Bl. Kuriakos Elias Chavara – Priest
Feast Day – January 3rd
Blessed Kuriakos Elias Chavara was born on February 10, 1805 at Kainakary (near Allappuzha) in Kersala, India. He entered the seminary at the age of thirteen in 1818 and was ordained a priest of the Syro-Malabar Rite November 29th, 1829 at the age of twenty-four. In 1831, he co-founded a new religious congregation with two other priests, the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (C.M.I), which today operates out of 8 countries with over 5,000 members. It was here that he undertook a wide-ranging apostolate of priestly formation, retreats, publishing of Catholic literature, catechesis, and the care of the dying. On December 8th, 1855, he made his religious profession, along with 10 other companions, under the name “Kuriakose Elias of the Holy Family”. In 1861 he was named vicar general for the Syro-Malabar church and defended ecclesial unity which was threatened by schism by the consecration of Nestorian bishops. In 1866 he cofounded the congregation of the Congregation of the Mother of Carmel (C.M.C).
To his credit there are many firsts in the history of the Kerala Church; the first indigenous religious congregation, the first Sanskrit School, the first Catholic printing press, the first Indian congregation for women. He was the first to edit and publish the East Syrian Breviary. He prepared the first liturgical calendar in the Malabar Church in 1862 which continued to be used until recently. Besides the C.M.I. congregation, he started several religious houses in Kerala. Starting of several seminaries, introduction of annual retreats for priests and people, starting of a forty-hour adoration, a house for the dying and destitute, special attention to catechumens, schools for general education were amoung the activities under Bl. Chavara’s leadership.
Above all, he was a man of prayer, zealous for the Eucharistic Lord and devoted to the Immaculate Virgin Mary. He died at Koonammavu near Kochi on Jan 3rd, 1871 at the age of 65 of natural causes. His mortal remains were transferred in 1889 to the chapel of St. Joseph’s Monastery, Mannanam, Kerala, India which has become a pilgrim center. Hundreds of people come to his tomb every Saturday. He was beatified on February 9, 1986 by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam, India. Canonization is pending.