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Monthly Reflection by
Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

“I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34)

- Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC

Prayer of the Month

Saint of the month Archives

Saint Peter Claver
Feast Day - September 9

The Holy Spirit's might and power are manifested in the striking decisions and bold actions of St. Peter Claver.

He was a Spanish Jesuit priest, who for 33 years ministered to African slaves in the New World, and tried to stop the slave trade. A decision to leave one's homeland never to return reveals a gigantic act of will difficult for us to imagine. Peter's determination to serve forever the most abused, rejected and lowly of all people is stunningly heroic.

Peter Claver understood that concrete service like the distributing of medicine, food or brandy to his black brothers and sisters could be as effective a communication of the word of God as mere verbal preaching. As Peter Claver often said, "We must speak to them with our hands before we try to speak to them with our lips."

Claver was born in 1581 into a prosperous farming family in the Catalan village of Verdu, Urgell, located in the Province of Lleida, about 54 miles (87 km) from Barcelona. He was born 70 years after King Ferdinand of Spain set colonial slavery culture into motion by authorizing the purchase of 250 African slaves in Lisbon for his territories in New Spain, an event which was to shape Claver's life. His parents were devout Catholics.

Claver was noted for his intelligence and piety. After he had completed his studies, Claver volunteered for the Spanish colonies and was sent to the New Kingdom of Granada. Required to wait six years to be ordained as a priest while he did his theological studies, he was deeply disturbed by the harsh treatment and living conditions of the black slaves who were brought from Africa. Cartagena was a slave-trading hub. Claver's predecessor in his eventual lifelong mission, Father Alonso de Sandoval, S.J., was his mentor and inspiration. Sandoval devoted himself to serving the slaves for 40 years before Claver arrived to continue his work. Sandoval found Claver an apt pupil. When he was solemnly professed in 1622, Claver signed his final profession document in Latin as: Petrus Claver, aethiopum semper servus (Peter Claver, servant of the Ethiopians [i.e. Africans] forever).

Whereas Sandoval had visited the slaves where they worked, Claver preferred to head for the wharf as soon as a slave ship entered the port. Boarding the ship, he entered the filthy and diseased holds to treat and minister to their badly treated, terrified human cargo, who had survived a voyage of several months under horrible conditions. It was difficult to move around on the ships, because the slave traffickers filled them to capacity. The slaves were often told they were being taken to a land where they would be eaten.

Claver wore a cloak, which he would lend to anyone in need. A legend arose that whoever wore the cloak received lifetime health and was cured of all disease. After the slaves were herded from the ship and penned in nearby yards to be scrutinised by crowds of buyers, Claver joined them with medicine, food, bread, brandy, lemons and tobacco. With the help of interpreters and pictures which he carried with him, he gave basic instructions.

Claver had conflicts with some of his Jesuit brothers, who accepted slavery. Claver saw the slaves as fellow Christians, encouraging others to do so as well. During his 40 years of ministry he personally catechised and baptised an estimated 300,000 slaves. He would then follow up on them to ensure that as Christians they received their Christian and civil rights. His mission extended beyond caring for slaves, however. He preached in the city square, to sailors and traders and conducted country missions, returning every spring to visit those he had baptised, ensuring that they were treated humanely.

During these missions, whenever possible he avoided the hospitality of planters and overseers; instead, he would lodge in the slave quarters. Claver's work on behalf of slaves did not prevent him from ministering to the souls of well-to-do members of society, traders and visitors to Cartagena (including Muslims and English Protestants) and condemned criminals, many of whom he prepared for death; he was also a frequent visitor at the city's hospitals. Through years of unremitting toil and the force of his own unique personality, the slaves' situation slowly improved. In time he became a moral force, the Apostle of Cartagena.

In the last years of his life Peter was too ill to leave his room. He lingered for four years, largely forgotten and neglected, physically abused and starved by an ex-slave who had been hired by the Superior of the house to care for him. He never complained about his treatment, accepting it as a just punishment for his sins.

He died on 8 September 1654. When the people of the city heard of his death, they forced their way into his room, to see and pay their last respects. Such was the reputation of his holiness among the populace that they stripped away everything there to serve as a relic of a saint. The city magistrates, who had previously considered him a nuisance for his persistent advocacy on behalf of the slaves, ordered a public funeral and he was buried with pomp and ceremony. The vast scope of Claver's ministry, which was prodigious even before considering the astronomical number of people he baptised, came to be realised only after his death.

He was canonised in 1888 by Pope Leo XIII, along with the holy Jesuit porter, Alphonsus Rodriguez. In 1896 Pope Leo also declared Claver the patron of missionary work among all African peoples. His body is preserved and venerated in the church of the former Jesuit residence, now renamed in his honour.

He is the patron of missionary work among black slaves, Africans.

Saint Maximilian Kolbe
Feast Day - August 14

Maximilian Kolbe was a Polish Conventual Franciscan priest, most famous for volunteering to die in place of a stranger at the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Kolbe (born January 8, 1894; died August 14, 1941) was born as Rajmund Kolbe and was later also known as Maksymilian or Massimiliano Maria Kolbe and “Apostle of Consecration to Mary." He was canonised by the Catholic Church as Saint Maximilian Kolbe on October 10, 1982 by Pope John Paul II, and declared a martyr of charity.

Maximilian Kolbe was born in January 1894 in Zduńska Wola, which was at that time part of Russian Empire. Maximilian was the second son of Julius Kolbe and Maria Dabrowska. His father was an ethnic German and his mother of Polish origins. He had four brothers, Francis, Joseph, Walenty (who lived a year) and Andrew (who lived 4 years). His parents moved to Pabianice where they worked first as basket weavers. Later his mother worked as a midwife (often donating her services), and owned a shop in part of her rented house which sold groceries and household goods. Julius Kolbe worked at the Krushe and Ender Mill and also worked on rented land where he grew vegetables. In 1914 Julius joined Józef Piłsudski’s Polish Legions and was captured by the Russians for fighting for the independence of a partitioned Poland.

In 1907 Kolbe and his elder brother Francis decided to join the Conventual Franciscans. They illegally crossed the border between Russia and Austria-Hungary and joined the Conventual Franciscan junior seminary in Lwów. In 1910 Kolbe was allowed to enter the novitiate. He professed his first vows in 1911, adopting the name Maximilian, and the final vows in 1914, in Rome, adopting the names Maximilian Maria, to show his veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In 1912 he was sent to Kraków, and in the same year to a college in Rome, where he studied philosophy, theology, mathematics, and physics. He earned a doctorate in philosophy in 1915 at the Pontifical Gregorian University, and the doctorate in theology in 1919 at the Pontifical University of St. Bonaventure. During his time as a student, he witnessed vehement demonstrations against Popes St. Pius X and Benedict XV in Rome and was inspired to organise the Militia Immaculata, or Army of Mary, to work for conversion of sinners and the enemies of the Catholic Church through the intercession of the Virgin Mary. The Immaculata friars utilised the most modern printing and administrative techniques in publishing catechetical and devotional tracts, a daily newspaper with a circulation of 230,000 and a monthly magazine with a circulation of over one million. In 1918 Kolbe was ordained a priest. In 1919 he returned to the newly independent Poland, where he was very active in promoting the veneration of the Immaculate Virgin Mary, founding and supervising the monastery of Niepokalanów near Warsaw, a seminary, a radio station and several other organisations and publications. Between 1930 and 1936 he took a series of missions to Japan, where he founded a monastery at the outskirts of Nagasaki, a Japanese paper and a seminary. The monastery he founded remains prominent in the Roman Catholic Church in Japan. Kolbe decided to build the monastery on a mountain side that, according to Shinto beliefs, was not the side best suited to be in tune with nature.

When the atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, Kolbe’s monastery was saved because the blast of the bomb hit the other side of the mountain, which took the main force of the blast. Had Kolbe built the monastery on the preferred side of mountain as he was advised, his work and all of his fellow monks would have been destroyed. During the Second World War he provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland, including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from Nazi persecution in his friary in Niepokalanów. He was also active as a radio amateur, with Polish call letters SP3RN, vilifying Nazi activities through his reports. On February 17, 1941 he was arrested by the German Gestapo and imprisoned in the Pawiak prison, and on May 25 was transferred to Auschwitz I as prisoner #16670. In July 1941 a man from Kolbe’s barracks vanished, prompting SS-Hauptsturmführer Karl Fritzsch, the deputy camp commander, to pick 10 men from the same barracks to be starved to death in Block 13 (notorious for torture), in order to deter further escape attempts. (The man who had disappeared was later found drowned in the camp latrine.) One of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, lamenting his family, and Kolbe volunteered to take his place. During the time in the cell he led the men in songs and prayer. After three weeks of dehydration and starvation, only Kolbe and three others were still alive. Finally he was murdered with an injection of carbolic acid.

Father Kolbe was beatified as a confessor by Pope Paul VI in 1971 and was canonised by Pope John Paul II on October 10, 1982 in the presence of Franciszek Gajowniczek. Upon canonisation, the Pope declared St. Maximilian Kolbe not a confessor, but a martyr. Although the canonisation of St. Maximilan Kolbe is uncontroversial, his recognition as a martyr is, given that a Christian martyr is one who is killed in odium Fidei, and Kolbe wasn’t assassinated strictly out of hatred for the Faith. He is one of ten 20th-century martyrs from across the world who are depicted in statues above the Great West Door of Westminster Abbey, London Maximilian Kolbe is remembered for his heroic actions during one of the cruelest periods of modern history.

He is the patron saint of drug addicts, political prisoners, families, journalists, prisoners and the pro-life movement. Pope John Paul II declared him the “The Patron Saint of Our Difficult Century”.

Saint Thomas
Feast Day - July 3

Saint Thomas the Apostle, also called Doubting Thomas or Didymus (meaning "Twin," or "Thomas" in Aramaic) was one of the Twelve Apostles of Jesus Christ. He is best known for questioning Jesus' resurrection after death when first told of it, followed by his confession of faith as both "My Lord and my God" on seeing and touching Jesus' tangible and physical wounded body in Gospel of Saint John 20:28.

Traditionally he is said to have traveled outside the Roman Empire to preach the Gospel, traveling as far as India.

St. Thomas is believed to have sailed to India in to spread the Christian faith among the Jews, some of whom had migrated to Kerala. St. Thomas landed in Kodungallur in 52 AD, in the company of a Jewish merchant Abbanes (Hebban) He is supposed to have landed at the ancient port of Muziris (which was destroyed in 1341 AD due to a massive flood that realigned the coasts) near Kodungalloor. According to tradition, the apostle baptised several people who are today known as Saint Thomas Christians or Nasranis. He went to Palayoor (near present-dayGuruvayoor), a Hindu priestly community at that time. He left Palayoor in 52 AD for the southern part of what is now Kerala State, where he established the Ezharappallikal, or "Seven and Half Churches". These churches are at Kodungallur, Kollam, Niranam (Niranam Church), Nilackal (Chayal), Kokkamangalam, Kottakkayal (Paravoor), Palayoor (Chattukulangara) and Thiruvithamcode Arappally – the half church.

St. Thomas was killed in India in 72 AD, attaining martyrdom at St. Thomas Mount near Mylapore (part ofChennai, capital of Tamil Nadu). He was buried on the site of Chennai's San Thome Basilica in the Dioceses of Saint Thomas of Mylapore. The Acts of Thomas and oral traditions (only recorded in writing centuries later) provide weak and unreliable evidence but the tradition is that Thomas, having aroused the hostility of the local priests by making converts, fled toSt. Thomas's Mount four miles (6 km) southwest of Mylapore. He was supposedly followed by his persecutors, who transfixed him with a lance as he prayed kneeling on a stone. His body was brought to Mylapore and buried inside the church he had built. The present Basilica is on this spot. It was first built in the 16th century and rebuilt in the 19th.

After his murder and death by spear in India, the remaining relics of Saint Thomas the Apostle were enshrined as far as Mesopotamia in the 3rd century, and later moved to various places. In 1258 they were brought to Abruzzo, in Ortona, Italy, where they have been held in the Church of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is often regarded as the Patron Saint of India, and the name Thomas remains quite popular among Saint Thomas Christians of India. Remains of some of his buildings, influenced by Greek architecture, indicate that he was a great builder.

St. Ephraem, the great doctor of the Syrian Church, writes in the forty-second of his "Carmina Nisibina" that the Apostle was put to death in India, and that his remains were subsequently buried in Edessa, brought there by an unnamed merchant. A Syrian ecclesiastical calendar of an early date confirms the above and gives the merchant a name. The entry reads: "3 July, St. Thomas who was pierced with a lance in 'India'. His body is at Urhai [another name for Edessa or Urfa] having been brought there by the merchant Khabin. A great festival." St. Ephraem, the great doctor of the Syrian Church, noted that relics of Thomas were held in Edessa. A long public tradition in the church at Edessa honouring Thomas as the Apostle of 'India' resulted in several surviving hymns that are attributed to Ephrem, copied in codices of the 8th and 9th centuries. References in the hymns preserve the tradition that Thomas' bones were brought from 'India' to Edessa by a merchant, and that the relics worked miracles both in 'India' and at Edessa. A pontiff assigned his feast day and a king and a queen erected his shrine.The Thomas traditions became embodied in Syriac liturgy, thus they were universally credited by the Christian community there. There is also a legend that Thomas had met the Biblical Magi on his way to 'India'.

He is the patron saint of architects, construction workers, cooks.

Saint Anthony
Feast Day - June 13

St. Anthony of Padua is one of the most famous disciples of St. Francis of Assisi. He was a famous preacher and worker of miracles in his own day, and throughout the eight centuries since his death he has so generously come to the assistance of the faithful who invoke him, that he is known throughout the world.

St. Anthony was born in the year 1195 A. D. at Lisbon (Portugal) where his father was a captain in the royal army. Already at the age of fifteen years, he had entered the Congregation of Canons Regular of St. Augustine and devoted himself with great earnestness both to study and to the practice of piety in the Monastery at Coimbra (Portugal). About that time some of the first members of the Order of Friars Minor, which St. Francis has founded in 1206 A. D. came to Coimbra. They begged from the Canons Regular a small and very poor place, from which by their evangelical poverty and simplicity they edified everyone in the region.

In 1219 A. D. some of these friars, moved by divine inspiration, went as missionaries to preach the Gospel of Christ to the inhabitants of Morocco. There they were brutally martyred for the Faith. Some Christian merchants succeeded in recovering their remains; and so brought their relics in triumph back to Coimbra. The relics of St. Bernard and companions, the first martyrs of the Franciscan Order, seized St. Anthony with an intense desire to suffer martyrdom in a like manner. So moved by their heroic example he repeatedly begged and petitioned his superiors to be given leave to join the Franciscan Order. In the quiet little Franciscan convent at Coimbra he received a friendly reception, and in the same year his earnest wish to be sent to the missions in Africa was fulfilled. But God had decreed otherwise. And so, St. Anthony scarcely set foot on African soil when he was seized with a grievous illness. Even after recovering from it, he was so weak that, resigning himself to the will of God, he boarded a boat back to Portugal. Unexpectedly a storm came upon them and drove the ship to the east where it found refuge on coast of Sicily. St. Anthony was greeted and given shelter by the Franciscans of that island, and thus came to be sent to Assisi, where the general chapter of the Order was held in May, 1221 A. D. Since he still looked weak and sickly, and gave no evidence of his scholarship, no one paid any attention to the stranger until Father Gratian, the Provincial of friars living in the region of Romagna (Italy), had compassion on him and sent him to the quiet little convent near Forli (also in Italy).

There St. Anthony remained nine months as chaplain to the hermits, occupied in the lowliest duties of the kitchen and convent. He was put to work in the kitchen, while being allowed to spend much time in private prayer and study.

One day, on the occasion of an ordination, a great many visiting Dominican friars were present, and there was some misunderstanding over who should preach. The Franciscans naturally expected that one of the Dominicans would occupy the pulpit, for they were renowned for their preaching; the Dominicans, on the other hand, had come unprepared, thinking that a Franciscan would be the homilist. In this quandary, the head of the hermitage, who had no one among his own humble friars suitable for the occasion, called upon Anthony, whom he suspected was most qualified, and entreated him to speak whatever the Holy Spirit should put into his mouth. Anthony objected but was overruled, and his sermon created a deep impression. Not only his rich voice and arresting manner, but the entire theme and substance of his discourse and his moving eloquence, held the attention of his hearers.

At that point, Anthony was commissioned by Brother Gratian, the local Minister Provincial, to preach the Gospel throughout the area of Lombardy, in northern Italy. In this capacity he came to the attention of the founder of the order, Francis of Assisi. Francis had held a strong distrust of the place of theological studies in the life of his brotherhood, fearing that it might lead to an abandonment of their commitment to a life of real poverty. In Anthony, however, he found a kindred spirit for his vision, who was also able to provide the teaching needed by young members of the order who might seek ordination. He thereby entrusted the pursuit of studies for any of his friars to the care of Brother Anthony. From then on his skills were used to the utmost by the Church. Occasionally he took another post, as a teacher, for instance, at the universities of Montpellier and Toulouse in southern France, but it was as a preacher that Anthony revealed his supreme gift.

In 1226, after attending the General Chapter of his order held at Arles, France, and preaching in the French region of Provence, Anthony returned to Italy and served as envoy from the general chapter to Pope Gregory IX. At the Papal court, his preaching was hailed as a "jewel case of the Bible" and he was commissioned to produce his collection of sermons, Sermons for Feast Days (Sermones in Festivitates).

Anthony became ill with edema and, in 1231, went to the woodland retreat at Camposampiero with two other friars for a respite. There Anthony lived in a cell built for him under the branches of a walnut tree. Anthony died on the way back to Padua on 13 June 1231 at the Poor Clare monastery at Arcella (now part of Padua), aged 36. Due to his taxing labors and his austere penance, he soon felt his strength so spent that he prepared himself for death. After receiving the last sacraments he kept looking upward with a smile on his countenance. When he was asked what he saw there, he answered: "I see my Lord." He breathed forth his soul on June 13, 1231 A. D., being only thirty six year old. Soon the children in the streets of the city of Padua were crying: "The saint is dead, Anthony is dead." Pope Gregory IX enrolled him among the saints in the very next year. At Padua, a magnificent basilica was built in his honor, his holy relics were entombed there in 1263 A. D. From the time of his death up to the present day, countless miracles have occurred through St. Anthony's intercession, so that he is known as the Wonder-Worker. In 1946 A. D. St. Anthony was declared a Doctor of the Church.

Various legends surround the death of Anthony. One holds that when he died, the children cried in the streets and that all the bells of the churches rang of their own accord. Another legend regards his tongue. Anthony is buried in a chapel within the large basilica built to honor him, where his tongue is displayed for veneration in a large reliquary. When his body was exhumed thirty years after his death, it was found to have returned to dust, but the tongue was claimed to have glistened and looked as if it was still alive and moist; apparently a further claim was made that this was a sign of his gift of preaching.

Anthony was canonized by Pope Gregory IX on 30 May 1232, at Spoleto, Italy, less than one year after his death. His fame spread through Portuguese evangelization, and he has been known as the most celebrated of the followers of Saint Francis of Assisi. He is the patron saint of his adopted home of Padua, as well as of his native Lisbon, not to mention many other places in Portugal and in the countries of the former Portuguese Empire. He is especially invoked for the recovery of lost items.

Proclaimed a Doctor of the Church by Pope Pius XII on 16 January 1946, he is sometimes called the "Evangelical Doctor".

St. Anthony should be the patron of those who find their lives completely uprooted and set in a new and unexpected direction. Like all saints, he is a perfect example of turning one's life completely over to Christ. God did with Anthony as God pleased—and what God pleased was a life of spiritual power and brilliance that still attracts admiration today. He whom popular devotion has nominated as finder of lost objects found himself by losing himself totally to the providence of God.

In his sermon notes, Anthony writes: "The saints are like the stars. In his providence Christ conceals them in a hidden place that they may not shine before others when they might wish to do so. Yet they are always ready to exchange the quiet of contemplation for the works of mercy as soon as they perceive in their heart the invitation of Christ."

He is the patron saint of lost items, the poor and travellers.

Saint Rita


Saint George


Saint Joseph


Saint Polycarp


Saint Mary, the Mother of God


Saint Thomas Becket


Saint Francis of Assisi


Saint Michael, the Archangel

Page 4 of 4
Divine Updates


Divine comes to Chennai with the 'Magnificat on March 10, 2018. Fr. Jacob Arimpur VC will lead the services. With special sessions for children.

Venue: Stella Maris College, Cathedral Road

MAGNIFICAT in Bangalore

Celebrate an evening with our Lord in Bangalore at the 'Magnificat' on March 17, 2018. Services to be led by Fr Jacob Arimpur VC. All are welcome. Music by Glen and Teresa La'Rive.

Venue: St. Joseph's Boys' School Chapel, Museum Road, Bangalore

38th National Youth Retreat

Our annual National Youth Retreat will be held at the Divine Retreat Centre. Come and let the word of God refresh you. Simultaneous retreats for couples, children and Bible nursery to be held. Contact Divine Youth for more details.

Date: May 20 - 25, 2018

Kannada Convention 2018

Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our annual Kannada convention in May, 2018 The convention will be blessed by the vibrant preaching of many anointed servants of God. Please come.

Date: May 6 - May 11, 2018

Konkani Convention - Kuttumb Utsov 2018

Divine Retreat Centre's annual Konkani Convention will be held at the centre. The convention will be led by Fr. Augustine Vallooran VC, Director. Talks to focus mainly on the renewal of the family. All are welcome.

Date: April 22 - April 27, 2018

Retreats at the Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby, Sydney

Divine Retreat Centre, Somersby to hold retreats throughout 2017. For bookings, email Fr Roni George, Director - Hurry, as admission is limited.

Date: January 2018 - December, 2018

Retreats in Divine Retreat Centre, UK

Divine Retreat Centre, Ramsgate UK, has announced several English and Malayalam language retreats to be led by Fr. George Panackal VC and Fr. Joseph Edattu VC. All are welcome.

Dates: Jan - Dec, 2018

Hindi Convention Ojas 2018

The Divine Retreat Centre will conduct our eighth Hindi convention, in 2018. Two retreats will be held simultaneously on the campus; one for adults and another for couples and youth. All are welcome.

Date: May 27 - June 1, 2018

Divine Retreats in Australia

Fr. Michael Payyapilly will lead several special retreats across Australia - in Brisbane, Hobart, Sydney and Melbourne. Please bring your family and friends. Hear the Word and be refreshed. 

Date: February 19 - March 4, 2018

Divine Retreat Schedules


English retreats are held every week from Sunday to Friday. Special retreats are conducted for priests, religious and laity as well. Come and experience the Lord and grow in Him.


Inner healing retreats, growth retreats, couples' retreats and youth retreats in Malayalam, are led by Fr. Mathew Elavumkal, Fr. Mathew Naickomparambil and Fr. Binoy Chackanikunnel.


Retreats in Konkani, Kannada, Tamil, Hindi and Telugu

Every week, retreats are held in five different regional languages of India, apart from in the local language - Malayalam. The retreats are led by Vincentian priests and supported by powerfully anointed laity of God.

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