Mama Mary has been trying to get my simple attention this past week. We have been praying the Holy Rosary though inconsistently. With some inspiration from Coolwaterworks and Bluep, the signs are telling that Mama Mary wants some intense time from us to be with Her. Less than an hour ago, I visited CWW’s blog again and got to read about a Benedictine Monastery in Cebu he and his Singles for Christ community dropped by during their Visita Iglesia. I dig deeper into the web to find out more about this community, and lo and behold, I was mesmerized by a story of one of the Founders of the monastery, on the power of the Holy Rosary:
A personal story of the power of the Holy Rosary
The following is the story of an unknown, humble Indian Catholic priest and his encounter with death and the power of the Holy Rosary in his life.
“I am an Indian priest, a Benedictine monk, working in the Philippines for the past ten years as the Prior of St. Benedict’s Monastery, Corte, Carmen, Cebu. Before I tell you about the story of my encounter with death and the power of the Holy Rosary in my life, let me introduce myself first.
My name is Fr. Thomas Thekkumthottam osb. I was born on 19 December, 1948 in a small town called Ponkunnam, in the southern State of Kerala, India. By birth I belong to the Syro-Malabar Oriental Catholic Church. My late father’s name is Thomas alias Mathew Thekkumthottam. My mother’s name is Elikkutty (Elizabeth) Vayalilkalapura. I belong to an ancient Catholic family that traces its roots to St. Thomas the Apostle who baptized our ancestors in or around the year 52. My parents have deep spiritual and religious roots. For example, on my father’s side I am related to the eminent and scholarly late Cardinal Antony Padiyara, who was the Major Archbishop and the first Cardinal of Kerala, India. And my mother is a grand niece of the late Mar Sebastian Vayalilkalapura, the first Bishop of Palai Diocese. Incidentally, the Diocese of Palai has a unique place in Catholic history. It produces the most number of Priestly and Religious vocations. It has produced the most number of Bishops. It has also produced the first woman saint of India, St.Alphonsa and also some other Servants of God whose process of Beatification is on. My late maternal grand mother and grand father are distantly related to St.Alphonsa in their own lineage. In my great family, including my cousins, nephews, nieces etc we are 21 Nuns, three priests and half a dozen seminarians.
My family consisted of my parents and six of us children, two boys and 4 girls. From my early childhood what I remember is our family Rosary in the evenings. The whole family would gather together in front of a small altar to pray the Rosary. When we were still small, my elder sister Jainamma, (now Sr.Annie Thekkumthottam SABS, Tanzania) used to take us younger children daily to the parish Church for Holy Mass. We went reciting the Rosary as we walked to the Church. My elder and younger sisters entered the same Religious Congregation of Adoration Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament in Kerala, India. Another younger sister, though physically weak by birth, also entered a convent for such people. After my graduation I entered the Sylvestrine Congregation of the Benedictine Order of monastic life. The Sylvestrine Congregation is founded by St.Sylvester Guzzolini (1177-1267) in central Italy. He is practically an unknown Saint among the galaxy of the great Saints of the Catholic Church. But he had the unique distinction of receiving Holy Communion at the hands of the Blessed Virgin Mary. His devotion to the Holy Eucharist and to the Mother of God attracted me from the very beginning. Only later did I discover that these two are the central pillars of Catholic spirituality. After my priestly Ordination in India, I completed my studies in Rome, specializing in Benedictine Spirituality from St. Anselm Benedictine College, Rome.
In 1999 I was sent, together with another Indian priest , Fr. Joseph John Manjadiyil, from Rome to the Philippines by our then Abbot General Rev. Fr. Andrea Pantaloni osb, to begin a monastery of our Congregation in Cebu, up on the invitation of Archbishop Cardinal Vidal of Cebu . When we came here we had no friends, no language, no influence, no land and no home to live in. My only help was a Rosary bought in Fatima. And it worked miracles in my life. Our monastery is situated in a very remote mountain locality called Corte in the municipality of Carmen, in the central island of Cebu. Though remote, this is a panoramic and captivatingly attractive locality. But we started at a time when only one or two persons in the Congregation were in favor of a new foundation. It was really difficult to go ahead with so much opposition. And during the early pioneering years life was hard in every sense of the word. And it had a telling effect on my health. On February 14, 2005 I had a massive heart attack with long hospitalization. On November 20, 2007 I underwent a bypass surgery in a well known Hospital in Cebu. Everything went well. But six days after my surgery, a new nurse, by mistake, gave me the wrong medicine and I went into coma and I died.
This is what I remember about my encounter with death. I felt I was seated in the lap of an ancient being almost like being seated in an easy chair. I felt very comfortable and I did not feel any fear. There were two friendly beings on my both sides, who to me, seemed like life- long companions. I did not see them clearly, but I could very well feel their presence. (Later, as an after thought, I felt I was seated in the lap of St. Benedict and the two beings at my sides were the souls of my deceased father and younger brother). Slowly we lifted from the earth, circled and went high. I remember seeing mountains and rivers far below. We were going very fast and straight forward. It was all a pleasant experience. I do not remember to have passed through a dark tunnel. But I could see far in the horizon a bright light ahead of me similar to the sky at dawn. When we were almost near the border of this glowing land of light something suddenly stopped my onward journey. Instantly I knew that it was the semi globular base of the statue of Our Lady of the Holy Rosary. I did not see the figure of the Blessed Virgin Mary. But I knew that it was she, because I used to pray before it daily many times. In an instant I saw that I was entangled in a net. I tried my best to shake and break and get out of this enmeshment. I was like a little insect caught in a spider’s web. The more I tried, the more I got entangled. Then I saw this net was made of Rosaries. There were all kinds of Rosaries, gold and silver, big and small, white and black, wooden and plastic and hundreds and hundreds of them. I could not move my hand or leg, I was so entangled. I did not know that at that very moment hundreds and hundreds of people were praying the Rosary for me in many parts of the world. In my struggle I did not notice when my unearthly companions disappeared. Suddenly I opened my eyes, and I saw that I was caught in a web of all kinds of tubes and pipes and instruments in the intensive care unit of the hospital. I was back to life.
I had known the power of Rosary from my early childhood. After becoming a priest I always had a Rosary around my neck. I was happy to come to the Philippines. I knew that this is the only Catholic country in Asia with very deep Marian devotion. After coming to the Philippines, I used to pray all the mysteries of the Rosary daily. And on certain days and for certain needs I used to pray six Rosaries. In the early years almost daily I used to pray the Rosary of the Seven Sorrows of the Blessed Virgin Mary also .Besides, from the first day of our arrival in the Philippines, we used to recite the Holy Rosary daily together with the local people. Most probably, this is the only Benedictine monastery in the world that prays more than one Rosary commonly and together with the local people. Through the years, this devotion developed here. Finally, some generous benefactors built a Rosary Center, supposedly the only one of its kind in the Catholic world, in our monastery compound. This Rosary Center has twenty life- size paintings of the mysteries of the Holy Rosary. This Center is dedicated to Our Lady of Manaoag of the Holy Rosary. Hundreds and hundreds of pilgrims now come here daily to pray the Holy Rosary here and with reported miracles.
Previously too in my priestly service I had experienced the power of the Holy Rosary in moments of danger. In October 1992, I was cycling through a remote village, some 40 Km from Ranchi city in North India, on a Vocation promotion campaign. As I was going down a sloping road in a very isolated area, suddenly a group of young robbers encircled me and stopped my cycle. They had wooden clubs in their hands. From their looks I knew they would beat me death any moment. Looking around I saw also other cycles and a charcoal truck that was destroyed in looting. One hefty fellow pulled open my shirt to see whether I had any gold chain on my neck. I had a brown Rosary on my neck. As soon as the man saw the Rosary, it was as though he got a shock and took off his hand instantly. They murmured something in their tribal language and in the winking of an eye they disappeared into the jungle, leaving me still trembling in the middle of a lonely forest road. Most probably they were once Catholics. This particular Rosary was beloved to me. It had a tiny reliquary containing a little soil from the Holy land and this had been given to me by late Rev. Fr. Sylvester Trivellini osb , the then General Councilor, while I was studying in Rome in the 1980s. Later, I gifted this Rosary to a dying cancer patient, who died peacefully after putting it on the neck.
In 1997, I was in Asirvanam Benedictine Monastery, Bangalore, India. One day I took the monastery jeep to go to the city. On the way it started to rain and so I decided to return. As I reversed, I could not see backwards well due to the tall grass and before I could realize what was happening, the jeep fell into a twenty feet deep pit. When the rescuers took me out of the jeep I regained consciousness and mysteriously the Rosary on my neck was entangled on the steering wheel, as though I was tied to it. Why the Rosary was not broken, I do not understand even to this day. Some hundred odd workers working in the near by farm came running to help and within a few minutes they pushed and pulled and brought the jeep back to the road again. There was not even a scratch on me or on the jeep! This Rosary had been given to me by Pope John Paul II in Rome in 1995 during a private audience for the Chapter Fathers of our Congregation, of whom I was also a delegate from India. That same year, a Hindu woman in my home town Ponkunnam requested me for this Rosary for her only son who was diabolically possessed and I gave it to her. I do not know what happened to the child and to that Rosary.
My intention to write this little story of mine now is to help you also to grow in devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary by praying the Holy Rosary. If you think this story can help others also, please forward it to them so that God may be glorified in everything. And may the Holy Mother of God help you in your time of need”.
Fr.Thomas Thekkumthottam osb,
St.Benedict’s Monastery, Corte, Carmen, 6005 Cebu,
Philippines. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tel: 00 63 9269076183
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Thank you Fr. Thomas. Blessings to you and your community…