Archive for March, 2010

Nightmare

‘Ian, this is the last time I’m going to warn you. You have not been picking up my calls nor replying my messages!’

‘No, no, we were busy with a camp, that’s why I didn’t call you sooner.’

‘Excuses. As the representative for your organization, it is your responsibility to show up for meetings.’

‘You are just forcing me to attend! We are already being represented by our superior! We need not show up.’

‘To hell with her! You cannot always follow what your superiors ask you to do.’

‘I see. So that’s what it’s  really all about.’

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Vexilla Regis Prodeunt

Once again, we had our annual Acies at the Church of St Peter & St Paul. As part of the procession into the church, all the praesidia and curiae had a representative to carry their vexillium during the procession. And as I carried the flag of our Junior Curia, the hymn for Passiontide came to my mind.

Vexilla Regis prodeunt;
fulget Crucis mysterium,
quo carne carnis conditor
suspensus est patibulo.

Abroad the regal banners fly,
now shines the Cross’s mystery:
upon it Life did death endure,
and yet by death did life procure.

You may listen to this hymn on Youtube here. No, we did not sing this hymn, although I wish we did. Incidentally it was also Palm Sunday, which we know as the beginning of Holy Week.

“Now shines the Cross’s mystery.” Together with Christ we are taking a slow walk to Jerusalem. Indeed this week we are all walking towards the Cross. From a triumphant entry on a colt into the city, to the Last Supper, to the agony in the garden, to a trudging walk towards Calvary. Towards death. This week we carry our Cross with Jesus.

At many times, the duty of being an office holder is very tiring. It feels as one is carrying a very heavy cross. One has to attend many meetings. One has to do much planning. One has to deal with pleasant and unpleasant people. Don’t forget that you have your own duties that your state of life commands.

You should never forget that you are first and foremost a child of God. Your first duty is to save your own soul. Our Lord has said, what good does it do if a man gains the whole world but loses his soul? The question in our context, as well as for all those who serve in the ministry or apostolate is, what good does it do if we gain the souls of others but we lose ours?

Burnout is a real danger. One can become cynical if not careful. We may even feel despair at times. We hurt others, and we too are hurt. Very often whether we question if all our work and efforts are in vain. We are in a very vulnerable state. How are we to help others if we cannot help ourselves?

In the Soul of the Apostolate, it recommends that we must develop a strong interior life. Not only will it serve as a protection to our soul, it will also enhance our efforts and undertakings. We must depend on God’s supernatural graces, which supports our human strength. Modern worldly feel good psychology will not suffice. Motivational posters will not suffice. The chain emails we often receive from well intentioned friends, these only offer a worldly hope. No, we must hope in God who is Eternal. Grace will sustain us.

But no doubt even if we are very holy, we still have to suffer. Let us follow Our Lord, who did not reject the Cross, but embraced it.  Sweetest Wood, sweetest Nails, sweetest weight is hung on Thee. Let us offer up our sufferings as mortification to the Crucified Christ. In the midst of my frustrations, a friend of mine advised recently, ‘Our office should not be the Cross. The Cross should our office.’

Yet not all is without hope. I see great potential in these young Legionaries. Many of them are hungry for the Word of God. They thirst for the truth. They have many failings, but they always try to be better people. They have the potential to be good Catholics. Some of them will become priests or religious.

But the turnover rate of our members is disturbing. Every praesidium has problems. Day and night I ponder on how to make things better. I cannot see any other way but to go back to basics. Indeed this is the theme set by Concilium.

When the doctrinal foundation of the Legion is obscured the Legion becomes weakened and vulnerable. We need to keep hammering at our call to complete union with Mary in order to be completely open to the Holy Spirit. Then the Legion becomes a school of holiness and the apostolate because that is how Jesus comes into our own lives and the life of the world.

We shall attempt to re-discover our foundation, or we will all fall down. And we must always, pray, pray, pray! O Lord make haste to help us.

Blessed are the Poor?

We often have our Legion events or camps at a certain parish in the East. The parish serves many, which includes the surrounding private estate, relatively old HDB flats, with the notorious red light district close by.

On many occasions we have encountered vagrants, vagabonds, and panhandlers begging for food. Last week I encountered the same thing. One fellow was so persistent that he went from room to room inside the church building to beg.

If I was parish priest here, I’d be terrified. Imagine people coming to your rectory asking you for food everyday. If you feed them, you are helping them. If you refuse them, you risk losing a chance for outreach. I once saw a priest giving ten dollars to one such fellow. Another one called to refer one to a welfare agency. Another one took the man to the coffee shop to eat. To be honest, priests are lucky when people only see their good side.

We have the human tendency to dismiss these people as good-for-nothings or madmen that normal people should all avoid. But they are still human beings who require dignity. Even the scum of the earth would like to have some dignity whether they admit it or not.

How do we serve and help those who do not wish to be helped or are obviously taking advantage of the kindness of others? How do we show dignity to people who do not seem like they deserve it?

We must recognize our limits. We cannot help everybody. As a rule of thumb, we should not give money, lest they indulge in evil pursuits such as drinking or gambling.

Pastors must consider one fact about these people: If their bodies are engaged in disorder, their spiritual evils must be worse.

If Mother Church teaches us to be good and loving, how do we learn to love such unlovely people? For Our Lord says, ‘Whatever you do to the least of your brothers you do unto me.’

Midway through Long Lent

Forty days in the desert with Our Lord.

The dryness is starting to get to me. The absence of a day job does this to me. The job hunt is fruitless so far. I had two job interviews this year, but no luck yet. So I reviewed my resume and decided to rewrite it. And continue applying for more jobs.

It is a great opportunity to put things in order. I am not doing well with my spiritual life either. Recently I have acquired The Soul of the Apostolate by Jean-Baptiste Chautard. This is an awesome book which teaches that those with a good interior life will be fruitful in evangelization.

One chapter entitled Action Made Fruitful attempts to categorize different kinds of souls.

Starting with the most sinful we have:

1) Hardened in Sin
2) Surface Christianity
3) Mediocre Piety
4) Intermittent Piety
5) Sustained Piety
6) Fervor
7) Relative Perfection
8 ) Heroic Perfection
9) Complete Sanctity, which is the most saintly state.

I seem to be alternating between 3 and 4, barely touching 5. I won’t type the descriptions of each state, they are quite long. Cultivating the interior life is so difficult.

There is a Legion Officers Training Camp next weekend. I hope it will be fruitful in passing on the values for these prospective leaders. Past generations have come and gone. When will there be a generation who will stay faithfully?

I’ve heard it so often: A vocation without sacrifice is not a vocation. Even a lay apostle must make sacrifices. How can I inculcate this spirit in my legionaries?

I am looking forward to the end of Lent. The end of Lent also coincides with the end of the current module I am taking.

Statistics is madness. I am not enjoying this module, though I’m forcing myself to. Why? I might need to use this in whatever occupation I take up one day. For example, biostatistics or public health. After not doing very well for the first test, I think it’s time to take it more seriously.

I need to find an alternative strategy to studying for tests and exams. I got a distinction for the first module Human Biology & Disease, and I think I’ll be able to scrape through Biological Organic Chemistry. I enjoy isolating myself in my room to study for hours, but when I get full time work I won’t have this luxury.

I hope all this is not in vain.


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Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, have mercy on us

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us

Our Lady of Mount Carmel, pray for us

Stella Matutina, ora pro nobis

Our Lady of Perpetual Succor, pray for us

St Michael the Archangel, pray for us

St Jude, pray for us

St Benedict, pray for us

St Dominic, pray for us

St Anthony, pray for us