Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Why does God care?

During the season of Lent, parents and catechists often ask children to give up sweets or television for Lent. Very often, after years of poor catechises and Barney-Jesus theology, the retort comes back: 'Why does God care, if I give up sweets for Lent?'
Why indeed. Barney wouldn't care. Doesn't God love us? Unconditionally? If we don't give up sweets or end up eating them anyway after we've promised to give it up, won't God still love us? Why can't Jesus be more like Barney? Can't we all just get along?

Pssst... The bird flying up there ain't the Holy Spirit and old cuddly Mufasa ain't God the Father

Can you feel the love tonight? Ok, lets join hands and sing Kumbaya.

But seriously folks, if the question ever came up, what would your response be? Does God care whether or not a kid gives up sweets for Lent?

The answer of course is yes. God cares. A great deal. And here's why.

God cares because you care. You cared enough to give up something you love a great deal for someOne you love even more. God cares that you bothered to give something up in obedience to the Church's precepts out of love for Him. God cares that you care for Him and are trying to obey His will.

Whenever we sacrifice something for God, God cares. Whenever we give up something for God, God cares.

Of course God loves us unconditionally. That's not the question. The question is, do we love Him? Enough to give what something that we love for Him?

We should not just fast and abstain because Jesus died for our sins in great torment. When we fast and abstain, we're not just sorry for our sins and grateful to God for His great and abounding mercy. We're not doing all that just because we feel guilty and miserable and all that. These are all good, true and perfectly valid reasons, but they should not be our only motivation.

Acts of penitence, fasting, abstinence and almsgiving should stem, not only from obedience to the Church's precepts, not only from sorrow and contrition for our sins, not only from a sense of solidarity with the poor, but from agape, an unconditional self giving love, of God and of our neighbour.

In our agape of God, all these find their fulfilment. God is love and looking towards our own glorification and theosis at the eschaton, in practicing this love, we become more like God here on Earth.

I've been roped in to teach the Form 4 catechism class this Sunday, so I'm practicing my catechises for that level. What do you think?

Monday, February 26, 2007

Joy in His Presence

Proof readers can't enjoy reading a good book. They are always looking out for errors in spelling and grammar. The worlds created and the spells weaved by the author's words are reduced to a mere jumble of words, put together badly.

Cooks and food critics can't enjoy a good meal. They're always judging the texture of the food, the flavours and freshness of the ingredients and the composition of the plate. The distant lands and exotic places evoked by the explosion of tastes are instead reduced to a mixture of under cooked and stale ingredients, badly combined.

Music conductors and musicians can't enjoy a concert. They can pick up the slightest fault, the slightest flat or sharp note, the slightest instrument out of tune. They'll notice when the trumpeter comes in late and the violins are out of sync with the violas and the double basses and the tubas are all over the place. The mystical experience of the soaring and majestic harmonies and melodies become for them a jumble of notes and jarring instruments with incompetent players at the business end.

Music, food, poetry and prose. For the connoisseur, the sense of enjoyment is lost, overpowered by the critic within shouting out condemnations and anathemas, pointing out the things done wrong, ruining the fantasy.

This is a risk that those who are involved in the Liturgy often fall prey to as well. The more we study the liturgy and its minutiae, the more we concern ourselves as to whether the Lenten shade of purple should be darker than the shade for Advent and whether liturgical rose is pinkish or a deep blood red, the more we are drawn away from the transcendent mystery before us and the more we are focussed on the trivia.

How often have I attended Mass only to be distracted by the priest wearing his stole over his chasuble, by the off key music, by the bellowing cantor, by the wrong liturgical colour, by the near heresy being preached from the pulpit, by the blown out candles, by the priest not genuflecting, by the wrong number of ductae of the thuribles, by the missing gestures and bows. And I'm surely not alone in this.

Fot. © Pawel Kula
We expect our Masses to look like this.

But we get this instead.

Too often, the liturgically aware have let these distractions and temptations distract them from participating in the the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Their attention wanders and often, anger wells up at the irreverence and incompetence shown by the priest or the various other ministers in the sanctuary.
What expect our Churches to look like this.

What they actually look like.

When this happens, we cease to find joy in His presence, we feel no joy in worshipping the One God. When the rest of the people join the angelic choirs praising God, we stand in sullen silence, like a child throwing a tantrum, unhappy at the happiness of the others around us. We can't join in. We can't praise God. We can't worship Him, present in the Blessed Sacrament of the altar. We get caught up in our own anger and indignation, albeit justifiably so, but still...

Fot. © Pawel Kula
We want our priests to look like this.

What our priests actually look like.

We dread attending Mass, wondering what nonsense the pastor will spout in his homily, what hippy music will blare forth from the band, what new fangled abomination will be foisted to decorate the sanctuary.

When this happens, if this describes your experience of the Mass, the Holy Sacrifice of Calvary, then stop. Take a step back. Detach yourself from being a critic, a judge of the liturgy, evaluating the priest and the music as if you're picking out oranges looking for defects. Stop.

11 VIII - Heure Sainte à Lindenberg, Mgr Alencherry (Inde)
What we think Eucharistic Adoration should look like.

What it really looks like.

Look past the veil. Just as we look past the veil of bread and wine and discern the Body and Blood of Christ, we must sometimes be able to look past the priest and his quirks, the monstrous looking altar, the cheap cups and vessels, the ugly vestments. We should discern the person of Christ offering the Sacrifice of Calvary through the priest. We should discern Jesus Our Lord, Really and Substantially Present under the species of Bread and Wine in those ugly, cheap vessels. We should discern the present of God, of the angels and the entire communion of saints in that horrendous excuse of the Church when the Mass is being celebrated.

What we expect a Pontifical High Mass to look like.

What it really looks like.

We need to find joy in the presence of God. Relive the joy you first felt when you came to know the Lord Jesus, when you realized that He is present in the Eucharist, when you realized He gave Himself up on Calvary and continues to give Himself in the Sacred Host, for you and for me.
We expect our processional crosses to look like this.

But they look like this instead.

Let the Mass, when it is being celebrated, be a moment of grace, a moment of mystical and corporal union with the Lord Jesus Christ, a moment of prostration before God's throne with the angels and all the company of Heaven.

The temptation of St. Anthony. Sometimes, I feel like St. Anthony when attending an irreverent Mass. Sometimes, I feel like one of the demons attacking St. Anthony when I think of what I'm going to do the priest celebrating that irreverent Mass.

During the Mass, come what may, despite all the temptations, try to find joy in His presence, try to worship Him. Try.

Let this be our resolution this Lent.

When the Mass is over and after you've said your thanksgiving prayers and when you've spent some time before the Blessed Sacrament and lit a candle before the altar of Our Lady, then rush home and write a letter of complain to your Bishop and to Rome.
Remember, photos and videos help =)

The Catholic Mass Revealed!

I found this wonderful introductory catechetical resource and I would like to share this with you. Visit the website, click on the DVD and get an introduction to the Mass and all its parts, done up wonderfully with glorious pictures and music.

I found the commentary very interesting and although, as a traditionalist, I would like to see more clarity on the sacrificial aspects of the Mass, the overall presentation if pretty good. I don't like the altar girls though. In the Dioceses of Malaysia, (Addendum: barring Malacca-Johore) they are still not permitted. (Even in Malacca-Johore, though it is permitted, I haven't seen any yet.)

Anyway, give it a visit and be awed by the beauty of the Catholic Mass.

If anyone want to sponsor me a copy of the DVD and booklet, do drop me a mail! =D

Lenten Meme

Nick, over at Mysterium-Fidei and a fellow blogger at the Mount Carmel Bloggers has tagged me for this Lenten meme. So, here it goes.

1. What is your favourite Sorrowful Mystery?

The Agony in the Garden. The Agony has always been something I've contemplated deeply about because, as we read in the account of the Temptation of Christ after his 40 day fast in the desert, Satan went away only to return at the appointed time. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, when Jesus went to pray after the last supper, the appointed time arrived.
Image:Folio 142v - Christ in Gethsemane.jpg
Jesus was in great sorrow as he pondered the great suffering and affliction that He was about to undergo. He saw and felt the weight of the sins of the entire world, of your sins and of my sins. He was afraid. And yet, because of His great love for me and in obedience to the will of the Father, Jesus laid down His life and walked the way of the Cross.

Pater mi si non potest hic calix transire nisi bibam illum fiat voluntas tua!

In Jesus' words I find great comfort. No less than God the Son has stared in the chasm and felt great fear and sorrow, but Jesus manages to overcome that fear by fully trusting the Father's will. Even though my trials sometimes seem great and overwhelming, if I entrust them to God and try to obey his will, I am confident that He will provide.

In all things, let my cry also be 'Fiat voluntas tua'.

2. What is your favorite Station of the Cross?
The stations when Jesus falls. I've carried a half-sized cross before and I know its weight. Even half sized, and minus the scourging, the beatings, the insults, the blood loss and the hunger and thirst, I could not carry it more than a few stations.

When Jesus gets up after falling, even after all that He has been through, determined to consummate the Redemption, shows His great love for us and also the gravity and grievousness of our sins.

3. Do you fast during Lent?
Yes. Or at least I try too.

4. What is your Lenten Resolution(s)?
I resolve to walk the Stations of the Cross on Fridays. I'm going to try to abstain from my pleasures and try to offer up my afflictions to the Lord.

5. Do you use Holy Water during Lent?

6. How many times do you go to Mass during Lent?
Saturdays and Sundays, Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

I tag Mark William, Joee Blogs, the Hymn Selector, Mr. Smith and The Crescat.

Another attack against orthodox Christianity

Now if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.

Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.
-1 Corintian 15:12-19
Are we the most miserable of all men? According to James Cameron, yes.

In recent years, attacks against orthodox Christianity seems to be on the increase. With the Jesus seminar saying that none of what Jesus actually said is said by Jesus, John Dominic Crossan denying the resurrection and positing the Jesus' body was eaten by dogs, the James Ossuary purporting to belong to the brother of Jesus and the Da Vinci Code. And now comes this.

The director of that soppy movie Titanic is now claiming to have unearthed the tomb of Jesus, Mary, Mary of Magdala and other members of the Jesus family. Yes, that's right, the Jesus, of Nazareth and the Holy Gospels fame. The Crucified one. The Risen One. Or supposedly risen anyway, if this news is true.

In a frontal attack against the fundamental Christian belief in the Resurrection of Jesus, Cameron's new documentary is attributing the 10 caskets discovered in caves in Jerusalem 27 years ago 'Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.'

What's next? Read on.

Jesus: Tales from the Crypt

Brace yourself. James Cameron, the man who brought you 'The Titanic' is back with another blockbuster. This time, the ship he's sinking is Christianity.

In a new documentary, Producer Cameron and his director, Simcha Jacobovici, make the starting claim that Jesus wasn't resurrected --the cornerstone of Christian faith-- and that his burial cave was discovered near Jerusalem. And, get this, Jesus sired a son with Mary Magdelene.

No, it's not a re-make of "The Da Vinci Codes'. It's supposed to be true.

Let's go back 27 years, when Israeli construction workers were gouging out the foundations for a new building in the industrial park in the Talpiyot, a Jerusalem suburb. of Jerusalem. The earth gave way, revealing a 2,000 year old cave with 10 stone caskets. Archologists were summoned, and the stone caskets carted away for examination. It took 20 years for experts to decipher the names on the ten tombs. They were: Jesua, son of Joseph, Mary, Mary, Mathew, Jofa and Judah, son of Jesua.
Israel's prominent archeologist Professor Amos Kloner didn't associate the crypt with the New Testament Jesus. His father, after all, was a humble carpenter who couldn't afford a luxury crypt for his family. And all were common Jewish names.

There was also this little inconvenience that a few miles away, in the old city of Jerusalem, Christians for centuries had been worshipping the empty tomb of Christ at the Church of the Holy Sepulcher. Christ's resurrection, after all, is the main foundation of the faith, proof that a boy born to a carpenter's wife in a manger is the Son of God.

But film-makers Cameron and Jacobovici claim to have amassed evidence through DNA tests, archeological evidence and Biblical studies, that the 10 coffins belong to Jesus and his family.

Ever the showman, (Why does this remind me of the impresario in another movie,"King Kong", whose hubris blinds him to the dangers of an angry and very large ape?) Cameron is holding a New York press conference on Monday at which he will reveal three coffins, supposedly those of Jesus of Nazareth, his mother Mary and Mary Magdalene. News about the film, which will be shown soon on Discovery Channel, Britain's Channel 4, Canada's Vision, and Israel's Channel 8, has been a hot blog topic in the Middle East (check out a personal favorite: Israelity Bites) Here in the Holy Land, Biblical Archeology is a dangerous profession. This 90-minute documentary is bound to outrage Christians and stir up a titanic debate between believers and skeptics. Stay tuned.
--Tim McGirk/Jerusalem

But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive. But every man in his own order: Christ the firstfruits; afterward they that are Christ's at his coming.

Then cometh the end, when he shall have delivered up the kingdom to God, even the Father; when he shall have put down all rule and all authority and power. For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death. For he hath put all things under his feet. But when he saith all things are put under him, it is manifest that he is excepted, which did put all things under him. And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.
1Cor 15:20-28

Then I saw three evil spirits that looked like frogs; they came out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
- Revelation 16:13

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Stations on the First Friday of Lent

I rushed home from work on Friday to pick up my grandmother to attend Mass and the Stations of the Cross.

Wow! The Church was packed! There were about 500 people who showed up for the Stations and Mass. In contrast, our normal daily Mass on Fridays only usually attract about 50-60 people. Not many parishes can boast of such a daily Mass attendance, not to mention the numbers we had for the Stations.

Father himself expressed surprise at the turnout. Of course he just transferred in and this was his first Lent with us. The attendance at the Stations during Lent is always good and this is a good sign that people are taking the Lenten requirements of Prayer, Fasting and Almsgiving seriously. After the evening Ash Wednesday Mass, which was also packed, I saw many parishioners at the vegetarian restaurants when I was having dinner there. Hopefully this resolve can be maintained throughout the season of Lent.

There were several hiccups during the Staions, such as the lack of books for people to follow the prayers and the songs. Our parish published new books of the stations which came just as we were about to finish the 7th station. Another complaint was that the stations were done in English, Mandarin and Tamil so I was only able to follow a third of it. On the up side though, the 'Stabat Mater' was used instead of the soppy songs that we used to have last time in the old books.

Anyway, I just wanted to highlight this great turnout.

I also just made arrangements to borrow a heavy wooden cross for our own Stations and Lenten retreat which should happen some time before Good Friday.

The cross is extremely heavy. I find it difficult to carry it even for a few stations. After carrying it, I can understand why the Lord Jesus fell so many times. Even with a half-sized cross and without the beatings, scourging and lack of food and water, I could not do it. Truly walking the stations makes up appreciate the sacrifice of the Saviour more and more.

Praise Jesus for walking the Way of the Cross for us.

Friday, February 23, 2007

St. Peter's on the Feast of the Chair of Peter

From Fr. Z's blog.

Note the candles arrayed on the Altar of the Chair.
The tiara has also been restored after being absent for a few years.

Now that St. Peter is wearing it, shouldn't his successor give it a go?
Wink, wink =)

All the photo's are taken by Fr. Z [and what a wonderful photographer he is too =)] and are copyrighted to him.


Here's what Papa Ratzi would look like in the Tiara =) LOL!
Although the Pope is in choir instead of pontifical vestments, but what the heck, it looks great!

Hat tip to Vincenzo.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cathedra Petri

Today, the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter, the Vicar of Jesus Christ and the Rock on whom the Church is built.

St. Peter's chair
"Beátus es, Simon Bar Jona: quia caro et sanguis non revelávit tibi, sed Pater Meus, qui in Cœlis est. Et Ego dico tibí, quia tu es Petrus, et super hanc petram ædificábo Ecclésiam Meam, et portæ ínferi non prævalébunt advérsus eam. Et tibi dabo claves regni cælórum. Et quodcúmque ligáveris super terram, erit ligátum et in Cœlis: et quodcúmque sólveris super terram, erit solútum et in Cœlis."

"Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but My Father Who is in Heaven: and I say to thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it; and to thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven; and whatsoever thou shall loose on earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven."

A lot of work for a Chair

With these words, Christ Jesus conferred the Primacy to Simon-Peter whom His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI stands as his 264th successor.

I was going to do some exegesis of these words, but the Feast kinda crept up on me and I do not have the time. Instead, I'll leave you with these images of the altar of Chair of St. Peter in the Vatican Basilica.

Italy 2006 140

From: 'St. Peter's - Guide to the Basilica and Square '
The apse is at the end of the central nave. In the center is the Altar of the Chair of Peter, a masterpiece which is unmistakably the work of Gian Lorenzo Bernini (1598-1659).

Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome. Already in the second half of the 18th century an ancient wooden chair inlaid with ivory was venerated and traditionally held to be the Episcopal chair on which St. Peter sat as he instructed the faithful of Rome. In fact, it is a throne in which fragments of acacia wood are visible, which could be part of the chair of St. Peter, encased in oak and reinforced with iron bands. Several rings facilitated its transportation during processions. Pope Alexander VII commissioned Bernini to build a sumptuous monument which would give prominence to this ancient wooden chair. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze, richly ornamented with bas-reliefs in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. On January 17, 1666 it was solemnly set above the altar.

The base of the altar is made of black and white marble from Aquitaine and red jasper from Sicily. Four gigantic statues (about 5 m. tall) in gilded bronze surround the Chair which looks almost as if it were suspended amidst the clouds. The two outer statues are figures of two Doctors of the Latin Church: St. Ambrose and St. Augustine; the two inner statues, with bare heads, are of two Doctors of the Greek Church: St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom. These saints represent the catholicity of the Church and at the same time, the consistency of the theologians' teaching with the doctrine of the Apostles.

Above the Chair are two angels bearing the tiara and keys, symbols of the Roman pontiff's authority. On the Chair, are three bas-reliefs picked out in gold, which refer to the same number of Gospel episodes: the Consignment of the keys, Feed my sheep, and the Washing of the feet.

The whole composition is crowned by the fantastic gilt and stucco Gloria peopled by a host of angels among rays of light and gigantic billowing clouds. In their midst is the precious window of Bohemian glass, divided into twelve sections as a tribute to the Twelve Apostles; a brilliant dove stands out against it, the symbol of the Holy Spirit, the soul of the Church which he never ceases to help and to guide. Vanvitelli decorated the vault with gilded stucco. In the three medallions are portrayed: the Consignment of the Keys, the Crucifixion of St. Peter and the Beheading of St. Paul.

From: 'Guide to Saint Peter's Basilica'
This structure is a brilliant creation by Bernini, designed to display the chair on which, according to ancient tradition, St. Peter sat and taught Roman Christians. Pope Alexander VII had the ivory-covered chair put into the gigantic bronze cathedra, with the statues of the Doctors of the Church, St. Ambrose and St. Augustine of the Roman Church and St. Athanasius and St. John Chrysostom of the Greek Church. The religious significance is extremely clear. The Doctors of the Church were always consistent with Peter's teachings as they expounded theological doctrine.

The gospel does not change because the Holy Spirit, portrayed as a dove flies along the span of the centuries, assisting and accompanying its church. The chair or cathedra of Peter symbolizes the perpetual continuity of the doctrine and its promise of infallibility. It triumphed over all heresies throughout the centuries.

The fine alabaster window, surrounded by golden clouds and angels flying between rays of light, casts a mystical warmth through the basilica, especially in the afternoon. It is divided into twelve sections, in homage to the twelve Apostles who carried the words of the Gospel throughout the world.

Here's the statue of St. Peter, with the feet worn away by centuries of pilgrims kissing his feet.

313-Vatican - The Statue of St Peter in Full Regalia for St Peter's Day

The statue is vested in cope and tiara during this feast and also for the Feast of Sts. Peter and Paul.

Italy - Vatican City - St. Peter's Bascilla10 - St. Peter Statue

St. Peters Statue
St. Peters statue

Here's the statue of St. Peter outside in the Piazza.

Statue of St Peter
St. Peter statue in St. Peter's Square. Peter always holds keys to heaven

Pope Benedict XVI's address on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter
Date: 2006-02-22 VATICAN CITY
"A Privileged Sign of the Love of God" (

Here is a translation of Benedict XVI's address at today's general audience, on the feast of the Chair of St. Peter.

Dear Brothers and Sisters! The Latin liturgy celebrates today the feast of the Chair of Peter. It is a very ancient tradition, witnessed in Rome since the end of the fourth century, which renders thanksgiving to God for the mission entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors.

"Cathedra" literally means the established seat of the bishop, located in the mother church of a diocese, which for this reason is called "cathedral," and it is the symbol of the authority of the bishop and, in particular, of his "magisterium," that is, of the evangelical teaching that he, insofar as a successor of the apostles, is called to guard and transmit to the Christian community.

St. Peter's chair

When the bishop takes possession of the local Church that is entrusted to him, he, bearing the miter and the shepherd's crosier, sits on the cathedra. From that seat he will guide, as teacher and shepherd, the journey of the faithful in faith, hope and charity.

Which was, then, the "cathedra" if St. Peter? He, chosen by Christ as "rock" on which to build the Church (cf. Matthew 16:18), began his ministry in Jerusalem, after the ascension of the Lord and Pentecost. The first "seat" of the Church was the Cenacle, and in all probability in that room, where Mary, the Mother of Jesus, also prayed with the disciples, a special place was reserved for Simon Peter.

Subsequently, the see of Peter was Antioch, a city situated on the Oronte River in Syria, today Turkey, which at the time was the third metropolis of the Roman Empire after Rome and Alexandria in Egypt. Of that city, evangelized by Barnabas and Paul, where "for the first time the disciples were called Christians" (Acts 11:26), Peter was the first Bishop.

In fact, the Roman Martyrology, before the reform of the calendar, established also a specific celebration of the Chair of Peter at Antioch. From there, Providence led Peter to Rome, where he concluded with martyrdom his course of service to the Gospel. For this reason, the See of Rome, which had received the greatest honor, received also the task entrusted by Christ to Peter of being at the service of all the local Churches for the building and unity of the whole People of God.

The Throne of Peter, held up by the 4 Doctors of the Church.

In this way the See of Rome came to be known as that of the Successor of Peter, and the "cathedra" of its Bishop represented that of the apostle charged by Christ to feed all his flock. It is attested by the most ancient Fathers of the Church, as for example St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, who in his treatise "Against Heresies" describes the Church of Rome as "greatest and most ancient, known by all; … founded and constituted at Rome by the two glorious Apostles Peter and Paul"; and he adds: "With this Church, because of her outstanding superiority, the universal Church must be in agreement, that is, the faithful everywhere" (III, 3, 2-3).

Tertullian, for his part, affirms: "How blessed this Church of Rome is! The Apostles themselves shed on her, with their blood, the whole of the doctrine" ("La Prescrizione degli Eretici," 36). The Chair of the Bishop of Rome represents, therefore, not only his service to the Roman community, but also his mission of guide of the whole People of God.

To celebrate the "Chair" of Peter, as we do today, means, therefore, to attribute to it a strong spiritual significance and to recognize in it a privileged sign of the love of God, good and eternal Shepherd, who wants to gather the whole of his Church and guide her along the way of salvation.

Statue of St Peter

Among so many testimonies of the Fathers, I would like to refer to that of St. Jerome, taken from a letter of his to the Bishop of Rome, particularly interesting because he makes explicit reference in fact to the "chair" of Peter, presenting it as the safe harbor of truth and peace. Jerome writes thus: "I decided to consult the chair of Peter, where that faith is found exalted by the lips of an Apostle; I now come to ask for nourishment for my soul there, where once you received the garment of Christ. I follow no leader save Christ, so I enter into communion with your beatitude, that is, with the chair of Peter for this I know is the rock upon which the Church is built! ("Le Lettere," I, 15,1-2).

Dear Brothers and Sisters, in the apse of St. Peter's Basilica, as you know, is found the monument to the Chair of the Apostle, a mature work of Bernini, made in the shape of a great bronze throne, supported by the statues of four Doctors of the Church, two from the West, St. Augustine and St. Ambrose, and two from the East, St. John Chrysostom and St. Athanasius.

ROME St. Peter Bronze Statue (14)

I invite you to pause before that evocative work, which today it is possible to admire decorated with so many candles, and pray in a particular way for the ministry that God has entrusted to me. Raising one's gaze to the alabaster glass window that opens precisely above the chair, invoke the Holy Spirit, so that he will always sustain with his light and strength my daily service to the whole Church. For this, as for your devoted attention, I thank you from my heart.

For those who are Papist to the core, let's end this post with a rousing rendition of 'Long Live the Pope!'

Long Live The Pope
The music can be found here.

Long live the Pope!
His praises sound
Again and yet again:
His rule is over space and time:
His throne the heart of men:
All hail! The Shepherd Pope of Rome,
The theme of loving song:
Let all the earth his glory sing
And heav’n the strain prolong.

Beleaguered by
By the foes of earth,
Beset by hosts of hell,
He guards the loyal flock of Christ,
A watchful sentinel:
And yet, amid the din and strife,
The clash of mace and sword,
He bears alone the Shepherd Staff,
The champion of the Lord.

Then raise the chant,
With heart and voice,
In Church & school & home:
"Long live the Shepherd of the Flock!
Long live the Pope of Rome!"
Almighty Father bless his work,
Protect him in his ways,
Receive his prayer, fulfill his hopes,
And grant him length of days!

Dog found with its forearm tied with bicycle brake cable

Once again, the cruelty of humans never ceases to amaze me. What could these people possibly hope to prove or achieve by pulling a stunt like this? Did their parents teach them nothing of compassion and love? Why to these people prey on the harmless and weak? Sigh... These things make me very angry and bad thoughts are popping into my head.

BARELY two months after Joy the little black dog was rescued from the jaws of death, another case of animal cruelty has surfaced.

This time involving a one-year-old mongrel named Hoppy which was rescued by a kind soul in Puncak Jalil recently.

Hoppy: Was found cringing in pain with a bicycle brake cable tied so tightly around its forearm that it cut through the bone.
Florence Chan found the mongrel with its forearm dangling like a broken twig.

Hoppy was found cringing in pain with a bicycle brake cable tied so tightly around its forearm that it cut through the bone.

“My neighbours children alerted me about the dog and when I went to see for myself I was shocked at the condition the poor dog,'' said Chan.

“I rushed him to a vet's clinic in Subang Jaya and he is recuperating from the ordeal,'' she said.

Dr Vijay who is treating Hoppy said the way the cable was tied around the dog's forearm shows malicious intent.

“It was tied so tight that it practically cut through the bone and caused a 3cm wound that was infected maggot-filled. This was probably someone's idea of a cruel joke.

“The whole forearm was swollen and the tissues around it dead. In fact, we were not sure if the legs could be saved but so far he seems to be responding well to treatment, hence amputation may not be necessary,'' he said.

“The sad part is that he is terrified of humans. He cringes and whimpers when anyone comes near him and retreats to the furthest corner of the cage,'' said Chan.

“I am not sure what to do with him once he fully recovers as I have already adopted three dogs,'' she said, adding that she hoped someone could come forward to adopt Hoppy.

“Hoppy needs sponsors to help pay for the medical expenses and a donor to sponsor him for his lifetime at the Langkawi Animal Shelter and Sanctuary.

“But more importantly he needs to be loved and taught to trust humans again,'' added Chan.

For details, call 016-395 3992 (Chan)

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Memento homo, quia pulvis es, et in pulverem reverteris.

Memento homo, quia pulvis es,

et in pulverem reverteris.

"Remember, man, that you are dust
And unto dust you shall return."

With these words, and with the ashes from last year's palms being imposed on our foreheads, Catholics all around the world begin the season of Lent, a period of repentance and penitence in preparation for the Easter Triduum when we commemorate the Paschal Mysteries of the Crucifixion, Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the Lord.

In the Old Testament, penance and mourning was signified by fasting, wearing sackcloth, sitting in dust and ashes, and putting dust and ashes on one's head. The ritual use of ashes can be traced back to the time of Moses as described in the book of Numbers (Numbers 19:9-10, 17). The principles behind the Catholic practice of Ash Wednesday can therefore be traced waaaay back.

Ashes also symbolize death and so remind us of our own mortality and our upcoming judgement, inviting us to re-look our lives and cleanse ourselves of our sins so that we may be prepared to face the final judgement.

It is also a sign of humility before God and before our neighbours. We bear them on our foreheads as a visible reminder, to ourselves and to others of our fallen nature and our need of forgiveness and redemption.

The forehead is also the seat of pride. It is therefore just that we should mark and sign it with the sign of the cross of Jesus. Slaves were also marked with a sign of ownership and by being marked with ashes and with the sign of the cross, we remind ourselves of whom we are and whose we are. The Book of Revelation speaks of God's people having his mark on their foreheads. We also recall this by being signed with ashes.

But the ashes we wear is merely an outward sign of what is supposed to be our inward disposition of repentance. It is meaningless unless accompanied by true contrition and sorrow for sins committed. We not only need to wear ashes on our heads, but in our hearts.

As the Prophet Joel said:

Yet even now, says the Lord,
return to me with all your heart,
with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.

-Joel 2:12-13

In our penance and sorrow, we also see hope for God is not only judge, but also Father, gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

In this, as we begin the season of Lent, we take comfort.

Have a great and prayerful Lent.