His Birth and Early Childhood
Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was born on 18-05-1910 to his parents Savarirayan and Savariammal at KovandaKurichy, a small village in the Taluk of Lalgudi in the civil district of Thiruchirapalli, Tamilnadu, South India. He was the second child in the family. He was baptized on 18-08-1910 at Our Lady’s Church, Vadugarpet the Parish to which belonged the village, Kovandakurichy. At present Kovandakurichy is a parish by itself. He was baptized three months after his birth.
Death of his Mother, Savariammal
The health and hygiene of the people was not so improved as it is perhaps now. Due to poor health, his mother Savariammal died within a few days after his birth. Poor access to health care center posed their situation worse and his father, Savarirayan, had to accept the plan of God. His father married one Maria Selvam and both left for Sri Lanka in search of job. The baby boy, S.Lourdusamy, as he was called then, was entrusted to the care of Saundiriammal, youngest sister of Savariammal. People did not have enough food. The main source of income was sheep rearing which the relatives of Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan did and managed to bring him up and educated him up to primary school level. He did his first standard at Vadugarpet. He persued the second, third and fourth standards at R.C.School, Pullambadi. The then parish Priest of Megalathur, Fr. A. Xavier who was his relative, brought him to Megalathur and made him do the fifth standard at the Primary School, Megalathur.
Saundiriammal approached Fr. A. Xavier, for guidance and support. Under his guidance he was sent to St Joseph’s High School at Cuddalore. It was known for its discipline and knowledge. Many boys, who were to be prepared for priesthood in future, were identified by their parish priests and were sent to this school so that the students may be prepared spiritually, emotionally and intellectually before they could be selected to be sent to minor seminary for formation. His Headmaster was Rev. Fr.Virgiar; Rev. Fr. Escat and Rev. Fr. Xavier were the wardens in the Hostel. He pursued his high school studies from 1923 up to 1930.
After his high school studies, Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was sent to St Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye, Kerala in 1932. Rev. Fr. A. Xavier was responsible for his education and seminary formation. It was he who would have instilled in him a desire to become a priest. Servant of God Lourdu Savier Savarirayan received the seminary formation from 1932 to 1938 under the rectorship of Rev. Fr. John Joseph OCD. Rev. Fr. Aurelian OCD and Fr. Zacharias OCD were his professors. He was ordained a priest on 20-12-1938 at St. Joseph’s Pontifical Seminary, Alwaye, Kerala by His Grace Most Rev. Joseph Attipetty, the then Archbishop of Verapoly.
Lourdu samy, as his baptism records reveals, changed his name into V.S.Lourdu Xavier. The letter ‘V’ Stands for his native parish ‘VADUGARPET’ where he was brought up and where he received the faith, inflamed at his baptism and enkindled at many occasions by parish priests. He was so attached to his parish which gave him the faith, elementary education and occasion to grow in faith that he wanted to add to his name Vadugarpet. Hence the letter ‘V’ stands for his parish ‘Vadugarpet’. The letter ‘S’ stands for his father’s name Savarirayan. It is the custom in Tamilnadu that the name of father becomes the surname of son. He has changed his name ‘Lourdu Samy’ into Lourdu Xavier by adding ‘Xavier’ to express his gratitude towards Fr. A. Xavier who was a guiding force and support from his younger age up to his priesthood. Hence he called himself as Rev. Fr. V. S. Lourdu Xavier. It is very evident how grateful Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was to his parish and to the priest who supported him and nurtured his faith. He has been always a man of gratitude acknowledging the favours received from God through the intercession of Blessed Virgin Mary.
His Ministry at Koovathur 1938-1948
He was appointed as the parish priest of Koovathur in 1938 by the Most Rev. Peter Francis, Bishop of Kumbakonam. Koovathur is a parish situated on the main road from Jeyangondam to Srimushnam. 15 kilometers from Jeyangondam. The parish has a long history of Saint John De Britto, a Jesuit missionary to have stayed and carried out his pastoral ministry. Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was blessed to start his pastoral ministry from the parish where St. John De Britto worked. No information about his ministry was known from the parish diary. From the elderly people, information was gathered; he was an ardent and zealous priest having very strong faith in God and strong devotion to BVM.
In 1948 he was transferred to Tholurpatty, a parish which was in existence up to 1965 when the parish was suppressed and attached to the parish of Thottiam due to migration of Catholics to nearby towns. When he took charge of Tholurpatty, the area was full of leprosy patients. The Health care system was not efficient and no proper medicine and treatment were found for leprosy. In such a situation, he started a hospital for leprosy patients and managed to run it with the donations from the local people.
Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan after an experience of 15 years as a priest and having experienced God’s Providence all through his life from his childhood was found to be an apt person to spread the devotion of BVM from Poondi. Poondi was erected a parish on January 4, 1945 by His Excellency Most Rev Peter Francis. Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan took charge of the parish just 10 years after its erection. As a small parish with hardly 50 Catholic families at the head quarters, it was in the midst of thickly populated Hindus. The parish had many substations; the Catholics in most of these were Dalit Christians who were looked down upon by the High Caste Hindus.
He became sick and diabetic. During the last years of his life he was admitted in the Child Jesus Hospital at Trichy where he was taking treatment and rest. However he did not give up meeting his people and guiding them in their difficulties. He died on 15-04-1972 at the age of 62 and was buried under the tower in the Basilica of Our Lady of Poondi on 16-04-1972.
Heroic Virtues of Strong Faith in God and Filial Devotion to the BVM and Works of Charity
As we have noted in his Biography, Servant of God Loudu Xavier Savarirayan was born in a poor family and his parents had to leave for Sri Lanka as they did not find work in their native place. He grew under the care of the younger sister of his mother, Mrs. Saundiriammal. Rearing sheep and cattle was their main source of income. In fact he was sent to take care of the cattle as he was very a small boy. Pitied at his miserable situation, others advised his relatives to send him back to school. His relatives approached Fr. A. Xavier, the then parish priest at Megalathur. He helped him for his primary school education and he kept him for one year at Megalthur to complete his V standard. His family situation and poverty experienced at a very young age, made him cultivate a very strong faith in God and the Divine Providence shown through the human agents such as Fr. A. Xavier.
Situation at Tholurpatty
Another situation which has shaped him very much was his ministry at Tholupatty. When he took charge of the parish in 1948, the area was affected by leprosy which was then considered very contagious. Many leprosy patients were abandoned by their families and he took interest in taking care of them by establishing a Leprosy Hospital. He began to run it with the donation of well – wishers. It was there he developed strong faith in the Providence of God. The people too had a deep faith in God even though they were affected by leprosy.
Man of Strong Faith in God
Already his childhood was embittered by poverty and sickness. His family was so poor that he was sent to graze cattle in the dry fields around his village. As he grew, he experienced the special grace of God who took care of him. The family situation made him understand that God who created him would not abandon him at any cost. When human support failed, Divine mercy and Providence overshadowed him. He never saw the face of his mother as she died within a few days after his birth. His father also was not with him. In such a situation of being like an orphan from his birth he began to experience God instilling strong faith in Him. During his ministry at Tholurpatty, Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan learned to translate his ardent faith into action – helping the leprosy patients who were doomed and thrown out of the society as a curse. His Charity towards the poor and the suffering stemmed from his strong faith in God who does not abandon any one.
His Ministry in Poondi 1955-9172
Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan after an experience of 15 years as a priest and having experienced God’s Providence all through his life from his Childhood, was found to be an apt person to spread the devotion to BVM in Poondi. Poondi was erected a parish on January 4, 1945 by His Excellency Most Rev Peter Francis. As a small parish with hardly 50 Catholic families at the head quarters, it was in the midst of thickly populated Hindus. The parish had many substations in most of which were Dalit Christians. To work in such a small parish with socially divided communities, it was his strong faith in God and devotion to BVM that stood in good stead laboring enthusiastically in and around Poondi. He found the parish had been dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. He slowly began to understand that the Blessed Virgin Mary has Chosen the place to spread among the people strong faith in God. He found himself as an instrument to spread the same faith. He experienced an inner call to a deeper realization of faith in Triune God. Many devotees began to flock to Poondi .He soon realized the need for a new Church and a pilgrim quarters. He realized also that he was in the hands of Our Lady of Poondi. It was a dream to put up a new Church when he was penniless and struggling hard for bare maintenance of the parish. In such a situation, he had an intuitive knowledge that very shortly the damaged nave of the old church was to collapse without causing any harm to anybody. And it did occur on 23-11-1956. He has written in the parish diary by his own hand: “23.11.1956 Collapse of the central nave of the old Church at 1 p.m. an incident with pervious information by our Divine Mother that without any accident the wing would collapse”. He was deeply convinced that it was a miracle. When he did not find enough money, the work was carried out through different ways unthinkable to human mind. Till his death, he promoted devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. He spent most of his time in meeting different people who used to flock to Poondi with various needs and problems. He found them deeply distressed at the verge of hopelessness. All he did was to instill in them again the rays of new hope and faith in God . He directed all to the Church to spend time in prayer. He freed them from their depressed state of life. He gave them new hope and faith in God. If you believe in God and pray to Him through our Lady of Poondi, all grace and favours will be received. During the last years of his life, he was struck by illness especially diabetes. His legs were swollen and he was not able to move freely. But he never neglected his work of strengthening the pilgrims in faith. He was a hope for hopeless. He learned some native medicine and began to administer it to those who sought his assistance. With prayers, he healed many ailments. His conviction was that he was called to be a priest to experience the deep faith in God and to instill the same Faith in the minds of people. His strong devotion to BVM made the people approach our Lady of Poondi with simple and filial faith. Thousands of people were coming to the Shrine of Poondi. Poondi became a place where people can meet God and His divine intervention through the assistance of BVM. People irrespective of caste and creed visited the Shrine. It was Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan who made the devotion to our Blessed Mother known far and wide and instilled in them all new rays of faith in God. A strong faith as it was expressed by BVM would be enough to receive favours from Him through Poondi Madha. He found himself chosen by God to be an instrument to impart strong faith to those who met him in a saddened, depressed and hopeless situation tormented by different family problems, worries, financial burden and physical and psychological sickness. He was a champion of faith and strong devotion to BVM. He lived his faith deeper enough to lead people to the faith; he translated his faith experience into action showing concern towards poor and needy. All those who visited him received something or other.
FILIAL DEVOTION TO THE BLESSED VIRGIN MOTHER
The experience of deprivation from his parents taught him from the inception of his childhood to have deep faith in God. He would have experienced moments of loneliness, financial constraints, etc. which God overthrew through the human agent such as Fr. A. Xavier. Man who strongly felt at all times, maternal protection of BVM practiced the virtue of faith in a very heroic way. He not only practiced faith in such a way but also was an effective instrument to instill in the hearts of thousands of people who met him in hopeless situation.
WORKS OF CHARITY
Already when he was alive, his saintly character was known to people who visited the Shrine of Our Lady of Poondi. The devotees felt that he had a privileged place in the heart of Our Lady of Poondi who listened to his prayers and worked at times wonders which otherwise in human thinking were impossible. He was a man who answered to the hue and cry of the people in a very definite way assuring them that such would surely happen and it so happened. It was not in one or two cases but almost in all cases when suffering people approached him and got relived of their sickness and other problems. People, who had physical ailments family problems, personal crisis, financial loss, had answers to their problems. He has been a powerful intercessor. This he did both in his life time and life after his death. It has been the faith of the people that they can be cured if they sleep by the side of the tomb of Rev. Fr. V. S. Lourdu Xavier.
FOOD FOR THE HUNGRY
Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was a man who could not keep quiet when someone came with empty stomach. He used to give him something to eat or he would give some money so that the hungry man could first buy something and eat. The saintly priest was very much aware that preaching to a hungry stomach makes no sense. He was showing the same gesture of Jesus Christ when He found his listeners hungry. Rev.Fr. V.S. Lourdu Xavier did not leave any of those who approached him with empty stomach. The same attempt is carried out at the Basilica of our Lady of Poondi even today by providing Anna Dhanam i.e., feeding the hungry on Saturdays of every month. There were many miracles which took place through the intercession of BVM. Many people wrote letters thanking him for the favours received, healing they experienced and problems solved in their personal and family life. All who came to him received something or the other. None was left empty handed. He practiced an extraordinary form of charity. Even if he did not have anything for himself, he would find someone to help the poor. His practice of charity is observed to the maximum through his interest shown towards the leprosy patients at Tholurpatty. He died on 15-04-1972 and was buried under the tower of the Church on16-04-1972. Even after his death, many who have faith in his words come and pray in his tomb and many witness healing through his powerful intercession.
REPUTATION OF THE SANCTITY OF SERVANT OF GOD LOURDU XAVIER SAVARIRAYAN
Already when Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan was at Koovathur, people knew him for his sanctity. They used to come and ask his blessing for healing. When he blessed, they were healed. They all understood that he was a man of prayer and sanctity.
His sanctity was again witnessed by the people at Tholurpatty. They found him a man of God and one who experienced God in his life. They used to ask for his prayers.
His saintly life was blossoming at Poondi under the special protection of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He made it a point to meet and listen to people, their problems and difficulties and spent hours in prayer before the BVM. And on the following day he used to give them answers in concrete terms giving them full of hope.
People claimed him to be a visionary experiencing the maternal care of the BVM and praying to her in a special way for those who came to Poondi with chronic illnesses. One day it happened that a bed – ridden man was healed miraculously. People believed him to be a saintly man. Those who had met him testified to the fact that a spiritual power was within him and he was able to see the future and guide them. One of the very concrete examples was the fall of the middle portion of the damaged and old Church which he wanted to build again. He knew it on the previous day and it did happen as he foretold it. The whole old edifice fell down when there was no one around.
His saintly life was further seen in his strong endurance of pain during his last years. He was highly diabetic and he was admitted in the Child Jesus Hospital, Trichy. Never had he grumbled at his sickness. Instead he continued to meet the people and carried on his ministry even if he was suffering and bed-ridden.
Servant of God Lourdu Xavier Savarirayan died indeed a holy man and his sanctity was known to the people far and wide. They asked for his prayers and expressed their gratitude through letters. Such is not possible if the man was not truly a saint during his life time.
Many devotees who visit the basilica of Our Lady of Poondi, spend time at his tomb praying and thanking God for the favours received. No doubt such a conviction grew among people as spontaneous reaction accepting Rev.Fr.V.S.Lourdu Xavier a powerful intercessor in Heaven.