Sunday, December 23, 2018

What is Christmas?

Christmas Message 2018

1. Christmas is an event that we Christians commemorate to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ 2000 years ago in an obscure village called Bethlehem, of Palestine, under the Roman rule.

2. Jesus Christ is a focal point of our faith, and existence, moreover, gives us reason to celebrate that he is our Saviour and Master.  Jesus said, those who have seen me have seen the Father. 

3. The event of Jesus' coming into the world is to take us out of darkness and lead us to light, from untruth to truth and from death to life, in other words, as Jesus himself said, that he is the way, the truth and life. It’s the moment to start imitating.

4. Jesus' coming into the world is considered as a historical true event which happens in our own human history. Such an event is God becoming human to be part of our lives so that we become like him. It’s a story of our salvation. Christmas reminds us that we need to take seriously our life in this world as this would lead us to God once and for all. 

5. Christmas is a feast of life. It’s a festival of joy, peace, consolation, contentment, excitement, happiness, gladness. We are called to be partakers in this great event human story. Only God can give us the joy of living waters.

Happy Christmas!!!

- Olvin Veigas, S.J. 
22 Dec 2018

Monday, December 3, 2018

Three Takeaways From the Life of St Francis Xavier

What are the three takeaways from the life of St Francis Xavier on his feast day?

First of all, St Francis Xavier was a man of God.  Unfortunately, St Francis was thought to be a man of secular culture and carrier oriented man until he met Ignatius of Loyola.  Actually it is not so. Francis Xavier was a man of his times.  A man of his stature who is of noble birth would be looking normally during those times what the influential Catholic Church could offer him, a fine job in the hierarchical church.

If we go and see the Xavier Castle in Navarre, Spain there is a little place for prayer used by his family, a kind of chapel.  Here is a unique but large crucifix which was used by his family to pray daily.  Francis grew in this atmosphere of prayer and praying before the crucifix which still adorns the castle even today.

If we read his life, Francis was a man endowed with divine gifts and talents.  Unlike Ignatius of Loyola, we do not hear anything stupid or mischievous things from the early life of Francis.  Even though the Jesuit historians have given too much importance to the so called conversion experience of Francis under the guidance of Ignatius especially the line from the gospel "What will it profit a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?" (Mt 16:26).  But in reality, Francis knew what he wanted, and would strive to achieve the thing that he wished to attain.

What built Francis was his various experiences either in the Xavier castle, or his early studies in Navarre, or his later life and study in Paris academia. Paris was known for its philosophical and theological studies and continues to be so even today.  From Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Duns Scotus, Erasmus, and others the tradition of wisdom, humanism and experience went hand and hand. “The unexamined life is not worth living”, the words of Socrates seems to have rung high in Francis’s ears.  Therefore he was ready for any ventures including listening to Ignatius of Loyola and doing Spiritual Exercises under him. Later we see Francis and his adventures as Missionary in India  and South East Asia.

Secondly, Xavier was s man of the Church and of Christ. Once he had experienced God very intimately in the Exercises and among his first companions, Xavier was ready to do anything for Christ and His Church.  No personal comforts and any other benefits attracted him to preach Christ. In his short life of 46 years, he spent 10 years a missionary in Asia.  It is believed that much of his time, to exaggerate a bit, he must have spent at least 7 years in voyages in the sea.  Francis Xavier is widely pictured with a cross in his hands, including during his final hours of his life in a little known island of Shangchuan, Taishan, which is overlooking China.  Holding Crucifix is a symbol of Xavier’s incredible faith that he had since his childhood in Xavier castle which continued until his death in a far away continent Asia.  In other words, Christ was his solace and master.

In his letter to Ignatius of Loyola in Rome, Francis dispatches a letter from India in which he puts so beautifully his amazing zeal for souls and heart full of fire to gain the souls for Christ.  "Again and again I have thought of going round the universities of Europe, especially Paris, and everywhere crying out like a madman, riveting the attention of those with more learning than charity: “What a tragedy: how many souls are being shut out of heaven and falling into hell, thanks to you!”

  I wish they would work as hard at this as they do at their books, and so settle their account with God for their learning and the talents entrusted to them.

  This thought would certainly stir most of them to meditate on spiritual realities, to listen actively to what God is saying to them. They would forget their own desires, their human affairs, and give themselves over entirely to God’s will and his choice. They would cry out with all their heart: Lord, I am here! What do you want me to do? Send me anywhere you like – even to India".

Thirdly, Francis was a man of the world in other words, a man of people.  His heart was for the world but not in the world.  He never got stuck with Europe, its ideas and centrist working style but whole of the world.  I suppose his life of experience looked for something unique.  He quickly understood how important for the Church and for Christ to win three great civilisations of Asia, namely India, Japan and China.  To know these civilisations he was ready to embark on any sort of  tedious journeys or venture into dangerous risks.  His ardent desire was to bring Christ into those civilisations.  He looked something deep inside these cultures of the world.  Xavier did not conquer the world instead he tried to consent the world to embrace Christ and His Church.

One of the fascinating things we can see in Francis as a missionary is his popularity around the world. The early Jesuit reductions in Latin America bore his names. In Bogota, Colombia there is a huge Jesuit University called Javeriana.  A lot of Institutions and churches bear his name in all the continents of the world.  But probably not so much in Europe.  With my little experience in Italy I should say that I’m yet to trace an institute or Church honouring St Francis Xavier except his hand in our Jesuit Church Gesù, where an alter is dedicated to him.  Xavier was a man of the periphery in spite of coming from the centre of the world, that is Europe. Just like Jesus, Jerusalem did not embrace him but the outskirts of the Jerusalem.

Perhaps we can learn a number of things from his life. Francis lived beyond the rules.  He neither saw the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus, nor the rule books of the Society.  For him the experience of Jesus was the rule book.

Xavier had a great autonomy to do things.  He appointed a very young Italian Jesuit Antonio Criminali (1520-1549) who was in his late 20’s as mission superior in Madurai mission and later was killed being the first Jesuit martyr in India in 1549.  He trusted his men with full confidence and support. When he realised that God was calling him to Japan, Francis set his foot.  Because he saw Jesus was calling him there.  Probably we should self critique today as Indian Jesuits.  Often we are stuck with rules and regulations and have given little space to the Spirit to work within us.  That is why we have become less enterprising and not ready for Christ’s missions but missions of our superiors or provincials.  If you are good at something and is ready to do fascinating things for Christ why not you give a try?  Probably we should do some self evaluation as we reflect on St Francis Xavier who is a role model in many of the things that we do today.  He is still relevant for our times in making Christ known in our world.

Olvin Veigas, SJ
Feast of St Francis Xavier

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

An Awareness of Suffering in Your Own Body

Yes, My body is suffering and its suffering badly.  The reason is the disease Ulcerative Colitis. How does your body suffer?  Is suffering of your body real?  Is your body suffering or you are suffering?  The questions could go on and on your suffering.  Finally, we have to find an answer which involves our humility to accept this complex reality of our human body that is a mystery. 

Along with our thoughts and minds our body suffers when sickness enters.  Moreover the body suffers terribly when we begin to treat our sickness.  We take medicines, tablets, syrups, undergo various therapies, receive biological medicines, inject steroids and so on and so forth.  When we take these medicines, our body begins to ache especially not the part which is sick but the other good parts of the body.

One of the examples I could describe here is how I developed cataract in both of my eyes. Before I could get the Ulcerative Colitis I had a very good eyesight and vision.  Within 10 months of starting my medication which included strong steroids and biological medicines I already began to feel dimness in my eye sight.  The matter got worse when I went through the scanning (CT) of my stomach a procedure followed by receiving a lengthy injection.  Once I got out of the scanning theatre one of my eye couldn’t see anything and everything looked to me blurred.  After three months when I went through second scanning I lost the vision of my another eye. Continuous taking of allophatic medicines cause nothing but suffering of weaker parts of the body.  Finally, tablets and other substances that are injected into the body are nothing but chemical compositions which enter an alien body causing the human body such an anxiety.  At last, the natural human body is unable to withstand with the foreign agent making its home in it.

This above incident suggests that our human body is continuously threatened not only by viruses, germs and other bacteria’s but also those components which supposedly rectify the body.  If you take each part of the body separately, nerves, finger, colon, heart, liver, skin, membrane, tissue, nano cells of the body, retina, etc., you might ask don’t these parts of the body asking themselves why I should be receiving the consequences of an injection which is meant to the colon but adversely affecting the retina of the eye? 

- Olvin Veigas
30 Oct 2018

Monday, October 29, 2018

A Few Titbits While Dealing With a UC or Cancer Patient

Experience teach you many things in life.  Struggling and coping with ulcerative colitis has taught me a number of lessons which otherwise would not.  Books and experiences of others inform you many things. Seldom, we make them our own.

One of the blessings that I have received with my prolonged illness is a lot of sympathy and kind words and sometimes good deeds.  When a person is ill for a long time, many come to see and would like to talk to the person while in agony.  Often such talks become unbearably painful, irritating and even distressing when a visitor unable to read the mind of the patient.  I appreciate always visits by those whom I know and who are somehow connected with my life.  I’m not at ease with those people whom I do not know and have to do anything either with my life or life of my friends or my mission/apostolate.  Moreover, I find myself very difficult to answer those people whenever they have questions on my disease or on my life itself.  Everyone should practice some do’s and don’ts while visiting a person who is suffering from illness for a long time and all the more when the person is young. 

Every one has good intentions while visiting the sick person but it would be extremely good how the visiting person could be a better help than a hindrance in alleviating the pain and suffering of the patient.

I would suggest following things which you might help concretely and pragmatically.

Things may not be easy for you but you can do loads of things and these tips might help you.
  1. Good to know who the patient is and what kind of terminal disease s/he is suffering from.  Sick person does not like to show himself/herself as sick but instead likes same things as before.
  2. Please don’t ask but just do seeing the needs: Often people give tips to the patient what he should do and shouldn’t do including suggesting a different doctor or hospital without knowing the patient’s sickness.  The best thing you can do is instead of asking “how can I help you” just provide the food the patient likes, books to read, music the person might enjoy, take the person out for some sight seeing, a movie or to a park and so on.
  3. Do not spiritualise his/her sickness: Don’t say “God has given you this sickness to purify you,” “to make you holy” or “God has great plans for you”.  Please don’t be God’s advocate. Bible says “My (God's) thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my (God's) ways" (Isaiah 55:8-9). 
  4. Don’t preach like charismatic to a sick person especially saying that sickness is a result of your sin or the curse handed down though your ancestors, work of the devil in your life, etc.
  5. Remember every sick person prays silently to God, if that is not visible then please remember that his/her body prays silently.  If God has given you life then he gives grace to fulfil it too.
  6. Everyone is a theologian in sickness. S/he knows make sense of his/her terminal illness. On of the Church Fathers of the Eastern Church Evagrius Ponticus says “if you are a theologian, you will pray truly. And if you pray truly, you are a theologian”. - Treatise on Prayer, 61
  7. Speak with the person his topics of interest like, politics, economics, literature, music, films, art, spirituality, history, science, cosmology, new technologies, etc. and please not your topics. The patient intentionally wants to divert his/her attention from sickness s/he is suffering from. Perhaps you might like to recall wonderful things that you did together when the person was in good health, or narrate part of a happy incident.
  8. If you have no time visit the person, one of the loveliest things you can do to the sick person  is pick up the phone and call him/her.  That may be right moment the person is waiting for some sort of solace or consolation.  Or else send a text message or a card saying that “I am with you”, “ I am thinking of you”, “I’m remembering you in my prayers,” etc,.
  9. You can’t cure the terminal illness: Please don’t say “you have tried this”, “you have done enough of medications “ “now no use”,  etc.
  10. No solutions please.  Don’t try to lead the discussion to the terminal disease the person suffering from.  Always try to divert to other topics.
  11. If possible have some laughter with the person. Crake a suitable joke or narrate a numerous incident that took place.
- Olvin Veigas
  29 Oct. 2018

Thursday, October 11, 2018

Did we humans get a Savior or not? - A Comment

I received a number of comments for my post on "Why did You get this UC?".  My learned priest friends and lay people appreciated my thoughts over the issue of Charismatics and how these Charismatics devour simple Catholics with a bad theology of sin, satan and sickness. Here below I publish a comment by Filomena Giese.

Dear Father,

I have read your blog in which you have described your experience with charismatic healers. 
It shows the fundamental flaws in this sin-charismatic-healing movement.  
It stems from a misunderstanding to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic teaching that mankind disobeyed GOD and sinned and caused the evil, suffering, and imbalance in the world.  And hence you need a Savior to take away the sins of the world.

There's this strain of religion that has you constantly feeling like a sinner and promotes the idea that we must constantly be praying for forgiveness of our sins and the sins of humanity!  This is the Divine Mercy cult and the apparitions of Fatima and Medugorje, and the new charismatic healing movement these days.

Did we humans get a Savior or not?
The answer is definitely YES.
This new fashion charismatic movement is forgetting that Jesus Christ came to take away our sins and He achieved this by his death on the Cross! 

The second heresy that this kind of charismatic healing movement is promoting is the false belief that one's illness is caused by sin!  It's a heresy in my opinion and against the great Christian belief that Jesus won us forgiveness and mercy.  We believe that God is an all loving, merciful God who would never inflict illness on any living creature because he or she has committed some wrong!

It is also a false belief that some people have been given a special power to remove illness and give healing.  This is what the Fundamentalist cults teach to brainwash people, and get power over innocent people and their complete submission.   There are miracles and great healing miracles.  But they are by very saintly people who credit the healing to God, not themselves.  And great saints are compassionate toward those who are suffering.  They never say that the illness is caused by the patient's sins.  And great saints actually nurse ill people, regardless of their sins and even faith beliefs.  They don't tell them they are sick and dying because they sinned!

Hence St. Joseph Vaz washed, fed, nursed, and often healed the abandoned victims of small pox in Kandy, Sri Lanka, for 2 years, without asking them if they were Buddhist, Christian, or Hindu and without asking them about their sins!

Please feel free to share my feedback on your Blog.


Community of St. Joseph Vaz (1651-1711), Apostle of Kanara and Sri Lanka

Editor's Note: Dr Filomena Giese is a theologian and President of the Joseph Naik Vaz Institute, California, US.  Being a great devotee of St Joseph Vaz, she had a miraculous healing through his intercession.  The Institute's efforts were devoted in hastening the Servant of God, Fr Joseph Vaz's cause to a sainthood not only by spreading his devotion through gatherings, writings and a thesis on Joseph Vaz but also making the files on this holy man move in the Vatican quickly, so that he could be proclaimed a Saint of the Catholic Church. Dr Giese's many writings have been published in the Vidyajyothi Theological Journal and other reputed Journals as well.

- Olvin Veigas

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Why Did YOU Get This Ulcerative Colitis?

In my last blog post, I wrote on how a person gets Ulcerative Colitis.  In this blog entry, I would like to deal with another question which purposely I left out to answer. All the more this question irritates me more than any other enquiries: Why did YOU get this disease? Connected with the same inquiry, I would like to deal with another sick question, how did I deal with satanic charismatics on my sick bed?

For my surprise, I find the answer already with the questioner.  Unfortunately I got this question mainly from charismatic preachers or followers of charismatic retreats.  Their number is no small in our Catholic Church today.  Unfortunately, newly converted charismatic preachers and their followers are hell bent on telling you why you get either terminal diseases or autoimmune diseases or any other such bad things happen to you.  The charismatic preachers and their followers have known to hear the voices of God, angels and saints instantly and directly.  These charismatics have ready made answers for you and for your problems with ready made judgements to pronounce on you.  For them, Bible tells everything and gives all the answers.  Without getting into historical-grammatical method of exegesis or going back to the original languages of our sacred scriptures, or going back to the exegesis and teachings of the Early Fathers of the Church, (I spent a number of years studying in two European Universities and one US University) the recently mushroomed charismatics of our church in India make no less effort in telling you how bad guy you have been and God has showed you your rightful place through his friend Satan. Often they come to you as three friends of prophet Job of the Old Testament in different times with varied musings and how you have hurt God, your Creator. 

Unfortunately, the first person who began to tell others and finally told me directly a year ago after attending the National Charismatic Convention in Mangalore, about the root cause of my disease is my own close relative.  Firstly, according to this charismatic, I got the dreaded Ulcerative Colitis disease because of my past sins especially when I spent 16 years of my life with the family.  I joined the Jesuits to be a priest at the age of 18.  Unfortunately, my close relative could not voice out what are those my past sins which are so treacherous to get a such heinous wrath from God.  Secondly, my close relative went on to narrate how he was revealed by the preachers at the National Renewal Program at the Rosario Cathedral that the whole world is in the hands of Satan.  Earlier he had such a revelation from Mulki Charismatic Retreat Centre.  Unfortunately, according to him, I have been badly caught by this Satan and as a result I have this disease and moreover it’s not getting healed for my bad luck, because the whole world is under the power of Satan!  Further, my relative went on to narrate that sickness comes because the person is not praying, not reciting rosary, not going for confessions, not respecting the elders and one’s parents!  The list is endless.  I have been a priest in good standing for the last 12 years and am in the 26th year of my religious life and a member of the Society of Jesus out of which I spent 15 years abroad as a missionary especially in Moscow and Siberia of Russia! (I suppose during my life in Sibera where temperatures go below minus 40 degree celsius - known for gulags and place of punishment during the Soviet times - should have been a earthly purgatory for my childhood sins and their reparations). 

A few months later of my close relative's revelation over my ill health, I received a guest who happened to be a recent convert to charismatic faith, a student of my Jesuit friend and relative who came to see his guru who was in his last stages of life as a result of terminal cancer.  My Jesuit friend asked me in advance whether I’m ready to welcome his student who is now a charismatic witness-giver but wants to prayer over him and on me.  I agreed out of courtesy as my Jesuit friend was my next room neighbour.  Well, this charismatic witness-giver went on giving me passages after passages from the Bible mainly from the Old Testament how Satan is active and why he has surrounded me with this disease.  This charismatic witness giver tried his level best to convince me that this sickness that I have is because of unforgiveness and active presence of devil in the world.  He gave me a number of passages to read and exercises to do on a notebook.  This poor creature spent with me more than 90 minutes, which gave me a glimpse of how charismatic preachers try to fool the simple catholics of today in India and take them for ransom as hostages for nothing.  Even though, I attended a moderate charismatic retreat preached by a Jesuit from Bombay for our province men in 1990’s which in fact, I liked it then the present experience was simply unforgivable for its scandalous outlook.  However, in an another charismatic retreat where we the Jesuit scholastics from Dharwad were asked compulsorily to be volunteers during my college studies, I had questioned myself why our Christian God is so deaf when the whole congregation of people assembled in St Joseph’s Church grounds Dharwad screamed, and shouted praises and alleluia’s in a university town which would reach my university college KCD.  I had found myself an answer then in the Kannada saying "Jana Marulo, Jatre Marulo" when my student friends from the college asked one after another.  Undoubtedly, the academic vigour of Dharwad had made me then an absolute alien to the charismatic shoutings at the church grounds of Dharwad and made any impression on me at all.

A couple of months ago, my British priest friend who came to work with me on a particular project met an another lay charismatic preacher who seems to be having healing powers brought to see me.  As ulceration in my colon was increasing I was confined to my bed and room.  After a few minutes of chatting, prayers were conducted over me by this lay charismatic preacher along with his another lay friend whom I found certainly in some restlessness and went on say “Amen” to his guru's chantings and my priest friend.  As a devout catholic, I said "yes" and willingness to heal then and there.  Towards the end of the prayer, the charismatic preacher said "you are healed" completely.  I said how is it possible so quickly, and their mutterings were answered.  And it was  because of my faith came the reply.  After which they left and I was back to my normal symptoms of ulcerative colitis!  Mercifully, this time, I did not hear from the charismatics’ favourite word ‘Satan’ instead I heard “binding”!

I have received not a few messages, internet links from many of my charismatic acquaintances on preaching by the charismatic preachers in the last three years.  Always with a note of thanks I have always asked them, do you know what kind of disease I suffer from.  Hardly any of my acquaintances or charismatic preachers inquired about my disease and how I am coping with. In sum, for these charismatics any sickness is the direct result of satanic force or unforgiveness.  I found in none of them a sense of reason, critique in dealing with these existential issues, let alone a general good knowledge of our finite, mortal, sickly bodies which are constrained by time and space and prone to infirmities.  The idea of devil or Satan has stuck in their minds so much, sometimes I strongly feel that devil is standing up in them, all he needs is the two horns!  Just like a child which longs and speaks about chocolates, so too the charismatic preachers think and meditate on Satan.  That is why they are so judgemental and their every conversation begins with Satan and ends on Satan alone. When will these charismatics learn fides quaerens intellectum dictum of St Anselm? Faith seeking understanding/intelligence or faith that does intellectually intelligible or reasonable.  When will these charismatics take out from their mind and mouth once and for all the word "Satan", "sin" and begin speaking on and about God, His love, compassion, mercy, benevolence and grace? I wish these charismatics first begin to read Fyodor Dostoevsky’s novels which explicate so vividly theodicy and get to the bottom of the sense of evil in our human world.  Secondly, along with Bible begin to read the theological writings of St Bonaventure, Friedrich Schleiermacher, Adolf von Harnack, theologians of Nouvelle théologie and the 20th century theologians. Hopefully, this would be only way to stop the filthy intelligence being vomited by the charismatics of our catholic church and stop the nonsense in describing the sense of evil in the life of the person and in society.

Unfortunately, until now I have not seen or heard a person of charismatic spirituality either proclaimed by our Holy Church Saint, or on the way to sanctity.  I only know their rates when you call them for retreats in schools, communities and parishes and how offertory bags they open at the end of the retreat when they have mesmerized simple folks minds with sin, Satan, guilt and wrath of God.  I wish to see the charismatic preachers and witness givers men and women of holiness, justice and peace.  And my humble request to these lay charismatic preachers and their followers is that sick and infirm basically need acceptance, compassion, encouragement and moreover silence.  Silence at the mystery of life and death moreover sickness itself.  Thus, people of God understand that sickness or infirmity is a way to holiness and sanctity.  Sickness and infirmity are neither a curse from God nor a possession of Satan but a very much part and parcel of human life on this earth which is short lived.  As Friedrich Nietzsche said we are all unfinished realities.  St Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Society of Jesus puts it so beautifully: “If God causes you to suffer much, it is a sign that He has great designs for you, and that He certainly intends to make you a saint.  And if you wish to become a great saint, entreat Him yourself to give you much opportunity for suffering; for there is no wood better to kindle the fire of holy love than the wood of the cross, which Christ used for His own great sacrifice of boundless charity.”

- Olvin Veigas 
06 Oct 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018

How Did You Get This Disease?

Autoimmune diseases are scary and frustrating.  When a person suffers from a such an illness, well wishers and others begin to ask, how did you get this disease?  Or more emphatically they would put this another philosophical/spiritual question, why did you get this disease?  The stress is on “you”! Holy moley, every human being comes into the world with some sort of sickness or bad health either in its infancy or adult life!  Some children are born with sicknesses which might be fatal once they come in touch with this world.  So, why then people continue to ask these questions in spite of knowing the title of the disease?

I have become weary hearing the above questions repeatedly and not less answering them as a wise man or pundit!  Recently, I have begun to answer the inquirers of my health saying either I’m perfectly well or  simply say it’s a private issue.  Thus trying to stop the conversation over this issue temporarily.  In the early stages of my disease, I began to tell the inquirers that I’m getting better.  However, when my own research on Ulcerative Colitis showed and my own fight with the disease continued uninterruptedly there was no end and that there was no medication to heal the disease at sight.  I began to feel the frustrations within.  Nevertheless, I have to find a suitable answer to people where I can quickly answer their inhibitions and prejudices about the disease itself.

Here are a few of the conclusions I have arrived at through my research on how the Ulcerative Colitis comes:
  1. UC is a autoimmune disease.  Thus, the disease can affect anyone who has low immune system in one’s body.
  2. Pancreas produces pancreatic enzymes for digestion converting the food which is in the intestine we eat into fuel for the body's cells.  However, when there is no enough food to digest, the same enzymes begin to eat up the lining of the intestine.
  3. UC by its very name suggests that it is a disease of the colon or larger intestine, wherein ulcers emerge. Thus leading to weakening of the digestive system, inflammation of the intestine, lack of control of the mussels of the bowels leading frequent expulsion of the stool with or without blood and mucous. Sometimes, it could be only expulsion of blood accumulated as a result of excessive ulceration in the colon.
  4. Any gastrointestinal problems arise because something is not functioning well in the digestive track.  Before, one gets UC, the person might have been suffering from Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD), Inflammatory Bowel Syndrome (IBS), etc. Interestingly, haemorrhoids, fistula, etc., are the symptoms of lack of functioning of the digestive track.
  5. Mind-gut axis.  Recent researchers have been working on understanding this UC based on a number of studies on our nervous system.  Specifically the Vegus nerve seems to be playing a vital game with its connectivity between the gut and brains. When a person is stressed out, under sever pressure, his/her digestive system goes out of order.
  6. Weather and environment: Gloomy weather without a sun is disgusting and leaves its traits on a person's health, behaviour, thinking and acting.  People who live in Nordic countries where sunshine is scarce during the winter tend to be different from people leaving in the tropical countries.  When cold, damp, cloudy, rayless days continue digestive system begins to weaken unless other remedies are sought.
  7. Here below are a few links which throw more light on Ulcerative Colitis, it’s symptoms, causes, and cure.

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Education During the Middle Ages and iGen of Today

What we are today is because of yesterday. Even though it is a bold statement, yet, the fact is that the very way of acting, behaving and thinking is based on a system of pedagogy - paideia, (παιδεία) education, which is nurtured firstly, by the Greeks and secondly, by the Latins.  Experiments on education continue even today.  Once again interest in classical education is beginning to generate at the wake of internet culture and the ills its brings along quite forcefully.  The classical education forms the whole person, leading students to truth thus building them in faith, character and intellect.

Unlike standard academic programs of today, a “classical” school focuses on memorization, close study of primary-source “great books” and the liberal arts, rather than using conventional text books. The aim is that of Biblical narrative: The truth will set you free. The teacher’s goal is to prepare its pupils to receive that truth faithfully.

Psychologist Jean Twenge has coined the today’s generation of students as “iGen”, which is overpowered or engulfed with a ubiquitous access to smartphones with internet access causing harm to their emotional health and well-being of teens.

“The members of the iGen, born between 1995 and 2012, are far less religious, more morally neutral, more likely to question marriage, and less likely to get married than previous generations, according to Twenge’s data.  They are also likely to remain at home, living with their parents, longer than previous generations.”

This iGen needs an education with the coherence and logic offered by the classical curriculum.  Moreover, the iGen “needs a new set of stories” to help form them as adults capable of engaging in “functional and fruitful relationships.”

Fascinatingly, reading a book on St Peter Faber (1506-1546), a Savoyan Jesuit, I came across how the classical education was imparted in the Middle and later Middle Ages.  A short abstract is here and we can imagine the great catholic theologians, philosophers and saints were nurtured in such an environment! 

Here it goes the description:
"Daily life in all the colleges followed this pattern. Roused at 4 AM the students, carrying ink pots, candles, and notebooks, stumbled bleary-eyed to the first class at 5 AM, followed by Mass at 6 AM, after which the shivering youths broke their fast with a pieces of dry bread and some water.  The second class lasted from 8 AM until 10 AM followed by dialectical exercise for an hour.  Next there was a frugal dinner with a Latin text being read in the background, after which students were questioned about the matter dealt with in the morning.  Then, by way of relaxation, came the reading of Latin authors until the third class, which lasted from 3 PM until 5 PM; next came another disputation, followed by a wretched supper at 6 PM;  at 7 PM the students were again questioned, this time on the day’s studies, and at 8 PM in winter and 9 PM in summer, after a visit to the Blessed Sacrament, they were sent hungry to bed.

There were some compensations for the rigours of life and the unremitting study: pageants, masquerades, fairs, dances at the crossroads, sports on the Ile aux Vaches, and numerous fights in which students vented their pent-up frustrations and resentments." 

One of the famous colleges of the University of Sorbonne (Paris) is College de Montaigne founded in 1314, where the well known humanist Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (1466-1536) studied.  "He suffered so much there that by way of revenge he gave details of the trials he and others had to endure within its walls: scurvy, fleas, hard beds, and harder blows (all the masters carried canes and used them frequently and mercilessly), putrid herrings, rotten eggs and wine so sour that it tasted like vinegar.  There was still worse: some first-year students died of hardship and hunger, went blind or mad, or became infected with leprosy. Erasmus may well have exaggerated; but the evidence indicates that the students, many of them mere children, were underfed, overworked, and mercilessly bullied." (From the book, The Spiritual Writings of Pierre Favre, Pages 12-13)

Fascinatingly, St Ignatius of Loyola, St Peter Favre and St Francis Xavier and other first Jesuits studied in Sainte-Barbe college founded in 1450. The saints were students from 1525-1536 in Sorbonne University, Paris, France, the second university founded after the university of Padua, Italy.

Olvin Veigas
03 Oct 2018

Saturday, September 1, 2018

Mother Mary’s Wholehearted Obedience

One of the distinguishing features in the life of Our Lady is her total surrender to God’s Will throughout her life.  In the scriptures we see the incidents in which Mother Mary is at the finest moments where she says complete “yes” to the Lord, be at annunciation, be at the offering of Child Jesus in the temple, be at her husband Joseph asking her go with him with Infant Child Jesus to a far away country Egypt until the death of Herod, be at Jesus himself when he says to his mother and father when he is found in the temple “should I not be in my Father’s house,” be at when Mary along with her relatives try to have a glance over her son while teaching in a synagogue, be at the wedding feast at Cana or be at the foot of the Cross, Mary is obedient to everything that is going to happen.

There are no arguments, no clarifications, no strategies, no seeking time for so called  “discernment”.  Mother Mary is ready with her answers, which are positive to God’s Will at any moment.  She does not need time for thinking, analyzing or discerning.  Her discernment comes right at the spot because God’s Spirit was within her. She knew God’s voice.  She knew she was in the presence of God profoundly and immensely, which determined her quick and ready obedience.  She neither doubted in her decisions, nor gave room for suspicion in her calling to be an obedient daughter of God.  Therefore, we venerate her today as theotokos, the mother of God.

By her very nature as God’s chosen one to bring forth saviour of humanity, Our Lady was endowed with a gift of obedience which was never shaken even in times when her beloved Son was sentenced to death of a Cross.

One lesson that we can learn from Our Lady is this: When God is with us, in other words, when we live in God’s presence we do not need to take timeout for discernment because we can make decisions rightly, quickly, justly and joyfully.

- Olvin Veigas

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Nurturing Holy Desires…

A couple of days ago, one of my close relatives who has long been suffering from various ailments told me after getting out of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in a hospital that she wished to die.  Further she said, “Why God did not take me to himself as I almost reached the other end”.  In a word of comfort, I tried to convince her that God takes his time and we should be ready that moment when he calls unexpectedly.  Just as Jesus said, the owner of the house would come when we do not know exactly when that day and time would come (Mk 13:35).  Unfortunately, long illnesses and on and off hospitalizations, makes a person suffer ceaselessly and loose interest to live.  The best solution then one thinks of immediately is of death, when sorrows, anxieties and bodily pain will be laid to rest forever.  However, I sympathize with her feelings and a holy desire because more than once I too have prayed for death when things got terribly out my control and doctors could not help to reduce the pains and my body suffered so much causing mental agony and torture.
Praying for a good death is considered a holy desire in Christian spirituality.  When we pray “Hail Mary full of grace” the Angel’s greeting to Blessed Mother Mary the prayer concludes with “Holy Mary Mother of God pray for us now and at the hour of our death. Amen”.  A prayer which, constantly reminds us of the moment of death when the strength has to come from above. 

The constant bodily tormentation with mental suffering caused by painful episodes of illness and effects of chronic disease, certainly leads one to pray for holy desires. When a person is very low in his mental attitudes negativism aggravates already dull moments. Thus praying for holy desires or having an attitude of positive feelings helps to lift up the spirits. It is better to be more joyful and happier than depressed and dejected. A beautiful Russian expression Держать в руках (derzat v rukax) hold tightly in your hands reminds that when we suspect that things are getting out of our control on things which we hold, we should never let it be loosened. A lot of times pessimism, discouragement, apathy, weakness, might over take us but should never loose hope and loose our hands from holding on.

Saint Peter Faber (1506-1546) a cofounder of the Society of Jesus and friend of Saint Ignatius of Loyola wrote extensively on holy desires in his spiritual testament “Memoriale”. His feast day is celebrated on 2nd of August by the Catholic Church. He lived just for 40 years and known to have called for his insistence on dialogue in resolving any sort of conflicts including with Protestants of his time in Europe. Here is a small paragraph from his spiritual diary. 

“On the day of Saint Francis, I was reflecting on how to pray well and on different ways of doing good, I wondered how holy desires in prayer are, as it were, ways of disposing us to perform good works and, on the other hand, how good works lead us to good desires. I then noted, indeed clearly perceived, that, by seeking God in good works through the spirit, one will more readily find him afterwards in prayer than if one had sought him first in prayer so as to find him subsequently in good works, as is often done. For he who seeks and finds the spirit of Christ in good works makes much more solid progress than the person whose activity is limited to prayer alone.” (St Peter Faber, in  Memoriale, 126)

- Olvin Veigas

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

In Everything to Love and Serve - Saint Ignatius of Loyola

Perhaps Saint Ignatius of Loyola (1491-1556) is the best known figure in the world today in spite of him having lived during the reformation and counter-reformation of European history of 16th century.  His little Catholic organisation which he founded the “Society of Jesus” in 1540 which, he often called the minima compagnia/societa (little society) has stood the test of time and history.  St Ignatius is a towering figure today because he continues to inspire thousands of people to follow him and in the methods set by him.  Every year more than 400 young men join his ideals to follow the Christ Crucified under the banner the Cross with a sole purpose to love God and serve His humanity leaving behind family and wealth of the secular world. In other words, in everything to love and serve for the greater glory of God - Ad maiorem Dei gloriam (AMDG).  The Catholic Church and the Society of Jesuits/Jesuits celebrate his feast day on 31st of July every year, the day he left this world to be with his Master forever. 

Three quick takeaways from his life.
Firstly, St Ignatius showed us that we could have direct and immediate experience of God. Thus grow in familiarity with God. St Ignatius' powerful but a thin book the “Spiritual Exercises” continues to play miracles in the lives of people especially in transforming them to be the citizens of God [15]!  During Ignatius’ time people thought that we cannot go to God or experience God without some sort of agency or assistance from someone else.  Moreover the so called the theology of the indulgences strengthened this conviction that God is unattainable individually or by one's sincere efforts.  St Ignatius solved this mystery through his experiences which he would call in his “Autobiography” that God taught him as a schoolmaster teaches a child [27].  Jesuit Karl Rahner, the theologian of the 20th century drew heavily from St Ignatius in articulating his theological insights and coined a very fascinating phrase “Self-communication of God" in German Selbstmitteilung Gottes [cf. The Foundations of Christian Faith] to say that God continues to communicate himself freely and openly to each person.

Secondly, St Ignatius taught us that we could know the Will of God in our lives through a process of discernment which is also found in the “Spiritual Exercises” [169-189, 313-336].  God is ever present in our lives and His creation.  Just like St Augustine who said that our hearts are made only for God and they rest solely in Him, so too, St Ignatius wrote very well in the "Principle and Foundation" [Sp Ex 23] that we are made for God and whole creation is a help in order to reach that God who created us to praise, reverence, and serve God and by means of doing this to save one's soul.  In the Contemplation to Attain Love [Sp Ex 230-237] St Ignatius taught us to find God in all things and all things in Him.  A truly inclusive idea he put forward much before the modern man could think of.  All his attention was on humanity’s salvation and is possible if we know God’s will and see God present and active in the world and in our lives.

Thirdly, St Ignatius contributed a thought that is still applicable today, that is God/Christ centeredness and other centeredness which, should be the hallmark of our lives.  St Ignatius is very clear that we are not permanent and eternal stakeholders of this world.  As finite and unfinished realities, we will have to make sure that we are not the masters of this world but stewards of this universe.  This means, we should have a heart for everyone and our hands should reach out to each person including the least and the lost in the world.  St Ignatius himself started a house for destitute women of Rome - Casa Santa Martha and founded an orphanage in the Eternal City.  He also set a few rules in the Spiritual Exercises on Almsgiving [337-344].  He sent his first compañero Francis Xavier to Asia in order to preach the Good News of Jesus Christ, Simon Rodrigues to Portugal, Peter Faber to the European countries where Catholic Church was disintegrating because of Martin Luther’s reformation stunt.  St Ignatius wanted put Christ at the center of the Church and the world and not personal or national interests.

St Ignatius is still relevant to us to experience God directly in the world, to know God’s will in our lives and put God in the center of our lives.  In other words, in everything to love and serve, en todo amar y servir.

Olvin Veigas

Friday, April 6, 2018

Why is this suffering now?

The question of suffering continues to taunt us when we ourselves go through insurmountable anxiety about its inability to heal a particular type of disease. I ask this question often why is this suffering now? Why is this infirmity at my tender age or very active age? Why do I deserve this particular type of treatment when I should be active in the world outside? I’m tormented by these questions now and then when relapse of my disease Ulcerative Colitis takes place. I go through this mental and spiritual struggle when I’m back to square one where medicines are not acting the way they should. These questions leave me in a bit of despair and distress but with a hope that I might be able to find a few answers to them. However, I must find a way out with my convincing answers, which help me see meaning in all these things. 

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Openness to See the Goodness in Others: My Saintly Aunt Karmin

Often relatives do make a great impact on our lives. When our close relatives who have made a difference in our lives, leave this world we notice the difference. Karmin - Konkani version of Carmel - (Veigas) Mascarenhas (1927-2018) is one of them. She lived her life to the full. She lived good 91 years; a year more than her dad Kaitan Veigas. In Konkani dad’s/father’s sisters are called “Akai”. As a thumb rule in our Konkani culture we never address our elders or seniors with their names, so Karmin Akai was always called or referred Odli Akai or permudachi Akai!

Among all of my relatives I found in Karmin Akai something different and unique. She was a woman of great faith and patience, a lady with kind words, affectionate and impeccable in diligence, in other words, a lady with a good nurtured holy soul. A woman who loved her relatives, neighbours and strangers alike. She bore 10 children and of whom three consecrated themselves to the religious life - two Nuns and a Carmelite priest. 

As growing up in our home in Kallyaradda in Badyar, I would see Karmin Akai at least once a month who would come down to meet her ageing parents - my grand parents - who also were blessed with a long and healthy life.  (Being our home an ancestral house, grand parents lived in the same house.) She also brought along with her Estel Akai, her younger sister who lived in close proximity to her home in Permuda, under the Venur Catholic parish with her husband and children. Karmin Akai‘s arrival brought to us a lot of joy, not only her graciousness which filled our home and surrounding, but also made our teeth happy with cookies and sweets she carried along for us. My grand parents too would be extremely happy, as their eldest daughter whom they loved so much would bring them also two bottles of distilled water, while my dad now and then would bring prohibition or he himself would make a vow to stop his childhood hobby but allowed the generousity of his eldest sister without any restrictions as he too respected and loved his Odle Bai. 

Karmin Akai, also, was very dear to us because she was a matchmaker of my parents. Thus, she introduced my mom to my dad, which she often would tell us proudly. In fact, my mom came from her place, two kilometers from her residence . In fact, Karmin Akai liked the perfectionism and hard working nature of my mom and Akai  noticed this when my mom worked in her rice field . In other words, Akai felt an extra responsibility towards my parents in encouraging them in their life together as couples. 

Karmin Akai was also a woman of great faith. She had an immense fervour for spiritual things and would recite prayers with great diligence and rhythm. A few years ago, I did a recording of her description about our ancestral history and how she along with her siblings migrated to our present location Kallyar in Badyar from Madanthyar in 1950. She was 23 years old then. 

Whenever Karmin Akai came down to see her parents she also made a point to visit her 7 brothers with a brisk visit. She would encourage many of them to stop getting into alcoholism because of their over enthusiasm in brass band which her brothers owned and made them popular from Bantwal to Chickmagalur and nevertheless, brought in a lot financial credit.

I wish and pray that this saintly lady who touched me in so many ways by her gentle and affectionate nature may enjoy the heavenly bliss with that compassionate Lord and Master of us all.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Lenten reflections: The Mystery is Ever Before Us

Painting by Paul C Salins
We are in the Season of Lent, where we delve deeper into the mystery of Christ’s suffering, death and resurrection.  Just like that Samaritan woman we will also be opening up our emptiness of human frailty before the great mystery of life and death, solace and suffering.  Perhaps we could ask ourselves whether we are ready to forgo just like that Samaritan woman our sense of guilt and helplessness before our sinful nature?  Can we be people of caring and ready to help those people who are in most need of us to quench their either physical or spiritual thirst or hunger?

Lent is a time to forgo something that would enhance either our life in the spirit or our human life in general.  Could we think about intensifying or enhancing our life by forgoing those attachments or things which do not allow us to live in the Spirit or with one another?

Friday, March 2, 2018

Mortality is ever present before us

Existential questions leave us perplexed. Human mortality is one of them. Anxiety is part and condition of our existence. The question of mortality makes aware that we are just visitors or pilgrims in this world. Our life is short and uncertain. The time that we have passed is perhaps longer than what we have for the future. Strangely we do not know what comes next and when would be our last moment, last word, last meal or last conversation with our beloved. But one thing is certain that end comes and unfortunately none of us may delay or prevent it. When a person suffers for a long time with a disease which is chronic, and curable medicine is still far from being invented the thought of mortality becomes ever more active and forefront in front of the suffering. In such desperate situations one has to learn to live ones life to the fullest. If there is moment to laugh one has to laugh, if there is moment to weep at the pain or suffer you someone, one has to be ready to shed ones tears of comfort and suffocate. Nothing that should allow us to lose the moment of our life. Every moment becomes precious in such situations of our volatile life.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

In pursuit of happiness

The question of what is the pursuit of happiness is an old age question.  Happiness is what every human being craves for.  Happiness is what is here and what is not here, it is already and not yet, a kind of eschatological question.  We might think that our happiness lies here and now.  But actually we might not have been in that situation at that time at all.  Therefore the pursuit of happiness comes to torment us.  The pursuit of happiness perhaps may be our craving, our interest, our goal of life. This does not take place until and unless we are in it.  Immersing oneself info the pursuit of happiness is an herculean task.  A person's happiness cannot be borrowed or bought from someone else. Happiness is felt within the heart and soul of the person.  Others might be of some help in the pursuit of happiness.  Ultimately the person him/herself has to seek it, try to get it.  Because each moment or day is free to determine his or her freedom in pursuit of happiness.  There are no boundaries or parameters in the pursuit of happiness.  A person with chronic IBD will have to pursue his or her happiness within one’s stark reality of pain, distress and depression.  But there are all the possibilities of realising one's dream of being happy.  In pursuing one's desire to happiness within those life conditions will lead to happiness in some sense or the other.  No one can deny or measure one's happiness.  Ultimately there is a beginning for every effort.  The first step begins with one's readiness to embark on a long and challenging journey.

God is magnanimous and generous

Introduction to the Holy Mass with Superior General of Jesuits Rev. Fr Arturo Sosa on 26-02-2018 at Mount St Joseph, Bangalore. 

A warm welcome to you my dear brothers.  And we are gathered together along with our Superior General Fr Arturo Sosa and his three General Assistants to celebrate this fraternal thanksgiving at this Holy Eucharist of our Lord Jesus Christ.  We are indeed very glad that we could be together as sons of One Father.  And we thank the Lord for giving us this wonderful opportunity to feel one with the whole body of the Society because it is God who has called us to this minima Compagnia.  Therefore, only to him be glory and praise - soli Deo Gloria.  The readings of today put us in right perspective that the creator deals with creature directly and in a unique personal way.  God is great and to be feared and each individual is called to keep the commandments of covenant and be compassionate towards others.  Lent once again summons us to listen: To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.  He is magnanimous and generous and we have to be so to our brothers and sisters.  We pray for this grace at the Holy Eucharist today.

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Beautiful things happen in life

Many beautiful things happen in our life. They come and go but continue to live on in our memory. 14 of our young Novices received their Jesuit Cassock and wore them for the first time in their life. They were also confirmed with the minor orders of Accolyte and Lector at the simple Eucharistic celebration held on Monday, 12th of February 2018 at Mount St Joseph, Bangalore.  The seven Second Year Novices organised the liturgy by incorporating a few creative aspects to this religious celebration which made the whole event a blissful one. All the 21 Novices had smiles on their faces as they felt equal to each other in certain sense of the word. The new Ministerial Orders will make the Novices more closer to the alter in the parishes they serve and certainly a step nearer towards their goal of taking their personal vocation to the priesthood seriously. 

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Take one day at a time

Ulcerative Colitis brings to oneself a lot of surprises unfortunately rarely pleasant ones. Therefore unpleasant things which continue to happen is part of the game of this disease. Since the disease is chronic you are not sure when that unfortunate time will begin to bother you. It could be any day or anytime including evening or early wee hours of the morning. There is no definite time or certainty in anything. Probably only certainty that you would have is the worst things that might come like bleeding, uncontrollable bowel movements, weakness including an anaemic state, lack of appetite, fever, pain or cramps in the stomach, loss of energy and strength including inability to walk. The best principle for a person who is suffering from the IBD is to take one day at a time! 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Helplessness when health begins to play...

I never imagined three years ago (since 2014), the digestive problem might cause such a havoc in my life that I would be incapacitated to take up any jobs or responsibilities with confidence.  Those who have ulcerative colitis will agree with me.  This chronic disease is still a nightmare...strange thing is that this disease brings you helplessness in abundance.  A sheer lack of confidence simply engulfs your already helpless situation.

Often this depressing situation could be won over by encouraging yourself like being positive about oneself and others, unstinted confidence to go and look for something that brightens you up, make a habit of listening to music that you like most, reading books if there is energy, taking short walks, doing short meditations, and deep breathings, and so forth.  However taking long and brisk walks are discouraged as it would lead to weaken oneself  because of ones lack of energy or state of anaemia or burning of extra calories which are already depleted in the body. However, there is no point in overdoing anything that I mentioned above.