Issues Vol. 168‎ > ‎

Vol. 168 No. 39 - September 30 - October 06, 2017

01 Cover

posted Sep 27, 2017, 9:16 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 9:17 AM ]


03 Index

posted Sep 27, 2017, 9:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 9:05 AM ]


04 Engagements

posted Sep 27, 2017, 9:02 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 9:02 AM ]


05 Editorial - Saints for our Times - Fr. Anthony Charanghat

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:58 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 9:18 AM ]

Concern for the poor, spiraling violence and ominous threats to peace are central themes in the life of Francis of Assisi, Mahatma Gandhi and Pope Francis. They are indeed a great inspiration for our time, because they champion the cause of the poor, promote a concept of Non-violence and build bridges of peace that are indispensable for our world to survive. The problems they confronted head-on are all the problems we are grappling with right now: eradication of poverty, eliminating violence and war, and being artisans of peace.

St Francis lived as one of the poorest and lowest in society, working as a day labourer doing hard and menial work. His life and message were uncompromising and simple: greed causes suffering for both the victims and the perpetrators. He publicly criticised the greed, wealth, power, venality, worldliness, corruption and emptiness of it all. The indifference of the greedy and their hatred of the poor hurts the rich, too; St Francis believed living with that sort of attitude was morally, socially and spiritually destructive.

Francis of Assisi's song of praise to the presence of God in all Creation, accompanied by his campaign for social justice, are a good antidote to the toxic God images, body images and religious deification of wealth in symbols of the bullet trains and glitzy shopping malls that our culture prides today.

The unending spate of physical violence is a growing phenomenon that is assuming unprecedented proportions in our times. The mindless violence of terrorists, the heartless atrocities against children and women and brutal assaults perpetrated against humanity in holocausts and ethnic cleansing of people are too horrendous for a modern civilised world. It is imperative for a great soul like Mahatma Gandhi to nip in the bud the march of humankind to the nadir of depravity through his doctrine of ahimsa. Gandhi admitted that Jesus' Sermon on the Mount had a great influence on this teaching.

Gandhi did not consider non-killing alone to be non-violence. To him, non-violence is not a negative concept, but a positive sense of love. He talked of loving the wrong-doers, but not the wrong. He strongly opposed any sort of submission to wrongs and injustice in an indifferent manner. He thought that the wrong-doers can be resisted only through the severance of all relations with them (non-cooperation).

Gandhi explained that non-violence never evades violence. On the contrary, it carries on a constant struggle against arrogance and violence. He considered non-violence to be a very powerful active force. The followers of non-violence would never retreat at the sight of violence. They would rather devote themselves to the task of changing the hearts of the perpetrators of violence through self-sacrifice and becoming apostles of peace, contributing to world peace.

Similarly, for Pope Francis, building bridges of peace is based on Jesus' Beatitudes that human relationships should be mediated by love and justice. In this light, non-violence becomes an act of love - working for peace, justice and care for Creation and for all people, so that the discarding of no one can be justified. This is a vision based upon concern for migrants, the sick, the excluded and marginalised, the imprisoned and the unemployed, as well as victims of what would traditionally be considered violence. In such a manner, Francis fills in the content of positive peace. In turn, this helps situate his goal of building non-violent communities, inhabited by non-violent people who care for our common home.

All these votaries of peace offer a vision for a different world, where we share more equally the abundant wealth of goods and life itself, as we focus on the right relations to God, the earth and all our fellow creatures.

(Composed and adapted from inputs on The Pope's Message for World Peace Day and an article by Heather McDougall on Comparative religions - Buddhism and Catholicism.)

06 The Joy of Poverty and Penury - Dan Runyon

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:56 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:56 AM ]

An armour-clad knight with a lance, oil-tempered sword and plumed helmet rode his war charger out of Assisi to battle against his neighbouring Italian town of Perugia. When this brave youth, Francesco Bernardone, saw the wretched spectre of a leper in the road, he spurred his horse to flee. But as he galloped by, Francis thought he recognised Christ in the contorted face of the outcast. Abruptly he stopped, dismounted, kissed the leper, gave alms, seated the man on the charger and led the way to the leper's destination.

Before this experience, Francis so loathed the sight of lepers that he would look at their houses only from a distance of two miles while holding his nose. But Francis later said of this experience, "…What had previously nauseated me became a source of spiritual and physical consolation... After that, I did not wait long before leaving the world."

For Francis, leaving the world meant caring for lepers and praying in deserted chapels. Pietro Bernardone, the wealthy father of Francis, was exasperated by this religious fanaticism, and eventually disowned his son. In turn, Francis renounced all right to his inheritance.

Upon abandoning his own wealth, Francis determined that there must be no man anywhere poorer than he. No matter what rags Francis might be wearing, should he meet upon a beggar dressed even worse, Francis would immediately remove his own clothing and give it to the beggar. "I think the great Almsgiver would account it a theft in me," he said, "did I not give what I wear unto one needing it more."

Alms for the Poor

One day, contrary to his custom, Francis severely rebuked a poor man who had asked for alms. Immediately sorry, he began to upbraid himself that it was a shame to hold back from one in great need. Francis resolved in his heart never in the future to refuse the requests of any one, if at all possible. He thus began to practise— before he began to teach—the biblical counsel: "To him who asks of thee, give; and from him who would borrow of thee, do not turn away." (Mt 5:42)

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08 ‘I like Christ’ - Marcellus D’Souza

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:54 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:55 AM ]

Gandhiji’s awe for Jesus never diminished

'I like Christ' was Gandhiji's proclaimed stance. He said so in South Africa and through his writings and teachings in the 78 years he lived.

"What does Jesus mean to me?" Gandhiji asked himself rhetorically. "To me, he was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had." "Jesus lived and died in vain if He did not teach us to regulate the whole of life by the eternal law of love." "Jesus, a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act," is quoted as saying in 'Gandhi Invoked' by Balamurali Balaji.

Gandhiji accepted Jesus as a martyr, an embodiment of sacrifice and a divine teacher. Gandhiji was impressed by the Sermon on the Mount "which went straight to my heart." The verses, "But I say unto you, that ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak too, delighted me beyond measure", he said in his autobiography My Experiment with Truth.

Writing in Young India on December 22, 1927, Gandhiji admitted, "I have not been able to see any difference between the Sermon on the Mount and the Bhagavad Gita. What the Sermon describes in a graphic manner, the Bhagavad Gita reduces to a scientific formula. It may not be a scientific book in the accepted sense of the term, but it has argued out the law of love—the law of abandon as I would call it—in a scientific manner. The Sermon on the Mount gives the same law in wonderful language. The New Testament gave me comfort and boundless joy, as it came after the repulsion that parts of the Old had given me. Today, supposing I was deprived of the Gita and forgot all its contents, but had a copy of the Sermon, I should derive the same joy from it, as I do from the Gita."

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09 Climate War - Jude H Gomes

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:50 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:50 AM ]

After the natural disasters that the world, India, Mumbai have recently experienced, we too are on the front lines of the climate war, fighting the apathy of people, politicians, plebeians who don’t recognise the peril that our planet faces. And more importantly, we fight the deniers funded by fossil fuel interests who put short-term profit above the long-term health of the environment.

Despite our efforts and other like-minded campaigners, carbon pollution continues to increase in our atmosphere. The alarm was sounded as far back as the 1980s, but nothing was done to curb greenhouse gases. Where once the threats were in the distant future, we now realise to our horror that the future is here. There can be very few readers who are not aware of those who perished in the heat wave of 2003. France alone lost thousands of people, mostly elderly. Or the terrible summer of 2010 that claimed thousands of Russians. These were some of the first victims of global warming, but they won’t be the last when such extreme events become the new normal.

Sea levels continue to rise, the pace has accelerated, and soon entire Pacific island nations will disappear beneath the waves, adding millions of climate refugees. Hurricanes and tropical cyclones have become stronger, and will only get worse. If the United States, the richest nation in the world, could not stop Katrina or Sandy from destroying so much of property, and more recently Irma in Florida, what chance did the Philippines have when Typhoon Haiyan struck and washed thousands of people out to sea? In 2006, the tsunami played havoc in South East Asia and India. Even Vailankanni was swamped, but for the miraculous Shrine!

September 2017 - Mexico was struck by earthquakes not once, but twice. Death tolls are already climbing, not in fifty or hundred years, but now. Polar ice is vanishing. Ancient glaciers around the world are in record retreat, and scientists are speculating a catastrophic collapse of some of Antarctica’s pristine ice shelves. As thermometers around the globe inexorably rise, it may trigger massive releases of even more potent greenhouse gases trapped in frozen tundra across Russia, Alaska and far northern Canada.

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10 Nukes won't save us

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:48 AM ]

Nuclear weapons are a force for instability, and any claims that they promote peace are chasing illusions, the Holy See's Secretary for Relations with States told leading diplomats seeking a nuclear test ban treaty.

"While having no illusions about the challenges involved in achieving a world free of nuclear weapons, the challenges posed by the status quo ante of growing tensions, continuing proliferation, and new modernisation programmes are far more daunting," Archbishop Paul Gallagher said.

"Nuclear arms offer a false sense of security. The uneasy peace promised by nuclear deterrence has time and time again proved a tragic illusion. Nuclear weapons cannot create a stable and secure world. Peace and international stability cannot be founded on mutually assured destruction or on the threat of annihilation."

The U.K.-born archbishop's words came in remarks to the 10th Conference on Facilitating Entry into Force of Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, held at the United Nations in New York City. The Holy See signed the treaty in 1996.

"The rising tensions over North Korea's growing nuclear programme are of special urgency," he said. "The international community must respond by seeking to revive negotiations. The threat or use of military force has no place in countering proliferation, and the threat or use of nuclear weapons in countering nuclear proliferation are deplorable."

"We must put behind us the nuclear threats, fear, military superiority, ideology, and unilateralism that drive proliferation and modernisation efforts and are so reminiscent of the logic of the Cold War," he said.

Putting the treaty into force is even more urgent, considering contemporary threats to peace, he said, citing continued nuclear proliferation and some nuclear states' major new modernisation programmes.

Archbishop Gallagher said political analysis that relies on nuclear weapons is misleading. The supposed peace based on a balance of power and "threats and counter-threats, and ultimately fear" is "unstable and false." He called for the replacement of "a logic of fear and mistrust" with "an ethic of responsibility" that would foster multilateral dialogue and consistent cooperation between all members of the international community. 

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11 Real Francis Transforming Insights - Jon M. Sweeney

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:19 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:19 AM ]

Eight hundred years ago, a man from Assisi, Italy, was saving the Church from its corruption, clericalism, irrelevance and insincerity by waking people up to a renewed focus on the Gospel. His name was Francesco di Bernardone, but we know him as St Francis of Assisi. Today, Francis is the world’s most popular saint and an inspiration to our Pope. But he is also misunderstood.

To meet the real Francis, we have to wipe clean the slate of our cultural and religious imagination, and forget some half-formed legends. G. K. Chesterton once wrote, “Truth...must of necessity be stranger than fiction, for we have made fiction to suit ourselves.” Case in point: The unreal Francis is one of the most famous fictional characters in history, too often a mix of saccharine pictures and stories—a figure who sits amid birds or speaks to wolves—that keep us from seeing the real man.

Further hindering us is the fact that we often prefer those almost fairytale images. Who would not feel more serene sitting in a quiet garden among the flowers, the birds in song, with a St Francis statue nearby? Our ideas of saints are always easier to handle than the reality; they do what we expect of them. The Francis we picture is a man we can easily imagine inviting to tea. The saint might tuck a napkin in his lap, and mention the lovely songs the birds were singing outside. Perhaps, he

would even interpret them for us, since he seems to understand their language. But if you invited the real Francis to tea, he might prefer to work in the kitchen, or maybe even beg his bread from passers-by before joining you inside. His clothes might be ragged and dirty, since he had little concern for presentation. The neighbours would stare.

Reality Matters

In 1911, Franz Kafka travelled from Prague to Paris in order to visit the Louvre. He queued up to visit not Leonardo’s ‘Mona Lisa’, but the blank space on the wall where it usually hung, for it had been stolen a week earlier! Kafka (like thousands of people that year) went to the Louvre to see the legacy of the painting, rather than the real thing. Let us not line up to see the legacy of Francis. The real Francis is far more compelling and important than the imaginary one.

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13 Recalling History - Gerald K Misquitta

posted Sep 27, 2017, 8:17 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 8:17 AM ]

Thanksgiving Day

An the article ‘Aa Gae Ra’ (to pronounce AGERA, the Harvest Feast of the East Indians, the original inhabitants of Bombay (now Mumbai) dated September 18, 1999 in the EXAMINER concluded with “I therefore propose that we dedicate the first Sunday in October each year as “THANKSGIVING DAY/FAMILY RE-UNION DAY” throughout the Archdiocese of Bombay.” I also wrote individual letters to the then Cardinal Simon Pimenta, then Archbishop Ivan Dias, their Lordships, parish priests and others in the Archdiocese to consider the proposal (copies with me).

This inspiration came to me abroad when participating in the American Thanksgiving Day family suppers after attending Church services in November with my American friends! I was touched to find so much simplicity and caring among family members, and so many similarities between theirs and ours, especially at home after attending the celebration of the Holy Eucharist on the Feast of the Harvest Agera on the first Sunday of October each year in the church, as I recall from childhood, when parents and the children got down to clean up, prepare the meal etc! Their families, like ours, also shared their aspirations in a friendly atmosphere, and the children, both the tiny tots and older ones, thanked their parents for all that they have done for them! The entire family and guests then sat at the table to participate and enjoy the Thanksgiving meal in a friendly chatter after prayers!

At the Bishops’ Team Meeting in June 2001, (Bishop Bosco Penha informed me a few days later) there was unanimous support for the proposal, but was awaiting the arrival of the new Cardinal Ivan Dias (appointed in 2001 after Cardinal Pimenta retired)! A week later, our then Vicar, late Rev. Fr Edward D’Souza called me up to convey the good news!

In his ‘OFFICIAL’ in The Examiner dated September 8, 2001 and letters addressed to parish priests, His Eminence late Cardinal Ivan Dias declared the Institution of Thanksgiving Day in the Archdiocese for the first Sunday of October each year on the feast of the Harvest Agera, which is a Day of Thanksgiving, wherein members of a family, including priests, were encouraged to gather at the parents’ home for prayers and a meal together at a family reunion!

We should feel proud that in the USA, Thanksgiving Day was instituted with a Presidential Order more than 400 years ago, but in the Archdiocese of Bombay, it was instituted in 2001 by the then Bishops’ Team headed by the late Cardinal Dias!

NB: The word ‘AGERA’ is a combination of two Latin words - ager means a field and cultura means cultivation. It is not a Marathi word as many presume to believe!

The Image of Infant Jesus of Prague

His Eminence, late Cardinal Ivan Dias, was instrumental in selecting the parish of Our Lady of Lourdes, Orlem, to be presented with the image of the Infant Jesus of Prague by the Archdiocese of Prague.

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