Assisi without Francis & Salesians without youth

by Castilino  

I came across this very interesting news bit titled Beggars banned from churches in Assisi, Italy. It begins thus: "BEGGARS have been banned within 500m of churches in Assisi, Italy. And it's now illegal to feed the pigeons in the town square. You wonder what Francis of Assisi would have thought of that..." It really sounds so jarring! After all that St Francis stood for, we hear of this right in his hometown. I suppose authorities have a valid reason for it; but is it good enough reason to 'ban'? Sometimes I fear this may get replicated in our Salesian houses too. Comments and instructions which sometime term our collaborators as "those people" and youngsters as "nuisance" are quite disparaging. That some places/times we do not make the first move to interact with the young is bad enough; worse is when young people run away from us (either because we always find fault with them or because we are too out of sync with their ideas, opinions and values).

Vocations from within

by Castilino  

Today I am at Ravulapalem (school, boarding, parish, social service centre...). Had an adventurous journey from DB, Sanathanagar last night... missed the train (thanks to the Hyderabad traffic) and then got a bus straight to Ravulapalem. During the school break I took a walk towards the school but never managed to reach it as so many boys and girls came forward to say 'hello'. I wondered how they knew me. Then they reminded me that I gave a good night last year. They remembered also my name and what I said then: 'That I'm a happy Salesian Brother!!' Wow that's quite a memory for these kids. But I sincerely hope and try that more of these boys (those in the boarding) join the seminary and become Salesians.

When we live and share our lives with these boys living with us, why hesitate to invite them to join us? That will be a challenge because we will then have to prove our life and mission worthy enough, at least of a try! Young people look for a challenge and will respond only if they find it challenging enough! And that's what I intend to advocate in the coming Chapter too: Vocations from each of our own settings. A demand for this will automatically set right quite a few issues plaguing our communities!

Formation to communication

by coelho  

Robert Pen is participating in a meeting organized by the Salesian Social Communications Department in Rome. The meeting will be held at Hyderabad, and will unfold in three sessions: formation, information and production. Robert is due to speak on formation to social communication. We went through what GC26 has to say on the topic. Two major ideas emerged, reading GC26:

1. What is the meaning of forming Salesians to social communication? What might it mean to really prepare people for social communication? - The great temptation is to think that we have to prepare the hodmen: the experts in filming, shooting, camera work, etc. A step up is to think that we have to prepare those who will manage such people. But the true challenge, I think, is to prepare the people who will do the encoding - the people who will create the messages in the media. I always recall George Plathottam's story about the Asst. Director of the Hindi film Black who spent a few days with George in Gauhati. This man told George: Father, do you know how much reading goes into the making of a film like Black?

So the point is just this: do we want to be consumers of media, or creators of media? It is true that we have moved from a linear culture into an image culture, from the culture of word and reading to the culture of images and audiovisuals. But the point still remains: which side does our vocation call us to be on: the consumers or the creators? Too easily this ambiguity is not addressed when the truism is bandied about that we have moved into an image culture. I remember some Salesian communcations expert sneering at the Rector Major Chavez's letter on social communications because he had invited Salesians to read.

2. The great and endemic danger of the image culture, of course, is that it is at the level of 'experience,' just like all propaganda and advertisement. The aim of any form of communication specialized at this level is to exclude as much as possible any attempt to understand and to critically judge and evaluate. After all, the aim is to make you buy without too much reflection. The aim is to sway your opinions without too much of critical evaluation. So this is yet another ambiguity in the 'we have shifted to an image culture' thing. The Salesian educator has to keep firmly in mind that he is called to exercise, and to help young people exercise, a critical function w.r.t. media and everything else. Is that not, after all, the aim of all media education?

If the point about creators rather than consumers of culture is taken, the question naturally arises: what do we want to communicate? Here the great danger is that communicators are so passionate about communication that they want to simply communicate communication. I think the Salesian educator should be passionate first of all about Jesus Christ and his message! That is the pearl of great price, that is his treasure set in a field. That is the passion of Da mihi animas. That is what should animate and drive all his efforts at communication....

And so, when we ask the question: how should we form Salesian communicators? the answer is clear: primarily in the faith, and then in Salesianity perhaps.

So what is the syllabus of the departments of Social Communication at the Gregoriana and at the Salesian Pontifical University? And at our own NISCORT of the Indian Church outside Delhi? That would be revealing to find out.

Yet another thought is the presence of the Church at the cutting edge of communication technology, and by this I do not mean technology in a narrow sense, but in the broader sense of the innovative movements in, I should say, not only the world of media, but the world in general. Is the Church sufficiently present in the Free and Open Software Movement? Is it present in the many other innovative, and at root deeply evangelical, movements? As Julian Fox was pointing out during the Chapter, many of these movements have either a Leftist base or a Liberal base, and because of this, many Catholics are either turned off by them or else they themselves begin leaning either to the left or to the right. This is another great area to be evangelized then!

Let's hope the Hyderabad meeting takes some solid steps in the right directions.

About being clean...

by Castilino  

The Gospel passage (from Luke 11:37-41) I heard this morning, that of Jesus calling on the Pharisees to clean the interior as well as the exterior, reminded me of what Fr V.V. Paul (Shillong) once shared during class hours. Vendors walking in and out of trains selling all sorts of things ... and people purchasing these is a common phenomenon on Indian trains. Most often those who purchase groundnuts, keep dropping the empty shells on the train floor itself. Then there are those street boys, those who live on the railway platforms, who come around sweeping the compartments. Now these boys are always kept at a distance because they do the 'dirty job' of cleaning the compartments. Fr V.V. Paul's observation was an interesting one: Those who dirty the place claim to be clean and those who clean the place are branded dirty!

History outside the archives

by Castilino  

This morning I put down in black and white an idea which has been floating in my mind since long. I proposed this idea to the novices (through a letter) and I hope something will emerge out of it. It is all about gathering the bits and pieces of history that officially do not get recorded. These are seemingly insignificant events, circumstances, decisions or happenings of the past that often get lost in the sands of time - yet, somehow they do have a very important role to play in shaping history. These bits and pieces are known to all but not officially noted and hence with the passage of time, they are lost. Slowly History is 'made' - bereft of certain key elements/truths. Moreover, these are very interesting and enriching pieces of information, which are capable of shading recorded history in a totally new colour.

One such piece: It was Fr Muthalakhuzhiyil Sebastian who really started what is today known as PARA, in Ravulapalem. To have a social outreach programme was his brainchild and his initiative too. Of course, it took a formal and more reputed shape in years to come, but he did have this social bent then. This year PARA celebrates its '80 seasons of journeying with the Dalit bahujans of Konaseema' and this fact needs to be made known and Fr Sebastian's contribution duly acknowledged.

To my good fortune, this evening there was a call from Fr Maliekal and while clarifying with him something I picked up a phrase which describes this sort of research perfectly: 'History outside the archives'.

Never give up!

by Castilino  

Never give up!

I've been watching the little bird, from the nest outside my office, take off since yesterday morning. Unfortunately it hasn't been able to take off yet. It still keeps flapping its tiny wings and only manages to stay in the air for a few seconds only. As time goes by I find myself getting anxious to see it really fly away! So every time I hear a high-pitched twitter, I rush out of my office to see what is wrong. I can imagine the anxiety of its parents who keep flying up and down, in and out, all day long. They have been still feeding it but their attempts to get it to really fly along with them are really praiseworthy (though futile, till now). Last evening it kept calling out for its parents, but I did not see the parents for long. Then it was dark. I thought the parents had now given upon it. But I was wrong. This morning the parents are back and they are here with their little one.

Just a while ago as I tried to shoo the little one away from the verandah (I feared it might get trampled upon) into the garden, it suddenly flew onto my arm. Wow!! I luckily had the camera in hand, perhaps just for this.

Not just charity...

by Castilino  

Yesterday's surprise was hard enough - the one regarding the Provincial house staff pooling in 30 kgs of rice for the flood victims. Today I learnt another fact about the same generosity: the rice that they are putting aside for the victims is the best they have. While they have decided to send this across to those who have nothing (due to the floods), they themselves are going to eat the cheap ration rice. For me that is something really humbling! Had they kept aside the ration rice, it would have been understandable for me; but no, they are giving the best they have, choosing to make a sacrifice to eat the cheaper quality rice themselves.

That's true generosity - giving while it hurts.

Don Bosco, Gandhiji and the Guardian Angel

by Castilino  

Don Bosco, Gandhiji and the Guardian Angel

Besides the fact that all these three figures play a prominent role in our lives, the one thing I admire them all for is this: they knew exactly what they were supposed to do. Each of us has his or her mission carved out, but great are those who strive to know what exactly is it and are willing to go to any extent to make it a reality. Don Bosco knew his life was for boys and their salvation; Gandhiji realised his life-mission in leading India to freedom and setting a precedent about "passive aggression"; and the Guardian angel, knows me through and through!

Salesian books on

by Castilino  

Here's a list of Salesian Books now available on As of now, they are all the handiworks of Fr John Lens sdb, the seniormost Salesian confrere in the Province of Hyderabad (INH), India. If anyone is aware of more such Salesian literature published on (or anywhere online), I'd be happy to include it herein. Just send me the link and a short description (if necessary)!

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