Tag Archives: martyr

Stabbed repeatedly, she kept saying over and over, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.” Then she breathed her last.

Blessed Rani Maria Vittalil                              wikipediacommon.org

By Larry Peterson

She was born in a place called Kerala, a state on the southwest coast of India. The date was January 29, 1954, and she would be the second of seven children born to Paily and Eliswa Vattalil. They named her Mariam after the Blessed Mother, and she was baptized one week later in the Church of St.Thomas. Mariam received both her First Holy Communion and Confirmation on April 30, 1966, and never missed a catechism class. Deep inside her was a call to serve God, and the only person she told that too was her cousin, Cicily, who also felt a calling.

When Mariam finished high school, she joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation in nearby Kidangoor. She took the religious name of Rani Maria. Her cousin Cicily joined also and chose the name, Soni Maria. They both began their aspirancy (initiation) period on July 3, 1971, and completed it on October 3, 1972. The cousins made their first profession of vows on May 1, 1974. After a year and a half, Rani was sent to St. Mary’s Convent in Bijnor, arriving Christmas Eve, 1975.

Sister Rani Maria took her final vows on May 22, 1980, and continued teaching school. In July of 1983, she was transferred to St. Hormis Church in Ankamaly, Kerala as the new coordinator for social activities. It was during this time that she earned her degree in sociology from Rewa University.

Soon after getting her degree, Sister Rani began working with the poor and deprived. She was extremely caring and had deep compassion for poor people. She started to make enemies of the landlords and money-lenders. They had the people under their control taking advantage of them daily, and they did not want anyone, no matter whom, to disrupts their operations.

Sister Rani began organizing the locals who were exploited by the loan sharks. She developed self-help groups and taught the poor to work together to overcome the obstacles to their daily lives. She also explained to the uneducated poor how to get available government services that were available to them and which they did not know about. The poor people of the area began calling her “Rani of Indore—the Queen of Indore.” But the money lenders and others who preyed on the downtrodden decided Sister had to be eliminated.

As was her routine, Sister Rani woke up early on February 25, 1995, to go to daily Mass. She and another sister hurried down the street to the bus stop. After Mass, Sister Rani got on the bus which was heading to the county offices to pick up and drop off some various paperwork. She then planned to get another bus to go see her parents.

The sister who had accompanied Sister Rani to Mass left her and headed back to the convent. At the next stop three men boarded the bus. They sat close to Rani and started taunting her yelling profanities at her. She sat quietly, frightened and not daring to say anything. The taunting and name-calling continued for a short time. Then, one of the men, whose name was Samundar Singh, stood up and asked the driver to stop the bus. The driver did as Singh was told.

Singh got off the bus and broke a coconut against a rock. He then got back on the bus and began giving the pieces to the passengers. When he got to Sister Rani he mocked her by dangling a bit of coconut in front of her. Then the man pulled a long knife from his cloak and began stabbing Sister Rani. First he plunged the knife into her stomach and then over and over into her helpless body. The people heard saying over and over as she was being stabbed “Jesus,” “Jesus,” “Jesus.”

When Singh was finished killing her he had stabbed her 54 times. He dragged Sister Rani’s bloody corpse into the street and left it there. As the attack went on the passengers were so terrified they never moved. Once it was over they fled in terror.

The police contacted the nuns, who retrieved the butchered body of Sister Rani Maria. They took her back to the convent and cleaned her and prepared her to lie in state. Thousands of people came to Sister Rani’s funeral in the cathedral at Indore. Many bishops and hundreds of clergy were present at the Mass. They all had loved the little nun who had worked so long and hard to help the poor. A day of mourning was put in effect for the entire country.

The hired killer, Samundar Singh, was sentenced to life in prison. Abandoned and alone, he was bitter and forsaken.  But Father Michael Poraltukara, (who the people called Swami Sadhananda) kept visiting him. One day Father asked him if he would be willing to meet Sister Selmy Paul, the true blood sister of Sister Rani Maria. It took a few visits, but finally Singh agreed to meet his victim’s sister.

On August 31, 2002, Sister Selmy Paul, accompanied by Father Michael, visited the prison to see her sister’s murderer. Singh, a Hindu, was shocked when Sister Selmy offered him her forgiveness. He was overwhelmed by the nun and began pleading with her to forgive him for his crime. Incredibly, through the grace of God, the following year Sister Rani Maria’s mother visited Singh.

Demonstrating the power of  God’s unbridled love, she kissed both of Singh’s hands in forgiveness. Then the entire family came and offered him their forgiveness. They also asked the court to pardon him. Samundar Singh was released in 2006. Their Christian actions changed       Singh’s life. He asked to be baptized and embraced Christianity. The Vittalil family not only forgave Singh they welcomed him to his family as one of their own.

On November 4, 2017, Samundar Singh was present as Sister Rani Maria, with the approval of Pope St. John Paul II,  was beatified by Cardinal Angelo Amato in Indore, India. Singh stood and wept during the entire ceremony.

Blessed  Regina Mariam of Vattalil, pray for us.

Copyright©Larry Peterson 2019

Saint Barbara; raised a Pagan, her Reasoning led her to Discover her Creator

St. Barbara; Martyr:   One of the Fourteen Holy Helpers                         Aleteia.org

By Larry Peterson

St. Barbara was born sometime in the middle of the 3rd century in a place called Heliopolis, a city which today would be located somewhere in Lebanon. Barbara’s pagan father was a rich and influential man, and his name was Dioscorus.

As Barbara grew, she became more and more beautiful. When her mother passed away, her father became fixated on Barbara and began devoting himself to her in an ever-increasing and overbearing manner. He decided to hide her from anyone who did not know her.

Dioscorus built a tower for his daughter, and only her pagan teachers and servants were allowed to see her. Barbara did have a view of the surrounding woodlands and would stare at the flowers in the meadows and the running streams. She began to wonder where they came from. Her reasoning helped her to realize that there must be a First Cause for such order and beauty.

It followed that Barbara’s reasoning would take her to realize that the idols her father and the pagans worshipped were soulless and possessed no power. She knew these ‘things’ could not have created the world she could see. A desire swelled within her to know the real Creator of the world. She decided to spend her life in a state of virginity and to find this Creator.

Word of the beautiful young woman spread throughout the city, and many came to ask for her hand in marriage. Her father wanted her to marry someone he chose. She begged him to let her live her own life and told him that his persistence would drive them apart.

Dioscorus did not listen. But he did decide that his keeping her locked in a tower may have caused her to reject a different lifestyle. He proceeded to give her permission to leave the tower giving her freedom to choose her friends. Barbara headed into the city and met some young maidens. These ladies taught her about God and creation and the Blessed Trinity.

Soon after (and, many believe it was God’s grace) a priest from Alexandria, disguised as a merchant, arrived in Heliopolis. He spent time with Barbara instructing her in the Christian faith. Soon she was baptized, and after that, the priest returned to his own country.

Dioscorus wanted his daughter back home, so he decided to build her a beautiful house of her own with a huge bathhouse within.  He ordered the bathhouse to have two windows, but Barbara asked the workers to put in three. She wanted them to represent the Blessed Trinity. She also carved a cross into the marble wall near the windows.

Her father was angry at the window being added, and when Barbara explained why she had done it and how she had become a Christian believing in the Triune God, Dioscorus was enraged. He grabbed his sword and was about to strike her with it, but she managed to run away.

He chased after her but she managed to reach a hill that had a small cave in the side of it, and she hid inside. Her father, unrelenting, tracked her down, found her,  and dragged her from the cave. He handed her over to Matrianus, who was the head of the local authorities. Barbara was beaten again and again and during her torment prayed continually for courage and strength.

Finally, after being beaten and tortured and still refusing to give in to her father’s demands, Dioscorus took his daughter out to a field, and with his sword, beheaded his own child. On the way back to the compound he was struck by a bolt of lightning, and his body was devoured by flames.

St. Barbara died in the late third century. Much of what we know about her comes from the book called the Golden  Legend (Legenda Sanctorum) written and compiled by Jacobus de Varagine. His work was the primary source for acquiring information about many saints and was used up until the Protestant Reformation when the “new learning” took hold in theology.

St. Barbara is among those who are called the Fourteen Holy Helpers  (Aleteia; July 2017) and her protection is sought against lightning, fire, and explosions.  Her feast day, shared with others, (including St, Peter Chrysologus and St. John Damascene)  is December 4th.

St. Barbara, please pray for us.

©Larry Peterson 2018