The tragic death of Sr Rani Maria 22 years back is an event that actually manifests a collective level of mourning over our cultural trauma. The beatification of Sister Rani Maria, which takes place on November 4, is an occasion when the Church embraces the whole of human life for the transfiguration of the social order. The given concept of man in India does not offer a language in which these losses can be told meaningfully and with hope. “It is a blessed moment for the Catholic Church in India. The decision of Pope Francis to beatify Sr Rani Maria brings joy to all Catholics in India,” said Mar George Cardinal Alencherry, head of the Syro-Malabar Church. What joy does it bring? Certainly the joy of one more saint in the Church of India. But she certainly is a different saint. She is not like St Alphonsa nor is she like St Euprasia. There is in her neither pious and patient suffering nor spiritual or mystical ecstasy. Rani Maria was a social activist who was involved in the daily life of the marginalized, oppressed and outcastes in the villages of Northern India. She was eliminated by a Feudal system which rules the social order in regions where the Indian Constitution has not entered. Envisioning a new form of humanism which enlightened India needs is being branded as foreign by Hindu fundamentalists with their call to return to caste hegemony.
Christianity is a social Gospel. This social Gospel is a permanent addition and a new stage in the development of the Christian religion and the most important ethical and spiritual contribution to the modern world on the part of Christians. The most influential convictions of modern life have deeply modified our religious thought. The kingdom of God is humanity organized according to the will of God. It is not confined to the limits of the Church and its activities. The social Gospel is always historically minded. As Jan Patočka wrote, “Religion exists once the secret of the sacred, orgiastic, or demonic mystery has been integrated, subjected to the sphere of responsibility… Religion (history) is responsibility or it is nothing at all. Its history derives its sense entirely from the idea of a passage to responsibility.” Today the danger is that knowing so many particulars, we are losing the ability to see the question about what it means to enter history and make it human.
Archbishop Hélder Câmara has made a statement that is both a criticism of the existing concept of sanctity in the Catholic Church and an affirmation of hope in its deconstruction: “When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist.” He stated without ambiguity: “My socialism is special, its a socialism that respects the human person and goes back to the Gospels. My socialism is justice.” A theology of liberation of the Indian masses is from all that limits or keeps man from self-fulfilment, liberation from all impediments to the exercise of his freedom, as well as assuming conscious responsibility for his own destiny. Finally, freeing man from sin, the ultimate root of all disruption of friendship and of all injustice and oppression. Salvation—the communion of men with God and the communion of men among themselves—is something that embraces all human reality, transforms it, and leads it to its fullness in Christ. The mission of the Church in India is unambiguous, to be the suffering servant of God. The Church’s position is never neutral, and any claim to non-involvement in politics is nothing but a subterfuge to keep things as they are. It is to preach sanctity of God who loves humanity, which in turn is to mourn the death of the God of justice. Sr Rani Maria’s life is placed at the altar as a divine work of art and sacrifice. Every sacrifice has its cause in the quest for a sacred instant that routes the culture of violence into more sublime systems of meaning and rich possibilities of life.