(The following article is the message of Bishop Mar Joseph Kallarangattu to the participants in the Alphonsa Pilgrimage conducted on July 23rd, 2006.)
Pope John Paul II of hallowed memory raised Sr. Alphonsa to the honours of the altar at Kottayam in 1986. Though only two decades have gone by since her beatification, the fame of her sanctity has already reached every part of the world, drawing pilgrims in their hundreds to Blessed Alphonsa’s tomb at Bharananga-nam. The pilgrims who come to pray at her tomb will certainly find in her a life wholly worthy of emulation.
Blessed Alphonsa’s success consists in having whole-heartdly co-operated with God, accepting unconditionally the set of circumstance that it pleased him to assign to her. Christ is the centre of our faith and realizing it Alphonsa devoted herself to Christ with a deep and abiding love. Love demands sacrifice and Alphonsa too felt this demand. If one is to suffer one’s pain cheerfully, there should be a commensurate love behind this suffering and it was so in Blessed Alphonsa’s case. Her love for her Lord knew no bounds.
Like a grain of wheat she got dissolved into the soil here to come up as a great tree of holiness and now she is a model for the whole world.
Constructing churches in honour of saints and making pilgrimages to their tombs are time-honoured customs in the Holy Church. The churches dedicated to St. Peter and St. Paul, as well as the pilgrimages under taken to these churches, serve to illustrate this. In our own country people used to make pilgrimages to the tomb of St. Thomas at Mylapore. In a sense the church itself is a pilgrim; the pilgrimages that the members of the church make are indeed spiritual journeys. These pilgrimages are at once the expression of faith and acts that reinforce faith. They may be considered a form of prayer as well as a declaration of one’s conversion-individual and social. Pilgrimages, further, highlight the social aspect of the church. Let your thoughts rise up to Blessed Alphonsa and to God as you trudge along the road to the tomb of the holy sister. If this happens, that would be a divine experience for you.