Saturday, November 16, 2002

India Communications Day Message

Mediated Evangelization

Given a choice I would not have just preached this homily, rather, being India Communications Day, I would have liked to use the latest technology – may be an LCD Projector and a lap top computer to present the theme of today’s liturgy.

For today’s generation, so used to the audio-visual (sound and sight) medium, would be more interested to watch something – through audio and video – and that would be the best way to capture the attention of the audience when you want to tell/present something to them.

As the internationally renowned communication expert Marshal MacLuhan said as early as the 1960’s ‘Medium is the Message’. It was rather prophetic on the part of MacLuhan to make this famous statement in the sphere of communication. What did he mean when he said ‘Medium is the message’? He meant that the medium used to convey the message is as important as the message itself. Generally the effort was to convey the message. But now how to convey the message became as important as the message itself.

In today’s gospel (Mk 6: 6 – 12) Jesus sends his disciples two by two to preach the good news. Of course, Jesus didn’t tell them specifically what medium to use for conveying the message. Jesus himself was a very captivating preacher and he drew thousands to his preaching. But I believe if Jesus were present today he would have used the latest technology to convey his message.

For, today the preacher and the congregation have undergone tremendous changes. Both the preacher and the congregation have come under the ever-powerful influence of the Media. That’s why the Mother Church is asking us to use the Media in the proclamation of the good news. Church celebrates the Communications Day to focus our attention on the importance of using the Media.

We have many Media: Blackboard, microphone, drama, puppet show, Radio, TV, Computer and Internet. We know the effectiveness of various Media, especially Radio and TV. Much more is that of the Internet. This World Communications Day mother Church wants to focus our attention on the importance of the Internet. The Holy Father’s message for this Communications Day is: Internet – A New Forum for Proclaiming the Gospel.

Why so much importance to the Internet? Because, Internet is communication without borders. The triple w (www ) that we write in front of a website is indicate of this. The triple w stands for World Wide Web. In other words at the click of a mouse, we can get connected to the whole world. A wealth of information is available in front of us.

Another reason Church emphasizes on the Internet is because it is the new Medium of the Young People. Take for instance, Christian Youth. We may not find them in the church on a Sunday. But we might find them in the Internet/Cyber Café. The Church can meet them there. Internet/Cyber Cafe could be made occasions for young people to encounter faith.

Later, Church may meet the young people right on the road. Because Communications is evolving so fast and so radically that information has gone from the PC (Personal Computer) to the Lap Top to the Palm Top and now the Wrist Top in an age of Convergence Technology. In the near future all media – Radio, Telephone, TV, Computer, Internet - will converge on the hand held mobile phone, the size of which is becoming smaller and smaller and still later on the wrist top (on the wrist watch). The world is moving away from Information Technology (IT) to KT (Knowledge Technology)

If that will be so, then the Word of God has to be present on the Palm Top and on the Wrist Top and thus young people may encounter faith even on the road.

Preaching the good news does not mean only preaching from the pulpit. We know that preaching the good news takes various forms – such as educational, healthcare, social work and many other apostolates. Media has to be an integral part of all forms of preaching the good news. It is not a question of providing a Radio or a TV or Internet to poor individual families in a rural or undeveloped area or the slums in and on the outskirts of a big city. It is a question of taking Information/Knowledge Technology as an integral part of our work for the poor and the underprivileged in order to empower them more effectively. In that case a work, which would have taken a year to complete, we might be able to do it in six months.

Church has to be open to future possibilities; Church has to be prepared to face future eventualities. Or else, left behind by the world – she may become irrelevant to the times.

Unfortunately, all changes in the Church have to trickle down from the top, from the hierarchy. This is the sad part of a pyramidical style of the Church. For the Church has failed to evolve a leadership from below. Aware of this we have courses in the media for Bishops and Major Superiors at the Federation of Asian Bishop’s Conference level (FABC) and at the CBCI level. Once the hierarchy is convinced then the changes will trickle down to the others. Knowing the importance of the Media in the proclamation of the gospel, the CBCI has requested all Bishops and Major Superiors to make media an integral part of the formation of priests and religious.

While Media has positive benefits, it also has negative side effects. And so the Church has to be a watchdog of the Media, specially TV and the Internet. Media, especially Internet offers so much information and knowledge but seldom promote values, specially the Kingdom values of Truth, Justice, Peace and Love. Sometimes TV and Internet can be degrading and damaging specially to children. People can be addicted to watching TV and browsing the Internet.

But on the whole Media, specially the Internet, is a great gift of God. Church has many opportunities to make use of them. As we celebrate India Communications Day we should take seriously the command of the Lord to preach the good news and use the Media, specially the Internet, for the proclamation of the good news so that the good news may become really ‘good’ specially for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.

By Francis Arackal, OP

Thursday, November 14, 2002

'Viswasasangamam' to Mark St. Thomas's Arrival in Kerala

'Viswasasangamam' (a confluence of faith) to be held November 15, 16 and 17 at Ernakulam will become a stage of unity in love of all Christians, said the office-bearers of the celebration committee. They were addressing a press conference here, November 12. Bishops Francis Kallarackal, Joshua Mar Ignathios, John Thattungal and Fr. Devassy Kollamkudiyil addressed the newspersons.

'Viswasasangamam' is organised to jointly mark the 1950th anniversary of the arrival of St. Thomas in Kerala and 450th death anniversary of St. Francis Xavier.

A history seminar will be conducted in connection with the celebrations November 15 and 16 at the Renewal Centre, Kaloor, and the valedictory function will be held at Marine Drive, November 17. The President of India, Dr. A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will inaugurate it.

Archbishop of Bombay, Cardinal Ivan Dias, will inaugurate the history seminar November 15. Justice Cyriac Joseph will preside over the function. Salesian Father Paul Puthenangady will deliver the keynote address. Archbishop Daniel Acharuparambil of Verapoly will celebrate the Holy Mass at 6.30 a.m. November 16. Fr. Benedict Vadakkekkara OFM will present a paper on 'The Origin and Development of Catholic Church in India' and Fr. Mathew Mundadan will speak in response.

A paper on 'The Influence of Christianity in Social Reforms of India' will be presented by Bishop Thomas Dabre of Vasai, Maharashtra. Fr. Sebastian Pynadath will respond to it. In the afternoon, a paper on 'The Role of Christians in Nation-building' will be presented by Prof. Cyriac Thomas, Vice Chancellor, M.G. University, and Prof. E.P. Anthony will respond.

The valedictory functions will begin November 17 with a concelebrated High Mass presided by Cardinal Cresenzio Sepe, from Vatican. Kerala Chief Minister, Mr. A.K. Anthony will preside.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

Note: Sorry for not updating for a while. I was out of station

Simplicity is the Hallmark of Venerable Agnelo

By Frederick Noronha

In the thousands they walk every Thursday up to the hillock in Pilar village, some 10 km from here, out of devotion to Goa's saint-in-the-making, Fr. Agnelo. This year, there's a round of special events to mark the 75th death anniversary of a religious figure remembered for his "saintliness in simplicity."

Fr. Agnelo was born in the coastal village of Anjuna in 1869, a place now better known as a tourist destination. A typical Goan boy, he grew up and joined Goa's Rachol Seminary. He later joined the Society of Pilar, which is also based in this small state.

"His was a simple life, full of compassion and concern. Anecdotes from his life show how he lived with the poor. He was a powerful preacher. Most of all, his simplicity and humanness attracted all people to him for advice," says priest Hilario Fernandes, who is vice postulator for the Cause of Fr. Agnelo.

"When he died, people spontaneously acclaimed him as a holy person and started praying through his intercession. There are groups of people in France, England, USA, Canada, Middle East, etc. (among expat communities) who have devotion for Fr. Agnelo," said Fernandes.

This faith prompted Rome to begin the process of beatification: an official recognition of the holiness of a person. Fr. Agnelo is now called 'venerable'. The next step would be to call him 'Blessed' and the final step is to declare him a saint.

"His saintliness was infectious and compelling. Spontaneously people recognised something special in him: he was a true witness of the Gospel and had lived strictly according to it. Groups of people started gathering around his graveside to pray through his intercessions. He was being recognised as a saint," says Dr. Seby Mascarenhas of the Pilar Seminary.

But he was a man who had literally not built a building, nor started a congregation or done any path-breaking social work. "Yet he was being hailed and recognised as saintly. There was an inner radiance that attracted people to him for nothing but his spiritual warmth and simplicity. If mere simplicity and humility can attract, what better proof need there be to be declared 'a man of God', 'a sant' or 'a bhakt' (Indian terms for religious person)?" asks Dr. Mascarenhas.

Fr. Agnelo's remains are kept in Pilar. His ancestral house is still located in the idyllic Anjuna village, says Anjuna parish priest, Fr. Ubaldo Fernandes: "Anjuna has produced many great personalities and is proud of them. But it is grace to have a man of grace coming from among them and the platinum jubilee of his death coincides with the four-hundred year celebration of Anjuna Church."

Priests from his Pilar Society say Agnelo was compassion and patience personified.

"Any one could come to his doorstep for help and he always had a ready ear, a great example for every priest. When it happened that people mistrusted him for no reason at all, he kept his cool and took everything in his stride. The flabbergasted accusers spontaneously apologised to Agnelo. His contemporaries have reported time and again of the calming effect Agnelo had on all around him," says Fr. Mascarenhas.

For the last 50 years, the process of Fr. Agnelo's possible sainthood has been underway. Fr. Hilario Fernandes, the Vice Postulator of the process, said: "Many people trust that God will answer their prayers through Fr. Agnelo's intercession. In fact so many come and tell me of the various gifts they have received through his intercession. More than anything else, however, the people find a soothing presence and calming atmosphere at the feet of Fr. Agnelo."

This year's programme will have ten days of prayers from November 11-19, followed by the celebration of the day of his death November 20. The High Mass will be celebrated by Archbishop Ranjit from the Vatican Curia. The celebrations will include the release of a couple of books on Venerable Angelo, and an opera to be led by priest-musician, Peter Cardozo.