June 26: Our Lady of Meliapore, East Indies 1542
This is the shrine in the East Indies, where Saint Francis Xavier often retired to pray during his eleven years with the people of India. The Blessed Virgin Mary was Francis’ constant source of strength and inspiration. The image before which Saint Francis used to pray is called Mylai Matha in Tamil, or Our Lady of Mylapore in English. It is an ancient statue about three feet tall, Our Lady of Meliapore can still be venerated at the church.
The church of Saint Thomas of Mylapore – spelled somewhat differently from the above – contains Mary’s shrine. According to tradition, the Apostle Saint Thomas came to India in 52 AD. Due to his success making converts to the True Faith, he was persecuted and finally martyred in the year 72 AD. Saint Thomas is buried at the shrine of Our Lady of Meliapore, and there are relics of Saint Francis Xavier.
There was a church known to be in Mylapore going back to the 1st century, and built by St Thomas. According to tradition, there was a huge log that had washed down the river to a place where it blocked the water and caused massive flooding. The local king was at a loss to remove the blockage, but having heard that St Thomas was a miracle worker, asked him for his assistance. Saint Thomas prayed and then touched the log, which made it so light that the king’s men were suddenly able to easily pull it from the river. The king, in thanksgiving, gave the massive log to St Thomas, who used the wood he obtained from it to construct his church.
The famed traveler Marco Polo visited the shrine in 1292, and a visitor known only as “Joseph” in 1501 thought the church comparable to the Church of Saint John and Saint Paul in Venice, but by the time the Portuguese came in 1517 the shrine was nothing but ruins.
The good people knew that they were Christians, and nothing more; but they had Mary as their Mother, and she cleared the way into their hearts for the zealous Francis to sow the seed of Christ’s Gospel. It was at Mary’s shrine that Francis obtained the miraculous favors to raise people from the dead, cure the sick, convert sinners and bring to Christ thousands of souls. Regardless of where his journeying took him, Francis always returned to his “Lady of the Wayside;” at Miliapore.
Our Lady of Meliapore was his most beloved Mother and from her he received consolation and strength, spiritual delights second only to the joys of Paradise.
The spirit of Francis is still at this shrine, and Mary continues to bestow upon her children miraculous graces and blessings.
*from The Woman in Orbit and other sources
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