From 1902 till the foundation of the Congregation of the Holy Family in 1914, Mariam Thresia had a crucial period with strange experiences. She had to fight with the devils the incessant tests and trails towards sharpening her spirit and virtues. She had been through lots of mystical experience and shared the agony of passion and crucifixion of Jesus; recurring the passion and death in her mortal body in a most regular way. Like Job of the Old Testment she had to go through the eye of Lucifer and his army increasing in numbers everyday for three years with heaven permitted severe trails against virtues .
It was at the age of 27 she chose Fr. Joseph Vithayathil as her spiritual guide. Every experience that Thresia was through Fr. Joseph stated to Bishop Menachery. Mariam Thresia always obeyed her Spiritual Father. She did not proceed on the strength of her heavenly visions, but submitted herself humbly to her lawful Church Authorities. She considered herself as “as an unworthy sinner ” begging for guidance from her Spiritual Father in all things.
On April 1902 as per the message of Bl. Virgin Mary revealed through Mariam Thresia Fr. Joseph Vithayathil informed the Bishop her desire to construct a room for prayer and solitude which he denied saying “solitary life was not suitable to our time”.
On 12 March 1905 with the approval of Mar John Menachery, Mariam Thresia had joined the Third Order of Secular Carmelites and was given the veil. However she took the commitment of the Third Order on 16 April 1909. The commitment to the Third Order provided her with sufficient freedom to practice and live her apostolic activities started when she was early teenage years.
In 1909 Rev. Bishop once tried to see if her vocation was to the Franciscan Clarists, and later send her to the St. Mary’s Carmelites Convent at Ollur, on 16 April 1909. After a period of three months he allowed her to return to her hometown discerning that she had no vocation to either of them, she obeyed them willingly.
In the meanwhile the people of Puthenchira missed Mariam Thresia, the guardian angel of their parish; who went around nursing the sick, attending the dying, helping the poor, and reforming the wayward. They wanted her back in the parish. So the parishioners got together and went to Bishop requesting to send Mariam Thresia back to Puthenchira.
From 1903 onward she waited for his permission to build solitary cell for prayer. It was only after ten years (1903-1913) of close observation and various tests of her vocation that Bishop John Menachery authorized the building of an ékánthabhavan (a house of solitude) for Mariam Thresia. He needed time to be convinced of the genuineness of the vocation to a life of solitary prayer of a headstrong girl given to active apostolate. Her visions, trances and stigmata had raised doubts about their source.
All this while she and her 3 companions moved around Puthenchira and nearby villages visiting the sick in their families and helping the aged, the lonely and destitute. Thresia already had the fame of a saint. She had large numbers of visitors, including priests. The news of her stigmata had spread rapidly far and wide. The sisters at Ollur stated that her spirit of obedience, humility, service and asceticism were exemplary. They sought the permission of the local Bishop to admit her even without patrimony.
Mariam Thresia continued her life of contemplation and active ministry in and around home town with great enthusiasm and devotions, seeking nothing but the fulfillment of Gods will. She said” I wish that God’s will and mine be one and the same” This was Thresia of Puthenchira. The people of Puthenchira acknowledged this and as per the order of Bishop Menachery they build a house of Prayer for Thresia under the leadership of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vithayathil in 1913. The solitary house later was ackowledged as the first convent ( ‘Ekanthabhavan’) after the institution of The Congregation of the Holy Family in 1914 May 14.
Sr. Udaya Kallukaran Chf