Monday, February 6, 2012

On Priests, Family and Responsibilities

My mother's older brother, Rev. D. S. Pathak, died last week. I imagine there is a lot of rejoicing in heaven right now, even though his immediate family is missing him very much. Of his generation, only two out of seven siblings are still alive.

Below you can see a picture of my mother's family. My uncle is the young deacon on the left. My mother is next to him, pregnant with my brother. My grandmother is next, holding my mother's first-born son (who died when he was five). The remaining are other brothers and sisters, except for the man seated at the very right. That is my father. 

I wouldn't have these old pictures if it weren't for my uncle. He embraced the new technology and after retiring from the day-to-day responsibilities of a parish priest, took upon himself to make family trees. He scanned some of these old pictures and emailed them. I treasure them.

This is a close-knit family. Alas, I never knew my cousins very well because we lived too far away even when we were in India. Money was tight (my mother was alone raising us while my father pursued his studies in the US) and travelling to visit family was a rarity. Later, we emigrated to the US, and money was still scarce when my parents got divorced. My mother did get to go back a couple of years before she died and she had such a good time visiting her brothers and sisters. She brought back many happy memories.

I look at these young faces and see how beautifully their lives have unfolded. They have faced many trials, each and every one of them, but they never lost their faith in God. They trusted Him and His great providence. I hope to walk in their footsteps and meet them in heaven. It is one of my greatest joys that my uncle got to know that I returned to our Christian faith before his death.

Sadly, I do not know all our family history. They were Brahmin priests for generations until one of them converted to Christianity. My mother told me there was always a priest in the family. I do not know if it's true (she also told me that Elvis Presley was Indian and that babies came from belly-buttons). But here is her father -- he became a bishop in the Episcopal church.

What a great responsibility it is to be a bishop or a priest. I am overwhelmed at times at the responsibility I have as a mother. I will have to answer to God how I raised my children. But priests and bishops will have to answer whether they shepherded their flock to Christ. All those souls!

So let us pray for our priests and bishops, and for our dearly departed, that they may rest in peace with our Savior. And let us pray for more vocations to consecrated religious life.


Mirka Breen said...

I loved looking at your old family photos, Vijaya. Your uncle and many others in the photos are smiling now, even if they didn't in the picture.
P.S. Everyone claimed Elvis. In Israel, when I was growing up, many insisted he must be Jewish, because his middle name was Aaron. :) Your Ma was part of a global trend.

Suman Khisty said...

Very beautifully written. I can only imagine what a joyous celebration it must be in heaven every time someone on earth is invited to join in the gathering up there.
Ai's story about Elvis being Indian cracks me up every time I think about it.

hemant said...

A very neat piece, WInkie. As for the priest thingie in the is was Appaji Trimbak Pathak (father of Sadanand Appaji Pathak, the Bishop, & our grandfather) who first embraced the Christian faith (obviously amidst vehement opposition from family & brahmin society)along with Narayan Waman Tilak, and one Deshpande & one Kulkarni (all brahmins)....and this happened on the 10th February (sorry I forget the year), which also happens to be the date on which Appaji was born...(as also our son Unmil), and therefore this date had a special place in Dad's heart...hence the memorial on this his special day...

Faith E. Hough said...

How wonderful that he was able to use his last years to give you a closer connection to your family through his research.
I have two great uncles who are priests (in heaven, now), and--like your uncle, I'm guessing--they had some pretty amazing stories...they were missionaries in Mexico.

Vijaya said...

Mirka, I didn't know that about Elvis. That is so funny.

Baby, my visions of heavenly celebrations always involve mangoes. Is that ridiculous or what? I feel limited with my poor, earthly mind.

Hemu, thanks for visiting and sharing that bit of family history. Now I understand the significance of Feb. 10th. I always wonder about the first conversions, how difficult it must've been to leave your birth religion. By the way, we have a priest from S. India at our parish, and his family has been Catholic for 350 years! Imagine! There are pockets like these in India where the entire village was converted.

Faith, my first emotional response is always that of gratitude.

I can imagine the stories your great-uncles brought home. We watched a couple of movies showing the conversion of people in remote regions of South America and the zeal of the missionaries amazed me. Of course, they were all martyred, but a small band of Christians remained (underground)and kept the faith alive, until new missionaries arrived.

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

Ha ha, Elvis and bellybuttons. In the midst of this solemn and touching post, you made me giggle out loud. I'm sorry to hear about your uncle's death, but it sounds like he lived a full and worthy life. I loved seeing your family pictures!

Ruth Schiffmann said...

I'm sorry about your uncles death. (I lost an aunt this week.) I think it's so helpful to reflect, and how nice to have these lovely pictures to help you do so.

Vijaya said...

Amy, I can laugh and cry at the same time ... I have a feeling that you can too.

Ruth, I'm sorry that your aunt died, and so soon after your father.

Marcia said...

I can really see the resemblance between you and your mother. Also between you and the woman immediately behind her, second from the left in the top row. An aunt?

I have to giggle at bellybuttons. My mother told me nothing, and my friends' mothers weren't any more forthcoming. It's amazing we kids didn't assume it WAS bellybuttons. Of course, that wouldn't explain why men had them. :D

Bish Denham said...

I'm so happy that you have these photos! I know how much they mean. That you are of the Brahmin caste is a testament to your family's religious quest. You are blessed indeed.

May your uncle rest in peace, knowing you have found your way.

cleemckenzie said...

Sorry that you lost your wonderful uncle. No matter how long we have those we love with us, it's never enough time.

Vijaya said...

Marcia, the aunt you mention is my favorite (she died six years ago). And even though I'm logical, it never occurred to me why men had bellybuttons too ... given the explanation my mom gave. It's a wonder I ever found out anything at all ... being a late bloomer and all.

Bish, we are blessed indeed. It is interesting to be with my family when we've visited. Talks generally revolved around ethics and religion. My husband was shocked when the first thing they asked him was about his philosophy of life.

Lee, thank you for stopping by. Yes, time together on earth is always short.

Evelyn said...

Hugs, Vijaya, on the loss of your uncle. I'm so glad he could rejoice with you in your new-found faith. And I'm so glad he shared with you these wonderful family photos. I loved getting to see them. What a wonderful family faith heritage you have!