Bishop Joseph Kallarangatt
Your Grace Archbishop Anil Kouto, Your Excellency Bishop Thomas Dabre, Very Rev. Fr. George Pattery, Provincial Superior, Very Rev. Fr. Rector, Rev. Fathers and brothers,
The commission for the Papal Seminary is very happy to be with you. We experienced from yesterday onwards the very homely atmosphere that exists here as the soul of the great priestly formation centre. We all know that Papal Seminary is a frontrunner and a trendsetter in the field of priestly formation and theologization.
Recently one of the priests visited Pope Francis and at the very outset said that I am a Jesuit. The Pope responded: “I have also the same virus.” But I say this bishop’s commission has not been infected by that virus because none of us is a Jesuit. That will be the main drawback of this commission! Let this visitation be an event of God’s mercy for all of you.
Today we celebrate the memory of St. Irenaeus of Lyons, one of the greatest theologians of the early Christianity. I want to say two small thoughts about Irenaeus. First one: Speaking about the event of God sending out Adam and Eve from the Paradise, Irenaeus instructs each one of us: “Eat from the right fruit. Eat from every Scripture of the Lord, but you must not eat with a proud mind. Humility must be the key to open the word of God. Not eat from other scriptures.”
Second: Tradition is the expression of the youthfulness of the Church. Tradition takes you back to the origin. It also takes you forward and upward towards the future, to the Gates of Heaven. Tradition is not immobility. It encourages all possible changes, but at the same time always insisting on what is the unchangeable. Tradition is not merely what is old, but what is antique and imperishable. It is something like the North Star.
Today’s Gospel is from Matthew chapter 8 verses 23-27: Calming the storm and sea. Jesus kept the disciples near Him in the same boat; but permitted them to be tossed with a tempest. Jesus does not keep us also away from the wind. But he saves us from the wind. He does not keep us away from the cross, but he saves us in and through the cross. In this Matthean text there is an inbuilt Christology and Ecclesiology. Christ is always ready to calm the waves of the world. Within the vessel, the boat, the Church, Jesus disciplines the disciples to bear trials patiently. Without the voice of the Lord, the Church is unable to sail over the sea of the world, and against the critical odds, to arrive at the heavenly harbor. We need strong faith in order to be preachers and witnesses in the noisy world of relativism and secularism. The restless sea is the symbol of the troubled and sinful world. The Lord rebuked the wind. It is the same word the evangelist uses for exorcism. The only other place where Jesus is seen as sleeping is on the cross. In the primitive kerygma, the word ‘awake’ is used to refer to Jesus rising from the dead. St. Ephrem, the Syriac Father, doctor, ecologist, deacon, and musician comments on this matthean passage saying: “The sleeping Lord is awakened and immediately He turned the roaring sea into sleeping.” Here St. Augustine is raising a pastoral and spiritual question: “Is Christ asleep in you? Have you forgotten His presence? If you are not aware of the presence of Christ in you the emotions and passions will be roaring in you. They will be conquering you.” St. Athanasius says: “The disciples awakened the Lord who was sailing with them, and immediately the sea became smooth and they reached the destination.” The history of the Papal Seminary is the history of the awakening the Lord in the thousands of seminarians and priests.
Papal Seminary is closely associated with Msgr. Zaleski, who was Papal Delegate here, who located the place Kandy for the seminary. The malayalee students know very well St. Alphonsa and Blessed Augustine Thevarparampil Kunjachan. Both of them are from my diocese, Palai. Blessed Augustine is called Kunjachan because he was very small in height and weight. During the time of his ordination the Rector of the Seminary was hesitant to give a positive report about Deacon Augustine to the Bishop, because of his very small stature. The Rector approached the Papal Delegate Msgr. Zaleski, who was in India, for getting the clarification. Msgr. Zaleski replied: “It is not the size of the seminarian that matters but the virtues present in him.” Then the Rector was very happy.
One of the things that Pope Emeritus Benendict XVI insisted for the seminarians is the presence of virtues. The traditionally held virtues such as obedience, humility, trustworthiness, simplicity, politeness etc. are to be practiced. As you know, the very call of Matthew, the Levi was very interesting. Commenting on it, St. Bede says: “miserando atque eligendo” – mercifully looking, Jesus called him. This was the motto of Bishop Bergoglio, the present Pope. Every vocation is an act of miserando atque eligendo.
“Formation of hearts is the centre of priestly spiritual formation,” says Pope Francis. Only this formation can give genuine missionary orientation. About the seminarians Pope Francis says: “We have to form their hearts. Otherwise we create little monsters. And afterwards these little monsters form the people of God. In short, we don’t need to form administrators but rather, fathers, brothers and comapanions.”
Let the words Pope Leo XIII, ‘Your own sons O India, will be the heralds of salvation’, be the inspiring fire in each one of us. Let us be merciful priests – misericordes sicut pater. Amen.