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Walking with Young People

posted Mar 16, 2017, 10:48 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 16, 2017, 10:50 PM ]

Pope Francis chose "Young people, faith and vocational discernment" as the theme for the synod gathering, which will be held in October 2018. Young people will have an opportunity to contribute to the working document by submitting reflections "on their expectations and their lives" through a dedicated website launched on March 1, said Bishop Fabio Fabene, undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops. 

In his letter to young people, Pope Francis referred to God's call to Abraham. The Old Testament patriarch, he said, "received a compelling invitation, a challenge, to leave everything and go to a new land. What is this 'new land' for us today, if not a more just and friendly society which you, young people, deeply desire and wish to build to the very ends of the earth?" 

"A better world can be built also as a result of your efforts, your desire to change and your generosity," Pope Francis told young people. "Do not be afraid to listen to the Spirit who proposes bold choices; do not delay when your conscience asks you to take risks in following the Master." 

The Synod preparatory document offered three chapters for reflection by bishops and youths, which it defines as people roughly between the ages of 16 and 29: young people in today's world; faith, discernment and vocation; and pastoral activity. Through the synod, the document said, "The Church has decided to examine herself on how she can lead young people to recognise and accept the call to the fullness of life and love, and to ask young people to help her in identifying the most effective ways to announce the Good News today." 

The Church, it said, needs to evaluate its pastoral approach to young people living in a rapidly changing world where globalisation, technological dominance, as well as economic and social hardships pose significant challenges to discovering their vocational path. "From the vantage point of faith, the situation is seen as a sign of our times, requiring greater listening, respect and dialogue," the document said. 

A special focus of the synod, it said, will be "on vocational discernment, that is, the process by which a person makes fundamental choices, in dialogue with the Lord and listening to the voice of the Spirit, starting with the choice of one's state in life." 

Specifically for Christians, it said, the question is: "How does a person live the good news of the Gospel and respond to the call which the Lord addresses to all those He encounters, whether through marriage, the ordained ministry or the consecrated life?" 

One of the major challenges for young people in defining their personal identity and finding their path in life is the countless options available - particularly when it comes to their careers - that may impede them from making a definitive life choice. Many young people today, it said, "refuse to continue on a personal journey of life, if it means giving up taking different paths in the future: 'Today I choose this, tomorrow we'll see.'" 

Lack of employment and social and economic hardships, it added, also contribute to "their inability to continue in one career. Generally speaking, these obstacles are even more difficult for young women to overcome," it added. 

Gender inequality and discrimination against ethnic or religious minorities, which can force people to emigrate, are other detrimental factors that the Church is called to address to help young people become "agents of change." 

"If society or the Christian community wants to make something new happen again, they have to leave room for new people to take action," the document said. 

By accompanying young people in their personal discernment, it said, "the Church accepts her call to collaborate in the joy of young people, rather than be tempted to take control of their faith." 

(Junno Arocho Esteves, Catholic News Service)

The Trip to Transformation

posted Mar 9, 2017, 9:49 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 9, 2017, 9:49 PM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

Two weeks into our Lenten Journey, and the Liturgy calls us to the mountaintop experience of personal encounter with God that offers us the truth of Jesus and a glimpse of His glory erupting through His humanity. It was the identical call that the three apostles received at this sacred moment on Mount Tabor. This call to the mountain of prayer and worship that manifested the Transfiguration of Jesus is the key to our trip to Transformation in the season of Lent.

Peter, James and John, who were privileged to be there, had a startling experience of Jesus' face and clothes changed, and Moses and Elijah in conversation with Him. Then came the voice of the Father, "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him." Those words of the Father are at the heart of this moment. This experience will enter the deep memory of the apostles, and will sustain them in difficult times ahead, because these same apostles will be with Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane.

Here they had an experience of Christ's glory that would bolster them through the Passion and death of Jesus. They were told to listen to the words of Jesus about His own sufferings and passage into glory, because that will be their own journey as well. They will know the suffering in their own life, and this experience of the mountain will give them the assurance of glory.

For all of us, Mount Tabor represents the mountain of worship. At the Eucharist, we rise in the very presence of God. In our life, we need the mountain of worship to help us in the valley of work that we have to do here on earth. All of us need to move back and forth between the mountain and the valley.

There is always the tendency to emphasise one over the other. There is the desire, like Peter, to stay on the mountain. Jesus was there in radiant power, with Moses and Elijah from the past. The Law and the prophets all came together in one place. The problems of the world were left behind. Peter wanted to freeze that moment, and hold it like a snapshot. We all have had such moments, and for some people, their Christian faith is exclusively that—a retreat, an interlude and an escape.

But then there is the valley. The valley is where people live, work and navigate their struggles. Many do not take time for the mountain, but they desperately need its grace, its moral clarity and its spiritual power. Without the mountain of worship, we lack spiritual resources, and can easily be burned out and depleted without a moral compass. Without the valley, we end up with a religion of escape or private religious experience that transforms nothing, redeems no one, and is isolated from the world.

We all need the mountain, and we all need the valley. On the mountain of worship, we inhale the power of Grace and the truth of Christ. In the valley, we exhale the life and spirit of Christ to those with whom we love and work. On the mountain, we draw spiritual life and vitality. In the valley, we breathe out that life to others.

The words of the Father on the mountain: "This is my beloved Son. Listen to Him" are also directed to us. Do we listen to Him? The Lord speaks to us in Scripture and the Sacraments, but also through the failures of our life. The Lord can speak to us through difficult relationships and conflicts. The Lord can speak to us through illness. The tragedy of the Cross is woven into the triumph of His Resurrection. Are we willing to listen to the Lord when called this Lent to endure suffering and pain as a path to deeper life and glory like His?

The Profound Theology of Women

posted Mar 2, 2017, 10:03 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Mar 2, 2017, 10:04 PM ]

Pope Francis challenges women to a deeper theology of women, reminding them of their true worth and their real and valuable place within the Church. The worth of women in the Church and society should not be reduced to depending on the ability of receiving the sacrament of ordination. The Church is clear presently that women are not ordained priests within the Catholic Church due to the sacramental dimension of the ministerial priesthood; yet, this does not render the female a worthless waste of space in the pews. 

The female contributions to the Church are valuable, and cannot be equated to being conferred with the ability of men to be priests. This negative view of women in the Church should be reversed from their inability to be priests to their ability to be women of Christ. Pope refers to Mary as the focal point of the feminine role within the Church: “Mary, was more important than the Apostles, than bishops, deacons, and priests.” Yet, she was not a priest. 

Women, and their valuable contributions to the Church, lie far beyond the obsession with women’s ‘equality to priests and men’. Both men and women are called to a deeper theology; for some men, this is manifested in the priesthood. For women, it can be manifested in multiple ways, none of which include the priesthood. 

Edith Stein offers some insightful wisdom concerning the topic of female priests: “If we consider the attitude of the Lord himself, we understand that he accepted the free loving services of women for Himself and his Apostles, and that women were among his disciples and most intimate confidant. Yet, he did not call them to the priesthood, not even to his mother, Queen of Apostles, who was exalted above all humanity in human perfection and fullness of grace.” (2) 

The role of women within the Church is different than man’s, creating a positive and balancing effect within the Church. Pope Francis defends the feminine role by saying that ‘a Church without women is like the Apostolic College without Mary’. The role of women in the Church is not only maternity, the mother of the family, but it is stronger: it is, in fact, the icon of the Virgin, Our Lady, and the one who helps the Church grow. 

This deeper theology that Pope Francis references should be an exciting new challenge for women in the professional world, society, and the Church. Gathering inspiration from the Mother of God, the women of today have an adventurous and fulfilling road ahead of them. Women who wish to fulfil their feminine vocations will most surely succeed in their goals if they not only keep the idea of Mary before their eyes and strive to form themselves according to her image, but if they also entrust themselves to her guidance and place themselves completely under her care. 

Pope John Paul II laid a solid foundation regarding women, especially in his Letter to Women, where he affirms women in their roles as mothers, wives, daughters, sisters, workers, and the consecrated. Here, he acknowledges that “women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity.” (5) 

Pope Francis calls on women of today to enter more deeply into their vocation: “A woman’s role in the Church must not end only as mother, as worker, limited. Women are challenged to contribute to their communities and the Church through formation, prayer, active service, and what Pope Francis calls a ‘profound theology’, gathering strength from their essential role to the body of the Church for the greater glory of God. 

An Adapted and abridged article of Maggie Lawson (Courtesey : CNA)

Word of God in our Family

posted Feb 23, 2017, 9:14 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 23, 2017, 9:15 PM ]

Fr Anthony Charanghat

Do we consider the Bible a table around which the family gathers, and a foundation on which the faith of our family is built? On Bible Sunday, as we try to draw some practical ways to share the Word of God at home, perhaps we will be surprised to discover that the family Bible, regardless of whether it is prominently enthroned or is gathering dust on our bookshelf, is one of the most valuable spiritual treasures of a Christian home. 

Indeed, the Word of God is living and effective, sharper than any two-edged sword, penetrating even between soul and spirit, joints and marrow, and able to discern the reflections and thoughts of the heart," writes the author of the Letter to the Hebrews (4:12). 

But how is the Word of God to become "living and effective" in our homes, in our families, in our professional and social relationships? There are a few practical ways to make the treasures of the Bible into a table at which our families are nourished and strengthened for the Christian life. 

Given the hectic and stressed pace of life and our typically overworked schedules, making family time for the Bible reminds us of the need to put God first. Gathering around the table of God's Word enriches and strengthens the experience of family as a 'domestic Church'. 

This time dedicated to reading the Word of God puts the whole family into living communication with God. Everyone gathered in this family activity - married couples, parents and children - is brought to a living encounter with Christ, who is present as the Word among them. 

It is a wholesome practice to introduce children to Sacred Scriptures once they receive First Holy Communion. It helps them to connect to the readings proclaimed at Mass. This relationship of the Bible to the liturgy means it is invaluable for affirming children in the faith of the Church: it allows them to make the connection between what is proclaimed and heard in the liturgy with what is read in the home. 

Parents can also choose to integrate family prayer time with the reading of Scripture. The Liturgy of the Hours is biblical in content and inspirational, through and through. So when praying the Liturgy of the Hours as a family, whether Morning or Evening Prayer, the family participates in the common and universal prayer of the Church. The family can also experience the riches of God's Word by adapting this ancient approach to a meditative and prayerful reading of Scripture in the home. 

This will move members of the family spontaneously from hearing to living God's Word. The lives of the saints are filled with examples of holy men and women who have translated God's Word into action. The saints stand out because of their unique and graced capacity to be not only hearers, but doers of God's Word. In the faith, hope and love of the saints, God's Word—recorded in the pages of the Bible—comes alive in the book of life. 

Parents must narrate Bible stories to their children, and devote time to reading and discussing the various levels of meaning in the sacred stories. When children, with their natural capacity for awe and wonder, marvel at the biblical stories, they can be led to connect the story of their life and their family to the story of salvation itself, irresistibly living their faith effectively. 

Biblical stories and figures who reveal human weakness and sinfulness provide opportunities to families to discuss—at age-appropriate levels—the realities of human experience in the light of God's love and mercy and thus build a culture of mercy, which Pope Francis invites us to in the year 2017.

Celebrating Catholic Communications

posted Feb 17, 2017, 7:14 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 17, 2017, 7:14 AM ]

This February, we do well to observe the Catholic Press Month by acknowledging with appreciation and celebrating with a real hope, the enduring value of the Catholic Communication media. In this age of media crisis, where truth and objectivity are rarely at a premium, we are called to pledge our support to the Catholic media that has ‘speaking the truth with love’ as its motto. 

The Catholic Press through its newspapers, magazines, newsletters, books and blogs of its scribes are the most effective instruments of religious communications. This indeed is done more efficiently than any other outside the Sunday homilies and communiques of its Church leaders. That print continues to be ‘viable and essential’ is of immense importance because its most avid readers turnout to becoming active and leading committed Catholics. 

In our media saturated world, whatever one may think of the quality of secular media, its media coverage of the church is often critically hostile or uneven at best, whether in newspapers, radio or television. At a time when the church often seeks to be engaged in the great issues of the day, its voice barely is granted space in the mainstream media. 

Stories about few charismatic leaders like Pope John Paul II, Pope Francis or Mother Teresa may feature in the print and digital media prominently because they attracts readers, which is a blessing. But so do scandals and abuse stories with greater frequency and malice. Stories about where bishops stand on particular issues, reports on events or issues from a Catholic perspective or profiles of Catholics who are living lives in fidelity to the Gospel are rare to non-existent in the secular media. 

It is critical that Catholics not only have access to sound news coverage and commentary, but that they hear directly from their leaders on the issues of the day and have the resources to see their world through the eyes of faith. The Catholic media predominantly offers space to Catholic leaders to be read, heard and seen by their people — unmuted, uncensored and independent of the preconceptions and prejudices of too many secular media outlets. 

The Catholic Communications media must work to fulfil its mission of informing, educating and evangelising catholics by continuing to produce print publications of excellence while increasing their use of other media. The key to this is a more effective embrace of new media, better cost control and improved collaboration among the various media entities. The real payoff would be in the multiplier effect of all the media arms working together to spread rapidly and greater outreach. 

The newspaper, will focus more on the ‘why’ of Catholic news, while the electronic media more speedily deliver the ‘who, what, when and where’ of traditional news reporting. For Catholic media to make a difference, however, it needs to cultivate and highlight its own Catholic journalists, photojournalists, editors and designers who have, or should have, the knowledge to report accurately on local, national and global events and teachings of the Church relevant to its readers. 

Digital is and will be a powerful communications medium, but print remains the ultimate ‘push’ technology. It arrives weekly or biweekly and by doing so demands attention. The printed version of Catholic publications is still the most effective ‘push’ medium — that is, one that is sent to readers on a regular basis without readers having to take the initiative to visit a website or take any other positive action. 

While adult faith formation is considered of utmost importance to the mission and vision of the Church, Catholic news media remain the primary means of this formation. The regular appearance of a Catholic publication with news, analysis, columns and features in a virtual or actual mailbox does more to help adult Catholics in their ongoing faith formation.

Pope's World Day of Sick Message

posted Feb 9, 2017, 9:10 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 9, 2017, 9:11 PM ]

On February 11, the 25th World Day of the Sick will be celebrated throughout the Church, and in a special way at Lourdes. The theme of this year's celebration is "Amazement at what God has accomplished: 'The Almighty has done great things for me….'" (Lk 1:49). This Day is an opportunity to reflect in particular on the needs of the sick and, more generally, of all those who suffer. 

It is also an occasion for those who generously assist the sick, beginning with family members, health workers and volunteers, to give thanks for their God-given vocation of accompanying our infirm brothers and sisters. This celebration, likewise, gives the Church renewed spiritual energy for carrying out ever more fully that fundamental part of her mission which includes serving the poor, the infirm, the suffering, the outcast and the marginalised. 

I will be spiritually present at the grotto of Massabielle, before the statue of the Immaculate Virgin, in whom the Almighty has done great things for the redemption of mankind. I express my closeness to all of you, our suffering brothers and sisters, and to your families, as well as my appreciation for all those in different roles of service and in healthcare institutions throughout the world, who work with professionalism, responsibility and dedication for your care, treatment and daily well-being. Like Saint Bernadette, we stand beneath the watchful gaze of Mary. The humble maiden of Lourdes tells us that the Virgin, whom she called "the Lovely Lady", looked at her as one person looks at another. 

The gaze of Mary, Comfort of the Afflicted, brightens the face of the Church in her daily commitment to the suffering and those in need. The precious fruits of this solicitude for the world of suffering and sickness are a reason for gratitude to the Lord Jesus, who out of obedience to the will of the Father became one of us, even enduring death on the Cross for the redemption of humanity. The solidarity shown by Christ, the Son of God born of Mary, is the expression of God's merciful omnipotence, which is made manifest in our life – above all when that life is frail, pain-filled, humbled, marginalised and suffering – and fills it with the power of hope that can sustain us and enable us to get up again. 

This great wealth of humanity and faith must not be dissipated. Instead, it should inspire us to speak openly of our human weaknesses and to address the challenges of present-day healthcare and technology. On this World Day of the Sick, may we find a new incentive to work for the growth of a culture of respect for life, health and the environment. May this Day also inspire renewed efforts to defend the integrity and dignity of persons, not least through a correct approach to bio-ethical issues, the protection of the vulnerable and the protection of the environment. 

On this Twenty-fifth World Day of the Sick, I once more offer my prayerful support and encouragement to physicians, nurses, volunteers and all those consecrated men and women committed to serving the sick and those in need. I also embrace the ecclesial and civil institutions working to this end, and the families who take loving care of their sick. I pray that all may be ever joyous signs of the presence of God's love and imitate the luminous testimony of so many friends of God, including Saint John of God and Saint Camillus de' Lellis, the patrons of hospitals and healthcare workers, and Saint Mother Teresa of Kolkata, missionary of God's love. 

Surely, the moments of prayer, the Eucharistic liturgies and the celebrations of the Anointing of the Sick, the sharing with the sick and the bio-ethical and theological-pastoral workshops to be held in Lourdes in those days will make new and significant contributions to that service. 

(Compiled from Vatican Radio)

Two Auxiliary Bishops for Bombay

posted Feb 2, 2017, 10:27 PM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Feb 2, 2017, 10:27 PM ]

This is a day of great rejoicing in the Archdiocese of Bombay. A very historic day; for this day, on the feast of St Thomas Aquinas, the great doctor of the Church, we are receiving a gift from God of two new Auxiliary Bishops in the Archdiocese.

How happy we are! What a joy it is to each one of us, in a special way for the parishioners of Thane and of Borivli, and for all of us in the Archdiocese of Bombay, the Western Region and the Church in India. These pastors have been called by the Lord to a great leadership role; all of us rejoice, because we have new Shepherds to assist in the leadership of the Church—new leaders to guide us; holy men to take us to the Lord.

Allwyn D’Silva and Barthol Barretto—through the imposition of hands following the ancient tradition, from the very apostolic times, and saying the approved formula—will now join our ranks as Shepherds of the Church. Being a Shepherd of the Church is most challenging at every time, but especially in our times. Our Chief Shepherd in Rome, Pope Francis, insists on the central role of the Bishops, and has consistently been encouraging and guiding the Bishops in their role as leaders of the Church.

Pope Francis has been insisting "the Shepherds must have the smell of the sheep" (their flock). This smell you will have if you are connected to them, in an approachable, welcoming, understanding way, and opening his heart to them. It is not just the question of being physically present, but the attitude of the heart, receiving, loving them, understanding them, sharing in their joys and sorrows, and being of service to your people, just as the Lord was available to His people throughout the day.

The Holy Father issued an Apostolic Letter Misericordia et Misera where he reminded us that the Year of Mercy is past, but mercy and compassion cannot be forgotten. It is an essential element of Christ’s teaching. We have to promote a culture of mercy, says the Pope. That is why in the Archdiocese of Bombay, in the coming year, we will have as our theme “Promoting the culture of mercy” so that every parish, every institution, every religious house becomes an oasis of mercy for our people, reaching out to all those on the periphery, welcoming all those in distress.

The Archdiocese of Bombay has had the privilege of having the system of Small Christian Communities. This and other associations and groups can be used effectively to promote the apostolate of the laity. It is only with the laity that the Church can be vibrant. Hence, educate them, confirm them, encourage them, work with them and teach them to work with others.

Mumbai is a cosmopolitan city. Not all are of our culture, language or even religion. Hence, dialogue is important. Dialogue with people of other cultures, dialogue with people of other religions, dialogue with people of other languages, and work hand in hand with Government. We cannot transform all of society alone. We, as Christians, can be catalysts that can promote harmony among people of diverse cultures, languages and religions.

Both Allwyn and Barthol bring a great contribution to the leadership of this Archdiocese. Both have been Parish Priests, successful, loved by people. Both have a special love for their people; both have been associated with the Central Office of the Archdiocese, the Archbishop and his Curia. Both have been associated with the Seminary. And yet, both complement each other so much. One has spent a lot of time planning pastoral work; the other has spent more time doing pastoral work. One is very much continuously doing things; the other is much concentrated on planning things to be done. One has had much exposure in India and outside; the other has had deep exposure in the Archdiocese. What richness for the Archdiocese to have these two men with us. I very warmly welcome you to the leadership of the Archdiocese of Bombay; a very warm embrace to you from me, the Auxiliaries, and from all the clergy in the Archdiocese of Bombay and Religious and faithful.

Extracts from the Homily of Cardinal Oswald Gracias at the Episcopal Ordination

Salesians - family of Life and Love

posted Jan 27, 2017, 1:46 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 27, 2017, 1:47 AM ]

St John Bosco, familiarly known as Don Bosco, wanted his Congregation to be a 'family'. Don Bosco knew that the family forms an integral part of life, and is very important for the holistic growth of the individual. This is the reason that the Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, reiterates this dimension in his vision for this year's Strenna (theme) to the Salesian Family: "We are a Family: Every home, a school of Life and Love!"

When Don Bosco was ordained in 1841, Turin was in turbulence. With the Industrial Revolution making headway in Piedmont, many young people migrated from the impoverished countryside to the industrialised Turin, in the hope of finding employment and a better life. They lived on the streets, and were exploited by the industrialists; many ended up in prison. Don Bosco decided to work for these youngsters.

Not everyone approved of the idea of a priest working with street children. Don Bosco was forced to make a choice: to be a priest within the Church establishment, or with the boys living in poverty. He made the option for the poor. This was not an easy decision; it left him without housing, without promotion prospects, without an income and not much of a future.

The core of his work was in the Oratory. It started as a kind of Sunday school, where Don Bosco met the boys from the street for worship, catechesis, recreation and breakfast. Gradually, it developed into a youth centre, which was a combination of a home, a school, a playground and a parish. This combination ensured that the young received an all-round formation: human and emotional (home), intellectual (school), social and recreational (playground), and spiritual (parish). Don Bosco envisaged that every Salesian work would be this combination, and above all, a family!

An elderly woman expressed her loneliness within her church: "I sit in the pew next to a warm body every week, but I feel no heat. I'm in the faith, but I draw no active love. I sing the hymns with those next to me, but I hear only my voice. When the service is finished, I leave as I came in—hungry for someone to tell me that I'm a person worth something to somebody. Just a smile would do it, or perhaps some gesture, some sign that I am not a stranger."

I daresay she is not alone in her "loneliness". We have many friends in the virtual world, but very few companions in the real world. And yet, we need real relationships; we need warmth and love; we need signs that we are not strangers. We need the presence of people in our lives. God never intended for us to be alone; He created us relational.

No wonder, an important aspect in Don Bosco's spirituality and pedagogy is 'presence'. In the Salesian tradition, 'presence' is being with the people entrusted to our care. It is a physical, active and animating 'being with'. It means having their best interests and welfare at heart; it implies establishing relationships with them based on love, mutual respect, equality and cooperation, rather than fear and superiority. Presence demands that we love what people love, so that they can learn to love what we love. It is a sharing in their lives: listening and speaking, playing and praying, laughing and crying, encouraging and challenging, correcting and guiding. Through sharing our lives and ourselves, we communicate the presence of God's life-giving love to His people.

For everyone, Don Bosco is a gift from heaven: for the Church, for the Salesian Family, for the countless boys he knew personally, and for the millions with whom his sons and daughters interact. For his Salesian Family, Don Bosco is the model, the father and the teacher to the faithful following of Jesus. Even though the actual circumstances in which we live are very different, Don Bosco's spirituality and his project have a striking relevance in our world. May he continue to inspire us to be a 'family', where life and love abide and grow!

Fr Godfrey D'Souza SDB, Provincial of the Salesian Province of Mumbai

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