Narrow Garden


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pope francis

Harvesting from the fraternal wisdom of His Holiness Pope Francis.

In every age, we find certain motifs of human dispensation in leadership, standing out as though a heritage, passed on by the preceding generation to the succeeding one. The motifs of seeking self glory, rigidness to personal ideologies, high handedness, vanity and indifference towards unwilted concepts. At times, fatally obsessed with the latter, such ‘detached’ leaders; succumb to the ethical and spiritual paralyses which can follow the pursuit of these motifs. It is a chronic disease that has extensively punctured the immunity sphere of numerous Christian and Non-Christian leaders across the globe. Considering irrelevant; their feats or accomplishments in the ‘service of the Church’.

Pope Francis in his ‘Address to a meeting of the Congregation of Bishops’, introduced a savoury appetiser to the contemplative, which has the potential to call the bluff of their so called discernment of people/person by spiritual leaders. Characterising those who would be ideal for episcopal ministry, His Holiness said, “we need someone who knows how to raise himself to the height of God’s gaze above us in order to guide us to Him. We need those who, knowing the broad scope of God is more than his own narrow garden, can guarantee us that what they aspire to is our hearts, and not a vain promise.”

To rise above one’s selfish personal agenda and work towards the collective aspirations of those entrusted to one’s care, needs the willingness to submit to the goodness of humility. Just like how a variety of flowers bloom in a well nurtured garden, so should the wisdom, love and piety of a pastor or a lay leader bring forth the splendour of diverse fruits of the Holy Spirit in the service of the Church.

Ever since antiquity, God has always trumped man’s intellect and wisdom. Even a faithful servant of God, such as the prophet Samuel, could not at first instance, believe the choice God made in David, to be anointed as King. The faithful and fruit bearing servant of God, Samuel too, allowed the eyes of his flesh to influence his discernment of God’s will for Israel new King. And God spares no time in ‘raising Samuel’s gaze to His vantage, and then the prophet rightly understood that David, though is now still a shepherd boy, truly is the one to lead God’s first born – Israel (cf.1 Samuel 16:1-13).

In the case of the first Bishops, instituted by our Blessed Lord Jesus Himself, at one point, as His Apostles, some were debating (rather disappointingly; to say the least), about who should sit on either side of Him in heaven (cf. Mark 10:37). It is not an uncommon feature among followers or disciples or even workmen under a manager, to be carried away by a charismatic leader, so much so, that there begins an unhealthy attachment towards him. Such an attachment blinds one’s mind and heart to the actual mission of the leader as well as their own. In the case of our Lord Jesus, His Apostles became blind to an important fact of the Incarnated Word. That what He does is the will of the Father and not His own. And by humbling Himself, He desired humility, especially from those whom He personally called for a life such as His.

This blindness towards the scope of God’s will, power, providence, love and mercy, and every other attribute in His nature of Godliness, is a sure and wide path to lead God’s people into eternal darkness and loss of perfect union with God. Stewards of God’s mystical body on earth, both clergy and laity, should realise the reality of implicit accountability that comes with the responsibility & authority received by them from God, over His people and also their temporal resources. A fiery and persevering personal relationship with Christ, the epitome of leading people to God, with the knowing of God’s mind & heart for His children, assures the manifestation of the counsel needed from God, to be stewards of His dynamism in the flourishing of His immeasurable, life-filled garden on earth; the Church. 

St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Basil, St. Ambrose, St. Celement, St. Leo the Great, St. John Chrysostom, and also the likes of St. Joan of Arc, St. Teresa of Calcutta, St. John Paul II, St. John XXIII and the litany of saints who discovered their Christian calling and consequently allowed themselves to become slaves of God’s will for the people vouchsafed to them, is never ending, and never ceases to inspire all generations. They all tread the path of higher knowledge and wisdom, love and compassion, reason and spirituality, only because they chose to deny the luxury and deceiving impregnability of their narrow garden.


Some flowers produce distinct, exotic and tantalising aromas, some provide healing elements, some; beauty to landscape and some substance to other creates. All these together make a flourishing garden, where birds find a haven to lift their voices to the heavens, beauty appealing with inspirations to the creativity of our human mind, and above all, giving us glimpses of the complexity and at the same time subtlety of God’s beautiful plan for His children. Just as the garden does not exclude thorns and bushes which may be less attractive than flowers, people whose hearts and minds are filled with deception are also part of this world which God created. Nonetheless, as an seasoned gardener would pick only that from the garden which adds to the greater purpose of beautification and fruitfulness of the environment, having pruned the thorns and weeds, so much so does God expects His forerunners, His leaders and His teachers to fix their eyes, mind and heart on His greater purpose  and pick those who will become instruments of fulfilling the ongoing work of salvation.

Detachment is absolutely necessary for the people of God, in order to know God and also His purpose in their lives. Dwelling in his own comfort, especially when a Christian is called to lead a congregation, shutting his/her mind to the plan of God, which He chooses to work out through different peoples, is a massive blow to the prospering of The Kingdom on earth. Such a dwelling in comfort is, what St. John of the Cross describes as when the leader is tormented and afflicted as is a man lying naked on thorns and nails, if he chooses to recline on his appetites, rejecting zealousness towards God’s greater purpose.

If you are a leader in the vineyard of The Lord, then view the world and the Kingdom of God from the vantage point of God. Ask God to grant you the grace to be open to His zestfulness, and fulfil His scope of work in the economy of salvation, instead of being imprisoned in the decorative narrow garden of self-righteousness, false humility, relativity and modernism. 

John Roger Anthony

Catholic Lay Missionary




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The will of God

Conforming our body, mind and soul to holiness.

“God willed that man should be ‘left in the hand of his own counsel’ (Sir 15:14), so that he might of his own accord seek his Creator and freely attain his full and blessed perfection by cleaving to him.” Catechism of the Catholic Church, para 1730. This teaching of the Church is followed by an illustrious quote of St. Iranaeus of Lyon, “Man is rational and therefore like God; he is created with free will and is master over his acts.

The source of the creation of man is the will of God. This prompts us to the truth that God has a will. He willed everything into creation, into being. ‘He saw everything that He created and said it was good. Man He created and said it was very good.’ There is no reference in Holy Scriptures or the teaching of the Church, which speaks in contrast about the goodness of the will of God. According to the angelic doctor St. Thomas Aquinas, God does not only have intellect but also has a will.

By creating the human person in His holy image and likeness, God has established an indelible mark of uniqueness upon man which sets him apart from every other created creature in heaven or earth. God’s intention and will for this superior being (man) has always been that of love, abundance and intimate union with Him. God’s choicest blessings poured upon man is categorically expressed when He says to him, “Behold I have given you…everything that has the breath of life” (Genesis 1:29-30). For because of man’s disobedience, he forfeited the dominion which God gave him, and his soul throughout every generation there-on cries, “restore us to yourself , O Lord, that we may be restored! Renew our days as of old” (Lamentations 5:18).


Now, after having severed his intimate union with his Creator, man found himself in the frightful need of his salvation. In the very depth of his conscience, man hears the deafening warning of God, “they do not say in their hearts, let us fear the Lord our God…and your sins have kept good from you” (Jeremiah 5:24-25); which strangely also sounds as a bugle of hope for the one who repents truly and desires eternal union with God. It is only because man is loved the most by God, for he is a creature most lovingly created by God, the truth in the words of Blessed John Henry Newman will echo until the end of time, “I am created to do something or to be someone for which no one else is created; I have a place in God’s counsels, in God’s world, which no one else has… God knows me and calls me by my name.”

Having created us that we may have joy, God the Father, through His beloved Son Jesus, desires that we be wholly and fully united with Him for eternity, that our joy be complete (John 15:11). What is good, acceptable and perfect in the sight of God is the will of God for man (Romans 12:2). Therefore, St. Francis of Assisi, exulting in the Holy Spirit, cried out, “This is what I want, this is what I seek, this is what I long to do, with all my heart!”

Our words, thoughts and actions should correspond with the will of God. We’ve understood what the will of God for us is that we may be one with Him for we have been formed by him. Such a correspondence to the will of God requires perseverance. To persevere and not give up in glorifying God by conforming to His perfect will for us each day of our lives, is the mark of a man truly reciprocating love to the Father, through Jesus Christ. How does one understand what pleases God and honours His will in our lives? St. Ignatius answers this most eloquently saying, “Better than anyone else, the Holy Spirit will teach you how to taste with the heart and carry out with sweetness what reason shows to be for the greater service and glory of God.”

The human spirit experiences perfect peace in submitting to will of God. When man understood the power of the beatitudes and found it relevant for all generations, (practiced even by those before Christ; who learnt it from the veiled words of the prophets of God), he believed that the hand of God’s hope, deliverance, justice, mercy and peace will flow even out of the horrors such as the holocaust, world wars, genocides, abortions, abominations, sacrilegious, slavery and so on. St. Gregory Nazianzen therefore justly proclaimed, “Voluntas tua pax nostra” – “In your will is our peace”. God’s word attests this as truth when He speaks through His prophet saying, “For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future” (Jeremiah 29:11). We become the brothers, mothers, sisters and fathers of our Blessed Lord Jesus when we do the will of God, (Mark 3:35).

That we may live a life worthy of the Lord, the saints pray for us, as St. Paul’s says, “we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9-12). Even though the will of God may seem strange and unacceptable by those who live by the flesh. Obedience to that perfect will is the food for the body, heart, soul and spirit of the righteous. It silences “the ignorant talk of foolish people” (1 Peter 2:15). “From the rising of the sun to its setting” (Roman Missal), may every human heart and mouth proclaim, Matthew 6:10, “Let Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.”



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Valuables and invaluables, life gains momentum by the thrust of both. Or does it really?  Except for the ones who are homeless, utterly poor, or afflicted with desperation, excluding them, the rest of the population in almost every part of the world, spends on things and services which are not in anywhere relative to their income. There is no estimation of what’s available at our disposal to make a much ever short or long lived that life may be.

Historians believe or rather claim that it took around 2000 years…yes, you read it right, 20 centuries to finish building the great wall of China. According to a 2009 estimation, it would have costed £54 billion to build this 13, 171 mile structure. The two year executive education program run by the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania costed a student a whopping $192,900 in 2016. Brian Acton tweeted this on Aug 4, 2009, “Facebook turned me down. It was a great opportunity to connect with some fantastic people. Looking forward to life’s next great adventure.” And then he moved on to created a multi-billion dollar company called ‘Whatsapp’. Whether you’re ambition soars as high as building a wonder of the world or you aspire to graduate with the most expensive degree offered in the world, so that you earn the highest salary ever offered, or you wish to multiply the wealth of your enterprise by investing in a pathbreaking business idea, any of this will demand of you to make an estimate  of what you have, what you can give, what you can expect in return and what it will make of you in the end. An intricate due diligence of the sacrifices to be made, challenges to be faced, obstacles to be overcome, so on and so forth.


No matter how great is the desire of your heart, is there any desire that can cost you your life and yet let you keep it? There’s none such desire save one. The desire to be a disciple of Christ. Being a disciple of Christ, not merely a follower, comes with an incomparable cost…your very life. In today’s world, more than ever, money plays a very important role in acquiring or possessing comfort or luxury. In the ancient of days as well, money in the form that it was used, played a significant role in determining the standard of living. In the Old Testament however, we learn a very unique role of money, which directly influenced the state of the soul. In ancient Israel, BEKAH, SHEKEL AND TALENT were important currency. Bekah has special significance because it was used as atonement money, for the service of the Tabernacle. From the age of twenty and above, every Jew had to pay half a shekel of silver (1 Bekah) as a ransom for his soul. The Lord promised them that there would be no plague upon them if they paid this tax faithfully (Ex 30:12:14).

A Disciple of Christ is called to renounce himself/herself completely. There is nothing so dear or precious in this world than his Lord Himself, for a disciple to hold on to. The Lord categorically explains the COST OF DISCIPLESHIP in His own words in Luke 14:33, “So therefore, any one of you who does not renounce all that he has, cannot be my disciple”. This cost estimation preludes with a very severe warning. Luke 14:26 says, “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brother and sister, yes, and even his own life, he CANNOT [emphasis added by me] be my disciple“. In our case, after reading this, and in the case of the great crowds that accompanied Him (Luke 14:25), after listening to Him, we all might be tempted to re-think about fulfilling the 4th commandment given by God Himself. However, there is no love on earth or in heaven that the human heart can experience and reciprocate to, than the love for God and fulfillment of His word, while at the same time obeying every commandment of His. There is none greater than God and therefore there is none that we should obey first than God Himself. The crowds, no matter how great, followed The Lord for miracles, food, astounding speeches and discourses, love and even an escape from their day-to-day tensions.


Are we the same, one among the crowds, or even worse, among the mob that follows Him to trap Him, attack Him and then finally abandon Him. It is in dying that we are born to eternal life. It is in giving that we receive. It is in loving that we are loved much more. It is in forgiving that we are soaked in Divine Mercy. It is in total abandonment to God and absolute emptying of oneself do we become Disciples of Christ. No ambition, no career, no relationship, no wealth, no prosperity can atone our soul, except for the cost that was paid by the Son of the living God. Only 1 Bekah each was so precious that it could atone for their souls, among the chosen people of GOd. In the case of you and me however, it was not money (as underestimated by Judas), rather t’was One soul that had the power to atone and redeem all souls, starting from the beginning of time and until the end of it. That One soul, that one Bekah of the Divine economy, is Jesus Christ. The perfect estimate, most accurate for salvation of all mankind. Life Himself in return for all life.

So, just like the temple money had to be Jewish and could not be Roman money (which had pagan images), the cost of Discipleship has to be our own lives (the image of God) and not any holocaust or vain sacrifice (pagan). So, let us not undervalue the cost that our Lord paid for our eternal freedom and life, let us not underestimate the work of grace, which empowers us to pay the singular cost of discipleship. Because everything else, as King Solomon – the richest of all, once said, “Vanity of vanities, all is vanity”.

~ John Roger Anthony




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Love may cost something to somebody and it may not cost anything to anybody. Either of these could be true if love is quantifiable. Is love quantifiable? What is the unit or measure?

As a Catholic, I believe that love is a person. This belief was taught to me by the Word of God. 1 John 4:16b specifically states that ‘God is love’. God is a person. God is infinite. Therefore, love is ‘infinite persona’. Love is not simply a feeling or an emotion that articulates a thought or feeling or sentiment or need. Through God’s love poured out in man, man lives love. He illuminates this innate characteristic of the Triune God in ways which not only satiates human faculties but also enflames the soul within.

Among the greats of ancient philosophers, Aristotle believed that in-order to love another person one needs to know how to love one’s own self. This should not be understood as selfishness because Aristotle makes is very clear that self-love for him means that which is expressed in the love of virtue. In other words, this great Greek philosopher cautions about the danger of a person’s pursuit of self-love by means of seeking and acquiring self-pleasures, wealth, power, which runs every risk of exploding into a life of bad habits, bondages, vices and evil. Self-love by the love of virtue teaches true means of loving the another person. Irrespective of whether that person is your beloved or a stranger. Why should we love our own selves, because God’s word says, “I praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well (Psalm 139:14). Having God as our creator is enough for us to love ourselves. This is true in the case of every human person.

If we love ourselves by love of virtue and hence learn to rightly and sincerely love one another, then we will have no ambiguity about how to love those who have ‘died, yet will live forever’. The souls of the faithful departed await the beatific vision by a ‘fiery purification’ from every stain of sin, in purgatory. The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a, “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It further teaches that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).


(Pic: Jacopo Vignali’s portrait of St. Michael the Archangel freeing the souls in purgatory)

Purgatory is not only the realm of purification of those who have died in God’s grace and friendship, but is also a temporary abode of souls who experience indescribable thirst for an ‘indispensable act of love’ by the souls living on earth. This indispensable act of love is praying for the souls in purgatory. This act emanates only from the love of virtue, by the very example of the Son of God, Jesus. Christ the perfect mediator and spotless vessel of prayer to the Father for the living and the dead, teaches us to pour out our love to the souls in purgatory by praying for them and offering small and big sacrifices, the biggest being the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist.

We are commanded by our Lord Jesus to love another as He loves us, (John 13:34-35). ‘One another’ does not end with the people on earth, but reaches far beyond time and space, into the realm of God’s chosen, who are soon, not yet, about to ‘live in the presence of God’. These suffering souls, “who are detained”, as articulated by St. Basil the Great, long for our love through our prayers and sacrifices. This ‘All Souls Day’ onwards, let us daily, in the words of St. John Chrysostom, “help and commemorate” these beloved, suffering children of God. 

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace. +

~ John Roger Anthony


Love Glorifies Suffering

Accepting various realities of life is possible with the right disposition towards those realities. Whether it is done so as a community of people or as oneself, with or without the comfort or security of the obvious things of earthly living, relationships, familiar environments, etc. There is one of many, peculiar reality of life, which not only is life altering but something that makes life defining, at the very core of it. That is the reality of suffering.

Some overcome suffering by either denying its importance (Stoicism) or its very existential reality (Spinoza), or further more by consciously seeking the self or that someone’s passing away from this world. No matter what the human mind prompts as a resolve towards one’s suffering, this intrinsically personal aspect of human life cannot be ignored or evaded each time it knocks the gates of our mortality. The world as we know, has since its inception, been the stage for human suffering in gastronomical measures. Some so intrinsically evil that recounting those ghastly episodes evoke a great measure of psychological, emotional and spiritual trauma. Mass murders, the holocaust, genocides, rape, continual spree of abortions (in some places by very crude practices), forced starvation, forced economic deprivation by lords of war and corruption, and the list keeps getting bloodier.


Ap Photo Dmitry Lovetsky

Many philosophical and religious schools of thought have proposed soul traversing ideologies and paradigms about this in-expendable reality called suffering. A mammoth figure of Christian light to all generations, St. Augustine believed and taught the classic philosophical view of evil which states that since everything created was created by God and He called it all ‘good’ (Genesis 1:31), evil is not self existent, but rather is the absence of good. This essentially being a neoplatonic doctrine has a historic presence in Jewish philosophy as well.


Antonio Rodríguez, “Saint Augustine”

So, if we look at suffering through the lens of St. Augustine, then we should believe that where there is no good, which in other words, through authentic Catholic verbatim, would mean an absence of authentic beatitudes, the suffering becomes real and many a times overwhelming too. Therefore, this Augustinian principle should naturally evoke in us the quintessential necessity of good in everyday life, in every culture, upon every soil. This ‘good’, however, is in fact, the fruit of the cause of creation in its known and unknown entirety. That cause is agape. Love, which is ‘the Creator’ Himself, God. Which is from the Creator, for the created, leading towards the certainty of eternity. 

The love of God is the stimulus for real balance in the world. It is the source of knowing God as He is (1 John 4:7). It is not only the perfect and only rightful abode of the human soul, it is also on the other hand that which transforms the soul into the most desired sanctuary of God for His eternal dwelling. “If we love one another, God abides in us and His love is perfected in us” (1 John 4: 12). Now that we know that it is love which cements the human soul in concreteness with God, it is the luminous light which should and can perpetually exterminate the darkness of evil, which is the good as God conceived it in His immaculate and holy mind.

The economy of this God-epitomised love does not create perfection of balance in world existence, it beautifully creates a rather a peculiar imbalance that progresses the soul’s upward pilgrimage to heaven in a way which is forever alien to the mind enslaved to the world. This love reaches its pinnacle in the ‘theo-phenomena’ of the Incarnation. The Incarnation is Truth and Love glorified. The Incarnation is Truth and Love personified. It is the perfection of good. It is a person. The person is Jesus Christ, the only begotten fruit of God the Father. It is this God-Man, Son of the living God, the eternal Good of His Father, who glorified immeasurable suffering by making it the only source of man’s salvation. The cup of suffering has been made into the chalice of His holy blood, poured out for the redemption of you and me, and as a ransom for eternal life in true freedom. 


Church of the Nativity, Bethlehem

Christ our beloved Lord, the second person in the Holy Trinity, personalises suffering as a virtuous means of attaining God Himself. What the world uses (suffering) as an instrument to inflict pain, sorrow, hopelessness, fear, anxiety, isolation, animosity and even death – even ignominious in kind, the source of all good – God the Son, actually embraces this bottomless pit of darkness (suffering) as an innocent child might merely imagine to embrace a whole garden of exquisite flowers. When Satan, the one who was first to rebuke Perfect Love, and was cast out of the Beatific Presence of the Almighty Creator, looks at suffering as an opportunity to drag the human soul into his eternal abyss of self-hate, the God-Head Jesus, commanded suffering into a spring of His Holy Blood, which Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI so eloquently phrased it as – ‘transubstantiating the world’.

Suffering not only triumphs over evil, it inspires life itself. Suffering not only elevates the soul into the spiritual realm, but also brings hope into the material world. Suffering not only makes shame immaterial, it makes persecution glorious. But all this can be rightly attested to suffering, only when it is embodied in love. Love suffers for goodness sake. Goodness aspires to godliness. Godliness transforms suffering in the world into holiness.

~ J R A

Wounded Christ Wounded Church

The human family comes together in times of celebration as well in times of crisis. I am sure you have witnessed this people characteristic when given the opportunity. Celebration and crisis provoke a flood of emotions and ideas within minds and are detrimental to how we conduct ourselves in those circumstances. 

As Christians, we know that we are truly more than just a human family, we are members of the body of Christ. The Church (Catholic) which is the beacon of the Truth on earth, the moral and spiritual compass of souls, is not only the ‘Corpus Christi’, but is also a powerful institution, an organisation which lubricates the levitation of human souls from their earthly realm to the heavenly kingdom. The organisation has been robust with pragmatic leaders and history makers (for many a good reason as well as not so good ones). 

suffering christ

The mystical body of Christ – the Church has scars of suffering and persecution, it also has the stench of abuse and scandal. The human body of Christ bore the most heaviest of burdens (sin) upon it’s immaculate self. It witnessed the trauma of public ridicule, threats to life, mockery, and unimaginable beating before it could face the ignominious pain of death on a cross. The human heart and mind of our Lord Jesus has experienced great joy and great sorrow, unmatched wisdom and knowledge. By the ‘descend of the Holy Spirit’, Christ has bestowed upon the grace and power to withstand sorrow and be deserving of much joy. 

Today, as the Church is witnessing a very testing time, I cant but stop myself from asking a question which directly also questions my conscience. Child molestation by the clergy and the cover-up of this ghastly crime and abomination by high ranking clergymen like Bishops and Cardinals, has left a pain in my very gut. Without getting into the details of how this evil, this shameful attribution of our holy Mother Church, has been perpetrated, repeated and immorally covered-up, I would swiftly bring to attention the necessity of a robust life of personal holiness. A promise of unfailing commitment to sacramental life. To undeterred hope in the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit and to humble and prayerful faithfulness to the Vicar of Christ (Pope) on earth. 

pope francis

I am Catholic, because my Lord and Saviour Jesus chose me to be one. I am Catholic because He has poured His abundance of love and mercy in my life through His wounded yet holy Church. I am Catholic because I confirmed my faithfulness to her with God as my witness and vowed to be faithful to her in good times and in bad, in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, till death do me part. 

It is time for me and you my beloved Christian, to be Jesus on earth. It is time to put that lamp of faith upon high ground that all may see and follow. It is time to mingle the salt of righteousness in the soil of folly so that the seekers of truth may find Christ even if the passing fog of scam and evil veils the eyes of our hearts and minds. 

~ J R A

War cry of the Ash

Ancient Greek groups were famously known for bravely marching towards their enemy in their organized phalanx formations. They did so by singing hymns or ‘paeans’ as they would call it, to invoke upon the god Apollos for courage and ease their nerves. But as they came closer to the enemy they would cease singing the hymns and voice loud battle cries like “Alala!” or “Eleleu!” while banging their weapons against their shields to rattle their enemy horses.


The ancient Roman legions were known for marching silently in their ranks, but at the sight of their enemy their battle cries would erupt like the sound of a stampeding elephant. They borrowed “Barritus”, a war cry of the Germanic warriors, many of whom had joined the Romans. An ancient chronicler Tacitus described the Barritus as a “harsh, intermittent roar” and highlighted that the legions would “hold their shields in front of their mouths, so that the sound is amplified into a deeper crescendo by the reverberation.


To seize the Holy Lands from the Muslims, Pope Urban II launched the ‘Crusades’ in 1095 by urging Europeans Christians to under this spiritual quest. Charged by the Pontiff’s speech, the crowd now known as ‘Crusaders’ are said to have hollered “Deus hoc vult!” (“God wills it!”) in support. This Pope sanctioned slogan remained the war cry of the Christian warriors until the late 13th century when the Crusades finally ended.

There are numerous examples from history such as the above, of warriors and their legions shredding the spirits of their enemies with dreadful war cries. These loud and intimidating slogans before launching their bloody attack has in many instances defeated the enemy even before actual physical or artillery combat could commence. The book of Joshua in the Old Testament testifies the power of the sound of his armies trumpets which brought down the walls of Jericho. The eerie truth of conquering the city and the spirit if its defenders without even lifting any weapon yet.

Today, on Ash Wednesday, I see a strange yet compelling similarity between ‘ashes on a Christian’s forehead’ and a war cry. Biblical history speaks volumes of the significance and use of ashes. It usually remarks it to be a sign of deep mourning and repentance. A sign of shame and abandonment of oneself to the mercy of God.

As the Priest marks a child of God with ash on the forehead or the scalp, the penetant is reminded that “dust thou art, unto dust thou shall return”. A profound yet austere reminder of nothingness of the self, of the irrevocable necessity of humility, of truthful repentance and the ultimate self abandonment to Divinae Misericordiae (Divine Mercy). 


St. Thomas Aquinas teaches “Penance is virtue” and this Angelic Doctor of the Church through his magnum treatise “Summa Theologia” assures every sinner that the power of Christ’s passion “through which Penance produces its effect” is such that no sin is incapable of being pardoned through the sacrament of Penance. The mark of the ashes on the forehead is a great outward sign of repentance but is also a cry of battle by the Militant Church against her ‘Enemy’ Satan. Repentance is the fruit humility. God exalts the humble and draws them ever closer to his glory. Therefore, by wearing of Ashes during the holy season of Lent we not only surrender ourselves in humility at the merciful judgement of God, trust in God’s eternal loving kindness by repenting for our sins, but also holler (ironically without even making a sound) a terrible battle cry against Satan and his demonic legions. A battle against sin and it’s master with the unconquerable power of grace, and impenetrable armor of the word of God, prayer, alms giving, fasting and sacramental life.

This holy season of Lent, put on the ashes as your promise of repentance and also be a warrior of God, with the banner of Christ, humbly surrendering only to the holy will of God and charge forth victoriously against the attacks of Satan and win glory for Kingdom of God Most High.


Courage, valour, strength, power, perseverance and other such virtues sound like the language of the warriors, fighters and soldiers. They seem either alien or irrelevant to the meek, weak, marginalised, less privileged and the like. But as these instincts or traits seem usual, conventional or even traditional among some communities or even packs of beasts on the earth, if paid proper attention to, break opens blinding light to the paradigm called hope.

But before we could delve more into this paradigm, it is a must to clarify and reassure that courage, bravery and strength of body and will is universal and not a privilege to an elite cult or race or community of people. Some of the bravest and most courageous thoughts, words and deeds have been the produce of men and women whose outward appearance, religious legacy, socio-economic standards have been less relevant to the world. Mahatma Gandhi, Catherine Anne Seaton, St. Damian, St. Maximillian Kolbe, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, St. Teresa of Calcutta and St. Maria Goretti to name a few.  Continue reading

To pray is to be Christ

Quite often I have been asked a question from different people of varied backgrounds and age. The question, “where could I be at peace to spend ‘quality time’ in prayer?” Whether or not someone is working or is a homemaker. Whether for a child coming of age or a scholar pursuing academic excellence, in the pursuit of God, prayer becomes an inevitable trajectory. In a simpleton’s understanding, prayer is ‘spending time with God’. In a spiritual master’s exegesis, prayer becomes ‘the soul’s elevation into the life of the Divine’. In either case prayer establishes itself in the very purpose of human existence.

Pope St. John Paul II in Evangelium Vitae exalts human life by drawing reference to the sacred dignity it has been endowed with. “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God.” This fullness of life stems out of Life Himself. Christ in John 14:6 embodied this truth by His word, “I am the way, the truth and the life,” and as the living person in the Holy Trinity negates every other route of ‘approaching The Father except through Him’.

As the Son of Man when He walked the length and breadth of his homeland, His immaculate thoughts, words and deeds were a fulfilment of His Father’s holy purpose and heart’s foremost desire, the redemption of all of mankind and creation. And the Messiah preluded all of it with the sanctification by prayer. Prayer was not a special ingredient needed for an extraordinary chore or miracle for the Anointed One, rather it was and is His very nature. His image and likeness which was promised, assured and given to us at the moment of our creation (Genesis 1:27). He prayed always (Luke 3:21, Mark 6:46, Luke 5:16, Matthew 26:42) and scripture presses us to do the same (1 Thessalonians 5:17).


The struggle today is not about where to pray. The actual battle is whether or not there is any relevance to prayer. The wise say that the people of God are now witnessing the time of the early Christians. A time of public hostility and ghastly persecution of Christians in almost every part of the world. Persecution not necessarily always of the body, but of belief, ideas, faith, convictions, truth and way of life. Andrew Brian McGowan an Australian Anglican scholar of early Christianity in chapter on prayer by early Christians says, “they stopped even in their daily routine to pray…” In his section on Jewish origins, McGowan emphasises again ‘that “worship” was all of life and that prayers was not restricted to what happened when Christians gathered together for “worship.” Prayer was part of life. The Jewish approach to prayer involved morning and evening prayers (of the Shema, perhaps the Amidah) and mid-afternoon prayer (evoking the afternoon sacrifice). Jewish Christians inherited this prayer practice. E.g., Acts 2:42; 10:30.’

If prayer was for them the fulcrum that balanced the weight between fatal persecution and faithfulness to Jesus the saviour of the world, how much more should it be to us who yearn to be His disciples in whichever measure.


Prayer unites us with the presence of God. Prayer is the mystical invitation for us from God Himself ‘to be consumed in the pleasure of His intimacy’. The Person of God one in communion with the person of man. Prayer is the personal dialogue between sin and the Holy of Holies. Prayer is the human heart lovingly nourishing the human soul with the precise and wholesome nourishment. Therefore, at the moment of prayer, man suddenly finds himself in the presence of the creator of heaven and earth. The God of powers and dominions but also of human creatures. The moment of prayer, hence, is now suddenly a moment of sanctity. The place of prayer, wherever it may be, so-much-so even the bath place, becomes the sanctum sanctorum. For the one who cries out his anguish of suffering or for the one who is on his knees begging for mercy of grace, for the one who’s soul rejoices in thanksgiving, or for the one who is wrestling the purpose if his life, prayer becomes his moment into eternity within time and space. Even for the one who knows not how to pray, The Lord hears volumes spoken by the spirit of such a desolate man (Romans 8:26-27). Let us always therefore pray with faith like that of job who exclaimed, “Thou shall make thy prayer unto Him, and He shall hear thee” (Job 22:27).

Calvary of those who fear


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A child has a tremendous sense of emptiness at the loss of a prized or dear possession. The sense of loss is so profound in a child because at that tender age where a human slowly but inquisitively discovers the art of expressing his/herself through the mesh of emotions, adapt to reactions, connect to possibilities both significant and insignificant, it is this important phase of life where the child; through these events, also encounters and adapts to fear due to something being lost. This is fear of loss affects and plays a very pivotal role in the spiritual realm.


Whether we are fortunate or less fortunate, blessed or deprived, able or enabled, many of us receive something or the other from those who care about us or are obligated to us; not necessary that they be those who love us truthfully. It could be presents or generous donations or in the case of those who are among the poorest of the poor; anything given to them becomes possession of great value and they try to protect it with their life. Our possessions are no only a collection of gifts but also of our own hard earned money. By our labor, sacrifices and perseverance we accumulate belongings and treasures. At the loss of such things, the sense of being deprived of them and the fear of having lost it can at times also lead to a rolling some effect in life. If we especially loose something that we were meant to protect or manage then the fear of loosing that item or person is tremendous.

Fear…according to the dictionary is an unpleasant emotion caused by the threat of danger, pain, or harm. The connotation of fear is quite negative. According to its meaning, it is unpleasant. It is not something that one would desire or yearn for. The fear of underperformance, unpreparedness, loss of a beloved or a valuable and also the unique fear of the possibility of loosing something and not being able to replace or restore.

God on the other hand reveals a very unique and endearing aspect of fear which is contradictory to the worldly consensus about this human emotion. There are several instances in scripture where the first and instant reaction toward God or His heavenly messengers have been ‘fear’. In Revelations 21:8 tells us the “cowardly” or “fearful” (King James Version) will not be in God’s Kingdom. However, there is a particular reverential attribute given to fear in Holy Scriptures. In the beginning there was ‘fear of The Lord‘, now ‘fear of God‘ is most prevalent.  Take the example of all heavenly beings who surround God and His most high and holy throne above the heavens. All these innumerable ‘creatures of light’ – seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels (according to St. Thomas Aquinas’ ‘Summa theologiae’) present their beings before The Lord of Hosts with a mysteriously profound sense of awe, submission and holy fear. This ‘fear of The Lord’, in Hebrew ‘yirah’, or the Greek noun ‘phobos’ makes a person receptive to knowledge and wisdom. The priests, prophets, kings and patriarchs submerged themselves in this fear in all their thoughts as well as encounters with God. Even the peasants and the lowly such as the shepherds who received a thunderous annunciation of the savior while they were tending their flock  by night, were filled with this fear. The Holy Virgin Mary – Mother of God, submitted herself with to her creator’s most holy will, with holy fear in her being for Him.


Going back to loss of something precious, let us remember that faith in the One True God – the Most Holy Trinity is the most precious of gifts that we receive from The Trinity Themselves. St. Paul in Ephesians 2:8 says, presses the truth saying, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God…”. God is our creator, this is our belief and He who is love has given us an immeasurable and unfathomable measure of love by the sacrifice of His only begotten Son Jesus. Therefore we are bound by love to protect, safeguard, nurture, feed, share and build this invaluable gift of faith. However, the earth and life on it is constantly batter with sin and corruption. With the loss of the appetite for the holy and obsessed with the abnormal hunger for that which is unrighteous and evil, our being which was created holy and powerful has become vulnerable and at times mortally victim to sin. Constant susceptibility to concupiscence and the loss of self-control drives us to the loss of what could be the loss of God Himself.

The loss of God is indescribable and unmatched. Man can profit the whole world but with the loss of God, he looses his very soul. This is irreparable loss. The corrupt and evil will never have or seek remorse for having offended God and His people. The sinner who repents truthfully will however be lifted up out of sinful bondage, cleansed and purified by Divine Mercy and exalted by agape. Against the gigantic tides of the culture of death, perversion, sin, sacrilege and corruption in the world, we our summoned to be holy warriors of The Kingdom of God. The one who rejects His Creator and God will curse The glory of The Cross, but a sinner who humbles himself and delights in the shame of having to even crawl towards God’s forgiveness, will glorify The Cross and exalt the ‘Son of Man’ nailed upon it, wounded for the sinner’s transgressions (Isiah 53:5). Satan may claim that he can steal, kill or destroy the human soul. But faith and fear of The Lord negates every attack of ‘the enemy’. The one who has been beaten by ‘the enemy’ yet seeks The Lord, will embrace his/her cross and complete the journey of reconciliation and faithfulness. The world may see it as a walk of shame, but the repentant child of God will embrace and glorify it with humility and love for God.

Therefore, God, through His word, Church and working in individual as well as community lives, is constantly reminding us of the magnanimity of pain and suffering our soul would bear if we do not keep in safe possession the faith He bestows upon us. He is constantly reminding us the we need not be scared of Him or be afraid of Him as we are at the threat of danger or terror, rather he gently caresses us towards cultivating reverence, worship and holy trembling/fear for Him. This holy fear does not add anything to the eternal and incorruptible glory of God, but rather adds immeasurably and unequivocally to our redemption and pilgrimage to our Father’s home.

A repentant sinner bears humiliation, mockery, pain, sorrow, abandonment, with the hope that his ‘fear of The Lord’ grants him a sense of holy shame, leading him to conversion with a contrite heart and in the end await the crown of righteousness.