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March 2021

The Salesian Bulletin

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CONTENTS March 2021

- a family magazine

Editor David Maria Selvam sdb News Editors Sanjana Muralidharan Designer Vijay.I Circulation M. Santhosh Editorial Board K.M. Jose- Chairman, BOSCOM Dominic Veliath sdb / Joe Mannath sdb Joaquim Fernandes sdb Raj Mariasusai sdb / Stanislaus Swaminathan sdb Advisory Board Biju Michael - President, SPCSA K.M. Jose - President, Salesian Publishing Society Edwin Vasanth - Financial Advisor Joseph Pauria/ Jose Kuruvachira/ Januarius Sangma / Thathi Reddy Davis Maniparamben / Felix Fernandes Paul Olphindro / Agilan Varaprasadam Joseph Almeida/ Jose Thomas Koyickal Editorial Office The Salesian Bulletin, Bosco Illam 2nd Floor 26/17 Ranganathan Avenue, Sylvan Lodge Colony, Kellys, Chennai - 600 010 Phone : 044 - 26451991 Kindly Send your Subscriptions & Donations M.O/D.D/Cheque in favour of Don Bosco - The Salesian Bulletin A/c No : 0138053000021812 IFSC : SIBL0000138 Branch : 0138 Kellys Branch, Chennai

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The Publisher or the Editor is not held responsible for the views expressed by writers in this magazine. They do not necessarily reflect the policies of The Salesian Bulletin. All disputes are under the jurisdiction of Chennai Courts only. March 2021

Published by David Maria Selvam on behalf of Salesian Publishing Society, Bosco Illam 2nd Fl oor, No. 26/17 Ranganathan Avenue Sylvan Lodge Colony, Kellys, Chennai - 600010. and Printed by David Maria Selvam at Salesian Institute of Graphic Arts No.49, Taylor's Road, Chennai - 600010 / Editor: David Maria Selvam The Salesian Bulletin

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It is a happy coincidence that we celebrate women’s day and also a part of the season of Lent in the month of March. During this year it is happening around the most relevant theme ‘Choose to Challenge’. What we make out of our life is based on the choices we make. We reap at present the fruits of the choices we made in our past and we will continue to reap the fruits based on the choices we make at present every day. When we are left with the option to choose, we often tend to choose the paths that are easy and comfortable that eventually lead us to end up in a situation of compromise. Seldom we choose to challenge the status quo as it involves risks that would cost us our position, power and at times even our life. A famous philosopher named Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel has shown any ‘process’ has three components namely, thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis. A thesis has to be refuted by an Anti-thesis which will eventually lead us to have a higher reality called synthesis. We need to challenge the limited position of an individual or an institution if values are compromised. Challenging, need not necessarily be in the form of a dialogue to arrive at a better solution. In the Scriptures we see so many episodes where people had chosen to challenge. The stories of David facing Goliath or Jael driving a tent peg through Sisera’s temple are fitting examples. David chose to challenge Goliath as everyone was scared to face the giant and Jael as a woman with ease pinned down a warrior. These episodes of challenges brought in revolution, reformation and redemption. At the present scenario, so many things are happening in and around the world. The political scenario across the globe does not promote this culture of expressing one’s opinion. Instead every bold voice is muted and silenced. Of course the society has always grown even under similar circumstances. Today all of us experience some restlessness within and yet we fail to challenge the concerned party that is responsible. We are scared of the consequences and we remain silent. If a celebrity challenges the government or any other powerful institution, Income Tax raid is inevitable and the journalists who write and speak in support of truths are killed ruthlessly. Mercedes Benz unequivocally is the car of our love. When Carl Benz the mechanical engineer wanted to build this automobile, it was Bertha Benz his wife who funded this project as she hailed from a noble family. After the project was completed, the Benz family was shocked that none were willing to buy their automobile. Bartha as a woman, left a note to her husband and took her two teenage sons and went for an incredible 100 km distance ride from Mannheim to Pforzheim and proved the worth of their automobile and the rest is the history. Let us choose to challenge and let us teach our children to challenge the status quo, not just for the heck of it but in order to bring about growth and betterment.

David Maria Selvam SDB 4

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RECTOR MAJOR’S MESSAGE DON ANGEL FERNANDEZ ARTIME, SDB

«This is my prayer after having visited over 100 nations around the world where there are Salesian presences... and where I came to know realities that are so incredible, fascinating, precious, and often times so painful».

Cordial greetings, my friends, readers of the Salesian Bulletin. Surely, we have begun 2021 with a strong desire that it be a better year than the previous one. Perhaps there is still much fear, but perhaps we also feel deep down that we have to cultivate Hope because it does us good and helps us to live better and more meaningful lives. On the last Sunday of January we celebrated the Feast of Don Bosco. This also took place in a different way from previous years because the pandemic has not yet disappeared and continues to condition our life. Still, even in this situation we have to know how to see the light and the buds of Hope that are present. It is in this context that I chose these reflections to share with you this month. The title expresses the way in which I have prayed many times throughout these last seven years - and continue to do so. Very often, almost daily, I pray in this way: “Lord, help me never stop being amazed or become inured to reality.” Let me explain what I mean by these words: In the past six years, before the pandemic, I had the precious yet demanding (as you will readily understand) opportunity to visit over 100 nations around the world where there are Salesian presences. The Salesians of Don Bosco and various branches of the Salesian Family minister in these places. I came to know realities that are so incredible, fascinating, precious, and often times so painful that my daily prayer and my thought upon returning to Rome, was: “Lord, help me never stop being amazed.”

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May I never stop being amazed at having witnessed the dignity of hundreds of women in the refugee camp of Juba in South Sudan who were left alone to care for their children after their husbands had died or disappeared. This camp is located on our property, surrounding our Salesian house in Juba. May we never stop appreciating the decision that our Salesian Confreres made to welcome, stay with, and accompany all those people who have nothing and, surely, no one ... May I never cease to be amazed at the joy that I experienced upon meeting the teenage boys and girls who live in “Don Bosco City” in Medellín, Colombia. In this Salesian house, they were able to resume their studies after months, or maybe years, after having been forced to become child soldiers in FARC (the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia). Those young people who have been rescued and saved from the guerrillas now live with a smile on their faces and with Hope. May I always be amazed at the good that is done by our Salesian community living in the heart of the Kakuma refugee camp in North Kenya. This is a UN refugee camp that could be considered a city unto itself for it has more than 300,000 people inhabiting it. We, too, have been living there - extraordinarily so - for many years. The reason I say “extraordinarily so” is because the regulation in these refugee camps is that in the evening no one extraneous to them (non-refugees) can stay there. But we are allowed to stay because of their fascination with the person of Don Bosco and

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the educational style of his Sons and Daughters. This is what has allowed us to have a house in the midst of these families and to run both a school to teach them a trade and a parish to minister to them in various places within the confines of the camp. May I never cease to be surprised by the closeness I felt with the good people of the “villas” (the slums) which surround the “great Buenos Aires” in Argentina. There, the one who today is known as Pope Francis very closely accompanied the “Villeros priests”, as the diocesan parish priests who minister there are called. Here, also, our SDB Confreres and FMA Sisters minister. May the smiles on the faces of so many boys and girls who have been rescued from the streets and welcomed into our homes never cease to amaze me. These are the street children of Colombia, Sierra Leone, Angola, so many of our presences in India. In these places, I was able to see many miracles among the street kids, boys and girls, who come to our Salesian houses so they can get washed up, have something to eat, and sleep there for the night, if they wish. This work is very difficult. The Salesians walk the streets at night to find these children, establish contact with them, gain their trust (not easy to do for the abandonment and abuse received at the hands of so many other adults) and then make an invitation to them to come in off the streets. This mission has saved lives – so many lives – from the streets where they used to live (the boys more than the girls) and sleep and where they would destroy their lungs by sniffing chemicals, paints, and glue to mask their hunger pangs and emotional pain. I pray with faith that the Hope and Dignity that I found in so many young animators, high school and university students, in Damascus and Aleppo will never cease to amaze me. These young people, together with our Salesian Confreres continue to gather hundreds of young people every day to help make the war in this, their country, “not so horrible”. Perhaps this is similar to what is narrated in the film Life is Beautiful in which a father is interned with his little son in a Nazi concentration camp. In Aleppo and Damascus, though, the reality is acutely painful because it is not a film, but real life. When I was there I didn’t hear any laments. Rather, I heard lucid arguments about the war and the diverse interests of so many nations. I found dignity and solidarity, brotherhood and faith. I asked the Lord not to stop surprising me with such dignity in the midst of the horror of a war in a city that has been 70% destroyed – something I had ever only seen in movies. Actually being in the midst of such a situation is very different. I also ask the Lord never to cease to amaze me at the beautiful reality of life which we have shared for years with so many indigenous peoples – whether they be the Yanomami, the Xavante, or the Boi-Bororo of Brazil; the Ayoreo and the Guarani of Paraguay; or the Shuar and Achuar of Ecuador. When I came to know them, I did not March 2021

stop marveling at their reality and that of my Confreres and Sisters who have spent so many years sharing life with them. I could continue at length giving examples of why I ask Our Lord to help me not to stop being surprised because contemplating these realities raises up in me a sense of awe and wonder and makes me grateful to God, to life, and to those who have done so much for the good of others. Don Bosco’s missionary dreams have unfolded and have undoubtedly become reality far beyond what he himself could have imagined. I know that I have been but a witness to these realities, almost like a notary public, during my pastoral visits but I am grateful for having had the opportunity to witness them firsthand. At the same time, I am afraid of becoming inured to many realities or just curious about, e.g., the number of deaths today from COVID when there are so many stories of pain (and quite often stories of wonderful lives) behind those deaths. I don’t want to become immune to the pain caused by refugees trying to reach a new land and ending up dead in the Mediterranean Sea or on the borders and rivers of various Central American nations. I don’t want the knowledge of the abuse done by the mafias to stop being painful to me for they exploit people, deceiving them with the promise of a better life, and subject them - most often women, children, and teens to a life of prostitution and abuse with no hope of release. I don’t want to get used to thinking that nothing can be done about this in our societies. I don’t want to be inured when I see lines and lines of people waiting for a plate of food in our big “first world” cities and come to know their very painful stories. I want to remain sensitive to all these things – as sensitive as one is when touching an infected wound. Dear readers, this is my simple and humble message to you. I know that many people are greatly aware of these realities and ones just like them. I also know that many of us believe that it is possible to change these situations and work to ensure that the changes happen. As I continue to wish you a New Year full of Hope, of authentic and true Hope, I also invite you to dream in 2021 and not to give up being surprised by the beauty and incredible things of life and by so many unique stories. At the same time I pray you not “get used to” what should not be. Thank you for continuing to stand by our side as friends, believing that a better world is always possible and that it is not a distant and unattainable “utopia”. The Salesian Bulletin

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COVER STORY

FR. PATRICK MATHIAS, SDB

A Lenten Reflection

Introduction The holy season of Lent that begins on Ash Wednesday represents the forty days that Jesus spent in the Judean wilderness. The Forty- days period is an important period of time that we often notice in the Bible. Lent calls us back to the basics of Christian spirituality: prayer, fasting and almsgiving or the works of mercy. This forty-days period for us Christians is a special time to pray, reflect, fast, and do penance in preparation for the resurrection of Christ, praying humbly, “Be merciful, O Lord, for we have sinned”. As prophet Joel reminds us, this allotted time is ‘to return to God with a sincerely contrite heart and to obtain his mercy’ (Joel 2: 12-18). Pope Francis reminds us that Lent is a time to “Pause”, “See” and “Return” to the tenderness of God. Pope emeritus Benedict XIV tells us that, Christian life is a never-ending combat in which the “weapons” of prayer, fasting and penance are used. Every disciple of Jesus is reminded in this season to fight against evil, against every form of selfishness and hate and strive to die to oneself in order to live in God. Forty Days in the Wilderness- Meaning and Significance Have we ever wondered why Jesus went into the wilderness for forty days? We read in the synoptic gospels that just after the baptism, being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit, Jesus was led into the wilderness by the Spirit of God (Lk 4:1-2; Mk 1:12-13; Mt 4:1). Being led by the Spirit of God indicates the will of the Father. It flows from this that the spirit of God was with Jesus every moment of those forty days and nights. The forty days’ period for Jesus in the wilderness was a period 8

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of prayer, trial, testing and strengthening in the Spirit before he could begin his public ministry. It was in the wilderness, away from people and ministry that Jesus powerfully drew closer to his Father and stood against the devil and defeated him. Jesus walked with God in those forty days in the desert. Jesus the second Adam, the Son of God, enjoyed the face to face encounter with God in the wilderness. Jesus’ going to the wilderness for a deep prayer experience and solitude gave him enough strength to begin his ministry. It was during those silent prayer moments with God in the wilderness that Jesus would have felt the mighty presence of the Holy Spirit of God who would also direct his course of ministry among people. The synoptic Gospels, especially Mark and Luke present us with many references to Jesus’ habitual disposition of seeking silence and solitude to pray to God (Mk 6:46; Lk 6:12; Lk 9:28; Lk 11:1). For us too, such moments of prayer and communion with God in these forty days of Lent is necessary to provide us with the much needed spiritual sustenance to live out our Christian lives. It is within those moments of private prayer with God daily that we gain sensitivity to the movements of the Holy Spirit in our lives and become alert to the ways in which God can lead us to discern about a particular vocation, apostolate or an important task.

Turn Away from Sin and Believe in the Gospel The Lenten season invites us to turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel. Ash Wednesday which is a door to Lent is a day of fasting and abstinence. While receiving ashes on our head, we are reminded of the call to conversion in this period with the formula which March 2021


was the outcry of Jesus to the people of his own time: “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news” (Mk 1:15). We need to believe first in the gospel so that we can be faithful to it. Turning away from sin and being faithful to the gospel are interconnected so much that one cannot exist without the other. The ashes are imposed with the words, “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19), while the sign of the cross is marked on the forehead. This action of imposition of the ashes on the forehead indicates us of both humility and exaltation, of death and new life. The ashes signify our inner fragility and poverty while the cross signify our salvation in the mercy of God. After forming man out of the dust of the ground and blowing into his nostrils the breath of life (Gen 2:7), God said to the first man Adam, “You are dust and to dust you shall return” (Gen 3:19). At the beginning of Lent, we are invited to see ourselves as dust again, to detach ourselves from the things of this world and empty ourselves so that we might be filled with God’s “breath of life,” that is, new life in the Spirit. The beginning of Lent with the imposition of ashes on our foreheads reminds us that this world is passing with all its glory, but we place our trust in God alone, the source of every good and of all love” (CCC 1723). Take up your Cross Daily and Follow Me In the season of Lent, the principal invitation of God for every Christian disciple is to take up the cross daily and to follow him: Then Jesus said to them all, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9:23. See also Lk 14:27; Mk 8:34; Mt 10:38; 16:24). Among the Synoptic writers, Luke alone adds the word, ‘daily’ to the carrying of the cross. Every day the followers

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of Jesus will have to endure the cross as Jesus chose the path of the cross. The cross of Jesus results in a cross for every one of his followers. Jesus took up the cross out of obedience. He did it humbly and gladly placing God’s will and love for God’s people above himself. He humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Phil 2:8). We are asked to follow Jesus who always did the will of God in His life. In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed thus, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me; yet, not my will but yours be done” (Lk 22:42). He took up His cross and denied Himself. His temptations never resulted in sin, in word, in thought, or in deed (Heb 4:15). He had a firm resolve when He was tempted. The act of following Jesus is important in this season of Lent. The Essence of the Cross is Self-Denial What did Jesus mean when He said, “Take up your cross and follow me”? Basically the invitation of Jesus points to the willingness on the part of the disciple ‘to die’ in order to follow Jesus. What is called for here is “dying to self.” In short, the essence of the cross is self-denial. So it means dying to sin and to our sinful nature by the grace of God in the first place. Literally speaking, taking up the

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cross and following Jesus in these forty days is not focused on justification but on sanctification. It is not about life, but about dying to self that Jesus focuses in this verse. To take up one’s cross also means simply to be willing to pay any price for Christ’s sake as indicated by the Greek verb ‘to carry’ ‘airo’ meaning, “to pick up, to raise, to take up, to bear or to carry.” Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry the cross of Jesus. Even though we don’t carry the cross literally, it must be embodied in our actions. The cross must become visible, if not verbalized, in the life of every Christian disciple just as demonstrated in the lives of the apostles and saints. Commitment to Christ in this lent means taking up our cross daily and taking up your cross daily leads to the inner transformation. Co-crucified with Christ The invitation of Christ “If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Lk 9: 23) shows us the connection between the cross of Jesus Christ and the cross of those of us who belong to him, making us all “co-crucified” or “crucified with Christ”. The two thieves were co-crucified with Jesus. While one chose to curse him, the other chose to plead mercy from Jesus. It depends on how we perceive the cross and how we see the person crucified on the cross. The word ‘Co’ in Greek would mean ‘the closest possible union’. These two thieves were so close to the cross of Jesus and yet they were so different in their approaches to see the crucified Christ. The good thief saw a crucified Saviour who could give him a place in his kingdom; and the bad thief saw a crucified criminal destined to the same fate of gruesome death. In the gospels of Matthew, Luke and John, we see an aorist participle of the verb ‘sustauro’ (meaning, to crucify together or crucify with) being used in reference to the two “thieves” who were crucified with

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Jesus on mount Calvary (Mt 27:44; Mk 15:32; Jn 19:32). The same verb is used twice in the letters of St. Paul in reference to those who are in Christ now “co-crucified” with him (“I have been crucified with Christ”-Gal 2:19; “we know that our old self was crucified with him”Rom 6:6). The phrase “co- crucifixion” is also connected to living a new way of life in the world: “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20). If St. Paul could believe that he had been crucified with Christ, then it becomes a possibility for us too. We need to become dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord as St. Paul says in Rom 6:11-12. What Do We Mean by the Cross? The cross is not just a suffering or pains of life due to sickness, financial problems, disappointment from family and friends, the loss of someone dear to us, the fear of death, situations that result from storm, fire, plague, flood or the covid-19 pandemic, which all human beings go through whether they are Christians or not. All these afflictions common to all the people are not in themselves crosses. They are crosses but not within the frame of Christ’s cross or crosses borne for the sake of Christ. All of these things may become crosses however, when each in their turn tempt one to doubt the love of God. They become a cross for a Christian, when they make it difficult for a believer to trust the promises of Jesus and his Word that He would never leave him or forsake him. In this sense, the cross is everything that I suffer as a result of my connection and faithfulness to Christ and to his Word. Though Simon of Cyrene was forced to carry Jesus’s cross on the way to Golgotha, the cross of the saviour became the cross of Simon. Hence, the cross of Jesus becomes the

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cross of the followers too. Jesus’s cross is our cross. Thus, the Cross had to be borne, not only by Jesus, but by us, His disciples. Though a cross may hang around the neck of a Christian believer, at times it becomes rather difficult for the believer to hang on to the cross of Christ due to the excuses of comfortable indifference and objections of self-satisfied scepticism. The cross of Christ was the fulfilment of God’s plan for the salvation of His people. Christian Life in the Light of the Cross Christian life based on the gospel must lead one to embrace the paradoxes of life. This is what the gospels teach us all. The smallest mustard seed produces the largest plant (Mk 4:31-32; Lk 13:18-19). Saving life means losing it, and losing life results in saving it (Mk 8:35; Lk 9:24). The first are last and the last, first (Mk 9:35, 10:31; Lk 13:30; Mt 19:30, 20:16). Those who abandon everything to follow Jesus will receive abundant blessings in the present age and eternal life in the age to come but they should also be ready for persecutions for the sake of Christ (Mk 10:30). Greatness comes by being a slave of all (10:43-44; Mt 20: 26-27). The stone rejected by the builders is the chief cornerstone (Mk 12:10-11; Mt 21:42; Lk 20:17). The one who gave the least gave the most (Mk 12:41-44; Lk 21:14). The crucified Christ is the King of the Jews (Mk 15:2526, 32). The one who cannot save himself saves others (Mk15:31; Lk 23:35). The one forsaken by God is the Son of God (Mk 15:34,39). The life of a disciple of Jesus Christ is a mixture of glory and suffering. Conclusion Following Jesus daily necessarily involves suffering and cross. The one who calls us to deny ourselves, to take

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up our cross and follow him, is the one who gave up his life on the cross of Calvary for you and me. The death of Jesus on the cross has proven to the world that the only strength, the only hope, the only power with the capacity to change the world is love. It is not the power of miracles, not the wisdom of the World, but the mystery of the love of God in the scandal of the cross that has brought salvation. John R. W. Stott, in his book “The Cross of Christ” writes that “God does not love us because Christ died for us; but that Christ died for us because God loved us.” May we who are prepared to go through a period of testing by the devilish principalities and powers of the heavenly realm these forty days of Lent, come away from it being cleansed and strengthened by the presence of God through ardent prayer, fasting and penance. In this Lenten season, we are asked to follow Jesus and to live by his life giving Word. We who would be contemplating the mystery of the cross in this forty-days Lenten period must remember that through the cross, we are saved for a way of life shaped by the cross. Karl Rahner reminds us that the Christian asceticism is nothing except a ‘yes’ to Jesus, to the Cross, and to death. May we be disposed and be willing to follow Jesus in a radical way in the Lenten season. “We adore You, O Christ, and We praise You; Because by Your Holy Cross, You have redeemed the World”

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SALESIANA FR. BRUNO FERRERO, SDB

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veryone felt unlimited affection for Don Bosco and they were all concerned about his health. Still, his energy reserve seemed inexhaustible. He never stopped night and day, he kept going. This eventually enfeebled his strong constitution. Something was needed! Something which the technology of his day permitted even if it were still largely experimental: a photograph. They absolutely had to have a “true-to-life” portrait of their Don Bosco. The real difficulty lay in convincing Don Bosco of this - only after insisting 1000 times did they succeed. The big day came on March 21, 1861. In those times, the subjects in a photograph had to remain immobile for a very long time. Don Bosco was asked to pose with a group of his clerics and students as though hearing

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confessions, with them kneeling down around him in a devout manner. Don Bosco had to choose one of his boys to kneel on the praedieu and act as though he was making his confession. He looked about and, with a smile, called out: “Paolino, come here. Kneel down and lean your forehead against mine so that we do not move!” This “Paolino” was Paul Albera. He stayed in that position, resting his head on Don Bosco’s, for a long time. The result was magical. Don Bosco had an intuition and, therefore, wanted this picture (retouched a bit) to be hung in the waiting area of his office. That young and polite lad with his head pressed against his own, little Paul Albera, would be his second successor. Don Bosco had met him in the autumn of 1858 in None, a small town on the Torinese plain, because the parish priest and his good friend had spoken to him of a little 13-yearold parishioner who wanted to become a priest. Don Bosco wanted to meet him and found himself standing before a young and delicate lad, in an air of meekness and serenity with a lively and inquisitive gaze. Paolo Albera at the Oratory In 1858, the “perfume of sanctity” with which 15-yearold Dominic Savio had permeated the Oratory still filled the air. He had died just the year before. Then, there was another boy at that time who was gaining such a reputation: Michael “Mickey” Magone. He was quicksilver; Don Bosco’s affection helped him become an angel. Paolino Albera and Mickey Magone ended up next to each other in their places in the dormitory and became friends. It was a joyful and loyal friendship even if of short duration for Mickey died at age 14.

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Since he was next to Mickey in the dorm, Paul was able to hear the conversation between Don Bosco and Mickey when the latter took ill, and he was deeply moved by it: “If the Lord should offer you the choice of getting better or of going to Paradise, which would you choose?” asked Don Bosco. Magone answered, “Who would be so crazy as not to choose Paradise?” Seeing how ill he was, Don Bosco said to him: “Before you take leave of us for Paradise, I would like to give you an errand.” Mickey replied, “Tell me. I will do whatever I can to obey it.” So Don Bosco said: “When you will be in Paradise and will have seen our great Virgin Mary, greet her humbly and respectfully for me and for those who are in this house. Ask her to give us her blessing; to take us all under her powerful protection; and to help us lest anyone here in the house now or any whom Divine Providence will send in the future, should lose his soul.” The facts will prove that Mickey Magone had carried out his “errand”. With this memory in his heart and with his eyes always fixed on Don Bosco, Paul Albera, shy and reserved, but more resolute than ever, became one of his best boys at the Oratory. Don Bosco’s house was his home. He later described that period of great blessings in this way: “Don Bosco educated by loving, attracting, conquering, and transforming. He wrapped us all - almost entirely in an atmosphere of contentment and happiness, from which pains, sadness, and melancholy were banished ... Everything in him held a powerful attraction for us: his penetrating gaze. sometimes more effective than a sermon; a mere movement of his head; the smile that always graced his lips, ever new and changing, yet still calm; the movement of his lips, as when one wants to speak without uttering words; the words themselves cadenced in one way rather than another; his personal bearing and his trim and self-confident gait: all these things worked on our youthful hearts like a magnet that cannot be pulled away; and even if we had been able to detach it, we would not have done so for all the gold in the world for his very singular influence over us, which came natural to him, without any study or effort at all, made us so very happy.” Among the first Salesians It was therefore absolutely natural for Paul Albera to take on the cassock and become a cleric on October 27, 1861, and in the following year, on May 14, 1862, to become one of the first twenty-two Salesians. “That evening,” as Don Bonetti narrates, “for the first time, after long yearning, those members of the newly-founded Society [of St. Francis de Sales] who had completed March 2021

their novitiate year, and felt called to this life, formally pronounced their vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. How wonderful to describe the humble circumstances of this memorable ceremony! There we were, squeezed into a small room, without even any benches to sit on, most of us in the prime of life: students of rhetoric, philosophy, theology; a few in sacred orders.. There were twenty-two of us, besides Don Bosco who was kneeling by the table on which the crucifix stood, who took vows as prescribed by our rule. After this, Don Bosco, standing up, addressed a few words to us for our peace of mind and to give us greater courage for the future: “Who knows but that the Lord may wish to use this Society to achieve much good in His Church! Twenty-five or thirty years from now, if the Lord continues to help us as He has done so far, our Society may count a thousand members in different countries…” Paolo Albera was seventeen years old. From that moment on, the Salesian Congregation would be his life. Many thought that Don Bosco’s work was complete. They did not take into account his formidable creative vision. It was precisely to this timid, serious cleric, Paul Albera, that Don Bosco revealed his next step at the end of that year: “Paolino, our Church of St. Francis de Sales is too small:

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it cannot hold all our young people unless they stand on top of each other. Therefore, we shall build another more beautiful, more spacious, and more magnificent one and we will name it: the Church of Mary Help of Christians.” Don Bosco’s health was causing greater and greater concern, but the “Salesian revolution” was only just beginning. In 1863, a first group of Salesians, all very young, swarmed from Valdocco to found a house in Mirabello, Monferrato. This was the first step of an expansion that continues yet today, 157 years later. During his five years at Mirabello, Paul Albera exhibited prodigious abilities. He taught in the high school, completed his theology studies, and was awarded a degree in literature from the University of Turin. He was ordained a priest in 1868 and Don Bosco called him back to Torino for he needed someone to take over for him with the process of accepting young lads into the Oratory. This was a very delicate task requiring a great deal of common sense and a caring heart: qualities which Paul Albera did not lack. In the two years that he held this office, during which he learned much about human suffering, he was also on the General Council of the new Society. “He will be my second...” Don Bosco had extraordinary intuition where people’s natures were concerned. It was one of his many secrets. He knew that behind the reserved and meek appearance of Paul Albera there existed a stalwart soul and an iron will. Therefore, in October 1871, he sent Paolo to open a new house in the suburbs of Marassi, near Genoa. The young priest was just 26 years old, taking on a task that would have made anyone tremble. Paolo thought he should bring a few hundred francs with him to be able to meet the first necessary expenses and asked Don Bosco for authorization. Our good father looked at him with a smile and asked him to hand over the money. Don Bosco then gave him back the exact amount he would need to pay for the trip for himself and his companions, saying: “Don’t worry! As to tomorrow, the Lord will provide!” Don Albera understood Don Bosco’s message perfectly. From that moment on, for his entire life, he abandoned himself completely to Providence, just like Don Bosco. And the Lord, through many charitable people, did come to the aid of the new Institute - so much so that the following year it could be moved to a larger and more comfortable location in Sampierdarena and enjoy a development that still amazes one today. It also became the seat of another work founded by the Venerable Paul Albera which would soon give the Church many good priests: “The Work of 14

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Mary Help of Christians for Late (Adult) Vocations to the Ecclesiastical State”, or, as we know it: “The Sons of Mary”. Naturally, difficulties cropped up. To those who voiced them, Don Bosco would reply: “Don Albera has not only overcome those difficulties, but he will overcome many others, and he will be my second...” Without finishing that sentence, he put his hand over his eyes, like someone looking far into the distance. Then he continued, “Oh yes, Don Albera will be of great help!” Present at the conversation was a young man in his twenties, who became a Salesian and a priest and became the third successor of Don Bosco: Don Filippo Rinaldi. Don Bosco was similar to a magnificent tree that spreads out its powerful branches. The future of the Salesian work grew up around him. The “Little Don Bosco” By now everyone knew Don Paolo Albera’s worth. In October 1881, he was sent to Marseilles as Provincial to the Houses of France. It is there he won the name, “little Don Bosco”, as the newspapers and the many admirers of the Salesian Work defined him.

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In 1892, he was appointed General Catechist of the Pious Salesian Society. In 1900, he was commissioned by Don Rua to visit all the Salesian Houses in the two Americas as his representative. Over a three-year period, using the rudimentary means of transportation of that time and bearing with endless inconveniences, he visited all the Salesian presences in the New World. He returned enthusiastic: “Don Bosco’s name paved the way, overcame obstacles, won hearts, and created friends - and why should we not say so? Don Bosco loosened purse strings and wallets and drew from them the means with which to found houses, workshops, schools, festive oratories, churches, hospitals, and everything needed for the salvation of countless souls. This is not a fleeting enthusiasm, nor will the sweet attraction and the salutary impression that the name of Don Bosco exerts on hearts wane over time. It continues to be pronounced in the Americas with veneration and gratitude by Prelates, Presidents, and Government Ministers, by every class of people, and entire peoples...” He would often repeat: “How much Don Bosco is loved! How much Mary Help of Christians loves us!” Don Bosco’s Second Successor Don Albera was so esteemed that it seemed absolutely natural to elect him Rector Major on August 16, 1910. As soon as he was elected, he ran to Don Bosco’s

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tomb: “I complained to him [Don Bosco] that he had let the rudder of the Salesian ship fall into such poor hands. To him, more with tears than with words, I poured out my anxieties, my fears, my extreme weakness, and since I had to carry the very heavy cross that had been placed on my wavering shoulders, I prayed to him with great fervor to come to my aid. I stood up from before that hallowed grave in Valsalice, if not completely reassured, at least more trusting and resigned. It goes without saying that I promised Don Bosco and Don Rua that I would spare nothing to preserve in our humble Congregation the spirit and traditions we learned from them.” The Lord amply blessed his life, which was characterized by hard work and filled with concern for others and good works. He gave him the consolation of seeing his labors blessed, in the number of Salesians which increased by almost a thousand during his Rectorate, despite the voids caused by the war; in the number of houses that increased by 103; in the new Missions opened in the Belgian Congo in Africa; in China and in Assam in Asia; in the Rio Negro in Brazil and in Chaco Paraguay in Latin America; in the growth of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians, which he supported with affection; in the various houses of formation for new Candidates; and in the new and flourishing festive oratories. The Lord finally granted him the gift of overcoming the arduous trials of World War I by seeing the Pious Society resume its normal rhythm, with increasing attention to its spiritual life. He died silently on October 29, 1921, discreet as always. Before the recent transfer of his remains to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians, he had been laid to rest alongside Don Bosco and Don Rua in Valsalice. It was just and fitting that his tomb should be where his mind and heart were.

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TRANSLATION ABRAHAM KADAPLACKAL SDB

1. New things are beginning to blossom There is a marvelous text in the Prophet Isaiah: “Do not remember the former things, or consider the things of old. I am about to do a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and river in the desert.” (Is 43, 18-19). Do not ruminate over what happened, or what went wrong in your life, the offences and insults you may have suffered, the occasions in your life in which you have been penalized. Stop worrying about the past. That is over. Now something new will happen in your life. It is God who works in us. He makes our drab routine, flourishing. What was dry and useless in our life, suddenly becomes flourishing. The prophet is not satisfied with making known that God is working in us. He says that the new is already sprouting in us. 2. Starting afresh means to be in control Every new day is like a clear, snowcapped field, in

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which no one has ever walked. Do not go ahead blindly: think. That is the gift of the beginning. We are no more slaves of time. The one who begins becomes the master of his life. When the tsunami of the virus will disappear, leaving behind the human wounds and social tragedies, it will be for all to take active part in the work of reconstruction. This will not be something great or spectacular. To reconstruct means to renew everything, that can be renewed. At the human level, as at Christmas the most modest and humble way: to the weakest that we have so often left at the side of the road of the old world. Forgiveness, healing and repair, are the first acts that point to a concrete hope. 3. A little bit everyday The work may seem gigantic and you may be tempted to postpone it or leave it aside. Regarding this, the old monks used to say a story about a young monk who was not succeeding to improve himself. He thought it was useless to fight against mistakes. He was making the same mistakes. The abbot told him the story of a young man, who was asked by his father to clean up a property, filled with brambles and thistles. The young man went to the property and was discouraged. The field was large and filled with thorns. The young man did not know where to start. He felt that he would never be

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able to clear the field full of thorns and thistles. His father told him: My son, work everyday a little. You will progress in your work gradually, without losing heart. The young man followed the advice and cleaned it in a short time. It is not necessary that we do everything at the first shot. It is necessary that we begin. After the first step, the mountain in front of us will become smaller every day. The prophet Isaiah spoke of young men who work hard and get tired, who stumble and fall. Those, however, who trust in the Lord, regain their strength, take wings like the eagle, run without getting exhausted. God gives us a new force always. It is clear from the actions of the old and the young. The new in us is like the wings of an eagle, which take us to the heights with ease, make us explore new avenues. If we allow these words to sink in our hearts, they will present to us with a new and young world, with the wings of the eagle, which all of us have within us. This is what a small story teaches us. A great king received two birds of prey as a gift and he called a keeper of birds to train them up. After a few months, the keeper told the King that one of the birds was fully trained. When the King asked about the other, the keeper said it was behaving strange. Perhaps it had some sickness which no one could cure. No one was able to take it away from the tree on which it was perched from the first day. One of the workers had to climb up the tree daily to feed it. The King called the veterinary and other experts, no one could make it fly. He gave order to the members of the court, the generals, the best counsellors to do the job, no one could remove the bird from the branch. From the window of the palace, the King could see the bird immovable on the tree, day and night. He sent out an edict seeking help to solve the problem.

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On the following morning, the King flung open the window and to his great surprise, he saw the bird flying on the trees in the garden. He gave an order to bring the author of this miracle to him. After a short while, they presented a young farmer to him. You have made the bird fly. How did you do that? Are you a magician by chance? Frightened but happy, the young man said: Your majesty, I just cut the branch. The bird realized that it had wings and began to fly. At times, God allows someone to cut the branch to which we are passionately attached. And we will realize that we have wings to soar high. 5. The blessing inside We need a strong will to change. At times, we hear the old slogans: I am nothing. I am not capable to do anything. I am a disgrace. I will never be able to live a good life. If someone is obsessed with such thoughts, he should meditate on the words of St. Paul: “If one is in Christ, there is a new creation: everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new!” (2 Cor 5, 17). Repeat that often and believe it. You are good. Do not brood over the past. Think of God’s blessing. It is in Christ Jesus, who is in us. There is his spirit in us who can transform and renew the old things. Let us accept our past, but it has no power over us. Let us realize that there is a new reality in us, Christ Jesus, is stronger than our past. Hence trusting in what is new in us, we can explore new ways, follow the path God has given us. A path of reconciliation and transformation. (Translated by Fr. Abraham Kadaplackel SDB, from the original Italian Salesian Bulletin, 11, 2020, by CARMEN LAVAL)

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COLUMN

SANJANA MURALIDHARAN

Time and again, empowerment of women has been a talking point. According to the Cambridge dictionary, the meaning of ‘Empowerment’ is the process of gaining freedom and power to do what you want or to control what happens to you. In the 21st Century, a lot of literal power stems from finance. Even though women have come a long way in the past twenty to thirty years, breaking various barriers of discrimination, and rising to the top of their chosen fields some of which were traditionally male dominated and securing a lot of quintessential rights for themselves, we witness that they are still oblivious and unenlightened about financial matters. Interestingly enough, the findings from the LXME Survey 2020, which interviewed 1,250 women aged between 25-54, across metropolitan cities like Mumbai, Bengaluru, New Delhi, Mangalore, Pune, Jaipur, Kolkata and Hyderabad, to assess money-related attitudes among women shows that about 66 percent of single women do not make their own financial decisions and 28 per cent of them depend on their fathers. When it came to married women, the number of women not making independent financial decisions increased to 69 per cent with the fathers being replaced by husbands. Also according to the findings of DSP Winvestor Pulse 2019 Survey in association

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with research agency Nielsen which covered 4,013 women and men across 8 cities, just 33 per cent of Indian women take independent investment decisions as compared to 64 per cent of men. Financial Independence is paramount. It gives women a voice : a new found confidence and strength and provides women the benefits of decision making, since they can choose to live by their terms, make mistakes and learn from them. It becomes all the more important for women to be the architects of their own financial future because of the pay gap and other workspace discrepancies that have existed and will continue to pose threats to their growth in the perceived future. The highway to an evolved and egalitarian society goes through a fair power play between men and women and financial independence would make certain that women become more powerful and assertive. For generations, women were excluded from being active participants in the family’s financial affairs and presented as figures lacking financial know-how and this has led to the dangerous disparity of women being financially dependent on men. As quoted by Martin Luther King Jr., “Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.” In order to become financially independent it is necessary that women break free from the outdated stereotypical ideas that it’s the man’s duty to maintain the finance and become more financially involved and educated.

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POEM

FR. GEORGE PLATHOTTAM SDB

The Salesian today may look more like a modern cowboy Than a shepherd with a crook leading youth to the brooks Don’t be deceived, though clad in jeans and trendy T-shirts He still has the heart of a shepherd, the heart of Don Bosco. Know they still walk by the youth distant miles and pathways Tirelessly working round the clock or waking in their dreams Dreaming like their Father dreams they hope will come true For each of God’s special children they are called to save. The fire has spread far and wide, the tide has soared high sky The youth sure have changed, their world is vastly varied Yet their quest is clear and the Salesian ought to hear Don Bosco’s whisper: ‘love them and let them know it too’ Run up to meet them in the playgrounds, malls and highways Chat them up in the cyberspace and meet them in person Catch up with them wherever they are-- God’s special Gift, Don Bosco’s legacy, sure way to holiness for the Salesian today.

Fr. George Plathottam sdb

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PERSPECTIVE DR. D.J. MARGARET FMA

There are three books in the Bible named after women: Esther, Judith and Ruth. Ruth is also one of the few women who is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus found in the Gospel of Matthew in a time when women weren’t ordinarily included in genealogies. The name Ruth means “friendship.” Ruth was the wife of Boaz, daughter-in-law to Naomi, and a simple Moabite widow who had become an essential character in the story of salvation woven through the Bible. The book of Ruth is a beautiful piece of sacred literature, applauded by many for its literary excellence. It is such a touching love story, and a charming tale of emptiness to abundance, bitterness to joy. The book of Ruth narrates the following story of a woman whose devotion and loyalty provide an inspiring portrait of faith and resilience. A famine in Canaan forces Elimelech and Naomi, along with their sons, to migrate from Bethlehem to Moab. Their sons marry Moabite women, Orpah and Ruth. Elimelech dies, and about 10 years later, both of Naomi’s sons die as well. Naomi, Ruth, and Orpah are all widows. Naomi encourages both the girls to go back to their parents and find husbands who can take care of them. While Orpah returns to her home, Ruth refuses to do so with a following passionate expression to Naomi: “Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God (Ruth 1: 16, 17). So, Ruth and Naomi both return to Bethlehem. They have nothing, so Ruth goes to work in the grain fields so that they can have enough food to eat. It’s there that she meets Boaz, who also turns out to be her “redeemer.” After Boaz secures his place as her redeemer, the two are married and are later blessed with a son named Obed - the grandfather of King David. The life of Ruth is an ordinary and yet challenging one. Ruth is just a widow - one from an enemy nation. Her life is shaped by faith and resilience. She is led gradually in an amazing and mighty way by God in whom she had learnt to believe in. As Naomi pointed out, Ruth was free to leave her mother-in-law after the death of her husband. But Ruth makes a different decision, revealing not only

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her dedication to her mother-in-law, but her dedication to the God of Israel (Ruth 1:16-17). Ruth made a colossal sacrifice by refusing to return to her family of origin. Her commitment to stay with Naomi was a selfless and beautiful act of love. Because of Ruth’s resolve, she was able to help her mother-in-law and play a part in the lineage of Jesus Christ. The story of Naomi and Ruth are woven together closely that their stories are nearly inseparable. Their relationship offers a beautiful model of a loving and loyal relationship. This relationship is a fantastic blending of lives of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law. These two women share not only great sorrow, but they also share great affection for one another. There is genuine freedom in their relationship. For instance, Naomi loved Ruth so much and yet she was willing to let her go back to her family. But it was Ruth’s love for Naomi that made her willing by leave her country to return to Israel. Even though Naomi knew that a new marriage for Ruth would change their relationship, she still played a significant part in arranging the marriage of Boaz and Ruth. It was their faith that was at the centre of their loving relationship and joyous resilience. Through Naomi, Ruth learned about the God of Israel and chose to put her complete trust in him. Naomi’s ability to be open and honest with Ruth about her relationship with God is inspiring. Ruth’s faithfulness to God and to her Mother -inlaw Naomi brought her many blessings. Naomi was open with Ruth about the joy, the fear, the pain, and the anguish that came with her faith in God. She admitted that she felt that God had dealt with her bitterly. And yet it was that sharing and intimacy that was the foundation of the deep relationship these two women have shared and grown. Ruth went above and beyond in the way she honoured and respected her mother-in-law, and in doing so became known in the entire city as a “virtuous woman.” She worked hard to provide food for her and her motherin-law. Ruth showed incredible character and resilience in the obscurity of her life and future. Everything that she did revealed her loving and loyal personality, and because of that personality, she was accepted by people and

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honoured by God. Like Ruth, we also need to become women and men of character and integrity. Through Ruth’s story, we learn that God makes uses of the most unlikely people for his purpose. Ruth reminds us that no matter what lies in our past, and no matter how difficult our circumstances may be, a little bit of faith makes a huge difference. And even in our obscurity, and in the disarray of what may be our lives, God finds a way to use the most unlikely people in ways that we could never imagine. The life of Ruth teaches us that we need to have right knowledge of God which will move us into right relationship with Him. Ruth’s faithfulness was noticeable, even when she didn’t realize it. Ruth showed her dedication by her willingness to work hard all day long (Ruth 2:7). Several times throughout her story, Ruth was praised by Boaz for her hard work and honesty (Ruth 2:11; 3:11). We may still be struggling and working hard, feeling that our very best efforts are going unnoticed. But we need to remember this–God sees what we are doing, and other people are probably seeing it too. It may take time, but nothing we are doing will be done in vain when we do it for God and for God alone. The life of Ruth teaches that we can see that even when we can’t see beyond our pain of God’s plan, we can have hope that our story isn’t over – better days are coming soon. Ruth didn’t allow her past to hold her back but believed there was life still to be lived and moved forward with that confidence and optimism. Our past is not our final destination when we make a choice in love and faith. While our confidence may

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be wavering, God’s promises are not. Every one of us has a purpose regardless of what lies behind us. No matter what our past, we still have a purpose to live with joy. Ruth knew little about the twists and turns her path would take, but she took the best information she had, made a choice, and followed through. It is this kind of faith that makes us stronger and helps us to experience more of what God has for us. Ruth believed God would provide and in that place of faith God did a miraculous work to redeem Ruth. He took a poor, hurting outcast and healed her, provided her, and brought her a great love with Boaz. Redemption is possible in our life. No matter where one comes from or what one has been through, God has a plan for everyone that far surpasses all of that. One of the best parts of Ruth’s story is the legacy God established through her. God brought her and Boaz together and Ruth gave birth to a child named Obed who later became the father of Jesse who later became the father of David who, as we know, is in the direct family line of Jesus Christ! How awesome to see the braveness and commitment of a young Moabite woman who became part of the lineage of Jesus Christ and brought the family lines of Christ into fruition. God also brought joy back to Naomi as she lovingly helped to take care of Obed! If we commit our life to God and if our calling is firm in Him, there is no limit to what God can do through us. No matter what our season may be, we only need to remember that God is at work in our life. He is weaving a beautiful tapestry; it’s not finished, but it is in progress. Let us question ourselves: How can we leave a legacy to our family and those all around us--a legacy of faith and optimism? Do we know that God is gracious, good, awesome and that He loves us immensely? In moments of greater challenge and obscurity can we look at the life of Ruth and remember that God works for the good of His people? How awesome is our God that He can take control of such a dark and lonely season for Naomi and Ruth and turn it into joy, love, and prosperity! Let us never underestimate the plan of God and the power of our decision, commitment, humility, and integrity! The story of Ruth, a woman’s devotion and loyalty continues to offer us an inspiring portrayal of faith and resilience.

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SOUTH ASIA

CHURCH NEWS

Pope Francis calls for end to ‘bloody clashes’ in Burma from Myanmar,” he said, using the country’s official name.

Pope Francis appealed on Wednesday for an end to “bloody clashes” and the release of political leaders in Burma. Speaking at the end of his general audience on March 3, the pope lamented the deaths of protesters following a military coup in the Southeast Asian country on Feb. 1. “Sad news of bloody clashes and loss of life continue to arrive

“I would like to draw the attention of the authorities involved to the fact that dialogue prevails over repression and harmony over discord.” “I also appeal to the international community to ensure that the aspirations of the people of Myanmar are not stifled by violence. May the young people of that beloved land be granted the hope of a future where hatred and injustice make way for encounter and reconciliation.”

Catholic bishops urge Sri Lankan government to release report on 2019 Easter bombings The Sri Lankan government must release its report on the Easter 2019 terrorist attack on Christian churches and hotels, saysCatholic leaders. Cardinal Malcolm Ranjith of Colombo reportedly will not meet with any Sri Lanka politicians due to the delay. He has postponed meetings with Catholic members of parliament in both the government and the opposition, the Sri Lanka newspaper The Island reported, citing sources in the cardinal’s office. Other bishops have also spoken out about 22

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the failure to release the report from the presidential inquiry into the Easter Sunday attacks, which killed more than 260 people and injured more than 500. “We have a lot of doubts about this whole process, the whole thing is getting delayed,” Bishop Winston Fernando of Badulla, head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Sri Lanka, told the Associated Press.

Commission rejects Indian Christians’ plea to change poll date The Election Commission of India has turned down a request to change the election date in West Bengal and Assam from  Maundy Thursday. The  All India Catholic Union (AICU), the largest laity movement in Asia, submitted a petition asking the commission to reconsider holding polls on April 1, the day before Good Friday, in the eastern and northeastern states. Chandra Bhushan Kumar, deputy election commissioner,  rejected the petition on March 1. “He said changing the

date is not possible at this stage as all the necessary arrangements have already been made in West Bengal and Assam states,” AICU  national coordinator A.C. Michael told. “However,  he assured us to check the dates for elections in Meghalaya and all the northeastern

states where Christians are the majority for future elections.”

Cardinal Bo urges prayer octave for China

a Worldwide Day of Prayer for the Church in China.

Charles Maung Cardinal Bo of Yangon on Sunday called for the expansion of a day of prayer for the Church in China, established by Benedict XVI, into an octave. In 2007, Benedict designated May 24, the feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, as

“On behalf of the Church throughout Asia, as President of the Federation of Asian Bishops Conferences, I would like to call on the faithful to extend that to a Week of Prayer for the Church in China and the peoples of China, from Sunday 23 May until Sunday 30 May,” Cardinal Bo wrote in a March 14 statement.

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GLOBAL

Pope Francis to mark 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines with Mass

Pope Francis will offer Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on March 14 to mark 500 years of Catholic faith in the Philippines. The Mass will be attended by Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the former

archbishop of Manila, as well as Filipino Catholics living in Rome. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, a limited number of people will be able to attend, but the Mass will be live-streamed for people to watch around the world. The papal Mass is being held in honor of the year’s 500th anniversary of the presence of the Catholic faith in the Philippines, where the first Mass and the first Baptism took place in 1521.

Christian medical groups urge conscience protections amid Covid-19 vaccination push In a joint statement Tuesday, several Christian medical organizations highlighted the importance of conscience protections as COVID-19 vaccines are being administered. Governing authorities ought to respect an individual’s decision to accept or refuse a vaccine according to their conscience, the organizations stated. “While the pandemic remains a significant public health crisis, the individual rights of American citizens also remains of paramount importance. The guarantee of ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of March 2021

happiness’ includes the right to make individual health care decisions while taking into account our responsibility for the common good,” the March 2 statement reads. Signers included the Catholic Medical Association, Christian Medical and Dental Association, the American College of Pediatricians, and the National Association of Catholic Nurses, U.S.A.

CHURCH NEWS

Canadian bishops’ charitable arm to end partnerships with groups in conflict with Catholic teaching The Canadian bishops’ conference announced Thursday that after a review of organizations that receive project f u n d i n g from their inter nat iona l development agency, it will discontinue 24 partnerships over concerns about compatibility with Church teaching. “In examining the partner organizations, the joint subcommittee focused its work around several questions, including

whether the partner supported anything contrary to Catholic moral or social teaching, whether its actions might mislead others with respect to the same, whether the partner’s professed values align with its actions online and on the ground, and whether the partner’s actions could undermine the credibility of the Bishops in Canada or in the host country,” the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops said.

Christians and Muslims alike welcome Pope Francis’ trip to Iraq Iraqi Christians and Muslims alike have expressed excitment for Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Iraq, an aid worker based in Erbil told CNA this week. D a v i d e Bernocchi, Catholic Relief Services’ country representative for Iraq, said: “People are really hopeful and grateful for this visit. This country has been at the center of attention for bad news for so many years unfortunately, and now they are really happy to be the center of the world’s attention for a

few days because of this great and positive event.” “It’s really not just the Christians; it is the whole of the Iraqi people who are waiting for this visit .My sense is that with the exception of the small remnants of ISIS everyone else is really happy about this visit.” Large banners depicting Pope Francis alongside Ali al-Sistani, an influential Shiite cleric in Iraq, have been hung in Najaf, one of the most sacred pilgrimage sites in Shiite Islam, after only Mecca and Medina. The Salesian Bulletin

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ECOLOGY

RICOPAR ROYAN SDB

J

ust imagine a life without fear. Nothing could be as peaceful as leading such a life. But it can be hard, very hard. But some species in the animal kingdom are lucky enough to enjoy a life without fear because there is no other animal to hunt them within their habitat. Humans are the only threat to such apex predators on Earth. When we think about fearless animals on earth, we may conclude with one of the apex predators on earth like lion, tiger or leopard. No, it is the Honey Badger. It just does not care about anything and fears almost nothing. This animal is native to Africa, Southwest Asia, and India. The Honey Badger has bestowed upon it the Guinness World Record of being the “World’s Most Fearless Creature.”

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Why and how are these Honey Badgers fierce and fearless? These ‘bad badger boys’ of the animal kingdom have a high metabolism, meaning that they hunt relentlessly for food, making their success rate much higher than their lazier animal counterparts. Then there is the smell. An anal pouch can be emptied out to mark territory, deter predators much like a skunk. Honey badgers are carnivores and in addition to honey and bee larvae, they have a varied menu of carrion, scorpions, birds, mice, and even bigger animals such as buck and buffalo. They will occasionally eat certain flowers and fruits if food is scarce. Basically, their strength comes from their adaptability.

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Honey Badgers are immune, or have a degree of immunity, to certain snake venoms. They can even get bitten by the King Cobras and Puff Adders multiple times with little effect. Even the most poisonous snakes like puff adder are little match for their intrepid hunting skills. The puff adder’s venom might melt human flesh, but for badgers, although it can be lethal, it can also merely put the honey badger into a coma for anything from a few minutes to a few hours, before it regains consciousness to continue his snake snack. Honey Badgers take the term ‘thick skinned’ to a new level. The secret of their fearlessness is a loose but incredibly thick, rubbery skin (about 6mm) round the neck area. When a predator attacks the badger and bites, his skin is so loose that it allows the badger to twist around and attack the other animal, even though it still has him gripped. Few animals will be able to withstand the badger’s mean claws and bite, and so quickly let go. Arrows and spears can seldom penetrate it, so even human hunters’ efforts are thwarted, and bee stings mostly have little effect, although some are known to have died from stings and bites. Honey badgers are not afraid of tackling many environments. They’re at home in the desert in Namibia, or the outskirts of the Sahara, as they are in the dense Zaire rain forests, although they prefer drier areas. They equally adapt to living in the afro-alpine steppes in Ethiopia as they do to living at sea-level. They are very intelligent. So clever they have been known to create and use tools. A 1997 Indian documentary series (Land of the Tiger) showed a honey badger using a log which he rolled and then stood upright on to reach a bird. In numerous escapes he used a variety of sticks, a rake, his mate as a ‘ladder’, heaps of mud rolled into balls to climb up, and piles of stones. The have been observed using tools to catch prey.  They are also smart enough to follow Honeyguide birds to find beehives where they’ll eat the larvae and honey. March 2021

Then there are the teeth. They are so strong that they make snacking on tortoises as easy as eating a chicken pie. Along with sharp teeth, honey badgers also have incredibly powerful jaws. This is helpful due to the fact that the honey badger will eat every part of its prey, including the bones.  The jaws are even powerful enough to eat a turtle, including the shell, without difficulty. This combination of remarkable innate defensive and offensive capabilities has resulted in the honey badger seemingly fearing few things.  Their aggressiveness has also resulted in few predators, which normally might try to eat something the honey badger’s size, choosing to avoid the animal.  Even predators such as lions and leopards tend to give the Honey Badger a large berth, though Honey Badgers have been known to be killed by lions and leopards.  Honey badgers’ main threat is human due to poisoning and trapping. Furthermore, beekeepers do not like honey badgers because they destroy beehives. Luckily, honey badger’s fierceness has kept it from being seriously endangered. Due to their large space requirements, viable populations of honey badgers are unlikely to be contained within the smaller protected areas. Their biological features of a smaller litter size (1-2 cubs) and extended period of dependence on their mothers may make honey badgers particularly vulnerable to local extinctions in unprotected areas where there is ongoing persecution and conflict with beekeepers and farmers. We humans have a lot to learn from this fearless animal. When you feel like the world is against you, and you are breaking down, you might need some motivation from this animal to go on. Living in a harsh area, honey badgers never think twice to fight for food or survival. That’s why this animal mostly can survive  anywhere on earth, because of its bravery in survival. The Salesian Bulletin

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HUMOUR A. J. FRANK

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FEATURE Fr. Joe Andrew SDB

On 14th February 2020, I went to the Chennai Airport to fly to Turin via Dubai for the 28th General Chapter of the Salesians of Don Bosco. For the lay readers, the General Chapter could be described as the General Assembly of the Salesians of Don Bosco that happens once in 6 years and from each Salesian Province, the Provincial and two or three elected members participate in this very important meeting of the Salesian congregation. It is the body that holds the supreme authority in the Salesian congregation. In the Chennai airport I could already see a few masks. I was also carrying some N 95 masks, gloves and some small sanitizer bottles (suddenly they have become so indispensable). At the Dubai airport Fr. K.M. Jose, the Provincial and brother Francis who was invited as an observer, joined me. They had spent two days in Fujairah where we have a Salesian community. At the Dubai airport we could see more masks than at the

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Chennai airport and people were moving around with caution. But the flights were still full and the airport was crowded. When we landed in Milan airport a fever check was done for all the passengers and there was a huge crowd at the immigration counters for the passport check. Some were standing with masks but the others seemed worried. Around 9.30 p.m. we walked out of the airport. We took the airport bus to Turin. We were welcomed by Fr. Nallayan in the Turin bus terminus. We then went to have hot pizzas in one of the pizzerias nearby. That would be the last real pizza we had during this Italian stay (this time around we did not even taste a proper Italian ice cream for which Italy is so famous). All the Chennai province

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confreres were lucky to have their rooms in the Valdocco campus. I was given a beautiful room attached to the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. Only four of us had the privilege of using the rooms attached to the Basilica. We were really lucky because many Salesians were staying in hotels or in the FMA house and every day they had to come for the Chapter meetings by bus or by walk. Initially it was very cold and so it may not have been very easy for them to walk early in the morning for the Holy Eucharist. The General Chapter was set to begin on Sunday, 16th 2020 February at 6.30 p.m. By the 15th of February most of the Chapter members had arrived. We were 222 members with the right to vote (those by office and those elected in the provinces) and 20 guests and observers. So, we were 242 official members from the six regions of the world. 23 Salesians took part in the first General Chapter which took place in Lanzo Torinese in 1877, presided over by Don Bosco. And now with 242 members we can say that we have grown as a congregation (in fact, the fastest growing in the world; there are around 14,500 Salesians in the world across 5 continents, 136 nations and 7 large regions). The three regions with the greatest number of participants were Central & Northern Europe with 37 members; South Asia (mainly India-Sri Lanka) with 33 members and the Mediterranean region (Southern Europe) with 31 members. The General Chapter members were from 66 nations but working in 130 countries. Surprisingly the three Nations with the most participants were: India with 31 members; Italy with 19 members and Brazil with 12 members. Hence it is India as a country that sends the highest number of delegates to the Chapter. This great diversity is the richness of the Chapter and the Congregation but there is also the danger of getting lost in the crowd. As we could notice in the refectory, most of the Asians would be congregating in one area because of the language problem and other factors. Similarly, the other groups also. Those from certain parts of Africa would move around more because they are fluent in many languages. The Asian area was the far end of the new refectory under the Basilica of Mary Help of Christians. The Rector Major and his council had appointed Fr Stefano Vanoli, General Secretary of the General Council, as the moderator of the Chapter and he was assisted by a talented group of secretaries and it was nice to see that most of them were from India. The main secretary and chief manager was Fr. Ezhanikattu Saimi and then for all technical expertise and solutions there was Fr. Maria Lawrence (Chennai Province and he was much wanted) and there was Fr. Patrick (Tiruchy Province) who was also involved in translation and other secretarial works. Fr. Nallayan (Chennai Province) was all over the place helping out with hospitality concerns and medical care and he was the person most searched for during the Chapter 28

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(from tickets, pickups, drops, shopping, to medicines). There was a constant chorus: “Where is Nalli?!” Thanks to Nallayan those from Chennai and Tiruchy Province had some delicious South Indian meals. There is such a craving for South Indian food when we are there for more than a month. Of course, there was some ‘Indian-spicesaroma’ in the corridor where his room was situated (for some Italians it could have been a very bad smell). We also relished the delicious dishes prepared by Deacon Stylo (what a great cook!). The General Chapter began on 16th February with a solemn Mass in the beautiful basilica of Mary Help of Christians presided over by the Rector Major. The more we spend time inside this basilica the more we love its beauty and grace. The official inauguration was on Saturday 22nd February, with a solemn Mass and inaugural function. Many Salesian bishops and VIPS normally take part in this event. The General Chapter could be divided into these important areas of work and prayer / animation: 1) the daily and special Holy Eucharists, the short retreats, moments of prayer, lectio divina, good night talks, organized visits to the historical places related to Don Bosco. 2) The solemn functions like inaugural Mass, Official inaugural session, Conclusion, and other special events (like the Pope’s visit) 3) The presentation of the State of the Congregation, Regions and sectors of the Congregation. 4) Discussion and deliberation on the main theme of the General Chapter in commissions and general assemblies. 5) Discussion and deliberation on the changes in the Constitutions and Regulations and other points of importance (Varia) 6) Election of the Rector Major and other General Councillors (this of course is the most interesting part of the Chapter). Why GC 28 was a very special General Chapter: Return to Valdocco: “We are in Valdocco, we are from Valdocco”: was not just a statement, but a heartfelt greeting for the Salesians arriving in Valdocco – Turin to participate in GC 28. These are the words expressed by Fr Stefano Vanoli, Chapter Moderator, in what can be called the pre-chapter Goodnight talk on the evening of Saturday, 15 February. The General Chapter returned to Valdocco-Turin after 62 years. The Rector Major and the other General Councillors were constantly talking about the importance of returning to Valdocco both physically, emotionally, spiritually and with the dream of relaunching into the future with the youth in the spirit of Don Bosco. Pisana was a very convenient place for the Chapter, in the sense that all of us had rooms within the campus, it was a good set-up for a meeting of this scale (halls, church, refectory etc.) and a lot of space for walking etc. So, everything was in place there. The congregation would have spent an enormous amount of money to get our Mother House ready for such a big meeting. But for most of us a return March 2021


to Valdocco where Don Bosco spent most of his apostolic time and energy, built the congregation little by little and also died there, was an emotional and meaning laden return. The main theme of this Chapter was “What kind of Salesians for the young people of today.” A Chapter in Valdocco was meant to strengthen the vocation and charismatic identity of Don Bosco’s disciples. We were returning to the place where our origin is to be found and it is the place of our originality as well. Valdocco stands for the great dreams Don Bosco is known for. The challenge was whether the Salesians could once again dream like their father Don Bosco. Corona Virus and GC 28 The General Chapter was inaugurated on 16th February and was scheduled to end on 4th April, the Saturday before Palm Sunday. By the end of February, the Corona Virus situation in Italy in a very unexpected way, was getting worse. On 24th February the Rector Major in his goodnight talk informed the members about the seriousness of the situation and requested us to be careful and that all visits outside the campus have to be cancelled and not to move about in big groups. By the beginning of March, Italy was under a total lockdown and was becoming the epicentre of COVID 19 in the world. The death rate was very high. More than 35,000 people died in Italy (these were huge numbers for a small country). The Italian government had become very strict and by the beginning of March the participants of GC 28 were quietly talking about the situation and those coming from the hotels were also finding it difficult. But the meetings were proceeding with the usual fervour. All organized visits to Milan, Genoa, Becchi, Chieri etc. were cancelled. We could only move around the campus. On 5th March the Rector Major once again addressed the assembly and spoke about the seriousness of the pandemic and asked the participants to take seriously the measures announced by the Italian state, keep a low profile as a group of Chapter members, stop all information sharing, cancel all visits and extraordinary meetings, and the lay people who were invited to attend the sessions on lay participation were told not to come. He also asked us to start reflecting about having the elections early. The members accepted the proposal to have early elections. After having the approval of the Chapter members, we had to work on approving the Constitutional changes needed to have the elections using digital technology (using intranet) without using the traditional paper ballots. There was a lot of discussion about the process and measures to secure the information shared on the digital platform. But the new method of voting was approved with a great majority of votes. On the 10th and 11th of March we began the spiritual preparation for the elections and on 12th March Fr Ángel Fernández Artime was re-elected for a second six-year March 2021

term. In the meantime, the Corona Virus situation was becoming really bad with more than 1000 deaths every day. On 12th March the Rector Major announced we would have to conclude the General Chapter on Saturday 14th morning with the Holy Eucharist. Because of the electronic voting the election process was completed in a record time of three days following all the rules and regulations. On 13th March, after supper we had a very low-key celebration/felicitation for the Rector Major and the new General Council. The Chapter came to an abrupt conclusion on 14th March 2020 with a simple but solemn Mass presided over by the Rector Major. There was a lot of sadness visible on the faces of the Moderator and others because they had worked so hard for this Chapter. We were closing twenty days before the scheduled day of closure. Soon after Mass confreres who had come by personal vehicles, began to leave because many countries were closing their borders. We could not conclude the discussions on the main theme and other Constitutional changes etc. and hence may be for the first time in the history of the congregation a Chapter concluded abruptly without deliberations and a document that usually captures the essence and fruit of the Chapter work that begins three years in advance and then is taken to the Provinces with the Provincial Chapters. It was said that the Rector Major would give a road-map for the coming six years based on this theme. But of course, we should thank God that the elections were held and we have the Rector Major re-elected for another six-year term and a new General council to assist him to govern and animate the Congregation for the coming six years. In the meantime, in India people were getting worried about the situation in Italy and many were fasting and praying. GC 28 and Modern Technology The first information that all the Chapter members received after the date of arrival and departure etc. was that each one had to come with a laptop with an updated operating system, virus protection. A lot of instructions were given regarding our digital preparedness. The first thing we were asked to do on arrival in Turin was to hand over our laptops for virus checks and installing the special GC 28 software or digital platform. A local WiFi was made available for us and we can say that it was a paperless meeting. Hardly any paper was used and no plastic bottles were used. It was a eco friendly meeting. No time was wasted on roll calls (it was digitally known if anyone was missing). Imagine calling out 242 names every day. It was fully automated. If you are missing in your seat you are automatically marked absent. Voting for the Rector Major, his vicar and other councillors was reduced by days not just hours. During the days of paper The Salesian Bulletin

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ballots each participant’s name was called and we had to go up to the main stage to vote one by one when our names were called. You can imagine the time that would have been needed. Now you just had to click on the names and in a few seconds or minutes the results were projected on the huge LED screen on the stage. All the documents were available on our laptops and so no paper was used. All interventions had to be sent via the well-made computer programme for GC 28. Everything was available on one digital platform. Even the various commission meetings were mostly paperless. The only hitch was the instantaneous translation, it was supposed to be through our laptops and personal headsets but it did not work well and so we had to go back to the old hand held systems used in the other chapters. The hall was specially arranged in such a way that one did not have to go up to the stage to intervene in the General Assemblies, one could talk from his own place and his image would appear on the giant screen on the stage. We gained a lot of time because of this. There was a live telecast of most of the important events of the Chapter on Facebook and other channels of communication. We can proudly say that it was a digital Chapter meeting adapted for today’s culture and environment. Kudos to all those behind the scene who worked very hard for this. Other important news worthy and special events: Pope Francis and GC 28: As we all know well Pope Francis has a lot of affection and esteem for the Salesians and the Salesian Congregation. When the Chapters were held in Rome, all the Chapter members would go to the Vatican for a special Papal audience, message and blessing. But this time Pope Francis had decided to come to Valdocco-Turin to meet his beloved sons and this was a well-kept secret by the Rector Major. The Pope was to spend a night at Valdocco. But God’s designs are at times not in keeping with our desires and we had to be content with a good and inspiring message and personal voice clip from the Pope. Pope Francis had sent a very encouraging but challenging message to all the participants. This would need another article in the Bulletin. Presence of Youth in the Chapter: The theme of GC 28, ‘What kind of Salesians for the youth of today?’ made it mandatory to have the youth to express their opinions, ideas and share their concerns. The different provinces were also asked to involve the youth in the Provincial Chapters. There were 16 young people from five continents (with two from India) who accompanied us on our journey at the General Chapter. These young adults were between the ages of 25 and 30. As soon 30

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as they arrived, they connected themselves with each other and with the Salesians in a wonderful manner. This was their message to the Salesians: “We succeeded in having our hearts beat in unison. You have given us the opportunity to connect with you, Salesians, whom we want to be among us. You did this in your Salesian style. Stay with us, side-by-side, and allow us to be protagonists, too.” The young people told us that they love us, that they really love us as educators, and like friends, brothers, and parents, since, they added, the young people of today suffer from a great dearth of fatherly care and concern. Many of them became very emotional when they spoke. Conclusion: Most of the Europeans and those from other parts of the world left immediately and a few from India also. Around 20 Indian Salesians had booked our return tickets for the 18th of March and at the Turin airport we were told that we could not return because by then India had decided to stop all international flights. We were really sad and came back to Valdocco and we were welcomed lovingly by the community. Though we were longing to come back to resume our work in Chennai and other parts of India, we were happy to spend some months under the protection of Mary Help of Christians and Don Bosco. We had to stay the full season of Lent in Turin; we celebrated Easter, Pentecost and also the feast of Mary Help of Christians (24th May) in Turin. We were well looked after by the Salesians in Valdocco, Turin. Many of the Provincials and others were doing simple duties like cleaning the basement, the courtyard, the basilica, cleaning window panes etc. We also spent a lot of time in prayer. We were fully involved in the feast of Mary Help of Christians (confessions, guides, cleaning, preparing the place etc). Finally, on 4th June we got an opportunity to fly back to New Delhi by a special flight organized by the Indian government, of course on payment. It was a difficult process and a not so comfortable flight but we were happy to come back. We were quarantined in New Delhi in a hotel for one week and finally on 12th June three of us returned to Chennai and we were asked to quarantine ourselves in our communities. All three of us tested positive and finally on 15th July, after five months (that’s nearly half the academic year) I was able to return to my office in Don Bosco, Beatitudes, Chennai. We thank God and our Blessed Mother for bringing us back safely and we are grateful to the big number of people who were fasting and praying for us. It was indeed an unforgettable experience! Most of us attributed this protection to Mary Help of Christians under whose mantle we stayed for four months. March 2021


SOUTH ASIA

SALESIAN NEWS

India - Football tournament for children of Chennai Don Bosco Youth Center From 20 to 21 February, at the Don Bosco Youth Center in Chennai, the “St Domenico Savio” football tournament was held; about 45 teams competed, category “Under 14”, from Chennai and neighboring cities. The “Puzhal FC B” team won the

trophy, but the winners were all the young participants, who had the opportunity to compete and have fun putting all their talent on the field. At the end of the tournament, actor Mime Gopi presented the cup and other prizes to the young players.

India – “Snehotsava”: a Festival of Friendship Twenty-three young women who lived at the Salesian Surakshita Home, located in the town of Ravulapalem in Andhra Pradesh, India, were supported through funding from Salesian Missions, the U.S. development arm of the Salesians of Don Bosco. Surakshita Home provides living facilities for young women who have been in legal trouble. There are dorms, bathrooms, a dining hall, a work room and a training hall.When young women enter the program run by Surakshita Home, they are given clothing and proper nutrition. They are sent for a medical examination and women with special health needs receive individual follow-up care. They are also able to access a counselor and legal support for their cases

in court. In addition, the young women are empowered with information about their rights, and they access training in tailoring, maggam embroidery and other handicrafts. During the five months that funding was provided, 23 women completed their coursework. The goal was to help them learn skills for employment so that they can live independently. They also stitched 10,000 masks and distributed them in the neighboring villages as part of helping with the

COVID-19 pandemic response. Snehotsava began with a formal inauguration ceremony. Fr Aloysious Santiago, the Parish Priest and Rector of Lingarajapuram, was the chief guest. In his presidential address, he spoke to young people about the need for authentic and true relationships. Fr Joe Kokandathil began the morning session with Mindfulness Meditation and then through a series of practical exercises he helped young people to deal with their emotions. The young people really enjoyed those exercises. In the afternoon, Fr Joe spoke on relationship, especially cautioning the young people on the various blocks or obstacles that may prevent true and authentic relationships.

Philippines - Online Via Crucis in times of pandemic On 3rd March, the Salesians of the Mabalacat work organized an online Via Crucis, broadcast live on their Facebook page. The Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting restrictions make it difficult for students to experience the beauty of the Faith. Thanks to technology, however, it was possible to bring a moment of shared spirituality into and via the digital world. The online Via Crucis, coordinated by the Youth Ministry team, proved to be a great success and was especially appreciated. March 2021

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SCRIPTURE

MARIA AROKIAM KANAGA SDB

Why does Jesus ask us to ask? Why should we knock, while all the time God knows that we are standing at the door longing to enter? Why does he impose on us the work of seeking? Is it because he wants us, by all means, to fill up our application forms, so that when the favour arrives, there is no doubt as to who the benefactor is? Does he mean – You do not ask, so you don’t get? Is he fishing for recognition and gratitude, adoration or worship on our part? There could be several reasons for this demand: Unless we ask, and do it seriously, we ourselves are not sure whether we want it or not! This may sound strange, but it is true. Asking makes us clarify our own desires and demands and needs. What is it that you really want? Can you articulate it? May be in the work of assiduously articulating it, you see the purposes for which you are asking, you see the wisdom in your request and hence long for it. Or you may see the foolishness of your request and may change your mind. The Father will give good gifts, yes. But do you ask for the good gift? He will not give you a snake if you ask for a fish. But are you asking for a snake by chance? Someone said that one day we will be infinitely grateful to God for all the things that he did not give after we had asked for them. May be because we will wonder – “O God, did I ask for a foolish thing like that? How could I have been opaque for the danger of that “gift” I asked? (Strangely “gift” in German language means “poison”). Or we realize that what we finally got from God was a far greater gift than what I had been asking. I had asked for a particular job or a post. I did not get it. What I got was far superior, and I realize it only much later! I 32

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asked to marry a particular person. God gave me my present partner. Looking back, probably I am most grateful that God did not heed my voice, but gave me the best partner. I asked to be relieved of a suffering. God did not listen. Today I realize that I have become a much happier person than I would ever have been had I been in my previous condition. We should know that his wisdom and love are greater than our knowledge and desires. By asking to ask him, Jesus wants us to see the greater perspective, that makes my request more sensible! Let us say I am lost in a forest and in front of me three different paths open up. Which one to take? I might like one, because that is the most convenient, most travelled, and more charming. But God sees the forest like an eagle, a helicopter, from above, and he sees where each of these paths leads. He sees which one leads me to my home, and which to danger. He blocks me from taking my preferred path, and forces me to the right one. Taking time to “ask”, that is, reflect on what I am asking impulsively, helps me to see things more in perspective, and may be to trust him who sees things in a wider perspective across space and time. The GPS knows better than you in leading you to the place where you are trying to reach! It has the larger perspective! There is another reason why Jesus wants us to ask! He respects our freedom. God knows what we need, but he gives us the freedom to articulate it. He may know my need, but I myself need to decide to ask for it, accepting also all its consequences. He respects our freedom. There is a detail that we should not forget. Jesus told us to ask, and then to seek, and then to knock! Why say the same thing three times? Was it only a literary March 2021


“O God, did I ask for a foolish thing like that? How could I have been opaque for the danger of that “gift”

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flourish, or a style? No, there is a progression. If you want to ask for something, then seek for it, and then knock at the doors that will take you where you will find it. In other words, asking is not merely a childish request with no responsibility for earning it and with no thought for the consequences. That is why parents should not give gifts to their children foolishly. It was the “caution” of the parent, that Jesus was talking about. A child asks for a knife and when he gets it he cuts his hand with it. “Well, he asked for it,” may say the father peevishly. But the grandfather might say: “He is a child. Where was your sense?” In the case of God, he knows. But it is the son who should become more cautious in asking in the process of asking. Praying is a constant activity, not a momentary act of information to God. Seeking and knocking and going through the process clarifies the nature of the gift. It has all the likelihood of being modified, or dropped or substituted with something else. Thus, “asking” is a process, not just one single act. It involves “seeking” and “knocking”. That is why Jesus also asks us to pray constantly, not just make a mention and drop it at that. God’s delay in granting us what we want could have this purpose – time to consider well what we are asking! God’s refusal and delay tactics could be to force me to think better! Finally, God does not want to be a ready-made benefactor, a Santa Claus, but an accompanier in the process by which you obtain what you want! He wants you to feel that you have achieved it yourself. You are not going to live on your father’s wages, but on your own earnings, with selfesteem and dignity. A father’s role is to form you with the ability to take care of yourself, to earn your own living. It is shameful both for the father and the son, if the son, late into his middle age, still continues to live only on his father’s pension! Both have not done their job in this case. It is more the father’s failure than even of the son. A great father is the one who makes his son feel that he has done it all by himself, and is grateful to his father for having accompanied him to this maturity! The Father can now be “proud” of the son, and his independence, while undoubtedly, he still remains his true son! “Asking, Seeking and Knocking” contain so much in them. Jesus told us to do this. He himself went through this, interestingly. After his baptism, he was pushed into the desert by the Holy Spirit. He would have loved to ask for bread, but he realized that every word that comes from the mouth of God was more precious than mere bread. That needed time and effort, fasting and prayer; that is, asking seeking, and knocking! He was not given what he first asked, or let us say, what the devil prompted him to ask – break, power and glory! The gifts the Father gave his Son were infinitely more precious, as time would prove! Maria Arokiam Kanaga SDB The Salesian Bulletin

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S TOR I E S A. J. FRANK

Petition and Thanksgiving Two angels were once sent to earth from heaven, each with a basket. They roamed from place to place, stopping by anyone who was praying: the rich and poor, children, the young and the old. Very soon the basket carried by one of the angels was filled and was overflowing, but that of the other was practically empty. When they returned to Paradise, the angel with the loaded basket was asked: “What do you have?” “Well,” said the angel, “I have collected the prayers of all who said, ‘I want this, I need that’ to Godprayers of petition.” “And what about you?” they asked the other whose basket was almost empty. “I am carrying the prayers of those who said ‘Thank You God’ for all the blessings receivedprayers of gratitude.”

God’s Own Image A monk was asked by a youngster if God would forgive a sinner. And the monk said to him: Tell me, my son, if your favourite dress is torn, will you throw it away? The youngster replied, “No, I will mend it and wear it again.” The monk looked tenderly on the youngster and said, “My son, if you take care of your favourite dress so much, will God not be merciful to his own image?”

Weather I Like A traveler passing through a farm asked a shepherd, “What kind of weather are we going to have today?” The shepherd answered, “The kind of weather I like.” “How do you know it will be the kind of weather you like,” asked the traveler. “Having found out, sir, that I cannot always get what I like, I have learnt always to like what I get. So I am quite sure we will have the kind of weather I like.”

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Secret of Marriage During the 50th wedding anniversary, the couple was asked to share the secret of their long and happy life together. The husband said: “I have done my best never to be selfish. After all, there is no ‘I’ in the word marriage.” “For my part,” said the wife, I have never corrected my husband’s spelling.”

Container and the Content A wise man attributed all his knowledge to a thick book which was kept in a place of honour in his room. Nobody was allowed to open the volume. When he died, his disciples took down the book, eager to discover its secrets. When they opened it they were surprised, confused and disappointed. The book contained only blank pages, except for one page on which was inscribed the phrase: “When you realise the difference between the container and the content, you will have wisdom.”

Courtesy Demands Courtesy While passing a young lieutenant, a soldier (sepoy) neglected to salute. Calling him back, the lieutenant snapped: “You failed to salute a superior officer. At once you will salute me one hundred times.” Just then a General came by. Noticing the soldier saluting repeatedly, the General asked: “What’s this all about?” “Sir, this ordinary soldier failed to salute me. For punishment he is saluting me one hundred times.” With a smile the General reminded him: “Don’t forget, lieutenant, you must return each salute. That is army regulation.

The City of Mirrors Two men walk together through the City of Mirrors. One is smiling while the other is frowning. After exiting the city boundary, the man who is always smiling tells the one who is always frowning, “What a beautiful city with so many smiling faces.” “What smiling faces?” the frowning man asks. “All I saw were sad and frowning faces.” In the City of Mirrors, what you are is what you see. November March 20212018

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