INTERNATIONAL ACCLAIM FOR “THE JOY OF LOVE”

Pope Francis studied for three years about family life in our times at world level. Two international conferences or synods on family life for bishops and for expert couples were held in   Rome 2014 and 2015. The deliberations and decisions of the two conferences were the basis of   Pope Francis’ study. Then, he wrote an Apostolic Exhortation ‘The Joy of Love’ (Amoris Laetitia in Latin).

He wrote the Apostolic Exhortation in his typical style of simple language and high thinking. In the English edition of 288 pages the document discusses at length marriage, family and children. In the beginning of the book ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis says, the experience of love in the family is the same experience of love in the Church.

The ideal way is to read ‘The Joy of Love’ one chapter at a time with much meditation and reflection instead of reading the whole document at one stretch. As we see Pope Francis has taken quotations from the documents of Vatican Council II about family and also from a few bishops and from some documents of bishops’ conferences. Pope Francis also quoted Martin Luther King Jr, three poets from Latin America – Joseph Esper, Eric Francis and Gabriela Mistral. Such is the specialty of ‘The Joy of Love’.

There are many references about love and family. In the first chapter of ‘The Joy of Love’ Pope Francis has built up the context by giving a lot of quotations from the Bible. Beginning with Adam and Eve and reaching up to Mary and Joseph, the parents of Jesus. Pope Francis looks at the life of husband and wife and children in family life. Pope Francis considered the couple, who loves each other and lives new life, as the true and ideal family icon.

Pope Francis takes note of current realistic situation of the family in the context of experiences and challenges of modern family in the second chapter. Pope Francis says that in the ideal marriage there is responsibility, continuity and unity. Such married life may sometimes find boring and problematic. At the same time people may experience and desire for stable and truthful life together with the fear of loneliness. The chapter also takes notes of a number of things like young men and women post-phoning their marriage. They want to be free from marriage bond and from children. They also have to face the naked truth of their parents’ challenges against their attitude and free life style. In this context Pope Francis describes in detail what the country and the Christian Church can do. The chapter also has taken note of women liberation and living together and lending womb.

In the chapter three entitled ‘Looking to Jesus: the Vocation of Family’ Pope Francis makes clear the teaching of the Church about marriage,  transmission of life in the light of New Testament and Vatican Council II as well as of papal encyclicals and other documents. Pope Francis described marriage as intimate relationship of man and woman with total sharing of love and life. Pope Francis says that the intimate sexual union is naturally oriented to give life to children. He says that the Church is the family of families. The Pope exhorts the priests to work with deep discernment and the vision of truth in the context of family experiences and challenges.

The critics of ‘The Joy of Love’ say that those who do not have time to read the whole Exhortation should read the chapters four and five. In chapter four about ‘Love in Marriage’ Pope Francis says that we cannot speak the Gospel of marriage and family without speaking about love. Pope Francis quotes from St. Paul’s first letter to Corinthians about the great importance of love. He has quoted four verses from chapter 13 of the letter “Love is patient and kind; It is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. Love never gives up; and its faith, hope, and patience never fail” (1Cor: 13: 4-7). Pope Francis takes each sentences and comments on them. In it we see Pope Francis’ study and understanding of love.  Here Pope Francis’ advises are inspirational not only for couple but also for all people. The couple and family people who wish to live an ideal family life should read this chapter.

Pope Francis’ quotation of the bishops of Chile calls for special attention, “The perfect families proposed by deceptive consumerist propaganda do not exist. In those families, no one grows old, there is no sickness, sorrow or death … Consumerist propaganda presents a fantasy that has nothing to do with the reality which must daily be faced by the heads of families” (No 135). In this two chapters of 4 and 5 there are practical suggestions and advises husband and wife to form and lead a perfect family.

The fifth chapter ‘Love Made Fruitful’ speaks about marital life making fruitfulness. Pope Francis says that love always gives life. New life is born in the family and it is welcomed as a gift from God. Pope explains the duties and responsibilities of everyone in a family: parents, grandparents and children. Pope Francis says “Large families are a joy for the Church”. Speaking about the importance of education for woman and developing her talents and taking up job. Pope Francis says that mothers’ presence is needed in the first months of the birth of a child. Pope Francis advocates equal rights for women and men both in the family and outside the family. And he also emphasizes that women have exclusive qualities like motherhood. The humanity should protect the special mission of womanhood.

Pope Francis says that against the spread of selfish individualism, motherhood is the most powerful medium. Pope Francis advises the barren couple to adopt orphan children and give them a bright future. In this chapter Pope Francis gives advice like an expert family councilor to children, parents and grandparents and everyone in a family about their rights and duties. Pope Francis says that for a child to love its own brother or sister and experience of taking care of him/her is precious and unparallel. So where there is only one child the parents should take special care that the child should not suffer loneliness   and friendlessness.

Pope Francis discusses the challenges of various services in Christian religion. Here Pope Francis advises that the light of principles the local Church and parishes should find solutions for the problems and difficulties faced by the people. Pope Francis emphasizes very much the importance of preparing for marriage as marriage is a long term programme. Pope Francis criticizes extravagant, wasteful expenses of marriage. Pope Francis says that there should be arrangement for suitable counseling and guidance in the beginning of the young couple’s married life and subsequent years at the level of parishes and of dioceses. Pope Francis emphasizes the training of seminarians, deacons and other religious teachers that their pastoral services should be helpful to married people. Besides, Pope Francis has exhorted the concerned people to care especially for divorced people and remarried couples and the children who are the victims of such problems, with special care and compassion.

The seventh chapter deals with ‘Towards a Better Education of Children’. Pope Francis says that in moral and ethical formation of children parental influence may affect for good or bad. So the parent should consciously take responsibility in this regard without interfering the freedom of their children. The parents should be watchful about what their child is doing, whom he/she meets, and similar things. Family is the first school for children for their moral and value education. In the process of their family education between parents and children one need to see whether modern technology and electronic media are helping or creating obstacles.

Knowing that teenagers are not mature in matter of regarding sex the parents should   take care to give them appropriate positive sexual education. Pope Francis says that the children understand the beauty of religious faith and prayer in the family. Similarly the children learn from their parents in the family the values of loving and serving neighbors. Thus the families become the medium of proclaiming and witnessing Jesus and his Gospel.

Pope Francis in chapter eight discusses divorce, unlawful and inappropriate sexual relationship as well as sinful situation. Here some of the Pope Francis’ statements have become controversial. For Pope Francis has cautioned to be careful about evaluating different cultures and customs only in the light of accepted rules and regulations.

In the ninth chapter Pope Francis speaks about ‘The Spirituality of Marriage and Family’ as Vatican Council II has noted the spirituality is born in a family. Pope Francis says that in the family life and their relationship between members of the family spirituality is expressed. Ideal family does not descend from heaven. Family spirituality is expressed in the values, attitudes and ideals of Jesus as the way of love and prayer in the family. (Contact: cissahd@gmail.com             Mo. 09428826518)

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Changed On: 16-02-2018

Next Change: 01-03-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

Inspirational Strength of Merciful Life

A friend Daxaben Sanghvi says that she has given up reading newspaper in the morning! For, newspapers bring daily bad news. Daxaben does not wish to afflict her mood reading sad news and negative reporting early in the morning.

Shakespeare has said that our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thoughts. When we read every day early morning sad news and reports about crimes our mind may recall the words of Shakespeare.

But as an exemption a small news item appeared in social media, which spread far and wide like a virus. Many innocent people died in a Paris restaurant where the terrorists of Islamic state fired indiscriminately and killed many people. Among the dead there was the wife of Antoine Leiris. Mr. Leiris wrote a letter to those terrorists who killed his wife.

“Friday night, you took an exceptional life — the love of my life, the mother of my son — but you will not have my hatred I don’t know who you are and I don’t want to know, you are dead souls. If this God, for whom you kill blindly, made us in his image, every bullet in the body of my wife would have been one more wound in His heart.”

“So, no, I will not grant you the gift of my hatred. You’re asking for it, but responding to hatred with anger is falling victim to the same ignorance that has made you what you are. You want me to be scared, to view my countrymen with mistrust, to sacrifice my liberty for my security. You lost.”

In his letter we can note one thing. Antoine Leiris does not hate the terrorists who shot dead his wife; but he warns the terrorists that they will not reach paradise, where he has faith to reach and meet his wife. In this warning of Antoine Leiris we see his love and concern for the terrorists.

We generally hate the criminals who have been caught and imprisoned for crimes like rape and murder. With feeling of hatred and revenge we call for death and capital punishment for such criminals. In such situations hatred and revenge remain with us. The response of Antoine Leiris is a challenge for us to reflect on.

Here I would like to recall an incident of a rape noted in the 34th chapter of Genesis.  Dinah is the daughter of Jacob from his wife Leah. Dinah on her way to meet her relatives has been raped during the journey by Shechem, son of Hamor the Hivite, the chief of that region. Then, with the intention of marriage with Dinah, Shechem hid her in his house. Then Hamor and Shechem (father & son) went to meet Dinah’s father Jacob and her brothers.  They pleaded with Jacob and sons to give Dinah in marriage without any dowry.

Shechem also promised Jacob and the brothers of Dinah money and ornament in return for Dinah. As Shechem has violated their sister Dinah her brothers gave Shechem and his father deceitful answer. They said that it is not our custom to give in marriage our sister to people who are not circumcised. So they said to Hamor and his son and all males of his caste, “We   cannot let our sister marry a man who is not circumcised; that would be a disgrace for us.”

Hamor and his son agreed to the condition  of circumcision because Shechem loved Dinah very much. All citizens of the city agreed with what Hamor and Shechem proposed. All the males were circumsed. Three days later, when the men were still sore from their circumcision, two of Jacob’s sons, Simeon and Levi, the brothers of Dinah, took their swords, went into the city without arousing suspicion, and killed all the men including Hamor and his son Shechem. Then, they took Dinah from Shechem’s house and left.”  But Jacob did not like his sons, way of revenge. So Jacob took his sons all men and all his possessions and went away and stayed at Bethel.

Many years after that Jacob on his death bed called all his sons and told them what was in his mind. To Simeon and Levi, the blood relative sons, Jacob said that, the sword is the weapon of killing. “I will not take part in their company because they have killed many in their anger. For, becoming very angry they killed people. I curse their anger because that is fierce. I will scatter them in the land of Jacob and I will disperse them all among its people.” Jacob said. (Gen 49:6)

In the whole story of Jacob we can see that he was much disturbed with the rape of his daughter Dinah. But he is much more worried about his two sons who used their sword to kill not only the one who raped their sister but also  all males of his community. So he scorns the anger of his sons and decides not to keep their company.

From these words and actions of Jacob we can certainly learn one lesson. It is for God to do justice not for men to take revenge Forgiveness and mercy are proper to men. The words and actions of Jacob point a finger to Jesus’ message. For Jesus said, “Love your enemies and do good to them.”  (Lk 6; 35). We can see God’s mercy on the entire humanity. In the words of Jesus to love your enemies and do good to them. We may recognize Christmas as an expression of God’s mercy. For, Baby Jesus lying in the manger in Bethlehem is the personification of God’s mercy.

When we hate criminals and clamor for capital punishment for them and blame the authorizes that sufficient punishment is not given to the criminals such things project that show our attitude without mercy. This attitude is one of revenge and hostility. That is the attitude of a murderer. This murderer’s attitude and mentality we can see in the king of Judea King Herod’s case. History has described well the murderous mentality and attitude of King Herod. King Herod delt very cruelly with his mother and his foster father. He also killed many of his own relatives. In his attempt to kill Baby Jesus he ordered to kill all the children of two years younger and in Bethlehem and surrounding places.

King Herod was afraid that Baby Jesus would one day become the king of the Jews and overthrow his throne. We celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus, who loved even the murderous king Herod. The love with which Jesus preached we see in His forgiveness and mercy. Forgiveness is very different from hatred and revenge. In the attitude of Jesus we see love and forgiveness. So let us leave to God to do justice in the context of great tyranny and cruelty.

Let us leave the path of revenge and hatred and take the path of love and of forgiveness and of mercy, on which Jesus walked. This way we will enjoy our life; and we also persuade and inspire others to love, forgive and have mercy.

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Changed On: 01-02-2018

Next Change: 16-02-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2018

 

 

 

Let Us be Proud of Mother’s Job

A national level seminar for journalists and writers were organized at Pune in March 20156. The subject of the seminar was “Journalists and Family Values”. Speaking in the seminar Psychologist Angeli said, “I used to hate my father; for he was a drunkard. But I adored my mother.”  Then the young speaker spoke about hell-like situation of her house. Father after his job went for his drinking party with his friends and come home fully drunk late in the night. Then daily he created turmoil in the house shouting at the top of his voice as well as beating mother and me. He used abusive language for friends and neighbors.

But my mother is very loving and by nature very quiet. She served silently her drunken husband with much love and patience. She showed much love on her husband. She deals with everyone with much peace and forgiveness. She never quarreled or complained! Daily she went to church and participated in the mass. She also took me with her and we came back home before my father got up daily. Then she dealt with my father as if nothing has happened on previous night. She gave him washed and ironed dress, fed us with hot breakfast. By the time father and I finished breakfast, the tiffin for father was ready. For father everything is ready on time.

My father who was a drunkard for many years once took part in Alcoholic Anonymous programme and he was free from his habit of drinking. And then our house because like an Oasis in the desert. Our house became a heavenly shrine with much love, peace, forgiveness and understanding for all the time.

After hearing the psychologist speaking her terrible experiences of her teenage years, I decided that I will share her experience with my readers. For, in Gujarat in spite of the prohibition law the problem of drunkenness is wide spread. Many families are destroyed because of the drinking habit of the bread-winner. But as I see the mother of Angeli, the psychologist, is a loving character worth emulation. She is a person who not only upholds the family values but she also follow them very faithfully as a respectful wife, an ideal house-wife and as a women of fortitude. In the words of the Bible, she is a model women “who will not shout or raise his voice or make loud speeches in the streets. S/he will not break off a bend reed or put out a flickering lamp. S/he will bring lasting justice to all.” (see Isaiah 42: 2-3).

A mother’s job is the noblest work a human being is capable of. If one has to pay for the job of a mother, then she should be paid more then CEO of an International company. Mother’s job entitled 24 hours’ service. Mother has to keep awake when there is a little child at home or someone is sick at home. A mother’s job calls for much skillfulness, much expertise and much alertness.

Motherhood is the crown of creation. But it is said that man is ot proud of a mother’s job! She is not respected for her unique job. Often it is the case that the mothers themselves do not value and take pride in their job. They do not rejoice in their unique job. A women as a mother and still her husband may say that her wife does not do anything! Her son may say, mother is at home, does not do anything.

Here I would like to speak of a mother who is working in a Charitable Trust office. As she is working in my own office I know her story well as a working mother. Only a mother can do the miracle of conceive a child in womb, cherish and nourish it for nine months in her own body. She has to take care that the child grows well in her womb through the food she takes, the exercise she does, and love the child all the time. Then, in the fullness time she gives birth to her darling child. After taking the paid delivery leave and then extending the leave further with half pay she joined duty. But she felt that with her full time service she cannot do justice to her responsibility as a mother and housewife. So she talked to me about her intention to resign from permanent job.

She has been very efficient in her works in my office. So I told, looking the works in my office which requires an efficient person like you, I would not like to accept your resignation. But I see your need to take care of your child whom you are still breast-feeding. \Then    you have also your bigger child to prepare and send him to school on time. You also have to see that your husband goes to office ready with his tiffin etc. so considering all your responsibilities as a mother, wife and house-maker, I have no option but to accept your resignation. I take this decision because I appreciate a mother’s job more than the need of my office. This may be exception but I do know that there are few in the whole world who value and appreciate a mother’s job.

There is a small booklet in Gujarati entitled “Jenet” meaning mother edited by Mita Bhargav. She has collected many quotations from eminent people’s appreciation for motherhood. Here I give just two quotations.

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my angel mother” Abraham Lincoln.

“If the whole world were put into one scale, and my mother in the other, the whole world will would kick the beam.” Lord Londale.

Finally I dedicate this article to all women deprived of the appreciation and respect for their job as mother.

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Changed On: 16-01-2018

Next Change: 01-02-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

Happiness of Mother’s Death

 Death is always sad and painful. When one, who lived with us till now, passes away from this perishable world then, there is grief in our hearts. A mother is a personification of love and affection. When she leaves us, it is natural that the eyes of her daughters and sons shed tears. Still, when I tell you that I am happy at the passing away of my mother, you may wonder about my feelings.

My mother at 100 years went to meet her merciful Creator on 9 June 2017. That day my brother Vincent gave me the news in a very sad tone. “Elder brother, our mother is no more. She passed away just two minutes ago!” Immediately I send a whatsApp message to my friends, “I am happy to give you a good news that my mother has gone to her Creator to receive the eternal peace and everlasting bliss which the merciful God has prepared for her.” Such was her life and loving relationship with God and with her fellow human beings that by the grace of the loving and merciful God she, passing through death, has reached eternal life. This is my faith. This is the promise of Jesus. (see John 3: 15). I have unshakable faith in the words of Jesus Christ. Hence I feel happy and describe my mother’s death as “good news”.

My mother was born on 30 October 1917 in a middle class family of a land owning farmer. She was the eldest in a family of four sons and two daughters with very loving parents. She grew up experiencing much love from her parents and siblings. In her childhood she learned to read, write and basic maths in the house of a master in her village. But she did not go to the parish school walking a few kilometers like her brothers and the youngest sister. But what she learnt from the master was useful to her all her life as she had developed a reading habit.

My Mother was at home for 16 years and learned cooking and house keeping with her mother. So she became a good cook and an expert in things pertaining to running a house as well as in dealing with servants and laborers. She got married at 16 and came to a bigger joint family with parents-in-law and six sisters-in-law. In fact the sisters-in-law close to her age were her best friends.

Cooking for the large family was done in firewood oven. The women in the family needed to gather firewood from the large farm land, collect vegetable from the farm. Once my mother and a sister-in-law were collecting cashew nuts. Then both of them drank stomach full of cashew fruit juice, plugging them from the low branches. When the mother called they ran home.  Mother told me once that both of them could hear the noise of juice in their stomach! They had all types of works from morning to night, day in and day out.

When serving the food for all in the house 3 times a day the last to be served were she and grandmother. Whatever left of the food was divided between them.

Once mother’s dad (my maternal grandfather) came to her house to meet her. Mother was busy preparing tiffin boxes for school going sisters-in-law and a brother-in-law. So it took a little while to meet her dad and spend time with him. On returning home grandfather told grandmother:  “We have given a servant girl to Chollamadam family!”

As a middle class farmer’s family we have a lot of rice fields and vegetable cultivations. So the house was never short of rice and vegetables. Then there were the cultivation of coconuts, aricanuts, pepper, ginger and similar other farm products like tapioca and a variety of plantains. So there was no difficulty in running the house. But still I reached to high school there was no electricity at home. There was no machine to separate rice and husks. So women in the house daily pounded paddy for the use of a large joint family. It was back breaking job for the women in the house.

My mother and father formed a perfect couple who could never be separated. They shared great intimate relationship and understanding. Strengthened by this relationship they fostered very good rapport with their relatives and friends. They also maintained very cordial relationship with their servants and laborers in the field and the family.

When I was very small, our grandfather built a new house. My father and mother and we children went to stay in the new house. Even then mother after finishing all her works went to grandparents’ house to help grandmother and aunties in their household works.  After a few years my uncle, a teacher, got married and so aunty was there to help grandmother and the unmarried aunties in the household works.

Still, when grandmother was ill and bed ridden my mother went every day to help grandmother giving bath, washing clothes, etc. in spite of being in a separate house of her own. Whenever grandfather or grandmother was sick my mother always spared time to look after them. So I am very happy that, when my mother herself was bed-ridden for nearly a year my sister-in-law Annie looked after her with great care and with much warmth. My mother had cordial relationship with her three daughters-in-law and other relatives. She received in her old age much loving care from her daughters-in-law and one granddaughter-in-law Deepa who lived less than a kilo meter away from the family house.

Mother had maintained cordial relationship with her servants and laborers in the field. The poor people who approached her for help found a kind and loving heart in her. Similarly relatives who visited home enjoyed her hospitality. We children like relatives coming home as they brought sweets for us and mother prepared special dishes and sweets, which we all enjoyed much. Mother enjoyed feeding us and the relatives with much interest.

Mother’s love and care were much appreciated by relatives and other visitors. Here I would like to mention one letter from Fr. Alex Thannipara who wrote to me when he received   the news of mother’s death. “Dear very loving father Varghese, I remember your mother and I dare to say one thing. I had visited your home first time in May 1972. Then I felt that I have been received as one more son in her house. Fr. Varghese, you and your brothers-sisters are specially blessed to be born as her children!”

Now I believe you will understand my happiness expressed at my mother going away to her Creator, loving, kind God the Father for her eternal peace and everlasting bliss.

God gifted my mother long life of 99 years, 7 months and 11 days. This blessings of God for her continued even after her death. She died at home very peacefully. At 11 A.M my sister-in-law Annie felt that she was on her verge of death. She called my brother Vincent. Vincent reached home in 10-11 minutes’ time and he phoned me immediately in a chocking voice Chetta,” mother is no more. She passed away two minutes back.”

On next two days Saturday and Sunday the biggest two Malayalam dailies carried the news of my mother’s death with her colorful, postcard size photo. Relatives, friends, neighbors poured in to pay their homage and pray for her. The present Bishop George Madathikandathil and the retired Bishop George Punnakottil came to know about her death presumably from my uncle Msgr (Father) Mathew Vellankal. Bishop George Punnakottil came home before the body was taken to church. He led the prayers and in his message he appreciated the inspiring life as a pious Christian and a loving mother with 9 children, five of them in religious life.

My mother was buried in the family tomb on 11 June 2017 after Bishop George Madthikandathil led the funeral prayers and gave an appropriate message appreciating my mother’s life of love and service to the people who filled the church. After the burial I said Mass in the church together with my brother Fr. Mathew and nephew Fr. Shaiju for the people who could not attend the Mass earlier.

In spite of the rainy season the funeral could be conducted without much obstruction of the rain and people could participate well in the funeral prayer services. (Words 1405)

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SERVICE MEANS COMPASSION

“Only Children’s Magazine of International Standard” is the maxim or slogan written on the cover page of The Magazine “Sahaj Balanand “meaning “instincently happy child”. This popular magazine’s Editor Mr. Yeshwant Mehta is agnostic. So I was surprised to see on its cover a clearly identifiable Cross very well drawn inside a maze! Cross is a well known symbol of Christian Religion.

The maze with the Cross on the cover page of the April 2015 issue had still more surprises for me. On the one side of the maze there was a picture of a child named ‘little Wilson’ and on the other side was   a hazy picture of a poor man. The writing below the maze says,

“Our little friend is Wilson. Once he saw a poor man. He is moved with pity to help the poor man. But the road between Wilson and the poor man is ticky and puzzling. You please help Wilson to find the shortest way to reach the poor man.”

The picture of the Cross, a character named Wilson and the idea of helping the poor – these are all very Christian. They all reveal for me the good will of the agnostic editor towards Christianity. For, we find the root of the idea of helping the poor in the life and message of Jesus Christ. While on earth Jesus, so to say went out of his way to help the poor and needy people of his time. Moreover he gave instruction to his disciples to help the poor and run to their rescue.

In the beginning of his public life Jesus declared:

“The spirit of the Lord is upon on me,

because he has chosen me to bring

good news to the poor

he has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives

and recovery of sight to the blind;

to set free the oppressed.” (Lk 4: 18)

 

then, again in the Sermon on the Mountain Jesus says,

 

“Happy are those who know they are Spiritually poor; The Kingdom of heaven belongs to them!” (Mt 5; 3)

 

Inspired with this teaching and the examples of Jesus Christ, his followers beginning with the first Christians down the centuries have always engages themselves in the service of the poor and helping the needy.

St. Paul is an Apostle who spent his whole life to spread Jesus’ message far and wide. After preaching Jesus’ life and teaching in many countries, St Paul writes a letter to the Christians in Rome, “Just now I am going to Jerusalem in the service of God’s people there. For the Churches in Macedonia and Achaia have freely decided to give an offering to help the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem. That decision was their own; but, as a matter of fact, they have an obligation to help them. Since the Jews shared their spiritual blessing with the Gentiles, the Gentiles ought to use their material blessings to help the Jews” (Rom 15: 25-27)

If you take away the service to the poor from the Christian religion, then I am sure that the Christian religion will no longer be the one founded by Jesus Christ.

Inspired by the teaching of Jesus and the example of the Christians, today many people of other faiths and of no faiths serve the poor people. Looking from this angle the whole humanity has come under the influence of Christianity. Still the Christian Religion is not just an organization of social service.

Behind the social service of the Christians there is the acceptance of God’s mercy and compassion on the people. We say that “God is merciful. God is most compassionate.” In the words of Prophet Hosea in the Bible as quoted in St. Mathew’s Gospel, Jesus said, “Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifice” (Mt. 9:13). Bible often speaks about the compassion. In the first Book of Chronicles King David says, “I don’t want to be punished by men. Let the Lord himself be the one to punish me, because he is merciful” (1 Chr. 21:13). In the New Testament Mother Mary acknowledges God’s mercy: “From one generation to another he (God) shows mercy to those who honors him” (Lk 1:50).

Every follower of Jesus knows that himself (herself) has received God’s mercy. God has showered his mercy on him/her. Inspired by this mercy Christians help the poor. Serve the needy. So if a Christian does social work and serve the poor and the needy, then there are specially two things: First, there is the acknowledgement that he/she has been blessed with God’s mercy; and second, there is the acceptance that he/she is only a channel of God’s mercy to others.

The people who do not understand the mercy and compassion of God for the people, the service of Christians to poor people is either mere social works or it a means to attract the simple, poor people for religious conversion. It is bribing and cheating them!

Some people do not understand the idea or the concept of God’s mercy and compassion; consequently they do not comprehend the social service done by Mother Teresa and other Christians. They have totally failed to understand one thing that every Christians sees the other person as one created in God’s own image and likeness. So the poor, the Dalits, the Tribals, the sick, the crippled – every person is precious in the sight of God. Here everyone deserves the love and respect of everyone else. In this love and respect there is the acceptance and identity of every human being as a person. But those, who seek in everything their own selfish gains, cannot accept others as equals and sincerely love and respect them without any prejudice.

On the other hand, the Christians see their service to the poor not as social works but service rendered to Jesus Christ himself. So any selfless service of man is a service dedicated to Jesus himself. Jesus has said, “I tell you, whenever you did this (service) for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt. 25:40). So in the final analysis the social works done by the Christians is service of mercy and compassion, truly a religious service. (Word 1048)

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Changed On: 16-12-2017

Next Change: 01-01-2018

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

Let US Live a Shared Life

A poem by my friend Mr. Natvarlal Hedao has inspired me for the title of this article. Mr Hedao, an eminent environmentalist, has published the poem in his poetry book entitled ‘Vana Vandana’ meaning respectful salutation to the forest. The words of the title are in the first stanza of his poem, which says,

“You are my support, I am your support

Let us live a shared life helping each other.”

 

In the whole poem the environmentalist calls everyone – human beings, animals, birds, rivers, trees, mines, forests, in short every animate and inanimate being – to put faith and trust in each other and live supporting one another.

I see a noble concept in the call to live a shared life. In the word ‘sharing’ has the idea of equality and friendship. It has the honour and respect for each other. If we honour this noble idea not only towards one another but towards the whole creation then, it will reveal itself in our thoughts and actions.

These noble ideas are personified in a great saint: St. Francis Assisi. The 12th century saint is well known for his love and the feeling of equality with the whole creation. He considers not only all men and women but also all animate and inanimate beings as his brothers and sisters. He considers every being as his brother and sister and respects them accordingly.

St. Francis Assisi has written a very famous and popular poem entitled “Brother Sun and Sister Moon.” I have translated and published it in Gujarati.

Praised be You my Lord with all Your creatures,
especially Sir Brother Sun,
Who is the day through whom You give us light.
And he is beautiful and radiant with great splendour,
Of You Most High, he bears the likeness.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Sister Moon and the stars,
In the heavens you have made them bright, precious and fair.

Praised be You, my Lord, through Brothers Wind and Air,
And fair and stormy, all weather’s moods,
by which You cherish all that You have made.

Praised be You my Lord through Sister Water,
So useful, humble, precious and pure.

Praised be You my Lord through Brother Fire,
through whom You light the night and he is beautiful and playful and robust and strong.

Praised be You my Lord through our Sister,
Mother Earth
who sustains and governs us,
producing varied fruits with coloured flowers and herbs.
Praise be You my Lord through those who grant pardon for love of You and bear sickness and trial.”

St. Francis says that in the by gone days he has hardly seen many things like the Sun, the Moon. But after experiencing the great love of the Creator and interior knowledge everything came to his attention one after another. For, he realized that, as he is a beloved creation of God so also every animal and animate being is created by the same loving God. All things in the universe are created by the one and the God, the Father. So every being is a brother or a sister to all other beings. It is with this outlook or vision St. Francis intimately expresses his love and relationship with all animate and inanimate beings.

Living a shared life with all animate and inanimate beings a person can learn a lot from the whole creation. Human beings may be considered as the supreme creation of God. For, human beings are the only rational, intellectual creation. Still, we human beings can learn many lessions both from the animate and inanimate beings. Examine the existence of small and big plants and trees in the gardens and in jungles. They don’t quarrel about anything with ‘mine’ and ‘thine’ attitude. They don’t think in terms of mine and thine, but grow wherever their seeds have fallen making place for one another and sharing same land, sun-rays, air, etc. Plants and trees have the right to grow and develop anywhere. There is no competition among them.

But we see a lot of discrimination among us, human beings! We make differences between the poor and the rich! There are differences among the followers of different religions. We also distinguish and discriminate in the name of caste and race. Families and clans are discriminated as high or low! Among all these differences and discriminations we are called to a shared living to be supportive and complementar to one another. We are called to find unity in diversity, love and amity among us all.

Equality and peace are called for wherever we have created division and disunity abandoning our selfishness and greed. Let us live a shared life bringing peace wherever there are conflicts and war. There is true humanity in shared living. We can all learn important lessons from such things like the natural creation. For, the sun shines on all without any discrimination. So also the moon and the stars. The rain too showers on all without discrimination. The beautiful things of the nature can be enjoyed by one and all. The rose spreads its fragrance for all in its vicinity.

When there are unity and amity among all the people then people are able to live sharing their lives with all animate and inanimate beings. Then we are able to live with love and equanimity with all beings. There is liberation for all people in shared living. We   can experience the dignity and nobility our existence. Peace and happiness will prevail everywhere. It is the glory of humanity.

These are our goals and ideals. They need not to be considered utopian and be discouraged by difficult situation. For, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin says, “It is our duty as men and women to proceed as though the limits of our abilities do not exist. We are collaborators in creation.” (Words 969)

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Changed On: 01-12-2017

Next Change: 16-12-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

Journalists’ Challenges in Our Times

Last few years the socio-political situations have changed nationally and internationally. According to the mass media I am sad to note That India is in forefront in corruption and persecution of the minorities in the name of religion. Let us speak about the situation in India and specifically in Gujarat. The Amar-Akbar-Anthony situation of brotherhood and friendship exists no more. A teenager Junaid Khan who had gone to buy new clothes for Eid was brutally murdered with sharp weapons in a train amidst other passengers. The fearless journalist-editor Gouri Lenkesh was shot dead in front of her house by two burkha-clad motor cycle riders.

The situation of Gujarat is not much different from the rest of India. Author journalist Anuja Chauhan writes in a popular periodical THE WEEK dated October 15, 2017: “These days Amitabh Bachan is busy white-washing Gujarat into some kind of weird, Sanskritised Disneyland on national television.” But the people know the picture portrayed by Bhachan is quite different from the actual situation of Gujarat. According to news paper report a Dalit young man was beaten to death for watching Garba Dance from afar! A few days after that a Dalit youth was attacked with a sharp weapon for the crime of keeping a mustache!

The people of good will are frightened with news paper reports like criminals not only being protected but also honored and promoted by self serving politicians. In the name of cow protection such criminals have cruelly murdered innocent people. Thanks to the fear of the terrorists of cow vigilante type, the sale and transport of cows have come to a standstill even without law. Consequently poor people and small farmers with one or two cows have now no income. Consequently we see the increasing number of deaths by hunger and farmers’ suicide.  I am ashamed to take note here that India’s position is 100th out of 119 countries on global Hunger Index 2017! Nepal, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka are in much better position than India. These realistic situations are great challenges for journalists.

Today in India journalists’ profession has become a very dangerous profession. For, as leaves fall from a tree in winter the fearless and committed journalists are falling death as the victims of people who take law in their own hands. Such victims include rationalist Dr. Narendra Dabholkar, social activist comrade Govind Panshar, educationalist Prof. M.M. Kulburgi and fearless journalist, Gouri Lenkesh. The fearless journalists with independent views and freely write, are pursued and persecuted. Such independent journalists who fearlessly practice their profession are also victims of witch-hunt.

It is in this situation that we have to examine the challenges of the journalists. As I see it journalists face mainly three types of challenges. First, A strong will to pursue the truth and stick to it; Second, The courage to live fearlessly and Third, The rationalist intelligence to recognize good and bad and differentiate between them. Let’s examine these three challenges.

First, a strong will to pursue the truth. While working this article the Ahmedabad Edition of the Indian Express dated October 18 and 19, 2017 has front news about a girl by name Santoshi Kumari in Jharkhand. The newspaper reports that the eleven year old Santoshi Kumari died last month due to hunger and thirst. According to the report Koyli Devi, mother of Santhoshi Kumari, and her eldest sister earn Rs. 40 or 50 selling fire woods which they collected from the forest. With that money and the wages they get, whenever there is works in the field, they run the house. But for eight days before the death of Santoshi Kumari there was nothing to eat or drink in their house. As Koyli Devi said before the death Santoshi Kumari was asking and crying for rice and rice-water. But there was nothing in the house to feed her.

The local activists and the journalist of the Indian Express Prashant Pandey have reported the story. But the civil officials and local medical personal of Jharkhand state are trying to cover up their own crimes saying that Santoshi Kumari died not of hunger but of Maleria! The journalist Prashant Pandey has quoted that the Chief Minister of Jharkhand Raguvar Das sanctioning to provide the family of Santoshi Kumari Rs. 50,000/- immediately. So it is clear that everything is not okay but the concerned official have something to hide.

 

Here I am reminded of Jesus’ words to his disciples. “Whatever is covered up will be uncovered, and every secret will be made known. So then, whatever you have said in the dark will be heard in broad light, and whatever you have whispered in private in a closed room will be shouted from the housetops.” The politicians and civil authorities may fail to perform their duties; but, when they are caught they look for scapegoats to hide their crimes of criminal negligence and find excuses. In such situation Journalists with determination and strong will are challenged to find the truth and bring it to the light.

There is selfishness of the so called upper class people in persecuting and keeping under control the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits with contempt and hatred. Selfish people keep the poor, the Tribals and the Dalits away from their basic human rights. They are prevented from coming up socially, educationally and economically. But we do hear ‘Sabka sath sabka vikas’ meaning ‘development of all together with all”, but nothing more! Consequently the majority of the poor, the Tribal and the Dalits are deprived of their basic needs like food, clothes and shelter even 70 years after our Independence. This reality is a great challenge to journalists through the wisdom and the courage to present to the truth as it.

Second, fearless courage to live and performs duty as a journalist. The news reporter of Santoshi Kumari, Prashant Pandey has shown the example of a fearless and committed journalist. When health officials defend themselves claim visiting the village and treating Santoshi Kumari and mother, Prashant Pande quoting the Koyli Devi says, that the health personal and government officials never came to the village. Here the journalist Prashant Pande, in the words of Bernard Shaw “has learned to honor   the truth.”

We need two things to cultivate courageous and fearless journalism. One, journalists need to be professionally competent in their field. Only professionally competent journalists can withstand and keep away from bribes, corruption and threats. In the words of Benjamin Franklin “only those who are courageous can get what they decided to have.” Two, to practice fearlessly journalism journalists should be ready to face the consequences even death. After reading some of my writings my sister Celine once asked me, “Brother, are you not afraid to write what you write when you read about the murders of activists and police encounter deaths?” I told her that I am not afraid of death. I am prepared to face death anytime. I do not fear anyone except God who takes care of me every moment. “But please take care,” she said.

Today one of the most dangerous professions is that of journalism.  People to achieve their selfish ends sitting at high positions misuse their authority and money. The so called God-men in the name of religion mislead innocent people promising them heaven and salvation. In such situation fearless journalists are called to reveal true facts in public interest about the sinful behavior of such people and warn the public. The journalists need to be always on their guard that they do not misuse their profession for selfish purposes. It is a challenge for journalists to be faithful to their profession and fearlessly portrait the truth even in tempting situation.

Third, the rational intelligence to know and differentiate between the good and the bad.  Journalists need to have a deep understanding and comprehensive power to differentiate the evil from the good. So journalists’ proficient in his/her own fields, needs to be sufficiently well acquainted about many other fields. A journalist is not an all knowing person but journalists need to have wisdom and the ability to know things they need to know.

The journalists need to be able to express and communicate well in the language in which they work. Similarly the journalists should also know the medium which they work and also the target audience for whom they work. Rational intelligence also called for a fair knowledge of laws concerning the profession and the general public. Finally, journalists have a great challenge to be professional and reliable in all their works.

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Changed On: 16-11-2017

Next Change: 01-12-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

 

 

Rebirth or New Life after Death?

After a long time my artist friend Vinod Ravel came to meet me. He spoke to me about his mother who is 100 years old. I spoke to him then about the 98th birthday celebration of my mother in Kerala. I shared with him my experience of going to Kerala for the 98th birthday celebration. Our conversation then turned to the topic of rebirth and new life. We conversed for about two hours and a half about rebirth and new life. Like all my Hindu brethren Vinodbhai too is a strong believer in rebirth. He said, he learned about the rebirth from his mother.

But Vinodbhai was surprised to learn from me that the Christians do not believe in rebirth but they strongly believe in new life after death. Vinodbhai as he learned from his mother a person gets rebirth according to his present life. Those who lead a good life will get good life in rebirth. People who lead good life many times will finally attain salvation. On the contrary, people who lead bad life will get inferior life in rebirth. For ordinary people the cycle of birth and rebirth will continues.

Christians’ believe in new life after death is based on the Bible. For the rationalists and few other atheist people death is the final end of life. Such people break down at the death of their dear and near ones and experience terrible hopelessness of life. But the Christians find consolation and hope because of their belief in new life after death. The faith and hope of new life is a foundation of Christians’ deep faith in Jesus. The Christians in creed proclaim “We believe in the forgiveness of sins and the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting”. Hence in burying the dead bodies or disposing the bodies in other ways Christians do it with great respect. Lord Jesus has overcome death through his own death on the Cross and resurrection and thus prepared the way of new life for all people.

So in the burial ritual the Christian priest prays, “Loving and merciful God, The old order has passed away: welcome him (her) now into paradise where there will be no more sorrow, nor more weeping or pain, but only peace and joy with Jesus”

Death is a sure fact for every person born on the face of the earth. For, Bible in the first book of Genesis says, the first parents broke the law of God and consequently became the victim of death. (see Gen 3:1-21). The same thing is repeated in the New Testament in the letter of St. Paul to the Romans, “Sin came to the world through one man, and his sin brought death with it. As a result, death has spread to the whole human race because everyone has sinned.” (Rom 5:12)

In other words men and women broke the commandments of God and sinned and invited death.  On the other hand Lord Jesus submitting himself completely to his God, the Father and embraced death on the Cross and overcame death through the resurrection. So death is not an end. But only the entrance door to eternal new life.

Now people compare death to sleep. Lord Jesus at the request of the chief of the synagogue reaches the house of Jairus. Jesus saw in Jairus’ house the confusion and heard loud crying and wailing.  He went in and said to them, “Why all this confusion? Why are you crying? The child is not dead – she is only sleeping!”

“They laughed at him, so he put them all out, took the child’s father and mother and his three disciples, and went into the room where the child was lying.  He took her by the hand and said to her, ‘Talitha   koum’, which means ‘Little girl, I tell you to get up!’” (Mk 5: 39-40)

Similarly when Jesus received the news of the death of Lazarus he told his disciple “our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I will go and wake him up” (Jn 11: 11). In the same occasion Lazarus sister Martha acknowledged her faith in Jesus saying, “I know that my brother will rise to life on the last day.”

Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me will live, even though he dies: and whoever lives and believes in me will never die, do you believe this?” (Jn 11: 24-25).   On the 4th day of Lazarus death Jesus and his followers reached in front of the cave in which Lazarus was buried. Jesus ordered the stone covering the cave to be moved away. Then praying to God the Father, Jesus called out in a loud voice ‘Lazarus, Come Out’ and the dead man came out with new life. (see Jn 11: 33-43)

The Christians believe that when a person dies there is a just judgment. In the judgment person who has died with God’s grace receives God’s merciful forgiveness and is received into God’s presence in the company of all the saints. And those who refuse God’s grace and has committed deadly sins receives eternal punishment. And there may be person at the time of death has not received complete forgiveness and has not committed any deadly sins. Such person is purified in the purgatory, a state of spiritual cleansing in purifying fire.

As a proof of last judgment at death we have Jesus, while hanging on the Cross between two criminals, says to the repentant criminal, “I promise you that today you will be in Paradise with me”. (Lk 23: 43) On the other hand Jesus has spoken about eternal damnation for those who die in deadly sin (see Mt 25: 41).  Again Jesus has spoken about the poor Lazarus with Abraham and the rich man suffering in eternal fire (see Lk 16: 23)

But a Christian who trusts in the unconditional mercy of God, believes in the Just God. So the Christians do not condemn anybody being punished with eternal damnation.  On the other hand the Christian religions after due process and of studying and making sure that a person who has lived and died in the state of grace of God may be declared a Saint. For instance, Mother Teresa died in 1997 and 18 years of examining her life in all their aspects was declared a Saint on Sept. 4, 2016. The Christians believe such saints are with God. So Christian prays to God, through the intersession of such saints and asks their help. Besides Christians strongly believe that they can help through prayers, sacrifices and good works those souls in the purgatory.

A person after death changes the living abode receiving new form of life. But the eternal new life begins while a person is living here on earth. So with the hope of new life a person should not neglect the present life; on the contrary, the person is called to lead a full life here on earth living happily and joyfully. St Paul who was in the fore front of proclaiming of Jesus’ message says in his letter to the Philippines, “May you always be joyful in your union with the Lord. I say it again: rejoice! Show a gentle attitude towards everyone.” (Phi 4: 4-5).

In our life in this world and also in the life to come there is a way to live happily. That way is a total renunciation of selfishness and positively living for others. If we live loving those who cross our paths more than we love ourselves and serving them selflessly, we can assure happy life here and now, and eternal happiness in resurrected new life after death.

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Changed On: 01-11-2017

Next Change: 16-11-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

Environment Friendly Divali Celebration

Divali means the feast of light. Many people celebrate Divali by lighting rows of earthen lamps with oil. Many people illuminate their houses with electricity. Public buildings are decorated with chains lighted small bulbs. Many people keep bulbs lighted not only during Divali but also other times. Most people would not know that electric light produces carbon dioxide which warms up the air causing environmental pollution.

Electricity has become part and parcel of our daily lives. We need lifts to go up and down in multi-storey buildings. We need fridge to keep safe perishable goods like food and medicine. Similarly to run different types of machines and instruments we need electricity. Hence the demand for electricity is constantly growing in the whole country. People who use electricity without any care and concern, do not know that there are hidden dangers in it. For instance, to produce electricity using coals, mines are dug and thousands of tribal people are dislocated. They become homeless in their own land! Electricity is produced in India mainly from atomic power and with coals. Some countries like Germany and Japan, considering the dangers of coals and of atomic power, are looking for alternative ways for electric power.

In this context on the auspicious occasion like Divali, we need to think about the use of various types of electricity. Usually for light we use either big or small electric bulbs or tube lights. Much electricity is used through them and consequently pollution increases.

Let me give you an example: “Your bulbs are powered by the blood of tribal people.” You may be shocked with such statement made by a high school girl, Sweta Marandi. She took part in an International Conference of United Nations in Brazil. In her talk in the conference she said, “Your bulbs are powered with the blood of tribal people.”

Sweta Marandi’s story was reported in THE TELEGRAPH dated June 10, 2012; and Sweta Marandi was identified as a 12 standard student of St. Joseph’s Convent School at Patna. The delegates of the UNO world conference were shocked with Sweta Marandi’s frightening statement. Innumerable adivasi people who possessed homes and own lands were made homeless by the authorities mining the Adivasi land for coals. The dust from the mines as well as from the transporting of coal has affected the lives of the tribal people living close to the mining areas causing them sickness and untimely death.

In the United Nation’s Environmental Programme (UNEP) has published a brochure called ‘Environmental Development’. The story of Sweta Marandi is published in it. Sweta from her teenage years became an environmental protection worker through the inspiration of her school and a non-governmental organization (NGO) ‘Taru Mitra’ (friend of trees). After learning about carbon dioxide pollution and its harmful effects from ‘Taru Mitra’ Sweta learnt that the use of electricity can be reduced using LED (Light Emitting Diodes) and CFL (Compact Fluorescent Lamp) instead of electric bulbs and tube lights. So Sweta with the help of her parents replaced all electric bulbs and tube lights in her home with CFL lights. Then taking the help of her friends Sweta got all the houses in their housing society to use CFL lights replacing all electric bulbs and tubes. They also got the authorities to replace the street lights with the CFL lights. This story of reducing the use of electricity and protecting the environmental pollution by Sweta and her little band became the talk of the town. The news reached in their school and in their Church. The local newspapers too took note of them. Then they started a movement against use of electricity for illumination in public institutes, temples and churches. They told the people that one electric bulb cause more pollution to the environment than a hundred small lighted earthen pots!

Sweta and her friends met Archbishop William D’Souza of Patna and requested his help to reduce the use of electricity and conserve the environment. Archbishop William D’Souza joining the children’s movements addressed a circular letter to the people of his archdiocese, entitled “Environmental Problems and Our Response”. In his letter he called the people to reduce the use of electricity and preserve the environment from pollution as much as possible. In his circular letter of about 1500 words he wrote: “There is no devotion in illuminating churches and other institutions on special occasions like Christmas, New Year and Divali.”

Reading the Archbishop D’Souza’s circular letter I came to know that Pope Benedict XVI has been honoured as “The Green Pope” by the famous international American news weekly “News Week”. Pope Benedict XVI set up 3000 solar panels in Vatican that all the buildings of Vatican City are illuminated with solar lights. Vatican is a small city state. There are not enough trees to produce oxygen to counter the pollution caused by the electricity. So Pope Benedict XVI adopted a big jungle area of Burke national park in Hungary. The jungle trees produce enough and more oxygen to counter the carbon dioxide of Vatican City.

We have to realize that human life on earth is in danger. The human made pollution threatens the existence not only human being but also others species in the whole world. Man made pollution has already caused the extinctions of many living species from the face of the earth. In such situations every person is called to take small and big steps to save the environment and reduce the pollution.

Our aims and efforts should be to save the environment from all types of pollution. So that every living and non-living beings on earth are protected from the environmental pollution.

Finally in our mad rush for development we should be alert to care for the environment and save our earth instead of destroying the environment with all sorts of pollutions. We need to take concrete steps. Let us pay attention to the call of save the earth from poet and environmentalist Natwar Hedau in his anthology entitled “Vanviharini Vanvandana”.

“Let us come together, taking care of the earth,

Look, changes are coming in the water and air.”

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Changed On: 16-10-2017

Next Change: 01-11-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

DOES TELEVISION RULE YOUR LIFE?

You will agree with me that most of us spend a lot time before the television and we are not happy about. In front of the captivating television programmes, children lose their study time and miss much needed games or other forms of physical exercises.

Glued to the television after their office hours the elders have no time to look after the education and character building of their children or for socializing or for doing community activities and services.

We have no doubt that television has changed our life-style and culture. It has tremendously affected our lives, especially our family lives. Our values and attitudes have been affected. Our opinions and the patterns of life-style have changed.

In may ways television has done tremendous good to people. The entertainments have become cheaper and easily available at home through television and video programmes. Television is the primary source for news and information.

People have become aware of the world beyond their neighbourhood, beyond their state and the country. Television has widened our horizons that we can claim to be world citizens.

On the other hand, television has also done much harm to many people and their homes. So the question is not should we or should we not watch television but the question is how to get the best out of the television while avoiding its harmful effects?

It is a question of media education for all of us: children and elders alike. You may ask: After watching television for umpteen years, do I still need to be educated about watching television? My clear cut answer is ‘yes sir or ‘yes madam’ as the case may be.

The first thing to understand about television is that it does not present real and authentic life. With television we are often in a make-believe world.

Recently I read in EDUCOMMUNICATION NEWS (January 1994) that a teacher showed several video programmes to his city students on animals. After viewing programmes, he took his students to a zoo to show them the real animals. He was taken aback with the comments and remarks of his students.

In the television all the animals were ‘beautiful’ and ‘nice’ for the students. But in the real life situation the students found some animals were smaller or some bigger than that they have seen on the small screen. Some animals were muddy and dirty. Others were ugly. Some animals were smelling foully and were repugnant.

After the tour it was easy for the teacher to explain that there is a world of difference between the make-believe world of television and the real life of every day experience.

Television is often misleading. A child who sees mosquitoes or lizards or cockroaches filmed from close quarters may think of them as very big and dangerous animals. The adults, who know these insects from real life experience, are aware of the real size of these insects and can easily make the adjustment on seeing them in their magnified size on the screen.

All the same, we must not under-estimate the critical eye of children. Researchers have proved that children have an over-whelming sense of judgment.

Media researchers have also shown that television programmes can enrich the lives of the children only if they have meaning for them. So in order to profit from television programmes it is important that they watch well prepared and meaningful programmes on the television instead of any trash or cheap entertainment programmes or gimmicks.

It is recognizing the power of television and other audio-visual electronic media that Pope John Paul II has chosen “Television and the Family: Guidelines for Good Viewing” as the theme for the 28th world Communication Day 1994.

Announcing this theme chosen by the Pope, Archbishop John P Foley, President of Pontifical Council for Social Communications said that ‘Parents have special responsibility to help their children to from good viewing habits….. Television can enrich family life, can contribute to the education of children and can stimulate fruitful family discussions or it can be used as an escape or as a parental surrogate. And unsupervised viewing by children can sometimes undermine sound moral values”.

Researchers around the world on television viewers have proved that of all people it is children who are the most influenced by television. So there is a great need to educate children on how, when and what to watch on television.

The parents are the primary educators of their children on watching the television. This function cannot be delegated to anybody else, not even the school teachers. For one thing, the children watch television in the family more than anywhere else.

Researchers in some foreign countries show that children spend more hours before television than they spend in class room lectures by the time they pass out from high schools. This study or the finding may not be completely true of India. We do not yet have country wide multi-channels broadcasting with a variety of programmes for twenty-four hours a day.

But the situation would not be different in India by the time cables and multi-channel satellite television programmes catch the entire country within a few years.

In educating ourselves and our children about television we have to understand that there are three groups at work in television.  First, the viewers and consumers, second, producers and broadcasters and third, the regulatory bodies like Censor Board, television policy makers, etc.

These three groups are supposed to work together harmoniously for the benefit of all especially the consumers and viewers. But the fact is that the three groups do not work together. Many a time they ignore each other and even clash with each other, often at the cost of the consumers and viewers.

Hence there is great need to be watchful. For instance, in Sweden and Norway there are regulations and rules about advertising before, during and after programmes specially meant for children. Besides, the national television channels in the two countries are also directed that there should be no advertisement aimed at children below 12 years of age.

But most countries including India have no such rules and regulations. So it is left to the parents to watch and monitor what all programmes are seen by their children on the television and guide them to see what is beneficial and avoid what is harmful.

The parents can educate themselves in this by reading reviews of children’s programmes, watching previews and above all discussing such matters with knowledgeable people.

In educating the children to watch television meaningfully it is also important that the parents also watch children’s programmes. Them they will be able to discuss with their children what they – the children – watch. In discussing the television programmes the parents can help their children to catch the meaning and the message of the programme while guiding them to avoid the harmful effects and messages.

But often what happens in our families is that we leave the children to themselves to choose and watch whatever programmes they want to watch without any direction or guidelines. In some homes the television are the surrogate parents of the children. For, the parents have no hesitation often to make use of television as their baby sitter.

Parents fool only themselves if they perceive the children as adults and expect them not to be influenced by the harmful and misleading effects of television. Such parents leave their children to watch any and every kind of television programmes without any guidelines or proper media education.

Such a situation only goes to prove that not only the children but also the parents themselves as media illiterate needing media education.

[The article was first published in MACAF 10th Anniversary Souvenir 1983-1993]

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Changed On: 01-10-2017

Next Change: 16-10-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017