Saturday, 21 September 2019

Holy Family at St Peter's Hospital

Found the following nice and simple sculpture of the holy Family, at St Peter's hospital multi-faith Chapel where I joined Fr Peter for the evening Mass...
Nice little place, the chapel itself.  Most importantly, a very devout and close-knit group of faithful, most of them Filipinos and the remaining Polish and Indian.  All of them working at the hospital and until recently missing out Sunday Mass because of the work shifts.  They are truly happy and immensely grateful to Fr Peter makes himself available for celebrating Mass for them on Saturday evenings. 

It will decide everything...

A quote of Pedro Arupe, as quoted by Fr Gerry in his September circular:
What you are in love with, what seizes your imagination, will affect everything... It will decide what gets you out of bed in the mornings, what you do with your evenings, how you spend your weekends, what you read, who you know, what breaks your heart, and what amazes you with joy and gratitude. Fall in love, stay in love, and it will decide everything. 

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Reputation and honour

Quote for the day:
Reputation is what other people know about you. Honour is what you know about yourself.  Guard your honour.  Let your reputation fall where it will. 
Lois McMaster Bujold, novelist, A Civil Campaign (1999).

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

A full circle: Fr Lens

At last the autobiography of Fr Lens has seen the light of the day!  It has been rolling around offices and desks for the past 5 years!  I'm sure Fr Lens is smiling away from his place above - not at the former fact, but at the latter dynamics! 

I think it was Thathi's visit to Europe that really propelled the text to the printers desk.  Luckily Baly is now in-charge of publications and he got Salva to "redo" the design and layout.  Kalyan, while he was the Province Secretary, is the one who initially got it typed out (from the printed paper that was originally handed down by Fr Lens).  I proof-read and edited it a couple of times (always starting afresh from the original text) over the past 5 years.  Fr Pandi, I'm sure will know the text by-heart, for he has done the greatest amount of work on correcting it again and again for more than half a dozen times (Asked twice by me, by Fr Balaraju, Kalyan, then by Benny, and then by Ashok...and a couple of others in between!). 

Thathi informed me that the obituary too has been printed - though only a few copies.  That was another of my attempts to force out the publication of Fr Lens' autobiography.  I had individually asked some confreres to pen a few of their memories with Fr Lens.  Was a bit disappointed to see that not all those who sent in their precious testimonies have been included.  I guess that is what happens when things keep rolling from desk to desk - they get lost, especially if they are loose bits and not bound together! Those who sent in by e-mail, I surely would have it in my inbox.  But there were others who sent me hand-written notes.  Those I'm not sure where they are at present.  (I need to keep the rough drafts or get the rough drafts and digital copies of such kinds with me - no use blaming others for misplacing them years later!).

Of course, thanks to Fr Lens himself for having put down his life story.  But greater thanks to Fr Balaswamy who "ordered" him to write it!  I was the first to hear of the existence of this text from Fr Balaswamy a day after Fr Lens passed away in 2014.  Fr Lens had given the text (printed hard copy) to Fr Balaswamy, on condition that it would be made public only posthumously. So during the funeral Mass at Karunapuram, Fr Bala made the official announcement of its existence and handed it over to Fr Balaraju, the then Provincial.  That was in November 2014.  Now it is September 2019! 

There is a book release planned and being organised by the Belgium Salesian province on October 5 - the birthday of Fr Lens!  Thathi has carried with him copies of the printed work for the occasion. In one sense, am happy that Fr Lens is making it a full circle: he was born in Belgium and now one of his own testament (written) is returning to Belgium 98 years later!  I'm sure his sisters (know not how many of the 5 are still alive - but that some are!) would are thrilled and looking forward to this occasion.  While the book itself is a 'relic', his greatest legacies are all of us, those privileged to have known him and been inspired and touched by his life!  

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Holy bath!

Was really amused to read the following headline as I scoured the news yesterday...
Russian priests dump holy water on city from a plane
Another headline states it all. 
Priests pour 18 gallons of holy water over Russian city to stop 'Alcohol consumption, drugs and fornication'. 
Then went on to read the whole news article on Newsweek.

At first I had a very good laugh.  Then I said to myself, cannot be so judgemental!  After all, they are doing something - something - to address the issue.  However, hope that that was not the only and best thing the priests (and the bishop) thought that they could do to address the issue of people drinking and taking drugs.  Wouldn't mind, if this was 'another' means of addressing the issues of the society.  But if this was the only means they resorted to or could think of, then there isn't a better joke for the week!  

Power and authority

Took Thathi to Cambridge yesterday.  It was amusing to see him take in that whole structure as his vision of "Cambridge" crumbled! 

Anyway, spent time at King's College Chapel.   In one of the small displays was the following text, written in the context of King Henry VI (or written by him??):
The king's power came from heaven, 
but on earth it depended on the loyalty of his people.  

His authority was threefold:
it came down from heaven
and up from the people
it carried along on earthy by natural succession, 
and political achievement.  

Though the latter part is very hierarchical, I found the opening sentence very insightful.  However great a king may claim his power to be, it actually lay in the loyalty of his people. 

In the first reading of today, there is the whole list of virtues an elder and a deacon is expected to have had, as per St Paul in the days of early Christianity. The last of the expected qualities of an elder:
He should be a man of respect even among the non-believers.  
Genuine power and authority are endowments from those around you, not exercised over them!  

Celebrating the past

Over the last weekend we had the centenary celebrations of the Salesian school at Chertsey. Personally, I found the 'celebrations' light years apart from the way we celebrate such occasions back in India.  Not commenting on those aspects, there was (only) one thing that appealed to me: the celebration offering a possibility for past pupils to interact with one another. 

If the two days were packed with a heavily planned programme wherein there is some activity or the other to keep busy everyone, especially present students, the visitors (mostly past pupils) would have hardly any time to interact with one another. I like the idea of creating an ambience where they could chat and share and recall old days in their own spontaneous groups.  An informal, unorganised walk down memory lane in smaller groups would have really been a great refreshment.  The visitors then are free to relive and make new memories, without being passive recipients of some historic narration. 

Power of words

Received the following text a few days ago:
I guess it is in light of the Brexit mess that UK finds itself entangled in...
Earlier we had empires and emperors who ruled over these empires.  Then we had kingdoms and kings ruled.  Now we have countries! 
Someone surely is quite pissed off!  Nonetheless, not counting the political tone or slant of that, the text is a very clever use of language to convey a very subtle, sharp and scathing remark!  Like Fr Maliekal saying, "saying without telling!" 

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Waterproof... upto 2 hrs

As usual, had to come across something very amusing in the weekly market at Moreton-in-marsh. There was this lady selling cheap waterproof light jackets.  But was amused to see "... up to 2 hours" under 'Waterproof'!  When asked, she was honest in acknowledging that after two hours, you get wet!!
She could have very well titled it as 'waterproof' and left it at that. None would have questioned her!  But she was honest and sincere in putting up this deficiency of the jackets! Some business ethics there!

At Cotswolds

Visited Moreton-in-Marsh and Bourton-on-water in the Cotswolds today.  It was a lovely journey in the coach - my first time travel in a coach (bus!) in the UK.  The Cotswolds is a perfectly rural area and therefore everything was appealing.  In the former place we walked around the Tuesday market.  At Bourton-on-water we were surprised to see the number of tourists there!  The place is just a small street on either side of a small riverlet!  But very beautiful - just that natural beauty of the place attracts so many tourists there.

Had for company the elderly of Chertsey area.  All retired people filling in their time by visiting places and spending money!  Since there were not many takers for this trip, got a chance sponsored by one of the parishioners.  So hopped in!  But am happy to have met some of them and spend time chatting with them!  It was good!
At the entrance to the Motor museum

Bourton 'river': It was just ankle deep... but clear cool water!

Plenty of low bridged across the river - the greatest tourist attraction of the place

All along the river, in the town, on either side are eateries - all bustling with customers!

St Lawrence's Church... nice small but beautiful Church. 
Liked the way the pews were arranged to face the sanctuary...

Monday, 9 September 2019

CAFOD and Peru

This evening I attended a CAFOD presentation in the Parish, after a 'creation' Mass - of course, did not know what was 'creative' about the Mass, or why was it qualified as a 'creation' Mass.  Anyway, the presentation after the Mass was quite appealing.  The main speaker was a CAFOD staff member overseeing its outreach programme in Peru.  Most of what she spoke about, in terms of the ground situation, the modes of intervention and the expected outcomes and accountability checks, was familiar to me.  In fact, one of the participants whom I know well, came up to me and said, "You could very well state the same of India as well." And I couldn't agree more.  However, he also added, "It could very well be the same here in UK! It is just that we most often do not accept that fact!"  I mentioned to him the scientific principle of physics: Matter can never be annihilated. It only changes form. 

A couple of things I learnt about Peru tonight. 

  • That after Bangladesh and Honduras, it is the third country in the world most susceptible to climate change and environmental factors.  I thought Philippines and some of the south-east Asian countries would make the 'top ten'.  
  • Lima, the capital of Peru, is the second largest desert capital cities of the world - after Cairo (Egypt). Well it was hard to digest that fact, given that Peru is in the heart of the Amazon region.  How can one expect to find a 'desert' there?  But in spite of 60% of Peru coming under the Amazon region, its capital city is a geographical 'desert'!  

Man with a withered hand!

The gospel of the day speaks about the man with a withered hand.  I could not contain my amusement when I was distracted at that very moment by our crucifix behind the altar.  Jesus there on had his finger clipped!  The same was the story with the child Jesus in Mother Mary's arms in the statue of Mary Help of Christians. 

After Mass just to confirm my crazy theory that all our 'Jesus' in the house had a withered hand, that too their left hand, I went around to check on the statues. True to my theory, all - each and every statue we have in the house of Jesus or even that of Mother Mary alone - have their fingers clipped!  The only exception was Jesus in our office - his right hand was withered!!  
 So much for the reflection on 'the man with a withered hand'! 

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Sweet spice!

Besides tomatoes, the most vibrant growth in the garden this year has been of the scotch bonnet plant.

I planted the only seed I could gather from a pod given by a neighbour last year, this January, soon after I returned from home.  Let it sprout and grow for almost three months in my room itself.  Then once the summer heat began I transplanted it in a pot and it really shot up! It now has more than two dozen spicy pods!  Only problem is I know not what to do with them.  People here are so frightened of its spice that even to cut it they use thick plastic gloves.  (Most Scotch bonnets have a heat rating of 80,000–400,000 Scoville units. For comparison, most jalapeƱo peppers have a heat rating of 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale!!) Whatever it be, seeing it grow has been a real joy! 


A new branch of study...

Found at a shoe shop in Farnborough! 

Saturday, 7 September 2019

People as treasures

Quote of the day!
Some people are such treasures that you just want to bury them! 
Thanks to Jules for this hilarious one! 

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Women and economic prosperity

An interesting connection between women in society and economics...
Furthermore, because newly married couples set up independent homes, rather than a newly married woman being absorbed into the groom’s family, marriage responded to the motions of the economy. If fortunes took a turn for the worse, people postponed marriage and, with it, baby-making. They had to – until they could afford otherwise. This affected population dynamics in a way that helped to keep population growth in check, enabling the economy to support a higher wage. The relatively greater degree of women’s freedom in Europe meant that the economy entered its virtuous circle in which higher wages and productivity growth positively fed back on each other.
This particular extract is speaking specifically about women in Britain, especially since the Industrial revolution. I've most often looked at the social and cultural aspect of marriage and family life, never really thought about the economic implications these factors play. 

Perhaps never felt the need to look at the economic dimension of anything at all!

The full article on Aeon, is titled Sex and Prosperity. The article is also a good reflection on the politicization of woman's body. 

Raising quality

While driving to Slough this afternoon happened to notice this large truck ahead of me with this very creative ad for Invopak (a packaging firm, I guess).  Impressive ad!  The tagline itself was good.  But then the background pic, elevates those words to a totally different level!

Prayer for vocations... somewhere!

Every morning during morning prayers we pray for vocations - to and for all sorts; parenting, married life, jobs, religious life, Salesian religious life... Everyday one particular group.  Of course, of these intercessions, given the present shrinking number of Salesians in UK and in Europe, the one closest to our heart is for the Salesian religious life.  There's a small bookmark with set prayers for each group that we use for this purpose. 

This morning as Fr Sean was leading the prayers and towards the end, he announced the title of the intention: Prayer for vocations.  And then, flipping through his breviary to locate the prayer card and unable to do so, softly exclaimed, "somewhere".  

I almost burst out laughing.  The irony of 'Prayer for vocations... somewhere!' was too much for me to keep quiet.  While Fr Sean's expression was as an innocent sign of exasperation at not finding the prayer card, and I did recognise that, my mind took a leap ahead to think of actual vocations ... somewhere!  

While those of us from India - and other parts of the world, where there is a steady number of young people coming forward to join us Salesians - may take pride in this fact, it is still a cause of concern, at least for me.  Most of our vocations are not from Salesian settings.  They are youngsters who accidently heard of Don Bosco or literally strayed into the aspirantate!  Not that they are bad or shallow - far from it!  But my concern is about the youngsters in our own settings.  There are thousands of youngsters with whom we are in touch with for years - every day of their life, in schools, colleges and boardings.  Then there are those in our parishes and youth centres, whom we may not meet daily but do have a regular contact with.  If these youngsters who know us from close quarters are not willing to explore their Salesian vocation, then there is something wrong with those of us who are already professed as Salesians!  Vocations are the fruit of our youth ministry!  Not the other way round! 

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Nothing human is alien to me

While replying to someone regarding Human Rights and an approach based on it and their effort to see/show how that whole endeavour is not different from a genuine understanding of spirituality (for us, Gospel values), I was reminded of one of Fr Maliekal's "sayings": Nothing human is alien to Christianity.

Trying to see whose quote was that, I came across the fact that the original is slightly different one... and one with a powerful story as well.  The original quote is in Latin and attributed to Terence, a famous playwright who lived in 170 BC.

A Roman senator by name Terentius Lucanus once brought (bought?) Terence to Rome as a slave.  He educated him and on finding his amazing talents and capabilities, set him free.  Terence making the most of the progressive Roman civilization and enjoying his freedom, became a playwright.  The above Latin quote is one of his sayings.  It means
I am a man; I consider nothing that is human alien to me. 
Considering the fact that he was a slave and one who could have ended up in an iron collar all his life or on a lion's platter, could go on to make a life for himself and that too to take life in his stride.  No ill will, no inequality, no 'backlogs'.  To be able to see and appreciate humanity in and through the multitude of dividing factors of socio-politico-religious life.  

Round-the-clock community

We Salesians at Chertsey are really a varied lot.  Not only at table do our food habits not match, but also with regard to our daily personal schedule.  Just like our preferences for food are totally different from one another, so too are our working styles - at least, time-wise. 

One among us is a vegan, another takes only fish.  One does not touch fish, eating only meat (vegetables are not for his plate!).  Then there is one who is allergic to garlic.  Another who does not like smoked meat - he says, it makes him wonder if the meat is cooked!  So one can imagine Katie's menu planning! 

Similar to that variegated food habits are our working schedules too.  As a community we have our morning prayers and Mass at 6.45 am and evening meal at 6.  So everyone is present for those, meticulously - with the exception of myself!  But for the rest, each one lives on a different time zone.  One among us wakes up at 4 in the morning.  A couple of us are late risers.  Two get up punctually at 6 in the morning, come what may.  But when it comes to hitting bed at night, I am one of the last ones.  For one, the world ends when the clock shows 9 pm (and that's not the earlies riser!).  Another has a meal sometime past 11 pm.  So one might as well find someone or the other awake at any time of the day - or night!

And how many are we totally? In the house 7 of us!  We might as well be living in different continents of the world (as it is, by birth we are from 6 different countries!).  Yet the Salesian family spirit that binds us helps us discover and nourish a thousand ways to keep united and connected.  

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

St Gregory

St Gregory, pope and pastor.

The first monk to be made Pope.
The first one to assume the title, 'Servant of servants'
Specially remembered in England for having sent the Catholic missionary expedition, under the leadership of St Augustine, which greatly aided in the nation becoming Christian. 

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Fierce independence

The notion of 'independence' is very much ingrained in the English psyche.  Fierce independence!  The notion that one needs to manage one's own business and that every one can, is something of an innate idea among the English population.  This is reflected very vividly from individual undertaking to national politics.  Take Brexit.  A typical attitude that Europe is actually obstructing Britain's growth.  That on our own we are better off.  This insulation of self, is also reflected in individual attitudes.  I wonder how many residents of this country can proudly claim to know and actually be friends with their neighbours.  Most of whom I know, do not even know their neighbours.  Leave alone interact with them regularly or be friends with them.  I don't think I would be too off the mark to state that this feature is also among Salesians and is a one of our characteristic working style! 

I also see that this sort of "individualistic" attitude does have its advantages and benefits.  It results in a thoroughbred professionalism.  A great experience in focus and system building.  But the downside of it is that it goes again the very social nature of humankind.  I achieve success alone.  I struggle also alone!  We know the other, but not more than at a very very peripheral level.  And we think that that knowledge is more than sufficient.  Anything more is an intrusion of privacy.  We work, but as isolated individuals.  In case I fail, the system will pitch in - not another concerned friend or neighbour.  Nor will I ask someone to help me! 

Tomato season!

First of the tomato fruits ready for harvest!
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