Wednesday, 18 October 2017

Go on your way...

Jesus sends out his disciples two-by-two (Luke 10: 1-9).  As he sees them off, he instructs them to carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals... From an Indian context this would not be a very very difficult task.  However for an Englishman, it would be quite impossible.  As Fr John during his introduction to the Mass stated, "He'd not get much further than the main door!"

Thanks to the cold of England, it would not be possible to travel outside one's home without sufficient warm clothes, and certainly not without some protective footwear.  So for an Englishman to try to live the gospel in its call to set off for evangelisation as per this passage would indeed be a radical choice.  Very well aware of the danger of reading the Bible as solitary passages, this call of Jesus certainly challenges the Englishman much more than an Indian.

Perhaps, if this Gospel passage were to be written in an English context, it would read:
Go on your way; behold I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no wallet, no picnic, take not your car, walk through the bylanes, greet every person you meet...

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Altar buds

Thanks to the cool weather of England, the flowers on the altar last longer than in the Indian subcontinent.  In our chapel we change flowers once a week.  Mostly gladiolas, asiatic lilies, bedonna lillies and tulips when available.  There are a couple of other flowers which we use when available cheap.  They remain quite fresh for that duration, some even for two weeks at a stretch (asters, for example).  However, one weird thing is that most often the flowers are yet to fully bloom.  So most often we have buds instead of flowers!  By the time they have fully bloomed, all on the stem, they are discarded!  Partly because the first flower on the stem has almost withered!  Left to me, I'd keep them a little longer.  But I suppose the Lord understands!

Monday, 16 October 2017

Sunday, 15 October 2017

Another Salesian residence

Another piece of history that I learnt about today is that the house adjacent to the Salesian school was once the Salesian residence.  It perfectly makes sense as it is the connecting plot between the pavement beside the cemetery and the school compound.

I'm told that it presently is the residence of the Cor et Lumen Christi, one of the few lay communities of England.  They had bought that house from the Salesians when we had moved to the present location.  Fr Eric Donnell, himself a Salesian, who was then the parish priest of St Anne's Church was instrumental in mediating this purchase of property.  It was also because he had been in touch with the societies of laity living together in a community and one of them was looking for a residential plot.  He negotiated this deal between the lay group and the Salesians.

It was interesting to know something about this particular lay group which lives together as a community, something akin to religious living together.  Brian has volunteered to put me in touch with one of them who is an active parishoner.  The Hungarian priest, Fr Thomas who occasionally appears in the parish for Masses is said to be their current Chaplain.  Look forward to know more about this particular group.  

Neighbourhood history

Only this morning did I come to know that the house two doors from our present residence was once upon a time a police station.  I've walked past that house a thousand times over the last year and always found it a bit fascinating in comparison to the others in the street but it never occurred to me that it has this bit of historical significance.  The house even today has an emblem of the queen, the crown, on its walls

The houses behind the same were once the courthouse.

The house where Brian and Pat live was of one who owned many horses.  His stable was behind his house - part of which is still intact!  And all around was grass cultivated for the horses.  Including the plot where we presently live.  As years went by, he sold bits and pieces off and that's when the police station was built adjacent to it.  To its left is the house which now belongs to our immediate neighbours.  

Teddy from the attic

And whom did I find in the attic?...

Also learnt the name of the little boy who comes every Sunday for Mass with his mother and his little teddy and a handful of small cars, Jacob.  He is always so full of questions! It is a great joy to see him every Sunday. 

Saturday, 14 October 2017

At Sean Devereux's grave

In the morning, on our way to Farnborough, Fr John and I visited the cemetery.  Fr John wanted to pay homage to some of the Salesians buried there.  He later told me that he did his first year of practical training at Farnborough and there were about 20 Salesians in the community then, most of whom were buried at Farnborough.

As we just walked around the part where the Salesians were buried, we were also looking for the grave of Sean Devereux, the past pupil from the place who was killed in Somalia where he was working as a volunteer with the UN.  We found it along the Salesians graves.

Have to admit I was more fascinated by the small flower pot someone had placed on his tombstone rather than the epitaph itself! Am told it is the heather flower. 

Adults at risk

Today was the Safeguarding Policy day for half of the GBR Province.  We were at Farnborough for the animation and presentation.  It was good again to meet many of the confreres of the south, especially those at Farnborough.

What I found most interesting of the animation today was the morning session which focused on 'adults at risk'!  Well all these years I had heard and very much been part of the discussion on 'young at risk', but never once did I ever hear of 'adults at risk' (except when Thathi was elected as provincial someone was pulling his leg and saying, now we have TaR - Thathi at risk!).  But having lived in the English context especially the present state of the GBR Province and its outreach, it made sense to me.  Taking care of those vulnerable - whatever the age group.  Mostly it was about vulnerability regarding physical ill-health and mental well-being.  The second half of the day was about the dangers faced by children in the digital world.  The latest report on children and internet states that 98% of 7-16 year olds have access to internet across the UK.  And most of these are active users of the latest apps.  Messaging and sharing information, pictures and whereabouts seem to be the most engaged activity.

Another thing that caught my attention: The stark difference in our approach to dealing issues with young people and children between the 'western' mindset and the 'eastern' mindset was visible to me in our discussions. There were a couple of us non-Europeans and in our response to certain case studies we found it most important for the family to take to first step with regard to teenagers and growing children.  In our own groups we found ourselves stating the same possible immediate responses: a calm dialogue with the teenager, asking the youngster to invite his or her friends home for a party together with the family, sitting and talking together as a family... Others felt the school and existing systems/structures needed to be initiated or approached for handling the issues.

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

Jonah is 'religiously' upset

Jonah goes and preaches to the people of Nineveh and he does a great job.  He delivers God's message to the best of his ability.  He understands what it means and communicates it effectively to all the people.

Unfortunately he appropriates the job and the message as his own!  It is a familiar scenario.  When one gets so involved in a task, even though it is not of one's own responsibility, one is likely to treat the task and everything involved in it personally.  So naturally when God changes his mind and does not bring about the destruction he has promised, Jonah is upset.  Perhaps if I were in his place, I too would have felt the same.

Take the unlikely scenario of God carrying out what he initially planned to do to Nineveh.  Destroy it.  Then naturally Jonah would go about saying, "See, I told them so!"  He would have happily taken the credit. That's how we humans normally work: quick to take credit for success but reluctant to acknowledge failure.

What Jonah suffers from is a typical sickness of religious and priests.  Taking God's work as one's own, leaving nothing to God!  The former part of the process is good, not the latter.  We need to realise that God is incharge.  It is primarily his work that we are upto.  

Thursday, 5 October 2017

They understood...

The first reading of the Mass today is from the book of Nehemiah.  Reading it was as if it was a description of the Holy Mass, at least the first part of it.  Ezra, the priest and scribe, reading from the book of the Law.  The Levites explaining the text.  Nehemiah, presiding over the whole animation.  The people, listening to the whole reading with great reverence.  Conclusively the people are very moved by the whole reading, listening and understanding of it and are exhorted by the animators to go back home and rejoice... and share their food and drink with those who haven't anything to eat or drink.  The last sentence of the reading reads thus:
And all the people went off to eat and drink and give their shares away and begin to enjoy themselves since they had understood the meaning of what had been proclaimed to them. 
What struck me most was the last line... they understood the meaning of what had been explained to them... and I wish this could be said of every Mass and every sermon preached in every Church!

Cyclamens

Cyclamens in bloom at the Salesian Gardens...

Wednesday, 4 October 2017

Extending the boundary

When I was small and along with friends about to play a cricket match, one of the first things we collectively would decide is the boundary line.  If the place was limited or inaccessible, then certain spots would be declared 2-runs by default.

We grown ups do the same with our relationships too.  There are people and I mean certain groups as a whole, certain sections of humanity as such which are either within or without the boundary.  I distinctly remember one of the first conversations I had with someone in Kondadaba when I reached the place for my first year of practical training, way back in 2000.  It was the one who regularly supplied the seminary with the chicken.  Since the Brothers had not yet arrived, I went to shop (as directed by the cooks) and introduced myself.  Since my name wasn't revealing any "affiliation" they gently stated that very many of the Brothers in the seminary were "their" people.  I had no clue of what he was talking! After repeated and creative attempts and only when he realised that I wasn't getting what he wanted to know did he bluntly ask me, "What's your caste?"

The further the boundary we set by which we consciously or unconsciously exclude people is the better human beings we will be.  Some set nationality, colour of the skin, or religion as the boundary.  Greater are the souls who have extended the boundary beyond human beings to include animals (if not all, at least most) within one's relationship circle.  I'm not talking of those who love animals more than human beings, but of those who love animals as much as all human beings!  The greatest see no boundary at all.

We celebrate today the feast of St Francis of Assissi, one of the rare gems of humanity who saw no boundaries at all in relating to the world.

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Happy anniversary!

It is exactly one year since I landed in the UK.  I reached here on this very day in 2016.  It is hard to say whether the year has flown by or dragged on.  However the only thing sure is that it has been the most relaxed (can read it as lethargic too) year of my whole Salesian life!

The other thing that strikes me today as I reflect on how same or different am I from the day I left India is that the things that I initially found weird or strange are no more so.  I guess living the life makes one accustomed to the different aspects that make up life.  I was more than aware of this last Sunday when I met a couple of Indian Salesian Sisters from the Province of Tiruchy.  They were here along with a couple of their relatives and other nuns for a month long holiday in Europe (that Salesian Sisters in India were permitted to a foreign trip for a month was in itself shocking!).  After Mass as we introduced one another outside the Parish, I found them asking the same questions that I had when I first began to see things.  Their follow-on questions to my replies were all the more revealing of the differences, both between the Indian context and the English context and most importantly, my ways of explaining to them (in as close an Indian context as I could) and their grasp of the same.  As I walked back home, I was laughing to myself!

Katie wanted to make today's meal special to commemorate this event!  So we had yellow rice, potato curry, egg and chicken curry, dal, chapati, bhajjis and some masala curry.  God bless her!  Ultimately, cannot but ultimately thank God for the year that has gone by and all that He has graciously blessed me with.  Feel so strange thinking, where is Sulthan Nagar, Hyderabad and where is Chertsey, UK - and all the places and experiences I've been through in between!!  

God is with you

The readings of the day and the responsorial psalm offer a very simple yet necessary challenge to all who claim to be close to God.  In the first reading we see people of other nation and places demand the Israelites to lead them to Jerusalem because they believe that God is up there.  They would have gone there themselves but they are aware that the Israelites are 'God-specialists'.

And that is what each one who believes in God is supposed to be: one who reflects God's presence in everyday life.  All the more applicable to priests and religious who claim that God has called us specifically for this purpose!  
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