Former PIME missionary in the Philippines, died

Brazil – Helvecio Coelho Mendes (1958-2020)

On Monday 25 May, in Esmeralda (Brazil, Minas Gerais) Helvecio Coelho Mendes suddenly passed away. PIME priest, in 1984 he had been sent as a missionary to the Philippines in the Prelature of Ipil, Mindanao; He returned to Brazil in 1990 and left the Institute few years later.

He was buried yesterday in Engenheiro Caldas, state of Minas Gerais.

8. Saint Francis of Assisi

Francis of Assisi by Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME

francisLast year, I visited the town of Assisi in Italy. I was surprised to find that the town is still kept as it was during the Middle Ages: still surrounded with high walls, you enter the town through a gate, you walk through narrow streets paved with stones, you see only towers and fortresses, and you expect to meet knights on their horses at the next corner…

That’s where Francis lived. Francis was a dashing young knight, his father was Sir Bernardone, a fat merchant dressed in velvet and with heavy purses hanging from his belt. A rich family, and young Francis loved to show off in his gorgeous costume, riding on a beautiful horse. He loved the spectacular dances, and the banquets and the jousts where knights competed with each other. That was his life.

One day, this dashing young knight lost his head after a Lady (in those days the knights’ sweethearts’ were called Ladies, like Lady Juliet or Lady Gadyva). Francis fell in love with a strange lady. When he tried to explain to his friends they could not understand, it was not any of the young ladies they knew. Sir Bernardone heard about this mystery Lady and he got upset. He called Francis, but he was told that Francis had gone to Church. The old man rushed out and met Francis in front of the Church and yelled “What’s this nonsense I hear? Who is this Lady?”

Francis blushed; his face became as red as the red velvet he wore. Then he whispered, “Her name is Lady Poverty” “Lady what?” growled his father. “Lady Poverty” repeated Francis louder. The fat merchants’ face dropped and all around people stared at each other. Then Francis seemed to wake up from a dream, suddenly he took his guilted sword and threw it at his father’s feet, then he took off his velvet gown, belt and all, and his silk shirt, and threw everything at his father’s feet and stood there in front of everyone naked.

Some of the people laughed, but some finally understood, he really meant it, he was in love with Lady Poverty, with naked poverty. Sir Bernardone became pale with anger and cursed him “You reject my wealth? you fool!”

Francis left the town and went to live among the ruins of an abandoned church outside of the walls of town. At first, the whole town thought he was insane. But soon other young men left everything and joined him. Then young ladies also ran away at night and joined his group starting with Chiara or Clare, just like the “Hippies” in our time. We can say that Francis started one of the largest movements of Hippies that spread all over the world. They became known as Francis’ poor brothers and Chiara’s poor sisters. But they didn’t drop out just because they didn’t care about anything. They were in love with poverty and with the poor people all around.

They started joining the beggars, then they began to take care of the lepers hiding in some caves, and gradually they reached out to the poor peasants outside town. Francis called everyone brother and sister, even brother wolf: he was the most feared criminal, but Francis was able to talk to him until he became as meek as a lamb. He also talked to Brother Sun and Sister Moon and to the birds…

Francis even went to the Holy Land during the Crusades and he begged the Christian Crusaders to stop the fighting, then he walked across the battle lines and talked to the Brothers Muslims and even their Sultan. He started what we now call “Interreligious Dialogue.” As a result, there was a truce for a while, but then fighting resumed because the leaders on both sides lost their patience with Francis and his friars: some were killed as martyrs, and some were made slaves. Still, Francis’ call for peace continues to challenge peacemakers even now.

See, Francis’ love for Lady Poverty became love for all kinds of poor people, love for all creatures and love for peace, and he invited his followers to discover the secret of joy and happiness in poverty.

There is a story. One time Francis went to visit the peasants with a novice who just joined the group. It was winter, and by the time they started back it was dark. Then it began to snow, a real blizzard. As they tried to climb back to the ruined Church shaking with cold, Francis leaned over to his young friend and with a funny smile he said “This is happiness.” Then he added, “Suppose we come to the gate and we find it locked and we knock but no one hears us because of the wind, that would be happiness! And if we keep on knocking and one of the brothers think that we are robbers and yells from inside “Go away you thieves!”, that would be happiness. And if we knock again and that brother comes out with a big knotted stick and begins to swing at us and chases us away like mad dogs… That my friend, would be perfect happiness!”

That sounds crazy to us. But apparently Francis’ friend smiled and decided to stay with Francis and find happiness that way. I don’t know if this hits you: find happiness in poverty, while helping others, even if you are mistreated.

That’s the kind of happiness that Jesus promised “If you wish to follow me, give up everything, even your family, and share everything with the poor and you will find a hundred times more happiness and more brothers and sisters, even if you undergo persecution”… Have you experienced the joy of helping others even if you are dead tired? If you follow the way of Jesus and Francis, you will find perfect happiness.

Next: How to respond to the cry of the poor?

Ricordando Salvatore Carzedda

Successe 28 anni fa e come ogni anno lo ricordiamo, ma in realtà sono cose che accadono ancora: la morte di innocenti per mano di criminali che, nell’ombra, regnano indisturbati con crudeltà. Sangue sparso  per nulla in zone dove non sai mai chi detiene il vero potere se le autorità civili e militari oppure organizzazioni eversive di tipo mafioso, “criminal syndicates”.

Certo è difficile scoprirli perché si fanno aiutare da gente comune magari individui che già conoscono la persona  da eliminare, con la quale forse hanno scambiato idee o discusso animatamente anche se in un clima apparentemente tranquillo; sanno recitare la loro parte sia nello scoprire le tue ‘presunte’ colpe che nell’ucciderti a sangue freddo.

A volte poi si da la colpa alla stessa vittima innocente colpevole di buonismo, di aver vissuto in quei luoghi, solo perché nonostante tutto amava quel posto e i suoi abitanti. Amava il suo lavoro.

Così moriva nelle Filippine padre Salvatore Carzedda il 20 maggio 1992 ma anche Tullio Favali prima nel 1985 e poi Fausto Tentorio nel 2011.  Senza contare altri da aggiungere al lungo elenco di vittime innocenti dell’estremismo religioso e delle dittature politiche.  Magari uccisi o mortificati solo perché diversi. Senza un motivo ben preciso, se non quello di essere dei ficcanaso, cosa che succede spesso. In molti casi la loro storia ha fatto notizia per qualche giorno poi su di loro è calato il silenzio.

Per Salvatore, dopo 28 anni, la giustizia non mai stata fatta, così non ancora per Fausto dopo quasi 10 anni.

Certo noi che siamo rimasti e loro compagni non ci siamo lasciati travolgere dall’odio e in loro nome sono sorti programmi di aiuto sociale e di dialogo interreligioso. Il Silsilah una associazione fondata da Salvatore con il suo amico padre Sebastiano D’Ambra,  continua nel suo scopo di sensibilizzare  al dialogo i leaders delle due differenti religioni, cristiana e musulmana, presenti soprattutto nella grande isola di Mindanao.  Di sperimentare il dialogo come comprensione dell’altro. Solo con  uno scambio di preghiera, pensiero e cultura si potrà dare un forte segnale alle autorità civili, a quelle religiose più fondamentaliste e alla gente di buona volontà che è possibile vivere in pace e fratellanza in queste terre dove circolano antiche tradizioni indigene e dove si possono trovare ancora spazi naturali e  incontaminati.

Certo il maggior conforto starebbe nella giustizia umana, ma in questi casi non si riesce ad andare oltre. Ci rimane di pregare il Signore per Salvatore, oggi nel giorno del suo anniversario, e per tutte le vittime innocenti, ma anche per chi ha voluto la loro morte. Che la gente di buona volontà abbia il coraggio di alzare la testa e guardare in faccia alla realtà; e che i colpevoli non siano sempre i padroni dell’ultimo silenzio.

7: Thanksgiving

THANKSGIVING by Fr.Peter Geremia, PIME

Jennie A. Brownscombe’s ‘The First Thanksgiving at Plymouth’ (1914)

It is a special American celebration. How did it start? As a history teacher, I like to revisit the original Thanksgiving and point out some interesting details.

As you probably know the Pilgrims where a group of settlers who came to the newly discovered American continent from Europe. They landed on Plymouth Rock on December 21 after sailing on the Mayflower for sixty-six days at an average speed of two miles per hour. Anyway they made it. Most of them expected to land in Virginia where some settlements were already established, but they had no choice, they had to start from scratch on that famous rock.

The Pilgrims were 102: among them a group of about 35 religious fanatics who called themselves Saints and they did a lot of praying and bible reading and told everybody else what to do. Then there was an equal size group of ordinary free-settlers, mostly poor people, whom the Saints called “Strangers”. And there were also twenty four indentured servants, that is temporary slaves.

Their first task was to build some shelter and they had to do it in a hurry because it was bitter cold and the land was covered with ice and snow. They began to work on Christmas Day, they had no celebration at all because the Saints believed that there should be no Christmas celebration for the reason that the Bible does not mention any such celebration. So they began to work on Christmas day. First, they built a Common House, a wooden frame. They managed also to put up seven very primitive huts and then all their work stopped.

Everybody stopped because they were visited by what they called the General Sickness. This was a combination of scurvy for lack of vitamins, starvation for lack of food, and pneumonia for lack of shelter. This General Sickness took care of exactly half of the Pilgrims: 10 died in December, 8 in January, 17 in February and 13 in March. Of course, only the strongest survived. It was only in April that this monster the General Sickness decided to leave the settlement.

Then one morning another unexpected visitor showed up, an Indian with bow and arrows, stark naked except for a loin cloth, he walked straight to the Common House. The starved and sickly Pilgrims froze with fear. But the Indian surprised them by speaking in broken English which he had somehow learned from English fishermen.

The Indian proved to be a great blessing for the Pilgrims, he introduced then to the neighboring Indian Tribe and they got along fine. The Indian chief Massasoit was so friendly that he invited two of the Pilgrims to visit their community and to sleep in his cabin, actually on his bed, along with his wife and two other Indian chiefs. They got to exchange lice and fleas, and apparently this sealed their friendship.

The Indians were of great help to the Pilgrims. They taught them how to plant corn and how to catch fish. The fish was used both for food and fertilizer: they put four kernels of corn and three fishes in each corn hill, and it worked! The corn sprouted and grew, meanwhile the Pilgrims survived by hunting and fishing. In the Fall, they harvested the corn and they couldn’t believe their eyes seeing all those golden kernels which meant that they would survive during the coming winter. It was at this point that they decided to have a harvest celebration, practically the first abundant meal in a year.

They prepared corn cakes and mush, they shot wild ducks and geese and probably also wild turkeys. They thought that they had plenty for a meal, but then Massasoit showed up with a crowd of hungry “braves” or Indian warriors. The Pilgrims worried that they would not have enough for all of them. Fortunately, the Indians brought a little something along, five big deer’s! They cut them up and cooked them and started eating. They kept on eating and eating and celebrating for three days.

That’s the picture, the scene of the first Thanksgiving.

What if the Pilgrims and the Indians had continued to eat together and help each other for many years? Then American history would have been different.

Why was that initial celebration of Thanksgiving in friendship and solidarity followed by a history of conflict and genocide? By now very few American Indians are left, most of them are in reservations feeling discriminated against. Can the original friendship and solidarity be revived?

It is a special American celebration. How did it start? As a history teacher, I like to revisit the original Thanksgiving and point out some interesting details.

As you probably know the Pilgrims where a group of settlers who came to the newly discovered American continent from Europe. They landed on Plymouth Rock on December 21 after sailing on the Mayflower for sixty-six days at an average speed of two miles per hour. Anyway they made it. Most of them expected to land in Virginia where some settlements were already established, but they had no choice, they had to start from scratch on that famous rock.

The Pilgrims were 102: among them a group of about 35 religious fanatics who called themselves Saints and they did a lot of praying and bible reading and told everybody else what to do. Then there was an equal size group of ordinary free-settlers, mostly poor people, whom the Saints called “Strangers”. And there were also twenty four indentured servants, that is temporary slaves.

Their first task was to build some shelter and they had to do it in a hurry because it was bitter cold and the land was covered with ice and snow. They began to work on Christmas Day, they had no celebration at all because the Saints believed that there should be no Christmas celebration for the reason that the Bible does not mention any such celebration. So they began to work on Christmas day. First, they built a Common House, a wooden frame. They managed also to put up seven very primitive huts and then all their work stopped.

Everybody stopped because they were visited by what they called the General Sickness. This was a combination of scurvy for lack of vitamins, starvation for lack of food, and pneumonia for lack of shelter. This General Sickness took care of exactly half of the Pilgrims: 10 died in December, 8 in January, 17 in February and 13 in March. Of course, only the strongest survived. It was only in April that this monster the General Sickness decided to leave the settlement.

Then one morning another unexpected visitor showed up, an Indian with bow and arrows, stark naked except for a loin cloth, he walked straight to the Common House. The starved and sickly Pilgrims froze with fear. But the Indian surprised them by speaking in broken English which he had somehow learned from English fishermen.

The Indian proved to be a great blessing for the Pilgrims, he introduced then to the neighboring Indian Tribe and they got along fine. The Indian chief Massasoit was so friendly that he invited two of the Pilgrims to visit their community and to sleep in his cabin, actually on his bed, along with his wife and two other Indian chiefs. They got to exchange lice and fleas, and apparently this sealed their friendship.

The Indians were of great help to the Pilgrims. They taught them how to plant corn and how to catch fish. The fish was used both for food and fertilizer: they put four kernels of corn and three fishes in each corn hill, and it worked! The corn sprouted and grew, meanwhile the Pilgrims survived by hunting and fishing. In the Fall, they harvested the corn and they couldn’t believe their eyes seeing all those golden kernels which meant that they would survive during the coming winter. It was at this point that they decided to have a harvest celebration, practically the first abundant meal in a year.

They prepared corn cakes and mush, they shot wild ducks and geese and probably also wild turkeys. They thought that they had plenty for a meal, but then Massasoit showed up with a crowd of hungry “braves” or Indian warriors. The Pilgrims worried that they would not have enough for all of them. Fortunately, the Indians brought a little something along, five big deer’s! They cut them up and cooked them and started eating. They kept on eating and eating and celebrating for three days.

That’s the picture, the scene of the first Thanksgiving.

What if the Pilgrims and the Indians had continued to eat together and help each other for many years? Then American history would have been different.

Why was that initial celebration of Thanksgiving in friendship and solidarity followed by a history of conflict and genocide? By now very few American Indians are left, most of them are in reservations feeling discriminated against. Can the original friendship and solidarity be revived?

Next: Saint Francis of Assisi

In tempi come questi

E’ maggio e piove. L’isolamento a causa del Coronavirus (qui nella casa per anziani del PIME a Rancio di Lecco) mi costringe a fare i conti con lo spazio e il tempo imponendomi un forzato distacco dal mondo esterno per un ordine morale calcolato a un metro e mezzo di distanza; difficile da rispettare se la memoria e la vista sono corte. Vado fuori dalla portineria per liberarmi dell’ansia che io e gli altri anziani diffondiamo tra le stanze e nei luoghi in comune della struttura.  Faccio qualche metro ma poi rientro subito e mi dispiace perché le scarpe bagnano il pavimento appena lavato da una signora delle pulizia dai capelli rossi come quelli delle donne nei quadri dei preraffaelliti.

Prima della pandemia qua dentro la vita sociale e comunitaria teneva distante  la vecchiezza, l’infermità e l’handicap mentale poiché le giornate passavano in un luogo programmato e monitorizzato dove il futuro veniva affrontato con serenità e senza grandi patemi d’animo se non quelli delle diverse sfumature di odori di disinfettanti e differenti modi di ascoltare la Tv, difficile quando la sordità è fatta di un indecifrabili parole ovattate da un rumore di fondo che amplifica l’isolamento dal resto della casa; ci si guarda attorno, si vorrebbe aprire la bocca ma non si vuole rischiare l’incomprensione. In ogni caso, qua ci sono anziani missionari da proteggere perché testimoni della tradizione della Fede da loro vissuta (Sal 44,2), maestri saggi di vita (Sir 6,34-36) e operatori di carità che hanno praticato la giustizia, amato la pietà e camminato umilmente all’ombra di Dio (Michea 6,8).

Poi, come ci è stato spiegato, dai pipistrelli è discesa la malattia, il morbo, il malanno, il contagio che come una piaga biblica ha messo a morte tanti e a rischio speranze di vita e di pensione accumulate con anni di lavoro. Situazione talmente greve che dopo un paio di mesi e in fase due, ci sentiamo ancora ‘deboli e fragili’, citando la preghiera del PIME per esorcizzare il Coronavirus.  Insomma, si è incrinato quell’alto standard sanitario e tecnologico su cui avevamo affidato la nostra tenera età e l’immensa fiducia nel mondo moderno per ritornare a qualcosa che credevamo sepolto nelle pagine dei Promessi Sposi (di Lecco) o nei racconti dei ‘nostri’ nonni vissuti un secolo fa, quando l’influenza spagnola si portò via 50 milioni su due miliardi di abitanti del pianeta.

Sono ora dove si percepisce la comune difficoltà di essere in un luogo diverso dal solito, adatto alla diffusione di un virus. Certo si è al sicuro nel lock down del confinamento sociale e tuttavia si percepisce come la morte abbia ripreso il suo brutto vizio di selezionare prima di tutto i deboli e gli anziani: arriverà anche tra noi? Il Covid19? Moriremo tutti?

Per ora il Covid19 si è fatto strada solo a parole per mezzo dei mass media e gli smart phone, costringendoci a mutare i gesti per proteggerci dal suo travestimento fatto di microscopiche goccioline di saliva che assomigliano molto a palline di dinamite con ipersensibili microinterruttori: se ti toccano le mine scoppiano in sequenze infinite di numeri reali! Altri non sono stati fortunati come noi e ce ne addolora. Perdita di senso, brandelli di fede, vuoti interiori che i preti difficilmente riusciranno a riaggiustare, ma per Dio dovranno tentare di farlo!

Un certo nervosismo lo si percepisce a tavola dove si può avere un risentimento se uno tossisce, starnuta senza appoggiare, con estrema lestezza, naso e bocca tra le pieghe della camicia tra braccio e avambraccio. Così il cibo servito non sembra quello desiderato anche se ben cotto e in poltiglia macinato per non far soffrire le vecchie e gracili gengive. Una volta instaurata l’ossessione ad una invisibile minaccia addio sonni tranquilli. Tende a mantenersi in modo cronico, peggiorando via via nel corso dei giorni …. manca l’aria!  In genere, in questi casi, ci si rende consapevoli delle proprie debolezze emotive e magari soffrire (difficile tuttavia tra missionari di lungo corso) nascosti sensi di colpa per aver forse, inavvertitamente, contagiato il vicino. Solo sparire dalla struttura e riapparire giù al lago (di Lecco) per tossire liberamente, anche sotto la pioggia, potrà far ritornare la pace interiore.

Il fatto poi di non poter concelebrare e ricevere, per alcuni un sacrosanto diritto, l’eucaristia sotto le due specie, sembra aver impoverito la vita comunitaria.  La cosa rimane grave; se non ci si sente sacerdote allungando le mani sul pane e sul vino eucaristico, ore di preghiera in comune, messe senza stola, decine di rosari, incontri e cibi presi assieme diventano poco più che dei rimedi, artifici forse anche se commemorati con mani ben lavate, per via della forzata convivenza. Um? Ma forse è un beneficio. Come diceva Pascal, noi viviamo in uno stato di permanente instabilità, ma ce ne accorgiamo solo quando una calamità ci investe frontalmente e cominciamo a dare i numeri! Forse un lungo e obbligato digiuno dall’altare ci permetterà di accedere meglio al sacro nell’altro, mettendoci di fronte al dolore comune; permettendoci di udire meglio il grido sofferto dell’umanità quando tra qualche mese (?) dovremo risollevare più umilmente pane e vino.

Però, suvvia dico a me stesso, sei venuto qua per capire cosa hai e devi adattarti a qualcosa che prima non c’era. Questa distanza verso gli altri e l’altare bisogna praticarlo per rendere migliore e sicura la propria vita e quella altrui anche se difficile da comprendere da anziani missionari esteri provenienti da missioni e epoche ben più pericolose. Oggi, lo si deve fare per tenere lontana la morte dai giovani, nostra eredità e tangibile discendenza. Dovranno percorrere sentieri nuovi o da noi già battuti. Una cosa, comunque, ci renderà tutti uguali: la mascherina. A cui dovremo abituarci e che ci renderà mascherati un po’ tutti, domani, si spera, senza tentare di mascherare intenzioni e speranze di vita.

Una lunga pausa, non piove più e si ode un prolungato suono intermittente; qualcuno in qualche stanza e chissà a quale piano ha premuto per sbaglio il pulsante rosso di richiesta poi, dopo decine di secondi, quello verde che la annulla; comunque una infermiera vestita di azzurra già accorre …

Intanto ognuno chiede all’altro
onde sapere di sé, di cosa
sia per accadere
ieri domani chissà quando, …  (D.M.Turoldo)

Luciano

6. The Crisis of Faith of Teenagers

The Crisis of Faith of Teenagers by Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME

From a talk to minor seminarians in the US … many years ago!

Are you losing your faith?

loosingLast night I went to see a movie “A man for all seasons”, the story of Sir Thomas More who was killed for refusing the order of the King which was against his conscience. I had tears streaming down… maybe I am soft-hearted. That was a test of faith, a crisis of faith. Now I’m going to talk about another crisis of faith, your crisis of faith, the crisis of faith of teenagers.
Not long ago, you used to look like little angels. Maybe you loved to be altar boys or go to church quite often, you said your prayers well, you had moments of great devotion. Little angels with shining faces.
Well, look at yourself now: are you a little angel, or are you fast becoming a little devil? If your Mom heard some of the choice language you use, or some of the nasty things you have in mind and do, your Mom would be surprised. You may say “Heck, I can’t be a holy Joe, it is no fun, I want to be like the other guys…”
Do you ever feel this way? Prayer, church, that religious stuff is all right, but boring. Parents and priests bug you with their sermons, always the same stuff.

What is happening to you? Are you losing your faith?

Yes, you’re losing your faith or finding a new one. You’re going through a crisis preparing for a basic choice in your life, preparing for D-day, a turning point. Either you are coming to the point of conversion: finding a new faith that makes sense to you, that fills your life…or you are gradually losing interest in faith and all religious matters won’t mean much to you. Either you will find your way to the living God, or come to the conclusion “I want to live my life, religion is dull, it is not even human, forget it…”.
The crisis of faith of adolescence is the period when you work yourself up to this choice. It does not happen in one day, usually it happens between the age of 12 and 20. It can be very dramatic, a violent crisis, or just a gradual shifting or moving into one of the two directions.
What an age you are going through! It is called the age of decision and confusion, the age of ups and downs, of quick tears or hysterical laughs, the care-free age, the age when you do the craziest things… you scare everybody during this age, even yourself. A mother said, “Teenagers should be buried underground when they are twelve and dug up again when they are eighteen” Wouldn’t you like to be at the end of this process finding yourself a handsome young man sure of yourself?
I dare to say: you’re going through the age of opportunities, you are developing your new self, and you are also developing or discarding your childhood faith. You will end up with a new faith, or a dried out skeleton of a faith that was, a relic of the past.
When a child turns teenager, he breaks away from his happy, smug childhood, and he plunges into the unknown. He takes off on his own for the greatest adventure of his life. He sails full of dreams, searching for an unknown continent… Someone said that a teenager is “Columbus without America”, sailing on in the midst of hopes and fears. He starts breaking away from many things of his childhood, from toys and pets, and also from the faith of his childhood. Mom taught him well, but now at times he is fed up with all that stuff that he swallowed for years. If his Mom tells him, as she did for many years, “say you’re prayers, go to church” he may feel like yelling “I don’t want to pray, I do what I want!”
Parents may be shocked, “what is happening to my boy?” Well, he is starting his war of independence. Most countries went through a war of independence and they are very proud of it, can you also have your own personal war of independence? The rebel comes up in you, sometimes you feel the mad joy of breaking rules, or maybe you have the wicked desire of doing wrong just because others say that it is wrong. “I do what I want!” you may become very touchy like a porcupine, all needles…
Most sensible kids do not rebel against everything, they do not throw everything overboard and break all rules. They soon find out that they may be hurting only themselves. Sometimes, they miss the golden security of childhood; everything was clear and nice, sailing along in calm waters. Now you are shaken up by violent storms, sudden urges and moods. Sometime you feel so lonely and lost. You would like to have a friend, a guide. But you seem to be so far out of reach, how can anybody come close to you?
Well, young sailor, wandering on a treacherous sea, I wish you luck, I hope you find a star to guide you; something or someone pure and beautiful that shows you the way. Young Columbus, I hope you find your new land. I just wish you would not make your life more miserable and difficult that it needs be, I wish you wouldn’t waste too much of yourself.

Growing up

What is happening to you? You are growing up, shooting up like weeds. You’re too tall for your pants and too big for your shirt. You change shape before you know it, you may wake up with a different face. Some kids used to be fat, roly-poly, suddenly they are stretched-up by some magic power. And there is more to it than what meets the eye; mysterious physical forces are exploding inside, violent bodily changes involving your nerves, glands, muscles, even your brain and skeleton. Sex organs take final shape, you may change your voice and the way you look. A pack of screaming bodily instincts or drives takes over in you, suddenly you may feel you can eat so much, or sleep for a whole week, or drink a river dry…
What do these bodily riots have to do with your crisis of faith? Simply this, you are so overpowered by your bodily drives that you feel with your guts and reason with your nerves, or believe with your stomach… Pascal spoke of “the reasons of the heart” but there are also the reasons of the body, those strong sensations, sometimes oppressive or exhilarating, one time you want to sing on top of your voice, then suddenly you feel like throwing up in disgust…
These bodily, or animal drives, invade your feelings, emotions, ideas and dreams, and also your faith. Much of your childhood faith is submerged by this flood, those clear ideas that made so much sense in the past are blown over. Now you wonder about everything: is God fair? Is He like Big Brother watching over you? Or like a friendly giant? Or a monster computer? Often you don’t understand what priests and books tell you about God, what count is the way you feel, the mood you are in.
How can you master your bodily drives and moods? This is the time for you to discover God in a new personal way and develop a personal faith that becomes blood of your blood, not only an external varnish. Actually, the bodily drives and feelings are marvelous gifts of God, but you must be able to handle them and not become their slave. Like anger or the sex drive may make you jump with sudden jolts, but you should learn to control all these raw energies.
Suppose you are given a new expensive camera, you may become so attached to it that you forget everything else. Or if you have a brand new car, you would go crazy over it, you would touch it as if it were alive. Suppose a beautiful girl comes to you, you can become very excited… Well, in time you will get used to your camera and forget that you have it, you will get used to your car and get tired of driving, and you may eventually get used also to girls and see more than looks in them.

Can you find a new faith?

The eruption of instinctive forces within your growing body cause raw feelings and strange moods. But these are the same forces that launch you into orbit, you set out on your own toward the unknown to discover and get hold of your new self, your new personality. You like to become independent, but can you be completely independent? Not quite. Being on your own, out of sight is great, but then waves of uncertainty splash over your boat and you find yourself so far out that you feel uneasy, lost, almost scared. Those moments of loneliness come and go, but they really get you, they make your heart pound… Then you look for someone, you are anxious to talk to someone. You hate to go back to your parents or persons in authority because it would be embarrassing to expose your anxiety to them. You prefer to open up with your friends, your peer group.
To be with a bunch of guys, have fun, have a riot, that lifts up your spirit. You wish to be in with the group, so if the group yells, you yell, if they laugh, you laugh, if they tell sick jokes, you tell sick jokes. Whatever the group likes or say or believe, you also follow them. Whatever the group does not like is retarded or stupid… You are not sure of many things, so you want to belong and make an impression, looking tough with the guys. If you are rejected, ridiculed, made fun of, you feel hurt. You can put up fights with parents and teachers, but when your group turns against you, you feel like a leper…
What tremendous influence of the group, the power it has over you! Is that good or bad? A proverb says “Tell me what kind of friends you have, and I tell you who you are” the group can lead you to use the filthiest language and do disgusting things… But the power of the group can also be used for something good like games, projects, working together or studying together.
Can you find a group of great guys who have all the fun in the world and still have generous hearts, a pure smile and deep faith? Then instead of losing your faith you will find more and more to it, you will find more joy and love and friendship. You can discover Christ as your best friend. He grew up like you, he rejected the fake faith of the religious leaders of its time, He revealed the real God as a loving Father, full of mercy and compassion. If you keep on talking with Jesus, he can show you the way to become like Him and do what He did… That’s the new faith

Next: 7 The Thannksgiving

Stop a ABS-CBN

Due giorni dopo il Word Press Freedom Day, l’amministrazione Duterte ha chiuso ABS-CBN, il più grande network di diffusione delle notizie via radio e tv delle Filippine. La National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) ha emesso infatti un ordine di cessazione delle attività di ABS-CBN per il 4 maggio. In dichiarazioni separate, la National Union of Journalists of the Philippines (NUJP) ha condannato la mossa, affermando che il ruolo dei media è ancora più importante nel mezzo di un’emergenza sanitaria globale. La sospensione della licenza a ABS-CBN è il più grande attacco, finora, ai media filippini dopo l’inizio della pandemia. (Le Filippine hanno perso due posizioni nel recente World Press Freedom Index pubblicato da Reporter Senza frontiere (RSF) per l’anno 2020). Per esempio, dalla messa in atto della lergge chimata Bayanihan To Heal come One Act, alcuni giornalisti sono stati messi in prigione per aver diffuso “notizie false” sulla pandemia di COVID-19. Le cosidette “fake news” conferiscono al governo i poteri di perseguire qualsiasi reporter o media che pubblicano notizie non gradite al governo di Duterte.
La pandemia viene così utilizzata per la repressione dei media che vengono demonizzati quando esprimono il dissenso circa la risposta militaristica del governo alla crisi sanitaria. Ha diversi giornalisti del paese è stata ritirata la licenza di operare perché non accreditati dal governo per seguire lo sviluppo della pandemia.

Anche la continua accusa di essere ‘sovversivi’ verso alcuni giornalisti critici del governo non si è fermata durante la crisi sanitaria, nonostante l’insistenza sul fatto che i media sono un partner efficace per diffondere utili consigli in questo momento cruciale.  A Iloilo, per esempio, sette giornalisti sono stati arrestati il ​​1 ° maggio, per presunta violazione del Republic Act 11332, che richiedeva la segnalazione obbligatoria di malattie trasmissibili ed eventi sanitari che minacciano la salute pubblica, cosa che loro hanno fatto.
In altre parole, la lotta contro il COVID-19 è diventata anche una vera e propria guerra contro il giornalismo indipendente; molte volte brutale. Dal 1 gennaio 2019 al 30 aprile 2020, sono state numerose le minacce, attacchi e arresti contro lavoratori dei media (con 3 giornalisti uccisi). Oggi chi ne fa le spese è, appunto, ABS-CBN.

5. The Dwarf

I read a book titled “The Dwarf”. The story takes place in Italy during the Renaissance. At that time, the Princes were collecting all sorts of people at their court. They collected artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo da Vinci, actors like Shakespeare or fearless mercenary soldiers – they collected pretty maidens as well as handsome boys as you saw in the movie Romeo and Juliet. They collected also dwarfs, which were admired as rare antiques.

This one Prince in the story had a very gifted dwarf. He was twenty six inches tall, with red hair, pretty well-proportioned body, except for the head that was too big. The dwarf followed the Prince constantly like a shadow. His main job was to pour drinks for the Prince and his guests, to carry secret messages and to spy on everybody. This little fellow despised just about everybody, he discovered all secrets. He knew that the Prince was a playboy carrying on with many lovers. He knew that the people at court were always trying to impress one another, they were phonies and liars and double crossers.
The one he disliked the most was the Prince’s child Angelica. She loved all sorts of little animals, especially a pet kitten, she would take her kitten to bed with her. The dwarf made fun of that silly attachment and one night he snatched the kitten from Angelica and chopped-off its head with his little dagger. Angelica got very sick after that, but the dwarf did not feel one bit sorry. As you can see the dwarf was mean. He even strangled another dwarf when challenged to a wrestling match, he killed the other dwarf. And you should have seen him when war broke out. He loved war, he exploded with excitement, he loved to watch the vicious hand to hand fighting and he wanted so badly to have the chance to kill. When peace was suddenly announced, he was very disappointed. But then, he jumped for joy when the Prince requested him to put poison in the drinks of those who came to sign the peace treaty. He did a perfect job and then stood on as high spot to watch those poor fellows give a sudden groan and fall under the table in agony. He greatly admired the Prince for being so treacherous.

Things like this went on and on. The dwarf drove Angelica to suicide, he caused
the Princess to go insane. Finally the Prince realized that the dwarf was the evil influence in his court and he threw him in jail, where the story ends. The dwarf however expects to be called out of jail at any time because he feels that the Prince needs him.

The point of the story is, as I see it, that there is a dwarf in each one of us, our mean self, our vicious little mind, our nasty streak. The dwarf in us points out the weak spots of others, it tells us that it is stupid to be nice. He suggests cutting remarks, or clever tricks to hurt somebody’s feelings. He can pour his poison on people around us and even drive them insane.
Why does he do all that? Because he is a dwarf, he feels that nobody will ever
love him, that’s why he wants to get even by hurting everybody else. We all have this dwarfish inferiority complex, all these dwarf’s fears. And out of those fears come our nasty moods.
Can we get rid of our dwarf? We can put him in jail. This is our choice. We have
to decide that we don’t need our dwarf, we can do that if we overcome our fears and suspicions and jealousies, if we look for the good side in others rather than their bad side. Then, we can become free from our fears, free enough to make friends with many people.

Next: 6. The Crisis Of Faith Of Teenagers

4. Who Is The Greatest ?

Introduction

Suddenly, at the beginning of this year 2020, we are all forced to suspend our activities in order to avoid the Corona Virus (CV) or (CoViD 19) Staying at home, I cleared my cabinets and by chance, I found a bundle of stories which I wrote for my students when I was a young History teacher and adviser in the 1960’s in the United States. Reading again these stories, I smiled recalling how I used to discuss with young American students about the challenges that we are facing at that time. Then I was struck by the thought that these stories can be applied also to our challenges now. In the 1960’s, there was great fear of nuclear war that could wipe out the human race, now the CV can provoke similar fears, but it can also provoke hopes that can challenge us to reduce both the danger of wars and of pandemics. I suppose that my former students will also smile recalling these (13) stories now, and others may also smile reading these stories that can generate hope. (Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME)

4. Who Is The Greatest

kingYou heard about King Herod. As a young man, he joined the Roman soldiers and
got used to killings. He became a fearless leader, so he was made King of Judea. King Herod began his reign in style, with a bloodbath: he killed forty five out of the seventy one members of the Sanhedrin which was the highest assembly of the Jews, like our Congress. After that he was widely respected, although he still had troubles with his family. So, he killed his first wife and mother-in-law, and he had to kill also his three sons. The story goes that Emperor Augustus Caesar remarked “One would be safer if he were a pig in Herod’s stable, rather than his son.” He also drowned a rival to the throne in order to have a stable government.

No wonder that the Gospel says that Herod was very disturbed when some Wise
Men came by seeking information about a new born king. Herod instructed them to find the child and let him know about it so that he might go and welcome him. But when the Wise Men failed to tell him where they found Jesus, he was so disappointed that he ordered all the children under the age of two to be slaughtered…Now that you are acquainted with this great leader King Herod, you can understand better in what kind of world Christ was born.

The surprising thing is that Christ also claimed to be a king, he came with the
idea of becoming a leader of many people. Christ knew that he was risking his neck, but he did succeed in becoming a leader greater than Herod even though he didn’t kill anybody. How did he do that? He was not a political leader; he was not a scientist nor a successful business man. He was not a sport idol; or a movie star. He rejected all popular ways to greatness. But he had what we can call “soul-power”, the mysterious power of the spirit as opposed to the power of the world. This was Christ’s way, a mysterious type of power different from any other power. It seems that he chose always what we would reject and despise, he chose poverty and suffering and death. He did not believe in what we call success and popularity and comforts. He evidently was a strange leader.

I don’t know if you can become great following the way of King Herod or if you
can dare to become great following the way of Christ and discovering the power of mercy and compassion, the power of love for all who are suffering, for the poor and the oppressed, the victims of people like Herod. If the poor and the oppressed unite in solidarity of love and follow the way of Jesus, then the power of leaders like Herod will collapse…

Next: 5 The Dwarf