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Battles and Blessings: a tribute to the late Mary Selestine

LIFE as a Christian is a struggle between battles and blessings. In between there’s a need for intense prayer.

Prayer is an invocation that seeks to activate a rapport through deliberate communication with the Lord. It can be either as an individual or as a community and can take place in private or public.

This journey of prayer and faith chosen by the late Marykutty Selestine in her life as a staunch Catholic illustrates the power and blessings one can receive by sheer faith and practice of that faith.

Mary Selestine was called to the Lord on 27 December 2017, at the age of 75. She regularly attended daily and Sunday Mass at Sacred Heart Cathedral in Kota Kinabalu… a familiar figure in that parish, but now sadly missed by all who had known her.

She faced multiple illnesses over 23 years. Yet she held on to the belief that all things come from God and that life is full of both battles and blessings. She held firmly to the belief that it is only in prayer that one gets true answers from the Lord.

Hailing from a small village in Kerala, India, her faith had an early start. She was the youngest of six siblings in an extended family with several priests and religious. She attributed the strong foundation of her faith to her mother Sosamma Panicker, who she remembered as strict and loving and a constant source of inspiration and strength.

Her mother’s discipline and values made a lasting impact on Mary’s life and gave her a deep-rooted belief in prayer. In 1967, she married Peter Selestine and set sail for Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. That was her first venture outside her home state of Kerala.

Since then, Kota Kinabalu had been her home, where she lived for a good 50 years (1967-2017). She taught at St Francis Convent for a brief period and later got involved in her husband’s restaurant business.

In early 1994, she was diagnosed with acute kidney failure and underwent a kidney transplant in August 1994. With the transplant came various ailments that lasted throughout her life. She slowly withdrew from active involvement in business.

A year or so later, she began to have a desire to do something useful with the gift of life that the Lord gave her. She started participating in church groups, taking every opportunity to share with others her experience with the Lord. She became a comforting confidante for others going through difficulties in life.

Being a transplant patient, she was on a high dosage of medication to avoid rejection. Those medicines had many side effects. She began to have very brittle bones and suffered from severe aches and pains.

Furthermore, she underwent surgeries for her knees and eyes, had an angioplasty and many other medical issues. Despite all these ailments, not once did she look up and ask, “Why me, Lord?” She only prayed for strength to bear the pain and burden.

She founded her belief on prayer as a dialogue with God, calling out to him not only in distress but also in thanksgiving for every blessing she received. She made it a point to start her day with the Eucharistic blessing at morning Mass and did not miss it unless extreme poor health prevented her to do so.

Attending daily Mass for the last 50 years, she submitted all her aches and the pains to God in prayer during the Eucharist. This was her daily schedule until the end.

She was disciplined with her time. Every afternoon, there was a time for prayer, and could find some time for her favourite TV shows. She tried to schedule in at least one church activity a day.

She also believed that prayer was the only way to get blessings for her children. She dedicated one decade of the holy Rosary for each of her children and their families. She was a strong advocate of prayer and she counseled everyone to pray continually for their children.

She asked them to dedicate their pain and troubles to the Lord and seek blessings for their children. She reminded her family and close friends that prayer was the one remedy to all troubles. She vouched for it and lived by it.

In her younger days, she prayed on her knees before a picture of Jesus and as she grew older prayed at her desk. She especially enjoyed speaking out loud to the Lord when driving alone. There was a time for God every day. She held that if we don’t have time for God then God won’t have time for us.

According to her, faith in God meant that we rely on Him and depend on His reliability, thus realising that God is bigger, greater and better than anything else. She believed that her constant conversations with God would eventually turn into many blessings.

She held that that life would never be short of troubles nor would it lack blessings. She was sure that God allows trials and temptations in our lives so that we have the opportunity to respond either by trusting our own feelings and life experiences or by taking Him at His Word.

Mary believed that ultimately, the power of prayer resides not in the person praying, but in God who answers prayers. She used to tell family and friends, “Although God’s answers may not always be what we want, we can be certain that they will always be in our best interests. When we pray passionately and purposefully, according to God’s will, God responds powerfully.”

May we all learn and be enriched by the strong experience of this woman of faith. May each one of us also experience the same power of prayer in our lives; able to taste and see how good the Lord is.

And may Mary Selestine receive the reward of eternal rest in the Kingdom of God. – contributed by Selestine family


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