Father Thomas, Sri Lanka, 1886-1964
Founder of the Rosarians
The name of this “rishi” (Hindi: sage) was Bastiampillai Anthonipillai. For his deep knowledge of Thomism, his teacher, Fr. Luis Coquil, gave him the new name of Thomas, after St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor.
Anthonipillai was born March 7, 1886 in Padiyanthalvu, a village near Jaffna (Sri Lanka). One day, during a Sacred Scripture lesson, he heard these words of Jesus: “If anyone wants to be a follower of mine, let him renounce himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Mt 16:24). They were decisive words that brought him to enter the Oblates. Well versed in Hindu literature and the Hindu classics, in keeping with the invitation of Pius XI to develop contemplative communities in mission countries, he was invited by the bishop of Jaffna, Alfred Guyomard, OMI, to found some contemplative monasteries on the island. Thus was born a congregation of native monks, the Rosarians, the first indigenous community of contemplative monks in Asia which was followed later by a female branch. They eventually developed various Christian ashrams on the island and in India.
He died on January 26. 1964. The Superior General of the Oblates, Fr. Léo Deschâtelets, after having met him, told the students of the International Scholasticate in Rome: “If you want to see a saint, go to Tholagatty. You will find in that old man all that is usually associated with sanctity. Everything about him responds to our common conception of a man of God.”
Fr. Thomas describes his ideal this way:
First, there is the supreme importance of prayer and penance for every man in the work of his sanctification and salvation. The first and foremost duty of every man born into this world is to render to his Creator the homage of prayer and penance. No man can duly fulfill this duty except in Christ, with Christ and through Christ. But there are millions of people who are unaware of this divine ordinance or ignore it. And of those who are supposed to be aware of it, very few take sufficient pains to fulfill its requirements. As a result, our iniquities accumulate on our head and become a heavy burden. Human society is off the hinges; it will go on from bad to worse until it is crushed by the weight of its iniquities. In these circumstances, it is a high honour and rare privilege for those who love God to be able to offer themselves as victims in union with Christ in order to make vicarious satisfaction for others and thereby ‘fill up those things that are wanting in the sufferings of Christ’. No doubt, there are many souls in the West, who have already for ages consecrated themselves as victims of expiation. But the Church in Sri Lanka and India cannot be said to live her life fully and integrally, until she counts a large number of such souls from among the children of her soil.
(Report sent to Fr. Louis Perrot, omi, the Vicar of Missions, 21 March 1932)
M. Zago – J.B. Packianather, Father B. Thomas, O.M.I., founder of the Rosarians, “Vie Oblate Life” 40 (1981), p. 11-25.
L. Bastiampillai Rayappu, Le père B. A. Thomas, o.m.i fondateur des Rosariens, “Vie Oblate Life” 40 (1981), p. 109-120.
P. E. Jesuthasan, A Saint for Sri Lanka, Biography of Rev. Fr. B.A. Thomas, O.M.I., Oblate Scholasticate, Ampititiya, Sri Lanka, 2001 (Unpublished).
Un Rosarien, “Le moine fou de Thalagatty”. Bastiampillai Anthonipillai, Thomas, o.m.i. 1886-1964, Collection Héritage oblat, Pustulation OMI, Rome 1992, 26 p.
I.S.R. Alphonse, A fool for Christ. The Biography of Rev. Fr. B.A. Thomas OMI, Rosarian Publications, Bangalore 200, 312 p.