John P. Martin
Note on August 8, 2018:
During my three years in India from 1991 to 1994, living among a mostly Hindu population in and near Calcutta, I wrote this for a bulletin that was published in India by Father Albert Nambiaparambil for an interfaith conference, in Kanyakumari, Tamil Nadu, India, about 1993. This is the town at the very southern tip of the South Asian sub-continent and thus a very sacred place for Hindus.
By birth I am son and brother. By culture I am Irish‑American. By faith I am Catholic. By profession I am a missionary with Maryknoll. By role I am a priest.
In the pilgrimage of my adult life, I have experienced the challenges and the fruits of assimilation of the cultural and religious traditions of Catholic Mexico, Muslim Bangladesh and Hindu India, having spent 20 years overseas in thus answering the call of God in my heart. I have lived with and ministered to the Mexican people in my priestly role. I have tried to be brother and friend among my Muslim brothers and sisters in Bangladesh. I am presently sojourning in India in response to the call of the Spirit Within to taste the fruits of adaptation to the Hindu culture of the Bengali people.
There have been times, like on my present pilgrimage, when I am quite sure that this is what the Spirit is asking me to do, but I do not know what is the full meaning and purpose of this pilgrimage. So relying on this intuition for the most part, I must needs be faithful to the Call Within and be discerning with others without.
Then there have been times when it seems that the Spirit Within breaks through the artificial barriers around my consciousness to reveal messages, visions and images to me. One such vision came to me about 15 years ago in Bangladesh, but I forgot about it in later years. Only now has its value been revealed to me, for it seems that that vision has been slowly but surely at work in my life unconsciously. Through a recent process of reflection on my past journals, it dawned on me that my behavior now can be explained in terms of that vision.
Mine was a variation on the great cosmic vision of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin who wrote of the evolution in consciousness of all beings from the state of pure matter, through basic life forms, to living beings and eventually to human consciousness, and even to a higher dimension of super‑consciousness. He spoke of an Omega Point as the ultimate culmination of this evolution of all beings into a permanent state of super‑consciousness.
I somehow did not see the peculiarities of my life experience being adequately expressed in his terms, although in some implicit sense they probably are. What about my experiences of adaptation to and assimilation of various religious and cultural traditions? I asked myself. I have been experiencing some of the peculiar traits of several different traditions, both in their positive manifestations as enjoyable and rich fruits, as well as in their negative ones as problems and defects. I know that I have grown and matured in so many ways in body, mind, heart and spirit over the years of my association with all these peoples. I have the consciousness of being a person with many "homes" on this planet. Far from being a senseless dispersal of vital energy, I believe that my life experience is rather a channel of union, of communion, of communication among those who would not otherwise know of the peoples whose home I can claim as my own: all my relatives and friends, brothers and sisters in the USA, Ireland, England, Mexico, Bangladesh, India and other scattered countries.
From my experiences in cross‑cultural adaptation, not to speak of my upbringing in multi‑cultural America, it became obvious to me that one particular cultural group or religious tradition gets recognized by others for having elaborated to a high or ideal or maximum degree some trait or defect of the human person and of society. Just look at the ethnic jokes, stereotypes or praises that are elicited from us with respect to another cultural or religious group's behavior, values and traits.
It seems to me that those positive and negative, enhancing and diminishing traits are so many facets of humanity's on‑going global attempt to develop to the fullest the particular heritage of genes and environments that each cultural group and religious tradition has been endowed with. As such they also constitute that particular group's gifts or warnings to the rest of humanity as to what lies ahead when their peculiarities will have been assimilated into the broad stream of humanity's evolutionary thrust forward to the goal of becoming a New Humanity.
Every culture today is a facet of the face of God and of the fullness of humanity. Every faith tradition is but one facet of the fullness of humanity's response to God/Brahma/Allah/Yahweh, etc., called and destined to complement one another by their particular gifts of understanding and symbolization of their relationship with the Absolute Reality. For is it not already written in our hearts that all the peoples of the earth are called to live together as one family of God in harmony and peace, love and respect?
So my vision was one of acquiring lived experience with other peoples, of being enriched by living with them and of sharing those riches with still others. I worked for 5 years in the USA doing precisely this sharing. It also implies a commitment to diminish the power of the negative demonic impulses that one discovers in oneself and in those peoples. This will hopefully enable me to affirm and encourage others who are implementing this same vision to continue to contribute their lives to the creation of a New Humanity.
For this New Humanity in its fullness is the goal that attracts me and motivates me forward to Its realization. It is actually already taking place in a multitude of encounters among people globally: persons who marry outside their original culture or religious tradition; business people who negotiate ways for international economic exchanges; military people who sacrifice themselves for maintaining and enforcing peace abroad; diplomats who work to settle disputes and arrange international accords; tourists who go abroad to learn about other cultural groups with appreciation for their riches; lovers of other cultural groups who live there or visit often and maintain relationships with such friends, there or at home; those hordes of people who are forced to migrate to remake their lives; and all believers and religious leaders who strive for peace, justice and harmony among peoples of all cultures and faith traditions. In short, anyone who helps to enhance mutual understanding, respect, problem solving and cooperation across cultural and religious lines.
My vision then is one of a cross‑fertilization of each and every cultural and religious group with the best of the gifts achieved and the hard‑learned lessons of every other human grouping, with a view to us all becoming one great super‑planetary Family of God of whole and holy, integrated and developed human persons and societies.
I would like to add a footnote to express this vision in terms of my Christian faith tradition. In faithfulness to this vision, I would have to alter the conventional Christian way of describing the end of humanity as a cataclysmic humanity‑ending unexpected intervention from Without by God, after which, or so that, Jesus will come again in glory. I see the above realization of the super‑planetary Family of God to be identified with the Parousia or Second Coming of Jesus from within humanity. That fully realized super‑planetary Family of God will be the Risen Jesus' Cosmic Body in its Second Coming.
Post script: I am in the process of writing a number of essays on many sub-themes of this Vision theme. I have finished one of 8 pages, in case you are interested.
AN ESSAY ON MY VISION
John P. Martin
My very first encounter with the Bengali people took place on the morning of December 7, 1975 in the town of Barisal, Bangladesh. I had just arrived there the night before from Dhaka the capital of the country on a long pleasant river trip on a colonial era rear paddle steamer. It was not a pleasant encounter at all. In fact it was the harshness of that encounter that stuck with me for many years thereafter. The first Bengalis that I met were only men, for women were not used to walking on the streets in this Muslim country. Their leering eyes and loud jeering mouths denoted a level of aggressive behavior towards me that I was just not ready to handle. I don’t know if they meant to be aggressive, but I picked up as aggressivity their response to this lonely white foreigner walking through their midst down the road. They managed to breach my self-protective walls and get inside me and rummage around uninvited. The result was a severe culture shock experience that left me with some dramatic shifts in my personality, as I found myself forced to live more on the feminine than my usual masculine side. Since I was not accustomed nor prepared nor guided in any gradual manner to live this way, one of my usual reactions to such a trauma was to get intimidated and depressed.
John P. Martin
I have this thing about discovering sacred places and being called to honor them, usually by some meditative circumambulation or breathing. This is a practice that I assimilated from its own native environment and was not taught by anyone during my ten years of living in South Asia. I honor what is at my right side as Indians do, by using the right hand for feeding oneself and such honorable tasks, and leaving the left for self-cleansing and other less honorable tasks. (Don’t you ever pass anything to another person with your left hand! That would be a supreme insult.) So I will approach any place sacred for others, and by solidarity for me too, and will circumambulate it with my right side facing the sacred place, walking clockwise, to honor the place and the people associated with it, past and present.
John Patrick Martin was born of Irish immigrant parents in New York City in 1939, partaking of their Irish culture, proudly. At age twelve his inspiration to become a foreign missionary carried him through 11 years of seminary to ordination in 1966 and a first assignment to Mexico. He dedicated himself to his priestly ministry Learn more...