A Bishop's Confession









MEERUT: (2nd October): There are some people that you can't keep down. They are different. So expect the unexpected. Like a bishop making a public confession about his own "sinfulness" before a mammoth congregation! The occasion - his sacerdotal golden jubilee. The man - Bp Patrick Nair, emeritus bishop of Meerut diocese in western U.P.

The organisers of his jubilee had asked him whom he would like to give the homily? Pat came Patrick's reply, that he would do it himself; because if anybody else did it, it would be an eulogy, and he didn't want anybody to tell lies. A dozen other bishops, a hundred priests, several hundred sisters, and thousands of villagers from the remote mission stations had come to praise and thank the Lord for Bishop Patrick Nair.
He said that the day he had been ordained a priest, 50 years ago, was the happiest day of his life; and the day he was made a bishop in 1974 was the saddest. The first priest that he looked up to was an Italian Capuchin, Albert, who, despite having cancer, kept serving to the end. He literally died "in harness" while driving his moped, when he just collapsed with exhaustion.

In his homily Bp Patrick dwelt on how he suffered from the sin of scrupulosity, even thinking that it was a sin to sleep or eat, as they were obstacles to his mission. It led him to depression and to contemplate suicide. He would have done so had it not been a sin. It was another priest friend who guided him out of the depths. He advised his fellow priests to always have a priest friend to whom they could turn for guidance and solace in an hour of crisis. It happens to everybody, so it is better to be prepared. Bp Patrick also expressed concern for the growing number of priests dying in road accidents. Was it a reflection of an irresponsible and reckless attitude to life, he queried? He also shared about how he became lonely at the top. Priests would visit him only to seek sanction for funds! He turned this on its head by going to visit them instead.

The most frightening day of his life was when the Papal Pronuncio told him that he had been elevated to the episcopacy. In vain did he express his unworthiness. But the Pronuncio would have none of it, telling him that he was shirking his responsibility, and going against God's will. That did young Patrick in. He was now at peace with the humble submission to God's will.

Spiritual crises were followed by physical ones. A keen sportsperson, Bp Patrick lost the vision of one eye on the basketball court. A voracious reader, he later began losing his vision in the other eye too, causing him great distress. He struggled to read, using a magnifying glass. The doctors didn't give him much hope. Mother Teresa's blood healed him. When she had an operation for a pacemaker, cotton swabs with her blood were discarded by the nurses. Some devout sisters collected those swabs, and gave one to Bp Patrick. He applied it to his eye, and viola, his vision was restored. The Lord works mightily for the humble of heart.

Besides sports, Bp Patrick is an accomplished singer and musician. Though he enjoys driving, he is even more passionate about cycling. He would tuck up his cassock and cycle all over town.
In his felicitation address, his equally humble successor, Bp Francis Kalist, said that Bp Patrick was known for his straight talk. The word "diplomacy" was not in his dictionary. He had a special love for the poor. Meerut diocese has just 6 English medium schools as against 46 Hindi medium ones. He encouraged local vocations to the priesthood and religious life, thereby building a vibrant local church. Bp Francis said that his predecessor had a deep prayer life and unflinching loyalty to the teachings of the Church. Above all he was a loving father.

Bp Fredrick D'souza of Jhansi, who was with him from his seminary days, said that Bp Patrick was so crazy about sports that even during CBCI meetings he would have his transistor radio on, and would update the other bishops on the cricket score.

Indeed Bp Patrick Nair has scored well on all fronts. He is now 78 not out. His "sin" was his salvation, and the salvation of thousands of others, whose lives he touched in the game of life.