Monday 29 April 2013


A couple of sdbs were spotted off Jaffa Road , at a very famous cafe called Kadosh (rehov Shlomzion HaMalka). It would appear that the cheese cake is excellent, as also the chocolate mousse ("Chocolate Hedgehog filled with creme brule). A regular who identified himself as a 'brainwasher' (= journalist) said that Kadosh was one of the best restaurants in Israel, and their pastries were unbeatable, because of the original ingredients they use.

For that matter, a little second-hand bookshop called Sefer ve Sefel (Book and Cup), it would seem, is also an excellent find. Also off Jaffa Road, but much nearer King George. Despite the fact that the 'Cup' part no longer functions (though the shop is still advertised as a Book and Coffee place), the offerings are excellent and extremely reasonably priced. 

Thursday 25 April 2013

The second inculturation

In the readings from the Acts of the Apostles these days we see the early church moving step by step from the Jewish world into the Hellenistic world: Peter and Cornelius, disciples from Cyprus preaching to the Gentiles in Antioch, the First Council of Jerusalem...

John Paul II had called this, in Fides et Ratio, the first great inculturation of the faith. He had also called for a second great inculturation, this time into the worlds of Asia and Africa. (The work of De Smet!)

To those working on the second inculturation, he had said: do not think you can do it by abandoning the first. 

To those in the first, he probably might have said: do not think yours is the last. 

To both: there is need of great openness, great hard work, and great competence. The church has need also of what we might call intellectual charity. 

So we pray for the wisdom and the discernment needed by the pioneers, those on the front lines. And for openness, avoidance of ridicule and rigidity, for those of us who will be simple educators and pastors. We are not all called to be pioneers and scholars, but we are all educators, and we can be open, and teach our youth to be open.

Tuesday 23 April 2013

Land of Midian

Midian is a son of Abraham by Keturah:
Abraham took another wife, whose name was Ketu′rah. 2 She bore him Zimran, Jokshan, Medan, Mid′ian, Ishbak, and Shuah. 3 Jokshan was the father of Sheba and Dedan. The sons of Dedan were Asshu′rim, Letu′shim, and Le-um′mim. 4 The sons of Mid′ian were Ephah, Epher, Hanoch, Abi′da, and Elda′ah. All these were the children of Ketu′rah. 5 Abraham gave all he had to Isaac. 6 But to the sons of his concubines Abraham gave gifts, and while he was still living he sent them away from his son Isaac, eastward to the east country. (Gen 25:1-6)
Moses fled from Egypt to Midian:
15 But Moses fled from Pharaoh, and stayed in the land of Mid′ian; and he sat down by a well. 16 Now the priest of Mid′ian had seven daughters; and they came and drew water, and filled the troughs to water their father’s flock. 17 The shepherds came and drove them away; but Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock. 18 When they came to their father Reu′el, he said, “How is it that you have come so soon today?” 19 They said, “An Egyptian delivered us out of the hand of the shepherds, and even drew water for us and watered the flock.” 20 He said to his daughters, “And where is he? Why have you left the man? Call him, that he may eat bread.” 21 And Moses was content to dwell with the man, and he gave Moses his daugher Zippo′rah. 22 She bore a son, and he called his name Gershom; for he said, “I have been a sojourner[a] in a foreign land.” (Ex 2:15-22)
The holy war against Midian (Num 31:1-12)
Israel oppressed by Midian (Judg 6:1-6)

From the prophet Isaiah:
4 Lift up your eyes round about, and see;
    they all gather together, they come to you;
your sons shall come from far,
    and your daughters shall be carried in the arms.
5 Then you shall see and be radiant.
    your heart shall thrill and rejoice;[a]
because the abundance of the sea shall be turned to you,
    the wealth of the nations shall come to you.
6 A multitude of camels shall cover you,
    the young camels of Mid′ian and Ephah;
    all those from Sheba shall come.
They shall bring gold and frankincense,
    and shall proclaim the praise of the Lord. (Is 60:4-6)
The Midianites were introduced into history by Gen 25:1-4 and 1 Chron 1:32ff, which assigns as their ancestor Midian, son of Abraham by Keturah (a name which signifies 'incense' - see Deut 33:10).

Gen 37:25-28 and Judg 8:24, 26 employ the names Midianites and Ishmaelites in apparent equivalence.

Moses sought refuge with this tribe after fleeing from Pharoah (Ex 2:15). They were not only shepherds, however; they were also master traders, monopolizing the traffic between Arabia and the Aramean countries in the north, or Egypt in the west.

When Israel was forming its political and religious organization at Mount Sinai, it was in peaceful contact with one of the Midianite clans, the Cinites. A portion of this clan united with Israel and followed it to Canaan (see Num 24:21ff; Judg 1:16, 4:11, 17; 5:24; 1 Sam 15:6ff).

Other Midianite clans were called upon by the Moabites to oppose the passage of Israel (Num 21:1ff). See the 'Mountains of the East' (Harere Qedem) (Num 23:6) from which the Midianite diviner Balaam came; the 'east country' of Gen 25:7 to which Abraham relegated the offspring of his concubine Keturah; and the modern linguistic usage of the Arabs, to whom 'the East' (Sherq) indicates the entire desert region between Syria and Mesopotamia to the north and between the Gulf of Aqaba and the Persian Gulf to the south.

After Gideon's revenge (Judg 8), the Midianites seem to have almost disappeared. The establishment of the Israelite tribes forced them back into the desert. the surviving clans fell back to the south, to Arabia, which had been their cradle, and where some clans had never ceased to dwell. This was thier centre in the time of Isaiah (60:6), and probably also in the time of Habakuk (3:7, c. 600 BC); here the Assyrian documents of Tiglatpileser (745-27) and Sargon (722-05) make mention of one of their clans.

According to the testimony of Greek geographers and later of Arabian authors, the Midianites would have taken up their permanent abode on the borders of the Gulf of Aquaba: see the town called Modiana (Ptolemy) or Madiane (Flavius Josephus and Eusebius), now known as Mughair Shaib. 

Monday 22 April 2013

The Good Shepherd

"You guided your people like a flock
By the hand of Moses and Aaron." (Ps 76[77])

"The Lord is my shepherd
There is nothing I shall want." (Ps 22[23])

The luxury of being able to despise

The other day during mass I remembered a thought from Brennan Manning. A young man said to a Franciscan: I would have become a Franciscan, if only I had then the luxury of being able to despise some people.

The luxury of being able to despise some people! That luxury, in the eyes of that young man, was not permitted to a Franciscan. It is not permitted to any religous, not even to Salesians. It is not permitted to any disciple of the Lord. 

Learning from Don Bosco's Three Lives

We've been having group discussions this morning, the topics being extracts from Don Bosco's Three Lives: Savio, Magone and Besucco. I continue to be amazed at how these Lives continue to speak, to reach out across the decades and grab the Salesian, young and not so young, of today.

In the Life of Besucco, we have this extremely strong appeal to the young as well as to their educators and directors, to find a regular confessor. It is not a sin to go to a different confessor each time, Don Bosco says repeatedly; but if you want to really be helped, this is no good. It's like going to a different doctor each time. He will not know you well enough to make a proper diagnosis and to prescribe the right medicine.

In the Life of Magone, the importance of the playground, which, Don Bosco does not hesitate to say, is almost as important as the church. This is an extremely interesting remark, one that bears a profound truth. In the playground, the perceptive educator is able to intervene in a way that is not quite possible in the church. In the church the educator / priest does have a role to play, but the main interaction is between God and the individual, God and the community. In the playground, the role of the educator / spiritual director is quite different. God acts in and through him in a remarkably different way, a way that we find Don Bosco was extremely sensitive to.

In the Life of Savio, the great stress is on an apostolic holiness. This is the head of ch. 11, which comes immediately after the crucial ch. 10 which speaks of Savio's 'second conversion.' Don Bosco was convinced that the path to holiness, even for a young lad, lay through the apostolate. This is extraordinary, and perhaps one of the distinctive features of Salesian spirituality, Don Bosco's spirituality, one that we have sort of forgotten / ignored / neglected in the last many years. No way of becoming a saint except by bringing your companions to God. No way of being a good Salesian except through an apostolic holiness, and one that is not restricted only to the young and to explicitly pastoral situations, but very much includes also the life of the Salesian community.

And then the call to sanctity: the influence of Don Bosco's homily on Savio, and the way he responds to it, with all his heart, all his being: this is also amazing. In our community I see that some are willing to talk like this; but are all of us? Am I? What is the great pull in my life? What is the great lodestar, the great fascination? Savio was marked by this great, overwhelming desire for sanctity. "My friends will be Jesus and Mary." As Caviglia says, it is this willingness of Savio to put God above all things that is even more remarkable than his "Death rather than sin." That is what leads to this. And Don Bosco himself, commenting on the Rich Young Man, remarks on the words of Jesus: "If you wish". If you wish: you need to wish, you need to desire, you need to want to follow Jesus with all your heart. How to be a saint? Thomas Aquinas to his sister: Will it. Desire it. With all your heart.

Also an interesting note about grumbling: Don Bosco talks about many boys who are not happy with the food, with the accommodation  with the timetable, with the superiors, and then says: Dominic would never complain. Any food was fine with him. He had learnt his lesson well: when he wanted to do extraordinary penances, Don Bosco had forbidden him, and had told him instead to accept with serenity and joy the little circumstances of daily life. He was putting in very simple terms what Francis de Sales had recommended: embrace with joy the will of God's good pleasure.

Wounded healers

In his recent letter “Vocation and Formation: Gift and Task,” Fr Pascual Chavez makes an interesting observation: “One’s own life journey runs the risk of turning back on itself in a narcissistic manner and not opening itself to self-giving. In a world that is changing and that is without a centre, it is fragmentation that rules”. And then he goes on to say: “so formation needs to serve to give unity to an individual and focus him firmly on the essential which is the following of Christ.”

In his letter he repeats several times: we have to overcome our own natural human tendencies as well as the narcissism of our culture, the encouragement we all receive to be self-centred, and follow Christ. “Fidelity cannot remain merely on the theoretical level; it has to be a living fidelity, a meeting with Christ, which absorbs the whole person and leads the consecrated person from fragmented “experiences” to the fundamental “experience.””

So Fr Chavez notes the risk of narcissism and fragmentation, and presents the solution: a life centred on and unified by Christ. I want to add a note in between the first and the second, and for this I want to take help from the well-known book of Henri Nouwen, The Wounded Healer. (From the internet I learned that the phrase is not original to Nouwen; it seems to have been coined by Jung.) Nouwen narrates a Jewish story about a Rabbi who came across the prophet Elijah and said to him:

“Tell me—when will the Messiah come?”
Elijah replied, “Go and ask him yourself.”
“Where is he?” said the Rabbi.
“He’s sitting at the gates of the city,” said Elijah.
“But how will I know which one is he?”
The Prophet said, “He is sitting among the poor, covered with wounds. The others unbind all their wounds at the same time and bind them up again, but he unbinds only one at a time and binds them up again, saying to himself, “Perhaps I shall be needed; if so, I must always be ready so as not to delay for a moment.”

This is a wonderful story and a wonderful image. It has profound Christological connotations and implications: we see Jesus profoundly attentive to others even in the midst of his passion: Peter, Veronica, the women of Jerusalem, the Good Thief, John, his mother. But I would like to see what the story says to us. It says two things: (1) we all of us need to take care of our own woundedness. There is nothing gained in denying this. (2) We cannot allow our concern with our own woundedness to be so overwhelming as to make us unable to be of help to anyone else.

Sometimes we are in so much pain, that we cannot hear the pain of others. Sometimes there is so much noise inside, that we cannot hear anything that is being said outside. Sometimes there are so many feelings clashing within us, that we have no energy to be attentive to the feelings and needs of others. This is a self-centred kind of life, and ultimately not an adult life. Even to be a biological father means having to direct attention to the other, to the child.

There are no ideal fathers, of course. There are only wounded fathers. There are only wounded healers. So the best thing we can do is to acknowledge our woundedness, and take care to unbind only one wound at a time, so that we always have time and energy to respond to the woundedness of others, whether they be in our community, or among the people to whom we are sent, most especially our young people.

And one more point: wounded healers who are also compassionate, and compassionate precisely because wounded. And once again, Jesus: we have in him a high priest who knows what we are going through, and is compassionate because he has participated in our human condition, in all things but sin.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Piotr and the caracal

Piotr went for an early morning walk at Wadi Rum (he did not know that we had been warned not to walk out alone, especially in the dark), and came back saying he had seen not one large cat but two. Vernet said it must have been a caracal. I did not believe it, but Piotr checked against photos on the net, and confirmed that it was indeed a caracal with a cub or whatever you call the little one of a caracal. Unfortunately he had no camera with him, and, besides, he said he had been too frightened....
I tell you I was jealous of Piotr. All of us had been warned, and then he goes and sees the caracal...

Saturday 20 April 2013

Moses in Midian

The great biblical presence during our trip was Moses - Moses who spent 40 long years in Midian, which is more or less where Wadi Rum also is. I had no idea Midian was so far out from Egypt - but he had to get out of Egyptian dominion, and that meant probably even getting out of Sinai. Here is where Moses helped those young ladies, and here is where their father Reuel / Jethro made them bring him home, to give him then his eldest daughter Zipporah. 40 long years looking after sheep. Moses who had the best education the then world could offer, an Egyptian education, and that too as the son of Pharaoh's daughter. Moses who had not forgotten his people somehow, and who probably had plans of his own to liberate them. Impulsive Moses, hero but not to his own people. Moses who had to flee for his life, flee into complete insignificance, in those ages when to be without a community was to be no one, to be as good as dead, ex-communicated. How did he spend those 40 years? What kind of thoughts did he have about himself, his people, his future? Yet God found him, and turned him round, and used him. A wonderful lesson, in waiting, in patience, in hope, in God.

Tamar - Tamara - Thamara - Hazeva

2000 year old bora tree (zizyphus spina christi) at Hazeva - Tamara. This tree was alive when Jesus walked around here... and is said to be the kind of tree from which his crown of thorns was made (hence the botanical name, zizyphus spina christi). It may be the oldest tree in the Holy Land. Its trunk is 7m wide, its height is 14m, and it covers a diameter of 15m.

note the bole of the tree... it could well be 2000 years old. But have you ever heard of a bora tree that old?

Mass under the tree
The last stop was Hazeva - Tamara. The ruins here are well-excavated, but probably hardly visited. The star attraction is the 2000 year old bora tree - zizyphus spina Christi - under which we celebrated the Eucharist, with a very forceful wind that threatened to upset and carry away the hosts and the chalice. The Spirit is the wind - strong, forceful, and cleansing.

Tamar is the biblical name for this place. (Tamar is mentioned in the description of the southern border of the Promised Land between the Dead Sea and the Scorpion’s Ascent [Aqrabbim Pass] - see Numbers 34:4, Joshua 15:3, and Judges 1:36.) The strategic location and the availability of spring water made it ideal for a fortress. The earliest structure found on the site dates back to 10th cent. BC, the times of King Solomon (see layers 4 and 5). Later the Nabateans, the Romans (layer 2) and the Arabs built fortresses there too.

Remains of an Edomite shrine (7th cent. BC) have been discovered on the north side of the fortress walls. A number of cult vessels, all smashed, have been found.

Apparently Tamar was on the Incense and Spice Route, which connected the east (Yemen and Oman), through Arabia, via the Nabatean capital city of Petra, to the port city of Gaza on the Mediterranean. A Nabatean storage room has been found under the ruins of the Roman fortress.

The Romans annexed the Nabatean kingdom in 106 AD. 'Thamara' appears on the Peutinger map, which itself is based on a 4th cent. Roman military road map.

Thamara is also found on the 6th cent. Madaba mosaic map.

The fortress was destroyed by the 344 AD earthquake, and was rebuilt. It was destroyed again in the earthquake of 363 AD, which also destroyed Petra and all parts of Israel. It was never rebuilt. 

Friday 19 April 2013

Wadi Rum!

It is morning in Wadi Rum. Managed to get up at 0530 or so to catch the sunrise. It began to be bright at 0500, but the sun came up only at 0630 or so.

Yesterday: a late-ish breakfast, then to the border, which was okay, better than the Jericho crossing, but it took time all the same. Then to Wadi Rum.
The Seven Pillars of Wisdom - name given by Lawrence of Arabia to this formation, and eventually to his book
What remains of Lawrence's house

An Italian L of A

And a Canadian version

Long walk to lunch - 'restaurant' at the foot of that faraway hill

Thamudic drawings and inscriptions... 

Arch inhabited by STS students 

preparing for a desert dinner

Modern Bedouin village in Wadi Rum

We had 2 buses and 2 guides. Wadi Rum turned out to be better than I expected. It is huge, and impressive. The spaces are enormous, and the sensation of time standing still. The formations are extraordinary, and somewhat familiar, having been the site of several Hollywood movies, among which The Red Planet, according to our students. Most of our time was spent walking from a Bedouin village to the foot of a hill, where we had a very informal and vegetarian lunch. Then in jeeps, 8 of them, seeing this and that, among which also the ruins of the house of Lawrence of Arabia. Our guide said they were no longer sure whether Lawrence was used by the British, or whether he knew well what was going on the fact is that he never returned to the Wadi, changed his name, disappeared, and died in a motorcycle accident.

By about 1830 to the camp. The sunset. Then mass with evening prayer, and dinner. Chicken and mutton and potatoes cooked under the sand. Then some singing and dancing, and then bed. With all the snoring on several sides, some late night singing, and the cold (6 degrees in the morning!) it was still quite wonderful. I got up thrice in the night, the second time was truly spectacular: thousands of stars, perhaps also the Milky Way.

Some information about Wadi Rum.

  • It has been inhabited since Prehistoric times, mainly the Neolithic (8th to 6th c. BC). 
  • Recent excavations have uncovered a Chalcolithic settlement dating from 4,500 BC.
  • Fresh water springs made it a meeting centre for caravans between Arabia and Palestine / Syria.
  • Before Islam, it was the meeting place for the tribes of Ad, Thamud, Lihyan and Main. Thamudic inscriptions are found throughout the Wadi.
  • These were replaced in time by the Nabateans, who surpassed them all in trade and monuments.
  • At the foot of Jabal Rum lies the Allat temple, originally built by the Ads, and later remodelled by the Nabateans (1st c. BC)
  • Wadi Rum was the headquarters of Prince Faisal bin Al-Hussein and T.E. Lawrence during World War I, fighting against the Ottoman Empire. Lawrence made his home in this magical area. Ain Asshallaleh, also known as Lawrence's Spring, is a short walk up the hill from the Nabatean temple. The mountain known as the Seven Pillars of Wisdom was named by Lawrence, and was the inspiration for the title of his book.
  • Nowadays, several Bedouin tribes inhabit the Wadi, the most prominent being the Howeitat. While most have turned to tourism as an occupation, some still live in the traditional way, moving from grazing area to grazing area with their tents and sheep, goats and camels. 


After lunch we left in a great hurry to the Aquarium (The Underwater Observatory Marine Park, Eilat), which is at the other end of Eilat, outside the town, really. A very good place, but we reached barely 5 mins before the last possible entry, by which time all the attractions were shut down, and also most of the restaurants. But the place is remarkable: the coral exhibition (the Red Sea abounds in coral, I had no idea), the remarkable coloured fish, the shark pool (not as good as the Kuwait one), and, best of all, the underwater Observatory. That was truly marvellous. How they do that, I have no idea. Surely they have encouraged coral to grow around the observatory, and so perhaps the fish are attracted there. The marvels, and the variety. Still, we had a full 3 hours here, and in less than 2 hours most of us had finished wandering around, and so we tried to get back earlier than planned to the hotel.

Hotel Eilat Vista. A quick wash, dinner, and then prayer in the synagogue of the hotel in the basement, and then free time. Some went for a dip in the sea (the hotel was kind enough to provide towels), some went to a mall, and others wandered around or partied or went off to bed. The pool, unfortunately, closed at 1700 hrs.

Two of the restaurant staff turned out to be Indians: one from Mumbai, and he spoke Marathi, and the other from Kolkata, and he spoke Bengali. Both Jews. The boy from Mumbai, Avi or Abraham, migrated 15 years ago with his family, which is now in Rehovot. I asked him to inquire about any Jewish family from Wadala, and get back to me. He said he would.

I managed to see the Red Sea at Eilat only in the morning. Eilat has a beautiful promenade, not far from our hotel, Vista Eilat. There are also inlets, probably artificial, for boats and things. And of course upper bracket shopping arcades along the sea front, food, swimming, and so on.

The copper mines of Timna

Study trip to Southern Israel and Wadi Rum (Jordan). Our bus left a little late from Jerusalem. Along the way Vernet explained some features of the lands we were passing through: Qumran, the delta of the Kidron, probably that of Gehenna, and surely that of Wadi Hariton. Ein Gedi, and Masada. The peninsula in the Dead Sea. The Pentapolis of the Dead Sea, including the famous Sodom, and Gomorrah. The present-day chemical industries along the shores of the Dead Sea. The canal linking the upper and deeper portion of the Dead Sea (80 m?) and the lower, shallower portion (8 m?), because of the shrinkage over the years. En Poceck, tourist place along the Israeli shore of the Sea. Finally the Arava. Somehow I had had the idea that the Dead Sea continued almost up to Eilat. It does not. The Arava takes its place.
The arch at Timna

The Mushroom at Timna
Temple of the Egyptian goddess Hathor - it's the little wall at the bottom left

Timna. A national park. A very good video at the entrance, indicating the many vicissitudes of Timna.  Copper mining began here more than 6000 years ago, which probably makes it the oldest copper mine in the world, and at least one, if not the first, place where people first learned how to produce copper. I forget now who the original developers of Timna were, but certainly at one point the Egyptians took over, because of the copper mines there (14th - 12th cent. BCE, from Seti I to Rameses V). The greenish ore was probably used for ornamentation in the beginning. At some point, the great discovery that the metal could be smelted out. There are still remains of this copper-smelting industry: flat stones for reducing the ore to smaller bits; pits for smelting; etc. the movie showed how copper ingots – flattish pita bread shapes – were cast, then transported to Egypt, where they were melted again and made into tools and weapons. The discovery of copper must have been a major thing in those days. Wow. A move from the Stone Age (?) to an age of metal. And then, once the initial discovery had been made, no stopping: tin, and iron, and then the mixing of metals to produce the much harder bronze.

After the video we spent 20 mins and more looking at the first stone formation in Timna: a sort of stone arch. Then 30 mins and more looking at the ‘mushroom’, and then a full 40 mins looking at the Pillars of Solomon, and the remains of the Temple of Hathor. Then to the artificial lake where we celebrated mass. Then to Eilat, leaving at around 1330 and reaching at 1430, El Gaucho, an Argentinian themed restaurant at the entrance of Eilat. 

Sunday 14 April 2013

Gan Wohl - the Jerusalem Rose Garden

Mr N.P. Jain of Motilal Banarsidass passes away

Mr Wachaspati Pandey of MLBD wrote to me the other day with good news and bad: he told me that Understanding Sankara was out of the press, but also that Mr N.P. Jain had passed away. Mr N.P. Jain was the person with whom I corresponded for Brahman and Person, and the one who saw the book through to the press from start to finish. A few days ago I received the MLBD Newsletter for March 2013, and learned to my great astonishment that Mr Jain was head of Motilal Banarsidass. I was quite moved and touched, that I had been corresponding with the big boss and had known absolutely nothing about it.

Strange, this kind of relationship. You write to a publisher with a book proposal, the boss himself replies and keeps replying to all the correspondence, and you never know about it. I want to say here that I have had a very pleasant experience with Mr Jain, and I want to record here my gratitude to him and my deep appreciation for the unfailing kindness and courtesy I experienced. I feel good that MLBD accepted to publish not only De Smet's essays on the person in Indian and Western thought, but also the latest set of essays on Sankara. 

Friday 12 April 2013

Olivinho Gomes, a partial bibliography

Dr Olivinho Gomes was a past pupil of Don Bosco Panjim, someone who remained attached to Don Bosco all his life, I think. He was the first head of the new Department of Konkani at the University of Goa. Being the very first department of Konkani in the world, the university had to find someone from an allied line to take over as head, adn they found Dr Gomes, who, I think, had qualifications in linguistics. But he was also a passionate lover of Konkani, and it was a great choice. Unfortunately, Dr Gomes passed away rather prematurely. Here is a partial list of his works, courtesy Frederick Noronha at

- Francisco Luis Gomes <> By:
Gomes, Olivinho.
National Book Trust
- [image: Select] <> Village Goa: a study
of Goan social structure and
change<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
S. Chand
- [image: Select] <> The religious orders
in Goa, XVIth-XVIIth centuries
<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
Konkani Sorospot Prakashan
- [image: Select] <> Konkani folk
tales<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
National Book Trust
- [image: Select] <>
Goa<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
National Book Trust, India
- [image: Select] <> Church in the
evolving society of Goa <> By:
Mendonça, Délio de.
Xavier Centre of Historical Research
- [image: Select] <> Dr. Francisco Luis
Gomes, jivit ani vavr: mornnachea xotabdi nim'tan, 1869-1969 (on the
occasion of the death centenary)
<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
Konknni Sorospot Prokaxon
- [image: Select] <> Eka Goenkarachi
bhaili bhonvddi = Travels abroad
<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
Konknnni Sorospot Prakashan
- [image: Select] <>
Suskāre<>By: Gomes, Olivinho.
Koṅkaṇī Saraspata Prakāśana
1st. āvr̥ttī. Edition
- [image: Select] <> Konkani
manasagangotri = Koṅkaṇī mānasagaṅgotrī: an anthology of early
Konkani literature <> By: Gomes,
Konkani Sorospot Prakashan

Eli N. Cruz's lives of Salesian saints

Speaking about youthful and contemporary models of holiness, the students brought to my attention a series of books by Fr Eli N. Cruz, the provincial of the Northern Filippine province (FIN):

All for Love (Salesian Saints Series 01, [Manila]: Fr Noel Osial, SDB, 2011) with the lives of Bl. Augustus Czartoryski, Bl. Alberto Marvelli, and Bl. Maria Romero Meneses
For Christ's Sake (Salesian Saints Series 02, [Manila]: Fr Noel Osial, SDB, 2012), with the lives of Bl. Bartolome Blanco, Bl. Zepherin Namuncura, Bl. Bronislaus Markiewicz, and Bl. Laura Vicuna.
In Heaven's Name (Salesian Saints Series 03, [Manila]: Fr Noel Osial, SDB, 2012), with the lives of Bl. Francis Kesy and companions, and Bl. Alexandrina Maria da Costa.

We can probably expect more from Eli's pen, and I look forward to this. Hopefully he will also write about those who are not yet beatified or canonized: Salvo D’Acquisto, Giacomo Maffei, Sean Devereux, Sigmund Ocasion, Fernando Calò, Ninni Di Leo, Xavier Ribas, Paola Adamo, Flores Roderick, Domenico Zamberletti, Bartolomé Blanco, Petras Pérkumas, Willi De Koster, Cruz Atempa, Renato Scalandri. They are contemporary, and so they have the directness that the Lives written by DB had in their time. God is alive and active, and people like Eli are being Don Bosco today.…

Wednesday 10 April 2013

Holy Week sweets in the Holy Land

At the Holy Rosary sisters this morning: Easter sweets, or perhaps, better, Holy Week sweets: the crown of thorns, and the sponge soaked with vinegar. Interesting how religion soaks into culture. Photos later: watch this page. 

Monday 8 April 2013

Don Bosco's Three Lives

Pedro Calungsod, Philippines

Kateri Tekakwitha, American Indian

Sigmund Ocasion, Philippines-Canada

Bl. PierGiorgio Frassati, Italian

PierGiorgio Frassati again
Absolutely amazing, reading the comments of Ian Murdoch and others about Don Bosco's Three Lives - Savio, Magone and Besucco.

The very first life written by Don Bosco was that of his friend Luigi Comollo - and the first draft of this life dates back to 1839, the year that Comollo died. The life, originally meant for the seminarians of Chieri, was published only in 1844, three years after Don Bosco's ordination. It went through 3 more editions, and in each of these Don Bosco expanded his audience: those aspiring to the priesthood (the things Don Bosco did to find priestly vocations!), anyone aspiring to Christian perfection, and so on.

Why then did Don Bosco write the lives of Savio, Magone and Besucco? A concrete push might have been dealing with Savio. Savio, after hearing Don Bosco's sermon on the call to holiness, made a radical decision to become a saint - and for a model, he seems to have turned to Comollo, whose Life, written by Don Bosco, was in his hands. This seems to have been the inspiration behind Savio's efforts to mortify himself in extraordinary ways. And here is where Don Bosco steps in, and manifests his spiritual originality: no extraordinary mortifications and penances, but simply doing your duties extraordinarily well, doing them cheerfully, and engaging in 'practical exercises of charity towards your companions.'

Here we see Don Bosco already beginning to modify the type of spirituality he had picked up in the Seminary, and seen exemplified in his best friend. We see him looking around for a type of spirituality that would be both attainable and attractive to the young. And for models - don Bosco is always concrete - he turns to his own boys. With Savio, Magone and Besucco, Don Bosco could turn to his boys and say to them: these boys lived here in the Oratory, they walked with you, they played with you, they prayed with you. If they can become saints, why not you? He could not have said that about Aloysius, and not even about Comollo.

Here Don Bosco is extraordinary, and perhaps in this we have not imitated him sufficiently. He had a shrewd and wise assessment of the power of the printed word, and he took pains to make use of this God-given means. The importance he attached to the Life of Dominic Savio can be seen in the time and energy he spent revising and expanding the text: the book went through fully five editions in his own lifetime.

The three lives are a compendium of Don Bosco's approach to the young, of his educative method and his spirituality. And really the two are one: Don Bosco was convinced that there is no education without religion. According to Murdoch, this was the context of the Life of Savio: against the then current moves to remove the influence of religion in education, Don Bosco wanted to say: it is not possible to educate without religion.

So: (1) youthful and fresh models of holiness, (2) accessible models, absolutely close to the  life of the boys he was dealing with; (3) and the indispensable connection between reason and religion, between education and grace.

And more still. The life of Savio is Don Bosco's first crystallization of his own particular way of educating and guiding youngsters. The life of Magone is the classic of the education through and of the heart, of his conviction that the only way to approach a youngster is through his heart. And the three lives together indicate that Don Bosco knew how to approach each one differently. Savio and Besucco had already been massively touched by grace before they met Don Bosco. Magone, instead, needed help of a different kind, and that Don Bosco was able to provide.

And a practical conclusion. Perhaps the three lives do not speak to youth today in the same way that they did in Don Bosco's time. The ever practical Don Bosco, instead of lamenting and clinging on to a past that is no more, would have given himself to finding new and contemporary models of youthful holiness. Which is what Pascal Chavez did some years ago, in one of the most brilliant moves of his term as Rector Major: the calendar showcasing contemporary models of youthful holiness in the Salesian Family. People like Sigmund Ocasion, PierGiorgio Frassati, Alberto Marvelli, the five young Polish martyrs and so on. Their lives speak, and they speak very loudly. 

Saturday 6 April 2013

St Peter in Gallicantu

Edoardo was going for a walk, so I joined him to St Peter in Gallicantu, which I had visited for the very first time on Good Friday. A truly beautiful church, I like it very much. It is supposed to be built on the site of an ancient Byzantine basilica, which itself was supposed to have been built on the house of Annas or was it Caiaphas. At any rate, there is a very beautiful upper church, then a lower church, and then, below that, caves that were very probably used as dungeons, and where it is likely that Jesus was held on the night of his arrest.

Outside is a flight of Roman steps going down into the old City of David, to the Pool of Siloam - at the time of Jesus, all these were enclosed within the city walls. So Jesus, after his arrest in Gethsemane, must have been led along the Kidron valley and into the gate near the Pool of Siloam, and up this very flight of steps to the house of the high priest. Vernet says that these might be the only site in all of the Holy Land on which we can say with some certainty that Jesus walked. I have to return there at a better hour. The hot afternoon sun was not quite conducive to meditation. And then, next to the lower church, the courtyard where Peter is said to have betrayed Jesus...

The church is managed by the Assumptionist Fathers. There is also a convent of sisters that look after the church, I believe. Very French, very elegant, very beautiful - the church, I mean. Impressive. Perhaps one of the best, if not the best, church in the Holy Land. 

Bernadette's sense of humour

Dominique Arnauld was talking about Bernadette Soubirous in the little break. He had just re-read a life, and was touched and impressed. Once she entered the convent, she was allowed to tell her story once, and then she was treated just like any other sister. That, I thought, was the best. Can't have a special novice to whom Our Lady appeared, and all the rest. But when some bishop passed by, she was often called to talk. "L'eveque te veux voir," the superior would tell her. And Bernadette: "Il veux me faire voir." She refused to take herself too seriously, and retained a lovely sense of humour all through her short life: she died at the age of 36; she had had her apparitions at age 17.

She seems to have suffered much before she died. "My vocation is to suffer," she would say, and not in any miserable self-pitying way, I would imagine. A cheerful matter-of-fact kind of person. The best kind of saint, I think.

One last incident: when she was sick, a bishop came to see her, and allowed his zuchetta to fall on her bed, hoping she would pick it up and give it back to him, so that he might have a zucchetta touched by a saint. She refused to do it. The bishop asked: Won't you pick it up and give it to me? - Why should I, she replied, to the scandal of her sisters. I did not ask for it. You pick it up yourself.

Marie-Alphonsine, and Simaan Srugi

We were invited yesterday to the Holy Rosary church down from our house, on Agron Street, for the exhumation and identification of the remains of Bl. Marie-Alphonsine. An impressive ceremony, in the presence of the Latin Patriarch, the Nuncio, other bishops, sisters and a number of other invitees.

Marie-Alphonsine, a foundress who refused to tell anyone that she was foundress. I guess everyone thought it was Tannous who was the founder. And Marie-Alphonsine was capable of instructing even Our Lady, who had told her to accept the post of superior general: Get my sister inside, she is younger and more capable. Which is what happened.

The point is that her own sisters did not know she was the foundress, and in old age used to pull her legs, as we often tend to do with older people, thinking they have lost their memory, are not attentive, do not understand, and so on. She took it with great good grace. Must have been an extraordinary person, being willing to keep her great secret even to the point of suffering unseemly ridicule.

And then the two messages, one from Bishop Kamal, the other from the mother of the girl whose cure was accepted as the miracle required for the beatification: you salesians have neglected Simaan Srugi. Make pictures, distribute them to the faithful, spread books of his life. If no one knows him, how will they pray to him for intercession, and if no one prays, how will we have the required miracle....

Wednesday 3 April 2013

Roncalli and the third humility

On the third humility, Rossi de Gasperis again:

There is a new understanding of reality, of others and of ourselves that matures when things begin to go badly. If, however, we resist such humiliation, it makes us bitter, hard and combative, while if it is accepted with gentleness, true humility begins to flower in us (ES 146). For decades we have perhaps spoken too much of poverty and too little of humility, too much of a 'poor Church' and too little of a 'humble Church.'

The impact that no 98 of the Ignatius Exercises and the third humility made on the soul of Angelo Roncalli is something marvellous. He writes about this already during the Spiritual Exercises made in a house of the Passionist Fathers in the north of Bulgaria, in the spring of 1930.

Thirty years later this prayer, repeated over so many years, led Angelo Roncalli, now John XXIII, to the great humiliation following his convocation of the Second Vatican Council. The announcement, which was made on 25 January 1959, was received in cold silence by the cardinals gathered in the Basilica of St Paul Outside the Walls, despite the fact that some of them had already been forewarned by the Secretary of State Tardini. The pope was deeply affected. "Humanly speaking," he said later, "one might have expected the cardinals, after having heard the Allocution, to have pulled together around Us to express their approval and their wishes. There was, instead, just an astounding silence." (Sentieri di vita 2.2:594-95)

The primacy of God

On the humility [umiliazione] of having only God as our goal, Rossi de Gasperis has this to say:

Let us think, for example, of the problem of having a life mate. "I want to follow the Lord, but I cannot live alone. I absolutely need a companion, a wife, a husband, a community to which to belong, someone who will fill my loneliness." A natural, good and legitimate need like this can become absolute and can claim precedence over every other choice, to the point of conditioning even my following of Christ.

Ignatius foresaw this inversion of the criteria of choice.

as it happens that many choose first to marry -- which is a means -- and secondarily to serve God our Lord in the married life -- which service of God is the end. So, too, there are others who first want to have benefices, and then to serve God in them. So that those do not go straight to God, but want God to come straight to their disordered tendencies, and consequently they make a means of the end, and an end of the means. So that what they had to take first, they take last; because first we have to set as our aim the wanting to serve God, -- which is the end, -- and secondarily, to take a benefice, or to marry, if it is more suitable to us, -- which is the means for the end. So, nothing ought to move me to take such means or to deprive myself of them, except only the service and praise of God our Lord and the eternal salvation of my soul. (ES 169)
There is no doubt that human company is something indispensable for my existence, but it cannot be  the first condition to have in mind. My goal is the end for which I have been created - for the praise of the Lord our God and for my salvation; to this every relationship with other persons and with the goods of this earth must be subordinated. Anything that takes away from this wisdom carries the risk of making us serve idols. (Sentieri di vita 2.2:591-92)

Ignatius makes extremely concrete 'the primacy of God.' The very first choice I am called to make is God; and then, within that choice, all other choices.

Monday 1 April 2013


The gospel of Monday morning in the Easter Octave speaks of the women touching Jesus, grasping his feet.

Touch: pilgrims in the Holy Land touching the stones, kissing them, embracing them. Touch: a sense that is so important to us, and that yet is often the step-child in much of our spiritual endeavours and certainly in the realm of philosophy.

Yet Ignatius of Loyola spoke of the spiritual sense, and Don Bosco tells his youngsters to kiss the crucifix devoutly. Ignatius spent a whole night on the Mount of the Ascension trying to fix in his mind and heart the image of the last footprint of Jesus. His spirituality breathes of the concrete. The incarnation is body, if it is anything. The body cannot be forgotten.  

Sii paziente...

Sii paziente verso tutto ciò
che è irrisolto nel tuo cuore e...
cerca di amare le domande, che sono simili a
stanze chiuse a chiave e a libri scritti
in una lingua straniera.
Non cercare ora le risposte che possono esserti date
poiché non saresti capace di convivere con esse.
E il punto è vivere ogni cosa. Vivere le domande ora.
Forse ti sarà dato, senza che tu te ne accorga,
di vivere fino al lontano
giorno in cui avrai la risposta.

“Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are now written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke

Featured post

Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary