While the motherly influence played the initial formative role in the early childhood days of Augustine, the mantle of furthering and making it spiritually solid and substantial in the subsequent stages of growth, fell on Fr. Julius Larmey, s.j, who became the Parish Priest of Tuticorin (1871-1872). As one who very soon endeared himself to the parishioners, he naturally came closer to the pious family of I.X. Pereira. And during his encounters with this family, Fr. Larmey prompted by a certain inner feeling did not fail either to trace the piety and amiable qualities of the growing lad Augustine, on whom he always kept an eye as that of a guardian and guru, in motivating and orientating him to attain maturity in life.
When our young lad Augustine was almost 16 years of age, his father I.X.Pereiranaturally thought of the usual way of introducing him to the family business life and sent him accordingly to Colombo in Sri Lanka, unaware of the fact that the good Lord had different plans for him. Therefore when Augustine came back to Tuticorin within a very short time of few weeks from Colombo, he got very much irritated, annoyedand angry with his son. Disturbed and agitated at this peculiar and tangential behaviour of his son, hefrantically sought the good guidance of Fr.Larmey, with whom the family had already cultivated a good relationship.
Since Fr. Larmey knew the spiritual fervour that was aflame in the heart of Augustine, he kept him under his own personal custody and that was a matter of great joy for the young lad who was all the more willing to co-operate with the Parish Priest enthusiastically. Thus this relationship proved to be spiritually enriching for Augustine and mutually enduring for both of them for a very long period of time, all for the greater glory of God and for the good of the people among whom he will be destined to work in future.
The First Turning Point
However in the meantime some other important assignment took Fr.Larmey from Tuticorin to another sea port town Nagapattinam, so as to be the General Prefect to the inmates of the Boarding house in the newly started St.Joseph’s College, which was later shifted to the present location at Trichy. This was another blessing in disguise for our young hero, who also went to Nagapattinam along with Fr.Larmey as the inseparable twins and there in the college, he began to pursue his academic studies.
It was again a masterly stroke of the Divine Providence that enabled him to make his Spiritual Retreat there, as a result of which the intensity of his relationship with God became more intimate, pronounced and personally rewarding as to surrender himself totally to God and in His service. And the good Lord also, on His part did not fail to unfold His plan stage by stage to this generous and noble hearted young man, and the beginning of which can be seen from the following event.
Though average in studies, yet his extraordinary piety, zeal for the great concerns of God, the impartiality and affection shown in his dealings with others – all these human and spiritual qualities drew many fellow students towards him, like a drop of honey that attracts many bees. While the students loved him very much, the heads of the institution also found him as responsible and trustworthy and hence appointed him as an Assistant Prefect to the inmates of the Boarding house.
Thus he became the cynosure of all eyes in the college campus. His conversation was not only gentle and soothing like a balm that is applied to a wound, but also edifying to the point ofhelping his fellow students and others for cultivating good manners in them. He also helped them to have a special Devotion to Jesus, our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament and also to our Blessed Mother Mary, which spiritual disposition he always kept up till the end of his life.
The Second Turning Point
Fr. Larmey was installed as the Parish Priest of the village Parish Church at Panjampatty on 6th July, 1875. Again it was the Divine Plan that Fr. Larmey, while being the Parish Priest, must also continueat the same time to be the spiritualformator, guide and a loving father to our young man Augustine, who volunteered to work with him as a Lay Collaborator and a Catechist for the next 25 years- a very long period indeed.
Humanly speaking, anybody even with a little sense of worldly ambition would not have ventured to do so and even if he had set his foot as an amateur adventurer on the muddy soil of Panjampatty, he would have run away immediately from such a despicable situation of place and people. But our young man would not do so as he was already chosen to be cast in the mould of a missionary- martyr!
Born in a wealthy family and reared in a cosy atmosphere in his younger days at home and later a thriving business life awaiting him at Colombo, yet he refused to budge even an inch to such worldly ambitions but volunteered to work among the poor, illiterate and the common rustic people for such a long period. He chose a path of life, not strewn with rose petals but a hard and narrow way of thorns and thistles This decision however laudable as it was, could not have been carried out simplywith human grit and determination that might wear out soon. But certainlyhe must have been blessed with such an indomitable missionary and self sacrificing spirit that can come only from heaven above both as a gift and a grace that was visible all through his life.
One can easily accept the above claim from the simple fact that in those days travel was not as comfortable as it is today and travel facilities were also not easily available. In such miserable conditions prevailing in those days, our young lay missionary alighted from the railway station at Vellode and started walking along the mud road until he met a village woman, who like the guardian Angel guided him to reach the Parish house. And there Fr. Larmey was waiting to receive him with outstretched arms and a loving heart. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever, is it not?
Yes, Fr. Larmey was looking for an exemplary, practicing catholic lay man to assist him in his parish mission work and who else could he find better suited to his purpose than our young man Augustine at that critical moment! Again it was the Divine Master who uprooted our hero from the sylvan surroundings in order to put him in an arid, desert like place to experience His Presence and His saving deeds among the needy.