Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Weird captions

Having to do a bit of cooking in the past few days, I've noticed some queer things printed on the edible products.  Today I came across two such weird descriptions... couldn't really make sense of what actually did they mean!

The following was on the beef burger pack... "Made with 95% British beef."  The rest 5% of what?  Indian beef??

Then there was this caption on the double cream container I served for desert... 'lasts longer once opened'?  Does it mean that it will stay fresh longer, if opened?  Or that it tastes so bad that it would never be used again?

Helping strangers

I reached the airport this afternoon on time but the flight was delayed and hence spent time walking around.  At one moment two ladies emerged from the international arrivals wing and were frantically looking around.  One of them had her phone in hand and constantly looking at it.  They tried to ask a couple of commuters but none seemed to be interested in stopping at all.  By then I realised they wanted to go to the car park.  I volunteered to help.  On the lady's phone were the details of the car park.  I showed them the direction to take to reach there.  But then realised myself that in their state of anxiety they'd lose their way, so I volunteered to guide them to the spot.  They were grateful.  Once at the spot we looked for the car.  Finding none, they told me that it was a uber taxi.  Glancing at the app I noticed that the vehicle was still on its way.  I assured them that it would arrive exactly where they were and left.  I could notice that they were quite at ease by then.  Perhaps they would have sorted out the whole thing by themselves, if only they were a bit more relaxed from the beginning.  But such confusion and anxiety is common during journeys and that too if it is the maiden trip to a new place.

I did not know much of the airport or the logistics, but felt great to be of some assistance to those two ladies in their moment of anxiety.  Perhaps the feeling was special because it is after a long gap that I've had some interaction with people other my confreres or those whom I regularly meet on Sundays.

Children and displays

I was at the airport this evening to pick up Fr Sean. And his inbound flight was delayed by almost 2 hrs. So? Another opportunity to walk and watch people, especially children.

Among the other amusing antics was the difficulty of parents keeping their children's eyes and hands from the displayed racks of chocolates and other colourful things at the shops. The smaller they are the greater the danger. The risk is all the more greater if there are more than two kids to handle - besides the luggage. The best chances are to keep the kids as far as possible from any of these displays. If they somehow do reach close beware of the hand shooting out!  Then the mad scramble to get the object out of the child's hand before it opens up the wrapper or decides to get rid of it and in the process break it!

Love your neighbour

The leader of a church music group practiced his trombone almost daily late into the night and sometimes in the early hours of the morning.  Someone complained this to his parish priest and asked, if such a man could be called a good christian at all.  "It's possible for the musician," replied the priest, "but not so easy for the neighbours!"

The Master destroyer

Jesus is described as the worst funeral director: He sabotaged every funeral he attended, including his own!

Children

My niece, all of three years, is all mischief.  She claims to be 'big'.  So she stands beside something and makes sure the other person or the object is below her shoulder level... all to confirm her claim that she is 'big'.  Not to be outdone by her elder brother, who is four years elder to her, she is adamant that she too is seven years old.

During my last conversation with my people at home, Mum was reporting that one morning she was tired of being "harassed" by the little one and she said to my brother (her father) as he was getting in the car to go to office, "Shall we give away Anet to someone because she is becoming too naughty?"  All of this within her earshot.  Pat came the reply, "Give me to Mai (that's how she addresses my mother!)"

Was reminded of someone reporting something similar about their grandson who was being stubborn about eating something.  So the grandma asked the boy, "You do know which kind of children go to heaven, don't you?"  The reply was quick, "Yeah, all the dead ones!"

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

Differently abled

In some sense I like the phrase 'differently-abled'... of course, not as a label for those physically or mentally challenged but as to what it conveys.  I certainly am not for the phrase being used as a sort of gradation of people with 'normal' being the standard of measurement.

The phrase 'differently-abled' conveys the fact that just because a child or a person has a different set of thought pattern or does not think or act in the way that most people do, is not less than others.  It is just that the child is different.  In a sense, each one of us is different!  In fact, it can be viewed as meaning that the 'normal' people have not yet found out ways and means of comprehending this 'different' thought or guiding principle.  For all one knows, those labelled 'differently-abled' may be far more gifted that most people, only not recognised and acknowledged.  What if the existing standard measuring unit of 'normalcy' is itself flawed?  What if the goalposts set up by the society and the times are themselves off mark?

Intelligence is not something that can be graded merely on the basis of doing things 'right' or getting reality right - least of all, scoring high marks.

Monday, 11 September 2017

Murder, most brutal

Everytime I dig out a grown up plant in the garden, I feel a bit bad.  Not because the plant is a rare variety or that it is a 'good' plant for the garden but because it has taken more than a year to grow to the stature it is.  And my act of 15 minutes is going to undo all of that year's slow painstaking effort of the plant to keep growing.

The same logic is applicable to people as well.  Whenever someone is killed, however or for whatever reason, that single act of an instant negates years of growth.  Not only of that person but of all those involved in the life of that person, right since infancy.  Surviving all those years of childhood's vulnerabilities mostly riding on the gracious and generous sacrifice of parents, the risks and dangers of youth, dodging those viruses and fatal bacteria, carving out a life, building up relationships and a worldview... all of it, everything is destroyed by one senseless act of someone.  And most often why does one murder?  Merely because something the person said or wrote is not to my liking, or because the other person's belief structure is different from that of mine... If only one would weigh all what goes into making a life against that one particular differing aspect, just for one silent minute, may be several lives would be spared.  

Life goes on...

For the past two weeks news channels and newspapers, regional or international, have had no dearth of 'sensational' events to report.
US vs North Korea
Ethnic violence in Mynamar
Harvey and Irma in the Carribbean
Brexit negotiations
Floods in Assam, and other parts of South Asia
Baba Ram Rahim

Amidst all of these seemingly life-defining moments, one thing that carries on for an ordinary person is his or her daily life.  Whether flooded or safe, whether running away from home or to work, one continues to live hoping for a better tomorrow.  In spite of all the death, gloom and destruction that is reported and experienced, life goes on.  Even for me, sitting in the safe and luxurious confines of my room, life goes on! 

The power of words

Prior to Trump's election as the president of the US, it was the tension between the US and Russia.  Now it is the US vs North Korea.  And I still don't know why is it that there is the tension?  Did the US invade any part of North Korea?  Or did the North Koreans attack any part of the US?  The tension seems to spring and get escalated merely on the exchange of words... far more than the experimentation or military drills and tests.

No doubt words of provocation work so efficiently.  Wonder if words of peace and harmony too work with such finesse and effect.  Our sensitivities are so heightened that any small slip of tongue or gesture is enough to thrust us into war.  But the same sensitivities remain callous when it comes to discussing matters concerning the well being of the suffering, poor, marginalised and struggling folks within our circle of daily experience.  Even with enough and evident reasons and arguments for eradicating social evils and suffering, we still don't see the point.  We need Harvey and Irma and Jose to get our attention to more important and deeper issues than frivolous things like war and military exercises.  

Viewing the world

If anyone were to list the most defining moments of modern history, the events of 9/11 would certainly feature in it.  Since that particular man-made catastrophe the world has never been the same.  One could still debate the whole logistic and rationale behind it all, but one can never say that the present time is better or worse for it.

However, over the years, there is one aspect which has changed since the first 9/11 commemoration.  It is the need to consider wider ramifications of every deed.  Though the habit of seeing the world through the others' viewpoint, prior to taking decisions or making judgements about the other, is yet to mature, this reflection too has gained some momentum.  In the face of evil and suffering, it is hard to guide emotions and feelings.  Decisions born out of such strong emotions are not always the best.  Yet they are real emotions and feelings.  One can never really doctor one's own true feelings.  Hence the need to grow in a habit of constantly putting oneself in others' shoes prior to making decisions affecting all. This constant practice does not change the past but will go a long way in making the future a little more pleasant and worth gladly remembering.  

Saturday, 9 September 2017

Sanitized thrills

One of the popular relaxation sites in UK, especially for children, is the Go Ape.  This is something like a maze among the trees and wooden bridges in the air.  Those making their way through this adventure will be tied secure with a string and a harness, just in case!  I've seen the one in Battersea park.  I found this whole concept very amusing.  Back in India we have trees and children, especially boys, cannot resist them.  In the rural setting, there'll hardly be a tree that a growing boy would not have climbed!  Of course, there'd be no harness or rope.  If only a child would try to climb a tree here in UK, I'm sure he'd get a good spanking (most probably, no!) and a long lecture in 'health and safety' measures.  It is like people prefer the bottled fruit juice to a fresh fruit. They trust more the 'safety' of the processed juice, than the natural original fruit!  You take something so natural and fresh, then take away all its naturality and then reproduce it in such a 'natural' setting.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

Living records

I laughed my head off when I glanced through an article in the newspaper today proudly speaking of a 'record' number of people in a VW cooper: 50.  Really?  A record?  That too it being stationary all the while.

I'm sure none of those in the van or those reporting have ever heard, leave alone been to some parts of India.  There still are some parts of India where a jeep contains as many as 50 people in it and is driven for long stretches.  I'm sure there are still plying some roads in Gujarat and Rajasthan.

Till a few years ago, I've not only seen but travelled in person, in one such jeeps.  There used to be these jeeps plying between Hyderabad and Kazipet, a distance of 100 kms.  In the driver's seat there'd be one or two seated. And where would the driver be?  Sitting on the edge of his seat, with two-third of his body out of the vehicle.  His hands would be firm on the steering and his feet on the clutch and accelerator (brakes would seldom be used!).  Not only did these vehicles 'contain' 3 to 4 dozen people within, they'd be fast!  Fast meaning really fast.  Some of those which ended up in an accident, there was barely anything left, of the vehicle and of those within! Such would be the speed at which they'd fly.  More than a thrill it was a fight for survival.  The more passengers they pick up, the more income they earn. Moreover, more trips per day meant more income.

Being conscious of time

Paulo Coelho's short stories 'The Four Forces'
As soon as he died, Juan found himself in a very beautiful place, surrounded by all the comfort and beauty that he had dreamed of.  A figure dressed in white came up to him and said, "You are entitled to anything you want."
Enchanted, Juan did everything he had dreamed of during life.  After many years of pleasure, he sought out the figure in white. He said that he had experienced everything and that now he needed a little work to make him feel useful.  "That's the only thing I cannot get for you," said the figure in white."  "But I'll spend eternity dying of boredom! I'd much rather be in hell!"  "And where do you think you are?" 
I could say that this was my feeling a couple of months ago.  However, for the past month, life has been quite hectic... or rather I've chosen to be active! 

Britain: A Christian country?

There was a time when Europe was considered 'Christian'.  The Brits certainly claimed themselves to be a Christian country.  However, the reality of today is very different.  The rest of the world may still look upon England as a Christian country, but the fact of the matter is totally different.  A recent survey revealed that 53% of the English population said that they did not follow any religion.  The state Church of England has only 20% of the remaining population.  More and more, people prefer not to drag in Church or anything related to religion into the public domain.  In one sense it is good. Because it does not add another cause of division in a society already in turmoil.  Very many are keen to build a secular and non-biased society.  Hence adherence or preference to one particular religion or another is seen as unhealthy and detrimental for the common growth of all.  So much so, some call Britain, a post-Christian nation.

However, none can also deny that Christianity has to a large extent shaped England for centuries and Christian tradition has indeed played a major role in its growth.  The question then is how best does one live the present without denying the past and without compromising the future.  It is a tricky balance but not impossible.  As long as the good keep standing up for what is right and just, the handful who seek to sow discord will be kept at bay.  
A graph of 2014

Kitchen feat

Yesterday was the first time that I prepared meal for the whole community, all by myself.  Well, I cannot honestly claim that I 'cooked' it all, but at least 'assembled' it.  And by all standards, given that there was Mass right before the supper, the meal turned out good.  Everyone was up for morning prayers and meditation this morning and all seem well!!

Luckily setting up a meal here in the UK is no big hassle.  Since practically everything comes packaged, one just needs to follow the instructions on the label to prepare it for consumption.  Moreover, there are quite a few tit-bits that Katie has left in the deep-freeze.  So it is only a matter of having the right mixture of things and serving it out in some 'design'.  And all the left overs serve good enough for me to have for breakfast and lunch the next day.

Initially I thought gender is not a criteria for division of labour here in the UK.  But from my little interaction with the few whom I've come to know, it is not so.  But certainly kitchen and the frying pan are not among those in contention!  Good for everyone!
Representation only... would not risk the lamb! 

Tuesday, 5 September 2017

'Limited' Cooperation

Came across a weird article trying to explain the process of increasing cooperation and decreasing non-cooperation (leading to destruction), using mathematical language.  Well, know not about the mathematical implications, given the author's acknowledgement that some facts look great on paper but prove an utter failure in practice.  However, the main point of the article does make some sense.  The author seems to suggest that cooperation when reciprocal between like-minded individuals is more influential than cooperation across everyone in the society.
Cooperation flourishes best when each individual has strong, reciprocated connections to a small number of others. In this case, cooperation spreads locally, along these connections, leading to clusters of cooperators who share benefits with each other. In contrast, if all individuals are equally connected to all others, the benefits of cooperation become diluted in the sea of non-cooperators, and the behaviour cannot spread. Thus, for cooperation to thrive, a few strong ties are better than a myriad weak ones.
Read the full article on Aeon.
C standing for cooperation and N for non-cooperation

Monday, 4 September 2017

The hearing

There was a charismatic convention going on and the during the healing session, the animator invited those who wished to have the grace of healing to come down the aisle in a single file. When one particular man reached the animator, the latter asked him what he would like to pray for, the man replied, "The hearing."  So the animator fervently prayed and then a while later asked the man, "Is the hearing better now?"  The man replied, "How would I know now?  The hearing is on Tuesday."

Education

I came across the following poster today while reading something on education... It honestly has some truth about it.  Has real implications also for our formation, or more specifically, what we is taught, the attitude with which education is perceived (both by the students and teachers) and the whole purpose of education.

One stark difference I notice between students back in India and here is the perspective on education.  While most graduates in India study - if at all, one can still use the term - merely for the marks or in obedience to their parents, students in the UK do so out of their own accord and for experience and knowledge.  Hence their investment level is very high.  Not that they are all saints and bookworms.  Far from it.  But they do study and take education seriously - students and teachers alike.

Students go to college, to study!  This statement may seem odd, but is very true in the UK context.  All the more true in the case of those attending university for their post-graduation or higher courses.  

'Pet'ty investments

Love for animals is rather good thing.  It makes us more humane!  However, very many here in Europe stretch that affection for animals a bit too far.  I've heard several young people or elderly people say about young couples: Oh, they decided to get a dog instead of start a family!  Some of them say it as a joke, some don't!

Practically everyday I come across ads in the newspaper appealing for funds for protection of animals.  But today I came across a quarter page ad for insurance of pets! Well, if cars can be insured, why not pets!  But here's a list of other things which certainly go overboard:

  • A four-day automatic pet feeder (£ 35.99)
  • Wood house for the dog (£119.99)... really?  At that cost one could rent a house for a large family, a family of human beings, for one full month in any part of two-third of the world!
  • Cat activity tree (£ 44.99)... must be a joke!  A plaything for the cat?  Does even the cat know that it is meant for its play?  
  • Union Jack Bow tie (£ 18.74) a tie for the dog?  That too the national flag?  Best explains 'a nation gone to the dogs!' 
  • Travel water bottle to give your dog water wherever you go (£ 11.20) ...comes with the assurance that this cup sort of thing fits standard car and stroller cup holders, backpacks and bike bottle holders.  

These are only a few of the bizarre things contained in full one-page ad of a newspaper!  And I'm sure unless there is a clientele for these things, there'd neither be the ad nor the product!  From experience I can very well say, the dogs here are no more faithful or attached to their respective owners than any household dog that I've seen or raised back in India.  

Prophet vs terrorist

Yesterday's readings wherein Jeremiah begins lamenting his role as a prophet and then concludes stating that he cannot but continue, of his own accord to be so, offers some insights into the role of suffering and pain.  If given a choice to opt out, he would have taken the chance to quit.  But now he says, he is 'addicted' to this challenging role which invariably includes suffering and pain.  However, the notable point is that his main reason to continue being a prophet is that in the long run he is doing good to people and carrying out the will of God.  There is really no personal thrill involved - hardly any!

May appear very brave and sacred.  But that is the same motivation for the terrorists who spread fear and violence, most often in the name of religion.  What then distinguishes Jeremiah from this group of people?  The one striking difference that I can think of is one related to life and death.  Jeremiah sought to carry out God's will by improving the quality of life.  If at all anyone has to suffer, Jeremiah is willing to take on that role, rather than pass it on to others.  God and people were both important and alive at the end of it all.  In the case of extremists, God's command is all that matters.  Human life has absolutely no relevance; not mine not others.  

Sunday, 3 September 2017

Will you come and follow me

Heard this lovely hymn in Church this morning... the words are very beautiful and meaningful.

Will you come and follow me
If I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
And never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
Will you let my name be known,
Will you let my life be grown
In you and you in me?

New year

The new academic year of the community commences tomorrow.  In the next week the schools re-open and life will once again be hectic - at least for those who have responsibilities!  This is the last weekend of the sacrosanct holiday season.  Some of those who went out of the country are complaining that their holiday spot was too hot.  Others are complaining that it rained all along to the place they went to.  Most probably only those few unfortunate who stayed put in Britain, had the best of both!
The weather is still warm, though we do have some spells of rains in a week.  However, the only thing sure about English weather, is that it will change!  Am told the south of Britain is much better.  The north is either cold or wet!   In Salesian circles there is the joke that at a particular house in the north if there isn't any rain in two days, they declare it as a drought!

I handed in my Master's dissertation on Thursday and thus concluded my one year Master's course.  Now need to get on with the doctorate.  Still am not very sure of it - neither the topic nor the study itself!  However, will give it my best shot.  

Art or accident?

A very fine work of art or an accident?  Received this pic on one of the whatsapp group, so was keen to find out myself.  Interesting find!
Artist: Giulia Bernadelli
Read and view more... here.

Bank holiday

Here in Britain, there is what is called the 'bank holiday'... in simple language, a national holiday!  So is there is an occasion or reason for having the holiday?  None, apparently.  It is just that the banks are closed and hence no financial transactions are possible on that day.  So might as well close and stall the rest of the activities as well!  Hence the holiday across the country.

Back in India, most of our national holidays are religious feasts.  Some are patriotic days of commemoration.  However, each holiday has a story to tell.  Has a message to offer and remind people of.

Here, there's neither story nor message... just chill! 

Passion of John the Baptist

Was told the other day that the commemoration of the beheading of John the Baptist is now referred to as the 'passion of John the Baptist'.  I found that weird.
Honestly, John the Baptist did not have any prolonged agony prior to his death.  Most probably even when the soldiers came to his prison to behead him, he would not have known of his imminent death.  So besides being behind bars for a short while, I don't see what great agony he would have undergone to now refer to it as the 'passion'.

However, on deeper reflection it struck me that perhaps he did suffer.  He surely must have struggled a lot with many a thing prior to his death.  I am sure he would have wondered and found it very confusing that he was imprisoned for telling a fact.  He must have wondered if he was sane, because no one else in the whole kingdom felt that Herod taking his brother's wife was wrong.  JB would have asked himself if he was right and the rest wrong, especially given the fact that only he seemed to say that Herod's act was unethical. To have to stand all alone is itself a great task demanding courage and will.  Then over and above it to be hounded for taking a stand, that too a righteous one, would be more hurting.  

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Reverse colonisation

Many many years ago, it was the Europeans who went across the globe and colonised most of Asia and Africa.  What began as trade soon turned into political gambling, ending up as supreme authority.  India is a typical example of this historical process.  Once the Europeans established themselves in a particular country, they began to 'harvest' its resources for their own betterment back in England.  The foreigners 'white people' thus came to be hated and abhorred for their treatment of the local people, their traditions and ways of life.  After years of struggle the locals managed to drive out the colonisers and regain political autonomy.  Some are still struggling to come to terms with this new found freedom.  Some have never recovered from years of oppression and enslavement.  It has grown so much into their DNA that they cannot think of themselves as independent capable individuals/nations.
Colonialism in 1945

The picture today is more or less the same. Only this time, Europe is at the receiving end.  People from across these very places which once used to be colonies of Europe are flocking to Europe for a better life.  Same reason, the Europeans left their shores.  Only that Europeans left their homeland to 'get more'.  People coming into Europe come with the hope of a life better than the one they have back at home... These 'coloured' people are hated for being in 'my country'.  So were the 'white people' once upon a time.  One rarely saw fair skinned foreigners in the 'dark world'.  Today the 'white world' is no more a homogeneous 'white' population.  More or less the same story, only the setting is different and the roles reversed.  Guess this is what 'getting a taste of one's own medicine' or 'history repeats itself' means.

The ongoing crisis of 'immigration' is nothing short of a reverse colonisation.  The story is no different in the Catholic church with regard to missionaries.

Deep end ordinations

The Salesians in Great Britain have a long history, more than a century long.  However, Salesians are no more in all those places which were once flourishing apostolates.  Tomorrow another place looked after by Salesians is being handed over to the diocese: Kent, Glouster.  Haven't been there myself but am told that Fr Aidan who is now aged and moved into a retirement home has been the parish priest of that place for the last 22 years.  Fr Sean who willingly and joyfully drove down there on weekends has been associated with the place for 40 years or so.  Am sure it must be hard on both of them to say goodbye to all the people, and henceforth be associated with the place only through memories.

Am told that the Salesians here in Great Britain once had a house and community at Shrigley.  For several years it was the theologate of the province or at least had students at that place.  Salesians are no more in Shrigley.  The house was given up and is now some sort of a resort or hotel.  What was once the church is now a swimming pool... with the walls and outer structure left intact!  So the confrere narrating this tells me that at the 'deep end' of the pool several were ordained!!  That's were the sanctuary was.  And the place where several confreres received their orders, including ordination.  The confessionals have been turned into sauna booths!  Talk of visits to the Church for health and nourishment.


The Shrigley Hall Hotel - erstwhile Salesian theologate!

Exchange!

Last evening we had a guest from India who was sharing with us one of his most frightful experiences.  As a young cleric he was asked to accompany a senior confrere who had been lately diagnosed with a serious psychological issue.  As the two were in a hospital, the 'patient' was given heavy doses of tranquilisers and injections.  However, after a day or two, the patient told this cleric that he found the bed too soft and preferred the hard bench which he was using to sleep.  Hence they exchanged beds.

Two days later a new doctor came in and called out this cleric sitting on his bed for a walk.  As they walked the doctor asked him about several casual things and then they reached the observation room.  Only when the doctor began to check his pulse and blood pressure did this young cleric realise that he is being considered the patient.  So he politely told the doctor that he was not the patient.  The doctor calmly replied, "I understand.  It is all fine."  And continued with the examination.  The more he realised, the more he tried.  The more he tried the more desperate he sounded!  Almost on the verge of being an injection, one of the nurses who happened to know the real case, walked in and burst out laughing!!

The doctor was highly apologetic saying that all those in the psychiatric ward always deny being patients.  And to make matters worse, he found him sitting on the bed meant for the patients!  The first thing the cleric did on getting out of the observation room is to claim back his hard bench!!

Those who enjoy meetings

The other day I received a set of quotes by Thomas Sowell.  Never heard of him before... however was amused very much by this particular one...
I laughed about the truth of this statement... but how impossible it is! 

Apples and orchids

Two weeks ago I got a chance to have a look at the garden belonging to the parish priest of Egham.  He had moved out and the new one had not yet come in.  Since Fr John's flat at the University opens up into this garden, I took the chance to have a walk around it.  It was quite beautiful.  It was the first time I saw an apple tree with apples on it!  I hear that the new parish priest is not interested in the garden and hope to meet him sometime and ask permission to pick up some plants and seeds from there for our Salesian gardens!
I also found an orchid plant flying about in the portico!  It had a lovely flower too!!  I was shocked to see such a beautiful plant abandoned there like that.  I brought it home with me.  Once home I began to search online to find out more about the plant.  It had purple leaves and a pink flower!  No amount of searching yielded me the right result... till I discovered that the leaves were purple due so severe sunburn!  I almost ended up doing my ph.d on reviving orchids!!  As of now, I've repotted it and it sits on my window across my table.  Hope it survives and blooms again.

Peeking roses

Right under my bedroom window, in the corner of our garden, there is a particular bush with lush perennial green leaves that blooms with white flowers sometime of the year.  However, right at the root of this bush is also a rose stem that I managed to help revive.  Since last month the rose plant has begun to yield red roses.  The roses bloom exactly at the level of the bush giving it an appearance as if they are of that bush.  The look is quite strange for anyone viewing it from afar.  Roses on a different plant!!

Plastic prayers

We recite our community evening prayers together after supper at the dining table itself.  For this we use one of the many abridged versions of the official evening prayer.  Each of these versions is printed on a separate A4 size colour paper and laminated.  Fr Sean calls them 'Plastic prayers!'

When I first came to Chertsey I found this practice, the timing and the content of the evening prayer, a bit odd.  However over time I have begun to see the meaning and make the most of it rather than crib about the place and content of it.  Even though the content is 'less', I did not observe any indication from the members of the community that we 'prayed less'!!  The reverence and meaningful way we prayed helped me focus on the prayer rather than the duration and amount of words we used. It has helped me see that intent and intensity matter more than mere length and duration.   

Of talents and relationships

The gospel reading of the day, which speaks of talents, when viewed from another perspective offers a deep insight.  While on the surface it could be seen as one utilising all God's gifts and the corresponding reward/punishment for doing so.  However, prior to the utilisation of the gifts, if one is to review the relationship of the stewards to the Master, one realises the stark difference.  The last steward literally feared the master.  This is not said so of the other two.  Perhaps they too feared the master but not as much as the third one.  The other two had a more liberating and deeper relationship with the master.  They did not feel frightened of taking a risk in using the talents.

It occurred to me that most of us Catholics are like the third steward.  We feel attached to the master, not by love but more by fear.  It is fear of God that prompts us to say or do things the way we do.  Those few who really are inspired more by the love than the fear (reverence?) of/for God, are those who live their lives to the full.  They take risks, they dare, feel free and liberated because they trust in the love of the Father.  Just like a child they are playful and at ease in the presence of the father.  They do not have to work 'hard' to impress him, for they know that the father loves them! 
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