Source: Daijiworld

Karkala, Jan 19: St Lawrence Shrine at Attur, the place that welcomes every individual irrespective of caste, creed and discrimination, has a long and interesting history. It is said that souls who truly pray to St Lawrence are never turned down by him. Millions of people from all over the world visit this shrine every year with the hope of being blessed by St Lawrence. It is the only shrine in India having a miraculous pond where people throw coins and pray. It is said that the water in the pond never dries up and always remains cool.

The Shrine will soon be declared a minor basilica, the first in coastal Karnataka and only the second in state and 22 in India, and renamed 'St Lawrence Minor Basilica'.






























Life of St Lawrence

The world remembers St Lawrence's life and his martyrdom as a story of great inspiration and sacrifice. In 257 AD the Holy Church in the historic city of Rome was led by Pope St Xystus II (in some sources St Sixtus II). St Lawrence of Spanish origin was ordained a deacon by Pope St Xystus II. Lawrence was appointed the first among the seven deacons to serve the Roman Church. He thus became the Pope's arch deacon, a position of great trust. As arch deacon, Lawrence had to take care of the Church treasury and distribution of alms to the poor.

It was in August 258 AD, the Roman Catholic Church headed by Pope Saint Xystus II was in great danger. Emperor Valerian was hell bent upon destroying the Church. Instigated by Marcian, he published bloody edicts against the Church and ordered the execution of all bishops, priests and deacons. The very next year, Pope St Xystus II was apprehended. Arch Deacon Lawrence who was immensely pained wanted to follow the Pope and die for Christ. But the Pope assuaged him and said he had a much greater work to do. He ordered Lawrence to distribute the treasures of the Church among the poor. He was also entrusted him with the responsibility of safeguarding the Church’s holy relics, among them the holy chalice.

In Christian history, the Holy Chalice is believed to be the cup Jesus and his apostles drank wine from at the last supper. So, for safe keeping, he gave the Holy Chalice to a soldier to spirit it away to Lawrence homeland in Spain.

After the execution of Pope Xystus II, the Prefect of Rome who knew about the riches of the Church and desired to own them ordered Lawrence to present before him the treasures of the Church within three days. Lawrence set out on his mission, went through every nook and corner of the city of Rome and by the third day managed to bring together several poor including the crippled, blind, widows, maimed, orphaned and lepers. He produced them before the Prefect and said 'Here are the real riches of the Church', 'The Church is truly rich, far richer than your emperor'.

An enraged and offended Prefect immediately ordered that Lawrence be put to death in a slow and cruel manner. On August 10, Lawrence was stripped, bound with chains and tied on top of an iron grill over a slow fire. It was nothing short of a miracle. Lawrence, who was burning with immense love for God, almost did not feel the flames. As Lawrence was being tortured, his face emitted an extraordinary light and it was full of peace.

He prayed that the faith of Christ might spread from Rome throughout the world. St Lawrence was buried in Rome where the Church of San Lorenzo Fuori le Mura now stands.

The titular feast St Lawrence in remembrance of the martyrdom is celebrated every year on the 10th of August.

Brief History of the Shrine

St Lawrence Shrine at Attur came into existence in 1759 and has a history of miracles. With a history dating back to two centuries, this world famous pilgrim centre has been beckoning devotees since 1759. The Shrine of St Lawrence is closely associated with the town - historically, socially and spiritually.

The interesting story behind the founding of this shrine dates back to Tipu Sultan's rule. History says that Christians of this region suffered captivity from 1784 to 1799 AD under the then ruler, Tipu Sultan. The first church of St Lawrence was located 7 km away from the present one. Tipu Sultan destroyed the church and took Christians under captivity in Srirangapatanam. Freed from his captivity, the Christians built a church with a thatched roof near Nakre in 1801 AD under the leadership of Goan priest; this building was replaced by another building in 1839 at a location which was 4 km away. But as time flew by, realizing that the church near Nakre was old, the parishioners ventured out in search of a site to build a new church.

Along with them they carried a one foot tall statue of St Lawrence. The parishioners crossed Ramasamudra Lake, climbed the Parpale hills and then came down and sat by a spring. They then rested at the bottom of Parpale Hills where the spring was flowing, placing the statue on the ground. When they got up to begin their venture again, to their surprise, the statue that was placed on the ground could not be lifted. The priest among the parishioners said, "Oh, St Lawrence, if you have chosen this place, we will build the church in this place". Once this was said, the statue could instantly be lifted up. Hence, the church was built at the same spot in 1839 AD. Since then the place became a pilgrimage for many.

In the year 1900, Fr Frank built a Church facing the north. This Church was blessed and inaugurated on January 22, 1901 by the then vicar general, Msgr Frachett. In the year 2,000, a Church building was put up in front of the existing church joining the recently put up façade. This spacious church is specially meant to accommodate the annual feast crowd. The new Church was inaugurated and blessed by Dr Aloysius Paul D’Souza, the bishop of Mangaluru on January 21, 2001.

Ongoing Projects

"As the colossal number of faithful gather at the shrine, arranging their basic obligations becomes a crucial task," says Fr George Thomas D’souza, director St Lawrence Shrine.

Two buildings are being constructed behind the old church where once stood the old priests' house. The buildings will have seven floors each. Three floors will be constructed below the ground level, while one floor will be the ground and three more floors will be constructed on top. There will also be a parking lot and three dormitories along with canteen facility. This will be used for devotees throughout the year. One of the floors in one building will be converted into a museum for visitors, while in other, provision for dinning mess will be made for priests who will be coming to serve the mass during the Shrine’s feast. The ground floors will be converted into confession halls for the devotees and the tourists. The structure is already in place.





















The first floor and the second floor will comprise 58 independent family rooms, among which a few will be air-conditioned. This will be for the use of visitors of the Shrine from faraway places. The third floor will comprise two open halls being built specially for events related to the Shrine. The project is expected to be completed by the year 2020. "These projects will be handed over on time for the benefit of the devotees, with the grace of St Lawrence and the support of good minded people," says Fr George.

Also, around 40 washrooms have already been constructed at a cost of Rs 12 lac sanctioned by the government. Work on 40 more toilets on the first floor of the same building will commence after the Shrine feast this year. A dormitory will be built on the third floor for police personnel during the feast days and devotees during the rest of the year. It is expected to be complete by 2018.

The previous mess was converted into an office for priests, while another part has been converted into the shrine stall, where one can find all types of religious items. As many 15 guest rooms have been built on the first floor, while another 15 rooms are being constructed on the second floor of this building. These rooms will be completed and used by priests and guest priests during this year's feast. Also, Shrine director, parish priest and resident priest's office has been built in the ground floor of the building. This was inaugurated during the feast last year by the chief minister of Karnataka.

David Leo Rodrigues, a lay person has put immense efforts in beautifying both the altars of the new and old churches for the annual shrine feast this time. He did the paintings by hand in five months. A road from the shrine till Kabettu was newly constructed prior to the 2015 feast by the efforts of Vinay Kumar Sorake, urban development minister and district in-charge of Udupi and Gopal Bhandary, former MLA of Karkala. With the support of H K Patil, minister for rural development and Panchayat Raj, Rs 80 lac was sanctioned by the Karnataka state government and it has been used to widen the road by 80 ft. The asphalting work is pending, for which Rs 2.9 crore is required. Out of this sum, Rs 50 lac has already been sanctioned by H K Patil, and for the remaining Rs 2.4 crore, appeals will be made to R V Deshpande, minister of tourism and if needed, chief minister Siddaramaiah. The Nitte gram panchayat has already sanctioned Rs 5 lac for temporary repair work, which is already done. "We have got strong support from Vinay Kumar Sorake and Gopal Bhandary for this project. I am very grateful to them for their constant support," says Fr George.

"The people around this place, irrespective of caste, creed have selflessly helped us in widening the roads. They gave up a portion of their lands which summed up to 80 feet in order to widen the roads. I would like to heartily thank all these people who have supported us in this venture," he added.

In the year 2015, a Rs 2-crore newly widened road in front of the church was inaugurated by Vinay Kumar Sorake.

By feast of 2017, the entire grounds of the Shrine will be tarred at a cost of Rs 90 lac, for which a committee has be formed under the leadership of John D'Silva.

About 18-20 lac people visit this Shrine during the feast for whom sufficient water is required. With just two borewells in the premises, breaking down of any one pump may lead to several consequences. Hence by 2018, a new sump with a storage capacity of nearly 40 to 50 lac litres will be constructed on top of the hill to provide water supply to all the devotees.

St Lawrence was known for having a soft corner for the less privileged of the society. Inspired by this thought of the Saint, plans are afoot to build an orphanage for the poor and needy people. A plot of 2 acres has already been purchased and converted, and the work will commence after the 2017 feast.

To look after the spiritual needs of devotees, priests are ready at the shrine round the clock. The Church opens early at 5.30 am and closes at 7 pm. Priests at the Shrine will give counseling and conduct prayer service for the devotees.

Also, Rosary is held every Thursday at 10.15 am, followed by adoration at 10.30 am, Eucarisitic mass at 11 am, and special prayers with blessed oil at 12 noon. This is followed by Annasantarpana for the devotees.

Five-day Feast

In the last week of January, Attur Shrine bustles up with millions of faithful who gather for the Shine feast, popularly known as Attur Jatre/Parba or Attur Saanth Mari.

All these years it has been a three-day feast, but for the first time, the festivities will be extended for two more days. Approximately 38 masses will be celebrated by five bishops from Varanasi, Ballari, Beltangady, Mangaluru and Udupi.

On the rest of the days, people visit the Shrine for various purposes, some as the tourists, some toexperience the grace of God and some to seek forgiveness. A good number of the visiting devotees here were Hindus back in the olden days. Hence vegetarian food is distributed to all the devotees attending the Shrine on Thursdays, duly by the devotees who have received favours from the saint.

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