Chapter

The Life and Cult of Sr. Alphonsa

Corinne G. Dempsey

in Kerala Christian Sainthood

Published in print February 2001 | ISBN: 9780195130287
Published online November 2003 | e-ISBN: 9780199834136 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/0195130286.003.0005
 The Life and Cult of Sr. Alphonsa

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Explores prominent themes in Alphonsa's hagiography as a means to compare Christian and Hindu perspectives and practices of female asceticism. While Christian and Hindu traditions have much in common in this regard, most strikingly different is the fact that Catholic Christianity commonly considers the female renouncer to be the pinnacle of holiness for women, while for some Hindu traditions, particularly Brahmanical Hinduism, female renunciation is a decided aberration. Referring back to postcolonial theory fleshed out in earlier chapters, this final chapter portrays Alphonsa as following normative religious prescriptions for female sanctity, yet ironically, through their fulfillment, she molds and transcends the same. The paradox of Alphonsa's devotional cult gets reflected furthermore through the story of a woman who was beaten down by life, enduring physical and emotional hardship throughout, yet whose posthumous powers are understood as a means for relieving the pain and suffering of her devotees.

Keywords: asceticism; Catholic; female renunciation; female sanctity; hagiography; Hindu; postcolonial theory; Sr. Alphonsa; suffering

Chapter.  22027 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

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