Chennai – How wonderful it is to rejuvenate oneself with the energy that is passed on by our Holy Mother Church! In accordance with the formative program of Don Guanella Major Seminary, the Second Annual Don Mimi Theological forum was held on November 29th under the leadership of Bro. Raja Rathinam. The topic “New Wine in New Wineskins,” was inspired by a famous Church document given by Pope Francis to the Congregation of Consecrated Life. There were different speakers to present the topics of the document from different perspectives. Fr. Periyanayagam, Vice Rector, was the chief guest of the day; helping the forum by clarifying the doubts raised by the brothers. Fr. Samson, Rector, was also present and helped the forum with his insights to be a better person during formation. The forum also included evaluations and some entertainment in the form of party games. Overall it was a worthwhile forum in which brothers explored their knowledge of the Church. The forum ended with an expression of thanks proposed by Bro. Praveen.
Chennai – In order to gain pastoral experience from the theological Seminary, Don Guanella Major Seminary brothers went to the rural villages of Tamil Nadu for camp. Theology students had one week and the first year students had ten days of exposure guided by the professors of Sacred Heart Seminary, Poonamalle. They went to villages like Aarambakkam, Naidukuppam and Thandalam to make a social, cultural and economic analysis of marginalized people. Theology Students were entrusted with pastoral care led and organized in accordance with the Basic Christian Communities. They were sent to various parishes in the Vellore Diocese and exposed to the realities of alternative ministries like cancer institute, tribal welfare institute, prison ministry, refugee camp; experiencing the struggles and daily problems of the people. These situations made theology not only an academic subject but a personal encounter with Christ.
We are in the joyous season of Easter and, as consecrated persons, our search that leads to the experience of peace, “in His will is our peace.”
As you come to know the New Religious Assignment proposals in our communities, we seek together and carry out God’s will generously and, for that, we need to grow positively in fostering our free will. We are all believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and in the God of Jesus Christ who, “although he was a son, he learned obedience.” Abraham left comfort and security and, without hesitation, he “obeyed and went” even when obedience was difficult. His faith is an example for all of us. Obedience means to hear with glad acceptance. The vow of obedience is undertaken in a spirit of faith and love.
In the present cultural context, we are tempted to search for personal well-being and to show a “Why me?” and a “but” attitude. Following the advice of the Founder, we obey not merely out of servile fear or out of human submissiveness, but we strive to obey like sons in order to please the heart of the Father.
When we look at religious assignments, we look at the good of the confrere, the good of the community and the service of the poor. We could compare our journey to an “Exodus” which is guided by the cloud, both bright and obscure, of the Spirit of God. Are we willing to obey God even when it’s not easy and when we don’t understand? “Gli occhi hanno pianto vedono meglio” (eyes which shed tears will see better). We obey by spending time in prayer, listening as well as speaking, and by allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal truth to us. Our beloved Holy Father Francis says, “Obedience is the means by which a man puts himself at the service of another.”
Through St. Joseph the Worker, we can learn and appreciate the value of all that is humble, simple, hidden and, above all, to work according to God’s will. Thank you for hearing and accepting the new assignment proposals. May our Blessed Mother, perfect model of obedience, bless your generosity of mind and heart!
“Christ has died, Christ is Risen and Christ will come again”. This is the earliest faith-affirmation of the Christian Church. “And if Christ has not been raised, then empty (too) is our preaching; empty, too, your faith” (I Cor 15,14)! These similar statements of the early Church and the gathering of the disciples on the first day of the week to celebrate the Resurrection of Jesus makes it more than clear that the experience of the Risen Lord is the foundation of Christian Faith.
But how do we understand the Resurrected Presence and Power of Jesus Christ? Death and Resurrection are parallel events, one on the part of the Human and the other on the part of the Divine. The death of Jesus is nothing but a picturesque demonstration of total powerlessness or kenosis embraced by Jesus to redeem humanity. The crucified hands (powerless to perform), the crucified legs (powerless to move) and the thirsty mouth (powerless to speak) explicate that Jesus has reached the stage of utter powerlessness in the sight of the world. The emptiness of the power is indicated by the lifeless corpse on the cross. The body being broken, the presence of Jesus emanates and hovers over every being. Going beyond the land of Palestine, the presence of Jesus extends to very nook and corner of the spheres and spaces and transcends time, Jesus enters into timelessness, eternity.
Sharing in the Resurrection of Jesus and to live in His resurrected presence is to become powerless to the extent of God making us powerful to live beyond our body, space and time. Going out of our body and entering into the emptiness, sufferings, misery, pain, torture and death of others, we dispose ourselves to God to make our powerlessness into powerfulness-powerful enough to bring life to others. Breaking the barrier of space, we become open for a wider community, which will embrace everyone. The poor, the sick, the unrecognized, the disfigured and the impure are all embraced into one human family of God.
As we continue our journey with the resurrected Jesus, we pray and wish that the Easter wind may blow away all barriers and to serve all people, especially the poor, the weak, the vulnerable. Our beloved, newly elected Holy Father Francis, during his homily with the Cardinal electors, rightly pointed out three movements of the Church:
May the Lord grant to all, throughout our life, the joys of the Easter Alleluia!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam, SdC
Cuddalore – The Annual Retreat at St. Joseph’s Seminary was held January 13th to 16th for the Minor Seminarians. Rev. Fr. Ligory, the Rector of Don Guanella Major Seminary was invited to preach the retreat on the theme “Vocation Discernment.” Fr. Ligory was very simple in presenting his thoughts on the topic and he made the students seriously think about the vocation that they have received from God. He invited them to be truthful, sincere and committed to their call and to imbibe the spirit of our founder St. Louis Guanella.
Advent and Christmas is the time of coming near to the Lord, and even more so, it is preparing the way for the coming of Christ at Christmas. Advent is the time of “Expectation,” and waiting is part and parcel of our lives in every sphere of our existence. This expectation turns into joy and throbbing hope for those we love very much! Today we have an unclear vision and a sliver of hope due to individualism in the apostolate and difficulties of living in fraternal communion. Henceforth, we need to rediscover the journey of faith to shed an ever clearer light on the joy and renewed enthusiasm of the encounter with Christ. Don Guanella would recommend this, “Confusion and torment will one day strike the apostates of faith and morals.” So let us deepen our contemplation of the mystery of the Incarnation, by making more space in our personal and community life, through silence and prayer!
Christmas is the time of restoration:
Let us focus on the priceless value of the spirituality of communion, give due importance to fraternal correction and strengthen more and more the “bond of charity” that is so dear to our Founder. “It is the cement that keeps us all united.”
There are three symbols which could be taken for our reflection:
The Star: That announced the birth of our Savior and which was a sign of joy, comfort, happiness and fulfillment. For all the broken and hopeless persons and those who work for the least and who wait for the harmonious living of humanity, Christmas is a time of new horizons of hope!
The Manger: Beth-lehem, commonly translated as house of Bread, is the place of life. Jesus is the bread that came down from heaven so that we may have life in abundance and that we may have harmonious fellowship with God and one another. For the Guanellians, there can be no better time to celebrate our Charism and mission, since Christmas is the time to renew our commitment towards the “little ones,” the underprivileged, to give them life and accept them in the tent of charity by providing “Bread and the Lord.”
The Shepherds visit to the infant Jesus: the shepherds were the first evangelists who brought the good news of the angels. And they returned glorifying and praising God for all they heard and saw. The shepherds belonged to the lowest strata of society and God’s salvation was first made known to them. Even today, the infant Jesus wrapped in bands of cloth, is incarnate in the poor and voiceless. Let us take the disposition of Mary and be humble enough to realize God’s purpose in and through them.
This Year of Faith will be a propitious occasion for us “to encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction.”
A grace filled Christmas and a blessed New Year!
Fr. Soosai Rathinam, Provincial Superior
Saigon – September marked the beginning of a new academic year. It was decided to start the year with prayer, so a trip was taken to the Benedictine Monastery where Rev. Fr. Antony Quyen, SVD, rector of the minor seminary of SVD, preached a two-day recollection to the aspirants. He started with the question, ‘why do I want to become a religious?’ He also placed many good examples and practical issues of religious life to the students. He insisted that religious people are not saints, but they walk towards holiness everyday by being faithful to their call and the mission entrusted to them. He also said, ‘A priest is a person who guides the people, leads them to God, and gives meaning to the word of God through his words and deeds’. After spending two days on the mountain in prayer, everyone returned home ready to start afresh a new life with Christ.
In February 1896, Don Guanella wrote an article for the magazine “La Divina Provvidenza”, entitled “The Catholic Vision”. I quote some of his lines:
“In the past, the world was coming toward us; now it turns its back on us. In the past it was enough for us to stay inside our Churches and offices; now we must move outward, getting out of our sacristies if we don’t want to run the risk of finding ourselves guilty of being locked in dishonorable isolation. To us indeed now these words of the Gospel are addressed: “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the towns and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind and the lame” (Luke 14:21).
Some may object: “We have our pulpits, our confessionals; let people come to us where we live and where we carry out our assignments”.
If they don’t come, if the voice of the bell instead of attracting them seems to chase them away, should we remain indifferent in front of such deplorable desertion, simply shaking the dust from our feet and throwing them the harsh words of Jeremiah: “Those who want to get lost, Let them get lost”.
Did it perhaps happen that the world moved first towards Jesus or is it true the other way around? Were Rome and Athens asking the apostles Peter and Paul for the Gospel? Let us imagine that in our place there are Saint Francis de Sales or St. Francis Xavier; after spending an hour of adoration, after practicing severe self-discipline and celebrating the holy mass with angelic devotion, how would they spend the rest of their day? Would they remain comfortably seated, observing the dangerous storms that afflict humankind, noticing only from which direction the wind blows, simply being content at counting how many boats are sinking, without providing any rescue to those in danger, without throwing the ropes to them and extending their helping hands?
Someone may say; “How could a few isolated individuals, cope with such a huge task? How? Bring together your human resources, join forces and orient them all toward the common goal.
We promote collaboration to develop sciences, to manage business, to dig channels, to populate newly discovered areas. Shouldn’t we join efforts likewise to populate heaven, to bring God to human hearts which are made to love and bless Him eternally? May the Lord help us!”
In these lines written more than a century ago, Don Guanella shared something of the passion for the Church’s evangelizing mission that burned within his heart and that urged him into action without hesitation or fear, neither counting the cost, nor being intimidated by the risks. What our founder felt, experienced and boldly proposed sounds so much in tune with the call of the Spirit to the Church of our time, an appeal that has been continually re-echoed and broadcasted by the pastoral ministry of Pope Benedict XVI.
The wind of the New Evangelization that has blown throughout the duration of our 19th General Chapter, is now urging us to welcome the inspirations felt and the decisions made during that assembly allowing ourselves to be continually set on fire for the beautiful mission entrusted to us, Servants of God’s Love among his poor.
Let us simply cherish in our hearts and translate into attitudes and pastoral decisions the prophetic reminders of our Saint.
- Ours is a time of difficulties and challenges, as well as of graces and unique opportunities.
- It’s time again for us to be evangelized and converted anew to the Lord, fascinated by the everlasting beauty of the Gospel. It’s a time to overcome fears, to put aside timidity and mere human calculations, to fight laziness, to reject temptations of mediocrity and selfishness.
- It’s a time to go out not only of our sacristies and offices, but most of all, our “comfort zone,” individualistic habits, and self-centeredness.
- It’s a time to take new fresh, bolder steps to be more visible and present to the poor and the marginalized with the heart, mind and hands of Jesus, to become their closest friends, companions, joyful and humble servants.
- It’s a time to deepen our love for the Church, our mother, our home and our family. Time to insert more and more clearly our life and ministry in the living body of the Local Church which we are called to beautify and enrich with our specific vocation and charism.
- It’s time to feel the urgency to reach out and touch the lives of many brethren who are not yet in the sheepfold, who got lost, who have never been home with the God whom we call our Father.
- It’s time to evangelize together, making our fraternal communion the first and most credible sign of our mission.
- It’s time to let our consecrated lifestyle speak louder than our words.
- It’s time to help and challenge one another to throw away what is futile, worldly, un-Christian and focus instead on the essential of our public commitment.
- And the essential is; “In Omnibus Charitas”; “To make Charity the heart of the world!”
We rejoice and give thanks to the Lord for the recent perpetual profession and diaconate ordinations of our confreres Bakthis and Amalor in Rome April 21-22. Our province feels enriched and blessed by this addition of new servants in the field of the Guanellian ministry inserted in the Church mission toward New Evangelization. To our confreres our prayerful wishes to faithfully and joyfully live their vocations remembering that our title is Servants and our motto is “In omnibus caritas.”