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Thursday, July 30, 2020

St Ignatius of Loyola: Unfatigued Soldier of Christ

Painting by Anthony Arul, SJ
I often ask this question whenever we have to think in the line of St Ignatius of Loyola: What would Inigo do if he is living today? The charisma of this great Saint of the 16th century that we cherish and carry forward through our lives is still relevant and imperative. If there was a Church man who thought out of the box during the time of reformation, then it was St Ignatius of Loyola. The legacy that he left behind us is enduring and timeless. The 15,000 Jesuits all over the world working in more than 100 countries and 6 continents, still continue to live a religious life with a particular spirit and charism of the founder both in theory and in practice through prayer and the works of the Order.

Many enemies of the Society of Jesus often felt and still feel that Jesuits are a privileged group in the Church. In fact their main contention is that Church hierarchy has made too many concessions on the Order founded by St Ignatius of Loyola. Actually it is not true. But it is true that the Society of Jesus is different from many other Religious Orders and Congregations. However, this is for effective and strong apostolic endeavours. Jesuits do not have a choir (liturgy of the hours in community) like other religious Orders, their Superior General is for life, Jesuits do not have particular set of religious habit (dress) to identify with, (local clergy's habit suits them very well), they have a special fourth vow of obedience to the Pope and so on. All these were granted already during the time of St Ignatius of Loyola. As we celebrate the feast of the Pilgrim Saint, who still continues to inspire not only the Jesuits but also many Religious Congregations and lay people who do Spiritual Exercises individually, we could highlight a few qualities of Ignatius that impress me very much today.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

St Anna, Grand Mother of Jesus - A Woman of Faith

Icon of Saint Anna with child Mary - in Byzantine iconography
When I saw for the first time the parish dedicated to Saint Anne in Bijapur, one of the mission stations of the Jesuits in Karnataka in 1994, it intrigued me very much as a novice then. I had hardly heard anything much about St Anna except that she was the grandmother of Jesus. Since my return from Russia recently, I got involved in retreat ministry in our retreat house in Bangalore and have been meeting a number of Sisters belonging to different religious congregations who have either their congregations named after St Anna or have her as their patroness. Quite recently, I have been addressing religious congregations for various reasons and occasions. Therefore, I thought I should address this Saint Anna in an elaborate way.

St Joachim and St Anna in History and Tradition
On July 26th the Catholic Church remembers Saint Joachim and Saint Anna, parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Despite the importance of their role as the maternal grandparents of Jesus, we do not know much about them. The Churches in the East and Orthodox Churches have a special devotion to St Anna. The beautiful iconography on St Anna adorns their Churches. Slavs (People coming from Slavic countries, e.g. Russia, Slovenia, Poland, etc ) name their girl child "Anna" quite frequently.  The Orthodox  Church celebrates the feast of St Joachim and St Anna, the very next day of the feast of the Nativity of Mary.  They are also called as "parents of God" «Богоотцы» because they are considered as the immediate ancestors of our Lord Jesus Christ. This might be because kinship relationships and unbridled  connectivity have determining factors in tracing the roots of family ties. According to Christian apocrypha they also came from the royal line of King David. Some versions say that they lived in Jerusalem while others in Nazareth. The Byzantine liturgy has special prayers dedicated for Anna and Joachim. 

Friday, July 24, 2020

Ecclesial Learnings: New Horizons at a Time of Pandemic

A screen shot of the live streaming of the Holy Eucharist from IHMC Jesuit Parish Kalena Agrahara, Bengaluru
Often we act as though we are people with a horse headgear. We don't like to see other narratives or perspectives. Sometime ago, a young priest suffered from cataract in both of his eyes due to the side effects of corticosteroids. As a matter fact, the priest began to use his iPad for his liturgical services as this device gave him a better visibility. But many raised eyebrows including a discussion in his community on how best to forbid him using such a device in public. 

Lockdown and Technology
The Covid lockdown has seen an unprecedented use of technology in our Catholic liturgical services. We have been using all sorts of media devices and platforms to livestream the divine mysteries of our Lord Jesus Christ. Even those who were against the use of such devices are gladly embracing the new normal with scepticism, dilemma and doubt.

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Discernment of Spirits: Challenge of Choosing between Good and Evil

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time: Readings - Wisdom 12:13, 16-19; Romans 8:26-27; Matthew 13:24-43
Photo by the author
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We have passed already half a year of the 2020. We are in the midst of a pandemic which is taking a lot of energy and strength to live with it. Until other day, both central (Indian-Union) and state (Karnataka) governments were patting their back saying, "we know how to deal with Covid crises. We are better than others." As I write these few reflections in a country of over a billion people already one million are covid infected. This is just an official figure. 

Our country's policy makers have ignored the warnings from the global community and learnt little from their experiences. Pride goes before the fall. Having praised ourselves to the skies now we might perish quite fast as well. In this context, we are reading the Word of God from our scriptures. These days' Mass readings have been speaking a lot about righteousness, justice and reign of God.  Naturally, we may ask questions: Why does God permit the evil to grow alongside the good? Why does He permit some to reject the Word of His kingdom?

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Human Spirit: Helpless but not Hopeless, Isolated but not alone

Photo by the author
The adversary is all around us, but unfortunately neither we can catch it nor can we tame it. And that adversary is none other than Corona. As we reached 100 days since the  first Corona lockdown and all the ills that brought to us, the humanity is suffering silently. Many of our dear and near one's not only lost their lives but also left their families in such a void and emptiness. There are also families who are unable to meet their ends: Either because they have no labour or whatever they produce in their farms cannot be marketed. Life has come to a standstill for many but for others life is as usual. Because either there is corona or no corona, they neither toil nor attempt but their barns are always full.

In this context, we are moving ahead with our life: A life full of uncertainties and chaos. Our civilisation has put in our mind  is that we see our  worth when we to do something. When we don't do what we usually do then we feel worthless, useless and meaningless. We cannot make sense of our life. It is like going to work without having our usual morning coffee. Always something is missing, something is empty.