Thursday, 29 July 2010

Marian Skit Competition

After supper tonight we had the first part of the Marian Skit Competition (4 of the 8 groups performed). Initially all of them were grumbling as to what will they be able to put up in just 6 to 8 minutes "only"!! But I think most of them surprised themselves when they did manage to convey some good message within the time allotted and that too without much practice.

As I always said and I'm all the more convinced, these Brothers here in the Diocesan set up are much more talented and open to life than our Salesian formees. The only lacuna is the will to excel, that little effort to polish what is already refined, the zeal to make that one more strenuous effort in order to perfect what God has already blessed with. Just that!!!

One of the groups creatively used the context of the children coming here in the evening for classes as a backdrop for their message about Our Lady's intercessory role. I was also happy that Fr Devadas sat with us all through. Though there was more comedy than devotion, the effort was praise worthy. After all, Mother Mary too would not mind some lighter moments in life!

Jesus and Martha

During Mass this morning, as the Gospel was being read out, I was picturizing the whole scene in my mind... the interesting interaction between Jesus and Martha. Knowing that Jesus was on his way to their house, Martha runs ahead to meet Jesus. Torn between the joy at being with Jesus and her sorrow at the loss of her brother, she 'complains' to Jesus that His absence was really felt. Surprisingly Jesus gives her a theological discourse at that moment of sorrow and anguish. But the depth of Martha's spirituality is seen when she responds saying, 'I believe that all will rise on the last day'. Surely one does not expect to come up with such answers when one is drowned in sorrow, unless, this knowledge has become an integral element of one's own life and spirituality. Martha had not only listened to Jesus' teaching but also savoured the principles which Jesus went about proclaiming.

In our times of hardship and extreme sorrow, do we remember and have place for the Lord? Perhaps if we do not, then our spirituality is as fleeting as the morning dew which disappears with the first rays of the sun. The depth of our faith can be gauged when we can convincingly profess the creed right in the thick of our sufferings and failures.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Blog for SJRS, Kondadaba

Old habits die hard... so here I am, at Kondadaba (the last place I ever thought I'd be spending so much time online!) and am working on a new blog! But this one is justified (I believe) for it is of the Seminary itself. I just posted a couple of news bits and I hope it carries on. I plan to rope in Brothers to do the basic writing part of it, provide the content while I do the technical aspect of it. I wish to show the blog to the Writers' Association (a spontaneous group) among the Brothers who are interested in writing articles and related journalistic matters. However I need to also harness the Brothers skill and potential for telugu literature.

I also need to see how telugu text can be uploaded on blogger (I very well know that the possibility exists) but who would type the text? That's the real issue now. Hope to get around that in some way. Let's see.

As of now, here's the St John's Kondadaba blog!

Liturgical Reflections February 2011

I successfully managed to submit the reflections for the Bible calendar for liturgical readings of February 2011 today. I was supposed to have e-mailed them in the previous month, this month was the extended deadline. Fr Raymond Ambroise, I guess he is a Claretian, offered me this chance to pen the reflections and I was more than happy. As I told him, this would give me an opportunity to bridge the gap between the Word of God and my life. I was glad I undertook it and accomplished it to my satisfaction. Hope it satisfies the publishers too... !

Thanks also to the Lord for the inspiration!

Monday, 26 July 2010

Of Joaquim, Anne and the mustard seed

Just before the Mass I had a small distraction: Were Joaquim and Anne granted the title of 'saints' purely on the basis of their parenting of Mother Mary? I was not surely... until the Gospel of the day. It speaks of the mustard seed and extols its virtues. It then struck me that just like the mustard seed, the tiniest of all, yet that which lives to its full potential, Joaquim and Anne were entrusted with a small responsibility. But that responsibility they fulfilled it with the best of their efforts and possibility. That was the specialty. They were not called to achieve great things or extraordinary things but to do the ordinary act of parenting the Mother of God, which they did in an excellent manner. They were entrusted with this task and they did it in a manner no one could outdo them.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

An evening out

After long had a ride out this evening... went over the St Anne's convent at Mangalapalem for their anticipated feast. The best part of course, was that I drove the jeep... something after a real long time. It feels good to feel better and OK.

Also had the opportunity to meet a couple of Sisters whose congregation I never heard about before... something I still am not sure. But what surprised me was that their charism is to help in the Parish... that's all. I wonder what real work they do... neither any social work, nor any education ministry. Just help in the Parish! Anyway, if God has inspired someone to start a congregation then I suppose He has His own plans.

As for me, I've got a hectic week ahead and I hope to make all the necessary preparations for my absence during the next week.

About horses and statues...

I learnt an interesting fact today concerning statues...
If a statue of a person in the park has both front legs in the air, the person died in battle; if the horse has one front leg in the air, the person died as a result of wounds received in battle; if the horse has all four legs on the ground, the person died of natural causes.

Ministry and preparedness

The more I interact with the Brothers, the more I realise that their 'love' and 'zeal' for ministry is purely for self-affirmation. Not all of them (or most of them) have no other reason to go than just to be there in the village!! I wonder if this will be something they will carry with them even in their later years of life and full-fledged ministry. What irritates me most is that they really have the potential to win the whole world and make a mega contribution to whichever place or people they interact with, but they will not!! Reason: they just do not want to see anything more or anything challenging. Just the basic minimum would do.

I was reflecting on another dimension of this whole process during Mass (to be precise, during the usually long sermon). What exactly are the Brothers passionate about? If I can truly identify that, perhaps I could study it and apply the same logic to other things which they should be passionate about but aren't. Or could I make use of that interest and diversify it to other areas.

As I looked around from where I sat, I glanced at a few Brothers to see if I could picture their field of 'zeal'... Most do shine forth in some area or another, unfortunately a couple of them are just floating around! I am sure they themselves are not clear why they are here in the Seminary.

Friday, 23 July 2010

Coping with history... repeated!

After long (really long) I spoke to Ramesh today. He is still in Kawant (Gujarat). He sounded very low. The reason he did not hide: looks like he feels lonely and over burdened with not many to share his pain. He was badly injured in a brutal attack by the Bajrang Dal members sometime two and half years ago. He lost two to three fingers on his right hand to that attack. Now that the case is still being prolonged, he has to face his attackers (who still keep threatening and harassing him, mostly indirectly) every time the court summons.

His morale is low not because of these attacks but because he is being questioned by a lawyer, whose children he taught in our Salesian schools a couple of years ago. Furthermore, his duties and responsibilities in the community too need to go on smoothly, with or without him.

Anyway, God bless him!

Burning calories

Did you know that every time one licks a stamp, the body consumes 1/10 of a calorie... wow!! At this rate, here at Kondadaba we (especially Fr Wilson) would be burning lakhs of calories!! Not that he is the postman or spends his time pasting stamps but the zeal and the strength with which he moves about the whole house trying to make things better! God bless him!

Still learning...!

Another interesting experience today was the house council meeting held in the evening. For the past three years I was indeed in the Provincial council but only as the Secretary. The learnings from those sittings are a real blessing. Though I still am to get used to this idea that now I have the power to affect and effect decisions, the fact that I am still 'observing' people is fun! The discussions we have, the mode of presentation, the logic in which each one of us participate in the meeting, the prejudices, the fears, the projections, the ability (or inability) to 'listen', the difficulty in moving ahead (while most would prefer to dwell in the past and discuss ... I don't understand for what purpose!)...

Anyway, good learning!!

Latent potency and my prodding

I had a harrowing day with the Brothers today... regarding their weekend ministry. I want them to go prepared with a plan for their ministry. They somehow resist this whole idea of planning and preparing. And I somehow do not want to see them throw away their talent and their potential for something so cheap as 3 hrs on a weekend. I want them to harness their capabilities for something they love. Furthermore it is precisely for their own future ministry that they need to get this process in place. Anyway, I'm happy I can shout and yell at them and still get them to come around. I do feel I've changed a lot in this aspect since Karunapuram days. I remember Brothers used to avoid me for days after a firing. Here I seem to have struck a cord with them and they understand that me being hard on them is for their benefit... though they try to wriggle out of that loop that I cast for them!!

On the whole, good guys... just need a little push!

Wednesday, 21 July 2010

Unfolding a rose bud

No matter how best one tries, no one can really unfold a rose bud. The secret of unfolding a rose bud into a rose flower is the privilege of the rose plant/flower and that alone. Some thinkers have suggested that if human beings, in spite of all the achievements we have made, cannot unfold a rose, how can we think of unfolding God's divine plan! Whatever said, it is worth reflecting these small things to see how God has bestowed upon each creature a special skill... inimitable, unique and so exquisite. No human creation can ever come close to these marvels of nature.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

For love of the Brothers, am stuck to the Parish!

I always thought that I was the worst one for making announcements, or rather making my list of instructions, precise and short. I always tend to elaborate and exaggerate. Today I found that our Parish Priest is far worse than me... that's a consolation, but also a fear that I'll have to listen to him every Sunday henceforth.

This is the second time I attended Sunday Mass in the Parish. Due to my illness I didn't attend the Sunday Mass in the Parish. There is always a Mass in the Seminary and I was attending that. But it is a real agony to sit through the Mass - not because it is long but because it is unduly prolonged. The sermon is literally a diarrhea of words, a sweet sounding, pious and utterly disorganised collection of words with neither a single theme or a final message to focus our minds and hearts upon. The moment the sermon begins, most of the heads are down, including that of the Brothers. The Mass sometimes goes on for 3 or three and half hours. (Luckily there is no keyboard in the Parish or else the interlude and prelude of each hymn would add another hour to the duration!). In spite of all this, the Brothers love and are literally ready to do anything to let them attend the Mass in the Parish.

Left to myself, I'd rather have a meaningful short Mass than sit through a Mass where all the time I'm wondering what is the Priest arriving at, or when is he going to conclude his litany of announcements (which are repeated over and over again). However, between the love of being with my Brothers and my irritation for the meaninglessly prolonged Mass, I choose the former... and subsequently end up in the Parish every Sunday!

'Litany' after Communion

The whole custom of saying a 'litany' of prayers after Communion (during Mass) sounds a bit odd to me. Let me give an analogy: You write a long letter to a good friend of yours and just when you are about to post it, that friend himself appears at your doorstep. What do you do? Receive him in and read out the letter or tell him directly what you had written? I'm sure, anyone would converse with him, chat with him, share with him the news or information... not read out that letter or some other details. Why then treat Jesus like a stranger, as if He is far away and needs an official letter of thanks. Immediately after receiving Communion, He is IN me, close to my heart, in person. Why not then just talk to him face to face, converse with Him, say all that we want to say, thank Him for his intimate presence, rather than recite prayers!!

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

The advantage of questioning

During the third hour with the third year students, I realised that I have started questioning the class quite a lot... and the most frequent question is 'Why?' From what I see, it works. Coming back to the full time teaching line after a gap of six years has indeed done some good. I now see the great value in helping the students reflect and critically analyse facts placed before them (not that it was not the intention earlier, but somehow was not the focus, I feel). Perhaps earlier my focus was on getting them merely understand what I am presenting. Now I get the answers from them while I try to tickle their minds with appropriate questions. For the third year students who are running in and out of the library for their final paper(as though the paper is in there and they've got to locate it), I've reversed the order. I've told them to submit to me a list of questions (as long and as varied as possible) to which they intend their dissertation to be an answer.

Tuesday, 13 July 2010

The Ultimate 'Why' of life

This morning during my class with the first years, I spoke to them about the need of a long term plan. During the course of my explanation, I also told them clearly that if any of them has 'ordination' or 'Priesthood' as their long term goal or plan, then they are wasting their life. A real long term goal has to answer the question, 'What is it that you want to do with your life?' This can very well be answered in the most vague terms or can be very specifically answered with concrete action plan laid out for short terms. I believe, unless this long term plan is in place, we will be taking many short steps, good steps maybe, but something that will only lead us in circles or no where. In order to be on a steady path, we need to know where we are headed to or at least, in which direction we are going or for what purpose.

Only he who has the answer to the 'Why?' (at least makes a valiant effort at knowing the answer) will be able to live the petty 'why's that keep cropping on our journey.

Monday, 12 July 2010

With the third years

I began classes for the third year course this morning... I'm dealing with Modern Indian Philosophy. It was a good beginning. I noticed that some of them are sharp and bright, but quite a few are lost! Anyway, hope to awaken them all following the seminar model style. Each one of them is to present one aspect of any one of the philosophers (a scientific paper as well as class presentation). That should keep them awake and interested. Furthermore it will be a great help for me, given my delicate health.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

A pep talk

Tonight I had an excellent opportunity to have a word-in-the-ear with the first course leader. He was not receiving support from all the members of the group and I challenged him to pull them up for their lethargy. As leader when entrusted with power he needs to show them that things need to be done the way they are to be done... that's a leader's job. By letting them rule the roost, that too for all selfish or wrong motives, he may be "accepted" by all, but respected by none. As a leader one ought to stand by principles and lead the group on a path of values. Compromising on values and principles will ultimately lead to decadence and mediocrity. I had to tell him a few things straight and crude, but I'm happy he saw the point. Furthermore as always I assured him that I will be with him, when things don't go smoothly. I'll be understanding but not let off anyone just because he wants to be lazy and mediocre.

The Better Samaritan

I'd like to add something to the Gospel Parable of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10: 25-37): The Jew going down the road to Jericho was ambushed, robbed, beaten and left for dead... the Priest passed by without as much as a word of consolation, do did the Levite. But the Samaritan took it upon himself to nurse him and get him to a nearby inn for further attention. (Now for my addition...) He left the inn to trace the very track the Jew undertook, in order to encounter the robbers who did this to the Jew. He met them in order to help them see what good they could do in life. He wanted to show them what great things God wanted them to do rather than get stuck in the wilderness, running, hiding, looting and bringing harm to fellow human beings. He went back to the route to ensure that no one ever has to endure what the Jew endured during his journey.

What the good Samaritan did was indeed praiseworthy, noble and courageous indeed. But what the 'better' Samaritan did was empowering; not just tackling the individual symptoms of a malice but tackling the very root of the issue. Given our potential today, we really can effect changes that eradicate some of the evils that plague our society... if only we can move beyond the 'single Jew' at hand.

Philosophy as an art and a process

Philosophy is basically an art and a process; an art of asking relevant meaningful questions and the process of seeking the appropriate meaning of those questions for a better humanity. It is not that the answers are irrelevant, but certainly not in comparison to the process of arriving at those answers.

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Limping back to normalcy

I'm happy today... the bilirubin count in my blood has come down (from 8.2 to 3.1). That's a good sign says my doctor. What's happier is that he has permitted me to take something of the normal diet. Wow!! that's a great blessing. I had two plateful of rice after I came back. Not only was I hungry but the joy of eating something as of normal was great. However, I've got to be careful... rest, medication and diet are still prescribed for another two weeks.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Being good

Yesterday I had the good fortune of watching some parts of the movie 'The Express'. The movie is about a black young man, Ernie Davis and his coach, Ben Schwartzwalder trying to make a headway and live the game of football, at the height of the segregation era in the States. It is very inspirational. Beautiful acting by Dennis Quaid (the coach) and Rob Brown (Ernie Davis). The theme and the narration of the same is done very well. Watching these movies we see how foolish and idiotic history has been in believing being guided by something as trivial as the colour of our skin. It is all the more painful to see how this history is repeated in our times for the very same trivial or meaningless reasons. In times like these, it is truly great to watch people like Ernie Davis and Bob Schwartzwalder stand for values greater than shallow 'ideals' petty minds wallow in.

I liked the part where Ernie Davis thanks everyone for the Heisnman trophy and his coach especially. He describes his coach as a 'good coach and a good man'. That's a glowing tribute!

Thursday, 8 July 2010

From the 'Dean's office'!

I'm now back in my own room and this is the first posting from my own desk... thanks to Fr Wilson for making sharing his internet connection with me. This is good news, that I don't have to keep carrying back and forth my laptop to the staff room to view mails and keep myself 'online'. However, I'm also conscious not to get stuck to the net. I very well am aware that Brothers are my priority. So I've decided that I'll use my computer 'according to the community time-table', i.e., when Brothers have the chance to use the computer lab. Trust that should help me stay sufficiently detached!

Monday, 5 July 2010

Getting back on my feet

I resumed my Anthropology and Methodology classes today. It was good getting back to tickling the minds of the Brothers and prodding them to think and reflect. But I really feel exhausted. Moreover tomorrow is Fr Wilson's b'day. Luckily most of the things are prepared and ready. A few guys whom I entrusted something to animate get back to me only now, with empty minds and pathetic looks. But on the whole these guys here are a talented lot. They really can do much, much better than our Salesians. However, they don't feel the need to exert themselves. That's the only lacuna.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Charity, yes but coupled with empowerment

As I type these few lines inside, the distribution of notebooks to the deserving children is going on outside in the Seminary campus. Fr KT is all about the place ensuring that only those 'deserving' get the books and that others do not hijack the opportunity. That's a rather difficult task given the fact that everyone wants a piece (as big as possible) of a free cake! To then distinguish those who really are the deserved ones from those who can manage perhaps the biggest challenge. However, that so many children are helped annually with their studies is indeed a very noble task.

All said and done, I still have my reservations about the help we give. We still thrive in that old 'give and help' model, rather make a shift to the 'help and empower' model. I know it is easier said than done, but unless we make that shift, we never really 'help'. Some ways in which I see that this shift can be made are the following (drawing inspiration from the movie, Pay it forward):
  • Get these children (and especially their parents) to commit to completing their basic studies.
  • Ensure that these children put in their best (if they are not serious about their studies, pull back the educational support extended to them and offer it to those really serious about their studies)
  • Put into the heads and hearts of these children that this help now being offered to them has to be replicated by them to others when they are able to stand on their own two feet. (It is surprising to see those children who once received help, now married and have children of their own, coming back to again ask for help for their children!!). Fr KT tells me that of the thousands helped so far, only one has come forward to help others, now that he is well settled.
Charity is a good thing but setting a movement by which each one, in whatever capacity is able to help, joins in is indeed a greater act. It liberates and empowers.

Team over individuals

The current FIFA cup 2010 has proved one thing: that team counts more than individuals. All those whose names were tossed about as potential cup 'getters' have all left the stadium with their heads downcast. I watched the quarterfinal match between Argentine and Germany yesterday, though for only a while. I was surprised to see the Argentinians play like our Brothers. Those talented and acclaimed as goal scorers were all the while dribbling and dodging three to four German defenders, regardless of the fact that their own teammates at other places were standing unmarked awaiting a pass, something that rarely happened. Germany surely deserved the win as they proved to play as a team rather than rely solely on individual strikers. I did not watch the other quarterfinal between Brazil and Netherlands, but I guess the same lacuna sunk the Brazilians. I'm glad that this has World Cup has seen team play override individual talent and solo play.

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Taking a stand

Here at Kondadaba, my life is on a 'hibernation' mode still. Plan to 'resurrect' on Monday... I'm giving myself a discount of one week from the Doctor's prescribed rest of one month. One of my main priorities will surely be to get the Brothers stand for values, as individuals. A common phenomenon at Kondadaba (as it was 10 years ago) is that Brothers take shelter in the group. They wouldn't want to stick their head out for anything - in spite of knowing that it is good, true and worthy enough to take the risk. I realised it is not out of ignorance that they would like to remain silent when they ought to speak out, but it is out of sheer fear of what others will say. It is the lack of moral courage to face what is wrong with a firm heart and take a stand. Most of the Brothers are good and virtuous but not courageous enough to take a stand, especially when it comes to taking a stand in public. Like I told them bluntly the other day during the goodnight, if they do not have the courage and the moral authority to tell their best friend that what he is doing is wrong, they are not going to be any better 'Priests' or 'prophets' later after their ordination.

Courage to believe

Fr TV Thomas telling that St Thomas was a courageous apostle was quite amusing to hear. However he had his reasons: he was not one to be coerced into conviction about Jesus. Perhaps he was confident that Jesus would not have appeared or been partial to others (appear only to them and not to him after his resurrection). Furthermore, when out of fear all the apostles were huddled inside the room, what was Thomas doing outside? Surely one needed guts to be out, when all your human thinking forced you to stay indoors.

As I started preparing for the reflections for February 2011, the first day's readings reflected exactly the same thought: the courage to believe, especially when others around are waiting and watching as to who would say what and take what step. The woman suffering from the hemorrhage, the official whose daughter was declared dead, chose to believe otherwise in spite of the whole crowd's opinion and 'conviction'. Now that really calls for courage... courage to believe. And it is exactly that which assures their triumph... 'Go, your faith has saved you.'
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