Wednesday, 25 November 2009

Invisible Christ

“Christ is the image of the unseen God and the first-born of all creation, for in him were created all things in heaven and on earth: everything visible and everything invisible.”
Colossians 1:15-16

When I was in Initiation Year, I had the opportunity to attend a series of sessions of Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, and during one of sessions, I was shown a short video, where a child of 5 or 6 years old was asked if he can explain what the Holy Trinity is all about. The child went to a drawing board complete with paint brushes and palates of colours and he started painting the whole picture green, and after doing so, he said “This is God the Father”, after that he painted over the green with yellow and then he said, “This is God the Son”, and lastly he took red paint and painted over the green and yellow, and after doing so, he said “This is God the Holy Spirit, and together they form the Holy Trinity.”

To us, if we can picture it, that painting was just a mix-mesh of colours and doesn’t tell us much, much less the Holy Trinity. However, for that child of 5 or 6 years old, he encountered the mystery of the Holy Trinity in a most personal and profound way.

Children seem capable of seeing the Invisible, almost as if it is more tangible and more real than immediate reality. Children are able to penetrate beyond the veil of signs and perceive their meanings as if no barrier existed at all between the visible and invisible. Whereas for us, if the thing is invisible, we grow suspicious about it and because it cannot be confirmed by sight and touch, we grow leery of it. Yet there are many things that are invisible; the air we breathe, the wind we feel and the electricity that runs through our lights and equipment.

We are thus invited to regain that wonder that we had lost. Jesus is visible, yet invisible in the Blessed Sacrament. For the unbelieving eyes, it is just a piece of bread, but for us Jesus is real in the Blessed Sacrament. Jesus remains invisible in the Eucharist so as to awaken the childlike wonder within us. His hidden mode is mercy for us. If we want to ‘see’ Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, then we need to regain our sense of wonder. For when we wonder, we are tuned into this Mystery that Jesus is drawing us into.

Let us cast our gaze onto Jesus and contemplate him with the eyes of our heart. Let us remain focus on him in the Blessed Sacrament and with filled with wonder, and Jesus will seem as if we have never seen before. Let us cast our gaze onto Jesus, for Jesus is present even when our hearts seems overwhelmed with other things. This gaze of love searches for Him and this search takes time, for as Scriptures says, “Be still and know that I am God”.

"When we are before the Blessed Sacrament, instead of looking about us, let us shut our eyes and open our hearts; and the good God will open his. We will go to him, and he will come to us, the one to give, and the other to receive. It will be like a breath passing from one to the other. What delight we find in forgetting ourselves that we may seek God!"
- St. John Vianney

Thursday, 1 October 2009

New blog for the reflections of our Seminarian Brothers

Good News!!

The official blog of the St Francis Xavier Major Seminary has been launched and will have the contributions of our Brother Seminarians... all of them...

Please drop by and give them your support!!!

God Bless!!!

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows – 15 September 2009

Most if not all of us have our favourite image of Our Lady. I have mine as well, and it is the icon of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour. About four years ago, through one of Fr Ignatius Huan’s homilies or lessons, I was introduced and have since added another favourite image of Our Lady, the image of Mary standing at the foot of the Cross.

When confronted by the imminent death of her son Jesus and the horrific sufferings that Jesus was enduring, Mary herself was also at the foot of the Cross undergoing her own passion. Yet in John’s Gospel, Mary was not depicted as weeping her eyes out, beating her chest as the women of Jerusalem did nor kneeling down in a state of distraught. Instead Mary was seen as standing at the foot of the Cross, a picture of trust and confidence in the Divine plan of God the Father and the promises of Her Son Jesus.

Exactly one year ago this day, I was about to start on my Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) at Mount Alvernia Hospital, and there was quite a fair bit of uncertainties and even apprehensiveness, because I do not know what is going to happen or will happen at CPE. Some said that it was an irony to start my CPE on Our Lady of Sorrows, but to me, it was providential and it pointed out the attitude I am invited to have. In that quiet morning that day, as I prepared for Eucharistic Celebration in Holy Spirit’s chapel, all I did was to surrender and entrust in faith and obedience to God the Father, and I said to Our Lady, “Mother, I do not know what is going to happen, but Mother, please walk with me and stand with me.”

There are many things we do not understand, and like Mary we are invited to ponder on the things we do not comprehend in our hearts, and we are all invited to be like Mary, to be open, to be faithful, to be trusting, to stand upright despite all the impossibilities going on around us, to let go of our dreams and dream God’s dreams for us.

Monday, 14 September 2009

Unsatisfying Food

Today, on the Feast of The Triumph of the Cross, a line in the First Reading caught my attention and re-surfaced a long overdue reflection that has been lingering at the back of my mind for the past few weeks.

The First Reading says that the Israelites lost patience with God as they entered into the wilderness grumbling, “we are sick of this unsatisfying food” (Numbers 21:5). Unsatisfying Food – what is that, really?

I guess at some point or another, we would have experienced “unsatisfying food” in our lives and these experiences although often insignificant, would have taught us something worthwhile – (01) either about the food we ate, (02) the one who prepared it (i.e. the chef) or (03) possibly about ourselves (i.e. our hunger, to be more precise).

Within these three possibilities, I guess the least blame can be given to the “food” itself , although at first glance, it seems to be the one which causes the whole reaction. Sure, there is the possibility of the poor quality of the raw material that could have gone into the preparation of the dish but we all know that it can never be that bad because nobody intentionally starts preparing a dish with rotten ingredients.

The second possibility is that the one who prepared it was a poor cook and so was not able to prepare something delicious and satisfying. This is often the reason we would sight in our everyday life and so it is of no surprise that the Israelites blamed God, the “chef” of the food they were eating, for the “unsatisfying food” and I guess it is because of their rejection of the “chef” that they also end up losing His presence which is their protection and ended up being bitten by the fiery serpents. When we do not like a certain food at a particular restaurant, we often decide never to go back there again and this is sometimes the case with our own relationship with God. The problem is that in our everyday lives, there are many other “cooks” or “chefs” that we can turn to but when it comes to God, our Faith tells us that He is the only One. Rejecting Him would mean inevitably making the decision to go hungry for the rest of our lives and we all know where this would lead us – starvation and eventual death. At this point, I also recall the parable of the Prodigal Son; the younger son had decided that he no longer wanted to eat his father’s food and so he resorted to eating the food of the swine. Similarly, sure, there may be other alternatives in life; “food” that may satisfy our initial hunger but we also know at the same time, just like that younger son in the parable, that this food is not the “real food” that was made for me and neither was I made for it. It was much more “unsatisfying food” but our pride may hold us back from returning to the feast of the Father’s House.

I personally feel that it is the third possible reason for “unsatisfying food” that deserves our closer attention. “Unsatisfying food” is so not so much of the food itself but because of our appetites and our tastes. It is common knowledge that the best tasting food is the worst for our health and often, the most bland food is in reality, the most healthy for us. Nevertheless, there is a reality of our own hunger and appetites that we need to examine and understand. Maybe, if the Israelites had understood their hunger more, they would have complained less against God and this could well be the case in our own modern lives too. What are we hungering for?

Recently, I met a good friend for lunch and he mentioned something that has stayed with me since. He was reflecting about our lives as Christians in the modern world we live in and he remarked that most of us are settling for “stale bread” instead of feasting on the “daily bread” that the Father desires to give to each of us. I have been reflecting further on his remark and realise that it is very true for myself and for many people around me. Often, I am unable to go deeper into the longings of my heart, the depths of my hunger and the fast pace and superficiality of modern life has sometimes prevented me from truly settling for “real food” because I can choose to settle for “instant noodles”. We all know that “instant noodles” are good stopgap measures but they would never be the main dish of a feast. It would in fact be a great insult to our guests if we threw a big feast and served them all packets of instant noodles. Somehow, we also know that the best dishes in life are made with great effort and love. I guess that’s why mother’s cooking is always the best – not so much that she is better than the world’s best chef but we know how much “love” was a necessary ingredient in her dish.

I believe that this is also true when we come to the hunger of our lives. In the Book of Exodus – “'That' said Moses to them 'is the bread Yahweh gives you to eat” (Exodus 16:15). God knows the hunger of us His children and he has given us divine “bread” that our hunger may be satisfied. Many of us fail to receive the “bread” that God has prepared for us because we have turned to other foods that often does not satisfy.

And let us say that we do appreciate the"divine bread" that God gives us as many of us committed Christians do because we realise that only He can satisfy our hunger, we may also fall into another trap which my friend mentioned. We settle for "stale bread" instead of "daily bread".

When God fed the Israelites with manna in the desert, he also commanded them through Moses, “No one must keep any of it for tomorrow” (Exodus 16:19) and “Eat it today” (Exodus 16:25). God wishes to give us not just “bread” but “daily bread” and is this precisely not the prayer most of us say almost mechanically in the Lord’s Prayer every day. Why is it that we ask for “daily bread” but often settle for “stale bread”? Often, we cling on to experiences of God in the past which is an excellent thing because God has always invited His people to "remember" but we must also realise that our "remembering" should open us to the reality of the "daily bread" that God gives us. We need to realise that God is not only the God of the past but the God of our todays and He is offering you "new" bread even at this moment.

This hunger for “daily bread” is most perfectly satisfied in the Eucharist for Jesus is our true source of our satisfaction for our hunger. In the Eucharist, we experience the loving “food” preparation of God who has “prepared a body” (Hebrews 10:5) for His only Son and given Him as “real food” (John 6:55) to us. God Himself feeds us with Himself in Jesus. And this is not just a historical event that happened 2000 years ago that we merely recall with some sentimentality. The Eucharist is not merely a historical event which has become "stale bread", that is no longer relevant or unappetizing. It is our "daily bread" because Jesus comes to meet us everyday of our lives with all the pains and joys each day carries with it and He becomes food for us in ever "new" ways every day.

Yet, it is no surprise that some say, “we are sick of this unsatisfying food” (Numbers 21:5) even at the Eucharist. What then are we hungering for? What better food do we desire? Maybe, it is high time we start understanding our hunger more instead of complaining about the “food”.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Vocation Retreat files

Dear people of the Lord,

My humblest apologies for the delay in getting the below files to you. Here are the links.

1. Quotes from St John Vianney (Fr Val)

2. Vocation Discernment Slides (Sr Susay)

My apologies once again. Do let me know if you having trouble downloading them.

God Bless
Br Cornelius

Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Called to be a Christian Hero (By Bro Joseph Zhang)

Scripture Reading: Acts 7:54-60 “The Stoning Of Stephen”

There are many heroes and heroines in the world history who worked and even sacrificed their lives for the welfare of their countries and for the welfare of the people. In the Church history, there are also many heroes and heroines who laboured and sacrificed their lives for the kingdom of God. They are the martyrs and the saints.

Stephen, the first martyr, was stoned to death for his belief and for his preaching of the truth. For the sake of God’s kingdom, Stephen faced his accusers’ grinding teeth. He was struck by the stones. However, he did not curse them. Instead he put faith in God and prayed for them that the Lord may not hold this sin against them.

By the water of baptism, we have received God’s grace and mission. We are called to continue to establish, to bring the Kingdom of God to fulfillment. We are called to bear witness for Christ who is the truth. We are also called to sacrifice for the kingdom. Each one of us is called to be a hero. In the process of doing so, we are bound to face oppositions and difficulties. We may not face the gnashing teeth of rage and the flying hard stones but the suffering faces and the constant and the various needs of the people. Our sacrifice for God’s kingdom may not be in the form of shedding blood. But we are called to sacrifice our time, our pleasure and comfort for the people of God.

“A boy doesn’t have to go to war to be a hero; he can say he doesn’t like pie when he sees there isn’t enough to go around.” ------- Edgar Watson Howe

Therefore, let us ask ourselves:
1. Am I aware of the needs and the difficulties of the people that I encounter?
2. Do feel the thirst and hear the cry of the people of God?
3. What is God calling me to do?
4. What have I done for the people of God?
5. What should I do for their physical and spiritual wellbeing?
6. Am I generous and brave enough to use the talents that God has give me to serve his people?

Tuesday, 16 June 2009

Half-way mark.....

Have you gone to work in the morning, knowing that the smell that will greet you at the workplace is the smell of excrement? Well, this is what nurses experience almost every other day. Things that we often take for granted.... like the clean residents at an aged home, the sanitized smell of the place etc... if only people know the work that the staff do behind the scene.

How fast, it is already pass the halfway mark for my pastoral exposure at St Joseph's Home. I am really edified by the staff and residents here. First the residents...... there are many who are disadvantaged (in moving about, eating on their own, passing motion etc) and yet they still have a bright outlook in life, accepting their conditions and choosing to make the best of it. Every morning when I report for 'work', I am always greeted by warm smiles and wishes of "Good Morning!" from the residents. This really perks me up and makes a fantastic start to the day.

The dedication of the staff here is also commendable. I was told by one of them, "the old uncles and aunties here need to go for their exercise every day. Even if we are busy, we must still help them." What commitment! I feel the hardest thing about being in the home is not the manual work but understanding the different habits of the residents and helping to make their time here a little better. (Some like a glass of water after their meals, some prefer their juice in between the spoonfuls of porridge you feed them, etc). Remembering their names and their habits. My greatest challenge... and mind you, there are some with 'interesting' habits :-P

Today is also a significant day. It is the funeral of one of the three founders of the home. Mother Elisabeth Yeo was called home with the Lord on Sunday morning and the funeral was this afternoon at the home. Fr Bill Heng preached a beautiful homily about cherishing the memories of our dear ones and it is these bits of memories that we keep in our heart. Hearing the stories that some of the other sisters shared with me, I can understand why she is so special to so many of them.

So many significant moments..... so many lessons learnt...... so many frends made.....
Really looking foward to the time remanining...... now for some rest and it is another busy day tomorrow......

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

He ain't heavy, he's my.... brother, sister, father, mother, grandpa, grandma... (all of the above)...

Thanks to Bro Jude for the update! Yup! We have finished our 1st semester examinations and out of the 8 Singaporeans, 4 of them are on their 30-day retreat. This June, Bro Edward and myself will be on our pastoral attachment, Bro Edward in Church of St Francis Xavier, and myself at St Joseph's Home.

I have just finished my 3rd day here and what a learning experience it has been so far. I really admire the passion and commitment the staff here have for the residents, especially in coping with the more "hard to handle" ones.
Simple things that we have often taken for granted like standing up and eating are not so easy for some of the residents to do.
Well, with 27 day more to go, I continue to pray that the staff will continue to persevere in this vocation of being a care-giver and may the Lord protect them, especially in this H1N1 time. May the Lord also watch over the residents here and all the dependent people all over the world.
Now to get some rest and looking forward to another day...... :-)

Monday, 1 June 2009

Supporting Our Brothers in Prayer

Its been almost 6 months since I last contributed to our blog here at Kampung Punggol. How time flies...

I am currently on my Regency Year at the Church of the Holy Spirit in Upper Thomson Road and its been a wonderful time of grace living and working with God's People. That explains why I have been unable to contribute very much to our blog in recent times... :)

Nevertheless, I figure that this would be an appropriate time that I make a little contribution to Kampung Punggol blog because half of our Singaporean Seminarians have started their 30-day retreat today which would mean that there wouldn't be many people to man this site.

Bro Samuel Lim, Bro Alphonsus Raj, Bro Benedict Chng & Bro Jovita Ho have just begun their 30-day retreat today. That means 4 out of the 8 Singaporean Seminarians will be out of action for the next one month so I seek your understanding if you do not find our blog updated as frequently as we would like to. Bro Joseph Zhang CDD will also be making his 30-day retreat with the 4 of our brothers and we urge all of you our readers to keep these 5 brothers of ours in your prayers.

The 30-day retreat is a defining moment in the life of each seminarian and it is the time when we enter into a time of intense prayer to seek God's affirmation of our vocations and I am sure our 5 brothers would be very appreciative of your prayers for them in this time.

Thank you very much.....Let us pray....

Sunday, 26 April 2009

Visit of His Excellency Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio to Kampong Punggol.

Hi readers,

Easter greetings to you. Finally my brudders twisted my arm in penning down my thoughts after “taking cover” for such a long time. I had to agree under duress ‘cos this kampong ain’t big enough for me to hide anymore. Lately, the forest that surrounds our turf are been removed, making way for urban development and hence the insects and other forest creatures are migrating to our homeland. Hey, do let me know your thoughts after reading my post ok?

A week before the “nuncio” visit, we were informed by our Rector that His Excellency Salvatore Pennacchio will be visiting the seminary the day after celebrating the anniversary of the Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI on the 19th April at the Cathedral. Needless to say, our brothers were excited and thus put our voices together in welcoming “the nuncio” on early Monday morning. He seems very well pleased with our Latino number “Vivat” ( Which means “Long live to him!” ).

After celebrating the Eucharist with us, the “nuncio” had the pleasure in sinking his teeth into our standard Kampong breakfast spread ie Loti-kaya toast with choice of eggs and our home made Kopi-tarek with option of orange juice on the side to flush down the kaya which may have difficulty sliding down. If you are around our premises, you may want to swing by and Kopi is on us. ( Please call prior to visit ). I found the “nuncio” a very friendly warm person whom you can be yourself… really! He left after breakfast and class resumed.

O yeah, just in case those who are wondering the meaning of nuncio. Well, he a diplomatic representative of the Pope having ambassadorial status. Nuncio is an ecclesiastical diplomatic title, derived from the ancient Latin word, Nuntius, meaning "envoy”. His mission is general, embracing all the interests of the Holy See; his office is permanent, requiring the appointment of a successor when one incumbent is recalled, and his mission includes both diplomatic and ecclesiastical powers. Nuncios, in the strict sense of the word, first appeared in the sixteenth century. The office, however, was not created at any definite moment or by any one papal ordinance, but gradually developed under the influence of various historical factors into the form in which we find it in the sixteenth century. I think I may have gone a little overboard on the “defi” of nuncio…

Till my next post, may the peace and love of Christ remain with you always.

Shalom my friends,


Saturday, 25 April 2009

Meeting my first Malaysian Fellow-Seminarian

Above: Br Greg and Johnston;
Below : Br Greg with a Patrician Alumni Shaun Koh and present student Russell.

In the late morning of 7 January 2009, I packed my luggage and checked into the St Francis Xavier's Major Seminary here in Punggol, Singapore. The place was quiet as most seminarians were not back from their End-of-the-Year vacation. As I entered the Seminarians' Residence, the first seminarian I met was Br Gregory Chan. As soon as I introduced myself to him, I was touched by his brotherliness. First, he offered to help me carry my luggage even though he was new here having arrived the night before. Next, he made the connection with me by informing me that he is an alumni of two Lasallian Schools in Malaysia and was among the first batch of students Br. Michael Kum [a La Salle Brother now teaching in St Francis Institution, Malacca] taught in La Salle Petaling Jaya in Malaysia.
Since then I waited for the opportunity to bring Br Greg to visit Lasallian Schools in Singapore and thank God the opportunity came recently on Easter Monday. Being a staunch supporter of St Patrick's School, I could wait no longer to bring him there besides introducing him to our beautiful and unique Katong area. Yes, we tried Katong Laksa and I mean the original one. But our Original Tau-Kwa Pau stall was closed on Monday and so was Chin Mee Chin coffee shop. Saving the best for the last, we entered St Patrick's School. The best part of St Patrick's was the good will and friendliness of the students. It was nice to see the connections so easily made between the Patricians and our visiting Lasallian Seminarian. Br. Greg then inspired interests in music among the students when he put his hands on the piano.
I thank Patricians for their good will and to Br Greg for his inspiring and passionate Brotherhood.
The Lord has risen, it is true! Live in Him need all we do, Alleluia!

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Dear brothers,

Grace, Peace and Joy our Risen Lord Jesus Christ be with you!

Our Annual Vocation Retreat 2009 is about a month away (15th to 17th May 2009) and registration is now open. This is the main Vocation Discernment event for the year and we hope that you will be able to join us. The details of the Retreat is as mentioned in the poster attached. As places are limited, please do register with us as soon as possible so as to avoid disappointment.

You are encouraged to sign up through the priests of your parish but if you have your reasons for preferring not to do so, you may also sign up directly with us by emailing us your details and we will forward you the application form.

Please also help us forward this message to your single, male, Catholic friends aged 18 years old and above who you think may also be interested in exploring the possibilities of a priestly call in their life. Registration closes on 10 May 2009 so we look forward to hearing from you before that.

Thank you very much. We are certainly praying that you will be able to join us and that we will all have a grace-filled time with the Lord together.

Saturday, 11 April 2009

The Lord is Risen!!

After 40 day of fasting, prayer and alms-giving,
the day awaited is here.
They praised, and condemned and crucified
our Lord Jesus, our dear.
But now he is in the tomb no more
suffered and died for us he did.
Death he has conquered, our sin washed clean
by his passion, his selfless feat.
Now resurrected, and at the Father's right
victorious and in majesty he stands.
With us always, to the end of time
watching over us. Amen! Amen!

A Blessed Easter to all !!!

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

We are going green... not with envy but eco-friendly!

Wow! We just had a long community meeting amongst the students and I can say it was a fruitful meeting. One of the directives we had chosen to take is in line with what we did last Saturday (29th Mar 09). You might have read in the news that globally, people everywhere switched off their light for an hour.

You guessed it. We, in the seminary, did the same, switching off our non-essential lighting for an hour too. In addition, we prayed a rosary for the needs of the world.

In addition, at today's meeting, we have decided to have our categorized waste bins for paper, plastic bottles and aluminum cans. Though this is a small start to out eco-friendly effort, it is still a start nonetheless. It is said that a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step. I do pray and hope that the efforts of the community to conserve energy and be green continue on.

With this, let us remember our brothers and sisters who are deprived of their basic need because of one reason or another, and also pray that the people of the world maybe more concerted in their efforts to make the world a better place.

Remember the three 'R's

Reflections of the Seminarians' Retreat '09 (By Bro Joseph Zhang)

I Saw Jesus in him

We, the seminarians of St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary, have just finished our one week silent annual retreat under the guidance of Fr. Paul Goh (the assistant parish priest of the Church of St. Vincent de Paul). The things that touched me most during this retreat were: his familiarity with the word of God, his trust and reliance on God, and his humility. God allowed me to encounter Him by seeing Jesus in his priest.

In his introduction to the retreat, Fr. Paul Goh shared with us that when the seminary Father approached him and asked him to be the retreat master for this year he accepted the invitation and took it up as a challenge. He told us that he was only the loudspeaker of God in this retreat; the real retreat master is the Holy Spirit.

Many times during the retreat he told us that he did not know what to talk to us. He shared with us that before each talk he would spend long time in prayer asking God for inspiration and for guidance on the message that God wants him to speak to us. Jokingly he would tell us that all the things he talked were freshly cooked. Because of his trust and dependence on God each time he could share with us enthusiastically and with conviction. And his words were able to touch me.

What he shared with us was full of wisdom based on the scripture and his years of pastoral experience. He was very familiar with the scripture and many of the words that he spoke were from the word of God though he could not point out the exact books, chapters and verses that they are from. His frequent quotations of the word of God and his sharing of his pastoral experiences were like rain drops falling on and refreshing our hearts. “As the rain and snow come down from the heavens and do not return without watering the earth, making it yield and giving growth to provide seed for the sower and bread for the eating, so the word that goes from my mouth does not return to me empty…” (Is 55:10-11) Fr Paul’s quotation of the word of God also spoke a lot to me.

In different occasions, Fr. Paul talked about the importance of humility. He always told us not to be proud, “For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled but the man who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Lk 18:14) Again on humility he quoted, “My son, be gentle in carrying out your business, and you will be better loved than a lavish giver. The greater you are, the more you should behave humbly, and then you will find favour with the Lord; for great though the power of the Lord is, he accepts the homage of the humble.” (Sir 3:17-20) Fr. Paul also told us that humility will make one sane and approachable. He not only talked about the virtue of humility to us, he lived it out.

He also shared with us the lesson he learnt as a priest by exhorting us, “Always live in the presence of God, prepare a sermon with prayer, read the word of God again and again and soak in it, proclaim the word of God and live out what we proclaim with faith, obedience, and humility.”

Although his talks were not very thematic in content he was very inspiring. On the fourth day of the retreat, I went as usual for the afternoon session. He started to talk. I did not know why but I sensed strongly God’s presence in him. I see Jesus living in him. I said to myself, “God is alive. There are holy priests in Singapore.” I praise God for this wonderful gift. I pray that all of us can be another Christ and live out the God-image in us by growing in Christ-likeness.

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Vespers Reflection - Psalter Week 1 - Tuesday - First Week of Lent

Sometime I am asked the question, "Jo, do you trust God?", and almost immediately and unreservedly I would answer, "Of course I do!" Yet today whilst reflecting on Psalms 19 and 20 which speaks of the king's trust in God, I come to realize that inasmuch as that trust in God is seemingly a given, the real question that begs to be asked is, "When do I start trusting God?" or in another word, bluntly put, is, "When do i start letting go and allow God to take control?"

The kings of old in Psalms 19 and 20 placed their trust and certitude in God, and we too are invited to trust in God, and yes, sometimes we fear where this trust is leading us to, because it seems almost unknown and deep down somewhere in our hearts, we still want to be in control.

Sometimes I know where God is leading me to, but most of the time I do not know where this trust is leading me to, but I trust that God's love will lead me to where He wills and wants me to be.

Lauds Reflection - Psalter Week 1 - Tuesday - First Week of Lent

We are faced with words everyday. I can see it in my little black book on which I wrote this reflection, the words on our Divine Office which we will pray soon, and later we will face even more words when we have our lectures.

In Pslam 32, we are reminded of the type of words that God brings... "The word of the Lord is faithful", "By his word the heavens were made", "He spoke and it came to be, he commanded and it sprang into being". In short, God's words are powerful, and more importantly, it is life-giving.

We too are sharers of His word, and bearers of words. Let us consider how we have used words on one another. Does our words edify our fellow brothers or does our words destroy our brothers and one another? Let us pray and strive to be sharers and bearers of life-giving words to everyone whom we encounter.

Saturday, 28 February 2009

Good News for all Altar Servers !!!

Calling all Altar Servers out there! Is there one among you who seems to know all the rubrics of serving the altar? Someone who sets a good example and is a model whom you can aspire to?


The Serra Club of Singapore is have a competition for recognizing altar servers who have been exemplary in their service to the Catholic Church in Singapore. It is their way of showing their love, appreciation and encouragement for this special group of young friends of Jesus.

You can click on the posters above to bring you to their website where the details as well as the nomination form can be found.

Why are you still waiting? Go to the link, download the forms and start nominating right now! Closing date is 31st Mar 2009.


are you happy? :)

We seminarians/religious/priests are often asked the question:
“Are you happy in what you do?”
And I notice that some of us, realizing the reality that we’re always overtaxed with our studies/work/ministries, and that our life as disciples is not a rosy one, tend to give this typical reply:
“Well, we may not always feel happy in the worldly understanding of happiness, but we experience joy in what we do.”

Huh? Is this just a textbook answer? Are we just covering up the pains and struggles we experience in this way of life? If not happy then say not happy lah! So diplomatic for what?

In ministries, we encounter many problems – because we feel for the people and carry in our hearts their many problems in life, and it pains us to know they’re suffering so much. As if these external sources of pains are not enough, internally we struggle with our own problems, shortcomings, inadequacies, etc. And as seminarians in formation, some of us have to juggle all that with community living and of course needless to say, the pains of assignments and exams. Now, honestly, are we really joy-full? Is this happiness?

Well, it depends how we understand the terms ‘Happiness’ and ‘Joy.’
[Disclaimer: For the sake of clarity, we use the term ‘Happiness’ in a secular sense.]

We can of course refer to the dictionary and understand the technical definitions of these terms. Or we can also ask those people who always give the typical answer above for their perspective. But since I am the one writing this blog entry, you have no choice but to bear with my understanding and perspective of these two apparently overused terms :) My sharing is in the light of my limited experience in ministries and my life in these few years of seminary formation.

My mum has always been the one responsible for the upkeep of the house, from preparing meals to the laundry and all household chores. Now, let’s say that lately she is not able to do all these because of a recent hand surgery. And let’s say I really hate doing all these household chores. Now I have 2 options before me:
1. Forget about the chores and spend my time watching TV
2. Help mum upkeep the house by doing whatever needs to be done

Now at the superficial level, I know I’d enjoy myself if I make the first choice because I love watching TV, and would be feeling miserable should I decide to choose the second option.

However, at a deeper level, if I were to choose the first option, not only would I know that my enjoyment wouldn’t last too long, but my conscience would come and haunt me. Whereas if I were to decide to help mum with the household duties, I know I’d get a sense of peace within me although doing those things was challenging and not pleasurable at all for me.

The worldly understanding of happiness can be seen in the enjoyment I get when I spend my time watching my favourite TV shows. It is something I like to do and it feels good to satisfy my desire. But this pleasure is just a short-term gratification. It may even have a counter effect, especially when our conscience kicks in like the example given above.

On the other hand, joy can be found in the deep sense of interior peace and assurance I get when I help my mum with the household chores. I may not enjoy doing those things, but the consolation I experience is profound and lasting. It’s not a matter of doing the right thing, but a matter of being true to my identity as a son.

This analogy may be too simplistic, but I hope it helps us distinguish a bit clearer the difference between real joy and superficial happiness. I’m not saying that by being true disciples of Christ, whether lay or otherwise, we will not have a happy and enjoyable life. But if our Master himself doesn’t have a proper place to rest [cf Mt 8:20, Lk 9:58], who are we to ask for more? If this was a musical, I’m quite certain that Jesus would be singing, “I beg your pardon? I’ve never promised you a rose garden!”

My emphasis here is not whether we will suffer or be happy. What is more important is that as long as we are faithful to our identity and be the person we’re called to be, we will experience real joy, one that the world cannot give. This is what keeps most of us going and smiling :)

So are you joy-filled in what you do?
Or are you merely happy?

Reflections on Psalm 42

"Like the dear that yearns for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God.

My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God?

My tears have become my bread, by night, by day, as I hear it said all the day long: 'Where is your God?'

These things will I remember as I pour out my soul; how I would lead the rejoicing crowd into the house of God, amid cries of gladness and thanksgiving, the throng wild with joy.

Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my saviour and my God.

My soul is cast down within me as I think of you, from the country of Jordan and Mount Hermon, from the Hill of Mizar.

Deep is calling on deep, in the roar of waters: your torrents and all your waves swept over me.

By day the Lord will send his loving kindness; by night I will sing to him, praise the God of my life.

I will say to God, my rock: 'Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning oppressed by the foe?'

With cries that pierce me to the heart, my enemies revile me, saying to me all the day long: 'Where is your God?'

Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God; I will praise him still, my saviour and my God."


Memories have two purposes. It either reminds us of the good times that had since past and thus reinvigorating us in the present, or it reminds us from repeating past mistakes and thus preventing a perpetuating of errors. Both way, memory is good and it is a gift from God.

In Psalm 42, the Levite (who is in exile in Babylon) recalls the wonders that God had done despite him being in a state of desolateness, and how in that recalling of past memories, it made him cry out in hope despite the hopelessness that was presented before him. It must have taken tremendous amount of faith for the Levite to cry out in such situation, and most of us would greet his hope with wonder and amazement!

Are we able to recall the wonders that God had done and are still doing in our lives? God has gifted us with memory and it is indeed a powerful tool that He had placed within us, and let us recall as the Levite did, especially during the times when the goings get rough and tough, be it in our lives, relationships, studies, work and decision makings.

God is ever near and present to us. Just call out to him! For indeed "Why are you cast down my soul, why groan within me? Hope in God: I will praise him still, my saviour and my God!"

Friday, 13 February 2009

Coincidence or a sign of Hope and Blessing.....

Something happened 151 years ago......

Our Blessed Mother appeared to a young girl, Bernedette, in Lourdes, a small town in France. In our seminary, if you have noticed, we have a grotto dedicated to this aparation of Mother Mary.

Two days ago, we celebrate the memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and there was something different at the grotto...

The flower bed (more like the grass bed) directly in front of the statue was usually with any blooms but when I went to open the main gate early in the morning, lo and behold ! I saw not one but two flowers, fully bloomed and beautiful.

Is this a coincidence or is it a sign of the confirmation of the affections and blessings of Our Lady on her seminarians here..... only you can decide..... all I can be sure is that it made my day and showed me a little glimpse of the immense beauty of the Lord.

Monday, 26 January 2009

Xin Nian Kuai Le !!!

Here is wishing all visitors to our blog a
Blessed and Grace-filled Niu Year!!!

May the Golden Ox
plough through the arid areas of your life
so that the living water of Christ
may irrigate it and bring abundance of life!!

Tuesday, 13 January 2009

They died... so did Christ...

Goodday to all reading this post. In my earlier post, I mentioned I was in Cambodia in the December holidays. We managed to squeeze some time to visit the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Former Khmer Rouge S21 Prison).

This was previously a school and the Khmer Rouge converted it into a prison for the torture and interrogation of prisoners for information. As many as 10,000 adults perished in this place, not counting the children also held here. It is hard to imagine an institute for learning would become a place where many innocent people lost their lives to the torture and harsh living conditions.

As I was walking through the place, looking at the exhibits and the mug-shots of the detained, I was reflecting on the passion and the death of Christ. These thousands of innocent Cambodians lost their lives in a power hungry and mindless regime. They died a horrible death, for some of them. They were detained against their will and tried to escape but had not much place to run to.

On the other hand, the Christ we worship gave up his Divine nature and chose to be with us, mere humans, living our lives, sharing our meals and feeling our emotions. When the time came, he gave himself up to be tortured and crucified on the cross, for a crime he was innocent of.

Circumstances can put us in situations we do not want, suffer under the hands of our tormentors, and even be executed. But how many of us can willingly give up our lives, knowing full well of the torture and death that we will be put through. This is the Christ we worship. This is the God who loves us so much that he will go through all that just to be the sacrificial lamb.

All I can say is, "WHAT A GREAT GOD WE HAVE !"

The most often asked question is.....

Wow! This week is the first week of lessons and meeting classmates. The most exchanged greeting is "Happy New Year" and the most asked question is "How's your holidays?" My answer to the question is "Tiring but Fulfilling!"

It is definitely a tiring holiday as barely a week after the 25th Anniversary celebrations of the Seminary, I packed my bags and left for a week with the young people from my parish for a retreat in Malacca. Less than 48hrs after it ended, I was on a plane to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, for a 6-day mission trip with the ACTs (Advent Cambodia Trips) from Queen of Peace Parish. Less than a week after I returned, it is Christmas, New Year and the start of Seminary year!! See how packed it is..... Phew!

This Cambodia mission trip is the second trip orgainsed by this parish and this year, almost 120 people signed up, with young and old and even a group of youths from St Vincent de Paul parish. We had the priviledge to have Fr Erbin, Fr Joseph Yao and Fr David Garcia with us in this trip.

What did we do there? The youth planned some lessons and taught the children in some of the schools run by the Salesian Sisters. Don't know how successful they were because of the language barrier, but all of us, teachers and students, definitely enjoyed ourselves. We also helped to distribute the lunches to the students.

As you can see in the picture, it is just a simple meal of rice and soup, maybe too simple for the majority of the children in Singapore, but this is a precious meal for these children, which may be the only decent meal they get in a day. I can still remember that there was a young child crying loudly when he approached the serving table to discover that the rice had finished. He must have thought that there was no more rice for him. Thankfully the kitchen had prepared more than enough for everyone.

I joined them for the lunch as well and though it was a simple meal, it was one of the best meals I had, and it really tasted good. The simple things in life......

Besides the teaching, there were also games planned. Hey! These are youths you know... young people with tremendous amount of energy...

The adults on the trip were busy for the first few days packing goodie bags for the children to be given during the Christmas Party and also some basic necessities (like rice, sugar, soap, canned food etc) for the poor villagers.

You can see some of the villagers queuing up to receive their 'goodie' bag as well. There was really a lot of hard work involved if you know the number of bags that were packed.

We also went to the Jesuit Vocational Training School and the Missionaries of Charity Home for HIV infected children and distributed some of the of the goodie bags to them.

Some of the children were so excited in receiving the presents that they opened them and enjoyed themselves with the contents immediately, as can be seen in the above snapshot.

We were also brought around to visit a small village.

The villagers have no tap water and relied on a pond filled with lotus plants, for their water needs. They will get water from this pond for their drinking and cooking. How fortunate for us to get drinkable water straight with a turn of our taps.

Was there mention of a Christmas party for the children? You remembered right. The School organised a Christmas party for the children and they put up performances and of course, the Singapore youths put up some items as well. There was also Santa Clause who was flew over all the way from Singapore! Don't really recognise him but he looks suspiciously familiar though...

Finally, here is a picture of part of the mural painted by the youths from Singapore.

Remember that Jesus is always waiting to welcome us into his arms like little children.

For more pictures, you can visit my FaceBook page to view them.