Wednesday, 30 December 2009

Another initiative(s)

I created a new blog for the upcoming school... set it up just a while ago. That should do well till the official website of the institute is in place. Moreover gives me an 'opportunity' (can also be read as 'an added work'!) to keep track of the progress, more for the Chronicles. I guess I can ask someone else to do that, but who?? Anyway, shall do what I can!

The idea of the school had been floating around for quite sometime. Somehow the Provincial Chapter latched onto it and it came through (as Fr Balaswamy says, 'In 15 min.!'). As of now Fr TV Thomas is seeing to it but I know not how it will turn out to be in the future. With the new regime set to take charge, I wonder if the same spirit, ideals and motivating factor will continue to inspire and lead then. Whatever it be, for now... trust and hope!

Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Called to trust, to believe!

The past two days are a real lesson in trust and hope. Not that I've learnt the lesson; far from it, it is only the beginning. But looking ahead from where I now stand, I only see chaos and riot. With these so distinct, it is difficult to trust and hope for anything good - leave alone anything better and greater.

Yet I'm called to trust that the future is going to be good, fine, OK...!

Monday, 28 December 2009

Excellence not success

Last night I watched my first hindi movie in a theatre after joining the Salesians... 3 Idiots. It was worth it! Beautiful movie, a good theme (similar to that of the previous movies of Rajkumar Hirani), first class acting and a good cinematography. The story is simple but gripping. The best part I liked of it was that it never dragged. The narration of it too, weaving between the past and present too is appreciated.

I realise that 3 Idiots, like Munnabai MBBS and Lage Raho Munnabai, is an attempt to change the system rather than get rid of a few individuals. This is a good shift in India cinema where there has to be a villian and then a hero who eliminates that villain. In this movie there are no villians, but the whole structure is faulty and therefore the movie is a form of 'satire' on the existing structure, especially that of education. Though not very practical in its realistic take, yet the movie drives home a point with conviction: strive for excellence and education not success and grades.

Saturday, 26 December 2009

Martyrdom vs Suicide

The feast of St Stephen for me is a very strong reminder of the delicate balance between martyrdom and suicide. I have often asked myself this question: Is martyrdom about standing for truth or for God? Is it about an idea/concept or a person? Which is greater fidelity: to a principle or a person? I believe, adherence to a principle can always change. For example, a terrorist or a fanatic is convinced about the 'truth' he is willing to die (or kill) for. That is truth for him. On the other hand, placing one's trust in persons too is very deceptive. I know of several people who believed their mentors to be 'gods'. But when they see their 'gods' commit a grievous crime, all their world crumbles before their eyes. Where then, does one place his trust and confidence in? What can one vouch for, even to the extent of valuing it above one's own life? It is when one sees in another person the truth that cannot be denied. It is the willingness to die for that person AND the truth he or she embodies. That is martyrdom. In that sense perhaps even human right activists who suffer and are killed can be called martyrs. They see that human beings are embodiments of values and dignity. As long as they fight for a value and the dignity in a person and are willing to see them as one, life is worth living or giving up!

Tuesday, 22 December 2009

Showcasing myself for a cause!

For long this battle between appearing in the limelight and staying away from it has been raging on in me. Today as I listened to Jose and Syamala narrate incidents where children, coolies and innocent tribals are being exploited beyond human imagination and to a point of insanity for any sensible person to merely listen to, made me see another perspective of how I can get involved in this struggle. I don't think I have in me, all that it takes to be an activist on par with these people or those whom I know... Fr Koshy, Fr Palli, Fr TD, Syamala, Jose, and so many others. But that zeal to do something is always there.

So I'm thinking to myself, why not make use of my knowledge and zeal for media to bring to light such incidents and bring the attention of the world to matters which otherwise get lost in the glamorous side of events. Of course, this would just be a drop in the ocean, but (as Mother Teresa said) the ocean would be less by one drop, if not for my contribution! For this to happen, I need to get networking, get people to see what and who I stand for. I need to build an edifice, not for myself but to highlight those for whom I have committed myself to, on behalf of God.

Monday, 21 December 2009

A Christmas experience...

Fr Noel, while inaugurating the Crib today, shared a small incident that happened during his recent visit to a family. The family had put up a crib in their home - complete with baby Jesus! On asking the family why they 'installed' baby Jesus before Christmas itself, he was told that every visitor who came to the house would be shown the crib, by the kid, and then led to the bedroom to show where baby Jesus was kept 'in waiting'! So to curb all and sundry being led to the bedroom, the family put the baby Jesus in the crib.

Drawing inspiration from this experience, Fr Noel made a comparative analysis of the place accorded by children and adults to of Jesus. For the kid, Jesus was an integral part of the crib (of life), while the adults had a 'timetable' for Jesus!

Nice lesson to introspect and see where we place Jesus, in our life ... or we have timetable, even for Jesus?

Professionalism vs Indecision

I had the opportunity to witness the presentation of a group of corporate representatives regarding the possibility of entering into a joint collaboration to upgrade and qualify our existing efforts in the educational field. These guys, I gathered, are thorough-bred professionals in their fields. Their lofty ideals and ideas were indeed very impressive and convincing. I am sure they gathered the weaknesses and strengths of our institutions and our strategies from their singular visit to Ramanthapur and the two-hour long interaction with us today. They were sharp in their observation of what we expressed and at the same time making sure that they conveyed their 'guarded views'.

Yet in and through all of this, I sat there observing and comparing ourselves with these two gentlemen. They were, in a sense, 'businessmen' - sure about who they were and what they were up to; we, on the other hand, neither sure of our charity nor professionalism. They clearly had financial profit and media fame on their mind (though they were careful not to harp on that!). We were groping for a way balancing our commitment to God (trust in Divine Providence?) and survival in a market-driven world. They had no one to account to and thereby arrive at decisions on their own; we, had to think, study (in groups, commissions, communities, councils...), discuss, get the approval of our superiors... (with no guarantee that by the time all of this is through, the confreres in the local community are sufficiently motivated to concretely carry forward this process). They were keen to kick start their plans right away; we go on as though we own time!

Final word: ... long way to go, dear confreres! Can't ride along complacent on past glory! Stand for something or we'll fall for anything!

Sunday, 20 December 2009

My 'Sunday escapede'

For the first time that I remember, I stage-managed my Sunday Mass attendance today! As usual I was in the Shrine for the first Mass but I realized that there was some adoration being started and to my fortune, I heard the Novice Mistress ask the Parish Priest when would the Mass commence - to which there was no answer given. I gauged the situation and made a deep bow and walked back home! I then joined Fr Tom and Fr Thanka to the Artillery centre for Mass.

At one moment, after I realised that there is going to be some indefinite Adoration prior to the Mass, I thought of staying and attending both. But then it struck me that I would be all the time waiting for the Mass to begin and neither really pray the adoration nor participate in the Mass. I also should admit, the final decision to attend Mass elsewhere had much to do with the main celebrant of the Mass!

Thus I had a first hand experience of what Willy and Daddy often used to narrate to me - their 'Sunday escapedes'!

Friday, 18 December 2009

Looking after myself ...?

Confusion abounded in today's organisation for the celebration of the 150th anniversary. Since Fr Noel was keen that things go on at least peacefully, I did what was basically necessary to ensure that there were no big hiccups. I am also happy that I did not take it all upon myself and do a 'redemption act' - well, in the process nobody took the real initiative and things were left undone. However Thathi did a good job with the prayer service and animation prior to the Mass and blessing of the foundation stone for the school.

Good exercise in keeping cool and saying 'no' when it is relevant!

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Pillars of strength!

For our triduum service this evening, in preparation for the 150th anniversary celebrations, I chose to animate on reflecting our own pillars of strength in Salesians life, especially in our early stages of formation. Beginning with the confession of Don Bosco himself, as a boy about his ardent love and admiration for Fr Colosso, we each of us in the community, shared our 'models' and 'inspirers'. It was a fitting occasion to thank the Lord and Don Bosco for the presence of these individuals in our life who in their own way touched us and moulded a major part of our lives.

I gladly and proudly remembered and prayed for Papa and Mummy - the one's to whom I attribute 90% of who and what I am. Last evening as I sat in the Chapel for prayer, I tried to imagine what and how I'd have been, if not for being a Castilino, son of John and Irien. It was impossible for me to figure that! Among the Salesians, I really admire Fr John Lens, Fr Joshtrom, Fr Stanislaus Swamikannu and Fr Ivo Coelho. Each one of them, have in a way left an indelible mark on my life and have really helped me see the deeper and wider meaning of my life in the context of the Salesian vocation that I am living.

Thank you Lord for these and many more who have chipped in with their life, words and deeds to make me a better person. May they continue to inspire and motivate others to discover and follow their dream!

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Kissing the face of God

I came across this painting of Morgan Weistling and found it very appealing. It is titled 'First pose Sienna'. The facial expression is beautifully captured... have a look at other paintings of his, all very artistically made!

What brought me to this site was the following painting, titled 'Kissing the face of God'.

Retracing our own Salesian beginnings

For our evening prayer we had a simple but good sharing about what attracted us to the Salesians and kept us going in our initial stages of formation. One common thing that we all realised was the personal touch of early Salesians who in someway caught our attention. It would have been as much as a simple postcard/a letter once a month, a gentle word, the calling of our name, the typical joy and enthusiasm in our institutions, a timely smile, a friendly visit to our home, an occasional overlooking of our mischief... It was such small things that really made a big difference in our younger life. It was passing things such as these that kept us going in spite of the many big hurdles or seemingly unsurmountable challenges that came our way. Riding on that optimism is what made us all, "choose to stay with Don Bosco", the same way as the small group of people gathered in Don Bosco's room on December 18, 1859. We all 'chose to be with Don Bosco' initially and primarily for very personal reasons, factors that were for others petty, insignificant, unimportant, unnecessary but important in our personal life - so important that we could recall them with such clarity even after so many years!

Fidelity and generosity

I liked the words of the Rector Major, commencing the 150th year celebrations, especially the last words:
Our mission requires a daily fidelity and a total generosity to God and man. The history of the Congregation in the past 150 years has been a history of fidelity, generosity, commitment and continues to be so. The Salesians pioneers and others after them have given us shining examples of absolute fidelity. We are called upon to emulate their example.
It reminds me of one of my favourite recollection themes: fidelity and generosity. That is one theme I remember speaking about to the novices and students of Philosophy, most often.

Monday, 14 December 2009

Taking offence

Another quote from the book of Fr Anthony de Mello:
Anytime you take offence find out how you helped the offender.
That was my point of meditation this morning. True indeed!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Ideas and politics

A thought from the book of Fr Anthony de Mello, One minute nonsense:
In a war of ideas, it is people who are the casualties. People kill for money or for power. But the most ruthless murderers are those who kill for their ideas.
Very true... just take any political game and ploy by any one in Indian democracy and one will have examples in galore.

Saturday, 12 December 2009

Climate issues, awareness and action!

Last night we managed to finally make it for 2012. It was worth it (minus the a/c which was on full blast and we three of us there we perhaps the only ones in the theatre with no warm clothing!). All the same the movie was good. Roland Emmerich, the director is really specialising in this genre! I enjoyed his other movie, The day after tomorrow too.

Coming in the time when the world leaders are discussing the climate change and related issues at Copenhagen, the movie has special significance. Though I would have loved that the movie make explicit the insensitivity of the human race in contributing to the destruction of the earth, (more than the heroism of one man to save his family), I appreciate the way it is envisaged. The ethical element of who would survive too is a very crucial and delicate issue touched upon. Adrien, the scientist makes a very powerful statement towards the end: The moment we stop fighting for each other, that's when we lose our humanity. We need to wake up to the serious threat of the ecological crisis we are contributing towards. Hope by the time we are aware, we still have time for action!

Vocation, priesthood, brotherhood...?

The other day there was an inspiring letter by a Salesian on the congregation's blog. The letter of this Salesian (who I understand is from a different background, perhaps the first from his section of society) is a very touching one. It is really difficult to understand how God works in and through all the intricacies of human and society life - his own creations! The more and more I reflect on this mystery of what we call a 'vocation', the more I feel convinced that being priests or brothers is not the real and total meaning of vocation. They certainly may be the most efficacious means, but there is something more grander and greater that the Lord calls us to, for which our priesthood or brotherhood is a means.

Reflecting further on this dimension a thought struck me this morning: Suppose I were to leave this Salesian congregation or were asked to leave, would I then join another congregation? I certainly won't!! Reason: I did not join the Salesians to be a Brother, but to live a life worthy of it and be useful to others, especially young people. If my sole intention were to be a Brother, it would then not matter to me which congregation I join. That is something very funny I feel. Transferring this thought to my counterparts, the Priests, I wonder if it is the same? Do young people joining the congregation as clerics, want to be just priests or something more than that? If it is the former, any congregation or diocese would do; if it is the latter then, nothing but a particular mode of living would satisfy.

Well, I'm still wondering...!

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Another Castilino arrives on the scene!

At last I had the first look at my first nephew... Here he is ...

He certainly has inherited Daddy's nose. The other features I can't really make out. But the nose is typically that of a Castilino!!
The little time that I was there this afternoon, and from what I hear from Willy and Roshni, he sleeps and sleeps well. That certainly is from both Willy and Roshni!

Surprisingly he always has his hands up! No amount of folding and tucking them in, keeps them wrapped up for long. They are sooner or later out of the 'wrapping' and above his head.

And what a birth date! December 8th!!
God bless him!

His parents still haven't thought of a name for him. Let's see what they come up with.

Counting my innumerable blessings

After communion this morning I was just counting the number of blessings that I am enjoying since the past two days... numerous!! I couldn't complete remembering even at the moment of the final blessing... !
  • Greatest of them all has been the news that Willy and Roshni have a child (baby boy).
  • the Salesiana course
  • the experience of convincingly talking to the participants of the salesiana course
  • Chinnappa's ordination
  • for Cheryl and Anbu (their b'days)
  • the safe journey up and down, B'lore
  • the numerous mails and congratulatory notes for various reasons
  • rest at DBRC, B'lore
  • interactions with Fr Joe Mannath and Fr PO Jose
and many many many more !!! Thank You Lord!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Personal sanctity or struggle?

I concluded my sessions on the Salesian Brotherhood with the group of 13 Salesians at DBRC, B'lore this morning. Wrapping up the discussions and my sharing I cautioned them all saying not to believe all that I said, just because I said it. Worse still to start admiring me for having shared my life with such conviction. Somehow I felt comfortable telling them that I am still far from perfect, even in aspects I described about Salesian life. Once someone told me, why do you appeal to the community to be regular about prayer and practices of piety when you yourself are irregular. My humble answer was that since I was struggling as an individual and therefore I looked up to the community for assistance; but if the community too fails me, where and how would I get assistance from?

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

The best news of the day: I'm an uncle!!

The best news of the day was saved for the last part of the day: Willy called up this evening to say that Roshni has been rushed into the delivery room in the hospital. An hour or so ago, Mummy called up to say that Roshni gave birth to a baby boy!!! Wow, welcome to the youngest Castilino in the family!! I wonder what name Willy and Roshni have in mind for him!!

Anyway, thanks be to God for being with us all, especially in the tense last moments of Roshni's labour. Thank you Lord... and bless the little one too!

Watched Rudy

This evening had the opportunity to watch the movie, Rudy (directed by David Anspaugh). Truly an inspirational sports movie. It speaks of determinism and perseverance. It is the story about a boy keen to play American football for the Notre Dame University. But all he has is a passion to play the game; no height, no athletic ability, no money to attend the university and most of all, no support from anyone other than his friend, Pete. Yet against all odds, he makes it to the team, with a little support from all his teammates.

A true story of what determination can help one achieve. When people are passionate about something in life, and they are after it with all they have, they get it. No matter what happens in life, no matter what people say, no matter how disappointingly negative life and comments can be, yet the final decision is yours and yours alone!

Salesiana course, DBRC, B'lore

Today's interactions in the session were very interesting. I was pleasantly surprised when those who began opposing me yesterday were the ones who did not hide their appreciation for what I said today, basing on what I began with yesterday. It is truly a great feeling to be appreciated by fellow confreres, that too those who are much much senior to you. When they say that what I shared makes sense and has helped them see things differently, it is nothing short of a compliment! Thank God!! When I began I was a bit frightened, for after all most of these confreres began their Salesian life even before I was born. And to such I was speaking about my idea of Salesian life and Brotherhood! But the experience has been good. Thanks to Fr Jose Mathew who facilitated this and for the opportunity too!!

Monday, 7 December 2009

Conserving the earth: Copenhagen summit

The Copenhagen Climate summit on climate change (stats) and policy decisions is the talk of the world scenario. I was glad to see The Hindu paper give a front page write up on this and joining in a media campaign requesting the world leaders to take seriously the issue at hand and endorse corrective measures. The other day, there was a small graphic description of how much fuel Obama is going to burn to attend this meet, which is basically a call to cut down fuel consumption and conserving energy resources.

I am hopeful, that if not major changes, the growing awareness itself will pressurise the governments to act sensibly. But I think the media can play a very decisive role in this noble campaign. I very well remember participating in the national campaign held last year in August (8.8.2008) for awareness on conserving energy. What's more, there was an international meeting of Sisters (85 of them) going on and when I sought their permission to help the whole house partake in this campaign by putting off all lights for 8 mins. ... they all readily agreed. Good willing is not lacking, but some decisive measures and steps are! Hope this summit will bridge the gap.

Salesian Brotherhood and historical facts

Am at last in DBRC, B'lore for the two day session on Salesian Brotherhood for the participants of the Salesiana studies. Call it Divine Providence or my sheer luck, the train reached four hours late. So had to miss out the whole morning session. In a way the participants too were very happy abou this. They are all running about trying to put their final paper in one piece. Tomorrow is the last day of submission of the same.

Anyway, coming to my own session which I began in the afternoon.... I managed to stir the hornest's nest!! Though that was not my intention, I sensed it before I got its full blow. I really could see some senior Salesians boiling at what I was saying. Luckily for me, there were an equal number of senior Salesians supporting my point of view. Now what was I saying? Just sharing my reading into the history of the Salesian Brother, since Don Bosco's time onwards... that the Congregation as a whole was biased against the Brothers!! It may not have been the intention of all, but unconsciously the fact remains and history speaks for itself. For Don Bosco all this did not matter, his sole concern was the boys, not squabbling and mongering and introverted helpers. Luckily times have changed, there is a greater openness towards the vocation of the Brothers. My only reason for stating this 'early history' was that unless we accept the past, we are not going to be any better in the future (some psychology, is it?).

Saturday, 5 December 2009

The Salesian Brother

Here's a video about the vocation of the Salesian Brother (originally posted on Salesian Ning)
Of course, not all in the video may still be Salesians!! But that's how life is!! All the same, the video is inspiring and lends an insight into the heart and mind of the Salesian Brother.

Rinaldi and commitment

Today is the feast of Don Rinaldi, someone whom I always admired for his commitment. He was one who resisted Don Bosco for 9 full years. Don Bosco, for one, did not let go of him. But once Rinaldi consented to be with Don Bosco, there was no looking back. He was totally for Don Bosco. Nothing else mattered. Now that's called commitment... total dedication and availability.

Some other facts about him...
He was the last Rector Major (third successor of Don Bosco) to have been trained by Don Bosco himself.
It was during his tenure as Rector Major that Don Bosco was canonized (in 1934).
He was a great encouraged the various groups which form part of the Salesian family.

Here's something more about him...

Thursday, 3 December 2009

Calling one another to responsibility

Calling one another to responsibility is one great act of charity we fear to undertake. This is one of greatest curse of religious community life. And I fear this is the greatest source of motivation for young people to join us - setting in motion a vicious circle. I remember challenging some good students of mine - good, but not courageous enough to stand up for what is right - with this prophecy: if you do not have the guts to stand up against your own companions, you will never ever even whisper a sigh against the injustice you face in the world outside in your apostolate; leave alone demand justice and responsibility.

Perspective as an active of charity

To look at any apostolate through the human right perspective is not to convert deed into service. This would mean that we do not multiply our services - however much they may be needed. What is to be really done is to hold the government/those in authority and those who are to provide the service, accountable. That would be a service, from a human right perspective. Being charitable does not mean doing charity all by ourselves.

The dilemma (fictional) that I posed to the students of Philosophy at Karunapuram proves why we fail to understand this: Driving home one day, one stormy night, I find huddled at a bus stop three people: an old lady (who may not survive the night in that climate), a good friend who once saved my life in a similar situation (therefore an opportunity to repay his debt) and a young lady, the dream girl of my life (I may not meet her again). Unfortunately I can give a lift to just one person. Whom do I help? Everyone had their answer (most of them choosing to help the old lady). Only one out of 200 answered thus: I will give my car keys to my friend and ask him to ride the old lady home; while I stay back with the girl of my dreams!!

The reason we don't think of this is primarily because for us, charity is to be done by 'me'!!! Time to widen our perspective, at least as an act of charity!

Trust in Divine Providence

Last evening the whole Chapter came alive... reason? The theme was finance and accounts. However, I observed that no one was adverse to the idea of contributing something for the Province solidarity; though they had their differences in the mode and amount of contribution. That was quite revealing, till it struck me that no one wanted to commit themselves to it. Furthermore given the procedure of doing this (amount will have to be sent from the local communities to the Province, even if the basic amount is sent from the Provincial house) I really have my doubts.

Another good reminder that Fr Balaswamy gave to the Chapter was the need to trust Divine Providence. However, there is the delicate line to be toed if one has to balance trust in Divine Providence and practical survival.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Black holes of meetings

Here are some of the black holes (points of no return / eternal drains of energies, time and resources) of meetings or group discussions: (I write this sitting in a hall attending a meeting and concretely experiencing this agony)
  1. Lack of capable coordination or moderation. The inability to really guide a discussion and elicit the best of the participants, is perhaps the worse thing that can happen to a meeting. It is doomed right from the word 'go'.
  2. Mediocre planning and preparation of study drafts: If the agenda and the study documents are not drafted well, leading the group to reflective thinking and sharing, then confusion abounds.
  3. Fixated ideas: Discussions do not lead anywhere if participants are so fixated that they do not even listen to others.
  4. Lack of an integral picture: Leaving out the bigger picture of what ultimately we sit for discussion, we get lost in petty issues. We end up correcting, editing, rewriting the given text (if that is badly done, that's the end!). Dealing with specific points, we fail to see the origin, the flow, the interconnection... the integral picture.
There may be more of these, but these are what I draw from my immediate experience!

Understanding 'vocation' beyond Salesian vocation

Our whole reading of the third theme of GC 26 (Vocation Ministry) is faulty (mine included). I thought it was all about vocations to Salesian life; but I admire the presentation of this idea in GC 26 documents. It does not restrict the meaning of 'Vocation Ministry' to 'Salesian vocation ministry'; it rather promotes a culture of vocations. Therefore through the four guidelines in that section (8 - 11), it builds up a Culture of Vocation to life, consecrated life and Salesian life. The last guideline, dwells with the two forms of living the one Salesian vocation: as Brothers and Priests.

When understood in this sense, the whole idea of vocations to Salesian life/consecrated life as the crown of our youth ministry will make sense. Otherwise, vocation promotion will be seen as another 'activity' among the many, and so will youth ministry!

The sin of unprepared meetings!

The last Chapter that I attended was quite a shock! My great hopes and expectations were all shattered on the senseless and petty issues we debated and talked about for most of the time. It is heart-rending to see that such a glorious opportunity to take stock and plan for the future of the Province, is 'vandalised' and squandered, without any qualms of conscience! If last time I was angry with people who could contribute - but didn't - to direct the flow of discussion and enrich the meeting, on the basis of their substantial expertise, this time round I find myself completing my backlog work sitting in the hall.

Another perspective of looking at the whole scenario: We basically feed on what is provided as fodder. Given the fact that not much thinking is done in public meetings, it is the bounden duty that basic texts are prepared with due thought prior to the meeting proper... lest we end up discussing some silly grammatical errors and miss out on core issues.

Final personal plea: Learn Castilino... learn!!
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