Karkala, Jul 27: St Lawrence, deacon and Martyr of the Holy Catholic Church, is venerated by his devotees and pilgrims flocking to his Shrine at Attur-Karkala numbering over a million every year. He is even 'worshipped' as the 'god' of Karkala by many people. In the Tulu language, St Lawrence is affectionately addressed as 'Karkalada Dever' (god of Karkala). The fame of the Shrine, which is spread far and wide, more for the miraculous powers of the Statue of St Lawrence, having its own history, has always been the centre of attraction, devotion and veneration. The history of this devotion is not a myth butbased on the facts of the life of this great but simple and humble Servant of God, who was privileged to live and die a martyr for his master Jesus Christ.
St Lawrence was one of the 7 deacons of ancient Rome, serving under Pope Sixtus II, martyred during the persecution by emperor Valerian in 258 AD. A deacon of that time was ordained to serve the poor. He was appointed both to the service of the table (corporal works of mercy) and to the service of the Word of God (spiritual works of mercy). St Lawrence is one of the most widely venerated saints of the Roman Catholic Church.
Origin and History
The Shrine of St Lawrence at Attur-Karkala in the diocese of Udupi is situated on the outskirts of Karkala town. Placed amidst placid greenery, the Attur parish and Shrine have a rich history with its origin tracing back to 1759. Moreover, it is known for its miraculous origin. Miracles, history, beauty, devotion, faith and social activities are all bound into one in this holy campus. Regional history tells us that the Christians of this place too were among those who underwent the captivity by Tipu Sultan. Tipu, the king of Mysore, who ruled from December 29, 1780 to May 4, 1799 was a tyrant who forced Islam on other faiths, especially Christians. Or else, he held them captives as slaves, tortured and killed them. Those who had suffered the tyranny of Tipu Sultan and yet survived, returned to their respective places to build houses for themselves, their churches and their faith. The parish church, in those days, was about 7 kilometers away from the present site. Tipu destroyed it and took the Christians as captives to Srirangapatna near Mysore. At the end of the captivity, the Christians who returned put up a small church building of thatched roof on the way to Nakre in 1801 under the leadership of a Goan priest.
The Old Church
The origin of the present Church and Shrine: The Church at Nakre was too old for religious functions. So the parishioners and their Goan Parish Priest were on the lookoutfor a proper location to build a new Church. They carried with them the Statue of St Lawrence, one foot in height. On the way they went on praying to him to help them select a suitable place to put up achurch in his honour. They crossed the Ramasamudralake of Karkala, went up the Parpale Hill and came down on the western side. They found a spring flowing at the foot of the hill. As they were thirsty and tired, they placed the Statue on the ground and quenched their thirst with the pure spring water and rested there.
After sometime, they decided to continue their search for a suitable place but when they tried to lift the Statue of St Lawrence, it would not move as if it was rooted firmly in the ground. On seeing this, the priest exclaimed: “Oh St Lawrence, if you have selected this place, we will build the Church in your honour in this very place”. Only after this promise the priest was able to lift the statue from the ground. So, on the same spot, the present Church was built in the year 1839. Within a short time, this Church turned out to be a centre of pilgrimage attracting people of all faiths. Devotees began to flow in from the surrounding places. Many favours were received by them through the intercession of St Lawrence. The miraculous statue of St Lawrence became a holy statue for veneration and the place gradually developed and was declared by the Church as a Shrine. As the Shrine began to beconsidered as a pilgrim centre, pilgrims, irrespective of their faiths, castes and creeds, kept on visiting the Shrine to pay their respects and fulfil their vows to St Lawrence throughout the year because they believed that St Lawrence was not only a powerful intercessor before God, but also a dispenser of favours and blessings.
Today, the people of Attur as well as devotees and pilgrims from far and nearflock to the Shrine of St Lawrence, in season and out of season, for the sole reason that St Lawrence would fulfil their aspirations. There are a number of people who vouch for his miraculous powers even without visiting the holy Shrine at Attur-Karkala claiming that St Lawrence cares for them and listens to their petitions from wherever they are. The large number of pilgrims visiting the holy Shrine every day, especially during the Annual Feast celebrated in the last week of January, which crosses over twelve hundred thousand (12 lac as per 2015 records) and over a million throughout the year is a vivid testimony that Saint Lawrence does heed the petitions of everyone who approaches him with trust.
Reason why the annual feast is celebrated in the last week of January: Christians who returned to Attur from the captivity of Tipu Sultan found themselves homeless and landless because all their lands were occupied by people of other faiths. Hence they took to working in their fields as daily labourers earning daily wages in kind as rice. Since money was required for other purchase for sustenance, the men folk took up jobs far away in coffee estates. The devotion to St Lawrence grew day by day and since there was no possibility to communicate through the media, especially for the people who were far away from Attur-Karkala, it was agreed to celebrate the annual feast on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the last week in January so that devotees from far and near could confidently visit Attur to celebrate the annual feast. This tradition has been kept up faithfully by the Shrine every year.
Chief minister Siddaramaiah visits Attur Shrine
The Church of St Lawrence at Attur-Karkala is synonymous with the Shrine so much so when one speaks of visiting the church of St Lawrence at Attur, it is meant also the Shrine and vice versa. The annual feast is known as a Jatre in the local language to mean, paying homage to the miraculous Statue in person, making a good confession, participating in the holy rituals of the liturgical celebrations, making the offerings and fulfilling their vows, especially of lighting the candles. It is believed that if a person visited the Shrine during the annual festival and lighted a candle making a wish, the wish would come true. The people from various faiths flock to the Shrine during the annual feast either to fulfil their vows or pay their respect to the much-revered St Lawrence and return only after receiving his ‘darshan’ (glimpse).
Pushkarini: There is a holy pond in the premises of the Shrine by the name 'Pushkarini'. The pond is always full of water. The water is believed to have a miraculous healing effect and is said to have produced many healings. Hence, most of the pilgrims make it a point to visit this pond.
A cross can be found on the top of the Parpale Hill near the shrine of St Lawrence. During the holy season of Lent, the Way of the Cross is conducted on this hill with great devotion and enthusiasm. At a lower level of this Hill, there are two caves of Tipu’s time; one of these is quite big. St Lawrence Shrine is spread over an acre of land ofscenic beauty on all sides. Peace, tranquillity and serenity lend a hue of charm to this holy place. In the present world of disappointments, worries and frustrations, St Lawrence Shrine sheds a ray of hope, courage, blessings, forgiveness, healing, miracles and holiness.
Several diocesan priests have dedicated themselves to build, promote and spread the devotion to St Lawrence since 1759. The number of priests having served the St Lawrence Church and Shrine is 36. There have also been Spiritual Coadjutors and Assistant Parish Priests. Being custodians of the holy Shrine, they have been instrumental in the steady growth of the Shrine. The Shrine has been well-patronized and continues to attract pilgrims year after year. The phenomenon is indeed a miracle of St Lawrence.
The Church and Shrine have been treated as centres of peace, tranquillity, prayer, devotion and communal harmony. This was evident in 1994 and 1997 when, due to heavy rain, there was a landslide around the Parpale Hill and, as a result, the metallic pendal in front of the old Church got heavily damaged and blocked the flow of water from the hill. This would have resulted in heavy damage to the Church but devotees of all faiths from around Karkala and Attur rushed to the Shrine and cleared the large heap of mud, making way for the smooth passage of water. In 2001 when the new Church was built as a memorial of the bi-centenary celebrations, a ninety feet twin belfry was constructed based on Christian, Hindu and Muslim architecture which has been highly appreciated as a beautiful symbol of communal harmony in the Shrine.
Devotees of various faiths at the feet of St Lawrence
During Christmas season every year inter-religious get-together is held in which prominent religious leaders of different faiths are invited to address the gathering and promote communal harmony. This get-together is well appreciated and highlighted prominently in the local newspapers. The Books and Souvenirs Stalls of the Shrine distribute religious material by way of literature, books,audio and video-CDs and promote devotion to St Lawrence, and thereby the Triune God. Copies of the Bible are distributed freely to the devotees who are interested in studying Christianity.
Two developments which are noteworthy at the Shrine:
1) On Friday after the annual Shrine Feast, the poor and the destitute are provided with a festive lunch and given financial help in cash equally, the charity received for this purpose from the pilgrims during the annual feast. Begging is banned during the celebration but the poor and the needy are taken care of in a systematic manner so that they too are able to enjoy the rich heritage of the holiness of the Shrine of blessings and favours.
2) These needy are also continually helped and taken care of throughout the year by the Rector of the Shrine so that the works of mercy and charity dispensed by deacon St Lawrence are continued faithfully also in this Shrine. The Shrine takes utmost care to alleviate misery and suffering by setting aside 75% of the revenue received throughout the year by way of contributions, donations and mite box collections for construction of houses for the poor, medical care, education and other basic needs of people of all faiths without any discrimination.
"Whatsoever you do to the least of my brethren, that you do unto me"
The diocese has already set in motion a master plan of putting up a Home for the Destitute so that all those who have nowhere to go will find a home away from home in this Home for solace, security, care and human dignity.
The Shrine of St Lawrence has always kept in mind the spiritual, social, economic and educational progress of the parishioners, pilgrims and devotees. Accordingly various activities, plans and projects have been undertaken to meet these objectives:
• All arrangements have been made to make the Eucharistic celebration meaningful anda true God-experience. During the annual feast additional Masses are celebrated throughout the day and night in different languages so that the pilgrims are able to participate in the Holy Mass. The Eucharistic adoration after midnight on annual Feast days attracts a large gathering of faithful. Modern media ofcommunicationsare used to reach out to as many pilgrims as possible spread all over the campus.
• Sufficient number of Priests, Deacons and Extra-ordinary Ministers of the Holy Communion are made available for the distribution of Holy Communion with trained volunteers guiding them to places of distribution.
• Confessional facility is another area which has been adequately taken care of and a separate Confessional Chapel is being planned for the purpose.
• A ‘Home for the Destitute’ is being planned with a view to take care of the poor, neglected, destitute and orphans in the spirit of St Lawrence who took care of the needy of his time.
• While over 200 deserving families have been provided with financial help last year for medicine, education of children, housing, sanitation and drinking water facilities, scholarships, a medical burse and systematic housing projects will be taken up as a part of the future plan.
• Yatri Nivas, a Pilgrim Centre, is already under construction. This building consists of ground plus three floors in which facilities will be provided to pilgrims for board and lodging.
• An Enquiry Centre will be provided to the visitors, tourists, devotees and pilgrims who seek information and guidance about the Shrine and St Lawrence.
• A Museum is being planned to house relics, documentation of favours received, chronicles pertaining to the history of the Church and Shrine, souvenirs, testimonies from pilgrims and other important valuable articles, artefactsetc.
• A Hall in the form of a theatre will be set up to screen films and audio-visual presentations on the life of Christ and St Lawrence, and history of the activities and celebrations at St Lawrence Church and Shrine.
The Shrine of St Lawrence at Attur-Karkala was promoted and nurtured by the diocese of Mangaluru till its bifurcation on July 16, 2012. After the establishment of the new diocese of Udupi, the holy Shrine of 'Karkalada Dever' has become a part of the spiritual heritage of Udupi district, only to be at the service of the pilgrims and devotees, the poor and the needy, irrespective of caste or creed. This holy Shrine of St Lawrence at Attur-Karkala was elevated to the status of a Minor Basilica by Pope Francis on April 26, 2016. The public proclamation and dedication of the same will take place on August 1.
St Lawrence Basilica is the 22nd in India, and second in Karnataka, St Mary’s Basilica in Bengaluru being the first one in the state. The dedication of the new Basilica will take place with a Thanksgiving Holy Mass celebrated by Cardinals, Archbishops and Bishops from all over India along with priests, religious and laity of the dioceses of Udupi and Mangaluru. This historical and memorable event will recognize the shrine of St Lawrence as a sacred sanctuary of blessings, favours, reconciliation, peace, unity and communal harmony.
What is a Basilica?
The word 'Basilica' is derived from a Greek term meaning 'Royal House'. In the Catholic world, a basilica is a church building that has been accorded special privileges by the Pope.It is a title of honour given to certain churches because of their antiquity, dignity, historical importance or significance as centres of worship. There are 4 Major Basilicas in the world, all of which are in Rome: St John Lateran (Cathedral of the Diocese of Rome), St Peter’s of the Vatican, St Paul’s outside the walls and St Mary Major. Major basilicas have the papal altars and holy doors, which are opened at the beginning of a Jubilee Year. The Pope also grants the title of ‘Minor Basilica’ to certain churches around the world which enjoy certain ceremonial privileges. A basilica must “stand out as a centre of active and pastoral liturgy” according to the 1989 Vatican document ‘Domus Ecclesiae’. As the designation as a ‘basilica’ indicates a special bond of communion with the pope, the parish must celebrate “with particular care” the feast of the Chair of Peter on February 22, the solemnity of the Holy Apostles Peter and Paul on June 29, and the anniversary of the pope’s election or his inauguration into his pastoral ministry.
Three physical signs indicate that a church is a Minor Basilica:
1) The presence of the conopaeum — a silk canopy designed with stripes of yellow and red, traditional papal colours.
2) The tintinnabulum, or bell. It is mounted on a pole and carried processionally, along with the conopaeum, at the head of the clergy on special occasions.
3) Minor basilicas have the right to display the papal symbol—crossed keys—on banners, on furnishings, and on the seal of the basilica.
In addition, the Basilica’s rector may wear a black mozetta, or cape, over his surplice with red piping, buttons, and buttonholes in the exercise of his office.The other privileges granted concern the celebration of the liturgy, and a plenary indulgence on certain days to those who pray in the Basilica.
Symbols of Basilica
There are at least 1740 Minor Basilicas in the world (1739 Minor Basilicas as on June 30, 2015). Of the 22 Basilicas in India, 18 are of the Latin Rite, 3 of the Syro-Malabar Rite and 1 of the Syro-Malankara Rite. India is the country with the highest number of basilicas in Asia.
The Decree from the Pope, while granting the title of Minor Basilica,imposes the obligation to celebrate the liturgy with special care, and demands that the church for which the title is requested should have been liturgically dedicated to God and be outstanding as a centre of active and pastoral liturgy, setting an example for the others. It should be sufficiently large and with an ample sanctuary. It should be renowned for history, relics or sacred images, and should be served by a sufficient number of priests and other ministers and an adequate choir. Many Basilicas are notable churches and often receive significant flow of pilgrims and pilgrimages.
Among the churches of any diocese, the Cathedral Church holds the first place and the greatest dignity. In it is placed the cathedra, the sign of the Bishop's teaching authority and power, as pastor of the same diocese and the sign of communion with the Roman cathedra of Peter. Next, there are the parish churches, which are the homes of the various communities of the Diocese. In addition, there are shrines to which the Christian faithful of the Diocese or of other local churches go on pilgrimage.
Among these churches and others of different categories are found some that have particular importance for liturgical and pastoral life. These may be honoured by the Pope with the title of Minor Basilica, thereby signifying their particular link with the Roman Church and the Supreme Pontiff.
The following conditions are to be fulfilled by achurch to be declared a Minor Basilica:
1. A church for which the title of ‘Basilica’ is proposed must have been dedicated to God by a liturgical rite and must stand out as a centre of active and pastoral liturgy, especially through celebrations of the Most Holy Eucharist, of penance, and of the other sacraments, which celebrations set an example for others on account of their preparation and realization according to liturgical norms and with the active participation of the people of God.
2. To further the possibility of truly carrying out worthy and exemplary celebrations, the aforesaid church should be of an appropriate size and with a sufficiently large sanctuary. The various elements required for the liturgical celebration (altar, lectern and celebrant’s chair) must be placed according to the requirements of the restored liturgy.
3. The church may enjoy a certain renown throughout the Diocese, for example, because it has been constructed and dedicated to God on the occasion of some particular historical and religious event, or because the body or significant relics of a saint are preserved in it, or because some sacred image is there venerated in a special way.The historical value or importance of the church and the worthiness of its art are also considered.
4. As the liturgical year progresses, the celebrations of the various seasons may be carried out in a praiseworthy manner, a fitting number of priests is necessary; they are to be assigned to the liturgical and pastoral care of the church, especially for the celebration of the Eucharist and penance with sufficient number of confessors who, at stated hours, are available to the devotees.
In addition, sufficient ministers along with an adequate choir are required to encourage the participation of the faithful in the liturgical services.
Offices and duties proper to a basilica in the liturgical and pastoral areas
1. In a Minor Basilica the liturgical instruction of the faithful is to be promoted by establishing groups concerned with liturgical activity by special courses of instruction given in a series of conferences and by other programs of this kind.
Among the special activities of a Basilica the study and popularization of documents coming from the Supreme Pontiff and the Holy See, especially those pertaining to the sacred liturgy needto be undertaken.
2. The celebrations of the liturgical year are to be prepared and carried out with great care, especially the seasons of Advent, Christmas, Lent, and Easter.The word of God is to be diligently proclaimed either in homilies or in special sermons. The active participation of the faithful is to be promoted both in the Eucharistic celebration and the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours (official prayer of the Church), especially in the Morning and Evening.
In addition, approved forms of devotion are to be suitably fostered.
3. To make clear the particular bond of communion by which the Minor Basilica is united with the Roman cathedra of Peter, every year there must be celebrated with particular care: the Feast of the Chair of Saint Peter the Apostle (February 22), Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles (June 29) and Anniversary of the Supreme Pontiff's election/inauguration into the supreme ministry.
Privileges offered with the title of 'Minor Basilica'
1. The day on which the title of ‘Basilica’ is publicly announced to a certain church should be prepared for and observed in a festive way with appropriate sermons, prayer vigils, and other celebrations. On the day of the proclamation, at the beginning of the celebration, before the Gloria, the Decree by which the church is raised to the status of a Basilica is read out in the vernacular.
2. The faithful who devoutly visit the Basilica and participate in any sacred rite or at least recite the Lord's Prayer and the profession of faith, obtain a Plenary Indulgence, under the usual conditions of Sacramental confession, Eucharistic Communion and Prayer for the intention of the Supreme Pontiff on the following days:
• anniversary of the dedication of the same Basilica
• day of the liturgical celebration of the title
• solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul, Apostles
• anniversary of the granting of the title of Basilica
• once a year on a day to be determined by the local Ordinary
• once a year on a day freely chosen by each of the faithful.
3. The papal symbol, that is, ‘crossed keys’ may be exhibited on banners, on furnishings, and on the seal of the Basilica.
4. The rector of the Basilica may wear, in the exercise of his office, a black mozetta with red piping, buttons and button holes.
Message from bishop of Udupi diocese Dr Gerald Isaac Lobo
"It is, indeed, a matter of great joy to all of us that our dearShrine of St Lawrence is now a Basilica, St Lawrence Basilica. The title will promote confidence among the devotees in the spiritual services held in the Basilica because of its recognition by the Pope and increase faith in God because of the intercessory powers of St Lawrence whose miraculous gifts are experienced by thousands of pilgrims and devotees who flock to the holy Shrine every day."