A Catholic India/Thanks Xavier for bringing the Jesuit Charism

November 3, 2013 at 4:34 pm

After attending Mass last week at Loyola, I returned today.   The Jesuit charism is crystal.  I have been reading a few pages of James Martin Jesuit Guide (NYT Bestseller) every morning to start the day and his spirituality is mirrored by the Jesuit priest that I have heard preach the past two weeks.  The Jesuits are contemplatives in action.  Our pope Francis reflects the same holiness I find in Martin’s writing and that I heard in the liturgy this morning.   A few of this morning’s highlights:


Nothing starts on time in India.  I arrived 5 minutes before Mass was to begin at 8 and I was the first to arrive.   At 8:05, the Church was about a 1/3 full and a young person led  the assembly in a few Marian intercessory prayers, followed by an act of contrition and a prayer asking that we may follow the will of God.  It helped  us enter a contemplative state.  By 8:15 the church was full.


The Jesuits practice a prayer format called the “Examen” during  which  they review each day looking for signs of God’s presence.   In that way, the priest began the liturgy with  a spontaneous prayer of reflection. In other words, his prayer was not in the lectionary.  He asked us to remember the times in the past week where we have not responded to God’s call  to love in the moment to moment of our lives.  I cannot replicate it here, but he made us all aware of how throughout the day, we have moments as spouses, as parents, as children, as students, in the workplace, or in the marketplace when we are not at our  best and miss the opportunities that God provides us to love another or to listen to another or to be empathetic.  Then he led us in the prayer of confessing how we have fallen short and seek God’s mercy.    I found it illuminating.


For I sometimes struggle with the notion of “sin” since we are asked to recall our sins so  frequently.   It is not often that we knowingly and with intention do something evil or harmful.  However, the priest’s focus on  our acts of omission resonated with me.  There are times  where I realize shortly after an encounter that I  might have been called to be more attentive to what is going on.  Should I have  given a dollar to the woman with the babe in her arms in the parking lot at the airport on Wednesday.  Then there was the time on Tuesday, where I was at a dirty and dingy facility to register as a foreigner and stepped out of the building to go to an exterior bathroom.   I was followed by a woman of the lowest caste who was sweeping the street and washing the sidewalks who greeted me with “Namaste” and obviously hoped for  a few rupees.  These folks live on$2 or $3 a day.   I said “Namaste” and met her eyes and moved  on.  I can be  self- absorbed and miss little opportunities to be responsive.  I know that I am not going to end poverty in India, but maybe these folks would have had a little better day if I gave them a dollar or two from my abundance of which God is the source.



Getting back to the liturgy, the priest highlighted how we have heard the biblical stories so much that we often can no longer hear them.  He confessed that the priests draw the same lessons from them which can become stale.  Recently,  I have found that many of the biblical stories come alive in a new and fresh way for me in India.  The rural settings, events, or ancient ways of the Bible are still present here.  Did I mention the altar to Kali on my golf course where the Hindu’s sacrifice animals?  And the celebrations of an entire city of an elephant idol that reminded me of the golden calf and Baal in the Old Testament?   There are also leper colonies here in Hyderabad.  Today’s gospel story was Jesus healing 10 lepers with but one, a Samiritan, returning to say thanks.  This reading became a basis for him not to talk about the importance of gratitude; instead, he preached about justice and equality. (The Jesuits embody the Church’s gospel of social justice as well).  He talked about the caste system and its rampant discrimination.  He mentioned how the Jews would not touch a cup of water from which a Samiritan drank and said how they were the “untouchables” in the world of Jesus. Then he moved to examples outside of India because he was afraid to hit too close to home he said.   He talked about how Moslems and Christians in Bosnia who broke bread together went to war against each other.  He mentioned how in Nigeria, Christians went to war against each other.    He made some mention of the Church in India ruining itself because of discord.


On the other hand, Jesus knows the heart of the Father and reveals a better way.   He recalled various scriptures about God’s love like the sun shines on the just and the unjust.  He highlighted how gospel stories often highlight Jesus speaking a harsh word to those among the Jews who thought that they had a monopoly on the true religion and said that there are fundamentalists among the Hindus, Muslims and Christians that all miss the mark.   He was clearly calling us to show God’s love in humility to all no matter their religion or their caste.    Both this week and last, he called the assembly to be missionaries and to spread the word to people that Jesus loves them.  Along these same lines,  I had noted in the gospel reading that the leper that was healed “praised God loudly”.  Why don’t I?



At one point,  in the middle of the sermon, the priest  asked me to introduce myself to the 250 people in the Church and used me as an example of the Universal Church.  We are a Church in which all nations have a home worshipping in spirit and truth.


He later cited Martin Luther King which I thought might be for my benefit.  It was not.  MLK was part of his explication of his theme of social justice which became obvious to me since the recessional was the hymn of the civil rights movement,  “We shall overcome”.


When I exited the Church, I had a couple of people introduce themselves and the priest interrupted the discussion he was having to greet me and ask a few questions.  When he heard my name,  he said that he knew a Father Tom O’Gorman in Chicago.  I said that my family dropped the O and he immediately knew it was an immigrant desire to avoid the Irish discriminatory taint.   When he asked why I came to Secunderabad to church from Hyderabad and I told him it was because of the Jesuits who know what we are about,  he  just laughed and laughed heartily.  What a warm person.