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MY PERSONAL TESTIMONIES
Thanks be to my Lord and Saviour for giving me the grace to be born in a Christian family. As I grew up and became a teenager my faith got weakened under the influence of communist ideology. Almost for two years I kept away from the Church. In May 1971 after completion of my High School Education, the question came up in my mind as to what I should do with my life. My first and foremost desire was to go for technical or mechanical training in view of getting in to a job to make my family financially secure. As I was trying to get more clarity about my future, somewhere in the horizon of my mind emerged, like a tiny patch of cloud (1Kings 18, 44), a desire to serve the Lord as a missionary. I did not pay much attention to the thought but continued planning and working for getting in to technical training. All the same the tiny cloud kept growing and I had to fight hard to resist it. Within a few days the cloud over shadowed me and I had to put aside my desire for technical studies and decide to commit my life to serve the Lord as a missionary priest. Influence of communism also vanished from my heart. The spirit of the Lord guided me and helped me to join a Catholic missionary congregation, the Indian Missionary Society. In June 1972, I joined the Indian Missionary Society and came to Varanasi for my religious and priestly formation. In the course of my priestly and missionary formation my faith in Christ underwent another major crisis. As part of my philosophical studies I spent three months in a Hindu Ashram in Rishikesh in the Himalayas in 1978 to study yoga and the Vedanta. Compared to the philosophy of yoga and Vedanta, my Christian faith appeared absurd to me. I found much clarity in the Vedatic reasoning than in Christian faith. But towards the end of the course, the teachers of Vedanta could not give satisfactory answers to certain questions I raised. Then one of the gurus who were my teacher told me that I have to accept the teaching in faith. That advice brought me back to the question of faith once again, the very thing that I wanted to avoid. Immersed in the darkness of confusion I cried to God to show me the way. As I opened the Bible I was confronted by the words of Jesus that declares: “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”(Jn 14, 6). Once again the Lord brought me back to faith in Him and to His mission with a greater fervour. In 1983 I completed my theological studies. I received priestly ordination and was appointed to serve mission in North India. As a new priest my biggest struggle was with my colleagues since they had interpreted evangelisation as social transformation. Many of them could not understand my fervour for evangelisation. For them sharing the Gospel to people of other faith was equivalent to fanaticism. The pressure was too heavy on me. I did not get a true fellowship or support from my colleagues but the Lord continued to support and strengthen me. The Holy Spirit gave me an inner conviction that the path I have chosen is the right one. My conviction about evangelisation was confirmed by the Word of God and the teachings of the church on evangelisation, namely, the documents like Evangelii Nuntianti, Redemptoris Missio, and Ecclesia in Asia. Supported and strengthened by the Lord I continued in my zeal and commitment for evangelisation. I spoke, taught and wrote in favour of evangelisation. Holy Spirit inspired some young people to join me, and some others to support my ministry and evangelisation. As a result Santvana Community came in to existence. Later in 2003, the Archbishop of Delhi approved the community as a lay missionary organization in accordance with the canon law of the church. The Archbishop recognized community’s evangelistic thrust and special focus of prayer and ministry of the Word (Acts 6,4) as well as active participation of the laity in the mission of the Church as the urgent need of the time.
POWER OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT IN MY LIFE
How wonderful it is to spend some time daily in the presence of the Lord in the Holy Eucharist. I was a person of a very low self-esteem. Periodically I fell into the grip of sadness, which lasted for a few days. I was afraid and nervous when I had to face a group or a person in authority. Although rarely, whenever my anger was provoked I would become dangerously blind. Lustful desires had ruled my heart that made me nervous and blushed to face women. I knew that these burdens would paralyze my ministry as a priest. But I did not know how to come out of those problems. The only solution I thought of was to hide behind my artistic talent of painting pictures. I thought, when I become a priest I would spend my life, somewhere, away from people, dedicated to religious art. During the period of my religious and priestly formation by the grace of God, I had picked up a liking to spend at least half an hour daily, alone in the chapel before the tabernacle. Sometimes, the moments that I spent before the tabernacle, I felt as if, was passing away in vain. Certain days I could pray well, other days I felt boring and sometimes I dosed off or passed time in distracting thoughts. Yet I did not give up. A few years after my ordination, it came to my notice that I was no more afraid or nervous to face a group. Periodical grip of sadness had completely vanished. I had greater freedom to relate to people. All those healings that I have been receiving could be attributed only to the healing rays of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament, those silent moments that I spent in His presence. His healing rays dispelled my fears and His grace has made me a preacher of His Word, enabled me to address any large crowd, not only in India, but also in various countries of the world. I who wanted to run away from people, but the Lord made me instrumental in building up a community of lay missionaries and gave me love and courage to live joyfully with the members of the community. I thank the Lord for the gift of the Santvana Community of Disciples. The Sanskrit word ‘Santvana’ means consolation. “He comforts us in all our afflictions, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God” (2 Cor 1, 4). Jesus in the most Blessed Sacrament is waiting to heal console and empower each one of us.
Life is fragile handle with prayer and with care.
(In the year 2002 I was in Rome for four months. There I saw a rose plant by the way side. Day by day I passed by that plant. I daily stopped over a few moments to converse with it. Given below are my wild imaginations and reflections, ripples the rose plant made in my heart.)
A rosebush from the way side garden extended its first bud to me as I passed by. In excitement I grabbed it and hugged. Out of my curiosity to see it bloom, to enjoy its colour and beauty I tried to open up the bud. Its tender petals got hurt and torn apart. Alas! It died and left me sad. A few days later as I passed by, the same rosebush extended to me yet another bud. With amazement and love I looked at it. I extended my hand and gently touched and gave a kiss. The rose bush smiled at me. It always waited for me. I loved to spend time with it, patiently waited to see the bud growing to its full bloom in its own time. I did not want to pluck it for myself alone and hug it to death. For I knew that it is mine. I saw the bud gently opening up. I enjoyed watching every movement of its growth, protected it from the insects that harmed. The bud reached its full bloom and radiated its fragrance and beauty for all who passed by. Later its petals began to fade and fall. But our love never faded. We continued to be in love. Because in the deep intimacy of our souls, there abides the Rose of Sharon, who loved us to the end. - Dheeraj Sabu IMS