The Glorious End of A Missionary – Martyr (21-10-1911)
Fr. Augustine while returning from Madurai was already suffering from severe fever and some days soon after his arrival at Panjampatty, he was bedridden. There was swelling on his feet and no appetite for eating food etc .Hence the Pereira family members took him forcibly first to Colombo and then to Tuticorin, his native place for treatment. Then they took him to Courtalam, a hilly place with several waterfalls so that the cool surroundings with salubrious breeze could have a soothing effect on his failing health. Nothing seemed to help him to recover from his sickness. So again they took him to Tuticorin.
Fr.Augustine, sensing that his health conditions were getting worsened day by day and the end was not far away, he asked them to take him to Panjampatty, the place which had been all along dear and near to his heart. Accordingly he was brought there but would not remain idle there. With swollen feet and a walking stick on his hand, he would go to the convent to give spiritual talks to the inmates. His concern was to enquire whether catechism classes for the children were taken care of regularly. And he would ask the young novices and the catechists who came to see him that such catechism classes should not be neglected but to be continued for the betterment of children. He would ask the people who come to see him to stand near his feet so that he could easily identify each one of them personally. Such was his concern for every one of them.
Though he was confined to a small place in Panjampatty, yet his thoughts would often fly to Madurai, whether his novices were getting on well there. He even asked Mr. Royappan, the accountant to covey his paternal blessings to the novices and it was also done according to his wish. Earlier Fr. Augustine received financial help from many people, especially many times from his nephew I. X. Pereira.
But the last one was going to be a kind of permanent arrangement, say creating a Trust by which the Pereira family would continue to support the nascent Congregation and that wish also was assured to be carried out by his nephew. There were other two wishes, one was to die as a Religious by taking the Three Vows of the Society of Jesus, a wish which he expressed much earlier and that was also granted to him by the Jesuit Superiors.
It was on the 20th, October that he was anointed with the Sacrament of the Sick by Fr. Nespoulouss.j, the Parish Priest. Fr. Augustine asked what day it was and he was told that it was a Friday. Then he coolly said that he would not die on that day but on a Saturday only. A few hours before his death he was surrounded by Fr. Nespoulouss.j, Fr.Besses.j, Mr.I.X.Pereira, his nephew and some other relatives who came from Colombo and at 10 p.m. on 21stOctober, 1911, the saga of a glorious life came to an end. And according to his last wish.It was a Saturday, dedicated to our Mother Mary.
It is the Divine-Human interaction that completes the high drama of God’s redemptive plan in the life history of every person. While the initiative comes from God, the Author of life, it calls for a due response on the part of every individual, in spite of human waywardness and weaknesses. The good Lord knowing that He has chosen weak human beings only, and knowing our predicament overlooks all of our handicaps with which we normally respond to the overtures of His unconditional,compassionate merciful and saving love! And that speaks of His great magnanimity.
In the case of our Fr. Augustine, human as he was, there could have been certain grey areas in his life also, while responding to the invitations of the Lord, who counted more than his weaknesses, his interior disposition as well as his exterior missionary works, leaving all of his wealthy life to love and serve him in the poor for a very considerable period of his life.
In a way our Fr. Augustine combined the intimacy of St. Peter, the Apostle, with our Lord and also the unquenchable missionary thirst of St Paul, another Apostle in proclaiming Christ in word and deed. And that is the success story of his life, which is no less meritorious indeed. And that is the great tribute that one can pay to his revered memory. More than ours, when the Skeleton of the body of our Fr. Augustine was removed from the original grave to be interred into a new fitting memorial tomb, it was found to be intact without decay even after a lapse of 75 years! No less glorious indeed!