Thursday, 20 December 2012

Viewing holistically

There are wide-spread protests and lots and lots of write-ups about the recent gang rape of a 23 year old student in Delhi.  Truly very shocking and sad.  The only good thing about the present situation is that the girl is fighting back to survive and get back her normal self.  The protests and uproar too is something. Hope some good comes out of all this.

However, I wish to focus on something which very often gets forgotten amidst this whole scenario: the larger picture.  While there is so much uproar about this one incident, there is hardly any talk or news about the 8-year old dalit girl who was apparently raped and murdered. I wonder if there is an investigation, at least half as intense as the one going on in Delhi, in place.  At another place in the North-East there was a similar incident but which by and large has made it only to the side column of a local newspaper only.  While being equally heinous, why is it that there is such a focus on one and practically nothing on the other similar cases?

While an immediate knee-jerk response would not be an ideal and long lasting solution to these atrocities carried out on women, I strongly support that a sensible education fostering an equal treatment of children right since their early days is most apt. When children are not discriminated on the basis of the sex they belong to, there will naturally be an atmosphere of equality and collaboration.  As of now, there is a growing sense of domination and unhealthy competition.

May all those who are deprived of their basic dignity to live life, be equally treated as victims and everyone take responsibility for a better tomorrow. 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Parents' Day Reflections-3

The second years put up a small value based skit (as I demanded from them) besides some comedy bit.  What surprised me was the fact that they modeled it on the Seminary Day playlet.  The message certainly was something related to Christmas but the techniques and style of presentation was something they borrowed from the playlet.  Though they grumble and curse when they have to undergo the grind of putting up something valuable and difficult, when it comes to them putting up something of their own accord, they willingly adapt the techniques and to the grind.

However, what I liked was the fact that they did present something in a creative way with a message... not just any slapstick comedy. 

Parents' Day Reflections-2

One of the parent of the Brothers began by honestly and vehemently accusing the Catholic Church of neglecting the Word of God. He also acknowledged that prior to marriage he was a Protestant but thanks to his wife's faith and sharing about the greatness of the Catholic Church, got baptised and is now a fervent Catholic.  After his initial sharing about the need for modern Priests and seminarians to be preacher of the Word, he beautifully brought out something which I was dying to hear:
Brothers, be men of God and prayer, above all else! As lay people, men and women living and working in the world, we look up to you Priests and Brothers to help us know and experience God through your own life and word and deed.  The rest, we can manage by ourselves.  So don't waste your time and energy trying to impress us with your talents and acquisitions. Primarily be men of God and prayer. That is what we seek from you. 
To hear that from a parent, I'm sure makes a deeper impact, at least for the Brother concerned, than to hear the same from us formators. 

Parents' Day Reflections-1

We had the Parents' Day on Dec. 15, coupled with our community Christmas celebrations. Unlike the past years, I tried a different mode of spending time together. I wrote about it earlier.  The discussion that took place ultimately was quite touching.  Though, if I were to do it, I'd have done it differently, I am truly happily at how it progressed.  After a brief talk by Fr Marreddy, he asked if any parent wanted to speak.  At least 7 of the parents or relatives spoke - very amazing, given their reluctance to talk in public and that too before Priests and seminarians, for they are normally at home being recipients.

One of the Brothers' mother after sharing her prayer and aspirations for her son, for every seminarian, quite spontaneously asked all of us (seminarians) gathered a direct question.  I was greatly touched.  She began by sharing this:
You may feel that you are living this life of chastity in thought, mind and deed here in the Seminary, but as your parents, we too live the same life of chastity for your sake.  
And then for the question that she asked there was hardly any convinced answer... She asked
Brothers do you believe that? 
She repeated
Brothers do you believe that for your sake we, your parents, live an celibate and pure life. Only that we may support and strengthen you in your vocation journey.  But you do believe that, don't you? 

Epitome of Commitment and Service

Baby Aunty (as we fondly called her)
Her maiden name was Margaret Pinto.
Right since early childhood, Baby aunty was one of the most sought after person, during our rare trips to Mangalore. She is the youngest sister of Mummy and the most affectionate too... most talkative one too!  I regularly sent Baby aunty and Charlie uncle a letter for their wedding anniversary every year, without fail.  That was my one sure point of contact with two of those whom I liked most in Mangalore.  With Charlie uncle's death, Baby aunty is now all alone.  It has been years since Charlie uncle's health began to decline.  All the while Baby aunty was by his side.  Even when he gave up all hope and attempt to recover, she stood by him.  Unlike Charlie uncle, Baby aunty and I never spoke at depth.  She was more at home with Mummy. Nonetheless, I never can admire her grit and commitment to her life partner, enough.

Whenever someone spoke of commitment and service in our religious circles, I used to think about her and her concern and care for Charlie uncle. Till a couple of years ago, she also took care of her mother-in-law who was totally bedridden.  I've never come across anyone who has been so consistent, and committed to taking care of the sick in the family, as Baby aunty - and most importantly, happily too.

I know not what her plans are now at this moment, with uncle gone; but I pray for her.  May her grit and strength of love show her the way ahead.  God continue to be at her side. 

RIP: Charles D'Souza

I just got news of one of my uncle's, Mr Charles D'Souza, passing away in Mangalore.  He was my Mummy's younger brother-in-law.  He was ill for quite a long time... perhaps years. The last two months were the worst.  His wife, Mummy's sister, took utmost care of him all along.  I just cannot imagine the strength and the patience of that strong lady who stood my him for so many years of pain and suffering.

An evening that we went along to the beach
during my last visit to Mangalore in 2008
I too grieve the death of this uncle of mine.  Of all those whom I know in Mangalore, he was the most affectionate and appreciative.  The last time I went to Mangalore was for Willy's (my brother's) marriage in 2008.  That time too he was his usual self: asking me questions about my vocation, about happiness, about love and family.

He was an auto driver by profession.  He stopped going to Church several years ago.  Instead he would dutifully drop his wife at Church and then proceed to some place where he would be of some help.  His greatest joy was to assist in the last rites of unclaimed dead bodies.  He would readily volunteer to retrieve any dead body anywhere (wells, rivers, sewage...) whatever be their state of decomposition!  He would then ensure that they get a decent burial.

Uncle Charlie (first from right)
during his visit to the Provincial house in 2008.
That's the last time I saw him.
Seated beside him is his wife, Baby Aunty.
He basically gave up on life some years ago.  The fact that along with his wife he could not be a parent was something he could not reconcile with. As his health deteriorated, also because he took up to drinking, he survived many a near death attacks.  So sick was he with medicines and hospitalization that he would get great strength to walk out of the hospital even when he could barely stand on his own feet!

He was not a practicing Catholic but none would  dare even think that he was not a good Catholic.  A very tender heart, and a perceptive mind.  I loved spending time with him and talking to him.  Though almost the age of my own Dad, he deeply respected me, solely because I was a Religious Brother and he knew that I was not messing around with my vocation - that was his great pride.

With his passing away, I realise one of my most strong links with Mangalore has snapped.  But one thing I'm sure, he is still smiling from above, as he always did - only this time there is no pain that he would need to hide. God bless you Uncle and THANKS for your valuable presence and meaning in my life and vocation.  You will ever be remembered! 

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

For you...

We watched the Telugu movie Damarukam at the INOX this afternoon.  Nothing special or appealing, at least to me. However, I liked one particular song, very melodious and the lyrics are also very meaningful.
A rough translation of the chorus: 
If you, my friend, would fly down like a cuckoo bird,
I'd gladly become an orchard for you to enter.
If you, my love, would be the first rays of the sun,
I'd become the East to receive you.
...

Staff outing

I accompanied five of our seven staff members for a day out.  They were asking for a picnic since long and I gladly obliged since they work really hard and are sincere about their responsibilities.  We visited Kailasgiri, Vuda Park (though the were expecting to see it in its glorious past) and respecting their desire I took them for a movie to INOX at the Beach Road.  They were quite happy with that new addition to their list of things seen!  We also had our lunch in the multiplex itself, but I'm sure they did not enjoy it - neither did I.

The last lap was a long walk along the beach.  Besides the walk, it was also an occasion for them to talk freely, laugh and pull one another's leg, imitate some mannerisms of staff and students and recall some of the past experiences.  All in all, they were happy. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

Poor...

Here's an extract from the last paper that I'm correcting of those doing their dissertation with me. The book summary which the Brother is attempting to write is about Islam and the Prophet Muhammad.

[Statutory warning: The student has no idea, whatsoever of what he has written!]
The prophet Muhammad's father is Abdullah, died two months before his birth and his mother Aminah was decided to take him with her to visit uncle in Yathrib. Then Muhammad enjoyed meeting his cousins, playing with them and learning to swim, when journey back to Makkah.  Aminah felt ill and died.  Muhammad returned home with Aminah's maid. 
The para above is all that is there in his paper about the life of the Prophet! The rest of the paper is 'too intellectual' for mere mortals like us to understand.  Perhaps not even Muhammad will understand! Given this state of grasp, I wonder what does the Brother understand about the Bible, leave alone, Philosophy!   

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Our regular guest and friend

This is our famous Chiranjeevi. His real name is Appalnaidu. Unfortunately he is slightly imbalanced in his mind but certainly not in his heart. He is a regular figure in the Seminary and the 'chief guest' of every function in the campus.  He has his routine carefully chalked out for the day (any day) based on requirements of his stomach!  Though aged, he appears like a kid. His talk is all mumble and anything but sensible.  His clothing is always a gift from someone, mostly Brothers old clothes. I should say that for the past few months he has been very tidy and neat.  He takes bath everyday at the gate - a full-fledged one at that - keeps his clothes tidy (though one does not get to see him wear the same shirt again!) and has his secret place for hiding his soap!

Whenever he is hungry he seeks me out and asks for food.  If I permit him, he'd go towards the kitchen with a big smile; if not, he'll wait for me at the far end of the gate (near the kitchen) - no matter how long it takes for me to  reach that part of the house.  Not once has he approached the cooks by himself asking for food - though he could very well do that, for he is from their own village and know to them all!

Once in a way he asks for money. But if I tell him to 'next time', he will happily go away.  Never does he pester anyone for money.  He gets a lift wherever he wants to, simply because everyone around here knows him to be a simple guy with absolute nothing more than mere humanity! If none offer him a lift he is happy to walk all the way, singing away! He has an interesting hobby: collecting bits of newspaper with ladies photos, mostly movie actresses.

At times I wonder, how fortunate I am in comparison with Chiranjeevi and at times I feel humbled that he is more human than I. I suppose, these are all God's own ways to remind us of the blessings He bestows on us and which we most often take for granted. 

Friday, 14 December 2012

Parents' Day

We have with us in the community for the next two days, the parents of most of the final year students. The annual Parents' day got postponed to coincide with our community Christmas celebrations, on the eve of our departure for Christmas holidays.  As in the past two years, it is a real pleasure to have the parents, to spend time chatting with them and getting to know them in their grounded reality.

This year round, I slightly changed to mode of this gathering, in order to help us achieve, what I considered the primary motive of this unique celebration: Involve the parents in the formative process.  So I replaced the usual conference 'to' the parents with an interactive session 'with' the parents.  I know not how it will turn out tomorrow but nothing like trying.

I have several reasons for trying out this change:

  • There is so much we need to learn from our own parents, before we start searching for the same in books and other resources.  Therefore instead of lecturing them, why not learn from them, sitting with them! 
  • In families, the vocation strategy is not discussed, leave alone considered worth a thought... for 'it' is considered the duty of the formation staff. 
  • Parents sometimes have a very weird motive of encouraging their wards to continue their consecrated life. 
  • For some parents, all that they want is a "Priest" - the son, our beloved seminarian, unconsciously imbibes this and is so convinced that he wants to be one at any costs!  

Let me see how the resource person handles this session tomorrow. If it does not work out to my satisfaction, I would gladly take it upon myself, the next time.


Youth trends?

I had the fortune of attending a pre-Christmas celebration at one of our neighbouring college.  It is basically a hindu college of which our Brothers are students for their B.A. course. The staff are very cordial and respect us very very much. They were keen that we come for their Christmas celebrations last year.  However, we declined and to avoid that we said that 'next year' we'd animate it.  True to our 'excuse' they caught us this time and asked us to come and animate the celebration.

Fr Wilson was very highly excited about the whole thing. Somehow I was not so worked up by this invitation for I knew that they really didn't mean - and want - a real celebration. All that they were keen was the entry of another celebration in their chronicles and photo album. However, Fr Wilson asked me to give a message during the programme.  I had half a mind to animate the gathering rather than put up some performance.  However, since Fr Wilson took lead, I let him organise the programme and consented to give the message only.

My fears came true when there were just a handful of youngsters - mostly girls - who came up to the college auditorium for the celebrations.  I know not what happened to the hundreds of other students.  Were they told not to attend, or they were not informed about this celebrations (but the speakers really blasted the whole programme loud enough for all in the vicinity!) or is it that the youngsters were not keen in any such 'new' thing at all.  The last reason is my worst fear, namely that young people here are not so enthusiastic about learning something new.  They are more than happy with their own lifestyle dictated mostly by idleness and gossip.  Anything out of the way is not appreciated.  (Even for that matter, keeping my own Brothers happy about food is not a very big challenge, I discovered - consult them prior to the celebrations and provide those items as menu, for their list does not ever go beyond the usual tried and 'tasted' - chicken, fish, ice cream!)

John of the Cross, the Reformer

Today we commemorate the feast of St John of the Cross, a mystic who was specially called to reform the Carmelite order.  Knowing his life story offers a real challenge to all religious and consecrated persons of today.  In spite of all the hardships, misunderstandings and humiliations he underwent - that too for doing right! - he never gave up the path of being a reformer. Add to that the mystical dimension of his spirituality. That certainly would have added enough confusion to the already 'disturbed normalcy'.

I wonder how many of us would have the courage, patience and humility to take up a challenge, such as that of John of the Cross.  I also believe, he had to transform himself prior to spearheading the reform of his own religious order.  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Monday, 10 December 2012

Exaggeration?

Here's today's dose (courtesy: Fr T.V. Jose):
One guy to another: That dog is as big as a calf.
The other: I've told you six million times not to exaggerate!

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Words and meanings

There is a beautiful scene towards the end of the movie The Miracle Worker, portraying the life of Helen Keller and her teacher, Anne Sullivan.  Little Hellen, portrayed very well by Hallie Kate Eisenberg, is being literally 'tortured' by her teacher, to get beyond the easy way of life and see the depth of meaning that lies behind words and language.  The moment Hellen 'utters' the word 'water', Anne knows that she has tasted the meaning behind the word.  From then on, it is a roller-coaster ride.  Anne does not need to teach, for Hellen begins to learn.

Words gain importance not for the sound or the space they occupy but for the meaning they generate - or not.  Till then they are just sounds.  How blessed are we if we grasp the meaning of what we hear.  Most often, we barely grasp the meaning of words we hear, leave alone, of all the sounds that fall on our ear.  With regard to my Brothers here, I have a feeling that they already have a limited stock of meanings in their head and are very happy rotating those few meanings and every sound they hear, they attach the closest meaning they can or probably do some gambling and pick some meaning at random.  Or is it that they, like Hellen have not really tasted the beauty of meaning and depth? 

Meditation

These past few days I've been reviewing my own prayer life and one thing that certainly stands out as most evident is that I never really reaped the full benefits of my daily meditation.  Perhaps, that is because I never learnt the real method nor was I interested in it.  Prayer itself, though has come to mean more than before, still remains mostly a monologue.

Coming back to Meditation, most often it is time for dozing - or even snoring! For the rest of the times, I basically spend it in more or less the same manner as I do for personal prayer.  However, this whole 'lethargy' during mediation was quite sharply addressed by Fr Fermin D'Souza SJ.  During one of his talks he cited an analogy saying, if after a very long and tiring day, a good friend of mine comes to me and says that he has something to speak to me about, what do I do?  Would I say not now and turn him away or do I make time for him?  If I do make time for him, will I give him a listening ear or doze through his sharing?  I doubt so.  I certainly would pay attention to him, even if he is not speaking much - basically because he is my friend and if he has something to share it is something that I need to pay heed to.

Why then do I easily doze off or sleep royally during meditation?  The answer could be as simple as, Jesus is not yet my friend! 

Jesus Christ the Mystic

I finished correcting the class test papers of my third year students of Philosophy of Religion. Not very many amusing things this time round... however, there was this one answer to make up for everything else:
Name a Christian Mystic.
Jesus Christ
Now I cannot call that a 'mistake'. 

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Passion and Courage

My goodnight to the community this evening was about having a passion in life and the courage to live up to it.  Citing the example of Malala Yousafzai, the fearless 15-year old, Pakistani girl child education advocate, I challenged myself and the community to introspect and see if this one girl can take on the whole of Taliban, purely inspired and goaded by her love for studies and education, how much more can we - who claim to be 'called by God' - achieve.  The basic difference between Malala and myself is that she is determined to get her education, her right to a better future (and that of others like her) and she has the courage to face whatever it takes to fulfill this dream of hers; I, on the other hand, am rather satisfied with what I have and basically no fire, no blaze scorching my heart and mind, driving me towards something (anything?) noble and worth dying for. 

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Creating Advent

We are again into another Advent!  It is surprising how fast things move.  It is almost two months since we commenced our second semester and we are already at the threshold of the mid-half of it. Another two full months and the Philosophical part of the academic curriculum would be over.

Anyway getting back to the Advent season, I am still to chalk out my journey.  With the Seminary Day behind me, I can truly breathe easy.  A couple of other programmes along the way and the year is practically over.  However, as I was reading the circular letter of the Provincial of Guwahati, I was struck by the opening paragraph of the same.  Speaking of entering Advent, leaving behind another liturgical year, Fr V.O. Thomas (the Provincial) beautifully states, "... that future is not something we enter but something we create.  We can fear the future or we can tap into our resources, trust in God and create our future."

Beautiful and challenging indeed!

Obsessed with faces

Very many of us are obsessed with a face, with a complete figure of who we want to see.  Take for example, my Brothers, some of whom I gave the whole backdrop design for the Seminary Day. Along with the text there was also a picture - just an outline or sketch - of Jesus with His disciples.  Come the last day, on the backdrop I see a Jesus with a face and cassock and red sash and all the disciples in colourful attire, each with a distinctive face!  My picture had none of it - yet anyone viewing that picture would not hesitate a bit to say that it is Jesus and His disciples.

While I was in the Provincial house, I remember designing an Easter meal invitation for some guests, one of whom was a retired Mandal Revenue Officer (MRO). The invitation contained a picture - again one without all the facial features clearly etched out - of the risen Lord.  This particular gentleman could not understand how could this be called an invitation without the face of Jesus clear ('He does not have eyes or a nose!' is what he exclaimed).

Perhaps when the inside is empty, the outside needs to complement it; but if the  inside is 'insightful' and the heart sees, even a simple line speaks volumes! 

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

A Radical Plan?

Today was the first day of the opening session of the Provincial Chapter VIII (PC 8).  Though termed as the preparatory session, it all the same is basically the same work.  At the end of the day (or as per the time now, quite early the next day!) I find it - as always - amusing and interesting at the same time.

Let me begin with the most insightful and touching moment of the day.  After two hours of discussion in groups, when the first group presented its synthesis of section on 'Mystics in the Spirit', the floor discussion made one point very very clear.  It all began with the observation made by Fr K. M. Sebastian, stating that there was hardly anything related to the spiritual or the mystical dimension in the whole section!  The culmination was when Fr E. J. Mathew stated (and all agreed, without any pretensions) that we Salesians are not seen as men of God by others and, we do not find ourselves to be men of God!

Well therefore, we already have a concrete and very 'radical' mission: Become Holy! Be Men of God and His people!

Monday, 26 November 2012

Give me patience, immediately!

Here's one earnest prayer said by one sincere devotee and as reported by Fr T.V. Jose:
Lord, give me lots of patience, immediately! 

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Integrity

For meditation yesterday I was reflecting on the one virtue that, if asked, I'd pick up over and above the rest. That would be INTEGRITY.  And that would stand for every aspect of my life being connected with each other, with each one being transparent and finally, collectively making a true picture of myself, primarily before God and myself.  

Christ the King

As I prepared myself for Mass this morning, I read the readings and was reflecting on the Kingship of Christ.  I found it quite difficult and irritating.  To look upon Jesus as a King and someone in 'power' was not very soothing or anywhere near inspiring.  The one thought that kept ringing in my mind was 'what about Christ the Prophet?' That never gets mentioned anywhere, any day!  The last Sunday of the liturgical year is dedicated to Christ the King; Maundy Thursday commemorates Christ the Priest.  What happened and where is Christ, the Prophet?

The only thought connected with Christ the King that made sense to me was that of surrendering one's will to Him (or better still, aligning one's own will to that of my Lord).  Apart from this surrender, the Kingship was a real distraction. 

Gravy Grace

A group of Sisters were being thoroughly trained by their Superior to play perfect hosts on the maiden visit of their Archbishop to their convent.  Naturally the young ones were quite nervous about the whole procedure.  When the Bishop arrived, (luckily he was one of the down-to-earth guys) he sat for meals and then asked the Sisters also to join him rather than everyone running around the table and him.  This was not something they were ready for.  Anyhow they began their meal ... but in stiff silence!  The Bishop tried to make them feel comfortable. One of the young ones trying to break the silence blurted, "Your Gravy, please pass the Grace!" 

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Leaves for clothing

While in Vizag for a day of purchasing (and wild-goose hunting) I was amused to see a sign board read:
Jockey: Clothing Mankind since 1917.
I was wondering what were people using till 1917?  Leaves?? 

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Love of Wisdom

The theme I chose for the Seminary Day and also the Jubilee celebrations is Love of Wisdom.  Being the philosophate, I thought this would be appropriate.  That indeed was the good reason; however, the real reason was that I wanted the Brothers to get the message prior to 'preaching' to someone (or everyone) else.  As always, the primary audience of my playlet are not the guests but the very actors and dancers and singers... the Brothers themselves.

The playlet is basically to convey the idea that the modern day temptations to religious and Priestly life are no more just the oft stated wine-wealth-women! I have my doubts if they genuinely were the reasons anytime at all.  The greater temptation is to fall for anything short of what each of us is called to be and do.  As consecrated persons we are primarily called to know, understand and be with Jesus.  Anything less than that is a failure of living out our vocation, however good that short-coming may produce or bring forth.

The 'foolish virgins' of today are those who fall for 'action' prior to commitment to Christ and Christ Himself; or those who choose to be satisfied doing 'some' good while being able and called to greater responsibilities.  The wise ones are those who discern their call and live up to it fully, to the best of their ability - not necessarily successfully ('cos that's not the point).  

Cost vs Value

The other day we were discussing the episode of Jesus being anointed by the sinner woman with the fragrant perfume and Judas intervening saying that it would have been better to sell the oil and give the money to the poor.  That Judas had his ulterior motives, is put in black and white.  However, the incident shows the emphasis of two persons in the same event.  Jesus looks at the value of a person while Judas is all about the cost of the thing. (I think the idea was propounded by Fulton J. Sheen).

Being the administrator I can very well relate to this observation made.  Often the cost of a material good decides the course of action rather than the value of the person involved in that interaction.  

The Donkey

An interesting analogy the preacher of our monthly recollection drew was about the donkey on which Jesus rode while entering Jerusalem for the last time.  He said that we are all like that donkey tied to a pole in a particular house.  Then the Lord asks for it, prior to his entry into Jerusalem.

"The Lord has need of it."

... from a particular house bound up with the domestic chores, to a public life witnessing Christ.  

Vocation, Motivation...

We had the monthly recollection this evening and the preacher spoke about loving and growing in one's vocation. He did say something very sensible and practical (though in a long and winding way).  One of the essential points he stressed on was the need to update one's motivation.  He stated that very many of us join the religious or Priestly life for very silly and petty reasons.  However, over the years of formation and study we need to upgrade our motivation and reasons for continuing what and where we are.  Quoting Mother Teresa he said that our true and ultimate vocation is to belong to Christ.

... couldn't have been a better timing when I'm trying to drive home a similar point (through the Seminary day playlet). 

Friday, 16 November 2012

Intoxicated by power

More than before, this year, I've been directly interacting with people who come for alms for all varied purposes - mostly genuine and urgent. Sifting their petitions and making decisions has not been an easy endeavour.  Yet something I observed in myself is this: the power of decision making, especially when the other is 'weak' and is expectantly looking up to you, is very very intoxicating.  The temptation to look down and feel elated is very hard to resist.  The feeling of being in authority, being in control and worse still, being better off than the other, offers a strange kind of high.  The tendency to preach and dole out advice is a direct outcome of such intoxication.

God help me! 

Thursday, 15 November 2012

Milk'n Reserve Bank

The latest addition to the exam (supplementary/repetition) blunders. This time from the English paper of the first years.  The section was to write one word substitutes for the given description.
Place where milk is processed:  Reserve Bank

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Being Truthful Inspires

This morning our b'fast talk ran into the canonization process of Mother Teresa. Fr Balaswamy said that her canonization process is facing some hurdles given her writings that are being scrutinised now.  In some of these Mother Teresa is to have expressed her great challenge and difficulty of finding Jesus in her daily works.  The rest of us at table found that ridiculous.  I was of the opinion that since she was so truthful, I am better able to relate to her, than if she were to write some pious quotations while within she was being troubled.  Going by the objects being aired, it is perhaps easier for an actor or actress - or better still, professional liars - to be canonized fast and easy, for they would certainly have nothing that would go against this whole process surface anywhere anytime!

During my theological studies, I remember disagreeing with my Professor (that too in the examination hall!) on the point of the letter to the Corinthians by St Paul being the best of his letters. The reason I cited was that I personally prefer St Paul of the Galatians for the letter was written when he was all enraged and discouraged - yet the letter stays on course. The one to the Corinthians was written and dispatched at a more relaxed time.

To sum it all, it is easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers.  

Children at their best

Commemorating Children's Day in India (Nov. 14), brings back to my mind something that happened while I was in Matunga in 2004.  Fr Ronnie (of happy memory) was the Rector and he loved being present in the primary section of Don Bosco School, Matunga, when children would come to the school in the mornings.  On one such morning, one of the small fellows ran up to him and said, "Fr, I saw your Mummy yesterday."  Fr Ronnie was certainly surprised.  So he asked the fellow where did he see her and what did she say.  The kid replied, "I saw her in Church and she was wearing the same dress you are wearing."

He had seen a Nun and taken for granted that she was Fr Ronnie's mother since Ronnie would always be present in the school in his cassock.  

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Generosity of Women

The Gospel of Sunday (November 11, 2012) which highlighted the generosity of the poor widow who poured in her little amount into the collection box but in the process earned the praise of the Master, struck me as something typical of women folk.  Add to that the reading of the same day: the widow offering to Prophet Elijah, the last bit of what was actually kept safe for her son and herself.  Again, a woman willing to offer the little she had for someone other than her own.  Both these women - and both were widows - had no guarantee that what they invested would ever return to them, leave alone earn them a profit!  Yet they were generous enough to give it away!

Jesus somehow presented these invaluable lessons of extreme sacrifice and trust through the instrumentality of women - He certainly knew the strength of a woman's soul! 

Youth Day 2012

On Sunday we had about 120 young people from the neighbouring villages and Parishes participating in an animation programme based on Trust /  Faith.  I was asked to animate the whole day but I declined for I wanted to guide the Brothers themselves (those who normally organise the day) to graduate from performing 'something' to animating the young with due and diligent preparation.  So I suggested that they have three sessions, one of which the Brothers animate, for which I would certainly help and guide.


I really found it much harder to get them do what they were supposed to do than doing it myself. However, today looking back on the day, I am more than happy.  The Brothers who slogged it out are much more happier than I.  All in all, I spent nearly 4 hours (collectively) with the two Brothers who were animating a 60 minute session. For a start it was great.  The two later came to share their rich experience going through the grind of it.  One of them, towards the end added, "I usually give a sermon every alternative week in my ministry place and I never found it very difficult or different.  But preparing for this programme was very very different, for I did not want to take chances with you!" Of course, he was really grateful and very elated.  

Fate of life

Compared to the previous years, this year the number of those who come to the Seminary seeking financial (or material) help, has been less.  Perhaps, I was not that observant earlier for Fr KT used to directly deal with all of them.  This year Fr Maliekal asked me to attend to all of those who knock on our door asking for help.  Interacting with them at different times, for different reasons and at varying lengths, I sometimes wonder how on earth some of them manage to survive!  Some truly are so plagued by illness that there is hardly any member of the family fit to work.  Some are rich indeed - rich in poverty and mired in debt!  There are others (especially the elderly) whom no one really cares about; not even their own children.

The other day there was a man who came along with his son, asking for some help to pay the school fees so that the boy could collect his hall ticket and write his half-yearly examinations. While speaking to him, I came to know that he was one of the masons who worked during the construction of the Seminary, especially the Chapel.  As I sat for prayer after meeting this father-son, I was thinking to myself: I have a safe and secure roof over my head and a beautiful Chapel to pray in - thanks to such as these men; and yet see the fate of life, he has to come asking for alms to the same place where he laboured.  Today he is an 'outsider' and I am the 'owner'!?? 

Liturgical amusement

The present Sacristan among the Brothers is a good guy - quite intelligent and very sensitive.  However, he tends to get lost in mystic thoughts and poems often.  Consequently one gets to see lots of 'action' these days, for invariably there is something forgotten or some misplaced item during the liturgical celebrations. As I watch all this with amusement, I imagine this particular Brother celebrating Mass, later on in years, and consecrating the paton - with no host in it!

I shared this thought of mine with the other staff members at table during supper tonight and Fr Wilson added something similar (which he already shared with the Brother himself).  He is sure, that the Brother, later on would consume the host much before consecration itself!

Let's see which of these comes true, if any at all! 

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Socratic wife?

Here's one answer from the supplementary exam of one of our students (the question was to write a few lines about Socrates):
Socrates was a man of Athens. He married a socratic woman.  

Friday, 9 November 2012

Faith that sustains

Teaching Philosophy of Religion to the third year students is a real challenge given the fact that most of them (us?) have such a narrow and shallow construct of God and Religion that they end up equating both and worse, that too to lowering the whole meaning of it to something so mean and idiotic that they'd die 'protecting' it - thinking that is something heroic!  I said this bluntly in class today and could vividly see that some were not too convinced of it.

In class today I challenged the Brothers to examine and see if their faith is so shallow and small that it runs the danger of being lost or washed off!  If so, I said, it better be uprooted - for then, you'd have the opportunity of sowing the seed of a genuine and sincere faith, that too if sincerely interested.  If not, one might as well carry on with one's broken and tattered belief, with no intention of strengthening it and thus turn fundamentalistic even without being aware of it or worse still, acknowledging it.

I believe my Faith is not something so feeble that I need to sustain it, rather it is the other way round, my faith is that which sustains me!  

That I teach or that they learn?

Last week I began classes for the second semester, in particular the most challenging subject this semester that I have on my hands is Philosophy of Religion.  Better prepared for it than any other subject, I found myself asking this question repeatedly: What is more important: that I teach or the students learn?

Hence rather than focus on my teaching I emphasize the students learn. Frankly speaking I need not teach but ensure that students learn well.  That would truly be an enriching experience for the students.  (For me too, for that would involve ways and means of getting them to do it, all by themselves without me 'wasting time' lecturing - which of course, is the easiest method of all)...   and in this whole process, all of us learn!

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Getting done vs doing it oneself

This Sunday we are organising the Youth Day for the youngsters of the neighbourhood.  I was asked to animate it but I politely declined because I wanted the Brothers themselves to learn to animate rather than watch and be mere recipients all the time. Now that is easier said than done!

As I guide the Brothers to prepare for the same I realise, it is far easier for me to do it myself than get someone else to do it.  I've to be calm and gentle with them because they are doing it for the first time: they are more frightened than excited about it.  I've to be careful not to trounce their ideas or suggestions for after all it is they who would be standing before the crowd and animating them.  However good my idea may be, I just cannot expect them to be at ease with it and if they are not comfortable with it, how can they pass on the message effectively to the youth.  Add to all of these, the time I got to spend with them - enormous!

Yet I got to do it, for I believe that is formation and guidance! 

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Mission Work or Escapism?

Only this evening I came to know that a confrere whom I know well has been transferred to another Province, an European one at that.  In plain political vocabulary it would certainly be nothing less than 'defected'.  Really surprising - actually, 'embarrassing' - was the reason cited for this 'defection'.  I know that things in the Province have not been very rosy or inspirational, if one may say so.  However that does not mean, that one just takes off - that too when one has been given the opportunity to better equip oneself and return to the Province!  Another trend in the Province has been that people opt for the 'missions' when they no longer feel comfortable here at home!  I have no doubts they'd be no better than what they are here; leave alone do any 'mission work'.

Anyway, I know not all and every reason behind this rather sad news. So I'd better not jump to conclusions. Whatever it be, I hope we continue to give our best to the world of youth, wherever it may be, while being true to our commitment and vocation.  I suppose, God knows best. 

Heart and Mind

The mind prefers to live in the past and is often lost in a maze of the bygone. On the contrary, the heart wants to live in the present.  It is in the here and now that the heart seeks to know who and what we are.  This collective tussle between the heart and the mind determines who and what we are.  Neither can we live only in the past - then we'd be as good as dead - nor can we live only in the present, then every moment we would be living afresh, with no anchor or foothold.

In simple terms, I suppose I'm reminding myself of the balance between feelings and ideas, something of what I learnt in the last week while in Mumbai. 

Monday, 5 November 2012

Evaluation

We, the Council members of the Seminary, have been sitting for the evaluation of the Brothers for the past five days.  To follow a certain format, we would list some of the positive aspects of the Brother under discussion and then offer some points for improvement.  (Of course, this is not in the presence of the Brother; the points listed would later be communicated to the concerned individual before sending it to their respective authorities.)

At times, we would not have anything to say about a particular Brother.  It is just that we have nothing! It made me feel ashamed because, I certainly had a long list of things that I want him to improve but after five months of living together I had not observed anything positive in him.

Another thing that kept tugging at my heart was that most often we were evaluating or judging a particular student from their academic performance.  While I do have to say that this phase of formation is geared towards intellectual formation, I still felt hesitant to believe that academic performance was perhaps the most or the only success indicator.  

Rain fest

With the rains that have kept us indoors for the past three days, our lake is full and overflowing... This is perhaps the first time in several years that the lake is overflowing.  The lower portion of our farm is all submerged and is most likely to be under water for another two weeks or so.  Our well, which is situated at the lowest point in the campus, is full, so full that one can collect water with one's bare hands, that too standing in chest-deep water!  However our building has taken a bad beating.  Due to the constant rains, the leaks have increased and in some places water keeps appearing all day and night!

However, when I remember the poor of the area, I cannot even utter a word of complain about our residence.  While I'm looking at the leaks, I'm sure very many in the neighbourhood would be searching for places where it was not leaking to spend the night, sitting - keeping oneself and the family dry and safe from all sort of creatures that get one gets to see in such rainy weather.

About a week ago there came a lady asking for some financial help to fix their main door (the only door of their house) which collapsed due to the incessant rains and the white-ants.  I had then asked her to come this Monday.  I wonder how she and her daughter (only two of them at home) made it through this depression.  

Exam humour

I happened to meet one of the staff members just finishing correcting his share of answer papers of the last semester exams.  Here's something that I found too 'insightful'...
Q: Name two works of St Augustine (as part of the subject on Medieval Western Philosophy)
A: St Augustine worked for the hippo people. 
The opening lines of the letter, from the English answer paper of one of the students who was supposed to write a letter to his Bishop...
His Existence ... 

Thursday, 1 November 2012

Marriage woes, even otherwise

Being the first of the month, I distributed the salaries for the staff and did spend quite some time talking to them just about anything.  One of the main points for discussion or you might call it a debate was the point of dowry, marriages and caste system.  I was surprised to hear from the kitchen staff that not only is dowry given away when a daughter is married off, the parents of the girl have also to give a portion of the dowry for the boys' sister, if any!  That would be to say that the bride's family has to pay not only money for the bride but also for her new sister-in-law!  Gosh!

And if there are a couple of marriages in the villages, everyone - literally, everyone! - in the village, and more especially those closely related to the families are all bankrupt that month.  Reason: the gift they OUGHT to offer at the wedding function.  This is kept record of and when there is a marriage in the visitors family, the one now receiving has to pay something MORE than what was given to them!  And so if there are more than 4 wedding functions that a family has to attend in a month, the 'gift' would drain their whole month's salary! And if there is a fifth one, they'll borrow and 'gift' the amount!  While the staff resented this whole procedure, none would try to break this vicious circle - all for fear of what 'they would say'.  ... the same rationale is given for all matters concerning inter-caste marriages, dowry, girl-child atrocities.

Having heard, spoken and debated with them at length, I only said aloud, "Thank God, I was not born in Gollalapalem (their village), and not as a female!"

Symphony

The feast day of all the saints can very well be celebrated as a day of Symphony.  True to the characteristics of an orchestra playing a symphony, all the saints put together offer a very rich mosaic of what God is capable of doing in and through the lives of people who are open to His directives.  Different musical instruments play different notes at varied intervals, which individually may or may not stand out, but when played in unison, produce a beautiful symphony.  So too all the - canonised and non-canonised - Saints, together in their own way produce a beautiful symphony of love, service and commitment to God and His people. 

Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Building Bridges

Bridge-builders, including Jesus, usually start building a bridege from one side.  You can't build a bridge from the middle as even an engineer will tell you.  You must choose a starting point. What the Gospel is saying, pure and simple, is that wherever you're going to start building  your bride, you better start from the side of powerlessness, not power.  Because if you start on the side of power you'll stay there forever. You really won't build any bridges.  
[An extract from Jesus' Plan for a New World, p. 68].

That's quite a revelatory and challenging thought for ministers of today.  Very true given the fact that there are no neutral positions when it comes to discipleship and commitment. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Journey back home

I'm just back in my room after a 30 hour train journey.  Travelling back from Mumbai to Vizag by Konark Express was a humbling experience.  My ticket was still in waiting list and by the time I reached the station and the chart was prepared it had only managed to crawl upto WL 8. Well, I had reached the station prepared: water bottles, newspaper and of course some study of the reservation chart stuck at the train entrances. Till Pune there was hardly anyone in my compartment.  At Pune it got filled in to its capacity. The ticket collector would not even look at my ticket to let me know what the present status was, once told that it 'was' wait listed!

Anyway once people had gone off to sleep, I calmly pulled out the newspaper, spread them out and went off to sleep on the floor. I had a very good sleep, except for an occasion, kick or stamp from some. I woke up at 6.30 fresh and good!   Sometime just before lunch, a kind gentleman offered me his side upper berth to rest.  He was watching me all along and somehow seemed convinced that I was an honest chap. (Praise God!).

I had certainly counted on the generosity of my co-passengers even before I had boarded the train.  Fr Elson had offered help to try and get my ticket confirmed.  But somehow I did not want to cut the line - precisely because, I was fine, I had no lugguage and I was in no hurry. I somehow had the feeling that someone more in a desperate need would need this 'jump' up the waiting list... I hope they did.

My copassengers were very polite and accommodative.  They never grumbled nor squabbled but very generously shared the available space.  Though the train was fully packed I never heard anyone fight or agrue over their place. Something really humbling and consoling, given that I was trespassing their (rightful owners) grounds. Anyway, thanks to God and to all! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grace and prayer

One thing of grace and prayer was evident today - not that I did not know it earlier, it only became more clearer!  With grace we believe all things are possible and that prayer can bring about anything, anything at all.  Well, certainly no!  Grace only adds on what you already have.  Grace does not go against nature but builds on it.  It helps the person make the most of our nature. It is just like manuring a coconut tree and expecting it to yield jackfruit!  A well manured coconut tree will yield good fruit, yes but coconuts and not any other fruit.  It will make the tree strong, sturdy and produce better yield but certainly not make it into baniyan tree!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Animated prayer

For the past three days, the animator has been guiding our meditation and also conducting a prayer session or two, during the day too. Not used to being "lectured" all through the prayer or meditation, most of us participants found the animators instructions or guidance more of a nuisance that a help.  Of course, given our nature, and style of prayer, it would have been our drawback as well.  Poor man, he was only trying to offer some alternative for which we were really not prepared and willing.

However, personally speaking, I'd prefer a brief note of observation and just a couple of instructions prior to prayer rather than a steady flow of discourse. 

Writing exercises...

As part of the programme we were attending, the animator would ask us to write short reviews of the topic under discussion.  Most often it would be about prayer or aspects related to our unconscious self.  Added to that he would expect us to follow the format he had earlier prescribed (replete with single and double underlines).  Most of the time, I would be writing something that caught my attention rather than the expected review.  It was at these times that I would remember my own Brothers who would at times do the same, namely write something that is totally unconnected and unrelated to the asked questions or topic discussed.  That is primarily because they neither understood the question nor the theme, leave alone the professor. In my case, this time round, it was the same!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Handling feelings

Towards the end of the morning session, Ramesh asked an interesting question to the animator.  The theme was negative feelings like anger, revenge, hatred, sadness... He asked, "Do these issues which seem to plague us religious, also trouble the lay people?" He had a point in asking this question, namely that the lay people do not seem to be very much troubled by these aspects; whereas for us religious these really make or break our lives!

Reflecting on that question I would say that the issues we face are all the same - religious or not - for after all, we are human beings.  However, why is it a married couple somehow has the grace to live their  trouble marital life in a rather decent manner, while we make such a mess for everyone - including ourselves - in religious life?  Perhaps because we have the best of everything and hence the inability to see God's hand in what we go through.  Lay people are willing to see that because they believe and trust in God more than we do!  

Negative Feelings or helpful feelings?

During the morning session, among the many things the animator of our course spoke, something that caught my attention was this:  We always wish to get rid of all our negative feelings, those things that indicate the deeper pain and hurt.  And the best part is that these negative aspects of our emotions shield us from real danger.  Aspects like anger, fear, sadness, pain ... are all aspects which are there to 'protect the psyche'.

The animator was saying that this is the curse of our 'drug culture', wherein we would like to do away with anything painful or hurting.  We really do not bother to go to the deeper issues which cause these feelings.  We are quite happy to clean up these feelings rather than address the causes that give rise to these feelings.  Worse is when we rationalise or spiritualize these aspects and shove them off the radar (or so we think!).  

Recalling 2003

Last night, the 16 of us Salesian Brothers from the three provinces of Mumbai, Panjim and Hyderabad attending the animation programme at the Provincial house, Matunga, invited ourselves to the school community for supper.  I was indeed glad to meet some of the non-teaching staff of the school - the same who were there when I was part of that community in 2003.  I did remember their names and they too remembered me by my name!  The supper, of course, was in typical Matunga style!

There was also the annual past pupils garba dance going on in the square below.  I watched it for some time and then came back.  Of course, it was all colourful and packed!  These photos were clicked before I began supper - there was still some ground that could be seen.  After supper there was hardly any place for dance!


At Don Bosco, Matunga

Here's the view of the Shrine building and the cupola - the one over the sanctuary and the one over the entrance too - of the Shrine at Matunga (Mumbai) from my room's window.

No escape!

The batch of Sisters who attended the course with our animator, prior to this present course with us, would have landed straight from the moon.  For every half an hour our animator quotes them and all the good that happened with them.  At times, it sounds so silly and mediocre that it puts me off from hearing what he is saying next.

Added to that he repeats his ideas so many times that even if I were to miss it at first or the tenth time, I'm sure he'll get me at least on the 60th time!  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Doing things better

Today's morning session was on helping us identify fears that cripple us, incessantly and of course, adversely.  I could identify none.  Luckily the animator let a few, like me, to take off for the session.  As the programme progresses, I realise this sort of stuff is not easy and the neither are we Salesians (without due information and personal preparation) ready for it.  Added to that the odd ways of the animator too is making things worse. Given the nature of our fellows, I will not be surprised if he gets disheartened or too angry in the next couple of days.  (He already blew his steam a couple of times already;  but that is turning the whole thing into a comedy).

I wish to do things in a better way, but as of now (exactly now) I'm doing better things (outside the hall)!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Identifying feelings

We began the five-day animation programme for the Brothers of the three provinces of Mumbai, Panjim and Hyderabad today at Matunga.  The first day was very packed... more intense than the retreat I attended last week.  Anyway, let me see what I can draw out of it. While I'm here I also need to sort out the issues regarding the next Brothers' Congress and related stuff which I've been asked to oversee.

Today's sessions were basically a call to focus on our feelings, and not hide or take shelter in our ideas and thoughts.  Using the Esop's fable of the fox and the grapes, the animator was trying to help us delve into our inner beings, to spell our feelings rather than quote our theories and thoughts. As part of it, we were asked to trace the source(s) of any one of our physical illnesses.  I really was struggling!

One thing is sure, I'm no 'feeling-person'; I certainly do feel safe in the world of thoughts and ideas!  

Small frying pan

Two fishermen, one experienced and another inexperienced, went for fishing one day.  Whenever the former caught a big fish, he would immediately stash it up in his cool box to keep it fresh. But whenever the inexperienced one caught a big one, he'd throw it back in the river.  This went on practically the whole day and when the experienced fisherman could stand it no longer, he asked the other the reason for his throwing away the big fish.  The inexperienced replied, "I only have a small frying pan."

The man did not have the sense to either cut the big fish or get a bigger frying pan.  In our lives too we often shrink the world to fit our petty ideas without even attempting to see the bigger picture. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bread & fish vs Bread & wine

One interesting fact pointed out by the author, Richard Rohr in his book Jesus' Plan for a New World, is the overshadowing of the 'bread and fish' tradition by the 'bread and wine' tradition.

According to Rohr, the bread and fish meal stood for surplus (everytime Jesus multiplied bread and fish or there was fish involved, there always was a surplus of it, even after a mass consumption).  Secondly such meals involved the poor and hungry, not those already fulfilled, those who really came for Him and did not think of food and drink and all that - for such as these, He multiplied bread and fish. Thirdly, this meal was always an open meal - out in the open, under the blue sky, in the open fields, along the sea shore (I don't remember all the Biblical references, but I know there are).  Everyone was welcome - everyone!  Not just a select few or privileged ones.  Given these factors, I wonder how this was superseded by the one-time 'bread and wine' meal.  Of course, the bread and wine meal has a personal touch - Jesus says it is HIS body and blood that He is sharing.  Perhaps a combination of all these positive aspects would help us get a better picture of the 'Eucharist'.

And here's what Rohr has to say about the two meals:
The bread and wine tradition lent itself more to cult and ritualization. The bread and fish tradition, if retained, might have contributed to issues of justice, community and social reordering.  
Well, he has a point there. 

Three temptations

Again another insight from the book Jesus' Plan for a New World, especially in the light of what is happening back in my own community (with respect to my own role - or absence of it) and my own reflection on the Preventive System of Don Bosco, which was the theme of the retreat I attended last week...
These three demons are in all of our lives: the need to be effective, the need to be right and the need to be powerful or in control.  Until those demons have been faced and exorcised you will very likely not preach the Gospel; you will preach your own self.  (118)

Christ the Prophet

For the first time yesterday during my journey from Hyderabad to Mumbai, I was reading a book in the train.  Earlier times, I always used to doze off, as soon as the train rolled out of the station.  This time round, I guess, I had sufficient and enough rest in the retreat time and I was quite fresh.  Moreover, I had slept well the previous night - something I wouldn't when I knew a journey was to follow.

While in the train I was reading the book Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount by Richard Rohr.  The early part of the book already gives a clear picture of the author's mind.  The latter half of the book is mostly an exegesis of the Gospel of Mathew.  However, there are quite some insights offered all along.  Among the many that I came across, I found the following quite true.  The author in several ways challenges us to get back to the original Jesus, the pre-Church Jesus, the one who dared and most often went against the established system for the sake of truth and love.  This one is about how we have lost that aspect in the modern days.  Recalling our attention to the triple dimension of Christ (as King, Priest and Prophet), the author has this revealing point to make:
I always wondered why we had feast days and institutions named in honour of Christ the King, many statues and crosses of Christ the Priest, but I have never in all the Catholic world met a celebration or picture in honour of Christ the Prophet.  Something's out of balance. (129). 
I did something to see how true it is (not that it needed confirmation, but for information!): I googled (images) 'Christ the Prophet'.  Surprisingly there was anything hardly fitting the description. As in reality, difficult to even visualize something so earthly and basic.   

No chairs

Being Mission Sunday, the Gospel of the day was about James and John asking Jesus for special privileged places in 'His' Kingdom.  I had the joy of attending Mass in the Shrine of Madonna, Matunga - a place where I spent one beautiful year (about 8 years ago).  Coming back to the Shrine and attending Mass brought back to my mind those lovely memories and some of those incidents.  The one that came most vividly to my mind was that of Fr Ronnie, my Rector who passed away just a few weeks ago. God rest his soul.

Anyway, speaking about the apostles asking for special places in the kingdom, Jesus answers, "Surely. Why not? You certainly can be on my right and my left." And after a short pause adds, "However, one small thing I need to add. There are no chairs up there!"  

Friday, 19 October 2012

For a reason

Click here to view the original file
Everything happens for a reason, eh? Read on! 

Sachin's greatness

For quite some time now Sachin Tendulkar (a name that needs no introduction, or a web link), has been in the news for different and varied reasons.  There were some rumour mills doing the round about his retirement (some for it and some, obviously against).  Now there is the whole talk about him being awarded the Order of Australia. Amidst all these, whatever be the case, I do appreciate the equanimity of this person, the phenomenon called 'Tendulkar'.

He has, as always, retained his composure, his focus and his values.  Being a celebrity he certainly does not act like one (at least like the most we know).  Very many people blame him for overshadowing the game of cricket. Well is it his fault that he plays well and that too selflessly for so many years?  One certainly cannot hold that against him.

Everyone, especially those in the limelight, be it in politics or movies or sports, can take a cue from this simple Indian who keeps his head and heart in the right place.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Parish or a Prison?

In Jesus' time there were no parishes, just private homes (and of course, the synagogues). And these homes defined the social order of the day geographically (as is prevalent even today in most parts of the world). Jesus to convey his message had no boundaries and so any home with the possibility of sowing the seeds of the Kingdom was fine with him.  But this did not go well with those in authority and perhaps everyone. He went in and out of houses, for various reasons, houses belonging to the apostles (simple fisher folk), the tax collectors ('traitors'), Pharisees (religious leaders), friends (Lazarus), Chief Priests ...

However, once the Church was established and the Parish structure stabilised, Jesus has been held captive! Neither is he permitted to visit 'other' houses (and I certainly do not mean other parishes, but any house where his presence could make a difference) nor do we move out ourselves.  This could very well be applied to every Christian institution.  The very structure we built to widen our reach has become our prison.  

Don Bosco also wrote!

Of the talks presented today, a point that struck me was something that the preacher stated in passing:  that Don Bosco authored 26 books by the year 1855.  Well, I'm sure they are not some researched thesis that he wrote but could very well contain some booklets.  What caught my attention was that Don Bosco had time - and energy - or rather, made time and spared energy, in spite of and through his heavy and demanding responsibilities, to write and publish books.  Certainly there was no advanced technology or gadgetry or even spare personnel to assist him in this endeavour, so I guess, he had to write, get it corrected, edited and also published all by himself.  All this while he is also running around the street kids of Turin, starting and stabilising the oratory of Valdocco, battling eclesial and civil opponents, seeing to the administration of the trades and daily running of the oratory ... (add to that a million more things!).

And we claim we are too busy to read and write!

Salesian stone age!

For the past few days, since the retreat began, we have had a steady and heavy doze of Salesian stuff basically through the retreat talks (two per day), besides the constant reference to it during the meditation, sermons and goodnights.  Frankly speaking there was anything really new or fresh insight shared besides the ones already present in the books of Teresio Bosco and Peter Stella or even Braido (I wouldn't know if there were some things shared from Arthur Lenti's voluminous works, for I haven't ready any of them myself).

However, I was surprised to hear some of the observations and comments made by some senior Salesians when presented with some de-mystifying facts of Don Bosco and the Salesian charism, which have been in discussion or at least on paper for quite some time now.  Seems to me, they are hearing it for the first time now - and hence, the 'reaction', if one may call it so. No wonder, there is a constant call from those sensible to read and update, at least of our own charism!  

Prayer as life

The morning's meditation talk was centred on prayer.  Fr Maria Charles did try to tread the thin line of hallucination and devotion and try to make prayer as something that helps us come and accept reality rather than treat prayer as a ticket to another utopian world.  Listening to him and his examples from the life of Don Bosco, I was thinking to myself, prayer often is something so compartmentalised in my life. It is something that is normally restricted to the chapel or in times of need.  I do believe that prayer affects life, but does prayer become life itself?  Perhaps that is what differentiates us from stalwarts like Don Bosco.  If only I can pray all the time and I certainly don't mean sitting in the chapel with my eyes closed and hands joined.  If only I can commune with God always rather than make Him an occasional visitor in my busy schedule.  

Sign of things to come?

Last night Fr Jayapaul and myself were watching Br Dennis drag himself with his walker along the corridors of the Provincial house doing his night walk after night prayers.  Every now and then he would pause to catch his breath and to give some rest to his aching legs.  Watching him from the third floor, Fr Jayapaul was a bit angry saying, "As it is he is struggling with every possible disease and added to that his delicate legs. Why then does he have to eat all that he comes across on the table and then do all this exercise?"

Well, I just smiled.  Later as I reached my room I was wondering what state we would be in when we'd reach his age (of 73).  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Johnny Bosco, a street urchin?


What was the possibility of little Johnny Bosco turning into a street urchin of his times?  (I'm sure there were plenty of them all over the place in the cities running around and getting into all sorts of mischief.) Well, the possibility?  Certainly great.  Just a cursory glance at his difficult early childhood reveals enough and more reasons why Johnny could have ended up on the streets: father dies when Johnny is just two, the step brother is always breathing heavy on him, the dire poverty of his family, just a ramshackle for a house, no one to support the family,  discouragement and despair at all fronts...

Yet, in spite of all these negative circumstances, little Bosco turns out to be the beacon of hope and transformation for the very group he would have easily ended up being a member of.  How did this little life take that U-turn?  Certainly one cannot deny the role of his mother, Mamma Margaret and her disciplinary upbringing. Add to that the inspirational guidance of Fr Colosso.  Top it all, with the resolve of this young lad to make something of his life and his openness to the Divine... his willingness to be led by Jesus and Mother Mary.

I'm sure the Divine is enlightening each one of us too every moment of our life.  Wish I was more open to this Divine illumination.

Farms hands vs gadgets!

Here at the Provincial house, Hyderabad the confreres have installed a biometric unit for the staff of the house to register their time of arrival and departure from the house for their daily work.  Every morning and evening, invariably there is always a sort of anxiety among the staff as I have seen it in the past three days.  For the office staff there isn't much of a problem. The put in their finger exactly and the machine instantly recognises the print.  It is the farm hands who really have to slog it out with the machine.  A couple of them still seem new to using it and secondly, but most importantly, their hands are so callous that the machine seems not to identify the person!

So much for machines making life easier for us! 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Biased?


Today is the second day of the retreat.  Yesterday itself was quite a drag and hence right after the first talk in the morning, I switched the preacher!  I had brought with me the book Jesus' Plan for a New World (by Richard Rohr) and given the situation that the preacher of the retreat was merely reading full time some theological and Salesian facts, I fell back to the book for inspiration and reflection.  Nothing against the person of the preacher and I know that he is a very capable man wanted all over the region for his expertise, however, I feel this talks very dry and drab.

As if that was not enough, the Rector of the retreat, soon after the goodnight tonight asked me to say a few words of thanks to the Preacher and the Provincial house community at the end of the retreat!  I was praying that no one asks me to do that for then I'd be forced to lie about the preacher in public (at least say what I am not convinced of).  Anyway, I ultimately accepted when after much persuasion, the Rector told me this:
There is still time, perhaps there may be something good waiting along the way for you!  
Well, I certainly would like to leave that possibility very much open!

Jesus' freedom


Having read the passage from the book of Richard Rohr, I spent my adoration time this evening trying to figure out what was the freedom Jesus' enjoyed during this lifetime here on earth.  He constantly referred to God as the one whose commands and wishes he was fulfilling.  He never once claimed to be doing things on his own accord, much less in conflict with the Father.  Was he then a mere puppet in the hands of the Father?

Certainly not!  He would have been a puppet if he did everything he did merely because the Father wanted it.  He truly and fully exercised his freedom in choosing to do the will of the Father. For him that was the best way he could utilise and live his freedom.  He choose to do what his father wanted him to do.  And that made all the difference.

Apparently seems paradoxical, that surrender should be the greatest means of living out one's freedom but sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, I couldn't but believe it.

Need working space and liberties?


Whenever we embark on a new initiative we always make sure that it will not die an instant death.  We would ensure that there are sufficient resources, facilities, personnel and whatever it takes to makes sure that we do not fail.  Add to that the fact that we would like to do things our way.  We expect the superiors to be kind to us (since we are on a pioneering mission), understand us and have an extra soft corner for us.

Contrast this with the working style of Jesus:
Our notion of freedom as options and movement is a pleasant luxury, but not what Jesus is seeking when he goes into the desert, when he seems to limit himself in terms of family, marriage and a place to “lay his head”, when he even accepts the limitations of a short ministry among uneducated people at a low period of religion in a country occupied by a foreign oppressor! That is not much freedom by our definition, but more than enough for him to say “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17: 21). 
[Richard Rohr Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Mumbai: St Pauls, 2009) 28.]

The same God?


For the goodnight thought, Fr Selvaraj was sharing his vocation story. Emphasising the fact that he was the only son in the family, he remembered the pressure upon him from his near and dear ones of joining the diocesan seminary instead of a religious congregation so that in the future he could support his parents in their old age.  He mentioned a relative Priest who tried in vain to dissuade him from joining the religious order and then took up the matter with Selvaraj's father. After a long presentation of pros and cons (evidently pros of diocesan life and cons of religious life), Fr Selvaraj's father asked the Priest one simple question:
Will it be the same God who is now, later too?  
The Priest had no reply to this question.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Who is in charge?


During his homily this evening, Thathi said something insightful. I'm sure he was hinting at something very practical and concrete rather than saying something for the sake of saying.  Talking of youth ministry and Don Bosco's style he highlighted two points.  First of all, he said that Don Bosco took the first step towards the boys. He did not sit and wait for the boys to approach him or come to the place where he was.  He reached out to them in their own situations.  He encountered the boys in their contexts and this encounter was so meaningful that they would then flock to him.  However, the fact to be noted: he initiated every encounter.

The second aspect was something that caught my attention. Thathi said, once boys were with him, he trusted them and entrusted them responsibilities.  Know not if Don Bosco had a sort of fear if the boys would live up to the demands he was placing on them, but he certainly did share and entrust all that he started to them.

That got me thinking: Are we training our young people to take charge or do we act and behave in such a way that we remain 'in charge' always? If so, then boys will always be boys. No leadership or transformation is possible because we will always treat them as kids and look at ourselves as the sole visionaries and custodians of their well being.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Teresa vs Teresa

Our neighbouring parish is celebrating its feast today. St Teresa of Child Jesus is the patroness of the Parish (the actual feast was on October 2). Talking about the Saint, Fr Maliekal recounted an interesting conversation he had a couple of years ago with the vocation promoter of the Carmelite Sisters, to whose order St Teresa belonged.  The Sister seems to have said, speaking about the vocation coming in and going out...
The little Teresa with all her innocence and simplicity brings the girls in and the big Teresa (referring to St Teresa of Avila) with her interior castle and all that stuff frightens the girls out of the convent!  
That was really interesting. However the Sister had a point:  young people are easily attracted to simple, direct and short things of life.  But when things become complicated or involves complex reflection and scaling the heights of meditation, quite a few back off.

Well, there's no denying nor affirming this fact... just a matter of life! 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Double Masks?

A couple of days ago I met the students to ease out some tensions in the community.  One of the Brothers, quite worked up already by the discussion in progress, very seriously stated that 'double masks should be avoided'.  Well, now that I more or less know what they mean and what they talk, I was able to understand what he was telling.  He wanted to make a point that, in the community no one should wear masks or be double faced.  In his eagerness to express, he merged the two forms (double faced and wearing masks) to say, "Double masks."

Anyway, point taken!

Knowing or not knowing...?

During the birth of Jesus, there were the shepherds who did not know what was happening around them.  They had no clue of what it was all about. Yet they were curious and their curiosity led them to the manger.

The three wise kings, on the other hand, knew of things to come and were eagerly looking forward to know it.  They knew well that they did not know enough.  So when they got the hint or the clue, they were more than eager to know it fully well. So they landed at the manger.

As for the rest of the population, they did not know and neither did they want to know.  They were blissfully ignorant and perfectly contented in their state of ignorance.  The question I asked myself this morning during the Mass: Which category do I belong to?  

Friday, 12 October 2012

English Vinglish

I watched the hindi movie English Vinglish today (directed by Gauri Shinde).  Overall it is a welcome movie: refreshing and of course offering good insights and values (self-esteem and family ties).

The movie traces the life and struggle of a simple Indian housewife, Sashi (well essayed by Sridevi), to earn respect and dignity which is being denied to her by her own family, only for the reason that she is not proficient in English.  She is called upon by her sister for her niece's wedding to New York and once there secretly enrolls herself for a four-week of English class. Constantly helping her is her second niece, Radha (lively performance by Priya Anand).

The climax is wherein she delivers a simple but heartfelt speech in English addressing the newly married about how to keep alive a marital relationship, especially when the bond is weak or any one of the partners try the one-man-up attitude. This really shocks the rather unsupportive husband and the indignant elder daughter out of their stupor; but as one deeply in love with her family, Sashi holds no grudges or anger.

However, there are a few exaggerations (call them, 'cinematic liberties'): the resentment of the daughter towards the mother who does not know English, the cold attitude of the husband towards his wife, the ease with which a rather coy Indian woman gets used to the American scenario... Of course, anyone - even one who does not know Sridevi - would right away know that she knows English much better than she pretends not to know!

All these are more or less overshadowed by the steady focus on the story, simple music, good supporting cast, the decent presentation of family values (especially understanding, concern and sacrifice) ... One of the main values presented is the need to trust oneself (Towards the end, Sashi thanks one of her classmates for helping her love herself).

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2181931/reviews-33
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