We have assembled here for the funeral of a young non who died Yesterday. The dead person, if she was so inclined, could have become a rich housewife, an eminent educationist, a well known poetess, a famous literary figure, or a renowned film star and rendered great services to the world, and won fame for herself in any of these capacities. But she chose to spend her entire life within the four wells of a Clarist convent and most of it on sick-bed and thus denied herself the opportunity to do anything that is great as the world seems it. That in the eyes of the world her life is a life wasted is clearly borne out by the thin attendance of mourners I see here on this occasion
But I tell you, as one of those persons who have known her intimately, I tell you from the depth’s of my heart’s conviction, that we are now taking part in the last rites of an individual who is among the most distinguished persons our country has produced during the last two thousand years. I want to assure you that we are here to bury one who has found exceptional favour with God.
If the world had come to know about the hidden greatness of the deceased person….. I mean her spiritual greatness…..this occasion would have witnessed the largest turnout of the faithful the country has ever seen. Nay, most of the priest and the bishop themselves would have been present here. People would have rushed to this place in their thousands to take a took at the body of this dead sister, to collect by way of a relic something this dead sister used in her life, or to touch her body with various things so that they could be kept as holy objects.
Indeed, St. Therese of Lisieux too led an obscure life….eventless and unknown to the world. Her funeral too, was a quite affair, very much like the present one. But now St Therese is famous all over the world. The hallowed memory of that nun is a source of inspiration for millions of people all over the world. It thrills their hearts with happiness. It gives me great joy to say that this young nun, whose mortal remains we are going to inter in a short while, was intimately known to me. I admit the fallibility of human impressions, yet I tell you, as far I my understanding of this nun goes, she will come to be ranked not far behind St. Therese of Lisieux in the matter of sanctity.
Human languages and idioms which belong to this world and are so limited in scope are inadequate to describe divine and supernatural experience. However much I try, my words cannot bring home to you the greatness of Sr. Alphonsa’s soul. It takes a divine language and a speaker from heaven to delineate this holy person’s life, or to expatiate on her spiritual acquisitions and on the working of God’s grace in her [ At this point the preacher dealt with Sr. Alphonsa’s life and virtues. What follow is the peroration which is addressed to Sr. Alphonsa’s relatives]. Therefore friends no one needs to feel and about the demise of this saintly nun Weep no more for her. I consider it the greatest good fortune of my life that I happened to come into close contact with her life. I love and respect her and appreciate her spiritual greatness to the utmost degree possible. Yet I do not regret her death; there is not even the trace of any grief in my heart. On the contrary, my heart is brimful with feelings of ineffable joy.
My happiness springs not from the consideration that death has put an end to her unrelieved suffering. It springs from the happy thought that we have now a patroness in heaven to intercede for us, one who is our own, she having been on the closest terms with us.
My messages to the deceased sister’s father is this: weep no more. Rejoice that you have been the father of a saintly person. Sr. Alphonsa’s elder sister is here and let me tell her the same thing. Weep no more but rejoice in being the elder sister of a saintly soul. Instead of mourning her death Sr. Alphonsa’s fellow sisters should feel proud that they have been privileged to live with this heroic nun and to nurse and take care of her. Blessed indeed is the convent in the cloisters of which she lived out her days in union with God. The village of Bharananganam within whose bounds this body will be buried is also greatly blessed for, God willing, this sleepy little village will become the Lisieux of India. Sr. Alphonsa’s tomb here will become a centre of pilgrimage and people will come here from all parts of India to pray to her seeking her intercession. Bishops no doubt, and cardinals themselves if God is so pleased, will visit her tomb though she is an obscure nun now.
If this is true, you might wonder why we must go through these rituals aimed at securing peace for the departed soul. Personally I am not disposed to pray for her, I would rather pray to her, seeking her intercession. But the Church is infallible and its polices must be complied with. Human nature being what it is, it is not unlikely that she might have had some imperfections or that some very minor defect could have lurked in her. So let us pray for the remission of these imperfections or defects during the course of the funeral service.