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)


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

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

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


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

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

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 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?
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