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Wednesday 20 January |
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Saint of the Day: Blessed Devasahayam Pillai

First Indian layman to be beatified


Agneljose CC

Martyr (1712-1752)

His life

+ Neelakanda Pillai (who would later be honored as Devasahaym Pillai) was born to a high-caste Hindu family in Palliyadi in the modern Indian state of Tamil Nadu.

+ Through his friendship with a Dutch naval commander, Devasahayam Pillai became acquainted with the Christian Faith. He was subsequently baptized in the Latin Rite Church in Vadakkankulam. His wife, who he had married sometime before, was also converted to Christianity through the influence of her husband.

+ His Christian faith brought him into opposition with the ruling classes and he was deprived of his family’s wealth and status. He was later arrested and tortured for three years.

+ Although he was originally ordered to be killed, the sentence was changed to exile and he was taken on a buffalo to the border after undergoing ten different kinds of torture.

+ Devasahayam Pillai was eventually left in a forest and he dedicated himself to deep meditation and prayer and local people began to visit him as a holy man.

+ The local Hindu leaders began to plot his death, which took place on January 14, 1752. Although his body was originally thrown into the foothills near Kattadimalai, his remains were later enshrined in what would become St. Xavier Cathedral in Kottar.

+ Blessed Devasahayam Pillai was beatified in 2012, becoming the first Indian layman to be beatified.

For prayer and reflection

His witness to Christ is an example of that attentiveness to the coming of Christ.”—Pope Benedict XVI speaking about the beatification of Blessed Devasahayam Pillai.


Almighty and merciful God, who brought your Martyr blessed Devasahayam Pillai to overcome the torments of his passion, grant that we, who celebrate the day of his triumph, may remain invincible under your protection against the snares of the enemy. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

(from The Roman Missal: Common of Martyrs—For One Marytr)

Saint profiles prepared by Brother Silas Henderson, S.D.S.

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