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Our Lady of Snows Basilica - Thoothukudi

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Saturday, 17 December 2011 20:45

Angels around Church

What are angels?

An angel is a pure spirit created by God. The Old Testament theology included the belief in angels: the name applied to certain spiritual beings or intelligences of heavenly residence, employed by God as the ministers of His will.

The English word "angel" comes from the Greek angelos, which means 'messenger'. In the Old Testament, with two exceptions, the Hebrew word for "angel" is malak, also meaning 'messenger'. The prophet Malachi took his name from this word. He was himself a messenger, and he prophesied about the coming of "the messenger of the covenant", Jesus Christ (Malachi 3:1).

Although the word "angel" in the Bible, meaning a messenger, nearly always applies to heavenly beings, it can occasionally apply to human messengers. Malachi himself said a priest was a messenger (malak) of the LORD of hosts (Malachi 2:7), and in the Book of Revelation the elders of the seven churches of Asia were called angels (1:20; 2:1 etc.). But when we meet messengers doing supernatural things, there is no doubt they are heavenly beings - God's messengers, working for Him and for the ultimate benefit of mankind.

How do we know angels exist?

The Scriptures give us no indication of the precise time of the creation of angels; their existence is assumed at the earliest times. Our Lord often spoke of angels; in the New Testament they are numerous and seven orders are mentioned: Angels, Powers, Principalities, Dominions (ations), Thrones and Archangels the Old Testament specifically mentions two others Seraph (im) and Cherub(im).

God bestowed upon angels great wisdom, freedom, and power, and their many appearances in the New Testament are indication of the lead role assigned to them. Both the New Testament and Old Testament refer also to the fallen angels. The Temptation of Adam and Eve presupposes the existence of bad spirits or demons who were cast into hell from which they have no hope of redemption. Angels are purely spiritual or bodiless persons (Mt 11:30), some of whom behold the face of God and thus are in bliss (Mt 18:10).

These spiritual beings comprise the celestial court and are called angels (from the Greek for "messenger") because, according to the Bible, they carry out missions at God's command. In order to complete these missions, they can at times assume bodily form. According to the Bible, their missions are sometimes of great importance - eg, the Annunciation (Lk 1:26; 2:9-14).

Like us , the angels are the objects of God's grace and love. But because, unlike us they are non-bodily creatures, their response to God's love did not require time and reflection to grow and mature. As soon as they were created and received grace, they had the opportunity to respond to God's love and thus be welcomed into bliss. While many did so, some did not. Perhaps the most significant continuing activity of the good angels is to be the agents of God's particular providence for mankind. Thus, the Church teaches that everyone has a guardian angel, based on references to them throughout the Bible.

Why did God Create Angels?

The Creator Himself is so powerful and glorious that He cannot be approached in person by human beings. He alone "hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto: whom no man hath seen, nor can see (1 Timothy 6:16). Angels do not have man's shortcomings, and can therefore act for God and represent Him when communicating with men and women. They bridge the huge gap between the holiness and perfection of God in heaven and the shortcomings of dying people on this planet. Angels were made immortal (that is, never to die). Their eternal quality was spoken of by Jesus when he said:

"They which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God. being the children of the resurrection." (Luke 20:35.36)

Jesus was saying that, in the same way as the angels (the children or "sons" of God) live for ever and are of one gender, so those who will be called the "sons" and "daughters" of God when Jesus returns will also live for ever and will not marry.

Angels with Names

Only occasionally are the angels given names. "Michael", for instance, was "the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people (Israel)" (Daniel 12:1). Undoubtedly, among the most significant of angelic appearances were those by the angel whose name was "Gabriel". He was sent twice to the prophet Daniel. On the second occasion Daniel was at prayer, and Gabriel, "being caused to fly swiftly, touched me ... and talked with me" and proceeded to prophesy the date of the first coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ (Daniel 9:21-27).

There was therefore great expectation among the Jews at the time when Jesus Christ was about to be born, and this was heightened by the personal appearance of Gabriel again, firstly to Zacharias the priest while on duty in the temple, and then to Mary, who was betrothed to Joseph. To Zacharias, the angel announced. "I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God: and am sent to speak unto thee" (Luke 1:19). We notice that angels can stand in the glorious presence of the LORD. whereas men cannot. and angels are sent to do whatever God wishes. His mission here was to announce the miraculous birth of John the Baptist.

Six months later, Gabriel appeared to Mary, who was in the royal line of King David. Her prayer, said the angel, had found favour with God, and she would be the mother of the expected Messiah. Gabriel told her that she would conceive through the power of the Holy Spirit and her son would be Jesus, the Saviour, and he would be the Son of God and would occupy the royal throne of David (Luke 1:26-33). It was an extraordinary meeting because Mary was not yet married. Nothing is impossible with God! Joseph, her husband-to-be, also received angelic messages advising him what steps to take in this unique situation.

When Jesus came to be born in Bethlehem, the birth was the signal for a glorious witness of divine approval, seen by shepherds:

"An angel of the Lord (could this have been Gabriel?) appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear ... And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, 'Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!'" (Luke 2:9-14, RSV)

Who are our Guardian Angels?

No evil shall befall you, nor shall affliction come near your tent, for to His Angels God has given command about you, that they guard you in all your ways. Upon their hands they will bear you up, lest you dash your foot against a stone.

Psalm 91: 10-12 A heavenly spirit assigned by God to watch over each of us during our lives. The doctrine of angels is part of the Church's tradition. The role of the guardian angel is both to guide us to good thoughts, works and words, and to preserve us from evil. Since the 17th century the Church has celebrated a feast honoring them in October throughout the Universal Church. Since the last calendar revision this feast is Oct 2.

He has charged His angels with the ministry of watching and safeguarding every one of His creatures that behold not His face. Kingdoms have their angels assigned to them, and men have their angels; these latter it is to whom religion designates the Holy Guardian Angels. Our Lord says in the Gospel, "Beware lest ye scandalize any of these little ones, for their angels in heaven see the face of My Father." The existence of Guardian Angels, is, hence a dogma of the Christian faith: this being so, what ought not our respect be for that sure and holy intelligence that is ever present at our side; and how great our solicitude be, lest, by any act of ours, we offend those eyes which are ever bent upon us in all our ways!

Prayers to our Guardian Angels


Angels of the early Church

Revelations the Lord addresses each of the seven Churches by means of instructing angels to record His dictation. These 'secretary' angels are the angels of the Churches:

  • Church of Ephesus (Rv 2:1)
  • of Smyrna (Rv 2:8)
  • of Pergamum (Rv 2:12)
  • of Thyatira (Rv 2:18)
  • of Sardis (Rv 3:1)
  • of Philadelphia (Rv 3:7)
  • of Laodices (Rv 3:14)

Man Made Lower than the Angels

When the first man was being created:

"Let us make man in our image. after our likeness ... So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him: male and female created he them." (Genesis 1:26-27)

This does not mean that the first of the human race had exactly the same physical nature as the angels, for the angels were made to live for ever. Adam and Eve were not made never-dying: they did sin, and they suffered death as the punishment for it. That is why the whole human race has been dying ever since.

Psalm 8 is a Psalm in which the creation of the earth is extolled. Here we are told that man's position is lower than the angels:

"What is man, that thou art mindful of him? ... For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour." (Psalm 8:4,5)

The New Testament quotes this passage, and tells us that mankind - including the Lord Jesus himself - was made a little lower than the angels, "for the suffering of death" (Hebrews 2:9). Angels do not die, but men and women do. Even Jesus, the Son of God, was a mortal man, but has now received the glory and honour which was his due when, as he said after his resurrection, "all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18).

The Fallen Angels (Demons)

These beings, because of pride, did not return God's love. God did not destroy them, but permits them a limited scope of activity. Their condition is permanent for no creature can turn away from the perfect good of the beatific vision once he has come to enjoy it, and no additional reflection could change the mind of a purely spiritual being who has turned away.

Demons are fallen angels under the command of Satan, those who are still free after the Gen. 6 affair. Satan is called the Prince, or Ruler, of all demons in Matthew 9:34; 12:24; Mark 3:22; Luke 11:15. Demons are also called the ministers, or ambassadors of Satan, Luke 4:35; 9:1,42; John 10:21. Satan is brilliant, an administrative genius. He has an excellent organization, mentioned in Eph. 6:10-12 (READ) The Bible also makes a distinction between demon possession and demon influence.

Saturday, 17 December 2011 19:46

History of the Church


The history of Shrine Basilica is closely connected with the history of the conversion of the PARAVARS (Tuticorin), the indigenous people of the Pearl Fishery Coast. In fact, Our Lady of Snows, is fondly called in Portuguese senhora, Das Nevis which means Our Lady of Snows. She has been given the unique title of Yelu Kadalthurai, Yega Adikala Thai in Tamil which means the Mother of Refuge for the seven major coastal villages, viz Vembar, Vaippar, Thoothukudi (Snows Basilica, Tuticorin), Punnaikayal, Virapandianpatinam, Thiruchendur and Manapad (Thoothukkudi District).


Once the paravars of Pearl Fishery Coast had a sharp dispute with the Muslims of this area regarding the right of Pearl Fishing. The Pattankattimar (The leaders of Parava villages) requested the Portuguese to rescue them form the cruelties of the Muslims and the Portuguese and the Muslims were routed. As a token of gratitude to their redeemers, the Portuguese, the Paravars from about 22 villages numbering about 30,000 embraced Christianity in the y ear 1535-37 . In October 1542, St. Francis Xavier arrived on the shores of the Pearl Fishery Coast to catechize them and strengthen them further in their faith.


Soon there arose a great religious persecution by the Nayak of Madurai who had by this time taken control of the Pearl Fishery Coast. They set fire to churches and houses of Catholics. Hence the Paravars left Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ) and fled to a nearby Island named Raja Theevu (known as Hare-island today). They took along with them the statue of Our Lady of Snows and solemnly installed it in a newly built church there. It was there till the Jesuits returned to Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ) in 1610.

Another tradition says that during the war, the church of Our Lady of Snows at Raja Theevu was destroyed and therefore, the people removed the statue from there and installed it in a small chapel of St. John the Baptist at Sivanthakulam near Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ). When the Dutch occupied that area, they carried away the statue to a church at Korkai. And it was brought back to Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ) in 1699.


The beautiful statue of Our Lady of Snows has always been looked upon as a miraculous one, as many miracles are said to have occurred in the Shrine from the time of its installation at St. Pauls Church, Tuticorin.


The first miracle is narrated by Rev. Fr. Vigilius Mansi himself who built the present Church of Our Lady of Snows. In a letter dated September 24th, 1708 addressed to one Father Maria Ignacy in Rome, he narrates how on April 4th, 1707 at mid-night, a sonorous and fierce thunderbolt fell in his residence where he had kept the miraculous statue for a short time and how he was miraculously saved by Our Lady herself.


The Jesuit report of 1709 by Fr. Francis Vaiz mentions the following miracles.

A newly converted Dutch Officer was attacked by a serious disease. No doctor nor medicine could cure him. The condition became worse day by day. On his death bed, he had recourse to Our Lady drank the water that washed the feet of the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Snows. What a surprise! He began to get well from that moment and he totally embraced the Catholic faith latter.

Two people who were paralyzed and lost all hope of cure, vowed in front of the miraculous statue that they would pray the Rosary daily till the end of their lives and drank with faith the water that washed the feet of the statue. Slowly they were relieved of their paralysis and soon got completely healed.

A supposed to be barren woman with faith drank the oil form the lamp kept near the miraculous statue and was conceived and became a mother of a child.

Once a pious woman had gone to the Shrine to participate in the Novena Service. At that time her hut caught fire by a piece of cloth that fell on the oil lamp. The whole hut should have been burnt to ashes but surprisingly, only that piece of cloth had got burnt!

Even the Hindus who come flocking to Our Lady of Snows acknowledged that they had experienced miracles after praying to Our Lady. Even today we find Hindus and people of other faiths flocking to Our Lady of Snows Church especially during the annual festival days. There are a few sincere devotees who visit the shrine throughout the year.

The holy custom of drinking the water that washes the feet of Our Lady in the statue and using the oil from the lamp are still followed by some devoted people.


As the whole race of Paravars became Christians, they were badly in need of a place of worship. Fr. Pedru Consalves who had baptized these people, built the first church in Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ) in 1538 and dedicated it to his own patron St. Peter; this was the Parish Church for the Parava Christians in Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ) for many years. It is also said St. Francis Xavier, during his stay at Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ), used to celebrate Hole Mass in this Church. Today, a street named, St. Peter Koil Street, tuticorin exists in the Parish area ( Tuticorin ).


Then in 1582, through the efforts of the Jesuits, a church dedicated to Our Lady of Mercy (Senhora de Piedade) was consecrated by the Bishop of Cochin Msgr. Devoura on 5th August, the fesast of Our Lady of Snows. It was in the Jesuit head-quarters in Keracope Street. It was also called St. Pauls Church, Tuticorin. Every year the annual feast was celebrated on 5th August. In 1610 when the miraculous statue of Our Lady of Snows reached Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ), it was solemnly installed in the church of Mother of Mercy and thereafter gradually it came to be called the Church of Our Lady of Snows Basilica.


Wishing to build a beautiful church of Our Lady of Snows Basilica, Fr. Vigilius Mansi whole heartedly took great efforts. He had to face lot of difficulties from the side of the Dutch as well as that of his own people. He obtained permission from the Dutch Government (at Ceylon) to construct a new church for Mother Mary of Snows, tuticorin; swimming against the current, he laid the foundation for the new church on 4th April 1712 and within a year he was able to complete the church. On August 5th 1713, the new church was opened and blessed and the first feast in the new church was celebrated in a very grand scale.


From 1857 onwards, the so called Double Jurisdiction caused a great problem among the Parava-Christians of Pearl Fishery Coast. In the same diocese and sometimes within the same parish at one and the sametime the Portuguese government (Padroado Goa Mission) and the Propaganda Fide (French Mission) had their jurisdiction. Accordingly, the following five coastal parishes came under the Padroado Diocese of Mylapore : Our Lady of Snows Basilica, Thoothukudi, Holy Ghost Manapad, St. Micheals Punnaikayal, Our Lady of Assumption Vaippar and St.Marys Kooduthaai. This condition continued till the new diocese of Thoothukkudi ( Tuticorin ) was erected in 1923. Pope Pius XI through the Apostolic Brief Quae Catholico Nomini dated June 12, 1923 amalgamated the above parishes into the newly created Diocese of Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin ). Accordingly the Church of Our Lady of Snows came under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Thoothukudi ( Tuticorin )on April 11, 1930.


In 1982, when the Church of Our Lady of Snows celebrated the 400th anniversary, Pope John Paul II raised it to the status of Basillica through his apostolic letter Pervenute illa Dei Beatissimae Genitricis Effigies dated 30th July 1982.

It is the greatest honor for a church to be raised to the status of a Basilica. The Greek word Basilica signifies a Royal Hall. In course of time, this word has come to mean a large and beautiful hall. In ancient times, the whole world in general and Rome in particular, erected large halls for administrative purposes. The first hall bearing the name of Basilica existed in Athens. But after the fall of Greeks, the Romans popularized it. It was Julius Caesar who artistically constructed the hall of Basilica Julia for administrative purposes. They are somewhat similar to the Durbar Halls in ancient Indian places.

Christ being the king and His Church being His Audience the larger Christian Churches in Rome, came to be called Basilicas. Naturally these Basilicas were large, roomy, bright and ornamental. Today, for a church to be raised to the status of Basilica certain conditions are to be fulfilled:

The Church, usually is built with front facing the east.

Generally it is constructed in one of the classical styles of architecture.

It should contain some works of art or house the body of a Saint or a celebrated statue venerated in the land or it should be a place of pilgrimage


The Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Snows is fascine East; constructed in the Portuguese architecture; it houses the celebrated and miraculous statue of Our Lady of Snows, most beautifully carved out of wood and hence it is a great piece of art. Thus the Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Snows deserves to be called a Basilica in the true sense of the word!

In Rome itself there are 13 Basilicas and of which 5 are major and 8 are minor ones.

Basilicas are usually under the supervision of Cardinals and accorded special privileges. In India there are several minor basilicas, like Basilica of Our Lady of Mount Bandra in Mumbai, the Basilica of Born Jesus in Goa, the Basilica of San Thome in Chennai, the Basilica of Our Lady of Health at Velankanni, and the Basilica of Our Lady of Lourdes, Poondi.


The mother instinct is the deeper-most instinct in any living being because the very origin and continuity of life is very much connected with a mother. A mother stands for love and security, the most basic needs of any living being. Hence, it is natural that human beings adore Motherhood and Tamils, have deeper sentiments towards mother than any other race. Almost all religions have somehow developed this concept of Mother God and sometimes a host of Goddesses!

The concept of Mary as Our Mother in the Catholic faith fully satisfies this basic human need of the people. Yet, the church is aware of the exaggerations and deviations in this regard. The shrines of Our Lady, often, seem to be occasions for people to deviate from true catholic faith on Mary. Hence, while promoting the devotion to Mary, Our Mother through Shrine Basilica, it is of paramount importance to point out to the people, the true and correct doctrines of the Church on Marian devotion.


True Marian devotion arises from the fact that Mary’s is the Mother of Jesus, the incarnate God and therefore, she is honored as the mother of God. The Gospel also confirms this fact: when Mary visited Elizabeth, the later was inspired by the Spirit and cried out

Why this Granted me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

Lord in Bible refers to God. Hence Elizabeth herself calls Mary The Mother of God. It is only natural that when we honor God we should also honor His mother.

Marys motherhood rests more on her total surrender to Gods will than on her blood relationship to Jesus. When Jesus said Who is my mother.? whoever does the will of God is my mother. He confirms that Mary is His mother more because she surrendered herself totally to God than she brought Him forth just like any Ordinary mother.

In the Gospel according to St. John, Chapter 2, he narrates the incident of a wedding at Cana in Galilee. When there was a shortage of wine, Mary without being asked by anyone of the wedding party, herself realizing the situation approached her son Jesus. She knew for certain Jesus would do what she asked for and we know from the Gospel that Jesus did listen to his mother and wrought his first miracle. This incident proves that Marys intercession with her son, Jesus is very powerful. Our people, the devotees of Our Blessed Mother Mary, know it too well and believe firmly that if they go to Jesus through the intercession of Mary, their prayers will surely be granted because it is something very common in our day-today life at home the child approaches his mother in order to get things done by his father.

The ordinary people who feel that their prayers in times of their needs have been heard because they come to the Shrine of Our Lady, naturally attribute everything totally to Our Lady Herself, making her almost a God! This is a wrong belief, resulting from pure sentiments. This has to be corrected! we must remember what Mary said to the servants at the wedding at Cana; Do whatever He tells you (Jn 2:5). She always points out to her Son only. She wants us to know and believe that all prayers are granted only by God and she is only a pointer towards God. At the end of the narration of the wedding at Cana; This, first of his signs, Jesus did at Cana in galilee and manifested His glory (Jn 2: 11) Mary, therefore, was the cause of Jesus manifesting his glory. We must, therefore, know that Mary would not like to usurp the power of God; She would be happy only when we give her the rightful place in our faith. Hence we must be careful about any exaggeration or deviation in our devotion to Mary Our Blessed Mother.

Let me conclude with the words of William Carrigan, a Marian lecture: Shrines are Our Ladys workshops where she repairs the broken bodies, mends torn hearts and restores sin-scarred souls

Rev. Fr. V. P. Oswald M.A., M.Ed.,
Shrine Basilica of Our Lady of Snows,
Thoothukudi (Tuticorin).

Dogmatic Explanation of the Miraculous Statue

Filled with grace and the love of God, the Virgin Mother of God cannot be described easily, nor her miraculous statue. To indicate the fact that the mother of God is clothed with the glory of the brightness of the Great Sun, her diving Son, she is decked with a bright golden habit. She has the waning moon under her feet to signify the trained nature of the world. In the hand, she holds the Child Jesus, the Fruit of her virginal womb, while in the other, she holds a pomegranate fruit to signify both the cursed fruit offered by Satan to make Adam and Eve fall in sin; as well as the immaculate Fruit given by God to Our Blessed Mother.