“St. Thomas definitely landed on this very spot,” says Philomena Pappachan, caretaker of a chapel that marks where the doubting apostle arrived in southern India in the year A.D. 52. Located a few feet from the cemented banks of the Periyar River, the chapel is dwarfed by a grove of palm trees and a 30-foot cutout of the saint, who is depicted with a staff and an open book on which “my Lord and my God” is printed in English.
No archaeological evidence exists to substantiate or refute her claim. Yet for nearly two millennia, countless numbers of Christians and Hindus have believed “the holy man” journeyed through Syria, Mesopotamia, Persia and finally India, where Thomas died a martyr’s death in the year 72...
Culled from the communities he founded, Thomas ordained priests and deacons to minister to their spiritual and temporal needs. Eventually, the heirs of St. Thomas became dependent on the Church of the East — an Eastern Syriac church founded by Thomas and centered in the Persian Empire. The catholicos-patriarch of the Church of the East regularly sent bishops to southern India to ordain priests and deacons and regulate ecclesial life.
For more than 1,500 years, India’s Thomas Christians were fully integrated into Indian society. Their liturgical practices reflected their Eastern Syriac ties. Other elements of this tradition — such as the architecture of their churches and their way of remembering the dead — revealed their Hindu cultural heritage.
The arrival of the Portuguese at the close of the 15th century, however, dramatically changed the lives of all Indians. When Vasco da Gama staked his claim for his Catholic king, he found not only tea and spices, but a Christian community that joyfully welcomed the Portuguese as companions in the faith. Sadly, the advent of the Europeans triggered the beginning of division among the sons and daughters of Thomas — who now number more than ten million. Their common Christian faith and their devotion to the doubting apostle bind them ever still.
May God bless all who read my ramblings,