‘Indore ki Rani Maria’, ‘Udainagar ki Rani Maria’, ‘Garibo ki Masiha’ or ‘Motherji of the Poor’ are the well-known titles by which people call the martyred Sr. Rani Maria. She adapted herself so well to Udainagar in Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh and its people that she sacrificed her life for them.
The martyrdom of Sr. Rani Maria was the consequence of her participation in the mission and ministry of Jesus Christ. Her evangelisation activities and the philanthropic services became a threat to a few in the area where she worked. Resultantly, rich landlords, money lenders and infuriated opponents could not fulfil their vested interests; and they did away with her.
The religious nun was 41 when Samunder Singh, hired by some landlords, stabbed her inside a bus on 25th February, 1995. She was travelling to Indore, the commercial capital of Madhya Pradesh, en route her native place in Kerala. The attacker followed her when she ran out of the crowded bus and continued to stab her 54 times. She died on the roadside at Nachanbore Hill, near Indore.
She was buried at Udainagar where she had worked among poor landless agricultural labourers, tribals and others to fight for their just wages and other rights. This upset the landlords and money lenders which added salt to their injuries. This became the cause of her death and martyrdom.
The poor people in the village liked her a lot for her charitable services. Sr. Rani Maria was full of social action and community services. She had ardent love and compassion for the poor to the extent of dying for them. She had once told her younger sister that she wanted to work for the poor till her last breath.
Cardinal Varkey Vithayathil on her missionary zeal and activities wrote: “Responding to the call of Jesus, Rani Maria, a Franciscan Clarist nun, offered her life for the poor people in the mission areas of North India. Following Jesus very closely she proclaimed the love of Christ for the poor and worked tirelessly for the liberation of the people from the clutches of poverty, ignorance, oppression, etc. At the end, like Jesus, she had to die shedding her blood” (c.f. Sr. Rani Maria FCC: Writings with the Manuscripts).
As part of beatification process, on 18th November,
2016 Bishop Chacko Thottumarikal of Indore supervised the opening of her tomb
and shifted the mortal remains to a church at Udainagar.
Beatification is the penultimate stage in the four-phased canonization process in the Catholic Church. Rani Maria’s cause of canonization began in 2003 and she was declared a Servant of God four years later.
It is said that Martyrdom is the greatest gift of God. It nurtures in the good soil of faith and trust, to produce lots of fruits with abundant blessings and graces. Sr. Rani Maria witnessed and testified to the dynamic faith; living a simple life of prayerfulness, wedded to the Word of God, courage, missionary spirit and love for enemies.
Her sacrifice and death for the just cause of poor farmers and labourers bore fruit and today the evil practices have come down in the area. The deprived sections in the society have become aware of their rights and got empowered with the social work programmes. “Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones” (Ps 116:15). Therefore, Tertullian says that the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church. For, the Church grows and flourishes with the sacrifice of God’s special ones like Rani Maria.
It is said, “Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven” (Luke 6:37). This Biblical saying was put to practice when Sr. Selmy, Rani’s younger sister, forgave Samunder Singh, the murderer. It was a real godly gesture on her part.
Sr. Selmy visited him in Indore central jail on Raksha Bandhan day in August 2002, where he was repeatedly asking for forgiveness for his wrong doing. Through the kind gesture of tying a Rakhi on his wrist, Rani’s sister changed his heart and mind. She said, “All of us have forgiven you. Do not keep anything in your heart. Be good to everyone.” Whatever may be the case but one thing is absolutely clear that Jesus’ divine grace made her forgive him.
After 11 years and six months, Samunder Singh was released on probation in August 2006. In January 2007, Singh visited Sr. Rani Maria’s family at Pulluvazhy in Kerala. Since then, he shares a special bond with the family. Once Sr. Selmy asked him, “How do you feel when you pray at her grave?” He said that he used to get scared initially, but later on, he could feel some divine power there. Sr. Selmy feels that he is a changed man. He has also received forgiving grace through Sr. Rani Maria.
This is what, the Saviour of the world, Lord Jesus Christ taught to the world before dying on the Cross – Love until you Forgive. When he was about to die he prayed for his enemies saying: “Father, forgive them for they do not know what they are doing.” He also said, “Love one another as I have loved you (Jn. 13:34) .” Sr. Selmy did the same in spite of losing her dear sister. She forgave to the point of forgetting the gruesome incident that occurred in Udainagar. Same is the experience of Samunder Singh, who forgave all those who misguided and persuaded him to do the heinous act.
Forgiveness is like a balm that heals inner wounds. The power of forgiveness heals life and sets people free from bondages. One cannot deny this natural tendency that “when one completely forgets one surely forgives” but it’s very difficult to forgive someone who hurts. For who, but only God, has power to forgive and heal; and we humans are the medium of this divine healing. A healing which brings peace and love between human beings, who though are one, but yet different due to languages, castes, traditions and religions.
Therefore, forgiveness is a state of being that emerges from love. In this real forgiving act and divine love, the true Christian values of Jesus stand taller before hatred and violence. Therefore, Christianity believes that a person should be given enough opportunities to change his or her life, for it is easy to take life than to give.
Sr. Rani Maria, a Venerable Servant of God, is going to be beatified on Saturday, 4th November, 2017 in the Catholic Diocese of Indore. A special Beatification Ceremony and Holy Eucharistic celebration presided over by Cardinal Angelo Amato, ‘Prefect of the Congregation for the cause of Saints’ will take place at St. Paul Higher Secondary Ground.
The top Indian Church leadership will attend the ceremony. Along with the Cardinal, all the four Cardinals of India viz. Cardinal Mar Baselios Cleemis (CBCI, President), Cardinal Mar George Alencherry (Syro Malabar Church), Cardinal Oswald Gracias (Archdiocese of Bombay) and Cardinal Telephore Toppo (Archdiocese of Ranchi) will grace the ceremony. Apostolic Nuncio Archbishop Giambattista Diquattro along with host Bishop Rev. Chacko Thottumarickal will also officiate the function. The programme will mark the presence of Bishops, priests, nuns, religious and thousands of people from across the country. This will bring her closer to sainthood, which requires miracles on the part of the Blessed.
(The writer is a freelance journalist and educationist)
(Published on 30th October 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 44)