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Turning Obstacles into Opportunities for Growth

During these past months, among the many messages being circulated on social media, there was a message about a fictional dialogue between Satan and God, in which Satan is shown as being happy that he was able to shut down churches, and thereby prevent people from worship. God laughs at him, and says that his shutting down of church buildings has led to the springing up of innumerable domestic churches in every Catholic household. While this may have just been a message or a meme doing the rounds, it still points to a poignant reality. We have somehow been brought almost to the situation of the early Church, who met and worshipped and celebrated the liturgy in their houses within families.

These past three months have forced us to think, reflect and re-think on the whole of our lives; one of the important aspects of our life being our families. It would be only apt to repeat and apply the words of Familiaris Consortio, the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope St John Paul II on the ‘Christian Family in the Modern World’ written way back in 1981:

The family in the modern world, like any other institution, is beset by many significant changes, and ... while there are families that live through these challenges by adhering to the values of the Gospel, there are those who have become uncertain and confused as to their role in the face of post-modern values of relativism, syncretism and hedonism.

In the situation we face, we could well add to that last line the words “and in the face of a pandemic”.

Article 3 of the Declaration on Christian Education of Vatican II teaches us that parents are the “primary educators” of their children. Developmental psychologists vouch that children and youngsters mimic their parents whilst growing up; this mimicking is true even with regard to the faith. Some studies like the 2005 study of Christian Smith and Melinda Denton - Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers - go so far as to say that if you want to know what a kid’s faith life is going to be like, just look at her/his parents.

On the day of their nuptials, every couple responds to two vocations viz. the vocation to the married life and the vocation to Catholic parenthood. The latter, when they promise God to bring up their children in the Catholic Faith. Through this promise, a mother and father are uniquely called and anointed for this mission. This means that through His active involvement, God is constantly making up for what may be lacking in a mother and father through His grace. Together with their calling and anointing, parents also have two other assets which the best of catechists will not – proximity and access to their children (and the resultant amount of time).

While the pandemic has wrought a kind of fear and uncertainty to life, our faith always calls us to look for hope, even in the darkest of hours. Before the pandemic and its ensuing lockdown, family life was a crazy, cyclonic lack of time, with the demands of high-pressure jobs and career-enhancing courses, stress and anxiety. Today, however, due to the same pandemic, families, especially parents and children, are spending much more time together, even in prayer and liturgical celebrations.

Surely, the pandemic has made us doubt and question aspects of our faith. But that is what St Thomas, the patron saint and Apostle of India, also did after the Resurrection. What we need to remember is that his questioning led to his confession of Jesus as his Lord and his God. His faith led him to convert the obstacles of belief into an ever determined and deeper faith in Jesus. We celebrate the feast of this Apostle of India on July 3 every year, and the following Sunday is observed as Faith Formation Sunday in our Archdiocese. This year, given the situation we are in, can we look at Faith Formation Sunday which will be celebrated on July 5, 2020, as an opportunity to really grow in our faith as a family?

May the intercession of St Thomas the Apostle help us all grow stronger in faith by transforming our doubts and uncertainties into opportunities for growth.

Fr Vincent D’Cruz is the Director, Diocesan Catechetical Centre, Bandra.

Eucharist – Summa of Christian Life

This Sunday, we celebrate one of the most important events in the liturgical calendar – a celebration of the central Sacrament in Christianity – the Eucharist, the Body and Blood of Jesus, Corpus Christi. The timing of this Solemnity, following so close after the Feast of Pentecost, is a double reassurance from our Saviour, when He promised His disciples at His Ascension, "I am with you always, to the end of the age" (Mt 28:20b). The corporeality and tangibility of Jesus in the Most Blessed Sacrament brings us much needed consolation in a time of social distancing. God is with us in a perpetual embrace.

The Gospel, taken from the Bread of Life Discourse (John 6), attests to the life-giving power of the Eucharist, both literally and sacramentally. The message is clear – we must tether ourselves to the Eucharistic table to attain eternal life. The first century Jews who were listening to Jesus found this hard to digest. What Jesus was saying was theologically problematic; drinking the blood of animals was forbidden under the Old Covenant, and the Jewish scriptures were rife with prohibitions. Even more, Jesus was enjoining them not to eat the flesh of animals, but His own body!

When challenged about this, Jesus doubles down and reinforces His teaching. In the verses preceding Jn 6:54, Jesus made use of a more common verb for eating (Greek esthio), but after verse 54, he uses another verb (Greek trogo) which means to 'chew' or 'gnaw', a verb more readily applied to the feeding of cattle. This change of vocabulary marks a change of focus and emphasis. The crude connotation of this verb adds greater force to the repetition of His words. He demands we express our faith by eating, in a real and physical way, His life-giving flesh in the Sacrament.

The "life" that Jesus imparts is not natural, but supernatural. It does not pull us down to the level of animals, but raises us to become sharers in His divine nature (2 Pet 1:4). The expression "will live forever" occurs only thrice in the Bible, twice in John and once in the Greek version of Genesis 3:22. A comparison is thus implied between the 'Tree of Life', which bore the fruit of immortality and the 'Bread of Life', which Tradition calls the "medicine of immortality" (CCC 1331).

The Eucharist is celebrated by real people in the midst of everything that makes up our human existence. In Sacramentum Caritatis 79, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI says the Eucharist, "as a mystery to be 'lived', meets each of us as we are, and makes our concrete existence the place where we experience daily the radical newness of the Christian life… day by day, we become 'a worship pleasing to God' by living our lives as a vocation." We come to the table and bring our new love or old hatred, our recent success or distressing failure, our job loss or promotion, our engagement or separation, our troublesome or well-behaved children, our persistent doubts and barely believable hopes. Like Jesus, we bring our present life and pending death as our best offering to the Father.

All of this is happening in every Eucharistic moment. And it happens so that we can tap into the very life of God and experience the life-giving and life-changing presence of our Saviour. No wonder, the Eucharist is often described as an awesome mystery. The layers and layers of rich meaning are indeed a precious gift to us, but more so, we realise that to participate in the Eucharist,we are receiving that which seals our lives, unites, nourishes, sustains,and makes us become what we receive—Christ's body and blood.

As a Eucharistic people, therefore, we are called to give of ourselves to others in the self-sacrificial love with which Jesus saved us. The Eucharist means to 'receive, bless, break and give' of our very lives for others. We have seen this 'Eucharistic living' play out in countless witnesses during the pandemic – people living and sacrificing for other people, offering themselves so that others may have life. This 'Eucharistic mentality' should not be a stop-gap during times of crises, but the very ethos of Christian life at each and every moment. It should be the underlying equation that drives human and social living.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Signed with the Trinity on a Mission of Love

Fr Anthony Charanghat

At Baptism, we were signed and claimed in the name of the Trinity to be sent on a mission of Love. The celebration of the solemnity of the Trinity focuses on the essence of our faith—the revelation of God as Creator, God’s re-creation of humankind in Jesus the Redeemer, the fullness of the love of God poured out on us in the Sustainer Spirit.

The mystery of God which Trinity Sunday proclaims is Love – and love is never solitary, but involves a community of persons, never static, nor finished. It suggests an ongoing dynamic of encircling, encompassing, permeating and outstretching relationship, which is an eternal movement of divine reciprocal giving and receiving, giving again and receiving again, fully personal and interpersonal, expressing the essence and unity of God.

All prayers in the Church begin in the name of the Holy Trinity, and end glorifying the Trinity. All the Sacraments – Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist, Anointing, Reconciliation, Matrimony, and the Ordinations of bishops, priests and deacons – are administered in the name of the Holy Trinity. But familiarity may make us mindless about the name and relationship we possess. It is a relationship of love we ‘furrow’ not just on our foreheads, but also in our hearts, deep in the core of our being.

The essence of Christian holiness which we are called to live must be modelled on the inner life of the God of the Trinity, who is undivided unity in three persons. The essence of faith calls us to practically have an unfailing trust and confidence in the loving providence of our Father God who continually calls us back to Him; to gratefully respond to the selfless servanthood of the Redeemer Son, who ‘emptied’ Himself to become like us, so that we might become like Him, and make the joyful love of the Spirit, that is the unique unity of the Father and the Son, the law governing our life.

We have come to know, through Moses, the God who is the One Holy Lord, who partnered Israel through their faith journey (Exod. 34:4-6), the humanity of the Son who embraces the world ( Jn 3:16-18), and the Spirit who stretches out to be the bond of love in the Church with the Father and the Son (2 Cor 13:11-13). It is in this name, this personal relationship with the Trinity, that we are greeted with, and dismissed from, at every Eucharist. Every Eucharist, therefore, sends us out on a mission of love. It is also the challenge to love, to comfort, to live in peace in our world.

The feast is concerned more with the wonder of God’s mysterious and loving presence. We are invited to be inspired by, and to imitate, the unity of the Trinity and the love of the persons of the Trinity and the harmony that exists within the Trinity. The Trinity is a seamless unity of persons, a community of love. The Father is the one who loves, the Son is the one who is loved and the Spirit is the very act of loving. Living a Trinitarian life empowers us—how to love, how to be loved and how to be love.

Over and above all theological speculation, the best way of meditating on and understanding something of the extraordinary mystery of the Trinity is to reflect on the love we ordinary Christians show in our daily lives. Beautiful though it may be, it is only the faintest image of the love of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, whose communion is the source not only of our responsibility to one another, but also to the whole cosmos reeling under crises in every arena of human endeavour.

As part of a grand cosmos, our mission is to bring order and share good news, and the good news involves the vision of realising to our utmost the dynamic interactive love of the Trinitarian God imprinted on our hearts as Christians.The passage from 2 Corinthians connects the order of the grace of God and unity and peace with the presence of Christ and the Holy Spirit. We have a vocation in God’s realm: sharing good news with Creation by our genuine concrete love for one another. “We are all in this together” and have the role as emissaries of God in the world.

Our good news involves an always ever-creative, dynamic and interactive relationship with God. Trinitarian theology, at its best, always promises God’s presence. Jesus is always with us, giving insight and inspiration, in partnership with God the Creator and Spirit. We have work to do – to share good news, vision, and bring healing to the brokenness of our world. Can the affirmation of the God-human-Creation relationship be an image of hope in this time of pandemic?

Catholic Profiles - Dream it. Wish it. Do it.

“When you use your position to amplify issues and help others, that is what is most important. It’s not about becoming successful, but what you do when you get to that place of success. Hillary epitomises that for me,” says Elsa thoughtfully. She has met many important people in the course of her exciting career, but Hillary Clinton ranks at the top for her. The reason is that when Hillary went to China for ‘The 1995 Fourth World Conference on Women’ in Beijing, she announced, “Human Rights are Women’s Rights; Women’s Rights are Human Rights.” At the time, Hillary was taking a considerable amount of risk to make that statement, and put women’s rights front and centre on the world stage. After this event, though, laws were passed and resources made available for the promotion of women’s rights in many countries. It made a big difference to women and girls around the world.

Elsa Marie D’Silva is currently the Founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation and President of Red Dot Foundation Global (Safecity), which is a platform that documents sexual harassment and abuse in public spaces. She is responsible for the strategic vision of the organisation, business development and public relations. Under her guidance and leadership, Safecity has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon, Nigeria and Nepal.

Hailing from a middle-class family (Elsa’s mother was a teacher and her father worked with State Bank of India), her parents were very supportive of her choices of education and career. In her 20-year career in the aviation industry with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, she had a fast-track career progression. At every stage, she was identified for larger responsibilities; she climbed the ladder at a rapid pace, and was the Vice President, Network Planning & Charters; she was responsible for over 500 flights daily. She represented Kingfisher Airlines at the Ministry of Civil Aviation with regard to bilateral and other planning-related matters.

But she made a career switch to the social sector about seven years ago in order to improve the lives of women, youth and senior citizens through awareness, interaction and education, using technology. She is a trained counsellor in both directive and non-directive methods of counselling. Through Safecity, people can share their stories, join a campaign, volunteer, get involved, attend events and donate for a cause.

Her passion for women’s rights and progress has also pushed her onto the global stage. She is a Fellow at Vital Voices (2014), Aspen New Voices (2015), Rotary Peace (2016), Chevening Gurukul Oxford (2017), Yale World Fellow (2018), Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow (2019), IWF (2020), Gratitude Network (2020) and an alumnus of the US State Department's Fortune Program, Swedish Institute, SE Forum Outreach Accelerator and Fast FWD Philadelphia Accelerator for Public Safety. All these programmes gave her the exposure needed to develop, establish and scale her work in the social sector.

“To me, the essence of being a Catholic is my community. Everything about our faith is community-based, and that is very important to me,” she says. Her entire journey of Safecity is a spiritual one. Elsa moved from the corporate sector to the development sector, where she knew no one and didn’t have a deep understanding of the issue. She had doubts initially, because she believed that the cause was so much bigger than what she could give it. Even now, she feels it is all a dream, but she says that God has been guiding her all along, as she looks back and connects the dots of her promotions, her job roles, the skills she has acquired over the years. In seven years of Safecity, Elsa has achieved so much. Her motto has always been ‘Be the change you want to see’ which she embodies in her work.

During COVID-19, the number of cases of domestic violence has shot up. Till now, Safecity had worked in the area of public violence, but not domestic violence. Now it is launching various programmes for survivors of domestic violence. There is a helpline which can be used to request for counselling or legal aid. They have also launched ‘Safe Circle’—a community of support where people can share their experiences, listen to others’ stories and find strategies. Even in trying times, Elsa manages to make people’s lives better and give their problems a listening ear. When asked how the Church can do more in this area, she says that the Church, as a community, should make any form of violence and discrimination a taboo. Everyone should first talk about these things, and help should be made easily available in all parishes by providing helpline numbers on notice boards, etc. Counselling and shelters could be made available to abuse victims and victims of domestic violence. We could talk about these things in a positive manner, rather than creating mysteries around the topic.

Her work has brought in accolades and awards by the bucketful. She was listed as BBC Hindi's Top 100 Women in 2015; received the Pride of India - Community Hero award by WCRC 2016; Government of India Niti Aayog's Women Transforming India award 2016, Google #SMBHeroes Award in the Digital Impact category June 2017; The Light of Freedom Award at the Vital Voices Global Leadership Awards in the presence of Hillary Clinton on 8 March 2017; Global Thinkers Forum's Award for Excellence in Women's Empowerment 2018; Recipient of the Public Peace Prize 2018; listed by The Indian National Bar Association in the publication ‘Phenomenal She 2020’; Winner at Booking.com's Tech Playmaker's Awards for Social Impact 2020; the list goes on.

Elsa has only just begun.

(You can learn more about her at www.elsamariedsilva.com and safecity.in)

Eden Fernandes

Come, Holy Spirit!

Nowhere is the beauty and majesty of the Holy Spirit more divinely codified than in the "Veni, Sancte Spiritus" (Come, Holy Spirit!) - a "sequence" that is still prayed and chanted before the reading of the Gospel in the liturgy of Pentecost Sunday. Also known lovingly as the "Golden Sequence", this is a beautiful and powerful prayer to the Holy Spirit that is attributed to the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cardinal Stephen Langton in the thirteenth century. The renowned medieval theologian Clichtoveus, in his work "Elucidatorium," says that the Veni Sancte Spiritus is deserving of "above all, praise because of its wondrous sweetness, clarity of style, pleasant brevity combined with wealth of thought (so that every line is a sentence), and finally, the constructive grace and elegance displayed in the skillful and apt juxtaposition of contrasting thoughts." (newadvent.org)

The Holy Spirit is described here in such meditative terms as 'Grateful coolness', 'Sweet refreshment', 'Comforter' and 'Rest most sweet', which allure us to the mystic embrace of the divine. No wonder then, than in the midst of the calamity that has enveloped the world, the power of the Spirit bursts forth in a uniquely dynamic way this Pentecost, bringing the light and fire of divine healing to wounded life, and the hope and courage of new beginnings to those who face an unsure future. The Spirit was Jesus' 'gift' to humanity when He ascended back to His heavenly Father, one which He himself described as Advocate, Helper and Comforter. This year, in a special way, we have an opportunity to unwrap the power and potential of the Holy Spirit in a new way in our lives.

The celebration of the 'birth' of the Church, coming at this critical juncture in the pandemic-induced lockdown, cannot be a coincidence. Archbishop Robert J. Carlson of St Louis, US, describes these events as "God-cidences." This year, we have been given a divine invitation to a "re-birth", a call to "Be Church" in a new way. The blessing of technology has, no doubt, helped bridge the gap between pastors and their flock in a way hitherto unseen in the history of the Church. To those deprived of the worshipping space and community of the Church made visible in stone, communications technology has brought sweet succour, helping us to satisfy our desire for daily spiritual nourishment that we look forward to in the breaking of the Word and the breaking of the Bread in every Eucharistic celebration. Like countless shepherds around the world, including our Holy Father, Pope Francis, our own shepherd Cardinal Oswald Gracias has been resolutely present with his flock through the digital medium on a daily basis, his fatherly and compassionate voice helping to anchor faith, hope and love in the midst of fear and uncertainty.

But as the weeks turn into months, and the opening of churches remains temporally unforeseeable, anecdotal evidence suggests that a certain angst is building up in the Body of Christ. Human beings were created to be 'sensory', with the sense of touch perhaps the most important among the lot. The most intimate relationships are sustained through touch, and with God, even more so. Jesus communicated the love of God to the poor, diseased and oppressed most often by His loving embrace, His healing touch. There's nothing like a tight embrace that says, "I love you, and I am there for you." Where there is touch, words become redundant. Pope Francis demonstrated this at the start of his pontificate, when he embraced a man suffering from neurofibromatosis, his face riddled with painful tumours. The picture needed no caption.

The Church will therefore have to come up with unique solutions to conduct its pastoral duties in an ongoing COVID-19 world—to communicate the 'tactile', even in the midst of 'distancing'. This challenging contradiction will require new ways of thinking and new ways of pastoring. Church history is replete with examples of how the Church re-invented itself in times of crisis. Perhaps, we need to look to the past to find solutions for the future.

With Pentecost, we come to the end of the Easter season, but it doesn't mark the end. In a certain sense, it is always Pentecost, because the Holy Spirit is always present to us, comforting us, guiding us, as we celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus Christ at every Mass. While, liturgically speaking, we may be entering Ordinary Time, it is anything but a powerful outpouring of grace and strength through the gift of the Holy Spirit will ensure that our relationship with God remains extraordinary, especially in a COVID-defined world.

Fr Joshan Rodrigues is on The Examiner Editorial Board, with the additional duty of Managing Editor.

Catholic Profiles - Making of an Adman

Born and brought up in Mumbai in a Catholic family, Sheldon D’Souza has been a lover of the Performing Arts from a very young age. He would actively participate in plays, musicals, dramas, etc. at school and even in church. Currently working as a Copy Supervisor at his dream company – Ogilvy, Sheldon is a go-getter in the field of advertising.

Working in the advertising industry, however, was not Sheldon’s original dream. When he was in Class X, he realised he had a passion for photography and film-making. Seeing how interested he was, his godmother gifted him a Kodak camera, with which he went around clicking pictures; he even joined photography workshops. But although he enjoyed this thoroughly, he had no idea how to convert it into a future. He enrolled in Commerce after school, and following the trend, decided to give the Company Secretary exam, and cleared the first level. It was in Second Year B.Com. that he was introduced to the subject of Advertising, and it was love at first sight.

“My professor, Mrs Desiree Gonsalves at St Andrew’s College, taught the subject brilliantly; that’s the only subject where you could find me sitting on the first bench, lapping up every word she said, like an awe-struck disciple.” At the end of the course, when he was asked to make an advertisement, he directed two ads, and realised how much he enjoyed making those short films. Sheldon’s parents work in the financial sector, and hence were reluctant with his choice, but seeing his interest, they supported him. While still at St Andrew’s, he wrote and directed plays for his college fest. He would also read a lot about advertising – news, articles, books etc., one such book being ‘Confessions of an Advertising Man’ by David Ogilvy. He also maintained a little notebook in which he would think of fictitious products and create ads for them. After completing his B.Com., he decided to enrol for the Advertising and Marketing Course at the Xavier Institute of Communications (XIC).Turns out, his little book of ads clinched his admission.

Sheldon wanted to step into the professional world of advertising to check whether the job fit him well, after he completed his post-graduate course. Despite XIC offering placements at the end of the course, he decided to network and find opportunities for himself. “There was this Creative Director who came from Lowe-Lintas as a guest lecturer, and I decided to clear my doubts with him, or at least ask him if he would be willing to offer an internship, just for the experience, so that I would know whether I was really meant for this.” However, he worked as an intern at Draft FCB Ulka for a month, then moved to Lowe-Lintas, where he joined as a trainee. In the first two months of his internship, he had his first TVC ad approved and released, and seeing his name in the credits section on the Now Showing board, gave him his much needed break in the industry. After six months, Sheldon decided to broaden his horizon and try his hand at digital ad making, since he felt that was where advertising was headed. He worked at Webchutney, a completely digital agency, for a year. Finally, after working at DentsuWebchutney, Ogilvy opened its doors for Sheldon. Ogilvy had always been his dream company, and he has successfully completed five years there. At Ogilvy, he has worked on various brands—Bajaj Motorcycles, Amazon, Pantaloons, Dainik Bhaskar, Wild Stone, and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). He is currently working on a new brand – Marico.

In 2018, Sheldon was among the six short-listed Indians to attend the annual Fasttrack programme at Malaysia by AFAA (Asian Federation of Advertising Associations). 2020 has been a great year for Sheldon, with awards and recognitions coming his way. He won two awards for a campaign for Wildlife Trafficking—a gold for the Best Outdoor Public Service Ad of 2020, and a silver – Best Young Green Writer of the Year at the International Advertising Associations (IAA) Olive Crown Awards 2020. He also won the ‘40 under 40’ Award for the Best Outdoors Campaign. These campaigns were extremely challenging, but looking at the bright side, it has helped Sheldon touch upon subjects rarely spoken about. It brought great joy to do in-depth research and talk to experts in the field while working on these campaigns. “The Wildlife Trafficking Campaign for WCCB and UNEP and the Global Pulsar Mania are my favourites, as it made me explore a whole new world, and it was creatively satisfying.”

Apart from advertising, Sheldon has several hobbies such as beat boxing, whistling, emceeing and teaching. He uses these hobbies in the professional sphere as well; he beat-boxed, whistled and did some a capella sounds for a McDonald’s and Volvo commercial. He says, “My interest and love for music comes from my family. Family gatherings are more like a talent show with singing and musical instruments.” He hosts a lot of Karaoke Shows on weekends, and has also conducted two beat-boxing workshops—one at a summer camp and one in his parish. He plays the guitar, harmonica, and the ukulele. His stage name is ‘The Shel Rock’. He has been invited as a guest lecturer at Dahanukar College, St Andrew’s College and Clara’s College.

Advertising does not negate the spiritual for Sheldon who comes from a devoted Catholic family. “I personally love having a one on one conversation with God; it is my form of prayer. Spending some time alone, just talking to God makes me feel calm and good. I remember I had a notepad in which I would pen down all my ideas for an advertisement, and each time an idea would be approved, I would write ‘Thank You Jesus!’ at the top of my book”, he says with a smile.

Sheldon has come a long way in the advertising industry. “Many people feel advertising is all about glamour and fun, but I totally disagree; it’s about your passion and love for this field. It’s the survival of the fittest. Every day is a new challenge, and every day you’re competing with yourself from the previous day. Advertising is an industry that changes and adapts to the moods and trends of society. It is an industry wherein one needs to connect with the people, understand what can be offensive, and when one should refrain from touching a sensitive topic. The more passionate you’re about this field, the more enjoyable this industry is.”

For those dreaming of a future in advertising, Sheldon says, “Be ready for rejections. And stand by your ideas if you feel there’s merit. The more passion or obsession you have for your work, the more enjoyable your journey will be.”

Cynera Rodricks

Ascension – A call to Action

Fr Anthony Charanghat

Our world is inundated with news of death tolls, the COVID-19 infection spreading even to children and widespread proliferation of the coronavirus disease, uncertainty about opening of churches, and concerns about going out freely in public again. We would like to flee the daily reports of a calamity-ridden world of lockdown and a broken public health system. We would like to escape, ascending to heaven. Yet, we are in the world, on earth, and need to join scripture’s declaration of the reality of the Ascension on the one hand, with what we see on TV and cable news, if we are to be relevant as ministers of His Word.

The Ascension readings ask if we can be both heavenly minded and concerned with earthly good? Can we have an eternal perspective, embracing the after-life, and also seek this worldly beauty and justice in our earthly lives? The Ascension of the Lord is not the marking of a departure, but the realization of a presence. Matthew’s Gospel begins with the dawning of Emmanuel: “God is with us”; it concludes with Emmanuel’s promise: “I am with you always, even to the end of time.”

It is not an abstract or distant presence; Christ is the centre of our Church in Word, in Sacrament, in every moment of generosity and every act of compassion we perform and experience. Jesus’ Ascension is both an ending and a beginning. The physical appearances of Jesus are at an end; His revelation of the “Good News” is complete; the promise of the Messiah is fulfilled. Now begins the call to Action - the work of the disciples to teach what they have learned and to share what they have witnessed.

The Ascension readings are about height and depth and time and eternity. First, Jesus is asked when the realm of God is to come to earth. His answer is evasive and lends itself to the Christian conviction that we do not know about the end times and cannot foretell the Second Coming. History and ethics, faith and spirituality, are to be lived out now, without paralysing anxiety about God’s future for us. The same might apply to the coronavirus pandemic: when will be free of it? When can we open the church doors, get back to business as usual, or jettison our face masks and social distancing? Jesus’ words can be translated as, “Do not succumb to political spin.” They are healthfully agnostic, inviting us to live in the now, while planning and acting for the future.

The Acts 1 passage continues. Jesus is ascending. Jesus is no longer on the earth. But this is no cause to abandon our planet or our ethical obligations. The moral and spiritual arcs of history do not take a holiday, even in a time of pandemic. We have work to do. It is an opportunity to take our place as Jesus’ companions in creative transformation, in bringing beauty and healing to the good Earth here and now. Ascension is the reality, already now experiencing His new and perpetual presence. God is in us and with us, and is luring us forward towards new adventures in faithful discipleship.

“You will receive power from the Holy Spirit!” What might that mean to us on Earth? What does that promise mean to struggling persons and priests and religious, dealing with pandemic challenges and post-pandemic concerns?

As we consider Jesus’ Ascension, we are reminded that our work is here on earth. We do not need to wait for heaven to experience the beginning of God’s perpetual presence and to live out God’s Good News. Heaven is for real, and it is right here, as well as perfect presence on the far shore of immortality.

The fledgling Church was not off to a very promising start. Christ places His Church in the care of a rag-tag collection of fishermen, tax collectors and peasants. And yet, what began with those eleven has grown and flourished through the centuries to the very homes of our own parish family.

Faith Formation in Lockdown time

How parents can use available resources to build the faith of their families

(especially of their children) in spite of the lockdown

When you stood in front of the altar on your wedding day, one of the things the priest asked you was: "Are you prepared to accept children lovingly from God and to bring them up according to the law of Christ and His Church?" And you said: “Yes, I am.”

Then on the day you carried your baby to be baptised, the priest asked you and the child's godparents if you were ready to accept responsibility for training and raising this child in the practice of the faith. And you said: “Yes, I am.”

Unfortunately, most people don't remember what they were asked and what they committed to at the altar, and hence don't follow through with action to fully receive the ever present graces available to us in both Sacraments: to be the primary teachers of our faith to our children.

Inviting them into a lived relationship with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (evangelisation) and teaching them how to practise that faith in everyday life (catechesis) has always been the primary responsibility of us parents to whom God has entrusted the souls of our children. So whether the church buildings are open or closed, whether we live in lockdown or freedom, we are accountable to God for the promises we made to Him.

Let's take this extended lockdown and the inevitable delay in re-opening church buildings and schools as a golden opportunity to repent for our laxity, and renew our commitment to depend wholly on God for the grace to do as parents what He and His Church require of us: lead our children's souls to Christ.

Here are some excellent ways for us to get going:

1. Build your own faith first. You can't give what you don't have. "So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the word of Christ." (Romans 10:17) Invest time in reading the Word of God for yourself as an individual first, then as a couple, and lastly, as a family. The Holy Spirit is waiting to reveal Himself to you and there are lots of Catholic Bible apps available to make the experience easier, especially if you are not a reader. https://appgrooves.com/rank/books_and_reference/catholic-bible/best-catholic-bible-apps

2. Unite around the Eucharist. Daily Mass is being livestreamed and available as a download on YouTube all over the world in different time zones and languages. For the first time in history, you can join in at Mass with the Pope everyday at 12 noon IST on Shalom World's YouTube channel https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YAgstcPokw0. In the Archdiocese of Bombay, you can join His Eminence, Cardinal Oswald Gracias, at the Daily Eucharist at 7:30 a.m. Unite around the Eucharist with your family at home and your Christian family all across the world. Use the opportunity this global crisis provides to find a Mass in a time zone that you can participate in with family across the globe, especially on Sundays and special remembrances.

3. Use child-friendly resources that give you ready-made ways to evangelise and catechise your child. The fruit of such learning, however, only comes when the parents create an environment at home that invites constant seeking and pursuing of the truth. Encourage your children to ask questions, and enjoy finding the answers together. Please note that no programme/channel/technology can replace your unique role as first teachers of the faith, so these resources won't work, unless you participate wholeheartedly in making them understandable and practical to your children.

Here are some resources you can use to begin that process:

1. https://formed.org/ is a Catholic website that offers a wide array of programming for all age groups from movies and audio talks to books and documentaries. They have a wide collection of Catholic family movies, and an even better section on children's programming that makes for thoroughly enjoyable learning. Formed was offering a free trial period during Lent, but now it costs around Rs 7500 for an annual subscription. That's approximately how much you spend for wifi for an entire year, and it’s so totally worth it!

2. There are many free movies available on YouTube for your family to enjoy together and relate to real life together. The ones I would recommend are:

(a) The Visual Bible: the Gospel according to Matthew

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmK9Mvsyfqs

(b) The Visual Bible: the Acts of the Apostles

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ezC9qyBRBV4

Please note that some other links have 'Visual Bible' in the name, but they are not made by the original producers of the above two movies who have displayed the chapter and verse numbers on the bottom right of the screen throughout the movies. The two links above are Scripturally accurate, and you can follow the narrative with your Bible open which makes the Scriptures really come alive.

Also, please note that some “Jesus movies” have been made by the Mormon cult/Seventh Day Adventists and atheists too, so please be wary of those.

(c) The Encounter shows Jesus as a very accessible person in our modern day world—a great way to communicate Gospel truths anew.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=paMCMnjWLRE

(d) The Angel of Columbia is a riveting documentary about a 9-year-old boy who changes the world.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8bLIL_MAqwE

(e) Faith's Song is about a girl who clings to Jesus in a personal crisis

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_843uAY-r8

(f) The whole family can enjoy the first season of The Chosen on https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBXOFnNTULFaAnj24PAeblg

Though it has a lot of ‘back stories’ added to it to make connections between the Gospel narratives, I have yet to see anything more effective when it comes to sharing the Gospel visually. After you watch each episode, look up the details of the events covered in your Bibles together; research why that ‘back story’ makes sense or doesn't.

3. Catholic printables are the way to go if you have a printer at home. Just select, print and give the kids some colouring tools for hours of relaxed learning.

http://www.drawn2bcreative.com/

https://www.catholicicing.com/

4. Another great way to connect with God and understand Him better is through His Creation. Naturalists relate better to exploring God by exploring what they can see and what He's made. Watch glimpses of the wonderful world He has created on

https://neal.fun/deep-sea/

https://zoosofkarnataka.com/wild-karnataka

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCV6HJBZD_hZcIX9JVJ3dCXQ

The last link has live safaris telecast from Kruger National Park at 9:30 a.m. and 7 p.m. IST, where you can ask questions in real time.

5. Those who enjoy music will enjoy these resources:

Learn the names of the books of the Catholic Old Testament with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZZeWEginPL0. It might inspire you to write your own lyrics and tunes to worship our Father that you can then send to HSI bandwagon at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7k7tC1SHdHE

6. Finally, if your children want to do it all (listen, watch, sing, dance, colour, pray) then don't miss out on these two time-bound opportunities:

(a) Catholic Bible Camp (Bangalore) from May 20-24, 2020

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vVZ1VcieAeU

(b) Jesus and Me Online Retreat (conducted by Teens United For Christ (TU4C) INDIA) for 7 to 13-year-olds from May 24-31, 2020 using YouTube and Zoom. You can register on https://forms.gle/xgpz3xmmrAe3z9a96 and contact Supriya on 80820 15436.

In spite of all its restrictions and uncertainties, this is still a season of extraordinary grace. Don't miss out on all the good God wants to give you and your family in this time. Make the most of this time pursuing our Lord together.

Adele Pereira is an ordinary Catholic mother from Mumbai, enjoying an extraordinary life following Jesus.

Helping children cope with the coronavirus outbreak

Many people are struggling with anxiety around the questions: “Will my family get sick?”, “How long will it last?”, “Will I have the things I need?” Kids, too, can get anxious, especially as they see the stress of adults around them. How can we help kids cope with the stress of the outbreak and its ongoing effects on our everyday lives? Here are a few tips:

· Keep adults informed, but limit children’s exposure to ongoing media reports about the virus. This is especially important for young children. Children below the age of seven not only have trouble understanding much of what’s in the news, but also in putting the information into perspective, because of their limited experience with the outside world. They might tend to think that the virus is much more widespread than it actually is, and might assume that if cases of coronavirus are reported in your community, it’s outside the door waiting to infect them.

· Reassure children that you will keep them safe. Help them know what they can do to control the spread of germs, like washing their hands and appropriately covering their mouth or nose, but tell them that you are there to protect them and will make sure they have what they need.

· Prepare. Don’t resort to panic buying, taking more than you might need, but do keep on hand extra food and other supplies to stay home for a period of time. You might wish to involve older kids and teens in these preparations, if they are interested in helping. Sometimes doing what we can do helps us feel a little more in control of a scary situation. In your family preparations, consider what you might need to keep kids busy for a period of time if schools are closed. Art supplies, board games and other items that are alternatives to constant screen time might be helpful. The website screenfreeparenting.com has a number of indoor activities that can be alternatives to screen time.

· Retain some routines. Although many things about our lives can change in the midst of an outbreak like this, try to maintain as many routines as possible, such as bedtime, dinner time, and other activities within the home. This provides a sense of security for kids.

· Don’t make promises about things you can’t control. We would love to be able to promise kids that no one they know will catch the virus, but much is still unknown about how extensive this outbreak will be. Instead, if it is indeed the case that no one in your family or circle of friends has the virus, tell them that it’s not that widespread yet, and “no one we know has it right now.” It might also be helpful to tell them that most people who catch the virus only experience it like a cold or flu.

· Consider “virtual visits” with family members and friends. In communities where people have been advised to stay home, consider using one of the many digital applications that allow for video-based chats. This might be especially important for staying in touch with grandparents and other elderly family members, who have been strongly advised to practise social distancing during this outbreak, due to their increased risk of complications from the virus. But social distancing doesn’t mean social isolation; look for creative ways to stay connected.

· Remind kids that “this too will pass”. Though many of our routines will change in the coming weeks, coronavirus doesn’t need to change our lives forever. Disease outbreaks last for a season. Young children, especially, often haven’t had enough experience with temporary life disruptions to remember that things can and do get back to normal. Reassure them that any fun parts of life they are missing will be back soon.

· Spend some time each day in family prayer. Pray for those who have the virus and for the safety of those who don’t have it, especially healthcare workers and others on the “frontlines” of the outbreak. As we cope with this current crisis, it’s important that we remember the words so often repeated in Scripture: “Do not be afraid.” God is with us not only in good times, but in stressful times, too.

A stressful event like the coronavirus outbreak can help remind us of what’s really important. Despite the practical disruptions of work and school closures, consider the potential benefits of increased, unplanned time together at home. Use this unexpected time together as a gift to your family. Embrace it as an opportunity for your family to spend some much-needed time together and draw closer to one another.

Dr Joseph D. White is a child and family psychologist and national catechetical consultant for Our Sunday Visitor.