JUL - DEC 2017 / VOL. 5
EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE ON OUR PILGRIMAGE TO GREECE & TURKEY! pg48
A Splendour Project Newsletter COMMUNICARE (pronounced “communi-car-ray”) is a digital publication for the friends of The Splendour Project. All rights reserved. EXECUTIVE EDITOR Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs CREATIVE DIRECTOR Matthew Kang EDITOR Jennifer Chong THE SPLENDOUR PROJECT We are a community of friends – clergy and laity – responding to the call of the Holy Catholic Church for a New Evangelisation through the proclamation of Truth, Beauty and Goodness. Convened by the Rev. Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek OFS in 2012, we came together to string together a series of apostolate activities to effectively transmit the Holy Gospel as proclaimed by the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. We transmit the Gospel and the teachings of the Church through live conferences and formation events, publication and distribution of formation resources and formation-based pilgrimages organised to various sacred sites around the world. CONNECT www.splendourproject.com www.facebook.com/splendourproject www.youtube.com/splendourproject twitter.com/splendourproject PUBLISHED BY
CONTACT (+6)016-443 2783 firstname.lastname@example.org 2 | Communicare
All the good stuff! COMMUNITY 07 FRESH FOLKS Meet our newest collaborators! Seems like we can’t stop expanding! MEDIA 09 NEW FORMATION MATERIALS Featuring our latest CD production and sacramentals from around the world! EVENTS 29 LATEST EVENTS All our scheduled talks since Jul - Dec 2017! Were you there? 32 UPCOMING EVENTS Clear your schedule to see us in the city nearest to you! PILGRIMAGES 37 ROME & EASTERN EUROPE A pilgrimage to Mother Church! 48 GREECE & TURKEY Back to scriptures on this trip! REFLECTIONS 59 RELIVING THE NEW TESTAMENT A recount of the experience from one of our pilgrims! 62 ELIJAH Why Elijah shouldn’t be forgotten as a a modern role model!
Have something nice to say to us? Write in to us now! email@example.com Communicare | 3
ON THE COVER Acropolis of Athens from our recent trip to Greece & Turkey. Find out the significance of the place during St Paulâ€™s missionary journey on pg 48. 4 | Communicare
Awesome People WHO MADE THIS ISSUE POSSIBLE
Jennifer is a chemical engineer by training, but outside of her professional life, she demonstrates a strong inclination in the artistic field. She is inclined to music and language. Being someone who writes well and creatively, she is a member of our media team and serves in the area of newscasting and editing, besides other aspects. But more than that, she also plays the piano and sings very well. Jennifer holds a masters degree (Hons) in Chemical Engineering from the University of Sheffield, UK. She resides in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah.
Angeline & Min Sin would consider themselves ‘travellers’ rather than ‘tourists’ as they would rather enjoy the experience rather than experience the enjoyment. Their adventure trips take them to places off the beaten track and places most tourists would not go. On pilgrimages, however, they choose to depart from their norm and believe in quality packages Splendour can provide through its well researched itinerary and invaluable formation. So far they have made two trips with Splendour and are booked for a third trip to the Vatican, Italy and France in September 2018.
Audrey works as a media assistant for the social communications office of the Archdiocese of Kuching in Sarawak, where she is responsible for the publication of the Today’s Catholic paper. She is a Secular Carmelite and is currently also doing a formal course of study on Carmelite Spirituality. Audrey graduated from the University of Malaysia of Sarawak (UNIMAS) with a bachelors degree in Environmental Sciences and Management. She serves with the Splendour Project as our Liaison Officer in Kuching and she also runs our twitter account at twitter.com/splendourtweets
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MEET THE FRESHEST FOLKS IN OUR COMMUNITY
No, we don’t go around running a recruitment drive for anyone who’s interested to join our team. But more often than not, we stumble upon individuals or families who share the same principles with us. And those times, we find that they are either excited to contribute to our work or are already doing something along the lines of evangelisation on their own! So we’d like you to meet the Lim family, our newest addition to our team!
LIAISON FAMILY, JOHOR BAHRU
Mr Leonard and Mrs Dominique Lim, together with their three homeschooled children - Ian, Pio, and Tia - are an interesting and unique family. Based in Johor Bahru since 2015, Leo and Dom are deeply dedicated to always discerning how God wants them to live and what God wants them to do as a family. Holding a bachelors degree in Electrical Engineering from Multimedia University (Malaysia), Leo now works as a Production Manager in an international company that manufactures medical equipment. Dom studied Interior Architecture in Curtin University (Australia) and has been the full-time mother and educator of the three children since the first child was 6 months old. As a mission-minded couple, both Leo and Dom are intentional about using their resources and charisms to witness effectively to the Gospel. They collaborate with the Splendour Project to animate the School of Witness in the Diocese of Malacca Johore.
Do visit our website at www.splendourproject.com to get to know the other awesome folks ! Communicare | 7
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FORMATION MATERIALS & SACRAMENTALS
In line with our philosophy to widen our definition of ‘media’ that it not only includes the electronic format, we are constantly in search of different types of media that can be of great catechetical value. Hence, from our travels abroad and locally last year, we have both collected and produced unique items that can serve to excite your faith either by using or wearing them and to be made available to you. From the Holy Land, you can now get a piece of olive wood rosary locally produced by persecuted Christian families there. From Italy, don’t miss out our new icons in the form of tapestries - icons include Our Lady of Guadalupe, St Padre Pio, St Francis of Assisi and even St Michael the Archangel. What’s more, some are available in two different sizes! If you are still unfamiliar with the work of the Splendour Project, it is our basic intention to promote the transcendentals in the most exciting way possible. Therefore we have expanded our line of merchandise. Featuring our latest cotton tote bags with 5 different designs. Put them to good use in your everyday lives
and be reminded constantly to seek truth, beauty and goodness in all we do. Since our rubber wristbands bearing the transcendentals were such a big hit to a lot of you, our previous line of rubber wristbands have also been updated with new colours. Some of the basic colours of our logo are still available but don’t miss out colours like Baby Pink, Lush Violet and even Wet Turquoise. Further, from our own production, new audio CD titles are finally available! From the series of talks describing the differences between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants in terms of theology and practice and traditions, you can now own use these CDs to learn more about the differences. Use them for your own studies or create a study group to accompany you. Purchasing is simple. You can make your orders at our website at www.splendourproject.com or just contact us at C: (+6)016-4432783 E: firstname.lastname@example.org Communicare | 9
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LATEST MEDIA MAJOR SCHISMS WITHIN CHRISTIANITY
DIFFERENCES IN UNDERSTANDING FAITH
In this introductory instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek identifies and explains three major schisms in the history of Christianity that have resulted in Christianityâ€™s configuration worldwide. He identifies how, from a Catholic perspective, groups of Christians had left the Catholic Church in the 4th century, the 11th century, and the 16th century, thereby resulting in the existence of non-Catholic Christians today.
In this instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how the different major groups of Christians have different ways of depositing their faith and transmitting it to subsequent generations of believers. They also have different ways of speaking about and propagating their faith. Some focus on a more intellectual way of analysing their faith, while others have a more experiential focus on their faith.
DIFFERENCES IN UNDERSTANDING GOD
DIFFERENCES IN WORSHIP & DEVOTION
In this instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how the different major groups of Christians have different ways of understanding the Trinitarian nature of God. Although almost all traditional Christians have a firm belief in God as the Holy Trinity, they tend to describe this understanding rather differently one from another. This is particularly true of Eastern Christians as opposed to Western Christians. However, these differences need not necessarily be perceived as conflicting with one another.
In this instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how the different major groups of Christians have different ways of worshipping God. While the historical groups of Christians tend to be sacramental in their expression and theological beliefs, the Reformation-based communities are increasingly distant from traditional ways of worship. There are also differences in prevalent practices such as prayer to the saints and prayers for the dead. These differences stem from radically different understandings of the Church.
DIFFERENCES IN UNDERSTANDING SALVATION & AFTERLIFE
DIFFERENCES IN LEADERSHIP
MYR 15 In this instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how the different major groups of Christians have different ways of understanding what salvation means and how one is to be saved. These differences also include the various ways of perceiving afterlife realities such as heaven and hell.
MYR 15 In this instalment of comparative studies between Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant Christians, Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how the historical streams of Christianity continue with the traditional understanding of the Holy Orders, and why. There are however disagreements with regards to the role of the Pope in Rome. Deacon Sherman also goes on to explain how the newer Christian communities have increasingly taken a radical departure from traditional leadership structures.
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A PRIEST FOREVER MYR 15 The practice of priestly celibacy in the Catholic Church is one that is very ancient. But this practice has come under much scrutiny and even attacked especially in the issue involving sexual abuse of minors. In this talk Deacon Sherman Kuek explains how priestly celibacy is an integral part of our Sacred Tradition. He also explains how it is that the priesthood is not just a function but more so a configuration of its incumbent to the person of Jesus Christ.
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These are new faith formation CD titles for the year! The topics covered in these CDs are from Deacon Sherman’s popular series of talks, “What’s the Difference? Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants”. How to get them? 1) Order them directly from us through our website (www.splendourproject.com); or 2) Order through WhatsApp (016-4412783 Matthew); or 3) Get them at our events held in your city/town. For those who are in Klang Valley, these CDs will be available soon in Cahayapuri Catholic Store (opposite St Ignatius Church, Petaling Jaya). For those who are in Penang, these CDs will also be available soon at Catholic Information Service (at the entrance of St Francis Xavier Church, Georgetown).
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TRANSCENDENTAL TOTES Light with abundant space to put your everyday items, tote bags can be worn like a snug shoulder bag. These cotton canvas bags are convenient, easy to carry around and are eco-friendly replacements for disposable plastic bags. Aside from being one of the most functional bags, these tote bags also display the important transcendental message of truth, beauty and goodness. There are 5 different designs to choose from. MYR18 per piece
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OLIVE WOOD ROSARY Olive-wood is simple in its appearance but significant in Sacred Scripture from the Old Testament through the Gospels. It became a symbol of peace when the dove brought the olive branch to Noah, and is the wood used to make the cross of crucifixion for Jesus. â€‹ ream-brown in colour with C unique grain patterns and moderate natural luster, olive-wood is also known for its high quality of durability and endurance. These wooden bead rosaries are crafted from olive tree originally from the Holy Land itself. Proceeds are in aid of persecuted Palestinian Christian families. RM25 per piece 20 | Communicare
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LATEST MEDIA ICON TAPESTRY Icons are often called â€œwindows to heavenâ€? because they offer us a glimpse of what awaits us in eternity with Christ. With art inspired by Eastern Christians, these images help us to reflect deeper as we gaze upon the holy figures represented in the icons. These tapestry icons are originally from Rome and scenes available are classics including the Holy Theotokos, The Holy Family, and Divine Mercy, to name a few. We recommend that these fragile tapestry artworks be displayed in a frame. MYR380 per piece
> 1. Theotokos of Vladimir 2. Christ Pantokrator 3. Sacred Heart of Jesus 4. St Padre Pio 5. St Francis of Assisi 6. Our Lady of Perpetual Help 7. The Holy Trinity 8. Divine Mercy 9. The Holy Family
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TRANSCENDENTAL WRISTBANDS In our aim to be holy Christians, we need to live a life of dialogue with the people around us. Dialogue always requires a conversation, an exchange of ideas, and exchange of responses. To truly reflect Godâ€™s love, our responses need to be transcendental â€“ that of truth, beauty and goodness. These transcendental wristbands help remind us to incorporate these values in our thoughts and actions in our everyday lives. Bright and earthy colours available. And now also in Baby Pink, Lush Violet and Water Turquoise! RM5 per piece Communicare | 25
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PRAYER TAPESTRY Prayer is important to our Faith and the Lordâ€™s Prayer, being the most perfect of prayers, helps us to reflect not only on the things we can rightly desire, but also in the sequence that they should be desired. Taught by Jesus himself, the Lordâ€™s Prayer also encompasses the summary of the whole gospel. This tapestry containing the prayer can be hung at home as a good reminder to encourage regular prayers. Brought back from the Holy Land, these tapestries are available in colours of navy blue and maroon. RM165 per piece
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EVENTS JULY - DECEMBER 2017
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“Dialogue of Salvation”: Catholics Called to Evangelise (Mandarin) 30 Jun - 2 July by Matthew Lo Jesus Caritas Church, Kepong, Kuala Lumpur - Malaysia
“What’s the Difference? Catholics, Orthodox & Protestants” (BM) 18 - 20 Aug (Fri - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Held in St Theresa’s Church, Serian, Sarawak - Malaysia
Evangelisation (Mandarin) 1 - 3 Sep (Fri - Sun) by Matthew Lo Organised by Chinese Communities of SHC Held in Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu
“What’s the Difference? Catholics, Orthodox & Protestants” (BM) 7 - 9 Jul (Fri - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Kateketikal, Blessed Sacrament Church, Labuan Held in Blessed Sacrament Church, Labuan, Sabah - Malaysia
“What’s the Difference? Catholics, Orthodox & Protestants” (BM) 22 - 24 Aug (Tue - Thu) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Held in St Anne’s Church, Kota Padawan, Sarawak - Malaysia
A retreat for Nurses’ Guild 14 - 15 Sep (Thu - Fri) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Nurses’ Guild Held in Labuan
“The Christian Truth: Why We Believe in the Son of God” (BM) 29 - 30 Jul (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Held in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah - Malaysia
A retreat for Intercessors 26 - 27 Aug (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Legion of Mary Kuching Comitium
Marian Spirituality 15 - 17 Sep (Fri - Sun) by Matthew Lo Held in Diocese of Sandakan “What’s the Difference? Catholics, Orthodox & Protestants” 16 - 18 Sep (Sat - Mon) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Kateketikal, Blessed Sacrament Church, Labuan Held in Blessed Sacrament Church, Labuan, Sabah - Malaysia Formation-based Pilgrimage to Rome & Eastern Europe 24 Sep - 11 Oct (Sun - Wed)
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RECENT EVENTS Do visit us at www.splendourproject.com or follow us on www.fb.com/splendourproject to get updates of our journeys!
Formation-based Pilgrimage to Greece & Turkey 23 Oct - 9 Nov (Mon - Thu)
Formation-based Pilgrimage to Holy Land 27 Nov - 7 Dec (Mon - Thu)
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2018 EVENTS JAN - JUN
Do visit us at www.splendourproject.com or follow us on www.fb.com/splendourproject to see how you can be part of it! 32 | Communicare
JANUARY Mission to Nagaland, India 04 - 08 Jan (Thu - Mon) Held in Diocese of Kohima, Nagaland - India Divine Conspiracy: Strolling through Sacred Scripture (Session 1) 22 Jan (Mon) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by St Peter’s Church Melaka Held in St Peter’s Church, Melaka Theology of the Body (BM) 25 - 26 Jan (Thu - Fri) by Remy Martin Organised by the Local Youth of Kota Marudu Held in Kg Sonsogon Paliu, Kota Marudu, Sabah Formation-based Pilgrimage to the Holy Land 28 Jan - 07 Feb (Sun - Wed) Registration is closed FEBRUARY Theology of the Body (BM) 23 Feb (Fri) by Remy Martin Organised by St Theresa Hostel Held in St Theresa Hostel, Kota Marudu, Sabah Kebenaran Kristiani: Kenapa Kita Percaya akan Anak Allah 28 - 29 Apr (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by the Bahasa Malaysia Apostolate Held in Diocese of Malacca Johore, Johor Bahru Communicare | 33
MARCH Konspirasi Ilahi: Mengenali Rencana Allah 03 - 04 Mar (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu Held in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah Formation-based Pilgrimage to South Korea 07 - 14 Mar (Wed - Wed) Registration is closed The Christian Truth: Why We Believe in the Son of God 17- 18 Mar (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs A module of the Malacca Johore School of Witness Held in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Johor Bahru Divine Conspiracy: Strolling through Sacred Scripture (Session 2) 22 Mar (Thu) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Held in St Peter’s Church, Melaka Retreat for RCIA Elect 24 - 25 Mar (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by St Thomas More Church Subang Jaya Held in Port Dickson Holy Week Reflection 26 - 28 Mar (Mon - Wed) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe Krubong Held in Church of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Krubong, Melaka 34 | Communicare
APRIL The Christian Truth: Why We Believe in the Son of God 09 - 12 Apr (Mon - Thu) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Church of the Blessed Sacrament Labuan Held in Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Labuan, Sabah Kebenaran Kristiani: Kenapa Kita Percaya Akan Anak Allah 14 - 15 Apr (Sat - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Church of the Blessed Sacrament Labuan Held in Church of the Blessed Sacrament, Labuan, Sabah MAY The Splendour of Truth: Difficult Questions about the Catholic Faith 11 - 13 May (Fri- Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Chapel Kristus Aman Kuala Lumpur Held in Chapel Kristus Aman, Kuala Lumpur Weekend Seminar (topic TBA) 18 - 20 May (Fri - Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Church of St Ignatius Petaling Jaya Held in Church of St Ignatius, Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Divine Conspiracy: Strolling through Sacred Scripture (Session 3) 21 May (Mon) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by St Peter’s Church Melaka Held in St Peter’s Church, Melaka The Family and Prayers 05 - 08 Jun (Tue - Fri) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by the Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam Held in Serai/Kuala Belait, Brunei Darussalam JUNE The Family and Prayers 09 - 12 Jun (Sat - Tue) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by the Vicariate of Brunei Darussalam Held in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam Splendour Community Gathering 15 - 17 Jun (Fri - Sun) Organised by The Splendour Project Held in Pace Bene Retreat Centre, Papar, Sabah Dialogue of Salvation: Catholics Called to Evangelise 29 Jun - 01 Jul (Fri- Sun) by Deacon Dr Sherman Kuek ofs Organised by Sacred Heart Cathedral Kota Kinabalu Held in Sacred Heart Cathedral, Kota Kinabalu, Sabah
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Words by Jennifer Chong & pics by Matthew Kang
Arriving in Rome, we began our 18-day pilgrimage to Rome & Eastern Europe from 24 September to 11 October 2017. We celebrated our first Mass at the Chapel of St Benedict in Basilica of St Paul outside the Wall. How apt it was to celebrate the Eucharist, giving thanks to God for a safe arrival and to bring God into the centre of the pilgrimage. It was also a reminder of our call to be evangelists like St Paul. To acclimatise to this new environment, we stopped by the Colosseum and strolled around St Peterâ€™s Square. Whilst in Rome, we celebrated Mass at the Archbasilica of St John Lateran, where the cathedral of the Roman Pontiff is. We then visited the Scala Sancta and Basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme to venerate relics brought to Rome by Empress St Helena all the way from Jerusalem. Later that afternoon, we spent time in the Vatican Museums, entering into the Sistine Chapel (featuring frescoes by Michelangelo!) and ending at St Peterâ€™s Basilica. Of course, one of the most anticipated parts of the pilgrimage is to meet our Pope. We managed to be in the Papal audience and finally met Pope Francis
during his regular Wednesday Audience! We were quite close at that! While recovering from the excitement of meeting the Pope, we paid a visit to the Basilica of Santa Maria Magiorre, where we celebrated Mass and admired the magnificent mosaic artwork above the main apse. We managed to squeeze in a visit to the Pantheon, marvelling at the amazing architecture of what was once a pagan temple but now is a church dedicated to St Mary and the Martyrs. It is undeniable that our Church thrived through the staunch faith of martyrs especially during the periods of Christian persecution. On our final day in Rome, we came to experience the gravitas of this reality, as we ventured underground in the Catacombs of St Callixtus, where half a million Christians, including Popes, were buried due to the Christian persecution during the Roman Empire. We also celebrated Mass here. After that, it was a short flight to Dubrovnik to continue with the Eastern Europe leg of our pilgrimage. Dubrovnik, a UNESCO world heritage site and a Communicare | 37
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beautiful city prominently featured in some movies and TV shows, was truly a sight to behold! Here, we celebrated Mass at the Church of St Blaise, patron saint of the city and of throats. There was also a special blessing of throats after Mass. Also in this Old Town, we visited the Franciscan Monastery which houses the worldâ€™s third oldest pharmacy (still functioning since the 13th Century!). After that, it was some quiet time for prayer in the Church of St Ignatius and the Cathedral of Dubrovnik, Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin Mary, both significant and prominent churches in Dubrovnik. The next day found ourselves embarking on a challenging hike up to Cross Mountain upon arrival to Medjugorje, followed by the international Mass at the Church of St James in the open air. From there, we
moved to Zagreb. It was a long journey crossing borders from Bosnia to Croatia but we spent our time in prayer, reflection and rest. We also stopped at a lovely harbour town of Sibenik for lunch. During that time, we saw a small part of the town around the main square where the Cathedral of St James is located. Sibenik looks very familiar to Venice as it once belonged to Venice for about 400 years and is the oldest native Croatian town on the shores of the Adriatic Sea. In Zagreb, we started our day with celebrating Mass at the Cathedral of the Assumption. After Mass, we were greeted by local priest, Fr Angelo, who spent some time explaining some of the sacred art adorning the Cathedral and also Blessed Bishops and priests buried under the church. It was then a full day of walking around the city of Zagreb, taking in the local sights and
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significant places of faith and worship for a country who has a 90% Catholic population. Not to be missed was the Church of St Mark, characterised by its attractive tiled roof. There is also the Stone Gate, housing the shrine of a miraculous picture of the Virgin Mary and Child Jesus, the only surviving object after a great fire in the 18th Century. We then took a long journey from Zagreb, Croatia to Budapest, Hungary but we made it in prayer, solitude and rest. It was raining when we arrived in Budapest, so the city glowed in the evening light amidst the busy traffic. We spent some leisure time in Vaci Street, the main shopping street in Budapest and headed for rest to save energy for the next day. While in Budapest, after celebrating Mass at the underground crypt of Matthias Church (named after the Hungarian King Matthias, not the saint), we spent some time in prayer and admiration of the interior of the church. After that, it was a visit to St Stephen’s Basilica, where the relic of St Stephen’s right hand can be venerated. Alas, no visit to Hungary would be complete without a proper serving of Hungarian goulash and a scenic tour around the city, which we did in the later part of the day. As we move along to Poland from Hungary during 40 | Communicare
this pilgrimage through Eastern Europe, we stopped by at Esztergom, previously the capital of Hungary. We celebrated Mass at the Esztergom Basilica or Basilica of the Blessed Virgin Mary Assumed into Heaven and St Adalbert. After that it was another long journey to Krakow. We made the journey in prayer, solitude and also in discussion of some interesting formation topics with Deacon Sherman along the way. We then traveled to Wadowice, the hometown of Pope St John Paul II, to visit the parish where he once served as an altar server and his family home. Now a museum, it is filled with his personal and family’s belongings. From his family’s China, to his ski boots, to the gun that shot him, to his passports, we were taken on an enthralling journey from his life to his death, filled with intimate details of this saint. We spent the later part of the day and even celebrated Mass at about 135 meters below sea level. The Wieliczka Salt Mine was a testimony of faith of the salt miners who worked there some 100 years ago. Spanning over 300 km, today only 1% of the entire mine is open to visit. There are about 40 holy sites that the miners dedicated to including a church, chapels, Stations of the Cross and sometimes, just a holy picture they stopped to pray at when working.
Part of the reason for this specific route of pilgrimage is to encounter some of the Saints of our Church and to witness how their lives changed and inspired not only individuals but nations. At the St Pope John Paul II Centre, more commonly known as “Do Not Be Afraid!”, we witnessed a whole educational institution dedicated to the Saint. Apart from promoting spirituality, culture and tradition connected with St Pope John Paul II, as well as academic and educational activity, the centre also houses numerous relics of the beloved Saint (like the blood-stained cassock he was wearing during his attempted assassination in 1981). A stone’s throw away from the centre is the Divine Mercy Shrine. We were greeted by Sr Faustina who gave us a short introduction of St Faustina, the Divine Mercy devotion and the congregation of the Sisters of Our Lady of Mercy. We also celebrated Mass at the chapel at the main sanctuary before stopping by at the other chapel where the miraculous image of the Divine Mercy and the tomb of St Faustina are located. The third Polish Saint we encountered was St Maximilian Kolbe at the Auschwitz Concentration Camp. It is rather impossible to encounter this Saint without first embracing the atrocity and violence that once ruled the grounds of this concentration camp.
Witnessing the living conditions of the camps and the treatment of the victims, we remember and draw strength from the words of St Maximilian Kolbe, “For Jesus Christ I am prepared to suffer still more.” Our time in Poland ended with a morning visit to the historic Wawel Hill and the Old Town of Krakow. Besides marvelling at royal swords, armours and goblets, it was an opportunity to understand the history of the royal customs practiced in Poland and how Christianity was interwoven in those practices - from funeral customs to pre-war strategies. We proceeded then to St Mary’s Basilica (Church of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven) located in the Central Market Square of the Old Town. Not to be missed was the altarpiece by Veit Stoss, a Polish national treasure and a magnificent work of art, dedicated to Our Lady. In the afternoon, it was a long drive from Krakow, Poland to Prague, Czech Republic where we began the final leg of our 18-day pilgrimage. Starting in Prague, Czech Republic, one must simply visit the Church of Our Lady Victorious which houses the miraculous statue of the Infant Jesus of Prague. We celebrated Mass in the church and received a special blessing by resident priest, Fr Victor at the sacristy where he showed us a replica of the statue for our closer inspection. Communicare | 41
â€œFor Jesus Christ suffer sti
- St Maxim
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I am prepared to ill more.â€?
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Later, it was a visit to St Vitus Cathedral, located in the complex of Prague Castle. The interior (and even exterior) of the Gothic Cathedral is nothing short of impressive, seeing that it is the largest church in the country and also the Seat of the Archbishop of Prague. In the same complex, we also visited St Georgeâ€™s Basilica, the oldest surviving church building in Prague. We concluded our 18-day pilgrimage to Rome & Eastern Europe here in Prague, Czech Republic. We had our final Mass celebrated at the Church of Our Lady before TĂ˝n, a spectacular 14th Century Gothic church, situated in the Old Town Square. Two timezones and 9,463 km after, our pilgrims arrived safely home in Malaysia. It was definitely a memorable pilgrimage, made interesting with the people, places, food, Saints and Mother Church we have encountered along the way. We will next embark on encountering our Mother Church, the Eucharist and Blessed Mary in Vatican, Italy and Lourdes from 24 September to 8 October 2018. Saints we will be spiritually journeying with include Saint Francis of Assisi, St Clare and St Padre Pio. Visit here to find out more.
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Words by Jennifer Chong & pics by Matthew Kang
Although Istanbul is most known for its honeyladen baklava or the Bosphorus Strait, which slices through Istanbul and straddles between Europe and Asia; it is also rich in Christian history, and was the beginning point of our 18-day pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey. A pilgrimage to Greece and Turkey is lesser known compared to its counterparts: Holy Land and Rome. But no less important in journeying spiritually as these countries boast some of the most historical occasions like the earliest councils in Nicaea, Ephesus and Constantinople, the missionary journey of St Paul and locations like the island of Patmos where St John received the vision of Revelation. We began our pilgrimage on 23 October by celebrating Mass at Church of St Mary Draperis (named after the donor of the church, Draperis) in Istanbul. After Mass, Bishop Cornelius gave a special blessing for the pilgrims for the start of the journey. We got to take in a little bit of the sights, sounds and smells in Istanbul after. But soon, we crossed over to Greece and headed to Kavala, the port where St Paul first arrived at, at the start of his missionary journey. We bid farewell temporarily to our tour guide and close friend, Ahmet in Turkey as we headed towards Greece. In the bus, Deacon Sherman and Ahmet both shared about the different epochs that 48 | Communicare
have led to modern day Turkey and its current socio political surroundings. Upon entering Greece, we made our way towards Lydia’s Baptistry in Philippi and celebrated Mass here. In this place, St Paul supposedly baptised the first European woman named Lydia, in the river that runs across here. A small church has been built to commemorate her conversion and her family’s subsequent conversion too. We arrived then in the evening in Kalambaka, the port town in which St Paul first arrived for his mission. With Deacon Sherman’s and Bishop Cornelius’ faith formation, the pilgrims learned about the spirit and zeal of St Paul’s missionary journey which started from the port of Kavala. His arrival was also commemorated in a mosaic situated beside a Greek Orthodox church (Saint Nicholas Church) in Kavala. We returned to Lydia’s Baptistry then to celebrate Mass by the river that Lydia was baptised in by St Paul. We also visited the Greek Orthodox Church there, used mostly for baptism during the feast of St Lydia and occasionally for weddings. A short drive away was the Philippi Archaeological Site where St Paul arrived, stayed, preached and consequently got imprisoned for getting into trouble with his preaching that was not agreeable to the local beliefs. After an earthquake, he managed to
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convert the prison guard, got released from prison and continued his journey to Thessaloniki. In Thessaloniki, the citizens of which St Paul wrote two epistles for, we visited the iconic Greek Orthodox Hagios Demetrios Church. As it was the feast day of St Demetrios of Thessaloniki, the pilgrims received a rare chance to experience the Eastern Orthodox liturgy and even venerated the relics of St Demetrios. Like St Paul, we headed on to modern day Veria, known as Berea during the time of St Paul’s visit. It was in this town where St Paul preached the Good News to the people in a Jewish synagogue (Acts 17:11-13). Currently, a mosaic and a statue of St Paul stand in place of the synagogue as a reminder to the locals and visitors of St Paul’s visit. It also served as a very nice spot for us to celebrate Mass. We arrived in the town of Kalambaka, situated at the foot of the magnificent rock formations-turnedmonasteries known as Meteora. As icons are characteristic to the Eastern Christians in this region, an icon workshop is not to be missed. Here, the pilgrims were introduced to the basic art of iconography, the materials and the intensity needed into producing one icon. So St Paul did not exactly visit this part of Greece during his missionary journey. But since Eastern Christians have taken to building monasteries perched on top of this natural rock formations (some 400 feet 50 | Communicare
above sea level!), it only makes sense for us to stop by for a visit en-route to Delphi. After Mass and formation at the hotel, we visited St Stephanos Monastery and Varlaam Monastery in Meteora. It was a rare chance for our pilgrims to encounter the monastic life of the Eastern Christians and to experience the lengths they take to commit to the life of solitude or hesychasm in complete dedication to Jesus Christ. It was one thing to get to the monasteries, but another complete different experience to understand the multitude of Eastern Orthodox iconography found in the churches of these monasteries and its rich symbolism, as explained thoroughly by our lovely guide, Katerina. From Delphi en route to Athens, we stopped by Hosios Loukas Monastery. With the cool autumn air in our faces, warm sun on our skin and the vast mountain range as a backdrop, we celebrated Mass in the open air beside the small chapel (Church of Metamorphosis) of this Byzantine monastery. After Mass, we visited the monastery grounds which included its larger churches, the crypt and the museum. If you look closely enough in one of the pictures, you would be able to see the fingers of Blessed Loukas peeking through his robes as his relic is still displayed until today. Places like Delphi and its surroundings are important visits as to get a contextual understanding of St Paul’s many uses of “sporting metaphors” in his letters
to the Galatians, Philippians, Romans and to Timothy. St Paul was lauded as a preacher who used inculturation (in this case, sporting metaphors, as sports was an important culture of that time) for the benefit of his mission. In the evening, we arrived at Athens to visit the famed Acropolis of Athens just in time to catch the sunset. It was in the agora (the social meeting place in ancient Greece) that St Paul also tried to convince the ancient Greek idolators to convert. It was here that St Paul, upon arrival, was disheartened by the amount of deities the Athenians used to worship. It was here also that St Paul made his famous speech as found in Acts 17:19-31 regarding the “Unknown God”. We visited the town of Corinth about an hour’s drive away from Athens. This strategic and flourishing city was where St Paul visited in 50AD and stayed, working and converting as many Jews and pagans as he could. With the help of Katerina our Greek tour guide, the pilgrims were able to understand the architectural remains of the archaeological site which used to be the centre for commercial prosperity and decadent lifestyle one of the many problems St Paul attempted to address in his Letters to the Corinthians. We moved on to the ancient harbour of Cenchreae to view the remains of a Byzantine basilica now submerged underwater. This used to be the port where St Paul took off for Ephesus to continue with his
mission. Like St Paul, we also took off, but to Patmos Island first and then to Ephesus. Back in Athens, before we boarded the ferry for Patmos, we dropped by at the Byzantine Museum. Again with Katerina’s in-depth explanation and Deacon Sherman’s guidance, the pilgrims were exposed to a plethora of artifacts from the Byzantine period, ranging from daily life objects to sacred objects used for worship or for art. After traveling across the Aegean Sea by ferry, we arrived in the Island of Patmos, charmed by the breathtaking natural beauty of the Greek island. Known by locals as the “Jerusalem of the Aegean Sea,” this island was where St John the Evangelist, after being exiled and imprisoned here, received a vision that was to become the Book of Revelation. After Mass at the open space close to the Cave of the Apocalypse, we descended into the cave that has now become an Eastern Orthodox Church with a strict restrictions of cameras. The spot where St John laid his head and where he would habitually hold for support can be seen preserved by the church. Later, we visited the Byzantine Monastery of St John, home to the cenobitic monks, a monastic tradition that stresses on community life. The frescoes found in this monastery dates back to the 17th Century and features a multitude of biblical events, revealed, apparently after an earthquake. The adjacent museum also stores a handsome collection of religious items used Communicare | 51
by the monks in the past. Wrapping up our journey in Greece, we boarded another ferry from the island of Patmos and headed towards Kusadasi, Turkey. Continuing our journey in Ephesus, we came to one of the most sacred places in this region - the House of Mary in Ephesus. Visited not only by pilgrims, but Popes of the past even, like Pope Benedict XVI and Pope St John Paul II. It is believed that the Blessed Virgin Mary travelled with St John to this part of the world and stayed here until her death. Although there are no official records of this, the House of Mary in Ephesus has been recognised worldwide both by Christians and Muslims alike for the miracles surrounding it and the conversion that takes place in the hearts of those who visit. We celebrated the Mass of All Saints at this holy site. After that, we proceeded to the archaeological site of Ephesus, a monumental complex of impressive archaeological finds and ancient ruins. To think that the site we have visited was only 20% of the archaeological finds, what an impressive city it must have been when St Paul arrived to convert the citizens here, accompanying them with his letters to the Ephesians. With the explanations of our Turkish guide and friend Ahmet, accompanied with formation by Deacon
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Sherman and Bishop Cornelius, the pilgrims were able to understand the reference St John made to the church in Ephesus (one of the seven) in the Book of Revelation. Ephesus is also the place where the 3rd Ecumenical Council was held in 432 AD at the Church of Mary just beside the ancient harbour. This ancient church lies in ruins today, of course, but Deacon Sherman was still able to point out the remaining columns from what used to be this grand building. We visited another 3 churches of the Book of Revelation. In Izmir (ancient times Smyrna) we delved into Revelation 2:8-11 where St John wrote to the citizens here. Smyrna stands as the only one of the Seven Churches not in ruins, and is represented by an actual church reconstructed in the 17th Century known as the Church of St Polycarp of Smyrna. Not only did we celebrate Mass here, we also met the current Bishop of Smyrna, Bishop Lorenzo after venerating the relics of St Polycarp of Smyrna. Pilgrims got a chance to spend some time in prayer in this beautiful church. Later, we travelled to Bergama (ancient times Pergamum) to understand the context in which Revelation 2:12-17 was written. We had to take a cable car up to the top of the mountain. Standing on the edge 350 m above sea level and with the help of our guide, Deacon and Bishop, it
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was made clear to the pilgrims what the bible verse was referring to. We moved on to the next Church of Revelation in Thyatira. The ancient ruins left in the centre of the town are the only indication of an early settlement that preoccupied today’s bustling city. It was the Christian community here that Revelations 2:18-29 was referring to. We then finally completed the last three churches of the Book of Revelation at this point of the pilgrimage! To the one in Sardis (Rev 3:1-6), God spoke about an awakening of the sleeping early Christians who were here. And then to the church in Philadelphia (Rev 3:713), modern day Alasehir, God commended the Christians for their perseverance albeit having little strength as their faith was opposed by a synagogue of Satan. In Laodicea (Rev 3:14-22), our pilgrims could understand the scriptural reference of “lukewarm faith” of the people as Christ described it, in relation with the geographic location of the city. Of course, what we see of these churches today are only ruins of the ancient cities that were home to these Christian communities. We ended the day with some leisure time at the travertine terraces of the Cotton Castle in Pamukkale, dipping toes in the hot springs. It was then travelling day as we had a long journey from Pamukkale to Cappadocia, a very common route for travellers both ancient and modern, following the path of the ancient Silk Road. While traveling, apart from our daily devotional prayers, formation on the bus with Deacon, and beautiful vistas of Turkish planes and mountains, we also visited a traditional “highway stop” known as a caravanserai. Specifically, we visited the Sultan Hani Caravanserai, one of the largest in the world. Built in the 13th century, it was commonly used as an accommodation for traveling merchants and also provided protection for the trade ways. Caravanserais as such would also provide basic amenities like stable, baths, bedrooms and etc. Cappadocia had more to offer than our pilgrims expected! Truly, it was a wonderful experience to spend the entire day, to explore the natural rock formations as a result of volcanic activity turned into cave dwellings
of the early Christians here. We explored Cappadocia to experience the lives of the early Christian settlers who occupied these natural caves as a refuge from the persecution. We started from the bottom in Kaymakli Underground City. Here we learned about the way of life, spread out over one hundred tunnels used as churches, cellars, storage areas and stables. Although this city is eight floors below, we only had to crawl and crouch our way through the four floors which are open to public. Not forgetting the local culture, we dropped by at the local carpet weaving school for some demonstration on the fine art of carpet making (of wool, cotton and silk), a heritage that dates back to centuries and is a pride of the local women in Cappadocia. Later, we were transported back in time to the 10th - 12th Centuries as we visited the Goreme Open Air Museum. As we entered and admired the wellpreserved frescoes in the multiple monasteries and churches cut out of the rock formations, we were able to understand better the monastic life that was inspired by the Cappadocian fathers (St Basil the Great, St Gregory of Nyssa and St Gregory of Nazianzus) who originated from here. We then headed to Ankara, Bolu City and Istanbul and set foot onto the final leg of our journey. Before arriving at Istanbul, we made an important pit stop in modern day Iznik, olden times Nicaea. We visited the 13th Century church, now turned into a museum/ mosque where the 7th Ecumenical Council was held. The 1st Ecumenical Council too was held in Nicaea, in a church by the lake that now lies in ruins and is submerged under the waters of the lake. Indeed, a defining moment in our church history as it was here that the Nicene Creed was formulated by the council. Among other disputes that has raised doubts and questions from heresies that time, it was also in the 7th Ecumenical Council in Nicaea that St John of Damascus fought for the use and veneration of icons in the church. Truly, a place not to be missed in a pilgrimage to Greece & Turkey. Upon arrival in Istanbul, we headed to the Cathedral of St Espris, the second largest Catholic Church in the city, to celebrate Mass. There was also a Communicare | 55
relic of an important saint (St John Chrysostom) that the pilgrims had the opportunity to venerate after Mass. We capped the day with some rest and relaxation with a cruise ride at the Straits of Bosphorus to enjoy the view of some of Istanbul’s most important historical and cultural sites. We started our next day with morning Mass at the Basilica of St Anthony of Padua, the largest Catholic Church in Istanbul. An interesting fact regarding this basilica was that it used to be the home for Pope John XXIII for ten years when he served as the Vatican’s ambassador for Turkey, before he was elected as pope in 1958. After that, it was a trip to St George’s (Orthodox) Patriarchate. Deacon Sherman’s formation took the pilgrims back to church history to further explore when, why and how the schisms took place that resulted in the current divisions we have today. Visiting the patriarchate served as a strong reminder for us to pray for the fullness of unity with the Eastern Churches. Of course, no pilgrimage to Istanbul would be complete without a visit to Hagia Sophia or Church of the Holy Wisdom, once the grandest church on the face of the earth before the existence of St Peter’s Basilica in the Vatican. The surviving Byzantine architecture, 56 | Communicare
mosaics and marble pillars that we can see today were the works of the Emperor Justinian I in the 6th Century, after the original Hagia Sophia by Emperor Constantine was destroyed. From being the seat of the Orthodox Patriarch for over 900 years, to being plundered by Crusaders and subsequently turned into an imperial mosque by Sultan Mehmet for over 500 years, the Hagia Sophia (now officially a museum) is truly rich with history and certainly a significant site to visit during this pilgrimage. And so we’ve come full circle on our pilgrimage with our return to Istanbul, right where we started our journey. We wrapped things up with Deacon Sherman’s study syllabus on early Church history, and departed back to Malaysia with memorable encounters, hoping that these experiences help us to be drawn closer to Christ especially in our daily lives. We will encounter the Early Church and the evangelists again from 23 October to 9 November 2018. Come join us as we immerse in the local culture, and go back in time to have a contextual understanding of our rich Christian history and many biblical events. Visit here to find out more.
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RELIVING THE NEW TESTAMENT
A REFLECTION BY ANGELINE LESSLAR ON WALKING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF JESUS, ST PAUL AND THE EARLY CHURCH.
A year ago I visited the Holy land. During that 10 day pilgrimage I felt as how Moses did at Mt Nebo in being denied entry into the Promised Land; the fear of the apostles during the storm in the Sea of Galilee and Jesusâ€™ pain and suffering being crucified at Calvary. A most significant place was Caesarea Philippi where Peter was appointed by Jesus to head His Church. Our first Pope. A logical sequel was to continue the journey in the footsteps of the apostles especially St Paul into Asia Minor i.e. Greece & Turkey. As early as 49AD, Paul preached Christianity in Philippi, then Thessaloniki, Berea, Athens, Corinth. It wasnâ€™t before long when he was imprisoned, had to escape angry crowds and had to leave the cities at night. Despite obstacles throughout his journey, Paul, was steadfast in his faith and persevered. Through his letters, he kept in contact with the little Christian communities he had started to encourage and clarify his teachings. In Athens, he had to content against pagan religions, values and Greek mythology. He was however shrewd enough to use lots of sporting metaphors in his catechising of the early Christians in Greece to help them better understand their faith. It was remarkable how Paul had the ability to be culturally relevant and to speak not only to Jews but to others.
Another significant Greek island we visited was Patmos, an old penal colony where St John was banished to by the Romans, after he escaped death in boiling oil! It was in a cave on this island that John was inspired and given visions on the Book of Revelation. This book gave hope to all Christians that good will ultimately triumph over evil with the second coming of Christ. The visions contained seven messages to the Churches in Turkey and this was read at each of the seven sites we visited. Ephesus was special as this is where it is believed Mother Mary lived with John after the crucifixion. It was an honour to be on sacred ground which housed our Blessed Mother. Mass in the chapel there was so significant that day. I even left a petition amidst a wall of thousand others before leaving and collected water from the spring that flowed beneath the chapel. We met two Malay girls from Johore who also came to visit and were quick to strike up a friendship with them based on shared beliefs. We were told that many Muslim pilgrims do visit this shrine in respect for Mary. Ephesus was also the first archaeological site of one of the seven churches of Revelation. As the apostles evangelised and Christianity spread throughout Europe and the Middle East, new centres grew in importance like Antioch, Alexandria Communicare | 59
and Constantinople besides Jerusalem and Rome. Each Patriarch felt they should be ranked higher than the other which resulted in strained relationships between Rome and the rest. Inculturation led to various modes of worship and it took very little and minor disagreements on theology and doctrine that resulted in schisms in the Church. The Eastern Churches in 1054 broke away and no longer acknowledged the Pope in Rome as the leader. Until the Reformation in the 1500s Christianity was all about the Catholics and Orthodox Christians. We are comparable to the two lungs in one body. We continue to pray for fullness of unity for all Eastern churches not yet in full communion with the See of Rome. This fullness is in sight although yet to be attained. The history of the early church would be incomplete without mentioning the pivotal role played by Emperor Constantine and his mother St Helena. In uniting his empire with a common faith he gave legitimacy to Christianity in 313 AD making it a well respected faith. The strategic location of Constantinople made it the new centre of administration, the new Rome. Emperor Constantine also personally convened the 1st Ecumenical Council at Nicea in 325AD. The Nicene Creed was formulated at this Council as a response to Arianism, a controversy regarding the divine nature of the Son of God. Today, Istanbul, Turkeyâ€™s most populous city, is 60 | Communicare
the new name for Constantinople. It was the capital of three great empires, namely the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. With the Islamic rule in Turkey in 1453 the Christian population there has decreased to less than 1% of the population. The Church of the Holy Wisdom or Hagia Sophia was a former Byzantine church turned into an Ottoman mosque. Today, it is a museum and is acknowledged as one of the greatest buildings of the world. The 2nd and 5th Ecumenical Councils took place in Constantinople in 381 and 553 AD, the latter in Hagia Sophia. This journey was long and tough. We physically covered a lot of ground but were fulfilled spiritually in so many ways. The daily formation by Deacon Sherman Kuek and Masses celebrated by Bishop Cornelius Sim, enriched and fortified us to combat health and other issues that plagued us. These two pilgrimages have made the New Testament come alive in so many ways especially during Mass when the many places we visited were mentioned. The stillness of the ruins that remained of these biblical cities, left a very strong impression on us, as if we could almost hear the cries of the persecuted Christians who endured martyrdom for their faith.
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WORDS BY AUDREY YU
INTRODUCTION We need role models. Most of us, if not all, have that special someone whom we look up to and learn from in life. Psychologically speaking, good role models are important to our health and could bring about positive effects in us. In fact, the Church encourages people to look to the saints as models of holiness, whose examples “encourage us to follow in their same footsteps and to experience the joy of those who trust in God” . One such saint is Elijah. Elijah, the great Old Testament prophet from Mt Carmel, lead a very interesting and dramatic life in an intimate relationship with God. He is known and venerated 62 | Communicare
BUT TIMELESS ROLE MODEL
throughout the centuries until this day by not just Christians, but also Jews and Muslims. Even so, this prophet is less preferred by people in general in this modern era, except for scripture scholars, the religious and those who study about him extensively, and not forgetting the Carmelites who claim Elijah as Dux et pater Carmelitarum.” Unlike the contemporary saints like St Therese of Lisieux and St Ignatius of Loyola, to name but a few, many may find it difficult to relate to this ancient prophet. His appearance in Jewish history in the 9th century B.C. is an abrupt one. There is no mention of his background before his confrontation with King Ahab. The only piece of
information in the Old Testament is that he is a Tishbite from Gilead. Nevertheless, there has to be some qualities in Elijah that attracted the Carmelites and the early Church fathers who wrote extensively about him and made him a model of virtue and source of inspiration. FEARLESS WITNESS OF THE TRUTH Elijah’s name, eliyyah in Hebrew, means “my God is Yahweh.” True to his name, Elijah’s first words at his appearance before Ahab, “By the life of Yahweh, God of Israel, whom I serve…” (1 Kgs 17:1; New Jerusalem Bible), is an expression of his mission – to bear witness to
YOUR VOICE the living God. He is fearless and firm in his preaching, to the extent of rebuking the king in power, at which King Ahab described him as the “troubler of Israel” (1 Kgs 18:17; English Standard Version). His faith did not waver even when he was up against 450 prophets of Baal (18:22). This radical witnessing also shows that Elijah is a man of prayer and a result of his intense experience of God. Carmelites called this “the prophetic vocation”, which is the driving force for all Carmelites over the ages. This “prophetic vocation”, in fact, is not exclusively for the Carmelites alone. Christ laid upon the Church his prophetic mission: “Go out to the whole world; proclaim the gospel to all creation” (Mk 16:15). In this light, the lay faithful are also called to “manifest Christ’s message by words and deeds and to communicate his grace to the world.” The situation of our world today is not much different from the time of Elijah. We are faced with a new form of idolatry – money, power, success and pleasure – obsessions that cut us away from God. In this age of secularism and the practice of the culture of death, the question remains, are we Christians able to stand firm in our belief in the one Lord, and make him known through our daily witnessing? Are we seen as “troublers” of the society, who, like Elijah, rocked the boat to wake people up from their slumber? Pope Benedict XVI reminds us that first and foremost, we need to be open to the Holy Spirit. “To proclaim fruitfully the Word of the Gospel
one is first asked to have a profound experience of God,” just like Elijah, whose encounter with God drives him to condemn the Israelites who have sinned against God.
(1 Kgs17:1), the prophet’s words as he proclaimed the drought. Elijah’s confidence in God to answer his prayer was second to none, so much so that he purposely made the situation on Mt Carmel even FAITHFUL SERVANT WHO more difficult – drenching the TRUSTS GOD COMPLETELY offering with water (1 Kgs 18:3436). At his request, “Answer me, In the entire account of Elijah’s Yahweh, answer me”, God sent fire ministry, we saw his faithfulness and that consumed the offering. Elijah complete trust in God, but it was might have sounded arrogant and not without hardship. Whenever domineering, but it only reflects his God gave a command, he obeyed complete confidence in the Lord whom he serves. The Opus Dei calls Elijah “the prophet of the first commandment.” He is rightly one as he continues to remind the Church and Her faithful today, just as he did in the past, to worship God alone. “The believer must respond to the Absolute of God with an absolute, total love that binds his whole life, his strength, his heart”. AN INTERCESSOR and carried them out as told. During the 3 ½ years of drought, God provided for Elijah through the ravens at the Wadi of Cherith (1 Kgs 17:2-6) and the widow at Zarephath (17:7-15). No questions asked. For us, it shows that God always takes care of his children in difficult times, particularly those who are faithful to him, just as the scripture says: “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; he knows those who take refuge in him” (Nh 1:7; ESV). “There will be neither dew nor rain… unless I give the word”
Elijah’s central message to the Israelites was a call to conversion, to return once more to the true God. Although he played an important role in bringing the people back to God, he was only the ‘supporting role.’ During the episode on Mt Carmel, Elijah’s prayer gives us a glimpse into his heart: “let them know today that you are God in Israel … so that this people may know that you, Yahweh, are God and are winning back their hearts” (1 Kgs 18:36-37). Elijah interceded for the people, asking of God “what Communicare | 63
YOUR VOICE God himself wanted to do, to show himself in all his mercy, faithful to his reality as the Lord of life who forgives, converts and transforms.” At this juncture, we reflect on our role in the priestly mission of Christ. Like Elijah, we are God’s servants and intercessors through the exercising of our priestly office which entails offering our prayers and “service in the name of God and for the salvation of others.” Therefore we need to examine our conscience frequently, to check if our lives, actions and words are leading others to God or only for our own self-gratification. COMPASSIONATE The cursory reading of the story of Elijah might give one the impression that Elijah was “a religious fanatic, an uncompromising zealot, cold, rigid and unbending.” However, his encounter with the widow at Zarephath proves us wrong. In learning the poor condition of the widow and her son, he helped by giving her his word that their food would never run out. When her son died, he responded immediately, praying and begging God to restore the life of the boy. These are demonstrations of his human and compassionate qualities. As we stand in defence of the Church’s teachings and upholding God’s laws, Pope Francis reminds us not to be rigid Christians, like those who “trust only in their own powers and feel superior to others because they observe certain rules or remain intransigently faithful to a particular Catholic style from the past.” He calls the entire Church to reach out to the peripheries of society, and hopes “that we will be moved by the fear of remaining shut up within structures which give us a false sense of security, within rules which make 64 | Communicare
us harsh judges, within habits which make us feel safe, while at our door people are starving and Jesus does not tire of saying to us: ‘Give them something to eat’ (Mk 6:37).” For at the end of the day we are not judged by how many people we preached to or converted to Christianity, but by how much we have shown love to the least of our brothers and sisters. As St John of the Cross puts it, “In the evening of life, we will be judged by love alone.” FACED WITH DEFEAT? SEARCH THE WILL OF GOD Elijah’s human weakness continues to unfold as he fled Jezebel after he was threatened with death (1 Kgs 19:1-8). Despite the remarkable work he performed on Mt Carmel revealing the glory and power of the one true God, and eventually killing all the prophets of Baal, all he received as a ‘reward’ was being hunted down by the enemy. He probably expected Ahab and Jezebel who championed Baal worship to be converted as well after witnessing such a great display of the power of Yahweh. Unfortunately, it did not turn out that way. He was afraid, overcome by despair, escaped into the desert of Beersheba. Suffering from exhaustion, he gave up the will to live and asked that God take his life. We are way too familiar with the hopelessness Elijah felt. After we have worked long and hard to help the parish finish a project, instead of a “thank you” and a word of praise, more often than not we receive negative criticisms. Even in the Church today, results are being preferred. We are familiar with remarks such as “How many people turned up for the Advent reflection last night?” and “How come so few showed up for the youth gathering?”
as if the numbers decide the success of an event. We get disappointed when we do not get the results we wish to see, and afflicted ourselves with selfblame. Like Elijah, we forget that we cannot measure success by the standards of the world. There is always hope. God sent an angel to comfort Elijah and provided food for him for the 40day journey to Mt Horeb, where he would be assigned new missions. In Elijah, we see that God never abandons his faithful servant. He was with Elijah throughout the difficult times. Another lesson we could learn from this episode is that God has his own plan. Are we obsessed with our problems and failures, or do we allow God to surprise us? When we are in difficulty, “are we able to recognise the hand of the angel around us?” St Paul says that “God works for those who love him, those who have been called in accordance with his purpose, and turns everything to their good” (Rom 8:18; NJB). All we need to do is to continue to trust in him and stay faithful in the face of adversity. CONCLUSION We do have a lot to learn from Elijah. It is even right to call him a “role model for saints”, for he not only inspires modern people of today, but also the saints of the past. Elijah was a spokesperson of God in those days of darkness and wickedness to proclaim God’s word and make him known. We too are challenged to follow in the footsteps of Elijah, to be salt of the earth and light of the world , by means of our witnessing and offering God true worship.
COMMUNICARE by The Splendour Project 2017 Â© All rights reserved www.splendourproject.com www.facebook.com/splendourproject.com email@example.com
5th issue of the Splendour Project's bi-annual newsletter.