FROM NEW DELHI TO ROME: Reflections of a Seven-Year-Old Catholic

Mystical, meaningful sevens throng the Bible, from the seven days of Creation through the seven fat years and seven lean years foretold by Daniel to the seven angels of the Resurrection and Judgment. In Catholicism, seven is the number of sacraments, of cardinal virtues, of gifts of the Holy Spirit, and of deadly sins. In traditional catechetics, seven is the age of reason, the beginning of the capacity for knowledge; in folk wisdom, seven is the pivotal anniversary in marriage, the passing of the first hurdle toward mature intimacy. For me now it is seven years since I was baptized and confirmed as a Catholic. So I celebrate my seventh birthday in the Faith, my seventh spiritual anniversary, by reflecting gratefully on how it all came about. My parents, who came from India, imparted to me a nominal Hinduism backed by a solid belief in God and His desire for man to engage in regular prayer, but I did not make progress toward a systematic religious faith until the awkward years of junior high school. In between gossiping about girls and complaining about algebra, my best friend Kent and I argued about the meaning of life. Kent’s born-again Protestant view of the world contrasted with my worldly view of religion. His view of a world motivated by love and self-sacrifice was certainly more hopeful, though to me less relevant, than my own notion of selfish actors attempting to satisfy their own desires and showing little concern for others. Kent gave me few convincing answers, but he did raise questions that were to lead me to some very surprising places. He planted the seeds.