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.

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Changed On: 16-03-2017

Next Change: 01-04-2017

Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ – 2017

 

 

MERCY CALLS FOR SERVICE

“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.

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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”.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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Last Change: 1-1-2017
Next Change: 16-1-2017
Copyright© Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ. 2017

The Joy of Crib is the Joy of our Hearts

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The story goes back to A.D 1223. It is the story of a poor person living in an Italian village Greccio. People in the village and the nearby town were busy preparing for Christmas. The poor man was troubled that all Christmas preparations were materialistic and earthly. People were busy buying gifts and exchanging gifts. The poor man saw that all the Christmas preparations were for parties of eating, drinking and dancing. There was no place for baby Jesus who would be born on Christmas night!

The poor man was much troubled seeing all these activities and preparations without any place for baby Jesus. There were also a few other people like the poor man who all wanted to give baby Jesus importance in their Christmas preparation. So under the leadership of this poor man they gathered, brought few animals with them and they recreated the crib in which Jesus was born at Bethlehem in the beginning of first millennium.

That was the very first Christmas crib made by the poor man, Francis Assisi and his companions. Today St. Francis Assisi is known all over the world as the saint of the poor. He became still more known when on March 13, 2013 Cardinal George Borgolio took the name of Francis when he was elected Pope, the supreme spiritual leader of the universal Catholic Church and the head of Vatican City.

After St. Francis made the first crib, the practice of making cribs for Christmas gradually spread all over Europe and to the rest of the world. Some 600 years after Francis Assisi made the first crib, there was a poor parish priest, John Vianney who was thrilled to see the recreation of a crib in his parish. Moved by the Spirit he preached an inspiring and memorable sermon on Christmas night. Saint John Vianney’s collected Christmas sermon and other sermons are published in 1901. I read St. John Viyanny’s sermon on Christmas on the internet.

I am presenting here a gist of John Vianney’s Christmas sermon in my own words. St. John Vianney specially said three things of humility concerning Christmas. First, the Trinitarian God decided that the second person Jesus will become a human being. Second, the birth of the second person will not be in a king’s palace or in a royal bungalow of a millionaire. There was no place for Jesus to be born even in an inn at Bethlehem. But Jesus was born as a helpless child in a crib. Third, Jesus was born in utter poverty and want. When Jesus was born there was neither bed of roses nor soft silk cloth for him. The Bible says, Mother Mary “gave birth to her first son, wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manager” (Lk.2: 7).

Being born in the midst of poverty and want, Jesus proves to us, as the prophets foretold, as an angel told Joseph in a dream, that “he will be called Immanuel”, which means, “God is with us” (Mt. 1: 23). Being born in a crib as a poor helpless child, Jesus proclaims that he is with the poor and the rich, with the small and the big people, ‘with blacks and whites, in short, with everyone. Jesus is with the entire humanity. Jesus is with the entire universe.

St. John Vianney says in his sermon that “The heathens have represented Jupiter with lightning in his eyes, falcons at his feet, flaming swords in his hands; no hand free to bless. Our divine Saviour wished to appear very differently. Not a threatening, mighty figure; not armed with lightning. No, He appeared as a child full of love, full of tenderness, full of joy. The child looks at every one; at the sight of the child, all fear vanishes. All may approach a child without fear, the high and the low, the learned and the unlearned, rich and poor. How near has God come unto us!”

Lying in the crib baby Jesus looks at us. When Jesus looks into our eyes and when we look at him, all our fears and worries disappear. There is no place for fear in our heart because Jesus has taken place in our hearts. There is no thread of danger in the presence of baby Jesus. The baby Jesus invites us to be with him, all people of all languages and cultures, all tribes and races. Whatever be our background and our problems, Jesus has come to be one with us. In the words of St. John “Word become human being and full of grace and truth, lived among us” (Jn. 1: 14).

From the historical point of view Jesus was born about two thousand years ago as a human being. But for those who believe in him, Jesus is born constantly in our hearts. So in his presence we experience his love, his forgiveness, his understanding and his peace in our lives. When we look at Jesus in the crib let us experience the unconditional love of Jesus for each one of us. Let the fullness of love fill our hearts and let it come to our lips through a smile and let us spread that smile of joy as we meet people.
Let us express the joy of baby Jesus in the crib through our joyful words of greetings: Happy Christmas.
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Last change : 16-12-2016
Next change on : 01-01-2017
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ 2016

Philippines: “Pearl of the Orient”

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A Spanish Missionary Father Juan J. Delegado called Philippines “Pearl of the Orient Seas” in 1751. On 8th October I was in Philippines to attend the World Congress 2016. The theme of the Congress was “Synergy in Media: Empowering People in Facing Global Challenges.” The Congress was held at the Centre of Carmelite Missionaries in suburb of Tagaytay City about 3 hours drive from Manila, the capital city from October 9 to 12, 2016.

The Congress, as I remarked in my evaluation, was full of life with more than 200 young people – boys and girls – a good many of them university students journalism. These were also youth from St. Paul Seminary and from Foculary movement. There were half a dozen formal talks on the Congress theme and group discussions. Songs and dances made the Congress especially memorable for me. Philippines youth seemed to love dancing. They reproduced the dances of different Asian countries.

Talks on different aspects of the Congress theme were given by experts and scholars including a Salesian priest and a Jesuit priest. Perhaps the talk I liked most was given by a fellow Jesuit Fr. Nono Alfonso, Executive Director of Jesuit Communications, Inc. on Social Digital Media. He said that those who are born in the 1980s and after are digital natives and the rest of us are digital immigrant. It is the responsibility of the digital immigrants to learn the web ways and become digital citizens. “In social media everyone is a writer, editor, publisher and seller. About 86% Philippines are on social net working sites,” Fr. Alfonso said.

Fr. Alfonso said quoting Pope Francis that “Internet is a gift of God. As such internet media is neutral. It is neither good nor bad. But media can be used for good or bad. Hence it is important to observe ethics and morality in the mass media. In explaining ethical consideration in social media and its applications to social life Fr. Alfonso stressed four aspects of Privacy, Accuracy, Access and Propriety, that is, PAAP in short.

First, Privacy. In the social media we need to respect the privacy of people. What you put in the internet remains there forever. What is private may not be private in the internet.

Second, Accuracy. It is important that what we write and post in the net be accurate, reliable and truthful. Only with accuracy and truthfulness we are dependable and reliable in our social media interaction. We need to be aware of millions of fake accounts in the internet.

Third, Access. Today social media are accessible for one and all. It is important that vital informations are accessible to the public. But the fact is that often interested self-seeking parties do all they can and block the accessibility to the public.

Fourth, Propriety is important in social media as what is uploaded in the internet become public domain. We need to see that specially the images and videos which upload do not violate ethical and moral codes and principles.

“Spirituality and Media” was another very interesting talk by a Salesian priest Fr. Armand Roblea. He combined with his profound insight of the topic of spirituality and media practiced and lived in one’s work place, in childhood, adolences, midlife and later. He emphasized on the art of spirituality discernment.

Another talk which interested me was given by Mr. Michele Zanzucchi an Italian Journalist and Editor of “Citta Nuova” (New City) magazine. With one lakh circulation worldwide in 25 languages – with 37 editions speaking on Synergy in Media: Empowering People in Facing Global Challenges, the Gregorian University professor of journalism explained dialogical journalism as media for others. “Journalism goes with dialogue,” he said.

Referring to ‘Citta Nuova’ Mr. Zanzucchi said that the magazine is socially committed and engaged in building a more humane and united world. “Its articles have the perspective of universal fraternity and are translated to different languages,” the editor said.

As a resource person in the Congress I was called to speak about the Problems of Refugees in the World during the glittering ICOM Award Function interposed with music and dance. Beginning with refugees in the Old Testament of the Bible I said that Jesus’ family too was refugees as they had to flee to escape death warrant for children below 2 years of age at Bethlehem. But in our time the refugee problems have become acute and wide spread practically in that whole world. “As thinkers and writers we need to be not only well aware of the problem, but we also need to do all that we can to alleviate the sufferings of the refugees especially through highlighting their problems with love and solidarity for the suffering humanity.
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Last change : 01-12-2016
Next change on : 16-12-2016
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ 2016

Mass Media in Philippines

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Philippines in the plural because the country is formed by 7107 big and small, inhabited and unhabited islands. There are social and economic disparities; cultural and linguistic differences as well as civic and political problems in the country. Still Filipinos and Philinas identified as Filipinas are considered as the happiest people in the world.

During my week-long stay in Philippines I attended a three-day long World Media Congress (WMC) of the International Christian Organization of Media (ICOM) from Oct. 9 to 12, 2016. ICOM organized WMC in collaboration with New City Press, Manila, Philippines and Institute of Spirituality in Asia (ISA). My interest here is to try to know the situation of the mass media especially the print media in Philippines. The Philippines media people claim to have the freest mass media in the world. Of course, they have problems of untrained journalists not doing professional job.

philippines-20Then, the journalists in small towns and interior places face not only threads but even death in bringing to light the truth against the injustice and other human right violations by the wealthy and powerful law breakers.

According to a survey of 2011 there are 42 newspapers in Philippines in English, Tagalog and other languages. Of these only 15 news papers are produced as broadsheets and others as tabloids. A few newspapers are published in Tagalish a mixture of English and Tagalong. I have been reading two daily newspapers at Manila. Among them I have learnt that the Sun Star with 12 editions for as many cities is the biggest newspaper in Philippines. But the Philippines Daily Inquirer in English from Manila is considered the most important newspaper in the country.

But the tabloid size small newspapers in Tagalog and other local, regional languages are most popular with ordinary people; because they are cheap. Metro Manila alone has 19 tabloids. They are published in vernacular languages for the benefit of common people. A few of them are published in Tagalish, a combination of Tagalog and English. Many people in Philippines mix their mother tongue with English in daily conversational language. Both in broadsheet and tabloid newspapers give more than 50% of its coverage for news and articles of news analysis related to politics and governance. City news, regional news, sports and entertainment news follow in that order.

Philippines mass media is considered powerful as they play important role in shaping the public opinion. News casters and talk show hosts have been elected to high political offices as they have been powerful and influential persons in shaping public opinions. For instance, a popular newscaster Noli de Castro of ABS-CBN was elected Vice President of Philippines in 2004. Similarly a Filipino action star Joseph Ejercito Estrada was elected President in 2008.

Radio has been very popular in Philippines with about 85 percentage of household having a radio set. Radio is said to reach far and wide in all the populated islands of Philippines. All taxis and cars have also radio fitted.

Like in India and some other parts of the world journalism is considered dangerous profession as many journalists are targets for attacks and even face death. Journalists in small towns are more vulnerable as their true, probing and critical stories may sting politicians and powerful clans and they have no support groups and legal assistance as their counter parts in cities like Manila.

Contentwise, newspapers in Philippines cover a wide range of news and views and entertainment. But national and regional politics dominate the news and views. The readership seems to be on the decline. Fr. Sigmund Guzman in Jesuit Residence where I stayed in Metro Manila told me, “Fr. Varghese, I do not buy many city newspapers; because not many read all the newspapers.”

I visited the fabulous library of Xavier School with more than 5000 students. The large and spacious library displayed a good many newspapers in English, Tagalong and Tagalish. I was pleasantly surprised to see that fabulous library has books in Sanskrit and Hindi and also books on all Indian religions apart from Christianity.
Though the school is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. I saw that the library was open on week-end and there were good many students doing personal studies; and some engaged in group discussion or studies.
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Last change : 16-11-2016
Next change on : 01-12-2016
Copyright Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ 2016

Poems relevant for all Times

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Jayant Mahapatra is a well known Oriya poet both in English and Oriya. His poems have been published in periodicals in India and abroad. I was privileged to listen to him more than once speaking on poems and poets. I was also privileged to share platform with him and present a research paper during the Indian English Literary Festival in the Auditorium of Pondicherry University in February 2015.

In his address the eminent poet Mahapatra said, “Poems should always be faithful to life. First of all, a poet should be true to his/her inner voice. Among achieving many things a poem should touch human lives”.

I do not write poems and I do not claim to be a poet. But, like many poetry lovers I like to read and enjoy poems, when they are published in newspapers and magazines. Then, thanks to my poet friends, I often get their new poetry books. So I often read poems. But my talent in poetry is limited. So I tell my poet friends not to send me their poetry books for reviews and comments.

All the same here I have translated the poems of an Indian English poet Prof. Dr. K.V. Dominic. He has written four poetry books. I have selected some 52 poems and translated them into Gujarati. I have several reasons for translating Dr. Dominic’s poems.

First, I have enjoyed reading and rereading Dr. Dominic’s poems. His first collection of poems “Winged Reason” was published in 2010. Then “Write Son, Write “appeared in the following year. His third collection of poems entitled “Multicultural Symphony” came out in 2014. They all impressed me very much as I enjoyed them. I am deeply touched by Dr. Dominic’s poems as they express the values, ideas and visions, which I uphold. So I felt moved to translate and share them with Gujarati poetry lovers.

Second, as Jayant Mahapatra said, I heard the inner voice of poet Dominic through his poems. I see that they express very well my own ideas and understanding of human life and the whole creation. Then, some of his poems are rich with ancient cultural beliefs, stories and myths. They are capable of enlightening and forming people. Usually such poems interest everyone.

Third, nature and environment are my favorite subjects. I see that directly or indirectly many of Dr. Dominic’s poems deal with them. Like the poet Dominic I believe that all people need not only to be well acquainted with those topics but also need to protect and preserve and promote healthy environment. Dr. Dominic’s poems do inspire and encourage us in these directions.

Forth, poet Dr. Dominic views writing his poems as a service to humanity. The humanity today is oppressed by injustice, immorality, irreligious hostility and all types of evil. We need to be conscious of this dire situation and try to be out of it. In this Dr. Dominic’s poems serve us as a guiding beacon of input.

Fifth, like me Dr. Dominic does not believe in art for art’s sake. His poems reflect the life, society and culture. So many of his poems echoes human pain and suffering as well as lack of true freedom and the yearning for freedom and liberty.

Religious terrorism and communal conflict as well as wide spread corruption and evils, rape, etc like contagious sicknesses affect and paralyze human life and the society. The duty of the poet is to confront these forces and to indicate the road of justice and morality for all. Dr. Dominic is doing well in this direction. So as a fan of Dr. Dominic poems, I like to read and reread them time and again.

I feel a sense of fulfillment in translating Dr. Dominic’s poems. I am sure that poet Dominic’s poems through my translation will be widely read by poetry lovers and experience a sense of gain. Dr. Dominic’s poems are a sort of ‘tiffin’ for journey of life.
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