Magician priest hails a real miracle


Pilar, India: Father Ivan Madtha, a priest and magician from Mangalore, captivates his audience with the full range of familiar magic tricks.

During his regular shows, he conjures light, water and flowers from an empty box in a representation of the Creation. He cuts people in three, floats in mid air and reappears among the audience after being chained and locked in a box.

But Father Madtha says what he does is commonplace compared to the miracle of his own survival.

Four years ago, he was given up for dead after being accidentally jostled by a crowd at a Mumbai railway station, and falling under the wheels of an oncoming train as a result.

He broke several bones, and lost his left arm and two fingers on his right hand. Doctors did not believe he would live, and even if he did, they said he would not be able to bend his left leg for more than 60 degrees.

"Now I can bend 115 degrees," the priest said, showing his healed leg.

The priest said he recovered rapidly after relatives and friends prayed along with Catholics of Mangalore diocese. Instead of the six weeks doctors said he would be on a ventilator, he was breathing on his own after only four days.

Father Madtha said that on regaining consciousness, he saw his left arm missing and right hand bandaged, but never thought his magician days were over. "I ought to have been devastated but nothing of the sort happened. I simply accepted it in my stride without any qualms," he said.

The priest recalled a Hindu surgeon telling him his recovery was miraculous. "There's power of God in your life, without which you could not have survived," the doctor told the priest.

Father Madtha said that after the accident he had to learn to walk and use his battery-operated artificial hand. "Not once did I lose my faith in God," he asserted.

Before the accident, he used to give about 100 shows a year with at least 1,000 people at each performance.

"My inspiration came from my family, but fellow priests and the bishop recognized and promoted my talents," said the priest, who became a member of the Indian Magic Convention in 1997.

"My magic is a special vocation from God," he said.

After the accident, he had to remodel some tools to adjust to his handicap. He now has an assistant to do what his left hand used to do on stage.

The battery for his artificial arm costs 60,000 rupees (US$1,250), which he says is "quite prohibitive." The priest said he does not want to go begging for donations.

For the past two years he has performed magic without the battery and has "learnt to live with it."

Despite the handicap, Father Madtha continues to be much sought for his inspiring talks at retreats and seminars, and of course for his magic acts.

"Hearing my story, people's faith in God has soared sky high. They get courage to endure their sufferings, become stronger in their faith, and inspired to do more seeing that I do so much with just three fingers," added the priest.

- By Bosco de Souza Eremita