Jour­ney of ac­cep­tance

A pil­grim­age on be­half of an ail­ing friend turns into a test of en­durance and ded­i­ca­tion.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - LIVING - by T. SELVA

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 tsel­vas@thes­tar.com.my. 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.

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