FR. SARTORIO – ON THE HORSE BACK

Readers may kindly refer to my three notes on Kamuthy and its hallowed church dedicated to St. Antony of Padua.

Here is some thing more. But   this is not on the church itself but on one of the early Jesuits — FR. SATORIO who came to Kamuthy and breathed his last afflicted by the dreaded cholera.  His grave is located in the south east corner of the church with an Indian version of grave with a canopy and an epitaph spelling out the year of death as 1852.

Folk lore is abounding on this priest’s concern for the villagers; and elders time and again have spoken that he was still on horse back and trotting in the streets of Kamuthy in the dead of the nights protecting them from the onslaughts of bad spirits, plague, famine etc. Candles are lit in scores and blessed oil is kept for smearing in the canopy to ward off evils.

To  express their gratitude ,the grateful Bharatha devotees , every year ,conduct asanam in the vicinity of the church itself on the day following the festival of St. Antony which  usually falls  on  13 th june.

The asanam is attended not only by the Bharathas   but also by different communities in Kamuthy, signifying the close relationship the community maintains with others in Kamuthy and illustrating the reverence for the Father.

The provocation for this article, stems from my recent re- reading a book on THE JESUITS IN INDIA BY W. STRICKLAND 1850, a British Jesuit.   He portrays the perilous times for the Jesuits of later 17 th century and early 18 th century  and lists out quite a few who fell a victim to Cholera in Madura mission. The heroism of these fallen heroes is so touching, that I wish everyone reads this slender volume reprinted by Asian educational services in 2001.costing   rs 461.

The first to die in cholera was Fr. Fidelis Alexander Martin who when he saw the faithful crying around him when he was sick said ‘’ I did not come to this country to live in it for ever ‘’

Fr. De Bournet who had been in the country and who had been placed under Fr Martin survived him scarcely twenty days after.  The flock felt they had lost a guide in their path to eternity.

The third was Father Alexander de Sardos , who when implored to take care of his health replied that he did not fear death. He kept his soul ready to go before GOD   and passed into eternity on 2nd February 1841.

The fourth was Fr. F. Charingnon who sank in the alter  and died on 21 February 1841.

These were succeeded in deaths by cholera by Frs F.  Garnier,superior of the mission , Peter Faurie. Claude de Champes, Louis du Ranquet, Francis Perrin, Louis Berlandis.

For some time there was a lull. But in July 1846 cholera again struck and Fr. St Ferriol, Fr. O Kenny, Fr. Audibert, Fr. F. Barret.were lost.

In 1849 Fr. Ponsdiver fell a victim.

1850 cholera again claimed a victim and this time it was a young priest not ordained a year. FR.Sartorio was a savoyard by birth and had proceeded to India before his novice- ship ended. He was one of the first priests ordained by the present bishop Dr. Canoz and was much loved by his companion.  He had just begun his labour among the natives, when he was sent to a village where violent dispute was raging, to endeavour to reconcile the adversaries. He was making some progress in this good work when he was seized with cholera, which was ravaging the village, and after a short illness died.’’

The village that had a raging conflict was Kamuthy  .  The death year mentioned in the epitaph slab is 1852. But Father Strickland would state that he died in 1850. Fr.Strickland published the book in 1852.

I feel there might be an error in the year mentioned in the slab.

What ever be the year of death of FR . Sartorio, in the psyche of Kamuthy Bharathas, he lives trotting his horse in the dead of nights chasing out evil spirits, demons, plague, pestilence and famine.

By A X Alexander

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