Pampady Kuriakose Mar Gregorios Thirumeni – Apr 5 I Holy Hermit, Saintly Sage, Epitome of Love, Guardian of the Needy
Pampady Kuriakose Mar Gregorios, a saintly sage of Malankara Orthodox Church, in its true sublime sense, had been a simple and humble priest of our Lord and a man of great faith, who possessed the spiritual gift of love. A man, who lived, detached from all worldly desire, submitting to will of God, through prayer and contemplation, virtually travelling focused to heaven throughout his life time, longing to be with his Lord and Master Christ. His holy life was a true testament of his total faith in God, humility to the core, charity and compassion to poor. He was a guardian of the needy and underprivileged, sharing his spiritual gifts of love and kindness to countless numbers of people around him from all religious, social sects and all strata of the community.
This great sage was born in the traditional Karingamattom, a well-known Orthodox Syrian family in a small village Pezhamattam, near Pampady to Chacko of Moolakkara house and Ilichi of Veloor Vellikkottil house, on a Sunday, April 5, 1885. The fifth child among ten children of Chacko and Ilichi, was baptized and given the baptismal name as Kuriakose. He grew up in a very pious family, which had to undergo a lot of financial hardships. It was the family atmosphere, special prayer and worshipping practices at home had greatly strengthened young Kuriakose in his faith. Thirumeni’s father taught the prayers, seated in his lap and mother taught to memorize the Psalms. This the young boy, Kuriakose, the apple of the eye of the house and village, showed deep interest in prayer and attending Church service and lead him to lead a pious and prayerful life.
Kuriakose started his preliminary school education under the discipleship of Madathil Asan, at the age of five. Young Kuriakose was very compassionate with low caste people and he made very thick friendship with low caste and downtrodden co-students, even though, there prevailed a social, racial and occupational untouchability. He was very particular to carry coconuts, sugar-candy and other eatables to the school for his low caste, underprivileged friends.
His father, desired that his son Kuriakose, become a priest, but he feared that he may not even afford the dress and a decent living for his son as a priest. But, Kuriakose humbled himself and accepted the call from God and obliged to the desire of Mar Dionysius, to get ordained to the order of a priest. At the age of fourteen, Kuriakose was ordained as a Sub deacon (Kooroyo) on February 5, 1989 at Pampady, St John’s Orthodox Church, by HG Kadavil Paulose Mar Athanasius, the then Metropolitan of Kottayam Diocese. He was later, ordained as a Full deacon (Shamshono) and he proceeded for his Seminary education.
Subsequently Dn. Kuriakose joined Old Seminary, Kottayam, for theological studies under the discipleship of Vattasseril Geevarghese Malpan and Madathil Alexander Malpan, PP Joseph Kathanar, Chakkarakadavil and Skaria Malpan, Illavanamannil. He became well versed, in Syriac language, mastered theological lessons, sacramental procedures and became a Bible Scholar too. Dn. Kuriakose maintained a simple life style, disciplined prayer life. He was humble, hard-working and studious among the students. He respected his teachers and won the hearts of his teachers too and became their favorite student.
The Malankara Metropolitan, instructed the deacon to proceed to Parumala Seminary for further theological studies. During that time, his father expired and the family plunged into an aggravated financial crisis. Dn. Kuriakose was ordained as priest (Kassisso), on July 8, 1906 and on the very next day, July 9, 1906, as a Ramban by Murimattathu Paulose Mar Ivanios [later First Catholicos]. Fr. Kuriakose celebrated the first holy Qurbana at Pampady Church. Kuriakose Ramban started living at the Pampady Church. During his stay at the Pampady Church, it was was rebuilt, with a ‘Nadakashala’ on the second floor. The beautiful paintings seen today, in the ‘Madbaha’ of the Church were also drawn during this time. Ramban Kuriakose and the devotees of the parish, unitedly carried the renovation work. The villagers and parishioners used to present Ramban with many eatables and harvest products whenever they visited him. His primary teacher Madathil Asan started a primary elementary school in the annexed room of the Church building (Pallivathulkal School). Ramban had great pleasure to provide sweets and noon food to all the children studied in that school.
During this time, he initiated to renovate the Church building and annexed a small room to it. His modus of operandi for the construction work was that he first announces his desire and civil plan of construction after Sunday Parish service. On the very next day onward, a battalion of volunteers come to the site and starts collectively to do the work. Ramban will provide sufficient food to all for the full day. He was getting a lot of food item from the villagers as gift and all the food was distributed to them. He was well known for his hospitality from his young days, that he carried on far and wide and until his last days.
On May 24, 1914, Pampady Kuriakose Ramban shifted into a mud hovel for the first time on Pothenpuram hills, frequented by wild animals. After spending his day there, he would return to Pampady Valiya Pally at night, which was also equally forlorn and desolate after dusk. Later, he put up a small building with bare minimum facilities, just sufficient for human habitation. A thatched roof on uncompleted four walls served as a Church to help him continue his hermitic life of prayer and meditation. The foundation for the new Dayara Church was laid by Yuyakim Mar Ivanios, Metropolitan of Kandanad Diocese on May 26, 1920. It was completed within three years. Kuriakose Rambachan continued his fasting prayer every day during this long period.
At this juncture, Vattasseril Thirumeni, instructed to shift Ramban to the Parumala Seminary. There he served as the assistant of Kallasseril Punnose Ramban (later Third Catholicos), as well as to teach Syriac to the Deacons in the Seminary. His stay at Parumala had a great influence in his life to follow the saintly footsteps of Parumala Thirumeni. His ascetic, prayerful and rejuvenated spiritual life matured, to reach great heights. Here, Ramban had the fortune to minister the ailing Catholicos Mar Baselios Paulose I, with lot of love and care, during his last days.
The Catholicos lovingly called Ramban as ‘My Ramban’ (Ente Rambachan). Vattasseril Thirumeni and HG Mathews Mar Ivanios of Kottayam diocese, insisted Ramban to be ordained as a Bishop. Thus, on 16th February, 1929, he was ordained as the Metropolitan by the Late Moran Mar Baselius Geevarghese II Catholicos, with the title ‘Kuriakose Mar Gregorios’. Pampady Thirumeni is the first Metropolitan, H.H Catholicos had consecrated, as this consecration was held the next day after which HH Baselius Geevarghese II Thirumeni, took over as the Catholicos.
Ramban Kuriakose was gifted with a neat, impressive and beautiful curved italic handwriting of Syriac and Malayalam, which he used to pen down, with a special feather pen dipping in ink. He was also entrusted with drafting replies to the letters, on behalf of Malankara Metropolitan. As a personal quality of Ramban, he was very prompt in writing his daily diary, which exposed his grandeur and discipline of his life. Ramban Kuriakose had a very rare opportunity to consecrate Holy Qurbana in Syriac, instructed by and in presence of Mar Abdulla Patriarch, while the Patriarch in Old Seminary at Kottayam, during his visit to Malankara.
As the Metropolitan of Kottayam, he led the diocese ably, in a praise worthy manner for about 36 years, smoothly sorting the problem with the guidance and grace of the Triune God. He had an enormous and immense devotion for Parumala Thirumeni. Every year Pampady Thirumeni visited Parumala Church spent time in fasting and prayer. After his ordination, he was gifted with the Holy Sceptre (Amsha Vadi) of Parumala Thirumeni and this would have given Thirumeni, the Holy Grace to perform everything. Pampady Thirumeni was the trustee of the Catholicate Endowment (Catholica Nidhi) which was started in 1934. He guided the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church in all matters. In addition to the Canonical fasts of the Church, Thirumeni used to take fasting prayers, to bring an end the fight between the two factions. Even during the time of Church fights, Thirumeni had no anger or dispute towards. Thirumeni used to get up early in the morning at four anybody. Pampady Thirumeni’s sermons were awe inspiring, simple in nature aimed at utilizing materialistic blessings and abilities to love each other without any boundaries or limit to all humankind. His preaching was well manifested and matched by his own life pattern. He always reminded the people to be aware and conscious of four things: death, judgment, salvation and hell. Thirumeni spoke in simple, short, sweet words that reached out to the common people and the elite people alike, but touched their hearts. He was always simple and humble in thoughts. He insisted people to do their duty and never to postpone them.
He treated everyone, poor or wealthy, low class or high class and all type of people, equally, without any discrimination. Thirumeni had many poor visitors both Christians and non- Christians, young and old. He was keen to personally enquire about any habitual visitor, had missed to meet him for a day.
Thirumeni was a lover nature and all God’s Creation. He cared for it, he admired the creation of God. Sabha Kavi, C P Chandy wrote a poem about Thirumeni titled ‘The Golden Rose of Pampady’, expressing and recounting about the deep insight of the relationship, which Thirumeni had with nature. In the poem we see how the animals and birds lived happily in the monastery without any fear. Thirumeni says “Do good to man, He may turn back to hurt you. Do good to an animal. It will not bite you back. How worse than dog are some men?”
Pampady Thirumeni had two faithful servants or rather say, friends. One was the Late lamented P C Yohannan Ramban, who came into Dayara, at a young age and Pampady Thirumeni took care of his education. He initial was to read newspapers to Pampady Thirumeni. He tireless served Thirumeni and all the institutions in and around Pothenpuram. HH Mathews I Bava (Vattakunnel Bava) invited him to bishop hood, but Rambachan refused because he felt that he was not adequately qualified for the post and moreover he did not stay away from offering prayers in Pampady Thirumeni’s tomb for long.
The second one was Thomas, better known as Pottan, as he couldn’t speak or hear. But he understood everything that Thirumeni wanted. He was also in charge of the dayara’s kitchen and was instrumental in planting and watering most of the coconut trees that we see in Pothenpuram. Thomas never missed any of the canonical prayers and Holy Qurbana. He was the first person to turn up in the Church.
Pampady Thirumeni was a man of prayers and simple life, a man of divine love and hospitality His closely associated life with Parumala Thirumeni and Vattasseril Thirumeni, greatly influenced his own prayer life, simplicity and ideologies. Pampady Thirumeni demonstrated the power of the Kingdom of God through healing miracles. Many could receive blessings in various ways through the prayers of Pampady Thirumeni. His life of prayer was a source of inspiration for many.
Thirumeni powerful prayers performed and brought forth various miracles. He went to the plague stricken, Kunnamkulam. It is said that, from the time, as soon as he stepped on the outskirts of the town, not a single person died of this deadly disease after. Another incident was recorded before, that during a drought in Pampady, Dn. Kuriakose fasted and prayed for 3 days leading a group of people in Pampady Church for the blessing of rain. After 3 days, while serving food to the people, there was no sign of rain clouds. Thirumeni remained in the Church, praying in tears. suddenly the heavens opened and began to rain and blessed Pampady turned into a lake. These and many more wonders performed by this great hermit showed the world that ‘more things are wrought by prayer that this world can dream of.’ Thirumeni from his seminary days was looked up to with reverence by the people and they approached him with their troubles.
His devotees in Kottayam built the Karapuzha Mar Gregorios Chapel. Just like Pampady Dayara, Thirumeni used to look after this chapel also. In memory of Thirumeni, Pampady Mar Gregorios Memorial High School was built in 1929 by Thirumeni’s paternal uncle, Pampady Karinganamattathil Kochu Korah. He visited Mar Athanasios Thirumeni at Thrikunnath Seminary when he was not well. He also visited the diseased Michael Mar Dionysius at the Manarcad Church.
Due to severe fasting and night prayers, taking no care of his health, Thirumeni fell sick in March 1965, and became bedridden and hospitalized. Kantheela Srusha was administered By Augen Mar Timotheos. By noon on April 4, Sunday, 1965 his condition became critical. Priests and laymen continued to pour out their hearts through the ‘yama prardhanas’ and prayers for the time of death. By 2 a.m. Mar Ivanios Thirumeni marked the cross on his forehead. By 2.35 his blessed soul flew away to eternal bliss leaving behind the mud house for which he never cared. The Dayara Church bell tolled informing all the faithful about the sad demise. The watch that Thirumeni had been using also stopped at 2.35 A.M. Thus, on April 5, 1965 this great sage of Tabor hills, breathed his last and his tomb is at Mt. Tabor Dayara, Pothenpuram.
He was one of the greatest saints of Orthodox Church, in whom, we see an amalgamation of spiritual opulence and divine plentitude, as well as temporal meekness and worldly humility. Thirumeni continues his intercession for the Church and for the faithful who seek Thirumeni’s blessings.