Thursday, 31 July 2014

Passing through the darkness...

The life of the Saint of the day, St Ignatius of Loyola, reminded me of what I had earlier spoke of Saul turning to Paul. Like Saul, Ignatius too had the courage to go through the dark uncertainty and helplessness after his initial encounter with the Lord.  He did spend time in prayer and reflection before taking the plunge. His reading of The Imitation of Christ was only the trigger, so was his personal encounter with Jesus or Mary.  What really saw him take the bold step was his personal wrestling with God and his own conscience when everything seemed a blur, in the dark, silent spaces of his room or the monastery where he spent almost a year after his initial taste of the Lord.  

For that courage and patience of Ignatius, I salute him.  Not everyone of us has that amount of courage or patience, though each one of us has the great 'wow' moments in galore all our life! 

Renovated Chapel of the Salesian Brothers

Last Saturday, the renovated Chapel of the Salesian Brothers was blessed and inaugurated.  The presence of Fr Joshtrom was certainly an added blessing on the day...

Just a guess: perhaps our community is the largest community in the whole worldwide Salesian congregation as of now to have 17 Salesian Brothers under one roof, one community! 

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Of pearls and the process...

Last Sunday there was the Gospel about the man in search of pearls and the end of his quest.  It speaks of one who in search of fine pearls comes across one of great value, returns home, sells all he has, and purchases that one pearl of great value.  All fine.  I understand we are to understand that the one pearl is the Kingdom of God or God Himself.  That possessing Him we are truly happy and contended.
However, I'm beginning to feel that there is a slight twist to this whole episode in real life, especially in our modern times.  The actual Gospel sequence is:
knowledge of pearls,
search for fine pearls,
discovery of one,
return to the pearls already possessed,
sale of them all,
purchase of the one great pearl.
Consequence: Bliss

But in most of our lives the sequence could be:
improper or haphazard knowledge of pearls
random picking up of anything that shines!
and mesmerized with what I have.
Consequence: Illusionary bliss

Even among those who heed the Gospel call, there could be some who follow this procedure:
sell everything (just because Jesus said!... not because I've discovered the Kingdom)
start searching
slowly spend the fortune in hand
(for I really have no patience to find the real pearl or worse still, I underestimate the price of the real pearl... worst of all: I haven't found the pearl at all!)

Real Ministry

Very often we carry the burden of the world or our mission.  We feel that we are the ones doing all the work.  But once we get the right perspective, it is another experience all together.  Real ministry is where we let in Jesus and lead others to Jesus. The picture speaks for itself.

Annie Vallotton

In the process of helping a confrere with some meaningful Scriptural pictures, I came across this piece of information. The lady who drew most of the sketches for the Good News Bible was Annie Vallotton. She was 98 when she died last December on 28, 2013. Here's a link of most of her drawings.

Simple but very artistic and meaningful.  God bless her for good work.
Jesus blesses the little children

Annie Vallotton

Sunday, 20 July 2014

Personal Charisma

Fr Teresio Bosco, writing the book on Don Bosco, by the same title, makes an interesting comment somewhere in the middle of his book (p. 140 to be exact).  While referring to the times of the wandering oratory and Don Bosco's struggle to find a place where he could meet and animate the hundreds of boys who would flock to him on Sundays and feastdays, he says:
The centre of the Oratory was not the institution of the parish church, but the person of Don Bosco with his continuing, stimulating presence. The rapport was personal, not institutional. 
This statement speaks a lot about the true reason for the boys presence.
I know not if he would - or we could - say the same once Don Bosco got his own place or established his institution(s) at Valdocco and later, all over the world.  'Returning to Don Bosco' would also mean this: regaining the charisma of the person and not the institution!


We watched the telugu movie Drushyam this afternoon as a staff. I was watching a movie in a theatre after almost two years.  The movie is basically a remake of a Malayalam one by the same name.

My overall observations:
Let me begin with something positive.  The notion that it is love for the family that propels the man to go to any extreme is conceived well - though not sufficiently highlighted.  Some other significant positives the director deserves are: no unrelated songs and scenes, no sub-plots to confuse or distract the audience from the main story, and of course the intelligent twists in the second half of the movie.

However, there is something faulty in the basic theme of the movie itself. In other words, the theme gets overshadowed by dramatization or cinematic license! Take for instance, the very event that proves to be the turning point of the movie. The instant where the boy begins stalking the teenaged daughter, blackmailing her with some obscene video clip of her.  That the girl is terrified beyond reason is something illogical, for just a few scenes earlier she admonishes her mother for her ignorance about cell cameras and internet. Leave that alone. Take the next scene. The one where the mother 'pleads' with the youngster!  Perhaps it was the cinematic license that exaggerated the event but if only the mother rapped the boy with two resounding blows... (perhaps the movie itself would have ended there!).  In the process of showing a man's anguish in protecting his family, some very basic values of a family are either bypassed or trivialized.

Besides this basic lacuna, the viewer is now (possibly) led to believe that cell cameras in the hands of youngsters are an evil and so are educational camps, policemen because they are constantly on the move grabbing bribes and torturing 'innocent' victims

While the intelligence of the father, who in spite of his barely making it beyond primary education, is attributed to his obsession with watching movies, the movie sometimes tends to portray this fact over and above the value that it is love for his family that drives him to do all that he does... not merely movie-watching skills.  Most often we are not able to see the value in a whole gamut of circumstances, events, people, actions and what not.  In the process, we mistake some instance or circumstance for values and then project these as goals.

Finally, the subtle messages are at times, too overshadowing and tend to convey the wrong notion.  The main theme at times is compromised at the cost of something very cheap or trivial.  Whatever it be, on the whole, the movie is worth watching for its concept, acting and glimpses of creativity.

Friday, 18 July 2014

The Multiplication of the Mulberry Bush

Ever seen fruits on a newly planted branch of a tree?  Well that's what we are witnessing here at Karunapuram.  Fr T.V. Jose, a week ago, cut some branches of the mulberry bush that he had planted some years ago and planted them all over the campus.  Not only have most of those stems survived, some of them have even sprouted leaves and a couple of them are already with fruits!  Must be a direct descendant of the original tree in the garden of Eden!

The history of the Mulberry bush in the Salesian Province of Hyderabad is quite well known. Fr T. V. Jose, while at the Provincial House, Hyderabad had brought from home a couple of stems of the Mulberry tree from his home. One of those stems he had planted in the gap between the Chapel and the Community refectory.  Anyone visiting the Provincial house will now get to see a lively large bush bearing abundant fruit.

About six years ago, I had cut a couple of branches and given it to Mummy to plant it in our farm house.  My nephew was only two years old then. By the time my nephew was four, the plants were no bigger than him but he had to vie with the birds for the fruits on them!! 

The Guide

Dead and decaying things seemed to unloosen his tongue and fire his imagination, rather than things that lived and moved and swung their limbs.  I had little to do as guide; he knew so much more of everything! 
R.K. Narayan The Guide (Chennai: Indian Thought Publications, 1958) 81-82. 

As part of teaching English literature - for the first time in my life - I am reading the novel The Guide by R. K. Narayan.  I remember watching parts of the Hindi movie by the same name (the adaptation of the same), especially for some of its memorable songs.  This afternoon I could not but be amused and bemused by these words and hence reproduced them above.

The maiden attempt at teaching Literature - or so, I claim - is quite a challenge and slowly getting a hang of it.  Hope to get most of the text I'm to teach!  As of now, I'm piloting a ship on stars. One may say that's the traditional way, but certainly not for one who has never boarded a ship or a boat all his life, never ever! 

What counts in life...

On the occasion of the 96th birth anniversary of Nelson Mandela, a luminary leader of our times, here's an apt quote from his own stock:
What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life that we lead. 

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Jeans Pant Vocation

Last weekend I was part of a sharing group wherein a particular member shared about his experience or how he was led to be a Salesian Brother... The Jeans Pant Vocation.
The first year batch of the Community...
Am glad I had a small part in it.  Never know how and whom we influence by our words, deeds or thoughts...


Jesus' invitation to approach Him, and be relieved of the heavy load is a clever invitation which can easily be taken amiss or misinterpreted.  Jesus does not say that He would carry our load in our stead. He only assures us that it would not be heavy anymore. How does He intend to do that I suppose He knows best. But the fact is that each of us is to carry our own burden.  What then is Jesus' presence in our life? That the burden is no more a burden but a delight!

A simple analogy is a train journey. However long the journey may be, the company, if delightful, is always a memorable experience.  On the other hand, if the company is a headache, even a short journey is horrible.

It is ultimately a matter of trust and relationship. The more I trust Him, the more I am close to Him, the more merrier life is... in its entirety (may not be in its instancy).  It is about being-at-home-with Him!

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Spiritual Worldliness

Pope Francis in his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, speaks of the danger of 'Spiritual Worldliness' His words are quite disturbing: 
This worldliness can be fueled in two deeply interrelated ways. One is the attraction to gnosticism, a purely subjective faith whose only interest is a certain experience or a set of ideas and bits of information which are meant to console and enlighten, but which ultimately keep one imprisoned in his or her own thoughts and feelings. The other is ... trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past.  ... In neither case is one really concerned about Jesus Christ or others. (EG 94)
I think the last line sums up the yardstick of measuring the depth of our devotion, piety and spirituality. 

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Blood donation

Today, for the first time, I donated blood.  I distinctly remember the first time I had the opportunity to donate blood to a person in the hospital.  I was eagerly waiting at the gate, in Divyadaan (Nashik) for my pick up which was supposed to take me to the hospital.  The vehicle did arrive - but with the sad news that the lady, for whom I was supposed to give blood, had passed away!

From then on, there were about a couple of other occasions but I never really got to the point of lying on a table and donating.  Today when the the college agreed to host a blood donation camp conducted by the Red Cross Society, I decided to make it by all means.  And I did!

Frankly speaking I'm not very comfortable around blood. I feel dizzy but enthusing some Brothers who were 'lurking' on the corridors making up their mind to go or not to go in, for the donation, was enough motivation to see me through.  In all, about 62 Brothers donated blood today, most of them for the first time!

Courage, the twin of humility

My 'goodnight' thought for the night was the following:
Courage does not come as a ready-made package or grace from God.  Rather God provides us with opportunities to become courageous. One of the plagues of Salesian community life is precisely this: lack of courage.  Lack of courage of confreres to be able to call a spade a spade.  This plague infects early on in years of initial formation.  It is mostly for fear for what if the other turns back, at some other time and points out to me some drawback of mine?  So rather than risk that 'payback time', let it go!  We conveniently compromise!

What is required is courage: to be able to stand and say the truth.  It is something required of both - the one who is offering the observation and the one receiving it!  That's precisely because courage is the twin brother of humility.  Only when I am humble enough to know or receive corrections will I have the courage to make observations or corrections. 

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Thomas the seeker!

Fr Tom began his sermon during the Mass this morning, in honour of St Thomas, with a question: Is the title 'doubting Thomas' justified? His rationale was that the other apostles too did not believe in the Resurrection of Jesus till Jesus appeared to them.  Why then is Thomas singled out to be a doubter?

He then went on to classify those who doubt into two categories: those who ask or doubt for the heck of it. Such kind are never satisfied with any proofs or solutions.  They merely thrive on doubts.  The other kind are those who are sincerely in search of truth and therefore doubt.  Their attempt is sincere in as much as they seek to know and grow.  Thus Thomas was an honest doubter not a dishonest one or a pessimist.

Thomas was an honest man to acknowledge that he did not believe; and not be like very many in our classrooms who nod their head when asked if they understood the point just explained, while in fact, they understood nothing.  Thomas had the courage to acknowledge his disbelief and therefore was offered a chance to believe. And boy! What a conviction that follows!
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