FAITH THAT MOVED MOUNTAINS: Article by Dr. (Sr) Mudita Sodder RSCJ, Mumbai

Dr. (Sr.) Mudita Sodder is associated with the congregation, which runs Sophia College, among other institutions. At present she is based at, Tarumitra Ashram and Bio-Reserve Centre, Digha Ghat P.O, Patna 800011, Bihar, India.

She is regular contributor to SILENT VOICE. Her article ,MOTHER OF PERPECTUAL SUCCOUR :  THE MAHIM PHENOMENON is regularly accessed and widely read, topping the list of views till date. We are sure; this article too, will similarly interest  readers.

GREG

SISTER VANDANA MATAJI...

Sister Vandana Mataji

FAITH THAT MOVED MOUNTAINS

9.45 a.m. on 25th February 2013 was the greatest day in the life of Gool Mary Dhalla (Vandana Mataji RSCJ), the Parsee convert who created history in Mumbai way back in 1942. She slipped from darkness into the fullness of Light and Life into the bosom of the Father to enjoy eternal happiness. The words of my earthly father rang loud in my ears, “Don’t cry for me when I die, for I have lived my whole life for that one moment when I shall pass over into the bosom of our Father”. Yes, I rejoice with Vandana Mataji and her home going-the Christian understanding of Death and Resurrection.

In my dictionary, the word co-incidence does not exist, everything is a miracle carefully planned by the Mastermind, God our Creator. Born and brought up in Mumbai with roots in Goan traditions, I was thoroughly “Western”, totally unequipped for an Ashramic lifestyle, much less in Indian Spirituality, except for my conversion to Indianization in 1979, when as a young college lecturer I was sent to NBCLC, Bangalore for a Seminar, where I met Fr Amalorpavadas, who made me realise that skin deep I was truly Indian. I joined religious life in 1981 and as early as 1983 I went for a holiday to Jaiharikhal, Garhwal District at the foot of the Himalayas and again in 1985 I choose to opt for an Ashramic way of life and was sent to live there with Vandana Mataji and help build the Jeevandhara Ashram in Bijnor diocese.

As a young religious barely out of the novitiate, my zeal to do great things for Christ and my curiosity and desire to learn Indian Scriptures served as the only passport to live with this great soul. Vandana Mataji was a prophetess far ahead of her times and as we all know, true prophetesses are not always easy to live with and accompany. I lived with Vandana Mataji during one of the most difficult stages of her life-the building of the Jeevandhara Ashram from 1985-1987. Living with Mataji was tough, at times very trying. One had to be a saint and I was no saint! But God gives one the grace for the moment and I received dollops of grace in abundance.

Vandana Mataji the first Indian to join the Religious of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (RSCJ) in India in 1945, which runs Sophia College for Women, was a trail blazer who illuminated many paths prodding the Church in India to take giant leaps. With her religious formation in England and encouraged by the RSCJ pioneers in India she launched out as a vocalist in Indian Classical music, making it her Sadhana (way to God). With hours of hard practice, she mastered it, starting the Bharatiya Sanskritik Parishad or the Indian Liturgical Music club, slowly pushing it further into religious life i.e. Inculturation, Indianization, an Ashramic way of life and Indian Spirituality. In 1971 she joined the Christa Prema Seva Ashram in Pune-a collaborative ecumenical effort with the Church of North India and in 1978 she began the Jeevandhara Sadhana Kutir in Rishikesh, before which she studied for several years at the feet of Indian Gurus-Swami Chidananda and Swami Krishnananda of the Divine Life Society (Shivananda Ashram). In 1984 she built the Jeevandhara Ashram in Jaiharikhal thus being a pioneer at the National and International level and instrumental in giving the Ashramic Movement and Indian Spirituality in the Church of India a fillip.

Of the multi-pronged gifts, Vandana Mataji was blessed with; two magnanimous virtues stand out obviously which have marked my life for the better. She was a woman of tremendous FAITH and TRUST in God-a faith that could move mountains! I have many such experiences of her faith but I narrate just one which is vivid beyond compare!

I was a very young nun, only a year and a half out of the Noviceship with excellent academic qualifications but totally inexperienced with the practicalities of daily living. Good at gardening with green fingers, polishing and cleaning toilets to perfection, the desire to study Indian Scriptures and asked to be a younger handy companion to Vandana Mataji and God’s grace, I felt armed and courageous enough to opt for the hills and for silence all through the day except from 4.00 to 6.00 p.m. daily. Man proposes and God disposes. Thirteen days after my arrival, Sr Namrataji a New Zealander who was the administrator and treasurer had to leave the country because of visa problems. Mataji was inconsolable. We both hugged each other and cried for long. I finally hesitatingly offered to help out with the RSCJ Society finances. She smiled and before I knew what I had uttered I was made administrator, treasurer, cook and bottle washer all wrapped in one! I had no training nor experience in finances or bulk cooking, neither did I know the language.

Slowly and painstakingly I learned much in the process-how to tell a good brick from a bad one, how much water is to be mixed in concrete cement and the like. But most of all I learnt to have faith and trust in God. Several times there was no money in the Ashram. The construction work was going on in full swing. Every evening the workers would queue up for their wages and I had no money to give them. On one such occasion I kept promising the workers that I would pay them the next day and this went on for a week. Having spent sleepless nights for a week, when the workers threatened to stop work (the lintel was being done) I had no choice but to consult dear old Fr Sepp OMI (an Austrian priest who was helping out with the construction) and plan to go to Delhi with him to get some money from Sr Karuna Mary Braganza RSCJ, our constant saviour.

We both got ready and went early morning with bag in hand to inform Vandana Mataji that we had no alternative but to go to Delhi to arrange for some money. We needed at least Rupees 50,000/- to tide over the immediate crisis as the workers had refused to continue work. Vandana Mataji fired both of us (which she was very good at doing!). “Where is your faith? Trust in God”, she yelled confiscating my travel bag. Having reached the end of the tether and irritable after a week’s nightmare of facing the labourers, Fr Sepp and I both retorted, “To hell with you and your God. We have to face the band. The workers have no money for food. We have to be practical.” She did not listen and would not allow us to go. Hungry, with my head spinning I went to my room; locked myself in and cried the whole day. I had no courage even to come out for meals for fear of having to face the labourers. Fr Sepp did the same.

It was almost dusk. In the stillness of the hills, I heard the sound of a jeep chugging up the bend. Soon there was a tap on my door. “Mataji is calling you”, said a feeble voice. I did not respond. Finally Vandana Mataji came to my Kutir. I opened the door and she handed me an envelope with Rupees 50,000/- enclosed. God had heard her plea. Bishop Gratian Mundadan CMI had pulled up the hills and given her the money. Such was her faith. Fr Sepp and I were both dumbfounded. I could not believe my eyes. The Gospel words; “Even if you have faith as tiny as a mustard seed you can move mountains” became real. To have lived with Vandana Mataji was a huge blessing. I have learnt much from her. In steadfast gratitude I place the programmes I do in Inculturation, interfaith dialogue, Indian Spirituality and the like at her Lotus feet. “By love He may be caught and held, by thinking never”- the words of Meister Eckhart one of her favourite mystics, keeps reverberating in my soul. As we celebrate the year of faith, may each of us be blessed with faith that can move mountains.

Dr (Sr) Mudita Sodder RSCJ, Mumbai, 7th March 2013.

sr mudita

Dr. (Sr.) Mudita Sodder.RSCJ

Blog: http://www.silentmaj.wordpress.com

3 Comments

  1. March 21, 2013 at 3:50 pm

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  2. March 31, 2013 at 3:20 pm

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  3. Silent Voice said,

    April 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Comments Received VIA E Mail

    Thank you for the beautiful write up on Mataji. I discovered only today that Mataji is no more, and is feeling profoundly sad.
    I stayed at Jaiharikhal Ashram in the summer of 1996 for a week. I was with my mother, who was attending a retreat at the ashram. I was a 10 year old kid, not actively participating in the retreat but doing whatever I wanted to. Attending the Savasana classes, picking berries, running around, reading books at the library, cutting vegetables. HAve very fond memories of such a small trip. and I was tolerated and loved. The rings of fire at the hills oppossite and night sky. The statues in the garden. The vert very beautiful prayer room. The cherry tree. So many things. I remember I had bolted off from the walking meditation in fits of laughter, I had found it so funny. All others except Mataji also burst out laughing seeing me. But I was loved and tolerated, inspite of all the discturbances I must have caused. Feel trememendous loss.

    Ashwin A. S.

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