A PROBABLE STORY OF THE SIMPLE FAITH AND CONVERSION OF A SOUTH INDIAN. (From Catholic Missions)
In the year 1874 Father Dupuy a Missionary in India, who related the following very interesting story, was stationed at Trichinopoly as the Catholic Chaplain of the' Central Goal where accompanied by an Indian religious called Thomei, he used to minister to the native Christians of the prison. One Saturday as the priest was entering the ward there stood close to the door a man not a Christian since he had painted on his forehead the 'namani' of Vishnu.
He made a respectful salaam and told Thomei that he earnestly desired to become a Christian.
At first the white Father distrusted him supposing that he had some private views of his own so he would not believe in him nor allow him to attend the religious instructions. The rule of this Gaol forbids the convicts to change their religion while serving their terms. The Father then told Muthuswamy for this was the man's name that he exposed himself to punishment if he does not obey the regulation of the gaol but he insisted in joining the Christians and Thomei after further questioning found that he possessed some knowledge of our Holy Faith and he begged the priest very hard to give him the 'soul cleansing water.'
Some weeks after he fell very ill and sent his convict friends to beg- the white priest to come to him to give him the 'soul cleansing water' as he called baptism. This the priest according to prison rule is forbidden to do, so the good priest carefully explained and instructed his prison friends how to baptise the sick man in case he is dying. But Muthuswamy objected and insisted imploringly on having it from the. 'Swamy' (priest) alone.
He was sinking fast and the good missionary could delay no longer so he went to the superintendant and after some time reasoning with the man, the priest was asked to give the case in writing to be forwarded to the Governor at Madras. The next day a telegram arrived giving full permission to allow the Catholic Chaplian to attend to Muthuswamy. You can imagine the joy of God's minister who directly with his faithful Thomei went to the gaol.
" Ah at last you have come. The Theva Mada (Divine Mother) has not failed me" exclaimed the faltering voice.
All along the priest suspected something extraordinary in this man and so Muthuswamy was asked to tell the story of his life and this is the strange story he related:—
Muthuswamy was a well-to-do man and was very happy. He feared the gods and worshipped them. He was very fond of birds and had some chickens which he used to feed himself.
Then a 'prandoo — an Indian eagle began to steal away his chicks one after another till only one was left. One morning he was going to the forest with a loaded gun when the prandoo swept down and carried off his last chick. Rapidly and unconsciously he raised his gun. Bang!!! and the dead body of the eagle fell. At that moment the horrified man realised what he had done. The idea of having killed his god (for the prandoo was a sacred bird) made him like a mad man. From that day he lost his peace, rest, appetite and sleep.
The horror of the supposed crime increased daily and he began to waste away so at last he ran away from the place and came to Trichinopoly to find peace of mind. On the third day he was arrested falsely accused of murder, brought to gaol and sentenced to 20 years hard labour. To all these false charges Muthuswamy answered nothing, he made no effort to defend himself. He thought that Heaven is surely punishing him for killing his 'god' and readily accepted the punishment in silence to appease Divine wrath.
One night a very extraordinary thing happened and this is what the dying prisoner said:— " No word in my native tongue will express what I have seen. On the wall opposite me I suddenly saw a light—a light different from that of the sun, moon, stars or of fire; all lights are darkness when compared to this and though so bright and beautiful instead of killing one's eyes, it fed and steadied them. And the light filled me with a happiness I had never known before. I went to the wall to touch it but felt nothing except the bare wall so I came back and sat on my mat to enjoy the light which had taken an oval shape.
This mysterious light I drank in with a kind of rapture and joy filled my whole being which no words can describe. I drank in this delight even now I drink it. All of a sudden I began to see in the midst of the light something brighter even. It was a figure of a Queen. That light so beautiful was but a shadow compared to the Figure and the glory round Her." " But how do you know She is a Queen"? questioned the missioner.
" Because I saw and felt it" the dying Indian simply remarked. " Was She black as the Indians or white?"
"Oh Father-in-God, She was neither black nor white. She was light. Then she smiled and I drank in the vision with my eyes, with my heart and with my outstretched hands and with all the power of my soul.
How long She kept me entranced with Her sight I do not know and at last She spoke to me and said:—'Muthuswamy, put aside your grief. The prandoo you killed was not a god but a creature of my Son by whom all things were made. He alone is the true God, all beauty, all bliss, all power, all goodness. From Him I come, from Him is all that is in me, all my happiness and brightness and glory. You have kept the law of your conscience as you knew it. Then you have been put to the trial and found worthy. Therefore I come to comfort you and tell you that you must get the 'spirit cleansning water' from the -Catholic Swamy who constantly comes here. Then you will be the child of God and you shall also be my child and soon you will come into the Kingdom of my Son and with me you shall drink of His glory and happiness forever." Having said this She still smiled on."
When asked what language the vision spoke, straightforwardly the Indian replied. "She spoke no language but She said it to me more plainly than words could say it. Then She disappeared as She had come by degrees and the light also went away very slowly till it had laded altogether, i got up and rushed to the wall.
I scratched the place to make the light come back but it had gone and I shall see it no more till I am with God and the Heavenly Queen. After I went back to my mat and hid my head in my hands and the whole night I drank in the vision in thought and even now.
I slept better and a load was lifted off my heart and my grief was gone. The vision had never been in my life ever seen since and my pain and fear was to die without the ' water that cleanses the soul / " He was bantised John Mary and three days after he died.
- Malaya Catholic Leader, Saturday, March 23rd, 1935 (1935.pdf pp116)