Tuesday 31 August 2010

The importance of lying in bed

Descartes used to lie in bed until late in the morning, reflecting and philosophizing.

Phyllis Wallbank used to mention often that one of her students was struck by the fact that all the great mathematicians had periods of sickness in their lives: that was when they got a chance to think.

I remember reading that Winston Churchill also used to lie in bed the whole morning. He was even better than Descartes: after rising, he would have a huge lunch, polish off a whole bowl of chocolates, and then set about playing cards. Only towards late afternoon he would begin 'business.' And he seems to have done quite well.

Tirphal or teflam

Tirphal / chirphal - or simply teflam in colloquial Konkani. Seems to be different from triphal, which is an Ayurvedic recipe containing 3 herbs, including amla.

Miguel Braganza notes that tirphal or chirphal is the local (Goan) name for Szetchwan or Schezwan or Sheguan  or Sichuan pepper (Zanthoxylum rhetsa). Other varieties are Chinese pepper, Japanese pepper, Japanese prickly ash, Indonesian lemon pepper (Zanthoxylum acanthopodium), and Nepal pepper (Zanthoxylum armatum).

Other botanical names: Zanthoxylum limonella, Alston and Fagara budrunga.

The Portuguese simply called it limao pimentose, because of its chilli and lemon flavour.

The spice is used in India mostly on the West coast or the Konkan, for fish dishes.

It is normally not combined with other spices, because its delicate flavour is easily lost among other spices.

All this from Miguel Braganza, "Fotas and the Tirphal," Herald, Sunday, 22 August 2010, 21.

Monday 30 August 2010

Economics as science

Another - very large - claim made by Lonergan is that till now economics has not yet become a science; but his own efforts serve to transpose it to the explanatory status of a true science.

Phil McShane keeps saying that till now economics has been in a phlogiston type of mode. With Lonergan it breaks through to explanatory categories.

This claim can of course be verified or falsified only by the experts - and here of course the experts would need to be expert not only on traditional or current economic theories, but also on Lonergan's.

In an age of postmodernism, we have Lonergan stressing again and again the need to climb to explanation, and to a truly comprehensive explanation of everything. Not likely to get him an audience!

Sunday 29 August 2010

Leisure and the economy

The aim of the economy, the aim of life, is not making money, so as to make more money. Lonergan says it is leisure, and it is the good life - an improved standard of living for all. But of course we have to ask: what is the meaning of 'improved standard of living'?

Still: leisure! What would I do with leisure? What would I do without work? Good question. Leisure: not always easy to handle.

Travel? see places? enjoy? but what? how?

And the eschaton: eternal life: eternal leisure. But what on earth will we DO?

A millions gardens, a million villages

Lonergan dreaming of a time when there will be a million self-sufficient villages, and no need for money, with advanced agriculture and technology, and leisure for all... Unbelievable.

Does this, can this, will this, mesh with Gandhi's ideas of self-sufficient village units?

Making Money?

What is the aim of the economy? Many will say: Making Money. Lonergan says: improving the standard of living for all.

A difference worth pondering over.

A creeping extrinsicism within the Catholic Church

I find myself increasingly impatient with a type of spirituality that is currently growing even within the Catholic Church: the type that relies on signs rather than discernment; the type that tends to go back to a rather pre-Vatican usage in terms of heaven and hell and devils, and even an outright defence of the Inquisition, practically reversing the gains of Vatican II.

Which is not to say that all is well with the attackers of the Inquisition. I am fully aware that the Inquisition has been a beating stick for the Protestants and now for many others. I am aware that much historiography demonstrates an unqualified bias against the Inquisition. Yet: I do not think the Inquisition can be defended outright. "Error has no rights" is something that I have hoped had been overcome. Respect for human dignity, even when I disagree, and even when I think you are wrong. That I had thought was the gain of Vatican II.

The word that sums up my disease is extrinsicism: a growing extrinsicism within the Catholic church.A return to simpler times, clearer certainties.

I guess this is a reaction to the confusion that often prevails wtihin the Church - and especially within its priests. They have either gone overboard, or are quite inarticulate on important matters. Or, most often, they have alienated well-meaning Catholics on the issue of family planning and birth control. Which leads to a great loss of faith in them as teachers.

Hence the success of the new movements within the Church. Clear identity; certainties; a sense of belonging; clear attachment to the Church (but this I find tends to be suo modo).

We have failed. Authority within the church has failed to be at the level of the times. And if there are some at this level, they have failed in the task of communication. The Catholic imagination is being lost.

Tuesday 24 August 2010

(Re)discovering Booker T. Washington

I came across the name of Booker T. Washington while going through Augustine's dissertation last year on Ambedkar: BTW was one of those who seem to have influenced Ambedkar.

Yesterday I came across a review of two recent books on BTW, which revaluate the great man who had been, it seems, quite discredited by the subsequent civil rights movement in America.

Worth reading this review: see George McKenna, "The Return of Booker T. Washington," review of Booker T. Washington and the Struggle Against White Supremacy by David H. Jackson, Jr, and Up From History: The Life of Booker T. Washington, by Robert J. Norrell.  First Things, 193 (May 2009) 52-55.

Sunday 22 August 2010


I just opened the windows of my rather large office here at Don Bosco Nashik. What a marvellous view of the trees on Don Bosco Marg and the STI compound!

Unfortunately the windows are odd: the top part can be opened, but not the bottom part. I wish the builders had thought of a large open window.

Thursday 19 August 2010

Perception and taste

At Washington DC Metro Station, on a cold January morning in 2007, standing behind an upturned cap, a violinist played Bach pieces one after another for about an hour. During that time approximately two thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. About twenty of them took notice of his presence and his performance, dug their hand into their pocket or wallet, flicked few coins into his cap-turned-begging-bowl, and walked away in their normal pace. Only six people stopped and stayed for a while to listen to him. When he finished after playing for an hour silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition. He collected $32.
No one knew that the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the best musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million. Two days before he played the same pieces in a theatre in Boston where the seats were sold out months in advance and averaged $100. This is a real story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people's responses. (Editor [Kurian Perumpallikunnel], "Last but Not Least," Vinayasadhana: Journal of Psycho-Spiritual Formation [published from Dharmaram College, Bangalore] 1/2 [2010] 102.)
The editor goes on to make a comment about attentiveness.

I would add: attentiveness is also about expectation as well as cultivation. If I do not expect to find someone on a railway station, it is that much more difficult to recognize her if I bump into her. And if I am not an expert, with a 'cultivated' ear, I will certainly not be able to recognize a famous piece of music, or an eminent musician, if I hear him playing in an unexpected place. And even if I go to a concert, it is with great difficulty that I will appreciate classical music, unless I have the cultivation and training.

So perception is not just about attentiveness. It involves far more.

Clothing for Liberation reviewed by Gerson da Cunha

Great review of Peter Gonsalves' book by Gerson da Cunha in the Deccan Chronicle, Thursday, August 19:

Clothing For Liberation: A Communication Analysis Of Gandhi’s Swadeshi Revolution
by Peter Gonsalves
Sage Publications, Rs 495
That clothes are tell-tale is well known. They can reveal as much as they conceal. That they can be both the medium and the message is less well known. Peter Gonsalves has written, and Sage has published, a book intriguingly titled Clothing for Liberation: A Commun

I was wondering whether Peter might do some more along the same lines. There is Tilak's use of the Ganapati festival, transforming it from a household devotion to a public, sarvajanik, celebration as a political statement and tool. Bal Thackeray's use of the Shivaji symbol. The RSS use of several potent symbols, including finally the Babri mosque. Hitler, of course. All mass communicators whose primary recourse is to non-mass media symbols, though the effect is, naturally multiplied by the mass media....  

Monday 16 August 2010


Reading James Joyce's Ulysses. Picked up on a footpath in Koregaon Park, from some Rajneeshee, many years ago. (It was put on the Index, but eventually found its way to the library. No harm, really; no one has read it as yet, is my impression.) Funny to see how much of Joyce's Catholic Jesuit education seeps through. Every now and then the references to Aristotle: this afternoon, for example, I came across "form of forms." The anima, really. Joyce was paying attention.

Good preparation for McShane, anyway.

And ... queer feeling when the greydrab sky outside, as today, matches the greydrab oozing from the book. The skies of Dublin, the skies of Ireland for the greater part of the year? Like four hours of sunshine in some corner of the island wins the award for most sunshine in the whole year?

Snotgreen is another word he likes very much. Ugh!

What is Christ trying to do to his hearers?

"In reply to our impertinent question, 'What is Christ trying to do to his hearers?', I answer, presumptuously, that I think he is trying to get people to live. Christ is urging his followers to become completely alive to themselves in the tempestuous flux of earthly existence and there to abandon themselves to God, there to discern, impossibly, the lineaments of God's face. If we are afraid even to live, how shall we ever bear the beauty and terror and comfort of God?"

(Sebastian Moore, God is a New Language, 75)

Loving Christ

How to go about loving Christ?

Certainly we should not try to whip ourselves into an emotional frenzy - thinking of his compassion for men, say, or his agony in Gethsemane, or his facing and outfacing death on Calvary, and accusing ourselves of heartlessness....

That is more likely to lead to religious hysteria ending in despair. The better way is to forget ourselves, and simply concentrate on getting to know his words and his works and his very self, better and better. Out of that kind of growth in knowledge, love grows naturally. Most of us have had the experience of working with someone over a long space, liking him but not giving a great deal of thought to him personally; and quite suddenly some accidental happening shows us how much he really means to us, how great our devotion to him. That is the experience we can have if we live with Christ in the Gospels.

(F.J. Sheed, Christ in Eclipse, London: Sheed & Ward, 1978, 15)

Palm Palm Parade (Shadows bold in a Penny Arcade)

It's the real thing
sing the coke men
smoke men
sell-it-to-the-folk men.

Young man on a donkey
rides past shadows and shouts of "king,"
being himself the real thing.

(From Things Lost in Need of Finding, compiled by Joan Sauro, Notre Dame, Ind: Ave Maria, 1973, 31.)

The shackle of emotional addiction

Teresa of Avila says that emotional addiction is a "shackle," "a chain that cannot be broken by any file." It is natural to be "inclined to one more than another," but we must be careful not to allow ourselves to be dominated by that affection. An attachment enslaves us, robbing us of our freedom. "Oh, God help me," Teresa raves, "the silly things that come from such attachment are too numerous to be counted." Through an attachment our affections become excessively "involved" - like children in their games. (Tessa Bielecki, "True Liberation: Teresa, Women and Men," Forefront 1/2 (1994) 8.

Chastity and prayer

With the exception of the great mystics, no one can really sublimate all the affective energy normally burned up in sexual activity. The danger of neurotic distortion is very great for those not genuinely called to the mystical life, or for those who fail to do all in their power to measure up to the harsh demands.... Such persons are usually astonished by the strength of their eroticism. The bizarre behaviour of many old maids and bachelors - including old priests and sisters - is not unrelated to their chastity, a chastity not counterbalanced by a genuinely mystical life. Pascal: "He who would play the angel, ends by playing the beast." (Ignace Lepp, The Psychology of Loving, New York: NHL, 1963, 213.)


"To seek too much fulfillment while the gift of virginity is taking root may cut short a developing special friendship with God." (L. Orsy, Open to the Spirit, NJ: Dimension, 1968, 90)


Camus' definition of charm: "... a way of getting the answer yes without having asked any clear question." (Camus, The Fall, 43.)

Saturday 14 August 2010

Delighting in delight

From William Zanardi's article, "Raising Expectations: Making Sense, Not Money" in Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/2 (2010) 219: 
Imagine how a waitress could find delight in neatly setting a table, serving a good meal and watching customers enjoy themselves. Perhaps special occasions like birthday celebrations, wedding anniversaries or a young couple’s first date brought smiles all around. Delighting in others’ delight can make hard work seem easy. No great artistic display is needed in either the table setting or the food; simple table arrangements and good food are enough if those serving the customers choose to make the friendly gestures that invite all to enjoy their time together.
As I read this I was thinking of how friendly young waiters and waitress can be in simple restaurants in North America, both Canada and the US. Why don't we find more of this out here in our own country? Or perhaps we do find it, but only, it happens if you are a 'regular'. Or sometimes you find it, but there is a certain sense of artificiality to it, or else the impression that it is all in view of a tip. Or maybe our wretched caste system kicks in here too: to genuinely "delight in other's delight" presupposes a certain sense of ... ease? an equality that can be taken for granted?

Objectivity and creativity

I am teaching Lonergan's chapter on reflective understanding these days, with all its concern about discovering how it is that we arrive at correct judgments. But my reflection is about objectivity and creativity.

Some years ago one Salesian said to another: see that boy, he is a dhong-master. (Dhong-master: master of pretence, but the Marathi word dhong is far more piquant than pretence). He is always pretending to be sick. He is a champion.

This may be an objective judgment. But I was thinking, Salesian education is not merely about being objective. It is about being creative. We are not there to pass objective judgments of fact about our charges. We are there to influence them, to help them change and grow. And this involves finding the point of entry into the heart. "There is no boy who is so bad that you cannot find a good point in him." That point is the point of entry. That point has to be found. The entry has to be made. Then education begins.

So not objectivity, but creativity: realizing that we have the power to create in the area of relationships. Love is creative. God is Love. God is creative. He does not love us because we are lovable; his love makes us lovable. When we love and by our love make someone lovable, we are most like God.

Education is a matter of the heart!

And Jose-Luis Plascencia quoting Joseph Pieper on the need to reach the individual in loving, to be able to say to someone: How wonderful that you are! Before someone says this to us, we exist, but do not feel justified in existing. It is like being at a party to which we have not been invited. When someone says to us: How wonderful that you are! we begin to feel justified in existing, we feel we belong at the party. We flower, we blossom, we bloom. And the changes are often dramatic.

So don't be merely objective; in the realm of education, that is merely shabby. Be creative! Be like God!

Friday 13 August 2010

Wednesday 11 August 2010

Perfectly logical

A wonderful illustration of the distinction between formal validity and soundness from Lewis Carroll:
'I have sent for you, my dear Ducks,' said the worthy Mrs Bond, 'to enquire with what sauce you would like to be eaten?' 'But we don't want to be killed!' cried the Ducks. 'You are wandering from the point' was Mrs Bond's perfectly logical reply.  
(From Charles C. Hefling, Jr., Why Doctrines? [Cowley Publications, 1984] 121.)

Il Gattopardo

Just finished reading The Leopard. Giovanni Mazzali had recommended it to me in the course of a long conversation in the pullman back from Turin to Rome: you will get an idea of why the Italian South is what it is, he had said.

I don't know what - perhaps I was expecting something about the Mafia and things like that. Nothing at all about the Mafia. The novel is written by a Sicilian aristocrat and is centred largely around the Sicilian aristocracy at the time of Garibaldi's landing in Sicily. It has all through a feeling of genteel decadence - despite the brave line of the young and adventurous Tancredi - we have to change so that things might remain the same. Perhaps I need to read it in the original to savour the true feeling. Or perhaps great literature like this does not yield up its secrets to a hurried reading on a train. It needs to be savoured, what other word. I begin to suspect that there are layers and layers of meanings: the stark (and deliberate) contrast between the absolutely regular rhythms - and therefore predictability - of the stars of which Prince Fabrizio is so fond, and the unpredictability of human affairs; the bittersweet experience of being human and the simple reliability of Bendico' the dog; the plebeian Jesuit Pirrone and the aristocratic Prince Salina; the distant hauteur of Salina and the shrewdness of Calogero Sedara....

Extremely interesting how a novel springs up from life experience - how Lampedusa has poured into his novel his own experience, that of his great-grandfather, that of his adopted son who provides at least one of the models for the young Tancredi.

The final chapter seems superfluous. Novels should after all end with the death of the protagonist. But there it is - and perhaps it is a masterstroke - "Relics". The last relic to be thrown out is the (now stinking and moth-eaten) 'relic' of the faithful Bendico'. It takes its place on the rubbish heap.

Raghuram Rajan on the global economic crisis

It is commonly put around that the current economic crisis is due to easy credit and the large numbers of defaulters.

At the inauguration of "First Choice", the Mahindra Service Station on the Divyadaan campus, Mr Rajeev Dubey, President HR, After-Market & Corporate Services (Mahindras), put forward an alternative point of view. He was drawing from Fault Lines, a book written by the well-known economist, Raghuram Rajan (currently at the Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago, and earlier chief economist at the IMF). Rajan says that the global economic crisis should not be attributed to the wrongdoings of a few individuals, or simplistically to a class of people who have defaulted on their loans. The root cause, he says, is the growing numbers of have-nots who are realizing that they are actually have-nevers. Politicians have tried to respond to this class of people by providing easy credit, and this had led to the sub-prime crisis.

Mr Allen Sequeira, Executive Vice President, Group HR and Leadership Development (Mahindras), added his own note to this. He said he had been advised by C.K. Prahlad to make his top management aware of the need to tackle seriously the problem of disparity, especially in the tribal areas of India. Prahlad suggested that he invite some Jesuit priest to address his people: they would know from first hand experience the problems of the tribals. Sequeira invited Fr John Misquitta, who spoke to his management people for 4 hours.

Dubey said the humanitarian angle has to be taken into account in all business. Solidarity is not merely a question of justice, it is a question today of survival. How to reach out to the have-nevers is our problem, all of us must put our minds to it.

I am not sure about the validity of Rajan's analysis - it merely takes a step backward from the current wisdom - but perhaps it will be matter to be discussed at the forthcoming Workshop at Divyadaan, Towards a New Economic Order, conducted by Philip McShane (Vancouver, Canada) (see http://divyadaan.org for more details).

Saturday 7 August 2010

The half-shekel tax

The gospel of the coming Monday in Week 19 of the year is Mt 17:22-27, the curious incident about the payment of the half-shekel tax.

I had always assumed that this was a tax paid to the Roman authorities, but the commentaries are clear that it was a tax paid by all Jewish adults over 20 to the Temple for the upkeep of the Temple, and that payment was voluntary.

After the destruction of the Temple, this tax naturally fell into disuse; so the question arises, why did Matthew insert / preserve this curious incident? Some scholars suggest that the Temple tax was converted into a tax for some Roman temple, but others dismiss this. William G. Thompson says that the tax was directed to the upkeep of the 'Patriarchate' or group of Jewish scholars who had assembled at Jamnia with the permission of the Roman authorities. As such, the tax was a problem to the fledgling Christian community: to pay or not to pay? Did they belong to the Jewish communion or not? Matthew's suggestion, through this episode, is that 'the sons are free', but, so as not to give offence, the tax might be paid. In the passage Jesus, in fact, uses inclusive terms such as 'sons', and instructs Peter - who the text indicates functions here as spokesman of the disciples - to pay the tax for Jesus as well as for himself.

Wonderfully 'Jesuit' solution! The sons are free; but do pay the tax, so as not to give offence. I like also the way Peter answers a non-committal Yes when asked whether his master pays the tax, and immediately goes into the house. It is like the yes we say when we are not quite sure what to say, or when we really don't want to say yes. But the commentators say that Peter's answer is more like 'Certainly'. Whatever.

Perhaps the incident could still be used to bring up the question of the social and political allegiances of the Christian today? Or the issue of socio-political education, or the rereading of Don Bosco's "honest citizen and good Christian", which, Fr Chavez says, needs to be radically updated, given the changes in both anthropology and theology in the 150 years since Don Bosco. Honest citizen in Don Bosco's time, when politics was the privilege of the rich and elite, meant 'law-abiding, minding-his-own-business, not-giving-offence'. Today it certainly means active participation, and even moves in the direction of supra-nationality to being a citizen of the world.... Good Christian in Don Bosco's time involved learning a basic catechism, frequenting the sacraments, having devotion to and imitating the saints, living a virtuous life, and dying a holy death. Today it opens up in the direction of an integral holiness: individually, socially, religiously complete.

As a good instance of such updating, take just GC26's reading of the vow of poverty: not just individual and community asceticism, but also the social, political, educative dimensions. Educating young people to solidarity; justice; understanding of the economy; protagonism; active citizenship; political participation; moral conscience; respect for the environment and for life.Overcoming the charity model and paternalism (Amartya Sen); empowerment rather than 'working for'; denouncing the causes of injustice.

Rereading 'assistance' and 'presence'

Chavez again: 
We arrive thus at another famous Salesian term: assistance, often understood solely as a physical omnipresence capable of defending a minor and protecting the weak and defenceless, without sufficient attention to the risk of blocking the natural and legitimate process of maturation and autonomy.
 More than ever, therefore, it is necessary “to work out a concrete and articulate ‘preventive pedagogy for the family,’ that knows how to apply, with critical care and in changed situations, the key concepts of the ‘system,’ in particular the problematic ‘loving kindness,’ oscillating between affective creativity, a reassuring sense of belonging, anxious possessiveness, and violence.”[1]
And just as an updated and renewed ‘spirit of family’ must overcome the forms of paternalism and familiarism that were characteristic of the past in order to arrive at relationships that are ‘free,’ liberating and authentically personalizing, so also ‘assistance’ understood as ‘the closing of doors and windows’ of the youth environment and the constant presence of the educator with the youth must learn to take into account the young people who freely navigate the net, communicate with cell phones, interact with hundreds of TV channels, and meet where and when they want.

[1] P. Braido, Prevenire, non reprimere 403.

Rereading 'reason' in the Preventive System

From Pascual Chavez, "Don Bosco's Educational System Today," Divyadaan: Journal of Philosophy and Education 21/1 (2010) 11: 
In the Preventive System, reason is fundamental to education, insofar as it must always have the upper hand over violent imposition and unquestioning acceptance of commands. It is a reason that must also be educated through study, school and instruction that is respectful of human and Christian values. In the introduction to one of his first books, Storia Sacra, Don Bosco wrote: “My aim on every page was to illuminate the mind in order to make the heart good.”
But reason also, like the other two words of the trinomial, must be reread in the light of the revolutions in thought and mentality that have taken place. In the time of Don Bosco and for a good part of the succeeding century, Salesian ‘culture’ showed itself to be very traditional, conservative, and for the most part geared to the professional formation of either students or artisans. Also, the mode of transmission of this ‘culture’ was mostly authoritarian, not open to free reading, to personal research, to confrontation and to discussion.
Today, in the face of technological rationality, immersion in the immediacy of feeling, the advent of the pensiero debole,[1] and together with the question of ‘critical thought’ within a ‘liquid society,’ reason is invited to recover the fullness of its meaning and functions: to observe, reflect, understand, prove, verify, change, adapt, decide, develop, assimilate promptly and in a flexible manner, all the proposals and suggestions coming from the field of education and from academic reflection.

[1] [‘Weak thought’—key phrase of the Italian postmodern philosopher Gianni Vattimo.]


My brother Vally, who is currently in the States with his wife, met with an accident last night IST. He was driving with one other person (from Goa), when he banged into another car, from what I am given to understand. Both escaped with minor injuries - my brother has a chest pain and a numb calf. Unfortunately they had not taken insurance, so the legal procedures might be a problem. 

Please keep them in your prayers.

Friday 6 August 2010

Il Gattopardo

I have pulled out di Lampedusa's The Leopard. Pity I don't have it in Italian, Il Gattopardo. Mazzali recommended it to me: it will give you an idea of the Italian South, and an understanding of why we have reached where we have today, he say.

I could not resist dipping into the book. Wonderfully written. Evokes an age.

All this while my desk is groaning with books on the development of doctrine, postmodernism and theology (mainly Caputo's amazing output), and a variety of resources for the course on philosophy of knowing....

Ghosh again

Amitav Ghosh's Sea of Poppies is very well written. Ghosh has a sparse and racy style. There is no time to get bored. And his research seems enormous. In Sea of Poppies he recreates the world of post-1857 British India with an amazing wealth of details. The characters fairly jump out of the pages. And there are, as always, moments of rare humanity, as when his fellow convict consoles the ex-Raja of Raskhali (the Rascally-Roger, in Britspeak).

An economist in every village

"Lonergan's dream was of an economist in every village knowledgeable of the fundamental rhythms of the economy and guiding the decisions of its citizens." (Michael Shute, Lonergan's Discovery of the Science of Economics, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010, 247)

An economist in every village - is that a pipe dream? Or does it parallel the dream of having a doctor in every village? 

Those interested, please sign up for the workshop "Towards a New Economic Order", 9-11 September 2010, Divyadaan, Nashik. Contact: Robert Pen at robertpen.sdb@gmail.com

Salesians and general bias

Like all human beings, Salesians are also prone to individual bias (egoism and selfishness, in plain words) and to group bias. But because they are educators, they specialize in the concrete, in dealing with people, especially young people; they are therefore usually men of common sense. And so they are professionally vulnerable to what Lonergan calls 'general bias.' General bias arises when common sense forget that it is one specialization of intelligence among many other, valid ones, and arrogates to itself the whole. Its ruling question is: what difference will that make? what is the relevance of that for the here and now? It rules out of court all 'abstract' philosophy and theology as irrelevant, beside the point, useless, a waste of time.

Yet, by their charismatic core, Salesians are called to the widest possible vision of things: God's own vision. That is one way of putting the Da mihi animas. As don Chavez likes to remind us, we are not just entertainers, we are not just educators in a narrow sense, we are educators and evangelizers, people whose ultimate aim to accompany people to God.

And so Salesians cannot afford to be complacent about general bias. Their charism calls them to fight the pernicious effects of general bias. They must resist the tendency to be satisifed with the immediate, the concrete, the here and now, and learn to focus attention - theirs and that of their charges - on the long term, the remotely relevant, the seemingly impractical. For what is more impractical than the kingdom of God? And who was a greater dreamer than Jesus? We are sons of dreamers! And so: strenuous efforts to resist general bias, the restrict of efforts and interests to the immediately relevant and practical. We are called to accompany young people into a new world, the world of God's dreams...

Monday 2 August 2010

Cosmopolis... and Salesians

A salutary admonition from Lonergan: cosmopolis does not waste its time condemning individual or group egoism. Its concern would be to make operative timely and fruitful ideas on the strength of their own worth, without a power backing... (see Insight ch. 7)

So: don't worry too much about individuals and groups. The real problem is general bias: the practicality that would simply ignore anything that is long-term and remote, in favour of the immediate and concrete.

The real problem with eminently practical groups like the Salesians is not group bias but general bias: the tendency to ignore the long-term, the remote, the not immediately practical. The tendency to think that preparing games and notice board material and prayer services is the way to prepare for the future.

Yet Da mihi animas... is of its nature a long-term goal... and so is education which forms a part of DMACT. DMACT is, really, adopting God's vision of things, the mind of Christ, and making it an operative goal and criterion of our action.

Eminently practical Salesians might do well to adopt cosmopolis - the kingdom of God, if you want to put that in a Christian key - as an educative goal and endeavour.

And young Salesians need to remind themselves constantly of the imperative to be attentive, intelligent, reasonable and responsible; part of which demands intense application to study.

Sunday 1 August 2010

Awards for 5 "Theology of the Body" Pioneers - including Vally and Anna Coelho

Indian Couple, Daughters of St. Paul Honored
By Genevieve Pollock

PHILADELPHIA, Pennsylvania, JULY 30, 2010 (Zenit.org).- Five individuals and institutions were honored for their work to spread the teaching of Pope John Paul II in his theology of the body at the first national congress on this topic.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia, said the opening prayer for the Thursday evening awards banquet at the National Theology of the Body Congress.

Cardinal Rigali affirmed to ZENIT that the theology of the body is "a great gift." In fact, the cardinal personally wrote a Jan. 21 letter of invitation to the congress, in which he stated, "I am convinced that John Paul II's theology of the body is a treasure for the Church and a gift of the Holy Spirit for our time."

The three-day congress, which was organized by the Philadelphia-based Theology of the Body Institute, ends today.

The institute awarded Valentine and Ann Coelho of Goa, India; Father Richard Hogan of Crystal, Minnesota; the Daughters of St. Paul of Boston, Massachusetts; the Theology of the Body International Alliance of San Antonio, Texas; and Ruah Woods of Cincinnati, Ohio.

A press release noted the "pioneering work" of these honorees in "the advancement of the teachings of Pope John Paul II on human sexuality."

David Savage, chairman of the institute's board, said at the banquet that "each of the recipients have been true trailblazers -- in ways unique to their individual and organizational missions -- in promoting and helping others understand the theology of the body."

Unique missions

Valentine and Ann Coelho were acknowledged for their work over the past decade in spreading the teachings of John Paul II in India, through seminars for clergy, religious, seminarians, doctors, youth and engaged and married couples.

Father Hogan, co-author of "Covenant of Love: Pope John Paul II on Sexuality, Marriage and Family in the Modern World," was honored for his vanguard work in disseminating the theology of the body through publications as early as 1981. His latest book, "Theology of the Body: What it Means, Why it Matters," continues his 29-year work of bringing John Paul II's teachings to a wider audience.

Sister Mary Mark Wickenhiser, publisher of Pauline Books and Media, accepted the award on behalf of the Daughters of St. Paul. The congregation, which works to communicate Christ through the media and modern technology, was awarded for its work to publish the general audience addresses of John Paul II, and then many subsequent books by various authors on the topic of the theology of the body.

Anastasia Northrop received the award for the Theology of the Body International Alliance, which was created in 2003 to provide resources for catechesis and ministry. The organization currently supports 500 members in 25 countries in their work with couples, teens, prolife causes, street evangelization, forums and national conferences.

Ruah Woods was honored for its ministry in the Archdiocese of Cincinnati, Ohio, as an education center specifically dedicated to teaching the theology of the body. Since it opened its doors last year, it has trained 400 students to bring John Paul II's teaching to their own parishes and communities.

Universal Church

At the banquet, Cardinal Rigali was accompanied by Bishop-elect John McIntyre, whose episcopal ordination will take place Aug. 6. Also present were Bishop Lawrence Brandt of Greensburg, Pennsylvania, and Bishop Hugh Slattery, who retired this year from his position as bishop of Tzaneen, South Africa.

Before giving the closing prayer for the evening, Bishop Slattery addressed some words to the participants of the theology of the body congress, in which he emphasized the need for spreading this Church teaching about human sexuality, especially in the fight against AIDS. He noted that some 2 million South Africans have already died due to AIDS.

Later, in comments to ZENIT, Bishop Slattery affirmed that the Church in South Africa has had a great impact in the fight against AIDS, a work that he said was an "honor" to be a part of.

The congress focused four tracks on various aspects of the theology of the body: pastoral ministry, catechesis and evangelization, philosophy and theology, marriage and family.

Speakers included: Cardinal Rigali; Father Hogan; Helen Alvar€ ¦é, law professor and advisor of the Pontifical Council for the Laity; Father Thomas Loya; Sister Helena Burns of the Daughters of St. Paul; Janet Smith; Lisa Hendey; Brian Gail; Katrina Zeno; Pia de Solenni; Anastasia Northrop; Father Roger Landry; Peter Colosi; Bill Donaghy; Damon Owens; Michael Waldstein; Monica Ashour; Gregory Popcak; Glen Stanton; Jake Samour; Bob Schuchts; and Philip Mango.

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The photo above is a bit dated - 2005. Vally and Anna have 5 kids, only 3 of whom feature in the photo, and of course all three have grown (considerably) since...

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