Thursday, 19 November 2015

A Missonary’s Life

     A missionary’s life is full of adventure and challenge. S/he can rarely complain of an uneventful day. Each day brings with it new challenges to be faced, obstacles to be overcome and hearts to be won. A missionary’s life is one of constant activity because s/he has to take the Good News to a large amount of people who have not heard about it. This makes the work critical and yet delicate because the manner in which the Good News is communicated is as important as the content itself. One cannot preach about Joy is one carries around a long face everywhere, neither can one teach forgiveness if one has not learned to turn the other cheek oneself. So while the proclamation of the Gospel is a top priority, a prerequisite is practicing all that one preaches.

Cl Ian Pinto sdb

Be Missionaries here and now…

            “We look upon missionary work as an essential feature of our Congregation” – says art 30 of our Constitutions. Missionary Sensitivity is an integral part of the Salesian DNA. “Without missionary work the Congregation would not only be impoverished, but would be distorted and alienated from its true nature. In it one could no longer recognize the Salesian Society as its founder had visualized and wanted it” (Project of Life p. 307).

            Cagliero Institute at Ivrea in Italy, during its 43 years of existence (1922-1965), supplied over a thousand missionaries to all the parts of the world. What we are today is to a great extent the result of the hard work and sacrifices of missionaries who came to India from as many as 25 different countries, over a period of 100 years. It is amazing to note that at the death of Don Bosco, 20 per cent of the Salesians were in the missions (SGC 471). In these past 140 years, there has been 146 expeditions, from which some 11,500 Salesian missionaries left from the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians in Valdocco to various mission lands. It is proof enough of the Congregation’s commitment to mission ad gentes.

For us Salesians, missions ad gentes are not just one work among many others; they represent something very much deeper: an essential aspect, a particular dimension of our identity as Salesians of Don Bosco in the Church. It may be true that the Congregation is not listed in the Pontifical Yearbook among the “missionary institutes” strictly so-called, that is, those dedicated solely to the foreign missions. But our founder wanted that there be in the Congregation a true commitment to missions ad gentes. GC19 expressed the same thing when it said: “The Salesian Congregation… revives the ideal of Don Bosco who wanted the work of the missions to be a permanent preoccupation of the Congregation to the extent of being part of its nature and purpose… it therefore reaffirms the missionary vocation of the Salesian Society… and intends that it be known as such in the Church as well as to its own members and cooperators (GC19, pp 178-179).

To be a missionary is a call within a call. God extends a special invitation to those whom he finds suitable to serve Him in far away places. Blessed are those who receive such call and we should be prepared for it at anytime. But this special invitation of God does not stop anyone form doing the work of God wherever we find ourselves. We are sent by God to the people in our own localities. Hence, all of us are called to play the role of missionaries wherever we are. Fr. Pascual Chavez once said, “There is no missio ad gens, if there is no missio intra gentes,” which means, you can't be a good missionary, if you are not already a missionary in your own context. Let us then take up our missionary call and serve the Lord with the spirit of a missionary.

(extracted and edited from the INM provincial circular, November, 2015)


Monday, 16 November 2015

To our Dearest Benefactors – our Anonymous Samaritans

In the gospel we hear the story of the good Samarian, a story which truly brings about a very great truth of our faith and this truth is nothing else but love. I believe that the Good Samaritan responded to her vocation because she loved.

On the 3rd of November all around the Salesian world we remember our benefactors and pray for them especially the deceased and ask the lord to grant them eternal life for their generosity. Here in Divyadaan we did a similar thing. In the morning during the Eucharist we prayed specially for the benefactors because of whom we are able to enjoy a simple and comfortable life and have a tangible experience of the providence of God. In the evening we spent moments together praying as a community in the light of the gospel story of the Good Samaritan. We named our benefactors as ‘anonymous Samaritans’ because of their generosity even though we do not know them. We also reflected on how Don Bosco throughout his life experienced Gods providence in the help he received from the many people who directly or indirectly helped him to carry on the mission the lord had entrusted to him. In the similar way we thanked and praised God for the many benefactors who have made it possible for us to reach this stage in formation.

We thank you dear anonymous Samaritans our beloved benefactors for all that you have done and continue to do for us …

May the lord bless you abundantly for your generosity.

Cl Felix Almeida SDB

How can I contribute to the Catholic missions?

     The document of Vatican II, Ad Gentes, which is the decree on missionary activity in the church points out three ways in which an ordinary practicing Catholic can contribute to the furtherance of mission work.

    The first is ‘living a devout Christian life’. This may seem simple and remote but its implications are great. Imagine if every Christian lived the way Christ did. Being devout Christians is easier said than done. Our situations, circumstances or culture may influence us to act in ways that are not authentically Christian. It is when we are faced with such challenges and we yet choose to live according to the gospel that we truly live our faith authentically.

    The second way is through ‘fervent service of God and neighbour’. Jesus’ teachings and example as delineated in the Gospel must be our signposts. One may ask how his/her service of people in his/her immediate proximity can contribute to the missions? It can, in as much as one is actively involved in bearing witness to Christ and His gospel. In this sense, one becomes a missionary oneself.

     The third way is through ‘prayers and works of penance’. This is seemingly the easiest way. St Teresa of Child Jesus was pronounced patroness of missions by the Pope, without ever setting foot in a mission land. She devoted her life to praying for missionaries and their intentions. One can also offer up small penances and acts of self-abnegation for the success of missionary work.

     These are three simple and practical ways the document gives us to involve ourselves in the missionary activity of the Church.

Cl Ian Pinto sdb

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Proclaiming Christ’s Message

     Jesus instructed the seventy-two (and he does the same to us) to carry two messages to everyone they meet. The first message is “Peace” and second is “the nearness of the Kingdom of God”. Peace is everybody’s desire. We may not be able to do great things for the establishment of peace but if we can be peaceful people and bear the message of peace, we would be doing a lot although it might seem like little. The message of the Kingdom’s proximity is in fact a call to review one’s life. The Kingdom of God is going to be established pretty soon. ‘Are we living lives that merit a place in that Kingdom?’ is a key question. “The harvest is plenty but the labourers are few” must not become a prophetic statement. By our commitment to the call to be missionaries let us modify the statement to: The harvest is plenty and so are the labourers. 

Cl Ian Pinto sdb

Friday, 13 November 2015

Divyadaan celebrates SMD 2015

         Throughout the year on the 11th of the month the community of Divyadaan commemorates Missionary Day. Remembering missionaries, praying for them and animating the community have kept alive the missionary spirit. There was something special this month. The missionary group along with Fr. Tony D’Souza guided the community to understand the missionary spirit and called in for a greater participation in looking at the missionary dimension of the congregation. This took the form of a Triduum celebration. 

          On the first day the community dedicated the evening prayer moments praying for missions and missionaries all over the world especially the ones facing difficult situations this was done by initially introducing the theme of the year for Salesian mission day – ‘Come Help Us’

          On the second day the meditation focused on the theme ‘Trust in me’. The intention was to help the community realize that trust in god is the fundamental requirement for a missionary. This is done with the help of readings taken from the biographical memoirs which spoke about the missionary dimension of the Salesian society at its beginnings. In the evening, Fr. Tony shared his views on the need to be missionaries. He presented the views of the Rector Major as described in his dream for the bicentenary. We also reflected on the document of the missionary formation of the Salesians which was jointly prepared by the formation and the mission commissions of the society.

          On the third day the members of the missionary group presented in gist the Vatican II document on the missions and missionary, that is, Ad Gentes. The presentation of the document in summary form brought out the most essential features that spoke about the preparation and the requirements for personnel and missionary activity.

          On the Commemoration Day the meditation in the morning focused on what it means to be missionary, it also focused on the call of Jesus to each and everyone. Thereafter the Eucharist enhanced the theme ‘praying for all missionaries’ and retrospected the day when the missionaries went on to have the first missionary expedition. The Missionary Day celebration  concluded with a very inspiring recollection talk on understanding what it means to be a true missionary and that the heart of a missionary is larger than him.

Cl. Felix Almeida sdb

Appointed to be Missionaries

     After this, the Lord appointed seventy-two other disciples, and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place, where he himself was to go. The Lord’s appointing of the seventy-two may appear as a kind of selection, which it is to a certain extent. He chose those whom he felt were ready. The harvest is abundant but the labourers are few (v. 2). This verse is often quoted to stress the need for vocations to the priesthood or to religious life but it holds meaning for all of us. Proclamation of the Kingdom of God is not the prerogative of the priests, brothers or sisters. It is part and parcel of our Christian identity. By virtue of our baptism, we are called to proclaim the Kingdom of God. So the call is universal but the manner and capacity in which we carry it out differs. Some carry it out as priests, others as consecrated brothers or sisters, others as members of families and still others as single men or women. St. Paul writes to the Ephesians about the diversity of callings within the Christian vocation: As for his gifts, to some he gave to be apostles, to others prophets, or even evangelists, or pastors and teachers. So he prepared those who belong to him for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ (4: 11-12).

Cl Ian Pinto sdb

Approaches to Discipleship

     It is interesting to note that the commissioning of the seventy-two is preceded by an episode aptly titled in the New American Bible as ‘The Would-be Followers of Jesus’ (Lk 9:57-62). In this account we hear three voices besides the voice of Jesus. The first claims to be ready to follow Jesus completely. Jesus replies, “Foxes have their holes and swallows have their nests but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head”, implying the rigour of discipleship. To the second voice, Jesus extends the invitation to follow him but he is asked to wait till he has buried his father. Jesus instructs him about priorities. The third voice also like the first expresses readiness but displays hesitation. He wants to consult his family first.

These three voices reveal three types of disciples. The first type are those ready to brave it all for God’s glory. The second are those whom the Lord calls but who put it off for another day. The third are those who find it hard to decide for themselves. They are easily swayed by others and find it tough to assert themselves. All of us fall into one of these categories. If we are in the first category, let us ask God to give us the grace to follow Him wholeheartedly and to help us discern His will for us. If we are in the second or third categories, then let us first discern in prayer what exactly is hindering us from committing ourselves to the Lord and offer up these obstacles to Him asking Him to give us the strength to overcome them and to make us His true followers.

                                                                                      Cl Ian Pinto sdb