15 When the Jesuits returned to Bombay - Fr. Myron J Pereira SJ

posted Aug 1, 2018, 9:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Aug 1, 2018, 9:02 AM ]

(Part 2)

The Spiritual and Religious Formation of Catholics

Side by side with an education in the humanities and the sciences which the Jesuits initiated, was their involvement in the 'faith education' of the Catholic community. The Jesuit approach was two-fold: a thorough catechesis through devotions, preaching and popular literature for the laity, and the theological education of aspirants to the priesthood in the seminary.

It is largely because of these initiatives taken by the Jesuits that, over the decades, the Catholics of Bombay became one of the best educated groups in the country, and that vocations to the priesthood and religious life flourished.

What were some of these initiatives? The creation of a Catholic Press. Hartmann had already seen the need for a newspaper which could present the official viewpoint of the Church, and inform the local Catholic community about local and international Catholic news. He also needed a journal to defend himself and the vicariate from scurrilous attacks of the Padroado party. He found it in The Examiner, started in 1850 by a layman from Mazagaon. He took over the paper on behalf of the diocese, re-named it The Bombay Catholic Examiner (though later it reverted to its old name 'The Examiner'). Under the editorship of capable writers like Ernest Hull SJ and Harold Roper SJ (and more recently, the diocesan priests, Benny Aguiar and Anthony Charanghat), it became the flagship of Catholic journalism in the country.

Another Catholic monthly, less esteemed perhaps, but as significant in another way was The Messenger of the Sacred Heart, which provided staple reading in every Catholic home, and not just in English, for the Society started language editions in Marathi (Niropya, 1903) and Gujarati (Doot, 1910), which continue even today. As someone put it, "The Messenger spoke to people in a language they could understand about matters relevant to their lives, against a background of faith and devotion. It was a remarkable instrument of evangelisation and social communication."

The Messenger must be seen in the context of the devotion to the Sacred Heart, which for 300 years at least (until Vatican II) was one of the cornerstones of Catholic piety, whether in the universal Church or in our homes. Consider the various symbols and devotions many of the older generation grew up with—the Act of Consecration of individuals and families, the Litany of the Sacred Heart, the practice of reparation, the Holy Hour, the nine First Fridays, the Apostleship of Prayer, the Messenger of the Sacred Heart, the radio programmes—all these were part of a complex system of meaning and value which shaped Catholics for generations, giving them inspiration and sustenance for daily living. In a way, they complemented that other force for good, present in every parish, another Jesuit initiative: the Sodality movement.