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Going Deep

January 16, 2016 at 8:21 pm

In the 6th century, St Benedict composed this simple but profound prayer that helps us deepen our relationship with Our Father. May we see what the Lord wants us to see and hear what She wants us to hear:

O gracious and holy Father,

Give us wisdom to perceive you,

Intelligence to understand you,

Diligence to seek you,

Patience to wait for you,

Eyes to behold you,

A heart to meditate on you,

And a life to proclaim you

Through the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Rubber Bands—Franciscan Pilgrimage Part III

January 16, 2016 at 8:07 pm

In life, one has experiences that open us up. Our senses are more alive and expansive.  We are more attuned.  We are in the moment grateful and appreciative.  We are awakened and aware as we savor the present and the Presence.  We experience oneness and union with God   We may even “See The Light.”    These experiences may come upon us suddenly as we contemplate the beauty and majesty of nature or they may occur more gradually as we take time apart from the busyness of our schedule for a pilgrimage or retreat.   

We may exclaim as my wife Kathleen did:   “Who knew!”   “Who knew this serenity was at our fingertips!”  The Kingdom of God is at hand or at our fingertips. 

To paraphrase the Cure d’Ars, it was a gift of God to sit quietly watching God as God watched us.  No thoughts.  Just peace.  Content to sit and sit and enjoy the reverie.  A sense of what Paul calls a ” peace passing all understanding.”  A soft light that transforms all and comes through all. 

I am not sure when and where God’s light embrace initially occurred.  Perhaps in the chapel of San Damiano or the place of Clare’s transitum.  But after a while, I came to count on such blessings  and look forward to them at all of Clare and Francis’ special places.  Most memorably they occurred at the caves where Francis slept, Clare and Francis’ tombs, Saints Paul and Bartholomew’s tombs and the chapel of the Cross of San Damiano in Clare’s Basilica.  These are places of awe.  Places that excite one’s spirit.  Holy Ground Why do experience this powerful presence now? Why is not available to all?  Or is it?  Why is not available to us at other times?  Or is it?  Or should it be? 

A special grace indeed. 

After  we returned home,  Kathleen yearned to continue this experience.  She said as she headed out the door, ” I will be back.  I want to go sit in a church.”  Similarly, in as much as we recently moved to a new home, I was thinking it would be great to dedicate some space in our place for meditation and prayer as our Hindu brothers and sisters do.  Kathleen reinforced this thought when she independently suggested that we turn one of our spare bedrooms into a chapel.  That is one way to continue to nurture and improve this conscious contact with God.  It is an attempt to overcome the inclination to return to the same old same old mindset as we are anesthetized by our comfortable cocoons of materialism, inactivity, or busyness which cause us to forget, ignore or suppress the challenge of Jesus and how Francis and Clare followed him.  

Our souls and consciousness were stretched to their limits.  But so often like a rubber band, after being stretched, they return back to their normal ordinary states.  Changed, but capable of more. 

Lord, You have given us much.  May we be faithful servants who do not disappoint but understand our duty and act upon it.  Thank you for your all embracing love.

 

 

Molten Lava Cake–Franciscan Pilgrimage II

January 10, 2016 at 9:19 pm

My Carmelite friends would describe the grace-filled experience of our pilgrimage as one of God’s lollypops.  Within the Carmelite spirituality, there are times when the embrace of our heart by God from within and without, from above and below, surrounds and fills us and overflows into our senses.  We experience serenity.   

I wonder in these unique moments if there is a special message for me:  ” Is it a confirmation?  If so, of what?”   Rather than just accepting the embrace of God’s love, I overanalyze and wonder if this experience validates what to do, think or practice. 

My Carmelite friends say such experiences are for immature souls who require that form of affirmation.  There is likely something to that.   John of the Cross and other mystics describe a purifying of their faith in a Dark Night of the Soul in which they experience God as Absence.  Such a dark night may be accompanied by events in life that are similar to earthquakes and test one’s faith and trust.  For example, we could experience loss of control and powerlessness as there is upheaval in our lives.  Loss of a job, inability to find work, or our prized identity may be tainted somehow. 

I am sure that my friends are right. I am immature, but this experience was more like a flourless chocolate cake with a hot molten center of oozing chocolate than a lollypop and I loved it.  I want to enjoy that treat as often as possible.  I look for ways to replicate the experience and assume that spiritual growth will accompany it.  I wonder if reading spiritual books, daily scripture, thoughts for the day or practicing intercessory prayer, yoga, meditation, attending Mass would help.  The list can go on and believe me I have tried a variety of formulas to hopefully cultivate spiritual growth.  Ultimately, however, I am afraid that perhaps I have crossed the line.   Perhaps I am trying to control God or becoming more akin to a spiritual junkie looking for a fix.  Am I becoming someone who just wants the experience?   Am I just plain selfish?  More interested in myself and feeling good than I am in loving my neighbor and understanding the requirements of discipleship? 

After experiencing God, Francis was propelled to the margins as he worked with the lepers.  Rather than looking for more “experiences” of God, I should be God’s love for others as I serve Him in others.  The principles of the 12 Step program emphasize that after one has awakened to the spiritual reality of a Higher Power and seek to do the will of that Higher Power each day, one must do service to continue to grow personally and spiritually and to stay free of addiction.  So the question then becomes as part of ever deepening search “What service am I to render?”  Or to paraphrase Francis:  as Francis did what his to do, may Christ teach us what is ours to do.  (Pilgrim’s Companion p. 414) 

May we see and hear what God wants us to see and hear so that we can faithfully and obediently respond  and thereby worship in spirit and truth. “Brothers and sisters, let us begin to serve the Lord for up till now, we have done very little. “  (Pilgrim’s Companion p.409)

 

 

Read My Lips….Franciscan Pilgrimage Part 1

January 9, 2016 at 7:27 pm

Fr Packiaraj SJ recommended that I go to Assisi.  He is the pastor of a Jesuit parish in South India.  It was 2013-14 and I was on the verge of retiring.  A new chapter in my life was approaching and I want to be a disciple of Jesus who is open to his guidance :”Speak Lord, your servant listens.”  Perhaps I should add “hopefully.”  Given my outsized ego that hopes to do great things for God, I should add ” Give me ears to hear or I may miss what I am called to do because it appears small and ordinary.”  While I make an effort to be attentive daily by listening for God’s voice in others and can often see God’s hand in the events of life, I agreed that a pilgrimage to Assisi could help the process of discernment. 

Like so many of our saints, Francis had a clear vision and an auditory experience of God’s direction.  While my faith or perhaps it would be better described as my unbelief would not provide the Lord such an opportunity to speak so distinctly, I still was filled with great anticipation as we went to visit San Damiano and later the Cross of San Damiano in the Clare’s Basilica.  It was while meditating and praying in front of this cross that Francis heard his call to “Rebuild My Church.”    Francis then literally started to restore and rebuild the San Damiano chapel.  He took the message literally.  Later he understood the message more fully.  Soon thousands of brothers joined him in the Umbrian Valley below Assisi.

Still I was highly skeptical  that Jesus, suspended in majesty on the cross of San Damiano,  would actually speak to me in the same way.  In other words, I would not see his lips move as he tells me to “Rebuild My Church” or “Minister to those in prison” or “Sit at the bedside of those who are dying” or “Write” or ” Be a confidant or ” Lighten Up! Don’t take yourself so seriously!” Or “ Enough already.  Get out of your lazy boy and get busy.  The laborers are few. “  

I agree that for most of us, finding our way in the Lord is a process rather than an experience such as Francis’ or getting knocked off a horse and blinded like Paul.  I believe that we have a lot of freedom.  We sit at a banquet with a variety of delicious choices in front of us.  All are blessed.  All are signs of God’s love and caring which is greater than we can even imagine.  The choice is ours.  Our hands will be in Her hands.   

Yet, I sit and wait for clarity and direction.  After all, I am as one friend said, a procrastinating perfectionist. I sit and wait for clear sense of what to do while realizing He would likely tell me to act on a desire that is already in my heart.  I should pay attention to my yearnings. 

After visiting San Damiano twice and the Cross of San Damiano at Clare’s Basilica twice, I asked my wife Kathleen:  “Did you see Jesus’ lips move?  Did Jesus talk to you as He did to Francis?”  Kathleen was a bit taken aback and an expression mixing concern and disbelief crossed her face as she answered “No!”  Then after pausing a moment, she asked  ” Did you?”  I smiled and said “Yes.  Jesus told me,   ‘Love Your Wife.'”

 

Indian Hospitality

June 3, 2015 at 3:14 pm

As our adventure draws to a close,  a great sadness wells up.  We will miss the wonderful warmth and affection of the Indian people that is truly a reflection of how we swim in God’s love at all times. 

We have often experienced this warmth in our hotel stays. The hotels in India are unsurpassed.   One of the most memorable events occurred at the Taj Lake Palace in Udaipur.  The hotel was formerly the summer palace for a maharajah.  It is situated in the middle of a lake in a serene setting.   A power boat  provides a ride for the patrons to a dock in front of the hotel.   A 6’5” doorman decked out in traditional garb and carrying a colorful and ornate umbrella that must span 4 feet greeted Kathleen as he would an arriving princess.  Kathleen walked with him up the dock and  across the front of the hotel to the main door.  Just before arriving at the threshold, Kathleen smiled in surprise as rose petals fell from above which was the traditional greeting for the maharajah’s wives. 

Work requires that I go to Delhi once a month for a week at a time and we always stay at the Trident hotel in Gurgaon.  When a guest arrives, you are stunned by the hotel’s beauty with its Moorish architecture, reflecting pools, and aesthetically beautiful lighting;  but it is only a prelude to the care and attention provided by its staff.  The stories are many. 

Another expatriate had told us about the wonderful experience she had going to a Sufi tomb on a Thursday evening to hear the lively singing.  I went to the front desk one Thursday to see about hiring a guide to take us there.  The expat had warned us that there is no way that we would find our way through the warren of narrow alleys to a tomb that is hundreds of years old.  One of the attendants at the front desk  told me that there was no such guide.  As I thanked him with some disappointment and realized that I would find a guide some other way, one of the other attendants, Prateek, happened to walk in and heard the tail end of the conversation.  He immediately said that he could arrange a guide.  Even though he is a Hindu, his family and the family of the Sufi caretaker of the tomb go back 3 or 4 generations.  He called the caretaker who agreed to meet us near the entrance to the old city.  Not only did the caretaker shepherd us to the tomb, but he also explained the history  of the area that stretched back to 1200 CE.  He gave us a front row seat for the singing; later, he brought us inside the tomb and then took us to his office for more conversation where people were lined up to seek his counsel and blessing. 

That was our introduction to Prateek.  After that, he frequently met us upon arrival to take us to our room.  If I ever needed something, he would make it happen or offer an alternative.  When Kathleen’s sisters visited, I waited too long to make reservations during the high season.  Even so, he managed to get us into the Trident in Cochin, Kerala, after I was told it was full.  He could not work the same magic at Trident Gurgaon, but offered to have us stay at his house.  I told him we had already booked rooms at the Oberoi New Delhi. 

I usually arrive on Monday and Kathleen generally comes on Wednesday evening.  We then will take a weekend trip to somewhere in India.  On this particular Monday, Akanksha was taking me to my room and asked when Kathleen was coming since she had a surprise for her.  I smiled and asked if it was chocolate since Kathleen is a chocaholic.  She said it was not, but she made a mental note of my comment.  On Wednesday, she presented Kathleen with a bouquet of roses much to Kathleen’s surprise and delight.    After dinner, Kathleen had a hankering for some chocolate and the folks at the Trident suggested we visit the Oberoi Gurgaon hotel which is attached to the Trident where we could buy some chocolate.  It was the most expensive chocolate we have ever bought.  The following evening, we were sitting in our room when there was a knock on the door.  It was Akanksha bearing 3 chocolate candies for Kathleen.   

Then there is the restaurant staff.  They treat us like we are members of their family.  One of the hostesses, Poonam,  introduced us to her secret boyfriend who worked elsewhere on the property. During our last visit to the hotel,  I teased her that she is Martin’s age and that we could take her back to the US and arrange a marriage.  She thought that was so funny and was delighted.   She went out and bought a Kurtha for me as a going away present so that I would always remember her whenever I see it.  

Another waitress who would always come over to say hello whether she was waiting on our table or not, rushed out of a different restaurant in the hotel one night to make sure she knew when our last day at the hotel was.  She said that she had a present for us and wanted to make sure that she had a chance to give it to us.   Her energy, enthusiasm, affection and happiness was better than any kind of gift she could give.  Later she gave us a gift of something that could only found in India.  It was a little matchbook size model of a tuck-tuck  or auto-rickshaw with a precious note of affection. 

I always carry a venti Starbucks mug with me along with my favorite green tea.   A year and one-half ago, one of the waiters bought a Starbucks thermos mug for me.  I brought it a few times to honor his gift and then reverted back to my glass mug.  On our final night, I saw one of the managers in the restaurant rush in the door and dart behind hostess desk while many of the staff gathered around him.  I had seen a Starbuck’s mug in his hand.  I suspected something was up.  The next day at our last meal,  he presented the cup to us which had been signed with notes by many of the kitchen staff as well as service staff. 

Prateek had asked the restaurant staff to call him when we arrived for our last dinner.  He then brought Kathleen a gift.  It was a CD of Sufi singing that is mother had given him that he wanted Kathleen to have.  He then asked to have his picture taken with us.   

To say the least, Kathleen and I were quite overcome by all the displays of affection and I felt a great sadness that I would never see many of these smiling warm faces again.  However, the most difficult goodbye was for the doorman, Mohit. 

Mohit is a very simple man with warm heart.  He is always so incredibly happy to see us.  He tells us how he has been waiting for us, been looking forward to our arrival  and we always  spend a few minutes catching up with him.  On our last day, he looked as if he had had a death in the family.  As I tried to say “goodbye” to him, words could not be found.   I could only touch my hand to my heart and place it on his heart.    As my eyes welled up, I quickly turned away.

 

 

Should We Care?

June 3, 2015 at 2:50 pm

As I consider writing about one aspect of the poverty in India, I am reminded of Mother Teresa’s challenge:  “ Do I know the poor?”   She spoke about how people love to talk about the poor when they really have no idea or experience of the poverty about which they speak so knowledgeably.  With that caveat, I proceed shamelessly.   

There is an unquestioning acceptance or inurement to the poverty in India.  It has always been this way.  People in some respects are accustomed or conditioned to living the way that they live.  In fact, after living in India for almost two years, Kathleen and I also share this insensitivity.   When folks first drop into India from the West, they are initially shocked.  After a time, we all adjust. For example, Kathleen and I noted how we had changed internally when we returned to a Sufi site recently which we had visited shortly after arriving. 

Kathleen and I went to a Sufi tomb early in our stay.  Our driver dropped us off on a busy street  in the dark of the early evening where we were to meet the caretaker of the tombHowever, he was not in plain sight and we headed down a very busy and brightly lit  alley surrounded by hawkers, people in Muslim garb,  and beggars.  We were sure that we were in the right area as we talked to the caretaker on our cell,  but were very happy eventually  to see him in the distance waving to us, the only Caucasians in the neighborhood.  He showed us where to buy scarves to cover our heads and we left our shoes with the same merchant for 20 rupees (33 cents) as we headed into a part of the city that is 800 years old through narrow passageways.   As we followed the walls snaking through the city,  we were stepping over and around crippled and deformed beggars for a quarter of a mile or more We were very uncomfortable.  We finally reached an open square wherein the Sufi saint is buried.  The square is an acre at most with the tomb of the saint in the middle.  It is sheltered by three walls and a ceiling.  There were hundreds of people present.  Many sitting.  Some touching the tomb.  Most listening to a quartet singing  ecstatic Sufi qawwalies which are very upbeat rhythmic songs.  We listened to the Sufi singing, spent some time with the caretaker who is Sufi scholar in his office lined with supplicants seeking prayers or advice, and then left.  As we waited for our driver on the busy thoroughfare, 2 or 3 insistent beggars kept hanging on us asking for spare change.   

On our most recent and last visit to Delhi, we decided to return to the tomb.  We did leave our wallets at the hotel since pickpockets are commonplace in India, but this time we felt no need to have a guide even though the caretaker would have been happy to show us the way again.  We recognized where the entryway was.  Put on the scarves we had retained; left our shoes with the same merchant as two years ago and headed into the narrow passageways.  The ubiquitous beggars did not bother us.  We enjoyed the singing for 30-45 minutes and left.   We are more seasoned travelers in India and more at home moving among its rich and varied texture that includes insistent hawkers and sometimes mutilated beggars who may be teaching their children the same trade. 

It is a bit discomforting to realize that we are becoming inured to the poverty much like a native of India. In fact, having personally experienced how one becomes accustomed to poverty,  I am increasingly impressed by our Catholic Indian brothers and sisters who fight the good fight and recognize the opportunity to see the Face of Jesus.  The gospel comes alive.  The relationship of Jesus with the poor comes alive.  He slept in a shanty or barn.  His father was a common laborer like so many India.  The message of Jesus speaks directly in India in a way that is generally missed in the US.   

We may hear his message, but are not touched by it.   In the West, we do not often encounter the poor who are ever-present in India.  We live in our suburbs.  Enjoy our country clubs and golf clubs.  We move in a bubble. We are fortunate and blessed to live in a country that  is rich in natural resources and has done a great job of providing a safety net not present in a place such as India.  Yet, In the midst of our materialism, the connection of Jesus with the poor and his advocacy for them do not resonate.   

Whatever poverty exists in the US tends to be out of sight and out of mind.  In India it is “in your face.”  The message of Jesus that “whatsoever you do for the least of our brothers and sisters, you do unto Me,”    cannot allow us view the plight of others from a detached and passive perspective.  Hinduism on the other hand encourages passivity.  I am struck that the various expressions of spirituality in the East frequently describe how active Christians are.  Some have even characterized Christians as social workers.  I have been puzzled by this comment and found it a bit condescending.  I thought these observations were a bit dismissive of our contemplative and mystical traditions.  Today I realize they contain a great compliment.  Perhaps without recognizing, the eastern teachers are acknowledging  that active Christians are living the message of Jesus.  Eastern passivity, on the other hand, is truly an issue from a Christian standpoint. 

For example, Kathleen and I recently went to retreat center an hour outside of Bangalore called Shreya’s.    Perhaps it is better described as a resort since it had a pool, unbelievably delicious vegetarian meals, air-conditioned bungalows, a beautiful yoga pavilion and an organic farm.  We went for a 7 day program that included 5 days of silence, 2.5 hours of yoga a day and a similar amount of guided meditation.  The yoga and meditation helps focus our minds and enables us to concentrate in the moment.   It manages the rambling thoughts that often accompany prayer while opening one to a greater awareness of God’s Abundance and Life that surrounds us.  After one of these meditations, the meditation guide made a comment that “people get what they deserve”. 

I immediately recognized what many in the East believe is an inviolable law of the universe that they call Karma.  Kathleen quickly interrupted and said “You are opening a can of worms.”  My voice changed and quavered; I could feel the words coming from deep within me: “There is no way that I have earned or deserve the incredible and unbelievable blessings that I have received.”  Kathleen added:  “That  kind of thought would say that the poor people living in shanties in the insufferable heat or pouring rain and in midst of rats or  stray dogs that bark all night are just fine.”  The guide was undaunted as he said that the poor have a lower consciousness and are happier there than they would be elsewhere.  He mentioned how some housing had been built for the poor who then rented it out and returned to the shanties.  This strikes me more as entrepreneurial and a reflection of their conditioning rather than indicative of a state of consciousness. 

The Catholic Christian perspective embodied in our gospel of social justice offers a wholly different view.  In the poor we see the Face of Jesus.  In our love and kindness to the poor, we are the Face of Jesus.  The voice of Jesus like that of the prophets of the Hebrew Scriptures is all the more critical these days as thousands died in the heat of India this past week.   Let us pray for our suffering brothers and sisters in India with The Indian Jesuit Rex Pai: 

God of life and love, we look at the wonderful world you made and find it ravaged and devastated;We look at our fellow human beings, the crown of your creation and see them distorted and mutilated beyond recognition.

With broken and indignant hearts we cry out:

‘This should not be!’

And we hear you telling us:

‘That is why I created you to change the ugliness into something beautiful.’

May the groans deep within us lead us to constructive action and to lives wholly spent that others may come to fullness of life.

By your grace and in your strength may our cries of pain and those of all people be transformed into cries of joy and victory.

 

Bob Dozes as Thomas Doubts

April 12, 2015 at 10:49 am

Which is worse a Doubting Thomas or a Dozing Bob? As I found myself nodding off during a good, but didactic homily, I wondered if I should just leave Mass. My upper torso was literally leaning into the aisle, I am sure, to the amusement of some. I decided to stay and I was glad I did.  I was pleased to be reminded of our weekend in Chennai where we visited both the tomb of the Apostle Thomas as well as the Mount where he was slain.   But it was during communion when my spirit was captured as the congregation of 250 filled our little church with inspiration by singing wholeheartedly:

As the deer pants for water,

So my soul longs after you

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship you

 

You alone are my strength and shield

To you alone may my Spirit yield

You alone are my heart’s desire

And I long to worship you

 

I want you more than gold or silver

Only you can satisfy

You alone are the real joy giver

And the apple of my eye

 

I will truly miss this little congregation that is so great in its devotion.

What’s Happening This Week

April 12, 2015 at 10:47 am

Our departure from India looms on the horizon.  When I first arrived, I shared some of the wild, weird, bizarre, cultural and political snippets from the local papers.  As we come full circle, here is what is going on this past week as recorded in the Times of India.  Much of what is below are excerpts while I include my observations parenthetically.

Air India grounds two pilots for cockpit fight

Goa gov’t minister defends wife’s western culture-rape link……(he) endorses his wife’s public statement that western culture’s influence has increased rapes in India…and her call to Hindus not to send their children to convent schools.  “What’s wrong with my wife’s statement?  If Hindu dharma has to survive then someone has to take responsibility and create awareness….”   ( Seriously?)

Rave party at resort raided…..Most of the arrested are business men.  Police conducting raid found several scantily clad girls dancing in the party.  82 people including 16 women were arrested.  ( nothing in today’s papers about protests being held where couples kiss in public…and get arrested).

Will Maharashtra go meat-free?  Govt Tells High Court that Beef Ban Just the Beginning, May Stop Slaughter of Other Animals Too.   ( Mumbai/Bombay is in state of Maharastra.  Modi came out of a conservative group that is trying to impose Hindu practices on general public).

Bodies in trunks raise honour killing spectre.   (Likely a  young couple that married out of love across castes that may have been murdered by order of village elders).

Church attack figures under Sonya Gandhi match those under Modi….Even as Narendra Modi government faces criticism for the attacks on churches and Christian institutions……

Enraged ex-royal runs SUV over man….he has been infamous for his behavior.  He was accused of keeping two minors – a girl and boy—as slaves

Will address your woes  Modi assures Muslims…..Modi has promised to address grievances of all sections of the Muslim society with special focus on ameliorating their social conditions and meeting educational requirements

Lots of articles on the environment:

  • Choking India gets air quality index   ( result of Obama visit…India’s pollution much worse than China).
  • Turn off street lights on full moon nights….Calling for lifestyle changes to counter climate change,  Modi referred to tradition in villages where grandmothers would teach grandchildren how to thread a needle on full moon nights.   He admits westerners will ridicule.
  • Cooking fires poison air we breathe says gov’t study….780,000,000 Indians cook on open fires using traditional chulhas  from which fumes trigger up to 30% of fine-particulate ambient pollution and are a major source of black carbon.  One million people die prematurely in India each year because of the simple act of cooking.
  • Picture with caption that describes photo of burning dry leaves, plastic and other forms of waste.
  • Ahead of Paris talks, Modi demands access to N-fuels….”the world gives lecture on climate but if we tell them that we want to go on the nuclear energy path …and ask them to provide necessary  fuel but they refuse…”
  • Modi also “ laments India’s culture of respecting nature has not been sufficiently projected on the global arena.”   ( Hard for me to swallow…given garbage everywhere, burning garbage, visible black or white exhaust fumes from trucks and autorickshaws, not to mention that cow dung is used for fuel and cooking by hundreds of millions.  Since cows are gods, people do not believe that burning dung could possibly be harmful.   Also, one of the states is harvesting the lumber of endangered trees that are supposedly protected.   I see no respect for nature.  He went on talk about how Indians worship nature as a God).

30 farmers dead in 4 days as rain, hail hit north India….Farm distress has peaked as crops are hit by unseasonal showers.    (  Farmers borrow to plant.  This is harvest time and when a crop is wiped out, they cannot pay back loans.  The loans are not from banks but from wealthy individuals and families who charge interest rates of 25 percent.   Already at subsistence level,  they feel no recourse but to commit suicide.  Very commonplace).

And lastly…

Protesters halt traffic after road rage murder….a car brushed a motorcycle and the five occupants of the car bludgeoned to death the 38 year old driver of the motorcycle in front of his 11 and 13 year old sons.

Violence uncalled for…Delhi has poor record when it comes to spur of the moment violence and road rage.   (8 examples given that have occurred over the past 8 months along these lines) :  A biker was brutally beaten up by a man and woman outside a temple after his bike touched their car.  (  Driving is unbelievably chaotic and it is not unusual to have little bumps occur…I frequently see folks outside of their vehicles screaming at each other.  Fortunately, there are no guns here….).

I do not read the papers as much as I did in the past.

Easter Is A Verb

April 5, 2015 at 6:36 am

Happy Resurrection Day.  I recently read in an Indian newspaper that the word Easter was the name of a pagan festival  that was baptized by the early Christians and turned into a Christian celebration.   The author may be waging a one-person campaign to change this day’s name to Resurrection Day.

Kathleen and I went to Mass this morning and discovered that the congregation was only a quarter to  a third of its normal size.  Most Indians go to the Easter vigil Mass on Saturday evening.  In line with India’s culture of functioning chaos,  there were no scheduled lectors, Eucharistic ministers, or ushers.  Soon after I was seated, a gentleman asked me if I would be willing to the read the first reading and responsorial psalm.  It was a blessing to read and to look out at my Indian brothers and sisters as they listened carefully to Peter’s proclamation in the Acts of the Apostles that  “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and power.”

Fr Packiaraj began his homily with this phrase and described Jesus as the finger of God.  He then also emphasized how we too are anointed.  Christ is alive in us and in our world.  He quoted a verse from  a fellow Jesuit who wrote poetry in the late 19th century, Gerard Manley Hopkins :  “Let him easter in us , be a dayspring to the dimness of us, be a crimson-cresseted east…”   As yeast leavens dough,  may Jesus eastering within us cause us to be transformed so that we may be the loving and forgiving presence of God for others.

Easter Blessings

Still Alive and Kickin’

March 22, 2015 at 10:26 am

A friend recently wondered if I was still in the land of the living.    My last post was about the epidemic of Swine Flu in India.  Tens of Thousands have been diagnosed and almost 2000 have died.  We have been healthy other than monthly bouts with the common cold.  I have not written much lately.    The longer one stays in one place, the unusual becomes usual.  One is not as attuned to the culturally different as in the past.  Although I must say that we recently watched the new owners of a condo across the road from us bless their home.  Hindu’s invite a cow into their house to bless it.  They know that the cow god has blessed them when he urinates or defecates.  If the cow does not bless the house, then there are 3 days of religious ceremonies as an alternative blessing.   The ceremonies start early around 600 am and go past midnight.  Drums are beat.  Clarinets are played and a large fire pit is built outside the home.  A variety of items are thrown into the fire as the musicians play.   I was recently back in Columbus and shared this story with some friends who were at our house in Columbus while Kathleen was visiting family in North Dakota.  One of them said to tell Kathleen that he “ had blessed our house.”

Apart from stories about India, I have not taken the time to share my spiritual introspections.  Perhaps the lack of writing in this respect  is a sign of being in a place of some equanimity.  It is also a bit challenging to unselfconsciously share.  Being verbal about one’s inner life risks cultivating a persona that is exaggerated, delusional  or prone to spiritual gobbledygook and pontification.

All that said, I have decided to share my last 3 letters to my family with my broader family.  Take what you like and leave the rest…