Passion and determination

by Castilino  

The liturgical significance of the day is an interesting one. On the one hand today is the feast of St Jerome, the one who made the Bible available to a wider group and on the other hand, in the first reading of the day we see Nehemiah asking his king to provide him with whatever necessary for him to rebuild the city of his ancestors. Just compare these two instances and you see that they both did what they felt was a great need of the times with the little they had. Jerome had his dark cave and candlelight... no electricity, computer, printer, internet, press and all that we today demand to get something ready! Nehemiah only had his desire and the good will of his king. And with that he set out to do what was closest to his heart.

Good lesson in making good use of what is at hand than craving and demanding for more... what is basically needed is the passion to get going and the determination to see it done!

Sensitivity to forms of prayer

by Castilino  

Yesterday evening on my way from Wyra back to the Provincial house I happened to notice that the young girl sitting in the front row of the bus would occasionally pull out a notebook and keep writing the name 'Sri Ram' over and over again. Apparently she was a Hindu and doing this exercise, for some special favour. I said to myself, if only she had better sense, she would have spent that time and energy doing some good rather than writing and rewriting the same word. I felt it so odd that she was doing the same act - which for all purposes was a useless one - over and over again, apparently for some selfish gain!

I forgot all about this till a while later when I began reciting my rosary. Just when I was half way through the second decade, my eyes fell on the girl's notebook and I was so struck I could not utter another word. Having said all that about the girl and her act, here I was doing a similar deed - repeating the 'Hail Mary' over and over again! How was my act different from hers? I was so ashamed of myself that I was not able to be sensitive to another persons' prayer; I hardly had enough peace of mind to complete my rosary!

So much for finding real meaning and being sensible enough to see the same in others words and deeds.

Sharing and enlarging the family

by Castilino  

One of the main problems why we Salesians find it difficult to find collaborators for our efforts is perhaps our 'me-and-MY JOB' attitude. We hardly make known to others, especially and specifically to our beneficiaries, our works. We run a school but hardly do any of our children or their parents know that we also work for children on the street, the juveniles, the school drop-outs, ... Our Parishioners only get good and holy sermons about the 'Kingdom of heaven', not much about how it is already being unfolded in our boardings, youth centres, technical schools, street children homes, counselling centres... !

Conclusion: we slog today, tomorrow and here after - all by ourselves! Worse still, when students pass out of our institutions, they have little or no sense of social responsibility, even though we taught them, we paid their fees, we bought their uniforms, we provided them with the best of education!! But imagine if we were to involve all those whom we interact with in our daily mission, introduce them to OUR work (not merely my work)... Some ideas that cropped up in my mind today as I listened to Fr MC George I put down here:
* take boys/parishioners to our other Salesian centres for a day of outing.
* while preparing souvenirs, brochures and booklets, include a small note about the other works we do.
* invite young people for a retreat or day of recollection in our formation houses (when the formees are there, not when they are gone for holidays!).
* get our own friends to speak to our aspirants - anything!
* get street children into our 'mainstream' schools.
* involve high school children in organising camps for the less-privileged children.

I need to speak about my family - after all, the one working in the boarding or parish or street children centre, or the mission station is my brother, my confrere! And if my extended family starts working together (each one in their own way), ah... now that's going to be something grand! I won't have to carry Don Bosco or Christ alone!!

"Return" to Don Bosco!!!

by Castilino  

I'm just back from a community where boys after their first semester of Salesiana were given a test/quiz. Here are some of their answers ...
Castelnuovo: Capital of Turin.
Dominic Savio's prayer: Strike me dead if I am about sin.
Dominic Savio: a good man
Oratory: place where they dives divides into sodalities.
Oratory: they used to change places from one place to another place.
Penance of Dominic Savio: by putting stones in his shoes under the bed.
When did Fr Alasonatti join Don Bosco? A year ago.
St Martin of Mills: Place requested by Don Bosco as cemetry for his boys.
Convitto Ecclesiastico: where Don Bosco did his secondary schooling.
Pinardi Shed: It was rented by the Philippi Brothers.
Rosimini House: It was a place of St Peter Chains.
Condition in the oratory: not so active or enthusiastic due to various reasons

With such answers, there sure is no return to Don Bosco!!!
However, boys will be boys!! I'm sure Don Bosco himself is laughing away!

Faith, Hope and Charity: Vehicle recovered!

by Castilino  

Exactly 10 days ago, our four-wheeler was stolen. People kept asking me if there was any news about the vehicle ever since. I really had no hopes, whatsoever. I was only striving for the insurance money! Today evening the Police called me to say that they secured the vehicle. Of course, in their own shady style, no one was apprehended! But it was a good experience spending 7 hrs in the police station, listening to their vague description of how they traced the stolen vehicle - in fact they never told me anything worthwhile! Even otherwise it was worth an experience chatting with them, listening to their interrogation style, their sharp lookout for the DCP (who happened to arrive just as we reached for an inspection), their "respect" for the higher ups, their documentation procedures and of course, when there was no one else in the room, there were the mice running all along the walls of the narrow rooms. Goes without saying that I had to grease their palms. In Fr Maliekal's language it would be: They ask without asking! Well at the end of the day (now it is already morning), the vehicle is back in our garage: perfectly intact except for the number plates and the side stickers!

Ultimately today it was a triumph of Venkat's (our driver) faith, my hope that they would release the vehicle today and perfect "charity" for the policemen! Praise be to God!

Being 'rich'

by Castilino  

I've always felt embarrassed when known people approach me for money. Besides the facts that I do not feel at ease dealing with money - that too not mine - and that such 'charity' always mars one's relationship, I feel there is something more important to this act. People in need - of anything - will naturally approach those whom they feel will surely help them or are capable of helping them with what they cannot manage by themselves. So if I am in need of money, I will surely not approach someone who is more miserable than me. When I need some advice regarding a job or task at hand, I will contact someone in that line, not anyone! Keeping this in mind, it is good to sit back, reflect and see why and who approach me for help - and for what sort of help. Besides their trust in me, I also feel, they look at me as one who has/are that one who would help them. I got to be 'rich' in that field to give them what they ask for. May be this is the reason, why people approach us religious and Priests for monetary help, more often than for spiritual help... perhaps they see us 'rich' in finance than in spiritual wares.

Communication matters!

by Castilino  

You never know whose life you touch, when, how and to what extent - merely by something you say or do or don't say or miss out on! I realised this when late last night, after having read of some unrest in Koraput district of Orissa, sent an sms to our confrere working there. This morning I got a call from him. He was emotionally touched by this simple gesture of mine, just inquiring if things were OK with him, amidst the tension and violence around the place. He told me that this is the first communication he received in months. I was surprised, and asked him if he didn't receive the Provincial circular and the other smses I sent around after Fr Benji's death and regarding his funeral. He replied, that he did receive them all. But none which made him still feel wanted or part of the family, especially by his own confreres!

God be praised, for you never know...

Religious: Signs of exaggeration!

by Castilino  

Post Vatican II, the idea that the religious life is a state of perfection (above that of lay state of life) gave way to a balanced notion of Christian life and living, especially through the Lumen Gentium. This morning's meditation talk by Fr Dominic Veliath was very insightful in this regard. Here's the summary of his reflection on religious life and its relevance:

As religious we are called to be 'SIGNS' ... signs of exaggeration, of commitment, of happiness. We are called to live life noticeably, that everyone sees in us the path to sanctity (holiness) to which all are called. If we too live our life in an ordinary way, (or worse still, giving scandal) then what is the point in being a religious? Here in comes the aspect of commitment. People see in our lifestyle a 'special breed' hell bent on LIVING the gospel and its values; not merely as an impressive once-in-a-way presentation but as a joyful and total choice. And an important sign to check our fulfillment in being signs of exaggeration and commitment is our 'happiness meter'!

Thanks Fr Dominic!

Education, change and the price of it all

by Castilino  


I spent this afternoon in a very useful manner: watching the movie The Freedom Writers! There are many lessons one - especially a teacher / formator / educator - can learn from this movie. The one that struck me was the perseverance of the teacher... but this perseverance comes at a great price! I liked that particular conversation between the Principal (Ms Margaret) and Ms Gruwell. That part when Ms G is told to 'educate' the students, teach then discipline, not anything more, because they do not want to be educated. I think that's when the Ms G really becomes someone more than a classroom teacher. Imagine she taking up two other jobs so that she can earn some extra bit for her students... the misunderstandings with the other staff and management... then there is her own personal life crumbling down when her husband files for a divorce. Great risks cost. Those willing to make a difference have to pay a price. Change does not come free and easy. But great are those who are willing to pay the price.

Being on the formation staff I can very well understand the feelings and things going on in Ms Margaret's head. All very right and noble... but I too have to realise that education is more than just discipline, rules, respect for the teacher, obedience, formal lessons, classes... It means being able to touch the lives of students and making them believe that they can change and they can bring about a change for the better. It means becoming part of their life, not just the classroom. It means helping them become all that they can be. And what's the role of the formator in this process? Just being a facilitator, inspirer, encourager, challenger, a model... not the centre figure of their lives but a catalyst.

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