Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Sharing convictions

My journey to Hyderabad for the Administrators' meet was an interesting one.  Half way through the journey, after lunch time, the young man sitting opposite to me was keen to start a conversation.  I certainly did not mind.  By the time the train reached Secunderabad station, late in the evening, he was sharing some of his most intimate experiences and thoughts.  However, what Bharat (that's his real name - revealed, because no one on earth, besides me, will ever know who it is!) found most difficult to understand was my choice to remain a bachelor all my life.  I did not reveal to him that I was a 'pastor' or someone in that line, but told him that I was engaged in some sort of service and the rest as truly I am.  He was all the while trying to convince me that life without marriage would be a real disaster.  Well, I did discuss with him my personal reasons for this choice and several other things too.  He saw the point in what I was explaining but somehow could not reconcile to the fact that I was giving up marriage.  Rather for him I was giving up sex!

We had a great conversation about love, sex, marriage, fidelity, service, friendship, loyalty ... He was typically a youngster and me a professed religious.  I'm sure had I given him some 'pious' thoughts and 'spiritual' solutions, he would have listened for sometime and have forgotten them by the time the train reached its destination. But now this I can be sure, the things we discussed would be ringing in his ear, loud and clear.  And I hope it helps him for the better. 

Meeting old friends

Yesterday I consciously took a bit time off before and after the meeting to visit some of the elderly people whom I knew in and around the campus of the Provincial house. In the morning I met Sr Modesta, in the neighbouring convent.  As before she was busy cleaning up the dining hall after breakfast and getting it ready for lunch.  It was great to see that small bundle of life still bubbling with energy as before.  The same spirit, the same cheer.  I spoke to her for some time and felt happy to have made it.  Just to ensure that I did not antagonize anyone else, I just said hello to one or two more Sisters whom I knew of old there. But it was great to meet Sr Modesta.

After the meeting I walked across to BIRDY, just to say hello to Fr M.D. Jacob. He was not in his usual place, infront of the main entrance on his wheel chair.  So I walked in and approached his room.  Only on entering I realised that he was badly sick and bed-ridden for quite some time now.  Worse still his speech was incomprehensible and I was told by his Priest-brother and Susheela, the nurse that he often did not even recognise people.  It felt bad to see him.  However, he surprised the two of them attending on him by telling my name and the uttering the word, 'secretary' too.  So he did remember me.  He has been on the wheel-chair for the past 18 years... and that's how I knew him.  I never saw him before that fatal accident.  Anyway, hope he recovers from the infested wound and is able to at least move about on his wheel-chair.  

Charity prior to Poverty

During the Administrators' meeting that I attended yesterday, one of the things most often repeated was the Constitution article no. 184.  Practically everyone, beginning with the Provincial, quoted it at some point or the other of their presentation.  It reads as follows:
The economer is the one immediately responsible for the administration of the temporal goods of the religious house, in dependence on the rector with his council.  He carries out his service in a spirit of charity and poverty.  
While most of the animators highlighted the part of 'dependence on the rector', what struck me most was the last phrase of the article, 'charity and poverty'.  Interestingly charity precedes poverty... precisely while talking about administration.  Makes a lot of sense when administration is viewed as an apostolate and a mission rather than a task to be accomplished.

Sisters' generosity

A senior Priest who was assigned to celebrate Mass in the neighbouring convent was not too happy to go there... and not so without a reason.  The Sisters there provided nothing more than a cup of tea after Mass.  In order to see if he could get them to provide at least something more than just a cup of tea, he took along with him a packet of biscuits the following day.  After Mass when the Sisters offered their usual cup of tea, he pulled out from his pocket this pack of biscuits, and had his so-called breakfast - all in full view of the Sisters.  The next day he was certain the Sisters would have picked the cue. Well, imagine his surprise, when the next day he found beside the cup of tea a small plate, all but empty.  He began to sip his tea waiting for the 'new addition' to arrive.  But even after finishing the cup of tea nothing arrived, he asked what the small plate was for.  "For you to place your biscuits, dear Fr," was the sincere reply! 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Another Marian Month concludes...

With the feast of Our Lady and Independence day of India, another Marian month of my life concluded.  Well, looking back I realise the 'fizz' is missing as years go by.  I remember the initial years when I joined the aspirantate and even the Philosophate at Yercaud.  Marian month was one of the craziest - and the most exciting - months of the year.  Perhaps at Divyadaan, it began to lose its 'thrill'.  Then, of course, during practical training, you just want to see the final day.  Add to that the stay in the Provincial house where there was none (students or Brothers, I mean) and it was just like any other month!

Well, I know not if like Fr Maliekal, I too can say, the Mother Mary whom I knew as a boy is not the same as the one I know after so many years of being a religious.  

Gladiator Mary!

Two days ago we had the Marian Nite, organised and prepared by Br Anil, our Assistant / Regent.  It was short and quick. One of the many things the Brothers had to do was to dress up one among the team as Our Lady with just newspaper and cellotape.   Here are a couple of the creations.  The best was the one titled by one Brother in jest: Gladiator Mary!

Here's the one of the whole group calling themselves the 'Knights of Mary'... 

and a couple more Mother Marys...



Flag confusion

As part of the feastday today, I organised the double flag game for the community.  There were approximately 30 Brothers on either side playing this lively game.  The game has a simple concept. The half line of the football court serves as the dividing line.  While defending our flag we try to conquer the flag of the opponents placed on the other end of the football court. In the process, when touched by an opponent, we are to stand still until someone untouched from my team comes and 'gives me life'.  Conquering the flag would mean getting the flag across to our side of the football court.

The Brothers, most of them, have played it earlier as well.  So they are quite familiar with the rules of the game.  However what they desist from is playing it well.  They just run about without the least of coordination, teamwork and planning.  Each one does what he thinks best.  In the process, a few of them run and tire themselves out, the rest do not even sweat a drop!

It is not that since we do not play this game often they have not yet learnt the nick-knacks of the game.  If that were the logic, then they should be adept football or basketball players by now - we play them practically everyday.  Even in these games, most often, it is the same style.  A couple of them do all the "playing"; the rest, blissfully just stand around.  That these games are team games, which require a great deal of planning and coordination, is something they simply do not get or rather, are happy to do without.  

Independence day special

Our Independence day special at Kondadaba: Longer hours of power cut!  We normally have 8 to 10 hours of power cut everyday.  Today seems no different!

Anyway, we were blessed with the heaviest showers of the season so far, yesterday evening.  Hope we get a few more of that intensity before the season ends.  Our lake and well are both dry.  We are just surviving on a single submersible bore.  

To be with God

Most often we hear people pray for God to be with us.  However, over the years I've grown in the conviction (though mostly intellectually for now) that God is always with us.  We just need to check whether we are with God or not. Most often we choose to walk our own path and then call for God to be by our side.  Why not initially discern if that is the path that God wants me to follow.  Then I certainly need not "waste" time calling on God; I gladly enjoy his company.  Even otherwise He is always with us...

Here's a quote of Abraham Lincoln to sum up:
My concern is not whether God is on our side. My greatest concern is to be on God's side, for God is always right. 

Saturday, 11 August 2012

Raja Ram Mohan Roy achieved sati

I conducted a written class test for my third year students as part of my Modern Indian Philosophy subject.  As usual, I had quite a good time correcting the answers.  Here are a couple of answers, by different students, to the question, 'List three important achievements of Raja Ram Mohan Roy.'
He abolished widow re-marriages... 
Raja Ram Mohan Roy achieved sati and poligami. 

Chastity and the wall

The parish Priest of Mangalapalem wrote to the Bishop asking his help to construct a compound wall around his Parish.  Citing the primary reason that people use the open space around the Church for their natural calls, he emphasised the need, even more when he added that it is very scandalous and "seducing" to see women and girls go for their needs in the open and that too in clear view of the young Priests and Clerics helping him in the Parish.  The Parish Priest received a reply, on a postcard, from the Bishop Gopu Mark.
Do you think that the lack of the compound wall was the reason why Charles David left Priesthood?  (Charles David was a young Priest who had left Priesthood lately). 
The Parish Priest replied, of course on a postcard:
I know not Charles David, but I certainly know King David! 
[Heard this amusing incident from one of our former Spiritual Directors]

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Jesus saves... ?

As per the Gospel of the day, Jesus stretches out to Peter and pulls him out of the sea and saves him from drowning.  There is however no mention of Jesus 'saving' those in the boat from drowning... surprising!

Well, most of us wait in the boat and expect Jesus to 'save' us, without even venturing out into the sea.  Each of us is called to do our best and certainly doing the best involves taking risks and failures.  That in no way should prevent one from doing our bit.  To expect the Lord to walk around saving all those lying and merely waiting for the Lord, is no faith at all.  

Walking on water

The first thing that came to my mind when I heard the Gospel of the day (which narrates the episode where Jesus walked on water), during Mass was a joke I  read long long time ago.  Three friends were out on the beach walking their dogs and each one wanted to show off his pet.  The first one threw a ball into the air and his dog did a sort of acrobatic jump and caught the ball high above the ground.  The second one did something similar in a different but special manner.  The third one threw a Frisbee into the sea and commanded his dog to fetch it.  The dog calmly walked on the waters and retrieved the Frisbee. Turning to his friends, the last one said, "What do you say of that?"  The other two looked at one another and said, "So, you are saying that your dog does not know how to swim?" 

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Reluctance or resistance or lethargy?

The meeting of the news correspondents (who go under the title BIS - Bosco Information Services),  was good.  I got to share my views and my knowledge with the group of 22 of them.  However, I realised quite early itself that they were not in sync with me... neither were they interested in being so.  A few however were very much involved and enthusiastic about the whole thing of reporting news and peeping into the possibilities the internet has to offer for us Salesians.  The rest were there because they had to be there!

My immediate observance: there is a general reluctance to read, reflect and write.  Somehow that whole process has not entered our system, neither individually nor collectively.  Thathi tried to get the participants to commit themselves to something concrete (like writing a news article once a week or so) but the response was not forthcoming... neither to his request for creative ideas and proposals for the upcoming jubilee of Salesian presence in Andhra Pradesh.  And who were the participants? The youngest of the confreres, all within the 25 to 35 age group.

Certainly all of us can do better! 

With the family

Yesterday evening after the day long meeting of the news correspondents of the Province, my family members came to the Provincial house to meet me.  It was nice meeting them in person after months.  The best part was meeting my two-and-half year old nephew, Chris.  What's surprising was that he was able to identify me from among the 30 or so confreres gathered in the Provincial house.  I guess, the credit of it goes to the four of the elders at home who keep my memory alive for the small fellow.  Though not in the best of his health, Chris was all laugh and fun the whole evening.  He was quite at home with me and was keen that I accompany him everywhere.  

Hop-filled journey

My journey back from Hyderabad (to Vizag) was quite an interesting one.  The bus was literally hopping rather than smoothly gliding.  There was some problem with the clutch and every time the driver, a couple of senior men taking turns, would change the gear after a couple of tries, the bus would come to a dead stop.  Again the driver has to turn on the engine and the bus would start with a jolt.  And every time the bus neared a red signal or a slowed down, it would do the lambada before coming to a dead halt.  It truly was a hop-filled journey.  

Mind games

A couple of days ago I visited the psychiatric's clinic accompanying a confrere.  While waiting for our turn in the lobby, I engaged myself in a mind game... trying to identify, from those there and those entering into the lobby, as to who was the patient and who was the one accompanying the patient.  I found it quite engaging, till I realised that perhaps I was not the only one 'playing' this!  It was the case with all those entering the lobby.  Each one was trying to identify from among the others as to who was the patient and who the one accompanying... that's what is called, tit for tat!  
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