John Milton, the great poet, after his blindness, wrote in one of his sonnets to Oliver Cromwell, the legendary English military and political leader,
“…peace hath her victories
No less renown’d than war….”
It was exactly these words that came to my mind at the Cardinal’s House on the 23rd May afternoon, when,with a heavy heart, I paid my last obeisance to the smiling, sleeping Rev. Fr Joseph Kuncharath. His life was ever peaceful, and faultless, as said in the Bhagavad Gita: “Those who dedicate their actions to God, abandoning all attachment, remain untouched by sin, just as a lotus leaf is untouched by water.”
Wherever he served – be it at Palarivattom, where he constructed the new simple, but elegant St Martin De Porres Church, without giving room for any complaint, whatsoever, or at the Our Lady of Velankanni Mata Nagar Church, Gandhi Nagar, where he performed with ease and equanimity the arduous task of managing a prestigious educational institution – humility was his hallmark.
He was exceptionally courteous to everyone and extremely helpful to anyone in need. He left a lasting imprint on whomever he chanced to meet. The cosmic presence of God in his soul was ever writ large on his graceful, radiant face.
Fully conscious was he of his declining health. But that did not deter this karmayogi from continuing his good work, wherever he was, actively participating in every spiritual, family and social event.
Just as his life, his death, too, was very special. At the funeral mass of a fellow priest, in his own parish church at Keechery, close to the altar, he falls down to breathe his last, nay to begin his eternal life in the abode of the Lord.
Kuncharath Achan was not only a friend, philosopher and guide to all of us, he was our family priest, too. He made every family function of ours prayerful and solemn. He was the spiritual glory of Perayil family, whose roots originated from Kuncharath of Panavally, across the Vembanad Lake from Vaikom.
When individuals win accolades in their profession or vocation, we praise them. When they bring disrepute, we condemn them. Seldom do we look at the family and the parents who make or mar a child. My mind goes out to the parents, particularly the mother of Kuncharath Achan, who just completed a century of dedication to our Lord, in this world. How much of care, how much of advice, guidance, support, and above all, setting the best example herself, would have contributed to the moulding of the young Joseph, and making of a spiritual karmayogi in him.
At a time, when the Church faces multifarious challenges, let us hope and fervently pray that the shining example of Kuncharath Achan will remain a lodestar to guide all of us kindly through darkness to light. Let’s seek his intercession and prayers, too.
Let me conclude, with my father’s favourite lines from Julius Caezar, which he once quoted for his great teacher at St. Joseph’s College, Trichy, Rev. Fr T.N. Sequeira, S.J., His life was gentle; and the elements. So mixed in him, that Nature might stand up, and say to all the world, THIS WAS A MAN!
This truly fits in to salute such a fine spiritual karmayogi.
(The author is a former Principal Secretary to
Government, Higher Education)