Monday, 30 June 2014

Shifting my stand?

Most often, I play the Devil's advocate in class.  This helps me assist my students in seeing the flaws in their thought or argument and forces them to reconsider or rethink at another deeper level.  This strategy works very well with me.

At Kondadaba, for the past four years, it was me playing the Devil's advocate, literally.  Brothers were truly 'pietistic' and therefore had to wake them up with some jolts of reason.  Basically they were living a blind faith, but willing to acknowledge their state of life and at least open to a contrary view than theirs. From the little time I've spent here at Karunapuram, I'm yet to gauge my students.  Quite a many of them are still mute spectators in the class.  So I know not what their stand is.  But of those who speak up and ask questions, I sense that they are very eager to move on.  They consider most of orthodoxy a mere waste of time and are all set for praxis.  But truly they haven't even grown one inch of roots!  Some others are slowly waking up to the fact that I don't have formal and linear notes for a 45 mins continuous lecture.

One thing I can be sure of (from my past experience): there will certainly be some sizeable number who grasp nothing; and even if they did grasp, it would be something so insignificant and out of context that it would not be worth discussing.   Let's see how things proceed.  

Evangelii Gaudium

I presented the Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Gaudium, to the whole college this morning.  It was an interesting exercise, personally and as an academic body.  Personally re-reading this for a presentation was a challenge in itself.  From all that I picked up - say, 'selective reading' - I now better appreciate Pope Francis for being quite bold about his vision and mission for the Church.  To say things during a sermon in a hospice for the travelers is something and endorsing it officially in the form of an apostolic exhortation is quite another.
Pope Francis is proving to be too good to miss and hard to resist! His simplicity and clarity of thought are amazing.  Best is that he is leading by personal example what he is officially challenging us to live by.

About the document proper, I thought the opening line of the exhortation could very well be considered a one-line summary of the same:  The Joy of the Gospel fills the hearts and lives of all who encounter Jesus (# 1).

Of course, my favourite quote remains:
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 (# 49). 
Later in the same para, he adds:
More than by fear of going astray, my hope is that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up withing structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: "Give them something to eat" (# 49).

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Tight rope walk

When there is a fight and those on one side fight for some values while those opposing them have no value system to uphold, it is easy to decide which side to join and act as per conviction. But what do you do when both the sides are fighting, standing on the same side for merely two different perspectives of what is right?  How does one say that one is right and the other wrong?  The balancing act in such situations is very tricky and tedious.  Can't leave anyone behind... ought to take everyone along the journey. But taking along everyone is like taking a tiger, a lamb, an ox, a dog and an ant in the same cage.

Am growing in conviction of Tennyson's quote: More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of.

Tuesday, 17 June 2014

Formator: Ever a learner

I came across one beautiful testament of living a formative experience as a formator on Fr Ivo's blog, Musings.  The whole text is here.

One of the first things that caught my attention in that simple and personal sharing of insights was the following statement
One becomes capable of accompanying others only when one has oneself begun a serious process of personal accompaniment that should extend over a lifetime.  
I'm at a juncture where I'm still gather my bearings in a formation set up.  The fact that one has been in a formation set up for most of ones life, does not automatically mean that one is ready to deal with contemporary situations. Much matters on how one perceives the situation and what line of action one chooses to follow in the given context. There are no ready-made text books or instructions.  One needs to be prudent.  One needs to be constantly learning and growing.  I guess that's the basic premise of being a formator... the openness to be a learner, ever!  

The burning bush

Very many of us in our enthusiasm for God and our piety long to witness God in the burning bush...I guess this is also the very basic reason of all pilgrimages undertaken.  However, we miss or desist with all our might to be the burning bush ourselves!  Ablaze with God ... for oneself and others!
We are frightened that we would turn to ashes and none would even notice us - neither the bright light nor the residual ashes.  Therefore we prefer to remain a pleasant looking, safe and secure bush. We totally forget that the burning bush never lost itself!  It never got burnt down.  

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Angel within, Person without...

Yesterday I began re-reading the book Mister God, This is Anna (by Fynn).  I didn't get too far on the first day but was pleasantly surprised to read the opening lines - I guess, I missed them in the previous reading.
The difference from a person and an angel is easy. Most of an angel is in the inside and most of a person is on the outside.  
Well, to begin with, as per Anna there was no 'beast' anywhere in the human person.  Just the angel (within) and the person (without). That's optimism!

As I prayed over these lines this morning, I realized that if this is truly the case then, sanctity would be merely blurring or diminishing the dividing line between the two. If only the angel and the person merge, there surely is the saint in the making! 

Friday, 13 June 2014

From mere watching to creating...

This morning I read the news interview of the CEO-elect of Infosys, Vishal Sikka, in which he was asked about the educational system in the country.  I was happily surprised to read his comments about the same.
I think there is an incredible fascination for Nach Baliye and singing and dancing, and I wish we get back to a little bit of math and science.  
True indeed.  Somehow we get caught with the eye and what is fascinating to the eyes not really that which demands discipline and courage.  Not that the those participating in the dance programmes do not have discipline and courage.  Yes they certainly do! But what of the millions who watch them!  Most seem happy to merely watch and not do anything about it.  Some may emulate them and try their hand at dancing but when they discover that it is more than clowning around, then they quit and get back to the safest and easiest mode: right infront of the idiot box.

I ask of my Brothers and myself this same question: What are my priorities?  That I like dance and music and games, is fine, but is study and reflection anywhere on the horizon?  If not, where do I get stuff to inspire me to appreciate or compose music?  How and where do I learn the meaning of art and expression?  How do I know and imbibe the values of a game?  

Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Living the Now

I remember Fr T.D. John narrating an anecdote about an old lady who always mourned that everyday she got to eat a ripened bland betel leaf and that she never got to eat a juicy fresh leaf - all the while having a stack of fresh leaves. All she had to to was take the first ripened leaf and help herself to the whole lot of the fresh leaves.

Very many of us live in the past, forgetting that it is more important and meaningful to live in the present.  Often all that it takes is to open one's eyes to the here and now rather than continue dwelling on memories.

I remember a dialogue from the movie Touchback, where the mother of a young sportsman who always grudges the present and dreams of making the future big and bright, asks him: What if, this is all you have? This, here and now?

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Harmony of the mind, heart and hands

Am currently preparing for a workshop on the theme, 'Why study Philosophy?' for the college here... that too right on the next day after the inauguration of the academic year.  Fr Tom, the Principal, was kind enough to give me his feedback on the reason for placing this workshop bang on the first day and most importantly for the whole college, and not just the freshers only.  More of it once I conduct the workshop.

For now, I came across the message of Pope Francis to a large group of school children sometime in mid May 2014.  He spoke of why he (and we) love school.  It was quite touching to hear him list his reasons for loving school.  The first reason he cited was his teacher.  He did not begin with a principle or a theory but a person!  A person who was his inspiration and primary reason for loving school.  More about that later but I'd like to quote his concluding words:
... a journey that enables you to learn three languages that a mature person should know how to express: the language of the mind, the language of the heart and the language of the hands.  Harmoniously though, that is, to think what you feel and what you do; to feel deeply what you think and what you do; and to do well what you think and what you feel.  Three languages, together in harmony! 
Read the whole message here. It is truly lovely! 

Enjoying English Singing

It is after 7 long years that I'm enjoying English singing.  The last I enjoyed English music and singing was in Shillong and after that the three years in the Provincial house was fine but nothing really to look forward to.  The past four years was very agonizing with regard to English singing.  Though the Brothers sang English hymns for Mass every alternative week, it was no different from the Telugu singing!  And if it did sound anything other than Telugu, it was not anything like music at all!!

Back in Karunapuram, listening and joining in singing the English hymns for Mass is a real melody to the ears!  The presence of Brothers from the North-East makes a big difference especially when it comes to music and singing. 

Thursday, 5 June 2014

Taking stock and a stance!

My arrival here at Karunapuram means heavy baggage!  Literally speaking I travel light and am indeed happy to do so: whether that is for a two-day seminar or a change of house!  However, the baggage I claim to be heavy is not of mine but of the students.  I very well am aware that my notoriety precedes me.  For good or for bad, my students 'warn' the others about me.  At times it is a great source of amusement; at other times, it is a heavy responsibility.  However, I don't think I'll be anything or anyone else than who and what I am.

I very well know that I'm a task master.  I demand much of my students and they detest me for that.  But I've also seen, over the years, most of them get back to me, later (of course) with a deep sense of gratitude and appreciation for being so.  They proudly and joyfully accept being my students and most importantly having been inspired by me.  Besides being a source of encouragement, it is a constant challenge for me to be true to my God and my conscience.  I also need to constantly keep in mind the larger picture of life and reality than merely 'formation'.

As I begin my new academic year in a new community, I entrust myself and all my community members to Mother Mary... she knows best.  I only pray that I say and do what is the best for all of us.

Uniformists, Alternativists, Businessists...

Perhaps a nightmare for the translators, but the essence is conveyed all the same.  The recent message of Pope Francis calling on Christians to truly and wholly belong to the Church with their heart, mind, spirit and body is truly appealing. Very many, he said, have only 'their one foot in the Church'... others even if they are in, are in for very ulterior motives or rigid ones!
Read his talk here. It is worth reviewing oneself as to where one stands in this scale of measurement. I'd also like to look at it from the perspective of what is my style of formation from this angle.  

Proverbs!

This is my first post from Don Bosco Karunapuram, my new place and I'd like to begin with a humourous anecdote narrated by Fr T.V. Jose.

Last year while teaching English to the first year students he asked them to write atleast 25 proverbs before coming for the class the next day. Most the students managed to recollect just a dozen or less.  There was only one who had no difficulty whatsoever in writing all 25 ... verses from the Book of Proverbs! 
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