Monday, May 05, 2008

Seattle is Graced by Potta

At last, Potta came to town! After numerous practices and painstaking planning by the Indian community at the St. Louise church in Bellevue and participation by Joe Thomas on behalf of the local Mayalee association, a weekend retreat was held facilitated by 4 inspiring members of the Divine Retreat Center in Potta, Kerala, India: Rev. Father Mathew Naickamparambil (who founded this remarkable institution); Rev. Fathers Antony Thekkanath and Martin Kalamparambil, who have just launched a mission in New Jersey; and Rev. Sister Therese Varakullam.

For myself, who is unfamiliar with an evangelical manner of prayer, it was an eye opening and invigorating approach. I can see how on the one hand, it can be very appealing, much more personal, and drive people to be in the moment when it comes to prayer and one's engagement with their religion. For others, it is probably too much, as it runs counter to say, the highly organized structure of a Catholic mass. (The closest analogy that comes to mind is someone who plays trumpet under the strict guidance of a conductor in a symphony, then tries to shift gears to the largely self-guided improvisation of a jazz quartet.) Independent of the format, the weekend was packed with a great deal of thought-provoking content and scores of examples to re-affirm that a mystical side of life does exist to those who choose to believe and immerse themselves in the Catholic Faith.

Potta's success and scale is breathtaking.

From what I understand, each of the weekly retreats that occur in Kerala are attended by staggering 10,000 people, 52 weeks a year, year in, year out for 20+ years. The entity Father Mathew has created is on par with any globally known institution that has directly engaged millions of people. That one can interact with him at these traveling retreats is quite an honor, as at Potta the audiences are simply too vast.

Given that Molly was deep in the planning of the event, and led the childcare activity, I saw the fervent work that occurred in "the background" across the entire core team - - and it was indeed a boatload of work. As example, the folks who assembled the custom made choir practiced around 60 songs over the past weeks. And as proof of how well it came together, the attendees were able to simply worship, sing and focus upon the prayer at hand. All in all, the passionate words of the mission staff, and logistics undertaken by the event orchestrators, were a true labor of love.

Here's a few shots (I will add another post or two of the other aspects of the event)... I tried to capture the indomitable spirit of these Fathers and Sister but I can't say I pulled it off in the photos. All struck me as good hearted, extremely disciplined spirits, with radiant smiles and the ability to assess person in the blink of an eye. All were deeply prayerful people - - they were living examples of the adages "actions speak louder than words" and "practice what you preach."

Rev. Fr. Mathew Naickamparambil V.C. - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Rev. Sr. Therese Varakullam F.C.C. - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Rev. Fr. Antony Thekkanath V.C. - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

Rev. Fr. Martin Kalamparambil V.C. - -
Abe Pachikara, Copyright 2008 (click for larger image)

No comments: