Thursday 31 December 2009


[W]here the character, as something distinguished from the intellect, is concerned, the causes of human diversity lie chiefly in our different susceptibilities of emotional excitement, and in the different impulses and inhibitions which these bring in their train....

Speaking generally, our moral and practical attitude, at any given time, is always a resultant of two sets of forces within us, impulses pushing us one way and obstructions and inhibitions holding us back.... The influence is so incessant that it becomes subconscious.... But proprieties and their inhibitions snap like cobwebs if any great emotional excitement intervenes.
William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longman, Green, 1929) 261f.

Echoes very well with Lonergan's analysis of the functioning of common sense in general, and dramatic bias in particular, in Insight, ch. 6.

Fire and timidity

This is absolutely fascinating, from Annie Besant:
I have ever been the queerest mixture of weakness and strength, and have paid heavily for the weakness. As a child I used to suffer tortures of shyness, and if my shoelace was untied would feel shamefacedly that every eye was fixed on that unlucky thing; as a girl I would shrink away from strangers and think myself unwanted and unliked, so that I was full of eager gratitude to anyone who noticed me kindly; as the young mistress of a house I was afraid of my servants, and would let careless work pass, rather than bear the pain of reproving the ill-doer; when I have been lecturing and debating with no lack of spirit on the platform, I have preferred to go without what I wanted at the hotel rather than to ring and make the waiter fetch it. Combative on the platform in defense of any cause I cared for, I shrink from quarrel and disapproval in the house, and am a coward at heart in private while a good fighter in public. How often have I passed unhappy quarters of an hour screwing up my courage to find fault with some subordinate whom my duty compelled me to reprove, and how often have I jeered at myself when shrinking from blaming some lad or lass for doing their work badly. An unkind look or word has availed to make me shrink into myself as a snail into its shell, while, on the platform, opposition makes me speak my best.
Annie Besant, An Autobiography 82, cited by Wiliam James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (London: Longmans, Green, 1929) 168-169.

Marriage, celibacy, and loneliness

Many marriages are ruined because neither partner was able to fulfill the often hidden hope that the other would take his or her loneliness away. And many celibates live with the naive dream that in the intimacy of marriage their loneliness will be taken away.
Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer (Garden City: Doubleday, 1972) 87.

Catechetics and growth

Cardinal Garrone, when he was bishop in France:
If your adolescents don't resent religion, beware, something is wrong.
When everything in a person is changing radically, you mean to say that the most all-pervasive, demanding and deep-seated reality which commands the whole of him - faith - is going to remain unruffled?

Youth Ministry, ed. M. Warren 19.

Criterion of growth

Just ask yourselves: are you kids becoming less selfish little by little? If so, wonderful. If not, I couldn't care less about all your educational improvements.
Nebrada, Youth Ministry, ed. M. Warren 36

Education and patience

A consoling thought for educators and formators and parents and catechists:
How is your own spiritual situation? Because if that is in good health, i don't foresee any big problem about your task. You will be frustrated, of course. Ask any mother who has adolescent children. We will have many problems, many painful and exasperating moments of depression, but basically, things will be all right. The Lord will be able to use you even when you think that you are being absolutely hopeless in your effort to reach out to your children. Because I don't care what you feel one day or one week or for a few months or even years. One day you may be astonished to see what God did through you when you had no idea that the seed you had planted and you thought wasted, 10 or 15 years later... blossoms into something that is going to grow and thrive.
Nebrada, Youth Ministry, ed. M. Warren 23.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Re-reading 'reason' in the Preventive System

But reason also, like the other two words of the trinomial, must be reread in the light of the revolutions in thought and mentality that have taken place. In the time of Don Bosco and for a good part of the succeeding century, Salesian ‘culture’ showed itself to be very traditional, conservative, and for the most part geared to the professional formation of either students or artisans. Also, the mode of transmission of this ‘culture’ was mostly authoritarian, not open to free reading, to personal research, to confrontation and to discussion.
Today, in the face of technological rationality, immersion in the immediacy of feeling, the advent of the pensiero debole, and together with the question of ‘critical thought’ within a ‘liquid society,’ reason is invited to recover the fullness of its meaning and functions: to observe, reflect, understand, prove, verify, change, adapt, decide, develop, assimilate promptly and in a flexible manner, all the proposals and suggestions coming from the field of education and from academic reflection.
Pascual Chavez, talk at the University of Bari, 25 April 2006.

A strong invitation to get over the authoritarian incarnation of the Preventive System. In this case, one returns to Don Bosco, to the original inspirations of his spirit and pedagogy, only by going forward! Interesting that the Rector Major can mention 'weak thought' in the context of a re-reading of the Preventive System. Surely there is work to be done here: shrugging off excessively rationalistic overtones that might have crept into the Preventive System, not in the usual way, but in the subtextual connection with authoritarianism.

Re-reading 'father, brother and friend'

From a rather brilliant talk given by Pascual Chavez, Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, at the University of Bari (to be published in English translation in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/1 [2010]):
Today, as we have just said, the relations between young people and adults have undergone a profound change w.r.t. the times of Don Bosco, which implies once again a radically new way of interpreting and living out the idea and role of the educator as ‘father,’ ‘brother’ and ‘friend.’ No longer considering himself as the sole owner and interpreter of the system, and resisting the temptation to impose or propose readymade certitudes, the educator makes himself capable of interpreting the often unexpressed needs of the young, of accompanying them in their difficult search for answers to the fundamental questions of life, of respecting them in their right to be and to feel themselves protagonists, of restricting his own predominating role in order to educate himself while educating others, both on the easy terrain of the encounter and on the difficult but equally useful terrain of the inevitable confrontation.

In the educator, the young person is searching not so much for the father who anticipates everything for him, the friend who organizes his free time, the brother who is interested in his growth, the adult who gives orders, or the supervisor who threatens punishments, but the man who is able to walk alongside, more attentive more to his person than to the generic exigencies of education, more ready to offer him a positive contribution to the development of his unexpressed potentialties than solely to neutralize the negative and counterproductive elements.
Fr Chavez calls here for a re-reading of the Salesian as father, brother and friend. The whole talk is a call to a re-reading of the Preventive System in the light of the anthropological and theological revolutions that the world has undergone since the time of Don Bosco. We have to become aware, says Fr Chavez, of the historicity of the Preventive System. It is very likely that we are using the very same words of Don Bosco, but that we understand them in a way quite different from Don Bosco. Thus, for example, honest citizen and good Christian. The honest citizen of Don Bosco's time - a time when democracy was a matter of the emerging liberal elite, and when universal suffrage was considered shockingly revolutionary - was the quiet, hard-working, law-abiding person; certainly not the active and responsible person that a citizen is expected to be in our time. And the idea that such social responsibility might extend beyond one's nation to embrace the whole world - that was surely nowhere on Don Bosco's social horizon, though perhaps it had a place in his thinking thanks to his Christian horizon.

Getting back to our quote, however: what I find interesting is the call, from the highest authority in the Salesian congregation, to rethink 'fatherliness': no longer today a question of imposing by command, but quite something else. Some urgent updating needed here?

The fragility of faith

We talk so easily about faith as if we knew for sure who has Faith and who hasn't. Actually, if someone asks, 'Are you sure you have faith?', theologically, the only valid answer is, 'I hope so.'

Faith must not be identified with certain ways of doing things, with a certain mentality, certain actions.

What would you feel if I say to you that, aside from our Lord, of course and our Lady, strictly speaking, there are very few Christians on earth. We have all kinds of pagans, ourselves included, in different stages of conversion. That is what we have.
A. Nebrada, in Youth Ministry, ed. M. Warren 20-21.

Convincing and converting

Even God can't make me love him if I don't want to. And we think the task is so easy. We are so naive about it, so glibly optimistic. We talk glibly about converting people, about convincing them. You can convince them, but not convert them. There is a tremendous gap between convincing somebody and converting him. Conversion is the work of God.
Michael Warren, ed. Youth Ministry 20.

We say sometimes - too glibly - that words are not enough, that lectures and readings do not really influence us. The above is from a scheda I made years ago - and I think I can say that that Michael Warren's little book really influenced me in my thinking on education, formation, the Preventive System, and so on.


A wonderful line from Camus:
In a time of pestilence we learn that there are more things to admire in men than to despise.
Albert Camus, The Plague (New York: Knopf, 1948) 278. Camus, I remember feeling even years back, wandered close to the authentically religious. Any person who tries to live his life as genuinely as possible, I guess, ends by coming (perilously) close to God and to true religion....

Boredom and enlightenment

And this, which I find surprisingly relevant in these Christmas holidays, and also very encouraging:
Only man can be bored, not animals. If you are not bored, you are at a very low level of consciousness. Out of boredom comes renunciation. And out of renunciation, enlightenment.
The source is, I think, an old friend and next door neighbour in Pune, sometimes known as Osho, and sometimes Rajneesh.

Boredom as a path to God! Revealing, manifesting, the hollowness of all earthly realities. Pushing one to the very edge of the precipice, the search for a desperate filling in of the emptiness, which is the source of all misery, I guess....

Mark Twain on books

Here is something that will warm the hearts of a Salesian tradition that some of us might be a bit familiar with (see Lonergan's remarks about traditions and their vicissitudes, in 'Understanding Oneself' in his chapter 7 on Interpretation in Method in Theology):
A little girl once asked Mark Twain about the value of books. The famous old man replied that books were inestimably valuable, but that their value varied. A leather-bound book was fine for sharpening a razor; a small, concise book - the kind the French write - is wonderfully useful for propping up the shortest table-leg; a big book, like a dictionary, is the best weapon for throwing at cats; and, finally, an atlas with large pages contains the very best sort of paper for mending windows.

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Nona and Anthony

Was good meeting Nona and Anthony Almeida, Sonali and Anup's parents. A lovely, happy, lively couple... And catching up with news about Sonali and Anup. Anup, all of 28 years old, is not only married but also in charge of some 40 people Down Under, won the job in the midst of fierce competition, and speaks Marathi fluently (as does his mother Nona)... Sonali instead is in Champaign, near Chicago, married with two kids, and interestingly has just found a job with Mathematica ideator Stephen Wolfram. I told Nona that I knew Hugo, Stephen's father. Small world.

And Nona and Anthony both watch exclusively Marathi serials. They are simply in love with Marathi. Wonderful for a Mangalorean couple... I immediately made a sales pitch for the Khristapurana...

Monday 28 December 2009

Why innocent suffering?

Why should innocents suffer? And why, without a personal option, for Christ?

22 years ago I was struggling to prepare a homily on the Feast of the Holy Innocents, on the day of my 'first mass.' I don't quite remember what I said, but I think it was to the effect that we do not understand, and that we are called to trust.

Years later, I find a more serene, if still difficult, answer: "Put on the mind of Christ." See things from God's point of view. From our point of view, a life snuffed out before it has barely begun is a tragedy. From God's point of view, perhaps the tragedy is not the shortness of a life, but its quality. And his aim is to draw all of us to himself.... Not a very attractive prospect, from our usual point of view. But there it is.

Like from another point of view: what might have happened if these innocents had lived? Some of them would have been good people. Others might not have been. Some might even have found themselves in the crowd in Jerusalem, shouting Crucify him....

The point is that we do not know. So we trust.

So Bernanos again: God tells us that we will one day understand. But he also asks pardon from us for the present.

Sunday 27 December 2009

Living faith

There is at this moment, in the world, at the back of some forsaken church, or even in an ordinary house... a poor man who joins his hands and from the depth of his misery, without very well knowing what he is saying, or without saying anything, thanks the good Lord for having made him free, for having made him capable of loving. There is somewhere else, I do not know where, a mother who hides her face for the last time in the hollow of a little breast which will beat no more, a mother next to her dead child who offers to God the groan of an exhausted resignation, as if the Voice which has thrown the suns into space as a hand throws grain, the Voice which makes the world tremble, had just murmured gently into her ear, 'Pardon me. One day you will know, you will understand, you will give me thanks. But now what I am looking for from you is your pardon. Pardon.' These - this harassed woman, this poor man - are at the heart of the mystery, at the heart of the universal creation and in the very heart of God.... What these people have understood, they have understood by a faculty superior to the intelligence although not in the least in contradiction to it.... Yes, at the moment that this man, this woman, accepted their destiny, accepted themselves, humbly - the mystery of creation was being accomplished in them. While they were thus, without knowing it, running the entire risk of their human conduct, they were realizing themselves fully in the charity of Christ, becoming themselves, according to the words of St Paul, other Christs. In short, they were saints.
Unpublished text of Georges Bernanos, cited in James B. Dunning, "The Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults: Model of Adult Growth," Worship 53 (1979) 142-156.

Belief and non-belief

We ordinarily make a sharp distinction between belief and non-belief, perhaps allowing for gray areas in between. Maybe the division should be done differently, between those who are easy in their belief or non-belief, and those who see agony in either place. In this sense Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Jerry Fallwell have a lot in common; so do Pascal and Camus. The great questions are the ones conventional believers and non-believers are often relaxed about. Does the fact that we are alive matter? What evidence do we have for a loving God - for that matter, what evidence is there that God is even vaguely decent?
John Garvey, at the beginning of a review article entitled "The Gnostics among Us," Commonweal 108 (1981) 300, cited by B. Vawter, Job and Jonah: Questioning the Hidden God (New York: Paulist, 1983) 12-13.

Point. And yet, perhaps, there are also other possibilities. There is, after all, the serene belief of a simple person, who believes quietly and humbly, through the hidden gift of the Holy Spirit, and whose sterling faith is often tested, but comes out of the test shining even stronger. The faith of parents who let go of a child to follow his or her vocation, for example. No great soul-searching here; just a quiet struggle, perhaps, and then the letting go, and the living out of the consequences, often over a lifetime, but without the kind of soul-searching and questioning that in the 1980's we thought was essential to genuine belief.

Think of Lonergan's analogy of genuineness.

Beauty and silence

Surely you know that a genuine appreciation of beauty can only result in silence. Tell me, when you see the daily wonder of the sunset have you ever thought of applauding?
Debussy, cited by Ducasse, The Philosophy of Art (New York: Dover Publications, 1966) 232.

The Beatitudes

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, entred 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.

Education by contagion

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 imporatnt. 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!

The Advaita dilemma

I can find no corner of my heart in which to take my stand to worship him, for in every 'I' that I attempt to utter, his 'I' is already glowing.
Late medieval Tamil bhakta Sadashiva.

Education and letting go

Selfhood begins with a walking away
And love is proved in the letting go.
C. Day Lewis, reflecting on his son.

Another good lesson for Salesians. The asceticism of being fathers, Fathers, and educators.

This is also, it strikes me, the asceticism of God himself: God who has infinite patience with us, with me; God who refuses shortcut solutions to his messy world. God who is willing to undergo time and history and pain and suffering, and to place the resurrection only on the other side of the cross. "Though he was in the form of God... he emptied himself... upto death on the cross."

Allow your children to hate you!

A truly personal love of child for parent (or for 'what is right') must develop like any other love, and suffer the same frustrations and reversals. To imagine that it can be imposed or demanded, or to believe that it can be fully achieved by the age of two, or five, or fifteen, is nothing but self-delusion. It is a paradox, but at some stages of his development the child will best 'honor his parents' by hating them. By his rage against their superior strength he gives them evidence that they have sired a human being with a healthy sense of his innate dignity, not merely a vegetable or a puppet.
Stanley Kutz, "The Demands of the Present," The New Morality, ed. Dunphy, 150.

A lesson we Salesians need to learn, again and again! We need to take development, time, into account, rather than demanding perfection at every moment. Heidegger wrote Being and Time, bringing our attention to the fact that being is shot through with time, that time / history is a dimension of being. Some Salesian has to write a book called Education and Time, or Formation and Time, for similar reasons. The quote above is quite wonderful.

Christian perfection

Swami Abhishiktananda (Dom Henri Le Saux), Saccidananda (Delhi: ISPCK, 1974) 9-10:
No more does he allow himself to dream of a future when he might at long last be perfect, with all passions stilled, his spirit made stable and his will directed unfailingly towards God. On the contrary, when he falls into error and perhaps commits a grave sin, when his frailty prevents him from concentrating his mind or from fulfilling what others expect of him, when his neighbours blame him for his incompetence and for all his various limitations it is precisely at such moments as these that he meets with the Lord. Then it is that he attains to the Abba Father; he hears it deep within and whispers it in his turn. In the Christian's acceptance of his limitations and his involvement in time there is a depth of love and surrender which is beyond the understanding of the Stoic or the Vedantin. The Gospel is the proclamation of the Kingdom to the weak, the helpless, the sinner. The Christian is called 'saint', not because he claims to be without sin, but because from the very depth of his sin he cries out for mercy; the very darkness and humiliation of sin contain hidden possibilities of calling down mercy and love, which otherwise could never have been revealed. If this were not so, God would never have made a creature that is capable of sinning. He would never have permitted either the 'original sin' nor the sin of individuals; nor could Jesus have been 'made one with the sinfulness of men' (2 Cor 5:21).
So Christian perfection is different from the Buddhist nirvana or the Hindu moksa. It is the dropping of all concern for myself - even for my own perfection. It is the total acceptance of one's limitations. Thus even a 'sinner' can be a saint; and thus the publicans stand a better change than the Pharisees - simply because there is less ego. But then perhaps the Buddhist nirvana is not so different. Because isn't that also a question of dropping the ego? Paradoxically expressed: If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. Don't let even the Buddha stand in the way of your attainment of nirvana. Don't get attached even to the Buddha.

Thursday 24 December 2009

Barclay and Ratzinger

Fr Devassy of St Pauls Mumbai gave me a gift of William Barclay's Insights: Christmas: What the Bible tells us about the Christmas Story. Mostly drawn from Barclay's well known commentaries on the gospels, I think. Nice and inspiring as far as he goes. But I could not help thinking of the contrast between Barclay and someone like Ratzinger. There is really no comparison.

Not that Barclay is a popularizer and Ratzinger a theologian. I think it is a question rather of the depth of analysis of the same scripture passages, the infancy narratives in this case.

Take, for example, the Visitation of Our Lady to Elizabeth. Barclay is entirely respectful of Mary, but is unable to do more than scratch the surface of the whole mystery. Ratzinger instead becomes almost lyrical in his comments. The exegesis comparing the Visitation to David dancing before the Ark is not original to Ratzinger: just as David danced / leapt before the Lord, so the babe in the womb of Elizabeth dances / leaps for joy before the Lord coming over the hills of Judaea, carried in the New Ark of the Covenant. And Ratzinger concludes: we have to learn to recover this dimension of our prayer: rejoicing in the fact of the Incarnation. We have to learn to dance before the Lord who comes.

More later, as I try to return once again to Ratzinger's Jesus of Nazareth and soak myself in the wisdom of this man who I once cordially despised.

Friday 18 December 2009

150 years since our founding

We celebrated today 150 years since 18 men, most of them young, met in an upper room in the disreputable and shabby suburban area of Valdocco in Turin, Italy, to begin a new society, the Society of St Francis de Sales, later to be popularly known as the Salesians of Don Bosco.

This morning the Salesians of Nashik met at Divyadaan to celebrate a Eucharist and renew their vows. This evening I was in Mumbai, at the Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna, with other Salesians renewing their vows.

Many things struck me about this founding.

First, that it was not a bolt from the blue. Don Bosco spent perhaps 18, or at least a good 10 years, preparing for this day. 18 if you count from 1841, the year of his ordination. Retreats for street boys from the very first year of the Pinardi Shed. Promises and temporary vows for his more promising collaborators. Not without rebuffs: promising youngsters leaving to join the diocese, some of them the very evening of their ordination; the hostile atmosphere to religious congregations; the lack of resources. But the long term preparation is remarkable.

Second, the faith. Sending boys out to minister to cholera victims is, for me, like the sacrifice of Abraham: putting everything on line because of faith in the promises of God. Sending Salesians to the missions when there was so much to be done back home.

Third, the boldness. Entrusting great responsibilities to his youngsters. Just to mention only the number of books that several of the first group wrote: dictionaries, grammars, text books, histories....

But above all, the consecration. The dreams in which Don Bosco was told to bind his followers by vows. The consultation of his spiritual directors. The consultation with the Pope who gave the final seal, the final recommendation: begin a religious congregation.

Consecration: offering up every word and deed, in purity of mind and heart, to God.

An invitation today to renew our consecration. To do away with compromises, and to beg the Lord to help us overcome weakness.

The sadness when one hears that our famed schools have no place and no heart for the poor. The anger that arises when we spend so much on ourselves, and are so mean and hardhearted with our own employees.

May Don Bosco pray for us today. That his congregation might still respond with eager heart to his passion and his mission.

Saturday 12 December 2009

Mrs Grace Dias, RIP

My first cousin Grace Dias, passed away this morning at around 0730 hours.

Though Gracie was my first cousin - my father's sister's daughter - she was exactly the same age as my mother, being born on the very same day, 31 October - 1935, I would think.

Gracie also happened therefore to be one of my early teachers - in the Higher KinderGarten - my first formal teacher, I think, because I was admitted directly to the HKG, bypassing the LKG. The classes used to be held in the three garages of the Nicholas Villa - Now Figuereido's Villa on the road joining St Joseph's Wadala and Don Bosco Matunga.

Interestingly, Gracie was later promoted to Std VI, and there I had her again as a teacher. She was quite proud of her cousin, and I think I got quite a bit of free publicity. She would call me to help her in the correction of her papers - the objective questions, which were easy to correct. And she would say: never become a teacher: corrections are so horrible. I more or less obeyed her: I did not become a school teacher, though I am a teacher - of philosophy. Strange that I should have been correcting papers when I received the news of her death. MPh papers, but still, not a pleasant job!

Gracie married John Dias; they were friendly I think for many years. They had three children, Francine, Savio and Charmaine. Francine passed away a few years ago. Savio and Charmaine are married and settled in Mumbai.

Gracie was not very well in the last years of her life. She managed to live alone in her flat in Vasai for several years, and I used to drop in now and again to see her. When she could not manage alone, she moved in with her son and daughter-in-law, close by in Vasai. But she was really quite unwell, and so had to be moved eventually into a home for senior citizens, first in Karjat, and a few months ago in Vasai.

Gracie has passed on to her Maker. I pray for her. She was a good person, a very loving person too. I am sure her problems made it difficult for people to take care of her. Savio and Bertille have gone out of their way to do whatever they could for her. God bless you, Savio and Bertille, and all the other relatives and friends who helped.

May the Lord be our consolation in ways that he knows best.

Friday 11 December 2009

Focusing on the One Thing Needful

Fred Lawrence talks of Augustine talking about how one is a burden to oneself, scattering energies in many directions instead of focusing on 'the one thing needful.'

Advent is a persistent call to focus on the one thing needful. "And a feeling of expectancy was growing among them," we will be reading in the gospel of the coming 3rd Sunday of Advent. Longing, waiting, expecting, in eagerness, till the trumpets of joy sound and fill our hearts, and the deserts bloom....

Thursday 10 December 2009

Finding Neverland

Finding Neverland - wonderful movie about J.M. Barrie (played by Johnny Depp) and his writing of the Peter Pan play, thanks to his involvement with the family of a recently widowed young woman (played by the extraordinary Kate Winslet) and her 4 sons (one of them is the young boy who acts in August Rush).

I am learning to see Johnny Depp in a new light. A different genre. What's Eating Gilbert Grape was one of his early movies. Then there is the horrible Beyond Hell. And now this one, Finding Neverland.

And Kate Winslet is getting only better by the movie. I am thinking of The Reader, and of Revolutionary Road. What an actress.

And what of the power of pretending - or is it believing? That the eyes of the heart see more than our physical eyes? Or that the eyes of children see more than the eyes of adults, as Saint-Exupery says in The Little Prince?

Monday 7 December 2009

Brahman and Person: Essays by Richard De Smet

Just wanted to share the good news with all of you: my book, Brahman and Person: Essays by Richard De Smet, ed. Ivo Coelho, is finally out of the press (Motilal Banarsidass, Delhi). I received the first copy this morning. The cover price is Rs 695, but I am willing to part with the copies due to me for Rs 350 only. Postage extra for foreign orders only; please specify surface mail or air mail.

You can send your DD / MO directly to me:
Ivo Coelho, SDB
Don Bosco School and Parish
Don Bosco Marg
Nashik 422 005
What is the book about? Well, it is the first collection of Fr De Smet's essays - something he was always dreaming about. (Richard De Smet was a Jesuit Indologist who taught us at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, Pune; a well-known figure in Indological circles in India and abroad, especially for his Sankara studies.) All 14 essays revolve around the topic of the person - divine as well as human. In several essays, De Smet shows how the nirguna Brahman, or the Brahman without qualities, which most Indologists and Hindus tend to translate as impersonal, is really personal - provided 'personal' is understood in the classical sense that was hammered out in the Christian effort to speak about the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation. For the first time, all these essays are available within the covers of a single book. Something that every library in India should have, seeing that the clarification of this point is one of the significant gains in interreligious and intercultural dialogue of the closing decades of the last century.

Sunday 6 December 2009

Fr Josef Neuner, SJ, passes away

Fr Josef Neuner passed away on 3 December 2009, Feast of St Francis Xavier. I believe Fr Neuner was more than 100 years old. A fitting day - feast of a great Jesuit missionary - Neuner was a great latter day missionary, with all the differences that 400 years make: a man of dialogue, of great respect for the religions of the world and of India, yet a man of deep faith in Christ and in his Church. RIP, Fr Neuner.
4th December 2009

This is Fr. Noel Sheth, S.J. writing. I am at present in Manila, the Philippines, teaching a course on Buddhism at the Ateneo de Manila. I just got news about the passing away of Fr. Josef Neuner, S.J. Please pass on this news (see below) to those who knew him. The death of this renowned theologian, peritus of Vatican II, and one of the pillars of Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, leaves a great void in Pune, in India and the world.

Centenarian Fr. Josef Neuner, S.J. passed away last night (3rd December, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Patron of India) at the Pune Provincial's House, Sanjeevan Ashram. His funeral is at 4.30 p.m. today in Papal Seminary-Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth. He will be buried in the Campus Cemetery, in accordance with his wish to be buried in the place where he spent most of his life, animating the professors and the students, building up the Church in India and radiating his influence throughout the world.

I thank God for the gift of Neuner to Jnana-Deepa Vidyapeeth, to Pune, to India and the world. May he continue to be an inspiration to all of us and in this way live on in our memories and our deeds.


Noel Sheth, S.J.

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