A Living Saint
Death and Burial
Mother Mariam Thresia was very peaceful and calm at the moment of her death in spite of intense pain. This was generally attributed to be the fruit of her holiness. One of the written testimonies says, “She was suffering intense pain with exquisite calmness and extraordinary gentleness exhibiting no sign of impatience or dislike.” Sr.Susana recalls:
I knelt at the head side of the Mother and praying and watching carefully her death. Fr.Vithayathil, her spiritual father, was reciting ejaculations for her. Suddenly she raised her head, as if she was getting up. The spiritual father was reciting held her head and slowly laid it down. He recited the prayer “Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul.” She repeated it and closed her eyes forever.
It was a night of tears and sobs. Some of the sisters could not sleep. But the following morning the convent garden was all smiles. All the jasmines had blossomed together, I saw it with my own eyes”, said Sr. Susana (95 years old) on the occasion of Mother’s beatification, recalling the bright morning after the dark night. A jasmine wreath was placed on the head of the Mother lying in state in a wooden coffin. A twig from that wreath, bearing a leaf, a flower and a bud, would smile again from the grave fifty five years later during the canonical exhumation of the tomb of Blessed Mariam Thresia.
It is customary to wash a dead person’s body before it is laid in state for the dear ones and well wishers to pay their last respects and kiss it. However the following her strict instructions, Mother Mariam Thresia’s body was not washed. Why did Mother enjoin on her daughters this order? They believe that she wanted to hide from them her stigmatic wound at the side of the heart, a secret she had always tried to guard jealously and was only rarely betrayed during her ecstasy.
The next day, 9th June 1926, amidst great mourning and weeping of the Sisters and a large gathering of lay people, the funeral was conducted in a simple manner. Very Rev. Fr. Mathew Edakkulathoor, the Vicar General of Trichur Diocese, officiated at the funeral ceremonies. Fr.Joseph Kayalakam delivered the homily. Mrs. Teresa Varkey, one of those who were present at the function, has preserved an interesting detail from the homily, in which the preacher prophetically compared Mother Mariam Thresia with another Thresia, St. Teresa of Lisieux. The priest who gave the panegyric said, “Though the funeral is conducted in a simple manner, the time will come when another saint like the ‘Little Flower’ will rise up from this tomb”.
Witness 12, a laywoman, testifies to the tokens of popular veneration at the funeral of Mother Mariam Thresia. The people felt that they were taking part in the funeral of a saint.
All of us took out our rosaries and other religious articles and brought them in contact with the body of the Servant of God. The people, who had come for the funeral, also did the same…The general public considered her death to be that of a saint. People came in great numbers, especially from places like Thuravoor, her mother’s native place, drawn by the fame of her sanctity. I remember that they were anxious t obtain something used by her. Fr.Vithayathil then told them that he had kept everything with him and he would give them in due time.
A bystander recalls: “A group photo of all the members of the Congregation was taken and a single photo of the beloved mother was also taken on that day”. Father Joseph Vithayathil wrote in a poetic vein, “That perpetual lamp died out immersing all in an ocean of gloom.” The sun had set.
Sacraments of The Sick
Mariam Thresia stayed in the diocesan building at Chalakudy because the medical officer of the Government Hospital, Chalakudy, wanted her to reside nearby, so that he could inspect and attend on her seeing that she had a very serious festering wound on her leg.
Though she was treated carefully, her condition worsened and the case was declared fatal. Fr.Joseph Vithayathil gave her the sacraments of the sick and the viaticum of Holy church on June 7, 1926. Then she was taken back to the convent of Kuzhikkattussery in a bullock cart. The sisters and boarders of the convents of Thumboor and Trichur came and joined those of Kuzhikkattussery and assembled around her. Sorrow filled their hearts and tears welled up in their eyes. Sr. Gemma states: “Even in such acute sufferings and pains she did not forget to console me for the sad demise of my mother on May 26, of the same year.” She forgot her own woes seeing those of others.