Fr. Morais– despite his ill health– wrote voluminously and was the Author of famous Sooriyan Saya sung all over once before- now cached in the internet. We are trying to locate his Uvagai Ullam but not still be able to lay our hands on.Those of you among our readers —if you have this copy please give a copy to us to enable us to make a critical study of his works..
He was my teacher in St Josephs college Trichy and taught me Newmans Idea of a university. He corrected my composition too.
My father a boarder in St Josephs was under the tutelege of Fr. Morais who was his second prefect, he mentioned to me that Fr. Morais would be present in the Fort Railway station to see off all Tuticorin and other Paravs boys when they proceed on Holidays and all of them would sing Sooriyan Saya before the train steams off Fort railway station homeward.
REV. FR FRANCIS MORAIS SJ (18.10.1909 – 27.05.1986)
The passing away of Fr Morais on 27 May was the most unexpected event, which took everyone by surprise. He had been seriously ill several times, had often been in the hospital, had undergone serious operations, even brain surgery, had cerebral haemorrhage, but the time fixed by the Master for his final call had not arrived. It came on the most unexpected day and in the most unexpected way. He was in the ordinary state of his health, he had visited some friends in Dindigul on the day before; his niece also came to see him. Then on the morning of 27 he bade adieu to her not knowing it was to be his last. After her departure at about 9 0′ clock he went to concelebrate Mass with Fr Motha in a private room. This daily concelebration was his great consolation. The presence of someone by the side on whom he could rely freed him from all anxiety about the ceremonies and worry about finding a suitable time and server for the Mass. At the end of the Mass on this day he asked Fr Motha if he could sing. When asked to go ahead he came out with his poem on the flagstaff of the Church “KOVIL MUHAPPIL KODI MARAMEETHILE”. After the Mass he was his usual-self walking about in the corridors and saying a word here and a word there. Lunch and recreation followed the normal course. He went to bed to take siesta at about 2. 30 p. m. Apparently, when he was trying to get up from bed he had a fall and quietly breathed his last. The Master’s call had come.
Francis Morais was born in Tuticorin on 18 Oct. 1909 of devout parents, Simon Morais and Arockiammal Mascarenhas. He belonged to the parish of Our Lady of Snows and had throughout his life kept the spirit of simple and ardent devotion to Our Lady characteristic of the place. He had his elementary and high School education in Ornellas and St. Francis Xavier’s respectively, both in Tuticorin. After his SSLC he went in 1926 to St Xavier’s Palayamkottai for his Inter and BA. While in the College he came under the influence of Fr Mudiappar who guided him into the Society. It was generally said that very few college boys came under the influence of this pious father. Fr Morais was one of the very few, almost the only one so that he was often •teased as the ‘Unigenitus’ of the father.
Morais joined the novitiate after his BA. on 16 June 1930. Those days were full of stress and tension in the country. The newspapers carried these headlines: “Failure of the Simon Commission” “Gandhi-Irwin Pact”, “Round Table Conference”, Churchill’s ”Half-naked fakir” speech. The National movement for independence was gaining momentum. For those who were innocent of these matters this meant nothing but for a college boy who took interest in the national movement it meant tension. It was difficult to be away from the bustle of those days and from the men of high ideals who were in the forefront, not to have even an accurate knowledge of what was happening. It will be difficult for those who came to the Society after the “freedom at midnight” to grasp the situation of those days. The Church leaders were wary of the national movement. Even to speak of the love of the country and its culture was judged to be a sign of lack of religious dedication and indifference. The word inculturation did not exist and the substance it is meant to represent was suspect. Fortunately Fr Ayraud who was his novice master for a year and a half was a man of understanding. He remarked that it would be strange if one coming from the College was not interested in these things. But it meant tension for a Jesuit who loved his vocation and whose love for his country meant presenting it with all its cultural heritage to the Lord of history.
After the novitiate came the juniorate for a year and a half. Besides language studies, science and maths formed part of the curriculum. Morais was in his elements. Fr Froehly who was at the beginning in charge of the juniorate used to speak of him as a ‘brainy lad’! From now on he was also teaching Tamil to his fellow scholastics. Probably now began or at least developed his hobby of writing poems. The very popular Tamil song ‘” Sooriyan Saya” was written at this time, when he was a junior. Very soon it spread throughout Tamil Nadu.
During the juniorate and philosophy Morais used to visit the villages of the hills in an effort to visit “evangelize them.
Sometimes he arranged Mass in the distant villages generally taking with him Fr. Cornbaluzier who was ever ready for these excursions with the scholastics. In the juniorate he and his companions started to build up a Tamil Classical library
which later was shifted to the Fathers’ library and then to Satya Nilayam when philosophy was shifted to Madras.
After his philosophy he was sent to St. Joseph’s for his regency. At this time he lost his father, but was not able to go for the funeral. He was prefect of the College division of the boarders, while teaching in the school. At the same time
he worked with Fr. Jerome D’Souza’s help on a thesis for M. Litt. degree “Pioneers of Modern English Poetry especially Gerard Manley Hopkins”. Later he passed his
M. A. in Tamil. Thus he was well qualified in English and in Tamil. Moreouer his poetic talents made him apt professor
to visit the villagers of the hills in an effort to evangelize them. Sometimes he arranged Mass in the distant villages generally taking with him Fr Cornbaluzier who was ever ready for these excursions with the scholastics. In the juniorate he and his companions started to build up a Tamil Classical library which later was shifted to the Fathers’ library and then to Satya Nilayam when philosophy was shifted to Madras.
After his philosophy he was sent to St Joseph’s for his regency. At this time he lost his father, but was not able to go for the funeral. He was prefect of the College division of the boarders, while teaching in the school. At the same time he worked with Fr Jerome D’ Souza’s help on a thesis for M Litt. degree “Pioneers of Modern English Poetry especially Gerard Manley Hopkins”. Later he passed his MA in Tamil. Thus he was well qualified in English and in Tamil. Moreover his poetic talents made him apt professor to teach the juniors rhetoric, poetry and/prose in Tamil and English. During his regency and theology he used to contribute learned articles to the New Review and Tamil Culture.
In 1941 he was sent to Pune for his theology which at that time was conducted in St Vincent’s School complex. Naturally he worked zealously helping the Pune Mission fathers in their apostolate among the Tamils of Kirkee and Pune. He was ordained on March 24, 1944.
When he returned to the province he was sent to the juniorate to teach English for a year before his Tertianship in Kodai in 1946-47 After his Tertianship he was sent to St Joseph’s to teach in the College. At that time the province conceived the idea of starting a socio, – political, – literary magazine in Tamil, as the Society had in other countries and languages. It was thought that Fr Morais would be the fittest person to start that magazine.
With this idea in view he was sent to Madurai to be the editor of the Tamil Messenger of the Sacred Heart and then gradually to start the other paper. He took over the editor¬ship of the Messenger from Fr Anandu and set himself to plan the other paper which was to be a fortnightly and called Thai Nadu.
The first number of the paper appeared in the middle of January 1951. Though the services of excellent writers like Mr Thomas Srinivasan and Mr Rampolla Mascarenhas were secured the business side of the paper was in doldrums. It had no financial foundation, having to depend upon income from subscriptions and advertisements which were not forthcoming. The editor himself had to go from place to place trying to get subscribers and helpers. The labour which this entailed and especially the worry accompanying it was too much for his strength. He broke down under its strain, he had a stroke of cerebral haemorrhage which necessitated lengthy treatment in Madras. Recovering gradually from it he was slowly drawn into the teaching line. For some time he taught in St Joseph’s then in the juniorate, Shembaganur. When the junior ate was brought down to Beschi College Fr Morais came with it to teach English.
As teacher he may be said to have given his students a taste for Tamil and English. He encouraged them to develop their talents. He took paternal interest in the scholastics even after they had left the juniorate. He used to take pains to go to the railway station to meet his former students travelling in the train. Usually he carried with him snacks for Weary Travellers.
Though he was teaching he had not regained his strength. In the meanwhile he had to undergo two or more serious operations in the stomach. When he recovered from these maladies he was not his old self. He was weak, he used to faint often. It was thought that brain surgery would do him good. The operation was done in Madras by a prominent
neuro-surgeon. It was a success, and he began to teach again. He was sent to Loyola for some time. But becoming weaker and weaker he was relieved of all teaching work and given light ministry as that of spiritual father of boys in St Joseph’s Thiruchirappalli, or St Mary’s, Dindigul. Frequently he was indisposed and had to be treated in the hospital. Finally he was sent to Beschi.
Though unable to do any serious work, he was cheerful; in recreations he was usually the centre of jokes at his expense by younger men many of whom had been his students. He took in good part, even provoking, teasing by them. In community functions he was always ready to contribute his share, which was generally a poem of his own composition which he sang. In group masses or prayer services he came out with such songs with great devotion. He would sing his poems whenever asked. Once he was introduced to the doctor in the hospital who was celebrating his birthday or some other event. To greet him Fr Morais broke out into an apt song of his own composition to the astonishment and great joy of the doctor.
It may be surprising to note that during all these years of stress and suffering, through the ups and downs of health he kept alive his interest in Tamil writing and studies. Mention has been made of his poems which he wrote from his scholasticate days.
A collection of these poems were published under the title ‘Uvagai Ullam” some years ago. They were reprinted in 1980 as a remembrance of his golden jubilee in the Society. Someone who is well-versed in literature speaks of these poems thus “They touch the heart, fill it with fine emotions and elevate it heavenwards. The author speaks of very ordinary objects like the broken bridge and the bullock cart and raises our hearts to noble ideals. His style combines the higher poetic style and as occasion requires, the ordinary spoken Tamil. The poems unveil a tender heart that had enjoyed the facts and feasts of Tuticorin and a mind that had indulged in English literature, breathing in the spirit of Francis Thompson and Newman”.
At the beginning of his career as a writer he attempted to do some pioneering work in literary criticism in Tamil. Literary criticism at least in those days was rather scarce in Tamil. What passed for such merely an explanation of the words or the context and an undue adulation of the author.
Fr Morais thought to initiate real literary criticism at least in Christian circles. He wrote a critical essay on some of the poems of a well known and revered catholic poet. The censor would not allow it to be published not because of any flaw in the writing but simply because it would be considered the height of pride for a youngster to make any critical remark however justified on a well known and respected writer. There was much discussion in the higher circles about the paper. Finally it was allowed to be printed after introducing some palliative phrases and explanations. Actually no one took offence.
He kept in touch with the current literature and writers. He dutifully attended all the meetings of Tamil writers and poets in the state. He was greatly helped in all this by Prof. Rampolla Mascarenhas who introduced him to very many Tamil scholars and writers. On one occasion he met a daughter and a grand-daughter of the poet Bharathi. They were pleased to hear that he had written articles on the poet in the New Review. He spoke sometimes in the All India Radio on Tamil literary topics.
When the province thought of encouraging Tamil writing among our men the idea of the Beschi Writers’ Association was mooted. It was received with great diffidence and hesitation, especially because of the failure of the Thai Nadu project. But the decision was finally taken and Fr Morais was its first secretary. The out-put of that Association during the years is well known.
Love of the poor was a characteristic of Fr Morais, This was especially evident since his ordination. Finding ways and means of helping them and when in Shembaganur, of procuring warm clothing for them, was his constant concern. He tried to give them stable help by securing jobs for them. This love of the poor was only one aspect of his broad spirit of compassion for the sufferings of others whether rich or poor. Anyone who approached him for help would find in him a ready benefactor. On his side he felt grateful for any little help given him. He would treasure any token of sympathy such as a letter from someone at an unexpected moment.
We may mention here that from the days of Sr Franciscus he had been frequently in St Joseph Hospital, Dindigul, many times undergoing serious operations. He was aware that he was not a docile patient. He would relate with glee the ruse he employed to get round the doctor’s directions
as for instance her ban on cigarettes, and her instruction not to get up from bed after a serious operation. But he was quite conscious of what he owed to Dr Franciscus and her devoted assistants. He was touched by her dedicated service and kept always a deeply grateful remembrance of her.
He was off and on in the hospital and received solicitous care from the sisters which he greatly appreciated. But when the time came it was not in the hospital but in his own room in Beschi College that he departed this life.
by Fr M D John SJ