Friday, October 14, 2011

A new star in the blogosky

Dear Takamasa Ishihara (no, not the famous Miyavi, he's more of a Myvi) recounts the first part of his conversion experience. Do go and say hi.

(NOT Miyavi)


Priest of the future

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Without and within

While He (Jesus) was speaking, a Pharisee asked Him to dine with Him; so He went in and sat at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that He did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also? But give for alms those things which are within; and behold everything is clean for you." -Luke 11:37-41 I was serving Mass yesterday evening, and I was tired after a day at work and sleepy and it was very warm, especially under the layers of cassock, surplice and street clothes. When the Gospel reading began, I thought it was the familiar white-washed tombs reading. But a closer listen showed something different.

How much more ashamed would my Lord be if called upon to claim me as one of His own before His Father, me a sinner. And I was ashamed to claim to be a follower of My Lord and God? How stupid can I be? I now make the sign of the Cross, not to show off, but to own up to being a Christian, a follower of the Crucified one. It was not easy. It was a process that took time. I was still very reticent about drawing attention to myself and it took great effort of mind and will to do it, consistently. But in doing so, it forced be to guard by behaviour and my manners, to be worthy of that great sign of our salvation. It's the same reason I wear a crucifix. I kneel down to pray, not to show off, but that's the way I was taught to pray. We kneel when approaching our Maker and Creator. Despite what others might think or what others might be doing and even if no one does it. Not to feel superior, but because it's the way our conscience dictates that God should be approached and while our bodies can still do so, let us kneel!. If it becomes something that's too easy, something done without thought, then stop. If it's done to glorify yourself, then stop. But if it's difficult, if it's not something that you really want to do cos it draws attention, it makes you guard your tongue and your behaviour, then consider doing the externals.
The Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner and Jesus did not perform the ritual ablution but dived straight in. I guess the poor Pharisee let his astonishment show for he was in for a very stern rebuke. On the surface, the message, now familiar, should be pretty clear. It's a message that those who tend to neglect the outward elements of the faith, be it attending Mass, praying, fasting, wearing a crucifix or even dressing decently often fling in the face of those of us who either do those things or try to promote them. It's what's inside that's important, it's the heart (or thought) that counts. Cut all the externals and focus on the internals and stop being so legalistic and Pharisaical and all will be fine. A closer reading firstly reveals that the message cuts both ways! "You fools! Did not He who made the outside make the inside also?" So, the dish should be cleaned on the outside AND inside. For God not only made the heart, but the body as well and what is in our heart should be manifested outwardly, not in a showy, self-serving and self-promoting way like the Pharisee who prayed loudly on the steps of the Temple extolling his own righteousness in contrast to the tax-collector, but in al way that should come naturally.
What's inside will come through and will shine through. In a non-Christian country like Malaysia, wearing the external symbols of the faith, such as a crucifix brings no benefit to the wearer but instead serves as a proclamation and a visible sign of the Christian faith. When the authorities are so afraid of letting crosses be erected on the tops of Churches, this tangible presence of Christianity and Christ and the sacred in the public square is something that should be promoted. Similarly, making the sign of the Cross in public, especially when we pass by a Church. It reminds ourselves and others of the Presence that dwells within those walls. It's not an easy thing to do. It draws attention. And for many of us, the last thing we want to do is to draw attention to ourselves. Especially when you're an adolescent. I can relate to that. When I was a kid, I was taught to make the sign of the Cross when passing by a Church. When I grew older, the gestures became smaller and faster until it was no more than a small sign made by my fingers over my heart (when no one was looking). However, one day, when I was taking the bus, I noticed a lady making a prominent sign of the Cross as we passed a Church, and everyone was looking. I remembered feeling very very ashamed, for being ashamed. I was ashamed of the sign of the Cross, ashamed of what others might think and in so doing, forgot how my Lord must have felt to see me 'deny' Him in public.

The Gospel reading reminded me that yes, although what's inside is important, what we do externally is important as well. It's doubly hard to be a Christian inside and out, to be clean inside and out. But we are psycho-somatic beings, we are not disembodied spirits, but beings of both body and soul. That unity should always be manifested in all we do, for the greater glory of God.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The original Egyptians

I was moved by this photo on Facebook of the Coptic Christians, the original inhabitants of Egypt, who were killed in the latest round of violence against Christians. Some were crushed by police and army vehicles.

O Holy God, how long?

Saturday, October 08, 2011

The Hound of Heaven

Father John Powell, a professor at Loyola University in Chicago, writes about a student in his Theology of Faith class named Tommy:

Some twelve years ago, I stood watching my university students file into the classroom for our first session in the Theology of Faith. That was the day I first saw Tommy. He was combing his long flaxen hair, which hung six inches below his shoulders.

It was the first time I had ever seen a boy with hair that long.
I guess it was just coming into fashion then. I know in my mind that it isn't what's on your head but what's in it that counts; but on that day. I was unprepared and my emotions flipped.

I immediately filed Tommy under "S" for strange... Very strange.

Tommy turned out to be the "atheist in residence" in my Theology of Faith course.

He constantly objected to, smirked at, or whined about the possibility of an unconditionally loving Father/God. We lived with each other in relative peace for one semester, although I admit he was for me at times a serious pain in the back pew.

When he came up at the end of the course to turn in his final exam, he asked in a cynical tone, "Do you think I'll ever find God?"
I decided instantly on a little shock therapy. "No!" I said very emphatically.
"Why not," he responded, "I thought that was the product you were pushing."

I let him get five steps from the classroom door and then I called out, "Tommy! I don't think you'll ever find Him, but I am absolutely certain that He will find you!" He shrugged a little and left my class and my life.

I felt slightly disappointed at the thought that he had missed my clever line -- He will find you! At least I thought it was clever.

Later I heard that Tommy had graduated, and I was duly grateful.

Then a sad report came. I heard that Tommy had terminal cancer.

Before I could search him out, he came to see me.

When he walked into my office, his body was very badly wasted and the long hair had all fallen out as a result of chemotherapy. But his eyes were bright and his voice was firm, for the first time, I believe.

"Tommy, I've thought about you so often; I hear you are sick," I blurted out.

"Oh, yes, very sick. I have cancer in both lungs. It's a matter of weeks."
"Can you talk about it, Tom?" I asked.
"Sure, what would you like to know?" he replied.
"What's it like to be only twenty-four and dying?
"Well, it could be worse.
"Like what?”

"Well, like being fifty and having no values or ideals, like being fifty and thinking that booze, seducing women, and making money are the real biggies in life.”

I began to look through my mental file cabinet under "S" where I had filed Tommy as strange. (It seems as though everybody I try to reject by classification, God sends back into my life to educate me.)

"But what I really came to see you about," Tom said, "is something you said to me on the last day of class." (He remembered!) He continued, "I asked you if you thought I would ever find God and you said, 'No!' which surprised me. Then you said, 'But He will find you.’ I thought about that a lot, even though my search for God was hardly intense at that time. (My clever line. He thought about that a lot!) "But when the doctors removed a lump from my groin and told me that it was malignant, that's when I got serious about locating God.And when the malignancy spread into my vital organs, I really began banging bloody fists against the bronze doors of heaven.

But God did not come out. In fact, nothing happened. Did you ever try anything for a long time with great effort and with no success?

You get psychologically glutted, fed up with trying. And then you quit.

"Well, one day I woke up, and instead of throwing a few more futile appeals over that high brick wall to a God who may be or may not be there, I just quit. I decided that I didn't really care about God, about an afterlife, or anything like that. I decided to spend what time I had left doing something more profitable. I thought about you and your class and I remembered something else you had said:

'The essential sadness is to go through life without loving..’

But it would be almost equally sad to go through life and leave this world without ever telling those you loved that you had loved them.

"So, I began with the hardest one, my Dad. He was reading the newspaper when I approached him.
"Yes, what?" he asked without lowering the newspaper.
"Dad, I would like to talk with you."
"Well, talk.”
"I mean. It's really important."
The newspaper came down three slow inches. "What is it?"
"Dad, I love you, I just wanted you to know that." Tom smiled at me and said it with obvious satisfaction, as though he felt a warm and secret joy flowing inside of him.
"The newspaper fluttered to the floor. Then my father did two things I could never remember him ever doing before. He cried and he hugged me. We talked all night, even though he had to go to work the next morning."

“It felt so good to be close to my father, to see his tears, to feel his hug, to hear him say that he loved me."
"It was easier with my mother and little brother. They cried with me, too, and we hugged each other, and started saying real nice things to each other. We shared the things we had been keeping secret for so many years."

"I was only sorry about one thing --- that I had waited so long."

"Here I was, just beginning to open up to all the people I had actually been close to..

"Then, one day I turned around and God was there.

"He didn't come to me when I pleaded with Him. I guess I was like an animal trainer holding out a hoop, 'C'mon, jump through. C'mon, I'll give you three days, three weeks."

Apparently God does things in His own way and at His own hour.

"But the important thing is that He was there. He found me! You were right. He found me even after I stopped looking for Him."

"Tommy," I practically gasped, "I think you are saying something very important and much more universal than you realize. To me, at least, you are saying that the surest way to find God is not to make Him a private possession, a problem solver, or an instant consolation in time of need, but rather by opening to love..

You know, the Apostle John said that. He said: 'God is love, and anyone who lives in love is living with God and God is living in him.

"Tom, could I ask you a favor? You know, when I had you in class you were a real pain. But (laughingly) you can make it all up to me now. Would you come into my present Theology of Faith course and tell them what you have just told me? If I told them the same thing it wouldn't be half as effective as if you were to tell it..”

"Oooh.. I was ready for you, but I don't know if I'm ready for your class."

"Tom, think about it. If and when you are ready, give me a call."

In a few days Tom called, said he was ready for the class, that he wanted to do that for God and for me.

So we scheduled a date.

However, he never made it. He had another appointment, far more important than the one with me and my class.

Of course, his life was not really ended by his death, only changed.

He made the great step from faith into vision. He found a life far more beautiful than the eye of man has ever seen or the ear of man has ever heard or the mind of man has ever imagined.

Before he died, we talked one last time.

"I'm not going to make it to your class," he said.
"I know, Tom."
"Will you tell them for me? Will you...tell the whole world for me?"

I will, Tom. I'll tell them. I'll do my best."

So, to all of you who have been kind enough to read this simple story about God's love, thank you for listening. And to you, Tommy, somewhere in the sunlit, verdant hills of heaven --- I told them, Tommy, as best I could.

If this story means anything to you, please pass it on to a friend or two.

It is a true story and is not enhanced for publicity purposes.

With thanks, Rev. John Powell, Professor,
Loyola University, Chicago

Full disclosure: Fr. Powell was sued for molesting a young lady in the late 60's and admitted to it and paid compensation. He is a Jesuit.

Friday, October 07, 2011

Anathema sit!

If I were starting a blog about dogs, I'd call it Anathema sit. If a seminary were looking to name their dog, Anathema would be fantastic.

Furry will not be amused

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are

Maybe you're a young Catholic who has come to realize, perhaps through personal study, perhaps using the latest technologies to browse through the various blogs or read the numerous articles that lament the current state of the Catholic Church in your country and in your parish or perhaps you just used your logic and your eyes (and ears) and woke up and smelled the lack of incense.

On the blogosphere at large you hear talk of a Benedictine Marshall Plan. Some of you who did not live through the 2nd World War and the recovery of Europe through the help of the American General George C Marshall (pic), who became the post-War Secretary of State to President Truman and the Europe Recovery Program, nicknamed the Marshall Plan, may have no idea what it's all about. Well, Europe was in a state of almost total devastation, especially areas of Germany and France where the war took it's heavy toll. So General Marshall came up with a plan to get Europe back on it's feet again and in it's basic essence, that's what the Marshall Plan is, to assist those countries who were down and out and give them the tools (in Europe's case, cash and credit) to get back to a certain level of stability, and then prosperity.

The Marshall Plan for the Catholic Church of our day stems from the realization that the Church, especially in areas of Europe and in other First World countries most severely and almost everywhere else as well, is pretty much a devastated landscape after the post-Conciliar period. In my own country, Malaysia in the years prior to the Council, numerous Churches were being built and immediately packed to the brim with converts and young Catholics from large families. The Church ran schools and hospitals and was a presence and a force in society. However, since the immediate post-Conciliar buildings of Holy Spirit Church in Green Lane and Risen Christ Church in Air Itam were constructed in 1969, a 40 year period elapsed before the Church of the Divine Mercy was consecrated last year. The old seminaries which were bursting at the seams and the host of nuns and brothers from the religious orders have all dissipated in the years after the Council when the hope of a New Springtime spiralled into not only a demographic winter, but more rather the clutches of a new Ice Age.

These pictures of the German city of Dresden before and after the bombing can be an analogy of what has occurred in he Church in the period after the Council.

A general view of the City, once known as the Florence of the North, before (above) and after (below) the bombing

The corridor within the Stalhof, before (above) and after (below) the bombing

When people think of the Church, in it's pre and post-conciliar forms, the images below, of a Papal Mass in the Traditional Latin Rite celebrated by the optimistic Blessed Pope John XXIII and a clown Mass in the Novus Ordo are often what comes to mind.

Papal Mass celebrated by Blessed John XXIII

Various modern 'interpretations' of the Mass of Paul VI

You know this, you're not stupid. What then can you, a mere layperson do? That's a good question and one that I asked myself, many many moon ago when I was less old. In this series of posts, I hope to provide some concrete ideas of what you (who we shall call a Papal Ninja because you're quick, fast, agile and effective, working in secret behind the scenes) can do. We shall stick to the doable, in the here and the now.

The image below, of Pope Benedict XVI celebrating the Papal Mass in St. Peter's Basilica is the goal of the Benedictine Marshall Plan, a restored, vibrant and growing and most importantly, faithful Church.

Let our plan be a smart plan. Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Time-bound. We are not Pope, or Cardinal Prefect or Archbishop or Bishop. We are not in Holy Orders and neither do we walk the Corridors of Power as movers as shakers. But besides offering up our prayers and sufferings in a spirit of reparation and asking the Lord to help us (which is indeed essential! and of the utmost importance and must never be forgotten or set aside no matter how 'busy' we think we are) let us take the words of Our Lord to heart when the told His Apostles: "You give them something to eat yourselves".

Let us be one among the many in this slow, brick by brick effort to recover our Catholic identity. Let us begin with ourselves. We shall see how in the coming posts. Lamenting (ranting) can only do so much good. After a while, we should let the whining stop, pick ourselves up and do something about it.

Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
Theodore Roosevelt 26th president of US (1858 - 1919) quoting Squire Bill Widener, of Widener's Valley

Hope for the future: Dresden today.

The rebuilt and restored Stalhof and a general view of the City of Dresden today.

Eucharistic miracle in Poland

Whenever there are Eucharistic miracles, such as the one in Lanciano, it has been in response to some doubt or lack of faith in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

This is also a lesson for all priests and those handling the Host to be most attentive and careful of the precious treasure they are holding in their consecrated hands!

Are we guilty, in our actions and in the way we behave before the Blessed Sacrament or in the manner we receive? Let us be more attentive to this greatest of the treasures of the Church, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ and approach Him with all reverence and adoration.

Roman Catholics in Poland gathered Sunday for a special Mass celebrating what they see as a miracle: the appearance on a communion wafer of a dark spot that they are convinced is part of the heart of Jesus.

The communion wafer in question developed a brown spot in 2008 after falling on the floor during a Mass in the eastern Polish town of Sokolka. Two medical doctors determined that the spot was heart muscle tissue, church officials have said.

Bialystok Archbishop Edward Ozorowski said during the Mass that in history, the "substance of Christ's body or blood has become available to the human senses, and this also happened in Sokolka."

"For God, nothing is impossible," Ozorowski said.

The dark-spotted wafer was carried aloft in a reliquary by a golden-robed priest in a procession and was put on display in the town's church of St. Anthony as about 1,000 faithful looked on, according to a report and footage carried by the TV station TVN.

Catholics believe that the bread and wine that priests use during the sacrament of communion - or the Eucharist - are changed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ.

The nun's discovery sparked huge interest among the faithful in this deeply Roman Catholic country, sparking large numbers to flock to Sokolka. Though some believers consider the object miraculous, the Vatican is still examining the matter and has not yet officially decided whether to declare it a miracle, church spokesman Andrzej Debski said.

A group of rationalists complained about the matter in 2008, and called on authorities to investigate if a murder or other crime was involved if human flesh was indeed found on the wafer. Police say they have no evidence of any crime.


I was looking at the Clustrmap on this blog and was fascinated by where the visitors originate from. The stats are pretty nifty and there's people from all over the world. Interesting indeed.

There's even 4 visits from computers registered in the Holy See! I really hope inquisitors from the Holy Office don't come knocking on my door.

Are you in the list?

United States (US)14,709
Malaysia (MY)2,059
United Kingdom (GB)1,723
Philippines (PH)1,647
Canada (CA)1,450
Australia (AU)999
India (IN)829
Italy (IT)629
Singapore (SG)585
Germany (DE)518
Ireland (IE)446
Brazil (BR)443
France (FR)433
Poland (PL)381
Thailand (TH)341
Netherlands (NL)309
Spain (ES)275
Portugal (PT)275
Indonesia (ID)255
Mexico (MX)214
Taiwan (TW)204
Romania (RO)181
Belgium (BE)179
Hungary (HU)176
Greece (GR)155
Croatia (HR)155
South Africa (ZA)147
Slovakia (SK)140
Sweden (SE)133
Switzerland (CH)127
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Czech Republic (CZ)118
Turkey (TR)117
New Zealand (NZ)116
United Arab Emirates (AE)115
Japan (JP)105
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Austria (AT)104
Malta (MT)103
Korea, Republic of (KR)102
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Russian Federation (RU)90
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Bulgaria (BG)63
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Nigeria (NG)56
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Trinidad and Tobago (TT)38
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Lebanon (LB)34
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Ghana (GH)16
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