Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Don Bosco: The Founder

Published another of Fr Lens' works on Lulu today.
Don Bosco: The Founder

Fr Lens' b'day is fast approaching (October 5) and he is excited and frightened too... why wouldn't he, after all it is his 89th b'day!!!

Long live Fr Lens! Long live Don Bosco!!

Passion and determination

The liturgical significance of the day is an interesting one. On the one hand today is the feast of St Jerome, the one who made the Bible available to a wider group and on the other hand, the first reading of the day we see Nehemiah asking his king to provide him with whatever necessary for him to rebuild the city of his ancestors. Just compare these two instances and you see that they both did what they felt was a great need of the times with the little they had. Jerome had his dark cave and candlelight... no electricity, computer, printer, internet, press and all that we today demand to get something ready! Nehemiah only had his desire and the good will of his king. And with that he set out to do what was closest to his heart.

Good lesson in making good use of what is at hand than craving and demanding for more... what is basically needed is the passion to get going and the determination to see it done!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Deepening oneself and reaching out

The two days I spent in Kurnool with the candidates of the 7 congregations who gathered there for a two day animation programme were good. It was a good experience for me to get back some of my communication methodologies and techniques. It was also a good challenge for me to give them something. Only when I began that I remembered that it was the 'Joy of giving week' and it was good to get the 50 girls to commit themselves to help out someone for each day of the week, as a start. That was my contribution to commence my week!

Furthermore, for once I felt that maybe when you challenge people to go beyond themselves in order to reach out to others, we naturally deepen our own selves. I was so far convinced that only when we deepen ourselves can we reach out to others. Today I feel, perhaps, it is a simultaneous process - deepening oneself and reaching out.

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Terms of life...

Lesson for today:
The happiest people are not those who live on their own terms, but are those who change their terms for the ones whom they love.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Sensitivity and openness in prayer

Yesterday evening on my way from Wyra back to the Provincial house I happened to notice that the young girl sitting in the front row of the bus would occasionally pull out a notebook and keep writing the name 'Sri Ram' over and over again. Apparently she was a Hindu and doing this exercise, for some special favour. I said to myself, if only she had better sense, she would have spent that time and energy doing some good rather than writing and rewriting the same word. I felt it so odd that she was doing the same act - which for all purposes was a useless one - over and over again, apparently for some selfish gain!

I forgot all about this till a while later when I began reciting my rosary. Just when I was half way through the second decade, my eyes fell on the girl's notebook and I was so struck I could not utter another word. Having said all that about the girl and her act, here I was doing a similar deed - repeating the 'Hail Mary' over and over again! How was my act different from hers? I was so ashamed of myself that I was not able to be sensitive to another persons' prayer; I hardly had enough peace of mind to complete my rosary!

So much for finding real meaning and being sensible enough to see the same in others words and deeds.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Living what we aspire for

A thought from Fr MC George's goodnight:
Live as though we already have that what we want most in life.
We really want vocations, we live and work as though we have lots of them.
We desperately need success in our endeavours, live as though we are already successful.
Want to be respected, give and live a respected life.
Need money badly, live as though you have it already.

Well, that's some thought... to live what we aspire for even before we have it!!

Monday, 21 September 2009

Sharing and enlarging the family

One of the main problems why we Salesians find it difficult to find collaborators for our efforts is perhaps our 'me-and-MY JOB' attitude. We hardly make known to others, especially and specifically to our beneficiaries, our works. We run a school but hardly do any of our children or their parents know that we also work for children on the street, the juveniles, the school drop-outs, ... Our Parishioners only get good and holy sermons about the 'Kingdom of heaven', not much about how it is already being unfolded in our boardings, youth centres, technical schools, street children homes, counselling centres... !

Conclusion, we slog today, tomorrow and here after - all by ourselves! Worse still, when students pass out of our institutions, they have little or no sense of social responsibility, even though we taught them, we paid their fees, we bought their uniforms, we provided them with the best of education!! But imagine if we were to involve all those whom we interact with in our daily mission, introduce them to OUR work (not merely my work)... Some ideas that cropped up in my mind today as I listened to Fr MC George I put down here:
  • take boys/parishioners to our other Salesian centres for a day of outing.
  • while preparing souvenirs, brochures and booklets, include a small note about the other works we do.
  • invite young people for a retreat or day of recollection in our formation houses (when the formees are there, not when they are gone for holidays!).
  • get our own friends to speak to our aspirants - anything!
  • get street children into our 'mainstream' schools.
  • involve high school children in organising camps for the less-privileged children.
I need to speak about my family - after all, the one working in the boarding or parish or street children centre, or the mission station is my brother, my confrere! And if my extended family starts working together (each one in their own way), ah... now that's going to be something grand! I won't have to carry Don Bosco or Christ alone!!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

"Return" to Don Bosco

I'm just back from a community where boys after their first semester of Salesiana were given a test/quiz. Here are some of their answers ...
  • Castelnuovo: Capital of Turin.
  • Dominic Savio's prayer: Strike me dead if I am about sin.
  • Dominic Savio: a good man
  • Oratory: place where they dives divides into sodalities.
  • Oratory: they used to change places from one place to another place.
  • Penance of Dominic Savio: by putting stones in his shoes under the bed.
  • When did Fr Alasonatti join Don Bosco? A year ago.
  • St Martin of Mills: Place requested by Don Bosco as cemetry for his boys.
  • Pinardi Shed: It was rented by the Philippi Brothers.
  • Rosimini House: It was a place of St Peter Chains.
  • Condition in the oratory: not so active or enthusiastic due to various reasons
  • Convitto Ecclesiastico: where Don Bosco did his secondary schooling.
With such answers, there sure is no return to Don Bosco!!!
However, boys will be boys!! I'm sure Don Bosco himself is laughing away!

Monday, 14 September 2009

Faith, Hope and Charity: Vehicle recovered!

Exactly 10 days ago, our four-wheeler was stolen. People kept asking me if there was any news about the vehicle ever since. I really had no hopes, whatsoever. I was only striving for the insurance money! Today evening the Police called me to say that they secured the vehicle. Of course, in their own shady style, no one was apprehended! But it was a good experience spending 7 hrs in the police station, listening to their vague description of how they traced the stolen vehicle - in fact they never told me anything worthwhile! Even otherwise it was worth an experience chatting with them, listening to their interrogation style, their sharp lookout for the DCP (who happened to arrive just as we reached for an inspection), their "respect" for the higher ups, their documentation procedures and of course, when there was no one else in the room, there were the mice running all along the walls of the narrow rooms. Goes without saying that I had to grease their palms too. In Maliekal's language it would be: They ask without asking! Well at the end of the day (now it is already morning), the vehicle is back in our garage: perfectly intact except for the number plates and the side stickers!

Ultimately today it was a triumph of Venkat's (our driver) faith, my hope that they would release the vehicle today and perfect "charity" for the policemen! Praise be to God!

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Being 'rich'

I've always felt embarrassed when known people approach me for money. Besides the facts that I do not feel at ease dealing with money - that too not mine - and that such 'charity' always mars one's relationship, I feel there is something more important to this act. People in need - of anything - will naturally approach those whom they feel will surely help them or are capable of helping them with what they cannot manage by themselves. So if I am in need of money, I will surely not approach someone who is more miserable than me. When I need some advice regarding a job or task at hand, I will contact someone in that line, not anyone! Keeping this in mind, it is good to sit back, reflect and see why and who approach me for help - and for what sort of help. Besides their trust in me, I also feel, they look at me as one who has/is that one who would help them. I got to be 'rich' in that field to give them what they ask for. May be this is the reason, why people approach us religious and Priests for monetary help, more often than for spiritual help... perhaps they see us 'rich' in finance than in spiritual wares.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

One for Benji!

Here's one small tribute to Fr Benji: A short photo-collage of his life and works on the YouTube. Truly, a zealous son of Don Bosco, he touched the lives of numerous people through his total commitment, dynamic leadership, profound knowledge, gentle words, noble gestures and great deeds.

"Personal" Communication

You never know whose life you touch, when, how and to what extent - merely by something you say or do or don't say or miss out on! I realised this when late last night, after having read of some unrest in Koraput district of Orissa, sent an sms to our confrere working there. This morning I got a call from him. He was emotionally touched by this simple gesture of mine, just inquiring if things were OK with him, amidst the tension and violence around the place. He told me that this is the first communication he received in months. I was surprised, and asked him if he didn't receive the Provincial circular and the other smses I sent around after Fr Benji's death and regarding his funeral. He replied, that he did receive them all. But none which made him still feel wanted or part of the family, especially by his own confreres!

God be praised, for you never know...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Power and position

Here's something from Fr Joshtrom from his experience and stay in Europe:
A Salesian confrere telling the audience at the occasion of the installation of a Provincial who took charge a second time: "To be the Provincial the first time is tragic enough. But to be a Provincial the second time is sheer carelessness!"That's Fr Joshtrom (on the right) receiving the first copy of the Memoirs of the Oratory (an abridged version, in English, of the original autobiography of Don Bosco). The book is the handiwork of Fr John Lens.... one of the many!!

Work machine!

Working in the office is a very nagging job. Not that the work itself is boring or taxing but in the long run, people tend to take you for what you do - not what you are!! Today I felt quite hurt when one of my own confrere calls me up to ask for some help. Only then I realised that some call up only when they want me to do some work for them. Well that is understood - and acceptable too, but I also believe we can make things a bit more personal by sending a note after the help is rendered or calling up just to say 'Thank you!'.

Religious: Signs of exaggeration!

Post Vatican II, the idea that the religious life is a state of perfection (above that of lay state of life) gave way to a balanced notion of Christian life and living, especially through the Lumen Gentium. This morning's meditation talk by Fr Dominic Veliath was very insightful in this regard. Here's the summary of his reflection on religious life and its relevance:
As religious we are called to be 'SIGNS' ... signs of exaggeration, of commitment, of happiness. We are called to live life noticeably, that everyone sees in us the path to sanctity (holiness) to which all are called. If we too live our life in an ordinary way, (or worse still, giving scandal) then what is the point in being a religious? Here in comes the aspect of commitment. People see in our lifestyle a 'special breed' hell bent on LIVING the gospel and its values; not merely as an impressive once-in-a-way presentation but as a joyful and total choice. And an important sign to check our fulfillment in being signs of exaggeration and commitment is our 'happiness meter'!
Thanks Fr Dominic!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Thich Quang Duc

This was one of the several moving images sent to me by Fr Koshy today. This one is of Thich Quang Duc, the Buddhist Priest in Southern Vietnam, who on June 11, 1963 burned himself protesting the government's torture policy against Priests. It is said that Thich Quang Duc never made a sound or moved while he was burning. Gosh! What strength to stay still while being burnt!! A couple of mosquito bites during supper were enough to disturb and irritate me for hours and here is one who never even moved a bit while being reduced to ashes. Though I do not really approve of this 'suicide' I salute his will power. It is reported that even after cremating him later (whatever was left of his body), only his heart remained intact.

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Faith, hope and charity: vehicle stolen!

This afternoon I was in for a rude shock: our driver called up from the city to say that the four-wheeler, he took to run some errands and do some purchasing, was MISSING!! He had the presence of mind to complain to the nearest police station and then all the confusion began. Our initial hope was that it was towed away by the traffic police van for wrong parking. But nothing of that kind happened. The vehicle was indeed gone! Running up and around the police station, trying to reach the driver (he had left the mobile in the vehicle itself!), contacting different people if they could track the mobile or the phone sim card... Luckily the Police Station SI was a very courteous guy. He and his staff did attend to our request and were cooperative. They did not seem lax or indifferent at least.

Anyway at this moment, optimism is something I'm struggling to find the meaning of! Faith... I have very little of it! Yet I hope, we get it back. And charity, oh boy, what generosity to offer a Chevorlet (Tavera) in charity! But truly I really loved that vehicle!

What is the price I am paying?

The theme of yesterday's movie is still fresh in my mind. Somehow it is haunting me. To add to my woes I hear this quote of Mother Teresa: A sacrifice to be real must cost, must hurt, must empty ourselves.

I'm wondering and searching as to what have I sacrificed? Why is it that I am feeling so comfortable? Is it because all is rosy and I've nothing to give - meaning nothing to offer. If so, what is the meaning of me being a Salesian?

Friday, 4 September 2009

Education, change and a movie

I spent the afternoon in a very useful manner: watching the movie The Freedom Writers. There are many lessons one - especially a teacher / formator / educator - can learn from this movie. The one that struck me was the perseverance of the teacher... but this perseverance comes at a great price! I liked that particular conversation between the Principal (Ms Margaret) and Ms Gruwell. That part when Ms G is told to 'educate' the students, teach them discipline, not anything more, because they do not want to be educated. I think that's when the Ms G really becomes someone more than a classroom teacher. Imagine she taking up two other jobs so that she can earn some extra bit for her students... the misunderstandings with the other staff and management... then there is her own personal life crumbling down when her husband files for a divorce. Great risks cost. Those willing to make a difference have to pay a price. Change does not come free and easy. But great are those who are willing to pay the price.

Being on the formation staff I can very well understand the feelings and things going on in Ms Margaret's head. All very right and noble... but I too have to realise that education is more than just discipline, rules, respect for the teacher, obedience, formal lessons, classes... It means being able to touch the lives of students and making them believe that they can change and they can bring about a change for the better. It means becoming part of their life, not just the classroom. It means helping them become all that they can be. And what's the role of the formator in this process? Just being a facilitator, inspirer, encourager, challenger, a model... not the centre figure of their lives but a catalyst.

Politics and goodness

There is much talk and paper-ink (read Rajdeep Sardesai's blog) about YSR, the CM of Andhra Pradesh who was killed in a helicopter crash two days ago (along with four others). What surprised me and shocked me - besides the tragic death - was the response of quite a few on the internet. Most of the comments and responses to the internet news were all so abusive and spiteful, that I had to reread the news item if it really was that of the death of YSR. YSR was no big saint. Far from it, he was a seasoned politician who came up the hard way - even using muscle power. As someone stated, he was indeed a bandit ... but a benevolent bandit. Whatever be the case, to speak ill of a dead person, that too is such derogatory terms, speaks ill not of the deceased but of the one penning those few lines. In my understanding, no politician is above corruption and scandal. All have their share of past or present to hide. But perhaps good to see if those who benefit from his/her administration outnumber those to whom he has caused pain. If that is a rather good surplus then s/he has done well.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Getting around with kids

Last night I accidentally came across the compilation of humourous anecdotes and quotes by Fr Lens. Of the two or more pages that I glanced through, he's what I liked best:
Come children, says mother, time for lunch. Put off the TV, so that those people also can go for lunch!
Mariadas is one whom I admire for his ways of getting children to do what he wants them to do. Dealing with them, is all a matter of putting things in a manner that appeals to them. Once they see it, as something worth doing, then there's no way one can prevent them from doing that. Fellows like me, are still to master that art!!
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