Archive for the 'Advice' Category

Office of Readings for Friday 8 June 2007

Reading: Job 40:1 – 42:6

The Lord turned to Job, and he said:
Is Shaddai’s opponent willing to give in?
Has God’s critic thought up an answer?

Job replied to the Lord:
My words have been frivolous: what can I reply?
I had better lay my finger on my lips.
I have spoken once… I will not speak again;
more than once… I will add nothing.

The Lord gave Job his answer from the heart of the tempest. He said:
Brace yourself like a fighter,
now it is my turn to ask questions and yours to inform me.
Do you really want to reverse my judgement,
and put me in the wrong to put yourself in the right?
Has your arm the strength of God’s,
can your voice thunder as loud?
If so, assume your dignity, your state,
robe yourself in majesty and splendour.
Let the spate of your anger flow free;
humiliate the haughty at a glance!
Cast one look at the proud and bring them low,
strike down the wicked where they stand.
Bury the lot of them in the ground,
shut them, silent-faced, in the dungeon.
I myself will be the first to acknowledge
that your own right hand can assure your triumph.

This was the answer Job gave to the Lord:
I know that you are all-powerful:
what you conceive, you can perform.
I am the man who obscured your designs
with my empty-headed words.
I have been holding forth on matters I cannot understand,
on marvels beyond me and my knowledge.
Listen, I have more to say,
now it is my turn to ask questions and yours to inform me.
I knew you then only by hearsay;
but now, having seen you with my own eyes,
I retract all I have said,
and in dust and ashes I repent.

A treatise of Bishop Baldwin of Canterbury
The Lord sees our thoughts and the intentions of our hearts

The Lord knows the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. Without a doubt, every one of them is known to him, while we know only those which he lets us read by the grace of discernment. The spirit of man does not know all that is in man, nor all of the thoughts which he has, willingly or unwillingly. Man does not always perceive his thoughts as they really are. Having clouded vision, he does not discern them clearly with his mind’s eye.

Often under the guise of devotion a suggestion occurs to our mind – coming from our own thoughts or from another person or from the tempter – and in God’s eyes we do not deserve any reward for our virtue. For there are certain imitations of true virtues as also of vices which play tricks with the heart and bedazzle the mind’s vision. As a result, the appearance of goodness often seems to be in something which is evil, and equally the appearance of evil seems to be in something good. This is part of our wretchedness and ignorance, causing us anguish and anxiety.

It has been written: There are paths which seem to man to be right, but which in the end lead him to hell. To avoid this peril, Saint John gives us these words of advice: Test the spirits to see if they are from God. Now no one can test the spirits to see if they are from God unless God has given him discernment of spirits to enable him to investigate spiritual thoughts, inclinations and intentions with honest and true judgement. Discernment is the mother of all the virtues; everyone needs it either to guide the lives of others or to direct and reform his own life.

In the sphere of action, a right thought is one ruled by the will of God, and intentions are holy when directed single-mindedly toward him. In a word, we could see clearly through any action of ours, or into our entire lives, if we had a simple eye. A simple eye is an eye, and it is simple. This means that we see by right thinking what is to be done, and by our good intention we carry it out with simple honesty, because deceitful action is wrong. Right thinking does not permit mistakes; a good intention rules out pretence. This then is true discernment, a combination of right thinking and good intention.

Therefore, we must do all our actions in the light of discernment as if in God and in his presence.

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Anno 2007: Easter Triduum, Easter Octave, Eastertide

A happy and blessed Easter to all of you!! I shall recount my experiences during the past weeks.

Holy Wednesday, 4 April 2007

I finally found a job at an insurance company as a temp, thanks to Uncle James’ recommendation. I’m supposed to do data entry, except that I don’t have access to a computer. In the meantime, they let me sort out files and copy figures manually. I work nine hours a day and the pay is little. Well, beats lazing at home and not drawing any income. The only thing that sucks is that there is so little work for me to do. I cannot do my work too quickly, or else I will have nothing to do, and I may be mistaken for a slacker. Yet, I cannot take too long, or the end result will be the same. Argh, so this is office life.

Well the people at the office are pretty nice, for now.

I went to Constantine’s church at night to take a look at their Holy Week celebrations. He is Eastern Orthodox. In the Eastern churches, Wednesday of the Holy Week is called Great and Holy Wednesday. That night they had Extreme Unction. The service lasted for about an hour, standing throughout. And they had like six or seven epistle readings, and the same number of gospels. There was also the singing of several prokeimena (singular Prokeimenon, Greek Προκειμενον). That is similar to the responsory we recite during the Office.

Yes, they are quite hardcore, even in my own book. But it was an eye-opener. I didn’t go up for the Unction. I’m not allowed to, by our law or their law. An interesting experience, nonetheless.

Maundy Thursday, 5 April 2007

I went to work as usual but I left early at three pm. The Seminary invited us aspirants to attend their liturgy. Joshua and I went down at four thirty. Argh, I took the bus in but stopped at the wrong stop twice. But never mind that. There were 7 of us attending the Mass of the Lord’s Supper with some seminarians and the Carmelite nuns. The nuns are temporarily staying at Punggol until their monastery is rebuilt by the end of the year. It was the first time I’ve actually met Carmelite nuns. I think it will be my last time. You won’t get to see them once they go back to their monastery.

After Mass, we had a procession of the Blessed Sacrament to the Chapel of Repose. We had a slow march from the seminary chapel to the other end of the campus. We sang Pange Lingua Gloriosi, in English obviously.

Sing my tongue, the Savior’s glory,
of His flesh the mystery sing;
of the Blood, all price exceeding,
shed by our immortal King,
destined, for the world’s redemption,
from a noble womb to spring.

We had dinner in the refectory with the seminarians.

Good Friday, 6 April 2007

Oh joy. I didn’t have to go to work today. But I had to get up early to go out with Joshua. We were going to Marine Parade in his parents’ car. He was supposed to get his hair cut but being wishy washy he decided not to. Uncle James went for it anyway. So we took a bus down to Town, where we roamed the streets. We headed to Funan, as he wanted to get a rubber casing for his iPod.

Once again we made our way down to Punggol. We took a cab in, since we missed the bus and were running late. Today there were only three of us aspirants.

Mass of the Pre-sanctified was at three pm. It ended at four pm and we had two hours to kill until Stations of the Cross at six thirty pm.

I have a beef with the liturgy. Argh, why didn’t they sing the Improperia!? How can we have a Good Friday liturgy without the Reproaches?!

We relaxed in the students’ lounge with some of the seminarians. It was good to talk to them again, after so long. Brother Terence and Jovita were enlightening, as always. I learnt a few things that day. Firsty, dating can be considered as part of the discernment process. Yet, one should not go with the mindset of ‘Ok, I will use this for testing purposes.’ It will be a sucky feeling.

Secondly, the Devil comes in the guise of an angel of light. I think Jovita told us this one. I found the actual quote.

The fourth: It is proper to the evil Angel, who forms himself under the appearance of an angel of light, to enter with the devout soul and go out with himself: that is to say, to bring good and holy thoughts, conformable to such just soul, and then little by little he aims at coming out drawing the soul to his covert deceits and perverse intentions.

RULES FOR THE SAME EFFECT WITH GREATER DISCERNMENT OF SPIRITS, Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius of Loyola

Ignatian Spirituality, I should look into that one day. But it makes so much sense now. Now I know why I’ve been so confused these few years.

We had the Stations of the Cross, with the nuns and the seminarians. We took turns to carry a crucifix from one Station to another, and to read off the booklet. Dinner was in the refectory. I had porridge with achar, salted eggs and ikan bilis.

(Oh, Eastern fasting is stricter than ours. While we merely abstain from meat, they abstain from milk and eggs too. Gee.)

Holy Saturday, 7 April 2007

I went for Legion meeting in the morning, followed by this talk on the Theology of the Body by the Apostolate for Catholic Truth. It was very interesting. I shall write about this soon.

I went back to the Seminary in the evening for their Easter Vigil. It was celebrated by Monsignor Fr Eugene Vaz. It was really short! We only had three out of seven Old Testament readings, and there were no baptisms. It started at eight and I reached home at ten, right on the dot.

That was the fastest Easter Vigil I have ever attended in my whole life!

Easter Sunday, 8 April 2007

I attended Curia in the afternoon. We had a meeting for the recruitment camp after that.

I had dinner with Moses and girlfriend, his friend and girlfriend, and Anselm. It was extremely, extremely awkward.

Moses: Sorry to put you up with us couples.

Me: It’s fine. Jesus is the light of the world. I’m just the lamp post of this world.

So much for that. We had a lot of crabs, and a lot of dirty jokes from the boys. Still, I was bored as hell. I focused more on eating than on talking to anyone.

Every trip to Marina South for the past three years has been angsty and painful. I won’t be going back there for a long time.

Easter Thursday, 12 April 2007

I attended a talk on Christian Friendship by Professor Donna Orsuto from the Pontifical Gregorian University. She is also Director of the Lay Centre in Rome. It was held at Cana Catholic Centre at Waterloo Street. I went for the talk with Joshua. It was quite interesting. It spoke of the concept that friendship also involves God, the third party. We had a discussion in small groups on this topic.

Easter Friday, 13 April 2007

I went for Mass and Rosary crusade at St Joseph’s Church, Queen Street. It was the 13th day of the month, but I didn’t realise that there was a crusade until the end of the Mass. Well it was nice, very prim and proper. The priest was quite pleased to see lots of young people.

They gave out the roses from Mary’s statue after the crusade, first offering it to the young people. I was queuing up, but aunties were pushing me out of my way. Bah, whatever works. I took a pink one home.

Easter Saturday, 14 April 2007

I attended the Theology of the Body talk once more.

We had recruitment at Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace. It was terrible. We didn’t get any names at all. Better luck tomorrow.

Low Sunday, 15 April 2007

I was supposed to get up early to attend the Chinese Mass at Queen of Peace but then I decided to go back to sleep. Well recruitment at Queen of Peace was decent today. We had three people who were interested. Alleluia.

I had nothing to do until Vespers, so I attended the monthly Beautiful Sunday Esplanade concert by Mus’Art Wind Orchestra. Wow, the conductor was a lady. Quite impressive. It was an all right performance I guess. But I did hear a few mistakes here and there.

Mass was at St Peter and Paul’s. We had Vespers by the Schola Cantorum Sancti Gregori Magni. It was very good to attend their vespers after missing it for so many months. This time it was held in a main church, with incense and all. Marvellous! But it was weird having exposition of the Blessed Sacrament during Vespers, especially since we were all seated. It was good in any case. I managed to make acquaintance with Jeremy; one of the traddies I always see at vespers, and Jenson; who is s seminarian with the Fraternity of St Peter. I was in good company that night.

We had dinner at a Szechuan restaurant recommended by Edward. It was the first time I tried the Ma La Huo Guo. Good grief, it was a killer. Price was all right, about seventeen dollars, but the hot and spicy oil… It practically killed my tongue. But it’s quite cool. You cook your meat in the hot oil as it’s faster compared to the chicken soup. I had a small spoonful of the Ma La oil. It was unbearable. We had like, pitchers and pitchers of ice water. It was funny to see Edward make the orders in his Beijing accent. I think the PRC shop operators must have been amused.

Talking to Jenson was good. He gave me a lot of advice. He asked me to find a good Spiritual Director. ‘If you have to choose between an intelligent and a holy one, choose the intelligent one.’ He says an holy SD may have too high of a spirituality that you can ever hope to achieve, and this may discourage you. He also spoke about finding a good seminary with good liturgy, and good formation. Make sure they don’t teach weird stuff. The liturgy is especially important because in your busy life as a seminarian, it will be the only place to find solace and rest. If the liturgy is messed up, so will you be.

This does not bode well. Not good at all.

Tuesday, 17 April 2007

As a result from eating too much hot pot and possibly undercooked meat, I had bad shit today. Bleah.

Work was work. What interesting things happened today? Ah, the air conditioning failed. Everybody in the office was complaining.

Norman and Ernest came by to accompany me for lunch. Thanks guys.

I went to see Father Gerard. He was very helpful. Looks like I’ll be paying more visits to him from now on. He mentioned many useful things for aspirants. Let me list some of them out.

  • Make sure your spiritual life in order
  • Keeps journals daily

There were too many too list. Maybe I’ll save them for next time.

Ooh, he had a nice chasuble hanging on the rack. I asked him where he got it from. He said he got the middle portion from Rome, and had it sewn to large pieces of cloth at a wedding shop in Arab Street. Haha, a wedding shop of all places. Argh, I should have taken a picture of it.

Wednesday, 18 April 2007

I did overtime today, an extra hour than usual. I was asked to stay behind to finish someone else’s unfinished work. Argh, shit jobs.

But then I remembered what Father Gerard said yesterday. ‘Perform your works with love, even if they are the most menial.’ He related the example of St Faustina, who was the doorkeeper, cleaner and gardener of the convent. Yet Our Lord decided to reveal the mystery of Divine Mercy to her.

Very well, I shall try to do my work well even though it is menial and boring.

Saturday, 21 April 2007

I went for meeting as usual, the Theology of the Body talk as usual, recruitment as usual, but at a different place this time! Today we went to St Anne’s. It was terrible. We didn’t start on time, and the crowd wasn’t very enthusiastic. The boys were especially rowdy. Who am I kidding, this is Hougang after all, home of ah bengs. Before I am accused of being elitist, let me tell you now that I have lived in Hougang for a few years. And I have gangster blood, but that’s for another time. In any case we distributed the consent forms and brochures.

That was all for the day. I had a bad headache so I went home.

Third Sunday of Easter, 22 April 2007

I was supposed to go for adult Curia, but decided to skip it since the rest were not going. I went to church in the morning to see Aunty Cecilia. It was about the Confirmation camp in June. Joshua and I are supposed to help out. My NS letter has not arrived, so I’m not sure if I can commit or not. It was a good meeting anyway.

Hell, I was on the way to town when I was told that they weren’t going. I ended up spending my day in two libraries in town. It’s been such a long time since I’ve read good books. Maybe I will blog about them if I feel like it.

Attended Mass at St Josephs’ and went home.

Afterthoughts

Eastertide is going very well. Apart from the lack of money, at least I’m a little clearer about how to continue my discernment. The talks I’ve attended are also very useful, for the knowledge they give.

I shall put in my labour of love for my daily work and for the upcoming recruitment camp.

Hmm, I should start training up for NS. But I come home drained everyday. Sigh.

Pay day pay day! Come quick!

3 years of polytechnic education: a post mortem

My three years of polytechnic education has come to an end. Within a few weeks I will be receiving my Diploma in Molecular Biotechnology. Ah, this will be the last time I take classes or examinations for a long time.

The aim of this piece of writing is to give some advice for those who will be entering the polytechnic, or are considering. I would also like to share what I have learnt during my three years of polytechnic education. I hope it will be useful to you.

What have I learnt over the past three years? I have learnt many things; like how to study and how to make friends. On the dark side, I have also learnt how to cheat and how to maneuver and manipulate people. Indeed, entering the polytechnic will force you to open your eyes. If you remain naïve, you will die. You will be forced to learn quickly.

But don’t let me scare you too much. When you enter first year, the most important thing is to get to know your class better. Try to have some fun. Don’t get into a clique too quickly. It tends to limit your network. Plus the politicking can get very messy.

If you were to observe in the next six months, the cliques will change very rapidly. By eighth week you should see rivals already. A little rivalry is healthy, but don’t let it consume you. Learn to be polite no matter what. It really helps. I have been relatively

Maybe you haven’t been touching the textbooks in the last three or four months but it’s time to snap out of it. Learn to keep up with your assignments. Do not do last minute work. Let me offer you some academic advice: If you have been doing last minute work in secondary school; forget that habit now! You were able to mug three months before O levels (or our A level friends) to get a decent result. I applaud you. But you will not enjoy this luxury if you want to do well.

Every test and project you do will contribute to your Grade Point Average, GPA. The GPA is like your aggregate from O levels. In NYP, the maximum is 4 out of 4. To those of you who intend to enter the local university, you need to have a GPA of at least 3.5. There will be much competition, so you better work your ass off.

If you are able to cultivate good study habits in your first year, you shouldn’t have a problem with getting good grades in your first semester. The first semester is quite important. The first semester will cover basics. You will need to apply what you have learnt in subsequent modules. Learn to be consistent. In polytechnic, consistency is key. Don’t be like me. I mucked up my first semester terribly and now I’m paying for it.

Normally you will be spending most of your time in school with classmates. Still, you might want to expand your circle of friends outside of class. Learn to be sociable. Though CCA is no longer considered for admission into the local university, it is still a good place to meet new people. Try to take part in activities such as forums and community service. If you want to join a CCA, join in Year One.

Don’t join too many clubs, it can be very taxing. At one point of time I was in THREE clubs. It was insane and my grades suffered.

Even if you put in 100% effort, you may not be appreciated. I had a friend from CCA who was like that. No doubt he has a stellar CCA record, people were quite afraid of him because of his enthusiasm. One day we had this activity and all the participants stood us up. The rest of us were quite amused but he was crushed, practically crumbling after that. Want to be safe? It’s quite simply, really. As the name of the TV show goes,’Curb your Enthusiasm’.

The CCA circle is not really big. Sometimes you will see certain people all the time. But don’t fall into the danger of being in a few places at once. Better to stand out in one place than not to be seen everywhere.

Some of you may fall in love, or at least be interested in members of the opposite sex (God forbid, the same sex!) This is very healthy and natural. But don’t rush into it. Get to know the other party better. Don’t bother looking for perfect partners; they do not exist. Even the best girl or guy will have a fault of some sort. In my first year I admired a classmate of mine. But she was not to be mine. Instead, she went out with this senior of ours. Eventually I realized that I could not tolerate her faults, even if I were to go out with her. Call it sour grapes if you must, but if things are too good to be true, they probably are. Love makes one blind.

Also, stay away from those who are taken. The feeling that you cannot be with him/her sucks completely, should the chance of anything happening be nil. If you want to go ahead with it, it’s at your own risk. Though there is still a chance of something happening, I always believe what goes around comes around. If karma does not come back to kick your backside, her angry boyfriend will.

By Year Two, you should be fairly well adjusted. You just need to keep the pace going. If you screwed up your first year, this is your last chance to do something about it. By Year Three it will be impossible to do anything. Don’t slack off. Learn to revise and finish your work on time. AND don’t do last minute work!!!

Most of the last minute work is due to procrastination. This is an Evil (with capital E). Learn to get rid of this habit. Sad to say, I have failed to get rid of it. Don’t follow in my steps.

In this year you should be taking things much more seriously. The challenge in Year Two will be juggling your schoolwork and other commitments. If you haven’t been swamped with projects already, they will be coming in really soon. Regarding projects, it is very critical to choose the right team. Don’t choose slackers who consistently don’t hand in work on time. He won’t have any qualms about dragging you and the rest of the team down. Make sure there are set deadlines and fairly proportioned work.

Industrial Attachment Program is also a good experience everybody should try to go through. I will write about this when I feel like it, or when someone asks for it.

Damn! I wish had someone to tell me all this before I started school!

Well it’s finally over. There’s no more school. No more exams. No more classes. No more practicals. No more projects (Thank God!)

But it also means no more playing Dota in the computer lab. No more cheap packed lunch. Or cheese sausages. No more mucking around in class. No more swearing duels with Arden. Or idle banter with Chris and Shakeila. I won’t have to hear Clement go, ‘Ian-san!’ or ‘Hey Catholic child!’

It was good to meet all of you, really. I hope all of you do well wherever you go. Keep in touch all right?


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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