Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Jesus, the Jew

Once a particular Bishop invited for the inaugural function of the academic year of our Salesian Philosophate, made the following remark, knowing well the Salesian esteem and admiration for Don Bosco.
Remember that Don Bosco was not a Salesian. He was a diocesan like us!
He said this not once but twice.  Though said it in a very calm tone, all present knew very well his not-so-fondness for the Salesians!  He regularly made best of such occasions to put down Salesians and extol the Diocesan clergy.

Later during the lunch, one of the Salesians casually talking to others, and within the earshot of the Bishop, made the following remark.
Not even Jesus Christ was a Catholic! He was a Jew!  
The Bishop got the message! 

Strong enough?

In the Gospel of today's solemnity (Peter and Paul) Jesus tells Peter, "You are Peter and on this rock, I will build my Church."

Well, in spite of all that Peter was (illiterate, an ordinary fisherman, villager, a simpleton) Jesus sees in him enough substantial material to make him the foundation of the Church on Earth...

I wonder if Jesus would say the same of me?  Or of any Catholic??  Would Don Bosco say that of me?  "You are __________ and on this rock I will build my this ______________ Salesian community."

Monday, 27 June 2016

Learning what not to...

We have learned to enjoy stress instead of peace, excitement in lieu of Rest, and to extract from the confusion of day-to-day life a small core of exhilarating experiences. I doubt that mankind can tolerate our absurd way of life much longer without losing what is best in humanness...
Rene J. Dubos

Immediacy of the call

The readings of yesterday and that of today, emphasize the urgency of the Lord's call.
Come follow me!
Let the dead bury the dead.
Let me go and wish my people at home.
On who has put his hand on the yoke and looks back is not worthy of the Kingdom of God. 
On the one hand, they look harsh and too abrupt.  They indeed are! Priorities are clearly set before one.

Looking at it from another perspective, it is perhaps the Lord's way of saying, "You're not going anywhere so distant from your people and home.  You are not to break all ties from them, saying 'goodbye'.  You merely are being called for a specific formation."

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Offertory praise!

Another interesting anecdote of the confrere (JC).  Looks like he is outdoing some other confreres already famous in the Province.

During the Holy Mass on a particular occasion in the Provincial house the handful of Salesians present decided to sing a hymn during the offertory. He flipped through the hymnal and intoned ...
Praise Him, Praise Him...

Regina Caeli, Rejoice!

A particular confrere (JC) often so confident of himself that he makes blunders - all of it loud and clear, yet unmindful even if pointed out. Reciting prayer in the Chapel was no exception. Everyone knew that if he is animating the prayers, there's bound to be some comedy.

He was leading prayers one morning in the Chapel and did not find the prayer book. It was already time to start but rather than secure the book or ask anyone else to intone, he blurted confidently... "Regina Caeli ... REJOICE!" (half Latin and half English).

Most of the confreres burst out laughing.  Those near the door ran out to laugh!! 


Speaking of choices, i couldn't but notice the plethora of choices my own nephew and niece have at home.  I say this in comparison with my boys at DBNJ Ramanthapur.  Not that the boys at Ramanthapur had no choices absolutely, but in very many matters my nephew and niece have abundant choices. Be it in matter of food, clothing, recreation and toys or in more profound things as education.

Mummy would ask them individually practically before every meal, what they wanted for meals.  Very often half way through her preparation of the asked menu, a different 'order' would reach the kitchen - that too loud and clear from the comfort of the living room with the TV remote in hand and eyes glued to the TV!  Compare that with my boys at Ramanthapur: they get what is served! They hardly have a say.  Almost a similar tale about other things as well.

So I wonder, which is better: having multiple options to choose from or limited options?  Or perhaps the question should be what makes one better: Choices or Choosing?  Of course the act of choosing itself is a great teacher.

Hard choices

Two images that I came across while browsing through the list of images for 'choice' or 'discernment'... couldn't stop laughing!

Vocation discernment

On a lighter note, I found the following sketch on the net.  Would love to have someone draw the Indian - or more specifically the South Indian diocesan and Salesian - version of it.

Who is your Cafasso?

Today is the feast of St Joseph Cafasso, the spiritual director of Don Bosco... a person whom Don Bosco trusted with all his heart and who knew the young seminarian like a son.  Yesterday there was a news article on BoscoLink titled 'Who is your Cafasso' ... a very beautiful way of reminding one and all about the all important necessity of spiritual accompaniment.

For quite some time now, the whole congregation at large has been feeling the need to stress and draw attention to this important dimension of our religious spiritual life. The lacuna is two fold: confreres, especially the young ones, not feeling the need of having a spiritual director and the lack of competent and understanding spiritual directors.

Perhaps most of the issues the Province is today plagued by could be resolved if only we, as individuals and as a whole, work towards realising the gravity and depth of this simple yet profound dimension of life: discernment. Personally too, discernment, not only in matters concerning the conscience, but even in simple mundane matters is something I find difficult. Even when willing and keen to approach someone for directions or help, 'whom to' is a big question!  However, in times when it was really tough, there have been a few people whose help I could always count on. I wish I could say that more boldly and consistently.

Being human - even as religious

The most vivid memory of Sr Modesta that I have is the time a few of us in the Provincial house felicitated her on her Jubilee.  It was immediately after her Jubilee celebrations in her Provincial house at the province/community level. She had then come to visit Fr Noel after a day or two. The Provincial house community was with Fr Noel in his office for a meeting when we were informed by Maria the receptionist that Sr Modesta was here. (She had a NP - national permit.  She did not need any appointment to meet anyone, anywhere, anytime!) By the time she reached the Provincial's office, we pulled out a shawl, and a small card.

As soon as she entered the office, we all sang a song, spoke a few words of appreciation, offered her the card and the shawl. It was all so natural and affectionate. She was thrilled!  And then the best part: In her usual inimitable style she hugged everyone.  Literally all of us had to bend low to embrace her, given her size and her aged hump.  It was truly so cordial and spontaneous. The drama began when one of the confreres did not want to embrace. He only wanted to shake hands!!  We all found it so very very odd, yet he didn't.  It was a scene to behold: a senior, good natured and noble lady extending her arms reaching out for a warm embrace and the confrere seeking only her right hand!! 

Visit to the neighbours

Yesterday evening I visited the neighbouring convent of the Sisters of Charity.  I wanted to say hello to some of the senior bed-ridden Sisters therein who were once in all vigour helping out in the parish and even looking after some of our senior confreres like Fr M.D. Jacob.  In particular I wanted to spend some time with Sr Modesta.

Sr Modesta was as bright as ever, even though her frame is bound to the wheel-chair now.  She still has the same lively and warm smile and off course she still loves to hold hands while speaking.  I purposely visit her every time I come to the Provincial house also because she has been one of the most outgoing and genuinely loving Sister that I have come across.  I know not how she was in her prime years of apostolate but in the last 10 years that I have known her, she has been a very optimistic and cheerful person.  Of course, she must have her own sufferings and grievances, but not once have I heard her or anyone else speak about her bemoaning anything.

I also met some others whom I do not know the names of.  Yet their faces were very familiar. One of them even asked me about 'another Brother' from Mangalore.  When I told her that I am the one, she added, 'he even has his family here in Hyderabad'.  I reiterated, that I am the same person.  Some of those who were novices then (during my term as Provincial Secretary, 7 years ago) seem to still remember me by name.  That was something strange for I hardly met them.  Anyway it was good that I met them all.  

Touch up

The other day at table during meals one confrere while speaking of another confreres' (JC) driving skills told us that this particular confrere was not at all good at driving. Yet would never acknowledge the same.  However in one particular house he always kept a tin of paint (of the same colour as the vehicle) in the garage. Why?  So that he could touch up every time he would return with a scratch or scrape on the vehicle.  The tin was frequently used!

Rewriting the Gospel

Rewriting the Gospel of the day (Mt 7: 21 ff)
Jesus said to his disciples, "Not every who says to me, 'Abba Father' or 'Alleluia, Praise the Lord' will enter the Kingdom of heaven, but only the one who seeks to discern the will of my Father in heaven and is courageous to live it.  Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not preach in your name? Did we not build so many institutions for the poor in your name?  Did we not spend years in the formation houses preparing your priests for your sake?' Then I will declare to them solemnly, 'You never knew me... leave alone try to know me. I never knew you.'

Monday, 13 June 2016

Catholic vs Telugu

Last evening I was at my Parish of St Theresa's, Sanathanagar for a meal with the confreres there. The Parish Priest came in laughing and shared an incident which happened during the evening Mass.  During the distribution of Holy Communion he suspected that one of the man in the queue was not a Catholic.  And when he asked him politely, "Are you a Catholic?" the man immediately responded, "No, I'm a Telugu!"

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Cartoons and kids

Being at home for the past one week, have been "cooked" up with a steady and full doze of cartoons that my nephew watches all day and night.  He has his holidays and is almost inseparable from the TV remote.  As soon as he gets up, the first things he does is practically put on the TV. And it is always that same Disney Junior channel.

Roshni tells me, if you are so bored up within a week of watching the same thing all day and night, imagine our state when we have to put up with it all year long.

I really don't get what is it that appeals children about cartoons.  Of course, I too love to watch them (very limited choice though).  But to be almost obsessed with them?? Some of them really get on your nerves... that damn 'Oggy and the cockroaches'!

Tollywood and Gender disparity

Something interesting that occurred to me a few days ago while there was some discussion about movies.  There are hardly any heroines in Telugu movies from the Telugu soil!! Most of them, especially those in blockbusters and hit movies, are all from out of Andhra and Telangana.  Some of them can hardly speak Telugu.

Contrast this with the actors playing heroes.  None from out of the Telugu states!!

Clearly shows the gender disparity in our culture and attitude.  Why do none of the Telugu families promote their daughters to join Tollywood? Even those of established celebrities?? One hardly hears anything about the daughters of celebrities; while sons are forcefully pushed into the limelight.

Saturday, 11 June 2016


An act requires a befitting response. No response is as bad as a over-reaction.  Often in our communities and in the society as a whole we are allergic to criticism.  Of course, no one loves to be criticised all the time but some critical appreciation is always good and healthy.  Most often people have a such a dreaded experience of facing criticism that they either shy away or bluntly oppose any criticism that comes their way.  While receiving criticism with the right and proper attitude is an art to be mastered, so is offering healthy and productive criticism.

After all, one does not cut fingers because fingernails have grown!

Of vehicles and wants

Summer has come to an end and it is quite cloudy since the past two days.  Rains have already set in and quite a few parts of the state have enjoyed good rains.  Farmers all over are busy plowing their fields and getting them ready for sowing the seed.

One thing that I noticed much during this summer was the increase in the number of a/c vehicles on road.  There were practically very very few vehicles with their windows open.  There was a time when we could count on our finger tips the number of vehicles zipping through the city roads with their window glasses all up.  As a boy I used to initially wonder what kind of people preferred to suffocate in their vehicles with everything shut than enjoy the natural open air.  Only later I came to know of a/c vehicles and sort.

However now, almost every vehicle is a/c.  Growing economy or growing wants?

Praying for AIDS

After long met Fr T.V. Thomas the other day in the Provincial house and it was good talking to him again.  He has not lost his inherent charm of narrating jokes.

He was speaking about a group of Sisters who once told him during his visit to their convent:
We have been praying for AIDS since long, but the Lord is not answering our prayer.  We are not getting it!  
What they actually meant was monetary aid! 

Could have been more

During the last farewell gathering organised for me by the community, I sincerely thanked the boys for helping me grow in the attitude of learning.  While very many confreres felt bad that I did not get to pursue my Ph.D., never regretted one bit of the whole of last year.  In fact I did re-begin my studies!!

The only regret I stated was this: I could have been more!  Honestly, I could express it in Telugu but I did my best in explaining it.  Not that I could have done more, no. But I really could have been more than what I limited myself to be - at times out of my own laziness, at times out of fear, at times out of a 'not-my-business' attitude.

Just the other night, I came across this clip from the movie Schindler's list.  As I recollected watching the movie many many years ago, I could truly vibe with Mr Schindler as he says those sincere words.

The great phone theft - the grand finale

My last couple of days at Ramanthapur were quite dramatic.  We were hosting a large group of guests - the largest since I took charge.  Unfortunately the very next day they complained of the loss of mobile phones and tablets. To make matters worse by sun set a large number of them started coming forward reporting theft - from dormitories, from the hall and even from locked rooms! I raked my brains wondering what to do as the list kept growing.  Honestly I had no clue what to do. On the one hand, the organiser was expecting me to reimburse and on the other hand, some of those whose belongings were stolen were threatening police action.  To make matters worse I had already purchased 114 movie tickets at the 3D IMAX theatre for the boys as the next day was outing day for them!!

Cutting the long story short, and not wanting to indict more boys than those involved (merely one) I managed to get back most of the gadgets.  I'm also happy I did not have to use any unhealthy or violent methods to secure the things.  My trust in the boys and their trust in my word, worked.

Honestly, the two days were quite harrowing.  But the brunt of one boy's actions was borne by the whole institution and all of us.  Though all the boys were put to test for this right early on a Sunday morning, they all perfectly understood the motive and the mode.  None of them ever resented or protested.  In fact they were sympathetic and forth right with whatever information they had.

Again a confirmation that boys are basically good, even the one who picked up those things.  If the latter were that bad, we would have never recovered anything at all!  

Of dreams and pillows

A Living Wage

A special 24

I spent the 24th of May in the most different mode this year.  Usually it is amidst Salesians or family (holidays).  This time it was amidst rocks and under a blazing sun - very unique and offering great amount of solitude.  I went to one of our disputed property sites awaiting a land surveyor. What was supposed to be a four hour trip turned out to be a 16 hour wait... only to be told that it cannot be done!

Anyway, had the maiden experience of driving an auto-gear car.  Most importantly enjoyed the solitude.  Didn't mind any bit of it at all.  

As stopgaps

Very many confreres take offence or feel insulted when shuttled around to fill gaps, plug in vacancies, either for a short time or for a long term.  This has much to do with perhaps, 'earning a name' 'doing something solid' and what not.  It also has something to do with the area of 'specialisation' of the individual.  One is 'specialised' and therefore one is to be sent only to those areas where his specialization is needed.

For me Salesian obedience (transfer) is a simple, Go!  You go because you are sent.  I consider this shuffling as per need (real need), a compliment.  It is a great Salesian virtue. That one is found capable of fitting into any context, any situation and trusted with a responsibility, even if not specialised in that area, is indeed a privilege.  Furthermore what kind of a skill has one acquired if one cannot translate the specialization into the context in which one finds oneself.

Different value scales

During our group discussion we had an interesting tug of war. A rather stubborn pair of confreres - I said pair, purposely to mean it! - held on to their view even when everyone else in the group (of 8) strongly felt and showed otherwise.

Honestly speaking they didn't mean harm or ill. They just had a different set of values. I guess that's the case most of the time.  Not that people are bad or evil or wrong.  They merely have a different value scale, different priorities, varied glasses to look through.

Without money!

After a long gap, I'm putting down my ideas. Not that I did not have any ideas all these days.  In fact, too many and too varied.  Just too many other commitments on the priority list as well.

I attended a Province level meeting in the first week of June. Much better than most of the past.  Was happy to have a hand in its organisation and preparation.

One thing was apparent:  Quite a few of the confreres are convinced that without money no good can be done!

Thank God Jesus did not have any such ideas or convictions or mind-frame.  There'd be no Christianity, no Salesian Congregation and least of all no Salesian Province of Hyderabad!
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