Forbidden is Sweeter
Bishop Antonysamy Peter Abir
The gold smuggling case of Swapna Suresh in Kerala is hot news in every print and social media platform today. The crores of rupees involved exhibits the greed of humans. Likewise, the cases of Vijay Mallya, Nirav Modi and others involving crores of rupees are examples of people's greed in 'eating forbidden fruit.' Such crimes are increasing, even during this COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of suicides are happening in front of our own eyes because of industrial barons hoarding the lifelong savings of millions of poor and middle class.
Greed is sown
The sin of greed is the first one narrated in the Bible: "When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate" (Gen 3:6). The renowned Old Testament German scholar, Claus Westermann, commenting on this verse says: "The woman (Eve) allows herself to be led astray by simply gazing at the fruit side-by-side with the temptation by the serpent. It is a case of the general human phenomenon of the attraction of what is forbidden. The prohibition itself fixes the attention on what is forbidden." The persuasive temptation is that the fruit entices her to eat. Covetousness, forbidden by God, (Exod 20:17) is the basic evil force that led her from life to death.
A Blessed for the Millenial Generation
Junno Arocho Esteves and Angela Mengis Palleck
A London-born teenager beatified in Italy on October 10 showed that heaven is an "attainable goal," according to the cardinal who read the papal letter proclaiming him 'Blessed'.
Carlo Acutis was born on May 3, 1991 to Italian parents, and was baptised at Our Lady of Dolours in Fulham on May 18, 1991 by Fr Nicholas Martin OSM. Soon afterwards, the family moved to Milan, Italy. He died of leukaemia in 2006. Skilled in computers, among other achievements during his short life, he created a website listing Eucharistic miracles.
During the beatification Mass, Italian Cardinal Agostino Vallini, the papal legate for the Basilicas of St Francis and St Mary of the Angels in Assisi, read Pope Francis' apostolic letter proclaiming Acutis "blessed" - the step before canonisation. "With our apostolic authority, we grant that the Venerable Servant of God, Carlo Acutis, layman, who, with the enthusiasm of youth, cultivated a friendship with our Lord Jesus, placing the Eucharist and the witness of charity at the centre of his life, henceforth shall be called Blessed," the Pope decreed.
Thousands sang and applauded as Acutis was beatified. Assisi was a town particularly dear to him during his life. After the reading of the apostolic letter, the newly beatified teen's parents, Andrea Acutis and Antonia Salzano, processed towards the altar carrying a reliquary containing their son's heart. The reliquary was engraved with one of the teen's well-known quotes: "The Eucharist is my highway to heaven."
Bl.Carlo Acutis: Young Love for the Eucharist
Deacon Brenton Cordeiro
Crlo Acutis, who passed away in 2006, was beatified on October 10 in Assisi. His beatification is proving to the world that you don't need to be rich, famous, crazy smart or the coolest kid in school to make an impact. He once said, "To be always close to Jesus, that's my life plan." And that's what this teenager exemplified in the short time he spent on this earth.
Blessed Carlo Acutis did little things with faithfulness, love and joy, and therefore, barely a few years after his death in 2006, he had already gained a huge following all over the world. This young computer programmer, who grew up in Milan, Italy, has been able to captivate both the young and old alike because of his simple yet deep faith, which was filled with a burning love for the Lord, especially in the Eucharist. His friends remember him saying, "Every day I live the Holy Communion as a constant dialogue with Jesus, as an authentic hope. The Eucharist is my freeway to heaven!"
Blessed Carlo Acutis is most remembered for documenting Eucharistic miracles from all over the world, dating back from medieval times right up to those that took place just a few years ago. All his work is now available on a website for others to use — a website that he himself built before he died. However, more than what Carlo Acutis did through the use of his programming and computer skills, it is the life he led that is even more inspiring. "His immense generosity made him interested in everyone: the foreigners, the handicapped, children, beggars. To be close to Carlo was to be close to a fountain of fresh water," his mother said some years ago.
A Reflective Guide for Church Re-opening
Fr Joshan Rodrigues
When COVID-19 shuttered church buildings, after a brief period of bewilderment and thoughts on how to reach out pastorally to our flock, we moved Masses online, figured out different communication technology platforms like ZOOM and Google Meet, and then used them to connect to parishioners and have virtual meetings and fellowship. This period saw many parishes coming up with innovative ideas and creative ways to keep their flock engaged and connected. But this was Phase 1.
In many parts of India, churches have now re-opened with social distancing norms in place. While I write this, churches in Maharashtra, and more particularly, in the Archdiocese of Bombay, continue to remain closed. We have been asked by His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, to begin putting together a plan in case some relief is granted in the near future. However, re-opening of churches brings much more under its ambit than just planning of distancing and sanitisation norms in the church building. Re-opening does not mean that pastoral ministry will go back to the way it was before the lockdown was imposed.
I would like to share with you some points for consideration on what exactly re-opening of church spaces may mean for our pastoral activity. This is Phase 2. Let's look at some questions straightaway:
1. Do I have my finger on the pulse of my community? How do my parishioners feel about gathering in the church at this current stage? Are there concerns about safety? Are all my parishioners across all age groups equally enthusiastic about physical gatherings?
2. Do I have a copy of the official directives of the state and local authorities with regard to social distancing recommendations? Do I need to liaison with the police and local civic representatives?
3. Would parents have concerns about children and youth gathering in church? What about senior citizens?
4. Will re-opening mean that groups, Associations and Cells begin to have physical meetings in the church campus? What about Sunday School and Youth Ministry?
5. Would I need to continue some virtual services to cater to people who cannot make it to the church building?
6. Does my church have a robust communication network to communicate re-opening plans and directives to all my parishioners?
Giving the thumbs-up to Womankind
Let me begin this essay with Genesis 1:27 - God created man in His own image, in the image of God, He created him; male and female He created them. From this amazing passage, we can safely assert that both man and woman are fashioned in the image of God. Hence, man and woman are equal in dignity in the eyes of their Creator.
Why did God create male and female? The answer may well be found in the concept of complementarity, that is a relationship or situation in which two or more different things improve or emphasise each other's qualities. This is well illustrated when we look at masculine traits like strength and assertiveness that are balanced and enriched by feminine characteristics like gentleness, warmth, affection, devotion and understanding. By far, the best example of complementarity is the rich and beautiful interpersonal relationship between a man and a woman in a family. If this relationship blossoms, as it should, it will lead to the growth of maturity in the offspring that will result in the promotion and well-being of the human race.
Unfortunately, what God proposes, man disposes! Down the corridors of time, man used his brawn to dominate woman, and patriarchal control became the rule, with very few exceptions. Even in the midst of Greek, Roman and Jewish world cultures, women were viewed almost on the level of possessions.
Dignity of women in the Church
The incarnation of Jesus with the fiat of Mary dealt a body blow to the denigration of women down the ages. Mother of God, Queen of Heaven and Earth, Morning Star - women through Mary were raised in dignity to heights unimaginable. Jesus followed this up by showing love and respect for women throughout His ministry on earth. Some of the best examples of Jesus' path-breaking attitude towards women are the encounter with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's Well, His friendship with Martha and Mary, as well as the fact that Jesus even allowed a small group of women to travel with Him and His disciples (Luke 8:1-3), an unprecedented happening at that time. After His resurrection, Jesus appeared first to Mary Magdalene, and sent her to announce His resurrection to the disciples (John 20:1-18), despite the fact that women were not allowed to be witnesses in Jewish courts, because they were considered liars.
Staying Alive in a Patriarchal Society
The term 'echoism' is derived from the Greek myth of Echo and Narcissus. Cursed by the goddess Hera, the nymph Echo could no longer speak for herself. She repeats the last words of what others say to her. She gradually loses her sense of self-worth. The echoist struggles to express herself. She has no sense of identity and seems content to play a supporting role. Narcissism is at one end of the spectrum and echoism at the other end. Psychologist Craig Malkin, who discusses echoism in his 2015 book, 'Rethinking Narcissism', describes it as a lack of healthy narcissism.
It is unfortunate that a patriarchal society such as ours often demands that women suppress all personal aspirations and remain subservient to the male. Hence, Echoism becomes a coping mechanism when the woman learns that her needs and personal goals don't count, particularly for the lower economic strata. So she is constantly serving others, sometimes only in order to live. She is worked to the bone when she is well, and neglected when she falls sick.
The girl child is discriminated against even before birth. A UN study entitled 'Female Infanticide Worldwide: The case for UN Human Rights Council' states that 117 million girls go "missing" worldwide every year due to sex selection. The Asian Centre for Human Rights, a Delhi-based NGO, conducted a global study which revealed that the preference for a son is a major reason for female infanticide in many countries. The prevalence of the dowry system places an economic burden on the parents, and hence they sometimes resort to female infanticide in India.
Convolutions of the COVID pandemic
Dr. VP DE SA
The unrelenting progress of the COVID virus has spread inexorably across the globe, from Wuhan to Washington, and left devastation and complete chaos in its wake. As we commemorated 'World Mental Health Day' on October 10, 2020, we are challenged to focus on this problem, which has affected society at large.
The stigma and stress associated with the corona pandemic has left no one unscathed; it has impacted every stratum of society. There is a dictum that 'the health of a nation is dependent on the health of the individual citizen'. No country has been spared; the pandemic has left the individual human being scarred and completely demoralised, due to changes in personality, lifestyle and overall outlook on life and existence. All that we believed in, all that we would live for, the dreams of millions of people all over the world have been shattered or put on hold, because of what has occurred globally in the space of about nine months. It is an undeniable fact that we are living in a VUCA world (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous). Currently, no one can predict what the future holds for humanity.
The fact of the matter is that there were five lockdowns in Mumbai, causing tremendous stress and insecurity in the population. Recently, 4,000 eminent scientists from reputed institutions like Oxford, Stanford and Harvard have castigated the need for lockdowns, saying these are detrimental to the progress of society, cause fear, and affect the mind, body and spirit.
If life has to return to normal, the health and well-being of citizens is paramount. It is imperative that the government provides good healthcare to the masses.
Healthcare workers are most at risk, since they work long hours in the hospital and go back to their families; they are beset with fears of bringing home the virus. They work under tremendous stress and fall prey to COVID, and some have succumbed to the disease.
Fear is the key which drives people, and has a negative impact on their minds. It is important to mitigate the physical and mental impact on their psyche. This is a matter of huge concern in society, because of the fear of unemployment, loss of daily sustenance, education and so on. In this era of COVID-19, we have to strictly follow the rules and protect our environment and health, and restore sanity in the population. Fear leads to stress, anxiety, depression, insomnia, outbursts of anger, changes in personality and paranoia. This may spiral into alcoholism and substance abuse, affecting families, the workplace and society at large. The tremendous pressure faced by families, students and housewives has led to various symptoms and complications, like chronic headache, forgetfulness, insomnia, apprehension, stress, myalgia of unknown aetiology, hypertension, diabetes; some elderly persons suffer strokes and develop heart disease. But above all, the greatest impact has been on the human mind—depression, reduced self-esteem, uncontrollable stress, anxiety and a host of mental ailments.
All Catholics are Missionaries
Dominic J. Azavedo
Just before ascending to Heaven, Jesus told His eleven Apostles: "All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations, baptise them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you." Then Jesus promises: "And look, I am with you always; yes, to the end of time." (Mt 28:18-20). Mission Sunday should remind every Catholic that Jesus' command must be followed not only by priests and religious, but every baptised Catholic too.
We, in India, are blessed as missionaries with a movement in early days known as 'Catholic Enquiry Centres (CECs)' to work in the Lord's Vineyard, reaching out and teaching, and keeping in touch with the seekers of the Lord; many of whom are true believers in the Lord, though they are not formally baptised Christians. In the mission of the Catholic Enquiry Centres, the whole Church, namely the Catholic faithful, religious, priests and the bishops are involved. Even though, at times, it is difficult for us to speak openly about Christ, most people respect and appreciate Christianity in our country. In general, most people in India recognise the Christian community as peace-loving and service-minded. Christians are honest and hard-working. "Missionary spirit" is understood as the spirit of selfless dedication and service. Many of our national leaders like Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi, Mahatma Phule and Dr Radhakrishnan have been deeply influenced by Jesus and His teachings. They have been encouraging the people to emulate the example of Christian missionaries in the service of the poor in the country. Today, many people sincerely seek to know Christ and come closer to Him. Thousands of people visit our churches, pilgrim centers, charismatic centres and join Bible Study programmes for this purpose.
From Delhi, the ACECI (Association of Catholic Enquiry Centres-India) Headquarters, Fr Varghese Nediakalayil SVD, Secretary & Executive Secretary, says: "Our model is the Lord's parable of the Sower: 'The Sower went out to Sow'(Mt 13:1-9)." Divya Deepti from ACECI National Office carries out evangelical ministries in different ways. The aim of the National Office is to promote, animate and assist the ministries of the direct proclamation of the Gospel through the Catholic Enquiry Centres. For this purpose, the Centre keeps in touch with the existing CECs by visits, phone-calls, letters, e-mails, regional and national meetings. The staff of the Delhi Headquarters goes out to help the dioceses and parishes which want to establish new Catholic Enquiry Centres. In order to update the evangelical communication, the Headquarters has launched a website: www.knowlordjesus.org, with inputs in Hindi, English and Urdu, and has a presence on Facebook. To promote the primary evangelical reach out, Divya Deepti conducts Bible Correspondence Courses, as a model for others to follow, especially for the new CECs.
A look back at my Missionary Journey
Sr Regina Castelino MSI
As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you. (John 20:21)
Way back in 1966, I entered into the Congregation of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate, an exclusively religious missionary family. Initially, it was difficult to convince my family, as I was the eldest and the only sister to my two brothers. But the 'Voice of God' was so dominant that, at the tender age of 16, I decided to leave my beloved hometown in Mangalore, and proceeded to Andhra Pradesh - an unknown reality.
Arriving in Andhra Pradesh was a different experience, and the one who wishes to be a Missionary must count such challenges as stepping stones towards growth and maturity. Language, food, people, dress habits, culture, traditions, everything was new. Learning, adapting and acclimatising, gave deepest joy in being a Messenger of God to the people I was sent.
Missionary AD GENTES (among people), AD EXTRA (beyond boundary) and AD VITAM (for whole life) were familiar words in our religious family. A desire was there to reach to the ends of the earth in proclaiming the Kingdom of God. For God, we are missionaries beyond time and space. At the age of 50, in the year 1999, God surprised me by selecting me for the Church in Papua New Guinea (PNG), also known as 'Land of Paradise' - a Christian country with numerous denominations. As preparation for my mission, I was sent to 'Regina Mundi' University, Rome. Life in Rome opened up possibilities to learn many new things for my future mission.
On January 10, 2000, the Jubilee Year, I arrived in Port Moresby, the capital city of Papua New Guinea. Once again, the endless possibilities of knowing, learning and adapting to the new culture. At 50, I was young enough to familiarise myself with everything that was innovative. In the course of time, I was blessed to render my service as a Dean of the library in a Catholic Theological Institute, which welcomes students both from Papua as well as Solomon Island. I was sent for immediate preparation for the Library training in Adventist University for two years, while working at the Institute.