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The Month of August brings to our memory the Transfiguration of Our Lord, the Independence of our motherland and the Assumption of Our Blessed Mother. The three events are well connected. While Transfiguration is a prophecy, Assumption is the fulfillment, and Independence or freedom is its symbol. Here the political freedom points to the much-desired spiritual freedom which guarantees freedom from fear, from corruption and points at the final divinization.

Transfiguration of Our Lord (August 6): The mystery of the glorification of the body was anticipated in the Transfiguration of Our Lord Jesus. It is traditionally acknowledged to have taken place on Mount Tabor, a high mountain, where God the Father spoke about his beloved Son and disciples beheld his glory. We are constantly challenged to climb the mountain of holiness and at the same time challenged to face the real life.

Assumption of Mary: Mother Mary, Mother of hope, experienced true freedom from death and corruption with her Assumption into heaven. She is the new star, the star of freedom, of new hope and of a new vision for us. When Pope Pius XII began the inquiry into what the People of God believed regarding bodily Assumption of Mary, he asked two questions to the Bishops of the whole world in his letter Deiparae Virginis Mariae sent on May 1, 1946: “Do you, venerable brethren, in your outstanding wisdom and prudence, judge that the bodily Assumption of the Blessed Virgin can be proposed and defined as a dogma of faith? Do you, with your clergy and people, desire it?” The sense of faith (sensus fidei), shown through the “outstanding agreement of the Catholic prelates and the faithful” is the fruit of the promptings of the Holy Spirit in their hearts. This agreement of both pastors and faithful paved the way for the definition of the dogma of Mary’s bodily Assumption into heaven. God guides the Church through the Holy Spirit and this is a wonderful example for acknowledging that God is working in us and through us. Let us pray that the Holy Spirit bring to fulfillment in us what Mary experienced.

Independence of India (August 15): India reached tremendous experience of freedom when the Union Jack was lowered and the Tricolour was unfurled. Jawaharlal Nehru, our first Prime Minister, in his famous speech, India’s tryst with destiny, said: “A moment comes, which comes but rarely in history, when we step out from the old to the new, when an age ends, and when the soul of a nation, long suppressed, finds utterance.” The Indian nation will find its soul’s utterance when one acquires freedom from fear, corruption and ill will. Nehru foresaw that a narrow-minded people cannot be really free: “We cannot encourage communalism or narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose people are narrow in thought or in action.” In these times of great crisis, may the Lord free us from narrow mindedness so that our spirits may find true utterance.

Communio India Sunday: The Conference of Catholic Bishops of India (CCBI) has resolved to join hands and share the resources every year so that the poorer dioceses could be financially helped in their development. In various dioceses Communio India is celebrated on the first Sunday of Advent. However, in our diocese we celebrate it on August 15. The purposes of Communio India are (1) to build a culture of sharing in order to express solidarity with our needy brothers and sisters in the country. (2) to encourage our faithful to pray and help the missions and the missionaries and to promote missionary vocations. (3) to inspire our lay faithful to work in mission areas as lay missionaries. The CCBI in its circular says: “It should not only be a day of prayer but also a day of awareness to enable us to become missionary disciples.” Last year, thanks to the generous donation of our people, we sent Rs. 7,37,272.00 for this cause. I sincerely thank all those who contributed towards Communio India.

Laudato Sí Year: On 24 May 2020, on the occasion of the fifth anniversary of the encyclical Laudato Sí after praying the Regina Coeli Pope Francis invited everyone to take part in the Laudato Sí Year. The Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development has drawn up a programme to make this year fruitful. The year runs from 24 May 2020 until 24 May 2021. We have already heard the call of the Laudato Sí Committee to conserve water (Jalabandhan). We shall send the report about our efforts at conservation of natural resources of the earth to the above Dicastery. Any other activity you promote in the parishes and institutions, kindly inform the Laudato Sí committee. Let us intently listen to the cry of the earth and of the poor.

Old Age Plan: As we grow old, we become more and more susceptible to sickness and the medical and other needs demand immediate attention. Though we have the PAF to cater to the medical needs of diocesan priests, it is depleting day by day. Taking into account the needs of old age, and since the priests do not have any Provident Fund, some Fathers suggested that we should have an Old Age Plan. On July 24, 2020 during the meeting of the Council of Priests, this point was proposed and there was an overwhelming positive response. Accordingly, it was decided that every priest of our diocese contributes a minimum of Rs 5000/- every year, other than the annual contribution to the PAF. The amount is to be sent to the Diocese of Mangalore.

Ordination of Deacons: On August 6, five of our seminarians will be ordained deacons at St Joseph Seminary, Jeppu. It will be a moment of joy to see young men ready to dedicate themselves to the affairs of the Lord. The deacons upon whom hands are imposed “not unto the priesthood, but unto a ministry of service” bring before our eyes the life of Christ himself, who came to serve and not to be served. Dedicated to duties of charity and of administration, deacons must be mindful of the admonition of Blessed Polycarp: “Be merciful, diligent, walking according to the truth of the Lord, who became the servant of all” (LG 29). May our deacons imbibe the spirit of Christ and live by his example. Let us pray for them to remain steadfast in their commitment.

Vocation Promotion: The students are waiting for the S.S.L.C. results and during adolescence they also seriously think of their future and make life’s choices. During this crucial time, if they find a good mentor, they would be able to identify what God wants them to do. I request the Fathers, Sisters and Brothers to counsel young men who are ready to serve the Lord and his people. We too can live our spiritual fatherhood by promoting vocations. The fruitfulness of our priestly life can be measured in the way we inspire the youngsters.

Care for the Sick and Needy: The Covid-19 situation is aggravating and people are going through hardships. Many have lost their jobs and depression is increasing. The economy is in
doldrums. Let us join hands, dear Fathers, Sisters and Brothers, and come to the aid of our people and be at their service. Please find out the needs of the poor and sick and attend to them. This is not the time to close ourselves in but go out to the existential peripheries and bring the Good News of Our Lord through concrete action. Mobilize the youth to be the Gospel bearers.

Mass and Adoration: In order to implore God for his protection from the deadly disease, priests are requested to use the Masses for Sick (English Missal, n. 45; Konkani Missal, nn. 32 A and B) and For Any Need (English Missal, nn. 48 A and B; Konkani Missal, nn. 38 A and B). On the occasion of the Transfiguration of Our Lord and Assumption of Our Blessed Mother, please organize special prayers and adoration, keeping in mind, the safety measures.

May the month of August bring in us true sense of freedom and real desire for holiness as the occasions also lend themselves for our God-orientedness.

Peter Paul Saldanha
Bishop of Mangalore