The Catholic Diocese of Itanger in India has grown 40% over the past 35 years. Their secret? Miraculous healings apparently. Lots of them. Conversions because of an encounter with the healing power of Jesus Christ are occuring by the millions all over the world and is readily spoken of by other kinds of Christians but Catholics are often reluctant to acknowledge that it happens among us as well. And this reluctance is not just found among western Catholics.
Note the Vatican Insider title: India's "Impossible" Miracles. Note that the Indian priest telling this story says the stories “baffle me. I have a theological mindset and it is easy to become skeptical about this kind of thing. But the interested parties are absolutely convinced that what happened to them was real.”
Just when must a theological mindset be at odds with acknowledging the power of God to heal? That's not a "theological" mindset (think St. Augustine gathering stories of healing in his diocese), that's an Enlightenment mindset. And it shows a poverty of both imagination and spiritual expectancy that would be very foreign to most of the great Catholic missionaries and evangelists of the past.
An Indian friend wrote and shared his experience of the Catholic attitudes toward evangelization in India:
There is a strong emphasis on the narrative that "evangelization has not worked," that India is somehow inherently impervious to the Gospel. It is also ironic because Indian cultures are *very* religious, popular devotions are, well, really popular, there isn't this kind of skepticism towards and distance between the "ordinary" world and the supernatural/spiritual/numinous, there is a long and rich tradition of mysticism and so on. Stories like Arunachal Pradesh are a reminder of the sovereignty of God! And so inspiring!
And I responded: “Interesting - the "India is impervious to the Gospel" which I also heard in the 90's at my Jesuit grad school from a Jesuit. He told our class (seriously) that Francis Xavier went to India to get away from the Pope! Fortunately, I happened to have a grad background in Indian - specifically Jesuit - mission history as well as a much more accurate sense of the realities of global missions. He said that only 2% of Asians were Christian while I knew that the number was really about 7% then.” Today, that percentage is nearly 9%.
So often, our public debates are based upon things that haven’t been true in half a century. In 1910, Christians comprised 1.7% of India’s population. Today, the official census figures indicate that Christians make up nearly 5% of all Indians. And the estimates of “unofficial” but real practice are startling. Consider this possibility (I have heard other estimates that are even higher. I don’t think there is a definitive number).
“As per unofficial figures the Christian population should be around 17% now. Most of the converts have not registered their conversion or not changed their religion in the Taluk or Panchayat offices. Some believe this is not necessary to change it and some believe it may affect their caste quota in education and jobs and while some others believe it may create unnecessary problems for the community itself due to anti-social elements may find it disturbing and may take revenge against innocent Christians around India.”
Whether the growth has been 300% or 1000%, the word "impervious" doesn't seem to fit at all.
Americans are completely unused to a national system where one has to “register” one’s religion, where one’s personal faith – or the lack thereof – is NOT considered private. And where you can really lose – educationally, financially, and in terms of personal safety – by “registering” as a “public” Christian.
In any case, even “officially”, Indian Christianity grew nearly 300% in one century but – it wasn't primarily Catholic growth. Non-Catholic Indian Christians "share" of the Christian population grew from 25% to nearly 40% during that same century. So the story of the miracles in the Diocese of Itanger is a very encouraging one.