Sunday, March 31, 2019

The Power and Significance of Condolence Messages

Often, everything that happens to you is an experience in itself.  In recent years, I’ve been becoming aware about the things that are happening within me and around me.  In other words, I have become sensitive to things, situations, actions, events and incidents.  Probably my own health crises must have added to my already existing nature of being quick to recognise or give words or expressions to such feelings, emotions and movements of the heart. 

A very recently, when my mom passed away I understood the significance of messages of condolence. To accept the passing away of my mom was extremely difficult because we were very intimately connected.  Every second day she would call me over the mobile in the last two years and we would speak for quite a few minutes.  In fact, I learnt the skill of killing the time over the phone through my mom. A great teacher, indeed!

Each condolence message brought a unique message and received with a particular feeling.  It also depended on my relationship with the person, my friendship, acquaintances, etc. 

One thing was common in all, that is, every message brought me consolation and a sense of belonging to a human family where pain is shared by all.  I also found that those who called me over the telephone were brief, cordial, and included a touch of spiritual warmth.  Most of the messages  by e-mail, WhatsApp consisted a sense of prayerful wishes of comfort and support. 

Fr George Griener, SJ, who was my academic guide, mentor and friend while I was pursuing my studies in Berkeley, CA, US  sent me something from Jesuit theologian Karl Rahner,  a part of prayer  which had helped in his own life.  This made me ponder and meditate over the mystery of life. 

"Prayer to the God of the Living" By Karl Rahner
I should like to remember my dead to you, O Lord, all those who once belonged to me and have now left me.  There are many of them, far too many to be taken in with one glance.  If I am to pay my sad greeting to them all, I must rather travel back in memory over the entire route of my life’s journey….

…The true procession of my life however consists only of those bound together by real love, and this column grows shorter and more quiet, until one day I myself will have to break off from the line of march and leave without a word or wave of farewell, never more to return.

That’s why my heart is now with them, with my loved ones who have taken their leave of me.  There is no substitute for them, there are no others who can fill the vacancy when one of those whom I have really loved suddenly and unexpectedly departs and is with me no more.  In true love, no one can replace another, for true love loves the other into that depth where is he uniquely and irreplaceably himself.

Therefore when death has trudged through my life, each of those who have departed has taken something of my heart with them, indeed often my whole heart.  Anyone who has really loved and still loves finds life changed, even before death, into a living with the dead.  For could the one who loves forget his or her dead?  And if someone has really loved, then his ‘forgetting’ and ‘having exhausted his tears’ is not the sign of being comforted again, but of the ultimacy of his mourning, the sign that a piece of his own heart has really died with the dead person and now is living dead, and therefore can no longer weep…..”

Karl Rahner, Prayers for a Lifetime¸ included from his earlier collection, Words Spoken into the Silence, composed when he was 34 years old.

- Olvin Veigas

31 March 2019

4th Sunday of Lent

Monday, March 25, 2019

Mother and Her Absence

One of the things that I noticed in my own life quite recently is that how the passing away of your dear one affects your life without its many expressions.  When my mom left this world on the 7th of February 2019, I was with her holding her.  Even though, her passing was so quiet, peaceful and graceful, she had come to that stage with a lot of pain and suffering, leaving her with many questions which she did not hesitate to share.  One of such questions was, “why God is not taking me from here?”  

The serenity with which my mom breathed her last left in me, too, a grace, a sense of thankfulness and peace.  I said to myself, mom has done everything she had to do in this world as God’s beautiful creation, moreover, she has taught me what I am.  Through her suffering I too learnt what that suffering is.  Offering oneself to God was the only way out in all the suffering.  Nothing else.
(With mom on my Ordination day 28 Dec 2008) 
I experienced the great pain of my mom’s passing after 30 hours; the day of her funeral.  I could not control myself the grief and inner sorrow.  The very thing that came to my mind again and again was, now on I will not see mom and will not hear her voice again.  I will not have her phone calls which I did every alternate day.  I will not have her presence henceforth to make me comfortable at home whenever I reach my native place. 

At a fairly young age, I left my country because of the kind of life I chose, that is to be a Jesuit and to be "sent".  On my rare home visits from abroad to my family home were full of joy.  Mom prepared the dishes that I would not get elsewhere.  She made a special point to ask. She prepared pickle for me so that I could carry to Russia and have sometimes at my meals; this was also appreciated by my fellow Jesuits in Moscow.  Probably, in the life of a priest and the kind of life he lives as a consecrated person and single either his mother or sister become very dear and near to him.  Certainly, I am not immune to that mystery of life.  Perhaps the attachment that I have towards my mom will be part of my life let I take any vow of renunciation.  Nevertheless, I should turn to a Church Father to whom his mother meant a lot in his life, not only bringing him forth into this life temporal but also praying for him so that he too becomes part of her faith and life of salvation.
Very interestingly St Monica, the mother of St Augustine, talked to her son at her deathbed on the island of Ostia regarding her funeral: “Lay this body anywhere, let not the care for it trouble you at all. This only I ask, that you will remember me at the Lord's altar, wherever you be.” (Confessions IX, 11).

This is what St. Augustine writes about his mother after many years of her death in his book “Confessions”:  “And when we were at the Tiberine Ostia my mother died.  Much I omit, having much to hasten.  Receive my confessions and thanksgivings, O my God, for innumerable things concerning which I am silent.  But I will not omit anything that my soul has brought forth as to that Your handmaid who brought me forth—in her flesh, that I might be born to this temporal light, and in her heart, that I might be born to life eternal.  I will speak not of her gifts, but Yours in her; for she neither made herself nor educated herself.  You created her, nor did her father nor her mother know what a being was to proceed from them.” (Confessions IX, 8)

Furthermore, the good son, Augustine enumerates the virtues of his holy mother: “She had been the wife of one man, had requited her parents, had guided her house piously, was well-reported of for good works, had brought up children, as often travailing in birth of them (cf. Galatians 4:19) as she saw them swerving from You.  Lastly, to all of us, O Lord (since of Your favour Thou sufferest Your servants to speak), who, before her sleeping in You, (cf. 1 Thessalonians 4:14) lived associated together, having received the grace of Your baptism, did she devote, care such as she might if she had been mother of us all; served us as if she had been child of all.” (Confessions IX, 9).

There is nothing more to add. St. Augustine speaks for us all.

- Olvin Veigas

25th March 2019

The Feast of Annunciation

Friday, March 8, 2019

Empowerment of Women and Their Protection - Speech in Kannada