Tuesday, July 31, 2012


Our Achievements:  Along the journey of a thousand miles, spurred on by Synod 2001 and Mid-Term Synod Assembly 2006, and with the collaborative vision and action of the whole Archdiocese, the Church in Mumbai has taken several steps and traversed many miles.  We see today courses, seminars, talks being organized for information, spiritual formation, and empowerment of people, which has resulted in more people attending courses e.g., scripture, theology, liturgy, faith formation, catechetics,
resulting in greater awareness and participation of people in the life of the Church and service to others. The SCC has grown in its cluster activities, and has contributed a lot to grass-root involvement of laity and inter-religious communication and help. Nearly every parish has a Blessed Sacrament Chapel that is well attended. The Archdiocesan Survey (2012) reveals that the majority of people in the Archdiocese do attend Mass on Sundays (80.2%), read the Bible and are helped in their faith formation by it (72.2%), and were able to give witness to their faith by undertaking family responsibilities seriously (72.8%). It is also nice to hear that often Christians are employed at work places because of their value system.
The Challenge Ahead of Us:  On the other hand some significant comments of the Survey (2012) state that  ‘The reality of faith is not being experienced by many’ & ‘Life has become commercial.’ We can observe people going to Novenas but not to Church, attending Mass but not participating in it, venerating and sometimes mistakenly even adoring Mary and the Saints but paying scant attention to the Blessed Sacrament, reading the Bible but misunderstanding it, praying to God (vertical dimension) but not living Christian values or Christian charity in their lives (horizontal dimension), praying vocal prayers but not knowing how to pray from the heart or to get into inner silence to listen to God.  
Today also materialism and a sense of disconnectedness with neighbour is on the rise. There is also a tendency to a compartmentalized life style resulting in people not missing a Sunday Mass but acting in unchristian or even evil ways during the rest of the week.
In order to attain the fullness of life in Christ (Synod 2001) and centrality of spirituality as the “incarnational” force animating the other themes (MTSA, 2006), the Church has many more miles to traverse and these areas  are being explored in the Archdiocesan Consultation 2012.    With respect to Relationship with God, salient issues and concerns are grouped  in four major areas: Faith formation, Prayer, Sacraments and Witnessing.
1.  Faith Formation
Images of God: The essence of God is relational as our Trinitarian God comprises three persons (the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit) who form a community of love.  Made in the image and likeness of God (Gn 1:26), we have an innate desire for connectedness and calling to be persons of love.  Jesus our incarnate Saviour  fully human and fully God, reflects the divine persona (Jn 14:9), and is someone with whom we can and should have a personal relationship with.
What hinders a loving, trusting relationship with God is the experience of abuse, trauma and isolation in relationships, as well as our erroneous images of God, e.g., a punishing God whom we are afraid of or businessman God with whom we bargain with to get what we desire.  Developing an true and  meaningful image of God as unconditional lover/divine friend/parent facilitates trust and intimacy and is crucial to spiritual growth. Every parish should help parishioners to become aware of their image of God, to eliminate preestablished ideas and past ways of relating to God, in order to be open to experiencing God in new ways and in all His awesomeness as the loving Abba Father of Jesus. (Lk 15:11-32). This personal encounter with God is our goal which spiritual knowledge and attending Masses with well organized liturgies should lead us to rather than remain as ends in themselves.
We need to free ourselves from misconceptions regarding our relationship with God, e.g., that God will solve all our problems, or that we will be free of all suffering.  Christian life is not free from challenges, difficulties, pain and suffering.  What changes is our attitude towards these, as more and more we begin to rejoice in participating in the paschal mystery to rise to new life in him and with him. 
Faith Formation: Faith formation (catechetics) for many stops once people leave school or after confirmation (Only 33.5% in the Archdiocesan Survey stated that their faith formation was an ongoing process.)
Often homilies are not bearing fruit  and talks, sessions poorly attended.  The family is the primary locus of faith formation and spiritual and moral development. As clearly put forth by the CCC and various Church documents, it is the primary responsibility of parents to foster their children’s spiritual and moral growth. This role cannot and should not be replaced by other agencies. The Church must play an assisting role by generating and providing resources to help parents fulfill this task. Attention needs to be paid to ongoing faith formation for all age groups especially the adults through talks/sessions/courses at the parish and deanery levels, articles in the Examiner, booklets available in parishes, parish newsletter, websites etc.  Mp3 audio, podcasts and audio tapes could be made available which explain the Scriptures, moral teachings of the Church and give spiritual meditations. As importantly ways have to be explored to get people to make use of these facilities.
Scripture: Through reading the Bible and meditating on God’s Word, God manifests himself to us, his attributes, qualities, values, desires.  To understand the Bible better and avoid literal or erroneous interpretations, it is necessary have in every parish, ‘Basic Bible Seminars’ that give and overview of the Bible, and teach how to use, understand, interpret and pray with the Bible.  These could also be made available in booklets, DVDs and websites.  The slogan  ‘Everyone a Bible and everyday a chapter’, could be encouraged. 
Since many (41.8 %) (Archdiocesan Survey, 2012) reported that sharing their experiences helped in their faith formation, every parish must have Bible study and sharing groups at the parish level or in SCCs. The Archdiocesan Bible Committee will encourage each parish to depute people to attend the Ministry of the Word and Catholic Bible Institute. (MTSA 4). For daily Bible meditations, people can be encouraged to access Christian sites on the internet (or even download them and listen on the iPod), or avail of booklets/magazines such as the Daily Flash, Upper Room, Word Among Us.  Our Archdiocese could also have its own subsidized publication to suit our  aims. 
2.  Prayer
The Archdiocesan Survey (2012) has shown prayer is a very important aspect in the life of a Catholic yet only  56%  participated in Church services regularly and  around half (53.8%) prayed at specific times. Prayer – listening to God and communicating from the heart is a precious way to nourish intimacy with God.  We need to make prayer a priority and part of our daily routine, making the time and space to be in solitude and silence to experience Gods presence, voice, direction, action in the sanctuary of our souls.  Prayer postures that are reverent and facilitate core experiences are important.
Jesus himself instructed us to keep alert and pray (Mt 26:41) , to always pray and not give up (Lk 18:1), to pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests (Eph 6i:18).  The  vocal prayer par excellence that Jesus himself taught us was the Our Father.  Whilst vocal prayers have their place in worship, people can be encouraged to pray from the heart, freely, spontaneously and in their own words.  Initiation into varied types (vocal, meditation, contemplation), forms (e.g., Jesus prayer, object meditation) and schools of prayer (e.g., Ignatian, Carmelite etc) at the parish level would help discover forms that are personally meaningful and helpful.  A book and DVD on this would enable people to learn these forms in their own homes or prayer groups or share it with friends.  Technology can help us pray on the go as we spend a great deal of time travelling and commuting to and from work. Retreats  help in reflection/contemplation and are to be encouraged. The Lectio Divina,(contemplative praying of the  Bible) should be encouraged in parishes as Pope Benedict XVI says “If the practice of Lectio Divina is promoted with efficacy, I am convinced that it will produce a new spiritual springtime in the Church.”
Centres where people are trained for meditation and prayer  would be of great help. (MTSA No 6). PEACE will utilize the Eucharistic Chapels to foster silent contemplative prayer.  (MTSA No 6)
Communitarian prayer has an important place in the Church for the people of God to express their solidarity, praise and thanks to God, and has immense potential to produce abundant fruit (Jn 15/1-5).  It should be holistic reaching out beyond self or the group, to all, including people of other faiths and concerns of the nation, world, universe. Inter-faith prayer services should be encouraged too.
3.  Sacraments
It is through faith and baptism that people are incorporated into the Body of Christ (1 Cor 12:13).  The Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation have undergone great improvements in terms of planning of content, workbooks, preparation of children/youth and their parents.  
Though most people attend Mass on Sundays, (80.2 %, Archdiocesan Survey 2012), participation is not wholehearted and the numbers are on the decline among the young population.  Homilies which are excellent means of faith formation, interpretation of Scripture and  application to daily living, often turn people off when poorly prepared, too lengthy, superficial, critically demeaning people, and not genuine.  Better training of priests for homilies and implementation of this training is greatly needed to exploit the potential of homilies.  Meaningful liturgical hymns and prayers for various occasions and catering to various age groups could be compiled into a single book and made available to the public along with accompanying music and DVDs to maximize participation in liturgical services.  Liturgy should be enriched not by frilly additions but by making the mass more  meaningful and participative (internally and externally) so as to lead to a God experience and transformation in life.  More also needs to be done so that parishioners understand the meaning and significance of the Sacraments.
The Archdiocesan Survey (2012) showed poor recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation (15.6%).  Attention needs to be paid to the value of this Sacrament and ways of encouraging it, explored.
Pre-nuptial counseling and marriage preparation courses have done a lot to prepare people for marriage, and in making the wedding liturgies more meaningful.  More attention could be given to interfaith marriages through meaningful liturgies that are inspiring and supportive.
Resources in terms of prayer booklets for various prayer occasions  e.g., adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, way of the Cross, rosary, prayer services , funeral wake and service prayers,  etc. as well as booklets explaining the meaning and value of each of these could be made accessible at the parish level for a more accurate understanding of the faith, to increase participation at services and as a springboard for people to gain more confidence in adapting  these prayers for different needs. 
We need to seriously address the spiritual needs of those working for Call Centers as, 82.5 % in the Archdiocesan Survey (2012) stated that working in Call Centers affected their attendance at Mass.
4.  Witnessing
People often channelize their funds for the needy through the Church or catholic agencies as they find them reliable and trustworthy, and compassionate works of mercy have been the hallmark of the Catholic Church in Mumbai.  However, it has also been remarked that there is no risk based witnessing – people stop helping or donating money when it hurts.  Also, many today find it difficult to stand by the values of Christ in the workplace (4.3 % of those who responded in the Archdiocesan Survey, 2012, stated that they never stand for the values of Christ in the work place and 20.1 % didn’t respond). Many find it difficult to refrain from bribery when important work just does not get done
The last few decades has seen a revolution in information and communication technologies which have the extraordinary potential for instant dissemination of information and dialogue between people from different countries, cultures and religions, but misuse of technology is also affecting family life and morality.  A strong nevertheless relevant comment  emerging from the Archdiocesan Survey (2012) that merits reflection is: “the reality of faith is not being experienced by many; this is leading to broken families, divorce, crime among Catholic youth since they do not know or are not motivated to follow Christian values.
The church and the forthcoming Archdiocesan Consultation 2012 has a responsibility to  make that faith relevant and alive in its particular cultural, social, political and religious context, interpreting the signs of times. We participate  in the mission of Christ to reconcile all things to God through our service and proclamation and stewardship of creation.  We need to search for ways to proclaim and live the love of God for all of humanity and creation, to witness to and participate in God’s reconciliation, healing, and transformation of creation.  As stewards of creation, the Church is called to work towards elimination of abuse of goods and services, the destruction of God’s creation, and exploitative relationships. We are called to care for the poor, needy and marginalised by works of compassion, critically analysing and exposing unjust structures and working for their transformation, and advocacy so that human rights are in place. Thus will come about a new heaven and the new earth (Rev 21:1)
Relationships form the fabric of life and when we harmonize and expand our relationships we reach out to everyone and everything, embracing the universe and touching the divine. Through the power of the saving, life-giving, fulfilling presence of the Holy Spirit, the Archdiocese of Bombay will experience unity in diversity, love, joy, peace, zeal for the Kingdom of God and His glory.  We will experience the fullness of life Christ came to give and a peace and joy that surpasses all understanding.
Questions for Discussion:
1.   Mention at least 3 most important ideas in the paper you agree with, giving reasons for the same
2.   Any suggestions relating to the implementation and the way forward regarding the above?
3.   Please mention any ideas in the paper you disagree with, giving reasons for the same
4.         Please mention any important aspects that you think have not been covered in the paper.


  1. God has disappeared from most spheres of life today. Tokenism is there aplenty - rituals, pleading for this or that....
    What is needed is another Incarnation! This will be possible if we realize that we are the hands, feet, mouth....... of Jesus. We must be the Good News.
    For this, ways and means (retreats, seminars, catechesis, homilies, etc., etc.) must be devised to re-encounter the God of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow, to re-encounter the One who was sent from Heaven.
    One of the most potent means is to encounter Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It seems to me that priests need a complete overhauling in this respect:- more time in the confessional (Cure of Ars example), better listening and counselling in the confessional.....

  2. In this Archdiocese, there is a plurality of faiths and cultures.
    “God” is not understood in the way in which we understand.
    Nor is the idea of “sin” and “salvation” understood or even accepted at all.
    Some say that we must be saved from a sinful nature. Others say that we do not possess a sinful nature.
    What is sin? Is it some kind of deviation, transgression?
    From what are we to be saved?
    All this in the context of a secularized, pluralistic culture.
    Evangelisation call for a re-thinking, re-casting, re-molding, in the language of this day and age. We need to formulate a new apologetics of faith. An explanation of our faith, today, does not engage non-believers and many a believer in a culture dominated by the achievements of science and technology. We have to construct a new Apologia built on the foundations of the past but using the phrases and nuances of today. Not an easy task at all but one which MUST be attempted for relevancing evangelisation.