The encourager par excellence father Ernest Poruthota turns 80 today

Father Raymond Ernest Alexander Poruthota

by Prof. Anton Meemana

(August 30, Colombo, Sri Lanka Guardian) The meaning of life is in meeting and learning from those we meet. All kinds of people cross one's path in one's life time. While small people make other people small, great people, magnanimous people, make others truly great and magnanimous. When we bring the best out of other people, we also bring the best out of ourselves. Whatever we withhold from others, we also withhold it from ourselves. Whatever we truly give, we also receive thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold. In the final analysis, giving and receiving become the same process. One's anonymity in helping others is the real magnanimity.

Father Raymond Ernest Alexander Poruthota who celebrates his 80th birthday today , August 30th (he was born on 30, August,1931 ), has been known to me since 1974. During his tenure as our parish priest , I was an altar boy at Saint Sebastian's church in Kalamulla, Kalutara. He showed us boys that we were capable of achieving more than we ever think of. Ambitions are never meant for one's personal glory, but must always be directed towards greater and greater divine glory. Coming to know him and learning from him was a turning point in my life and friendship with him has tremendously contributed to my personal synthesis. True friendship is friendship that educates. Being with him is like undergoing a training at a university.

As our parish priest he was positively demanding, orderly, methodical, proverbially punctual, straightforward, unassuming, honest, hard working, multi tasking and brilliantly focused . He means what he says. He is bold, swift, audacious, tough and quick-witted in a very constructive manner. What you see in him is what you get. What is deeply within him radiates without. He is a man of integrity, originality and authenticity.

It was Father Poruthota who gave me my very first character certificate when I got a scholarship to Royal College in Colombo in 1977. I was 10 years old then and I still vividly remember that moment when I went to see him with my grandmother.

If I may not embarrass him greatly, his was the golden era of our parish. Shall I say that Kalamulla Parish is not the same again once it has been poruthotanised. We, who had known him and worked with him, all had been irrevocably and irresistibly poruthotanised in one way or another. Although some people "welcomed" him with the graffiti " Viplawakarayawa Apata Epa ", ("We do not need the revolutionary") when he first came to our parish.

I am sure that they have reversed their judgment about him by now. His heart is larger than his body and to the best of my knowledge he bears no grudges towards anyone. He has a clean heart, a heart that does not envy other people's achievements and talents. He must have a very healthy image of himself. Emotionally healthy people do not envy others. It takes a lot humility to rejoice in and appreciate other people's achievements. There is no malice in his heart and that I know it in my heart of hearts.

When I was a student, I used to go to Katukurunda Railway station to catch the 5.00a.m. train to Colombo and then I could see the light from his office room and hear him typing busily. I had observed it again and again every morning for 5 years (1977- 1981). Fidelity is the stability of one's heart, firmness of one's resolutions and the strength of one's faith. Routine is never boring if it is done out of service. Routine is ever exciting if done out of compassion. There is edification in his commitment to his routine of service. He could perform his routine of duties without ever complaining or fussing over them. His commitment to his priesthood and priestly duties make me truly tremble. Disciplined life is always life giving.

I have learnt more from "Daham Pasala", parish boys' scout group, the picnics and seminars he used to organize than from any other thing. They were much more educational than any formal schooling. Those were the best years of my life and I will take the memory of them to my grave.

I still keep a postcard he sent to me when I was studying in the Philippines and it runs like this, " Do not look back till you reach the very top " . A great part of his apostolate has been one of pushing people, encouraging people for greater achievements and ambitions. Father Poruthota is razor sharp in spotting, recognizing and sensing people's potential, specially young people's rare abilities. These are not popular virtues nowadays.

As he is a great risk taker, his usual nature is also to invite others to do the same. The one who takes no risks does not mature sufficiently. Real spiritual growth is in risk -taking. The more risks we take, the greater our spiritual growth as human beings. A heart that encourages is a magnanimous heart, a heart that truly appreciates is a pure heart, a generous heart, a light heart. Only such people can enter the kingdom of God. Blessed are they who know how to appreciate. We live as good as we appreciate and encourage. To appreciate people is to give glory to their Maker and Creator. Living a spiritual life is its own reward. There is no need to ask for anything else from God.

Encouragement is the highest form of appreciation. In what sense is this true? The one who encourages appreciates and admires in advance. Only a courageous person can become an encourager. The courage he showed in many critical situations has proved this point abundantly.

When I returned to Sri Lanka recently after 20 years of absence he was one of the few persons to phone me first. That simply shows the quality of his character.

A man's character is in his conduct. Conduct reveals one's character and character guides one's conduct.

This nation is perishing without people like Father Ernest Poruthota. This nation cannot prosper unless we have people like him. This Father Poruthota., this magnanimous disciple of Christ, this larger than life priest, this old lion, this swift eagle, this seasoned warrior, this battle-scarred Knight, this great risk-taker, this excellent Catholic, this fine man, this brave soul has a very rare character trait and our leaders can learn much from him. This nation really has no future unless we learn to appreciate an appreciator like Father Poruthota. The cultured and cultivated habit of encouraging and appreciating others can save a whole civilization, an entire nation. The one who helps others to become successful must truly have a saintly soul, a saintly disposition. True leadership stems from one's own innermost integrity. To be authoritative without ever becoming authoritarian is the greatest challenge for every good leader today.

Amongst other things, Father Poruthota is also a man of profound faith. A true Catholic is someone who has a universal vision, a panoramic view about life, human potential and inter human relationships. A Catholic tries to protect, culture and cherish whatever is beautiful, life-giving, true, good and original in others. A Catholic is always a blessing to humanity, never a burden. A Catholic sees beyond the surface of things and sharply penetrates into the deepest core of things. A Catholic has a comprehensive grasp of complete reality.

It is wonderful to have been born into this world and it is even more wonderful to have known him and learn from him. One should never take it for granted.

May Father Poruthota continue to become a blessing to all Sri Lankans. May he continue to inspire and influence more and more people and in return may more and more people continue to appreciate this Appreciator Par Excellence. May God continue to bless him more and more. May this nation be blessed with more and more people like Father Poruthota.

Ad Multos Annos Padre.

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