The Word of God Sunday: Encountering God in His Word
FR ANDREW ARANHA
"Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ," declared St Jerome, the patron saint of Bible scholars. His feast day (September 30) in 2019 was aptly chosen by Pope Francis to publish his apostolic letter, Aperuit Illis, instituting the Sunday of the Word of God. The document title is based on a verse from the Gospel of St Luke, "Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures." (Lk 24:27). In it, the Holy Father decreed that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time – January 26 this year – is to be observed as a special day devoted to "the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God"(No. 3). The purpose of instituting this Sunday is so that the universal celebration of the Sunday of the Word of God may "help His people to grow in religious and intimate familiarity with the sacred Scriptures" (No. 15).
There is a growing interest in our archdiocese to study the Bible in depth, and in a way that integrates Scripture with Catholic doctrine and daily life. Apart from well-established programmes like the 'Ministry of the Word', several parishes have started conducting regular Bible study classes. There are increasing requests for Bible-based talks, sessions and recollections.
Having said that, there is still much that can be done to promote greater biblical literacy. A US bishop recently remarked that although the Bible is the most published and most widely distributed book in the world, it is probably one of the dustiest books in our home, since it is seldom, if ever, taken up! What holds people back from delving more deeply into the Bible? There are many reasons for this. A basic one, in my opinion, is that many people still believe that the Bible is a book for specialists, and only one who has received formal biblical training like a priest, deacon, or minister of the Word, is competent to read and interpret the Bible.
Nourishing God’s People with His Word
FR LESLIE MALYA
On the feast day of the great biblical scholar, St Jerome, the Holy Father, Pope Francis released an Apostolic Letter, Aperuit Illis, that establishes the third Sunday of Ordinary Time as the Sunday of the Word of God, a day to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God. Based on this Apostolic Letter, the CCBI Commission for Bible has introduced a significant Biblical theme – 'Bible: the Book of God's People'. The Bible is God's Word. Verbum Domini, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Benedict XVI, says, "The Bible was written by the people of God for the people of God under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Only in this communion can we truly enter as a 'we' into the heart of the truth that God Himself wishes to convey to us." (Art.30). To enable God's people to experience the richness of God's Word in their Christian life, leaders of the Church must continuously promote this venture. The Church gives importance to the Word of God, because the Bible is relevant to the world, and this is the path where we build up our relationship with God. Therefore, it is said that 'in the Bible, God meets man and man too meets God'.
The psalmist gives us the broad perspective when he says, "Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path" (Ps.119:105). The Divine Word not only strengthens our Christian faith, but it transforms us. St Francis Xavier had a high ambition in life, but the text of Mt 16:26 challenged him. After his transformation, he became a preacher of God's Word. Saul was a great persecutor of the Christian people. One day, on the way to Damascus, a light from heaven flashed around him, and he fell to the ground and heard the divine voice, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" (Acts 9:4). After his conversion, Paul regained his strength, and began to preach worldwide. The people of God experience the Word daily in their life, in and through the Sacred Scriptures proclaimed during the liturgy of the Word at Mass. The faithful must listen to the Word of God with reverence and devotion.
To have an inner experience of God's Word, there should be a daily communication with the Word. Through daily scripture readings, God comes to us, and we go to Him. In order to nourish ourselves with His Word, we must cultivate a good habit of encountering the Word of God. Ignorance of the Word of God may lead us into darkness.
Strenna 2020: Good Christians and Upright Citizens
FR CHRIS VALENTINO SDB
The Rector Major of the Salesians of Don Bosco, Fr Ángel Fernández Artime, has provided a theme (as is done every year) for the entire Salesian Family, comprising 32 groups actively engaged in socio-educative service in 133 countries across the globe. Called the Strenna, the theme every year focuses specifically on the need of the historico-socio circumstances, attuned to the demands of the young everywhere, with a heart filled with love, eager to accompany these young people in their daily struggle, helping them rise above mediocrity, while enabling them to be active players in fashioning a better world for themselves and for their future. This year, 2020, the Rector Major, Fr Artime has proposed "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (Mt 6:10) – Good Christians and Upright Citizens" as the overarching theme for 2020, in the various Don Bosco settings, providing service delivery to the young, especially to those most disadvantaged and marginalised.
What exactly does this imply, and how do we interpret this aphorism, as it were? Fr Artime himself affirms, "After listening to the Consulta of the Salesian Family in May 2019, I chose this theme." This is a clarion call to be aware of the reality of the young as observed at the Youth Synod, and to acknowledge that the Salesian Family in very country is faced with a great challenge to educate the young to live their faith responsibly, as honest dignified human beings. He further emphasises that the entire Salesian Family needs to be attentive to the great human challenges of our present times, encouraging one another to live as honest and committed citizens, always seeking the good, ensuring that the young people learn the meaning of true service, "through the focus on climate change and care for Creation, and of course, the firm defence that the Salesian Family must have with regard to human rights, and in particular, the rights of children who tend to be the most fragile. With these approaches, we want to propose the two great pillars of Don Bosco's education and make them current."
Don Bosco’s Educative Mission
IAN PINTO SDB
For many people in India, the name of Don Bosco brings to mind images of mighty educational institutes, lush playgrounds and children running about enjoying their childhood. However, we Salesians are not simply administrators and principals of schools; we are engaged in a variety of works ranging from caring for young people in extremely difficult situations to running parishes and doing missionary work—anything that allows us to reach out to young people and help them realize their potential.
The roots of all Salesian pastoral activity can be found in the heart of the founder, Don Bosco, who had ‘the heart of a father and teacher, capable of total self-giving’ (Salesian Constitutions #1). Don Bosco commenting on his own mission says, “I have promised God that I would give of myself to my last breath for my poor boys.”
Don Bosco’s predilection for the young was not accidental; it was a deliberate choice: Don Bosco was offered many lucrative positions to exercise his priestly ministry but he didn’t find any of them suitable. Under the guidance of Fr Joseph Cafasso, his spiritual director and mentor, he found his calling to work among the destitute of Turin. Three years after his ordination, Don Bosco was offered a good posting as spiritual director of a hospice for girls but he took it up on the condition that he be allowed to carry forward the work with boys he had begun in Turin. Once he had fulfilled his obligation at the hospice and the opportunity arose to work independently, he readily gave up the cosy life of a director to begin an uncertain life as pastor and father to the vagrants and truants of the city.
Don Bosco was moved by the sight of so many young boys wasting away their life in the midst of Italy’s tumultuous industrialization. He witnessed firsthand the plight of boys who left the security of their villages and travelled to the cities in search of employment. His experiences at the prison left an indelible mark on him and convinced him of the need to offer personal accompaniment to those who were lost and in need as well as those who had no one and nowhere to go.
Five young men choose the Don Bosco Way
The Salesians of Don Bosco of the Province of Bombay [INB], popularly known as the Mumbai Salesians, were privileged to be graced with the Sacerdotal Ordination of five deacons on December 21-22, 2019. Four of these, alumni of Don Bosco High School, Matunga, were ordained by Bishop Barthol Barretto in the School Quadrangle, while one was ordained at Our Lady of the Sea Church at Uttan by Bishop Emeritus Edwin Colaco of Aurangabad.
Fr Bosco Carvalho is grateful for the home environment of a loving family, where he imbibed the qualities of sharing, sacrifice, praying and respecting others. The freedom to be involved in Church activities from an early age gave him great joy. However, he recollects, "I trace the beginnings of my vocational journey to a tick-mark I put across the option 'priest' in my school aptitude test. Fr Ronald Menezes, sdb, the then Rector of Don Bosco Matunga, singled me out, visited my family and encouraged them to allow me to attend the Don Bosco summer camps. At the Gujarat Mission Camp and Lonavla Vocation Camp, I was fascinated by the Salesians, and felt that I could be part of the mission that the dynamic Salesians were into." He credits his family for their support in respecting his decision. But it was only during his time at Kudal during the Pre-Novitiate year that he discovered the sweetness of prayer, the ups and downs of staying together, enjoying the loads of creative activities and moments of self-discovery. He remembers, "One afternoon, while at work, I believe I heard the voice of Jesus in my heart calling me to the Salesian mission. From that moment on, I decided to be a Salesian priest, and live for Jesus and youth, jab tak hai jaan. I completed my religious formation in a spirit of trust in God and Mother Mary."
Fr Mavron Fernandes who hails from Pestom Sagar, Chembur insists that he was fascinated just by looking at the cheerfulness of the Salesians and their devotion to Mary Help of Christians, while schooling at Don Bosco, Matunga. Later on, when he had the opportunity to mingle more, he liked the "the dynamic and hardworking attitude of the Salesians, especially in my days of initial formation." He is indebted to Fr Ronald Menezes, who, as his Rector in Matunga, asked him to go for the Lonavla Vocation Camp and to his parents who have played a significant role in sticking to his decision.
Fr Jerome Aruldas was frightened to death by the very appearance of any priest in cassock, because it reminded him of movies presenting ghosts with long white cloth, and "thus I used to hide behind my father at every encounter with priests, especially during communion." Gradually, as he began serving at the altar, he felt a desire, and besides, schooling in Don Bosco, Matunga helped him encounter a number of Salesians with their loving and caring presence. He reminisces, "It is there that I learnt to cherish Salesian values, especially as I spent time praying at the Shrine of Mary Help of Christians. Fr Ronald Menezes helped me discern and at every stage of my Salesian life, I went to Mother Mary and Don Bosco, the pillars who strengthened my Salesian vocation." "It was actually my elder brother who wanted to join, but I was chosen," he laughs, adding, "I want to identify with the wounded who have gone away from God, and work with the marginalised and abandoned, just as Don Bosco did."
Altar Servers’ Rally 2020
January 19, 2020 was definitely a red letter day in the Archdiocese of Bombay. From Colaba to Uran and Panvel, and many parishes in between, young altar servers, boys and girls, accompanied by a priest, seminarian, religious sister or layman or laywoman, made their way to St Pius X College, our diocesan Seminary (which is celebrating its Diamond Jubilee this year). Many of them were at the venue even before the registration counters could open! Talk about enthusiasm! An equally enthusiastic band of seminarians, sisters and youth made them welcome, and the day was off to a good start.
The title of Pope Francis’ March 2019 exhortation Christus Vivit (Christ is alive) – the theme for the Rally - was realised in and through Fr Magi Murzello’s icebreakers, conducted across ten groups. There was never a dull moment or time to even catch one’s breath, as each group vied with other groups to pile up points on the scoreboard.
The highpoint of the day (Vocation Sunday) was the solemn Eucharistic celebration in the Seminary chapel, presided over by the Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, who was overjoyed with the response of the children and their exuberance. He posed two questions in his homily: How often do we meet Jesus? And how often do we talk to Him? He invited the altar servers to “point out Jesus” to others, just as John the Baptist did to his own followers.
The Quest Magazine was released by His Eminence who appreciated the efforts of the Diocesan Vocation Service Centre – Fr Godwin and his team. After Mass, the altar servers vied with each other for the best spot in the group photographs with Cardinal Oswald Gracias