Sunday 31 May 2009
Moja was particular about his appearance and was quite vain about his beard, of which he took great care. I think he was one of the chaps who look better as they age. I remember going out with him in Poona, he would take me out shopping on the old brown Vespa. He would enter a shop, get his stuff, and then, before leaving, look straight into the eye of the girl at the counter and say Thank You. The girl, taken by surprise, would invariably blush and not know where to look. Moja would nudge me and wink: I always do that, and they always do that. I don't know why they have to be so embarrassed when someone says Thank you.
(I hope I am not going to get knocked on my head from above. One of my friends promised to do that if I did not behave.)
The fascinating Popa monastery, heart of the Nat cult in Burma. Buddhism first came to Burma in its tantric form, which was probably a hybrid of Buddhism and Tantric Hinduism. This form was wiped out, or rather purified and reformed, by Theravada monks invited by the Bagan kings. However, some of it survived - best exemplified in the Popa monastery, perched impossibly on a sheer rock. You can see the Nats in the many shrines there - human figures with a frown or a scowl on their faces. These are people who have not attained nirvana, but have died with great anger, violence, or other strong unresolved emotions. They wander around troubling people, and have to be propitiated and pacified. Hence the Nat (nath?) cult....
The Hindu influence is very much evident in the pagoda, which is an early form with the Hindu type of gopuram....
And the climb up is also fascinating - luckily through a covered walkway and steps, even if steep, and lined with the usual shops selling bric-a-brac, trinkets, souvenirs, food... and hundreds of rather aggressive monkeys, together with equally aggressive local girls and boys trying to sell groundnuts to pilgrims and tourists.
Glimpses of Burmese food.... Some of it will look familiar, as for example the samosas which we found at the breakfast stop in a little town on the way to the famous Popa monastery. The large bowl of floating noodles at the bottom was fascinating, probably Chinese, with vegetables, boiled quails eggs, and a regular egg added in raw as a topping (be warned that when the bowl is full it is a meal!). The table with many dishes is a traditional Burmese meal which can be ordered in restaurants: you get about 16 to 20 dishes ranging from Indian looking meat and fish curries to pickled vegetables of all sorts and raw salads, including the tender leaves of pomelo and other citrus fruits... I have added in the 'Lemon Tea' place, which is known not so much for lemon tea as for crushed strawberry with cream: not your usual Mahabaleshwar / Brit strawberry with cream, but literally a huge beer mug full of crushed strawberries, cream and ice... Heavenly but heavy! (No pictures, unfortunately, because I was busy slurping and worrying about calories....)
Burmese food, like Burmese culture, shows the influence of all its component cultures: Indo-Tibetan / Chinese, Indian, and so on. Like Mau-hinga, which has a base of rice noodles, lots of curry, the inevitable Balachaung (prawn balchao), with mendu-vada and other savouries crumbled in for taste!
Dear Father Ivo,I hope Magda does not mind me putting this up on the blog. I thought it too lovely to be kept to myself. Magda not only spent time with Fr Moja when he was in Provincial House, but also helped him annotate and order his photos - which, hopefully, are to be found in the archives of the Provincial House, awaiting the attention of some future historian.... Thank you Magda! And thank you, Fr Moja, for your ability to reach out to young people.
thank you for telling us. And thank you for your beautiful words.
They made me cry and laugh at one time! Very, very beautiful!
Just few weeks back I spoke to Father Moja on the phone!
I am grateful to have known him, he taught me a lot during these sunday mornings in his room, when he showed me the pictures of Sulcorna and he was somewhat like the grandfather for me I always wanted to have!
Thank you very much, Father, for these written memories.
With all the best wishes and prayers,
The lovely Kandowgyi Gardens, Pyin Oo Lwin (Maymyo), Burma. Kandowgyi pronounced Kan-dow-ji, meaning Big, Royal. Extensive and extremely well-kept, though I think I missed the real flowering season. But the orchids were still there, and fascinating.... The chappie in the picture, besides yours truly (with effects of Burmese food showing), is Bosco Aung Zaw Win.
A lovely tribute to Fr Moja from Fr Joaquim D'Souza, Superior of the UPS Visitatoria:
Dear Fr Michael,Fr Joaquim and Fr Chrys Saldanha, both ex-Provincials of Mumbai, represented us all at Fr Moja's funeral at his home town of Orino, Varese, on Thursday, 28 May 2009.
With a heavy heart I received the news today of the death of our dear Fr Joseph Moja. We said a rosary for him after dinner. That his time of departure would come one day was inevitable, but his passing away leaves a deep void, for one more great Salesian missionary who worked very hard and gave his life for the missions, has gone to his eternal reward.
I came to know Fr Moja in Pune when I was Rector and he the Administrator. There I experienced his sterling qualities of heart and mind under a somewhat gruff exterior. He was most regular in the practices of piety, diligent and hardworking in his role as Administrator, and rather strict and austere in matters of poverty. When Divyadaan was transferred to Nashik, he worked almost singlehandedly to pack the books into large cardboard boxes and arrange for the transport.
I lived with him again in the Provincial House when I was Vice-provincial and Provincial. It was fun to watch him teasing and arguing with Fr Casti on the table. Fr Moja always got the better of the argument and came out the winner, but Fr Casti always had the last word, and sometimes the last laugh.
But beneath the grim demeanour and the occasional pungent remarks that betrayed a wry humour, you could immediately perceive a solid and robust Salesian missionary priest, with a deep spirituality, prompt in obedience and ready for any work (15 years in Sulcorna!), with a heart of gold and filled with compassion for the poor. We thank the Lord for his long life of fidelity in his service, spent for the most part in our province, with us his confreres, to whom he gave his love, his dedication and his faithful witness. May the Risen Lord, ascended into heaven, receive his faithful servant into the joys of the Eternal Kingdom.
United with you and the confreres in deep sorrow and prayer,
(The photo shows Mondini and Moja at some Provincial House occasion...)
Thursday 28 May 2009
from timir, cheryl & anand – a tribute to a man who refused to fade !
where do we begin.
in paying tribute to this man who wouldn’t fade.
to this man who dared to live life on his own terms & enjoyed every moment of it.
to this man who could be gentle as a lamb with kids, flowers & birds, & yet could tear the heart out of a tiger.
to a man, who despite his size, could sweep any woman off the dance floor as easily as he could sweep the most notorious dacoit out of his lair.
that, in essence, was archie for you. a khichdi of a botanist, a sailor, a cop, a shikari, an angler, a connosieur of wines, a meat taster, a husband, a father, a grandfather & a great grandfather – who could ask for more.
a botanist cum cop, for whom graft meant growing a musanda from a cutting, which defied every gardener instinct.
a sailor who always lost direction when on land.
a cop who believed in his own strength & convictions to turn the most dreaded dacoit from muscle to meek.
a shikari, who even in his sixties, was willing to shake hands with a lion in the wild, when most of us would just shake at the thought.
an angler, who could tempt an oyster out of its shell.
a connosieur of wines, who couldn’t wait till 7 pm to start on this most important mission of his, every day.
and so on, & so on.
so today archie, what we hope to see at your funeral, is a toast being raised to the good times we had with you, to dougie spinning a few yarns of your hunting & fishing exploits, & finally, when the earth has covered you, to plant there, a flower that refuses to die, just as you refuse to fade from our happy memories of you.
(Cheryl is Archie's daughter, and Anand is her husband)
Wednesday 27 May 2009
Yesterday I pulled out some old newspapers to begin my packing, and my eye fell on a large, full page article entitled "Food to Die For" (strangely there is no other indication about the identity of the newspaper except 'Sunday Special', Mumbai, 2 November 2008, p. 12). The box gives a summary of its contents; "The deep red of your chilli powder and the aroma of your dhaniya powder may be making your curries especially appetising, but you may very well be serving your family brick powder and cow dung."
It frightens me.
I have decided to stop buying coffee on the Konkan Railway. On my return trip I got filter tea instead. I hope I don't have to regret that too.
Life used to be so simple.
By the way, I asked the name of the caterers on the Jan Shatabdi. It was Aggarwal Caterers. The bearers had dirty yellow T-shirts, which they washed (together with the rest of the utensils?) in their little food cabins...
Last night we received the news that Fr Giuseppe Moja passed away at Arese, Italy. He had recently undergone an operation for kidney stones, and did not recover well.
Fr Moja was born on 20 December 1915, and was 93 years 6 months when he died on 26 May 2009. Having spent his childhood in France and in Italy, he first joined the diocesan seminary, and then the Salesians. He never tired of telling how he felt completely at home in the Salesian aspirantate of Ivrea from the very first day. "I have found my place," he told the Rector. He would also narrate how his saintly confessor at the diocesan seminary had been a boy with Don Bosco. Don Bosco himself had directed him to the diocese, saying he would do much good. It was that confessor who first spoke to the young Giuseppe about Don Bosco, and it was he, perhaps, who initiated Fr Moja's lifelong long love affair with Don Bosco.
In those days missionaries would come young; Giuseppe came to India with some other companions as an aspirant. It was in India that he made his novitiate, and it was here that he did his philosophical and theological studies. They were days of the beginnings still; they could afford only one cassock, that had to be washed at night and worn again in the morning. In his later years Fr Moja could still remember that the Bandel chapel had a smell of stale fish with all those half dry cassocks steaming off the young bodies of their wearers….
It is good to remember also that inculturation did not begin with us. Way back in those days, the young Salesians were not only made to learn the local language immediately, but they were even given impossible tasks such as teaching Bengali to young Bengali boys in school. Giuseppe did it all, with his great facility for languages and his keen intelligence.
For practical training, there was again something special: he was chosen to be the personal secretary of Fr Vincent Scuderi, who was both provincial and vicar general of the diocese of Krishnagar. The provincial was, as can be imagined, always on the move. But he knew how to delegate. So his young secretary, barely out of philosophy, not only kept all his papers but even carried out a vigorous correspondence, to the extent of even signing for the superior. Fr Moja would tell me: some of those – most of those – letters from Scuderi to the superiors and to the Vatican were signed not by Fr Scuderi but by the young cleric Moja. But historians will never know.
Then came the War. Giuseppe was deported, together with other 'enemy nationals', to various camps in different parts of India. There was Deoli, which is not far from our present house of Suket; then Dehradun. The young Giuseppe did not give the British an easy time, and they reciprocated in kind. I am told that Cl. Moja spent not a little time in the camp lock up, for bad behavior. In the meantime, life went on. The enterprising Italian Salesians made sausages, and wine, and set up a theology school, and held entertainments. The religious house was simply imported into the camps. There were even a few ordinations.
At the end of the War, the British would not allow Moja and some others to remain in British India. That was when the brilliant idea came of going to Goa. And that was how Scuderi, Moja and a few others landed in Goa. That was how Scuderi became the great pioneer of Salesian work in Goa. I suppose that history has been put down in T.J. Joseph's books.
Moja was his ever enterprising self in Panjim. He was blessed, of course, with a mighty temper and a caustic tongue, and T.J. has pungent things to say on that topic. But the fact was that the work went on and even flourished. On Sundays, the clerics and young priests would gird up their cassocks and cycle all the way to places like Calangute where they conducted festive Oratories. One of my neighbours, who hails from Calangute, still remembers those days, and how the Salesians would come over on Sundays, bringing along also some welcome loaves of bread….
Moja worked, I think, also in Valpoi before being deputed to begin the work in Sulcorna. Some 200 acres of land had been gifted to the Salesians by a benefactor. It was pure jungle in the deep south of Goa. Moja has, I think, left some written accounts of his first days out there in the jungle: with a tarpaulin, a helper, a dog, a gun and a carafe of feni: that was how they began. It poured, torrentially, the very first night. Moja passed the night poking the sagging tarpaulin with his stick, and the feni came in very handy of course to ward off the cold and to keep up the spirits. There were monkeys, there were leopards. Eventually a little house came up: first the roof, then one wall, then another. Then an old refrigerator was found, and made to work. Then people said: see in what comfort he is living. (The original house can still be seen in a corner of our farm.)
Moja remained 16 years in Sulcorna, before being transferred – much against his will, of course – to Lonavla. That was where I first saw him, I think. He looked old to us youngsters, but he must have been barely 60. Still young, still full of energy, still able to do much, but there he was: confessor and in charge of propaganda. Later he came to Pune as Administrator, and that was where we became good friends. After that he was brought to Matunga, and eventually took charge of the Don Bosco's Madonna. He spent the last years of his life in his fourth floor room in the Shrine Building. When he could not manage anymore, after his month long stint in Hinduja's for cancer therapy, he asked to return to Italy. He was admitted to the infirmary of the Milan province at Arese, where I met him several times. "When I want to feel alive," he would say, "I think of India."
Moja was the quintessential, sola-topeed, bearded foreign missionary. He never quite abandoned his Italianity; he loved cheese and wine and the good food and the culture and the languages of his home continent, and he never quite completely and wholeheartedly accepted everything that was Indian. Added to that, he had his famous caustic tongue and a heavy wit. All this did not serve to endear him to many. By the time he left Provincial House, he had gotten himself on the wrong side of almost everyone. I remember telling him: Fr Moja, if you shout at me also, there will be no one for you to talk to! But with all that, there are few people I remember today with greater affection. Moja had a heart of gold. And his heart was pure. He was attached and affectionate without clinging and binding. Fr Casarotti used to say that he never began an oratory or a boarding in Sulcorna; but he had a passionate love for Don Bosco. He spent several of his last years translating Teresio Bosco's 'new biography' of Don Bosco, and it was, for him, a labour of love. "I know all these stories and these facts," he would tell me, "but so many times I have been unable to go on, simply moved to tears." He was concerned that we Salesians in India did not know enough about Don Bosco and did not love him enough. If Fr Moja has left us anything, I would say it is this passionate love for Don Bosco. He has been for us, in our province, an icon of that love.
As we bid farewell to this great man and great Salesian, I pray that the Lord he loved so well, might receive him with open arms into his Sacred Heart. I thought this morning of the possibly embarrassing scenes up there behind the pearly gates. There will be good old Fr Casa who might groan to see Moja coming up. There will be Bro. Joe Mascarenhas, who had the knack of turning up just when some secret party was being organized by Moja and the provincial. There will be Fr Joe Vaz who also had the knack of turning up, but with different effects. There will be good old Santino Mondini, dreading that the awful ribbing might start again, but swearing to friendship. There will be, of course, Don Bosco himself, and Our Lady, and mother and father and a thousand others, all united in some mysterious way in the loving and forgiving heart of our Father.
Tuesday 26 May 2009
Zosvaddo (Zoshi-vaddo, or Joshi-vaddo, I guess), and Soccorro in general, backs on to a rather large hill and plateau. The hill, if I may go by an aerial view, seems to be circular, and the largeness can be imagined if I note that there are several major villages on its periphery: Soccorro, Vaddem, Bastora, Ucassaim, Olaulim, Pomburpa, Ekoshi, and Salvador do Mundo.
The Hon'ble (or is it ex-Hon'ble now) Dayanand Narvekar had his eyes on this beautiful plateau for an IT Park or a SEZ or perhaps both. Thankfully this project seems to have been shelved for the time being. But not before roads were constructed from several points up to the plateau.
Someone - perhaps a professor of botany in Goa - seems to have pointed out recently that the biodversity of this plateau is something amazing, second only to that of the Western Ghats.
I got some idea of that biodiversity this time during my 15 days in Goa, making forays into the plateau in the company of Avinash. Wonderful really. Much 'cultivated' or 'semi-cultivated' forest, which means chiefly the type of cashew plantations one sees in Goa, plantations that leave ample space for other vegetation to flourish. But also much true forest, I was surprised to note. Several - watersheds, could they be called? - streams cutting across the plateau, so that it is not a uniformly flattish plateau. Should be exciting in or after the rains, though, as Mr Braganza says, one would have to watch out for the snakes that come out for sunshine in that season. Plenty of peacocks and other birds, including hornbills (great or lesser, I am not able to say). Surely also wild boar - a fully mature specimen fell into one of the open wells on our property barely two years ago; unfortunately no one spotted it in time, and it was found only after it had died. No monkeys thankfully. But monitor lizards (ghorpad in Marathi, gar in Konkani), certainly: we spotted a little one on the 'bobd' road from Zosvaddo to Ararim the other day.
About the 'khotlo' that the Confraria of Soccorro is involved in, is another story. But there has been more disturbing news in the Goa papers recently: that the government is contemplating a Church Properties Act on the lines of the Muslim Waqf Boards and the Temple Trusts of the Hindus.... I hope the Bishops are paying attention. Whatever the merits of the case, it needs to be broadly and widely studied, and not just thrust down our throats by some government.
Fr Mario Vaz himself said that the brothers (who were singing for the profession mass in the Crypt) not only did excellently well, but also seemed to know what they were doing. He said the same thing about the First Profession mass here at Nashik: there a finish and a polish to everything that was done, he said. Obviously there was someone who has taken a great deal of trouble, he noted.
I passed on this welcome appreciation to the newly professed this morning. They were beaming. Appreciation is great medicine! And I also invited them now to push forward: not only to do all things perfectly, but also with love and with genuine affection. Not, for example, the formality of saying thank you, but really feeling it and meaning it, and remembering those who have worked for us - even if sometimes we have not appreciated the style or the manner. Not, again, just making sure that the liturgy is perfect and the house spotlessly clean, but praying and cleaning with genuine love and concern....
Paul saying to the elders of the church at Ephesus: my mission has been to bear witness to the good news, the gospel, of the grace of God. Jesus saying to his disciples at the Last Supper: in this is eternal life, to know you, Father, and the Christ whom you have sent. Or, in other words: all of us, called to reveal the goodness and the kindness of God, to be the Face of the Father.
Mr Archiebald Braganza passed away on 22 May 2009, at Belgao Dhaga, Nashik. He was 92.
I first met Archie and Dora at a party at Douglas and Barbara's residence. They were in their early eighties, and in very good health. They were not exactly church-going people, but, as I soon discovered, they had a great affection for the church. One of Archie's brothers was a Jesuit Brother, and one of his sisters is an Apostolic Carmel nun, and Archie was a personal friend of Gilbert Rego, Bishop of Shimla. Both Archie and Dora took to us young Salesian priests. We would always make it a point to drop in and say Hi to them at their residence. Dora would marvel: I can't believe you are priests.
Archie, I learned, had served as Police Commissioner and DGP in several places all over the country. He had, I think, met Mahatma Gandhi, and he certainly had dealings with various prime ministers, including Nehru and Indira Gandhi. When Pope John Paul II came to Pune, Archie was called out of retirement to take charge of the security arrangements. In that capacity, Archie loved to tell how he had been assisting the Pope at mass, which he was celebrating in Latin. Archie had learnt Latin in school and at college, and was responding to the prayers in Latin. At one point, he says, the Pope turned round and looked back to see who this was, here in India, answering the prayers in Latin.
Barbara also says that in his younger days, Archie had spent days on end in the jungles of Karnataka hunting dacoits. We are still trying to piece together Archie's colourful life.
Archie leaves a great example of determined, dedicated and honest service. He was a man who could not be bent, a man who could stand his ground, an upright man and certainly a desh-bhakta in the truest sense of the word.
Despite all this, Archie remained a simple, warm, affectionate person, one who could make people of all sorts feel at home.
God blessed Archie with the gift of years and the gift of good health. He was blessed also with a wonderful wife, and loving children, especially Douglas and Barbara who looked after him with so much love. He suffered in his last year, but also received the sacraments repeatedly and with fruit. RIP.
Monday 25 May 2009
One of the loveliest churches in Goa. Not the biggest. Not even the best preserved - Aldona Church is far better kept, and even Ucassaim, I think. But truly lovely. It just happens to be my parish church.
A little bit of a hotchpotch mixture when it comes to the altars. My friend Fr Nascimento Mascarenhas tells me that some of the altars were salvaged from destroyed churches in Old Goa. You can see it if you look: the main altar is white and gold, and so are the upper halves of the side altars (to St Sebastian and to St Anthony, if I am not mistaken), but the lower halves of the side altars, and another side altar on the right, are brown and quasi-Gothic in conception...
I have included a view of the cloister. If I am not mistaken, a large number of churches in Bardez have cloisters. They were probably founded and built by the Black Franciscans who were the first to evangelize Bardez.
This time in Goa I took the chance to take photographs of several of the lovely Churches and Chapels that dot the villages in and around Soccorro. Some of them are more than 300 years old, dating back to 50 years of the Portuguese conquest - though most have been probably rebuilt and enlarged down the years.
The little tragedy is the tendency of well-meaning parish priests and laity to add a porch here, a shed there... Most ungainly, unbecoming, and totally lacking in aesthetic sense. (The first photo above is of the Nossa Senhora da Graca chapel near the Ribandar ferry, Chorao. The second one is of the Nossa Senhora de Saude, also in Chorao. The latter is rather recent, probably dating back from 1912, but also rather ugly! The former seems to be older, but an odd cement concrete porch has been added in front, totally destroying the symmetry and beauty of the facade.)
I have heard that the Archbishop of Goa has promulgated a law about the retouching of historical ecclesiastical structures. About time, and I hope the law is effective. Perhaps our catechism should expand to include also church history - as Awakening Faith, the catechetical magazine of the Bombay Archdiocese has done - and ecclesiastical aesthetics? Certainly we need also better training in the liturgy, the banning of the awful and omnipresent plastic flowers and of the so popular and increasingly more ghastly offertory processions....
Many of us are somewhat embarrassed by the title 'Mary Help of Christians.' It sounds so parochial, so narrow, so much out of tune with ecumenical and interreligious sensibilities. So it is often modified or shortened to 'Mary, Help of All,' or simply 'Mary Our Help.'
I was thinking: perhaps there is something in the title that has escaped us up to now, and it is this: Mary is the one who helps us become true Christians. She is the one who helps us on our way to become Christ. As she was part of God's plan in the birth of his Son in the fullness of time, so she remains part of God's plan in the millennial birthing of the Body of Christ, the Church. And that is why all three readings of the day speak indifferently both of Mary and of the Woman, the faithful Woman, the believing Woman, the Woman who is the Church...
So I think we could say Mary Help of Christians without embarrassment. She helps us be like Christ, for the salvation of the world. That is really Help, in what matters most to God: to bring us all safely to himself, to make us all like his Son.
And perhaps we have yet to discover the deep connection between Mary and the unity of the Church. So many people are touched by evangelical preachers, and begin leading a new life. There is no argument against that. But I would like to say to these good people, these good followers of Christ: pray and work also for the unity of the Church. After all, Jesus prayed the night before he suffered, that We might be One, as the Father and he are one....
Tuesday 5 May 2009
So it is possible to run a Sunday school in such a way that children long to attend. And it is possible to relate to kids on a Sunday afternoon, even if you are a novice, in such a way that years later, when they are strapping young lads, they still remember you with great affection....
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