Thursday, February 03, 2005

Christ, The Church and Me...

Well this is one topic I have been wanting to write about for some time. The good thing about blogs is that we can write our opinions freely. I am a proud catholic (is it because I am a member of the Roman Catholic Church or does the word Catholic have more meaningful connotations...I think I once knew it but have forgotten in the daily much more pathetic cud i learning and comprehending more i have forgoten very foundation of my professed faith) but am I a good I a true follower of Christ?? I dont have answers. Lemme go back to my childhood. I read most of the Bible and a lot of the Hindu scriptures while I was in the 4th and 5th grade. My faith has gone thru its share of upheavals...for starters my parents didnt impose their belief's on me. My grandmother used to say my dad was very religious as a kid, even becoming the altar-boy, then seeing so many books of Marx and Lenin in our mini-library at home I know he took to communism but later he recovered his faith but he wasnt regular in going to church. My mom on the other hand always read the bible at night and prayed before sleeping.Her mother, our ammachi prayed every time she had a moment to spare and in her prayers my family has been blessed with happiness, prosperity and goodwill. More than being a good christian I think my dad believed in feeding his spirt by helping others and my mom conducted her life on rational thought and doing the right thing. I was so hooked on to ramayana and mahabharatha as a child I wud prefer watching them than going to sunday school. After initial reluctance my mom gave in and my father would ask a once in a year question...ninakke sunday schooline onnum ponde??

Those were the days of innocence, bad at studies, getting sick, regular cryings I complained to god about my miserable life. We started the evening prayer at home and that was such a fresh change...the saying "A family that prays together stays together" is so true. When I enterd the 11th I was soon becoming more and more independent and confident in life and as a result my regular telepathic exchanges with the Creator decreased in frequency. Soon my faith went through cycles of devotion and disbelief...visiting church was more of a pretense to keep mom happy and to see chicks rather than devote myself to an hour of prayer and meditation. I was sucked into an orbit of materialism and suddenly more than books( my best friends till then) things like clothes, money, looks became important. This denialist phase also coincided with a very happy, blissful careful period in my life. But all through I was aware of the good fortune I kept falling into and I knew God must be responsible for this. All the happiness, all the fun, all the confidence, all the independence, all the recognition I craved for, cried for and prayed for in life to Jesus was coming in then but sadly I cudnt find the time to thank him enuf or pray to him for a better tomorrow.

Well sunny days gotta end...i knew gloom wud set in and it did but I wasnt ready for it...I was far away in the US battling adulthood, a tough academic curriculum and loss of the financial shelter my parents provided. Here an unlikely influence in the form of Fr.Bill Messenger of the USC Catholic Church took shape. Here was a radical and a fierce democrat(untiringly critical of Bush's war in Iraq week after week in church), unabashed enjoyer of life, whiskey and wine but with a knack of taking his sermons right to the edge of blasphemy allowed for a roman catholic preist which would have made our presists squirm with displeasure. Here was a man openly questioning some of the laws of the Church, past actions of Rome, teachings ingrained in us about the idea of hell, salvation, intolerance to other religions, he taught me once again to think for myself about my faith while keeping myself within the framework of Catholicism. In America, for the first time I was seeing preists like Bill and my uncle, who were so scholarly, would read works of several theologists and present such a stately sermon unlike most of our priests back home who deliver lengthy, wordy discourses which we hear out but wouldnt give a second thought to...I really feel cheated about how much better I could have evolved my beliefs if I had got to hear these people at an earlier age. I used to be so scared of reading books like The Last Temptation of Christ and Da Vinci Code thinking they would seriously erode my faith. But now I think...what the what if Jesus wasnt born of an immaculate conception...does it change the fact that he has produced miracles in my life....what if he married mary magdalene...for me jesus is most of the time a friend...a human being somebody who will identify with me...and what if he didnt resurrect...does that change anything with regards to his teachings...these things just divert us from our failings as human beings...and wht I increasingly see as a way to subvert the morale of the Catholic Church lacking strong leadership with an ailing pope(in his prime wuz one of the best ever) in the grip of a strong coterie of cardinals and clergy with no grassroot appeal.

One thing that rankles me though is my inability to be more actively associated with church activities bcoz of a fear of being embarassed at my ignorance of common church rituals and customs. I cannot understand people like Pentecostals and Evangelists who pray so loud and wild and tell people to convert or face damnation nor can I hide my irritation at our bishops who openly indulge in votebank politics...they would do well to remember how corrupted the Vatican became because of the Christian empires Popes dreamed of building and our intolerance which caused so many righteous xians to be martyered and so many others to become lutherans, episcopals and the like...hinduism (discounting casteism..idol worship - i wonder whether most of us indian xians practise this...the crucifix, statues of jesus, mary and saints were meant to be symbols but I am confused by our kissing, putting flowers, garlands on them at church and home) on the other hand is such a rich, tolerant and ancient religion and syrian christianity survived because it adapted so well to indian culture by assimilating so many hindu customs but these new-age proselytizers alienating our hindu brothers sickens me giving so many of our jesuits and missionaries such a bad name.

I think jesus, gandhi, budha, sree krishnan, mohammed were all sent by god at various times in the world's history to show people an ideal person to be imitated and followed. I could learn love from jesus, service from gandhiji, humbleness from budha and the relevant teachings of the gita from sri krishnan. But like mortals before me I run the risk of talking, writing and maybe giving occasional thought to these things and pass to dust before I realize its too late!!! Except for the sunday mass where I am able to cuss my mind to mediatate and worship, daily prayer for me is now a ten second activity of drawing the cross and muttering a silent one when I enter my car and see the rosary hanging from the rear-view mirror and a replica of velankanni mata with unni-easow smiling to me. But definitely I have changed...I have lost a lot of my selfishness, I understand I need to be of service to other people, not being judgemental and I sometimes surprise myself by wondering how Jesus or a Gandhiji would have done for situations I find myself in(the comic realization that results from these deliberations is "kaakha kulichalum kokkakathilla"!! ) . I think its nice to put ones faith into writing once in a while...I am sure in a years time I would have evolved further on. Well this was typical of me...verbose, at places self-contradictory, but hopefully worth a cursory read!


Unknown said...

That post reflects familiar feelings. It's a relief. I too am going through the very phases you are talking about. But then if you tided over it, then I too will. Really Jiby, you are an inspiration.
I'd almost forgotten I was a Loyolite and the things Loyolite's everywhere do.
Thank you.

silverine said...

Read your very insightful post. Rings a thousands bells in the cranial chambers. I too had my share of sparring with the church but I have always held on to the faith life so much more sense as a catholic!

The Mystic Magpie said...

Stay close to the Church --if you respect Jesus and you believe He loves you, look to the Church which He founded for you as a gift --as a minister of His grace. Confession and the Eucharist are amazing and bewutiful gifts of Our God Who loves us so much. If you are going through faith struggles, visit There is a forum there, where you can bounce your ideas off of people. Also, look up Padre Pio if you get a chance.

Peace and blessings in Christ's beautiful love,