5 November 2017

Blessed Rani Maria, martyr

Blessed Rani Maria was beatified on 4th Nov. 2017 in Indore, India. 
The man who served a prison term for the 1995 murder of a Franciscan Clarist nun in central India’s Madhya Pradesh state said that the forgiveness shown to him by the slain nun's family has given him "new life."  Samandhar Singh told Catholic News Service that he experienced a "rebirth" during a 2002 visit by Sister Selmy, the younger sister of slain Sister Rani Maria Vattalil, while he was in prison.  Sister Selmy, also a member of the Franciscan Clarist Congregation, offered words of forgiveness and tied a rakhi, or sacred thread, on his hand signifying that she accepted Singh as her brother, he recalled in an interview in his native Semlia village, near Indore.  Rakhi is a Hindu festival that celebrates the brotherly bond between a woman and a man, and includes a ritual tying of a sacred thread by a sister on the brother's wrist, whether they are related or not.  "It gave me a new life," recalled the 46-year-old Singh with beaming eyes sitting at his farm. Singh said that even his wife deserted him after his conviction.
Police said Singh stabbed Sister Rani Maria 54 times in front of more than 50 bus passengers in a jungle area near Udainagar allegedly at the behest of money lenders affected by the nun's social work among village women who were organizing self-help groups. He was convicted of the murder and sentenced to death, but the sentence was commuted to life in prison.  "I had visited him in the jail on Aug. 22, the day of Rakhi and the feast of Queen Mary," Sister Selmy said, explaining that she had decided to forgive Singh soon after her sister's death. Sister Rani Maria's name means Queen of Mary, she said.  Sister Rani Maria was given the title "servant of God" in 2007. 
As we rejoice in the 'Beatification"  of the heroic Sr. Rani Maria and look forward to her "Canonization" as  Saint Rani Maria, we also recognise the exemplary  gesture of Christian forgiveness of the murderer by her  family.

22 June 2017

Parents as educators of adolescent children

1, Be Concrete
2. Be Connected not uprooted
3. Be Dynamic (updated)
4. Be Integrated & holistic
5. Be Supportive not Competitive
6. Be Austere to overcome consumerism

17 June 2017

Fragilty or Frailty

Fragility and Frailty have two distinct meanings. While Fragility refers to strengths or weakness that are constitutive elements of an object, Frailty describes a strength or weakness that is not in the nature of the object. Thus a glass tumbler is fragile by nature. A tree  may be Frail for lack of proper fertiliser. Fragility is something permanent and linked to the nature of an object. Frailty is a temporary condition subject to change.
Is the talk about Vocation crisis today a problem of Fragility or Frailty?

9 June 2017

Rev. Fr. George Williams RIP at 101

At a ripe good age, 101, Fr. George Williams SDB returned to the Lord in early June, 2017. He will be remembered by many in India as our Regional Superior for the English speaking Salesian region, in the late seventies. I personally have several memories of pleasant and not so pleasant interactions with him when I was  Provincial in the period 1976 to 1982. The young Province of Mumbai, barely three years old, experienced quite a few problems that required some difficult decisions to be taken. Fr. Williams on an extraordinary visit to the Province had the task of setting things right and dealing with confreres. Though he may have hurt or upset some Salesians among the young and old, he showed great loyalty to Don Bosco and sincerity to the Salesians. In hindsight, I may observe that the province benefitted from his tough decisions.
May he rest in peace! 

8 June 2017


Pope Francis invoked the Holy Spirit's guidance in making a clear choice of "both Unity and Diversity" over "either Unity or Diversity" in our Christian life.  Is it a call to realism or compromise?

4 June 2017

Dissent essential to Democracy

In a healthy Democracy, good governance implies an honest commitment to the wellbeing of all the citizens and an openness to dissent as its necessary component. India's Democracy today is very unhealthy and dangerously poised to deteriorate into fundamentalism and communal wars slyly instigated by a false patriotism called 'Hindutva'.

The BJP stood shrudely on the platform of  "Dissent", during the last National Elections by waging a relentless campaign of dissent in parliament and in the media against the alledged rampant corruption and scandalous scams for which it held th ruling party, the INC, mainly responsible. There was much more of a malignant 'Dissent' and very little of the "Developement' on the National agenda of both parties or more precisely, of all political parties. 
The dissent strategy obviously won the elections as the results emphatically showed.  While the INC was trapped in a struggled to clear its damaged reputation, the BJP  through dissent, mesmerised the citizens into believing that the demolition of the corrupt INC was the key to 'Development' of the Nation.

Three years into governance, and the voices of dissent are rising from the Opposition parties and inceasingly from the poor farmers, the Dalits and minority communities. Will the strategy of Dissent which is building up at different levels, political, social, economic topple the present government of the BJP?

Recently, I read a comment on the erosion of Democracy in India  with too many instances of intolerance towards the voices of the People that differ or criticize the ruling political party policies. What was trumpeted as a just strategy of Dissent by the BJP is today condemned as Anti-nationalism. From Dissent, BJP has perhaps unknowingly gravitated towards Dictatorship while mouthing toothless slogans of Development promises. How Deceitful!

5 February 2017


After the Original Sin of our first Parents described in the Sacred Scripture, HUMAN LIFE ceased to be a state of eternal bliss in God's Kingdom but became an arduous journey back to Original Blessing. Human Life became a 'return journey" from brokenness to wholeness, from powerlessness to powerfulness, from pain and suffering to  health and healing.

The Yahweh of mercy, however did not abandon his people but promised and provided leaders who were Prophets, Judges and Kings to lead them through a long journey across the deserts to the "promised land" as recorded in  the Holy Bible. While Yahweh remains always faithful to his Covenants the people stumble into broken covenants. Finally the patient and forgiving Yahweh sends His own Son as Messiah to redeem Human Life. Thus Jesus Christ entered our world, born of a Woman and his entire life from the crib of his birth to the cross of his death becomes a model for imitation. "I am the way, the life and the truth," He says, and again: "Learn from me for I am meek and humble of heart". 

Suffering is part and parcel of the Human Life and we all have to make the journey from brokenness, powerlessness and suffering like Jesus did.  Jesus sets an example for us to accept and not deny  our brokenness; to  surrender and not control our powerlessness; and, to respond to suffering, not with curses but compassion. Seen in this light, the life of Jesus teaches us how to live the brokenness, powerlessness and suffering in our own lives. We may even say that Jesus did not experience brokenness, powerlessness and suffering in order to redeem us but rather to guide our own human life to God's Kingdom. Hence, though Jesus has set us a convincing example, we are only redeemed when we accept Jesus Christ in faith and faithfully follow Him who is "our Way, our Life and Our Truth." 

28 January 2017

Bro. Robert Dias RIP

Robert Dias SDB - "Secretary par excellence"!

As we mourn the sad demise of our Salesian Brother, Robert Dias, on 4th. November 2016, at a ripe old age 93, many memories of his edifying life rush into my mind. Chief among these, for certain, many will agree is: "Rev. Bro. Bob, the committed Salesian at the Secretarial desk." Infact, I remember him as a long time, faithful secretary to Archbishop of Madras -Mylapore, Louis Mathias for many years. 

Later, after the death of the Archbishop, Bro. Bob served as Secretary to several Provincials of the Southern Salesian province of Madras, India, extending  over Tamilnad, Andhra, Karnataka, Kerala and Maharastra. After the province of Bombay was was established, we requested the experienced secretarial services of Bro. Bob and he willingly took up this responsibility in the provincial office. 

Bro. Bob was certainly a great help to me, not only with his secretarial skills but as a committed and convinced Salesian Brother. Observing him at close quarters, he came across as a person of deep faith in God, with tender devotion to Mother Mary and a steadfast attachment to Don Bosco and his own identity as a Salesian Brother. 

He was a very dependable secretary with a keen sense of duty done to perfection. 
He attended to his desk work, tapping the typewriter keys into late nights to get the provincial circulars and other correspondence despatched on time. He was very caring in his dealings especially with young Salesians and quite popular at community gatherings. Even at an advanced age, he surprised us with his active presence on the field, yes, formidable with the hockey stick in hand.

I saw in Robert,"an elder brother" who lived life with exemplary religious zest. He could be consulted and entrusted with confidential matters. Though much senior to me in age and Salesian profession, and while he was at times quite opinionated, his exemplary faith and respect for superiors was an edifying lesson.

At the request of the Superiors, Bro. Bob served in the office of the General Secretariat in Rome, for a couple of years. In response to the missionary appeal, Bro. Bob opted for the African missions and here too, we had his precious services as provincial secretary for quite some years in Nairobi, Kenya. Bro. Robert spent the last years of his life as a zealous missionary in Uganda and as per his desire, is laid to rest in the land of the Ugandan martyrs. 

As a genuine missionary, Bro. Bob always manifested a deep love for the people of the mission land rather than the land itself. He leaves us to cherish and even imitate his edifying life of total commitment to God and selfless dedication to his vocation of a Salesian, Missionary Brother. 

May The Lord embrace his most faithful Disciple, Robert Dias SDB and through his intercession bless our Salesian Congregation with more missionary vocations.

Paul the convert

25th’ January: Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul.
 (DB Novena 4th Day – Love & Punishment)
Today’s Liturgy draws our attention to a unique conversion of a sinner Saul to a Saint Paul. On this final day of the Christian Unity Week, we pray for the conversion of hearts and reconciliation   among all Christian churches, to form one flock under one Shepherd, Jesus Christ. On this fourth day of the Novena we pray through the intercession of Don Bosco, for the conversion of our families from brokenness and sinfulness to wholeness and holiness.                                                      And now, because we believe that God is our compassionate and merciful Father, who is eagerly, waiting to pardon us not punish us, let us humbly confess our sins and pray in this Eucharist for our own conversion to communion with Jesus.  
Today’s Liturgy draws our attention to a two thousand year old conversion story of a sinner Saul to a Saint Paul.  But why celebrate a conversion? For waging a cruel persecution against the Disciples of Christ, Saul should have been punished. Instead, Jesus intercepts this persecutor on his way to Damascus, transforms him with his forgiving love and enrols him among his Apostles.  No punishment but pardon. That’s the story of God’s mercy that converts every sinner and celebrates a saint. Jesus celebrated conversions through forgiveness not punishments. The parables like the prodigal son, the conversion stories of Peter who denied the Master, of Thomas who doubted Christ’s resurrection, of a sinner woman, Magdalene, of the tax collector, Zaccheus, and several others recorded in Sacred Scripture, result in a joyous celebration of Conversions through God’s merciful pardon, not harsh punishment.
With reason, therefore, the Church commemorates this spectacular conversion of Saul from a fanatical persecutor to a faithful proclaimer, chiefly to focus our attention on the forgiving pedagogy of God’s incarnate love, Jesus Christ. Won over, more by the love of the compassionate Jesus, Saul became Paul, a committed missionary with deep convictions:   I live not I, Christ lives in me; for me to live is Christ; Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel of Love not punishments.
Let us reflect on another 200 years old conversion story of a fatherless, young Johnny who becomes Fr. John Bosco. He is acclaimed today as the Father of poor and needy youth across the world. Don Bosco claimed that he received in a dream or spiritual experience  at the age of nine, not only his mission to be an educator, but was also given a sure Guide, the Mother of mercy and  a distinct educative method: Not with blows. No punishments but pardon.  To be faithful to this sacred calling, Don Bosco also claimed that he did not take a single step without the guidance of Mother Mary, and that he won the hearts of the young, not by instilling in them an unholy fear of a punishing God, but by inculcating a spirituality of the heart, based on God’s overwhelming love   as described by St. Francis de Sales, the patron Don Bosco chose for his religious congregation.  
“Spare the rod and spoil the child”, has been an oft repeated principle since the time of the Public  schools and boardings as depicted in movies like Oliver Twist and Annie. Corporal punishments were endorsed as a salutary method of education.  It was in fact prevalent in the 19th century. The pious Mummy of Johnny did not exclude punishments in raising her children. DB recalls how he expected to be punished by his mother when he had accidentally broken an oil jar. He got ready a cane to receive a well deserved punishment. Instead, his wise Mama Margaret, rewarded his honesty and condoned his petty crime, thus teaching the future educator that pardon does more good than punishment for children. This conviction was planted in his mind even in that dream or vision at the age of nine, when he was commissioned to transform naughty children from fighting wolves into gentle sheep, with a clear mandate: Not with blows or punishments!
Years later, reflecting on his flourishing youth apostolate, and the growing team of Salesians, initially in Italy, then in Europe and across the continent, Don Bosco attributed the successs of his youth ministry to the  divinely inspired method of educating the young: Not with blows. He named it the Preventive System of education as opposed to the Repressive system, which was much in vogue at that time and consisted in making the rules known and then punishing the offenders.
Based on the three pillars of Religion, Reason and Loving Kindness, the Preventive system of Don Bosco instead, requires the Parent or educator to be present as a father or mother, a teacher and a friend. As a father or mother, the educator inculcates an experience of a loving God, as a provider and caretaker, especially in the early stages of the child’s life;  then as the children grow through the phases of restless adolescence and intellectual curiosity,   the educator accompanies  them by his presence as a knowledgeable and competent Teacher, in a dialogue of reason and patience ; and all through this growing process , the parent or educator   remains present as a true Friend of the youth, always supportive especially as they mature through the spiritual, intellectual, moral and social challenges of adolescence, to grow into  good children of God  and honest citizens of the world.
Did Don Bosco talk of punishments? Yes, he did. His writings on punishments are interesting and valuable. “Wherever possible, never make use of punishments” he would say. “The educator ought to love if he wishes to be feared (respected)”, was another of his comments. “Withdrawing kindness is a punishment, but a punishment that excites emulation that encourages one never to repeat mistakes again.”  Youngsters who are mischievous find the strength to apologize, improve their behaviour when they realize that they have brought sadness to those who love them and whose affection they have lost. “With youngsters,” Don Bosco would say, “that which serves as a punishment punishes. It is observed that one look without affection at a certain youngster has greater effect than a slap. Praise when something is done well or pointing out the mistake is already a reward or punishment for the children” said Don Bosco.
It is obvious that to obtain positive results in this preventive system of education, there must already exist a healthy rapport of the parent/educator with the children, as father/mother, teacher and friend. Not only must the educator love the child, but the child must feel being loved, said Don Bosco. “Make yourself loved” Don Bosco repeated often to his Salesians.
When Don Bosco wrote a few pages on his “preventive system”, he must have surely had his mother, Mama Margaret in mind. She was father/mother, teacher and friend to her children and to Don Bosco, in particular, accompanying him all through his youth and later in his priestly youth ministry. In a circular letter to his Salesians on the subject of punishments, Don Bosco passed on her message when he wrote: Never resort to punishments, until you have exhausted all other means. Choose a favourable moment to correct. Remove every hint that would make people deduce that you are acting out of passion; carry out your correction in such a way that there is hope for the one that has made a mistake and possibly, pardon. Strive to make yourself loved, instill a sense of duty and a holy reverence of God and you will see with what admirable ease the doors of children’s   hearts will open.
As you may have already realized, the Preventive System of Don Bosco is in fact, the implementation of the Divine Pedagogy of Love and forgiveness as against Law and punishment,  preached and practised by The Eternal Educator, Jesus Christ. 
Unfortunately, our short tempered society today has strayed away into the shortcuts of violence and vengeance. Tragically, as you know too well, our children are exposed even in Homes and educational institutions to the blows of revenge and rebellion which only breeds terrorism.

However, like Don Bosco who hoped against hope and took up the challenge of replacing the Repressive system, let us confirm our belief in the Preventive System as relevant today and resolve to educate our children, the Jesus Way, not with blows of punishments but blessings of  pardon seventy times seven. As Salesian Family that we are, as educators today, we owe it to our children both at home and in school, to be present among them, as Fathers, Mothers, Teachers and Friends, who know to pardon and not to punish. Not with blows.