Friday 24 December 2010

Chae Young Kim in Nashik





Chae Young Kim from the Jesuit Sogang University, Korea is here for a visit. He had been invited to the 400 years celebration of the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, where he gave a talk on religious value in Lonergan.

Chae Young is a William James scholar who subsequently discovered an interest in Lonergan. He has an article on the two in the recent issue of The Heythrop Journal.

From Mumbai he proceeds to Cochin where he attends another seminar.

Chae Young is one of the original members of the not-very-active Asian Lonergan Association (ALA). But there is hope that he might be able to organize a seminar in Korea some time soon... He has contacts or is perhaps a member or consultant to the Korean Ministry of Education.

Longing and yearning

This morning, 24 December, the gospel was Zechariah singing the Benedictus.

Despite the fact that we recite this everyday, the song is so amazing. The longing of ages that erupts on the lips of Zechariah. That eruption can happen only if there is the longing.

I thought of St Exupery's The Little Prince, and what the fox says to the prince: come at the same time every day, so that already an hour before you come I can begin waiting for you in expectation...

The waiting is part of the coming. Without the Advent, there is no Christmas.

So: am I waiting? Do I long? Yes and no, not always, not completely. But yes, so many longings: for friendship, for relaxation, for fun, for good conversation, for food, for drink, for sleep....

And Augustine teaches us so beautifully: all these longings are really in the end longings for God. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

And John Paul II: the longing and yearning for God is inscribed into our very bodies: our sexuality is this longing and yearning, obscurely so often, for God. That is mind-blowing. That is so unreal. Yet... the play of real and un-real, sat and a-sat...

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Leaping and dancing

Wonderful set of readings at Mass this morning (21 December): the Beloved coming leaping over the mountains (Song of Songs), the extraordinary image of God dancing in joy over his people (Zephaniah), and then the babe in Elizabeth's womb dancing (skirtan, usually translated as leaping) at the approach of the new Ark of the Covenant bearing the Glory of God....

Ratzinger in Daughter Sion invites Christians to rediscover the element of rejoicing in their prayer, rejoicing at the Incarnation. With John the Baptist we learn to dance at the coming of the Lord.

What struck me was that it is first God who coming leaping over the mountains, it is God who dances for joy over his people, over us. He is more thrilled to be coming to us, than we are at the fact of his coming. For he came unto his own, and his own received him not. The ox and the ass know their owner, but the Lord's people do not recognize their Master.

And here lies the Good News: that it is God who is more thrilled to be with us, than we with him. He is EMMANUEL. He is JOY.

Christmas decorations

I saw the Advent wreath with its four candles - properly placed, that is, horizontal - in the SHTC chapel this morning, and thought of Christmas decorations in India: so foreign, so utterly unconnected with anything that we experience out here: imitation holly, mistletoe, artificial Christmas pine trees, and often even the snow....

Perhaps Christianity has not yet penetrated into our subconscious, to generate from there a new way of looking at things, new ways of expressing ourselves.... Why not marigolds and mango leaves, for instance? But perhaps in Goa we have gone some way in this direction, when we use date palm fronds and those triangular pieces of coloured tissue paper on strings...

Or perhaps much of the Christianity we received came from a period of Christianity where the controls over meaning had been established tightly, and in addition there was a dominant classicism that believed in culture with a capital C, and meant European culture.

Yet the incarnation should mean incarnation: the Lord comes into this culture, and rises from within it....

Monday 20 December 2010

Human action

This is wonderful, from Lonergan: “No man can be better than he knows how and no man can be worse than his temptations and opportunities.” (Lonergan, "Essay in Fundamental Sociology," in Lonergan's Early Economic Research, ed. Michael Shute [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010] 19)

Lonergan is explaining the link between 'immanent intellectual acts' and the flow of history. The link is the pre-motion, and the principle that quidquid movetur ab alio movetur. Thus any action is moved by a previous action; and past actions become preconditions for later ones.


Could this be a metaphysical way of putting what Gadamer calls Wirkungsgeschichte?


Whatever: the opening phrase is wonderfully insightful: no man can be better than he knows how, and no man can be worse than his temptations and opportunities.


Though I wonder about the first part: no man can be better than he knows how. Lonergan is far from formulating the way down, and is still to begin his work on operative grace. 

Saturday 18 December 2010

Shrirampur and Manchi

Just back from Shrirampur, the ordination of Rajesh Bansode, nephew of Annabai Rohom (she is his aatya). Annabai was very keen on going, and had requested one of us to accompany her. Ajay and I did, taking our old jeep for its first long journey after a very long time, with Pagare driving. (The jeep behaved, more or less, though one of the tyres is overheating, and something is rattling somewhere....)

The ordination was good. Bansode belongs to the Pune diocese, so Bishop Thomas Dabre ordained him. There were a good number of priests from Pune, but also from Mumbai, since Bansode was at Goregaon seminary. A goodly group of people from Mumbai too, from various parishes where he served.

I met Ranjeet Lokhande after very long. He is a clerk in the Jesuit school at Shrirampur; we had met in a Youth Adhiveshan long ago at Divyadaan, and have kept in touch ever since. He married a girl from Belgaum in 2002, and has a son in Std III.





Visit to Ajay's sister's place outside Shrirampur, and then to Ajay's parents' house at Manchi, off Sangamner. Wonderfully beautiful: a gramin bhag, slightly hilly, and extremely peaceful, idyllic even. A little house in the mala, which means a house in the midst of one's fields: chana (harbara), wheat, onions just planted; bajra and kabuli chana in the house; bulls, goats, hens, dogs, cats.... Ajay tells me there are foxes, landga (wolf? jackal?), and leopards in abundance. Plenty of water, so the place is green. But, as Ajay's father said, not possible to live off one's land any more. He works in the Pravaranagar sugar factory, besides managing the fields with his mother and his wife. The children are all working in the cities, and have no interest in returning to the farm... I wonder what the future of these astounding places is.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

More on Bro P.M. Thomas

Bro P.M. Thomas was born in Kerala in 1934. He joined the Salesian aspirantate at Tirupattur, and from there went to the Salesian novitiate at Yercaud, I think. His intention was to become a Salesian priest, but during the novitiate he discovered that he was called to be a Salesian Brother. He went on to become one of the outstanding Salesian Brothers in the history of Salesians in India.

As a young brother he was sent to the house of Don Bosco Matunga. He did his B.Ed., and in later life also his M.Ed. After several years as teacher and assistant (Salesian Brothers would continue to be Assistants even after perpetual profession), he was appointed Principal and Head Master of the new school at Dominic Savio Andheri.

I first came to know him when he was appointed (once again, I think) Principal, Head Master and Prefect of Studies of the aspirantate at Don Bosco Lonavla in the mid 1970s. I think I was in Std X when he came; he was my principal during my Std XI, which was the last of the old SSC batch. I remember Bro Thomas for his fiery Good Morning talks, his passion at games (he was very good at football and hockey), his creative ways of teaching mathematics, and above all the creative ways he made us study.

After my novitiate, my memories of Bro Thomas are in the context of Tony De Mello and A.S. Neill's Summerhill: both were very popular and were being widely read and discussed in the province. Various young Salesians were finding that the Preventive System was outdated. Bro Thomas was one of the ardent defenders of Don Bosco and the Salesian tradition, and he could not bear to hear anything about Summerhill and the new systems of education.

When I returned to Nashik after my stint in Rome, in 1994, I think Bro Thomas was already on the campus, but in STI. The Don Bosco school began in 1996, and he was the first Principal and Head Master. Eventually he shifted to the new Don Bosco community, and then, later, when he retired, to my community of Divyadaan. In retirement, he underwent two cataract operations which were not successful, leading to partial loss of eyesight. Despite this, he completed his PhD under Ms Bengalee of the Bombay University. (Ms Bengalee had been his teacher during his M.Ed., and had always appreciated Don Bosco's educative system.)

I remember Bro Thomas for his great enthusiasm for everything, and for his warm affection for people. It was he who set the friendly and homely tone that we still find in Don Bosco Nashik. He would stand at the gate of the school and welcome the children as they came in. He would spend time with them during the breaks. The teachers he appointed remember how he would correct them with great gentleness and patience. He also composed the prayers which we still recite in school.

He was and continued to be a great lover of Our Lady and Don Bosco till he died.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Bro P.M. Thomas passes away

We have just received the news that Bro. P.M. Thomas, SDB, passed away early this morning. It looks like he passed away in Andheri, where he was undergoing treatment at Holy Spirit Hospital.

I feel the loss very personally. Bro Thomas was my Principal and Head Master in my SSC year at Don Bosco Lonavla, and then very closely associated in later years, especially in Nashik, when he was first on the campus and then in my own community of Divyadaan, together with Fr Vincent Vaz and Fr Olivio Miranda. Those were the difficult years for Bro Thomas: he had just retired from many years of Principalship, and in addition he had almost lost his eyesight despite two cataract operations, or perhaps on account of them. He had been allowed to do his PhD in Education, which he pursued with his typical determination, notwithstanding his failing eyesight - and actually completed his research thesis and defence.

What I remember most at this moment is his great warmth, especially towards parents of confreres. When my own parents would visit Nashik, he was truly delighted, and would go out of his way to spend time with dad, making them in general feel at home - and he was not forcing himself to do so, he was truly happy to see them and be with them. I remember he came along to Goa to our house for the Golden Jubilee of my parents, and it was great having him there.

I remember also Bro Thomas' passion for all things Salesian. We would call him 'politician', because he never lost his enthusiasm for the expansion and growth of the province. We had gone once for a picnic to our property in Gorai, and the first thing he did was to go around and make development plans for the future. And he insisted on being kept in the loop about all new developments, and would get very annoyed if he were not. When I was provincial, I used to share with him one or two secrets, and then I was sure he would be not only happy but also keep his mouth shut.

He was of course most enthusiastic about the vocation of the Salesian brother, and he, I think, represented the Brothers at two general chapters. In later years, however, he would speak less about the Brother, perhaps because he did not always find the support, or perhaps because he felt more and more the resistance from certain quarters.

The years of his retirement were most difficult for him. At a time when he could have made himself useful by teaching philosophy of education and sharing his Salesian experience and insights, his sight failed him. He found it extremely difficult to pass his time. I know he would spend several hours praying, but he made no effort to hide his feelings and difficulties. Bro P.M. was one of those Salesians who was very much in touch with his emotions, and was able to express them quite directly. In this he was quite different from most other Salesians of his generation.

He was also a powerful communicator. He had the knack of communicating in a direct, personal, enthusiastic and touching way.

I think Bro Thomas is certainly one of the great Salesians that India has produced. God receive you into his eternal dwellings, Brother. I will miss you. Thank you for all you have been to me, and to us.

Friday 10 December 2010

Personalization in Formation

Chrys Saldanha's two-day course on Personalization in Formation has just concluded. Some interesting insights.

E.g. the difference between Compliance, Identification and Interiorization. Compliance: e.g. obedience out of fear of punishments or consequences. Identification: e.g. obedience out of fear of displeasing the authority. Interiorization: obedience out of mature adult conviction. On the part of formators, we can control people (a) by using the stick and carrot, (b) by using emotions, attachments, feelings. Both are defective ways of forming. The true process involves allowing the formee to become free from within: no dependence, no control, but a true centre of freedom and action.

MacGregor's X Theory and Y Theory.

Motivations: acting out of dissonant needs, neutral needs, values.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Antonio Fazio at Demaria Conference, Rome


Dr Antonio Fazio (centre), former Governor of the Banca d'Italia, at round table discussion,  Demaria Convegno, 4 December 2010, Universita' Pontificia Salesiana, Rome. (On the left is Pierluigi Roggero, and on the right don Giorgio Zevini, dean, Faculty of Theology, UPS.)

Dr Fazio gave an extremely interesting talk, outlining the historical reasons leading to the current global economic crisis. He pinpointed the adoption of Keynesian ideas (government controls) as the end of laizzez-faire, and the crisis as rooted in the loosening up of these controls in the 1990s, mainly in the US.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Indian hospitality

As Cloe, Giovanna and I were returning, with the intention of having a Maharashtrian meal at Sanskruti, we saw a wedding procession. We stopped and the two ladies were extremely interested in the proceedings. The bridegroom was just entering on his horse, the reception committee was waiting at the entrance of the pandal. Indian hospitality is so wonderful at these moments: soon there were people inviting us inside to take photos. I introduced myself as coming from Don Bosco; Mr Jadhav told me his son had studied in Don Bosco Matunga. He took us in, the ladies took photos with the bridal couple, showered rice grains, and then were invited to partake of the dinner, which they accepted happily.

Mr Jadhav's son Kedar joined us, and we were treated with great courtesy and hospitality. Then of course there were people from Don Bosco Nashik: Ms Sneha Punjabi, who used to be on our staff; Yash Deshmukh; and some others too. Wonderful evening.

From hostility to hospitality: that would be a nice way of putting it. Hospitality, great Indian value. A universal value, because the world is our home, our Oikos, and so hospitality is linked to the Oikumene, to eco-logy, to eco-nomy.

And the wedding feast, of course, is the great sign of the kingdom. The kingdom which is the house of God, and everyone is at home. Home: there again, a wonderful word.

Chamar leni, Nashik




Cloe, Giovanna and I visited the Chamar leni this evening. I had quite a time finding the right road. We were actually on the right road - which is the Peth road; then someone I asked told me to take the Dindori road, so we crossed over. Then I stopped again and asked; especially since I also bought some batata-wadas and bhajias, the man was very helpful. So we turned back, crossed over to the Peth road again, and went ahead. Luckily we asked again: we had just passed the narrow entry road to the right. There is a sort of indicator, which might be taken as a little hill indicating the Chamar leni, but was actually the signal for the Bhor Gad Air Force colony. The little road, quite well maintained, actually leads to the colony, but is used also by the Chamar leni and Gajapanth people. The Gajapanth is the complex of temples and rest houses at the bottom of the hill. We parked there, but were told that the temple closes at 6.00 p.m. Anyway we made the climb half way, took photos, enjoyed the scenery and the peace, and came down before it became really dark. Then we visited the temples: a very new one, constructed last year, full of white marble, Gujarati style, dedicated to Mahavira: he is the Mulyanath. There were three shrines: 12 tirthankaras on one side, 12 on the other, and a large statue of Mahavira in the centre. I asked Satish Gavare outside, he said that since the temple was dedicated to Mahavira, there was an extra statue of him.

From Satish I came to know a very interesting fact: that he was a local, Maharashtrian Jain, and that there are some 1000 families of Jains in Nashik. He told me that there were also Jains in Madhya Pradesh, Kolhapur and Solapur, and that Kolhapur was the largest Jain community in India. He knew of course about the Jain communities in Moodbidri and perhaps also in Tamil Nadu. He said there was very little written on the matter, but that the Sant of the Gajapanth was doing research on it.

He also said that the real name was Chamar leni, not Chambar leni. Chamar was the name of one of the Sants who attained kaivalya at the place. There was several others, he said.

When asked how old the Jain religion was, he said they believed it was anadikalin - eternal. The 24 tirthankaras are the ones of the present age; there are 24 of the past, and 24 that will come.

Cloe and Giovanna were delighted with the visit.

Tommaso Demaria, Salesian philosopher


I am just back from Rome, where I attended two conferences, one being on the work of the Salesian philosopher Tommaso Demaria. There is already a Wikipedia article in Italian on Demaria, who was born in 1906 and died in 1996. He studied at the Gregorian, and taught in various places, but mostly in Turin. He founded, with friends, a movement called Movimento Ideoprassico Dinontorganico - the last two being neologisms coined by him.

The Movement is still very much alive and active, and was fully involved in the Conference held at the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. It involves mostly laypeople, many of them personally involved in business. The two major Demaria sites are www.dinontorganici.it and www.nuovacostruttivita.it; one of them contains a whole list of businesses adhering to Demarian principles.

Demaria developed Thomism in the direction of a dynamic historical realism, a realist and theist alternative to Hegel and Marx, and also to capitalism which, according to him, is basically atheistic. He did not develop an economic theory; there might be good potential for a collaboration between Demarian and Lonerganian thought on this point. My basic paper on Lonergan's economics was, to my mind, rather well received.

Photo: from the Demaria conference, 4 December 2010, Rome.

Newman on the dialectic of truth

"Time clears up all errors: the untruth of today is driven out by the contrary untruth of tomorrow, and the many-coloured impressions of particular minds are all eventually absorbed by the consistent light of truth." (Cardinal John Henry Newman, 1850)

Friday 3 December 2010

Naples Lonergan Convegno, 2 December 2010





Yesterday Maria Arul Anthuvan, a past pupil of Divyadaan who is now working for a doctorate in philosophy at the UPS, and I, participated in a Lonergan conference at the famous Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici at via Monte di Dio, Naples.

The conference was on the centrality of the subject for Lonergan's method in theology. The chief organizer was Dr Edoardo Cibelli, a young Lonergan scholar, with Dr Cloe Taddei-Ferretti, a senior Lonergan scholar, both teaching at the Pontifical Theology Faculty of Southern Italy (PFTIM), Naples.

Since I happened to be in Rome for the Demaria conference at the UPS Cloe persuaded me to make a dash to Naples to give a short presentation. I spoke on the postmodern elements in Lonergan's notion of the subject: the option for knowing as identity rather than confrontation, the notion of consciousness as experience rather than perception (which flows from the first), understanding as a passion rather than an action, judgment and phronesis, etc. All these, which have echoes in postmodern thinking - the rejection of the subject-object split, of the Cartesian epistemological quaestio juris, of the recovery of Aristotle's phronesis as an allo genos gnoseos or another, primodial, type of knowing in contrast to scientific knowing which is derivative - are really premodern elements which Lonergan found in the tradition.

So perhaps Phil McShane is right: Lonergan's true originality lies in his science of economics.

Photos: Maria Arul Anthuvan; 'I'; Saturnino Muratore; Cloe Taddei-Ferretti.

Thursday 25 November 2010

The wind that blows through me

D.H. Lawrence, “Song of a Man who Has Come Through”:

Not I, not I, but the wind that blows through me!
A fine wind is blowing the new direction of Time.
If only I let it bear me, carry me, if only it carry me!
If only I am sensitive, subtle, oh, delicate, a winged gift!
If only, most lovely of all, I yield myself and am borrowed
By the fine, fine wind that takes it course through the chaos of the world....[1]



[1] Lawrence, cited in Peter de Rosa, Not I, Not I, But the Wind that Blows Through Me (Niles, Ill.: Argus, 1975) 9-10.

Monday 22 November 2010

Fr Robert Pen promoted to Reader at Divyadaan

Fr Mauro Mantovani, SDB, Dean of Philosophy, Universita' Pontificia Salesiana, Rome, has just given us the news that Fr Robert Pen, Principal, Divyadaan, has been promoted to the rank of Reader.

'Reader' (professore straordinario) is the second rank, the first being Lecturer and the third Professor (professore ordinario).

Fr Robert can now hold the chair of Semiotics; so far he was 'given care' of it.

Warm congratulations to Fr Robert on this promotion.

Sunday 21 November 2010

Don't pray...

An ancient pagan, who in pagandom was renowned and praised for his wisdom, sailed on the same ship with a wicked man. When the ship was in distress the wicked man lifted up his voice in prayer, but the wise man said to him: "Keep quiet, my friend; if heaven discovers that you are on board, the ship will go under."

The story seems to be from S. Kierkegaard, Edifying Discourses, I:74 (SV 4:58), cited in Parables of Kierkegaard, ed. Thomas C. Oden (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1978) 12.

Don't do that, darling

Have you heard of the story of the little girl who was sucking a lolly on the top of a bus and rubbing it now and again against the fur coat of the lady in front of her? Her mother said, 'Don't do that, darling, you'll get hairs all over your lolly.'

Monday 8 November 2010

Without Why

"The rose is without why, it blooms because it blooms. It pays no attention to itself, asks not whether it is seen." 

Die Rose ist ohne Warum.
Sie blühet, weil sie blühet.
Sie achtet nicht ihrer selbst,
fragt nicht, ob man sie siehet.

The original German is found in the Work "Cherubinischer Wandersmann Buch 1, 289:

Die Ros' ist ohn warumb
sie blühet weil sie blühet 
Sie achtt nicht jhrer selbst
fragt nicht ob man sie sihet.


Silesius, 17th century mystical poet meditating on Meister Eckhart's notion of living without reason or purpose, in his poem "Without Why." Heidegger uses Silesius' poem to make his point that Being is play, that it not an answer to the question 'why'. (See Joseph Mathew, In Search of the Divine: New Essays in Philosophical Theology (Bharananganam: Jeevan Books & Vidyabhavan Publications, 2010)

More about Ludvik

Savio Silveira has asked me to write a note about Bro Ludvik Zabret for SDB West.

I remember of course that we would invariably ask him about his escape from Yugoslavia, and his first reaction was to get angry. "Stupid fellows, why you want to ask about that?" Then a pause. Then he would start his story, in bits and pieces. I don't remember the details any more, but I think as a young man he escaped into Italy after some use of violence, which he was either ashamed of or else found too dangerous to talk about (we must remember that Yugoslavia continued to be Yugoslavia for many years that Ludvik was in India. The dissolution took place only very recently).

I have the impression that Ludvik had already made his novitiate and profession when this happened. I think I recall him telling us that the Rector and council of the aspirantate had decided to send him away. The Rector called him and told him to go. But Ludvik simply told him he would not go. And he stuck on, made his novitiate, and professed as a Salesian Brother.

From Italy he seems to have volunteered for the Indian missions, and was sent to the Southern Province, to what became the Madras Province. At some time he was assigned to an unfruitful waste of a huge piece of land at Uriyurkuppam, which he then transformed into Our Lady's garden: Sagayathottam. He had made 'super-8' movies of the transformation, and used to show them to us in the days when we still had 8mm and 16mm movie projectors. So besides being an agriculturist (I am a 'farmer', man), Ludvik was also a communications man, though I think he would have thought dimly about joining associations of communicators.

Ludvik brought several of his workers from Sagayathottam to Sulcorna, and if Sulcorna is what it is today, it is thanks to the hard work and creativity of Ludvik and his group of dedicated workers from Tamil Nadu. Several of us still remember the damming of the river at various places, the low 'bridge' over the river (much later paralleled by the 'high' bridge), the unique irrigation system, the large well dug a little away from the river to take advantage of the ground water all year round, the abundant pineapples and the wonderful pineapple wine, the chickoos as large as cricket balls, the endless plantations of cashew trees, the large mangoes, and the fields of sugarcane.

Of course Ludvik was a hunter. He had to be a hunter. And he had his hunting stories: the huge female wild boar that he had disturbed, and that almost gored him to death; the many golden maned Indian bisons, some of them still adorning the walls of the old residence at Sulcorna....

But marketing expert he was not. His forte was growing things, and growing them in abundance. Marketing - he had the disadvantage of his white skin. I am told that he had to let go of his produce, both at Margao and later at Nashik, at throwaway prices. People would simply not buy from him, and wait for him to get fed up, by evening, dump his produce, and return home.

Tuesday 2 November 2010

BA and MA philosophy at IGNOU

Not many know that IGNOU (Indira Gandhi National Open University, Delhi) now offers a BA and an MA course in philosophy.

Examinations are in June and December every year. About 1000 students are already enrolled in the two programs, making this, from what I have heard, the largest single unit for number of students in IGNOU.

The course notes are plentiful, and several of a very good academic standard. The two courses were worked out under the aegis of the CBCI Chair at IGNOU, which has Dr Gracious Thomas in charge (he is actually HoD of the Social Work School). The courses are listed under SOITS (School of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies) of IGNOU, and were worked out under the direction and hard work of Dr George Panthanmackel.

Youth Bible Companion 2011

Claretian Publications has brought out a handsome pocket size volume with the title Youth Bible Companion 2011, in collaboration with Tej-Prasarini, Don Bosco Communications, Matunga, Mumbai. Very attractive, and handy - about half the size of the Bible Diaries that Claretian and St Pauls have been bringing out. The reflections are by a number of people, including Brian Moras, Christopher George, Edison Fernandes, Glenford Lowe, Godfrey D'Souza, Isaac Arackaparambil, Joaquim Fernandes, Kenneth Pereira, Lawrence D'Souza, Louis Kumpiluvelil, Ralin De Souza, Valerian Pereira, and Wilfred D'Souza.

Price not given.

Congratulations to Claretian and to Joaquim Fernandes of Tej!

Sunday 31 October 2010

Bro Ludvik Zabret, SDB passes away

Fr Michael Fernandes told us this morning, here at Provincial House, Matunga, that Bro Ludvik Zabret, SDB had passed away yesterday at around 1200. The news had been conveyed by the Salesians in Slovenia to Fr Loddy Pires, thinking he was still provincial.

Bro Ludvik was a great pioneer in the field of agriculture. He was responsible for the greening of a desert land, now called Sagayathottam (Uriyurkuppam, Tamil Nadu). Later he was sent to join Fr Giuseppe Moja at Sulcorna, where again he worked wonders on the land, planting cashew trees and sugarcane. He had acres and acres of wonderful pineapples, but his problem was marketing, so he would turn the pineapples into wonderful wine... Bro Ludvik was later posted to Nashik, where again he transformed the land into a farm, with grapes, rice, wheat, a piggery and a dairy.

He spent the last years of his life in India at various places in Goa - Fatorda, Loutolim, Odxel. Reasons of health led him to return to his native Slovenia, where he was assigned to a lovely house for senior Salesians. I had the fortune of seeing his homeland during GC25, when he made arrangements with his then provincial to bring Romulo and myself over to Slovenia. We went by train to the border, where he had come to meet us; then we drove into Slovenia. Can't forget the pristine beauty of the place, and above all the food: tables groaning with food at breakfast, then again the same spread at the mid-morning break, and then lunch, and  then supper: hams, sausages, salamis, vegetables fresh and pickled, butter, bread, coffee and milk, cheese, and even a shot of the local grappa - both for breakfast and for the mid-morning break. It was then that I began to understand Ludvik's love affair with food: good food, fresh, home-grown: these are things that any Slovenian values, because the land is covered with snow half the year; the other half is for growing and storing.

God bless you, Bro Ludvik. RIP.

Saturday 30 October 2010

Fr Thomas Manickam CMI passes away

While at the ACPI Meeting at Faridabad, we received the news that Fr Thomas Manickam, CMI passed away after a brief struggle with cancer.

Fr Manickam was a regular visiting professor at the MPh level at Divyadaan, Nashik - teaching his beloved Ecosophy. Those who were there during his first stint will never forget his outspoken ecosophical recommendations - and also how he managed wonderfully to inspire his MPh students to not only study and do research, but to actually engage in taking care of the surroundings.

Fr Manickam grew to love Divyadaan and the community there. When Ashley and a few others visited Dharamaram some years ago, he introduced them to his CMI confreres saying, "This is my community."

RIP, Fr Manickam. Wonderful that you were give the grace to work almost till the very end.

IGNOU Seminar on Philosophy and Distance Learning




Immediately after the conclusion of the ACPI meeting, several of the participants attended another 2 day seminar organized by SOITS (School of Interdisciplinary and Transdisciplinary Studies) and CBCI Chair at the IGNOU campus, New Delhi, in the region of the Kutub Minar, Mehrauli.

The chief movers of the seminar were Prof. Gracious Thomas, HoD School of Social Work and CBCI Chair, and Dr John Peter Vallabadoss. Several of the participants gave papers, including Jeff Shawn Jose, a young MPh student of Dharmaram Vidya Ksetram, Bangalore. Keith D'Souza and I did a video recording on hermeneutics on the 28th, and then a live panel with Dr Babu Emmanuel, CBCI Spokesperson, on the same topic, with an audience of philosophers. There were also other panels on Distance Education and Philosophy, and Dalit Philosophy.

Great exposure for all of us.

The IGNOU campus is impressive, the Convention Centre magnificent, and the inaugurtion of the Seminar very well organized. The chief guest was Prof. Godabarisha Mishra, Member Secretary, Indian Council of Philosophical Research. The keynote address was given by Dr Vijay Kapur, IAS, advisor to the Vice Chancellor of IGNOU. Prof. Gracious Thomas gave the welome address, and Dr George Panthanmackel, who was responsible for creating the BA and MA Philosophy Syllabus for IGNOU, gave a speech.

35th Annual ACPI meeting, Faridabad

Just back from Faridabad, near Delhi, from a meeting of Christian Philosophers of India - the 35th Annual Meeting, I think it was. The topic was "Tradition and Innovation: Rootedness and Dynamic Openness". About 40 philosophers attended, from various parts of the country. Quite a decent meeting, with good papers on the whole.

There were the general philosophical papers: Johnson Puthenpurackal, Keith D'Souza, George Panthanmackel, Sekar Sebastin, and others. There was an interesting panel discussion on Ambedkar, Narayana Guru and Periyar as Indian Masters of Suspicion. I myself presented a paper on the Tradition-Innovation Dynamics in Christianity; John Peter Vallabadoss gave one on Hinduism. Unfortunately the person scheduled to give one on Islam did not turn up. Robert Pen gave a paper on Habermas' Theory of Communicative Action. Mathew Chandrankunnel gave a paper on Tradition and Innovation in the Science Religion relationship.

The highlight of this year's meeting was the release of the ACPI Encyclopedia of Philosophy, a 2 volume affair, handsomely brought out by ATC Bangalore, with Johnson Puthenpurackal and George Panthanmackel as the chief editors. Wonderful effort, with over 500 articles, 80% of which were written by various Christian philosophers in India.

The 11th volume of the ACPI papers, Violence and its Victims, edited by me, was also released at the same function.

Wonderful hospitality by the OCDs at Carmel Vidya Niketan, Pakhal Village, Pali P.O., Faridabad, Haryana State.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Why preach?


The Catholic missions went into crisis after Vatican II. Where before Catholics tended to believe that no one could be saved unless they were baptized, the Council taught that all people of good will could be saved, provided they lived according to their conscience. Where before other religions were often considered works of the devil, the Council recognized the seeds of truth in all religions. Where before missionaries would sometimes rely on argument to make a point, the Council encouraged dialogue and deep respect.
In our own country, conversion and missions have become bad words. Our fellow countrymen and women cannot understand why we should go around trying to convert people. It smacks of superiority. And, besides, there is the accusation that we are foreigners. The colonial hangover persists – Christianity came to India with the Portuguese and the British (forgetting sometimes that it came already with the Apostle Thomas to South India).
So why preach?
One reason is that good news of its nature calls to be shared. Bro Joe used to write letters to famous people, and he used to get replies from them. Now if you get a reply from the Queen of England, does it make sense to hide it in your file? You have to tell someone! Or when a child is born, do we shut our doors and windows and keep quiet about it? No, we tell everyone, our relatives, our neighbours, our friends. And when someone passes an exam, we distribute pedhas. Even Goenka of Vipassana, who would declare that Vipassana is not about converting people, at the end of the course would say: if you have been touched by what you have experienced, Go and Tell, Go and Tell! Good news of its nature calls to be shared. If Jesus is good news to you, you will share him.
Another reason is that if something is precious, it would be selfish to keep it for myself. This was one of the reasons that drove St Paul: the good news is not the private property or privilege of the Jews; it belongs to all the peoples of the world. And he considered a privilege to be chosen to spread that good news.
But the ultimate reason is not a reason of the head, it is a reason of the heart. I have been filled, I have been overwhelmed by God's love, and I can't keep quiet about it, it comes out in my eyes, on my face, in the way I live. St Paul is the greatest example of this: Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! It is a fire burning within me. The love of Christ drives me on. I count everything as rubbish for the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord! Who has known the length and the breadth and the height and the depth of the love of God? Who can separate us from the love of Christ Jesus? I live, no not I, but Christ my Lord lives in me.
So the question is: do I love? Am I in love? Have I been overwhelmed by the love of Christ Jesus, so that it overflows, and cannot be hidden?
Different times, different styles, of course. There is a sister who has been traveling by the local buses every day to attend class in one of our institutions for over 14 years. She says that she has never converted and will never convert anyone. I think instead that she is the most dangerous Christian in that town, simply because she knows hundreds of people, and she gives a good image of Christians to them: the bus conductors, the dirvers, the young people and others in the bus, the bhajiwala on the footpath, the mochi, the police officials, doctors…. She is practically family to several of these, present at every function, affectionately called aji. This is the new way of proclaiming the gospel: the way of friendship. And if and when people ask, be ready to give an account of your faith.
So there is a ministry today of wasting time – wasting time with people, spending time in the villages, attending social and cultural functions in the cities. We need to be willing to waste time, to have patience (away with false notions of punctuality), to know the language. Fr Francis d'Britto said at the Khristapurana book release function in Nashik last year: Fr Nelson Falcao is a gift of the Salesians to Marathi literature: set him aside for Marathi!
And: proclaim the good news always; sometimes use words. There may be laws against taking the name of Christ; but there can never be a law against kindness. Yet here is where we tend to fail! I will never forget a Muslim gentleman who told me: Father, tell your Father to be a Father. Or the election official in Mumbai who said to me: when I see Fathers, I get angry. Some of us government people give everyone a bad name by behaving rudely; but you are Fathers! You are Fathers of our fathers! You have no right to be rude! Or the Sindhi lady to Fr Bulchand: Father, aap ko gussa honeka haq nahin.
And again: love knows when to speak and when instead to keep silent. (Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est)

Humility, truth and gratitude

The gospel of today is the famous parable of the Pharisee and the Publican (Lk 18:9-14).

I was thinking about the link between humility and truth. True humility does not consist in a false negation of oneself. I don't see Jesus going around with this kind of humility. Humility instead means self-awareness, self-knowledge, self-acceptance. It is built on the truth of myself. But 'truth' goes even further. For what do I have that I have not received? And so the truly humble man recognizes that all life is gift, and lives in gratitude.

So humility is ultimately Eucharistic.

I can see Jesus walking tall through the fields of Galilee, holding his own in the houses of the Pharisees, at home in the company of tax-collectors and prostitutes, wonderfully all there, giving thanks to his Father for all the good things, and then also the bad. ("Although he was Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. He made his prayer with loud cries and entreaties, and because of his supplication his prayer was heard." Heard? How? By being allowed to drink the cup to the bitter dregs. And still: the institution of the Eucharist: thanking the Father before drinking the cup.)

Gutierrez on real suffering

Joe Mannath shared with us long ago about hearing Gustavo Gutierrez, one of the great fathers of Liberation Theology, at some North American University. Someone in the audience asked Gutierrez what he thought and felt about the Church which misunderstood him so much and caused him suffering. Gutierrez replied: the real sufferings are the sufferings of our people. We would be betraying them if we made too much of our own sufferings.

What a wonderful reply, and what a window into the soul of this great man.

Friday 15 October 2010

File photos from the past



From the files again... the first at Divyadaan, August 1999, the second at the Vivekananda Memorial, Kanyakumari, October 2000, during an ACPI meeting at the CMI Centre for Dialogue there....

Old photos of Swami Shilananda



Old photos of Swami Shilananda's Sanjivan Ashram... Just came across them in my collection. Wyman, Cletus, Blany, Swamiji, and myself in the first photo; Blany, Cletus, Swamiji, myself and Ashely in the second.

Thursday 14 October 2010

Madness

When life seems lunatic, who knows where madness lies? Perhaps to be too practical is madness. To surrender dreams - this may be madness. To seek treasure where there is only trash. Too much sanity may be madness. And maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be. 
Dale Wasserman, Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh, Man of La Mancha (New York: Dell Publications, 1966), 99, as cited in Michael Pennock, Moral Problems: What does a Christian do? (Notre Dame: Ave Maria Press, 1979) 76.

Don Bosco, the madman. And, much before, him, Jesus. And Paul: Fools for Christ's sake.

"Maddest of all, to see life as it is and not as it should be."

Discussion and dogmatism

When the air becomes dogmatic, discussion becomes a futile endeavour - a poor substitute for personal, painstaking intellectual probe - so the call for silence. (Pseudo Skeptic Ludwig)
The air can become dogmatic on the right. It can also become dogmatic on the left.

The only one that a pluralist cannot agree with is one who disagrees with him.

Wednesday 13 October 2010

Small wine makers of Nashik


Mr Phadtare was saying a few minutes ago that the small wine makers in Nashik had gone through a severe recession in the last two years, but that they were now finally coming out of it. The recession was caused, among other things, by unethical production and marketing practices by the larger wine makers: dumping of stocks; threatening retailers if they stocked other brands; bribing them not to stock other brands; buying even the retail sales personnel to move only their stock; buying wine in bulk from smaller makers, giving them a very small margin of profit or even not paying them at all; not paying growers, suppliers (of bottles, corks, chemicals, etc); and so on.

The small wine makers have decided to do two things: (1) cut back production; (2) create niche markets.

Cutting back production is reduction of turnover size, where turnover includes final sale. Such reduction cuts back costs of production, and is a realistic response to the long turnover period due to difficulty in sales. Creating niche markets is also an effort to increase turnover frequency by reducing the lag in final sales.

My question is: discounting the unethical factors that have entered, what phase are the small wine makers in? Stationary, surplus expansion, or basic expansion? Certainly not surplus expansion, because there are no radically new ideas in circulation as far as wine making is concerned, and, on the contrary, there has been cutting back of production. Can we say that there has been a surplus expansion, followed by a basic expansion? Or is it that they have always been in a stationary phase?

Mr Phadtare said that he had increased turnover size in an effort to meet costs, but that it had not worked: he landed up with huge initial and transitional payments, and huge deadstock: given the manipulation of the market, the final sales were simply not coming through.

Could it be that something has gone wrong, that we are in a trade cycle, and so larger concerns are (1) mopping up what profits there are to be had, (2) swallowing up or else destroying smaller concerns?

Stationary phase: the standard of living remains stable. There are really no profits; what looks like profits are actually the salaries of the producers. There is basic production; some setting aside for repair, maintenance, replacement; the crossover to the surplus circuit; surplus production with its own incomes and expenditures; the crossover to the basic circuit in terms of wages and salaries spent for basic goods and services.

Pray without losing heart

The gospel of the coming Sunday (29th of Year C) speaks about praying constantly without losing heart. It is once again Jesus who recommends this sort of prayer: pray earnestly, and without giving up, even if He delays in hearing you. Wonderful. So: instead of getting disheartened about things, discouraged about people and affairs, we turn to the Lord who has all hearts in his hands, and pray with insistence.

"Cor regis in manu Dei - quocumque voluerit, vertet illud." The heart of the king is in the hand of God - he turns it wherever he will. Basic text for Thomas Aquinas' reflection on grace: God has our hearts in his hand, and he turns them where he will.

The attitude of gratitude

I found last Sunday's gospel (about the 10 lepers and the one coming to thank Jesus) very inspiring - all the more so because we were hearing the Word in the beautiful surroundings of Swami Shilananda's ashram.

It struck me that you can have faith, but still be deficient in gratitude. The 10 lepers all had faith: they believed, they took Jesus at his word, and went to show themselves to the priests, and on the way discovered that they were cured. But only one turned back to give thanks to the benefactor. And Jesus remarks on this: Were not all ten cured? Has only this foreigner returned to give thanks?

Expecting thanks can be a dangerous thing, and a form of the will to power, as Henri Nouwen has pointed out. But giving thanks is something wonderful. It makes life eucharistic, and quietly joyful. We gave thanks for the fresh air at Sinnar, the hundreds of varieties of grass and vegetation in the one acre of land that Swamiji had fenced, the - beauty that emerges when the earth is left to itself, the physical absence of noise (there is little traffic noise at the ashram, especially when the wind is blowing west to east).

Expecting gratitude

The most subtle desire for power, and the most difficult to overcome, is the desire for thanks. As long as people keep thanking us for what we have done for them, they are, in effect, admitting that they were at least for some time dependent on us. And it is perhaps exactly for this reason that we find in areas where people are living in very poor conditions a certain resistance against explicit thankfulness. Nobody likes to be considered in need of help or as not being able to take care of himself - facts which an expression of thanks often explicitly asserts. It should therefore come as no surprise that men and women who have spent many days helping others seldom hear a word of thanks. It would only be, in such cases, a reminder of dependency and a threat to self-respect. Not only individuals but even whole countries have thus refused gifts of money and badly needed medicine because they preferred to die with what self-respect they had rather than to live with the feeling that others have to keep them on their feet. (Henri Nouwen, Creative Ministry, 75) 
A.S. Neill, in Summerhill 266, speaks of parents who expect gratitude; how the child hates to be indebted to anyone; and the phenomenon of hating the benefactor that Nouwen has noted above.

George Kollashany in a Goodnight long ago on the street boys ministry: Those for whom we have done least by way of material benefits are the most grateful. It seems that what they appreciate most is the fact that we have treated them as equals. Often we forget this when we bring these boys into our institutions.

We have, in fact, often wondered why our own boarders rarely become our benefactors (though there are honorable exceptions), and rarely join the past pupils association.

Tuesday 12 October 2010

Root of the Great Depression of 1929


One of Lonergan's aims in working out his economics was to explain the root of the Great Depression of 1929 and its consequences.

According to Lonergan, money decisions must adapt to the phases of production, rather than vice versa. The root of the Depression was therefore, according to him, a misunderstanding of the 'pure surplus income' generated in the phase of surplus expansion, as manifested in price and income variations.

Given that the capitalist mantra is 'maximization of profit', the capitalists tend to two types of mistakes. (1) Thinking that pure surplus income is meant for their private use, when actually it should go back to fuel the surplus expansion. (2) Wanting the surplus expansion phase to continue indefinitely, when it should naturally slow down, and the fruits of the increased production of new means of production, as well as of higher wages, should be now seen in a basic expansion.

On the part of workers and trade unions, one again pure surplus income tends to be misinterpreted as an opportunity to demand higher wages, when instead it should be seen as needed to fuel the surplus expansion. Also, if higher wages are successful obtained during a surplus expansion, more money flows to the basic circuit, while the amount of goods in that circuit has not increased. This leads to an inequality of supply and demand, leading in turn to higher prices and inflation. Inflation can lead to demand for still higher wages, and so we have a wage-spiral. The logical consequence is a drain of money from the surplus circuit, a premature cutting short of the surplus expansion, and therefore possibility of the eventual basic expansion. (M. Shute, Lonergan's Discovery of Economic Science [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010] 205-9.)

Saturday 9 October 2010

A plus factor...

I was just recalling that, while what we got in school might have been the basic bread and butter of (intellectual) growth, the significant plus factor when I was a child were the books of puzzles and things that Dad would get for us. This was rather extraordinary for a lower middle class family, I realize now. The point was that Dad used to work in the Bombay docks, and from there he would get occasionally copies of these kind of books. They were a great hit with us kids. We went through them all and solved them; and when guests came, we would promptly inflict the books and puzzles and solutions on them. They were a delightful method of growth, a painless method, a powerful intellectual stimulus.... The equivalent of the internet today; only, they allowed more focus than the internet. A child like Sheetal Maria here in our house simply does not have such opportunities. But perhaps we could do something on the score....

Thursday 7 October 2010

The physicality of a book...

"'The book is a physical object,' says Sebastian, 'And I see it as a work of art, where binding, typography, edition matter.' He recalls the time the late T.G. Vaidyanathan bought a book for its physical beauty alone. He had no intention of reading it, merely caressed it and put it back on the shelf. On another occasion he taped the edges of a book he was smitten by so it would never be opened." (Suresh Menon, "A Modest Miracle:The Groaning Shelf is a stylish, cultural landmark communicating one man's passion to a larger audience," The Hindu, Sunday, 3 October 2010, p. 2. Menon is citing Pradeep Sebastian, The Groaning Shelf, Hachete.)


John Arthos' The Inner Word in Gadamer's Hermeneutics is a book like that... beautifully printed and bound, a work of art. 

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Producing endless cars...

Germany is encouraging people to use bicycles and public transport instead of cars. Public transport is subsidized, and footpaths have cycle tracks.

Rome tried to reduce the number of vehicles on the roads by decreeing odd days and even days: cars with odd numbers only allowed on odd days, etc. People responded by buying two cars, one with an odd number, the other with an even one.

The point is that there is a problem. The current industrial model aims at maximization of production. Eventually a saturation point is reached, as for example with cars in the European nations. First the aim was one car per family; then two cars per family; perhaps now there is a move to encourage three cars per family - one for the husband, one for the wife, one for the kids.... Of course one solution is export. But then perhaps one is merely delaying facing the implications of the current model.

Then there is the need for infrastructure: what kind of infrastructure would we need in terms of roads and parking, if every family in India were to have a car? What about the impact on non-renewable energy resources, and the environment?

Is there another way? This is a great question. Gandhi had one suggestion - and Richard Howards and Joanna Swanger have been offering a very interesting reading of his suggestion in the recent issues of Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education. Lonergan seems to have another suggestion - one that I have still to understand fully - but his vision seems to be strangely Gandhian at least in its end point:
“Nor is it impossible that further developments in science should make small units self-sufficient on an ultramodern standard of living to eliminate commerce and industry, to transform agriculture into a superchemistry, to clear away finance and even money, to make economic solidarity a memory, and power over nature the only difference between high civilization and primitive gardening.” (For a New Political Economy, CWL 21:20)
What are the answers? I don't have them. But we need to reflect. No short cuts. Hard work.

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Karunapuram...




Just back from Karunapuram, Warangal, Andhra Pradesh. Long (and somewhat tiring) journey by the Kakinada Shirdi Express, made worse by the fact that it ran consistently 40 minutes late, making me miss my connecting Jan Shatabdi to Nashik... The Deputy Station Superintendent refused to endorse my ticket for the next train, on the grounds that I had two tickets and not one: it seems you should have the same PNR on both tickets.... The type of bureaucratism in our Indian Railways! I walked out in a huff to buy a current ticket, found the lines interminably long, and so in the same huff went to the ST stand and finally got a bus which made its way two and a half hours later into Naveen CBS....

Whatever. I had an experience of another facet of our vast country. The number of Sai Bhaktas on this train is unbelievable. Some go from one Sai Baba (Shirdi) to another (Puttaparthi).

But back to Karunapuram: some 900 acres of land bought piece by piece from the Lambada community by Fr Colombo, a PIME missionary. Some 30 institutions counting.... Provincial Houses, Homes for the Deaf, the Blind, the AIDS affected, the Aged; a hospital; a couple of colleges; 4 or 5 formation houses, including our own Don Bosco Vishwajyothi; and so on. Karunapuram, City of Compassion: a whole 'religious' town.

The highlight for me was the Ashram That Was and the Ashram That Is (Maliekal language): the Ashram That Is is run by Brother Paulson, now Paulaiah, and attracts some 35,000 people, mostly not Christian, on Saturdays. Amazing. I can't say anything else. Paulaiah has suffered at the hands of the official church: misunderstanding, perhaps even calumny. My impression is that he has borne it well. Sign of genuineness. Wonderful. He has been joined now by a young Dr Prakash Rao, doctor in pharmacology, who discovered a vocation to preach the gospel alongside Brother Paulaiah. The two have decided not to use the donations from the people for their own livelihood; Rao's father has helped them buy land, and they have a small farm, quite flourishing when I saw it (they use the Japanese method of cultivating rice, for example).

One of the highlights of Vishwajyoti is the Immersion program: every year, all the students (so not only Salesians) of the college go for a 15 day experience: first years to the Street Children's works of the province; second years to nearby villages; third years mostly to Ravalapalem (to Pallithanam's PARA, I would guess). They are accompanied by a staff member. Something that our province used to have immediately after the novitiate, which we discontinued, and never reintroduced. Perhaps something we might have to look into.

And of course, another highlight: my first Rajnikant film: Robot - Enthiran, starring also Aishwarya Rai. Extremely slick, high tech, and a grosser. But not one of Rajnikant's best, I would venture. So that means that I have to see another one.

But: I think I should consider myself fortunate to have seen Robot: people have been seen queuing up the whole night to see the 4.00 a.m. show - yes, the 4.00 a.m. show - in Chennai.

Thursday 23 September 2010

Vanity of vanities

Why was Ecclesiastes included in the Bible, with its rather depressing outlook on life? Perhaps because the experience of emptiness and meaninglessness is never far from most people. If it is far and strange, it is perhaps because we are filling our lives with something - or else allowing our lives to be filled with God. If it is God, fine. If not, then the question - raised by Ecclesiastes - what are you filling your life with? Power, money, work, fame, pleasure... Things legitimate and not.

Emptiness, vanity, meaningless: the nihilistic experience. Postmodernism's recognition of this aspect of our lives, in contrast to the triumphalism of reason and the autonomous technocratic subject in modernity.

Jesus communicator

This morning's gospel: Jesus coming to the notice of Herod. Amazing communicator he must have been. "And news about his travelled quickly around the length and breadth of Judaea and the surrounding countryside." "And people were amazed by him." Herod. The Roman authorities and Pilate. The Jewish authorities, naturally.

Thursday 16 September 2010

The reciprocity of loving, again

Milbank’s position is “rejection of ethics as unilateral gift and sacrifice, in favor of ethics as gift-exchange and openness to divine grace”. [John Milbank, “The Midwinter Sacrifice,” The Blackwell Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Graham Ward. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2001) 122.] Unmistakable echoes with Jose Luis Plascencia's retreat at GC26: desiring the response as part of true loving. "Strive to make yourselves loved."

Interestingly, Milbank carries this argument in another direction: the question of the truly ethical. Sartre saying that atheists are the true heroes, because they do good without hope of reward. Milbank questions this. He questions a Christian ethics conceived as essentially other-regarding and, in consequence, sacrificial. Such an ethics, he says, can be readily secularized, as Jan Patocka argued: because omission of the hope of resurrection will make it even more other-regarding. Thus Patocka and Derrida more ambiguously in his wake, offer us a ‘heretical’ Christianity, which is really a demythologized one, more Christian than Christianity. In this perfected Christianity, the Lucan injunction not to invite those who can invite you back in return is no longer to be contaminated by the Lucan promise of eschatological reward. If this is true, then it would seem that Christianity’s true destiny is to be demythologized and secularized. [111.]

Milbank's view: Christianity sticks with and even augments the goal of happiness; it abandons the goal of self-possession, and, along with it, the cognate themes of self-achievement, self-control, and above all self-government. The ethical is only imaginable as a mutual and unending gift-exchange, conceived in Christianity as absolute faith in the arrival of the divine gift, which is grace. [111.]

He goes on to point out that the sustaining of such an exchange requires a notion of resurrection and faith in the notion of participation in resurrection. The first element, gift-exchange, is figured either as feast or marriage, and is therefore appropriately combined with the second, resurrection, in terms of images of the heavenly banquet or eschatological marriage of God and humanity. [121.]

Caputo on Star Wars

John Caputo has a brilliant take on Star Wars: the series, he says is a re- (not de- ) mythologization of the religious sense of life. “It simply sheds its pre-Copernican tropes and the classic metaphysical dualism in order to assume a new imaginative form.” A tour de force! [On Religion (London and New York: Routledge, 2001) 78-90.]

Agape and eros

Jose Luis Plascencia's integration of agape and eros, and his insistence on love as love for this particular person, is echoed here by Balthasar and Loughlin in the context of Radical Orthodoxy:
"Following Balthasar, Gerard Loughlin's essay on 'erotics' rightly eschews as unbiblical any duality of agape and eros; without the latter, how can love be for this specific person and so be love at all? And how can love unite, to others and to God?" (John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward. “Introduction. Suspending the Material: The Turn of Radical Orthodoxy,” Radical Orthodoxy: A New Theology, ed. John Milbank, Catherine Pickstock, and Graham Ward [London and New York: Routledge, 1999] 12)

Friday 10 September 2010

Einstein goes to tea

Phil narrated a story that Lonergan liked to tell. It seems that Einstein was invited to tea by a lady who, in the course of the visit, said to the great man: Prof. Einstein, I am terribly interested in your Theory of Relativity, but I know nothing of mathematics, and I am just turned off by equations. Could you explain your theory to me? Einstein, it seems, said: Lady, I cannot explain Relativity over a cup of tea.

Our culture expects shortcuts to understanding, forgetting that Kepler took 10 years of messing about with the data to arrive at his laws, and that Lonergan took 14 years of messing about with the data to arrive at his economic theories.

You know when you have a really serious concept when you can remember the weeks and the months it took you to come to it, and when you can easily spend ten hours talking about it, said Phil.

But most of the time we are simply educated out of our minds. As when a teacher comes in and says to the class, what is the definition of a circle? And then proceeds to write the definition on the board: A circle is a locus of co-planar points equidistant from a fixed point. What has the class got? Simply a more complicated name in place of a simple name.

Wednesday 8 September 2010

"Our Lady is present here among you..."

For most Salesians the phrase that gives the title to this blog entry will be a familiar quotation from their founder, Don Bosco. Don Bosco said this when, in his old age, he was visiting the Salesian Sisters at ... was it Nizza Monferrato? He said he could see Our Lady walking about in the house. His secretary tried to interpret him: Don Bosco says it is as if Our Lady were present among you. But the old man insisted: She is walking about among you, I can see her.

Yesterday I was startled when Phil McShane said something along the same lines to the Second Year BPh: the molecular vibrations of the heart of Our Lady are present here in this room where we are sitting, he said. Physicists are convinced that the vibrations from 13 million years ago are still present, and they can even measure their temperature (several hundred degrees below zero!). Waves criss-cross the globe and make it possible for people to communicate on cell phones in a way that might have seemed like magic to our ancestors. Our Lady, the most perfect human being if you don't take Jesus into account, loved perfectly; and the vibrations of that heart are still around.

Wonderfully interesting. The physicality of the Incarnation. Like when I recalled that, years ago as a student at my first Lonergan Workshop in 1991, Phil saw me saying the Morning Prayer; and Phil himself was reading from Insight early in the morning. But they are both part of the same thing, he said to me yesterday... Praise of God in different ways!

Charlotte Tansey RIP, homily by Michael Czerny, SJ

I just received news from Therese Mason that Charlotte Tansey passed away a few days ago. I make free to publish here Fr Michael Czerny's homily at the funeral, forwarded to me by Therese.

As Fr Czerny makes clear, Charlotte was a founding director of the Thomas More Institute, and in that capacity associated for a long time with Bernard Lonergan in all sorts of marvellous ways. I think I met her briefly at a Lonergan Workshop, perhaps it was last year. This year she wasn't there. Now she has gone into the divine Embrace... Thank you, Charlotte, for the gift of your life.

SEVEN LAST WORDS

Charlotte Hunter Tansey was a founding director of the Thomas More Institute (TMI) sixty-five years ago (1945). Fr Eric O’Connor, S.J., was its President and Dean of Studies until his death just before Christmas 1980. Charlotte was then President and Director of Studies for eighteen years until her retirement in 1998.

I begin with a confession: standing before you is a long-time friend of Charlotte Tansey. Soon after I was ordained, 37 years ago, we met at TMI. She has been a fine colleague, a staunch supporter and challenger, an elder sister. Without being together much, we have lived much together. And I never left TMI without an armful of well-chosen new paperbacks.

This sermon is to honour Charlotte and celebrate her life among us as fellow-learners, friends and especially family – her sisters Barbara and Carol, many nephews and nieces and godchildren and in-laws. The sermon is entitled Seven Last Words. The seven last words of Christ on the Cross somehow synthesize his few intense years of going “about doing good and healing” (Acts 10:38). But these seven are at the same time the first words (prolegomena) of his risen Life, and of ours. Similarly, I want to evoke seven words which for me sum up Charlotte’s long full life, point her to new life face-to-face with God, and serve as a kind of heritage for us.

1. The first word, Learner, already evoked, can be translated as curiosity at the centre of one’s life. From the very beginning of my involvement with TMI and my friendship with Charlotte, I have been in awe of the planning which took place with great and stressful creativity every summer. “The process for planning and offering different courses each year came from a wish to focus on some immediately significant concerns just under the consciousness of people, not what they would ask for, but what they would recognize as wanted when provoked by a little cluster of preoccupations. The great effort was for the creation and annual re-creation each summer of the whole endeavour.” The purpose, she said, was “to create a context in which persons can report and converse from the depth of life experience.” It is then “a rare triumph” for each one to pay “attention to one’s own fullest wish to understand and appreciate” (Cathleen Going).
Appropriately, therefore, Charlotte´s own life-long struggle was to remain, herself, a learner rather than succumb to the easier (also more lucrative and prestigious) temptation of being a professor or, after her retirement, the suicidal temptation of shutting herself into her own certainties.

2. Adult. Elders among us will remember – younger ones will be surprised to discover – the context in which Charlotte became an adult and in which the TMI was born. “We lay people, mainly in our twenties, came together in 1944 with a common yearning to join the civilization by ‘getting to know’ more profoundly. Our appetite was a response to a decadent Thomism, to insufficient exposure to several sciences, and to a great deal of dogmatism.” As Catholics they longed for a wise Mother Church, not a smothering one who kept her own childish and cut off from the world. Such yearning and striving culminated in the 1960s with Vatican II in the Church and the Quiet Revolution in Québec.
The struggle for maturity is not new. In our first reading, Thérèse Mason described: “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.” Childishness consists in parroting concepts and fashionable clichés rather than rejoicing in ideas that meet real questions. But for an intelligent young woman in Church and society at that time to “put an end to childish ways” and become an intelligent adult, was not easy. It too takes a lifetime. Twenty years ago, Charlotte said about herself: "I don't mind someone knowing more than I do, if I can speak too."
Listen now to a mature French Canadian priest who testifies, “Charlotte gave me very good advice when I was an undergraduate student 25 years ago, advice that freed me to trust my thoughts and feelings.” Free to trust – that is adulthood!

3. The third “last word” may startle you, it is so unfashionable: Virgin. Virginity is a state of life which Charlotte chose in order to dedicate herself to the first two, Adult and Learner. In this regard, she spoke about the early community of TMI: “We were predominantly celibate. This made us more flexible about the time we worked. Our home responsibilities did not catch up with us for years, until relatives aged and their health declined.” So God somehow consecrated Charlotte for the work of liberating his people from mental slavery.
In 1973, three of us newly-ordained Jesuits became involved at TMI in the planning of the Jesuit Congress, whose chairman was Fr O’Connor. Grateful for our work, he invited Charlotte, Cathleen Going and the three of us to a Spanish restaurant. While studying the menu for a while, Eric’s attention was caught by the paella. “You had it before,” commented Charlotte. Looking relieved, Eric asked back, “And please do you remember, did I like it?” She reassured him that he had and thus freed him of the burden of choosing; he ordered it and enjoyed it again. To which one of the young Jesuit companions commented, “That’s as close to marriage as we are allowed to get" and the vignette remains a lifelong beacon for our vowed chastity. To be alone for others is great sacrifice and can be of divine fruitfulness.

4. So, fourthly, Community. In today’s Gospel, two disciples puzzled sadly over “all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, and asked them, “What are you discussing with each other while you walk along looking sad?” Later, to celebrate and indeed complete their learning, they sat down together at table for the breaking of the bread. For Charlotte, discussion + dinner = community, a circle of learners become friends and fellow guests at table. In her Psalm 22, “I can know community with many strangers, and have been accepted to speak and to listen” and to dine.
But community is no easy formula either, and with her retirement 12 years ago, it got put to a terrible test and practically wrecked. Listen to her disappointment penned in a poem around 1999 as she laments: “... jolts to lives completed, reluctant celebrations, broken intimacies, faith surprised.
I had thought insight conceived mercy, then action,
that they surged like twins from the womb of time,
but Caesarean it is, if at all.
The word is frozen in the heart.
Petals curl inward without light.”
So if the first three words – Learner, Adult, Virgin – generate community, community is neither automatic nor static. When crucified, it can rise again only with the Divine gift of forgiveness. For Charlotte finally to accept this grace, to forgive others, meant for her to grow more pure, more mature, more open than even she had ever dreamt possible. And so it was.

5. The fifth word is Courage. What is courage? St Augustine tells us that Hope has two beautiful daughters: their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see to it that they not remain the way they are.
Charlotte’s primordial anger was directed against the impoverishing disorder in people’s minds and hearts, whether bad habits acquired from poor teachers or laziness or self-interest. And her courage stopped at nothing in the campaign to rattle loose those apparent certainties which block further learning or – as Bernard Lonergan, S.J., her greatest mentor, would say – block self-appropriation and self-transcendence. Personally I am very grateful, even if I sometimes felt more the victim of her courage than its beneficiary.
In the Eucharist after the Our Father, we shall greet one another with the traditional “peace of Christ!” According to Charlotte, Christian peace remains prone to misunderstanding as sheep-like complacency and passivity. So today, when we greet one another, let us add courage and wish one another “Peace and courage of Christ!” which includes Charlotte’s.

6. The sixth word is Knowledge. Charlotte can borrow the words of St Paul to report from the depths of her life experience: “For we know only in part, and we prophesy only in part, but when the complete comes, the partial will come to an end... For now we see in a mirror, darkly, as in a riddle, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.”
At the Jewish General two Thursday evenings ago (19 August), in company with Moira Carley and Brian McDonough, we heard Charlotte declare: “I have always wondered what the latter moments of life would be like,” and now she was discovering how her whole life, in its diminishment and suffering, in its unfinished learning and still growing knowledge, had become a total prayer. Moira was singing, “Take, Lord, receive all I have and possess - my memory, understanding, my entire will - you have given all to me, now I return it - dispose of it entirely according to your will.” So to discover oneself and realize that “I am a knower” can be true, if you struggle as Charlotte did, and evolves at every stage.
Charlotte prays in her Psalm 22: “He who is unknowable wishes to be known. / He is my teacher, and what I shall want / may be caught up in mystery beyond my horizon.” All the years until the end, God “beckons towards life and wonder beyond measure” and now these are the new beginning.

7. The last “last word” is Love, obviously, is it not? Charlotte loved very very deeply, through all and in all and above all a great lover, but not romantically! She railed against surface culture, and sentimentality she could not bear. But she desperately wanted people to love right, which they absolutely could not do if they were not attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible. Now “give me only your love and your grace, that’s enough for me - your love and your grace are enough for me. I want a funeral Eucharist,” she told Moira, “I want all the trimmings” – including, I hope, this sermon!

On that Thursday evening ten days ago, Charlotte was more alert and seeing better than she had in a very long time. She was in a lot of pain, constant she said and all over. Most moving for me was her declaration that she had been waiting for me and, with our encounter, I wished her to feel liberated and free to let go and pass over.

After the seventh and final word of Love, let me quote the Hmmm she kept saying: Hmmm, I hear you. Hmmm, I am considering what you say. Hmmm, I accept everything, my heart is burning within me, and even now there is still more. Amen. Amen. Amen.

Michael Czerny, S.J.
Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace
St Gabriel’s, Pointe St Charles, 30 August 2010

Sunday 5 September 2010

A new part of the Summa Theologiae

Here is the Summa Theologiae Part IV, Q. 1, a. 1, written on the occasion of Teachers' Day, by Thomas William Aquinas D'Souza:

Question one

First Article

WHETHER ANYONE ON EARTH CAN BE CALLED A TEACHER?

Thus we proceed to the first article:

Objection 1: It seems that no one on earth can be called a teacher. Now the definition of a teacher holds that he/she is a knowledgeable person. But the ultimate knowledge is God, for He is Omniscient. Therefore no one on earth can be called a teacher.

Objection 2: Further no one on earth can be called a teacher. For Jesus himself says “Do not call anyone on earth your teacher for you have only one teacher.”

On the Contrary: The Sloka goes thus, “Gurur Brahma, Gurur Vishnu, Gurur Devo Maheshwaraha, Guru sakshaat Parabrahma tasmai sri guruve namaha.”

I answer that, it is evident that God is the source of all knowledge since He is All-Knowing. But God shares His knowledge with the rational creatures though not in its essence. A being receives the knowledge not essentially but by participation in the Divine Knowledge. Now, a being participates according to the mode of its existence. Just as anything on fire is not fire itself but fire by participation, we find on earth some people who are more attuned to the Divine Knowledge and participate in it in a deeper manner. Such people are held to be teachers. Therefore someone on earth can be called a teacher.

As the Sloka above said, one is called a teacher in as much as one is also able to direct the student towards God. Sant Kabir Das says that it is the Guru (teacher) who shows God to the student. Now all the teachers through the participation are blessed with the grace to lead their pupils to the Supreme Knowledge i.e. God. This is a sufficient reply to objection one.

Reply 1: God’s knowledge is infinite and that of his creature’s finite, the gap was bridged by the second person of the Trinity who as a mediator brought the knowledge of God to earth and made available to the creatures. He passed on God’s Knowledge to the Apostles. Thus one is also a teacher in as much as one shares in the teaching ministry of Christ, the teacher of teachers. Since all our professors here share in this sacred ministry of imparting God’s Knowledge primarily they are called teachers.

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