OLLUR, India (UCAN) – Thomas Tharakan has cycled five kilometers to a convent chapel to pray to a deceased nun every morning since 1997, when doctors diagnosed him with bone cancer.
"I'm alive only because of Sister Euphrasia. She has cured me," Tharakan told UCA News. Based on that miraculous cure, the Catholic Church beatified Carmelite Sister Euphrasia Eluvathingal on Dec. 3, making her a blessed.
Tharakan, 64, a daily wage carpenter, was among the 50,000 people at the beatification ceremony. Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil of Ernakulam-Angamaly, head of the Syro-Malabar Church, led the ceremonies at St. Antony's Forane Church in Ollur.
Blessed Euphrasia lived in the village at St. Mary's Convent until her death in 1952, at the age of 75. It is in Kerala state, about 2,500 kilometers (about 1,550 miles) south of New Delhi. Ollur parish belongs to Trichur Archdiocese, part of the Syro-Malabar Church, one of the two Catholic Oriental-rites based in Kerala. They and the Latin rite form the Indian Catholic Church.
Apostolic nuncio to India Archbishop Pedro Lopez Quintana and Archbishop Jacob Thoomkuzhy of Trichur joined 30 prelates and 500 priests for the beatification events.
Before the ceremony, the prelates venerated Sister Eluvathingal's tomb in the convent chapel. Then they proceeded to the church, where 300 children welcomed them with lighted lamps and floral offerings. Cardinal Vithayathil unveiled the nun's photograph. To start the ceremony, Archbishop Thoomkuzhy read out the nun's biography and a formal request for the pope to beatify her.
According to the biography, people called the nun "the praying mother," "walking altar" and, more simply, "mother." The cause for her to be canonized, or recognized as a saint, proceeded after she was declared a servant of God in 1987. Next she was pronounced venerable in 2002, after which beatification of a candidate who was not a martyr requires a certified miracle. Another miracle after beatification is then required for canonization.
On June 26 this year, Pope Benedict XVI declared Tharakan's cure miraculous.
The carpenter said he came to the ceremony to tell people to pray to blessed Euphrasia and get healed. "I'm a poor man and I can offer only this service," he added.
In early 1997, after he developed severe leg and hip pain, he consulted Dr. Rajiv Rao at Mission Hospital in Trichur city. The doctor diagnosed bone cancer and referred him to a cancer hospital.
"When doctors said I had to undergo surgery immediately, I was certain I was going to die," Tharakan recalled, since he could not afford surgery. Even though Rao promised to do it for free, he continued, he could not afford even the medicine.
Meanwhile, his sister visited Sister Eluvathingal's tomb and prayed for a miracle. She asked Tharakan to visit the tomb too.
"I was skeptical about divine healing, but I had no other options," Tharakan said. "So I went and prayed. I just cried."
Rao admitted Tharakan on Nov. 30, 1997, and scheduled the surgery for Dec. 4. On the eve of the surgery, the doctor ordered a scan to see how much the cancer had spread.
The next day, he rushed to Tharakan's room with the scan report and checked it with earlier reports. "(The doctor) asked whether I had undergone treatment without his knowledge. I told him we had prayed before Sister Euphrasia. He said God had healed me and there was no need for surgery," Tharakan recounted.
Rao testified before the Vatican commission looking into the canonization cause. "Medical science even today cannot explain Tharakan's healing. I thank God and mother for the miracle healing," he told UCA News at the beatification ceremony.
"God is a great healer and doctors are only tools in his hand," said another cancer specialist, Sunny Pazhayattil, who verified Tharakan's medical records. Tharakan, after Rao told him he had been cured, went straight to the convent from the hospital and told the nuns what happened. He also prayed at the tomb, a practice he continues today.
"I cycle 10 kilometers (about 6 miles) to come because my life is dedicated to her," he said with folded hands.
Republished by Catholic Online with permission of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News), the world's largest Asian church news agency (www.ucanews.com).