Recently, I have turned my attention to reading a number of Catholic journals published in India. We do get a good number of journals in our Jesuit Provincialate. I read through recently published - Vidyajyothi Journal of Theological Reflection, Jeevadhara, The New Leader, Jivan, Indian Currents, In Christo, Salaam, Word & Worship, Kristu Jyoti, Asian Horizons, Prabodhana, Journal of Indian Theology, Magnet, Ignis, etc. I was pleasantly surprised by their content. All these journals do deal with Covid 19 and its repercussions. Certainly the editors of these journals should be appreciated for their courage and resilience to think about the present day reality and respond to it in their own way. Here are some of the titles of the articles that appeared in the journals. (Due to space constrain, I have restricted only to a few)
In Vidyajyothi - Prashant Bhushan & contempt of court, Covenant, Seeking God experience, National Educational Policy 2020, The world and I, A marriage with Hinduism.
In Jeevadhara - Signs fo the Times and the Church in the Post-Corona world, Emerging Trends of India for the Church, Outdated inculturation, lenient synculturation and the pathos of beauty, Call to be a communicating Church.
The New Leader - deals extensively on Post Covid neo-normalcy with a lead article. Others are - We can play the "we-they" game or let the walls fall, Parable of lowest seat at the feast, To be and not to be that is the question, Is Coronavirus God's punishment? Tips for engaging online in faith formation, Some keystone actions to promote Gospel spirituality, A new normal, Live your fears...live your dreams, Is there a normal life after Covid -19, National education policy: A virus already injected, No turning back, Until the ninth hour.
In Jivan - Rewriting the Jesuit narrative on women, Indian Christians for democracy, Thinking out of the gender box, Jesuits and gender equality, Mission partnership with Jesuits, Women religious and Ignatian spirituality, Showing the way to God, Go to the frontier mission, Higher education and national education policy 2020.
In Indian Currents - Politicized probe, Delhi police out to fix victims, Hate goes viral, Delhi police must stand with victims not criminals, Kashi-Mathura: Will temple politics be revived, Dignity of life: Last rites, exercise caution, changing my watchman, A scientist and an academic turned a social-economic activist in Bangladesh.
In Christo - A joyful life of freedom for beauty, A call to grow in holiness, Pope Francis' catechesis on prayer, The beauty of holiness: Two saintly Indian models, Remembrance and reliving, This paper shall not perish, The throbbing heart of Jesus, The road less travelled makes all the difference, What I learned from the Corona virus pandemic, Three reasons not to be disappointed with life.
Issues that interest us (?) and not to the simple Christians
I also noticed a very interesting fact. Many things about Catholic faith and its practice do not find space in these journals. During this time of lockdown a large majority of the Catholics have not stepped inside the Church campuses or premises. That means our Catholics have made their homes - Domestic Church - a primary place where they could watch live streaming of the Masses and other devotional practices. This has been made possible only in those places where internet is available. Whereas a larger number of Catholics have absolutely no access either to internet or to the languages in which these Catholic devotionals are telecast or transmitted. None of the articles have any matter or articles on the faith life of our simple folk during this pandemic as well as state and self imposed lockdown.
Unfortunately, hardly a few of the articles tell us how to keep our faith active and alive during these trying times. None of the articles had even the slightest hint on how the online live streaming of services have affected the lives of people in terms of their faith or practice. Except a few dioceses, parishes and religious houses have been trying their best to keep the faith of the people active and alive through live streaming of various liturgical services like Masses, adorations, novenas, rosaries, etc. They also telecast other matters connected with the Christian faith like classes on bible, saints, and other aspects of faith life. However, most of the clergy and Nuns are keeping numb to the reality of today. From my close quarters I heard that many of the priests including Nuns (who work in parishes) have not even made an effort to call their parishioners over the phone to find out their flocks wellbeing and what is happening to them and get connected. The Christian buzz words like koinonia (communion) and solidarity seems to have infected by the current pandemic very seriously!
Instead of outward looking, inward looking spirituality
Probably, attending to too many neo-spiritualities of today like mindfulness, self-awareness, centering prayers, etc., seem to have made us more and more inward looking than service oriented outward looking apostles. In other words, my self-protection, my care, my immunity, and so on have taken primary precedence in my life at the wake of Corona pandemic because keeping myself away from corona infection is the primary goal of my living! Of course, we do need to be careful and the danger of getting infected with the Corona but not allowing ourselves at the service of humanity when people need us most is simply deceitful, as ourselves committed to this cause with our vows and promises.
Numbness to creative ways of dealing with the present reality
Our Catholic media is numb on a number of things either in a theological journal or in a popular news journal. Sizeable of our Catholics have either lost jobs or at the verge of loosing their jobs or unable to get their full salaries. Many of our Catholics either lost their loved one's due to Covid or died due to other illnesses because they could not get adequate and timely medical help during this continuous lockdown. Mainly because the travelling was made impossible and those who lost their loved ones could not even say goodbye or do a suitable funeral liturgy for them. Daily wage earning Catholics and those who depend on their agriculture and small scale businesses and hospitality industry (hotels, resorts, homestay, etc.) are having their worst time due to this Corona pandemic. Unfortunately, not a single Catholic news outlet said anything concretely about it. Often, it seems to me that we are standing majestically on the citadels wearing the Santa Claus dress and preaching our homilies which have almost nothing to do with the lives of our people.
Perhaps one of the limitations of Catholic media in India is either it is clergy sided/centre (claricalized) or no sided at all. I found hardly any of our Catholic journals with intellectual intent said anything noteworthy or substantial about the lay people who are out in their homes locked up. 99% of our Catholic population in India is lay (and my guess perhaps 1% is religious and clergy) and hardly we give any importance to them in our intellectual endeavours like those interpretation of our scriptures or tradition.
The above articles tell us to a great extent what kind of Indian Church is. Even though we may not judge outrightly taking into consideration what is written and printed in Christian journals, at least, however, that throws very important light on the health of the Church.
You can tell me what kind of person I am by conversing with me, the way I do things, the kind of vocabulary and words that I use in my dealings, my expressions of dreams and aspirations as well as my behaviour with others concretely. Certainly, the kind of talk or conversation, the issues of your interest or talents, the way of acting or living determines your personality. You are what, what you think, speak and do! We know Jesus because of the kind of service he did to his people, the words he uttered, miracles he performed, parables he told, the kind of death he died and the way he rose from death. I am sure taking a simple example from our Christian journals we can determine the kind of Church we belong to in India.
- Olvin Veigas, SJ
01 October 2020