When the 123rd Maramon Convention, a world famous spiritual gathering of the Marthoma Church starts on February 11, it will have a new significance. While the faithful of the Church converge from all parts of the world on the bed of the holy River Pamba, flowing through Maramon, in the Pathanamthitta district of Kerala, famous for its religious tolerance and harmonious coexistence of all religious factions, the much revered Bishop Philipose Mar Chrysostom (100) who was conferred the Padma Bhushan this year will be the star attraction. Not that he is not one otherwise, but now there is an official stamp to it. The bishop, very famous in these parts, is loved by people of all denominations as he never shied away from gracing the functions of all religions.
What makes him endearing to all is his love for mankind and his unerring wit, which does not spare even the bishops, who by now know to take it in their stride. Once talking of the high incidence of divorces, he said, “When we tie the knot and send the couple from one end, Bishop so and so (naming the bishop in charge of divorces) unties it from the other!”
The Maramon Convention has a record crowd on the inaugural Sunday and Monday and Tuesday are comparatively leaner. But if Tirumeni (that is how bishops are addressed in Malayalam) is the one speaking, the ‘pandal’ will be jam-packed. That is because everything he utters is steeped in humour, making the audience laugh after almost every sentence. Which made a foreign preacher once say, “I wish I could learn your language, to know what your Bishop is saying to make you laugh so much!”
Humour is not the only quality associated with him. He is a true lover of the poor and gets the maximum happiness doing things for them. He refers to Christ as if he were a classmate or friend. So much so an artiste had presented him with a painting depicting Christ, who is always known to have a forlorn face, laughing heartily to what the bishop was saying.
At this age, Tirumeni is also an accomplished farmer. The property where he lives is a classic example of how people should be self sufficient regarding food. All kinds of agricultural activities are carried out there and he also encourages others to do so.
Even at this age he is a role model to everyone and shows through his life that age is not an excuse to be inactive. May he live to guide us for many more years.