A 40 Year "Retrospective Journey"

“Be good, keep your feet dry,
your eyes open, your heart at peace
and your soul in the joy of Christ.”
Thomas Merton

November 27, 2008

Madras - Chennai

November 27, 1968
East India Company

"Some important dates in the history of the East India Company:
  • 1639 Fort St. George, which become Madras.
  • 1659 Fort William, a"factory" [trading post], to become the city of Calcutta.
  • 1661 The British acquire Bombay from Portugal.
  • 1686 The Company is at war with Aurangzeb, the Mogul emperor." AJTM p.194

Some important dates in the history of India:

  • 1996 Madras was renamed Chennai.
  • 2001 Calcutta becomes Kolkata reflecting Bengali pronunciation.
  • 1996 Bombay was renamed Mumbai reflecting Marathi pronunciation.
  • 1857 East India Company absorbed by British Government after "First War of Independence".
  • 1947 India gains independence from British rule after non-violent civil disobedience campaign led by Mahatma Gandhi.

San Thome

Merton visits San Thome, Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Thomas. Indian Catholic tradition holds that St. Thomas came to India in 52 AD. He is said to have built several churches and lived for a number of years in a cave on a local hill, now called St. Thomas Mount. The Basilica is believed to have been built upon the burial site of St. Thomas.

"Then we went to San Thome. Smaller than I expected, the cathedral is in an entirely Christian quarter. Its architecture is standard 19th century Gothic, spacious, full of old-style statues, and over the chancel arch the words "Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus." I find the inscription strangely touching. I kneel for a while looking up to the shadows of the sanctuary where all is still as it was before the Council. Then we depart." AJTM p.195

St. Thomas Mount

Grayston Photo

Merton also makes a pilgrimage up the mountain to say Mass at the small church on the summit... "Mass this morning at St. Thomas Mount... I entered the little church and found the high altar prepared. It was delightful, a perfect hermitage, with a few Indian women and a couple of Italians - a priest and a layman visiting their relative, the pastor. I said the Mass of St. Thomas, looking at the ancient gray carved stone that was found on the site... A very lovely little church, so quiet, so isolated, so simple, so fresh... One of the nicest things I have found in India or anywhere. I felt my pilgrimage to it was a great grace." AJTM p.196

Peace and grace to you... Rob

"A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history."
Mohandas Gandhi

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