St Alphonsa healing oil
The St Alphonsa healing oil is dedicated to the 20th century Indian saint.
St Alphonsa was born as Annakkutty (little Anna) in Kudamaloor, a village in the princely state of Travancore which was under the British Raj (now present day Kottayam district, Kerala, India) to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu. She baptized on 27 August 1910 at Saint Mary’s Church in Kudamaloor under the patronage of Saint Anna. Anna’s mother died when she was young, so her maternal aunt raised her.
In 1916 Anna started her schooling in Arpookara. She received First Communion on 27 November 1917. In 1918 she transferred to the school in Muttuchira. In 1923 Anna was badly burned on her feet when she fell into a pit of burning chaff. This accident left her permanently disabled.
Anna joins the Poor Clares
When it became possible, Anna joined the Franciscan Clarist Congregation. She arrived at the Poor Clares convent at Bharananganam on Pentecost 1927. She received the postulant’s veil on 2 August 1928 and took the name Alphonsa. In May 1929 she entered the Malayalam High School at Vazhappally. Her foster mother died in 1930.
On 19 May 1930 she received her religious habit at Bharananganam. Three days later she resumed her studies at Changanacherry, while working as a temporary teacher at the school at Vakakkad. On 11 August 1931 she joined the novitiate. Anna took her permanent vows on 12 August 1936. Two days later she returned to Bharananganam from Changanacherry.
In December 1936, it is claimed that she was cured from her ailments through the intervention of Blessed Kuriakose Elias Chavara, but on 14 June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, which left her weakened. On 18 October 1940, a thief entered her room in the middle of the night. This traumatic event caused her to suffer amnesia and weakened her again.
Anna dies young
Her health continued to deteriorate over a period of months. She received extreme unction on 29 September. The next day it is believed that she regained her memory, though not complete health. Her health improved over the next few years, until in July 1945 she developed gastroenteritis and liver problems that caused violent convulsions and vomiting. During the last year of her life she came to know Father Sebastian Valopilly (later Bishop of Kerala) who frequently brought her communion. This bishop became famous in Kerala for championing the cause of poor people from all religious backgrounds.
After a series of serious health problems, she died on 28 July 1946, at a young age of 35. She was buried at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Bharananganam.
St Alphonsa healing oil/Tradition of oils
The tradition of anointing with sacred oil is very old indeed. It is used in sacraments and also as a devotional practice. The sick person applies the oil and blesses themselves. As they do so, they are asked to pray to whomever the oil is dedicated to. The Irish blessings oils do not have miraculous power. It is God who has the power to heal. Applying the oil while praying are important ways for us to express our faith in God’s power. Moreover, by doing so we place our trust in God.