Monday 31 August 2015

Luca Barone on Spiritual Direction

La direzione spirituale
Don Luca Barone SDB. Testimonianza offerta al SYM2015.

Buona giornata a ciascuno di voi.
Mi chiamo don Luca Barone, ho 36 anni, appartengo a questa ispettoria di Piemonte, Valle d’Aosta e Lituania e mi trovo da un anno come direttore nella casa di Torino-Agnelli nella zona di Mirafiori.
Prima di questo incarico sono stato nel coordinamento di pastorale giovanile della mia ispettoria come incaricato missionario, vocazionale e di prenoviziato.
Non so dire nulla di particolare sulla direzione spirituale ma come ogni salesiano e salesiana potrebbe fare so dirvi cosa ho imparato nella mia personale esperienza di contatto, relazione e accompagnamento dei giovani che ho avuto la grazia di incontrare prima a servizio della mia ispettoria ed ora nella casa in cui vivo.
La tradizione salesiana consegna due polmoni per far respirare un giovane: uno è l’accompagnamento di ambiente e l’altro è l’accompagnamento  personale.
Ho imparato che don Bosco è geniale perché non divide questi due polmoni. Non credo possano esserci dei buoni direttori spirituali dei giovani, fuori da un ambiente che con il suo stile, le sue relazioni, le sue regole e l’esplicitazione delle sue proposte indichi con chiarezza la meta verso cui camminare: una vita realizzata in pienezza nel tempo e nell’eternità…(traduzione salesiana di santità!).
Ho imparato che non ci si può accontentare di un ambiente che indichi una direzione generica. Ci sono anime che hanno bisogno di capire come la stoffa che vedono nel loro ambiente possa essere cucita su di loro. Dunque ci vogliono sarti e sarte che prendano questa stoffa e con pazienza e maestria provino a vedere come si cuce su una singola anima.
Ho imparato che un giovane che vuole camminare seriamente nella vita spirituale non ha bisogno di una guida che lo coccoli e gli dia sempre ragione. Il dono più grande che una guida spirituale può fare è quello della Verità, cioè condurre un giovane alla Verità che è Dio e alla verità di se stesso anche in quelle pieghe della vita in cui tu non andresti da solo, anzi fuggiresti lontano, ed invece preso per mano riesci a guardare dentro e attraverso.
Ho imparato che i giovani non chiedono sconti sulla qualità del vivere e che la più terribile delle verità che scopriamo di noi stessi è meglio della migliore delle bugie che inventiamo, perché ci permette di vivere una vita reale e non finta.
Ho imparato che aveva ragione don Bosco perché la direzione spirituale è viva e quindi si cammina insieme: accompagnatore e accompagnato. Come è stato per don Bosco e Domenico Savio: uno è diventato un santo educatore mentre l’altro diventava un santo educando e viceversa.
Ho imparato che la direzione spirituale è una esperienza di straordinaria libertà, una esperienza di figliolanza e genitorialità. Uno dei segnali più chiari di quando la direzione spirituale non è più quella che deve essere è quando il direttore o il diretto non sono più liberi, cioè non vivono una relazione di distanza e prossimità equilibrata, non ci si dice più le cose come stanno, ci si cerca ma non si cerca e se lo si fa non è per trovare!!!
Ho imparato che il discernimento è l’arte autentica della direzione spirituale, è disponibilità a camminare e fare delle scelte e lasciare che le scelte facciano noi, è disponibilità ad una ricerca autentica della volontà di Dio disposti a seguirla dove sarà.
Il direttore spirituale non decide per te e non ti toglie la responsabilità di farlo. Se una direzione spirituale non ti porta a metterti in moto e prendere decisioni concrete per la tua vita, cambia modo o cambia persona!
Ho imparato che la direzione spirituale non è per chi pensa di diventare prete o suora e non è una medicina da prendere tutte le settimane, che non vale di più se è fatta in un ufficio o in un cortile o in un’aula o in una officina ma vale se si ha la convinzione profonda che Dio non mi abbandona nel cammino e che mette sulla mia strada degli angeli custodi che mi insegnano che da soli sa va più veloci forse, ma insieme si va più lontano.
Ho imparato che nessuno può fare direzione spirituale ad altri se non è diretto lei o lui stesso e se non si vive in Grazia di Dio.
Ho imparato che a volte alla direzione spirituale credono più i giovani che noi salesiani, ma ho anche visto vite di giovani fiorire nei nostri ambienti grazie a uomini e donne, consacrati e laici che si sono presi cura non solo dei giovani ma di ciascun giovane e sono arrivati a spendersi quotidianamente perché ciascuno progredisse nella via del bene.
Si diventa santi solo avendo una guida spirituale? Non credo. Ma di certo l’esperienza personale del nostro padre don Bosco ci parla chiaro, ricordate cosa diceva di don Cafasso sua guida spirituale: “se io ho fatto qualche cosa di bene, lo debbo a questo degno ecclesiastico, nelle cui mani rimisi ogni mia deliberazione, ogni studio, ogni azione della mia vita”.
Vi saluto con due desideri. Primo, spero che mentre stavo parlando vi siate distratti perché vi venivano in mente figure di salesiani, suore, educatori, animatori e animatrici che vi hanno voluto bene così, e il secondo che ad alcuni di voi sia suonato nel cuore con chiarezza la possibilità che il Signore vi chiami a diventare guide sicure di giovani come lo sono stati don Bosco  e  Madre Mazzarello, a fare per altri quello che un giorno altri hanno fatto per voi.

Grazie e buon cammino.

Wednesday 26 August 2015

A department of Dravidian philosophy?

Antonysamy, who is recovering from a major surgical intervention, floated the idea of a department of Dravidian / Tamil philosophy at our college in Tirupattur. Some things I learnt:

  • Dravidian or Tamil philosophy is not limited to Tamil Nadu, but is relevant / pertains to large parts of India, given that the Dravidian peoples were / are still spread out all over India.
  • More work, according to Samy, is being done in Tamil philosophy by the Jesuits in Jharkhand than in Tamil Nadu itself
  • It is not yet possible to write openly in Tamil Nadu. At the same time, somewhat contradictorily, Samy insisted that "the people were all with us" and that Tamil Nadu is absolutely closed to Brahminic political infiltration. 
  • Our philosophy men would need to have Indian academic degrees
  • They would have to draw up an adequate syllabus for bachelor's, master's, and doctoral levels. 
  • The Thirukural and much of Tamil literature is truly Tamil; there is no Brahminic infiltration.
  • Samy mentioned Doss Kennedy, Stanislaus Swamikannu and Maria Arokiam Kanaga as people who would be open to this project.
My immediate reactions:
  • There is absolute and urgent need to revise our curriculum of Indian philosophy, which, following what we learnt years ago in JDV Pune, is still almost purely Brahminic.
  • Jose Maliekal is the only one, to my knowledge, who had attempted anything along these lines. I have been asking Henry Almeida, SJ, of JDV Pune, to give me an article along these lines, but that has not yet arrived. 
  • Whatever we do, we would have to ensure, for the needs of being Christian in India, an adequate appropriation of and inculturation of the Christian faith, and of the first great inculturation, which was Graeco-Roman for the large part, though not exclusively. This would be mastery of all sides - Western, Oriental-Dravidian; and I would not be absolutely closed to the Oriental-Brahminic tradition (which Samy calls "German", not Indian).
There exists a Dravidian University, with a Department of Comparative Dravidian Literature and Philosophy (CDL&P):
Dravidian University 
Srinivasa Vanam Kuppam-517 425,Chittoor Dist. ( A.P.)  
http://www.dravidianuniversity.ac.in 

Thursday 20 August 2015

Bewailing virginity

The first reading this morning was about judge Jephthah and the tragic story of his oath to the Lord. Two things struck me: first, the sacredness of the word given to the Lord: Jephthah will not go back on the word given, even if it means sacrificing his daughter, even if it means going against what God himself might stand for. The second: the daughter asks for time not to bewail her life or her death, but her virginity.

Virginity: not at all a value in the Old Testament, and not a value for the Jews of today. But with the revelation of Jesus, yes. Jesus, virgin, accused of being a eunuch. And Mary, virgin and mother. That is the point, I guess, of the virginity of the New Testament. Mary, hortus conclusus, enclosed garden, sealed fountain. Enclosed but blooming with a thousand flowers. Sealed, but flowing and life-giving. Virgin and mother. Wonderful indication about the meaning of consecrated chastity.

The rich young man, asking for eternal life, and Jesus: obey the commandments. But the young man wants more, and more he gets: if you would be perfect, go sell, and come follow. ME. Eternal life is available to those who follow the commandments, those who follow the dictates of their conscience. But perfection entails more, it means a relationship, there is the person of Jesus. There is no way of getting out of that. 

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Teaching of English

George Andrews [Kottiry]. English through Direct Method. Mannuthy: Don Bosco Publications, 1982.

George Kottiry and Joe Kallupura, Spoken English: A Complete Text Book with Grammar, Dialogue, Composition and Vocabulary. Mannuthy: Don  Bosco Mannuthy Publications, 2010, 2011.

Francis Karackat. Spoken English: A Complete Text Book with Grammar, Dialogue, Composition and Vocabulary. [Malayalam: Naveena Sailiyil.] Vennala, Kochi: Don Bosco Publications, 2014.

These books follow the Direct Method that Krishnamurthy, who taught us Kannada in KJC, used so effectively. George Andrews Kottiry explicitly mentioned the fact that he had learned the method from Krishnamurthy. It would seem that Karackat has simply taken over the earlier book, adapting it for a Malayalam speaking person.

U.P. Upadhyaya and N.D. Krishnamurthy. Conversational Kannada: A Microwave Approach. Bangalore: N.D.K. Institute of Languages, 1972, 1981, 1990.

Primacy of God


Joan Chittister:
We have sought to be 'relevant.' We have set out to be 'incarnational.' We have given ourselves untiringly to 'the option for the poor.' We have devoted ourselves to 'the transformation of structures.' We have evangelized and renewed and revised and reformed until we dropped from exhaustion. And all of those commitments are good and necessary, holy and worthy of attention, fundamental and imperative. But through it all, one thing and one thing only can sustain religious life, can nourish religious life, can justify religious life: The religious must be the person who first and foremost, always and forever, in whatever circumstance, seeks God and God alone, sees God and God alone in all of this confusion, in all of this uncertainty and, whatever the situation, speaks God - and God alone. (The Fire in These Ashes: A Spirituality of Contemporary Religious Life [Mumbai: Pauline Publications, 1999) 47, cited in J. Kuttianimattathil, "Don Bosco's Insights for the Challenges faced by Consecrated Life Today," Vidyajyoti Journal of Theological Reflection 79 [2015] 543.)

Saturday 15 August 2015

The man-woman relationship and our fallen condition


Tolkien, good Catholic that he is, is acutely aware of our fallen condition. See, for example, when he talks about the Western romantic chivalric tradition. He begins by describing it as a product of Christendom - though by no means the same as Christian ethics. It idealizes 'love', and as far as it goes it can be very good, since it takes on far more than physical love, and enjoins if not purity, at least fidelity, and so self-denial, 'service', courtesy, honour, and courage. Its weakness is that it began as an artificial courtly game, a way of enjoying love for its own sake without reference to (and indeed contrary to) matrimony. Its centre was not God but imaginary Deities, Love and the Lady. It tends to make the Lady a kind of guiding star or divinity. "This is, of course, false and at best make-believe. The woman is another fallen human-being with a soul in peril. But combined and harmonized with religion (as long ago it was, producing much of that beautiful devotion to Our Lady that has been God's way of refining so much of our gross manly natures and emotions, and also of warming and colouring our hard, bitter, religion) it can be very noble.... Yet I still think it has its dangers. It is not wholly true, and it is not perfectly 'theocentric'. It takes, or at any rate has in the past taken, the young man's eye off women as they are, as companions in shipwreck not guiding stars. (One result is for observation of the actual to make the young man turn cynical.) To forget their desires, needs and temptations. It inculcates exaggerated notions of 'true love', as a fire from without, a permanent exaltation, unrelated to age, childbearing, and plain life, and unrelated to will and purpose. (One result of that is to make young folk look for a 'love' that will keep them always nice and warm in a cold world, without any effort of theirs; and the incurably romantic go on looking even in the squalor of the divorce courts)." (48-49)

"But they [women] are instinctively, when uncorrupt, monogamous. Men are not..... No good pretending. Men just ain't, not by their animal nature. Monogamy (although it has long been fundamental to our inherited ideas) is for us men a piece of 'revealed' ethic, according to faith and not to the flesh. Each of us could healthily beget, in our 30 odd years of full manhood, a few hundred children, and enjoy the process." (51)

"However, the essence of a fallen world is that the best cannot be attained by free enjoyment, or by what is called 'self-realization' (usually a nice name for self-indulgence, wholly inimical to the realization of other selves); but by denial, by suffering. Faithfulness in Christian marriage entails that: great mortification. For a Christian man there is no escape. Marriage may help to sanctify & direct to its proper object his sexual desires; its grace may help him in the struggle; but the struggle remains. It will not satisfy him - as hunger may be kept off by regular meals. It will offer as many difficulties to the purify proper to that state, as it provides easements. No man, however truly he loved his betrothed and bride as a young man, has lived faithful to her as a wife in mind and body without deliberate conscious exercise of the will, without self-denial. Too few are told that - even those brought up 'in the Church'. Those outside seem seldom to have heard it...." (51)

Friday 14 August 2015

The longing, and songs, and the harp

Tolkien quotes from the Exeter Book, and then provides this translation:
Less doth yearning trouble him who knoweth many songs, or with his hands can touch the harp: his possession is his gift of 'glee' (= music and/or verse) which God gave him.
("54. From a letter to Christopher Tolkien, 8 January 1944." The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, p. 66)

The knowledge of songs, or of the harp: and the yearning that is set deep down in our hearts. Tolkien continues:
How these old words smite one out of the dark antiquity! 'Longad'! All down the ages men (of our kind, mostly awarely) have felt it: not necessarily caused by sorrow, or the hard world, but sharpened by it. (66)

"it gets written..."

"What happens to the Ents I don't yet know. It will probably work out very differently from this plan when it really gets written, as the thing seems to write itself once I get going, as if the truth comes out then, only imperfectly glimpsed in the preliminary sketch....." (J.R.R. Tolkien, "91. To Christopher Tolkien," 29 November 1944, 20 Northmoor Road, Oxford, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. H. Carpenter with C. Tolkien, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1981) 104.

Misericordia - but also radicality

In the context of misericordia, the Year of Mercy, also this call to radicality:
There are no degrees to this all. It is a call into a place outside [ein Ausserhalb].  This place cannot be comprehended in any worldly sense. And the leaving is definitive and absolute, even if it must be repeated every day, in the small renunciations of every day. [von Balthasar, The Christian State of Life, 149.]
  “If a person is serious about this all, it is unthinkable that he should just continue to live in the world as he has been doing.” [149.]

Von Balthasar, Heidegger, and the refusal to bow


I am thinking of Heidegger as I read von Balthasar (The Christian State of Life). Von Balthasar would be the foil to Heidegger: Heidegger, the epitome of the man who refuses to bow down before the throne (see Jung as quoted by Doran), or at least of the man who thinks he cannot bow [and Chayefsky’s Gideon]. Von Balthasar, instead, clearly, and with conviction, places obedience at the heart of love and so finds that its other name is freedom. 

Refusing to bow: my friend, is that your problem? Surrender, and all will be yours. You, who have so much, who have everything, and yet who feel you are … out of place, the least of all, less serious, less prayerful, less… committed, and so, often, discouraged: let go, and you will find. No need to be discouraged. If he has called you, it is enough. It is enough for you. Look then at him. Stop looking at yourself. All discouragement is rooted in profound self-centredness.

The consecrated life, and heaven

Von Balthasar, The Christian State of Life: profound reflections on heaven. Flowing out from his reflections on man’s original state. Obedience (first!), virginity, poverty. An obedience that consists in the total freedom of complete surrender to God’s will. A virginity that is fecundity – neither marrying nor giving in marriage, but being sons of God, sons of the resurrection, “married to God”, seeing God’s face…. The perfection of love: then we shall see him as he is (1 Cor 13). Poverty: owning nothing, owning everything. Becoming a gift, and even the blessedness of receiving becomes a giving.

The purification of the ‘drives’: when sexuality is totally absorbed transcended in the way that a higher integration sublates a lower into love. When I rejoice delight without wanting to blight by possessing. The chillingness of mine and thine (Chrysostom). [von B 124.] “In the anteroom of heaven we will be purified till we can truly love chastely obey freely give freely because we have received freely." The letting go and the absence of it that prevents the peaceful death.

And the transcendence of sexuality and marriage linked to death: for they will die no more.

Featured post

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

“EVANGELIZATION – DOES IT CALL FOR SOMETHING NEW FROM CONSECRATED LIFE?” MARKO RUPNIK, SJ “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novit...