St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara was born on 10 February 1805 at Kainakary, Kerala. At the age of five he began his studies in a village school, called kalari. When he was 13, he joined the seminary at Pallipuram for his priestly training. While he was in the seminary, his parents and his eldest brother died of an epidemic. On 29 November 1829, he became a priest.
St. Chavara was instrumental in founding two Catholic Religious Congregations – one for men, Carmelites of Mary Immaculate (CMI), and the other for women, Congregation of Mother of Carmel (CMC), for the spiritual renewal and all round development of the society.
Starting seven ashrams and a convent in different parts of Kerala, Chavara initiated a spiritual movement among the people of Kerala. He established the first Catholic Sanskrit School, a major seminary and a printing & publishing house at Mannanam. He directed that every church should start a school attached to it and encouraged children of even poorer sections to attend the schools by supplying midday meal and dress for them. He founded a ‘Home of Charity’ to take care of the destitute, the beggars, the uncared sick and the old. He also organized the first voluntary charitable association in Kerala for self-help among the needy.
Even in the midst of such manifold activities, he found time to write several literary and spiritual books in prose as well as verse. Among them, ‘Anastasyayude Rakthasakshyam’ is the first narrative poem and ‘Nalagamangal’ the first chronicle of history in Malayalam. He knew seven languages – Malayalam, Tamil, Sanskrit, Syriac, Latin, Italian and Portuguese.
Essentially, however, St. Chavara was a man of prayer and great charity. He lived for 65 years and died on 3rd January 1871. His sanctity was officially recognized by the Church, when Pope John Paul II declared him ‘Blessed’ on 08 February 1986 and Pope Francis declared him ‘Saint’ on 23rd November 2014 in Rome. St. Chavara is the heavenly patron of all CMI and CMC institutions. Let us pray to him to intercede before God for all our needs, especially for success in our studies.