Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Take Up and Read !

An energetic youth began his pursuit for pleasure and ended in the silence and recollection of a monastery. St. Augustine was an intellectual youngster who had messed up his life. His mother, St. Monica desired his conversion and followed him everywhere he went. One day, St. Augustine heard the voice of a small boy singing – ‘Tolle lege! Tolle lege!’ which translates as, ‘Take up and read! Take up and read!’ St. Augustine took the book of St. Paul’s epistles and read in silence. This was the moment of conversion in the September of 386 A.D. St. Augustine wrote two masterpieces which are among the classics of literature: ‘Confessions’ and ‘The City of God’. In the ‘Confessions’, St. Augustine, with the most sincere humility and contrition lays open the errors of his conduct during the early years of his life. The book ‘The City of God’ is a response of St. Augustine to the pagans who blamed Christianity for their plight.

In the year 391 A.D, the Catholics of Hippo in Africa forced St. Augustine to become a Priest. He wept throughout his ordination ceremony. In five years time he became a Bishop. What makes the life of St. Augustine so complete is that he fought the good fight, not only against himself, but also against the enemies of the Church in his time. Today, as we are immersed in our daily struggles with the ‘Worldly City’, St. Augustine beckons us to be part of the ‘City of God’.

Article published in 'The Examiner', 8th August, 2009 (Vol 160, No 32)

Inventory of a Trekker !

Every commerce student knows how important it is to keep an inventory. Every shopkeeper knows the value of making regular inventories lest the shopkeeper loses his/her customers. All of us know how important it is to take stock of much we have studied and how more we have to study before we appear for our exams. Also after writing an exam we reflect on how many marks we may get or lose. Now it is time to make an inventory of our lives! It is time to check up which path am I trekking. In case we are moving in the wrong direction then its time to look into our compass and pull ourselves in the right direction. This compass could be compared to the Church helping us to move in the right path. We are in this season of Lent and this is the right time to make an inventory of our lives. It means making a list of who we are in reality. It means having a peep at our brighter side and the darker side of our lives and to let the light of Christ shine.

St. Augustine has said, “People travel to wonder at the height of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars; and they pass by themselves without wondering.” Once we are able to look at ourselves and become aware of our strengths and weaknesses then we can move forward in taking small concrete steps to trek on the right path of happiness.

Article published in The Examiner, 4th April, 2009 (Vol 160, No 14)

The Impossible made Possible

The feast of the Annunciation is one of the most important feasts in the Church calendar. The word Annunciation, means announcing. St. Luke's gospel celebrates the angel Gabriel's appearance to the Virgin Mary (St. Luke 1:26-38), the announcement that the Blessed Virgin had been chosen to be the Mother of Our Lord and Mary's fiat which is her willing acceptance of God's Holy plan. The angel’s greeting, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you" has echoed down through the ages in the most common prayer, "Hail Mary." The response of the Blessed Virgin Mary is called fiat, which is a Latin word meaning "let it be done”. Mary by pronouncing her "fiat" at the Annunciation and giving her consent to the Incarnation was already collaborating with the whole work her Son was to accomplish.

The feast of the Annunciation is on March 25th which is nine months before Jesus' birth at Christmas. The origin of the Feast of the Annunciation of the Lord dates back to at least the 6th century, and is mentioned between AD 530 and 533 in a sermon by Abraham of Ephesus. The tenth Synod of Toledo (AD 656) and Trullan Synod (AD 692) speak of the Annunciation feast as universally celebrated in the Catholic Church. The Apostle's Creed which we recite every Sunday during Holy Mass, affirms that Jesus was "conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit." It is a practice that during the Profession of Faith, all bow or genuflect at the words “and was made man.” Mary's response to the angel, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be done to me according to your word," is a statement of humble faith, and a model for us on how we are to respond when God calls us to do what seems impossible.

Article published in 'The Examiner', 21st March 2009 (Vol 160, No 12)

A Light in the Dark !

An eighteen year old girl told her mother about her decision to be a missionary. The girl’s mother was inconsolable, but the next day she said to her young daughter, ‘Put your hand in His and walk all the way with Him.’ Soon the girl was sailing at sea when she collected her sentiments in a poem:

I’m leaving my dear house
And my beloved land
To steamy Bengal go I
To a distant shore.
I’m leaving my old friends
Forsaking family and home
My heart draws me onward
To serve my Christ.

The life of this ‘pencil in God’s hand’ continues to fascinate the world. People of all creeds and walks of life recognised the selfless love and compassion of Blessed Mother Teresa for the poorest of the poor. She was a light to the world. The voice ‘Come be my light’ kept pleading in the ears of Mother Teresa while she was at the Loreto Convent. In the book, ‘Mother Teresa - Come be my Light’ by Brian Kolodiejchuk, Mother Teresa says – “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.” This world immersed in the darkness of violence, indifference, racism, selfishness, atheism has Blessed Mother Teresa reflecting the light of Christ to the humanity of present times. Let us pass on this light of Christ in our own small ways.

Article written by Cl. Leon Cruz Ratinam SDB (Not yet published)

Our Lady of Sorrows

It is an inevitable fact that there is sorrow in this world. There are people who are suffering and sorrow is part of their lives and ours too at one time or the other. During such times Our Lady of Sorrows proves to be a shining paradigm.

On 15th September we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. This feast originated in 1230 A.D when the seven founders of the Servite Order took up the sorrows of Mary, standing under the Cross, as the principal devotion of their order. A second feast was granted to the Servites, on September 15, 1668. This feast focused on the seven dolours or sorrows of Mary which consists of the prophecy of Simeon, the flight into Egypt, the loss of Jesus in the temple, meeting Jesus on His way to Calvary, standing at the foot of the Cross, receiving the dead body of Jesus and the burial of Christ.

Saint Ambrose sees Mary as a sorrowful yet powerful figure at the foot of the Cross. Mary stood fearlessly beneath the cross while others fled. She faced her extreme anguish and sorrows with total trust in God. How do we cope with extreme sorrow in our lives? Do we chicken out or like Mary remain strong with faith in a God who loves us and cares for us?

O sweet Mother! Fount of love!
Touch my spirit from above,
Make my heart with thine accord.
(Excerpt taken from the Stabat Mater Dolorosa)

Article written by Cl. Leon Cruz Ratinam SDB (Not yet published)

A Bolt from Heaven

Were you ever in dire need and suddenly someone offered to help you? Had you given up when a solution came like a bolt from the sky? This is the hand of Divine Providence in your life. There are both subtle and tangible ways in which we experience this love of God as a Father towards his child. Sometimes God’s help is directly visible while at other times we experience it through our neighbours. The great models of Christian sanctity like our own Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta who began her work with mere five rupees had done marvels with trust in Divine Providence and a desire to do God’s will. Next time you reach a dead end of the road, do not give up for Divine Providence may open an expressway from that point.

Article by Cl. Leon Cruz Ratinam SDB (Not yet published)

Mary - Model Catechist

Mary – Model Catechist

‘From the Church, the Christian learns the example of holiness and recognizes its model and source in the all-holy Virgin Mary.’ (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2030)

A model catechist could be summed up as one who teaches, intervenes and accompanies the catechumen. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus seems to be distancing himself with His mother as He says, ‘who are my mother and my brothers.’ (Mk 3:33) In fact, Jesus is asserting the catechetical role of Mary by saying, ‘whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother.’ (Mk 3:35) This verse could be elucidated as ‘whoever lives out my catechism is my brother and sister and mother.’

Mary – The First Catechist

One cannot deny the fact that like all mothers Mary was the first to teach little Jesus. In that little house of Nazareth began the home catechesis of the Son of God. We could visualize Mary teaching the little Jesus about God’s love. At home began Christianity’s first catechism lesson by the first catechist, Mary. We have St. Paul writing to the Philippians:

‘Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness. And being found in human form, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death – even on a cross.’ (Phil 2:5-8)

Jesus humbly learnt His first catechism lessons from His paragon catechist, Mary. Mary is not just a theoretical catechist but very realistic in her approach.

Mary – A Catechist who Intervenes

Mary is a catechist who intervenes in the life of Jesus. In John’s Gospel after apprising Jesus about the lack of wine (Jn 2:3), Mary instructs the servants with complete confidence, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ (Jn 2:5) She believes in practical catechesis. This characteristic of intervening in the life of the catechumen is of utmost importance. Like Mary, every catechist has a task to intervene in the day-to-day life of the catechumens, to help them live their Christian lives to the fullest.

Mary – A Catechist who Accompanies

Mary always accompanied Jesus even in His passion, death and resurrection. She was there present at the foot of the cross (John 19:25). Mary was also present with the apostles in the upper room after the ascension of Jesus into heaven, ‘all were constantly devoting themselves to prayer, together with certain women, including Mary the mother of Jesus.’ (Acts 1:14) Mary is a catechist who accompanies her children in all circumstances of life. All catechists have a vital message from Mary, to accompany the catechumen in their life journey.

Mary – Our Model Catechist

Jesus has entrusted His best catechist while he was hanging on the cross. Jesus tells John, ‘Here is your mother.’ (Jn 19:27) From that moment Mary becomes our Mother, our catechist. A motherly catechist, who teaches her child, intervenes and accompanies her/him through his/her life journey. Mary, our model catechist enlightens us with God’s love manifested in the catechism of the Catholic Church.

Article published in 'The Examier', 5th September, 2009 (Vol 160, No 36)


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