Sunday, 29 November 2015

Waiting...

We commence the season of Advent today.  While in the Mass, a thought came across my mind.  Whom do we usually wait for?  Someone we love or someone we have some work with. We usually don't look forward to someone with whom we have no relationship or business.  If someone does arrive, we care two hoots about him or her.

Speaks tons of our relationship with Jesus.  The Church offers us a good opportunity to 'get ready' for the Saviour.  But for one who is already deeply in love with Him, there is no 'waiting'.  Even if there is, it is something spontaneous and natural.  Not forced or another thing to be done.

So I'm asking myself:  How eager is my longing for His 'coming'?  Am I waiting at all?  Does He even feature in my thoughts and expectations - at least at random, in flashes?

Come Lord Jesus, Come!

Cell phone distance

The day before yesterday I went to the Secunderabad railway station to meet a couple of my companions from Chennai who had come to the city for a meeting and were returning back.  Since they could not make it to my place, we had agreed to meet in the station itself - none of us wanted to risk the Hyderabad traffic.

Having located them it suddenly occurred to me what if we were in the pre-mobile era?  How on earth did people locate someone in a place like a railway station someone whom they wanted to meet?  While chatting about this with my companions, one of them said, "Back then they used common sense!  And now we only use the mobile!"  True indeed!

In the name of advanced technology, we only have learnt the method of doing last minute work.  Planning much ahead and working towards something is not considered essential about all aspects of life.  Why anticipate something that can be done within a matter of few minutes.  So what then do you do with the "saved" time?

Earlier, when it was still the era of writing postal letters to dear ones announcing ones arrival by train, things were smooth, almost. Now even with the latest technology, there is more chaos and confusion!

Save face

A good thought to ponder and practice:
Save face - keep the lower part of it shut! 

Saturday, 28 November 2015

If not in life...

Came back this evening from the funeral of Fr Pasala Jojappa, a novitiate batchmate of mine, who later joined the diocese of Nalgonda. He died under mysterious circumstances and things are too shady even for one to speculate.  However, the good that happened today, at least for me, was that I got to meet my Gunadala aspirantate and novitiate batchmates.  Most of them I am meeting after 20 to 23 years!  It was great to meet them.

Of the batch of 14 novices, way back in 1995, five of us are Salesians (4 Priests and me), one already in heaven, one laid to rest today and the rest are all married and settled down in life. Today Anil, Shantha, Kasu and William were absent.  The rest of us were all there: Anand, Kishore, Rayappa, Rajkumar and Thomas.

We stayed back after the funeral just to stand around and recall our days in Gunadala and Manoharabad.  We still remembered our nicknames and pet names.  Finally before leaving the village, we once again called on the family.  Most of us were not in touch with the family but all the same they invited us inside the house when we informed that we were a batch once upon a time.  We did spend some quality time with the mother, sister and a relative (a Priest).  Some intimate details about his death and the circumstances around the same too were shared in this close-knit gathering.

If not in life, his death brought us together.

RIP: Pasala

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Sleep

Describes my present state pretty well...

Priests are not mushrooms

Pope Francis spoke of Priesthood and formation on Nov. 20, 2015 and here's what I liked most:
Priests also have a history, they are not 'mushrooms' which sprout up suddenly in the cathedral on the day of their ordination. 
It is important for formators and priests themselves to remember this and to know how to take into account this personal history along the path of formation … this means that one cannot become a priest, believing that one has been formed in a laboratory, no; he starts in the family with the 'handing on' of the faith and with all the experiences of the family. 
He added that each vocation is personalized,
because it is the concrete person who is called to discipleship and the priesthood.
A good priest, therefore, is first of all a man with his own humanity, who knows his own history, with its riches and its wounds, who has learned to make peace with this, achieving the fundamental serenity proper to one of the Lord's disciples. Human formation is therefore a necessity for priests, so that they learn not to be dominated by their limits, but rather to put their talents to use.

The good shoes

One of the priests to whom I was talking a couple of days ago was speaking about two staff members who were trying to become the right hand man of another confrere in a particular community.  So he stated it thus:
Both of them want to come close to him.  Both of them want to get into his good shoes
You see, that's what happens when you don't read the books right!

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Fighting... movie style

One interesting phenomena I noticed among our boys... not only now, but even many years ago too.  Whenever words heat up and turn into blows, it is always a movie style fight.  The words and sentences uttered are all with the cinematic effect and so are the movements.  Now that's the first part.

The second part is the most interesting:  none of the other boys intervene!  They all merely stand by and watch.  Luckily they do not cheer on, but neither do they do anything to intervene and separate them.  All watch in deadly silence.  I guess that passivity too is a cinematic influence!

Saturday, 21 November 2015

Air pack

One thing that I really did not see today, during the sports day of the neighbouring school, was children munching chips.  Usually, children when they have the liberty - and the money - go first for all that kurkure and chips packets.  Perhaps today there was no one selling them in the vicinity. However, I find it surprising that kids - and grown ups too - prefer the tight packed chips to something more filling and healthy, say a biscuit packet or some corn.  That too for the price you pay, there is more air than chips in some of these packets.

With children

Some old students and confreres often ask me how is my stay in Ramanthapur with the children from the street - honestly speaking, not all here are from the street!  Anyway, I sincerely tell them that I'm really enjoying my stay and work with the children.  Both here and in Punganur, working with children has certainly brought in a different perspective for myself.  Something I'd have really missed out had I continued in Karunapuram.  As of now, I do acknowledge that I have no great love for Karunapuram, but I certainly am doing a lot of introspection and self-reflection.

Children truly mirror a lot back to you... so no dodging!

Conscientizing the conscience

Some of our boys here are very good at playing with people.  They tell one thing in the school to the teacher, another to the headmaster and something all together different to the Brother in-charge.  And most often, the truth is in none of these presentations!  That's a real talent for some.

I guess we do the same with our inner selves too...

Learning...

Coming from Karunapuram, and with all the heavy baggage that I still feel within me, my stay at Ramanthapur - with the boys, to be specific - is quite revealing.  While most of the Brothers found it very hard to make choices of their own, leave alone sensible, prudent and counter-cultural choices, quite a few of the boys here, in their own way take very value based stances.  On the one hand we have young men, who have consciously opted for a particular way of life, but fail to make corresponding choices.  On the other hand, we have children and youngsters who have had no prior "formation" or opportunities as much as the Brothers and yet making not only sensible decisions but value-based judgements.

Am yet to grasp how and why this happens... this disparity?  Still observing the boys here to learn what makes them far better than most of the Brothers!  

Water blues and kids

Just outside my office window is the drinking water tap for the boys.  Since there is the neighbouring school conducting their sports day in our ground, I closed up the tap from inside, having told my boys to go into the staff dining hall and drink. (I had told the school to get their own drinking water, since I would not be able to provide the same for all their children and their guests too - and that they had done).  It was all fine, till I saw some of the outside students and guests too going into the staff dining hall.  For what?  For water!  And who was directing them?  My own boys!  

Learning lessons teaching

Yesterday morning during the technical school assembly, I posed a challenge for the day: help atleast one or two of your companions, anonymously.  Since I concluded the talk with just that one point, some of them were surprised and openly stated: "That's all??"  I understood the statement was about the brevity of my talk and not the content of it.

However, at the end of the day, after night prayers I asked the same two or three guys who make that remark during the morning assembly, if they remembered the challenge that I had posed to them.  All of them not only remembered it but also proudly stated that they had helped not one but three of their companions!

Now, I was shocked and surprised!  I really was convinced that none of them even remembered the challenge, leave alone tried it.  Though I did try it myself, I managed to help only one individual.  That was a lesson for me! 

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Insights from the Parable of the Vine

This morning we had a reflection and sharing on the parable of the vine from the gospel of John.
In the whole episode, something which is evident is that all along the vine is in touch with the garden and the gardener. Whether the branch is yielding or not; whether dead (burnt in the garden) or alive (with the vine). The gardener is also in touch with the vine... pruning, cutting, watering, manuring. Good lesson for all: Everyone is good and in the care of the Father... depending on our response to the care of the Father, is the treatment of the Son (pruning, cutting, harvesting...)

Abide in me... 
It is a natural human temptation – and an increasingly growing tendency among religious – to 'launch out', jump to action, engage oneself in activities. Because these are visible and tangible. These bring glory and name, among people and in the society. However the invitation is to 'abide in me'. Now that's difficult and a very risky affair. Risky because it involves a gruelling transformation. No escape. No dodging. No shortcuts. It turns you inside out and not at all comforting! Human as we are, we easily give in to the temptation rather than strive for transformation.

(In the light of the Chapter, a small distraction: We have ample opportunities to make this inner shift and we do go through them all – in fact, insist on fulfilling them all at the individual level, community level, province level. However without the real will)

Those branches which yield he prunes with care 
It is the tree which bears fruits that gets stoned. A sign of suffering and difficulty is that one is doing something worthwhile and different. If one were not to do anything, nothing is going to happen.

He cuts those branches which do not yield...
It is not enough just to be with Him but one needs to be productive too. Productivity is not necessarily an automatic outcome of being with the vine.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Sheep Stealing

I had heard of this phrase some long time ago but not of late. I thought this language – and the concept itself – was extinct... till I heard it yesterday in the Provincial's report of the Province.

'Sheep Stealing'???   Well... !

It was used in the observations for the Evangelisation commission, in the context of 'other denominations' and therefore 'sheep stealing'.

This concept is only possible when we deem Christians and Catholics - and people, in general - as mere dumb sheep with no brains or balls to make sensible decisions for their own faith and life. Secondly, it reeks of a very very narrow attitude of the Church and the Kingdom.

Sheep??

Lay Collaboration

Last evening listening to the sharing of a couple of men who were invited as observers - who were also Salesian co-operators - I felt this strong message coming across. Amidst staff and collaborators, our Salesian presence is actually the life-giving presence.  Now I don't mean it positively!  It is actually a very detrimental and damaging presence and involvement.  The lay collaborators exist and function only at the push of the Salesians.

While on the one hand we have the famous Salesian quote that the Salesian community is the nucleus of the apostolate, but that does not mean that we should make the lay people or those involved with us purely dependent and alive only and only because of the Salesians...

... never helped to be independent and grow.... always dependent... we dominate... make them subservient...

...and everyone's happy!  That's the tragedy!

Mysticism - interpreted

Talking of mysticism and giving his interpretation/understanding of the same, Fr KM Sebastian, who was also celebrating his b'day, spoke of it as a feeling of being lost in the Lord.  He cited children lost in their petty games, people lost in watching movies in a theatre, couples lost in gazing at one another...

He spoke of an actress who was once asked what sort of a man would she want for a husband.  And she is to have replied,
I do not want a man to live with, but a man without whom I cannot live.  
Now's that's what we call being lost and madly in love.  

Success indicators

Our success indicators are all along the lines of finance and status. But none of us would state – leave alone acknowledge – this truth. We would die and kill to retain the tag of 'poor and abandoned'. The tag is merely to milk donors and benefactors... not for our own living style nor as a yardstick for policy-making.

Why always tie-up ministry with finance? I understand that finance is required for ministry, but not compulsory. We have somehow grown with the idea that if we do not have money, that if we do not have benefactors, that if there are no projects, nothing worthwhile can be done. I wonder how much money Jesus had when he went about doing good? I wonder when, where and how Jesus would have carried out his ministry if he too were to have been dependent on finances as we are.

Sick of the ongoing discussions, I started preparing a 'word cloud' of the morning discussions - that's when I was not reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer:
property, new capital, cbse, expand, big campus, land, sustainability, use, money, earning, change according to the times, professional centres, facilities, finance, strength, funds, model,

Work and Play

Tom Sawyer's definition of work and play:
Work consists of whatever a body is obliged to do. Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. 
Here's an extended explanation:
There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-drive horse passenger coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would resign. 
My personal take:
Work, if involving children, is play... of course, for the children; but for the adults it is double-work! At my parents' home, Mummy 'works' only after my niece and nephew have gone to bed. As long as they are around, they are adamant to 'help' and eager to do the work, but in the end it is such a fiasco that Mummy has to spend more time cleaning and redoing. Same here at Navajeevan home with the boys. Easier, faster and better if I do the work myself than ask the boys to do or help me.

But...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Playing poverty

We commenced our Provincial Chapter this morning with a recollection preached by Fr Mallavarapu Sundar, a diocesan priest of the archdiocese of Hyderabad.  I had met him a couple of times when here in the Provincial house as the Secretary.  I remembered him well... wasn't sure if he would.  However was pleasantly surprised to hear him call me by name and recall the few times we met and interacted six years ago!

Anyway, during his reflection in the morning he was sharing his experience of having to hear a friend priest from the United States, who did not have much of an appreciation for our Pope Francis. He said, (quoting his friend) that Francis was "being poor and playing poverty."

Contesting this accusation, Fr Sundar stressed that Pope Francis is truly genuine in his life and words and is truly doing a great job.  It is basically we priests and religious who deserve the title of 'playing poverty'.  We really do not practice it but are eloquent speakers and proclaimers of the same... mere verbally and that too only from the pulpit.  Neither are we poor at words there at the pulpit!

As I sat reflecting on those words, I realised the Pope being really poor need not at all play poverty.  Only when one is not genuine or truthful about being poor does one have to put up a whole facade and dramatise poverty.  Of course, the final straw: poverty, if it does not help me come close to Christ and His people is as good as riches or anything else.  Poverty (and for that matter every other evangelical counsel) is only a means to live and come closer to Jesus.  By itself, poverty is good but not necessarily a virtue!

Sunday, 8 November 2015

Nice cartoon

Couldn't help laughing at this cartoon... very imaginative and creative representation.

Mockery of communion

I've always had an allergy for people's craze for food.  By now I've realized that very many in south India have this notion that serving food on a special occasion is one of the best means of doing good.  I totally disagree!  When there is the parish feast, everyone is served a meal... lavish arrangements are made and all and sundry are fed that one day.  Huge amounts are spent for this alone.  What's surprising is that very many who can comfortably afford and have a great meal at home, do not mind eating on this particular occasion.  Mind you, it isn't about eating like a 'family' or anything.  There is only 'eating'!!  I fear we have reached a point where we invite people to a celebration, especially parish feasts, and people come not for the communion (and I do mean the Holy Eucharistic communion alone), but merely for the food after the Mass.  And how does this event unfold?  Everyone rushes for food, as though they have been starving for ages (most fear coming later or giving preference for others would mean running the risk of not getting food later); Children are sent at 'courier boys' to fetch as much as can be carried home (great way of teaching children good manners!);  seating is always as per "my" people, none try to mingle with everyone or those from other families or strangers;  there is nothing of sharing or sacrificing, each one is up to grab as much as possible and woe to the Parish Priest and those serving food, if food runs short (that's announced and proclaimed for ages as the worst feast ever... naturally, every Parish Priest would like to 'outdo' his predecessors by providing more and 'better' food);  finally, the whole place is so littered with plates, paper/plastic cups and food (yeah, food!) that it would put Genghis Khan (and his battlefield) to shame.

High time the clergy first gets its priorities right and then helps everyone in the Parish realize this mediocrity of reducing a feast to a eating gala.  

Learning to be a Parent

Yesterday I learnt a good lesson, in a not so good way!  One of the senior boys approached me asking for a pair of slippers, stating that the one he has is not good. I had a look at them and told him that he could very well use it for a month or so, if he would merely put a stitch or two on them.  He wasn't convinced.  He wanted a new pair by all means (about a dozen of the other boys had been given just the day before). Finally unable to convince him that I was not keen on purchasing a new pair when the existing pair could be mended, I told him that I'd do the necessary repair for him.  And I said that I'd repair it and use it myself.  He coolly said, "OK!" With that he followed me to my room and when I gave him my pair of slippers, he tried them on, handed me his pair and left!

I was quite disturbed by what happened. And I asked myself why was I so perturbed?  I realized I had told him that I'd exchange the pair of slippers merely to convince him to use the same, not really 'exchange'.  His 'matter of fact' attitude in walking away with my footwear was quite irritating.  What really calmed my conscience and mind, was this lesson: If they really are MY boys, why would I think twice to give them the best and adjust with the rest myself?  Any parent would do that: give the children the best, no matter if they themselves have to totally forgo the same. 

Generosity of Yahweh

The first reading of the day is about Elijah assuring the widow that she will have food and oil enough to last, if she would first serve him a morsel (the only food left) before she and her son has it.  It is interesting to note the condition that Yahweh (through Elijah) puts for his generous offer of providing food in time of drought and famine.
The jar of flour shall not go empty, nor the jug of oil run dry, until the day when the Lord sends rain upon the earth.  
The "offer" is not for eternity, but till the time, the required resources are available for them to make their own food.  God does not make us mere receptacles of His gifts but provides us with resources to make our own 'daily bread'.  And in times when we do not have these resources at hand, He is willing to step in and provide the required goods, but again, not for ever, till the resources are available.

Pointing fingers at others

Last night I was at ISB, Gachibowli for a diwali sale with products made at our Bhoiguda centre.  Joshua our driver was ill and I had to take the wheel.  It was an evening sale (6 to 11 pm).  There were about 22 stalls in a small place in the open and only a couple of them put up by some NGOs like us.  Most were eateries and ours was perhaps the only exception (we were selling diyas and candles).  Surprisingly very many who came to the place (mostly students residing on the campus) did not even bother to look at the banner or the name and particulars we strung up.  They merely strolled around and went straight to the "food" section. I found it little too "childish". However, I later took a stroll round the stalls and imagine what... no sooner than I returned it occurred to me that neither did I look at any other NGOs name or banner!! So much for pointing fingers at others...!

Thursday, 5 November 2015

On and off the Phone

The other day while at home with my parents and family, the two kids Anet and Chris were all life.  Even when everyone decided to take a nap after a late lunch, they were very reluctant.  However, they were the last to sleep but among the first to get up and wake all the others.  They wanted me to engage in every activity of theirs... all games!  Their chatter also was continuous.  Even though Anet is just starting to make sensible words, she has her commentary and instructions and orders running all day long.  However, they just would not like to speak on the phone! When Roshni's father and brother called up from home to wish her happy b'day, she just would not speak.  The same with Chris.  It is the same with me too... when I call up home, they barely ever come on the phone.  In person they keep chatting, but they just would not like to come on the phone!

Enough lessons to learn!
This ain't Anet!

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Expression vs Explosion

I find this technique very enriching, but given our usual nature and habit, it is difficult to get out of old ways.  When in an argument, we often try to defeat the other.  We are out to demolish the other and win over.  How about merely expressing oneself, rather than attacking the other?

A rather mature way of arguing is to merely present one's state of mind and heart to the other, rather than breathe fire down the other's whole present and past.  In that way, there is no real point of argument.  There is merely stating of one's feelings and emotions in the given context.  It is not a threat to the other but a merely acknowledgement of one's state. Any mature person would see that it is only an expression and not a challenge to one's position or idea.

Add this to the list of "easier said than done!"

Viewing the different dimensions

I partly attended the Child Protection Policy that was presented to some of our staff members at Don Bosco Prema Seva Sadan, Hayathnagar today.  Personally it was again a challenge for me to view the world from the child's perspective.  Furthermore the interactions I had today with the boys, in groups, as some individuals who came to speak to me privately, the interesting interaction with the volunteers, and finally the running around (as usual)...

This morning I was quite agitated when two of the senior boys were stubbornly holding on to their view that they would not do the morning job (cleaning their dining hall) just because they were not provided a mopper.  My argument was that they could very well use a sack and and if really need be, a stick.  Their insistence on doing their morning job only and only when provided with a mopper, was for me a bit too silly and irritating.  However, I left it at that and got lost in some other urgent tasks.

It was an hour later, I was informed that the boys were not permitted to have b'fast because they did not do their morning jobs.  Now that was too much.  I told one of them to meet me during the 10.30 break.  When he came to my office, I told him to first have his b'fast and then meet me.  I had already checked and informed the cooks to provide b'fast for both of them. After having their b'fast they came to me and we had a long chat.  It was then that I realized that there were some other issues that were plaguing them and this morning job thing was just a small funnel end!

It is a tricky rope to walk. I see things from the perspective of the Assistants (against whom they had much to say), the Dean (whom they didn't trust much) and now these boys themselves.  Not that any one of them is really bad or cruel (besides the fact of denying them b'fast!). Each one is trying to do what is best, but in the process end up locking horns with one another.  Got to see how to help them sort out these issues without any fanfare or fireworks.  All that is required is that each one sees the others viewpoint too. The rest, will automatically fall in place and greater things can be achieved.
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