The sacrificial life of Devasahayam Pillai was celebrated in South Indian town of Aralvaimozhi, in Kanniyakumari, Tamil Nadu, on January 14. According to church authorities, Kottar diocese reduced the celebration to two days due to the pandemic.
The Catholic Church considers Blessed Devashayam Pillai as a person of unflinching faith who sacrificed his life for his faith in the erstwhile princely state of Travancore in the 18th century.
Pope Francis will canonize Devasahayam Pillai and six others during a canonization Mass in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, on May 15, 2022. The Congregation for the Causes of Saints announced the canonization on November 9, 2021.
Bishop Emeritus Peter Remigius of Kottar called on the devotees to be a witness to Christ like Devasahayam.
"When individual start to live for Christ certainly, they do for human beings those the one happens poor," Bishop Remigius said during the solemn mass on day one.
Father. V. Hilarius, the vicar general of Kottar diocese, invited pilgrims to imitate the genuineness of Devasahayam.
"Devasahayam bore suffering for the glory of Jesus Christ and in sacrifice towards the weak and impoverished," the priest said during the second-day celebration.
Father Michael George Bright, the parish priest of Our Lady of Sorrows Church, Aralvaimozhi, stated that the organizers had taken precautions by distributing masks, dispensing sanitizer, testing temperature and maintaining social distance.
"We followed regulations of the government with the full cooperation of the parishioners and with the support of the police," said Father Michael George Bright.
The priest said that the "celebration would protect people from this disease. It would remove the misery of suffering and guide the lives of devotees with the blessings of Devasahayam."
Born on April 23, 1712, as Neelakanda Pillai, in the village of Nattalam, into a feudal Nair family, he grew up to become an official in the service of King Mathanda Varma, the most powerful ruler of Travancore, which encompassed southern Kerala and parts of Tamil Nadu.
After the Kulachal war, he came under the spell of Dutch captain Eustacheus Benedictus De Lenoy, who, being caught a war prisoner, later joined Marthanda Varma's forces.
De Lenoy was believed to be instrumental in Pillai's conversion to Christianity. He was baptized as a Catholic by a Jesuit priest in 1745.
He assumed the name 'Lazarus' or 'Devasahayam' in the local language, meaning 'God is my help.'
According to church chroniclers, Pillai's conversion was taken as an affront by the feudal lords of the day and they repeatedly persuaded him to give up his new faith.
False charges of treason and espionage were brought against him. He was divested of his post in the royal administration. He was imprisoned and subjected to harsh persecution.
As Pillai stood firm, he was arrested and tortured for three years and finally taken to a remote place and shot dead on January 14, 1752.
Devasahayam was declared Blessed on December 2, 2012, in Kottar, 300 years after his birth.
Sites linked with his life and martyrdom are in Kottar Diocese, Kanyakumari District of Tamil Nadu. His tomb at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral in Nagercoil attracts large numbers of faithful.
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