Friday, February 18, 2011

The Persuasive Eloquence Of St. Francis Xavier,

A correspondent from India writes us an account of the work done by the Jesuit Fathers in behalf of the educated classes among the Hindus. The Rev. F. Bartoli, S.J., professor at the College of St. Aloysius in Mangalore, recently gave a series of lectures on the evidences of natural religion.
The syllabus before us is quite elaborate, and contains among other special topics the following: The Primitive Religion of Mankind—God a Personal Being—Origin of the Universe —The Nature of Man—Man's Final Destiny—Divine Providence. The philosophical manner in which these subjects are treated gives evidence of the high intellectual capacity of the people to whom they are addressed.
To the ordinary inquirer it may appear singular that the almost uninterrupted missionary labors of about three hundred years should not have produced any better results than are shown by the religious census of the country. Of 277,290,736 inhabitants only 1,925,992 are Catholics; that is to say a proportion of one to one hundred and forty-five. This compares rather unfavorably with the wondrous strides made by the Church in the early days of Christian Europe and America.
But there is a reason for this difference which may be found in the local conditions of India. Here the vagaries of Mahometanism have enthralled the imaginative minds of the people; untrammeled speculative philosophy, pantheism, such doctrines as the transmigration of souls have completely charmed and, in a manner, benumbed the Hindu mind, so that it is difficult to gain access for the light of the Gospel.
Father Bartoli has met this difficulty in a practical way. After having studied the favorite theories of the Hindus he has invited the better educated amongst them to hear the other side. This has given him an opportunity of setting before them the contradictions and fallacies of their pagan philosophy, and of placing before them in the proper light the teachings of right reason under the guidance of revelation. These lectures cannot fail to advance the gradual awakening to religious enthusiasm in India, and to give it a right direction. 
It is to be hoped that the example of the learned Jesuit may find able followers, whose intelligent efforts may happily recall the times when the persuasive eloquence of St. Francis Xavier, of the Blessed Aquaviva and of the saintly Robert De Nobili led numerous souls into the one fold of the True Shepherd.
At present there are 2,395 priests, of whom 1,599 are natives, administering to the spiritual needs of Catholics in India and Ceylon. One-third of this number, however, are working in the Archdiocese of Goa, where there is one priest to about 400 Catholics. The ecclesiastical seminaries number 32 with 926 students. The religious communities, especially of women, are rapidly growing, and with them the number of schools. The outlook is especially cheering in Ceylon, where the proportion of Catholics to the general population is one to seventeen (in India it is one to one hundred and forty-five). The Catholic schools in Ceylon are attended by 28,000 children. In the Archdiocese of Colombo the proportion of Catholics is still greater, that is, one to six, with a corresponding strength in Catholic activity.
Link (here) to read the original at The American Ecclesiastical Review


TonyD said...

Many people wonder why God doesn’t materialize to declare a particular religion to be true. And many people wonder why Christ didn’t work more miracles. And many people wonder why God doesn’t answer their prayers. I guess those same people won’t understand what mistakes the Jesuits made in India.

JI said...

You can't say the work of the Jesuits has been a total failure. What the Catholic Church does in the fields of education, welfare and health care in India earns it a great deal of respect.

I think the Hindu caste system has been the main barrier to conversions in India. It is the prerogative of high caste Hindus to maintain the caste system for their own cunning purposes. So a religion like Christianity, which believes all humans are equal, has to be resisted. That's why there is no much opposition to conversions. It ultimately upsets the status quo.

Having said that, I think modern India is more receptive to the Gospel than at any time in the past. Thanks to the work of missionaries, economic growth and democracy people have more freedoms, and that means less stranglehold to the caste system.

No doubt the Church will face obstacles, but it has a lot of potential to grow in the years ahead.

TonyD said...


The Jesuits have been, and are, a great success.

As you point out, welfare and health care are viewed in a positive light. But there are other “successes” that are really “worldly” success more than “spiritual” success.

We tend to be a society of simplistic norms. Since democracy is good, we think that undemocratic is bad. Since equality is good, we think that inequality is bad. Since respect is good, we think that lack of respect is bad.

In the end, such success is not the real goal. And conversions are not the real goal. And, most certainly, simplistic norms are not the measure of success.

Tancred said...

Wow, what an complete and utter lack of caritas.

TonyD said...

For perfection of the soul caritas is not sufficient. Love is not sufficient. Charity is not sufficient. Faith is not sufficient. Church attendance is not sufficient. More is required. We must try to change to become people who can hear such things.

At the same time, it is worth understanding that there can be particular situations where “love” is sufficient.

If you have a child who lacks sufficient “love”, wouldn’t you stress the importance of “love”? Wouldn’t you create consequences a for lack of “love” in their thoughts and actions? Wouldn’t you be forced to hide a real understanding of love, since it would be used to rationalize inappropriate thoughts? God works with us where we are.

I understand that some here have taken the Gospel seriously, and are now trying to reconcile God’s values with their observations and understanding. At some point, it is appropriate to grow. Evil must be engaged. Engaging evil requires that we recognize it in ourselves.