His Excellency Msgr. Marius Callistus Sooza Pakiam,
ArchBishop of Trivandrum, India
"The Lady of All Nations in My Heart and in My Diocese"
Bishop Sooza Pakiam shepherds the 250,000 devout and practicing Catholics of the Trivandrum Diocese, the capital of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. He works with great zeal for the Lady of All Nations in his homeland. He was especially joyful, therefore, that he could participate in the Day of Prayer in Amsterdam for the second time.
Your Eminence, dear and Most Rev. Brother Bishops and my dear brothers and sisters,
Once again I am very happy to visit the Shrine of the Lady of All Nations in Amsterdam. I consider it a great privilege and an extraordinary blessing from God that I am able to take part in this Fifth International Day of Prayer in honor of our Heavenly Mother.
This International Day of Prayer is different. Now we are gathering for the first time after the official clarification regarding the supernatural origin of the apparitions and the message of the Lady of All Nations. Our hearts are now filled with sentiments of joy and gratitude.
As we thank God and our Heavenly Mother, I also congratulate Most Rev. Jozef Marianus Punt, the Bishop of Haarlem, for coming forward to take this bold step.
This recognition is definitely going to facilitate the spread of the devotion and the message of the Lady of All Nations throughout the world. “May the Lady of All Nations who once was Mary, be our Advocate!”
The Church herself acknowledges the veracity of a number of apparitions of Our Lady. On these occasions several messages are given addressed to the whole world. What is the need and the purpose of all these apparitions and messages? I have an answer to this question in the following words of Jesus: “I have told you this so that my own joy may be in you and your joy be complete” (Jn. 15:11).
The Almighty has done great things for Mary. She has the privilege of being the Immaculate Conception. She is full of grace. She was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. She was chosen to be the Mother of God. Now assumed into Heaven, body and soul, and crowned as Queen of Heaven and Earth, Mary glorifies the Lord and her spirit rejoices in God her Savior (Lk. 1:46).
Mary is our mother. How can a mother rejoice alone without sharing this joy with her children! This is not possible. That is why Mary comes down frequently to this earth and addresses her messages to all her children throughout the whole world so that her joy may be in us and thus our joy may be complete.
Human beings are constantly in search of something. The human heart is restlessly longing for something to fill up the ever-increasing vacuum it experiences. But many do not know what exactly this something is. Very often they are confused and led astray. Sigmond Freud would say that this something is pleasure. His disciple Alfred Adler would go a step further and call it power. Now experience shows that any amount of pleasure or power does not bring the satisfaction and fulfillment the human heart is longing for. St. Augustine gives us the correct answer. According to him, God has created us for Himself and until we rest in God our heart will remain restless. Yes, Mary’s spirit rejoices not in pleasure or in power or in any of the worldly achievements, but in God her Savior. Mary is full of the Spirit of God and in her hands she carries Jesus, the Bread of Life, Who came to this world so that we may have life and have it abundantly (Jn. 10:10). Now Mary comes frequently to this earth so that we all may have a share in this abundance of life and thereby experience the true joy and lasting peace.
The messages of Mary are primarily reminders of what Jesus demands from us in the Gospel so that we may be able to experience genuine happiness and lasting peace. One day a rich young man, who was restless within himself in spite of all his possessions, came to Jesus in search of eternal life. He thought that Jesus would ask him to add something more to the wealth he already had. Instead Jesus asked him to renounce all his possessions and invited this young man to follow him empty-handed. But he gave more value to his great wealth than to Jesus and went away sad from his presence (Mt. 19:16-22).
On the other hand we see another rich young man, Zachaeus, who comes forward to renounce everything he had for the joy of receiving Jesus in his house. He was fortunate to hear these words of Jesus, “Today salvation has come to this house” (Lk. 19:1-10).
This is what we experience in our society even today. Two important people who died more or less at the same time are Diana, the Princess of Wales, and Mother Theresa of Calcutta. In India I was watching television. After giving a lengthy description of the life of Diana and the circumstances of her death the news announcer concluded the report in these words, “She was constantly in search of happiness, but happiness eluded her.” Princess Diana was good in her own ways. She had enough and more—wealth and possessions, influence and power, beauty and popularity. In spite of all these the happiness her heart was longing for eluded her.
On the other hand, Mother Theresa who came to the streets of Calcutta almost empty-handed and became the poorest of the poor was a woman full of happiness and she went around the whole world radiating and sharing this happiness with as many people as possible. What was her secret? She had nothing of this world; but she always had Jesus at the center of her life. “Happy are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of God” (Mt. 5:3).
By means of her apparitions and messages our Blessed Mother also wants to show us the true path leading to happiness. She wants to give us Jesus Who is the sure Way to the Father, eternal Truth and abundance of Life.
Now allow me to tell you something in this line about me and about the people of my Diocese.
I am the Bishop of the Diocese of Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala, the southernmost state of India. Even after the recent bifurcation Trivandrum remains to be a rather big Diocese of India having a Catholic population of more than 250,000 devout and practicing members. A vast majority of our people, almost 90 percent of them, is poor fisherfolk, classified by the Government of India as a backward community in every sphere.
This community is a marginalized section, even today to a large extent, victims of the exploitation and oppression of the dominant forces of the society. They do have their shortcomings and strange habits. Yet as a whole they are a community of deep faith who experience and radiate the blessedness promised to the poor in spirit.
Now I will share with you just one of my experiences in a big parish which should give you an idea of the deep faith of our people, their love for the Church and their readiness to make sacrifices out of love for God.
In that parish I remember a rather old man who was struggling to maintain his large family. Two of his children were physically handicapped and his youngest daughter, who was not given in marriage due to lack of dowry, was depending on this old man. In spite of all these hardships they had faith in God, they helped each other and I myself could experience love, joy, peace and harmony.
I really wanted to know the secret of their happiness. One day in the month of November that poor old man came to me with some money and requested me to offer two masses for the poor souls in purgatory. Since I was aware of their hardships I asked him to take the money back and volunteered to offer two masses freely for their intentions. Reacting to this, the old man replied, “Father, perhaps you do not know the depth of the satisfaction we experience when we make this little sacrifice. We are poor people. Though not much, we also want to do something for the Church and for the souls of purgatory. Father, please accept this little offering.”
These words helped me to discover the secret of the joy and peace that poor family was experiencing. One of the great truths I learned from these people is this: Unlike the rich, the poor people do not have enough for themselves; but they have always something to share with others. This is what keeps them in a state of blessedness.
Now from where did these people derive for centuries the light and strength to nourish their faith, love and spirit of sacrifice? It is not directly from a study and reflection of the Scriptures, for, only recently the entire Bible was translated in our language. Most of our people were not in a position to buy a copy of the Bible. Quite a number of them, even today, are illiterate and therefore are not able to read the Bible. Apart from the Holy Mass and sacraments, what helped them to maintain their faith and love for centuries and grow in these virtues day by day was mainly their filial devotion to our Blessed Mother, especially the daily recitation of the Rosary in their families. The observation of His Holiness Pope John Paul II in his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae is literally applicable to our people: “The Rosary reclaimed in its full meaning, goes to the very heart of Christian life, it offers a familiar yet fruitful spiritual and educational opportunity for personal contemplation, the formation of the people of God and the new evangelization” (No. 3).
Some years ago an American priest, Fr. Paten by name, was going around the world spreading the devotion to the Holy Rosary. He also visited our diocese. At the beginning of his tour in our parishes he was exhorting the people to recite daily at least one decade of Rosary. Very soon he discovered that our people have the habit of reciting daily not only one decade but the entire Rosary. He was very much impressed by the filial love and devotion of our people to our Blessed Mother. While bidding farewell he told us, “I came here to teach you the importance of the Rosary and how and why to recite it daily. Now you have taught me the beauty of this devotion and shown me by your lives how this devotion could maintain and nourish the faith of a people for centuries.”
Last Saturday, on the Feast of Visitation of our Blessed Mother, the Holy Father Pope John Paul II granted me a private audience and received me in his room. I spoke to the Holy Father for about ten minutes and I thanked him especially for his Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae and for his Encyclical Letter Ecclesia De Eucharistia. The Holy Father was pleased to hear that in many of our churches people gather together in large numbers for daily Mass and spend at least a half an hour every day in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and a daily Rosary is a common devotion in our families. I told the Holy Father that in the days of my ad limina visit all my people were united with me in prayer. I offered the Holy Father a Spiritual Bouquet of 500,000 Holy Rosaries which my people agreed to recite for the intention of the Holy Father within the two weeks of my ad limina visit to Rome. The Holy Father was very much impressed by this devotion of my people to the Blessed Sacrament and to the Holy Rosary. The Holy Father told me that he is proud of the faith of our people and advised me to continue to deepen this faith through these Eucharistic and Marian devotions.
I am glad to inform you that the devotion to the Lady of All Nations is also slowly spreading in our diocese. The picture of the Lady of All Nations is solemnly enthroned in four of our churches and many people participate in the novena recited in her honor. The beautiful prayer taught by Our Lady is well received and recited by many people. I have sent a pastoral letter to our parishes explaining the beauty and importance of this prayer. 100,000 copies of this prayer in our language with the picture of Our Lady were printed and distributed all over the diocese. For the last few years, from the time I visited the shrine in Amsterdam, I myself recite a second full Rosary everyday using this beautiful, meaningful and inspiriting prayer taught by our Blessed Mother.
It is true that even today our people are a backward community, a marginalized people. We do have our shortcomings and hardships. As St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians, not many of us are wise by human standards, not many influential, not many from noble families. Yet, “God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are weak to shame the strong; those who by human standards are common and contemptible—indeed those who count for nothing—to reduce to nothing those that do count for something” (1 Cor. 1: 26-29).
Yes, we do have God as our Father, Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit as our Power and Mary as our Mother. Together with innumerable saints we are also members of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church. This is the reason for our dignity, the source of our strength and secret of our happiness.
The Almighty has done great things for us, holy be His Name.
May God Bless each and every one of you!
+ Sooza Pakiam M.