Saturday, 24 May 2008

What a time of Grace!

We had an awesome weekend last week as we hosted the Annual Vocation Retreat 2008 at Kampung Punggol. The Singapore Seminarians were the Organizing Committee and we had expected that we would certainly have less applicants than we did last year. Last year was already a track record when we had 55 applicants and 48 turning up on the actual day. We also felt that we had very little outreach this year and so had expected the numbers to drop significantly. However, God humbled us by revealing to us again that nothing is impossible for him. We did our part in planning and praying and the Lord did his part in blessing. Indeed, as the Psalmist says, “If Yahweh does not build the house, in vain do the labourers labour; if Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain the sentries keep watch.” (PS 127:1) God blessed us with 58 applicants for this year’s retreat with 55 of them turning up.

The best part of the retreat was that it was truly a time of grace for all of us. Many of us could sense a new spring time of grace for us in the local Church of Singapore. The Holy Spirit is moving powerfully in the lives of God’s people and his young ones are feeling the holy restlessness and stirring that only he can give. As our Rector said, “their passion and conviction for the Church” edified us and excites us for the future of the Church in Singapore. It is our dream that God will continue to raise up a new generation of Shepherds after his own heart; men who will lay down their lives for Jesus Christ and the mission of the Church in the New Millennium. I also attribute much of this renewal we are experiencing as God’s generous response to the humble pleas of his people. I am sure many of the participants were deeply moved to see members from the Serra Club of Singapore and the Divine Mercy Prayer Group of Holy Cross Church interceding before our Eucharistic Lord round the clock from the time the retreat started till the concluding mass. Thank you Lord for these fine co-workers you have given us in praying for a new generation of labourers for your Vineyard!

There were also some beautiful testimonies given by the participants at the closing Mass of the retreat which was celebrated by our Vicar General, Msgr Eugene Vaz. It was unfortunate that our Archbishop had to be at a FABC (Federation of Asian Bishops Conference) meeting because I think he would have also been deeply encouraged by these young men. Msgr Vaz shared an insight that was very enlightening. Our theme for the retreat was “Wrestling With God” (Gen 32: 22-32) and he shared with us that the call of our lives was to wrestle with God to such a point that we become totally bound up with him. Just as in a wrestling match, the 2 opponents become so intertwined until one gets pinned down by the other, so too, we often struggle with God in our journey with him to eventually become so intimately intertwined with him that we become bound up. Then, we can celebrate the victory of God in our lives. What a beautiful image and so true about our lives. Even our struggling with God reveals how closely bound we are to him. Such is the story of our vocations.

I was also very glad that one of the participants approached me after the retreat to share with me his desire that all of us who were present at the retreat should make a pledge that starting with this batch of participants; we would commit ourselves to change the culture amongst young Catholics in Singapore, removing the stigma of vocation discernment. He sincerely felt that every Catholic young person should discern his vocation as part and parcel of his walk with Jesus and as much as it is the ideal, the truth is that we are far from having such a culture amongst our young Catholics, even those who may be very active in Catholic organizations. I told him that it was excellent that he felt that way and that we didn’t need a pledge, what we need is the witness of our lives. When we show our contemporaries that it is exciting to walk with Jesus and that seeking his will in terms of our particular vocation in life is normal; others too will pluck up the courage to have a change in mindset. That is what we need the most at present. We need a change in mindset. We need a conversion of our minds – we need Metanoia!

Would you join us in changing the current culture that stigmatizes vocation discernment amongst our young people? We must repeat the exhortation of Pope John Paul II to young people, “If Christ calls, Do Not Be Afraid!


cynic said...

“If Yahweh does not build the house, in vain do the labourers labour; if Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain the sentries keep watch.”

This passage struck me, and I was just wondering which version you got this iteration of Psalms 127:1 from.

It is worded differently in my RSV, and I tried googling for the version this phrasing came from, but to no avail.

I think it sounds far better than most other versions, so I'm just rather curious. Thanks!

Jude said...

Hi there,

Welcome to our blog! I am glad that you have taken time to read our sharings.

Well, I must confess that I slightly modified the verse from the version I used. The bulk of the verse came from the Jerusalem Bible which reads:

"If Yahweh does not build the house, in vain the masons toil; if Yahweh does not guard the city, in vain the sentries watch." (Jerusalem Bible)

But I didn't quite like the word mason and so I changed it to "labour" which is used in other translations like:

"Unless the LORD build the house, they labour in vain who build. Unless the LORD guard the city, in vain does the guard keep watch." (New American Bible)

Hope this helps.

God bless

paul said...

Would you consider learning to celebrate the Old Rite?

Jude said...

Hi Paul,

I will be honest to say that I have no special or particular inclination to the Old Rite (Tridentine Rite).

For me, the Eucharist is about Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour, who has captivated my heart and who has drawn me to this journey of discerning my vocation. He has freely given himself to us in the Bread of Life and whether through the Tridentine Mass or the Novus Ordo, Jesus is still the central element of the Eucharist. I love the Eucharist and I have encountered Jesus all my life in the Eucharist through the Novus Ordo so I have no problem with it and don't have a particular preference for the Tridentine Mass in my own personal spiritual life. It is because of this that I sometimes get a bit worried when Catholics (especially the young ones who cannot say they were unable to make the shift from the Tridentine Rite to the Novus Ordo because they were probably born after the Council) get so caught up in the rite of the mass and talk so much less about Jesus Christ our Eternal High Priest who is the essence of the Eucharist regardless of which rite is used. It sometimes feels like we are talking about a different Jesus in the Tridentine Mass as He who is present in the Novus Ordo. I am sure this is not their intention but we may sometimes give the impression. However, let me also add that I fully appreciate the Tridentine Mass as the rite that was appreciated by many Catholics in the pre-Vatican II period and would in no way belittle it in the same way that I hope no Catholic would also belittle the Novus Ordo.

Nevertheless, if God calls me to be a Shepherd of His flock, I will also have to see to the needs of the flock in Singapore in union and obedience to my local Ordinary. The Archbishop who exercises his God-given office of Apostle in my local Church will be the person to best gauge if we will need priests to celebrate the Tridentine Rite as part of the pastoral care of the local flock. I believe that the Holy Spirit guides my leaders and I am open and obedient to how the Holy Spirit will lead the local Church of Singapore. If the need arises and I am called upon to learn this Rite as part of our local presbyterium's care of our flock, then, I will respond in the appropriate manner trusting that God's grace will be sufficient even in my deep sense of inadequacy in Latin. In case you are not aware, I am part of the first generation of Singaporean Seminarians who had to study Latin and I confess that I struggles immensely with the language.

Do pray for all of us to always focus our gaze on Jesus and not be distracted by peripherals.

I hope this adequate answers your question and I hope you are able to appreciate my own sharing on the topic.

May the good Lord always raise up Shepherds for us who will fulfil his exhortation, "Feed my sheep" with the Bread of Life!

Paul M. said...

Hi Jude,

Was blog surfing. Just want to say that this Paul isn't the same Paul who asked about the old rite.

You know why I'm clarifying! Haha... Have a good week ahead!

Paul M.