Views & Reviews

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Radical Repentance

posted Dec 7, 2017, 10:15 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Dec 7, 2017, 10:15 PM ]

- Fr Anthony Charanghat

As we move along our Advent journey towards preparing for the coming of the Lord into our life, our humanity and our community, the motifs and reminders are increasing. We have the familiar nativity scene with figures of the Infant Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and also shepherds, cattle, the wise men and farm animals. Even figures of our popular culture have slipped into the picture: Santa and elves, Rudolph and other reindeer, the little drummer boy, Frosty the snowman, and other glitzy secular symbols. But the person crucial to an honest preparation for Christmas is missing. 

The great missing person from the preparation for Christmas is John the Baptist. We do not receive many Christmas cards or carols with John the Baptist's words about repentance on them. But the Church places him at the very centrestage on the Second Sunday of Advent, because John the Baptist is the very voice of Advent—the voice that points to the coming of the Lord Jesus to transform our life. His message and lifestyle is a cry to radical repentance. 

The message of John the Baptist to all of us is to 'Prepare the Way of the Lord'. The kind of preparation about which He speaks is not found in shopping malls; it is the much deeper preparation of our life and for Christ's entry into our hearts. St John the Baptist went before the Lord, and prepared His way and made His path straight. He is our model as witnesses to Jesus the Christ; we have to create a path for Jesus to enter our world, and we have to remove the obstacles we place, both as a community and as individuals, to Him being recognised in our world today. 

The ministry of John the Baptist focuses on the Baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The gratitude of receiving forgiveness is to try to do better in life – to move on from this sinfulness and meanness to a life of care, compassion, love and joy. It is a call and a challenge to forgive others. The key element in John the Baptist's preaching was to prepare a distinct community for the last times, that would observe the Law to survive the Day of Judgment on the final coming of the Lord. His message of Salvation was communitarian, and the new way of living was corporate. 

With His coming into the world, Jesus enhances John's message of the new community of the last times, to the New Israel – a community of faith, hope and love. But unlike John, this New Israel is not the group that must survive the wrathful judgment, but the new People who can keep the Law in spirit and truth, and who can rejoice because the Father loves them. By contrast, this picture of the 'new people' is defined by Jesus' baptism, where He is called 'My beloved Son'. 

To welcome Jesus, we must become the new community, the new People of God, the holy royal, priestly people of our Baptism. This means a whole new vision of what it is to be a Christian, abandoning any self-righteous system of salvation. How necessary is Advent hope for us Christians! A hope that does not come from natural optimism nor false illusion, but from God Himself. 

The world we live in, is lacking in peace and harmony, in justice and love. Make way therefore for god to come into our lives, to remove the obstacles and impediments, to tear down rather than build up walls, to clear out old animosities and grievances, to cut back the weeds of doubt and greed, not just to make a nice little bed for the new-born babe, but to open up our lives with advent hope in his transforming grace.

Is the Advent Attitude Artificial?

posted Nov 30, 2017, 10:23 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 30, 2017, 10:23 PM ]

- Fr Anthony Charanghat

Advent might look a little artificial! After all, Jesus Christ, the promised Messiah, was born 2000 years ago, and we are still awaiting Him. Advent, however, is not an exercise in make-believe. Rather, it recognises the fact and the truth that the entry of Christ into every part of our life is not yet finished. 

Each year, we discover that there is more of our life to unlock to Christ. That is why Advent each year is about expectantly and actively waiting for new light, new life, new birth of Christ into our life. This is the reason for recalling Isaiah’s active longing for God’s coming as an appropriate attitude for Advent. 

Isaiah’s reading is about the anguished outburst of a desperate people. Having exhausted all possible human alternatives, Isaiah cries out, "Why do you let us wander from your ways? Tear open the heavens and come down with the mountains quaking… we have become unclean, all our good deeds are like dirty rags." We are in need of Advent laundering - repentance. 

The prophet cries out on behalf of his people whose lives are in ruin. “You are the potter, we are the clay. Come down and shape us up." It is the prayer for a Saviour of the O.T. people who felt impotent, separated from God, because of their sins. We are called to make this spirit of penitential prayer our own at Advent. 

St Paul tells the Corinthian Christians and us that the great intervention has come and to reach out for the new gifts and grace of the Lord: “You lack no spiritual gift... He will strengthen you to the end. God has called you to fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ." The great gifts of revival, renewal and transformation that the Saints have received are available to us through the life of the Church. 

The Lord teaches us in the Gospel of Mark to ‘Wake up and be on the Watch.’ We can not afford to be asleep and blind. The reading refers of course to His coming in glory. But it can also apply to the present, to the ‘now’. It is easy for us to limit His coming to the past 2000 years ago, or to the future when the Lord will come at the end of history and to ignore the ways the Lord comes to us today. 

Each time Scripture is read, the Lord speaks to us. Each time the Mass is celebrated, the Lord is present with His cleansing redeeming love for the Church and for us. Each time we come to Communion, He pledges eternal life to us who live the meaning of that Communion. 

As we light the candles of the Advent Wreath and their light becomes strong each week of Advent, the presence of the light of Christ becomes stronger. The Lord was born once and for all at Bethlehem. Advent and Christmas is not about waiting to celebrate the rebirth of Christ every year. It is about the rebirth of faith, the rebirth of our commitment to Christ and His Church. 

The first Sunday of Advent—the start of a new Church year—is a good time to make a more honest self-scrutiny, as we prepare for Christmas confession. Maybe there is some bridge-building we need to do in our life. In this year that marks the first World Day of the Poor, we must reach out in concrete acts of mercy to the marginalised, to children who are abused, to women who suffer violence, to families in conflict, and to those in the throes of hunger, famine and homelessness caused by the ravages of war and natural calamities. 

Advent calls us to watch for the movement of God in our life.

Rule of His Reign

posted Nov 23, 2017, 10:12 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2017, 2:27 AM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The liturgy of Christ the King does not call for a march of triumphalism or military grandeur to honour an imperious King. Rather, the Gospel of Matthew warns, challenges and comforts us to walk in the steps of Christ Our Lord, who comes as the suffering Servant, the Shepherd who lays down His life, and the Saviour who restores. The manner of the rule of His reign is His identification with the poor and service to the needy. Matthew defines the criteria that would enable us to enter into the Kingdom. Those who have been a blessing to others will receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of God. 

For whom have the blessings of the kingdom been prepared by the Father before the foundations of the world? They are people who have responded with merciful love and generous hospitality to the needs of others, just as Jesus did. We see some of them telecast on our TV screens or read about them in the papers. But such people are also walking our streets in less spectacular and tragic circumstances. 

The needs they meet are listed in the gospel: hunger, thirst, nakedness, sickness and imprisonment. These needs are representative, although not exhaustive, of universal pain and poverty. The surprise of the parable is the surprise of those on Christ's right-hand —the place of honour, and their emphasis on 'when was it that we saw you, Lord, in others?' Jesus' face is obscured by the faces of the suffering and vulnerable ones of the world, but He is there as the 'Emmanuel', God-with-us. 

With those on the left hand of the Lord, their response has been a reverse image of those on the right. Again, there is an emphasis of seeing. They respond that they have never seen Jesus in any of the human suffering described. The judgment goes beyond the issue of whether one is a believer or non-believer; if one has not responded to human suffering, one has not responded to Christ. For those who have failed in seeing the needs of those who suffer, there is separation and exclusion from the kingdom of God. The commandment to love God and its 'like' command to love one's neighbour converge in Christological significance. 

At the end of the Church's year, it would be helpful to judge ourselves in preparation for His Coming. How have we fed the hungry? Have we responded to appeals of help, especially in times of disaster or to service calls, not only in our parishes, but also to offering ourselves as food for those who hunger for friendship, for a listening ear and heart? Do we leave our relationships in bitter cold, rather than clothing them with the warmth of forgiving love? Are we ready to be Eucharistic people, broken and consumed by our service and sacrifice for others? 

The homeless are on our streets, and refugees and asylum-seekers are seeking hospitality from oppression and injustice. Do we support those in a face-to-face ministry of encounter and solidarity? Have we stripped others naked by malicious gossip or failures in confidence? We are all prisoners in our own way to the reality of Sin. Some of us may minister with great compassion to those who are physically imprisoned, but in everyday life, do we try to lead each other into freedom, or lock one another out? 

The passage of the gospel of Christ the King has often been captioned 'The Last Judgment', but in fact, the judgment has already been made—determined by the way we have responded or have failed to respond, with Christ-like mercy and hospitality to those in need during our lives. The message is at its clearest: what we do now is the judgment that we will hear at Christ's final coming.

James Alberione: The First Apostle of the New Evangelization

posted Nov 17, 2017, 1:36 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 17, 2017, 1:36 AM ]

Perhaps he was the only founder who was privileged to have had the visit of a Pope (Paul VI), hours before he breathed his last. That was the kind of impact and legacy Blessed James Alberione left behind for his children, and for the Church at large. Pope Paul VI, who in 1969 awarded the Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice to Alberione, saying, "Permit the Pope, dear Father Alberione, to rejoice at this long, faithful and unwearied effort and the fruits it has produced for God's glory and the good of the Church" would later call him "the media marvel of our times." 

Later, on April 27, 2003 while declaring Alberione Blessed, Pope Saint John Paul II called him the "First Apostle of the New Evangelization." Truly so, for he was able to visualise in 1914 the influence that the media of social communication would exert on human lives and its indispensable role in evangelisation, much before media consciousness was awakened in the Church. 50 years later, the Church officially recognised the role of Media during Vatican Council II (1964) by promulgating an official document of Social Communication - Inter Mirifica. 

Blessed James Alberione was a 'visionary-communicator' par excellence! As desired by Pope Leo XIII at the turn of the 20th century, the young Alberione set out to prepare himself 'to do something for God and for His people' in the new century. Kneeling in front of the Eucharistic Lord, young Alberione heard a voice from the Lord, "Be not afraid! I am with you. From here (the Tabernacle) I wish to enlighten. Be sorry for sins." Interestingly, "Be not afraid! I am with you" (Is 43:5) is the scriptural theme for Pope Francis' message for the 51st World Communication Day this year. 

Courage—lack of fear—is an essential ingredient if we wish to communicate the 'truth' to the world. Pope Francis, in his message, encourages everyone "to engage in constructive forms of communication that reject prejudice towards others and foster a culture of encounter, helping all of us to view the world around us with realism and trust." He further exhorts us to "search for an open and creative style of communication" and "inspire a positive and responsible approach on the part of its recipients." 

This is exactly what young Alberione courageously set out to do in 1914. It would not be an exaggeration to identify Blessed Alberione as a trailblazer in the apostolate of Mass Media. He wanted to fight the 'bad press' with the 'good press' and did all within his power—printed books, magazines, booklets, newsletters, prayer cards, produced documentaries and films—to offer people of his time stories that are "at heart 'good news'", as Pope Francis says in his message. 

To carry forward his vision for evangelisation through the mass media, Alberione founded 10 institutes of which four—Society of Saint Paul, Daughters of Saint Paul, Pious Disciples of the Divine Master and Pauline Cooperators—are present in India today. Alberione challenged his children to think 50 years ahead of their time in their pastoral-apostolic initiatives. 

Alberione might not have foreseen the explosive impact of the digital media in our lives, as it is now. Digital media was not a challenge of his times. It's our challenge, and definitely we can draw inspiration from the visionary initiatives of Blessed Alberione to think ahead of our time to become efficient, effective and relevant evangelisers in today's 'swiping' generation. 

Fr Joby Mathew is General Editor at ST PAULS /BETTER YOURSELF BOOKS Publications

200 years of the Charism of Claudine Thevenet

posted Nov 10, 2017, 6:17 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 10, 2017, 6:17 AM ]

In 1842, a brave band of six Sisters was sent on a long, adventurous and perilous journey to distant India, barely five years after the death of Mother Claudine Thevenet, the foundress of their Congregation of Jesus and Mary on February 3, 1837. It symbolised the response given by the Religious of Jesus and Mary to an appeal from India that set the Congregation on the path of MISSION AD GENTES.

St Claudine, Foundress of 'Jesus and Mary' and true daughter of the Church, described as the 'Gospel personified', remains a shining example of the spiritual renaissance of Lyons in the 19th century, and a model of holiness and apostolic zeal for our world today. It is this admirable missionary Spirit - the hallmark of her life - that continues to beckon us with an urgency to harken to the cries of people from distant shores and to hasten there.

It is 200 years since that first call, and our hearts still beat with zeal and ardour today in living out the charism of our dear Claudine: to serve the young, and all social classes, with a preference for the poor. This occasion provides us with an opportunity not only to celebrate these past 200 years of our contribution as a pioneering Congregation in India, but also to renew our future ministry in the world at large, so that with fresh and concerted initiatives, we can continue to play our role in the global transformation of Education.

In our later Missionary Epic story of 'JESUS AND MARY', we see how drastically the demands on Education have changed. It has been an undaunted challenge for us to keep abreast with the flow of educational events and to handle the trauma of change sweeping through our schools. It is due to the pioneering presence of our Sisters, who with gifted heads and hearts, and whose spiritual and inspirational leadership kept our Congregation moving closely and steadily within the large looming shadow of St Claudine and the Church.

We deeply revere them for their fine example as large-hearted WOMEN with a deep spiritual and maternal outlook, sound practical judgment, firm commitment, their scholarship, expertise, humaneness, and much more. It is a time to look back with gratitude, thankfulness and joy, together with our Sisters, our Lay Collaborators, Parents and Pupils, the world over, and pour out our praise to God in the words of our traditional anthem: 'Praised be forever Jesus and Mary.'

In the last words of Claudine: "How Good God is" which we oft repeat, "lie our determination and perseverance in keeping the boat from sinking, in spite of complex changes and the sad loss of many skilled hands of our collaborators. Spurred on by her spirit, we have encouraged the growth and formation of the Young Religious and their teammates who zealously exemplify Claudine's charism of 'making God known and loved.'

As we plant another milestone in the pages of our chequered history, we earnestly desire to renew our 'MAGIS' to Christ and His Church as One Apostolic Body of the Congregation, and therefore pledge not merely about 'doing more', but 'giving more'. We subscribe afresh to the MAGIS, with a deeper understanding of what we are assigning to. If the MAGIS is simply 'the greater, the excellent, the best', and associated with restless striving to always do better, then "Do we/I desire to be challenged by it at this MAGIS MOMENT?"

If our MAGIS is to be experienced as a turning away from mediocrity, and choosing the path of love which is limitless, then our motto should be 'every heart which holds Jesus is a Missionary, and every heart which does not is our Mission field.' For our MAGIS to be fruitful and fulfilling, we must be constantly striving to grow stronger spiritually and intellectually for Mission. Looking at the world with the eyes of Claudine, we see Compassion as truly and completely making others' plight and difficulties our own. Our MAGIS could be this form of Compassion, urging us to take on the 'more' of people's struggles.

With Claudine's heavenly support, we want that our MAGIS be always TOTAL, always JOYFUL…always MAGIS, because it is for the KING who calls. (Sp. Exs.)

Sr Gerard Paul, rjm

The Shrine of Don Bosco’s Madonna

posted Nov 2, 2017, 6:08 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 2, 2017, 6:08 PM ]

The Shrine of Don Bosco's Madonna is a 'must-see' stop for any one, especially for a Marian devotee who comes to Mumbai. It recently turned 60, but it still looks as fresh as if it were consecrated only the other day. 

The journey from conception to construction is a hymn of gratitude to Our Blessed Mother from her grateful children who heeded the earnest plea of that great visionary, Fr Aurelius Maschio. With generous donations gradually trickling in, it took barely two years for this magnificent Marian monument to be completed. 

On August 5, 1957, Auxiliary Bishop Longinus Pereira blessed the Shrine and declared it open for public veneration. Seven years later, on November 28, 1964, the Shrine was formally consecrated by Archbishop Hubert D'Rosario, SDB, along with seven other bishops who assisted him in consecrating the side altars and the altars in the crypt; and barely a week later, on December 4, 1964, no less a personage than his Holiness, Pope Paul VI, visited the Shrine and blessed the statue of Mary Help of Christians, which to this day is venerated, especially during the Novena and the solemn feast of Mary Help of Christians on May 24. 

The main dome over the sanctuary and the two smaller bell-towers (with electric chimes) over the entrance are typical of Roman church architecture. The façade is marked by an arched doorway, above which is a huge mosaic of the Madonna—the inspiration of all Don Bosco's work. The entire shrine has an exterior of Malad granite, golden-brown in colour with its eye-catching 12 foot-high gilt statue of Mary, Help of Christians standing majestically atop the main dome. 

Over the years, people from all corners of the globe have made their way here, either to fulfil a promise or to make a request, or simply to sit in gratitude, just resting in the soothing and serene environment of her Shrine. None of this would make any sense unless the raison d'etre is known. 

All those who have any association with the Shrine know that these hallowed portals exude much devotion, faith and love. Besides the personal Devotion that draws people here, the vast and lively correspondence even in this digital age continues to meet the need of simple Catholics seeking enlightenment and consolation, encouragement and inspiration. The Shrine's many services and tracts continue to be disseminated, enlivening the faith of Mary's devotees. 

Nothing draws these Marian devotees as much as their Faith in the intercessory power of Mary, the Madonna of Don Bosco. The Novenas conducted at the shrine and the services celebrated are a tribute to the faith of the many who know that it is through Mary that they will most certainly reach her Son Jesus. Christians have returned to the Church, thanks to the Sacrament of Reconciliation that is made available to penitents coming from near and far to avail themselves of God's mercy freely offered. 

Those who are able to come to the Shrine or those who don't find it possible, still find ways and means to bring to our notice that they wish to express their Love and gratitude for favours received, and most of all for the palpable presence of Mary in their lives. 

Several devotees have passed on their devotion to their children and their grandchildren, and it is a delight to see entire families making their way to the feet of Our Lady to rededicate themselves to her and to reaffirm their filial devotion to the Queen and Mother of their homes. 

The greatest treasure of the Shrine is the faith of the countless devotees and penitents who have streamed through its portals over these past sixty years. Young and old, rich and poor, Christians and others... have kept coming back to this beautiful masterpiece of Marian art and devotion to seek solace and serenity. 

Fr Ian Doulton, Editor of Don Bosco's Madonna Magazine, Matunga, Mumbai

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