Rosarian priests put faith into action | Sunday Observer

Rosarian priests put faith into action

25 August, 2019

Work, for the night is coming,
Work through the sunny noon;
Fill brightest hours with labor,
Rest comes sure and soon.
Give every flying minute
Something to keep in store;
Work, for the night is coming,
When man works no more
- Ann Coghill

In today’s quest to achieve success it is easy to lose focus on the deeper meaning and purpose of life. During my visit to the Northern Province I stopped by at the quaint village of Atchuvely. This serene village derives its name from the Tamil word for printing (atchu), a skill introduced here by the late scholar and priest Rev. Fr. Gnanapragasam. The quiet road is bordered by clusters of palmyrah trees. A group of young boys cycle past me. I reached the Rosarian Monastery known as Amalaivanam. This is where the contemplative Catholic priests live and work as a community. The Rosarian Order was established in 1928 by Rev. Fr. Thomas. The dedication and good work of this prudent priest continues to this very hour.

The monks who live here engage in a very interesting form of work. They make the famous Nelli Crush, the cool green beverage of the North and also Pomegranate Cordial. In this narrative I am focusing on the latter process. In 1930 the late Rev. Fr. Thomas experimented with various fruit juices, long before today’s hype about organic food. He refined the recipes for both Nelli Crush and Pomegranate Cordial. Since then for more than eight decades the pious monks at Atchuvely have faithfully produced this beverage. One of the priests and my dear friend Rev. Fr. Jeban explained “The motto of our religious order is Ora et Labora (in Latin it means to pray and labour on). We strive to uphold this in our daily lives. We work to sustain our community of Rosarian brothers “.

The pomegranate is a sought after fruit in many parts of the world. It features prominently in ancient Tamil literature; the dried seeds are eaten as Anardhana. It is relished by women during their pregnancy. It is recommended for the recovery of patients. At the monastery the entire production process is done by hand. Rev.Fr. Jeban added “We grow and harvest the pomegranate in our own gardens. Before we start the juice making we open the fruit and take the pulp. This is crushed gently. The extracted liquid is kept to ferment for a minimum of 60 days. We then add some water, sugar and liquid glucose and boil the liquid. After cooling, we filter and begin our bottling process. The pomegranate juice is good for those with kidney and blood related ailments”.

Amalaivanam is a place of solitude and prayer. Each morning these hardworking brothers rise at 5am and pray in their small chapel. Prayer is one of the primary pillars of this religious sect, and it must augment the faith of all Christians. Depending on their work schedules they engage in producing both beverages. Yet this is not for commercial profit, but to sustain the humble monastery. Apart from this the small chapel celebrates Mass in Tamil with the local Catholic community. In the Bible, in Luke chapter 9 Jesus declared to his early disciples “If any man decides to follow me, he must deny himself, take up his cross and follow me”. This is the true call and challenge of Christian service, where the love of Christ is manifested in sacrifice. Rev. Fr. Jeban added “We have dedicated our lives to serve almighty God. We enjoy our work. Amalaivanam is a hub for local youth to come and pray. We want to sustain peace for all people”. It was time to sample the pomegranate juice. It was an absolute delight, and one can feel the greater essence of the love and care of these genuine priests. As I took the bus to Jaffna town, I pondered on the lives of these Rosarian brothers - their unity, love, sacrifice, humility and devotion to duty - elements we don’t witness in our busy city life.