July 31st marks the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
In the parlance of old Jesuits, the feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola, is a first class feast, with a high choral mass, festivities, good food, mirth and jollity, in the morning and during the day and an impressive and grand benediction with sonorous choir in attendance in the evening. For us boarders in St. Josephs, Trichinopoly, besides all these, some more recreation time in the quadrangle of the boarding.
How much the Jesuits have done to advance education in this country is a matter always to be gloated about! How much they are connected to OUR community from the days of St. Francis Xavier,–from the days of St. Ignatius of Loyola –is a matter to be joyous about! And how much we owe to them from their COLLEGES at, Trichy, PalayamKottai and Chennai!
Given to reading spiritual books , at times during feasts like this, I was looking into my small collection at home for something to read about, connected to Jesuits ; and there I chanced upon a slender volume “JESUIT IN INDIA—ADDRESSED TO ALL WHO ARE INTERESTED IN THE FOREIGN MISSIONS ’’ by REV, STRICKLAND . S.J. (1852) and published in DUBLIN and LONDON and reprinted in India in 2001.
The book is running to 250 pages of quarto size.
In the first page of the book it is said’’ THE WRITER HAS SPENT FOUR YEARS IN THE MADURA MISSION IN SOUTHERN INDIA AND HERE DESCRIBES , PAST HISTORY, THE PRESENT STATE, AND FUTURE PROSPECTS OF THIS PROMISING FIELD OF EVANGELICAL LABOUR.
The book , according to the author ‘’pretends to be no higher character than that of an eye witness narrative , and boasts of nothing more valuable than its collection of facts. Whatever reflections the author may have suffered to escape him can be thrown aside by the mind that relishes them not; the history will remain the same.’’
The book has nine chapters.
1. The Vicariate Apostolic of Madura,
2. The Introduction of Christianity into India.
3. Consequences of suppression of the Society of Jesus.
4 .Sketches of the reports of Protestantism in Southern India.
5. Modern History of the Mission of Madura.
6. Memoir of the Hon and Rev. Walter Clifford.
7. The College of Negapattam.
8. Actual State of the Mission.
All the chapters are interesting and give deep insight to the deprivation and suffering, and sickness and deaths of young Jesuits who came to usher in the KINGDOM OF GOD in the heathen land. These also disclose the activities of rival missions and their inanity. One may see comments and observations on many matters connected to the church and its people.
Of very great relevance to us is his observation on our community in the eighth chapter.
1. “The coast of fishery, so often mentioned in the life of St. F. Xavier, remains now to be described. The line of country so called is the S.E. shore of India, from Cape Comorin for about ninety miles up, the coast. It contains a large number of Christians who are descended from the early converts of St. Francis Xavier, scattered in about eighteen villages along the coastline. The Character given of these people now 300 years ago by the Apostle of Indies is so perfectly applicable to their present character as if it were written today.
2. Their turbulent and captious disposition, ever prone to take offence, and their fondness for intoxicating drinks, make them exceedingly hard to govern, and the insults which they heap on their priests one day though the very day before they may have been strong in their expression of regard and esteem, make the mission among them most trying to human nature.
3. Besides this their churches are of old standing, established formerly by the Portuguese, and they have a sort of traditionally mixture of Indo –Portuguese customs to which they are very much attached, and anxious to require the missioner to adhere.
4. This sort of susceptibility occasioned a quarrel between the chief of the caste and the European priests which did immense harm to religion in the district. The chief wished to require the same obedience to his will from the European priests by dint of money, he had easily obtained from the Goa clergy.
5. When he found this could not be, he entirely altered his policy, and exerted every means to dislodge the Catholic priests from the churches of which they had been for some years in peaceable possession,– and reintroduce the Goa priests. The constant vexations which the great influence of the chief was able to raise, for many years, exposed the fathers to the greatest suffering of body and mind; their patience and forbearance have at length nearly obtained a victory; for five out of six parts of the Christians of this caste, have followed their pastors, and the chief himself to submit at last. If an event so fortunate does take place, it will prove most advantageous to religion, and the erring chief, who by following his ambition has brought sorrows on others and poverty on himself, may feel sure of a kind reception if he returns home to the Holy Catholic Church.
6. Tuticorin is the principal town along this part of the coast; there is a handsome old church on the sea shore, formerly built by the Portuguese Jesuits, but now in the hands of the revolted Chief. To replace it, a large and well built church has been raised by the Catholic Missioneres. It is still un finished, and will yet need a considerable sum for its completion; but it is much admired by the natives, who have themselves established in labour and money to its erection. The entire and uncontrolled possession of this church in so principal a station has produced a most beneficial effect by bettering very considerably the position of our fathers in a district where every effort had been made by the schismatic party to throw odium and contempt upon them. ”
This is how the British Jesuit measured us… one can see the questioning spirit of Parava dominating in the analysis of Fr. Strikland. It is seen in the ordinary Parava who confronts the priest .It is seen in the chief Parava who confronts the European priest.
What St. Francis Xavier saw in us was seen by Fr. W. Strikland, three centuries later. What was seen and felt by Fr.W, Strikeland is seen by us even to day.
Sholud we remain as St.Francis Xavier and W. Strikland saw or should we change and move forward?
by A.X Alexander