31 Letters

posted Apr 24, 2019, 6:30 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Apr 24, 2019, 6:30 AM ]

We are an 'Easter people'

Sir, Easter is Faith — the simple, pure faith of ordinary people, who know that Jesus, our Risen Lord, is truly the Messiah; the one who has come to set them free from earthly bondages and from the slavery of sin. A faith which is deep and eternal – not a temporary, passing, magical fad!

Easter is Hope — for a new dawn: the one which removes the clouds of fear and darkness. The hope which is radiant and nurturing; which counters hopelessness, when all is lost. The chrysalis moment when the butterfly is about to be born, and becomes hope for the flowers.

Easter is Mercy — His words resonate so powerfully through the portals of time: "This day you will be with me in Paradise"; "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do!" One truly celebrates God's mercy and His grace that we rise and run willingly into His loving embrace.

Easter is Justice — so meaningfully epitomised when Jesus, on His knees, washes the feet of His disciples. He excludes none. We are called to do the same: wash the feet of women, children and men; particularly the excluded; to break bread with them; to ensure a more just, equitable society.


Papiyas – Special Prayers and Hymns at Lenten time

Sir, Papiya is a Marathi word which means 'Penitent'. Papiyas or Devaats, as they are called, are a group of devout Christians who move about from cross to cross at the dead of night, chanting prayers and imploring Christians to wake up from their sleep, get down on their knees and pray and ask for God's forgiveness. (Bhavando, utha tumche neezemanche, deemi ghala, lazaar kara, ek Amche Bapala...) These groups become active from the Sunday night before Palm Sunday, and their activity culminates in a crescendo on Maundy Thursday (the night of Jesus' Agony on the Mount of Olives). Papiyas organise themselves into groups of 10 to 20 persons, sometimes more. They shroud themselves in black or blue or brown tunics with a hood, so they cannot be easily recognised. Their lamentable chants, in tones similar to Gregorian chants, are in East Indian dialect. Listening to their mournful chants can be a hair-raising experience and can send shivers down one's spine, especially when one hears them at the dead of night.


Pilgrimage and Penance

Sir, Penance seems an odd word in this day and age, as is anything which is uncomfortable or can't be done from a mobile phone app. But for Holy Week, I sometimes undertake a penitential walk.

I was inspired to do so by the story of a Brazilian plumber. His wife had just left him, and he was staring down the barrel of old age with a lot of failures and regrets in his backpack. He sold his van and tools, and bought a plane ticket to the Holy Land. There comes a time in the life of every man, when only authenticity and the truth will do, and he went in search for it.


Why the world needs Cathedrals

Sir, It took flames to engulf the French soul, to remind us that Cathedrals and places of pilgrimage remain one of the best evangelizers! Mumbai is famous for Our Lady of the Mount at Bandra, and the Wednesday devotion to Our Lady of Perpetual Succour at Mahim.

But the disturbing fiery scene awakened an understanding that Notre Dame and other holy places do not exist as monuments to be admired, but as portals into the sacred mysteries of Catholic theology; notably, the Blessed Eucharist becoming the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ!


Outreach to the Disadvantaged

Sir, One clear indication that a parish is indeed the Sign and Sacrament of Jesus is the way it looks after the sick, the aged and the disabled. Many a parish has a Directory of the Sick that is updated from time to time. Many a parish has a special Cell dedicated to visiting the sick and to bringing the joy and consolation of Jesus to the lonely and bedridden. >>>


Price Increase

Sir, A stylish, well-meaning neighbour of mine, who used to sometimes borrow or, at times, drop in to browse The Examiner at home (and first rush to the 'Matrimonials' and 'Ads for flats' columns) commented after noticing that the magazine's price was raised, saying, "The price has gone up, but you still buy it?"