Father Berchmans as he is called famously is a former Catholic Priest, who is one of those leaders who allowed the Holy Spirit to sweep them as the Charismatic movement swept India. He is a living legend whose more than 350 Tamil songs and 30 albums have touched and changed hundreds of thousands of people. He is known to carry the joyful presence of God wherever he goes.
When Evng. Shyju Mathew was invited to minister at Jebathottam (the venue built by Father Berchmans for retreats), he took the opportunity to interview Father Berchmans. We hope that our generation can pick up a thing or two from the older generation that the path of true worship and love for JESUS.
Please tell us how you began your journey
All along I have been a catholic priest; I was seeking God as an ordinary preacher but I had a longing to be closer to God and to pray. It was then that the charismatic movement entered into the Catholic Church. They laid importance on the word and speaking in tongues which was till then rare. It was a blessing in disguise. We hated the Pentecostals. For Catholics, we felt we were superior. God used this time and I had longed for this.
In a short time, I was being used in the charismatic movement. I began to read the bible and surrendered my life to Jesus. From 1974, I worked as an ordained priest for 6 years. When I was 30 years old, God asked me to repent and surrender. It was during that time I wrote this song in Tamil that means, “I cannot compare you with anyone, everything else is rubbish.”
How did you start your song writing?
I was a musician; I was also a choir master in the bible college. I had learned karnatic music for a while. With that background, I had composed a few songs. Then I also composed few spirit-filled songs and they still sing that in catholic churches here. One of the song goes like this, in English it mean “To whom else we will go, you have given eternal life.” It became a very famous song in the Catholic Church.
How many songs you have written so far?
So far, 350 songs and 30 volumes.
Do you get the tunes first or the lyrics first?
Normally, the lyrics. When I read the word, it comes as inspiration. As the word is revealed, the lyrics come and the tune follows. Like, when I think about how God remembered Hannah; that becomes the theme of that song about how God remembers. The power of the Holy Spirit brings the word and the rest follows.
What would you say to the present-day youngsters?
I would like to tell them that their relationship with Jesus is the most important thing. God asked Gideon to break the altar of Baal and built the altar of God. So, we need to begin by breaking whatever is not of God and build whatever is Godly in our life. Start building. The Word of God will help us.
How would you define your prayer life?
Instead of mere hours, I generally spend all day with the Lord and His Word. Either that or I am with people; ministering to their needs and praying with them.
How old are you now?
I am 60 now. (Laughs joyfully)
Staying single, is it difficult? What is your advice to those who are single, how can they guard themselves?
It is the grace of God. I always have people around me. I cannot hide anything. Right from the beginning, my mother was like a protective fence around me. With regard with relationships and dealing with women, I am transparent. And as I began to aim at building the kingdom of God, marriage became secondary. My desire is to reach the Catholics for Jesus. And me being single helps me the most, as Catholics look up to priests to be unmarried.
What is your advice to worship leaders?
It is love. Worship is not only singing but it is complete commitment that brings out the song. To the worshippers, I would encourage them to be more with the Lord. The more you are with the Lord; the more the word of God will be revealed to you. Only with the Word of God alongside, can a worship session go deeper. When you lead worship with the Word of God supporting you, it will begin to be a blessing to the people. Even as you lead worship, be sensitive to the Holy Spirit for a rhema word. With the Holy Spirit leading you through the word, it will be prophetic. You will see God move. Worship leaders should know a bit of music, too. It’s my advice to them to learn the basics of music, at least.
What is your dream for the future?
My desire is to see the early church revivals with signs and wonders. I want to see the young being used by God and to prove to the world that Jesus is Lord. Acts of the early church should manifest. I desire to see vibrant spirit-filled churches. I am aiming at seeing the presence of God in a tangible way. I am certain that God will move in a mighty way.
What do you have to share? Have you been blessed by Father Berchmans songs? What is your testimony?