Memorial tributes to Osthathios Thirumeni
- Mar Osthathios: The One Who Walked The Talk
We all grow up hearing about exceptionally great men and women �� Gandhiji, Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa and others. But somehow, they all seem too far away, beyond the reach of common humanity. Even locally acclaimed saints like Parumala Thirumeni and Pampady Thirumeni remain distant from us, standing at �unattainable� heights. All these noble souls have left their magnified vignettes in people�s minds and hence most of them don�t appear real and life�like. As Einstein spoke of Gandhiji, �generations to come will scarce believe that such a man as this one, ever in flesh and blood, walked upon this earth.� But Dr. Geevarghese Mar Osthathios Metropolitan need not be put on such a high pedestal. Thirumeni was real, life�like, down to earth and every inch a human being.
No bishop or priest or layman has influenced our churchmen in the 20th century as much as this �unorthodox� bishop. But this was no mass appeal gimmick. The sincerity with which he stuck to his beliefs and teachings and his passion for mission raised Thirumeni head and shoulders above most of his contemporaries. People immediately realized that here was at least one who �walked his talk�.
My first glimpse of the great bishop was in 1975 at the OCYM camp at MGM High School, Thiruvalla. His Grace had just been consecrated a bishop. And I was a pre-degree student in mid teens. A bishop who eats and sleeps with you, one who cracks jokes, clarifies your doubts and even hears confessions was truly a great wonder for all of us. For many youngsters, Thirumeni was the very reason for continuing in the Mother Church. And his charisma didn�t dim even in his extreme old age.
There were many sterling qualities that adorned his inimitable personality. One that appealed to me greatly is his simple and austere life style. The bishop who always stood for the poor never wanted any frills or luxuries in life and that gave him credibility. Another remarkable quality is the transparency Thirumeni showed in maintaining accounts. People could generously and confidently give him their contributions with the good faith that it would be properly utilized for meaningful purposes.
Yet another remarkable trait was Thirumeni�s concern for the poor. I was eye � witness to one incident. There was a feast in village parish. After the Holy Qurbana and breakfast, Thirumeni was about to leave when the Vicar handed over an envelope to Thirumeni as �Kaimuthu�. Thirumeni immediately asked the Vicar to call the Chief Altar Servant and the Caretaker (Palli Mooppan). When they came in, Thirumeni asked them about their families and their well�being. Then, opening the envelope, he divided the �Kaimuthu� between the two and drove away after blessing all of us who were standing there impressed at this unprecedented act of charity. To us, it was a new experience, but to the prophet of caring and sharing, maybe it was a routine act of benevolence.
I have seen Thirumeni poring over books and periodicals even after his eyesight began failing. And his passion for spreading the word of God was unquenchable. No bishop or priest of our church would have spoken to multitudes in the convention pandals and churches as many times and for as many hours as Thirumeni has.
Last of all, let me recall an incident which struck the deepest chords of my heart. Almost a decade ago, I was invited to speak at Kallooppara Convention under Thirumeni�s diocese. Thirumeni was present on the occasion and delivered the introductory remarks. Thirumeni�s eye�sight was feeble and he read out verses from the Bible with the help of an emergency lamp kept close to the lectern. After the introductory remarks, I spoke for an hour and Thirumeni somehow liked the speech very much. He had the kindness to go back to the dais towards the end and speak a few kind words by way of appreciation. This gracious act of condescension overwhelmed me. But the best was yet to come. After the concluding prayers, Thirumeni called me aside, put his right hand on my head and prayed for some minutes to strengthen people like me to carry forward the light of the gospel. At the end, I couldn�t but notice the tears that ran down Thirumeni�s cheeks. How can I, unworthy and sinful servant of God, forget the great soul? May Thirumeni�s prayers be a refuge and fort for all of us!
Prof. Jacob Kurian Onattu,
Principal, Baselius College, Kottayam.
- Dear Prof. Jacob Onattu,
Thanks for that enlightening mail and message.
My grandfather Mathai Easaw Sir was the guru of Osthathios Thirumeni at Mavelikara Boys HS and my father was his junior in School.
Thirumeni had great respect for his gurus, in that till my grandfather and grandmother were alive in Chennithala, Mavelikara, whenever he used to cross our house at Kallummoodu, he used to visit both of them. It shows a hidden trait of Thirumeni of love and respect for his gurus till their death.
MV George achen's well famous chant, my father used to sing to us, "patthuvasthram dharichone, shubhravasthra dhaariye, laasarine marakkalle, laaasarine marakkalle .. "
Thirumeni's love of service for the downtrodden is by now known to everyone. True example of what a priest should be..
Even at my weddding, the kaimuthu given to Thirumeni was receipted on behalf of St Pauls Mission, Mavelikara.