Friday, 31 July 2009

Province history (about Kaburlu)

The Province news bulletin (English) 'Kaburlu' got its name during the Provincial Chapter (I think it was PC2) held near Mangalagiri ... it was suggested by Fr TD John!! May be more details, as and when I have them!!

Thursday, 30 July 2009

History of the Province 3

Some more information about the Province... (Provincial house)
  • We bought the land on which the Provincial house (and BIRDY) stands for a mere 6 lakhs from the Archdiocese. The construction cost of the Provincial house was just 75 lakhs! It was all done through the help of Mr Anwar and his father.
  • Call it coincidence or divine intercession: Right when the construction work was on in full swing, in walked a government official demanding to see the documents. The documents were then still with Mr Anwar and his family. So he immediately ordered all work to stop and told the Salesians to come to his office, produce the documents and clear all official matters before continuing the work. What he didn't say and all that he meant was that his palm was dry and had to be greased!!! Having barked orders he merely walked out of the gate (the compound wall and gate were already in place) and was knocked down by a four-wheeler - he broke his legs! That was the last any one saw of him!!
  • The first bore that we drilled for water was a failure (between BIRDY and the compound wall along the gate-side road). The next one brought forth lots of water (near the Sisters compound, in the garden).
  • Most of the electricity load was borne by the generator, which is still in perfect working condition (15 years). It was only when we got the permission to set up a transformer (paying 2 lakhs) near our gate (not private, but for public use) that the generator had some relief!

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Fear, challenge and inspiration

It is said that Moses' face always used to be radiant after his conversations with God. So much so that he had to use a veil when interacting with the Israelites thereafter. This must be in a sense true. Conversing with God, Moses must have acquired a state of sanctity that was so resplendent, not so much in the physical sense (may be also) but very vivid for anyone interacting with him. This is true of all people who really share an intimacy with God. They 'glow'!! Before such people, others still on the way or even far from it, shrink and feel 'intimidated'. It is the same when one encounters something so challenging, so demanding, so marvellous that the very sight of it is frightening. Mysterium tremendum et fascinas!

Blessed are those who transform this fright, this challenge into inspiration and embark on a journey. 'When we let our own light shine, we unconsciously or courageously give other people permission to do the same.'

Monday, 27 July 2009

Moses, Don Bosco and Benjy

Listening to Fr Benjy, I'm reminded about what the Israelites must have felt when they were listening to Moses, immediately after his 'conversations' with Yahweh: so passionate, spirit-filled and convinced. It must have been very exciting for the Israelites to await what Moses would speak and say. Similarly Benjy must have said, "We are living Don Bosco's" at least 25 times in his 45 introductory talk.

This is something very many of us admire in him: his passionate love for Don Bosco and the Salesian congregation. At times, even bordering fanatisism... but total and contagious. Being with him anyone will fall in love with Don Bosco and embark on a journey of knowing more of Don Bosco. Perhaps this is what it means 'being filled with', totally imbued!

History of the Province 2

Here are some more newsbits of unrecorded history of our Province (source is Fr Benjy himself):
  • We bought the Don Bosco School, Sanathnagar place for merely 6 lakhs - and the cash payment was done in the United States! Today the same property (land alone) would fetch nothing less than 6 crores!
  • In the days when Fr Di Fiore was the Provincial of the united Madras Province, there was an offer of 10 acres of land in Banjara or Jubilee Hills by one Mr Papaiah. We did not take it then, rejecting the land as barren and very rocky. It was said that we would have to invest more to clear the rocks and all, so... Today not an inch of land is available in those areas.
  • When Fr Benjy was the vice-Provincial of Chennai, he was the one who proposed the setting up of three institutions in the then Madras Province. St Theresa's, Sanathnagar was one among them. The first Salesians to take over that diocesan run Parish were Fr John Lens, Fr KS Joseph and Sr Paula JMJ (she used to bring food for these two Salesians in those early days).

Saturday, 25 July 2009

I started reading the compiled letters of Don Rua this morning (Letters to the Confreres of the English Province 1887-1909 by Martin McPake and William John Dickson). The introduction to the compilation itself was interesting. I was particularly struck by the efforts of the compilers to 'redeem' Don Rua from some sort of negative impression. They also are aware of this and hence indicate it in the second paragraph of the introduction itself:

... the man who by inclination and deliberate choice, was largely overshadowed (at least in the minds of most Salesians) by the towering charismatic figure of Don Bosco.
Then there is the observation that these historians make and something similar I mentioned a couple of days ago:

In an age that was more concerned with making Salesian history than recording it...

Well, looks like 'that' age is perpetually present.

My first impression reading a couple of Don Rua's letters to the pioneers of Salesian work in English speaking regions of the world is the emergence of his strong "Italian bias". Looks like he was more concerned about the Italians in those regions than others. I don't know if they were the most down-trodden of the population then. If that is the case, then fine. Or else it sounds too parochial!

Just another 'unrecorded' piece of history, this time of the Congregation: Don Barberis, was among the quite a few Salesians, who found themselves reluctant to accept Don Rua's leadership in place of their beloved Father and Founder! That's quite amazing. If that was the case of the first novice master of the Congregation, I wouldn't hold much against some of the present ones!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Over-riding the circle of hurt-anger-revenge

Today I was part of an embarrassing situation, not because it involved me but because it involved those close to me - my second family, the Salesians! It was a public act of cold-blooded mud-slinging, which perhaps, not very many take up to, unless deeply hurt. Whatever be the case, hurt or no hurt, we are no better than the perpetrators of violence (hurt), when we follow the same method, which we were once victims of and now abhor.

It surely takes courage and a lot of strength to break the circle of hurt-anger-revenge. And the mettle of person is tested in moments like these. Sitting now in my office and reflecting about the events of the day, I can confidently say this, but will I stand the test and be willing to stand tall and clean when I am at the centre of it all, is a question.

Lord, help me!

Forget metro, build footpaths

There's a news article in The Hindu of today's paper: 'Forget metro-lines, build footpaths!' True indeed, even in our Salesian settings, with all the planning and sketching, laying out of the edifice, choosing tiles, selecting wood, planning the computer room, checking out the water source... we forget some basic requirements: a washroom for visitors, a decent parlour, a store room for electrical and hardware goods, washbasin in the rooms...

Even in our Project of Life and Community Plans (OPPs, EPPs, EPCs...) we make grandiose plans and discuss great ideas, at times at the risk of forgetting basics of personal, communitarian and divine dimension. Let's not forget that a divine life is built on ordinary simple life! Spirituality and Grace work on humanity and it is normally not the other way round!

Transformatory push

A woman went to a walk-in clinic, where she was seen by a young, new doctor. After about three minutes in the examination room, the doctor told her she was pregnant. She burst out, screaming as she ran down the hall. An older doctor stopped her and asked what the problem was, and she told him what had happened. After listening, he had her sit down and relax in another exam room. The doctor marched down the hallway back to where the first doctor was and demanded, "What's the matter with you? Mrs. Terry is 59 years old, has four grown children and seven grandchildren, and you told her she was PREGNANT?!" The young doctor continued to write on his clipboard, and without looking up, asked, "Does she still have the hiccups?"

At times, all that is required to solve a seemingly large problem, is a soft answer, with enough force to bring about a change - for some, it can just be a gentle tap and for others, you need a propeller!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

History of the Province (in bits)

Listening to Fr Chacko last night at supper time, a thought flashed through my mind, again. These senior confreres hold such an amount of information and history of the Province, its beginnings, the petty things which are not normally recorded in the Chronicles... Especially given the context of our days when House chronicles are written just before the Provincial visitation, mostly by printing out news posted on the website (if any!), such history is lost with these pioneering confreres.

Just to put down a few things that came up during our discussion last night at table:
  • Fr Chacko was one of the pioneers of Mariapuram, Ravulapalem (the mission started in Palivela and was later shifted to its present location at Ravulapalem, by Fr Chacko himself)... and of course, Orissa too!
  • The East Godavari Mission was started by Fr Chacko and Fr Johnson Moyalan. After two years, Fr AR Jose replaced Fr Moyalan. Later that third year Fr KK joined them. The private boarding/school that Fr Chacko initiated (and was the principal of) was later moved to Ravulapalem and Fr KK was the headmaster of that school. Mind you, imagine Fr Chacko as the first headmaster, before Fr KK!! There was also a Sister of the St Ann of Providence (SAP) to help out then inthe school.
  • The tussle between the Salesians and the JMJ sisters at St Theresa's, Sanathnagar dates back to Fr Lens' time. Not that he was the cause of it but most probably because of some tiff between the sisters and Fr KS. The first sign of animosity was when the Sisters stopped giving b'fast for Fr Lens after Mass! Furthermore, the opposition really started when Fr Lens proposed the erection of a gate beside the Prysbytery entrace facing the Hospital road. Sisters planted a couple of trees right there to block any further thought about it (which Fr KS uprooted in the dark one night!).
  • Fr KS and Fr Selveraj are the only two confreres in the Province who served the shortest term as Rectors, only three years (at Guntur and Kadapa, respectively).
  • Fr MS Michael has been the longest serving Rector of Guntur... almost 18-20 years and has practically spent two-thirds of his Salesian life in Guntur. He is the one who was appointed Rector of Guntur after Fr Benji (who was appointed Vice-Provincial of INM) in 1978.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Marriage woes

Here's an amusing anecdote from an old friend at Matunga:
When our lawn mower broke and wouldn't run, my wife kept hinting to me that I should get it fixed.. But, somehow I always had something else to take care of first: the truck, the car, e-mail, fishing, always something more important to me.

Finally she thought of a clever way to make her point. When I arrived home one day, I found her seated in the tall grass, busily snipping away with a tiny pair of sewing scissors. I watched silently for a short time and then went into the house. I was gone only a few minutes. When I came out again I handed her a toothbrush. 'When you finish cutting the grass,' I said, 'you might as well sweep the driveway.' And then the fight started...

Solar eclipse!

People are all gaga over the solar eclipse ... sometime ago I too found this whole phenomenon interesting but no more. May be loss of the 'sense of wonder'! Anyway, last night Fr TV Thomas said a very amusing thing: Well, those who want to watch the solar eclipse can watch it any night!!

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Crazy basketball

Watch this crazy video... really crazy basketball shots!

Facing fear

In the movie, Coach Carter, the coach (Samuel L. Jackson)
repeatedly asks the players, this funny question which leaves them wondering:
"Sir, what is your deepest fear?"
None replies, till the end when the students take a decision on their own.
At a turn, when they take a stand out of their conviction,
he's what one of them (Lyle) says:
Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate.
Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us.
Your playing small does not serve the world.
There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people
won't feel insecure around you.
We were all meant to shine, as children do.
It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone.
And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people
permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear,
our presence automatically liberates others.
I remember Claudius sharing his experience during his PT in Nashik
and then someone posing him this question: "What are you afraid of?"
I have found myself trying to answer this question every time I hesitate to take
a decision or arrive at a conclusion. It has been a great source of
guided introspection and 'peeling of masks/layers' under which I take shelter.

Monday, 20 July 2009

Mission and resources

During the adoration service at Kurnool, Fr TV Thomas shared an interesting angle to the apostolate we carry out in the Province:
Most often in our service to the people, we wait for our fill, our comfort and all necessary facilities in order to begin the mission. We need a proper house, a four-wheeler, ration stocked up for a month, money in the bank (FDs) and in hand too, 'workable' confreres... the list is quite long! Instead, the Lord does not want us to be fully prepared to launch out into the mission entrusted. The moment He commissions us, He already gives us the basic necessities. Launch out with that, rather than wait for the ideal moment and perfection of resources. The danger in waiting to begin is that we may end up safe and secure in our institute and then wait for people to come to us. After all, there is so much of infrastructure available, why then waste our time going around and visiting people?! Let them come here and we shall see what we can do - is the attitude we develop. We become institutionalised. Or we end up becoming slaves of the comforts available that mission is sacrificed totally.
I wait for the day, when confreres are willing to go to their new place of apostolate (especially if it is a new intiative) without any money, go by bus, rent a home, eat the ordinary food, drink the available water, go around establishing a rapport with the people, study the situation and then start the work in response to that felt need. Money and comfort, spoil the best of intentions and motivation! May be I'm exaggerating, but after seeing things 'live', this is my strong feeling!

Kollapur and Kurnool

Just back from Kurnool (via Kollapur)!! My maiden visit to these communities! Some of my views about this two day trip:
  • First time, after years I saw SPARROWS... quite a few of them.
  • At Kollapur where we celebrated the Holy Eucharist in the small church along with the children it was a delight! There were some 50 small boarding children who were herded into the church. Most of them were below 11 years of age. I was all the while 'distracted' by these fellows: the smallest two of the group were lost in their own world (a world much bigger than where they presently were!), one or two managed to inch closer to the door and sneak out when the warden was 'distracted' in prayer, another couple or more were pulled up for fighting during the offertory... but the most surprising thing I noticed was that some of these boys were 'assisting' the others to sit quiet and pay attention to the Mass. They were not bossing over, just friendly help and guidance. It was very surprising to me ('cos not even in the Philosophate have I seen such brotherly assistance among the confreres, especially among peers).
  • The place Kollapur, is a whole 'kingdom' given on a platter - nothing much to lose in carrying forward that school. But however, good to go slow. Study it for a year and then go ahead with full gusto.
  • Kurnool is another mighty big infrastructure. Plenty of land, good buildings (with the old ones, still intact). But a waste of resources. Practically three-fourth of the mighty place is lying idle.
  • The Shelter home coming up in Kurnool is a very lovely one. Though only the structure is ready (finishing to be done), the odd shape of the land has been put to maximum use and the building looks really good.
Reflections about this trip, later...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

The little boy and the five thousand...

Some reflections that I shared with the MHM aspirants yesterday at Parigi...
I was reflecting with them the parable of the feeding of the five thousand and these are the points I highlighted:
  • It looks funny that of the five thousand gathered there, only one boy had something to offer! None of the others brought anything? Or were they not willing to share, as generously as the boy did?
  • The boy surrendered all he had and left it at that... no conditions, no asking for payment, no selfish thoughts as to say, "That's only for Jesus and me."... freely and totally given. Once given is given, no further claims and conditions about the offer.
  • Jesus took it, blest it and distributed it. What was offered by one, sufficed for five thousand and more. Even the one who offered it had a good helping. Imagine if all the five thousand were to give something to Jesus!! May be the world is surviving on the generosity of only a few. If only more were willing and generous, there'd be plenty for everyone and more too!

At Parigi with the MHMs

Yesterday I had the opportunity to 'preach' the monthly recollection for the aspirants of the Mill Hill Fathers (MHM) at Parigi. It was good, a nice opportunity to spend the day with them living their lifestyle. I should say, they are truly very down-to-earth guys. Not much of fanfare about things and their way of living. Simple life style. I liked what Fr Thaddeus (their rector) had told me earlier: "For now we want to build their faith; priesthood and all that, later. So one thing we are always happy about in the whole formation process: that if a boy leaves the formation house, not wanting to become a priest, he is for sure, a better Catholic than when he entered."

Luckily after long I took the chance to talk in four languages (I had done in three when I was in Nashik). The boys were from UP, MP, Orissa, Tamil Nadu and AP... that too just one month since they joined there. So for most of them, English was 'greek and latin'. I was also happy when the brothers there told me to use some mixed language to make my points clear to the boys. Fr Thaddeus had given me the green signal much earlier. At first they were very serious and totally silent (very unusual for boys that age and just one month old in the seminary). I first introduced myself and told them to relax...nothing much happened. The looks on their faces were very disturbing. But the moment I made a couple of statements in the next 5 minutes in all four languages (English, Hindi, Telugu and Tamil) I could see life surging in on their faces!! I could see them all ears, waiting for the next sentence I would speak in their native language.

Later as I left the place they were all eager to have a word with me... in their own language. Nothing serious, just the joy and thrill of speaking free and clear. But I was very conscious and was prudent in my use of English as the main language. So much for liberating the mind and ... mouth! I hope my presence has also 'liberated' their thoughts on prayer and sharing.

Religion/Faith and Economics

This morning one of our Rectors here in the Provincial house for a purpose, was all excited about Christians in AP being granted SC status. He was talking about it for long and praising this move of the Chief Minister, YSR. I really did not understand what tickled him so much about this whole thing... till he said, 'now most of the Catholics will be able to live their faith openly and freely'. Then it struck me that he was a man in the mission field trying to build up the small Christian community he was 'shepherding'. Perhaps this denial of privileges was something that kept his community from exercising their faith in its fullest. Hence when this opening is provided he feels happy for them. Rightly so!

However, I wanted to protest: How can anyone better their faith just because a monetary privilege is now available? After all, this means that Christians are entitled to scholarships, concessions and so on, without denying that they are followers of Christ. But I didn't say a word; I still have not really lived their life. I really have not lived their daily struggles to make that statement, while instead I am sitting at a table well laid out and assured that it will be there again, everty time I come in.

That very many say, there is no big connection between faith and economics, I agree; but religion and economics, that's another equation!

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Moses and God's grandeur

These days reading about Moses and his missionary command, I am reminded of this nice quote:
Earth is crammed with Heaven.
And every bush aflame with God.
But only those who see take off their shoes -
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.
Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861), Aurora Leigh

I suppose, this is exactly what we lose as years go by after our profession: that SPARK in our eyes and FIRE in our hearts and minds! It is only when we have these two do we really 'see' life and reality anew - subsequently effect and affect a change. If not, for these we'd only be walking corpses! Nothing more, nothing less!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009


As I glanced TV just a while ago to catch on some news, I saw a very funny ad: it was about an upcoming programme (on some channel of the star family). People get paid or 'win' to say the truth!! Just 21 questions and they are polygraphed when answering! What days...!! I guess, the concept of this programme arises from a basic assumption that all of us tell lies, most often! So you tell the truth, just 21 times in line and you are a ... wealthy man or a 'true' (truthful) person?

Monday, 13 July 2009

With the boys at Chandur

Am at Chandur, the place where I began my novitiate 14 years ago. Oh boy, it is today a very different place. I haven't been to this place since then. So coming here and seeing all the difference is very refreshing. For one, the old shed (our dormitory) is still there - though it now being used as a carpentry shed. Our chapel, Fr VT John's room, our study hall are all gone - pulled down. I also remembered Shantha's funny giggle all through the Mass in the inaugural retreat, watching the ruins of what was once our chapel. The trees for one are really huge now. They give a totally different 'shade' to the whole house now. It is good to see Chandur green and fresh. The fields and football court are still the same. Of course, the Shrine is new (to me). A courtesy visit to the Salesian Sisters (my maiden trip) showed that the town remains EXACTLY the same!! I cannot understand how they managed to keep it the same.

This being the first time I am out with Fr Noel as his helper for the Visitation, I'm just taking it slow. I wait for his signal, if he wishes me to be around or if he wants me to intervene. Nice to hear all the good being done and the efforts being made. Makes you feel part of the house and mission. Had to really resist the temptation of vocally showing my appreciation for their hardwork.

Best of the day: Spent time chatting with the boarders for nearly an hour. It was lovely talking to them in Telugu and in their own lingo! The other thing which did not strike me then, but struck me profoundly when Fr Noel mentioned it in his goodnight, was that my presence and interaction with the boys was a real attempt at vocation promotion, that too for Salesian Brotherhood.

I am glad too that the senior boys remember Mariadas who spent with them just a month, last year around this time. He has a real knack of getting around these boys. No wonder his heart is in Chandur.

Freedom from trivialities

Watching Fr PE Abraham these days is like watching a comedy movie! But yesterday as I spent the whole evening and night, reading the correspondence of Br Gabriel (to cull out something for his mortuary letter), I realised that things were not always rosy, especially in the beginning. Today with all the sophistication and modernisation, I still bemoan the shortage of time! God alone knows how these senior confreres managed their affairs with practically not even half of the facilities we enjoy today - cell phones, e-mail/internet, travel comforts, computers/laptops, well-furnished structures, a/c fitted four wheelers... !!

Though I pull Fr PE's leg for his "zeal" for the missions, I am a big fan of his. Not that I agree with all that he has in his head and all that he speaks (frankly, I hardly agree with any of it!). But I do admire his zeal to live the Salesian life. He does not have any big and varied interests. Just one or two things (a four-wheeler being one of them and a small sip of sprite during supper, that too if and when it is available - he says that helps him get good sleep and not get up very many times in the night!)! But that's it. Few things and happy with that. The rest of his energies - which we otherwise dissipate, on making lists of what we want and what we need - he spends on writing books and plays and conjuring up ideas and talks on 'mission'.

I am sure he must have picked it up from the earlier Salesians. Great example of how simplicity of life can free us for greater dedication and service.

Sunday, 12 July 2009

Growing strong and deep roots

These days I've been going through the correspondence of Br Gabriel Fernandez who passed away a year ago (July 22, 2008 to be precise) for some material to be included in his mortuary letter being prepared by Fr Maliekal and Fr TV Jose. Most of his own writings (in the scattered diaries) is about his 'low-moments'. I guess he was busy celebrating the 'highs' to pen any of his thoughts and points of view. I also wonder, if he had anything to fall back to, especially in moments when he was down and out. I am sure such moments would have been in plenty given his delicate health in the last years of his life. Did he really have something to hold on to? I have my doubts...

I hope I have something more deep and profound to hold on to when I reach that stage of life (if at all I live that long). This blog of mine sure does have fragments I can collect and thoughts I can weave together, time permitting to look at myself and my life. More than this text, I think what is within me will sustain me, especially in my dark nights - or darkened nights!! So make hay while the sun shines.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Another quote from 'Patch Adams'

I remembered another lovely quote from the movie 'Patch Adams':
You treat a disease, you win or lose. But treat a person, I guarantee, you always win, no matter what the outcome!

Medicine, life and living

Health has become a business - mighty profit-making business. Once upon a time, I was captivated by medicine - especially after watching the movie 'Patch Adams': Medicine is more about improving the quality of life than delaying death. But in the last few days, I feel more will die of medicine (or lack of it) than really 'improve the quality of life'.

Last time it was our gardener, Tirupathi who had to dole out one month's salary for a night in the hospital. This time it is another person known to very many of us who has to burn not just his pockets but himself... a whooping Rs 8 lakhs!! I'm told that in one of the prestigious hospitals in the city, the starting fee is Rs 50,000. That's just the initial deposit. The fees are built on it!! I'm sure, there must be hundreds of people who must have walked out of the hospital 'happily willing to die' than even dream of pouring out so much money. In such cases when medicine and cure is simply beyond the affordable limit, the patient either is happier than before or dies then and there!! It is only the dear ones who have to live with the guilt of not being able to do anything other than see him/her slowly die. Living in such conditions is maddening!

Friday, 10 July 2009

His touch!

Very many times in life, I wonder what makes certain things turn around so drastically that it is hard to believe that it was something else or someone else altogether in the previous look. Discussing with Thathi about things in life and in our formation process this morning, I felt that at times there is something so different about people who are really motivated. They know what they are here for, and the way they go about with life is something so inspiring. Not that they are highly talented but that they exude a sort of spirit and create an ambiance which somehow makes them stand out. Best of all, they INSPIRE!!

There is the famous poem 'The touch of the Master's hand'... perhaps we have to believe that this is also possible when changes take place. Rather than we effect all changes, we let Him too do something... and when He is upto something, He changes everything.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

You needed me...

This evening as I was searching something for Fr Noel to begin his CRI meeting in the morning, I remembered this song that I had in my collection... 'You needed me'. (I liked the Boyzone version better than Annie Murray)
I like the song for its message that we are all interdependent beings... no is better off alone and all alone... not even God! The song basically speaks of relationship (divine or human, is the same!).

Life is better with challenges!

I spent practically the whole day editing the Province directory... such a pain it is!! Every time you go through it, there is something that needs correction, verification, confirmation, rectification...! However much you do, there will always be something that will stick out as a blunder! Anyway, I know no better way to do this than this hard way... and so let it be!

There were moments when I said (in exasperation), "to hell with it all!" But exactly those times I remembered what I told the first year students at Karunapuram while taking 'Introduction to Philosophy': The fact that some questions elude answers, is no excuse to stop looking for one! No one stops wearing clothes or footwear just because they will get dirty or wear out. Life carries on, and what thrill if everything was clear, easy and always available. Life carries on but what makes it worth living is the amount of effort we put in to make it worth every bit of it - possible or impossible, is no reason to waste time!

Joseph and ... my memories

The readings of these days takes me back to my good old days at Nashik. The one (of the many) instances that floods my memory is that of staging the musical 'Joseph and his technicolour dream coat'. Wow!!!

I barely have any memory of the final shows, but of the rehearsals, practices and all that went in before the musical was actually staged, I can hardly forget anything. There was John Mwangi, with his curled up beard, as the fellow prisoner of Joseph! There were the parish kids, acting as piglets, eating away royally with their hands when they were actually supposed to eat 'through their pig masks'! Then there was Cletus, acting as Pharoah's wife, trying to seduce Joseph (Branco). Chris, the only one to do a double role - acting as Pharoah and Jacob. Claudius helping out with the choreography and his 'near nude' dance (shadow play). Shankar Bhai Jaganbhai helping out with the lights and all the confusion. Emma as the narrator. Wyman at the sound controls, with that 'zone B' of the amplifier going dead once a while!

Best was Fr Blany, the director, calling out Noby when he was angry: "Joby, come here!" Noby would not move! I gently reminded Fr Blany, "His name is Noby, not Joby." "Whatever," retorted Blany. "Toby, come here!"

Glorious days!

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Blogger's Prayer

Our Father who lives above and beyond the dimension of the internet
Give us this day a life worth blogging,
The access to words and images that express our journey with passion and integrity,
And a secure connection to publish your daily mercies.

Your Kingdom come into new spaces today,
As we make known your mysteries,
Posting by posting,
Blog by blog.
Give this day,
The same ability to those less privileged,
Whose lives speak louder than ours,
Whose sacrifice is greater,
Whose stories will last longer.

Forgive us our sins,
For blog-rolling strangers and pretending they are friends,
For counting unique visitors but not noticing unique people,
For delighting in the thousands of hits but ignoring the ONE who returns,
For luring viewers but sending them away empty handed,
For updating daily but repenting weekly.

As we forgive those who trespass on our sites to appropriate our thoughts without reference,
Our images without approval,
Our ideas without linking back to us.
Lead us not into the temptation to sell out our congregation,
To see people as links and not as lives,
To make our blogs look better than our actual story.

But deliver us from the evil of pimping ourselves instead of pointing to you,
From turning our guests into consumers of someone else's products,
From infatuation over the toys of technology,
From idolatry over technology
From fame before our time has come.

For Yours is the power to guide the destinies behind the web logs,
To bring hurting people into the sanctuaries of our sites,
To give us the stickiness to follow you, no matter who is watching or reading.
Yours is the glory that makes people second look our sites and our lives,
Yours is the heavy ambience,
For ever and ever,

from Our Catholic Prayers
[Thanks to Melo for leading me to it!]

Profound alteration!

A Journalist's 'actual responsibility' was the title of the news article I came across in the Deccan Chronicle of today. I read the article for the title caught my attention. I thought the author, Roger Cohen, would speak of something that is typically professional. But it turned out he was speaking about transformation - primarily of oneself!! He begins saying:
... that to be a journalist is to bear witness. The rest is no more than ornamentation. To bear witness means to be there - and that's not free.
He speaks of his stint in Iran and has this to say:
I confess that, out of Iran, I am bereft. I have been thinking about the responsibility of bearing witness. It can be singular, still. Interconnection is not presence. A chunk of me is back in Tehran, between Enquelab (Revolution) and Azadi (Freedom)...
Yesterday as Fr Palli left the Provincial house after the meeting of the pre-cap commission, we got into a conversation regarding Hungary and David's murder, in the light of the new animation material from Rome (on the Salesian work with the Gypsies). Palli was not happy... "they are happy doing 'welfare' works, not really touching the lives of people and empowering them... standing by them in their pain and anguish... we are only applying balm..."

Being truly involved cannot leave us the same. I just cannot claim to be involved in any apostolate unless, I cannot live without it. The other day I came across the summary of the movie Goodbye Bafana:
...the true story of a white South African racist whose life was profoundly altered by the black prisoner he guarded for twenty years. The prisoner's name was Nelson Mandela.
Now that's what I call involvement... commitment... 'profoundly altered' beginning with oneself!

Quote about honesty

Quote of the day (not very Christian but certainly very practical!):
"A person should not be too honest. Straight trees are cut first and honest people are victimized first."

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Another 'Chapter'!

The Provincial Chapter 7 (PC 7) is taking off as I type these few lines in the next room. The pre-capitular committee is meeting for the first time with the Provincial to chalk out the plan and the process. Looking back I did good by excusing myself of this responsibility. Frankly, I realise the enormous potential a Chapter has. But often it gets weighed down by (and under) the paper work, so much so that as Fr TD says, there is a genereal 'Chapter fatigue'!!

I am keenly following the whole procedure for I intend to contribute my best and learn the ropes of it along the way. Working with Fr Varicka in Shillong for the ING PC was a good experience. While from our PC 6 I learnt how NOT to do things, with Fr Varicka it was a riot of exploration and adventure. Unfortunately that was my first PC and it was totally new. Hope to reinforce my experience and learning with this one that is just taking off.

"Kamchor" labourers?

Some weird idea crossed my mind at the end of the Gospel reading this morning. The last line says, "Pray the Lord of the harvest to send in more labourers to collect the harvest." I was wondering labourers only for collecting the harvest? What happened to those who planted the crop? Those who were looking after it so long? Where did they disappear? Why not call them back again? Is it that these labourers employed earlier, turned out to be like most of our government employees who are very much present on the payroll and no where else... least of all at their job/desk?

Whatever be the case, there is work at hand!!

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Love strengthens...

Today evening I had to rush to the hospital (once again) to check on one of our staff members who met with an accident along with his would-be! They were on their way back from the city in a shared auto when the auto rammed into a road divider and she was badly injured due to the shattered glass of the auto. She received nearly 12 stitches on her face!!! When I reached with a couple of other staff members in the evening, the guy was sitting outside the room where she was being 'stitched up' and wailing away!! He had nothing to complain about his injuries - in fact he had none!! I first thought that it must be out of real love for her. But I sincerely had my doubts the way that guy was behaving. The best part was, that she while being attended upon was trying to calm him!

I lost my mind after a couple of minutes and went up to him and asked him, "What's wrong with you? Why are you crying? Just shut up and get out of the place!" I asked Raju (our receptionist) to take him out of the room altogether. Even later when I met the doctor and spoke with him about the extent of injury and other precautions, this guy was always trying to sneak in and cry! At one moment I sternly commanded him to sit quiet and not make another sound!

I know that love is a very strong emotion. It makes people do all sort of crazy and weird things. But I also very firmly believe that love is very strengthening and supportive. Especially in moments like these, we need to stand by and support one and another, not act like sissies! I hope both these young people learn from this experience and not rush into marriage now. I fear she would end up looking after him and she'd have no one to support her truly!

Perhaps, this is what Paul meant this morning... when I am weak then I am strong. I am strengthened because the One who loves me is my support. But if the one whom I love is so weak that seeing my weakness, he/she collapses, then God save me!!

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Church and mundane matters

These days the regional CRI (Hyderabad) is having a workshop on Ecology and the Church. This is perhaps one of the themes yet to catch up in the Church. Nearly 10 years ago when Fr Joshtrom was all for it and in his own humble ways drawing our attention to it, this never struck me. But today as I look around and realise the growing consciousness about ecology and nature, I feel, much can be wrought if the Church too gets involved in this. May be the Church - beginning with me and including me - is 'suspicious' of becoming too 'earthy' if it gets 'imbroigled' in all these issues: ecology, human rights, media... May be the 'spiritual' character of the Church may get watered down or we are frightened to get 'dirty'. Anyway, one good thing is that the Church is making a valiant effort. There are people in the Church who are integrating life and living and are thus convincingly able to guide others to a more integrated and unified living - something more than just prayers and novenas!

Gospel and food

The readings of this morning still baffle me. The only connection I see is food! But that's a very silly connection! What else do I read into the readings? One states how Isaac (with the help of his mother, Rebecca) cheats Esau of his birthright and Jesus talking about fasting and feasting. Perhaps it is something like the vows that we religious are called to practice: not for their own sake (no merit whatsoever, in heaven) but for something greater. We renounce, we forgo, we sacrifice, we take 'the road less travelled' not for saying that we are great men of renunciation but to joyfully live it for Christ and His people. If the latter is missing, then we may certainly gain a lot of merit but only here on earth and that too at the cost of our true joy and effective mission. Our focus is not living the vows; they are only the means!

May be for Isaac, food was a means of achieving something that someone God wanted him to have (that I find it difficult to understand and accept, is another point for discussion!). Jesus too was 'justifying' his apostles about eating is only to say that in the context of what they were to do (or called to do), food was not the primary focus, only a means.

Friday, 3 July 2009

The Shawshank Redemption (2)

Here's another dialogue from the movie 'The Shawshank Redemption'... it is all about how human being becomes conditioned... institutionalised. The dialogue here is in the context of a prison (long term). But it is not very much different from how we as religious get 'institutionalised'. (Thanks to Chris for pointing this out to me!).

RED: Heywood, enough. Ain't nothing wrong with Brooksie. He's just institutionalized, that's all.

HEYWOOD: Institutionalized, my ass.

RED: Man's been here fifty years. This place is all he knows. In here, he's an important man, an educated man. A librarian. Out there, he's nothing but a used-up old con with arthritis in both hands. Couldn't even get a library card if he applied. You see what I'm saying?

FLOYD: Red, I do believe you're talking out of your ass.

RED: Believe what you want. These walls are funny. First you hate 'em, then you get used to 'em. After long enough, you get so you depend on 'em. That's "institutionalized."

JIGGER: Shit. I could never get that way.

ERNIE: Say that when you been inside as long as Brooks has.

RED: Goddamn right. They send you here for life, and that's just what they take. Part that counts, anyway.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

The Shawshank Redemption

I started watching this movie two days ago and it took me all of three days to reach the end!! But no regrets! It is truly a lovely movie... as one reviewer comments 'a dull at the box office then but a hit with critics, especially today!' Here are some dialogues I picked up from the movie:
  • Andy telling Red: Outside (the prison) I was as straight as an arrow, honest! I had to come in here to become a crook!
  • Andy to Red and co.: There's something not made of stone but something within. That no one can touch. No one can take it from you. It is hope.
  • Andy to Tommy, the new prisoner: Perhaps you should try some new profession. After all you're not a good thief. Then why not try something new?
  • Andy to Red: Get busy living or get busy dying!
  • Andy's letter to Red: Hope is a good thing, and good things never die.
My favourite, however, is this:
Red, when told by his boss (after he's freed from prison) not to ask him permission every time to go for a break: Forty years I asked for permission to piss. Can't squeeze a drop without saying so!
Oh, it's a beautiful movie of hope, patience and friendship. Great! Tim Robbins is excellent: cool, reserved and precise! Morgan Freeman... oh, boy! No words to describe him. It was a great idea to get him to narrate the whole movie. Not another soul would have done better!

The best thing of the movie is the style and message: simple, clear and always loyal!

Life and money matters

The other day was a hard day for Tirupathi, our gardener. He had to shell out Rs 4,000 just for one night in the hospital! Considering that it is equivalent to his salary for one month, it is really HUGE!! I could sense his anguish and pain when he called me in the morning to "bail" him out of the hospital. It was a simple case of some food poisoning or something didn't go well with his stomach. But life is dear to all. And Tirupathi knows that though life is very dear it comes at a cost too!!

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Deepening faith vs making priests

This evening though I tried to wriggle out of an opportunity to preach a recollection, I accepted it!! (I'm still wondering who told Fr Thaddeus MHM about me?? I have a strong feeling that it is Fr Noel who suggested my name... but really him??) Anyway, as I squeezed in a day for the Mill Hill aspirants at Paragi, I sat with Fr Thaddeus discussing with him what he really wanted me to focus on. He was plain and straight-forward. "They are aspirants, yes but first we want them to know their faith - understand it, accept it and cherish it. Priest or no priest, we shall see later!" Really, that struck me very much. Perhaps that's the reason, their society (not a congregation) is so flexible. Like Fr TD John saying, 'Priesthood is not a vocation, living a life of commitment is!'. It was nice he told me that. Perhaps in our Salesian formation, our whole focus is on making the young who enter our aspirantate, 'Salesians'. Endorsing and deepening faith is something taken for granted. But I think it does not just 'happen' that way. Grace of God works, but not best on rocky soil!!

Being/Becoming a Catholic!

(I just can't wait to pull Fr PE Abraham's leg with this!!!)
Each Friday night after work, Santa Singh would fire up his outdoor grill and cook a tandoori chicken and some meat kebabs. But, all of his neighbours were strict Catholics ... and since it was Lent, they were forbidden from eating chicken and meat on a Friday. The delicious aroma from the grilled meats was causing such a problem for the Catholic faithful that they finally talked
to their Priest. The Priest came to visit Santa, and suggested that he become a Catholic. After several classes and much study, Santa attended Mass ... and as the priest sprinkled holy water over him, he said, You were born a Sikh, and raised a Sikh, but now, you are a Catholic."

Santa's neighbors were greatly relieved, until Friday night arrived. The wonderful aroma of tandoori chicken and meat kebabs filled the neighborhood. The Priest was called immediately
by the neighbors and, as he rushed into Santa's backyard, clutching a rosary and prepared to scold him, he stopped and watched in amazement.

There stood Santa, holding a small bottle of holy water which he carefully sprinkled over the grilling meats and chanted: "Oye, you waz born a chicken, and you waz born a lamb, you waz raised a chicken, and you waz raised a lamb but now yara (dear), you are a potato and tomato!"

Why go to Church?

A Church goer wrote a letter to the editor of a newspaper and complained that it made no sense to go to church every Sunday. "I've gone for 30 years now," he wrote, "and in that time I have heard something like 3,000 sermons. But for the life of me, I can't remember a single one of them. So, I think I'm wasting my time and the pastors are wasting theirs by giving sermons at all." This started a real controversy in the "Letters to the Editor" column, much to the delight of the editor. It went on for weeks until someone wrote this clincher:

"I've been married for 30 years now… In that time my wife has cooked some 32,000 meals. But, for the life of me, I cannot recall the entire menu for a single one of those meals. But I do know this.. They all nourished me and gave me the strength I needed to do my work. If my wife had not given me these meals, I would be physically dead today. Likewise, if I had not gone to church for nourishment, I would be spiritually dead today!"

When you are DOWN to nothing.... God is UP to something!
Faith sees the invisible, believes the incredible and receives the impossible! Thank God for our physical AND our spiritual nourishment!
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