(India) On the Feast of All Saints, the senior confreres, ordained before 1991, of the Bangalore Province gathered at our Retreat Centre (Nava Spoorthi Kendra), Bangalore, India. The starting date (Nov.1) was aptly chosen to remind the seniors that their years are numbered to be counted among the saints! In the Province, we are seeing a growing number of aging confreres and so it was opportune to hold such a program for the first time in our Province’s history.
Fr. Ian Doulton, a Salesian was the resource person. Two months earlier, he had conducted a session for those who were in the younger age group. At the start, he reminded the group that the purpose of the program was to introspect on the self rather than on others in our community/ province. The highlight of the subject matter was that the greatest problems of human life are never solved but they are faced and out-grown. We need to learn to live with them. For this reason, we looked at the “male dimension” of our lives and the journey of our male spirituality. In that perspective, it was opined that men don’t easily give into transformations. Humans are kaleidoscopes. Not simply for the inner beauty that can be found, but for the fact that everyone is complicated inside, a mixture of all colors and thoughts and ideas.
Change is imperative. Mark’s Gospel opens with the clarion call to metanoia – a change of lifestyle in all aspects of life. Unless our pain teaches/transforms us, we will transmit the pain to others. When that happens, we get stunted in our growth and become stumbling blocks in living out of Religious Life in communities.
A paradigm of change is best seen in St. Paul’s conversion story (Acts 9:18): “And immediately there fell from his eyes as it had been scales: and he received sight forthwith, and arose, and was baptized.” Further, the speaker said we have a lot of “elderly” confreres, but not enough “elders” who are mentors. It means, not wanting to hang on to offices and power, but to accompany younger confreres and journey with them. We need to be mellow grandfathers and not “godfathers” or pseudo-elders. When the “scales” fell from his eyes, Paul became an elder eligible to face the world and transform the world for Christ. It is up to each one to take up this challenge to shed the scales from our eyes to see the world anew, to be an ‘elder’.
Finally, with these few ideas and more, the seminar came to a close on 4 November 2021. It was not only an opportunity for renewal but also fellowship and fraternity, coming as it did, after a long period of restrictions due to the Pandemic. The participants of the Seminar were thankful to the organizers – Secretariat of Apostolate headed by Fr. Juventius Andrade.
Fr Francis Ezhanikatt, CSsR.