Having just returned from spending an incredible week with the most unusual and amazing person I have ever met, I am bubbling to tell everyone I see about the experience. Some people are immediately engaged, asking questions and expressing sincere interest, while others don’t register the slightest curiosity at all, as if I had spoken to them in a foreign language. They seem unable to comprehend the significance of what I am relating. Such it is, trying to share the story of a woman who has not eaten or slept for fifty years, prays almost unceasingly, bleeds from the cross shaped wounds on her hands and feet, enters a state of grace in which she channels blessings and medical remedies from God, and is in constant communion with the Holy Spirit.
The story of my reunion with Sister Susan Kuruvilla after more than twenty years is a unique example of the power of the World Wide Web, as well as the potential far ranging effects of this newspaper, the New Connexion. My original article on Sister Susan appeared on these pages last November. Some weeks later I began receiving emails about the story, including one from a man in Michigan who had who had red about Sister Susan in a book published in the 1970s called People Living in the 21st Century, and wanted to travel to India to visit her. He had searched the web for information on her and found just one reference, my Connexion article. Several emails later he informed me that he had located Sister Susan and that she was in Toronto, not India, that he was going there to see her, and that she wanted me to call her on the phone. It was truly wonderful hearing her voice after all these years, even though I have a difficult time understanding her accent, heavily influenced by her native language Malayalam. She told me about her orphanage in India, up from about 25 residents when I visited to about 125, many living in shacks covered with palm fronds since the monsoon rains destroyed one of the main ashram buildings. A chapel had been built with contributions from generous benefactors, but a medical clinic remained incomplete due to lack of funds. As always, it is a constant struggle to care for the children who are in need of food, clothing, medical care and education. We exchanged photographs by mail – my small family and her big one. She asked me to locate a man in New Jersey who had won a 93 million dollar lottery and ask him for assistance, which I did, but without reply to date. Learning that Sister Susan would be in Canada only until August, I put my family on the plane and set out for Toronto.
We were met at the airport by Sister Susan, Father Matthew, her sponsors Rita and Denise and assistant Pheejo. Sister Susan, wrapped in white, seemed little changed despite her 75 years. Her soft smile, calm presence and radiant loving nature were all so comfortably familiar. When we hugged, I detected layers of soft cloth, sweetly perfumed, but no solid body inside, like a big cotton ball. Not surprising, I was to think some time later, considering that she never eats solid food and x-rays have revealed a totally withered digestive system. Father Matthew, who has been with her as an assistant since he was healed of asthma at age 13, is recently ordained as a priest of the Orthodox Church and remains in her company. Rita and Denise proved to be wonderful, generous hosts, and we instantly felt like old friends. Pheejo cooked wonderful Indian meals and played with daughter Tara.
The next day Sister Susan experienced ‘The Pain’, as she has twice weekly since first marked with the stigmata as a teenager. Surrounded by about a dozen friends and visitors crammed into her tiny room, chanting and praying for her, she entered just as the bleeding resumed and lay down on a mattress. For the next half hour she thrashed about as the pain seared her frail body, all the while calling out to God and praying. Next, entering the grace period, she suddenly went limp and rolled onto her back, exhausted. Her voice became deep and resonant as she continued to pray, blessing dozens of people and their families, including my own. Next was a period of speaking with reference to scripture, with guidelines for leading a proper life such as avoiding pride and greed. Lastly, we met with her individually for personal blessings, questions and, for many help with medical issues. In response to a request for guidance helping my father who recently suffered a stroke, I was told to pray and sponsor 33 Gregorian masses, currently being performed in India as I write. Others were given specific medications, including homeopathic remedies. The Holy Spirit is a homeopath! When asked about this, Sister Susan replied that she knows nothing about homeopathy, but that God recommends these remedies because they can do no harm.
The week was filled with stories of miracle healings and amazing events. In one case, a woman talked about Sister Susan being in two places at once, and performing a long distance healing. She felt electric sensations in her body while sleeping with her grand daughter, and dreamed that Sister Susan, then in India, had come to her in spirit. The woman then called Sister Susan, who confirmed the healing, and asked about the little girl whom she did not recognize. From that day on, a digestive system disorder was dramatically improved.
I came out of this incredible experience with a renewed sense of reverence, respect for a spiritual tradition with which I am not all that familiar, and understanding of the power of prayer. My commitment to the Sister Susan is to inform people about her Ashram and orphanage, and encourage people to make contributions to its operation. For example, one can become a lifetime member of the Ashram for 70 dollars, for which we receive daily prayers from Sister Susan as well as a set of masses for us and family members at the time of our death. I am also collecting funds for ashram operations, and computers to send to India to train the children. Anyone interested in participating may contact me directly for information.
Jim Martin, LAc