Monday, October 13, 2008

Sister Alphonsa's Canonization and a Media Orgy in Superstition

YESTERDAY WE Malayalees and our Catholics got our first home grown saint after 2000 years. We do deserve this honour, being one of the first Christian communities in the world. The media played it up, in fact the media became so excited with the event that they went overboard in their coverage.

As I watched the live coverage of the events in various news channels, I could not but be concerned about the kind of message the media overkill might be sending to the world: The 24 hour channels had nothing much exciting to report for most of the time, as the holy mass is a long drawn, unexciting event and so the media got hold of anyone who had a story to tell; atKutamalur, Bharanangaanam and Rome. Yesterday being Sunday and sitting at home, I spent most of the time watching TV. Here are some examples of the coverage I witnessed:

1. A Malayali lady from Rome, on NDTV described about her relations with the saint; how she did a miraculous thing for some of her relatives. She said Sister Alphonsa was a close relative and one of the girls in the family had some disease and her aunt or grandmother or somebody came to Bhranangaanam, where the good sister is buried, and told Annakkutty: "Edi Annakkuty, this is our girl and you better do something to help her out, do it fast and I don't take no for an answer..."

No wonder, the terror-stricken Annakkutty, even as she was lying in her grave, lost no time to use her influence with higher ups and got it done.

2. Then at Bharanangaanam, where there was huge excitement, I saw on Manorama TV another young man, who said he too was related to Annakkutty. He too had a story of a miraculous cure:

His daughter had some problem and when medicine failed Annakkutty came to the rescue...

3. Then some channels showed the family of the boy who was miraculously saved by prayer because of Annakkutty's intervention, which led her to the sainthood.

There were so many such instances of sheer superstition put on air without even a question as to whether all these claims can be true, whether it was wise to keep peddling such superstitions in the name of faith. I realized that in this media-controlled world, God, as it used to be in the past, was not a distant one, so far away and talking in the voice of thunder and lightning any longer; but a real and tangible presence in our drawing rooms and He is available just as the veejays on TV, pick up the phone or send anSMS to Annakkutty or Mariyakkutty or whatever...

I am sure such indiscriminate claims of miracle cures could add a few more diseases to our society whether we like it or not. In fact I think the media excitement over the miracle cures done by the new saint may be of greater help to Pentecostals(who refuse medical treatment as they are sure prayer would do the trick), than to Catholics (who have set up some of the best super-speciality hospitals and run some of the medical colleges inKerala). Perhaps it might also help develop some new business avenues for those close to the saint as people were making such absurd claims as I cited above.

The point is that the Catholic Church used to be more prudent in the past making saints out of people only centuries after the death of the concerned ones. A faster canonization could throw up so many touts and small time enterprises in this world of influence-peddling and professional lobbying, I am afraid.


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poor-me/പാവം-ഞാന്‍ said...

This is afamily problem of christians and if you blv ok else you just leave it. thats all.No body can give guarentee for all the things happen in this world. As such we cannot answer ''which happened how'' type question.As lomng as no body try to make us under knife point we just leave the blvrs just like that.

Unknown said...

N Muralidharan writes in an email:

Hello Chek,

I was going through your piece on the media hype over Alphonsamma's
canonization. After all, she is the first home-grown saint from
India, and, that too from Kerala. It could be a moment of joy for
Marthoma Christians. What about the two-month-long media play-up
of the yearly Sabarimala pilgrimage. And how, about the day-long Attukal Pongala. Also, the month-long Ramadan fasting.I think, the Marxist-controlled channel beats others on these occasions.

Murali, PTI