Tree hollows form when branches are cut close to the trunk. Due to infection, bug infestation or woodpeckers' pecking holes are formed. These holes or hollows may not be good for the health of a tree, but they surely give shelter to small birds and animals like squirrels, tree rats and others. Many birds build their nests in hollows and hatch their eggs and give life to birdlings.
Trees like this serve others by their amputation and suffering. They shelter others from deadly predators. Sometimes, to creative children, these holes look like noses and mouths -- as if these trees are trying to say something to them.
Mother Teresa once said: "If we do not give until it hurts, there is no meaning to giving." Another time she said: "I have found the paradox that if you love until it hurts, there can be no other hurt, only more love." If we look at great men and women, we see similar examples in their lives. By "dying" through their sacrifices and suffering, they give "life" to others. So, we have a thing or two to learn from hollowed trees!
Mother Teresa, an Albanian by birth, first became a nun with the Religious Order, called Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary (IBVM -- popularly known as "Loreto Sisters"), based in Ireland. As a nun in this Order, she started her work in Calcutta, India, as a teacher at the Loreto Convent school that catered to Bangali (Bengali) girls from well-to-do families.
Although she dealt with rich kids and their families, she, in real life situations, came in contact with the poorest of the poor people who were found abundantly in slums and streets of Calcutta. From her room in the Loreto Convent in Entally, Calcutta, she could see the daily grind of these people in the Motijheel slum below.
In her heart of hearts, Sister Teresa, IBVM, felt that teaching and serving rich girls was not her real vocation. Her keen observation and experience with the poverty of many Calcuttans convinced her that she needed to devote her life among the poorest of the poor.
With much prayer, reflection and consultation with a Belgian Jesuit priest, who was her spiritual director, she decided to leave the Loreto Order. With this end, she applied for the Pope's permission which was quite slow to come. Ultimately, in 1948, she left the Loreto Convent to work among the poor. In 1949, a former student of hers joined her new Religious Order, called Missionaries of Charity. Soon some other girls join her.
Mother Teresa's Involvement with People of Bangladesh
In Calcutta, post-partition refugees from East Pakistan (later called Bangladesh) were her inspiration and subject of service: Mother Teresa's first encounter as a Loreto nun was mostly with the East Pakistani Hindu refugees who had fled East Pakistan (then part of Pakistan) to West Bengal, including Calcutta, of India. These refugees fled their original abode in waves after deadly Hindu-Muslim riots immediately before and after the independence of India and Pakistan from the British in August, 1947. These refugees were treated as outcasts and, as a result, they lived in extreme poverty and squalor. Mother Teresa was deeply moved by the helpless condition of these people. Her new work of service, therefore, started among these very people.
Most of the initial candidates of her Order were from East Pakistan (Bangladesh) area: When she started her new Order -- Missionaries of Charity -- in Calcutta, a greater number of the Catholic girls who joined it were originally from East Pakistan. These girls, from lower middle class and middle class families, were studying in Calcutta in different schools.
The first house rented by Mother Teresa for her new Order and work belonged to a family from East Pakistan (Bangladesh): After leaving the Loreto convent, Mother Teresa needed a place to stay from where she could work among the poor. At the suggestion of a priest, she first found a room and later more rooms to rent from a family (Mr. Robert Gomes and his brother Mr. Thomas Gomes) that was from East Pakistan.
In 1971, Mother Teresa and her Sisters were heavily involved with refugees of East Pakistan (Bangladesh): About 10 million refugees from East Pakistan had fled to neighbouring India during the Bangladesh War of Independence (March-December, 1971). Mother Teresa and her Sisters relentlessly helped thousands of these refugees in different refugee camps in West Bengal, India. The distribution of food, clothing, and medicine and taking care of some war orphans and some women who were raped and made pregnant by West Pakistani army men and their East Pakistani collaborators were their main work.
Her work in Bangladesh: (1) In Khulna: Immediately after the independence of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971, the Bangladesh Catholic Church authority (Archbishop Theotonius Amal Ganguly, CSC, of Dhaka and Bishop Michael A. D'Rozario, CSC, of Khulna) invited Mother Teresa to start her work in Bangladesh itself. In response, she started a centre in Khulna first. (2) In Dhaka:a) On Islampur Road, Amputty: In early 1972, Mother Teresa and her Sisters came to Dhaka and took over the vacated building at Amputty, from where the Adoration Monastery had moved to Mymensingh town. They named their centre "Shishu Bhavan" (children's home). In this centre, the Missionaries of Charity gave shelter to a good number of biranganas ("heroines" -- women who had been raped by West Pakistani soldiers and their East Pakistani collaboratorsand were already pregnant. There were some other biranganas, who did not want to be exposed to the public for the shame involved, but left their newborn children, called "war babies," with the Sisters at this centre.(The government of the newly independent Bangladesh named these raped women biranganas to give them honour and respect because of their extreme sacrifice during the war of independence. But, in reality, many of these women were socially unacceptable and were ostracized.) Through these Sisters, a sizable number of war babies got adopted abroad in Europe, North America, Australia, and some other countries. At present, orphans and phyically and mentally disabled children are being cared for in this centre. b) At Tejgaon: Some years later, the Sisters started Nirmal Hriday (pure heart) Home of Compassion at Tejgaon for taking care of the elderly, sick and dying people. (3) In Different Dioceses:a) Dhaka Archdiocese: Besides Dhaka city, the Sisters opened other centres at Mausaid (Dist. Dhaka), Khadim Nagar (Dist. Sylhet), and Lakkhipur (Dist. Moulavibazar). b) Chittagong Diocese: Golpukurpar (Barisal) and Pahartali (Chittagong). c) Dinajpur Diocese: Thakurgaon. d) Khulna Diocese: Khulna and Borodol (Dist. Satkhira). e) Mymensingh Diocese: Jalchatra (Dist. Tangail). f) Rajshahi Diocese: Mohishbathan (Rajshahi).
In the great and compassionate service of Mother Teresa, Bangladesh and its people played an important role. In this hundredth anniversary of her birth, Bangladeshis salute her and wish to see her as a recognized saint in the Catholic Church.
Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Mother Teresa. We specially remember, how coming from such a humble background, she could win the world's heart for service to the poorest of the poor. She was tiny in stature, but a giant in her love and commitment.
I have an website, called Jerome's Pages on the Catholic Church and Faith, that has a page on Mother Teresa dealing with her short biography and her teachings (sayings). On the occasion of Mother's Teresa's 100th birthday on August 26, 2010, I reproduce below her biography for the benefit of readers of my present blog. (I have rewritten the "Honours, Awards and Prizes" section below and added a few more items there).
A Short Biography of Mother Teresa of Calcutta
Mother Teresa, with her baptismal name of Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu, was born on August 26, 1910 at Skopie, at the time part of Albania and presently the capital of Macedonia. Attending a public school, she regularly participated in the catechism [religion] classes and the choir in her Jesuit-run parish besides being active in a Catholic youth organization, Daughters of Mary.
Once she mentioned: "At the age of 12, I first knew I had a vocation to help the poor. I wanted to be a missionary." At 15, she was inspired to work in India by reports sent home to Skopje by Jesuit missionaries in Bengal, India. In 1928, she applied for admission to Irish branch of the Institute of the Blessed Virgin Mary, known as the Loreto Sisters, already at work in India. On September 26 of the same year, she arrives at the Mother House of the Sisters in Dublin, Ireland. After two months of intensive English language training, she leaves Ireland by ship and arrives at Calcutta, India, on January 6, 1929.
A Novice and Then a Teacher
After two years of novitiate at Darjeeling in the foothills of the Himalayas, she takes her temporary vows as a nun of the Sister of Our Lady of Loreto on May 24, 1931. Then she takes up her first assignment as a teacher of geography and history at St. Mary's High School at Entally, Calcutta. On May 24, 1937, she professes her final vows and continues her teaching and then becomes the Director of Studies at the same school that gave education to girls, mostly from well-to-do families.
A Call to Serve the Poor
On September 10, 1946, Sister Teresa was on a train journey from Calcutta to Darjeeling for participating in her community's spiritual exercises. While praying quietly in the train, she got divine inspiration to work for the poor. She says: "...I clearly felt a call within my calling. The message was very clear. I had to leave the convent and consecrate myself to helping the poor by living among them. It was a command. I knew where I had to go, but I did now know how to get there."
Founding of the Missionaries of Charity
After exploring the possibilities, Sister Teresa applies for the permission of Pope Pius XII to live outside the convent and start a new congregation of nuns to work exclusively for "the poorest of the poor." Ultimately on August 16, 1948, she leaves the Loreto Convent wearing a white sari with blue borders. At the time, she had only five rupees (Indian currency valuing a little more than a U.S. dollar) in her pocket? After taking a three-month intensive course on nursing under the American Medical Missionary Sisters at Patna, she starts her work among the poor of Calcutta slums. In 1948, she also applies and receives the citizenship of India. On March 19, 1949, an old student of Sister Teresa becomes the first candidate and later the first nun of her new congregation. Other girls from Calcutta began to follow her. On October 7, 1950, Pope Pius XII officially gives recognition to the Order of the Missionaries of Charity.
Homes for Dying Destitutes and Orphanages
On August 22, 1952, she opens the Nirmal Hriday (Pure Heart), a home for the dying destitutes at Calcutta. The following year, she starts her first orphanage. She then starts other types of institutions including leper colonies in India. Before her death, the work of the Missionaries of Charity was spread in more than 120 countries.
She Co-founds the Missionary Brothers of Charity
In 1963, Mother Teresa co-founded the Missionary Brothers of Charity, with Father Andrew Travers-Ball, S.J., of Australia. Now there are more than 500 members in this Order.
Illness and Death
Since 1983, Mother Teresa suffered several bouts of illnesses and accidents. On March 13, 1997, she hands over the leadership of the Missionaries of Charity to Sister Nirmala, an Indian nun. Ultimately, on September 5, 1997, Mother Teresa dies after suffering lung, kidney and heart problems in Calcutta. The Government of India accorded her a state funeral on September 13, 1997. The Missionaries of Charity, at the time, had more than 4,000 nuns working in about 600 homes in more than 120 countries in five continents. Honours, Awards and Prizes
Since 1962 until her death in 1997, Mother Teresa received dozens of honours, awards and prizes for her work -- most notable ones being:
Padma Sri (beautiful lotus flower) Award, for social service, given by Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President of India (1962),
Ramon Magsaysay Award, for international understanding from the Philippines (1962),
Pope John XXII International Peace Prize, from Pope Paul VI, Vatican City (1970),
Good Samaritan Award, given by Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, Boston, Massachusetts, U.S.A. (September, 1971),
John F. Kennedy International Award, U.S.A. (1971),
Jawaharlal Nehru Award for international understanding, Government of India (1972),
Koruna Doot (angel of charity) Award, from the President of India (1972),
Templeton Prizefor Progress in Religion,given by Sir John Templeton Foundation, Britain (1973),
Mater et Magistra (The Mother and Teacher) Award, from the Third Order of St. Francis of Assissi (1974),
The Sword of Honour from the Prime Minister of the Yemen Arab Republic (1974),
The Voice of America's International Women's Year Pin, Washington, D.C., USA (June, 1975),
Albert Schweitzer International Prize, U.S.A. (Oct. 23, 1975),
Honorary Doctor of Laws degree, given by St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada (November 2, 1975),
The Deshikottama (the best citizen) Award, Vishwa Bharati University's highest honour, given by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the university's chancellor (March 3, 1976),
Ceres Medal from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations (1976),
Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth) Award, given in commemoration of the 1963 encyclical, Pacem in Terris, of Pope John XXIII, Vatican City (1976),
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity, , from the University of Cambridge, England (June, 1977),
Balzan Prize, for "outstanding achievements in the field of humanities," Italy (1978).
The Nobel Peace Prize, Oslo, Norway (December 9, 1979),
Bharat Ratna (Jewel of India) Award -- the highest civilian award of India, given by Neelam Sanjiva Reddy, President of India (1980),
Order of Australia,"for service to the community of Australia and humanity at large", from the Australian government (1982),
Honorary Doctorate of Divinity (Theology),from the Catholic University of Brussels, Belgium (1982),
Order of Merit, awarded by Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom (1983),
The Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest U.S. civilian award, given by President Ronald Reagan (1985),
Gold Medal of the Soviet Peace Committee (August, 1987),
Leo Tolstoy International Award from the Soviet Union (1991),
Gaudium et Spes (Joy and Hope) Award, given by the Knights of Columbus through Cardinal John O'Conner, New York (August, 1992), because of her work in the spirit of this Vatican II document -- Gaudium et Spes --promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 7, 1965.
Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons, Ireland (August, 1992),
UNESCO Education for Peace Prize, from United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (1993),
Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (for the Church and the Pope) Award, from Pope John Paul II, Vatican City (January, 1993),
Rajiv Gandhi Sadbhavana (goodwill) Award, India (1993),
The Golden Honour of the Nation Award, given by the Government of Albania (1994),
U Thant Peace Award, "for her heart's sleepless service to humanity," from Indian Hindu religious guru Sri Chinmoy who visits her convent in Rome, Italy, and gives the award (October, 1994),
Honorary U.S. Citizenship, from the U.S. government -- she is the fourth person to receive it (1996), and
The Congressional Medal of Freedom, "for outstanding and enduring contributions to humanitarian and charitable activities," from the U.S. Congress (May 16, 1997).
Mother Teresa was not only a worker of love but also a speaker and teacher of love. Wherever she went, she spoke on her work as well as on issues related to her work. This preaching of the Good News in a simple language touched the hearts of millions of people. She was one of the greatest modern Christian missionary in the world.
P.S.Mother Teresa has been beatified on October 19, 2003 in Rome and she has been given the title "Blessed." Finally, to be a saint, another miracle is required to prove her heroic (extraordinary) virtues.
From the humdrum and rustle and bustle of Toronto To the placid Sauble Beach, A three hours' drive, But what a difference!
Life at the Sauble Is calm, slow-paced and Nature-friendly; It completely changes your gear To take a slow but steady turn.
Nestled in a forested area Of the Bruce Peninsula, On the coast of Lake Huron, Sauble is a place to be in To imbibe the fragrant wine of the Nature. Sauble Beach helps you dive into the calmness, To look at your inner self, In spite of the continuous but gentle roaring of the waves.
Large Canadian cities like Toronto May go to pieces, But Sauble is stable in its anchor. Not worried about "the sky is falling, the sky is falling," Life still goes on in Summer glory With thousands of tourists and Nature-lovers Moving in and out.
If you want to experience a piece of heaven, Go to the Sauble Beach, And enjoy the surf, the sand and the sunset!
(L-R) Joe Mutebi (from Uganda), Yasutaka Okayama (Japan) and Jerome D'Costa (Bangladesh) at the University of Portland, Oregon, USA Photo (October, 1975) by Koh Kok Yan
Yasutaka Okayama, a Japanese student, joined the University of Portland, Oregon, USA, to be trained as a basketball player. Being 7 feet 9 inches, he was the tallest person in the university. We could see him over the heads of all others. He was like a sunflower looking over a field of lilies.
One day, Ugandan student Joe Mutebi (5 feet 8 inches), Malaysian student Koh Kok Yan (5 feet 4 inches) and myself (5 feet 5 inches) were in front of our hall. At one time, as Yasutaka Okayama was passing by, I requested him to pose for a photo. He obliged me immediately. Later, I came to know that he played in the basketball teams of several other universities in the USA.
After these many years, I wonder where Yasutaka Okayama, Joe Mutebi and Koh Kok Yan are now.
(L-R) Billionaires Warren Buffett and Bill Gates Photo courtesy: www.news.com.au/
A recent exemplary decision by a number of American billionaires sounds the sweetest to the ears of the poor.
Microsoft founder Bill Gates (worth US $ 53 billion), investor and industrialist Warren Buffett ($47 billion), Media owner and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg ($18 billion), CNN founder Ted Turner ($1.8 billion) and 40 other US billionaires pledged to donate half of their fortunes to the cause of the poor, reports the National Post. Their causes vary from art to HIV programmes to brain research.
Bill Gates and Warren Buffet recently gave the "Giving Pledge" challenge to about 80 American billionaires listed in the Forbes list. Forty of them made a pledge for causes of the poor.
This is a good effort in bringing billionaires into a common fold of givers for the cause of the poor.
The Ramadan moon as seen on the second evening in Toronto Photo (August 12, 2010) by Mary D'Costa
For the Muslims of Canada, the holy month of Ramadan(also called Ramzan) started yesterday. In this ninth month of the Islamic calendar, Muslims, all over the world including Canada, live a sacrificial life by full-day fasting, praying and giving alms to the poor. Fasting from food, except liquids, is practised from sunrise to sunset. Fasting is broken by eating iftar communally (in a group). The intention is to strive for greater holiness and purity of heart and be closer to God spiritually.
To know more on the Ramadan in Bangladesh and Canada, you may visit the following:
If you want to smoke pot or weed (cannabis, marijuana, ganja, bhang, charas or hashish, or whatever name they come in) unfettered, join the Church of the Universe. That's what two members of this Church are trying to say by challenging the Canadian government over their religious rights granted in the Charter of Rights.
The 24-Hours reports, in 2006, two pot smokers -- Peter Styrsky (53) and Shahrooz Kharaghani (31), both minister-members of the Beaches Mission of God-Assembly under the Church of the Universe in Toronto -- were charged for selling marijuana to two undercover policemen. Through their lawyer Paul Lewin, they are asking the court to grant them an exemption from Canada's existing marijuana laws because their religious rights are granted in the Canadian Charter of Rights. They claim that the present marijuana laws infringe upon their religious rights of freely able to buy, sell and smoke pots which is part of their religion. According to their claim, this Church has 2,000 members. Two German Shepherd dogs also have memberships in this Church.
Mr. Lewin told the court, "They [his two clients] do find God through cannabis. Canada has a long history of religious tolerance." He also listed the Church's good works, among whom are holding of Sunday services (worship) and donating hemp (fibre derived from cannabis plants) clothes and food to needy people.
These accused claim that the weed is the holy sacrament of this Church and it is the "tree of life." The weed also allows its members to effectively connect to God. Members of this Church call each other "Brother."
Prosecuting government lawyers -- Nicholas Devlin and Donna Polgar -- in their arguments said that the pot smokers' claim of being a being a religion is not a religion, their Church in not a Church. These two lawyers wrote in their court submission: " It cheapens and demeans freedom of religion to extend the right, enshrined to shield those who have suffered many of the most vicious acts of intolerance and oppression throughout history, to lifestyle choices, when even (they) don't take seriously," reports the Toronto Sun. They also questioned this Church's theology and worship practices.
The government lawyers described Mr. Styrsky, a former Roman Catholic, as "an intelligent man who found a way to transform his affinity for marijuana into a booming business that could cure his financial woes and end his work-time tedium."
Mr. Devlin told the court that if those two pot-smokers are granted Charter Rights, "the very next day anyone could light up a marijuana cigarette on the courthouse steps and say it's for religious use." He also reminded the court that if their rights of free pot use are granted, this will prompt many others to found similar so-called churches.
Still the hearing in the court is going on.
Pot Smoking Linked to Religion
In the history we can see use of drugs in different religions. For centuries, cannabis sativa (also called, hemp, ganja or bhang) is being used as a narcotic in India. Only government-approved shops can sell bhang. These drugs are used in the worship of Lord Shiva. That's why one can see many Hindu sadhus (ascetics or holy men) using these smokes in their akharas (dens). In the name of Christian religion, some people are using pots, too.
Risks from Pot Smoking
Experts say that heavy pot smoking makes people less likely to succeed in academic studies and different professions. Smokers also face heightened health risks like respiratory diseases and cognitive impairment.
In spite of all this, marijuana use is on the increase among younger Canadians. An increasing number of people are out there growing marijuana illegally in their own home basements and other properties. It's a big business now.
During my childhood in Rangamatia Village in Gazipur District, Bangladesh, I used to see a mongoose come to our family bamboo grove adjacent to our homestead at certain time of the year. I was told that the mongoose was in search of snake eggs which are a delicacy for it. There were different types of snakes, most of them non-poisonous, in our neighborhood.
One day, I witnessed a fight between the mongoose and a snake. I was so frightened by it that I ran away from the war zone. I do not know the result of the fight, but that scene was indelibly marked in my mind.
Later in life, the mongoose and snake, unconsciously, became part of my noodles. You may view them below.
The two-week Caribana festival came to an end yesterday with several kilometre long street parade on the Lakeshore Boulevard in Toronto. More than a million spectators witnessed the event from both sides of the road. Spectacularly colourful human-driven floats, Caribbean festival costumes and music and dance were the highlights of the parade. Spectators also could taste Caribbean delicacies from numerous roadside vendors.
Caribana -- a festival of Caribbean culture and tradition -- is the north America's largest cultural show held every year in Toronto since 1967. Initially, immigrants from the Caribbean islands of Trinidad and Tobago, organized this festival in a limited way. Later immigrants from other islands also joined them. Now it is an institution in itself drawing thousands of tourists from all over the world. Toronto businesses earn millions of dollars during this festival period.
Colourfully costumed dancers, called Mas players, dance in tune with different Caribbean music blared from powerful speakers placed onto large trucks. Dancers' costumes imitate the exotic colours of plumes of birds found in the tropical climates.
Those, from different cultures, initially get a kind of shock when they view the scantily-clad dancers because in their own cultures back home such public display would be considered quite sensual and sensitive. Canada is a country that encourages and supports multiculturalism. Different cultures and languages are allowed to flourish here. Canada truly believes in the unity in diversity.
Several hundred years ago, black slaves from different African countries were brought to the islands of the Caribbean Sea, situated in the south-east of the USA and north-west of the South American continent. Since the slaves came from hot-climate countries of Africa to the warm-climate islands of the Caribbean Sea, their costumes also have the minimal appendages. As such, the cultural expressions have also developed in such a way that they consider such clothing as purely non-sensual and normal.
Now let us view some photos of the Caribana parade.