his touch the mountains pour forth smoke.
I shall sing to Yahweh all my life,
make music for my God as long as I live.
May my musings be pleasing to him,
for Yahweh gives me joy.
May sinners vanish from the earth,
and the wicked exist no more!
Bless Yahweh, my soul.

7. Closing prayer
Good and holy Father, your love makes us brothers and sisters and urges us to come together in your holy Church to celebrate with life the mystery of communion. You call us to share the one bread, living and eternal, given to us from heaven. Help us also to know how to break, in the love of Christ, our earthly bread, so that our bodily and spiritual hunger may be satisfied. Amen.

Reference: Courtesy of Order of Carmelites,


Featured Item of the Day from Litany Lane


Saint of the Day:  Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Feast DayJuly28

Patron Saint:  illnesses

St Alphonsa Muttathupadathu
Saint Alphonsa Muttathupadathu, F.C.C., or Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception (19 August 1910 – 28 July 1946) was a Syro-Malabar Catholic Franciscan Religious Sister who is now honoured as a saint. She is the first woman of Indian origin to be canonised as a saint by the Catholic Church and the first canonised saint of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic Church of the Saint Thomas Christian community.

Early life

She was born Anna Muttathupadathu, the fourth child of Cherian Ouseph and Mary Muttathupadathu, in Kudamalloor, near Kottayam, on 19 August 1910.[1] She was baptised on 26 August. Alphonsamma, as she was locally known, was born in Arpookara, a village in the princely state of Travancore, within Kerala, India. This lies within the Archdiocese of Changanassery.

Her parents nicknamed her Annakkutty (little Anna). She had a difficult childhood and experienced loss and suffering early on in life. Anna's mother died when she was young, so her maternal aunt raised her. Hagiographies describe her early life as one of suffering at the hands of her stern foster mother and the teasing of schoolchildren.[2] Anna was educated by her great-uncle, Father Joseph Muttathupadathu. When Anna was three-years-old, she contracted eczema and suffered for over a year.[3]

In 1916 Anna started school in Arpookara. She received her First Communion on 27 November 1917. In 1918, she was transferred to a school in Muttuchira. Anna was from a rich family and because of that she got a lot of marriage proposals from reputed families. Her foster mother wanted her to become a perfect housewife in a rich household. However, Anna sacrificed all this material fortune and wanted to dedicate her life to Jesus Christ. In 1923, Anna's feet were burnt when she fell into a pit of burning chaff; local hagiographies describe this as a self-inflicted injury in order to avoid her foster mother's attempt to arrange a marriage for her and thereby to fulfill her desire for becoming a Religious Sister instead.[2] This accident left her permanently disabled.

Sister Alphonsa

When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, a religious congregation of the Third Order of St. Francis,[4] and through them, completed her schooling.

Anna arrived at the Clarist convent at Bharananganam, Kottayam district, on Pentecost Sunday 1927.[1] She received the postulant's veil on 2 August 1928 and took the name Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception in honour of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, whose feast day it was.[5] In May 1929 Sister Alphonsa was assigned to teach at Malayalam High School at Vazhappally. Her foster mother died in 1930. Three days later she resumed her studies at Changanacherry, while working as a temporary teacher at a school at Vakakkad. On 19 May 1930 Alphonsa entered the novitiate of the congregation at Bharananganam. On 11 August 1931, she completed the novitiate and took her first vows.

Health decline

The period 1930-1935 was characterised by grave illness.[5] Sister Alphonsa took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936.[1] Two days later she returned to Bharananganam from Changanacherry. Sister Alphonsa then taught high school at St. Alphonsa Girl's High School, but was often sick and unable to teach.[3] For most of her years as a Clarist Sister she endured serious illness.

In December 1936, it is claimed that she was cured from her ailments through the intervention of the Kuriakose Elias Chavara[5] (who was beatified at the same ceremony as she), but on 14 June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened. On 18 October 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and weakened her again.

Her health continued to deteriorate over a period of months. She received extreme unction on 29 September 1941. The next day it is believed that she regained her memory, though not complete health. Her health improved over the next few years, until in July 1945 she developed a stomach problem that caused vomiting.

 During the last year of her life she came to know Father Sebastian Valopilly, (later Bishop of Kerala), who frequently brought her communion. This bishop became famous in Kerala for championing the cause of poor people from all religious backgrounds who had come to live Thalassery as a result of shortages elsewhere.


She died on 28 July 1946. She is buried at St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bharananganam, Travancore in the Diocese of Palai.[6]


Claims of her miraculous intervention began almost immediately upon her death and often involved the children of the convent school where she used to teach. On 2 December 1953, Cardinal Tisserant inaugurated the diocesan process for her beatification and Alphonsa was declared a Servant of God.

In 1985, Pope John Paul II formally approved a miracle attributed to her intercession and,on 9th July, she became "Venerable Sr. Alphonsa".[7]


Venerable Sister Alphonsa was beatified along with Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara, T.O.C.D., at Kottayam, on 8 February 1986 by Pope John Paul II during his Apostolic Pilgrimage to India.

During his speech at Nehru Stadium, the Pope said that:
"From early in her life, Sister Alphonsa experienced great suffering. With the passing of the years, the heavenly Father gave her an ever fuller share in the Passion of his beloved Son. We recall how she experienced not only physical pain of great intensity, but also the spiritual suffering of being misunderstood and misjudged by others. But she constantly accepted all her sufferings with serenity and trust in God, ... She wrote to her spiritual director: "Dear Father, as my good Lord Jesus loves me so very much, I sincerely desire to remain on this sick bed and suffer not only this, but anything else besides, even to the end of the world. I feel now that God has intended my life to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering" (20 November 1944). She came to love suffering because she loved the suffering Christ. She learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord."[8]


Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed for her intervention, many of them involving straightening of clubbed feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself. Two of these cases were submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as proof of her miraculous intervention. The continuing cures are chronicled in the magazine PassionFlower.[3]

Bishop Sebastian reported:
About ten years ago, when I was in a small village in Wayanad outside Manatavady, I saw a boy walking with some difficulty, using a stick. As he approached me I noted that both of his feet were turned upside down. I had a stack of holy cards in my pocket with Alphonsa's picture on them, so I pulled one of them out and gave it to the boy. When I told the boy that he should pray to this woman for the cure of his feet, the boy-he was quite smart for a ten-year-old boy-replied, "But I'm a Muslim, and, besides, I was born this way." I replied that God is very powerful, so let's pray. A few months later,a boy and a gentleman appeared at the house here.I didn't recognize them at first but soon learned that it was the Muslim boy with his father, here to tell me that his feet had been cured through their prayers to Sister Alphonsa. They showed me the calluses on the tops of his feet, and you could see the marks which had been made from the years of his walking with his feet turned under. Before they left, the three of us had our pictures taken.[2]
The boy had reportedly taken Alphonsa's picture card and asked Alphonsa to help fix his feet. Several days afterwards one of his feet supposedly turned around. He and the other members of his family then prayed for the cure of the second foot, which also supposedly turned around later.


On Sunday, 12 October 2008, Pope Benedict XVI announced her canonisation at a ceremony at Saint Peter's Square.[9] Indians from across the world, especially people from Kerala, gathered at the ceremony in Rome. Among them was a 10-year-old Kerala boy Jinil Joseph whose clubfoot – a birth defect – was, in the judgment of Vatican officials, miraculously healed after prayers to Alphonsa in 1999.[7]
The final ceremony for the canonisation began with the holy relics of Alphonsa being presented to the Pope by Sister Celia, Mother General of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, the congregation to which Sister Alphonsa belonged. Sister Celia was accompanied by Vice Postulator Father Francis Vadakkel and former Kerala minister K. M. Mani, all holding lit candles. Speaking in English, the Pope declared Sister Alphonsa a saint, after reading excerpts from the Bible. The Pope himself read out the biography of Alphonsa after the ceremony.

In the homily, Pope Benedict XVI recalled Saint Alphonsa's life as one of "extreme physical and spiritual suffering."
"This exceptional woman ... was convinced that her cross was the very means of reaching the heavenly banquet prepared for her by the Father", the pope stated. "By accepting the invitation to the wedding feast, and by adorning herself with the garment of God's grace through prayer and penance, she conformed her life to Christ's and now delights in the 'rich fare and choice wines' of the heavenly kingdom."
"(Her) heroic virtues of patience, fortitude and perseverance in the midst of deep suffering remind us that God always provides the strength we need to overcome every trial", the pope stated before the ceremony ended.[4]

The canonisation was greeted with the bursting of firecrackers and the toll of church bells. St Mary’s Forane church at Kudmaloor, her home parish, also celebrated a special Mass.[10] The grave at St Mary’s Forane Church in Bharananganam where the Franciscan Clarist Sister was buried had a chapel built there, which houses her mortal remains.


Tomb of Saint Alphonsa
Her tomb at St. Mary's Syro-Malabar Catholic Church, Bharananganam has become a pilgrimage site as miracles have been reported by some of the faithful.[11]

 St Marys Syro-Malabar Forane Church Arakuzha is in Arakuzha Village, 6 km from Muvattupuzha, India.The village has a large population of Syrian Catholic Christians. Syrian Christians of Arakuzha have more than 1500 years of recorded history.[1] This Region of Kothamangalam, Vazhakulam, Arakuzha, Mylakompu, Nagapuzha, Muthalakodam of Northern Travancore has some very old churches. The St. Mary's Church, Arakuzha belongs to the Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Kothamangalam.

Feast Day

Thousands of people converge on the small town of Bharananganam when they celebrate the feast of Saint Alphonsa from 19 to 28 July each year; her tomb is becoming a pilgrimage site these days as miracles are reported by some devotees.[11]


    1. "St. Alphonsa - Our Patroness" St. Alphonsa Church, Bangalore
    2. ^ Corinne G. Dempsey. Lessons in Miracles from Kerala, South India: Stories of Three "Christian" Saints. History of Religions, Vol. 39, No. 2, Christianity in India (Nov., 1999), pp. 150-176
    3. "Patron Saints Index". SQPN.
    4. ^ "Beatification of Father Kuriakose Elias Chavara and Sister Alfonsa Muttathupandathu". Vatican. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
    5. "Saint Alphonsa - History", Syro-Malabar Catholic Mission
    6. ^ "St. Alphonsa", Kerala Catholic Times
    7. "St. Alphonsa", St. Alphonsa Syro Malabar Catholic Church, Los Angeles, California
    8. ^ "Beatification speech of Pope John Paul II". Alphonsa site. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
    9. ^ Indian Catholics cheer their first woman saint
    10. ^ "Catholic Church celebrates Alphonsa’s canonisation". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 13 October 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-08.
    11. ^ "Sister Alphonsa's canonisation date to be decided on March 1". Chennai, India: The Hindu. 26 February 2008. Retrieved 2009-10-08.

    Featured Items Panel from Litany Lane


    Today's Snippet I:  Saint Thomas Christians

    Nasranis or Syrian Christians of Kerala in ancient days (from an old painting). Photo published in the Cochin Government Royal War Efforts Souvenir in 1938
    The Saint Thomas Christians, also called Syrian Christians or Nasrani, are an ancient community of Christians from Kerala, India who trace their origins to the evangelistic activity of Thomas the Apostle in the 1st century. The community was historically united in leadership and liturgy, but since the 17th century have been split into several different church denominations and traditions.

    Historically the Saint Thomas Christian community was part of the Church of the East, centred in Persia. They were organised as the Ecclesiastical Province of India in the 8th century, served by bishops and a hereditary Archdeacon. In the 16th century the overtures of the Portuguese padroado to bring the Saint Thomas Christians into the Catholic Church led to the first of several rifts in the community and the establishment of Syrian Catholic and Malankara Church factions. Since that time further splits have occurred, and the Saint Thomas Christians are now divided into several different Eastern Catholic, Oriental Orthodox, and independent bodies, each with their own liturgies and traditions.

    The Saint Thomas Christians represent a single ethnic group. Saint Thomas Christian culture is largely developed from East Syrian influences blended with local customs and later elements derived from indigenous Indian and European colonial contacts. Their language is Malayalam, the local tongue of Kerala.


    The Saint Thomas Christians are so called due to their reverence for Saint Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have brought Christianity to India. The name dates to the period of Portuguese colonization. They are also known, especially locally, as the Nasrani or Nasrani Mappila. "Nasrani" is a term meaning "Christian"; it appears to be derived from Nazareth, the home town of Jesus. Mappila is an honorific applied to members of non-Indian faiths, including Muslims (Jonaka Mappila) and Jews (Yuda Mappila).[4][5] Some Syrian Christians of Travancore continue to attach this honorific title to their names.[6] The Indian government designates members of the community as "Syrian Christians", a term originating with the Dutch colonial authority distinguishing the Saint Thomas Christians, who used Syriac as the liturgical language, from newly evangelized Christians following Latin liturgy.[7] The term Syrian relates not to their ethnicity but to their historical, religious and liturgical connection to the Church of the East, or East Syrian Church.[4]


    Early period

    The most commonly believed tradition of origin among Saint Thomas Christians relates to the evangelical activity of Thomas the Apostle, who is said to have come to India in middle of the 1st century.[8] There is no contemporary evidence for Thomas being in the subcontinent, though it was possible for a Roman Jew of the time to make such a trip. Groups such as the Cochin Jews and Bene Israel are known to have existed in India around that time.[9][10][11] The earliest known source connecting the apostle to India is the Acts of Thomas, likely written in the early 3rd century, perhaps in Edessa.[8][12][13] The text describes Thomas' adventures in bringing Christianity to India, a tradition later expanded upon in early Indian sources such as the "Thomma Parvam" ("Song of Thomas").[14][15] Generally he is described as arriving in or around Maliankara and founding Seven Churches, or Ezharapallikal: Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam, Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithamcode Arappally (a "half church").[16][17][18] A number of 3rd- and 4th-century Roman writers also mention Thomas' trip to India, including Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nazianzus, Jerome, and Ephrem the Syrian, while Eusebius of Caesarea records that his teacher Pantaenus visited a Christian community in India in the 2nd century.[19][20]

    An organised Christian presence in India dates to the arrival of East Syrian settlers and missionaries from Persia, members of the Church of the East or Nestorian Church, in around the 3rd century.[21] Saint Thomas Christians trace the further growth of their community to the arrival of the Nestorian Thomas of Cana from the Middle East, which is said to have occurred sometime between the 4th and 8th century. The subgroup of the Saint Thomas Christians known as the Knanaya or Southists trace their lineage to Thomas of Cana, while the group known as the Northists claim descent from Thomas the Apostle's indigenous converts; some additionally assert ancestry from Thomas of Cana through a second, Indian wife.[20][22]

    Classical period

    As the community grew and immigration by East Syrians increased, the connection with the Church of the East, centred in the Persian capital of Seleucia-Ctesiphon, strengthened. From the early 4th century the Patriarch of the Church of the East provided India with clergy, holy texts, and ecclesiastical infrastructure, and around 650 Patriarch Ishoyahb III solidified the Church of the East's jurisdiction over the Saint Thomas Christian community.[26] In the 8th century Patriarch Timothy I organised the community as the Ecclesiastical Province of India, one of the church's Provinces of the Exterior. After this point the Province of India was headed by a metropolitan bishop, dispatched from Persia, the "Metropolitan-Bishop of the Seat of Saint Thomas and the Whole Christian Church of India".[20] His metropolitan see was probably in Cranganore, or (perhaps nominally) in Mylapore, where the shrine of Thomas was located.[20] Under him were a varying number of bishops, as well as a native Archdeacon, who had authority over the clergy and who wielded a great amount of secular power.[20]

    Some contact and transmission of knowledge of the Saint Thomas Christians managed to reach the Christian West, even after the rise of the Islamic empires.[27] Byzantine traveller Cosmas Indicopleustes wrote of East Syrian Christians he met in India and Sri Lanka in the 6th century.[28] In 883 the English king Alfred the Great reportedly sent a mission and gifts to Saint Thomas' tomb in India.[27] During the Crusades, distorted accounts of the Saint Thomas Christians and the Nestorian Church gave rise to the European legend of Prester John.[29]

    The great distances involved and the geopolitical turmoil of the period caused India to be cut off from the church's heartland in Mesopotamia at several points. In the 11th century the province was suppressed by the church entirely, as it had become impossible to reach,[30] but effective relations were restored by 1301.[31] However, following the collapse of the Church of the East's hierarchy in most of Asia later in the 14th century, India was effectively cut off from church, and formal contact was severed. By the late 15th century India had had no metropolitan for several generations, and the authority traditionally associated with him had been vested in the archdeacon.[32]

    In 1491 the archdeacon sent envoys to the Patriarch of the Church of the East, as well as to the Coptic Pope of Alexandria and to the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch, requesting a new bishop for India. The Patriarch of the Church of the East Shemʿon IV Basidi responded by consecrating two bishops, Thoma and Yuhanon, and dispatching them to India.[32] These bishops helped rebuild the ecclesiastical infrastructure and reestablish fraternal ties with the patriarchate, but the years of separation had greatly affected the structure of the Indian church. Though receiving utmost respect, the metropolitan was treated as a guest in his own diocese; the Archdeacon was firmly established as the real power in the Nasrani community.[33]

    Portuguese contact

    The Saint Thomas Christians first encountered the Portuguese in 1498, during the expedition of Vasco da Gama. At the time the community was in a tenuous position: though thriving in the spice trade and protected by their own militia, the local political sphere was volatile and the Saint Thomas Christians found themselves under pressure from the rajas of Calicut and Cochin and other small kingdoms in the area. The Saint Thomas Christians and the Portuguese newcomers quickly formed an alliance.[34]

    The Portuguese had a keen interest in implanting themselves in the spice trade and in spreading their particularly bellicose version of Christianity, which had been forged during several centuries of warfare in the Reconquista.[35] Facilitating their goals was the Padroado Real, a series of treaties and decrees in which the Pope conferred upon the Portuguese government certain authority in ecclesiastical matters in the foreign territories they conquered. They set up in Goa, forming a colonial government and a Latin church hierarchy under the Archbishop of Goa, and quickly set to bringing the Saint Thomas Christians under his authority.[36]
    The Portuguese subjection of the Saint Thomas Christians was relatively measured at first, but they became more aggressive after 1552, the year of the death of Metropolitan Mar Jacob and of a schism in the Church of the East, which resulted in there being two rival Patriarchs—one of whom entered communion with the Catholic Church. Both patriarchs sent bishops to India, but the Portuguese consistently managed to outmaneuver them, and effectively cut off the Saint Thomas Christians from their hierarchy in 1575, when the Padroado legislated that neither patriarch could send representatives to India without Portuguese approval.[37]

    By 1599 the last Metropolitan, Abraham, had died, and the Archbishop of Goa, Aleixo de Menezes, had secured the submission of the young Archdeacon George, the highest remaining representative of the native church hierarchy.[38] The Archbishop convened the Synod of Diamper, which implemented various liturgical and structural reforms in the Indian church. The Synod brought the parishes directly under the Archbishop's purview; anathematised certain "superstitious" social customs characteristic of their Hindu neighbors, including untouchability and a caste hierarchy; and purged the indigenous liturgy, the Malabar Rite, of elements deemed unacceptable according to the Latin protocol.[39][40][41] A number of texts were condemned and ordered burnt, including the Peshitta, the Syriac version of the Bible.[42] Some of the reforms, especially the elimination of caste status, reduced the Saint Thomas Christians' standing with their socially stratified Hindu neighbors.[40] The Synod formally brought the Saint Thomas Christians into to Catholic Church; however, the actions of the Portuguese over the ensuing years fueled resentment in segments of the community, and ultimately led to open resistance to their power.[43]

    Division and defiance

    Over the next several decades, tensions seethed between the Portuguese and the remaining native hierarchy, and after 1641 Archdeacon Thomas, the nephew and successor to Archdeacon George, was often at odds with the Latin prelates.[44] In 1652, the escalating situation was further complicated by the appearance in Mylapore of a mysterious figure named Ahatallah, who claimed to have been sent by the Pope to serve as "Patriarch of the Whole of India and of China".[44][45]

    Ahatallah made a strong impression on the native clergy, but the Portuguese quickly decided he was an impostor, and put him on a ship bound for Europe by way of Goa. Archdeacon Thomas, desperate for a new ecclesiastical leader to free his people from the Padroado, travelled to Cochin and demanded to meet Ahatallah and examine his credentials. The Portuguese refused, stating the ship had already left for Goa.[45] Ahatallah was never heard from in India again, inspiring rumours that the Portuguese had murdered him and inflaming anti-Portuguese sentiments even more.[46]

    This was the last straw for the Saint Thomas Christians, and in 1653 Thomas and community representatives met at the Church of Our Lady in Mattancherry to take bold action. In a great ceremony before a crucifix and lighted candles, they swore a solemn oath that they would never obey Garcia or the Portuguese again, and that they accepted only the Archdeacon as their shepherd.[46] The Malankara Church and all its successor churches regard this declaration, known as the Coonan Cross Oath after the outdoor cross in the churchyard, as the moment when their church regained its independence.[46] Shortly after, the leaders of this newly independent church decided Thomas should be elevated to bishop. Thomas was consecrated in a ceremony in which twelve priests laid hands on him, and he became the metropolitan of Malankara.[47]

    After the Coonan Cross Oath the Portuguese missionaries attempted for reconciliation with Saint Thomas Christians but was not successful. Later Pope Alexander VII sent the Syrian bishop Joseph Sebastiani at the head of a Carmelite delegation who succeeded in convincing majority of Saint Thomas Christians, including Palliveettil Chandy Kathanar and Kadavil Chandy Kathanar that the consecration of Archdeacon as metropolitan was not legitimate. Later Palliveettil Chandy Kathanar was consecrated as the bishop for the Syrian Catholics with the historic title 'The Metropolitan and the Gate of all India' which denotes a Quasi Patriarchal status with all India jurisdiction.[48][49][50] This led to the first permanent split in the Saint Thomas Christian community. Thereafter, the faction affiliated with the Catholic Church under Parambil Mar Chandy was designated the Pazhayakuttukar, or "Old Party", while the branch affiliated with Mar Thoma was called the Puthankuttukar, or "New Party".[51][52][53][54] These appellations have been somewhat controversial, as both groups considered themselves the true heirs to the Saint Thomas tradition, and saw the other as heretical.[55]

    After the Coonan Cross Oath, between 1661 and 1662, out of the 116 churches, the Syrian Catholics claimed eighty-four churches, and Archdeacon Mar Thoma I with thirty-two churches. The eighty-four churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church and Chaldean Syrian Church have descended. The other thirty-two churches and their congregations were the body from which the Syriac Orthodox (Jacobites & Orthodox), Thozhiyur (1772), Mar Thoma (Reformed) (1874), Syro-Malankara Catholic Church have originated.[56]

    In 1665, Mar Gregorios Abdul Jaleel, a Bishop sent by the Syriac Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch arrived in India and the St.Thomas Christians belonging to the "New Party", under the leadership of the Archdeacon, welcomed him.[57][58 This visit resulted in the Mar Thoma faction claiming spiritual authority of the Antiochean Patriarchate and gradually introduced the West Syrian liturgy, customs and script to the Malabar Coast.[51] Those who accepted the West Syrian theological and liturgical tradition of Mar Gregorios became known as Jacobites.

    The "Old Party", who continued with East Syrian and Latin theological and liturgical tradition and stayed faithful to the Synod of Diamper and the Roman Catholic Church came to be formally known as the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from the second half of the 19th century onward. Syro-Malabar Hierarchy was established on 21 December 1923 with the Metropolitan Mar Augustine Kandathil as the Head of their Church.[59][60][51]

    The foreign Jacobite prelate Mar Gregorios who came to Kerala in 1751 AD, consecrated Rev. Kurian Kattumangat as bishop Abraham Mar Koorilose in 1772 AD at Mattancherry church, Cochin.[61] He was driven into exile from the states of Travancore and Cochin where the majority of St. Thomas Christians lived, to Anjoor in the state of Malabar. He spent his days in prayer and meditation in a hut. A few relatives and friends joined him there.[57][62][63][64][65] This group was known as Thozhyoor Church later named as Malabar Independent Syrian Church, after a court verdict on 28 May 1863.[66]

    British period

    In 1795, the kings of Travancore and Cochin entered into tributary alliance with the British East Indian Company to repel the attacks from Tipu Sultan. The states soon became client regimes of the Company: both were forced to disband their military. The political order of the states also began to collapse. Saint Thomas Christians were hit hard by the loss of their privileged military role, their kalari network was dissolved and many families lost their livelihood.[67] The trading class, as well as the office bearers, also suffered the set back and many Europeans who visited the states between 1801 and 1820 noted the poor and depressed condition of Saint Thomas Christians. Some partisan fund allocation for the churches by the British officials triggered a breakdown in the relationship between Saint Thomas Christians and prominent Hindu castes, at least temporarily.[68] The British Resident, Colonel Munro, took the initiative for establishing a seminary in Kottayam for the theological education of Jacobite Christian priests and invited the Anglican missionaries to teach there; thus started the relation of CMS with Saint Thomas Christians.[69]

    Further divisions

    As a protest against the interference of the Anglican Church in the affairs of the Malankara Church, the Metropolitan, Cheppad Mar Dionysius, convened a Synod at Mavelikara on 16 January 1836. There it was declared that Malanakara Church would be subject to the Syrian traditions and Patriarch of Antioch.[70] The declaration resulted in the separation of the CMS missionaries from the communion with the Malankara Church. However a minority from the Malankara Church, chose the reformed theology of the missionaries and joined the CMS. These Syrian Anglicans, were the first Reformed group among the Saint Thomas Christians. They joined the missionaries in their evangelical activities among the non-Christians in the region and worked along with the missionaries in their reformative and educational activities. [71] On 27 September 1947 the C.M.S Church joined together with other similar Churches and formed the C.S.I. (Church of South India).[72]

    By June 1875, there were two factions in the Malankara Church (Oriental Orthodox): Syrian Party and Reform Party. Mathews Mar Athanasius was the Malankara Metropolitan approved by the Governments of Travancore and of Cochin[73] and the group with him was known as "Reform Party" since Mathews Mar Athanasius was supportive to the reformation of Jacobite church with evangelistic ideologies.[74] The Syrian faction, under the leadership of Metropolian Pulikkottil Joseph Mar Dionysious II, opposed the attempts to do away with age-old traditions of the church, which resulted in a stir in the community.[74] Being invited by this faction, the Antiochene Patriarch Moran Mar Ignatius Peter III arrived in Kerala.[75] On June 1876, at the synod of Mulanthuruthy, presided over by the Patriarch, the Syrian faction formally came under the Antiochene Patriarchate.[76] The synod condemned Mathews Mar Athanasius for abstaining from it, but his followers stayed firm with him.[74] His successor Thomas Mar Athanasius and the bishop’s faction lost the law suit to the Patriarchal faction in the Royal Court of Travancore on 12 July 1889.[77] Nonetheless, the Reform Party continued as an independent, Malankara Church and thereafter a series of suits arose on the rights over churches and associated properties. Later they chose the name Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church.[74]

    In 1912, due to attempts by the Antiochean Patriarch to gain temporal powers over the Malankara Church, there was another split in the West Syrian community when a section declared itself an autocephalous church and announced the re-establishment of the ancient Catholicosate of the East in India. This was not accepted by those who remained loyal to the Patriarch, and this group, popularly known as Patriarch's Party recognized the temporal power of the Patriarch over the assets of their church, while the other side, known as Metropolitan Party, accepted the supremacy of Patriarch only over the spiritual matters. The two sides filed a series of law suits in the civil courts and some parallel attempts to reconcile both the parties also took place. In 1958, bishops of both the parties sealed their reconciliation and signed a treaty which in turn recognized the autonomy of reunited factions, with its own synod of bishops under the presidency of the Catholocos.[78] The verdict of Supreme Court of India in 1959, legitimizing the autonomy of Kerala church, was also instrumental to keep this formal reconciliation between two sides. Nonetheless, in 1975, both the parties split again with the decision of Universal Syrian Synod, held in Damascus, to depose the Catholocos in Kerala. Today the East Syrian community is divided into Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion, autocephalous), Jacobite Syriac Orthodox Church (in Oriental Orthodox Communion, under Antioch).[51]

    In 1930 a section of the Malankara Church under the leadership of Mar Ivanios and Mar Theophilus left the Church[79] and came into communion with the Catholic Church. They are known as Syro-Malankara Catholic Church.

    In 1961, there was a split in the Malankara Mar Thoma Syrian Church which resulted in the formation of St. Thomas Evangelical Church.[80][81]

    Involvement in politics

    Participation based on caste and community divisions and sympathies has been a feature of politics in the present day state of Kerala and its predecessor entities. Until the mid-20th century the primary cause of the divisions between the various communities was competition for rights and resources, rather than any dislike of each other, but in more recent times there has been a rise in violence and antagonism that has coincided with a promotion of Hindu politics.[82]

    Like other communities, Saint Thomas Christians have been involved in regional politics on a community basis. In 1888, Travancore became the first princely state in India to establish a Legislative Council, which was reformed as the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly in 1904. A few Saint Thomas Christian leaders were elected to the Legislative Council but there was resentment that their share of the available seats was proportionately less than that of other prominent castes. This resentment led to a series of campaigns for equal representation both in the legislature and in government positions.[83] Newspapers such as Malayala Manorama and Nasrani Deepika disseminated the grievances.[84]

    In 1918, Saint Thomas Christians formed the League for Equal Civic Rights, which sought the opening of all branches of government service to Christians, Muslims and avarna Hindus, as well as an end to the practice of untouchability. Their demands were partially met in 1922 when the Revenue Department was separated from the Devaswom, a semi-government organization that managed the Hindu temples, thus removing the restriction on non-Hindus and avarnas in the executive service. In the 1920s, Saint Thomas Christian leaders such as George Joseph were advised by Mahatma Gandhi to detach from Vaikom Satyagraha, an agitation for the temple entry rights of avarna Hindus, as he considered the issue to be one of concern to Hindus alone.[84][85]

    With the institution in 1932 of a bicameral legislature in Travancore, four Saint Thomas Christians found a place in among the 24 seats of the lower house, but not comparable with other forward castes.[83] The partisan and oppressive behaviour of Diwan Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer, especially towards the Saint Thomas Christians, further provoked the community members. Iyer reflected a concern among Hindus that the Christian population was rising and that there was a consequent danger of Travancore becoming a Christian state. The 1931 census recorded over 31 per cent of the population as being Christian, compared to around 4 per cent in 1820.[86] Some restrictions were imposed on Saint Thomas Christian parishes to start new schools and later on the Diwan attempted to take over the schools owned by the community.[84] In 1933, some prominent Saint Thomas Christians, including T. M. Varghese, worked to organize other communities on a common platform called the Joint Political Congress, which then decided to abstain from participation in the assembly elections, an action that has become known as the Abstention Movement. There followed a period of fierce confrontation between the Diwan and Saint Thomas Christians—many leaders were arrested, prominent news papers were banned and large banks owned by the community members were liquidated.[84][87] But the agitations continued and to resolve the issue, government appointed a franchise and delimitation commissioner to solve the problem of representation in the legislator with special reference to backward communities. Though there was no definite assurance to Saint Thomas Christians, Joint Political Congress decided to withdraw the agitation. According to the recommendations of commissioner, franchise power was extended beyond the caste bars. In 1937, general elections were held and Joint Political Congress played a significant role to attain much better representation for allied communities.[88] T.M. Varghese was elected as the Deputy President of the Assembly where Iyer was the ex officio President. But in 1938, he was ousted by Iyer for cooperating with rebels, which led to a worsening of relation between the Saint Thomas Christians and Iyer. On the collapse of Joint Political Congress due to internal conflicts, Saint Thomas Christian leaders allied with Nairs in a common platform- Travancore State Congress where they fought together for responsible government and also to oust Iyer.[83] Many Saint Thomas Christian bishops like Mar James Kalaserry and Metropolitan Abraham Mar Thoma, supported the nationalistic movemenets in 1930s and 1940s.[89] Following intense agitations by the Travancore State Congress, the Maharaja of Travancore announced plans to establish a responsible Government. As per the announcement on 4 September 1947, the new Assembly called the Representative Body was formed to function as a Constituent Assembly. The Assembly held its first sitting on 20 March 1948 with President A. J. John, Anaparambil, a Saint Thomas Christian leader in the chair. In the three-member Cabinet of Travancore formed after the first general elections in 1948, Varghese was a Cabinet Minister.[90]

    On 1 November 1956, the state of Kerala was formed and the Communist Party formed the first government of the state in 1957 on winning the assembly elections.[91] Though the government initiated the legislation process for reforming the land and the education sectors, they were considered as infringements over the rights by the school managements and landowners, who were predominantly Saint Thomas Christians and Nairs. The disagreements of the Saint Thomas Christians got further widened and they allied with Nair Service Society to mobilize against the government, which culminated in the form of a violent struggle, called Liberation Struggle, in 1958.[92] The Communist government was dismissed on 31 July 1959 and the President's rule was imposed in the state under Article 356 of the constitution.

    Socio-cultural and religious identity

    St. Thomas Christians are a distinct community, both in terms of culture and religion. Though their liturgy and theology remained that of East-Syrian Christians of Persia, their life-style customs and traditions were basically Indian. It is oft-quoted: "Nazranis are Hindu in culture, Christian in faith and Syrian in liturgy".[95]

    The presence of Jews among the early Malabar Nasrani Christians had significant effects on the liturgy and traditions of the entire community.[3] The community maintained some of the original rituals of the early Jewish Christians, such as covering their heads while in worship. Their ritual services were and still are called the Qurbana (also spelled Kurbana), which is derived from the Aramaic and Hebrew term korban (קרבן), meaning "sacrifice".. The Nasrani Qurbana used to be held in Syriac.[3]

    Saint Thomas Christians typically followed the social customs of their Hindu neighbors, and the vestiges of Hindu symbolism could be seen in their devotional practices.[96] Social sins like Untouchability entered their practices and the Synod of Diamper abolished it.[97] The rituals related to birth, Vidyarambham, marriage, pregnancy, death etc. were also similar in both communities. Now also, tying Thaali, a Hindu symbol of marriage is the most important rite in the Christian marriages too. They used to learn temple arts like Kathakali, Kooth and Thullal and their own art forms like Margam Kali and Parichmuttu Kali have some resemblance to Yathra kali Pattu of Brahmins in Kerala.[96] In 1519, a Portuguese traveler Duarte Barbosa on his visit to Malabar commented on the practice of Saint Thomas Christian priests using Kudumi similar to that of Hindus, in his manuscript "Book of Duarte Barbosa".[98]

    In the social stratification of medieval Malabar, Saint Thomas Christians succeeded in relating their social status with that of upper-caste Hindus on account of their numerical strength and influence and observance of many Brahmin customs.[97][99] In 13th and 14th century, many Saint Thomas Christians were involved in the pepper trade for the local rulers and many were appointed as port revenue officers. The local rulers rewarded them with grants of land and many other privileges. With growing numerical strength, a large number of Saint Thomas Christians settled in the inland pepper-growing regions.[100] They had the right to recruit and train soldiers and Christian trainers were given with the honorary title "Panikkar" like their Nair counterparts.[101] They were also entitled with the privilege to collect the tax, and the tax-collectors were honored with the title "Tharakan". Like Brahmins they had the right to sit before the Kings and also to ride on horse or elephant, like the royals.[97] They were protectors of seventeen underprivileged castes and communities and hence they were called Lords of Seventeen Castes.[93][97] They did not allow the lower-castes to join their community for fear that it could imperil their upper-caste status.[93][102] Between 9th and 15th centuries, Saint Thomas Christians had a small kingdom of their own, viz. Villarvattom, but this regal period came under extinct and the community fell under the power of Rajas of Cochin and Travancore.[103] They owned a large number of Kalaripayattu training centers and the Rajas of Travancore and Cochin, including the renowned Marthanda Varma, recruited trained Christian warriors to defend their kingdom.[104] The upper-caste Hindus and Saint Thomas Christians took part in one another's festival celebrations and in some places in Kerala, the Hindu Temples and Saint Thomas Christian Churches were built on adjoining sites by the Hindu Kings. Until the 19th century, Saint Thomas Christians had the right of access to Hindu temples and some leading Saint Thomas Christians held the status of sponsors at Hindu shrines and temple festivals.[105] But in the 19th century, Saint Thomas Christian integration with the Hindu caste system was disrupted: their clean-caste status was questioned in some localities and they were denied access to many Hindu temples. They tried to retaliate by denouncing Hindu festivals as heathen idolatry. Clashes between upper-caste Hindus and Saint Thomas Christians occurred from the late 1880s, especially when festivals coincided. Internecine violence among various Saint Thomas Christian denominations aggravated their problems.[106]

    Church architecture

    A Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in Kerala, with its Madbaha veiled by a red curtain
    The earliest documentary evidence is Tharisapally Copper Plate, which refers to the construction of the church of Tharisapally in Quilon between 823 and 849 CE. Antonio Gouvea, Portuguese envoy to Malabar, mentions in his 16th-century work Jornada that almost all the churches of Saint Thomas Christians followed the models of Hindu temples of that period, but were distinguished by the huge granite cross in the front yard of the church. Despite the external similarity with temples, the structuring of the interior space of the church always followed the East Syrian architectural theology. Thus the contemporary style is formed as an amalgamation of Indian architecture and Chaldean liturgical concepts.[107] The church is arranged east-to-west, with the interior structured into three levels: the madbaha (sanctuary), the qestroma (choir) and the haykla (nave).

    The madbaha, arranged in the topmost platform at the eastern side of the building, represents Heaven. The primary altar is attached to the eastern wall. To the north of the madbaha is the diaqonikon (sacristry); to the south is the baptistery. The madbaha is protected with rails and is veiled by a red curtain most of the time; this is opened during the Holy Qurbana (Eucharist). An oil lamp within the sanctuary is kept glowing at all times to represent the presence of God. The madbaha is connected to the qestroma and haykla by a low-walled path called the sqaqona. The qestroma contains seats for the choir and lower clergy. The haykla contains an elevated platform or bema, which includes an altar, two lecterns for reading, and chairs for higher clergy. Worshipers stand before the altar, with separate seating for men and women. The main entrance is on the western side of the building; a vestibule, pillars, pilasters, and other architectural ornaments adorn the front end, and a flag mast stands in the front yard. One or two bells are installed in the back yard to signal the timing of ritual services, the death of a church member, or to inform the public of calamities.[108][109]

    Nasrani symbol

    Saint Thomas Cross or Mar Thoma Sliva
    The Saint Thomas Cross is widely perceived as the symbol of Saint Thomas Christians. It is also known as Nasrani Menorah[110] or Mar Thoma Sliba.[111] There are several interpretations for the Nasrani Symbol. The interpretation based on Christian Jewish tradition assumes that its design was based on Jewish menorah, an ancient symbol of the Hebrews, which consists of seven branched lamp stand (candelabra).[112]

    The interpretation based on local culture states that the Cross without the figure of Jesus and with flowery arms symbolizing "joyfulness" points to the resurrection theology of St. Paul, the Holy Spirit on the top represents the role of Holy Spirit in the resurrection of Jesus Christ. The lotus symbolizing Buddhism and the Cross over it shows that Christianity was established in the land of Buddha. The 3 steps indicate Calvary and the rivulets, channels of grace flowing from the Cross.[113]

    Note that the Christian cross was not adopted as a symbol by Mediterranean and European Christianity until several centuries had passed.

    Saint Thomas Christians today

    Writing in 2010, Devika and Varghese noted that "[The St. Thomas Christians] are at present a substantial minority, a powerful presence in all fields of life in Kerala."[114]

    Socioeconomic status

    Even though the Saint Thomas Christians had to compromise their social and religious privileges in the aftermath of Portuguese subjugation, they started reemerging as a powerful community from the 19th century onward. They played a pioneering role in many spheres such as Banking, Commerce, Cash crops etc.[115] Among Saint Thomas Christians, 17.4% of the adult population are self-employed - the highest rate statistically among all the communities in the state of Kerala.[116] Saint Thomas Christians lead all others with respect to per capita ownership of land, with many of them owning large estates. With changing conditions, they have shifted from the agriculture of rice and coconut to plantation based agriculture and the trading of rubber, spices and cash crops. They also take a prominent role in the educational institutions of Kerala and throughout India.[117] They were quick to understand the benefits of academic education and in their educational achievements Saint Thomas Christians stand second to none. The educational accomplishments of the community have helped its members to attain a good proportion of the Central and State Government jobs.[115] With their level of education and limited employment opportunities within the state of Kerala, they became the community with the highest rate of migration. Their resultant foreign remittances have also helped the socioeconomic progress of the community. According to the Kerala Migration Survey (1998) by the Center for Developmental Studies, Kerala, Saint Thomas Christians top all other communities in Kerala with respect to the Socioeconomic Development Index which is based on parameters such as the possession of land,housing & consumer durables, education and employment status.[118]

    Existing traditions, rituals and social life

    Saint Thomas Christians still retain many of their ancient traditions and rituals, both in their social and religious life. Saint Thomas Christian services have many unique characteristics compared to others. Until the 1970s the Nasrani Qurbana was sung in Syriac. Many of the tunes of the Saint Thomas Christian worship in Kerala are remnants of ancient Syriac tunes of antiquity.[119] The Baptism is still known by the Aramaic term Mamodisa among Saint Thomas Christians and follows many of the ancient rituals of the ceremony. It is referred to in Malayalam as Njana Snanam ("Bath of Wisdom").
    • Saint Thomas Christians observe Holy Thursday with high reverence. This day is referred to as Pesaha, a Malayalam word derived from the Aramaic or Hebrew word for Passover—Pasha or Pesah—commemorating the Last Supper of Jesus Christ during Passover in Jerusalem. The tradition of consuming Pesaha appam after the church service is observed by the entire community under the leadership of the head of the family. Special long services followed by the Holy Qurbana are conducted during the Pesaha eve in the churches.[120][121]
    • The community observes Lent, locally called the fifty days' fast, from Clean Monday to the day before Easter, abjuring all meat, fish and egg. They also traditionally observe the 25 days' fast which ends on the day of Christmas.[122]
    • Generally, footwear is removed before entering the church and women cover their heads during worship.
    • The ritual service (liturgy) is called the Holy Qurbana, which is derived from the Hebrew Korban (קרבן), meaning "sacrifice".
    • Some parts of the Holy Qurbana are sung in Syriac.
    • Another surviving tradition is the use of muthukoda (ornamental umbrella) for church celebrations, marriages and other festivals. Traditional drums, arch decorations and ornamental umbrellas are part of the church celebrations. Their use has become popular all over Kerala.
    • The rituals and ceremonies of Saint Thomas Christians related to house building, astrology, birth and marriage have close similarity with those of Hindus in Kerala. Death rituals express Christian canonical themes very distantly and the influence of Hindu culture is quite noticeable. Much stress is given to ideas concerning life after death and the anticipation of final judgment.[123]
    • Saint Thomas Christians do not marry close relatives. The rule is that the bride and groom must not be related for at least five generations.
    • Saint Thomas Christians generally prefer arranged marriages and the prospective partners see each other in the Pennukanal (Bride Viewing) ceremony at bride’s home.[124]
    • Saint Thomas Christians did not use any iconography or statues of Jesus or the saints in their churches until after the arrival of the Portuguese, prior to which time the use of such symbols was deemed idolatrous.
    • Saint Thomas Christians widely use Nilavilakku (a lighted metal lamp) in their houses and churches.[125]
    • The traditional dress of a Saint Thomas Christian woman is the Chatta and Mundu, a seamless white garment, which is now limited to older female adherents. Following the general trend, the Sari and Churidar have become predominant among the younger generations.[122][126]


    Nasrani Christians population

    Kunniparampil Zachariah notes that the 20th century was period of significant transition for the Saint Thomas Christians in terms of its demographic and socio-economic status. Around 1900, the community was concentrated in a few areas, was geographically static and "... was characterised by very high death rate, very high birth rate, very early age at marriage, and 10 to 12 children per married woman". The population had increased eight-fold during the preceding century, from a base figure of about 100,000, and comprised nearly 50 per cent children. But, the population growth of Saint Thomas Christians came down drastically after 1960s, with the lowest birth rate, highest age at marriage, highest family planning user rate, and lowest fertility rate compared to other communities in Kerala. The proportion of children has come down to less than 25%. The absolute and relative size of the community is in a diminishing trend and it's approaching a Zero Population Growth regime.[127]

    As of 2001, in Kerala, more than 85 per cent of the Saint Thomas Christian population live in the six central districts of the state -Pathanamthitta, Alapuzha, Kottayam, Idukki, Ernakulam and Trissur. They have also migrated to other cities in India like Ooty, Mangalore, Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Delhi, Mumbai, Coimbatore, Hyderabad and Kolkata.[118] Migration steeply increased in the post-independence period and major destinations were United States of America, Canada, Western Europe, Australia and the Middle East. According to a rough estimate, 20–25% of the Saint Thomas Christians live outside the state of Kerala.[118]

    The Syro Malabar Catholic Church and the Syro-Malankara Catholic Church together constitute about 51.4 per cent, the Syrian Orthodox and Syrian Jacobites together about 21.4 per cent, the Mar Thoma Christians about 15.7 per cent, the Church of South India 5.2 per cent and others about 6.3 per cent of the Saint Thomas Christians in the state.[1]

    • Population statistics of Catholic Churches are based on The Pontifical year Book. For others, verifiable statistical information is not available.

    There are approximately 264,000 Syrian Christians in the Church of South India.

    St Thomas Christians divisions.svg


    Caste status

    Christopher Fuller believes that Saint Thomas Christians, along with the Latin Christians and New Christians of the region, "may sensibly regarded as castes" but notes that "The word 'sensibly' is cautiously used for only as an ideal type can 'caste' be defined."[129] He considers them to be "part of the total segmentary caste structure and [...] ranked with respect to each other and to the Hindu castes".[130] George Mathew, writing of the practice of untouchability in Kerala, makes a similar distinction in saying that "Technically, the Christians were outside [the] caste hierarchy, but in practice a system of inclusion and exclusion was developed ...".[131] Duncan Forrester, after a detailed study in this subject, observes that "... Nowhere else in India is there a large and ancient Christian community which has in time immemorial been accorded a high status in the caste hierarchy. [...] [Saint Thomas Christian] community operates very much as a caste and is properly regarded as a caste or at least a very caste like group."[132] Anand Amaladass also follows this view saying that "The Syrian Christians had inserted themselves within the Indian caste society for centuries and were regarded by the Hindus as a caste occupying a high place within their caste hierarchy."[133] Saint Thomas Christians followed the same rules of caste and pollution as that of Hindus and sometimes they were even considered as pollution neutralizers.[93][130] They tend to be endogamous, and tend not to intermarry even with other Christian groupings. Saint Thomas Christians derive status within the caste system from the tradition that they were elites, who were evangelized by St. Thomas.[129][134]

    Internal division of Saint Thomas Christians into Northists and Southists and also into a number of sects based on the ecclesiastical orientation makes the pattern of segmentation an exceedingly complex one.[132] Fuller believes that the caste hierarchy among these Christian groupings in Kerala is more polarized than the Hindu system of gradation and ascribes this relatively high polar nature to the limited number of castes among Christians while innumerable castes and sub castes are arranged in the Hindu hierarchical order.[129] Forrester suggests that the Northist-Southist division forms two groups within the Saint Thomas Christian community which are closely analogous to sub-castes.[132] At the same time, different Saint Thomas Christian denominations like Catholic, Jacobite, Mar Thomite, etc. are better regarded as sects, rather than sub-castes, since the recruitment to these sects cannot be strictly ascribed to birth.[129][132] Also, internal mobility is allowed among these Saint Thomas Christian sects and the caste status is kept even if the sect allegiance is switched (for example, from Syrian Orthodox to Syrian Catholic).[135] That is, despite the sectarian differences, Saint Thomas Christians share a common social status within the Caste system of Kerala and is considered as Forward Caste.[132]


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     Catechism of the Catholic Church

    Part Three: Life in Christ 

    SECTION ONE: Man's Vocation Life in the Spirit


    Article 1:1 The Natural Moral Law

    1699 Life in the Holy Spirit fulfills the vocation of man (chapter one). This life is made up of divine charity and human solidarity (chapter two). It is graciously offered as salvation (chapter three).

    1949 Called to beatitude but wounded by sin, man stands in need of salvation from God. Divine help comes to him in Christ through the law that guides him and the grace that sustains him:
    Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for God is at work in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.Phil 2:12-13

    Article 1
    I. The Natural Moral Law
    1954 Man participates in the wisdom and goodness of the Creator who gives him mastery over his acts and the ability to govern himself with a view to the true and the good. The natural law expresses the original moral sense which enables man to discern by reason the good and the evil, the truth and the lie:
    The natural law is written and engraved in the soul of each and every man, because it is human reason ordaining him to do good and forbidding him to sin . . . But this command of human reason would not have the force of law if it were not the voice and interpreter of a higher reason to which our spirit and our freedom must be submitted.Leo XIII, Libertas praestantissimum, 597

    1955 The "divine and natural" lawGS 89 # 1 shows man the way to follow so as to practice the good and attain his end. the natural law states the first and essential precepts which govern the moral life. It hinges upon the desire for God and submission to him, who is the source and judge of all that is good, as well as upon the sense that the other is one's equal. Its principal precepts are expressed in the Decalogue. This law is called "natural," not in reference to the nature of irrational beings, but because reason which decrees it properly belongs to human nature:
    Where then are these rules written, if not in the book of that light we call the truth? In it is written every just law; from it the law passes into the heart of the man who does justice, not that it migrates into it, but that it places its imprint on it, like a seal on a ring that passes onto wax, without leaving the ring.St. Augustine, De Trin. 14, 15, 21: PL 42,1052
    The natural law is nothing other than the light of understanding placed in us by God; through it we know what we must do and what we must avoid. God has given this light or law at the creation.St. Thomas Aquinas, Dec. praec. I

    1956 The natural law, present in the heart of each man and established by reason, is universal in its precepts and its authority extends to all men. It expresses the dignity of the person and determines the basis for his fundamental rights and duties:
    For there is a true law: right reason. It is in conformity with nature, is diffused among all men, and is immutable and eternal; its orders summon to duty; its prohibitions turn away from offense .... To replace it with a contrary law is a sacrilege; failure to apply even one of its provisions is forbidden; no one can abrogate it entirely.Cicero, Rep. III, 22, 33

    1957 Application of the natural law varies greatly; it can demand reflection that takes account of various conditions of life according to places, times, and circumstances. Nevertheless, in the diversity of cultures, the natural law remains as a rule that binds men among themselves and imposes on them, beyond the inevitable differences, common principles.

    1958 The natural law is immutable and permanent throughout the variations of history;Cf. GS 10 it subsists under the flux of ideas and customs and supports their progress. the rules that express it remain substantially valid. Even when it is rejected in its very principles, it cannot be destroyed or removed from the heart of man. It always rises again in the life of individuals and societies:

    Theft is surely punished by your law, O Lord, and by the law that is written in the human heart, the law that iniquity itself does not efface.St. Augustine, Conf. 2, 4, 9: PL 32, 678

    1959 The natural law, the Creator's very good work, provides the solid foundation on which man can build the structure of moral rules to guide his choices. It also provides the indispensable moral foundation for building the human community. Finally, it provides the necessary basis for the civil law with which it is connected, whether by a reflection that draws conclusions from its principles, or by additions of a positive and juridical nature.

    1960 The precepts of natural law are not perceived by everyone clearly and immediately. In the present situation sinful man needs grace and revelation so moral and religious truths may be known "by everyone with facility, with firm certainty and with no admixture of error."Pius XII, Humani generis: DS 3876; cf. Dei Filius 2: DS 3005 The natural law provides revealed law and grace with a foundation prepared by God and in accordance with the work of the Spirit.