MUMBAI, India – Holy Week got off to a bumpy start this year in one part of India when Father Thomas Rajamanikam of St. Joseph’s Church in Indore rode a donkey in the annual Palm Sunday procession.

St. Joseph’s parish is located in the Nanda Nagar section of the city, the largest in the state of Madhya Pradesh.

“Before, I sat on the donkey, I could hear the snickers from people: Many apprehensive, some even laughing,” Rajamanikam told Crux.

However, after this inauspicious beginning, the congregation began to appreciate the gesture, meant to emulate Jesus’ own entry into Jerusalem on a similar animal.

“The youth had an air of expectancy, but as I sat on the donkey, there was an atmosphere of prayer and an aura of solemnity, and the people participated wholeheartedly in the procession and the liturgy that followed,” the priest said.

Rajamanikam told Crux he was inspired to make the unusual entrance while in prayer.

“My desire was to depict the scene to my  people – the ‘humility of Christ’ – who entered Jerusalem on a donkey, the humblest of beasts, a beast of burden,” he said.

However, the project almost didn’t happen due to the lack of a donkey.

The priest said he visited nine stables before finding one with a donkey, and it was more than two hours away from his parish church.

“It was Divine Providence,” he said.

He said after braying incessantly before the ceremony, the animal “made graceful strides” during the procession, and the procession went off without any problems.

“This donkey-led procession would serve not only as a reminder of Christ’s entrance into Jerusalem but would also help transport the people spiritually to the reality of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago and today,” Rajamanikam said.

“In my homily, too, I stressed that today we are attracted to the worldly pleasures of wealth, fame, power and fleeting attractions of a self-centered life, but only Jesus can fulfill all our desires and hopes,” the priest said.

“A life of faith, and life of humility and service, a life lived for others, makes us truly happy.”