Friday 28 January 2011

Forgiveness of persecutors

I am reading William D'Souza's MPh thesis on Girard. Girard is calling us to take seriously Jesus' "Father forgive them for they know not what they do." This is not to be taken as an invention of a trifling excuse. Persecutors, says Girard, really do not know what they do, and that is why they must be forgiven.
In this passage we are given the first definition of the unconscious in human history, that from which all others originate and develop in weaker form: the Freudians will push the dimension of persecution into the background and the Jungians will eliminate it altogether. (Girard, The Scapegoat [Baltimore: John Hopkins Univ. Press, 1986] 111.) 
Girard goes on: by forgiving his persecutors, Jesus refuses to cooperate with the logic of the persecution system, either positively or negatively, and so shows the way out of the endless cycles of violence and revenge.

Lonergan's Law of the Cross.

How difficult. Forgiveness of those who I see as ungrateful, for example. Those who have simply forgotten. Or those who do not respect

Mahatma Bosco and Veermata Margaret

These days our school here in Nashik has been celebrating the novena of Don Bosco. Every morning, one of the teachers gives a talk on Don Bosco. Some of the teachers are Catholic, some Protestant, some Hindu. I find their readings always interesting. As teachers, they are sensitive to classroom dynamics. One spoke, for example, of how Johnny had forgotten to bring his Latin text to school, how he recited from memory, and how he was found out. Another spoke about how he would help his fellow students with their homework and study. (She even said, "he always helped them during the exams.") This morning, the teacher spoke about Mamma Margaret telling her son not to become rich. I was struck by her comment: "Which mother would tell her son not to become rich? But Don Bosco's mother told him that. Doing something for people is more important than becoming rich. She sensed that her son had something much more important to do in life than becoming rich." Wonderful comment, I thought. And what a different mother, what a great mother.

The teacher also compared Don Bosco with Mahatma Gandhi: the same breadth of vision, the same profound altruism and interest in people, the same ability for self-sacrifice. That is an interesting suggestion:  Mahatma Bosco.

But also Veermata Margaret. Without her, there would not have been such a great son. 

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Fr John Med, SDB passes away

Just got the news that John Med passed away in the province of Dimapur. Fr Med is one of the last few remaining legends among the Salesian Missionaries to India. Med was from the Czech Republic. He was Rector in Tirupattur, and later Provincial of the undivided Southern or Madras province, when what is today Mumbai province was still part of it.

Med was a tough character, very demanding on himself and equally demanding on others. I have heard stories about how he would travel from Madras all the way to places like Yercaud and even Goa on his scooter. Unbelievable. Tough as he was, would just wash his face and begin meeting confreres. But of course, the mode of travel would take its toll: people say he would be dozing during the interviews.

Great missionary, kept on working till almost the end. Great musician too. He has a sort of biography / autobiography, the name of which escapes me just now.

He was very annoyed with something I wrote in the homily at the funeral of Fr Casarotti. I think I was quoting Fr Tony D'Souza about how Lonavla was started because boys from Bombay side were not too comfortable in the South. Med typed a long, five page letter to me giving his version of events. He had forgotten to sign it. I wrote back asking him to send a signed copy, and telling him it would go to the files, some historian later on would give his opinion on the matter. 

Friday 21 January 2011

Babylon A.D.

I was watching a part of Babylon A.D. this afternoon. I found the story line extremely intriguing: a young girl (Aurora - Dawn!) 'created' with a computer as her mother; a virgin pregnancy; the mercenary Toorup charged to bring her to New York City; the new Noelite religion trying to obtain absolute power over humanity, and using Aurora as one of their 'miracles'...

I got the synopsis from the net, and the ending is disappointing: Aurora gives birth to twins, and then dies. She has been programmed to give birth and die. The twins are left now to Toorup. The end.

Obviously a spin-off on the Christ story. But how difficult it is to end such stories! 

Wednesday 12 January 2011

Lonergan's social theory

Fr Previnth SDB (INK) is here on a visit, with his dad and brother. His brother works in Ahmednagar, and so they drove down to Nashik. Previnth is being sent for a PhD in philosophy to the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome, and is interested in working on the social philosophy of Bernard Lonergan. A rather vast topic, given the fact that the social / political interest governs practically the whole of Lonergan's thought, even though this is not always that evident.

The 'lack of evidence' is perhaps due to Lonergan's (sometimes disconcerting) method of approximation: his ability to take a step at a time in his approach to the concrete. Thus his philosophy of history proceeds in terms of 3 approximations: progress, rooted in a complete adhesion to the dictates of intelligence; decline rooted in the opposite; redemption that is God's work. The only truly concrete situation is the final one; but Lonergan believes it is helpful to proceed by this method - which I think he learned from the physicists.

At any rate, there are the early essays on Fundamental Sociology, and the reconciliation of all things in Christ - Panton Anakephalaiosis; the early essays on philosophy of history; the two essays on economics. Then there is Insight, chs. 6, 7 and 20. Then Method in Theology - though here practically the whole book is relevant as a method for implementation (Shute in his new book, Lonergan's Discovery of Economic Science, is good on this point), but especially the final chapter on Communication.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Nashik is cold!

Nashik is rather cold these days: some say the minimum temperature has dropped to 4 degrees centigrade. Cold, but quite enjoyable. No mosquitoes. Clear skies very often.

Echoes of Girard

I realize that I have been hearing echoes of Girard: in Stanley Hauerwas and Yoder on victims; in Lovett's book applying Lonergan's method to Christian mission (the one I reviewed).

Hauerwas uses what is probably a Girardian insight into Jesus as victim to argue against the postmodern rejection of meta-narratives. If we are to be on the side of victims, he says, we have to affirm vigorously that God is on the side of victims.

Lovett instead uses a Girard scholar's book to re-interpret the 'joy' that was set before Jesus. That joy is the reconciliation of all things in Christ - including the persecutors and the violent.

Girard on historical Christianity

Girard's understanding of the Jesus story as a desacralizing influence is not to be taken as an apologetic for historical Christianity. Indeed, he laments that throughout its history, the Church has largely ignored the desacralizing effect of Christ's passion. It has misinterpreted the death of Jesus as a sacrificial offering to a God who demands victims. But Jesus did not die because the Father needed a sacrifice. Christians lost this understanding of the Gospel, and continued the cycle of scapegoating especially against the Jews during the Middle Ages and the Muslims during the Crusades.

It might be good in this light to take a critical look at the theology of certain new movements which have as their aim the restoration of the glory of the Church during the middle ages. Provided they get to the core of the gospel message, fine; but there is need of the critical look. True, the historiography of the crusades and of the inquisition is a very biased affair; but not everything about the crusades and the inquisition need be justified in reaction.

Two ways of imitating God

Girard makes an extremely interesting reflection our mimesis of God. We can, he says, imitate God in two ways: first, in the sense of mimetic rivalry, by taking God as our model/obstacle; second, by seeking to be like the Father in a spirit of child-like, innocent obedience, so that our will always reflects that of the Father in a unique but noncompetitive way.

The first way of being like God is what the serpent suggests to Eve in Genesis; it is Lucifer wanting to be like God; it is what Satan always suggests to us. The second is what Jesus advocates. This is the reason for Jesus' unique stress on God as Father, Abba.

By coming to earth in the person of his Son, God has sought, in every possible way, to disarm our natural resentment of God, so that our imitation of God can be transformed from mimetic rivalry to child-like love and obedience. Christmas is God coming to us as a helpless babe. Good Friday is God taking upon himself the entire burden of our sins and resentments. By doing this, he is saying: "I am not your rival, your competitor. I am your loving Father."

William D'Souza, MPh thesis on Girard, ch. 4, section 4.4.3.

The desacralizing effect of Christ's Passion

The Passion of Christ seems like a classic scapegoat story: praised to the skies at his triumphal entry into Jerusalem; executed shortly after as a criminal; divinization. Girard says, however, that there are fundamental differences.

First, the witnesses to his resurrection / divinization are not the crowd that demanded his death, but rather a small group of individual followers.

Second, the peace of Christ is not the peace that the world gives, the surrogate peace that follows the slaying of the innocent victim. [In fact, the 'peace' of Christ is more violence, unleashed now on the community.]

Third, the crucifixion does not cause Christ's resurrection, as in the myths of the dying and rising saviour gods. Instead, the point of view of the gospels is that the crucifixion of Jesus is a sordid, completely unjustifiable act of collective murder that definitively reveals the true nature of kingdoms, cultures and religions 'of this world'. 

From William D'Souza, MPh thesis on Girard, ch. 4, section 4.3.2.2.

Girard on the religions

Rene Girard says that traditional myths tell the story from the side of the saved community, simultaneously vilifying and deifying the victim. The Judaeo-Christian scriptures, instead, tell the story from the side of th victim, clearly showing that the murder and sacrifice fail to bring lasting peace. God takes the side of the victims.

Monday 10 January 2011

The utterances of the faith

Fr Roger yesterday at Igatpuri took the Caesarea Philippi passage and asked the youth to personalize it: Who do you say that I am?

Excessive personalization, however, has its own dangers. Peter utters his confession, and he does not understand it. Jesus acknowledges that his confession is not from Peter, or from flesh and blood, but from his heavenly Father. And Peter reveals his utter lack of understanding when, soon after, he begins to remonstrate with Jesus after hearing the prophecy of the passion.

We utter the faith of the Church - not always because we understand it, but because it has been given to us to utter it. It is the gift of faith. Understanding will come, slowly, in time.

There is certainly a point in personalization, in appropriation of one's received faith. But there is also the dialectical tension which I am trying to indicate, which is extremely important. We do not utter because we have understood or personalized. We confess, because it has been given to us to confess.

In the Charismatic Movement, the Church, after centuries of insistence on 'belief', is perhaps trying to recover the other dimension of faith, the felt dimension, the personal dimension. In a sense, this is the Protestant prophecy which we are trying now to ingest. But the Catholic prophecy and witness cannot be forgotten. Mary did not understand; but she pondered in her heart; and that pondering bore fruit, not necessarily in understanding, but certainly in life commitments and action.

Saturday 8 January 2011

Saturday 1 January 2011

Fr Michael Fernandes at the funeral of Bro P.M. Thomas

“I am the Resurrection and the Life. He who believes in me though he die, yet shall he live, and whoever lives and believes in me shall never die” (Jn 11:17-27).
Dear friends, we are united today in sorrow at the death of Bro. Thomas. The reality of death, with all its pain and sense of loss, confronts us at this moment. But as we are united in sorrow, we are also united by something else... our Faith. Confronted with the reality of death, we must allow ourselves to be confronted with the reality of our Faith. Our Faith opens our minds to the whole picture about life, death, and the after life. Only in the light of our Faith can we begin to understand what has happened to Bro. Thomas and how we are to keep going from here.
When in our Faith we speak about the resurrection and the next life, we do not speak about these things primarily because they give us consolation and strength. They certainly do that, but the primary reason we speak of these things is because they are true. God has spoken His Word to us; we hear it in the Scriptures and in the teachings of our Church. God has broken the silence about death, and told us that He has conquered it! Death was not part of God's original plan; it came into the world because of sin. Death is not from God; death is from turning away from God. Yet God did not leave us in death's power.
Because of this, a Christian is not silent in the face of death! Many people, on coming to a funeral, do not know what to say! Death seems to have the last word. But we who believe are not silent. We speak! Christ is risen! Death has been conquered!
Many people think that the story of human life is, "Birth, life, and death." For a Christian, it's different. The story is not "Birth, life, and death," but rather, "Life, death, and Resurrection!" Death does not have the last word; life does! Death is not the last period after the last sentence of the last chapter of the human story. There's another chapter to come! Death is not the end of the human story; it's the middle. The end of the story is Resurrection and life that has no end! The farewell that we give to Bro. Thomas today is a temporary farewell; the burial we give Bro. Thomas is a temporary burial. He will live! He will rise!
Therefore, a Christian does not merely die. A Christian dies in Christ. Those two words, "in Christ," make all the difference in the world! We belong to Him by baptism, and we live in Him by a life of prayer, obedience to His teachings, and faithfulness to the sacraments of the Church. If we live in Christ and die in Christ, we will rise in Christ!
We feel sad because Brother is no more in our midst. We recall all that he was to us and in recalling we feel pained. It is OK to be sad today that we do not see Thomas anymore, but it would be wrong to think we will never see him again. It is OK to grieve, but it is wrong to despair. Christ is alive! We pray today for Thomas that he may complete the journey to go where he was always meant to belong. Pray for him every day, and for yourselves. Look at him today and say with faith, "Brother, you do not belong to death. You belong to Christ, and so do we!"
He was a father figure and great teacher, a point of reference to all. He was the moderator of the provincial chapter in 1987. He was determined to make of the chapter documents a practical guideline for all who wished to embark on a long and painful process of much needed renewal. He had a unique way of making a point in the discussions on the floor of the house. At meetings he spoke his mind – with malice towards none – but only because of love for Don Bosco and the congregation. His vociferous interventions at salesian meetings, provincial chapters and post retreat family circles showed that he truly loved Don Bosco, his salesian vocation and the salesian traditions. He was a provincial council member for 6 years and will be remembered as a leader who had the courage to stand by his convictions and to speak when this mattered most. His good morning talks and good night thoughts are food for thought. We have lost a guiding light, an outstanding educationist, an amiable character and a happy, convinced and dedicated salesian.
In 1984 He was invited to be an observer at the General Chapter in Rome. In February, 1999 Br. P.M. represented the brothers at the World Congress of Brothers in Australia and later during the year he published a small booklet on The Spirituality of Salesian Assistance. The University of the Mumbai conferred on him the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (Arts) in 2004, for his thesis entitled “The Don Bosco Method of Education for Schools – Building Teacher-Pupil Relationship the Don Bosco Way”
Bro. P.M. always came across as being a man of principles, of a delicate conscience and integrity. I am certain there were some things that he could not stomach, but he took them in his stride and never came across as a bitter person.
He was principal in Andheri, Matunga, Lonavla, Baroda and pioneer of the school in Nashik. He believed in education as a means of evangelization and would talk of this method especially in the missionary meetings. He undertook to do his doctorate after his retirement from school service. He was over 70 years of age when he finished it. This tells us that there is no time bar if one wants to be qualified for the sake of the people we serve. And much before he could complete or defend his thesis, the celebrations began. His visit to a community and his mention of the doctorate called for a celebration. Is it any wonder then that he died on the Third Sunday of Advent when the Church calls on her children to rejoice, to celebrate! He was a staunch devotee of Our Lady, and the day of his death coincides with the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe who has welcomed him into everlasting life on her feast.
We will miss him but he will live on in the lives he has touched and in the memories he has left behind. He does not die who lives in the hearts of those who love him.
Brother was truly interested in vocations – If brothers changed over and became priests, he would called them failed brothers. His love for his vocation is reflected in his love for vocations. It was only right that his salesian life reached its finale at Don Bosco Lonavla, the cradle of salesian vocations for the province. Bro. Santi from Chennai sent me a condolence message:We have really lost a great Salesian, a true Son of Don Bosco who did bring glory to the congregation and to the province. He was very much popular, loved and respected by all the Coadjutor Brothers in India. I did not have the opportunity to live with him, but I always admired his Salesian spirit, his convictions and his exemplary life. He was an optimistic confrere, always very enthusiastic about his Salesian vocation as a brother. His zeal and spirit was really contagious, and no one could resist his loving person. He was greatly in love with Don Bosco and he was proud to talk about him.
He was for many times, the person incharge of the Brothers Congress, and he organized all the congresses with a great spirit of sacrifice, diligence, enthusiasm, love and meticulous preparation. All the Coadjutor Brothers will surely remember him and he has been a very positive inspiration for all of us.  He knew how to sow Joy, love, Fidelity, Love for Don Bosco in all that he did. I treasure in my heart a great respect for this great Salesian brother”.
He was concerned about formation and more especially the loss of vocations. He loved the province deeply and was concerned about the welfare of confreres and the missions. Much before the provincials would begin the consultations or the transfers, Bro. Thomas had begun his playground chapters springing up probable candidates.
In his twilight years his superiors were practically all his students. But he hardly called them or referred to them by their first names. They were all his superiors and he respected them as such. That was a man of faith who saw that providence has placed these salesians in charge of him and he accepted and respected and loved them as a true son of Don Bosco was inclined to do. 
A religious is one who not only tells others what Christ says, but in a unique way shows others who Christ is. A religious not only delivers Christ’s message, but shapes his image. This statement is especially tailored to Bro. Thomas who was happy to be a salesian brother.
He was a thorough well bred salesian – he returned to Don Bosco, by returning to the young. He was constantly present among the teachers and school kids. These last years he was in Lonavla, weighed down with age and health concerns, slightly blind and quite deaf, yet he would teach English to the students of the English academy and visit Maria Ashiana and give them a good morning talk. This speaks volumes of his grit, determination and spirit of sacrificing work. His failing health did not deter him from doing, but spurred him to do more, to give more of himself. Sometimes we give gifts but withhold ourselves, but it is in giving ourselves that we truly give.
Fr. Maria Arokiam, our Regional superior writes: “In Bro. Thomas Puthur we have truly incurred a big loss for Salesian India, even beyond the province of Mumbai, particularly for the Salesian Brothers. He has been a natural leader among them, most respected and listened to for decades. I remember hearing of this great brother even when I was a cleric. His Salesianity was on firm footing that he was called upon to animate the Brothers and other Salesians. He was an innovative independent thinker and did not just go with the crowd. He was so dedicated to the youth in the school and in the boardings that his pupils, past and present loved him so dearly. His faithfulness to basics like prayer and community commitments were beyond question. He is a great example of happiness and fulfillment in Salesian lay vocation. I am sure his life will be a great inspiration for the Salesians and will inspire new vocations to Salesian brotherhood. May God rest his soul”.
The last 5 years Bro. Thomas was in Lonavla but his heart was in Gujarat. He wanted the development of Gujarat and made many suggestions to make Gujarat into a province or at least a vice province.
He was in Baroda at the gateway of the missions and would welcome all the missionaries who came to Gujarat. I have often benefited from his hospitality. With all the welcomes he gave us missionaries, all that he did to make us feel at home and relaxed, I am sure the Lord has welcomed him back home, saying: “Well done good and faithful servant you have been faithful over a little, enter into the joys of the master”.   
Go, Brother, go where you belong. But leave your spirit of love, of sacrifice, hard work, joy and optimism. Leave what you taught us best with your exemplary life– presence with the young, your love for education and for youth; your love for the community, evangelical poverty and simplicity; your love for the Eucharist, sacrament of reconciliation and spirit of forgiveness; your love for Our Blessed Mother and Don Bosco; your welcoming warmth, love for missionaries and vision for Gujarat; your love for vocations, especially brother vocations; You have touched many hearts, may they grow and be generous and committed like you. We shall meet and be with you. We shall rise with you with the power of Christ in us.  The Lord has found it good to give you to us and now he finds it good to take you back to him. Blessed be the name of the Lord.   

 Chronological Record
              Born on 20th August 1934 in Velappaya village of Trichur district, Kerala.
                        1947-54                       Tirupattur      Aspirant         
                        1955                            Yercaud           First Profession
1955-56                       Yecaud            Propaganda
1956-57                       Tirupattur      College Office clerk
1957-59                       Tirupattur      B.A. Studies
1959-62                       Tirupattur      Teacher & Assistant
1961                            Yercaud           Final Profession
1962-63                       Matunga         B.E.d
1963-65                       Matunga         Teacher & Assistant
1965-69                       Lonavla           Teacher & Assistant
1969-71                       Andheri           Principal& Prefect of Studies
1971-73                       Matunga         Diploma in Vocational Guidance & M.Ed.
1973-77                       Lonavla           Principal& Prefect of Studies
1977-82                       Matunga         Principal
1982-85                       Lonavla           Principal
1985-87                       STI, Nashik    Prefect of Studies & Prof at Divyadaan
1987-91                       Baroda             Principal
1991-96                       Lonavla           Principal
1996-99                       Nashik             Principal
1999-2004                   Nashik             Ph.D
2005-2010                   Lonavla           Teacher of English Academy
Expired on 12.12.2010 in Holy Spirit Hospital, Andheri, Mumbai & laid to rest on14.12.2010 in Lonavla.

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