Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Catholic Evangelization In India Is Not About Theology

The Catholic Community in India may be predisposed by virtue of culture to get the healing message of Jesus.

Here's an interesting article from India which describes a different kind of 'evangelization'.  Taken from Vatican Insider it describes a truly vibrant form of Catholicism which puts the original charism of the early Church back in the forefront--and this very point is recognized by the Bishop of the diocese in which this is all happening.

Unexpected cases of healing are being witnessed in the Diocese of Itangar. Meanwhile, Catholic presence has increased by 40%

Marco Tosatti - Vatican Insider - Rome Strange things are going on in the Indian diocese of Itangar and Mgr. John Kattrukudiyl spoke about them during a visit to Germany for the periodic meeting organised by Aid to the Church in Need, the international organisation that deals with churches and Christians in countries where they face the greatest difficulties.
According to the prelate, the numerous unexplained healings which preceded and resulted from prayer, are the main reason for this extraordinary increase in Catholics  - 40% over 35 years - in this remote corner of India. The bishop is informed of things like this on a regular basis; and the stories “baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become sceptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real.”(That's because it was real.)

The prelate mentioned the case of a man who stopped persecuting the Catholic Church after he married a Catholic girl. “After converting to Catholicism he was asked to pray for a paralytic. He did it even though he did not want to; the next day, the paralytic rose and walked towards the church.”  The newly converted man was so shocked by this miraculous experience that he started attending mass and “is now a very active member of the parish.”
Mgr. Kattrukudiyl is well aware of the skepticism with which most of these miracles are met; when he describes miracles that have taken place people in Europe sometimes say: “Hey, bishop, you’re telling tales.” But despite the incredulity “I am told about many cases of healing which we cannot ignore.”
One possible historical- theological explanation is the relative freshness of the local church. “It is the experience of a very young Church that feels the grace of the Catholic Church in the times of the apostles,” when healing miracles were frequent, as the Scriptures tell us.

According to the prelate, the faithful of his diocese witnessed these miraculous healings after gathering in the home of a sick person whom they had been praying for. “People who had been sick for a very long time were healed. These people got a real experience of the primitive Church.” During the early Church period “healing with God’s prayer attracted many people to the Church. Belonging to the Church they felt a kind of spiritual peace.” The bishop revealed that the number of Catholic faithful has grown by 40% over the past 35 years. The situation in the Church has improved a great deal; now, not only is it tolerated, but it is praised for its philanthropic work. “Politicians never miss an opportunity to praise the Church for its humanitarian work.”


I love the line from Bishop Kattrukudiyl about having a 'theological' mind and being baffled by all the healing incidents.  I can surely sympathize.  When things start happening which are completely outside your consensus reality the usual choices are denial, skepticism, or bafflement--or fear.  Any yet, I also like his recognition that these incidents almost always come with a sense of 'spiritual peace'. As my life has progressed, I have had driven home to me--always with a sense of spiritual peace--that our commonly held consensus reality is very limited in it's understanding of how reality really works, and because of that, even more limited in it's understanding of humanity.  

The Good News Jesus brought holds a metaphorical description of a reality He knew intimately,  but He also knew He couldn't explain it in concrete cookbook terms because to do so changes the nature of the reality.  In a sense such a description would invalidate it's operating principles.  So, Jesus taught that the Spirit of the law was more important than the letter of the Law.  He taught us to pray for our daily bread, because projecting into the future works against manifesting what one actually needs in the now.  He taught a lot of things that were based in His understanding of a different world view that in it's core operates on laws that transcend our sense perceptual understanding of reality.  He may have cured blind and deaf people, but He taught about living from the heart.  He taught about the necessity of claiming one's own spiritual power by negating the power of material reality over the self aware ego.  It isn't the least bit surprising to me the Apostles just didn't get what He was trying to teach.  They were by nature and occupation too literal, too vested in their sense perceptual world view for their very survival. 

 Every time I read one of the Gospel stories where Jesus tells these professional fisherman, professional fisherman who have caught exactly nothing, to cast their nets over the side of the boat and they will find fish they missed,  I have to laugh. They always found they had full nets. They had to have experienced some serious frustration in doing so.  What was it this man was doing that made a literal mockery of their own hard won skill?  If Jesus did this kind of thing on a daily basis he could put them out of business!  Not Good News at all.  Lucky for them, the reality Jesus describes doesn't work particularly well using it to fuel your own ego.  It works best from a point of love for everything and no ego.  It works best when you know this reality is designed to provide for your daily needs as long as you let it.  That's really really counterintuitive.

Another point that Bishop Kattrukudiyl understands is the prevalence of healing miracles is precisely why the Good News spread in it's infancy.  Healing prayer worked, and it worked frequently enough that it was noticeable.  Christianity spread like it did precisely because it's practitioners had things happen around them that other religious believers didn't seem to be able to do.  These seemingly miraculous events didn't happen because of rituals or spells.  They happened because of attitude, because of a mind set, because of a belief system, because of a conversion to a whole other way of perceiving the world.  Even the best magicians of the time, like Simon Magus, couldn't best Peter when Peter was in the right mind set.  Whatever these followers of this Jesus person were in 'real' life, they certainly seemed to be connected to something that transcended 'real' life.  And it was Good and others could undergo a similar conversion and Good things happened.

This is evangelization.  This is what Roman Catholicism needs to recapture, and it won't recapture this mind set by insisting on it's traditional reliance on ritual and ordained priesthood as TRUTH.  It's not.  It's compensatory behavior for losing the core of the message. It's a charade.  The Apostolic Age of Miracles was pretty much over the instant Christianity moved from small communities with acclaimed leadership to ranks and sub ranks of 'ordained' clergy.  Jesus did warn the Apostles about this kind of leadership.  He instructed them to call no man father, and that leadership in his understanding of kingdom was to be servant leadership.  It was to be egoless.  It was not to announce itself by clothing or manner.  It was to be leadership for the sake of the Kingdom and it would cost one everything one held dear in this 'reality'.

Except when one begins to get the message, it doesn't cost anything because all those things no longer matter.  That's freedom and that's the real truth.  That's the Good News.


  1. It works because they believe, they are the true believers. And they can be the true believers because they dont know anytihing about Rome, they didnt ever where Rome is in an earth map.

    I have read about the poorest people in India, they find their human dignity in catholic church, Hindouism is not so confortable for them

    1. On the lay level there is no caste system. Unfortunatley that's not necessarily true on the clerical level, but even there, the Dalit are accepted, just not in nearly the numbers which represent their true percentage of the Catholic population. Which I guess is still better than all women who aren't represented at all.

  2. I don't buy it and I'll tell you why. God men are very prominent in India, people who actively work phony miracles for the $$$ and the converts. It is a problem that knows no sectarian boundaries, they come from every major religious sect in India, Hindus, Muslims and Christians. The government even has trained professionals who go about debunking the God men because fraud is taken very seriously over there. (I'm thinking such a treatment would be just and proper for someone of say, Pat Robertson's ilk).

    We should be aware of and against any forms of exploitative religious conversion in the third world, heaven knows we've already seen it's poisonous fruits at work in Uganda.


    1. Kallisti I get what you are saying, we have our share of 'god men' in the States as well. I most certainly have run into them. I think the difference here is that what ever is happening it's because of group prayer, people have felt it's effects, and people have decided to convert to Catholicism. What I find most interesting is no where in this article does Bishop Kattrukudiyl mention any priest or other consecrated religious leaders. This is happening from the bottom up and that is a good thing.

    2. Miracles in India are indeed a tricky business, but certain Roman Catholic groups don't appear to be shy about using government resources to intimidate those who contradict their position on miraculous occurrences. (The post linked above is an update--more info is available in the original story.)

  3. synchronicity.

    I cannot speak one way or the other to the specifics, but your more general analysis rings with a truth I will not deny. As versed and as comfortable as I am in the 'theological mind', I continually find that, not unlike Her creation, the Creator is far greater, wilder and more wonderful than anything we put to paper.

    "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophies."

    1. Jesus tried to teach we were more than we knew and our reality was more than shoving nets over the side of a fishing boat. It's just so difficult for us to understand He was teaching reality as much as He was spirituality. That's why I find quantum pysics and the latest neuro research so absorbing. These two fields are beginning to use Western science to prove to Western minds that Jesus knew what He was teaching.

    2. God moves in a mysterious way
      Her wonders to perform .....

      (No, it's not scripture ... it's from William Cowper.)

  4. Colleen..a bit of personal synergism going on here in regard to your posting about Indian Catholics/Christians...today, July 3 is the feast of St Thomas the Apostle who brought Christianity to India and all Indian Christians trace the founding of their tradition back to him....decidedly not Roman in theology originally...the connection to Rome was brought about, or should I say forced, by the Portugese imperialists at a later time initially in Goa...there were many splits in the St. Thomas Christian community and they are today divided into a number of groups, Roman Catholic being one, Church of the East through a Syro-Chaldean connection and some purely Indian lines in Kerala in the south...I had previous connections to American Thomasine Christians here in the US in the 70s (the tradition came via India then to Unitarians in Great Britain and then to the US)...and finally decided this week to try to reconnect to them...have been going to a local Episcopalian Church recently but the experience has not spoken to my heart....as the gnostic Gospel of Thomas has...when I read your entry above I was pleasantly surprised...as Jimmy Mac wrote above: "God moves in a mysterious way, her wonders to perform..."...once more you have brought some meaning and a little magic I might add into my life......thank you again.....Michael Ferri

    1. You are most certainly welcome Michael. When I was writing this I was thinking about the St Thomas origins of Catholicism in India. I've also read some theologians who speculate Jesus might have spent some of his 18 unaccounted for years in India, having taken the trade routes and that's why the Magi pop up in the birth story. It's interesting speculation. The Portuguese did bring a totally different Catholicism fer sure.

      I love the Gospel of Thomas, but I can sure see why it didn't make the cut at Nicea. Not a particularly flattering picture of Peter, and well, you know, if the descendants of Peter wanted to model themselves on Constantine, that particular Gospel was not what they needed at all.

      Just an aside, I often wonder why Constantine sent his mother off to Palestine during this period to look for the true cross. Perhaps he felt she had more credibility with the bishops than he did. Shades of the USCCB and LCWR.

    2. First time I've seen a Bible-based conspiracy theory. Impressive.

  5. I'm enjoying your blog. I accidentally ran across it when I was searching for a photo of Cardinals in assemblage.
    This posting is interesting for me in that I helped two Catholic Indian families build homes ~ both were customized with built in altars ~ both were blessed before they would move in ~ their restaurant has Catholic statuary (on a high shelve by the entrance). Obviously they were quite devout, but very quietly.
    At the time I thought it just odd, now, perhaps not.
    On the bigger context ~ I couldn't agree w/you more about the charismatic teachings of Christ. The Kingdom of God is at hand. Right here, right now.
    BTW, the story I used the (accredited) pic for is titled Catholics & Baseball.
    Thanks again for an interesting & compassionate blog.