Sunday 29 November 2015

Seeing as Jesus sees

Rossi de Gasperis: "In our relationships with others, let us try to be friendly not only in the way we behave, but even in the way we think of them, in such a way that, if they were to know what we thought of them, they would be happy, would feel respected, loved, accepted in friendship." And then he goes on: "Thinking of others in Jesus, we will think of them in a way that is much better than what they think of themselves, because there are persons who judge themselves very badly. But the Lord surely does not share these judgments, because he simply loves them completely. Let us, therefore, share in the way the Lord sees, knows and loves people and every created thing (cf. Wis 11,21 -12,1)." Can't help thinking of Lonergan when he says that with the eyes of faith we are able to see the world better than it is, and that "developing the positions" means making others look "better than they are." (Sentieri di vita 2.2, 524-25)

The apparitions of the Madonna

A wonderful theological reading of the apparitions of the Madonna, by Rossi de Gasperis. Something that makes me think immediately of the old and infirm Don Bosco insisting that he was seeing the Madonna in the FMA house of Nizza Monferrato. It is not that Mary appears here and there, says Rossi de Gasperis, but rather that she is always present, seeing that she is risen with Christ and assumed into heaven. And it is the gift and grace and tender mercy of the Lord to allow here and there our eyes to be opened, so that we can see, at least for a moment, things as they are in their heavenly, celestial, spiritual reality. To see, in other words, with the eyes of God. To see as Jesus saw. To see God. 
A way of understanding theologically the visions of the Madonna, in those cases where there is something serious, is perhaps to see them not so much in terms of the Virgin “appearing” in different places, but rather in terms of our eyes opening up contingently to her permanent presence in our history. Mary is the one who is Assumed. Even “in heaven” – i.e., in the definitive scenario of God’s involvement with humanity – there remains the man-woman pair. Jesus is not risen alone, with him is already risen also the Church, as we can see in the martyrdom of Stephen (Acts 7,55-60). Mary is the person who represents all the disciples, of whom she is Mother, historical and mystical sign of the Jerusalem that is the Bride of the Lord. This we can see symbolized in her mantle that covers the many monstrances that are the different churches. One who is in the church is in Mary, because he participates in her spousal response to the visit of God that was “announced” to her. A bit of heaven is therefore already opened up on the earth and in the human condition. One who, thanks to God’s grace, is given to “see”, at least for a moment, the “celestial” dimension of human things, sees Mary. She is the first portion of humanity to be saved, the sign of our final destiny, our vocation. It is not so much, therefore, the Madonna who appears here and there; it is a gift of the Lord that allows the eyes of some men and some women to be opened, for their own sake and for others, in order to accompany and guide the path of all towards “Heaven.” (F. Rossi de Gasperis, Sentieri di vita 2.2:523n7)

Confession - again and again?

“The sacrament of reconciliation is an utterly real contact with Jesus Christ, who pardons sins, these faults that I confess here and now, and who heals, setting right and liberating from their non-sense my moral and spiritual infirmities. It is meaningless, therefore, to say: ‘I don’t know what to tell the confessor; it’s always the same things, I am fed up with myself.’ It is much more important not to get tired of him, that my disgust with myself helps me go back to him again and again, insistently, with a longing for his touch, the caress with which he welcomed the children brought to him, with which he raised the mother-in-law of Peter, or the twelve year old daughter of Jairus, or the woman who had been bent for eighteen years. I will allow him to put his fingers into my ears, touch my tongue with his spittle, place his hands on me, I will allow him to sigh over me with the sighs caused by my obtuseness (cf. Mk 7,32-35). The confession of my sins and of my spiritual infirmities is not an account that I must give of myself, but rather a sensible experience of the Lord Jesus and of his risen body in the midst of the dreariness of my existence, of my misery: it is a celebration of HIM, the only one who does all things well, who makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak (Mk 7,37). [F. Rossi de Gasperis, Sentieri di vita 2.2, 570-71.] 

Friday 27 November 2015

Goodness everywhere

I was touched the other day by the kindness of an Israeli lady. I was walking a Filipino family - mother and three little girls - to the tram. The family has been in great difficulty lately, with the father being arrested and thrown into prison for lack of documents. That night, it was this Israeli lady who came to the house, stayed with the family, and even arranged for a lawyer to help with the case. She was the kindergarten teacher of the oldest kid. I was touched by the affection with which she greeted the girls yesterday, and the little signs of affection that she extended repeatedly to the mother. I realised I should never generalize about people. There are good people everywhere. Barukh ha Shem. 

Friday 20 November 2015

Siby K. George's reading of the Preventive System


Wonderful paper by prof. Siby K. George of IIT Powai, "The Preventive System and Subject Formation," at the International Conference on the Life and Works of Don Bosco organized by the Philosophy Dept. of St Anthony's College, Shillong. 'Subject formation' has of course little to do with teaching, but everything with the formation of the subject and subjects, or persons. I found the paper a great reading of Don Bosco and the Preventive System against the background of modern and postmodern Western philosophy (Siby specializes in the latter). He begins by noting the disincarnate isolated subject in Descartes, the subject as impartial spectator in Adam Smith, the similar transcendental subject of Kant, before going on to Dasein as being-in-the-world (that makes enormous sense against the Cartesian subject as faced with the problem of how to get to the world), the thick subject enmeshed in history, in a world of cares, and, we must add, embodied, enfleshed, sexed, in relation.

Siby goes on to read Don Bosco in the light of Foucault's theorem of the ubiquity of power-knowledge. Inevitably, all systems of education, including the Preventive, are systems of power-knowledge. But Foucault does distinguish between benevolent and violent, dominating, oppressive systems, and the basic intuition of Don Bosco is of course benevolent, though, as we all know, the Preventive System can so easily slip into being Repressive.

The last part of the paper questions what he calls the 'mainstream interpretation' (he cites my paper) that regards religion as the foundation of the Preventive System, and suggests that the system can be practised even in a secular humanist context. "[I]t is not straightforwardly clear how exactly religion could become a culturally acceptable educational strategy except in a mono-religious culture as Italy was in Don Bosco's time." He proposes that we understand religion, in a pluralistic context like that of India, as "a principled ethics of love and reason." He points out also that religion itself need not be theistic. He adds that he does not want to deny "the religious force of the principle of selfless love," citing Charles Taylor who suggests that perhaps only God, "and to some extent those who connect themselves to God, can love human beings when they are utterly abject."

Some thoughts that swim into my mind.

The distinguishing mark of Christianity is not grace / love, but the mediation of grace in Christ Jesus (Lonergan). The mission of the Spirit reaches all. Grace-love - religion in this sense (what Crowe calls the universalist understanding of religion) - is available to all. The transcendental foundation, if you wish to speak that way, is available to all. Which is why anyone can be moral, and such being moral need not be purely 'natural.'

The subject grows, develops and is constructed in interaction with divine and human subjects. The subject is being-in-the-world, not an isolated Cartesian subject. Mutual self-mediation within a tradition.

Perhaps also on the contrast between Heidegger's Angst and Stein's joy, and gift.

So a reflection on the philosophical foundations of the Preventive System would need a section on religion and the religions.

Draw also from Lonergan, Topics in Education, and "Questionnaire."

Monday 2 November 2015

All Souls reflection

All Souls: a day to remember our dear departed - from our families of origin, from our communities, from the congregation.

But I realized this morning that it is much more. Together with All Saints, and the whole end of the year liturgy, our attention is directed towards the End - our Goal, our Omega which is also our Alpha - God.

So we can't help thinking not only of All Saints, not only of All Souls, but also of All of us Living, and - somehow also of Hell. I remember Balthasar's book, the one that caused consternation here in the Vatican and in Rome, Does God Will that All Men be Saved? or something like that. And I think: I need to think of the heart of God. The heart of God surely wants all of us to be saved. That is his ardent desire.

And wonderfully, the gospel reading of the Italian liturgy was very much along this line, or at least so it seemed to me: "All that the Father gives me, comes to me, and I will not let them go, … because I have come to do the will of him who sent me. And his will is this: that I should lose nothing of that which he has given me, but raise them up on the last day. (Jn 6,37-40)

And of course the second reading, Rom 5,5: hope does not deceive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.

And to me the call, to respond to this love, this ardent desire on the part of God: to respond with all my heart, to surrender completely. Day by day, hour by hour. Finding a way to somehow handle all the brilliance and the fascination of God's creation. Or to find their place within God's plan, God's heart.

So all the mysteries lead to Christ. "Chiedere costantemente per intima conoscenza di lui, per amarlo di più e seguirlo di più."

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