The life of bishop Makil was firmly anchored on the saving love of the most Sacred Heart of Jesus. His devotion to the SacredHeart of Jesus and the Immaculate Heart of the Blessed Virgin Mary overflowed into his pastoral letters. The secret of success of his activities was his holiness and deep spirituality. Honesty, justice and simplicity were basic to his life style. He was a man of firm faith, deep devotion, kenotic love and endurance based on Gospel values. His compassionate heart made him one with everybody. Meek and humble of heart he considered even his enemies as friends. He was wise enough to give counsel and advice in spiritual as well as secular matters.
He was a man of deep faith, seeing the Divine providence in everything and was always ready to surrender himself to the will of God. Whether it be prosperity or adversity he stood firm in his ardent faith in God. Mar Mathew Makil had great devotion to the magisterium of the Church on faith and imparted it to the people without fail through his pastoral letters and sermons. He strongly exhorted the faithful that they should swerve from all that is dangerous and harmful in leading a life of faith. He had strong faith in the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Blessed Virgin Mary. When he was faced with problems and difficulties he took refuge in prayer. We can see the depth of his faith in the letters which he sent to the sisters in their difficulties, “As we love and praise our Lord in our happy days, we should love and serve our Lord our loving Father with happiness, submission to His will and patience in all other days too”. Mar Makil taught his flock to keep up a living faith, lest, virtue might diminish and evil would conquer them.
With firm hope in the help of God he took up his duties. He was convinced that those who trust in the Lord would know no defeat. His trust in the Lord was well manifested in the foundation of Visitation Congregation. Having no facilities for higher education in Travancore for the Catholics, he sought and got government approval for St. Berchman’s School although the Vicariate of Changanassery was then pressed with financial difficulties. The advice he gave to his S.V.M. daughters before going to Rome was one of the best example of his trust in God. He said “My dear loving spiritual daughters in Jesus, don’t be afraid of anything. Because I have surrendered all of you and your convent fully to our Saviour’s Sacred Heart. Your heavenly bridegroom will protect you from all hindrances and all enemies safely”.
Love of God
It was the burning love of God that induced Mar Makil to dedicate himself for others through loving service. This same love helped him to follow his vocation to priesthood. His words and deeds were the manifestations of this spirit which was inspiring to others. “To seek and love God and divine matters should be the first preference of every body. Because through this only humanity can attain the salvation of soul which is the eternal happiness we seek” Mar Makil lived in this world but his thoughts and ambitions went beyond up to heaven. In his words “Our soul is created by God for heaven and is sent to this mortal human `…….. those who live with God will be taken into the lap of God at the end of his life.”
Devotion to the sacred Heart, Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph
His love of God was clearly expressed through his devotion to the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. All his actions were controlled by the personal attachment to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He even declared through his pastoral letters that his wealth was his trust in the Sacred Heart of Jesus. He used to advise the sisters, “As I entrust all of you and your endeavours to the Sacred Heart, you should trust in, live in, and pray to the Sacred Heart. If you do so, the Sacred Heart will protect you, respect you, flourish you and save you always”. Mar Makil had filial love, faith and trust to the Immaculate Mother. He said to his daughters “The devotion to the most blessed Mother of God should be your special sign and particular virtue as Visitation sisters.
You are called to this holy dignity to dwell in the Sweet Sacred Heart of Jesus under the care of the Most Blessed Viirgin Mary your Mother. We can see his ardent devotion to the most Sacred Heart of Jesus, Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph in his letter approving the constitution of S.V.M. “Dear Children I devoutly dedicate you all in the most Sacred Heart of our Savior Jesus Christ, in the lap of Blessed Virgin Mary our mother and to the protection of St. Joseph and bless you all, each and every one with paternal and pastoral heart in the name of Father Son and the Holy Spirit”.
Love of Neighbour
His compassion was beyond all castes and creeds and it embraced the rich and the poor alike. His heart melted at the miseries of others. Taking the problems of others as his own, he tried tosolve them. His pastoral letter No: 38 was written specially about alms and help to others. It is an informative letter about the excellence of alms, donations, offerings and help to the poor. He used to tell his spiritual daughters that “You should see others especially those who are sick and poor as the living image of Jesus Christ and serve them equally. Love God by serving others, by loving make them virtuous and by the deeds of virtues make them saved.
Love and Concern for the Poor and The Marginalized
His Excellency was very much interested in the salvation of the servants and helpers who belonged to different castes such as ezhava, Pulaya, Paraya etc. He wrote in his pastoral letter No: 5 about the need and possibility of evangelizing them. He inspired his flock that our Saviour has shed His Blood not only for a special group but the whole human flock. He emphasized that in the house of God there is no caste system.
Intense desire for the Salvation of Souls
Mar Makil had an intense zeal to spread the Good News and to convert the pagans into the Catholic Church. He said “Every Christian has a mission to teach the Gospel. You have to take care of your low caste and ignorant neighbours teaching them the Gospel and helping them become members of the Catholic Church through Holy Baptism”. With this intention he started a society for Evangelization (Margamaryippusabha) through which he solicited financial as well as physical assistance for the evangelization of the World.
To forgive is divine. Mar Makil had a special charism to forgive the mistakes of the priests and others and to correct them without hurting them. When he was the Vicar apostolic of Changanassery he had to face a lot of problems only because he was a member of the Southist community. One of the greatest protests was a petition made by the Northist delegate against Bishop Mar Makil. He knew well who had worked behind it. And yet, he kept up the good relationship with the person and showed great concern in his sickness. A shining example of Mar Makil’s forgiveness is his farewell letter to the faithful of Changanassery.
Love of the enemy
In the end there are three things that last faith, hope and love; but the greatest of these is love (1Cor. 13:13). Mar Mathew Makil showed great love for his enemies. He was a man who firmly believed in the father-hood of God and brotherhood of man and he reflected it through his thoughts, words and deeds. Even though he had many enemies within his flock he never showed irritation, impatience or displeasure. He loved all of them without any partiality and was concerned about them. The fact is that, for himself, he was a man without enemies because he loved all.
Mar Makil led a life of poverty to identify with his poor fellow men. He saw hard work as an essential part of poverty, and encouraged his flock to do so. He instructed his spiritual daughters in their first constitution “You should have a funeral just like the poorest of the parish because you have taken the vow of poverty. Only a wooden cross and black flag are necessary for the procession. If necessary a couple of photos could be taken. He always concentrated on heavenly bliss. He was never attached to the worldly treasures. So he used to invite his flock to such detachment. “Travellers from afar are not concerned about the way side attractions like castles, towers, beautiful scenery and entertainment facilities or even the different people they meet on their way. Their mind is set on their dear parents, brothers, sisters and dear ones, home and home land and they consider other possessions or attractions unimportant. In the same way truthful Christians set their minds on heaven and heavenly bliss and consider the worldly attractions of little value. St. Paul in his letter to Philippine’s (Phil, 3:20) reminds us we shall set our goal on heaven and heavenly glories”. He followed this principle sincerely and so, was a poor man, though he was rich in heavenly glories.
Mar Makil was a man who lived very closely to Christ with an undivided heart and total dedication. Through this closeness to Christ he became an effective sign of the love the Father and the Son within the Trinity and he could include everyone in the circle of his love. He took celibacy seriously even in minute things. According to Mar Makil, “The basis of religious chastity is the love and self surrender of a person to her heavenly bridegroom Jesus Christ. Through celibacy we are bound to live, breathe and wish to have all our dealings, mental aspirations, senses, bodily activities, words and deeds in purity, brightness and holiness.
Through obedience one gives up himself completely to God and to His will and this requires a certain asceticism of life. A positive response to the calling of the Lord implies both positive and negative elements. From childhood onwards Mar Makil showed great docility to his parents and teachers. He believed he was just a tool in the hands of God and succumbed to His will. There were days of suffering, mourning, distress and frustration. Nothing could affect his peace of mind. Though he never wanted positions or fame they just fell upon him. ‘When the high positions, came in search of Mar Makil, -a minority community member, he humbly used to decline them. But when he was told that it was the Will of God he bowed before the superiors and well wishers. This shows his humility, obedience and trust in God.
Prudence, a virtue which helps one reach ones goal through suitable means, was very evident in Mar Makil. The Decrees remind the Christians that the zeal for baptizing the non Christians should not be so excessive as to lose prudence that is necessary in spreading the kingdom of God. Lest the activities of over zealous Christians might cause harm to the communal harmony and might turn out to be detrimental to the whole Christian community, Makil advised all to be prudent in administering baptism to Hindu children (Df. Makil Decrees 8, pp.52-63). Mar Makil was aware of the need of prudence in averting problems affecting family life. For example he included in his Decree about the need of last will and testament. “The head of the family should write the last will and testament to avoid enmity between the successors. He should emphasize the right of his wife for alimony. The dowry ornaments and other gifts which were given to the married women should be counted as patrimony (Decree No).
Mar Makil who led a life of justice exhorted his people
through his pastoral letters to live likewise. “There were 140000 Catholics in the Vicariate apostolic of Changanassery governed by Mar Mathew Makil. This Vicariate stood first among the Syrian vicariates in the number of people and churches. He governed the faithful of this largest vicariate as a merciful father with patience, meekness and with out any partiality. So was he accepted by everyone as a very good administrator. (Bishop Chulaparambil (ed.), PL.pp. Vii-Xviii).
The life of Mar Makil, from the day of his priestly ordination was so active that it required much self-sacrifice. The appointment as a Syriac professor of Puthenpally seminary literally demanded much hard work. As Vicar General for the Southist Community and founder of the Visitation Congregation and later as the Vicar Apostolic of Changanassery he had to lead a strenuous life. He spent hours together before the Blessed Sacrament on his knees with folded hands.
In his time the Vicariate of Changanassery was spread over a vast area. With the very little travelling facilities available then he regularly visited all the churches scattered in the vast territory and did whatever was possible to uplift the spiritual and material life of his sheep. He was ready to face all difficulties and hardships in discharging his official duties to their perfection.
Fortitude is the virtue that makes one able to face life’s problems and even death for the sake of the kingdom of God. Ever since his ordination in 1874 he was always ready to suffer any difficulties. He was determined to serve the people with extra ordinary courage. Even facing courageously some protests from the society, he tried to eradicate some vices of the flock such as alcoholism, gambling, robbery, adultery etc: (PL.No: 6). He dared to advise the parents on their duties, “it is the mistake of the parents that make children wanton or stubborn. So from childhood itself you should create fear and hatred towards sin in the minds of the children”. (PL. No: 11). “Those Parents who do not send their children to catechism classes are negligent of their responsibility and so will not be worthy to receive the holy Sacraments” (PL. No: 2).
Humility is the quality of not thinking that you are better than the other. It is acknowledging one’s own merits and demerits as they are. Mar Makil was a man of humility and simplicity. He never desired to have high positions. When he became Vicar General of Southist (Dairy of Mar Makil, 1889) and Vicar Apostolic of Changanassery from the depth of his humility he confessed unworthiness to this positions neither his education, wealth, the positions which he held, nor his family prestige made him proud. He was always ready to make amends for any fault that happened from his side. There were several occasions when he practiced humility.
A life of suffering
Mar Makil was a man of sufferings. From the time of elevation to the office of the vicar general for the Southists, started his sufferings. From the Northists he had to face a lot of oppositions. Some expressed their protest very openly. The death of one of his best spiritual daughters Tharayil Thekkethil Eliswa, an aspirant of SVM was a cause of agony for him (dairy of Mar Makil p. 126, Nalagamam of kaipuzha SVM, 1892 Chingam4).
What grieved him most was the spiritual indifference of his flock with their lack of Christian values and evil practices, repeatedly mentioned in his pastoral letters. Financial insecurity of the SVM as well as of his own new Vicariate Apostolic of Kottayam for the Southist were also matters of concern for him. For Mar Makil ill health was also a cause of suffering.
Discernment of the Spirit
From his actions it seemed that Mar Makil, could discern the workings of the spirit. Very often he could predict the future. He was able to read the hearts of others and had a deep understanding of human nature, It is clear that the voice of Holy Spirit was always evident in the life of Mar Makil. Amidst opposition from various forces he managed to administer the Vicariate of Changanacherry rather well for fifteen years.
Other Charismatic Gifts
Mar Makil had several charismatic gifts. From verbal messages transmitted from our ancestors we could collect many incidents which reveal the special charisma of bishop Mar Makil. He blessed a medal and gave it to his family instructing them that “a pregnant women in labour placing the medal on her belly and reciting the creed of faith will have a safe delivery”. His own grand niece Annamma is one who has narrated it worked. Our bishop had a divine insight into the future. For instance “once, when he visited the church in Mannarapara the parishioners who were mostly poor told him their sorrows. The compassionate shepherd foretold them ‘don’t worry my children, all these sufferings will pass away, this Mannoopara will become a Ponnoorpara’ and it happened”. (Annamma Mathai Inchikalayil, Kuruppanthara). In 1913 bishop was travelling through Chingavanam. He was tired and thirsty. He asked for a glass of water from a way side tea shop. The shopkeeper was a pregnant lady and she noticing that the one who was asking for water was a bishop offered him breakfast too with great reverence. The Bishop pleased with her hospitality blessed her and the baby in her womb. After the birth of that child the family had a fast economic growth and they gratefully remember the bishop with respect even today. (Gomathy bus owners Kavalackal family).