Saturday, 24 May 2014

That's Life (Nicholas Winton)

Two days ago, The Hindu (May 22, 2014) carried an article titled, A Mission of Mercy about a man named Nicholas Winton who saved nearly 669 children just before the Nazi invasion and the extermination of Jews began at the hands of Hitler.  On the occasion of his 105th birthday, these 'Nicky's Children' or their descendants gathered around him to thank and honour this noble man for his foresight, courage and goodwill.  To him, they owed their lives and their living present!

It is said that this noble deed was kept a total secret, so much so that even his wife did not know of it.  Perhaps then it was prudence but to have kept it still a secret all along is truly a matter of great humility. Read more about this noble soul here. Here's a website dedicated to him and his deeds.

Here's a short touching video about Nicholas Winton:


Here are a couple of others who saved hundreds of children from certain death during those dreadful times:

  • Chiune Sugihara (a Japanese diplomat who in 1940 wrote travel visas that allowed more than 6,000 Jewish refugees to escape from Lithuania)
  • Irena Sendlr (a Polish nurse/social worker who smuggled some 2,500 Jewish children out of the Warsaw Ghetto)
  • Aristides de Sousa Mendes (a Portugese diplomat issued visas to thousands of refugees fleeing Bordeaux, France)
  • Walter Suskind (a Dutch factory manager who helped about 600 Jewish children escape the Holocaust)

[courtesy: Wikipedia]

Chinks in our formation

The final document of our recently concluded General Chapter 27, speaks at different points about formation too.  Mostly it points to perhaps the greatest of lacunae in our formation paradigm:  disjoint between the formation process/procedure and the ground reality.  Now I believe it is not that the ground reality is correct and the formation procedure not living up to it.  But the fact is that the is some disconnect between the two.

So I ask myself, what is that which is missing?  Why isn't formation able to ignite the passion or atleast sustain the passion with which a youngster enters the congregation?  Why is it that confreres by the time they make their first renewal of vows or first year of Practical Training appear to be "arrived confreres" rather than formed confreres?

One evident reason is that formation is considered as another education, one of the many forms of education - or 'study' - doled out in our country (wrongly though). There is no owning up of the formation process, much less taking up of responsibility for ones own vocation.  This need not be the case merely among formees, it could be among formators themselves!

Another reason could be that under the name of religious discipline we tend to make the formees comply to our words rather than encourage independent, out of the box, or creative thinking.  This, in the long run, leads us to produce SDBs who are formed merely to run our institutions, not necessarily men capable of carrying out a mission, with a keen eye on the changing signs of the times and circumstances - much less, adapt according to them.  

Friday, 23 May 2014

Hurting and dirty Church

I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security... I dream of a missionary option  capable of transforming everything, so that the Church's customs, way of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today's world rather than for her self-preservation. 
Pope Francis [Evangelii Gaudium nos 49. 27]

Wednesday, 21 May 2014

Kingdom of God vs The Church

My fascination for 'Kingdom of God' is mostly because if offers more than what the institutional Church claims to offer. The institution seems to make everything so clear-cut and defined (even the KoG!) but it isn't so. So when the Church says that it has it all, I realize that we're missing the point. The KoG is certainly much bigger and wider and deeper and richer than the Church.

The basic problem with most is that many will not accept to see the subtle but certain divide between the institutional Church and the real Church (the latter being the KoG for me). 'Church' for most means, doctrine, Pope, rules and rubrics! Anything else is wrong or faulty interpretation of Jesus and His teachings. Theologically and theoretically, many valid and very profound explanations and definitions of the Church are provided, yet they are all again doctrine!

Jesus all the while was speaking of the Kingdom and today we tend to speak and defend all the time the Church! 

Word of God vs The Bible

One of my allergies against the Bible is precisely this: Only the Bible seems to be the Word of God! Blame my catechism or my Christian upbringing for that! Whatever! And those who preach and are sought after in today's religious ceremonies also endorse this very kind of 'binding' 'suffocating' and 'I-am-a-sinner' syndrome. The words of Jesus - for that matter, any author or speaker - are very liberative. They offer much much much more than what is being said by one or an institution. Why not be open to that? Why not open up that possibility of listening to that? Why not let others interpret it in ways that are 'different' or 'odd'? For all you know, who ever said that God spoke then and is now silent?? I firmly believe that the Bible is the Word of God, but certainly not the only Word of God. He speaks to each of us, everyday, all the time! I seek to hear and listen to that too!

The Emmaus lessons

I reproduce below the words of one Salesian whom I trust and revere very much... his message for me as I take up my next task of accompanying the Brothers at Karunapuram as Dean of Studies:
Be like the Risen Lord who walked along with the disciples on the way to Emmaus... lovingly and patiently accompanying those entrusted to your care... listening and responding to them in ways and idioms that they understand... at the same time always challenging them to go deeper... a pilgrimage of which the centre and focal point is the encounter with the Eucharistic Lord experienced around the table of fraternal fellowship... a profound experience which beckons them to the Beyond and radically transforms them ... an experience which becomes the springboard and launching pad for ministry even when it means hitting the road even in the dark of the night, but guided by the light of the Living Word within...

Sunday, 18 May 2014

Redrawing the boundaries of the Kingdom

"Seek first the Kingdom of God and the rest shall follow you."  I've heard this a million times in my life. But I'm beginning to reconsider all that I ever thought so far, regarding the same.  That I certainly moved beyond restricting the 'Kingdom of God' to some spiritual realm alone was good enough - so I thought.  Not anymore.  Need to be more clear and convinced about its wider and deeper meaning.

Need to move out of myself and my institution too.  But where to and in which direction?  God show me the way! 

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Anyone better than me?

I took up the General Chapter 27 document for reading this morning.  I took my own time to read it well.  Right in the first section itself something that struck me was the 'concern' about symptoms of self-referentiality whereby we do not go out of ourselves to be open to the demands of God and go out to encounter others.  This can be seen in our lack of updating, reference to a stable spiritual director and 'do it yourself' spirituality.

Now that's something!  Perhaps it is the other extreme of the mean called independence and self-mastery.  So I did a simple exercise on myself.  I asked myself this question: Who is better than me, around here? Frankly speaking it was a mere act of accessing my degree of humility, but all the same if I said to myself, if I can speak of somebody as inspirational and can even have the courage to tell that person that you inspire me for this and this, then I think I'm still on the right track. But if I have a great difficulty in recognizing the virtues that surround me, here and now, then I would be like a peacock strutting myself around, foolishly convinced that I'm the best.  This would also explain why I would not approach anyone to be my regular spiritual director. 

Friday, 16 May 2014

Media eye and elections

With the election results out and the dust of months of speculation and gambling and what not done with, I now look forward to see who would sit in opposition at the centre.  Frankly, I wish Aam Admi Party gets that chance!  For a change - and perhaps, overhauling - it would be best if Congress, sits out this time.

One thing for sure, this election has seen the most wide use of media, both for and against, anything and everything.  At the same time, kudos to the real politicians who managed to keep their best guarded secrets, both personal and essential, a real secret, while getting the whole population to focus on something trivial or absolutely insignificant.  That's the beauty of media involvement.  For all apparent reasons, the media eye never missed a glimpse, nor let off a word go by unnoticed.  But was that all the truth?

Finally, I hope the new regime both at the centre and the state(s), does great good for all.  I look forward to it. 

Monday, 12 May 2014

Wrapping up!

While I was in the Provincial house, Hyderabad as the Secretary of the Province, I was always surprised by the way Ms Rani, the Economer's Secretary, would rattle off the account nos of the various departments in the Province.  It used to surprise me as to how can a person remember with such certainty the many different bank account numbers.

Now as I look back and wrap up my four years of stay here in Kondadaba, I understand how Rani could do that... the same ease with which I can now rattle off the account numbers of my community, besides the important details of the same.  They are all just part of me. Not something which I'll have to check the files and records.

That I suppose is where one reaches when one is so habituated to working in a particular environment, in a particular manner.

Know not if spirituality also has something akin to this ability to 'know'?

Monday, 5 May 2014

To be holy is to be Human!

I was happy to read and be inspired by the following post on Da Mihi Animas (about Thomas Merton on Pope John XXIII).  Thomas Merton seems to have a special love for John XXIII not merely because he was the Pope but because he was both, holy and good. And how was he both? By first of all being human!
With Pope Francis now leading by example, I pray we grow deeper in this dimension of our spirituality: To be holy, is to be human

In the Church!

On Easter Sunday I reached the Church early (about half an hour before Mass) and was happy to note many people already in the Church by then.  However, I could not but help notice, the increasing number of people reaching up to the sanctuary to avail themselves of the holy water blessed during the previous vigil service.  

The best part was that most of those approaching the huge drum kept to the right of the altar, were non-Catholics.  Most, reverentially picked up the mug, scooped a bit of water from the drum, dipped their fingers in that and then sprinkled themselves.... at least that's how it all began.  Slowly a few others began to take a sip from the mug - but only a sip.  After a while of this 'sipping' by several people, there appeared the children - this time, they certainly were the Catholics!  These children solemnly started drinking the water!!  This whole 'evolution' was thus far (nearly 20 minutes) very very devoutly carried out - until the children (Catholics, at that!) reached the sanctuary.  Luckily some elders moved in and moved out the drum beyond the reach of anyone!  

However, I was happy, to note the very many non-Catholics who not only visited the Church but also stayed on for the whole Mass - a phenomenon I observed even the following Sunday.  I was truly impressed - and inspired - by their reverence and devotion during the Mass.  

And a thought crossed my mind, as the Priest very politely and gently turned away some of them from receiving the Holy Communion:  Would the Lord Himself objected to Him being 'partaken' by these non-baptised?  I don't think so! 

I see the Lord before me ALWAYS...

Am back to blogging after a two-week hiatus at home for my annual holidays.  Not that I did not have access to the net but I just didn't want to post anything.

Of course, much water has flowed under the bridge since Easter Sunday, the day I reached home - both here at Kondadaba and of course, in the Province too.  This is the time for the transfer lists to be out and all are waiting!

For now, let me begin by what struck me as a good point for reflection from yesterday's Mass readings. It is from the Acts of the Apostles (2: 25 ff) wherein a text from the Old Testament is repeated. I found it particularly appealing as a guiding principle for the coming new academic year:
I saw the Lord before me always for with Him at my right hand nothing can shake me.
...
You have made known the way of life to me, You will fill me with gladness through your presence. 
What struck me most, besides the fact that the Lord is always with me, is that He is at my right!!  The main person there is not the Lord. He gladly puts me at the centre, and assures me of Him being at my right... my strength and my courage. 
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