P.C. Yohannan Ramban writes about Thirumeni

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It was on a Saturday by about 3.00 PM when I first went to Pothenpuram. I had my robe for Holy Qurbana in my hand as I had led the service at Pampady Pally earlier. When I came in, Mar Gregorious Thirumeni was sitting beside the door facing east. A bunch of keys on a towel was lying on his shoulder. I went and kissed his hand. “You are fine?” he asked me. Then I spoke to him for a long time.

I told him that I would be happy if I could help in the service in the dayara church ‘madhbaha’. I could come here because it is the turn of Kadavumbhagom at Pampady Pally.” Thirumeni readily agreed and fed me with a lot of sweet meat.

Thirumeni instructed Mathaichan to give me supper. Next day when I was planning to leave after Qurbana, Thirumeni said: “Why don’t you stay here? Isn’t it vacation time? You can learn a few things here including swinging the censer.” Gladly agreeing to the suggestion I went home, got my father’s permission and returned to the dayara the following day. Reading the news paper to Thirumeni was my main job.

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“You can learn a few things here including swinging the censer ”

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“Reading the news paper to Thirumeni was my main job”

When the vacation was over I told Thirumeni that I would like to go home to attend school. He said: “You can stay here and attend classes. Come in the evening with the newspaper.” So I started attending school staying in the dayara. Sometimes Thirumeni would ask me about the classes, punishment given to the students and about Karingamattom Korah ‘Karnor’ who was the School Manager. He used to scold me if I happened to be late from school. He would frequently ask others whether I had returned, on days when it was raining heavily with thunder and lightning.

One evening when I was late from School, Thirumeni was waiting for me at the eastern gate. On seeing him I left my slippers in the rubber estate and walked slowly towards him. Nobody would wear their shoes/slippers in Thirumeni’s presence. Thirumeni scolded me soundly at that time. He also did not like me wearing my hair long.

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Nobody would wear their slippers in Thirumeni’s presence

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Thirumeni: ” No pants for me when there is ‘Khammees’ “

When I was attending VI form Thirumeni desired to make me a Semmassan. I told Thirumeni that I would love to be an achen, but financial position at home might stand in the way. “My child, our abilities are given by God” he replied. He continued. “When I was ordained, my financial position at home was no better. And I lost my father soon. He had lot of worries about me. I didn’t even have a full set of robes. No pants when there is ‘Khammees’ and no ‘Khammes’ when I could manage a pair of trousers. That was my plight. Our living God brought me thus far. So don’t be discouraged.” Thirumeni called my father and told him of his wish. So on the 4th day of an eight day lent, on a Sunday, Thirumeni gave me the ‘Koruyo’ title. During the course of his Qurbana speech Thirumeni said: “I have done this not for Pampady people, but for my own.”

I continued attending school. Even though there was much to study I never relaxed on my dayara duties. My schedule was fixed. After returning from school, newspaper reading followed, then ‘Sandhya Namaskaram’ and diary writing. I used to go to my study only after 10 PM. Thirumeni would be up with the midnight strike for ‘Pathira Namaskaram’, for which he wouldn’t call me – he would have it all on his own. He would go to the church at 3.30 or 4.00 A.M during the lent season for namskaram (kneeling obeisance). After that the prayers of repentance (masmur) had to be read out. It would be six-thirty or seven by then. After Thirumeni had returned and had tea he would want me to help reply his letters. By then it would be 9 AM and time for me to go to school. On non-working days I would accompany Thirumeni on his numerous visits.

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Thirumeni would go to the church at 3.30 during lent season

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Thirumeni offered his first & last Qurbana on the same day of the year

As desired by Thirumeni I discontinued studies after clearing VI form. Instead learned some Syriac from Thirumeni. He wanted to ordain me as a Kassissah soon. On being told of his wish Thirumeni was directed by Bava Thirumeni to send me to Yohannan Malpan Achen for a year to pick up Thaksa in its nuances and to translate the gospels. In 1957 when Thirumeni found himself too weak to lead the Holy Qurbana he ordained me as priest in 1957. I was the last person to get ordained by Thirumeni. For two or three years I used to assist Thirumeni in offering Holy Qurbana. Incidentally the same day of the year when Thirumeni offered his first Qurbana he gave his last also in 1960.

What has inspired me most about Thirumeni is his punctuality.He was very regular in diary writing, which he did by himself till he grew feeble. His Syriac scripts were as good as print. He used quill and ink for the purpose. As he felt weaker he entrusted dayara administration almost entirely with me. And I did it on the advice of Mar Ivanios Thirumeni. Sometimes he would tell me. “Do everything according to Paret Thirumeni’s advice.”

Thirumeni started growing weaker since 1961, his memory and other vital faculties failing. He would not lose patience or grow angry. He would address people ‘son’ or ‘child’. Like Mar Bersauma he appeared, pertinent and sad. Since he was growing weaker still, he started doing ‘namaskaram’ in his own room. Sometimes on Sundays or other days he would go to church to partake of Holy Qurbana, Once in the church his memory would be as sharp as ever. As though following the apostle’s injunction he would pray ceaselessly, sometimes repeating ‘Yama Prardhana’ thrice or four times. And for the last 3 or 4 years of his life I used to attend to all his needs.

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Once in the church his memory would be as sharp as ever

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He was very punctual and regular in diary writing

Normal daily routine of Thirumeni during the last two years:

After ablutions and other daily morning chores he would go for his regular ‘namaskaram’. After coffee at seven he would recline on his chair. By eight O’clock he would sleep on his bed for a while. Nine O’clock tonic and medicines were administered. 12 noon it was namaskaram again. Lunch would be followed by a nap for an hour or so. Some fruit juice at 2 PM. At 4 PM milk with bournvita or coffee with some favourite sweet meat. Bath at 5 O’clock and namaskaram at 5.30. An hour in the courtyard, either walking on my arm or in wheel chair. Dinner of bread, biscuit and milk at eight. He will turn in after ‘Suthara’. This used to be his normal daily routine during the last two years or so. After being fed a spoonful or two he would say! “Now you may eat my child”. He wouldn’t grow angry even when I insist on taking more. “Here is my coffee boy” Thirumeni would sometimes introduce me to visitors. His call ‘Kathanaracha’ still rings in my ears!

Thirumeni’s Last Day (April 4, 1965):

I feel I have been faithful to him every bit. On Sunday April 4, the day Thirumeni passed away into glory I myself led the Holy Qurbana and in clear consciousness Thirumeni partook of it. He tried to cross himself (‘Kurishu Varykan’). And the same night he left for his heavenly abode. I wetted his tongue till he breathed his last. Two days before he spoke his last words to me: “May God Bless You, my child”. I felt contented. (read more…)

Thirumeni’s Education:

Even though Thirumeni had formal education only upto primary level, he had studied in the Pazhaya Seminary for full five years. Wattacheril Thirumeni and Mattackel Malpanachen were his gurus. His classmates included Pampady Kandathil Valiachen and Kadavumbhagom Achen. While Thirumeni was 14 years old, the others were 9 and 7 respectively. Every Monday he would leave Pampady for Kottayam to return on Friday.

Thirumeni used to narrate one incident of those interesting sources: “You ask Kadavumbhagom Achen to walk forward, he would walk backward.” It was during his stay in Pampady after Seminary studies were over, that the three day fasting prayer was held in the church against the unprecedented drought. The cloud burst and all that followed is history. (click here to know more..)

Thirumeni’s Love for all Living Beings:

Thirumeni’s love for birds and beasts is well known. He himself used to feed the birds. If there was no paddy left in the Dayara, he would get it from anywhere else to feed the pigeons. They would fly into the dayara courtyard when they hear Thirumeni close the windows of the ‘madbaha’ after prayer. They would gladly flit and fly around, some of them even finding their perch on his shoulders.

He even fed the crows with corn and rusk. He had a special reason to offer. It was through the raven that God fed Elijah in the desert as much as He did to the missionaries in the forests in subsequent ages. There are many examples for his love for other animals too.

A Miracle:

A stray dog used to come regularly to visit Thirumeni. Thirumeni used to feed the dog from the window by sharing his meal. In addition to that Thirumeni also used to give the dog milk and biscuits. If the dog finds that Thirumeni is not in the dayara she would go away without eating anything. One day Thirumeni realised that the dog was pregnant. He felt more sympathy to the dog and offered her good food. For some days no one saw the dog. Later she came having delivered the puppies. As usual Thirumeni offered the dog food and told her. “I want to see your pup”. Immediately the dog went, caught a pup by the throat, came back and put the little one in front of Thirumeni !!!. I have seen this with my own eyes. After Thirumeni caressed the pup, gave it some more food, the dog took the pup away. Only very few saints could love all living beings like this. Even now hordes of crows haunt the Dayara compound.

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Pampady Thirumeni loved all living beings dearly

Church Matters:

His earnestness in church matters cannot be over estimated. He had great love and respect for the first Catholica Bava of Murimattom. It was he who ordained him Priest and Ramban. And his love for Thirumeni was equally warm. He always used to refer to Thirumeni: “my Rambachan”. And Thirumeni never missed attending Bava Thirumeni’s ‘Sraddha’ festival at Pampakuda.

He spent some time in Parumala Seminary during the Ramban days. All at Pampady grieved when they heard that he was leaving for Parumala. Old people even wept openly. He came back in six months. But he used to spend one week in prayer and fasting every year at Parumala. Thirumeni had met Parumala Thirumeni when he was a Semmassan. His respect for Parumala Thirumeni was unbounded.

There were few who loved the church deeper. He gave away every bit of land and all other possessions that he had in Pampady Dayara for the church formally in 1960. During the last year, even when memory was failing him, he used to repeat. “Everything must go to the Syrian Orthodox Community, after my time is over”.

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His respect for Parumala Thirumeni was unbounded

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Even the mention of litigation was painful to him

Ardent lover of peace:

An ardent lover of peace, even the mention of litigation was painful to him. Even though he was rather short tempered early on, he became more and more patient with passing years. Oh, how he loved me! When Bava Thirumeni went abroad for peace talks with Mar Aprem Patriarch he asked him: “What use is Gregorios?” Bava Thirumeni answered : “There is no one more saintly than him, barring Mar Gregorios of Parumala.” This is recorded by Cheria Madathil Scaria Kathanar in his book ‘Sema Yatra’.

His deep love and respect for his guru Madathil Asan is too well known to narrate. It was only natural that the whole family of Asan reciprocates, even now, in equal measure. His family members used to touch his feet, whenever they met Thirumeni.

Thirumeni: A Symbol of Compassion

Abhaya Bhavan is a dream fulfilled for Thirumeni who was a symbol of compassion. Even though work on it was initiated, Thirumeni could not see it completed. But it was inaugurated on his Thirtieth day memorial prayer.

Relaxing in the evening under the shade of a mango tree in the dayara courtyard, Thirumeni once expressed his wish to go to the ‘Kallankunnu’, a hill which stood tall across. And once after his visit to Pangada Pally, he managed to go to the top of the hill and saw his dayara and surroundings.

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Thirumeni saw the Dayara from ‘Kallankunnu’

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Thirumeni could be seen weeping while chanting some of the prayers

Thirumeni’s Strong Faith:

During the lent season Thirumeni would go to the church well in time. Morning prayers would start at 3.00 A.M. His involvement in the prayer was such that he could be seen weeping while chanting some of the prayers.

His preparation for Qurbana was absolute. Even though he knew every bit of it by heart, he would go through each ‘Thaksa’ carefully at least once the previous night.

Thirumeni’s Bed on the Tomb:

He completed his tomb in 1948 and had his bed put on it, once in a while, to sit and rest. If it is so hot here, how unbearable should be the heat in hell, he used to say. Further, “Heaven is for the pure in the heart. I only wish I had a bottom corner of it where it is cool.”

It was but the spiritual strength of our early church fathers who earned it through prayer and fasting that Pampady Thirumeni also could claim for his own. My sixteen year close acquaintance with Thirumeni leaves me in no doubt that the source of his spiritual strength was nothing other than that. He saw God’s face while in prayer. That explained his love and compassion. On December 8, 1962 ‘Kantheela’ was solemnised for Thirumeni in the dayara. Speaking on the occasion Augen Mar Thimotheous Thirumeni (His Holiness Baselius Augen Bava) said: “Even though alive, here is a Thirumeni who has no thoughts about the material world, he is onward bound to heaven. There is no other Thirumeni like him in our church. We all think about material things too. But Thirumeni’s thoughts are always heaven bound. I haven’t found anyone more prepared.”

Thirumeni used to remind his audience that they should always be thoughtful about death and the hour of death. “Never forget that you have (to face) death” was a line of verse that he used to quote. Death, judgement, heaven and hell were the four things he reminded everyone in his speeches.

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Death, judgement, heaven and hell were the four things he reminded everyone in his speeches.

His life was a miracle. It may have been chance, but even the exact moment of death was recorded on his watch. His pocket watch he himself had wound a week or two earlier had stopped at 2 hrs 35 minutes. Thirumeni had passed away on April 5 at 2.35 a.m. (read more..)

There are many who have received the healing touch and other blessings from Thirumeni. The unique strength behind it was the ‘tapas’ which this hermit followed on the Tabor Hills. Tabor hills were a daunting forest area then. This ‘Yogi’ could stay in a hovel in the thick forest area without fear of even wild creatures around. Now the place looks like a beautiful township with the Abhaya Bhavan, Balabhavan, Technical Education centre, Central School, Asha-Kiran and College.

Very few loved man as Thirumeni did. He was not after ‘Movements’ for publicity. But he gave everything to the needy humanity. “The more you give, the more you get” was a dictum he exemplified in life. Who ever went to him returned contented – materially or spiritually. And he believed in the biblical injunction that what your right hand does should not be known by your left. He would even give a hundred rupee note to a beggar without anyone coming to know of it. Even the beggar who came for meagre alms would be more surprised than ever. He would give all the money available for those who lacked money to continue their education. Even the last mound of rice left for supper, would be given away if someone came for it. But then, a sack of rice would come back the same evening. He had absolute faith in divine provision. (read more…)

There was no distinction whatsoever in his mind between rich or poor, aristocratic or commoner. He saw in everyone the same image of God. A difficult proposition in practical life. The success and fulfilment of his life lay in practicing what he preached. May his life continue to inspire the coming generation in the church.

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Pampady Thirumeni, A saint by all means..Please pray for us dear Thirumeni…..

Thanks to K.V. Mammen (author) & Prof. Babu Zachariah (translator of the book “The Holy Hermit of Tabor Hill”)

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