Today was the first day of the opening session of the Provincial Chapter VIII (PC 8). Though termed as the preparatory session, it all the same is basically the same work. At the end of the day (or as per the time now, quite early the next day!) I find it - as always - amusing and interesting at the same time.
Let me begin with the most insightful and touching moment of the day. After two hours of discussion in groups, when the first group presented its synthesis of section on 'Mystics in the Spirit', the floor discussion made one point very very clear. It all began with the observation made by a confrere, that there was hardly anything related to the spiritual or the mystical dimension in the whole section! The culmination was when another stated (and all agreed, without any pretensions) that we Salesians are not seen as men of God by others and, we do not find ourselves to be men of God!
Well therefore, we already have a concrete and very 'radical' mission: Become Holy! Be Men of God!
Teaching Philosophy of Religion to the third year students is a real challenge given the fact that most of them (us?) have such a narrow and shallow construct of God and Religion that they end up equating both and worse, that too to lowering the whole meaning of it to something so mean and idiotic that they'd die 'protecting' it - thinking that is something heroic! I said this bluntly in class today and could vividly see that some were not too convinced of it.
In class today I challenged the Brothers to examine and see if their faith is so shallow and small that it runs the danger of being lost or washed off! If so, I said, it better be uprooted - for then, you'd have the opportunity of sowing the seed of a genuine and sincere faith, that too if sincerely interested. If not, one might as well carry on with one's broken and tattered belief, with no intention of strengthening it and thus turn fundamentalistic even without being aware of it or worse still, acknowledging it.
I believe my Faith is not something so feeble that I need to sustain it, rather it is the other way round, my faith is that which sustains me!
For the Mission Sunday Mass, the Gospel is that of James and John approaching Jesus for the place on the right and left of Jesus in 'His' Kingdom. As the priest spoke about this at length during his sermon, a thought that distracted me was this. How if Jesus were to have replied, "Surely. Why not? You certainly can be on my right and my left." And after a pause add, "However, one small thing: there are no chairs there!"
As per the Gospel of the day, Jesus stretches out to Peter and pulls him out of the sea and saves him from drowning. There is however no mention of Jesus 'saving' those in the boat from drowning... surprising!
Well, most of us wait in the boat and expect Jesus to 'save' us, without even venturing out into the sea. Each of us is called to do our best and certainly doing the best involves taking risks and failures. That in no way should prevent one from doing our bit. To expect the Lord to walk around saving all those lying and merely waiting for the Lord, is no faith at all.
Fr Maliekal arrived this morning... as the new Rector of this Seminary. And with him, comes a vast experience and most importantly a volley of phrases and vocabulary... interesting, enriching, reflective and of course, amusing. So here's one of the day: Vow of stability.
After supper we were talking of confreres who love to travel. Those kind who are found in other communities (most often other than Salesian communities) than their own. Referring to such, Fr Maliekal pointed out that they really lack the 'vow of stability'. To be able to settle down in one place and be at the task entrusted, rather than tour the whole world for no valid reason.
Now, I'm sure, this is just to begin with. As days go by, there would be plenty such!
For the past few days the two of us here in the Seminary, due to the absence of any Priests here, have been attending Mass in the Parish Church. Not that there is a big attendance there everyday. All together we are just less than a dozen (including the Priest himself)! One of the regular participants is a small boy. He would be about 9 or 10. Added to that he is not really normal. But that said, he is very very lively. His eyes are so bright and one can evidently read his heart and mind from his mere looks. He usually sits right before the altar on the men's side. But those whom he comes with are all girls and they are on the other side of the aisle. Thus invariably his attention is divided between the altar and the other side.
Today there was a group which joined the Mass - a new group of families. I've never seen them here before... must have come for a pilgrimage. Among them were two blind men, being led about by two teenagers. This particular boy whom I mentioned earlier, today had more to watch than the Mass. Most of the time he was watching all around the congregation with a gaping mouth and being seated right before the altar, one could not but avoid looking at him. Looking at him, his expressions and his dancing eyes, I could clearly 'see' what was going on behind me.
When I started to write these few lines I wanted to write how distracted the boy was, because there was something more interesting than the Mass going on. That what was going on at the altar, he 'knew'. What was happening around, was something new, interesting and different. But now as I conclude, I realise, how distracted I was... instead of concentrating on the Mass, I was gladly 'distracted' by the boy!
Here's something I read today and couldn't stop laughing since...
A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson..
'If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.' Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, 'Ryan, you be Jesus!'
Fr Dominic Savio, in his sermon this morning, speaking on the gospel passage of the Good Shepherd, listed the qualities of a shepherd. Prior to that he was clear in stating that each one of us is a shepherd in his or her own right. Elaborating the characteristics of a shepherd, he said that a shepherd ought to love his/her sheep, keep an eye on the sheep and if necessary risk his/her own life for the sheep.
So far so good. What I did not really find myself agreeing to was what he concluded with: the sheep, he said, has only one duty - to listen to the voice of its master. Well, not that I have a problem with that quality. It is only that the whole responsibility of the sheep is on the shepherd! That for me is unnecessarily adding to God's already hectic schedule. We too ought to take an equal - if not, more - responsibility for ourselves rather than merely dump everything on God.
One reason why there is a greater demand for biographies (general) and novels, in comparison to lives of Saints, is that the former includes practically the whole life of the person or event. The latter is an 'edited' version of the good things of the individual's life. Perhaps if the biographies of the Saints were written with both the highs and lows of the individual concerned, there'd be more people who'd be attracted to imitate their lives than just pray to them!