Message From Your Pastor Dear parishioners Our Parish Assembly in May will focus on the theme “One Church, One Family”. This sounds rather profound but it compels us to reflect deeply on who and what we are. Many times we have wondered on the rationale for what we do. Some even ask why do we even bother doing or why persist in doing when the ground is not sweet. These are the same questions which members of the Parish Pastoral Council leadership team, ministry and SCC leaders ponder over and over again. There is no simple answer to our query but as we involve ourselves ever more deeply in Church ministries and Christ’s mission in society, the answer slowly unfolds itself before us as we grow in greater appreciation of the Church, parish and society. Our involvement and search disposes us to better appreciate the Church as One. The Catechism of the Catholic Church 813-816 (see box below CCC) teaches that we are One Church because we have one source – the Trinity of Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Unity is the essence of the Church and charity binds us together in perfect harmony. Simply stated, we are bonded by one faith, one common worship especially the sacraments and one apostolic succession. But this One Church is marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God’s gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Yes the Church even at the parish level is a multiplicity of people and cultures, members with different gifts, office, conditions and ways of life. We have learnt and experienced in our diversity and variety that we are essentially One Family. We belong to the Family of God, people who live in conformity with His way of life. “For whoever does the will of the Father in heaven is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Mt 12:49). This way of life means learning to care and take responsibility for the young, the old, the sick, the handicapped and the poor. How best can we express the oneness of our Church in faith and life, in liturgy and worship, ministries and mission? These are important questions for self reflection and common deliberation. We must commit ourselves to work together in community as a family for alone we cannot achieve much, and might even become a counter sign to being One Church, One Family. As One Family how do we reach out to all given the great diversity and variety among us? Do we institute rules and regulations in our organisations and parish or do we promote a welcoming family, recognising variety and diversity as part of God’s gift for the building up of His kingdom? The fundamental principle that unites us all must be our love for and commitment to God’s Kingdom and more importantly, our respect and concern for all of God’s children, especially the weak, the poor, the marginalized and the voiceless. The question which should haunt us is “Are we truly open to them, not just in prayer but also in personal and common action? Can people recognise us as One Church, One Family?” God bless. Fr Patrick
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
813. The Church is one because of her source: "the highest exemplar and source of this mystery is the unity, in the Trinity of Persons, of one God, the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit." The Church is one because of her founder: for "the Word made flesh, the prince of peace, reconciled all men to God by the cross, . . . restoring the unity of all in one people and one body." The Church is one because of her "soul": "It is the Holy Spirit, dwelling in those who believe and pervading and ruling over the entire Church, who brings about that wonderful communion of the faithful and joins them together so intimately in Christ that he is the principle of the Church's unity." Unity is of the essence of the Church. 814. ………Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity and so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace." 815. What are these bonds of unity? Above all, charity "binds everything together in perfect harmony." But the unity of the pilgrim Church is also assured by visible bonds of communion: - profession of one faith received from the Apostles; - common celebration of divine worship, especially of the sacraments; - apostolic succession through the sacrament of Holy Orders, maintaining the fraternal concord of God's family. 816. "The sole Church of Christ [is that] which our Savior, after his Resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care, commissioning him and the other apostles to extend and rule it.... This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in the Catholic Church, which is governed by the successor of Peter and by the bishops in communion with him."
Cover theme: “That they may all be one”. (Jn 17:21)
“God thirsts to be thirsted for by man” – St Augustine “I thirst” (Jn 19:28) God longs for us, “thirsts” for us, with all the intensity of his divine heart, no matter who we are or what we have done. Jesus’ thirst points us toward a great mystery in the very bosom of the Godhead - what Mother Teresa describes as “the depths of God's infinite longing to love and be loved.” Our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI affirms that “the thirst of Christ is a gateway into the mystery of God.”
PRAYER – HAVING A
RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD Prayer is part and parcel of the life of every religious believer, and is at the heart of spirituality. While our Muslim friends perform the salat (praying five times a day), what does prayer mean to us Catholics? “SPEAK LORD YOUR SERVANT IS LISTENING” (1 Sam 3:10) Prayer is having a relationship with God; it is communicating with God, and goes to the core of our faith. Without this relationship, prayer is vanity and a farce. Prayer is not a one-way communication “Listen, Lord, Your servant is speaking” but a two-way, heart-felt téte-á-téte between the Creator and His creation. Prayer is one of the four pillars of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). CCC 2567 tells us that, “… the living and true God tirelessly calls each person to that mysterious encounter known as prayer. In prayer, the faithful God's initiative of love always comes first; our own first step is always a response. As God gradually reveals himself to man, prayer appears as a reciprocal call, a covenant drama which engages the heart through words and actions. It unfolds throughout the whole history of salvation”. God is interested in us, and would also like us to know Him better. JESUS TEACHES US HOW TO PRAY We Catholics are fortunate to be blessed with many prayers - taken from or based on Sacred Scripture - that can be used in all types of situations and are handy when words fail us. Of course, the flip side is that we tend to take these prayers for granted and rattle them off without understanding the meaning of the words. One of the ways to avoid this would be to visualize yourself as being present in that very place where these prayers first came into being. For example in the Lord’s prayer - imagine that you are on Mount Sinai where the Lord is teaching you to pray just as He taught the apostles and recite the prayer after Him, focusing on the message and the graces He is offering you through the prayer. It works every time, because the Word comes alive! (see accompanying box “Lectio Divina”) "In order to pray, one must have the will to pray” and “must also learn how to pray” (CCC 2650). We very often use our own words when praying, but what should we say?
- Angela Lim Member, Holistic Catholic Life team
Jesus himself gives us the answer in the Lord’s Prayer and in the preceding verses (Mt 6:5-13) and in his priestly prayer (Jn 17) to name but a few. Jesus teaches us to call God, "Our Father" as in the Lord's prayer; to approach God in prayer; to “first contemplate [God] in prayer, then to hear how he teaches us to pray, in order to know how he hears our prayer” (CCC 2598). In CCC 2607-2615 - "Jesus teaches us how to pray” through i. a conversion of heart (2608), that is purifying ourselves and seeking the Kingdom first; ii. faith (2609) - trusting that God knows what is best for us; and iii. filial boldness (2610), believing in the power of prayer, that what we ask in prayer, we will receive, with faith just as the Roman centurion and the Canaanite woman. ACTS Fr Iggy once used the acronym ACTS in his homily which is quite popular in the “praying circle” – ACTS: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Note that "supplication" - petitioning God - comes last. "Adoration is the first attitude of man acknowledging that he is a creature before his Creator" (CCC 2628); and that confessing our sins before God is a sign of humility because we are far from perfect. In fact, humility is the foundation of prayer. Only when we humbly acknowledge that "we do not know how to pray as we ought," are we ready to receive freely the gift of prayer. "Man is a beggar before God" (CCC 2559). We then thank Him who gives us all that is good. “Jesus' Prayer reveals to us how to ask: before the gift is given, Jesus commits himself to the One who in giving gives himself. The Giver is more precious than the gift; he is the “treasure”; in him abides his Son’s heart; the gift is given “as well”” (CCC 2604). When we pray, our "heart must be disposed to do the Father’s will” (CCC 2611) as in the Lord’s Prayer “Your will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”. We should never be shy to ask God what we need because if our prayer is aligned with God’s kingdom, we can be confident that the “heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask Him.” (Mt 7:11); in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus promises that the Holy Spirit would be given us (Lk 11:13). Be ever watchful though, that our prayer becomes self-absorbed lest we be alienated from God’s Kingdom (CCC 2730).
Prayer & Praise
I remember Fr Pat taught us a prayer some years ago at the Feast of the Holy Trinity which I use almost every day. I can’t quite remember the exact words so there is some modification to the original version: “Heavenly Father, I praise You and I thank for this new day. Jesus, I acknowledge You as my Lord and my Saviour. Holy Spirit, please come and guide me; grant me the courage, the strength, the determination and the love to do the will of our Heavenly Father, by taking up my cross and following Jesus.” I like this prayer because we acknowledge and pray to the Trinitarian God. THE BENEFITS OF PRAYER Various testimonies confirm that prayer has indeed changed lives. One of my friends shares that her relationship with God, nurtured through prayer, has helped her recognise the many blessings in her life despite her many sins, and that she senses His presence through His Word and the people in her life. Another friend shares that she is able to see the good in people because of prayer. In the article “Finding fulfilment and joy in Church Ministry: A matter of Being” published in the previous edition of The Connection, we read that prayer moulds us to become more patient, understanding, forgiving and charitable towards others. Prayer (discernment) also helps us make the correct decisions. Jesus always prayed before the “decisive moments of [His] mission and His apostles’ mission” (CCC 2600). Therefore, we should first "pray" before taking any decision - whether big or small. “GOD MAY BE SLOW BUT NEVER LATE” We sometimes wonder about the efficacy of prayer, especially when it seems like God is taking forever to answer either our own petitions or intercessory prayers for others. He’s not answering because… ■ “… you ask wrongly” St James offers us a reason why our prayer may not be answered “You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (Jas 4:3). It is
therefore always important to evaluate whether we are praying for the wrong or selfish reasons. ■ You are looking for an answer in the wrong place. There is this oft-told story about a man who prayed to God to help him escape from the flood. Answering his prayer, God sent him a plethora of help – sampan, speedboat and helicopter (or variations of these) – but he didn’t recognise them as help from God. Perhaps he thought God would do something dramatic, like sending angels to physically lift him from his predicament; eventually he drowned. Are we so consumed by our problems and wants or set ways of thinking that we fail to recognise gifts from God, and thus reject Him who has come to save? ■ The answer is “No” or “Not yet”. Another reason is that God says “no” or “not yet”, because we may not be ready for the responsibility that would come with our request. ■ You are not humble and persistent When we ask God for help, whether for ourselves or for someone else, we must never give up nor ever lose heart. We must persist and pray with humility as Jesus taught us in the parables of the importunate widow (Lk 18:1-8) and the tax collector (Lk 18:9-14) and with a sense of urgency like the importunate friend (Lk 11:5-13). We should place our trust in our God who loves and cares for us, and will hear our prayers (Lk 11:13, Lk 18:7-8, Mt 7:11). Prayer and faith have the power to make humanly impossible things possible in every situation “For nothing is impossible with God” (Lk 1:37) and “The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful” (Jas 5:16) Take heart from the homily by Deacon Clement on the 29th Sunday of the previous Liturgical Year and “PUSH” – pray until something happens. Remember God always answers your prayers. He may be slow but never late. He knows what you need and when you need it. So Pray … and Believe!
Lectio divina (or Holy reading), or simply, praying with Sacred Scripture has been a tradition of the Catholic Church for centuries. The Jesuit Singapore website has a simplified version of lectio divina based on the daily Gospel reading, http://www.jesuit.org.sg/html/prayer/daily.word.of.god.gospel.php and then click on tabs “Contemplation” or “Meditation” to complete your prayer. Or you may refer any other official Catholic website e.g. http://www.usccb.org/nab/readings or your daily Missal for the reading. It won’t take a lot of your time, but it would help you function better for the rest of the day. Another form of lectio divina that is usually practised during group meetings is the 7-Step Bible sharing (See article “Why 7-step Bible sharing” in the previous edition of The Connection). Fr Pat, an ardent proponent of the 7-Step is conducting a training session for all MOG/SCC leaders and members. What better way to learn how to pray with Sacred Scripture than be taught by a real pro.
Jesuit website 7-step training session
Prayer & Praise
On-going Faith Formation We would like to recommend the following books on prayer (all books are available at Wellsprings Bookstore), two of which concern the practice of lectio divina (see box on Page 4).
How To Pray With The Bible: The Ancient Prayer Form of Lectio Divina Made Simple by Karl A. Schultz Praying with the Bible is an active dialogue with God through which we may be taught, healed and transformed. It is God and the praying person communicating and offering themselves to each other. Lectio, or “holy reading”, is well-known to monks and nuns. Acclaimed author and retreat leader Karl A. Schultz, author of eight related books, will teach you an intuitive way to use lectio divina – a simple, natural rhythm of reading and reflection - for the Liturgy of the Hours, the Rosary, the Stations of the Cross, the Mass, modern papal encyclicals, spiritual classics, journalling, and stress management. This book is not only about how to pray with the Bible, but how to bring it to life using your own experience, which contributes significantly to a meaningful encounter with God’s Word.
Opening to God by Thomas H. Green, SJ In this book, Jesuit missionary and spiritual director, Thomas Green, lays the foundation of what prayer is really about, and how we might be able to pray in truth and in spirit; opening our eyes not only to God and his Creation, but also to ourselves. This book which has de-mystified prayer for countless thousands is highly recommended to all seeking to deepen their prayer lives! Many of us pray, but are we really praying?
Holistic Catholic Life Team
Praying Scripture for a Change: An Introduction to Lectio Divina by Dr. Tim Gray As St Augustine notes, “When we pray, we speak to God; when we read Scripture, God speaks to us.”
In this succinct book, Catholic theologian and biblical scholar, Dr. Tim Gray, walks you through the Bible and the wisdom of the saints to reveal the practical steps of this great treasure of our Tradition. Learning the simple steps of lectio divina will provide a practical and effective way for you to enhance your prayer life through the power of God’s Word. How God speaks directly to each of us in His Word. How to overcome the obstacles to a consistent and fruitful prayer life. Why the fourfold method of lectio divina leads us directly into the heart of contemplative prayer. Strategies for reading and praying the Bible fruitfully. What Christian meditation is and how it differs from non-Christian approaches. How everyone – not just saints and mystics – can truly reach mystical union with God.
Centering Prayer: Renewing an Ancient Christian Prayer Form by M. Basil Pennington, O.C.S.O. In this book, Basil Pennington, author of the highly acclaimed Daily We Touch Him, brings to us a form of prayer practised by those in the monastic life throughout Western Christianity where he combines the best of the Eastern spiritual exercises (such as the Jesus Prayer) with a spirituality for today’s world. Briefly explaining its historical roots in the Desert Fathers of the early Eastern Church in Syria and Egypt, Pennington explains how to relax for prayer, how to listen to and be directed by the Other, and how to handle the pain and distractions that can stifle attempts to communicate with God. Centering Prayer which has sold more than a quarter million copies since it was first published in 1982 is recommended for all who wish to find the comfort and the guidance they seek through prayer.
FOR THE ADVANCED READER Fire Within: St Teresa of Avila, St John of the Cross, and the Gospel on Prayer by Thomas Dubay, S.M. In comparison to the other books recommended here, Fr. Dubay’s book takes its place in the heavyweight category of spiritual writing. This book which synthesizes the teachings on prayer of the two great doctors of the Church on prayer – St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila – and the teaching of Sacred Scripture also draws upon Fr Dubay’s own experiences in spiritual direction. The reader can expect to encounter passages exploring topics of detachment, summits, contemplation, locutions and visions within these profound pages. Fr. Dubay’s exquisite use of expression in prose illuminates these passages for the advanced reader. This is an outstanding book on prayer and the spiritual life, written by one of the best spiritual directors and retreat masters of our time and is recommended for advanced readers and those interested in the area of prayer and spiritual direction. “This book is a gold mine for any Christian intent on making progress in prayer. Any reader who appreciates the relevance of the spiritual in these troubled times will find Fire Within difficult to put down. A work of art by a master of the spiritual life.” - Fr. Benedict Groeschel, C.F.R., author of Arise from Darkness The above recommendations have been made in consultation with and have been used with the permission of Wellsprings Bookstore.
Our Baptism – Children of the Light
Jacqueline Tan Live in the light. Walk in the light. Stay away from the thoughts and actions that lead to darkness. Our baptism has made all of us “Children of the Light”, but we need to let that light continue to shine in our hearts (1 Thess 5:5-6). Although we are midway through our Lenten journey that leads to Easter – Easter Triduum, Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday, the key to understanding the meaning of Lent is simple - Baptism.
Why is Baptism so important in our Lenten understanding? Lent is God’s special gift to His people. It is an opportunity to imitate Jesus as He fasted forty days in the desert. Preparation for Baptism (for the catechumens) and the renewal of our baptismal commitment (for those already baptized) are at the heart of the Lenten season. During Lent, as we walk with the catechumens as they prepare for the greatest event of their lives - receiving the sacrament of Baptism on Easter Vigil – we also prepare for the renewal of our own baptismal promises which is one of our greatest moments of the year. This renewal is so important that the Church offers this opportunity at every Mass, in every Catholic Church throughout the world, on the greatest feast day - Easter. Pope John Paul II has taught that "It is no exaggeration to say that the entire existence of the lay faithful has as its purpose to lead a person to a knowledge of the radical newness of the Christian life that comes from Baptism" (Lay Members of Christ's Faithful People, 10). Jesus himself was baptized by John the Baptist in the Jordan even though he had no stain of original sin. By his own baptism, Jesus left for us the Sacrament of Christian Baptism. In Baptism, we receive faith and grace. The day we were baptized is the most important day of our lives. Just as the parched land does not yield fruit if it does not get water, so also we can produce fruits of life only if we receive freely and abundantly the grace of God. St Leo the Great says that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we become the temple of the Holy Spirit. Baptism initiates us into the Christian life. It is the new life preached by the Apostles. Jesus said to Nicodemus, “Truly I say to you that he who is not born again from on high cannot enter into the Kingdom of Heaven; what is born of the flesh is flesh but what is born of the spirit is spirit”. (John 3:3-6). Our highest dignity, conferred on us by baptism, is that of being children of God. The miracle of our re-birth as God’s children is achieved at the moment of Baptism by the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The baptismal water is blessed on Easter night and we pray that “Just as the Spirit came upon Mary and produced in her the birth of Christ, so may it descend on the Church and produce in her maternal womb (the baptismal rite) the rebirth of the children of God.”
Nobody is an isolated Christian in the Church. From the time of baptism, each person becomes part of the Church which presents itself as the true family of the children of God. Baptism is the door through which we enter the Church. Each of us, and together as a Body of Christ, we are called to holiness. We have received in Baptism, the first fruits of a spiritual life which by its very nature, will tend to maturity. Baptism brings into action something greater than any other good – grace, faith and perhaps, eternal salvation.
Renewal of our Baptismal Promises
All our activities during Lent, as we grow in faith by reflecting on the Word of God, through almsgiving, fasting and prayer should take us closer towards our goal - the renewal of the baptismal promises. For example, during the Sacrament of Reconciliation, our Lenten Confessions should prepare us to reject Satan, all his works, and all his empty promises and to make a deep act of faith in the Father, Son and Spirit. If the Lord has His way, the renewal of our baptismal promises at the Easter Vigil and on Easter Sunday, will be the greatest act of faith of our lives. Even if we have previously committed our lives totally to the Father, Son, and Spirit, the renewal of our baptismal promises this Easter should not be a re-run. The love which God has poured out on our lives since last Easter should bear fruit in the deepest expression of faith in God that we have ever made. “You were buried with Him in Baptism, in which you were also raised with Him.” (Col 2:12) This is the theme of our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI’s message for Lent 2011 - taken from St. Paul’s epistle to the Colossians- where he reminds the faithful that we must share in Christ’s death in order to share in his Resurrection. "By immersing ourselves into the death and resurrection of Christ through the Sacrament of Baptism, we are moved to free our hearts every day from the burden of material things, from a self-centred relationship with the 'world' that impoverishes us and prevents us from being available and open to God and our neighbour. ... Through the traditional practices of fasting, almsgiving and prayer, which are an expression of our commitment to conversion, Lent teaches us how to live the love of Christ in an ever more radical way…..” “….Hence, Baptism is not a rite from the past, but the encounter with Christ, which informs the entire existence of the baptized, imparting divine life and calling for sincere conversion; initiated and supported by Grace, it permits the baptized to reach the adult stature of Christ.”
From Wilderness to the Waters of Life
The core of our celebration at the Easter Vigil on April 23rd 2011 at 8pm in Church of the Holy Family is the Baptism of the elect. As we share in their joy on this holy night, we are all called to renew our own baptismal promises, to live in the joy of life in the Risen One. Lent comes to its fulfillment in the waters of Baptism.
From the OB Desk / YOUhf
ONE CHURCH, ONE FAMILY Anthony Lee, Vice Chairperson - PPC The theme – “One Church One Family” was chosen by the Parish Pastoral Council for our 2011 Parish Assembly in May and for all parish-wide events this year. What does this theme mean to us? How many of us truly believe and behave as if we belong to One Family in Christ? The Church - A communion of communities Undoubtedly, it is easier for us to relate to One Church than One Family, since we all believe in one Lord and in one Universal Church. The Church is a communion of communities at various levels beginning from our natural family which itself is a domestic Church to the Small Christian Communities to our local Church (parish) to other Churches within our Archdiocese and finally, to all Churches worldwide i.e. the Universal Church. As a community of believers, we are the Church at every level of communion. The Church is also the Body of Christ (cf. Eph 1:22–23) and Christ is our Head. St Paul in his letter to the Romans (Ch 12:4-5) reminds us that we are made for one another “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others”. As baptised Catholics, we are no longer strangers to each other but members of God’s household (cf. Eph 2:19). Hence, we are One Church and One Family as well. Why do we need to be in a Church family? While promoting Small Christian Communities last year, His Grace, Archbishop Chia said, “The need for community is written into the heart of every human person, because we are all created by the divine Maker who is revealed to us as Trinity – God’s self is a perfect community of life-giving love between the Father and the Son with the Holy Spirit….. A solitary Christian cannot enter into the fullness of the promise that our Trinitarian God offers: loving God and loving neighbour is inseparable”. In short, Christian life is not only a commitment to Christ, it is also a commitment to others (Love God and love your neighbour, cf. Mt 22:37-39). Some of us who find it a struggle to live with our natural family members may even question the need to be in God’s family. However, the Church family is important to us Christians for various reasons: It helps and encourages one another grow in faith through community worship and prayer. No one can grow in holiness in isolation. The whole community grows together as one as each of us does our part and supports one another in God’s family (cf. Eph 4:16). It is a source of love and encouragement which keeps us from giving up on God or stops us from sinning through fraternal correction. When we are dwelling deep in sinfulness, our spiritual family is there to show love and lead us back to the Lord. Without the Church family, we cannot live out Christ’s commands and discharge our Christian responsibilities which include loving and caring for others, praying for each other, accepting and forgiving one another. Finally, the Church family helps us discover our spiritual gifts which are perfected when we share them with others through ministry. In this way, we help each other face life’s problems better and in the process, we not only grow spiritually but also become more loving within our own natural family.
“But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13)
- Leonard Yeo on the occasion of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day which will be celebrated this quarter. “Honour your father and your mother so that you may have a long life in the land that Yahweh your God has given to you” (Ex 20:12). The call to honour one’s parents does not only exist in Christianity. The love that parents shower on their children transcends all boundaries. This is why, most, if not all, cultures and religions advocate showing gratitude for all that our parents have done for us, and Father’s Day and Mother’s Day are commemorated in most countries, albeit on different days and in different ways. Being raised in a traditional Chinese family, respect for one’s parents has been the cornerstone of my upbringing. This was also inculcated through the study of ancient Chinese philosophical and literary texts. Each year on Mother’s Day, the well-known poem “Recital of an Away-from-Home Son – Written upon the Arrival of Mother on River Li” written during the Tang Dynasty always comes to mind (see box). Indeed, the love that our parents have for us is like the warmth of the sun during spring, which enables us to grow, and we, like the inch-tall grass, can never fully repay the many sacrifices and hardships that our parents endured out of their love for us. Ever since the day we were born, our parents have made countless sacrifices to ensure our well-being and proper upbringing. Our parents accepted all these burdens out of their love for us, never expecting anything in return. Their only hope is for us, their children, to have a better future and to contribute to society, making this world a better place for all to live in. Not desiring any reward or recognition, even a simple “Thank you dad” or “Thank you mum” is enough to make tears well up in their eyes. It is a sign of our maturity and expresses our utmost gratitude towards them, as no deed or words can fully repay all that they have done for us. As the Jewish proverb goes, “God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers”, to which I would add “and fathers”. Our parents are the greatest blessings that God has showered us with and ultimately reminds us of His love for us, His children - “Does a woman forget her baby at the breast, or fail to cherish the son of her womb? Yet even if these forget, I will never forget you.” (Is 49:15) Jesus’ death on the Cross for our salvation is the strongest testimony of God’s love for us, His unworthy children. Let us never forget God’s unconditional love and be living examples of Christ’s love to all whom we meet.
Recital of an Away-from-Home Son
– Written upon the Arrival of Mother on River Li《游子吟》
Meng Jiao 孟郊 (751-814) (Translated by Wang Daoyu) http://article.yeeyan.org/view/25125/40370
Stretching a thread in her hand, a mother 慈母手中线， Makes warm clothing for her departing son. 游子身上衣。 Painstakingly she sews, stitch by stitch, 临行密密缝， Fearing that he will not be back for long. 意恐迟迟归。 Who says the gratefulness of inch-tall grass 谁言寸草心， Can ever return the grace of the spring sun? 报得三春晖。
Truly a Family experience
- A sharing on the Conversion Experience Retreat By Priscilla, Pamela, Pearly, Michael and Mark Wettasinghe
Just like the ‘doubting’ Thomas
“I am already a Catholic, why do I need a conversion? Aren’t ’conversions’ meant for non-Christians? We were blessed to be born in Catholic families and to study in Missionary Schools where we were constantly reminded of our Catholic values so what ‘conversion’ are we talking about?” - These were our initial reactions when our cousin put forth the idea of attending the four-day Conversion Experience Retreat (CER).
A ‘spiritual’ high
We have always steered clear of any open expressions of our faith since we strongly believed that faith was a ‘personal’ relationship between God and ourselves. So you can well imagine our thoughts on day one of Praise and Worship where we were encouraged to raise our hands and be more expressive about our faith. Our immediate reaction was that these four days could have been better spent with our kids if it were not for our cousin who obviously wanted to ‘sabo’ us. But we continued to listen with open hearts and kept an open mind as we reminded ourselves that this was a retreat led by none other than the Rector of the Seminary, Father William Goh. Since we are used to letting our hair down on Friday nights, we decided to let go our own religious beliefs. After all we had nothing to lose, since there was no one we really knew…. so in reality it was still between us and God. By Day 2, Father William Goh’s talks which centred around husband and wife, the family, the church, relationships etc - all relating to God and his unconditional love for us - became increasingly energising, relevant and inspiring. It made us think about our Christian lives, beliefs and values and to reflect on our lives - as a couple, as parents and as Catholics - and on our future. The praise and worship sessions, which were full of energy, suddenly became so meaningful. As we ascended higher and higher towards our Mount Sinai, we were inspired to pray and to reflect on the Scripture. The Bible finally came alive and we realized that the Word of God has so much relevance in our lives even today. And by the third day, we were thirsting for more. Instead of the daily routine, we now got to spend more time in reflection and prayer. Both of us are Sunday Catholics who sometimes help out in church activities, but this was a ‘spiritual high’ we had never experienced before.
"The possibility of conversion demands that we learn to read the events of life in the light of faith.” Pope Benedict XVI.
The program ended after four days but we now wanted more; we had encountered the Holy Spirit for the first time in our lives. We had always focussed on our careers without pondering too deeply about our relationship with God and how our faith is weaved into our lives. Perhaps too often, we had taken our faith for granted even though we did wish for that special closeness to God and for a deeper appreciation of our faith. From time to time, we had searched for that special meaning, but the daily grind distracted our thoughts and even if we wished, the question was “where and how do we get started”? Honestly, our attempts to read the Bible had often been quite challenging but after attending the CER, we are now better equipped to live our lives in the light of our faith.
A life-changing experience
Our lives have since been changed forever - we now look forward
to learning more about the faith, about doing more for our faith and mostly about living our faith. For the first time, we felt truly blessed for the gift of our Catholic Faith. We have gained immense clarity on how faith plays a part not just in our everyday life but also in the next. The testimonies we heard were even more inspiring than what we expected or felt. There were people who were bigger skeptics than us, much less Christian, and yet others who were a lot more prepared. But in the end, everyone had their own life-changing experiences to share. We now understood why this retreat is a ‘conversion’ for baptised Catholics – even though we are cradle Catholics, we never really have the time, the understanding and the means of putting aside just four days, to be truly with God, to share our deepest feelings, to give all our time to God and to ourselves, to understand and to feel his love.
An ‘AWAKEN’ing for the entire family
After seeing the transformation in us (as we’d like to believe) and with some gentle persuasion, our elder daughter Priscilla has attended the AWAKEN retreat - the youth equivalent of the CER. Being the typical teenager, she was definitely a bigger skeptic but she decided to take up the challenge of checking it out. On the first day, she texted us, “OMG what did you send me for??” and on the last day, her text message read “WOW this is the coolest thing I have done”. I know that today my daughter has no doubts about her faith, except to learn, to discover and to put faith into practise. Pamela, our second child, joined us to attend the Praise and Worship mass. Her first reaction was “Wow! This is quite something. Everyone is into the mass. Is it always like this or is this some kind of a special mass? Everyone is so participative!” and then she remarked “Yes I would attend the Praise and Worship mass again”. As for seven-year old Michael, he slept through the four hours; his time will come as he is the first of our kids who often advises “Why would you be afraid of the dark, Jesus is there with you.”
Re-discovering our direction in life
Since the Retreat, our outlook to life has become so much more meaningful. Priscilla, Pearly and I now find excuses to attend mass during the week whenever we can; we say a prayer when something reminds us of God; we feel more blessed than ever before when we are lucky about something. As a couple, our faith is much stronger now - its relevance and understanding has increased manifold which is clearly visible to and concurred by our kids. We see many couples in church who are more holy than us, who attend mass everyday, who read the Bible daily or help the Church and the needy; but at least, we have made a beginning. We have come a long way from where we were - we are now more inclined to attend weekday mass, we read the Bible with much more ease and we help the church in our own little way. We see God in everything we do since without God we are nothing and with God we can do anything. Our lives continue but on a different path. We are discovering more as a couple, we spend more time discerning how we want to lead our lives. More importantly, we are now closer as a family in our faith. Speaking to our children about God and guiding them through life’s challenges has become much easier. We have excelled in the corporate world, we have gathered enormous experience as leaders, but there are no tools out there that are more powerful and relevant then having God as our guide and our compass. We are indeed blessed to have attended the CER and truly wish that many other fellow Catholics do the same and be ‘converted’.
The Fruits of Meditation We meditate to draw closer to God, to lose ourselves and be lost in Him, to give up our own desires and to dwell in his love. When meditation becomes part of our lives, there are physical and psychological benefits – we sleep better, our blood pressure is lower. There are spiritual fruits as well that lead to a deeper transformation and are much more difficult to measure and can be best described in the words of St Paul - ‘But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’ (Gal 5:22). We learn to be more rooted and centred, to live in the present moment, to just BE because meditation teaches us to focus our whole being – mind, body and spirit – on the presence of Christ within us (see box ‘Fr John Main on The Fruits of Meditation’). What do these characteristics mean?
1. Becoming more rooted, more centered
We are steadier, more consistent in the way we approach life. We are less likely to swing between extremes in our moods and actions. We are guided by certain core values. We understand what is truly important in life, what is just passing and trivial and what truly endures.
2. Learning to live fully in the present moment
In meditation we are fully present to the mantra, with no thoughts of past and future. We learn to live mindfully; to
treasure each moment and live it consciously. When you live in the present moment, the most important moment is NOW, the most important person is the person you are with NOW, the most important thing is what you are doing NOW.
3. Learning to BE
This is all about not wearing any “masks” to hide our real feelings, not having to put on an act, not responding to people in a pre-programmed way such as from prejudice or the desire for approval but letting others be.. letting God be. Our capacity to be, our confidence in being, comes from the experience in meditation that we are loved unconditionally by God as his unique creation.
The transformation is gradual
Jesus tells us “if any man would follow me, he must deny himself.” We let go of ourselves, and align our whole being with the being of Christ. When Jesus invites us “Get on my wavelength, tune into me so that your life resonates with me, and you begin to think the way I think”, we begin to see the world with the eyes of Christ. We respond to it as He would respond. Our whole being and mind is transformed. This doesn’t happen overnight. We don’t come to these fruits one week after beginning to meditate or after one year. It’s difficult to see the progress. One day we find that we have changed. Something happens and we realize that what would have once made us very upset does not bother us so much. We no longer react the way we used to. The inner transformation is like the story of the man in the Bible who plants the seed and then goes about his business. But when he sleeps and gets up, the seed has grown in the darkness; he does not know how. A hidden, gradual process of transformation has taken place.
This article was compiled from many sources especially the talks of Peter Ng and the writings of Laurence Freeman. Books and other resources on Christian Meditation can be obtained from the bookstore outside the Meditation Room (contact Daulet at 64697671 or email her at email@example.com). The book and CDs referred alongside can also be obtained from Katong Catholic Bookstore, next to Holy Family Church. The next article in this continuing series on Christian Meditation will be "The Journey of Meditation - what kind of progress can I expect?”
Fr John Main on ‘The Fruits of Meditation’ “It is my personal conviction that meditation can add a dimension of incredible richness to your life. I wish that I had the persuasive powers or the eloquence to convince everyone that I meet of the importance of meditating. Once you begin, and it takes lots of months and years to begin, but once you begin you will find that your meditation is the great integrating power in your life, giving depth and perspective to everything you are and everything you do. And the reason for that is this: you are beginning to live out of the power of the love of God, that power that is present in our hearts in all its immensity, in all its simplicity, in the Spirit of Jesus. The integrating power of meditation affects every part of our life. All our life is, as it were, aligned on Christ. And his life and presence makes itself felt in every part of our life. And the way to that is the way of humility, the way of simplicity, the way of the mantra.”
Christian Meditation / Events
Frequently Asked Questions on Christian Meditation Q
Is meditation a form of self-hypnosis?
In fact meditation and self-hypnosis are quite the opposite. Self-hypnosis is a goal-directed experience through self-suggestion, aimed at changing one’s feelings, thoughts and fantasies and general well-being. Self-hypnosis is a very self-conscious, self-pre-occupied exercise. The practice of Christian meditation on the other hand is God-centered and is meant to lead us into the mystery that is beyond thoughts, imagination and feelings. Tests of brainwaves during meditation show that they differ substantially from those that occur during sleep or any form of hypnosis.
Q Is Meditation a call to all or just a chosen few?
In his book What is Contemplation, Thomas Merton, the great American Cistercian monk and writer writes, “The seeds of contemplation are planted in every Christian soul at Baptism. But seeds must grow and develop before you reap the harvest. There are thousands of Christians walking about the face of the earth bearing in their bodies the infinite God of whom they know practically nothing. The seeds of contemplation have been planted in these souls, but they merely lie dormant, they do not germinate.” Excessive activity, cares and concerns of the world often drown out the voice of God calling us to this way of prayer.
Q I want to learn to Meditate but I am not free to attend the Beginners’ Group on Tuesday evenings. Can I learn with another group?
The Beginners’ Group on Tuesday evenings is led by Peter Ng or James Loh, and consists mainly of people just starting to meditate. The talks may have more repetition of the basic teachings. However you can join any of the other groups at Holy Family, and you will be welcomed and taught how to meditate. There is no difference in the method of meditation. The period may be just five minutes longer. The group members may have been meditating for years, but they are not necessarily “better” or “perfect” meditators - in a sense, we are all beginning anew each time we sit down to meditate! GROUPS & TIME
Rebecca (Hp: 9835 7835) Stella (Hp: 9644 4342)
Francis (Hp: 9368 7773)
Duane (Hp: 9748 6673)
(Young Adults group)
YOUTH CAMP 2010 - Voyage 912 Human Caterpillar
Together we stand
e crew Voyage 912 - Th
a family I belong Parish Feast Day Celebrations
Sunday, 26 December 2010 Feast Day Mass
Receiving the Offer
Enjoying the music
s Save the date 2011 Calendar of Parish and SCC Events Easter Vigil Mass Apr 23rd Parish Assembly May 8th Theme: One Church, One Family Pentecost Triduum Jun 8th-10th Theme: One Lord, One Mission, One Family Parish Family Day Jun 25th Combined SCC Day of Recollection July 23rd Children’s Day Oct 2nd Combined SCC Thanksgiving Mass Nov 11th Advent Reflection Nov 22nd Parish Feast Day Jan 1st 2012
Dinner at Roland’s EDITORIAL TEAM
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PUBLISHER Church of the Holy Family CHIEF EDITOR David Nayar EDITOR Violet Rosario SUB-EDITORS Christine Lye, Sharon Lin, Leonard Yeo, Lisa Marie Tan DESIGN & LAYOUT Karlyn Goh All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be published in any form or by any means without the written permission of the publisher.
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