Tuesday 28 February 2012

On Calvary

Cardinal Oswald Gracias, Cardinal Alencherry, Archbishop Felipe Neri of Goa, and several others are in town, part of an Ecumenical Christian Delegation invited to the Holy Land by the government of Israel. They were planning to drop in to see us here at Ratisbonne, but could not make it in the end, so I went over to say Hi. It was good meeting them, and hearing, for example, that it was Cardinal Ossie's very first visit to the Holy Land.

It turned out that Fr Jai, the Indian chaplain here, had booked a very early mass, at 5.00 a.m., and of course the bishops were not in a position to get to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre so early. So Jai requested me to fill in - the status quo has to be observed - and I accepted quite willingly. So this morning I celebrated the eucharist quietly, almost alone, barring a sister from Vietnam, for dad, at Calvary.

A poem that came to me as I sat there after the eucharist:
He walked the way of the cross
silently, quietly.
No word escaped his lips.
What was his suffering?
We do not know.
Or perhaps we do,
deep down in the secret places of our hearts
where the word is not yet formed.
So we know, somehow
- as it often happens -
and perhaps lack the courage to see
and say.

Sunday 26 February 2012

More present than ever

A friend wrote this beautiful message, which I take the liberty of reproducing here:

I just heard that your father passed away recently.
I want to send you my deep sympathy and express my condolences.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery, the French poet, said about death:
"He who has gone, so we but cherish his memory, abides with us, more potent, nay, more present than the living man."

How very true. Dad is more alive to us now than ever. 

Saturday 25 February 2012

Family photos at Dad and Mum's wedding (1954)

Annie, Conceicao, Marcelino, Robert, Mum, John, Dad, 

Grace Fernandes Dias, mum, dad, Marcelino, Annie
top row: ?, Edward, Tony Rodrigues (Parel), Lourdes, Robert, John, Peter, Michael, Sabino Cardoz.
Maurice Fernandes is just below Tony and Lourdes, and to his right is Conceicao Rodrigues Coelho.
Right in front, R: Rosy, Margaret, Bella Fernandes (Sewri) 

Four generations of Coelho's

Four generations of Coelho's at Dad and Mum's Golden Jubilee in 2004: dad, his nephew Robert, Robert's son Marcelino standing behind him, and Marcelino's son Kadyn on Dad's lap.

Nicolao Coelho, dad's brother

Nicolao Coelho, dad's brother, probably the one just before him. Nicolao died at the age of 22. I was named after him.  Probably a sign that dad and he were close.Or else simply that Marcelino had named one of his sons after Roberto, the brother who died at age 25.

Inacio Paulo Coelho (1920-2012)

Dad died on Monday, 13 February 2012. I had phoned home on Sunday, 12 February. Mum said he was not well, and had been unable to go by himself to the toilet. She was quite worried, and had called in my sister who lives nearby, and aunty Maria too. Dad was flat in bed, but had spoken to them, insisting they stay on for lunch, and even for the night. I finished class on Monday morning, and was about to make a call home, telling them to arrange for the Anointing of the Sick, when Avinash phoned saying dad had passed away. It was a shock, even though I had expected it so long already, and even though during mass earlier in the morning I had thought of him, prayed for him, and even allowed him to go.

Dad was born on 4 December 1920, which makes him 91 years, 2 months and a few days old. He was the youngest in a family of seven. The eldest was Marcelino Bento, who was already an old man when we knew him, and we used to call him Vodlo Papa. Dhakto Papa was Sebastian Fernandes, husband of Magdalena, Dad’s only sister. Marcelino and Magdalena were the old two surviving siblings. There were three young men in between, Caetano, Roberto and Nicolau, who passed away in the flower of youth. One of them was Caetano, whom Marcelino had taken with him to Bombay, who caught tuberculosis there, returned, and died at the age of 27. The next was Roberto, after whom the father of Orlando, Marcelino and Sheryann is named; Roberto also caught TB from his brother, and died at the age of 25. Nicolao, after whom I was named, died at the age of 22.
The kudd as it is today

Dad’s father was Pedro Xavier Coelho. They were Moirekars, and Pedro Xavier migrated to Socorro and bought the land at Zosvaddo. He married Matilda Rodrigues. They built a mud house on the Zosvaddo land; it stood just behind our present house, one can still see the raised mound there. After the three young men died, the family decided to destroy the house, built the kudd or mud hut which is still standing and is now used as a storeroom, and lived there. I learned from Adeline Lobo that Caetano died in the old house. When he died, Matilda decided to break down the house and live in the kud. When Roberto died, she moved to the khomp or hut made of coconut fronds which was meant to store coconuts. When Nicolau died in this hut, Paulo was taken to Bombay by Marcelino. Matilda remained on, probably alone now; Adeline says it was then that she invited someone called Sundari to help her and live with her. It is likely that when she grew older, her brother Ubaldo Fernandes took her to live with him in Carrem. Ubaldo used to work in the railways, and I have heard that he used to be in the region of Calcutta.

From the papers, I learnt that Pedro Xavier had worked in Bombay, probably as a printer. I do not know much more about him. Neighbours say that Matilda was a beautiful lady. She came from Carrem, and her family used to live in the house now occupied by Francis Cardoz’s family.
L-R around the table: Sebastian Fernandes, Ruby Coelho, Madgalena, Margaret, Gracie, Ivo, Marcelino, Francis Cardoz (standing), dad?, Rosy, Robert Coelho (standing)
Marcelino Bento Coelho

Marcelino went to Bombay and had a good job there with Mackinnon and Mackenzie; he was perhaps an ‘officer,’ which means he had a good education. Dad instead seems to have had only a primary education; he used to go to a little school in Porvorim. I am not sure whether they taught Portuguese there; probably. I have never heard Dad speak Portuguese, though he would recite the prayers of the Latin mass now and then to amuse us.
Ubaldo Fernandes (mama)'s house, Carrem. The Ticlo bungalows now stand on the site.
Antonio Caetano Cardoz's house in Carrem as it appears now

It was dad’s mama, Ubaldo, who arranged the marriage with Luiza Cardozo. Luiza was the daughter of Maria Piedade, Ubaldo’s wife’s sister. Luiza’s father Antonio Caetano Cardozo was from Mandrem, and was a musician. Her mother Maria Piedade used to be a Cruz, from Saligao. Maria Piedade’s relatives on her mother’s side seem to have been rather better off than most of the family, seeing that one of them, Deodato Vaz, was a professor, and another, Deodato’s brother Inacio Vaz, was a rather accomplished painter, who did most of the large paintings adorning the Bom Gesu and the Se Cathedral in Old Goa, and also an important one in Karachi. The part that I know of Antonio Caetano’s life is that he was a bandmaster in the police band of the Maharaja of Chhoteudepur, and, after Indian independence, in the police band at Godhra. In the aftermath of independence, Antonio Caetano brought his family down to Goa, and was invited by Ubaldo to occupy the Rodrigues mundcar house not far from Ubaldo’s own house in Carrem. Ubaldo was a mundcar of Ticlo. His house was smack on the road, and has since been demolished to make way for the bungalows that stand there now. So Antonio Caetano and his family settled down in the Carrem house.

When dad went to Bombay, he lived naturally with his brother Marcelino, in Padamsee Building on Princess Street, and perhaps also for a while with his sister Magdalene in Wadala. Magdalene was a lovely lady, very gentle, and a great cook. Her husband Sebastian Fernandes was from Candolim, and had a job with the Bombay Port Trust.

At any rate, dad seems to have obtained a job in Bombay. I gather he first had a job with Larsen and Toubro; it was Sebastian Fernandes who persuaded him to leave that job and take up one with the Bombay Port Trust. Mother used to sometimes regret that move. But the BPT pension did prove to be very good, after all.

Dad was a handsome young man, and very popular with Marcelino’s kids – Johnny, Peter, Cecil Antoinette, Robert, Annie, Edward. He took part in all the Padamsee building activities, including the tiatrs, and they say he would do the female roles with aplomb.
Ivo Pereira and Cecil Antoinette Coelho at their wedding, 22 November 1952?

Given the age gap between Marcelino and him, some of Marcelino’s children were just a little younger than Dad. Cecil Antoinette, for example, was allowed to go to dances only with Dad; she met her future husband Ivo Pereira at one of these dances, or perhaps it was at one of the tiatrs somewhere… Ivo was flamboyant and dashing. Cecil and he soon fell in love and got married. They never had children, and so became godparents to a whole series of nephews and nieces and cousins, one of them being me.

Dad used to have a box camera, and he seems to have used it liberally. We still have a rather dilapidated family album at home, with the most interesting photos. Dad was certainly a handsome young man, and he seems to have had fun as a young man in Bombay. There are photos of dances on the beach, train journeys to Goa; old photos of Carrem, of Marcelino’s children… All the fun seems to have stopped after marriage. I remember only one picnic in my childhood: it was at Manori beach, and I vividly remember that we found a whole sack of coconuts that had somehow washed up on the shore…
Dad at age 33 or 34, just before marriage. This was the photo he sent to Mum during the 'negotiations'

Dad got married to Luiza Cardoz on 22 November 1954 at Our Lady of Seven Dolours Church, Sonapur, Dhobitalao, Mumbai. There is a lovely group photo of the family at this occasion; I fail to spot Luiza’s parents in it. They probably were unable to make it to the big city.

After marriage, Dad moved out of Marcelino’s house. The first residence was in the Labour Camp at Sewri, next to Bella Fernandes’ place. Later they seemed to have moved in with Sebastian and Magdalene Fernandes, who had quarters in Block 1 in the present Nadkarni Park. Still later, Dad obtained quarters in Mankhurd on the outskirts of Bombay. I was born there, on 15 October 1958. Just before I began school, we moved to Block 5, BPT Quarters, Nadkarni Park, Wadala East. Valentine (Valu) was born on 16 July 1960, and Annie Matilda on 17 June 1961. There was a fourth child, who was born much later, perhaps when I was in standard VI; she survived only a month. Valu and I were in St Joseph’s High School, the parish school of Wadala, and Matty was in Auxilium Convent, Wadala.
Block 5, BPT Quarters, Nadkarni Park, Wadala East. Our house was probably the one in the middle on the 2nd floor

Our memories of Dad in Wadala are mostly of him getting up very early, leaving for work when we were barely out of bed, and returning late. He probably used to do a great deal of overtime. But he would never return empty handed. The great excitement was to open his bag, and empty the contents of his tiffin box. There was invariably something exciting there: bhajias (Dad was very fond of them), kachoris, boras, boiled groundnuts… Thinking back now, I realize how extraordinary this was, because Dad never had too much money. His thoughtfulness was amazing.

Marketing was done on Sundays, and at Byculla Market, which was the wholesale place. We kids would accompany him sometimes. The market was awfully dirty, with rotten tomatoes and vegetables all over, but exciting all the same, because apart from the meat and onions and potatoes and bhaji, there would always be some special treat: watermelons, which was something else Dad was very fond of; boras; …

Since Dad was working at the docks, he would keep getting all sorts of little things home. It is extraordinary that what he managed to get for us were books: all sorts of children’s books, game books, puzzle books, picture books, painting books… We loved those books, and had of course solved all the puzzles in no time. Relatives and cousins who came over had to bear with us as we proudly showed them all our books and made them solve all the puzzles. I think these books were a most important stimulus for our intellectual growth. These, and the books we would receive for Christmas. Enid Blyton books were easily available, for as little as Rs 5 perhaps, and we would devour them in a day.
L-R Marcelino, ?, Conceicao, Annie, Edward perhaps, ?, picnic in the bhailem bhat. The house in the background is probably the old house across the road from the Jain bungalow, Carrem. 

Annie, ?, ?, ?, Peter, Robert, ?, ? in the 'bhailem bhat', Carrem. The house in the background was demolished to make way for the present bungalow belonging to the Jain family.

There were no family picnics to speak of, but we did manage to go to Goa every three years, I think. In the early years, we would combine with Marcelino’s family. I still remember some of those holidays. Marcelino and his family, and Dad and Mum, would settle down in Ubaldo’s house. He was their mama, their mother’s brother, and in the absence of their own parents, his house was home to them. Strange, they did not seem to have any paternal uncles, and we never heard anything about Pedro Xavier’s side of the family. Did he have brothers and sisters? I do not know. At any rate, the brothers and their families would settle down in Ubaldo’s house, but we kids would make a beeline for Antonio Caetano and Maria Piedade’s house. Somehow we were more comfortable with our maternal grandparents, and there we went, despite all the comments and remarks of Vodlo Xapu and Xamuli. But this did not mean that we ignored them completely. They seemed to have an unending stock of good things: mangoes, coconuts, jackfruits, pomelos. And then there were the goats: Ubaldo and his wife did not have children of their own, but they had a whole herd of goats, each of which responded to a name, and they loved them dearly. Every day Ubaldo would take his goats out on the hill, and during our holidays we had the privilege of accompanying him. We found it fascinating, because there were all sorts of good things also on the hills, kantas and jambuls and chunnas. The old man (he must have been 80 at least, we thought, and had long droopy white mustaches) would clamber up trees himself, but would never allow us to do so. Still, it was fun. And he did allow us to adopt a little kid once, which received the improbable name of Wendy, and which responded happily to all the overtures of affection showered on it by three kids from Bombay. When the holidays got over, Wendy proved to be too difficult a name, and the little goat was re-christened with some appropriately Goan name which I now forget.

Those Goa holidays were fun. Part of the holidays consisted in renting a house in Calangute and spending a week on the beach. The beach and the sea are enormously exciting things for a child, and I know I enjoyed them thoroughly. We would rent the same house from the same family every time. It was a family of Catholic fisherfolk, Caetano and Bebin. They had no children, but Caetano’s younger brother lived with them. Caetano is since dead, but Bebin is still there, I am told. We haven’t seen her for years.

Our cousins tell us that their father, Marcelino, would give them a glass of branco first thing upon arrival in Goa, at the jetty; that I don’t remember! What I do remember is that the feni would be flowing freely. The Coelho family – at least part of it – always knew how to relax. They were perhaps not so good in taking care of more serious matters such as the property in Zosvaddo. The property was being looked after by Ubaldo, who would go there every week and perhaps more often. He would do the pado, he would rent out the mango, binda and cashew trees… Marcelino and Paulo would get some coconuts, mangoes, bindas and cashewnuts to take to Bombay whenever they came.

There was one dramatic incident in 1961, soon after Goa was liberated. Taking advantage of the new political situation and the new laws, the caretaker family on the Zosvaddo property decided to build a house. Ubaldo informed Marcelino and Paulo, and they came down immediately for once, and settled the matter. The caretakers were removed just in time, and so the property remained safe. Nothing was done by way of building a house on it, though this was always a favourite topic of discussion among the two families, even if mostly by way of daydreaming and wishing. In the end, after Dad retired, we had to make a decision. We had no house of our own in Bombay, and we had to decide whether to invest in Bombay or in Goa. The option was made for Goa. We moved into a rented place in Nadkarni Park, while Dad spent the better part of the year in Goa, building the present house. It was his dream. The house was not very big, it was what he could manage with his provident fund and retirement benefits, but it was his house, and he was proud of it. It was one of the best decisions he made, to go down and settle in Goa. He was back once again in his own land, on his own property, among his own people, and he enjoyed it.

The house was built in 1980. Mum moved down soon after, and Dad got busy on the land. He had always been a practical man, and he knew an enormous lot about trees, knots, how to make bindas, mango solam, water pickles, and a thousand other things one needs to know when one lives off the land. Besides that, he went round on his cycle, and became one of the pillars of the parish. He had always been in the background in Wadala, both because he was out at work most of the day, and because he was not fluent in English. It was wonderful to see him blossoming in Zosvaddo, taking up with old friends, simply feeling at home.

Dad and Mum celebrated the silver jubilee of their marriage while we were in transition. I joined the Salesians and was in the novitiate in Yercaud in 1976-77. In 1979, the silver jubilee year, I was in Pune, and Dad had retired. That was the year he was building the house in Goa, and his health had suffered. He had always been a large man in our childhood; now he lost a lot of weight. We did celebrate the jubilee, however, or perhaps it would be truer to say that our parents celebrated their own jubilee, because none of us was working at the time. I was in the seminary, Valu and Matty were still studying. Dad had married late, at the age of 34, and I was born when he was 38, and so he retired when his eldest was still only 21.

I joined Lonavla in 1971, when I was in Std IX. I completed my SSC in 1975 with very good marks, and since I opted for Science, I was sent, along with 5 others, to Pune for the Pre-Degree course which we did in Wadia College. At the end of that year I applied and was selected for the novitiate, which was in faraway Yercaud. I made my first vows in the Salesian Congregation on 24 May 1977. Dad, Mum, Valu and Matty came up to Yercaud for the occasion; it was perhaps their first big trip out as a family, apart from Goa. They came together with the families of Peter Gonsalves, Ajoy Fernandes, Loyola Castelino, and Francis Vaz. It was a moment of bonding, and the families remained in touch for many years after that.

Allowing me to join the Salesians was, I guess, one of the great acts of faith of my parents. It did cause them a great deal of anxiety, especially in the transition year 1979-80, when the economic situation was quite shaky, but they weathered it, thanks also to a decent pension that Dad was fortunate enough to be able to get, despite having drawn all his dues at retirement.

Valu and Annu got married in 1985, and Nadisha arrived exactly a year later. Nimish was also born in Bombay. They were living at the time with Annu’s parents in Kanjur Marg. They also had to make a decision about their own house, and they decided to move to Goa, to be with Dad and Mum in Zosvaddo. The Zosvaddo house was rather small, and it became even fuller with the arrival of Amish, Avinash and Shaheen. Valu kept his business in Bombay going for a while. In the meantime, Annu began Cilvanna’s, the food processing business, producing perada, mangada, figada, jackada, a variety of pickles, jams and squashes. Francis Cardoz and his family joined in, and also Matty, in different capacities.

Matty married Julian Rodrigues of Ucassaim in 1986. Vidya arrived in 1987, and Vishesh in 1993.

Dad and Mum celebrated their Golden Jubilee in 2004 in Zosvaddo. A number of relatives turned up, and the lunch under the matov was a pleasant and happy affair. With Marcelino’s kid Kadyn there was four generations of Coelho’s present: Dad, Robert and us, Marcelino and co., and Kadyn… Pedro Xavier and Matilda, Marcelino and Conceicao, and all the other dear departed must have been smiling and content.

Dad is gentle and mostly silent, or perhaps it is the language, because he flowers in Konkani. I have rarely seen him complain. Mother took good care of him, of course, but he is extraordinary in that he never has given us any sort of trouble. He passed away as he lived: quietly, silently. He had been bed-ridden for just two days or so. Mother had fed him, and was having her own meal as she was used to for some time, beside his bed. She saw froth coming out of his mouth, and when she felt him, he was cold. He had gone.

The one image that keeps coming to my mind is from our Wadala days. I was in Lonavla, and was probably about to go to Yercaud, which they said was even colder than Lonavla. Dad walked with me across the railway footbridge to Wadala West, and bought a muffler for me, which I still have. I know it cost him; the whole thing of Lonavla was an enormous drain on the family finances, and we got through thanks to our uncles, chiefly Sabino Cardoz, who was as generous an uncle as they come. But that gesture of buying a muffler still remains with me, and moves me enormously.

For a quiet man, he had a moving funeral. Someone counted some 48 priests at the altar, diocesan, Jesuit, and many Salesians, not only from Goa but also from Hubli, Sawantwadi, Nashik and Mumbai. I was very touched to see Fr Edwin D’Souza there, and Fr Tony D’Souza, our former provincial. Frs Ashley Miranda and Robert Pen had already told me they were coming down from Nashik, despite the fact that Robert had just returned from a long trip. And Mr Nazareth Denis, my close collaborator from my days at Provincial House, Matunga, also took the trouble to come down all the way from Mumbai.

Dad was kept in a ‘mobile morgue’ at home for almost 3 days. So many people dropped in to pay their respects and offer their condolences. I was most moved when I saw Fr Jacinto Dias’ mother and Fr Laurence Monteiro’s father and mother coming in. Jacinto had phoned his mother all the way from Lesotho, where he is a Salesian missionary, telling her to go for the funeral. The poor lady was in tears when she entered. Perhaps she thought of her own husband, who died while still very young many years ago, and the more recent loss of her eldest, newly married son. Later at the funeral I saw Fr Tino Fernandes’ dad, and Fr Cleophas Braganza’s mother, besides many many people. The church was packed to capacity. I gave a little homily in English, while Fr Banzelao Teixeira gave one in Konkani. Nadisha read a moving poem, and Mat read a thanksgiving speech. None of us could control our tears. Fr Paul D’Souza, vice provincial of the Konkan province, said a few words on behalf of the Konkan province, and Fr Tony D’Souza on behalf of the Mumbai province.

Dad’s last years were not easy. He suffered in many ways, but also because he could not any more do all that he was used to doing, the many little and big chores around the house. Time passed slowly, and he was completely in control of his senses, except for the usual short-term memory losses common at his age. That must have been difficult. But as usual, he was not one to complain. He suffered silently. The one time I heard him express himself just a bit was when I took him a couple of years ago to visit his childhood friend Mrs Adelphine Pinto Lobo: amche dis atam somplet, he said. It was a little window on to his suffering.

Friday 10 February 2012

Southern Samaria

Yesterday we had an “Archaeological Excursion” to Southern Samaria - which means we visited Nabi Samwil, Giv’at Shaul, Ramah, and Taibeh (the old Ophrah or Ephraim), guided by the redoubtable Fr Vernet.

The first stop was Nabi Samwil, holy to Jews, Christians as well as, surprisingly, Muslims. In fact, we met a large group of Indian Bohris paying a visit. There are actually two tombs of the prophet, one for the Muslims, into which no one else is allowed, and another for the Jews, into which seemingly all are allowed. The Bohris were at the Jewish tomb; they said they would also go upstairs. Bohris from London.
This is Mizpah, the high place, just outside the little village of Gibeah. Here Samuel led the young Saul, “to the high place.” (1 Sam 10:17-27) Here also Solomon asked for wisdom (1 Kgs 3:1-15 = 2 Chr 1:1-13). Vernet made us listen to another tragic story of civil war among the Israelites, because the Gibeahites had murdered the concubine of a Levite (Judg 20:1-11).
The Crusaders first saw Jerusalem from this hill, and they were so happy they named the hill Mons Gaude, the Hill of Joy. A Crusader monastery was built there, by the Praemonstratensians (Norbertines, I suppose). Now in ruins. Richard Coeur de Lion saw Jerusalem from this hill, but could not proceed, because promised reinforcements did not arrive.

From here to Giv’at Shaul, or Gibeah (again). A tel at which excavations have been carried out and abandoned. Topped by the unfinished villa of King Hussein of Jordan. Rather dirty. But some beautiful anemones.
Here the murder of the 70 priests of Nob, at Saul’s orders, by Doeg the Edomite. From here, the order for the destruction of Nob, not far from here, and quite visible (the Augusta Victoria Tower). Here Saul’s attempt to pin the young David to the wall.
From here to Ramah, where Jeremiah spoke of “Rachel weeping for her children.” (Jer 31:15 / Mt 2:18) This is the territory of Benjamin; Rachel was the mother of Joseph and Benjamin. Not far from here, the territory of Ephraim and Manasseh, half-tribes, sons of Joseph. This was the first stop in the deportation to Babylon. Here Jeremiah was set free by Nebuzaradan, commander of the guard. From here he went to Mizpah, to join Gedaliah.

From here to Taibeh, the old Ophrah, or Ephraim. (It seems the word Ophrah means something bad; so the Muslims changed the name to Taibeh, which means something good - or, as the Taibeh Brewery people would have it, something delicious.) Mentioned in the New Testament, Jn 11:54: Jesus retired with his disciples to Ephraim, after the resurrection of Lazarus, when the Jews began plotting to kill him. Why to Ephraim, near the Judean Desert? Because (1) it was in Samaria, and the Jewish authorities would not come here; (2) it was a city of refuge, with many underground tunnels. We visited a Byzantine church, later a Crusader church, now in ruins, but very beautiful, and very evocative, overlooking the Judean Desert. Then the parish church, with a very talkative parish priest, and lovely mosaics of Jesus and his disciples entering Ephraim. And the 300 year old traditional house, house of the parables, which gives a very good idea of the settings of many of Jesus’ parables.
And then the Taibeh Brewery, the only brewery in all of Palestine and, it is claimed, the Middle East.
At (yet another) Mizpah, on the outskirts of Ramallah, Gedaliah was  assassinated (Jer 40:7 - 41:3), and Jeremiah together with others carried off to Egypt (Jer 43:5-7), where the prophet died, and vanished. I wonder how his book came to be written.
Vernet's comment: "All day we have been hearing tragic stories, in Mizpah, Gibeah, Ramah, Giv'at Shaul... The only bright light in this story is Jesus: Jesus retiring to Ephraim near the Judean Desert with his disciples. And his peace and his presence still permeates the place."

Almond flowers at Taibeh

Almond flowers at Taibeh: amazing! To think that Jesus must have seen these. He spent some days at Taibeh (Ephraim, earlier) after resurrection of Lazarus, when the Jews wanted to kill him. (See Jn 11:54).

Tuesday 7 February 2012

Sacraments and the holiness of the minister

Pastores Dabo Vobis maintains an interesting dialectic between ex opere operatu and the personal holiness and authenticity of the priest:
There can be no doubt that the exercise of the priestly ministry, especially in the celebration of
the sacraments, receives its saving effects from the action of Christ himself
who becomes present
in the sacraments. But so as to emphasize the gratuitous nature of salvation which makes a
person both "saved" and a "savior" -- always and only in Christ -- God's plan has ordained that
the efficacy of the exercise of the ministry is also conditioned by a greater or lesser human
receptivity and participation
.(63) In particular, the greater or lesser degree of the holiness of the
minister has a real effect on the proclamation of the word, the celebration of the sacraments and
the leadership of the community in charity. This was clearly stated by the Council: "The very
holiness of priests is of the greatest benefit for the fruitful fulfillment of their ministry. While it is
possible for God's grace to carry out the work of salvation through unworthy ministers, yet God
ordinarily prefers to show his wonders through those men who are more submissive to the
impulse and guidance of the Holy Spirit and who, because of their intimate union with Christ
and their holiness of life, are able to say with St. Paul: 'It is no longer I who live, but Christ who
lives in me' (Gal. 2:20)."(64)

Monday 6 February 2012

The glory of the Temple

This morning's first reading was about Solomon transferring the Ark of the Covenant from the Citadel of David to the newly built Temple. A key turning point in the history of Israel. The reading even mentions the Debir, the Holy of Holies, in which the Ark of the Covenant was placed. All this is now so much more familiar, after our visit of last Thursday to the Southern Wall of the Temple. The Temple was far more magnificent and glorious than I had ever imagined. Solomon's Temple was expanded, first by the Hasmoneans perhaps, and then certainly by Herod. Vernet says it was certainly the largest such construction in the Middle East at least. A huge surface, surrounded by porticoed corridors, and in the middle, facing east, the main structure, with the Court of the Women, the Court of the Sacrifice, the entry to the Debir, and then the Debir itself, which only the High Priest could enter, and that too only once a year.

What a contrast with the New Temple: Jesus in the gospel of today, with hundreds pressing around him, that he might touch them and heal them. The grembo del suo mantello, the fringe of his cloak. But: everyone milling around him, wanting to touch him, wanting to be cured. What a marvel, what a different sensation of glory. 

Our dominant paradigm

A contemporary problem is that our dominant paradigm is all too easily, and often without deliberate advertence, univocal meaning. So the gospels, and scripture in general, have to be apologetically explained as 'symbolic', poor things. But: the primordial language is symbolic. And so: a chap like Jose' Luis Plascencia leaves you wanting to ponder - there is something there that speaks on mysterious levels. When meaning becomes too univocal, instead, it tends you leave you without anything to ponder. It may be very practical, clear, it may talk in terms of projects and plans, getting down to doing something. (Perhaps it is also somewhat Pelagian.) 

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Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary