As I look back to 50 Golden Years in the Society of Jesus and to 51 glorious years in Gujarat and 71 blessed years of my life, I am filled with much joy and happiness. I also feel love and gratitude to God and to innumerable people. I feel that I am on the top of the world.
In my life I have experienced both agony and ecstasy. I have shed tears of joy. And I have also cried out “Eloi, Eloi, lema Sabachthani?” meaning “My God, My God, why did you abandon me?” (Mk: 15, 34). I have experienced both death and resurrection in my life. Shakespeare says that our sweetest songs are those which tell the saddest stories. That may be true. But I want to share with you not my saddest stories but the happiest stories, my blessings.
My first blessing is my parents and my 4 sisters and 4 brothers. My mother is 97 plus and is going strong. Fr. Alex who met her last month says that she is going to cross 100 years. Great! This year 2014 is the centenary year of my father who died at the age of 85 in 1999. The biggest thing about my parents is that they gave us – their 9 children – the biggest example of love, unconditional love for each other and for each one of us.
It is difficult to believe but it is true as my eldest sister, Sr. Cicily testified in 1983 during the Golden jubilee Mass of my parents’ wedding that we the children have never seen our parents ever quarrelling! I have heard my mother saying more than once that God has blessed our family with more blessings than we can ever ask for. I can certainly say of my 71 years of life, that the Good Lord has blessed me more than I can ask for. I am sure that my two sisters present here – Celine and Lissy – ¬can also testify to our parents’ great love for each other and for each one of us.
One of the most important things, I learnt in the Society, is that it is Jesus who gives meaning to my religious life. I owe it to my novice master Fr. Gregory Gonget for helping me to form Christ centred religious life. Jesus is God’s unconditional love personified for me and for every human being. I am so much in love with Jesus and Jesus is so much in love with me that I have written at least one or more articles every year on Jesus ever since I started writing for the general public for the last 35 years.
A reader-friend and a fan of Fr Valles, a Jain lady Daxaben Sanghvi, once told me that Fr Valles never took the name of Jesus in his writings. But Jesus and quotations from the bible are often present in my writings. I make no secret of the fact that I am here as a missionary to preach Jesus and his message of love.
Another important thing I learnt in the Society, and I owe to St. Ignatius, is the discernment of the spirits. Discerning constantly and seeking God’s will in my life and in my works. My Spiritual Fathers like Anthony De Mello and Joe Aizpun and Jesuit Provincial Superiors like Fr Jose Arana and Bishop Charles Gomes, SJ have been immense help for me in discernment. Constant discernment guide me to look and work for God’s greater glory in everything and experience great joy and happiness.
Some people ask me what I like most in Gujarat. I tell them that Gujarat has given me love, love in abundance. People tell me that I have sacrificed much in leaving home, my parents and everything! I tell them that I have just left only one home & given up a family of my own. But in return in Gujarat the doors of hundreds and thousands of homes are opened for me irrespective of caste and creed!
Thanks to my writings in Gujarati, especially in popular Gujarati periodicals and newspapers, I am known not only in Gujarat but also beyond Gujarat wherever there are Gujarati people. For instance, during my last trip abroad in USA I was called to address the members of ‘Gujarat Darpan Sahitya Sabha’ and also give a radio interview in Gujarati at New York. Then at Toronto too I gave a talk to Gujarati writers of ‘Sabdasetu’ of Canada.
On my previous visit to USA in 2007 a Gujarati weekly newspaper ‘Gujarat Times’, published from New York with wide circulation in USA and Canada, interviewed me and published a profile article saying that Fr Varghese is the most widely read and appreciated Christian author in Gujarati speaking world!
Thanks to my ministry of the Word through DOOT and then through the Indian Catholic Press Association (ICPA) and the South Asian Religious (SAR) News Service as well as through the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP), I got the opportunity to travel widely not only in Gujarat and India but also abroad visiting 35 countries.
So I can say without exaggeration that I find a friend or at least a friend of a friend anywhere around the world. I have found love and experienced care and concern beyond all measures in all my life and ministry. Jesus has shown His love for me and has said to me in the words of Prophet Isaiah, “You are precious in my sight and you are important and I love you” (Is: 43, 4).
Some people tell me that I am a prolific writer. I have written much because writing is my hobby, my passion together with reading and travelling. My passion for writing is constantly fed by my readers who write to me often expressing their love and appreciation. My books get good reviews in literary periodicals.
But my greatest rewards are not my local, national and international awards for my writings but the transforming experiences of people who study our free correspondence course or read my writings. They share with me their transforming experiences of encountering Christ. This is not exaggeration as you have the proof in the peoples’ letters published every year in CISS Annual Reports. Here let me end this sharing with the quotes from the e-mail letters of two of my reader-friends.
The first quotation is from the e-mail letter of Dr Neerav Patel, a well known Gujarati poet: “I read ‘ISU MARI-TAMARI NAJARE’ (What does Jesus Means to You and Me?) in one night. I liked it so much that I wanted to telephone you at about 12.30 in the night. But somehow I stopped dialing halfway, with the thought that shouldn’t disturb you at this hour. I found it extremely well-written, so lucid in style, so nice in diction, and very enriched with fresh content. I am an atheist, I like Christ and Buddha for their humane qualities – namely love, compassion, forgiveness, nonviolence and tolerance. I am happy that the little book has examples of many writers and leaders. You have done a wonderful job, Father. For, you have made Christ – the greatest humanitarian – most loveable. I wonder how a Keralite priest whose mother tongue Malayalam has little to do with Gujarati can write in such flawless chaste Gujarati!”
And the second quote is from Gisel Peter Chang, Panama in South America: “I woke up this morning with a strong desire to read the Bible. Then, I saw your booklet (What Does Jesus Mean to You & Me?) on my nightstand and felt like going back to the last pages. I just want to thank you once again for this gift… Today I have been blessed with your words that refresh my faith with the meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection. The first three paragraphs on page 37 are speaking to me. I thank God for His loving presence.”
I end my musing with a beautiful quotation from Rabindra Nath Tagore in ‘Geeta Panchsati:
“There is suffering, there is death
There the pain of separation
And yet there is peace
And ever emerging endless happiness.”