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INFANT JESUS SHRINE
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Devotion to the
Infant Jesus : Devotion to the infancy of God incarnate is actively practiced
in many centers of Christianity. Any one who attentively and
frequently reads the New Testament discovers immediately the
Origins of devotion to the Infant Jesus. St. Luke in particular
seems to have had a particular devotion to the Christ Child.
He at any rate highlights the genuine source of this devotion
namely, the heart of Mary. If Mary is to be considered the model
of all Christian contemplation, her devotion to her Infant is
enough inspiration for all Christians to do the same. Christians
always longed to show their deep reverence to the incarnate
Word of God, Jesus Christ. The Child Jesus was adored by Church
Fathers like St. Athanasius and St. Jerome. St. Jerome was attracted
by the mysteries of the birth and childhood of Jesus. He even
went to dwell in Bethlehem living near the cave, which Christians
believed to have been the birth place of the Divine Child.
Other great worshippers are St. Bernard of Chlairvaux, St. Francis
of Assisi and St. Anthony of Padua. St. Francis of Assisi considered
the birthday of the Infant Jesus as the feast of feasts . because
the Son of God lowered himself to become a poor child. It is
St. Francis of Assisi who is said to have prepared the first
crib for the X'mas of 1226.
St. Teresa of Avila who always traveled with here sculpture
of the Infant Jesus during founding new convents, cultivated
devotion to the Infant Jesus. St. Therese of the Child Jesus
popularly known as 'The Little Flower' is credited for her teaching
on spiritual childhood. The infancy of Jesus was for her a source
of inspiration. It is said that one day Teresa met a small child
inside or near the cloister who asked her name. She replied,
"Teresa of Jesus" and the child retorted, "I am Jesus of Teresa."
A New Beginning In the 17th century when Protestants and Catholics were
fighting one another furiously the Protestant army besieged
the city of Prague in Central Europe. Owing to which the reigning
Catholic King Fredrick II sought the help of Pope Paul V. The
Pope deputed Ven. Fr. Dominic, the Superior General of the Order
of Discalced Carmelites who had great devotion to the Virgin
Mary to assist the frightened troops. The Protestant army was
defeated and the victory was attributed to the fervent prayers
of Fr. Dominic. Hence as a token of gratitude the King built
three monasteries for the Carmelites. They were also given the
Church of the Holy Trinity that had belonged to the Protestants.
The Carmelites changed its name to that of Our Lady of Victory
in remembrance of the victory gained in the war. In His great
Divine plan God deigned that this Church should be the cradle
of the devotion to the Infant Jesus.
From Spain to Prague
A number of sculptures of the Holy Child were made in Spain
and these were made of wax, ivory and bronze and were dressed
in garments reflecting the aristocratic fashion of that period.
The noble family of Manrique de Lara owned one such statue.
When Dona Isabella's daughter Duchess Maria Maxmiliana (Marie)
Manrique de Lara, married the Czech nobleman Vratislav of Pernstein
in 1556, she received this rare family treasure as a wedding
gift and brought the Infant Jesus statue to her new residence
in Prague. This noble lady in turn presented the Holy Infant
to her daughter, Lady Polyxena of Lobkovice when she got married
in 1587. When Polyxena's husband died in 1623, she resolved
to spend the remainder of her days in works of piety and charity.
The Carmelites were her friends and spiritual guides.
From the Royal Family to the Order of Carmel The Carmelites who were newcomers to Prague had to withstand
the hostility of the Lutherans and were experiencing financial
difficulties. They were struggling even for their daily bread.
At this critical moment the Carmelites revived the devotion
to the Infant Jesus. They were convinced that with the blessings
of the Infant Jesus they would be able to surmount the economic
difficulty. Seeing the faith of the Carmelites in Infant Jesus,
one day in 1628 the Princess Polyxena presented her beloved
statue to the Carmelites at the Church of Our Lady of Victory
with these prophetic words, "I hereby give you what I price
most highly in this world. As long as you venerate this image
you will not be in want." This statue then became known as the
Infant Jesus of Prague, which stands 19 inches high. It is clothed
in a royal mantle, and has a beautiful jeweled crown on its
head. Its right hand raised in blessing, its left holds a globe
signifying sovereignty. Those prophetic words proved true in
a very striking way in subsequent years, not only with regard
to the Carmelite community, but in respect to the faithful as
well. As long as the Divine Infant was venerated, God showed
Himself as a kind helper through His Son, and the community
prospered both spiritually and temporally. However when the
devotion to the Infant Jesus was relaxed, God's blessings seemed
to depart from the House.
A Period of Crises
Among the novices being trained in that monastery there was
a certain Father Cyril a late vocation who had a very special
devotion to the Infant Jesus. He used to pray regularly for
the grace of final perseverance. Because of imminent threats
to the monastery the novices including Fr. Cyril were transferred
else where. In 1631, the Protestants did infact break into the
monastery looting and destroying, as were their custom. When
finally the Catholic armies liberated Prague the novices returned
and with them who had by now made his religious profession.
The monastery was rebuilt but Fr. Cyril's memory found something
missing namely the statue of the Infant Jesus. He searched for
it until he found the statue behind the altar partly damaged.
Overcome with grief and urged by his devotion he made what repairs
he could and set the statue once again in a place of honour.
One day, when praying before the statue, Fr. Cyril distinctly
heard these words: " Have pity on Me, and I will have pity on
you. Give Me My hands, and I will give you peace. The more you
Honour Me, the more I will bless you."
Father Cyril was struck with awe on hearing these words but
had no money to incur the expenses. Fr. Cyril had recourse to
Infant Jesus who wrought a miracle. Fr. Cyril was happy to get
some money from a Prague citizen for repairing the broken arms.
Any number of miracles followed.
A gift of Carmel to the World
The devotion to the Infant Jesus, which till then had been restricted
to the friars in the monastery, now began to spread among the
people of Prague. On April 4, 1655, the devotion to the Infant
Jesus received ecclesiastical approval when the auxiliary bishop
of Prague, Joseph De Corti, crowned the Infant Jesus. Thus the
devotion of the Infant Jesus, which had begun in the monastery
of Prague quickly spread throughout Prague and was taken subsequently
by the Carmelites wherever they went. Like the devotion to the
scapular, the devotion to the Infant Jesus is also close to
the heart of Carmelites. The devotion has flourished in all
the places that Carmelites have had their presence. After Prague
the Carmelites at Arenzano near Genoa run one of the most famous
shrines of the Infant Jesus. The Carmelites of Tamilnadu maintain
a shrine of the Infant Jesus in Thanjavur. In Mangalore too
at Carmel Hill there is a shrine served by Carmelite Fathers.
However this devotion has spread even to places where the Carmelites
have not reached such as Mugalasarai in Uttar Pradesh, Nashik
in Maharashtra and Viveknagar in Bangalore.
On January 4, 2004 the Carmelites of Pushpashrama are inaugurating
a shrine dedicated in honour of Infant Jesus. We may be sure
that those who honour the Christ Child will be abundantly blessed
and experience his unfailing help.
True Devotion to
Infant Jesus Introduction:
Popular Devotions are a recognized part of the Catholic piety.
They have a significance in the life of the people who flock
in large numbers to our devotional centers and shrines. The
Church encourages popular devotions inasmuch as they can lead
the faithful to a deeper experience of God. The Church also
envisages that every devotional center become a school of faith.
Sacred as they are, shrines become for people places of freedom
for the spontaneous expression of their piety. Pilgrimages to
the shrines of their choice help people express their life-linked
piety and faith through their devotion. The Church not only
upholds devotions but also studies the origin of such devotions
and corrects false notions if any, directing them in the proper
The term ‘devotion’ stands for the first act of the virtue of
religion and is based, according to the teachings of St. Thomas
Aquinas on the promptness of the will to give oneself to those
things which pertain to the service of God. Explaining the term
devotion Gabriel M. Braso says: “It is to give oneself to God
in order to remain ever submissive and ever well-disposed to
whatever refers to His worship or His service. Devotion springs
from the will and hence it is suffused with charity, a fervent
love of God, which makes us forget ourselves and our own interests.
It places us always at the disposal of anything that is an object
of divine pleasure. Devotion also signifies a life given or
devoted to God. One is therefore considered devote who lives
no longer according to his own will, or the way and spirit of
the world, but according to the sole will of God, considering
and serving God in everything.
Elements of Devotion:
Devotional practices are our attempts
to experience and foster a relationship with the Divine. For
theologians, devotion means homage and allegiance manifested
to someone because of some inherent excellence. Thus they point
out to several elements in a devotion.
Homage and allegiance:
Homage in its current use signifies
reverence which also implies dependence. Reverence and allegiance
must somehow be manifested exteriorly because a person is composed
of both soul and body.
The second element is the object to which homage
and allegiance is paid. The object must be a person because
no one can lawfully subject oneself that is a being of a lower
The definition of devotion includes the reason why
a person pays homage and allegiance to another person, viz.,
an excellence or greatness inherent in that person.
The motive of a devotion is the trust and reliance
on the assistance of the person one is devoted to which is the
result of faith and confidence of the devotee.
The Second Vatican Council on Devotions:
Second did not discuss much on devotions but to aid the faithful,
reference to popular piety was made extensively. “Popular devotions
of the Christian people are to be highly endorsed, provided
they conform to the laws and norms of the Church, are to be
highly recommended, especially where they are ordered by the
Apostolic See.” The center of devotions must always be the liturgy,
i.e., the celebration of the mystery of Jesus Christ. They must
be related in a meaningful way to this center from which they
flow, to which they lead, and to the rhythm of which they should
be tuned. (Sacrosanctum Concilium. no. 13).
One thing that the Second Vatican Council asserts is the superiority
of liturgy over popular devotions. “Every liturgical celebration,
because it is an action of Christ the Priest, and of His body,
which is the Church, is a sacred action surpassing all others.
No other action of the Church can equal its efficacy by the
same title and to the same degree”. (Sacrosanctum Concilium.
no. 7). The Church does so to highlight the centrality of Jesus
Christ in all liturgical celebrations and popular devotions.
But at the same time it highly recommends popular devotions.
Therefore according to Vatican Council II, devotions are away
of Christian Worship and their center is always liturgy. Hence,
they should be celebrated as complementary to the liturgy without
considering it as a world of their own outside and apart of
the official liturgy. J. Neuner, well known theologian observes
that devotions are like flowers that grow spontaneously in such
great and amazing variety in the jungles that surround the cultivated
gardens. Even Jesus preferred to speak of the lilies of the
jungle rather than of the well protected flowers. Hence, it
is to be noted that devotions have their own place of prominence
and in celebrating them the teachings of the Church must be
kept in mind.
Origin of this devotion in the Church:
We have a good account
of evidence of the devotion to Infant Jesus in the lives of
several saints from the early times. St. Jerome was attracted
by the mysteries of the birth and childhood of Jesus. He did
go to Bethlehem and lived near the cave which Christians believe
to have been the birthplace of the Divine Child. Other Greek
Father of the Church like St. Proclus, St. Basil, St. Ephrem
and St. Gregory Nazianzen also praised the child of Bethlehem.
St. Francis of Assisi was specially devoted to the mystery of
the Incarnation, observing the feast of the birth of Infant
Jesus with great rejoicing and calling it the feast of feasts.
Devotion to Infant Jesus was specially prominent during the
16th century and it was St. Teresa of Avila, the Carmelite saint
who did the most to make Infant Jesus known. St. Teresa found
great spiritual benefits in the meditation of the Child Jesus
and she loved to consider Him in the mysteries of His infancy.
This devotion was later adopted by St. Therese of Child Jesus,
another Carmelite saint, popularly known as the “Little Flower”.
The holy infancy was for her a source of spiritual upliftment.
Merits of this devotion:
First of all, this devotion is centered on Jesus Christ,
who is the only mediator between God and humanity, and our sole
This devotion makes the devotees reflect on the Incarnation
dimension of God made human, and enables the devotees to relate
themselves to Him existentially, personally, simply and spontaneously.
Appealing to all devotees because it is markedly anthropological
in its origin, structure and approach.
People have great attraction to this devotion because of
its existential relatedness to their felt needs eg., success
and failures, sickness and health, unemployment etc., all are
referred to the Infant Jesus’ favours and blessings.
This devotion affords opportunities and possibilities for
active participation by people of every category, class, age-group
and social status because of its simple structure, dialogical
character and scope for simple spontaneous devotional expressions.
Being a popular one, this devotion often leads people to
frequent the Sacraments of Communion, Reconciliation etc., and
to make a deeper commitment to live their Christian life more
Devotion to the Infant Jesus attracts people of other religions
too, since they have some similar devotions to the infant gods
or ‘avatars’ like ‘Bala Krishnan’, ‘Bala Murugan’, ‘Bala Raman’
This devotion provides an occasion for entire families and
communities to come together to strengthen the bonds of spiritual
and social relationships on various occasions.
Due to a variety of celebrations and ceremonial activities
(prayers, processions, offerings, singing etc.,) that surround
this devotion, it becomes very effective as a means towards
ecumenism and integration.
Lastly, on account of this devotion, which brings in a lot
of non-Catholic brethren, greater opportunities are created
to pre-catechise or to evangelize those who are willing to know
more about Christ.
It is a matter of great joy to know that vast
numbers of devotees have found solace, comfort, physical well-being,
mental stability, meaning in life through the devotion to the
Infant Jesus. One is really brought to admire the faith of the
people who surrender themselves without reserve to the protection
and promise of Infant Jesus. Besides this, devotion to Infant
Jesus plays an important role both in evangelization and catechesis.
It is a tangible way of preaching the Good News of Salvation
and sharing faith experiences with one another. This type of
simple devotion brings many believers close to Christ and makes
them experience His goodness. It seems the Will of God that
His name should be spread in this manner. We can see, experience
the grace and protection of God flowing from this devotion,
from the time of its origin because Infant Jesus is always true
to His promise, “The more you honour Me, the more will I bless
in India The Carmelites
Carmelites take their name from Mount Carmel, a beautiful mountainous
region in Palestine. Palestine had belonged to the Philistines
before it was conquered by the Israelites. The great Hebrew
Prophet Elias was often to be seen on Mount Carmel – sometimes
challenging the false prophets who were leading Israel astray,
at other times, deeply immersed in prayer and the contemplation
of the Divine.
In the seventh century, the Arabs occupied the Palestine which
had by then become the Holy Land of the Christians. European
Christians were still allowed to make their regular pilgrimages
and visit Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary and other holy places.
Later, however, the Turks occupied Palestine and the Holy Land
and made things very difficult for the Christians, who felt
themselves compelled to organize crusades in order to win back
the Holy Land from the Turks.
After the first crusades had set up a European kingdom in the
Holy Land, some of the crusaders decided to lay down their weapons
and settle on the lovely slopes of Mount Carmel as hermits,
and to dedicate themselves to a life of prayer in imitation
of the Prophet Elias and wage a spiritual battle against the
powers of evil, instead of fighting other human beings. They
soon realized it would be better to form a community in which
each could try to live for God Alone. Around 1209, they requested
and obtained from St. Albert, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, a
Rule of life. Thus was born the Carmelite Order. It would eventually
migrate to western Europe and grow into the great Carmelite
Due to various crises, the first fervour of the religious declined
so much that the Albertine Rule itself had to be mitigated in
the 1430s. Almost immediately, reform movements appeared within
the Carmelite family, even before the colossal attempts made
by the Council of Trent (1545- 1563) to reform not only the
Religious Orders but the entire Church. The most effective and
lasting of these reforms was that led by Saints Teresa and John
of the Cross.
In the sixteenth century, when many of the older Orders were
being reformed – either from within or from without because
of the decrees of Trent — St. Teresa of Jesus, the great Spanish
mystic, established her first cloistered Carmel at Avila in
1562. She secured permission to extend the reform to the friars.
Providence gave her St. John of the Cross, another extraordinary
mystic, for the realization of this project. The net result
of their combined efforts was the foundation of the Discalced
Carmelite Order in 1593. These were mission-minded mystics with
great aspirations for the universal salvation of mankind. Their
ideals inspired the Holy See to found the Italian congregation
of Discalced Carmelites in 1600. Several very ardent missionaries
of this congregation, including Fathers Peter of the Mother
of God, John of Jesus and Mary, and especially Thomas of Jesus,
moved and even urged the popes to establish a central office
for organizing and giving direction to the missionary activities
of the Church. This was finally realized in 1622 when the offices
of Propaganda were set up in 1622. Missions in India … Even
before the Propaganda had begun to function, there were Carmelites
in the regions of present-day Iraq, Iran and Pakistan. By 1620
the Carmelite missionaries had reached Goa, and made a foundation
there. Such was their zeal and enthusiasm that even some of
the Portuguese initially appreciated the non- Portuguese Carmelites
more highly than they did, some of their own Portuguese missionaries.
Later on however conflicts erupted between the Portuguese and
the non-Portuguese missionaries because the Carmelites were
being sent out on their mission by the newly established Propaganda
which – to the Portuguese – appeared to be disregarding the
older privileges of Portuguese patronage (Padroado). In 1709,
after about ninety years in Goa, the Carmelite missionaries
had to leave everything they had in Goa and to flee in order
to escape an arrest warrant sent by the king of Portugal ordering
that the Carmelites in Goa be deported to Portugal. The Carmelites
found place at Sunkery near Karwar where they founded a mission.
The British, the Dutch and the French had begun competing with
the Portuguese early in the seventeenth century. Towards the
end of the century, Portuguese power in India had greatly declined.
The Portuguese who had made considerable progress in evangelization
in the sixteenth century, were unable to fulfil their commitments
at the end of the seventeenth century, but were unwilling to
give up their patronage rights. Dioceses were left without bishops,
parishes were left without pastors. Yet Portugal objected to
bishops being appointed by the Holy See. The Holy See therefore
used the ploy of calling its new prelates "apostolic vicars"
and their jurisdictions, "apostolic vicariates".
... in North Karnataka
The Carmelites, entering Karnataka through Karwar, after escaping
from the Portuguese, established themselves at Sunkery in 1709
under British protection. In this village they built a church
and a mission from which eminent missionaries emerged. Some
of these were appointed vicars apostolic for the dioceses of
Verapoly and Mumbai. Karwar in fact came under the jurisdiction
of Mumbai quite early in the history of the mission, and British
ships were willing to carry letters from Karwar to Mumbai for
From Sunkery the missionaries attended to the needs of the faithful
in neighbouring areas like Kumta and Ancola especially after
the suppression of the Jesuits. After Tippu Sultan destroyed
the church in 1784, it was re-built by the Carmelite Father
Francis Xavier of St. Anne, a Genoese, who was appointed vicar
apostolic of Verapoly in 1831.
... in Kerala
In 1657, the St. Thomas’ Christians in Kerala, dissatisfied
with the treatment meted out to them by the Portuguese requested
the Holy See to send them Carmelites - who were for the most
part, non-Portuguese. Thus it was that the Verapoly became the
first apostolic vicariate to be entrusted to the Carmelites.
Since then seventeen Carmelites have been at the helm of the
Verapoly church in Kerala for two and a half centuries.
During the term of Msgr. Francis Xavier of St. Anne as vicar
apostolic, there appear Indians who aspire to follow the Carmelite
way of life. Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara was one of these,
whose efforts built up the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate, a
congregation that is flourishing today. Blessed Kuriakose, along
with Fr. Beccaro, OCD, founded the Congregation of the Mother
of Carmel in 1866. That same year, the same Fr. Leopord Beccaro,
with the help of Mother Elisua, founded the Congregation of
Tereian Carmelites (CTC)
In 1874, the vicar apostolic, Msgr. Leonardo Mellano inaugurated
the Mnajummel monastery by re-vitalizing the Carmelite way of
life that had been started earlier by a group of tertiaries.
These tertiaries would be joining the first order in less than
a century and form the now thriving Manjummel Province.
Among other women who were keen in sharing the spirituality
of St. Teresa, was Grace D’Lima who would eventually be the
foundress of the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Teresa in
Quilon was entrusted to the Carmelites in 1845. Among the most
eminent of the bishops of Quilon was the Swiss-born Msgr. Benziger,
one of the great pioneers who opened the doors of the first
Order to the sons of India.
... In Maharashtra
Bombay had been gifted by the Portuguese to the British in 1661
as part of the dowry of Catherine Braganza to Charles, king
of England. It was fear of the Dutch who had an eye on Bombay,
that brought the English and the Portuguese into a temporary
alliance. But soon the Portuguese clergy in Bombay became an
occasion of alarm. The British decided to expel them and so
the Franciscans who had evangelised the region had to leave.
In 1720, the Carmelites were invited to see to the pastoral
needs of the Catholics in Mumbai. The vicars apostolic of Mumbai
continued to be Carmelites for the hundred and thirty years
Fr. John Chrysostom of St. Joseph, a Tuscan Carmelite, is found
in the middle of the nineteenth century in Pune, Hyderabad,
Belgaum. He died in Pisa in 1884.
.... In Gujerat
At Diu there was a residence founded by Fr. Leander in 1628,
and dedicated to St. Joseph. The mission seems to have been
destroyed in an Arab invasion from Muscat in 1669.
In 1634 Carmelites had a residence in Surat that lasted till
the middle of the eighteenth century. Fr. Peter Paul of St,
Francis was there in 1700 with one John of St. Mary. Fr. Philip
of the Conception, a Neapolitan, who was in Surat in 1707 was
sent to Delhi where he was followed in 1711 by Fr. Joseph Felix,
a Lombard, whose mortal remains were laid to rest in a cemetery
in Agra. Fr. Maurice, who had been in Mumbai, died in Surat
in the Capuchin residence in 1726.
Fr. Irenaeus of St. Teresa, Piedmontese, sent to Bombay in 1844,
was for 5 years close to Ahmedabad, then in Karachi, Hyderabad
(1855), in Quilon (1858), finally in Mangalore (1868). Fr. John
Chrysostom of St. Joseph, Tuscan is found in the middle of the
nineteenth century in Pune, Hyderabad, Belgaum. He died in Pisa
... in Mangalore
The 1830s were a period of serious misunderstandings between
Portugal and the Holy See. A candidate seems to have been designated
for the archbishopric of Goa without the approval of the Holy
See. The Catholics of Kanara were therefore placed under the
jurisdiction of Verapoly. The faithful in Mangalore, experiencing
the inconvenience of such an arrangement, petitioned the Holy
See to make Mangalore an independent diocese. This was done
in 1845, initially on a temporary basis. The first three vicars
apostolic of Mangalore in the nineteenth century were Carmelites
The third bishop of Mangalore, Msgr. Marie Ephrem, had earlier
met Sister Veronica, a convert from Anglicanism who laid the
foundations in 1868 of the Apostolic Carmel as well as the Congregation
of Carmelite Religious. Msgr. Marie Ephrem, moreover, wanted
the Cloistered Carmel in his diocese. After Pondicherry, where
the cloistered Carmel had been introduced by a French Jesuit
in the eighteenth century, and which had been attached to the
French Carmel in the mid-nineteenth century, the Kankanady Carmel
in Mangalore is the first of its kind in India.
Into the Twentieth Century
The extraordinarily rich flowering of the Carmelite charism
in different parts of India that we have been attempting to
sketch, all took place before the Carmelite First Order was
actually transplanted to Indian soil. In a very peculiar sense,
quite different from that of the Gospel, the first came last.
The above-mentioned vicars apostolic, bishops and missionaries
belonged to what is known as the the first order. Being missionaries
they were often exempt from regular religious observance. Nor
did anyone think of admitting Indian natives into European religious
orders in those days - an attitude that is perfectly understandable.
A certain Fr. Vincent, one of the early members of the Goa community,
after referring to the rules and practices of Jesuits and Capuchins,
raises the question in a letter written to Rome in 1624: "...
I do not know whether it is fitting to close the doors to all
without distinction seeing that God has no respect for persons."
The Indians could be only tertiaries. Thus we find Carmelite
tertiaries in Goa in the eighteenth century, and in Kerala,
in the nineteenth.
When Msgr. Marie Ephrem was bishop of Quilon he did start a
novitiate of the first order in the 1860s. Another attempt was
made in Quilon about twenty years later. Both attempts were
failures for some reason or other.
It was only at the beginning of the twentieth century that-
thanks to the initiatives of men like Father Benziger, that
Carmelite houses of regular observance and novitiates were opened
to recruit and receive Indians and form them for the Carmelite
charism and way of life.
Born into a rich Swiss family, the young Benziger gave up all
worldly ambitions and entered Carmel in the Belgian province.
Sent out to India, he was a professor in a seminary in Kerala
when the apostolic delegate to India met him and took him away
as secretary. He accompanied Msgr. Zaleski everywhere and saw
for himself how Indians functioned in the religious communities
of other congregations. He became a champion of the Indian cause
and later used all his influence to introduce the first order
into India and promote the admission of Indians. He wrote vigorous
letters to the Definitory General; his ideas reached his Belgian
superiors; they were re-inforced by suggestions from Msgr. Zaleski;
and finally the chapter of the Belgian province decided to take
the necessary action.
Finally, on 19 March 1902, the first house of regular observance
and novitiate of the ‘first order’ were blessed at Cotton Hill
in Trivandrum. Cotton Hill was re-named Carmel Hill.
In this novitiate were formed candidates not only from Kerala
but also from Tamilnadu and from faraway Goa. By 1937, the number
of houses and members in the region was sufficient for establishing
the first Indian semiprovince destined to become a province
in the course of time.
The following year, 1938, was the third centenary of the glorious
martyrdom of Blessed Denis and Redemptus, who had started their
journey to Sumatra from Goa. Msgr. Benziger, in his old age,
personally met the archbishop of Goa and secured permission
for a foundation in Goa. This was realized in a couple of years.
By 1947, the Belgians had already made arrangements for a foundation
in Mangalore. That was the year of Indian independence and they
had to take into account, the fastchanging political situation.
In the mid-fifties, the Manjummel Carmelite Tertiaries requested
admission into the first Order. They were not only granted this
request but were set up into an autonomous unit in 1964. By
the end of that year, the monasteries in Mangalore and Margao
had become part of the Manjummel province. The administration
of the new province added to the two monasteries just mentioned,
a third foundation outside Kerala. The site of this new foundation,
made in 1965, was "Rani Thota" in Mysore.
The garden of the erstwhile queen of Mysore, would henceforth
be the garden of the Queen of Carmel. One of the brightest stars
in the firmament of Carmel, St. Therese - commonly known as
the "Little Flower" - was selected as the patronness of the
Mysore foundation, giving it its name : Pushpashrama.
On 12 March 1981, the general superior of the Discalced Carmelites,
seeing that the region was now ready for autonomy, set up the
Karnataka-Goa region into a separate "province" of the Order,
with its own administration. There were now three local communities
in the region, namely Mangalore, Margao, and the new foundation
in Mysore. The number of religious had now exceeded forty, of
whom nearly thirty were priests. Select vocations were keeping
on applying for admission, and the three already existing communities
were quite inadequate for their accommodation and formation.
Each successive administrative regime had to see to the needs
of formation and prepare the necessary infrastructures.
Today the number of houses on this branch of the Order as well
as the number of priests - thanks to the mediation of the Queen
of Carmel - has tripled. Besides the communities and parishes
in various parts of Karnataka and Goa, there are communities
in Mumbai, South Africa, and there is a whole mission-field
in Tanzania that has been entrusted to the Karnataka- Goa province
of Discalced Carmelites.
"Rani Thota" down the years has been not just a garden where
flowers and forests have grown but legends galore and thickets
of fabulous myths in which it is difficult to disentangle fact
from fiction, fantasy from actuality. Let us not therefore waste
our time in attempting the impossible.
The Meaning of Pushpashrama
Pushpashrama means different things at different times to different
people. Prehistory knew it as Rani Thota the garden of
the queen whose life and death are shrouded in obscurity at
least so far as our present contacts are concerned. Her erstwhile
bungalow still stands though parts of it appear in a decrepit
condition, which is true also of her adjoining toilet, the pond
which she allegedly used for her customary bath is still used
by youngsters interested in displaying their talents for swimming.
Her changing room too has been used for identical purposes by
her unconscious heirs including the present author. The name
Rani Thota thus explains itself and unfolds its meaning
to any acquaintance of the erstwhile Maharaja of Mysore and
his Maharani and their environment. The garden itself may have
been part and parcel of their ecology.
Successor to this Rani Thota was Pushpashrama which literally
signifies an Ashrama of Flowers. Ashrama is place of meditation
and contemplation. The first arrivals on the scene were amazed
on seeing the forest of flowers contemplating one another’s
beauty on every side. More than a dozen varieties of Bogunvills!
Not to mention other flower varieties whose perfume filled the
After the Carmelites took over the garden they had to consider
what name and address would suitably be conferred on the sight
which fortune had bestowed on them. Their history and spirituality
flashed into their memory, the world famous sister St. Therese
of Lisieux, universally venerated and loved as the "Little Flower."
The Little Flower therefore, became the patronness of the flower
garden which now had become part of the garden of Carmel. Carmel
is named after Mount Carmel in Palestine, a small mountain range
partially over- looking the mediterranian sea. This mountain
is called Mount Carmel because there were orchards on its slopes
and the expression "Carmel" in Hebrew is another word for garden.
If St. Therese, the Little Flower of Carmel, has been constituted
patronness of Pushpashrama the implications of this are many.
One of the most important of these implications is that all
the students in this institution are invited to follow the example
of our great "Little Flower" and turn into buds and be transformed
into blossoms of virtue in order to spread everywhere the fragrance
Arrival of the Carmelites
The property on which Pushpashrama stands pertained formally
to the Royal family of the Maharaja of Mysore before it came
to belong to the Bishop of Mysore. Eventually the Bishop began
negotiations with the Carmelite Fathers of the Manjummel province
who acquired the plot in 1962 and became a foundation in 1965.
This became the third foundation of the Manjummel province outside
Kerala after it had been constituted into an autonomous unit
of the Carmelite Order in 1964. The other two foundations outside
Kerala were Mangalore and Margao. Fr. Boniface Barracho OCD,
who had known Bishop Mathias Fernandes of Mysore in his seminary
days acted as an intermediary of the Manjummel Carmelites. It
is said that the initial idea of Fr. Francis Gregory, the provincial
of the Manjummel Carmelites in making the foundation in Mysore
was to start a major seminary here for the new unit. This original
intention somehow was deflected and a philosophy study house
began to function in the high ranges of Kerala in 1966 known
today as Pius Nagar.
The access road to Pushpashrama from the Kesare Toll Gate was
scarcely discernible path overgrown with bushes with fields
on either side that were protected by rows of hedges. After
dusk the whole area was weird and appeared full of ominous sprites
dwelling in the branches particularly of one or two banyan trees.
The eerie sense of their presence was enhanced by stories of
murders and suicides in the area and more than one occasion
the motorbikes carrying the Carmelite fathers came to a dead
halt on reaching that particular banyan tree. Some of our early
students have reported that they heard mysterious shrieks in
wee hours of the mornings and experienced hair raising terrors
when they went out of their rooms to see what was happening.
Ghosts do not haunt the place any longer. Today that the access
of Hale Kesare to civilization and culture is being cleared
of all obstacles and impediments.
The Period of Adulthood
In 1976 the Pushpashrama house in Mysore had been assigned to
the Pre-university stage of formation for our candidates. Residing
in the queen’s old Bungalow they used to attend classes in St.
Philomena’s College during this two year period.
The three foundations outside Kerala were granted swaraj in
1981 by the General Superior of the Carmelites. In other words
they were granted autonomy and immediately was initiated the
process of economic, administrative and formative selfsufficiency.
The first general meetings of this New Karnataka - Goa unit
mooted the need of a major seminary for our philosophy students.
The conclusion of the discussions was that Pushpashrama be raised
to the rank of a philosophy college cum institute for religious
studies. Philosophy courses started in right earnest on 5th
June 1985, the first Rector being Fr. Joseph D’Souza OCD. The
PUC continued alongside philosophy till 1987 when the latter
was shifted to Madanthyar, Mangalore.
Previously, uninhabited land gradually was occupied by new settlers.
Houses and commercial buildings began to spring up on every
side. Roads were tarred and electric poles planted. Electricity
and water connections were installed, forest land was cleared
and within a few years the face of Kesare was changed beyond
recognition. The process of growth is still continuing and posing
new challenges to the staff and students of the philosophy college
who can no longer be idle spectators but have to consider themselves
invited and even compelled to interact with the constantly increasing
complexities of the situation.
One of the earliest responses from the Pushpashrama community
to these challenges was the successful attempt to bring about
a sense of unity and a mood of co-operation in their vicinity.
They kept contact with families of all creeds and cultures establishing
contacts of information for the elders and organizing entertainments
at set periods for the juniors and children. The institution
of family apostolate in the neighbourhood gradually took shape
and people who did not know how to pray were taught the ABC’s
of the spiritual life.
In 1994, the Dhyanavana Institute of Spirituality saw the light
of day. Open to all religious sisters, it organizes nine month
courses for the imparting of all aspects of human spirituality.
In 1999, was laid the ground work for a social welfare center
in order to meet the need of many young people who for some
reason or other had dropped out of schools and colleges or could
not afford normal schooling. The welfare center is catering
to hundreds of youths who are eager to become acquainted with
the use of the computer or to study language, public management
and interpersonal relations.
A cherished dream of the Carmelite community was the raising
of a Shrine in order of the Infant Jesus to whom long tradition
has devoted them. Now at last that ideal too has taken concrete
shape and has become an actuality. It is a land mark not only
from the geographical point of view but also in the history
of Pushpashrama community if not in the history of Carmel in
India. The Shrine is envisaged not merely as a center of tourists
attraction but as a center of pilgrimage and a home of peace