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Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP

Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP is a Catholic priest of the Society of St Paul. He has been engaged in media activities for several years as General Editor of ST PAULS Mumbai. He believes in God's gift of beauty and goodness in every human being, in nature and in every religious tradition, and shares his views and opinions with others.

While London was Burning

Major part of last week saw how London city was burning.
There was total chaos and destruction in many areas. People could not move out
of their houses and offices freely, fearing the gangsters. The security forces
remained clueless and inactive. The major political leadership was vacationing
elsewhere during the earlier part of the unrest. Thus, as precious time was
lost in reinforcing the security forces, violence and looting spread to other
towns such as Bristol, Birmingham, Manchester, Liverpool, Wolverhampton, etc.
The whole world witnessed with shame how the lawless anarchists plundered and
looted on the streets of this otherwise orderly, civilized and tolerant
country.

While the immediate causes of this violent outbursts and
looting are hard to identify, a deeper analysis of the scenes would reveal some
hard truths. It is easier to write it off as people’s natural reaction over the
prevalent unemployment, recession, cut in government spending, poverty, etc.
But it does not require an extraordinary brain to understand that such acts of
lawlessness can only worsen the prevalent scenario. By burning down huge
departmental stores as well as small businesses, they have deprived thousands
of people of their jobs and their only means of livelihood. 

The events on the streets of England show the moral and
intellectual decay that is eating up the western society. Prime Minister David
Cameron hit the nail on the head when he called for a return to the traditional
values. It is simply the symptom of a society that has dug its own foundation
of family, marriage and lawful children, religious and moral practices. People,
in their materialistic pursuits, greed for wealth and passing gratification,
have abandoned the bedrock of age-old values that keep any society stand erect
and move forward. There is a dearth of strong spiritual and moral leadership
that the young people can look up to for guidance and direction. Parents are
separated, and live with their own partners; children are left to themselves to
find direction for their lives and often they end up in the hands of gangsters.
According to records, a quarter of British children live with only one parent.
A whopping 900 children are expelled from British schools each day for violence
and abuse. But this situation is typical not only to Britain; in the whole of
western world we have been witnessing a kind of lawlessness and chaos as far as
these bedrock institutions are concerned. This situation naturally leads to
lawlessness on the streets, inner cities and schools. It simply shows that no
society can afford to do away with the basic institutions of traditional
marriage and family, disciplined choices in relationships, moral, religious and
intellectual training of body, mind and spirit. The whole world needs to learn
from these incidents and return to the traditional values of life.

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 15-08-2011

Expecting the Unexpected

It took an hour for them to ride to their favourite
restaurant. But when they reached there it was closed. It was never expected to
be closed on a Saturday evening. No one knows the reason. The only explanation
is that the unexpected always happens! When things go on expected lines, life
moves on smoothly. Most people like life to be just the usual routine, go on in
the likely and probable manner, and nothing unexpected occurs. In this way,
there is less tension and worry, more smoothness and flow of life. But think of
it! When life is all smooth and moving only on expected, usual, routine and
probable lines, can there be any thrill? Sticking to and moving on a daily routine
is easy, but one soon gets fed up and bored of it. On the contrary, the
unexpected events bring variety, colour and pleasant surprises to life.
Flexibility is the key to facing the unexpected.

An unexpected guest, the unexpected arrival of a baby, an
unexpected examination result, a job offer, a good crop, a marriage proposal, a
successful venture, a summer rain, etc., can be causes for celebration.
Sometimes the unexpected turn of events in life can save us from an impending
danger or embarrassment, such as an accident, a wrong decision, a careless
relationship, etc. It was said that the unexpected delay in the arrival of a
train saved several people from being trapped in the 9/11 tragedy. But there
are also negative and unwelcome unexpected happenings, such as, an illness, the
death of a dear one, a natural calamity, set back in business, crop failure,
betrayal by a friend, break up in marriage, bad behaviour by children, etc.
These can turn our lives upside down and take us to the rock bottom. At such
turn of events which are totally unexpected, we become powerless and hopeless,
lose sight of our goal and unable to pick up the threads and move ahead. But
even such happenings can have their positive outcomes. They can teach us of the
hard realities of life and make us stronger in our resolve to move on; help us
make positive decisions as they provide a second chance to begin life all over
again. They can also make us more flexible, understanding and accommodative.
That's the reason those in military training, police force, management,
aviation, etc., are taught always to expect the unexpected. 

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 08-08-2011

The Joy of Parenthood

          The 'Friends Life Financial Institution' has recently conducted a
study among British women on when they decide to have children and what factors
influence their decision. It was found that 42% of women in their 20s, who are
at the beginning of their career, postpone their decision to become mothers due
to several factors such as financial pressures, career ambitions, tension,
uncertainty about the life partner, etc. The same trend also compels them to
delay the decision to have a second child or even decide not to have a second
child at all. Their main worry is about the inconveniences and increased cost
of living a child can bring to their already stressed and tensed life and the
damage it can cause to their career.

One should read this report against the background of
people who desperately long to have children, who spend huge amounts of money
on fertility treatments, who pray God fervently and with deep longing and visit
every shrine they can have access to. For them children are simply signs of
God's blessing. They are aware that the most important purpose of marriage is
to cooperate in God's creative process and nature's way of perpetuating human
life. For them, as Rabindranath Tagore says, 'every child comes
with the message that God is not yet discouraged of humanity'.
A child brings joy and angelic beauty as he/she is the most wonderful
masterpiece of God. The Book of Genesis in the Bible speaks of this human
sentiment in a masterly manner: “Isaac prayed to the LORD on behalf of his
wife, because she was barren. The LORD answered his prayer, and his wife
Rebecca became pregnant” (Genesis 25:21).

The beauty and thrill of parenthood is the greatest
reward God gives to couples for taking upon them the responsibility of bearing
and rearing children. Financial stress and career related considerations can be
overcome with the indescribable joy of being a parent. The presence of children
– the joy they bring and the beauty they radiate are far beyond all other
negative considerations in this regard. The more the couples delay this
decision or reject the possibility of bringing forth new lives within the
legitimate matrimonial contract, the greater the loss of these blessings.

“Behold, children are a heritage
from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 01-08-2011

The Wordless Speech

The John Paul II exhibition in Vatican is a fitting
tribute to the man who guided the course of the world during last quarter of
the 20th century. The well laid out exhibition shows that JPII, as
he is fondly called now, shall continue to live on in the hearts and minds of
the people who love him. His powerful influence in shaping the religious,
political and social spheres of his time has been well depicted in the
exhibition. The important moments from his birth to death, including his
decision to choose priesthood, his Episcopal ordination, his papal election,
the gun attack, his hundreds of international trips, his death and funeral, are
all well depicted through pictures, videos and audio programmes.

The most touching scene is perhaps his last public
appearance through the window of his residence in Vatican. Hundreds of
thousands of people waited eagerly at St Peter's square for the usual
appearance that included a prayer and blessing of their beloved Pope. The
people, as usual, came from all continents and every corner of the world. They
knew their Pope was not well for quite some time. Perhaps some of them were
waiting there to see him for the first time. But there were so many who thought
it was their last chance to see their shepherd alive.

The eagerly awaited moment arrived. The Pope appeared at
the window of his apartment. He seemed weak, unable to stand straight, but he
made an effort nevertheless. He looked at the crowd intently. He painstakingly
lifted his right hand and waved at them. But the moment came when he tried to
open his mouth and speak a few words to the crowd. No voice could come out of
his mouth. He tried, again and again, but he seemed helpless. There was absolute
silence in the crowd.  All of them
focussed their eyes on that one feeble figure. They wanted to hear him. When
the voice was not coming, they closed their eyes, most of them shedding tears.
As the Pope struggled and could not succeed, the guard removed the microphone
stand which was the final indication that they would not be able to hear their
shepherd any more.

Watching the scene of that video would surely bring
tears to our eyes. But the great Pope, without speaking a word, spoke
eloquently to those thousands and all his future admirers. Perhaps this
wordless speech of JPII was his most unforgettable one of all. It was his
presence that mattered, inspired and charmed millions of people. And through
his presence he told them that he loves all, that he cares for all and that he
is close to all. It seemed like his farewell speech that assured his flock that
he would continue to look down from his heaven where he would be in a matter of
a few hours. It was his call to his followers to remain strong in their faith,
to continue steadfast in defence of life and never be wanting in bearing
witness to the love of their Master Jesus. JPII continues to fascinate, attract
and inspire millions today.

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 25-07-2011

Punctuality – The Door to Success

An important meeting was being held for the leaders of India’s
independence movement. Eminent persons like Gandhi, Nehru, Tilak, Azad and
Patel were in attendance for chalking out the future strategy to throw out the
British rule from the country. The meeting began, but Tilak could only come to
the meeting five minutes late. Gandhiji stopped the proceedings, looked
intently at Tilak and exclaimed: “If India’s independence from the British rule
will be delayed by five minutes, Tilak will have to take the blame for it.”

Gandhiji was so keen on being punctual everywhere. He was always a
man in a hurry. In contrast, some people, by nature, are always tardy for
everything they attend. They procrastinate with things and as a consequence they
can never meet a deadline or an appointment. This in turn can land them in
trouble, as it affects their performance at every level – education, career,
family, social life, etc. The one who is always late misses on the beginnings
of things and events, which often are the best parts. There are many incidents
of people missing trains and flights because of their compulsive nature of
being late for everything. By being late, he is missing on opportunities for
success.

It is said that the world today moves, not on hours and minutes, but
on seconds and microseconds. Things keep changing in high speed. Payment for
services are calculated by seconds, as for people today time is money and
punctuality is the soul of business. Machinery and means of transport operate
on the basis of perfect time schedule. The delay of even a fraction of a second
can have disastrous consequences. Last year, an airplane was delayed by a
fraction of a second to touch down on the ground and that caused a horrifying
accident that killed nearly two hundred people. 

The virtue of punctuality is both natural and acquired. It is said
that some people can never get late for anything, anywhere. They have a natural
tendency to be punctual, everywhere, at every event. They get restless when,
even if not by their fault, they get delayed for something. However, even if it
is not an inborn quality, one can acquire this virtue by practice, especially
if we start at a young age. One who misses the
deadlines and appointments everywhere is also likely to miss his final
appointment with God when he comes calling him because it is said that God is
always on time.

 “I
could never think well of a man's intellectual or moral character, if he was
habitually unfaithful to his appointments.” (Nathanael Emmons). 

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 18-07-2011

As we Journey on…

In life we make frequent journeys to various places and
for various reasons. In the olden times people journeyed on foot from place to
place for their survival needs. Later on, as they advanced in their knowledge
of the surroundings, people used animals, and animal pulled carriages for their
journey. This was followed later by vehicles pulled or pedalled by humans
themselves. And finally journey became easier and faster with the arrival of
automobile engines. Today people can travel by air, by rail, by road and by sea
to reach their destination in the fastest imaginable speed.

Every journey has a purpose, a beginning and an end. We
journey for business, for vacation, for pilgrimage, for entertainment, and for
hundreds of other reasons.  Sometimes we
stop our journey for the purpose of refuelling, for food, rest, entertainment,
business, etc., but move on again when the purpose has been achieved. Sometimes
we make detours because of roadblocks on our normal route. Sometimes we get
stuck in one place due to unfavourable conditions. On some occasions we
unknowingly deviate from our right path and take wrong routes, but when the
mistake has been realised, we get back to the right route.

In our journey we meet various kinds of people – some
familiar, others strangers; some pleasant, some sore; some helpful, others
indifferent; some friendly, others rude; some we befriend, others we pass by
without paying much attention. Some of those whom we befriend become part of
our lives, but others gradually fade away from our memory.

Just as we make big and small journeys in life
frequently, our life itself is a long journey, a movement, a pilgrimage. We
begin our life’s journey at the moment of our conception in the womb of our
mother. Our final destination is the heavenly kingdom where the entire human
race is invited to by God himself. The purpose of our life’s journey is to
attain our final destiny. In this journey there can be roadblocks, wrong turns,
sticky situations, stopovers, frustrating experiences, etc. We meet people who
enrich us as well as people who create hurdles on our journey. Just as other
people influence our onward move, we too, through our actions and words
influence others, make a difference to the path we travel and the people we
meet. We learn from every experience, be they big or small.  Every event on this journey is a teacher for
our onward move. Every place we visit and every situation we encounter have
something to make our journey better. 
The only things that we can take along with us to our final destiny is
the goodwill we have created among people, the love we have shared and the
smile we have brought on to the faces of the less privileged through our own
self-sacrifice. All the other baggage we have collected along the way will have
to be dropped in this world in order to enter our final destiny.

“I
believe that life is a journey, often difficult and sometimes incredibly cruel,
but we are well equipped for it if only we tap into our talents and gifts and
allow them to blossom”. (Les Brown)

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 11-07-2011

Power: To do good or to do evil?

These days the point of a hot
discussion is why do people crave for power, and once they get to it, they hang
on to it till their last breath.  Power
always comes with its comforts and pleasures, but nonetheless the struggles and
pains. Some usurp power; some enjoy power; some abuse power and some use power
for doing good. Some people, in their 80s and 90s and even when on their sick
bed, are holding on to power as if it is their only source of happiness. Even
when the power-holders are advised and coerced to give up power, it is too good
for them to let go of it. When the power they hold on to is threatened, they
use all their resources to safeguard it and strengthen their grip on to it.
Some use the weapon of vilifying and destroying the character of their
opponents in order to eliminate the threat to their power bastion. Others use
deadly weapons and human shields so that the power they tasted would not desert
them. The root cause of most of the wars the world has witnessed thus far is
the craze for power between different players. But there are others who use
power for building up the society, creating harmony and helping progress. This
indeed is the purpose of power.

Although everyone knows what power
is, and everyone has tasted and exercised it in some form or other, it is a
difficult concept to define. Max Weber, the great German Philosopher defines
power as, “the ability of an actor to realize his or her will in a social
action, even against the will of other actors.” Power is exercised in different
spheres of life: society, politics, economics, military, community, family,
association, etc.

The ultimate source of every form of
power is God as He is the Omnipotent being. We can say God deposits a share of
His power on humans in order to maintain and continue the order and harmony of
God's creation.  Jesus said
to Pilate: “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given
you from above” (Jn 19:11). The power that God imparts upon humans is meant to
use for common good and social harmony.

The problem starts when people with power begin to misuse it for their
personal gains, when they use power to harass, oppress and burden others. Jesus
had cautioned his followers against the hypocrisy of those who abuse power:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe
whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not
practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders;
but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Mt 23:2-4).

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 04-07-2011

The Magic of Appreciation

“Appreciation can make a day, even
change a life.

Your willingness to put it into
words is all that is necessary.”

– Margaret Cousins

Appreciation is a human need. Even animals show
appreciation within and among their kind and respond to appreciation positively
when shown. When we do something well, we consciously or unconsciously long for
some form of appreciation, especially from those who matter most to us. It
brightens our lives and motivates us to do more and better. It is the best
reward we can receive for our efforts, as it is more precious than money and
other awards.

Appreciation adds joy and spice to family life.
Appreciation is a genuine and spontaneous expression of love and joy at the
others' efforts and or achievements.  It
works as an incentive to a child to take the next step as it begins to walk; to
a young student to study hard and produce better results; to a weak person to
struggle against disadvantages and move on in life;  to an entrepreneur to achieve greater productivity;
to a sports person to improve her/his performance. In short, appreciation is a
necessary part of every sphere of life.

In as much as we long for appreciation, it is important
that we are generous in our appreciation of others. Only a person with a
generous and loving heart can appreciate another's efforts and
achievements.  Appreciation is different
from gratitude. The latter is given for a favour received, but the former is
freely given because the person deserves to be appreciated. It is also not to
be confused with flattery.  While flattery
is fake and false, appreciation is genuine and true. Flattery, based on
falsehood as it is, destroys the person eventually while appreciation helps one
to grow and become better.

One of the motivating instances of appreciation in the
Bible New Testament is when Mary visits Elizabeth. Elizabeth's words of
appreciation of Mary's new status come straight and spontaneously from her
heart: “Of all women you are the most blessed, and blessed is the fruit
of your womb. Why should I be honoured with a visit from the
mother of my Lord?”
(Lk 1:42-43).

Another equally inspiring instance of generous
admiration and appreciation found in the Bible comes from the mouth of Jesus
about John the Baptist: “I tell you, of all the children born to women,
there is no one greater than John” (Lk 7:28). 

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 27-06-2011

Ode to Love

One of the best expositions on the theme of love is the
13th chapter of St Paul's first letter to Corinthians in the Bible.
It is considered also as one of the most awesome pieces of prose ever written.
Paul here speaks of the absolute necessity of love, the various characteristics
of love and the permanence and endurance of love. No one, however highly placed
or gifted, can be as great as a person who possesses true and genuine love in
his heart. At the same time no amount of good works and sacrifices would be of
any good if they are not done with love. In this charter of love, there is also
hidden a charter for life. The person with genuine love is the one who is
patient, kind, humble, accommodative, harmonious, understanding, trusting, hopeful
and strong. What makes a person truly great is not external display of success,
power and wealth, but the possession of true love. We are sometimes unable to
measure up to this standard of love because we are wounded by hatred,
indifference, misunderstanding, jealousy and envy. Only genuine love can heal
our wounds and recreate our lives. Love begets love! Love, and be loved! It is
worth taking time to read and take to hear the Ode to Love by St Paul:

 

“Though I command languages both human and angelic — if I speak
without love, I am no more than a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.

And though I have the power of prophecy, to penetrate all mysteries
and knowledge, and though I have all the faith necessary to move mountains —
if I am without love, I am nothing.

Though I should give away to the poor all that I possess, and even
give up my body to be burned — if I am without love, it will do me no good
whatever.

 Love is always patient and
kind; love is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited,

it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take
offence or store up grievances.

Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth.

It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to
endure whatever comes.

Love never comes to an end. But if there are prophecies, they will
be done away with; if tongues, they will fall silent; and if knowledge, it will
be done away with.

(1
Corinthians 13:1-8)

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 20-06-2011

The Power of Hope

A
few years ago I had to get some permission from a government office in New
Delhi. Even after several trips and spending much time and resources, I could
not get the required permission. In my frustration and hopelessness, I
approached the second highest ranking official of the department and presented
my case to him. After reviewing my application, he sat back, looked straight at
my eyes and said: “Do not lose hope because the whole world lives on hope.”

The
whole world lives on hope! The farmer sows seeds and waits with hope for the
seeds to sprout, grow, and produce fruits. 
The pregnant mother waits with hope for her baby to be born. The
fisherman ventures into the sea with the hope of getting a good catch. The
businessman invests in his business with the hope that he makes good profit.
The teacher instructs the children with the hope that they acquire knowledge
and become better people.  The doctor
treats a patient with the hope of getting him back to good health. The patient
undergoes the pain of surgery hoping that one day he will recover his health.
The scientist spends days and months in the laboratory with the hope that he
succeeds in his research. The soldier guards the borders day and night with the
hope that the land remains safe from the enemies. The traveller hopes for his
means of transport to take him to his destination. The pilgrims travel to holy
places with the hope of getting spiritual benefits. Relatives bury the dead
people with the hope that the person will enter into a new and everlasting
life.

Hope
is the force that keeps the world going. We hope for a positive outcome to all
our ventures. When there is no hope for a better tomorrow, a better quality of
life and a better world order, we fall into stagnancy and misery. In today’s
world, especially in the atmosphere of falling economies, unemployment, fierce
competitions and natural and man-made calamities, many people live in perpetual
insecurity and hopelessness. But hope can be regained and instilled in people
by the timely involvement of others. They can, thus, change the outlook of a
person and bring him/her back to hope from being hopeless. As God is the source
of all hope, even in the worst of hopeless situations, one can find hope in
God.

 “Hope is the power of being cheerful in
circumstances which we know to be desperate”. (G.K. Chesterton)

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 13-06-2011