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! 
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