Apostle Of India – A Catholic Tour In South India
India in general and especially South India in particular has a long history of Christianity which dates back to the days of St. Thomas. Apostle St. Thomas landed in Craganore in present day Kerala around 52 B.C in search of the lost sheep. Long before the time of Jesus Christ, Jewish settlements had flourished in this part of India. The apostle of India, St. Thomas has established a family of Christians in India who trace back their origins to him. The apostolate of St. Thomas has left a permanent mark of Christianity on India sealed by his supreme sacrifice on Mount St. Thomas near Chennai by his very own blood. 7 Churches in Kerala believed to be founded by the apostle St. Thomas himself and the Basilica of St. Thomas in Chennai are places of great interest and reverence to the believing Catholics from all around the world. Particularly St. Thomas Basilica in San Thome, Chennai is one among the only three basilicas, raised over the tomb of the direct disciples of Christ. The other being that of St. Peters in Rome and St. James in Spain. We find both Orthodox and Roman Catholicstracing their roots to St. Thomas Christians in India. It is a generally accepted fact that the relics of the Apostle were later taken to Edessa and thence to Ortona in Italy.
The Basilica of Our Lady of Health, Vailankanni in Tamil Nadu is considered as the Lourdes of the East. Never ending crowds of pilgrims from all over the world have visited this Basilica and carried back favors and benedictions. This Basilica stands tall and professes the faith of the Catholic world in no doubtful terms by its actions and miracles. Mother of Jesus Christ, perpetually prays for every discerning pilgrim who seeks her intercession at this holy place. The offerings and attestations of the miracles by the pilgrims who have been cured of their ailments stand testimony to the graceful intercession of Our Lady of Health, Vailankanni.
Day 01: Chennai
Arrival transfer from Chennai airport to Hotel.
Day 02: Chennai
Morning Chennai sightseeing (Government Museum, St. George Fort, Santhome Cathedral, Marina Beach, St. Mary Basilica (Beasant Nagar) and Loyola College.
Day 03: Chennai – Pondicherry (165Kms / 3 Hrs drive)
Drive to Pondicherry & check in. Visit Pondicherry sightseeing (Aurobindo Ashram, Auroville, Explore the French colony & Villiyanur Matha Church)
Villiyanur Matha Church
The event that attracted the attention of the world in the 19th century was the apparitions of Our Lady at Lourdes, France. These apparitions have taken place in 1858 in between 11th February to 16th July. Mother Mary appeared to a young girl Bernadette 18 times from the grotto called Massabielle and revealed her name as The Immaculate Conception and invited people of all nations to come to Lourdes on pilgrimage. And Our Lady worked the miracle of the spring which still continues to flow for more than a century and the water of which cures thousands of people suffering from various diseases.
Villianur shares its importance , that it is the first shrine constructed for Our Lady of Lourdes in India. Rev.Fr.Tharbes a cousin brother of Bernadette, the visionary of Lourdes, was appointed as the Parish Priest of Villianur mission since he had a direct report of the apparitions of Our Lady of Lourdes. And this church is the first in the world to be named after Our Lady of Lourdes outside Lourdes, France. Added to that one pious Lady has paid for a statue of Our Lady of Lourdes and made it come from Lourdes under the direct supervision of Bernadette. It was on the 4th April 1877 the statue arrived at Pondicherry and was taken to the Cathedral after the three dangerous falls of the box containing the Holy Mother’s Statue.To everybody’s amaze, the statue was intact and beautiful.
It was in 1885 that Archbishop Laouenan went to Rome and reported the numerous miracles that took place in this Shrine to the Holy Father and got permission on February 21st, 1886 to declare this as an official Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Villianur and to crown the statue in his name. On his return from Rome, on 8th May 1886 during a grand celebration, witnessed by around 40,000 people during the pontifical high mass the Archbishop crowned the miraculous statue in the name of the Pope Leo XIII and declared this church as the Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes, Villianur and attached permanent plenary indulgences to this shrine.
On Weekdays – 6.00 am – mass
Saturdays – 6.00 am – mass, 5.30 pm – mass
First Saturday – 5.15 am – first mass, 6.00 am – car procession, 6.30 am – second mass, 5.30 pm – mass, 7.00 pm – Healing prayer
Third Saturday – 5.30 pm – mass followed by Eucharistic Procession & Healing Service
Sundays – 6.00 am – mass, 7.30 am – Second mass, 5.30 pm – Benediction
Day 04: Pondicherry – Velankanni (175Kms / 4Hrs drive)
Drive to Velankanni & check in. Visit Our Lady of Good Health Velankanni Church and attend the Novena Prayers followed by Holy Mass.
Vailankanni was a part of the parish of Nagapattinam, but as pilgrims began to pour into Vailankanni, it was raised to the status of an independent parish in 1771, and Fr. Antonio de Rozario the last parish priest of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, Nagapattinam, was appointed the first Parish priest of Vailankanni. Nagapattinam had always been under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Bishop of the Diocese of Mylapore. During that period the Diocese of Mylapore was administered under the Portuguese ‘Padroado’ (patronage). Under the Padroado system, the king of Portugal in Europe met all the expenses incurred by the Diocese of Mylapore, which remained under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Roman Pontiffs.
Until 1847 the priests of St. Franciscan Missionaries who had looked after the province of Goa and Mylapore also looked after Nagapattinam and Vailankanni. The Franciscan origin and ownership of the Shrine was also perpetuated, by giving the place of honor to two Franciscan saints, St. Anthony of Lisbon and St. Francis of Assisi, on either side of the miraculous image of ‘Our Lady’, on the High Altar until 1961. Besides the last parish priest, Miguel Francisco Fernandez, who was of the Franciscan order, controlled the parish of Vailankanni till 1889. In 1890 the parish was handed over to diocesan priests.
Thereafter, the diocesan priests of the Diocese of Mylapore were in charge of Vailankanni. In 1952, when the new Diocese of Thanjavur came into being, and Vailankanni became a part of the new diocese, the priests of Thanjavur Diocese became the custodians of the Shrine. The administration of the new Diocese was imagesorarily placed under the apostolic administration of the Rt. Rev. Dr. Louis Mathias, S.D.B., who was then the Archbishop of the new Archdiocese of Madras-Mylapore.
On March 19, 1953, His Excellency the Rev. Dr. R. Arokiasamy Sundaram, DD., L. C. L., M. A., a priest of Mylapore Archdiocese was appointed as the first Bishop of the new Diocese of Thanjavur. He assumed charge of his Diocese on March 24, 1953.
Vailankanni being situated in the Thanjavur District came under the jurisdiction of the Diocese of Thanjavur. The Rev. Dr. R. Arokiasamy Sundaram showed keen interest in the development of Vailankanni Shrine and granted special spiritual privileges. ‘Our Lady of Health Vailankanni’ became the second patroness of our newly erected Diocese.
Elevation of the Shrine to the status of a Basilica
The greatest houour that can be conferred to a Church is to elevate it to the status of a Basilica. The word ?Basilica? is derived from the Greek word ?Basilike? and it originally signified a Royal Hall. In course of time this word has come to mean a large and beautiful hall. In ancient times kings from all over the world in general, and from Rome in particular, constructed large hall for administrative purposes. The first hall bearing the name of Basilica existed in Athens.
Jesus Christ being the King of Kings, and His Churches being His audience halls, the larger Christian Churches in Rome came to be called Basilicas.
Today, a Basilica is a consecrated Church usually built with the front facing the East, and generally constructed in one of the classical styles of architecture. It is oblong in shape with a broad nave ending in an apse. It is now stipulated that a church, in order to be called a Basilica, should contain some work of art, or it should contain some work of art, or it should house the body of a saint or a celebrated image much venerated in the land, or be a pre-eminent place of pilgrimage.
His Excellency, Dr. R.A. Sundaram D.D., L.C.L., M.A., the first Bishop of the diocese of Thanjavur, earnestly petitioned Pope John XXIII to raise the Shrine of Vailankanni to the Status of a Basilica and also requested His Holiness to enrich it with all the privileges attached to a Basilica for the spiritual benefit of the pilgrims. In 1962, when Bishop Sundaram went to Rome to attend the second session of the Second Vatican Council, he reiterated his request to the Holy Father personally to raise the Shrine of Our Lady of Vailankanni to the lofty status of a Minor Basilica. After examining the request carefully, His Holiness Pope John XXIII, of saintly memory, issued orders raising the Shrine to the exalted status of a Minor Basilica. Thus the Shrine of Vailankanni became the Shrine Basilica of Vailankanni in November 1962 and was linked to the St. Mary?s Major Basilica in Rome.
Mass Timings – Week Days
5.40 am : Morning Prayer in the Main Shrine
6.00 am : Mass in Tamil in the Main Shrine
7.00 am : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
8.00 am : Mass in Telugu in the Upper Basilica
9.00 am : Mass in Malayalam in the Lower Basilica
10.00 am : Mass in English in the Lower Basilica
11.00 am : Mass in Hindi in the Upper Basilica
12.00 noon : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
6.00 pm : Rosary and Litany in Tamil followed by Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
7.30 am : Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica (Instead of at 7.00 am during the week)
5.00 am : (Additional) Mass in Tamil for the Parishioners of Vailankanni in the Lower Basilica
6.00 pm : Rosary, Novena Prayer, Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
7.00 am : Mass in Tamil at Our Lady?s Tank Chapel
5.45 am : Car Procession of Our Lady of Health around the Shrine Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
6.00 pm : Mass in Tamil Eucharistic Procession around the Shrine Sermon and Benediction from the front view of the Upper Basilica
5.30 pm : Car Procession of Our Lady of Health thought the Beach Road Blessing of the Sick with the Blessed Sacrament Benediction and Mass in Tamil in the Lower Basilica
9.00 pm : A Three-Hour Adoration to the Blessed Sacrament in the Main Shrine
9.00 am : A Healing and Fasting Prayer Service from 9 am to 4 pm at Vailankanni Retreat House
One Hour Intercessory Prayer Service at Our Lady?s Tank Chapel after 7.00 am Mass
6.30 am : Mass in Tamil at Naduththittu Chapel
8.00 pm : Children?s Evangelization Programme in front of the Presbytery
Month of May
Our Lady?s Car Procession around the Shrine on all the days
Day 05: Velankanni – Tanjore – Trichy (185Kms / 4Hrs drive)
Drive to Trichy enroute visit Darasuram (World Heritage Monument Site) a Poetry in Stone, Brigadeswarar Temple (World Heritage Monument Site) & Pondi Matha Church in Poondi and later check in at Hotel. Later you can visit St.Joseph College & St.Joseph Church.
Day 06: Trichy – Madurai (128Kms / 3 Hrs drive)
Drive to Madurai and check in at Hotel. Visit St. Mary Church – Anna Nagar, Rosary Church, Meenakshi Amman Temple and Thirumalai Nayakar Palace. If time permits you can visit Arul Andawar College in Karumathur Madurai
Day 07: Madurai – Kanyakumari (213 Km / 5 Hrs)
Drive to Kanyakumari enroute visit St. Xavier Church in Tirunelveli, Francis Xavier Engginering College & St. Xavier College & and check in at Hotel. Visit Vivekananda Memorial, Thiruvalluvar Statue and Alangara Matha Church. In the evening you can witness the Sunset from the Beach.
Day 08: Kanyakumari – Kovalam
Early morning you can witness the Sunrise from the Beach.
Day 09: Kovalam.
Situated 16 kms from the Capital of Kerala is a city with four sandy bays called Kovalam. The meaning of Kovalam is ‘groove of coconut trees’. This spectacular beach resort in 1930’s broke the shackles and emerged as the most magnificent tourist attraction in the south. The four sandy beaches are a sight to behold; all the four bays are separated by rocks.
The Samudra Beach, Kovalam Beach, Hawa Beach and the light house beach are what gives Kovalam its beauty. Kovalam is for its Ayurvedic massages and many yoga resorts. Meditation and herbal body toning are some of the things which travelers are treated to for a rejuvenating experience.
You can go shopping in Kovalam and buy a number of items like handicrafts and spices. Rose wood and teak wood statues are popular at Kovalam beach. There are a number of shopping shacks lined along the beach.
Day 10: Kovalam – Alleppey (165Kms / 4.5Hrs drive) Alleppey Round (By Deluxe Houseboat)
Drive to Alleppey and embark in Deluxe Houseboat. You can view the day today activities like some people will be washing their clothes, fishing, bathing, some vendors will sell the vegetables, fish, and some will carry the sand on the country boats, etc. You will be cruises through the backwaters. You will be served with Kerala Delicious food.
Day 11: Alleppey – Cochin (65Kms / 90Mins drive)
After breakfast disembark from the Deluxe houseboat and later visit St. Sebastin Church in Alleppey and drive to Cochin & check in at Hotel. Remaining day kept at leisure in the Heritage city. In the evening you can visit Greenix Cultural show – www.greenix.in
Day 12: Cochin.
Full day you can go for the sightseeing tour of Cochin – visit Mattancherry Palace, , Bolgatty Palace, St. Francis Church and Chinese Fishing Net.
Day 13: Cochin Departure
As per your departure schedule we will drop you at Cochin airport to connecting the flight for onward journey.