Monday, September 2, 2013


If God is present everywhere why are churches, temples and mosques important? Some people ask this question. The best answer we can give is this, imagine a warm day, breeze is everywhere but surely the breeze under a tree is more comforting than anywhere. In the same way God is present everywhere but He is more experienceabld in a place dedicated to God. 
Secondly, when people see beautiful churches some may think why people spend money on this? This kind of questions arise when we think churches are for men. But they are not for men, that's for God. When we start think in this way then churches are more appealing and beautiful.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

See through your own eyes

My friend Dr. Kimberley Parker, professor of communication Bellarmine University while she was teaching a seminar about bullying in the work places, she said, when she interviewed few workers to get data to present this paper, a couple of them said that they feel their boss is goofy or mean to them but they do not consider that is bullying. I was thinking what is bullying for one person need not be bullying for another, it depends on the person who takes it.
I was talking to one of my friends recently, she is a newcomer to a textbook publishing company in India. Her boss is very mean to her, sometimes corrects my friend  in front of 40 other colleagues. Many colleagues seeing what is going on asked to pay back in the same coin. She said to her colleagues, she doesn't feel that's bullying. I am a newcomer and feel that she teaches me and it is not my culture to pay back in the same coin. I told her this makes you sweet heart! I asked her, are you indirectly saying your boss is cultureless? She laughed!
It is better to see things through your eyes than other's eye, your culture than other's culture.

Friday, August 30, 2013

White carpet

A grandma had an expensive beautiful white carpet. She loved the carpet to death and she did not like anybody come home because she thought they dirty the carpet. When this became an obsession, she thought to visit a counsellor. And counsellor asked in their conversation, if you see 10 dirty foot prints how many people came to your home? She said five. Why did five people come to your home? Asked the counsellor. Grandma said they come because they want to talk to me and they love me. Counsellor said they are not coming to dirty your carpet, they come to love you and foot prints on your carpet is sign of love. This changed the mind of grandma, she opened her house door wide open for everyone. 
Sometimes a twist of thought can change our lives! The situation in her house is the same but she started thinking differently. Adopting positive thoughts brought constructive changes into her  life and made her happier and different. Why don't we try this!

Watch your thoughts, they become words.
Watch your words, they become actions.
Watch your actions, they become habits.
Watch your habits, they become your character.
Watch your character, it becomes your destiny.


I remember a short story in malayalam which was published in a special edition of famous news paper. I do not remember the author. The story begins with a man who is depressed and was thinking to take himself. While spending a night in a lake, thinking about comitting suicide he saw a firefly. He felt as if the firefly saluting him and calling him. This moment shook him and gave up the thought about commiting suicide. A firefly could make somone happy and inspire to give up taking his life!
If a firefly can save someone's life and make him happy, how much more potentiality we have to make other's life happier! A word of appreciation, a hug, a smile, a positive stroke from you can change someone's life. Let us try to bring happiness to others through our gift of life.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

When you begin your day

When your day begins, you may think it is just another day in your life. But this is not just another day, this is the one day that is given to you. Today is given to you, it is a gift! This is the only gift that you have right in front of you. And your only appropriate responds should be gratitude as if it is the first day and last day in your life. 
And when you begin the day by opening your eyes, you should thank God for giving the eyes to see today. Look at the trees, birds and beautiful flowers around. Look at the sky,it's in constant change! Look at the face of people you meet, they carry incredible history. Look at the water it gives life. You can have many many thoughts of the incredible nature. If you have this kind of positive attitude when you befgin your day, your day becomes inspiring, positive and beautiful.

Friday, February 8, 2013

What is important is your faith

Recently I was taking to an Indian priest who started working in Louisville diocese. He was a retreat preacher in India and used to preach twenty thousand people every Wednesday. Here he comes to celebrate his first mass in the newly appointed parish and he as an Indian priest was shocked to see twenty people on a Wednesday morning Mass.
Church is very vibrant and alive in India. During Sunday service church is packed and people stand outside to attend Mass. Thr priest was so disturbed and I got a chance to talk to him. I brought the story of the woman suffering with haemorrhages. Jesus asked,“Who has touched my clothes?” But his disciples said to him, “You see how the crowd is pressing upon you, and yet you ask, Who touched me?” I told my friend priest what matters is not the crowd but one who has faith. Crowd does not stand for faith nor we cannot measure faith with packed churches. I think I could convince him to work here joyfully.
Let me invite you to close your eyes and imagine you are attending a Sunday mass and church is packed. Ask yourself are you one of the crowd or one who is stand out with faith? If you are still with the crowd let us try to touch Jesus.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

It's possible with Jesus

I have been the director of our retreats for few years. In India retreat preacher is supposed to be a miracle worker. I always felt that I was not fit in to that category of miracle workers, but always trusted in the power of God. I thought, if God wants he can. I remember this was one of the first retreats I was leading. I made a solemn arrival to the parish accompanied by a group of friars. The pastor gave us a warm welcome, as we were talking to the pastor, an unconscious woman was brought to amidst of us, carried by two ladies. Pastor said, Fr. John, your first client has come. I felt like earth splitting and I am falling in to the deep but I tried to act like I know what to. I asked the ladies to take her to a private room and will be there soon. I was sweating, I told the pastor let me put on my habit. I went to the room and Friars gathered around me, they knew I am in trouble. I started striking on my chest, my God what am I going to do? Friar Angelo said I have an idea, I have a bottle of oil blessed by Fr. Saviourkhan Vattayil, a famous preacher and miracle worker in Kerala, you may anoint on the forehead of the lady and pray. I said okey, agree, give it to me. He opened his bag and we were shocked no oil in it, not even a drop! It is really a wonder how the top of the cap broke in a circle and lost oil. I thought God is giving me trouble, He is sometimes like this. One of us suggested to refill the bottle and use it. I said I am not going to refill it, God has ordained me with the same power as Fr. Saviour.
I entered the room shivering and told her with an authoritative voice, I am a Franciscan Friar, I am going to pray over you in the powerful name of Jesus. She made a strange noise. I asked the two accompanying ladies to go out, i did not want anybody see what is happening in the room, just me and God! I had a bottle of holy water and a cross, I put my hands on her head and prayed in the name of Jesus through the power Jesus has given me through the Ordination, I ask whatever evil is on her get out of her in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. I poured holy water on her, she started shivering. I thought my God, it is getting worse. I touched her shoulders, she opened her eyes and looked at me said, Father something went out of me! I still did not know what has went out of her, she shared her story, she was an auto ricksha driver and talked about her family.
When I opened the room, pastor and friars were waiting, they were amazed to see the lady was normal and walking. I think I had a proud look on my face. She went happily with the ladies. The news spread in the village and this miracle of Jesus increased the faith of the people and thousands of people attended the retreat. I remembered what Jesus said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible"(Mt. 19:26).

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Good morning God

Many people consider religious life as a kind of stereotype way with a special look on face, no smile, constipated movements and always spiritual. I have two pictures of Jesus with me, one is Jesus playing basketball and another is Jesus playing guitar. I am afraid to show them to my grandma because I do not know how she is going to react. I have seen on Internet a picture of laughing Christ. Those kind of pictures are very rare. I always have thought why cannot we relate with God more lighter, sweeter and enjoyable way. Why people always fear God and do not love Him? Why can not we talk to Him like a friend? Why cannot we talk to him like we talk to one of our family members? I have heard about a little girl's prayer, in the morning as she wakes up, she says 'good morning God' and in the night she says 'Good night God'. Is not that a beautiful prayer and is not that a beautiful relation with God. Do not you think that our God deserve it? God should be part of sorrow, joy, study, thinking, dance, eating etc. Is that fair we look at God as somebody up above?
St. Francis may be one of the saints who expressed the joy and happiness in front of God. A legend says: one day Francis wanted to praise God and he took two sticks and played on them as violin and praised God. It may look funny to us but he was really expressing himself without any constipated look or stereo type praising God.. Some thinkers have given us the idea that religious life is only a celebration of Good Friday, no it's also celebrating the joy of Easter.
I remember another story from Francis Assisi, it was the fasting day and one of the friars started crying in the middle of the night and you know what Francis did, he waked up all the community members and broke the fasting and ate grapes with the friars.
I think humour, joy and laughing are important in religious life. God loves all these.

Monday, January 7, 2013

What the river taught me

My family lives near a river, I miss river wherever I go and this may be the reason whenever I see lake or river my heart leaps with joy. River teaches lot many life principles. "It is in the water the first life begun and the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters (Gen.1/1). When Heraclitus looked at the river, river thought him a life principal that nothing is permanent; life is a flux therefore, he said that you cannot step twice in the same river'. In the novel "Siddhartha" by Herman Hesse, Siddhartha’s most profound realizations have come out of what he has learned from the river. River is important in many writings and river taught many truths to people. I was siting on the shore of the river where I spend my younger days. I thought what I have learned something different from this river. Yes, it's about how devil cheat us. If you have fun time fishing, you know how we cheat fishes. We throw attractive things or food to the river and we patiently wait for the fish to swallow. Fish may think that it is because we love fish we throw food in to the river. But it is cheating, we know. Once the fish swallow food we treat the fish very differently, we may fry or make delicious curry. It is in the same way devil attack us, he throws beautiful things to us and he patiently awaits. Once we are hooked, he takes us to places where we have ever thought about. That may the reason St. Francis asks God 'why did you create temptations so beautiful'.
I know with my story the teaching of river is not over, the stories of the river may flow like a river flows, you too may have story to add with this and I welcome your story and let us make it a unending link, a chain and a circle. Let the story never end.

God uses our weakness

"My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me" this is St. Paul's words in Corinthians. I am not a morning person, If I wake up so early in the morning I feel the day is spoiled. I like to sleep. As a religious during formation time and as a member of Franciscan community I had to wake up early for morning service, I did but let me confess, not with full energy. I liked to be around people and enjoyed friendships. When I joined the seminary, I knew that much of friendship and social nature were not expected from the religious. I remember about the rector's diary where he wrote things to be corrected and my dairy was almost full with remarks; very talkative, found talking. When life progressed I learned new terms; cloister, pin drop silence, obedience etc. which were not in my vocabulary!
As a student I was not a bright student but creative. I liked gardening, writing, reading and dancing. I felt bad about me, I thought am I fitting in this religious culture and discipline? I had no answer but I trusted God can work wonders through a person like me. But until recently I could not realise the meaning of what St. Paul said.
Now at this age in my life, I would like to say with St. Paul "My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness." When I started working for the ministry for young adults in USA, I realised being a night person is a blessing. I celebrate holy mass at 9pm, students love to be late to go to bed and this is the time they get active, best time for activities. Secondly, I learned creativity is very important because students love creativity and they like to come out of stereotypes. Thirdly, my sociable nature is very important for this ministry, it is through socialisation we connect the young adults to God, I love it.
I am sharing this because you may be feeling bad about yourselves, bad about your weaknesses, trust me God can make that in to blessings, he can work in your weaknesses.

Warning: do not use this post for excusing your weakness:)

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Remembering my mum

I am a new year baby. I jokingly say I was born during a huge new year's fire work bu in fact I am a c-section baby! Fourty years ago c-section was not very common in Kerala and it was a nightmare for mothers due to the lack of success in c-sections. 
I hear that this is the most common surgical procedure in American hospitals: one in every three babies in the U.S. come into the world by c-section! Some mothers do not like to undergo the long delivery pain! I have no comments about it, I am a man.
My aunties remember that my mum had long labour pain and the doctor found that child's position is abreech (buttocks down) and suggested an immediate abortion to save her life. She disagreed and begged doctor for a c- section. She really wanted to see her first child. It was a play with life! 
Everyone who was in the hospital started praying, there were no telephones and cellphones available like today to send prayer requests but by the grace of God, the surgery was successful!
To reveal gender of a child before birth is prohibited by law in India there fore my mum did not know that the baby in her womb is a male. In later conversations with mum, I found that she excepted a baby girl, beinv a professional tailor, she stiched many dresses for a baby girl. I think I gave her a little disappointment! 
Every time when I hear about abortion I remember about my mum who had all the moral justification to kill me especially that situation and time. Every time when I celebrate events in my life, I remember her who permitted me to live on this beautiful World. Every time I see a picture of an aborted child, I thank my mum. I would like to line up my mum's name with Saint Gianna Beretta Molla (October 4, 1922 – April 28, 1962) an Italian pediatrician, wife and mother who is best known for refusing both an abortion and a hysterectomy when she was pregnant with her fourth child, despite knowing that continuing with the pregnancy could result in her death. She was canonised as a saint of the Catholic Church in 2004. I do not know if I can make this comment as a religious, if I go to heaven and if I do not see my mum there, I do not want that heaven! I think my mum is smiling from heaven seeing I write this.

I feel they are gone!

My grandpa was a Secular Franciscan, a dedicated catholic who attended daily mass.I spent most of my early childhood with him. My uncle remembers, I was very naughty and I had a double name "Bull",I feel sorry that I gave grandpa a hard time. May he rest in peace! He used to take me to the church,I did not know what is happening in the church but grandpa asked me to be silent and attentive, I did. I gradually learned what is the Holy Eucharist, what is the Church and who are the saints. I remember,he had a picture of St. Francis stepping on globe and stretching his hands to embrace Jesus, hanging in the common prayer room. I asked him one day, who is in the picture? Grandpa depicted who Francis was. I pictured Francis travelling on horse and on seeing a leper he lowering himself, hugging and kissing him. I saw Francis preaching to the birds, their eyes were so big and they were motionless. I saw Francis begging food and caring the lepers. All the stories admired me, I fell in love with his life. When I look back, I feel my grandpa must be the reason behind my vocation to the Franciscan life. He implanted a seed in my childhood and I am sure that he must be happy I am a Franciscan!
As we were celebrating epiphany, I attended Mass with the congregation. I do it sometimes to feel and celebrate Mass as one of them. A grandma was on the front seat with her grandson, he must be four years. I confess I was distracted. He was playing all the time with his toys, I noticed the toys are all soldiers, he fixed different weapons on the toys enjoying killing each soldiers. I thought that is not a fun game in the church where we preach about peace and love! When the pastor invited children from 4-10 years old to catechism, grandma did not send her grandson. I noticed she never explained to her grandson what is happening in the church or be attentive. I thought about my grandpa. The book of Deuteronomy says, “Only take care, and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things that your eyes have seen, and lest they depart from your heart all the days of your life. Make them known to your children and your children's children"(Deut. 4/9). I am not intending here to judge the grandma but I wished to remind grandparents to look at my Grandpa and how he impacted me.
I too think this is a high time, grandparents should be aware of the duty to teach grandchildren about their faith, traditions and stories and to lead them to the light. The Holy Bible also understands that grandparents play an important part in the raising of grandchildren,"I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well"( 2 Timothy1/5). St. Paul praises grandparents for the great faith of Timothy. He reminds of the duty and responsibility of grandparents fostering faith in next generation.
I have seen many students love their grandparents, sometimes they speak of grandparents more than their parents. Grandparents are very important to many. They can create a great impact on the next generation more than they think. I wish that they do not forget this.
We had a time where we longed to hear stories from grandparents and sleep on their lap. We had a time where we wanted to rush to grandparents home for holidays. We had a time to be playful with them. I feel like they are gone!

Friday, January 4, 2013


Do you know what's the blood group of Jesus? I think it is B+ve. Jesus saw everything very positive. He even transformed people thorough His positive attitudes.
We have many negative minded people around us. Their hearts are so darkened to see positive about anyone!and they hesitate to appreciate others. I think Nathaniel is from that category.
We had a man in our village who always saw things very negative. He had a double name; bitter George. A child was born to a couple after five years of their prayers, he commented, one more human being is born to this hell! Another time, an young man in the village graduated with colourful result and George asked where in this world is he going to get a job? Now you know why people called him "bitter George".
Nathaniel asks "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Jesus faces Nathaniel's negative attitude with a positive stroke. Jesus says to him, "here is a true child of Israel. There is no duplicity in him". With this words his life changes, he sees in Jesus some one who appreciates him, feels loved and that makes him say "Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel"
Many times we try to face negative type of people with our negative attitudes, in reality it will only fuel the negativity because deep inside their mind these people are afraid and feel unlovable. It is our challenge to rise above the negative attitude and love this person and to understand that he is drowning in negativity and it is difficult for him or her to see the positive. Try to be patient, listen to him or her and make them feel that they are good and they are loved. May be a hug is great even if you get a negative reaction. It is sure when he or she is alone will begin to reflect on what you have said, that will make a great change.
I have friend in Malta whom I have not seen in ages. He was a drug addict and was imprisoned for couple of years. The reason for his transformation is a positive letter from his wife, she wrote to him, I love you Joe and your children need you. These lines made him change. He is a good father and a good husbend now. I would also like to add a story from Mother Theresa. One day she begged food but he spited on her face, she said, this is for me, give me something for my children. He never expected this kind of attitude and this positive strike transformed this man and later, his house was made as the house of poor.
Dear friends let us try to be positive and let us face negative attitudes with our positive attitudes. Let us become b+ve.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Your sins are forgiven

Voltaire, the well known French philosopher and writer had a stroke and facing death. He was a loose christian who wrote many thoughts against the dogmas of the Church. At his death bed he wanted to reconcile with the Church and asked his followers to send for a priest. But they hesitated to do it and he said to them, 'Begone! It is you that have brought me to my present condition'. He was in deep despair and screamed, ‘O, Christ! O, Lord Jesus!’ Then, turning his face, he would cry out, ‘I must die-abandoned of God and of men!’ Voltaire the man who wrote against religious dogmas knew that Jesus has the power to forgive sins!
“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world"(Jn.1/29), this is the witness of John the Baptist. And this is the greatest witness and recognition of Jesus.
Jesus has the power to forgive sins. I do not think there is any other religious leader who said I forgive your sins. There are gurus who said go and purify yourselves in the river Ganges, make a pilgrimage or do penance. It is Jesus Christ who said to the woman who wet his feet with tears and wiped with hair in Simeon's house, "Your sins are forgiven"(Lk:7/48). Not only sins are forgiven but also forgiven without any judgement or accounting of sins.
Remember, Jesus says to the woman who was caught in adultery, “Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more (Jn. 8/11). Jesus forgives our sins without any judgement! That's the great privilege of those who know Christ. An young Hindu priest said why can't we have a confessional in the temple?
I read a confession of a converted murderer, he wrote, it was in the confessional that he burst out in tears for the first time in his life. He writes, after two hours of confession, he heard the old priest saying your sins are forgiven for a small penance. He could not but cry. Yes, that is Jesus the lamb of God who forgives our sins without any judgement and accounting.

One thing you haven't done!

“There is still one thing you haven’t done,” he told him. “Go and sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me"(Mk10:21). There is still one thing you haven't done! What is that one thing in our lives to follow Jesus? I think it needs a deep reflection to find out what is the one thing or many things. Jesus can be a reference point to find this out. Zaccaeus stood in front of this reference point, he felt like looking at a mirror, and found what he hasn't done. Zacchaeus said, “Look, Lord! Here and now I give half of my possessions to the poor, and if I have cheated anybody out of anything, I will pay back four times the amount"(Lk:19/8). He might had a deep reflection on the fig tree!
We use the terms attachment and detachment in the spiritual conversations. If you want to attach to God you may have to detach certain things. In the life of Elisha we read "he took his yoke off oxen and slaughtered them. He burned the plowing equipment to cook the meat and and gave it to the people, and they ate. Then set out to follow Elijah and became his attendant"(1kings 19/21). God told Abraham"Go from your country, your people and your father's household to the land I will show you"(Gen 12:1). Peter pulled his boat up on the shore, left everything and followed Jesus(Lk. 5/11).
Somebody asked a guru what is attachment? He said, attachment is the dance of our outer pleasure. Then he was asked what is detachment? Guru said, detachment is the song of our inner joy.
I remember the story of Sylvester, one of the first ten disciples of St. Francis of Assisi. When Bernard, a rich young man renounced everything and was giving up his wealth to the poor to follow Francis, Sylvester, was the parish priest of St. Ruffino, told him that he didn't receive proper value for the stones that he sold to Francis to build San Damiano. Francis gave him handful of money. That day he couldn't sleep, he fell in deep silence. That made him to be the disciple of Francis.
Let me invite you to have a deep reflection in front of the mirror, the reference point, Jesus to find what is the one thing that we haven't done.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

I have a name

Recently I watched the movie "les miserables" I do not think somebody can watch the life of Jean Valjean without tears. Many lives have changed by this 1862 novel by Victor Hugo.
In the movie, Javert, the police officer calls Valjean by his number 24601. Valjean says, my name is Jean Valjean. I realised that having a name is a blessing and it is the name that separate us from another and make us unique. Have you ever thought how much time our parents spend to name us? And name is so important and precious to us. Personally speaking, I am so happy when somebody remembers my name and calls by name, I enjoy that moment. I hope you too.
Giving a number to a person is humiliation and that must be the reason Hitler tattooed numbers on the prisoners. It was to reject the identity of a person. It was as cruel as his persecution.
I like the bible words from Isaiah, "I have called you by name and you are mine"(43:1). It is the great comfort that we have not lost in the crowd. God knows each one by our name!
I remember a Malayalam short story "Radha Radha Mathram"by Mukundan. In the story a girl forgets her name and she undergoes great identity crisis which makes her breakdown. Dear friends, having a name is a blessing and more blessing it is to know that God knows us by name.

Wedding death

I like the poetries of Emily Dickinson, many of her poems deal with themes of death and immortality. In "the chariot" she depicts death as a beautiful and joyful wedding. In her words:
"Because I could not stop for Death,
He kindly stopped for me;
The carriage held but just ourselves
And Immortality".
I read this poetry in the high school and I could never forget it. Don't you feel that this poetry is very Christian? Don't you think that death is a happy wedding for a Christian?The Psalmist sings: "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me(23/4).
St. Francis of Assisi teaches how to die in peace and joy, he was so passionate about death, calls death " sister death"! He blessed bread, sung psalms and that was a beautiful goodbye to eternity saying: "welcome sister death"
Remember the first martyr of the Church, St. Stephen, he was stoned to death. Even in painful suffering, he sees divine visions and says "Look, I see heaven open and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God." (Acts 7:56).
Recently I visited a funeral home to pay homage to a grandpa of 36 grand children. He was peaceful in the coffin with a beautiful smile. I thought he must be a man who had a happy wedding with death and a journey to eternity.
When we think about death we should not leave the death of Jesus on the cross. I do not think there is anyone who has suffered like Jesus Christ. According to the study Jesus was scourged 39 times and each scourge will make 400 wounds. That means there was no place on Jesus' body without wounds, so painful, unimaginable suffering! In this suffering Jesus asks the Father why have you forsaken me? And there is no answer from the heaven and theologians call this as "aggressive silence". But Jesus dies peacefully, saying unto your hands I comment my spirit. What a beautiful death! A death, like a child falls into sleep!
When I share this, I am sure a couple of people are coming to your minds who had similar death experience. Yes, dear friends, death should be a moment celebration for Christians and it is a wedding and a journey to Jesus.