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Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Devotion to the Sacred Heart

By Mac Donald Lyngdoh, s.j.

As we are entering further into the Holy Week, we are getting closer into the darkest hour of Jesus, his agony, his suffering, and his death. After he had died, the soldier pierced his side with a lance and there flowed water and blood. I tried to search for some more references to this passage but found nowhere else but in John’s alone. I wondered why only John mentioned this scene and not the other gospel writers. One of the reasons might be because he was the only one present from among the gospel writers. The other reason, which I personally feel to be true, might be because John was the one who recline at the breast of Christ at the Last Supper. May be he heard those tender heart beat of Christ, beating with love for us. May be he heard the fearful palpitations of Christ as he neared his death. At Calvary, the soldier pierced his side with a lance and from there flowed water and blood. John later reminds us: “They will look on the one whom they have pierced.”  St Thomas Aquinas said that through that pierced side, we all now have a door to enter from. He further said, “Your purification is that water and your redemption is that blood.”
I find that there is a very deep connection between the Pierced Side and the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The Pierced Side has been a subject of contemplation for many people. This eventually led them to the Heart of Jesus. Even before the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became widely accepted, St. Gertrude and St. Peter Canisius were already devoted to the Heart of Jesus. It was only with the coming of St. Margaret Mary Alacouqe that the Devotion to the Sacred Heart gained ground. With the three main apparitions she received from Jesus: first, like St. Gertrude,   Margaret Mary too reclined at the breast of Jesus and she heard those tender beatings of love of humanity; second, Jesus revealed to her the ingratitude he received from men; and finally, he wanted his Heart to be adored, and the world be consecrated to himself. A Jesuit, name Claude de la Columbierre, Margaret Mary’s spiritual father, assisted in propagating this devotion. With the 26th General Congregation of 1915, the propagation of the Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus became the mission of the whole Society.
This devotion has been a great aid to many Jesuits. In the 50th anniversary of the papal document Horiatis Aquas, Pope Benedict XVI reminded us that our life takes its meaning from “fixing our gaze on our pierced Redeemer.” This Sacred Heart shows us the physical heart of Jesus representing the divine love of Christ for humanity. It lays an emphasis on the love, the compassion and the suffering heart of Christ for us humans. This Devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus is an act of reparation to the heart of Jesus represented as a heart pierced by a lance, encircled by a crown of thorns, surmounted by a cross and blazing with fire and divine light.
Whenever we speak of the heart, don’t you think that we are dealing with something very deep and personal, something very sentimental and touching us at our core? On the one hand, physically speaking, the heart purifies the blood and pumps it all over the body. On the other hand, the heart is like the source of every virtue and vice; the core generator of the attitude of man. It looks like the content of the whole person is concentrated in the heart. St. John de Brebeuf, a missionary to the Huron, was a man of virtue and a man of mission. He was a courageous man. He was loyal and faithful to Christ even to the point of death. When he was killed, the Red Indians took out his heart and ate it. He was a brave man they said. They believed that if the ate his heart, they would be as brave as he was. Jesus calls us to communion with him and his Father invites us to be like him who is meek and humble at heart. He is loving, compassionate, merciful and forgiving. What else can we ask of him more valuable than his heart? I personally find that our every grace that we beseech, every blessing, every desire, and every prayer of petition is condensed in this one sentenced: ‘Make our hearts like unto Yours.’
However, our desire should not be only in asking for his Heart but also in giving our own. Swami Vivekananda, when speaking about Christianity, he said, “If I meet this man Jesus, I’ll wash his feet with the blood of my heart.” What else could a mortal man give God more valuable than his heart? What we give God is only a glass of water; He gives us a spring of water. We give God only our short lifetime; He gives us eternity. We ask of him for pardon; He gives us both his pardon and friendship. Let us be generous in giving our hearts to Jesus in exchange with His Sacred Heart. Let us beg him like Teilhard de Chardin did by asking Jesus to take us into his heart and when he has us there, to burn and purify us for his pleasure till the total annihilation of ourselves.
Let me conclude with a story from a movie called ‘Sweet Home Alabama.’ A woman wanted to divorce her husband and marry another man. She forced her husband to sign the divorce papers. On the day of her second marriage, her lawyer came and informed her that her husband had finally signed the papers. “It’s good news but there’s a problem. You haven’t signed it yet,” the lawyer told her. There she realized and felt that there was something missing in her. After a while, she turned to her supposed-to-be-husband and said, “I have given my heart to somebody else a long time ago and I never got it back.” Then she ran back to her husband.
I wish that we too would be able to say something like this, “I have given my heart to Jesus and I never got it back.”

Around Kolkata in 300 days

By Sumit Kujur S.J   
Our first journey, after starting our Juniorate in Kolkata, was to St. Xavier’s College for the novena to St. Ignatius, praying that our journey around Kolkata might be a fruitful one. Fr Dean, realizing the need for us to learn about the social structures in India, gave us permission to attend a course at Udayani. Having learnt about the Indian social structures, we had an enjoyable City Darshan. A few days later we had a beautiful exposure programme on Durga Puja under the guidance of Prof. Deepankar Basu. When the festive mood subsided, a great international debate on the electronic Media took place at St. Xavier’s. To our good luck we managed to get a group invitation card. We also received a group invitation for the platinum Jubilee function at St. Lawrence’s. Having received a shock learning about the use and misuse of the electronic media at St Xavier’s, the film festival at Nandan helped us to relax. With refreshed minds we went and amused the congregation gathered at Shantinir for the Christmas get-together with our carol singing. To do the same in the mission stations, Fr. Dean sent us in groups of five to three Mission stations. Having no idea of factories and industrial plants, in spite of being surrounded by them, we got an opportunity to learn about them atbthe Vishwa Karma puja. After seeing the pollution caused by the factories and industries, we got a chance to visit Kaviguru Tagore’s Ashram at Shanti Niketan, in order to purify our polluted minds. Fr Dean wanted us to be like Tagore; so he sent us to the international Book fair. Fr Saju’s  true sense of Art and Aesthetics was revealed on Diwali when he made us colour our drawings. Fr Rector and his staff felt that it was time to take a break, so we as a community went to the Bay of Bengal for a Picnic. But the salty water refreshed only our body. The Dean sent us to Bandel to refresh our mind and soul as the final countdown began, and the Juniors seemed to be relaxing. Fr Dean thought of giving us a chance to visit the tomb of Mother Teresa for a spiritual experience and then to have a mind blooming experience in the Science City.  Looks like we are now ready for the next journey- the one back to our provinces and for a much deserved home visit.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

The dream of Pope Francis

By Darimioo Susngi, SJ

The night after being elected Pope, Jorge had a dream.  He dreamt that he was in a strange and lonely place, but extraordinarily beautiful. He went around looking to see if there was anybody living in that place. Exhausted from walking, Jorge decided to sit down on a bench near-by. After relaxing for some time, he saw from a distance an old man approaching. As the man was getting closer, Jorge identified him as Cardinal Bellarmino. “I am glad to finally meet you, brother,” said Jorge reluctantly. “How do you get in here?” asked Bellarmino in surprise. “Oh! I..I..I lost my way,” Jorge stammered and went one, “I’m supposed to be in the Vatican because they elected me Pope.” “Jorge! Oh! I’m really sorry your Holiness, for behaving informally with you,” cried Bellarmino. “I am fine with it,” answered Jorge shrugging his shoulders. “You know Jorge,” continued Bellarmino, “I would have been the first Jesuit Pope. I got very close to it. But at that time, we Jesuits were taught not even to think about it. In fact there was a lot of opposition from my brother Jesuits when I was made a Cardinal! I wish I was living in your time! I’m really jealous of you, Jorge. Anyway,” continued Bellarmino, “don’t be scandalized by my wo…r..r..r.,” he stammered before completing the sentence and left right away without saying anything further. Jorge couldn’t believe his ears as he sat on the bench flabbergasted. 
After some time, Jorge noticed two men coming in his direction. To his surprise, he noticed that of the two, one was Ignatius, limping as he walked along and the other was Jesus, carrying a huge cross. “Jorge! Jorge!” Ignatius called out from afar. “I’m proud of you,” he continued, “that you’ve accepted this huge responsibility in these troubled times and I appreciate your wisdom. You’ve been able to decipher my vision at La Storta and respond promptly to the signs of the time. I tried my best to understand it during my life time,” went on Ignatius, “and maybe I misunderstood it sometimes. But you Jorge, you did it!” said Ignatius excitedly. “Jorge!” the sweet voice of Jesus echoed, “I wish you to take my Cross for me. I’ve waited for 473 years to give it to you guys. So! now it is yours, treasure it for my sake.” As Jesus was placing his huge cross on Jorge’s shoulders, Jorge could feel its heavy weight pressing him down and it woke him up from his sleep. He found himself on his own bed and came to realize that, it was still his first day in office as Pope.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

The Funeral

Story by Darimioo SJ 
(Kohima Region)

The boy remained quiet in a corner of the room without saying a word, while his face revealed nothing of what he thought and felt of his father who left him an orphan. A white cloth was covering the blind man’s face who seemed to be over-burdened with love for his only boy. Nobody seemed to bother about the lad who remained quiet in the corner - neither his uncle nor aunt, more so his mother who lived miles away with another husband.
People like swarms of flies flocked towards the dead man’s house, not to pay him respect, but out of curiosity to see how this poor man’s family would manage the whole affair. Scattered words of condolences, with the air of scorn in it, passed back and forth like dragonflies on a sunny day. “What will become of his boy without him?” “The cemetery is not meant for people like him,” “How will he find the way to heaven, when he couldn’t find the way to the church?” “It is impossible for us to help out in this; his marriage was not blessed, and besides, he never showed his face in the church.” “Let them find their own place”. “There is no reserved place for sinners in our cemetery.” All those who were present there used all kinds of language to demean the reputation of the dead man. They came just to gossip about him and nothing else.
After some time all the church elders jointly decided that the man should not be buried in their common cemetery. At the instigation of the church elders the whole village declared him to be a sinner, an outcast and an old wretch; since he was not a practicing Christian. They disowned the family as belonging to their church and told them to their face to stop involving in all the village activities. They were considered outcast and were restrained from the benefits the villagers were entitled to. After communicating this strong message to the bereaved family, people slowly left the place in two’s and three’s starting with the church elders till the bereaved family was literally left alone.
The deceased man’s family had prepared food for those who had come, as it was the custom of the place. But to their astonishment the whole crowd came just to abuse them. The family was stunned at the way their neighbours and the church treated them at this hour of grief. The boy, his uncle and aunt were at a loss and didn’t know what to do, and where to turn for help. They had no choice but to bury the man in their backyard. Now they found themselves in trouble. “Who would dig the grave for him?” questioned the boy’s aunt. “What else can we do?” rejoined her husband. “The boy is too small to hold a spade, and I am too sick to take the responsibility. Anyway I will spend whatever energy is left in me.” And so the real work began. The sick man worked so hard as if the sickness had gone out of him. He sweated so much that he was literally drenched from head to foot. He could not believe his eyes when after seven hours of hard labour the grave was ready. The boy too tried to give a hand in the work as much as he could. By the time he completed the work he was dead tired and could hardly stand. But it made him proud that he had done it in spite of his poor health.  With a deep sigh of relief and a smile on his face he whispered to himself,“ Hm…….thank God! We can now bury him with dignity.”
Now another problem stood in their way. Who would make the coffin for him, and from where to get the planks? They could turn nowhere. The whole village had deserted them and they couldn’t expect help from anyone. Finally, they decided to bury him without a coffin. It made them sad, but it was all they could do. The boy’s aunt was lamenting loudly declaring all that her brother had done for her. She felt sad that she couldn’t afford to bury him with dignity. She turned her face heavenward and cried aloud to God saying, “What have I done to deserve all this?” She sobbed for quite some time and cried again loudly, “All the friends and neighbours have deserted us. What sin have we committed?” In their own little way they said all the prayers for the dead, with the hope that their beloved father and brother would rest in peace. When everything was set they took the body, nicely adorned in the best attire they could afford, and laid him in the grave with just a mat over his body. When the prayers were said, a handful of mud was thrown three times over the body as a sign of bidding him farewell. It took quite some time for them to fill the grave. They had to do it quickly as the sky blackened and anytime rain was expected.  As soon as the grave was covered, flowers were set, and a cross was fixed over his tomb, the heavens opened and rain poured down as if to wash away the sins of the dead man.
People in the village were stunned at this, since normally it didn’t rain here during this season of the year. At this occurrence some people in the village said to one another, “He must have been a good man.” While some others came out of their house and joyfully shouted at one another, “God is giving us a sign that what we did was right, and He is approving our actions.” Consequently the church elders and the whole community rejoiced at their achievement and decided to continue the same action with anyone who took God and their church for granted. But to the bereaved family, the sudden and heavy downpour was a sign of God’s acceptance of their father and brother into his bosom. Only these soothing words escaped their lips, “God save his soul, God forgive us.”  They seemed to forget all the miseries they had just experienced. The wound of rejection that was so deep got closed with this assurance that God was pleased with them.
For the young boy the experience had affected him a great deal. He began to lose faith in people altogether. As he kept thinking of his father he began to lose his mind and would sit for hours together at his father’s grave in the backyard. It pained his aunt and uncle to see him like that. It reminded them of the funeral that brought their nephew this misery. They stopped associating with anyone and kept to themselves only in their garden. The boy became totally deranged, but his uncle and aunt faithfully looked after him like a son. They only said, “God gives what is best for us”, and complained no further. In spite of the painful experience they went through, God was still in their hearts though the church had closed itself to them.