BY STAFF REPORTER
A MIRACLE attributed to one of the 12 Apostles chosen by Jesus Christ has saved an Indian cathedral from devastation by the Asian tsunami, according to Catholics in the region.
Locals in Chennai believe that a miraculous post planted by St Thomas the Apostle kept the invading waves away, sparing the newly renovated Santhome Cathedral.
The cathedral, the world’s second basilica built on an apostle’s tomb, has been giving shelter to hundreds of tsunami victims ever since the waves struck on Boxing Day.
But even though the killer waves smashed up the Chennai coast, Fr Lawrence Raj, the parish priest of the Santhome Cathedral Basilica, said: “The sea did not touch our church.” “We believe the miraculous post of St Thomas prevented the sea waters from entering the church,” Fr Raj told the Indian Catholic, the magazine of the Indian Catholic Bishops’ Conference.
The church standing at the site where St Thomas was buried after his death in the year 72 is located a few metres from the sea.
According to Fr Raj, legend states that when St Thomas planted the post at the top of the steps leading to the cathedral he said the sea would not pass that point.
The priest said he watched the wave from the terrace of the church as it surged across the road and flooded the huts in front of St Thomas’ post, which is an innocuous looking log of wood, mounted on a cement pedestal.
The log was brought to the church after a village in the Mylapore area was flooded when a huge tree trunk fell across the river. The local king brought a royal elephant to lug it away, but the task seemed impossible.
Then, according to legend, St Thomas came along, removed the girdle from his waist and handed it to a bystander and asked him to yank the log with it. He did so and the log was moved easily. A mural in the Cathedral museum illustrates the incident. Fr Raj said the post is believed to be from that same log of wood.
Hundreds of homeless survivors who have been staying in the church ever since the tragedy hit them have prayed to St Thomas for saving them.
“It is St Thomas who has saved me. This church was untouched by the waters because of the miraculous power of the St Thomas post,” said K Sebastiraj, a fisherman who sought shelter in the Santhome Cathedral.
The Pope remembered the victims of the tsunami during his homily on the Epiphany. He said he prayed in particular for the child victims of the disaster.
Aid continues to pour into the region and this week the British Province of the Society of Jesus announced that it had contributed £250,000. In addition to £100,000 sent directly to the Jesuits working in Sri Lanka and £50,000 for Jesuits of the Thai Province, the British Jesuits are also sending £100,000 to Cafod.
Fr David Smolira, the British Provincial, said: “”It has been heartening to hear of the dedicated work being done by both international agencies and local volunteers in the wake of the unprecedented destruction caused by the Boxing Day tsunami.
“Having reflected on the needs being expressed by the South and East Asian Jesuit Provinces I have decided to allocate an immediate and substantial amount of money to the work being done to assist both the relief work in south Asia and the longerterm task of reconstruction.” The United Kingdom branch of Aid to the Church in Need, a Catholic charity, has also responded to the disaster with a package of £140,000 for Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Port Blair and the Andaman Islands.