EXTRAORDINARY FOURTEENTH NOVEMBER
*Fr. Cedric Prakash SJ
The fourteenth of November, for several reasons, has always been a special day in my life. This year 2018, the day was simply an extraordinary one, made so by different people and events. As I look back at the day, I am overwhelmed with the flood of thoughts and emotions that unwind before me like some blockbuster movie. Inspite of the fatigue, there is an inner joy! AsI gather a memorable day together, I cannot but help to look back through the prism of the Jesuit Lexicon: words and phrases that mean so much to me!
Restoration is a keyword for the Jesuits today, as we celebrate the Feast of St Joseph Pignatelli, the second Founder of the Society of Jesus, after St Ignatius. After forty years of suppression, it was St Pignatelli, through his dogged determination and exemplary holiness, helped restore a good part of the Society by 1807.It was not easy; but his painstaking efforts bore much fruit. Today we Jesuits are called to be restorers; to make all things new; to heal the brokenness of our world; to be reconcilers with God, within humanity, with creation.
Availability is what Pope Francis epitomizes. It was a first for me at a Papal General Audience, this morning. PopeFrancis must be one of the busiest persons in the world. Nevertheless, I was just wonderstruck to see him spend value time with the differently abled, the sick, the old, the newlyweds, the choirs, children who were carried up to him and with so many others. He went to them, embraced them, listened patiently to what they had to say, and blest them. It was all simply heart-warming: a practical lesson on being available to others!
Faith-Justice is a fundamental dimension of our Jesuit Spirituality which I was initiated into as a Jesuit novice and when GC 32 was underway. It was, Fr Pedro Arrupe, the visionary Superior General of the Jesuits who presided over that Congregation. Today we remember him, 111 years since his birth. I will always treasure warm memories of my meetings with Fr Arrupe. In a circular letter today, Fr Arturo Sosa, the Superior General, tells us that the process towards the possible beatification of Fr Arrupe has begun. Pray for us dear Fr. Arrupe!
Mission was at the heart of Fr. Arrupe’s ‘way of proceeding’. He ministered to the victims of the nuclear holocaust in Japan. On this day in 1980, he founded the Jesuit Refugee Service- convinced that Jesuits must respond to the cries of the refugees, displaced and other excluded. I also spent some value time today with Antonio Vettor, a former pilot in the Italian Air Force and Alitalia. Antonio’s uncle, Jesuit Fr. Agostino Agnoletto, came to India as a young missionary in 1923 and died in Bangalore in 1987 after doing some pioneering work in India.
Companionship is the Society of Jesus. Prime time with my two Gujarat Province companions Rolphy Pinto and PT Simon. Met some of the Jesuits working at ‘Radio Vatican’;concelebrated the Eucharist with the Jesuit Community at the Gregorian. Providentially, on the street bumped into Antonio Spadaro( editor of La Civiltà Cattolica and instrumental in the Pope’s new book ‘Sharing The Wisdom Of Time’);was hoping to meet him but it was not working out till this chance encounter! Finally dinner at the Gesu and talk to the Jesuit scholastics.
Encounter and sharing are also key words of GC 36. These are essential dimensions for meaningful companionship. I felt very honoured that the South Asian Scholastics who reside in the Gesu invited me for a sharing. The Rector Fr. Orlando Torres took the trouble to be present and so did some scholastics from other parts of the world. The sharing I thought was rather good, the questions were challenging and I was my usual self, doing my best to share how I think, Jesuits of today need to respond to the various challenges that confront our world today.
Love is what a mother is all about! Today I celebrate my own mother Cynthia. On this day in 2010, she entered her eternal reward. This day will always be a special day of thanksgiving for me- for the gift of ‘mummy’- to me and to my three siblings. It was not an easy life for her but she gave us the very best; she was a woman of substance andof deep faith. She nurtured us in the faith, brought us up with love and showed us how to make our world a better place. She truly personified the contemplation to obtain the gift of love!
Openness is the hallmark of a child. We are constantly reminded about this: to be open, to be transparent; to be humble and simple. These are all essential in the discernment process. Today in India, we celebrate Children’s Day. The birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru- India’s first Prime Minister. Nehru truly loved children and believed that the country had to invest in their growth. Today, we Jesuits are called to protect children entrusted to our care, in a very special way. Above all to be like children: open, transparent, humble, simple and joyful!
Communications is the heart of any relationship. It is fundamental to the Jesuit way of proceeding, important for collaboration networking. Unexpectedly, I spent some hours at ‘Radio Vatican’. Besides some Jesuits, there are several other amazing people working there-all highly committed to communicating the ‘joy of the gospels’. It was great meeting Sean, Linda, Sr. Carmel- Ann, Robin, Francesca, Devin in the English section. Linda went all out of her way to do interviews with me on the new book of Pope Francis and on my work with JRS.
Bridges is the picture I saw on my door, as I returned to the Residence of the Salvatorian Sisters, a short while ago.GC 36 emphatically states that “all our ministries should seek to build bridges, to foster peace” (D.I#31). For the last few days, I have been here in Rome with the Sisters at their General Chapter on the theme, “Salvatorian Women- building bridges of mercy and justice with people throughout the world”. Each time I looked at the picture of the bridge, I was made to realise that much more needs to be done in our world today!
Wow! I can hardly believe that I have gone through all this today! It was a long day:twenty hours and more – in silence, in prayer, in the midst of others, with companions;well worth every second! This year the fourteenth of November was for me not onlymemorable but alsosimply extraordinary!
*(Fr Cedric Prakash SJ is a human rights activist. This personal reflection/diary was begun late night on 14/15 November 2018; but was fine-tuned only on 17 November 2018)