By Fr. Prabath Sanjeeva
Fernando, S.J. LEGEND IS BORN
Iñigo Lopez de Oñaz y Loyola, whom we know as St. Ignatius of Loyola, was the founder Father of the Society of Jesus, (in fact St. Ignatius preferred being called as the co-founder). Iñigo Lopez de Loyola, was chasing after military fame and fortune when a cannon ball arriving like a thunderbolt, shattered his leg and crushed his hope-filled dreams. The cannon ball not only broke his leg, but also his image as a handsome, dashing courtier, the vainglory that he had lived for; was shattered, too. It is aptly said, that sometimes, God lets you hit rock bottom, so that you will discover Him as the Rock, at the bottom. Since the bone was protruding after the operation, it exhibited an awkward appearance as he walked. He could not tolerate such a black marked stain on the spotless veneer of his esteem. Thus, Iñigo insisted on having the leg re-broken and re-set; even without anesthetic. At times, isn’t it true, that in life, no matter how hard we try to fix certain idiosyncrasies imposing our own will, they would nevertheless remain the same or get even worse! The similar fate occurred in the life of our saint. In the end, one leg was still shorter than the other. Therefore, Iñigo had to limp for the rest of his life.
During the time of his convalescence, Ignatius loved to read romantic novels and daydream of a princess who would be his own. However, the next chapter of life had its own U-turn. In the rest home, the only available books were the Life of Christ and the Lives of the Saints. Bored and tired, he resorted to these tomes for an adventurous escape. Providentially, these books in turn offered Ignatius a new set of eyes and a unique perspective in following the Prince of Peace, Jesus and the Queen of the Church, the Blessed Virgin Mary. This paradigmatic shift, certainly, I would say, brought this boisterous young man closer to Mary and God. It made a lasting and an indelible impression in his life, so much so that Ignatius made a pilgrimage to the shrine of Blessed Mother Mary, at Montserrat near Barcelona. He remained almost a year at nearby Manresa, in a pauper’s hospice, often in a dingy cave in the hills, praying. After a period of great peace of mind, he went through a harrowing trial of scruples, prayer, fasting, sacraments and penance. In fact, this going through paved a way to a growing through experience in the Lord; And so was born a legend.
Ignatius preferred to be called the ‘Pilgrim’. At La-Storta, a little town outside of Rome, when the pilgrim and the companions stopped to pray at a small chapel, he had a vision of Jesus carrying the cross with the Father at his side. Jesus said to Ignatius, “I wish you to serve us.” Then, the Father added, “I will be propitious to you in Rome”. When in Rome, the Society of Jesus was approved by Pope Paul III in 1540 and thus became an official Catholic religious order. Following this, Ignatius was then elected their first leader (General) wherein he vehemently declined the election for he did not want to fall into the same temptation of the vanity of vanities. Yet, later on, as the rest of the companions insisted, Ignatius agreed upon serving God as the General of the newly-founded Society of Jesus. The apparent distinction was, in contrast to the ambitions of his early days, the fundamental option of the newly-born Ignatius was that we must desire and choose only that which fulfills the end for which we are created – that is to praise, reverence, and serve God through serving other human beings. Ignatius was exceedingly driven by the ardent desire to do everything for the ‘Greater Glory of God’. So much so he prayed:
“Teach us, good Lord, to serve you as you deserve;
to give, and not to count the cost,
to fight, and not to heed the wounds,
to toil, and not to seek for rest,
to labor, and not to ask for reward,
except that of knowing that we are doing your will”.
Ignatius was a soldier-sinner who turned out to be a mystic-saint. He was a broken legged soldier who in recognizing his sinful past allowed God to mould him to become a contemplative in action. A sickbed conversion changed his entire life, but not without an uphill journey. Perseverance in prayer and total trust in God pulled St. Ignatius out of the darkness that was trying to consume him. There are so many things that could be said of St. Ignatius’ life, especially of how he allowed God to show him who he could become, which was much more than what he thought he could ever be. Ignatius experienced wholly the true meaning of “unconditional” in the commonly known phrase – “God’s Unconditional Love.” Once liberated, he continued to seek out ways and means so that he could share this profound gift and experience, one that I feel is very much needed in our world of today.
The pilgrim saintly character of St. Ignatius provokes us to commence the journey of faith, by trying to become saints while we are still alive. Understandably, it is a gift that is given, but on the other hand, it also has to be asked and strived for. This journey is quite arduous, for it requires, our radical following of Christ. The clarion call is to live lives of authenticity, purpose driven, and rooted in faith. The saintly life of Ignatius challenges us not to be just the followers but rather to become the leaders, the founders. Hence, we are becoming founders of our true self, our real humanity and becoming who we are created to be every day, by our actions and words. It has been said, don’t follow if your following makes you timid, complacent and average. Therefore, legacy is something daring, life-changing and long-lasting. It goes on and on. It continues to urge us to imbibe the very dynamism that navigated the founder himself. When we tap that source, the river of life begins to flow into our lives and palpably that spirit of the founder is freely available, even today. That power source is active and alive right where we are, waiting to make us enspirited bodies and embodied Spirits.
Ignatius’ strength is derived from the in-depth and personal experience of Jesus and he in turn offers us the Spiritual Exercises to make that inward journey to Jesus the Master and be His apprentice. We need to let our hearts to be pierced and broken so that genuine conversion can be realized. We need to break free of our comfy shells so that the aura of transformation envelops us. Our legs may not be shattered by a cannon but we can certainly become wounded-healers; broken-healers, today.
The followers who become the founders today, would have the fire of His Unconditional Love to go set the world aflame. It is aptly said that ‘if you want to be useful to others, reform the world and renew the society, begin by taking pains with yourself. The fire that is to enkindle others, should be lighted at home first’. We need to conquer ourselves in our sincere attempts to help souls to attain the end for which they are created. ‘Every saint has a sinful past and every sinner has a saintly future’; This statement apparently being credited to Oscar Wilde can only be actualized, if now in the present, we have the wisdom to know the difference. Such a difference can only be understood if one is truly mindful and loving.
At present, the one towering personality that heeded the call and rose to the occasion is the Holy Father, Pope Francis. The founder of the renewal of the Church, who evidently is charged with the grandeur, the fire of God’s love. It is unmistakable in his life style, homilies and of the motto. ‘God, seen through the eyes of Mercy, has chosen me. Pope Francis has been tremendously creative in his approach and yet, he has been extremely faithful to the life-line of the Church’s teachings. We can all adopt this notion of creative-fidelity as a viable support in our lives. We all need that spiritual power generator more than ever. We need the compassionate gaze of the Lord, which shatters our stony-hearts and makes us leaders of the brave array, the founding members of His Reign here on earth. The founders with broken, perhaps shattered yet brave hearts. Thus, to be founders, leaders and saints is not restricted or constrained yet it is freely available and accessible to anyone who wishes to take a stand and be a way-maker and path-finder. We are always invited to let another legend to be born in our own-selves and to continue the legacy of the noble knight. Possibly, the following lines uttered by Pope Francis would give us a clue. “To be saints is not a privilege for the few but a vocation for everyone”.
A blessed Feast of St. Ignatius of Loyola!
(The writer is the ‘National Director’ for Pope’s World-wide Prayer Network & Eucharistic Youth Movement in Sri Lanka. He can be contacted: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Development after the elections
By Jehan Perera
Many years ago, former Government Agent of Jaffna, Dr Devanesan Nesiah, explained the northern sentiment when elections were taking place. He said there was apprehension about the possible turn of events over which they had no control. The minority status of the Tamil people would invariably mean that their future would be determined by the outcome of the power struggle in the south of the country. I was reminded of these words of Dr Nesiah during discussions organised by the Civil Society Platform in the northern towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna on the democratic challenges arising from the forthcoming elections.
The main theme, at the present elections in the south, and most of the country, has been the need to elect a strong government and to give it a 2/3 majority to change the constitution, accordingly. The response in Vavuniya and Jaffna, by the members of civil society, was that a strong government would not heed the wishes of the people. Like people in other parts of the country, they felt let down by the political leaders and said they did not know for whom to vote. The issues that they highlighted as being their concerns were economic ones, such as the lack of jobs for youth and the harm to families caused by an unregulated micro credit scheme that made them vulnerable to the predatory actions of money lenders.
The civil society members, in the towns of Vavuniya and Jaffna, did not take up the issue of the 19th Amendment and the possible threat to civil society space that the speakers from the south put before them. This indicated a longer term need to have educational programmes on the importance of the rule of law and judicial independence, in particular, to ensure justice and non-discrimination. But they also did not comment or discuss the manifesto put out by the main Tamil political party, the TNA, which addressed longstanding issues of the Tamil polity, including self-determination, federalism, the merger of the Northern and Eastern provinces or the newer post-war issues of missing persons and accountability for war crimes.
The absence of public debate, at the civil society meetings in the north on the political dimension at the forthcoming elections, may reflect a wariness about speaking publicly on politically controversial matters. Civil society groups throughout the country have been reporting there is more police surveillance of their work. The fear of falling into trouble and being seen as anti-government may have restrained the participants at the civil society meeting in the north from expressing their true feelings. On the other hand, there is also the reality that existential issues of jobs, loans and incomes are of immediate concern especially in the context of the Covid-induced economic downturn. The short term concerns of people are invariably with economic issues.
One of the salient features of the present elections has been the general unwillingness of even the main political parties to address any of the issues posed by the TNA. This would be due to their apprehension of the adverse fallout from the electorate. It could also be due to their lack of ideas regarding the way forward. Apart from the 19th Amendment, another impediment to a strong government, that is identified by its proponents is the 13th Amendment. In the run up to the elections, there have been calls for the abolition of the 13th Amendment, which created the devolved system of provincial councils, along with the 19th Amendment that directly reduced the power of the presidency and increased the independence of state institutions. The provincial councils have been emasculated by denying them of both resources and decision making power and are condemned for being white elephants.
It has been noted, by the political commentator D B S Jeyaraj, that the TNA’s choice of focusing on issues of transitional justice, in dealing with war time violations of human rights, led to the TNA aligning itself with Western powers. This did not yield the anticipated benefits as the previous government failed to implement many of its commitments in regard to transitional justice. It would have been better to have focused instead on getting the provincial councils in the north and east to engage in more development-oriented work which would have met the existential needs of the people.
Jeyaraj has also surmised that if the TNA had chosen the path of utilising the provincial council system for development work, it could have obtained support from India, which had been the co-architects of the provincial council system, in 1987, along with the then Sri Lankan government. India has a moral obligation to contribute to developing the north and east of the country where the war raged in full fury and led to immense destruction. India’s role in destabilising Sri Lanka and enhancing the military capacity of the Tamil armed groups, including the LTTE, is a bitter and abiding memory which the journalist Shamindra Ferdinando has written extensively about.
A creative suggestion made during the civil society discussion in Jaffna was for the provincial councils to implement what governments have promised to implement but have failed to do. An example given was that of reparations to war victims. The previous government pledged to set up a system of reparations in terms of the UNHRC resolution in 2015. But, although an Office for Reparations was established, very little was done. The question was whether the provincial councils in the north and east could not have utilised their resources for the purposes of instituting schemes of reparations as it would be clearly within the policy framework of the government.
While the issues in the TNA’s manifesto will remain perennial ones to the Tamil polity, the people are looking for political leaders who will deliver them the economic benefits in the same way as in the rest of the country. The civil society meetings in the north suggests that the northern people are not showing priority interest in political issues as they believe these are non-deliverable at the present time. Instead of using its majority status in parliament and seeking to abolish the 13th Amendment, and the provincial council system, and creating a crisis with the Tamil polity and India, the new government would do better to work through them to meet the material needs of the people. They need to also realize limits of the constitution, and focus on social, economic and political pluralism and promote values of tolerance, pragmatism, cooperation and compromise, and consent of the governed.
A blazing story!
The local showbiz scene is ablaze with a story about the members of a particular band, who indicated that they are undergoing a tough time, abroad, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It was a video, showing the members pouring forth their difficulties, and earnestly requesting the authorities concerned to bring them back home, that got others to move into action…and the truth has come out.
After having looked into their situation, extensively, knowledgeable sources say that the video contained a load of lies and, according to reports coming our way, the band has now been blacklisted by the authorities for lying about their situation.
These guys have, apparently, gone on Holiday Visas and have, thereby, contravened the Visa conditions.
The story going around is that they have had problems, within the band, as well.
The authorities, in Sri Lanka, are aware of the situation, in that part of the world, but there are many others who are waiting to get back home and, they say, musicians can’t get into the priority list.
So, it’s likely to be a long wait for these guys before they can check out their hometown again!
Top local stars to light up ARISE SRI LANKA
Richard de Zoysa’s brainchild, ARISE SRI LANKA, is going to create an awesome atmosphere, not only locally, but abroad, as well.
This telethon event will feature the cream of Sri Lankan talent, said Richard, who is the Chairman of Elite Promotions & Entertainment (Pvt) Ltd.
Put together as a fund-raiser for those, in the frontline, tackling the coronavirus pandemic, in Sri Lanka, ARISE SRI LANKA will bring into the spotlight a galaxy of local stars, including Noeline Honter, Damian, Mahindakumar, Rukshan, Melantha, Jacky, Ranil Amirthiah, Mariazelle, Trishelle, Corinne, Sohan, Samista, Shean, Rajitha, Umara, April, Shafie, Dr. Nilanka Anjalee Wickramasinghe, Kevin, Ishini, and Donald.
Mirage is scheduled to open this live streaming fun-raiser, and they will back the artistes, assigned to do the first half of the show.
Sohan & The X-Periments will make their appearance, after the intermission, and they, too, will be backing a set of artistes, scheduled to do the second half.
The new look Aquarius group, led by bassist Benjy Ranabahu, will also be featured, and they will perform a very special song, originally done by The Eagles, titled ‘There’s A Whole In The World.’
The lyrics are very meaningful, especially in today’s context where the coronavirus pandemic has literally created holes, in every way, and in every part of the world.
Aquarius will be seen in a new setting, doing this particular song – no stage gimmicks, etc.
The finale, I’m told, will be a song composed by Noeline, with Melantha doing the musical arrangements, and titled ‘Arise Sri Lanka.’
The programme will include songs in Sinhala, and Tamil, as well, and will be streamed to many parts of the world, via TV and social media.
Richard says that this show, scheduled for August 29th, is in appreciation of the work done by the frontliners, to keep the pandemic, under control, in Sri Lanka.
“We, in Sri Lanka, can be proud of the fact that we were able to tackle the Covid-19 situation, to a great extent,” said Richard, adding that even the World Health Organisation (WHO) has acknowledged the fact that we have handled the coronavirus pandemic, in an exceptional way.
The team, helping Richard put together ARISE SRI LANKA, include Noeline Honter, Sohan Weerasinghe, Donald Pieries, from the group Mirage, Benjy Ranabahu, and the guy from The Island ‘Star Track.’
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