Saturday, November 2, 2013

Christ's light overcomes darkness

"Christ is the Light," said Fr. Varghese.
"So, too, should we be."
As Hindu neighbors prepared to celebrate the ancient feast of Deepavali, Holy Family Mission celebrated All Saints Day and the light of Christ. Their First Friday celebration was "something beautiful," said Fr. Varghese, who gathered youth of his mission to help cut plantain trunks and assemble unique pillars for clay oil lamps for Friday, November 1, 2013. 

"No electrical bulb will burn today in the church," said Father, "and outside -- only oil lamps."

This is the first All Saints Day celebrated with the new
stage the people hand-built this past April through May. 

The pillars of lights are plantain trunks pierced by wire 
holders containing mud oil lamps.
Deepavali, also known as Diwali, is a traditional Hindu feast in this 98% Hindu nation. Christianity arrived in India in the First Century AD, with St. Thomas the Apostle. However, many faithful across India are converts from Hinduism, and the clay lamps associated with Diwali are deeply-rooted in their heritage. At Holy Family Mission, those lamps burn to symbolize Christ's light.

Deepavali is a "feast of light," explained Fr. Varghese. "Christ is the light. So, too, should we be." That focus is particularly good to recall on All Saints Day, as Christians thank God for and commemorate those who best spread Christ's light on Earth.

Fr. Varghese preached about the theme of the
"lamp." Every follower of Christ must light
the darkness.

The theme for Holy Family Mission's Friday benediction service, the "songs, preaching, Word of God, everything," was based on the lamp, said Fr. Varghese. He likened the gathered faithful to the ten wise virgins from Scripture, who had lamps trimmed and ready to welcome the groom for the wedding feast. 
Oil lamps and candles lit the benediction service on All Saints 
Day, as Hindu neighbors prepared to celebrate Diwali, a feast that
celebrates the triumph of good over evil.
The Holy See wrote a letter wishing Hindus a "Happy Deepavali.

"Regardless of our ethnic, cultural, religious and ideological differences, all of us belong to the one human family," wrote Cardinal Jean-Louis Tauran, President of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue.

"In a spirit of friendship," the Cardinal offered "best wishes and cordial greetings as you celebrate Deepavali. May God, the source of all light and life, illumine your lives and deepen your happiness and peace.

"Security and peace in the local, national and international communities are largely determined by the quality of our human interaction," wrote Cardinal Tauran.

"Experience teaches us that, the deeper our human relationships, the more we are able to advance towards co-operation, peace-building, genuine solidarity and harmony."

For full text of the letter, click here.

By celebrating All Saints Day in a blaze of light on the heels of many weeks of crises, the people of Holy Family Mission prove that no political tensions, strikes, food shortages, floods or even the fevers of dysentery and malaria, will shift their focus from Christ, Who is their Light.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Queen of the Holy Rosary, Pray for Us!

Young helpers gather with Fr. Varghese to help
prepare for the special Mass honoring Mary on the
last Sunday in October, the Month of the
Holy Rosary.
As flood recovery efforts continued across Andhra Pradesh and his missions, Fr. Varghese took a break from rebuilding people's homes to plan a Mass honoring the Blessed Mother on the last Sunday of October.

Young volunteers gathered at the mission's
shrine to the Blessed Mother, constructed
with local stones.
The missionary translated into the Telegu language messages from approved Marian apparition sites. Young volunteers helped him assign the name of a parish family to each slip, so each family at Mass would receive a message to guide it and the name of another family to keep in prayer in daily rosaries.

Fr. Varghese and his people are deeply devoted to the Blessed Mother. A couple years ago, they gathered local stones and constructed a special shrine to Our Lady on Holy Family grounds. This October, the Month of the Holy Rosary, the missionary met with his faithful  every evening to pray the Rosary. Because power outages were frequent, they often gathered in the light of kerosene lamps.

Around 320 people came to the October 27th Mass concelebrated by another missionary, Fr. Jacob. The readings and homily focused on the Blessed Mother. The people received their prayer slips, and a collection of yellow rice packets and tea was blessed by Fr. Jacob, and distributed after the Mass. People were grateful, since food post-cyclone has been scarce.

These young men prepared a special niche for the
Queen of Heaven, decorated with stars and a moon.
Over the weekend, Fr. Varghese also met with local officials who proposed using the mission hill for government helicopters to drop tents and supplies for flood victims. But on Sunday, the rain stopped. People thanked God as the region started to dry up, and no choppers landed on the mission hill.

Light piercing the darkness has special
significance in an area where power
outages are a daily fact of life.
The most solemn moment of the Mass, when daily
worries shrink and the Lord becomes All.

Around 320 villagers from all five outposts
attended this special Mass

Receiving the Eucharist, what beloved
Pope John Paul II referred to as
the "source and summit of life."
Fr. Jacob blessed packets of yellow rice,
distributed to faithful after the Mass.
Rosary beads lead from the Blessed Mother's niche...
and up toward heaven. (See below, right.)
Faithful crowd in to receive their prayer slips

Rice is a precious staple to a people
who eat it three times daily. Supplies
post-cyclone have been limited.
Blessed by the gift of rice.
Mary, Queen of the
Holy Rosary, pray for us!