How do you summarize a life which filled the hearts of thousands, a mind that stimulated lakhs of people, formed a whole set of leaders of India, including Justices, lawyers, businessmen, and left an indelible mark on this beautiful earth of ours?
Life Trajectory of Fr Rayan
Fr Samuel Rayan was born in Kumbalam near Kollam in Kerala on July 23, 1920 as the fourth child of Cruz Rayan and Agnes Rayan. He had his Secondary Education in St Aloysius High School, Kallada, and joined the Jesuit novitiate in Christ Hall, Kozhikode in 1939. His two year novitiate was under the guidance of Fr Aldo Maria Patroni, SJ who later became bishop of the diocese of Calicut. He spent two more years in Kozhikode doing his Juniorate before proceeding to do Philosophy at Sacred Heart College, Shembaganur in 1943. He returned to Kerala and taught at Leo XIIth School, Alleppey as part of his regency. Meanwhile, he completed his B.A. in Malayalam literature in the University College, Trivandrum. He went to De Nobili College, Pune for his theological studies and was ordained a priest on March 24, 1955 by Bishop Andrew D’ Souza at Pune. After his Tertianship in La Providence, Kodaikanal he left for Rome for studies and took Doctorate in Theology from the Gregorian University in 1960. He made his final profession at the Gesu in Rome on August 15, 1958 which was received by Fr Janssens, the then General. His first assignment was to Esobhavan at Ernakulam as Minister and Procurator. Soon after, he was appointed Kerala Chaplain of C.S.U. (Catholic Students’ Union, later renamed AICUF - All India Catholic University Federation). He continued in that work nearly 12 years till he was assigned to teach theology in Vidyajyoti College, Delhi in 1972. He served as its Principal from 1972 till 1976. After more than three decades of teaching in Delhi, Fr Rayan returned to Kerala in 2010. He continued his reading and writing staying at Sameeksha, the Jesuit Spirituality Centre on the banks of river Periyar. His weakening health required him to come to Christ Hall, Kozhikode in 2018 for treatment and rest. He breathed his last in Nirmala Hospital at 12.30 pm on January 03, 2019.
Samuel The Theologian
As a theologian of international repute, he served as member of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches (WCC), member of the Advisory Committee of the Liturgical Commission of the CBCI, member of Sub-Commission on Intellectual Formation of the CBCI, and member of the Xavier Board of Higher Education in India. He was visiting professor at Papal Athaneum, Pune and many other theological institutes. His theological contributions include two books and innumerable articles mostly in English and Malayalam. It was the privilege of Fr Kurien Kunnumpuram, Fr Rayan’s long time companion and admirer, to collect his articles in English and edit them thematically and publish them in six volumes. Former members of CSU/ AICUF still remember him as their Guru, they came together to celebrate his ‘navathi’ (90th birthday) and brought out a commemorative volume with the title Samuel Rayan SJ - Naleyileykoru Neelkazhcha (Malayalam), edited by P.K. Michael Tharakan and S Painadath SJ (St Pauls, 2013). His writings were the subject of a PhD thesis submitted to the Theology Faculty at Louvain, and published as Christian Faith: A Liberation Praxis, Theology of Samuel Rayan, by Nicholas Tharsiuse (ISPCK, Delhi, 2015).
A Kaleidoscopic Personality
Rayan, known for his radical humanism, influenced the hearts and minds of young and old. He was convinced that the human person in community is the object of God’s special love. His lasting contribution is that he communicated this through his writings, relationships, speeches, love for nature, accompaniment of people’s movements, love for poetry, gender sensitivity and deep respect for the feminine God and most of all for the mysticism that he lived and preached. We will miss Fr Rayan. May his soul rest in peace and communion.
M.K. George, SJ