the Examiner Articles

A Saint for New Beginnings

Linda Bordoni


Devasahayam, who took the name ‘Lazarus’ in 1745, was first approved for sainthood in February 2020 for “enduring increasing hardships” after he decided to embrace Christianity.

As the postulator for his cause, Fr Joseph Elphinstone, told Vatican Radio, Devasahayam is a poignantly significant figure for India today, as he embodies a model of fraternity and recognition of the dignity of all persons, regardless of religion or of social standing.

Born to an upper-caste Hindu family, Devasahayam embraced Christianity and championed the rights of India’s lowest castes, preaching the equality of all people despite rigid caste differences.

But first, Fr Elphinstone emphasised, this canonisation is a high honour for the laity that is increasingly involved in the life of the Church and its people. He explained that this is a significant time for the Catholic Church in India, “a vibrant Church that is growing and is moving towards the laity” – a laity that is becoming more and more involved in different activities, and is, in fact, “the centre the Church is trying to serve.”

So, to have a layperson “being honoured and elevated to (sainthood) is the best and highest honour we can give to the laity,” he said.

The fact that Devasahayam was able to do great things, contributing to the Church, to the community and to the people is being transmitted to Indians today, he continued, and thousands of people are flocking towards this saint.

He is a saint who is very concerned about people, “their problems, their worries, their differences, their cultures,” he said.

A champion of equality

Lazarus Devasahayam has also left a great legacy in the field of rights, of equality, as he - a Hindu upper-class man who preached equality despite caste differences - was close to the marginalised as he followed the Gospel of Christ.

Fr Joseph explained that “many may think that he was killed, martyred, just because of his conversion,” but that is not the case, because in the kingdom of Travancore where he served and converted to Christianity, “the king himself built a small chapel for him; he appointed and paid for the chaplain,” and he worked alongside the Carmelite missionaries who were working there.

“What was not tolerated was that being a high caste man, he had no barriers after he became a Christian” and he forged ahead following God’s Word that all His children are equal. For him, Fr Joseph said, there was “no barrier, no difference, no high and low, no rich and poor, no class or caste.”

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Moved by Love: The Story of St Devasahayam

Fr John Kulandai


The Church in India now has the glory of a new saint, martyr Devasahayam, canonised by Pope Francis on May 15, 2022 at St Peter’s Square, Vatican City. I have been privileged to have been connected with the Cause from the beginning. I am now filled with the joy of having realised the dream of two-and-a-half centuries.

Sources

One of the allegations against the Cause of the martyr is that there are not sufficient historical sources. On the contrary, there is an uninterrupted flow of documents/books from 1751, one year before the heroic death of Devasahayam to the present year 2022.

Secondly, the variety of the nature of sources makes one marvel at the impact this one person has made on writers, poets, dramatists, and even artists. There are manuscripts, books, dramas, and poems on our hero. We can certainly say very few personalities in India, with the exception of persons like Mahatma Gandhi, may have had such a long standing influence on the consciousness of people as Devasahayam had.

Thirdly, the extensive spreading of the story of the life and passion of the martyr baffles us. Even a quick glance through the bibliography will make anyone wonder how a 40-year-old palace official in the kingdom of Travancore, who lived and died in the southern-most part of the Indian subcontinent, had positively affected the consciousness of people, not only through the length and breadth of Tamil Nadu, but also Sri Lanka, Kerala, and even Europe. Any reader can observe that the sources come from almost the entire world, and the archives and libraries are spread throughout three continents - Asia, Europe and America.

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Challenging “Sainthood” concepts

Fr M K George


St Peter’s square is back to its festive mood. After almost three years of desolate space and token ceremonies, the square, which according to official counts can hold up to 300,000 people, had more than 50,000 people participating in the canonization ceremonies in the Vatican on May 15.

With ten saints from five countries, the mood of the people resounded in the happy howls when the names of the saints were read out. The South Indian, Italian and French presence were conspicuous by the presence of people from the respective countries.

There are more than 10,000 officially declared saints in the Catholic Church. Some of their histories are mixed with myths and have been challenged. However, the Catholic Church continues to raise men and women of saintly nature to be official saints, the latest of which was the ceremony last Sunday.

Some of the recent efforts to regularize the process of canonisation were the one by Pope Paul VI in 1969, the revision of the process in 1983 and the efforts by Pope John Paul II. It is reported that the latter canonized more saints than the popes from the previous 500 years combined.

Pope Francis too has been rather generous in canonizing saints. From 2013 when he assumed the head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has canonized 909 saints, which included 813 martyrs of Otranto as a group. Thus, he has already superseded John Paul II.

Challenging the concept of Sainthood

What is remarkable about the exercise is the challenge to the very concept of sainthood. Over the years, saints had become models who are for most mortals unapproachable except for mediation and intercession. Holiness seemed reserved for a few.

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Mary Help of Christians: Our True Mother in troubled times

Fr. Jose Thomas Koyickal SDB


In the month of May, the Salesians of Don Bosco celebrate the Feast of our heavenly Mother, Mary Help of Christians, in a special way, and many of us commemorate the day of our religious consecration. We are living in troubled times that put in play unique conditions.

A story of Marian Protection

In the book, Mary: Help in Hard Times, written and compiled by Marianne Lorraine Trouvé, we find the following description on the back cover: “No matter what challenges we may face in life, Mary is always there to help us… Let the prayers and real life stories of how others have experienced Mary’s intercession open your heart to the care she can provide for you.” There are many such real-life stories of the past and of the present, which recount to us Mary’s care of, and motherly assistance to, her children.

I recall reading one of the most thought-provoking testimonies that demonstrates the power of Mother Mary in the book, World War II, written by Sr Mary Sheila O’Neil. Stan Fulton was assigned to lead an Air Force squadron at Halifax, Canada in 1940. He chose to bunk with the men over the officers’ quarters. The first night he greeted them, he said he was tired and would talk to them properly in the morning; he then knelt and prayed the Rosary. No one prayed with Stan; he told the men he hoped they didn’t mind him praying because they were going to need it. Soon everyone was answering the Our Fathers and Hail Marys. Some had never seen anyone pray before; the majority of the squad had to learn the Rosary prayers. The night before leaving for active combat, Stan gave everyone a rosary, saying, “if you will promise to keep the Rosary with you always throughout your life and to say it, I can promise you that Our Lady will bring you all back safe to Canada.” According to the story, here’s what happened after, and during an approximate five-year span. After two years of combat, it was noticed they were the only squadron that had not lost a plane or life. Every member of that squadron returned to Canada in 1945, knowing “Our Lady” had protected them. This testimony came directly from one of the squadron members who was not Catholic, but still prayed and carried that rosary at least five-plus years later!

“And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us” (Jn 1:14). In the mystery of the Annunciation, we have the first and greatest mystery of our faith. Through the “Yes” of Mary, the human race was raised to glory in the flesh of Jesus. Let us remember, if the Word of God through the flesh of Mary began our redemption, should we not have confidence that our Blessed Mother will keep us in her maternal embrace in all the circumstances of life? Devotion to Mary affords the opportunity to ponder her who is “full of grace” and chosen by God to be His Mother. ‘Chosenness’ often is associated with something exceptional and honourable, especially if God is the chooser. Devotion to Our Lady helps us to remember that the favour God shows us is not immune from suffering. Just as Mary was chosen by God to be an integral part of salvation history, meditating on her experiences of grief and sorrow allows us to understand that God is alive and active even in those same experiences in our lives.

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Education and Faith in India: Clarence School Case

Dr Paul Mathulla


The Clarence School case recently grabbed the headlines in the news due to the alleged claim that non-Christian students too were being forced to carry Bibles with them and forced to study the Bible. As a Christian, an educator and a fellow Indian, I feel called to put things in perspective.

First of all, I would like to state that I have some bosom friends among Hindus, men and women, who are far nobler than I, with impeccable spiritual mettle, humane and gentle. They all appreciate Christianity for its spirit of service and brotherhood. We love the Lord and share the good news with them, and it is up to them to respond in freedom.

The principle of the Ishtadevatha, where each person can choose to worship the divine deity of his own liking is central to Hinduism; in the Hindu consciousness, humans search for divinity and find personifications chiefly in Nature. It comes from the philosophy of pantheism. Christianity, however, advances a different philosophy – one of revelation, where divinity comes in search of humans, and divine truths not known to man are imparted in the Scriptures. In a nutshell, in Hinduism, man takes the initiative to seek after God, while in Christianity, God takes the initiative to reveal Himself to man. In Hinduism, there is a strong element of self-determinism, a reaping of what one’s karma sows, resulting in a cycle of rebirths until the soul is adequately conditioned and finally liberated from this cycle to reach salvation. In Christianity, salvation is a free and unmerited gift of grace through the work wrought by Jesus Christ offered to man, who is to humbly receive it and cooperate with grace to reach salvation. Although things are far more complex, these are some basic differences between two distinct philosophies that happen to co-exist in our world. Now which is the truth is a matter of conviction that requires time and space for each individual to figure out for himself in the freedom of his own conscience—for whatever is born of freedom is beautiful—and in the interest of maintaining this freedom, all religions must be allowed to express themselves without fear, coercion, threat, subterfuge or inducement. And the State should remain out of this activity as a neutral umpire, without favouring any particular religion. That is the essence of Indian secularism, where all religions are equal under the eyes of the law.

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International Day of Biological Diversity


World Day of Biological Diversity is celebrated on May22 and is dedicated to the theme of forest biodiversity. This theme is of global importance and is a fitting subject that complements human efforts discussed by the Summit for Sustainable Development. This World Day of Biological Diversity may thus help draw our attention to the vast and ample richness of our forests, too much of which now seems to be threatened.

Difficult scientific and technical questions surround the definition of forests and the amount of forest cover in the world, yet it is clear that forests possess a great variety of the earth's species. As God's creation, these species reflect much beauty and enhance our natural habitat; a heightened sense of this diversity increases our sense of awe and mystery before the Almighty's work. The natural wonders of creation provide humanity with sources of recreation, opportunities for leisure and relaxation, and grounds for reflection, without which human life would be spiritually and culturally impoverished.

Forests also bring many advantages to humanity's well-being and aid in its development, for there are direct and indirect links between the natural resources found in forests and the sustainability of human life. A large number of needed commercial products, such as construction timber, furniture, paper and firewood, come from forests, as do various species of plants and microorganisms that help produce many medicines and antibiotics. Others are sources of food or serve as means of genetically improving strains of edible plants. Furthermore, forests provide extensive environmental benefits by helping to prevent soil erosion and absorbing carbon dioxide, and thereby help regulate the earth's climate.

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Work-Fit

Job Competencies + Organisation’s Culture + People’s Personality

There are many elements that should be considered while defining requirements for a job role. The obvious ones are domain knowledge, academic qualifications and work experience. Most organisations do this rather well; keep doing what works for your organisation, although specifications for domain knowledge would need to be updated periodically.

What else should one look at while defining requirements for a job role?

Job Competencies… Managers undoubtedly specify a set of job competencies that they believe are crucial for a job role. A job profile is a methodology to simplify a complex set of abilities and characteristics required for a job role into a manageable list of statements. Managers need to ensure that a job profile is realistic and reflective of the job role. Managers should thereby be able to assess people to objectively gauge whether they possess the requisite job competencies for the job role.

Organization’s Culture… Managers undoubtedly consider the abilities, competence and domain knowledge of people while gauging their suitability for a job role within their organisation. However, managers often undermine the value of a highly significant parameter – culture fit. People could probably qualify for a job role, but if their work environment is unaligned with what they seek in their work-life, then it is unlikely to be a productive or satisfying work engagement. An organisation’s culture is what defines it as a unique entity and differentiates it from other organisations. What personality is to people, culture is to organisations!

People’s Personality… Although personality is a difficult concept to define, it is highly significant when people are to be gauged for a job role. Besides physical appearance, personality is the other facet that is striking about people. A person’s personality is what defines one as a unique person and differentiates one from other persons. What culture is to organisations, personality is to people!

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The Cross and the Sword

Maj. Gen. Ian Cardozo


‘No greater love has a man, than he gives up his life for a friend.’ (John 15:12-14)

As a soldier of Christ and of the Indian Army, I was happy to find a strong linkage between the teachings of Jesus Christ and the beliefs, customs and traditions of the Indian Army.

In the matter of leadership, Jesus, by His life, death and personal example, is unquestioningly the greatest leader the world has ever seen. In the Indian Army, leadership is the cornerstone of its functionality and is the factor that shapes victory in war.

Follow Me

‘Follow Me’ are the words Jesus said when He created His fledgeling army of twelve apostles. So great was his aura as a leader, that whoever He chose to call, left whatever they were doing and followed Him immediately and unquestioningly, leaving family, home, profession, and all they possessed, to follow Jesus. By His personal example, teachings, death and resurrection, Jesus Christ has the greatest number of followers the world has ever known and will ever know.

In the Indian Army, ‘Follow Me’ is the exhortation shouted by the young officer above the din and noise of battle when he leads his soldiers against enemy fire to carry out his mission. Indian soldiers, who are among the best in the world, follow him unquestioningly, facing unbelievably difficult circumstances, because they know that their young leader is out there, leading from the front, facing the brunt of enemy fire and setting a personal example. Leadership has necessarily to be of the highest order, because the leader and the led, both know that many of them may not come back alive.

In both cases, the exhortation ‘Follow Me’ encompasses love, hope, faith and self-sacrifice.

Love for country, Service before self

Love is the basis and essence of all the teachings of Jesus Christ – love of God and love of neighbour. The life of Jesus and His death on the Cross epitomises this one word – ‘Love’. The evangelist John in his commentary on the teachings of Jesus has said; ‘No greater love has a man than he gives up his life for a friend’. This statement is equally meaningful to soldiers of the Indian Army.

Love is closely associated with the sacrifices that soldiers make for the country. Love may not be a very military word, but it is on the altar of love that men and women in uniform put their lives on the line and often make the supreme sacrifice. Love here is love of country, love of the people of India, love of one’s regiment and battalion, and love of a way of life, which the soldier feels has no equal. Lieutenant Manoj Pandey, when mortally wounded on the Kargil battlefield, said, ‘I regret I have only one life to give for my country.’

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Community palliative care in India is a model for the world

Sunny Peter

The Lancet Commission on the Value of Death calls for the creation of a realistic utopia.

Developments in medical technology and health sciences have dramatically changed our concept of death and dying. Medical interventions sometimes continue till the last day of life without consideration for the suffering that the dying undergo.

In a well-timed report, as the world crawls back to life after the COVID-19 pandemic, the Lancet Commission on the Value of Death attempts to demystify death. Calling for the creation of a “realistic utopia,” the report throws a spotlight on end-of-life care, death, dying, and grieving. Its focus is on enabling communities and families to reinterpret death and recognise that dying need not be a traumatic and exhausting experience. The notion of a “realistic utopia” is based on social factors, relational aspects, spiritual fabric, care-led support, and conversations about death, dying and grief.

The Commission finds that the closest model of its idea of such a “realistic utopia” is a community-based palliative care system developed and practised in the south-Indian state of Kerala.

Globally acclaimed

Tucked away in the south-west corner of India, the state of Kerala is a global tourist destination. Promoted by the tagline, “God’s Own Country”, the state is well-known for its eco-friendly tourism initiatives, tranquil mountains, beautiful backwaters, unspoiled beaches, art forms, spices and Ayurveda. With the highest literacy levels, demographic ratio, and high standards of health services, Kerala occupies the top spot in all socio-economic and sustainable development indicators. The state is also known for its political literacy and community-driven activism.

In a country where millions of people live without access to basic healthcare, and where medical debt can lead families into bankruptcy, the Kerala model of participatory palliative care shows how an efficient, low-cost, low technology-intensive and equitable end-of-life care can be. In the past three decades, Kerala has successfully brought a paradigm shift in how illness, dying and death are perceived and managed.

Modest beginning

The famed Kerala model of palliative care began in 1993 with two doctors, Dr M.R. Rajgopal and Dr Suresh Kumar, and one volunteer starting an outpatient clinic at the Kozhikode Medical College to manage pain and other symptoms of patients with serious illnesses.

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