She was the darling daughter of Joseph and Mary. They called her Annakutty, a form of ‘Anna’ which showed endearment. She was an extraordinarily pretty girl. Indeed, God had abundantly blessed her with beauty, such beauty as would tempt anyone to stop and look at her for a second time. It is so wonder several young men dreamed of making her their own. But she was not disposed to indulge their dreams. She reasoned with herself that the beauty God had endowed her with was to be offered to God alone. Beauty was fleeting, she thought. It had no great place in a life. Her soul whispered to her asking her to look for the immortal in the midst of the transience and flux of human life. The evanescent pleasure of worldly life had no fascination for her. The world called her but she did not respond to it. It was as if she was waiting for some divine prompting from her Lord.
She offered herself entirely to her creator. This was her life’s ambition, the overriding need of her soul. She thus turned her back upon the world and entered the monastic life. Annakutty became Alphonsa there. She lived only for thirty-six years. She led an obscure life. She did not run schools, did not administer hospitals. She did not distinguish herself as a writer. She never occupied any responsible positions. She was not known as a speaker. She always remained a simple run.
But her heart was full of love, intense, fervent love. Her whole life was an offering of love. The spiritual strength she possessed came, paradoxically as it were, from the crosses she had to bear. Her life was spent on sick-bed, racked by diseases, a silent, protracted sacrifice. Far from complaining about the crosses her Lord had sent her, she asked for more and when more crosses came she loved them all with pleasure. At last the sacrifice of her life was complete. The fire of suffering with which God was pleased to consume her life’s sacrifice had done its work, and one day the flame went out.
But the Lord chose to do great things for her. It was not long before the fragrance of her sanctity began to issue out of the cloisters and fill the world around. Bharananganam, which was an obscure village, scarcely known beyond the surroundings region, shot into fame because of its association with her. The month that followed her death witnessed a steady shower of favours from heaven, in response to the prayers addressed to her. The shower still continues.
She was born in Kudamaloor, a small town near Kottayam, with a famouse historial past. Kudamaloor was once the capital of the principality of Chempakassery and some relics of its ancient glory can be still seen there in the form of crumbling forts and silted moats. The presence there now of the Chempakassery family which used to receive an annuity from the Travancore government and of the Thekkadath Bhattathiri family, the heads of which served the Chempakassery rajas as their ministers, testifies to the glorious past of Kudamaloor. Yet another reminder of the golden past is the high-spired Christian church which, according to tradition, was built on a plot of ground donated by the rajas.
The Muttathupadam family was one of the distinguished families in Kudamaloor, renowned for its noble lineage, priestly tradition, medical expertise and financial capability. It was into this family that Annakutty was born. Her father, Joseph Pazhooparambil, was a God fearing man of deep humility. Her mother belonged to the well-known Puthukari family of Kudamaloor and was, along with her elder sister, Annamma, heiress to her father’s property. Annamma was married to Paulochan of Pazhayapurayil Murikan family at Muttuchira.
Annakutty’s birth coincide with a tragic incident which was to result in the premature death of her mother. It was a bleak day in August, 1910. Annamma, the elder sister, came to the Muttathupadam family to visit Mary, who was at that time eight months pregnant-a visit which evokes memories of Mary’s visit to Elizbaeth as described in the gospels. The tragedy came in the form of a rat snake. It slithered along the verandah to where Mary was resting on a mat and coiled round one of her legs. A terrified Mary cried aloud for help; she however manage to shake the snake off her leg. Though she had the presence of mind to throw off the snake, Mary blacked out in a short while. She gave birth to a premature child on the third day. By the time she had become extremely weak and she died three months later. Joseph and Mary’s daughter was a lovely little child but the shadow of the tragedy that fell on her life at her birth never lifted itself during the thirty-six years of her life.
Annakutty was the fourth child of her parents. She had a brother called Kocheepen but he died at the age of eight. Only she and her sisters survived into adulthood.
While on the death bed, Mary had entrusted the care of her new-born child to Annamma, her elder sister. Accordingly, Annamma took the child to her own home at Muttuchira. She had a son of Annakutty’s own age and the two children grew up together, under her watchful eyes petted and pampered alike by the loving mother. Annakutty would be taken to the Muttathupadam house at regular intervals so that her father and grandmother could see her. She thus divided her time between Muttuchira and Kudamaloor.
During her early child hood Annakutty was troubled by various kinds of diseases probably because she could not be breastfed like other children. Scabies set in at the age of three and it turned out to be a major affliction. It looked as if suffering was to be her inseparable companion.
The training Annakutty received as a child was such as would keep her always on the path of piety and godliness. Her moral disposition was enriched in no small measure by the stories told to her by her grandmother who would narrate to her edifying incident from the lives of saints. A story she was never tired of narrating was the holy life of St. Theresa of Avila.
Annakutty carried out her primary education at Thonnamkuzhy govt. school at Arpookara. At school and outside Annakutty’s exemplary behavior made her a model for other students. She received her first holy communion on 27 November at the age of seven. She was specially devoted to the Holy Mother and she made a point of receiving holy communion on Saturay’s, a practice she never discontinued. After she passed the third standard, Annakutty continued her education at Muttuchira. She once again came under the protection of her maternal aunt. With her return to the Murickan house, Annakutty entered a very crucial stage in her life.