Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Metaphysical humour 2

Here are some more metaphysical "insights" from the class test...
Why is metaphysics called the First Philosophy?
Because it is the theology of all philosophy!

Appreciating Andrew

Fr KT in his sermon this morning spoke of St Andrew, the saint of the day. Among the several things he said, what struck me was the fact that Andrew, along with John, meets Jesus, at the instruction of John the Baptist, spends a night with Jesus and by morning makes this bold proclamation to his brother, Peter: "We have found the Messaiah!"

Most of us spend a lifetime and yet with no guarantee that we would realise this fact. Yet here is is a person who spends just an evening with the Lord and is able to recognise Him. Two things that emerge out of this event:
  1. The powerful personality of Jesus
  2. The openness of Andrew to recognise the Lord, when he meets him. The fact that he was with John the Baptist, prior to this, could have very much facilitated this discovery.
How I wish I could be more like, Jesus (convincing because of personal integrity and convictions) or at least like John the Baptist (able to recognise and lead people to Jesus) or in the least like Andrew (to be able to recognise Him when I meet the Lord and courageous enough to admit it openly).

Flywheel and...

Last night I watched the movie Flywheel (2003). Not a very exceptional movie but all the same, good message and well presented too. Of course to those who do not trust much in religion and God, this may be an overdose of facts, but otherwise the message is clear... may be a bit exaggerated (which movie isn't) but worthwhile all the same.

It shows the life of a dishonest car salesman, who decides to changeover and become honest in his dealings... with surprising results not just for his business but for his relationships as well.

Well that's not what I wrote this post for. In the movie there is a Psalm that is often quoted. And call it whatever you may, this morning as I woke up, I found the same Biblical verse on my sms inbox. And mind you, I never ever receive any such smses! That was something that really surprised me while I was still in bed and looking at my mobile to put off the alarm!

Delight yourself in the Lord and he shall give you the desires of your heart. (Ps 37:4)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Fr TV's b'day photos

Here are a couple of photos of Fr TV Thomas' b'day celebrations held on Nov. 27 at Devipuram. During the celebrations I remembered that I could very well use by mobile camera to capture the joyful moments. Quite handy!

Metaphyscial humour

Here are some more "insights" from the class test papers that I'm still going through...
Define Change.
Change is miserable movement from place to place...
(I guess he meant 'measurable')

Give an example for a metaphorical analogy.
Ravi is a dog.
Explanation of the same: It does not mean that Ravi is God but his nature is God nature.

Why do we fail to see beauty in every being?
Because our thinging is limited and we accutom to see rong way.

What is the connection between existence and essence?
Existence exists by itself.

Give an example for intrinsic accidents.
One person is becoming fact and fact, it happens in being.
(emphasis added) Those were some insights into contemporary metaphysics.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Advent and preparation

We began the season of Advent yesterday. During Mass I was reminded of my old doubt: why at all have preparation for Jesus who is always and already amidst us? Is it like we'll have to get rid of Him and then solemnly welcome Him at Christmas... just for the heck of it? However, as I mulled over this resurfacing doubt, I was reminded of our Seminary Day which was held last week. It is an annual feature and we do prepare for it in earnest. It left me wondering, that we spend so much time and energy preparing for a regular feature of this kind and barely take time to prepare and spend time with Jesus, our Lord. In this context, Advent gains a remarkable meaning: time for preparation; for appreciation; for a 'personal retreat' so that when we celebrate Christmas we really feel fresh and good about being in the presence of the child Jesus. The season of Advent gives us that lovely opportunity to prepare for Lord; to welcome and truly make ourselves worthy of being His abode.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Happy b'day: Fr T.V. Thomas

Today was the b'day of Fr T.V. Thomas. We had the celebrations at Sabbavaram this evening. Quite a few people were present for the occasion. The boys, as usual, were very excited and energetic. They did put up some good programmes. The hand of the ex-Seminarians working there was evident in the type and quality of programmes that were put up. More than anything else it was good to meet and greet TV Thomas. Over the years, we've grown to understand and appreciate each other better. I've known him since 1995 when he was appointed administrator of the novitiate while I was still a novice. Then during my Practical training at Karunapuram he was the Rector of the neighbouring Diocesan community. Our three years together in the Provincial house was the time that really bonded us.

As I told the boys this evening, he is like the sandalwood tree, which shares its fragrance even with the axe that chops it to pieces. Not that greatly appreciate this virtue and wish to emulate it, but the fact remains, Fr TV has a great deal of patience and equanimity to accept things and look forward to better times. Meeting him and talking to him is always refreshing and enriching. (File photo: Fr T.V's b'day celebrations while we were together in the Provincial house in 2009)

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Life cycle or cycle race?

Here's one line from the paper that I was correcting this morning:
Man's life is cycle from birth to death.
No wonder my Brothers get so tired and weary after every paper! So much of cycling to do!

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Courage to bring about change

The most famous episode of Prophet Daniel is a very enriching one. We had it this morning for the first reading of the Mass. Daniel, a foreigner, with a totally different attitude and culture and that too a slave rises in rank and name... and in the process makes some locals jealous. Yet he does not give up his faith or courage. He trusts in Yahweh and stands firm by his convictions. Even in the face of death and doom he holds firm. Ultimately he manages to convince the emperor and thus the whole nation turns to Yahweh.

It's a very rare combination of faith, courage and luck that sees him help a whole nation adopt his attitude. Most often we get merged in the popular or major attitude. For an individual or a handful to stand and get the whole group to recognise, appreciate and live by these values is truly a remarkable feat.

To Borra caves

Yesterday after much pleading by Fr C. Thomas, we went for a picnic to Borra Caves. It is a place about 55 kms from here and is famous for its natural cave. I had been to this place about 12 years ago. However, of all days, yesterday was a day of 'hibernation' as per my schedule. The Brothers had a day of outing by themselves and hence I had decided to catch up with my lost sleep. Anyway, I went along but it was tiring and literally sickening. The only good thing was that Fr C. Thomas was happy and so were the Sisters whom he had long ago promised this trip.

On the way I came across the following sign board at a railway crossing and could not resist the temptation of clicking it with my cell-camera.

Seminary Day 2011

It's been a while since I posted something. Just that I was too caught up with the preparations of the Seminary day (Nov. 22, 2011). Thanks to all the heavenly and local help it went on as planned and the play which I was keen about came out beautifully. More than anyone else, it touched me most since I was with it since the conception onwards. The guests who witnessed the play too were very happy with the presentation. Among the many compliments I received the one that I liked best was when one of the Priests mentioned that it has been long since he witnessed the Brothers put up an English play. For me too it was a pleasant surprise that Brothers could manage and deliver dialogues in English. I just did not want it to be translated into Telugu (which certainly would have been much easier for the Brothers) for the reason that I did not want them to hijack the message. I wanted to retain the message without it being clouded and drowned under the plethora of subtle messages that the Brothers' unconsciously deliver.

Friday, 18 November 2011


Here's something I just cannot stop laughing at since I first heard it from Fr Wilson, the Principal and professor of Moral Philosophy. In his class test he asked the Brothers to write, in one sentence, the meaning of a couple of key words in Ethics. One of them was 'amoral' and here one of the best answers he received:
amoral = the moral actions of animals is called amoral.
Perhaps this is the reason, some are heard complaining that morality has gone to the dogs!

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Choices and Values

One of the points that appealed to me from the recollection talk of Fr Tom was the following:
Our choices are a reflection of our inner value system.
True indeed. However the vice versa too works just fine. Our value system gets built up and strengthened by the right choices we make.

There surely is a great connection between concepts such as attitudes, values, choices, optimism and spirituality. Perhaps the latter is a baptised version of the former.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

A journey of 9 steps starts afresh with a whistle

As Nau Kadam Express chugged out of Kanyakumari station the Fourth Phase of `Nine is Mine` Campaign by children demanding 6% of the GDP for Education and 3% for Health got off to a great start blessed by children from Neighbourhood Parliaments from Kanyakumari. The contents: 9 children, 9 days, 9 cities, 9 states, 9 demands and the determination to get 9% for children`s Education and Health. The Rally was flagged off by Sri Balakrishna, the Dy.S.P. of Kanyakumari. The rally will reach New Delhi on 19th having passed through Madurai, Chennai, Rajamundry, Bhubaneswar, Kolkotta, Ranchi, Kanpur. Read more...
(submitted by Fr Pallithanam Thomas)

Friday, 11 November 2011

On the stage...

Last Sunday while animating the group of young religious, I challenged them to move out of their comfort zones and do something different, as frequently as possible. I asked them to recollect as to when was the last time they surprised themselves? As I said this I did some introspection myself and felt happy that after long I did script a play... a short one though, for our Seminary day. Today we began the practice in earnest. And it was great to get to show the Brothers how to deliver the dialogues accompanied by the right expressions. Reminded me of my days at Yercaud and Nashik.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Nishkamakarma and a sense of gratitude

Commenting on the Gospel of the day, Fr Wilson spoke of nishkamakarma, a concept found in the epic Mahabharata and of great importance in the Philosophy of karma. However, I was not very convinced by his connecting nishkamakarma and expecting a sense of gratitude, just on the face of it.... or rather equating them on the same level. Nishkamakarma truly means not expecting the fruit of the work but focussing on the work itself. The understanding is that results will automatically follow. One needs to be detached from the fruits and concentrate on the task at hand. (something akin to Immanuel Kant's Categorical Imperative, though not necessarily the same). That said, 'expecting' gratitude is another theme altogether. I certainly do not work to be praised or thanked! But on the part of the one who receives or benefits, it is courtesy or sensitivity to acknowledge the benefit, even if it means just saying 'thanks'. Gratitude is from the part of the receiver not the doer.

Applying this understanding further, I realise that our very Eucharistic celebration would be rendered meaningless, if we say that God did what He was 'supposed' to do, it was His 'duty'. He certainly does not need our thanksgiving (this is true). But we who are the beneficiaries, ought to express our gratitude for all His graces. The doer (God) can practice nishkamakarma but gratitude is from the part of the receiver (us, Human Beings), not the doer. Similarly, being in a formation setting, we ought to teach our wards to grow in a sense of gratitude. Certainly that does not mean that we work merely for that gratitude alone! (If the latter were the case, genuine formators would be an extinct species by now!)

Monday, 7 November 2011

Animating the CRI, Vizag

All the effort made in preparing for the young Conference of Religious, India (CRI) Vizag unit was worth it as I had an enriching experience interacting with the group of 60 young (and some senior) religious working in the Archdiocese of Vizag. Unfortunately it was an all female group except for two Priests who happen to land up there by some miscommunication but stayed on till lunch time. Somehow I had planned the whole programme on a very interactive mode, with games and songs. I used the platform of fun to drive home the points I wanted to really convey. In a sense, it helped. I realise more and more that those for the consecrated life cannot bear or are unwilling to take on real challenges but would rather be quite light and carefree about life.

All said and done, it was a good exercise for me and I enjoyed it. After long I had this chance and it flowed as planned too. I took three sessions and each session was on a particular theme (but all interlinked): self discovery, taking risks and realising that there always exist choices.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Spiritual Cacophony

This morning I had to but undergo a 'spiritual' torture. In the absence of Fr Rector, who is a great fan of Charismatic prayer, I had to accompany the Charismatic group to a neighbouring Parish where they were to animate a three hour charismatic prayer. I went along just because Fr Rector asked me to and there was no way I could wriggle out of it. I stayed put in the Church till it 'kick-started' and then slowly made my way out of the Church onto the drive. The rest of the two and half hours I spent walking up and down on the drive. But even there the sound was clear and loud... deafening, in fact. So was the 'preaching' of the Brothers. However, most of the time it was real cacophony... everything happening at the same time, the preacher preaching, the choir singing, a couple of them 'calling on the Lord' and to add cream to it all, was the keyboard player who was testing every key on the board forgetting that it was connected to the amplifier all the while!

Frankly, I knew I should be out of the Church when there is a service in progress and that too when my own Brothers are animating it. However, I just couldn't stand it. Certainly charismatic prayer is not my cup of tea. My understanding of prayer is far removed from anything so 'charismatic'. But thanks to this trip, I got to spend sometime talking to the Lord, besides trying to find out how He bears up with all of this!

Friday, 4 November 2011

Preparing for the 'Kingdom'

I almost finalised the theme and the main storyline of the Seminary day programme. I have drawn inspiration from Fr Maria Arokiam's Gospel at a tangent to formulate the ideas of the presentation. I need to get the flesh on it and hope to get some assistance from the Brothers tomorrow. It is basically to quell the idea that heaven or the Kingdom is up there or beyond us. The play describes that the Kingdom, far from being a place or position, is a state of life lived according to values. I drive home my point using three anecdotes from the life of Jesus based on the Gospels. Rather than merely repeat what is already in the Bible I'm presenting a picture that precedes or follows the instance recorded in the Bible. So to say, I'm contextualising the incident. The three instances are the interaction with the Syro-Phoenician woman (one of my favourite Gospel narratives), the meeting and conversation with the rich young man and the multiplication of bread and fish. I only hope the Brothers latch on to the idea and we get moving as soon as possible. We barely have two weeks to get our act together. The best part of this: it's written keeping the Brothers in mind and not the guests!

Consoling indicators

This day's house assembly and all that I heard therein was very very consoling and encouraging. That it should come at a time when I'm seriously thinking of reorganising myself and my strategies in encountering the Brothers and helping them interiorize the formation imparted, is very helpful. It has been experience that I'm fighting a losing battle. Little or nothing seems to be making impact. However, the personal evaluation that was partially tabulated and presented during the house assembly this evening was a clear indication that Brothers are sincerely making an effort, may not be collectively but certainly individually. Of course, the fact remains that most of them are too scared to take a stand in common or in public. But atleast individually they see the values that we have been hammering all the while. At least they acknowledge the fact that good is offered and they need to live up to it.

Wow! Great feeling... to feel our hard work creating ripples, if not in groups or courses, but certainly in individuals. Thank you Lord!

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Of father and son

It was a long time ago that I watched this particular video about an aging father and his young son. Just a couple of minutes but very powerful and touching. I came across it again today. It teaches a great lesson in humility and patience to all children and young people, especially towards elders, and more specifically towards our own aging parents. Thanks to Papa and Mummy!

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Snacks for snakes

On Sunday a group of youngsters from one of our neighbouring villages came over for a friendly cricket match with our Brothers. The Brothers in charge of that village coordinated the game and our Brothers did win the game too. At the end of the day, when submitting the ministry report, I received this compliment:
Thank you Brother for ... and providing tea and snakes for our youngsters.
I must have provided the snakes with the snacks then!
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