For love of learning … and elephants.

I am sure this little one seen in my neighbourhood will graduate with a magna cum laude in English :)

Unlike Jithin’s MM Challenge #44 education poster, This school does not promise to make a genius in two days.  I guess that would be a gargantuan task.  Or would it ?  Elephants have astounding memory.

You can’t help but smile when you see these gentle giants.  But these majestic animals – the largest living creature on land should not be chained but left free to roam where he will on the plains or in the forests and jungles.

Sadly man is not only encroaching on their territory but also slaughtering them for their ivory.

I pray the elephants will not be driven to extinction by man’s insatiable greed. Thankfully, the world is waking up, albeit slowly.

Just last week, Sri Lanka became the 16th country to burn a huge cache of ivory, whilst apologising to the elephants.

“We have to apologize,” said the Venerable Omalpe Sobitha Thero, the Buddhist priest who will lead the service. “Those elephants were victimized by the cruelty of certain people. But all of human society is responsible. We destroyed those innocent lives to take those tusks. We have to ask for pardon from them.”

“One Country Will Destroy Its Ivory—and Pray for Elephants” 

Picture of Sri Lankan customs officials inspecting seized ivory

Can you imagine how many animals were killed to generate this haul of tusk!!!

 PHOTOGRAPH BY STRDEL/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Let us do our part by not using ivory in any shape or form – whether as ornaments, or trinkets, or any other way-and spreading the word to save these awesome animals from extinction.

SMOKEY on the roof !

Trying to figure out how Phototrablogger got his roof tiles for this weeks Mundane Monday Challenge by simply sitting on a chair!!   (See his answer to Aadhirai in his post).

I think I will need to switch to a professional camera to even begin to take his type of pictures. I still can’t figure out how he got THAT angle Image result for emoticons

But focusing on roofs – have a look at this cute subject matter who thinks the roof is his playground.  Or perhaps he is in tune with the Drifters:

… On the roof, it’s peaceful as can be
And there, the world below can’t bother me
Let me tell you now …

Up on the roof  022

Turn around please.  Can I get a full face view and not just your derrière Image result for emoticons

Up on the roof 30

Aaah  … nice thank you :)   Now can you come down please,  you are damaging the tiles

Oh … you like it up there ?   Say that again …

When this old world starts getting me down
And people are just too much for me to face 
I climb way up to the top of the stairs
And all my cares just drift right into space (Up on the roof)

OK  OK  …  I agree.  As long as you are not referring to me ??

When I  come home feeling tired and beat
I too like to go up where the air is fresh and sweet (Up on the roof)
I get away from the hustling crowds
And all that rat race noise down in the street (Up on the roof)

So stay there as long as you like  … and as long as you don’t fall over!! I will join you soon. Broken tiles are small price indeed for the joy of being UP ON THE ROOF :)

The Drifters sure got it right    I’ll be up there soon as I post this to Jithin.

 

 

Following Immanuel …

Another Christmas season has just ended.

With great nostalgia and sentiment we recalled the birth in Bethlehem.  We set up mini stables within our churches complete with statues of cattle and oxen and wise men.  For the twelve days of Christmas the baby Jesus lies in a manger to remind us of the Christmas story.

Epiphany – the visit of the Wise Men to the manger – is the official close of the Christmas season.  The decorations are taken down, the tree is packed up, and the statues and the Baby Jesus wrapped in newspaper or bubble wrap and put away.  We return to the Ordinary Time in the liturgical year whilst in our worship and practice, Jesus returns to the Tabernacle.

It seems to me we are missing something. Something does not seem to fit.  

The Word became flesh and dwelt amongst us – ” (John 1.14)

The Lord of all left his glory for humble surroundings. God desired to fellowship with us – not to live in splendid isolation in a church .  He did not even opt for the Holy of Holies  – the Sanctum in the  temple at Jerusalem built according to His own decree for the Ark of the Covenant.

With the Incarnation, the glory of God -The Shekinah – now resides in Jesus Christ who walked amongst his people.

He had no fixed dwelling place – “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests,  but the son of Man has no place to lay his head” was Jesus’ response to the rich young man. (Luke 9.57).  The implication is clear. If you wish to follow Him, ,you would find Him amongst his people.

Yet ironically we seem determined to put God back where we think He belongs – in cathedrals and temple  edifices. The wise men found him amidst his family and Creation;  Shepherds heeded the call to go to the manger.   We seek Him in buildings of stone.

I do not deny our need for sacred places, sacred spaces, to help us transcend our secular world.  Yet is there a vague possibility that we build our churches to satisfy OUR needs, rather than for the glory of God – the God  who gave up all grandeur  to get his feet dirty and walk amongst us?

As we put away the statue of Baby Jesus  carefully protected with bubble wrap until next year,  let us also not lock Him up  in a box in a church.  Rather let us and go out and find him amongst this people  – for he dwells amongst us still.

No crib for a bed ….

Credit : https://manyalaphotography.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-son-of-man/#comment-158

And so dawns another New Year …

11.30 pm Thursday, 31st December 2015.

I would normally be in church but a bout of flue had kept me home.  I was watching the world celebrate the dawn of another year.  The TV channel carried pictures as 2016 winged its way across the globe.  Spectacular fireworks from Sydney Harbour, where residents were among the first to celebrate.  Then Tokyo, Taiwan,  Beijing,  Thailand … the New Year was inching towards home.  A news break to report that a fire  had broken out in a high rise building in Dubai .. and another report showing the quiet deserted streets of Belgium where public celebrations had been cancelled due to threat of terror attacks.

Five minutes to go … I knocked off the TV and picked up the Bible.  It opened to a verse I like  .. Proverbs  21.17  – The words of the wise.  What a beautiful word to start the year :  “incline your ear and hear my words and apply your mind to my teaching.”   I read right through to Chapter 23 .. the thirty sayings of admonition and knowledge.

Then I went onto the balcony and that was when I felt it … the unmitigated hopes of the universe;  the dreams and aspirations of men. The nonstop drum-roll of crackers bursting like a volley of cannonball fire but more muted, one blending into the other.  For a full 15 minutes or so.  I recorded it on my phone but the recording does not do justice to the sounds or the feelings they expressed.

The world ushers in a New Year with such anticipation – whether it is in Sydney, Singapore or Sri Lanka. What is man that he expects things to be slightly different,  just a little bit better with the turn of a page onto a New Year.  Thousands and thousands and thousands of Rupees/Dollars/Sterling expended to see the New Year in with a bang and a hope that the bang of joy will continue for another 365 days – and the New Year will be better than the last.

Strangely, I felt that man seems so lost, so alone and yet so full of hope for the future.   I wondered … God are you looking down ?  Can you see the fireworks, the expectations with which people are ushering in the year? Can you see their dreams?  their hopes for happiness ? How do You view this .. we seem so puny with these dreams of a better life?

I got to thinking … how would we usher in a life of eternity … the life we would have to embrace the moment of our death.  Would it be with the same bang and expectations and celebrations ?   Shouldn’t we give some thought to that .. the most defining and all important moment of our lives?

As you inch towards that day, whenever it may be, may you find the joy, the peace, the happiness, and the contentment that you seek in the New Year. May all your expectations be filled to overflowing.

My wish to all of you ..“.. May the LORD make his face shine on you and be gracious to you; the LORD turn his face toward you and give you peace.

2016

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Next door Nana

Today we will lay Next door Nana to rest. She was 97 years old and a story book grandma – petite in build, silver hair, alert eyes and a slightly mischievous smile.

You could always see her at the big bay window … her face pressed against the pane as she looked out and waved at passers by.  She had her meals at a table at that window – and the ‘walkers’ would pause to exchange a greeting.

Sometimes she would venture out to get ‘up close and personal’ :)

I think I first met her on one such occasion when, bored with standing there, she came to my doorway, curious to see what her neighbour was up to.

I was just about to invite her in when the helper appeared, alarmed that ‘nona’ (Sinhalese for Lady) had wandered over.  Assuring them I would take her back, I invited her in to watch me working in the garden.  I think she enjoyed the break.

It was the beginning of a few such encounters in the early years. She would wander over to keep me company whilst I did my chores.  I would put some music on and she would sit watching me or walk around around till it was time for lunch or someone came to fetch her.

The ‘someone’ was one of the many helpers hired by her daughter in Australia who maintained a home here for her mother.  When she started getting on in age, Rosemarie and son-in law Mike would take turns – one spending time here with the other remaining in Sydney with their children and grandchildren.  They would then ‘switch’ – meeting up in either country so they could be together a week or two before exchanging locations.  I have never seen such commitment from a daughter – or for that matter a son-in-law,  for Mike took on the role of the son that Nana lost at an early age.

When Mike passed on unexpectedly about five years ago, there was no one to ‘switch’ with Rosemarie.   Nana had longer spells of being alone.   But despite the financial toll, and pain of separation from her grand-children, Rosemarie would make two or three trips a year to be with her Mum (- all because the Australian government just did not have the humanity in them to allow Nana to join her daughter.  Incredibly, they did not even grant her a holiday visa – such is the ‘heart’ of a big nation.)

Rosemarie was due on 20th November to spend Christmas with her Mum who had been in reasonably good health when she was here in August.   Nana had fallen a couple of times but had recovered and was not on any medication.  Rosemarie planned to spend Christmas with her mum.

Sadly, Nana took ill unexpectedly on Tuesday.  She joined her Maker early on Wednesday morning.

By the grace of God,  something nudged me to drop in on Monday.  Nana was watching TV. She had developed a fever and was looking a bit under the weather.  At lunch time, we assisted her to the dining table. On an unexplained impulse – for I had not taken one with her before – I took a selfie.

Next door Nana

Enter a caption

Again, something,  I know not what, made me inform our priest that he should visit soon.  House visitations are normally on Fridays but again providentially he said he would drop in next morning.

When I went in to wait for him, Nana’s fever had unexpectedly taken a turn for the worse.  I held her hand and sang to her, hymns of comfort and the Our Father.  She smiled once at something in the distance and I thought she was slipping away but she continued to hold my hand.  My sister joined me.  Our priest Fr. Anton Saman annointed her and gave her Holy Communion.

The Doctors visited but she was too weak to respond to medication.  She was reunited with her Creator later that night.  A peaceful, serene death with no suffering nor pain except slight difficulty in breathing.  A grace-filled death for a graceful lady.

I am thankful for the mercy that sent me there, to allow me to get the priest and comfort her in some small way although I am sad that circumstances did not permit me to be with her in her final hours.

But I will cherish the time spent together and the memories of a lively, lovely gentle lady who was alert enough to remind me if I was being careless :)

I had the habit of dropping in ‘garage to garage‘ a couple of times for a quick hello and she would always offer me a cup of tea or persuade me to join her for  lunch.   One day, I said I would have to be quick as I had not locked up.   After that, she would check with me if anyone was home or if I had locked up.  I rarely did as these were impromptu visits so I used to tell her I would sit at her seat by the window and keep watch on the street.

She also always inquired about my mum – whether she was staying with me or my sister, and on at least two occasions berated me for parking my car on the road with a curious ‘Why don’t you put it in the garage?’  

That’s a good question Nana.  Why don’t I?  I said I would, but truth is, I need to get my garage door fixed!

When I used to take her to church some time back, she would always want the page turned and attempt to sing and follow the service  – or ‘pretend’ the way little children do :)   They,  the children just adored this picture book grandma.

Sadly she will not be around  for them or for the passers by on Lake Road.  It will take some time to get used to an empty window at 329/124.  But the big bay window will be a reminder to all that there once  was a little lady who, as our priest said, stood there and gave everyone what she could:  a cheery smile and a wave that brought joy to all.

Rest in eternal joy with your Maker, sweet and gentle lady – Madam Doreen Webster.

Note:   This post was begun on 7th November but I had another bereavement in the family … a beloved Uncle who was the same age 96!  It has been a melancholy two weeks with the loss of two wonderful nonagenarians – a gracious lady and a true gentleman and scholar about whom I can write volumes.  Maybe soon… 

Creative Disposal!

I was intrigued by Jithin’s  picture of items dumped in crevices in the wall and kept my eyes open for any such handy storage units in my area.

I got lucky.  This wall had a bottle dumped in almost every ‘weep hole’ ie.  holes to allow rain water to escape.  I could not get a shot of the whole wall, nor is it as colourful as Jithin’s  but these tell the story of handy disposal :)

Can I draw a conclusion that this ‘creativity’ (or laziness ?) is unique to the Indian sub continent?

Communion for the Divorced … how would my Lord answer?

I was really shocked to read that Archbishop Gadecki, President of the Polish Episcopal Conference,had stated that they do not support the notion of admitting divorced and remarried Catholics to the Eucharist.”

Yes I know .. this has been one of the most controversial topics at the Synod,  and I know the traditionalists are all out to uphold the existing church teaching, but I just could not believe that they can make statements like the following :

“People can participate in different forms and bear witness to the hardships of family life.” Gadecki added that remarried divorcees had the “right to participate” in the life of the Church without receiving the Eucharist.”

I have a lot of questions on this …if anyone cares to respond :

  • Aren’t we failing to practice the precept to ‘forgive seventy times seven’ the mistakes that people make.
  • Aren’t we at odds with our mission to “set the captives free” – set free those who have been bound by human weakness
  • Does ‘if your eye offends you pluck it out’ have any application to marriages that are a source of un-grace that these the divorced and re-married may have moved away from (in at least some instances)?
  • All these doctrines written on Phylactories appear to be alien to the precept that ‘salvation of souls is the supreme law’. 
  • In trying to uphold the sacrament of marriage, aren’t we guilty of withholding from persons the primordial sacrament, of Jesus in the Eucharist?

I was reminded of a personal reflection some time ago on withholding the Sacrament from children …

How would my Lord Answer?

We say that we are receiving the Body of our Lord.
That we receive his Real Presence at the table of the Eucharist.  
Can someone tell me why then do we exclude little children from the banquet?

I know what the Church teaches …
That we are receiving the Body of Christ;
That children should understand what they are doing …
That they should have respect for “the host”
That they may not understand,
That they may desecrate “it”.
Spit it out.

When Adults with full knowledge
deliberately and maliciously spat on him, He spoke …
“Father forgive them, they know not what they do.”
Would not these words extend to innocence of childhood?
And yet we hold their lack of knowledge against them.

I ask myself are adults any better than children?
Can we really, give due respect to the Body of Christ –
… respect that is worthy of our Lord? 
Are children not more innocent than we are?
Can I ever receive the Blessed Sacrament in a worthy manner?

If I cannot, how can I withhold the Sacrament from the innocent?

I reflect that we feed our children, sometimes force feed them,
food for physical nourishment when they are young.
Even though they may not know what it is they drink or eat
We still ensure that they get their daily diet. 

Why then do we not give them spiritual nourishment
in the same manner …
but wait until we have “prepared” them
to receive the Lord?
Why do we not “share” our Lord with them at the banquet?
Do you know why?

I know many of the answers that I will be given
Church teaching, catechetical instruction,
But I am not convinced and I still ask for explanation.

If my Lord were here in human form right now I know
I would rush with all my nieces and nephews
To place them in His arms
Without waiting till they are prepared to “receive Him”
For IT IS HE WHO RECEIVES THEM !!!  welcomes them, embraces them.

But at the Eucharistic table I “shoo” them away,
For they are not yet “ready”;  they have to be prepared
To receive the Lord “worthily”
When it is really He and only He
Who can make us worthy of Him.

So I ask myself … If my Lord was standing beside me
At the Eucharistic table and I asked him
“Shall I give Thee to these little children?”
What would His answer be?

Today, if my Lord were standing in front of me, I would point to the latest Report on the Synod and ask him again … “My Lord … can we give thee to Divorced and re-married people.”

I think I know how my Lord would react. I think I would see him bend down and write in the sand.

John 8:6

Credit picture : http://www.catholic-artists.org/

Marriage, Divorce, and Church Annulments

With so much debate on marriage and annulment at the Synod on the Family, I wish to share my Thesis completed for my degree in Theology.

MATRIMONIAL CONSENT:  Analysis and Practical Applications of Canon 1095 

Canon 1095 is the Church law that ‘permits‘ annulment.  The interpretation and application of this Canon is at the core of the debate on divorce and annulment.

I did not realise what a hot topic this would become when I decided on it in 2011 because I could not understand or agree fully with the Church’s stance.

By the time I completed my research,  I appreciated the wisdom of Canon 1095 and the real ‘nature of consent.’  I understood there is a big difference between:

Matrimonium in fieri  (marriage in becoming)  – the act of creating a marriage  and

Matrimonium in facto esse (marriage in its actual existence)  i.e. what the exchange of vows creates: the abiding state of marriage.

Marriage is indeed sacramental – and the church needs to be sacramental in its approach to marriage, as well as to failed marriages – in short, TO LIFE.

The manner in which, not just jurisprudence, but the entire church responds to Canon 1095 will be the touchstone of the Christian commitment to marriage …  and by extension the mirror of the state of the sacramental Church  (concluding comment on Thesis).      

I post here the research that took me from the contentious Preamble and questions below to my conclusion above  with a prayer that the deliberations of the present Synod  will lead to a more sacramental Church.

Thesis proposal

                  PREAMBLE SUBMITTED FOR APPROVAL TO PROCEED WITH ABOVE THESIS.  

Biblical basis for church doctrine on marriage:

  • What God has joined together let no man put asunder.
  • Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.

They say “Marriages are made in heaven”.  If this is correct, why do marriages fail?

Reality of failed marriages

We cannot avoid the reality that despite every effort and good will to the contrary, some marriages are just not meant to be and end up in (civil) divorce.

What is the status of these marriages?

The ecclesiastical position on these is ambivalent, even discordant because EITHER

  1. you are unbinding that which is bound in heaven,  if you grant divorce
  2. Or , by not granting a divorce, you are (continuing) to keep bound on earth what is not to be bound in heaven – by refusing to unbind what has already come apart – in truth, in fact, and in reality.  Where the ‘sacrament’ you are upholding is no longer a sacrament or a ‘source of grace” but even perhaps of un-grace or disgrace.
    • Refusal or failure to accept our humanity and that not everything that man proposes, including a particular marriage, is within God’s plan for
    • If it is God’s work nothing can stop it,
    • Unless the builder builds, the labourer toils in vain.

Thus, I question:

  1. Could it be that you are binding on earth what heaven does not want bound? (Or what has already been loosed in heaven according to the Divine Plan?)
  2. Are we failing to practice the precept to ‘forgive seventy times seven’ the mistakes that people make.
  3. Are we at odds with our mission to “set the captives free” – set free those who have been bound due to their humanity, weakness and sin.
  4. Does ‘if your eye offends you pluck it out’ or your .. causes you to sin have any application to marriages that are a source of un-grace.
  5. By not forgiving and releasing people from failed marriages and by trying to maintain at any cost the marriage ‘sacrament’, we are withholding from them the primordial sacrament, Jesus and the Eucharist. This appears to contrary to the precept the that ‘salvation of souls is the Supreme law’.
  6. It also devalues the witnessing nature of a sacrament when people divorce and remarry under civil law , blatantly ignoring (being forced to ignore) to ignore the dysfunctional ‘sacramental bond’. (How many civil divorces have been sacramentally unbound/)

There seems to be a lacuna in Canon Law from point of view of faithful/laity.

I would like to study the church’s position on above in an attitude of ‘faith seeking understanding’.

APPROACH

Does Canon 1095 solve the problem of divorce in the Church? 

Can it allay the doubts in minds of the laity?   (C 1095 comes to conclusion that average person is incapable of valid marriage?) .

 AREAS FOR STUDY –

  1. Role of ‘true’ consensus.
  2. Role of Psychological factors.
  3. Spiritual Factor – There is no mention of spiritual factors /spiritual maturity in the Canon .. ?? Wording appears juridical and earth-bound. Though spiritual goal must be implicit, wording appears bent towards temporal ?
    • Role of spirituality
    • Augustine –“ let me know myself that I might know you”  (and your will and plan)
    • “For in this lay my sin – that I sought pleasures and honours and truths in his creatures rather than in him – in myself and the rest – and so fell headlong into sorrows , troubles and errors.” (Confessions )
RESEARCH  :

I would like to test my assumptions with some case studies on the feelings of the laity who have

  • Obtained civil divorce and church nullity
  • Obtained civil divorce and been refused church nullity, if any.
  • Obtained civil divorce but not requested church nullity

to analyse the true role of the three factors pertinent to Canon 1095 in the break-down of marriages and presenting a lay, experiential perspective.

Spin off benefit – Suggestions for Pastoral Preparation for Marriage Under Canon.

 


The above proposal having been approved I completed my Thesis under our Professor of Canon Law.

The Thesis will be shared as soon as I have removed extraneous footnotes to make for easy reading.

Vatican II, Synod on the Family … two Popes

And Guadium et Spes  or The Church in the Modern World. (document of Vatican II).  

Three months after his election,  Angelo Guiseppe Roncalli,  the new Pope John XXIII surprised the world by convoking the Second Vatican Council.

There had not been a Council in nearly 100 years … and this was to be an Ecumenical Council with  the Bishops of the universal church in attendance, not just European and Italian prelates.

His famous words open these windows and let the fresh air in’,  were a prelude to the historic event that has been  pivotal for the Catholic Church.

Opening the windows would no doubt raise the dust of centuries that had settled on the Church. There was, as can be expected, opposition and prophets of doom!

Prophets of Doom

Despite all naysayers, this great visionary inspired the Universal Church to reflect on how she could build and strengthen the faith in the cultural changes following two World Wars. The Council Fathers were inspired by two principles:

aggiornamento (Italian for “updating”) and ressourcement (French for “going back to the sources”).   So the reforms either returned to more ancient practices or took on modern practices and approaches.

The deep introspection and sharing that was the spirit of Vatican II, led to many changes in religious practices so that the light of Christ could shine out visibly.  The pot in which the seed of faith had been transplanted from Rome to distant lands was broken so that the seed could germinate, be in-culturated in,  and draw its nourishment from the local soil

In essence, St. John XXIII believed in the sacramental nature of the church as a sign and instrument of communion with God and unity amongst all men.

It is the same spirit and belief which our beloved Pope Francis carries vocally and visibly in his core message :

“The thing the church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity. I see the church as a field hospital after battle. It is useless to ask a seriously injured person if he has high cholesterol and about the level of his blood sugars! You have to heal his wounds. Then we can talk about everything else. Heal the wounds, heal the wounds. … And you have to start from the ground up “

I pray that the Spirit that led to the convening of this Synod, and the declaration of a Year of Mercy, will continue to guide all Bishops in their decisions.

On this October 11 anniversary of the commencement of the Council, also declared as the Feast of St. John XXIII,  I wish to honour his memory by recalling his words as he lay dying on his bed in May 1963 :

Today more than ever, we are called to serve mankind as such, and not merely Catholics; to defend above all and everywhere, the rights of the human person and not merely those of the Catholic Church…’

‘It is not that the Gospel has changed: it is that we have begun to understand it better … the moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead. “

Thank you beloved Papa John XXIII  for giving us Vatican II   … and thank you Papa Francesco for the Synod on the Family.  May the Spirit continue to lead you in steering  the barque of the Church into Kingdom waters.

Opening - Synod on the Family 

Synod on the Family, Rome October, 2015.  Source : www:catholicnewsagency.com