Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Brothers' Congress... further impressions

As with regards to the Congress.... the focus seems to be on ‘conducting’ a Congress just for the sake of conducting one! Perhaps not all are clear about the purpose or goal of conducting and participating in one – looks like some don’t want to have one plan!! I look at this sort of gathering which happens only once in four years as a platform which would facilitate some sharing and interaction, from which would emerge something concrete and fruitful to be carried further. We just cannot afford to come together merely to watch some dances, felicitate some confreres, eat solemnly, sleep collectively in the hall, silently participate in group discussions and merely chit-chat on the corridors. While all these are part of the programme – official or unofficial – there ought to be something that we, or each one individually, take forth from here.

I, for one, am happy to be here ... and watch all the confusion and wonder, how come we still survive - not just survive but do marvellous work - in spite of such chaos! God be praised and so be Don Bosco! Besides this amusement, I’m enjoying watching confreres. Different sorts, varied opinion, wonderful insights, enormous potential, years of experience, truckloads of joys and sorrows and each ones idiosyncrasies! And together, we certainly are a force to reckon with!

Brothers' Congress ... first impressions

Some first impressions of my maiden participation in the Brothers' Congress:

  • Grand inaugural ceremony.
  • Nice to interact with so many senior Brothers about whom I'd only heard about - mostly the funny side!
  • Today's talk had quite a few lofty ideals presented but I doubt if they sank in the audience... especially from what I gather, amidst a group which itself is wobbling, staggering and groping to find a foothold, both as a group and as individuals too. Anyway got to be optimisitic!
  • Another interesting interpretation of 'New Frontiers': areas of apostolate left untouched by others so far. This throws open the mission field beyond the purview of the frame that sometimes we Salesians can get stuck to: 'poor and abandoned'.
  • Lots of confusion - though planning has been going on for the past one year - but I guess without this bit of confusion, it would not have the 'Salesian' flavour!
  • Quite some flattery and too much of expectations from some who are already neck-deep in activities ... what causes this is a sense of inferiority complex and a feeling that 'I'm not capable!'

Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Love lost or love found?

This day's newspaper carried an interesting article about 'Holocaust love'... something that I had heard long time back about a boy in a concentration camp befriending a girl across the fence. They would eventually meet years later on a blind date in New York and get married. The news article was about some authorities rubbishing this whole episode and thereby the publishers backing off from printing this story and some crazy movie producer feeling 'cheated by' the one who claims to be the boy in the story.

What caught my attention was this: here were a group of people wanting to mint money out of this whole story and it was they who really made publicity about this whole thing and now feel 'let down'!! The one who really says it all happened to him, is happily married (now for years) with his love!! That guy and his lady are now unnecessarily dragged into this whole imbroglio. And their "crime"? Falling in love, surviving the holocaust and now living happily!!!

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Salesian Brotherhood... a long way ahead still

Reflecting on the theme of the vocation to Brotherhood, something was nagging me since long. I'm glad I could pen it in exact words after long. It was the whole election of Br Claudio Marangio as the Economer General. I've nothing against him. I really do not even know him. However, my reflection is about the whole process.

For me his election is more a setback to the promotion of Brotherhood much more than a help! It somehow stinks of 'quota' system. What's worse is that the congregation once again thought of Brothers as good 'administrators'. Had this happened a few years ago, I'd really have rejoiced. But not today!

Another view of looking at it is this way: Did any of the confreres, even think, if not propose, the name of a Brother to any of the posts of Youth Pastoral, Formation, Social Communication... ? If no, then we are still way behind our own talks, circulars and speeches! A long way to go...!

You are my religion (Firehouse)

YOU ARE MY RELIGION
[Firehouse]

I've lost my faith in everything
I couldn't believe in anything
Until I put my faith in you
Is it a sin is it a crime
To worship somebody all of the time
Anytime, I would do anything for you

Pre-chorus
I found my heaven right here with you
Believe in me forever, I believe in you

Chorus:
Not just on Sunday, I love you every day and
I fall to my knees every night I pray since
You've come and saved me for all eternity
In the name of the Father and the Son
You are my religion

I wasn't looking for a miracle
Didn't think that love was possible
But your love has made me whole
And I pray that this will never end
You are my lover, my best friend
You took me in and saved my soul

Pre-chorus

Chorus
Forgive me for the things that I have done
In the name of the Father and the Son
You are my religion

For Mummy...

This one's for Mummy... (Mama - Spice Girls)

With the family

Alex gave a very fiery sermon today on the duty and responsibility of children towards their parents. I felt it was a well prepared sermon and very meaningful too. While in the back of my mind, I was thinking of Papa and Mummy (Willy too), I couldn't stop thinking of the senior confreres in the Province too. I was thinking of Br Dennis who is with us in the Provincial house, of Br Gabriel who passed away, of those elderly confreres who are not in the best of their health today. Well, I guess all that we speak of our parents, on this feast of the Holy Family applies also to these confreres.

After all, I belong to two families: Castilino and Salesian!

Saturday, 27 December 2008

Last judgement...

Luckily I've been able to put my mind and hand to paper today especially with the upcoming Brothers' Congress and the theme I'm supposed to present to the Congress too. May be sometime later, I'll put up all those stray thoughts I've been "brooding" about during the day.

One interesting thing that I've decided to begin with is to present the model of the wrestling Jacob as an analogy for my understanding of spirituality and life. I've used this imagery several times in my Philosophy classes, meditation moments and other talks too. However, I need some time more to view it from the perspective of a Salesian Brother (not so much for myself but for putting across my thoughts to a bigger group of Brothers with very varying ideas and ideologies). Anyway, I look forward to a very interesting interaction with the Brothers during the Congress.

Besides all this ruminating, I had a chance to talk to a confrere today for an hour. Half way through the conversation - or rather his sharing and my listening - I remembered Fr Benji who said, "People will come to you to share with you lot of things. You will do a lot of good just listening to them." Something that caught my attention was the statement made by this confrere: "I've nothing to fear. I've already been through my last judgement." Knowing the ordeal that the person is going through, I would not in any way doubt this statement of his. What made me take note of, is what would my own last judgement be like!

Friday, 26 December 2008

Trip home...

Yesterday's newspaper was a big surprise. While DC had the whole editorial page on Christmas and related matters, The Hindu had NOTHING!! The editorial on DC was surprisingly on Christmas and Orissa. I thought it was a fair and gentle reminder for all about what Christmas peace and love. Perhaps The Hindu was 'living up to its secular image'!!

Anyway, am just back from home. Had a nice time with my people last night and today too. Just stayed home. Took a walk in the morning with my uncle and Rohan to the school and around. Was surprised to see that it was not a long walk at all. I always thought school and Motinagar was quite a distance. It wasn't so this morning as three of us went walking in short pants!!

Today Papa was bit shocked to hear of his pals death this morning. Papa had much in common with him and the fact that they had met and chatted just yesterday was a big surprise for Papa. I suppose death has its own flavour and shade!

Wednesday, 24 December 2008

Christmas eve... consolation!

Till yesterday, I was feeling a bit of guilt in some corner of my heart, for relegating Advent and Christmas to one corner and carrying on with life as though it is the normal season of the year. Moreover, I wrote just one Christmas card this year - with no intention to send or write any more Christmas cards. So I thought, may be there isn't the celebration this year within me. Sometime yesterday I realised, I too have done something significant for Christmas - or rather, in preparation for Christmas.

The past three days that I've spent with Fr Lens and his people, I've taken care of everything possible and helped them - Fr Lens especially - feel comfortable and happy. Of course, I did not do it for any of the visitors but exclusively for Fr Lens.

After all, the Lord himself did not come into the WHOLE world but only in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. He chose one particular group of people to live and work with, rather than take a world tour. So perhaps, I'm not far behind. Rather than write names and sign off a hundred cards, I've made 15 people happy - specifically for Fr Lens. Good enough!

That's some consolation and joy on Christmas eve!

Christmas eve and His coming...

I came across this shocking news today: An executive engineer of the Uttar Pradesh Public Works Department was beaten to death allegedly by a BSP MLA and his supporters after he is believed to have refused to pay them a huge sum for birthday celebrations of Chief Minister Mayawati next month.

Here we are on the eve of Christmas, celebrating life and right here are also these hooligans who snuff out the life of an educated service-minded individual because he did not dance to their tunes - that too for a b'day celebration? What shame!!

Even here I believe the Lord is looking on in silence. Waiting...

Yesterday's Christmas novena had this prayer introducing the intercessory prayers: 'We know Lord that you are coming. Give us the courage and patience to receive you when You come and in the way You decide to come!' Now that prayer makes sense. Rather than just wait for him to drop from heaven, it is good to keep our eyes open to see Him be born anywhere, anytime, any number of times too!!

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

Christmas shoes 2

Between day before yesterday and today I watched the movie Christmas Shoes, the song of which I heard the other day!! Lovely... ! Very moving movie! The song too is fantastic!!

Sung by Bob Carlisle, the song "The Christmas Shoes" is a touching song making us realize the true essence of Christianity. Christmas is a time not only for joy and celebrations, but also the time for sacrificing our needs to make others happy. The beautiful yet heart wrenching lyrics make us feel the pain and the anxiety of the young boy out to buy the last gift for his mother.

The Christmas Shoes is a universal story of the deeper meaning of destiny, of sharing humanity and carries an important message, that sometimes the smallest things in life can make all the difference so don't wait for big, materialistic opportunities in life. Open your eyes and you will believe in miracles!

It was almost Christmas time, there I stood in another line
Tryin' to buy that last gift or two, not really in the Christmas mood
Standing right in front of me was a little boy waiting anxiously
Pacing 'round like little boys do
And in his hands he held a pair of shoes

His clothes were worn and old, he was dirty from head to toe
And when it came his time to pay
I couldn't believe what I heard him say

[Chorus:]
Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

He counted pennies for what seemed like years
Then the cashier said, "Son, there's not enough here"
He searched his pockets frantically
Then he turned and he looked at me
He said Mama made Christmas good at our house Though most years she just did without
Tell me Sir, what am I going to do,
Somehow I've got to buy her these Christmas shoes

So I laid the money down, I just had to help him out
I'll never forget the look on his face when he said
Mama's gonna look so great

Sir, I want to buy these shoes for my Mama, please
It's Christmas Eve and these shoes are just her size
Could you hurry, sir, Daddy says there's not much time
You see she's been sick for quite a while
And I know these shoes would make her smile
And I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight

[Bridge:]
I knew I'd caught a glimpse of heaven's love
As he thanked me and ran out
I knew that God had sent that little boy
To remind me just what Christmas is all about.


Here's the first part of the movie posted on youtube

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Christmas Shoes...

Here's a lovely video-song about sharing and Christmas...

A stranger in His own crib...

My trip with Fr Lens' people to Ramanthapur was an interesting one! For one, I wasn't sure of the road leading to Birla Mandir and once there, I wasn't sure of the one to Ramanthapur. Anyhow, made it with some help and direction from Shekar, who was driving the other vehicle.

But the best to happen was at Ramanthapur. The boys had just concluded a solemn celebration and were relaxing. I was walking around saying hello and hi to a few along the way. Then I saw the crib in the playground. As I reached closer, I was a bit shocked: within the crib were three boys - had another decided to join them, that would have surely been the end of the crib!!! Anyhow, what startled me was not that boys were in the crib but that they were fighting in there!! On reaching near, I watched silently. Very soon one of the senior boys arrived and got the three boys down from the crib. One of those inside was busy tying the knot on a balloon which he had just taken from the ceiling of the crib. The senior questioned why did he take the balloon from the crib. The boy answered, "Mine broke, so I took this!" A short argument ensued as to did he get the permission of Fr to take the balloon. Anyhow, soon all the boys were lost in the big playground.

There I was left alone watching the crib. And I said to myself and to the baby Jesus therein: For sometime both You and I did the same thing - just stood and watched!

Here were three boys INSIDE the crib! (Must have been the magi/three kings in their previous birth!) What mattered to them most at that moment was the balloon hanging idly there. For the senior boy what mattered was that the younger fellows don't break the discipline of the house. And here I was, thinking whether what mattered most was truly Jesus? Him, the Saviour? Well, He surely didn't have anything to say to these three boys who almost brought down the crib with them.

Perhaps this is what Jesus does in this world. We live in a world not created by us, we take and break things not belonging to us, we squabble and argue over things we never own. Yet the One who really made, owns and keeps in order is silent - silently watching the whole drama! We enter His house and fight among ourselves over things that are truly His! And He listens... and listens!

Saturday, 20 December 2008

One day at a time

Come Advent season and Christmas celebrations already begin!! A bit sickening to see so many celebrations round the clock, in different regions, everyday - that too in Advent. I wonder what we'd do after this 'mini-Christmas'? Go back to Advent?

Anyway, I'd better not talk too much about this, for I've neither begun advent, nor am I excited about Christmas nor anything else. I'm just living 'one day at a time' and simultaneously planning till Jan. 5 - that's the day I'm going to take a day of sabbatical!!

My daily to-do list keeps increasing and there's hardly anything on it that gets ticked off!! All the same, no regrets. Learning a lot... hope to synthesize it all once this 'tidal wave' of celebrations are over!!

Christmas with the staff...

Had a simple but nice anticipated Christmas feast with the staff of the house today. Here are some of the photos of the crib prepared by them...

Friday, 19 December 2008

Running, struggling, working hard... to die!

It is said that these were the last words of Alexander the Great: "Bury my body, do not build any monument, keep my hands outside so that the world knows the person who won the world had nothing in his hands when dying."

Looking at the rat race that we are all running (whichever the track be) these words make a lot of sense. Today in the market I saw several things but some struck me quite distinctively. Outside the fancy glass stores selling Christmas wares, were these lambadi women selling balloons and some plastic balls. They would run around anyone leaving these shopping malls all with the hope that some child would wail and the parent purchase a balloon for them. They'd walk - I'd say, maneuver - through the packed traffic at the signal persuading those in the vehicles to purchase something from them. Those in the shopping malls cared two hoots these women and children. So did those in the vehicles with their windows closed, comfortable in the AC.

Then there was the other group, those running, rushing, pushing... all just to get into an already cramped bus. If only they thought like most of us religious - just take the house vehicle or call for an auto - the APSRTC would have nothing to do.

And at the end of it all, what? All of us would be dead... gone... dust!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

Happy Easter... Lazarus

Today I began reading another book of Morris West, The Devil's Advocate. On page 9 is the reflection about the post-resurrection life of Lazarus.
What did he felt at that moment? What price had he paid for this return to the world of the living? Did he go maimed ever afterwards, so that every rose smelled of decay and every golden girl was a shambling skeleton? Or did he walk in a dazzle of wonder at the newness of things, his heart tender with pity and love for the human family?
The description that follows is interesting. The protagonist, Blaise Meredith, is diagnosed with a terminal illness and the ultimatum issued by the doctor - another couple of months only. He is a priest for 20 years and here's his immediate reflection:
He had been twenty years a priest, vowed to the affirmation that life was a transient imperfection, the earth a pale symbol of its maker, the soul an immortal in mortal clay, beating itself weary for release into the ambient arms of the Almighty. Now that his own release was promised, the date of it set, why could he not accept it - if not with joy, at least with confidence?

Return to Emmaus

Checking out the sdb.org today, the word 'Emmaus' caught my eye. I opened the link and it turned out to be the message of the Rector Major during the Synod. Somehow I seem to be addicted to that word 'Emmaus'. Anyway, this is first impression I got after reading the reflection of the RM: Somewhere mid-way the focus seems to be more on the Church rather than Christ. However, as he concludes he beautifully puts Christ back in His due place.

Some interesting points...
... Luke's story of the Emmaus walk offers us a precise itinerary of evangelisation where it say who evangelises - Jesus by means of His word - and how to evangelise - walking together.

If 'witness is the only language able to convince young people that 'God exists and his love can fill a life completely' (C. 62), evangelisation must take care of ensuring the unity of the Church...

Young people today share very few things with these disciples on the road to Emmaus, but perhaps nothing as much as the frustration of their dreams, the fatigue in their faith and the disenchantment in discipleship: it is not worth it, they often think, following Jesus: it is not worth spending their life for someone who is dead, not present.

From knowing many things about Jesus to letting him speak, while on the journey.

Reading Scripture, even if it leads us to discover God's plan in daily life and warms our heart, if it does not lead to the encounter with Christ in the community gathered around the Eucharistic table serves no purpose.

One crazy thought that flashed across my mind while reading the message was this imagery of two young boys bored to death inside the home, sneaking out seeking adventure in the night. They see a ghost and run - back into the home!! The two disciples on the road to Emmaus... something similar? Truly! They saw a 'ghost' and ran! Didn't they? Anyway...

Mister God... in me or I in him?

Here's another insight from today's meditation on Mister God, this is Anna:

As a supposed Christian one can stand outside and measure God. Surely He can be measured and we'd all get nice ideas like loving, kind, all-powerful, merciful... But these are all merely labels of what we think God is. In other words, these are only the peripherals - or may be they are the ones that really get in our way from REALLY measuring God.

But if I get inside and measure God, that way I'm a real Christian! But am I? Once inside, I don't measure God, because there is no 'I' there anymore. It is all one - God and I. God becomes a part of me too.

Well this idea needs a bit more reflection: What exactly matters? Properties, circumstances, functions??? Being outside Mister God and measuring him gave you properties, seemingly an unending list. The particular choice of properties that you made produced that particular kind of religion that you subscribed to. On the other hand, being inside Mister God gave you the function, and then we were all the same: no different churches, no temples, no mosques... we are all the same.

Mister God...and bread

"... I suppose I thought that a loaf ought to look like a loaf. To me loaf and bread were synonymous, and at that time I hadn't the sense to see the difference. In some part of my mind I can still detect a feeling of shame, a flicker of anger, a and a sense of wasted time, from that moment when I realized that the important word was bread - that bread could be baked into any infinity of shapes. I hadn't the sense to see that the shape of the loaf had nothing to do with food value of the bread. The shape was nothing but a convenience. But my education had been too much concerned with the shapes. At odd moments I find myself angered when I ask the question, "How much of what I was taught was a matter of convenience?" But I ask nobody. There's nobody there to give me an answer..." (p. 78)

How we get caught up with some strange ideas and cling on to them as though, if we'd change any bit of it, the whole world would collapse! Interesting to look at facts and instances that we take for granted from another perspective too - perhaps better from the opposite perspective.

Wednesday, 17 December 2008

Whiz kids...

Today's newspaper had an article about a 22-year old lecturing the police department on internet security. Well, its a very comical article about a very serious issue... given the present day scenario of violence and terrorism.

However, my point is that a 22-year old today is really the king of this generation. He knows the inside out of his laptop, skates through the net with such ease (as though he was the one who does it all!), is 'cool' about the whole take of life...

Contrast this with the not-tech-savvy youngsters whom we often meet in our navajeevan centres. Leave them alone, what about our own Brothers in formation? Sometimes they appear so dull and lifeless, I wonder if they are doing a big favour by being Salesians!!

I really love to see PASSION at work... young people zealous about their work, their dreams, their goals, their whole attitude towards life. Sometimes, our formation makes us so 'sober' that we become insipid, worthless (except for preaching)!

Some lessons from Fr PT

After three weeks of breakdown and every possible thing going wrong, my internet connection has been restored today... at last! There are quite a few things that have done by in the intervening period since my last posting....

The Provincial Community Day... nice day. Did not get too involved. Just enjoyed the day as it unfolded. No real excitement or depression. It was really good. I really liked the arrangement and the way in which the whole mood and ambient was created. Look forward to seeing such an ambient everyday, in each house!

The latest was the BOSCOM and FOSS programme at Chennai. Not really very fruitful, but it was interesting to meet and interact with Fr PT. Every time I interact with him, I learn something new. This time, around tea time, when half the participants were out for tea and the rest of us loitering around in the computer lab, I found Fr PT silently sitting in a corner. I approached him seeing him free. But he coolly replied, "Well, I'm saying my prayers!" Though away from the community, during moments of prayer he was still very much with his confreres... praying! That's real strengthening!

Tuesday, 2 December 2008

Media bias again...

Reading this morning's The Deccan Chronicle paper and the various editorials (excerpts only) published therein was real fun. How people interpret various events and opinions. The same Mumbai terror attack was termed as an attack on Jews by the Israeli newspaper. The one in Britain, was only concerned about the British nationals killed in the massacre. Dawn of Pakistan, was surprisingly most clear and open.

The editorial page contained another beautiful article about how media which normally holds a mirror to society now needs a mirror to review itself. Rightly said, the a-v media needs some serious introspection about the way it handled the crisis and thereby its policies too.

On the other hand, the fact that TRP ratings clearly state that people were hungry for information and media was just satisfying the hunger... but one need not be provided with every kind of dish on the menu to satisfy one's hunger.

Perhaps there is more that mere hunger here... it could be greed!

Monday, 1 December 2008

So much for love of the Lord...

Here's an interesting story from my friend Jules:

On the outskirts of a small town, there was a big, old pecan tree just inside the cemetery fence. One day, two boys filled up a bucketful of nuts and sat down by the tree, out of sight, and began dividing the nuts.

'One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me,' said one boy. Several dropped and rolled down toward the fence. Another boy came riding along the road on his bicycle. As he passed, he thought he heard voices from inside the cemetery. He slowed down to investigate. Sure enough, he heard, 'One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.' He just knew what it was. He jumped back on his bike and rode off. Just around the bend he met an old man with a cane, hobbling along.

'Come here quick,' said the boy, 'you won't believe what I heard! Satan and the Lord are down at the cemetery dividing up the souls' The man said, 'Beat it kid, can't you see it's hard for me to walk.' When the boy insisted though, the man hobbled slowly to the cemetery. Standing by the fence they heard, 'One for you, one for me. One for you, one for me.' The old man whispered, 'Boy, you've been tellin' me the truth. Let's see if we can see the Lord.'

Shaking with fear, they peered through the fence, yet were still unable to see anything. The old man and the boy gripped the wrought iron bars of the fence tighter and tighter as they tried to get a glimpse of the Lord. At last they heard, 'One for you, one for me. That's all. Now let's go get those nuts by the fence and we'll be done.' They say the old man made it back to town a full 5 minutes ahead of the kid on the bike.

Prejudices galore

I remember Fr Sony remarking during the Mumbai siege... another lesson in media bias. While for all the while Mumbai, rather three places of 'repute' were under attack by less than a dozen men, all the possible channels and cameras were focussed on these with live coverage of every bit of 'action' - as if to feed the terrorists information about who's where and doing what!!

Anyway, Fr Sony rightly remarked: 'where were these same cameras and guys when thousands were being chased and hunted in Orissa during the communal violence?' Just when 200 people are killed so much hue and cry is made ... what about the life lost in Kandhamal and other places. ... not human life? not same flesh and bones?

How prejudiced we are in our thought and deed? ...even me writing this!

As secretary...

Sitting for the Council I learn news things and have varied experiences each time. I do not have the power to vote or voice my opinion but my duty is of prime importance! I realised the gravity of my role when I read the juridical elements of the congregation.

There are several occasions when I almost spoke up - so dumb and foolish were the discussions! Other times I have been surprised and spent days in reflecting about some statement or idea - how profound collective wisdom or on the spur ideas can be!

However, it is a very boring experience all together - but enriching, all the same!

Am I so indispensable?

Posting this blog from Ravulapalem.... a house which I wanted to see since long. Well, something that is still ringing in my head...

I've heard this long time back. But I heard the same thing this evening when Fr Palli was sharing about his work at PARA. He said an interesting thing: the whole philosophy behind CBOs is that communities are empowered to see to their own welfare. If they achieve that, it is a success. Why should we clamour that we have to be there amidst them always, as their saviours?

This is a 'sickness' among us religious: to make people dependent on us. Another side of this is the oft heard expression 'I cannot move from here' or 'what will happen if I am not there?'.

Is my presence in my mission to be part of the life and works of the people there or is it just to be 'in-charge'? So if I'm not 'in-charge' I've nothing to do there? Can I just be a part of the lives and work of people, especially if people are managing their affairs very well? Why should I always play the boss even when I'm not the best?

Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Simon Srugi

Tomorrow is the feast of Venerable Simon Srugi (Salesian Coadjutor). He was born at Nazareth of Galilee on 27th June 1877. He spent his entire life as Salesian at Bietgamal agricultural school. He was simple and humble and earned God's gift of healing. He had the ability to care and nurse the sick especially the poor and those who had serious sicknesses and could not afford the services of a doctor. He was a man "standing erect" to the Muslim community. They lauded him for the comfort, hope, joy and peace he offered to the poor who were sick. Blessed Michael Rua visiting the Salesian confreres called him a 'saint'. The epitaph on his tomb sums up his life in these words: Fellow citizen of Christ, who to copy in himself the humble and meek figure of Good Samaritan, gave himself everywhere, to everyone in everything.

Now that's some mettle!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Live life than fear

Anna asks Fynn: What's the difference between two and three? And what's the difference between three and two?

Well, it may apparantly seem that the answer to both the questions is the same. But not necessarily.

Thinking about this during the sermon today, another similar thought arose in my mind which clarified things a bit for me. For an instance, 'love of life' and 'fear of death' may mean the same. But they characteristically mark out the basic attitude by which one lives one's life. For one who fears death, he'd die every moment. What a pitiable life he'd have to survive.

But for one who loves life, he'd never fear death. He'd rather live life than live fear!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Something amiss...

After writing that bit about my interaction with a youngster from the Parish, I had this nagging feeling that something is amiss... I got it right only this evening while listening to my mother scolding me for not taking the herbal prescription that she has been prescribing for my cold since one week!

It then struck me, that my whole interaction was more than just a 'friend catching up with another on the latest happenings'. Neither was it about 'being a friend or preaching'. It was purely the mother's genuine concern for her son, that drove me to talk with the youngster for so long and with such focus.

Knowing that lady's struggle over the years, I really feel she deserves better at this age. And what struck me most was her agony - not at her pain of having to work and foot the bills herself but that her son was not happy and contented. Her pain was that her son was not at ease and that something was troubling him and she couldn't helplessly stand and watch him throw his life away.

Truly, only a mother knows best!

Mister God... is empty

Here's one analogy from Mister God that I need time to digest and live.

(p. 43) ... God is empty... (discussion preceding this conversation is that of object getting their colour - by absorbing all the colours except the one that we see it as its own colour - but that is exactly the colour which is not its own!)

A flower that didn't want the yellow light was called yellow by us because that is what we saw. You shouldn't say the same thing about Mister God. Mister God wanted everything, so he didn't reflect anything back! Now if Mister God didn't reflect anything back, we couldn't possibly see him, could we? So as far as we are concerned,so far as we were able to understand what Mister god was, we simply had to admit that Mister god was quite empty. Not empty because there was truly nothing there, but empty because he accepted everything, because he wanted everything and did not reflect anything back!
...
This is what we were being asked to do, throw away our pieces of colored glass and see clearly.

Mister God... rhyme and rhythm

Some interesting reflection on the Church and liturgy from today's reading of Mister God...

"He," she said indignantly, pointing an accusing finger, "told me to get off the grass." Anna said (during their walk in the garden).

"Yes," I replied, "you're not supposed to be on this bit of grass."

"But it's the best bit," she said. ...

"Them words that say keep off the grass - them words are like that church we went to this morning."


...

Inside a church Anna danced; it was the best bit. Church services, therefore like the Keep Off the Grass notices, did not allow her to have the best bit.


While rhyme and rhythm are necessary sometimes they do throttle the spontaneity of a lively spirit. Even in religious circles how often we want all our confreres to toe the line (in formation houses especially - I'm sure if my student, Ratna is reading this bit he'd be smiling now!) But it is exactly these 'lose spirits' that bring life and fresh breath to living!

Catching up with old friends...

Had a glimpse into the life of one of our staff members this afternoon as the cook shared her burden of sorrows with me. I've known her son since many years now. I once conducted a summer camp for the children of this Parish and he was one of the participants. He still has great respect for me and does meet me often.

The mother was moaning the fact that instead of helping her in this old age of hers, he is sitting idle at home waiting for the ideal job to start working. Luckily I met him soon afterwards and had a small 'talk' with him. Of course, it was no big counselling. Just two old friends catching up with the latest happenings. But I did make a mention of this point and as a friend encouraged him to make efforts to see that his mother does not have to suffer in this age.

At one moment talking to him, in front of the house as people - known people - passed and greeted us, I thought he would feel shy about 'listening'/talking to me. But there we were, talking and chatting away just like friends and even those who heard us would also say they were just talking. He asked about my brother, my sister-in-law and I inquired about his sister and her family abroad.

Young people want friends, not preachers!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Mister God...

Something to think about as I hit bed for the night... from the book Mister God, this is Anna:

..."Dear Mister God, this is Anna talking," and she went on in such a familiar way of talking to Mister God that I had the creepy feeling that if I dared look behind me he would be standing there.

For her, churchgoing and 'Mister God' talks had no necessary connection. For her, the whole thing was transparently simple. you wen to church to get the message when you were very little. Once you had got it, you went out and did something about it. Keeping on going to church was because you hadn't got the message or didn't understand it or it was 'just for swank'.

Mister God can know things and people from the inside, too. we only know them from the outside. So you see, Fynn, people can't talk about Mister God from the outside; you can only talk about Mister God from the inside of him.

Prevention than curing

These days the Somali pirates are occupying front page news in Indian newspapers! All because the Somalis have turned pirates and hijacking Indians or Indian ships! For all those reading about this for the first time, it would be an attack on Indian sovereignty - or whatever. But if one had been reading and knowing about the plight of Somalia over the years, this would not surprise anyone.

Deprived of basic amenities of life, food, water, house, dignity and when survival is the one and only goal of life, these innocent people turning to looting and hijacking is no big deal. At least this way they get to live! Hope those captured pirates are deported... so that they get something to eat at least, even though in prison!

This whole episode shows our human behaviour. We jump up and scamper about when there is a breach of law or rule. But when circumstances leading to this are on the rise, we hardly take notice! Good to follow the preventive system of Don Bosco - prevent than cure.

Provincial house photos

Some photos of the Provincial house paintings... (by Eeyam Joseph)








Thursday, 20 November 2008

Talents and books

The Gospel of yesterday was about the talents and the judgement of the Master. I couldn’t but recall the sms Rabbi sent me just a day ago: Talents in you should be like the spider’s web. They may not be strong enough to hold this whole universe, but they will hold oneself to rule one’s kingdom.

There was also this dialogue I heard in passing today (concerning books): Sometimes it is not we who pick up books but they choose us!

Quite a statement – true and frightening (especially for guys like me who am itching to lay my hands on some book). However, am glad, I at last began reading Mister God this is Anna. Lovely and inspiring!! Very engrossing too.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Commitment to Priesthood

I’ve always nurtured some prejudices against Fr Balaraju – may be his drawbacks also, but let me accept it also! However, there are also times when I envy him for certain convictions and lifestyle he follows. Today for instance, the way he prepared for the Holy Mass. He had informed me that he would be celebrating Mass at 10.30. So I set my alarm for 10.25 so that I can rush in and prepare the altar and readings. But by 10.00 itself, Fr Balaraju was out of his room in Cassock. By the time I reached the Chapel, when my alarm went off, I found that he had prepared everything. What’s more he also finished his Office of readings too! Now that’s what I was thinking about during the whole Mass: his commitment to his vocation as a priest. He may falter in very many things but the primary duty of a Priest he was diligent and still in love with. Reflecting upon all these, I too felt greatly touched by the Eucharist today. For I knew very well that it was being celebrated by someone who had prepared well and was diligent about his primary duty as a Priest.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Samosas and shame!

I just came across this very funny - and pathetic - news bit from Bihar where a Dutch couple paid Rs 10,000 for four samosas!!! Whew!! To what extent can people go to for making money! Bluff them, at such 'wholesale rate'!! Especially after interacting with Teresa from Devadurga who would really count each rupee she's spending, this news is a real shocker!

Anyhow, the last line of the news bit concludes on a very humourous note: 'Police forced the shopkeeper to return the change, which turned out to be 9,990 rupees.'

Historicity...

Reading Peter Brocardo's Don Bosco: Deeply human and deeply holy, I came across this observation which caught my attention.

Don Bosco is both a saint of the past and the continual summons of what God wants in history. He must be understood in the historical perspective because only history is able to rekindle the past as it is, without disfiguring it. Very true. Rings a bell in my head, as I recall my classes on hermeneutics with Fr Ivo. ... historical distance... and so on.

We often sit in our times and criticise or judge people of bygone days. Very easy and comfortable. But for those living in "those days" in certain circumstances of which we may not even have the faintest of ideas, perhaps what they did and said was the best they could. Therefore good to recall also the context when judging or commenting on the person.

History means not just time, but also context/space!

Monday, 17 November 2008

To Charminar... but not for Charminar!

After many months ventured out into the city, that too to the other end of the city, for some administrative job!! Had to complain about the excess internet bill that we have been receiving since the last couple of months. Thought it would have been easy getting help from the BSNL exchange guys, and my first visit in the morning raised my hopes too. Unfortunately, the second visit brought me back to the ground... Indian bureaucracy! Had to run around all the cabins and offices in the building and listen to all, only to be finally told that nothing much can be done!

Well anyway some experience - besides discovering the route to Charminar! (the BSNL office is just to the left of the historical building!)
But what a pity, I was so lost in the whole internet surcharge bill that I did go round the historical monument twice but failed to really admire it. I saw it last when I was just a kid.

Anyway couldn't help it for the jam-packed traffic of the place. Had I looked up even for a couple of seconds, I'd have run into someone or someone would have knocked me down. Better be on the road than in the hospital!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Media - tool and message

The message of the Holy Father for today, the 42nd World Communications Day is an interesting and apt one. The Media: At the Crossroads between self-promotion and service.

Now I think that's the real crux of the issue today concerning media. While media certainly is growing in leaps and bounds and creating an impact on society, life, for that matter everything, in an unimaginable way the fact that it also creates ripples and scars where it should be healing wounds and soothing things is also a fact. Reason: manipulation of media by vested interests for self-promotion, at the cost of the others' well-being. Now that's something mean. That is not making the best use of the opportunity available. So I wonder if we are really humane at all. How then can one explain the misuse of such a powerful tool for destruction and spreading hatred!

The tagline of the message provides the icing on the cake: Searching for the Truth in order to share it with Others.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

BIS workshop

This day's online conference of the BIS correspondents of our Province was great. Nice experience. Though many did not turn up the remotely group of 12 was good. Given the fact that most of them were young clerics zealous to do something was an added advantage.

Admire the patience and zeal of Fr PT Joseph. Something that brought to light his deep personality was the short prayer he smsed to me after the thing got over: '...thank God everything went on well.' I had forgotten to thank God altogether. I was rejoicing that it went on well. I say a short prayer of thanks again now as I type these few lines. Thank God!! Thanks Mother Mary!

The sharing at the end of the whole day was another revealing fact. Most of the participants preferred the print media over the other means available - know not if they all understood what they were sharing! However, I liked the 'wait and see' game. To observe how media is used and abused by people with the basic information and knowledge, while the rest of us just gulp down whatever is presented to us.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The net, the playground and the upbringing

Two outstanding moments of the day: Spending the morning with the ever-fresh Fr PT Joseph in preparation for the online conference day after tomorrow. We did work out a few things... interesting and very captivating, I should admit.

However, a few things that came back to me while praying for him during my rosary just a while ago: What ultimately are we communicating? To whom? Isn't this a merely incestuous enterprise?

Then there was this idea I was so fascinated with... Internet as the new playground. Really? Is it going to take me off from the real world and 'assist' in the virtual world? Anyway, got to deepen these thoughts ... maybe after the workshop on Saturday!

The second enlightening moment was when discussing with Teresa and her Parents who are here from Austria to see their daughter. (She has been working as a volunteer at Devadurga for the past nine months). Just before that sometime in the evening, Teresa handed over to me the money for the taxi... Rs 1000. She was a bit sceptical about the rate ... 'would it be 1 - 0 - 0 - 0!' That's how she asked me. I didn't think of it much. But in the light of the little talk that we had at dinner table, that remark of Teresa made sense...much sense!

I realised they are from a poor family. This is the first time in 20 years that her parents are leaving their home! They have a farm of 600 pigs which they look after by themselves - just the two of them! They could come away now because their son is substituting them. No wonder, they liked very petty things about India. Teresa too remarked that she liked India and is keen to spend more time in India. Nine months in India and that too with the children all the time can be maddening (As professed Salesians we go mad, what then of these volunteers) Yet she wants to stay back and be of help at Devadurga.

From what I see, she knows what life means, what it means to work, earn a decent honest living... her spirit of service and sacrifice comes from that experience, that experience of which her Parents are very much an inseparable part!

Thank you Papa and Mummy! I cherish most what you are to me!

St Stanislaus Kostka

This morning during the Mass in the convent, Fr Balaraju said something about St Stanislaus Kostka and concluded it with a quote of his. I hope I got it right: "I was born not for life but for eternity."

I thought that was quite amusing. Not mere life but eternity! Well don't get much out of it now... but shall keep it... maybe it will ring a bell sometime, somewhere!

Bombs, religion and renunciation

The news bit about online support for sadhvi, who is accused to be part of the Malegaon bomb blasts is alarming. With all the evidence pointing to her involvement, people are still ready to vouch for her - either she is a true saint or a real crook who has the manipulative power to move masses.

I wonder how many of those hindu brethren who have lost their beloved in bomb blasts support her in this matter.

Its all that blame game and parochialism! Something happens in Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu is on fire. Christians are attacked in Orissa, and Christians all over the country cry foul. Some Muslims create havoc on 9/11 and the world over, all Muslims are branded terrorists. Why is it that only when I am touched do I get so passionately involved. Such occasions really show the breadth of our relationship circle - the real depth of our humanity.

On the other side, with the arrests of some significant group of people in the Malegaon blasts throws light on some important issues. That the MTS could lay hands on some top guns - be it in the army or in religious circles - is praiseworthy. Justice for all! What's surprising as said by one good friend of mine in all this terror blasts and arrests and all is that army officers who have sworn to protect the country are also involved in spilling innocent blood. He said that religious leaders and others who have renounced life being involved in such crimes is no big surprise. But that surprises me - a religious myself! Perhaps these "religious" people never really understood life and its true meaning at all - leave alone have an encounter with the Divine! The question of renouncing life then, does not arise at all!

Goodness and goalkeeping

Here's something from my good friend Rabbi:
Being a good person is like being a goalkeeper - no matter how many goals we save, people will remember only the one we missed.
... truth of life!!!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Discipline and charism

There is this strange phenomena we see everywhere... in the families, religious houses, society... There are those who keep all the laws and rules, of God, man and earth. And then there are those who follow none! Yet people love the latter more than the former!

In families, the youngest in normally the most mischievous, unruly and wild. The eldest is most often sober, obedient and serious. Yet it is the youngest around whom the family revolves. No matter what he is up to, the family is willing to laugh over it and carry on.

In religious houses, the ones most loved by the people are not the ones who are up for meditation early, attend all practices of piety and do all their duties perfectly well but those who through these accepted procedures to the winds and chart their own way... winning people's hearts.

Perhaps that's charism! The world would be a perfect graveyard without that. Yet the former, order and discipline, too is necessary. More than a fine balance of these two, I feel it is the swinging between these two that makes the world and life go on!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Of fruits and coal

Am slowly understanding some finer tricks of administration - though, I must admit, I barely follow one quarter of the whole responsibility!

Isn't it surprising that while Rs 250 gets you just one and half kg of apples or sweet lime in a reliance fresh outlet, we can get 50 kgs of Papaya in a real fruit market! Of course, you will have to first of all get out of the city limits, go to the main distribution centre, wade in through dirt and slush, keep an eye open for banana peels and orange skins - lest you have a skating view of the market! - have a sharp tongue to bargain, tip off the guys who carry the fruits after purchase to your vehicle, and what not... But it's worth all that than just royally walk in a 'More' or 'fresh' or what not and pick up some stuff and strut around with that trolley before being handed over the whooping bill.

I suppose the same principle applies to other products as well. The price one pays for a few grams of gold may purchase us tons of coal. Yet, each one has its own value and its own purpose. For someone shivering, out in the Hyderabad night cold - it is quite cold already in Hyderabad - coal is of more worth than gold. He can comfortably start a fire and warm himself. With gold he may purchase a big mansion but lose his peace over maintaining that whole big mansion!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Being and doing... St Paul and Shekar

St Paul in his letter to Titus lists the qualities of an elder and a bishop. Quite interesting to note, he does not give a list of dos and dont's; just a list of qualities the person ought to have... what one should be, in order to be elected an elder or bishop.

Even St Paul knew that anyone with those qualities will naturally do a set of actions which will ensure the strengthening of the faith of the Christian community. Perhaps he was consciously certain that doing follows being!

But during my short 'word-in-the-ear' with Shekar, speaking about how he should be rather than talk only in terms of what he should do I realised some lacunae. Talking and instructing domestic helpers, we need to cover both, being and doing! May be because our understanding of being is different from their grasp of what we communicate. Or worse still, I may be expecting them to live a life of a seminarian!!! Hence the "misunderstanding"!

Anyway, got much to learn from both, St Paul and Shekar!!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Corollaries or controversies?

This evening I had a very pleasant ride as I drove back a dozen youngsters back to their IBS campus! Then more out of my own curiosity than their hesitant invitation to come in and have a look at the campus, I drove in. They showed me around a bit of their 90 acres plot nearly 25 kms from the Provincial house itself. (For those who grumble Provincial house is out of the city, they should try reaching this spot by themselves!!).

Anyway, what surprised me was the whole ambiance therein. Though just two years old, it is posh. Massive structures, lush green lawns, polished corridors, glass panes all around, wifi connection anywhere in the building, air-conditioned classrooms, ... I realised this is for those who can afford to burn money - any amount! No ordinary guy would even dream to get in there!

Being the first meeting with these youngsters, they were very guarded. Though comfortable among themselves, they kept a 'prudent' distance from me. But they were very cordial though! No complaints about that!

To contrast all these images that were floating in my mind as I drove back home, was the usual image of the water tank along the roadside near the military gate after the petrol bunk turn! That water tank, is the one that all cart-pushers, brick-layers, and rickshaw pullers approach to quench their thirst. I doubt it is cleaned at all, ever since it was constructed!

One the one hand here are young people guzzling espressos and Kinley mineral water and on the other hand these bare-footed school children filling their water bottles with the water from the roadside tank!

Yet all survive, all live their lives. I have doubts if, these poor kids are sadder than their richer generation. At times they may regret their state of life, but sad?

Sanctity of the Church, the temple

The readings of this Sunday are beautifully woven together by the theme of the temple. However, what struck me today as I listened carefully to the Telugu readings during Mass is that all the readings speak about the interrelationship between the temple and the body!

I wondered with such clear indications and analogies how can Catholic faith still be anti-body! Perhaps the evident is not always that evident.

Anyway, referring to the body as the temple of the Spirit, St Paul exhorts the Corinthians to worship the Lord in the true Spirit. But often we get so lost in the temple that we forget that we are there to worship! We appreciate the architecture, the lighting, the statues, the floor, the sanctuary... but miss the One for whom all this is made. We hardly ever utter a word of appreciation for the One all this is made! I wonder then if so much of beautification is necessary at all - given the fact that it 'distracts' ones attention from the REAL BEAUTY!

For the past few Sundays that I've been attending Mass in the Parish, I've been observing two groups of people: the altar servers and non-Catholics who come in frequently. Watching those altar servers go about their work, I'm reminded of my younger days when serving Mass was a real honour. Those days there wasn't even any coupons or special prizes, just the thrill of serving Mass!

But those non-Catholics who come into the Church put to shame those of us 'born-Catholics' by the reverence they show in the Church. Granted that some of the educated ones are dictated by 'ambiance fear' - what others will say if they find out that I'm not one among them. Most of those non-Catholics are purely focused on the One whom they walk in to seek or converse with. Nothing else matters!

I remember Tony D'Mello's anecdote where the king on a hunting trip stops in the jungle to say his mid-day prayers. While doing so, a woman in a hurry runs across his prayer mat, oblivious of the man in prayer - oblivious also of the fact that he is the emperor. The king finishes his prayer, summons the lady and is about to pass sentence on her when she asks, "If I common person searching desperately for my lost husband am so focused on finding him, how come you, the emperor are so distracted when conversing with the Divine Master of all?"

The Ark

Last night I watched the concluding bit of Evan Almighty on HBO. Quite an interesting sequel to Bruce Almighty. Morgan Freeman again plays God - something quite amazing given the racial factor!! At a moment when Evan Baxter, the Congressman whom God calls upon to build an ark in New York, is all alone doing the work, God has a chat with his wife in the form of a waiter in a roadside restaurant. He asks her a few simple questions: When people ask for patience does God give them patience or opportunities to be patient? The same with Courage! When people ask for courage, does God give them courage or the opportunities to be courageous?


Most often when people talk about the Ark and Noah, they imagine all about God, wrath, anger, sin... But they miss the whole point. It is more about believing than anything else. Noah dared to believe!

The conclusion of the movie - however cinematic - has a good moral: How do you change the world? "One act of random kindness," replies Evan. Yeah ARK!

There's the other instance when a press reporter asks the bearded-robed Evan, "What makes you so sure that God chose you?" Evan replies, "God chose all of us!"

And who said, movies are not good for evangelisation!!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Changeover!

After getting angry with Mallesh for doing a shoddy work with my new computer, I decided to switch over to firefox for good tonight! Not that I did not know about it or did not try it - it looked a bit shabby in comparison with IE. Anyhow, romance with IE is over!!

Perhaps also a nice occasion to get ready for the FOSS training programme in Chennai next month and all the persuasion and promises given to Julian Fox!

Am still getting used to it! Will sure do!

Chiranjeevi and Thankachan!


Here's what Thankachan was all excited about yesterday!

Daily retreat

Past two days something that kept ringing a bell in my ears during the night prayers was the fact that there is a retreat going on here in the house! A retreat!! Sounds just a word but, a businessman that I'm slowly turning into, I only see it as yet another of income fetching programmes!! Well the consolation is that at least during my night prayers I remember to pray for the Sisters making their retreat.

I remember, my Novice Master, Fr Samala telling us that the Retreat is a special moment of grace not just for the ones making it but also for those involved in it. With me playing the host, am I not involved in it? But I hardly realize the grace it is offering me!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

For love of Philosophy

After calling up someone else and wishing him happy b'day, I finally got NJG today. Speaking to him reminded me of our good old days at Yercaud. Listening to him, I'm convinced he's still the same - fresh, cranky and straightforward!

In fact, being in the presence of such 'liberated spirits' - crack fellows who dared think out of the box, with delightful insights, serious about their effort and enjoying it too - and free thinkers that I began to appreciate the worth of philosophy. Luckily that happened during my first year itself. So I was able to fully enjoy my two years in Yercaud and in Nashik thereafter.

People - especially formators - often say that philosophy is the handmaid of theology. Well could be! However, I still prefer philosophy to theology. Not that I have something against theology but somehow, I enjoy the expansion of horizons that philosophy facilitates. All that squabbling, clarifying, questioning ... all for love of wisdom and an effort to arrive at the truth.

And the best part? Not the end product but the process itself! That's the cream of Philosophy!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Preferential choice?

This evening during my walk back home I met a baffled bus conductor with an empty RTC bus at a junction near Himayatsagar looking for someone to direct him. I mistakenly pointed him a 'long cut'!!!

Anyway, I also saw several people returning from work carrying their tiffin boxes - those long ones with a handle! Most of them were young men. But they were also couples - young people again - but with small children on their shoulders! It seemed like their daily routine - go for work in the morning and be back in the evening. Apparently while I was walking to burn my fat, these people were walking (that too after a day's hard manual work) to save Rs 3 for the shared auto!

What of those small children? What if I too was born into such a family? Would I have been here sitting at this computer, gloriously typing away?

Thanks Papa and Mummy!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Conversion as change of heart-2

Well, what I liked best of the frank sharing of Anand Mahadevan (and of the Outlook magazine who dared publish that opinion, whatever the reasons) is the frankness with which it lays bare facts and deep convictions. There is no debate here... no arguments. Just plain testimony of one who was open to being touched by the person of Jesus and is today taking a public stand for Christ (not necessarily for Christianity). We have several people, beginning with our Bishops - may be myself, included - who would stand for Christianity... but the point here is do I stand for CHRIST?

I think we need people who can, first of all, stand by Christ and then authoritatively speak for Christ today. Not merely squabble over Church and Christianity. I certainly agree with Mahadevan when he says that what he acquired that evening was not a religion... it was an intimate relationship with Jesus. How many of us religious can claim that. We certainly would stand tall and shout aloud that we are born Catholics but can we at least whisper in our own hearts these words: I know Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And I know Him as a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality. (Anand Mahadevan).

As for Mahadevan's evangelisation and proclamation: If I read a good book, watch a good movie (Rock On is terrific, mate), or eat a good meal at a new restaurant, I would naturally tell my friends about it.In Jesus, I have discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can I not tell all my friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, I am delighted. The world would call it a conversion; I call it a change of heart, like mine.

Lord grant me the strength, if not to claim at least to strive for this grace... to be able to whisper in my heart, that I know You and that You are mine!

Conversion as change of heart (Anand Mahadevan)

Thanks to Aquinas who sent me a lovely article by Anand Mahadevan (editor of Outlook Business) titled 'I, The Convert'. It is superb... simple, frank, open and bold (true to oneself!). We don't get Outlook here in the house, so I logged on to the web to get the article directly from the source. Got through the registration formalities just now.

Here's it for any sensible reading:
I was born a Brahmin and am the grandson of a priest whom I dearly loved. I am educated and my current professional standing indicates that I am reasonably intelligent. I am also affluent and my income would put me distinctly in the upper middle class bracket. I guess that would make me high-caste, rich and smart. In other words, I am not a tribal, or poor or dim-witted. And yet, I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

The world would call me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. And for the record, I can truthfully claim that no one financially induced or threatened or deceived me into converting to Christianity.

I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I retain the name my parents gave me. My wife, who also shares my faith, continues to go by her Hindu name. We have two children and we have given both distinctly Hindu names. In fact, many of my colleagues and acquaintances who may happen to read this column are likely to be surprised. They have no inkling about my faith, for I generally don't go about announcing it. But if someone does ask me the reason behind the joy and hope that is everpresent in my life, I am always delighted to share it with them.

I write this piece to make one point—that my conversion was not a change of religion but a change of heart. To explain this, I need to go back to my childhood in Chennai, similar to that of so many other Tamil Brahmin boys like me. My grandfather, every bit the virtuous priest, had enormous influence over me. I absolutely adored him and as a toddler, always clung to him. He too loved me to a fault. There was no wish of mine that he would not rush to fulfil. But even in my early, formative years I was unable to relate to the religion he fervently practiced. Later, in my school days, I once spent my summer holidays with him in Trichy. Memories of dawn walks with him, for the ritualistic dip in the Cauvery river, cow in tow, are still fresh in my memory. I learnt many shlokas, some of which I still remember. But I never understood any of it and none of it helped me connect with God.

When I was 19, a Christian friend with whom I used to play cricket invited me to his house for prayer. If he had invited me to a pub, or party, I would have gone too. At his home, he and his sister prayed for me. It was a simple yet delightful conversation with God that lasted all of five minutes. I don't remember it verbatim, but they articulated a prayer of blessing on my life, future, career and family. It was a simple affair—no miracles, no angels visiting. All they did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son Jesus Christ. When they said Amen, I felt in my heart a desire to follow Jesus.

It was a faith encounter with God that I shall not even attempt to understand, rationalise or explain. I simply accept it. It is my faith. It is what I choose to believe. That evening I did not change my religion, for in reality I had none. Hinduism was my identity, not my religion. It still is.

The Christianity I acquired that evening is not a religion. On the contrary, it is an intensely intimate relationship with Jesus. Over the past fifteen years, I have come to know this Jesus even closer. I know Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And I know Him as a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality.

If I read a good book, watch a good movie (Rock On is terrific, mate), or eat a good meal at a new restaurant, I would naturally tell my friends about it.In Jesus, I have discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can I not tell all my friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, I am delighted. The world would call it a conversion; I call it a change of heart, like mine.

But I would never force anyone to listen to me, leave alone financially induce, coerce or con him into believing. That to me is pointless and against the very grain of my faith. But I do have a constitutional right to practice my faith and to preach it without deception, force or bribery. It pains to see such basic rights of mankind being cruelly violated every day in this great Hindu nation.

God bless India.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Trip down memory lane: Shillong

Remembered Shillong for two reasons today: All Souls day... the annual trip to the cemetery. That is something I'll cherish for long. The beautifully decorated cemetery and the Mass and the number of people who devotionally participate in the main Mass presided over by Bp Jala... that was really touching.

Though their religious convictions and devotional depth can be questioned, the Shillongites are truly a very inspiring lot when it comes to religious practices. They maintain the decorum throughout the ceremony. No talking, chatting, laughing and giggling during the services - whether that be processions or open air Mass or adoration services whatever! All participate very silently and devoutly.

Then there is the lovely singing - what makes it really appealing is that ALL join in. It is not just the choir singing away but the whole group singing away joyfully and in voices. They really make the liturgy very alive with their singing. Really beautiful.

The next thing that reminded me of Shillong is the call from Mas, my friend. I also got the chance to speak to Fr Shaji, one whom I admire for his intellectual acumen and religious discipline. Hard to find such inspiring people these days.

Extending 'feelings'

This day's newspaper carried another sad tale of parochialism and narrow-mindedness of us... the kollywood fraternity holding a day of fast in support of the Sri Lankan tamils. Well, there are so many Indians suffering and dying due to oppression and violence... there were the recent bomb blasts in Assam, I didn't see anyone go on a fast for those innocent victims?

We sit up and start 'feeling' only when our kith and kin are touched. We've grown so callous that the world is no where in our heart-map... leave alone the country. Not even my neighbour is included herein! I hope we at least still sympathise with those unknown people undergoing suffering and pain.

Like someone said, there are no strangers here, only friends we've not yet met. May me meet all!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wasting quality time... usefully!

Today after long, I spent some quality time talking to some of the staff members. Listening to them gave me a bit of a boost... not that they spoke about me. But they spoke about themselves! It gave me the assurance that they still look at me as one whom they can feel free to talk about themselves. That they need not evade me or talk some business always (though that is what I talk most often!).

They spoke about their little jokes, some bloomers they enjoy when amidst some serious work, some petty issues that they have among themselves and so on. This time I stayed and listened, laughed, nodded and enjoyed their company. I did not think of any excuse or give them a lousy reason 'to finish some work'. I'm glad I did that.

I skipped my walk but I gained people! Not a bad exchange at all!

Human-animal Communication

Yesterday during my walk along the outer ring road (ORR) I was amused by the goatherd and the shepherd tending it. Once in a way he would grunt or bleat just like the sheep and goat! At times it seemed that he was responding to their voice and at other times the animals seem to respond to his 'blabber'. I was reminded of Santiagu (The Alchemist) who boasted of understanding his flock of sheep. Having to spend the whole day with the sheep, these shepherds ultimately have only them to talk to. So it is quite natural that they 'speak' to one another and become familiar to each others ways of going about. I am sure this bond only gets strengthened day after day.

How about our religious life and life in communities? Why is it that the longer I live with someone, harder it becomes to face him, talk to him, work in collaboration with him? While it should become simpler and easier to do so day after day, the rapport only deteriorates as time passes. Perhaps our sophisticated human communication does not foster that!

If communication is truly the foundation of all relationship and communion, is our human communication really 'better' than the human-animal communication?

Poor St Joseph!

This morning's shared homily was interesting. I still can't stop laughing recalling it. Asked to share something about our patron saint, a cleric named Joseph shared about what he liked about St Joseph - that God CHOOSE Joseph to be the father of his son. A priest corrected him midway saying, St Joseph was only God-father, not father of Jesus. The cleric continued, "Yes, God-father chose Joseph to be the father of his son!"

So much for parenting and English!!

Friday, 31 October 2008

Holy Mass and renewal

Attending Mass with lay people, especially in our small chapel, is always a renewal experience. Yesterday for mass there were three lay people to join in the Mass, which otherwise has only two or three of us (Priests and myself).

To begin with they would not sit around the altar in the sanctuary. They preferred to sit in front of the altar keeping a sacred distance. I realised I'd lost all sense of the sanctuary at all!

From their expressions it was clear that they were fully there in the Chapel carefully following the Mass. I had to make a very conscious effort to stay focused.

Kneeling during the consecration came automatically to them. I had to struggle to decide what to do.

Once outside the Chapel till they entered the refectory they were still in a very reflective mood... perhaps the sanctity of the Chapel still pervaded their minds. The moment I was out of the chapel door, even before I put on my footwear, I was already thinking of what next!

So I really wonder if our participation in the daily Mass makes us better people or more indifferent to the Divine!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Diwali yes, but not crackers

My fascination for crackers ended the night I heard Fr Xavier INM speak about the plight of children in Sivakasi. Well, I don't exactly remember his words but that goodnight that he gave in the chapel of Yercaud is one of those that changed my whole perspective of some facts of life, I had assumed as normal.

I never gave this whole celebration a thought, till I heard that the crackers are made by children who never see sunshine! They are herded into lorries early morning and are out of the 'factories' only much after nightfall. Now that's too much of a contradiction - light for some and perpetual darkness for others.

Frankly speaking I've never done much about that information but it has greatly affected my attitude towards this whole feast of Diwali. I remember the year when I was doing my PT in Karunapuram. While the whole community was out in the playground bursting crackers I was in my room. That was the first time I had this tug of war within me: as an assistant I was supposed to be with my formees and by conviction I had decided never to 'celebrate' crackers! In a sense I did both: I explicitly told the Brothers why I was not going to be with them. Some of them still remember that!

Thy will be done

During the Rectors' meeting a thought that flashed across my mind was about my contribution to the world... if any!

When we call ourselves educators, we need to gear our educational system in that line. By merely teaching maths, physics and chemistry we do not become educators, we remain mere teachers. To graduate to the next level we need to make our contribution holistic. We need to see the larger picture and work towards that rather than some petty immediate goals.

I was wondering what is my conscious contribution to the world? Just putting order in the office, file cabinet, correspondence...? Anything more? I had no answer then. More a sense of guilt that I haven't done much... maybe! But then a mail that I received today calmed me a lot. It was from a confrere whom I always maintained a very business like rapport. To hear words of appreciation from him and that I come across as one who values people a lot, was a real surprise. I was trying to recollect what is it that I did for him for which he was so happy. I remembered I had done a couple of things for him - some urgent things in the middle of the night. I thought I was only doing my duty. But I guess, if it were so, I should have said, "sorry, work only during office hours!"

Anyway, as Fr Ivo said, when God wants me to do something more or different from all that I'm currently doing, He will let me know!!

Thy will be done!

Stray thoughts on administration

Some striking thoughts from the recently concluded animation programme for Administrators and Rectors on Accounting and related matters:

Accounting is not for everyone... therefore the need to qualify people in that line.
After the government of India, religious societies are the ones that waste resources most.
Our bills and vouchers speak more about our spirituality than the number of hours we spend in the Chapel.
The way we make use of our property reflects our vow of poverty.
A list of things we have not used in the past one year shows all that we can live without!
What was the objective achieved by the money we spent?
The bottom line of all our financial problems: lack of budgeting and planning.

The whole notion of depreciation was the one that really caught my attention. Sounded very logical and true... but practically wondered how to do it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Christianity is never singular

This morning during Mass a strange thought occurred to me. Why do we still recite the prayers in plural even when there is just two of us, the celebrant and myself. I said to myself perhaps the act itself is such that it cannot be in isolation. Moreover, Jesus is always there!

It was time for the 'Our Father' and just for the kicks of it tried to recite it in the singular 'My Father... give me my daily bread and forgive my sins...' Well, it didn't sound anything at all. That's one of the greatest strengths of Christianity: communion. We/I am never alone!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Mind games...

Last night as I was spending some moments with my family at home, we heard these crackers sporadically. I casually asked if there was some cricket match going on or something. Only then Mummy told me it is Diwali! Wow, I said, I didn't even realise that.

Strange isn't it as to how our senses pick up things we already see in our mind? Some of my confreres constantly hear - and get distracted, or may be even frightened - by the morning chants of 'Om' that fills the air these days for hours long. I barely hear it! Why is it that for some it is so clear that it disturbs and frightens and for others it does not exist at all. But all of us are exposed to it.

For all my Hindu friends - and even maybe others too - Diwali is a grand occasion to celebrate. But here I am as though it is just another day of my normal life. If the occasion in itself were grand and solemn, all of us should have been equally excited. But we aren't!

It's all in the mind...

Time and work

This morning as I took bath, I had this strange flash of idea/question: What was I doing with the time that I'm now spending on administration last year (when I was not the administrator)? Strange, last year too, I used to tell people the work of the Secretary and the web is taxing and hectic. This year with the additional responsibility of administration, I'm still doing fine! That's strange!!

Well, no answers but only prayers: Lord grant me fast that gift of bi-location!

Friday, 24 October 2008

The integral picture

That same ugly double-faced style of life and living gets reflected in every meeting, everytime!! At the end of the touching presentation of Fr Palli on the Orissa carnage, we all want to jump the wagon! But when he began his presentation with the HR education in our institutions, there were no takers! What a double face!

We time and again fail - or even refuse - to see the integral picture. Today the Christians are burned and tortured in Orissa and my blood boils. Where was my blood when day before yesterday something similar happened to some hindus or muslims? Are only Christians human beings?

Most importantly what am I committing myself to, in order to ensure that 'Orissa' does not repeat anywhere, to anyone, anytime? Protests, conscientisation, rallies ... all are fine. But when I am capable and opportunities are provided at doing something more, why see the negative side and list out reasons why we cannot do it rather than see possibilities and opportunities?

Lord, help me see through ...

Exercising responsibility

The whole procedure of/for consultation is an interesting one! First of all, who knows since when, but there certainly exists a sort of aversion to the very responsibility of filling in the consultation forms. Hence most, and to be precise, 70%, don't take the trouble of even looking at the forms a second time, leave alone taking the little trouble of filling it in and sending it back.

There are those - especially the young ones - who take it very seriously and do a 'thorough' job! So 'thorough' that we may have to revamp ALL our houses and confreres every year! Anyway, their sincerity and seriousness at proposing names to the different posts is still a sign that they have some love for the congregation still.

I too was comfortable postponing filling in my form for the reason that I needed time to reflect and do it sincerely - from the fact that I still did not manage to do it, I gather, I was not that serious about it!!! But then filling up the consultation form is I believe exercising our responsibility. Tomorrow when something is wrong, I won't have the guts to stand from a distance and point fingers at others, saying, "It's all because you appointed him!" But fulfilling this task I too am now taking responsibility for all that follows.

Now with regard to the often stated reason for not filling in the form: it makes no difference to those in authority. Well, as long as it makes a difference to me, I do it. That others do not take it seriously, that's their problem. Why should I shirk my responsibility because someone else is shirking theirs?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

My Province

Check out this latest addition onto the youtube about my Province... just another crazy adventure!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Song

One of my first contributions to youtube ... done in collaboration with Sheeba.

Multi-tasking and efficiency

Multi-tasking is a real feat these days. And if someone thought I'm good at it (that I am getting sharper or rather, used to it, is another thing!) then they've not met Fr PT Joseph! He's a real entrepreneur! Check out what he is evolving www.donboscoindia.com into!

I guess we all human beings have inherited something from our four-legged ancestors, along the way. Adapting to situations and circumstances as per need - and survival - we grow and evolve into something more equipped, better prepared and efficient. And who knows, if those circumstances are relaxed then we may get back to the 'lethargic state' of life as earlier. Well, depends!

So far so good. The three days ahead are going to be real hectic days. Look forward to meeting confreres and extending to them our Provincial house hospitality. My recent trip to Vizag made me all the more conscious that however I try, confreres look at me more as Secretary of the Province than as Castilino. Certainly not a very comfortable treatment as per that outlook. Too much of formality!

Photos...

The whole effort of this whole morning did not go in vain! At last mastered - at least to some extent - the picasa photos thing! The result of that can be seen on the top right photo slide!

Originally I wanted it on the Province website www.donboscohyderabad.org but then I wanted to experiment with it prior to putting it up there. Now that I know the procedure, I can try it out with the Province website too. Hope it 'clicks'!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The teacher

Here's a very touching anecdote printed in the Delhinet:

The first grade teacher gave her class a fun assignment - to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful.

Most of the class might be considered economically disadvantaged, but still many would celebrate the holiday with turkey and other traditional goodies of the season. These, the teacher thought, would be the subject of most of her students art. And they were.

But Douglas made a different kind of picture. Douglas was a different kind of boy. He was the teacher's true child of misery, frail and unhappy. As other children played at recess, Douglas was likely to stand close by her side. One could only guess at the pain Douglas felt behind those sad eyes.

Yes, his picture was different. When asked to draw a picture of something for which he was thankful, he drew a hand. Nothing else. Just an empty hand.

His abstract image captured the imagination of his peers. Whose hand could it be? One child guessed it was the hand of a farmer, because farmers raise turkeys. Another suggested a police officer, because the police protect and care for people. Still others guessed it was the hand of God, for God feeds us. And so the discussion went - until the teacher almost forgot the young artist himself.

When the children had gone on to other assignments, she paused at Douglas' desk, bent down, and asked him whose hand it was.

The little boy looked away and murmured, "It's yours, teacher." She recalled the times she had taken his hand and walked him here or there, as she had the other students. How often had she said, "Take my hand, Douglas, we'll go outside." Or, "Let me show you how to hold your pencil." Or, "Let's do this together." Douglas was most thankful for his teacher's hand.

Brushing aside a tear, she went on with her work.


The story speaks of more than thankfulness. It is about the hand that accompanies. The hand that 'assists'. The hand that reaches out.

Myself...

Now for some self-glorification.... for once!!

Some photos clicked by Prashanth while at Kondadaba for the Media seminar... I thought I was seeing Willy, my brother! He too has the same mouth formation when he talks in public - and why not, both of us are from the same company! Think I should see more of myself, besides the two times I see myself in the mirror to comb my hair.



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