Friday, 30 September 2011

Price of being a Catholic

Today on more than one occasion the difficulty of 'retaining' the Catholic laity cropped up in our discussions. The difficulty was that people are steady and in large numbers too, leaving the Catholic Church, either with an explicit choice for non-Catholic but Christian denominations or just don't appear in Church anymore. While I do not wish to comment on the first reason, I do believe one of strong reasons for the latter is the following: Christianity has too 'lists of dos and dont's' There are the sacraments to adhere to, the Sunday obligation to fulfil, the feast day attendance at the Church and for procession, the approval of the Parish Priest for all of these and more... Hinduism, on the other hand, has very little or no such binding obligations at all. One need not go to any temple all his life, a lady may never practice most of the rites and rituals of a Hindu rite, yet they can very well claim to be a Hindu. No one would accuse them of 'leaving' Hinduism. Perhaps this is another reason why Hinduism is viewed more as a 'way of life' than a structured religion. Catholicism demands much, while general Hinduism expects nothing much!

About ants and rentals

Here's a nice joke (thanks to Fr Koshy for passing it on):

An ant knocks on the door of a house. The house owner opens the door. "I want a place to stay," said the ant. "I have a vacant room which you can occupy for free of cost," said the owner. The ant went inside and occupied the vacant room. After some days, the ant brought in another ant and requested to the owner, "Can you please allow this ant to stay with me?" "Oh sure, you can do so without paying any rent," said the owner. After some more days, the ant brought one more ant and requested the owner to allow the ant to stay with it. The owner agreed to it without asking for any rent. This continued as the ant brings in one more and and the owner agrees for it.

One fine day, the ant brought in a tenth ant and requested the owner to allow him also to stay with it. The owner said, "OK, you can all stay here but you all need to pay rent." Now the question is: Why did the owner ask for rent when the last ant came in? Because they are now tenants!

Thursday, 29 September 2011

The two silver coins...

This morning prior to my departure to the town for some work, the cooks asked me to deposit part of their provident fund collection in the bank to their earlier collection and make it into an FD (fixed deposit). The sum that they collectively handed over in cash to me, was about Rs 15,000. Add to that another 35,000 each (of three of them). And when I jokingly said that today I certainly am a rich man, they sincerely told me: "Brother, if you really need money you can use this amount. We do not need it immediately so you might very well use it for the Seminary now." I was fooling, but they weren't! I was quite touched by their generosity. Though it would not even suffice for our basic provisions for the month, they were offering me their hard earnings of 5 years - just like that! And didn't Jesus appreciate the widow who dropped in the two silver coins!!

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

From the pan to the fire!

Just when you think that you have sorted it all out and are ready to start things with better involvement and vigour, you are entrusted with something that is equally and additionally demanding. Such has been my experience... always, even today!

Lord, please help me!

On prayer... & God

The concluding class of the Philosophy of God was a real finale! During the course of the final revision and general clarifications, the topic of prayer and its utility came up, again. The argument and discussion went on for quite some time. My whole emphasis was on living prayer than merely a 'sitting prayer' - mere vocal list of petitions while in the Church. What actually triggered the discussion to the point of frenzy and emotional outbursts was when I, in my regular enthusiasm - termed the latter form of prayer 'bullshit'. However, throughout the discussion I could gather that the Brothers were attentive to what I was speaking. Though had they really been attentive to what I was saying all along the semester, this would not have come as a surprise.

My whole contention was that prayer has to follow an effort on my part. I just cannot simply pray and do that alone! That according to me is an insult to God - a God who has empowered me and blessed me with a super-abundance of gifts and graces so that I can make a difference in this world. So prior to my asking God to do things, I need to do my bit. Without that I cannot just ask God to do things for me, while all that I do is sit in the Chapel (when I go to the Chapel, only) and utter words. Such a prayer would according to me, be an insult to God and a sure act of defence of my own laziness.

Then, there was a brief discussion on the content of prayer itself. In other words, what do I pray for. Furthermore the idea that God need not answer my prayers was another thing my students could not digest. I said, when I pray, I leave the choice to God to answer them or not. Their immediate question: 'Why pray then?' (The answer to that has already been given in the book of Harold Kushner, When bad things happen to good people.)

Monday, 26 September 2011

Fear to stand alone

This evening I had a very engaging discussion with two of my students, both freshers. Discussing with them some basic values and issues which I have long been harping upon, I realised the amount of fear they have within ... fear of standing alone. One of their greatest fears is being shunned by their own friends, diocese or course companions... They simply dread it. It is because of this that they prefer to be subservient to those who start rumours, those who instigate the rest and are able to generate talk.

I did my best to help them see that just because it is so, does not mean it is right to be so. Convictions are something that each one needs to have and stand by. The cost of standing by them may be high but if we do not stand by any of them, then is such a life worth living at all? They wish to live an ideal life but fear the opinion, talk, rumours, and the label of being 'proud' and 'idealist'.

Ka-ching - Shania Twain

Here's a nice song by Shania Twain, about riches and modern craze for hoarding. Nice melody too. The lyrics are the best...
All we ever want is more
A lot more than we had before...

Sunday, 25 September 2011

Not just preachers but men of God

The gospel of the day, Matthew 21:28-32 (Sunday 25 September 2011) is a subtle warning for all those in public offices and authorities who think that their personal life has no bearing on their public ministry - saying one thing and doing another. That to say something in public for others has no connection whatsoever with what I do or say or believe within me. That all that matters is a grand show or an emotional drive that will sweep the 'audience' off their feet and 'make them better' while what I say and proclaim makes no impact on me at all. Least of all, I need not touched by it at all. What I say is for 'them', it does not apply to me.

I see in the Church today a great 'thirst' for preachers... even if they are not doers! The prayer of people is that Priests be men who can proclaim the Word of God eloquently... living that Word of God is not the priority. The other day there was one senior lady, very devout and simple, who praised the Brothers for having left everything and come to the service of the Church. She too wanted them all to be good preachers! Since I have a rapport with her, I sternly warned her never ever to emphasise the little, at the cost of the essential! Being smart, she understood my point: not just preachers, but men of God.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Touchback: A movie of the past for the present

I watched the new movie Touchback today (of course, in bits and pieces). But it was worth it. As one reviewer put it (speaking about the movie dvd): "... buy it, borrow it, steal it, copy it, but please see it." Having watched the movie, I perfectly agree with the reviewer.

It is the story of a football player who gets a chance to relive his high school days, at the end of which 15 years ago, he injured his leg and thereby lost his chance to go to college and play as a professional. As he finds himself in a known situation, he relooks at the very things (present) knowing well what is the future. Initially he is excited that he can now literally rewrite the past, especially his dream of getting out of the small native town he has grown up in and become a professional football player. However, his interactions with his coach, his own single mother and most of all with an unknown girl (who in his present is his wife) in the college - not unknown, but he never really did notice her then - he begins to see the beauty of the present. His mother challenges him to be happy now, rather than eternally keep chasing happiness in the future. Finally when he actually has a chance to change the present, in line with his grand plans for the future, he does the same as he did then, 15 years ago... all for the sake of retaining what is most important in life... love and friendship of those dear and not personal plans for glory.

I wonder how many of us, if given a chance to go back into our past and change things, would change the whole of it? Or some of it? Or most of it? Blessed are those who will live it as it is and be happy about it! Because only then will each present moment count and every choice made valuable, because my present is more important than my past or the future... because my choice for the right and lasting things of life is more important than momentary glory and honour.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Pope's message: Strive for Human Rights

The other day I received a mail containing the text of the Holy Father's message to the Indian Bishop's contingent. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the tone of the message. There wasn't any straight-forward indication of proclamation or preaching and baptising... rather it was very encouraging! The Pope himself indicating that fight for human rights and dignity would be the best channel of presenting Christ in the Indian context. Now that's some broad thinking!

Here is an extract:
"I encourage you, dear brothers, to carry forward the Church's efforts to promote the well-being of Indian society through continued attention to the promotion of basic rights - rights shared by all humanity - and by inviting your fellow Christians and the followers of other religious traditions to take up the challenge of affirming the dignity of each and every human person. ... I pray that the followers of Christ in India will continue to be promoters of justice, bearers of peace, people of respectful dialogue, and lovers of the truth about God and about man".

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Only seeds not the fruits

Here is a story Sateesh shared during his goodnight:
A man went to God's shop and asked what was on sale. God replied, "Anything the heart desires!" The man almost immediately asked for happiness and success. God smiled and replied, "Only seeds are sold here, not the fruits!"
Good lesson for all those who await ready-made solutions and instant use answers to all prayers and efforts.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Care and need

An sms that I received today:
Express yourself to someone who cares for you, not to someone who needs you. Because care means personal commitment and need means personal requirement.

Am yet to grasp the full meaning of it. Shall dwell on it a while later.

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Man of the ear!

In KJC, Bangalore there were days when confreres were given titles at the end of the year, as part of the farewell celebrations or community day celebrations. One such award, and the most 'coveted' one at that, was the 'Man of the Year' award. One year it was awarded to the Rector; and the criterion or reason for being bestowed this 'honour': he used a hearing aid... hence 'Man of the (y)ear'!

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

On forgiveness and brilliance

In his sermon "Loving Your Enemies," Martin Luther King, Jr., described an event from history: When Abraham Lincoln was running for the presidency of the United States, there was a man who ran all around the country speaking ill of Lincoln. He said a lot of unkind things. "You don’t want a tall, lanky, ignorant man like this as the president of the United States!" However, Abraham Lincoln was elected president of the United States. When the time came for him to choose the Secretary of War, he looked across the nation, and decided to choose a man by the name of Mr. Stanton. When the president made this proposal before his advisors, they were surprised: "Mr. Lincoln," the senior adviser said, "Are you a fool? Do you know what Mr. Stanton has been saying about you? Did you read all of those derogatory statements that he made about you?" Abraham Lincoln stood before the advisors around him and said: "Oh yeah. I know about it; I read about it; I’ve heard him myself. But after looking over the country, I find that he is the best man for the job."

Mr. Stanton did become the Secretary of War. Later, when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated, one of the greatest statements ever made about him was by this man Mr. Stanton. After describing the nobility of the president, his spirit of unconditional forgiveness and the integrity of his character in superlatives, Stanton emphatically added, "Now Abraham Lincoln belongs to the ages." If Abraham Lincoln had hated Stanton, and acted accordingly, Stanton might well have gone to his grave hating Lincoln and Lincoln might have gone to his grave hating Stanton.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

God for Priesthood or vice-versa

Discussing in the Theodicy class this day about the goodness of God, I began clarifying the term 'good'. Using the definition given by Aristotle of good, as that which is desireable, I raised the objection: If God is not desired by anyone, will His goodness reduce? Explaining the arguments of Thomas Aquinas, I clarified the meaning of God being good and we being good, to arrive at God as the summum bonum, the best of the best! I concluded the class with this argument: Is God desired for Himself or as a means? Now this is possible only when God is seen as good. To the extent that we see God as good, to that extent we desire and crave for Him. If not He is one among the list of things we desire. My final question to the Brothers was maybe a bit too blunt but I made my point: Do you desire God as a means for Priesthood or Priesthood as a means for God?

Of factories and corporates!

Here's something that I began the day with... while correcting the class test papers:
Will and intellect are factories of the human person. (faculties)

Monday, 12 September 2011

Life from the spices!

Ever heard of life evolving from the spices... well I did while correcting the Anthropology class test today. Found the following statement in one of the papers answering a question related to the origin of life...
Life evolved from the spices... (species)

If I fall in love with a girl...

The following is the answer (verbatim) of one of my students - a Seminarian, studying in the second year of his course in Philosophy, unfortunately - to the question, "As a Seminarian, what would you do if you fall in love with a girl? Why?"
Suppose I have fallen love with girl as a seminarian, first and formost, I will enjoy with love. Then I will reflect and think, for valid reason. Is it good for me as a seminarian? What am I doing is correct? After reflecting if it is good to me, I will continue the love with that girl. If it is not good, I will give suggestion to her to choose one more and then I say that I am not correct suitable for you. Then, I say that we are not to be lovers, but as friends we continues. If she agrees I am so happy, if she does not, I will share with rector that depends up on the rector's decission.
The class I earlier took dealt with human sexuality and the need to have a balanced outlook to life and attitudes, especially as normal human beings who have made a choice for a particular way of life. If this were to be just one of its kind, I would not have really been perturbed but this is the general attitude among the students. They really do not see any discrepancy, whatsoever, in living on both the sides of the fence... comfortably! I'm sure it has much to do with the general trend in the Church today, where Priests (and even Bishops) are rightly accused of loose morality.

That every person however saintly he or she is, has issues to deal with is not surprising; but the inability to see what is evidently wrong and not recognise and acknowledge it in any way atleast as something odd, is alarming.

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Inappropriate titles

Here are a couple of most inappropriate titles...
  • Civil servants
It stands for a person in the public sector employed for a government department or agency (Wikipedia). He is supposed to be the facilitator between the government machinery and the common man. However experience mostly proves otherwise. Most often these people are neither civil nor servants!

  • Spontaneous groups
Groups that emerge or are formed as per the requirements and mood of the present time. But here in the seminary, they are groups that have been from ... eternity!

Divine Providence

Being the administrator in times when the financial resources are bleak is quite a challenge. But I now see that it is also the time to tangibly feel the generous and perennial assistance of Divine Providence. Take for example, we exhausted our stock of rice and that too at a time when there is hardly enough to meet the regular expenses. Right in the midst of this comes the offer of a good quality rice for a much cheaper price. What we used to purchase for Rs 650/- per bag is now available (though not the same quality) for just Rs 450/-. Ordering for a 100 bags, I save (or gain) Rs 20,000/- ... that' s quite a 'profit margin', given the circumstances or even otherwise!

Saturday, 10 September 2011

God, as one among other desires

In my Theodicy class the other day, we were discussing the attribute of 'goodness' in reference to God. Starting with the general understanding of the word 'good' we arrived at Aristotle's definition of 'good' as something desirable. The natural question then: If I do not 'desire' God, does He become less good? Just to provoke introspection and reflection I asked the Brothers if they all could truly and sincerely say that they 'desire' God and God alone or at least, desire God above all else. Most of them did not raise their hands. A few did and after a bit of prodding, they accepted that there were too many 'ifs and buts' to confirmedly state that they 'desired' God above all else. A few, however were adamant that other desires led them to God... and of course, their reasons were nothing short of a sunday sermon!

Being passionate for God and Him alone is quite a difficult task. It does not happen all of itself. For me, frankly speaking, God is one among the other things that I desire... certainly not the top priority, nor the only desire... unfortunate but true. This is possible only when I'm willing to enter into a personal relationship with God and subsequently have an experience of Him. Mere resolutions and pietistic feelings will not really help.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Something light

Here are some one liners in the past week that kept us amused for quite sometime...

At the end of the morning prayers, just before the intercessions:
"Please join for the second part of the introduction..." what he really meant was intercession.
During a play:
Till the end of my death, I'll be faithful to you!
During a talk by a Priest with a slight accent:
The trainer asked the woodcutter who complained to him that he was unable to cut trees like before, "Did you sharpen your arse?" (axe)

Give God to ...

The other day Fr KT's sermon was quite revealing... that is only to those who really understood or took pains to see the connection he was subtly making. His main point was that there is a grave danger in giving food to those who are not hungry. To the one who is hungry any food would do. The hungry man is not going to throw a tantrum about the variety of food or anything of that sort. His only and only need is to satisfy his hunger. (Of course, that does not mean you give him thrash.)

On the other hand, giving food to one who is not hungry will incur his wrath and ensure a string of complaints and grumblings. The need is not what you provide but something else. Therefore what you now provide will always have something or the other deficient.

The same applies to human quest for God... and for that matter anything in life. Only those who are tuned in to that direction will progress, others keep wandering and never reach anywhere. (Now that is not a real problem, wandering about, but when they start blaming everyone and everything around them for their present state or keep grumbling, then it surely is something that I personally do not approve of.)

Thursday, 1 September 2011

At Santhapur

The adventure we had yesterday in Santhapur with our car stuck in the slush, was something wonderful. The anxiety of not making it in time for the airport so that Willy and family could take off to Mangalore added the extra flavour to the already tense moment. However here are few insights into the whole episode:
  • Thanks to those who came forward to help... in spite of the slush and dirt and all that. They were generous with their time and energy. No counting the cost. Just genuine assistance knowing that we were in a hurry and total strangers with no clue as to how to get out of the mess.
  • Thanks once again to their skill and expertise, especially their physical strength. I could not lift or push the car an inch. They did it all with ease!
  • In the initial moments, suggestions, recommendations, opinions, blame-game, alternatives to what should have been done, 'I told you before itself', ruled the roost. Till someone drove some sense into us, that the need of the hour was to get out of the slush... not create another one!
  • It gave me some precious moments to spend with Papa and Mummy later in the afternoon - even though it was outside the railway station.
  • After all my sense of work and "expertise" at working with the mud, I found myself shy and hesitant to soil my hands and clothes, till I saw Willy digging out the slush with his full-sleeved shirt buttoned to the wrist!
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