Archive for the 'Faith and Morals' Category

We sow the seeds for tomorrow, today!

Through the span of my twenty five years, I have witnessed and participated in several exercises of futility. Let me tell you about one such exercise. Since last year we were involved in a very massive project that put us under a great amount of pressure in a small amount of time. When the finished product was released, we were all relieved, and we thought we could wash our hands of it. There was one thing however, and that was the sale of the products.

As we were preparing for the sale, to our horror we found a error in the finished product, and we had to make the corrections immediately by modifying the finished products manually. One. By. One. Naturally it took a great deal of time, in the span of days, and with many people coming to help out. We thank God for these saints in our time of need!

I came to realize that if the one person in charge of that one segment did not make that one mistake, we would not have to spend so much time, sweat and manpower in remedying it. But it was a great learning opportunity, although rather painful.

This reminded me of how my classmate and I used to copy each others assignments back in secondary school. It can be argued that many hands make light work. I offered my Chinese assignments up for grabs while I went to copy the Math ones. It was real fun. But it hardly made us learn with any understanding. Most of the time we were just preoccupied on finishing off the due assignment rather than learning the core material. Basically we had no idea what we were doing. And that made for a very, very shaky foundation for exam preparations. Most of us managed to scrape through the finals, thankfully. But today my Math skills are quite crippled and any further attempts at doing college level Calculus are frankly quite hopeless. If I didn’t copy so much homework, or at least made more effort to understand what the hell was going on, perhaps my life would be very different now. If there was more devotion and diligence, how vastly different the outcome would be for many of us. We may regret our past actions now.

In the mad rush of the moment, we may be forget about the meaning of all things. I believe the universe is made up of ordered things, and all things rest on the foundation of another. The things in our lives also follow as such. Our personalities and actions are all dependent on other things, such habits and acquired knowledge. One does not need to be Christian to know this.

Another consequence of the mad rush is the temptation to escape. Many of us in are prone to escaping. Some engage in vices, others their favorite hobbies. But no matter what we all have some bad habits or indulgences which we have recourse to. Running away does not bring us closer to our goal, but it is in fact bringing us further and further away. It may even bring us to the point where it is impossible to achieve our goals any longer.

Logically we can apply this principle to things in the Spirit. Very simply, this can be considered doing small things with great love. St Theresa of Lisieux and Mother Theresa of Calcultta carried out this philosophy very well. He who is faithful in small things will be faithful in greater things. Therefore there is an immediate implication for our final destiny. It has been often repeated that Grace is building upon nature, and is thus, brick by brick. What are we doing each day to build our future one brick at a time? Or are we often procrastinating and putting it off? If we don’t repent today and begin our penance, it will be too late tomorrow. Like it or not, we will be confronted with The Last Four Things: Death, Judgement, Heaven and Hell. We must prepare to die, today. Since purification is not instantaneous, but a constant process, we must begin as soon as possible. It is not wise to wait till the eleventh hour, even in achieving worldly goals. Keeping our eye on our final destiny reminds us this all this is not pointless. In fact, it even gives meaning to our suffering. Look on the bright side. Despite the terrible things we have gone through, you are still able to read these words today. It is exactly as what the World says, ‘What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.’ The scars of your suffering may remain, but if you do not wallow in bitterness you would have a greater sense of empathy and compassion for the brothers around you.

With our heavenly goal in mind, how do we keep our focus? How can we do this amidst the business and tension of daily living? If we practise the habit of recollecting ourselves often throughout the day, we will get there eventually. Let us learn to renew our better resolutions now and then, for they remind of the meaning of all this. Lastly, these habits will be strengthened if coupled with our prayer life. It is important for us to question the nature and purpose of things, but even more essential to live with purpose. Let our purpose and philosophy become  ‘Through Him, With Him, and In Him’ in the hope that we may one day achieve finality, not futility.

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.’

To what extent…

I’m not sure of the tone I should take with this piece of writing. Homiletic? Rhetorical? Oh well, here goes.

Recently a pastor of a megachurch incurred controversy when a video of his sermon was released on the internet. It’s not a good thing when you are brought in by State Security. This has led me to think: Is it possible to preach the gospel with tact? Is it possible to promote our holy religion without pointing out the errors of others? Will I be counted as a seditionist if I do so?

I fear that these times are approaching. Nowadays if I were to condemn abortion, I’ll be branded as a oppressor of women and an enemy of choice. Yet poor women do not have the choice to keep their babies. This silencing has already begun even in democratic countries.

Yes, everyone is entitled to their own opinion. To what extent?

I wonder if we can ever achieve a balance between preaching the gospel and religious tolerance. Is there a limit to dialogue? The goal of ecumenism is not to combine all religions together, but to promote understanding amongst all followers. Yet every man asks in his heart: What is truth? What is right and wrong? Unfortunately while philosophers and theologians fight it out, the atheist and the heckler are enjoying the spectacle. While terrorists plant their bombs and fundamentalists their churches, the starving starve and dictators dictate. Surely something is wrong here?

If St Francis of Assisi preached in a 21st century Muslim nation, he would be arrested and martyred. Such is the price of discipleship. These days it is not so necessary to be martyred by sword, as to be put on trial by media and executed by public opinion.

Can I be prudent in preaching the gospel? To what extent can I preach before being hauled in by State Security or being beheaded by Taliban? Recently I read Shusaku Endo’s Silence, which talks about two Jesuit priests entering Japan during the time of persecution. One priest is martyred, one becomes apostate. On 6 February we recall the martyrdom of St Paul Miki and companions. Was it possible for them to escape martyrdom by being discreet and prudent? Rather, I think if you are meant to die, you’ll die anyway.

I shall not mince my words: I do not like megachurches. They spread their poisonous doctrine fastidiously as microbes on agar. Yet how odd it is that we must admire their zeal!

If we who are part of holy mother church, both possessing zeal and correct doctrine, it should be possible to conquer the world. We must have Love, a selfless sacrifical love. This must be our weapon of mass salvation. The age for calling down fire on prophets of Baal is long past. We do not have to damn others to save them. If they do not accept the gift of the gospel, it is their free choice. It is our gift of love to them.

It is out of love that martyrs die.

Gospel speaks that man cannot serve two masters. Even worldly wisdom shows that we cannot please everyone. We do the best we can, to the further extent.

Holy Family!

We live in dangerous times where the Family is under threat. Marriage is often seen as a mere piece of paper, a mere contract that can be broken as long as the right price is paid. Children are seen as a burden, or weapons during a nasty divorce settlement.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states:

2207 The family is the original cell of social life. It is the natural society in which husband and wife are called to give themselves in love and in the gift of life. Authority, stability, and a life of relationships within the family constitute the foundations for freedom, security, and fraternity within society. The family is the community in which, from childhood, one can learn moral values, begin to honor God, and make good use of freedom. Family life is an initiation into life in society.

Since the beginning of man, the family has always existed. Families exist even in animals. Regardless of religion or culture, family will always be the foundation of a society. Although people have attempted to redefine family and marriage, normally it would refer to a married man and woman and their children.

Indeed family life proves to be a good or a bad initiation into life in society, with good outcomes or very, very dire consequences.  Society is built up using families as a building blocks,  therefore sound families build up a sound society. It also means that messed up families make up a messed up society. A child that learns dishonesty in the family will grow up to be dishonest. A child that learns to be selfish will grow up to be selfish. Criminals are seldom born, they are most nurtured, or have lacked nurturing.

‘What an ill-bred child.’ ‘你没有家教!’ These are common insults that are also directed to one’s parents. Unfortunately, it is true for us. For some of us, our parents did not teach us well, may have mistreated us, or worse, have no parents. It is not to say that messed up people definitely have messed up parents, but it is not often the case? Thanks to genetics, we do take after our parents. We may have the same bad or good habits as them. Bad parents are very likely to raise kids.

The Church often describes the family as the ‘Domestic Church’. It is in our families where we learn to love and to serve God. It is our Fathers and Mothers who first teach us how to pray. They teach us the concept of right and wrong. They teach us to make sacrifices, and they show how by making sacrifices for us. In many families it is a great school of faith.

No greater cross does a family have than a wayward son; When a wife has to bear with a drunken husband, or a mother with a drunken son, day in and day out: such a great tests of faith and opportunities for mortification! We also see this in the Lives of the Saints. St Monica who prayed for her son St Augustine of Hippo to repent from his immoral life and errors, had her prayers answered after many years.

Lumen Gentium (109) writes:

In it parents should, by their word and example, be the first preachers of the faith to their children; they should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each of them, fostering with special care vocation to a sacred state.

Indeed, good and sound families are the best environment to foster vocations. Vocations encompass Marriage, Religious Life and Holy Orders. More importantly, the family is where saints are made. In the Eastern Church, St Basil the Elder and St Emmelia had nine children, and four of them are venerated as Saints: St Basil the Great, St Macrina the Younger, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Peter of Sebaste.

If parents do not encourage vocations, nobody can. If parents do not offer up their children, nobody can.

What of broken and incomplete families? What of those families who are simply helpless and may need outside help? Catechism states:

2209: The family must be helped and defended by appropriate social measures. Where families cannot fulfill their responsibilities, other social bodies have the duty of helping them and of supporting the institution of the family

That explains why the extended family is useful in nurturing children. The absent father should be replaced with the uncle, grandfather, or even godfather. When families break apart, the children must not suffer. The chain of bad parents begetting bad children can be broken, but it is very difficult. Children require good examples to follow. In the lack of good examples, to whom shall we look?

The Holy Family is rightly described as the model of all families: St Joseph the Father, Mary the Mother and Jesus the Son. St Joseph acts as the virtuous foster father of Our Lord. He has done many things modern males would not do: Marry a woman with a child that does not belong to him – taking responsibility; Protecting the whole family and fleeing to Egypt when under pursuit by King Herod; working hard for the benefit of his family. These are just some of  the things a father should do.

Our Blessed Lady was devoted in her motherly care. How much work and toil must have gone into taking care of the household. How much self-sacrifice that she has given. Even these days we hear of young mothers abandoning their households. It would do best for married women to imitate Our Blessed Lady.

The virtue of Obedience is disparaged in modern times. But we must realize that even the Son of God was obedient to the authority of His parents. Children must obey the lawful orders of their parents. Of course if they command us to do sinful or immoral things, then it would be virtuous to disobey.

When Jesus went missing in the Temple and His parents could not find Him, they could not understand why He did this to them. Correctly, Mary and Joseph pondered these things in their hearts. Parents must take effort to understand their children though often it may be very difficult. Children may find it difficult to obey their parents. They too must take the effort to understand. Very often we ask, ‘Why do I have to do this? It does not make any sense!’. However later on hindsight we will then discover that the decision was indeed a wise one.

So for us who have come from broken or incomplete families, do not despair. Let us look to the Holy Family, not to imitate them in the number of members, but in the number of virtues. For us who have loving families, let us thank God for giving us these gifts.

Collect of the Mass (1962):

O Lord Jesus Christ, who, being subject to Mary and Joseph, didst sanctify home life with ineffable virtues: grant that, with the aid of both, we may be taught by the example of the Thy Holy Family, and attain to eternal fellowship with them: Who livest and reignest with Thee and the Holy Spirit, One God forever and ever, Amen.

Jesus, Mary, Joseph pray for us and our families!

120: The Chinese Martyrs

The Lord is the King of Martyrs, come let us adore him!

Being influenced by parodies of the excessively bloody film 300, I have created this.

Today 9 July is the Memorial of St Augustine Zhao Rong and Companions. They were canonized in 2000 by Pope John Paul II.

St Augustine Zhao Rong (1746-1815) is first on the list because he was the the first native Chinese priest to be martyred. He was captured and died in prison.

Other Martyrs include 14-year-old Wang Anna (1886 – 1900), who refused to renounce her faith. Before she was beheaded, she exclaimed, “The door of heaven is open to all”, three times murmuring: “Jesus”. She was beheaded by Boxer rebels on July 21, 1900, in Wei County, Hebei Province.

18-year-old Chi Zhuzi (1882 – 1900) was an illiterate peasant who at the age of seventeen decided to join the Church. His family objected and he suffered much. He was banished from his home and he took refuge in another village. When discovered, he was ordered back. On the way, the Boxers captured him and forced him to worship idols. He refused and admitted to being Catholic. They cut off his right arm and mutlilated him to death. His famous words were: “Every piece of my flesh, every drop of my blood will tell you that I am Christian”.

Foreign as well as native Catholics were persecuted. The Spanish Dominican Father Francesco Fernandez de Capillas was beheaded in 1648 while reciting the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary. He is considered to be the Proto-Martyr of China, that is, the first martyr of China. The Dominican Fathers’ house in Serrangoon Gardens is named after him. Other Orders have illustrous martyrs as well, like the Paris Foreign Missions; Society of Jesus; Franciscan Missionaries of Mary, etc.

The entire list of the 120 martyrs can be found here. In total, 87 native Chinese and 33 foreign missionaries were killed between 1648 and 1930.

Recently the Holy Father has released a Motu Proprio on the Church in China. It would do everyone well to read it, especially all Chinese Catholics. This document expresses the Holy Father’s desire for religious freedom in China.

For centuries governments have tried to pit themselves against the Church by declaring the Church as an outsider. The Holy Father has stated, ‘No one in the Church is a foreigner, but all are citizens of the same People, members of the same Mystical Body of Christ.’ Indeed, the Body of Christ transcends all national, ethic, socio-economic boundaries. Let us pray that rulers will realize this.

The Holy Father has expressed a wish for dialogue with civil authorities in China. The prospect of negotiating with Communists may seem bleak, but great progress has been made with the government in Vietnam. Who knows if the same can be accomplished with China?

致命聖人之血乃信友之種籽。

Sanguis martyrum est semen christianorum.

The blood of maryrs is the seed of Christians.

The Holy Father has proposed that 24 May be made a day of prayer for the Church in China.

On that same day, the Catholics of the whole world – in particular those who are of Chinese origin – will demonstrate their fraternal solidarity and solicitude for you, asking the Lord of history for the gift of perseverance in witness, in the certainty that your sufferings past and present for the Holy Name of Jesus and your intrepid loyalty to his Vicar on earth will be rewarded, even if at times everything can seem a failure.

Therefore following the exhortation of our Holy Father, and in solidarity with our brothers and sisters in China, let us pray for them.

St Augustine and Companions, pray for us!

Our Lady of China, pray for us!

中華聖母﹐請為我們轉求﹗

Sources:

http://www.catholic.org.sg/cn/wordpress/?p=1678&page=1

http://www.chinesemartyrs.org/chinese_saints/index.htm

http://www.catholicculture.org/library/view.cfm?recnum=7631

Office of Readings for Thursday 21 June 2007

Today we celebrate the Memorial of St Aloysius Gonzaga. St Aloysius Gonzaga was born on 9 March 1568 in Lombardy. His father wanted him to become a soldier, but he entered the Society of Jesus as a novice when he was eighteen.

He cared for plague victims during the outbreak in 1591. He caught the disease and died on 21 June 1591, in Rome. His relics are entombed under the altar of Saint Ignatius Church in Rome.

St Aloysius is the patron saint for teenagers and youth. Let us imitate his devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary and be innocent like him.

The below letter is in today’s Office of Readings. It was written by the Saint before he shortly before he died.

A letter from St Aloysius Gonzaga to his mother
God’s mercies shall be my song for ever

May the comfort and grace of the Holy Spirit be yours for ever, most honoured lady. Your letter found me lingering still in this region of the dead, but now I must rouse myself to make my way on to heaven at last and to praise God for ever in the land of the living; indeed I had hoped that before this time my journey there would have been over. If charity, as Saint Paul says, means to weep with those who weep and rejoice with those who are glad, then, dearest mother, you shall rejoice exceedingly that God in his grace and his love for you is showing me the path to true happiness, and assuring me that I shall never lose him.

The divine goodness, most honoured lady, is a fathomless and shoreless ocean, and I confess that when I plunge my mind into thought of this it is carried away by the immensity and feels quite lost and bewildered there. In return for my short and feeble labours, God is calling me to eternal rest; his voice from heaven invites me to the infinite bliss I have sought so languidly, and promises me this reward for the tears I have so seldom shed.

Take care above all things, most honoured lady, not to insult God’s boundless loving kindness; you would certainly do this if you mourned as dead one living face to face with God, one whose prayers can bring you in your troubles more powerful aid than they ever could on earth. And our parting will not be for long; we shall see each other again in heaven; we shall be united with our Saviour; there we shall praise him with heart and soul, sing of his mercies for ever, and enjoy eternal happiness. When he takes away what he once lent us, his purpose is to store our treasure elsewhere more safely and bestow on us those very blessings that we ourselves would most choose to have.

I write all this with the one desire that you and all my family may consider my departure a joy and favour and that you especially may speed with a mother’s blessing my passage across the waters till I reach the shore to which all hopes belong. I write the more willingly because I have no clearer way of expressing the love and respect I owe you as your son.

http://www.universalis.com/800/i-readings.htm

O God, the distributer of heavenly gifts, Who in the angelic youth Aloysius didst unite a wonderful innocence of life with an equally wonderful penance, grant, through his merits and prayers, that we, who have not followed him in innocence, may imitate him in penance. Through Christ our Lord, Amen.

20, 21 December 2006 – Indult Tridentine Mass

I attended a Tridentine Mass on 21 December. It was at St Joseph’s Church Queen Street. It’s the first time going to one. Actually Norman asked me if I wanted to serve, but I didn’t want to cut my hair, so yeah, I did warden duty instead. I didn’t really do much; the parish wardens did most of the work including the collection during offertory.

A Tridentine Mass is vastly different from the new rite Masses. It is quieter than usual. There is no guitar and bongos, only voice and organ. To the uninitiated it can be quite unnerving at first, but one will get used to it after a while.


The elevation of the host

The entire Eucharistic prayer is silent to the congregation. This gives a lot of space for reflection.

Unlike what most of us do these days, Communion is administered only on the tongue while kneeling. That’s the way it should be!

21 December 2006

Truly beautiful and solemn. Everybody should attend one of these liturgies at least once in their life!

(Indult only, of course.)


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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