ENCOUNTERING THE LIVING GOD
As a Jesus Youth of America, one of the first encounters I had with the movement involved the joy and passion of a young mother and wife. When I met Dr. Sindhu Nadarajan, she was a mother of three and nearly fourteen years later, she is the mother of five and just as much on fire for God as she was then, if not more. I think some stories need to be shared, and her story in particular is worth a read. So let’s sit down together with Dr. Sindhu, affectionally called “chechi” and hear how she Encountered God.
Q: So tell us in a nutshell about your childhood and your family.
Sindhu: I was born into a Hindu family, to a father who was a Hindu priest. He maintained a very religious household. However when I was in seventh grade I was shocked to find out that my mother would visit the Shine of St. Anthony near our house for Tuesday Novenas. Incredulous, I remember asking my mom “why do you have to go to the church? We have 330 million plus gods and goddesses!” My mom’s response was that visiting the church gives her so much peace and how much she admired St Anthony who she thought was a God. Something compelled me to check out this shrine and after that I never missed a single Tuesday mass. My only intention in going to the shrine was to pray and beg St. Anthony to get good grades. Meanwhile two of my Catholic friends from school taught me how to pray basic prayers like the Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be. And soon enough, I learned that St. Antony was not God, but only a Saint. Many years later when I had a true conversion and was involved in ministry, my father was okay and he was open to all these things. He loved us so much that he gave us kids the freedom to seek, and he always said that if you seek genuinely you will find the truth! My family could observe that prayer was changing my life, and the loving nature of my Jesus Youth friends who would visit me also impacted my family. Even when I had to make a long trip outside my hometown, my mom would have no problem as long as it was with a JY that she knew!
Q: When did you realize that Jesus is the living God?
Sindhu: It was a slow transformation. I had always heard scriptures being explained when I used to go to St Anthony’s novena in my hometown. I studied in a Catholic school and I had two good Catholic friends at school who taught me the prayers. But, I had a severe faith crisis when I was graduating from high school and became an atheist. I turned to communism as an answer to human suffering, but I was hard pressed when communism fell in Russia. What I leaned on as an answer, was crushed to pieces. The real transformation happened in my encounter with the Eucharist. I went to a retreat at Divine retreat center when I was in 3rd year of medical school. I witnessed that all the miracles that would happen when Mass was being celebrated or during adoration when Eucharist was exposed. So it went deep into my heart that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist.
Q.Tell us a little bit about your journey with the Eucharistic Lord
Sindhu: Before we left the retreat center, we were instructed to go to Mass at least on Friday, Saturday and Sunday; which I decided to do fervently. I started going to the Syro-Malabar (Eastern Rite) Liturgy which was very long. And even though I didn’t understand anything, I still kept going. I wanted to know more about the Mass and I started reading about the liturgy and over time, in prayer, God started revealing the inner meaning of the prayers and rituals. As my understanding of Eucharist grew, I used to cry when people received Eucharist because I could not receive it. I was still not baptized! My friends knew it. They used to console me and say that the day would come when I would be able to receive baptism. I believed it will happen. One day my forensic professor was teaching us about how potassium cyanide works. She said when one drop of potassium cyanide touches human tongue, it will block the oxidation in all the cells all over the bod and within a split second the person will die. When I heard that I thought “if potassium cyanide is that potent how much more potent our Lord Jesus Christ is!?” So I envied how blessed these Catholics are to receive their Lord everyday into their body! So the next day when I went for Mass and as my friend was coming back after receiving Holy Communion a thought struck me – if a person gets an electric shock, the person next to him will also get the shock if they touch him! Much like the hemorrhaging woman who touched the clock of Jesus, I touched my friend believing this and I knew I experienced our Lord. I shared this with my friend who was reduced to tears. So from then onwards, my friends would come to me after Communion and give me ‘Jesus hugs’ and ‘Jesus Kisses”! That’s how I received Jesus for another 4-5 years. Over time, I realized that His desire for us is more than our desire for Him.
Q.Are there any specific experiences with the Eucharist that you would like to share?
Sindhu: Sure, there are two in particular that I am reminded of. During the lent immediately after my first retreat, I decided to go to Mass daily. Once lent was over, I thought I will switch back to the old routine of going to Mass Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Easter Monday came and I had no intention to go to Mass that day. Since I didn’t have an alarm clock, I had told my guardian angel to wake me up before Mass during lent, but I forgot to inform Him about this plan. So he woke me up before mass as usual, but I wanted to go back to sleep. Then I saw somebody sitting by my bedside: It was Jesus. I asked him “why are you here?” He asked me “Sindhu, what’s the purpose of your living?” I told Him “Lord I’m living to come and see you in heaven one day”. He then asked me, “What will you do if you hear that Pope John Paul II is coming to Nagampadam Maidan” (a big stadium near my medical school in Kottayam). I told him “no doubt I will go today itself to get a front row seat”. There was a pause and Jesus looked into my eyes and asked me “am I not greater than Pope John Paul II? And am I not coming to the altar everyday at Mass? And don’t you want to see me daily?!” I cried “yes Lord” and I jumped out of bed and ran to the church. After that 1995 Easter Monday onwards, I started attending mass daily and to this very day the Lord gave me the grace not to miss mass even for a single day.
Q: Did Jesus Youth play a role in your conversion, if so, what role was it?
Sindhu: My encounter with Jesus actually came through my close relationship with friends who called themselves Jesus Youth. They prayed for my conversion even when I used to argue with them about faith matters. After my conversion, they took me to the JY gatherings they went to, and then slowly I was introduced to the JY ministries in campuses and parishes. After my studies, I felt a call to work in the Pro-life movement. But at that time JY was not getting involved in any such social issues. So we, who felt a call to work for life, shared this with the elders in the movement. We all prayed together and everyone got a conviction that we should do something. There were likeminded people – doctors, nurses and engineers in the professional ministry of JY. We came together, prayed together, and made some posters and started giving talks in campuses and parishes in Kerala on life issues. Slowly this developed into a ministry where we would give talks and train people, working very closely with the Bishops Conference. This avalanched into us travelling to other campuses and JY groups in other states in India. Next, I got a chance to visit Taize and attend World Youth Day in Paris in 1997. That gave me a firsthand experience about the universal ‘Catholic” Church. I also travelled many times to Europe and Gulf countries over the next three years for different JY programs. Such exposures gave me a rich formation at such a young age. I got selected into the Jesus Youth Central Team in Kerala in 1997 and 99 before I took baptism. I owe my life to the lives and dedication of many Jesus Youth leaders and elders who invested so much of their time and effort on my formation. So yes, in all honesty Jesus Youth played a critical role in not just my conversion but also by formation.
Thanks a lot Dr. Sindhu for sharing this amazing and inspiring journey with our readers. All of us would be praying for you and your ministry, and may God continue to use you to spread his Good News around the world.