Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Jesus heard...

It is easier to see and say about the unnecessary burdens others carry about but very difficult to even be aware of the tons of load I myself carry around. These past couple of days I have been quite hard on the Brothers. Last night's goodnight, I feel in retrospect, was too hard for them. Perhaps I should have spoken of my difficulty with some of them, individually than "warn" the whole community about it. Anyway, hope like most other instructions, my reflections last night too went above their head!!

As I listened to the spiritual reading this evening the line that struck me was the one about Jesus 'hearing' the needs of those who came to meet Him. He heard more than what they said! He heard their spoken word, their unwavering faith, their deep anxieties, their fears and troubles, their desire to be better and all their unspoken history. He heard it all!

Art, Pain and Dreams

It is said that the French artist Pierre-Auguste Renoir was one who would not give up painting even in his last stages of life when due to severe rheumatism he could not even hold the painting brush. His desire to create beauty was far greater than the excruciating physical pain he had to endure.
The pain I suffer now is temporary but the beauty I create is for eternity.
Not very many people have the courage to endure pain and carry on with life or even dream and strive for something more, in those times of pain. But those who do carry on are either lunatics or great visionaries. But blessed are they whose pain gives them the strength to go on and whose dreams gives them the hope to fight on.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

My Sister's Keeper

Last night I watched the movie My Sister's Keeper, directed by Nick Cassavetes. It is a good movie, I'd say ethical issues in galore... but there is always a tussel between the ethical part and the 'cinematic' part. This dilemma to balance both fields is the chief cause for its failure to make a mark in either field.

However, I liked the movie for its realistic portrayal of a family torn by the gradual death of one among them. More than the fight to keep her alive, what tears them apart is their differences in support of their beloved one who is sick. While most of them accept the fact that their sister or daughter is terminally sick and is on her deathbed, the mother (Cameroon Diaz) refuses to give up. Ultimately even the daughter herself gives up and it is only the mother fighting a lone battle, seemingly against her own other daughter but finally it is revealed that she was all the while fighting the very daughter whose life she wanted to save.

The family sentiments on one side and the whole issue of euthanasia or organ donation or ethics are mingled in this movie.

'Mass' hypocrisy

The whole Mass time this morning, I couldn't be distracted by the way the Brothers were behaving. Their double behaviour in their attitude towards the Holy Eucharistic celebration was on one hand troubling me and on the other was the whole dilemma if I should be thinking about 'them' rather than focus on my own inner struggles. However, the homily preached by Fr Devadas was good and qualitative... connecting humility and honour. I see in Brothers a dual life, very open and blatant lifestyle, but they do not 'see' it at all. Or they do not see any discrepancy at all. For them they see it all as normal. Anyway, I wish to point it out to them at an opportune moment.

Friday, 27 August 2010

RIP: Msgr Joji and dear Fr Benji

A while ago we received the news of the demise of Bp Marampudi Joji, the archbishop of Hyderabad. What coincidence or bad luck... just a couple of hours ago we decided to put up photos of the Bishops of Andhra Pradesh in the house and were discussing how best to do it.

Today is also the first death anniversary of Fr Benji!

Drop out levels!

Like children dropping out of school, I realise our Brothers here too 'drop out' at different stages of anything. The grades are as follows: listening to what is said, understanding what is presented, appreciating the good before them, being convinced of what is laid before them and committing themselves to something. Most of them drop off either at the first level (listening) or at the last stage (commitment).

A living gift - Sapling

During the philosophical symposium on Ecology and Religion - I should add, perfectly well coordinated and organised by Fr Wilson... hats off to him! - Fr Devadas made a very interesting and practical suggestion. Speaking during an ongoing debate about the role of the Church in the ongoing ecological crisis, he suggested that during major feasts and celebrations, the faithful could be given a sapling - blessed by the Priest - to take home and take care of. It would be a 'living gift from a living God'. That is great idea!! Rather than give medals and statues and so on, a plant is a living gift. People would naturally begin to see nature as God's gift and not something merely to be used for personal benefits.

Good suggestion too to link the Church, God, Christianity and nature... of course with human beings!

Scriptures as signposts

During the Philosophical symposium we had this morning and precisely during one of the intense discussions generated while speaking about the role of Scriptures and Tradition in preservation or destruction of Ecology, was this doubt:
Are Scriptures signposts or guidelines rather than ready-made answers to questions about life and living?
I'd prefer and somehow believe the former point rather than look upon Scriptures as an 'answer book'. I think the Holy Scriptures truly offer us rich and valuable insights but not perfect, neat answers to all our needs and anxieties.


Never can I describe what her love was for me. If I am your child, oh my God, it is because you did give me such a mother.
St Augustine (hopefully speaking of his mother, St Monica)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

For those 'floating' in the community...

This afternoon I really confronted one of the Brothers with this simple question: "Give me two reasons why you should continue in the Seminary?" He did not ever expect this and I could immediately see sweat trickling down his temple and forehead.

All that I wanted to bring to his notice (and I did do that) was that his 'floating' around in the community was of no use - neither to him nor to the community. Hence whether in or out of the seminary would make no impact on him or the community. But this I know too well, his being out may not affect the community but him, oh boy!! He cannot imagine or afford that!! So when one is desperate to stick on, for reasons not obvious or intended, this sort of shock-therapy works. For most of such cases, they do not wish to clarify their intention or have an intention besides 'a secure comfortable life'. I know there are a few more who are merely existing without any bit of involvement in the community. I wish to do the same exercise with them sooner or later. So far the two whom I've confronted with the same issue, have shown improvement... for good, genuine or for bad, is too early to say.

Emotions and responsibility

This morning I was discussing with my second year students about emotions and responsibility, in my Anthropology class. It was interesting to describe to them about the whole connection between morality, ethics and the choices we make based on our emotions and the actions that follow suit. They really dread my examples these days; for they are all from our life and living here in Kondadaba. Though not all of them agree or are convinced of the validity of the examples I use, they sure know that there is not denial of the fact of what is presented before them.

It was interesting also for me to explain to them the whole connection between emotions, choices and actions. Reflecting deeper, with them and later too, I realise very many of our own - my own - actions or habits are basically from the petty choices and decisions I make along the way. I really may not be directly and immediately responsible for the ultimate or the 'big' emotional outburst (of joy or anger) but I am responsible all the same ... simply because I've been making small choices every time I am emotionally charged and that has led me to this stage wherein when there is an emotional outburst, I cannot but decide any other way than in the line of choices I have been making all along.

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

Hybrid vocations

We always are on the lookout for vocations to the Salesian way of life but we perhaps do not pay sufficient attention to ensure that this vocation is nurtured. We prefer to have a 'hybrid Salesian'... someone who has not yet really passed through the formative stages of a vocation to life, to his Christian calling, so as to enable him to better understand and cherish his Salesian vocation. This way we may have vocations but not deep-rooted. And what better way to 'cultivate' these vocations than our own settings, places we carry out our ministry.

Christians and politics

In the Hyderabad Church circles there is an uproar against the apparent offending comments made by one MP, Mr V. Hanumantha Rao. The Sakshi newspaper reported him stating thta "those who read the Bible are unfit and useless for politics... the Christians must confine themselves to their homes and read the Bible, what they know about politics?"

I guess he has a point. We, Christians have not really made any headway in politics. We have preferred to stay in that charity mode and continue so. Politics is often seen as corrupt and unjust structure and never as a mission field. But truly if one really wants to effect changes, it is these politicians who hold the ropes. Bureaucrats may be the ones who think and formulate the policies but, the politicians are the ones who approve or disapprove and furthermore implement or not implement them. So it is good that do something more than lodge protests... join politics to make an impact.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Saint John Bosco

Irugu Porugu

Yesterday we had the Irugu Porugu Programme for the children of the neighbourhood. We had nearly 600 children in the Seminary for the whole day. On the whole it was good to see children all excited and involved. Of course, these children (most of them at least) have been coming to the Seminary over the years. I was not much involved in the planning and preparation part of it.

Surprisingly Brothers were the most disorganised and unprepared, while all along they had been telling me that they were giving practice to the children every weekend for the past one month. Anyway, that's for another thought. As for me, I got to meet children from practically most of the villages. Since I had been to some villages for the last two weekends, some children recognised me and they showed their joy at knowing another face!! Some of the Brothers were with the children the whole time, out of their own choice (for some I had to make the choice and decide for them!). Here are a couple of snaps...
Of the cultural programme/competitions

These two tiny ones seem to have strayed away from their group and I found them wandering near the library. At first they were a bit anxious to reunite with their friends from the village. But no sooner they saw the camera in my hand, all anxieties vanished and one of them spontaneously asked me to take a photo and before I could answer both of them were ready with a perfect smile... I didn't miss it!!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Student-driven activities: an educative strategy

The latest news bit from AustraLasia is about a Filipino couple (the husband being a past pupil of Salesian institution) who are short listed for the famous Ramon Magsaysay Award.

In 1999, husband and wife left their lucrative jobs in Manila to manage a struggling high school in the poor and faraway province of Bohol better known for its white-sand beaches and endemic tiny primate called tarsier. Both respected physicists in the National Institute of Physics, Christopher and Maria Victoria introduced to poor students a “revolutionary way of teaching science subjects” they called the “dynamic learning program.” The “cost-effective strategy” uses locally available teaching aids, as it was the advocacy of the late Salesian pioneer in the Philippines Fr. George Schwarz, and limits teacher participation by devoting 7o% of class time to student-driven activities “built around clear learning targets, aided by well-designed learning plans and performance-tracking tools.”

Radical improvement in the performance on national scholastic aptitude and university admission tests of these poor students more than pay off the couple’s sacrifice. Through their “Learning Physics as One Nation” program, the Bernidos are also addressing the problem of severe shortage of qualified physics teachers in the country. Their school in the remote town of Jagna in Bohol holds regular workshops that have attracted not only hundreds of schools all over the country but even international scientists and Nobel laureates.

Apart from taking pride in this Salesian contribution to the world of education and its impact there are two things that struck me.

First is the 'ripple effect' that I believe is what we Salesian educators (anyone with a vision for the welfare of humanity) is to specialise. While it is good that we can reach out to a handful of people in the neighbourhood, it is a crime to be satisfied with that alone, when one has the potential for effecting a mega change. I can very well go to the nearest village and help a poor family build a home for themselves; but when I have 84 hands to support me, why not mobilise these to move a whole village or their respective places to do something similar in each village? That's my vision... being an Octopus, that too the head and not just one of its tentacles.

Secondly the whole idea of learning through class participation wherein 70% of class time is devoted to student driven activities. I realise this is the best way of teaching, especially when subjects are tough or students are struggling to grasp the content of the subject for lack of some basic preliminary learning.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Fondly remembering Fr Varicatt

Tomorrow is the 8th death anniversary of Fr Varicatt John. I still remember very clearly the morning of August 21, 2002 when Fr Wilson came running up to me to inform about the death of Fr Varicatt. It was in Karunapuram while I was the Assistant. We were just getting ready for the Quiz competition that day in the college. I also distinctly remember Fr John celebrating Mass for Prathap and myself the previous evening. I was not well and did not attend the community Mass, so too was Fr John and hence in the evening when he was getting ready to celebrate Mass, I joined in. So did Prathap (who I think was a deacon then).

Well among the many things I admired in Fr John was his sense of order and organisation. He was always well prepared and organised. Celebrating Mass in one of the substations of Kazipet, he was always ready much ahead of time - fully prepared with all that he needed. He was never to miss a thing. Just like his lovely handwriting, his room, his table and all his belongings were always in place. He barely had any item of luxury. If I am not mistaken the only electronic gadget he ever possessed was an old transister which he used to listen the BBC news and keep a tab on his watch. His skill at making Rosaries was a free-for-all-skill. Anyone willing to learn was most welcome. And, I do not remember him ever wasting his time... he would spend time reading.

A few good men

There was a time I avoided watching some movies, not because they were 'bad' but I thought they had nothing to offer. One of them was 'A few good men'... I realised how wrong I was when I ultimately watched it, of course as ever in bits and pieces!! It is a very powerful movie which inspires where to draw the line between duty and responsibility, between doing good and being good. A splendid movie indeed... with messages galore.

I liked the way the actors play their role... great performances by all the leading actors, Tom Cruise, Jack Nickolson (the best as ever!) and Demi Moore. It is a story of how two American soldiers (given all their ranks and titles) are accused of murder of one of their own fellow soldier in Cuba. The fact: they were ordered to, by their highest commanding officer! The story is all about how the young inexperienced lawyer gets the commanding officer to admit this fact, when there are no proofs or witnesses to support the soldiers. At the end, the court passes judgment that the two soldiers are not guilty of murder or attempt to murder but guilty of 'behaviour unbecoming of a soldier' - hence dismissed from being Marines. One of the two reacts saying, that they were just following orders. The other responds, "We did wrong. We were meant to protect the weak and fight for them. We were supposed to fight for Willy (the one they murdered)." The closing scene is that of the lawyer appreciating the latter saying, "You do not need to wear a patch on your shoulder to have honour."

How I wish we too learn the message: we do not need the cassock or the badge of being a religious to have 'honour'. Honour and courage are virtues far above anyone's personal property. They are associated with the inner being of our selves rather than what we wear or what we say.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

The educated and dowry

This afternoon I received another invitation for a marriage in a nearby village (not that I know anyone in the family - not a single person - but the fact that I'm on the staff of the seminary, I get one card by default!). Anyway, later while talking about it at table, it was stated that the dowry being paid by the girl is 4 lakhs!! That too she is better educated that the groom!! The worst is that both of them are teachers!! Now if this is the state of life and principles of educators, what better can we expect of simple ordinary folks? While for me this was the most idiotic thing in this episode, someone else found the fact that the girl (a catholic) getting married to a Hindu, very irritating. That for me bears no significance at all in the context of the former.

Well, I guess perspectives matter and they are different even for the same context and content. I still am wondering what would the couple be teaching children in the school about social values and principles. And God forbid, if they are social studies teachers!!

Emergence and decline of Congregations

I've been reading a book of Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil (Guwahati) ... a collection of his talks and sermons. Truly inspirational! No wonder he is looked upto by very many people for varied reasons. This morning what struck me was his analysis of the various stages of a religious congregation: from the charismatic origin, through the ardent idealisitic early period to the later stage of being just another social reality. Speaking of the second stage, this is what he says:
Attention to the goals is replaced by attention to the means.
Attention to the Spirit is replaced by attention to lifeless rules.
Attention to the Religious atmostphere is replaced by attention to the structures.

And speedily sacrifice gives place to Convenience.
Enthusiasm yields to cynicism.
Idealism gives way to mechanical Imitation.
Radicality surrenders to compromise.
Growth gives place first to consolidation, then to retreat.
Attention to Others is replaced by exaggerated attention to the Collective self.
From this stage, the institute moves on to mere survival techniques. This stage is characterised by an over-organisation of structures and administrative bodies, over-qualification and sophistication of mind to the extent of distracting one from commitment and mutual accommodation.

Having stated thus he also offers means of 'resurrecting' oneself: Strengthening the faith dimension. This is done not by invoking rules or chapter decisions but by inspiring followers by the noble ideals that were dear to the founding members and earlier generations.

[Menamparampil, Thomas Never Grow Tired Mumbai: Pauline Publications, 2008]

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

When good is not enough

The Ratio of the Salesian formation clearly states, among the many other criteria for selection and promotion of candidates to Salesian religious life, the necessity of being more than good. Most often candidates are promoted because he or she is good. But I firmly agree with the Ratio when it states that only those who show an abundance of good qualities and virtues should be promoted. I think that is applicable to any formation - be it Salesian or diocesan.

Not just good Brothers but those with abundant positive characteristics...

When silence is anything but good...

There is evil in the world and society not because of bad people or corrupt people but because of good people... people who live their goodness personally. Tata tea has a nice ad in hindi... politicians are corrupt not because they take bribes but because we give bribes. If only the silent majority were to take a stand and say 'no' to very many things that most often are 'overlooked' in the name of silence and 'prudence', the world and every bit of it where we live is going to be different.

But alas, such people 'whistle blowers' hardly survive!! Yet it is because of these that society progresses and we have heroes.

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Floods in Pakistan

Sometime ago there was such a hue and cry about the devastating earthquake in Haiti... today hardly anyone speaks of it. In the Salesian world too there was a massive campaign to assist Haiti in getting back to its feet. These days Pakistan is reeling under heavy floods. According to official reports, the damage done in Pakistan due to these incessant floods is much more than the damaged Haiti incurred. Yet there is hardly any 'news' or talk about the floods.

May be that I'm not listening but is something being said at all, of this natural calamity? Or is this another clear example of media bias? Perhaps very many have a bias against Pakistan itself. Hence the moment the name Pakistan appears, all thoughts are shut out. In newspapers at least the news is relegated to some foreign news ... through a small bit. Isn't this the time to express our solidarity and prove our claim to be tolerant and peace-loving people? Can we not extend a helping hand to our immediate neighbour, even though our relationships are strained?

From teaching philosophy to thinking philosophically

Yesterday in class with the first years I gave them an exercise (a very very simple one about Galileo and his contribution to science) to help them 'understand' and grasp the core idea of what they read. Most of them spent 30 minutes reading the 300 words article and at the end of it did not have any idea about what it was all about. Just a handful grasped the essence of the article. One was sure that it was about science 'in' Galeli and when I tried to understand he was sure it was the 'sea of Galeli' that he had in mind.... he never heard the name of Galelio Galeli!!

The whole exercise left me thinking the whole day: Here are guys who are struggling to basically read and understand English and we are hell bent on teaching them philosophy!! I very well know that I've made a world of change in my strategy of teaching philosophy - shifting from studying philosophy to thinking philosophically - but is there any better means of helping the students to 'think' wide, deep and effectively...?

From 'want' to 'want to'

A message from the celebration of the Independence day:
Most of us only 'want' but not 'want to'!

Sunday, 15 August 2010

Marian Nite (contd)

A continuation of the evaluation of the Marian Nite 2010...
(done with Kamalesh and Karunakar)
  • Balance content and entertainment and not be lopsided.
  • Try to finish one and then start another game/activity (This I guess is the inability to focus and multi-tasking).
  • The Marian Yell was missing!! (Well I purposely did not include it... but I guess there can be ways of making things exciting without demeaning people or watering down the whole project).
  • Announce beforehand about the Nite and give some tasks to be prepared or got ready with. This we did not do at all. Perhaps if we were working on the task earlier onwards, we could have asked the groups to get ready with something.
  • The instructions need to be clear and specific. As far as possible do not give room for interpretation, if you do want them to stick to your path.
  • Luckily some found it creative and different, in spite of the dull starting and the overall boring mood.

Marian Nite 2010

On August 13, 2010 I organised the Marian Nite for the community along with two Brothers (Karunakar and Kamalesh). All along the preparation of the same the words of Fr Ivo kept ringing in my ears: Marian devotion is not something to be reduced to some yells and songs. I remember him telling us that in our houses, especially formation houses, the Marian Nite is an occasion we need to use for deepening our Marian devotion and not make it another of our family gatherings. Well, I think I took that advice too seriously and exaggerated it a bit too much... the event turning out to be a damp squib!!

As I look back on the night, it was fiasco right from the start. The first game which was supposed to take only 12 mins went on for 45 mins. I who was growing in my confidence as one who would cut to time any programme, managed to conclude the programme that night only at 12.45 (it was not supposed to last beyond 11.30 at the most).

Now for the lessons I learnt:
  • Seek not solo success but well being and the others growth. Perhaps I was too conscious of making this programme a hit and in the bargain overlooked some of the simple but essential elements of keeping a group of 85 young men interested.
  • Not to take animation programmes too seriously and always turn them into a useful retreat session by not keeping in mind the mental attitudes of the participants.
  • I totally forgot to prepare and plan for the kick off. I was so engrossed in the individual programmes of the whole night that I really never sufficiently thought about the starting! After the dull start, the whole attempt was to 'resurrect' the programme rather than enjoy the evening.
  • Start the preparation early ... not two days prior to the actual event.
  • Not to forget this experience and acknowledge its failure! I know Brothers did not really enjoy it. But I also know that they were forced to think... only that it was only for that night. However, they have been 'kind' by avoiding any talk about it.
(Having an evaluation with Karunakar and Kamalesh would be good, I think. Being students themselves, they surely would have bore the brunt of the event, amidst their companions.)

Salesians and Patriotism

Somehow as Salesians we often neglect one aspect of our educational system... perhaps Don Bosco himself never sufficiently emphasised or felt the need of highlighting this dimension of the educational process... that of patriotism. Though he did speak of 'Good Christians and honest citizens' it somehow never really inculcated any patriotic sense. Perhaps the political context of his times forced him to stay calm and away from anything to do with general welfare and national policies. Unfortunately we Salesians seem to have taken that very seriously and have altogether relegated 'our duty to the nation' to merely hoisting the flag on August 15 and a well corrected speech for the same. I would not shrink from my responsibility either ... I am one such Salesian!

Over the time if there is something that constantly shames me is this short song/video ... truly splendid in its portrayal of the need for every citizen to take the first step:

Another truly well made inspirational ad about patriotism is the following:

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

K-PAX, an amusing movie

A couple of days ago, Fr Rinoy and I stayed up late to watch a very strange but interesting movie, K-PAX. I somehow liked it, though I really cannot spell out for what reasons. One reason that I am aware of is because of Kevin Spacey and his good acting skills. Another reason I continued watching the movie was the skill with which the movie depicts ideas. It is easy to emote, to act emotions or feelings but how does one convey ideas? This movie manages to convey intense and deep thoughts using simple acting skills and dialogues. The conclusion too is quite different... neither a pure cinematic bluff nor a clear scientific truth...?

However besides these there is something else that gripped me about the movie... I'm yet to lay hands on that reason. Meanwhile here's a trailer of the same...

Obedience and subservience

What exactly is the difference between obedience and subservience? Where does one draw the line and on the basis of what?

Perhaps in obedience the person sees the ultimate goal much beyond the here and now and is choosing that over and above the command. In subservience, the person sees nothing beyond the command. Ultimately it is the perceptibility and the attitude that makes all the difference.

I hope I am right!!

Monday, 9 August 2010

Atheism or Ordination?

During the recollection this evening, Fr Prathap stated an example which evoked mixed reactions, at least among the staff... I don't know if it did anything at all among the students. The instance was what he narrated as he overheard from someone who was called in as a reader for the final comprehensive paper. The paper he was asked to read and comment was on atheism. The Brother presented and defended well his paper and ideas on atheism. The reader seemed to have appreciated the Brother for the good work done but was of the firm opinion that he should be allowed to continue his Priestly formation.

I am firmly convinced, if he was keen on becoming a Priest and given the effort he made on defending his paper on atheism, he would really make a very good Priest. The fact that the staff did not help him see the other half of reality and face it, should not be blamed on the student.

And the best of all, if that guy did some paper worthwhile... Praise be to God... it is very rarely one gets something sensible, in the first instance!!

Recollection - August 2010

The recollection for this month of August 2010 was preached by Fr Prathap, the Parish Priest of St Anthony's Church, Vizianagaram. Though it sounded more like an extension lecture on Ethics, the points he stated were very practical and integral aspects of formation and growth process of a candidate to Priestly life. His whole talk and sermon was centred on the formation of moral consciousness. Listing various obstacles that hinder one from getting our moral principles right, he elaborated the ways of overcoming the same using basic and non-negotiable elements of our vocation. His ready references to the Scripture, persons of the Biblical age, example from his pastoral experience and instances in the present Seminary life made his presentation of ideas very grounded and understandable. The two points he stressed above all: the necessity to live our life by the dictum Do good and avoid evil. Secondly, one ought to take responsibility for one's own life and formation.

Year of the youth

Very soon (on August 12, 2010) the year of the youth commences. It did not strike me at all till last night when one of the Brothers asked me for some material for his youth group in his ministry place!! That's something: a diocesan asking (can read that as reminding) a Salesian about 'Youth'.

Anyway I did some searching just now and came across this website dedicated to this whole year with quite a few resources. Have a look!

Got to see how I can contribute to this global event and make use of this opportunity to make a difference!

Electricity blues...

Last night just as I fell asleep, I dreamt of some electronic device that would automatically pump water into the tank when it is empty, and when there is the three-phase power. Situated in a rural setting, where steady power itself is a great grace we have to often time our usage of water too... all depending on when next we will get the three phase power to run the motor. Most often (at least in the past two months) it has been at unearthly hours of the morning (2 - 4 am). That leaves the administrator and brother incharge awake practically the whole night, doing nothing but waiting for the power to come on.

I remember there was a gadget which saw to this whole crazy job all by itself while I was at Karunapuram. If not that high end, something simpler should be worked out! Ideas are welcome...

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Grace to carry on...

The Gospel of this morning - Jesus' stern reminder that to those who are blessed with much, much will be expected - is quite 'frightening'. Not so for those who really don't feel blessed but for people like me, who feel 'burdened' by the numerous graces He constantly blesses me with, it is quite a note. But I suppose He also gives the bonus grace of carrying on, rather than spending time brooding 'what if, I fail?' So I carry on giving my best, assured that He will take care of the rest. I only ask for that regular supply of wisdom to be prudent enough to make the right use of the varied graces at the right time and in the right proportion.

Of watches and cell phones

My travel back to my home from Bangalore yesterday by Banglore-Guwahati Express was another interesting experience. As usual on this train there were more passengers than it could contain. So in my section, instead of the usual 6+2, we were 12. Don't ask me where we found the space, but everyone had some comfortable corner. I occupied the upper berth, almost all the while.

The best part of the journey was when the train reached Ongole. Since I woke up late, I had no idea of what the time was. So when the train reached Ongole station, I got off the train to take a walk on the platform. I looked around to see if there was any clock or digital watch to see the time. Finding none, I did the next best thing I could think of - I asked the man sitting on a bench. He gave me a strange look, glanced at my wrists and then with great solemnity looked at his watch and told me the time "11 o'clock." I could very well register every move and thought of his but decided to play it cool. And so, I politely thanked him and then continued my stroll. Once in a way I casually looked in his direction to find him still watching me intently... He must have been wondering which planet I came from, not to have a watch or know the time.

The second experience was the learning that railways have almost closed down all the phone booths on railway platforms. Understandably with so many cell phones (more than cell phone users), the need for these landlines has reduced considerably. It took me 35 minutes of search to find one on the first platform of Visakhapatnam railway station. Strange but true...

For others, this observation of mine may be strange ... but true!!

Friday, 6 August 2010

Thanks to Philosophy!

I concluded my classes at KJC this afternoon. On the whole it was good. I had come prepared for a lower level IQ of the students but the average level of the class seems satisfactory. I was most happy that I could trigger reflection than passive reception among them. In their vote of thanks too they made a special mention of this. Luckily the subject content too is not too heavy or much and that permitted me to 'side-track' and let questions and doubts emerge from all the students.

Looking back at my own philosophical studies at Yercaud and Nashik, I'm happy that my professors encouraged in me this love for philosophy and reflection. I know not how else would my life be if not for philosophy...

Thursday, 5 August 2010

A goal beyond Ordination...

This evening I found myself enjoying the play 'Witness to Hope'... a play being put up here at KJC, Bangalore on the occasion of the Feast of the Assumption and Independence day. Since I would miss the real show, I sat for the dress rehearsal this evening. Moreover, I never really 'watched' a play so far. Being in formation houses, I was always involved in the play or drama, so never really got to sit back and watch one. However, I wish to watch a real commercial play in a theatre someday. Perhaps the next time in Bangalore!!!

As for the play 'Witness to Hope', it is based on the life of Pope John Paul II. It is scripted rather decently, though not without some glitches (technical, factual and dramatic). As I watched the play what emerged strongly was once again my pet idea that the real passion of visionaries is something much beyond the here and now. For Carol Wojtyla, priesthood was only a means to a higher goal... for him it was to spread love and hope to all humanity, especially to his Polish people torn apart by violence and hatred. As I had the opportunity to give the goodnight to the community here, I shared the same message: have and know the goal of your life and do not have such petty goals as ordination/Priesthood or Perpetual Profession.

Why acquire knowledge?

The several heated interactions with the students during the class on Ancient Western Philosophy have been very realistic and enriching (at least to me, and hopefully to the students too). One such was the one we had this morning. It all began with the whole question of why to learn, why at all to acquire knowledge? Discussing Plato, I opened up that question to the students and asked them to answer from their own personal contextual perspective. At first there was total silence. Then slowly a few of them started giving some holy and pietistic answers, most of which fell apart the moment I asked them a second question based on their own answers. Surprisingly they really had no answer or rather, I would like to think that they 'could not think of an answer'. And then came the bolt out of the blue: They asked me for an answer!! But I had my answer: to make myself useful to others and meaningful to myself. Whatever does not fit in these parameters, is not really my cup of tea or immediately required issues that I need to tackle or spend my energies on. I really want to make the most of this life, the opportunities I'm blessed with and the possibilities laid out before me. I know that I do not really make everything work for me but at least I need to make an all out effort.

I really believe that unless and until each one has a worthy answer to questions such as these, one will be going around in circles and wondering why isn't any progress or growth taking place.

In life than in death

The discussion and arguments at the staff table are really down to earth and lively. This afternoon speaking about one of them, a senior confrere narrated that when he was the director of a national institute, there was a Sister with whom he was not getting along well. With great difficulty he got her Provincial to move her out of the institute. As she left the institute, bitter and angry, she threatened this Father that her soul would haunt him after her death. The Father gently replied, "It's not your soul, after your death that I am afraid of but of you when alive!!"

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Formation only for formees?

Speaking with Cheryl yesterday, I asked myself a question. It was during our discussion regarding the whole process of 'facilitation' that an NGO wishes to organise as part of its empowerment programme. Transposing that idea into our formation sector, I realised that most often, we the formation staff think that we are in the formation house 'to form others'. What about our own formation? Should not the formation process, which we coordinate and expect to touch and form the students, impact us formators too?? Why do we shield ourselves from the 'formation' we claim to give to our students?

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Frontline foot Soldiers of the Church

Tomorrow is the feast of the front line foot soldiers of the Church... the Parish Priests. Certainly more than the religious or any other form of clergy, the Parish Priests are the ones who really are the face of the Church, interacting with the faithful people. Hence more than qualifications and feelings a Parish Priests needs to have insight and prudence... when to say, what to say and how to say. That's a rather difficult task given the fact that this is not something that books and all the years of formation (including those numerous term papers and assignments one does) can really equip us with. This is something that comes with patient learning, picking up threads from elders and experienced people and having a deep inner conviction about one's own vocation and love for it.

May John Mary Vianney, the patron of all Parish Priests, grant us all that grace!
Miss being at home in Kondadaba for this feast day!

Instructions for liturgical music

Fr Dominic Veliath gave a few tips regarding liturgical singing to the Brothers here at KJC, Bangalore this evening. (I was wondering who would, though this is only my third day here). To those accompanying the singing, he instructed that they practice beforehand the hymns they are to accompany the next day. Their main job is to sustain the singing, not over run it or show off their musical talents. For the community (singers) he instructed that we listen to the accompanying music and sing with the beat.

I certainly need to tell this (especially the instructions for those accompanying) to my guys at Kondadaba. As it is they would like to play to the galleries and secondly telugu hymns have preludes and interludes that are at times longer than the hymn proper!

Hands free day!

One of the things I learnt from Bala during my visit to his place last evening: rather than roll up your pants at the heel, roll them up at the waist to prevent them from sliding down your narrowed waist!! I have been struggling to keep my pants in place and not slide down my narrowing waist (thanks to the strict diet of getting over jaundice) since the past one and half months. I stopped using a belt soon after my school days itself. So I always ended up 'uplifting' my pants after every couple of steps. Now following Bala's tip, I had a 'hands free' day today!!

Monday, 2 August 2010

With Bala at his home and studios

This evening turned out to be a very relaxed and enriching one. I'm glad Cheryl came by and I also got to meet her friend Bala. He is an artist and I'm glad I met at least one in my life! Bala came across to me as a simple down to earth guy. No pretenses. No double faced talk. No craze for creating impressions... just being a friend... open, sincere and free. I liked him for that. Of course, it was great again talking and exchanging ideas with Cheryl. I also met Deborah, a student of Bala from the US. Being one from another continent, I was taken up by her sense of observation and interest in things, which we often do not notice or do not care about. As Bala was showing Cheryl and myself around his new studio, Deb was lost in watching a small girl who had got a puppy. She was inseparable from the little cute one, so was Deb from the two of them!

I also got to see some of Bala's works and gratefully he did not discuss art or sculpture and all - I would have been totally at a loss. We met his parents too

Back at KJC, Bangalore

I'm right now in the place where I first began to blog and am also sitting in the very room when I started this blog... Fr Joy's office at KJC, Bangalore. I'm here to take a course on Ancient Western Philosophy for the first year Philosophy students. They are 48 of them from 6 different congregations including three sisters. I had the first four hours this morning and it was fine... not all that bright and intelligent but not as dull and dumb as I had mentally prepared myself.

The best part of the class this morning when I asked them where Greece was... and there was no answer. During the break one of them came up with answer: in the cycle!! Well I have another four days to go and let's see what more they come up with.
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