Murder, Redemption, and Beatification

On November 4, Franciscan Clarist Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, a Syro-Malabar Catholic, was beatified at a Mass in Indore, India, presided over by Angelo Cardinal Amato, prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints.

Sr. Rani was murdered in 1995, attacked and stabbed 54 times while she rode a bus on her way to catch a train for a trip to her native home. She was the victim of a murder-for-hire. Village moneylenders had trapped a number of women in a system of financial dependence on them. Sr. Rani had established self-help groups that allowed these women to break free from the moneylenders. In their anger, the moneylenders hired a 22-year-old high school drop-out named Samander Singh, paying him to murder the Franciscan Sister-social worker. Originally sentenced to death for the murder, Singh’s sentence was later commuted to life in prison.

During his years in prison, Singh was regularly visited by Fr. Swami Sadanand, a priest of the Carmelite of Mary Immaculate order. In 2002, Fr. Sadanand arranged for Sr. Selmy Vattalil, Sr. Rani’s sister, to visit Singh in prison. During their visit, Sr. Selmy forgave Singh and wrapped around his wrist a rakhi, or sacred thread, indicating that she regarded him as a brother. Fr. Sadanand arranged the for Singh’s release from prison in 2006, with the consent of Sr. Rani’s family. He now lives alone as a farmer, a changed man. He made the trip to Indore to attend Sr. Rani’s beatification Mass, where he was welcomed by the cardinal and bishops in attendance and embraced by Stephen Vattalil, Sr. Rani’s elder brother.

This is a story of a murder. But, it didn’t end with the tragic murder of a beloved, holy sister. Instead, the grace of forgiveness and mercy allowed this tragedy to transform several lives, including the life of the murderer. The beatification of Bl. Rani Vattalil is testimony to the power of God’s grace to transform lives, especially when His mercy lives in the heart of His people.

Be Christ for all. Bring Christ to all. See Christ in all.

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