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Pope's Message: Caring for Each Other
September 17, 2020

Pope Francis: Become guardians of life and earth with contemplation and care.

Continuing his catechesis on the current pandemic in the light of the Church’s social doctrine, the Pope at his weekly General Audience on Wednesday stresses the importance of caring for each other and contemplating the world in which we live.

“Contemplating and caring: these are two attitudes that show the way to correct and rebalance our relationship as human beings with creation.”

Those were Pope Francis’ words at the weekly General Audience held in the Courtyard of San Damaso in the Vatican.

Care for each other
Speaking to the faithful gathered on Wednesday, the Pope stressed that in order to come through this pandemic it is necessary to “to look after and care for each other.”

“We must support those who care for the weakest, the sick and the elderly,” he said, because they “play a vital role in today's society, even if they often do not receive the recognition and remuneration they deserve.”

This care, Pope Francis went on to say, “Must also address our common home”

“All forms of life are interconnected”, he continued, “and our health depends on that of the ecosystems that God created and entrusted to us to care for.”

“The best antidote against the misuse of our common home is contemplation,” said the Pope.

He added, that without contemplation “it is easy to fall prey to an unbalanced and superb anthropocentrism, which gives excessive importance to our role as human beings, positioning us as absolute rulers of all other creatures.”

Pope Francis went on to say, “A distorted interpretation of biblical texts on creation has contributed to this misinterpretation, which leads to the exploitation of the earth to the point of suffocating it.”

“We believe that we are at the centre, claiming to occupy God's place; and so we ruin the harmony of His design. We become predators, forgetting our vocation as custodians of life.”

Our mission is to care for our common home
The earth needs to be worked, so as to live, the Pope noted, but it must not be exploited. Instead, our mission, he pointed out, is to care for our common home.

“Our poorest brothers and mother earth lament for the damage and injustice we have caused, and demand we take another course.”

Therefore, the Pope underlined, it is important to recover the contemplative dimension.

When we do this, Pope Francis explained, people discover the intrinsic value of things given to them by God.

Speaking in off the cuff remarks, the Pope said that those who do not know how to contemplate nature and creation, do not know how to contemplate people in all their richness. And those who exploit nature, end up exploiting people and treating them like slaves. “This is a universal law,” he said.

“Those who know how to contemplate,” he continued, “will more easily set to work to change what produces degradation and damage to health. They will strive to educate and promote new production and consumption habits, to contribute to a new model of economic growth that guarantees respect for our common home.”

"Guardians" of creation
Those who follow the path of contemplation and caring, emphasized the Pope, “become ‘guardians’ of our common home, guardians of life and hope.” This is needed in order to preserve and protect our common home for future generations, he added.

In particular, he mentioned the indigenous peoples, to whom, he said, “we all owe a debt of gratitude.”

But the Pope also spoke of “those movements, associations, popular groups, which are committed to protecting their territory with its natural and cultural values. These social realities are not always appreciated, and at times they are even obstructed; but in reality they contribute to a peaceful revolution, the ‘revolution of care’”.

Concluding his catechesis, the Pope stressed that everyone has a role to play in caring for creation. “Each one of us can and must be a ‘guardian of the common home’, capable of praising God for His creatures, and of contemplating and protecting them.”

Swami Agnivesh passed away
September 12, 2020

J. Felix Raj, SJ

Swami Agnivesh, who was hospitalized due to liver cirrhosis at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in Delhi, passed away on Friday evening. I had spoken to him on Tuesday.

The 80-year old former professor of St. Xavier’s College (1963 -69) and friend of St. Xavier’s University. Kolkata and a social activistwas an advocate for dialogue between religions. He was involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female feticide and the emancipation of women. He was a prominent associate of Anna Hazare during the India against Corruption's campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Swami Agnivesh was truly “ a man for others”…A sanyasi in the Arya Samaj Order, he stood tall, both on the national and international stage, as an educationist, a philanthropist, a philosopher, a spiritualist, most of all as a humanist. The sublime words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order applies to him perfectly… “He was contemplative in action, finding God in all things”. And also important to me, Swamiji and I were close associates and friends.

I met Swami Agnivesh 34 years ago in Delhi, although I had heard of him three years prior to that, while I was a lecturer at St Xavier’s College. He was known for his revolutionary ideas, oratory skills and the bold stand he often took for the liberation of the disadvantaged people.

A 14 year old Sri Lankan girl had been arrested for unlawfully entering India. She was housed in Tihar Jail in 1987. My Sri Lankan friends had requested for my help for the child. I met Swami Agnivesh seeking his guidance and advice.

Both Swamiji and I were at the court when the case came up, we modestly sat in the last row. When the judge entered, he happened to notice Swamiji and questioned his presence. Swamiji explained the context and that he hoped for the smooth release of the minor.

Since then our friendship blossomed we worked on several issues, social and religious. Thereafter I often invited him to visit Xavier institutions be it the Jesuit College of theology in Delhi, Vidyajothi, St Xavier’s College or St Xavier’s University, Kolkata. He also figures amongst one of the most notable and prominent former faculty members of the St Xavier’s College.

Vepa Syam Rao was born into a Brahmin upper caste Telegu family. He completed his Masters from Calcutta University. He taught at St Xavier’s College from 1963 to 1969. At 24 young Rao was inquisitive and curious to know the inner workings of the Belgian Jesuits. One day he sneaked into the Jesuit residence known as cloister and peeped in. The austerity and simplicity of the Jesuit living quarters astounded him ….Only a table, two chairs, a bed and a wooden almirah.

It was unbelievable… ‘The Jesuits lived a life of high thinking and simple living,’ this made a deep impact on him. While coming out of the Jesuit cloister Rao met a senior Belgian Jesuit in the corridor. He asked the priest as to what had motivated him to come to the distant shores of India leaving behind his home and the comforts he had had there.

The Jesuit answered him…. ‘I am here like my fellow Jesuit Fathers. Our mission is to serve the people of India, particularly of Bengal, mainly to impart quality education to Indian students; this is the humble contribution we hope to make.’

Swamiji was deeply impressed and he has often reiterated that this response by the Jesuit priest had an influence his future life and missionary zeal. He said, ‘it made me ponder. What is MY mission for India?

Swamiji has always stressed his strong faith in spirituality. He insists that spirituality ought to be social spirituality. This spirituality should not be an individualistic or escapist type. He insists that it should be one that would keep the interest of the society intact; which would depend on the respect for individual interest. These are inextricably linked. They are complimentary…religion must be a thrust for social awakening and revolution. Swamji has written a number of books on this subject to promote and share his views and ideas (listed below).

Swamiji was a bridge between religions, respecting the differences…. ‘Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,’ was his golden rule. He further advocated, if we want life, let us give life to others; if we want opportunities, let us provide these opportunities to others. God’s love is the same for all, no matter what one’s religion or nationality is.’ He was against the throw away culture, where people not only throw junk but also the poor, the refugees and the downtrodden. He promoted through his work an education in fraternity for real solidarity. This in fact was the essence of Swamiji’s conviction and work.

Swamoiji was termed as anti-national, Christian sympathizer. It is forgotten that he believes the world is one family….’Vasudhaivakutumbakum’. God enjoins us stay united as one family. Swamiji was a messenger of God. He was a giant among men. India is blessed to have him.

He was a relentless fighter for the downtrodden not caring for personal attacks or even results… just fight till something positive emerges was his firm belief. As Shakespeare said, reiterated by Justice V.R Krishna Iyer…. ‘What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculty, in form and moving how express and admirable, in action how like an angel, in apprehension how like a god, never at rest but ever in meditative communication with God.’

Swamiji was diamond hard in his convictions, honeybee in his sweet collectivism for all suffering humans, a defender of the constitution and a humanist, aware of the religious pluralism of Bharat. Anything that might destroy the fabric of this country or threaten its development was the recipient of his ire.

Swami Agnivesh was indeed a man among men….A prophet for all seasons on the side of truth and justice with a deep seated spiritual perspective. A true inspiration. A Karma Yogi, Champion of the socially challenged …..A true Arya Samaji.

Swami Agnivesh suffers multi-organ failure, condition critical
September 11, 2020

New Delhi: Swami Agnivesh, who was hospitalized due to liver cirrhosis at the Institute of Liver and Billary Sciences (ILBS) in Delhi, is in a critical condition after suffering multi-organ failure during the treatment, the hospital said on Thursday. The hospital added that a multi-disciplinary team is monitoring his condition.

The 80-year old former professor of St. Xavier’s College (1963 -69) and friend of St. Xavier’s University. Kolkata and a social activist has been on ventilator since then.

He is also an advocate for dialogue between religions. He is involved in various areas of social activism including campaigns against female feticide and the emancipation of women. He was a prominent associate of Anna Hazare during the India against Corruption's campaign in 2011 to implement the Jan Lokpal Bill.

Swami Agnivesh is truly “ a man for others”…A sanyasi in the Arya Samaj Order, he stands tall, both on the national and international stage, as an educationist, a philanthropist, a philosopher, a spiritualist, most of all as a humanist. The sublime words of Saint Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuit Order applies to him perfectly… “He is contemplative in action, finding God in all things”. And also important to me, Swamiji and I are close associates and friends.

Let us pray for his speedy recovery and good health.

My Tribute to an endless Legend - Gaston Roberge, SJ
September 07, 2020

Dr. J. Felix Raj, SJ

Fr. Gaston Roberge, a French - Canadian Jesuit priest, had been asking himself since the 1980s why India did not have a new theory of popular films. It was only in 2010 he got an answer after studying the 2000-year old Indian treatise of dance and drama – Natya Sastra. The result was a 100 page book, The Indian Film Theory: Flames of Sholay, Notes and Beyond that offered a new perspective on the theories underlying Indian commercial cinema.

The book was released at St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata on June 15, 2010 by GoutamGhose, a renowned Indian film director. It has been described as ‘easily readable’ and ‘radical in its content.’ Ghose said, ‘Fr. Roberge introduced the study of film in the context of our social matrix, which is very important. He analysed the phenomena in the sociopolitical context of this complex and heterogeneous country, writing about our society while studying two films - Sholay and BederMeye Jyotsna. He had a kind of social observation on cinema. He would ask, “Why were people enjoying films? Which class of people? What about education?”

Fr. Gaston, a legend, a pioneer in the study of cinema and a close friend of Satyajit Ray, passed away in Kolkata on August 26 and was laid to rest at DhyanAsharm, the Jesuit Novitiate at Konchowki, 20 KM from the city of Kolkata. He was a Master teacher of film theories and was known as the high priest of cinema.

Fr. Roberge, was born in May 1935 in Montreal, Quebec. He joined the Society of Jesus in 1956 and was sent to India on his request in1961. He graduated, and did his Masters at UCLA. He graduated from the University of Montreal and did his Masters at the University of California in film studies.

He then went to New York where he saw Satyajit Ray’s PatherPanchali and became a fan of Ray. He became a close friend of Ray, with whom he had many interactions and wrote about. They were mutual advisors to each other in the world of films. Ray was also one of the advisors of Chitrabani. Father Roberge also developed great associations with Mrinal Sen and other filmmakers of India.

I had known Fr. Gaston for over thirty years. He was an exemplary Jesuit and in the 70s and 80s, an idol to many young Jesuits like me. I had interviewed him a couple of times for an Italian magazine, Popoli and other publications. He was a large-hearted man with the spirit of magis in all that he did especially in spiritual and intellectual life. During his short break in Montreal, I paid a visit to him. He took me to the St. Joseph’s Oratory of Mount Royal, a basilica and national shrine in Montreal. It is a National Historic Site of Canada and is Canada's largest church, with one of the largest church domes in the world.

In one of my interviews he told me, ‘I was reborn in India on October 15, 1961. For the last 50 years I have been mostly living in Kolkata. I teach communication media and write. My main interest is the cultural roots of the Indian movies. And I love it.” Fr. Roberge has authored more than 25 books on cinema, communications and spirituality. He won an Indian National Film Award for his best writing on Cinema for the year 1998 from the then President of India, K. R. Narayanan.

His first book, Chitrbani, published in 1975, like the institute he started, is a book on film appreciation. Satyajit Ray, through his kind relationship with him and through his films, helped him in his journey to the 'cave of the heart.' That is how he completed the "Pedagogy of the Media Oppressed − In Tune with the Indian Folk Movies: Seven Steps of a Self-Education for Liberation.”

He was the founder-director of Chitrabani (1970), the first and the oldest media center in eastern India located at PrabhuJisurGurija campus, Kolkata. For some years, Chitrabani was an extension centre of SXCK and Fr. Roberge taught film appreciation at the college. Thousands of film-makers, scholars and film critics have been students of Fr. Roberge. National Award Winning director, K G Das has made a documentary on ‘Fr. Roberge – Master Preacher of Film Theory.’

He was also the founder-director of the EMMRC of St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata. He was solely responsible for the UGC granting the necessary affiliation and permission of EMMRC to SXCK. St. Xavier’s is the only College which has an EMMRC under its management among the 19 EMMR Centres in India. He was the Executive Secretary for Social Communication (1997 to 1999) at the Jesuit Curia in Rome.

Ray’s PatherPanchali shook him and Indian cinema became his passion, his love and his commitment. Through Chitrabani Fr. Roberge pioneered film academia in India as well as cultivated and nurtured several generations of cineastes and filmmakers." That is why the Bimal Roy Memorial & Film Society, Mumbai gave him the Lifetime Achievement Award in 2012.

After his retirement he remained at the St. Xavier’s infirmary till his eternal rest. He was 85. He had almost totally lost his hearing and had to be on hearing aid. This Jesuit priest and film guru has made a "significant contribution" to the film industry. He will continue to be a major player on the field of Indian cinema.


The author is Vice-Chanceloor of St. Xavier’s University, Kolkat

Happy Feast of Mother Teresa and Happy Teacher's Day
September 05, 2020

September 5 is the Feast of St. Teresa of Calcutta and Teacher's Day. Mother's work gives all of us an opportunity to sufficiently and deeply reflect on her life and mission for the poorest of the poor. For us, she is the song of celebration, the hymn of compassion.

Her message is universal. No matter what religion a person is, or if they don't believe at all, Mother Teresa's message is to serve with love. "Not all of us can do great things, but we can do small things with great love".

She has taught all about life, especially to give love, dignity and service to the poor, irrespective of race and religion. She was a true saint.

The New NEP 2020
August 21, 2020

New National Education Policy 2020

Higher Education

Introduction:

- The Union Cabinet chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi approved the National Education Policy 2020 on July 29, 2020. This is the third Education Policy in India after independence (1968, 1986 and 2020).

- The Policy has four parts on: 1. School Education; 2. Higher Education; 3. Other Key Areas like Adult Education, Professional Education, Online Education etc., and 4. Implementation, Financing and Making the Policy happen.

- The new policy aims to pave the way for major transformational reforms in school and higher education systems in the country. This policy replaces the 34 your old National Policy on Education (NPE), 1986.

- The Cabinet also approved a proposal to rename the Ministry of Human Resource Development as the Ministry of Education.

- It is said that it is a policy for the 21st century.

- It is a framework to guide the development of education in the country.

- It aims to make India the global knowledge superpower ensuring equity and Inclusion.

read more

Sacred, yet Deprived
August 14, 2020

74th Independence Day Special

Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ

India, the Nation:
India completes 73 years as an independent nation on August 15. The Republic of India is a 'Sovereign Socialist Secular Democratic Republic' with aparliamentary system of government. With a total population of 138.13 crores as of August 7, 2020, which is 17.7 per cent of the world’s population, India is the largest democracy in the world. It is a fact that one-third of world’s poor live in India. 27.1 per cent of India’s population live below the poverty line. The per capita income is US$ 2,500, which is 1/13 of the developed countries. India ranks 129th in the human development index in 2019. India faces, besides economic and political instability, frequent ethnic and communal outbursts which have proved fatal to its overall development.

Though economically still a developing country, India, the cradle of religions, is steeped in a sense of the sacred. We sense a cosmic worldview to life with rich cultural diversity expressed in art, architecture, music and the rich classical and folk traditions. But modern social media, IT and LPG forces are posing a serious threat to its much-desired development. The glaring reality of the vast multitude of poor, the varied deprivation and dehumanization, rampant corruption and injustice and the inevitable exclusion of the displaced, untouchables, women, indigenous and migrant communities confront India. The exploitation of our eco-systems further aggravates the plight of the poor.

System of Governance:
Democracy is a communications-intensive mode of governance in which individuals play a more direct role through “the power of citizen-to-citizen communications” which benefits both themselves and their community. A successful society is one that gives opportunities to its citizens and promotes its capacities in equality so that citizens think, work, grow and develop in an atmosphere of freedom.

The contentment of citizens is closely linked to the level of political and social empowerment they have. Where citizens control the agenda, stability and contentment is enhanced. Even though we have made some progress, government systems and administrative functioning have many weaknesses and inadequacies, which are proving quite a handicap in providing satisfactory deliverance of services to people.

Governance systems at various levels must improve -What we urgently require are accountability, transparency and an environment of trust at all levels. Governments should introduce measures for making governance more effective and hassle-free. In order for globalization to bear a “human face”, we need to foster a major democratic participation not only at the local level but also at national level, in institutions and multilateral organizations. We want a better India, a more peaceful and harmonious India. It cannot be based on hegemony, in the balance of powers or in persuasion, but it has to be based on dialogue and cooperation, human dignity and justice.

The present political system and the process require purification so that political will is strengthened to take necessary action against forces that generate corruption and sow the seeds of division, casteism, hatred and communal violence. There is a need for transparency and accountability at all levels. India's legal and judicial systems are highly sophisticated and well developed. Despite that, it has not kept pace with the changing needs arising from increasing population, increase in number of laws, increase in industrial activities and other changes resulting in inordinate delays in disposal of cases. The present judicial system does not render speedy justice to people. A comprehensive review of the system is required.

Secularism:
Today we live in a global context of secularism and democracy. In the last hundred years, secularism has come to be accepted as an alternative to religious orthodoxy and fundamentalist ideology. Secularism, we know, is lived and practiced in diverse ways in different countries. There cannot be one, homogenous way of practicing it. A secular state is one that allows its citizens to profess and practice their respective faith freely and fearlessly. Secular state does not interfere with the religious and spiritual affairs of the people. It should respect all religions equally. It should not prefer one to the other.

Secularism in India is different from the western concept of the state in confrontation with the Church. Indian secularism was born out of an experience, a painful process of national liberation struggles. The Fathers of our Constitution had reasons to introduce secularism in our country: fear of disorder arising from dangerous forces of political movements associated with militant Hindu nationalism, Muslim separatism, Hindu-Muslim communalism and so on. Nehru condemned casteism and communalism. He observed that communalism was fascism in India and favoured secularism. For him, secularism was necessarily a civilized behaviour. This was to transcend religious, cultural, caste differences and combat militant communalist forces.

Human civilization has brought into focus the significance of secular ideals, and there is a growing consciousness to support and nurture this type of societies. Today almost all the countries in the world have come to accept that secularism is sine quo non-for democratic governance. To establish a peaceful and just society, secularist principles and democratic polity are indispensable.

All true religions have an immense potential for tolerance. Each religious community claims that theirs is the most tolerant religion of our time. Their claim is true so long as they recognize other religions as different ways leading to the same goal. Tolerance is a normative value, yes, but it is not an answer to the fundamentalist danger to unity and integrity of our country. In today’s context, what we need is to affirm and perpetuate:
1. Rootedness of every believer in his/her religion;
2. Acceptance of the other and his/her religious belief and practice;
3. Ongoing dialogues between different religions.

These are the principles that will pave way for a healthy atmosphere of respect, tolerance and acceptance of each other, of each religious tradition and enable us to live together as Indians in peace and harmony.

Need of Spirituality:
There is an urgent need for spirituality that considers persons as subjects and not objects of history. A spirituality that considers men and women as sacred, unique, irreplaceable and irreducible human beings, free by nature and called to transcendence. A spirituality that is human and acceptable to all religions. It should recognize the cultural diversity, the uniqueness of national and local cultures and heritage. Steeped in the sense of the sacred, it should take a holistic approach to life that life is sacred and that all beings journey towards the cosmic unity. Spirituality plays a major role in building human communities based on peace and harmony.

Spirituality liberates and empowers through a sense of shared purpose. Such a sense of purpose is a pre-requisite for a national unity and social cohesion. To lack a shared sense of purpose is to invite drift and division. Spirituality, with its regenerating power, holds the promise of a new beginning. Optimization of the wholeness of humanity with a special focus on human development and well-being is the quintessential spiritual purpose. It is spirituality that sustains development in society. It is the soul of all human actions. It is a powerful tool, which could bring religions together to fight against the dangers of globalization: materialism, egocentrism, consumerism, and destruction of the environment and the crises of family and neighbourhood ties.

Our efforts to correct the ill effects of neo-liberalism, globalization and fundamentalism depend on spirituality that gives us inner strength. In the absence of such spirituality, development becomes a mere material advancement based on greed and avarice. Earth is one, but India and the world are divided. We should be determined not to leave them as we find them.

It is time now for all academicians, thinkers, philosophers, theologians and the like to come out openly and speak out against the dangers of fundamentalism and its offshoots of disorder, and undo, with the weapon of their wisdom, all that has gone wrong. Politicians are not capable of doing this job. All that they normally seek is power and for more power, they justify any means. If the age of Enlightenment and of Science has brought changes in the west, our intervention at this juncture will definitely put the wheels of our country on the right track. What the German Bishop Niemoler said about the situation under Hitler might teach us something:

‘When Nazis put communists in the concentration camp, I did not protest because I was not a communist; when they persecuted the social democrats, I did not protest because I was not a social democrat; when they massacred the Jews, I did not protest because I was not a Jew; when they banned all political parties and trade unions, I did not protest because I was not one of them; when they came for me, there was no one to speak for me.’


The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata

Jesus and Tagore
August 08, 2020

Food for Thought

Jesus said:
Reconcile with your brother:
“If you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift “(Mathew 5:24).

Be a servant:
“You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their superiors exercise authority over them. It shall not be this way among you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave” (Mathew 20:26).

Jesus came to serve:
“The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many”(Mathew 20:28).

No Servant is greater than Master:
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him”(John 13:14-16).

God is Spirt:
“…the hour comes, when you shall neither in this mountain, norat Jerusalem, worship the God. You worship you know not what: we know what we worship… But the hour comes, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the God in spirit and in truth: for the God seeks such to worship him. God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:21-24).


Rabindranath Tagore:

AI + HI ≤ DI
August 03, 2020

AI + HI ≤ DI

J. Felix Raj, SJ

Today is the age of Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and other voice assistants. They are here in our midst, in our offices, homes, cars, hotels and many other places. These digital assistants collect and use personal, potentially identifiable and possibly sensitive information. The list of commands that Alexa can understand seems to grow daily and Amazon calls these as “skills”. Take our own Chitti, a humanoid robot portrayed by actor Rajinikanth in Enthiran and Ra. One. Chitti is programmed to understand human behavior and emotions.

Alexa can set up routines where a single command of yours, ‘Alexa, Goodnight’ – shuts off all the lights, locks your doors, sets an alarm for you to wake up and sets your coffee pot to turn on at a certain time. The latest version of Alexa is able to perceive and acknowledge your frustrations, thought-process and even your future plans. Alexa can now guess what we are thinking and what we have forgotten. Daniel Rausch, VP in-charge of Alexa Smart Home Features, predicts that we have reached a stage where we can program our intuition and machine intelligence will soon replicate human curiosity and insight.

Alexa or other personal digital assistants can violate the privacy and security of our life and data. They are a privacy nightmare and we cannot trust them. Possibly, this is a dark side to these virtual assistants. In 2019 Amazon had over 10,000 employees working on Alexa and related products. Over 100 million Alexa-enabled devices have been sold. There are now more than 70,000 skills available in the Alexa Skills store.

Artificial intelligence (AI), sometimes called machine intelligence, is human-like intelligence, demonstrated by machines, in contrast to natural or human intelligence (HI). Machines (for example, robots or computers) are programmed to act as intelligent agents, artificial beings who perform cognitive functions associated with human mind such as perceiving, learning, responding and taking actions that maximize its chance of successfully achieving its goals.

John McCarthy, an American computer scientist, is known as the father of AI which began as an academic discipline in the 1950s and developed on the assumption that AI can precisely simulate HI. It is an idea which has been explored by myths and fiction for time immemorial in history.

There is a fear among people that AI can do things better than humans. Some people consider AI dangerous to humanity if it progresses unabated. They believe that AI, unlike other technological revolutions, will create a risk of mass unemployment. On the other hand, AI has become an essential part of the technology industry, helping to solve many challenging problems in computer science, software engineering and operations research.

Creation of human beings was an extension of God and his divine intelligence (DI). Human person is the crowning glory of God. And AI is just an extension of HI. Humans can fix up and change the shortcomings in any AI robotic system. Human intelligence is bigger, broader and next to only divine intelligence (DI). As DI is the creator of HI, HI is the creator of AI. AI cannot replace HI. Humans, not machines, will build the future.

Yes, it is true that AI has incredible precision, accuracy and speed. It won’t be affected by hostile environment, thus it is able to complete dangerous tasks, explore the space, and endure problems that would injure and kill human beings. Yet, I am optimistic that AI will not be intelligent enough to replace HI because, in the end, AI shall always depend on programmed cods that can only be written and erased by HI.

Is the future of humanity in danger? More than 99% of all species, amounting to over five billion species that ever lived on earth are estimated to be extinct. Many of them perished in five cataclysmic events. It is said there are currently around 8.7 million species on earth. According to a recent survey, seven out of ten biologists think we are currently in the throes of a sixth mass extinction.

Let Alexa, Siri and Chitti live with us. Let them become an integral part of our daily life. They can intelligently and fluently interact with us providing us with adequate and accurate explanations and answers. Sure, we can benefit if they can understand and respond to our commands and queries. Let us remember, a machine is a machine and it could fake emotions. Let us not allow machines to sit on our heads. Prevention is better than cure. Jesus once said, “No servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him.” Therefore, no AI is greater than HI and no HI greater than DI.


The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata: www.felixrajsj.com

Cathedrals on Fire
July 30, 2020

1. Notre-Dame de Paris fire:

On 15 April 2019,, a structure fire broke out beneath the roof of Notre-Dame de Paris cathedral in Paris. The cathedral's altar, two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows suffered little to no damage. Three emergency workers were injured.

The cathedral's altar, two pipe organs, and its three 13th-century rose windows suffered little to no damage. Three emergency workers were injured. The medieval cathedral of Notre-Dame is one of France's most famous landmarks.The 850-year-old Gothic building's spire and roof have collapsed but the main structure, including the two bell towers has been saved.

Visibly emotional, Mr. Macron said the "worst had been avoided" and vowed to launch an international fundraising scheme to rebuild the cathedral. French president said that the cathedral would be restored by 2024, and launched a fundraising campaign which brought in pledges of over €1 billion as of 22 April 2019.

Officials say it could be linked to the renovation work that began after cracks appeared in the stone, sparking fears the structure could become unstable.Paris prosecutor's office said it had opened an inquiry into "accidental destruction by fire". A firefighter was seriously injured while tackling the blaze.

No other site represents France quite like Notre-Dame. Its main rival as a national symbol, the Eiffel Tower, is little more than a century old. Notre-Dame has stood tall above Paris since the 1200s.

It has given its name to one of the country's literary masterpieces. Victor Hugo's The Hunchback of Notre-Dame is known to the French simply as Notre-Dame de Paris.

The last time the cathedral suffered major damage was during the French Revolution. It survived two world wars largely unscathed.

Watching such an embodiment of the permanence of a nation burn and its spire collapse is profoundly shocking to any human person.

In pictures: Blaze at Notre-Dame

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SXUK: Admissions 2020
July 14, 2020

1. UG COURSES: online application has begun from July 15, 2020. Students can apply online for undergraduate degree courses now. Last date: August 5, 2020.

2. PG COURSES: Last date for submission of online application and the application fee for Post Graduate degree courses (Excluding MBA) is 27th July, 2020. Tentative dates for online Admission Tests (MCQ based) will be between 2nd August and 9th August, 2020.

3. LAW: Last date for the submission of online application and the payment of application fee: 29th July 2020 (till 5 PM).Tentative date for Xavier Law Admission Test (XLAT): Saturday, 22nd August 2020. For mode of test and other details will be announced on the University website.

4. MBA: Xavier Business School invites application for two years MBA Residential Programme. Last date is August 20, 2020). Specializations: Finance- Marketing- Human Resource – Systems & Operations).

5. Ph.D. : Last date for Application is over. Conduct of XU-RET (Entrance Test) is on August 22, 2020.

6. For more details regarding eligibility criteria, important dates and so on, visit www.sxuk.edu.in

7. M.COM. (Morning): In response to the requests from the student community, M.COM. programme of the University will be conducted in the morning hours (7 AM - 12 Noon) for the students taking admission for the academic session beginning from July 2020.

We demand justice for Jeyaraj and his Son, Fenix:
June 29, 2020

Sathankulan Murder Case: Latest News:
In God We Trust – And So We shall overcome...Our Hopes Not Shattered.
- Father-Son Duo Murder under Police Custody in Sathankulam
- The inhumane torture and murder sparked nationwide furor
- Tamil Nadu Government transferred the probe to CBI
- The Madras HC directs the CBI to probe the case
- Six Policemen booked on Murder charges
- Sub-Inspector Raghu Ganesh arrested by CB-CID officials
- The National HRC has sought a report from the Police Officers
- The HC has received so far similar complaints from a dozen victims (Indian Express).
- A Cuddalore based advocate has moved the SC seeking direction to TN Chief Minister to refrain from holding the State Home Portfolio pending investigation and completion of trial in the Santhankulam custodial murder case. The advocate Rajarajan has requested the Court to investigate the role of CM Palaniswami in safeguarding the accused police by misusing his official capacity.

Tuticorin has witnessed a gruesome case of Police Brutality. People are angry and outraged in India and abroad..

Jeyaraj (59) and his son, Fenix (31) of Sathankulam, Tuticorin District, Tamil Nadu died after they were taken into custody by the Tuticorin police officers (TN Police), detained under sections 188, 269, 294(b), 353 and 506(2) of IPC and beaten up.

This inhumane act by the policemen cost the life of J. Fenix on Monday, June 21st night and P.Jeyaraj on Tuesday, June 22nd morning.

All this because they kept their shop open past 8 pm! The news of this police brutality has shaken the people of Tamil Nadu and of India to the core.

As a result of this inhuman act, all the involved policemen got was a suspension and a transfer order.

We demand justice for Jesyaraj family. Let us raise our voice and demand justice. Write to the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu and the Prime Minister of India to take immediate action and punish the culprits. We can't stay silent any longer!

Mahakavi Bharathiyar has said:
"No more exploitation of ... come what may.
If any one goes sans food, we shall set fire to the whole world!"
"Sentamil Nadenum Bodhinilae
Inba Thaen Vandhu Paayudhu Kaadhinilae
Engal, Thandhaiyar Nadendra Pechinile
Oru Sakthi Pirakkudhu Moochinilae"

"Seven Myths about Online Education"- By Prof. Joseph Dorairaj
June 24, 2020

An effective transition to an online mode of teaching-learning requires the debunking of several false views

COVID-19 has turned the world upside down. All sectors, including the education sector, have been drastically affected. The world is searching for new strategies to cope with this pandemic and its aftermath. Higher educational institutions are now looking at online teaching-learning as a window of hope. Many institutions and teachers have taken efforts to incorporate online education and are trying to use tech tools to such as Learning Management Systems (LMS) and web conferencing platforms such as Udemy, Educadium, CourseCraft, and Skillshare, and are trying out different means of reaching out to their students who are quarantined in their own homes and towns and villages. The apex bodies such as the UGC and AICTE have also appealed to teachers and have advised students to make effective use of web learning. But sceptics and cynics have created myths about web learning, which we need to debunk so that we can transition effectively so that knowledge and skill sharing is not disrupted but is continued in different ways through diverse platforms and tools.

Online teaching is meant for the young and techno-savvy

I have heard people say: “I’ve another two years to retire and I’m not inclined to learn anything new, especially online teaching, at this stage of my life.” Or “Oh, these online teaching practices are for those in their 30s, surely not for those in their 50s.” A few others have commented: “Virtual teaching is for those who are techno-savvy, not for people like me who are averse to technology.”

The fact is that everyone — young and old, and those who are conversant with and averse to technology — has to embrace technology and live with it. In other words, technology in tertiary education has come to stay and all teachers have to make a clear and conscious shift despite their age and attitude. Successful people in any walk of life are those who love and welcome change.

Online teaching is only a stopgap arrangement

There is no denying the fact that we are living through difficult times because of the coronavirus pandemic. Against this backdrop, quite a few argue that online teaching is only a stopgap arrangement—at the most for a semester or two. Some feel that when normalcy returns, it will be back to chalk and talk. So, why bother to learn new teaching methodologies? The fact is that online teaching has already become an integral part of our educational system and irrevocable changes have been made in our teaching-learning process. COVID-19 has drastically altered our teaching methodologies and there is no going back. The winners are those who embrace technology and look at online education not as a long-term game changer.

Online teaching is not egalitarian

Some argue that online teaching subtly favours those who have access to high technologies and turns down the disadvantaged sections of society. There may be some truth here but the larger fact is that online education is meant for all. In most cases, all that the students need is a smartphone and most have smartphones with Internet connectivity. Most students can access Zoom or Google Hangout or Cisco WebEx Meeting using their smartphones. Therefore, the claim that online teaching will exacerbate the social and economic divide among students is not justified. It is true that in rural and semi-urban areas, high speed Internet may not be available around the clock. But online teaching, especially the asynchronous mode, will certainly help all students because of its flexibility.

Technology will eventually replace the teacher

Till the dawn of the third millennium, higher educational institutions in India were preponderantly teacher-oriented. The last two decades have brought some welcome change in that there have been conscious attempts to make the curricula student-centred. But this pandemic has brought in yet another paradigm shift — the conscious and deliberate move towards technology. Earlier, teachers were synonymous with chalk and duster but are now seen with laptops and head-phones and that would sum up the change in pedagogy.

There is an innate fear in teachers, especially the ‘old timers’ that technology will eventually replace them. Teachers need to be reassured that they cannot be replaced but also need to be told that their role has changed significantly. Earlier, they were seen as the repositories of knowledge. But now they are seen as syllabus designers, content developers, knowledge sharers — all through the medium of technology. Therefore, they need to develop a different set of skills, especially knowledge of Learning Management Systems (LMS).

Students prefer face-to-face interaction, not online teaching

This is a subtle form of resistance. Teachers who are not very comfortable with technology and are hesitant to switch over to online teaching use a weak argument that their students prefer face-to-face interaction and not online teaching. This stems from a wishful thinking that teachers are indispensable and, without them, the teaching-learning system would collapse. The youth are not only conversant with technology but are also willing to embrace change in any form. They constantly look forward to new ideas and love to experiment and innovate and, therefore, will not have major issues in switching over to online education. Most students, if properly oriented, will switch over to online learning seamlessly and the onus is on the educational system, especially teachers, tofacilitate this transition smoothly. To these students, it is not a question of either/or but both technology and teachers.

Online teaching-learning is not as effective as face-to-face mode

There are quite a few advantages in face-to-face classroom transactions. The biggest is that teachers can think on their feet, strategise according to the content and the mood of their students and constantly monitor students’ intake. Unfortunately, these are absent in online teaching-learning. The content, mode and manner of delivery are already programmed for each module and teachers have little freedom once a module is prepared and delivered. Besides, the attention span of students in the online mode, especially in the asynchronous mode, is unpredictable. Therefore, it is argued that face-to-face interaction is better than online instruction.

There are merits and demerits in both ways. But good teachers are always good, whatever the mode. A good teacher will always adjust the content and delivery according to the mode and will ensure that there isn’t a big gap between input and intake. Therefore, the question of which is a better mode doesn’t arise.

Degrees and diplomas obtained through online education are not valid

In India, education is synonymous with offline education, which is equated with schools and colleges in their physical structures. The nation is still reluctant to accept degrees and diplomas earned through the online mode, which and subconsciously they are deemed inferior. Online education is assumed to be meant for those who don’t make it to regular colleges or universities for want of sound financial and/or academic credentials. Even in the job market, online degrees and diplomas are not treated on par with regular degrees and diplomas.

Two clarifications are required. The kind of online e-learning that we are discussing is, in fact, a blend of online and offline. Face-to-face interaction is supplemented with online teaching and this is due to the fact that regular classes cannot be conducted because of the lockdown, forcing teachers and institutions to switch over to the online mode. Therefore, it is strictly speaking not an online programme as such. Second, technically, there is no distinction between the degrees and diplomas earned through online or offline education. Both are virtually the same.

Extraordinary times and situations call for bold and radical solutions. In this new ecosystem created by this pandemic, teachers have to constantly reinvent themselves to address the exigencies born of this crisis and offer students whatever is relevant and helps them adapt to a crisis thereby making them resourceful and resilient.

The writer is the Dean, School of English & Foreign Languages, Gandhigram Rural Institute. Email josephdorairaj@gmail.com

A Right Blend of Online and Offline Education – J. Felix Raj
June 10, 2020

Every educational institution is reflecting with its faculty members and other stakeholders to arrive at the balanced blend between online and offline modes of teaching-learning and evaluation processes. We need to study and weigh the prospects of what will be the best combination that an institution can adapt for the benefit of the student community in its totality we ponder over a manner that will be effective for future leaders.

Higher education institutes need to have a short-term and long-term, perspective plans to tackle the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in the education sector. Every crisis, natural or man-made, poses serious problems and challenges, and it is our responsibility to convert these challenges into constructive opportunities. That is what has happened in the last two and a half months during the lockdown period.

Our schools and colleges switched over to electronic modes of education to meet their academic demands of completing the syllabus and continuing education. Though the crisis was sudden, and most of these institutions were not prepared or equipped with infrastructure, they tried to convert these challenges into productive opportunities for the benefit of stakeholders, primarily students.

I can speak from my experience; our faculty members acknowledged our initiatives and involved themselves in conducting online teaching and learning. The whole process has been progressing in a planned manner and still continues to the satisfaction of all concerned. This encouraging experience is motivating us to a new future. We will soon face the post-COVID period. The uncertainty of this immediate future should make us start progressively reflecting in this direction.

Lockdowns have jeopardized academic atmosphere. There is an overwhelming sense of emotional damage, anxiety and uncertainty among teachers, students and their parents about classes, examinations and academic progression. We should address these issues systematically and find viable solutions to the satisfaction of all. I see two solutions to this at the higher education level - one is a short-term solution and the other long-term. The short term one has four phases.

The first phase involves the conduct of examinations of the final (terminal) semester students of PG and UG courses. We have the advisory from the regulatory bodies like UGC. As per their guidelines, we shall give 50 per cent weightage to previous semester aggregate and 50 per cent weightage to the Continuous Internal Assessment (CIA) of the end semester. The CIA component includes an online assignment or examination based on online teaching-learning conducted during lockdown period.

The process of the first phase could be completed by the end of June and the results announced by mid-July to make it possible for the final year students – either to take up their placements in industries or to pursue their academic career. All educational institutions may have to plan this way to do justice to our final year students.

The second phase, of course concerns the intermediate semester students. We need to plan out the conduct of their examinations. The examinations could be scheduled in the beginning of August and classes for the students could begin from the end of August. It is not right to conduct these examinations on only online mode. While we assure our students of all precautions and necessary protocol measures to prevent the potential spread of COVID-19, we must ensure that students do not face any problem in future related to their career opportunities and recognition of their academic standards.

The third phase is the admissions of fresh students. Some institutions like ours have already begun the online admission-process for different courses except UG which will start after the announcement of the +2 results, sometime in July-August. The fourth phase is to begin the new session. If all go well, new session could begin from the first week of September. It is beneficial to discern through the collective wisdom and take appropriate decisions that suit situations.

While working out the long-term, perspective plan, one must bear in mind thattechnological advancement and innovations are the extension of human mind and wisdom. Teaching online is a virtual reality. It cannot replace offline, face-to-face interactive mode. It can definitely supplement the offline mode and enrich the whole process of education. Keeping this idea in mind, we must evolve a right blend between these two – offline and online modes of teaching, learning, evaluation and even research.

In the last couple of months, Education market has become exciting. We have seen the mushrooming of online education start-ups who are promisingvarious digital platforms to educational institutions. They have offered themselves to handle A to Z of the activities in the institutions. They are wooing the institutions with Zoom, Microsoft Teams, Skype, and WhatsApp to provide live and recorded classes to the students.

We cannot allow our institutions and stakeholders to suffer at any cost. Academic atmosphere of the temples of wisdom must be maintained. Every institution needs to collectively reflect with its faculty members and experts to gradually find a permanent solution to make education student- friendly, novel and transformative. The proportion between online and offline could be on the basis of an institution’s infrastructure and facilities. The COVID pandemic has challenged us to look for alternatives and to usher in new “normal” in terms of rethinking the modes of dissemination of education within our institutions.

There may evolve two streams of students on the basis of their choice - one stream of students who would prefer to go into the industries, so they may like to have predominantly an online type of education. The other group of students who would choose to further the academic route might like to have a face-to-face and offline education. So we have to study and find what will be the best combination that each institution should choose for the benefit of our student community.

The COVID 19 with its sudden upheavals has changed our routines and life styles. Work, worship, home, health-care, education and social life have all been altered. We are forced to adapt to quarantine, lockdowns, physical distancing and mental agony. Physical health has been badly affected. Our needs and the ways to meet these needs are changing. A new pattern, a new normal is emerging. It is important in the process to identify and prioritize key issues and address them effectively. Some of the areas we need to focus on are:

1. The whole institution must be prepared and ready to face any eventuality, whether natural or physical. Every crisis must be turned into an opportunity to change. We need to educate ourselves with faculty and student development programmes.

2. The academic plan must be drawn up in such a way that it is flexible and therefore may be modified for any situation. 3. The institution must be equipped to handle the crisis with immediate and eventual plans. Immediate solution is to find ways and means to accompany the end-semester students to complete their course and move to the next stage in life.

4. The institution must be prepared to handle other intermediate semester examinations, evaluation and results. 5. Other areas to be immediately attended to are admissions and commencement of new sessions.

6. Educational institutions are the second homes of our students. They are to go beyond the four walls of their classroom and assist in their personal, emotional, and mental and health-care issues to promote their holistic well-being.

7. The institution must roll out a perspective plan for 5 or 10 years with a clearly spelt out vision and policy statements for the institution. 8. Educationalinstitutions have a social identity; they do not exist in isolation. Thus, Educational institutions must network and collaborate with one another, sharing resources and taking triumphant strides with their collective wisdom. Students are our primary stakeholders, in every move that we make every plan that we chalk out, the student community, as the principal pillar of societal growth, remains the inspiring ideology of all our endeavours in the field of education.

9. Colleges and universities must focus on creative research and innovations to further augment their online and offline teaching-learning modes of education. Academia-Industry interface will provide a structured platform for collaborative efforts.

10. It is the responsibility of every institution, public or private, to promote the four Es, namely Expansion, Excellence, Equity and Employability supplemented with a value-based foundation course and service learning.

Technology-enabled teaching-learning is evolving fast and will play a major role in the education sector in the future. We cannot restrict ourselves to only the methodology. The challenges are local and global, and they should involve our whole being and doing – transform and uplift the content of teaching-learning, our approaches, attitudes, relationship and ensure the betterment of our education and transformation of our students. This is the mission of every teacher and every temple of wisdom.


The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University Kolkata. www.felixrajsj.com

COVID 19 and Unemployment
May 28, 2020

Lockdown, particularly the closure of nonessential businesses—are having an unprecedented impact on the employment scenario of the world. Hundreds of millions of people worldwide have lost their jobs as a result of the COVID 19 pandemic. What about the 1.6 billion workers (22 % of the world’s population) in the “informal sector” – half the global workforce, who didn’t have a steady job to start with?They are in immediate danger of losing their jobs and livelihood. It is not certain that they will be recalled after the pandemic is over.

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COVID - 19 and Condition of Migrant Workers
Reflections on Indian Experience
May 18, 2020

Dr. Ranjanendra Narayan Nag, Dr. Samrat Roy and Rishab Lodh

On March 24, 2020, the Government of India, under the leadership of Narendra Modi, decided for a nationwide lockdown as a preventive measure against the Covid-19. While the implementation of the "new normal" lockdown, travel bans, and social distancing has reduced the rate of doubling to 12.6 days, but it came at the cost of bringing the economy to a complete standstill.

The condition of the migrant workers in India

Waking up every other day to the news of the death of more migrant workers makes one wonder what is more appalling: the condition of the itinerant labourers or the extreme apathy of the Government regarding their predicament. Two centuries earlier, a young Engels brought out the grim reality of the workers in Manchester during the Industrial Revolution in his first book “The Condition of the Working Class in England” (1845). Today, the scenario in Mumbai, the financial capital of the country which had been the most treasured British colony, is equally, if not more, horrifying. The present pandemic has brought out this harsh truth in broad daylight.

The worst-hit were the migrant workers, who lost their livelihood overnight and became homeless. The dilemma of implementing lockdown in a populous country like India is obvious. The immediate challenges faced by these migrant workers were related to food, shelter, loss of wages, fear of getting infected, and anxiety. This snatched the livelihoods of an estimated 40 crore informal workers leaving them without food and shelter. It resulted in a massive exodus of inter-state migrant workers from the metropolitans to their home states.

While there is no official data of the migrant workers, various estimates based on 2011 Census, Economic Surveys and the NSSO surveys, suggest at the number to be at least 8 crore. The suspension of transport services left no option for this huge populace other than walking for thousands of miles. As per official reports, over a 100 migrant workers have died from accidents, hunger and exhaustion before they could reach their home. Although their identities remain unknown, their images and stories are heart wrenching.

While protecting citizens of the country from community contagion due to the corona virus is an immediate priority, public policy and public action are equally important to ensure food security and to avoid starvation. Undoubtedly, this is an uphill task in a situation of an unprecedented crisis.

The Migration Crisis

“Yahan ruk kar kya hoga? Hum bhookhey mar jayengey. Hum log paidal nikal jayengey.” (What will happen if we stay here? We’ll die of hunger. So we will walk home.)- From Voices of Invisible Citizens.

The following table will show the prevailing situation:

Category Maharashtra Karnataka Delhi and Haryana Punjab Tamil Nadu
Less than 100 rupees remaining 75% 53% 68% 84% 72%
No cash received from the Government 100% 98% 98% 93% 94%
Not been paid by employees 81% 70% 80% 81% 97%

Source: The Hindu, 4th May 2020

The International Institute of Population Sciences summarizes that in urban areas, average wage earnings per day by casual labor engaged in works other than public works ranged between Rs 314 to Rs 335 among males and nearly Rs 186 to Rs 201 among females during 2017-18. So, a large number of migrant workers and migrant workers were surviving on subsistence wages. In a post lockdown world, the migrant workers are solely depending on Government’s spending/subsidies to support their food and nutritional intake and access to healthcare.

The Way Forward:

In these circumstances, it is important for the Central and State Governments to work in synergy and might consider the following points:

1. Under the 20 lakh crore relief package of Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan, the centre decided to provide free food grain for migrant workers, and additional monthly free rice or wheat allocation of 5kg per person, 1kg of pulse per household from April to June to ration card holders. Many programmes meant the poor do not include migrant workers due to a lack of residential proofs and other papers. The need for the requirement is considering the migrant workers as a stakeholder of the urban economy. Keeping the situation under purview, the Government decided for "One Nation, One Ration," and for non-card holders, the centre and state will work in synergy for locating the non-card holder migrants.

2. To protect the livelihoods of the marginalized in the post lockdown economy, under MGNREGA, 14.6 crore person-days of work have been created, which 40%-50% higher than the previous year—affordable rental complexes planned under Pradhan Mantri Awas Yojna. While people across the quarters have welcomed the move, but over time the coverage has been low due to several reasons, most prominent being the number of households denied job cards. With 85% of leakage history, the low rate of job cards could be indicators for corruption-ridden system, and payment delays.

3. Several agricultural economists have welcomed the reform of investing Rs 1.5 lakh crore to build farm gate infrastructure and support logistics needs for fish workers, livestock farmers, vegetable growers, beekeepers, and related activities. In a bid to provide more securities to agricultural yield, the Government has decided to bring a facilitative legal framework to oversee contract farming, which would provide the farmer with assured sales price and quantity.

4. Shramik special trains are being arranged, but according the Railway Minister many States are not permitting them, possibly because of fear of the virus.

5. While the success of the above policies depends on strong implementation. Policies need to be framed for healthcare, which is already in a challenging state in rural areas without the pandemic. The availability of sanitizers, mask, and basic functional healthcare system has to be ensured.

In total, Rs. 14500 crore is supposed to be spent for some estimated 8 crore migrant workers which is Rs. 1812.5 per capita. Given that India and the global economy is headed towards a long recession, it is needless to say these measures are just peanuts for the migrant workers. As much as one would like to state otherwise, darkness looms large over the future of the migrant worker. It is extremely regrettable that the informal sector in India, which is the source of cheap labour and acts as a cushion to economic fluctuations, is always the least compensated and the worst hit during all types of disasters, be it natural or man-made.

The exodus of the labourer proved that migrants are being reduced merely to their labour power, and during a pandemic shock while others had the privilege of maintaining social distancing from their lavish homes, migrant workers were left in the lurch. As a part of civil society, let us hope, in the post-Covid world, we will see migrant workers as worthy stakeholders in urban welfare policies.

Authors:

* Dr. Ranjanendra Narayan Nag, Department of Economics, St. Xavier’s College and St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata.

* Samrat Roy, Department of Economics, Faculty of Commerce (Morning), St. Xavier’s College, Kolkata.

* Rishab Lodh, MA Economics, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata

Atmanirbhar Indian Economy
May 16, 2020

Dr. Saswati Chaudhuri
Associate Professor of Economics
Department of Economics
St. Xavier's College (Autonomous)
Kolkata, India
Email: sxcsas@sxccal.edu

Dr.Biswajit Mandal
Associate Professor of Economics
Department of Economics & Politics
VisvaBharati University, Santiniketan India
Email: biswajiteco@gmail.com

Prime Minister Narendra Modi appeared as a savior on our television screens on Tuesday (12th May, 2020) and announced an economic package which puts India amongst the Developed nations of the world in terms of theirstimulus as a proportion of the GDP of the respective nation. With a package of Rs. 20 lakh crore implying a whopping 10% of India’s GDP, India is poised to be in the same league as Japan (21.1%), USA (13%), Sweden (12%) and Germany (10.7%).

Let us not forget one simple thing – the governments of these nations had announced such packages without appending the contributions of their Central Banks. The Federal Reserves had pumped $3.3 trillion to some critical segments of the US economy to boost small- and midsized businesses, as well as state and local governments andto purchase Treasury and mortgage-backed securities to help keep credit flowing. However, such infusions were totally delinked from the magnanimous package announced by Donald Trump.

In our case, we get an all-inclusive Atma-Nirbhar (Self-Reliant) package. A cursory glance at the table below would make the idea clear:

Sl. No. Date Policy Amount
1 6th February, 2020 RBI announced measures to inject liquidity Rs. 2.8 lakh crore
2 27th March, 2020 Nirmala Seetharaman’sannouncement of GaribKalyan Package Rs. 1.7 lakh crore
3 27th March, 2020 RBI announced measures to inject additional liquidity Rs. 3.75 lakh crore
4 17th April & 27th April, 2020 RBI infused more liquidity through two separate announcements Rs 1 lakh crore
5 12th May, 2020 PM Narendra Modi announces the ATMANIRBHAR package Rs. 10.75 lakh crore

The package is seen as a government attempt to check the world's fifth-largest economy hurtling towards its first full-year contraction in four decades. According to estimates, lockdown may have led to 12.2 crore people losing jobs in April and consumer demand evaporating. So our expectations were obviously laced with transparency and rational policies.

However, what struck us the very next day came as a ‘bolt from the blue’. The finance Minister never even bothered to provide some degree of transparency regarding the source of the fiscal package or the pattern of its finance. Liquidity infusion seems to be the major thrust of the Government, which would turn out to be ineffective if the ‘demand’ pathways of the economy are not diagnosed with urgency and efforts are directed towards its revival.

Thus, it is not enough to have ‘demand’ as one of the five pillars of aAtmaNirbhar Bharat. Rather policies transparent enough to boost demand should be underway, or else we would have to thrive on demagogy and nothing else.

To analyse the Prime Minister’s speech in a deeper perspective, a ‘self-reliant’ economy is never a hurdle for broad-based growth. We have shown in an econometric exercise that economies with higher levels of exposure to China have been the victim of more infection. Three variables were used in our analysis viz. migration, trade and FDI.

This can be amply exemplified by the example of Italy, possessing the highest Corona virus infected case and death in Europe and is considered to be the epicenter of the pandemic in Europe. China is also the largest cooperative partner of Italy in terms of imports and exports. Lombardy, a town in northern Italy has been severely affected by the outbreak. The reason might not be hard to fathom as Northern Italy has a very prosperous fashion and apparel industry and China had always offered cheaper manufacturing for their apparel factories. This has resulted in more and more fashion houses outsourcing their work to China, especially Wuhan. It also allowed over 100,000 citizens from China to move to Italy and work in those factories. During the Chinese New Year, which is generally celebrated on 25th January, many of these workers had gone home to celebrate their festival and might have been a carrier of the deadly virus on their return.

Thus, it is apparent that countries would take counter-active measures like closing borders and discouraging flow of goods and labour. Hence, with an unreliable global market with its myriad fluctuations, a vibrant domestic market is the need of the hour. Thus the adage propounded by the PM – vocal for local- would lead the country to a more cushioned territory, given the implementation is grounded properly with more action rather than words.

JESUS AND TAGORE
CONFLUENCE OF MINDS
May 6, 2020

As human persons, Jesus and Tagore have many common attributes. They were spiritual leaders who have had great influence on their followers and readers. Tagore was also sometimes compared in the West to Jesus in his manner and appearance

That the Birth of Jesus made a deep and lasting impression on Tagore is evident from his poem, The Child. It is the only poem of Rabindranath Tagore, which is originally written in English. The piece was composed in July 1930 after his visit to the village of Oberammergau, 40 miles from Munich, Germany. Tagore visited the place to watch the traditional passion plays of Jesus Christ, held every ten years. It was later translated into Bengali as Sishutirtha (Pilgrimage to Childhood) in Punashca.

The Child is a recurrent metaphor in Tagore’s poems. The passion plays coalesced in the poet’s imagination and he conceived the Child in the harmony of creative impulse in the course of a night. Tagore finds humanity striving to transcend the burden of frustration and failure, breaking, yet refusing to be defeated and persevering with the quest. Man contains in himself the spirit of his redemption and one day, the Newborn; the divine Child shall triumph towards glorious fulfillment.

The poem is in ten sections and the actions pause and heave like the eternal waves of the sea. The poem blends the cultural contexts of the East and West, of impressionistic description and profound prophecy.

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Spirituality for life and leadership
By Dr. John Felix Raj. SJ
May 1, 2020

Religion is for spiritual guidance and growth of people. It is a major resource for promoting peace, harmony, liberty and justice. We must use religions to maintain and enrich our cultural and religious plurality, which is our asset. Our response must be based on reverence, respect, tolerance and compassion. Every person is an image of God (Genesis 1:27) and so a person is sacred, unique, irreplaceable, and irreducible. But the serious problem in society is that man has created God in his own image.

We need to build and promote a spirituality that is acceptable to, as many people as possible, if not all. Spirituality is an essential part of an individual’s holistic health and well-being. It plays a major role in human and societal governance and development. After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, “God bless America” came easily to the lips of all Americans. In fact, spirituality came alive. It established the fact that human beings cannot do without it.

What is spirituality? It is hard to define. It is often understood as having to do with escaping from life’s temptations and challenges by going off to deserts and mountaintops to pray all day. It is often identified with matters otherworldly, something to do with spirits, something associated with pious and religious observances and activities. It is often contrasted to the temporal, to the material, or to the worldly.v

Until the 19th century, the history of spirituality remained bound up within the history of religion. Spiritual innovators, particularly the eighteenth-century Enlightenment thinkers, often opposed to clericalism and skeptical of religion, sometimes came to express as “spirituality” their more emotional responses to the world. In the wake of the Nietzschean announcement of the "death of God" in 1882, people, unconvinced by scientific rationalism, turned increasingly to the idea of spirituality as an alternative both to materialism and to traditional religious dogma. The distinction between the spiritual and the religious became more common in the popular mind during the late 20th century with the rise of secularism and the advent of the New Age Movement.

One can simply state that spirituality is one’s inner quality that makes one transcend the barriers of worldliness, caste, creed and sensuality; and realize one's connection with the Truth. It focuses on personal experience. Many spiritual traditions, accordingly, share a common spiritual theme: the "path" of perceiving and internalizing one's "true" nature and relationship to God, to the universe and to life, and of becoming free of the “egoic” self in favor of being fully one's "true" "self .”

Spirituality has to do with the "spirit" of our life - with the way in which we live out our relationship with God: our way of being spirit filled. Richard McBrien writes in Catholicism (1980):

To be "spiritual" means to know, and to live according to the knowledge, that there is more to life than meets the eye. To be "spiritual" means, to know, and to live that God is present to us in grace as the principle of personal, interpersonal, social and even cosmic transformation. To be "open to the Spirit" is to accept explicitly who we are and who we are called to become…

Spirituality is a path to God and to become God-like. Some Indian traditions define spirituality (Sanskrit: adhyatma) as that which pertains to the self or soul (Sanskrit: atman). According to Ursula King, it is understood "anthropologically as an exploration into what is involved in becoming fully human”, and fully alive (spirit-filled). In this respect, it is a supportive mechanism even in the workplace.

God is Spirit. That is how Jesus explains it to the Samaritan woman: “The hour is coming, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for God seeks such as these to worship him. ‘God is spirit’, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth." (John 4:23-24). ‘God is Love’ (1 John. 4: 8,16) and ‘God is Light’ (1 John. 1:5).

God is beyond form, space, time, sex, caste, color, religion and so on. The word ‘spirit’ has to do with wind; with the air we breathe in, and therefore with life. The spirit is life. Spirituality unfolds life that calls for transcendence: experience, awareness and appreciation of life beyond self. It helps a person to experience God as truth, love and peace. It takes him or her to something greater and higher. It takes a person beyond his or her egocentric nature and fills him with an other-centric attitude.

The Tamil Poet, Thirumular explains in his thought provoking Thirumanthiram that the Omnipotent cannot be transcribed in a single place nor can he be measured, nor has he any names but can only be experienced. God is love. It is only the ignorant who think that Love and God are two different things. Only few understand that the Divine is nothing but Love. Those who understand this become saints. He has no beginning or end and is also timelessness. In spiritual ecstasy, some experience the Divine as Abba, some as Spouse, some as Lover, some as Friend and so on.

Spirituality points to something central to human life. It is the experience of being unique, being human, being something – a power, energy, presence, drive – that shapes one’s actions and cultivates his or her life. It is what St. Augustine called “restlessness”. It is a path to God to become gradually God-like. The great scientist, Albert Einstein, had once said that his every effort was to “know God’s thoughts”. Spirituality is to be God–intoxicated as it happened in an ardent atheist, Spinosa’s life.

For Mahatma Gandhi, God is Life, Truth, and Light. He is Love. He is the Supreme Good. Gandhi could see that, in the midst of death, life persists, in the midst of untruth, truth persists; in the midst of darkness, light persists. He experienced God through service of humanity, for he knew that “God was neither in heaven, nor down below, but in every one.”

The unknown monk of the 12th century lucidly explains the unfolding of spirituality. "When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation. When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town, and as an older man, I tried to change my family. Now, as an old man, I realize the only one I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that, if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world."

We often don’t realize that transforming the world starts with transforming ourselves. Human persons are endowed with the greatest responsibility of preserving and promoting life. That is the mission given to every human person by the Divine. Spirituality helps persons to realize that mission, to become leaders and to reach out to fellow persons in love and service. For service to humanity is service to God. Many political, religious and business leaders succeed in deceiving people, especially the poor. But they cannot deceive their conscience.

The famous US President, Abraham Lincoln, was also a spiritual leader. During the terrible American civil war, when his secretary of State, Stanton, said, “Mr. President, I hope God is on our side”, Lincoln gently replied, “My dear chap, it is more important that we are on God’s side”. As Sri Aurobindo describes, “All depend on the spirit in which a thing is done, the principle on which it is built, and the use to which it is turned”. An important dimension of spirituality is an awakened consciousness. St. Ignatius of Loyola speaks of this aspect in his Spiritual Exercises as “seeing God in everything. God dwells in all creatures – in plants giving them life, in animals conferring upon them sensation, in human persons bestowing understanding. He also works and labours in all living creatures”. The Upanishads describe “Cosmic Consciousness”, as being present in all life and matter.

A guru once gave a test to his disciples. He gave them each a dove and told them to kill the doves where no one could see them. Only one of them returned to the guru and said, "I searched everywhere but could not find an unseen place to kill the bird, because even in the lonely places the bird was seeing me and I was seeing the bird and I felt that God was seeing both of us.” God is ever present in all things and everywhere.

People can be classified into three kinds as St. Ignatius explains in his Exercises. They can belong to any walk of life – religious, business persons, teachers, workers, students and so on. Their goal in life is the attainment of life-satisfaction through perfect service to God and humanity. To achieve this goal, they must be ready to sacrifice anything that stands in the way. No matter how entangled a person is in secular pursuits, he has the disposition to achieve the goal.

Suppose that each of these three kinds of persons has an equal sum of money and has an unreasonable affection for the amount. Any inordinate attachment produces inner disturbances and consequently loss of peace. All three types want to get rid of this inordinate attachment to achieve the goal. But, they differ in the means used.

Anything I possess outside of my mind and will, and to which I am strongly attached, would give me comfort, pleasure and joy. It can be anything: money or cultural possessions or business, or certain attitudes or even spiritual things. My will may become more or less bound to any of these. But when, on reflection, I discover that my attachment is inordinate, I am faced with the decision of either compromising or going “all out” in ridding myself of the disorderly affection. According to St. Ignatius, unless I am ready to be rid of the thing itself, I am not really sincere to myself.

The first of these three kinds of persons is unwilling to use any means to attain the goal. Until death they fail in the fundamental prudence to use suitable means to sacrifice the sum of money. A variety of reasons may be given for this failure: slothfulness, or avarice, or fear, or lack of self-confidence, or lack of conviction, or lack of faith and so on.

The second ones of these three kinds are compromisers: they want to be rid of the internal attachment and also retain the sum of money. They want to shape the course of Providence to suit them, instead of adapting themselves to the demands of Providence. It may well be that the sum of money to which a person is now attached, may be kept or continued without sacrificing, and detachment is still achieved. But if one is sincere in wanting to be freed of the psychological burden, he must be willing to dispose of the sum, which causes the inordinate interior effect.

The third type of persons has the generosity to dispose of the money and to shake off the dangerous affection. They are not satisfied with a minimal service, but want to do whatever is more conducive to the service of God and humanity.

Spirituality is emptying of self. It has no boundaries. It makes persons active and alive, transcendent and joyful. The only source of joy and happiness is the “Spirit” (God), the Aatman. It is the nature of Sat – Chit – Aanand (Existence – Knowledge – Bliss).

BramabandhaUpadhyaya adopted the vision of Saccidananda as expressive of the Christian mystery of God as Trinity. “I bow to Him who is Being, Consciousness and Bliss. I bow to Him whom worldly minds loathe, whom pure minds yearn for, the Supreme Abode. He is the Supreme, the Ancient of days, the Transcendent, Indivisible Plenitude, and Immanent yet above all things.” That reminds me of a story from one of Fr. Anthony De Mello’s books about a Salt Doll. The Salt Doll wanted to know who he was and so he went about asking people. One day he encountered the ocean and was impressed by its vast beauty. So he asked it if it knew who he was. The ocean said, “Come in and see for yourself.” The salt doll entered into the ocean and was carried by the waves. Just as the last part of the salt was about to dissolve, he said, “Now I know who I am!” I am a Salt Doll. But I am afraid of dissolving, of course.

As a Tamil poetic work, Purananuru proclaims, ‘To us, all villages and towns are one and all persons are kin.’ “The hallmark of spirituality is responsiveness to the given context….” affirms Swami Agnivesh, a spiritual leader of the marginalized and bonded labourers. “The spiritually enlightened person cannot remain indifferent to the problems and sufferings of others. Justice becomes the most authentic expression of spirituality in the social context.”

Spirituality is not opposed to religion. It is regarded sometimes not as religion per se, but as the active and vital energy that transforms life. It is also not identical with religion. As William Irwin Thompson put it, "Religion is the form, spirituality takes in civilization". It is also regarded as a two-stroke process: the "upward stroke" of inner growth, changing oneself as one changes one's relationship with the external universe; and the "downward stroke" of manifesting improvement in the physical reality around oneself as a result of the inward change. We all have spirituality whether we are religious or not. It is that which unites all as one human family, prevents us from disintegrating and puts people in harmony with the universe.v

Osho Rajneesh, a controversial Indian Guru, who was based in Pune, used to comment about spiritual leaders: ‘out of one hundred masters, there is only one Master, ninety-nine are only teachers. The teacher is necessarily learned; for the Master ... it is not a necessity... The Master is a rebel. He lives out of his own being, he is spontaneous, outspoken, constructively critical, not traditional…’

The earth is one, but the world is divided. Spiritual leaders therefore should come together and take a bold stand against corruption, injustice, and communal violence, and promote justice, harmony and peace. In a climate of acute crisis, they must show the way to the future. They must promote a sound and acceptable spirituality at the political and corporate levels to liberate and empower politicians and business leaders through a sense of shared purpose. Such a sense of purpose is a pre-requisite for good governance, national unity and overall development.

PRAYER OF ST.IGNATIUS OF LOYOLA
Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty,
my memory, my understanding and my whole will.
All that I am and all that I possess you have given me.
I surrender it all to you to be disposed of according to your will.
Give me only your love and your grace;
With these I will be rich enough,
and will desire nothing more.

SPIRITUAL EXERCISES
May 1, 2020

The Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola are a compilation of meditations, prayers, and contemplative practices developed by St. Ignatius Loyola to help people deepen their relationship with God. They grew out of Ignatius Loyola’s personal experiences as a man seeking holistic growth in union with God and to discern God’s will. He kept a journal as he gained spiritual insight and deepened his spiritual experience. He added to these notes as he directed other people and discovered what “worked.” Eventually Ignatius gathered these prayers, meditations, reflections, and directions into a carefully designed framework of a retreat, which he called Spiritual Exercises.”

Ignatius wrote that the Exercises: “have as their purpose the conquest of self and the regulation of one’s life in such a way that no decision is made under the influence of any inordinate attachment.” He wanted individuals to undertake these exercises with the assistance of an experienced spiritual director who would help them shape the retreat and understand what they were experiencing. The book of Spiritual Exercises is a handbook to be used by the director, not by the person making the retreat.

The Structure of the Exercises

Ignatius organized the Exercises into four “weeks.” These are not seven-day weeks, but stages on a journey to spiritual freedom and wholehearted commitment to the service of God.

First week:

The first week of the Exercises is a time of reflection on our lives in light of God’s boundless love for us. We see that our response to God’s love has been hindered by patterns of sin. We face these sins knowing that God wants to free us of everything that gets in the way of our loving response to Him. The first week ends with a meditation on Christ’s call to follow Him. Second week:

The meditations and prayers of the second week teach us how to follow Christ as His disciples. We reflect on Scripture passages: Christ’s birth and baptism, his sermon on the mount, his ministry of healing and teaching, his raising Lazarus from the dead. We are brought to decisions to change our lives to do Christ’s work in the world and to love Him more intimately. Third week:

We meditate on Christ’s Last Supper, passion, and death. We see his suffering and the gift of the Eucharist as the ultimate expression of God’s love.

Fourth week:

We meditate on Jesus’ resurrection and his apparitions to his disciples. We walk with the risen Christ and set out to love and serve him in concrete ways in our lives in the world.

Prayer in the Exercises

The two primary forms of prayer Ignatius teaches in the Exercises are meditation and contemplation. In meditation, we use our minds. We ponder over the basic principles that guide our life. We pray over words, images, and ideas.

Contemplation is more about feeling than thinking. Contemplation often stirs the emotions and enkindles deep desires that reside in us, unnoticed. In contemplation, we rely on our imaginations to place ourselves in a setting from the Gospels or in a scene proposed by Ignatius. We pray with Scripture. We do not study it.

The discernment of spirits underlies the Exercises. We notice the interior movements of our hearts, and discernwhere direction they are leading us to. A regular practice of discernment helps us make decisions that are purposeful in terms of societal enactments.

All the characteristic themes of Ignatian spirituality are grounded in the Exercises. These include a sense of collaboration with God’s action in the world, spiritual discernment in decision making, generosity of response to God’s invitation, fraternity and companionship in service, and a disposition to find God in all things. Spiritual integration is a prominent theme of the Exercises: integration of contemplation and action, prayer and service, and emotions and reason.

What Is Ignatian Spirituality?

Ignatian spirituality is holy exercise for everyday life. It insists that God is omnipresent in our world and active in our lives. It is a pathway to more intense prayer, good decisions guided by keen discernment, and an active life of service to others.

Where Can I Find God?

Question-marks: Ignatian spirituality is rooted in the conviction that God is active, personal, and­­—above all—present to us. We don’t have to withdraw from the world into a quiet place in order to find God. God’s footprints can be found everywhere—in our work and our relationships, in our family and friends, in our sorrows and joys, in the sublime beauty of nature and in the mundane details of our daily lives. It’s often said that Ignatian spirituality trains us to “find God in all things.”

This perspective greatly influences how we live and how we pray. The daily grind of our everyday lives takes on transcendent importance. It is the place where we connect with God. This means that the choices we make in our daily lives either push us away from God or draw us more closely to him. Our lives matter.

The God of Ignatian spirituality is a giver of gifts. “God’s love is poured forth lavishly like a fountain spilling forth its waters into an unending stream,” St. Ignatius wrote. God’s blessings are a loving gift that invites us to love in return and act in reciprocation.

For centuries the Exercises were most commonly given as a “long retreat” of about 30 days in solitude and silence. In recent years, there has been a renewed emphasis on the Spiritual Exercises as a program for laypeople. The most common way of going through the Exercises now is a “retreat in daily life,” which involves a month-long program of daily prayer and meetings with a spiritual director. The Exercises have also been adapted in many other ways to meet the practical and providential needs of modern people.

We need a balance in mind, body and spirit. Physical exercises are a must for fitness of body, so also spiritual exercises are a must for the fitness of mind, spirit and life.

JESUIT INFLUENCE ON MOTHER TERESA (“I will always have time for the Jesuits,” said Mother Teresa)
April 21, 2020

In August 1990, a Jesuit scholastic, while writing about Mother Teresa and Jesuits dropped in to see her not knowing that she was in retreat. She did see him. While he apologized for disturbing her, she just smiled and said, “I will always have time for Jesuits.” When she heard that the scholastic was from Calcutta, she became almost chatty and continued, “Being a priest is not enough, being a good priest is important…. The Jesuit vocation is a very special type of religious vocation, called to a great spirituality. The Society has given many saints to Mother Church. You are called to aim at nothing less….”

The association of the Jesuits with Mother Teresa goes back to the days when Mother was a member of the Institution of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM), a religious congregation for women founded after the pattern of the Society of Jesus. The then Superior General of the Jesuits Fr. E. Mercurian, helped in defining the institute's spirituality. He gave them the unrestricted use of the Ignatian Constitutions with permission to change the textual wording from 'he' to 'she'. By virtue of her having been a Loreto nun, the Constitutions of St. Ignatius and his spiritual exercises have had great influence on Mother's spirituality and life.

Mother Teresa had habitually preferred Jesuits as retreat preachers, spiritual directors and confessors for herself and her Sisters. Many Jesuits of Calcutta Province were in close contact with Mother Teresa. They include Archbishop Ferdinand Perier, Cardinal Trevor L. Picachy, Frs. C. Van Exem, Julian Henry, Joseph Sanders, Edouard Le Joly, Camille Bouche, Anton Gabric, Jose Cukale, Josef Neuner, Shukaley, Lawrence Abello, Carl Dincher, Harden, Albert Huart, Moyeson, Jambrekovic, McGuiire, and Travers-Ball. Most of these Jesuits were Belgians who had made, like Mother Teresa, Kolkata their home.

Fr. Celest Van Exem was the earliest main adviser and supporter to Mother Teresa and for the foundations of the Missionaries of Charity, right from her days as Loreto Sister. He was the spiritual director to whom Mother Teresa confided her inspiration and who first sought to discern the authenticity of her experiences. He was the first to support Mother in requesting Archbishop Perier to begin the process for her to leave the Loreto Congregation. He made major contributions to the writing of the Constitutions of the Missionaries of Charity. From the time of the foundation of the Congregation until his illness in the 1980s, he was a confessor and instructor of the novices. A few days before his death, he wrote to Mother Teresa, herself critically ill, that he had offered his life to God in exchange for hers and for her mission to China (which did not materialize).

Fr. Julian Henry SJ was a spiritual friend and close cooperator of Mother already from her days as Loreto sister. In 1949, as parish priest of St. Teresa's Church, he was the first to help Mother Teresa in her new apostolate, offering her a place to pray, rest and to run a dispensary. Before Mother had Sisters as companions, Fr. Henry used to send girls to accompany her. The Sisters of the first group to join Mother Teresa are grateful to Fr. Henry for all that he did in the early days to assist their apostolate, including the teaching of slum children to do carpentry.

Fr. Edouard Le Joly SJ, right from the beginning and for many years, was giving instructions to the M. C. Novices. He had frequent contacts and dialogues with Mother. He has written many books on Mother. His books have been translated into at least 25 languages. He has been associated with Mother for more than 25 years. He was spiritual adviser to the novices at Mother House and to the Sisters preparing for their final profession.

Cardinal Trevor L. Picachy SJ was spiritual guide, confidant, confessor and retreat director to MC Sisters. He was one of the most influential of her spiritual directors, in whom she confided a great deal. He gave much support and cooperation when he was Archbishop of Calcutta. He helped her in times of depression and low spirituality.

Fr. Camille Bouche SJ took over from Fr. Le Joly SJ. Mother had tremendous trust in Fr. Bouche. She took him to address the young sisters. He was one of the confessors of the novices, homilist and a spiritual guide. Fr. Anton Gabric SJ, a Yogoslavian Jesuit missionary in 24 parghanas, was parish priest at Basanti. He persuaded Mother to open centers in rural areas. The Yugoslavian Jesuits went back to their country and spoke about their experiences to the local youth. Mother was among one of those youth when she heard about Calcutta. He was a person whom Mother Teresa admired and whose ideals she shared, including zeal for souls, love for poor and a willingness to "love until it hurts". Like her, Fr. Gabric saw the immediate needs of the poor and sought to bring Christ to them through material, as well as spiritual service. Fr. Gabric's personal practice of poverty was probably very appealing to Mother and when she was still in Albania; Fr. Gabric’s letters about the Calcutta missions inspired her.

Fr. Jose Cukale SJ was from the same cultural background as Mother. Initially she worked with him. He was a good friend. At Mother's request he went to Armenia for one year to be chaplain of Sisters there. Fr. Josef Neuner SJ wrote the first article on Mother in German. He was retreat director for the sisters. He helped Mother to integrate her interior experience of spiritual darkness and to see its value as the spiritual side of her work for the poorest of the poor. Fr. Travers-Ball SJ, became in 1965, the co-founder and first Servant General of the Missionaries of Charity (Brothers). After leaving the Society of Jesus, he developed the Brothers as a Congregation and helped them to live Mother Teresa's charism with their own distinct identity. Fr. Joseph Sanders, a canonist, didn't have much personal contact with Mother, but was important adviser of Archbishop Perrier in the matter of foundation and MC Constitution.

Many more Jesuits had frequented friendly contacts with her, giving retreats and talks, being confessors in Mother House and rendering other services. For example, Frs. Robert Antoine, Pierre Fallon, Bishop Linus Gomes, etc.

According to a senior Calcutta Jesuit, "Mother Teresa was a saint and mystic. She was one of the great prophets of the option for the poor in the Church and in the world. Though a very orthodox Catholic (in some aspects pre-Vatican II), she had deep and spiritual relations with non-Christians in India and abroad. Her approach to the poor - reaching out to the poorest of the poor was necessary but not the only one. How to reform the system for more justice was not clearly emphasized or explicitly encouraged by her. The formation she favored for the Sisters might have been rather hasty and narrow."
By FR. FELIX RAJ, SJ


The Reserve Bank of India Honoured Mother Teresa by producing Rs. 5 coin (Indian currency) in 2010 -- MOTHER TERESA BIRTH CENTENARY COMMEMORATION.

“I will always have time for Jesuits” – Saint of the Gutters, J. Felix Raj, SJ
April 21, 2020

In August 1990, a Jesuit scholastic, while writing about Mother Teresa and Jesuits dropped in to see her not knowing that she was in retreat. She did see him. While he apologized for disturbing her, she just smiled and said, “I will always have time for Jesuits.” When she heard that the scholastic was from Calcutta, she became almost chatty and continued, “Being a priest is not enough, being a good priest is important…. The Jesuit vocation is a very special type of religious vocation, called to a great spirituality. The Society has given many saints to Mother Church. You are called to aim at nothing less….”

When I asked for her blessings in one of our meetings in 1994, Mother Teresa gave me a compassionate look and thrust a Rosary (a string of prayer beads) into my palms and said, “Pray for me and my work for the destitute and dying.” I discovered in this great lady the divine dispensation that reached the core of my heart. Every word she spoke, every touch and every look exuded a transformative tint.

I have had a close association with Mother Teresa. On many occasions, I had brought her in touch with the youth of Calcutta. She was there with her characteristic smile, exemplary humility and a penetrating presence that created an atmosphere of prayer and veneration. She was always inspiring and every time she met the youth, she had a message of love for them.

In 1989 – thirty-one years ago, I had just been ordained a priest and I had gone to Mother House to celebrate the Holy Eucharist for all her Sisters. As I entered the Mother House chapel, she stretched out her hand and touched my feet – I hastily withdrew and proceeded with the celebration.

Later, Mother met me in the sacristy with a broad and radiating smile. She gently kissed my hands and knelt down for my blessings. I was nervous and said, “Mother, who I am to bless you! Instead you must bless me.” She looked at me with a gentle smile and said, “You are a priest, a newly ordained priest, a representative of Christ, and so I humbly seek your blessings”. I blessed her abundantly, and quickly knelt down and sought her blessings. It was an unforgettable and a transformative moment of my life. The memories of that encounter are still fresh in my mind.

When I think of Mother Teresa, the image that I have of her is the universal Mother like the Goddess Durga for the cultural connotation of the people of Calcutta. Undoubtedly, Calcutta made her first Mother Teresa and then Saint Teresa. She performed the mission of destroying the evil of poverty and inhumanity that does away with life and propagated peace of thought and purity of act. The permeating concord of human solidarity that spreads across Mother’s missionary journey of charity removed the emotional distance between people. Indeed, she healed our race.

August 26 every year is Mother’s birth anniversary. I am fortunate and blessed to share my birthday with her. Her favorite words have always inspired me: “The fruit of silence is prayer; the fruit of prayer is faith; the fruit of faith is love; the fruit of love is service and the fruit of service is peace.”

It is said, ‘every beginning has an end and every end has a new beginning’. Mother is not dead; such a life cannot have a foregone conclusion. She bridged the gap between life and death and her legacy continues to live in the hearts of her sisters and followers like me.

Mother was a woman who spoke with authority.

On one occasion, when I had gone to the Mother House to pick her up for a function at St. Xavier's, as she came out of her room she asked me, “Father do you recite rosary?” In my youthful Jesuitical way, yet spontaneously, I whispered to her, “I do not say rosary Mother".

“What kind of a priest are you? Don’t you have love and devotion to our Mother Mary?” she almost scolded me.

"Yes Mother, I have devotion to our Lady, but you see..."

"There are no buts and ifs in my dictionary young Father. From today, you pray the rosary. Understand?" She resolutely commanded.

Her powerful wordspierced into my veins and mingled with my system. I knew they came from her heart. No woman had spoken to me with such commanding authority earlier, of course with the exception of my mother.Since that day, two soul mates accompany me always and everywhere: my rosary and a picture of Master Ignatius with his prayer of ‘Take and Receive.’

I underwent a dramatic transformation in my devotion to our Lady and my outlook to and respect for women. My association with Mother of Kolkata has enriched my life.

Jesuits at the Mughal court, Father J. Felix Raj, SJ
April 21, 2020

Mughal Empire Between Vasco da Gama's arrival in Calicut in May 1498 and his death in Cochin at Christmas 1524, Asia witnessed the emergence of the last great Muslim empires. In 1501 Shah Isma'il founded the Safavid dynasty(1501–1736) in Iran, which was to remain in power until the early 18th century. The Ottomans, a Turkish dynasty named after its founder, Osman, had conquered Cairo in 1517 and were advancing through the Red sea with a plan of becoming a power in the western Indian Ocean. Finally, there was the Mughal Empire which reigned in northern India from 1526 through 1858. Babur had pushed ahead with his conquest of Hindustan, taking the throne of Delhi and becoming the first emperor of this newly formed state in 1526. All three empires posed new challenges to the Portuguese, who established their capital in Goa in 1510.

The Portuguese were little used to dealing with political powers in the continent. They maintained a string of settlement that stretched as far as Gujarat. Their survival in southern Asia depended on a successful relationship with the Mughals, which was expressed in a range of fields that included commerce, politics, religion, culture and the arts. The religious relationship was indelibly marked by the Jesuit's influence at the courts of Akbar and Jahangir (1605-27), of course, not neglecting the localized presence and work of the Augustinians and the Discalced Carmelites. The cultural and artistic relationship was based on the multiple influences that affected objects, ideas, tastes and styles.

Babur's grandson, Jalaluddin Muhammed Akbar, who occupied the throne from 1556 to 1605, consolidated Mughal rule over the whole of northern India, taking in Sind, Kashmir, Gujarat, Rajasthan, Orissa and Bengal, forming a partnership with the Hindu Rajputs to govern through a centralized bureaucracy with officers of state and provincial authorities under his personal direction. The empire of Akbar stretched from the Arabian Sea to the Bay of Bengal. Akbar himself was a capable (although illiterate), shrewd, and conciliating administrator, who managed to gain the cooperation of the peoples and their rulers in the regions he conquered. He abolished the poll tax that had customarily been levied on non-Muslims.

During the middle of his reign, Akbar's quest for Truth and Knowledge accelerated. He got the Holy Text of Mahabharata translated from Sanskrit to Persian. He took expressed interest in the religious beliefs of his subjects, especially that of the Muslims and Hindus. He enforced many reforms, including the edict of complete tolerance for all religions. From the mid-1570s, he had instituted weekly religious discussions in a specially built structure called the Ibadatkhanch, house of worship. More open-minded than most contemporaries, he invited Islamic, Hindu, Christian, Jain and Zoroastrian scholars to religious discussions. His broad fascination with religions culminated in 1582, in the establishment of the Din-Ilahi, a syncretistic cult incorporating Islamic, Hindu and Christian beliefs.

Jesuit Mission to India
The Indian mission of the Jesuits lies at the very origin of their Order. It is to India that Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus, sent his greatest son, Francis Xavier, and to him and his collaborators, that he gave that inspiration and those directives, which became the basis of the Jesuit mission and method. India has also been the birthplace of missionary theories and the testing ground of missionary policies.

Francis Xavier was the first Jesuit to set foot on Indian soil on May 6, 1542. That day, he entered Goa in the entourage of the new governor, Martin Affonso de Sousa, with whom he had sailed from Lisbon. They were given a rousing welcome, and the natural beauty of the Mandovi riverside, together with the imposing buildings, could not but move Xavier. He took charge of the College of St. Paul in Goa started in 1541 by a group of Portuguese. This college was the first educational institution in India which became later the cornerstone of wide-spread Jesuit mission in education and in other fields.

Xavier was a zealous “missionary on the move”. He constantly travelled along the Fishery Coast visiting parava villages, then west into Marava country, then to Mylapore (present-day Chennai). He sailed to Malacca and Japan in 1549 where he spent two and a half years. In April 1552 he set sail to China via Malacca from Goa, never to return alive. He died at Sancian, a small island facing China, on December 2 of the same year. Wherever he went, he plunged himself into charitable and pastoral work preaching the message of God’s love to people. At the time of his death there were 64 Jesuits in India. He worked in India for ten years, 1542 to 1552, called the Xaverian decade.

Jesuits at the Mughal Court
Akbar, the 3rd great Mughal ruler was a religious man, who, in the words of his son, “never for a moment forgot God”. Akbar got his first insight into the Christian character and religion from the actions of two Jesuits – Frs. Antony Vaz and Peter Dias, who had reached Bengal in 1576 at the request of the Bishop of Cochin. These Jesuits had severely rebuked some Portuguese merchants who had defrauded the Mughal treasury by not paying taxes. They had asked them to restitute, otherwise there would be no forgiveness for them. Akbar was greatly impressed by this news and curious about the religion, which insisted so much on honest dealings. Soon he sent for Fr. Julian Pereira, Vicar-General of Bengal in 1576, who in turn suggested that he should invite the Jesuits to his court.

In September 1579, Akbar’s ambassador arrived at Goa with a letter, asking for two learned priests to be sent to Akbar’s court. To quote Akbar’s letter: "... I am sending Abdullah, my ambassador, and Dominic Perez (an Armenian Christian, the interpreter) with the request that you will send me two learned Fathers and the books of Law, especially the Gospel, that I may know the Law and its excellence…" He wanted them to provide him and his Muslim and Hindu courtiers with first-hand knowledge about Christian doctrines (which, according to him, consisted of the message of the Tora and the Gospel).

The invitation elicited great hopes among the Goan Jesuits. The Provincial, Fr. RuiViccente chose three Jesuits for the project. They were Fr. Rudolf Acquaviva (who later suffered martyrdom at Goa and was declared blessed) who led the mission, Fr. Antony Monserrate and the Persian born Br. Francis Henriques as his companions. They reached FatehpurSikri some 110 miles south of Delhi, via Surat and Gwalior on February 28, 1580 and were received with extraordinary warmth and affection by the emperor, whose attachment continued throughout the three years of the duration of the mission. Since Akbar did not become a Christian and appeared to be doubtful as to all forms of faith, unwilling to commit himself, the Jesuits thought they might, as well, spend their time elsewhere. In 1582, Francis Henriques and Monserrate returned back leaving behind Rudolf who wanted to pursue the efforts for some more time. But in 1583, Rudolf too returned to Goa as nothing positive happened, thus ending the first Jesuit Mission to the great Mughal Empire.

The one clear objective of the Jesuits was to convert the emperor. Throughout the three years of acquaintance, Akbar showed sincere friendliness with them, but remained uncommitted. Their uncompromising advocacy for the Christian faith, occasionally perceived by the audience as aggressive, was met by the firm commitment of the Muslim scholars to Islam. The interest that Akbar showed in Christianity, giving rise to Jesuit hopes that they could be converted, turned out to be nothing more than a reflection of the religious eclecticism of the emperor who had hesitation in using Christian imagery as propaganda tool. The eclectic and rationalist politician, Akbar, who was also mystic, did not embrace Christianity. The announcement of Din-Ilahi also dashed the Jesuit hopes of Akbar becoming a Christian. To the Jesuits, he was first an encouragement, and then became an enigma, and finally, a bitter disappointment. Fr. Anthony Monserrate is said to be the first Jesuit geographer in India. When the team left Goa for the Mughal mission, he was asked to keep a diary of all events, which he did faithfully, adding greatly to its value by his geographical and astronomical observations. On his journey from Surat to FatehpurSikri in 1580, he made a survey and took observations for latitude. When Akbar marched to Kabul in 1581 against his half-brother Mirza Muhammed Hakim, he took Fr. Monserrate along for continuing the tuition of his second son Murad. Akbar encouraged Fr. Monserrate to take observations en route. He, however, showed no interest in the date collected by Fr. Monserrate who kept it with himself even when he returned to Goa. Later in 1804, Francis Wilford of Bengal Engineers made use of Fr. Monserrate’s manuscripts to prepare a valuable map of the countries west of Delhi.

The first Jesuit Mission, however, cannot be considered as a total failure. The Jesuit presence did help to bring about a better understanding and dialogue between Islam and Christianity. Art, literature, and history in India as well as in Europe, benefited by the presence of Jesuit missionaries at Akbar's court. The Jesuits at the Mughal court did end up writing an extremely important chapter in the history of inter-religious dialogue in India. The opening of a religious dialogue was precisely what the circumstances thrust upon them there. The friendship that came into existence outlived the first missionaries. This first contact created a pattern of normal relationships between the learned of different religious convictions. Subsequent Jesuit missionaries were similarly well received by the Mughal court.

In 1591, a second mission consisting of Fr. Edward Leitao, Fr. Christopher de Vega and Bro. Stephen Riberio arrived at Lahore on Akbar’s invitation. But it lasted less than a year. The Jesuits soon felt that they were engaged in a futile task and feared that Akbar was manipulating them for his own ends. Once again after a gap of 13 years, Akbar’s earnest efforts to obtain a replacement were rewarded. In May 1595, Fr. Jerome Xavier (grandnephew of Francis Xavier) accompanied by Fr. Manuel Pinheiro and Bro. Bento de Goes arrived in Lahore on a third mission. This time Akbar gave them permission to open a school and to build churches at Agra and Lahore. However, the king avoided the subject of religion with the Fathers on the pretext that the Jesuits needed to learn Persian before embarking on religious discussions. The third mission had more of an impact on both Mughals and Portuguese. Akbar commissioned Fr. Xavier to translate the Life of Christ into Persian as the Dastan-i-Masih. This was completed in 1602.

The Jesuits enjoyed the patronage of Akbar and his son Jahangir; but under Shah Jehan and Aurangzeb this disappeared. Though there were no Christian congregations of importance in Moghul India, there were a number of individuals who wielded considerable influences in Court and elsewhere.

Akbar also married an Armenian Christian, Mariam Zamani Begum. Mariam’s sister, Lady Juliana was the doctor of the royal harem. Juliana was given in marriage to Prince Jean Philipe de Bourbon of Navarre of the royal house of France. It is said that Juliana built the first Church at Agra. Akbar had an adopted son, Mirza-Zul-Qarnain (Zulcarnen), first son of Mirza Iscandar an Armenian who was a cavalier at Akbar’s court. Mirza-Zul-Qarnain was the founder of the Jesuit College at Agra.

He was brought up in the palace Queen Mariam, and grew up as the brother and playmate of Jahangir and Shah Jehan. His rise was fast. He was the Governor of Sambar, Mogor, Babrich (Oudh), Lahore and Bengal. Both Jahangir and Shah Jehan had affection for him, appreciated his administrative ability and respected his staunch faith and virtuous life. He was a genuine Christian and was in very good relations with Jesuits Fathers. He built a Church in Mogor and promoted Christianity. He always helped the Jesuits by donating funds. He gave them a large sum of money to purchase a land in Salsette(Mumbai), to the College in Agra and to establish a mission in Tibet.

He freed them when they were imprisoned. On all solemn feats of the year, he would send to the Jesuits large sums of money to be distributed as alms among the poor Christians. He won the admiration of the Jesuits Fathers, and they have left glowing accounts of him. One record refers to him as the “Father of Mogor Christians” and the “Pillar of Christianity in India”. He is also referred to as an Apostle, a second St. Paul.

EASTER 2020 MESSAGE, Come Let us see the Rainbow of His Resurrection, Father J. Felix Raj, SJ
April 14, 2020

Easter marks the resurrection of Jesus Christ.It will be celebrated on Easter Sunday, April 12 this year by 2.2 billion Christians all over the world. Easter this time will go on record as the celebrationswill be held indoors and at homes due to COVID -19 lockdowns, marking a different mode of solemnity to the occasion.

Church services and public assemblies, on Good Friday and on Easter Sunday, have been called off. People have been advised to celebrate Easter privately and to be in touch with others online. Even Pope Francis himself has decided to hold Easter Mass without the public, for the first time at St. Peter’s Square.

COVID-19 has compelled the world to come to an uneasy halt. The pandemic has swept into almost all countries of the world. It has killed as of now more than 70,000 people and infected more than a million worldwide. It has hit us all; it has levelled the world through an act of death. Things have changed in just a matter of days.We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity.

People experience fear and anxiety. The total lockdown besides being a measure designed to encourage people to stay home and to limit opportunities to unknowingly spread COVID-19 to others has put all of us particularly the poor at risk.It has hurt the marginalized communities of the migrant workers and daily-wage earners,without proper livelihood, food, shelter, health care and other basic needs. Thousands have been left stranded with rail and bus services shut down.

Churches, Mosques, temples and all places of worship are closed. We have even quarantined God! Educational institutions, factories and all work places have been shut down. People have quarantined themselves within the four walls of their houses. We are afraid of each other; we maintain a safe distance of two meters from each other including dear and near ones. Have we rebelled against God? Is God displeased with us? Is COVID – 19 a wrath of God revealed against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of people, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth? We need to step forward like Abraham (Genesis 18:24) and pray, “Far be it from You God to do such a thing to kill all of us. Spare us and as the Judge of all the earth, do what is right.

COVID-19 has also come as a blessing in disguise. After so many years of hustle and bustle of life, there is quiet all over, sky is clear, blue and grey, air is fresh, birds are chirping and flying happily around. Nature has cleansed herself, people have discovered time; they have rediscovered their families. A new way of interrelatedness has begun to take place.Governments and all those in power and leadership need to ensure all have access to sufficient and proper food, shelter and health care.

The family is the nucleus of civilization and the primary unit of society. Stronger familial bonds ensure stronger society. Therefore, Resurrection has acquired its truest message of new life, of thecosmic enchantment which Easter symbolizes. Tragedies can be transformed into opportunities, of spiritual and personal rebirth of communities.

Easter is the paradigm for Jesus’ sacrifice for humankind and the triumph of good over evil. It represents the cleansing of the earth and the self and deliverance from all wickedness. This moment of eternity is our journey, our sail on Noah's Ark upon the sea of life, together as one people in solidarity, respectfully adhering to the directives of the Government authorities; it is our passage from pandemic danger to new found freedom and human fellowship. As in the case of Jesus and Noah, this pandemic will pass away, a rainbow will shine and shower on all peoples of the earth the colors of life.

Easter for us today is our efforts and sacrifices to win over COVID 19. Let this Easter generate in our hearts and families an abiding love and reverence for one another, for nature and for the whole universe. Let us hear the resurrected Christ’s footsteps as he walks out of the tomb victorious.

I wish all readers a peaceful Easter celebration. May the Risen Jesus bless all of us.

The author is Vice-Chancellor, St. Xavier’s University, Kolkata: Log on: www.felixrajsj.com

JESUITS AND MY JESUIT HEROES
April 12, 2020

A Jesuit is a disciple of Jesus Christ in the footsteps of Ignatius of Loyola for the greater glory of God (ad maiorem Dei gloriam - AMDG)in the spirit of Magis(greater and greater). AMDG is the motto of the Jesuit Order, the Society of Jesus, and Magis refers to the philosophy of Jesuit charism.

Key Jesuit Values or Strategies to accomplish Christ’s Mission:

  • AD MAJOREM DEI GLORIAM - This Latin phrase means “For the greater glory of God” which reminds us that our purpose is not simply to improve or advance ourselves but also to cooperate consciously with the Creator accepting His will in life.
  • CURA PERSONALIS - Latin phrase meaning "care for the person." It means that a Jesuit is expected to have concern and care for person entrusted to him for the development of the whole person.
  • MAGIS – means more or greater – Nihil ultra – there is nothing beyond one’s search for wisdom or God. It is an endless and eternal journey.
  • MEN AND WOMEN FOR AND WITH OTHERS - Pedro Arrupe (1907 – 1991), the 28th General of the Jesuit Order, coined the term “Men and Women for Others” in an address to the Tenth International Congress of Jesuit Alumni of Europe. The term has come to mean that if one person graduates from a Jesuit School/College lacking a sense of social justice, the institution have not achieved its primary mission.
  • UNITY OF MIND AND HEART –It primarily refers to the unity of individuals in community. For Ignatius it was the internal unity of the person – mind, heart and spirit. For him, there was no conflict between faith and reason, or between science and religion.
  • CONTEMPLATIVES IN ACTION –It means to cultivate a deep synchronising relationship with God and His creation. The Spirit continuously transforms us to live like the images of God – that is like Jesus, who was a contemplative in action.
  • FINDING GOD IN ALL THINGS - It is the essence of the unique spirituality of Ignatius which is grounded in the conviction that God is active in our world. As the great Jesuit palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin wrote: "God is not remote from us. He is at the point of my pen, my pick, my paintbrush, my needle — and my heart and my thoughts."It is a way of discerning God's presence in our everyday lives

Ignatian Charism:
All these Jesuit values flow from the Jesuit Charism. A "charism" is a grace or talent granted by God to a special person. God granted special graces (or charisms) to St. Ignatius that now help the Jesuits and their mission. At a Jesuit institution, these charisms help us to define how we interact with our faculty, staff, students, parents, alumni, alumnae, people in general and with each other.

My Jesuit Heroes:
When I wanted to join the Jesuits, the first book I read was “Red Sand: A life of St. John de Britto, S.J. martyr of the Madura mission by A Saulieŕe, SJ. I have visited Oriyur, the place of his martyrdom as a school student. The distance between Oriyur and my ancestral village is 45 km. His life has been a great source of inspiration me. I consider myself a Britto Christian. Red Sand led me to read the lives of St. Ignatius of Loyola and St. Francis Xavier.

1. St. Ignatius of Loyola: A Heroic Life – Inspiring and Challenging.

Ignatius, born in 1491 in Spain, was one of those remarkable characters of the 16th century. A Basque nobleman, he was just over five feet tall. He became a brave knight at King Ferdinand's court.

In May 1521, in the battle between Francis I, King of France and the Province of Navarre, Ignatius was wounded in both legs. In hospital he underwent a painful and unsuccessful operation. During the long weary weeks of convalescence at home Ignatius read two books, the "Life of Christ" by Rudolph of Saxony and the "FlosSanetorium", which transformed his life.

In 1522, he left home and went to the shrine of our Lady of Montserrat near Barcelona. There he hung his sword and dagger as a pledge of his new consecration to Christ and His Mother. For the next year he lived on alms, spending long hours in prayer.

There he wrote his "spiritual exercises", the most efficient and widely used Retreat Manual today. Firm in his determination to serve God, but realizing that first he needed the weapon, of knowledge; he completed his philosophical and theological studies at Paris University, where he won six men, all brilliant students - Francis Xavier, Peter Faber, James Laínez, Simon Rodrigues, Alfonso Salmerón andNicholás Bobadilla.

The day came when Ignatius and his companions decided to form themselves into a new community. After much prayer and consultation Ignatius prepared a document, outlining the new order, to be known as the "Society of Jesus", which was made a religious order by Pope Paul III.

"Ignatius had a real facility for finding God in all things," his close friends used to say. The end came suddenly for Ignatius. In 1556 he fell ill. On July 30, he sent Father Polaneo to Vatican for Pope Paul IV's last blessing. Next morning at sunrise, shortly after the secretary's return, Father Ignatius passed away peacefully.On July 31 every year, Jesuits and Jesuit institutions throughout the world celebrate his Feast.

2. Francis Xavier – The Great Missionary and Patron of India:

Francis Xavier was born in the royal castle of Xavier, in the Kingdom of Navarre, on 7 April 1506, in Spain. In 1525, Francis completed his studies at the Collége Sainte-Barbe, University of Paris and joined there itself as a lecturer. He met Ignatius at the university who was pursuing theological studies to become a priest.

Ignatius' saying: "What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" made a deep impression in the heart of Francis Xavier and eventually decided to follow Christ like Ignatius after having gone through the Spiritual Exercise.

He was one of the first seven Jesuits who took vows of poverty and chastity at Montmartre, Paris in 1534. He led an extensive mission into Asia, mainly in the Portuguese Empire of the time and was influential in evangelization work, most notably in India.

The Indian mission of the Jesuits lies at the very origin of the Jesuit Order. It is to India that Ignatius of Loyola, the Founder of the Society of Jesus, sent his greatest son, Francis Xavier.

Xavier was a zealous "missionary on the move". He constantly traveled along the Fishery Coast, then west, into Marava country, then to Mylapore (present day Chennai). He sailed to Malacca and Japan in 1549 where he spent two and a half years. In April 1552 he sailed to China via Malacca from Goa, never to return alive.

He died atShangchuan Island, a small island facing China, on the 2nd of December of the same year. Wherever he went, he plunged himself into charitable and pastoral work preaching the message of God's love to people. He worked in India for ten years, from 1542 to 1552, and the period is called the Xaverian decade.

3. John de Britto – Arul Anandar:

John de Britto, known as Arulanandar, was born at Lisbon on March 1, 1647 in a wealthy family. A playmate and fellow-student of the princes of Portugal he entered the Society of Jesus on Christmas Day, 1662. In 1673 he sailed from Lisbon for the East with 17 fellow Jesuits.

During the course of the voyage 13 of them died. De Britto was one of the four who survived. After his arrival in Goa, he continued his theological studies and then towards the end of April 1674 he set out for Madura Mission.

At Kolei he acquainted himself with Tamil customs. He preferred sitting cross-legged on the ground, drinking water without the vessel touching his lips, eating meals with his hands, walking barefoot, wearing a flowing shirt called "anghi" and a turban on his head, and rings in his ears. He abstained from eating meat, eggs and fish and took to rice and vegetable curry.

Within six months he learnt Tamil. He proceeded to preach the word of God in the five ancient kingdoms: Vellore, Jingi, Tanjore, Madura and Marava. He travelled hundreds of miles in spite of many hardships and the fear of attack upon his person.

In 1686 Britto was arrested by the command of the chief minister of Marava called Kumara Pillai. He was beaten mercilessly and subjected to torture in a well. Eventually he was freed.

Among those he helped was a prince of the royal family, called ThadiyaTheva, whom Britto had cured of a disease. The prince decided to give up the practice of keeping many wives. Kadeli, one of his many wives, complained about her dismissal to the Raja of Marava. The Raja had Britto arrested. He was sentenced to death. The next day he was taken to Oriyur and was beheaded on February 4, 1693. The place where he was beheaded is red even to this day and so it is called Red Sand.

De Britto died a martyr's death. He was canonized by Pope Pius XII in 1947. On February 4 the whole Church celebrates De Britto's Feast.

Link: “Jesuit Legacy and Education” an article by Fr. Felix Raj in the Telegraph Paper on July 31, 2019 in Kolkata https://www.telegraphindia.com/opinion/a-precious-milestone-of-jesuit-legacy-and-education/cid/1695510

VICE-CHANCELLOR’S APPEAL LETTER
March 29, 2020

Dear Faculty/Alumni/ae/Parents/Friends/well-wishers,

All of us know that COVID-19 has compelled the world to come to an uneasy halt. The pandemic has swept into at least 177 countries. It has killed more than 31,000 people and infected 6, 63,924 worldwide as of March 29. It has hit us all; it has levelled the world through an act of death. Things have changed in just a matter of days.We are deeply concerned by the alarming levels of spread and severity.

In India, as of March 29, cases of infection are more than 1000 and the virus has claimed 24 lives so far. In view of the urgent need to contain the spread of the deadly COVID-19, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has announced a three-week complete lockdown across the country on March 24. “To save India and every Indian, there will be a total ban on venturing out of your homes,” he said in a national address.

Both the Central and State Governments are responding to the situation and are coordinating efforts across the country to combat the spread of the coronavirus. It is our moral and Xaverian duty to join hands and support the schemes and projects undertaken by the HCM and her government. I appeal to all to generously come forward with whatever monetary contributions you can make. I am glad to inform that all the faculty members and the officers of the University have already volunteered to donate one-day salary for this purpose.

Let us remember the dead and pray for the repose of their souls, and the suffering for strength and solace. Our gesture may be a drop in the ocean; but it is the little drops that make the mighty ocean. We shall transfer the amount collected for this purpose to the “West Bengal State Emergency Relief Fund”.

Your contributions can be sent to: St. Xavier’s College Kolkata Educational Trust, by NEFT/RTGS.The details of the account are as follows:
A/C No.: 95852010029620
IFSC: SYNB0009585

You may contact our Finance officer, Fr. Arul Raj for any query (Mobile: 91 7044329088). After transferring the amount, kindly send a note to the FO so that we can send you an acknowledgement mail (financeofficer@sxuk.edu.in).

Kindly note that such contributions will qualify for Income Tax Relief u/s 80G of IT Act.

May God bless all of you.With the assurance of our prayers. Stay home and stay blessed at this moment.

Sd/-
Fr. J. Felix Raj, SJ
Vice-Chancellor, SXUK