Autobiography – Good News of a Franciscan from India

If you have a long conversation with Father Sandesh Manuel, sooner or later there will inevitably come a point where he maliciously leaps a punch line from his rich experience as an Indian in Vienna that you just have to laugh at. Because the Franciscan who was born in Bangalore in the Indian state of Karnataka in 1980 and speaks Kannada (the similarity of the name to a distant North American country is worth gagging) is a cheerful person. No wonder, one might think, since his name Sandesh means nothing but “Good News” in his native language. And with such a name it is obvious that he devotes himself entirely to the service of Jesus and His Church and enters the law.

Stop it, warn about the cliche! Please don’t pigeonhole the Indian – he doesn’t like that at all. And he tries to prevent this from happening on the first page of his new book. “The Lord laughed” (the title of the book comes from one of his most successful YouTube videos) is a kind of early recollection of a Franciscan who entered a convent in India and then went to Austria, where he was a priest for several years. YouTuber makes a sensation. And not because the self-portrait is important to him, but because he wants to convey the good news to as many people as possible. And if that calls for partly lyrical, partly hilarious music videos and a Pokémon hat, so be it. This is what Father thinks and every week on Friday, week after week, he puts a new clip on YouTube on his channel.

Lord laughed Sandesh Manuel - © (c) Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe GmbH, Munich

The Lord laughed at Sandesh Manuel

– © (c) Penguin Random House Verlagsgruppe GmbH, Munich

In her book, he now talks about his career and has come a long way: Of course, it starts with his birth on January 4, 1980 – or rather: with his baptism in the same year when two godparents had a car breakdown and an Italian nun jumped in which helped him as a result shape him and she became his “godmother” in the truest sense of the word. Sandesh also relates how his little sister later saved him from drowning in a fish pond by setting off an alarm; and does not ignore the experience of violence on the part of her nanny. In all these descriptions, however, this basic happiness resounds, which we also experience live with him, with which life and fellow human beings. It is not naive, blind trust in God and the world, but faith in the good of every human being. And yes, it’s hard not to fall into the cliche trap of this parading Indian you might as well have seen him for.

And this is the crux of the first chapters: We here in the west mostly have no idea what India is like, what the local society looks like (and therefore we can’t judge what an Indian parade is), so Sandesh first of all gives a little tutoring lesson in the subcontinent. on which he was born 42 years ago. It’s very revealing and just as exciting as his journey from an Indian monastery to a global online video platform. It is these little anecdotes that make his book so vivid and worth reading: how, for example, he had to drive ten kilometers to the nearest hospital and suddenly on the field a miracle suddenly darkened (a word he does not use lightly) suddenly seems to be experienced. When he describes how difficult it is for an Indian to learn German – let alone dialects and colloquialisms – and talks about his fellow priest’s communication problems that led to the acolyte barking at mass. What it is like to live in a cell of eight square meters and share other common rooms with fellowmen you have not chosen yourself. Yes, and of course, how he got the iconic Pokémon hat that catches the eye on his YouTube videos as a contrast to his brown habit and has since become a trademark. There are 172 interesting and fun pages where Indian monks not only make their readers smile but also make them think.

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