Veneration of saints in the Church has a threefold purpose: “Example in their way of life, fellowship in their communion and help in their intercession”.1 This saying of Second Vatican Council underlines the importance of example of saints’ life by placing it first among the three purposes for venerating them. As the Church is considering the name of the Servant of God Devasahayam Pillai to be included in the catalogue of her Martyrs and eventually to add his name in the list of her Saints, we can rightly put forward this question: What are the aspects of the life of the Servant of God that are exemplary for the people of today? In other words, what are the virtues of his life?
Secondly, the existence of martyrdom even today connects us to the very beginning of the Church, nay to her entire history. Pope Blessed John Paul II, who has written and spoken more than any of the recent Popes on martyrdom and on martyrs, reads the entire history of the Church in the light of a saying by Tertullian: Sanguinis martyrum, semen christianorum, affirming: «The Church of the first millennium was born of the blood of the martyrs».2 While all those who give their lives could be grouped into one mártyrum candidatus exércitus (the noble army of martyrs)3, every martyr has a unique message for the Church. Therefore we ask in this section: what is the message of the Servant of God Devasahayam Pillai as a martyr?
The message of holy persons is to be derived from their life itself:4 that is, from the cause(s) they stood for, the virtues they lived, in the sacrifices they made in their lives and the way they died. It is also a question of spirituality. Spirituality concerns one’s entire life in one’s concrete historical situation in relation to one’s religious convictions. 5 It is the way one organizes one’s own life in answer to one’s own ultimate decisions.6 So, we can rightly place the question: What is the spirituality of Servant of God Devasahayam.
Three points should be made before we delineate some aspects of the virtues, message and spirituality of Devasahayam Pillai: First, the life of any great person inspires each reader in her/his own particular context. In the same way the life and death of martyr Devasahayam Pillai would give a unique message to every devotee, to everyone who reflects on them. Secondly, there is no claim that the points given hereunder are exhaustive. Thirdly, the following reflections, drawn most from the historical documents and statement of witnesses should be understood together with the entire life/death of the Servant of God in general and with the Formal Aspect of Martyrdom in particular. Having said this, we now propose the following as the virtues and spirituality of Servant of God Devasahayam Pillai.