Tag Archive: People


AMDG

If you haven’t been following it – and extraordinary meeting or ‘synod’, of bishops has been taking place in Rome.  They are looking at family life and how the church can support this.  It has taken place after an extensive consultation of Catholics from all over the world about issues pertaining to family life.  It is very unusual to have a double synod like this – with a two week extraordinary synod in 2014, and then a concluding ordinary synod in 2015.  This creates space for reflection and discussion before implementation.  Pope Francis set the tone two weeks ago when he urged those participating to speak freely, without fear of upsetting him, and to listen charitably to the others.  There has been much discussion and disagreement, which has upset some, but it seems that the majority of participants have enjoyed a new atmosphere of openness and its pastoral concerns,  Although no substantial agreements or policies have been decided – this will be taken up in a synod next year – a message was approved this morning by 158 out of the 174 voting members, it includes a beautiful section which I am reproducing below :  there is a link at the end to the whole message

There is also the evening light behind the windowpanes in the houses of the cities, in modest residences of suburbs and villages, and even in mere shacks, which shines out brightly, warming bodies and souls. This light—the light of a wedding story—shines from the encounter between spouses: it is a gift, a grace expressed, as the Book of Genesis saVatican Familyys (2:18), when the two are “face to face” as equal and mutual helpers. The love of man and woman teaches us that each needs the other in order to be truly self. Each remains different from the other that opens self and is revealed in the reciprocal gift. It is this that the bride of the Song of Songs sings in her canticle: “My beloved is mine and I am his… I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine” (Song of Songs 2:16; 6:3).

This authentic encounter begins with courtship, a time of waiting and preparation. It is realized in the sacrament where God sets his seal, his presence, and grace. This path also includes sexual relationship, tenderness, intimacy, and beauty capable of lasting longer than the vigor and freshness of youth. Such love, of its nature, strives to be forever to the point of laying down one’s life for the beloved (cf Jn 15:13). In this light conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.

This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education. It includes the capacity to offer life, affection, and values—an experience possible even for those who have not been able to bear children. Families who live this light-filled adventure become a sign for all, especially for young people……..

            Father, grant to all families the presence of strong and wise spouses who may be the source of a free and united family.

            Father, grant that parents may have a home in which to live in peace with their families.

            Father, grant that children may be a sign of trust and hope and that young people may have the courage to forge life-long, faithful commitments.

            Father, grant to all that they may be able to earn bread with their hands, that they may enjoy serenity of spirit and that they may keep aflame the torch of faith even in periods               of darkness.

            Father, grant that we may all see flourish a Church that is ever more faithful and credible, a just and humane city, a world that loves truth, justice and mercy.

 

Link to the whole message that was released this morning  : Provided by Catholic Voices and Austen Ivereigh who has been making an excellent commentary to accompany the meetings

I couldn’t stop laughing

AMDG

The nearby city of Hubli here in Karnataka held a unique competition last week ”An Abuse without Offending Contest”.  Its goal  – to judge intelligent and inventive ways of abusing each other.    I had to check the date of the newspaper – it wasn’t April the First!  350 participants took to the stage either solo or as a duo (husband-wife, friends or brother-sister). The type of abuse was strictly controlled – participants were not allowed to use filthy language or hurt others with regard to caste, creed, religion or sex but could insult others using  English, Hindi, Kannada, Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam or any other Indian language. Evidently the aim of the competition was ‘to find a peaceful language in today’s troubled times.’ The winners were an elderly couple, Savita and Gangadhar Hiremath, married for more than five decades. They argued, quarreled and abused each other – and had the audience in gales of laughter with their inventive and witty insults, and they walked away with the first prize. Their prize – a garland of flowers.”We’re happy to win the first prize. On the stage we stayed natural and used language which we use in our daily life,” said the couple in unison at the end of the event.

When I was a teenager we used to learn Monty Python scripts off by heart and recite them at the back of the coach on the way back from sporting fixtures (its a bit embarrassing to admit this now).  One of our favorite sketches was the ‘I’d like to have an argument’ sketch, where the hapless Michael Palin, wanders into the wrong room, and gets a volley of abuse.  When he looks bewildered – his assailant realises he is lost and tells him, ‘oh this is abuse you want room 12a for an argument.’ Never did I think I would come across this in real life.

Maybe….. and this is a very tentative maybe….. there is some point to this bizarre contest. The organisers claimed   “Most often a verbal duel turns offensive and leads to physical fights. Thus we want to encourage people to make their habit of abusing or scolding fellow human beings without any malice and thereby also enjoy and have fun in the process. Friendly bantering should be encouraged between people to vent their anger.”   Having worked in all boys school, I used to find the majority of banter tiresome, especially in the staff room, but recognise that it could be an important way to let of steam. I have to acknowledge there were some geniuses at it – especially the students.  Some of their observations and use of language could make me crack up, which could be a bit embarrassing, especially when trying to teach a lesson. I perfected the trick of writing on the whiteboard with my back to the class when I was battling to keep a straight face.

Wonderful …………………   Only in India!


AMDG
There is a Filipino tradition of showing respect by raising the back of anothers hand and placing it on your forehead is called ‘Mano Po’ here. And it is very charming – once you get used to it.  When people find out you are a priest (the Jesuits very rarely wear clerical dress here) – they usually come and do mano po!  I was in a restaurant a month back and halfway through the meal the waitress asked if I was a priest having overheard my friends call me father – when I replied yes, ‘Mano po’ went on – quickly followed by the other waiters and even the chef came out!
Another surprising ‘mano-po’ moment was when I had knee surgery six weeks ago. As I was lying on the (undersized) trolley read to be wheeled into to the theater both surgeons came up to ask me for Mano Po.  Lying awkwardly on the trolley in my surgical gown, with a drip hanging out of my arm, I flapped my arms about giving ‘Mano po’.  Then the lead surgeon also asked me for a  blessing at which stage the machine started beeoing alarmingly – indicating my blood pressure had shot up to 200!!  I think behind my smiles I was quite unsettled that I was being asked to give him a blessing – surely the hospitals chaplain should have been their blessing me!
I think it is a beautiful tradition – and you often see the youngest in the family when they arrive acknowledging their grandparents and parents in such a fashion.  I think they maybe horrified if they saw how so many old people are treated in the West.  When staying with families I have often praised how strong the family is here in the Philippines but quite often although they agree – they also are quick to point that there can be a dark side too.  Too much pressure at times? Too much respect for certain authority? Perhaps…..
It is fascinating to see how high up the Power Distance Index the Philippines lies.  Developed by Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede this basically measures how much a country respects authority and values hirearchies. The Philippines has the 4th highest power distance index in the world at 94. Thats suprisingly higher than China (88) and many Arab countries (80)…. the UK (35) is well down.  Now to be fair there are many countries without a score so it is not yet a universal measure, but still quite revealing. (Top of the List = Malaysia, Bottom = Austria)
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 THE POWER DISTANCE INDEX (Source: www.clearlycultural.com)
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So how does that translate into behaviour? according to ClearlyCultural.com in a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

. Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.
. Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
. Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
. The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
. Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
. Class divisions within society are accepted.

So you can see how this could become dangerous in a strongly Catholic country like the Philippines.  It is precisely when the Church allows a clerical culture to thrive that people are attracted to church for the wrong reasons, for status rather than service.  To be fair among the Jesuits I have seen very little of this. Before I arrived I heard that some of the Bishops have a reputation of being prince-bishops but I have to say that each of the Bishops I have met have been very impressive. Archbishop Tagle – the new Archbishop of Manila, who works closely with the Jesuits here, especially in media work (click link) is talked of by some as a possible candidate to be the first Asian Pope.  I will certainly miss ‘Mano Po’ when I leave but I won’t miss being called ‘Father’ all the time…..

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