My first acquaintance with the Church of Rome was through the study of Fr. Chiniqy's book "Fifty Years in the Church of Rome." I could not believe that any section of the Church of Christ which He has purchased with His precious blood could be so corrupted as that described by the author. I became anxious to find out the truth. The opportunity came when in St. John's Boys Christian Hostel in Agra we had a new warden in the person of Rev. J. Kingdon, an Anglo-Catholic in his views, and a man of prayer and given to much devotion and meditation and of an exemplary character. Under his guidance, worship in the Hostel Chapel became ritualistic, and some of the canonical hours of the breviary were also observed. All these roused my interest in the Roman Church. Later on, when I joined the college, I had a better opportunity to study its doctrines. Not far
from St. John's College was situated St. Peter's College, with its imposing cathedral of the Immaculate Conception and the palace of the Archbishop of the Roman Church. In my anxiety to acquire first-hand information about the teachings of the Church of Rome I began a systematic study of its doctrines under the guidance of the Fr. H. Norman, the then Rector of St. Peter's College, Agra.
The Church appealed to me as the most ancient of all existing churches, which can point to a long line of heroes who have kept with perfect accord and unwavering trust the faith which was committed to her, and which has produced a succession of confessors and martyrs who in all ages through suffering and death have proclaimed a sound theology and condemned all errors and heresies which have sought to destroy the true teachings of Christianity. It has endeavoured by impressive ceremonies, and eloquent preaching and immortal chants and hymns to exalt Christ, and purify the moral and religious life of her people. She counts by thousands such illustrious saints who have worshipped at her altars, noted theologians who have confuted heresies, a long line of martyrs who for the good confession of their faith were thrown before wild beasts or were condemned to die at the stake. In fact, in whose life all the sufferings which the writer of the Hebrews ascribes to saints of old were repeated, for they also had trial of cruel mockings, scourgings, and they were also stoned, sawn asunder, slain with the sword, and who also were destitute, afflicted, tormented, they wandered in deserts and in mountains and in dens and caves of the earth. Moreover, among her faithful sons she counts many missionaries by whose efforts heathen nations have been christianized. Such were my sentiments regarding the Roman Church.
Further, she appealed to me also on account of her being a historic Church, counting the line of Popes reaching to St. Peter, the chief of the Apostles. The Anglican Church had taught me that a necessary qualification for a Church to be a Church of Christ and its ministers validly ordained was that it must he Apostolic in the sense that its heads must be in direct succession of the Apostles. Who but the Church of Rome at the present time could make a better claim to this Apostolic Succession? Further, my own disposition from early childhood was to regard with reverence the life of renunciation and the monks and the religious priests of the Roman Church, with their threefold vow of obedience, chastity and poverty which their priests belonging to Religious Orders have to take, impressed me very greatly.
The central thing, however, which in the teachings and practices of the Roman Church led me to become an adherent of it was its emphasis on the death of Jesus Christ. In the centre of the religious life of the Church of Rome stands the suffering of Christ. All through my own religious experience I have been greatly influenced by this aspect of the Gospel of Christ - His death. This was the main attraction in my first reading of the Gospel as a Muslim, and which eventually led to my acceptance of Christianity. In the early days of my conversion in my own English Bible I marked the word 'blood' with red ink from one end to the other. I wanted to worship at the altar where the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, in a mystical way, was perpetuated by the priests every day in the Mass.
Finally, I made known my decision to join the Church of Rome to my friends who had supported me
materially from the time I became helpless and to whom I owed much of my spiritual progress in life. I was at that time a student of my final year in the B.A. class of the College and the continuance of my education depended entirely upon the support which I was receiving from its funds, and yet they put no obstacle in my way and offered no difficulty in carrying out my decision. Canon T.D. Sully, later Principal of the College, then an acting Principal, was the only one who on behalf of the Christian staff of the College had a talk with me, but he showed no resentment and did not even argue the point. What he said, and how he prayed with me, left a deep impression upon my mind and, along with some of the letters which I received then from my Protestant friends, were really the factors which ultimately proved to be the cause of my return from the Roman Church. It is true that in my enthusiasm what Canon Sully had said, and the contents of those letters were ignored, yet through these was planted a seed in my heart which did not fail to bear fruit and which finally guided me to the truth of the evangelical church. These letters are good samples of the expressions of a Christian heart. Here is one from my friend Mr. F. W. Steinthal and I take the liberty of quoting a good part of it:
MY DEAR JOHN : "I am afraid you are wondering why I am delaying so long in answering your letter of 13th Nov. Do not believe, anyhow, that it is because your letter offended me or in any way alienated my heart from you. It did not, and I hope D. V. nothing shall. The letter did not reach me until the 22nd as we were at Asansol at an Indian Christian Convention where I wish you had been too. I met there with a dear old Christian of 83 years,
who 26 years ago left the Roman Church, because he did not find the life of God in it, and until now is rejoicing in the realisation of God's love in Christ and the power of His Holy Spirit as he has found it in the Protestant Church. He might have taught you a little more of what the Roman Church is, in reality, not in books and not in your dreams. He would first of all have taught you: Do not join a church you do not know. The Roman Church is not a doctrine, not only a system either, it is a practical reality, which the man who joins it makes himself coresponsible for.
"You say that you have changed your faith. Please God you have not. I trust you have not. Your faith has been till now in the living God and Father, in His Son, Jesus Christ, your Saviour, and in His Holy quickening and sanctifying Spirit. If you change that faith, then you put yourself outside the fellowship of the Saints, and then indeed you will break asunder the tie that binds us together. But because you change your doctrine and your church communion, do not say, you change your faith. Though this is what your new teacher will teach you, not openly to begin with, but nevertheless it is the real doctrine of the Roman Church and the inevitable consequence of the system: nulla salus extra ecclesiam, i.e., there is no salvation outside their Church. And this you have to consider, that in joining Rome you put all the Christians with whom you have spiritual fellowship in Christ, outside the pale of salvation. Are you really ready to do this?
"You say, that hitherto you have only had a strong belief; not till now have you found the Christian life! how can you say that? Have you forgotten
all the blessed experiences of God and His fellowship you have had during these years? Was it the Blessed Virgin, that gave you that? Was it the apostolic succession that inspired you and quickened you, when you were discontented? Was it the priest's absolution, that gave you Peace, when you knelt at the cross? My poor friend, do you not see how you worship the creature instead of the Creator, how you bow down before men instead of resting in God and Him alone. And you are not true to yourself in denying your previous experience? Do you believe, that what you now in your imagination take to be the only true experience will fare any better in the critical light of another mood next month? That is what makes me sad, your lack of faithfulness to Christ. Is His grace not sufficient for you?
"And the dream of your youth! The call with which you have been called to give your life to lead your own people to Christ - do you think that Roman ceremonies and idolatry and apostolic succession will make the gospel of the crucified one more attractive or palatable to them? May God be merciful to you, lest you should fail to be obedient to the heavenly vision."
The letter contains sufficient argument to prevent a man from joining the Roman Church but I was so obsessed with the idea of the truth of the Roman position that no argument was of any use. The letter warns as to the position of the Roman doctrine concerning the churches outside its communion: Nulla salus extra ecclesiam, and asks if I am ready for this. Ready? I had already done that! I had gone so far already in my enthusiasm for the Roman Church that I had written to my friends who had helped me
hitherto in my Christian life in a strain that implied that they were outside the pales of salvation and in danger of eternal damnation, and this of all friends to my dear godfather, Mr. J. H. Hickinbotham, and what he wrote to me now makes me blush with shame for my audacity, and I read in his acknowledgement of my impudent letter the heart of a true Christian, yearning for the spiritual welfare of his son whom he had begotten in Christ. He writes:
MY DEAREST GODSON:- When I got your letter yesterday I could not help saying 'Laus Deo.' You have never disappointed me and I always praise God for your steadfast love and faith in Jesus Christ. I know that you want to give Him your life, time, abilities and have been seeking to serve Him in the way most to His glory - all of Thee and none of self.
"It was such happiness to hear of your love. You know that you wrote me a letter just before your Baptism. I still read that letter and look on it as one of my most valuable possessions. You speak of some of your friends and relations in God as being according to the Catholic belief outside the Church and salvation and these were the people 'who taught me the truth of Christianity.' Surely there must be a mistake somewhere? Keep on praying, God who loves us will show us the way in which to walk."
All the entreaties of my good godfather and sound arguments of my friends were of no avail. I had formed an exaggerated idea of the dedication of my intellect to God and Christ, as already stated, and I refused to listen to what others had to say on the decision that I had made to join the Roman Church.
I had come to the conclusion that I must submit myself to the living oracle of God om earth, the Holy Catholic Church, without any quibbling or reservation. Therefore on the day following the great procession of Corpus Christi in 1921 I was received in the Roman Church by receiving what is called conditional baptism followed by my first communion, and subsequently by receiving the sacrament of Confirmation by the laying on of the hands of the Archbishop Angelo Poli of Agra, taking the name of Aloysius. After serving for sometime as a teacher in St. Peter's College, Agra, an institute run chiefly for Roman Catholic boys of the European and Anglo-Indian community, and after helping the fathers in missionary work, I was accepted by the Archbishop of Agra as a candidate for priesthood. Arrangements were made with Fr. Norman, who was then stationed in Muttra, for me to go through preliminary teachings and to acquire sufficient Latin to be able to go through a training for the priesthood in a Seminary in Kandy or Rome. In Muttra I practised austerities voluntarily, for none were imposed upon me. I swept the Church, dusted the statues, took diligent care that the sanctuary lamp never went out, assisted the priest at Mass every morning and tried to learn my Latin.
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