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Mother of the Forsaken calls every one to her

In a nation where millions feel dejected and forsaken because of the social systems and values, the name itself had a ring in the heart of millions across the north-western state of Gujarat.

Mother of the Forsaken calls every one to her

By Joe Palathunkal
It was the magnanimity of Akbar the Great that paved the way for the first Catholic Church in Gujarat. In 1598 the greatest Indian emperor of the Christian era gave permission to build the church in Cambay, now called Khambat, to two Spanish Jesuits Father Antonio Machado and Paedro Paez who had been working in Cambay since 1590. Little the emperor or the Jesuits thought there would be a vibrant pilgrim center gathering a crowd of more than 50000 devotees every year in the heart of Baroda on January 26. And that is the miracle of Our Lady of the Forsaken at Fategunj, Baroda now known variously as Vadodara and Vadoda.

In a nation where millions feel dejected and forsaken because of the social systems and values, the name itself had a ring in the heart of millions across the north-western state of Gujarat. The millions condemned to be outcastes and impure by a social determinism, naturally makes people feel depressed and unwanted and when the serene looking Mother of the Forsaken looks at them, naturally they feel an yearning to be with her. The loving devotion, the Bhakti saints of India propagated in the middle ages did develop around this Mother of Baroda.

“I feel a lot of devotion in the company of so many people there,” says Robin Varkey who visits the Mother of the Forsaken with his family every year on January 26 and feels very much at home beside the Mother. Whenever I visited the Shrine at Fategunj, I too have felt an unusual peace and serenity within me though my visits have been always on dates other than January 26. I will sit in the shrine with my family gazing at the Mother feeling the gracious look of a Mother who is designated by Pope John Paul II as the co-redeemer with Christ.

And what is curious enough is that, even the arrival of the Mother who travelled all the way from Spain to India itself had a miraculous hue. It was Father Vincent Tena, SJ from Valencia, Spain, who felt the need of a Marian shrine in Gujarat way back in 1930. Then he thought of the staue in his homeland Valencia and asked sculptor Senor Cuesta to create the replica of the statue for Baroda. By the time he completed the sculpting, Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936 and Cuesta was arrested and put in jail and his sculpted statues were destroyed. But this particular one escaped the wrath of the rebels.

The statue reached Bombay on January 26, 1951, and was given a jubilant welcome to Baroda and it was kept at Rosary Church for seven years and later under the initiave and planning of Father T. Campos, SJ, the staue was enthroned at Fategunj, 1 km from Baroda railway station, on 26 Januray 1959. Since then Mother of the Forsaken has been calling thousands of people to her with with her outstreched arms of love. People offer the wax replicas of their body parts affected by illness to the Mother for healing and also as gratitude for the healing they experienced. Unlike other pilgrim centres populated with senior citizens, here a big number of them are young people who are not only Catholics or even Christians but people of all religions. And that is the miraculous power of this Mother who calls everyone to her.

(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)

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