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Thursday, October 31, 2019

One Year since the Operation

(Photo courtesy: Jean-Mark Arkalian)
It’s unbelievable! I am a year old since I went under the knife.  On 31st October 2018, I went though eight hours long operation, thus the agonizing Ulcerative Colitis disease was laid to rest once and for all along with my larger intestine and appendix. 

As I look back the day that I lived with so much uncertainty, fear, and anguish but also full of hope that finally I had decided to say yes to the doctor’s suggestion, certainly, since then things have brightened up.  The amount of time that I took to discern and decide on this important aspect of my life is unforgettable one.  Often, it is very difficult to take decisions that involve very much your life and its future, in spite, of ones stringent intellectual capacities or human feelings.  Often it so happens to us that the more knowledgeable you are less likely you are to take a decision for yourself.  It’s easier to suggest to someone else or decide for others. But not for you…!

I thank God today for everything that has happened to me since I made a decision to break this cycle of hospitalization, discharge, steroids, tablets, anaemia, diet, room bound life, etc, etc.  Today I am full of life and vigour, joyful and enthusiastic, hopeful and looking for the future that only God will lead.  Even though, I was not afraid of death and knowing that this disease would kill me little by little with all its pain and agony, I was afraid to be in that state of continuous pain for long. Because you can take it only to a certain extent. 

In any discernment, listening is very important.  By the time, I arrived at the decision of operation, I had stopped listening to doctors any longer.  Every doctor had given me hope that I would be healed through medication.  I have experimented with allopathic, ayurveda, siddha, naturopathy and homeopathy. In addition to cortisones, I had taken infliximab and then adalimumab biological medications, even tried with FMT therapy.  Only thing that my disease did was to help the pharma companies to become richer and have the side effects on various parts of my body deeper.   First, I received the medical treatment in Russia (Moscow) then in Italy (Rome) and finally in India.  I should say that everyone tried to give me the best medical care wherever I went.  People have been very kind to me within their limited space and time, energies and capacities.  I suppose, ultimately, we are all limited realities or unfinished realities.

When people asked me what I am doing during this sickness, being stuck to my bed and room, unhesitatingly I used to answer that I am waiting for death.  Today, I do not say that any longer.  Death might come anytime but I am sure that Ulcerative Colitis will not lead me to death.
(With my friends on the eve of my operation, 30th Oct. 2018)
On the eve of my operation in St. Philomena’s Hospital in Bangalore I was not sure what I would be expecting the next day. I had hardly slept for two hours in the night.  But, I was looking for liberation from Ulcerative Colitis from deep within.  Sr Regini of the hospital was extremely helpful since the day, I told her over the phone that I’m getting ready for an operation and needed her help very badly.  Being new to the Bangalore environment, it was a challenge in every way.  I know much better Rome, Moscow, San Francisco or London than our own Namma Bengaluru.   But I knew I was in the better hands, the Surgeon Dr Kenneth D’Cruz.  One of the well known surgeons in Bangalore had told me that he would give to Dr Kenneth eight out of ten for his professionalism.  I had met Dr Kenneth nine months ago and he had suggested me of the surgery but I had shrugged it off then. 

On the 30th of October, I received my doctor friends from Narayana Health just to give me some sort of encouragement and accompaniment.  Because I had spent large part of my working life outside the country, so I had very few local friends.  I had developed a notion over the years that it is better to have good friends than your own relatives.  For a priest this matters a lot!  My recently acquired friends helped me in this decision-making and were there in my most agonizing moments.  For me very thought of losing my larger intestine was itself a bad dream, a nightmare; moreover, not at my age.  I hadn’t met anyone with such conditions.  Dr Paul C Salins helped me in every way to discern on this important phase of my life.  I am more certain than ever that God sends always angels of good times at very important moments of life if we still hang on to Him.  Moreover, Dr Salins and Dr Samarth were there early in the morning of 31st of October just to encourage me.

One of the things that helped to calm down myself the moments before I go through the anaesthesia is what the Ayurvedic doctor MN Sudha had told me. She had said to me that when you go into the operation theatre a great fear comes into your conscious however you are strong.  Therefore imagine something that is divine, a picture of God, angel, etc.  So I had already chosen the icon of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which happens to be my favourite religious image.

In 2017, I went through 15 times colonoscopy with anaesthesia.  Each time out of curiosity, I made an futile attempt to know the last thought before I fell unconscious or what was going on in mind during that period of the effect of anaesthesia.  So too,  I cannot recall how the doctors took out my five feet long larger intestine and stitched the end part of the smaller intestine (ilium/ileal stoma) outside my stomach.  Perhaps I should not think too much about this because what is lost is gone forever and what remains here is quality life.  Now just enjoy the rest of your life!

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

31st October 2019

Sunday, October 27, 2019

No Favourites but God is Open to You

30th Sunday in Ordinary Time  C - Readings:  Sirach 35:12–14, 16–18; 2 Timothy 4:6–8, 16–18; Luke 18:9–14

Who are these Pharisee and the tax collector and why are they in the synagogue?
Why is that Jesus appreciates the tax collector over the Pharisee?
What is that we can carry home from the readings of today?

There is so much hypocrisy in our society and in people. As a result we cannot be real. Often we project what we are not. 

A humble heart serves in every way: “Humility is the foundation of all the other virtues hence, in the soul in which this virtue does not exist there cannot be any other virtue except in mere appearance” (St. Augustine).

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

27 October 2019

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Don't Give up But Preach

World Mission Sunday: Readings - Isaiah 60:1-6; Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 28:16-20


The Mission Sunday's readings remind us that each one of us, the baptised Christian is called to proclaim the Good News of our Lord Jesus Christ to the ends of the earth.  The commandment of Jesus before his ascension into heaven in Mathew's Gospel 28: 16-20, is a solid reminder that we would be continuing his work of mercy and justice, peace and truth to everyone and everywhere. 

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

20th October 2019

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Your Faith has Saved You

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time C - Readings: 2 Kings 5:14-17; 2 Timothy 2:8-13; Luke 17:11-19
(Healing of the ten lepers - Photo: A. Pospelov/ www.pravoslavie.ru)

Readings of today put us deeply into a christian perspective of faith, gratitude and missionaries of love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Olvin Veigas, SJ

 13.10.2019

Sunday, October 6, 2019

Faithfulness to God’s Covenantal Love

27th Sunday in Ordinary Time C. Readings:  Habakuk 1:2-3;2:2-4, 2 Timothy 1:6-8,13-14 and Luke 17:5-10
(Parable of the Mustard Seed, Jan Luyken)

I

The Word of God of today calls us for self-critique and self-examination.  We can see holy outrage, holy anger in the words of prophet Habakukuk. The prophet seeing what is happening around him, asks, why is there so much injustice and tyranny and oppression everywhere? Why so much outrage and violence? The world seems to be full of malice and hatred.  There is evil everywhere. Why people are fighting among themselves? There seems to be no peace, justice and truth, instead there is only anger, jealousy and violence. In this context, prophet Habakukuk expresses his groanings to God. Why is that when we live in a world which can appreciate art, music, intelligence and wisdom keeps quiet when we see violence, hatred, oppression, lynching and so on? Prophet sees a vision in which God asks him to write down and gives him the assurance that the upright man will live by his faithfulness. God does not let us down. In times of frustrations, God gives us consolations. Psalm 113 verse 7 says “ God raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap.” Psalm 146, verse 2 asks “not to put our trust in princes, in mortals,” but “in the Lord”, the God of Patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Because, God made a covenant of love through them with the humanity. Therefore faithfulness to the covenant is essential and expected of us. 

II

In our second reading today, St Paul writing to Timothy whom he has consecrated as Bishop by laying his hands on him says that “you have the gifts of the Holy Spirit. They have come upon when I laid my hands upon you.” Paul writes “God’s gift is not a spirit of timidity, but the Spirit of power, and love, and self-control.” By our baptism we are called to priest, prophet and king. We are people of joy, enthusiasm and vibrancy. Thus we are asked to be faithful to him who has called us out of darkness. Moreover, Lord gives us the gifts of the Holy Spirit to be courageous. So we can transmit through our words and actions His power, love and self-control to be the worthy servants of the covenant of the Word.

III

In the Gospel reading of today, Jesus calls us to be servants who are always ready. In fact, Jesus has called us as his friends, but today he demands of us servant like attitude in our faithfulness to our God.  The catechism of the Catholic Church tells us that we are created to praise, reverence and serve God and thus finally to be with him forever. In other words, ultimately, we have to be faithful to the call that God has given to us, which we made through our baptism.  We are faithful servants of the word of God.

IV

We are in the month of October, the month of the Rosary. This is a special month for us, in addition to celebrating the feast of Our Lady of Rosary, Pope Francis has declared this month as the Extraordinary Missionary Month.  The reason is commemorating the 100th anniversary of the Apostolic Exhortation “Maximum Illud” means “That Momentous” of Pope Benedict XV written in 1919. This Exhortation is very important in the event of the rising missionary zeal since the end of the First World War in 1918. Then Pope Benedict XV called the Church to be a local church, an indigenous church, where the local clergy, local people take up the leadership role in their communities. Pope called to be missionaries in their own churches in building up and strengthening the Church of God. Thus Pope Francis wishes to celebrate this very important mile stone of history of our Church and has asked to devote this whole month of October with special celebrations.   

Pope Francis has also given us the theme, “Baptised and Sent”. It calls us to reflect on 4 following points. 
1. A personal Encounter with Jesus Christ living in His Church: In the Eucharist, In the Word of God, and in personal and communal prayer
2. Testimony: Missionary Saints, Martyrs and Confessors of the Faith
3. Missionary Formation: Biblical, Catechetical, Spiritual and Theological Formation
4. Missionary Charity

This October month is very unusual to the Universal Church to which we belong. Today, the “Synod on Amazon” begins in the Vatican. Just yesterday, 13 new Cardinals were created in a special consistory. Three of them happened to be Jesuits. One of them is Fr Michael Czerny, who during my illness in Rome took care of me and helped me to keep the hope of life and faith in everyway. He is a man prayer. 

But I would like to mention the 80-year-old Lithuanian Jesuit Archbishop Sigitas Tamkevicius, who became a Cardinal yesterday. Tamkevicius, who’s over 80 and therefore among the “honorary” cardinals who can’t vote in the next conclave. It’s his personal story that’s most inspiring. He spent almost a decade in Soviet forced labour camps, not only because he was a Catholic priest but because of his unyielding defense of human rights. 

The archbishop had been imprisoned from 1983 to 1988 for “anti-Soviet propaganda.” As a Jesuit priest, in 1972 he began publishing the Chronicle of the Catholic Church in Lithuania, an underground newsletter documenting communist repression of the Church. Despite repeated questioning by the KGB, he managed to publish and distribute the chronicle for more than 10 years and, once he was arrested, others continued his work. He was exiled to Siberia where he had to dig and had various jobs at one time or another - cook, iron worker, dishwasher, and several others.  I can say with my own little experience in Siberia as a missionary, life is tough there when temperature goes down to minus 40 degree celsius and when winter prolongs to more than 6 months. 

Tamkevicius said Friday that what sustained him during those years in prison was prayer, especially saying Mass, which he had to do in secret because religious expressions were officially prohibited. He told a reporter as to how Tamkevicius managed to find wine for the liturgy. He explained that in the camps they would give prisoners a meal ticket, and generally in their food he’d find both bread and dried grapes. He’d pocket some of both, using the grapes to make a crude wine.  According to him “If a believer isn’t ready to suffer for his faith,” he said simply, “then he’s not much of a believer.” 

V

Another person who was faithful servant of the Lord and is recently declared the Servant of God, Pujya Rajendra Swamy. An Italian born this Jesuit priest worked not far away from this place, Kalena Agrahara. His grave has turned into a pilgrimage center in Maddur, just two hours ride from here. Born in 1672, Antonio Maria Plattei in Venice, was ordained in 1700 and immediately came to India. He spent his next 19 years serving in the then Kingdom of Mysore establishing parishes and missions taking the name Rajendra, dressing and eating like that of an Indian Sanyasi. He worked around Srirangapattana and later exiled. He did everything to keep the faith of the people alive. It is said that there were 30,000 Catholics under his care. Even though he lived only for 47 years, he achieved much for the Lord. This year, the Church is commemorating his 300th death anniversary and a shrine has been erected on his tomb with his name.  People have been witnessing a number of miracles happening by praying at his tomb. God’s faithful servant is still calling to be faithful to His covenant even today through various signs. 

I believe that the testimonies of these people are a sure sign that God never let’s us down. He is always faithful to us and gives His Spirit’s gifts to be faithful always and all ways.

Olvin Veigas, SJ

06.10.2019