Editorial

Editorial

DAY OF THE POOR. NEEDS OF THE POOR?

editorial

“India is trying to be the first country to become an industrial giant with an illiterate and unhealthy labour force. I don’t think it can be done. To me, it’s one of the biggest problems.”

That is the opinion of one of the world’s greatest economists—Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen.

The Day of the Poor launched by Pope Francis is more relevant here than in many other parts of the world. How should we observe it? This issue has several inputs on it—a cover story by an Indian who is an international expert, interview with a woman religious who chose to move to the poorest, a gist of the Pope’s words on this theme, a committed layman who always finds time for service, a British missionary Brother who made his home among the poorest of India’s villages, a finance article on how to place the poor at the centre of our economic activities, a spirituality article on economic justice, an American couple’s self-examination on sharing.

MAGNET is just one activity of National CRI. Side by side with that, other concerns keep us busy.  One is to offer relevant seminars for various groups, with sessions by experienced experts. We had two such programmes last month in Hyderabad—one for 63 Local Superiors, the other for 45 Formators. Every seminar is not only meticulously planned and carefully executed; each is also evaluated anonymously, in writing, letting us really know how the participants found the experience. Both programmes received warm and touching appreciation. Let me attach the photo of the Local Superiors’ Group.

As I write these lines, we are into two other seminars on the same themes: a one-week seminar for formators (October 20-26) and another one-week programme for local superiors (November 1-7), both to be hosted at CRI House, New Delhi. Apart from making sure the contents are relevant, we are also keen that CRI House should really be a warm and welcoming home, especially for religious. This is our common home. Every member of every religious order is welcome here. Tomorrow, some of you will take the place of the three of us who are in charge here now. May it always be a loving home, a dynamic powerhouse of initiative, a vibrant centre listening to the peripheries, encouraging initiative, supporting the week, and  providing creative leadership.

Your ideas and participation are more than welcome.


Fr Joe Mannath SDB

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Editorial

EDITORIAL

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UNUSUAL SYNOD. A GREAT OPPORTUNITY.

A Synod—an extraordinary meeting of Catholic bishops—will take place in Rome this month. MAGNET spoke of it in the cover story of July 2017.

The theme is: YOUTH, FAITH AND DISCERNMENT.

There is something new about this Synod. The newness is not the topic, but the way this Synod has been prepared and the way it is going to be run.

Pope Francis has insisted that it is not enough to speak TO youth, or ABOUT youth, as we often do in the church. We need to LISTEN—HEAR FROM THE YOUNG.

Hence a questionnaire was sent around, a year ago. Many thousands of replies came in.

In March 2018, Church representatives met with young people from different continents—to really listen.

For the first time, there will be young persons attending the Synod.

Most of us will not attend the Synod, of course. But we are as much a part of the Church as those who will be there.

In the Church that we form and live—whether it be a parish, a school or college, a religious community or a family—do we really listen to the young? Do we treat the young simply as “objects of our attention” or as subjects like ourselves, with ideas, feelings, creative contributions to make and valid but different ways of looking at things? Are we ready to face the discomfort of being challenged, to be invited to look at things differently, to face a generation growing up under different influences?

Thanks to the IT revolution and the prevalence of the social media, the present generation of young people (often called “millennials” elsewhere) are better informed, smarter and less dependent on traditional structures than earlier generations. They are also more confused and more insecure.

They need our understanding and support.

We need their dynamism, out-of-the-box thinking, generosity and daring.

Together, with deep mutual respect and much patient listening, we can truly construct something beautiful—a more humane and humanizing world. In doing so, we can also learn to be church in new ways, more in line with what that unconventional young man from Nazareth showed us so many years ago.

 

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Editorial

TWO THINGS TO DO

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“Have a heart, India: With few donors, organ transplants at an abysmal 1 per cent,” was the frontline headline in The Sunday Standard on its front page on July 1st, 2018.

It went on to explain how the donation of organs in India is far below the need.

According to this article, 50,000 people needed a heart transplant; 339 were available. 200,000 needed a kidney; 1690 were available. 80,000 needed a liver; 709 were available.

The situation is indeed pathetic.

Reading such statistics will not solve the problems. Nor is it enough to pray for the sick.

What are we ready to DO?

Fr Jerry Rosario SJ, who has written this month’s cover story, has donated blood 194 times! And he has very practical suggestions on what we can do.

Why don’t we spearhead a movement in this direction?

Or at least support actively those who are giving the lead.

When two of us attended a programme organized by the central government three years ago, they appealed to religious leaders and others who have contact with many people to do more in this line…

 

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Editorial

Love as the Answer

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On page 28, you will find the moving words of a loving man who knew he might face a violent death. He sees his life as “given,” not as “taken,” and prays for the “brother” through whom his death might come. His true story is also the backbone of a movie reviewed this month. It left viewers in tears.
Unless we find loving answers to hatred and indifference, there is no hope for the world. Jesus taught this. He lived this truth. It may look foolish and powerless, but it is the most transforming attitude in human life.
What we call “religious” or “consecrated” life is meant to be a FORM OF RADICAL LOVE. It is not simply a way of herding some youngsters into a controlling structure, providing everything they need and want, and asking them to do jobs which most people can do without these structures. If it were reduced to that, this form of life would be a monument to mediocrity.
Instead, it is a call of love—God’s heart reaching out to the suffering of His children (most of it of human making) and inviting earnest lovers to join hands with Him to heal the world. Once this vision is caught, it is a passionate adventure. We throw calculation to the wind, trust God’s wisdom and love, and rush where the worldly-wise dare not go. Then you get a Paul, an Augustine, a Francis, a Teresa, an Ignatius, a Damien, a Don Bosco, a Mother Teresa, a Charles de Foucauld—and their followers who caught the same “contagion” of goodness.
“Religious” or “Consecrated” Life—there is a Conference in Rome on it on May 2-6—makes sense if its innards are in order and it makes a difference to the least and the lost. If not, it can degenerate into an effeminate enterprise in mediocrity, or a set of power-games played by self-seeking little men and women.
What is it for you? Read our cover story and see.

Since a number of us will make RETREATS this month, we have three articles on that—the transforming power of retreats that a married woman experienced, the meaning of a retreat explained under Life Skills, and the touching, honest story of a wounded priest who found deep healing through dreams.

You will notice SOMETHING NEW in this issue: a number of ads by religious orders. This is not only a way of supporting MAGNET. It is an invitation to get more familiar with other religious orders, their vision, and the fantastic services they offer. There is so much we can learn from one another. We invite more of you to share your story with the rest of us.

The TRIENNIAL ASSEMBLY OF MAJOR SUPERIORS will take place in Chennai on May 27-30. Major Superiors who have not yet registered are asked to RUSH and do it. Let us not miss this unique chance to learn from inspiring experts and from one another.


Fr Joe Mannath SDB
Editor

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Editorial

Loved, Remembered and Called

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You feel good when someone who loves you phones you. Your face lights up. Your voice becomes warm and tender.

Nice to matter to someone, right?

Great to be called, right?

Each of us is loved, remembered and CALLED.

Called before we were conceived in our mother’s womb.

Called into life. Called to be a woman or a man—our basic human vocation.

Most of us respond to God’s love through marriage and parenthood—a great and beautiful vocation.

A few of us feel called, while appreciating marriage and what our parents did for us, to embrace the larger human family and to give ourselves generously to anyone in need. Celibate priesthood and religious life make sense only if we experience it as a personal call from God that seems to respond to our deepest longings. To coax an unwilling person to stay unmarried to do some work with us is neither fair, nor is it “vocation promotion.”

Vocation is much more than joining a group or just staying in. As Fr Pascual Chavez Villanueva, former Rector Major (Superior General) of the Salesians, used to say, “Perseverance is not the same as fidelity.”

April 22, 2018—Good Shepherd Sunday—is “Vocation Day.” Hence this Special Issue devoted to this very practical theme: Vocation.

Kevin and Crystal Sullivan found that their marriage took a lovely turn when they started living it as a vocation.

David tells us what drew him to the challenging life of a Christian Brother.

Sharmila’s parents detested the idea of her becoming a nun. How did she become one?

Francis was a gifted violinist who later chose to play second fiddle to Christ.

Dolores Hart was a beautiful Hollywood actress when she shocked the world by becoming a contemplative nun.

For John Bartunek, the journey was from atheism to the Catholic faith and to the priesthood.

Jennifer Fulweiler, mother of six and a brilliant atheist married to a Baptist, found Catholicism more and more appealing.

Eight bishops and sixteen priests lay bare their personal journeys.

In the cover story, Sr Esme invites us to look at our personal histories, at what makes a choice good, foolish, wise or bad.

Many journeys. The same goal.

Different characters. The same underlying quest.

A variety of settings. The same Love.

Many hearts within the same Big Heart.

May these stories help you, reader, to look within, and around, and up—and clarify what it means to be thought of with love and INVITED to get closer to the One Love that placed us on this planet and find meaning by increasing the goodness in the world.

The settings matter very little. The sincerity matters. And the love. And the genuineness with which we listen and respond to that Silent Voice.

To the degree that we let our hearts hear that Voice and allow it to lead us, Easter will happen in our life.

Happy New Life!


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Editorial

FROM AGONY TO HEALING

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This month’s cover story looks at the practical steps victims of sexual abuse can take to find healing.

Since most of the remedies suggested are psychological, we add an article on spiritual helps for emotional healing. After all, most people do not approach therapists; they make do with common sense and the support of family and close friends. One resource that is always available and can be supremely effective is spirituality.

In fact, in a number of distressing maladies, such as, addictions, a combination of psychological and spiritual helps works better than the psychological alone. It is more than likely—and supported by anecdotal evidence—that more people may have come out of alcoholism or drug-addiction through spiritual retreats than through psychotherapy.

It will be wise, therefore, to know what the different healing professions can contribute, and how to combine their efforts. What matters, after all, is that a suffering or dysfunctional human being walks free again, and is able to live a happy and productive life—not which profession or expert provided the tools.

Since Church personnel need to know more about the disastrous effects of sexual abuse and master effective remedies to help survivors, we introduce our readers to a “Child Protection Programme” prepared by Gregorian University, Rome. The online course is offered free. Those interested in more details can contact me.

The Indian government law on Child Sexual Abuse, called POSCO, is briefly explained by a legal expert.

The 2018 National CRI Calendar looks full, as you will have seen in the plan presented in the January issue. The most important event of the year was finalized after that issue went to the press: The Triennial Assembly of Major Superiors, which will be held at SRM University, Chennai, from May 27th to 30th. I have written to all major superiors about this. I will be in touch with them again and again in the coming months, with more detailed information on the topics, speakers, registration, arrival and departure, etc. I am grateful to the founder and senior leadership of this prestigious university for agreeing to host us on their lovely, huge, architecturally impressive and beautifully maintained campus, where normally 12,000 of their 55,000 students reside. Our Assembly will be held during their summer vacation.

More about this by email.

From what a number of you tell us, MAGNET is touching minds and hearts and is becoming a trusted and eagerly awaited community member. Why not introduce it to your family members and friends? If you want us to send any of them a sample copy, all you need to do is to give us their postal address.

I want to say a special “Thank you” to the bishops and provincials who are subscribing to MAGNET for all the priests or religious in their care. This gesture affirms our work powerfully. May your “tribe” increase!

Fraternally in Jesus,

Fr Joe Mannath SDB


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Editorial

Highlighting a Scourge

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In this issue and in the next, we highlight a terrible scourge: Child Sexual Abuse in India. The Government study shows that the rate of sexual abuse of minors in India is much higher than the world average. And most of it happens in the home.

This month’s cover story by clinical psychologist Father Jose Parappully SDB will help readers become more aware of the problem and its disastrous consequences. In the next issue, he will indicate paths of healing. Victims need not remain broken and desperate. They can find avenues of healing.

Let us look at the issue in the face without flinching. That is what the cover story does.

A new feature: Special Days. To make us all aware of crucial issues affecting the human race, the UN and other agencies have declared certain days as “Special Days” devoted to a theme or a group of persons. Schools, churches and other institutions in touch with large groups of people will do well to celebrate these occasions meaningfully. Awareness is one of the best helps for improvement—whether personal or societal.

Some of our “homes” for the poor—whether they are called orphanages or homes or shelters or whatever—have faced legal problems. Whether these problems stem from our mistakes or are a form of harassment, we need to know the law. An experienced priest-lawyer explains some of the crucial rules affecting these institutions. We cannot plead ignorance, nor neglect the implementation of government regulations. Laws are, after all, meant to protect citizens, not to harass those who work for the poor.

Our popular regular features continue: What a wife and mother learns about spirituality from her experience with grand-children; books and movies that have become hit classics; making Lent meaningful; inspiring persons of the month; ways of dealing with employees; the key role of contemplation in our life; the right understanding of exclaustration; moving from meanness to meaningfulness; the lessons an Indian sister learnt while working in a very secularized Europe; the meaning of prophecy in the Bible; the wisdom of a famous Church Father; the difference a super-wealthy woman makes in the lives of the poorest; how nursing students see their life and work; a programme to support young women theologians.

In the midst of the serious reading, try the Fun Page, too. Doing puzzles is not only fun. It stimulates the brain and keeps us mentally alert and young.


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Editorial

Drugs Destroying Our Youth

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What would you do if a young woman you cared about were to become a drug addict, and then turned to prostitution to support her drug habit? Or a promising, friendly young man were to be found in the gutter with needle marks on his arms?

Do you know there are states in India where up to twelve percent of the youth are addicted to drugs?

Such tragic stories are true—and more frequent than we may think.

This month’s cover story—as well as next month’s—is dedicated to a painful scourge affecting many of our youth: Substance abuse. It is not limited to young people, of course. But the group that is most successfully targeted by drug peddlers are our young people. Drug barons and distributors know that, once a boy or girl is addicted, they have them hooked for life; that the addict will do almost anything to “get high”—cheat, lie, steal, rob or even prostitute themselves.

What is substance addiction? Why are so many young people getting addicted? What do they take? What do these substances do to the taker’s body and brain?

I remember a meeting with former addicts. One of them, a young man, told us: “To try drugs the first time, you don’t need money. There are people who will give it to you free. They know that once we get hooked, we will run to them for more, ready to pay them anything they ask.”

Drugs follow where the money is. Hence, there is greater danger of exposure to drugs in or near our posh schools and colleges than in our slums and poorer neighbourhoods.

Fr Ajoy Fernandes SDB, who wrote a book about addiction among the young, has agreed to write two cover stories for us. The first part presents the fact of addiction and how substances affect the brain and behaviour. In the next issue, he will deal with what’s to be done: How to prevent addiction, and how to help those already addicted.

In every issue of MAGNET, you will find a Subscription Form. I know that most of you love MAGNET, wait for it, and speak well of it. Why not take one more step?

This Diwali or Christmas, gift a subscription to a friend or family member.

And use the second space on the form for sending a free sample copy to someone you think will be interested.

Let MAGNET reach many more, inspire many more, and become a guide and friend for those who want something more than news or short WhatsApp messages. We provide competent and attractively written articles of permanent interest. Quite differently from news magazines, you can read previous issues of MAGNET with as much interest as the current issue.

See for yourself—and tell us what you think.


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Editorial

HOMES OF LOVE, NOT FACTORIES FOR WORK

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After describing a particularly difficult community member’s irresponsible and insulting behaviour, the superior asks me: “What can we do to make her be a nicer and more responsible person? No community wants her. What can I do?”

“Very little,” I reply. “Almost nothing—except to pray for her. Such persons should have been corrected during formation and, if found unresponsive, asked to leave.”

“But she is good in music.”

“That is a mistake frequently made. We see someone is a problem in one community after another. S/he is offensive, irresponsible and a pain to live with. The formators do not want to take the unpleasant step of asking the person to discontinue. Or a formator points out, as you did just now, some talent the person has. We can always find music teachers (or computer operators or administrators). Religious life is not about one’s talents. It is a search for God in community. If someone does not fit in, and is a problem repeatedly, he or she should not be allowed to go ahead.”

Pope Francis spoke to superiors of the need of forming the heart. “Otherwise,” he said, “We will form little monsters who will then be in charge of our people.”

Our mission as religious—our real and most important job—is not the work we do. For most of what we do, we do not need celibacy or religious life or faith in Jesus. Our real job is to be joyful and loving witnesses to God’s love in the world. If we are serious about that, our driver and cook, our students and patients, our visitors—and particularly the “least”—will experience God’s tender love through us. The first group with whom we share this love and God-experience is our community. If a community is not happy and loving, if it is fear-filled or depressing, there is something wrong with us. Living in such settings will damage the members, just as living in a family with an abusive drunkard does enormous harm to spouse and children.

A family, a convent, a seminary (or a school or hospital run by religious) can vibrate with love, goodness and godliness—or the opposite. Our mission, to repeat, is not teaching mathematics or giving injections or distributing funds to the poor. It is a mission of love joyfully shared. If it is real, people living in the setting will know it by experience. This is how Father Paul Albera, the second successor of Don Bosco, recalled his days as a boy under Don Bosco’s care: “We were caught up in a current of love. We felt loved in a way we had never been before.”

Can we replicate that today? I am fully convinced we can. I have seen it—not only in families, but in religious houses and seminaries and even complex institutions. A layman teaching in a major seminary told his close friend, “I have lived here with the Fathers and Brothers. I can say that this is a home of love.” A priest who studied in that seminary would tell other priests later: “Our seminary was truly a loving home. I would love to meet our formators again any day.” A young sister said this about her provincial: “This we can say about our new provincial—that she loves us!”

Read this month’s cover story to learn more about community life.

But, more than from magazines and talks, learn from the most loving human beings you have lived with, and be more like them—and like Jesus—with the next person you meet—and the next, and the next. The world will then be a truly better place—a bit of heaven on this messed up earth.

This is the heart of our vocation. This is why we join religious life. May we never go off the track.


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Editorial

Editorial

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Another new column opens today—dealing with a set of skills that the UN says all contemporary people, especially the young, need to pick up: LIFE SKILLS.

To lead a meaningful life, and to bring up our young properly, learning to read and write or getting a college degree is far from enough. There is something much, much more important: to learn the art of living. “Life Skills” will deal with that. Welcome aboard, Glenn! Enjoy the trip, readers!

This month’s cover story is not easy to deal with—in a magazine, or in real life. Can human beings overcome the mutual prejudices we all inherit with our mother’s milk, get beyond our “frog in the well” thinking and loyalties, and truly seek to build a human world where we see and treat each other as human beings—and not primarily as Tamils and Nagas, Dalits and Shias, Reddys and Syrian Catholics, Kashmiris and Adivasis?

Is it possible? Can’t faith—with all the special helps we receive in novitiates, seminaries, retreat centres and pilgrimages—enable us to move from a narrow, group-centred vision to the kind of universal love that Jesus showed and taught? If this does not take place, how far is our claimed God-centredness real, and our impact beneficial?

We need to start by looking at facts without sugar-coating, see what lies behind the sad and at times bitter divisions, and seek ways of becoming genuine human beings and sincere disciples. To help us do this, I invited a former student of mine who did a very thorough doctoral dissertation on the issue of multiculturalism in religious life. He has summarized a vast and detailed study into a small, chewable portion. Take a bite, and see for yourself. Thanks for sharing your expertise, Paulraj. May it help all of us to include more and more human beings in heart, thought and action, when we speak of “we.”

For each of us walks through the world—this vast garden where we meet so many other children of God—with a loving vision unclouded by bigotry, or with eyes jaundiced by fear, bias, greed and bigotry. Good to check how we walk through the world. The way I see, judge, condemn, heal, include or exclude others, reveals first of all the kind of person I am, and what I want to do with this short journey we call life.

May the heart be open, the eyes shining with innocence, and the journey exhilarating! May we be marked by the guileless glow, the childlike laughter and the love beyond boundaries that distinguish the truly great.

 


 

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