On the occasion of observance of Catholicate day, I consider it is beneficial to share some thoughts emanated from the heart. This is an assessment of a subservient layman rather than an authoritative article about this special day and I would like to address few distinctive reflections to be appraised on this day.
Catholicate day is observed as ‘Day of the Church’ (Sabha Dinam) to reaffirm our loyalty and dedication to the Church, to the Throne of St. Thomas, to the Catholicate of the East and to the Catholicose and all the members of Holy Episcopal Synod. It is also a day to commemorate the re-establishment of ancient Catholicate of Seleucia in Malankara. Historical facts portrays that Catholicate in Malankara was not something newly formed whereas it was a reinstallation of intervallic ancient Catholicate. At this juncture, we have to remember all the forefathers who had suffered for the establishment of Catholicate in India. Undeniably, Vattasseril St. Dionysius Thirimeni’s vision, dedication and dynamism paved path for this great event.
In 1912 September, H. H. Mar Abdul Messaiah, the legitimate Patriarch of Antioch at that time, installed Murimattathu Paulose Mar Ivaniose Thirumeni as Cathilicose of the East and through his kalpana (bull) Mar Abdul Messaiah Bava affirmed that the Catholicose is authorized to ordain bishops, consecrate the Holy Chrism and carry out all the ecclesiastical functions that a Patriarch can perform. This was a major milestone in the history of the church.
Why do we observe Catholicate day?
Catholicate day is a day for prayer and dedication for the Church, the Catholicose, Bishops, Priests and for all activities of the Church. It is the duty of each faithful to pray for the church and to serve the church the way God desires. Renewing our membership every year or giving annual arrears are some natural requisites but we have greater responsibilities beyond those. Being a member of the church we have to serve the church the way the Lord wants and the spiritual progress of the church is one of the major objectives one can target on.
Significance beyond the collection agenda
The majority of the members of the church believe that Catholicate day is mainly for collecting average one day’s income to meet expenses of Catholicate office and various Church activities. We cannot blame those who feel it from their innocence because that is what they have experienced from the past. They hear only about some financial targets and few physical aspects. Certainly this is one of the objectives, but not limited to it only. This is the time we have to think about enlightening the faithful on all subjects related to the Church and the authorities have essential responsibility to act on these subjects. As long as it is not accomplished, we cannot blame any layman for being ignorant on Church matters.
What are the major challenges?
Most crucial Challenge in front of the Church is flawed messages and advices propagated through some fractional groups and through some media. Those who can memorize half a dozen verses pretend themselves as masters and start interpreting the way they want. During past few years, there were several new groups formed commonly, claiming very lighter means for salvation through minimal adherence of faith. Their only aim is to attract more people and collect maximum tithes in a short period of time since they know that they cannot outlive more than a decade. Several of our people were attracted by their misinterpretations and delusions. This is mainly due to inadequate perception on teachings of the Bible and the faith of the church. Their final aspire is to cart off a number of faithful from the church and contribute to these new groups.
Another major issue before the Church is lack of appropriate guidance. We expect blissful guidance from the ecclesiastical authorities and must have good shepherds who protect the sheep when they are in danger. Church authorities have a momentous responsibility to enlighten the faithful on subjects related to the faith and practices of the church.
Growth of the Church
There are two aspects for the growth of our church, first one is Spiritual and the second one is Corporal. In my experience, our church had a lot better spiritual vibrancy in earlier years when we had only around ten Metropolitans. I would like to endorse detailed and reflective evaluation of the first one to the readers.
About the second one, a realistic approach is required. Due to the effect of modern nuclear family concept, the natural growth rate of church membership is reduced very much. We can expect roughly less than 1% biological growth annually. Imagine if the exodus of faithful, mainly younger generation, due to the enticements from new groups is more than 1% annually, what will be the outcome after few years? Moreover, progression through evangelism and mission works in our church are rationally zero. This phenomenon was happening for the last few decades and we haven’t heard anybody seriously cared about it. Of course, there were few new buildings constructed, several churches renovated and several parishes renamed as Valiya Palli or Maha Edavaka. With only these facts, can we assert the growth of the church?
Who is responsible?
This is the most crucial question in front of the Church – “Who is responsible”? Imagine a shepherd asking to the nearby villagers “who will protect my sheep?” This may surely be a weird question. Unfortunately, we are coming across similar situations. Everybody likes to blame others but nobody shows the real enthusiasm to play their role. Each member of the church – Bishop to Layman – has accountability in accomplishing their tasks and we all have to recognize our own roles. There should be an authoritative committee or council for the Church consisting of few Bishops and erudite priests who can answer questions and clarify doubts related to faith and practices. This setup will facilitate to play a major role in restraining confusion among faithful and thereby significantly prevent parting of faithful from Church. As long as these are not accomplished, nobody can claim that everything is functioning well.
What can we do?
We can focus on several issues on the Catholicate day and keep on them throughout the coming years for the blissful growth of the church.
• Pray for the Church and Church Fathers
• Be taught and abide by the words of God
• Learn and edify the ‘Correctly Glorifying’ Faith
• Follow all the Precepts of the Church
• Participate in all activities of the Church
• Pray for peace and unity in the Church
• Have concern about fellow believers
What do we expect?
During the Malankara Association Meeting held at Pampakuda in September 2008, H. H. the Catholicose commented in his introductory speech that we do not need shepherds who kill the sheep but we need shepherds who will look after the sheep. We should pray for obtaining more fathers of the church and doctors of the church (eminent and influential theologians) who can authoritatively explain the faith and make decisions on disputes when it appear different from the facts or the truth. Our Sunday school, Youth Movement and Vanitha Samajam activities must focus on a higher outcome that can obstruct the erosion of faith and performances. Dedicated and qualified people must be chosen for the guidance of church activities. Priests are obliged to have primary responsibility for the effective performance of spiritual organizations. Bishops must minister the church rather than rule the church
We ought to be faithful builders and must take our role in building the Church. St. Paul states “By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as an expert builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should be careful how he builds” (1 Cor. 3:10). Loyalty to the Church doesn’t suggest that layman should sing the praises for their Priests and Priests must eulogize their Bishops. Unfortunately at the present time this is
considered necessary for labeled as ‘good and faithful servant’.
Does anybody have real concern?
After all these years of close observations and humble services to the church, many of us still have a question that never been answered. Who do really care about what is happening in the church? Does anybody have any concern about the real growth of the church? There is a well‐known adage in Malayalam ‘Valedukkunnavan Velichappadu’. This is what really experiencing everywhere. Several people carry out things in their own style and translate procedures in their favour. Some others are disseminating new spirituality and forming ‘Self Directed Groups’ through their own theological interpretations.
According to St. Paul (2 Cor. 11:28) “Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches”. How many of us do really have concern for the church?
With all these aspects in mind, we have to observe Catholicate day and make it a blissful one. We have to recognize the fact that there are quite a few things to be accomplished beyond the collection agenda and condemning some past activities. To run away from the facts, we expend this day to depict some statistical figures and materialistic growth. Do we really get onto any elemental subjects that matters the real prosperity of the church or do we propagate the genuine objectives behind observing this significant day. Let us pray for a blessed Catholicate day celebration.