1 December 2013


The "Feast of the Province" in the past chiefly focussed on the exemplary life of the patron saint, in our case,St. Francis Xavier, seen as a model for imitation. Traditionally, it was also a Day of Gratitude and appreciation of the person and performance of the Provincial Superior and therefore a celebration centered around an individual, hence, Provincial Day or at the local level, Rector's Day. Now that this official annual celebration has been termed "Province Community Day" is there any shift of emphasis or significant change in the understanding of this particular festivity in our present Salesian context? I believe Provincial Community Day more often, a Provincial Community Evening" is not a mere social ritual celebration limited to a devout Eucharistic Liturgy and a sumptuous dinner fellowship, in the provincial house or any one community of the province. Rather, in Post Vatican terms, it is the theological understanding and experiencing the Call to be and live in community that is rooted in the Divine Community of God, the Holy Trinity. The Provincial Community Day may be considered an annual "community building exercise" fostering a genuine oneness of heart and mind among the confreres of the province. May I observe that the "Province" is not only a legal term to indicate territorial bounds. To be a member of the Salesian Congregation, we enter through the canonical doors of a province. Our belonging is always registered through the process of selection, admission and profession in a province. In the Congregation we all are members of a Provincial Community. We do not "belong" to the local community where we exercise our assigned ministry. Our loyalty to the Congregation is expressed through our deep sense of belonging to the province. In fact, a confrere needs official permissions and motivating reasons to shift from one province to another. Has this always been our understanding? This principle is vital to the healthy life of the Provincial Community and must be clearly explained to Novices and young Salesians. Recalling this principle by senior Salesians is perhaps even more important. Polarization and disintegration of the provincial community takes place when confreres develop a greater belonging to a local community that belongs to the province. May the Provincial Community Day of Mumbai province on the feast of our patron, St. Francis Xavier, awaken in us a fresh missionary spirit and a convinced commitment of belonging, as Prophets of fraternal life

28 November 2013

From Preaching to Practising Spiritual Retreats.

All these years, I have been preaching spiritual retreats to diocesan priests, religious men and women of different congregations and enjoyed the experiences. Needless to say, the generous appreciation coming from the retreatants added to my joy and kept me preaching. As age and illness oblige me to settle to a less engaging life style, and to be content with a more sedentary actitivity, I find myself becoming more reflective on my own life. The strongest realization that has gripped me since a few months now, is the truth Charles Davis the renowned post Vatican theologian admitted to himself when he writes: I realised people did not want God-talk, they wanted God. I looked into my life and it was empty. Preaching about God does not necessarily imply practising and I should have known that if only I had diligently   recalled the advise of Jesus who warned us against the "unpractising preachers" of his time.  

3 September 2013

spiritual AIDS threatening our holiness.

We are certainly very clear about God's Will, our holiness. In fact, we thought Religious life is the path to holiness. Over the years after the fervent Novitiate period and First Profession we have to admit that the desire to be holy fades for some reason and we get trapped into a routine of practices of piety that we relish no more and get lost in ambitions and achievements mistaking them for apostolate or God's Will.

Care to reflect on this diagnosis! We are victims of "AIDS", a spiritual desease that eats into our spiritual life and weakens our religious motivations and resolves to grow in holiness.

AIDS stand for Acquires Indifference, Delay Syndrome. When we allow indifference and delay to enter our actions and attitudes, the growth in holiness ceases and instead threatens our very Vocation. 

The say that the opposite of Love is not hate but indifferene.
Procrastination is what Jesus points to, when the young man wanted some time to follow his vocation.

A simple "tot" on listening.

As educators, our specialization lies not so much in teaching as in listening.
While teachers often scream, "listen students!" over the classroom din, we may fail to pick up the pupils' pleading complaint: "teacher is not listening !"

Listening is an art of understanding the other. Too often we listen only to reply and the focus is on hearing the other and responding to what we hear.
Genuine listening involves the understanding of the whole person of the other and includes even what the other is not saying but reflecting in body language of gestures and expressions. Only then, does the Educator respond adequately.
Now, who's listening? 

2 July 2013

Tradition versus Initiative.

Come to think of it, Life now oscillates between Tradition and Initiative .

The Fiddler on the roof mourned the erosion of sacred Tradition that preserved values of belief and behaviour in human society. In our world, "Tradition" reeks of staleness and stagnation and seems so meaningless to our postmodern generation. Is it time for a moratorium on Traditions?

"Initiative" is the watchword today. It springs from creativity and change, has its own value systems and priorities and keeps refreshing Life in a spirit of newness and novelty. Is Initiative the alternative to Tradition?

My reflection leads me to  consider Life as essentially linked to Tradition but constantly swinging towards Initiative. For me, Initiative means "living out of the box", and "living within the box" is Tradition. Think it over.

SPIRITUALITY OF WORK - my incomplete thoughts on work.

SPIRITUALITY OF WORK  - never secular, always sacred.
WORK is a component of our Humanity which is Body and Soul.
PRAYER  is the Soul of our Apostolate.
SDB Constitutions dealing on WORK..18, 41, 42, 78, 95
Dimensions of Work Spirituality:
*Theological – The Eternal Creator – OUR  GREAT, BIG WONDERFUL GOD!
A spirituality of work is based on a heightened sense of sacramentality, of the idea that everything that is, is holy and that our hands consecrate it to the service of God and in partnership with Him as co-worker with the Eternal Worker. “When we grow radishes in a small container in a city apartment, we participate in creation. When we sweep the street in front of a house, we bring new order to the universe. When we repair what has been broken or paint what is old or give away what we have earned that is above and beyond our own sustenance, we stoop down and scoop up the earth and breathe into it new life again. When we compost garbage and recycle cans, when we clean a room and put coasters under glasses, when we care for everything we touch and touch it reverently, we become the creators of a new universe. We sanctify our work and our work sanctifies us”.(Sr.Joan Chittister OSB)
*Christological – The Carpenter’s Son – “Father’s business” (Will)  “,,,, I work”(Jn 5,17)
                              Jesus redeems Work from punishment for sins to pardon through love
                             "Work," the Persian poet Khalil Gibran writes, "is love made visible."
*Ecclesiological – Building the Community, Work is worship.
A spirituality of work draws us out of ourselves and, at the same time, makes us more of what we are meant to be. Good work -- work done with good intentions and good effects, work that up builds the human race rather than reduces it to the monstrous or risks its destruction -- develops qualities of compassion and character in us. A spirituality of work puts us in touch with our own creativity. Work enables us to put our personal stamp of approval, our own watermark, the autograph of our souls on the development of the world. In fact, to do less is to do nothing at all. Work makes us accountable to God and Society
*Eschatological – The eternal Kingdom of God.
Work also develops everything around it and has an eschatological finality and purpose.. There is nothing we do that does not affect the world in which we live. In developing a spirituality of work, I learn to trust beyond reason that good work will gain good things for the world, even when I don't expect them and I can't see them. In that way, I gain myself. Literally. I come into possession of a me that is worthwhile, whose life has not been in vain, who has been a valuable member of the human race.
Finally, a spirituality of work immerses me in the search for human community. I begin to see that everything I do, everything, has some effect on someone somewhere. I begin to see my life tied up in theirs. I begin to see that the starving starve because someone is not working hard enough to feed them. And so I do. It becomes obvious, then, that the poor are poor because someone is not intent on the just distribution of goods of the earth. And so I am. I begin to realize that work is the lifelong process of personal sanctification that is satisfied only for the globe. I finally come to know that my work is God's work, unfinished by God because God meant it to be finished by me..
Types of  WORK : OPUS (productive and effective, a realization of God’s Will0
                          or LABOR (non-productive, squirrel activity, Man’s Will)
Models of OPUS: Jesus, Mary, Joseph, Don Bosco, every saint…… ourselves.
Only WORK the fruit of prayer, humility and obedience can lead to the OPUS (God’s Will)

Salesians:  Action-orientated, workaholics who give Don Bosco a bad name?????
DB: “Work, work, work ….. bread, heaven.
         “Tell the devil to stop working first”
         “When a Salesian dies working….. a gain for the Congregation”.
         “Dream of the ten Diamonds” The state of the congregation in …..
         “Poltroni, Mangioni, Testoni”
Salesian model: Young, thin and always on the run (now, gone old, fat but still on the run.)
Since Vat. II and SGC: a call for a paradigm shift from Action Spirituality to Contemplative.
                                      A call to RETURN TO Don Bosco’s “spiritual depth and solid faith.
We have strayed on to the paths of efficiency, professionalism, secularism and individualism and given Evangelization a bad name.
Looking closely into the life of DB, we note that the success of his mission came not from hectic activity but a deeper relation and UNION WITH GOD.

17 June 2013

A Lesson to learn.......aging gracefully

( I picked up this reflection somewhere and found it helpful to age gracefully)

Life can begin at 60 -
 it is all in your hands!

11 June 2013

Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God!

The philosophy of man is always outmatched by the Wisdom of God.
To the smart question of the Pharisees, Scribes and some Herodians on the debatable issue of paying taxes or "tribute" to Caesar, the wise and succinct reply of Jesus amazes his audience: "Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and to God what belongs to God" Mk 12,17. The answer of Jesus is bigger and goes beyond the estion.t that while, whatever may bear the stamp or image of Caesar belongs to Caesar, not everything belongs to Caesar. As Tertullian comments, Jesus draws the attention of all people at all times to the fact that they are created to the image of God and carry His stamp on themselves. They belong to God and Caesar should know and respect that. Worship of the true God, our Creator has clear priority over the claims of "Caesars" or Governments of our times. Religious Freedom stems from this truth that every person is created to the image of God, belongs to God and therefore must be the subject and not object of earthly governance. Notice that Jesus infact, is introducing the "Human Rights based approach" already in his time. More than concern for payment of Taxes to civil authorities, Jesus highlights the concern for giving God what belongs to Him, viz. every human being, treated with love and respect.  Are "Caesars" of our times, listening?

9 June 2013


Every gesture, every word, rather, the very attitude of Pope Francis is bringing the Papacy, from its solemn solitude upstairs, to the "ground floor" of social interactions with people and reality as never before. The ground floor is perhaps the "rock" on which Jesus intended to build his Church and not in an isolated sophisticated mansion of the Vatican.  Pope Francis, a Prophet for our times, calls the universal Catholic to live on the "ground floor".
But will it?


People really do not care about what  you know, but want to know if you care. Compassion is not about knowing but about caring.
God, though all powerful, all glorious and all knowing, chose to reveal Himself in the Scriptures, as "All caring" (compassionate). The pages of the Genesis open up with God, not only as the artistic Creator of heaven and earth, but is quick to reveal His Love for his rebellious creatures, by promptly assuring them a Messiah (Redeemer). "God so loved the world, that He sent his only begotten Son for our salvation". Through the history of Salvation, the "chosen People" continue to experience Yahweh's faithful love despite their  many  infidelities. In the New Testament, the mystery of the Incarnation becomes the manifestation of the Compassionate Heart of God. From the crib to the cross, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, enters our human life and through his teachings and example, invites us to "learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart". Yes, God is compassionate and Jesus Christ our paradigm of  compassion. 

" Jesus was moved to compassion" is an oft repeated phrase in the Gospels. The grief of the widow of Nain moves Jesus to halt a funeral procession, comfort the mother, "Do not cry" , place his hand on the bier and restore to human life her only son. Compassion indeed!  

9 May 2013

Gospel of Joy, Pedagogy of Kindness

"Rejoice in the Lord always; again, I say, rejoice" (Phil. 4:4)
Like Don Bosco the educator,
we offer the young the Gospel of joy
through the pedagogy of kindness

8 May 2013

Oh My God!

In the closing moments of the movie, Oh My God, we hear the statement uttered by the man of Religion: People do not love God, they fear him!
More than ever before, Religions seems to exploit the fear they themselves planted in the lives of devotees even in our own highly developed and technological society. Founders of Religions may have intended well and sought to guide their disciples to a liberating life of peace, love and prosperity. But through the passage of years Religions have been hijacked by pseudo-prophets exploiting the name of God through devotions which are mainly expiatory and inspired more by fear than love.

In the name of God, wars and violence are destroying the peace, love and prosperity among people of diverse Religions, not only giving the Almighty a bad name, but often promoting an atheistic, terroristic society. Terrorism we are told does not have a religion. But religious terrorism is the fruit of Religions infected by fanatical fear.

"Do not fear" was the oft repeated assurance of Jesus, Son of God who came to gift us the peace and love of God. A peace which the world cannot give, a love that the world has never known. Jesus did not preach a particularistic religion for a particular tribe or caste, but taught us to pray to a Universal God, a Father of all nations all over the world. All Religions are man-made. Spirituality comes from God himself. Jesus did not found a religion, but, as Son of God preached a spirituality of a universal kingdom, not of this world, and insisted that God is to be worshipped, not on the hill tops or temples, but within the hearts of people who turn to Him, drawn by love and not fear. This infact, is the challenge confronting our society, today. To draw away from an unholy fear of God and turn to a deeper spiritual experiuence of God's love and peace, Hence to turn away from enslaving religions and to embrace a liberating spirituality of genuine peace and love which God alone can give.


6 May 2013

The greater miraculous mystery

The Eucharist is indeed a great mystery of "Transubstantiation" of ordinary bread and wine being transformed into the Sacred Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. But the miraculous mystery does not stop at the altar but affects our own lives, transforming us into Jesus Christ, himself. A "Transfiguration" indeed. With St. Paul, we may rightly say: I live, not I, Christ lives in me!
This the greater miraculous mystery announced by the celebrant who says:
The Mystery of Faith!

Quite often, the Eucharistic mystery stops at the altar despite the decor of lights and flowers, hymns and homilies. Yes, a miraculous transubstantiation alright, but no transfiguration that transforms our lives. Isn't is sadly so?

5 May 2013

A spiritual Retreat must be a Real treat, Spiritually

Talking about the bane or benefits of Spiritual Reading, much of what we read evaporates from our mind and fails to impact our lives. Spiritual Reading done in common is often a painful endurance of indistinct lectors of irrelevant topics, causing an understandaable frustration in the community. Absenteism and neglect of the practice is on the increase and affects are personal reading as well. So why is Spiritual Reading having a place in our Constitutional Rules?

Reading, in general, has always been accepted as an exercise of "on going formation" of the mind, enriching our thoughts, influencing our attitudes and developing an enlightened culture  in human society.  In the education process, we are rightly concerned about nurturing healthy  reading habits among our children. We invest in college and school libraries and budget for our family library as well and rightlyso. The audio-visual technology of today is shifting us from the earlier "reading habits" for information and formation of the mind. However, the "book culture" remains in the market and remains still valued. What is important is the attitude. We must learn to read spiritually. This is applicable for our Retreats as well. We must approach them spiritually.
Think about it!

Spiritually speaking.....

The simple reason we do not benefit from a Spiritual Retreat or Spiritual Reading is becuase we do not retreat spiritually nor read spiritually.

19 March 2013

" please pray for me "

From the night of 13th March 2013, when he stepped on to the balcony last week amidst a thunderous and joyous 'Habemus Papam' to this day, 19th March, 2013, when he inaugurated his Petrine ministry, Pope Francis has had a frequent phrase on his lips, rather a humble request, " Please pray for me ". More than humility, it is rather wisdom that prompts him to seek the collaboration of his flock, first and foremost, in prayer, Indeed, as a poet once put it: "more things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of".

Thinking about an important quality for good leadership, I recall a latin dictum: Si doctus es, doce nos; si sanctus es, ora pro nobis; sed si sapiens es, rege nos. (If you are learned, teact us; if you are holy, pray for us; but if you are wise, govern us). Perhaps, Church leadership today needs wisdom.

No doubt, the Holy Spirit has guided the Church, down the centuries and in very difficult situations, through timely leaders, Popes who have been acknowledged for their learning, holiness and wisdom. This only confirms the faithfulness of Jesus who assured us: "I will be with you till the end of times."

Within a week of his ministry as Bishop of Rome and even before the inauguration of papacy as the Vicar of Christ, the Catholic Church and the world community has hailed Pope Francis, as a humble and simple priest all out to translate Church authority into service  "of the poor and for the poor".

Wisdom nourished by prayer seems to be the path of change and renewal that Pope Francis intends to follow in order to confront the many challenges affecting the life of the Church. How wise of him to begin with his humble request, "please pray for me". Let us do so promptly and like him, humbly request each other, "please pray for me". 

17 March 2013

Significance of a "Religious" Pope

Great News! Pope Francis is a Religious belonging to the Jesuit Order. He is the first Jesuit ever, to sit on the Chair of St. Peter. Does that say anything to the Jesuits? .... Or to us Religious of the Apostolic life?

If the choice of the Pope by the college of Cardinals is attributed to the Holy Spirit, there is perhaps a message from God in it, for the whole Church and us, religious in particular. What is this message?

The Catholic Church today is faced with four serious charges:
1. Shameful financial corruption of the Vatican Bank;
2. Shocking Authority crisis and arrogance in the Curia offices;
3. Scandalous sexual misbehaviour & abuse by the clergy;
4. Secularism and dwindling divisive faith in the Catholic church community.

Though all these charges may not be what the secular press paints them to be,
the Catholic Church must definitely address these charges and therefore:
- Needs a transparent simple witness to Evangelical poverty;
- Needs a humble fulfilment of God's Will through Evangelical obedience;
- Needs a genuine integrity of love through Evangelical Chastity
- Needs a sincere communion of hearts as an Evangelical community.

Perhaps the Holy Spirit's choice of a Religious Pope, very significantly a Pope Francis, is to rebuild the Church, along the lines of renewal by an earlier Francis, also a religious, the Saint of Assisi.

A look at the "charges" points mostly to wrong and even sinful behaviour in the area of the Evangelical Counsels.  Again, the "needs" mentioned above, call for a better observance of these same Counsels.

Hence, the choice of a Religious Pope may indicate a reformist programme of a contrite Catholic Church which must include a more radical return to the practice of Evangelical Counsels of Poverty, Chastity and Obedience, not only by those called to the Consecrated life, but by every single Catholic.

In this choice of a Religious Pope the Holy Spirit is perhaps also addressing another worrisome situation in the Catholic Church, the dwindling membership in Religious Congregations. This choice may be therefore a wake-up call to reinvigourate Consecrated Life, its relevance to modern times, and its important role in the rebuilding of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ.

Pope Francis is already attentive to the voice of the Spirit and has called the Catholic Church to be poor and for the poor, leading us by his own life of humility, simplicity, poverty and fraternity. God bless Our Pope Francis!    

7 March 2013

It all depends

The diverse views of people on diverse subjects need to be assessed by where they are and on what platform they stand on, never assuming anyone expresses the whole truth.

I am just thinking, as a case in point, about the recent perception of people who claimed to base their criticism of the charity works of Mother Theresa on some type of research and disqualified her cause of canonization. Is this perception or truth? 

3 March 2013

Stop the Church, I'm getting off!

"Stop the Church, I'm getting off!" That about sums up the frustration among many Catholics, shocked and shaken with recent happenings leading to the Pope opting to "renounce the Papacy. Unwilling to carry the cross of shame and the burden of sins, they are looking for another church or perhaps, another religion. Wasn't that precisely the reaction, 2000 years ago, of many disciples of Jesus Christ, waking up from what seemed a scandalous dream of condemnation, crucifixion and death. "Let's get back to fishing!" they thought.

But then, behold! The Pentecostal experience overpowers the defeatist spirit and witnesses to the Resurrection of Christ. This was indeed, God's doing.
And so, today and in this Year of Faith, let us await with the faith of Mary, for a fresh Pentecostal experience. Jesus is leading His Church to a fresh era of renwed Faith and Fidelity, and it has to be through the road to Calvary.   

1 March 2013


28th February 2013 at 8.00 pm gmt, marked a significant moment in Catholic Church history, when the Vicar of Christ convinced that it was the Will of God, officially stepped out of the Vatican leaving the See of Peter vacant.
Ever since the news broke into the media world on 11th February, 2013,  the Catholic community itself, starting from the Roman Curia in the Vatican to the distant catholic parish, reacted with respectful surprise and shock. Not a few newspapers, TV channels converted the news into media fodder to focus on the negative publicity surrounding the Church over recent years in particular. Why and Who are the two questions circulated around and hastily answered by more raw rumours than real facts.

After recovering from the unexpected news, my own thoughts are focussed more on the message the Pope Emeritus is sending across the Universal Catholic Church and the International Community to Leaders of the World today. Leadership, especially today cannot be a permanent charism, however gifted a leader is. Age and age-related limitations affect the performance of even efficient leaders. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. The strife and struggle for democracy and People's power is gaining over monarchy and once successful leaders leaders are turning into despots and dictators in the political field.

Benedict XVI, we realise now was not a "power Pope" but truly a humble Leader devoted to his role as the Vicar of Christ and committed to His Gospel values. While seated on Peter's Chair, his pastoral ministry proclaimed lucidly and uncompromisingly the Teachings of Christ on Gospel Leadership, upto the very end of his papacy.

"The last shall be first and the first shall be last" was the often repeated key formula to good leadership which Jesus practised and preached, washing the feet of his own disciples at the Last supper.  This episode must have remained etched in the minds of the Apostles and we note that "servant ministry" was infact the hallmark of early Christians whose "love for one another" identified them as true followers of the Master.

To a Church that had lost its identity as the Church of Christ and fallen into the trap of ambitious power-politics and the consequent scandals of moral behaviour, financial scams and diminishing Faith, Benedict XVI raised an appeal for a Year of Faith in God and fidelity to the teachings of Christ. It appears to me, that inspired by the Spirit, precisely in this charismatic Year of Faith, Benedict XVI offered himself, "to lay down his life" for the good of the Church. His brave and humble example of stepping down from the papal throne should awaken us all to the lesson of Gospel Leader of Jesus Christ. More than write off the "renouncing of the papacy" as an age-related need, I term it a prophetic gesture, a call to all catholics, most particularly the Admistrative Leadership of the Church in Rome, in the Dioceses and Parishes to return to the Humble Jesus Christ who came "to serve and not to be served".

26 February 2013

Prayers and Blessings

26th February, 2013.
Your Holiness,

With great reverence and deep appreciation I write these few lines to express to you my heartfelt gratitude for the exceptional Pastor and Pope you have been. I know this note may be lost in the flood of messages, yet I wanted to have the satisfaction of personally acknowledging your edifying service as Teacher of the Faith and your personal witness to the honesty, humility and sufferings of Jesus Christ.

We honour you as a great luminary enlightening the Catholic Church, the Christian Community and even the whole World. We thank you for your clear and courageous teachings based on uncompromising Gospel values of Peace, Love and Social Justice. I admire most in you the courage of your Faith-based convictions, seen best in your decision to renounce the office of the Papacy in obedience to the guidance of the Holy Spirit and as a personal sacrifice for the good of the Church of Jesus Christ.

As you enter into contemplation through prayer and meditation, I join you in prayer for your good health of mind and body. May Our Trinitarian God embrace you and reward you with years of contentment, peace and joy.
May Our Lady of consolations comfort you as she knows best.
Thank you, most holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI.
With deep esteem and devotedly,

Fr. Tony D'Souza SDB
Mumbai, India