Blessed ALPHONSA OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION was born in Kudamalur, the Arpookara region, in the diocese of Changanacherry, India, on the August 19, 1910, of the ancient and noble family of Muttathupadathu.She was the youngest of five children at home. Her mother Maria Puthukari gave birth to her prematurely, in her eight month of pregnancy, as a result of a fright she received when, during the sleep, a snake wrapped itself around her waist. Eight days later, on August 28, the child was baptised according to the Syro-Malabar rite by the Fr Joseph Chackalayil, and she received the name Annakutty, a diminutive of Anne.She lost her mother in a month. Annakutty passed her early infancy in the home of her grandparents in Elumparambil. There she lived a particularly happy time because of her human and Christian formation, during which the first seeds of a vocation flowered. Her grandmother, a pious and charitable woman, communicated the joy of the faith, love for prayer and a surge of charity towards the poor to her. At five years of age the child already knew how to lead, with a totally childish enthusiasm, the evening prayer of the family gathered, in accordance with the Syro-Malabar custom, in the “prayer room”.
Annakutty received the Eucharistic bread for the first time on the 11 of November 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, on the 30 of November 1943, she confided the following: “Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my divine Spouse. Your reverence knows it well”. In 1917 itself, she began to attend the elementary school of Thonnankuzhy, where she also established a sincere friendship with the Hindu children. When the first school cycle ended in 1920, the time had come to transfer to Muttuchira, to the house of her aunt Anna Murickal, to whom her mother, before she died, had entrusted her as her adoptive mother.
Her aunt was a severe and demanding woman, at times despotic and violent in demanding obedience from Annakutty in her every minimal disposition or desire. Assiduous in her religious practice, she accompanied her niece, but did not share the young girl’s friendship with the Carmelites of the close-by Monastery or her long periods of prayer at the foot of the altar. She was, in fact, determined to procure an advantageous marriage for Annakutty, obstructing the clear signs of her religious vocation. To avoid getting married, she even burnt and disfigured her feet herself. It was Fr James Muricken, her confessor, who directed her towards Franciscan spirituality and put her in contact with the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. She was clothed in the religious habit on the 19th of May 1930, during the first pastoral visit made to Bharananganam by the Bishop, Msgr. James Kalacherry.Having restarted her novitiate, she wrote the following proposals in her spiritual diary: “I do not wish to act or speak according to my inclinations. Every time I fail, I will do penance… I want to be careful never to reject anyone. I will only speak sweet words to others. I want to control my eyes with rigour. I will ask pardon of the Lord for every little failure and I will atone for it through penance. 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”.
On August 12, 1936, the feast of St Clare, the day of her perpetual profession, was a day of inexpressible spiritual joy. She had realised her desire, guarded for a long time in her heart and confided to her sister Elizabeth when she was only 12 years old: “Jesus is my only Spouse, and none other”.
Jesus, however, wished to lead his spouse to perfection through a life of suffering. “I made my perpetual profession on the August 12, 1936 and came here to Bharanganam on the August 14. From that time, it seems, I was entrusted with a part of the cross of Christ. There are abundant occasions of suffering… I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfil this desire”.
Painful illnesses followed each other, typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and, the most serious of all, a dramatic nervous shock, the result of a fright on seeing a thief during the night of October18, 1940. Her state of psychic incapacity lasted for about a year, during which she was unable to read or write. Yet, she did not show the pain to anyone and suffered everything with a smile and prayer. Many people, who met her, said about the pleasant behaviour of her even on her deathbed. In every situation, Sister Alphonsa always maintained a great reservation and charitable attitude towards the Sisters, silently undergoing her sufferings. In 1945 she had a violent outbreak of illness. A tumour, 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: “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”.
With this attitude of a victim for the love of the Lord, happy until the final moment and with a smile of innocence always on her lips, Sister Alphonsa quietly and joyfully brought her earthly journey to a close in the convent of the Franciscan Clarists at Bharananganam at 12.30 on July 28, 1946, leaving behind the memory of a Sister full of love and a saint.
Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception Muttathupadathu was proclaimed Blessed by Pope John Paul II in Kottayam, India, on February 8, 1986. On 12th October she was canonized by Pope Benedict IXVI at Vatican. Thus India got its first saint.