Sunday, 31 July 2011

Children's Fest

This day we had a lovely Children's Fest, the annual Irugu Porugu (the neighbourhood, in Telugu). There were over 500 children the whole day with us... well animated programme for the whole stay. Beginning with a tableau presentation by each village, then the song and dance competition, followed by lunch, recreation and the concluding session around tea time. Some of the memorable moments of the day:
  • the unique (out of the normal) tableau of Br Chinna and team on Terrorism. It was quite a creative thought and great presentation.
  • me firing a late comer, who comes in with his father right till the hall on the bike... the gentleman later turns out to be the Principal of the most famous English medium school in the neighbourhood!!
  • the 'embarrassing' moments I found myself propelled on to the stage (thanks to Fr KT) which turned out to be good opportunity to put to test my real self... whether I know for real what such programmes are? Mere one day entertainment or triggers of greater things back in the villages... Once again, another test of my language skills in Telugu... I continue to shock myself.
  • the food arrangement/distribution for the whole lot of children, quite effectively done by the two groups of Mother Teresa and Speed 'n speed, without any cajoling or 'threats'.
  • was happy to see the Brothers too actively involved and sincerely happy to be the children and seeing that things go on fine and smooth. Very refreshing and promising, given the otherwise lacklustre attitude towards some of the serious things of life.
  • am glad that I can balance being stern with being jovial and friendly. I noticed that quite a few children would try their mischievous stunts but then also be careful to see that they do not cross the line, which I silently would be drawing through my looks.
Thanks Mother Mary for your guidance and protection...

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

At DBRC, Bangalore (Salesian Brotherhood)

I completed my sessions on the Salesian Brother at DBRC, Bangalore this morning. Frankly speaking my whole point of discussion and frame of mind was more about Salesian life as a whole rather than a minuscule of it, namely the Salesian Brother. How then did it become anything about the 'Salesian Brother'. Well, it was from my perspective as a Salesian Brother. The average age of the participants this time was certainly younger than that of the first batch that I addressed two years ago. The interaction too was good.

I really did not follow the logical systematic presentation of thoughts as I did last year. I rather let thoughts flow. However, I realise (as before) the interspersing of the conceptual presentation with personal experiences makes things more clearer and associable.

My observation that the very image of the Salesian Brother is slowly but certainly more visible and appreciated was perhaps the greatest endorsement this time round. Within the Salesian circles as well as the secular world, though not much within the Christian circles, the Salesian Brother is gaining prominence. An evident and significant reason for this is the emergence of convinced Brothers coming to the fore and taking up responsibilities with diligence and commitment. Moreover, the 'choice' for Brotherhood is no more the last of the left overs; youngsters are choosing to be Brothers with a clear mind and a joyful heart. That truly is a great sign. The rest, as I always believe, is God's business.

A teenager's courage and patriotism

Last night, along with the participants of the Salesiana course, I watched the movie Sophie Scholl (German). Gosh, it was very touching. The movie (a true story) chronicles the last few days of a 21 year old German girl and her Brother, charged with the crime of being traitors during Hitler's regime in 1942. The acting is superb by the lead actress and the courage of a young lady and her love for her country is worth emulating. The faith dimension of this Protestant believer too is aptly portrayed. The movie ends showing her (along with the other two people) being guillotined.

As I watched this movie, the question that kept haunting me was this: Is there something for which I will stand up, even to the extent of giving up my life, as did Sophie for the good of her country? Last night itself I decided to show it to the Brothers and ask them the same question: Is there anything for which they will exhibit such courage as did this 21 year old girl? Are there values and principles for which we are ready to die?

(In the original photo, Sophie is in the middle and her brother, Hans is on her right; Christoph Probst, another one to be killed the same day for the same reasons, is on Sophie's left. Click here to read more about Sophie Scholl and the peaceful White Rose movement she was a member of as against the Nazi regime.)

On death and prayer

Last evening's recollection talk of Fr Loddy was on death and the need - or rather the urgency - to convince oneself that God loves me, before my faculties run out of power and strength. Using life experiences of the past, he narrated how, the last stages of life (moments before entering the next state of life) could be... all based on how well one is ready for that moment or how deeply is one convinced that God truly loves me (not a generic 'knowledge' by a personal 'me').

Another beautiful aspect he touched upon was the whole concept of prayer. He defined prayer, as stated by ... (I forget, who), as discussion without masks. Plain talk with nothing to hide. Even if it meant vomitting one's venom and anger or frustration out on God... even that can be prayer.

Monday, 25 July 2011

Kill the good people

Here's Cheryl's creative idea of resurgence, rejuvenation and resurrection: Kill all the good people! The system will then collapse from within and then new life will automatically emerge. It is like when a tooth of yours is hanging on by its last thread, it is better to pull it out than wait for it to fall off. For as long as the tooth stays, the new one will not emerge and the present state is awfully painful. (That's what I'm talking of a state of affairs when it has reached its 'boiling point'.)

Now that's a possibility I never thought of. In a way, what Cheryl says is right: the good people carry the 'responsibility' of the whole society. They prevent it from coming to an end. They pour out themselves to ensure that the society carries on, they try to improve it, fighting against the current... whereas the majority of the population is out looting every bit of good ware that is available. Most are least bothered about what next or less, improving the standard of living.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

First years at SJRS, Kondadaba

A snap of the first year students of St John's Regional Seminary, Kondadaba in their official attire. They are 23 of them (resident at Kondadaba) and the other 9 OCDs reside at Pendurthy.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Listening, understanding, reflecting...

These days I've been having a tough time getting the Brothers to rise above their lethargy and get to some serious reflection. I realise that most of them only hear but do not listen. Of those few who listen, not all understand (or may be do not want to understand). Given this situation, I am left wondering when and who at all will ever dare to take the next step: venture to reflect. And the question that haunts me most: If Brothers do not dare reflect, do not bother about thinking and questioning at least some of their own thoughts and concepts, what point is all this Philosophy for? What is left of this place to call it a Philosophate?

In my Theodicy class yesterday, after three days of intense explanation of how the whole creation narration in the book of Genesis is nothing but a mere mythical story in order to basically state what the world is all about or what is the relationship between God, man and the woman... the responses I got to my question, What does the book of Genesis speak about?
  • The genealogy of Christ (Imagine, a candidate for Priesthood saying that the book of Genesis presents the genealogy of Christ!!)
  • The origin of original sin
  • How the world was created by God
  • How did sin come into the world

Bocha Ravi, an epitome of determination

This evening the youngster, Bocha Ravi, a simple yet very determined boy from one of the neighbouring villages (Cheepruvalasa), about whom I had written an article for the website last year visited the Seminary. In fact he came here to show to Fr KT, his appointment/invitation letter from a couple of reputed companies in India... thus gratefully acknowledge the assistance that Fr KT had once offered him when he was still in his school days. Talking to me personally he broke down a couple of times, narrating how Fr KT supported him and how his generous help, prevented him from being a 'nobody'. He is now determined that this job at IOC which he now taking up, is not the end of his dreams. His greatest dream, which he is determined to live out, is to become an IAS officer and serve in Vizag or Vizianagaram. Why IAS? That is the way I can really bring about a change and help the rural sector.

What I admired in him, was his simplicity. He was really humble and sober. No airs whatsoever. Secondly, here is a young man, clear about what he wants to achieve in life. When asked, if he had any plans to go abroad, where there are better prospects given his field of study, he was immediate in responding, "I've no interest in accumulating money." Now that's the clear headedness and determination that makes life worth living... I hope and pray that more and more of us, who have dedicated our lives exactly for this purpose, begin to live it.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The need for a perspective!

An insight from something that I came across today:
When we fail to see and understand things, it is most probably because we are too close to it and fail to see the larger true picture. It is in times like this we need to take a distance and get a perspective. Even then there is no guarantee that we will understand the whole scene before us, but there is a better chance that we will. Very many of our struggles and anxieties will find meaning and strength, if only we see things from a perspective rather than be so immersed in it that we lose the very purpose of our activity, sooner or later.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Arriving at a consensus

Arriving at a consensus at our meetings, most of the time, can be a real pain in the ****. Positively speaking it says about the divergent and varied views the group holds. Negatively speaking it shows our inability to 'listen' and therey adopt what is best. Take for example, to arrive at a consensus facilitating a subsequent decision about replacing chicken with beef on Thursdays, takes no more than 8 seconds!! While this morning, arriving at a 'golden verse' from a set of three verses during the shared homily by the same number of people who sat for the chicken-beef meeting, took us nearly 40 minutes!

Well I'm not really one who is keen to arrive at a consensus always. What I certainly observe keenly is the way in which people put forth their ideas (some don't bother about having any... but that's a special breed!) and are willing to listen and if need by change their own or stand by their proposals. Now, that makes a very enriching experience. Believe me!

Monday, 18 July 2011

Living your dreams

Find out what you love to do and do your best to make it happen. There is more to life than just the meaningless drudgery of existence. Every individual should live a life on the basis of his own convictions, make his own rules when he believes them to be right and obtain the highest pleasure of executing this lifestyle not according to the laws imposed by society but by the norms created by his own individuality.
Richard Bach in Jonathan Livington Seagull

Sunday, 17 July 2011

Strange, illogical... but true

The readings of the day speak about the good wheat and the darnel that grows along with it. In spite of the best of means and labour, 'weeds' happen. The worst part it this: with no effort whatsoever the 'weeds' thrive better than those plants showered with utmost care. Very strange, weird, illogical... but true. The seeds sown and the saplings planted in the vegetable garden needs round the clock attention; in spite of which half of them perish. The grass on the tar road and the 'plants' in the flower garden seem immortal!

In my life too I see that in spite of my best efforts there are aspects and virtues I wish to cultivate but the seeds never sprout, or even if they sprout, I've to be always attentive and protect them. Whereas there are aspects which I wish to 'weed out' and in spite of my best efforts to eradicate them, they abound. Strange, illogical... but true!

A bird in hand...

You really do not know and appreciate what you have till you lose it or it is taken away from you.
This is certainly an undisputable fact of life. We often take so much of our life and gifts for granted. It is only when we are no more in possession of it or it has been taken away from us, do we realise its importance and value.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fructifying Education

This evening I made my maiden visit to a couple of neighbouring villages to which our Brothers go for their weekend ministry. Something that gave me a great satisfaction in one of the villages was the sight that students of higher levels helping those in their elementary studies. That truly is one of the most fruitful signs of 'education'.

It was also in the same place that I drank a cup of tea... after ages!!

Paying the Price

In the past one month I've come across two instances of Brothers being packed off home for reasons as silly as personal dislikes of someone in authority - that too just one individual. It certainly seems absurd that someone not their formator, just one who meets them casually once or twice a year, can decide the fate - or fortune, as I'd see it - of a formee, based on just one interaction or discussion that must have turned sour.

Well it is not that I was not aware of this sort of 'politics' within the dioceses but this is the first time I'm seeing it for myself about a couple of my own students (past-pupils). I remember being asked about this, at times subtly, in my Philosophy classes, when speaking about freedom, decision-making and the role of authority. Very many Brothers just want to survive. I often ask them, if religious or Priestly life is worth just for survival?

I'd personally prefer to stand tall and for something noble than bend backwards to anyone who wants me to for no reason other than, personal dislike... but then, I'm also willing to pay the price for it. At the most, what price? Dismissal from the Diocese or Congregation? It's a dishonour to continue in such a place where values and principles are not upheld, neither personally nor when others let to live by them!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Unworthiness and discernment

Listening to Fr KT preach the sermon this morning, something that struck me and led me think in terms of the formation and discernment process. Speaking of Moses, Fr KT got us to focus on his sense of unworthiness when standing in front of God... and therefore the subsequent attempts to wriggle out of the responsibility God was entrusting him with. The same is seen in the life of Jonah, Jeremaiah and also to an extent in the life of Mother Mary. All see themselves as unworthy to carry out the mission being entrusted. But what makes them take up this mission, in spite of knowing well that by themselves they would only end up making a fool of themselves? It is the assurance that God gives to each of them: I am with you!

I was asking myself: What if I were to stand facing God and what would be the scenario? Who would be pleading with whom?
Would I be pleading with God to let me continue being a Brother?
Would God be trying to convince me to continue being a Brother?
If it is the former, then I'm really out of place in the Salesian congregation or I'm not really meant to be a Brother. Riding on my own strength I may forge ahead and live as a Brother; but sooner or later, I'll run out of reasons or support on which I relied thus far. If it is the latter, then no matter what, I'll always have the strength and the grace to live the life of a Brother with dignity and commitment. For it is not I who want to be a Brother, but God who wants me to.

I suppose that's exactly what discernment is all about: knowing what God wants of me and aligning my will to that of His rather than merely knowing what I want.

Tuesday, 12 July 2011

Simplicity retained...

Kalyan was here today to celebrate his first Mass here at Kondadaba. It was good to meet him again. He came along with his mother, brother and a niece. Unprepared as he usually is, he was all the same able to convey his uppermost thoughts in a simple but convinced manner during the homily. We also had the recollection in the evening... preached by Fr Balaraj OCD.

The most touching part of the celebrations today was the short sharing by Kalyan's mother after supper. There was pin-drop silence as she, in her soft voice, exhorted the Brothers to be mischievous but sincere about their Priestly life. Coming from the mouth - and heart - of a mother, it strikes far greater notes than an hour long sermon.

What struck me most today about Kalyan, was that he has retained his openness and simplicity even after all these years. He still is the same open, simple, slightly foolish but extremely large-hearted Kalyan that I knew of, from my days in Karunapuram (almost a decade ago). God bless him!

Monday, 11 July 2011

Lord, open YOUR lips!

This morning I was shocked out of my drowsiness by the opening line of the prayer led by one of the Brothers:
O Lord, open YOUR lips!
During night prayers, the same Brother began the prayer of general absolution, much before the 'I confess...' or even the examination of conscience.

He will be leading prayers for this week and today is only Monday!

Smothering God

In class for the past three days, I've been trying to expose and debate the various angles of the Teleological argument of God's existence. Since I love playing the devil's advocate, I challenged the Brothers to prove me wrong about this statement: The order or design we find in the universe need not be attributed to the Necessary Being at all. It could very well have been put in place by a group of contingent beings who pool their resources to come up with a plan/design (may not be as good or great as that of the Necessary Being, but one that is worth it).

The Brothers are uneasy about this. They are convinced that God is the Intelligent designer... but have no proofs nor are they willing to look for some! They are quite happy to hold that contingent beings (perhaps a combination of human beings and those more than the human beings) can never be the ones to introduce the order in the universe. I want them to think down-top but they are happily perched on the top. God save Himself from them!

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Choice of burial!?

The readings of these days tell the story of Joseph and Isaac. The latter, even after spending years in comforting bosom of Egypt, wishes to be buried back in his 'native place', Israel. There are several others too whom I have heard, express their wish (quite strongly) about being buried in this place or that. I find that quite strange. As a religious, I believe we belong to the place where we are... not from where we come and where we intend to be. From that perspective, it makes no sense that our dead bodies be interned in some specific place and not anywhere.

Frankly speaking, I wonder what impact is that going to make on me - I'm dead!

Kalyan's Thanskgiving Mass

Attending Kalyan's first Thanksgiving Mass in his hometown and Parish, was a very homely affair. No big crowds and fanfare. Just a simple Mass, felicitation thereafter and a solemn lunch for all. For a person like Kalyan, it went well with his temperament and relational style. One of the things I liked most was the presence of those who were dear to him... just them, not all and sundry. He was clear on having only those whom he wanted, not a large crowd. I was also glad the way Kalyan thanked all those present for the occasion: plain, without mincing words and straight from the heart. No airs or attempts to impress anyone or boost oneself!

Secondly, those who attended the whole ceremony, at least most of them, knew his father (and his family) well. Listening to the various messages and spontaneous words of quite a few, it was clear that they had all come in honour of his late father, Mr Prasad. Now that's a real great challenge and source of inspiration Kalyan can choose to be inspired by: to live up to the ideals and values his father lived and died by (that too as a lay person in an official governmental post).

Thursday, 7 July 2011

Idling my mind

My recent misadventure (or even nightmare, to an extent) with my hp printer not responding to the linux mint programme I installed and am working with gave me a very alarming insight this morning. I have had this trouble with my printer for nearly a week or so. This has also been one of the most hectic weeks so far (which is now the normal speed of life!). Nothing I did and tried seemed to work. I always felt totally out of options. I was 'sure' there was nothing that I did not try to tide over the issue. This morning when Fr Julian offered to me another possibility to try (he has been quite patient and generous in assisting me, all this while), it immediately struck me that this is what I should have tried in the first place. It is the most obvious thing I should have done... and yet, it did not even occur to me! Having tried the suggested procedure, things are all fine now.

As I sat a while, just idling (since the Brothers are away today for an outing), to see what exactly is my problem, this is what flashed across my mind: I'm not constructively thinking. I'm mostly worrying or calculating. Rather than see and explore possibilities, I take for granted that I've tried them all. I'm running out of options precisely because I'm not giving myself any options! I'm just jumping to conclusions... perhaps because, I'm keen on 'finishing up' some more things, as soon as possible.

I ought to give myself some time and space to 'idle' my rattling mind, so that in that calm and sober state, I take sensible decisions.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

B'day of a confrere

Today was the b'day of Fr Wilson. I hope he was happy with the day and had sufficient time and space to express himself. On my part, it is always a great joy to be with him. With him around, one can confidently go on with your work, because you know he is at his. And if needed he will step in and help you, no matter what. His spirit of hard work and dedication to the community is simply amazing.... though at times bordering fanaticism. But he is for the community, that no one can contest.

God bless you dear Fr Wilson!

Monday, 4 July 2011

A sense of belonging

Fr Wilson's goodnight this evening was on having a sense of belonging. It could not have come from anyone with more conviction than him. He truly feels at home wherever he is. It is a great challenge to be with him, because he is fully available for the community. That he expects everyone else too to be equally generous and forthcoming is quite understandable. He's practically into everything and anything and does not mind doing any job for the well being of the community. Unfortunately Brothers often take this for granted. They think it is the way it should be... as with regards to others. When it comes to themselves, they are the least bothered about anything at all.

Something that struck me of what Fr Wilson was trying to communicate and instill in the Brothers, was the point he mentioned about the sense of belonging and a sense of satisfaction and contentment. He was right in linking these two aspects of life (one the communitarian dimension and the other the personal 'benefit' of the same).

Sunday, 3 July 2011

The Lord of War

Yesterday I watched The Lord of War and was quite happy with it. Though not very convincing, but the subtle truths and lessons it portrays are worth reflecting upon. It is the story of a simple man who chances upon an idea of making it big by selling weapons to warring factions and nations. The double life he leads where in loves someone and his family but is willing to let thousands of innocent people die under the pretext of 'this is not my war' is quite chilling. The sudden change and remorse of his younger brother towards the end of the movie, when he refuses to do business, knowing well that the weapons being sold would be used upon the refugees gathered right in front of him, is quite touching. He dies a martyr in an attempt to sabotage the weapons deal. The conclusion leaves one in a bit of a dilemma: does the movie justify the arms deal by an individual as a camouflage for the official/'legal' weapons trade by politicians? When his wife comes of know of his 'business' and questions him, as to how he could cope with the guilt, his plain answer: "I'm good at it."

In this conflict between the personal moral stand and the professional ethics, the latter apparently emerges the winner... but with a heavy toll. I'm prone to believe that the fate of Yuri, the arms dealer would be the same as that of Simon, the other arms dealer who tries to cross paths with Yuri.

The scene where a whole jumbo plane is dismantled and carried away in pieces by the locals in a remote part of Africa, overnight, is very dramatic.

Youngsters and Brothers

The Cheedivalasa volleyball team, comprising of youngsters who just completed their intermediate or degree studies gladly made a visit to the Seminary and played a match with our Brothers. The Brothers in-charge of Cheedivalasa, Peter, Anthaiah and M. Naresh did a commendable job in getting to know the youngsters and furthermore getting them over here to play a game, within three weeks of their weekend ministry. They were nearly 10 of them and they played a couple of sets. During the official game, they beat the Brothers in the first two sets straight. Fr Wilson, the Principal of the Seminary, inaugurated the game after the youngsters won the toss and choose the side first. The youngsters left the campus happy and joyful, after a drink and a bite. From the Seminary side the following Brothers played: B. Lourdhu, D. Rakesh, Y. Anil, Maria Joseph, P. James, K. Ravikanth and M. Peter. The game was refereed by G. Devaraj and K. Lourdhu.

Trust this is only the beginning of a greater and closer rapport with the youngsters of the various villages that Brothers visit on weekends. It certainly is a good sign and the next week another village team is ready to challenge the Brothers on the Cricket field.

The defeat of the Brothers was quite hard to digest for the Brothers themselves. Of course, the youngsters practice daily and know their players and game well. Our Brothers hardly know their own game and rarely play as a competitive team.
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