D. S. Amalorpavadass, writer and promoter of new religious education, thinker and organizer of Catholic renewal in India, mystic, Bible scholar, professor: a challenge to you.

Amalorpavadass (1932-1990) was an amazing person. He connected new theology with new ways to do Christian education. A big thrill is that he made the theology-education connection, in lots of ways.

He wanted people to have genuine, authentic faith in God in their context. Not just words or propositions.

To him, the context was a particular society. A particular person is in time, is in a stream of history. We are where we’ve been.

To him, the fullest context was the Divine Milieu, in which human beings are always bathed. “In him we live, in him we move, in him we have our being.” Secular history to him became God’s way of working out salvation for the world. Secular history was salvation history. He borrowed this secular-spiritual understanding from Teilhard de Chardin and Hans Urs von Balthasar.

And, revelation from God came in more ways than the Bible – it came also in the Hindu scriptures. Hadn’t the Vatican Council 2 said so? “The church should acknowledge, preserve and promote the spiritual and moral goods found among these men, as well as the values in their society and culture.”

He was so energetic. His National Biblical Catechetical and Liturgical Centre in Bangalore, south India, was a hive of activity. Thousands of catechists went to their local churches from seminars, workshops, or courses there, trained to work. The “God-with-Us” curriculum, the first catechism ever written specifically for India, came from his centre within a few years of his start.

Thinking right about our challenges can get us moving on the work confidently.

Theological thinkers came from across India to discuss what needed to be done to reinvigorate the church, now that India was independent and free. How could old colonial ways of thinking and doing be left behind.

They worked on answers to questions like: How could the church make a difference to social justice? How could faith be enriched so that Christians serve and love?

Amalorpavadass was so controversial, too. Many lay people held up their hands in horror. People in church offices in Rome did, too. He was Hinduizing the faith. His centre looked like it came from a Hindu temple. You heard chanting when you went by. The windows were full of Christianized Hindu imagery.

The question of Amalorpavadass is not old history. It is today. How do we do the faith to make a difference in a North American context? Are those who place churches in massive shopping malls that are open on Sunday, reaching the culture – or just making their faith fit the “facts”? What could education have to do with forming a faith that matters?

What do you think?

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