July 28. Alphonsa muttathupadathu, who preferred suffering to suitors
Patroness against bodily ills
Even Alphonsa’s birth was marked by the cross and shrouded in suffering. To escape the stifling heat, Alphonsa’s pregnant mother slept outdoors on the veranda. When a snake entwined itself around her waist, the fright she received gave her such a shock that she went into premature labor and Alphonsa was born. One or three months later, Alphonsa’s mother died.
CHRIST’S CHILD BRIDE
Of her first holy communion, Alphonsa is quoted as saying: Already from the age of seven I was no longer mine. I was totally dedicated to my divine Spouse.
SUFFERING > SUITORS
Having chosen the Crucified Christ as her beloved Spouse, Alphonsa aimed to turn down all marriage proposals despite her singular beauty and immense pressure from her strict family. She planned to disfigure herself “just a little” by thrusting her foot in a pit of burning embers to make herself less pleasing to suitors, but she slipped and both her legs were severely burned. Her toes became one mass in the fire, and doctors took great pains to separate them. Upon seeing the lengths she was willing to go to ward off her suitors, her family permitted her to join a convent.
YEARNING FOR SAINTHOOD
Of her time in the convent, Alphonsa is quoted as saying: I joined the convent to become a saint and having survived many obstacles, what have I to live for, if I don't become a saint?
A DECADE OF SUFFERING/JOY
In the years that followed, Alphonsa faced a decade of suffering, which she viewed as a gift from her Lord/husband. She said: I have a great desire to suffer with joy. It seems that my Spouse wishes to fulfill this desire. In succession, she experienced typhoid fever, double pneumonia, and a deep psychic shock that came on when she saw a thief in her room in the night. Alphonsa had amnesia, became enfeebled, and was unable to read or write for a full year from the trauma. In her final year of life, a tumor spread throughout her organs and she was in a constant state of agony. She said: I feel that the Lord has destined me to be an oblation, a sacrifice of suffering... I consider a day in which I have not suffered as a day lost to me.
HER MESSAGE? EMBRACE SUFFERING.
In one article, a pair of bishops remark on what made Alphonsa’s life exceptional. One says that it was not the quantity of her suffering, but the faith and dignity with which she embraced it. The other says that “suffering is the price we pay for love; love and suffering are two sides of one coin.”
Many miraculous cures have been reported through Alphonsa’s intercession, many involving the straightening of clubbed feet, perhaps because she lived with deformed feet herself.
A LAST QUOTE
Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn into flour. With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist. Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice. This juice turns into wine. Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings. - Saint Alphonsa