16 Notes & Comments

posted Sep 6, 2018, 10:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Sep 6, 2018, 10:05 AM ]

'Alpha': A Tool For Renewal And Evangelization

Bishop Agnelo Gracias

When Catholics hear the 'word' Alpha, they will think immediately of the Easter Vigil Service, wherein the priest inscribes the two Greek letters 'Alpha' and 'Omega' on the Paschal Candle, symbolising the Risen Lord. This, in turn, is based on the last book of the Bible, Revelation, where Jesus says "I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end." (Rev. 22:12) Jesus is for us the beginning and the end of all things.

The name 'Alpha' has been given to a programme pioneered by Nicky Gumbel, Anglican Vicar of Holy Trinity Church, Brompton, England in the early 1990s. Since then, Alpha is run all over the world, by Christians of all traditions, and provides a common expression of proclamation, service and witness. Millions of people have experienced Alpha in over 100 countries and over 100 languages around the globe. In the Catholic Church, Alpha has been used by thousands of parishes in over 65 countries.

The programme consists of 14 sessions conducted on a weekly basis over three months. Each session allows time for praise and worship, fellowship and a very well-prepared pre-recorded input, followed by discussion. The discussion enables participants to assimilate the message imparted through the input, and to voice their own reactions and responses to what has been said. The whole programme is based on hospitality, sharing and open conversation.

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Patriarch Bartholomew: We must respect our 'home'


The Ecumenical Patriarchate released a message on the occasion of this year's Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation.

In it, the Patriarchate noted that "every form of abuse and destruction of Creation, along with its transformation into an object of exploitation, constitutes a distortion of the spirit of the Christian Gospel." To counter this, what is needed is the "organisation of Christ-centred educational programmes for our youth."

Patriarch Bartholomew noted that 29 years have gone by "since the Mother Church established the Feast of the Indiction as the 'Day of Protection of the Environment.'"

Over this period, the Patriarchate showed that "no vision for humanity's journey through history has any value, if it does not also include the expectation of a world that functions as a real 'home' (oikos) for humanity, particularly at a time when the ongoing and increasing threat against the natural environment is fraught with the possibility of worldwide ecological destruction."


Kerala, where harmony between religions reigns


Since the 1980s, Kerala has been known as "God's Own Country." Of course, it was a promotional stunt by the Kerala Tourism Department. Kerala has been the dream destination for many tourists from all other states in India, as well as from the West.

I have been personally questioning if Kerala is God's own country only due to its natural beauty. For me, it has much more intrinsic value in it. All have witnessed it during Kerala's tragic flood disaster which hit the state mid-August. For me, the harmony that people enjoy in this state makes it God's own country in India. 20 years ago, when I went to Italy for the first time, Italians used to ask me three questions: What is your name; how old are you; which religion you belong to? It continued for more than a year, whenever I met someone new. I used to get irritated with the third question.

Since childhood, we were taught not to ask directly about others' religion. This is for two reasons: Primarily, we live in a multi-religious atmosphere, and such a question would create a discriminating atmosphere between persons.

Secondly, from primary school itself, we are able to understand others' religion from their names (90% cases). Of course, after a year, I got accustomed to the questions of the Italians. Yes, this peculiar cultural and religious harmony between all religions in Kerala helped us to respect each other, to love each other and to live peacefully. Hinduism is a polytheistic religion, whereas Christianity and Islam are monotheistic.