Tuesday, 28 June 2011

St Cyril and Hypatia

Yesterday was the feast of St Cyril of Alexandria. As I sat in the chapel for the morning prayers and realised the saint of the day, I couldn't help my mind drift to the movie, Agora. The portrayal of St Cyril as someone who was truly passionate about spreading Christianity at all costs, does raise lots of questions about the methods and the means used by the 'saints' then. However, to judge them sitting in our plush 21st century offices would be too much of an injustice to their hard and sincere efforts. However, I am glad I saw the movie, Agora. Sad but inspiring. God bless both, Cyril and Hypatia.

Purely on Linux

Here I am, finally, posting this blog from a purely linux OS. Nothing of windows on my laptop as of now. Thanks to a small glitch that I caused, which in turn, formatted my whole computer. In the process of extending the partition of the hard disk for linux and windows, I ended up formatting the whole hard disk in the ext4 format. To make matters worse, I could not boot with neither the Windows CD nor the Linux DVD. That I had formatted it with the linux format, and hence was being shunted out for Windows was understandable but whenever I loaded the Linux DVD, I was being led to the Caledra dr-dos prompt. Now that was something totally new to me. Somehow learnt of how to make a bootable cd/dvd (by burning the iso file and not the data files - using burn image, if in Nero). Finally late this evening installed Linux Mint 10 (Julia) successfully.

Thanks to Fr Julian Fox too for his long distance assistance in understanding what I was undergoing and the steps I was following - faultering? It was great having his constant help and guidance.

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Cross-checking convictions

This morning and again in the evening I had the good fortune of speaking to a couple of Brothers in private, at their own request. It was good because they had some things to ask and tell me about their life and living their convictions. I really hope our discussion does make some impact on them and their lifestyle, so that in the long run they become Priests with some substance. Speaking with them, I remember the quote someone shared with me in my early years of formation:
Stand for something or you'll fall for anything.
As I shared with them some principles and values I live by and how it is never easy to live up to them and be popular at the same time, I also cautioned them to verify their convictions before willing to fight for them. This step of verifying our convictions is essential, for if not, we end up spending our energy and fighting for the wrong reasons. But once we are sure that what we stand for is a matter worth it, which is true and good for me and for all those for whom I stand for, then it is worth giving one's life for it.

Food as Eucharist (2)

Jesus' institution of the Eucharist, as food and drink... a memorial tool of Himself had evolved over the centuries. What Jesus really intended was a community celebration of oneness and thanksgiving for the graces received. What better time to do this than at a meal: every member of the family is there, it is a happy occasion, it comes everyday (more than once)...

From the initial fellowship meal where the bread (and word) was broken and shared, we have moved on a long way. Beginning with the initial abuse of the bread (in different ways, some even mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles, itself) to this day's celebration of the same around an altar with all the regalia, we have somehow tried to preserve the sacredness of the same. The effort has been to make this as occasion that stands out and is used for its intended purpose. But I ask myself: Does the Eucharistic celebration really help me 'remember Him', does it really 'nourish' me, is it something that I 'do in His memory'? Granted that at a community/family meal there are too many other things, 'distractions' that prevent me from rightfully acknowledging God's gracious presence in the person of Jesus, but it is precisely for this reason that the Holy Mass has been carved out. Do I really use this 'specially tailored moment' to 'remember Him'?

I must acknowledge that most often Mass is just another activity in my daily list. I wish and pray that I become more involved in Mass and that the Eucharistic sense pervade all my day! Help me, Lord!

Food as Eucharist

Everytime one wants to leave his or her memory behind among his beloved people, he grants them or gives them a memento. Jesus' choice of a means of helping us remember Him is a very noble and down-to-earth one: food and drink. He could have very well left us with some stone or wood carving (the cross would have sufficed, normally speaking). But He chose food and drink. For it becomes part of us. It does not remain an external reminder to the eyes or ears alone, but merges with our system and strengthens us from within.

Another aspect of this 'memory tool' is the specialty that it builds us up ... from within. It is not something that we can pass on to others without ourselves being strengthened by it. Every and any of my acts is supported by food and drink. Furthermore, no credit is given to this factor. Food is consumed and the credit of the good done is given solely to the doer; not to what he or she eats and drinks.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Religion and me

For this semester I'm taking Anthropology (for the II years) and Theodicy (for the III years). I truly love these two treatises. They offer such rich and new insights which constantly challenge - and thereby help me strengthen and also review my opinions, beliefs and convictions. Presenting in gist about the main ideas of the Masters of Suspicion, I (as usual) sided Paul Ricoeur to drive home the point made by them. The Brothers (as usual) were a bit jittery and restless as I dissected and cut religion and God to pieces using the arguments of Nietzsche, Marx and Freud. Towards the end of the class however I realised that our thinking pattern was on different levels. I was working from the perspective of what we do with religion while the Brothers were reviewing my presentation from what religion does to us. Now according to me there is a wide gap between the two. Though apparently it appears that it is an interaction between religion and me but the crux of the matter is whose perspective we are looking from. The only difficulty I have is getting the Brothers to get out of their cocoons and think... deepen their faith rather than wear it around their neck as a tie!

On commitment

A couple of days ago Fr Antony Pudusserry presided over the Holy Eucharistic celebration and the readings for the day were centred on the theme of 'the covenant'. During his homily he enlightened us about an interesting fact about the ceremony of the covenant making in the Old Testament. The two parties entering into a covenant were supposed to cut a set of animals and birds into two equal halves, mount them on two stands and set them up on fire. Then both the parties entering into the covenant were to walk in between these cut pieces. This indicated the commitment and risk involved in forming a covenant. It meant that doing so gave the other the right to cut me into half, if I fail my part of the bond.

Now that truly calls for a total commitment and courage. I wonder how many would really step forward to enter into such a commitment if one were to replace the existing, ceremony of vows with this sort of practice.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Invoking the Trinity

Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity. It is a nice occasion to remind ourselves of the role of the three people in the history of salvation. Most often our attention is so fixed upon Jesus the son, that the Father and the Spirit are totally sidelined. Hence this feast and that of the Pentecost help as reminders.

My first realisation of the role of the Trinity was when Fr Lens used to take catechism classes for us when we were boys in Don Bosco School, about 20 years ago. At times Fr Lens would begin the class with only the Sign of the Cross. While we would be 'waiting' for the prayer to follow, he would straight away go to the class for the day. Looking at our puzzled faces, which clearly expressed the 'scandal' that he was causing by leaving a prayer 'incomplete' he would clarify that the Sign of the Cross is a prayer in itself. It was only from then on that I began to concentrate on the Sign of the Cross. Till then it was not considered worthy enough to be enlisted as a prayer.

Golconda High School

Over the past couple of days I watched the telugu movie, Golconda High School. I had heard about it first from the news item posted by Fr TD John wherein he made special mention of one of our street children boys playing an important role as an actor in this movie. Well, as I watched the movie, I couldn't help but note the similarities with the English movie, Coach Carter. However, GHS has its highs and I do appreciate the movie as a whole. Sumanth plays the lead role well, but not as impressive as in Godavari. Besides the fact that it was shot at Don Bosco High School, Hyderabad (my own school) there are several aspects of the movie that appealed to me.
  • The storyline and the overall moral and message delivered through the movie: Games are an integral part of education and children have a right to play. In an age where books and ranks alone offer a bright future, the movie rightly points out the importance and the great values that sports and games inculcate in students.
  • The message by the coach to his pupils that a true man is not one who twirls his moustache and is ever-ready for a fight but one who is willing to take any risk and face any danger to achieve who he considers his true calling.
  • The movie does not downplay the academic part of education. Even though it does subtly make a caricature of teachers, students and the classroom, the overall impression conveyed is healthy.
  • The role of educators as ones who mould the hearts and minds of students with firmness and an equal dose of love and concern.
  • The focus is rightly maintained on the boys (team) rather than the romance of the coach and the english teacher.
  • The stress on having a dream and pursuing it relentlessly.
  • All along the movie, values like courage, perseverance, team spirit, friendship, upholding truth, solidarity and a willingness to change for the better are portrayed realistically and artistically.
However a few things I thought the director could have avoided so as to ensure that the sub-plots do not mar or give wrong ideas: the use of cell phones in schools, the over use of foul language by the students (though it does present a realistic picture), and the rather 'silly' teachers essaying the role.

On the whole, a movie worth watching and emulating. I surely am going to screen this movie for the Brothers and get them to discuss it.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Debacle of the Spirit

Today was the maiden monthly recollection of our new academic year. It was animated by a lay couple from Buchirajupalem, Mr Claudius and Maria. They chose to lead the group in prayer through their singing rather than lengthy talks and sermons. But in doing so I also witnessed what I'd call the 'debacle of the Spirit'. The two of them led the whole prayer session and the afternoon adoration in English. Their singing was superb with very moving accompaniment. However, I observed that the Brothers were not really touched or involved. Reason: English, that too English hymns and singing, is just not their cup of tea! Therefore, I guess that was the reason why the Spirit would have found it difficult to make an entry into their hearts and minds. I'm sure if it were in Telugu there would have been much greater participation and life. Anyway, I guess the Spirit must be tired today in its efforts.

Add to that the Mass presided over by Fr Peter Sebastian, from the same Parish. Gosh, his sermon was so dramatic and eclectic. Half of the Brothers could not follow his language and the rest, found it to be something of a comedy show. All in all, I do not think there would be many who found anything worthwhile remembering and pondering over in the sermon of the day.

The one thing caught my attention during the sermon was Fr Peter Sebastian's use of the phrase 'Miracle mongers'. He used this phrase to refer to most of us who await for something to happen rather than be the miracle ourselves.

By the way, only today I did learn that Fr Peter Sebastian (photo: the one in the middle) was the one who brought out the first telugu edition of Vachanolsavam. He was the editor of it for nearly a year. Later it was taken up by Murigur itself.

B'day of the Church

Yesterday was the feast of the Pentecost and so the birthday of the Church. It makes a lot of sense to really celebrate this relatively relegated occasion. To consider the Holy Spirit as the founding member of the Church is quite logical and a deeper study of the Church itself will find this foundation most appropriate. However I wonder where and when on earth did the structure which is the so-called 'church' in normal understanding originate? Perhaps with Constantine and his decision to convert to Christianity. Given the fact that this formal organised structure of the 'church' is more known and 'adhered to', it is appropriate that the Spiritual foundations of the Church are recognised and occasions like these are solemnised.

Sunday, 12 June 2011

The partiality of the Spirit

The feast of Pentecost is a mysterious one. As I listened to Fr KT's sermon this evening - our first community Mass for this year - it struck me that the Holy Spirit descended only on the apostles. I'm sure they were not the best of men, left on earth after Jesus' ascension. But the Spirit descends and empowers these dozen men. Quite a partial deal, if one may say so. So I found myself asking this question: Is this purely grace or is there no human merit necessitated? I really do not know. So will the grace of the Spirit work on one who is totally not open to its Divine potency? Certainly the Spirit moves according to its will and it can move anything. But with what efficacy is the question here? Moved by the Spirit, one may be an acclaimed preacher but if his personal life or relational behaviour is anything but exemplary, I doubt if his life, as a whole, will have the desired impact.

Anyway, the Spirit knows best!

Brothers return

The Brothers arrived today and we are ready for the year ahead. Too early to guage their mood but certainly they know that things are serious this year and they just cannot take a laid-back attitude or be careless about every thing herein. I also know that this will certainly make them more guarded than forthcoming in their zeal. Anyway, hope for the best. May Mother Mary show us the way for a brighter future.

Saturday, 11 June 2011

A day at Yeleswaram

Today I was invited by the Salesian Sisters (FMAs) at Yeleswaram to animate their school teacher for a day. This was the second time I had a chance to interact with the Salesian Sisters in their own setting (the first being at Auxilium school, Secunderabad when I got a chance to interact with their past pupils). There were nearly 18 teachers (both gents and ladies) and a bit surprisingly poor in English. So I had to adapt my whole 'english' content to their understanding and rationale. Besides quite a few of them looked like kids!

All the same, I should acknowledge that the experience was great. Among the few things I shared with them, mostly Salesian educative tips, I was happy to bring out the following points through their own querries and the context of their understanding:
  • Education is not so much about helping the students give the right answers. It is more about helping them formulate the right questions. (The answers to these questions will be passionately sought by them and in this process bring about a transformation in society).
  • Rather than prevent children saying them always what not to do, offer them possibilities of alternatives of doing something instead of what you do not want them to do. The analogy that came to my mind was that of a stream. None can really block the water for long. Sometime or the other it is bound to break the dam and flood the place. Rather channel the water in the direction you want it.
  • Having the basic question (or rather the answer to that question) clear: What am I a teacher for?

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Respect precedes trust

Late yesterday it struck me that amidst all the "lavish" spending on maintenance and repairs, I never once thought of Divine Providence or even acknowledged its gracious blessings of late. Perhaps it is because its blessings abound, and may be only when we are dire straits we would petition Providence. The much spoken and true aspect of the role of Divine Providence in our Salesian tradition and life is something we often take for granted or are oblivious about. I would not say that we do not trust Divine Providence, it is just that we do not really acknowledge its gracious presence and works.

Truly then, the ideal prayer and attitude of mine ought to be that of gratitude and respect for Divine Providence. That it has blessed the community with so much and I am appreciative of it and thereby also take upon myself the responsibility to take care of things we already have - before we pray for new things. Respect, I truly believe is the pre-requisite of trust in Divine Providence.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

The lucky snake

At the end of another hectic and maddening day, I had the fortune of learning a Telugu saying - quite amusing but very true too:
A snake never dies when amidst ten people (translated).
When asked for the reason, the carpenters told me this: When ten people are around a snake each one awaits the other to hit and in the meantime the snake escapes!

All in the look!

We had a couple of Sisters with us yesterday... simple and foolishly obedient ones. One of them had to apply for her passport and was in town, with nothing but a half-filled form with barely a document or two to support it and with an abundant dose of her Superior's blessings. Well that is another story. During meals we had an interesting conversation (of course, interesting for us, Salesians, while they were really serious about what they were saying).
Fr: So are you still in contact with your ousted founder?
Sr: Yes.
Fr: In what way?
Sr: We look at him.
Fr: Look at him?
Sr: Yes. After all he was the one who started our congregation.
Fr: You mean, he lives with you in the convent?
Sr: No, not at all. But we always look at him.
Fr: You mean, like you are looking at us?
Sr: No. This looking and that looking is different. We are your guests. He is our founder. We appreciate you and respect you, but him we look at.
It was only then it struck us that what she really meant was that they looked up to him!

Monday, 6 June 2011

Administration and the Laity

Yesterday and today were two hectic days. With so many repair and maintenance works going on in the house, keeping tab on everyone is a bit difficult... that too when most of them just want to finish the work, somehow and disappear. Added to that there were the auditors for the annual auditing yesterday. Somehow there were not any serious objections or discrepancies that needed serious and immediate attention. Given all these matters, my conviction that administration is something that needs to be handed over to lay people gets strengthened. Sincere and dedicated people like Mr Amalnathan would be people who we could just hand over and focus on some more intense areas where we are supposed to specialise. Of course, the lay people may not follow the same style and mode as we, but certainly we do not profess to end up being mere administrators!

As I write these lines I must acknowledge that I'm still to reconcile myself to the fact that I cannot afford to bemoan the responsibilities entrusted to me. The temptation to earn pity and pour fuel into the fire sometimes gets the better of me!

Sunday, 5 June 2011

The 'hoax' of Ascension

The Gospel reading of this day of the feast of the Ascension of Our Lord, concludes with the two personages who descend from heaven telling people not to 'waste their time' staring into the sky... that Jesus would come down once again the same way that they saw Him go up. Now that is quite a statement. I am not really sure what the original Biblical text says and means by that. But this I know for sure: there are many who 'staring into the sky, waiting for Jesus to descend'. Not that I have any problem with that - certainly not. But when one is so engrossed with this, we are oblivious of those really around us. I, for one, do not believe that Jesus would come down from the heavens, amidst clouds and lights and all that fantasy stuff... I do not wish to believe that at all. For me He is here with us, all the time, at each moment, engaging us in different ways that life offers us. I'd rather gladly 'waste' time interacting with those around me than await his dramatic 'fall' from heaven above!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Courage, Martyrdom and Media

The recent death of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad, in the heart of Islamabad is a living example of courage and values. He knew he was treading dangerous path when accusing the very system that was providing protection to the country of working hand in glove with the world's most dreaded terror outfits. In spite of repeated threats he continued what he thought was his primary responsibility as a journalist... and he paid the price!

I can imagine his tension as he went about doing his 'job' - to be unsure of who, when and what would endanger his life or all that he holds dear in life. But the courage of this man - and that of so many who risk all that they have, to ensure that truth and justice are not compromised - is to be appreciated and emulated.

He was in a position where he could voice his convictions, with details and statistics, to an international audience. And he did not hesitate to speak it out boldly from within. I wonder if this would befall one is such limelight, what would be the fate of those who are hardly known outside their neighbourhood but those willing to stick out their neck for a noble cause. Such people are the real martyrs.

On Media Education

The editorial page of The Hindu carried a rather mild sermon to the media by a Judge of the Supreme Court of India, Markandey Kutja, titled 'Freedom of the press and journalistic ethics'. Of the few pointers that he suggests for Media to responsibly make use of its freedom, the one that made most sense of it was when he speaks of television. Having spent nearly two weeks at home, I can rightly say that most often whenever the TV was on, it was to watch, something for entertainment alone. In this context, speaking from one perspective, the question posed by the Judge makes much sense:
Is it not a cruel irony and an affront to our people that so much time and resources are spent on such things (film stars, pop music, disco-dancing and fashion parades, astrology or cricket)? What have the Indian masses, who are facing terrible economic problems, to do with such things?

On the other hand, one might argue that there are channels dedicated to these issues too. But who really views them? The entertainment channels are so 'spicy' and enticing that the 'reality' of life (again, those construed 'reality-shows' are a real sham and shame!) as lived out by a common person is totally shunned. With it, issues that rational and humane persons that we are need to deal with, get sidelined or muddled up. Perhaps what is most needed as of today is not merely a 'sanction' or curb on media but a media education to every person. A sort of basic tools and skills which will help one to sift through the plethora of media offering news, views and insights... to arrive at the truth. There isn't a dearth of media possibilities, so is there a code of ethics for media (though very flimsy and vague) but what can really bring about a difference is when more and more people learn to seek the right information, for the best purpose of human welfare and are able to utilise available media to build communion.

Free flow of money

The maintenance and repair works in the community are progressing in full swing. There are the carpenters, painters, masons, and tomorrow on there will be the road repair team stationed here for two days. Luckily the permanent staff of the community is a very reliable one. They do more than what is expected or told to them. They see to very many things which they otherwise need not put their hands to. Their presence is a real great blessing.

Propelling all these patch up works is the currency in the administrator's table drawer. Earlier I was counting every pie, every bit of it. I very well remember the intense fight I had with Pratap while in Nashik over two rupees that he had to return to me. Today, the same Castilino is almost callous to hundreds and thousands of rupees!! What money can do to a person! Money just flows and to calculate the pros and cons of each and every pie is almost impossible. The only virtue I now try to practice is prudence... because anyhow I have to spend, so then at least let me spend it wisely. Once these 'currency-drainer works' are done with, I'll have to see how best to make use of the resources (human and material) we possess.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Wrestling Linux

For the past three days I've been wrestling with my computer and the printer. Just when I thought of making a complete shift from Microsoft to Linux, I realised my printer does not obey commands from Linux... now that's quite a fix because, I have a lot of printing to do. Added to that prior to the Brothers arrival, there are things I would like to get over with and be ready by the time they set foot in the seminary. Anyhow, with some timely help from Fr Julian Fox I managed to resolve the printer issue. Now I just need to spend some time with Linux and shall be fully in it by the next week.

Come what may, I wish to make this shift. I need to get out of my 'comfort zones' - MS being one of them. This is most essential to grow and bring about a progressive change.

Any good jobs for Chris?


That's Willy's son, Chris. He's doing what he normally does best - doing what others are doing. He somehow has a great fascination for sweeping and wiping the vehicles. Hope like Willy said, he'd get some good offers.
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