Fr. Varghese Kalapurakudy

A country priest comes to Kakinada, finding joy with his people in Christ's Sacred Heart.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Palanquin for "Mama Mary"

Fr. Varghese joked that the first one to pray before his mission's lovely new Blessed Mother statue and her "palanquin" was his buffalo calf Japamala (Telegu language for "Rosary"). Father grew up in the southwest Indian state of Kerala, where processions honoring "Mama Mary" were a tradition amongst the 30% Catholic population.
Fr. Varghese raised funds with his faithful to start hand-building a wooden "palanquin," or litter, to carry a statue of the Blessed Mother. Needs outpaced funds, however, so a handful of families from the U.S. sent aid to provide for the statue, the lovely royal blue umbrella, and for the palanquin, which Fr. Varghese says is a symbol of Royalty. 

By bearing a statue of the Blessed Mother on a palanquin, he and his people are declaring "Mama Mary" as their queen, explains Fr. Varghese, who has a life-long love of the Rosary and the Blessed Mother from his mother Philomena, who gathered her family for Rosary prayers nightly. Like any good mother, the Blessed Mother leads those who love her into deeper union with her Son. When Fr. Varghese was discerning his vocation as a teen, Philomena prayed the Rosary for this intention, and Father credits these prayers with having a strong impact on his entry into the seminary.

After several weeks of construction, the Sacred Heart Mission palanquin made its debut on the night of October 1st. Father processed with a couple dozen faithful for the first two nights (see video below), led the people in adoration and celebrated Mass for First Friday the third night, then reported a miracle on Sunday night, when 100 people showed for the procession!

A different family hosts a visit from the palanquin nightly, and provides a lovely sari for the Blessed Mother. The saris are then kept and treasured by each family. In future, if someone takes ill in the family, she might be draped in the sari, and the Blessed Mother begged to unite in special prayers. The sari might also be donned for a special occasion, such as being worn by a bride.

But for now, Sacred Heart faithful are processing to one home nightly, led by Fr. Varghese and often joined by Missionaries of Charity from Blessed Mother Teresa's order. The journey brings them  anywhere from 6 km away from the mission, to the farthest distance to date, 16 km! 

When asked how people could march such a long distance, and teased that they were preparing for an Olympic event, Father Varghese wrote, "We all love her. We don't know the pain."

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