Thursday, 17 December 2009

Thulasiraj Ravilla: How low-cost eye care can be world-class

I have always wondered how they do it....
everyone travels to ARAVIND for eye surgery....
here they tells how... a TED video

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Now it is the turn of the son...

Last re-post was a TED-talk by sashi tharoor.
now, a re-post from his son,  Ishaan Tharoor, from,8599,1947392,00.html

How to Rule India: Break It Into Even More Pieces? 

In mid-October 1952, an acolyte of Mahatma Gandhi named Potti Sriramulu invoked the tactics of his teacher and went on a hunger strike. The nation of India — at the time just five years old — was still finding shape after centuries of division and colonial rule, with many of its diverse regions clamoring for greater political recognition. Sriramulu's fast came on behalf of tens of millions who, like him, spoke Telugu, a prominent south Indian language, and wanted their own state within the country.

Yet his protest went unheeded for weeks by New Delhi and, 58 days after it began, Sriramulu died, a sacrifice that triggered widespread rioting and eventually forced the government into forming the Telugu-speaking state of Andhra Pradesh in 1953, as well as other new states organized on linguistic lines. No small irony then, that, almost 60 years later, another hunger strike threatens to dismember the state Sriramulu first won and revive a fierce debate about the nature of the federal Indian nation-state.

Late Wednesday, the Indian government announced it would approve the carving out of a separate state known as Telangana from Andhra Pradesh. The movement for Telangana secession is virtually as old as the Indian republic itself, but it gained traction this month after its main political leader, K. Chandrashekar Rao, commenced a week-long fast. Rao's deteriorating health as well as coordinated protests — some violent — across the 10 districts of Andhra Pradhesh's 23 that comprise Telangana, including the influential hi-tech capital of Hyderabad, seemed to force New Delhi's hand. But it could open a whole series of controversies for the Indian government as many other regional movements have now stepped up their own demands for statehood.

Though Telugu-speaking as well, Telangana had once been part of a separate kingdom ruled from Hyderabad, which recognized British suzerainty during the colonial period but was not administratively part of British India. It was subsumed into the territory of Andhra Pradesh only in 1956, after a further dismemberment of the once-independent Hyderabad kingdom. Though the city of Hyderabad was made the capital of the united Andhra Pradesh state, calls for greater autonomy have lingered, with many in Telangana complaining of marginalization at the hands of the coastal Andhra population.

But if New Delhi imagined it would calm tensions with its nod toward accepting a new state, the move backfired. Dozens of local legislators in Andhra Pradesh have resigned their posts and strikes by those opposing Telangana's secession have paralyzed much of the state. Trains have been blocked, businesses shut down. According to news reports on Saturday, two activists in favor of a "United Andhra" took their lives in protest of the state's splitting. The turmoil has also plunged Hyderabad, a booming, cosmopolitan I.T. hub, into panic as politicians and business leaders fret over the costs of the current instability. "This will be a total flop as investors will flee," says Amruthraj Padmanabhundi, a 27-year-old I.T. professional in Hyderabad. "I am very worried [about] my prospects slipping."

The prospect of Telangana's creation has buoyed similar causes elsewhere as calls for secession echo in nearly a dozen states in India. A four-day strike is under way among the picturesque hills and tea estates of Darjeeling, in northern West Bengal, with protesters intensifying demands for a new state of Gorkhaland that would better address the needs of the area's ethnic Nepalese population. More than 100 activists have begun what they call a "fast-unto-death." On the other side of the country, in the vast desert state of Rajasthan, a caravan of some 5,000 demonstrators and 500 camels paraded into the capital of Jaipur on Friday, agitating for the formation of Maru Pradesh, a state that would be carved out of some of Rajasthan's poorest districts. "Rajasthan is huge. It is not easy to keep track of all the villages, of the development or the lack of it," says Jaiveer Godara, the leading voice of the movement. "The person who lives in the last village of Maru Pradesh has to wait for three days to get supply of water from outside... [And] there are no roads that lead to his village."

At the root of this looming crisis lies the still unresolved question of how the world's largest democracy ought best to govern itself. Independent India was at first a patchwork of former British provinces and princely states threaded together into a federal republic. Some of its states remain huge and unwieldy — for example, the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, with its estimated 190 million people, would be virtually tied with Brazil as the fifth most populous country on earth but it would also possess 8% of the world's population under the global poverty line. With a country of India's size and diversity — as well as poverty — there is logic in having smaller states. "It will in fact strengthen [governance] through economic and administrative convenience," says Delhi-based political analyst Paranjoy Guha Thakurta. "India can survive and prosper by breaking up."

The Indian government last fashioned new states in 2000, when three largely remote and impoverished regions were elevated in status. At least two of them — Chhattisgarh and Uttarakhand — have shown marked progress since their inception. Small states like Kerala in the south and Haryana in the north, both with populations under 30 million, boast some of India's highest development indicators. Backers of further decentralization even point to the original, idealistic Gandhian vision for India — of a republic brought together not by a strong central government, but an "ocean" of egalitarian and self-sufficient villages.

Of course, that sort of utopianism has little place in the current hurlyburly of Indian politics. Experts worry that new states may simply mean more jockeying for power and expanded bureaucracy in a country already notorious for its spools of red tape as well as its perpetual political horse-trading. "Ultimately, fragmentation is not a substitute for good governance," says C.V. Madhukar, director of PRS Legislative Research, a Delhi non-profit which advises the government.

Hoping to dampen a few of calls for new and smaller states ignited by the Andhra controversy, New Delhi has dialed back its support for Telangana, insisting that the matter now find a resolution through a vote in the Andhra Pradesh legislature. Given the current tumult, it's unclear when or how such a motion may go through. The political party headed by Rao, the Telangana separatist leader, was trounced both in recent state and national polls. His hunger strike — now ended — and the disturbances organized around it were likely an act of desperation of a movement shorn off much of its real political capital. "Having the government buckle to this kind moral blackmail is not a healthy way to go about things," says Madhukar. "There shouldn't be this sword of Damocles hanging over peoples' heads." A young India may have come of age through such dramatic acts of Gandhian sacrifice, but a more mature nation needs more measured habits.

With reporting by Nilanjana Bhowmick/New Delhi

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Fratello Metallo(Metal Friar)

Italy's heavy metal monk retires from the limelight

 Reuters November 13, 2009

  Italian Friar Cesare Bonizzi, also known as Fratello Metallo(Metal Friar), is quitting his heavy metal music career, saying the devil had made him too much of a celebrity for his own good.
Photograph by: Alessandro Garofalo, Reuters

MILAN - Italy's "Brother Metal," a 63-year-old monk who became famous for singing in a heavy metal band — habit and all — is hanging up his microphone, saying the devil made him too much of a celebrity for his own good.

The white-bearded Cesare Bonizzi, a Capuchin who recorded CDs for a punk label and was the lead singer for the band Fratello Metallo (Metal Brother), said the devil was up to his usual mischief.

"The devil has separated me from my managers, risked making me break up with my band colleagues and also risked making me break up with my fellow monks. He lifted me up to the point where I become a celebrity and now I want to kill him," the monk said in his farewell video.

The video shows one of the monk's band members shaving off Bonizzi's long mane of white hair as a sign of his turning a new leaf on life.

For years Bonizzi performed at concerts wearing his traditional Franciscan brown robe, sandals and white rope around his waist.

His second heavy metal CD was called "Mysteries," and was inspired by a group of southern Italian women who sang about the Virgin Mary.

Bonizzi, who fell in love with heavy metal when he attended a Metallica concert some 15 years ago, says fame had put him on the wrong path. But he still thinks heavy metal can be a means to spread the gospel message of pace and love.

"I think that metal is the strength of music itself. Metal is a brother," he said in the video.  ( Reuters video)


Monday, 16 November 2009

India is morphing into a global R&D hub, but can it ever take on Silicon Valley?

by Vivek Wadhwa

When Americans think of the Indian technology sector, they still perceive a nation of call center workers and low-level computer programmers administering databases and updating websites. But while the West was sleeping, Indian IT morphed into a giant R&D machine. Indian companies that started out doing call center and low-level IT work have climbed the value chain to become outsourced providers of critical R&D in sophisticated areas such as semiconductor design, aerospace, automotive, network equipment and medical devices.

This is happening as multi-nationals set up their own R&D operations in India and partner with local shops. Both the Palm Pre smart phone and the Amazon Kindle, two of the hottest consumer electronics devices on the market, have key components designed in India. Intel designed its six-core Xeon processor in India. IBM has over 100,000 employees in India. A large number of these are building Big Blue’s most sophisticated software products. Cisco is developing cutting edge networking technologies for futuristic “intelligent cities” in Bangalore. Adobe, Cadence, Oracle, Microsoft and most of the large software companies are developing mainstream products in India.

Equally important are the arrival of Indian multi-nationals who are tackling global markets, such as Tata with its dirt cheap Nano car that the company is now positioning for a European market entry and Reva, which recently announced it was planning to build an electric car factory in New York state to address the U.S. market for electric vehicles.

What has been missing to date in India, however, is early stage venture activity and the type of grass-roots entrepreneurism that is the hallmark of American capitalism and Silicon Valley. In that respect China is way ahead of India with many startups taking advantage of huge government incentives and reeling in talented native Chinese returnees to serve as CEOs and CTOs. Note that Kaifu Lee, formerly Google’s top guy in China, was able to launch a $100 million startup incubator focusing entirely on the mobile sector — and he was flooded with business plans within days of opening his doors in the Middle Kingdom.

On my recent trip to India I started to see new signs of life in tech entrepreneurship. Many of the startups that Sarah Lacy and I met were really smart and hungry. Some were even doing things better than their Silicon Valley counterparts. Not all of these startups are developing breakthrough technologies but many of them are solving problems that U.S. companies have thus far failed to solve and doing it with fewer resources.

One of the most interesting companies I met is in the mundane business of developing offset printer ink. Their ink is made from vegetable oil and is entirely bio-degradable. The offset printing industry consumes 1 million tons of petroleum products and emits 500,000 tons of volatile organic compounds every year. An IIT-Delhi incubated startup called EnNatura developed a printing ink which emits no volatile compounds and is washable. And the overall cost of their solution will be significantly less than all present compounds when produced at scale. I can see a company like this growing into a billion dollar global business.

Another interesting company was LiveMedia. This is an out-of-home advertising company that has 4,500 screens in 2,200 destinations with a total reach of 50 million people. Of course, you can find exactly these sorts of TV screens in thousands of places across the U.S. Unfortunately, it has been very hard to make real money selling advertising on these networks. LiveMedia appears to have cracked that by creating specialized content that is more engaging and interactive than a box droning CNN or the Disney Channel. LiveMedia content includes games, quizzes, horoscopes, a few short animations, and other content that is both cheap to produce and easy to play along with or understand. LiveMedia has also perfected context-relevant advertising spots keyed to the crowds at the screen location.

LiveMedia is in the process of building out a partnership with Alcatel-Lucent Bell Labs India that would give the network even more interactive capabilities. Bell Labs has developed a content management and routing system, dubbed Mango, that makes it much easier and efficient to deliver high-bandwidth, high-quality video and interactive content over existing networks. In the developing world, everyone wants a TiVO-like capability to share, store and manage content. But existing GPRS or EDGE-based cell networks are not up to snuff. And the broadband infrastructure still lags behind that of the most developed telecom networks in places like Japan, Korea and Scandanavia. A product like Mango is tailor-made for VC investment to get it out of the lab and into a spin-off company.

This is partly why so many U.S. venture capital shops have opened up branches in India. In fact, the two lead investors in LiveMedia are both U.S. venture capitalists including the respected Valley firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson. But India lags in home-grown venture capital activity. As I have previously discussed, VCs follow the innovation. So the lack of native VC in India is notable in that it implies a critical mass of activity remains lacking, as well.

For example, in the first nine months of 2008, total early stage VC investments in India totaled $678 million, according to the Global India Venture Capital Association. In the U.S. over that same period early stage investments tallied $5.2 billion according to the U.S. National Venture Capital Association – and that number is not entirely reflective of the real situation. The economic downturn hit the U.S. much harder than the Subcontinent and VC activity in the U.S. fell faster and harder. Regardless, a 10-fold difference between early stage venture activity clearly illustrates the capital is not there yet.

So when will there be enough innovative startups to support an explosion in venture capital? I’d argue, sooner than you realize. During my week in India I spoke to close to 100 startups. A few of them had products or prototypes that would easily compete in Silicon Valley. Some of the leading lights of the legacy Indian IT giants are also moving quickly into VC. Infosys founder Narayan Murthy recently sold millions of dollars of shares in the company in order to launch a venture capital fund targeting investments in India.

The dynamics of entrepreneurship are the same in India as in America. Company founders usually come from the ranks of experienced business executives and are middle-aged. They get tired of working for others and want to make an impact and build wealth before they get too old. Given that there are now hundreds of thousands of R&D workers in India who are gaining valuable experience and are getting old, it is simply a matter of time before they begin to hatch their entrepreneurial plans. After all, their colleagues who migrated to the U.S. now start nearly one in six of Silicon Valley’s tech firms.

I’ll bet that in 5 years, if you stacked up a TechCrunch 50 of Indian start ups versus a comparable number of U.S. startups, it would be a pretty even match. That’s pretty amazing considering the relatively short length of time that the Indian startup scene has existed. And it’s a good lesson for America that the barriers to starting a company are lower than ever before—and some ambitious engineer in India will eat your lunch if you don’t get your prototype built and perfected ASAP.

Editor’s note: Guest writer Vivek Wadhwa is an entrepreneur turned academic. He is a Visiting Scholar at UC-Berkeley, Senior Research Associate at Harvard Law School and Director of Research at the Center for Entrepreneurship and Research Commercialization at Duke University. Follow him on Twitter at @vwadhwa.

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Canada and India: why should the worlds meet?

With Canadian primeminister stephen Harper soon visiting India, i was googling to find some more info on it.
Here is an article by Haroon Siddiqui in (
Tips for Harper's trip to India
Ottawa has been far too slow to recognize its dynamic economy and geopolitical clout

If I were Stephen Harper and going on my first visit to India – landing in Mumbai Sunday to meet business leaders, then New Delhi to confer with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and others – I'd do the following:

Ignore the Canadian media's portrayal of India as orientalist exotica and the epicentre of some of the world's worst problems.

India is also an economic and geopolitical giant, in some respects more important than China. Besides democracy and English, it boasts a population that's much younger than China's.

Its $1 trillion economy equals Canada's, and is growing at 6.7 per cent this year, compared with the stagnant economies of the West.

India is spending as much as Canada, more than $1 billion, on development projects in Afghanistan.

India's army is the fourth largest in the world. Its navy rules the Indian Ocean. Its capacity to build satellites, missiles, fighter jets, etc. exceeds ours.

India is a serious global player.

Understand also that Ottawa has been painfully slow to recognize this reality.

The U.S. has been wooing India for years. Bill Clinton's 1999 visit was one of the best foreign policy charm offensives I've ever seen. George W. Bush followed with a realpolitik gift of a civilian nuclear deal, setting aside American anger over India turning nuclear and balking at the Non-Proliferation Treaty.

Russia and France have since negotiated their own accords, wanting to tap the $100 billion bonanza of Indian nuclear energy needs.

Ottawa could have taken a principled stance and refused to sell uranium (as has Australia). Or it could have stopped acting peeved and opened some doors for our (largely Ontario-based) nuclear sector.

It did neither and has been plodding along, despite Harper's initial enthusiasm. Unless he has something dramatic to say, a photo-op on the nuclear file will only draw yawns in Delhi.

Know that while bilateral trade jumped to $4.6 billion in 2008, rising by a fifth over 2007, India's trade with the U.S. and China rose proportionately more (each now in the $45 billion range).

Believe it or not, India is investing more in Canada than we are there ($1.02 billion vs. $800 million). Indian conglomerates have taken over Canadian firms in the forestry, steel and pharmaceutical sectors, and are using Canada as a gateway to the U.S.

Remember that there are 100,000 Indian students in the U.S., 80,000 in Australia, 30,000 in the U.K. but only 4,000 in Canada.

This even though our universities are top-notch, cost less and provide a welcoming environment (unlike Australia, where Indian students have faced racist incidents). Plus Ottawa is offering foreign students the opportunity to eventually apply for immigrant status (eminently sensible, given that they're likely to integrate more easily).

"My assumption is that Canada does not sell itself aggressively in India," says S.M. Gavai, India's high commissioner in Ottawa.

Not just that. The provinces compete with each other in India. And they and the feds don't coordinate their actions.

"Canada has lagged hopelessly behind in the higher education field," writes David Malone, our former high commissioner to India (2006-08), one of our most successful envoys there. His article, Building Stronger Ties Between India and Canada: Better Late Than Never, posted on the Asia Pacific Foundation website, is very much worth reading.

Resist partisanship and promote the visits to India of Dalton McGuinty (Dec. 6-11, his second) and Jean Charest (in February).

Some Ontario universities – York, McMaster, Toronto, Waterloo and Windsor, in particular – have been working hard to forge links in India. They could use a prime ministerial push.

So could the 25 clean energy companies going with McGuinty.

Don't lecture the Indians on the environment. They, like the Chinese, balk at binding limits on carbon emissions.

India will not be deprived of economic uplift, especially by those who have been polluting for a century or more.

To the counter-argument that global warming cannot be reduced without India's and China's help, India says: If that's the case, subsidize our conversion to green technologies. What's our response?

It is what many Indian scientists themselves are saying: India cannot reach its economic goals amid environmental degradation: deforestation, sinking water tables, rising salinity, drying rivers and lakes.

Joint projects are the way to go.

Don't let Prime Minister Singh's modesty, mild manner and soft voice lull you into forgetting that he is one of the world's foremost economists, who also happens to hold power. Ditto his economic adviser, Montek Singh Ahluwalia (who was in Toronto in April, for an energy conference).

Don't even try to play in their economic league. Cultivate them instead on what interests them – India's role in the G20, which Canada is hosting next June in Huntsville, and for which Ahluwalia is India's designated envoy.

Prevail on Prime Minister Singh to also visit Montreal to receive his honourary doctorate from McGill.

Treat him as the historic figure he is. He was the architect of India's economic turnaround in the 1990s as finance minister. With his innate decency and honesty, he has as prime minister single-handedly broken the decades-long grip of corrupt and parochial regional leaders, and restored a national vision, thereby positioning India for yet another giant leap forward.

Haroon Siddiqui is the Star's editorial page editor emeritus. His column appears Thursday and Sunday.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Non-violence and Gandhi

In  American Chronicle, i found a well written article on

He writes:

'' ...........................................................
The four common points which we find in the context of non-violence in the four chief philosophies established and developed in India that played vital roles in making India great by strengthening the Indian Way are as follows:

1. Within the domain of non-violence are all living beings;

2. In spite of being eternal, natural and the first human value, it is a subject of practice according to the demands of time and space;

3. It is an active value; it has nothing to do with cowardice as it is an ornament of the brave; and

4. It is not a subject to be practiced occasionally; in theory and in practice it is all-timely

( you can find the full article here)

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Why wasn’t Gandhi bestowed with Nobel Prize?

With all the Obama nobel news, Gandhi is back in news.
I was asked, why Gandi did not win any Nobel, while his fans did.?
I vaguely replied Gandhi was too big and far above the Nobel.
In fact, i was never got interested in such a question ever before, except now.
today i saw this article in THE HINDU  on this issue.
It gives some historical insight in to this question often asked but less discussed.
have a great read.

Many ardent fans of Mahatma Gandhi have won the Nobel Peace Prize with the latest being US President Barack Obama, but why was not the ‘Apostle of Peace’ bestowed with the honour despite being nominated five times?

Though he was shortlisted thrice, the selection committees had given different reasons why Gandhi was not conferred the honour, like “he was too much of an Indian nationalist” and that he was “frequently a Christ, but then, suddenly an ordinary politician“.

One of the committees was also of the view that he was “no real politician or proponent of international law, not primarily a humanitarian relief worker and not an organiser of international peace Congress“.

Gandhi, who showed the world that anything can be achieved through ‘Satyagrah’ (passive resistance) and non-violence, was nominated for the award in 1937, 1938, 1939, 1947 and finally a few days before he was martyred in January 1948.

When Gandhi was first nominated in 1937, the selection committee’s adviser Prof Jacob Worm-Muller was critical about him. “He is undoubtedly a good, noble and ascetic person -- a prominent man who is deservedly honoured and loved by masses.

“There are sharp turns in his policies which can hardly be satisfactorily explained by his followers...He is a freedom fighter and a dictator, an idealist and a nationalist. He is frequently a Christ, but then, suddenly an ordinary politician,” he had commented, according to the Nobel Foundation.

Worm-Muller also referred to Gandhi’s critics in the international peace movement and maintained that he was not “consistently pacifist” and that he should have known that some of his non-violent campaigns towards the British would degenerate into violence and terror.

He was referring to Non-Cooperation movement in 1920-1921 when a crowd in Chauri Chaura attacked a police station, killed many of the policemen and then set fire to the police station.

Worm-Muller was also of the view that Gandhi was too much of an Indian nationalist. “One might say that it is significant that his well-known struggle in South Africa was on behalf of the Indians only, and not of the blacks whose living conditions were even worse,” he said in his report to the selection panel.

Though Gandhi was nominated for the Prize in 1938 and 1939, he made it to the shortlist for the second time only in 1947 after India gained independence. Freedom fighters Govind Vallab Pant and B G Kher were among those who nominated him.

The then Nobel Committee Advisor Jens Arup Seip’s report was not as critical as that of Worm-Muller but panel chairman Gunnar Jahn wrote in his diary: “While it is true that he (Gandhi) is the greatest personality among the nominees -- plenty of good things could be said about him -- we should remember that he is not only an apostle for peace; he is first and foremost a patriot.

“Moreover, we have to bear in mind that Gandhi is not naive. He is an excellent jurist and a lawyer,” Jahn said.

image URL: 

Winning the Prize, Losing the Peace :

Saturday, 10 October 2009

psaumes du temps présent: Alina Reyes

Je passais mon chemin près de toi sans te voir,

croyant que tu ne me voyais pas.

Ô mon Aimé, vite, embrasse-moi...  (page: 20) 

je vis en toi, je vis par toi, je meurs de vie.  (page: 43) 

Je t'aime, pour ce que tu me fais et me fais faire. (Page:42)

La vie, l'amour, la mort (Félix Leclerc)

C'est beau la vie,
comme un nœud dans le bois
C'est bon la vie,
bue au creux de ta main
Fragile aussi,
même celle du roi
C'est dur la vie,
vous me comprenez bien.

C'est beau l'amour,
tu l'as écrit sur moi
C'est bon l'amour
quand tes mains le déploient
C'est lourd l'amour
accroché à nos reins
C'est court l'amour
et ça ne comprend rien.

C'est fou la mort,
plus méchant que le vent
C'est sourd la mort,
comme un mort sur un banc
C'est noir la mort
et ça passe en riant
C'est grand la mort,
c'est plein de vie dedans.

(Félix Leclerc)

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Chandrayaan-I: the reason why India should re-invent the wheel.

"It is not a question of whether we can afford it, it's whether we can afford to ignore it."                                      

( Dr K. Kasturirangan, chairperson,Indian Space Research Organization)  

Chandrayaan-1 ( launched last October), the Indian lunar mission became a part of history in late august-2008, when its communication system shut down.
Criticism was abundant.
They said,the Indian space program is like re-inventing the wheel.
Questions were posed one upon another, even without waiting for any answers.
This week (2009/09/25) when NASA declared about the Chandrayaan's finding of water on Lunar surface, it really made History and hand-signed it.

It was indeed a brilliant question: Do we need to re-invent the wheel? 
It seems to me it has to be so,if we need to advance further on.
It is an inspiration and an ambition.

If a $80 million program can serve as a dream and inspiration for the Indian generations and to mark a leap in the human scientific knowledge.... 
how we can afford to ignore it?

image: India's Chandrayaan-1. (EPA)

Saturday, 26 September 2009

“Selling God”: The Age of Persuasion

Pls find the link to one of my never-miss radio broadcasts on CBC Radio.The Age of Persuasion

This week Terry O’Reilly marches you boldly where the angels of marketing fear to tread: he looks at the delicate, always-controversial relationship between faith and advertising. He’ll look into the controversy surrounding recent bus ads, which read “There Probably Is No God. So Stop Worrying and Enjoy Your Life.” And he’ll explain why not all people of faith embrace the marketing tactics popular in some of today’s churches.

it is curious...

it is curious that people who taught others for many long years,
never learned themselves the basic lessons of living.
Then, it tempts to ask ' what the hell did you teach and did you learn?'

Sometimes, they even risk becoming small people,
in their own small world with an even more smaller heart.

Indeed, learning and teaching are two different things.
Blessed are you those who lean  by teaching.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Psaumes du temps présent ( modernday psalms)

It has been quite a long blog-break.
Now, let me come back home.

I found a beautiful book.
It is a collection of poems.

Psaumes du temps présent by Alina Reyes 

Mais Dieu évolue comme sa créature
Dans le temps, hors du temps, il lui faut
Faire des sauts, préciser son être.

I would do a free translation of these lines in this way

But God too evolves like his creature
in the TIME, out of the TIME,
he has to make certain leaps,
he has to precise his being. 

Needless to say, i am not so happy with this translation.
However it gives a glimpse of the original French lines.

It's interesting that God also evolves....  

Friday, 19 June 2009

Journey of discovery: Istvan Perczel (the Syrian Christians in India.)

I read this interesting article from The Hindu, one of India's leading national daily,  on the Syrian Christians in India.

journey of discovery 


Hungarian professor Istvan Perczel’s research throws light on the Syrian Christians in India.
I found a few texts... that have liturgical practices that precede the Synod of Udayamperoor.

Chronicling the past: Istvan Perczel.

Istvan Perczel’s nearly 10-year stay and work in this antique land of ours promises to throw new light on the Syrian Christians in India. A book of poems by a 17th century priest called Kadavil Chandy Kathanar is just one of the many gems unearthed by this Hungarian professor.

Eventually he plans to write on the travails and travels of Mar Simeon, a Persian Metropolitan who came to India in 1701.

Story of a bishop

“This is the story of a bishop who came from Diyarbakir, through Jerusalem, Rome, Spain and Lisbon to India, in order to be the shepherd of his people here. But he was caught and sent back on a ship, from where he escaped and landed in Surat in Gujarat, where he was again held in confinement. Later, he managed to come to Kerala at a time when the Vatican was trying to appoint bishops in India independent of the Portuguese King. So Mar Simeon was escorted to Alangad, where he consecrated the first bishop of Verapoly. However, he was subsequently interned in Pondicherry.

“Although he was unable to cater to the spiritual needs of his people, his work was continued by another East Syrian Metropolitan called Mar Gabriel,” recounts Dr. Perczel. It was the treasure of documents in Syriac, the ancient language that used to be the language of worship of the early Christians in Kerala that brought Dr. Perczel to India.

“In fact, the indigenous Christians in Kerala are called Suriyaani Christians on account of their association with Syriac. I wanted to see if there were documents that would show some kind of intellectual discussions with Hinduism during the Middle Ages. That turned out to be a disappointment but I stumbled upon many a treasure that has made my journey worthwhile,” says Dr. Perczel.

His missionary zeal to go back in time to travel with the early Syrian Christians motivated him to become a research associate of The Oriental Institute of Tubingen University, which has funded his work. Most of the documents (on liturgical, theological, philosophical and historical matters) were found in seminaries, churches and in private collections. For instance, he found the book of poems written in Syriac by Kadavavil Chandy Kathanar and innumerable historical letters at St. Joseph’s CMI monastery at Mannanam.

“Although we knew about the existence of one poem, I stumbled upon this collection during my work in Mannanam. Chandy, who called himself Alexander the Indian, was an erudite doctor of Syriac, who was trained in Chennamangalam by the Jesuits and was also familiar with local Christian hymns and worship. In his original poetry, written in Syriac, he combines the European humanist culture learned from the Jesuits with the traditions of the Indian Syrian Church. In the Chaldean Syrian Collection in Thrissur (in the custody of Mar Aprem Metropolitan) is preserved what is perhaps the oldest copy of the most important collection of East Syrian Church law. This book has been digitised and published.

“I feel that it is the personal copy of Mar Abraham, the last Persian Metropolitan who administered the Malabar Church before the Portuguese took over.”

According to him, it is wrong to say that Indians have no sense of history. He says that priests and church administrators used to document almost everything and copies were made of even letters to various important personalities of that time.

“We can read about people, events, decisions, laws and canons. There are many Malayalam texts written in Syriac script. I can read them, but my knowledge of Malayalam is not enough to understand them. So I am reading these together with Dr. George Kurukkoor, a specialist of old Malayalam,” he explains.

According to Dr. Perczel, his study of the Syriac documents points out that the Portuguese missionaries may not have entirely succeeded in their attempt to destroy the Syriac religious writings at the Synod of Udayamperoor in 1599 AD.

Discovery of texts

“I found a few texts, forgotten or hidden, that have liturgical practices that precede the Synod of Udayamperoor. In Thrissur, for example, there is an East Syriac breviary copied in 1585, which shows liturgical practices that were already not in use in the Persian Church,” muses the scholar.

In addition to finding the missing pieces in a historical jigsaw puzzle that covers centuries and continents, Dr. Perczel has also been digitalising the documents that are spread over Kerala in places like Thrissur, Pampakuda, Ernakulam, Kottayam and Thiruvananthapuram. The digitised documents are being archived and preserved at Hill Museum and Manuscripts Library in Minnesota, in the United States.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

How to Filet a Fish Like a Pro: youtube teaches everything....

If you ever wanted to learn how to slice onion or fish...
go to youtube..its e-learing....hahhah

Letter from Jerusalem by Daniel Estrin

i read this interesting article on poets and novlists replacing journalist for a day in a National daily.
Can you ever imagine what will happen in the newsroom and on the on..

 Literary Lesson: Authors, Poets Write the News
Letter from Jerusalem
By Daniel Estrin

It was on an average Wednesday that a very serious Israeli newspaper conducted a very wild experiment. For one day, Haaretz editor-in-chief Dov Alfon sent most of his staff reporters home and sent 31 of Israel’s finest authors and poets to cover the day’s news.

his wasn’t a Sabbath supplement, a chance to balance the news with extra color. This was a near complete replacement of the newspaper itself. Save for the sports section and a few other articles, all the reporters’ notebooks were handed over to poets and novelists, both bestselling and up-and-coming. Their articles filled the pages, from the leading headline to the weather report.

“We really tried to give a real newspaper,” Alon said.

For the liberal, Hebrew language Israeli daily — the country’s oldest — it was a bold but signature move. From its founding in 1918, Haaretz has distinguished its brand by highlighting Israeli cultural, literary and artistic life with a vigor unmatched by its competitors. That, along with its dense in-depth political and business reporting (achieved with smaller type and far fewer photos than Israel’s other dailies) has won it an elite audience, albeit one far smaller than its competitors. Its weekday circulation of some 50,000 compares with 400,000 for Yediot Aharonot, Israel’s largest daily, and 160,000 for Ma’ariv, the second largest.

But as the old cliché goes, they are the right readers. “The likelihood of Haaretz readership,” Israeli media analysts Dan Caspi and Yehiel Limor write, “rises with income, education, and age.” Its elite audience gives it an influence disproportionate to its circulation, as does its internationally read English language Internet edition, which features translations of many of the Hebrew stories. Its readership, along with the paper’s dovish political stances, has won it a reputation as Israel’s version of The New York Times.

It’s hard to imagine the Times doing anything like the June 10 experiment, though. For this edition of the paper, nearly all the rules taught in journalism school were thrown out the window. Writers used the first person and showed up in nearly every photograph alongside their interview subjects, including the likes of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and President Shimon Peres.

Among those articles were gems like the stock market summary, by author Avri Herling. It went like this: “Everything’s okay. Everything’s like usual. Yesterday trading ended. Everything’s okay. The economists went to their homes, the laundry is drying on the lines, dinners are waiting in place… Dow Jones traded steadily and closed with 8,761 points, Nasdaq added 0.9% to a level of 1,860 points…. The guy from the shakshuka [an Israeli egg-and-tomato dish] shop raised his prices again….” The TV review by Eshkol Nevo opened with these words: “I didn’t watch TV yesterday.” And the weather report was a poem by Roni Somek, titled “Summer Sonnet.” (“Summer is the pencil/that is least sharp/in the seasons’ pencil case.”) News junkies might call this a postmodern farce, but considering that the stock market won’t be soaring anytime soon, and that “hot” is really the only weather forecast there is during Israeli summers, who’s to say these articles aren’t factual?

Alongside these cute reports were gripping journalistic accounts. David Grossman, one of Israel’s most famed novelists, spent a night at a children’s drug rehabilitation center in Jerusalem and wrote a cover page story about the tender exchanges between the patients, ending the article in the style of a celebrated author who’s treated like a prophet: “I lay in bed and thought wondrously how, amid the alienation and indifference of the harsh Israeli reality, such islands — stubborn little bubbles of care, tenderness and humanity — still exist.” Grossman’s pen transformed a run-of-the-mill feature into something epic.

So, too, did 79-year-old author Yoram Kaniuk, whose novel “Adam Resurrected” was recently adapted for a movie starring Jeff Goldblum and Ayelet Zurer. He went into the field to write about couples in the hospital cancer ward. The thing is, he’s a cancer patient, too. “A woman walking with a cane brings her partner a cup of coffee with a trembling hand. The looks they exchange are sexier than any performance by Madonna and cost a good deal less,” Kaniuk wrote. “I think about what would happen if I were to get better…how I would live without the human delicacy to which I am witness?”

“I got more telephone calls today than I have in years past,” Kaniuk said in a phone interview. “People were very moved, because I wrote it like a writer and not like a journalist. If you see something beautiful and touching, why not write it?” The masterful articles by Kaniuk and Grossman made it seem like there’s actually some hope to be reported in a country flooded with doomsday news bulletins.

The next day, Haaretz’s usual staff reporters were back on the job. Yossi Melman, Haaretz’s commentator on security and intelligence issues, emphasized that he liked the experiment, but said, “It would be very difficult to replace journalists with authors and run a newspaper. We are trained; we know how to do it. For them, you know, there is a tendency to elaborate.”

At the editor’s desk, Alfon sees things otherwise. “I think it is a humility lesson for journalists,” he said. He kept five writers in the newsroom in case of breaking news, but nothing big happened. So the authors’ accounts prevailed, gripping stories were printed and dozens of readers called in with praise.

“Thirty-one writers decided, what are the real events of the day?” he mused. “What is really important in their eyes? They wrote about it, and our priorities as journalists were suddenly shaken by this.”

Contact Daniel Estrin at 

can you

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

When we communicate we love

i found this here

When we communicate we love, and when we love we do that which we have been “projected” for by our Creator, in addition to fulfilling our deepest and innate needs. Tis is why communication not only has value “in and of itself” but should be guarded and “built” with a quality that is worthy of its mission.
Therefore it is important to consider the quality of the content that is transmitted and shared through these new technologies.
The Pope lists the three directives of this qualitative research as the culture of respect, dialogue and friendship.
These three values should be sought by both the users and the administrators, above all with attention to the respect for life, often undermined by degrading images of life conveyed in many forms by the spread of new technologies.
So we need to exclude:
- everything that feeds hatred and intolerance
- everything that ties to an image that is devoid of the beauty and intimacy of humane sexuality
- everything that takes advantage of the weak and defenseless

"Looking at Christ with the Eyes of Francis"

A detail showing St. Francis of Assisi, from Benozzo Gozzoli's fresco, "Madonna and Child between St. Francis and St. Bernardine of Siena" in the Convent of San Fortunato, Montefalco, painted in 1450.

Father Cantalamessa Speaks on Franciscan Charism

ASSISI, Italy, APRIL 20, 2009 ( Here is the address that Capuchin Father Raniero Cantalamessa, preacher of the Pontifical Household, gave Wednesday to participants in the Chapter of the Mats in Assisi, on the occasion of the eighth centenary of the approval of the Rule of St. Francis. 

* * *

Let Us Observe the Rule We Have Promised

1. The dawning of a charism

My reflection begins with a question: what exactly are we remembering this year, in 2009? Not the approval of the "rule we have promised," which is the approved or later rule, but the oral approval by Pope Innocent III of St Francis' primitive rule, now lost. In fourteen years time, in 2023, we will celebrate the centenary of the approved rule and on that occasion, we can be certain, words will be written and spoken far and wide about the rule and its importance. This year we have a unique opportunity to go back to the source of the Franciscan charism, to the moment when it first buds forth, so to speak, "in its pure state." This is a kairòs for the order and the whole Franciscan movement, one that we cannot allow to pass by in vain. 

Sociologists have long highlighted the force and unrepeatable character of a collective movement "in statu nascent," when it is in the process of coming to birth. Speaking about states of collective effervescence, Durkheim wrote: "Man has the impression of being dominated by forces he does not recognize as his own, by which he is carried along and which he does not master. [...] He feels transported to a different world from the one in which he lives his private life. Here, life is not only intense, it is qualitatively different." For Max Weber, the birth of such movements is linked to the appearance of a charismatic leader who, breaking with tradition, draws his adherents into a heroic adventure, and produces in those who follow him the experience of an inner rebirth, a 'metanoia,' in St Paul's sense[1]. The perspective of these authors is sociological, and does not by itself explain religious movements. Nevertheless it does help us to understand their dynamic. 

According to Francesco Alberoni, such were the moments when religions, or the Protestant reformation or the French or Bolshevik revolutions, came to birth. We can without hesitation add the Franciscan movement to the list. There is, according to Alberoni, an undoubted analogy between the birth of these movements and the phenomenon of falling in love[2]. This was certainly the case for Francis and his followers: they were in love.

There are flowers that cannot be reproduced by planting their seeds or a twig of the plant but only by burying the bulb, which mysteriously reawakens and bursts into bloom at springtime. The tulip and the lily would be two such flowers that I know. I believe that the Franciscan Order, too, needs to go back to the bulb. And the bulb is the primitive insight, or rather inspiration, ("The Lord revealed to me..."), which Francis of Assisi had and placed before Innocent III in 1209. 

This stage of the Franciscan charism has one huge advantage, compared to the juridical tidying-up that had taken place by 1223, which is that the latter is much more a reflection of the historical circumstances and juridical requirements of the time; it is much more dated than the primitive rule and therefore less transferable to our own times. In it the movement has already become an institution, with all the benefits but also with all the losses that such a transition entails. Francis, notes Sabatier, was to find in the ecclesiastical norms that were incorporated into the later rule "directives that would give a precise form to ideas that had only been vaguely glimpsed, but he also found in them structures in which his thought would lose something of its originality and force: the new wine would be put into old skins."[3] This is why, without taking away any of the inestimable value of the definitive rule, it is to that first foundational moment that we must refer if, as we read in the Letter of the General Ministers for this Chapter, we wish to succeed in facing "the challenge of refoundation."

Luckily for us, the contents of the primitive rule are one of the best known and least controversial things in the whole of Franciscan historiography, despite the fact that the text has been lost. In the Bull "Solet Annuere," by which he approved the rule in 1223, Pope Honorius III writes: "We confirm by our apostolic authority the rule of your order, approved by our predecessor Pope Innocent of happy memory and here transcribed." From these words, it would appear that it was a case of the same rule, only "transcribed" -- in other words, put into writing. But we know that this is not the case. Without wishing to exaggerate, as one well-known strand of Franciscan historiography has done, and speaking of the definitive rule as something that had been extracted from Francis under duress, rather than intended by him, there is no doubt that a lot of water flowed under the bridge between the two dates. And a lot of "water" also passed over the primitive rule!

We know directly from Francis about the tone of the primitive rule. In his Testament he writes: "And after the Lord had given me brothers, no one showed me what I ought to do, but the Most High himself revealed to me that I should live after the manner of the holy Gospel. And I had it written down in few and simple words, and our Lord the Pope confirmed it for me." 

Celano writes: "When Blessed Francis saw that the Lord God was daily adding to their number, he wrote for himself and his brothers, present and to come, simply and with few words, a form of life, or rule, using for the most part the words of the holy Gospel, longing only for its perfection. But he did insert a few other things necessary to provide for a holy way of life."[4]

The "few words" he put into writing doubtless included the Gospel texts that had struck Francis during his famous reading of the Gospel during Mass, in other words, the passages about Jesus sending the first disciples out on a mission, with instructions to carry "neither gold nor silver, without a staff, bread or shoes, and having no second garment."[5] It is thought, not without reason, that some of these texts are the ones contained in chapter one of the earlier rule. 

But these were only partial examples. Francis' real purpose is encapsulated in the expression that was to recur in all succeeding stages of the rule, and which the saint would repeat in his Testament: "to live according to the form of the holy Gospel." His purpose is a simple and radical return to the Gospel, meaning to the life of Jesus and his first disciples. The general ministers have rightly entitled their letter convoking this chapter: "Living According to the Gospel."

2. Itinerant charismatics

In this first phase, Francis did not analyze the contents of his choice: I mean, those aspects of the Gospel he proposed to relive. Following his instinct to live the Gospel "without gloss," he took it as a whole, as indivisible. We today, however, can highlight some of the specific contents of his choice, on the basis of what we observe him setting out to do, before and after his journey to Rome and his meeting with the Pope. We can speak of the three "p's" in Francis' life: preaching, prayer and poverty.

The first thing Francis starts to do is to go himself, and to send his companions out, around the villages and towns to preach penance, exactly as he had heard that Jesus did. Jesus inserted times of prayer into his preaching: at night, during the day, at daybreak or dusk, he started with prayer and returned to prayer after his journeys. And now, the little group gathered around Francis does the same. Prayer was the noble framework surrounding all the day's activities. All of which went hand in hand with a lifestyle that was poor in the broadest sense of the word, meaning that it was made up of radical material poverty, but also of spiritual poverty; in other words, of simplicity, humility, and the avoidance of honors. All of these things Francis later included in the name "minors" which he gave to his brothers.

We should point out one important fact: this primitive experience was entirely lay. The great historian Joseph Lortz has forcefully stated: "At its core, the piety of the Catholic saint, Francis of Assisi, is not clerical."[6]

Francis' intuition finds striking confirmation in the most recent scholarship about the historical Jesus. It has become fairly commonplace to define the group of Jesus and his disciples, from the viewpoint of religious sociology, as "itinerant charismatics," even if the term is understood by some in a way that can only be accepted with considerable reservations.[7] "Charismatics" indicates the prophetic character of Jesus' preaching, accompanied by signs and wonders; "itinerant" points to his being on the move and his refusal to settle in one fixed place, confirmed by what Christ himself said: "Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Mt 8,20). No more apt definition could be found for the primitive group gathered around Francis than "itinerant charismatics."

3. From Francis to Christ

Now it is time for us to try to move to our own day, to see what we can learn from this initial moment of the dawn of the Franciscan movement. The first danger, or delusion, we must avoid is to think we can reproduce the experience of Francis in actual external forms. Life and history are like a river: they never turn back. 

Attempts at Franciscan reform where the main attention is on the external features of the Franciscan as he exists in the popular imagination can for a short while attract the approval of people, who instinctively admire non-conformity and a certain hippy style, but they do not stand the test of time, or of life. Where is the sap that gives life to the tree? That is what needs to be rediscovered. It's not enough to replant its leafy branches in the earth.

The first thing we need to do is take up the correct perspective. When Francis looked back, he saw Christ; when we look back, we see Francis. The difference between him and us is all there, and it is enormous. Question: In what, then, does the Franciscan charism consist? Answer: Looking at Christ with the eyes of Francis! We do not cultivate the Franciscan charism by looking at Francis, but by looking at Christ through Francis' eyes. 

Christ is everything for Francis: He is his only wisdom and his life. Before becoming a theological vision in Saint Bonaventure and Scotus, Christocentricism was an experience, lived in real life in an unreflected way by Francis. There is no time, and no need, to multiply quotations. At the end of his life, to a brother who tried to persuade him to have the scriptures read to him, Francis replied: "But I have already taken in so much of scripture that I have more than enough for meditating and reflecting. I do not need more, son. I know Christ, poor and crucified."[8]

We are in the year of St. Paul and it is extremely instructive to compare Paul's conversion with that of Francis. Both were blazing encounters with the person of Jesus; both of them were "captured by Christ" (Phil 3, 12). Both were able to say: "Life, to me, is Christ" and "It is not I who live, but Christ who lives in me," Phil 1, 21; Gal 2,20); both could say -- Francis even more strongly than Paul -- "The marks in my body are those of Jesus" (Gal 6,17). It is significant that the liturgical texts for the Office and Mass of the Feast of Saint Francis are mostly taken from Paul's Letters. 

The famous image of the marriage of Francis to Lady Poverty, which has left deep traces in Franciscan art and poetry, can be misleading. One does not fall in love with a virtue, not even with poverty; one falls in love with a person. Francis' wedding, like that of other mystics, was a betrothal to Christ. Francis' reply to the person who asked him if he intended to take a wife: "I shall take the most noble and most beautiful bride you have ever seen," is usually interpreted wrongly. It seems clear from the context that the bride is not poverty, but the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, namely Christ. "Indeed," comments Celano, "the unstained bride of God is the true religion that he embraced, and the hidden treasure is the Kingdom of heaven, which he sought with great longing."[9]

4. A renewed Franciscan preaching

On the basis of these presuppositions, let us try to see how we today could implement those three fundamental aspects of the primitive Franciscan experience which I have explained: preaching, prayer and poverty. 

With regard to the first, preaching, we first need to ask a disturbing question: what place does preaching occupy today in the Franciscan Order? In one of my sermons to the Papal Household I once reflected on some points which I think could also be useful for us here. In the Protestant churches, especially in certain new churches and sects, preaching is everything. Consequently, the most gifted members of the church are steered towards it, and there they find a natural way to express themselves. It is the church's number one activity. Who, on the other hand, are the ones who are earmarked for preaching in our Church? Where do the liveliest, most valued forces in the Church end up? What does the preaching office represent, among the many possible activities and appointments that can be given to a young priest? There is, it seems to me, a serious drawback here: that only those are destined for preaching who are left over after the others have been chosen for academic studies, for Church government, for diplomacy, teaching or administration. 

Speaking to the members of the Papal Household I said: we need to give back to the preaching office the place of honor in the Church; and here I add: the office of preaching must regain its honored place in the Franciscan family. I was struck by a reflection of de Lubac: "The ministry of preaching is not the popularization of a more abstract piece of doctrine, which supposedly comes before preaching and is superior to it. It is, on the contrary, the doctrinal teaching itself, in its highest form."[10] Saint Paul, the model of all preachers, certainly placed preaching before everything else, and subordinated everything to it. He did theology by preaching, not a theology which he then left for others to pick out the most elementary things and then pass them on to the simple faithful through preaching. 

We Catholics, because of our past, are more ready to be "pastors" than "fishers of men." I mean we are better placed to shepherd the people who have remained faithful to the Church, than to bring in new people, or to "fish back" those who have drifted away. The itinerant preaching which Francis chose for himself meets precisely this need. It would be a shame if the existence of our own churches and large structures made us Franciscans only shepherds and not fishers of men. We Franciscans are "evangelicals" by birth and by our native vocation; we shouldn't allow itinerant preaching to be practiced in certain continents, like Latin America, only by modern "Evangelicals" protestants.

There would be some important observations to make also about the content of our preaching. We know that the earliest Franciscan preaching was entirely centered on the theme of "penance," so much so that the earliest title the brothers gave themselves was "penitents from Assisi."[11] At that time, penitential preaching was understood as preaching based on conversion, in the sense of a change of behavior, moral preaching, in other words. That was the mandate given to the friars by Innocent III: "Go and preach penance to all."[12] In the definitive rule this moral content is made specific: preachers are to proclaim "vices and virtues, punishment and glory." [13]

This is one point where an automatic return to the origins would be fatal. In a society steeped in Christianity it was most natural and urgent to insist on the aspect of external works or deeds. Today, things have changed. We live in a society which in many countries has become post-Christian: the most necessary thing is to help people to find faith, to discover Christ. This is why moral preaching, or moralism, is not enough. What is needed is a kerygmatic type of preaching that goes right to the heart of the message, proclaiming the paschal mystery of Christ. It was by this proclamation that the apostles evangelized the pre-Christian world, and it will be through it that we can hope to re-evangelize the post-Christian world.

Francis, and thanks to him, in part his first companions too, managed to avoid this moralistic limitation in their preaching. In him, all the newness of the Gospel resonates with full force. The Gospel is truly good news; it proclaims the gift of God to man even before man's response. Dante has caught this climate well, when he says of Francis and his first companions: "Their concord and glad looks, wonder and love, / And sweet regard gave birth to holy thoughts."[14]

They had found, so the sources tell us, the hidden treasure and the pearl of great price, and they wanted to make it known to everyone.[15] The air one breathes around Francis is not the same as that of certain later Franciscan preachers, especially in the counter-reformation period, which is entirely centered on human works, austere and oppressive, but with an austerity closer to that of John the Baptist than of Jesus. Even the image of Francis is seriously altered in such a climate. Nearly all the paintings of this period depict him absorbed in meditation with a skull in his hand, and this is the man for whom death was a kindly sister!

Therefore, of course we Franciscans too should continue to preach conversion, but we should give the word the meaning Jesus gave to it when he said: "Repent, and believe the Good News" (Mk 1,15). Before him, to be converted always meant to change one's life and behavior, to turn back (this is the meaning of the Hebrew shub!), to the observance of the law and to the broken covenant. With Jesus, it no longer means to turn back, but to take a leap forward and enter the kingdom that has freely come among men. "Repent and believe" does not mean two separate things, but the same thing: be converted, believe the Good News! This is the great novelty of the Gospel, and Francis grasped it instinctively, without having to wait for biblical theology as we know it today. 

5. A Franciscan way of praying

The second distinguishing element in Francis' earliest experience, as we have seen, is an intense life of prayer. In this initial phase, Franciscan prayer is, like preaching, a charismatic type of prayer. Later on, with the order becoming clerical, the Divine Office would become the hinge of the brothers' prayer, but in the beginning there were no breviaries or other books. They prayed spontaneously, as the Spirit prompted them, either alone or together. One of the chapters of the Fioretti has preserved the memory of this prayer without books among Francis and his companions.[16]

How can we in our communities rediscover something of that fresh, spontaneous prayer? Before being the prayer of the primitive Franciscan community, it was the prayer of the Christian community. Paul wrote to the communities: "At your meetings, let everyone be ready with a psalm or a sermon or a revelation, or ready to use his gift of tongues or to give an interpretation" (1 Cor 14, 26); and again: "Sing the words and tunes of the psalms and hymns when you are together, and go on singing and chanting to the Lord in your hearts" (Eph. 5,19). 

Let's be honest: there is a danger that the common prayer of traditional communities may be easily reduced to what Isaiah called "man-made rules learned by rote, honoring God with lip service, while our hearts are far from him" (cf. Is 29, 13-14). Certainly we should not despise liturgical prayer, but it has to be sustained and kept alive with other kinds of prayer; it is not enough by itself. We know only two kinds of prayer: liturgical prayer and private prayer. Liturgical prayer is communal but not spontaneous; private prayer is spontaneous but not communal. We need a type of prayer that is communal and spontaneous at the same time, and this, rather than some strange way of praying, is what we call charismatic prayer. 

This would make it possible in certain circumstances, or during the liturgical prayer itself when allowed, to have moments of real spiritual sharing among brothers or sisters. Otherwise there is the danger that in our communities we share everything except our faith and our experience of Jesus. We talk about anything, except about him. 

The Holy Spirit has revived this type of charismatic prayer. It is the strength of nearly all the new communities and ecclesial movements of the post-conciliar era. We can open ourselves to this grace without in the least betraying our identity -- in fact we would be manifesting it. When the evangelical renewal ushered in by Francis and the mendicant orders in general appeared in the Church, all the pre-existing orders benefitted from this grace, seeing it as a challenge to themselves to rediscover their own Gospel inspiration of simplicity and poverty. We traditional orders should do the same in the presence of the new movements which the Spirit has raised up in the Church. 

Charismatic prayer is essentially a prayer of praise, of adoration, and who more than Francis has embodied this type of prayer? Francis Sullivan, a Jesuit theologian who formerly taught at the Gregorian, defined Francis of Assisi as "the greatest charismatic in the history of the Church." The renewal of the Franciscan Order, throughout its history, appears constantly linked to the renewal of prayer. It nearly always began in houses of retreat and prayer. 

6. Being "for the poor" and "being poor"

Regarding the third element -- poverty -- I will just say something that may help us to situate the Franciscan ideal of poverty in the history of salvation and of the Church and to see how, on this point too, Francis puts into effect a return to the Gospel. 

With regard to poverty, the transition from the Old to the New Testament marks a qualitative leap. We can summarize it by saying: the Old Testament introduces us to a God who is "for the poor," the New Testament to a God who makes himself "poor." The Old Testament is full of texts about God who "hears the cry of the poor," who "defends the cause of the afflicted," and "brings justice to the oppressed;"[17] but only the Gospel speaks to us of the God who makes himself one of them, who chooses poverty and weakness for himself: "Jesus Christ, rich though he was, became poor for your sake" (2 Cor 8,9). Material poverty, from being an evil to be avoided, acquires the aspect of a good to be cultivated, an ideal to be followed. Here is the great new thing that Christ has brought into being. 

In this way, the two essential components of the ideal of biblical poverty are now clear. These are: to be "for the poor" and to be "poor." The history of Christian poverty is the history of the different attitudes people have taken up in the face of these two requirements.
A first synthesis and balancing of the two demands was achieved in the thought of men like Saint Basil and Saint Augustine, and in the monastic experience they initiated. Here, to the most rigorous personal poverty is joined an equal concern for the poor and the sick, which takes concrete form in specially created institutions that in some cases were to serve as models for the future charitable works of the Church. 

In the medieval era we see this cycle being repeated in a different context. The Church, and in particular the ancient monastic orders, having grown very rich in the west, now cultivates poverty almost exclusively in the form of assistance to the poor, to pilgrims, in other words, by running charitable institutions. It was against this situation that the so-called "pauperistic" movements sprung up, from the beginning of the second millennium onwards. These placed the effective practice of poverty at the forefront, advocating the return of the Church to the simplicity and poverty of the Gospel. 

The balance and the synthesis were achieved, this time, by the mendicant orders, in particular by Francis, who strove to practice simultaneously a radical divesting of self and a loving care for the poor, the lepers, and above all, to live his poverty in communion with the Church, not in opposition to it. 

With all due caution, we can perhaps see signs of a similar dialectic in the modern era. The explosion of social consciousness in the last century and the problem of the proletariat have once again upset the balance, prompting people to leave aside the ideal of voluntary poverty, chosen and lived as part of Christian discipleship, to concern themselves with the problem of the poor. The ideal of a poor Church was overshadowed by concern "for the poor," translated into a thousand new initiatives and institutions, especially in the field of the education of poor children and assistance to the most destitute. Even the social teaching of the Church is a product of this spiritual climate. 

It was the Second Vatican Council that brought the subject of "the Church of the poor" once more to the forefront of the debate. On this point, in the Constitution on the Church we read: "Just as Christ carried out the work of redemption in poverty and oppression, so the Church is called to follow the same path. Christ was sent by the Father to bring good news to the poor, to heal the contrite of heart, to seek out and to save what was lost. Similarly, the Church encompasses with her love all those who are afflicted by human misery, and she recognizes in those who are poor and who suffer, the image of her poor and suffering founder. She does all in her power to relieve their need, and in them she strives to serve Christ."[18] In this text, both aspects are reunited: being poor, and being at the service of the poor. 

These developments are also a challenge to us, Franciscans of today. We should not make the mistake of going back to the concept of poverty as it was understood in the religious orders before the time of Francis, and in the universal Church before Vatican II: in other words, almost exclusively in terms of being "for the poor," for the promotion of social initiatives. For us Franciscans, a "preferential option for the poor" is not sufficient; we also need a "preferential option for poverty."

What this means in concrete situations will vary from place to place and it is not my intention to launch into practical suggestions. I will just say that I share the concern expressed by my General Minister, Brother Mauro Jöhri, in his recent letter entitled: "Let us fan the flame of our charism!" where he denounces the danger, present in certain circles, of transforming Saint Francis' choice of poverty into a choice of wealth and social advancement, which separates us from ordinary people rather than leading us to share their lifestyle. 

7. Our place in the Church

Now I would like to try and see how Francis related to the Church of his time, and how, following his example, we Franciscans ought to relate to the Church today. Concerning Francis' relationship with the hierarchical Church we have, as is well known, two opposing views: that of the official historiography of the order, of Francis as "vir catholicus et totus apostolicus," and that of the spirituals of the time, espoused by Sabatier, which speaks of a more or less latent conflict and of Francis being used by the hierarchy. 

The latter view is the one which, for obvious theatrical reasons, has generally been appropriated by films about Francis. Everyone remembers the phrase whispered by a cardinal, with a nod and a wink, after Innocent III has approved Francis' request, in Franco Zefirelli's film "Brother Sun and Sister Moon": "Eventually, we have a man who will speak to the poor and bring them back to us." Even the television film of two years ago about Francis and Clare gives in to this stereotype. 

History, as always, is rarely black and white; there are often half-shades and nuances. Human intentions, even those of Church leaders, are not always pure, or purely spiritual, especially in an age like that of Innocent III, when the Pope was the most prominent political reality in the western world. But why believe that the Pope and the cardinals were only thinking of winning back the masses for themselves and not also for Christ and the Gospel? We are entitled, for good historical reasons, to counter the "malevolent" interpretation of the hierarchy's attitude with a "benevolent" one. The hierarchical Church realizes that it cannot, because of the role it plays in the world, reach the seething masses of the people directly, and sees in Francis and in Dominic instruments to be used for this urgent need of the Church in the face of the aggressiveness of the heretical movements. 

We have confirmation of this pastoral, non-polemical intention behind the attitude of Innocent III in the origin of Francis' devotion to the Tau. In the prophet Ezekiel we read: "The glory of the God of Israel came from above the winged creature where it had been, towards the threshold of the Temple. He called to the man dressed in linen with a scribe's ink-horn in his belt, and the Lord said to him: 'Go all through the city, all through Jerusalem, and mark a cross on the foreheads of all who grieve and lament over all the loathsome practices in it'" (Ez 9, 1-4). 

In the speech with which he opened the fourth Lateran Council in 1215, the aged Pope Innocent III took up this symbol. He himself, he said, would like to have been that "man dressed in linen, with a scribe's ink-horn in his belt" and to have gone through the whole Church, in person, marking a Tau on the foreheads of those who agreed to embark on a state of true conversion.[19]

He evidently could not do this in person, and not only because he was old. Listening to him, hidden among the crowd, was Francis of Assisi (so it is believed). What is certain in any case is that the echo of the Pope's sermon reached his ears and he accepted the appeal and made it his own. From that day onwards he began to preach penance and conversion, even more intensely than before, and to mark the Tau on the foreheads of the people who came to him. The Tau became his seal. With it he used to sign his letters, and drew it on the cells of the brothers. Saint Bonaventure was able to say, after his death: "He had received the mission to summon all people to mourn and lament [...] and to sign the Tau on the brows of those that weep and wail."[20] This was why Francis was sometimes called " the angel of the sixth seal": the angel who personally carries the seal of the living God and stamps it on the foreheads of the elect (cf. Ap 7,2 s.).

Francis took on himself the task which the hierarchical Church was unable to carry out, not even by means of its secular clergy. He did so without any spirit of controversy or argument. He did not dispute either with the institutional Church, or the enemies of the institutional Church, in fact, with anybody. In this his style is different even from that of his contemporary, Dominic. 

We wonder: what does all this have to do with us? For different reasons (though not entirely!), today, too, masses of people are alienated from the institutional Church. A gulf has been created between the two. Many people are no longer able to reach Christ through the Church; they must be helped to reach the Church through Christ, starting with him and with the Gospel. One does not accept Jesus out of love for the Church, but it is possible to accept the Church out of love for Jesus. 

And this is a task tailor-made for Franciscans. We are in a unique position to be able to do this. What predisposes us for this role is the legacy we have received from our Father Francis, the huge legacy of credibility he has acquired in the eyes of the whole human race. His intuition of a universal brotherhood, extending to every creature, accompanied by the choice of minority, turn him and his followers into the brothers of every person, the enemies of none, the companions of the least ones. Pope John Paul II's choice of Assisi as the meeting place for religions, and countless other initiatives like it, are a sign of this vocation of the sons and daughters of Francis. 

The condition required to be able to fulfill this task of being a bridge between the Church and the world is that, like Francis, we have a profound love and fidelity towards the Church, and a deep love for and solidarity with the world, especially the world of the little ones. Another means we cannot neglect is our Franciscan habit. Through it, Francis becomes present, even visibly, among the people of our day. If people never see us in our habit, how will they recognize us as sons of Francis? I am convinced that, if the day ever came when Franciscans never wore the habit in public, not even in Christian and Catholic countries, they would deprive the world of a great gift, and themselves of a valuable aid. Through his habit, Francis, as the Letter to the Hebrews says of Abel, "defunctus adhuc loquitur:" though he is dead, still speaks (Heb 11,4). I have personal proof of this in the help that I receive in my television ministry through wearing the habit. 

8. A new Franciscan Pentecost

How are we to translate into action all the proposals I have made, and the many more that are sure to emerge from the later speakers? We get our answer from the word Francis spoke towards the end of his life: "I have done what is mine; may Christ teach you what is yours!"[21] This word was addressed to all his followers, in every age, not only those who were there at the time. 

And so we are called back to what we were saying at the beginning about the Franciscan charism: it does not consist of looking at Francis, but of looking at Christ with the eyes of Francis. There is one thing that has remained unchanged, from Francis all the way down to us, over and above all the historic and social changes: the Spirit of the Lord. The whole life of the Poverello, if you notice, unfolds under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Nearly every chapter of his biography opens with the remark: "Francis, moved, or inspired, by the Holy Spirit, went, said, did [...]."

On the occasion of the 16th centenary of the Ecumenical Council of Constantinople -- the council that defined the divinity of the Holy Spirit -- Pope John Paul II wrote: "The whole work of renewal of the Church, so providentially set forth and initiated by the Second Vatican Council [...] can be carried out only in the Holy Spirit, that is to say, with the aid of his light and His power."[22] Never has this been so true of the renewal of the religious orders. 

There are only two types of renewal possible: renewal according to the law and renewal according to the Spirit. Christianity -- Paul teaches us this -- is a renewal according to the Spirit (Tit 3,5), not according to the law. Actually, law has never succeeded in truly renewing any religious order. It brings out sin, but it does not give life. It is useful and valuable if placed at the service of the "law of the Spirit that gives life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8,2), not if it claims to replace it. 

Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that even the letter of the Gospel and the precepts it contains would kill, if it were not for the inward presence of the grace of faith and the power of the Holy Spirit"[23]; what then must we say of all the other positive laws, including monastic rules? "The Law was given through Moses, grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ" (Jn 1,17). For us this means, "The rule was given through Benedict, Francis, Dominic, Ignatius, but grace is given only through Jesus Christ."

We need to ask ourselves what it can mean, for us Franciscans, to accept the grace of a "new Pentecost" invoked by John XXIII. The second Franciscan generation saw itself as the fulfillment of the prophecies of Joachim of Fiore of a new age of the Spirit. There was, obviously, a measure of ingenuousness, if not of pride, in such an identification, without counting the fact that the very thesis of a third age of the Holy Spirit -- whether or not it is attributable in this form to Joachim -- is heretical and unacceptable. However, there is something we can hold on to from this much-debated chapter of our history: the conviction that we have been raised up by the Holy Spirit and called to keep alive in the world the flame of Pentecost. 

The first Chapter of Mats opened on the day of Pentecost in 1221; it therefore opened with the solemn singing of the Veni creator which was already part of the liturgy of Pentecost. That hymn, composed in the ninth century, has accompanied the Church at every great event that took place in the second Christian millennium: every ecumenical council or synod, every new year or century, began with the singing of that hymn; every saint who lived during these past ten centuries sang it and left in the words the mark of their devotion and love for the Spirit. 

With those same words we too invoke the presence of the Spirit on this new Chapter of Mats. Come, Creator Spirit. Renew the wonder you worked when the world began. The earth was empty and deserted then, and darkness covered the face of the deep, but when you began to hover over the waters, the chaos was transformed into cosmos (cf. Gen 1,1-2), in other words, into something beautiful, ordered and harmonious. We too feel empty and powerless, unable to reshape ourselves, to find new life. Come, hover over us, come upon us! Transform our individual and collective chaos into a new harmony, into "something beautiful for God" and for the Church. 

Renew also the miracle of the dry bones that came to life and stood up on their feet, a great, immense army. (cf. Ez 37, 1 ass.). No longer do we say, like Ezekiel: "Spirit, come from the four winds," as if we did not yet know where the breath of the Spirit comes from. In Easter week we say: "Come, Spirit, come, from the side of Christ pierced on the cross! Come from the mouth of the Risen One!"

[Translated from Italian by Br. Charles Serignat, ofmcap.]

[ ] M. Weber, Economia e società, Comunità, Milano 1961, vol. II, pp. 431 ss. (cit. by Alberoni, ib.).
[2] Cf. F. Alberoni, op. cit. pp. 5-9.
[3] P. Sabatier, Vita di san Francis d'Assisi, Mondadori, Milano 1978, p. 75. 

[4] Celano, First Life, XIII, 32 
[5] Cf. Legend of the Three Companions VIII, 25 
[6] J. Lordtz, Francesco d'Assisi. Un santo unico, Edizioni Paoline 1973, p. 132.

[7] Cf. G. Theissen e A. Merz, Il Gesù storico. Un manuale, Queriniana, Brescia 2003, pp. 235 ss. And the critique of D.G. Dunn, Gli albori del cristianesimo, I,1, Paideia, Brescia 2006, pp. 71ss. 
[8] Celano, Second Life, LXXI, 105
[9] Cf. Celano, First Life, III, 7 .
[10] H. de Lubac, Exégèse médiévale, I,2, Paris 1959, p.670.

[11] Legend of the Three Companions, X, 37.
[12] Celano, First Life,XIII, 33
[13] Later Rule, chap. IX.
[14] Divine Comedy, Paradise, XI, vv.76-78.
[15] Cf. Celano, First Life, III, 6-7.

[16] Fioretti chap. IX.
[17] On this subject of God as a just Sovereign who takes up the cause of the poor in the Old Testament, cf. J. Dupont, Le beatitudini, Edizioni Paoline 1976, pp.596 ss.
[18] Lumen gentium, 8.
[19] Innocent III, Sermon VI (PL 217, 673-678).

[20] St. Bonaventure, Legenda maior, 2.
[21] Celano, Second Life, CLXII, 214 
[22] John Paul II, Apostolic Letter "A concilio Costantinopolitano I", in AAS 73 (1981), p. 489.
[23] Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, I-IIae, q. 106, a. 1-2.