Tag Archive: generosity


Generosity & Happiness

AMDG

Todays Homily 

If you want to be happy in life then be generous – generous with God and generous with your neighbour……  There are phenomenal examples of generosity in today’s readings.

GenerosityFirstly we have the generosity of Jesus.  We are told today how he is informed about John the Baptists arrest and later his death. We remember that John was Jesus’s cousin – so this is not only the death of someone who Jesus esteems as the greatest of all prophets – this is also family. Jesus – fully human and fully divine – would have felt this like we would react to a close member of our family. Let us remind ourselves how John was killed.  After being imprisoned by King Herod – he was beheaded and his head was presented on a plate to Salome….  This is a particularly cruel and grotesque death – very public – humiliating….. How would you feel if your cousin died in such a manner?  How did the family of Lee Rigby feel when he was butchered to death on a London street and his crazed attackers.   Jesus doesn’t lick his wounds, he doesn’t harbour bitterness in his heart for Herod – he throws himself into his public mission – calling for repentance and calling his first disciples to follow him.  This is the generosity of Jesus –  Giving himself fully to his mission

Call-of-Simon-PeterSecondly let us look at the generosity of his first disciples Simon and Andrew, James and John.  We are told that they respond to Jesus invitation – I will make you fishers of men – immediately, they dropped their nets and followed him.  There is no haggling with Jesus – there is no …. Let me think about it …. Can I get back to you.  These are hearts open to God – and generous with their responses ….. in other Gospels we are told that James and John were with their boats , father and hired men, so it is clear they have a little fishing business going – if they can afford to hire others to work from them.  So their generous response is against the backdrop of this comfortable life.

Why are generous people happy – because it is in generosity that we imitate God.  The creation of the world and of life is understood by the Church as a free act of creative love – the generous creativity of the divine.  God will not be outdone in generosity – and in some ways our being generous triggers God’s blessings.  It is not like some pastors will have you believe that you will become materially rich – it is a different type of wealth – you will become rich in your spirit.   Gods blessings are already there – it as though being generous makes your heart grow, and it can contain Gods more and more of Gods blessings.

ST Ignatius Loyola – wrote a beautiful prayer about generosity – many of the pupils in our Jesuit schools have to learn this off by heart – it goes like this –

Lord, teach me to be generous.

Teach me to serve you as you deserve;

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

save that of knowing that I do your will.

Lets sit quietly for a moment and think – in which areas of my life can I become more generous?

Why We should Help

AMDG

When chatting to people about the experiences of the last year, a depressingly common response is Why should we help? We have our own problems?  This I call the ‘Little Englander’ response but on the surface also it seems very reasonable.  The UK has the 6th biggest economy in the world according to the World Bank, India the 9th.  Surely this will change soon.  There have been criticism from both countries about the UK sending Aid to India.  Some Indians saying it is an insult, some British saying we should concentrate closer to home. Both are completely wrong in my opinion.  The British International Development Secretary, sensitive to such criticisms has said recently. “India itself has got 60 million children into school in recent years with its own money but more than 30 per cent of the world’s poorest people live there. There are states the size of Britain where half of all children suffer from malnutrition. We will not be in India for ever but now is not the time to end the programme.”  That is an incredible fact….. Of India’s 28 states, 10 have populations greater than 60 million.

The church punches above its weight in India particularly in its education initiatives and healthcare provision. However at times there can also be a siege mentality with the inter-religious balance so delicate. Catholics are regularly attacked and killed a terrible crime which is not well reported. Hostility, often due to forces of nationalism and fundamentalism, present warped representations of the church. Protestant fundamentalists do not help at times – with all Christians often viewed as the same by the Hindu majority.   Many communities may also be jealous because of the funding that comes from Catholics abroad.  The Indian Bishops at a recent conference released a statement on ‘The Church’s Role for a Better India’.However in this delicate climate – the church has already accomplished a lot, running 788 hospitals, many of them caring for HIV patients, a vast network of over 15,000 schools and colleges of which 54% of students are girls and 71%  are non-Catholics. It is clear that the Church’s network is doing a lot of good and unsung work for the people India. Catholic schools are the most prestigious regularly filling out the list of top performing schools. Because education is still a business in many places people are setting up schools to imitate Catholic schools. I heard  of schools called St Christs and St Jesus’s, of directors of schools insisting that all the female teachers wear habits like nuns. You regularly see in the matchmaking column of the newspapers, boasting of a girls credentials under the proud title of Convent Educated, or the prospective husbands having been Jesuit educated.  However theses works only thrive because of a woeful lack of quality and consistent provision by the state.

Philanthropy and giving by wealthy people is undergoing a bit of a revolution, courtesy of billionaires such as Warren Buffet and Bill Gates (left). Warren Buffet has designed the ‘giving pledge‘ in an attempt to get billionaires to commit to giving the majority of their wealth away to charitable efforts. So far 81 have signed it including, laudably, the youngest Mark Zuckerberg and the great Elon Musk. Sadly, a wise and experienced Indian told me that philanthropy does not have the same status in Hindu thinking, echoed by this report in the Hindustan Times.  The philosophy of reincarnation dictates that your status in life, rich or poor  is deserved and there is little you should do to change it. In fact this meanness is reportedly also evident in Chinese billionaires who recently ducked a meal with Buffet in case they were asked to sign up to the giving pledge.   In my experience the happiest people I meet are the most generous, whether it be with their money or their time. The new generation of philanthropist lead by Buffet, Gates and Musk should be copied!

The Captain and the Chaplain

AMDG

 There are not many European stories that break into the Phillipino press – let alone talked about here over breakfast or lunch. There is currently an impeachment trial for the chief justice which is getting a lot of column inches. Foreign stories are often dominated by the US or China.   So it has been of note to see how the tragic sinking of the liner in Italy has broken into the news – and the table discussions.  A death toll in single figures, sadly, is unlikely to garner much attention here, it seems to be the focus on the reckless captain that is generating interest.

What has caught my attention is in comparing the stories of the captain and the chaplain. The Captain has been criticised for abandoning ship after his reckless maneuver, saving his own skin rather than his passengers safety. As you might have seen they have released the recorded conversation of the coastguard and the captain.

Coastguard (De Falco): “Listen there are people going down from the prow using the rope ladder; you take that rope ladder on the opposite side, you go aboard and you tell me the number of people and what they have on board. Is that clear? You tell me whether there are children, women or people needing assistance. And you tell me the number of each of these categories. Is that clear? Schettino, maybe you saved yourself from the sea, but I’ll make you pay for sure. Go aboard.”

Captain (Schettino): “Commander, please?”

De Falco: “Please, now you go aboard.”

Schettino: “I am on the life boat, under the ship, I haven’t gone anywhere, I’m here.”

De Falco: “What are you doing, commander?”

Schettino: “I’m here to coordinate rescues.”

De Falco: “What are you coordinating there? Go on board and coordinate rescues from on board. Do you refuse?”

Schettino: “No, no I’m not refusing.”

De Falco: “You’re refusing to go aboard, commander, tell me why you’re not going.”

Schettino: “I’m not going because there is another lifeboat stopped there.”

De Falco: “Go aboard: it’s an order. You have no evaluation to make, you declared abandon ship, now I give orders: go aboard. Is it clear?”

Compare this with the accounts coming from the Apostleship of the Sea in Italy, of how the 70 year old chaplain Fr. Raffaele 
Mallena came to the aid of passengers and crew members. According to Fr Mallena said that during dinner he felt immediately that something was very, very wrong. He went to the chapel to pray and  when he realised the “abandon ship” alarm was sounding, he consumed the Eucharist and locked the staff’s valuables, including jewellery and money, in a safe. During the chaos that followed, the priest tried to stay aboard with the crew but was persuaded it would be better if he boarded a lifeboat and left the sinking ship. Thousands of passengers at the Savona cruise terminal where the local Apostleship of the Sea joined other agencies to distribute clothing and food. It is also providing spiritual and emotional support. Fr Mallena and parishioners on the island of Giglio, where the ship sank, worked during the night to assist those leaving the ship.

Women and Children first on the HMS Birkenhead

Of course none of us know how we will react when faced with such tragic circumstances.  But the comparison is stark and telling. Just a historical note of interest – a matter of pride for us Scousers (from Liverpool) is the account of the sinking of the HMS Birkenhead (taken from here clicky) . The heroic actions of the men on this boat established the protocol of  ‘women and children first’ .  In 1852 after hitting rocks the Birkenhead was rapidly sinking in the shark-infested waters of South Africa. While about sixty men were sent to the pumps, the other men were commanded to stand drawn up in line and to await orders. The teams who were in charge of the boats were frustrated to find that most of the lowering equipment would not function, as a result of a lack of maintenance and the thick layer of paint that clogged the mechanisms. Eventually two cutters and a gig were launched and the women and children were rowed away from the wreck to safety. The horses were cut loose and thrown overboard. Only then did Captain Salmond shout to the men that everyone who could swim must save himself by jumping into the sea and making for the boats.

The soldier’s commanding officer, Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Seton, knew to rush the lifeboats might mean that the boats would be swamped and this would further endanger the lives of the women and children already aboard the boats. He drew his sword and ordered his men to stand fast. The soldiers did not budge even as the ship split in two and the main mast crashed on to the deck.
The Birkenhead went down rapidly for only twenty-five minutes after she had struck the rocks, only the topmast and topsail yard were visible above the water. There were about fifty men still clinging to them. The sea was full of men desperately clawing for anything that could float. Death by drowning came quickly to most of them, but some of the men – and the horses – were taken by Great White sharks.

(taken from the website http://www.birkenhead.za.net/)


AMDG

St Lorenzo Ruiz

At last! We have finished the retreat – we are out of the silence. Talking and listening to my fellow tertians the shared feeling is one of renewal and deep gratitude. The proto-martyr of the Phillipines, St Lorenzo Ruiz, on his death in Japan said If I had a thousand lives – all of them I will offer to Him.   A beautiful hymn in Tagalog has been composed to this by a remarkably creative young Jesuit – Manoling Fransisco .  We sang the hymn together at the final mass of the retreat, and it was a lovely way to sum up the feelings in my heart.

I think for Ignatius the primary sin is not of pride but of ingratitude. As someone once said to me that Gratitude is the least of the virtues, but ingratitude is the worst of vices. It seems to me that the unhappiest people you meet in life, are those who take things for granted or even worse are locked into a mindset of ‘the world owes me a living’.  This gratitude at the end of the retreat is expressed by a beautiful prayer of ‘giving back’ that is treasured by all Jesuits.  It is often referred to by its Latin Title The Suscipe….. 

Take Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, all that I have and possess. Thou hast given all to me. To Thee, O lord, I return it. All is Thine, dispose of it wholly according to Thy will. Give me Thy love and thy grace, for this is sufficient for me.

The Suscipe is a radical prayer of total self-giving, the fruit of self-reflection and of openness to God’s love.  Very close to the heart of St Ignatius……  I think the happiest, most joyful people you meet in life are the ones who can say this prayer, roll it around in their heart, habitually.

Thanks for all the comments left – and the interest shown – Now can anyone tell me what happened in the world in the month of November?  

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