Thursday, 27 February 2014

Satyagraha and God

One of the insights I picked up during the defence of the final year students was the following idea according to the Philosophy of Gandhiji. Understanding his idea of Satyagraha, one knows that one of the essential prerequisites of being a satyagrahi was to have belief in God. I had always narrowly thought that it would be belief in God as such. But then, I forgot to understand what could Gandhiji have meant about 'God' in his worldview.  He interesting defines not 'God as truth' but 'Truth as God'.  That said, he is not necessarily employing some religious idea of God while speaking of belief in God as a requirement for a satyagrahi.

Friday, 21 February 2014

Radical Witness

Did Jesus purposely meddle with the social order of the day?  In other words, did He have an option - and perhaps not utilize it - wherein He could speak of the Kingdom without upsetting the prevalent state of affairs?  Or is it that He just had to?  He could have been very 'Churchy' about His way of going about and thereby not stirred any nest, leave alone the hornet's nest!  He could have very well sung a beautiful sober melody, without stirring any chords... just a soft lullaby.  Or was His aim, only spiritual renewal and the ensuing social disorder a 'collateral damage'?

I don't think so.  I believe His message was a whole package and not some neatly decorated gift to one aspect of life.  It was a stinger!  What then is the power of my message - if at all, I have one?

We Salesians are beginning our 27th General Chapter soon in Rome and I hope at that level we make some policy decisions which will promote a culture of radical gospel witness. I really don't expect the Congregation to be radical... only individuals can. The rest, as they say, will follow suit. 

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Engineering liver

A description by a Brother who joined the Seminary after his studies in Engineering, to others during our recent visit to the Science City, in Kolkata (it was at the site of an gadget describing the use of levers):
See, you can pull this heavy metal from this side because your 'lever' is here (pointing to his side) but from the other side it is difficult because your 'lever' is on the other side. That's the advantage of lifting weights from the side where your 'lever' is.
Just in case that spelling deceives you, what he was explaining to others was 'liver' as lever!  Some Engineering studies that must have been!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

What is prayer for? Why Pray?

My last class with the third year students for this semester for Philosophy of Religion became very engaging when the final questions and clarifications boiled down to 'prayer'.  After reminding them all about who and what God and all His attributes mean, I merely stated that prayer would be a sincere expression of who and what I am, in all honesty before God, for a deeper understanding of oneself and a better concern for others,... all of this with God as my point of reference.  To give an analogy, it came out of my mouth... standing naked before God, without any feelings of guilt or shame.

Then the question was, if prayer is merely an expression of my self, wherein I do not - and cannot - change the 'will of God', then what is the difference between me expressing my self to God and me expressing to another human being?  Only in the subsequent thinking and reflection it dawned on me that the quality of my expression or the depth of it, depends not merely on with whom I am interacting or conversing with, but also as to what is my relation to that being.  For example, I asked a Brother: Will there be a difference in my expression of self to a railway track, to a tree, to a stranger, to a friend, to a parent and to God?   Besides the fact that the living person is capable of responding, is there anything else that 'qualifies' my expression, makes my level of sharing relevant to me?  Then it dawned on us that it would be the relationship quotient between me and the other.  If God is anything or as cheap as a railway track then, what would be my 'prayer'??? On the other hand, the quality of my expression, sharing with my parent or friend, what level would that be?   If God is someone much more than that for me then what level of sharing would be going on between both of us?

I concluded with a quote from Harold Kushner's book, When Bad Things Happen to Good People
In prayer you discover people around you
God beside you
and strength within you...

Sunday, 9 February 2014

At Mother Teresa's tomb

While in Kolkata and especially visiting the tomb of Mother Teresa there are a couple of things that truly fascinated me:

  • Her personal room... barely able to contain her 'liliputian' bed and a table. Nothing else of any worth.  That too right above the community kitchen, and the room did not have a fan.  
  • The tomb itself is kept simple. No frills, lights, tapestry... nothing.  In fact one the of the Brothers asked me, later during the day: "Why is her tomb so 'common'? Unlike other saints, there is hardly anything special about the place!" I replied, anything other than how it is now will be a mockery of her principles and life itself.  
  • The house where Mother is buried is still used as a house.  It has not become a market of CD-DVD shops, flower stalls, media house, candle vendors... When there, we saw Sisters going about cleaning the house, washing clothes, arranging the place, writing Chronicles, and of course... praying. 
  • There were no CCTV cameras, no guards and high level security, no long queues for entry fees and such! 

Thank you dear MC Sisters for keeping alive Mother's legacy. I sincerely did pray for you all at the Mother's tomb. 

TV Channel?

This morning towards the end of the Sunday Mass, the Parish Priest distributed a sort of survey form about the proposed Catholic TV channel for Andhra Pradesh.  The first question was if one was for it. I replied in the negative.  I didn't have to answer any other question!  I was happy that after all the queries there was some space for comments and here's what I wrote:

  1. What is needed is a living witness of Christian values in our daily life, behaviour, relationship and attitudes.  Unless this is present, anything else will not only be of any use, but prove counter-witness. 
  2. As and when we have something really worthwhile, over and above, our personal and community witness, we could very well take a slot on an existing channel and still say it ... provided that what we screen is complementary to our life of witness. 

Tuesday, 4 February 2014

Peddling religion

Here's the 'Coffee with Jesus' comic strip speaking about the 'peddling religion'...
View the whole series here:

Chris and Annette

Here's the latest photo of my nephew, Chris and neice, Annette.  They seem to love being at the farmhouse! 

Screensaver Religious

Quite a number of religious are like screensavers - don't ask me of what!  They appear good and attractive but that apparent goodness or 'charm' disappears the moment the mouse - in this case, the person - is touched.

I remember another of my favourite quotes, something I heard during my first retreat as a professed Salesian, while at Yercaud...
It is easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers. 
I am well aware that there is no easy remedy for this 'screensaver' syndrome other than patient cultivation of virtues and a sincere and continued deepening of one's spirituality in the person of Christ. That's easier said than done.  The 'screensaver' is something easy and comfortable - perhaps that's the primary reason most of us, religious or not, settled down with it for. 

Monday, 3 February 2014

Freedom of thought

Most of our meetings and discussions on various matters, even those which are life-changing or capable of transformation, border on trivialities and idle-talk.  Every group certainly has a good number of people who only talk, barely knowing what exactly they are talking, far less the consequences of living with what they propose.

For all such people Soren Kierkegaard has this to say:
People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use. 
Serious reflection and understanding, can be done away with but not freedom of speech!

Go home!

In the Gospel reading of today (Mark 5: 1-20), Jesus tells a healed man who is keen to follow Jesus, to 'go back home and preach to the good God has done'.  It is interesting to note that the man is said to have pleaded with Jesus to let him join Him, but Jesus is clear in his reply: 'Go home to your family and tell them what the Lord in his pity has done for you!'

I wonder why is this passage rarely or never heard in formation settings!  Never once have I heard any formator of mine or me myself using this text to drive home the point that not everyone is called to be a Priest or Religious.  Very many in formation houses - worse still, formation personnel - believe and are highly convinced that everyone who walks into the Seminary or formation house ought to be 'preserved', must become a Priest!  Now I'm not talking of those whose character is such that they really do not fit in - they obviously do not know what they are asking for. Not such youngsters.  But there are other youngsters, good and apparently 'chosen' ... but are they?

That's why a proper discernment process is due.  Always!

Secondly unless this 'hierarchy of vocation' mindset is changed, any youngster led to opt for a life outside the formation house will be seen as 'bad'. Every vocation is good and meaningful.  Every call is precious.  The Salesian Congregation clearly places 'vocation to life' prior to 'vocation to religious life' - at least theoretically! 

Saturday, 1 February 2014

Like Don Bosco...

Here's Fr Maliekal's summary of the homily he delivered for the feast of Don Bosco:
That like Don Bosco we may be
daring in our caring;
touching in our gentleness, and
reckless in our pastoral imagination. 
I think that sums up who Don Bosco was and what he intended us, Salesians to be too!
That's the notice board the Brothers prepared for the feastday. Those 'wreath-like garlands' you see at the bottom of the board are the ones they put on us as they brought us (3 Salesians) in procession from the Church to the dining hall. They truly were happy and sincere in their expression of gratitude and appreciation for our presence and role in their lives.  
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