St. Devasahayam Pillai – Nelson MCBS

14th January 2021, 


Memorial of Blessed Devasahayam Pillai, Martyr

Heb 3:7-14 or Jas 1:2-4,12;

Ps 95:6-11;

Mk 1:40-45


Devasahayam Pillai was born into an upper-caste Hindu family in the then kingdom of Travancore in Tamil Nadu. He was a member of the royal service and was close to King Marthanda Varma, then-ruler of Travancore. He was devastated by several bad harvests, before he met a Dutch Catholic who explained to him the meaning of suffering in the light of the book of Job. He was so convinced by the Christian mysteries that he asked for baptism, which he received in 1745. Later, his wife also received baptism, antagonizing the upper-caste Hindus and the king, who commanded Pillai to reconvert to Hinduism. Despite his sufferings, Devasahayam remained firm in his faith. The king ordered his arrest in 1749, banishing him to the forest. On his journey, he was beaten, starved, and deprived of water. Driven to thirst he hit a rock with his elbow, and there gushed forth water miraculously. That spring still provides water to this very day.

Devasahayam was a Catholic for only seven years, of which three were spent in prison and severe persecution for his faith. Finally, he was shot dead in the forest on January 14, 1752. His corpse was found by some Christians who buried him in front of the altar of the church of Saint Francis Xavier, which would later become the cathedral of the diocese of Kottar. Soon, Devasahayam began to be venerated in the region and he was beatified on December 2, 2012.

The Gospel proclaims the inability of a person to refrain from proclaiming after having received a gift. The leper, despite being warned not to spread the word, kept doing it with all enthusiasm after being healed. When one is touched, love takes over and will not count the cost, as Devasahayam Pillai did with his life. May he, the first Indian lay martyr, be an inspiration to all of us, to spend our lives in love

Responsorial Psalm: O that today you would listen to his voice! Harden not your hearts.

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