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July 28

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception - July 28

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Nun, First Female Saint of India

(1910 – 1946)

“Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn in to flour. With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist. Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice. This juice turns into wine. Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings.”

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Her Early Years

Annakutty (little Anna) was born on August 19, 1910, in Kudamaloor, a village in Kerala, India, to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu, the youngest of five children. She was baptized eight days later at Saint Mary’s Church in Kudamaloor. Her mother died while Anna was still an infant. Then, Anna was raised by her maternal aunt, and educated by her great-uncle Father Joseph Muttathupadathu.

In 1916, Anna started school in Arpookara. She made her first Communion on November 27, 1917. She used to say to her friends: “Do you know why I am so particularly happy today? It is because I have Jesus in my heart!”. In a letter to her Spiritual Father in November, 1943, Anna wrote: “Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my Divine Spouse.”

Anna spent long hours in prayer and was increasingly interested in the religious life. However, her family did not share the same sentiment.

As a child her grandmother would tell her stories of saints, teach prayers and Christian songs. As an adolescent, Anna received many marriage proposals from reputed families. However, she had a feeling in her mind that she wants to be a bride of Christ and do good things for people.

Her Feet Badly Burned and Disabled

Anna was from a wealthy family and her adoptive mother (her aunt) hoped that she would marry into another respected family. Anna was destined to be a housewife and live a life of luxury, but this did not satisfy Anna’s heart. She knew that God was calling her to the religious life. She wrote about her struggles, “My marriage was arranged when I was 13 years old. What had I to do to avoid it?”

At the age of 13, Anna was badly burned on her feet when she fell into a pit of burning chaff. This accident left her permanently disabled. According to local biographies, it was a self-inflicted act in hopes that any bodily disfigurement would dissuade her suitors.

Teacher and Nun

At the age of 20, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation at Bharananganam on August 2, 1928. During this time, she worked as a temporary teacher at a primary school, where the children loved her for her gentleness and joyfulness. One year later, she received the postulant’s veil and took the name Alphonsa in in honor of St. Alphonsus Liguori. Alphonsa made her permanent vows on the feast of Saint Clare on August 12, 1936.

It was a joyful time in her life, but included more suffering as well. Alphonsa wrote in her diary,

“No matter what my sufferings may be, I will never complain and if I have to undergo any humiliation, I will seek refuge in the Sacred Heart of Jesus … I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering … I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me.”

Health Problems

Alphonsa suffered from typhoid fever and numerous health problems. The period 1930-1935 was characterised by grave illness and moral suffering. She could teach the children in the school at Vakakkad only during the scholastic year 1932. Then, because of her weakness, Alphonsa carried out the duties of assistant-teacher and catechist in the parish. She was engaged also as secretary, especially to write official letters because of her beautiful script.

In December 1936, she was reportedly cured from her ailments through the intervention of Saint Therese of Lisieux and Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, and enjoyed some improvement for a few years. But, in 1939, Alphonsa was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened.

In 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and enfeebled her again. Her state of mental incapacity lasted for approximately one year, during which time, she was unable to read or write. Her condition continued deteriorated for months, and she was given last rites on 29 September 1941. However, the next day, Alphonsa regained her memory, though not complete health.

In 1945, Alphonsa had a violent outbreak of illness. A tumor, which had spread throughout her organs, transformed her final year of life into a continuous agony. Gastroenteritis and liver problems caused violent convulsions and vomiting up to forty times a day. She stated: “I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering… I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me”.

Alphonsa enjoyed some improvement over the next few years, but in July 1945 she developed a stomach problem that eventually led to her death. She was noted for her suffering, and suffering in silence.

Her Death

Joyful until the last moment, at the age of 35, Alphonsa quietly brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam, India on July 28, 1946. Her remains are buried in the chapel connected with the cemetery of Saint Mary’s church, Bharananganam, India. Incidents of her intervention began almost immediately upon her death, and often involved the children in the convent school. Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed for her intervention, many of involving straightening of clubbed-feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself. Thousands converge on the small town of Bharananganam when they celebrate the feast of Saint Alphonsa from July 19th to 28th each year.

In 2008, Pope Benedict said in his homily about her during her canonization, “She came to love suffering because she loved the suffering Christ. She learned to love the Cross through her love of the crucified Lord.”

Born :                   August 19, 1910 in Kudamaloor, Kerala, India

Died:                    July 28 (Feast Day), 1946 at age 35 in Bharananganam, India

Beatified:            February 8, 1986 by Pope John Paul II

Canonized:         October 12, 2008 by Pope Benedict XVI

Feast Day:          July 28

Patron Saint:    Against Bodily Ills; Against Illnesses; Against Sickness; Against the Death of Parents; Sick People

Source:

Reflection 

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception’s life was marked by intense physical suffering, including illness and bodily afflictions. Her understanding of suffering as a way to participate in the redemptive love of Christ is a profound aspect of her spirituality. She embraced her sufferings with patience and saw them as a means of drawing closer to God.

What sufferings, illnesses or bodily afflictions do you have today? With patience and through prayer, offer these sufferings today as a means to draw closer to Jesus and remember his sufferings on the cross to redeem our sins.

Prayers

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception,
In your life, you embraced suffering with patience, teaching us the redemptive power of love.

As I face the challenges of my own life, I turn to you for intercession and guidance. Help me to find strength in moments of difficulty, and to offer my sufferings as a participation in Christ’s redeeming sacrifice.

Saint Alphonsa, your devotion to the Eucharist was unwavering, inspire in me a deeper love for the Holy Mass and the Blessed Sacrament. May I, like you, find solace and strength in the Real Presence of Christ.

Your humility and simplicity endeared you to many, teach me to embrace humility in my own life, and to recognize the beauty in serving others with a genuine and selfless heart.

 

Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, pray for us. Amen.

Saint Links 

Aleteia – A beautiful Indian saint who refused an arranged marriage to follow God’s call

All Saints & Martyrs – Saint Alphonsa of India – Religious

AnaStpaul – St Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Catholic Online – St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

Catholicism Pure & Simple – Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

CatholicSaints.Info – Saint Alphonsa of India

Daily Compass – Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception

St. Alphonsa Church (Sultanpalya, Bangalore) – St. Alphonsa – Our Patroness

uCatholic – Saint Alphonsa

University of Notre Dame

Vatican – Saint Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception (1910-1946)

Video Link

St Alphonsa – Saint of the Day with Fr Lindsay – 28 July 2023 – YouTube (St Francis Xavier – SPRING of FAITH)

Blessed Alphonsa – YouTube (Catholic News Agency)