Vol. 167 No. 33 - August 13 - August 19, 2016
Prison Ministry Sunday, on August 14, 2016, has got a special importance in the Jubilee Year of Mercy. On September 1, 2015, Pope Francis wrote to Archbishop Rino Fisichella, in regard to the Holy Doors. “The imprisoned may obtain the indulgence in the chapel of the prisons; may they all be touched in a tangible way by the mercy of the Father who wants to be close to those who have the greatest need of His forgiveness; may the gesture of directing their thoughts and prayers to the Father each time they cross the threshold of their cell signify for them their passage through the Holy Door, because the mercy of God is able to transform hearts, and is also able to transform the bars into an experience of freedom.” So in this Holy Year of Mercy, all can participate in the various programmes of Prison Ministry India, such as the release of innocent prisoners, participating in victim-offender reconciliation programmes, visiting families of victims, helping prisoners’ children, helping rehabilitation of prisoners, arranging visits of family members to prisons and so on.
Compassion is a core virtue of our faith and spirituality as volunteers, and needs to be made evident to prisoners. The nature of prisons deepens the prisoners’ feelings of worthlessness. Our interaction and reflection with them enables them to increase their self-worth, as dignity and identity crawl back into their lives. The spirituality of Prison Ministry is based on this Faith. Faith helps us to be listeners. Faith helps us to cross the borders on the seemingly inaccessible shores. Faith illumines us and helps us to see the reality as God sees. Faith helps us to be merciful to the prisoners. Faith does not depart us from the world, but make us socially responsible on what is believed to the social dimension of Christian charity.
Prison Ministry volunteers ensure compassionate presence. They walk with the forgotten and despised of our society. They listen to their story, attend to their spiritual needs, their hopes and dreams, regardless of their culture and creed. It could be the death of a family member or an attempted suicide in a family. There may be persons weeping in the corners of a prison, because being their first time in jail, they are in great fear of their safety. They are angry and revengeful. They speak ill of everyone. What the volunteers can do, is to sit in silence, place them in the hands of our loving God and pray that peace will soften their murderous mind, give them hope and solace, and that the Great Lover of all humanity will touch their souls and heal their tortured minds.
It is a fact that the various activities of Prison Ministry do not make any enriching relationship with the outside world. Most often, volunteers are not able to take any one to the place where they are working. People at the gate of the prison may not show any familiarity towards them. They are always treated as unwelcome guests. Even after a tiresome time spent in prison, they have to make phone calls to relatives and advocates. Sometimes, they get the answer from the family members, “Let him or her be there. Don’t bother about him or her.” They are not entertained. Volunteers are in need of perseverance in all their endeavours of helping a person in prison. So I would like to call all the volunteers of Prison Ministry “hidden heroes of the Church”. I appreciate you for your generous contribution that you make every year. May St Maximilian Kolbe, the patron saint of Prison Ministry India, guide you. Remember the words of Bl. Mother Teresa: “I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.” Let us do our mite. May God bless you and be with you.
Bishop Peter Remigius is the Patron of Prison Ministry India.
On Sunday, August 14, 2016, the Archdiocese of Bombay will celebrate Prison Ministry Sunday.
The Catholic Church has come a long way since Prison Ministry India came into being. We have many prisons in and around Mumbai. To name a few, Arthur Road Jail, Children’s Remand Home at Sandhurst Road, Thane District Jail, Adharwadi Jail at Kalyan, a jail at Taloja, Vasai, and Bhiwandi. Yet with so many jails in and around Mumbai, the jails are overflowing with convicts.
Activists feel that more jails are needed to avoid over-crowding in the prisons or expand the walls of the prisons wherever possible. In a crowded city like Mumbai, it may not be possible to do so.
The Catholic Church is doing yeoman service in alleviating the plight of the prisoners in the whole country, with works of Mercy and Charity being done in the form of visiting prisons for counselling, organising medical camps, prayer services, Holy Mass, healing services, speaking to parents and near relatives of prisoners, convincing them to have a mulakat (or meeting) with their relatives who are in prison, providing them with advocates wherever possible, even bail amounts being provided by the volunteers, taking prisoners to their homes on being released, at times even counselling family members to accept their own released family members, and counselling the victims who have been hurt by the convicts.
'Yaad Karo Kurbani’ (Remember the sacrifices) is yet another newly-coined slogan of Prime Minister Modi for the government's patriotism-flavoured celebration of India’s 70th Independence Day on August 15, 2016. Ministers will visit historic sites of the Indian Freedom Struggle, and events will be organised to educate the country's youngsters about its national heroes.
The majority of Indians are young and were born after Independence. Their familiarity with the fight for freedom and awareness of the sacrifices in the struggle for Independence need to be deepened. These celebrations at iconic places, the PM hopes, will evoke patriotic fervour among the youth of India.
Any fair appraisal of the governance of India on the occasion of the 70th celebration of its Independence of India must admit that the reform-minded government of Narendra Modi has undertaken some necessary structural adjustments with a focus on improving the inefficient government sector, better managing public finance, and improving the business and investment environments. Despite some success, the overall progress on implementing reform measures has been limited and uneven.
August 15, 1947 is, indeed, a significant day for every Indian citizen. It is the day when India attained its freedom from the days of serving the British for more than 200 years. Innumerable people sacrificed their lives, and many spent their entire lives behind iron bars. We pay our respect and homage to them all. And we all dream of the day when our nation will find itself in the list of the First World countries. Today is also the day we solemnly renew our vow to work for the welfare of our Mother India. Indeed, India is a great country, abundantly blessed with diversity of religions, languages, ethnic groups and cultural practices. On the economic front, India’s GDP growth during January-March period of 2015 was at 7.5% compared to China’s 7%, making it the fastest growing economy. In the industrial sector, India is tenth in the world in factory output. The ISRO continues its space exploration mission with resounding victories, thus bringing glory to our nation. India shines also in the international games forum. It is also true India has portrayed a very impressive picture of growth rate for agriculture, industry and service sectors at the international stage over the last two decades. With these positive aspects, how does India continue to be so poor, indeed one of the poorest countries in the world? There are people in this country who go to bed on a ‘hungry stomach’ while some go to bed with ‘huge stomach’ in the same country. The vast majority of the Indian population find themselves outside this growth story. The abject and dehumanising poverty is staring at us.
Munificentissimus Deus, the defining document for the Assumption, is an ex cathedra statement by Pope Pius XII about two truths that are to be believed with divine faith. First, the dogma is divinely revealed, that is it has always been at least implicitly contained in revelation. Second, Mary is exempt from the general law that the human body must wait until the end of time to rejoin its already glorious soul.
The Apostolic C onstitution defines only three points to be matters of divine faith. These refer to Mary’s body as well as to her soul, to the end of her time on earth, and to her being taken, or transferred, into glory.
Our Lady received an immediate glorification when she anticipated the Last Day, the day of the resurrection of all the redeemed, their day of entry into glory.
After the conclusion of her earthly Pilgrimage, she was granted that consummation of her existence which we mean when we confess, as our own hope, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Pope Pius XII’s definition was quite a lean one. It was free from the limitations of any particular thought system. Several topics that had been open to differences of theological opinion were not included. That Mary did die, however, is the much more common opinion. Pope Pius XI, his predecessor, held that Our Lady did die before she entered into glory. He believed that she had been blessed with the redemption of her son, but he did not hold that she had been blessed with the grace of original creation. The grace of redemption does not confer immortality truly and properly, and the faithful simply assumed that she did die.
Undoubtedly, the most melodious hymn sung to Mary, the mother of Jesus on the Feast of Her Assumption into Heaven body and soul. It is the ‘Hail Mary’ rendered to music by Franz Schubert in 1825.
The hymn (written in German) was titled Ellens Gesang or ‘Ellen’s Song III’ as it was the third of seven songs. Based on the 1810 poem ‘The Lady of the Lake’ by Sir Walter Scott, the score was written by the Austrian composer Schubert as part of his Opus 52. Franz Liszt, the 19th century Hungarian composer arranged three piano versions of ‘Ave Maria’ in 1870.
‘Ave Maria’ was composed as a setting of a song by Adam Storck and forms part of Schubert’s Liederzyklus vom Fräulein vom See.
In Sir Walter Scott’s poem, Ellen Douglas, the Lady of the Lake (Loch Katrine in the Scottish Highlands), has gone with her exiled father to stay in the Goblin’s cave, as he has declined to join their previous host, Roderick Dhu, in rebellion against King James. Roderick Dhu, the chieftain of Clan Alpine, sets off up the mountain with his warriors, but lingers and hears the distant sound of the harpist Allan-bane, accompanying Ellen who sings a prayer addressed to the Virgin Mary, calling upon her for help. Roderick Dhu pauses, then goes on to battle.
Schubert’s first performed ‘Ave Maria’ at Countess Sophie Weissen Wolffcastle in the little town of Steyregg, which is a municipality in the district of Urfahr-Umgebung in the Austrian state of Upper Austria.
In the year of the Canonisation of Mother Teresa, Kripa Foundation owes a special debt of gratitude to the “saint of the gutters”. It was she who first felt the need to find a solution to the cause of abject poverty. Her nuns felt the helplessness of dealing with the poor who had hit rock bottom of poverty and hunger owing to addiction to alcohol and drugs. In the year 1981, she showed me a dying destitute at Asha-Daan who was a former Air Force Pilot! It was with the three persons recommended by the then superior Sr Cabrini, along with the road side drunks and drug addicts especially along Chapel Road, that Kripa Foundation was born. The average age of our clients in those days was 45-55 years, while today, the average age has dropped to 14-24 years! Above all, there is a global trend of increasing addictions, not just to alcohol, but all kinds of substances and behaviour. With the easy availability of disposable money and the attraction of seeking pleasure-oriented entertainment, all kinds of agents of self-gratification are making an inroad into gullible youth and adults. There is a captive clientele for all satanic creative self-gratification - the most widespread one being pornography. With the easy and cheap access to technology like mobiles and internet, even underprivileged and destitute children are indulging in this preoccupation. It was Carl Gustav Jung who remarked that Addiction is a “fight between Gods”. He said that God and Satan are at war and Satan uses mind-altering substances such as alcohol to deviate the original thirst in the human being. He explains that we all thirst for love, for God. However, instead of exploding in this love of God, Satan deceptively “implodes” this thirst through all kinds of addictions. Dr Jung also said that he did not like the word “Satan” because of the misuse of this phenomenon by religions in the form of “the Devil”. But it is this Evil that has cleverly named Alcohol “Spirit” and makes people think that they are able to handle this chemical with their own strength, which is a deception. Because an alcoholic or addict would never be able to fight this evil with their own strength and would be doomed to relapses and repeated failures, until they either lose their mind or have an untimely death! Hence the formula that Dr Jung gave is “Spiritus contra spiritum” meaning only by God’s Spirit (His Grace) can one overcome the spirit, viz. alcohol! And so the entire effort of the Archdiocesan project for battling Addiction and AIDS is named Kripa, which in Sanskrit means “God’s Grace”.
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