Sunday, April 25, 2010

Sister Rani Maria, martyr of the faith: the conversion of her assassin

Sr Rani Maria - Martyr of FCC (1954 - 1995)

Sister Rani’s murderer now says, “Christians are India’s hope”

Samandar Singh killed a nun in 1995. After that, he converted to Christianity and today he is a different man. He helps Tribals and for him Sister Rani’s family has become his own. Sadly, he agrees that a climate of anti-Christian hatred is currently sweeping across India. He urges his compatriots to see the truth in the presence of missionaries in the country.
Madhya Pradesh, Udaya Nagar: 
“I accept full responsibility for my heinous murder of Sr Rani Maria. I cannot say that I was instigated, because my own hands stabbed her repeatedly and for this I will regret my actions till the day I die,” 
Samandar Singh told AsiaNews. He is the man who on 25 February 1995 stabbed to death Sister Rani Maria. The diocese of Indore, where she worked, has ended the diocesan leg of the inquiry into her death. Now the Vatican will have to decide whether she died a martyr of the faith or not. Whatever the outcome of that will be, Sister Rani Maria has already accomplished a miracle. Her assassin has repented and has become a member of her family.
 Tomb of Sr Rani Maria

 “In my own small way,” he said, “I try to follow her example, helping those who are less fortunate than me, like Tribal Christians and all those who are marginalised.” 
After his arrest in connection with the nun’s murder, he was tried and sentenced to prison, where he spent 11 years. During that time, his wife divorced him and his first son died.
Behind prison walls, he began plotting how he could take revenge against the man who pushed him to kill the nun. But he also received a visit from another nun, Sister Selmi Paul, who happened to be the murdered nun’s own sister. She hugged him and called him brother. He was profoundly touched by it, so much so that from this embrace his journey of repentance began. He gave up plans for revenge and accepted the sorrow caused by the murder. Eventually, Samandar was released because of a petition signed by Sister Rani’s family, the provincial of the Clarist congregation and the bishop of Indore. When his release was slow in coming, a delegation went to see the local governor to plead his case. 
“Only you Christians can truly forgive,” the latter said. “You are a great example. Go, I shall do all I can to get him released.”
Once he was free again, Samandar began to treat Sister Rani’s family as his own.  
“I regularly visit her tomb,” he said. “For me, it is like a sanctuary of peace and strength.” “I want everyone to know that Christians work to make India great. The missionaries give us hope through their service, which is to make us a strong and independent people.” 

Samandar Singh at Sr Rani Maria's home

He does realise though that India’s rightwing hate Christians. 
“Before they drove me to kill, I heard so many hate-filled lies about the missionaries and Christians. They used to tell me that Christians converted people through tricks and that their work with the poor was only for show. Now however I can say without a doubt that the missionaries do nothing but work and help the poor and the marginalised. They have not secret design, other than serve God.”
Sister Rani Maria, martyr of the faith: the conversion of her assassin

Fifteen years after the martyrdom of the religious, murdered for her commitment to the poor and for her Christian faith, the priest who oversaw the diocesan investigation tells AsiaNews life about her life and her work. The conversion of her murderer, a Hindu farmer, due to her intercession. Udaya Nagar (AsiaNews) - Sister Rani Maria, who, fifteen years ago became a martyr for the faith that led her to always help the poorest of the poor, "encourages us to move forward. Her example of life and death are a stimulus for us who are still her today, we have a powerful intercessor before the Lord".

Monument where Sr Rani Maria was assasinated

This is what Fr Cherian, spokesman for the Diocese of Indore and director of the local society for social services who accompanied the religious in her humanitarian work and who oversaw the collection of documents for her beatification, tells AsiaNews. The diocesan inquiry on the life and works of the religious was completed two years ago. The results are now been studied by the Vatican. The priest today presents his testimony on the life of the religious. Sister Rani Maria While working for the people and for the Lord-she sacrificed her life.  Like Jesus, she died on the Cross -while she was faithfully and selflessly carrying her work among the people among the people. Sr Rani Maria’s  life and her death has become an inspiration and hope for us- to continue to do good, to work and serve the people even at the cost of ones life- to be another Christ and this has brought graces for us. 
The priests of Indore Diocese have a powerful intercessor and this year is a grace filled year as it is the Year for priests.  While I was deeply pained by her murder, we are sure Sr Rani Maria is alive in heaven, interceding for us to continue working to establish the Kingdom of justice, peace and truth. Throughout her life, Sister Rani Maria worked tirelessly to help the villagers - mostly poor tribal - to establish self-help groups by obtaining financial credit and other forms of economic support. She made sure that they were granted to the villages in order to improve the welfare and earning potential. She worked tirelessly to help this often oppressed sector of society.
At the same time, she always ensured that these movements were popular in nature, without external influences: she preferred to act as a catalyst of humble people. In this she strengthened the panchayats (village councils) urging them to consider and be aware of their rights and their responsibilities, providing assistance through planned and systematic development programs. In December 1994, in the run up to the village council elections, a fight broke out between Catholic tribal families( Barela sub-caste) and a right wing candidate. Police arrested some of the Catholics and Sr. Rani hired a lawyer and had them released.  This created a lot of hostility and a false impression that Sr Rani Maria was instigating people against them.
Left to themselves, the tribal would not be so emboldened as to stand up to any pressure from a powerful political force or even engage the services of a lawyer to fight their legal battle. On February 25, 1995, a farmer was who was hired to kill Sr Rani Maria, entered the bus in which Sr Rani Maria was traveling, and stabbed Sr. Rani her repeatedly. The bus stopped, and the people left out of fear. Then, he dragged Sr. Rani outside the bus and continued stabbing her until she died. After serving a ten year prison term this man was released and now this man is undergoing a complete transformation of heart, he expresses deep sorrow and remorse for his deeds and proclaims on public platforms Christ and His forgiveness, and he owes his conversion of heart to Sr Rani Maria.

Sr Rani Maria continues to help us, and especially in moments of crises, her life and also her death are an encouragement to us to persevere. I know, left to ourselves, we are not strong, but we are given Strength and heavenly blessings by the Lord, by her constant intercession.

Further Links
Sr Rani Maria FCC - a servant of God - brief introduction

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Word Of God

Fr Augustine Vallooran V.C

Let us begin our reflection by meditating together on  

Psalm 119:105-107

Thy Word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it to observe thy righteous ordinances. I am sorely afflicted. Give me life, O Lord, according to Thy Word.

O God, here I am before you - to read Your Word. Let Your Word fall into my heart as a seed to bear fruit a hundred-fold. Let my heart be ready to listen to Thy Word so that I may be comforted, consoled, and strengthened - that I may be led the right way in Your Spirit. Amen

A very sad-looking and disturbed young man told me all the problems of his life. Finally he added, “Father, my problem is that my faith is very weak. I am not able to believe in God. I am not able to leave my life in the Hands of God. I am not able to trust Him fully. Even little problems of life disturb me and then I do not pray, and then I am very afflicted and I become desperate. Tell me Father, what shall I do to strengthen my faith?” I told him, “My friend, faith does not just happen like that. Faith is to be fostered. Faith is to be fed.” And I added, “In order for faith to be fostered, we need to plant the faith in the fertile soil of the Word of God. It is when we continually hear God’s Word and when the Word becomes the object of our meditation, that the Word of God will sink deep into our heart and faith will be aroused in us.” I quoted to him Romans 10:17, "Faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the Word of Christ." The Word of God increases our faith always, strengthens and fosters it to support us at every difficult moment of our life.

The Bible - The Word of God

Now what is the Word of God? What is the Bible? Of course, the Bible is a book – in fact a collection of many books, written by dozens of authors, over a period of hundreds of years. And yet, the Bible is not a dead letter.
The Bible is not merely a book written years ago. The Bible is not the ideas about God. Neither is the Bible a mere guidebook to lead us in our life.
The Bible is the Word of God! It is God’s own Word given to us in the words of men.
That is why St. Peter tells us in 2 Peter 1:21, "No prophecy ever came by the impulse of man but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God." It is all from God and therefore it contains the Power of God. The Power of God comes to us in the Word of God.

In the beginning of the world, God said, "Let there be light”(Genesis 1:14), and the thickest of darkness was dispelled from the face of the earth.
Jesus said, "Be calm," (Matthew 8:26) and the roughest sea, the waves – the roaring waves – fell at the feet of Jesus like tiny movements of water, soothing the feet of the Lord. 

Jesus said, "Lazarus, come out!"(John 11:43) and the power of the Word entered into the dead body and gave it life! Lazarus came out as a living man, out of the tomb. 

Jesus said, "Get up and walk!"(John 5:8) - The Power of that Word that went out of Jesus, entered into the paralyzed man, lying there for the last 38 years at Bethseda, and the man got up and walked. This is the Power of the Word of God!

A Power that can change our lives – a Power that converts even the hardest of sinners. A Power that comforts us even in the most bitter moments of our lives.

That is why the Lord declares, "Is not my word like fire and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?" (Jeremiah 23:29)

The Power of God’s Word that overcomes all human power, all human miseries, all human sorrows, all human troubles – giving us a heavenly comfort, giving us a divine joy to fill our hearts at every moment of our life.

The Bible is to be looked at as God’s own Word. That is precisely why this book, the Bible, is the most important book ever written – because it is written by God! By the Holy Spirit in God’s Power, He speaks to us. It is specifically for this reason, therefore, that when we take up the Bible, and begin to read, I believe, you and I must have 4 basic attitudes to approach the Bible:

God’s Love-letter – The Bible
We need to come to the Bible joyfully. The Bible reading should not become a burden to us – a routine to us. The Bible must be a source of joy for us. When I take up the Bible in my hands, my heart should begin to bubble up for joy because I am going to begin to hear God’s Word. St. Augustine tell us that the Bible is the love-letter that God has written to everyone who believes in Him. A love-letter – a letter filled with God’s Love. For example, if I am waiting for the letter of my friend, and finally the letter comes, how do I look at that letter? I will look at it as the most precious thing. I will open it immediately and I will begin to read it - and read it again and again. The more I read the letter, the happier I become! Thus, if the Bible is the love-letter God has written to me - to me personally - it is a matter of joy for me to read the bible.

"Speak Lord, Your Servant is Listening"

I must come to the Bible prayerfully and expectantly. What am I expecting in prayer when I am reading the bible? In prayer, I should expect to hear God’s Word. If it is the love-letter, then whatever I feel when I read a love-letter, I should be able to feel when I read the Bible. Therefore, I must approach the bible with the same attitude of Samuel. Samuel said, "Speak Lord, Your servant is listening."(1 Samuel 3:10)

With a listening heart, I must begin to read – not carelessly, No! With a lot of affection and love and faith, I must expectantly wait for God to talk to me, and wait to listen to what God has to tell to me. I will listen and I will hear God talking to me.

I remember a housewife once sharing her experience with me. She said that one morning, when the husband left home for the office, he was for some reason very irritated and angry. He shouted at her and abused her and then he left. At first she felt very angry and subsequently she slipped into a sort of self-pity. She said, “I love him so much. I do everything for my husband and yet this is what he does to me.” She was depressed and then she began to ask herself, “Is anything wrong with me? Am I not enough for my husband?” She began to feel terrible. She said, “I began to feel ashamed of myself. This morning, my husband spoke to me and treated me as a worm. After all, I am good for nothing. I am good for no one.” She felt ashamed and she said to herself, “If I am not good for my husband, why should I remain here? She thought she would pack up and go to her father’s house because she could not remain there anymore.

While packing up, she found a bible on the table. She took that bible and began to read. She just opened the bible and she began to read, and she could not stop reading! She came to Isaiah 43:4, where the Lord God says, "You are precious to Me. You are dear to Me. I love you." She said, "Father, when I read the words, somehow those words began to stand up in bright light and those words went into my heart so powerfully. I began to sweat. God is speaking to me." She said she could not see anything else anymore and she could not hear anything else anymore. She felt an emptiness in her heart – into that emptiness, came the fullness of the Word, “You are precious to Me. You are dear to Me. I love You.” She felt the words being spoken to her.

God is speaking to me. “I am precious to God. I am dear to my God. My God loves me.” That experience - she was filled with a great joy, “I am precious to My God. Whatever others speak about me is not true. I am a precious person. God loves me.
If God loves me and I am precious to my God, I must be very special to my God.” That brought her a lot of self-esteem.
All her self-pity and all the depression vanished and she was filled with great joy. She waited till the evening for her husband to come back to say to him, “I love you. You are dear to me.” Well, by that time, her husband was repentant and there was a lot of love in their hearts and in their relationships. We need to come to the Bible with an attitude of prayer - an attitude of expectant faith waiting to listen to God’s Word.

"Let It Be Done to Me..."

The third attitude – come to the Bible obediently. St. James tells us, "Do not merely listen to the Word and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says." (James 1:22)

I must be ready to obey God’s Word and in this, Mother Mary is a great example. The Word of God was proclaimed to her. She accepted the Word. She did not understand much. She kept it all in her heart as she meditated on God’s Word and she gave the response, "Here am I, Your handmaid. Let it be done to me according to Your Word."( Luke 1:38)

Whatever God tells me, I must be ready to obey. My life shall be built on God’s Word. This attitude to obey God’s Word - that is what Jesus tell us in Matthew 7:24-25, "Everyone who hears this words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock. The rains came and the waves came to beat upon the house – and the house remained sturdy and strong because it was built on the rock of God’s Word". Our life must be built on God’s Word. Every experience of our lives must be built, must be moulded on God’s Word.

Faithful To The Teaching Of The Church
The fourth attitude – you must come to the bible faithfully. We must be faithful to the Church because the Bible is the book of the Church and the teaching authority is given to the Apostles. Before ascending to the Father, Jesus said to the Apostles, "All authority in heaven and earth is given to you." (Matthew 28:18) ...and handing over that authority to the Apostles, he said, "Go and preach to the whole world, and baptize them and make disciples of them." (Matthew 28:19) Therefore, the teaching authority is of the church. St. Peter tell us in 2 Peter 1:2, "First of all you must understand this. No prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation." Let us not run the risk of misunderstanding the Word of God. Rather, let us always be careful to interpret and understand God’s Word in the light of the teaching of the Church. And thus, God’s Word will be the light to our feet and the joy to our hearts.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Muslim Filmmaker Syed Hadeed encounters Jesus Christ

 Syed Ainul Hadeed
- a muslim filmmaker encounters Jesus Christ to become a Christian

I was born in a rich Muslim family of Pune. My parents belonged to families with a rich religious heritage. When I was barely four, my parents separated. My mother and I moved in with my aunt in Hyderabad. From an early age I was taught Islamic traditions and I also learnt to read the Quran in Arabic. However, I went to schools run by the Jesuits and did well both in studies and sports. My mother and I shifted to Mumbai when I was in the sixth standard.

"It was during this period that I began carefully studying the Quran. However, I found I could not digest the teachings. Yet I did not stop believing in God's existence. This was in the late 1980s. My teenage years and early adult life were difficult—failed relationships, financial hardships and my father's death made me morose. At one point I even decided to end my life by consuming mercury. Luckily, I survived.

"It was all very strange. On the one hand I was attempting suicide, but at another level, I had an out-of-body experience. I felt my spirit drift to my old school—to the feet of Jesus Christ. I could feel his presence. After a year, I visited the school and saw the following words engraved on the pedestal on which a statue of Jesus stands to this day: 'I am the resurrection and the Life.' I believe the Holy Spirit had led me to Christ. Today, I am serving the Lord through the gifts that he has endowed me with.

"Naturally, some Muslim friends did not approve of my giving up Islam. The clerics questioned my change of faith. However, this only strengthened my resolve to study the Bible, the Quran, and the Hadiths. Finally, I realised that Christianity was my true calling."


Thursday, April 8, 2010

Sister Josefa Menendez's Description of Hell

The following material is quoted verbatim from the book "Way of Divine Love" of Sister Josefa Menendez (1890--1923). 

Sister Josefa was a Spanish nun of the Society of the Sacred Heart and lived only four years as a religious, at the convent of Les Feuillants in Poitiers, France, where she died at the age of 33. 

"The Way of Divine Love" consists largely of her notebooks, that she wrote down under obedience from our Lord, with the revelations of his Sacred Heart, plus portions of her biography. This material was composed after Rev. Schouppe wrote his book on Hell.

This young Spanish sister, who had a short religious life of great suffering, experienced revelations throughout much of her life, compiled in The Way Of Divine Love. More than once, she was taken to Hell to witness and feel the suffering first-hand. Sister Josefa was reluctant to write on the subject of Hell, and did so only to conform to Our Lord's wishes. Sister Josefa repeatedly dwelt on what she described as the greatest torment of Hell, namely, the soul's inability to love. One of these damned souls cried out: "This is my torture...that I want to love and cannot; there is nothing left me but hatred and despair. If one of us could so much as make a single act of love...But we cannot, we live on hatred and malevolence..." (March 23, 1922).

She records, too, the accusations made against themselves by these unhappy souls: "Some yell because of the martyrdom of their hands. Perhaps they were thieves, for they say: 'Where is our loot now?' ...Cursed hands... Others curse their tongues, their eyes...whatever was the occasion of sin... 'Now, O body, you are paying the price of the delights you granted yourself!...and you did it of your own free will...'" (April 2, 1922).

"I saw several souls fall into Hell, and among them was a child of fifteen, cursing her parents for not having taught her to fear God nor that there was a Hell. Her life had been a short one, she said, but full of sin, for she had given in to all that her body and passions demanded in the way of satisfaction..." (March 22, 1923).

"My soul fell into abysmal depths, the bottom of which cannot be seen, for it is immense. . . ; Then I was pushed into one of those fiery cavities and pressed, as it were, between burning planks, and sharp nails and red-hot irons seemed to be piercing my flesh. I felt as if they were endeavoring to pull out my tongue, but could not. This torture reduced me to such agony that my very eyes seemed to be starting out of their sockets. I think this was because of the fire which burns, burns. . . not a finger nail escapes terrifying torments, and all the time one cannot move even a finger to gain some relief, not change posture, for the body seems flattened out and [yet] doubled in two. Sounds of confusion and blasphemy cease not for an instant. 

A sickening stench asphyxiates and corrupts everything, it is like the burning of putrefied flesh, mingled with tar and sulfur. . . a mixture to which nothing on earth can be compared. . . although these tortures were terrific, they would be bearable if the soul were at peace. But it suffers indescribably. . . All I have written," she concluded, "is but a shadow of what the soul suffers, for no words can express such dire torment." (September 4, 1922).

"Others curse their tongues, their eyes... whatever was the occasion of their sin... 'Now, O body, you are paying the price of the delights you granted yourself!.. and you did it of your own free will... '" (April 2, 1922). (That is, illegitimate delights).

"It seemed to me that the majority accused themselves of sins of impurity, of stealing, of unjust trading; and that most of the damned are in Hell for these sins." (April 6, 1922).

"I saw many worldly people fall into Hell, and no words can render their horrible and terrifying cries: 'Damned forever... I deceived myself; I am lost... I am here forever... There is no remedy possible... a curse on me...'

"Some accused people, others circumstances, and all execrated the occasions of their damnation." (September 1922).

"Today, I saw a vast number of people fall into the fiery pit . . . they seemed to be worldlings and a demon cried vociferously: 'The world is ripe for me . . . I know that the best way to get hold of souls is to rouse their desire for enjoyment . . . Put me first . . . me before the rest . . . no humility for me! but let me enjoy myself . . . This sort of thing assures victory to me . . . and they tumble headlong into hell.' " (October 4, 1923)

"I heard a demon, from whom a soul had escaped, forced to confess his powerlessness. 'Confound it all... how do so many manage to escape me? They were mine' (and he rattled off their sins)... 'I work hard enough, yet they slip through my fingers... Someone must be suffering and repairing for them.'" (January 15, 1923). ("Repairing," that is, "making reparation" for them).

"Tonight I was transported to a place where all was obscure. . . Around me were seven or eight people; I could see them only by the reflections of the fire. They were seated and were talking together. One said: 'We'll have to be very careful not to be found out, for we might easily be discovered.'

"The devil answered: 'Insinuate yourselves by inducing carelessness in them. . . but keep in the background, so that you are not found out. . . by degrees they will become callous, and you will be able to incline them to evil. Tempt these others to ambition, to self-interest, to acquiring wealth without working, whether it be lawful or not. Excite some to sensuality and love of pleasure. Let vice blind them. . . As to the remainder. . .  get in through the heart . . . you know the inclinations of their hearts. . . make them love. . . love passionately. . . work thoroughly. . .  take no rest . . . have no pity. Let them cram themselves with food! It will make it all the easier for us. . .  Let them get on with their banqueting. Love of pleasure is the door through which you will reach them . . .' " (February 3, 1923).

"Tonight," wrote Josefa, "I did not go down into Hell, but was transported to a place where all was obscure, but in the center was a red smoldering fire. They had laid me flat and so bound me that I could not make the slightest movement. Around me were seven or eight people; their black bodies were unclothed, and I could see them only by the reflections of the fire. They were seated and were talking together.

"One said: 'We'll have to be very careful not to be found out, for we might easily be discovered.'

"The devil answered: 'Insinuate yourselves by inducing carelessness in them... but keep in the background, so that you are not found out... by degrees they will become callous, and you will be able to incline them to evil. Tempt these others to ambition, to self-interest, to acquiring wealth without working, whether it be lawful or not. Excite some to sensuality and love of pleasure. Let vice blind them...' (Here they used obscene words).

"'As to the remainder... get in through the heart... you know the inclinations of their hearts... make them love... love passionately... work thoroughly.. take no rest... have no pity; the world must go to damnation.. and these souls must not be allowed to escape me.'

"From time to time Satan's satellites answered: 'We are your slaves... we shall labor unceasingly, and in spite of the many who war against us, we shall work night and day. We know your power!'

"They all spoke together, and he whom I took to be Satan used words full of horror. In the distance I could hear a clamor as of feasting, the clinking of glasses... and he cried: 'Let them cram themselves with food! It will make it all the easier for us... Let them get on with their banqueting. Love of pleasure is the door through which you will reach them...'

"He added such horrible things that they can neither be written nor said. Then, as if engulfed in a whirl of smoke, they vanished." (February 3, 1923).

"The evil one was bewailing the escape of a soul: 'Fill her soul with fear, drive her to despair. All will be lost if she puts her trust in the mercy of that...' (here they used blasphemous words about Our Lord). 'I am lost; but no, drive her to despair; do not leave her for an instant, above all, make her despair.'

"Then Hell re-echoed with frenzied cries, and when finally the devil cast me out of the abyss, he went on threatening me. Among other things he said: 'Is it possible that such weaklings have more power than I, who am mighty... I must conceal my presence, work in the dark; any corner will do from which to tempt them... close to an ear.. in the leaves of a book... under a bed... some pay no attention to me, but I shall talk and talk... and by dint of suggestion, something will remain.. Yes, I must hide in unsuspected places.'" (February 7, 8, 1923).

Again, she wrote: "Souls were cursing the vocation they had received, but not followed... the vocation they had lost, because they were unwilling to live a hidden and mortified life..." (March 18, 1922.

"On one occasion when I was in Hell, I saw a great many priests, religious and nuns, cursing their vows, their order, their Superiors and everything that could have given them the light and the grace they had lost...

"I saw, too, some prelates. One accused himself of having used the goods belonging to the Church illicitly..." (September 28, 1922).

"Priests were calling down maledictions on their tongues which had consecrated, on their fingers that had held Our Lord's Sacred Body, on the absolution they had given while they were losing their own souls, and on the occasion through which they had fallen into Hell." (April 6, 1922).

"One priest said: 'I ate poison, for I used money that was not my own... the money given me for Masses which I did I not offer.'
"Another said he belonged to a secret society which had betrayed the Church and religion, and he had been bribed to connive at terrible profanations and sacrileges.

"Yet another said that he was damned for assisting at profane plays, after which he ought not to have said Mass... and that he had spent about seven years thus."

Josefa noted that the greater number of religious plunged into hell-fire were there for abominable sins against chastity... and for sins against the vow of poverty... for the unauthorized use of the goods of the community... for passions against charity (jealousy, antipathies, hatred, etc.), for tepidity and relaxation; also for comforts they had allowed themselves and which had led to graver sins... for bad confessions through human respect and want of sincerity and courage, etc.

Here, finally, is the full text of Josefa's notes on "the hell of consecrated souls." (Biography: Ch. VII--September 4, 1922).

"The meditation of the day was on the Particular Judgment of religious souls. I could not free my mind of the thought of it, in spite of the oppression which I felt. Suddenly, I felt myself bound and overwhelmed by a crushing weight, so that in an instant I saw more clearly than ever before how stupendous is the sanctity of God and His detestation of sin.

"I saw in a flash my whole life since my first confession to this day. All was vividly present to me: my sins, the graces I had received, the day I entered religion, my clothing as a novice, my first vows, my spiritual readings, and times of prayer, the advice given me, and all the helps of religious life. Impossible to describe the confusion and shame a soul feels at that moment, when it realizes: 'All is lost, and I am damned forever.'"

As in her former descents into Hell, Josefa never accused herself of any specific sin that might have led to such a calamity. Our Lord meant her only to feel what the consequences would have been, if she had merited such a punishment. She wrote:

"Instantly I found myself in Hell, but not dragged there as before. The soul precipitates itself there, as if to hide from God in order to be free to hate and curse Him.

"My soul fell into abysmal depths, the bottom of which cannot be seen, for it is immense... at once, I heard other souls jeering and rejoicing at seeing me share their torments. It was martyrdom enough to hear the terrible imprecations on all sides, but what can be compared to the thirst to curse that seizes on a soul, and the more one curses, the more one wants to. Never had I felt the like before. Formerly my soul had been oppressed with grief at hearing these horrible blasphemies, though unable to produce even one act of love. But today it was otherwise.

"I saw Hell as always before, the long dark corridors, the cavities, the flames... I heard the same execrations and imprecations, for--and of this I have already written before--although no corporeal forms are visible, the torments are felt as if they were present, and souls recognize each other. Some called out, 'Hullo, you here? And are you like us? We were free to take those vows or not... but no!...' and they cursed their vows.

"Then I was pushed into one of those fiery cavities and pressed, as it were, between burning planks, and sharp nails and red-hot irons seemed to be piercing my flesh."

Here Josefa repeated the multiple tortures from which no single member of the body is excluded:

"I felt as if they were endeavoring to pull out my tongue, but could not. This torture reduced me to such agony that my very eyes seemed to be starting out of their sockets. I think this was because of the fire which burns, burns... not a finger-nail escapes terrifying torments, and all the time one cannot move even a finger to gain some relief, nor change posture, for the body seems flattened out and yet doubled in two.

"All this I felt as before, and although those tortures were terrific, they would be bearable if the soul were at peace. But it suffers indescribably. Until now, when I went down into Hell, I thought that I had been damned for abandoning religious life. But this time it was different. I bore a special mark, a sign that I was a religious, a soul who had known and loved God, and there were others who bore the same sign. I cannot say how I recognized it, perhaps because of the specially insulting manner in which the evil spirits and other damned souls treated them. There were many priests there, too. This particular suffering I am unable to explain. It was quite different from what I had experienced at other times, for if the souls of those who lived in the world suffer terribly, infinitely worse are the torments of religious. Unceasingly the three words, Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, are imprinted on the soul with poignant remorse.

"Poverty: You were free and you promised! Why, then, did you seek that comfort? Why hold on to that object which did not belong to you? Why did you give that pleasure to your body? Why allow yourself to dispose of the property of the Community? Did you not know that you no longer had the right to possess anything whatsoever, that you had freely renounced the use of those things?... Why did you murmur when anything was wanting to you, or when you fancied yourself less well treated than others? Why?

"Chastity: You yourself vowed it freely and with full knowledge of its implications... you bound yourself.. you willed it... and how have you observed it? That being so, why did you not remain where it would have been lawful for you to grant yourself pleasures and enjoyment?

"And the tortured soul responds: 'Yes, I vowed it; I was free... I could have not taken the vow, but I took it and I was free...' What words can express the martyrdom of such remorse," wrote Josefa, "and all the time the jibes and insults of other damned souls continue.

"Obedience: Did you not fully engage yourself to obey your Rule and your Superiors? Why, then, did you pass judgment on the orders that were given you? Why did you disobey the Rule? Why did you dispense yourself from common life? Remember how sweet was the Rule... and you would not keep it... and now," vociferate satanic voices, "you will have to obey us not for a day or a year, or a century, but forever and ever; for all eternity... It is your own doing... you were free.

"The soul constantly recalls how she had chosen her God for her Spouse, and that once she loved Him above all things... that for Him she had renounced the most legitimate pleasures and all she held dearest on earth, that in the beginning of her religious life she had felt all the purity, sweetness and strength of this divine love, and that for an inordinate passion... now she must eternally hate the God who had chosen her to love Him.
"This forced hatred is a thirst that consumes her... no past joys can afford her the slightest relief.

"One of her greatest torments is shame," added Josefa. "It seems to her that all the damned surrounding her continually taunt her by saying: 'That we should be lost who never had the helps that you enjoyed is not surprising... but you... what did you lack? You who lived in the palace of the King... who feasted at the board of the elect.'

"All I have written," she concluded, "is but a shadow of what the soul suffers, for no words can express such dire torments." (September 4, 1922).

Friday, April 2, 2010

Victory through our Lord Jesus Christ 1Corinthians 15: 54-59

The proclamation of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ is central to Christian faith. It came first from the angel in the empty tomb, "He is not here he has risen" (Mathew 28: 6) and then, from the women who discovered the empty tomb: "I have seen the Lord" (John.20: 18) then came the authoritative proclamation of Simon Peter and of the other apostles who witnessed the Lord alive, "We have seen the Lord." (John 20:25). "My Lord and my God."(John 20:28)

From then on the message spreads quickly from individual to individual from group to group, stirring up the whole community of believers. As we read through the biblical narration of resurrection, we are able to follow along the journey that this message takes and to rediscover the original formula with its original flavor, the Lord is truly risen! The Lord is risen and has appeared to Peter! God has raised Jesus whom men crucified!

From the initial shocking surprise bursts forth as an enthusiastic proclamation, charged with the certainty of a first hand experience. Soon it becomes the backbone of Christian preaching and of Christian faith. St. Peter in his first sermon stated categorically, "This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses."(Acts 2:32)

The proclamation comes to us today through an uninterrupted chained of witnesses. Our faith, therefore, is not based on an abstract word heard by someone in an unknown past. It is indeed born of a true fact, witnessed and proclaimed by those who experienced it and shared it. All the early preaching stands or falls with this proclamation. St. Paul affirms, "If Christ has not been raised then our preaching is in vain and so your faith."(1 Corinthians 15: 14) He continues to declare that faith in the resurrection of Jesus is the source of salvation, "If you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead you will be saved."(Romans 10: 9)

Why is the Resurrection so important, so central to our faith? 
The Bible presents the self-revelation of God. In the glory of the risen Lord, we come to know who God is. St. John defined God as Love.

The resurrection manifests to us the boundless character of God's love for us not only for a lifetime creating us, keeping us in existence on the earth and providing for all our needs over here - but also for all eternity. His love did everything for us to live forever. The love of God does not end in death. He conquers death for us by drowning our sin in love. That gives us great security and safety because God's reliability is everlasting. Therefore the Resurrection unveils the depth and quality of God's love. With the Easter joy filling our hearts we can with the psalmist burst out in singing, "Give thanks to God for he is good; his steadfast love endures forever."(Psalm .118: 1)

The Resurrection also unveils to us the real meaning and destiny of human life. The death and resurrection of Jesus is not only a historical event that happened to the individual person of Jesus over 2000 years ago. It is rather an experience that affects decisively the daily life of every person who believes in Jesus and changes the very texture of human living. St. Paul characterizes the life of a Christian as a constant participation in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ: "We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in the newness of life."(Romans 6:4)

We are therefore an Easter people! Henceforth we take upon ourselves the obligation to die to our sinful passions and to live as the children of light. "Let us then cast off the armour of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness not in debauchery and licentiousness not in quarrelling and jealousy." (Romans 13:12-13)

O death where is thy victory?
We are called upon to believe in the victory that Jesus won not only for himself but also for everyone who is baptized in him. Hence the exclamation of St. Paul, "Death is swallowed up in victory; O death where is thy victory? O death where is thy sting? The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." (1Corinthians 15: 54-59)

When we believe in the Easter victory, our daily life and thought begin to be radiant with the glory of the risen Lord. Suffering will not drag us into despair; the gain and pleasure of sin will not hold an attraction for us. Temptations will not make us fall into sin. Even when we are hated and reviled, we will refuse to hate and revile others - this is Easter quality of Christian life.

We are not a people anxiously trying to build a kingdom over here on earth, and then desperately trying to hold on to this earthly existence by always striving to make it more comfortable and less painful. For those who believe only in a life on this earth, the stare of death is too threatening to let them remain at ease at any time. With Jesus we are convinced, "My kingdom is not of this world." (John 18: 36)

Jesus has prepared for us mansions in heavenly kingdom
Hence, as pilgrims we are always on the move, intent on "the mansions" (John 14: 2) Jesus has prepared for us in the heavenly kingdom. Death does not threaten us. It is not an end of life anyway but a passage to eternal life. We await the embrace of death with the firm assurance given by Jesus that it is an entrance to the glorious way of living where "God himself will be with them; he will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore for the former things have passed away."(Revelations 21: 3-4)

This does not mean that we should shirk our responsibility to this world. Our dream is to convert this earth into the kingdom of God. So let us always pray, as taught by Jesus himself, "Your will be done on this earth as in heaven." We believe that only when the lives of individuals and the structures of the people are regulated by the will of God, can the kingdom of God come on this earth. That is our constant endeavor.

We are an Easter people indeed!

Fr. Augustine Vallooran V.C

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