Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Simple wedding

This evening Fr Maliekal and myself attended the wedding celebrations of one of the youngsters from Narpam, a village in the neighbourhood. He had come personally with his benefactress to invite us for the wedding and we did make it only for the meal. Though we reached quite late in the evening, the ceremony was still running late!

However, what I liked was the way in which it was conducted.  Unlike the marriages I've attended earlier (though not many, and most of them Hindu marriages), this stood out for the way it was organised. The Holy Mass was the only focus.  There were meals served for all after Mass while those who wanted to wish the couple did so as the meals progressed.  No other fanfare and hungama!  I'm sure it was how the retired elderly teacher there wanted it: a Catholic wedding celebration in the Church!  Though not all in the village and the families would have 'enjoyed' it, the way the central elements were focused was praiseworthy. I certainly will tell this to the teacher and congratulate her, the next time I meet her. 

Monday, 27 May 2013

Detachment is the key

The readings of the day (from Sirach and Mark) speak of repentance (return to him) and charity (go sell all you have). I was wondering what could be the connection between the two values.  What does  repenting from my sins and selling all I possess have in common?  During meditation it struck me that the common denominator here is detachment.  I need to detach myself from all my sins as well as all that keeps me bound.  As long I am detached from anything that binds me, I'm fine.  Anything that binds me, my sins, my attachments to wealth, even clinging to virtues and goodness, is evil.  For all this keeps me away from the one thing that liberates me... the truth.  So long as I tread the path of righteousness and not get stuck with the good that I come across, so long do my chances of meeting the best are alive.  When I'm stuck (whether to evil or goodness), I'm not going to graduate to the Best!  

Sunday, 26 May 2013

Motivation to Priesthood

In my years of experience in the formation houses, I've seen umpteen number of youngsters hell bent on becoming priests... however only a handful of them are intent also on being a priest. For clarity's sake I'll mark the second individual (being a priest) as 'A' and the other (becoming a priest) as  'B'.

While 'A' is out to understand the spirit of the formation period and imbibe the same, 'B' wants nothing to do with the spirit of the whole process. He is concerned mostly with the letter of the text.  There also are guys who are concerned neither with the spirit nor the letter.  Their only concern is to 'stay out of danger'!  ... danger of being 'knocked off the list'!

[In this context I remember a Priest asking me why one of the students of the seminary was not promoted and asked to leave.  His argument ended with this statement, "He didn't do anything (wrong)." I replied, "That's exactly the reason. He didn't do anything! He merely was present here; with no intent of doing or being!"]

'A' strives for Priesthood, not for the title or fame but for the grace called 'priesthood'.  'B' strives merely for the title 'Fr' before his name that will ensure him everything a businessman aspires (sans hard work) ... like social security, economic prospects, privileges, 'above-the-ordinary-feel', an invisible license to do anything under the garb of the cassock...

For 'A' ordination is but a mere ceremony. It adds nothing more to him than an official social and ecclesial seal... he is already a Priest long since!  For 'B' ordination is the greatest day of his life.  That's when he gets the tag 'Fr' and marks the end of a long agonizing period called formation. He is now free!

All along the time offered as preparation for priesthood, 'A' seeks opportunities to enhance his skills and talents knowing well that it is for the Kingdom that he is preparing (for God and His people); 'B' too is grabbing every opportunity that comes his way but it is all for him alone, his motivation begins and ends with himself!

'A' loves his vocation and knows that priesthood is a means to spiritual perfection, that God has chosen for him (just like married life was something chosen by God for his parents). And therefore will cherish this path (not destination) and strive for perfection (meaning, virtues of the Kingdom).  So if under any unfortunate turn of events, he is stripped of his title and habit  he will still be a priest (not theologically but in reality). 'B' too loves his vocation and will go to any length to safeguard it. However he is only safeguarding the title and the habit   Nothing else matters!  But mind you, he'll do anything, really anything, he'll go to any extreme, to safeguard it. And if by any chance (luckily!) he is stripped of them both, he most probably will never ever be seen in any Church or be part of any charity. His priesthood never began, so I can't say that it ended on that lucky day!

In a moment of crisis when one has to choose between continuing in the seminary as a mute spectator/ with Herod's attitude or quitting the seminary, because values are at stake, 'A' will ultimately (because he will prudently work first to restore the value at stake and only when he has exhausted the possibilities and is expected to work against the value) choose the latter; while for 'B' the latter possibility (especially, the value) does not exist in his list of options.

(May be a repetition in different words) For 'A' priesthood is a way of life, a life-style, definitely not the goal of life; for 'B' priesthood is the goal for another kind of life, a life other than the one he is forced to live now because of the seminary setting.  Hence after ordination he does not know what to do! 'A' is driven by the vision he has set for himself for which priesthood offers an ideal path; 'B' is driven only by the desire to be a priest, nothing more and nothing less! 

Relearning language

The Hindu of yesterday carried an interesting article on language, busting quite a few myths and presenting some interesting facts about language.  The article, titled 'Stories they tell about languages' (written by Rama Kant Agnihotri) states that there is nothing 'pure' or perfect structure of any language, least of all, the language spoken by the majority.  Though I did not fully get the author's final solution, I guess he is proposing a strategy by which our school children learn languages, rather than a language. Moreover he is suggesting a logical enquiry into language rather than 'grammar' of one particular language.

In the opening para, the author clearly expresses his anger at the claim that the language spoken by the majority is the best, the most relevant.  Unless we replace the rote-learnt grammar with a scientific study of language...
We will continue to neglect the language of children and the community; the levels of silence will continue to increase in classrooms; the clamour for English will become more intense, privileging a handful and neglecting the majority on the margins.  Yes, there is something inherently wrong with the formulation 'minorities on the margins'; those minorities constitute the majority of our population. 
Interesting to note the authors wide horizon to speak of 'language of children... of silence... of those on the margins'. To conclude, I am reminded of a quote of Alvin Toffler who once said,
The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.

Myth about Hindi busted!

Reading an article in The Hindu, yesterday one of the myths that I believed to be true, or rather never ever doubted, was busted!  I always thought and believed that Hindi was the national language of India.  I read that it is not so! It is only the official language and so are about two dozen more languages recognised by the Indian Constitution!  

Motivation (from movies?)

We people, especially in Andhra, have an issue with motivation. Our motivation factors are most often wonky! This is not just a hunch but a time-tested and experientially verified fact (personally, though!).

As I sat for meditation this morning, an insight crossed my mind. In the Hindi / Telugu remake of the English movie Patch Adams, Munnabhai MBBS/Shankardada MBBS, like in the original English movie, the protagonist enters the medical college, but for very different reasons.  Patch Adams enters the medical college because he is passionately in love with healthcare and medicine; he has a vision for the health of people, for which he believes medicine is but only one requirement. Though weird, by regular standards, his practice soon begins to bear fruit.  Eventually he falls in love and pursues her and convinces her.  However, in the regional remake of the movie, the reason the protagonist enters the medical college is to prove someone wrong!! He, of his own accord, has no passion or even liking for healthcare.  Eventually he does some good and in the end all is fine.

But I'm asking myself what message are the youth being conveyed by this?  Is motivation always from outside, the best motivation?  What about 'seeking the spring' within?  Why is it that the motivation for doing anything, if done at all, is sought in external factors?  How about the fire within?  What about quenching that 'fire within', rather than being driven by the 'heat outside'? 

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Truth and courage

What connects honesty and truth?  Merely that saying the truth is honesty?  No, not completely. There's something else that links honesty and truth.  I think it is courage.  And that what often delinks the former two.  Very many of us are honest about most things in life.  But not always true.  Why is that? If saying the truth is honesty, it should be as easy as opening one's mouth.  However, life and daily living proves that we 'dare' not be truthful... basically because we are afraid.  We do not have the courage, perhaps, can be termed also as the will, to say the truth and stand by it.  That's why we camouflage it, go round it, dodge it, avoid it, do everything just to put it behind us and get on in life.

I was watching the movie, 16 Blocks, again, after a long time.  The story is about a police officer whose duty is to take a prisoner to court. As simple as that. However, the whole process is complicated when the prisoner is wanted dead by the whole department of police because he was to appear in court and testify against a couple of high ranking officials. What stands between the young prisoner and death is this police officer, who later confesses that he too is one among those against whom he was to testify.  Yet, he protects him and safely escorts him at the risk of his own life.

However, another twist awaits at the end. Rather than take the prisoner to court, the police officer himself goes to court to confess and indict his fellow corrupt police officers.  As he parts from the young prisoner, he says, "I am sorry I used you.  I used you to do something that I should have done myself.  I should have confessed six years ago when I did those bad things."  Now to say that and live up to it is what courage is all about.  So you see, knowledge and truth, may be related but not necessarily equated! 

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Brothers' Congress

The past couple of days I've been scratching my head to formulate a sort of survey form in view of the Salesian Brothers' Congress to held in December 2013.  About five years ago I proposed a change of mode and modality of the Congress, after my maiden participation in the previous Congress. Now I know what happens when you air your views, convincingly... you get to work and live up to the alternatives proposed! Initially I resisted and dodged getting drawn into the convening team of the upcoming Congress; only to end up having it whole and soul in my lap!

So now, my main attempt is to make a difference in the way we perceive Don Bosco, his initial reasons for initiating the Brotherhood, the whole process of growth and of course, and most importantly, the way we look at ourselves today. I'd be a fool to think I can alter the mindset and tickle the hearts of the 250 contingent of Brothers in South Asia. I aim for a change of perspective in atleast one person... myself!

Therefore, am presently working! 

Grace of wisdom

The reading of the day, again from Ecclesiasticus, is all about wisdom.  I remember using this text as the opening prayer and theme for discussion during one of my courses in Karunapuram.  I may as well do that this year too.
He who loves her loves life; those who seek her out win her favour. He who holds her fast inherits glory; wherever he dwells, the LORD bestows blessings. Those who serve her serve the Holy One; those who love her the LORD loves. He who obeys her judges nations; he who hearkens to her dwells in her inmost chambers. If one trusts her, he will possess her; his descendants too will inherit her. She walks with him as a stranger, and at first she puts him to the test; Fear and dread she brings upon him and tries him with her discipline; With her precepts she puts him to the proof, until his heart is fully with her. Then she comes back to bring him happiness and reveal her secrets to him. But if he fails her, she will abandon him and deliver him into the hands of despoilers.
And Fr Maliekal's only line of reflection after the Gospel was the icing on the cake: We are called to seek wisdom and strive for it, but bear in mind that it is not something we 'achieve' through our efforts but something we are graced with!  

Sincere of heart...

The readings for Holy Mass yesterday were very insightful.  I realise that the first reading presented in clear cut terms the whole charter of a religious or priestly vocation.  The reading from Sirach states clearly what and how a person who seeks to serve the Lord, and the Lord alone ought to do and be.
My son, when you come to serve the LORD, prepare yourself for trials. Be sincere of heart and steadfast, undisturbed in time of adversity. Cling to him, forsake him not; thus will your future be great. Accept whatever befalls you, in crushing misfortune be patient; For in fire gold is tested, and worthy men in the crucible of humiliation. Trust God and he will help you; make straight your ways and hope in him. You who fear the LORD, wait for his mercy, turn not away lest you fall. You who fear the LORD, trust him, and your reward will not be lost. You who fear the LORD, hope for good things, for lasting joy and mercy.
The only pitfall that I see is that very many prefer to stick to the latter part of the text forgetting the basic, the initial part of the text...
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,... 
Except this they do everything else... cling to the Lord, fear Him, follow Him, preach Him but fail to realise that if my heart is not rooted in Him, everything else scatters.  

And that's the most interesting challenge of religious life... root our life in Him and then branch out!

Monday, 20 May 2013

Faith torn

This morning I participated in Mass in a neighbouring Parish.  After communion, the card with the prayer for the year of faith was circulated among the people and after the final blessing all together we recited the prayer.  As is most often the case, this 'delicate' job of distributing and collecting back these prayer cards was done by the smallest and most volatile kids in the Church.  As I sat for a couple of minutes after the final hymn, I saw these kids collect, put them in a "neat" bundle and place them back at the altar.  However, one of the cards was found torn.  One of the kids picked it up, passed it on to one of his 'seniors', who in turn passed it on to his 'senior' (a member of the youth group) and in a whisper stated, "Someone tore faith." The boy clearly meant the prayer card, but overhearing him report, faith torn, I laughed!  

Friday, 17 May 2013

A personal encounter

For the Jews, Resurrection meant different things... for the Sadducees and Pharisees, a theological debate theme, for some, it was a lie, for most, another fable. For the Romans it was a petty religious issue of the Jews.  For the Greeks it was another myth, interesting and amusing.  For the apostles, initially, it was chaos.  However, for Saul it was an encounter with a person.  That one encounter was enough to make him St Paul.  Today we hear so much of Paul and his faith.  Nothing much is heard of the rest of the gang, about them speaking or writing about resurrection.  It would be a similar case with us unless and until we encounter Him.  Paul had the courage and the wisdom to move deeper after the encounter and make life changing decisions.  Most of us never even realise the encounter!

Friday, 10 May 2013

God empowers

We, as human beings, always wish God to treat us as babies when in difficulty and as youngsters for the rest of the time.  While the truth is that God treats us neither as helpless babies nor as carefree youngsters. He walks along with us, mature adults, grown up persons well endowed with grace and growth.  So while we wish that He carries us in His bosom, He gives us strength and points out the direction to tread on our own 'God-given' feet.  We expect Him to wash away our sins and make us 'as white as snow' but He gives us opportunities to have our sins forgiven.  God does not do things for us or instead of us, for in doing so He would be insulting Himself.  After all it is He who created us in 'his own image and likeness'. Why should He belittle Himself when He has already blessed us with all things necessary to fight and win the battle.  All that He joyfully does is accompany us, empower us.... not spoon-feed or babysit us!

Thursday, 9 May 2013

Pimp in the mirror

Speaking of leadership, here's an excerpt from The Week, "Follow the Spirit" by Sudhir Kakar (February 3, 2013; p. 60-61)...
... Then comes personal identity. A leader must determine which lines he or she will, or will not, cross. A good way of clarifying this is the mirror test: "How do I feel about myself while looking at the mirror?"
It comes from the story of a German ambassador in London who, as part of a celebration he had to host in honour of King Edward, was asked to hire prostitutes. He resigned. Asked why, he said, "I refused to see a pimp in the mirror in the morning, when I shave."

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Seeking apology...

In his letter through Paul to the pagans of Antioch (Acts 15: 1- 2.22-29), Peter apologizes for disturbing their delicate and sprouting faith with heavy and many demands.  He then short lists the basic essentials.  What's very encouraging is Peter's ready and direct apology. No justifications, no long sermons, no excuses or blame game.  A simple, direct and sincere apology.

I suppose it came naturally to Peter given the fact that
he was not 'carrying' the Church. He was just being natural, being himself.  The more we got institutionalised, the more difficult it became to become flexible or for that matter humble.  Good lesson to learn from this rather simple but profound statement issued by Peter: humility, especially in times of wrong doing, is the best and first form of repentance and growth.  

Evolution of revelation/faith

I was reading an article about the evolution of the idea of 'revelation' in Christian tradition and was happy to see the author rightly pointing out that the idea of revelation today is no more that of a set of doctrines and beliefs.  Revelation has more to do with the person. Earlier the understanding of faith was a assent to a list of doctrines and practices, today it is all about relationship with a Person. Furthermore, we have clearly moved on from a clear-cut doctrine and a well-defined faith formula to a point where we realise that faith is not something so defined and definite. It is revealed through inexhaustive signs and symbols.

All this said and done, it still needs to be lived...

Thursday, 2 May 2013

Whose tongue?

One confrere to another, while speaking about someone who has been sent by the Provincial for higher studies.
Why was he sent for higher studies, when he barely manages to speak in good and complete sentences?
Well, that's because his mother knew the language (what he meant was that it was his mother tongue!). 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Poor service

A lady politician was asked, not so long ago, about her motivation to join politics (after a successful stint in movies).  Her reply
I want to service the poor!

God's punishment

An excerpt from a conversation of a veteran Salesian and a young one, not so long ago. The elderly Salesian was talking about some other confrere and his deeds and misdeeds.  He summed up about the third person thus:
God punished him and he died... ... after 21 years! 
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