• The children who love and fear God will love and respect their parents.

  • Let your ability be manifest in your discipline of life, in piety and control of your senses.

  • Whatever you earn through deceit and theft will soon melt away like snow.

  • It is the duty of children to look after their parents in their old age.

  • The greatest among you is the one who is the humblest.

  • When you go through sufferings and sickness, surrender yourself totally to the will of God.

  • Never hate your own brothers and sisters.

Biography of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara

Early days of Saint Kuriakose Elias Chavara Chavara

On the Arabian coast at Kainakary in Kuttanadu, in the diocese of Changanasesry, Kerala, India Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on February 10, 1805 as the sixth child of parents Kuriakos and Mariam. The Chavara family is believed to be the descendant of the Pakalomattam family, one of the four that claim descent from the time of St.Thomas at Palayur, central Kerala. On 8th September 1805 the child Kuriakose was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary at the Marian shrine in Vechoor.


At the age of five, he began his studies in the village school, called Kalari under a village master called Ashan. There he continued his studies until he was ten years old. Then Malpan Fr.Thomas Palackal invited him to his seminary at pallipuram. Subsequently as he was too young he spent about two years in the parish rectory under the care of the zealous and loving parish priest. Here his parents also discerned his divine call. In the year 1818 he joined the Pallipuram seminary under the tutelage of Malpan Thomas Palackal. Not long after the tonsure he received, there was an epidemic in Kainakary and surroundings. His loving father, his good mother, and his only brother fell prey to the epidemic.


As there was no heir in the family, relatives compelled him to discontinue seminary life and come to the family. But he arranged the family affairs in such way that he could continue his priestly studies. On 29 November 1829, at the age of 24, Bishop Maurelius Stabilini, Vicar Apostolic of Verapoly ordained him priest at St. Andrew’s Church Artungal


Foundation of CMI Congregation

Frs. Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porukara and Kuriakose Chavara having the same motivation of starting a religious community life, had several occasions to meet together at the vicariate of Verapoly or at the seminary of Pallipuram to discuss the idea of a religious institute. By the words of saint Chavara, from the first page of his chronicle, we may allude to the request fathers Palackal and Porukara placed before the bishop Maurelius Stabilini “Seeing that a lot of good has not been done due to the absence of a Thapasu Bhavanam (house of discipline) in Kerala even for priests, we desire to start a ‘Darsana Veed (house of vision) at least for priests”.


The Vicar Apostolic, finally on 1st November 1829, granted permission to establish a religious house. On May 11, 1831, the foundation stone for the proposed religious house was laid at Mannanam dedicating it to St.Joseph. This was the first indigenous religious institute for men in the Indian Church of modern times, known now as Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI). Jacob Kanianthara, who later became the first professed brother in the congregation also co-operated with those three founding fathers from the beginning.


In 1841, Malpan Thomas Palackal, and in 1846 Malpan Thomas Poroukara died, leaving the whole burdens of organizing the religious community to Fr. Kuriakose Chavara. On 8th December 1855, Fr.Chavara with his eleven companions made their religious vows assuming Fr.Chavara as superior (prior) of the religious community.


Starting seven religious houses, besides the first one at Mannanam, in different parts of Kerala, the new congregation made great strides in the spiritual renovation in the Kerala Church. Seminaries for the education and formation of clergy, introduction of annual retreats for priests and laity, publishing house for the propagation of Catholic doctrine and social information, house for the destitutes and dying, special attention to start catechumenates, reunion movement, schools for the general education etc were among the few of various activities under Fr. Kuriakose Elisa’s leadership. Thus he focused the ministry of the congregation to educate the uneducated, to help them who desire to enter the catholic fold, to work for the reunion of separated brothern, to safeguard the well being of the countries and the world at large, aiming at the renewal of the church and society and willing to do all that are seen good for others A schism threatened the church of Kerala in 1861, creating a very critical situation. Fr.Kuriakose Elias Chavara, the then appointed Vicar General of Syro-Malabar Church, is gratefully remembered and acknowledged for his strenuous fight, strong stance and effective leadership in thwarting Thomas Rocco’s intrusion and saving the church of Kerala from the Schism.


A religious congregation for women

A religious congregation for women in Kerala was a great desire of Fr. Chavara. It was a long cherished desire of his and the result of several attempts one at Alangad in 1857 another at Puthanpally in 1859. In 1866, on February 13, with the co-operation of Fr. Leopold Beccaro, Carmelite Missionary, the first Carmelite convent of the sisters was inaugurated at Koonamavo, under the name “Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced”. The motive of starting such an institute of religious life was for Christian formation, education and empowerment of women folk.

A religious congregation for women

A religious congregation for women in Kerala was a great desire of Fr. Chavara. It was a long cherished desire of his and the result of several attempts one at Alangad in 1857 another at Puthanpally in 1859. In 1866, on February 13, with the co-operation of Fr. Leopold Beccaro, Carmelite Missionary, the first Carmelite convent of the sisters was inaugurated at Koonamavo, under the name “Third Order of the Carmelites Discalced”. The motive of starting such an institute of religious life was for Christian formation, education and empowerment of women folk.

An Author of many spiritual and liturgical books

Amidst his diverse and manifold activities, he found time and leisure to write a few books, both in prose and in verse like Atmanuthapan (The lamentations of a Repentant soul – a poem), Maranaveettil Paduvanulla Pana (A poem to sing in the bereaved house), Anasthaciayude Rakthasakshyam (The Martyrdom of Anasthacia), historical notes as Nalagamagal (chronicles) and Dhyana Sallapangal (Colloquies in Mediation). He took initiative in codifying the liturgical books like canonical prayers for priests and prepared the liturgical rubrics called ‘Thukkasa’, liturgical calendar and office for the dead etc. His eclogues are 10 Shepherd plays on the birth of Christ. His counsels to the Christian families given in the form of the “Testament of a Loving Father” is universally applicable and are relevant to this day. As an instruction manual for families already its lakhs of copies in 32 editions were circulated to the Christian families of Kerala.

A Man of prayer and a man of God

Essentially a man of prayer and intense charity, he stayed in close communion with God amidst his several religious and social activities, permeating his spirituality to all around him; so much so that he was accepted and referred to as a man of God during his life time. He was a great devotee of the Eucharist, used to spent long hours near the tabernacle. He introduced the 40 hours adoration in the Kerala Church. He considered himself as a child of Blessed Virgin Mary and became an instrument in spreading the Marian devotion in Kerala through the May month devotion of Mary and spreading the scapular and rosary. Similarly, he was also a great devotee of St.Joseph. He started a charitable association in 1868 with the name ‘Confraternity of St.Joseph for a Happy Death’ to help the poor and dying and also started a home of charity (Upavisala) with the same purpose in 1869 at Kainakary. He entrusted his whole life to the Holy Family as he added this name to his own at the time of his first religious profession.

His last days

It seemed that Fr.Chavara had an insight about his death much before he laid to his death-bed. He spent his last days at Koonammavu. In October 1870 he became very sick. He was totally blind for about three months. During this period he fixed a small note on the door side requesting visitors to speak with him only spiritual matters. He also wished that good spiritual books might be readout to him in his room. When all assembled around him in tears at his death-bed, on the eve of January 2, he said to them: “Why are you very sad, and are crying? Every man whoever he be, has to die one day. Now it is my time. As I had the protection of the Holy Family, I have never lost the grace I received in the baptism. I dedicate our little congregation and each of you to this Holy Family. May the Holy Family reign in your hearts”. After these words he asked for the sacrament of anointing. On 3 January 1871 at 7.30 in the morning he calmly slept in the Lord and was buried there. His mortal remains were later transferred from Koonammavu to the Mother House at Mannanam in 1889 and re-interred in the St. Joseph’s monastery chapel.

He is remembered

The official canonization process of Fr. Chavara was started in 1955 and on 7th April 1984, Pope John Paul II solemnly declared the Servant of God, Chavara the Venerable, On 8 February 1986, during his historic visit to Kottayam, Kerala, Late Pope John Paul II, now the saint raised Venerable Kuriakose Elias Chavara to the honors of the Altar declaring him the ‘BLESSED’. In 1987 Government of India released postal stamps in honor of saint Chavara for his humanitarian services to the country. In 2006 Kerala government honored him by erecting his portrait painting in the hall of Kerala Sahitya Academy at Thrissur, considering him as one of the literary genius in Malayalam of the 19th century. It is very common that the devotees are flowing to the pilgrim centers of Chavara at Mannanam. Kainakary and Koonammavu for receiving his heavenly blessings and favours

CHAVARA CENTRAL SECRETARIAT

CHAVARA HILLS,, KAKKANAD,PB No. 3105
KERALA, INDIA, PH:0482 4070012, 4070015
Email : chavara.secretariat@cmi.in