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Preview: My Journey - Being In The World

My Journey

Updated: 2018-04-10T19:58:19.450+08:00


The most painful pain - a reflection on the Passion of Christ


It was with a heavy heart as I followed Jesus along the way of the Cross. From the great agony at the thought of his own death, to his greatest fear coming true - the death on the Cross, the entire journey was a painful experience.

Nevertheless, there has to be one part of that journey that was the most painful for him. He has to endure not just physical pain, but also emotional pain. No matter how excruciating the physical pain was, I feel that the emotional pain superseded his physical pain.

It happened at about noon time, in the presence of Pilate who was eager to let him go. Unfortunately, his fellow Jews, insisted that Pilate should have him crucified. Their reason? "We have no king but Ceaser". For three years, Jesus walked and worked miracles among the people, befriending them, eating with them, teaching them about the Truth and revealing to them who the Father is. And yet, no one stood up to defend him. Worse still, Jesus, who is himself God, the God who made a covenant with them, experienced how his very own people whom he loved rejected him.

What could be more painful than the pain of rejection? When you have given your heart and your love in its totally, but your beloved is blind to your love.

Most of us, if not all, have gone through rejection in one way or another. We know the pain. So does our God. Not merely because he is God, but because he has gone through it himself.

Which part of Christ's suffering do you identify with the most?

Written on 12 July 2017
(Prompted by Fr Jude Chinwenwa CSsR from The Sound of Silence)

We are not on our own


On my way to work this morning, I had a sudden outburst of dissatisfaction while reflecting on my life so far. I was entertaining the thoughts that it's time for me to live my own life, do what I want to do to make myself happy, to pursue my wildest dreams, to satisfy my own needs, and to hell with pleasing everyone else -- especially my parents and relatives -- whom I've been pleasing all these years and living their lives.I've been brought up with a very clear awareness that I am not my own. Every decision and action may affect my family and close relatives alike. And almost every kind of matter, be it achievements, failures, sicknesses (small or big), going for vacation, to name just a few, will be made known within the family circle (and outside the circle as well, depending on its 'seriousness'; the more 'serious' it is, the wider news will spread).One very good example I vividly remember was the time I conveyed to my parents my desire to become a Carmelite nun when I was in my early 20s. It was then that I witnessed the great drama. Wet blankets after wet blankets were piled on me. My mom was totally upset, so much so that she blamed the Carmelite nuns for 'misleading' me. My aunts gave me an entire list of disadvantages of being a cloistered nun and strongly advised me to reconsider. The best actress award went to my grandmother, who, I was told, wept in great disappointment and sorrow upon getting to know about my desire. If I have received such outburst of objections to a mere desire, you could imagine how much weight their opinions and approvals carry ... especially to me, who have always been fearful (maybe I should say, a coward).I have been alive for 36 years now. So what have I achieved so far? Apparently, not much ... aside from making some out-of-the-ordinary decisions, which my parents frowned upon and totally ignored by me, i.e. giving up a well-paying job to work full time with the archdiocese, going to the canonisation of Pope John Paul II, attending an expensive show by my favourite Hong Kong actor and flying all the way to Kuala Lumpur alone to meet his fans whom I had only met online. Not impressive at all!We have every right to our own lives, have we not? Isn't this what the world has been constantly telling us to do? So it's perfectly alright should I choose to break free from all kinds of stupid expectations from others and just be myself!As I settled down behind my desk and logged on to Facebook, a quote I posted two years ago was the first thing I saw. "The responsibility for the sanctity of others... lies with you. You are not on your own. If you stop, you could be holding up or harming so many people!" It has never spoken as loud to me before. That brought me back to how my decision to give up my previous job to work for the church inspired two other friends. One of them a Taoist, another a Methodist. Both, upon hearing of my choice to a life of service of God and his people, also gave up their jobs.My Methodist friend became a Christian missionary to Japan. Despite the trials, loneliness and disapproval from her own family, she persevered. My Taoist friend serves the temple. She lives a simple life, giving tuition to school children. She does not earn much but is never in need. She even gives free tuition to children of poor families.I still remember how the two of them, particularly my Taoist friend, told me I was their inspiration and model. Little do they know that they have become my inspiration and model today. I admire their courage to venture into the unknown, without counting the cost. In fact, I feel ashamed of myself for allowing fears to weigh me down recently.I am grateful to my parents for having brought me up with the awareness that is very much in-line with the Gospel (though they had no idea about it): we are not on our own. Truly, our actions, decisions, our beliefs and behaviours affect others, directly and indirectly. Since this is so, all the more we need to make sure that our will is always in tune with God's, allowing him to make use of[...]

Learning to trust amidst the pain


It is the first day of Chinese New Year (CNY) 2018.Beautiful Chinese New Year decorations adorned the windows and the sides of the church. Shades of red added to the vibrancy and warmth of that familiar inner court where worship takes place.Those familiar faces with their family members settling down comfortably in their favourite, usual pews. Occasionally, some heads turned, exchanging smiles, handshakes and warm wishes. Beautiful people of God.The crowd was unexpectedly massive. The attendance for CNY thanksgiving Mass in this parish seems to increase every year. A very good sign indeed.I nestled myself at the last row of the pew just behind the choir. Thank God I did not have to be "out-standing".As I people-watched, my heart sank. This entire scene is way too familiar.No, it is not a feeling of deja vu.It was the very same scenario on New Year's Day thanksgiving Mass, 1 January 2018. The only difference is probably the colour red.I have never felt so lonely. My family, like any other years - but I do not remember since when, prefer to stay at home and prepare food for relatives and visitors.I totally understand my parents, wishing to give the best to our visitors. But just one hour, I remember telling my parents. It all boils down to your priority, I said. Of course, a prophet is never well received in his own household.Or perhaps, the many hardships that befell my family beginning last year has dampened their spirits and jeopardised their belief in God. Or, could it be me? I must have been a very bad example in the practice of virtues. I believe that it is the latter, which lead to the former. Then shame on me for calling myself a "prophet"!I used to be very proud of my family. My dad a warden cum extraordinary minister of the Holy Communion. My mom a warden. My brother an altar server. Myself... the busybody running here and there, helping in whichever area my help was needed right there and then. Although we did not have the practice of praying together at home, we still attended Mass together in the same parish church. I couldn't ask for more!Today, everything changed when one trial after another hit the family. My parents resigned from the ministries and are now parish-hopping (attending different parish church every week). My brother... I do not even know if he even fulfills the Sunday obligations.I am the only one who stays on in the parish; with one hand grabbing the thin rope that still holds my family together, while clinging on to God with the best of my ability with another. That fragile rope leaves my hand with blisters and cuts. I do not dare to make any move, albeit small, for one wrong move might just break the rope. On the other hand, I depend heavily on the strength drawn from daily Eucharist and prayer, praying that all the merits and blessings could be transferred to my family.I really wish St Monica would just show herself in my dream and share with me how she managed to get through those difficult long years of praying for her wayward son, St Augustine.My only hope is to see my family returning to God and seeking his will, amidst all these trials."Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of goodwill..." It is the most painful Gloria ever. Having to keep those tears inside the eyes while singing a hymn of gratitude with a very heavy-laden and wounded heart is far from being easy.That uncertainty in front and having totally no control over the future is just scary. Despite the pain and the most uncertain future ahead, I choose to trust and depend on God every single day.If you could feel the pain I am going through, kindly say a little prayer for me and my family, for I do not know how long these trials would last, and how much longer can I hold on!What a way to begin the New Year. This might be just the beginning of many more hardships to come. It could also be a new challenge God has thrown my way. Whatever it will be, I pray that God's will be done, not mine.[...]

The pursue of knowledge


"Knowledge does not necessarily lead to deeper appreciation if it is not predicated on the premise of love, for familiarity breeds contempt." - Fr Michael Chua

When the pursue for knowledge causes love to be buried and pride to surface, then it is high time to stop and put the priority back to its proper place: to behold with wonder the Mystery which no human intellect can completely grasp, and no human language can perfectly describe.

Fr Michael is right. Familiarity breeds contempt... and it sends humility to the grave too.

I acknowledge the desire to feed my hungry mind, and recognise the need to let go of this addiction and let Divine Wisdom take over.

Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner!

Seek the welfare of the city


Archbishop Bolly Lapok (left) watches as Sarawak flag is being hoistedAs Malaysians, we are totally aware of how screwed up some politicians have caused the country. We don’t need to elaborate much. Malaysia is getting more notoriously famous with each passing day, for all the wrong reasons. If given choice, most Malaysians might choose to leave the country for greener pastures elsewhere. Perhaps, that's the only way we know of to show our disapproval and silent protest of how the country is being run. However, the second reading for the joint National Day Prayer Service last night (25 August) told Malaysian Christians to do otherwise. "Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. Seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare" (Jer 29:5-7). Prophet Jeremiah was addressing the people who were in exile in Babylon. Instead of telling them to protest, fight and flee from the foreign land Babylon, they were asked by God to settle down, live to the fullest and pray for Babylon. Archbishop Bolly Lapok of the Anglican Church gave a very insightful reflection based on the reading (Jer 29:1-9). In the days of Jeremiah, the people of Israel (and Judah) held on to the popular belief that they were the chosen nation who should be enjoying God's blessing and protection exclusively. They became a laughing stock of other nations when they lost their land promised by God. And now that they were asked to pray for their enemy – surely, Jeremiah's message was not well received. It has been said that Malaysians (including Malaysian-Christians) have been living in this "toxic culture" (of racial, cultural and religious polarisation) for a long time. Like the Israelites, the Church is called to continue to be faithful in her witnessing in this hostile environment. Truth be told, I have gone through the book of Jeremiah for at least two times during the Bible Course I've been attending but I have not noticed this very verse (Jer 29:7). Whatever the reason that I missed it, it does come at the right time. I take that as an answer to our prayers. While we the frustrated Christians call out to God to intervene in the many occasions that have – time and again – sent the local Church into "exile" and caused us much misery, God in turn asks us to pray for the politicians, the decision-makers, the governing body and to be engaged in the life and situations faced by the country. "For in its welfare you will find your welfare". I'm glad I was there to pray for the country together with the other Christians. The choir, though small and only accompanied by the organ, sang whole-heartedly and beautifully as they led the people in praise and worship. Thank you, Archbishop Bolly Lapok, for your reflection which has inspired many, including myself. [...]

A birthday monologue


“Happy birthday, Audrey. I will pray for you at Mass this morning in St Florian Church, Krakow. JPII had served here as vicar of the parish.” This was the text message I received from a priest who was still in Poland after World Youth Day concluded, complete with a photo of St Florian Church.St Florian's Church, KrakowWhen you’re unable to go to the place you’ve always wanted to visit but friends who went remembered you, especially on your birthday -- if I said it didn’t mean anything to me, I would be lying big time.Really, I don’t need to describe how touched I was (I still am!). I’m trying very hard to push back those tears. Besides, it’s going to be awkward if I were seen crying in the office!John Paul II has always been one of the few reasons for my tearing up. I used the tense “has” because we all know that, even though he’s no longer on earth physically, he’s still around through the communion of saints. For that, I’m sure he knows about me and how much I love and miss him.But there is always this voice, maybe it’s just my alter ego, that has been trying its best to get me to give up on John Paul II.“He’s dead, so please wake up and give up,” said the voice.“No way! How can you ask me to forget someone who’s made such a deep impression in me ever since my youth?” I retorted.“You’re just wasting your time,” said the voice. “Why not lavish your love on someone else? It’s a one-sided love anyway, so it won’t make much difference.”“I’d rather waste my time on someone I could look up to and learn holiness from; someone who is willing to journey with me, not just as a mentor but also a friend. I cannot find anybody else except JPII!” I reasoned.Because I know, if I were one of his youth in Poland, he would be more than willing to spend time with me and to coach me, just like what he had done with the youth before he was elected pope.Because I really want to grow closer to the One whom we both call “Abba, Father”.For all those who remembered me in Poland, I pray that the good Lord would bless them ever more abundantly.My darling Saint, kindly intercede for them for their generosity and kindness.And for the priest who remembered me when he was in Krakow (if you’re reading this – you know who you are), thank you from the bottom of my heart. That's the best birthday gift ever.[...]

A farewell note for Brother Columba Gleeson, FSC


Brother Columba (left) with two staff of Today's Catholic
We have never met each other (not until about two years ago when we finally did at the launching of your Living Our Faith book), but we became acquainted through emails due to work.

I am not a student of yours (and I silently envied those who were), but you became my teacher through your Signpost column (published in Today's Catholic - it is a great blessing for me to be the first person to read your articles).

I never knew what kind of a person you were, but stories from those who knew you and the many old photos we keep in our Today's Catholic archive gave me reasons to adore and look up to you (Oh, those blue eyes and that smile - I recognised that smile!)

Did you remember our first meeting? Nah, you couldn't possibly have noticed my nervousness. It was the same nervousness when we meet our "idol" for the very first time.

But I remember. 

I remember how I selfishly insisted to walk you back to the Brothers' Quarters after the Mass. I remember you offered to hold my hand, and held it tight, just like a grandfather taking his little granddaughter by the hand. 

My heart melted. I did not know anymore — if it was me holding you to make sure each step you took was steady, or was it you who were holding me, to tell me that "I am here for you."

Perhaps, you read my mind. You knew that my real, unspoken intention was to have some private time with you. And you so generously granted it, sacrificing that 20 minutes or so for me, which could have been the time you planned to spend in reflection and silent prayer as you walked back to the Quarters alone. 

I remember, that entire week (or probably months) whenever that memory of us walking to the Brothers' Quarters came to mind, I longed to see you again. 

Such was the memory I have of you. That one and only precious memory, which I will cherish for ever. Until, God willing, we meet again in Paradise.

Thank you, Brother Columba, for everything you have done. May your beautiful soul rest in God's eternal peace and joy.

Brother Columba Gleeson was the first editor of Today's Catholic (the monthly newspaper by the Archdiocese of Kuching). 

Evangelisation at its best


Source: social-spirituality.netSome time in April, I attended the seminar entitled "Dialogue of Salvation: Catholics Called to Evangelise" by Permanent Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek. Something he has said affirmed what has been on my mind all these while: the best way to evangelise is by living an exemplary life according to the Gospel values.That also reminded me of what my Mom did last November.I have weird neighbours, and my house is sandwiched between them. They are not in good terms with my family (and with some other neighbours as well) for some ridiculous reasons, which I do not want to go into details here. We tried our best not to have anything to do with them.Last November, the neighbour on our left lost their senior member of the family. They had wake prayers and Buddhist rituals for almost the whole week before the burial service. My Mom was the first to find out what happened. She decided to pay them a visit and offer condolences. When my Dad refused to go with her, she approached me. I was quite surprised when she told me of her intention."We are neighbours," said my Mom. "It is only right that we visit them especially at times like this. Let's just bury the hatchet." I agreed. But at the back of my mind, I had a slightly different agenda. It was such a good opportunity to shame that nasty neighbour, by returning evil with good! To make them feel sorry for what they have done to us. If not now, then when?We went over. They were obviously surprised to see us. While I shook hands with the other family members, Mom went straight to the wife of the deceased and hugged her. I was shocked beyond words. After all the nasty remarks and selfishness towards my family all these years, my Mom could still HUG her?! Her wet eyes proved that she was moved by my Mom.To me, my Mom is a woman of simple faith. She doesn't know much of what the Church really teaches and anything along that line. But what she did last November truly put her daughter (who always thought she's the most knowledgeable one in the family in matters pertaining to faith) to shame! Mom went there to show her love; I went there to show off!I believe Mom's profound act of love and mercy has brought that neighbour of ours to an encounter with Christ Jesus.While knowledge in Apologetics and theology are necessary when we introduce Christ to others [evangelisation], our conduct and daily living speak much louder. "Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead" (James 2:17 ESV). I knew this long time ago! But this "head-knowledge" really needs to go to the heart and be translated into action.I thank the Lord for such humbling experience. Being knowledgeable and having a better understanding of the faith apparently did not take me very far in my journey of perfection... more work is needed![...]

How to be humble: a guideline to love


I was clearing photos from my Whatsapp - just as we need to do spring cleaning to our homes (and perhaps, offices), I clean up the photos in my phone for extra storage - and this one caught my attention.  I thought these 10 points are pretty practical.

  1. Listen without interrupting (Prov 18).
  2. Speak without accusing (James 1:19).
  3. Give without sparing (Prov 21:26).
  4. Pray without ceasing (Col 1:9).
  5. Answer without arguing (Prov 17:1).
  6. Share without pretending (Eph 4:15).
  7. Enjoy without complaint (Phil 2:14).
  8. Trust without wavering (1 Cor 13:7).
  9. Forgive without pushing (Col 3:13).

Reading them from top to bottom (you may read from bottom to top as well), I realised these are not just "rules of thumb" of how to love, but more of how to be humble.

It is not difficult to make a list of how we can prove our love for God by loving our neighbours. But humility is one tough case. When you think that you're humble, right there and then you're not being humble. 

Talking about being humble, I need to learn it more than anybody else.

Praying that in 2015, I could at least pick up 5 out of the 10 points and turn them into habits.

Learning to let go on the feast of Ascension


Jesus ascending to heaven. Painting by John Singleton Copley (source: Wikipedia)Have you ever had this fantasy, where Jesus still walks the Earth today – physically, in person? And have you ever imagined the ways you might take just to meet Him? Or, what would you do or say if you chanced upon Him on the street one day? Or maybe, have you ever wished that He did not go back to the Father at all?My answer is a big ‘Yes’ to all of the questions above.Why not? Even though I am well aware that Christ is still with us today, in the most personal way, I still need someone with skin, whom I could look up to and learn from. Whose voice I could hear vividly; whose hands I could hold; to whom I could write to for advice... well you know, all along that line. In short, I just want Him to be present physically. Here. On earth. Where I can see Him.Perhaps, that is why the Feast of Ascension has never been my favourite. Yes, I knew its importance - it was merely a head-knowledge and never heart-knowledge. I imagined myself being with the Apostles, witnessing Him being taken up to Heaven. He said He would be with the Apostles until the end of time, which sounded convincing and the Apostles were hopeful. But wait, who's the Holy Spirit? How long do we have to wait? How can we recognise him? No wonder some of them doubted (Mt 28:17).I have been questioning the Lord, “What is there to celebrate? You left Your Apostles to fend for themselves!”The passing of John Paul II changed all that. Oh wait, maybe it was the Canonisation I attended that changed that. As I mourned the absence of John Paul, a very good friend said this to me: “It is better that he goes back to the Father. Unless he goes back, he would never get to know you. And now that he is a saint, you can be sure that he hears you. You’ve got an intercessor and a friend in Heaven! Is it not better that way?”This Ascension, I asked the Lord a different set of questions.If You were physically present in the world today, would I have experienced You the way I did – most intimate and personally? Would I even have the opportunity to meet You face to face, when millions of people fight their way towards You, just like what's been happening at the Vatican with Pope Francis (and particularly at the Canonisation of JPII and John XXIII!)? Could You even reach out to people individually, far and wide, without the coming of the Holy Spirit? Could the Church grow to what she is today?How crucial it is that Jesus goes back to the Father! How crucial it is that the Holy Spirit is sent! This year, it is a different Ascension for me. I learned to let go of that sorrow of losing John Paul II. Perhaps, this very reflection also prepares me for the many “letting-go” (and detachment) I have to make in the future, be it people or materials.It is by letting go that we enable God to give us something even better. I shall not let Pentecost pass me by this time!**The popular "Let It Go" song playing in the background**[...]

Trip to Rome: An encounter with St Paul


My one and only desire when I went to Rome recently was to witness the canonisation and go to the tomb of St John Paul II to say hello. I've never met him. I'm dying to meet him. By hook or by crook. But unfortunately, no hook nor crook was of help. He was so near and yet so far. In the end, we ended up visiting other places.I am very thankful to God that we met Fr Peter Hwang, a priest from Bintulu (a town in Sarawak) studying in Rome. He told us that there was another more important and significant historical site than St Peter's Basilica. Of course, I doubted him at first. Why not, since my heart, mind and (most probably) soul, too, wanted to go to St Peter's Basilica only.It was the Church of St Paul's martyrdom - San Paolo alle Tre Fontane (Church of St Paul at the Three Fountains), taken care by the Trappist monks. Fr Peter brought us into the first Church where St Paul was imprisoned. St Paul managed to write his last letter there, which was to Timothy.An altar built in front of the cell where St Paul was imprisoned (right)"That small window (on the right) was the only access to the cell. Imagine how St Paul's persecutors pushed him into the cell and then dragged him out through that little window," Fr Peter explained to us.I poked my head in to see how it was like. To my horror, it was very cold inside. The ground was rough and uneven. "Oh my gosh..." I heard myself said. "How can anyone sleep in this kind of condition?"The cell where St Paul was imprisoned"Yes, it is cold. This is not even winter and it's already so cold. Can you imagine what winter's like inside there?" said Fr Peter. "Yet, St Paul was able to finish his letter to Timothy. He even convinced the person next door to convert and become a Christian."I felt something stirring deep down inside. Before we left the Church, Fr Peter led us in a prayer asking St Paul to intercede for us and to help us be faithful to Christ, just like he did. I guess this place must have meant a lot to Fr Peter somehow.Out of the chapel we needed to walk along a tar-sealed pathway leading to another church, the site which marked St Paul's beheading (see photo on the left). St Paul could have been dragged all the way from his prison to the place of his execution through that pathway. Certainly, the pathway would not possibly be tar-sealed and smooth like it is today. It could have been rocky, with shrubs and thorns and buttress roots. Perhaps, he could have endured some cuts on his body due to a few falls as he was being forced to the place of 'slaughter'.How very brutal and inhumane people can be! We wouldn't mind wiping out our enemies as long as they don't stand in our way. But at the same time, we profess our belief in God (regardless of religion). I shuddered at that thought."Don't tell me about your God with your words. Show me about your God with your actions" (Steve Maraboli, author of the book Life, the Truth and Being Free). So who is this God you believe in? Pertaining to the persecution of Christians happening recently in this country, I would like to direct this very question to all those who are involved - directly or indirectly.Church of the Martyrdom of St PaulTradition has it that when St Paul was beheaded, his head bounced three times on the sloping ground and at each spot his head landed a spring of water appeared miraculously. The spring of water, which is still flowing today, is called the "Water of Salvation". It was also said that a lot of people who came here to obtain the water received miraculous healing, even until today. Because of the tres fontes (the three fountains) and St Paul's death, Christianity bloomed. However, the Enemy was always present. There were people who wanted to poison the spring of water in attempt to destroy Christianity.The column on which St Paul wa[...]

An Episcopal Ordination: Joy with a tinge of sadness


It was the very first episcopal ordination I witnessed, of a priest I know not-very-well-but-well-enough. And being able to be there as a photographer, although not the official one, I give thanks to God. I am even more grateful as it was the ordination of our ex-'boss' (he was the advisor of Social Communications Committee).Episcopal Ordination of Fr Richard NgAccording to organisers, it was a super-mammoth Mass Miri has ever had. It wasn't just another ordinary Mass for the people in the Diocese of Miri, but a significant event even for the laity in the Archdiocese of Kuching.More than 400 people from Kuching were there. If that wasn't the proof of their love for this priest and friend, then I am not sure what other reasons were there that they were willing to travel so far just to witness the ordination.And yes, I was there too, assigned by the office to bring back some shots of the ordination, and also to accomplish my own personal mission: to get the best shot of Bishop Richard.As long as I have been with the Media Office, I have never had the chance to take the photos of Fr Richard (now Bishop of Miri). Partly because I did not find him very interesting - he seldom smiled. At least not when he met me. But when he did (well, he would usually give me that sly smile when he was cycling around the Cathedral compound in the evening), I did not have the camera with me.When I received the news of his appointment as the new Bishop of Miri, my heart sank - to be honest. Well, I was more concerned of the one to take over his post as the next advisor. I never like changes. Who does? Especially when we need to get used to the new way things are done, when we are already comfortable with the old ways. The unknown is always scary - at least for me. While I am glad the Diocese of Miri has finally a new bishop, I am a little sad at the same time to say goodbye. Probably because I still cherish those memories of the kindness he has shown me - buying me lunch as we worked overtime, offering to send me home even though it was out of his way, and remembering that I love JPII and bought me souvenirs from Poland. I did not even say "Thank you" to him before he left for Miri. I thought perhaps I could somehow improve that working relationship from "superior-subordinate" to friendship (the kind of working relationship that is more ideal in the church - in my opinion).But coming to think of it, can a servant expect the master to invite him to sit at the table together for meals?Dear Fr Richard (please allow me to call you that for one last time), I am not going to say goodbye because I know our paths will cross again somehow. We will pray for you. Quoting the words of Archbishop John Ha "Miri is your Church, Kuching is your home", do come back once in a while to visit us. Don't forget to smile, because you have a beautiful smile!And thank you, thank you for those moments when you turned and smiled at me when you could completely ignore me.[...]

Crucifying the baby Jesus


Crucifying a little baby. How cruel can that be?
One of our Jesuit priests posted this photo on his Facebook with the following remark:
"Do you agree with me that crucifying a baby is a bit sick?"
Most of the people who commented agreed with him. Some said it's a piece of rubbish. Others said it shouldn't be put on sale.

But what came to my mind was: if this is sick, then what about abortion?

Another commenter said this:
"There was an Indonesian artist who did something similar (without the cross in the background, and just a plain white ceramic-like baby with smoother over features); it did cause controversy, but it was also supposed to make people think..."
I agree that there's an underlying message in this piece of art.

If this piece of art is controversial, then so is abortion.

What do you think?

What I learned from Year of Faith


It feels like just last month that the Year of Faith was launched by Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. How very fast that ‘last month’ flies. And in these ‘last months’ we are moving fast towards the end of 2013.Looking back, I realised I didn’t really accomplished anything great in the Year of Faith, sad to say. All the books I planned to finish by the end of 2013 are only half way through. That includes Lumen Fidei, which I enthusiastically awaited and picked up but never got round to finishing it. The most I’ve done was taking a little time reading the column in Today’s Catholic (our archdiocesan newspaper) on the Creed.Is doing lots of readings and reflections, attending seminars and going for pilgrimages really enough to increase our faith and make us evangelisers? After all, Year of Faith was about learning more about my own faith and helping the others come to know about it (evangelisation and re-evangelisation). Wasn’t it so?I thought so initially. But after a series of unpleasant experiences I’ve encountered this year, I came to understand many things a little differently.I learned that no amount of reading would be able to increase my faith. I’m not lacking in ‘head knowledge’. (It’s not difficult at all to search for materials and read more on Christian Faith.) It is not so much about how much I know about the Faith, but how I can feel for others and identify myself with them (i.e. ‘heart knowledge’).I learned that to evangelise, I must first be re-evangelised. It is not so much about how well I can preach, but how I live my life as a true witness to the Gospel. The most effective way to evangelise is through our own example, for action speaks louder than words.I learned that when I’m all puffed up with pride, thinking that I know more than others and re-evangelisation is not for me, then I would not be able to grow spiritually because I’m too full of myself. And I learned that the Church, although an institution, cannot be too institutional. For our main business has nothing to do with money, status, reputation or personal gain, but souls entrusted to us by Christ our Bridegroom. The most effective way to deal with people is by going back to the Gospel values, following the example of Christ.To me, that is what evangelisation and re-evangelisation is all about. It is recognising that Christ is the centre of everything – our life and work, the church, the world, and acknowledging Him as the very reason we are who we are today – His coheirs of the heavenly Kingdom.The Year of Faith might have come to an end last Sunday, but our journey of faith continues. I pray that the Lord would touch the hearts of many through the example of our daily living – may we preach by our actions, not by words.“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (Jn 13:35, NIV)[...]

God's prayer houses


I enjoy spending quiet time alone with the Lord. But that doesn't mean I do not have problem in my prayer life. It is just like a battle. When I'm occupied with work and deadlines and hardly have any more time to waste (in prayer), my heart would pine for Him. But after I'm done with the deadlines and have plenty of time to spare, I find myself so lazy that sometimes I would have to really force myself to say the Office. The spirit is willing, the flesh is not! And that, to me, is a real challenge - a battle.Just as I've been thinking of a strategy to win this battle, the Gospel reading at Mass struck me yesterday. Or rather, this particular verse took all my attention away from the rest of the reading: "My house will be a house of prayer" (Lk 19:46).More thoughts came during the homily.According to St Teresa of Avila, the Trinitarian God resides in the centre of our soul (read The Interior Castle authored by her). Her point is supported by St Paul: "Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God (1 Cor 6:19-20)?" There are a few other references from the Bible which spoke about God dwelling in us (e.g. Jn 14:15-17, 23). Also, when we receive Him in the Eucharist, He becomes present in us. St Therese of Child Jesus on the Eucharist: "It is not to remain in a golden ciborium that He comes down each day from Heaven, but to find another Heaven, the Heaven of our soul in which He takes delight." St Mary Magdalene de Pazzi said something similar, "... if we would only comprehend the fact that while the Eucharistic Species remain within us, Jesus is there and working in us inseparably with the Father and the Holy Spirit and therefore the whole Holy Trinity is there..."So if God lives in us, then we are His 'houses'!Going back to the verse (Lk 19:46) "My house will be a house of prayer" — if we are His 'house', then we His children are expected to live a lifestyle of prayer. As He dwells in us, we become His 'house of prayer'. We usually have the perception that the Carmelite Monastery is the Church's "prayer house" because the nuns dedicated their lives entirely to prayer. More often than not, we forgot that every one of us are called to prayer. Not that our prayers would bring about some huge significant changes to the world and to those whom we are praying for. But through prayer, God draws us to Himself and to experience Him in the most intimate way. St Teresa of Avila wrote that, to experience God, prayer and meditation is the key to enter this castle where He dwells. How 'effective' our prayers are and whether or not He would grant our requests, we just have to leave that to Him with total trust and faith while we continue to persevere in our prayers. Perseverance. Perhaps, that's the strategy I should adopt."Have we not sometimes let all sorts of 'robbers' into our hearts who would steal away our lives of prayer and devotion to God?" (Permanent Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek, OFS @shermankuek, Twitter)Now, what was the priest saying during the homily??[...]

Goodbye Pope Benedict, hello Pope Francis


You might be wondering why it has taken me more than a month to pen down my thoughts on the resignation of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI. Just one reason - I dreaded saying goodbye. It is even more so when I've been so used to Benedict XVI. Eight years of pontificate - that is not a short time!Pope Emeritus Benedict XVIBut I do have a confession to make. When Benedict XVI was elected Pope, he didn't appeal much to me as I was still grieving the loss of my most beloved John Paul II. Even when I saw him up close during World Youth Day Sydney in 2008, I wasn't really impressed. However, ever since I started working in the media office of the archdiocese about four years ago, I've grown rather fond of Benedict XVI. How can I not? I had to follow him almost everyday, to keep track of what was going on in the HQ - the Vatican. Since then I grew to love him and his teachings gradually.That sudden announcement of his resignation had definitely shaken me. I still can vividly recall what happened that day. It was the second day of Chinese New Year. My friends and I were visiting another friend when I got a text message, saying that the Pope was resigning. I was having a mild headache then due to the warm weather. But after I received the message and verified that the news wasn't a hoax, my headache worsened - it was so bad that I had to take the painkiller (painkiller is never my favourite unless the pain has gone more than I can bear). Yes, it was THAT bad; I was shocked beyond words and heartbroken. It felt as if I was being disowned by my father!While my heart wanted so much that he would stay, I knew he just had to go. I was very sad, but at the same time I admired him for his courage to admit that he could no longer carry out the petrine ministry entrusted to him. I believe he made the right decision - not that he was running away from the many scandals that surfaced throughout the years; it was the total opposite. He knew his strength was failing, and if he continued to hold on to the office, he could be the stumbling block of the Church. This humble Servant of God is a great example for all of us, especially for our politicians here in Malaysia as they fight for power among themselves.Dearest Pope Emeritus Benedict, we can never thank you enough for the sacrifices you've made as the Vicar of Christ, as our shepherd... my shepherd. Seeing you off on 28 February was simply painful. I watched as you gave your final blessing to the crowd at Castel Gandolfo. We saw you turning away and disappearing from our sight... did you hear our hearts breaking? I pray that you will have all the rest you deserved. I'm happy for you too, now that you can live the life you've always wanted. Hopefully you will be writing more books to share your thoughts and reflections with all of us who love to read your writings. You are in our hearts always! We are joining you in your prayers for the Church and for the new Pope, your successor.Pope Francis - our new Holy FatherI prayed intensely with and for the Cardinals ever since the resignation of Pope Benedict, and I believe many Catholics out there did the same too. I was aware of the St Malachi's prophecy. I read about a group of cardinals since Benedict XVI's time who wanted to have things their way. Not sure how true they were, but whatever I was reading and hearing definitely worried me. I feared the Church - our Church - would fall into the wrong hands.I followed the "Smoke Watch" during the Conclave anxiously. Unfortunately, I missed the white smoke and the "Habemus Papam" announcement, but I was just in time to watch the newly elected pope on the balcony as he ended his address and blessed the [...]

Pondering on the paradoxes of Christ


Initially, I wanted to entitle this post "The Paradox of Christianity", only to find out later that there is another better post with this exact title. Now, how should I put this? I knew that Christ's teachings are full of paradoxes. I do take them seriously, but have never really sat down and reflected on them. Until that one fine evening last year when the hymn "Lord, We Touch You Today" was sung during the Mass, the chorus stirred my peaceful spirit.Here's how the chorus goes:To live is to die, and to laugh is to cryTo live is to love with all our heartTo live is to walk and to talk in your loveAnd to live, is to sing in your love allowFullScreen='true' webkitallowfullscreen='true' mozallowfullscreen='true' width='320' height='266' src='' FRAMEBORDER='0' />(The hymn ends at 2:16. This is the best video I can find on YouTube.)I've been singing this hymn for at least a thousand times throughout the years and yet, I only realised it that very day that I did not really understand the words of the chorus! Oh dear. What have I been doing all these years?One of the youth leaders I know used to put it very bluntly that while the world tells us that we should live our lives to the fullest of our ability, Christ tells us that we must die everyday. The world sounds more promising and "life-giving" instead, eh?It was Jesus who said it, "For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it" (Mt 16:25). Putting it in layman's language - if I strive to live and make myself happy and comfortable, I would lose it despite the effort put in; but if I generously give my life away for Christ's sake, I will gain life instead. Isn't that quite confusing and mind-boggling? (Ouch, my brain's hurting!)What Jesus really meant is that, it is through dying to our self that we may receive life eternal. Therefore, "to live is to die."Perhaps, if we just think about these paradoxes given by Jesus, they somehow do make some sense.Without sorrow (to cry), do we know what joy (to laugh) really is?Without love, is it still worthwhile to live?Without death on the Cross, would there be Resurrection?Without lowering ourselves, how can we expect to be lifted up?Without taking up our own crosses, can we still follow Christ who has never promised us an easy life as a follower of His?Without the heart of a servant, can a leader identify himself with his/her subordinates and thus lead them effectively?Without giving away what we have, how can we receive anything when both our hands and hearts are full?So the list goes on and on...What a mystery, but our faith is built exactly on these paradoxes of Christ. Lighting Rod said it well, that "Christian paradoxes reveal deeper wisdom. Self sacrifice helps us to better appreciate the gift we have been given, and suffering gives us the opportunity to strengthen our wills and to become more Christlike."Perhaps - just perhaps - God purposely leaves these mysteries with us to keep us wondering and searching, so that on the day we finally see Him face to face and when these mysteries are unravelled, we would experience that everlasting joy and glory He has promised, which is now far beyond the human minds and hearts can grasp."The world promises you comfort, but you were not made for comfort. You were made for greatness." ~ Pope Benedict XVI [...]

Where the journey started


(Photo courtesy of Most people would ask me this question when they learned that I was only baptised at the age of 14, “You are not born Catholic?” My “yes” would make them ask another question, “Then why such late baptism?” There’s a story behind it, of course. My Dad is a born Catholic, while my Mom is a convert because of their marriage. When my brother and I were born, my parents decided that we should choose our own belief. So when both of us were in early primary school, my parents sent us to ‘Sunday Classes’ – Anglican’s, Methodist’s and Buddhist’s and Tao’s – one after another, in hope that we would find where we belong. Unfortunately, none of the classes worked for me. I remembered that all I did was just cutting, pasting, colouring, drawing, learning origami and reading some texts. All the classes were boring and I learnt nothing. In the end, I refused to go to any more classes. When I was around 11-12 years old, my parents decided to send my brother and I to Catholic Catechism class. The nearest parish to where I live was Holy Trinity Church. At first, I joined the class in Chinese but having some difficulty understanding the religious terms and saying the prayers, I requested to try the class in English instead. And that was where my journey of knowing God actually began. I remember that I was a diligent child. I did my homework and revision, learned the prayers and some basic teachings of the Church by heart, I was always the one to score the highest marks for quizzes. At the age of 12, I even taught a classmate in school how to pray the Rosary. I tried not to miss any classes because I wanted to learn even more. During those days (not sure if it’s still the same today), children preparing for Baptism had to attend Catechism class for two years before being baptised. And since I was six months behind when I first joined the class, I had to wait for two and a half years. Finally, at the age of 14, I received the Sacrament of Baptism and First Holy Communion. I used to blame my parents for not getting me baptised when I was a baby. It was in their marriage vow, that they would “bring them [children] up according to the law of Christ and His Church.” I told them that they have broken their vow! I was angry with my parents each time I thought about it. But as years gone by, I started to see the whole situation differently. If I were baptised an infant 30 years ago, would I still be who I am today? Would I still love the word of God this much? Would I have discovered God’s love for me and strive to be faithful to that love? Would I be able to know my Faith enough to defend the Church? Instead of saying I chose God, I think it was God who chose me. He was the One who set me apart and gave me the opportunity to know Him. He has His own plan, in His own time. And His plans are always perfect. “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart...” (Jeremiah 1:5) Our God is the One who always makes the first move: the Creator who came down to the world He created to become one of us; the Shepherd who searched for the lost sheep; the Father who ran to embrace the prodigal son; the King who sacrificed His Beloved to make us His beloved. I thank the Lord for His love for me and allowing me to respond to this love.[...]

A little musing on Liturgy


 A fellow friend commented on a recent happening at our parish having to do with the topic of liturgy, encountered by the Youth. I witnessed it too. Long story short, a parishioner approached the youth choir and said that the lyrics of the new Gloria (the new Mass of Light version by David Haas) they sing during Mass was unliturgical. If you like to know the whole story including my friend’s personal opinion, you may do so here.I don’t really agree with what my friend has to say about liturgy. While I do agree that “everyone has their right when it comes to professing their faith in God in whatever ways they feel comfortable,” it’s a different story with Liturgy. I sincerely admit that I’m not liturgically trained, but I know enough of the importance of the liturgy to help me recognise the significance and beauty of the liturgy in the Holy Mass. Here is what my simple mind, with the help of the Holy Spirit, understands it: Liturgy includes words and texts, gestures, music, colour, vestments, furnishings, etc. – these little details are expressions of our worship. In Liturgical celebrations, the mystery of Christ is made present. Therefore, our worship brings us to encounter this mystery. In other words, liturgy draws us to God. Here’s a translated excerpt (by VIS) of Pope Benedict XVI’s speech (on sacred liturgy, active participation, inculturation, and the Holy Mass) when he addressed the bishops of Brazil in April 2010 during his ad limina visit: “Paying less attention at times to the rite of the Most Holy Sacrament constitutes,” he said, “a sign and a cause of the darkening of the Christian sense of mystery, such as when Jesus is not the centre of the Mass, but rather a community preoccupied with other things instead of being taken up and drawn to the only one necessary: their Lord.”Benedict XVI emphasised that “if the figure of Christ does not emerge from the liturgy ... it is not a Christian liturgy”. This is why, he added, “we find those who, in the name of enculturation, fall into syncretism, introducing rites taken from other religions or cultural particularities into the celebration of the Mass.” [...] The Pope highlighted that “behind many alleged motives, there exists a mentality that is incapable of accepting the real possibility of divine intervention in this world to assist human beings. ... Admitting God’s redeeming intervention to change our situation of alienation and sin is seen as fundamentalism by those who share a deist vision and the same can be said about the sacramental sign that makes the salvific sacrifice present. For such persons, the celebration of a sign that corresponds to a vague sentiment of community would be more acceptable.” “Worship, however,” he continued, “cannot come from our imagination: that would be a cry in the darkness or mere self-affirmation. True liturgy supposes that God responds and shows us how we can adore Him. ... The Church lives in His presence and its reason for being and existing is to expand His presence in the world.” Emphasis added.SourceThanks to the Second Vatican Council, the faithful have an active part to play in the liturgy. The changes were not made so that the community can worship comfortably or to make us feel good, but rather, that the community joins the priest to celebrate together. In other words, the Mass is about worshipping God in the manner He has prescribed through the Church (i.e. the liturgy or rite). It is not about our relationship with one another in the community. This partly explains why holding hand[...]

Saying "I Do"


A couple of days ago, I posted a song from Youtube on Facebook and asked for the opinion of friends whether the song is suitable as Communion hymn. I am helping my brother with his wedding Mass, which is less than 3 weeks from now. My Editor must have seen that post, so she flew me some questions through Google Chat… “You’re getting married?!” She asked. I could sense her excitement. “What I’m getting married???” I snapped. Ridiculous question, I thought to myself. “Hehehehehe…”  “The only marriage I’d ever want would be when the Archbishop’s the one who places the ring for me…”  Even before I managed to finish the sentence, her next message came on my screen. “Hahahaha… you wanna marry our Archbishop?” I almost fell off my chair! The ‘wedding’ that I was talking about is the Final Religious Profession (The Perpetual Profession) I witnessed on 12 May for the three Sisters of St Francis, which was held at St Joseph’s Cathedral. Each of the sisters knelt before the Superior General. With a lighted candle in hand, she pronounced her perpetual profession, and then kissed The Book of the Gospel as a sign of her commitment and covenant.This was witnessed by the congregation, and the Archbishop who presided over the Mass. After the profession, the Archbishop blessed the rings, placed them on the sisters’ ring fingers and said to each one of them: “I espouse you to Jesus Christ, the Son of the Almighty Father, and may He keep you ever in His love. Receive this Ring of Faith and Fidelity, the sign of the Holy Spirit, that you may be called spouse of God, ‘in whose embrace you are already caught up; Who has adorned your heart with precious stones and has placed priceless pearls in your ears and has surrounded you with sparking gems as though blossoms of springtime and placed on your head a golden crown engraved with the zeal of holiness’ (cf. 1EpCLAg. 10-11)” "I espouse you to Jesus Christ..." Perpetual profession of 3 Franciscan sistersThe newly professed sisters then signed the Document of Profession, witnessed by the Superior General, two other sisters, and the Archbishop. Beautiful, isn’t it? “I vow for the rest of my life to live in chastity, poverty and obedience […] I give myself to this family freely and with my whole heart…” These were parts of the words of profession. Just like a wedding ceremony. But I found this ‘wedding’ to be more moving, especially when the Archbishop placed the ring on the sister’s finger and said “I espouse you to Jesus Christ…” “The only wedding dress I would ever want to put on is the religious habit.” That was what I said almost 10 years ago when someone asked me when would be my turn to get married. 10 years ago! I guess that desire has never left me. Every time I was invited to a wedding Mass or/and wedding dinner, I was reminded of that special ‘wedding’. Another ‘format’ of walking down the aisle, and saying “I do” to my First Love.I am still not sure what is stopping me from pursuing this desire. But I really hope the Lord would show me the way. If it’s really His will, I have no reason to say ‘no’. Lord, you know my heart. You know that I love you. [Please pray for me so that I’d know my vocation soon. Thank you!][...]

Worthwhile, because of Him


I’ve been struggling with this post for the fourth month now. I wanted to share about my trip last November to Shenzhen China for the international Taichi competition, and about my short but wonderful trip to Hong Kong right after that. However, every time I read through my own writing which I reedited for the umpteenth time, I still found it not able to bring out the point I wanted to convey. Finally, here it is...Undoubtedly, it was an eye-opening experience.I never liked competitions as such, but I went anyway – for the sake of a friend who wanted to fulfil her dream. I put my responsibilities behind and missed two Sunday Masses. If I knew what was going to happen, I wouldn’t have gone. Well, our team did win quite a few trophies and medals, and so did I. My friend had her dream fulfilled – thank God! But in return, I was accused of being a disgrace to the team for some ridiculous reasons by the incompetent team leader (I really didn’t mean to judge, but he didn’t do anything and yet claimed all the credit. I've never heard even a word of encouragement from him to our team. Worse still, he’s a Catholic).For all the sacrifices I’ve made, what did I get? Nothing. Even when I was accused, that friend of mine didn’t even stand up to defend me (after all I’ve done for her!). Was the trip worthwhile? Definitely a big NO. Till today, I still refused to talk about it with anyone. Why should I recall those heart-breaking moments??Nevertheless, there’s still a reason for me to remember -- because Christ walked with me throughout the trip.On the night before the competition, I saw something I didn’t expect to see in a place like China: a huge billboard that read “Jesus loves you” (in Chinese). It so touched my heart that I had to control my tears.I took every opportunity to stay in the hotel room while my friend went out with the others. There was no fear or loneliness at all, only peace and plenty of space for me to reflect and think of the Lord.After the competition, we had a short trip to Hong Kong. It was such a blessing from the Lord – my non-Christian friends took every trouble to help me find the way to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception where the relic of Pope John Paul II was.It was a special “meeting”. I finally met John Paul II, the Pope whom I loved so much! The relic was a few strands of hair of JPII, and it was placed quite a distance away. That was the closest I could get to the relic, what else could I ask for? :-)Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, Hong Kong, where the relic of Blessed John Paul II was.We also visited St Theresa’s Church. Although I didn’t have the chance to attend Mass (as planned), at least I had the chance to spend some time before the Blessed Sacrament.St Theresa's Church, Hong Kong. Thank you, friends.Perhaps, those were the only times I was truly happy during the whole trip.Every time I reflected on all that happened during this trip, I was very thankful to God that I could see beyond the sufferings I’ve endured. Thankful that I made the journey. Thankful for the truthful friends in Hong Kong. I’m even more thankful for those moments when I was at the verge of breaking down. Otherwise, would I have experienced the presence of God? Would I have noticed Him if the trip was a delightful one throughout? "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit" (Ps 34:18).But you had the opportunity to meet so many people from all around the world! It was an international event, w[...]

Chinese New Year in Christian Context (2)


It's Chinese (Lunar) New Year eve. Like any other Chinese families, my parents are busy with some last minute preparations and also getting some dishes ready for tonight's New Year Eve (thanksgiving) dinner. As for me, I try to help where I can when I'm summoned by them. But for now, I will just get this posted before they start calling for me again.As a young Catholic, I have always wondered what does Chinese New Year have to do with Christianity. Is it really a culture for us Chinese, or is it some kind of cult practices, or occasions similar to Halloween that can be ignored by Christians?Then I realised the answer is found in a pastoral letter I posted in 2006: Chinese New Year in Christian Context (1). Obviously, I did not understand what the letter was talking about until recently.Tradition is important as it gives us our identity. Just as the Catholic Church has her own traditions passed down from the Apostles, so do the Chinese and all the races (and people) across the globe.As a traditional practice for the non-Christian Chinese in particular the Buddhists on the eve of CNY, they would burn incense and give offerings to their gods as thanksgiving as well as presenting their requests and hopes for the new year. The same actually goes to us Chinese Catholics. On the first day of CNY, (most) Chinese Catholics would attend the Chinese New Year Thanksgiving Mass in the respective parishes (where the Chinese population is present). And we also have gifts offering to God during the Offertory.Here are the explanations of the common gifts offered during CNY Mass:1. The Bread and WineThese will be turned into the Body and Blood of Christ at the Consecration. And at Holy Communion, we participate in the Body and Blood of Christ, the Risen Lord.2. The Cake of the Year (年糕 "Nian Gao")Made of pulut (glutinous) rice. Because of its glutinosity, is emblematic of eternal friendship. For us Christians, it means eternal friendship with God through our Baptism. Its stickiness is suggestive of a theory of standing by one another through thick and thin -- a universal brotherhood. Christians should stand by one another in Christ.3. The New Year OrangesBeing fresh fruits, imply a new vigour and new lease of life. And for us Christians, it means that in the coming year we ask God to give us new vigour in our Christian life, and a new lease of life in Christ.4. The GroundnutThe flower of life, and metaphorically it is called "Chang Sheng Guo" (長生果) - the nut of longevity. For us it means eternal life in Christ.5. MoneySignifies the offering of ourselves. It is the giving of the fruits of our labour to God.Source: Order of the Mass booklet for Chinese New Year, Holy Trinity Church, Kenyalang ParkA colleague shared with me the complaints of an ex-lapsed Catholic who has just recently returned to church and went for Gawai (Harvest Festival of the Sarawak Natives) Thanksgiving Mass in June last year. It went something like this: "What are these fuss all about? The gongs, the sape's, the music and the noise... This is the House of God, why are they celebrating a pagan festival in the church?"In my opinion, this is a wrong mentality. The very reason why the Dayak (natives of Sarawak and Sabah) Catholics celebrate the Harvest Festival (- a tradition) in the church is that they acknowledge God as the One who provided for them throughout the year. Therefore, at every Harvest Festival, a thanksgiving Mass is offered with rice, maize, tuak (rice wine), etc. being some of the g[...]

New year resolutions 2012


I was on Skype with a non-Christian friend yesterday. Here was how our conversation went...Friend: “... everyone’s saving up money now for the coming Chinese (Lunar) New Year.”Me:“Yeah. But I hate Chinese New Year. It makes no difference whether I celebrate or not.” Friend:“I like Chinese New Year! It’s the time I assess and review my previous resolutions and make new ones for the coming year.” That gave me a wake-up call, a reminder that there are good reasons why we should make resolutions and to assess our achievements and failures at the end of the year; to give thanks to the Lord for everything we have gone through, be it success or failures, because our experiences help us grow in maturity and strengthen our relationship with God.Looking back, I realised I have gone quite far last year, compared to the years before, made possible by the good Lord. I really cannot imagine my life without Him. Thank you, Lord, with my whole heart and soul! This year, I have decided to list down my resolutions. Definitely not to show off but as a self reminder that, like 2011, Year 2012 will zoom pass without me realising it and thus I should be clear about what I want to achieve this year, and waste no time to work towards the target or dream. I want this year to be lived fully for Him alone... 1. Pray more, read more, reflect more, listen more, write more, and talk when necessary. This is how I would love to spend time with the Lover of my soul. I have a lot of Christian books lying on the bookshelf begging me to read them. I still have lots of books on my reading list too. Most of these books are thoughts provoking books by the saints and other well known author, which I borrowed from the Carmelite sisters. The only way to keep my mind active and intoxicated with Christ is through reading. If I do not start today, then when is the best time? 2. A silent retreat. I need a retreat desperately, but not the type of retreat with praising and worshipping in loud music (i.e. youth camps), attending talks and seminars which involve charismatic renewal (and anything charismatic), and anything of that sort which are noisy. My daily life in the hustle and bustle of the city is noisy enough, and I do not want any more noise to crowd out that still, small voice of God I long to hear. Therefore I am looking for a retreat centre that offers silent retreats. This year, I hope I will receive an answer from God for my vocation. 3. Practise humility. This resolution was added to the list towards the end of last year, and I would like to carry it forward into 2012. It is right and just that a servant be humble. If Jesus, a King, is able to bend low and wash His disciples’ feet, how much more should I, a servant, prostrate before Him in humble submission and service? “Grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love...” (Prayer of St Francis). 4. To be physically and spiritually fit. I am somewhat a health freak because I do understand that only with a sound mind and body can I give myself in total service to God and His people. Since my body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 6:19-20), it is even more so that I should keep myself fit physically, and strive for holiness (1 Pet 1:14-16). 5. Put faith into action. I was in a Catholic Chatroom when I saw how a Protestant (who claimed himself a pastor) cursing the Catholic Church using all the foul languages ever [...]

Not alone


Have you ever wondered off from your group of friends as you didn't feel like talking or listening to them? Did you have that urge of being left alone while in a crowd sometimes, particularly when you're feeling down?

I have. In fact, I do that very often. I would rather be left alone than to feel alone when I'm with a group of people. The latter, some said, is the worst form of loneliness one would experience.

I enjoy every bit of being alone. It gives me an opportunity to talk to the Lord, and being rest assured that He is always there listening.

Sometimes, I wish I could see and touch Him. Why not? Being a human, no matter how strong a person is, he / she still needs companionship, a shoulder to cry on, a loving embrace. It is even more so when we've loved Him for so long, but never been able to see Him face to face. At least not yet, not now. But I believe that whenever we call upon His name He is there with us, with His hand on our shoulders. Even though alone, His presence makes us feel secure and peaceful amidst our suffering and sadness.

If you feel lonely one day, why not try to imagine He's there and talk to Him as you would to your closest friend. Give Him a chance to be your friend.

"Fear not, for I am with you." (Is 41:10)

Amazed and amused


As a Catholic, if this photo and video below fail to bring a smile on your face, I don't know what else would.

Pope Benedict XVI "plays" the piano cake during lunch with 12 young people on 19 August, World Youth Day Madrid11
I was simply speechless. No words could ever describe how amused I was (in fact, I still am!) when I watched the Holy Father pretending to play the chocolate cake piano.

Not just amused. I'm amazed at the same time! Amazed that His Holiness, as a Pope, the Successor of Peter, would unreservedly made himself available and open to the 12 young people present with him. Amazed that he could, with this little action, amuse the 12 youngsters.

I know that the Holy Father is an accomplished pianist, but I've never expected him to do such a thing... perhaps a bit silly to some, but to me it is a message from him: "Yes, I am the Pope, your shepherd here on earth. But I'm also your spiritual father and I'm concerned about you. I'm here for you. Please do not feel awkward. Make yourself comfortable with me. I love you."

That must have been the reason the twelve of them shared that it was just like a family dinner. Their conversation with the Pope wasn't planned beforehand. Just like family members at the dinner table. It was not so much about the food. It was the fellowship that counts.

Beautiful, isn't it?

I'm glad that the 12 volunteers enjoyed themselves with the Pope. And for me, I feel so touched when I saw the photo (above) and video (below).

Love you, Holy Father! Hopefully I would also have the privilege to have a meal with you someday. :)

Video of the luncheon:

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