Pope's Upcoming Encyclical

A Sneak Preview

Pope Francis is to release a new encyclical which is expected to focus on what the world should look like following the COVID-19 pandemic. The Vatican said September 5, that the encyclical will be titled Fratelli tutti (Brothers all), and will be on "fraternity and social friendship". The encyclical will offer a framework for a more just post-pandemic world. It has been in preparation since before the emergence of COVID-19.

"It will be a social and economic encyclical for the post-COVID world, a text of reason and heart with which the pontiff will speak to the world about the necessary changes in social and productive organisation, the need to safeguard Creation, the need to take responsibility for one another, and of the increasing need for human fraternity," opined Maria Antonietta of the Huffington Post.

Pope Francis has already been sharing some hints on its contents in a new series of teachings called, "To heal the world", at his Wednesday general audiences following a month-long break. On August 5, he said, "we will explore together how our Catholic social tradition can help the human family heal this world that suffers from serious illnesses."

In the introductory instalment, Pope Francis stated that the Church, in the light of the Gospel, has developed several social principles which are fundamental principles that can help us move forward in preparing the future that we need, pointing to Catholic social doctrine. The theme of his catechesis was "faith and human dignity". He began by noting that "the pandemic has highlighted how vulnerable and interconnected everyone is. If we do not take care of one another, starting with the least, with those who are most impacted, including Creation, we cannot heal the world," he insisted.

Pope Francis said it is a question of living in communion or 'harmony' with one another, rather than living as 'individualists' who are 'indifferent' to the needs of others. He continued, "The harmony created by God asks that we look at others, the needs of others, the problems of others, in communion," recognising "the human dignity in every person, whatever his or her race, language or condition might be."

"The pandemic has exposed the plight of the poor and the great inequality that reigns in the world," he said a week later, focusing on the importance of 'preferential option for the poor.' The preferential option for the poor is at the centre of the Gospel!" He then decried our current system of social and economic injustices that hurt the poor and the environment.

He explained, "The pandemic is a crisis, and we do not emerge from a crisis the same as before; either we come out of it better, or we come out of it worse." He argued, "It would be sad if, for the vaccine for COVID-19, priority were to be given to the richest! It would be sad if this vaccine were to become the property of this nation or another, rather than universal, and for all."

"And what a scandal it would be if all the economic assistance we are observing - most of it with public money - were to focus on rescuing those industries that do not contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, the promotion of the least, the common good or the care of Creation," he went on. He reiterated forcefully that only those companies and businesses "that contribute to the inclusion of the excluded, to the promotion of the last, to the common good and the care of Creation" should be given financial assistance.

The Pope has spoken more specifically of "the universal destination of goods" (including fairer distribution of wealth) and the principle of "solidarity". He linked the first issue to the virtue of hope, and the second to the virtue of faith.

He vehemently railed against economic and social inequality. "We must say it simply; the economy is sick," he lamented. "In today's world, a few wealthy people possess more than all the rest of humanity." He went on. "I will repeat this, so that it makes us think; a few wealthy people, a small group, possess more than all the rest of humanity. This is pure statistics. This is an injustice that cries out to heaven!" Pope Francis said now more than ever is the time for enacting solidarity.

(Excerpts from an article of Robert Mickens) Courtesy: La Croix International

Remedy for Redemption

Looked at from a purely secular and historical perspective, the Cross would not be considered an object to be exalted or something to be showcased as a trophy of triumph. It was, in fact, a sign of great tragedy and an instrument of brutal torture, inflicted to quell rebellion, silence critics and enforce power. In this case, it became bound to a man who became quite popular among the masses for his message of love and hope that envisioned a Kingdom centred on God, where every human being would realise his/her full potential as a child of God. He was also fiercely hated by others who saw him as a threat to the established order of the day.

However, having been raised up on this device of death, Christ transformed it into a remedy for redemption. Seen from this divine perspective, we see suffering being used to eliminate suffering forever; we see death being used to vanquish death. The enemy's gambit was turned against him, and victory was achieved where others saw despair. It is for this reason that Christians see the Cross as a symbol of life, triumph and salvation, which is why we wear it proudly on our sleeve as our boast. The Cross is an exalted throne on which sits the Lord of Heaven and Earth, whom we approach humbly, and are rewarded with glory.

This symbol par excellence of the Love that overcomes hatred and violence and generates immortal life is much needed in today's world, as humanity grapples more and more with inexplicable suffering, and searches for answers. Scientists are rushing against time to develop a vaccine for the novel coronavirus, but the antidote to greed, despair, hatred and meaninglessness was tried and tested two millennia ago on the slopes of Calvary.

While terms such as exaltation and glorification may invoke selfish connotations in secular minds, the Cross points just the opposite way – to humility and a self-emptying 'kenosis'. The beautiful hymn of humility that we read in the second chapter of Philippians on the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is pregnant with terms (obedience, humility, emptying, enslavement) that invite us to look deep within ourselves. On one level, this liturgical feast exhorts us to rip out the malaise within us in order to achieve lasting peace and love for those around us.

Because as we more ardently aspire to change the world for the better, the less we insist on reforming ourselves. The more we deign to improve the world with our noble aims, we often neglect our own interior growth. In a strange way, abstraction excuses us from making those very real and tangible improvements that we need to make in ourselves and our relationships. Here I am reminded of that wonderful quote that is attributed to the Saint of the gutters, St Teresa of Kolkata, whose memorial we just celebrated a week ago. Apparently, she never said these words, but she might have anyway: "If you want to bring peace to the whole world, go home and love your family."

At first glance, these words may seem sweet and soothing, but in reality, they cloak a slightly painful pinch to the conscience. It is almost as if what is being said is, "While it is good to desire higher standards from your neighbour, perhaps it would be better to begin with oneself." In Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov, Fr Zosima recalls the frank honesty of an elderly physician: '"I love mankind," he said, "but I am amazed at myself; the more I love mankind in general, the less I love people in particular, that is, as individuals… I would really have gone to the cross for people, if it were somehow suddenly necessary, and yet I am incapable of living in the same room with anyone even for two days."

As I look up at the Cross lovingly, I am reminded that Christ first and foremost took 'my' sin on Himself. There is no greater cause of suffering than our own sins that we struggle with on a daily basis. Jesus invites us to gaze on the Cross; we are to look at Him in His misery and suffering, and in that gaze, we are called to see victory with faith. We are told that God brings good out of all things, even our suffering. But there is no social reform without personal reform. We transform the world first by focusing on our own transformation. Before we love the world, we need to begin by loving our spouse, our children and the next door neighbour.

Then the Holy Cross becomes – nay, has already become – a Remedy for 'our' Redemption.

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

The Magnificent Masterpiece of the Maker

Fr Anthony Charanghat

The Church has constantly grown in her discovery of Mary, as the Magnificent Masterpiece of God's creation,who appeared on the horizon of salvation history. She was destined by God from eternity to be full of grace, preserved from Sin in order to be the womb of His Son Jesus by the virtue of the anticipated grace of Her Son. As we commemorate this great event of her birth, the Church bursts forth in its enthusiasm, "Thy nativity, O Virgin Mother of God," sings in its liturgy, "has announced joy to the whole world."

The day the Virgin Mary was born ranks as one of the most beautiful in history since it announced to condemned mankind, because of Adam's sin, the long-awaited time of liberation. The Church celebrates this Marian festivity as the first dawning of redemption with the appearance in the world of the Saviour's Mother who freely said 'Yes' to God's Word to be made flesh in Her.

In Mary we have the perfect model of complete relationship with God as St. Thomas Aquinas said of her relationship with the Trinity. In his reflection on the Scriptures he shows her to be the daughter of the Father, (Daughter of Zion Revelation 12:4) as the Mother of Christ. Precisely this Child is the 'Virgin' who "will conceive and bear a son, and call him Emmanuel, which means 'God with us'" (Isaiah 7:14, Mt 1:23). Precisely this Child is the 'Mother' who will give birth in Bethlehem "to him who will rule over Israel" (Micah 5, 1). She is the Spouse of the Holy Spirit because of the deep union between Mary and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, The angel said to Mary, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will cover you. For this reason the baby will be holy and will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

Mary, the Virgin-Mother, proclaims before all of us the highest value of motherhood, glory and joy of women, and also that of Christian virginity, professed and welcomed "for the love of the Kingdom of Heaven" (Mt 19:12), that is, as a testimony in this tainted world, of that final world in which those who are saved will be "like the angels of God" (Mt 22:30).

Contemplating Mary on the feast of Nativity means to review ourselves in terms of Mary, a model that God himself has given us for our for our sanctification and response to accepting His offer of Redemption. Mary today teaches us, first of all, to keep intact our faith in God, that faith that was given to us in baptism and that must grow and mature continuously in us during the various stages of our Christian life.

According to Saint Luke (Lk 2:19), let us recognize in all the modesty of the Holy Virgin, who, Immaculate in the body no less than in words, meditated in her heart the themes of faith. We too must likewise meditate in our hearts 'the themes of faith', that is, we must be open and available to the Word of God, to ensure that our daily life - at a personal, family, professional level - always be in perfect harmony with the message of Jesus, with the teaching of the Church and with the examples of the Saints.

Let us follow the pattern of Mary who is the 'prototype of the Church,' and so to speak, 'the Church in person.' Mary is also called Holy Temple of the Most High, who conceived in her virginal womb and begot, by the work of the Holy Spirit, the Incarnate Word. According to the Word of God, each one of us Christians, through baptism, becomes the temple of God (1 Cor 3, 16, 17, 2 Cor 6, 16) - a living stone for the construction of a spiritual building (1 Pet 2:5), that is, each must contribute, with his/her exemplary Christian life, to the growth and building of the Church, Mystical Body of Christ, People of God and the Family of God.

In the present tragic situation, when the whole world is prey to suffering and anxiety, we must turn to the Mother of God and our Mother, and seek refuge under her protection and consolation to embrace all her children in distress and pray that God will stretch out his all-powerful hand and free us from this terrible pandemic, so that life can serenely resume its normal course.

St Mother Teresa’s Spirituality of Seeking God

If we can sum up the spiritual legacy of St Mother Teresa, as we celebrate her 110th birth Anniversary, it would be in the simple words of Mother Teresa herself, "As to my calling, I belong to the world. As to my heart, I belong entirely to the Heart of Jesus." The goal is to learn to seek and serve God at work in the world, even when things seem to be messy or even chaotic, and to distinguish God's will from personal desires.

Mother Teresa's understanding of herself and her sisters as contemplatives in the heart of the world was not an identity she developed from the spirituality of the Congregation of the Loreto Sisters whom she had originally joined. The spiritual clarity sought is cultivated by regular self-examination and contemplative prayer to which one cleaves. Jesus is the foundation upon which the spirituality of her order was built. As she lay dying, she repeated His name again and again.

Her motto was, "Seeking the face of God in everything, everyone, everywhere, all the time, and seeing His hand in every happening—that is contemplation in the heart of the world." For Mother Teresa, a life of contemplation had the following characteristics—Being a missionary by going out physically or in spirit in search of souls all over the world; contemplative: by gathering the whole world at the very centre of our hearts where the Lord abides; universal: by praying and contemplating with all and for all, especially with, and for, the spiritually poorest of the poor.

Jesus' words from the Cross—"I thirst"—were [central] to Teresa's spirituality. For her, they signified, first and foremost, Christ's thirst for our love, our kindness, our trust, and our hope, and she wanted that longing of Christ to be the centrepiece of her order. As she once wrote, "The heart and soul of MC (Missionaries of Charity) is only this—the thirst of Jesus' Heart, hidden in the poor." Missionaries were called to so love the Lord that they'd be willing to do everything they could to ease His suffering by tending to the physical and emotional thirst of the people in whom He abides.

Teresa and her sisters were under no illusion that serving Christ in the poor and the marginalised would be easy. But they were also convinced that the more they sacrificed, the more they eased the pain of Christ in all His distressing disguises. The people who relied upon the Missionaries of Charity deserved to be treated with dignity and love, and that obliged the sisters and brothers to feel and display genuine joy in coming to their assistance. "The Missionaries of Charity do firmly believe that they are touching the body of Christ in His distressing disguise, whenever they are helping and touching the poor."

As Teresa told Malcolm Muggeridge, "We (Missionaries of Charity) must be able to radiate the joy of Christ, express it in our actions. If our actions are just useful actions that give no joy to the people, our poor people would never be able to rise up to the call which we want them to hear, the call to come closer to God. We want to make them feel that they are loved."

The Jesus-centred contemplation in the heart of the world that is the spirituality of the Missionaries of Charity demands a lifelong process of conversion. Most of us live in 'me'-centred universes. We find it difficult to value other people to the degree we value ourselves. How does one begin to turn away from a lifetime of selfishness to embrace a vocation of contemplative service? The necessary starting point is a recalibration of one's way of looking at the world. We must recognise—re-cognise, come to re-know—the nature of reality and the humans who inhabit it.

The reason silence was so important to Teresa is because it offers us the opportunity to begin shedding false understandings of ourselves and the world. It clears a space, so to speak, for the recognition that converts. Silence and prayer become the wombs in which we are reborn. They "enlarge the heart, until it is capable of containing God's gift of Himself."

This recognition of God's imprint upon the created world, and especially upon humans, made in the likeness of God, in turn prompts us to discern the presence of Christ in each and every person we encounter. That is the contemplative insight that undergirds the activity of the Missionaries of Charity. But what is just as important as seeing God in others and reach out to them in their dire need is discerning God's presence within oneself.

Adapted Excerpts from 'St Teresa of Calcutta: Missionary, Mother, Mystic', by Kerry Walters, published by Franciscan Media.

WFH: How are We Managing?

Work from Home (WFH) has completely altered the way we live, work and even relax.

‘Work from Home–Challenges and Opportunities’ was the title of a webinar organised on August 11, 2020, by the Archdiocesan Labour Commission and Women’s Commission in response to the stress, uncertainty and muddled work-life balance brought about by the new Work from Home (WFH) culture. To talk about these issues and how we could face them, were competent experts: Leslie D’Souza, a Behavioural Change Leadership Coach; Christine Nathan, ex-ILO and a specialist in Workers’ Education; and Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala, a feminist theologian, along with moderator Ruth D’Souza, a management consultant. They spoke about the various challenges and opportunities involved, and how to adapt for a more productive and serene work-life balance.

Ruth D’Souza focused the webinar’s context on three key aspects—coping with change, a better WFH environment and a better work-life balance. She then presented the findings of a pre-webinar WFH survey. WFH advantages include saving travel time and cost, flexible schedules, and more time for family. It also brings opportunities such as catalysing the adoption of technology, upskilling and improving overall well-being. Nevertheless, lack of team interaction, technical difficulties such as connectivity and equipment issues, impaired productivity, prolonged video calls, disrupted schedules, space, privacy and ergonomic issues, as well as family responsibilities pose significant WFH challenges that take a toll on physical and mental health. Suggestions to improve the WFH experience were broadly categorised under four areas—managing expectations of self, colleagues and family; fixed hours of work with reasonable deadlines and respecting boundaries; improved infrastructure and organisational support in terms of connectivity, hardware and troubleshooting; and support from family members, specifically in sharing of household chores.

Build to Adapt

Panelist Leslie D’Souza delved into coping with the change brought about by a tectonic shift in health, safety and our economic environment. We are facing unprecedented job loss. However, change is the only constant, and we have to look for ways to adapt. Prakash Iyer, a motivational speaker and leadership coach, said in a recent article that uses the Choluteca bridge (Honduras) as a metaphor, “the challenge for us is that we get focused on creating the best solution to a given problem. We forget that the problem itself might change… The mantra ‘Built to Last’ must now make way for ‘Build to Adapt’.” We may first feel a sense of denial about our situation, but we need to slowly move forward and try accepting it. Most of us are also bound to feel emotions of confusion and anger while working from home. But we need to make our way through the denial, towards acceptance, and be ready to transform into a new space. We should look at life with a new pair of lenses. Today, many of us are grateful that we still have a job.

Addressing health and safety concerns

Christine Nathan talked about making occupational safety and health a priority. New outbreaks of coronavirus have rendered WFH a long-term solution that requires fundamental investment. Since our homes are now our workplaces, we need to address several safety and health concerns, such as general fatigue that causes muscular-skeletal issues and eye problems, and increased working hours that lead to shorter sleep cycles, irregular meals, and even increased work/family conflict, precipitated by a higher domestic burden. We need to pay attention to these issues and give more importance to our well-being. It is necessary to have a social dialogue between employers and employees in order to formulate a mutually beneficial WFH policy that addresses occupational concerns, sets boundaries and improves productivity.

Equitable distribution of work at home

Dr Astrid Lobo Gajiwala highlighted how women have been particularly hit hard during the pandemic and the ensuing WFH culture, multi-tasking like never before. Surveys indicate that a majority of them have to look after the household chores, cooking as well as the added responsibilities of supervising their children’s online education and project deadlines. In addition, there is a documented increase in the number of domestic violence cases. Women naturally feel as if they ought to be working less and doing more of the housework and childcare. On the other hand, men and professional women without childcare responsibilities are more likely to prioritise and expand their work spheres while working from home. There needs to be a sharing of the household work, and also of emotional and mental burdens. The silver lining is that with everyone being at home, men have been given a greater awareness of the scale and scope of domestic tasks. We have to turn this situation into a long-term shift, where family members divide unpaid household responsibilities.

We are all in this together, and therefore we need to be pillars of support for one another. This is the biggest challenge thrown at us—to get our work life in sync with our family life. We have to accept the change and look at life from another perspective. Amidst the chaos, we can find peace, knowing that there are others in the same boat as us, and that God will always lighten our burdens.

Eden Fernandes is a content creator for the Examiner and Shawna Nemesia Rebello is a member of the Social Apostolate Group, Archdiocese of Bombay.

ILO Employers’ Guide on Working from Home

A few extracts to understand the implications and effects of Working from Home

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to severely affect public health and cause unprecedented disruptions to economies and labour markets. In line with the advice from the World Health Organization (WHO), many steps have been taken world-wide to contain the spread of the virus. Governments have implemented measures ranging from physical distancing, restrictions on the freedom of movement and the closure of non-essential companies and undertakings, to the lockdown of entire cities in different parts of the world. As the pandemic evolves, so have the measures governments have taken to address it.

Reducing face-to-face contact is an important action to mitigate the impact of COVID-19. According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), around 68 per cent of the world’s total workforce, including 81 per cent of employers, are currently living in countries with recommended or required workplace closures. In this new environment, employers have to be able to adapt and make contingency plans to respond to new measures as they arise. Many companies are exploring working from home (WFH) as a temporary or alternative working arrangement.

1. What is working from home?

WFH is a working arrangement in which a worker fulfils the essential responsibilities of his/her job while remaining at home, using Information and Communications Technology (ICT). For the purpose of this guide, and in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the term “working from home” is used to refer uniquely to home-based teleworking as a temporary, alternative working arrangement. It requires a shared responsibility and commitment by both employers and workers to ensure business continuity and employment.

2. How is working from home different from teleworking, telecommuting, or remote working?

Progress in ICT has enabled and facilitated alternative working arrangements, including WFH, teleworking, telecommuting and remote working. These terms are often used interchangeably to refer to new and evolving models of working outside the employers’ premises or workplace. There may be slight differences among these terminologies. For example, some may imply a temporary arrangement, while others may imply a long-term arrangement. WFH is considered to be home-based teleworking; the difference being that teleworking may include various locations away from the primary worksite or the employer’s premises (such as mobile working). Telecommuting refers to substituting telecommunications for commuter travel. There are some differences between the terms ‘teleworking’ and ‘telecommuting’, mainly because telework is broader, and may not always be a substitute for commuting, but they are relatively minor. For the purposes of this guide, the terms ‘teleworking’ and ‘telecommuting’ are used interchangeably.

3. Are all jobs suitable for working from home arrangements?

When worksites and premises are closed across the entire company as a precautionary measure or as a result of a government directive, companies may be able to implement WFH arrangements to achieve continuity of service, maintain productivity, and preserve jobs, while safeguarding the safety and health of workers. The ILO estimates that close to 18 per cent of workers have occupations that are suitable for WFH, and live in countries with the infrastructure to enable WFH.

The responsibility for WFH arrangements is shared, and it requires the commitment of both employers and workers to make it successful. Both employers and workers should be practical, flexible and sensible to each other's situation when implementing WFH arrangements.

Before rolling out WFH arrangements, employers should first assess if it is possible and practical for the job functions and the jobholder, as follows:

1. Identify the job functions and tasks that can be done off-site. This may involve innovation and creativity to do things differently from the norm.

2. Assess mechanisms for connectivity such as regular videoconferencing calls and other means.

3. Assess the infrastructure, facilities and tools available for WFH, such as Internet connectivity and the availability of reliable power supply.

4. Assess the legal requirements, obligations and potential liability, taking into consideration the worker’s situation and the job functions, equipment and tools needed.

5. Assess the worker’s situation in terms of safety and health in his/her domestic environment and actual ability to carry out the tasks required at home.

6. Consider the potential impact of the worker’s living arrangements. E.g. workers may have child or dependent care responsibilities, relationship strain or domestic violence, long-term health conditions or disabilities.

7. Assess any mental health concerns or possible future concerns that could arise through a work from home arrangement.

It is important to note that while advances in ICT have enabled WFH, not all job functions and tasks can be done outside the employers’ premises or the specified workplace. There are companies, occupations and tasks where WFH is not practical or feasible, or it cannot be deployed in a short timeframe.

Employers need to explore and implement an alternative plan for job functions and tasks that cannot be performed remotely, or for workers who have limitations at home or health and safety issues that prevent WFH. Subject to the provisions in national laws and regulations, government directives or company policy, employers may consider advising workers to take accrued or advance paid annual leave, extended leave at half pay or unpaid, or any other applicable leave that could be used in the situation, in consultation with the workers concerned.

Source: ILO, ‘Working from Home: A potential measure for mitigating the COVID-19 pandemic’, Policy Brief, April 2020.

SCCs - A Light amidst the Darkness

On March 27, 2020, it was heartbreaking to watch Pope Francis trudge alone across a deserted St Peter's Square, to deliver an extraordinary blessing 'To the City and to the World' (Urbi et Orbi) to pray for an end to the COVID-19 pandemic, giving his message of hope—a light amidst the darkness engulfing the whole world. In his meditation, the Holy Father reflected on Jesus' words to His disciples: "Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?" (Mk 4:40)

The hour-long reflection and special Urbi et Orbi blessing reached 11 million people across the world, through all the modern means of communication– Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and TV, and even over the radio. Those of us who saw it live experienced solidarity with Pope Francis; our hearts burned within us as he opened the Scriptures to us (cfr Luke 24:32) – the light of the Gospel lighting up the desolation and darkness we were going through.

The COVID-19 pandemic has reminded us that we are all in the same boat—rich or poor, educated or illiterate, young or old, priests or lay people; we are experiencing fear and anxiety, hopelessness and frustration, and we wonder, when will life come back to normal? When will we go to church to be part of the worshipping community? When can we start meeting people? When will we be able to interact with our fellow lectors, cantors, members of the Cells and Associations, our Core Group and Cluster meetings, etc. When, When, When? Our daily news informs us that medical personnel, grocery store employees, cleaners, priests, religious men and women, police personnel, volunteers - 'our frontline COVID-19 warriors'- are risking their lives, so that we may live as a loving and caring community. The question that haunts us is—will this be the new normal?

The coronavirus pandemic has indeed given us moments and opportunities to reflect on the New Way of being Church. Online Masses, Catechetical inputs, streaming of Novena services and Feast Day Masses, YouTube Talks, reflections, retreats, etc. are being made available to us at the click of a button! Several Cells and Associations are conducting their meetings using Zoom and other tools. People, young and old, are getting accustomed to this new way of living. There is creativity in all of these activities, with a clear motive—to reach out, to be of service, to make the other the be-all-and-end-all of our lives. Yet, in our hearts, we continue in hope, and pray for the triumph of light over darkness, and yearn for things to return to normal, so we can go back, in person, to the celebration of the Eucharist and other activities in the Church.

Over the past five months, as Bishop in-charge of the Small Christian Communities, I can say with certainty that our parishes and institutions, priests, religious men and women and our lay faithful have capitalised on opportunities, and reached out in service to ensure that "no one is in want". Areas in the containment zones, our brothers and sisters who have been infected with the deadly virus, the daily wage-earners, domestics, migrants, those who lost their jobs and are now unemployed have experienced joy in their lives, as people reached out in service, considering them not to be unwanted or 'outcasts', but as members of their families, their very own brothers and sisters!

Our SCC animators kept in touch with their community members, ensuring that all were well, and that no one experienced deprivation of any sort. There are stories still coming in of people who used their resources of money and time to reach out—to neighbours and strangers, senior citizens, policemen on duty, migrants on the long road home, school children in need of smartphones; the list is endless—to ensure that no one was in want! From donating in cash or kind, our SCCs went beyond the boundaries of parish and religion to make others say, "Look how these Christians love and reach out to all!" We saw Small Human Communities emerging easily, as the SCC Animators reached out to people of all faiths, working together for a common purpose. We have shared some of these stories through a series in The Examiner viz. 'Stories of Courage and Compassion', as well as on the website

My prayer for all of us is that we continue to 'fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith' (Heb 12:2), remembering His words: "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life." (John 8:12)

+ Bp Barthol Barretto is an Auxiliary Bishop of Bombay & Bishop in-charge of SCCs.

Fortifying The Foundations Of Freedom

On August 15, 2020, India will celebrate 73 years of freedom. Catholics living in India, though, have always had a double reason to celebrate; while we celebrate our liberation from oppression and slavery with the birth of our nation as a sovereign state, the Assumption of Mary is a celebration of the "freedom of spirit", an unfettering of the mind, body and soul from the trappings of materialism, worldliness, anxiety, low self-esteem, depression and a life of sin that are the deceptions of the evil one. However, these freedoms can slowly pull away from us, if we do not pay careful heed to sustaining and nurturing the foundations that fortify these freedoms.

In recent times, concerns have been raised by intelligentsia, watchdogs and activists in debates, about the manner in which public institutions are being run. Some are of the opinion that if this is true, then that would be tantamount to the covert diminution of the checks and balances of democracy which in turn will prove detrimental to the progress of this nation.

A particular area of concern is the anaemic state of the fourth pillar of democracy—the media. An appraisal of the functioning of current newspapers and electronic media make it appear that in many cases there is an obfuscation of objectivity, selective narration, a quasi-judicial approach towards issues, noise over seasoned debate, widening the cracks in polity, religion and ideology and a rush to be "first" rather than to be credible and true. In short, an 'infotainment' approach has become the order of the day for many electronic news media, thus irreparably damaging the lofty place that media has always held in public discourse. Anecdotal evidence suggests that a number of people no longer consider the media to be objective and impartial to the facts. Those news media that do persevere in the noble task of impartial and truth-seeking reporting often face persecution.

A look at the world map throws up an alarming picture of large-scale public protests happening in dozens of countries across the world. France, Hong Kong, Russia, the United States, Lebanon, Belarus, Venezuela are just some of the countries where people's anger has reached boiling point. While some may say that we live in the 'free world', the fact of the matter is that many basic freedoms which are due to the very dignity of human beings are being steadily throttled using internal mechanisms, under the guise of democratic process. In reality today, there is a widening gulf between the true nature of democracy and the reality in which it is lived out.

However, lived realities should never lead us down the road of an infinite pessimism. Change comes about only when every individual conforms his/her own life to the valuable tenets of enlightened social responsibility and strives for authentic and true "independence". It is here that the Assumption of Mary gives us a stellar foresight into the "fruits of freedom" that the Risen Christ has won for each one of us. Inspite of being situated in an extremely patriarchal society with many constricting challenges to deal with, Mary refused to be 'locked down'. Her courageous YES was the result of an authentic freedom of heart and mind which she had cultivated by being nailed to the Word of God. Her 'freedom' is explicitly and joyfully manifested in the words of the Magnificat.

Mary's Assumption is pregnant with meaning. It is also a sign and confirmation of who she was. In 1 Corinthians 15:20, St Paul speaks of Jesus' Resurrection as the "first fruits of those who have fallen asleep." Jesus' Resurrection is not an isolated event, but one that includes all of humanity, and extends through time. Seen through that lens, Mary's Assumption is the "second fruits", when she partook of the divine gift unleashed at Easter. This is the same hope and promise that we look forward to. The Assumption is Mary's privilege, but it is also our promise.

In the context of locked freedoms that we are living today, the Assumption of Mary gives us a brilliant insight into how we can raise ourselves from the gloom, insecurity, uncertainty, anxiety and a feeling of hopelessness that has permeated our lives today. Mary was lifted up from the corruption of this world, due to her fidelity to the will of God, humble faith and quiet discipleship. A tree that is planted by streams of living water (Psalm 1), a branch that remains firmly in the Vine (Jn 15) can never wither. Mary perfectly shared in Christ's Resurrection, because she perfectly shared in the Incarnation, life and death of her Son.

The Assumption of Mary reminds us that we may be 'locked in', but we are not 'locked out'.

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

Musical Pandemic

Fr Austin Norris

And so: Here we are altogether as we sing our song, joyfully: calling out: Come by here, O Lord: It's me, it's me, It's me, O Lord, standing in the need of prayer: and pleading: Christ, come quickly, there's danger at the door.

Feelings all bottled up, I cry out: Why me, Lord, what have I ever done, Lord help me, Jesus: And I hear the reassuring: I will raise you up on eagle wings: and bowing my head low, I say: Thank you, Lord, for saving my soul.

As I look outside, I see Sunshine on my shoulders: and I think: I want to break free and I long for: Country Roads, take me home, to: the Green, green grass of home. Outside on the grounds, I see: Girls just wanna have fun and little children skipping to: Ring-a-ring-a Rosie… and crazy footballers dribbling to Waka Waka…

Reminiscing about bygones, I belt out: Sweet Caroline and: You fill up my senses and I: hear my dad teasing: You'll be a Bachelor boy, and I look plaintively at dear: Mother of Mine. The cellphone tinkles, and I revert to: Aah Ooh, What have we done to our earth and: How many Roads must a man walk down: before we say: He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother. And I think: Precious Lord, take my hand and: Abide with Me, even as our: World stands in need of liberation.

I think of the poor response of the government and: All I want to say, is that they don’t really care about us... and turning my gaze at the frontline workers and responders, I can only say: I cried a tear, you wiped it dry, I was confused, you cleared my mind and: Thank you, thank you, thank God for you - the Wind beneath my wings....

As children and teachers struggle with online classes, my prayer is Whispering hope and One day at a time... oh yes… We shall overcome...

As the intercom chimes, I think of: Ring, ring telephone ring: and I hear: It's been a hard day’s night and I wish it was instead: Put your sweet lips a little closer to the phone... and my mind locks into: There's a kind of Hush all over the land, and I long for the sounds of: Chitty, chitty bang, bang...

The doorbell rings and there stands: Proud Mary requesting for dry ration help: and I: Count my blessings that I did not: Fall to pieces: meanwhile the table-boy pipes in: Oranges and Lemons laya: and I almost yell at him: Beat it.

As the day stutters on, I see: There is a House in New Orleans: and I think of my would-be trip to California Dreaming, were it not for this pandemic. And I think of: Karma Chameleon as the spineless politicians and their pathetic response. The church bells chime the Angelus, and I stand and pray: Ave, Ave, Ave Maria… and feel peace and quiet.

As the evening dusks on, I do a: Thousand Miles, jogging and walking along, hoping to stay fit and because I can't: Beat it, I'd rather go: Slow and Easy, One Day at a Time. How I wish supper was served with: Red red wine, but then the Zoom meeting won’t get over, and I have to tell the watchman - He'll have to go…

Switching on the TV, I hear the anchor: Scream and my ears almost split with the theme of: Space Odyssey. I long for the: Sounds of Silence as I imagine: Silent Night, Holy Night, and the Lord reassures me: Be not afraid, I go before you always... From within me rises a prayer for: One World, One Heart... and I want to sing: Reach out and touch somebody's Hand, make this world a better place if you can. Switching of the lights, I hear the: Sounds of Silence, and I drift into slumber, praying: Lead, kindly light, amidst the encircling gloom... lead thou me on...

Next morning, I wake up and: Listen to the falling rain, and I look at my guitar, pick it up and play:

Day by day, dear Lord, for three things I pray: To see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, follow thee more nearly, day by day, day by day...

(Fr Austin Norris is the Parish Priest, St Vincent de Paul Church, Khar.)