Conversations

   

The morning prayer had a centerpiece with some of the key documents relevant to Journeying Together. The prayer took the story of Moses before the burning bush to emphasize the sacredness of the experience of the OP. 

   The morning was devoted to ‘conversations’ on the Eucharist.  The Brothers took part of the CLT document on the Eucharist as the basis for the discussion.  Each Brother was invited to spend time alone reflecting on his understanding of Eucharist and on the connection between Eucharist and life.  Thereafter followed a very rich discussion on the place of Eucharist in our lives.

   Following the first session, the group then tackled the theology of the Eucharist, and it became clear that the theology of Eucharist is a topic worthy of further discussion.

   In the afternoon, Br Francis Hall facilitated the session on the Outreach aspect of the OP, inviting Brothers to reflect on how the previous experience impacted on each one, and inviting Brothers to explore the possibility of engaging in a wider choice of possible Outreach sites.

Living Celibacy

 

     The group began the day with a Eucharistic celebration based on the theme of community living.  The audio clip from Alfred Banda ‘Imagine’ formed the basis for the sharing of the word where each community group discussed about what helped create a sense of community.  This very moving celebration set the scene for the subsequent sharing on the centrality of sexuality in the creation of intimate, compassionate, gentle and loving communities.

      Following on from yesterday, the session began with a ‘fishbowl’ where Brothers volunteered to enter into the circle to share on their experience of sexuality.  The other Brothers had the chance to ask questions of the Brothers in the ‘fishbowl’ or to enter into the circle themselves to share their personal sexual story.  The key question that Brothers shared was, ‘How do I live my vow of celibacy?’  In the sharing, the Brothers were very open in how they worked at integrating their sexuality and at developing a healthy emotional life. 

      This was a sacred space where Brothers were so open in sharing their struggles with integrating sexuality. The session was a real blessing for each member of the community. In the sharing, the vision of a vibrant and cohesive community became an ideal that moved significantly closer to reality.

      The final session dealt with the four stages of celibacy (according to Bernard Bonnet):

  1. Adolescent Celibacy (from 13 years to 20 years)
  2. Generative Celibacy (from 20-30 years)
  3. Intimate celibacy (mid-30s to 50s)
  4. Integrated celibacy (from 50s onwards)

      Overall, this was a most valuable workshop for the Brothers in their journey towards intimacy.

Celibacy and our psycho-sexual development

   

PIC: The Salesian community which runs Pastoral Centre. 24th May is the feast day their patroness Mary Help of Christians. 

    The morning prayer consisted of a message from Henri Nouwen.  He said, we are the beloved daughters and sons of God. We need to cling to that belief, and live a life based on that knowledge.  And the question, ‘Who am I?’  is very key.  And the answer is often, ‘ I am what I do’  or ‘I am what other people say of me’ or ‘I am what I have.’ But none of these answers are sufficient. When I have these answers, I will live an up and down life!  So, when we are up we survive but when we are down we become depressed.   This is not a great way to live.  It does not mean that we will not have troubles or praise or possessions, but now the voice of God, the beloved penetrates our lives and transforms our lives where God becomes the centre.

    The sessions today focused on psycho-sexual development, and on the challenge of integrating one’s sexuality.   Part of the morning involved the Brothers entering into a fishbowl, and sharing their experience of their sexual development.  This session was a sacred moment for the whole group and helped the process of integration.     

    This being Wednesday, the Brothers had a half day and availed of  the chance to relax and integrate some of the learnings of the week.  We wished the Salesian fathers and brothers on their feast day. The Rector Fr. Felix Dkhar and  Br. Innocent have been extremely flexible and supportive of us in the centre.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

To be human is to experience disconnection

     

         PIC: Placid, the birthday boy chatting with some of the participants

       The creative morning prayer reminded the group of the energy of sexuality and how this energy relates to our relationship with God. Each Brother was invited to place the drawing they did yesterday around the centerpiece, sharing their personal imagination of what sexuality is for each one. The bible reading was from the Song of Songs 8: 6-7, and the song was based on the words of St. John of the Cross from The Dark Night of the Soul. This inspiring prayer led to a fruitful day of reflection on sexuality.
       Donal explained that to be human is to experience disconnection, and therefore we long for reconnection which we search for throughout our lives. We have lost our awareness of what it means to live in God ever since we live our lives outside of the garden (of Eden!). Therefore, we continually seek reconnection. ‘Desire is love trying to happen; it is the love that permeates the whole universe trying to happen in me’ (Sebastian Moore).
     Whereas love is so positive, at times sexual energy can also be destructive and it’s unfortunate that this sexual energy can be used so negatively. The challenging discussion on the negative aspects of sexual energy was a very stimulating moment in the life of the community.
     Donal presented the topic of the spirituality of addiction. He showed how people often try to fill the emptiness with all aspects of addiction whether it be alcohol, sex, drugs or even work.

    Placid Henriques celebrated his birthday with the group. There was cake cutting at the coffee break and a social for him on Friday. 

Integrating my sexuality

       PIC: Donal and Aurea getting ready for their presentation 

    The workshop this week is devoted to the theme of sexuality. Br Donal Kirk and Sr Aurea Dias are the facilitators.   The group began with the Brothers sharing how they were feeling.  Then, the Brothers discussed the expectations they had for the workshop.  Some of the expectations were:

  • To integrate sexuality
  • To grow deeply in holding the paradoxes involved in sexuality
  • To create an atmosphere of openness and trust
  • To discover my inner struggles

       Donal quoted the poet James Kavanaugh who talked about how women and men interact and showed how women and men differ in how they relate.  Then the Brothers were invited to chart who their friends were, and how close was their relationship to these friends.  This chart or web of friendships is something that enriches our lives.

      The Brothers then explored what was meant by relationships and sexuality, leading to a rich discussion on the very nature of sexuality.  They also learned how the binding energy (dark matter) and the expanding energy (dark energy) in the universe form the basis of sexual attraction. This sexuality is a deep river of energy running though us which enables us to enter into genuine loving relationships.

       In the afternoon, Sr Aurea invited the Brothers to express their understanding of sexuality through art.

Integration Day

PIC: The group going to Siloam is ready for the Integration day.

      Today was an opportunity for the Brothers to reflect on how the OP was impacting on their lives.  This integration day took place in three centres:  Moreau Institute of Integral Training, Bellefonte Spirituality Centre, and Siloam Spirituality Centre.  Brothers left early from the Pastoral Centre and spent the morning reflecting on how the spiritual, psychological, attitudinal and professional aspects of the OP was having an influence on their lives. The following questions were used as guidelines for their reflection.

SPIRITUALLY: what has changed in your understanding and relationship with the Mystery of God?

PSYCHOLOGICALLY: what new understanding do you have of yourself and your way of relating? (refer to the TA, and Myers Briggs).

ATTITUDINALLY: what is your overall attitude to the OP? How are you building up the OP community and contributing towards its life? How are you resisting its life?

PROFESSIONALLY: how seriously are you taking the tasks given … to read, journal, reflect, share yourself with others, be present on time for activities?

In the course of the morning each Brother had the opportunity to meet with a spiritual director.

      When the Brothers returned from their respective centres, they were unanimous in their satisfaction at having had the time to reflect deeply on their lives, and renew their commitment to give 100% effort to the OP for the next four weeks and before the next integration day. The combination of time alone, and time with the spiritual director proved to be very beneficial. 

Professional boundaries

    

The morning began with a reflection on the story of Bartimaeus where Brothers were invited to answer the question:  What do you want me to do for you?  Later in the prayer, Br Moy Hitchen, having arrived in Shillong the other day, was welcomed into the group, and received the ceremonial Khasi stole as a symbol of inclusion.  The group was delighted that finally he got his visa for India and was now ready to engage fully in the program.

       Today’s workshop was on boundaries.  Br Donal Kirk and Sr Aurea Dias were the workshop presenters for the day.  The initial part of the workshop had Donal giving a presentation on the issue of boundaries, quoting Robert Frost’s line, ‘Good fences make good neighbours’. He went on to stress the importance of respecting another’s personal space, and being careful not to encroach on another’s boundaries before being invited into that sacred space.  He explained that each of us has a self and that a self without a boundary is like air without a balloon; shapeless, formless and diffused.  Then, he applied these principles to physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual boundaries, emphasizing all the time that each person has to choose the limits of the boundaries.

        The interactive part of the workshop involved groups examining case studies that raised the issues of professional and personal boundaries, inviting the Brothers to explore the implications of boundary-crossing. 

       This workshop was an important contribution to life both in community, and in ministry.  Brothers deepened their awareness of issues like respect, reverence and clarity when it comes to interacting with other people and honouring interpersonal boundaries.

Multi-cultural living


The story of the Samaritan woman at the well was a most appropriate reflection for the theme of the day: inter-cultural living. Francis Hall was presenting this important topic to the Brothers. Members of the OP come, not only from Kenya, the Philippines and India, but also from different parts of these three countries. And now with the arrival of Moy Hitchen from Australia, we have four countries represented.
Francis began by asking us to share our experiences of meal-time in our own cultures, and this sharing quickly showed us how different we are even in the area of meals! He went on to outline the do’s and don’ts with regard to cultural awareness.

Some of them were:
• Don’t assume you know everything about a culture
• Do respect other cultures
• Don’t assume people from other cultures are slow learners
• Do offer explanations for the times when there are differences
• Don’t focus just on the differences in cultures
• Do try new things in order to show respect for the other culture
• Don’t treat everyone the same
• Do be willing to learn the language of the other culture
• Don’t let differences frustrate you
Francis continued his presentation by showing how some cultures are individualistic while others are more collectivist. The exploration of this major difference, he explained, affects the way we relate to authority, and how we relate to time. He then asked the Brothers to identify a moment during the OP when Brothers experienced moments of cultural mismatching, and this was very useful in making us more sensitive to one another.
On a more practical note, the afternoon had the Brothers analyzing a critical incident where cultural insensitivity was experienced and sharing on how that experience affected the Brother emotionally. And finally, the Brothers were encouraged to draw up a PIP, a personal intercultural plan for the coming three months.

Applying MBTI to communication, conflict and change

     

 Moy Hitchen arrived today. In the picture he is being welcomed by the group with the blessing of light.

Thus concludes the three-day workshop on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator run by Sunil.  Today the Brothers, armed with their personality profile, explored in more detail what that profile tells them about how they think, feel and behave.  It allows them also to understand how others see reality, interact with people, make judgements and plan for the future in their unique individual way.  By seeing the differences in the community members, the hope is that compassion, acceptance and understanding can transform communities into places of compassion, gentleness, intimacy and love…not an easy challenge, but one worth striving for.  At the conclusion of the workshop, the Brothers were delighted with the personal insights they had gained and felt confident that they had an aid to growth in interpersonal relationships and in creating vibrant and cohesive communities.

     One of the sessions had various groups discussing how the various dyads (Thinking/Feeling etc.) managed communication, conflict and change.  This session was particularly useful for imagining how communities will ensure harmony and effectiveness.

     Towards the end of the morning, the Brothers received a summary of their personality type and had the opportunity to share how they felt about the accuracy of the account, and what surprised them.  This sharing gave the Brothers the opportunity to reflect further on the type that they identified for themselves. 

Celebrating diversity

 

   The morning prayer offered an interesting reflection based on a TED Talk by Chimamanda Ngosi Adichie, a Nigerian writer, on the danger of a single story.  She shared how people including herself are inclined to stereotype a nation, failing to see the whole picture, and blind to the fact that no nation can be categorized easily.  This was a good insight for us who have travelled to India and see India through the eyes of where we come from. We are challenged to enter into a culture and to understand each culture when we come together.

   Sunil then continued his presentation of the Myers Briggs Type Inventory.  This time he presented the Sensing/Intuition way we take in information, and showing how differently sensing and intuiting prefer to consider new ideas, use their imagination and deal with complexity.  He had already showed yesterday how each of the sensing and intuiting people prefer to deal with information.  Today he introduced the Thinking and Feeling couple which, he explained, demonstrate how we make decisions.  And then he showed how the Judging and Perceiving people manage time and face accomplishing a task. 

   Having therefore dealt with the four dyads of Extrovert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuiting, Thinking /Feeling and Judging/Perceiving, he invited us to look at the questionnaire that we had filled out and discover which of the sixteen types we placed ourselves.  This was an exciting moment, and one that helped us understand differences that will occur in inter-cultural groups.