Saturday, 25 April 2015

Learning lessons

The suicide of Gajendra Singh, the farmer from Rajasthan during the AAP rally held a couple of days ago in Delhi, caught the media's lens and the nation's attention.  What about the hundreds and thousands of farmers who have committed suicide over the last few years across the country.  The most number of reported deaths from Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh.  Then there are some states which do not even report such deaths!!

When Gajendra Singh came to attend that rally, we know not for sure if he did really intend to commit suicide.  But that he did and for evident reasons - at least from the note he left. Now whether failed crops was the only reason, needs to be investigated.  However, getting the focus back on the suicide of farmers due to crop failure or loss, is something that the nation ought to do. What do we do from here?  Political bigwigs are royally engaged in a slugfest of blame game.  But why don't we see how not to have a repeat of such tragic situations?  Why not see that no one is forced to such desperate measures as to end one's own life.  That the government should take care to ensure that those on the fringe of society are looked after. By that I do not mean that they ought to be pampered! Not at all.

For one, if only our meteorological department were to function precisely and provide accurate weather forecast... then our agriculture sector help farmers choose to cultivate crops that would survive the weather predicted and yield a harvest by which none would suffer: neither the farmer, nor the consumer.  It could then provide qualitative seeds for farming.

On the economic front, if farmers could easily approach the nationalized banks or such institutions from where they can borrow money - if at all, that is necessary! - rather than rely on landlords and moneylenders who then extort exorbitant amounts of interest and returns.

Well, this is only one common man, who has no experience of farming, or economics ranting... but where are the official and professional planners and policy makers? And what are they upto?  

Death!

Two days ago, practically every national daily newspaper had the news of Gajendra Singh hanging from the tree... an incident during the AAP rally in Delhi, wherein this distraught farmer committed suicide in full public view.  That was front page news.

This incident is merely two days old and already gathering dust.  The whole purpose of this farmer coming all the way from Gujarat to Delhi and pulling of his own death in public was for a purpose. Everyone remembers the death... and the purpose? Forgotten!  Or rather purposely forgotten!

Somewhere inside the paper (the page 3 section) was the news of another death.  This time related to a celebrity. However it was not the celebrity herself who had died but ... here purse chihuahua!

Read the hilarious title of one of the news sites:
Paris Hilton 'Devastated' Over Death of Chihuahua Tinkerbell

Where are we??

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Beginnings of ecclesial hierarchy

In the Acts of the Apostles we read, that the Apostles appoint/elect a committee to oversee the fair and equal distribution of resources to all the needy so that they could spend more time in prayer and preaching the Word of God. Now this could be the first unconscious step towards the establishment of hierarchy in the Catholic Church - besides that what we see in the Old Testament.

Not very sure though if the Apostles expected that the newly formed group cater to their needs too?  Even if they did, I'm sure it was out of reverence for the apostles and not something expected or demanded by the apostles.

We see this divisioning and sub-divisioning growing in the Church, but mostly done by the so-called Priests and Religious.  Strange: we observe this in the old testament and then in the later part of the new testament... the only exception to all of this is Jesus Himself!! 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Dennis and miracles

I just cannot get enough of Dennis the Menace... the single cartoon piece speaks volumes and there's so much wit and humour...simply brilliant.

Of moms and parenthood...

Listening to all the tales of Chris and Annette, my nephew and niece, and all their antics at home, I guess the picture completes the story...

'Saving the Word of God' syndrome

The day before yesterday I had an interesting interaction with the novices of our Province at Manoharabad, Medak at our novitiate house.  This is the first time I visited the house after Fr Lens' death and it was a bit weird to know that he wasn't anymore walking on those corridors or in his usual place in the chapel. Anyway, remembering him was a great joy - as always.

During my interaction with the novices, one of them asked me this question: 'Do you preach the Word of God?' It did not take me long to understand that he was, just like most of our Catholics, 'stuck' to the "Word-of-God-saving" syndrome! I took a moment to reply him without really causing too much damage to his fragile faith! I gently asked him what he meant by 'Word of God'.  "The Bible," he replied in all earnestness. It is then that I asked him if there was anything else, besides the Bible that qualified to be considered 'Word of God'.  He was shocked.

The Bible is the word of God, but not the only Word of God. The God whom I believe in speaks even now and I love to listen to Him. To limit his spoken word to something that has been printed is to actually insult Him and say that He does not speak anymore.  My God is a living one; not one entombed in the Bible.  The Bible does speak to us, but is not the only mouthpiece of God.
When I finally turned towards the novice who posed the question, the look on his face... !

The Rawness

These days I've been making a strange but very revealing discovery: things that really touch and matter most are those related to our raw human nature - not the polished, refined well-thought out actions or programmes.  They are not about our ideas and concepts. Grand things leave us in awe for a couple of minutes, or a couple of days, but what leaves a lasting impression and affects us deeply is the small petty things done for us or to us.  It is not the big achievements but the personal encounters with the others 'clay feet' or our own, that really touch us.

Being a man of the head, I've mostly felt enthralled by ideas and new concepts, but today as I review my own life and all that I've gone through, what really stands out is the sensible, not the rational. What leaves an indelible mark on us is the 'off-trackness' of others.

Truly words elude me at this moment to aptly describe my feelings.  But it is there! 

The arrogant vs the polite

Two men crossing a narrow stairway and both of them could not walk through at the same time.  One had to make way for the other.  For some moments, they stared at each other, neither wishing to give way.  Then the first man said, "Get out of my way, let me pass." "I was about to ask you the same thing," the second replied politely.  "Nonsense," replied the first arrogantly. "I never make way for a fool." "I do," answered the second, moving to let the other pass. 

Monday, 6 April 2015

Don Bosco Provincial House, Hyderabad (2)

Still speaking about our Don Bosco Provincial House, Hyderabad, I was amused to see once again, a couple of photos of the ground breaking ceremony of the same house... must be about the year 1994, or even the previous year.
(L to R - only those I know): PK Jose, --, --, Charles, Fr Balaswamy, --, Fr Benji, Mr Anwar's father, Fr EJ Mathew, --, Fr Chackochan, Mr Thomas, --)


This one has Fr TV Antony too (third from the left). Then there is Mr Anwar (third from the right).

Don Bosco Provincial House, Hyderabad

Only today did I learn something more interesting about the architecture of our Don Bosco Provincial House, Hyderabad. The chief planner and builder was none other than Benji.  That everyone knows. That he was a good and great friend of the then Rector Major, Fr Egidio Vigano , too is known to everyone.  So much so, Benji could demand things from him - who else was spared?! Therefore Fr Vigano did help the Province much, especially in erecting the Provincial house.  Fr Benji was keen that he be present in person for the inauguration of the new building.  In his honour, the portico was supposed to be a drive in and Benji was determined that Fr Vigano would be the first one to drive in.  However, due to some reasons (unknown to me, as of now), Fr Vigano sent word that he would not make it to Hyderabad.  Benji immediately scrapped the whole drive-in plan! "If Vigano cannot drive in, then no one else needs to drive in either!" That's how we now have the drive, and the portico separate...
This offers a clearer view
(the occasion was the blessing of the new chevorlet vehicle purchased for Gagilapuram/BSK)


Fr C. Thomas passes away...

Here's something Fr TV Jose wrote about him, (with some 'interpolations' by me)...

The Salesian Province of Hyderabad, lost another of its stalwarts in the person of Fr Chinnappa Thomas on April 5, 2015 (Easter Sunday) at 1 pm while undergoing treatment at CMC, Vellore. He was 78 years old when he breathed his last. He would be eternally remembered for his deep spirituality, love for the poor and simple lifestyle. He had a theologian’s mind, a musician’s soul and a pastor’s heart. The funeral is scheduled for April 8, 2015 at 4 pm at Don Bosco Philosophate, Karunapuram.

Fr C. Thomas, or Acharya as he was fondly called, was born in Madras on December 18, 1937. He made his first and perpetual profession at Yecaud in 1960 and 1966 respectively. He was ordained on his birthday in the year 1969 at Madras. He spent the last 46 years in the Province of Hyderabad as a missionary during which he pioneered the Salesian mission in three places: Mangalagiri, Punganur and Sodum. Don Bosco Prem Nivas, Mangalagiri was the first of its kind in the whole Salesian congregation to cater to the needs of physically challenged children. Towards the latter part of his life, the Bosco Samaikhya Ashram he painstakingly built at Sodum (Punganur, south of Andhra Pradesh) was his heart and soul. Though it was taken back by the diocese, he still remained attached to all those who were associated with it, till his last breath.

As a person he was soft-spoken and unassuming. He was a person who was able to integrate theology with compassion. Among his admirers are hundreds of men who once were orphans or semi-orphans and were brought up by him and are now well placed in society. Everyone who knew Fr C. Thomas would vouch for the fact that the person is all that mattered for him. Nothing else, neither religion nor caste, certainly not the economic status nor position, mattered. He had unflinching faith in God and connectivity to the people around him. He immersed himself in the problems of the people. Life’s blows slowed him down but could not break him because his spirit was warmed at the fire of prayer and enthusiasm. He was one of the spiritual icons of the Province of Hyderabad.

Given his gentle frame, even a slight breeze would move his body, but his heart was always tender and moved at the slightest difficulty faced by those with him. Though his own family was well placed in society, he lived a life of utter poverty: his personal belongings could hardly fill two small size travel bags (of which half would be plastic bags, wiping cloth pieces, and some souvenirs for distribution). His work breathed nothing but love. The very fabric of his life was woven with God’s infinite goodness and compassion. He exuded unadulterated love and concern.

For the last three years prior to being in Punganur, he was the confessor in the Philosophate at Kondadaba (for one year) and at Don Bosco Philsophate, Karunapuram (2012-2014). It was his ardent love for ashram life that pulled him to Punganur and that's where he breathed his last

Thursday, 2 April 2015

"Stop the Homily Abuse"

A very lively and refreshing take on homily by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, who is also the President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines...

  • We were all abused by the homilies of our elder priests when we were seminarians. When our turn came to deliver homilies, the abused became the abuser.
  • Long, winding, repetitious, irrelevant, unprepared homilies are signs of a sick spiritual life of the priest.
  • It is not enough to prepare our homilies; the good priest must prepare himself.
  • We preach only Jesus Christ; always Jesus Christ.
  • When you listen and pray before you talk, you learn something new and your homily will be crisp and fresh.
  • The simple lifestyle of priests is the homily easiest to understand.
  • Reading and study must not stop after the seminary. If we stop reading and study, we endanger the souls of our parishioners. If we stop studying, then we start forcing our people to read the so-called open book of our lives – the comic book of our lives, hardly inspiring, downright ridiculous and awfully scandalous. The homily becomes our story and not the story of Jesus.
  • Believe what you read. Teach what you believe. Practise what you teach.

Click here for the full text.

A Walk with Don Bosco

Here's the video of the presentation Manu and I prepared for the feast of Don Bosco (January 31, 2015). Our tribute to Don Bosco on the occasion of the bicentenary of his birth...
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