Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam was also known as Neelakanta Pillai. He was born on April 23 1712 in the village of Nattalam, The Kingdom of Travancore, India. He worked in the palace of Hindu King Marthanda Varma of Travancore. The kingdom stretched from today’s Tamil Nadu state up to Cochin in Kerala state. He died on January 14 1752 at the age of 39 in Aralvaimozhy, Kingdom of Travancore, India in today’s Tamil Nadu state. We celebrate his feast day in the Catholic Church on January 14 every year.
|Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam Biography|
|Date of Birth||April 23 1712|
|Place of Birth||Nattalam, Kingdom of Travancore, India|
|Profession||Catholic Church Layman|
|Place of Work||Kingdom of Travancore, India|
|Date of Death||January 14 1752|
|Place of Death||Aralvaimozhy, Kingdom of Travancore, India in today’s Tamil Nadu state|
|Feast Day||January 14|
|Beatification||By Cardinal Angelo Amato on December 2 2012 at St. Francis Xavier Cathedral, Tamil Nadu, Nagercoil, India|
|Canonization||By Pope Francis on 15 May 2022 in Vatican City|
|Patron Saint of||
Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam Life History
Lazarus Devasahayam was born on April 23 1712 at Nattalam in the modern-day Kanyakumari District in Tamil Nadu state, India. His father, Vasudevan Namboodiri, was a priest at Sri Adi Kesava Perumal temple in Thiruvattar in modern-day Kanyakumari district, Tamil Nadu, India. His mother was called Devaki Amma.
As Lazarus Devasahayam was growing up, he was taught the Hindu traditions and beliefs by his maternal uncle as well as the rest of his family members and society in general.
Lazarus Devasahayam’s family belonged to the Nair-caste. They were very rich and influential in the royal palace of the King of Travancore Kingdom. This is the royal palace where Lazarus worked as a young energetic man. He had great capabilities and potential and in due time he was promoted and put in charge of state affairs.
Around 1741, a Dutch naval commander called Captain Eustachius De Lannoy had come to India to capture the port of Colachel which was within the Kingdom of Travancore. The war started between Captain Eustachius De Lannoy’s army and the soldiers of the Travancore Kingdom. In the end, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy’s army was defeated and the remaining soldiers were captured and imprisoned including the captain himself.
The merciful king of Travancore later pardoned the captured soldiers on condition that they join the Travancore army. They joined the army and after some time, the king began to trust Captain Eustachius De Lannoy and made him the commander of the Travancore armed forces.
During this period, Captain Eustachius De Lannoy and Lazarus Devasahayam became great friends. The captain started to influence Lazarus to accept and join the Christian faith. By 1745, Devasahayam had been completely enlightened in Matters Catholic faith and he was baptized and took the name Lazarus, dropping his name Neelakanda Pillai.
He had also influenced his wife Bargavi Ammal to join the Catholic faith and so they were baptized together. Other immediate family members joined the Catholic faith later on.
After his conversion to the Catholic Faith, he refused to worship the Hindu gods of the palace and shunned their pagan traditional festivals. This defiance greatly angered the kingdom officers. Furthermore, he went further to preach equality of all people irrespective of their caste. The royal palace officials could not bear it anymore.
Lazarus Devasahayam was accused of treason by the Hindu priests, the feudal lords, the Nair Caste community, and the royal household members. Consequently, Devasahayam was demoted, relieved of his duties, and thrown into prison on false charges of leaking Kingdom secrets to outsiders and the Europeans.
He was tortured for three years and when the time for execution came he was painted with red and black spots, placed on a water buffalo, and marched around the streets of Travancore. He was whipped every day, his wounds were rubbed with pepper, and only drank stagnant water.
As they were marching to their destination they halted at a place where it is believed that God made water to flow from a rock to quench Devasahayam’s thirst. He also knelt to pray and left imprints of his knee and elbow.
Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam Death
Lazarus Devasahayam was cast away in the forested hills near Aralvaimozhy to stay away from the Travancore Kingdom. However, some British soldiers shot him to death at the foothills at Kattadimalai in Kanyakumari district on January 14 1752.
Lazarus Devasahayam decomposed body was later found and taken to the St. Xavier’s Church (St. Francis Xavier‘s Cathedral), Kottar, Nagercoil in Kanyakumari district of Tamil Nadu state, India.
In 1780, a petition for the canonization of Devasahayam was submitted to the Vatican.
In 1984, another request for the beatification of Devasahayam was made by members of Nagercoil Catholic Club and other laypersons from the diocese of Kottar, India.
On December 22 2003, The Diocese of Kottar, India was cleared by the Vatican to open the cause of Devasahayam’s martyrdom at the local level. Devasahayam was conferred the title Servant of God.
In 2004, Tamil Nadu Bishops’ Council (TNBC) and the Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI), recommended the Devasahayam beatification after scrutinizing the available evidence.
On June 28 2012, Devasahayam was declared as “Venerable” by Pope Benedict XVI after living a life of “heroic virtues”.
On December 2 2012, in the Diocese of Kottar, India, Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam Pillai was beatified and declared a Martyr by Angelo Cardinal Amato on behalf of Pope Benedict XVI. He became the first layperson from India to be beatified by the Catholic Church.
On February 21 2020, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Devasahayam. A lady in India was pregnant with a 20-week-old foetus whose heartbeat had stopped. The doctors confirmed this but after the lady sought the intercession of Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam, the foetus started kicking and the heartbeat resumed. After the medical board examined the case, they unanimously declared on February 28 2019, that they could not explain that resuscitation using current medical knowledge.
This gave way for the canonization of Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam that will be held on May 15 2022 by Pope Francis in Vatican City.
Blessed Lazarus Devasahayam Feast Day
We celebrate his feast day on January 14 every year in the Catholic Church, being the date of his death.
Saint Gregory the Great is the Patron Saint of
- Persecuted Christians
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