Thursday, 28 April 2011

Final grumbling!

With the confirmation of no one being appointed as administrator for St John's, Kondadaba, I guess I'll have to be the 'lamb of Kondadaba'!! Well, I did all I could to wriggle out of this administration responsibility. Now that it is looming large on my head, I shall be silent about it. No more talking of it or loathing the job... Doesn't help anyone or anything in any way! No point raving and ranting about what is not at all in your hands. Make hay while the sun shines... even when it is shining on the other half of the world!

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Human all too human - Martin Heidegger

Here is a video on Martin Heidegger prepared by BBC sometime ago... to know more of Sartre and Nietzsche, through a video presentation, especially about their life, political and historical context, read this post on Open Culture.

Asking the right questions

I came across this amusing conversation in Fr Peter Gonsalvez's book Exercises in Media Education (p. 04)
The truck driver who took a diversion because the road was being repaired and came to a bridge too low for his rig and got stuck. An onlooker came over and asked: "Are you stuck?" The frustrated driver replied: "No, I'm trying to deliver this bridge, but I can't find the address."

Truly a silly question begets a silly answer! Hence the need for asking not just any questions but the right questions!

Preaching a conviction than a sermon

The other day while at the Jubilee celebrations of the MSFS Priests and Brother at Vizag, the one preaching the sermon told a story about Psalm 23. I had heard it before but this time it struck me for one particular reason: the futility of verbosity in preaching and the power of genuine witnessing.

The anecdote is as follows:
A famous entertainer was once asked to recite the 23rd Psalm in a performance. A large audience filled the large auditorium. After he finished everyone gave him a generous round of applause. After this an old man was asked to present the same Psalm. When he finished there wasn't a dry eye in the place. Everyone was touched by his devotion to the Shepherd. The entertainer came back to continue the program. Before starting the program he said, I know the Psalm, but he knows the Shepherd!

I wish all the Priests, Preachers and especially my Seminarians realise this: that every word counts when uttered from the heart. If something has not touched us, how on earth will it change or affect those who listen to us preaching about it?

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

It's all in the name...

Each person's name is all that one possesses close to his or her heart all life long. I've known some who desist their name, but generally people love their names and would not liked to be called by any other name than their own. Jesus in His first appearance after Resurrection, to Mary Magdalene, calls out her name. It is then that she recognises Him. In fact, prior to it, she sees Him (but fails to realise it is Jesus); she hears Him ask a string of three questions, yet she does not realise it is Him. But that one word, her name, uttered by the One whom she loved so dearly, opened her eyes and she instantly recognises Him!

I've always tried to follow this advice given to me before I began my practical training - I forget who is the one who offered me this invaluable piece of advice - never to call a boy by any other name than his own. No calling him names or using nicknames and all... just plain direct name. Several of the Brothers have always thanked me for this. Even when their own companions or some staff members have always used funny names to refer or call him out, I always used their proper name. It does make a difference.

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Church as 'Catholic'

The Maundy Thursday Mass sermon and announcement slot were an open bashing up of the other Christian denominational Churches. Open provocative statements against the believers of these Churches filled the air the whole evening. This was done with the clear intent of showing the Roman Catholic Church as the 'true' and 'original' (hence, valid?) Church. The point of contention was that the Catholic Church has the Eucharist which is the best incarnational aspect of God, much more than the Word alone (which the Protestants and others seem to emphasize upon.

I was, however, not very comfortable with this attitude and remarks. For me what matters most, given the context of the people amidst whom I live here, is that they have faith and are assisted to grow spiritually. 'We', Catholics forget that people leave the 'Church' for these 'other Churches' because they seek fulfillment in the latter. We forget that they leave us for better things! I do not say that their motivations (on either side) are always clear and pure. However, before pointing fingers at others we need to get our act together and clear our own house!

Priesthood as service and sacrifice

The feast of the institution of the Priesthood and the Gospel reading of the day (Maundy Thursday) remind us of the basic what and why of Priesthood: service and sacrifice. The whole narration of the institution of this great gift is all about Jesus washing the feet of His apostles (a humble act of service to everyone - good, bad and the ugly) and about He offering Himself as food and drink (nourishment for the heart and soul).

I pray that more and more of us rediscover this original indepth meaning of this Sacrament. Over the years, man-made frills like power, authority, administration, superiority and the like have superseded the basic meaning and content of Consecrated/Priestly life. Moreover, it is interesting to note that the institution of this Sacrament has nothing to do with the Temple... so my nagging feeling during the Mass today, Can Priesthood survive without the Church (structure, formal building...)?

Of communication and formation

For the past few days I've been toying with the idea of using Google Docs for a questionnaire for the social communications commission. I've used the spreadsheet forms before and found them very useful. More interesting than the exercise of conceptualising the content, preparing the layout and the technical aspects, are the incoming responses. It is something that I've been trying to address since long: the reduction of wide spectrum communication to mere gadgetry! As Fr TD John says, we need to grow in a culture of communication, not just use of media!

The Centre's insistence on innovative means of communication in ongoing formation makes a lot of sense given the context that confreres feel that TV and internet are all that is there of communication. How about seeing to the content of that what we consume? When does one begin to generate content rather than be mere passive recipient of messages? Our formation should help us with this aspect of being able to articulate the message. Not just preach, preach, and preach.

The 'Indian Shepherds' arrive

Two days ago, Ginger (our German Shepherd) gave birth to 8 puppies. Of course, the brood is not a pure breed - can call it the Indian Shepherd, though!! Luckily it has been kind only to me. Letting me come close and pet it and all. All the others it would charge. It even bit on of the replacement kitchen staff and pounced on another. This morning after a high tension drama we managed to shift out the puppies from the kitchen staff living quarters (where it littered) to the empty pigsty. Ginger would surely feel funny about being in the pigsty!! Anyway, can't help it. Plan to distribute the puppies a while later.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Transfiguration on Mt Abu

Ever heard of the Transfiguration of Our Lord on Mount Abu? I did, a few days ago during a sermon (I think it was last Sunday). I suppose, the Lord now has quite a few mountains to choose from. I only pity the three disciples, since they'll have to make a tough choice as to which mountain they'll have to climb to be part of the scene!

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Jesus 'my' Messiah?

Fr Sivam Vijay Bhaskar in his introduction to the procession with the holy palms pointed out that when the Jews initially welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem with hosannas and palm leaves, they indeed were welcoming the Messiah. They were sure that He was the One. And so Fr Bhaskar reminded us that as we walk in procession to the Church, we too profess our belief that Jesus is our Messiah.

For me the procession today was almost like the Way of the Cross. I found myself asking if I've ever felt Jesus as my Messiah? Did I ever accept Jesus to be my Saviour? Worse still, I realise I've never felt the need for a Saviour at all! I live content with who and what I am, without Jesus! Is it that my 'righteous' living automatically places Jesus at the centre of my life? I have my doubts.

Anyway Lord, help me!

Another donkey celebrates his first Mass

This morning's Mass was also the First Thanksgiving Mass of a newly ordained Deacon for the Archdiocese of Visakhapatnam, besides being Palm Sunday. One of the interesting things shared by the one who preached the sermon was the story of the donkey carrying Jesus into Jerusalem on the original day. The donkey thought the whole show and solemnity was for itself! So sure was it that it could hardly wait for the next occasion for it being felicitated. And so it ran ahead of the procession that was being taken out within a couple of days, thinking it would again be raining petals and palm leaves. Not until it received a couple of lashes from the soldiers leading Jesus to Calvary did it realise that the honour was all of Christ, the one whom it bore.

The preacher reminded the new Priests about this: All those consecrated are merely donkeys carrying Jesus. Owe to us if we take the whole merit for ourselves only, forgetting that our strength and power is from the one whom we bear!

Saturday, 16 April 2011

Justice, at last and at least now!

The release of Dr Binayak Sen, the social activist sentenced to life-imprisonment (what a joke!) on charges of sedition was granted bail by the Supreme court... at last, some sense has prevailed and the blatant mockery of our justice system has been put on hold (at least for now). I also appreciate the arguments and statements made by the Court and the defending lawyer, Mr Jethmalani. I wonder how come none of these were even thought of when the state court granted the 'rigorous life-imprisonment' sentence earlier!

"We are a democratic country. If Gandhian literature is found on some one, it doesn't make him a Gandhian. He may be a Naxal sympathiser but that doesn't make him guilty of sedition," said the court. The court also observed that possession of Naxal literature is not a proof of sedition.

"He is a sympathiser. Nothing beyond that," the bench further said.

"The worst can be said that he was found in possession of general documents (relating to Naxal activities) but how can it be said that such possession would attract the charge of sedition. How can you lay the charge of sedition?" the bench asked.
It is surprising though, that a man with practically no proven record of any direct violence is put to shame and dragged to court, while those against whom there is enough and more evidence to be hanged this very instance are roaming around the country (and abroad) with garlands and red-carpet welcomes! This is a real shame on our justice system and hints at our collective mentality.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Faith and Religion (2)

As I sat for the adoration this evening, my thoughts on faith, religion and spirituality began to haunt me. I found asking myself, what is it that I answer when people ask me which religion do I follow? I certainly answer, Christian/Catholic. But does that answer stand for my closeness to Christ, being His disciple or is it to mean that I belong to the Church. Well one might say that it is the same but not to me. I might very well 'belong' to the Church: baptised, participating in all the practices of piety, regularly paying my subscription... but that does not necessarily imply me being close to the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, the answer is 'Christian'... but most often we limit ourselves to the latter explanation or realm of meaning. The former meaning - and the core - of Christianity is not what is indicated in our response.

So then, back to my dilemma: Is faith and religion the same?

Faith and Religion: the same?

During the last staff meeting, one of the points for discussion was the subjects for next year. When it came to Modern Western Philosophy, there were no takers at all... 'it is the most craziest of all subjects' was the final comment. I was the one who taught that last year and I will certainly love to teach it this year too. When it came to Medieval Western Philosophy, it was suggested that the Regent (Practical Trainee) could teach it. But then immediately it was rejected on grounds that someone with a clear Christian foundation and theology should teach the subject, since it is the 'real Philosophy'. I laughed out loud. Though the others were not amused, I had made my point clear.

Everytime we throw out Philosophy as a 'secular' undertaking or 'unholy', we go against the very grain of our 'Catholic' belief. Religion has done great good to humanity, but not always! Fundamentalism, an offshoot of religion, is perhaps the greatest terrorist in modern times. Why is it that we always end up having to choose between religion and philosophy (or for that matter anything). Why is it that we cannot see both as God's - or even human - creation for the betterment of humanity? Why then do we have to 'pick-and-choose'? Can we not gracefully blend these two?

I have my suspicion about the recent euphoria about the movie Cristiada. I do not say that it is bad (I haven't seen it at all), but when 'faith' is sacrificed at the round table of politics and religion, for upholding the latter, I have serious objections to it. One needs to see the movie Agora to only understand what havoc blind faith, puritanic belief and crazy religion can do!

All this makes me wonder if faith and religion are inseparable? For if not, then ...

May Christ show us the way!

Friday, 8 April 2011

Lump of God

A couple of things that distracted me during the Way of the Cross this evening...
  • Instead of "Lord Jesus, crucified..." at the end of each station of the cross, a couple of them concluded: "Lord Jesus, has crucified..."
  • 'Lamb of God' was read out as 'Lump of God'!
Later during supper Fr KT added another such one of from his practical training days:
While at Eranjalakuda the boys were expected to speak only in English, that too in complete sentences, a boy desperate to go for his needs approached Fr KT (then Br KT) and stood wriggling before him, hoping the Brother would understand and give him permission to go. Br KT did not even take notice. Then his hissed, "Brother." Someone helped him, "Say 'Excuse me Brother'" The boy addressed Br KT and said, "Excuse me Brother, ... toilet!" No response from Brother. "Excuse me, Brother. Please, go to toilet!" Br KT replied, "I'm fine. I do not want to go to toilet." Understanding that he needed to state HIS need, the boy tried again. "Excuse me Brother. Please, go to toilet... for me!"

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Defining corruption

Justice is intrinsically related to love. This is a proven fact. But that it is also very intricately related to truth is something that needs to be understood. The recent movement started by the social activist Anna Hazare to put a policy in place to curb corruption is a very novel one. That there is rampant corruption at every level of administration is a known fact and one to which most of us are resigned to. So when such a zealous activist takes up the cudgels against corruption, it naturally attracts attention and is surely going to do much good for the common man. Of course, every one to whom it is beneficial will find a way of making this work for his/her own good.

I was only trying to define corruption. The Oxford dictionary states thus:
the process by which a word or expression is changed from its original state to one regarded as erroneous or debased
It was only then it struck me that there is something more that is linked to justice than love. If justice is denied it is injustice. But what if justice has not been denied but the facts leading to the principles on which justice is claimed are manipulated. Hence according to me corruption is nothing but creating a wedge between truth and justice.

Monday, 4 April 2011

A lesson in humility

Just a while ago, I happened to run over a chic on my way to Kothavalasa to pick up the UPS from the electrical repair shop. Along the way, there were children so I slowed down, honked and was slowly proceeding when a mother hen with her brood were right in the middle of the road. I slowed still more waiting for them to cross the road, but some of the small ones ran back to where they started from. Once clear I accelerated and to my dismay, one of the chicks decided to get back to its mother and bang... was pulp under my four-wheeler. The ladies of the two houses started shouting, I stopped reversed and got off the vehicle. I just listened till they ranted and then said a meek sorry. One of the ladies then blurted, "You'd run over our children too and say a sorry and get away with it?" It was then that I pointed at the children for whom I slowed down, her own children, and said, "It was for them that I slowed and aren't they fine? Did anything happen to them? Now you also want me to read the mind of chics now?" Anyway, since it was my mistake, unknowingly though, I took out a hundred rupee note and offered it to a youngster standing in front of the house. Immediately they all cooled down and were apologetic. "It is not about the money," he said. "Please don't take offense at the women's words. They are excited as usual," he added. The other women too were silent and smiled back. With that the whole thing was over. By this time a small crowd had gathered. Without wanting to make a mountain of a mole hill, I put the money in the youngsters pocket and got back to the vehicle. The youngster followed me and refused to take the money. I took the money back and said a sorry and thank you, before moving on.

I'm sure had I taken an attacking stance with them, they'd have never been quite. Worse still, if I had moved on without stopping. But since I accepted my mistake, they did not have anything to attack me with. Anyway, a lesson in humility!

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Love vs Discipline (Evelyn)

Today I watched the movie 'Evelyn'... lovely movie of the love of a father to be united with his children in the wake of his wife deserting him and him struggling to make ends meet. With the able support of a couple of friends, he fights the very Irish Constitution and wins.

I'll come straight to the point that is rigning loud in my head: my role as the disciplinarian in the house. In the movie there is the convent where the little girl Evelyn is being brought up. The community of Sisters, each with their own temperament enable the growth of the children under their care. While Sr Bridget was indeed strict the other Sisters were gentle and caring. Was Sr Bridget wrong? I'd say, yes. She was truly cruel, to the extent of meeting out physical punishment.

That brings me to the next level of thought: Was her behaviour not in keeping with the growth and discipline of the child? I'm still not clear. But I guess there is a fairly thin line dividing strict discipline and dictatorship. And I surely need to know that line well!

The song above, 'Angel Rays' by Gemma Hayes, is a beautiful one given the context of the movie.

Saturday, 2 April 2011

My Cinderella Man

While the whole country was busy watching the ICC World Cup final match between Indian and Sri Lanka, I found something better to watch... the movie, the Cinderella Man. I had long been postponing watching this movie and today I sincerely regret postponing. It is one hell of a movie. When I began to watch it, it was merely for fun and passing time this weekend. But by half time, I was glued to it for totally different reasons.

The movie is about the boxer James J. Braddock (Jim), the once down and out boxer who re-enters the ring purely for keeping his family alive and together. It is his love for his wife and three kids that sees him go on to become the world champion. What appealed to me was not the gory boxing bouts, shot realistically, but the tender sentiments of a man who promises to his eldest son never to let go of him, even in the worst of situations. The father keeps that promise!

Some of the most touching scenes: the moment Jim takes his son to the butcher shop to return the salami he stole and there outside promises never to let go of him; getting ready for the fight, on an empty stomach, he eats from the bowl straight with his mouth; when he tells his daughter a dream about him eating full and then drops his share of meat into her plate for her (thereby going hungry himself); when Mae enters the Church to pray for Jim and is told that so are all those who are there; the silence when Jim enters the ring for the championship bout...

All said and done why this movie appealed to me so much was not the movie itself (though superb acting by Crowe, Zewellger and Paul Giamatti) but because the movie in every way showed me what Papa was to us in our younger days. The same grit, same passion, the only dream to see us all happy and contented, the same LOVE MY PARENTS had for the family, especially when the going was tough! I still remember the days when money was hard in coming. Yet we, my brother and I, always had good things (not the best) but the way Papa and Mummy slogged for us, that what they gave us was the best of all! They fasted or ate stale food so that we could have the fresh meal. Rain or sun, cough or fever, nothing prevented Papa from going to work (each day counted).

While Mummy managed the home front, Papa was the bread-winner. Together they gave us what no one else could ever give. Not that they fought our battles, nor did they fight it alone; but they took the brunt of it while making us see and learn. If only every child had parents like you, Papa and Mummy, 'heaven on earth' would be a phrase like a, b, c...

Thank you Papa and Mummy... for what you were, are and what you made of us!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Standing for values

For the past four days the whole country is abuzz with cricket. Greater and graver issues like the events unfolding in Japan, Libya, Syria and Ivory Coast are relegated to the snippets. To add insult to injury is the media focus on some bimbette promising to go nude if India wins the world cup! That there are people hysterical about the game is a known fact but with media fanning that hysteria, we are only foolishly parading - and approving - our misplaced priorities.

Would that 'noble lady' have any better ideas about assisting Japan or Libya in the ongoing turmoil? I guess, there are plenty of people like most of our Brothers here in the Seminary: willing to go to any extent to get the approval and acceptance of the other, especially to be in the limelight but will not move an inch if it costs us or challenges us! Anything silly thing will appeal us but not lasting values and search for meaning for our existence and actions. Anything hysterical and exciting but not something that demands a daily commitment, a perseverance lasting beyond our grave!

You to me are everything...

Long time ago, I heard a song somewhere on the CD while travelling and it so to say captivated my mind. The music and lyrics were lovely. A couple of days ago, I came across the same song. It has a very catchy tune and quite romantic too. You to me are everything by The Real Thing

Compromises and/in Consecrated life

When a mighty big tree or building falls for apparently no reason, the ensuing dust cloud raises quite a lot of questions and surprises many. The same is true when a man of repute falls from grace all of a sudden. Well, most often it is not a one moment decision or act that brings about this downfall. It is a long and steady process that leads to this sort of a downfall. Just like white-ants which gnaw away at things from the inside till the mighty tree or building collapses like a pack of cards, so too do the little compromises we make right since our younger days that take its toll 'one fine day'.

With regard to our religious vocation these compromises commence soon after our joining the Seminary or after the first profession. If not adequately addressed and tackled then, they continue growing - and gnawing - within. However another danger that now lurks very large with regard to consecrated life is that young people join the religious house or seminary as a compromise for hard work and challenge! In that sense, God save Himself!
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