Friday, 13 October 2017

Churches or cultural clubs? Why a pagan festival like Onam is celebrated in churches, that too, cancelling catechism for children?

 Are Syro-Malabar Catholic churches slowly turning into cultural clubs? Cultural programmes, competitions, sports days and vulgar display of wealth in feast celebrations have become the order of the day. The festival of Onam -- a Hindu pagan festival in Kerala state of India -- was celebrated this year with more fanfare and flourish than the Hindu brothers. There was no qualm on the part parishes -- as done by a parish in Navi Mumbai – about dropping catechism on Sundays and celebrating Onam festival with film songs and dance numbers, followed by a sumptuous vegetarian lunch for the parishioners. 
 Aren’t we diluting our faith when we celebrate the return of a mythological Hindu king? This is now happening in many of Syro-Malabar parishes. It happened in many churches in Mumbai. All said and done, Onam has nothing to do with Bible or Jesus Christ. But churches are competing to celebrate Onam in all splendor and opulence. And someone dresses up as King Mahabali and goes around church premises, followed by Onam songs and dances which shouldn’t happen in church premises.
 We see an ostentatious preoccupation for such meetings, programmes and dinners and for the Church's prestige, but without any concern that the Gospel has a real impact on God's faithful people and the concrete needs of the present time.
 Objecting to the practice of church celebrating Onam, Rev Fr James Manjackal said, “Church must have nothing to do with Onam. As a festival, there is nothing wrong in having a vegetarian meal with them, or have sports and games with them or some entertainment on that day with Hindus. But it’s nonsense to celebrate it in the church.”
 “I too hear about the compromises in Kerala Church and I pray that the priests will have the right sense to be authentic in their practice of religious faith! I remember when we were small, we used to go to Hindu houses for Onam (we were surrounded by them in our village) and eat "upperi, payasam" and sometimes used to eat a vegetarian lunch with them but we were forbidden by our parents even to look at the "Athakalam" with flowers. That was our faith,” Rev Fr Manjackal said.
 Churches are losing their focus. Now there is purely spiritual worldliness lurking behind a fascination with social and cultural gain, or pride in their (believers) ability to manage such cultural programmes. My personal opinion is that it’s like going to the level of a cultural club or a social institution. This is all done through controlling the believers using the institutional set-up. If you question such practices, you’re ostracised and kept aside.
  While the clergy is not largely responsible for this worldly fascination, they're moving along with tide. While in parishes, it’s the laity which takes the lead in conducting such programmes, clergy succumbs to pressure. There’re priests who take King Mahabali inside the churches and take selfies. And very often, the fixation of believers to run for social programmes in churches originates from a concern to be seen, in a social life full of appearances, meetings, lunches, dinners and receptions. Often clergy is forced to accept and approve such insidious worldliness propounded by closed and elite laity groups. To borrow the words of Pope Francis, they all have the same pretence of “taking over the space of the Church”.
 These laity groups raise funds for music, dance, shamiana and lavish spread of food without any murmur or protest. They spend hours and days to practise the dance numbers to be performed at such social occasions. Ironically, these groups are nowhere to be seen when a charismatic retreat or a prayer meeting or adoration is conducted in the church. The priest runs from pillar to post to get people and money for spiritual programmes. Where's Jesus?
 The organizers of cultural programmes may have 200 reasons to justify their cultural extravaganza in place of catechism and Holy Mass on a Sunday. My personal opinion is that they are replacing religious fervour by the empty pleasure of self-indulgence and hedonism. In the name of culture and tradition, song and dance numbers were belted out. 
 Are Christian supposed to teach children about this culture? The principal beneficiary of such cultural programmes is not God’s people but the institutionalised church. On the other hand, Syro-Malabar churches and congregations are busy building new hospitals, buildings, colleges, medical colleges, engineering colleges and others,   
 Pope Francis once said, “the mark of Christ, incarnate, crucified and risen, is not present” during such programmes.” As he says, closed and elite groups are formed, and no effort is made to go forth and seek out those who are distant or the immense multitudes which thirst for Christ. Moreover, expectations and hopes of children are given a different orientation, leading to the loss of spiritual fervour. Instead of opening the door to God’s grace, we exhaust our energies in arranging cultural programmes, receptions and lunches.
 I think we can consider such tendencies as “manifestations of an anthropocentric immanentism” so forcefully expressed by Pope Francis. The church, as Pope says, shows a narcissistic and authoritarian elitism, whereby instead of evangelizing, one analyses and classifies others, and instead of opening the door to grace, one exhausts his or her energies in inspecting and verifying.
 There’s no wonder when the same church organises a charismatic retreat or a prayer meeting or adoration, only a handful of people turn up.

 “In this way, the life of the Church turns into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few,” Pope Francis said in ‘Evangelii Gaudium’. “If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life,” it says.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Feasts of saints becoming less spiritual and more pompous


  Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast of saints turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints?

   Our former parish priest, Rev Fr Biju Kollamkunnel, narrated this story in one of the homilies.
  When the father was serving in a Mumbai suburban parish many years ago, he used to conduct Novena for St Joseph every Wednesday. Parishioners and even outsiders used to throng the church on Wednesdays.
  So far so good. However, the sad thing was that on week days only few people used to come for Holy Mass -- the re-presentation of the ultimate sacrifice on Calvary.
  Intrigued by this no show for Holy Mass, the priest asked the parishioners, “Why you don’t come for Holy Mass?”
  One parishioner replied, “This area is infested with robbers. They will attack us. That’s why we don’t come for the Mass.”   
  The priest refused to believe and continued, “but you come in large numbers for the Novena of St Joseph.”   The parishioner said, “St Joseph will protect us from robbers.”
The priest nearly fell off the chair with that reply.
  Is Jesus Christ not capable of protecting you from robbers? Shocking. Whom do you believe? Who is your Saviour? Saints or Jesus Christ?
  The laity in the Catholic Church in India, Kerala to be precise, is still confused. Or shall we say ignorant? If that’s so, this ignorance is unpardonable and indefensible. Is the jamboree in the name of celebrating the feast days of saints in the Catholic church turning the attention away from our saviour Jesus Christ to saints? The festivities, illumination, fireworks and other embellishments on feast days of St Sebastian, St George, St Joseph, St Antony etc. are mind-boggling. In many parishes, celebrations have reached ridiculous levels with fireworks display, chariot processions and music bands adding to the cacophony. To top it all, commercialisation has added a new dimension to the celebrations in some places.
  Of course, these saints are martyrs and torchbearers of faith, but the central figure is and must be Jesus Christ. He is Son of God and your Saviour. Saints can’t take that position.
  Saints are good models of faith to emulate in this world. However, salvation comes through Jesus Christ. You often see a big crowd during the feast days of saints but Holy Mass, especially during week days, in many parishes witnesses only a thin attendance.
  This writer agrees that feast of a saint is an occasion to celebrate, give respect and proclaim the faith. But we sometimes forget that these are solemn spiritual occasions. Over the years, feast celebrations have become more colorful and competitive with parishes trying to outdo each other in displaying money power and pomp. It has also become an occasion for drinking sessions in many places. 
  “The spiritual dimension of the feast is often lost in the eagerness to make the feasts colorful,” one Archbishop of Syro-Malabar Catholic church wrote in a letter to laity.   Does Jesus Christ want all this? He’s looking inside your heart, your attitude and approach. What have you learnt from these saints? Have saints  brought about any change in our thinking and lifestyle?
This writer was a witness to another incident that happened inside another Mumbai church. As usual, less than a dozen people were attending the Holy Mass. A big group of children, teachers and office-goers came inside the church to pay respect, venerate and pray in front of the statues of saints. Ignoring the Holy Mass, many of them started praying in front of the statues of saints and the priest celebrating the Mass got agitated and flared up. He stopped the Holy Mass and admonished the crowd gathered near the statue. “You don’t want Jesus Christ? Why are you running after saints when Holy Mass is being celebrated, where real God is present,” he reacted angrily. He restarted the Mass only after the crowd in front of the statues dispersed.
   Aren’t they missing the woods for trees?  
  The Catholic bishops in Kerala often call for austere and more spiritual celebration of Church feasts, but their sage advices fall on deaf ears. “The feasts are becoming less spiritual and more pompous and commercial. We need to take corrective steps,” an Archbishop was quoted as saying. 
We have to celebrate feasts of saints, but our  celebrations should not become a show of money and pretentiousness. But celebrate them differently, in a spiritual atmosphere, to change our mindset.

Sunday, 14 May 2017

Multi-crore opulent churches: For whom?

 Did Jesus build any church? No. He was born in a manger. He lived among the poor, sinners, prostitutes and tax collectors and cared for them. He proclaimed the Good News of salvation. He died on the cross, that too in the most insulting way of that period. However, his followers are now busy building opulent and extravagant churches. More and more parishes of the influential Syro Malabar Church are now hankering for imposing structures. 
 Should there be a moratorium on building costly churches? We need good Church buildings, but they shouldn't be multi-crore ones to compete or showcase the power and money or to earn more money.
  Jesus, who was born and died a Jew, went to the synagogues to teach -- not to build new synagogues. But the new thinking in the Church curia is: let there be magnificent and luxurious church buildings. In fact, there's competition among Syro Malabar parishes to build tony, expansive churches. A parish in Navi Mumbai recently decided to demolish a beautiful 19-year old structure – not 900 years old -- and go for a bigger and spacious three-storied church.
  The number of Catholic parishes -- more so in Syro-Malabar Church -- which seem to have joined the mad race to build impressive edifices is increasing. In Kerala, every third church is under renovation or reconstruction. Saving the souls is now secondary. This is also at a time when people, even faithful, don't have roof over their heads, and struggling to keep both ends meet. Spending crores of rupees on opulent churches is an atrocious idea in a country like India where a sizeable number of people live below the poverty line. Remember what Acts 7:48-50 says: “However, the Most High does not live in houses made by human hands. As the prophet says: “‘Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord. Or where will my resting place be? Has not my hand made all these things?’"
 Often, rich people in the parish are roped in cleverly and they don't mind diverting part of the black money generated from their businesses for church construction. Yes, the sad part is that church authorities are after these people for big construction activities of the church. Parishioners are given specific amount as contribution for church construction. There was a complaint from auto rickshaw driver in Kerala who was unable to give his share of Rs 35,000 for church construction in his parish. The result was that his daughter's baptism was blocked until he cleared his dues. There was another complaint in North Kerala about overestimating the construction cost and money collected from poor people getting diverted to the pockets of some people.   
 The multi-crore new church in Edappalli, Kerala, had recently raised many eyebrows. “It is a sin before God if the money offered by faithful is used for luxury instead of utilising it for social welfare projects or to help the needy,” Cardinal George Alencherry said while consecrating the Rs 50 crore church.
 While a section of people feel Cardinal could have prevented Edappalli parish from wasting Rs 50 crore on a new church building, there's also a demand that the Syro-Malabar Church should put a moratorium on building new churches. "Won’t it be right and proper, for the whole Church in India to declare a moratorium on new churches made of brick and mortar and concentrate on repairing and rebuilding ever so many domestic churches of flesh and blood going to pieces because of the too many unforeseen challenges facing families today," writes Dr James Kottoor, Editor-in-Chief in Church Citizens’ Voice (CCV)
 Why are churches going in for costly renovations, expansions and remodelling? Is the idea to remain contemporary and show its prowess to the world? Is it to proclaim to the world we are big and powerful? In fact, Jesus never built any church. Nor did he ask his followers to build churches for worship. When his disciples called his attention to look at the huge stones with which Jerusalem temple was built (That was the architectural wonder of his times) he told them flatly: Not a stone upon a stone will be left intact, Kottoor wrote in an article.
  In Europe, Church constructed huge buildings many decades ago. That's history. Most of them are either lying closed or auctioned off with some churches eventually getting converted into hotels and liquor bars.
 When the woman at the well asked Jesus where the Jews worshiped: “In that temple or this, on that mountain or this?” Jesus’ answer was: “Time has come to worship God in spirit and truth in the cave of one’s own heart, and not on that temple or this.” “Neither did Jesus go to any temple to pray. He went there to teach and chase out buyers and sellers. To pray he went in search of solitudes on mountain tops. In fact his instruction to all was to pray in silence closing all the five doors of our senses,” Kottoor’s article says.
 Are we embracing, as Pope Francis said, a “disposable” culture which is now spreading? Is the life of the Church turning into a museum piece or something which is the property of a select few? “Remember, the Church is not a toll house; it is the house of the Father, where there is a place for everyone, with all their problems,” Pope reminds us in Evangelii Gaudium (or The Joy of Gospel). Unfortunately, many parishes don’t have time for that as they are busy in renovations and construction. The focus of the church should be evangelization and saving souls for Jesus. 
 Are we now serving God or mammon? 

Saturday, 4 March 2017

Exorcists Warn About Dangers of Wiccan ‘Spell to Bind Donald Trump’

Exorcists Warn About Dangers of Wiccan ‘Spell to Bind Donald Trump’
“They should realize that we can’t use the devil; the devil uses us.”
Witches in the U.S. are offering a solution to those who say Donald Trump is not their president: cast a spell on him. It’s a planned monthly event that began Friday, Feb. 23 at the stroke of midnight Eastern Time.
Witches from around the country are casting a mass spell to drive Trump from office. The plan is to continue every night of a waning crescent moon until he is no longer president.
Organizers set up a Facebook page, called “A Spell to Bind Donald Trump and All Those Who Abet Him.” The spell is publicized on the Internet and includes a supply list such as an unflattering photo of Trump, a tarot card, a stub of an orange candle, and earth.

Evil Will Not Do Good
The ritual calls on spirits, which include the “Demons of the infernal realms,” and commands to “bind Donald J. Trump so that he may fail utterly…”
The words in the spell: “That he may do no harm,” sugarcoat the reality that the devil wants the destruction of mankind and never has our best interest at heart.
The devil is showing his hand to those who have eyes, according to Fr. Patrick (not his real name) an exorcist who is also a parish priest and wishes not to go public with his identity.
“This reveals that if you believe in evil, that evil is against Trump,” Father Patrick said. “It lets us know that he must be on the side against evil. Even if we question where he is as a man of faith, or prayer, or Christianity...Trump is a man who is indicating that he is choosing and knows the difference between right and wrong and is choosing right.  People should continue to pray, in the way they have been praying. He appears to be in there because of prayer.”

The Power of Spells
Spells can have power, according to Father Vincent Lampert, the designated exorcist for the archdiocese of Indianapolis since 2005 and also the pastor for St. Malachy in Indianapolis. “I think there’s power, but it’s not coming from God,” Father Lampert said. “Anyone who would dare say they want to challenge that God is in charge is using the power of evil as their own. They should realize that we can’t use the devil; the devil uses us. People can’t control it and the devil ends up using them for his own purposes.”
Spells, according to Father Lampert, only have an effect in people who are spiritually weak. If we are anchored in God, he said Scripture tells us we have nothing to fear. “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places,” (Ephesians 6:10-18).
Father Lampert pointed out that in Deuteronomy 18:10-12, using witchcraft is condemned as detestable to God. He has known a few people who derive a sense of power and make money from people paying to have spells cast. Hundreds of people have come to Father Lampert for help after spells were cast on them.

The Solution
“You can’t stop someone from placing a curse, but as a Christian, if you are you praying to God and going to him, the curse will have no power,” Father Lampert said. For Catholics, he said going to Mass, receiving the Eucharist and going to Confession, is strong protection against evil. “Curses are effective when people are weak,” Father Lampert explained. “People are fearing devil more than trusting God.”
As for the call for those casting the spell, Father Lampert said they are relying on evil that feeds on anger and revenge. “The end result of all this for people will be to find themselves more deeply entangled with the devil,” he said. “Their lives will continue to spiral out of control because they do not have God as an anchor.”
Prayers for protection are very effective, according to Father Lampert, but we should not just be reactionary. “We should always be proactive in our faith and praying for our leaders­­—both civic and religious—as a normal part of our everyday action,” he said. “I would hate to think our faith is just reactionary. Scripture tells us to pray unceasingly.”

Coming out in the Open
Msgr. John Esseff, a priest for 63 years and an exorcist in the Diocese of Scranton, Pa. for over 40 years, said the face of the devil that is becoming more clearly seen in public. Previously, he said we saw more of what he calls an apathetic demon that appeals to the lower weaknesses of human nature such as the sexual revolution and all that comes with it.
“Then, came the apostate demon,” Msgr. Esseff said, “that denies the sacrificial nature of human life is possible. We are told we will never able to achieve this kind of holiness or goodness or unity—it just can’t be done,” he said. “This is a real apostasy; not just in politics but also in churches, convincing people that holiness is unattainable.”
Now, according to Msgr. Esseff, we are seeing the stage of the antichrist where the evil one is not afraid to show himself to humanity. Msgr. Esseff referred to Scripture: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 John 4: 2-3)
“It’s not Trump they are against but Jesus,” Msgr. Esseff said. “The devil is saying, ‘no way are you reigning in this country, we are coming out against you!’”
The spell is nothing to fear if our trust and our hope is in God, Msgr. Esseff said. “Anyone who would even begin to put God back into place is going to have the forces of hell against them,” he said. “Our Lady of Fatima has given us the key to deal with this: Increase prayer and reparation [such as making Five First Saturdays].
“It’s the Fatima message and it’s coming at this time of the 100th year anniversary much more clearly,” Msgr. Esseff said. “Our Lady warned us about it at Fatima where she said the final battle will be against marriage and the family. This is not about politics, it’s about God.”


Sunday, 18 December 2016

We don’t need clericalism in the Church

  Pope Francis has broached the subject of clericalism again in the church, much to the discomfort of clergy. 
  The spirit of clericalism is an evil that is present in the Church today, and the victim of this spirit is the people, who feel discarded and abused. That was the Pope’s message in the beginning of December. If there’s someone who consistently opposes the clerical attitude in the Roman Catholic Church, that’s the Pope himself.  He has understood that the menace of clericalism is at the root of most of the problems troubling the Catholic Church.
  Unam Sanctam Catholicam defines clericalism as a state of affairs in which there is an unnecessary or overly exaggerated importance attributed to clergy, in such a way that the laity relate to them as subjects to be ruled rather than a people to be lovingly pastored. “Basically, a clericalist ideology is one that places too much emphasis on the clergy or attributes undue importance to their actions. It is a defect of the virtue of temperance by excess as applied to the government of the Church,” it says.
  It has often led to sacramental blackmails in the church which are suppressed within its four walls.
  Pope Francis warned pastors of the dangers of becoming “intellectuals of religion” with a morality far from the Revelation of God. The poor and humble people who have faith in the Lord are the victims of the “intellectuals of religion,” those who are “seduced by clericalism,” who will be preceded in the Kingdom of Heaven by repentant sinners.
The law of the high priests is far from Revelation
  The Pope directed his attention to Jesus, who in the day’s Gospel turns to the chief priests and the elders of the people, and focuses precisely on their role. “They had juridical, moral, religious authority,” he said. “They decided everything. Annas and Caiaphas, for example, judged Jesus. They were the high priests who decided to kill Lazarus; Judas, too, went to them to bargain, and thus Jesus was sold. They arrived at this state of arrogance and tyranny towards the people, Pope said.
 Judas was a traitor, he sinned gravely. He sinned forcefully. But then the Gospel says, “He repented, and went to them to return the money.”
 And what did they (priests) do? “It’s your problem,they said and left him alone discarded. The poor Judas, a traitor and repentant, was not welcomed by the pastors. They had forgotten the First Commandment, which God had given to our father Abraham: “Walk in my presence and be blameless.” They did not walk: they always stopped in their own convictions. They were not blameless.
 Pope said they had forgotten the Ten Commandments of Moses: “With the law they themselves had made – intellectualistic, sophisticated, casuistic – they cancelled the law the Lord had made, they lacked the memory that connects the current moment with Revelation.” In the past their victim was Jesus; in a similar way, now their victim is the humble and poor people who trust in the Lord, those who are discarded, those who understand repentance even if they do not fulfil the law, and suffer these injustices.
 They feel condemned and abused, Pope said, by those who are vain, proud, arrogant. And one who was cast aside by these people, Pope Francis observed, was Judas.
  They were the intellectuals of religion, those who had the power, who advanced the catechesis of the people with a morality composed by their own intelligence and not by the revelation. The evil of clericalism can still be found in the Church today.
 “There is that spirit of clericalism,” he explained. “Clerics feel they are superior, they are far from the people. They have no time to hear the poor, the suffering, prisoners, the sick,” he said.
 The evil of clericalism is a very ugly thing. It is a new edition of these people. And the victim is the same: the poor and humble people who await the Lord. The Father has always sought to be close to us: He sent His Son. We are waiting, waiting in joyful expectation, exulting. But the Son didn’t join the game of these people. The Son went with the sick, the poor, the discarded, the publicans, the sinners – and that is scandalous – the prostitutes. Today, too, Jesus says to all of us, and even to those who are seduced by clericalism: “The sinners and the prostitutes will go before you into the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  Writing in National Catholic Reporter, Robert McClory said, “clericalism is contagious, breeding a kind of mentality that revels in ecclesiastical ambition, status and power. For some, especially those attracted to the episcopacy, it often leads to indifference toward the experiences and needs of ordinary Catholics. It encourages the creation (or repetition) of teachings and regulations worked out in ivory-tower isolation from the real world.”
 “For many generations earnest, young male seminarians have been taught that they are aspiring to a higher level not available to the laity, a level at which they will have the authority to teach, sanctify and govern those below,” he says.
 “In effect, they become members of a kind of boys club that is warm, supportive and exclusive — and never breaks ranks. For what they give up, they can expect a relatively high standard of living and the respect, even adulation (at least until the abuse scandal hit), of their grateful congregations,” McClory writes.
 “Priests were so well respected that they were often times feared rather than loved, the sacraments so revered that their power was almost magical, the stress on clerical obedience so emphatic that independent thought was stifled, and the hierarchy exercised so much power that the priesthood became in effect a boundary restricting the faithful's access to God rather than an intermediary who brought their petitions to God,” says Unam Sanctam Catholicam.
 Will Pope succeed in eliminating clericalism from the Catholic Church? He himself set an example with his frugal lifestyle, avoiding pomp and pageantry, after becoming the Pope. It’s not going to be an easy task.
 The following incident is a classic case of clericalism happened over two years ago. Similar incidents are frequent in the Catholic world but remain unreported.
 An unmarried woman with a baby had to embark on a depressing pilgrimage around Buenos Aires city to find a place where she could have her baby baptised. She was turned away by priests.
 The Archbishop of the region questioned, “Why a poor girl, who has resisted the temptation to have an abortion and stood up at great cost to herself for the right to life should be persecuted in such a way.”
 The Archbishop reminded the priests that the young woman was requesting baptism for her child, not herself, and that they have no right to deny a sacrament in that manner.
“I say this with sadness and if it sounds like a complaint or an offensive comment please forgive me: in our ecclesiastical region there are presbyteries that will not baptise children whose mothers are not married, because they have been conceived outside holy wedlock,” a Vatican insider quoted the Archbishop as saying.
 The Archbishop said he was making a call to end what he called sacramental blackmail.
 He went on to speak about the hijacking of a sacrament, calling it an expression of a rigorous and “hypocritical neo-clericalism”, which uses the sacraments as tools to affirm its own supremacy.
 He was critical of priests for what he described as rubbing the fragility and the wounds of people in their faces by hosing down their hopes and expectations, simply because they do not fit squarely into parish requirements or live up to someone else’s moral expectation.
  He said that apart from being misleading, such pastoral models distort and reject the dynamic of Jesus Christ’s incarnation, which he pointed out cannot be reduced to a doctrinal slogan or used to serve the power hungry.
 The Archbishop was none other than Jorge Mario Bergoglio – currently Pope Francis. This happened months before his selection as Pope.

Sunday, 11 December 2016

My tryst with terror in Christmas season... twice in 25 years

Peace was shattered, not once, twice during Christmas season in Mumbai 
By George Mathew

 Circa 1992. Winter had set in. It was that period of time when the angels in Bethlehem proclaimed: “Peace on earth.” But it was not to be in India’s commercial capital -- Mumbai. There was an uneasy calm in the Maximum City, but sadly minimum good governance. It was a lull before the storm. I learnt it the hard way -- that the world was not at peace, because human hearts were not at peace.
 I was then comparatively new to Mumbai, a hodge-podge of ideas, people, caste and creed. When December approached, it appeared as calm, cool and quiet as previous years' Christmas days were. But this time it turned out to be deceptive. Just days before the Christmas day, riots broke out in the metropolis. People were at war.  Communities were at war at a time when people were ushering in the birthday of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ. For Mumbai and its people, the season which was supposed to be tranquil and serene changed overnight.
 On December 6, 1992, Babri Masjid (mosque) – considered as the birthplace of Lord Rama -- in UP state was demolished by a big crowd of Hindus. It soon triggered the riots in Mumbai. Hindus and Muslims attacked each other.  Blood started flowing on the streets of Mumbai. When the enemies of peace galvanised into action, it was chaos all over the city.
 During the Christmas week, I was caught in the middle of the madness when the world was about to usher in Christmas. My job demanded long working hours and late nights. One day, when the riots were at the peak and curfew was in force in several areas, I was travelling back home in the night after the duty. I was caught in the middle of a clash between two communities. I managed to escape from the scene, but was holed up in an abandoned building near the railway station for the entire night. I could see people running helter-skelter with armed rioters chasing them. I was jittery but managed to regain my composure. There was no way I could have reached home safely and prepare for the Christmas as people were involved in pitched battle on the roads. I spent almost 6 hours in the dilapidated building and ventured out only in the morning when curfew was relaxed.
  I was forced to move into a South Mumbai hotel for the next one week as travelling was quite risky during the night and curfew was in force. The mayhem on Mumbai streets continued till the new year – January 1993 – with around 900 people losing their lives in the riots.
  Come 2008, history repeated itself. Yes, November 26, to be precise. Christmas was just four weeks away. This time it was terrorists from across the border. They came armed to the teeth and targeted 11 locations in the city, including the Oberoi hotel. When they barged into the hotel throwing grenades and shooting indiscriminately, I was just 25 metres away across the road. I ran for my life to the nearby Express Tower building where I work. It’s bang opposite Oberoi. Bullets whizzed past around me. I couldn't move out of the building and police asked us to stay inside for the night. I could see explosions and hear gun shots throughout the night. It was a sleepless night and I could leave Express Tower only the next day morning. Terrorists killed several innocent people in the hotel.  
  The thought that they could have entered Express Tower instead of Oberoi still unnerves and intimidates me.
  Although the stand-off ended in two days, I was shaken and couldn't sleep for several days. More so, because anything could have happened on that fateful evening as I used to visit Oberoi frequently for meetings and seminars. Over 160 people were dead in the 2008 Mumbai terror attack. When the Christmas day – December 25 -- came in 2008, images of blazing guns of the terrorists were still fresh in my mind. They refuse to go even now.
 If the first incident in 1992 brought the fear of God in me, the second incident in 2008 cemented that relationship with God. After these two incidents, when the Christmas season approaches, I always think about the love of God and how He protected me in difficult and dangerous times. I also realised that our daily warfare is not against sins and sinful nature alone, but also against the terrorists and religious bigots who make peace impossible.
  Someone inside me also reminded that it's not “first the feast, and then the hangover” in the last eight Christmas seasons. The enemies of peace won’t just lie down of their own accord. The world is passing through difficult times. The messengers of devil can spring a surprise anywhere at any time. The prince of darkness will try his best to trap people. So watch out. 
 We may have to pass through the wringer again and again. The only way to defeat the armies of devil is to have close relationship with God. Trust in Him. Leave everything to Him. Let Him guide us through this turbulent period. He’s our protector, saviour, healer, redeemer and teacher.  
 There's no doubt peace is a fruit of victory. When we look at the biblical notion of peace, it may not be quite the peace that some have in mind. It may not be politeness or political correctness. It is not just the absence of riots or peaceful co-existence. As Catholic scholar Dr Marcellino D'Ambrosio said, it’s rather the right relationship between people and God.
  Believing and following God’s word can go a long way towards driving out the darkness and bringing peace and light in our lives. Let's do it right in this Christmas season. That’s the spirit of Christmas. It also means taking the message of Christmas that our Lord Jesus Christ is alive even today. He came into this world to save us and He will come again. Be holy to welcome Him.

Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Pope extends power to forgive abortion to all Roman Catholic priests

Pope Francis on Monday extended indefinitely to all Roman Catholic priests the power to forgive abortion, a right previously reserved for bishops or special confessors in most parts of the world.

Francis, who has made a more inclusive and forgiving Roman Catholic Church a characteristic of his papacy, made the announcement in a document known as an "apostolic letter" after Sunday's close of the Church's "Holy Year of Mercy".

He said he wanted to "restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life" but "there is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled with (God)".

Francis had already temporarily granted the power to all priests to give what is known as "sacramental absolution" for abortion during the Holy Year, from Dec. 8 to Nov. 20, but the solemn tone of his words in Monday's letter suggested that the change would last for at least the rest of his papacy.

In Roman Catholic teaching, abortion is such a serious sin that those who procure or perform it bring automatic excommunication on themselves as they are knowingly committing a sin the Church considers grave.

In the past, only a bishop or a designated special confessor could grant absolution for an abortion and lift excommunication.

Although bishops in some dioceses in developed countries such as the United States and Britain had already delegated this authority to parish priests, the old practice was still in effect in most of the world.

"Not only is this a change in Church policy, it changes Church law," said Father James Bretzke, a professor of moral theology at Boston College.

"I think it’s very significant in the context of Pope Francis’ theme of his pontificate, which is going to go down as the pontificate of mercy; he sees mercy as absolutely the key."

Thursday, 6 October 2016

Vatican’s chief exorcist is no more: Fr Amorth waged a sustained battle with Satan

 Not many people, even Christians, would have noticed the death of  
Rev Fr Gabriele Amorth, a great man of God.
 Fr Amorth, renowned chief exorcist of Rome, had left an indelible mark in the Catholic Church with his many experiences as an exorcist waging a sustained battle with Satan. Fr Amorth, 91, passed away on September 17, 2016, after suffering from a pulmonary illness. 
 No doubt, it was a life well served, battling the enemy of makind -- Satan.
 In his powerful book ‘An exorcist tell his story’, Fr Amorth had narrated his many experiences as an exorcist engaged in a sustained battle with Satan to relieve people from the great sufferings brought about by the evil forces. He was trained by another great exorcist Fr Candido Amantini and granted the faculty of exorcist by Cardinal Ugo Poletti, the Pope’s vicar of the Diocese of Rome.
 He had said Harry Potter’s books encourage children to believe in black magic and denounced ‘yoga’ as evil. He also said in a Facebook post in 2015 that ISIS is Satan.
  Fr Amorth wrote about what an exorcist sees and does, and his personal confrontation with devil on hundreds of occasions. Many from the laity still doubt whether exorcism was given its due importance in the Catholic church. However, that’s not the case in many denominations. “In some denominations of the Protestant church, exorcisms are still practiced frequently and fruitfully,” Fr Amorth wrote. “Bishops must realize that this ministry is entirely entrusted to their care; it’s only they who can practice or delegate and exorcism. Sadly since most bishops have never performed an exorcism, they are seldom aware of the extent of the need.”
 The book says the demons remain bound to the same strict hierarchy that was given them when they were angels: principalities, thrones, dominions, and so on (Col 1:16). While the angels, whose chief is Michael, are bound by a hierarchy of love, the demons live under a rule of slavery, Fr Amorth said.
 During a May 24, 1987 visit to the sanctuary of Saint Michael the Archangel, John Paul II said, ” the battle against the devil which is the principal task of Michael the archangel, is still being fought today, because the devil is still alive and active in the world. The evil that surrounds us today, the disorders that  plague our society, man’s inconsistency and brokenness are not only the results of original sin but also the result of Satan’s pervasive and dark action.”
  What harm can the devil cause to the loving? “He talks of the ordinary and extraordinary activities. There are six different forms for the second category: External physical pain caused by Satan, demonic possession, diabolical oppression, diabolic obsession, diabolic infestation and diabolical subjugation or dependence,” Fr Amorth wrote in the book.
 According to the Catechism of Catholic Church, there are two types of exorcism: the sacrament of baptism, which is the only form of simple exorcism, and the sacramental reserved to exorcists, which is called solemn exorcism. (CCC 1673). How long does it take to free somebody from demons? It can range from minutes to several years, Fr Amorth’s book says, narrating several incidents of exorcisms. 
  “We can see the proliferation, especially among the young, of spiritism, witchcraft and the occult. We can add to this the pursuit of yoga, zen, transcendental meditation; these are all practices based on reincarnation, on dissolving the human person into divinity, or in any case, on other doctrines that are unacceptable to Christians. I must point out that too many churchmen are totally disinterested in these problems (created by satan), and so they leave the faithful defenseless,” Fr Amorth wrote.
  The book says it is difficult to distinguish between somebody who is possessed and someone with psychological problems. However, an expert exorcist will be able to detect the difference more easily than a psychiatrist who does not believe in demonic possession... and does not even consider it in his diagnostic process,” Fr Amorth said.
 The ritual for exorcism starts by listing 21 norms that must be followed by the exorcist. The two areas most commonly affected by evil influence are the head and the stomach, Fr Amorth says in the book. The demons react in various manners to prayers and injunctions. Many times he tries to appear indifferent; in reality he suffers and continues to suffer increasingly until liberation is achieved.
  Fr Amorth’s book says there can be many or few, but there’s always a chief, and he is always the first to be named. Generally, the evil one does not and cannot say holy names; he substitutes expressions such as “he” (referring to God or Jesus) or “she” (referring to our Lady). On other occasions, demons say “your Boss” or “your Lady” to indicate Jesus and Mary. If the possession is very strong and the demon is high ranking, then it is possible for them to say the name of God and Mary always followed by horrible blasphemies, the book says.

 “The demon always tries his best to hide his presence. Demons are reluctant to speak, and when they talk, they say silly things to distract the exorcist and escape his questions.  For a demon, to leave a body and go back to hell – where he is always condemned – means to die forever and to lose any ability to molest people actively,” the book says. 
 According to the book, children are very vulnerable, not because of personal fault, but because of their weaknesses. Many times when we exorcise an adult we discover that the demonic presence can be traced to early childhood, or even worse, to the moment of birth or even to their gestation.
  Fr Amorth also spoke about different types of curses: black magic, curses, evil and eye and spells. “Curses invoke evil, and the origin of all evil is demonic. When curses are spoken with true perfidy, especially if there is a blood relationship between the one casts them and the accused, the outcome can be terrible,” the book says.
 That said, the scarcity of exorcists clearly denotes a lack of interest on the part of episcopate in general. The first step, and the fundamental one, is to reawaken the awareness of bishops and priests, according to sound doctrine the Scripture, tradition, and the Magesterium have always transmitted.

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Cardinal slams pompous and noisy feast celebrations

Put curbs on fireworks, selling goods, loudspeaker announcements, cooking of food during church festival days, says Cardinal Alencherry

 Cardinal George Alencherry, the head of the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church in India, has slammed the practice of churches going in for noisy and pompous feast celebrations and appealed to the faithful to put curbs on fireworks, trade and cooking meals in church premises and turn feasts into occasions of simplicity and devotion.
 Stating that it's time that traditional festivals were given a makeover, Cardinal Alencherry said in a statement that the faithful are unable to pray in peace and tranquillity amid firecrackers and loudspeaker announcements during festival days. "In an atmosphere of fireworks, band sets and mike announcements, people are unable to pray peacefully, communicate and grow in fellowship. Churches are arranging band sets, fireworks and mike announcements and colourful electric illumination to attract more people to the feast celebration. The increase and intensity of these things destroy the intention of feast celebrations. It seems the organisers are keen to increase the offerings or income from the feast celebration every year. The increase in offerings/ income seems to be the measure to determine the success of the feast," he said.

Cardinal George Alencherry's statement against noisy and pompous feast celebrations:

 On July 28, the feast day of St Alphonsa, I got a chance to celebrate Raza Qurbana, the most holy form of Syro-Malabar Holy Mass, and give a sermon in Bharananganam (Kerala, India). The feast was being celebrated in a grand way. However, there was no drum and band procession. There was no elephant procession. There were no crackers and fireworks. But thousands of people were present on the occasion which was conducted in a spiritual atmosphere. Sermons, Holy Mass, sacrament of confession, visit to grave and rosary procession – the feast programme was conducted in an atmosphere that gives spiritual renewal to the faithful. Then some thoughts about feast celebrations came to my mind.
 The absence of fireworks or band sets or the lack of colourful electric illumination did not trivialise or downgrade the importance of the feast celebration of St Alphonsa. On the contrary, it added more attraction to the spiritual ambience. I think all feast celebrations should have this beauty.  The laity should be able to pray and deepen their faith during feast celebrations. Feasts should be spiritual celebrations. It should not be a display of materialistic world. I hope that feasts in all churches will be spiritual celebrations.
  Feasts are very noisy these days. In an atmosphere of fireworks, band sets and loudspeaker announcements, people are unable to pray peacefully, communicate and grow in fellowship. Churches are arranging band sets, fireworks and mike announcements and colourful electric illumination to attract more people to the feast celebration. The increase and intensity of these things destroy the intention of feast celebrations. It seems the organisers are keen to increase the offerings or income from the feast celebration every year. The increase in offerings/ income seems to be the measure to determine the success of the feast!
 The practice of cooking of food and food offering (Oottu nercha) on the feast location should be reconsidered. These things and other above-mentioned style of celebrations are actually eliminating the spirituality of feasts.
 Small churches blindly follow the celebrations of a popular feast in a bigger church. The desire to project the miracle powers of saints, whose feasts are being celebrated, in an exaggerated manner is also increasing. The intercessory power of a saint is not something which should be advertised. Faithful get God’s grace through the intercession of saints. That doesn’t need any advertisement. Whoever receives that grace should inform others through self-inspiration. Artificial propaganda about the intercessory powers of a saint would always create a wrong notion. There are people who create new customs and practices to attract more people to feast celebrations.
 Before urbanisation took roots, church premises were earlier used to buy essential items during feast occasions. It was a necessity during earlier years. At a time when urbanisation has become a reality and the number of super markets and malls has increased, it needs to be pondered whether church premises should be used for business activities. In order to attract more people, there is no justification to use the culture of consumerism. Jesus Christ chased away merchants and money-changers from Jerusalem church during the Passover festival. “My house will be called a house of prayer, but you are making it a den of robbers,” says Mathew 21:13. He took the whip against the injustice done through business and money-changing. If an equivalent injustice happens in the church premises during a feast celebration, Jesus will oppose it.
 It is seen that a major part of the offerings is require to meet the expenses of feast celebration. Is it justifiable to squander church offerings in such manner? When believers filled with piety and faith give offerings, shouldn’t it be used for worshiping God and charity work among poor people? Are people who are attracted by outward artificial programmes or genuine believers putting more offerings? As Jesus said, aren’t poor widows putting more money in church offering box? Aren’t these holy offerings being spent in an unholy manner? Feast celebrations are now becoming contradictions of piety. The journey from this contradiction to the right path is bumpy and difficult. For the smooth functioning of a parish, we have the good tradition of laity with good leadership style working with priests. This tradition should continue forever.  However, some among the laity argue for outward celebrations stand for worldly things and oppose tooth and nail when priests and diocesan leaders put curbs. Such people put hurdles against reformation in feast celebrations. So church general body meeting, committees and spiritual organisations should think and deliberate for a proper formation of ideas.
 It’s high time that feast celebrations got a new structure and character.
 Neduvannoor parish in the Archdiocese of Ernakulam-Angamaly recently collected money for feast celebrations but they decided to drop fireworks and used that money to construct houses for two poor families. Kunnapillyssery parish dropped fireworks in the last two years and used that money to distribute saplings. Kandanad parish has also adopted this practice. These practices are so good. Likewise, many parishes have strictly controlled over-spending and pompous celebrations and used that money for charitable purposes. If only all the churches follow this practice in an era when fireworks are leading to tragic accidents...
 We should understand the incongruence in celebrating the feasts of saints, who are models of simplicity, in a lavish and pompous style. We should bring our lives to an experience in spiritual celebration through Jesus Christ and the models set by saints. What make our feast celebrations more meaningful are worship, sermons, processions with songs and prayers, cultural programmes giving messages about Christianity and charitable work aiding poor and marginalised people that will help in spiritual growth and leading a holy life.
We should reform the feast celebrations in line with the guidance and leadership of Pope Francis who exhorted the Catholic Church to follow a simple life. We should make feast celebrations as the pinnacle of a spiritual experience. We should make feast celebrations as Christian witnesses of good charitable purposes and as a social obligation. We should salvage feast celebrations from fireworks and pomp.
(Translated from Malayalam)

Sunday, 3 July 2016

Are we treating our elderly well?

By  Sheena George
How do we treat our parents and grandparents, especially in their old ages? Are we treating them with love, care and affection when they grow old and frail? Well, if you visit some of the old-age homes, it’s crystal clear that many of us Christians mistreat our parents and grandparents, show a lack of respect and consideration for the elderly and fail to give them a dignified life.
This is abominable and a mortal sin. It's also a crime in many countries.
Even then, when it comes to mistreatment of parents and grandparents, developed and developing countries are all in the same boat. In developing countries like India, many sons and daughters dump their grandparents in some old age home. This mostly happens after the sons and daughters get a house and a decent bank balance or a good job in a foreign country. Then they consider old and sick parents as liabilities. In developed nations like the US and Europe, elders are abandoned by their kids, forcing them to fend for themselves. Children don’t show love, care and affection to their grandparents. Beware, hell is waiting for such sons and daughters who mistreat their parents and grandparents.
When we think about our father and mother, Mother Mary’s image flashes through one’s mind. On September 8, Christians (especially Syrian, Coptic and Ethiopian Orthodox churches) celebrate the Nativity of Mary, or Birth of the Virgin Mary. Just hours before His death on the cross in Calvary, Jesus called John and entrusted Mother Mary to his care, saying “this is your mother.” 
Our Lord didn't abandon His mother. Jesus then told Mother Mary: "this is your son." There's a message here.
  The biblical commandment that requires us to honour our parents, understood broadly, reminds us of the honour we must show to all elderly people. God associates a double promise with this commandment: “that you may have a long life” (Ex 20:12, Ephesians 6:2-3) and, the other, “that you might prosper” (Dt 5:16). In short, if you respect your parents and take care of them, you will live for a longer time. That’s a promise from God.
Pope Francis says the Bible reserves a severe warning for those who neglect or mistreat their parents (Ex 21:17; Leviticus 20:9). The same judgement applies today when parents, having become older and less useful, are marginalized to the point of abandonment. “It is a mortal sin to discard our elderly… the elderly are not aliens. We are them – in a short or in a long while we are inevitably them, even though we choose not to think about it. A society where the elderly are discarded carries within it the virus of death. If we do not learn to care for and respect our elderly, we will be treated in the same way,” Pope said recently.

And there are so many examples. “Even educated people from wealthy families abandon their elderly parents. This happens even in Christian families,” our parish priest said in one of his homilies.

A person who commits a mortal sin is one who knows that their sin is wrong, but still deliberately commits the sin anyway. This means that mortal sins are "premeditated" by the sinner and thus are truly a rejection of God’s law and love. He’s then willfully cutting off God’s grace.
This is like playing into the hands of devil. One day you will also grow old. Then the same fate may start haunting you. Your own children will then abandon you. History will repeat. So act wisely. Take care of your parents and elderly people. And assure a place in heaven..

We need old people who pray

Coptic tradition relates that Mary's father Joachim died when she was six years old and Anna when Mary was eight. Accordingly Jesus would not have met his grandparents. Still, in some parishes, the memorial of Anna and Joachim is celebrated as grandparents' day. Two years ago, Pope Francis, while in Rio de Janeiro for World Youth Day, recalled the importance of parents and grandparents for the healthy upbringing of children and youth. "Mary grew up in the home of Joachim and Anne; she was surrounded by their love and faith: in their home she learned to listen to the Lord and to follow his will. Saints Joachim and Anne were part of a long chain of people who had transmitted their faith and love for God, expressed in the warmth and love of family life, down to Mary, who received the Son of God in her womb and who gave Him to the world, to us. How precious is the family as the privileged place for transmitting the faith," he said.
The commemoration of the feast of Saints Joachim and Anna can be an opportunity for us to thank for our grandparents, living or deceased, by recalling specific memories, gestures, or testimonies which have impacted our lives.
  "I still carry with me, always, in my breviary, the words my grandmother consigned to me in writing on the day of my priestly ordination. I read them often and they do me good," Pope Francis said and added that "in our hectic world, the tranquility radiating from grandparents and the elderly is a great gift for the Church, it is a treasure."
Grandparents also have a duty at their old age. In one of his sermons, Pope reminded grandparents of their urgent apostolate to pray: "We need old people who pray because this is the very purpose of old age. The prayer of the elderly is a beautiful thing." Grandparents are important for family life, for passing on the human and religious heritage which is so essential for each and every society. They are also important for inter-generational exchanges and dialogue, especially within the context of the family.

Sunday, 10 April 2016


By Sheena George
 Some professors of Duquesne University, a Catholic university in Pittsburgh, USA, who were searching for a spiritual experience, attended the Congress of the Cursillo movement in August 1966. Here, they were introduced to the book ‘The Cross and the Switchblade’ written by David Wilkerson which emphasized the Holy Spirit and the Spirit’s charisms. This book became the focus of their studies and further led them to pursue the Holy Spirit and the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
 On a cold winter day in January 1967, Ralph Keifer and Patrick Bourgeois, professors from Duquesne University, attended a unsupervised prayer meeting in Pittsburgh where they received the baptism in the Holy Spirit -- a pentecostal experience in the Catholic Church.  
 It didn’t stop there. The following week, Keifer laid hands on other Duquesne professors, and they also had an experience with the Spirit. One month later in February, during a prayer meeting at Duquesne University, more people including students asked Keifer to pray over them. This led to the event at the chapel where they too received the Holy Spirit and spoke in tongues. This news reached the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, where a similar event later occurred, and the Renewal began to spread in the Catholic Church.
  The year 2017 will mark the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Renewal fire in the Catholic church. The groundwork for the Charismatic renewal started in 1966, one year before the Pittsburgh prayer meeting.
 “Pat (Bourgeois) and I asked to be prayed with for the baptism of the Holy Spirit. They broke up into several groups because they were praying over several people. They simply asked me to make an act of faith for the power of the Spirit to work in me. I prayed in tongues rather quickly," Keifer wrote about the prayer meeting.
  The rest is history. Charismatic Renewal is now strong in India with Kerala leading the way.
 Ten years later in 1977, Divine Retreat Centre in Potta, started by Rev Fr Mathew Naickomparambill and other priests from the Vincentian  Congregation, played a leading role in the spread of Renewal in India, especially in Kerala. Today, Divine Retreat Centre is the largest Catholic retreat centre in the world. “Since 1990, over 10 million pilgrims from all over the world have attended retreats here. Weekly retreats in 7 languages are held non-stop every week of the year. It is truly an achievement possible only by the grace of God,” says its website.
 The Catholic Church gave its stamp of approval. Four popes have acknowledged the movement: Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II, Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis. Pope Paul VI said the movement brought vitality and joy to the Church and also urged for people to be discerning of the spirits. Speaking at the International Conference on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal on May 19, 1975, Pope Paul VI encouraged the attendees in their renewal efforts and especially to remain anchored in the Church.
 Pope John Paul II also supported the Renewal. John Paul II -- as well as then-Cardinal Ratzinger who is now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI -- acknowledged good aspects of the movement but emphasised that members must maintain their Catholic identity and communion with the Catholic Church. “I am convinced that this movement is a very important component of the entire renewal of the Church,” John Paul II said while speaking to a group of international leaders of the Renewal on December 11, 1979. “I can understand all these charisms. They are all part of the richness of the Lord. I am convinced that this movement is a sign of His action,” he said.
 On November 30, 1990, the Pontifical Council for the Laity promulgated the decree which inaugurated the Catholic Fraternity of Charismatic Covenant Communities and Fellowships. Brian Smith of Brisbane, elected President of the Executive of the Fraternity, called the declaration the most significant event in the history of the charismatic renewal since the 1975 Holy Year international conference and the acknowledgment it received from Pope Paul VI at that time. "It is the first time that the Renewal has had formal, canonical recognition by the Vatican,” Smith said.
 “At the heart of a world imbued with a rationalistic skepticism, a new experience of the Holy Spirit suddenly burst forth. And, since then, that experience has assumed a breadth of a worldwide Renewal movement. What the New Testament tells us about the charisms - which were seen as visible signs of the coming of the Spirit - is not just ancient history, over and done with, for it is once again becoming extremely topical,” Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, wrote in the forward to a book by Cardinal Suenens, at that time the Pope's delegate to the Charismatic Renewal.
 Catholic Church has not looked back after Vatican supported the movement. Priests from Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from Kerala are in the forefront of spreading Charismatic Renewal across the world.
 “The charismatic renewal movement became the most formidable religious revival of the 20th century: a global phenomenon that had left almost no Christian community untouched by the time it began to taper off in the mid-1970s,” writes Molly Worthen, Assistant Professor at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. “Protestants and Catholics who had always preferred calm and ‘respectable’ worship, who viewed Pentecostals as their embarrassing cousins, embraced Pentecostal practices like praying in tongues, divine healing, and surrendering physical control of their bodies to the Holy Spirit,” Worthen said.


 The word "charismatic" comes from the Greek word for "gift."  There are many charisms, and God distributes them differently to different people. 1 Corinthians 7:7 shows us that everyone "has a particular gift (charisma) from God, one of one kind and one of another."
 Catechism of Catholic Church (CCC) says, “whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church as well. They are a wonderfully rich grace for the apostolic vitality and for the holiness of the entire Body of Christ, provided they really are genuine gifts of the Holy Spirit and are used in full conformity with authentic promptings of this same Spirit, that is, in keeping with charity, the true measure of all charisms, CCC says.
 According to CCC, it is in this sense that discernment of charisms is always necessary. No charism is exempt from being referred and submitted to the Church's shepherds. "Their office (is) not indeed to extinguish the Spirit, but to test all things and hold fast to what is good," so that all the diverse and complementary charisms work together "for the common good."
 It’s all about shedding your old self and becoming a new person in Spirit. Ephesians 4:22-24 sys, “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds,  and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.”
 According to Italian author and journalist Alessandra Nucci, Pope Francis’ frequent mentions of the Holy Spirit -- whom he has described as someone who “annoys us” and “moves us, makes us walk, pushes the Church to move forward” -- as well as his unprecedentedly frequent references to the devil (rather than to a generic “evil”), indicate his affinity for the Charismatic Renewal.  “The election of such a back-to-basics man as Supreme Pontiff provides us with an opportunity to look at the road traveled by the Charismatic Renewal and to “hold on to what is good” (1 Thess 5:21),” Nucci writes.
 That said, it’s beyond any doubt that Charismatic Renewal, which started nearly 50 years ago, has brought about new hope and life in Spirit among millions of people across the world. We’re living witnesses to this great work of our Lord. This is a Fire that will last till the end of the world. It’s Pentacostal Fire.

  References: 1. Crux Catholic Media; 2. Catechism of Catholic Church; 3.  EWTN, USA; 4. Archives of Duquesne University; 5. Catholic Family News 

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

'God is greater than our sin'

“God is greater than all the sins we may do. God is greater than our sin.” That’s what Pope Francis reminded pilgrims at the general audience on March 30.
 In his remarks in Italian, the Pope said God's infinite mercy wipes away our sins like the dry cleaner eliminates the stains from our clothes. But “divine forgiveness is supremely effective,” Pope said.  Unlike the dry cleaner, however, “it doesn’t hide the sin; it destroys it and cancels it… God eliminates our sin from its very roots – all of it.”
 In his catechesis, Pope Francis reflected on the penitential prayer Psalm 51 from the Old Testament. In ancient Hebrew tradition, the Pope noted, the psalm refers to a penitent King David who, trusting in God’s mercy, humbly prays for forgiveness after he committed not simply “a small lie” but the great sins of adultery and murder.
Pope Francis invited those gathered in Saint Peter’s square to raise their hands if any among them had not sinned in his or her lifetime.  He remarked that no one present had raised a hand and observed that “we are all sinners” and some people find themselves sinning over and over again.
 Like a child who reaches up to his parents to lift him after a fall - noted the Pope, when we fall in sin, we can raise our hand to God who will pull us up.  “God created man and woman to stand upright,” said the Pope.  "It is beautiful to be forgive, but you too, if you want to be pardoned, you should also forgive.  Forgive," he said.
 In his continuing catechesis for the Holy Year of Mercy, Pope Francis said, "we now conclude our treatment of the Old Testament with a consideration of Psalm 51, the Miserere."  This Psalm is traditionally seen as King David’s prayer for forgiveness following his sin with Bathsheba.  Its opening words: “Have mercy on me, O God in your kindness”, are a moving confession of sin, repentance and confident hope in God’s merciful pardon.  Together with a heartfelt plea to be cleansed and purified of his sin, the Psalmist sings the praise of God’s infinite justice and holiness.  He asks for the forgiveness of his great sin but also for the gift of a pure heart and a steadfast spirit, so that, thus renewed, he may draw other sinners back to the way of righteousness.  God’s forgiveness is the greatest sign of his infinite mercy.  Through the prayers of Mary, Mother of Mercy, may we become ever more convincing witnesses to that divine mercy which forgives our sins, creates in us a new heart, and enables us to proclaim God’s reconciling love to the world.

Saturday, 12 March 2016


By Fr James Manjackal M.S.F.S.

 I know that many Christians all over the world, are really sad and upset over the present persecution of Christianity everywhere, especially in the Middle East, by the ISIS and in Africa by the Boko Haram. These two groups – with the support of many other Islamic terrorist groups – have proclaimed a “Jihad” (holy war) against Christianity and its followers. Christians are beheaded, shot, crucified, buried, burned alive and mutilated. Women and children are raped and abused. Thousands of Christians have fled their homes and their homeland, and they are now forced to live in various refugee camps in alien countries.
 In the hostage beheading & burning videos, we see the terrorists along with their onlookers singing songs and worshipping their god (Allah) in Arabic language as in the times of persecution of the early church by Nero, Constantine, Diocletian, etc. under the Roman Empire. In those times when Christians were thrown before wild animals like lions, tigers, leopards etc. or burned alive and crucified, the pagans were clapping hands and singing songs to their god!

 The other day a man asked me with much anger in his heart towards the present Christian persecution, “why don’t we go with weapons of mass destruction – like nuclear bombs and destroy these murderers?”


 Dear brothers and sisters, we must know that Jesus our Lord had foretold that a day would come when His followers would be persecuted and killed by the enemies and that they would think that they would be worshipping God by doing so, “They will expel you from the synagogues; in fact the hour is coming when everyone who kills you will think he is offering worship to God” (Jn 16: 2). In the following words He had also explained the reason for this persecution and killings, “They will do this because they have not known either the Father or me” (Jn 16: 3). While on earth Jesus had told His followers, “If the world hates you, realize that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, the world would love its own; but because you did not belong to the world and I have chosen you out of the world, the world hates you” (Jn 15: 18-21).

 Hence the reasons of persecution are clear; it is because we Christians belong to Christ and to His Father, it is because we are chosen by Christ through His Spirit, it is because our aim in life is the Kingdom of heaven, it is because we try to live a holy life according to the commandments of God and the Church, “In fact, all who want to live religiously in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (II Tim 3: 12)

 After the second Vatican Council, through various renewal movements, especially through the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, Christians all over the world were awakened to God’s call for a holy life; many indeed have committed themselves to Christ as authentic witnesses of His love. Through prayers, Sacramental life, and prayer groups Christianity is being renewed and strengthened. Surely Satan, the enemy, is enraged at the renewal and growth of Christianity and he is trying to use men and women from all religions to fight against Christians. He is sifting the church with his cunning plans and tactics (Eph 6: 10-18, 1 Pt 5:8).


 Jesus had already told that we are in the world like sheep amidst wolves and He had warned us not to be afraid of those who kill the body but to be afraid only of those who kill the soul and body in hell (Mt 10: 16, 26-27). It is not a time to be sad and depressed or to nurture a spirit of retaliation in the heart towards the enemies of Christianity. It is a time to rejoice and to be glad because the Lord is blessing all Christians through these sufferings. Every suffering in the Name of Jesus brings an abundance of blessings either for the individual or the society.

 In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said that Christian suffering is blessedness, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when they insult you and persecute you and utter every kind of evil against you falsely because of me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven” (Mt 5:10: 12). Also we see similar teaching by the first Pope Peter, “Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the Name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you” (I Pet 4:12: 14).
We know that those who are persecuted and killed are really saints and martyrs in heaven. It is about them that Jesus says, “ These are the ones who have survived the times of great distress, they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. For this reason they stand before God’s throne, and worship Him day and night in his temple. The one who sits on the throne will shelter them” ( Rev 7:14-15)


 As authentic followers of Christ, at this moment, we Christians should be able to forgive our persecutors and murderers as our master, Jesus Himself, has taught us. We must put on the mind of Christ who forgave and prayed for His persecutors and murderers, “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Lk 23: 34). We must pray that the Holy Spirit may open their hearts to know and to believe in Christ Jesus the only savior of the world and through Him, His and our Father in heaven.

 Jesus has told us thus, “But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Mt 5: 44). St. Paul says, “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse” (Rom 12: 14). Also he said not to retaliate or to take revenge, but go the extent of helping and feeding the enemy (Rom 12: 19-21).

 I know that all over the world Christians are praying to the Lord for an ending of this persecution by the recital of rosaries, the way of the cross, the chaplet of the Divine Mercy, as well as offering Holy Masses along with fasting and penance. I heard that Christians in Kerala, although only a few in number are offering one hundred million way of the cross, rosaries and fasting for this purpose!!! Let us continue loving our enemies and praying for them so that one day the persecutors themselves may become God’s children and our brothers and sisters. Of course we need the power of the Holy Spirit to do this; but we must know that the Holy Spirit has been poured into our hearts through prayers and sacraments in the church (Rom 5:5).


 “Watch carefully then how you live, not as foolish persons but as wise, making the most of the opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not continue in ignorance, but try to understand what is the will of the Lord” (Eph 5: 15-17). Why does Jesus allow such a persecution on those who follow Him? I think Jesus is giving us a chance to examine our consciences to see if we are really living an authentic Christian life. Is it not true that many Christians have left their faith in Christ and His church and are living as pagans, atheists, communists and a few even have become antichrists denying Jesus and His Father and are working against Christianity (I Jn 2: 22)?
 It is sad that there are baptized Christians amidst the ISIS and the Boko Haram! What is said in the books of Jeremiah and Isaiah are true of them, “Two evils have my people done: they have forsaken me, the source of living waters. They have dug themselves cisterns, broken cisterns, that hold no water” (Jer 2: 13). “… the Lord speaks: sons have I raised a reared, but they have disowned me! An ox knows its owner, and an ass its master’s manger, but my people do not know me or understand me” (Is 1: 2-3).

 Perhaps it is true that the power of Satan, who is a murderer and destroyer is more at work in the world today because of the involvement of Christians themselves in Satanism, freemasonry, esoteric and new age. The Christians who once called upon the name of Jesus, are calling on Satan now in temples, lodges and places dedicated to Satan! Is it not Christians who brought the culture of death to this world in the present days by promoting abortion and euthanasia? It is deplorable that many Christian countries have legalized them!!! It was prophesied by late pope Paul VI that if free license is given to kill the children in the mother’s womb, one day man will kill each other without law nor license. Yes this is happening now!!!

 Do we, who grieve over the murderers of thousands of Christians by Boko Haram and ISIS, grieve and mourn over the millions and millions massacred in the mother’s wombs by the weapons of the doctors!!! It is a shame that Christians are breaking the law and values of morality by promoting free sex, homosexuality, pornography, divorce, etc. Jesus our Master, taught us ways and rules to live an upright life, but we who boast of the law dishonour God by breaking the law. Because of us the name of the Lord is reviled among the gentiles (Rom 2: 23-24). Indeed we are re-crucifying the Son of God and holding Him to contempt (Heb 6:6). The book of wisdom says, “A man is punished by the very things through which he sins”  (Wis 11: 16).

 St Peter said, “But let no one among you be made to suffer as a murderer, a thief, an evil doer or as an intriguer” (I Pet 4: 15). I think that reading the signs of the times in the light of the Word of God in the bible and the teachings of the church, Christians should repent of their own sins and failures and return to the Lord by a decision to follow the commandments of the Lord and the church. The Lord says, “Return to me and I will return to you” (Zac 1: 3).  “We are being collapsed through our own sins, let us turn to the Lord and say, ‘forgive all iniquity’” (Hos 14: 2-3). Christians should live their identity; they are a people chosen by God – as Gods own people, as royal priests and a holy nation to bear witness to His love (I Pet 2 :9). St. Peter says, “For it is the will of God that by doing good you may silence the ignorance of foolish people” (I Pet 2: 15).


 Let the enemies of the church know that Christianity is fire and if anyone blows the fire it will spread far and wide burning out all that is bad. The Roman Empire that tried to exterminate the maiden Christianity later became a Christian empire and even today Rome is the center of Christianity. Those who crucified Jesus the Son of God as a criminal thought that the story of this man who did signs and wonders ended with the crucifixion, but He became the superstar that attracted billions and billions all over the world. The whole world is divided into His followers and others.  Christians don’t just believe in an institution called the church or its dogmas, but they are following a person who is Jesus Himself, the second person of the Holy Trinity who came to this world to conquer the world by love.

 The power of the Risen Lord is radiating on every human being on earth, even on those who are his enemies. To every persecutor of Christianity Jesus is telling the same words He spoke to Saul, Paul of Tarsus, who tried to destroy the church by entering Christian houses and dragging out men and women to be persecuted and killed, “Why are you persecuting me. It is hard for you to kick against the goad” (Acts 8:3, 26: 14). Jesus Christ whose name is Emmanuel – God with us, promised His followers His living presence and protection saying, “I will be with you until the end of the world” (Mt 28: 20).
 Christians will conquer the evil force of today by the power of the Blood of Christ and by the word of their testimony, the dragon of persecution will be crushed down and the power of the Risen Christ will be manifested by the conversions of the persecutors and murderers  themselves like in the case of St. Paul (Rev 12: 11). The Christians will fight with the Lamb, who is Christ, and He will conquer the enemy, for He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings and those with Him are called chosen and faithful (Rev 17: 14).

 The church will rise again as powerful from the present crisis with the power of the Risen Lord in unity and sanctity. Christ is the center and focus of humanity and He will shine upon everyone and He will reign here on earth, and in His own time He will gather them to His kingdom in eternity (Rev 5: 10, 7: 17).
 Jesus is Risen indeed, Hallelujah, He lives for ever and ever!!!!
(Fr. James Manjackal, the Founder-Director of the renowned MSFS retreat and renewal centre, Charis Bhavan, in Kerala is currently engaged in preaching retreats and renewal programmes in Europe, America and Gulf countries. His retreats have captured the hearts of many, especially the youth. For more information on his ministry and activities kindly log on to his website: