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Blessed Teresa’s Meditations for People of All Faiths

January 26, 2014 at 10:43 am

Past couple of days after mom and I do yoga,  I come back and do the Jesuit Examen:

Review the  prior day and what made me sad, glad, mad. How do I find God and understand myself in relationship to God by feeling those emotions?

Spend a few minutes heightening awareness of how I am in the moment and being grateful.

I conclude with a couple of readings.  One from the Courage to Change and some Mother Theresa quotes from Everything starts with Prayer.  I think the Bikram yoga helps me be clear headed and alert for this exercise and helps the readings resonate more.  Mother Theresa’s quotes are so rich that you can read them every day and get more out of the same ones.  Today I was touched by the following:

1)In most modern rooms you see an electrical light that can be turned on by a switch.  But, if there is no connection with the main power house, then there can be no light.  Faith and prayer is the connection with God, and when that is there, there is service.

Since I have also been working through the 12 steps, this quote connected for me with respect to the 4th step where a searching  and fearless moral inventory is made of one’s self.  We need to flip the switch of prayer that God’s light may illuminate the darkness in our interior of those places we are afraid to go.    What are we afraid to bring to the light of God’s mercy?

2)  You may be exhausted with work, you may even kill yourself, but unless your work is interwoven with love, it is useless.  To work without love is slavery.

How often I am too busy or rushed to pay attention to people and what they are saying.  I will  not hear God if I am not listening.  Need to slow done.  Do less.  Not be so busy.  Love and reverence those with whom I work.

3)  People throughout the world may look different or have a different religion, education or position, but they are all the same.  They are people to be loved.  They are all hungry for love.

4) Everything starts from prayer.  Without asking God for love, we cannot possess love and still less are we able to give it to others.  Just as people today are speaking so much about the poor but they do not know the poor, we too cannot talk so much about prayer and yet not know how to pray.

Not sure I ever asked God for love.  I did today.  I ask God to make me aware of how God surrounds us in love and comes to us in love through so many people, events of our day.  Cannot give love if we do not have love.  Love the sentence about people talking about the poor without knowing the poor.  Aren’t we all experts on the subject?!  I certainly do not know the poor. Yet her point is tied to prayer.  We must learn to pray.

5) We have to possess before we can give.  He who has the mission of giving to others must grow first in the knowledge  of God.  She must be full of that knowledge.

6)Love to be true has to begin with God in prayer. If we pray we will be able to love and if we love, we will be able to serve.

7)Whatever religion we are, we must pray together.  Children need to learn to pray and they need to have their parents pray with them.

I regret not praying with you all more.

Home Sweet Home

January 12, 2014 at 2:23 pm

Kathleen and I and our two boys recently toured a few cities in India.  In addition to Hyderabad, we toured Goa, Delhi and Calcutta.  The highlight of the trip was unexpectedly in Calcutta.  I was not sure that we would be able to visit the foundation of Mother Theresa’s work.  I was afraid that “tourists” would get in the way of the work of the sisters.  As it turned out,  the Missionaries of Charity have opened up their home to embrace the curious and the faithful.   We walked a half block down a narrow alley to find the entrance to her home.  After passing through a large vestibule, you are in a sheltered courtyard  that is surrounded by  balconies.  The courtyard is surrounded by modest 2 or 3 story buildings that have housed 200 sisters.  Sisters undergo formation here before they go out to carry out the mission of the order.   This courtyard is where the sisters would gather while Mother Theresa would speak from the balcony to them.

To the right is a room that has Blessed Theresa’s tomb.  It is an elevated structure.  To its right as you enter are two or three rows of benches upon which 4-6 sisters sit calmly and serenely in contemplation.  To the tombs left is a large kneeler.  As I sat on one of the benches, I watched as sisters would enter, kneel down and lay their heads affectionately  on Theresa’s tomb for a few minutes.  It is a beautiful room suffused with a gentle light.  On her tomb, at each corner are vases with beautiful flowers.  In between the flowers is Mary.  She has one hand extended down in blessing that happens to be pointing to Theresa in the tomb. I think that she is pointing to Theresa for our benefit.  “Look at her and her life.  She heard and understood me when I said ‘Do whatever He tells you to do.’ “

Theresa never wanted any attention.  She asked that all her letters to her various spiritual counselors and bishops be burned since she feared that people “…will think more of me—less of Jesus.”  Of course, Theresa like Mary is always pointing or holding out Jesus to us.   Just like all statues of Mary, the one on Theresa’s tomb has Mary holding Jesus.  Jesus is a little child of two or three years of age.  Excitement is all over his face.  He looks like a child excited and happy to see his favorite aunt or uncle, friend or adult playmate as his arms are outstretched toward us.  He is on the edge of falling out of Mary’s arms with the trust and expectation that we will catch him.   I was reminded of this statue when I later read from one of her letters:   “Every Sunday I visit the poor in Calcutta’s slums…Last time about twenty little ones were eagerly expecting their “Ma.”  When they saw me, they ran to meet me, even skipping on one foot.”  She was visiting a “para” where twelve families live in a group of houses.  Every family has one room with a ceiling so low that you cannot stand upright. “It was very painful for me, but at the same time I was very happy when I saw that they are happy because I visit them.  Finally, the mother said to me: ‘Oh, Ma, come again!   Your smile brought sun into this house!’”

Sitting in this little chapel with her sisters was so easy.  It felt like home.

Yet it was deeply emotional.  While serenity, calm and peace dominated, I felt almost a grief-like emotion as well.  God touches deeply here.

I am not sure if Theresa would appreciate this comment since it will be about her, but it felt like this sweet, smiling, loving lady  was there for us.

Of course as Catholics, we believe in the communion of saints and that we are surrounded by them as we worship our God in spirit and truth.

Later again, I read:  “ If I ever become a Saint—I will surely be one of ‘darkness.’  I will continually be absent from heaven—to light the light of those in darkness on earth.”   Much like her personal patron saint, St. Therese of Lisieux, the Little Flower, who said that she would spend her time in heaven doing good on earth.

The four of us had our darkness lightened by Blessed Theresa that day as our spirits and restless hearts found some rest and our home in God.

 

( There are 4 posts about Kolkata.  One of them is redundant and reflects ineptness with posting)

 

Home Sweet Home

January 12, 2014 at 1:20 pm

In the same room as the tomb of Blessed Mother Theresa, there is an altar at which the Eucharist is celebrated each day at 6 am.    The words “ I thirst” are prominently displayed.

Out in the courtyard, two sisters asked Patrick and Martin to help them carry some books for them to a car.  They smiled later as Kathleen told me.

In the courtyard, one could hear sisters praying the Rosary .

There is another room off the courtyard that is dedicated to her life.  It shows pictures and letters that she wrote.  The letters are in English which she learned as a nun.  There was also a bulletin board that had many of her quotes and next to those were 20-30 quotes of Pope Francis.

There is also a  staircase of ten or fewer steps that leads up from the courtyard to the room in which Blessed Theresa slept and worked.  It is a cell.  It has room for her narrow bed.  On the wall to the right of her bed is a crown of thorns.  The sisters who surrounded her at her death said that she looked at the crown as she was born into life after life.  She deeply identified with the passion of Christ.

She shared a sense of the Lord’s pain, suffering and abandonment on the cross.  Indeed, doesn’t  the cross capture the finitude of our human existence and limitations of the human condition?    Don’t we all share in Jesus’ fear, panic or  Agony in the Garden when we face death and have to accept life and death on terms that we cannot control?    I know that it scares the hell out of me.

Therese of Lisieux talks of the path of living an ordinary, humble, hidden life for God.   This path was the path that Mother desired.  She wanted to keep hidden her trial of identifying with and knowing Jesus’ sense of abandonment and suffering on the cross. A dark night of the soul.   She came to embrace it like St Paul:  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.”    As she wrote to her sisters:  “ My dear children—without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption—Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death…and has carried it in the darkest night, Only by being one with us…”  The paschal mystery is hard to grasp and understand  and evidently much more challenging to live.

Outside of her room, there was a picture of her on the day that she died.  She was flanked on either side by a young couple who had requested to have their picture taken with her.  Later that day, she complained of difficulty breathing.  A doctor and priest were called.    Then the power failed.  We experience power outages all the time.  As Patrick and Martin were packing to go home the power failed 3 times. Fortunately the backup for our complex kicked in and they had light by which to pack.  However I counseled them to avoid the elevator lest they miss their plane.   For Theresa, the backup lines also failed which had never occurred before.  The breathing machine could not be started  and she was born into eternal life.   Yet she continues to minister to us.  On her tomb in the ubiquitous yellow and orange marigolds of her adopted country India was spelled   “Love until it hurts”. As one of  my friends, who may wish to remain hidden, prays each morning,  “ May we love as she loved.”

 

Loving like Mother Theresa

January 12, 2014 at 1:18 pm

In the same room as the tomb of Blessed Mother Theresa, there is an altar at which the Eucharist is celebrated each day at 6 am.    The words “ I thirst” are prominently displayed.

Out in the courtyard, two sisters asked Patrick and Martin to help them carry some books for them to a car.  They smiled later as Kathleen told me.

In the courtyard, one could hear sisters praying the Rosary .

There is another room off the courtyard that is dedicated to her life.  It shows pictures and letters that she wrote.  The letters are in English which she learned as a nun.  There was also a bulletin board that had many of her quotes and next to those were 20-30 quotes of Pope Francis.

There is also a  staircase of ten or fewer steps that leads up from the courtyard to the room in which Blessed Theresa slept and worked.  It is a cell.  It has room for her narrow bed.  On the wall to the right of her bed is a crown of thorns.  The sisters who surrounded her at her death said that she looked at the crown as she was born into life after life.  She deeply identified with the passion of Christ.

She shared a sense of the Lord’s pain, suffering and abandonment on the cross.  Indeed, doesn’t  the cross capture the finitude of our human existence and limitations of the human condition?    Don’t we all share in Jesus’ fear, panic or  Agony in the Garden when we face death and have to accept life and death on terms that we cannot control?    I know that it scares the hell out of me.

Therese of Lisieux talks of the path of living an ordinary, humble, hidden life for God.   This path was the path that Mother desired.  She wanted to keep hidden her trial of identifying with and knowing Jesus’ sense of abandonment and suffering on the cross. A dark night of the soul.   She came to embrace it like St Paul:  “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.”    As she wrote to her sisters:  “ My dear children—without our suffering, our work would just be social work, very good and helpful, but it would not be the work of Jesus Christ, not part of the redemption—Jesus wanted to help us by sharing our life, our loneliness, our agony and death…and has carried it in the darkest night, Only by being one with us…”  The paschal mystery is hard to grasp and understand  and evidently much more challenging to live.

Outside of her room, there was a picture of her on the day that she died.  She was flanked on either side by a young couple who had requested to have their picture taken with her.  Later that day, she complained of difficulty breathing.  A doctor and priest were called.    Then the power failed.  We experience power outages all the time.  As Patrick and Martin were packing to go home the power failed 3 times. Fortunately the backup for our complex kicked in and they had light by which to pack.  However I counseled them to avoid the elevator lest they miss their plane.   For Theresa, the backup lines also failed which had never occurred before.  The breathing machine could not be started  and she was born into eternal life.   Yet she continues to minister to us.  On her tomb in the ubiquitous yellow and orange marigolds of her adopted country, India.  They spelled   “Love until it hurts.”  As one of  my friends, who may wish to remain hidden, prays each morning,  “ May we love as she loved.”

 

Beheading Goats and more Kolkata

January 12, 2014 at 12:57 pm

Calcutta (Kolkata) is a bit of an assault on the senses.  As soon as you walk out of the hotel, you are in a crowded marketplace with vendors yelling loudly.  Shoppers are dawdling which makes it difficult to get wherever you want to go.   I walked with my hand in my pocket and a firm grip on my wallet and rupees.    We rode in a taxicab that had a hole in its floor and a front seat that was unhinged and slid back and forth.  There are a lot of people who are far from making ends meet.  Poor poor beggars who do not have the energy to get aggressive.  Old old  feeble men or women sitting with a little beggars bowl in front of them waiting for someone to drop some coins into them.  They look vacantly.  These are the poorest of the poor Mother Theresa sought to serve.

This city was the capital from which  the British ruled  for 300 years of their 350 year Raj.  They left their mark more through the infrastructure than architecture.  Broad streets.  Beautiful Parks.  Railways.

The British are not recalled fondly here.  Instead we heard how 2 or 3 million people starved during WWII as the British diverted food to its military operations in SE Asia.

The city has been overwhelmed at times by refugees from West Pakistan in the late 40’s and then Bangladesh in the 70’s.  The state and local government has been governed by Marxists for 30 years up until a few years ago.  Some of course blame them for Calcutta not keeping pace with other cities in India.  They did hold a political rally which effectively shut down the central city one of the afternoons that we were there.  Apparently such rallies are commonplace.  Kathleen and Patrick became frustrated sightseers as they sat in traffic not moving for 2 or 3 hours.   It was a bit surreal to see all the red hammer and sickle flags of the Communist Party.  On a similar note, there are also Maoist guerrillas in some states in India.  Recently one of the Maoist leaders to turned himself into the authorities for the political assassinations that he planned.  The local papers think that may be indication of the decline of that movement.

One can see how the city has been overwhelmed by the refugees and general migration of the poor when you go to Kalighat.  Kalighat is a location about an hour from Mother Theresa’s residence where her hospice is located.   Kali is a prominent goddess among the thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Hindu gods.  The city of Calcutta is named after her.

Mother Theresa’s hospice is directly next door to one of the holiest Hindu temples that is devoted to Kali.  The hospice is a former Dharamsala or resting place for pilgrims that was given to Mother by a Hindu.  Patrick, Kathleen and I stepped inside the front door.  We were immediately in a room of 45 cots.  Each  had a man sleeping covered in a colorful blanket.  There was not an empty cot.   A couple of the guys seemed more homeless than dying.  One of them kept playing peek a boo with folks walking past and saying good bye to smiling volunteers or sisters who walked past us to go out the front door. There was sign immediately in front of us that indicated that there were 45 men and 45 women residents and 1 person had died up to that point this day.  Martin elected to stay outside.  He was a bit concerned about two homeless perhaps dead people lying still under blankets.

We then went next door to a Hindu temple dedicated to Kali.   It was jamming.  January is a popular month for the wife of Shiva. She is an angry goddess and we could see the long stains of blood where beheaded goats had been dragged across the cobblestones to the butchers’ quarters.   Patrick and Martin watched a goat get beheaded while Kathleen and I stood some distance apart transported back in time 3000 years.

Later upon returning to Hyderabad, it was so apparent how our home city is doing so much better.  People are dressed well.  There is much less poverty.  It feels positively suburban!  Sort of.  Kathleen commented that if I were based in Calcutta, she would have left for the US after 2 days.

 

Dubai’s Adolescent Swagger: Hope for the Future?

January 5, 2014 at 4:20 pm

As a kid when I walked through the cavernous train stations in Chicago, my dad would tell me that the railroads wanted to display their wealth and economic power by means of the tremendous vaulted ceilings of the  lobbies where we would by a ticket, wait for a train, or simply pass through on our way to a platform.   Similarly the emerging economies of places like China and the UAE have claimed their place on the global stage through the magnificence of their airports.  From the first time I transferred at the Dubai airport on my way to India, the 5-10 story waterfall grabbed my attention.  The airport has the feel of a luxury hotel that is spacious and does not care about wasting space that could be generating revenue by collecting room rents.  As a result, I thought Dubai could be an interesting place to visit. Kathleen, Patrick, Martin and I just spent a few days in Dubai and found it to be a world class city  with the same population of Columbus.  It feels like a Western city.  We went to Wendys and Starbucks and almost stopped at a Coldstone Creamery.  Dubai possesses  an unbelievable collection of real estate that includes:

the world’s tallest building which looks like the Sears Towers on a diet,

the world’s largest mall  which hosts 6 million visitors a month and has a huge indoor aquarium yet feels smaller than the Mall of America,

70 other malls one of which contains a ski slope,

the largest  collection of tallest buildings in the world which I am not sure have sufficient occupancy to pay the financing but innovatively apply the symmetry and aesthetic beauty of Islamic architecture,

a human-made island that is in the form of a palm tree and contains an Atlantis property,

another human-made island that was supposed to mirror the world’s global map.  The earth and sand was dredged for the island, but nothing was developed vertically because of the financial crisis of 2008.

Dubai appears to have recovered from the financial crash.  There are cranes everywhere.  It was also  just announced on November 27 that their last minute entry to host Expo 2020 was approved.   They celebrated New Year’s eve last night with the largest fireworks display to ever occur.  It will be listed in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Dubai leveraged its oil wealth into an economy that may be based on tourism, financial services, and retail in the future.  Oil was discovered in the 60’s and it is projected that it may run out in another 20 years.   This town was literally a historic backwater trading post.  It was a town of 50,000 on a creek that flows into the Persian Gulf as recently as 1960.   Iran is a stone’s throw across the Gulf.   It has now become the shopping capital of the Middle East and has been recognized as the best place to live in the Middle East.  It is a popular tourist destination.  The newspaper indicated that it hotels have almost 90 % occupancy with the bulk of the tourists coming from India, the UK and Germany. The weather is beautiful now.  Reminds me of Florida with no humidity, Arizona, or SoCal.

The real estate development has been led by a company called Emaar.  Its chairperson is a senior advisor to the Prime Minister of UAE.  This company also developed Boulder Hills where I play golf in Hyderabad.  The course is great, but the promised 5 star hotel and residential community have not been completed.  There are 5 unfinished residential towers for which  some of my golf mates have lost their deposits.  The whole project is tied up in the court system.  Apparently some of the local government officials undervalued the land, received plots of land and in general have abused the public trust.  But I digress…

We never met anyone in Dubai from Dubai.  Apparently the citizens of Dubai receive a lump sum payment from the government when they marry and a monthly pension thereafter.  What will happen when the oil money runs out?  Reminds me of Caesar’s quote about the key to retaining power is to keep the people happy by providing bread and circuses.

The work force is primarily from South Asia and comes from Pakistan, India, the Philippines.  All but one of our cabbies was from Pakistan. They were all extremely friendly.   Given the challenges that we have as a country with Pakistan,  I would never have anticipated their warmth. One of them talked about what an artificial environment Dubai is and how he misses the natural environment of Pakistan.

While it may seem like a  very different topic, we did visit a mosque in Dubai which also was consistent with the Western feel of Dubai.  The mosque had a basic program pitched directly to Western tourists.   The experience did challenge a few of my perceptions or stereotypes.   The 2 female presenters discussed the culture of Islam in a way that would be accessible to Westerners with repeated emphasis that the followers of Islam are peaceful despite what is happening on the world stage.   After questions, one of the presenters  addressed one of the elephants in the room.  She  flat out stated that the suicide bombers and other violent so called representatives of Islam will go to hell.    They are a perversion of Islam.   She may be right, but  I question whether a loving and merciful God will condemn misguided people who are acting out of ignorance when they believe that they are serving the Almighty.

Yet, would not we all like to hear Islamic leaders condemn publically the fundamentalists?  Is there a lack of condemnation because it is a religion of individuals with no sense of boundaries, authority or recognized leadership?    The female presenter did state in response to a question from a Catholic who wondered if a unified structure of the expression of their faith existed.  She responded that they do not believe in a hierarchy.  All Muslims are all equal before God and live individually before God.  Reminds me of Christianity in the US where Protestantism has fractured into innumerable denominations  or “non-denominations” based on any charismatic leader’s  reading of the New Testament.

It is encouraging to see a Middle Eastern city such as Dubai seek to integrate capitalism or Western influences  within their faith tradition or culture.  Hopefully, it is sustainable and provides a hopeful path into the future.

Dorothy Day had Something to Say

December 8, 2013 at 10:06 am

Be Here Now

 

I just finished reading  a  prize winning book by Arundhati Roy,  The God of Small Things,  which describes life in a small village of India including the lawful and ordered discrimination of the caste system.  The book captures the overpowering force of history, the ways we shape our society  and the impact on our individual lives.  The author also describes aspects of India that resonate for me in the short time that I have been here.  While the chaos and tumult of the great numbers of people is energizing , it is also daunting.

 

There is a great deal of pollution that we generate.  We watch scavengers  pick through the garbage bins for recyclables next to wild, but affable dogs, and  the occasional cow or oxen who are finding sustenance in our trash.  Municipal workers do not try to haul away all of  the overflowing garbage or the small hills of garbage.  Instead they light small fires generating a unique odor.  The city is cloaked in a  haze that is a mix of this smoke and the often visible diesel fumes of the auto-rickshaws.  According to a recent study, the pollution of the vehicles is likely responsible for the high rates of lung cancer found here.

 

After a while, you can become a bit inured to the poverty. You begin to accept the piles of garbage, the littered and dusty streets that we walk in or drive past.  Seems a bit silly or impossible  to address.  I am  reminded of the story told by John Dunne CSC who described an older man  walking into the middle of a small village in India and asking yelling proclaiming  “Does anybody care?”

 

Or as Arundhati Roy writes:

 

“…Like the country that Rahel came from, various kinds of despair competed for primacy.  And that personal despair could never be desperate enough.  That something happened when personal turmoil dropped by at the wayside shrine of the vast, violent, circling, driving, ridiculous, insane, unfeasible, public turmoil of a nation.  That Big God…”

 

She goes on describing one of the untouchables as a Small god…

 

“That Big God howled like a hot wind, and demanded obeisance.  The Small god (cozy and contained, private and limited) came away cauterized, laughing numbly at his own temerity.  Inured by the confirmation of his own inconsequence, he became resilient and truly indifferent.  Nothing mattered much.  Nothing mattered much. And the less it mattered,  the less it mattered. It was never important enough….So small God laughed a hollow laugh, and skipped away cheerfully….the source of his brittle elation was the relative smallness  of his misfortune.”

 

In the midst of such grinding poverty and powerful economic and social forces,   it  is still possible to achieve some detachment and find beauty and God in everything:  “ They had nothing. No future.  So they stuck to the small things.  They laughed at clumsy caterpillars sliding off the ends of leaves, at overturned beetles that couldn’t right themselves…At the particularly devout praying mantis. At the minute spider who lived in a crack in the wall of the back verandah …and camouflaged himself by covering his body with bits of rubbish—a sliver of wasp wing.”

 

Living in the moment and experience the richness of life is always a goal.  Be Here Now.  In the Moment.  Very Hard to Do and  Is it enough?  Perhaps. Am I then ignoring a call to see God in others and their plight?

 

To say it  is chaotic and disorganized here is an understatement.  Would a stronger more centralized government help?   Barun Roy in an article in the Times of India said:  “When it comes to patch up jobs, nobody can beat Indians.  This is the only thing we excel in, having perfected it into an art, from repairing rain-damaged roads after every monsoon to pursuing economic policies that are always aimed at meeting temporary needs and dousing immediate fires, instead of taking a long view of where we want to go and how we intend to get there. “  He goes on to described how China has passed by India in so many respects.  Particularly in planning infrastructure and laying out new cities and towns.

 

No doubt better governance would be a start.  There are elections going on here and many Indians answer the elder’s question of “Does anybody care?”  by going out and voting.  A Maoist group promised to attack polling places and voters in one of the regions.  It did not matter.  Over 80 percent of the population of that region voted.   Turnouts of over 70 percent are commonplace.  The world’s largest democracy has a lesson for all other democracies in that regard.

 

At the end of the day,  I cannot escape my responsibility for my  brothers and sisters by suggesting that it all about the Indian government and its people.  Such a thought is a classic  escape route.   The question becomes “Am I doing What I should  do?”

 

One has to be careful to not give a quick and facile answer which is tempting.    As James Martin writes  “Ultimately we find our identity and vocation in God. Our desires come from God and lead to God.”    In turn, as we discern those desires, our hope is that we will find a quiet joy and make a difference as we become who God  has created us to be.

 

Similarly, Dorothy Day and The Catholic Worker movement focused on this power of micro-actions.  What we do as an individual matters.

 

 

 

 

Lost and Found: Where’s the US Middle Class?

November 17, 2013 at 12:14 pm

Deloitte Consulting has published studies outlining the bifurcation of the consumer in the US.     Retailers are focusing on the high end or the low end.   The middle class is disappearing.  Looks like it may have moved India.  In India, the middle class is being created.  Headlines  recently indicated that  British retailer Marks & Spencer is planning to double its store count to 80 making India its second largest market.  Pepsico is planning on investing 5.5 billion in India.     The international business community sees a lot of problems in investing in India including political corruption, poor infrastructure,  retrospective law changes, and general lack of transparency.  Even so, the middle class is growing.   In an interview in The Economic Times of India ( 12 Nov 2013),  Pepsico’s India-born CEO indicated that companies just have to deal with those issues in order to participate in what will be one of their strongest markets.

 

When I was here in early 2005, there were few cars on the road.  All our employees were driving motor scooters.  Now the roads are increasingly jammed with cars that the infrastructure cannot support.  Not only are young professionals buying cars,  but also electronics,  buying homes, furniture,  etc.  New restaurants and clubs are opening every day.  There are now a handful of  malls that remind me of the US.  The malls stand in stark contrast to the millions of open air storefronts that are shuttered at night by metallic  doors similar to garage doors.  This transformation reflects the huge investment US companies are making here.  Clearly, the discretionary income that we have created is a job multiplier.  What do I mean?

 

The Times of India indicated that a number of consultancies have increased their headcount in India.  Since 1997, IBM has grown its number of employees from 73,000 to 130,000 while the US count has decreased from 127,000 to 91,000.  1 in 3 of IBM’s global headcount is in India.  India also accounts for a third of Accenture’s headcount with 90,000 employees which is 2x its American number.  CapGemini has also grown its workforce here by 50% the past two and one-half years to 44,000.  CapGemini’s CEO  stated there is a surplus of talent here and salaries are stable.  “For the foreseeable future, India will be our key centre of delivery.  In fact, all our freshers from around the world come here for 6-8 weeks of training.”      India is viewed as a talent pool for engineers that has attracted much of this investment.  It does not help that in the US, engineering schools are a field of attrition.  I am sure that these  US academic programs redeploy a lot of our capable assets to other areas such as business.

 

At this point in my stay, I cannot really judge how accurate  this perception of an innovative and well trained pool of resources is in general.   I will say that I am very impressed by the individuals with whom I work and that  part of my mission is to enhance the critical thinking skills of our people.  During recent employee performance meetings, our managers had very  insightful assessments of their resources and displayed a clear eyed view of our business and its requirements.   On the other hand at  a gathering of expats that work at other companies, I have heard them express frustration that would challenge the perception of an innovative labor force stated above.    Arguably, this frustration may reflect that the workforce is just emerging and has not matured.  Isn’t to be expected that when you initially invest in a new country that the apprenticeship period may last longer?  It will certainly take some time to develop the leadership team.   I remember attending a meeting here in early 2005 when we just hired about 1600 people.  Unlike in the US, there was an absence of role models who had been in the business 6-30 years.  It makes a huge difference.

 

There is hope.  The Jesuits came here in the 16th century.  They have great leadership here that is all Indian and incarnates the Jesuit charism of active contemplatives.  I am sure that it did not take 400 years.     Of course, a religious group is composed of long term thinkers unlike the business community which is focused on short term results.

 

Does globalization create winners and losers?  Potentially.  However, the mega force of  change wrought by this revolution of technology that enables us to work across oceans also creates all kinds of opportunity for all of its participants.    It also knits us together.  The US and India are becoming great friends as Indians go to the US for education and often stay to work.  Also, many Indians are returning to India after spending 10-20 years in the US.  I have made 6 friends at the Boulder Hills golf club that all fit that description.   I am sure that the same can be said of China.  A wonderful fruit of our superior system of education.

 

None of that addresses the disappearing middle class, the working poor, or the underemployed.  The answer to that may be found in one of our leaders who addressed the problem of hunger:

 

“ It is a scandal that there is still hunger and malnutrition in the world.  It is not just a question of responding to immediate emergencies, but of addressing together, in all areas, a problem that challenges our personal and social conscience, to achieve a just and lasting solution….the fruits of a “throw away culture” often lead to sacrificing men and women to the idols of profit and consumption; a sad sign of the ‘globalization of indifference’ which makes us ‘accustomed’ slowly to the suffering of others, as if it were normal….”    Hasn’t that been happening?  And isn’t that indifference all too frequently expressed as part of a political agenda in our time?  He goes on to  challenge the barriers of individualism, of being shut in on ourselves, of the slavery of profit at all cost.  He describes instead a  solidarity with others that means “to build a society that is truly human” and puts “the person and his/her dignity at the centre, and never sells him/her off cheaply to the logic of profit…”  Pope Francis on World Food Day 16 Oct. 2013.

 

I find his comments disconcerting and a prophetic challenge.

Sun Sun Sun Here It Comes (29 Oct 13 Reflections)

November 17, 2013 at 12:12 pm

As I looked out the hotel window, I was struck by the steady flow of motor scooters, buses, cars, auto-rickshaws as people headed to work.  It is difficult for me to grasp  how God’s love so intimately touches each person’s life.  Then the daily reading from Courage to Change made the same point.  The author told a story about laying on the beach and thinking that no matter how many people might be on the beach, there would be enough sun for everyone.  So for all of us, God’s love is always sufficient and present.  As quoted in the daily reading:  “ I can learn to avail myself of the immense, inexhaustible power of God, if I am willing to be continually conscious of God’s nearness.”  I hope that I am aware of God’s abundant love shining like the sun on all of us today often coming to us through others.

 

My other thought this morning contemplated the impact or miracle of globalization.  My hotel is located in the midst of an office park that has about 20 office buildings.  The building across from the hotel lists its tenants as Qualcomm, Deloitte,  Broadcomm, Verizon, and United Technologies.  Facebook, Google, Dell, Oracle, Microsoft and Accenture are also present nearby.  First time that I went golfing, the other guys in my foursome included managers for the back offices of Diebold and UBS.  There is no question that the standard of living has been raised for many people.  New apartments, condominiums, villas are everywhere.  More cars are on  the streets every day.  As a westerner blessed with material wealth,  I look at this rise of a new middle class and thank God for the blessing of this new abundance that is being generated here and shared by others.

 

Lastly,  James Martin this morning was talking about the importance of not prejudging other’s  actions.  We should consider people’s intentions.   St Ignatius said  “We ought to be more eager to put a good interpretation on a neighbor’s statement than to condemn it.”    This thought reminded me of the Thomist formulation that whatever people choose is perceived as a good by that person.  We need to give folks the benefit of the doubt.  Martin emphasizes how this approach toward others will help us be open to them and to love them.  In turn,  it will enable us to receive what God may want to communicate to us through them.  That communication in turn may be a vehicle for God’s love to shine us.  It is a way for us to consciously contact and experience the “immense, inexhaustible power of God…”

 

Is India the True Home of Religious Liberty for All?

November 10, 2013 at 1:56 pm

In India, Hindus, Muslims, and Christians live side by side.  All the religions overtly and unashamedly practice their religions and frequently discuss their faith traditions with one another.  On the surface, there does not appear to be any religious tension.  In the workplace, cubes are decorated with religious artifacts.

The few Catholics have pictures of Mary, Jesus or crucifixes.  The Hindus have pictures or statues of their idol Ganesh.  There is a man who died in the early 20th century whose picture is frequently displayed.  Whenever I ask who he is, there is generally a long pregnant pause and then I am told that he is God.  You do see Buddha in South India, but not many Buddhists from what I can tell.   I do not see much Islamic displays.  I am not sure if this absence is a reflection of their creedal position of having no graven images of God or if we just have fewer Muslim employees.  In the workplace, folks are happy to discuss religion which is so different from the US.

On a recent conference call, we were mentoring some of our counselors in the US who coach our Indian employees and we encouraged them to ask about the various religious festivals so that they connect with the lives of our people in India.  The Indian HR representative made it clear that it is not an issue to discuss such matters.  I did not think it would be since one of our lobbies has a depiction of the Buddha.  For some reason, in the US we leave religion at the door.  Our common religion has become a secularism of toleration that treats displays or expressions of faith as an imposition on us.  We do not want to offend anyone.  It is unbelievable to me for example that in France, Muslims are not allowed to wear their religious garb and Christians cannot wear a crucifix in public.  I did read that in the newspaper.  I hope that it is inaccurate.

Does India show a different way to approach religious liberty than the West?   I certainly appreciate the openness and toleration that I am seeing and experiencing. My Muslim driver respects our Catholic faith and always asks how my prayer time was after I attend Mass.  He takes time for the 5 calls to prayer that we can hear over the loudspeakers.  He freely shares what he knows about the Hindu faith that he has learned from his colleagues.  (Drivers have a lot of down time and hang out while they wait for expats who are at meals, bars, events, etc.)   When there is Hindu festival, they invite all their Christian and Muslim friends to parties to exchange gifts, sweets, as they say, and generally have a good time.  When the Muslims break fast in the evenings during Ramadan, Hindus frequently enjoy eating the special high protein food that is served only during Ramadan.  The Catholic Mass that I attended today had an intercessory prayer that all of us would live in peace and harmony.

Perhaps India  shows us a better way.  If it does, it is clearly a work in progress.  There remains undercurrents of tension that express themselves in violence from time to time.  I am not sure how to see things as they are.  Can one even generalize? The version of the degree of toleration that exists in India likely depends upon to whom you talk.    History demonstrates that our human nature is prone to divisiveness and violence.  The Indian politicians are not below using religion to demagogue.  The challenges with Pakistan and the terrorism that originates from there can be problematic for harmonious relationships.

May the saints of all the religions present here in India show the way.   As Benedict XVI stated ” It is the great multitude of the saints — in whose lives the Lord has opened up the Gospel before us and turned over the pages; he has done this throughout history and he still does so today.  In their lives, as if in a great picture-book, the riches of the Gospel are revealed.  They are the shining path which God has traced throughout history and is still tracing today.  The saints are the true reformers.  Now I want to express this in an even more radical way: only from God does true revolution come, the definitive way to change the world.”

Perhaps you find it odd that  the above paragraph talks as if the saints of other religions can display our Gospel.  Catholics do believe that God wishes the salvation of all as demonstrated in the life of He who was the friend of Samaritans and the marginalized. We do believe that Christ makes salvation possible for those who have not heard of Christ, yet embrace His Light and come to knowledge of God through Him whether or not they use those words or our words.  As our Muslims friends say  ” May the Peace of God be upon you.”