This last week, along with the 4th of July, we also celebrated on the 3rd of July the Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle. While our first thoughts when we think of Thomas is “Doubting Thomas” or “Thomas, whose name means twin”, but a few years ago I began thinking of something else whenever I first think of St. Thomas, India.
Since most of us don’t think of India as being a heavily Christian or Catholic country, I learned from someone else’s mistake when I heard them ask someone from India when they or their family converted to Catholicism. Their answer was not in the last generation or two as the questioner expected, but rather when Thomas came to India. I’m not sure when the first of my ancestors became Catholic, but I don’t think we can do much better than that. Since then I’ve learned that in certain parts of India Catholicism is normally traced back to Thomas, in some other areas they may trace it back to St. Francis Xavier and the Jesuits who first came there in 1542. I have to admit before overhearing the question my inclination would have been the same as the person who asked the question.
I also mention that this week as we celebrated the 4th of July and the freedom that we have in our nation as an opportunity to just be a little more aware of what we do know, and what we might mistakenly presume at times. About the freedoms we have in our country, about how we, or our ancestors first got here. About others who might have immigrated recently or desire to. I remember reading some letters that one of my sisters-in-law found in a book that an ancestor who had immigrated was writing back to relatives in Germany and telling them of how good things were going for them here, but not to bother coming if you aren’t willing to work really hard to make it. It was particularly interesting to me at the time as it made me see my ancestors a little more like a friend who came here from Vietnam in the 1970’s and how their family really worked hard to establish themselves here and then to sponsor other members to come. Seeing some similarities and differences in our families’ stories, and not all where I expected them to be.
Immigration has always been an important part of our country, many coming here specifically to be able to experience the freedoms that we were celebrating this last week. I hope that we are open to listen to the true situations of those personally affected by the current immigrations, and consider what values and beliefs we demonstrate by how we exercise our freedoms regarding new immigrants.