A simple Bishop
- Barnabas Thirumeni is very personally and well known to my father. In the early 1980's Barnabas Thirumeni, at that time Metropolitan of Iddukki dioscese was living in Pothenpuram Dayara, Pampady. I remember my father say that "Thirumeni lived exactly abiding to the will of the Creator". Thirumeni never wanted a luxurious life. He did not believe in pomp and glory. He never wished to be looked upon and exalted like everyone exalts a bishop. His motto was simplicity.
Thirumeni did not have an Aramana at Idduki. He promptly issued receipts to anyone who willing contributed out of their own knowledge towards building the Aramana. Thirumeni made no kind of budget, announcement, campaign or compulsion for building the Aramana. Meanwhile, if any one approached Thirumeni with difficulty, he would only be too obliged to give the person in need a Cheque from the amount collected towards building the Aramana.
Thirumeni did not believe in using his car always for traveling, as he said the cost of Petrol is high. "I'm healthy and the bus can be availed whenever required. If any one wants me to use the car, give me the money towards petrol and I shall use that money for the poor". He used the car to go down hill from Pothenpuram to the bus-stop and avail the private bus services for onward journey, to be later picked up by the driver on return. After Thirumeni had left by bus, the driver would bring the car back to the Dayara and the Dayara manager would then use the car throughout the day to travel places and the car would be back by the time Thirumeni arrived. Thus, Thirumeni's purpose of saving on petrol would be defeated. Even though Thirumeni was aware of the situation, he held his peace.
Thirumeni had a small asbestos shed with two rooms and a Verandah that he called "Aramana" at Idduki. The Verandah was the reception room and the other served as the kitchen and the bed room respectively. Once when my father went to see Thirumeni, Thirumeni was having bath and he came out shortly afterwards, with one cloak (kuppayam) washed and drenched that Thirumeni spread out on a line for drying, while he wore a second that had dried out on the line previously, (truly in conforming to sayings of the Father; do not take with you more than one cloak, for your Father in heaven knows what you need). As Thirumeni was very close to my father, Thirumeni said, "Yenthina sir othiri. Randu kuppayam mathiyalo. See my Aramana and I'm happy that God has given me this, when people out there don't have a shelter above their heads".
Once, Thirumeni was moving among the tribals of Idduki in the monsoon season. He sent Semachen ahead to the next tribal home, to inform that Thirumeni would be visiting them from a nearby tribal home. Semachen came back and told Thirumeni that they did not want Thirumeni there, as the house was leaking, drenched in the monsoon rain and could not afford even a chair for Thirumeni to sit upon. Thirumeni went there and issued a Cheque for Rs. 5000/= from the funds obtained towards building his Aramana, saying "take this and buy tiles for your house. The next time I visit your house, I should see a place free from drenching".
The car of Thirumeni was stolen one day. All those present around advised that a police complaint ought to be filed. Thirumeni said "That's not necessary. Perhaps the thief cherished to own a car and since he could not afford to buy one, he has stolen mine. Don't worry him. Let his wish be accomplished" and so further hunting for the lost car was abandoned.
One evening, I was once in Madras Central station to see off a cousin by Trivandrum Mail, when I noticed a lean, tired and worn out small lean bishop, with a bag in one hand and a small parcel in the other. I realized that it was Barnabas Thirumeni and I followed behind and entered the sleeper coach and waited patiently. The small parcel near Thirumeni's bag was a meager dinner.
Thirumeni came out of the wash room, tired looking. I kissed his hand. Thirumeni told me that he had come to visit a patient in Adayar cancer institute. On further discussion, I realized that Thirumeni arrived from Ankamali by the morning train and was with the patient throughout the day and leaving by the evening train to Ankamali, in time to be present for the Sunday service the next morning. I sought Thirumeni's blessings (which I'm sure is with me today) and as I took leave and walked down the platform, I thought to myself "what splendid service- traveling all the way to Chennai and back in a day, to pray for some patient, paying from his own pocket, no Semachen to assist, no A/c travel. What a Thirumeni! So simple, not having the slightest feeling of being authoritive or commanding, but humbling himself to the extent possible". I said to myself "surely not a wooden bishop with a golden cross".
Recall H.H. Mathews II Bawa hand picked Barnabas Thirumeni to settle the dispute in America.
I'm sure many would have witnessed the very simple, modest and soft spoken Barnabas Thirumeni. Indeed we have a "Golden Bishop with a Wooden Cross"
No wonder people say "Barnabas Thirumeni is the next Parumala KochuThirumeni"
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.