Alphonsa Muthathupadathu was born in Kerala at the beginning of the 20th century to an ordinary god-fearing couple, Joseph and Mary. Her name at baptism was Anna.
As a young girl, Anna was inspired by the life of Therese of Lisieux, the “Little Flower”, so she determined to become a nun and a saint. It wasn’t easy because family traditions demanded marriage for the young woman, but she succeeded in having her wishes respected. She joined the Clarist convent at Bharananganam, taking the name of Alphonsa. She was eighteen years old at the time and would live just another eighteen.
Her life as a Religious was undistinguished. She was faithful to the rule, devout – with a special devotion to the Little Flower – and patient. Her health however was poor. Illness was to dog her life for many years. Perhaps her nervous temperament made her an easy prey to misunderstandings and anxiety. However, it soon became known that she had other special gifts: she could see into the future, for instance; she had a kind and loving disposition towards all, even those who hurt her. And she suddenly acquired a fluency in Tamil, a language she had never learned !
As she grew older, she prayed for further suffering, seeing herself as an offering to God. “Let the Lord with me as he wills, wounding or piercing me, as a humble sacrificial offering,” she prayed.
She passed away just before her 36th birthday, having lived in obscurity and pain, but through her death revealed the transforming power of God’s love.
Alphonsa is the first woman saint from India, who is not a martyr. Pope Benedict XVI canonized her in 2008.