Friday, June 5, 2009
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Being from India i felt it would be appropriate to introduce my readers to some saints who are well known in India but not in the west.
John de Brito (João de Brito, 1647-1693) was one of the earliest Jesuit missionaries in India to adopt elements of the local culture in his evangelization. He was eventually martyred because of his success and his steadfast refusal to accept honors and safety. He was born of Portuguese aristocracy and became a member of the royal court at age nine and a companion to the young prince later to become King Peter II. When de Brito was young, he almost died of an illness and his mother vowed he would wear a Jesuit cassock for a year if he were spared. He regained his health and walked around court like a miniature Jesuit, but there was nothing small about his heart or the desire that grew to actually become a Jesuit. Despite pressure from the prince and the king, he entered the Jesuit novitiate in Lisbon Dec. 17, 1662 when he was only 15 years-old. He studied classics, with an interruption because of health problems, then philosophy. He wrote to the superior general in 1668 asking to be sent to the east as a missionary, but had to finish theology first. He was ordained in February 1673 and left Lisbon for Goa in mid-March, arriving the following September. He studied more theology in Goa and was asked to remain as a teacher but he desired to be a missionary and to seek the glory of martyrdom.
Father de Brito worked in Madura, in the regions of Kolei and Tattuvanchery. When he studied the India caste system, he discovered that most Christians belonged to the lowest and most despised caste. He thought that members of the higher caste would also have to be converted for Christianity to have a future. He became an Indian ascetic, a pandaraswami since they were permitted to approach individuals of all castes. He changed his life style, eating just a bit of rice each day and sleeping on a mat, dressing in a red cloak and turban. He established a small retreat in the wilderness and was in time accepted as a pandaraswami. As he became well-known, the number of conversions greatly increased.
He was made superior in Madura after 11 years on the mission, but he also became the object of hostility from Brahmans, members of the highest caste, who resented his work and wanted to kill him. He and some catechists were captured by soldiers in 1686 and bound in heavy chains. When the soldiers threatened to kill the Jesuit, he simply offered his neck, but they did not act. After spending a month in prison, the Jesuit captive was released. When he got back to Madura, he was appointed to return to Portugal to report on the status of the mission in India. When he reached Lisbon ten months later, he was received like a hero. He toured the universities and colleges describing the adventurous life of an Indian missionary. His boyhood friend and now-king, Peter II noticed how thin, worn and tired his friend looked; he asked him to remain at home to tutor his two sons, but de Brito placed the needs in India above the comfort of the Portuguese court.
De Brito sailed again to Goa and returned to the mission in Madura when he arrived in November 1690. He came back despite a death threat that the raja of Marava had made four years earlier. The Jesuit missionary travelled at night from station to station so he could celebrate Mass and baptize converts.
His success in converting Prince Tadaya Theva indirectly led to his death. The prince was interested in Christianity even before the prayers of a catechist helped him recover from a serious interest. De Brito insisted that the prince could keep only one of his several wives after his baptism; he agreed to this condition, but one of the rejected wives complained to her uncle, the raja of Marava who sent soldiers to arrest the missionary on January 28, 1690. Twenty days later the raja exiled de Brito to Oriyur, a neighboring province his brother governed. The raja instructed his brother to execute the troublesome Jesuit who was taken from prison on February 4 and led to a knoll overlooking a river where an executioner decapitated him with a schimitar.
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
The Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna at Matunga has today become a must- visit-at-any-cost spot for all Marian devotees who come to Bombay. Yet its history spans barely forty years.
Permission to build the Shrine was granted by the Bombay Municipal Corporation in 1955, but the foundation stone had already been blessed and laid the previous year, by Valerian Cardinal Gracias on December 7,1954.Thereafter, within a span of two years, the colossal monument was ready thanks to the hard and dedicated work put in by everyone involved.
Hence, on August 5, 1957, auxiliary bishop Longinus Pereira blessed the Shrine and declared it open for public veneration.
But only seven years later, on November 28, 1964, was the Shrine formally consecrated by archbishop Hubert D'Rosario along with seven other bishops, to mark the beginning of the 39th International Eucharistic Congress. Barely a week later, on December 4, 1964, no less a personage than Pope Paul VI paid a visit to the Shrine and blessed the statue of Mary Help of Christians the statue that is still used during the annual feast day procession.
Designed by two local architects, Patkil and Dadarkar, the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians is nevertheless Western in style (no one ever spoke of inculturation in those days). The plan of the church is in the form of a traditional Latin Cross. The main dome over the sanctuary, and the two smaller domes over the entrance are typical of Roman church architecture. The facade, in the style of ancient Ro- man churches, is marked by an arched doorway, imposed upon by a huge mosaic depicting Don Bosco with the Madonna. This mosaic is flanked on either side by two bell-towers with electric chimes.
The entire Shrine has an exterior of Malad granite, golden-brown in colour. But what really catches the eye at once is the 12-foot-high gold-plated statue of Mary Help of Christians that stands majestically atop the main dome. Getting it up there in 1957 was itself a laudable engineering feat. Cast in Turin, the statue can be seen from miles around, and even today, with so many high-rise buildings mushrooming in the city, this statue is still a prominent landmark on the Matunga-Wadala skyline. The interior of the Church is totally clad with imported Italian marble of different hues, with amazingly symmetrical striations (a delight to the eyes, no doubt, but alas, a big hindrance to acoustic clarity). The natural art in the symmetry of the marble is regularly punctuated with the created art in the form of rectangular panels depicting the 14 stations of the cross. Intricately done, with attention to minute details, these panels are a sub- lime work of art.
Even more arresting, however, are the 15 mysteries of the rosary and the five scenes from Don Bosco's life, captured in stained glass, that are situated above the rectangular mosaic panels. Most imposing of all are the three stained glass panels that stand atop the main altar, with Marian motifs. Created by the renowned Italian painter Peter Flavio of Turin, all these 23 stained-glass panels were tempered by master craftsmen in special kilns, to endure brilliance. They were then shipped in segments to India and reassembled, after the manner of a jigsaw puzzle.
This is how an art lover described his impressions in the Indian Express dated January 30, 1966: The sunlight filtering in blonde shafts through the windows makes these scenes haunting... a symphony of colours that range from pale ochre and pigeon-doves to searing reds, deep saffron yellows and peacock-blues that are almost overpowering in their intensity. Veiled and unveiled in altering cycles of sunlight and shadow, these panels are projected in sharp relief for the greater part of the day. Floating to the surface, they imperceptibly anchor the "Stations" to the shadows with their deeper hues.
However, when dusk's furtive footfalls steal over the grounds, and chandeliers and candelabras join fluorescent tube- lights to bathe the interior in silver, it is the mosaic panels that surface; it is the turn of the stained glasses to dissolve and reappear outside as lofty cases of brilliant colour, at which spectators raise their eyes -- and eyebrows in wonder.
The mosaic panels depicting the "Stations" involved an even more laborious process of reassembly, as literally lakhs of tiny coloured fragments were pieced together to create fourteen unforgettable scenes which culminate in Christ's final agonies at Calvary and which faith has held in sacred trust ever since.
If the interior of the main church can evoke such poetic exuberance the crypt would have another story to tell. No pilgrim to the Shrine ever misses a visit. The school boys often gather in hushed silence to peek through the air-vents, at this little underground wonderland, whenever they find the lights on. Most of the time, however, the place is enveloped in semidarkness that only adds to the aura of mystery surrounding the crypt.
In the crypt, encased in little gilded crucibles are hundreds of relies of ancient and modern saints. These adorn the walls! And then, there are the five arched mosaic panels depicting various scenes from the life of Christ and Don Bosco.
Its calm, prayerful atmosphere makes it a favourite spot for many bridal couples who look for a quiet place to tie the nuptial knot. Having an area of 2756 square feet (besides 552 square feet of lobby area in the rear), the crypt can comfort- ably accommodate about a two hundred persons.
Of course, bigger functions such as ordinations and religious professions are held in the main church. The pews can accommodate a crowd of 800 seated devotees. Considering the extra space (6461 sq. ft. of nave area, 840 sq. ft. of choir-loft, and 1944 sq. ft. around the sanctuary area) approximately 300 more can be accommodated standing.
To many a Bombay Catholic, the Shrine is a symbol of the good "old-time religion"- with pulpit, communion rails, stately organ music, holy water fonts, statues and private confessional boxes - - "You've kept alive for us a priceless heritage," many say.
But the walls of granite and marble, the majesty of the stained glass and mosaic, the grandeur of the dome and the high altar - all these are no match for the greatest treasure of the Shrine: the faith of the countless devotees who have entered its portals over the past forty years. Young and old, rich and poor, Christians and others... they have been coming to ask for a favour, to fulfill a vow, to make an offering... or simply to be silent, away from the bustle of busy Bombay. And perhaps, the two wooden confessional boxes are the best witnesses today, of the number of sinners who have returned to God, thanks to the maternal care of Mary Help of Christians
Mwanga was a superstitious pagan king who originally was tolerant of Catholicism. However, his chief assistant, Katikiro, slowly convinced him that Christians were a threat to his rule. The premise was if these Christians would not bow to him, nor make sacrifices to their pagan god, nor pillage, massacre, nor make war, what would happen if his whole kingdom converted to Catholicism?
When Charles was sentenced to death, he seemed very peaceful, one might even say, cheerful. He was to be executed by being burnt to death. While the pyre was being prepared, he asked to be untied so that he could arrange the sticks. He then lay down upon them. When the executioner said that Charles would be burned slowly to death, Charles replied by saying that he was very glad to be dying for the True Faith. He made no cry of pain but just twisted and moaned, "Kotanda! (O my God!)." He was burned to death by Mwanga's order on June 3, 1886. Pope Paul VI canonized Charles Lwanga and his companions on June 22,1964. We celebrate his memorial on June 3rd of the Roman Calendar. Charles is the Patron of the African Youth of Catholic Action
Tuesday, June 2, 2009
In 1926, a small army of Catholic peasants who took on the name "Cristeros" (followers of Christ) fought to regain religious freedom in Mexico. Before they were through, as many as 50,000 men from every socioeconomic background took up arms against the government.
The "war" produced many religious refugees, some of whom came to El Paso. The city welcomed the persecuted, and from this support stemmed the founding of new seminaries and monasteries, which still exist today.
In 1917, President Plutarco Elías Calles and the former president, General Álvaro Obregón, weakened the Catholic Church in Mexico by enforcing the Articles of the 1857 constitution included in the 1917 version. Article 3 called for secular education in the schools, thus outlawing parochial education. Article 5 closed all seminaries and convents. Article 24 forbade worship outside the physical borders of the church.
Article 27 prohibited religious groups from owning real estate, thus nationalizing all Church property. Article 130 prohibited priests and nuns from wearing religious vestments, but more importantly, it took away from the clergy the rights of voting and speech, prohibiting the criticism of government officials and comment on public affairs in religious publications.
The closing of seminaries began during the Mexican Revolution, leaving nuns and priests with no place to live or work. The government also ruled that only Mexican born clergy would be allowed to remain and participate in religious activities in Mexico. By 1917, hundreds of religious had been expelled from Mexico or had fled the country.
The Catholic Church did not want to retaliate violently against the government, so from 1919 to 1926, they obeyed the laws. However, in 1926, President Calles introduced legislation which fined priests $250 for wearing religious vestments and imprisoned them for five years for criticizing the government.
Archbishop of Mexico, José María Mora y del Río, declared that the Catholic Church could not accept the government's restraints. On July 31, 1926, the archbishop suspended all public worship by ordering Mexican clergy to refrain from administering any of the Church's sacraments.
The Cristeros felt the only way to fight the government was to take up arms: they were willing to become martyrs for their freedom of religion. Jean Meyers, a French expert on this revolution, tells us about Cristeros attending field masses, dressed in sandals and white garments and armed with machetes. They knew that soldiers could attack them with machine guns at any time.
Many priests were martyred while celebrating mass, either by being shot or beheaded. In a last affirmation of their faith, the Cristeros would shout, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (Long Live Christ the King!) just before dying.
Padre Miguel Agustin Pro was one of the best known of the martyred priests. Pro used elaborate disguises so that soldiers would not recognize him as a priest. Known for his indefatigable sense of humor, he visited the faithful often dressed as a beggar. He administered the sacraments, provided jokes and laughter, and helped financially those in need. Rich families often received the sacraments from Padre Pro in his disguise of businessman. Pro and his brother, Humberto, were arrested for being erroneously linked to a car bombing which injured ex-president Obregón. The car used in the bombing was traced back to Humberto Pro, the previous owner.
Calles took advantage of the opportunity to execute a priest publicly in an attempt to discourage other priests from participating in politics. He ordered Pro be shot at the police station and invited reporters to the execution. Padre Pro carried a small crucifix and his rosary and held his arms out forming a cross as he was shot. Pope John Paul II beatified him on September 25, 1988.
Another martyr, San Pedro de Jesus Maldonado Lucero, served the people's spiritual needs in Chihuahua, Mexico. Maldonado attended seminary in Mexico in 1914, but the political conflict forced him to leave. He came to El Paso and received his ordination on January 25, 1918, from Bishop Anthony J. Schuler at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Then he returned to Chihuahua to serve the faithful.
After Calles' anti-Catholic laws were implemented in 1926, Maldonado became a government target for performing religious ceremonies in private homes. He succeeded in celebrating night masses on one ranch or another, performing marriages and baptisms and administering other sacraments. In 1937 during Holy Week, the mayor and soldiers in Santa Isabel, Chihuahua, arrested him and beat him to death for defying government bans on hidden religious celebrations. Maldonado's murderers used riffle butts to bash in his head and dislodge an eye from its socket.
Like Maldonado, many other priests and nuns along with ordinary Catholics, Mormons and Episcopalians left the country and found refuge in border cities in the United States, among them, El Paso. Patrick Cross writes that by 1929, some 25,000 priests in approximately 12,000 parishes no longer could minister to the spiritual needs of Mexican Catholics, over 10 million strong.
In a personal interview, Dr. Jesus Cuellar, this writer's grandfather, recalled that at the age of 13, in 1927, he was helping Father Gregorio Paredes with a secret mass in a house in Guanajuato. After it concluded, soldiers came looking for a place to feed and water their horses.
In order to save the priest's life and to keep the Eucharist from desecration, Cuellar took the Chalice containing the Eucharist and ran out to hide it in a neighboring house. He and Father Paredes hid in a basement for three days, waiting for the soldiers to leave.
Persecuted Mexican Catholics received worldwide sympathy. Boston banned the new religious regulations calling them "the most brutal tyranny." New York parishioners crowded Catholic and Protestant churches to offer prayers for a peaceful solution in Mexico.
El Paso Bishop Reverend Anthony J. Schuler welcomed Juárez Catholics and even granted priests permission to perform marriages and baptisms without requiring residency for the Mexican citizens. Between 1926 and 1929, the number of people attending services at El Paso Catholic churches doubled. A dramatic increase in baptisms and marriages of people with Hispanic surnames at Catholic churches suggested that downtown churches were serving great numbers of Catholics from Mexico.
Since priests and nuns in Mexico could no longer teach there, many of them came to El Paso. Three nuns from the order of Perpetual Adoration and two from the Servants of the Sacred Heart arrived in El Paso on August 2, 1926. Sacred Heart Church received the nuns from the Sacred Heart Order with open arms.
Because there was no Perpetual Adoration order in El Paso, Bishop Schuler provided the funds for the foundation of such a monastery to train nuns. Other exiled nuns from Mexico City and Guadalajara soon joined the first nuns.
Reverend Mother María Concepción del Espíritu Santo was in charge of the nuns who came from Guadalajara. She found a suitable location for the monastery in a house at 1401 Magoffin. Along with money from the diocese, the Catholic community raised funds and helped pay $7,550 for the property in monthly installments.
Once El Paso became a diocese in 1926, it was allowed to establish seminaries and became the home to Franciscans at St. Anthony's Seminary at Hastings and Crescent in 1935. Before this, the persecuted Franciscan order of Michoacan, which had not had a seminary since 1910, had lived in Santa Barbara, Calif., after their departure from Mexico.
The monasteries and seminaries established at this time succeeded so well that an additional Perpetual Adoration Monastery in the Lower Valley and the Roger Bacon Seminary soon followed to house homeless priests and nuns.
During the religious persecution, some Mexican nationals who sought and found asylum in El Paso decided to stay here. However, many returned to Mexico but continued to enroll their children in the parochial schools here. Perhaps the trend of bringing children to school across the border began when El Paso met those needs so many years ago.
Even though Catholicism is no longer openly persecuted in Mexico, the religious persecution of the 1920s is still felt. The government prohibits priests from owning property, criticizing government officials or commenting on public affairs. The state still does not recognize weddings performed by priests.
In 2000, the Pope canonized 25 priests of the Cristero era, including San Maldonado. The blood of the thousands of Cristeros and martyrs that flooded the land nourished the spirits of those left behind; their courageous cry can still be heard in the hearts of the faithful, "Viva Cristo Rey!"
Pope St Damasus I dedicated his life to establishing and strengthening the Church after the great persecutions, and took much care over the restoration of the Roman catacombs and the proper burial of the martyrs there, including Marcellinus and Peter.
As a boy, Damasus had heard the story of these martyrs from their executioner. Marcellinus was a priest, Peter was not. They were beheaded during the emperor Diocletian’s persecution, and buried on the Via Labicana outside Rome.
After the persecutions, a basilica was built over the site of their tomb.
Monday, June 1, 2009
Saint Justin was born in about the year 103 of pagan parents at Neapolis or Sichem in Samaria, site of Jacob’s well. He was well educated and applied himself in particular to the study of philosophy, always with one object — that he might come to know God. He sought this knowledge among the contending schools of philosophy, but in vain; and finally God appeased the thirst He Himself had created.
One day, while Justin was walking by the seashore, meditating on the thought of God, a majestic old gentleman met him and questioned him concerning his doubts. When he had made Justin confess that the ancient philosophers taught nothing certain about God, the elderly man told him of the writings of the inspired prophets of Israel, and of Jesus Christ whom they announced. Saint Justin himself relates how he counseled him to seek light and understanding through prayer, “for none can understand these things", he told him, “if God and His Christ do not give him understanding of them.”
The Scriptures and the constancy of the Christian martyrs led Justin from the inadequacy of human reason to the light of faith. His conversion occurred between 132 and 137. In his zeal for the Faith he traveled to Greece, Egypt, Asia Minor and Italy, gaining many to Christ. It is believed he was ordained a priest, or at least a deacon. Saint Justin wrote: “I have resolved that in all I say, my only purpose will be to speak the truth; I will say it without fear or any other consideration, even if I should at the same hour be cut up in pieces.” In Rome he did indeed seal his testimony with his blood with four of his disciples, under Marcus Aurelius.
The account of their interrogation has been preserved, for then as now, court stenographers wrote down the words of judges, witnesses and the accused, and the early Christians paid money for the right to copy the records. “Do you think,” the prefect said to Justin, “that by dying you will enter heaven, and be rewarded by God?” “I do not think,” he replied, “I know.” The five Christians were condemned to be flogged and then beheaded. Certain writings of Saint Justin are still extant and still pertinent: Among them are his Discourse to the Greeks, and his famous Apology addressed to the Roman senate and people, and the emperor Antoninus, concerning the unjust laws against Christians. His Dialogue with Tryphon, a young Jew, in which he cites the Messianic prophecies, is the longest and most popular of his writings.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The priest also said that in the new liturgical year, which begins at advent, we will be saying the I Confess which is a direct translation from Latin as well as the We Believe.
Am I dreaming, is this real. Does this New Lectionary apply to just North America or to the entire English Speaking world.
I would like to hear from you all via the combox, what you all thought of the New Lectionary, has it been implemented in your parishes. Did the preist announce the changes? etc.