|Ante Gabric the Saint of Sundarban in India
|By Fr. Sylvester Xavier |
Croatian Language , People , In Memoriam , Charity , Religion , Croatian spirituality
Fr. Ante Gabrić lived like a Bengali, part 3
Bishop Salvatore Lobo, Bengal, India, concelebrating during the Holy Mass dedicated to Fr. Ante Gabrić, held in the Basilica of Sacred Heart of Jesus in Zagreb on October 20th, 2008. Source IKA
Homily on 20th Death anniversary of Fr. Ante Gabrić SJ on October 20, 2008.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ!
The day reminds me very specially the words of the Jesus from today's Gospel, "I am thee
resurrection and life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die." (Jn 11:25-26) This is an incomprehensible remark: Jesus is the resurrection. Those who believe in him arise from death to life even now; thez have already passed over from death to life like Fr. Ante Gabrić. Anselm Grun, a Benedictine monk, reflecting on the Gospel passage quoted above says, "John thinks that many people are alive, yet dead. They aren't alive. They live only on the surface. But those who believe in Jesus, who understand who Jesus really is, rise now from the tomb of their fear and self-pity, from the tomb of their paralysis and their inhibitions, their darkness and weakness. Resurrection takes place in their everyday life. They arise from narrowness into broad space, from darkness into light, from rigidity into liveliness."
Jesus tells us a story to show what Jesus means by saying, "I am resurrection." Jesus rises up dead Lazarus, who had been lying in the tomb for four days. His feet and hands were wrapped in strips of linen; his face was weiled with a linen cloth. He was lying behind a stone and was already stinking. Those who lie behind a stone for the lack of relationships are cut off from life. For them everything rots away. Everything takes on a bad smell. They have a cloth over their faces. They were a mask. They are bound hand and foot. They are not really free. Resurrection means Jesus' words of love reaching his friend through a stone. A loving word brings a friend to life. It frees him from the mask behind which he hides himself. Resurrection of Lazarus makes it clear that one who believes in Jesus will live, even if he dies. Love will prevent him from falling victim to death. Love is stronger than death. It penetrates any hurdle and lossens up all rigidity.
Fr. Gabrić lived in love of Jesus which he showed through deep life of prayer, sacrifice and his deeds. Only those who experienced him from close by would understand the depth of the love he had for Jesus. He always paid attention to the needs of others. He had a great insight into their minds and hearts.
One day Fr. Gabrić had gone to Kalighat's Home for the dying to meet Mother Teresa. He found her looking after a Muslim who was in a critical condition. He started helping her. While they were busy doing the needful, Fr. Fallon came in with a young Hindu student. A few moments later, as they stood there wainting and watching, the sick man suddenly died. A stretcher was brought to remove the body. As the young student looked on, Mother Teresa, Fr. Gabrić and Fr. Fallon lifted the body and placed it on the stretcher. Fr. Gabrić noticed that the young man was hesitating. A struggle was going on in him. The sight of Fr. Fallon whom he greatly admired and of Mother Teresa whose praise was on every body lips lifting that dead body, had obviously made a deep impression on him. He now saw the two of them move to one end of the stretcher while Father Gabrić stood at the other end. They obviously were about to carry the body away. Something made him feel that he should offer himself as the fourth bearer. But there was in him that deeply ingrained fear of losing his caste: how could he, a Brahmin, carry a dead body? Fr. Gabrić saw clearly that inner confilict on his face. And then the young man suddenly made up his mind, came forward and asked: "Can I help?" Fr. Gabrić at once moved to one side, helping him to take the fourth arm of the stretcher. And so the four of them carried the dead man into a secluded place.
When they laid down the stretcher, Fr. Gabrić heard the young man have a deep sign and matter to himself: "Today I have become human!" And he meanat, of course, a free man, a man who had broken the slackenss of convention and prejudice that separate man from man.
This story certainly shows well how Fr. Gabrić was able to perceive the inmost feelings of people and to empathize with them.
No less revealing is what happened one day, when he happened to see a milkman pour water into his milk can. He smiled, stopped and asked the man: "Tell me, Dada (big brother), what are you selling, is it milk mixed with water, or water mixed with milk?" The poor man mightily embarrassed laughed and said: "What can I say, Father? You understand everything!"
Father had not said anything that could offend that man, had not made any direct reproach, and yet, in a friendly and brotherly way, he had brought home to him the injustice he was committing.
Father Gabrić was "a man of the heart," not intellectual. He read little, only spiritual books. Once he told us: "One wastes so much time reading books!" He lived for one thing: the growth and spreading of the kingdom of God wherever he was sent. He spent himself usparingly in the fulfillment of his various tasks as a pastor. Fater Gabrić - later Cardinal Picachy - who took over from Father Gabrić as parish Priest of Bashtani, onlce told us that, at beginning, he tried to follow the schedule of the apostolic trips of Father Gabrić throughout the district, but he soon had to shorten those trips, it required too much stamina.
Father Gabrić was always moving very fast, he was a man in a hurry, a man driven by the urgency of his task. He often came to Calcutta, but it was always for some apostolic task or other, some spiritual ministry (he gave quite a few retreats), or to fulfill the temporal needs of his people. He did what he had to do as quickly as possible and then back he went to his village. I remember his telling us that once, when he went back to Croatia, he only spent one day with his family and then went about preaching and telling people about his work. His priestly apostolate was his whole life. I have seen him burning with fever, hardly able to walk, and refusing to take rest or to go to mediacal care: there was work to do, work that could not wait. During the last years of his life his body became all-crooked, but he went on working, even at that time he went to America, to Australia and to Europe, where his compatriots wanted to have him for retrets or missions.
His austerity of life was as unassuming as it was thorough. He himself ate very sparingly, but his companions and guests were always well provided for at talk. He was firm believer in the need and faithfulness of fasting. I wonder who slept less, he or Mother Teresa? It would be interesting to make a comparison between those two - their prayer life, the instensity of thier spiritual life, their austerity, their zeal and charity. There was a great communion of heart between them and they haloed each other.
A straking feature of his character was his indomitable cheerfulness. Whatever were the difficulties and trials he had to endure - and there were many - he radiated joy, peace and fervour. He was so comforting, so inspiring to have him with us in Baitakhana. No meal or ever dull with him telling us about the little "happenings" of the day or of the month. After listening to him our hearts were strangely uplifted, stimulated. He truly was a man of the spirit, a charismatic.
Fr. Gabrić lives through the resurrection of Jesus. "I am the resurrectin and the life. Whoever lives and believes in me will never die."
Bishop Salvatore Lobo, India
Many thanks to Fr. Vatroslav Halambek, SJ, Zagreb, for submitting the text of the homily for the readers of the CROWN.
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