THE GROTTO OF OUR LADY OF LOURDES,
Want to go; where the faithful gather in thousands on 15th of August, 2014 at
Virapandian Pattinam, to have a feeling of being in France in front of the grotto of our
Lady of Lourdes. With the pristine beauty and fervent soulful atmosphere, you may
witness this august gathering of the parishioners, religious, and the pilgrims all around
St. Thomas Church to venerate our Mother in the magnificent grotto built in 1914. It is a
100th Anniversary of soulful celebration of thanks giving. The Spirit of every one will
rejoice for all that favours received through the intercession of Mother Virgin Mary.
On this glorious occasion, I feel it a bounden duty to revive our history to find out the
noble person who helped Mother Mary’s veneration extensive. He is Sri (late) Soosai
Velichore Villavarayer of Pattinam. His ‘Better Half’ Smt. (late) Anthonial Jebamalai
Villavarayee was the motivator of every good deed done by him. They believed that
Spiritualism and Humanism as one and the same. Their 13 years old daughter Lourdu
Maria Salomi and their son Soosai Vichenthi (Vincent) aged 19 died in the years 1910 &
1911 respectively. The mystery of Calvary and the sorrows of Mother Mary might have
given them the spiritual strength to withstand the sudden & premature departure of
their lovely young children one after another. That is why in 1913, a replica of Calvary
was built on the graves of their children with Gothic architecture. Crucified Jesus with
His Mystical Body and His Mother and Disciple standing at the foot of the cross evoke
every one’s compassion & spirituality.
The heart-breaking PAIN 0F OUR MOTHER might have kindled the souls of Sri Velichore
Villavarayer, and his wife to erect the grotto to honour and to spread the devotion our
divine Mother. We are grateful to him. Also we thank the architect hailed from Manapad,
the masons, and the labourers in raising this serene & splendid grotto with architectural
marvel & aesthetic beauty. His grandson Sri Nelson Villavarayer, also a philanthropist
and humanist as his ancestors, proved the mantle of his hereditary. In living in Sri Lanka
he took all the efforts to magnify the glory of our Mother in celebrating the 100th year
Anniversary with splendid renovation works of the grotto. By this, he cherishes the
vision of his grandfather and his family in propagating the devotion of Virgin Mary.
In dedicating the Month of May to our Mother, every evening we recite Rosary and
prayers and get the Benediction of Eucharist. With gratitude, at the end of the
devotions, we pray for the departed souls of Sri Velichore Villavarayer and his wife
Jebamalai Villavarayee to rest in heavenly peace. It is a century old custom of the
newlywed couple of Pattinam to pray Lourdhu Matha in front of the grotto and get the
blessings. Also, it is the custom of our churchgoers to pray in front of the grotto. On
death of the immortal priests of our soil, in reverence we lay them to rest in the grotto.
When we pray for the repose of the souls at the graves of our Reverend Fathers –
Alphonse Maria Kagoo, Lambert Miranda, Viladmir V. Rayer, V.P.Oswald V.Rayer and
Germanus P.Rayer, we not only recollect their untiring missions of faith, but also their
spirit & zeal rekindle our hearts & minds to strengthen our belief in Catholic Church in
spreading the message of our Lord.
The clan of Velichore Villavarayer & Jebamalai Villavarayee are known to be the ardent
Catholics. The Bell ‘Angelus’ ringing at our Church since 1900 (over 113 years) built at
Baltimore in USA was brought by the benevolence of S.T.Thommai Villavarayerwas
(Kombadi), the youngest and the only brother of Jebamali Villavarayee. The previous
small ‘Ther’ (car), the large statue of Lourdu Matha, her golden crown, and the statue of
crucified Jesus at St. Peter’s church are all a few of the symbolic contributions of their
clan in evoking their faith in Crucified Jesus and His Mother, our Advocate & Mediator.
Mother Ignatius Mary and Christy were the nuns from this religious clique.
By throwing the mud of sacrilege on the virginity of Mother Mary, the splinter & self-
exposed groups of various Christian denominations cannot deter the pilgrims of different
religions and beliefs thronging the shrines of Mary called by different names at various
centres throughout the world. Once I became too small in spirit when I witnessed the yell
of prayer by a Muslim lady at the Basilica of our Lady of Good Health at Velankanni. I also
know the people from the CSI (Church of South India), including a famous lawyer, in
making regular visits to the Shrines at Poondi & Velankanni. Only the Catholic Church is
recognised by the people of other creeds, who fondly call it as ‘Matha Koil’. ‘Hail Mary
full of Grace-The Lord is with you’. Devotion to Mary is undisputable for ever.
Spirituality & Humanism
I am amazed of the generosity, amity and piety of our ancestors who made this village as
renowned & modern. Their ardent faith, spirituality and humanism guided and united the
broken hearts. They have not merely searched their God on the Cross of wooden, but
found Him mainly on the cross of their brethren. That is why they joined together and
formed a philanthropic establishment fondly called as ‘Pannai’ to render yeomen
services in promoting the faith, culture, education, health and essential & social
services such as Co-operative Societies, Village Welfare Committee (Paravar Nala
Peravai), Post Office … a few to quote. All our towering Churches and the Institutions
belong to their earnest efforts & sacrifices. In this grand occasion, we salute them for
their noble services and evoke their blessings to cherish their virtues a reality. We pray
God to give us strength to emulate them.
As the co-ordinator of the ‘ Pannai’, Sri Velichore Villavarayer exhibited his virtues of
managerial skill not only in trading, but also in mobilisation of resources for promotion
of social and spiritual works at our village. His tactful dealings with the business men of
different communities in the erstwhile Ceylon and in India exhibited the mind set of our
villagers who long for peace & tranquillity.
As in the marriage feast at Cana of Galilee, in the festivity of 100th year of the grotto
built in 1914, we humbly invoke the intercession of our Mother Mary to plead her son to
give us not the wine, but the spiritual strength to be an instrument of peace, love,
pardon & faith so as to rejuvenate our ailing souls to bring light, hope and joy to all the
sufferers around, as St. Francis of Assisi prayed. We pray for wisdom and endurance to
be humble by shedding our ego and to make peace everlasting.
My heartfelt thanks & wishes to cherish the endeavours of our ancestors with spiritual
J. Edmond Villavarayen
15 August 2014 – 1/71, Station Road, Virapandian Pattinam- 628 216, Thoothukudi Dist
(TN) India Mb : 7598072087 E-mail : email@example.com
N.B .Velichore Villavarayer’s wife Jebamalai Villavarayee > her own younger sister -
Maria Upakara Albeenammal Villavarayee>her husband - Esthovu Cruz Mascranghas >
their eldest son – Thommai Suvakkeen Mascranghas>his wife Mathelenal Coonghe> their
second daughter- Irudayammal Mascranghas > her husband - Maria Joseph Villavarayer>
their eldest son- J.Edmond Villavarayen.