Journey of acceptance
A pilgrimage on behalf of an ailing friend turns into a test of endurance and dedication.
ALL major places of worship are known to have powerful healing qualities owing to the peaceful energies emanating from such sites.
Inspired by the stories of spiritual cures people have experienced at one of the most significant Roman Catholic shrines dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health, I made a trip to the Velankani Church in Nagapattinam in India early this month.
Upon arrival after my 350km drive from Chennai, I was greeted by the sight of an awesome white building with ethereal architecture which immediately eased my tired nerves and relaxed my senses.
The church is located by the shores off the Bay of Bengal and it promotes a pleasant holy atmosphere which reminded me of images in fairy-tale storybooks.
It dates back to the 16th century, when it became an important site following miracles of a crippled milk vendor boy being cured of his illness and the survival of Portuguese sailors after a violent storm at sea.
My main purpose for travelling to the church was to do the holy knee walk ritual for my pilot friend who has been grounded for five months because he is suffering from a lung ailment.
He is seeking divine intervention because modern medicine failed to give him the desired results and he has become dependent upon an oxygen cylinder to support his breathing.
Since he was unable to travel, I did the 1km knee walk on his behalf to signify devotion, surrender and an appeal for a miracle from the Lord.
The path is said to be where the Mother first appeared before a shepherd boy and it is now called the Sacred Path; people of all ages suffering from all manner of ailments walk on their knees on this stretch from the church to the chapel.
As I went down on my knees at 7pm on the sand pit built especially for this walk of commitment, it suddenly felt like I was carrying something heavy on my shoulders.
My experience was described as hauling a lot of “baggage” in my life and I was asked to complete the journey to relieve the pressure.
I knelt in silence and read out my friend’s name and included six other names before saying a prayer requesting divine grace upon him before I began my walk, joined by several other young and old devotees.
Fifteen minutes into the walk, my knees were wobbly and aching because of the coarse sand, which I could feel through the covering of my trousers.
I started to sway and was forced to stop briefly and change to a crawl. Thoughts rushed into my mind about my past and present, feelings of regret and questions about why I was doing this daunting act.
My tears flowed freely and blended with my sweat as I dragged myself through the damp sand. Several devotees chanting prayers who overtook me gave me the courage to complete my mission.
A friend who joined me abandoned the walk halfway citing aching knees, but I was determined to finish because I had vowed to do it for my sick friend back home.
It took me 90 minutes to complete the walk which some did in 30 minutes, and as I got up feeling liberated, I realised that my knees were bleeding.
The walk stripped away my ego and gave me many messages about life and its purpose, which is to serve people selflessly and unconditionally without expectations.
I have performed similar divine rituals at other holy places of different faiths, like climbing up 4,000 steps or dipping into freez- ing water, but the knee walk was one of the most painful and challenging.
Upon completing it, I offered my prayers at the chapel and shrine which radiated hope, strength and confidence that all would be well.
Devotees also lit candles to burn away their health problems and deposited small silver replicas of the organs they are seeking to cure in a box at the church.
I collected blessed water and coconut oil for my friend and also purchased a lock and attached it to the church fence to place my friend’s health issues there.
More than three million pilgrims visit Velankani annually now and its popularity has made it known as the Lourdes of the East.
Velankani acquired the status of a parish in 1771 and the church building was raised to the status of basilica in 1962 by Pope John XXIII.
Portuguese sailors who escaped from the severe storm built an 8m shrine with a dome as a show of appreciation.
When the catastrophic Indian Ocean tsunami hit the shore on Dec 26, 2004, many pilgrims were inside the church 100 metres away from the sea and they witnessed a miracle. The water did not enter the church although the disaster claimed many lives elsewhere along the coastline.
It has been over 20 days since I returned and each time I nursed the wounds on my knees, which are slowly healing, it reminded me of my sacred dedication of fullfillment.
I went with expectations for my friend but I returned with acceptance.
My friend who applied the oil on his chest and drank the holy water sent me a text message early this week saying he was feeling better.
Four days ago, he was off his oxygen and flew to Jordan.
Vasthu Sastra talk
T. Selva will present a talk on ancient secrets, Vasthu Sastra and astrology forecast for 2014 from 11am to 1pm on March 29 at Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar), Petaling Jaya Campus, 9 Jalan Bersatu 13/4, Petaling Jaya. Admission is free; to register, call 012-329 9713.
T. Selva, associate editor at The Star, is the author of the Vasthu Sastra Guide and is the first disciple of 7th-generation Vasthu Sastra master Yuvaraj Sowma from Chennai, India. You can follow him on Twitter @tselvas and write to him at email@example.com. This column appears on the last Sunday of every month.
Passage of the penitent: devotees walking on their knees at the Velankani Church in India.
The candlelight procession at Velankani Church.
The roman Catholic shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Good Health.
devotees sitting in prayer and silence at the chapel at Velankani.