Friday 24 December 2010

Chae Young Kim in Nashik

Chae Young Kim from the Jesuit Sogang University, Korea is here for a visit. He had been invited to the 400 years celebration of the Patriarchal Seminary of Rachol, where he gave a talk on religious value in Lonergan.

Chae Young is a William James scholar who subsequently discovered an interest in Lonergan. He has an article on the two in the recent issue of The Heythrop Journal.

From Mumbai he proceeds to Cochin where he attends another seminar.

Chae Young is one of the original members of the not-very-active Asian Lonergan Association (ALA). But there is hope that he might be able to organize a seminar in Korea some time soon... He has contacts or is perhaps a member or consultant to the Korean Ministry of Education.

Longing and yearning

This morning, 24 December, the gospel was Zechariah singing the Benedictus.

Despite the fact that we recite this everyday, the song is so amazing. The longing of ages that erupts on the lips of Zechariah. That eruption can happen only if there is the longing.

I thought of St Exupery's The Little Prince, and what the fox says to the prince: come at the same time every day, so that already an hour before you come I can begin waiting for you in expectation...

The waiting is part of the coming. Without the Advent, there is no Christmas.

So: am I waiting? Do I long? Yes and no, not always, not completely. But yes, so many longings: for friendship, for relaxation, for fun, for good conversation, for food, for drink, for sleep....

And Augustine teaches us so beautifully: all these longings are really in the end longings for God. Our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

And John Paul II: the longing and yearning for God is inscribed into our very bodies: our sexuality is this longing and yearning, obscurely so often, for God. That is mind-blowing. That is so unreal. Yet... the play of real and un-real, sat and a-sat...

Tuesday 21 December 2010

Leaping and dancing

Wonderful set of readings at Mass this morning (21 December): the Beloved coming leaping over the mountains (Song of Songs), the extraordinary image of God dancing in joy over his people (Zephaniah), and then the babe in Elizabeth's womb dancing (skirtan, usually translated as leaping) at the approach of the new Ark of the Covenant bearing the Glory of God....

Ratzinger in Daughter Sion invites Christians to rediscover the element of rejoicing in their prayer, rejoicing at the Incarnation. With John the Baptist we learn to dance at the coming of the Lord.

What struck me was that it is first God who coming leaping over the mountains, it is God who dances for joy over his people, over us. He is more thrilled to be coming to us, than we are at the fact of his coming. For he came unto his own, and his own received him not. The ox and the ass know their owner, but the Lord's people do not recognize their Master.

And here lies the Good News: that it is God who is more thrilled to be with us, than we with him. He is EMMANUEL. He is JOY.

Christmas decorations

I saw the Advent wreath with its four candles - properly placed, that is, horizontal - in the SHTC chapel this morning, and thought of Christmas decorations in India: so foreign, so utterly unconnected with anything that we experience out here: imitation holly, mistletoe, artificial Christmas pine trees, and often even the snow....

Perhaps Christianity has not yet penetrated into our subconscious, to generate from there a new way of looking at things, new ways of expressing ourselves.... Why not marigolds and mango leaves, for instance? But perhaps in Goa we have gone some way in this direction, when we use date palm fronds and those triangular pieces of coloured tissue paper on strings...

Or perhaps much of the Christianity we received came from a period of Christianity where the controls over meaning had been established tightly, and in addition there was a dominant classicism that believed in culture with a capital C, and meant European culture.

Yet the incarnation should mean incarnation: the Lord comes into this culture, and rises from within it....

Monday 20 December 2010

Human action

This is wonderful, from Lonergan: “No man can be better than he knows how and no man can be worse than his temptations and opportunities.” (Lonergan, "Essay in Fundamental Sociology," in Lonergan's Early Economic Research, ed. Michael Shute [Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2010] 19)

Lonergan is explaining the link between 'immanent intellectual acts' and the flow of history. The link is the pre-motion, and the principle that quidquid movetur ab alio movetur. Thus any action is moved by a previous action; and past actions become preconditions for later ones.

Could this be a metaphysical way of putting what Gadamer calls Wirkungsgeschichte?

Whatever: the opening phrase is wonderfully insightful: no man can be better than he knows how, and no man can be worse than his temptations and opportunities.

Though I wonder about the first part: no man can be better than he knows how. Lonergan is far from formulating the way down, and is still to begin his work on operative grace. 

Saturday 18 December 2010

Shrirampur and Manchi

Just back from Shrirampur, the ordination of Rajesh Bansode, nephew of Annabai Rohom (she is his aatya). Annabai was very keen on going, and had requested one of us to accompany her. Ajay and I did, taking our old jeep for its first long journey after a very long time, with Pagare driving. (The jeep behaved, more or less, though one of the tyres is overheating, and something is rattling somewhere....)

The ordination was good. Bansode belongs to the Pune diocese, so Bishop Thomas Dabre ordained him. There were a good number of priests from Pune, but also from Mumbai, since Bansode was at Goregaon seminary. A goodly group of people from Mumbai too, from various parishes where he served.

I met Ranjeet Lokhande after very long. He is a clerk in the Jesuit school at Shrirampur; we had met in a Youth Adhiveshan long ago at Divyadaan, and have kept in touch ever since. He married a girl from Belgaum in 2002, and has a son in Std III.

Visit to Ajay's sister's place outside Shrirampur, and then to Ajay's parents' house at Manchi, off Sangamner. Wonderfully beautiful: a gramin bhag, slightly hilly, and extremely peaceful, idyllic even. A little house in the mala, which means a house in the midst of one's fields: chana (harbara), wheat, onions just planted; bajra and kabuli chana in the house; bulls, goats, hens, dogs, cats.... Ajay tells me there are foxes, landga (wolf? jackal?), and leopards in abundance. Plenty of water, so the place is green. But, as Ajay's father said, not possible to live off one's land any more. He works in the Pravaranagar sugar factory, besides managing the fields with his mother and his wife. The children are all working in the cities, and have no interest in returning to the farm... I wonder what the future of these astounding places is.

Tuesday 14 December 2010

More on Bro P.M. Thomas

Bro P.M. Thomas was born in Kerala in 1934. He joined the Salesian aspirantate at Tirupattur, and from there went to the Salesian novitiate at Yercaud, I think. His intention was to become a Salesian priest, but during the novitiate he discovered that he was called to be a Salesian Brother. He went on to become one of the outstanding Salesian Brothers in the history of Salesians in India.

As a young brother he was sent to the house of Don Bosco Matunga. He did his B.Ed., and in later life also his M.Ed. After several years as teacher and assistant (Salesian Brothers would continue to be Assistants even after perpetual profession), he was appointed Principal and Head Master of the new school at Dominic Savio Andheri.

I first came to know him when he was appointed (once again, I think) Principal, Head Master and Prefect of Studies of the aspirantate at Don Bosco Lonavla in the mid 1970s. I think I was in Std X when he came; he was my principal during my Std XI, which was the last of the old SSC batch. I remember Bro Thomas for his fiery Good Morning talks, his passion at games (he was very good at football and hockey), his creative ways of teaching mathematics, and above all the creative ways he made us study.

After my novitiate, my memories of Bro Thomas are in the context of Tony De Mello and A.S. Neill's Summerhill: both were very popular and were being widely read and discussed in the province. Various young Salesians were finding that the Preventive System was outdated. Bro Thomas was one of the ardent defenders of Don Bosco and the Salesian tradition, and he could not bear to hear anything about Summerhill and the new systems of education.

When I returned to Nashik after my stint in Rome, in 1994, I think Bro Thomas was already on the campus, but in STI. The Don Bosco school began in 1996, and he was the first Principal and Head Master. Eventually he shifted to the new Don Bosco community, and then, later, when he retired, to my community of Divyadaan. In retirement, he underwent two cataract operations which were not successful, leading to partial loss of eyesight. Despite this, he completed his PhD under Ms Bengalee of the Bombay University. (Ms Bengalee had been his teacher during his M.Ed., and had always appreciated Don Bosco's educative system.)

I remember Bro Thomas for his great enthusiasm for everything, and for his warm affection for people. It was he who set the friendly and homely tone that we still find in Don Bosco Nashik. He would stand at the gate of the school and welcome the children as they came in. He would spend time with them during the breaks. The teachers he appointed remember how he would correct them with great gentleness and patience. He also composed the prayers which we still recite in school.

He was and continued to be a great lover of Our Lady and Don Bosco till he died.

Sunday 12 December 2010

Bro P.M. Thomas passes away

We have just received the news that Bro. P.M. Thomas, SDB, passed away early this morning. It looks like he passed away in Andheri, where he was undergoing treatment at Holy Spirit Hospital.

I feel the loss very personally. Bro Thomas was my Principal and Head Master in my SSC year at Don Bosco Lonavla, and then very closely associated in later years, especially in Nashik, when he was first on the campus and then in my own community of Divyadaan, together with Fr Vincent Vaz and Fr Olivio Miranda. Those were the difficult years for Bro Thomas: he had just retired from many years of Principalship, and in addition he had almost lost his eyesight despite two cataract operations, or perhaps on account of them. He had been allowed to do his PhD in Education, which he pursued with his typical determination, notwithstanding his failing eyesight - and actually completed his research thesis and defence.

What I remember most at this moment is his great warmth, especially towards parents of confreres. When my own parents would visit Nashik, he was truly delighted, and would go out of his way to spend time with dad, making them in general feel at home - and he was not forcing himself to do so, he was truly happy to see them and be with them. I remember he came along to Goa to our house for the Golden Jubilee of my parents, and it was great having him there.

I remember also Bro Thomas' passion for all things Salesian. We would call him 'politician', because he never lost his enthusiasm for the expansion and growth of the province. We had gone once for a picnic to our property in Gorai, and the first thing he did was to go around and make development plans for the future. And he insisted on being kept in the loop about all new developments, and would get very annoyed if he were not. When I was provincial, I used to share with him one or two secrets, and then I was sure he would be not only happy but also keep his mouth shut.

He was of course most enthusiastic about the vocation of the Salesian brother, and he, I think, represented the Brothers at two general chapters. In later years, however, he would speak less about the Brother, perhaps because he did not always find the support, or perhaps because he felt more and more the resistance from certain quarters.

The years of his retirement were most difficult for him. At a time when he could have made himself useful by teaching philosophy of education and sharing his Salesian experience and insights, his sight failed him. He found it extremely difficult to pass his time. I know he would spend several hours praying, but he made no effort to hide his feelings and difficulties. Bro P.M. was one of those Salesians who was very much in touch with his emotions, and was able to express them quite directly. In this he was quite different from most other Salesians of his generation.

He was also a powerful communicator. He had the knack of communicating in a direct, personal, enthusiastic and touching way.

I think Bro Thomas is certainly one of the great Salesians that India has produced. God receive you into his eternal dwellings, Brother. I will miss you. Thank you for all you have been to me, and to us.

Friday 10 December 2010

Personalization in Formation

Chrys Saldanha's two-day course on Personalization in Formation has just concluded. Some interesting insights.

E.g. the difference between Compliance, Identification and Interiorization. Compliance: e.g. obedience out of fear of punishments or consequences. Identification: e.g. obedience out of fear of displeasing the authority. Interiorization: obedience out of mature adult conviction. On the part of formators, we can control people (a) by using the stick and carrot, (b) by using emotions, attachments, feelings. Both are defective ways of forming. The true process involves allowing the formee to become free from within: no dependence, no control, but a true centre of freedom and action.

MacGregor's X Theory and Y Theory.

Motivations: acting out of dissonant needs, neutral needs, values.

Wednesday 8 December 2010

Antonio Fazio at Demaria Conference, Rome

Dr Antonio Fazio (centre), former Governor of the Banca d'Italia, at round table discussion,  Demaria Convegno, 4 December 2010, Universita' Pontificia Salesiana, Rome. (On the left is Pierluigi Roggero, and on the right don Giorgio Zevini, dean, Faculty of Theology, UPS.)

Dr Fazio gave an extremely interesting talk, outlining the historical reasons leading to the current global economic crisis. He pinpointed the adoption of Keynesian ideas (government controls) as the end of laizzez-faire, and the crisis as rooted in the loosening up of these controls in the 1990s, mainly in the US.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Indian hospitality

As Cloe, Giovanna and I were returning, with the intention of having a Maharashtrian meal at Sanskruti, we saw a wedding procession. We stopped and the two ladies were extremely interested in the proceedings. The bridegroom was just entering on his horse, the reception committee was waiting at the entrance of the pandal. Indian hospitality is so wonderful at these moments: soon there were people inviting us inside to take photos. I introduced myself as coming from Don Bosco; Mr Jadhav told me his son had studied in Don Bosco Matunga. He took us in, the ladies took photos with the bridal couple, showered rice grains, and then were invited to partake of the dinner, which they accepted happily.

Mr Jadhav's son Kedar joined us, and we were treated with great courtesy and hospitality. Then of course there were people from Don Bosco Nashik: Ms Sneha Punjabi, who used to be on our staff; Yash Deshmukh; and some others too. Wonderful evening.

From hostility to hospitality: that would be a nice way of putting it. Hospitality, great Indian value. A universal value, because the world is our home, our Oikos, and so hospitality is linked to the Oikumene, to eco-logy, to eco-nomy.

And the wedding feast, of course, is the great sign of the kingdom. The kingdom which is the house of God, and everyone is at home. Home: there again, a wonderful word.

Chamar leni, Nashik

Cloe, Giovanna and I visited the Chamar leni this evening. I had quite a time finding the right road. We were actually on the right road - which is the Peth road; then someone I asked told me to take the Dindori road, so we crossed over. Then I stopped again and asked; especially since I also bought some batata-wadas and bhajias, the man was very helpful. So we turned back, crossed over to the Peth road again, and went ahead. Luckily we asked again: we had just passed the narrow entry road to the right. There is a sort of indicator, which might be taken as a little hill indicating the Chamar leni, but was actually the signal for the Bhor Gad Air Force colony. The little road, quite well maintained, actually leads to the colony, but is used also by the Chamar leni and Gajapanth people. The Gajapanth is the complex of temples and rest houses at the bottom of the hill. We parked there, but were told that the temple closes at 6.00 p.m. Anyway we made the climb half way, took photos, enjoyed the scenery and the peace, and came down before it became really dark. Then we visited the temples: a very new one, constructed last year, full of white marble, Gujarati style, dedicated to Mahavira: he is the Mulyanath. There were three shrines: 12 tirthankaras on one side, 12 on the other, and a large statue of Mahavira in the centre. I asked Satish Gavare outside, he said that since the temple was dedicated to Mahavira, there was an extra statue of him.

From Satish I came to know a very interesting fact: that he was a local, Maharashtrian Jain, and that there are some 1000 families of Jains in Nashik. He told me that there were also Jains in Madhya Pradesh, Kolhapur and Solapur, and that Kolhapur was the largest Jain community in India. He knew of course about the Jain communities in Moodbidri and perhaps also in Tamil Nadu. He said there was very little written on the matter, but that the Sant of the Gajapanth was doing research on it.

He also said that the real name was Chamar leni, not Chambar leni. Chamar was the name of one of the Sants who attained kaivalya at the place. There was several others, he said.

When asked how old the Jain religion was, he said they believed it was anadikalin - eternal. The 24 tirthankaras are the ones of the present age; there are 24 of the past, and 24 that will come.

Cloe and Giovanna were delighted with the visit.

Tommaso Demaria, Salesian philosopher

I am just back from Rome, where I attended two conferences, one being on the work of the Salesian philosopher Tommaso Demaria. There is already a Wikipedia article in Italian on Demaria, who was born in 1906 and died in 1996. He studied at the Gregorian, and taught in various places, but mostly in Turin. He founded, with friends, a movement called Movimento Ideoprassico Dinontorganico - the last two being neologisms coined by him.

The Movement is still very much alive and active, and was fully involved in the Conference held at the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome. It involves mostly laypeople, many of them personally involved in business. The two major Demaria sites are and; one of them contains a whole list of businesses adhering to Demarian principles.

Demaria developed Thomism in the direction of a dynamic historical realism, a realist and theist alternative to Hegel and Marx, and also to capitalism which, according to him, is basically atheistic. He did not develop an economic theory; there might be good potential for a collaboration between Demarian and Lonerganian thought on this point. My basic paper on Lonergan's economics was, to my mind, rather well received.

Photo: from the Demaria conference, 4 December 2010, Rome.

Newman on the dialectic of truth

"Time clears up all errors: the untruth of today is driven out by the contrary untruth of tomorrow, and the many-coloured impressions of particular minds are all eventually absorbed by the consistent light of truth." (Cardinal John Henry Newman, 1850)

Friday 3 December 2010

Naples Lonergan Convegno, 2 December 2010

Yesterday Maria Arul Anthuvan, a past pupil of Divyadaan who is now working for a doctorate in philosophy at the UPS, and I, participated in a Lonergan conference at the famous Istituto Italiano per gli Studi Filosofici at via Monte di Dio, Naples.

The conference was on the centrality of the subject for Lonergan's method in theology. The chief organizer was Dr Edoardo Cibelli, a young Lonergan scholar, with Dr Cloe Taddei-Ferretti, a senior Lonergan scholar, both teaching at the Pontifical Theology Faculty of Southern Italy (PFTIM), Naples.

Since I happened to be in Rome for the Demaria conference at the UPS Cloe persuaded me to make a dash to Naples to give a short presentation. I spoke on the postmodern elements in Lonergan's notion of the subject: the option for knowing as identity rather than confrontation, the notion of consciousness as experience rather than perception (which flows from the first), understanding as a passion rather than an action, judgment and phronesis, etc. All these, which have echoes in postmodern thinking - the rejection of the subject-object split, of the Cartesian epistemological quaestio juris, of the recovery of Aristotle's phronesis as an allo genos gnoseos or another, primodial, type of knowing in contrast to scientific knowing which is derivative - are really premodern elements which Lonergan found in the tradition.

So perhaps Phil McShane is right: Lonergan's true originality lies in his science of economics.

Photos: Maria Arul Anthuvan; 'I'; Saturnino Muratore; Cloe Taddei-Ferretti.

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