‘Wow’ is for Readers ‘Now’

17 Feb

Peter and his ‘road’ to Writing

Peter has always had this flair for what is real and for whatever is relevant for human living. Though steeped in learning in different disciplines, ranging from psychology and sociology to philosophy and theology, he remains a respected analyst when it comes to opinions and advice on a variety of issues that people deal with today. In fact, he has been (and still is) a popular counselor with a long wait-list of clients who are always welcome to his simple yet friendly psychotherapist’s corner, in Kolkata. It is here, at the insistence of some of his clients and friends, that he nurtured the idea of doing a ‘Wow’ book for the benefit of anyone interested in another opinion.

His love for people and his natural friendliness developed into a desire to serve others in the ministry from a very young age. While studying at a Don Bosco School, in Kolkata, he expressed a desire to become a priest. He was not really given information or advice about different religious orders before he and three other mates were sent to Bandel, almost by default, to begin their lengthy training for the priesthood as it was the seminary run by the Don Bosco Order (the Salesians -SDB). He went on from there to complete the approximately 10-year successful run of training that took him through studies in pedagogy, philosophy, theology, a BA degree and some years of pastoral experience known as ‘practical training’.

He was fortunate to have been able to develop this interest in ‘human sciences’ later as a priest, while pursuing studies in Italy first and then in the USA where he completed his Masters and his Doctorate in Clinical Psychology and Counseling. His first major assignment then followed when he was, for 20 years, Director of the National Vocation Service Center (NVSC), in Pune, India. Here he was able to use his acquired knowledge and his personal skills to offer specialized guidance to lay people, religious (women and men), and priests. Earlier in the 80s, previous to his long spell in Pune, he also gathered valuable ‘human’ experience as Principal of a degree college that served as a center for Salesian trainees, and later as Headmaster of a large secondary school in Kolkata, where incidentally he had begun his schooling.

Peter and his ‘Wow’ book

It was, however, his talks at a teenage group Mass, more recently (2012 to 2014), where this routine weekly homily attracted the attention also of some of the adults attending the liturgy. This book idea matured when he found that the number of regular attendees increased and developed into a group of eager ‘listeners’. They kept insisting that there was perhaps a little gold mine of thought in the talks that could perhaps provide a ‘spiritual treasure-house’ they could resort to when no human advisor was available.

The book, in fact, is as much a comment on Gospel texts as it is on Gospel and human values. The lucid style of the writing, incorporating the jargon of the day, very nearly confronting the traditional processes of thought and expression, makes the book readable and interesting. The brevity in the development of each Gospel text is a plus point for today’s Reader who is literally rushing through a time-bound modern world.

Once, when a group of college students chanced to visit him and glance through some of the talk-manuscripts, they were impressed at the down-to-earth style of the language and the relevance of the guidance offered. They were quick to suggest that these poignant thoughts, if put into a book, would be invaluable as a guide or a reference as there wasn’t anything like it in the market. That made Peter realize that these talks, in book form, might serve as pointers to teenagers, young adults and indeed perhaps to leaders, teachers and preachers when faced with issues that people have to deal with on a daily basis. The result was his book, ‘Wow Jesus’, published in 2014.

Peter and the relevance of ‘Wow Jesus’

Several people who now hold positions of authority or who have been guided to change or improve their lives can testify to the influence that Peter Lourdes has made in their lives. He still attends conferences and seminars to keep up with new trends in thought, belief and practice. One of his great qualities is that he is able to adapt and to use old and traditional material for a clientele that constantly offers new and complex situations. He has kept up with social and technological progress as well and is on email and on the internet even though he should really wind down in the Seniors’ club.

What however is really amazing is that Peter Lourdes, in spite of all the sophisticated training he’s been through and all the important positions he’s held still has his feet firmly on the ground. He is close to his family (now spread all over the world, though mainly in India and Australia) and enjoys a birthday party as much as a religious symposium. He can in fact talk with ease as much to a professional or a retiree as to an amateur or a teenager. This ability together with his desire to keep himself fresh, alive and relevant has prompted him to put into print this series of regular talks he has been giving to a group of high school teens in Kolkata, incidentally the very city he grew up in as a teenager.

His experience and his background make his book all the more relevant to ‘Readers and Listeners’ who should be able to find gems of wisdom and comfort in its pages. In fact, ‘Wow Jesus’ is really a handbook and a manual for the teenager as well as for the average preacher, teacher, mentor or animator. People need a reference point and leaders and trainers often look for fresh ideas and stimulating topics especially when they have to address youth gatherings, social occasions or discussion groups. The blurb below, in Peter’s own words, best sums up what the book offers.

 

Peter’s book: in his own words

Wow Jesus!” may impress you as just another book of homilies. That impression could be very deceptive unless you turn the pages. Turning the pages of the book you might discover that the form and language of the homilies are so different from the “standard model” that one Editor changed their name from homilies to reflections. The Biblical themes flit like a butterfly through the narrative with flashbacks and close-ups. The language may be called non-formal, non-clerical and even non-ecclesiastical, especially because secular and sacred themes keep crisscrossing. Jesus’ words are sometimes translated into jargon or teen-language. While keeping close to the beliefs and values of the original listeners of these homilies, the emphasis is on dysfunctional behavior rather than on “technical” sins.

Wow Jesus!” seems to be fashioned on nineteenth century advice given by a seasoned pastor to a seminarian breaking into the ministry of preaching:  Give up your high-sounding language and stick to dialect whenever possible and when your use (local language), speak the language of the people. Instead of speculations, use examples, analogies, and simple practical illustrations. Bear in mind always that the common

people understand hardly anything you have to say because the truths of faith are never sufficiently explained to them (Pastor of Alfiano to young Saint John Bosco).

 

  “Wow Jesus!” seems to have followed advice given by Pope John Paul II to priests:  Come out of the sacristy!

 

Peter: the Counselor and Writer

‘Wow’ is not the first and only published work of Peter Lourdes.  His thesis ‘Indian Students in Italy’ (1967) was published by the Salesian University of Rome (UPS). In published form, it became a front-runner as a valued ‘Asian’ opinion on the topic for a western audience.

His next publication on homilies and prayers, The Hem of His Garment (1996), was a selection from the daily preaching he did to a community of American Nuns whose chaplain he was for nearly five years, in Chicago.

At NVSC in Pune, he directed a research on the personality of priests, nuns and seminarians, The Human Face of Clergy (1991). This publication too was a ground-breaker in many ways as it recorded not merely his work over 20 years (1970-1990) in programs at NVSC for the psycho-spiritual development of clergy and religious but it also served as a template in many ways for those involved in the training of priests, religious and lay-animators in India.

Peter the Priest: an appreciation

‘Peter Lourdes for me is one of the friendliest of priests I have known. He puts you at ease, able to talk about anything from the most ordinary things of life (like eating takeaways, or wearing jeans at functions) to the most sublime (like the ethics of euthanasia or the role of Providence in our lives), or perhaps to a current social-religious issue (like can priests marry today or can nuns become priests). I was privileged to have been his student and to have benefited from his guidance over the years. I’m so glad he’s put out many of his thoughts and insights into his book. I feel it is a ‘must buy’ not just for preachers but also for leaders in almost any field of work.’ [A Priest (ex-student) in Australia].

‘I can never forget the influence that Peter Lourdes has had in my life. His informal yet informed discussions helped me to become more organized in life. In some ways he has got me to where I am today. Seeing his book now is such a pleasure. I hope many people will get a copy for their homes and libraries.’ [A lay Pastor (ex-student) in Canada]

‘Peter Lourdes can comment on almost anything happening around, be it academic, social, religious or spiritual. Yet one has to be attentive to what he says, because every comment could be as wise as it is cryptic, as real as it is subtle. I was glad to have been his student many eons ago. His words inspire, and I’m sure the book will be a legacy that will continue to inspire leaders, teachers and preachers.’ [A lay Pastor in Scotland]

‘It’s been a joy to have known Peter Lourdes. I was fortunate to have worked with him on some of his projects and then have kept in touch with him. His pastoral approach to issues and his realism and dealing with clients places him in a class above the rest. I hope his book will go round ‘pastoral’ circles as it is truly a gem.’ [A Nun in India]

[by T.D’Souza – for TRODZA blog- 170215]

[ Wow Jesus’ published by the Fathers of Saint Paul, India: www.stpaulsbyb.com  ]

[Peter’s email is:  pluds@gmail.com ]

 

Notes:

-Hem of His Garment: published by Nitika Don Bosco, Kolkata: 1996.

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One Response to “‘Wow’ is for Readers ‘Now’”

  1. tastom February 18, 2015 at 2:55 am #

    Hi Trophy….very appropriate …..I wish everyone in the ministry would buy WOW Jesus and follow the lead given by Fr.Peter. God bless him for sharing his thoughts and feelings with us and revealing the HUMANNESS of the Catholic Church …….. Love God and Love everyone without any prejudice….Namaste….Tommy:-)
    1.50pm…18.2.2015

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