A daily study of the Network’s diverse faiths

Mar Thoma II and Mar Thoma V (Niranam Pally, നിരണം പള്ളി). Kerala Niranam St Mary’s Orthodox Syrian Church Feast to commemorate Metropolitans of Malankara Orthodox Church, whose mortal remains are buried in the church. St Thomas the Apostle and Apostle of India founded the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church when he landed at Malankara in 54 CE. He established 7 1/2 churches, including  Niranam (Thrikpapaleswaram) by the sea. He converted to Christianity 2 Hindu Nambudiri Brahmin families and 2 Nair families and gave priestly powers for the Niranam church to a local family. Niranam Pally is one of the oldest churches in India and in the world. It has been rebuilt several times, the 3rd church in 1259 being commemorated by a tall granite cross with carvings resembling those of a Hindu Temple. The present 1912 building is the 4th and was renovated in 2000. There are 5 altars and shrines, the main altar being to St Mary and the others to St George, Mar Behnam, St Thomas and Mar Thoma II, St Stephen and Mar Thoma V. The relics of St Thomas the Apostle are enshrined. Other Feasts are the 15 August Feast of the Assumption of Saint Mary (Vaangipu perunnaal, Shoonoyo), the 1-8 September Eight Day Lent of Saint Mary Mother of Jesus, the 21 December Feast of the Martyrdom of Saint Thomas, and the 21 December Feast of the Martyrdom of Mar Behnam. Image: en.wikipedia.org.

St Damien of Molokai (Father Damien SSCC, Saint Damien De Veuster, Pater Damiaan, Heilige Damiaan van Molokai, Jozef De Veuster) (1840-89). Feast Day in Catholic Church, obligatory in Hawaii and optional in the rest of the USA, for Belgian Roman Catholic priest, missionary and martyr of charity, a member of the Congregation of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, a missionary religious institute. Damien arrived at Honolulu Harbour in 1864, was ordained into the priesthood and was assigned to the Catholic Mission in North Kohala on the island of Hawaii. Struggling with a labour shortage and a public health crisis, Native Hawaiian parishioners had high mortality rates due to infectious diseases such as smallpox, cholera, influenza, syphilis and whooping cough, brought to the Hawaiian Islands by foreign traders, sailors and immigrants. Thousands of Hawaiians died of such diseases, to which they had no acquired immunity. Damien was recognised for his ministry from 1873 until his death to people with leprosy who lived in the Kingdom of Hawaii government-mandated medical quarantine settlement on the Kalaupapa Peninsula of Molokaʻi. After 11 years caring for the physical, spiritual and emotional needs of those in the leper colony, Father Damien contracted leprosy but continued with his work until he finally succumbed to the disease. It is believed that Chinese workers carried leprosy (later known as Hansen’s disease) to the islands in the 1830s and 1840s. While Bishop Louis Désiré Maigret, the vicar apostolic of the Honolulu diocese, believed that the lepers needed a Catholic priest to assist them, he realised that this assignment had high risk. However, 4 priests volunteered, among them Father Damien who helped build a church, a reservoir and homes and provided furniture, coffins and a cemetery. Damien died of leprosy in Kalaupapa, the whole settlement followed the funeral cortège to the cemetery and he was laid to rest under the same pandanus tree where he first slept upon his arrival at Molokaʻi. In 1936, at the request of King Leopold III of Belgium and the Belgian government, Damien’s body was returned to his native land and he was buried in Leuven, close to the village where he was born. After Damien’s 1995 beatification, the remains of his right hand were returned to Hawaii and re-interred in his original Molokaʻi grave. Mahatma Gandhi said that Father Damien’s work had inspired his social campaigns in India, leading to independence for his people and securing aid for those who needed it. 2 miracles have been attributed to Father Damien’s posthumous intercession, the cure of a nun in France in 1895 and in 1997 an Hawaiian woman who suffered from a rare form of cancer. In 2005, Damien was honoured with the title of De Grootste Belg (The Greatest Belgian throughout that country’s history). The Damien Leper Society is among charities named after him that work to treat and control Hansen’s disease. Venerated in Roman Catholic, Eastern Catholic Churches, some churches of the Anglican Communion, individual Lutheran Churches. Major shrine Leuven (bodily relics), Molokaʻi (relics of hand). Feast Day 15 April Episcopal Church of USA, together with St Marianne Cope of Molokaʻi, the German-born American religious sister. Patron of people with leprosy (Hansen’s disease), the Diocese of Honolulu and of Hawaii. Image: catholicnewsagency.com.

Christian Aid Week. Christian fundraising week to 16 May. Since 1945, this week has normally been devoted to fundraising by members of various churches, mainly through house-to-house collections and the sale of various kinds of goods. The funds are for work with the needy throughout the world. Christian Aid covers nearly 60 countries, helping people, regardless of religion or race, to improve their own lives and tackling the causes of poverty and injustice.

Prayer O God, the heavens are not glad, the Earth does not rejoice, warming gases fill the atmosphere, pollution turns clean air foul and climate breakdown wreaks havoc. The sea roars with the grief of all the plastic that fills it and the destruction of coral reefs, and the fields exclaim despair. We pray that in this time of climate crisis and ecological emergency, You may help us to rediscover Your love of creation and to reflect that in our own lives. Amen