St. Thomas and the Church in India

Today is the feast of Saint Thomas the Apostle. He is known as “doubting Thomas,” though he is the only person in John’s Gospel to call Jesus “My Lord and my God.”

According to tradition, after Pentecost he evangelized the people of India and was martyred there. The church he established there has endured to this day. When the Portuguese arrived in southern India, they were surprised to find a flourishing Christian community.

All too often western Christians identify Christianity with its western manifestations. This reminds me of something that happened in Ames, Iowa, many years ago, that some friends shared with me.

There was an Indian family who were members of the parish. He was a professor at Iowa State University. One of their sons became a diplomat.

One day someone asked the wife, “When did your family become Catholic?”

Of course, the answer which followed was unexpected.

“We became Catholics when St. Thomas the Apostle came to India.”

I recall this today in the midst of the trials of the Church in the United States in the face of racism. There were followers of Christ in India and Ethiopia (Acts 9: 26-40) way before any western European heard about Jesus. They are our foremothers and forefathers in the faith.

Don’t forget that.

A Last Supper from Ethiopia

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