English translation of the booklet “ Helena Charithaya“
Written by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Edmund Peiris O.M.I.
Former Bishop of Chilaw.
First published (Sinhala version) in the year 1945.
Translated by : Rev. Fr. D.F. Medagoda 2015
Please note that, all the facts contained in this book are taken from documents mentioned here and not the decisions of the Holy Church. Therefore, the words which are used here such as wonders, miracles, apparitions, stigmata etc., bear meanings used in the ordinary parlance and those words do not bear the strict meanings given by the Catholic Church. The right to decide on the sanctity (holiness) of the children lies solely in the hands of our Mother, the Holy Catholic Church. This booklet and the facts included here are not meant to anticipate the judgments of the Church whose most humble and most submissive children we are.
28.10.1945, Edmund Peiris O.M.I.,
Chilaw. Episcopus Chilaw.
Approval to print English translation given by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. D. Valence Mendis,
Bishop of Chilaw on 22nd July 2015, at Chilaw.
On the night of the 8th of February, 1931, a revered lady passed away in a catholic house in the village known as Gonawila (Bolawatta Parish) situated in Othara Palatha, South Pitigal Korale. She was known among the Catholics of this village by names such as ‘Sister Helena’, ‘Helena Gurunanse’ ‘Heiya Gurunanse’ etc. Two days later her body was laid to rest at Gonawila Catholic Cemetery with great respect. A large crowd from Western and North Western Provinces and some Catholic priests were present at the funeral. Such a respectable funeral had not taken place in that province for a long time. This noble lady was not popular for any worldly reasons such as wealth or power. But the respect paid to her remains was beyond expectations. Some people amongst the large crowd that flocked to Gonawila on that occasion praised her for some wonderful happenings in the deceased person which they had experienced long ago; some praised her exemplary religious character; some spoke about the spiritual and physical favours they received through her prayers. They felt that she had been an object of special divine favours, such as the saints used to enjoy.
Now we come forward to introduce her noble character to Sri Lankan Catholics in their own mother tongue (Sinhala version). The facts included here are not based on hearsay spread among villagers but from contemporary, trustworthy and very reliable documents. We will show here in brief the main ones out of them.
Some information between the periods from 1869 to 1897 is included there.
All these are hand written in English, Latin, French, Spanish or Italian Languages.
THE BIRTH AND CHILDHOOD:
Our noble Heroine was born in the village, Gonawila, in the latter part of the year 1848. This is how her details were entered in the Baptismal (Thombu) Register of Bolawatta Mission.
Date of Baptism : 18th March,1849 ; Name : Helena ; Date of birth /Age : 05 Months ; Father: Don Anthony ;Mother: HelenaHamy; Village: Gonawila; God Father: Phillippu Tissera, the son of Simon Tissera; God Mother: Celestina Perera, the daughter of Andrew Perera; The Name of the Priest who baptized : J. Cesare Mola. Father’s name was also mentioned as Don Anthony Perera (Short notes) Mother’s name was also heard as Algamu Koralage MadalenaHamy.
Four sons and three daughters were born to this couple. Out of them, Helena was the youngest. The eldest who was known as Carolis later became the village Headman and became famous in the village as Karo Vidane. The father was a Buddhist and embraced Catholicism before marriage, but he followed the old superstitious practices and traditions of his earlier faith. People called him Adonis alias Adho Kapurala as he was engaged in pagan cults, charms, chanting etc. Children were baptized in their childhood because of the eagerness of the mother. The eldest son Carolis followed the footsteps of his father and was against Catholicism. But the three daughters were pious, exemplary and dedicated Catholics. Because of the different views family members held there were frequent disputes and quarrels at home.
Helena did not attend school in her childhood to learn the alphabet or religion. Even at home she didn’t receive any guidance about our holy religion. When she was residing with her Buddhist relatives in Macola, a village in Siyane Korale, she even attended Buddhist temples and shrines with her relations in her ignorance. But when she heard about her two sisters preparing to receive first Holy Communion and Confirmation, she came back to her village with her mother’s consent and went to Bolawatta church every day for two months to learn catechism. Then she was twelve years of age. Rev. Fr. Florentino Garcia was the Parish Priest. His Lordship the Bishop, Rt. Rev. Dr. Semeriya O.M.I. came to Bolawatta in December, 1860 and stayed there for three months.
Helena was chosen to receive Holy Communion and Confirmation with her sisters because of the enthusiasm she showed in learning religion and the eagerness she had to receive Jesus. She went to Rev. Fr. C. Chounavel O.M.I. for her first confession. Her golden period began with that. To understand that well, it is better to mention here certain intermediate details.
Kammala, an area to which Gonawila belonged is famous in the catholic history of Sri Lanka . By about the year 1604, a Jesuit priest by the name of Balthasar Garcia, first time preached Catholicism there. Within six years the number of Catholics increased by more than 700 and a new church was built.
On the day of the consecration of the church, there was a grand festival and the villagers dramatatized the Creation Story of the world and the Nativity Story of Jesus Christ.
The priests, who officiated at the religious services there, praised the good qualities of the new converts and especially the religious knowledge of children. Every Sunday, school children learned catechism in the form of questions and answers in the church. The faithful showed special devotion to the Holy Cross. Once under the guidance of the village chieftains they carried a large wooden cross in procession with local art forms like dancing and singing and erected it on an abandoned Devala land. During times of droughts and epidemics or sickness they used to come there and pray recalling the Holy Cross as the sign of salvation.
In 1617 there was a rebellion led by Nikapitiye Bandara and there was no peace in the country. So many harmful things imposed on the Holy Church also. Kammala church was destroyed by the rebels. To save their lives Catholics abandoned the village and went into hiding in the jungle. But when that revolt was over they returned to the village and rebuilt the church. In 1628 a priest came and settled down in Kammala and let the true faith shine even around adjoining villages.
According to contemporary records, in 1644, the number of Catholics in Kammala was 1000 and the number of children who attended school was 150. With the establishment of Dutch rule in Sri Lanka from 1656 to 1687 there was not a single Catholic priest in this country. After the secret arrival of Rev. Fr. Joseph Vaz, who deserved our veneration, the people of Kammala were once again fortunate to receive the sacraments of the Church and to listen to holy sermons. During the Dutch period, Chilaw and Puttalam divisions remained under the Sinhalese King. So the Catholics in those areas were free to practice religion without the harassments of the Dutch regime. Therefore Rev. Fr. Vaz and other Oratorian priests used Kammala area as their base and went about freely to Negombo and Colombo for divine services from time to time.
Several books of Rev. Fr. Gonsalvez were written in Kammala. In 1741, he made Bolawatta the centre of his work. He spent the rest of his life there. So this village was fortunate to have his remains. In 1746, King Sri Vijaya Rajasinghe fearing a ghost sent through a charm by a wicked group belonging to a religious cult,had to satisfy the devil by burning a few Catholic churches as a burnt offering. These churches belonged to innocent people who were loyal to the King himself in the hill country,. At the same time the scared church of Bolawatte was also burnt, but reconstructed in 1769. Thereafter as the Dutch awarded the religious freedom to Catholics, Holy Church was rejuvenated and very successfully continued its services. British administration granted her full religious freedom in 1806. In 1835, Sri Lankan Catholic Church became a new diocese, but, the Oratorian Order which saved the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka from death throes, ceased to function due to unjustifiable actions of the Portuguese Rulers. Then the other European missionaries arrived here. In 1847, administration of the Sri Lankan Catholic Church was divided into two regions. The region North of Maha-oya was called the Jaffna diocese and the rest became Colombo diocese.
In the month of August, 1850, the new church at Bolawatta (present one) was consecrated by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. H. Bettachini. At that time, there was a big Catholic population in Bolawatta and Kammala. But in the adjoining villages the majority was Buddhist. Even in Godella and Gonawila there were Devalas (shrines for idols of gods and goddesses) and temples. There was a mention in the Oratorian Records about a church in Godella in 1844. A block of land was bought in 1867 to build a church in Gonawila.
From the inception, Rev. Fr. Florentino Garcia was the Captain who guided the ship of Helena’s religious life. From dangerous waves such as doubts, wicked temptations, physical pains etc. he steered showing her the direction of the blessed vision of peace. He was an educated, pious hermit born in Spain, ordained priest in the Cistercian order established by St.Bernard.He came with another Spanish priest named Rev. Fr. Froilano Oruna on the 14th of August 1845 from Italy.They happened to be together in Italy doing religious service, after leaving Spain due to the oppressive laws imposed by anti-religious government against the clergy. After he served in Trincomalee for a short period of time, he was sent as Parish Priest of the Chilaw Mission in 1849. Then the parish was so large which extended from Maha-oya to Deduruoya. In 1850 it was divided into two and Bolawatte was entrusted to Rev. Fr. Garcia. From then on till his death in 1900, Bolawatta was his main station.
Although when Helena made her first confession, she didn’t have a clear idea about the sacrament of Penance, later she had a better understanding of it and frequented the sacrament. Whenever she received Jesus in the form of Holy Communion, she detested the worldly pleasures and was very enthusiastic in saving her soul and felt a strong urge to dedicate herself to God. Therefore she tried to uproot and destroy fully, the contributory factors of sins. On the days she received Holy Communion, she experienced a sensible fervor as if something burning within her. Even though she got the same feeling at every time she received the Holy Communion, it gradually faded away to be revived with the next reception.
As other young girls in her village at that time, Helena too paid attention to clothes and sports. But on the days she received Holy Communion, she paid full attention only to her Master. The priests who taught catechism to her were Rev. Fr. Garcia, Rev. Fr. Francisco Xavier and other priests. She was permitted to make her confession and receive Holy Communion once in three months. Whenever she committed a fault, she had the habit of repenting by bowing down her head and drawing the sign of the cross on the ground. During this period, although she was not aware of the proper methods of doing meditation and mortifications, she used to fast on every Saturday and all the Fridays in Lent. The life she spent for three years was a period consisting of some minor faults and a period of a mixture of fervor and tepidity.(Short notes).
The arguments and objections of her father and the elder brother were the causes to strengthen Helena’s religious attitudes and to develop her good qualities. Even though they were Catholics, they spent their lives by following pagan practices. They blasphemed God not only by actions but also by words. They followed odd things such as sorcery, auspicious times, witch craft etc. For a period of full three years, they tried their best to take their daughters to shrines and temples dedicated to idols and devils. They tried to prevent them from church attendance. Sometimes they hid their cloths. But somehow she attended the Holy Mass daily by using nice tricks. Although they ridiculed her piety, she showed her belief without any fear. Whenever her elder brother built a small shrine in front of their compound to offer flowers to an idol as part of their religious rites, she destroyed them. Once without any fear, by taking to her own hands she drank the water from a clay pot which was charmed with evil spirits, in order to insult and challenge the power of the devil. The elder brother seeing this got very angry and beat her with a wooden stick until his anger abated. When the eldest child born to him was to be taken to a pagan temple to perform the customary devilish rites for new born babies Helena intervened wailing to stop it by saying, “Even if you kill me, I will not allow this child of God to be dedicated to the devils,” The elder brother got angry for this and taking a pole started beating her shouting, “I will kill you and will go to gallows myself.” Her head and the body were swollen due to the beating. But Helena without showing any anger towards her brother, offered all her pains to God for his conversion.
One day, her father set aside a phial of especially prepared oil, flowers, husked coconuts etc. with the intention of offering them to his gods and goddesses at the temple. Helena could not bear the sight. For a person who was dedicated only to true God by baptismal water and holy oil, getting entangled with the enemy in hell by offering gifts to it, made her very sad and she thought of preventing it by making some sort of a change. She knew that the items set aside for daily offerings were not to be tasted before they are offered. So, saying, “Let’s see whether it is Jesus or the devil who is powerful” she applied some oil from that on her head. By piercing a husked coconut she drank the water in it; other things also were touched and tasted. The reward she got for doing this from her father was a good thrashing.
Although the three years mentioned above was a period full of difficulties, troubles and insults, it made Helena shine more and more in true piety and religious fame. She came out of the war not as an apprentice, but as an expert heroin in religious warfare. Just as the goldsmith cleanses a piece of gold from every stain of impurity by burning, God too makes good men free of sins through suffering.”(Sermons ii; 5) It is a difficult task to lead a life of purity while living in the world facing troubles than living a contemplative life among hermits. It is a feature of a heroic character. How dangerous is it for all going through the transition period from childhood to the adolescence? Carnal desires, impure temptations, strange and unjustifiable disturbances rise up like waves in an ocean. Going through it, is a must for the children of fallen Adam. But those who manage to escape trials by not getting overwhelmed or disturbed by them are gifted with special divine grace. The above mentioned three years Helena spent without any strong impure temptation.(Brief notes)
SERVANT OF GOD:
Since she did not attend school in her childhood, she was unable to learn about the religion by reading books. The art of Meditation and spending time with God was taught to her by a pious lady called “Rosa” who had her training at the convent in Jaffna for a short period of time. The sisters of Helena also received valuable advice from this teacher. This small group gathered from time to time and meditated. They prayed and read devout books. With the passage of time, another few ladies with devout ideas started to follow them. A wise lady named Christina was the leader amongst them. Rev. Fr. Garcia after coming to know about their devout acts and piety and their intention to remain unmarried, prepared a list of rules for them to follow in 1866. From then onwards, they gave up their lay dress, wore black frocks as religious nuns did and covered their heads as well with the same colored upper veils. Although Helena associated them from the inception, she did not join that group immediately. Even Fr. Garcia, like a clever teacher without forcing her to commit herself, waited impatiently for the correct time Almighty God deemed fit. He ordered her to meditate on death and the impermanence of the worldly life, while teaching her different methods of meditation. Pious Christina was helping her with teaching on abnegation such as giving up parents. relatives and friends. Then onwards, gradually Helena got the training on the path of the religious life.
One day when she was meditating on heaven and hell, she heard a voice within her heart. It said, “Choose the best between me and your parents. Ask yourself as to what you should choose.”
Thereafter, a fierce battle started in her mind. Although she was anxious about worldly pleasures, she detested the wedded life seeing the hardships her brother had to undergo after his marriage. But ideas of her parents were totally different. The marriage brokers who were engaged by them, tried to trap cute young men in the village for her. But those who knew about her pious character did not show any sign of interest on her in words or in writings to take her as their wife. The elder brother who got angry after knowing that, said, “If you don’t marry as we say, we will shoot and kill you.” Her only answer was, “Good, but I don’t care. I will never change my decision.”
The first thing a person who is heading for a religious perfection should do is cleansing the character. That is detaching from sins and temptations. The daily examination of conscience will help for this. Therefore Helena examined her conscience honestly, twice a day in the morning and evening.While trying to remove the shortcomings from her mind, she made utmost effort to develop her love towards God. Her greatest vice was quick temper, and so she prayed to God asking His help to overcome it. While she was giving up worldly pleasures by controlling carnal desires, breaking away from the chains of sins, trying to burn as a candle for the love of Jesus, she heard a voice in her heart saying, “Taste my inheritance”. When she started questioning in her mind “What is this inheritance of Jesus”, she found that it was the passion of Jesus.
Two years later, in 1868, Helena entered the religious group established by Rev. Fr. Garcia. Father explains her spiritual condition at that time, as follows: “She was not disgusted due to harassments and severe punishments of her brother. Her piety improved along with the difficulties she had at home. She gave up herself and detested everything the world valued. Although she never attended school, she learned the alphabet from her colleagues. Now she can read religious books, but cannot write. Since her first Communion, she was fed with the same life-giving meal from time to time. She removed the ornaments worn by her as young girls of her age used to. She expressed her anxiety of loving Jesus daily more and more. Even her spiritual director taught her how to meditate about the fundamentals of our holy religion or the discipline of saints. She became even an example to her fellow members as she had trained herself very fast in that religious discipline.” (Report)
Around 1869, one of her toes was bitten by a deadly snake and she was nearing her death. But she boldly refused the use of charmed oil or chanting mantras etc., even if she dies. After a short while she received extreme unction and later she got cured.
Since 1870, Helena’s life changed to a strange pattern. She lost her peace of mind from time to time. Dangerous unclean ideas and doubts about saving her soul came up as waves. Her heart was covered with a great fear similar to the fear the humans would experience when the sky and the earth were covered with thick darkness. Very sadly, she prayed to God. One day when her spiritual depression was very high, Jesus appeared to her, in an imaginary vision and pacified her saying, “When the devil was making you suffer and when you were feeling depressed due to doubts, I was near you. Even in the future in your sufferings I will be with you.”(Diary 14th August, 1870.). Again Jesus in a mental vision, had dressed her with a valuable ornament, placed a floral wreath on her head saying that she would be undergoing torture and suffering and so would become a partner of his passion.(Diary 11th Sept.).
Thereafter she started suffering from a very high fever. Her hands and legs became lifeless, throat was swollen and at times she became unconscious and suffered severe pains. Many people thought that she was going to die. But she never complained and bore everything with patience and offered them to God as a pleasant offering. When her heart was rejoicing because of Divine Mercy, the devil, the enemy in the hell tried to deceive her and mislead her by using many of its tricks. Once it showed her a ring and pleaded saying,” You wear this and belong to me”. When that trick did not work, it had beaten her severely and vanished.(Diary 4th Oct.).
A few days later when she was in a deep contemplation, Lord Jesus spoke to her showing the Sacred Heart and said, “Enjoy my inheritance” and ordered her to venerate it by kissing. She did so with fear and devotion. Although this was not seen with her naked eyes, since then she felt as if her heart was pierced with a weapon and a crown of thorns was fixed on her head. There was a severe physical pain too from it. (Diary 12th Oct.). After some days, a few drops of blood were seen on her forehead and right side of her chest. She was afraid suspecting if these marks were some tricks of the devil. That was because she had not yet understood that the sacred legacy of Jesus was His Passion. (Diary 15th Nov.).
On the 8th November, when she was going home from church, she was bitten by a snake again on her right foot and she became unconscious and was almost dying. After receiving extreme unction, within a day she recovered. Then she saw this apparition. Like a mighty king, Lord Jesus ordered the devil who tortured her, to get away. Thereafter Jesus lifted her and gave her the authority to trample the creature of hell. Then it pleaded for her permission to go away from her.(Diary 20th Nov.). In this manner, before she was made a partner to his passion, she was strengthened and pacified with sweet words and pleasant apparitions.
Among the colleagues of Helena, there was a crafty nun, who was trapped by the devil. She tried to deceive Rev. Fr. Garcia and other hermits, by relating false stories about divine apparitions and special graces she had received when she came to know that Helena had received such marks.She herself wounded her hands and feet. Rev. Fr. Garcia notes in his diary about her shrewd deeds.
THE INHERITANCE OF LORD JESUS:
Soon after she returned home after the festive mass of the Immaculate Conception on the 8thof December 1870, she got a strange idea. She felt as if her shoulders were being pressed down with an immense weight and her skeleton was squeezed. Because of the pain she had from it, she lay down herself semi-conscious. Then Lord Jesus appearing in her mind, showed her three nails each about three inches long, ordered her to kiss them and said, “After receiving my inheritance in this world, you will enjoy it also in heaven. ”Eight days later, the Holy Cross was also showed to her by Jesus. From these signs she realized that, she was destined to suffer.(Short notes)
Let Fr.Garcia himself explain this passion to us. “Since this year (1870) December she went through a series of sufferings which we could say were similar to the passion of Jesus. Every Friday she was crucified thrice. This is how this mysterious thing would happen. At seven in the evening on Thursday she would be felled to the ground by a mysterious power. Her hands and legs got tightened up. Twice she would undergo whipping for about twenty minutes. Then about quarter of an hour, she was in a state of trance. At about six O’clock in the morning on Friday as if she was burdened by a heavy cross, suddenly falls on the ground and stays for about half an hour unable to stand up. She would fall withface down on the floor. It was very well observed that, even she herself was trying to lift the weight that was pressing her. After she got up, she was able to read books even for two hours. At 9.00 a.m., suddenly she would fall down again on the floor and stay stretched as if she was laid on a cross and nailed to it with her hands and feet on it. During these occasions, any immodest posture against chastity was not seen. It is unable to say exactly how long she would stay after the crucifixion, because the duration varied. If she was in a trance, she suffered only for a short time. Otherwise she would suffer a lot. The crucifixion took place for the second time at 12 noon and the third at 3.00 p.m.
Since December 1870, every Friday as stated before, in a strange manner, she was crucified three times.But then there was no bleeding from her hands and feet. From the inception there was bleeding only from the right side of her chest. Since Good Friday 1871, there was bleeding even from her hands. This did not occur always in the same way. Sometimes it was only from a hand and at another time it was from a hand and a foot. Sometimes it was only at the first and second times. At times it was only at the third time. Although this strange crucifixion took place every Friday since then, it would stop showing external signs of the Passion when and if her spiritual Director or the Bishop ordered her not to let it happen for a said period of time.
“The pains she suffered during a period of about a month were known only to her spiritual Director and her colleague appointed by him to help her on those occasions. This hermit was an honest, affectionate and experienced lady well versed in spiritual matters. These things were not divulged to Helena’s parents or sisters. But since November 1871, as she suffered the pains of crucifixion three times a day and when she was unable to take her meals only, her secret was revealed to them. At the inception, they thought that she was suffering from an ailment. Therefore they tried to give her some medicine. When they came to know the truth, they were frightened and without harassing her, they allowed her to continue with the hospitality from her own sisters and companions.
“As it was impossible to prevent a strange story of this nature from spreading around the village and the country, there were many versions going round among the villagers. They tried to see this incident with their own eyes to satisfy their curiosity. Then her spiritual director ordered her to refrain from receiving external signs of the passion and from getting into a trance for three weeks to control the unnecessary gossip and quarrels of the villagers and also to test Helena’s obedience. She totally obeyed the order. During that three- week period, although she did not eat anything, she walked a mile long distance to Bolawatte to teach catechism to the children.
As soon as the prohibition period was over, she resumed her suffering as usual with the external signs on Thursdays and Fridays. She suffered the severest pains of crucifixion daily for three weeks during Advent. Every time the bleeding took place from the wounds. In that year, on the eve of Christmas, since she was in good health and it was not a Thursday and there were no signs of the passion, she came early to the church for the mid night mass. At about 10.00 O’Clock at night, it was noticed that her hands and feet were being tightened by a secret power. When her friendly colleague saw this she was removed to the sacristy. Here she suffered all the pains of crucifixion. Blood streams flowed from her wounds. As there was a large crowd for the Holy mass on that day, it was impossible to prevent Helena from their sight. She was in a trance for a longer time than on other days, till the mid night mass began. However she came to participate at the mid night mass. Thereafter, a large crowds even from faraway places of Sri Lanka flocked to Gonawila to see her.(Report).
SPREADING OF THE NEWS:
The manifestation of the Passion of our Lord Jesus, true God and true man who suffered so much for the deliverance of the mankind is a heart rending vision, when it occurred through a human being. The exposure of such a vision on this earth is very rare. According to the historical writings of the Catholic Church, the first person to receive this honour was St. Francis of Assisi. It has been confirmed with proof that there had been three hundred and twenty one persons who have received this special grace since then through the mercy of God. In Goa, India a nun who had lived at St. Monica’s convent and passed away in 1683 also has had this great blessing. (History of Cath. Church in India by M.D’sa. Vol I.p.224) The wound marks caused due to grace of God do not get infested or emanate bad smells like those of other wounds that occur due to defects in the human body or any other external reason. These wounds get healed not by the power of medicine, but through the grace of God. There may be so many questions raised by medical experts and Theologians regarding such matters. This booklet is not sufficient to tackle all such. However, one must keep in mind one thing. About these wonderful happenings, the higher authorities of the Church are acting very cautiously. It is the right of the infallible Church to make decisions about such matters.
When Gonawila news started spreading all over Sri Lanka, people from all parts of the country flocked to see Helena at her parental house and its vicinity. Especially on Thursdays and Fridays massive crowds thronged to her place. As her parents or her brother couldn’t cope up with the situation, Fr. Garcia gave her permission to stay in a small room near Gonawila Church, during those two days. Even then, the crowds did not get diminished. Before the situation getting out of hand, Fr. Garcia on 8th October 1871, informed the Administrator of the diocese Rt. Rev. Dr. Christopher Bonjean O.M.I., in writing about this matter. Further, he informed the people through the Parish Priests of adjoining missions, that seeing Helena on Thursdays and Fridays has been prohibited. The main desire of the faithful who flocked to Gonawila was to see some wonderful happenings. So they did not care much for smooth arrangements and at times they even disobeyed the orders of the hierarchy. There is no need to mention the volume of unruly acts that could take place, when a crowd of about three thousand people keen on seeing some strange phenomena flocked around a small house waiting impatiently. Quarrelling and exchanging vicious and vituperative slangs etc. are the normal things to expect. But even the hearts of hard sinners who were among the few people who were able to watch the passion of Helena, had melted like wax. Her elder brother who had hated her, decided to lead a good life after seeing her pious life and her wonderful behavior. Devotees of other religions, who lived in nearby villages, gave up their wrong beliefs and embraced the true religion.
About the wonderful news of Bolawatte, there were debates in newspapers and publications in Sri Lanka. Some said, “Daughter of Ado Kapurala is a witch and is possessed by the devil.” Those who were against the Catholicism alleged that it was either an amusement of Romans (Catholics) or a trick of their priests, as they usually comment on matters of Catholic Church. But higher authorities of the Church did not make any decision regarding these incidents until an impartial investigation is conducted. Moreover the Bishop of Jaffna issuing a notificationon 18th January 1872, prohibited faithful visiting Bolawatte to see Helena and making statements to say that those strange happenings on her were by the power of God.
On the 3rd of March His Lordship the Bishop ordered her, her companion and Rev. Fr. Garcia to come to Kurunegala since it was unsuitable to solve a grave problem of this nature in the midst of impatient villagers. Even though her parents objected to it, she immediately obeyed the orders of the superiors. Even during her stay at the Holy Family Convent, Kurunegala, the passion took place as before. There, Helena was examined in two ways. It was the responsibility of Dr. Dias, M.D., who was a Chief Doctor, to examine on her physical condition. There was not even an iota of suspicion to think that he will show some bias towards Helena as he was a modern science specialist and also a Protestant. Canonical examination was conducted by the Bishop himself, very meticulously.
REPORT OF THE DOCTOR :
The Doctor examined her three times. First examination was held on 13th March 1872. His Report was handed over to the Bishop on 9thof April. We reproduce here a small section of it. “I found on each hand in the centre of the palm and oval space two marks about ¾ inches in length and about ½ an inch in breadth, in which the skin was smooth and of a darker tinge similar to that of cicatrices; in the centre of this space there was a hard ended and raised mass like dry blood. This was about ½ an inch in length and less than ¼ inch in breadth. The mass appeared to be made of several smaller globules adhering together. One similar mark was found in the dorsum of each hand; these were in places corresponding to the marks on the palms. Four marks similar to those on the hands were found on the feet, two on each foot, and one on the dorsal and another on the plantar surface. These were a little larger in their dimensions than those found in the hands but were in every other respect similar to them. On the right side a little below and to the outer side of the breast, I found a mark two inches in length; here the skin appeared to be superficially cracked, this being surrounded by a margin of smooth and dark coloured skin about one quarter of an inch broad; this was situated horizontally.
I examined Helena on the 14th March the day following the first examination during a trance. I saw her about 3.00 p.m. She was quietly sitting and the hands and feet were not bleeding. I then waited in an adjoining room, the door between the two rooms being wide open. At 3.30 p.m. her sister informed me that Helena was going into a trance and I hastened to her. She was lying on her back, her arms outstretched, the hands being about 18 inches from sides, the dorsal surface being pressed to the ground the legs stretched and over each other, the lower part of the right leg crossing in front of the left, the plantar of the right foot being closely applied to the back of the left foot. Blood was issuing from the palms, the dorsum of the right foot and the plantar surface of the left foot. It came from between the masses of dry blood forming the centre of the mark; a portion of it was bright red and the larger part was dark red and from each of the four places about a dram of blood escaped. She was apparently slightly conscious at first but, soon appeared quite unconscious. Her eyes were closed, on attempting to open them forcibly there was some resistance in the lids, however, there was not much difficulty in opening them; the eye balls were found turned upwards; only the white of the eye being visible. The mouth was firmly closed; the lips could be easily separated but not the teeth. The pulse was 100 per minute and the breathing was very slightly hurried. She was in this state till 3.50 p.m. just 20 minutes. When she seemed to recover consciousness, she opened her eyes and began puffing with her mouth, as some people do when oppressed by a closed atmosphere, and raised her hands off the ground with an effort, as if something held them down. She made a motion of her body and legs from side to side, and seemed to free the feet with an effort, the feet parting, as if which held them together had given away. After this she made an effort to rise up into a sitting posture which she accomplished with the assistance of her sister and friend. I found she had bled from the back of each hand the mat being stained with blood, and also from the plantar surface of the right and the back of the left foot, these being in a position which I could not examine them when she was lying there. There was no bleeding from the side and the head. She appeared exhausted and asked for water to drink….”
“Following day, for the third time, I examined her. At 7.00 in the morning, Helena became unconscious. Bishop Bonjean told me that, a few minutes earlier before my arrival, when she was talking with him about what has happened to her. She had fallen down unconsciously on to her left, with her hands hanging downwards. Her right wrist situated very tightly over her left wrist. Her both legs were close to each other, straight and little bent forward. It was observed that, one or two drops of blood were on the place where she had fallen down. When I examined her head, I saw the blood was oozing from three places of the skull. A small amount of blood has oozed from two places, from middle of the lock of hair of the forehead. A little below the centre of the head bleeding was profuse and dropped down up to the neck. The effort to separate the two arms had to be stopped as they were entangled tightly. During this time, no oozing of blood from hands, legs and the chest. Above status was maintained till 7.15 p.m. or for a full 15 minutes. And then she gradually gained the consciousness and got her hands released with an effort. …... I was quite certain that, this lady or her helpers did not have any act of cheating what so ever.” (Report of the Doctor)
Then Mother Superior of Kurunegala convent, Rev. Mother Marie Josephine bore witness to say that, there were marks of lashing on Helena’s back of the body, after the occurring of passion as described in the earlier paragraph.(Mission des O.M.I., 873, pp.389, 391)
TRANCE AND DIVINE DISCUSSIONS :
During the agony of passion, Helena had been mostly in a state of trance. Since her sensory system did not function properly in the natural way, there was no recollection of memory derived from her five sources namely, her body, mouth, eyes, nose and ears. Yet her power of remembrance, mental power, powers of courage, intelligence and determination were always very active. Sensory system and power of remembrance of a person who had become unconscious stops functioning. Hence, when she was in a trance, she couldn’t recognize the actions and movements of people around her. Even a painful act inflicted on her body was not felt by her. Once, when she was in a trance, a western doctor with the idea of testing her, placed a piece of cloth soaked in a powerful chemical called ‘Ammonia’ on her nose for some time, but she didn’t regain the consciousness. Then the Doctor kept that cloth over her mouth and nose in a way closing them for little time. Then too, she didn’t regain the consciousness. Even though it proved that there was no fraud in her, she had to suffer for two days, due to the allergic condition caused on her body by that strong chemical.(Diary 5th Jan.1872)
But even in these instances, if either her spiritual director or His Lordship the Bishop gave her any order, she could understand them immediately. Rev. Fr. Gallo S.J., who held a high reputation in India as a Theologian, came to Bolawatte to see Helena and said the Holy Mass and gave her Holy Communion. Following day being a Friday, she suffered the agony of crucifixion thrice. That was witnessed by Rev. Fr. Garcia and Rev. Fr. Gallo. When she was in the state of trance, Rev. Fr. Garcia ordered her to free herself from that state. At that moment, without any concern over the other things happening outside, immediately obeyed her spiritual Director and opened her eyes and awoke. (Report: Diary 29th Oct, 1871)
During the time when she was in a trance, God revealed her certain matters. She also conversed with Him mentally. She had pleasant dialogues with persons in heaven. She received these heavenly graces during her meditations. She did not utter a word to anyone about these other than to her spiritual director and His Lordship the Bishop. “It is good to conceal a royal secret, but good to declare and publish the truth about God and God’s benevolence” .(Toby 12.7)
At the inception of her receiving stigmata, she doubted whether they were through the grace of God or by a trick of the devil. She prayed to God saying, “Lord, if this is not from you but from a delusion, please remove it from me. How can a weak person like me bear up such a big responsibility like this?” Then, Lord Jesus and Mother of God appeared to her in a vision and spoke to her kindly and told her, “Don’t be afraid to accept it. You are not being cheated.” Since then she did not have any doubt regarding this strange occurrence.
A friend of Fr. Garcia, a hermit in Europe, named Don Antonio who had come to know through newspapers, about the wonderful thingsof the Sri Lankan hermit sent a letter to him asking for her prayers for him. When Fr. Garcia went in search of her with the letter, seeing that she was in a state of trance at that moment, requested her to pray for his friend and for Rev. Don Lewis who was once his friendly assistant in the city of Rome. When she regained her consciousness, Helena with a smiling face looking at him, informed him that both of his friends were still alive and that Don Antonio was making vigorous efforts for the glory of the Church and in his difficulties he should follow the example of peace, piety and mercy of the Holy Father, although his time was coming to an end and that Don Lewis was preaching the Word of God very assiduously.(Diary 19th Oct 1872)
So often Helena received revelations about the hardships that were faced by the Church, about the troubles hatched by the enemies of the Holy Father and also about the hostilities that are coming against the Catholic Church in Spain.(Diary 10th March 1873; 5thJune 1874). She offered to God, all the pains of her agony for the progress and the freedom of the Holy Church and for the repentance of sinners. Once St.Theresa had appeared to her in a vision, showing her the thorns fixed to her heart and in a sad tone ordered her to pray for the pitiable Spain.(Diary 7th Sept 1874)
This is how she explained to Fr. Garcia about another message she received, once she was in a trance. “There is a pious Queen living in Europe. She recites the Holy Rosary daily and offers it to God on behalf of the Holy Father. She requests her husband not to harass the Pope by joining with forces opposing the Catholic Church. If he refused this request, she had pledged that she and her children would leave him. Although the Kings have decided to destroy the Pope within this month, Lord Jesus informed me that it won’t happen. But the Holy Father will suffer just as He had suffered. Definitely the efforts of enemy forces to kill him will end up in failure.”(Diary 28th June 1872)
Second part of the eighteenth century was a very turbulent period for Catholics in Europe. The new scholars who praised the naturalism acted publicly against the real Author of nature and His Holy religion. The leaders of people, who were conceited by economic development and national egoism, rejected the heaven and peace by subjugating justice to power. Hence the kings of big nations in Europe were always aiming for battle. They hated Catholic religion which preached peace and tranquility. In order to establish revolution in all countries, clandestine groups consisting of criminals spread wrong concepts about the freedom and discipline. Due to this, throughout all the nations in Europe, activities against the Holy Church started. In Spain a group of enemies of the Church mobilized a movement that expelled the clergy from that country and confiscated their properties. A similar course of action sponsored by the government was started in Italy too. The populated areas which belonged to the Church for eighteen centuries were stolen by them. In the year 1870, Pope Pius IX was under house arrest at the Vatican. At that time, France was governed by King Napoleon III. He acted sometimes supporting the Church and at other times against it in disguise. The Queen Eugene being a faithful, devout, noble lady, tried to guide her husband in the correct path. But the King acting contrary to her advice destroyed the country, lost the kingship and died in exile in about 1873. In like manner, King Victor Emmanuel who plundered Church properties, died amidst reproaches from the benevolent. But the Holy Father Pius IX who was very much harassed by them, though living at the Vatican as a prisoner, governed the Church for 32 years winning goodwill and praise from Catholic as well as non-Catholic scholars entered heaven in peace in 1878.
THE DECISION OF HIS LORDSHIP THE BISHOP ;
After examining all the matters about Helena, His Lordship the Bishop, forwarded a written Report to “Propaganda Fide” in Rome, in 1872. Though, we are not aware of exact content of the letter, we could know the decision he had arrived through another letter. On the 12thof May 1872, he wrote to Rev. Fr. Garcia as follows: “My dear Father, I don’t think that you are disturbed by the anonymous letters written by unrefined writers regarding the young girl Helena of your parish, Bolawatte. But I feel that it is my duty to express my opinion. Even though we very sharply investigated about all matters regarding her, after keeping this girl at Kurunegala Convent for few weeks, I was unable to trace even a vestige of fraud or imposture against her character or at least any reason to think that she isn’t a truthful and genuinely devout child. I examined her very attentively. I saw her several instances when she was in trance. I judged all things about her, for quite a long period of time, without putting away anything concerning her, but I did not see any fraud, fraudulent act or even a scar in her character. Not only that, what I always felt was that, Helena is indeed an unpretentious, pure hearted and faithful girl. My opinion then and now is the same. I think that time has not come yet to take a decision on the wonderful news about her. I imposed a prohibition of allowing the visitors to see Helena when she is in the state of trance.
Until I receive a pronouncement from Rome, I as the Bishop think that it is not necessary to impose any other arrangement except the above order. Certainly her cause of action did not leave room for blaming. Before finishing this letter, I would like to mention here another matter. Sometime ago, when I came to see your mission, a large number of your faithful children specially males received Holy Communion. There had never been such a massive crowd. I like to mention here about the joy I got in my heart after seeing that pleasant sight. On that day, we had the fortune of reconciling again with the God, a few miserable sinners who had left the Church and had given up participatingin spiritual services for about five, ten, fifteen years or more. It is my duty to offer my awe-inspiring thanks to God who after accepting joyfully the prayers and agony of little ones and showering previously unseen privileges on sinners. I hereby give my permission to do anything you wish to do about this letter.”
About the religious development mentioned in the latter part of the Bishop’s letter, Fr. Garcia wrote as follows: During the retreat conducted by His Lordship the Bishop, power of Helena’s intercessory prayers and dedication was clearly evident. Great sinners of Kammala and the devil worshippers of Gonawila made their confessions. Most of them attended the services definitely with a good state of mind. (Diary 22nd April 1872 ; 4th May 1872)
AFTER THE INVESTIGATION ;
After returning from Kurunegala to her village, the passion continued as before. “In the evening Thursday, Festival day of the Assumption of Our Lady, Rev. Fathers Roux, Boutin and Perarrd came to see Helena. They were surprised after seeing the blood which was flowing along her face. It became ugly due to the flow of blood from her head. On Friday again, they went to watch her nailing on the cross. (Diary 26th August 1872). As earlier, the crowd also came to see her. At times, there were quarrels. The enemies brought trouble to her and the Administrators of the Church. Rev. Fr. Garcia felt that unlimited praise on her might impede Helena’s religious tranquility. As such he advised Helena to pray to God asking Him to stop the external occurrences of the passion. The reply she received from God was that she should not be frightened to act in allegiance to God’s wish and that the external signs will cease in another two years’ time.(Diary 4th May 1872) On the 5th March 1874, Rev. Fr. Angelo Cardano and Rev. Fr. Perrard came to see the passion of Helena. But it did not occur. When Fr. Perrard inquired her about it, she gave the following answer:, “I am unable to do otherwise. Putting me down, binding and subjecting me to the agony of the passion are all done according to the divine wish of Lord Jesus. Occurrence of such things today is not His wish. I don’t have any power over this.(Diary 9th March 1874)
Although the external signs of the passion disappeared from that period, internal pains continued for quite a long period. Visions and divine discussions occurred from time to time. “Last Saturday, when she was in a state of trance, she had a vision. A chalice full of fire offered to her and ordered to drink it. She whole heartedly, dedicating herself to Lord Jesus, drank it fully. From then on she was filled with a new enthusiasm. Unlike before, now she feels more stamina in her. Although earlier Lord Jesus treated her as a child, hereafter, He will not show such an attitude towards her (Diary 2nd May 1874). After her serious illness, she was getting more visions than before. Last Friday a cup filled with blood was offered to her to drink. She was thinking that, the agony of passion is going to resume again on her.(Diary 7th Sept 1874).
HELENA’S FATHER ;
The special kindness shown to Helena by God was a reason for most of the people to be convinced and repentant. The villagers gave up wrong beliefs and embraced true religion. But her father followed the old traditions of other religions and offered sacrifices to devils and gods ignoring true God. This was a major reason for Helena’s sadness for which she begged God and prayed for her father. In 1874, on the eve of the feast of St. Mary Magdalene,she saw a dreadful vision about her father. She saw a few black men driving a vehicle with a black covering. When she asked them where they were heading, they had said that they were going to carry her father. When she prayed crying and saying, “Jesus have mercy on him”, the persons who came in the vehicle went away. Then, when she prayed to Jesus for her father’s conversion, Jesus told her, “I am ready to accept your request, but he ignores my mercy. How can I show that to him?” Because of this vision, her heart was filled with sorrow. She cried for her father’s soul. Lord Jesus informed her that, “On the judgment day you shall come to know how profoundly I suffered for his sake.”Because of the love Jesus has for her, He will tolerate without giving him a severe punishment”(Diary 22ndJuly 1874) Few months later, when she was in a trance, Jesus exhorted her to pray for the soul of her father. (Diary 11th Oct 1874). The result of her obedience to that order, Rev. Fr. Garcia explained as follows: “Due to the prayers she offered for a number of years, I think, my dear Lord Jesus accepted, the prayers of Helena on behalf of her father. In order to change the hardness of his heart, the plan selected by the Lord was a very severe decease. During the period he was sick, he rejected to hear a single word from his daughter about the deliverance of his soul. When he was suffering from rheumatism he accepted help only from the other daughters. In the month of December 1880, he had dreamed from time to time the news that I had heard his confession by coming to him and he was healed etc.
“At last, God’s grace being profoundly active in his soul, he decided to get his sins forgiven by summoning me. I heard his confession and since his sickness was very serious I gave him the extreme unction also. As soon as he got little better, forgetting his pains, he attended holy mass. Unlike most of the sinners of this country who come back to the Church just to get a Catholicburial, he returned to God with a correct motive. Now he listened to the advice of his daughter Helena willingly. He had a great faith in her. (Diary Jan.1881, 408 – 10 pages). On 10th August 1884, at about 7.00 p.m. Helena’s father expired. Eight days before that he received the Extreme unction and Holy Communion as viaticum. From time to time, till his last breath, he muttered the most Holy and sweet name of Jesus. His death was an exemplary one. Thus the entire wish of Helena about her father was fulfilled. It had confirmed Helena’s piety and love towards Jesus. She was at a loss as to what gift she could offer to Jesus in return for the noble grace given to her father. The day after his death, I went even to the cemetery to bless his remains (Diary Oct 1884, 431-2 pages)
The God created us. Hence, we totally belong to Him as a whole, including our souls, body, power of intelligence, power of determination, shape of the body and powers of all the parts of the body. As God planned our existence, our final place of rest also should be in Him. There is no value of a creature without reference to its Creator. Also it is meaningless. All the animate beings and inanimate objects declare His greatness according to their limited form of existence. Since the human being is an intelligent creature, he should recognize God, and be attached to Him through his own free will. God ordered human beings, “Love the Lord thy God, with your whole mind, your whole soul and your whole strength”(Deut.vi 3). Our utmost duty is to love Him with our whole heart. Love is the power of unification. There is unity among people who live in love. When united as one mind there will be one united gathering. People, who live with love of God, are living in God. God also lives in them.(1 John iv – 16)
This unity starts to begin on the very first day where sanctifying grace germinates in our soul with our Baptism. The change that takes place on that day is wonderful. By receiving a strange power on our intellect and our will, we can believe the truths revealed by God, after understanding them correctly, and to love Him, after believing that He is our only wealth.We the human beings, because of the sanctifying grace become children of God and inherit the right to Heaven. As long as we remain in the state of grace, all our good deeds will be pleasant to God and can gain merits to increase our glory in heaven. This divine childhood will be lost by mortal sin and diminished by venial sin. However through confession, we can regain the lost spiritual life and diminished internal beauty and recover the lost strength (to fight against evil) .
Sanctifying grace changes in direct proportion to the love of God. Also the acts performed according to this new nature will strengthen that nature and make it grow. To the proportion it grows the strength of the soul also will develop and sharpen. In addition to that, faith, hope and divine love and other heavenly virtues will activate speedily. The Holy Spirit will cast His looks on such souls and will adorn them with His seven gifts.
In like manner, on the day of Baptism, the spark of divine fire kindled in the soul will burst and scatter everywhere for a new life to be born in the powerful soul superseding even the senses. It will emerge as a great source of heat. It’s worth mentioning here that a soul burning with the divine love is united to God so much so that he cannot see anything else in this world except God. All the objects including oneself will disappear from his vision and he can observe God only. Then like St. Paul, he also can say that, “I am living, but now it is not me, but Lord Jesus Christ lives in me.”(Galati II.2) “My Lord, my all.”(St. Francis Assisi).
Let’s think about certain religious values expressed in Helena’s character. Most of the people consider only “wonderful” things written or spoken about her. These things are special endowments from God and not sure signs of someone’s personal righteousness. Like other Apostles, Judas Iscariot might have worked wonders like casting out devils and healing the afflicted. But that didn’t make him a righteous man. Most of the saints did not perform miracles in their life on earth. They may have lived their whole life in seclusion, but their characters were resplendent with very high religious values. Among many of Helena’s religious attitudes, the most important factor was her faith in God. Since she didn’t get the opportunity to learn about the truths of religion during her childhood, there were some shortcomings regarding her faith. But as soon as she acquired a good understanding of her religion, faith became a permanent force in her character. It was this lively faith that made her attend Holy mass and receive Holy Communion with such an ardent devotion. She behaved asif she saw Jesus Christ concealed in the Holy Communion, with her naked eyes. On the days she received communion, she felt as if there was a flame of love inside her heart. As a result of her piety towards the omnipresent Almighty God, she behaved herself always in the presence of the Holy Trinity. About this Fr. Garcia says as follows: “She now enjoys Divine Union in the most admirable manner. She told me that, she feels that Holy Trinity will never leave her. She was afraid that she will never be able to pay Jesus sufficiently for his Divine mercies. (Diary 2nd Oct.1871)
Because of her ardent faith, she felt very sad about the superstitious practices and misdeeds of her father and her elder brother. She tried her best to prevent them from doing such things. Because of that, she had to undergo so much distress and punishments from them. The honor and respect shown by her to her spiritual director and to His Lordship the Bishop, and the respect shown towards the priests of the Church was a result of her faith and piety. Because of this faith, she offered her prayers, anguish in her heart, pains and agony of passion borne on her body etc. for the intentions of the Holy Father, His freedom and well-being as well as for the glory of the Church. When the news about the miraculous deeds done by God through her started to spread, some people caused her distress by ridiculing her with vulgar jokes about her. Some uttered obscene vituperations. But because of her strong faith, she endured them all with a serene heart.
She did not know much about worldly matters. But the clear knowledge she had about God was amazing. Now she shared the fruits of faith with others. Though her pupils did not know what has really happened to her they listened to her religious teachings with a great respect and devotion. A sinner who was advised by her once came to me for a good confession. His understanding about the confession was so clear that I don’t think even I could have advised him so clearly”(Diary 30th April 1871). “She feels that she is getting a special illumination when teaching others. ….. It seems that she had a wonderful power to teach others. Many people benefitted from listening to her words (Diary 10th Nov. 1874). In the month of January 1878, Helena visited a convent in Colombo for a certain need. Many people came to see and talk to her. Some on hearing her pious words, wanted to know more and more about the religious way and spiritual life and tried to keep her from leaving.(Diary Jan.07, 1878).
She not only had a special knowledge about religious truths, but through the grace of God, sometimes she was aware of the religious state of herself as well as of her companions. A crafty nun who lived in the convent where Helena lived tried to mislead her spiritual Director by pretending to have seen some visions. Helena after coming to know the idea behind her deeds through the light of divine guidance, informed the Father about her wicked plans. Fr. Garcia writes as follows about this: “Helena enjoys delightfully the company with the Holy Trinity. So she had full knowledge about her religious perfection and about the suffering she had to undergo in future and about the one named ‘G….”. I am sure she came to know about the condition of the soul of the one named “G….” not by any other means but definitely through inspiration.”(Diary 26th Nov. 1871).
As divine love kept burning as a great flame inside Helena’s soul, sins like worldly pleasures and attitudes, undue attachments, human pride etc. got destroyed by burning in this flame. Then the unity between her pure soul and God developed. Her soul was drawn towards God. Her desires and thoughts definitely were directed towards Him. Living in His presence and having conversations with Jesus became a permanent feature in her life. Let Rev. Fr. Garcia who had knowledge about the state of her soul, tells us a little more about these matters. “Helena ardently enjoys the friendship of Lord Jesus.”(Diary 26thAug.1870). “The matters disclosed to her by Lord Jesus are wonderful. Today I spent two hours discussing with her, but I felt as if I had not spent even five minutes. Lord Jesus is teaching her everything.(Diary Jan. 1871 – page 174) “Lord Jesus had informed her that hereafter she has to pay attention to His work and that He would look after her work. She told me that, from that time, when she was attending to some other work too, she had observed that the Lord Jesus was living inside her heart. She is highly surprised about this noble privilege.(Diary, Nov.1971, page 246) “ She tells me that, there is no existence for her now. Only God exists. She has no doubts that she is living in the presence of Jesus and He is teaching her.(Diary 23rd April 1871)
But don’t think that, Helena’s life was a period full of peace and devoid of troubles. As the goldsmith puts a piece of gold in the furnace to examine it by fire , God also tests His saints. (Gnana xii.13) The strength of a tree could be seen when it faces a storm. The quality of love is proved when one is in the middle of troubles. Even though Helena’s bodily pains were described earlier, her mental sufferings must be mentioned here in brief. The light and the happiness of a soul that loves God are resplendent in the Divine presence. Hence the separation from that state is the most disastrous thing that can happen to such a soul. At times, when God wants to check His holy ones attitudes and firmness of their love, He distances Himself from them. Then the soul gets engulfed in darkness. Then it appears to him as if heaven and earth are revolting against him.
There were such instances even in Helena’s character. We shall mention words of Fr. Garcia here. “Now this innocent girl drowned totally in the darkness of soul and suffering under wicked temptations heard Lord Jesus telling her in a rough voice that as she had changed her direction towards another way, He rejected her from His association. She felt that she had got caught in the hands of the devil. May God have mercy on her and protect her without allowing her to get caught in such a dreadful trap. (Diary Jan.1871, page 193). As it was a few days ago, she is still in darkness. As occurrences of trance etc. stopped on Ascension Day, she lives in darkness and amidst terrible temptations. But any visitor who comes to see her will be treated always with a few good words to make him happy. The great efforts of the devil to stop that ended up in failure (Diary May 1872, page 279)
She suffered so much pain due to great doubts generated in her heart about the purity of her soul and about the special graces received by her. The enemy in hell also hated her in so many ways. By showing her false visions, he tried to send her astray. Being indignant over the benefits people received because of Helena during the retreat days the devil tortured her grievously. He showed to her that her passion, her trances etc., were all her tricks and she by misleading me and the Bishop brought forth vituperations against the Holy Church and all her doings were done with the power of the devil. On the final day of the retreat, crying in a sorrowful manner, she informed me and Christina that as she had cheated others, her crime must be published everywhere.(Diary March,1874, page 325). Further her heart and mind were choked by wrong ideas against the theological virtues such as faith, hope and divine love.(Diary March 1871, page 196). One day, the devil tempted Helena by showing her a vision. He disguised as Jesus and His Mother and appeared with a ghost disguised as a guardian angel. Ordering the servant ghost to look after her, he uttered a number of things. Helena, immediately detecting his fraud ordered him to get out. Then the devil having no other alternative disappeared taking his real form namely that of a dangerous enemy.(Diary 25th Nov.1872).
Amidst all these troubles however, Helena enjoyed a high degree of peace and tranquility in her heart. That happiness which originated from her heart was reflected on her face also. Fr. Garcia says that, “Always, her face was shining with an angelic shine.”(Diary 25th Nov. 1872). The gladness and the sadness she received from the Holy hands of God was her enjoyment. That also was the reason for her humility. She is anxious to hold the heavy cross (sufferings). She says she is afraid to get rid of it. That is because, Lord Jesus showing a great love to her and as He always teaches her some facts using sweet words and divine ways. To the extent God grants His graces to her, her humility also increases. By listening to her words, I too receive a great relief. Certainly she is one chosen by Lord Jesus.(Diary page 230).
ARRIVAL AT THE HARBOUR ;
As said before, after 1874, the external signs of the passion did not occur. But internal pains continued. In the course of time, the turmoil about her and number of people coming to see her reduced. Since then, her outward life was equivalent to a clam reservoir with no waves. By that time the hermits of the religious order founded by Rev. Fr. Garcia were doing ordinary works like teaching children to read and write and conducting catechism classes to them and to the newly baptized Catholics. Helena too was involved in that. Yet she spends time as much as possible for prayer and meditation. Now she takes much pain in preparing school girls for their examinations. From time to time she received visions about the souls in purgatory when she was in a state of trance. Once she was taken there and suffered heavily by that. After that, feeling great sympathy about those souls, tried to collect some money to offer Holy masses for them.(Diary, May 1877, page 388). In the diary of Rev. Fr. Garcia, until 1888, the religious development of Helena had been recorded sporadically.(refer pages 421, 424, 442, Dec., 1888). When the Bishop visited Bolawatta in August 1881 he had shown special kindness to Helena and promised Fr. Garcia that he would do something to look after her and all her companions. (page 418). That was a big consolation to our aging priest. In August, 1889 he celebrated the Golden jubilee or the 50th anniversary of his ordination on a very grand scale throughout the parish. On the 25th of March 1900 he breathed his last peacefully. The devout faithful parishioners buried him in the Bolawatta church respectfully.
THE FINAL PERIOD
The passing away of her great teacher who showed her the religious way from her childhood and who navigated her soul to the harbor of good hope through dangerous oceans, was an irreparable loss for her. His successors who came to Bolawatte parish albeit showed kindness and respect to her, the loss she underwent couldn’t be compensated until her death. Yet she performed her religious services willingly as earlier. Apart from teaching the children, she inculcated knowledge about our true religion among the pagans in the surrounding villages and got them to join the Church. Whenever she came across a Catholic behaving in a sinful way, she would persuade him to turn back to the correct path by speaking to him very kindly.She assisted the priests in every way to carry on the virtuous religious associations of the parish in the correct manner. The service of the veneration of the Holy Face of Jesus was inaugurated in Gonawila Church, entirely due to her own effort. It still continues without any break. Till her death, clergy and worshippers of all stages from all parts of Sri Lanka came in search of her, to request her prayers on their behalf. Even though, she was honored by many, she spent her life in a humble way. She never mentioned a single word about the noble graces given to her by God. She always tried to conceal the marks of stigma in her palms and feet, which at times made her to remember for a while.
THE DEATH ;
Helena after completing 82 years of age, embellishing a religious character full of heavenly merits, passed away in the night of 8th February, 1931 at Gonawila. During last moments of her life, religious services were performed by Rev. Fr. Bulic who was a prominent personality of the religious missionaries of our country, age and service wise. As soon as the news about her death spread, large crowds of devotees gathered and paid their last respects to her remains, as if they were offering homage due to a sacred body. With the permission of the Archbishop, her remains were laid in state in Gonawila Church for one whole day, and on the 10th, after the Holy Mass, her remains were interred in Gonawila Cemetery after respectfully carrying it in procession made of a very large crowd of clergy and laity. Not the remains of her dead body, but her body of reputation remains without deteriorating to date. We do not know the Divine Wish. But we devoutly pray that if there is any blessed Divine Wish about the glory of Helena, the servant of the Divine Prince of God, be fulfilled as it is.
“When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.(1 Cor. 2, 1-2)”
(This is an English translation of the Booklet “HELENA CHARITHAYA” written by His Lordship Rt. Rev. Dr. Edmund Peiris O.M.I., former Bishop of Chilaw, first published in the year 1945. Translated by Rev. Fr. D.F. Medagoda in the year 2015)