Friday, 31 July 2015

Dare to Dream: Ready to be Challenged

In order to achieve something in life we need to Dare and Dream. But it is not enough to dream for the sake of dreaming or remain at the level of ideas.  Dream calls for action. To truly dream means to dare to do something different. Daring to dream invites troubles. It is swimming against the current. We just cannot separate dreams from challenges. If we have dreams to accomplish, we need be ready for something good, something unexpected, something worst, and even something drastic. 

Let me illustrate my idea with a simple example. St. John Bosco, lovingly known as the father and friend of the young dared to dream something unconventional in his times. His dream was to help the poor and the marginalised youth of his time. However, to fulfil his dream he had to undergo immense sufferings and face enormous challenges. He was challenged in every way, and from every walk of his life. He was challenged by the clergies and the church authorities of his time. Some of the people in the society were annoyed by the noise of his boys. Some even considered him insane, because he played with the boys, he visited prisons, took his boys for outings and walks, taught basic skills to earn a living. All that Don Bosco did was something unthinkable for many. He was challenged by his physical condition that was deteriorating. But Don Bosco sailed through all these only because he had dared to dream and wanted to fulfil it. 

What can we learn from this simple example? I feel that many a times we do dream big but fail to accomplish them, because of the challenges we perceive. We sometimes get stranded at the ‘red sea’ like the Israelites, finding no further hope and meaning. I believe that if we want to do something in life, if we want to walk an extra mile, if want to be different, and if we dare to dream, we need to be armed to battle the challenges that come on our ways. I think that if we are sincere and honest, and if our dreams are not merely for our selfish gain, but for the good of our sisters and brothers and for God’s greater glory, we can cope with anything. Let us not stop at the ‘red sea’ (challenges), but let us look beyond to the ‘promise land’ (accomplishment of our dream), than we can be happy and make others life meaningful. 

Let us Dare to Dream the Dreams we want to Dream, and let us Challenge the Challenges that Challenge our Dreams. 

Pawanjit Singh SDB

It’s Cool to be a Fool till You stumble

One day an old man in tattered clothes approached a fiery preacher and said, ‘I am mesmerized by the power of your preaching. You have the gift of efficacy and memory beyond compare. The way you apply quotations shows that you are very well versed with the Bible and the sayings of the saints. You are a man of words. The type of words you use shakes the very soul of the people that they get emotionally imprison even before you could reach half of your sermon.’ Hearing the term ‘emotional imprisonment,’ the preacher could not control his tears rolling down the cheek. In a jiffy he felt excruciating pain growing deep within his heart and as if in a flash he saw the review of his life. Right to the words of the old man, the review portrayed him as the fiery preacher who through his preaching had imprisoned thousands of souls instead of liberating them. He had made the poor souls to swallow the solid doctrines and dogmas but never showed them the ways to digest it. He was feeding people only with his powerful words that never effected in action and this is perhaps because he himself was a man of words and not of action. Just like him people lived in words but utterly failed in action. Alas he says, ‘it’s cool to be a fool till you stumble’ for when you fall you realize what it means to fall on the dust. However, for resurrection rising up is necessary and it causes change, yes a radical change. 

Often we make a fool of ourselves by making a mistake of considering a word to be a thing. We don’t realize that a word is not a thing and a thing is not a word. No doubt a word is very fundamental in expressing what a thing is, yet it is not the most important thing for one could easily express and smoothly convey a message without even uttering a single word. A thing precedes and is primary to a word. For instance, the word love is not a real thing and the real love is not a word. A word is only a concept and the concept is not a reality. Love can be expressed in so many different ways without even articulating a single word. Moreover, tangible expressions of love are much more precious than the empty word called love. Saying I love you makes no sense if it does not find its expression in action. Where there is true love, words become unnecessary because it manifests itself in action. It is love in action that matters the most and causes people to change. A thing done in action can never be substituted for words. Words are dead if not given life through action. A simple gesture of love in action can move a heart much more effectively than voluminous words. However, a word has its significant place but not in the presence of a loving thing. For example, a mother to express love for her child she would hardly pronounce a word called love but she will do everything out of love in action.

Today we are called to be a Message and not merely a messenger. For the early missionaries the terms message and messenger were synonymous. They were messengers of God and at the same time they were the message because they lived the message. People viewing their way of life could very easily detect the message they intended to convey. However, today there seems to be made a distinction between a message and a messenger. The missionaries today focus more on conveying the message through words than life. Today we are called to be a man of action just as Jesus was. We are called to convey the message through our life in action and apply words only when necessary. Moreover, we are called to liberate people by giving faith education and not merely asking them to consume it. For this we need to awaken the intelligence of people so that they would see for themselves the Truth and come to believe in the love of God. We giving God to people have very less value. Hence, we need to act as sign posts to help people find God by their own because a thing found by self gives energy to withstand even the hardest storm. For Jesus himself would say, ‘if you know the truth, the truth will set you free.’ Let us make Jesus alive first of all in our own life and inspire others by our way of life. Inspiring through life is the most contagious thing in the world.
Romanius Barwa

Tuesday, 28 July 2015


     All that glitter is not gold goes an old saying. In today’s world, I feel this saying might just be reverse. The people at large admire what is glamorous and pleasing to the eyes. We are in an age where the technology has so gripped us that we are never satisfied, because we have made our needs into wants. In this short reflection I want to highlight that many of us love to admire what is externally beautiful and fascinating but pay little or no attention to what is more deeper and durable. We do not really care about the inner substance of this charming ‘being’.    

     Let us take an example of a tree/plant and its roots. Every one of us admires a tree or a plant that is green and leafy. This beautiful nature attracts our eyes because of its external exquisiteness. However, let us take a minute to think beyond. Do we know what keeps this tree or a plant green and healthy? Have we ever thought about on what does the duration of the tree or plant depend? The power that keeps the tree/plant evergreen and strong is its invisible roots. If the roots of a tree are weak, and are on the upper soil the tree, will last but for a while.

     I believe we can apply this simile to our lives too. Very often, we busy ourselves in keeping our external and visible self green and beautiful. We do not really concentrate on the roots that will maintain our attractiveness. What could these roots mean for us? Roots could mean building our life on character and on God. No matter how beautiful the tree is, no matter how charming the plant is, if its roots are not deep enough it will not survive even the tiny wind force. But on the other hand if the roots are in the deep soil, nothing drastic can shake the tree. Who is our deep soil? It is Jesus Christ. Jesus compliments the wise man who builds his house on the rock, the wind blew, the flood came and dashed against the house but no harm was done to it.

     Let us then live to deepen our roots and be evergreen, giving joy and smile to all whom we encounter in our daily life. The joy and happiness we give to others should not be at the periphery level, but it should be long lasting. Our deep roots should be the integrity of our life. Our public life should be the fruit of our private life. Let our greatest charm be a life of virtue lived in the solid foundations of our Christian faith. 

By Pawanjit Singh SDB     

Saturday, 25 July 2015


     Bridge to human relationship is renewed and rebuilt afresh at each and every moment of the encounter. There is no readymade bridge that connects hearts once and for all. One should not expect or think of a readymade bridge for every moment of life comes as a surprise pack with million alternative possibilities. At a given moment we choose one among the million possibilities which perhaps appeals to us as the best or most suitable from our point of view.  Whereas others might consider our option to be foolish and nonsensical for even they are open to million possibilities. It is this option of ours that make us unique and at the same time distances us from others. If such is the case then is it possible to bridge the gap between hearts.

     Bridging hearts become slightly easy when people in encounter arise from same locality, culture, economic, or occupational background. For instance, people belonging to same culture get acquainted faster than those with others.  Again, doctors understand each other’s handwriting and language very easily, which for others seems to be totally strange.  In this connection I would like to draw our attention to two groups of people emerging from two different backgrounds and the difficulties they face in bridging their hearts: the shepherds (priests and religious) and the sheep (faithful of the Church). There seems to prevail a constant misunderstanding and tension between these two groups of people. They don’t seem to understand each other. Shepherds feel the need of guiding the sheep whereas the sheep feel that the shepherds lack basic qualities of guidance. There seems to be a big chasm between these two groups of hearts and for which building bridges seems to be pretty impossible for we do know how to use the tools available at our disposal.  

     A few months ago I encountered a lady from our parish who bluntly expressed to me saying, ‘you priests will never be able to understand the difficulties and problems of a family life. Most of you have left your homes at early age, brought up in a fairly protected atmosphere and you have never really met with family difficulties.’ Moreover, she added, ‘you priests often command at the faithful or even behave rudely towards them when they fail to fulfill your expectations. There are rare priests who care to ask for reasons before bursting out.’ I have heard such words many times and even you will hear if you care to listen to them. Each time I hear such comments I find very difficult to digest the fact that even after going through so many years of formation and receiving best education possible, we find so difficult to understand and relate with people entrusted to our care. We might not agree to such accusations but the fact remains. 

     Misunderstandings and tensions are bound to arise when people with two different types of life style, mindset, interests and aptitude attempt to work together. There will also be a communication gap. For instance, a priest might greet his faithful with a heart out on his sleeves but instead of jumping and saying halleluiah… they reply lifelessly. In such situations, priest might think that either the faithful are nuts or they do not understand him. If a priest holds such an attitude then it is inevitable that the hearts will get distanced gradually and there will be not enough tools to bridge the gap. Hence, we are called to live with greater love and understanding wherein hurried judging seldom gets its place. We must be builder of bridges and for this we need to train and personalize the tools required to build bridge to unbridgeable hearts. The tools include love, mercy, compassion, goodness, forgiveness, understanding, honesty, and many other qualities that Jesus gives his disciples to practice. If we do not become the embodiment of love and forgiveness then practically every day or every week we will be coming face to face with our sheep or faithful but with heart miles apart. 

Romanius Barwa

Thursday, 23 July 2015

A Novel Apostolic Experience

I had the good fortune of exercising my Salesian apostolate in an ashramshala that houses only girls. This might sound odd considering that Salesians direct their apostolate to boys. But this is the only apostolate of its kind that we, students of Philosophy at Divyadaan engage in. Our task over there is to teach English to the 9th standard girls and entertain the 8th standard girls with activities and games. The shala is run by Sisters belonging to the Assumption Congregation. At their request, two brothers travel every Sunday to their shala in Tilloli some 80 kilometers from Nashik. This particular Sunday, I was standing in for a brother who was not keeping well.

This wasn’t my first time there as I had gone before to help the brothers organize a Christmas party for the girls. Upon our arrival, we were greeted by a nun and served breakfast. As I partook of the simple breakfast consisting of chana and chappati topped up with a cup of coffee, I was struck by the lifestyle of the sisters. There are six of them, only one of whom is a Maharashtrian; yet all of them speak Marathi so fluently and well. The missionary vocation and zeal of the sisters immediately struck me. Their immersion in the culture and adoptions of the local language and lifestyle ignited the flame of missionary zeal within me. The simplicity with which they lived, inspired wonderment in me. They live in the interior of a village, secluded in a real sense. The shala is surrounded by green fields, without a house in sight for at least a mile. The wonderful work they do is a testament to their intrepid character and breaks away from stereotypes attached to women.

I gauged that my presence and teaching was successful from the response I received. Language was a barrier for me but I tried my best to get my message across through my broken Marathi, but more effectively through my actions. The girls were amused at the spectacle of a teacher using comedy as a method for teaching. I hope that my antics don’t go in vain and that the lesson remains in their minds for some time to come.

I have come away from this experience enriched and encouraged. I realize that the need to adapt to the situation is crucial for an effective apostolate. Simplicity of lifestyle characterizes missionary life and complements witnessing to Christ, who made Himself poor.  

Cl. Ian Pinto sdb