St. Mariam Thresia, born Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan, was the founder of the Congregation of the Holy Family. The Indian Syro-Malabar Catholic nun was best known for her frequent visions and ecstasies, as well as receiving the stigmata.
Thresia Chiramel Mankidiyan was born in Puthenchira in Irinjalakuda Revenue Division of Thissur district on April 26, 1876 to Thoma and Thanda. Thresia, named in honor of St. Teresa of Avila, was baptized on May 3, 1876.
The Mankidiyan family was once rich, but after Thresia's grandfather married off seven daughters, selling property for each dowry, they became poor.
As a young girl, St. Mariam Thresia dedicated herself to the Lord and practiced severe fasts and night vigils. She also made a private vow to remain chaste and was moved by an intense desire to love God. Her worried mother desperately tried to discourage her pious daughter from these activities, because she was starting to thin down.
On May 2, 1888, Thresia's mother passed away. After her mother's death, Thresia left behind her elementary school education and began her search to discern her own vocation in life. Thresia devised a plan to leave her home for a life of penance in the hills, but she changed her mind and returned home to her family.
Thresia was heavily involved in apostolic work with poor families during her late 20s. She helped the poor, nursed the sick, visited and comforted the lonely people of her parish.
She desired a formal area where she and her friends could continue their work, so in 1903, Thresia approached the Archbishop of Thrissur, Mar John Menachery, with the request to build a house of retreat. He denied her request and suggested she try to join a religious congregation instead. He recommended she join the new Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists. However, Thresia left, as she didn't feel a calling toward it.
Throughout much of her life, Thresia received several different spiritual experiences, like prophecy, healing, aura of light, and sweet odor. She also had frequent ecstasies and levitations. On Fridays, people would gather around to witness St. Mariam Thresia lifted high and hanging in the form of a crucifix on her bedroom wall.
She also bore a stigmata, similar to St. Padre Pio's, but she kept it hidden from the public. Thresia was also tormented by diabolical attacks and vexations throughout a lot of her life. Bishops began to wonder if Thresia might be a plaything for the devil.
From the years 1902 to 1905, Thresia was subjected to several different exorcisms by the Venerable Joseph Vithayathil, under the Bishop's orders.
Years after leaving the Congregation of the Franciscan Clarists, in November 1912, St. Mariam Thresia joined the Carmelites at Ollur. However, she left after a couple of months because she insisted, she did not feel drawn to them either.
In 1913, she was permitted to set up her own house at Puthenchira and on May 14, 1914, she founded the Congregation of the Holy Family. She became the first superior of the order. They led a life of prayer and strict penance, much like hermits. However, they continued to visit with the sick and help the poor and needy.
In 1926, an object fell on Thresia's leg, causing a wound. Her injuries continued getting worse, and she was admitted to the local hospital. The doctors deemed her condition to be fatal, and she was moved back to her convent. On June 7, 1926, she received her final sacraments and the Viaticum.
A day later, at 10:00 pm, St. Mariam Thresia died from her leg wound, exacerbated from her diabetes. Her final words were, "Jesus, Mary and Joseph; I give you my heart and my soul."
St. Mariam Thresia was beatified by Pope John Paul II on April 9, 2000 and canonized by Pope Francis on October 13, 2019. She is the patron saint of the Congregation of the Holy Family and her feast day is celebrated on June 8.