Monday, 24 March 2014

Pope Francis...

‘You surprised me!’ is the name of a book by Joe Mannath. This poetical title becomes very relevant with the sweet and simple Francis, the pope.
We were all watching this otherwise unassuming and simple shepherd from Argentina to make a difference for the good of the sheep Jesus entrusted to Peter ensuring his irrevocable commitment to love him. Thereafter, it were days of surprise after surprises.
And on 25th Sept I received a mail from one of my friends providing me with an attachment. It was the interview Antonio Spadaro, S.J., editor in chief of La Civiltà Cattolica, the Italian Jesuit journal, had in person with Pope Francis on 20th Sept ’13. It was conducted on behalf of La Civiltà CattolicaThinking FaithAmerica and several other major Jesuit journals around the world. See and savor the outright honesty, beauty and boldness befitting an enlightened.
Spadaro starts point-blank: “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?” The pope stares at him in silence. He asks him if he may ask him this question. He nods and replies: “I do not know what might be the most fitting description.... I am a sinner. This is the most accurate definition. It is not a figure of speech, a literary genre. I am a sinner.”

This simple man is making waves already, waves of hope in a seemingly drowning/sinking church ship. May be that she has conveniently forgotten a saying attributed to the hard core atheist, Frederick Nietzsche. It is somewhat like this: ‘Christ was a crocodile. Church was built upon it. The crocodile went down and the church alone is seen.’ One of my friends in the early eighties wrote a verse exhorting to make roofs out of crosses without Christ for the poor!
Though the alarm had already been raised with the scandals of child sex abuse, corruption and incompetence, she was sitting rather complacent. May be that Pope Benedict XVI was bold and humble enough to take the lead by stepping down with a clear hint that he was no more competent to lead!

Naturally the worried and anxious faithful were expecting a new shepherd who will steer clear the ship of impending troubles and take it to the safe shores. And they were indeed praying the lord of harvests to send a man of his heart of warmth and understanding and not judging and condemning. Yes, the lord heard the prayers and gave this simple man who preferred to live in the apartment in the Casa Santa Marta, hinting at what is in store for the days to come.
How honest, humble and bold was he to suggest: ‘Who am I to judge?’ He had the heart of Jesus when he asked us not to ‘interfere spiritually’ in the lives of gays, lesbians and so on. Pastors have enough urgent business of nourishing the faithful with the ‘saving love of God’ than judging and penalizing.

The other day he was heard referring to the all encompassing church centre and was again hinting at decentralization. It is better that the local church address the local issues, if necessary only in consultation with the Vatican.

He was eloquent while speaking of greed the minority which begets poverty for the majority. He brands it as ‘idolatry of greed!’

“I did not see myself as a priest on my own. I need a community… I cannot live without people. I need to live my life with others.” What an awesome understanding of priesthood!

In pastoral ministry we must accompany people, and we must heal their wounds…I dream of a church that is a mother and shepherdess. God is greater than sin…The first reform must be the attitude. The ministers of the Gospel must be people who can warm the hearts of the people, who walk through the dark night with them, who know how to dialogue and to descend themselves into their people’s night, into the darkness, but without getting lost

Religion has the right to express its opinion in the service of the people, but God in creation has set us free: it is not possible to interfere spiritually in the life of a person.

Here is a real shepherd God has given to his church ‘to speak freely and say what needs to be said’ – not fearing the loss of favor with people… they are certainly not guarding their flock with the care expected of a shepherd but are acting like hirelings, because hiding behind a wall of silence is like taking flight at the approach of the wolf.’…They are likened to dumb dogs that cannot bark… The lips of a priest, adorning the office of herald, shall guard knowledge, and men shall seek instruction from his mouth…’ (Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great, Bk 2, 4 in p.609-10 of The Divine Office, Vol. III)
Let me conclude with the first and last lines of the Hindu editorial today: ‘Pope Francis may have been an unlikely successor to Pope Benedict XVI, but he is already emerging as a remarkable pope… For Roman Catholicism, (he) may well be a truly world-historic figure.
Let us try to take clues from this great pope and mend our ways to enable God’s people realize the Kingdom of God in their midst.

Sanju again...

Sanju again with his quickfire 60 in the Champions League T20!
Champions League Twenty 20 came to an end with Mumbai Indians spinning the way to the glittering trophy defeating Rajasthan Royals in Delhi.
Faced with a mammoth task of 203, Rajasthan batsmen took the challenge head on. After rather disappointing performances of Kushal Perera and Brad Hodge, came our own Sanju to the rescue worrying the Mumbai camp with his destructive batting. Maintaining his composure, he rode to his fabulous timing to blast the Mumbai bowlers all over the ground, for fours and an equal number of sixes in his quickfire 60.

Keep cool and confident Sanju. You are doing wonderfully well and perform still better. You have a lot to achieve for Indian Cricket which will have yet another legend in you. Keep your target still higher after every great performance. Cricket world expects a lot from you. We wish you to be on top and our prayers follow you. CONGRATULATIONS!

Silence and sound...

‘A religious leader should be careful in deciding when to remain silent and be sure to say something useful when deciding to speak… Negligent religious leaders are often afraid to speak freely and say what needs to be said – for fear of losing favor with the people… they are certainly not guarding their flock with the care expected of a shepherd but are acting like hirelings, because hiding behind a wall of silence is like taking flight at the approach of the wolf.’…They are likened to dumb dogs that cannot bark… The lips of a priest, adorning the office of herald, shall guard knowledge, and men shall seek instruction from his mouth… [Pastoral Rule of Gregory the Great, Bk 2, 4 in p.609-10 of The Divine Office, Vol. III.]

The Id, ego and Freud...

The Id, ego and Freud:
“Where does a thought go when it is forgotten?” It began with this question, born in the mind of Sigmund Freud. He spent his life answering this question (and its derivatives) and came up with ideas we’ve been trying to forget since.
After all who wants to know what goes on up there? Who wants to know the truth behind all that anger, jealousy, and fears; those strange sexual fixations and bizarre dreams? Who wants to know the secret wishes that lurk in the darkest recesses of the unconscious?
“The mad man is a dreamer awake.”… But self-realization is better than living in an illusion. “Being entirely honest with one’s self is a good exercise.” “A man should strive to eliminate his complexes but to get into accord with them: they are legitimately what directs his conduct in the world.” [p. 4 of Metro Plus of the Hindu, Saturday, 28, 2013.]

Probity and integrity...

Probity and integrity:

‘My heart is sore for …., sometime one of your clergy, that he should have so little understanding of the office that was conferred on him. It moves me to warn you earnestly against any excessive fondness for money, and to insist upon your absolute probity and integrity. You must keep yourselves from the slightest taint of wrong. If a man has no control over himself in matters of this sort, how can he possibly preach it to anyone else? If he fails to rise above the love of money, he will find himself corrupted by the worship of his idol…’ [Letter of Polycarp to the Philippians, Ch 9,1-11,4, II Reading from the Office of Readings on Wednesday, 26th Week, p.596 of Vol. III of The Divine Office.]

First Communion...

Reflection on First Communion:
Today went for the First Communion of Beena-Francis Antony (Shaji)’s son Sharon. Wondering as to how much a boy of 11 years will understand the meaning of such a mystery I attempted to present it in the following lines:
Communion is said to be a memorial of Jesus’ Passover meal with his disciples on the eve of his almost sure arrest, trial and conviction. The arrest and the scripted proceedings were planned by his opponents who felt threatened by his new teachings. Besides framing charges of treason and blasphemy, they instigated people to demand for his crucifixion, even to the extent of releasing a hard core criminal like Barabas in exchange, if needed. Not being able to pacify the crowd, Pilate yielded, rather not fully convinced of the charges, to their outcry and handed him over to be crucified.
In all appearance Jesus was a criminal convicted for crucifixion. But in his genius, or divinity as people would prefer to claim, he prepared ground to negate this charge and conviction by taking the usual ritual Passover to an entirely new realm wherein he presented the bread as his own body and wine as his very blood, signaling the morrow’s breaking of his body and shedding of his blood in the cross. But for this rather saving clause, the crucifixion would have turned out to be yet another end of another criminal.
So, the Passover made the difference. Through this he made it clear without any tint of doubt that his life is for others, a perfect abandonment of oneself for love. Knowing the possibility of his friends do likewise, he wanted them to do so in his memory, a memory of breaking oneself for others, shedding one’s blood for them through loving surrender.
Whoever partakes in this memorial commits himself for this love to the extent of death even. When needed he should be broken for others and shed his blood for others.


United Nations: Fundamentally, poverty is the inability of getting choices and opportunities, a violation of human dignity. It means lack of basic capacity to participate effectively in society… not having enough to feed and clothe a family, not having a school or clinic to go to; not having the land on which to grow one’s food or a job to earn one’s living, not having access to credit… It means insecurity, powerlessness and exclusion of individuals, households and communities… susceptibility to violence, and it often implies living in marginal or fragile environments, without access to clean water or sanitation.

Copenhagen Declaration: Absolute poverty is a condition characterized by severe deprivation of basic human needs, including food, safe drinking water, sanitation facilities, health, shelter, education and information. It depends not only on income but also on access to social services.
 privation, neediness, destitution, indigence, pauperism, penury. 
 riches, wealth, plenty.
– One of the three evangelical counsels or counsels of perfection
-      A radical way to live out the Gospel of the Kingdom.
-      Expressing the oneness with the poor...

Jesus would not have wanted this for his children. He wanted his children to enjoy the freedom of the children of God. ‘He came to give life, life in its fullness…’
-      Riches are ‘thorns that choke up the good seed of the word’ (Mt. 13:22).
-      "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air nests: but the son of man hath not where to lay his head" (Mt. 8:20),
-      "If thou wilt be perfect, go sell what thou hast, and give to the poor" (Mt. 19:16-21).
-      ‘Don’t carry a stick, a tunic etc…’
-      ‘Woe to you, the rich…’
-      ‘It is easier for a camel to slip in through the eye of a needle than a rich man to enter the kingdom…’
-      He was hungry and his disciples too…
-      They “sold their goods "and divided them to all, according as everyone had need" (Acts 2:45),

-      The object of a virtue must be something honorable or praiseworthy in itself: now poverty has no intrinsic goodness
-      Calling this poverty would be a mistake, as the main principle of Buddhism, Jainism, Hinduism or Gandhi's teaching is to use minimum resources or giving up the greed to consume.
-      To share all in common rather than have personal ownership of material goods.
-      When so many are ignoring people who are on the fringes of society, religious with a vow of poverty can connect with the poor, work with them and speak about their needs and concerns.
-      Be contented with what is necessary 
-      Expressing the oneness with the poor
-      Benedict XVI distinguishes “poverty chosen (the poverty of spirit proposed by Jesus), and “poverty to be fought” (unjust and imposed poverty). He considers that the moderation implied in the former favors solidarity, and is a necessary condition so as to fight effectively to eradicate the abuse of the latter.
Poverty is the consequence of greed. [Gandhiji]
Need to live like the birds of the air and lilies of the field.
We really don’t trust God, but everything else which gives us what we call ‘security’!
Poverty of the majority, the ‘anawim of Yahweh’ compels us to be accountable, transparent etc.
Yahweh agitates at the exploitation and the resultant poverty of his people and promises them to take the land flowing with milk and honey, that is, plenty…
Jesus identifies himself with the least of this brethren, the hungry, the thirsty, the naked etc…
Our style of life with plenty, the modern amenities, palatial churches, presbyteries etc is an affront to the poor…
A greedy man’s prayer can’t be heard when there is any number of needy people around…
‘The food/left over kept for tomorrow belongs to the one who goes hungry to bed…’ St. Basil
-      ‘Security’ v. vulnerability…
1. These days the first readings from Ezra, Haggai and Zachariah deal with the building of the temple at Jerusalem.
Why do the temple given so much of importance in the Old Testament? Not that Yahweh wants a place to dwell! Rather he wants his people to come together in a sign of brotherhood under his loving and caring fatherhood befitting his children experiencing the warmth of one another, concerned of one another, understanding the others needs, both material, physical, emotional and even spiritual. This is what for a temple is needed. Yahweh must be glorified, when his people is dignified through their enjoyment of the freedom of the children of god.
Unfortunately, nowadays churches are built ignoring god’s people and their need for a decent shelter! This must be an affront to the very god whom they try to please or placate! Jesus might have meant this when he lamented of his, the son of man’s, having nowhere to lay his head!

PP’s Allowance:
From September 2013, the ‘allowance’ of priests in the archdiocese of Trivandrum was raised to `7000/- from `4000/-! I think, it is 57% increase! May be that it is not that big in the present sky rocketing cost of living. This is besides our residence, water and electricity, in some places, telephone facilities and health insurance.
Though they are said to be ‘full-timers’ without having anyone to look into as to how much time they are using for the people, like me going to the courts from 9.30 to 4.30 or so! Along with this hike, is it not advisable to have some ‘job’/service conditions?
In this context, should we also think of the other ‘emoluments’ and ‘stipends’ and of regularizing them. What about our evangelical counsel of poverty? It would be beyond a priest’s ability to employ someone for cooking, cleaning and washing. While the later two could be done by themselves, food could be arranged from convent, if there is one, or from willing families paying them fairly.
When the ‘allowance’ of priests was hiked, should we not increase the wages/salary of the ones working with us and for us? While doing this, it would again be advisable to have their service conditions relooked with hours of work, weekly leave and other rights of workers. To my understanding the daily wage of an unskilled labor for an average 8 hours is somewhere around `400 to `500/-! That means an average monthly salary of `10000/- or so!

In the rather eroding credibility situations, we need to be accountable and transparent besides being simple, honest, trustworthy and available of course.