of Asian Missions
THE MISSIONS OF ASIA
A bimonthly missionary letter to foster prayers
- History of the Asian Missions - Catholicism in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
2 - News of our Missions - A summary of the
revival of Catholic Tradition in Sri Lanka - 1985 - 1997.
3 - A Missionary Story in India
- Around the Chalice
For the Missions of Asia:
One Million Hail Marys Daily
- History of the Asian Missions Catholicism
in Sri Lanka (Ceylon)
the end of the XVth century, there are no signs of Christianity
in Sri Lanka. It came with the Portuguese who founded for
their establishments on the coast a mission whose action spread
to the whole island. The mission bore abundant fruit, especially
after the short visit of St. Francis Xavier, in the 1540ís.
As Divine Providence often allows it, violent persecution was
not long in coming to the mission. As early as 1546, 700
Christians were martyred together in Mannar, and among them some
important people such as the very son of the king of Jaffna.
But in Sri Lanka as elsewhere, Tertullianís word came true: sanguis
martyrum semen christianorum, the blood of martyrs is a seed of
Christians. By the end of the same XVIth century, the
number of Catholics had risen to many hundreds of thousand.
By 1628, the Jesuits had no less than 28 houses throughout the
Portuguese forces declining however, little by little the Dutch
Protestants took over all the establishment founded by their rivals
whom they expelled of the island by the capture of Jaffna in 1656.
A new persecution, more violent, more bloody, followed.
Missionaries were expelled, death penalty was pronounced against
whoever would give them hospitality (Sept. 16, 1658).
worship was rigorously banned and hundreds of Catholics were massacred
for their faith. Alone, two Oratorian priests, Fathers J.
Vaz and Gonzales, through wonderful astute and harshest privations,
remained on the island hidden in the deep of forests. At
the same time, true missionaries, they strengthened the true faith
by their examples and by their words in this people fairly numerous
Joseph Vaz, Saint Joseph Vaz, another St. Francis Xavier in the
eyes of the Singhalese, was born on April 21, 1651, near Goa in
India. After his ordination, He got permission to be sent
to Sri Lanka. From Jaffna in the very North of the island
to Colombo and to Tricomali, he visited all the faithful and left
a profound mark everywhere. Two centuries later, missionaries
could still see the fruits of his deep apostolate. He died
in 1711 after a quarter of a century of extraordinary zeal, having
converted nearly 30,000 natives. Soon after his death the
cause of his beatification was introduced in Rome and only concluded
these last years with his canonization by Pope John Paul II.
the late 1790ís, when the English arrived in Ceylon, there remained
about 50,000 Catholics. After some initial hesitations,
the authorities tolerated the Catholic worship. The missionaries
were breathing again. Nevertheless, priests were too few:
barely 20 for the whole island against the wealthy Protestant
missions. The threat for Catholics, more subtle this time
was also more dangerous: it was the frequentation of the Protestant
schools to which they had to send their children, not having any
of their own.
was in order to remedy to this dangerous state of affairs
that Pope Gregory XVI detached in 1834 the missions of Ceylon
from the diocese Cochin in India to which it had belonged so far
and erected it as an Apostolic Vicariate, with its seat in Colombo.
religious congregation that has had the greatest influence is
the French congregation of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the
O.M.I., the same that is well-known for its work with the Esquimos,
in the North Pole. Their founder, Mgr. Eugene de Mazenod
himself, sent the first Oblates. One of them even became a national
scholar in Singhalese, the native language. Of course, other
Orders and congregations have had a share in working on this missionary
Les Missions Catholiques Francaises au XIXe Siecle, 1905,
Tome 2e, pp. 125-182.)
- News of our Missions
summary of the revival of Catholic Tradition in
Sri Lanka - 1985 - 1997.
August 1985, at the request of a group of faithful, a priest of
the Society of St. Pius X came to Negombo, North of the Singhalese
capital, for the first time. During the following ten years,
other priests continued serving this new field of apostolate,
on their way in or out of India. From 1993, the priest came
monthly from the Philippines. (Although the Societyís priory in
South India is only 30 minutes flight away, visa complications
required the visiting priests to come from Manila, 8 hours flight
away!) In 1994 a legal association was formed in view of
a foundation which was to take place then. However it was
postponed and only took place in August 1995: St. Francis Xavier
Mission, in Negombo. Two French priests were appointed and
a Filipino Brother. At first, the mission remained humble,
with 20-30 faithful at Mass; however, in that small number there
were already hopes of priestly and religious vocations.
October 1995, the attendance raised to 70, and a catechism was
started for about 20 children. Attacks from Conciliar church
were not long in coming which nevertheless served the cause by
spreading the news of the foundation.
October 1996, the first Singhalese priestly candidate entered
the Societyís French Seminary of Flavigny.
in April 1997, Sunday attendance reaches regularly 100-150 and
the number of children for catechism has doubled. Moreover
two Franciscan Sisters have now returned to Tradition and as well
as giving classes to children, provide a dispensary for about
- A Missionary Story in India Around
Denys came down from his motorcycle happy as ever. His Superiors
had just sent him to this little Indian village to take care of
a very poor mission on the banks of the Ganges river. It
was December 8, feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed
Virgin Mary and the small group of faithful welcomed him with
cries of joy.
village did not yet have its chapel but one of the local huts
had been converted to receive the faithful and the priest.
Everything was done properly. As there was no altar, a traveling
box fulfilled this office surrounded by rich Indian embroideries.
The people had also brought flowers and palm leaves. In
the middle of all, six brand new candles were waiting the burn
for the Lord.
were no bells. The gong, very common in these places, replaced
them easily. The missionary placed the portable altar stone
and the altar cloths; he took his white vestments from his bag
and, having called all the faithful, he proceeded towards the
altar. A tall Indian who had done the weirdest things in
his life and knew as well how to answer the Latin Mass walked
devout faithful sang with all their heart. Father gave a
fervent sermon on the Gospel ó of which not a word was lost as
souls were starving for the Word of God. The singing continued
during the Offertory as it was the custom there. After the
consecration when the heads looked up at the altar again, all
the prayers stopped abruptly in everyoneís throat. The children,
all gathered near the altar on the sandy ground, were pointing
to the altar with frightened eyes.
however, was peacefully praying. He recited the Pater with
his eyes fixed on the Sacred Host. "Et ne nos inducas in
tentationem" whispered the servant so softly that it could barely
be heard. Immediately, rising without noise, with the agility
of a panther, he pressed his long fingers on the arm the priest.
"For Godís sake, do not move at all and breathe as gently as you
can," The server said.
Naturally the priest turned his head.
The Indian repeated, "Donít move, donít move!"
gilded paten leaning on the altar near the corporal then trembled
in his hand. He too had seen. A snake, small, but
of the most venomous specie, had crawled out of the flowers brought
there and, slowly, was zigzagging towards the middle of the altar.
horrible little beast slid under the priestís hand, touching the
paten, bumped against the consecrated Host and erecting itself
in front of the chalice repeatedly tried its dart. Obviously
the vivid gold of the chalice was fascinating it. After
a moment, the snake got closer and with its head erected, rolled
itself around the chalice.
Pale, absorbed in a silent prayer, Father Denys knew that
the least movement could be fatal for him ó one sting of the snake
would send him to the grave in less than one hour. He was
Indian servant had quickly left the altar and had gone out of
the hut with a man to whom he had nodded. He came back shortly
after with a flute and some scissors and resuming his place at
the foot of the altar he began to play the monotone and ever repeated
complaint of snake-charmers.
animal, still rolled, ceased to climb towards the Precious Blood.
other man had also come back. He was bringing a little bowl
filled to the brim with milk. The servant, put down his
instrument, took the bowl, brought it on the altar at the end
of the epistle side and without wasting a moment, resumed his
flute and continued his calming melody.
of a sudden, the snake let go the chalice, fell back on the corporal
and slowly, obviously disturbed, headed towards the white liquid
so loved by all reptiles. Its head disappeared soon in the
bowl; it forgot all the rest.
the Indian, leaving his flute, grabbed the opened scissors and
leaped towards the reptile. A string of blood reddened the
altar cloth and the animal rolled off cut in two at the foot of
was all over. The priest could continue his Mass.
morning he prolonged his thanksgiving after Mass for a good while.
any case, Father," said the old server, "in any case, you are
lucky that I was once a fakir and a snake charmer! Donít
you dare reproach it to me again!"
missionary began to laugh and as he had all his faithful around
him at that moment, he said: "Do you know what I was thinking
a moment ago in spite of my great fear? This snake rolled around
the chalice reminded me of the serpent of Paradise."
"Yes, Father, the devil around our souls,"
added one of the catechism children.
"The devil around our souls, yes. Watch
out for him!"
day, Father Denys did not have to say anything else in order to
Les Annales de la Propagation de la Foi, Quebec, vol: 15, no.
the Missions of Asia: One Million Hail Marys Daily
As An act of faith in the all powerful
intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mediatrix of
all Graces, and as a token of missionary charity towards
the very great number of souls in Asia,
I wish to pledge ____ decades of the Rosary everyday
"For the Missions of Asia"
I understand that I need not necessarily add extra prayers
but that simply need to add that intention "For the Missions
of Asia" to my usual daily prayers.
Send this form (or a copy) to: Father
Superior, Our Lady of Victories, 2 Canon Road, New Manila,
Quezon City 1112, Philippines.
The progress of this ongoing spiritual bouquet will
be related in the future issues of the Missionary Letter.
As of May 1, 1998, around 250,000 Hail Marys are being
said daily for this intention. This letter
will be sent free of charge to all those who pledge to
pray "For the Missions of Asia". (Those who
attend Asian Mass centers can get their copy there.)