Monday, 18 February 2019

Retreat or Formation? 避靜或培訓?

Some folks mix up retreat and formation. They seem to think that retreat is formation and formation is retreat. However, they are not the same. To make it simple, a retreat is time we spend with the Big Big Boss (preferably in silence and solitude) for a certain period, usually a few days, a week, or even a month. Formation, on the other hand, is for our intellectual growth, with hope that this would lead us to spiritual growth. When we are on retreat, we should not be too concerned about receiving input. Rather, we ought to spend more time listening to the Big Big Boss voice. In our world today, we are distracted by so many types of noise. As a result, we may have become less and less sensitive to the promptings from our Big Big Boss.


Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Conditional or Unconditional Generosity?

Has it ever occurred to you why some of us are offering our time, talents and wealth to the church? I have observed that in some cases, it is because of the kind of relationship persons are experiencing that some would be more or less generous. For example, a priest or a leader is friendly and caring to the people, and because some experience such friendliness and care, they are willing and happy to offer more. But when a priest or leader is less friendly or caring, then what happens, would people be still as generous?

Relationship is what many of us long for, but I wonder if that should be one factor of how generous one should be. When we speak of offering and being generous to the church, what are we really meaning here? Are we generous with the condition that we would be loved and well-treated in return? Do we expect to get something out of what we give, or could we give unconditionally? Does it mean that being a Christian means there are terms and conditions attached for our benefit?

This is where, perhaps, we need to ask ourselves: God gave us His son Jesus, freely, unconditionally, to save all of us from our sins. Jesus came not to save only a certain few, or only those who are good or kind, or according to certain terms and conditions, as salvation is offered to all. It is up to us to accept or reject this free offer of salvation, and if we reject it, we cannot turn around and say that we did not have a choice. If God’s generosity knows no bounds, then why are some of us generous with bounds, whereby for some of us, generosity is based on what we can get out of it in return?

We must remember that priests and leaders come and go, and that at the end of the day, our generosity ought to be to build God’s Kingdom and to glorify Him, not for our personal gratification or to maintain a feel-good environment. Our generosity is not going to end up only in a certain priest or leader’s pocket, or only for the benefit of a certain priest or leader; but our generosity would be used ultimately for the good of the church. If we are mindful of this, then surely we should ponder how generous we really are, and do what is right and just for the good of the church and to assist in its mission.

Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Pulling One’s Weight Around?

Recently, I came across some persons who requested for a funeral to be celebrated for a relative who passed away while working at a distant place, and the immediate next of kin of the deceased happened to have recently moved from another town to the present town where the parish I am presently ministering to is situated. The deceased had never set foot in the present town where the parish I am ministering to is situated, and the deceased, I am told, went to another parish in a different town whenever the deceased returned from that distant place to visit the grandmother.

At first, I was a little hesitant to have the funeral celebrated, since I knew nothing about the deceased, as the deceased had no other connection with the present town other than only the next of kin who had recently moved to the present town. However, after speaking to a relative of the deceased, who sought my help, and upon getting some assurance from the relative concerning some spiritual background of the deceased, I then acceded to granting a funeral Mass. However, I was quite taken aback, when I received a call from my assistant, who was quite stunned, confused and puzzled as to why he was being dragged into a matter which he knew nothing about. It seems that certain individuals linked to the deceased had complained to the parish priest of a parish of that distant place, allegedly stating that my assistant had refused a funeral Mass, and that parish priest then complained to my assistant concerning such a refusal; but the fact of the matter was that a funeral Mass had been granted, and the whole matter had nothing to do with my assistant.

Moreover, I was quite shocked and disappointed when I received a call from a parish priest of another parish located in another town quite some distance away, asking if there was some way burial could be permitted for the deceased at the cemetery of the parish of the present town. Such request had been denied, and the relative I had spoken to understood and agreed, that the cemetery was reserved only for folks belonging to the parish of the present town, as that was the intention of the donor of the cemetery. It seems that other relatives of the deceased were unhappy that the request had been denied, and apparently they were in disagreement with the terms and conditions concerning the cemetery, and they had the audacity to involve another parish priest of another parish located in another town quite some distance away, to try and intercede for their cause. Naturally, to preserve the original purpose of the cemetery, such a request coming from the other parish priest was also denied.

This makes me wonder... why do people not get the message when no means no, and when a request had been granted at a slightly later time, there is no need to jump the gun and create a ruckus, involving other parties? One should not think that one can pull strings and get their way, or try to pull their weight around, even if pulling such strings or weight would be not right or unjust. After all, surely some things could be granted after proper verification, and certain things cannot be granted, lest the trust concerning such things would be broken, should such demands be given in to.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Much Ado About Nothing?

I sometimes wonder whether some of us are jumping into conclusions so quickly without reading what was actually written or listening carefully to what was actually said. Do we assume that we know what was written or said, without verifying the actual and real meaning of what was written or said? It seems easy to come up with our own interpretations, but how many of us are willing to take the trouble to find out and be clear about what was written or said?

For example, when we say "John kicked the bucket," some of us may immediately jump into conclusion that John died. But does the sentence "John kicked the bucket" have only one meaning? Have we ever considered that such a phrase could mean something else; such as John had accidentally kicked the bucket or that he had kicked the bucket by accident, as the bucket was lying around and he had not seen it? Or perhaps John was not in a very good mood, and to let out some frustration, he kicked the bucket which happened to be at the right place at the right time? So as we can see, what was said or written may not necessarily be what we think.

Even in matters of faith and church, it is always good to be clear about what was actually written or said, since sometimes even the smallest matter could be blown up into a big issue or blown out of proportion, just because some had not taken the effort to read or listen carefully to what was written or said. For example, an announcement is made advising people not to feed their children during Mass, since there ought to be a proper time and place to do so, but some seem to interpret such an announcement as if the church is forbidding parents from feeding their children in any circumstances. Then some such persons begin to say that the church is being insensitive or not caring, but if we consider what was said, did the announcement state that parents were not allowed to feed their children at any time, whereas the church had mentioned that during Mass, children should not be fed? After all, if one could show decorum and respect when one is in a banquet in the presence of some VIP (Very Important Person) or even royalty, surely one could show some decorum and respect in the presence of the King of kings at Mass?

So let us make effort not to jump into conclusions so easily, and find out and be clear about what was actually said or written, since what was written or said could jolly well be quite different from what we think. After all, it is better to be clear about the fact of the matter, rather than to end up being misinformed or even unnessarily agitated over a matter which may merely be a figment of our imagination.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Parking or Hogging? That is the Question!

I believe several parishes have got a big problem which seems not so easy to solve. Some of you may be wondering... what sort of big problem am I talking about? While there are different kinds of problems we face in a parish, one that seems pertinent is the big problem about car parking. Why is car parking considered a big problem? Allow me to elaborate.

We know that not many parishes are blessed with sufficient parking space, and from time to time, we come across certain folks who seem to not know how to park their car properly; or they can't find space to park and so they double park or even triple park; or they simply park their car as if it is their grandfather's road. Some even park their car in front of other vehicles, and remain in their vehicle, possibly waiting for a family member to come, and when they are asked to move their vehicle, they show a sour face, scowling face or monkey face, as if moving their vehicle just a few meters away so that another vehicle could come out is such a difficult or painful thing.

Then when the Mass is over and folks are exhorted to go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord, instead of having the presence of mind, or "cow sense," or even common sense; to remove their vehicle which could be blocking other vehicles, they dilly dally by chit chatting with other folks; or they go about in their involvement in other church activities; or some even walk to the shops nearby for breakfast or lunch, as it is convenient for them to go nearby instead of the "hassle" of driving out and going elsewhere. Sometimes, the vehicle of such folks could be just in front of them, and when irate owners of blocked vehicles begin to blast the horn, such folks carry on doing their thing as if everything was ok, or they pretend to not know or "buat tak tau," or they even give a dirty or disgusted look, as if they are not in the wrong.

When such folks do such things, what happens? Other folks who need to drive off may find their vehicles stuck, blocked by the vehicles of such folks. Then what happens? Instead of going forth to love and serve the Lord, as what the priest exhorts at the end of the Mass, folks end up fighting, arguing, cursing and quarrelling (sometimes even to the extent of using "flowery language") over a simple matter of just removing one's vehicle after Mass and re-parking it elsewhere, so that the vehicle does not obstruct other vehicles.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: have some of us become so self-centred and egoistic, not bothered about others, and only wanting convenience and benefits for oneself and perhaps for one's family? What sort of Christian example are we showing when what is supposed to be a simple matter such as parking becomes a sore issue, which causes other faithful to unnecessarily sin due to the selfishness and couldn't care less attitude of certain folks?

Friday, 7 September 2018

Making Time or Demanding Time?

Some people can be strange creatures... first they ask for the priest to come to their house for house blessing, then when the priest is free to come on a weekday, either morning or noon or, where necessary, in the evening, such folks then say they are not free on weekdays. Then such folks say that they are only free on weekends, and some even say only towards the evening on weekends.

Then when the priest tells them that the weekend is a busy time for priests, as there are weddings, funerals and weekend Masses, such folks rant and rave and complain beyond complaining that the priest is not fair, or too busy for them, or not sensitive to their needs. When the priest is free to come to bless their house, they say it is not convenient for them, then when the priest is not free to come on a weekend for their convenience, they blame the priest for not making time for them.

Surely when it comes to house blessing, one should make effort to be available on a weekday, even if it is in the morning, noon or evening, instead of only wanting thing's according to one's convenience or according to one's way. This same scenario also applies to marriage preparation, where some couples seem so busy, that they seem "married" to their jobs. This makes me wonder... if a couple cannot find time for marriage preparation and to meet the priest for an interview, then how are they going to survive in their marriage?

Besides, if you think about it, if one's loved one or family member is elderly and sick, or in hospital, or requires confession and anointing of the sick, would one conveniently insist on having such anointing of the sick only on weekends? Surely one would do one's best to get the priest to give anointing of the sick as quickly as possible. If one could be so "hardworking" in getting the priest to give anointing of the sick as soon as possible, then why can't one be just as "hardworking" in making oneself available for house blessing and other matters?

At the end of the day, there needs to be some compromise and understanding on the availability of the priest for house blessing, marriage preparation, and other matters. Remember that the world does not revolve only around certain persons, and that the priest has other matters to attend to. Are some becoming so self-centered and demanding, or have we learnt to be more charitable and amicable in our attitudes, behaviour and conduct?

Friday, 24 August 2018

Decorum and Civilised Attitude and Behaviour: Gone with the Wind?

Lately, I have noticed how some people behave at or near coffee shops. The coffee shop is quite full at the time of the day, and I see people hovering near other patrons, waiting for the opportunity to pounce on a table, and then suddenly, someone sneezes without bothering to cover the mouth. Also, some patrons get up and just walk away without pushing the chair or stool back towards the table. Near the coffee shop, someone spits on the ground with a loud and disgusting "haak kaaahpuui!" On the ground near the coffee shop, there are food containers with leftovers strewn all over the ground, as if someone did not have the time or decency to throw it properly into a rubbish bin.

Sometimes, we even see such behaviour too in church. People let their children eat in church and sometimes even adults too grab a bite, sometimes even while Mass is on, and sometimes even food is spilled on the pews; some even throw used tissue paper on the floor; some put on extremely strong perfume, causing others to suffocate or even sneeze, and once again without covering their mouth; I have even seen certain folks digging their noses for gold or do some other disgusting stuff. At the car park, some are so inconsiderate in the way they park their cars, causing congestion, anger and sometimes even shouting matches; and at times, even park right in front of the priest car, and when the priest asks the person to move his or her car so that the priest could drive out, the person gives the priest a dirty look or shows monkey face or a sour face. Even at catechism classes, we sometimes come across certain impatient parents who want their children taken out earlier so that the family could go somewhere else, possibly for a trip or shopping, or even for tuition class or some other extracurricular activities.

This makes me wonder: have some become so uncivilised or so uncouth that one can litter, spit, sneeze or do other disgusting stuff, without the least bit bothered about cleanliness and decorum? Have some begun to treat church as merely an obligation, and have become indifferent or insensitive towards decorum and decency? Has faith become so inconvenient for some, so much so that catechism becomes a chore or a hassle?

At the end of the day, such lacklustre and recalcitrant attitude, behaviour and conduct may lead only to selfishness, indifference or even lost of faith. Our attitude and behaviour are being observed especially by the younger generation, and also by others exploring the faith, and I wonder whether some of us are aware or even bothered about the kind of "witnessing" we are doing. Perhaps we need to take initiative and remind ourselves of who we are and how we should conduct ourselves, if we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God. Let us make every effort to ensure our church remains a house of prayer, not a den of thieves, and bear proper witness for His greater glory.

Retreat or Formation? 避靜或培訓?

Some folks mix up retreat and formation. They seem to think that retreat is formation and formation is retreat. However, they are not the ...