The First Indian Lay Saint: St. Devasahayam
Dear Editor: On May 15, Pope Francis canonized 10 holy people who lived and showed exemplary Christian lives (“Saints’ Lives Prove God’s Love For All: Pope Francis,” May 21). They have become role models for our lives. May they intercede and help us to grow in holiness.
Among them is an Indian — St. Devasahayam Pillai, the first Indian married layperson. The other Indian-born saints are all religious: St. Alphonsa of the Immaculate Conception, St. Kuriakose Elias Chavara, St. Eupharasia Eluvathingal, and St. Mariam Thresia.
St. Devasahayam was born in 1712 in a small village in the district of Kanyakumari in the south of India. His parents, who were upper-caste Hindus, named him Nilakandan Pillai, a typical Hindu name. He was highly educated. He served the local king as a soldier and later as a palace official in charge of accounts. During his stay at the palace, he met and became friendly with Captain Eustachius De Lannoy, a Dutch naval commander who was defeated and captured by the local king. Captain Lannoy introduced Nilankandan to Christianity. Sacrificing his wealth and social status, Nilankandan received baptism in 1745 at the age of 32. At baptism, Nilankandan was given a new Christian name “Devasahayam,” meaning “Lazarus.”
The palace officials who were against his new faith conspired and got him arrested. The king asked Devasahayam to renounce his Christian faith and promised him a high position in his court. Despite the allurements and threats, Devasahayam stood firm in his faith. As a result, he was ordered to be imprisoned and endured many sufferings and inhuman tortures for the sake of Christ. Finally, on February 14, 1752, he was martyred.
Pope Benedict XVI recognized his heroic virtues and called him, “venerable” in June 2012. He was declared Martyr and Blessed on December 2, 2012, and canonized on May 15, by Pope Francis.
St. Devasahayam is a true witness to the Christian faith and a role model for all of us today. St. Devasahayam pray for us!
Father Arputham Arulsamy (Father Samy)
Our Lady of the Angels Church
No Middle Ground
Dear Editor: It is a given that all pro-life proponents express their abhorrence for abortion. Yet, many of these same alleged pro-lifers are ardent supporters of capital punishment. Not so fast.
One cannot be pro-life and pro-capital punishment. You cannot have it both ways. There is no middle ground.
Let’s be clear, the Fifth Commandment states simply and very succinctly, “Thou shalt not kill” — period. No exceptions.
Those who attempt to split hairs on this issue should be reminded that God’s laws supersede man-made laws such as laws that legalize the death penalty. We Catholics must heed the directive of Pope Francis to work and pray for the abolition of the death penalty nationwide.
Arnold Leporati, Jr.
Thanks to All Funeral Directors
Dear Editor: I’m writing to thank Ms. Alexandra Mosca for her article (“A Funeral Director’s Perspective on Rites,” May 14) she wrote for The Tablet. She brought to the forefront the many traditions that make up wakes for our deceased loved ones and how important the job of a Funeral Director is in assisting a family during their time of grief.
Reading this article opened my eyes to the shame that in today’s society faith and tradition are viewed as unnecessary: That Masses are no longer said. That burial is quick and without its own rite.
I hope more people take Father Fonti’s observation to heart — a loved one’s death should make us all “consider life and what it entails.” I truly hope that there will be a societal shift back to faith, heritage and tradition.
Our family found solace in a “true Irish wake” for my parents — Irish music, telling and listening to story after story, reciting The holy rosary, graveside prayers, and “Taps” for my dad. There’s a lot to be said for the comfort of the invisible hug that heritage and tradition provide — in both good and bad times.
Ms. Mosca’s article also made me think of Courtney and Michael of Marine Park Funeral Home. They, and all those who work there, bent over backward to make sure that everything went smoothly for the wakes of both of my parents. You could just tell that, for both Courtney and Michael, being a Funeral Director was not just a career but a calling. Although my family thanked everyone at Marine Park Funeral Home over and over, I don’t think they truly realized the depth of our gratitude.
So, thanks to all funeral directors who perform their duties with grace and kindness.
Thanks for the dignity they provide to our deceased loved ones and for the comfort they provide to grieving families.
Colleen A. O’Neill
Praise for Benevento
Dear Editor: Great article in the May 14 edition of the Tablet (“Author Draws on Queens Roots for His Fiction And Poetry Writing).
I know Joe Benevento, and have enjoyed and admired both his prose and his poetry for many years.
I hope this piece leads to more readers discovering this wonderful author.
Francine Marie Tolf