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Exsequiarum Ordo

Rite of Burial

‘You need to say more prayers to St Michael, the rain is not stopping.’

‘Good idea, I will try the Latin one this time.’

One priest and four altar boys in a moving car under a darkened sky. Today was not a good day for a burial. It was pouring cats and dogs. We were hoping that the rain would stop before we got to the cemetery. Lim Chu Kang is home to farms, military camps and of course, dead people. It is very, very inaccessible. Thankfully we took Father’s car there. Still, the gravesite was not easy to locate. We had to make a few U-turns, even in the narrow lanes of the plot.

‘Are we supposed to turn right now? But it says Chinese Cemetery, not Christian Cemetery.’

The rain had not stopped by the time we arrived. There was little choice but to use the umbrellas, though they were of little help.  We carried all the liturgical items and vestments to a nearby shed, where we proceeded to vest. Fortunately we arrived before the hearse and the rest of the congregation.

The newly dug grave was on the far end of the plot, and we had to step over the existing graves in order to get to the other side. I felt mildly embarrassed for the poor souls. We gathered around the grave with our black umbrellas.

The grave is not a mere hole in the ground. It has concrete structures at the edges, almost like frames of a box. The soil was earthly orange. A large digging machine a few meters away was the instrument for this fine handiwork.

We first began with the blessing of the  grave. I passed the censer and incense boat to and fro from the brother server behind me. My hands were occupied with the bottle of holy water and a black umbrella. Father began with the prayers.

‘O God, by whose mercy the souls of the faithful find rest, vouchsafe to bless this grave, and appoint Thy holy Angel to keep it; and release the souls of all these whose bodies are buried here from every bond of sin, that they may always rejoice in Thee with Thy Saints for ever. Through Christ our Lord.’

‘Amen.’

The body was brought forward to the grave. It is not easy to lower a coffin into the grave. The eight gentlemen with the funeral company had attached two wooden spars to the coffin with an elaborate maze of ropes. This allowed the coffin to be suspended directly above the grave. It was not a pleasant or comfortable duty, especially not with this weather. They were dressed in white dress shirts and dark trousers but were totally soaked to the skin. They removed their shoes and socks as well. By comparison, I was reasonably dry under my umbrella.

Father began to intone the Benedictus antiphon, ‘Ego sum resurrectio et vita: qui credit in me, etiam si mortuus fuerit, vivet: et omnis qui vivit et credit in me, non morietur in aeternum.’

‘Benedictus Dominus Deus Israel…’

‘Requiem aternam dona eis, Domine.’

‘Et lux perpetua luceat eis.’ And once more the antiphon.’

‘Kyrie Eleison. Christe Eleison. Kyrie Eleison. Pater noster..’

I passed the holy water forward. And Father sprinkled the body. One normally sees the drops of holy water fly through the air. Not today. The heavy rain washed everything down. In any case, it was hard to distinguish the tears of the bereaved from the rain drops.

It was time for the burial. The gentlemen began to uncoil the ropes. I was amazed with the ropework. It was designed to lower the body bit by bit till the coffin touched the deepest earth.

‘And lead us not into temptation.’

‘But deliver us from evil.’

‘From the gate of hell.’

‘Deliver his soul O Lord.’

Once the concluding prayers were chanted, we turned away and returned to the shed. The mourners began laying flowers in the grave. Words of comfort and courtesy were exchanged at the shelter.

The work being completed, the rain finally began to subside. It stopped while we were driving out from the area. As they say, it never rains, but pours.

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The Legion as a way of life

Last month we went to several parishes to carry out recruitment of new Legion members. Part of this includes visiting several catechism classes to introduce ourselves and our organization. Some of the encounters made me think very hard afterward.

At one particular parish, this was the last catechism class we were slated to visit. So I entered the classroom with 3 of my legionaries, and 2 of them were from that parish.  The catechist was this mustachioed man, that somehow reminds me of a sergeant major. So the first thing he asked was where we were from and why we were there. The second question was directed at one of my members. Why are you dressed immodestly? Are you setting a good example for these children here? Not that my member was dressed very scantily. She was wearing a dress, with bare shoulders. So we were left speechless for a while,  and obviously that visit to the class didn’t go very well. Well I am happy for that parish, at least they have one catechist who knows his stuff and expects high standards.

From this incident, we can derive much food for thought. When is it appropriate to dress inappropriately? We can even ask ourselves what manner of dressing is modest or immodest. But that is for another time.

But the point I’m trying to make is that, our manner and way of life is also linked to our identity as Legionaries. We are not merely Legionaries on the day of the meeting or on the day which we have an activity. We are Legionaries 24/7, 365 days a year. We are constantly being scrutinized. In this age of social media, the line between our private and public life is becoming blurred. We should learn to be prudent in what we express online.

The second thing that I was reflecting on is that, while we are taught not to judge others rashly, and not judge a book by its cover, we do live in an imperfect world, and we will in fact be judged by first impressions. We must be careful with first impressions. One of the most important lessons that I have learned from my uniformed group and army days is that bearing is extremely important. The way we carry ourselves shows a lot. Our outward behavior reflects our inward thinking, or even when we are not thinking.

At another parish I had to give a sharing to some confirmation year students. It was really difficult because I had to give the sharing in Mandarin. Sure, I can speak and write enough to get by, but it’s not exactly presentation grade Mandarin. I guess due to my nerves I was not natural enough and therefore I did not smile very much.

But I  did not realize until one of the catechists remarked that I should smile more and be more joyful. Fair enough, that’s something I can work on. People who meet me for the first time say that I do not smile. I have once been labeled as ‘The guy who does not smile’. There was once in BMT when my PC said to me, ‘You better smile! Or else!’

This is far cry from those who have seen me in my crazier moods, especially my Legion kids. Yet somehow I am a person who is seriously funny and so serious that it is funny at the same time.

This is a struggle for myself. Somehow I resist the idea of showing joy when I have not found it yet. This first half of the year has not been very joyful either.  But I will learn to take myself less seriously, in order to save a thousand souls and my own.

Dear legionaries, do not try to save the souls of others when you cannot save your own. May God have mercy on all of us.

Morning offering

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary, I offer Thee my prayers, works and sufferings of this day for all the intentions of Thy Sacred Heart, in union with the holy sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world, in reparation for my sins, for all the intentions of our associates, and in particular for the general intention recommended this month. Amen.

Sir, I am a Paramedic!

Written for Jin Zhanhe

Even though I have ORD almost two years ago, it seems like my medic skills are still being put to good use.

Last month I attended a workshop. During one of the sessions there were bright flashing lights and loud music. Suddenly one of the participants collapsed. She was immediately surrounded by the trainer and several facilitators. They were crowding around her and did not seem to know what to do.

I could not stand it any longer. So I walked to the other of the room quickly and started what we medics do best: PAM (Patient Assessment Model). The trainer looked at me and said, ‘Are you medically trained.’ I said, ‘Sir, I am a Paramedic.’ ‘Oh you are EMT…’ (On hindsight EMT seems to be a more appropriate title for the level of training I have, but this is Singapore.)

The patient was a female in her thirties, and she was found lying on the ground clutching her chest. Patient responded to pain when inflicted via trapezius squeeze (P on AVPU). There was no distortions or disability in her neck, though she could not sit up without assistance. After a few minutes two more participants came to help out. One was an old staff nurse and another was NS Medic too. Yay, backup!

She was breathing slowly, and could respond to my questions in a rather weak and slow voice. Radial pulse was hard to feel. Capillary refill on her fingers was prolonged. She couldn’t feel sensation when I pressed onto her nails. She was a lady, so I didn’t bother with the Rapid Body Survey. Her skin was pale, cool and clammy. She was still able to respond to my questions at the point of time. Pulse at the ankles could barely be felt.

Her complaints were chest pain, and ringing in the ears. She said that she does not have medical history of heart disease, so I decided to rule out chest pain of cardiac origin. She was not taking any medication either. She said that she had similar fainting spell a few months ago, by the roadside. I didn’t check about the cause back then. There were bright lights and loud sounds, coupled with emotional stress, so that could have possibly been the trigger. In this case the underlying cause was quickly identified: she had not slept the night before. I concluded that she fainted due to physical exhaustion.

By this time we were able to make her sit up with the assistance of the other two participants, and she was able to take small sips of water. She was able to stand up with the help of the facilitators, who took her to a separate room for a short rest. Fortunately she was all right for the next few hours of the workshop.

Phew! Not too bad, but among the things I can improve one are:

1) I forgot to check for allergies.
2) I totally didn’t know that the ringing in the ears is a symptom of Vasovagal Syncope (According to Wikipedia it is). Vasovagal Syncope should have been the more accurate diagnosis. Hey I didn’t learn this at SMTI!
3) I had no idea on the most comfortable position for this kind of patient, since she was not unconscious we did not put her into the recovery position.

Okay, this case didn’t seem very life threatening so I shan’t gloat with the customary ‘One life saved!’

Yesterday there was another opportunity for some action. I was on the NEL on the way home, when there was this schoolboy sitting opposite who had a nosebleed. So I went to sit next to him to see if he was all right. Oh interesting, he was a Sec 1 Marist.

I didn’t do much. Just advised him to pinch the bridge of his nose and lean forward. Gave him my packet of tissue paper and a plastic bag to store the soiled ones. I asked if it has happened before, and yes, he said that it happened often. I advised him to see a doctor. There were some considerate passengers who offered wet tissues. It was at Hougang when I noticed him, but the bleeding stopped when we arrived at Punggol.

Marists can take care of themselves so I didn’t accompany him out. Still, it’s on days  like these that I am thankful for being a medic.

For your reading pleasure:

Wikipedia: Vasovagal Syncope
Wikipedia: Nosebleed

This must be what going mad feels like!

Recently I’ve been having a lot of weird dreams. This one is by far one of the worst. It’s so bad, I prefer not to write much about it. Just a bit:

Do not under any circumstances, let a schoolgirl without any form of driving licence, operate any form of heavy vehicles (especially trucks), while texting on a cellphone, when the cops are around!

And not especially when you are in the front seat and you have passengers. The consequences are catastrophic.

Final damage: 3 badly damaged vehicles (2 cars and our truck), passengers with broken bones in the other cars, 1 million dollars of suspended fines, and my whole family is suspended from driving. The only silver lining is that our family sticks together through hard times.

All I have is yours

This is the 11th Acies I have attended in my life. I have not missed a single one ever since I stepped into Legion. Every year both the senior and junior Legionaries come together to pledge our loyalty to our Mother. The handbook is very insistent on the attendance of members. It even condemns those who do not attend as lacking in Legion spirit and therefore worthless. Very harsh words. This is a hard saying, who can accept it?

But my best teacher and mentor Experience proves this right. Those who don’t come for the Acies, disappear soon or do not persevere. I am grieved at the thought of the my many friends who have come and gone like the wind. But we have to move on with the times. Times are different now. And we have to grasp with many questions and doubts: Are we relevant? Does our purpose still exist? These are questions that I struggle to answer.

One thing is certain: if we give up now it will be lost forever. We would turn into a piece of church history. We will be looked upon as commentators read ‘These are the ones who have tried and failed. The experiment was a failure.’ It’s time to know what’s at stake here. If we pledge to give our all into this but we do not work together, we will lose ourselves. We will not be able to live in peace with ourselves.

So friends, if you dare to say these words ‘My Queen and Mother, I am yours. All I have is yours.’, please reflect upon how you are doing in this your life.

伤心太平洋

伤心太平洋

原唱:任贤齐

作曲:中岛みゆき

 

离开真的残酷吗

或者温柔才是可耻的

或者孤独的人无所谓

无日无夜无条件

前面真的危险吗

或者背叛才是体贴的

或者逃避比较容易吧

风言风语风吹沙

往前一步是黄昏

退后一步是人生

风不平浪不静心还不安稳

一个岛锁住一个人

 

我等的船还不来

我等的人还不明白

寂寞默默沈没沈入海

未来不再我还在

如果潮去心也去

如果潮来你还不来

浮浮沈沈往事浮上来

回忆回来你已不在

 

一波还未平息

一波又来侵袭

茫茫人海狂风暴雨

一波还来不及

一波早就过去

一生一世如梦初醒

深深太平洋底深深伤心

 

离开真的残酷吗

或者温柔才是可耻的

或者孤独的人无所谓

无日无夜无条件

往前一步是黄昏

退后一步是人生

风不平浪不静心还不安稳

一个岛锁住一个人

 

我等的船还不来

我等的人还不明白

寂寞默默沈没沈入海

回忆回来你已不在

 

一波还未平息

一波又来侵袭

茫茫人海狂风暴雨

一波还来不及

一波早就过去

一生一世如梦初醒

深深太平洋底深深伤心

 

一波还未平息

一波又来侵袭

茫茫人海狂风暴雨

一波还来不及

一波早就过去

一生一世如梦初醒

深深太平洋底深深伤心

深深太平洋底深深伤心

 

Is saying goodbye really that cruel?

Perhaps warmth is really shameful

Perhaps it’s all right for the lonely

No strings attached, day or night

Is there really danger upfront?

Perhaps betrayal is being considerate

Perhaps running away is easier

Idle talk blowing in the sands

One step ahead lies dusk

One step behind lies life

Uneven winds, restless waves, still an unquiet heart

Imprisoned on an island alone

 

The ship I wait for has not arrived

The person I wait for does not realize

Loneliness silently submerges into the sea

The future goes, but I remain

When the current goes, the heart too

When the current comes, you refuse

Floating and sinking, the past rises up

When Memory returns, you are gone

 

One wave is yet to calm

Another wave invades

A sea of faces, brash winds and storms

One wave is late

Another wave has left

Eternity spent waking from a dream

As the Pacific’s abyss is, so are Sorrows’ depths.

 

Is saying goodbye really that cruel?

Perhaps warmth is really shameful

Perhaps it’s all right for the lonely

No strings attached, day or night

One step ahead lies dusk

One step behind lies life

Uneven winds, restless waves, still an unquiet heart

Imprisoned on an island alone

 

The ship I wait for has not arrived

The person I wait for does not realize

Loneliness silently submerges into the sea

When Memory returns, you are gone

 

One wave is yet to calm

Another wave invades

A sea of faces, brash winds and storms

One wave is late

Another wave has left

Eternity spent waking from a dream

As the Pacific’s abyss is, so are Sorrows’ depths.

 

One wave is yet to calm

Another wave invades

A sea of faces, brash winds and storms

One wave is late

Another wave has left

Eternity spent waking from a dream

As the Pacific’s abyss is, so are Sorrows’ depths.

As the Pacific’s abyss is, so are Sorrows’ depths.


Pages

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