Issues Vol. 63‎ > ‎

Vol. 170 No. 02 • JAN 12 - 18, 2019

01 Cover

posted Jan 9, 2019, 9:04 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 10, 2019, 6:45 PM ]

03 Index

posted Jan 9, 2019, 9:03 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 9:03 AM ]

04 Official & Engagements

posted Jan 9, 2019, 9:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 10, 2019, 11:07 PM ]

05 Editorial - One Lord, One Faith, One Baptism - One Mission in Christ!

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:59 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:59 AM ]

Pope Francis, during an ecumenical service celebrated on January 25, 2018 in Rome to mark both the feast of the Conversion of St Paul and the close of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, told the ecumenical leaders of several Christian communities that the grace of Baptism creates a unity in the family of God. Even when differences separate us, we can recognise that we have the same Baptism, and we belong "to the same family of brothers and sisters loved by the one Father… So, when I raise my thanksgiving to God for what He has done in me, I find I do not sing alone, because other brothers and sisters have my same song of praise." In fact, the Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans and various Protestant groups claim to have a common baptism with each other, and despite differences, all share the same fundamental faith.

In His baptism at the hands of John, Jesus is consecrated as the Suffering Servant of Yahweh (Mk 1, 11; cf. Is 42:1,4; 53:4-70). The Father accepts Him as "my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" since He accepts solidarity with sinful humanity and is destined to suffer vicariously for the people. His baptism points to the Cross in which all baptisms will be fulfilled (cf. Mk 10:18-19). The significance of baptism for the mission of Jesus is to be a mission of preferential option for the poor, of healing and liberation (Lk 4:18-19). Christian baptism, the initiatory rite for those who wish to belong to Christ, a "putting on" of Christ (cf. Rom 8:19), implies adopting His values and attitudes. It symbolises unity and harmony with all the children of God. Hence, the Christian is impelled to collaborate with all people of goodwill to strive for peace and social justice! In this perspective, some outstanding Christian thinkers, like Robert De Nobili, Keshab Chandra Sen, Brahmabandhab Upadhyaya, Manilal Parekh, Sadhu Sundar Singh, Raymond Pannikkar, M. M. Thomas strongly affirm that religious initiation should not lead to deculturation, denationalisation or the loss of original social identity. Consequently, while all values and customs of a particular religious society which are not fully in accord with the Gospel or even human values need to be challenged and purified, all that is positive in any culture or religion should be respected, preserved and transformed.

Now spiritual ecumenism is indeed the soul and the heart of the ecumenical movement. The first place in spiritual ecumenism belongs to prayer, which joins Jesus' own prayer on the eve of His death "that all may be one" (Jn 17:21), which culminates in the 'Week of Prayer for Unity'. Tertullian had already declared in the third century that "the blood of martyrs is the seed for new Christians." In fact, the 20th century has seen an unprecedented number of martyrs from our churches: Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant. This glorious band of witnesses, say Pope St John Paul II and Pope Francis, have given a great impetus to our ecumenical commitment.

However, as affirmed by Vatican II and the WCC, the unity of the Church is not a goal in itself, but an instrument, sign and anticipation of the unity of all humankind. Thus, the universal context of the commitment for the unity of the Church, affirms Cardinal Walter Kasper, has further implications for social and political 'diakonia'. Consequently, in our context, where society is divided along communal, caste, linguistic lines, it will be basically a Christian commitment to justice. And in this commitment to the Kingdom of God will the Churches manifest an authentic catholicity viz. a genuine universality that reflects the universal, all-embracing justice and communion of God.

Fr Gilbert de Lima, Commission for Ecumenism, Archdiocese of Bombay

06 Baptism by Ice - Fr Joshan Rodrigues

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:57 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:58 AM ]

How a social media craze reminded me of my baptism and the call to live it in my daily life.

The Ice Bucket Challenge went viral on social media a couple of years ago, first in the US, and then quickly spreading across the globe. The challenge required participants to be filmed having a bucket of ice water poured on their heads, either by another person, or by doing it oneself. Once completed, the participant had to nominate others to take the challenge, which had to be completed within 24 hours, or else make a charitable financial donation as a forfeit. The Ice Bucket Challenge began as a novel idea to increase awareness of the ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis) disease and raise money for research.

Videos popped up in the hundreds on my social media pages, of people dumping ice cold water over their heads, and barely being able to utter the names of their nominees over the sound of chattering teeth. The videos were amusing, but I was left wondering – how many of those people actually knew anything about the ALS disease? Had they made any financial contribution towards medical research on this disease, or even talked about it with their friends and colleagues? Had an ingenious way of promoting awareness about Lou Gehrig's disease simply ended up becoming the current temporary social media hysteria? Thankfully, I was not nominated.

The challenge of Christian Baptism

When it comes to me, however, my favourite ritual involving water is pouring the blest waters over an infant's head three times at the baptismal font. Seeing the beautiful baby in the arms of his/her proud and beaming parents, being welcomed into the Church, into the Family of God, is a sight to behold. The Ice Bucket Challenge, for whatever it was worth, really did manage to bring together a wide and diverse group of people from all over the world under a common cause. The ritual of pouring ice and water over one's head in the name of stopping an illness was connecting people at a human level, regardless of whether s/he was a celebrity or a regular college going kid.


07 Saint Joseph Vaz: an Indian Sanyasi in a Foreign Land - Subhasis Chattopadhyay

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:55 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:56 AM ]

St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556 AD) and St Philip Neri (1515-1595 AD) burnt into Saint Joseph Vaz (1651-1711 AD). St Fr Joseph Vaz is India's son of the soil who went on to become the patron Saint of Sri Lanka. It will be clear in a moment why we should study St Joseph Vaz's life in relation to St Ignatius of Loyola. It is common knowledge that St Vaz belonged to St Philip Neri's Congregation.

Hindu Scriptures (PrasthanaTrayi) declare that a man of God owns no property; he keeps moving from place to place to cultivate detachment, does not meddle in the affairs of worldlings and practises holy reading or lectio divina. St Vaz, if seen through the Sannyasa Upanishads was such a man - free from the bondage of samsara. He is (sic) a Paramhamsa. The Son of Man had no place to lay His head; St Joseph Vaz too had nowhere to rest and call his own in this valley of tears.

Like St Paul at Rome, Fr Vaz was hunted through India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), like a common criminal. Like the Lamb who was led to the slaughter, Fr Vaz chose to be a burnt offering to Yahweh for the love of his own countrymen, and later, of the Sri Lankan people. The Other became one with the Self in the economy of salvation in the case of this Saint, as is the case with all Saints. Remember the slave girl who became Yahweh's own? Saint Josephine Bakhita (1869-1947 AD) overcame inhumanity with love, as Fr Vaz overcame hatred at home and in Sri Lanka with that love which has no finitude. Amor Vincit Omnia. There is not a single instance in human history where unconditional love has not finally defeated anger, injustice and hatred.

Fr Vaz re-affirmed hesed in colonial India and Ceylon. There is documented evidence that he protested Portuguese high-handedness in the Goa of his own times, and lashed out against Dutch racial discrimination against the Ceylonese. Like St Bakhita, St Vaz allowed himself to be tortured, but protested if colonisers tortured us - the colonised. The Communion of Saints is a Communion of Love which is not afraid to stand up for the rights of others, be they Hindus or Christians.


09 Erangal Feast - Bombay’s ‘Carnival’? - Msgr Francis Correa

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:53 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:54 AM ]

The annual festivities at St. Bonaventure Church have become a magnet for both Catholics and non-Catholics alike.

Gone are the days when the Catholic faithful of Bombay was confused with regard to the exact Sunday of the celebration of the festivities at Erangal. Now, for more than 35 years, the second Sunday of January is fixed for this celebration, and that has been one of the reasons for the steady increase in the crowd that assembles at Erangal on the second Sunday of January. The celebration of the feast this year is on Sunday, January 13, 2019.

The Catholic faithful in Bombay was always aware that December 26 is fixed for the celebration of the feast at Kashimira. Since it was the very next day after Christmas, many villagers assembled there in their bullock-carts and horse-carts. For them, it was the beginning of the local Christmas celebration, for ushering in the 'Christmastide'. This prolonged Christmastide, commencing on the hill of Kashimira on Boxing Day, concluded at Erangal beach on the occasion of the celebration of Baravi.

The massive and impressive church façade facing the sea at Erangal was in ruins and in a dilapidated state for generations. Although the Church of Madh continued celebrating here the annual feast of Baravi, the church of Erangal remained abandoned for the rest of the year. It remained almost in oblivion, till the late Rev. Fr Peter Bombacha came on the scene. He was appointed an assistant at Madh church, and the pitiable condition of the structure at Erangal challenged him to exhibit his talents. Both Catholics and non-Catholics rallied around him, and the ruined church started wearing a new look. The asbestos sheets were soon placed over the roofless church.


10 Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:51 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:52 AM ]

Christian Unity Week 2019

At least once a year, Christians are reminded of Jesus' prayer for His disciples that "they may be one, so that the world may believe" (John 17:21). Hearts are touched, and Christians come together to pray for their unity. Congregations and parishes all over the world exchange preachers or arrange special ecumenical celebrations and prayer services. The event that touches off this special experience is the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.

The traditional period in the northern hemisphere for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity is January 18-25. Those dates were proposed in 1908 by Paul Wattson to cover the days between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul, and therefore have a symbolic significance. In the southern hemisphere where January is vacation time, churches often find other days to celebrate the Week of Prayer, for example around Pentecost (suggested by the Faith and Order movement in 1926), which is also a symbolic date for the unity of the Church.

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2019 has been prepared by Christians from Indonesia. The theme for the week of prayer in 2019, "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue ..." is inspired by Deuteronomy 16:18-20. With a population of 265 million, 86% of whom are reckoned to be Muslim, Indonesia is well known as having the largest Muslim population of any country. However, about 10% of Indonesians are Christians from various traditions. In terms of both population and the vast extent of the country, Indonesia is the biggest nation in South East Asia. It has more than 17,000 islands, 1,340 different ethnic groups and over 740 local languages, and yet is united in its plurality by one national language - Bahasa Indonesia.


12 How does loving one’s enemies work, really? - Elizabeth Scalia

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:48 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:49 AM ]

A friend of mine and I were comparing notes on how challenged we feel, sometimes, to offer real forgiveness to friends and family, and the question of enemies.

"Jesus said we are to forgive without limit," my friend said, "but does that mean we're supposed to keep putting ourselves out there to be victimised by people who really know how to hurt us, and seem to enjoy doing it?"

It's a conundrum, isn't it? We are supposed to love everyone, forgive "unto seventy times seven" (Matthew 18:21-22), and we know that forgiveness is essential to our spiritual health, even if—in some cases—some people just feel like they prefer the tormentor's role in our personal narratives. "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you," writes the theologian Lewis Smedes, and he's completely right.

Loving everyone is downright difficult, and none of us can do it perfectly, except the Lord and those saints He has so graced. My friend and I acknowledged it, but she couldn't let it go, and wondered, "Doesn't that mean the person we're avoiding is our enemy? Aren't we not supposed to have enemies?"

Her question reminded me of a what a Benedictine nun says to a novice in Rumer Godden's In This House of Brede: "We may quarrel, we may find ourselves going down another staircase to avoid meeting some particular nun, but in times of stress…[we are all there for one another.]"

That, it seems to me, is the essence of how we are to handle difficult relationships. It speaks of a charity that does not put people too frequently in each other's way (and tempt them into needless, unhappy exchanges), yet is still helpful, when help is really needed, and without resentment or a desire for recognition. It puts enmity to the side for the sake of the greater good.

When I was a little girl, I used to take some comfort from Jesus' command to "love your enemies"; the fact that He used the word "enemies" seemed like a clear acknowledgment that they exist, and are a normal part of life. It almost seemed like Jesus was giving us tacit permission to have enemies, to make a place for enemies within our lives, as though they could be compartmentalized and shoved into an unused storage portion of our soul. When someone explained that "loving one's enemies" meant little more than "not wishing them ill," I felt like I had figured it all out: I could have my enemies, and as long as I didn't actually wish evil on them, I was set for heaven.


13 Youth Pages

posted Jan 9, 2019, 8:45 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Jan 9, 2019, 8:47 AM ]

Youth and the Home-bound celebrate Christmas together

Christmas is a time for rejoicing, attending parties, and making memories. Most of the time it involves stepping out to have a good time. In the excitement, the housebound members are left out. So, the youth of St Andrew's Church, Bandra thought of a great idea. If the homebound cannot step out to shake a leg for Christmas, then we will take the Christmas cheer to their homes. And indeed, this selfless act for the past three Advents has not only brought a smile to their faces, but also the joy of the birth of the Baby Jesus.

The Eucharistic Ministers of the parish were a great help in pinpointing about 100 housebound parishioners. What followed was mapping the homes; some were located in posh high-rises and some in lanes that Google Maps could not decipher—the youth had to go 'old school' and ask for directions from locals. However, no matter the economic class, the effect of listening and singing Christmas carols is universal. It exuberates happiness, positivity, love, sense of community and tears of joy.

The few moments spent in singing and talking with them result in Christmas memories. 2018 was the third year the youth organised carol singing, and it was a rocking success with the housebound and their families. Besides their checkups, medical and blood tests, the housebound mark their calendars to greet the youth each December.


Keep bringing Christ to others, archbishop tells SEEK conference

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila described the 17,000 mostly college students attending SEEK 2019 in Indianapolis, US as "a great sign of hope for the Church, that the Church is alive and well among young people."

He celebrated Mass on Jan. 6 for the participants in the biennial conference sponsored by the Denver-based Fellowship of Catholic University Students (FOCUS). The group, founded in 1998, seeks to nurture the Catholic faith in college students. It currently has nearly 700 missionaries serving on 153 college campuses in 42 states and five international locations. This year's SEEK gathering, Jan. 3-7, was the sixth such conference that Archbishop Aquila has attended.

"Certainly, you can see the deep faith in the young people," he said in an interview after the liturgy. "What their encounter with Christ has brought about is palpable. When you give young people the truth of Christ and Christ as the light and the one who gives meaning to life, it changes everything."

In his homily, the archbishop spoke about the reading from Isaiah where the prophet spoke of darkness covering the earth. He said this darkness today is consumerism, incivility and the "sin by certain members of the clergy.""All of that can, at times, discourage us," he said. "But in the midst of that is the light of Jesus Christ. And it is that light that we must focus on." He spoke about how Capuchin Fr Raniero Cantalamessa told the bishops that society has lost the "sense of eternity" and that "when we look at the darkness of the world, when we look at the darkness within the Church, we have lost the sense of eternity, that we really do not believe in Christ as the light, in Christ as the one who has come to give us eternal life."

Turning to Christ and entering into a relationship with Him, Archbishop Aquila said, can draw people out of this darkness. "Jesus can heal any wound. He can restore any disorder. He can bring light into darkness."


1-10 of 16