Friday, 28 September 2012

Examination quotes...

I conducted the Anthropology exam today for the second course students, and as usual there were quite a few things to cheer me along.  But again, as usual, I had to keep a straight face and not disturb their delicate mental balance when they appear before me for an oral exam.  Here are a few of the day's 'quotes'...
Subjectivity is relation between us and object person...
 After death, that person died... 
Human being is made up of matters ... 
What is Psychological freedom? Anything that blocks us psychologically is called psychological freedom.
Martin Buber was a Jew who wrote a book named Nazism
I'm sure some of my friends will not find the following as a joke, but one has to understand the context in which the student uttered this: the guy did not know that males meant boys and females meant ladies.  He had them both mixed up! And now for his statement:
Females can think more than males.  

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Deficiency of convictions...

While reading the minutes and report of the SPCSA a point made by one of the participants with regard to our mission at large, struck me.  This is what the confrere stated:
Often it is not lack of knowledge, but lack of convictions, aptitude, interest, which hinders and impede progress in our mission.  
That indeed has a great amount of truth in it.  The worst scenario this can lead to is when people with half knowledge but absolutely no convictions begin to laud it over those who zealously are interested in doing some good, not just the confreres or religious but the lay faithful as well.  

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Movie at the post office?

Joke of the day:
Did you hear about that new movie?  It was a hit at the post office!

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Reworking strategies

One of the tiny but definite step that I decided upon, for a better follow up of the Brothers - and myself - is to wean myself of from my 'inner chamber' - that is where I have my basic work place (laptop, paper and typing materials).  This would, in other words mean, that I spend more time at my desk upfront and subsequently out of my office altogether.  Perhaps an immediate, straight and full jump back amidst the Brothers would not be healthy, for the Brothers as well as for me...

... so, help me God!

Talking to myself

Concerning the incident that happened in the morning, I tried to see why is it that I got so angry? Was it totally and absolutely necessary?  Was there any residue of self that felt threatened or anything within me that got reflected on to the Brother?

Perhaps there was, but I did make sure that it was not purely that.  The same with the argument that I  entered into with the Brother in the afternoon.  Looking back, I realise, not all that he poured out was objective.  But I did give it a serious thought because it involved some truth.  

Self-formation 2

Today was quite a day! Right after breakfast I blasted a final year student for attempting to get my permission with some concocted facts (lies, in simple words). What proved to be the final trigger for the 'shootout' was the stubbornness with which he was defending himself even after I falsified his claims with others involved.  I was so angry that I told him not to appear before me anytime this day.  By mid day I was a bit more sober -- and sensible.  And by then I had decided to have a small chat with him in the evening.  Before that could happen he came to my office and in all simplicity said just this:
Please scold me, I'll bear that;  but do not tell me to stay out of sight! 
I laughed ... and so did he! 


The fissures in my formative methodology for the Brothers were as clears as the Sun today.  It is not that I was not aware of the drawbacks; but that nagging question: 'Is this the best strategy/possibility?' was answered today.  Thanks to a heated but sensible argument I had with one of the student leaders.

I knew for certain that my periodic and prolonged absence as well as commitments which forced me to take up 'Brothers-time' (time I otherwise would have spent with and for them) would have an adverse effect on them.  Today's argument endorsed that feeling of mine.

Though the argument began for a simple reason, it slowly built up to a point where I could not but notice that there were several deep-down issues that were fueling this flame which was only flickering. Thanks be to God for having given me the insight to sense it and thereby bring them to the fore - rather than merely exchange harsh words or me shutting him up, squarely.

Looking back, I now feel good for the tone that I took - that of openness and willingness to see/hear beyond that what the Brother was sharing.  This also facilitated him to be frank in expressing his - as well as the general - pulse with regard to certain of my actions and attitudes.

Another positive aspect of my interaction was that I did acknowledge that, at times, I had misjudged him - I realised this after hearing him out fully.  Just like my initial outburst, I did not mince words to admit, "I was wrong." 

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Good teachers

Another reflection while reading a commentary on the Gospels that I came across this evening...
...which of us nowadays goes in search of good teachers who will instruct us about the way of life?
There's a great amount of truth therein.  It is the whole debate and anxiety about spiritual direction and guidance.  Each one wants to be a self-made man, exclusively.  We are convinced that we know best and therefore anyone else or everyone else's opinion or guidance is looked upon as demeaning oneself. However, wisdom and experience shows that if coming from a wise and genuine source, any guidance can be life transforming.

It certainly is easier said than done! 

The Good Rich Young Man

Reflecting about the rich young man whom Jesus invited to sell everything he had and to follow Him, I realised that his wealth had not prevented him from being a good believer.  In fact, he did make good use of his wealth and was thereby certainly eligible to be a good disciple.  However, contrary to some who feel that in rejecting the call of Jesus he did a mistake, I believe, he continued being good.  Only that the same wealth made it impossible for him to be a radical disciple.

This is exactly what our upcoming Chapter invites us to be: radical witnesses of the Gospel and not merely good disciples.  Again, a personal clause... to be a radical disciple one first ought to know and be a disciple! 

Formators vs Teachers?

There's something that I wanted to pen before it escapes my mind.  During the SAFC meeting in Goa, Fr Rayanna made an intervention which I initially found absurd.  However, the second time round when he put forward the same point, I found myself thinking ... thinking hard.  His point was that there is a big difference between teachers and formators.  Now this is something totally unheard of in my Salesian context, I've never come across this at all.  But the point that he was making was this: In our formation settings, there is absolutely no distinction between the two.  So as formators we end up taking classes, following up their academic progress and everything else too.  Other places there are teachers and professors who teach and formation guides who follow up.  Given the dearth of personnel, we don't have this option.

Fr Rayanna's point was if this was an option there would have been a greater chance that we could fulfill all the academic demands of Vatican and what not while investing ourselves fully into the formative process too. I do see a point in what he was expressing, perhaps because I've been through what he is presently undergoing by way of dearth of personnel.  However, I'm still not convinced if that divide is essential or even possible?  I'll need to get my head around that a bit... 

Blue Like Jazz

The movie Blue Like Jazz follows the path of discovery of Donald Miller a youngster who tries to escape his Christian upbringing by enrolling himself into a 'liberal' college only to go through the whole process of denying what he was told to believe in all his life.  All along one sees him struggling to be somebody he is not...  like a dog trying to shake off its own tail!

What I liked about the movie was that Don was open to all that he came across.  He really did not make a decision about something just because he felt so... he looked for convictions... Another aspect of the movie that I found quite interesting to observe was the influence and role of friends. The impact they had on Don and the things he does in their life... (Penny, Lauryn, Russian, him mom, 'Pope').  And finally I hope Don continues to carry on as 'Pope' for I sincerely believe he'd do a better and greater job being Pope than going out gun-blazing saying that he believes in God and all that goes with it.  He truly would be a great help to all those fellow students to help them in their situation than taking a pedestal posture or stance and helping 'from above'!

It quite well summarizes the journey of self-discovery, of finding out the value and meaning of real faith... not just 'inheriting faith' but 'earning' it and thereby living it!  That I think makes a huge ... huge... difference in reality.  Most of us barely manage to graduate to the latter stage of faith.  

Models for love

Sometimes you have to watch somebody love something before you can love it yourself.  
(A quote from the movie, Blue Like Jazz)

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

Formation in the wider - or real - context

During the meeting in Goa one of the points that emerged and I'm glad was seriously taken note of, was the following:  that formation takes place more outside the formation houses than within.  Most often people think that the initial formation houses of aspirantate, pre-novitiate and philosophate are the ones that 'form' the young salesian religious... now no more!  They - and others too - are more 'formed' by what goes on outside the so-called formation houses... the Province at large.  They are smart and see that what is presented in the formation settings is the ideal but no one really is expected to live the ideal... that's what the message the whole Province, individually and collectively lives it without saying it. So a young Salesian or formee, knows that time in the formation house is only a matter of time!  Real life has nothing to do with what is said and done in the formation house.

I'm glad Fr Doss Kennedy raised this issue and questioned the gathering as to what are the success indicators, as Provincial and leaders of communities and as a Province we uphold.  It is by these standards and indicators that young Salesians tend to mould themselves.  Another way of looking at the same issue: what is the culture of the Province?  What are we looking for? Is qualification (be it ecclesial or secular) the apostolate or one of the means of effective ministry?

Lots to think and reflect about! 

Gleanings from the Formation meet

Last week around this time I was in Goa for the South Asian Formation Commission meet.  We were altogether 17 of us including the animating duo from Rome. Besides the fun and frolic of the days (which was mostly in the hall itself!) there were some things that caught my attention and demanded some reflection from my part.

One such insight came during a discussion on motivating young Salesians to a culture of study and research.  Fr Jose Mathew was quite strong in making this observation:  we have so equated duty to God as duty to our neighbour that God no longer has an 'independent identity'.  He phrased the whole idea as the collapse of the first commandment into the second! Love for God does not exist. Ask any religious, what love for God means, and the immediate response invariably is 'Love for God is love for neighbour'.

Well I do see the point Fr Jose Mathew was making... and I do realise how true it is.  Perhaps this has become the latest fad or even at times an excuse from tuning ourselves to God's will and having the patience to 'hear' and discern His will.  The immediate need of my neighbour before me, provides me with a perfect getaway from this serious and demanding introspection and reflection.  On another account, if one is sincere about being in love with God, I suppose my neighbour would certainly not be left to himself. 

Tuesday, 18 September 2012

God's donkey

The thought that struck me from among the few hints that I caught the preacher of the recollection sharing:
If Samson could bring down thousands with the jaw bone of a dead donkey, imagine how many more could God reach out to with a a complete and living donkey!  

Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Odxel Monk

Here at Odxel, everyone is curious about a peacock which has made this house its home.  It was hatched here and those other birds that hatched along with it took off but this one somehow stayed back and has been here for over 12 years, I'm told.  Every morning and evening we hear him and of course, we also hear his exploits from Fr Loddy who was here in the house for six years as the Provincial earlier.  

Miracles and faith

What come first, miracle or faith? Last Sunday's Gospel tells something interesting, and contrary to popular belief.  Most often people await a sign, a miracle to happen to begin to believe.  Jesus in the Gospel puts it the other way round.  He makes belief a prerequisite for miracle.  Believe, inorder to see the wonders of God.

Makes a lot of sense. For if one does not believe, nothing is ever a miracle.  And for one who believes, every blade of grass and every drop of water is a miracle! 

Qualified but not working

Another lighter moment during the meeting, while one confrere was presenting a report on the qualification of confreres in the different fields of apostolate for the various ministries in the Province:
... many are qualified but are not in working condition!  
What he actually meant was that they were not available for the specific field in which they were qualified! 

Monday, 10 September 2012

Interacting with Br Masca

While at Fatorda, I had the pleasure of meeting and spending quite of my free time there with Br Francis Mascarenhas.  He is fondly known as Br Masca.

Unlike a few of the elderly Brothers whom I encountered during my travels, he came across to me as one very mature for his age (79).  He was serene and with a very vivid and joyful memory.  I found him all life and smiles sharing with me instances of his life in Yercaud, Odxel, Tirupattur and Fatorda itself; his love for music;  his memories of confreres (especially Fr C. Thomas)...

more of him later...

Reminiscing Goa

Br James Marcus was good enough to pick me up from the station and the community of Fatorda - of which I had heard so much - was generous to accommodate me for a whole day.  When I found some time I walked down down the road to have a feel of the Goan scene.  The first thing I noticed was the red laterite stone that is found everywhere.  It is used in the construction of walls everywhere.  It reminded me of Mangalore... my hometown.  Furthermore all the old compound walls are so old and covered with moss and ferns, it presents a lovely picture... again something akin to Mangalore houses.  

The little that I've seen of Goa, mainly the central roads and not the interiors, it appears more or less like a growing modern town itself.  I suppose deviating a bit from the mainline into the interior places would  certainly bring forth the Goan flavour.

Hope the meeting and my stay here permits that ... at least a glimpse!! 

First impressions of Goa

I reached Goa, Margao station, to be particular day before yesterday in the evening at 4 pm... two hours behind schedule.  But I was not one complaining for the climate during the journey was rather pleasant.  However, here then are my first impressions of Goa, on my maiden visit to the 'paradise of the East'... (in no particular order):

  • There are more non-locals here than Goans.  In the railway station, as I got off the train and made my way to the entrance, I hardly saw any Goan!  
  • Drivers are crazy - including all the Salesians who drove us participants around since two days... fast and rough!  
  • The place is as sultry as Vizag... another reason to feel at home!  

Fr Loddy asking for opinion...

Let me begin my sharing of a string of experiences and reflections from Goa with perhaps the lighter side of things.  Last night, after supper, Fr Loddy, the coordinator and convener, stood up having called for attention of the 17 participants by 'ringing' the glass with a butter knife.  He then asked for opinion about the proposed schedule for the four day meet - still with the knife in hand.  It truly was a very hilarious scene... and those of us who know Loddy, it was a real comedy!

Finally someone asked, "What's that knife in your hands for?"

Thursday, 6 September 2012


The quote on the board yesterday was quite insightful.  It read:
We judge ourselves by what we are capable of but judge others by what they've already done. 

Monday, 3 September 2012

Media Seminar

I commenced my three day seminar on media education for the Brothers here this morning.  The very prayer video that I played provided the perfect food for thought and take off.  They were so lost in the visuals that none of them (of the 75) paid any attention to the words that were being sung.  If only they were to pay heed they would have seen the depth of connection between the word and the visual.  However, the visual 'distracted' them sufficiently enough.  And that was enough for me to begin with.

The emphasis of the first day was on the 'message'.  I did it on purpose knowing well of their amazing ability to miss the point, even if it is staring them in the eye while they are watching a telugu movie (leave alone their grasp of philosophical points in class).  

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Ambrose Islands?

While talking during supper tonight, I was reminded of an incident that happened almost 12 years ago while I was a student at Nashik.  A Salesian Missionary Priest, named Fr Ambrose, from Solomon Islands was visiting our community and was asked to share his missionary exploits by the Rector.  So the Rector sent a Brother to write a note on all the black-board of the study halls about this information.  Back in our study hall those of us reading the note were scratching our brains to locate the place.  The note read:
Conference by Fr Solomon from Ambrose Islands at 7 pm. 

Do what?

Being the administrator, I'm most often asked to deal and "negotiate" with all those who knock at our gates for alms.  Luckily, there aren't many who walk in, except for the regular ones, mostly the aged and the physically or mentally challenged.  Furthermore, most of them are from the neighbouring village itself.  However, now I've begun to take note of their arrival and give them something once in a month or so. I certainly do not entertain them every other day.

Today I had a man who truly did not seem 'normal'.  I've met him a couple of times earlier and I did give him something on an earlier occasion for a particular need he expressed.  The request he made today falsified his earlier request!  So I clearly told him that I wouldn't pay him anything today.  He pleaded for long and when he understood that I was not going to relent, he walked away.

A while later I was asking myself, "What really could I have done for him?"  Dishing out money was the easiest but certainly not the best.  Given his state of mind and body, no one would have given him work, me neither.  So then how on earth does he survive?

I still do not have a clue... not about him, about what I should or could do for him. 
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