Education by contagion

by Castilino  

Alphonso Nebrada, whenever he baptizes a baby, says these words:
What is going to happen to this baby? Is it going to be a saint? a Great man or a great woman? Is it going to be a rascal, a criminal? Who knows? Let us pray, because the only thing we can do is very simple but very important. We can pray that they become great. We can hope - and we will never hope enough - and we can and contagiously must be, that contagiously we may lead them; because that is as much as we can do with a free being; by the attraction of a contagious goodness around him, show him how beautiful it is to be good. More than that we cannot do.

See Alphonso M. Nebrada, SJ, "Faith and the Adolescent," Youth Ministry, ed. Michael Warren (New York: Paulist, 1977) 16-17.

The beautiful thing is, that this is also God's way. Yesterday I was watching - once again - Alladin. What struck me was that the genie had some conditions for the three wishes. And one of those was: I can't make anyone fall in love with anyone else. Free will, in other words. Cannot be tampered with. Not even by a genie. Not even by the greatest magic in the world.

And education is a species of love!
This reflection is a contribution of Fr Ivo Coelho, sdb from the Mumbai Province-INB.

The Beatitudes

by Castilino  

Another play, 'Christ in a Morning Coat', was supposed to have been written as a 'sacrilegious farce' for atheist propaganda, but when it was produced the opposite effect happened. The centerpiece of the stage-set was a caricature altar, suggesting a bar piled with empty vodka bottles, around which fat priests and religious sat drinking, playing cards, and speaking blasphemies. The star of the play, an actor who had received Marxist decorations, entered in the second scene. After a few coarse jokes, he discarded his tunic and cape and called for a morning coat, announcing that he would read the Sermon on the Mount. He began, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, who have never bowed before money, material things and the proprieties, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven" - as he read, his voice changed. By the time he had finished reading the Beatitudes, all scorn had vanished, his voice was charged with emotion - while in the theatre, there was silence. Then to everyone's dismay, the actor piously made the sign of the cross according to the Orthodox rite and exclaimed: "Lord, remember me when you are in your kingdom." He left the stage. The lights remained on the derisive altar, but the audience simply sat appalled and silent. The play, which had been booked for a full season, was withdrawn next day and never heard of again.

Irving and Cornelia Sussman, How to Read a Dirty Book (Chicago: Franciscan Herald, 1977)
How to Read a Dirty Book: one of the most powerful books I have read. Recommended reading for all educators. Among the dirty books: the Bible. The definition of porn is interesting and very incisive: sex without consequences.
This reflection is a contribution of Fr Ivo Coelho, sdb from the Mumbai Province-INB.

Martyrdom, truth and dignity

by Castilino  

The feast of St Stephen for me is a very strong reminder of the delicate balance between martyrdom and suicide. I have often asked myself this question: Is martyrdom about standing for truth or for God? Is it about an idea/concept or a person? Which is greater fidelity: to a principle or a person? I believe, adherence to a principle can always change. For example, a terrorist or a fanatic is convinced about the 'truth' he is willing to die (or kill) for. That is truth for him. On the other hand, placing one's trust in persons too is very deceptive. I know of several people who believed their mentors to be 'gods'. But when they see their 'gods' commit a grievous crime, all their world crumbles before their eyes. Where then, does one place his trust and confidence in? What can one vouch for, even to the extent of valuing it above one's own life? It is when one sees in another person the truth that cannot be denied. It is the willingness to die for that person AND the truth he or she embodies. That is martyrdom. In that sense perhaps even human right activists who suffer and are killed can be called martyrs. They see that human beings are embodiments of values and dignity. As long as they fight for a value and the dignity in a person and are willing to see them as one, life is worth living or giving up!

Professionalism vs Indecision

by Castilino  

I had the opportunity to witness the presentation of a group of corporate representatives regarding the possibility of entering into a joint collaboration to upgrade and qualify our existing efforts in the educational field. These guys, I gathered, are thorough-bred professionals in their fields. Their lofty ideals and ideas were indeed very impressive and convincing. I am sure they gathered the weaknesses and strengths of our institutions and our strategies from their singular visit to Ramanthapur and the two-hour long interaction with us today. They were sharp in their observation of what we expressed and at the same time making sure that they conveyed their 'guarded views'.

Yet in and through all of this, I sat there observing and comparing ourselves with these two gentlemen. They were, in a sense, 'businessmen' - sure about who they were and what they were up to; we, on the other hand, neither sure of our charity nor professionalism. They clearly had financial profit and media fame on their mind (though they were careful not to harp on that!). We were groping for a way balancing our commitment to God (trust in Divine Providence?) and survival in a market-driven world. They had no one to account to and thereby arrive at decisions on their own; we, had to think, study (in groups, commissions, communities, councils...), discuss, get the approval of our superiors... (with no guarantee that by the time all of this is through, the confreres in the local community are sufficiently motivated to concretely carry forward this process). They were keen to kick start their plans right away; we go on as though we own time!

Final word: ... long way to go, dear confreres! Can't ride along complacent on past glory! Stand for something or we'll fall for anything!

Retracing our own Salesian beginnings

by Castilino  

For our evening prayer we had a simple but good sharing about what attracted us to the Salesians and kept us going in our initial stages of formation. One common thing that we all realised was the personal touch of early Salesians who in someway caught our attention. It would have been as much as a simple postcard/a letter once a month, a gentle word, the calling of our name, the typical joy and enthusiasm in our institutions, a timely smile, a friendly visit to our home, an occasional overlooking of our mischief... It was such small things that really made a big difference in our younger life. It was passing things such as these that kept us going in spite of the many big hurdles or seemingly unsurmountable challenges that came our way. Riding on that optimism is what made us all, "choose to stay with Don Bosco", the same way as the small group of people gathered in Don Bosco's room on December 18, 1859. We all 'chose to be with Don Bosco' initially and primarily for very personal reasons, factors that were for others petty, insignificant, unimportant, unnecessary but important in our personal life - so important that we could recall them with such clarity even after so many years!

Vocation, priesthood, brotherhood...?

by Castilino  

The more and more I reflect on this mystery of what we call a 'vocation', the more I feel convinced that being priests or brothers is not the real and total meaning of vocation. They certainly may be the most efficacious means, but there is something more grander and greater that the Lord calls us to, for which our priesthood or brotherhood is a means.

Reflecting further on this dimension a thought struck me this morning: Suppose I were to leave this Salesian congregation or were asked to leave, would I then join another congregation? I certainly won't!! Reason: I did not join the Salesians to be a Brother, but to live a life worthy of it and be useful to others, especially young people. If my sole intention were to be a Brother, it would then not matter to me which congregation I join. That is something very funny I feel. Transferring this thought to my counterparts, the Priests, I wonder if it is the same? Do young people joining the congregation as clerics, want to be just priests or something more than that? If it is the former, any congregation or diocese would do; if it is the latter then, nothing but a particular mode of living would satisfy.

Well, I'm still wondering...!

Perspective as an active of charity

by Castilino  

To look at any apostolate through the human right perspective is not to convert deed into service. This would mean that we do not multiply our services - however much they may be needed. What is to be really done is to hold the government/those in authority and those who are to provide the service, accountable. That would be a service, from a human right perspective. Being charitable does not mean doing charity all by ourselves.

The dilemma (fictional) that I posed to the students of Philosophy at Karunapuram proves why we fail to understand this: Driving home one day, one stormy night, I find huddled at a bus stop three people: an old lady (who may not survive the night in that climate), a good friend who once saved my life in a similar situation (therefore an opportunity to repay his debt) and a young lady, the dream girl of my life (I may not meet her again). Unfortunately I can give a lift to just one person. Whom do I help? Everyone had their answer (most of them choosing to help the old lady). Only one out of 200 answered thus: I will give my car keys to my friend and ask him to ride the old lady home; while I stay back with the girl of my dreams!!

The reason we don't think of this is primarily because for us, charity is to be done by 'me'!!! Time to widen our perspective, at least as an act of charity!

Understanding 'vocation' beyond Salesian vocation

by Castilino  

Our whole reading/understanding of the third theme of GC 26 (Vocation Ministry) is faulty (mine included). I thought it was all about vocations to Salesian life; but I admire the presentation of this idea in GC 26 documents. It does not restrict the meaning of 'Vocation Ministry' to 'Salesian vocation ministry'; it rather promotes a culture of vocations. Therefore through the four guidelines in that section (8 - 11), it builds up a Culture of Vocation to life, consecrated life and Salesian life. The last guideline, dwells with the two forms of living the one Salesian vocation: as Brothers and Priests.

When understood in this sense, the whole idea of vocations to Salesian life/consecrated life as the crown of our youth ministry will make sense. Otherwise, vocation promotion will be seen as another 'activity' among the many, and so will youth ministry!

Doing charity vs being socially responsible

by Castilino  

Recently there was this suggestion to raise funds through a unique scheme: collect just Re 1 from donors in a month, not more not less. Frankly speaking the first time I heard this, I said to myself, that is as good as begging! For what use will just a meagre collection of 1 Re coins be. But then it slowly dawned on me that there is a very big value in executing this idea ... much more than collecting huge amounts at one go.

I state this because the scheme is more about involving people, CONSISTENTLY rather than be happy with a one-time act of charity. It is aimed at helping people grow in social awareness and responsibility rather than doling out amounts once in a way and patting our back saying, 'we are doing charity'. This contribution of Re 1 every month ensures that I remember I have a share and duty for the cause I am contributing. That 'nagging feeling' that I have to do this every month (just Re 1 and not more!) is itself a good lesson than paying some Rs 100 at one go and forgetting about what we gave that money for the very next moment!

There's a huge difference being charitable and doing charity. But becoming socially responsible and involved citizens is a higher calling.

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