Pope Francis’ Encyclical Letter Laudato Si’ – Praise be to You On Care for Our Common Home

LAUDATO SI’ is a most comprehensive document on ecology and environment. Pope Francis authoritatively treats the subject not only from a Christian perspective but also from a scientific and technological point of view covering practically everything connected with the topic.

I would like to describe LAUDATO SI’ as an epoch-making document. The Encyclical is a landmark document of the 21st century.

LAUDATO SI’ also establishes Pope Francis as an eminent environmentalist, who thinks about the whole natural and human creation. LAUDATO SI’ may be compared with two other Classical documents:

The two other classical documents are:  (1) Pope Leo XIII’s Encyclical   “Rerum  Novarum” (New Things, 1891)  is the landmark document of the 19th century. It is about labour and capital especially on the workers’ right during industrial revolution.

(2) Pope St Pope John XXIII’s Encyclical “Pacem  in Terris” (Peace on Earth, 1963) is the landmark document of the 20th century. This enduring Encyclical is a world-class document warning about the dangers of Nuclear War during the height of Cold War.

Similarly, Pope Francis’ Encyclical LAUDATO SI’ is a unique and significant document of the 21st century. It addresses every man and woman on earth on the environmental issues. “I wish to address every person living on this earth”, he says.

Perhaps, I need to explain that usually an Encyclical letter is considered the official teaching of the Pope addressed to the Bishops of the Catholic Church. But as you will see, LAUDATO SI’ is much more than that.

The name LAUDATO SI’ – “Praise be to You” is unique and significant in many ways.  It is a very Franciscan Encyclical. The Italian title instead of usual Latin title is from a poem or hymn of St Francis Assisi (1181-1226).

Francis Assisi is a world-renowned saint beyond the confine of the Catholic Church. With awe and wonder Francis loved and respected God’s whole creation.

St. Francis Assisi’s hymn “Canticle of Creatures” is considered the first Italian classical poem. Pope Francis’ predecessor, St Pope John Paul II has proclaimed Francis Assisi as the Patron of Environment.

Pope Francis took his name from St Francis Assisi. He has also taken the title LAUDATO SI’ from the opening line of the Saint’s Canticle of the Creatures and has quoted The whole Canticle.(#86)

In tune with Francis Assisi Pope Francis says: “If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to owe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, then our attitude will be that of masters, consumers and ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs.”

Perhaps, a very important thing to note about LAUDATO SI’ is that the voice of religion has now decisively entered the climate change debate.

Pope Francis has portrayed an ambitious vision for protecting the environment and safe-guarding of life in all its forms. He has warned against reckless pursuit of development for profit of a few people.

I have no doubt that LAUDATO SI’ will have an inalienable impact on the forthcoming international meet on environment and ecology at Paris in December 2015.

We also need to note that LAUDATO SI’ has already created much opposition, controversy and polarization. The Encyclical has also received much acclamation and appreciation from around the world.

LAUDATO SI’ is very critical of global capitalist system and the Encyclical also challenges the absolutist notion of private property. Pope Francis holds that the whole creation belongs to God for the good of the whole people.

LAUDATO SI’ is emphatic on the fact that God’s whole creation is in the urgent need of common care and protection by everyone – by individuals, Churches and governments.

You have a sort of summary of LAUDATO SI’ in my article on the Encyclical in WEC, September 2015 issue. So instead of repeating what I have written in it, here I would like to highlight the practical aspects of the document, which concerns all of us.

Having read and studied the Encyclical in depth, I see LAUDATIO SI’ as Pope Francis’ greatest contribution to environmental dialogue as it presents to us an overview of the crisis facing the whole creation, our sister/mother earth. (#62)

The focus on the poor is one of the central themes of LAUDATO SI’ and every section of the encyclical refers to the poor in one way or other. Pope Francis repeatedly calls for an appreciation of the immense dignity of the poor. (#158)

We need to heed to Pope Francis’ critique of our reliance on the market forces without considering how they will affect the environment and their potential negative impact on human beings. (#109 & 110) Pope Francis says that with extreme consumerism “the earth is despoiled, and billions are left impoverished.” (#203)

There is no doubt that LAUDATO SI’ is very much in tune with the social teachings of the Catholic Church. The Church’s theology of common good is combined with the findings of experts in a variety of fields to reflect on modern problems.

But LAUDATO SI’ is not just a document of social teachings. Its position on ecology is very much grounded in the Bible and Church Traditions. Pope Francis’ references to Bible and Tradition are such that nonbelievers too can understand and be inspired to care for nature and environment.

Pope Francis’ teaching that everything is connected is a revelation for me. Pope Francis links everyone to the whole creation. “We are part of nature, included in it, and thus in constant interaction with it,” he says. (#139)

LAUDATO SI’ appeals to the learned as well as to the simple because much researched scientific truths on environment are presented in simple lucid style of Pope Francis. The Encyclical combines well the Church’s social teaching and the contemporary findings of various fields.

LAUDATO SI’ condemns unambiguously widespread indifference and selfishness about environmental problems. “Many of those who possess more resources seem mostly to be concerned with masking the problems or concealing their symptoms”, says Pope Francis.

Pope Francis calls for global dialogue and international solidarity to face the environmental problems. LAUDATO SI’ calls for debate among all people about the care of our common home; because the solution which works for one region may not work in another region.

LAUDATO SI’ calls for personal conversion leading to bold Cultural Revolution. As Pope Francis says, we need to listen to the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor (#49). This is possible only with individual and collective ecological conversion.

The beauty of LAUDATO SI’ addressed to every person on planet earth is that there are dozens of practical suggestions for you and me to do in the care of our sister/mother earth. Let me highlight a few of them from the Encyclical.

1st Suggestion of LAUDATO SI’ is get involved in the care of mother earth. Quoting South African bishops Pope Francis says: “Everyone’s talent and involvement are needed to redress the damage caused by human abuse of God’s creation.” (#14)

2nd Suggestion of LAUDATO SI’ is to reduce, reuse and recycle, as many environmental problems are connected with throw away culture (#14). Pope Francis says that sensible and profitable ways of reusing, revamping and recycling could improve the energy efficiency of cities (#192).

3rd, LAUDATO SI’ calls everyone to reduce and replace use of highly polluting fossil fuels specially coal, oil and gas and replace them with renewable energy sources without delay (#26, 165)

4th, LAUDATO SI’ wants everyone to protect clean, safe drinking water and ensure universal access to drinking water. “Access to safe drinkable water is a basic and universal human right, since it is essential to human survival.” (#27-29, 164)

5th, LAUDATO SI’ warns us against the destruction of ecosystem leading to the extinction of mammals, birds, fungi, algae, worms, insects, reptiles and a variety of microorganisms due to the use of synthetic pesticide, herbicides, etc. (#34)

6th, LAUDATO SI’ wants us to promote smart growth creating livable communities with plenty of green spaces. The Encyclical also calls to tackle noise and “visual pollution” and create space for people to connect and trust each other. (#44-45, 113, 143, 147)

7th, LAUDATO SI’ warns us against mental pollution when the mass media and the digital world is omnipresent. So the Encyclical calls us “to live wisely, to think deeply and to love generously” (#47)

8th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us to know personally the suffering of poor, the vast majority of the world. The aloofness of the rulers and decision makers from the poor led to the present reality. The Encyclical affirms that “true ecological approach always becomes a social approach”. (#49)

9th, LAUDATO SI’ calls for sharing with the poor instead of blaming the population growth.  Pope Francis says that food discarded and thrown away is like food stolen from the table of the poor. (#50)

10th, LAUDATO SI’ affirms that “we were made for love” (#58) and we need “to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything” (#113) and our actions should be such as to create self-esteem and “enable us to live and feel that life on earth is worthwhile.” (#212)

11th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us repeatedly to get back to nature and experience “God’s love” and “a caress of God”. (#84)  The Lord is “in constant touch with the nature”. (#97) We need “to promote new way of thinking about life and our relationship with nature”. (#215)

12th, LAUDATO SI’ repeatedly tells us that everything is connected. Pope Francis says that love for human being is inconsistent with trafficking in endangered species and destroying human beings deemed unwanted including the unborn. (#91, 120)

13th, LAUDATO SI’ calls us “to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything.” (#113) And the Encyclical says that “a capacity to wonder takes us to a deeper understanding of life.” (#225)

14th, LAUDATO SI’ says that any approach to an integral ecology needs to take account of the value of labour. (#124) For, “Work is a necessity, part of the meaning of life on this earth, a path to growth, human development and personal fulfillment.” (#128)

15th, LAUDATO SI’ calls for protecting the land and the culture of indigenous peoples. Pope Francis says that the disappearance of a culture can be even more serious than the disappearance of species of plant or animal (#145)

16th, Speaking on the ecology of daily life LAUDATO SI’ stresses on the importance of proper environment. Pope Francis writes, “In our rooms, our homes, our workplaces and neighborhoods, we use our environment as a way of expressing our identity.” (#147)

17th, LAUDATO SI’ stresses “on the need to give priority to public transportation,” (#153) and providing essential services to rural population (#154)

18th, LAUDATO SI’ says that though the people were concerned with environmental problems from the middle of last century “recent World Summits on the environment have not lived up to expectations due to lack of political will.” (#164, 166)

19th, LAUDATO SI’ says, “There is a nobility in the duty to care for creation through little daily actions; and it is wonderful how education can bring about real changes in lifestyle.” Pope Francis’ suggestions are avoid use of plastic and paper, use public transport or car pooling, plant trees, etc. (#211)

20th, LAUDATO SI’ deplores “the behaviour of those who constantly consume and destroy, while others are not yet able to live in a way worthy of their human dignity.” (#193) Pope Francis says that Christian spirituality of “less is more” “lived freely and consciously is liberating.” (#222, 223)

21st, LAUDATO SI’ ends with two beautiful prayers of Pope Francis entitled “A prayer for our earth” and “A Christian prayer in union with creation”. They summarize, so to say, the whole Encyclical letter. (#246)

Finally, taking an over view of the Encyclical LAUDATO SI’ I would like to call your attention to two things: First, our origin and our final rest; second, the solid connection between Social Justice and Environment.

First, we should not forget from where we came. Pope Francis says: “We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” (#2)

Second, LAUDATO SI’ establishes solid connection between Social Justice and Environment. Pope Francis says: “We realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.” (#159)

Who are the others? They are the poor, the needy, the displaced, the refugees, the victims of persecutions and wars. So our question is what is our personal response to this Encyclical? How you and I can care for our Sister/Mother Earth? (60 paragraphs & 2343 words)

Francis, PopeEncyclical Letter LAUDATO SI’: ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME. Bangalore: Claretian Publications, June 2015. Print.


  1. M.   D.  G.



I have been privileged to visit 37 countries covering five continents during the last 41 years. But the purpose of visiting New Zealand was totally different from all other visits. My first visit to Europe and USA were for my higher studies. But most of my visits were to participate in international meetings, and world congresses of the press media. I have also visited neighboring countries to conduct seminars and workshops in journalism and creative writing. As a journalist I have been a member of the Governing Council of International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP). But my last journey was to New Zealand honoring a long standing and persistent invitation for holidays with my nephew Shaju and family.

Usually it is impossible for me as a Jesuit to go for holidays abroad. I have told this to Shaju umpteen times. His argument was: Uncle, you travel a lot abroad to attend meetings. Then, why don’t you once come and spend a few days with me and my family and give us your company. While he was working in Ahmedabad he used to come to my office after his office work and help me a lot with my articles and correspondences in English.

But this time the situation was different. I had been invited as a resource person to the world congress of International Christian Organization of Media (ICOM) at Tagaytay, Philippines, almost half the way to New Zealand. Shaju immediately offered me to pay for my to and fro tickets via Manila to Auckland and back. Shaju claims that I am in his mentor in the very beginning of his works in cultivating in him the values of life like discipline, responsibility, loyalty, dependability and trust.

Once I remember heartily congratulating Shaju for his honesty and loyalty to his company. He has gone to a printing press to pay a big bill. The press manager asked Shaju “Sir, what amount should be written in the bill? “Why, Manager Sir? We have approved your quotation and you have done our job well!” Shaju could not understand the question of the press manager.

“The quotation is okay, sir. But in making the final bill, there is a give and take possible”. The manager said.

Shaju was confused as he did not still understand the manager.

Sensing the new PA of the company manager did not understand him the press manager said bluntly: “Sir, your predecessor used to take cash from us for giving us all your printing works and in our bill we charged the amount”.

Then, Shaju understood the press manager is speaking about giving and taking bribe! So he told the manager, “Sir, you have done our work well. Now make your bill in such a way that my company does not suffer any loss and you get the money worth your work”.

A big printing press manager and an official with good salary also give and take bribe money! This was beyond the experience and understanding of Shaju. When Shaju joined in his very first job, he showed me a letter which his mother (my sister-in-law) had written to him. In the letter his mother had very well instructed her son about attending the office on time, doing the work entrusted to him faithfully. So without any avarices of  making quick  money Shaju keeping the family culture and did very faithfully his job to the best of his abilities. I also encouraged Shaju giving telling examples of trustworthiness of my father and my grand-father. So there is some truth in Shaju’s saying that in the critical years of his formation I have been an inspiration and encouragement in his character formation and social behavior.

Last year I wrote to Shaju that there is a possibility that I might go to Philippines as the ICOM world congress is being held in that country. Shaju promptly replied me that Philippine is almost half the way to New Zealand and so he is sponsoring my air tickets via Manila to Auckland. “So Uncle, this time you have to come to New Zealand,” he concluded.

With the invitation from the organizers of the International Christian Organization of the Media (ICOM) to participate in the ICOM world congress as a Resource Person and Shaju’s offer of return tickets to New Zealand and back I approached my Provincial. I was prepared to receive a ‘no’ from my Provincial as I knew that he has denied permission in the past for fellow Jesuits to visit their relatives abroad. But after consulting his advisors Provincial Superior gave me permission both to participate in the World Congress and to visit my nephew and family in New Zealand. So after participating in ICOM World at Tagaytay, I landed at Auckland airport on October 16, 2016.

At the airport Shaju and my grand nice Rosmi were there to receive me with bunch of beautiful orchid flowers. I have never seen before such colorful orchid flowers! They drove me straight to their recently purchased bungalow in the city centre. I was the first guest from India to visit their new specious abode. The orchid flowers remained fresh on the dining table for many days.

I had reached Auckland on a Sunday. In the evening I went to the church with my nephew and his family. Shaju drove us to a church some 10 kilometer away because there was Syro Malabar liturgy in our mother tongue Malayalam. I joined the main celebrant Fr. Joy Thottamkara after politely declining to be the main celebrant. But on that day, October 16th being ‘Mission Sunday’ Fr. Joy asked me to give an appropriate message as a missionary from India. Since I am not confident so give a sermon in Malayalam I told Fr. Joy that I would give a message at the end of the Holy Mass in English which I did. So I had the opportunity to speak to some 400 people about the present day India, Gujarat and my works as a missionary. After the Mass Fr. Joy and some parishioners appreciated my 8 minute long sharing and a few asked for more information regarding what I said about Gujarat and my ministry of writing and other works.

Next day morning after breakfast Shaju drove me to One Tree Hill. We had an hour – long walk around and reached the hill top for a bird’s eye-view of Auckland city with bays and sea closely. The New Zealanders enjoy outing to the sea and the bays were full with hundreds of family boats.

In the evening I celebrated the Eucharist in Syro Malabar Rite and baptized two year old Irene, the grand-daughter of my cousin brother James. Irene’s parents Jomi and Riya in Auckland had arranged the Mass and baptism as soon as my visit to New Zealand was confirmed with Shaju. So I was prepared to celebrate the Mass and baptism in Malayalam. But my sermon on new life in Jesus was in English. The gist of my sermon was that it is a personal relationship with Jesus which makes Christian life meaningful. I had no experience of conducting baptismal ceremony in Malayalam. I was told that a Malayali priest would join me. But as the priest could reach only in time for the party after the ceremony I could joke that I did not make any mistake in the ceremony as there was no one to guide and correct me. The baptismal party was a wonderful occasion to meet a lot of friends of Jomi and Riya from two different cities where they worked earlier.

I had already told Shaju that I am not interested in touring much. Still Shaju had planned a two-day long tour to a unique place in New Zealand: the land of Maori tribals, the original inhabitants of the New Zealand. So one day very early in the morning with Shaju at wheel we set out to the tourist place Rotorua. Shaju’s wife Mini was with us. By experience I know that when there is a woman in the group every details of the tour are taken care off. Nothing will be lacking in the journey. With foresight all things needed in the journey like hot, snacks, sweets, paper napkins towels as well as emergency first aid materials are packed and stored in the car.

New Zealand is known as the Land of Long White Clouds. So while on the road I was not surprised long white clouds following us in the sky. There were also occasional light showers of rain which was playing hide and seek with the morning sun. After about three hours’ drive we reached Silver Oak Heritage Hotel at Rotorua where Shaju had already booked two rooms for us.

After refreshing ourselves and taking coffee and snacks we set out for Whakarewarewa –the thernal village next to Rotorua city. At the entrance of the village we joined a group of tourist people for a guided tour of the village. A well built tall young man and a beautiful young lady gave us a brief history of Whakarewarewa thernal village of the Maori tribe. The tourists entered the village in two groups crossing a narrow bridge over a riverlet. We joined the second group led by the well-built young man. He took us around the village explaining various specialties of the place. There at many places white smokes were coming out of the earth emitting strange smell. I saw sulfur gas (lava) and small hot water springs coming from the belly of the earth. There were a few small lakes of hot springs from continuing volcanic eruption. In one place hot water is channeled to flow into small bath tubes dug in the surface of the earth so that people can take bath in them. In one place a Maori youth was dipping bunches of corns in a hot water pond and then taking out and giving boiled corn to the tourists to taste. We could see a far away volcano vomiting lava and sky-high smoke in the air. Then we were treated about half an hour songs and dance by a group of Maori people in the hall.

We saw a century-old Christian church in the village. The guide told us that there are two Christian churches in the village. What surprised me was a cemetery next to the church. For, the dead are buried not digging pit but above ground with a mound of mud.

Rotorua is a city surrendered by three lakes. In Rotorua lake there was a plane which can land and take off from the water. On the road I also saw a small bus which could run on the road and in the water like a boat. Close to the lake were a big museum and a large garden in its front with a variety of colorful flowers and plants. In the evening we went to see a village buried under a volcanic eruption.

A volcano erupted from mount Taravera in June 1886. It is estimated that about 120 people buried alive under the lava and steam poured out from the sudden eruption. Some thatched roofs of buried houses can be seen in the valley of the mountain. Today grass, shrubs, bushes and trees have grown on the mount Taravara and its valley.

On the second day at Rotarua Shaju drove us about 10-15 kms away from the city to Agrodome for a unique farm experience. There was a farm tractor – trailer to take the tourists through all over the farm. There were grain fields, kiwi fruit and olive orchards as well as animal farms. There were also large green areas of pasture lands for grazing for animals like cows and sheep-goats, deer and donkeys. There were also variety of cultivation and greenery of the farm was feast to my eyes. We also saw two exhibitions. In one of them there were goats and sheeps from different countries and breeds. I saw first time a man on the stage sheering a sheep and throwing some wool for the tourists to handle and feel it. In the second show in large enclosure of green land a dog tented a group of sheeps grazing to sheep pen.

Of the 11 days in New Zealand I spend most of the days at Auckland and surrounding areas. The country as big as Great Briton is 1500 km long from North to South. As New Zealand is surrounded by sea a person can reach sea from anywhere in the country travelling just 120 kms. Auckland is the biggest city in New Zealand. It is on the East side on the bank of Tasman Sea. I admired specially two things in the city: the Sky Tower and Sea Life Aquarium. The wide spread Albert Park was also very attractive.

Sky Tower is a landmark with which New Zealand is often identified. It is a monument of 328 meter or 1076 feet high. Its view deck is at 220 meter or 722 feet height. Practically the whole city can be seen around the view deck. Up in the Sky Tower tourists can enjoy meals and coffee respectively in Orbit Dining Hall and sky coffee shop.

Then, rich sea-life can been viewed inside the Sea life Aquarium built inside the sea water. First time I saw at touching distance Penguins an artificially created sea water pont and ice parks. A vast variety of fishes of all sizes, colors and shapes are special attraction in the aquarium. The rich, colorful sea lives are indeed mesmerizing.

The Albert Park in the centre of Auckland city has a unique charm of its own. The park has flower gardens, lakes, ducks, cranes, and water-birds, birds of air on big and small trees and children Entertainment Park

What I carried back to India from New Zealand is the truthfulness or the trustworthiness of the New Zealand people. Let me give you a concrete example where people’s words are taken for truth. While I was in Auckland Shaju’s son Jovin met with an accident. On the way to Auckland University he stopped at a traffic red light. A car behind him in high speed hit hard on his car. Fortunately nothing happened for both the drivers. But there were noticeable damages both the vehicles but both were still in running condition.

Jovin came back after his classes in the university and reported the accident. Shaju told him: the car is insured, please call and inform the insurance company. On the next day as instructed by the insurance people Jovin took the car to a designated garage and left it there. In the afternoon in the same day after visiting   Sky Tower with Mini and Shaju on the way back we picked up Jovin from his University gate.

On the third day of the accident the insurance people called Shaju and told him that the car is not worth repairing and that the full insurance money will be transferred to his account on the following day.

Shaju then told me: “Uncle, people here don’t cheat in anything. They do not have recourse to lies. They trust fully in what we say and we too trust them fully for their trustworthiness. So there is no need for any negotiation or arguments and controversy in everything like in India!

My hosts Shaju and Mini were telling me that I need to spend at least 3 to 5 weeks to see and experience New Zealand fully. But seeing my interest in meeting people rather than visiting a lot of places they arranged almost every evening get together with their friends either at home or in the homes of their friends in the city. So I enjoyed very much meetings and sharing life in New Zealand with a lot of people. So my eleven days spent in New Zealand passed quickly like a dream.


Changed On: 01-05-2017

Next Change: 16-05-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017




Once a well known writer and friend Yeshwant Mehta and an eminent poet and friend Yoseph Macwan came together on short ride in my car. I was at the wheel. Yeshwantbhai abruptly asked me a question: “Father, do you believe in the capital punishment?”

Hearing my answer Yeshwantbhai turned to Yoseph sitting in the back seat: “Yosephbhai, Do you believe in the punishment of death?”

Both Yoseph and I answered Yeshwantbhai in the negative. The author of more than 450 books and booklets were happy with our responses. A strong advocate against capital punishment Yeshwantbhai explained to us that he has written a series of 9 articles in his column in “Gujarat Today” a daily published from Ahmedabad. He said that he has discussed in his column entitled “Thinking Together” in great details about different aspects of capital punishment.

A few days after this conversation during our car ride Yosephbhai and I reached one early morning Yeshwantbhai’s home. We took rose flowers – symbol of love and friendship – to give him a surprise on his 75th birthday. But Yeswantbhai presented to us his beautiful small book “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in Gujarati. The gift of beautifully printed book published by Yagna Prakashan in their science series was a great surprise to both Yoseph and me.

The string with hook of capital punishment and the title “Capital Punishment: A Discussion” in colorful art work on the cover were attractive. In its eight chapters Yeshwantbhai has discussed practically all aspects of capital punishment by hanging or by electric chair.

In the first chapter entitled “Everyone Discusses Hanging” Yeshwantbhai has articulated everyone’s discussion in the country about capital punishment and hanging (in the context of Nirbhaya’s rape and murder). In it on one side there was Sangh Parivar (Kesaria Brigade) in a hurry putting pressure on the government for capital punishment of the criminals. On the other side were humanists, rationalist upholders of justice and other such people opposing the death by hanging or other forms of capital punishment. In it Yeshwantbhai upholds that there is no humanness in capital punishment. Then, there are also instances of innocent people punished with capital punishment in history.

“How Shuddering this Punishment?” is the title of the second chapter in which Yeshwantbhai says: “The punishment of death and in that the hanging is most cruel, calculated shuddering way of execution” (pg.10). The detailed description of the punishment by hanging is traumatizing. So the author pleads for forgiveness and says that, “the purpose of such description is precisely to create in our heart a great dislike for such punishments” (pg.12).

In the third chapter “No Capital Punishment in 140 Countries” the author says that among 58 countries where capital punishment exists, 30 countries have never given capital punishment for last 20 years. Capital punishments have been abolished from the vast majority of the nations. But Yeshwantbhai reminds us, “that it is sad that the country which prides in eternal religion and    ancient culture has not yet abolished the capital punishment!” (pg.16).

In the forth chapter “Capital Punishment for Rapists” the author says that the whole country is clamoring for capital punishment for the rapists of ‘Nirbhaya’ after she was cruelly raped and murdered in the capital city, New Delhi. But the author adds that there are also valid and humanist reasons to oppose capital punishment (pg. 20).

The fifth chapter of “Many Ways of Taking Human Life” Yeshwantbhai describes various methods of putting people to death in different countries. Finally the author says capital punishment is inhuman.

In the sixth chapter “The Country Which Cannot Give Life, Cannot also Take Away Life” (pg. 27). Yeshwantbhai agrees fully with clear reasoning and uncontestable arguments. In the same chapter Yeshwantbhai has presented humanist arguments against those who advocate for capital punishment.

As I see, those who cry out for capital punishment for rapists and terrorists should read the 7th chapter: “Do Two Murders Cancel Each Other?”  In the chapter Yeshwantbhai has quoted the opinions of eminent politicians like Gandhiji, Vinobha Bhave, Jayprakash Narayan, etc. and national thinkers like Ceasar Bekeria of Italy, Arthur Cobesare of France and well known jurists like Jedmalani, Yeshvantrao V. Chandrachud and V. R. Krushna Iyar. Finally the writer says that, instead of giving the criminal death penalty for their enormous crime, punish them to remain within the prison walls for long years till they repent due to harshness of the prison life (pg. 35). That is the most suitable punishment according to the writer.

In the last chapter entitled “The Pleasure of Seeing the Death Game” Yeshwantbhai has given a short story “The Question Asked by My Son” edified by the famous creative writer Alfred Hichkock. At the end of the story and of the book the author has given in one sentence the gist of his belief. “The urgent need of humanity is to disapprove the capital punishment”.

The simple and lucid styles of Yeshwantbhai as well as his inspiring presentation with concrete examples and clear arguments are bound to bring changes in the readers in favor of those who oppose capital punishment. Those who advocate capital punishment may be persuaded to rethink about their strongly held position supporting capital punishment. Those who believe in abolishing death penalty may become stronger in their belief and may even attract to their side the advocates of capital punishment. In short capital punishment is an uncouth punished by the people who claim to be a cultured race. I believe that the time has come to do away with capital punishment not only from India but from the whole world!

Today there is a great need for a social movement against capital punishment not only from the cultured people of India but from the whole world. Yeshwantbhai’s book “Capital Punishment – A Discussion” is a suitable booklet which can provide sufficient inspiration and encouragement to such a movement.


Changed On: 16-04-2017

Next Change: 01-05-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017




‘Returning Home’ is an attractive phrase in Gujarati. It is an interesting concept. It is also deceptive. If we go behind and explain what is happening we will find real cheating in the name of ‘Returning Home’.

In ordinary sense ‘Returning Home’ implies a person going back to his/her own home. Who is not happy with such home coming? It is a very happy event. There is joy in ‘Returning Home’. It is just natural. A person living away from home for reason like being employed away from home or for studying. Those staying away from home returning to their own place from time to time. Such returning creates joy and happiness for all at home. People return to their own home on occasions like Diwali, Christmas, marriage or special occasion like death in a family, some anniversary celebrations etc. Everyone in a house welcomes such ‘returning home’. People at home welcome with joy and enthusiasm when their dear ones come home after long absence.

The parable of prodigal son is well known. In it Jesus gave the story of a father and his two sons. The younger of the two sons wanted his father to give him his share of the property. He sold his share of the property and went away to a far away country and lavishly spent his money in loose living. He was dying with hunger after spending his whole money. In his want he remembered his home. In my father’s house the servants get more food than they can eat! Here I am dying with hunger. He came into his sense and realized his great mistake. He regretted his leaving home. Prepared mentally to plead for his father’s forgiveness and to live as a servant, he returns to his father’s house.

His father saw his son while he was still far. He ran to meet his son and embraced him lovingly. Welcoming his son he ordered his servants to bring the best clothes for him and put a ring on his hand and chapels on his legs. Then, the father makes a great feast and make arrangement to celebrate the returning home of his prodigal son. (See Lk 15: 11-24)

But the upholders of ‘Manusmruti’ have totally different connotation for ‘Returning Home’. None of the above concept of ‘Returning Home’ is applicable for politicized Hindutva people. ‘Manusmruti’ and Vedic texts clearly state that Hindus clearly uphold four castes: Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaisya and Sudra. Tribals and Dalits do not belong to any of these Hindu caste categories. They are not allowed to enter Hindu temples. The so called high caste Hindus observe untouchability with tribals and Dalits.

History proves that during the last few centuries the people who accepted Christianity and Islam are mostly from these tribals and dalits. The number of those who converted to Christianity or Islam from the high caste Hindus is insignificant. If the high caste converts go back to Hinduism then it is real ‘Returning Home’.

Being a council member of International Catholic Union of Press (UCIP) for 24 years I have had the opportunity to travel to 35 countries in Europe, North & South Americas, Asia, Africa and New Zealand. So I have the opportunity to meet local people and discuss with them their perception about matters of concern for all. The people of foreign countries hold different views about Hindu religion and the caste system. Some hold that the so called Hindu religion is no religion at all but a social system, a cultural organization.

Here I would like to give Gandhiji’s definition of Hinduism as quoted by Valjibhai Patel in ‘Naya Marg’ January 16, 2015. Valjibhai writes, “There is no definition of Hindu religion. So I make a definition of Hindu religion……Gandhiji’s definition of Hindu religion is, “The Caste System (Brahmin, Kshatriya, Vaishya and Sudra) which believes in rebirth, Atman – Paramatman and heaven-hell is considered a Hindu”. (Sudra means Other Backward Class the untouchable Dalits do not come in the category of the Sudra)”.

When I was the editor of DOOT for about 16 years I have had the opportunity to travel a lot in Gujarat visiting many villages. One thing I could not understand at the beginning. Why the Christians lived either at the end of a village or at the beginning of a village. Later I understood   that in many villages there are the people of the 4 castes. But the so called untouchable did not belong to any caste, their place was just outside the village.

But when the Christian Missionaries began to work among the OBC people started schools for them in their locality. Then the approach roads were for bullock carts, motor cycles and finally jeeps. So the roads were built straight to go to the OBC area were sometimes called the Christian streets or Dalit chawls.  Then, when pacca roads were built to the villages, they often used the roads built by missionaries and hence the village roads began or ended at OBC people’s place.

Thanks to missionary education, social works and medical services the OBC people progressed. The same with tribal (Adivasi) people. The grip of caste system and untouchability began   to lose its hold on OBC, and Tribals. Still OBC people’s homes can be seen close to the cow dung just outside the village. Then OBC and other Dalit people and the tribals living outside the village go to prove that they are in no way Hindus. So the Christians and Muslims among the OBCs and dalits cannot in no way describe as ‘Returning Home’ if they enticed or forced to embrace Hinduism.

Still during the last few decades there is a systematic and well organized effort to include the tribals and dalits in the (politicized) Hindutva or Hindu religion. The Adivasis (meaning the original dwellers) are not called any more Adivasis; but they are rechristened ‘Vanavasis’ (meaning forest dwellers. If the tribals are called Adivasis then there is the recognition of them as indigenous people and by implication the Hindu Aryans as migrant people. So the Hindutva people are not ready to accept Adivasis as the original dwellers of this land. Hence in school the tribal boys and girls are explicitly forced to register as Hindu tribals. The Hindutva people are building Hindu temples among the tribal people and distributing money lavishly to celebrate Hindu feasts. All these attempts show clearly that the tribals are not Hindus but they are really the indigenous people.

Many of these Dalits and Adivasis have embraced Christianity, Islam or Buddhist   religion. These Dalits and tribals have never been in the Hindu caste system to be considered Hindus. But false propaganda is broadcast that they have been Hindus before they embraced Christianity, Islam or Buddhism. In fact, there is no religious ceremony in Hinduism for conversion. But a sort of purification rite is held by some sadus or RSS leaders and such change of the religion is called ‘Returning Home’. But actually they forced the victims to become Hindus     even though they are not included in any caste category. In the name or ‘Returning Home’ what is happening is Dalits and Tribals are forced to declare themselves as Hindus with all sorts of allurements and incentives. So there is hypocrisy and cheating in so called ‘Returning Home’ to Hindu fold.

Actually the promoters and leaders of ‘Returning Home’ really know that there is no religion or Hinduism in ‘Returning Home’.  There is no Hindu spirituality in ‘Returning Home’. The so called reconverted tribals and Dalits have no place in any of the four castes or ‘Varna’. The ordinary Hindu people do not share meals with the converts nor engage in marriage relationships.

But we can see political and cultural reasons for ‘Returning Home’ movements. They say that the Dalits and Tribals, who have embraced Christianity or Islam, are accused of not respecting and honoring the Hindu teachers. (Gurus and Achariyahs). On the contrary, they are accused of upholding extra territorial loyalties towards Rome and Mecca. The ‘Returning Home’ people are enticed with prestige and economic benefits. For instance, the ‘Returning Home’ people get economic benefits and the benefits of reservation in jobs and in education. But the Indian constitutions explicitly prohibit any enticement or force in reconversion or conversion.

Simply put, “Returning Home” means keeping away from or totally neglecting the constitution of India. In other words “Returning Home” means it is the hidden and not so hidden efforts of the Hindutva people to make socialist and secular India a Hindu Rashtra, Hindu nation!


Changed On: 01-04-2017

Next Change: 16-04-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017



In the Depths of God’s Mind

I often read the magazine of rationalists entitled “Vivekpanthi” (meaning Rationalist). In it I get often inspiring articles about blind faith and about make believe things in the name of religion. When I read “Vivekpanthi “ I feel that only three types of rationalist people write in it: atheist, believing rationalists and  those rationalists who hold that they can not know anything about  God; let us call this type  agonistics.

With apologies to rationalists let me say that some of the articles in ‘Viekpanthi’ seem to me childish to say the least. A writer in the June 2013 issue of ‘Vivekpanthi’ says “A concrete truth is that even if there is a god, he does come to give sight to your blind daughter and even if God does not exist, your beautiful and intelligent daughter will have no difficulty to find a job or a life-partner”.

The ideas or the thought paten of the writer is very clear. “There is no god’’. But it is not full stop. There is doubt. So he says, “If there is god ……”.  Here the writer’s idea of god is clear. In the words of the writer, god is nothing more than the private property of man! A god is one who dances to his tune and if god does not dance to his tune, then, there is no god!

Let us put aside the challenges and the questions of the atheist rationalists. Even then we see that there are no cogent arguments, no logic in what the writer says. For, his knowledge or idea about god is illusory, nothing more than the thought or imagination of a man’s limited intelligence. When a basic premise is wrong then there is no possibility of faultless arguments or of right conclusion. Still this types of rationalists claim to have knowledge of everything. Let me clarify my point with a concrete example.

  1. Scott Peck is an American writer and psychologist. The name of his book is “People of My Lai”. In the book written after much research the author has narrated the story of merciless massacre in a small Vietnam village called My Lai.

During the Vietnam War there was an attack on a group of American soldiers. The Americans suffered heavy losses. According to the information which the American commander got, the attack on American military personal came from My Lai village and the ordinary folk of the village have fled away. American military personal entered the village and mercilessly butchered anyone and everyone they met in the village and finally they burnt down the whole village!

During the investigation Scott Peck learnt that the Americans had actually observed the My Lai Village for the attack and according to the information gathered, the guerrilla combatants of Viet Cong were in the village and others have fled from the village. But later investigation proved that the earlier findings were wrong. Most villagers have not gone away from the village. So in destroying the village, the American army has butchered many innocent people in the village.

Scott Peck meeting the American soldiers who have returned from Vietnam War learnt that the Americans destroyed the entire village so that there may not be any reprisal from the village. The Americans believed that even the children in the village could be soldiers with bomb attached to their waists.

Scott Peck’s investigation conclusively proved that based on the information later received, the American Army’s observation and the information received were totally false. All the same, commands were executed and innocent people including children and women were massacred and the village burned down.

Now, let us come to our point.  The real situation of the My Lai is one thing that ordinary people of the village were leading fearlessly normal life. But the secret information received by the American Army Commander was totally different information and hence his decision to totally destroy the village. A decision taken on false information proved to be wrong and consequently the mass killing of innocent people took place!

Now those like the atheists and me who speak about god have specific knowledge or understanding of god. The American commander believed that the secret information received by him to be true and took his decision to massacre the people of My Lai. Similarly the atheists on the basis of their understanding of god as true make statements about god. I also deny the existence of the god about whom the atheists speak and write about.  God cannot be limited within the walls of the atheists’ intelligence. God is beyond all talks of man.  God is beyond not only of atheists’ words but beyond even his/her wildest imagination. We can speak about god only one thing for certain that, we cannot know God with 100% accuracy and truth.

Whatever we speak about God with our intelligence is limited to our human language. Bible says through prophet Isaiah: “My thoughts”, says the Lord, “are not like yours, and my ways are different from yours. As high as the haven are above the earth, so high are my ways and thoughts above yours”. (Is 55: 8-9).

The rationalist atheists are not prepared to accept what the Bible says that, human words and thinking are totally different from God’s ways and action. For, as stoic philosopher Epitetus has said, “It is impossible for a man to learn what he thinks he already knows”. A rationalist atheist cannot accept the fact that beyond the horizon of rationalism there is an existence, a power, a Being. The rationalist atheist is not ready to accept a reality of a divine being called God or Bhagvan. Hence the rationalists believe in themselves as being as all knowing god!

All who believe in one or other religion hold that God is LOVE. When we   say, “God is love”, it means first of all, as Bible says, God loved us first. Accepting God as love leads us to our love for God and for one-another.  In other words, our love is born from God’s love for us. We human beings cannot add to or detract from God’s love. For God’s love is infinite, unlimited, unconditional, and eternal.

A child may go away from the love of his/her parents. Similarly a human person in the name of rationalism can with the god-given freedom may wander away from the unconditional love of God. A rationalist may think that he/she is not within God’s love; but is far away from God’s love. But his/her love and good will for others keep him/her pulling towards God.


Changed On: 16-03-2017

Next Change: 01-04-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017




“The only Gujarati Children’s Magazine of International Standard” is the claim of a well-known magazine for children: “Sahaj Balanand” published by Gurjar Sahitya Prakashan, Ahmedabad. Its Editor Yashwant Mehta is an agnostic. So I was very much surprised to see in it a Cross drawn clearly within a maze! For, Cross is recognized symbol of Christian Religion.

On one side of the maze there is a picture of a child. On the other side there is a very poor-looking man. The words below the maze say:

“Our small child’s name is Wilson. Once he saw a poor man. Then he wanted badly to help the poor man. But the road between them is complicated. You please help Wilson to take the shortest route.”

The picture of a Cross, the name Wilson and sentiments or desire to help – they are all very much Christian. They clearly indicate the editor’s sentiments of good will towards to Christian Religion. For, the idea of helping a poor person is very much Christian in accordance with the teaching of Jesus Christ. Jesus during his public life not only went out of his way to help the poor and the needy but he also taught his followers to do the same.

Jesus at the beginning of his public ministry declared his life-mission: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon 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 his very famous Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: “Happy are those who know they are spirituality poor; the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them” (Mt 5:3).

Inspired by his own example and his teaching, beginning with the first followers, the Christians down the centuries were always involved themselves consistently in serving the poor and the needy.

Paul who was a persecutor of the first followers in the first century became to be an ardent apostles speaking and spreading Jesus’ message in the whole of Roman Empire. He writes to the First Christians at Rome in his letter to Romans: “Just now, however, 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 blessings with the Gentiles, the Gentiles ought to use their material blessings to help the Jews” (Rom 15:25-27).

If the practice of serving the poor and needy is removed from Christian living then the subsequent Christianity will no longer be the Christian Religion established by Jesus.

Inspired by the example of Christian Religion in helping the poor and the needy, the people of other faiths and of no faiths do serve the people in need. From this point of view we can say that the influence of Christianity has spread in the whole world. All the same, the Christian Religion is not just an institution of social service.

God’s mercy is acknowledged in the service of the poor. We say that God is merciful. God is very compassionate. Through the words of Prophet Hosea (6:6), Jesus says in St. Mathew’s Gospel: “Go and find out what is meant by the scripture that says: ‘It is kindness that I want, not animal sacrifices,’ I have not come to call respectable people, but outcasts” (Mt 9:13).

In the Bible there are many instances of proclaiming God’s mercy and compassion. In the first book of Kings, King David says: “I am in a desperate situation! But I don’t want to be punished by men. Let the Lord himself be the one to punish me, because he is merciful.” (1 Chronicles 21:13). In the New Testament acknowledging God’s mercy Mother Mary sings: “His name is holy; from one generation to another he shows mercy to those who honour him” (Lk 1:50).

Every Christian, each follower of Christ, knows that he/she has received the mercy from God; or God has been compassionate and merciful towards him/her. It is inspired by this mercy and experienced by his compassion a Christian involved himself/herself in the service of others. So helping the poor is not just social service for a Christian. In the social service two things are specially acknowledged: first there is the acknowledgment that the person himself/herself received and experienced God’s mercy and second, there is the acceptance that he/she is a medium to extending God’s mercy to people who are in need.

Only those who do not understand the mercy and compassion of God will see the Christian services as a mere social works or as means to attract and mislead the simple people to religious conversion to Christianity! They see the Christian services to the poor as is a bribe to lead the poor to conversion! Nothing could be far from the truth. Can God be bribed?

Such people are ignorant of the fact and belief that the Christians see like Jesus Christ that every person is created in God’s own image. So the poor, the Dalit, the sick, the disabled, the abandoned – all and each one is precious in God’s sight. Hence every person deserves the love and respect of all other people. So every human being is accepted and acknowledged as a respectful human person. But a person, who seeks self gain in everything, is not able to see and accept the other as equal to himself/herself. So such a person is not able to give love and respect to others as a human persons.

On the other hand a Christian sees his service to the poor and needy as service rendered to Christ himself. Selfless human service is a merciful service offered to Jesus himself. For, Jesus has said in the Last Judgment: “I tell you, whenever you did this for one of the least important of these brothers of mine, you did it for me!” (Mt 25:40). So the so called social works are for the Christians is actual service of mercy, service of compassion. It is the spirit of God’s mercy and of compassion which inspired Wilson to help a needy person. It is very human, very Christian.


Changed On: 01-03-2017

Next Change: 16-03-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017


My cataract eye operation

Sharing the experiences with some people I feel that I got the best. For my cataract surgery I got not one but two eminent and highly experienced eye surgeons in Dr. Sandeep Parmar and his wife Dr Hetal Patel. Both are specialists, M.S. in ophthalmology.

Dr Sandeep explained to me the procedure of cataract operation with computer animation. First my eye is diluted with eye drops. Then the eye is made numb with anaesthesia. When the eye is numb with a small surgical tool an incursion is made into the eye. Through the incision a hollow tube is inserted and a fluent substance is injected into the eye to stabilize the interior and maintain eye pressure. Again through the incision a hollow tube is inserted, through which ultra sonic energy enters and breaks the cataract. The hollow tube sucks out the broken pieces of cataract.

After removing the cataract through a hollow tube an artificial (in my case, made in Germany) folded intraocular lense is inserted. The folded lense unfolds and replaces the eye’s original lense.

When my eye operation was scheduled, I shared the information with my friends through my Christmas-New Year mail. As soon as my sister, Sr Lissy Paul received my Christmas 2016 mail she called me. On health matters I always consult my sisters either Sr Lissy Paul or Sr Celine Paul. I trust and follow their enlightened advice as Celine was first in Nursing in Gujarat State and Lissy was first in Nursing in Karnataka State. Besides, Celine has experience of running a hospital in Eritrea in West Africa for more than five years and Lissy has received an Award from Gujarat Government for her outstanding medical services among the tribal sickle cell patients in South Gujarat.

Lissy on the phone spoke to me about some concrete details eye operation for cataract. So I became especially alert. She said, “Chetta, I know very well about your habit of going for good and cheap things. But in your eye operation please do not go for the cheap lense. Even if it is expensive please get the best lenses for both your eyes”.

Then Lissy shared with me the experiences of a priest who went for a cheap lense and after a few years his eyes became bad beyond any cure as the cataract lense could not be replaced.

I told Lissy that there is no cause for worry. An year back I have met some eye specialist in a big hospital and they advised me cataract operations for both my eyes. Now I am going for the operation to a known expert eye surgeon Dr Sandeep Parmar and I will let him know her advice.

After reading my Christmas mail a lawyer friend Dr K D Parmar phoned me. “Fr. Varghese, do not worry about your cataract eye operation. Some ten years back both my eyes were operated for cataract. Now I can read and write well without even spectacles. About my eye operations I tell people that Motilal (for cataract) has gone and Maniben (for lense) has come!
My health remains in good shape. I hardly fall sick. Even at the age of 73 years I maintain good health. I may take some ayurvedic or home remedies for some common sickness like cold and cough. So I do not worry at all about health matters.
When I met Dr Sandeep in his Yeshvi Eye Hospital he explained well to me and Fr Devasia who accompanied me about the process of cataract operation. But to tell the truth I did not understand everything the eye surgeon said; but from the clarifications sought it was clear for me that Fr Devasia understood everything. On the basis of his own eye operation Fr Devasia was asking questions and Dr Sandeep was giving him satisfactory answers.

But I was fully satisfied when Dr Sandeep said that he is going to put the same Germen made lense, which he used when he operated his own dad’s operation. I knew well his dad, Mr Simon Parmar, who was a very devout and efficient teacher in St Xavier’s School, Mirzapur. When I heard about Simon my worry, if there was any, disappeared.

Fr Devasia asked Dr Sandeeep about the cost of the operation. Doctor explained to us about the usual cost of the operation. Then he added, “I have done free of cost the eye operation of my Principal Fr Sergio Dias. Then, I took only the material and hospital expenses from a Nun who is doing free services like you. I have let go 40% of total cost. I know well the free services done by you priests. So you pay me whatever you can”.

Hospitals in usual cases do operations only after the full cost of operations is deposited in their account. In my case neither my residence Gurjarvani nor my office CISS had money for my operation. So knowing that both were not in a position even to contribute a share of the operation cost, the Jesuit Provincial agreed to pay for the operation.

To cut a long story short, my Superior gave me a blank cheque, which I passed to Dr Sandeep after the operations of both my eyes. From the receipt he have me, I understood that he has generously given me 40% discount letting go fully his fee. He had also not charged me for the medicine, three types of eye drops and the eye-protection glass, which he had given me.

For my first left-eye operation my sister Lissy accompanied me to Yeshvi Hospital together with Frs Devasia and Francis D’Sa from my community. As Lissy was interested to know the details of my operation, after the operation Dr Sandeep call her and my two companions to his consulting room and explained to them the operation showing the computer recordings. So they were happy with the operation. Lissy said to me later that Dr Sandeep told her about my 100% cooperation in the cataract operation. So I and all were happy about my eye operation.

After the first operation a friend, an Indian English poet and author Dr (Prof) K V Dominic phoned me. He said, “Fr Varghese, I know now that you may be suffering a lot. But please take care. Now you can’t read or write. No newspaper and TV. You can’t go out of your house. You have to keep always a dark glass to protect your eyes from pollution…”

Dr Dominic spoke to me long giving the experiences of the cataract operation of our common friend Dr (Prof) T V Reddy, who is also a well known poet and writer in English. Interrupting my friend Dominic I said, “Sir, you may be right about Dr Reddy. But here after my first eye operation I have absolutely no pain or suffering. In fact, I am enjoying a “Paradise” like life here. I have given holidays to my alarm clock. So I get up only when the birds start singing for me to wake up. I enjoy the sun light both in the morning and evening. I do loiter in the small garden in front of my house. I am delighted to see and admire the variety of flowers with their multi-colours and innumerable sizes and shapes.

“The gardener Atmaram has assured me that all the butterflies flying around are dancing only for me. I converse with my great ancestors – about two dozen monkeys – jumping and flying around on the tall trees of the botanical garden of st Xavier’s College, close to my residence. They seem to be happy with my non-threatening presence…”

Interrupting me Dominic said, “Father, I know that you are also a nature-lover like me and that you are concerned for the environment”.
After our conversation in lighter vein I explained to my poet friend Dominic about my left-eye operation. I have had Dr Sandeep and his wife Hetal Patel, both specialists and well experienced in ophthalmology for my operation. The operation was less than 10 minutes job. I was out of the hospital in about 2 hours.

After a week of left eye operation I have had my second eye operation on January 6, 2017. Now after both the operations I tell people in the words of a well known humourist Ratilal Borisagar in Gujarati, “Motilal gaya ane Maniben aavya”.
Last Changed: 16-02-2017
Next Change: 01-03-2017
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

A son drowned in mother’s love

‘Ammachi’ means for me an image which I could never forget in my life. An image of great love! You may call that great image Mother, Mummy or Amma. My siblings call her Amma. But I am accustomed to call her ‘Ammachi’ from my childhood. Today I am swimming in that ocean of love.

I recall here an often repeated instance of my early childhood. My mother would take me in front of a picture of Jesus and she would repeat “Iso” (Jesus), “Iso”, “Iso”. Then she would teach me a small prayer, “Praise be to Jesus Christ” in my mother tongue. I experienced my mother’s love and she wisely turned my love to Jesus. After many years I learned that the “Iso” image of love is Jesus. My mother is a pale shadow of that great love of Jesus. Still Ammachi is a true image of love for me. ‘Ammachi’ is an unfamiliar word for you. So I simply call her mother.

A childhood memory flashes to my mind. Going to an Aashan’s (Master’s) house in my neighbourhood carrying sand in a coconut shell I learned to read and write the alphabets, to count, and the basics of adding and substracting, always writing in the sand spread on Aashan’s veranda. But I was sent to school at the age of six, as I had to walk five kilometres to my nearest school. On the day of the annual examination my mother told me to pray to Jesus before my examinations. The teacher used to write the question on the black board and we had to write the answer on our slate. I always remembered Jesus before the examinations and I used to get good marks. I used to feel bad that I had Jesus to pray and get good marks but my Hindu friends did not have Jesus to help them. So they got much less marks than me!

After giving my SSLC (then 11th Standard) examinations I told my parents that I would like to go to North India to become a Missionary Priest. They opposed my proposal tooth and nail. They said that if I am really keen on becoming a priest, I could become a priest in the local diocese like my uncle priest, Fr Mathew Vellankal, my mother’s brother, who was a great friend of my parents. He wasa young and dynamic priest, who built a Church and started a school in the first parish where he was sent. They did not want their eldest son to go far away to North India.

A whole year passed by in their strong opposition to follow my Mission vocation. But to cut a long story short my grand father came to my help. One day my childhood friend, my grand father whom my parents respected much, came home and told my parents, “Varghese wants to go to a North Indian Mission. If he wants let him go. If he does not like it in the mission, let him come back.” My parents willy-nilly accepted my grand father’s advice.

Ever since I put my feet in Gujarat in June 1963, I have felt happy that I have reached my destination on earth. I may get lost in my studies, my works, my travels or in anything else, but I know for certain that my mother’s love and prayers follow me, support me and strengthen me wherever I am and whatever I may be doing.

After spending a year at Ahmedabad in Gujarat, first time I went home in April 1964 for holidays. It was a 3 days long train journey. Coal dust enveloped me darkening my face and my clothes. Then tired from the journey I was looking awful. But seeing the twinkle in my mother’s eyes all my tiredness disappeared. While I took bath and dressed presentably my mother prepared warm and tasty food with my favourite dishes.

As I ate, my mother learned all about my one year experience in Ahmedabad. Then, mother told me, “Son, you are tired. Go and sleep”; and she took me to a room kept ready for me. Mother told me to lie down and sleep. But our conversation continued. I do not know when I drowsed off. I opened my eyes after sleeping about two hours. My mother was still there keeping watch over me! My mother’s love was simply overwhelming.

I had one month long leave. Before I left in the first week of June 1964 for my two-year long Novitiate at Mt Abu, Rajasthan my mother prepared and made me eat all my favourite dishes and sweets and I enjoyed the unending waves of mother’s love. During the novitiate I suffered a severe attack of small pox and I was kept isolated in a far end corner of the novitiate building. Then in spite of the Infirmarian Bro Anthony taking very good care of me, I was yearning for my mother. Perhaps I suffered more for wanting my mother’s presence than from small pox.

I used to write very regularly, once in a month, to my parents and getting their replies were my consolation in those days. When my father or mother wrote to me, they made sure every inch space of the Inland letter was used to the maximum! When my father did not write, mother got my sister Aney to write for her. After Aney’s marriage, whenever she came home, her first job was to write to me as my mother’s secretary. She did the job very faithfully well till the phone facilities came into existence.

Then after 10 long years I went home just for two days in December 1994. In fact, I was on my way to London to do a journalism course from the beginning of January 1975. My mother was upset that I could not reach my brother Vincent’s wedding just three days earlier and that my leave was only for two days. I had a hard time to convince mother that usually we get then home leave only after our priestly ordination. But I was privileged to visit home for two days as I was going abroad. When I said good bye to her, kissing both her hands, she requested me to write to her as soon as I reached London. Mother wrote to me often and I made sure that I wrote to her once every month.

After my journalism in London School of Journalism, London, theology in Gregorian University and priestly ordination both at Rome I reached home for my first Holy Mass in October 1977. Mother surprised me with her great show of love. After I greeted her by kissing her hands as our custom she took both my hands and kissed them saying that now both my hands have become holy as they are consecrated to hold and give Jesus.

My parents came to know much about the Gujarat Mission and the Society of Jesus after I joined the mission. In their enlightenment their opposition to their eldest son going to a North Indian mission not only disappeared but they became admirers and promoters of Jesuits in Gujarat. As a result when my sister, Celine wanted to join a Religious Congregation in Gujarat they did not object. But my youngest sister Lissy wanted to follow Celine my parents wanted her to do her college studies before making such a decision. They could not believe that their pet child could survive the disciplined life of the Religious Sisters. For Lissy led an easy going life and in her school days she had a craze for latest fashion clothes lavished by her brothers Vincent and Thomas.

Besides, as Lissy was lazy in her studies, father had told her that she would be sent to the college of her choice if she gets a first class in SSLC examination. For sure she got a first class and she chose a prestigious and very expensive All Saints Collage at Thiruvananthapuram! In those days one whole day journey was needed to reach the state capital Thiruvananthapuram. In spite of the difficulties like travel and very costly hostel fees, she was sent to study in the All Saints College. All these types of decision were taken by father and mother together. Mother was always prepared to make any sacrifice for the good of her children.

I remember a special occasion. It was the Golden Jubilee of my parents. I was then doing tertianship at Sacred Heart College, Shembhaganur in Tamil Nadu. From there after a night’s journey I reached home. After many years since I left home first time we all nine siblings were meeting together at home. With close relatives uncle Msgr Mathew Vellankal came to celebrate Holy Mass at home. In the homily uncle spoke very articulately about our parents’ love for their children, their hard works, their prayerful life and their warm hospitality for all their dear and near ones. Tears of joy welled up in our eyes. Agreeing with uncle, my eldest sister Sr. Mary Cicily said, “What uncle said is true. We have never seen our parents quarrelling!”

Responding to the occasion my mother said, “God has blessed each one of us and our family with more blessings than we can ask for!” We all agreed with her.

My loving mother has not only appreciated much God’s blessings with an attitude of gratitude.She has also expressed her appreciation by being herself very generous towards the needy people and the many labourers who worked in our farms.For instance, in her childhood Lissy constantly complained that mother often gave her best clothes to the children of labourers to wear on special occasions like temple feasts and marriages. Mother used to make Lissy understand that even poor children have desires to dress well on their special occasions; and when we give, we need to give good things to others.

Since last few years we get permission for home visit once in two-three years. But being an office bearer or otherwise active in three national organizations I have opportunity to travel often to South India. So whenever I have to attend a meeting at Chennai or Bangalore I make it a point to take a night train or bus and visit for two or three days my aged mother and my married brothers and sister practically every year. My brothers make sure that I have a car at my disposal and when I make flying visits to the families of my brother Jose or my sister Aney, my mother always accompanied me after the death of my father in September 1999. But while writing this in Gujarati at 98 years mother’s movement is limited in the house.

In January 2015 I made a home visit with my friend Poet Yoseph Macwan. I spent most of the time with my mother in her room except when I was travelling and visiting with Yoseph a few interesting tourist places like the back waters and the shrine of St SrAlphonsa.

I am glad that my mother is specially blessed by God with three caring daughters-in-law. My brother Vincent and his wife Anice look after her in the family house leaving nothing to desire. Thanks to the close inter-personal relationships and love among my three married brothers and one married sister and their families, we five religious missionaries in far away places have nothing to worry about the care of our mother. I agree with my mother that God has blessed our family more than we can ask for.
Last Changed: 01-02-2017
Next Change: 16-02-2017
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

My new year Resolution

In this New Year I imagine that we are standing at a cross road. The first road is of inactivity and laziness; the second road is of following immoral leaders without any discernment; the third road is of injustice and untruth; and the fourth road is of justice and morality. Which road would you like to take?

I would choose for me the fourth road of justice and morality. I think that to be steadfast on the road of justice and morality, a New Year resolution will help me. So my only New Year resolution is to follow unwaveringly my conscience, my inner voice. I am sure on the cross road of life that is the only resolution which will take me to my goal of being a person for others. Perhaps the three other roads may be easy and attractive. But they will lead me at the end not to peace and tranquility, but to destruction and unhappiness.

My New Year resolution to follow steadfastly my conscience is solidly based on my personal experiences and on my firm conviction. In October 2016 I came back from a trip to New Zealand after spending on 11 days with my nephew Shaju, his wife Mini and children Jovin and Rosmin. During my stay and travels in New Zealand two things about the people there specially impressed me. I am deeply touched by two characteristics of New Zealanders. So my New Year resolution is inspired by those two characteristics.

My nephew Shaju is doing a government job in Social Service Department. His wife Mini is also working in the biggest government hospital at Auckland as a nurse. I learned two things about the New Zealanders on the basis of their talks and experiences. The two things are their value of human life and truthfulness of the people.

First, the value of human life and the care and concern for life. Shaju narrated to me an experience in his job. It is part of his job to visit and follow the welfare of the persons in their home, who have suffered mental illness and got cured. He sees to it that the ‘patients’ take regularly medicines, do physical exercises according to his/her need and capacity and that he/she have enriching entertainment and social life. From time to time Shaju also takes 8 to 10 ‘patients’ in his government vehicle – a van – to entertain them in games, sports and other physical exercises and other entertainments.

Once Shaju was driving to the home of a cured patient. Then a car came out from a road-side bungalow in speed and hit Shaju’s van with a loud bang. Shaju’s van was overturned. Both the vehicles were badly damaged. But luckily Shaju and the car driver escaped without any injury! Shaju phoned immediately to his office and informed about the accident. Help was prompt.

After due medical checkups Shaju was found okay. His bosses told him that he may go home take a few days’ rest before resuming duty. But Shaju told his boss that he is mentally and physically fit to continue on his job. And taking another office vehicle he went on his duty for the rest of the day. In the police investigation found that the car driver was under the influence of drug and that he has been punished with jail twice earlier for rash driving.

Commenting on the incident Shaju told me that in spite of being a foreigner and doing a better paid job than most New Zealanders he never experienced during the incident or on any other occasions any discrimination or bias in his many years in New Zealand either from his high ups or from those with whom and for whom he worked. But everyone appreciates and respects the life of everyone else and human life in all forms.

The second noble value which I experienced in New Zealand is the trustworthiness or truthfulness of the people there. People speak truth and people are trusted for their word. Let me give you an example. When I was at Auckland Shaju’s college going son Jovin’s car met with an accident. At a traffic signal stop another car hit hard Jovin’s car. When he came back in the evening after attending the lecture in Auckland University he told Shaju and me about the incident that he and the other driver were unhurt but both the cars were partly damaged without any engine problem. Shaju instructed his son to report the matter to the insurance office. As instructed by insurance people Jovin reached the car to a garage next day morning on his way to the University. “After visiting with uncle Auckland Central Park and the Sea Life Aquarium we will pick you up in the evening from the main gate of your University” Shaju told his son.

On the third day Shaju got a phone call from the insurance company “Your car is not worth repairing. We will send you the full amount of the insurance tomorrow directly to your bank account.”

Shaju told me, “Uncle, the people here do not cheat in anything, nor speak any lie. People trust us and we trust people fully here. Like in India there is no controversy or arguments in anything and everything.”

In the midst of people who say lie without shame or regret and take or give bribes we need a resolute resolution to listen to our inner voice and follow our conscience during this New Year 2017. This is a great challenge. Facing the challenge squarely will lead our lives in the long run to genuine love and peace.

So let us take this New Year resolution to follow our conscience and stick to it resolutely in all situations pleasant and unpleasant. Then, like the people of one of the richest countries in the world, we will learn to appreciate human life and will become truthful and trustworthy. Thus following our conscience we will enjoy peace and mutual love and respect among all people without any discriminations of caste and creed, race or culture.
Last Changed: 16-01-2017
Next Change: 01-02-2017
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

Compassion, correlation and cooperation

Extracts from the FORWARD of the author’s New book “Sahiyaru Jeevan”, (Life in Partnership)]

Today there is great need of three Cs: namely Compassion, Correlation and Cooperation. Thanks to the facilities of mass media, and of travelling a person can reach any corner of the world. We can get in touch with persons anywhere in the world through social communications.

We speak about universal brotherhood ( ”Vasudaivekudumbakam”). But the open secret is that we have not found a way to the hearts of our neighbors! For, we are not compassionate. When we are not compassionate then there is no question of correlation or mutual relationship and cooperation. Where there is compassion there is interpersonal relationship; there is cooperation.

Today our human existence is threatened due to our misuse of our environment. In this situation we cannot live long. So to change the present situation and to live longer on the face of the earth we need to be compassionate with the whole environment, with all animate and inanimate beings. We also need to acknowledge our mutual dependence. We can make meaningful progress in life only through cooperation with all beings.

Let me substantiate this statement with a concrete historical example. This is a story of an English man Mark Guy Pearse, who has authored more than 50 books. Mark was born in a poor family. When he was a teenager, he was returning home by sea-route from his studies in Holland. In the restaurant of the ship Mark chose all his favorite food items and enjoyed them. But when the waiter brought the bill, Mark was shocked. He realized that he did not have full amount to pay the bill!

The waiter scolded Mark severely. Then he asked Mark’s name. Mark gave his full name as Mark Guy Pearse. Hearing the name the waiter quietly paid the full bill from his pocket and told Mark that he can go free. Mark asked the waiter why he paid on his behalf! The waiter said that he knew Mark’s dad Guy Pearce and that he had help the waiter on a critical situation. Then, the waiter added, “Son, you too may return this favor by helping someone in their dire need”.

When we examine our lives, we find innumerable people who have rendered selfless services to us to make us what we are today. Beginning with our parents numerous people in one way or other have helped us to grow. When a child is born, it is the most helpless creature among new born animal world. After the birth a calf in a short time stands up and goes to drink its mother’s milk and moves about with its mother.

But a human child need to be lifted and helped to drink its mother’s milk for more than one year. A child grows up and till it begins to earn and becomes self sufficient many years have to pass. During this whole period, if one begins to count, it is almost impossible to count the number of people who have contributed to his physical, mental, social and psychological well being. Beginning with his parents, siblings and other relatives a lot of people have taught him the intricacies of life in his family, society and the country. Many men and women have taught him in one way or other to be self sufficient in education in social upbringing and professional life.

A person needs to depend on many people not only in his professional life but also in his personal family and social living. Even after a person’s death he needs others for his body to be taken to cemetery or to crematorium and dispose of the body and to fulfill religious rites and social obligations and traditional customs. In other words a person needs from his birth to death innumerable men, women and other beings. Their compassion, correlation and cooperation make his life worth living. These three things of compassion, correlation and cooperation enrich a person’s life and make it happy. So, needless to say that we all need to cultivate compassion, correlation and cooperation as part and parcel of our lives.
Last Change: 1-1-2017
Next Change: 16-1-2017
Copyright© Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ. 2017