Sunday, 28 June 2009

Prayer and quotes

Here's a nice prayer (from Rabbi, sent, as usual, in the middle of the night!):
Disturb us, O Lord, disturb us, when we are too well pleased with ourselves; when our dreams have come true because we dreamt too little; when we have reached the shore safely because we have sailed too close to the shore, disturb us O Lord!
Reminds me of another nice quote that I read in a book long ago:
Lord give bread to the hungry and those who not hungry, a thirst for justice!
Then there is one which Cheryl mentioned when we met for the first time in Vijayawada:
'... we rise to the level of our incompetence...'!!

Friday, 26 June 2009

Power of media

Seems to be a very powerful movie... reminds me of 'The Kite Runner'...
That this movie won the Audience Choice Award at the Toronto film festival (2009) does speak something about it. For me, that Jim Caviezel plays one of the main roles in the movie adds another reason for it being special. 'The Stoning of Soraya M.' is a drama set in 1986 Iran and centered on a man, Sahebjam (Caviezel), whose car breaks down in a remote village and enters into a conversation with Zahra (Aghdashloo), who relays to him the story about her niece, Soraya (MarnĂ²), whose arranged marriage to an abusive tyrant had a tragic ending.
"... the world must know!"

The family bonds

This morning I received the sad news of the demise of Fr PK's father. I instantly passed the information to the Province confreres. Fr Maliekal also informed the community about this sad event before breakfast this morning. There was no reaction from the Brothers. Fr Maliekal was quick to comment: "It means nothing to them. They don't know... neither Fr PK nor his father. So his death would mean nothing to any of them."

I knew that it was right but found it hard to accept. After all, Fr PK is a Salesian, one of the family-member of the Province. Now I do not say that all should start weeping, or begin a five-day mourning. But some sense of solidarity...?

To add to this uneasiness was the sight of a brother running around the house, after lunch, informing all, that Michael Jackson had died!! I really found it hard to believe and I did mention it to the Brother 'broadcasting' the news. The worse was yet to come: another brother offered the last decade of the community rosary for the 'repose of the soul of Michael Jackson'. That was too much for me! Not that I have anything against Michael Jackson or believe that he does not need our prayers - most probably he needs them more than Fr PK's father - but to see where and how our mind works/where our affinity lies. There's a confrere's father who passed away today and a celebrity (whose very name the Brother who prayed for him, could not spell!)... and whom do we sympathize with? Is Michael Jackson more a family member than Fr PK? Certainly not for me!

Lunch with God

Here's a nice anecdote I received from Cheryl today:
There once was a little boy who wanted to meet God. He knew it was a long trip to where God lived, so he packed his suitcase with cupcakes, several cans of root beer and started on his journey.

When he had gone about three blocks, he saw an elderly woman. She was sitting on a park bench watching the pigeons. The boy sat down next to her and opened his suitcase. He was about to take a drink from his root beer when he noticed the lady looked hungry so he offered her a cupcake. She gratefully accepted and smiled at him.

Her smile was so wonderful that he wanted to see it again, so he offered a root beer as well. Once again she smiled at him. The boy was delighted!

They sat there all afternoon eating and smiling without saying a word.

As it began to grow dark, the boy realized how tired he was and wanted to go home. He got up to leave but before he had gone no more than a few steps, he turned around and ran back to the old woman, giving her a big hug. She gave him her biggest smile ever.

When the boy arrived home his Mother was surprised by the look of joy on his face. She asked, "What has made you so happy today?" He replied, "I had lunch with God." Before his mother could respond he added, "You know what? She's got the most beautiful smile in the whole world!"

Meanwhile, the old woman, also radiant with joy, returned to her home. Her son was stunned by the look of peace on her face. He asked, "Mother, what has made you so happy today?" She replied, "I ate cupcakes in the park with God." And before her son could reply, she added, "You know, he is much younger than I expected."

Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring; all of which have the potential to turn a life around.

People come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime.

Take no one for granted and embrace all equally with joy!

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Saul turning Paul

This morning I shared with the Karunapuram community my reflections about Saul-turning-Paul. The real point of conversion was the excruciating blindness and helplessness that Saul felt after having encountered the Lord. The meeting with the Lord was only the starting point, not exactly the point of conversion. Saul did have the courage to go through the dark night, the perseverance to be a 'nobody' for three days and more, the anxiety of not knowing who you will be, the courage to start afresh leaving behind the comfort zones of his education, status and power. Secondly Saul was willing to seek help (from Ananias), to play the second fiddle (to the Apostles), to be one among the crowds (just like any other disciple), the humility to seek God for assistance and strength.

Confident that the Lord had called him, Saul endures all of this and is willing and open to learn from all. It is this attitude of courage and openness that gives him a new identity, that of Paul.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009

Working for a Change

Fr Rayanna's goodnight was a classical one!!

There are three types of people in society who wish to bring about a change: the revolutionary, the reformer and the rebel. The first one is one who wants to see that everything outside him is good, according to his standards (noble and demanding).... but not necessarily one who would do it in an amicable way. The last one, a rebel, is one who would grumble and fight without a real motivation. The change he wishes to bring about need not necessarily have the welfare of all involved. The reformer on the other hand is one who attempts to bring about a change on the outside, beginning with his own self. The change thus brought about is healthy for all as it emerges from the person himself who has used it first on himself and is now inviting others to this.

Becoming a personality

Last night Fr CJ Mathew shared a nice reflection in view of the solemnity of the birth of John the Baptist:

To be born a personality, a celebrity is an accident. But to die as one is an achievement. John the Baptist didn't have done all that he did, but he chose to and thereby earned a name for himself for all eternity.

Recollection at Karunapuram

Long last the net is back!! The thunder and lightning here in Karunapuram did not bring down the rain but only the internet!! Anyway, did manage to catch up with quite a lot of work this night.

As I type this I realise, I've been preaching recollections at the rate of two to three per year!! Wow, that's already some work... Today was the first for this year. As always, I kept it personal and not something theoretical or theological. That's the advantage of being with the Brothers for a while... you gauge their pulse and feed them appropriately. Anyway I made a good recollection myself. It was nice making myself sit in the Chapel and spending time with the Lord.

I spoke to the Brothers about the option that all of us made to be Salesians and what it entailed. Using the analogy of a football game, I stressed on the point that it is ultimately I who made the choice to be a Salesian, that I play by the rules of the Congregation (using my creativity to live them best, there lies my skill), that all that happens (good, bad, pleasant, unpleasant) is all part of the game and finally, that I need to involve generously and joyfully to be able to continually make the choice. If at anytime, there isn't a 'thrill' there is no prison wall holding me back from walking out of the football court (religious life).

Monday, 15 June 2009

At Karunapuram

Am at Karunapuram (Don Bosco Philosophate, Warangal) for a course on Introduction to Philosophy for the first years. Coming to Karunapuram is always a sort of 'homecoming'. This evening I just walked around the corridors recalling to mind the three years that I spent here as the Assistant. Far from being the most pleasant and memorable, those years were nonetheless enriching. There were hard times too but very formative. Looking back I remember that it was tough then. But in a way, I am happy that I came in here with an attitude of learning, clearly to be 'with the Brothers', to learn and give my very best. I think it is these basic principles that kept me going even when the going was tough.

This time round, things are different: this is the first time that Karunapuram is seeing such a large number of Salesians (40 and three more yet to arrive!). It is good. Furthermore, the mixture is very very good (Brothers from Guwahati, Kolkata, Chennai, Sri Lanka, and of course, our own Hyderabad guys). Hope the Brothers will gain and give much, enriching themselves in this whole process.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

David is no more!

He was stabbed below the heart and the knife dragged inside so as to tear his stomach out and his internal organs were all forced out. His gold necklace, telephone, money were all stolen. This must have happened at about 2.30 in the morning. Poor David, just 16 years old, must have bled to death there. No one helped him then, nor is anyone now. A touching incident which occurred on June 13, 2009 in far away Hungary ... but has a message for everyone!

Read more about the fragility of human life ... the cruelty of the human heart ... the helplessness of a wounded family ... of this incident.

Thanks to Fr Simon for sharing this part of his life and mission!

Love for Christ and Christianity

Mummy, as before, was asked to prepare for the School inaugural prayer service. I had earlier given her some such prayer services. The other day she called up and began, "See that prayer service that you gave has a part where in children are to offer a candle, some flowers and a Bible..." I jumped to some conclusions of mine and tried to offer a 'solution'. I told her that instead of the Bible, you can use some textbook or school diary. She retorted back, "Why not the Bible? What's wrong in using the Bible? After all it is a Catholic school, a Salesian School? Why should I use something when I have the Bible?" I had no answer!!! I tried to wriggle out saying that some may not like the Bible being used and so on. She was in no mood and repeated the same set of questions that she earlier grilled me with.

The best part was yet to come! What she had called me, was to find out if she has to put a crucifix on the assembly table or not! After all these gifts being offered are to be offered to someone, so she said she would like to put a crucifix on the 'table'.

So much for me being a professed religious set out to proclaim the Word of God and Mummy being a simple ordinary Lay woman!!

And by the way today is her b'day!!! Happy b'day Mummy!! As I always say... proud to be a Castilino and a Salesian!

Friday, 12 June 2009

Providence and shrewdness

Rummaging through my collection this evening I came across this legal sheet of paper with neatly drawn margins and the text handwritten by me while I was a novice (1996). Wanted to discard it but found the story I had heard (and hence written) quite impressive:
Many years ago, when a person who owned money could be thrown into jail, a merchant in Venice had the misfortune to owe a huge sum to a mean moneylender. The moneylender who was old and ugly, fancied the merchant's beautiful young daughter. He proposed a bargain. He said that he would cancel the merchant's debt if he would have the girl instead.

Both the merchant and his daughter were horrified at the suggestion. So the cunning moneylender schemed and told them that they let Providence decide the matter. He told them that he would put a black pebble and a white pebble into an empty bag. Then the girl would have to pick out one of the pebbles. If she chose the black pebble, she would become his wife, and her father's debt would be canceled. But if she refused to pick a pebble, her father would be thrown into jail, and she would starve with no one to look after her. A white pebble would mean she would be free and her father's debt canceled too!
Reluctantly the merchant agreed. They were standing on a pebble-strewn path in the country with many people watching the scene. The moneylender stooped down to pick up, what seem their fate. As he picked two pebbles, the girl, sharp-eyed with fright, noticed that he picked up two black pebbles and put them into the bag. The moneylender asked the girl to pick out the pebble that was to decide her fate and that of her father.

The girl put her hand into the bag and drew out a pebble. But without, looking at it, she fumbled and let the pebble fall into the path where it got lost among the hundreds lying on the path. "Oh, how clumsy of me!" she said. "Never mind, however, if you look into the bag, you will be able to tell which pebble I dropped by the colour of the one that is remaining." Since the pebble remaining was black, it had to be assumed that she picked the while pebble. Of course, the moneylender dared not admit his own dishonesty. Both the father and his daughter went home happy that they were safe and free!
Moral (of course drawn by me!): Never give too much work to Divine Providence... use your head and skill too!

Invest in people... not buildings

The discussion at table this morning revolved around the newspaper report of the tourism minister of Karnataka offering a diamond studded golden crown to Lord Venkateswara in Tirupathi... and the cost.... 45 crores!! Whooooops!!

When I first heard this, I felt like vomitting!! But the next instance, what came to my mind was the large Churches we have or are planning to build. Each of them too would run into quite a few lakhs, if not a crore at least. So I had to calm myself saying, not all fanatics are outside, some are inside my religion, my congregation and myself too!!

I wonder when will we learn to invest in people (knowledge, experience, standard of living, basics of life, dignity, empowerment) rather than on buildings and structures...

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

Ads and Salesian Ministry

Here's some insight into advertising...
...when an agency is presented with a brief, they first understand the problem, then identify the audience for the brand, and current behaviour of the consumer that needs to be influenced or addressed to meet the brand's objective. Key hypotheses are identified and the best one leveraged to convey the client's message...

...the basic premise is to catch the attention of the target consumer through creative storylines that tell a convincing tale about the product/service...
Sunday Chronicle (June 7, 2009) Ad: A dash of humour by Rashmi RaoHow efficient and successful we will be in reaching out to the young, initiating new presences, sermons, talks, presentation, if we follow some of these principles... alongside our time-tested Salesian traditional methods.

The law

There is a very thin line dividing breaking the laws and going beyond the laws. And I believe what demarcates one from the other is the spirit with which the action is carried out... the motivation, attitude and intention with which the deed is performed. Laws are rules put in place for the common good of individuals and communities in a society. It is necessary to ensure the smooth running of the society. But it also has at heart the good of everyone involved. Therefore every time a law is broken, it causes disturbance, hindrance and inconvenience. But suppose much more good can be achieved or is at stake when the law is broken than when it is kept, I think such a circumstance would be called 'going beyond the law'. But again, what ultimately matters is the spirit with which the deed is performed.

Going by experience, we need people specialised in both these categories: those who break the law and those who go beyond it. The former show us a glimpse of the possibilities beyond the limitations and restrictions which we set on ourselves and the explorations we do not undertake for fear of 'breaking the rules'. The latter bring about stability and guarantee that all what we do is not in vain. That there is a platform from where we launch (maybe into the unknown).

Tuesday, 9 June 2009

Where are the Salesians?

The heart-rending news about the plight of the Peruvian tribals and indigenous people, as reported in ANS caught my eye just now. I know not if it was reported earlier, at least I did not observe it earlier. To know that a small minority of people, with the minimal of information and technology standing up to the government machinery speaks of the courage of the local population. If recession is spoke of on side, this is the other ugly face of globalisation.

I wonder where are the Salesians and the Church in this whole struggle? Could be also that this is taking place in some place where Salesians are not really present. But if they are present, I am sure there are some, who are very much involved in this. I wonder what is the response from the top, to this involvement. Or are we acting like ostriches, saying that it is not a 'Catholic' problem! I've always heard that the South American Church has always been on the forefront of 'liberation' and 'grassroot' thinking and living. I only hope that Salesians are not lagging behind!

Religion vs God

It is interesting to note how different people interpret the same text differently... the same goes with ones life and actions too. Take for example the statement of the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat: 'Hinduism is not a religion, it is a way of life...'

In his message he goes on to say that since Hinduism is a way of life, no one should abuse another faith. Well, that's truly noble of him (that too given this being his maiden message as the RSS supremo). But I hope all involved understand that if hinduism is not a religion, then none (not even Advani and his brigade) have any moral ground in stating anything about conversion (for now forget about the meaning and debate involved around it). For if we truly understand the meaning of that truth, then one may follow whichever religion he or she wants and yet be a hindu! So if at all any of our Hindu fanatics have a problem, then that should be a moral issue - that of one not living his or her life according to morals and values, certainly not about beliefs and faith!

But why is it that religion is always a point of discussion and not God...?

Sunday, 7 June 2009


Inspiration is an amazing and mysterious thing! You never know when you are inspired, by whom or what... Yet one thing is certain: once you are inspired, you see things in a whole new light. The outlook becomes totally different. Those who follow it to the end are happy - not because they achieve success or money but because they have followed their heart. Some others who do not have the courage to let the inspiration flow into action, at times, struggle with the guilt of not having taken the 'other' path. Then there are those who are so blessed with such inspirations that they inspire others, at times without they even knowing it.

Perhaps it is through inspirations that we directly share in the wisdom of God... just some sparks of it.

Friday, 5 June 2009

Stray points on HR and Salesian life

Of the many things I heard in the past two days, somethings caught my attention...
  • the idea that sin is not necessarily personal... that there is a community dimension to it too. Every time I turn my back on one who is being denied his or her basic rights, I am participating in a communitarian sin. It is not that the other person is so because I have done something against him or her. But by not reaching out to him or her, in whatever way, I approve what the society does with him (or does not do with him)!
  • the need for re-appropriating the meaning of our apostolates. Most often we seem so content carrying out our responsibilities to perfection in a set framework. We do it also perfectly, but perhaps we also need to see beyond the framework or extend the frame to a wider inclusion.
  • service does not necessarily mean doing all that I am capable of doing for someone in need. It also can be getting those responsible to get their act together and reaching out to those in need, rather than being the 'saviours' ourselves.
  • the power of networking with people around... risk involved: losing our unique identity amidst the whole group working towards a cause. However, I see that the cause is greater than the identity. Cause defines our identity. An identity does not exist in isolation, cut off from the rest of reality.

The Kite Runner (2)

There is something about the character of Hassan in the movie 'The Kite Runner'. I haven't read the original book by Khaled Hosseini but perhaps the characterisation of the boy for the movie is done with delicacy. Whatever it may be, I was wondering as to why it is that this 'flat-nosed' character is so very gripping, though the movie focuses most on Amir Jan. Perhaps he stands for hope and optimism. When everything around him was hostile and unpleasant, he choses to stand for something (friendship, I believe). He his priorities right. Even if his whole world came crumbling down, he would not have given up on his friend. He trusted in friendship, even when his best friend accused him falsely.

Why is it that even after such a shameful exit from the house, he chooses to come and safeguard that very house, even to the extent of laying down his life for it? Hassan isn't one with education or bright intelligence, but is one gifted with a very large heart. There is something so mysteriously inspirational about such characters. Without demanding it, they inspire goodness in people.

The Kite Runner

Last night we watched a lovely movie 'The kite runner' (directed by Marc Forster) as part of the seminar on Human Rights and our Salesian apostolate. I liked the movie which basically speaks of friendship, loyalty and courage to stand for something. The tag line of the movie is very interesting: 'There is a way to be good again'. Set in the background of the early 80's when Taliban just came to power in Afghanistan and the struggle of the locals, the film is very gripping right to the end.
However, inspite of the introduction by Fr TD trying to say that the movie has much to do with human and child rights, I really did not see any great connection. But when Fr Palli, shared certain points this afternoon, and referred to some scenes and dialogues in the movie, I saw the connection. The instance when Hassan, for the sake of a kite he promised to his friend, opts to be abused by the elder boys is very touching. After all that is over, he does not say anything to Amir. When falsely accused of stealing Amir's watch, Hassan accepts it! That he goes to the extent of giving up his life for the sake of loyalty and friendship only shows that virtues are not the monopoly of only a particular section of society or the characteristics of an economic group only.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Strenna 2010: Personal vs Communitarian pespective

I am pretty much surprised by the Strenna of 2010
“Sir, we want to see Jesus”
In imitation of Don Rua,
as authentic disciples and zealous apostles
let us bring the Gospel to the young
After all the previous strennas which were very inclusive and 'holistic' in their outlook and reach, here comes something so typical of only our faith. Whatever we may say, in times when religion causes more division than union, such a theme will certainly raise eyebrows.

I also look at it from the perspective that we as a Province are now heading towards... a human rights perspective, involving all those with whom we are involved in (young people, lay collaborators, parents, teachers, other like-minded organisations, government employees and bureaucrats). Now to strive for this we cannot be having another agenda and in a sense working towards that. I remember Fr Koshy getting irritated during one meeting (perhaps the only time I saw him so) because he says, while networking we are engaged in discussion with so many things and with so many people, trying to strengthen our common interests, that suddenly we crop up trying to wave our 'Don Bosco' flag over and above the main issues we have gathered for. I see his point: we do not have to always brag about Don Bosco, certainly not in times and places where real ideals are being lived out. What is important is that we do the work of Don Bosco, if need be envision what he would be doing today and carry that out rather than look for ways and means of turning up our collars, just because we are Salesians.

Coming back to the Strenna proper, as a religious I fully endorse it. It is true that I need to bring Christ to the young and the vice-versa too. But I also feel it is of utmost importance as to how this is done. Much depends on the latter. On the periphery, there may seem a contradiction in the community dimension that I see and the personal opinion that I express. However, it really need not be so. Reason: Each of us is responsible for this. There are no ready made solutions for living out one's faith for a common purpose. But how well we live it out in harmony with all others involved is truly a challenge, which we need to respond to. How well we respond to - or atleast attempt to respond and live out - indicates our commitment to Christ, His people and Don Bosco.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Message of the day?

I wonder what's the connection between the two readings of the day. The one from Tobit speaks of him going blind and then the heated argument he has with his wife over the goat that she receives as a bonus from her employers. The Gospel is of giving back to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar and to God what belongs to God. Now, I'm wondering what is the combined message of these two readings? Is it that one is not to accept gifts from others (to Ceasar what belongs to Ceasar)? Or is that even once things are given as gifts, they still belong to the one who gives them?

I remember an incident in the life of the great Buddha. A thief once came and abused the Buddha in front of his disciples. But he wasn't perturbed a bit. Once the theif left, Buddha's disciples asked him how he could remain so tranquil and not even respond. The Buddha replied, "What if you give me a gift and I accept it? Whose is the gift?" His followers replied, "Yours." "What if you give me a gift," continued Buddha, "and I do not accept it? Whose is it then?" "Still mine," replied the disciple. "Well, my friend who just left offered me a gift... and I did not accept it!"

The Claretian Bible Diary gives a very shallow interpretation... It concludes saying that one 'should not meddle in disputes of wordly politics'. Certainly Jesus must have meant much more than just that!! Wonder what... ?

Seeing things anew

Yesterday I had a lovely day with Ms Carola. Last evening when I took her out to show something of Hyderabad, I was pleasantly surprised that she liked her visit to my home (we just dropped in for a couple of minutes only). I was also surprised when I took her to Basera for the meals. She loved the meals and had a good helping! I've never seen any foreigner eat so much, and that too on her second visit to India! She must have truly enjoyed her meal... hopefully! But it was the conversation and exchange of ideas that we had over the table during meals that was the best part of the day.

Another interesting aspect of spending time with those from another place is the way they look at things and when they ask questions about something they do not understand or seem baffled about, I begin to see things, literally. Like yesterday, I really SAW, the number of muslim women going around in their hijab - that too a variety of ways (some covering their whole face, some leaving space only for theie eyes to be seen, others their whole face open, some wearing only the scarf round the face - that too, so many of them!!) Not that I had not seen them earlier but some of these things never struck me... until Carola was asking questions.

Well, so much for getting used to life and all its richness!!

Monday, 1 June 2009

Indian/Salesian hospitality

This morning, after all the confusion, including a fine of Rs 100 for not wearing the seat belt while driving, (perhaps in away, thanks to it!) I had the opportunity to meet Ms Carola Carazzone, a member of VIS, a voluntary organisation related to the Salesian Family. I had heard a lot about her from Fr TD John and Fr Palli, especially after their return from the Human Rights Congress held in Rome early this year.

I too find her very pleasant and eager to know people, to see things, and to have a taste of things typically Indian. No fuss about anything missing or too conscious about being a 'guest' (and therefore to be treated so). Just at home with all that is.

I distinctly remember the Irish couple who were here last October for the retreat. Worse still they were the retreat preachers!! From their behaviour and demands, they were anything but 'Christian'!! Even them we treated well (till I lost my head one afternoon). Somehow, that's one thing I like of us Indians, particularly of our Salesians... hospitality. Anywhere you go, you are at once made to feel at home. Things may not be perfect, but all that is lacking is made up by the warmth, concern and joy people express when they meet and interact with you.

Athithi devo bhava (Guest is as good as God!)
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