TESTAMENT OF A FOUNDER TO HIS FOLLOWERS

Fr. Thomas Panthaplackal CMI (Editor)

Fathers Thomas Palackal, Thomas Porukara and Kurikose Elias Chavara are the three founding fathers of the CMI Congregation. We do not have anything as writings from Fr. Thomas Palackal and from Fr. Thomas Porukara, but a good collection we have from Blessed Chavara. Many of Chavaras writings are centered on three categories of people of the human society. They were priests, religious and families. His instructions to them were to build a community of God. Some of the inspirational guidelines to them from his various works are collected and presented here. We consider the holy words of our founder as a TESTAMENT, relishing and rejuvenating our daily life in the Congregation, and in the society as a whole, as the words of Blessed Chavara enshrine the charism of the congregation and they equip others to achieve their goals in building up the kingdom of God on earth.

Original Inspirations

The intention for starting the Congregation

Seeing that a lot of good has not been done due to the absence of a ‘Thapasa Bhavanam (House of Discipline) in Kerala even for the priests, desired by all means, to start a Darsana Veedu (House of Vision) at least for priests(Chavara, Chronicles, 1)

Guiding principle of the CMI Vocation

Jesus Christ the Divine Master, has called you to follow His footsteps, by purchasing your soul and the souls of your brethren with His Precious blood, to save you from sin and make you an instrument of salvation for others; and to make you virtuous and by you to make others virtuous, thus to unite you all with Him
(Chavara, Spiritual writings, 50)

First Christian Community as a model

As there existed a deep spiritual brotherhood among us and because we wanted to have fellowship also in the things of the body similar to the spiritual fellowship, We decided to put together all our material earnings and the fruits there of belonging to us, following the examples showed by St. Peter in the beginning, as a replica and foundation stone
(Chavara, Chronicles,208)

Role and significance of religious life

Religious congregation is not man- made but God’s work

Beloved brethren, this congregation of ours is not man –made. You are witness to the truth that God has nurtured it with genuine care and helped it to grow. Persecution by man or discouragements from them or any other calamities cannot destroy it.
(Chavara, letters,90)

Religious members as if from the same mother

Let my brethren, the superiors of each house consider that even when we have many religious houses, live in harmony and in more love as if all belong to the one house and are children of the same mother from whose breast every one had succed and grown. Let this bond of love grow stronger day by day
(Chavara, letters,100)

God’s Caring and Accompaniment

Consider how sweet is the voice of your loving spouse. He is always accompanying you wherever you are, looking for all your needs and watching whether you love him more than anything else.
(Chavara,letters, 115)

On examination of conscience

Oh, soul of the servant of God! Check what are you doing now; where are you going and where will the path you are treading take you and how fruitful is your present life and how effective will it be in the future? Make a review now and then to see whether your life is leading to eternity or not, as a traveler is on his guard on his way making sure that he is on the right road.
(Chavara, spiritual writings, 49,50)

On meditation

Meditation is a dialogue with God. It is an act of dialogue of the person united in love with the divine spouse, Jesus Christ as if two friends are united in love. When friends sit close to each other, they find enough topics to talk about without cessation. For if there is love conversation goes unbroken and no one needs to teach either of the two friends how to go on talking… So also if there is true love for Jesus, there will always enough matter to converse with Him in meditation
(Chavara, Spiritual writings, 14,15)

A call for a return

I call you with my tongue in the mediation. Here is your father eagerly stand waiting to receive you with affectionate love and with an outstretched hands to embrace you in the silence and solitude of the retreat. So abandon your old tepid ways, resolve to follow Him with fervor and diligence. Now is the acceptable time, who knows such a favorable day will dawn for you again
(Chavara, Spiritual writings, 53)

Need for spiritual reading

I wish that all of you listen to and learn this little advice. The straight way to the summit of perfection and the means not to tumble down from the height is simply this: Avoid wasting your time in useless conversation. The time you save after your proper work and recreation should be spent in spiritual reading.

Spiritual reading nourishes a religious to love and enjoy solitude and when a soul delights in solitude, Jesus Christ will come to converse with it. This is a clear way to spiritual life and perfection
(Chavara, letters, 116)

Zeal and virtues, the strength

Strength of the monastery is not in the thickness of the walls of the monastery building but in the zeal and virtues of the members who live in it
(Chavara, letters, 94)

Cause for the ruin of religious community

The destruction of a religious community is possible not by any forces from outside but only possible by its members, if they forget of their holy vocation, or neglect the sacred duties of their state of life or when they fail in practicing humility, charity, religious modesty and genuine devotion
(Chavara, letters, 90)

Obedience a significant mark

The significant mark of a true religious is his total self-denial and perfect obedience as if he has no eyes or ears
(Chavara, letters, 99)

‘O, my beloved brethren, if we, having been called by God, had joined the monasteries to live according to our own wills obeying only the superiors whom we like, then our behavior is no better than the unbelievers, If it were our wish to live as we like, why did we choose this vocation?
(Chavara, letters, 92)

Religious house is a little heaven

Religious house is a little heaven on earth when its members live in mutual respect, respecting the higher authorities, immediate superiors and among one another.
(Chavara,Letters, 100)

Monastery is the household of the holy people

Monasteries are founded by God to make it the mirrors of virtues and assembly of the holy People
(Chavara Letters, 90)

Consider each other

Let the inferiors submit their will according to the mind of the superiors; and they are to consider the good of the inferiors
(Chavara,Letters, 82)

Each one’s role in building up the community

One must take the responsibility of the task entrusted to each one. Let the superior do the management of ever thing. The procurator’s duty is to get the work done. The rest of the community should obey with humility. Be charitable and be industrious. Let each one take care not to waste any time. Remember the reward we are hoping for.
(Chavara,Letters,113)

Enjoy solitude

We cannot enjoy the sweetness of religious state and fulfill the obligations there of unless we keep ourselves aloof from others now and then
(Chavara, letters, 96)

Commitment to the religious life

Lastly, my beloved brethren, loving sons, none of us was drawn to this life in the monastery, being driven by hunger or desperate living circumstances in the world. We could have enjoyed the best of comforts, had we been in the world. But we have, by our own will, renounced our parents and our wealth to come hither, Now if we forsake the Lord through our negligence and our indolence, what a great mistake it would be, and how great a Madness!
(Chavara, Letters, 94,95)

Priest is another Christ

Priest requires holiness

I am holy and therefore those who serve me must be also holy, said the Lord. Examine how you have behaved in the house of the Lord. Around the altar, a place most holy and sacred, there the Seraphim and hosts of angels of different orders bow trembling in adoration. With what devotion are you ascending the altar day by day to perform the sacred rituals

In the old dispensation when rams and oxen were offered in sacrifice at the altar, a little carelessness on the part of the priest was punished very severely. Fire descended from heaven and consumed everything and the priest fell dead. But here on this altar it is not ox or doves that are killed and offered in sacrifice, but the Son of the eternal Father who by a single word is able to annihilate everything. You touch the same Son with your hands; you receive Him in your heart everyday. Remember then how pure should be your hands and how clean should be your heart!
(Chavara, spiritual writings,51)

God is gracious to the priests

Remember what the Lord has done for you. He chose you from out of thousands. There were many who were more worthy than you. Yet, wonder of wonders, he chose you, called you to His home, endowed you with many gifts of matter and spirit. It looks as if you are wrestling with God by choosing to go your own way. The more he loves you, the more you are ungrateful. The more He is patient with you, the more you grow impatient and insulting. O! what a tragedy it is! You have been chosen to love Him and serve Him, But you have joined hands with the world that hate Him and insult Him. O! Servant of God arise from your lethargy. Do not allow yourself to be caught in the clutches of the devils whose only desire is to drag you into perdition. How long has God been patient with you. How lovingly has He followed you?
(Chavara, spiritual writings, 52)

Priest is the mediator through prayers and sacrifices of the altar

Remember, O Privileged priest, don’t you know that you are appointed to bring about salvation of souls by offering the sacrifice of the altar and by your prayers and penance? It is you who are to abandon the wrath of God towards the sinners
(Chavara Spiritual writings,60)

Renew the spirit of the priest by Spiritual Exercises

Had not the Lord in your heart silently admonished to reform your life by daily meditation, examination of conscience, weekly confession and spiritual reading. Is not you who made a promise to do so? For a time you did it, then took to the old ways. You preferred to listen to the voice of the world rather than the voice of God .If you continue this manner of blowing hot and cold, as the scripture confirms, God will vomit you out of His mouth.
(Chavara Spiritual writings, 62)

Prayer of the priest

Almighty God, bless us who are called to serve in holy priesthood that we may serve you worthily and with great devotion. Protect us from offending you even by the least sin. Give us the grace to be deeply sorry for our sins, and to serve you with great fervor and devotion everyday.
(Chavara, Spiritual writings, 76)

Family the image of heaven

Instruction to the members of the Christian family

A good Christian family is the image of heaven, where persons are living together, by the bond of blood and affection , duly respecting and obeying their parents, and walking peacefully before the Lord and people, ensures their salvation, according to each one’s state of life
(Chavara, letters,II ed 133)

A family of love, peace, charity and order

In this world of tears, torn by pains and sufferings the greatest consolation is to live in a family where there is love, peace, charity and order. In the same way the greatest sorrow for a person would be to live in a family where there is no peace and order and where there is no care in the service of the Lord and eternal salvation
(Chavara,letters,II ed 133)

Children are sacred gifts

Parents shall remember that your primary duty and responsibility is to bring up your children. They are a sacred gift entrusted to you by God. Don’t you know that these children have been entrusted to you, to be purified with the most precious blood of the Lord, to be trained in His service and to be returned to Him on the judgment day? If any of the children are lost to hell, because of your fault, what a big hindrance it will be for your salvation.
(Chavara, letters, 147)

Prayer of the mother as prayer of the child

Parents should frequently commend their children to God and to the protection of the Holy Family and pray for them often. For God receives the prayer of the mother as a prayer of the child.
(Chavara, letters, 147)

Respect for the parents

You are bound before God to respect your parents and not to give them any occasion for grief, according to the fourth commandment and if you do not follow it, you are to bring God’s punishment upon you, not only in the other world but also during your life time on earth.
(Chavara, letters, 147)

Fulfill the obligations of your parents

If your parents have left any obligations of restitution, or have enjoined any obligation of offering holy Mass, fulfill them with diligence and devotions. It is the duty of the children and a source of grace in the family.
(Chavara,letters,139)

Useful books and bad books

The treasures you can acquire and hand over to your children are good spiritual and philosophical books. That may strengthen devotion to God, and nourish your children. To keep bad books in your house is like fire that you hide beneath a heap of straw
(Chavara,letters,145)

Be careful with the children

Thinking that children do not understand, you do not utter indecent words, nor speak ill of others before them
(Chavara, letters,148)

Respect each other

Let the mother teach children to respect each other and honor the father by her own exemplary life, in the same way the father too. If the parents do not love and respect each other, their children will neither love nor respect them later.
(Chavara,letters 149)

Let children chose their vocation

When the children come of age, give them complete freedom to choose their state of life. For it is God who determines their vocation and they are to choose it.
(Chavara, letters, 137 -151)

Common Ideals

When you are happy others also will be happy

If you observe charity, humility, neatness and promptness in what concerns you, you will be happy as well as the world around you
(Chavara,letters,96)

Co-operate with God’s Work;

Our task is to do the work and God will pay for it. For what is entrusted to us is the patrimony of Jesus Christ. So we are to work for Him
(Chavara,letters,113)

Be a lasting light

The glowing light coming from a heap of straw in fire will soon be extinguished; a tiny light coming from a small lamp is much better and lasting.
(Chavara,letters,139)

Choose Good friends

Tell me who your friends are, and I will tell you, who you are.
(Chavara,letters 140)

Avoid alcoholic drinks

Consumption of alcoholic drinks is something most odious before the world and very sinful before the Lord
(Chavara,letters,141)

On undue wealth

What you have achieved by crooked means or by theft will soon melt away like snow.
(Chavara,letters,142)

Means of entry to the book of life

The day in which you have not done good to your fellowmen will not be recorded in your book of life
(Chavara,letters,142)

Stinginess and extravagance

Both stinginess and extravagance are equally sinful
(Chavara,letters,142)

Be merciful with laborers and the poor

Never withhold just wages from laborers or make undue delay in paying them, because that is an offence that cries out to God for justice. Do not insult the poor; neither should you vex them, because if God sees them weeping. He will surely wreak vengeance on you
(Chavara, letters, 143,144)

God and sin cannot go together

“God can never join with a sinful heart, so also cannot unite himself with a sinful person.”
(Chavara, Spiritual writings,15)

Remove the intellectual blindness by learning

Just as without eyes one cannot see the material things of the world, so also without knowledge it will be impossible for us to see or understand the reality of this world and the eternity where God dwells in. As those who have no eyes are called “Blind”, so too those who have no learning are to be called “intellectually blind” Hence it is the responsibility of priest to teach the faithful and of parents to teach their children
(Chavara, letters, 95)

Greatest help to the dying

The greatest virtue a man can have is the helps given to a man at the moment of his death. This is again, the greatest act of mercy. This also is the supreme act of charity. One cannot measure the greatness of such a deed.
(Chavara letters, 119)

Nursing the sick a meritorious service before God

Nursing of the sick may be the most difficult, unpleasant, detestable and degrading act before follow men; but it is the most meritorious service before God. It is true that many saints reached the height of sanctity by nursing the sick
(Chavara, letters, 123)

Instruction to start a ‘home of charity’

“Construct a house close to your chapel (Kanikary), even if it be a small one, having at least two rooms on both sides of the veranda with a bamboo roof and name it “The Home of Charity”. Let the orphans, the aged and beggars of the street who are sick be brought here and protected. By the grace of God it will later become the first “Home of Charity”in Kerala
(Chavara, letters, 162)

Sick members, a blessing

I have my own fears about the houses where there are no sick members. The reason is that the absence of a sick member in the house would not bring God’s blessing in its wake
(Chavara letters 72)

When you become inactive due to sickness

“Offer up to God every pulse beat of your veins, every winking of your eyes, every breath of yours and each little chirping of the birds, intent everything as your prayer”
(Chavara,letters,110)

All works towards the benefit of the soul

If both the body and the soul are in danger, sacrifice the body and save the soul. The body will perish today or tomorrow, but the soul will live for ever, All works done in the world should be directed towards the benefit of the soul.
(Chavara,letters, 155)

Mindset of the founder towards the Holy Family

Prayer to Blessed Virgin Mary for the protection of the church

“ O Mary our divine mother, born without original sin, who, at all times has removed every threat that menaced the Church, do not leave our Church to be devoured by any schism that is springing up. Have mercy on us so that all may perfectly obey the Pope, the Supreme Pontiff who has the authority from Peter, the Apostle”
(Chavara letters, 134)

Meritorious acts of Mary for Jesus may plead for us

O my Jesus, turns your eyes to your most blessed mother. Forgive us; we implore you, in memory of the eyes that shed tears for us, and the heart that was pierced for our sake. The heart on which you learned when you where a baby and the heart that fondled you in death is the Immaculate Heart of Mary. It was her own lips that planted many a kiss to wipe away the blood of your wounds. It was those holy eyes that thrilled you in your infancy. It was the tears from those eyes that washed your blood stained body. O My Jesus, bearing in mind those blessed eyes and tender heart and lips of your dear mother, be kind to us.
(Chavara, Spiritual writings 68)

Our Holy Mother never fore sakes

“Till now I have never had to draw the net empty after casting it in the name of our Holy Mother”
(Chavara, Letters,81)

Devotion to St.Joseph

My dear brethren, devotion to St.Joseph is an efficacious means to cross the great sea of death
(Chavara, Letters, 157,158)

Last words of the Founder

A sweet memory

Please plant the sapling of this sweet mango, which I name it as ‘Dukran’ in each of our monastery. This is to make you realize that myself and all men are weak and faltering and don’t have long life even as these mango trees which give sweet fruits.
(Chavara, Letters, 70,71)

Bring all glory to God

“My hours of labor are nearing the end. There is not much time left. God the almighty granted more time to me than of my ancestors. This was granted to me not so much for my own, I know, but for the benefit of others. It is only now that I realize fully that without making proper use of the talents given me, I had buried them deep like the idiot. My Conscience is accusing me now for the fault. I pray that the glory which I could not bring to God be fulfilled by you.”
(Chavara, letters, 79)

Last wish

Again.I pray to my brethren. I took my vows in the congregation as the first member and I was made the first Prior. But I have not fulfilled to my satisfaction my obligation in observing the constitutions and enforcing the same. I did not give you good examples. You must forgive me the scandal I have given you. Don’t follow my bad examples, but fulfill what is lacking in me. I pray that you may become more fervent.
(Chavara,Letters,103)

Last words

“Why are you sad? All God’s people must die some day. My hour has come. By the grace of God, I prepared myself for it since long.” Showing a picture of the Holy Family, he continued, My parents taught me to keep the Holy Family always in my mind and to honor them throughout my life. As I had always the protection of the Holy Family I can tell you with confidence that I have never lost the baptismal grace I received in baptism. I dedicate our little Congregation and each of you to the Holy Family. Always rely on Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Let the Holy Family reign in your hearts. Don’t be sad about my dying. Joyfully submit yourselves to the will of God. God is all powerful and His blessings are countless. God will provide you with a new Prior who will be a source of blessing for the Congregation as well as for you. Hold fast to the constitution, the rules of our elders and that of the Church. Love our Lord Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament with all your heart. Draw the waters of eternal life from that fountain as in the words of the Prophet Elijah. All the members of the congregation, especially elders must be charitable to one another. If you do so, God will be glorified by the congregation and which will be flourished day after day. Your charity will bring salvation to souls
(Chavara’s own words recorded by Fr. Louis Leonard CMI )

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