SAID BY Mar Mathew Kavukattu
Usually people forget many leaders soon after their death. But real great men of high spiritual stature are remembered even centuries after their death. People imitate them and copy their virtues. Puthenparampil Thommechan is one such whom people of Kerala are venerating - and trying to imitate. He set us a model. Considering his times, he was a revolutionary leader. Some misunderstood him. They questioned his bonafides. Many doubted the Wisdom of a family man daring forth into spiritual leadership. His life was incompatible with that of the neighbours. He had to face even ecclesiastical opposition.
Pioneers have always had to face hurdles which give way only slowly. Such was the case with Thommechan. But in the end everything cleared up. His love of God and man was vindicated.
Thommechan modeled himself on St. Francis and his message of poverty and renunciation. The gospel sense of fraternal clarity had disappeared and Francis seemed to revive all the gospel values and incorporate them in his daily life. He could transform the Middle Ages so thoroughly. His reforms permeated both Catholics and non-Catholics.
Thommechan's contemporaries found in him a model worthy of emulation. The third order he founded was a powerful tool in this regard. It is now grown much more and is yielding plenty of good fruits. Trees are known by their fruits. Good tertiaries are a powerful impact on newly formed societies.
Thommechan was a humble man and he reared a big 'order' for the whole of Kerala. We celebrated his Silver and Golden jubilees. He gave us family people a religious order, a religious living, changing the age-old convention of piety being reserved for the religious only.
I have heard may father mention Thommechan. According to him, Thommechan was an Apostle who zealously worked for the Third Order foregoing rest, sleep and food even. There were few followers. Even to don the garb of the tertiary was a heroic act at that time. Facing all odds, he travelled around and about the country establishing the Third Order, which challenges us to live like Francis and Christ, whom we should mirror.
SAID BY. Benedict Mar Gregorios
It is significant that Fr Palakkunnel has recorded that the tertiary activities of Puthenparampil Thommechan are a hint to the miracles God is going to perform in our midst. Edathua of Kerala which has given a great man like Puthenparampil Thommechan will never be let down by God.
Lay people should offer more active cooperation with the church. The best means to effect such increased co-operation is joining the Third Order of St. Francis.
The church is of the lay people. Priests and Bishops are their ministers. This is the official teaching of the church. Thommechan believed that the church was of the laymen. Fr. Palakkunnel believed that God would work miracles in Kerala. So did Thommechan. But it can happen, if you also cooperate. We in Kerala have not really done our catholic duty in Kerala yet. Unless we copy Thommechan's examples, God will not work wonders in our midst.
Distinguishing marks of a Good Christian are not the church and the cross. It is fraternal love. It can be shown by donating money and goods. But all of us can't do it. Not all, need do it too. We can build hospitals and orphanages. A time may come when even that may not be possible. There is yet another way of showing our love: Love the others, heartily, known them, honour them, live for them, identify our interest with theirs. No one can displace us from this third arena of showing and practicing our love. Be all things to all men. This is the Christian ideal. It is the Franciscan ideal. It is this that motivated Thommechan also.
It was St. Francis of Assisi, who followed Christ intimately, who founded the Franciscan Fraternity. The Franciscan III Order is a branch of this Franciscan Fraternity. The Franciscan III Order was established in Kerala towards the end of the 19 century. The Franciscan Clarist Congregation was founded by a group of pious ladies who were members of the III Order.
Franciscan III Order Secular was founded in Kerala by Sri. Thomman Louis Puthenparambil a native of Edathuva under Verapoly Diocese. It was his personal effort that brought the Order all over Kerala. He collected a group of lay men with religious fervour and in 1864 started a life of prayer and penance at the age of 28.Later on, when Mr. Thommachan happened to go through the Constitution of the III Order received from Rev. Fr. Devassia Ottappunnackal, Thottekkadu, he began to live accordingly. In 1868 he received the official habit of III Order from Rev. Fr. Palakkunnel at the Church of Kurumbanadam.
They obtained their Constitution approved from Verapoly Archbishop’s house in 1874.The Order could establish about 50 units in the different parts of the Archdiocese due to the efforts of Mr. Thommachan by 1888. In the year 1889, the feast of St. Francis was celebrated at Punthoppe. Bishop Lavigne was also present there for the occasion. He selected Punthoppe as the centre of 10 units and Mr. Thommachan was elected the general leader of the III Order. Mr. Thommachan left for his eternal reward on 1 November 1909.
Thus the Franciscan III Order which was started in Kerala by Mr. Thomman Louis, Puthenparampil became well - established all over Kerala. The unit which was formed in the parish of Palai in 1875 was one of the flourishing units of the III Order. Some of the ladies of this unit wanted to commit themselves to God leading a full Franciscan life. These pious ladies belonged to very ancient and noble catholic families. They had inherited from Mr. Thommachan the real spirit of poverty, simplicity and a penitential life of prayer and penance. They wished to form themselves into a religious community and live a life of deep spirituality. These pious ladies who had deep faith and strong convictions became the pillars on which F.C.C. was built. The role model for these ladies was Mr. Thommachan who by his example and inspiring words strengthened the first mothers in all their problems. He was a source of support and strength for them. He exhorted them to turn to the Eucharistic Lord in all their problems. They could give great witnessing value through their lives by serving the poor and the neglected and engaging themselves in doing humble, hard physical labour.