Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Even God couldn't resist...

Mary, Mother of God (Lk 2: 16-21)

A small boy ran up to his mother, hugged her tight and exclaimed, “You are the best mom in the whole world!” The mother smiled and asked, “How do you know that? You have not met every mom in the whole world.” Her son gave her another hug and said, “Yes, I have. You are my world.” One has only to look with the eyes of a child to see and understand the love of a mother. Not even God could resist the love and affection of a mother!

God couldn't be everywhere so He made mothers. (An old Jewish saying)

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Something on Pope Francis

Here's a nice piece on Pope Francis (A year with Pope Francis by Leah Libresco) as to why he continues to inspire and attract all and sundry... 
We shouldn’t have to rely on the witness of the Pope to communicate the beauty and love of Christianity... read more.
But he does it in such a simple and humble way that it seems natural and the 'default' way... something which makes us take such an effort and 'show' to do!


Add to all of this, the fact that he lives poor, does his own duties, makes no tall claims, meets and TOUCHES people (literally and metaphorically), is a foot-washer, and of course, a Priest... just an ordinary person doing all he is capable of doing, without much ado about anything.

Ready???

This morning while participating in the Holy Mass I had a very very 'holy' distraction.  It was bang during the elevation!! Gosh!!

When do I really get surprised or shocked? Only when I am not ready for what appears before me or something happens that I did not expect at all.  Why then does God continue to surprise us always?  Perhaps He really surpasses all our expectations and plans. Or ...
is it that we do pray to Him, prepare for Him but really, really don't expect Him to really-really appear amidst us!

It is like the old story I heard long long time ago. A lady attending the specially convoked parish prayer session for rain in her drought stricken village, came with an umbrella... the only one! When asked why did she get an umbrella when there wasn't even a cloud in the sky, she asked, "Isn't it for rain that we are praying? Then why go home drenched?" 

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Joseph, truly and fully human

Joseph, the husband of Mary, gives a triple proof for his humanity in today's short Gospel passage. His sensitivity and humanity is shown when he decides to gently divorce Mary without putting her to shame in public.  He reaffirms this human sensitivity when he pays heed to the divine messenger... thus being open to divinity.  He seals his humanity and sensitivity when he actually takes in Mary to be his lawfully wedded wife even after knowing that the child in her womb is not his.

Who else can be more eligible to the title 'saint' than one who was fully and truly human, like Joseph?

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Salesian Brothers' Congress on Facebook and Wordpress

I'm not a facebook fan and neither am I on facebook, however, if this helps the cause of the Congress, so be it...

Here's the link for the Brothers' Congress on Facebook
Here's the wordpess blog that I started sometime ago to record some of the events leading up to the 7th Salesian Brothers' South Asia Regional Congress

I knew!

While evaluating a particular student/brother in the community, I could not but narrate this short story I heard sometime ago, to describe him best:
A family of tortoises went on a picnic and after years of walk, reached the spot and began to unpack their picnic meal.  However, they soon discovered that they forgot to get the salt. So after much discussion the youngest of them agreed to make the journey back home to fetch the salt.  However, his only condition was that they should not begin the meal without him. Once everyone agreed, he set out.
Months passed by and still when there was no sign of the youngest tortoise. The eldest then said that they start and he'll join in. So they opened their picnic meal.  The moment the lid was off, the youngest tortoise jumped out from behind a tree and exclaimed: "I knew you wouldn't wait for me! My suspicion proved right. I certainly am not going to get the salt!"
Some just wait for others to commit mistakes so that they can jump on them! 

Advent wait

During the homily this morning, we were reminded that the season of Advent is almost akin to the Aesop's fable of the 'goose which laid the golden egg'. In our eagerness and over-zeal to hasten the celebrations and festivity of the coming of the Lord, we cut short the period of Advent and rush in Christmas.  The Church has rightly grown in this tradition of 'waiting' for the Lord, for no shoddy reason.  It is basically to savour the Lord, to prepare for his coming, to persevere in our zeal to encounter him.

Let there not be a cesarean for Christmas!

Monday, 9 December 2013

Resurrecting the lay dimension

Last night discussing the themes for the Brothers' Congress with Fr Maliekal, he made a very insightful observation when he said that he was in a way waging a crusade a few years ago to retain the title 'lay brothers' for Salesian Brothers. He said everyone wanted to do away with that title altogether.

It then struck me that we Brothers may be taking shunning the tag of 'lay' to take shelter in the 'religious' dimension and pretend to be religious, while the fact is that we were truly meant to be a balanced mixture of both!  The institutional comfort and safety of the 'religious' tag seems too seductive to resist. And what's more, even under that roof, we still claim for a separate portion! ... a share in that pie!  Why not claim for a pie in the 'lay' dimension??

Hence I immediately made it a point to put in into the Congress as one of the major points for discussion: redeeming or resurrecting the lay dimension of our vocation.  

Sunday, 8 December 2013

Pope Francis: Acts of Humility

I came across a beautiful gallery of Washington Post depicting some of the acts of Pope Francis which have earned him an international repute for being a trend-setter, more of a foot-washer than a doctrinal policeman. Click here to view the same (couldn't get rid of the ad that plays before it, though!).

Related to it is the article titled, The Conscience of a Pope, by Kathleen Parker... read it too. 

Congress dilemma

This season of Advent is turning out to be another kind of preparation for me, personally. Far from working towards the coming of Christ, I'm working out the coming out of the Brothers' Congress, due to commence at the end of this month.  Though just a fortnight away, I'm still planning and finalising the modality of the same.

My greatest difficulty is how to get people involved rather than me or some ONE doing it all, doing it for everybody else.  Furthermore the fact that not everyone on the organising team has still grasped this expected shift in the strategy of the Congress, is adding to my woes.  People still call me to confirm something which is mere repetition of the previous year(s).  Most still don't get the point that the attempt is not merely to repeat the past but to re-script the future. Now that's easier said than done! What's more, I myself am still "re-scripting"! 

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Sexuality (or English?) reinterpreted

Here's an extract (verbatim) from a final year student's paper on 'Human sexuality as interpreted by the Catholic Church'... mind you, only one of the many such!
Sexuality has got a greater meaning.  That the God created man in His own image. He created male and female to have a hetero sexuality, so that they can multiply the procreation and bear the posterity or offspring.  (emphasis added)
Now what am I to understand and how am I to interpret such texts? If English is a hurdle, then what of understanding the content (which is in English)? If understanding is the problem, then fine. But how does one express what one has understood - if not in English, in this case? 

Master, yet a student

A few days ago, Fr Maliekal in one of his goodnight talks, referred to a tribute paid by someone on TV to Sachin Tendulkar on his retirement.  Fr Maliekal said that the one speaking highly of Sachin made this very clever observation about the 'little master':
Sachin was the master of the crease but ever a student of the game. 
That truly is a very high and apt compliment for someone who spent so many years learning and improving not only the sport but also his own quality of the game.

That's something we need to master too... mastery over things we claim to be our field and yet ever willing to learn, to adapt, to innovate and improve.

Monday, 2 December 2013

How to live before you die: Steve Jobs


Connect the dots (only backwards... till then, follow your heart and insight).
Love what you do and do what you love!
Live everyday as if it was your last day.

Final message: Stay hungry! Stay foolish! 

Faith as prerequisite

On the first day of the week of Advent, it is a bit surprising to find the reading of the Centurion for the gospel.  What exactly does that have to do with Christmas or preparation for the coming of Christ?  The answer is simple, yet profound: FAITH. One ought to have faith in order to prepare oneself for the coming of Christ. How can one prepare of something if one does not really believe it; does not have faith in it; does not even get fired by it?  

Unless and until I am willing to 'see' I will never be able to actually see it. And even if I did see it, I will not 'see' it and let it pass by taking it to be one of the millions of things that crosses my path everyday. 

Lots of 'Peace'

Let me begin my Advent blogging on a lighter note. This morning for the Responsorial psalm, the Brother reading it had not practiced too well. Naturally there was something for me to be amused about in spite of the seriousness with which I intended to participate in the Holy Mass. The Brother kept reading the word 'peace' fast and short, and for all of us hearing it, it sounded like 'piss'. So here's the psalm, as heard by most of us today: 
Pray for the PISS of Jerusalem!May those who love you prosper!
May PISS be within your walls,Prosperity in your buildings.Because of my relatives and friendsI will say, "PISS be within you!"
Well, that was a lot of 'peace'!

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

History of Plural Word...s

Here's an interesting historical lesson regarding English language, the origin of plurals, in particular.

Found it on Free Technology for Teachers.

Making every feast afresh

At the end of a hectic day and a very long but intense and meaningful preparation and celebration of our community day and the jubilee celebration of two of our confreres on November 25, Fr Maliekal (one of the Jubilarians) concluded the day stating thus:  We Salesians of Don Bosco have a way of making every feastday special and vibrant.  We build every feast anew. Not merely repeat the same old things but do things from the start all afresh and new.  Therefore there is no boredom or redundancy in our celebration, we start every preparation and celebration from the scratch.

I firmly agree with him.  This was also one of the reasons for the bigger crowd of audience this year. Most of them congratulated me and explicitly mentioned that they love the novelty and creativity that they get to see here in the programmes put up by the Seminarians.  It is primarily for that they come to the Seminary.  And this time they certainly were not disappointed... neither were any of us!

I certainly enjoyed this year, though it was tough managing and coordinating alone, but the Brothers did very well and each did their role to the best of their abilities. They too are very happy with the effort they put in and the consequent result that was there for all to see. 

Sunday, 17 November 2013

My epitaph

Yesterday evening working in the Parish, trying to set up stage backdrop for today's Holy Mass, I was struck by the number of plaques stuck to the newly built stage. It contained all the names of the different people who contributed in cash towards the building of the stage and the grotto beside it. In jest I told the Brothers working with me, "Only one Our Lady and one stage but so many names!"

This morning as I made my way to the Church to participate in the Holy Mass, I saw a rather large flex put up at the foot of the hill (the Parish being atop the hill). It was put up as a welcome board for the Archbishop was the chief guest of the day.  And below the photo of the archbishop was the photo of the guy who made it and put it up - a local politician!

I always found it very odd and strange when people are keen about this kind of publicity for the acts of charity they carry out. One of the Sisters working along with us on the stage last evening, was pulling my leg and for jest reading out the names of the donors on the plaque and in between she was 'reading' out my name too! I replied, "Not even on my epitaph, do I wish my name be engraved!"

Thursday, 14 November 2013

My new born niece

Roshni, my sister-in-law has been kind enough to share with me some of photos of my new born niece (November 1, 2013). She certainly looks like Roshni herself. Of course, the nose is characteristically from her father, my brother!

With her arrival the gender balance at home is complete: 3 men and 3 ladies! Chris, my nephew and her elder brother, has his own set of names for her; Chutki, being one of them (that's the name of the girl in the 'Chota Bheem' cartoon serial, he loves to watch).

Chris the ladybug!

My nephew Chris, took part in a competition at school and was all dressed up as a ladybug / lady bird... I'm told he did very well! Beware of the bug!


Have to vs Want to

Perhaps the whole process of contemporary formation strategies can be summed up in this short formula:
Moving from the 'have to' mode to 'want to' mode. 
I really feel this is all that needs to be done... and of course, it is easier said than done!
Most of the students go through the grind of the various activities and events in the community as if they 'have to'. If only they would see the point and desire it themselves as to doing it for their own sake, rather than for the satisfaction of the staff or the formators.

Well, I suppose that's the challenge of being a formator.  If all of this was easy and smooth, then I guess, any Tom, Dick and Harry could have been or become a formator. 

Monday, 11 November 2013

The Three Truths

While at Karunapuram to moderate a debate, one of the judges, a Brazilian Priest gave a very interesting and amusing conclusion to his observations about the debate and the theme under discussion.  The statement of the debate was 'Religion is a threat to secular society'. The Priest concluded his views stating thus:
There are three truths: Yours, mine and the truth! 
It turns out to be a Chinese saying...  and very applicable to any point of contention.

Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Out to take care of the world...??

As part of the invitation drive I'm on, for our upcoming Seminary day and Jubilee of Fr Rector and Wilson, I met a certain Doctor who was very helpful and kind to one of our community member a couple of years ago.  He did nurture back one of our confreres with great skill and gentleness.  Of course, the confrere is no more in our community.  Unfortunately his health is deteriorating, mostly due to lack of proper assistance and follow up.  The first thing the good Doctor asked me when I met him was, "How is ________?" I didn't want to tell lies to him and told him that he's not in the best of health.  He certainly didn't look happy to hear that.  He made a very profound statement,
How can you people who claim to make other people's lives better and the whole world better, do so when you cannot properly take care of your own? 
When I told him that in religious life not all get to make all possible decisions, he understood the point and mellowed down a bit.  But his anguish was clear for anyone to see.  

Temperance in Work

Just today I received a mail from a very good spiritual guide and friend of mine.  He reminded me to take care of my health and not to over-work.  On a lighter note he reminded me that I should perhaps take seriously the modern reinterpretation of the traditional idea of work and temperance in the Salesian Constitution: Not 'Work and Temperance' but 'Temperance in work'!

That was really amusing.  I'm sure most traditional novice masters would cringe at that reinterpretation!  

Friday, 1 November 2013

The Castilino Clan

Good news from home this evening:
The Castilino clan just got bigger...
My sister-in-law gave birth to a baby girl today.
The exact time and sequence of events, I'm yet to come to know myself.
I'm away in Guwahati for a Brothers' meeting and that's how, I'm out of the loop.

Even when Chris (my nephew) was born, I was out of the reachable circle (I was in Bangalore taking some classes on Salesiana for a group of Salesians).

However, it will not be until January that I get to see my niece in person. And when I do, hopefully, I'll have completed all my major responsibilities for this academic year... hopefully!  One never knows!  

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

Of yeast and mustard...

Strange but true, the yeast is not asked to be the dough, nor the mustard to be the jackfruit.  What is expected is that the yeast be the best it can be and do the most it can do.  Being in the minority it is asked to be a catalyst in the whole dough, not become the majority!  It is to transform the whole of the dough by being in the whole mixture, not outside, not away, not detached.  

Perhaps a lesson we ought to learn: rather than spend all our energies on increasing our numbers, as Christians, we need to deepen our own understanding of our call, and thus be agents of transformation in the whole society.  Statistically the world may then not be 'Christians' but in spirit and in truth, it will certainly be! 

Monday, 28 October 2013

Change

There is an instance in the movie The Mighty Macs, wherein a young nun tells the coach of the girls basketball team, after months of working together with her in getting the girls to a stage of respect and dignity, the following
You taught me that not only is change possible, it's as vital as breathing. 
I do spend quite a bit of time reflecting upon this statement everytime I remember it. However, I hardly have the courage and the patience to live it.  I suppose that's what makes us dread change.

Sunshine!

After seven full days of rain not a bit of sunshine we had our first rays of sunshine in eight days this morning.  The past week was all rain and clouds, not one ray of sunshine we had.  Well for some parts of the world this may not seem anything odd or strange, but this has never been in Andhra Pradesh.

Rain has been pouring rather steadily all week long.  That was the only saving grace. If only it was torrential, then it would have been catastrophic.  As of today, there is water everywhere.  The ground is all wet and unable to soak in any more water.  Neither can it flow anywhere because all low lying areas are already under water.  Some parts of the Seminary which never got drenched by flowing water, are now submerged!  Our open well is so full that we can draw water with our hands!  The well is almost 80 feet deep.



Thursday, 24 October 2013

Reasoning Faith vs Faith-ful Reasoning

What's the difference between 'religious thinking' and 'thinking about religion'?  This was the question I spoke of as part of the introduction on Philosophy of Religion yesterday.  After explaining the difference, I left them with the question, as to which category belongs our practices of piety?  Is it religious thinking or thinking about faith?  Would one be possible without the other?

The other tricky part was speaking about faith and reason or in other words, the need to engage oneself in a process of critical dialogue.  That a genuine faith will not shrink from being challenged and challenging!  That a robust faith is possible only when one has put one's faith to test and made a sincere attempt to review our body of beliefs.

... that people fear putting their faith to the test for fear of loosing the little they have.  Others, fear that they'll have nothing to hold on to (so who is sustaining whom? Faith sustains us or are we 'sustaining' faith???).  Some those who, with great trepidation, dare to undergo the test, cling to the massive debris rather than the iota of essence. Some go through the test only to 'justify' their faith, not to test it, but merely to somehow endorse it. 

Monday, 14 October 2013

The duck that drowned

A man once owned a small duckling and one day all of a sudden it drowned! The autopsy report said that the bird lacked a particular kind of oil which a duck's feathers naturally have.  Due to this lack of a natural ingredient, which was quite odd, the feathers soaked in the water and naturally the duck drowned.

Fr Basani Prakash, the retreat preacher, for our Brothers narrated this small anecdote to the Brothers as part of his homily this evening.

Lesson: If we do not develop what is naturally bestowed upon us, we take it to our grave much before time and with no use whatsoever, neither to others nor to ourselves! 

Sunday, 6 October 2013

God as prisoner

While putting down my own reflections about the course on Philosophy of God, it struck me that perhaps my students and I were reading from two different books for our course... not literally but figuratively.  While they were all the time 'acting' as God's soldiers, I was the only one playing the devil's advocate.  Of course, they know that well. But they don't want to see themselves do it ... perhaps they're too frightened to lose or even question their faith or God.  So what I ultimately did during the whole course was not give them some philosophical or grand ideas about God, rather all that I did was try to 'cleanse' their idea of God!  I did my best to help them let go of their God and live with him rather than have him chained and imprisoned within!

Popular Religion

We concluded the semester exams yesterday and last evening I pulled out my study material for the next semester classes.  For the third years I'm taking Philosophy of Religion (PR) and as I was going through my own handwritten notes of the past years, I came across a piece of paper with the following quote on it:
To become a popular religion, it is only necessary for a superstition to enslave a philosophy.  (William Ralph Inge) 
Perhaps that's a good point to start my discussion on PR. Of course, that would mean, I'll have spend at least one class explaining to my students the meaning of that quote!!

Anyway, the examination on Philosophy of God was an utter fiasco.  Mostly all of them were sure of the theory but had no knowledge of what they were speaking! Thus I told them: theory: 100 but knowledge: 0.  I may be too fast or rash in judging, but their idea of God remains the same!  They don't just defend their 'God'; they simply imprison him!  So their initial idea and their concluding idea is the same, everything else in between is a text; nothing of which affects either 'their God' or themselves.  Or perhaps, it will in due time, hopefully! 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

A b'day prayer for Fr Lens...

After long I wrote a letter today... a b'day note to dear Fr John Lens. I enclosed in the envelope a small prayer card I happened to find in my table drawer and which I felt was a very apt prayer for Fr Lens... I also know very well that he'd pass it on to others... just like, my brother and I, were the beneficiaries of many a stamps, holy pictures, puzzles and games which he'd generously give away to us boys, way back during our school days at Don Bosco, Sulthan Bagh.

Here's the prayer I prayed for Fr Lens:
I said a prayer for you today
And know God must have heard 
I felt the answer in my heart
Although He spoke no word. 

I didn't ask for wealth or fame,
I knew you wouldn't mind, 
I asked Him to send treasures
Of a far lasting kind. 

I asked that He'd be near you
At the start of the new day
To grant you health and blessings
And friends to share your way. 

I asked for happiness for you
In all things great and small
But it was for His loving care 
I prayed for most of all. 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

God's gift of walnuts

Most of us have a very 'magical' perspective of God.  He is more of a magician than a person. Someone who does tricks out of the blue and yet is holy.  Someone who is great and at the same time, my 'friend' - though I barely live or am his friend myself. Subsequently all our belief, faith, attitudes and related aspects with God take shape accordingly.

However, loved this Russian proverb, which in a nutshell describes 'my' God:
God gives us walnuts but He does not crack them.

An old age prayer

One unfortunate thing about old age is that one does not get to practice it! It merely creeps upon you... watch this hilarious prayer:

Monday, 30 September 2013

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me...

Timmy's Mom loved him very much and, being a worrier, she was concerned about him walking to school when he started kindergarten. She walked him to school the first couple of days, but when he came home one day, he told his mother that he did not want her walking him to school every day. He wanted to be like the "big boys." He protested loudly, so she had an idea of how to handle it.

She asked a neighbour, Mrs Goodnest, if she would surreptitiously follow her son to school, at a distance behind him that he would not likely notice, but close enough to keep a watch on him. Mrs Goodnest said that since she was up early with her toddler anyway, it would be a good way for them to get some exercise as well, so she agreed.

The next school day, Mrs Goodnest and her little girl, Marcy, set out following behind Timmy as he walked to school with another neighbor boy he knew. She did this for the whole week. As the boys walked and chatted, kicking stones and twigs, the little friend of Timmy noticed that this same lady was following them as she seemed to do every day all week. Finally, he said to Timmy, "Have you noticed that lady following us all week? Do you know her?"

Timmy nonchalantly replied, "Yea, I know who she is." The little friend said, "Well who is she?" "That's just Shirley Goodnest" Timmy said. "Shirley Goodnest? Who the heck is she and why is she following us?" "Well," Timmy explained, "every night my Mom makes me say the 23rd Psalm with my prayers cuz she worries about me so much. And in it, the psalm says, "'Shirley Goodnest and Marcy shall follow me all the days of my life.' So I guess I'll just have to get used to it."

Looking through God's eyes

A small boy, poor and shabbily dressed, was asked why he was so devoted to his teacher. "I like her," he said, "because she looks at me as though she doesn't see the holes in my shoes."

This is what an educator ought to do: focus on the richness within and not the external curtains.  For that one ought to have that special 'x-ray vision' to see through all that covers the interiors.  

Sunday, 29 September 2013

Perspective

Two Catholics watching the prostitute's house closely... A pastor entered and both commented, "What can we expect?" Secondly a Rabbi entered and they grinned, "What a terrible example!" and finally their Parish Priest entered and they said, "One of the girls must have been sick." 
(From The Prayer of the Frog, by Anthony De Mello)

As Teachers

My friend Rabbi is now a teacher and he had something nice to share on September 5, when we commemorated the Teacher's day:
We're prophets. Our job is to stir minds and make learning contagious.  We don't raise our voice to correct but raise our quality of words and actions.  Our mission is incomplete as long as we're alive.  If we teach as we did yesterday, we're outdated.  If not us, who? If not now, when? 

In between you have to manage!

Rabbi, my friend, send me this quote sometime ago.
You are loved when you were born. You will be loved when you die. In between you have to manage!
I always tell my Brothers, that love, more than an emotion, is a decision. It is a basically a commitment. It is a choice I have to deliberately make very consciously and carefully.  It is not something that just merely happens!  That 'happening by looks or chance' is only some wishful thinking or at the most the introduction to the introduction.  Not love itself.  

Wisdom sayings...

Thought you heard some bloomers of late?  Here are a couple, from the official statements or documents of renowned people...
If somebody has a bad heart, they can plug this jack in at night as they go to bed and it will monitor their heart throughout the night. And the next morning, when they wake up dead, there'll be a record. [Mark S. Fowler, FCC Chairman]
Your food stamps will be stopped effective March 1992 because we received notice that you passed away. May God bless you.  You may reapply if there is a change in your circumstances. [Department of Social Services, Greenville, South Carolina]
Smoking kills.  If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life. [Brooke Shields]


Saturday, 28 September 2013

Human sexuality ... gone to the dogs!

I finished correcting my Anthropology answer papers of the second year students. I'm happy, in general with their performance.  Most of them got the essential points right and they did convey it in a very synthetic and systematic manner.  However, a couple of them were all hotch-potch!  One in particular, seems to be totally way off the mark...

There was a question asking them to present a synthetic understanding of human sexuality in ten sentences.  And here's one of the points he wrote:
A man cannot live without woman. man can not control his sexual feelings but woman can control her sexual feelings. woman can recognise the person who is sexual person and who is not.  
As if that was not enough, here's the next point:
... human sexuality is making relation with everyone not only particular person but with other human being and animals. (emphasis added)
That'd be anthropology gone to the dogs! 

Mixing up charity and pity

Several people in formation line mix up charity with pity. Of late we on the staff in the Seminary have been taking a lot of flak for having asked half a dozen of our students to discontinue at the end of last year.  We had our valid and genuine reasons for doing so.  Yet very many seem to see this as unfair to them.  (Thankfully, no one is saying that we have been partial!).

I believe charity is when we have a sustained follow up of the student and help him in all possible fields to do what is right and good, and in the best manner possible; and then, after all this, if we still find that he will not be able to take on the role of a leader, of an animator, of a good shepherd, then in all honesty and goodwill we tell the person to discontinue.  That is charity... to him, to ourselves and to the Church.

Pity, on the other hand, is when someone who has not done any bit of help all along, but then comes up and says that the person should be given another chance. Has he done anything all along the year to help the individual?  No!  Pity, in this sense, is born of an illusory sense of well being of oneself in comparison to another, who happens to be in tears for all the choices he has made all along, in which I took no part,  not even took notice of.

Mixing these two is a very dangerous and foolish gamble!

French Revolution in Japan!

The day before yesterday we began our semester exams for the Brothers. Fr Wilson was taking his exam for Contemporary Western Philosophy and here's his interaction with one of the students:

Where did the French Revolution take place? 
In Japan. 
Are you sure? 
Eh... in India? 
French Revolution, in India? 
No, no... in France! 

Now you know why French revolution took so long! 

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

A lonely and tiring journey...

Today was yet another reminder that none can really ruffle some feathers - even if they are your own - and not raise some dust.  The only encouraging factor of what has transpired today is that at least we staff stand by one another.

What does one do when one knows that what one is doing as a team is good and truthful and yet is frowned upon and battered by everyone?  The dilemma is very nauseating given the fact that all those casting stones also know very well that what is being done by us is good and worthy - not necessarily the conventional but still the right thing.  Just because some unruly idiots will create some confusion somewhere, sometime, does that mean we stop saying the truth? ... stop being committed to the task entrusted, in all sincerity? ... stop doing what is good and what needs to be done, even if it is unpleasant to everyone (the ones doing it and the ones for whom it is being done) at this present moment?

What does one do when the very persons who are to lead you in truth, tell you to hush up the truth and look the other way?  What if the ones to stand by you, take up cudgels against you? What if your very own join hands with those baying for your blood, just because what you say and do is inconvenient, but good and true?

Walking by principles and convictions, is indeed a lonely journey! 

When leadership crumbles...

The past ten hours have been a terrific experience for me personally. Nothing really new but something I never expected, not after all that happened yesterday.  The only imagery that comes to my mind is that of a crumbling wall, but something that has not yet fallen completely, something that still claims to be a wall, a pillar of support, something that is looked upon as a source of strength... yet is anything but it!

What does one do when the leadership crumbles but does not completely fall?  It still retains or claims to be in authority and acts like one!  It is neither a source of support to scale greater heights nor is it something that one can break ones head against!  What the hell is such a leadership worth?  

Sunday, 22 September 2013

The Salesian Society

I have a feeling that I'm getting obsessed with the idea that Don Bosco started the Salesian Congregation for the work at hand, than merely to found a congregation for religious piety and devotion.  His one and only dream was to make sure young people feel worthy, that they are nurtured and taken care of, especially the one's who had no one to do so.

Furthermore, it is said that in the process of reaching out to such youngsters I save my soul.  Certainly he did not mean the other way round. I am also willing to believe that it may be both may happen simultaneously, but surely not the other way round.

I found another interesting line in the introductory words of The Annals of the Salesian Society... a text containing the history of the founding of the Salesian congregation.
We say 'Annals of the Salesian Society' - not the 'Pious' Salesian Society.  It is true that Don Bosco himself at times spoke of a 'Pious' Society, but the Superior Chapter in 1926 kept the adjective 'Pious' only for the 'Pious Union of Cooperators', not for the Salesian Society. [Eugene Ceria, The Annals of the Salesian Society Vol. 1 (1941) I only have the manuscript and not the original print.] 
There you see, piety and the religious aspect was certainly not the goal of the Salesian society... surely the essential ingredient but not the reason! 

The shrewd manager

The sermon this morning during Mass was very refreshing and insightful.  After speaking of our human tendency to crave for darkness, for the shady business deals over the light and sincere transactions (something which the Prophet Amos decries in the first reading), the Parish Priest spoke of the Gospel in continuation.  When asked if the shrewd servant in Luke 16, incurred loss for his master before his laying down office, everyone in the Church replied, 'yes'. He then went on to show how, the servant/manager did not incur any loss to his master.  Rather the only one to suffer the monetary loss was himself!
What the manager cancels for all the debtors is not what was due to the Master, but to himself.  In the absence of the master, the manager lent out provisions or money.  The interest rates were not levied by the master.  To the master's account what needed to be shown was the product and if at all any thing was lent, the basic interest accrued by it.  The manager was in fact, gathering more interest for himself.  So when on the verge of losing his job, he realises that now needs to build relationships, build trust and bonds with people rather than money.  To this end, he does all that 're-calculation'.  For this Jesus praises him.

May be that the manager learnt the hard way that what is important is relationship and trust not money or wealth.  Perhaps this change of attitude is what Jesus praises him for.  Seen from this angle, the parable and all the didactic messages that follow makes sense.  

Focus on love; not on preventing sin

Recently Pope Francis, stated that the Church should not be obsessed with gays, abortion and... In fact, what he left unsaid was that is should rather be obsessed with God's love and an intimate relationship with Him.

In my moments of clarity I do realize that when my focus is on His love, I barely have the time or the thought of straying away from it.  However when my focus is to be away from sin, I am wasting my whole effort and energy. In my effort, I may succeed too, that I remain spotless but I remain so 'dead'.  I am sinless is not the same as I am happy!

My experience with the Brothers too has been very formative for me in this perspective.  From the time I shifted my emphasis from telling them not to waste time during the evening study to giving them enough to do during study; from repeatedly telling them not to talk in the study hall or library, to helping them savour the joy of reading, of knowing, of learning more, the results have been great. In the process of achieving the latter the former is automatically done.  But as long as I was focussed on the latter alone, I realised that I wasn't giving them anything positive.  I only wanted them to be away from the negative.

Similarly the focus is not on reducing evil, but on being good.  The focus is not on preventing sin, but on cherishing love!  

Why didn't he?

Jesus, as we all know very well, broke many conventional and traditional laws of the Jewish culture. Of course, he did so to prove a point or to get back to the spirit of the law.  However why didn't He break the male hierarchy or domination?  Though he did make a few dents... speaking with the Samaritan woman, forgiving the woman caught in adultery, making Mary Magdalene His first emissary... he never really 'effectively' made the point.  Perhaps, if He were to have chosen among his apostles even one woman, it would have made a world of difference to the whole understanding of the gender balance.

Well one could always list a hundred and one things Jesus could have done or done differently, but on my short personal list, this one counts. 

Saturday, 21 September 2013

Preaching the preaching!

Early this morning I received this quote from a good friend of mine...
Jesus preached about Kingdom of God. The Church preached about Jesus Christ. The preacher is preached.
It is from one of the books of Leonardo Boff, the famous Eco-Theologian.

I know not in what context Boff makes this statement; or in what mood.  However, the truth of it cannot be denied.  To drive home the point, I'd like to add another sentence to the same quote... Jesus preached about Kingdom of God. The Church preached about Jesus Christ. And the Priests today preach about the Church!

Friday, 20 September 2013

Spiritual adultery

Beautiful words from the people's Pope: 
We shepherds are not men with the psychology of princes – ambitious men, who espouse this Church while awaiting another, more beautiful and richer. But this is a scandal! Imagine that a man confesses, saying, 'I am married and I live with my wife, but I continually look at a woman who is more beautiful than her; is this a sin, Father?' The Gospel tells us that this is the sin of adultery. Is there such thing as 'spiritual adultery'? I don't know, think about it yourselves. Do not await another more beautiful, more important, richer Church. Do not fall into the trap of careerism! It is a form of cancer! (emphasis added)
This guy knows what he is talking because he lives that simple austere and straight life! Thanks for inspiring us, dear Francis.  

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Joy of Reading

Here's a saying from a wise-crack friend of mine...
If these two alphabet TV can bring so much of joy to young people, just imagine how much joy 26 alphabet can bring.  Introduce the joy of reading books. 
... and I certainly am one who'd totally agree with this one! The addiction to reading is really thrilling!  I began to blog to force myself to read something everyday.  However I do have to admit that now my reading is slowly limited to small tit-bits I glance through on the net or on my computer. Need to dig into more substantial stuff.

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

Being a formator 2

To be appointed in a formation setting would not default make one a formator.  If that were the criterion then perhaps, our staff members who are serving the community for nearly 22 years are better formators than anyone else!

To be a formator one ought to be able to help the young grow in their vocation.  Now that word 'vocation' could be understood narrowly in the sense that of the consecrated life or religious life or in a broader and better sense to mean, vocation to life.

It struck me yesterday evening that to be a formator of religious or consecrated life, would demand of me that I am first able to form young people in their vocation to life.  How can I form vocation to consecrated life, if I have no idea or clue or interest in helping young people appreciate life... life in its basic form, in its human form?

Human life, Christian life, Consecrated life are concentric circles and not merely intersecting circles.  To reach the inner, more challenging aspect of Consecrated life, I ought to go through human and Christian life.  

Being a formator

Yesterday we had our monthly recollection and the preacher, Fr S. Prathap from Vizianagaram, spoke about the crazy shepherd from the Gospel (within the Gospel) of Luke who abandons the 99 in search of the one lost and gone astray. Naturally the question, what about the 99 who are left behind to fend for themselves? What if they get lost, by the time the shepherd finds the one lost and returns to the spot?  

However, I had something else ringing in my mind.  What if the 99 - that may sound too much, but, what if most - had got lost; not just one, but many?  How on earth would the shepherd go after them?  Which direction would he first decide to go in?

Perhaps the theme of the parable is something else altogether. It may mean that it is to be read from God's perspective and not from the sheep's... may be!  Perhaps God means to say that no is written off.

It is said that people who care, do not write off others, rather they focus greater on them.  Now in a formation setting like ours, we claim that we are a family. Then why is it that we sometimes write off some Brothers?  From the other perspective, perhaps not all are called to be Brothers at all!  May be that they are not meant to be leaders or pastors, may be anything else but leaders!

So then the question, how to help such youngsters, who find themselves or pitch their tent in the Seminary, realize that they are out of place, without breaking them?  How to break his bubble of illusion or fantasy of Priesthood and Leadership, and not his whole life?

That's the challenge of being a formator!

Saturday, 14 September 2013

God as attitude

A reflection that was overdue (part of the symposium on God and Evil, held last week here in our Philosophate):
We treat God as a remedy or an elixir of life. He is rather the air that sustains us every moment; that which ensures my health everytime I breathe.  Until God becomes our attitude, not even God can help us in the face of extreme or senseless evil. Only crutch, only aid is the attitude that we live by ...
and right attitudes are formed by consistent choice of the good. 

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Consecration Camps?

Just before I started for Shillong, we had the Philosophical Symposium on God and Evil.  During one of the presentations there was a discussion about the Nazi concentration camps.  At one moment I heard - or misheard - the word 'concentration camp' as 'consecration camps'.

These few days of discussion on formation and related matters, triggers in me a similar feeling: Are we running 'consecration camps' or playgrounds where young people learn and enjoy being transformed?  Is our formation paradigm facilitating a personal zeal for growth because I have a goal for myself or because I am keen to discern and follow the promptings of Jesus?  How much of our formation is a process of inner change and growth?

If not get the answers to all of these questions, I hope to answer some of them at least for myself. 

SAFC Meet, Shillong

Here's the photo of the South Asia Formation Commission team comprising of the formation delegate of each Province of South Asia (12), two chosen representatives from the SPCSA (2) and the Regional Formation Coordinator. Of course, Fr Chrys Saldanha is a common figure at such Regional level meetings given his intermediary role between the Region and the Generalate.

The building in the background is that of Mathias Institute, Shillong, the same place where I did my Diploma Course in Theology for two years (2005-2007). Indeed two very memorable and enriching years of my Salesian life. 

Affecting policies

I had this nagging feeling that my presence in the National Formation Commission was more of a quota or reservation seat filling than a real necessity. However, I guess that leaves me with the option of moaning it or making use of this opportunity. I now realise that I'm in a good platform which can influence policies and decision making bodies. That truly is a great potential.

Today I did make a significant contribution towards one such policy or decision that was almost made but the whole mood and mode changed after I intervened.  And what's more, it was concerning the Salesian Brothers. Not that I intervened because it is about Salesian Brothers but that it happened to be so.  We did have a very fruitful and open discussion about the specific formation of the Brothers and I began by assuming responsibility on behalf of the Brothers that we often are not serious or sure about the formation structures offered for our own growth.  I began by questioning the 'for what' of the several decisions or actions or lack of them by a group of Brothers in formation which led to the whole debate!  And I concluded saying that if the Brothers did not have a valid 'for what' then they were wrong... as simple as that. That they acted immature!

The discussion that we had this evening did not really end up with we arriving at a policy, but the very fact that we had greater clarity, at least among ourselves, what ought to be given priority and what is it that really matters, is itself a great achievement. More than before it now challenges me personally to more involved and committed to the opportunities that lay before me, the powers that I now possess, though not purposely acquired or which I pride upon.  Possibilities that I can now make real, to some extent atleast. 

Thank God, we're different

Listening to different confreres about their experiences with other confreres in their respective communities and other interactions in the Province at different levels and for different reasons, it is clear that not all of us are the same. Each of us thinks differently, perceives differently and certainly behaves differently. That does not necessarily make us better or worse than the others.  However it does show that though we are Salesians, trained almost in the same charism and for the same mission, yet differences remain.  That's a rather good thing. Imagine if all were to think and be the same!!

One confrere in his excited mood while sharing of his experiences in the Province shared this:
Instincts are magnificent as a driving force, but dangerous as guide. 

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Spiritual direction and openness

We had a long discussion on spiritual direction and counselling and manifestation and related stuff this whole morning.  I intervened only before lunch. My only intervention was this: 
If young people joining us are given a taste of freedom that an attitude of openness offers right on early in life, then they are sure to get so 'addicted' to it that none need to 'tell' them to go for manifestation to the Rector, or meet the spiritual director.  They will naturally take to spiritual direction like fish to water.  However, this attitude of openness is essential for a religious.  If not, he is bound to carry with him a burden, which at time will surely become too heavy to bear.  However, there could be some issues that need counselling which could be addressed to by a psychologist or a trained counsellor.  But this is only an additional help.  If the person has not learnt the art of opening up, no counsellor or spiritual guide can help.  Furthermore, if a person is always carrying such a heavy baggage that he always needs support and counselling, when on earth will he help others with their baggage?  

We all are broken and wounded in some way or the other.  Yet we learn to extend a healing touch to others in and through our brokenness.  But if we are so broken that it is we who seek healing all the time and every time, then I would question the very vocation of such an individual to religious or consecrated life.  The best would be to ask him to discontinue and help him with or through a psychologist.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Mother Teresa

I know not how much of this is true, but this is what I heard someone say today, the feast day of Bl. Mother Teresa.  Everyone knows that she was a Loretto nun before she received the 'call' to leave it all and begin a new mission in the slums of Kolkatta.  It is said that while she was in Kolkata teaching children in the posh girls school, one of the girls suddenly fainted in class one day. Later as she walked the lanes and bylanes of the Kolkata slums she saw for herself the abject poverty and miserable living conditions of people.

Now most think that it was the 'call' that propelled her to her mission of serving the poor and destitute in Kolkata... but did not this experience of hers, prompt her divine call?  In other words, it is hard to accept that these two experiences of her life had nothing to do with one another... that there was absolutely no connection between the two.

Whatever be the truth of matters, what truly matters is the exemplary life she lived and the courage with which she expressed her own inner turmoils.  Some people say that her spiritual directors, who were told by her to burn her letters, but did not and then made them public, did something wrong. I would really like to thank them for making known that Mother Tereasa was a normal human being.  Not an angel who fell from heaven but one who toiled hard, square and fair, in every aspect of life to live a life of communion with Jesus.  Her human weaknesses and doubts, rather than act as impediments, are indeed signs of transcendence.

Biography to Autobiography

The morning's Gospel passage from Luke 5, of Peter falling at the feet of Jesus after witnessing to the great catch of fish, is a good example of how Jesus re-scripts lives of individuals.  Fr Maliekal in his sermon, this morning used the phrase, 'Biography to Autobiography'. So far Peter is sure and confident of his skill as a fisherman. Now here comes Jesus, a carpenter, with practically no knowledge or skill about fishing, to predict something of which Peter has absolutely no clue.  And then what?  Jesus is right in his prediction of the location of fish.  That's the moment of re-scripting!  Peter lived his life in a routine manner is now challenged to take a sharp turn, that too in a direction which he must have never ever dreamt in his life.  But the best is yet to come...
Jesus then permits him to re-script his own life.  He invites him to join him catch men. Now that's something that Jesus offers time and again.  Biography to autobiography... This constant rewriting of one's own life journey is what Jesus offers to all who are with Him. 

Tuesday, 3 September 2013

A story from Don Bosco's collection

Two loonies, wrapped up in cloaks and trembling from the cold, entered a certain inn and asked the innkeeper to light a fire to warm them up. The innkeeper went over and lit a huge fire, then went off. Meanwhile one of the men got so close to the fire that had he been made of straw he would immediately have been incinerated. The other stood at the entrance to the room, pulled his hands out of his cloak and held them out to the fire to warm himself.
Meanwhile the one who was standing right up close to the fire shouted: "Curse the fire! It’s burning me!" The one who was standing right back said: "Oh! I’m just as cold as I was before," and they called the innkeeper.

He came and asked both of them what kind of fire, what sort of wood it was if one said he was just about on fire while the other said he felt no warmth at all. And then, noticing that they weren’t quite right in the head, he said to them: 

The problem is not the fire, it’s you. If you back there would just take four steps further forward, you would be able to warm yourself, and if you here would just take two steps back you would not be so hot for sure. 
They did as he said, then after warming themselves for a while they left, praising the fire, the wood, and the innkeeper’s advice.

The two loonies are an image of people who don’t know how to use things properly, thinking they are bad while instead they are excellent, and complain about them. It doesn’t matter how good something is if you don’t know how to use it. Riches are good: but they are bad in the hands of someone who is either extravagant, squanders them in vice and gluttony, or is greedy and keeps them locked up in a steel box.

[For more stories from the collection made by Don Bosco himself for his boys, click here.]

When means become an end...(2)

For Don Bosco his priorities were clear and sure.  But I'm not so sure if we, individually and collectively can claim that same clarity and stand guarantee for ourselves.  Unlike Don Bosco, for whom means and ends were clear and distinct, we tend to mix them up...

  • Getting the boys to the Church is more important than being holy.
  • Attending Catechism classes is more important than learning the meaning and depth of prayer.
  • Obedience is more important than the person for whom I am willing to obey.
  • Poverty is more important than attachment to Christ.
  • Chastity is more important than love. 
  • Attending Mass becomes more important than communion with God and others. 
  • Talking or preaching of His Kingdom becomes more important than loving and living the Kingdom. 

The former actions are all good, but only as good means, not as an end in themselves. 

When means become an end...(1)

I've been doing some soul searching and reflection in view of the Brothers' Congress.  But it is all in bits and pieces.  Several other things keep cluttering my mind before I reach anywhere close to having a comprehensive idea about any particular thing. Anyway, the latest to hit me was this: What if means become an end?

Don Bosco wanted to save souls of the boys.  Only souls?  Certainly no!  The whole person, the whole boy.  For this he was willing to go to any extent, to do anything... ANYTHING!

His goal and motive were far beyond getting the boys to Church, to Communion, to confession ... these were only the means, not the end!


As and when these didn't work, he employed some other means: he gambled, he danced, told stories, played music, performed tricks and even stole or fought.  His motive was divine, not his approach (by any standards then, not by any standards today)!  His mind was pious, not the Salesian society (check the introductory note of Fr Lens to the abridged Annals of the Salesian Soceity).  In short, he was a reckless founder for whom the means didn't matter, as long as He was with his boys and for the good of his boys. 

Gurantee for the Price... not the product

Yesterday Satyam, our driver, bought me a mobile phone charger.  He was told in the shop that if he would pay Rs 100/- there would be a guarantee of 6 months. Or else he could pay Rs 80/- with no guarantee!  ... and I always thought the guarantee is for the product and not the price! 

Suggestions to a Bishop...

A particular Bishop from whose diocese students study at my place, has been insisting that students should not be dismissed by the end of their first year of study.  I presume he means that they should be given another chance (second year) and perhaps another chance (third year)!  The same Bishop would later argue, if the candidate were to be promoted to the second year, and found unfit still, that if he could make it till the second year then why ask him to discontinue now!  To this Bishop, I wish to ask...
Does he know the candidate at all?  Anything at all? His name, his background, his strengths and weaknesses? reasons for dismissal?  Would he know anything of the same candidate if he were to be promoted?  Or for that matter, others of his batch who were promoted?

Secondly, what was he doing when the candidates dismal performance was brought to his notice through the scrutiny and observation procedures sent to him at the end of the first semester (mid-year)?   That the Bishop read those reports itself is a big doubt.  Even if he did, what positive steps did he take to help the concerned candidate to improve himself?

My experience proves that he does not even know the concerned persons' name!! For the "reverend" Bishop, he is just another member in his diocese not a person, not one with an individuality, but another number in his "gang" of priests.

Luckily for him he has not appeared in person or made a written appeal - for I have a proposal ready for him:
Spare the student the agony of study (be it either B.A. or Philosophy or Theology) and post him as the regent in the Bishop's house itself. After a year or two, ordain him there itself and appoint him as your secretary.  That way, the candidate is happy, so is his Bishop!  

Saturday, 10 August 2013

Religion as stairs; not an escalator

Religion is often treated as an escalator, something you just have to step on and it will automatically take you up to heaven. I'd rather think of religion as a staircase, some structure which is present but the effort is mine!  I need to climb the stairs. By merely standing on the first step I cannot make it up to the next level.  I need to take the steps. The stairs only provide me with an opportunity, a means to negotiate the different levels of the building.


Very importantly, the very stairs that lead one to the top also lead to the bottom. Secondly, the stairs need to connect different levels of reality.  If they were merely going round in circles without reaching anywhere the very concept of stairs would be rendered meaningless and useless!  So too will religion if it is made into a one way or a concentric circle reaching nowhere! 

Friday, 26 July 2013

Redefining 'spirituality'

In my Anthropology class today, I had an interesting discussion with my Brothers. It was about spirituality.  One of them asked me, if a Priest, neglecting his prayer life, goes about doing good to people, can still be regarded as a spiritual Priest?  Rather than me answering it, I reverted the question to the whole class.  Most of them were of the opinion that he could still be called a 'spiritual priest'.  However, a handful of them had objections.  Finally when all had stated their stance, I replied that all that was discussed had nothing to do with spirituality!  It was rather a very good example for 'Carthesian duality' of which I spoke to them, as part of the conclusion of the chapter on 'spiritual being'.  I had stated that this attitude of splitting things up into halves and juxtaposing one against the other is not something spirituality is all about. Rather, it is about integration, balance and harmony!

I took the opportunity to blast their foundations about Priesthood and spirituality. I emphatically and with reasons showed them how spirituality is not the monopoly of Priests or religious.  Every person, everyone, is called to be holy!  Priesthood is nothing more than one of the several means to reach that goal of sanctity, holiness, oneness!  The worst is when we idolize priesthood itself! Further damage is done when priesthood and sanctity are automatically linked!  C'mon!

Very many in the class saw the point, some even questioned me for this - but all in good faith!  

Politicking

The past two weeks have been nothing less than a solemn celebration in the villages across the state. It was the case in the neighbouring villages too.  Thanks to the panchayat elections, scheduled for tomorrow, there is free food, booze, clothes and money flowing in the houses of every person whose name appears in the voters list.  Every person contesting, either as sarpanch or ward member, is doling out gifts and cash to every voter, irrespective of his or her allegiance.  Naturally in the process - for once, at least - the voter is rich, because he or she is being given money by all those contesting!

I asked our driver, whose wife too is contesting, as to the need for giving this money.  His straight reply, "Nothing moves without money or gifts!" I asked, what of honesty and service... is that not worthy enough a criteria for electing people to public posts?  "Not anymore," was the immediate reply! Besides this cash and kind, delivered at home, all those who agree to rally behind a contestant for a day - one needs only to walk behind, say a few slogans or carry a banner or flag, nothing more - are given lunch (a packet of chicken biriyani), one quarter bottle (that needs not explanation to an Indian), and Rs 250/- and of course, some snacks and drinks along the walk.

The spy network too is quite interesting. Each contestant appoints some guys, real good for nothing guys, as 'check-posts', to keep him or his lieutenants informed if any other contestant is entering the village or distributing somethings.  Our dhobi is a real sample himself.  He was chosen by one contestant and - here's the best part - by his opponent too!!  So he kept guard for two nights at the entrance of the village watching out for 'the other', and earned Rs 2,000 from both the sides!

The ones I pity most, are the people themselves.  They literally and gladly are 'prostituting' themselves today, and loosing their right to demand in the long run.  None of them asks the one distributing cash and kind, as to where did he or she get so much money to throw it about.  Barely does anyone realise that once elected to power, the politician rules and today's 'king' will be fleeced and stripped of everything he or she owns and has. 

Values percolate

Last night we had the skit competition for our Brothers.  The theme, being the Marian month, was Mary.  They were free to choose and develop any idea they wanted and from anywhere.  All the groups came up with their own ideas and creative presentations.  It was interesting to watch them create their own costumes and props.  What really touched me was the messages they chose to deliver.  They were all from our regular philosophy classes. Themes like freedom, responsibility, choices, attitudes, respect, spirituality, growth, were very much floated not only in direct speech but through subtle messages too.  It was very consoling to see that what we staff constantly keep exhorting and speaking of is trickling into their hearts and minds. Hope it soon permeates their whole life. 

Sunday, 21 July 2013

The fire within...

The other day Fr Maliekal was speaking about Moses and his interaction with the Egyptians, his fellow Hebrews and his subsequent encounter with God. He highlighted the transition of Moses from one who was all strength and power (wherein he tries to settle things with the oppressive Egyptian and intervenes during the fight between the two Hebrews) to one who surrenders to God and His plan (before the burning bush) and that too with lots of reservations - I'm unable to speak, I'm not courageous!  What happened to that vigorous Moses? What happened to his fire?
I believe this is a real transformation.  I set out on my own and then in due time and occasion ask God to add His bit to my effort.  It is not that I initially set out in rebellion against God or out of pride.  No, not at all!  Rather I set out in respect and confidence that I've been blessed by God with those skills and energies to do my bit on His behalf.  As much as I can, I do... for what I'm able to achieve, is again not totally my own, but something gifted by Him.

Contrary to this strategy is the one wherein I 'surrender' outright and do nothing! This is a real lame excuse, according to me, of very many who call themselves spiritual or pious.  If God did not consider you and me worth anything, He'd have made us as sticks or stones, not human beings!  So rather than insult the creator or one who gifted me with what I have, I put to use these to do my bit.  That's prayer; that's respect; that's partnership; that's treating God as a person! 

Abraham, Mary, Martha and Jesus

Today's reading speak about hospitality and treating guests. Abraham royally treats the strangers not knowing who they truly were. But given his Jewish upbringing and natural habit of taking care of those who travel, he treats them well.  Mary and Martha too attend to Jesus when he visits their house in Bethany.  The difference in both these instances, as stated by the Parish Priest in his lovely sermon today, is that Abraham did not know whom he was attending upon. Mary and Martha knew very well who and what Jesus was.  Not knowing that they were divine beings, Abraham offers them whatever comfort he could provide, since they needed it.  Martha was busy offering Jesus the things He did not really want, not immediately!  It was not necessary to give to Jesus then, but be open to receive from Him!

What and whom to give, has been stated by Jesus elsewhere... To the Samaritan woman he says, "If you but knew who is asking you for water, you'd be the one who'd ask Him to give you the living waters!"  Martha and Mary knew Jesus, yet Martha was keen only on giving to Jesus.  Elsewhere Jesus says, "When you throw a banquet, do not invite those who will be able to repay your invitation in kind, rather invite those who will not be able to pay you back!"  This clearly states whom to invite: strangers, poor, the destitute... your enemies.

Quite a point for reflection:  Jesus has more to offer than you have to give!  

Greetings?

Why do we greet one another 'Good morning', 'Good evening' and so on?  Is it merely a statement or a mere expression?  If it is mere information, then one need not since the other person too is not such a dumb idiot to notice the goodness of the day.  If merely an expression, then need not be cliched!

I think these bits are a commitment to make the moment good, for myself and for the other too.  It doesn't make any other sense to me!

And I'm still wondering why this thought flashed my mind as sat for tea the other day at table!

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Tough decision

This one could not have come across to me at a better time... a quote of Roy E. Disney.

Am really battling something important and serious, that came up today. Not that I do not know what I stand for, but am thinking of the avalanche of repercussions that will follow, once I decide going by my heart.

... could use a little prayerful support

Mandela

In class today, while speaking of freedom, as part of my class on Anthropology, I spoke about Nelson Mandela and today was also his 95th b'day.
There is no such thing as part freedom.
Truly, an inspirational icon of our era... and as someone greeted him on this occasion, "Thanks for making this world a better place!"

I came across a couple of his inspirational words here.
And given my present state of mind, the one that really caught my eye (and heart) is this one:
Lead from the back and let others believe they are in front.
And this one too...
There is no passion to be found playing small - in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. 
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