When will this end?
BP Antonyswami Peter Abir
Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, Myanmar and President of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC), noted on May 7, 2020 that the "COVID-19 pandemic around the world is now a 'perfect storm'. It challenges our ways of living, working and celebrating." The worst-affected are those who cannot socially isolate, who have no water with which to wash, who have lost their jobs and have no daily income, who return to their country/states as unemployed, hungry migrant workers, who do not have a governing system or social security that looks after them. No hope for the future and their only cry is: "When will this end?"
Be Aware of the Realities!
This pandemic, not from outside, but from within the world society has brought tsunamic changes in lifestyle, relationships, governance, and even beliefs; it continues to endanger the mobility of civilians in their own nations, and exposes the inability and inadequacy of political and social leaders to find a solution to this draconic disaster. There seems to be a very dim light of hope for a 'regained' future. Archbishop Emeritus Thomas Menamparampil, sdb notes, "Coronavirus has caught us unprepared, distracted by concerns and conflicts of diverse nature, and blinded by proposals of half-truths, warped truths and 'instrumentalised truths'. We have become like "children, carried by the waves and blown about by every shifting wind of teaching" (Eph 4:13-14)"- Fides via CNUA, May 20, 2020.
Pro-Active Presence in the Migrants’ World
Fr. Felix D'Souza
When we utter the word 'migrant', the images that pop up in our mind are, first and foremost, of those during the initial days of the lockdown. We have seen many of these painful visuals—migrants with their families/belongings walking in the hot sun for miles, waiting in hordes for a railway or bus ticket, migrants in open shelter homes with no proper facilities, migrants begging for food, etc.
It is difficult to accurately define who a migrant is. Nevertheless, in this article, I refer to only 'Intra-migration' i.e. migration within India. The story of migration from India to foreign nations is another big subject by itself. For the moment, we can say 'inter-state migrants' are defined as distress labour migrants who move from their native state to another state, in view of employment or to eke out a living.
To give a brief analysis, migration is linked to illiteracy, absence of any specific skills, to escape the debt, increasing poverty situation in the rural belt, and the well known 'push and pull' factors leading to migration. The consequences that the migrants face are uprootedness, loneliness, alienation; they are victims of injustice and abuse; the majority of them remain vulnerable because of the absence of laws.
It is important to note that the recent pandemic-induced lockdown shattered the trust the migrants had with the employers, and the trust migrants had with the government. They felt deeply hurt, as they were not treated as contributors to the Indian economy. During the pandemic, when some migrants were interviewed, they complained that they did not even hold a job card, though they were working on construction sites, or with establishments for quite a few years.
Death connects us to LIFE in 2019 BC
The year of Jesus' birth is designated as AD (Anno Domini) - the Year of the Lord. Everything that precedes it is BC (Before Christ). The history of mankind is split into two. What follows is called the Christian Era (CE), now secularised to mean the Common Era. Twenty centuries later, another split in mankind's history has dawned on us. Suddenly, the spectre of uncertainty due to the emergence of the coronavirus has begun to loom large. It has taken barely six months to upset the apple-carts of nations in every corner of the globe to the extent that the abbreviation BC can now be said to mean 'Before Covid'. The year 2020 will no doubt go down as one of the defining years of human history.
Yet, strangely enough, some of the first reactions to the imposed lockdowns due to the pandemic were a sigh of relief. Mountain ranges became visible once again as the smog disappeared; flora and fauna began to emerge as if from hibernation; city dwellers began to hear the sound of birds chirping; global warming may have taken a slight dip, and social distancing made our streets safer in more than one sense of the word. We were able to breathe again, and with it, began to hope that this could be the new normal. But just when we thought that the vision of a clear day would last forever, we were rudely reminded that we cannot survive on love and fresh air alone. The pandemic continues to claim lives with no respect for caste, creed or social status; it has no respect for national borders as well.
I am, because you are!
With a firm commitment to alleviate the lack of education, poverty and all the accompanying social ills, the Sisters of the Religious of Jesus and Mary in Timor-Leste strive to devote their energy and resources to "Educating for Life".
Thus began our story in the social sector of the country, in collaboration with the Jesuit Social Service. Br Noel Oliver SJ and Sr Mary Francis RJM with Mana Manuella began to respond to the needs of the women of Ulmera. The Tais groups were born in 2015. Soon the necessity for full-time commitment was felt, and in 2017, Sr Vidya Pathare RJM stepped in as the Project Coordinator for Social Interventions. And so began the RJM-Jesuit venture. On July 30, 2019, the National Prison of Timor-Leste granted permission to start rehabilitation and income generating programmes of weaving Tais for the female, and handicrafts for the male inmates.
Here are the success stories of two inmates, interviewed by Sr Vidya:
"I am Amer. I was in the military. I enjoyed my life with food, clothes, women and vices. I suspected that a neighbour used black magic and murdered my friend, and in a state of drunkenness, I snatched away the life of this woman, leading me to 18 years of imprisonment, first in Becora Prison and then to Gleno.
I am grateful for the Anger Management session and music lessons I had in the prison. I met God in the prison, especially in the Sisters and priests who visited us. Meeting God has changed my life. No matter how hard the past is, you can always begin anew. The skill of making handicrafts with used tyres gave me new wings. I must admit, I was lethargic and never wanted to be part of this project. But Sr Vidya's words, "I think Amer is not interested in the formation programme, so let's make him the leader" gripped me. I had to say "Yes" to this new opportunity that was knocking at my door. I began to work very closely with the trainer, and observed his every move. I realised that this was changing my thought patterns. The negativity and lethargy of my past was disappearing, and a new free person was emerging. True conversion was happening. My sentence reduced to ten years. I was set free from prison in July 2020.
Padre Pio: A "second St Francis" for our troubled times
Fr Seán Connolly
The past century was, in many ways, a turning point for the course of history. Western societies were shattered by the two World Wars that engulfed them. Communist errors achieved "super power" status in the Soviet Union, and were spread throughout the world. A social and moral revolution transpired. and important societal institutions, such as religion, marriage, and the family, were questioned, altered, and in many instances, completely rejected. In the midst of this turmoil, as the world began to grow cold toward its Crucified Saviour, God renewed the visible bleeding wounds of Christ's Passion in the hands, feet and side of a simple priest. The priest was St Pio of Pietrelcina, affectionately known as 'Padre Pio'.
He was born Francesco Forgione in the little town of Pietrelcina, in southern Italy, on May 25, 1887. He would become renowned as the greatest mystic of our times. His special qualities began to manifest from childhood; he had both celestial visions and diabolical oppressions from the age of five. He was able to see and speak often with Jesus, Mary, and his guardian angel. Despite terribly poor health, the young Francesco was strong in spirit, and offered up these sufferings to be in union with the Suffering Saviour. When he came of age, he received the habit of the Capuchin Franciscans, and took the name Pio, thus beginning his religious life. He would become an eminently worthy follower of St Francis of Assisi; indeed, he would come to be called the "Second St Francis."
A Language we all Understand
You know that feeling when you feel like a song understands you better than you understand yourself? When you're happy, you want to dance, and when you're sad, you want someone by your side? For many people during the pandemic, music has been the answer. It is the cure for sadness and the catalyst for joy! With artists putting up covers, doing "Lives" on social media platforms and belting out their originals, music has come to the rescue during these trying times.
A doctor can heal your body, but music can heal your soul. Dr Jarvis Pereira or 'Doc J', as he is known, does both! He works in the ICU unit for COVID-19 patients who are in a critical state at Holy Family Hospital, Bandra. "There is a lot of anguish, but the music definitely helps me tide over it. I see a lot of morbidity, and it is not easy to see these things every day; it gets to you after a while. Music helps me unwind," he says. Ever since the lockdown began, he has been diagnosing people with anxiety more than with COVID-19. He says that music is a not a solution to anxiety that people experience during this time, but it helps them forget their troubles for a while; it is a sort of therapy. He has also worked on two original songs: 'Save the Doctor' and 'Angels among us.' The former speaks of the violence against doctors during our fight against the pandemic, and how we should cherish and keep our doctors safe. The latter song was penned down by Ernest Flanagan, and composed and sung by Doc J. It was a dedication to all the healthcare workers who are playing the roles of angels among us. "Now the world is more open to musicians and their power to help someone feel better," he says.
Making Disciples in a Change of Age
Parishes can be transformed when people are transformed; when our parishes live out the great commission of Jesus Christ – to go make disciples of all nations. Our parishes are called not to be vestiges or remnants of the past, not comfortable museums or monuments to better days. As Pope Francis points out, "The parish is called to open itself as a true sign and presence of the risen Lord among us. Our parishes are called to serve as both the doorway and the destination, for Christ is truly present there. He seeks out every human heart through every one of our parishes, where His Word is proclaimed and the Eucharist is celebrated. Christ is alive and is present in all of our parishes."
A reality we sometimes overlook, but there should be a constant source of thanksgiving and a spur to mission. The book of Revelation provides us with the image of Jesus knocking at our door. As Pope Francis pointed out, while that text refers to Jesus knocking from the outside to enter, so often in practice, Jesus is knocking on the door from the inside of our hearts and/or communities, trying to get out. This call to the evangelisation of our own people, our neighbourhoods and our societies, is the universal mission of Jesus Himself, who excludes no one. He seeks out every person in our neighbourhoods, includes all those who have faith in Him and walks with them towards a new life, taking them by the hand. This is the great story of evangelisation that echoes through the centuries and is the living tradition that we as Catholics now take forward. A spiritual expansion and a spiritual intensification of hands clasping hands, going back through time, till they hold the hand of Jesus, who holds the hand of God.
We Will Never Be The Same
Transformative change rarely happens without a catalyst and a crisis. A crucible. A time of profound trial at the end of which something new and much better emerges. The term comes from the vessel used by medieval alchemists that withstood extreme heat to turn base metals into gold. In modern times, "crucible" has taken on a metaphorical meaning — an event, moment or experience that transforms us. The alchemy that takes place is a journey toward a psychological and spiritual — as opposed to physical — transformation.
We find ourselves in a crucible now. The severe trials of the pandemic have revealed fundamental weaknesses in our society — many of which we knew about, but were content to ignore. In a world where real change is hard to come by, the pandemic has, in effect, forced our hand. We have an opportunity to change, because we have to, to emerge into a world that is not merely new, but better, fairer and more compassionate than the one we leave behind. Because there is no going back. The pandemic has made it all too clear that we cannot continue to live and work the way we have — breathlessly and always on. The casualties of this way of living have been proliferating for years—the skyrocketing increase in chronic diseases like diabetes and hypertension, the increase in mental health problems like depression and anxiety, the increase in stress and burnout, which the World Health Organization identified as a "workplace crisis" last spring. It is characterised by three key factors: feelings of energy depletion or exhaustion, increased mental distance from one's job, or feelings of negativism or cynicism related to one's job, and reduced professional efficacy. Why is this so important? Only when we begin to understand our biggest problems can we also begin to effectively address them.