Rev. Fr. Ernest Poruthota
- He showed us boys that we were capable of achieving more than we ever think of
- As he was a great risk taker, his usual nature was also to invite others to do the same
Rev. Fr. Ernest Poruthota is now where he always wanted to go.
Surely we are going to miss him more than ever. But for his own sake, we have to be happy and contented with his present reality. He influenced and shaped a whole era in Sri Lankan Church history. He represented a decisive epoch together with some of the giants in Sri Lankan Catholic Church such as Archbishop Nicholas Marcus Fernando, Archbishop Oswald Gomes, Bishop Franck Marcus Fernando, Fr. Siri Oscar Abayarathne, and Fr. A.B. Costa, etc,. Both Sri Lankan Catholic Church and the Sri Lankan Society is never the same as a result of the contributions from these great Church men.
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth… Then God said, “ Let us make Ernest Poruthota in our image and after our likeness…” and God saw what he had made and behold, he was very good. And there was evening and there was morning, 30th August, 1931.
My encounter with him
Rev. Fr. Raymond Ernest Alexander Poruthota, who has just gone to his creator, has been known to me since 1974. During his tenure as our parish priest, I was an altar boy at Saint Sebastian’s Church in Kalamulla, Kalutara. He showed us boys that we were capable of achieving more than we ever think of. Ambitions are never meant for one’s personal glory, but must always be directed towards greater and greater service. Coming to know him and learning from him was a turning point in my life. True friendship is friendship that educates. Being with him was like undergoing a tough training at a university.
As our parish priest he was positively demanding, orderly, methodical, proverbially punctual, straightforward, unassuming, honest, simple, hardworking, multi-tasking and brilliantly focused.
It was Father Poruthota who gave me my very first character certificate when I got a scholarship to Royal College in Colombo in 1977. I was 10 years old then and I still vividly remember that moment when I went to see him with my grandmother.
If I may not embarrass anybody greatly, his was the most memorable era of our parish. Shall I say that Kalamulla Parish is not the same again once it has been poruthotanised? We, who had known him and worked with him, all had been irrevocably and irresistibly poruthotanised in one way or another. Although some people “welcomed” him with the graffiti on walls “ Viplawakarayawa Apata Epa ”, (“We do not need the revolutionary”) when he first came to our parish.
I am sure that they have reversed their judgment about him by now. His heart is larger than his body and to the best of my knowledge he bears no grudges towards those who opposed him.
To appreciate others is to radiate one’s spiritual magnanimity and generosity. To say best things about those who say worst things about you is the one single spectacular quality of a magnanimous soul. By bringing the best out of other people, he had also brought the best out of himself. Fr. Poruthota encouraged people from all walks of life and with all kinds of talents to strive towards whatever meaningful goals they wanted to achieve.
When I was a student, I used to go to Katukurunda Railway Station to catch the 5.00a.m. train to Colombo and then I could see the light from his office room and hear him typing busily. I had observed it again and again every morning for 5 years (1977-1981). Fidelity is the stability of one’s heart, firmness of one’s resolutions and the strength of one’s faith. Routine is never boring if it is done out of service.
I have learnt more from “Daham Pasala” (Sunday School), boys’ scout group, the picnics and seminars he used to organise than from any other activities. They were much more educational and pedagogical than any formal schooling. Those were the best years of my life and I will take the memory of them to my grave. I still treasure a postcard he sent to me when I was studying in the Philippines and it runs like this, “ Do not look back till you reach the very top ”. A great part of his apostolate has been one of pushing people, gently coercing and encouraging people for greater achievements and ambitions. Fr. Poruthota was razor sharp in spotting, detecting, recognising and sensing people’s innate potentials, specially young people’s rare abilities.
As he was a great risk taker, his usual nature was also to invite others to do the same. The one who takes no risks does not mature sufficiently. Real spiritual growth is in risk-taking. The more risks we take, the greater our spiritual growth as human beings. To appreciate people is to give glory to their Maker and Creator. Living a spiritual life is its own reward. There is no need to ask for anything else from God.
Encourager Par Excellence
Encouragement is the highest form of appreciation. In what sense is this true? The one who encourages appreciates and admires in advance. Only a courageous person can become an encourager. The courage he showed in many critical situations has proved this point abundantly.
When I returned to Sri Lanka recently after 20 years of absence he was one of the first few persons to phone me and ask about my future plans. That simply shows the quality of his generous character. A man’s character is in his conduct.
This nation is perishing without people like Father Ernest Poruthota. This nation cannot prosper unless we have people like him. This Father Poruthota., this magnanimous disciple of Christ, this larger than life priest, this old lion, this swift eagle, this seasoned warrior, this battle-scarred Knight, this great risk-taker, this excellent Catholic, this fine man, this great Sri Lankan, this great patron of artists and intellectuals, this friend of all religious communities, this admirer of Gautama Buddha, this brave soul had a very rare and spectacular character trait and our leaders can learn much from him. This nation really has no future unless we learn to appreciate an appreciator like Fr. Poruthota.
May Fr. Poruthota continue to become a blessing to all Sri Lankans, even though he is no longer with us. May he continue to inspire and influence more and more people even from Heaven and in return may more and more people continue to appreciate this Appreciator Par Excellence even after his death. May this nation continue to be blessed with more and more people like Fr. Poruthota.
May he rest in peace forever at his real home, because ultimately he does not belong to us and we need to accept and celebrate this painful truth.
Fr. Poruthota’s remains at Archbishop’s house today
Fr. Poruthota’s Mortal remains will lie in state at the Sacred Heart Chapel of Archbishop House till 6.30 pm today, June 17 and thereafter the body will be taken to St. Philip Neri’s Church at Katukurunda in Kalutara. Requiem Mass will be held on Thursday June 18 at 2.30 p.m. followed by burial at St. Philip Neri’s Church Cemetery