Saturday, 28 February 2015

Are You Ready For Death?

Each and every one of us have to face two things in life that we will encounter whether we like it or not. The first thing is tax or taxes. As long as you are living in a civilised society with various amenities, public services and other forms of purchases of goods or services, we will be taxed. If you drive a car, you will be taxed with road tax, tax when you purchased the car, and even tax already included in your petrol purchase. When you go to a restaurant, you will be taxed a service tax, the food you purchase has some items which are taxed, and in some cases you would be expected to tip the waiter or waitress (which is like a form of 'tax', so to speak). So, as you can see, tax cannot be avoided, as we are all taxed in one way or another, left, right, front, back, top, bottom and centre.

The other thing we will face eventually is death. Death can come at any time. It does not matter how old, young, healthy, sick, fit or unfit we are, we will die one day. This is where we need to make the necessary preparations, so that we would be prepared for the eventuality of death. Some of you may say, "Yeerrr, this padre so terrible (or morbid) one. Why talk about death aaa?" But that is exactly the point: we should be talking about death because our lives here on earth are only temporary. We are merely pilgrims, and we should be prepared and ready to meet the Lord and be with Him at any time. This does not mean that we should become over-cautious or paranoid about death, but we can still take some time to make some preparations.

We know that Rome wasn't built in a day, and doing things little by little can accumulate into good habits and practices, which would help in our preparations to return to the Lord some day (or some may say in Bahasa Malaysia, "balik kampung" or "go back to eternal village"). So what ought we to do? Here are some points to consider:

Temporal or Worldly Matters

  1. Get all your worldly affairs in order. This includes your wealth, debts and other matters concerning you on earth. A will may be helpful so that those you leave behind will know what you would want to do with your wealth and belongings (your "barang-barang").
  2. I will not speak further about this, but I hope you will look seriously at your worldly affairs and do the necessary, so that you do not leave behind your loved ones with problems and hardship.

Spiritual Matters

  1.  Be regular with your Sunday and weekday Masses. Some of us may be regular with Sunday Mass, but what about weekday or daily Mass? Don't you want to be spiritually nourished with bread from heaven, Jesus' body, each day?
    • We are particular about the food we eat so that our bodies are hopefully strong and healthy, but what about our soul? Don't we want our soul to be strong and healthy too?
    • We have to pay for the food we eat (and some of us are willing to travel long distances to savour delicacies, and in some cases pay exorbitant prices), but Jesus body in the form of the Eucharist is offered each day FOC (free of charge).
      • If we are invited to a restaurant and are told the food there is FOC, we would soon be faced with a stampede as everyone would want to grab as much as they can.
      • Seems strange that some are not keen or enthusiastic to partake in Holy Communion, which is food for the soul, food that will last.
  2. Be regular with your prayer life and meditation. How do we grow closer to God if we do not pray regularly, consistently and fervently? How do we listen to His voice if we do not spend some time to meditate and let Him talk to us?
  3. Read the sacred scriptures and other books on church teachings, lives of the saints, books on spirituality and other books concerning the faith. Books about the lives of the saints, for example, may inspire us to follow their example and encourage us to strive towards holiness.
  4. Be regular with the Sacrament of Reconciliation. We spend so much time and effort to keep our bodies clean by bathing regularly and nice-smelling by putting on perfume and other scents. But how much time and effort are we making to keep our soul clean?
    • I find it interesting to note that there are some who come for confession only once or twice a year (some even after a few years), especially during the Advent and Lent confessions.
      • Either these folks have not taken the trouble or made effort to identify and admit the sins they have committed and go to confession to seek forgiveness and absolution, or these folks must be saints or angels already.
    • Why are some of us dirtying our soul by keeping all our sins inside? It does not matter whether one has committed one sin, two sins or several. It does not matter whether it is a venial or a mortal sin. A sin is still a sin, and if we do not go for confession, the sin continues to stain our soul.
      • Would you allow a stain to remain on your body or your clothes for a long period? Isn't it strange that you would quickly get the stain removed so that your body or clothes would not be damaged?
      • What about your soul then? Is not your soul even more important than your body and clothes?
  5. Seek a spiritual director. The spiritual director would be able to help and guide you to grow in your spiritual life. We make so much effort to earn degrees and other qualifications, but what about our spiritual "qualifications"?
  6. Observe God's commandments faithfully. God's commandments can be summarised into two: love God, and love neighbour. If we take the time to understand and discover what it really means to love God and love neighbour, we would soon realise that it is not as simple or easy as it seems. We may have failed in one way or another to observe God's commandments at some point of our lives, and this is where the Sacrament of Reconciliation would be helpful.
  7. If you or someone is quite ill and hospitalised or housebound, do inform your parish priest so that you or the person can receive the Sacrament of Anointing.
    • The parish priest or an extraordinary communion minister may also bring Holy Communion to the sick or housebound.
    • If the need arises, the parish priest may administer Extreme Unction (also known as Food for the Journey), especially when the person appears to be quite critical or dying.
    • The important thing here is to inform the parish priest or the parish office so that the sick and the housebound would receive the necessary spiritual care as well.
What I have written here are merely some of the many ways we could consider and practice, as we continue life on earth. When the time comes for us to meet the Lord, would we be ready and would our soul be clean or spick and span? Don't we want to hear these words from the Lord: "Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master's happiness!" (Matthew 25:21). Let us not procrastinate further but do our part faithfully and consistently, little by little, so that we would be ready and happy to "Come and share our master's happiness!"

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Will the Real Prodigal Son Please Stand Up?

Many of us are familiar with the parable of the Prodigal Son. We may have read it so many times, taking comfort from the reassuring words and gestures of the father towards the younger son in the parable. But if you look and read closely the parable and read between the lines, you could actually discover a great recipe for the next "drama minggu ini" (this week's drama) blockbuster. Why so? Because, from the text, we could begin to wonder who is actually the real prodigal son, and who in the end really needs help. Before we go further, let us look at the text:

25 'Now the elder son was out in the fields, and on his way back, as he drew near the house, he could hear music and dancing. 26 Calling one of the servants he asked what it was all about. 27 The servant told him, "Your brother has come, and your father has killed the calf we had been fattening because he has got him back safe and sound." 28 He was angry then and refused to go in, and his father came out and began to urge him to come in; 29 but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. 30 But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening." 31 'The father said, "My son, you are with me always and all I have is yours.32 But it was only right we should celebrate and rejoice, because your brother here was dead and has come to life; he was lost and is found."' (Luke 15:11-32)

Notice that the elder son would have known that the day of the younger son's return was the greatest day in his father’s life. Also, the father has “killed the fattened calf”, an extravagance in a culture where having meat at meals was considered a delicacy. The elder son was fully aware that his father was ecstatic with joy. Yet he refused to go into the biggest feast his father has ever put on. This was a remarkable, deliberate act of disrespect. The father had to “go out” to plead with him. Just as he went out to bring his alienated younger son into the family, now he had to do the same for the elder son. What does this mean to us? Basically, it means that the elder son is lost.

The elder son is not lost in spite of his good behaviour, but because of his good behaviour. To him, such good behaviour meant his father owed him or was indebted to him. This led to the elder son becoming self-righteous, and this is what is keeping him out. Observe what he said: "but he retorted to his father, "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours, yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. But, for this son of yours, when he comes back after swallowing up your property -- he and his loose women -- you kill the calf we had been fattening. (v. 29-30)" See the kind of language the elder son used in front of his father, and the kind of attitude he had? Not only that, the elder son was also:
  1. Angry: "He was angry then and refused to go in. (v.28)"
  2. Joyless and obeying only in a mechanical way (like a robot): "All these years I have slaved for you and never once disobeyed any orders of yours... (v.29)"
  3. Jealous of the younger son and felt his father did not love him enough: "yet you never offered me so much as a kid for me to celebrate with my friends. (v.29)"
  4. Cold or indifferent towards others (he did not even want to accept or "own" his brother):"But, for this son of yours... (v.30)"
  5. Had an unforgiving, judgmental spirit (especially towards his brother). He did not want to accept his brother back, and expected his father to do the same.
At the end of the parable, Jesus is warning us of a dangerous condition. The younger son knew he had gone astray and came back. But the older son had been blinded by his self-righteousness, his anger, his unforgiving spirit and many more, that he was not aware or he simply refused to admit that he too had gone astray.

If we look at our lives, have we become more like the elder son? Have we begun to think that we are ok, or only our needs and wants matter, or that we must be rewarded for all we do, or we have adopted a "holier than thou" attitude? Sometimes in life, we may have been just like that elder son in one way or another. If we are aware of this, have we made effort to repent and change our ways? Or are we still stubbornly sticking to our ways and preferring to remain lost?

Monday, 23 February 2015

Praying After Meals - Giving Thanks After Eating

Some of us may have been praying the prayer before a meal. If we have been doing so, then that is good. But how many of us thank God after we have eaten a meal? In our busy lives, we sometimes try to cut corners in the time we have for other things such as prayer time and meditation. But as we know, if we try to do so, our spiritual life and relationship with God could be affected.

Thus, let us not compromise in our spiritual growth but try to live a balanced life for the good of our body and soul. Perhaps we could try to make it a habit to thank God after a meal, since all that we have comes from Him and we should be thankful always for what He has granted us. One example of a prayer after a meal is as follows:

We give thanks for all your gifts, almighty God, who lives and reigns forever. (May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.) Amen.

Saturday, 21 February 2015

The Role and Expectation of the Church Choir at Mass

The choir has a variety of responsibilities. Their primary role is to support and enhance the congregation in song. As such, the choir becomes an important leader in worship, guiding the gathered assembly in prayer and praise through song. Here are some thoughts about the role and expectation of a choir:

Role

The choir as a facilitator.

  • The mission of a choir is to lead in prayer.
  • They do not stand as artists in isolation, trying to demonstrate their skill or to display vocal feats.
  • They stand not as an individual but with a congregation and must identify themselves with the congregation.
  • Their task is to represent as well as to inspire a community by breathing life into the text as they sing with clear understanding and insight into the words and their meaning.

The choir as teacher.

  • The choir may even be called upon to act as teacher, to help the assembly learn new hymns and musical settings of the liturgy, and if the congregation is to learn new music quickly and accurately, the people must have enthusiastic and competent leadership.
  • The choir needs to spend adequate time learning new liturgical music well and in the proper style so that it can communicate not only the correct melodies and rhythms, but also a sense of the music’s mood and style in such a way that the music is infectious and compels those in the congregation to sing with the choir.

Expectations

  1. Choirs should be well prepared and sing well. Does that mean that our choirs need to be filled with professional singers? Absolutely not! Any choir can sing well, provided the music is appropriate to their skill level and they are well trained and rehearsed. Music that is simple and well executed provides choirs with a means to get beyond the mechanics and give heartfelt expression to the text. This music, in turn, can provide the whole assembly with a means truly to encounter God in its worship.
  2. Choirs should dress well and be well groomed. This is to promote a sense of reverence in Church, especially during Mass. If we can dress well for an important function, should we not dress well when we come into the presence of the Lord?
  3. Choir members should be committed to their leadership role by rehearsing for several hours each week, as well as being present for Mass each Sunday. For those who cannot make a long-term commitment, they should at least commit themselves for certain periods of time to ensure a continuous presence of the choir at Mass.
  4. May anyone sing in the choir? Making music in a choir requires teamwork; each singer must be able to contribute to the whole. Choir leaders should not feel uncomfortable about carefully guiding would-be choir members who have no innate musical skills into other avenues of service or leadership.
Our choirs can provide indispensable leadership for worship if we encourage them and adequately equip them for the task. Choirs that are enthusiastic, understand their role, and approach their task with a sense of reverence will, in turn, lead others to a profound conviction that through the music of the liturgy, we will encounter the Holy God.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Catholic Marriage Preparation -天主教婚姻的製備 /天主教婚姻的制备

You need to prepare for 6 months prior to the wedding date. Inquiries? See the priest.
新娘和新郎需要預備 6 個月前的結婚日期。有查詢?請見神父。
新娘和新郎需要预备 6 个月前的结婚日期。有查询?请见神父。

Required Items - 所需的事項 / 所需的事项

繁體字
简体字
1
Birth certificate
出生證明書
出生证明书
2
Baptism certificate
(Issued 6 months or earlier)
領洗證明書
(發行6個月以下)
领洗证明书
(发行6个月以下)
3
Identity Card

If not Malaysian, a valid passport
身分證
護照(如果不是馬來西亞公民)
身分证
护照(如果不是马来西亚公民)
4
Marriage Certificate
結婚證書
结婚证书
5
2 Photos – each person 1
照片(每人一張)
照片(每人一张)
6
2 witnesses - not necessarily baptised. Need their IC. (other than parents, siblings)
兩位證人 - 未必領洗。需要他們的身分證。(除了父母,兄弟姐妹)
两位证人 - 未必领洗。需要他们的身分证。(建议除了父母,兄弟姐妹)
7
Pre-nuptial Inquiry – see the priest
婚前調查 - 見神父
婚前调查 - 见神父
8
Wedding booklet – see the priest
婚禮小冊子- 見神父
婚礼小册子- 见神父

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Fasting and Abstinence: Wayang (Showing Off) or For Real?

Some of us think that fasting and abstinence is something reserved only for Lent. What about other days of the year? For some people, Friday abstinence is the day to look forward to because it is the day where we get to eat seafood, such as fish, prawns, lobster, sotong or squid, and crabs, all of which could lead to a hefty bill at the end of such an exquisite banquet. That may be keeping with what the Church law requires but it does not really do justice to the spirit of the law or the real meaning of the law.

So, why do we fast and abstain from certain foods that we enjoy in the first place? Are we fasting and abstaining for the right reasons? Let us consider a few important points:
  1. Fasting and abstinence is not something that we do just for God as if He likes to see us suffer. No. Fasting is for our own good. It is to help us discipline ourselves and help us to say “NO” to temptations. If we cannot control the way we eat and what we eat, then we are no better than animals. This is what makes us human, with the ability to choose not to eat even when we are hungry, even when it is our favourite food.
  2. Fasting and abstinence is not only about ourselves, it is also about caring for others. There is no point in fasting and abstinence if we do not care about the needs of others. The reason why we eat less is so that the same amount of food or the money used to buy such food could be used for the good of others. We share not only what we have in excess or extra, but we must share even what we think may not be sufficient or enough. Then we will discover that it is always enough because God blesses and does wonders with our gift or what we have to offer. Remember how God multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish to feed the multitudes? Do you not think He is more than capable of taking our gift, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem, and transform it into something great?
  3. Fasting and abstinence is not just about giving a donation to others. Giving a donation is very easy, as it does not require much effort and commitment on our part. We must also share the struggles, the pains and joys of others, especially those who are not so fortunate; such as the sick, the elderly, the poor, the marginalised, those suffering from AIDS, those suffering from some life-threatening disease, as well as the migrant workers. So we fast and abstain because we want to share in a small way that same experience of theirs. Most of us will never know real hunger, what it really means to lose everything, what it means to suffer tremendously, or even how it feels like to sleep on the streets. But through fasting and abstinence, we can at least share a little part of that experience. Through fasting and abstinence, we can be united with them in love and in prayer.
So let us take a good, honest look at ourselves today. Are we really fasting and abstaining to put on a show? Or are we sincerely, honestly and truly doing it for the glory of God?

Thursday, 12 February 2015

A "holy day"? Or a "holiday"?

What is a holy day of obligation? A holy day of obligation is an important feast of Our Lord, Mother Mary, or other saints that Catholics are obliged to observe by participating in the celebration of the Eucharist and by avoiding unnecessary servile work. These days are times for festivity and observance, because of their special importance and meaning for the universal and/or local Church.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains a holy day of obligation as follows: "On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health."

In addition to this, Canon Law (#1246) speaks of the holy day of obligation as follows:

Can. 1246
  • §1 The Lord’s Day, on which the paschal mystery is celebrated, is by apostolic tradition to be observed in the universal Church as the primary holy day of obligation. In the same way the following holy days are to be observed:
    • The Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ (Chrismas)
    • The Epiphany
    • The Ascension of Christ
    • The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi)
    • The feast of Mary the Mother of God
    • The Immaculate Conception of Mary
    • The Assumption of Mary
    • The feast of St Joseph
    • The feast of the Apostles SS Peter and Paul
    • The feast of All Saints
  • §2 However, the Episcopal Conference may, with the prior approval of the Apostolic See, suppress certain holy days of obligation or transfer them to a Sunday.
    • The Holy Days in Bold, Italics and Red are the ones which the Episcopal Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei have promulgated as holy days of obligation.
    • The feast of the Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi) is transferred to a Sunday (the Sunday after Trinity Sunday), as promulgated by the Episcopal Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei.
As Catholics, we should make every effort to join in the festivities and celebration of each holy day of obligation. This is one of the many ways we can grow stronger in our faith and closer to God.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Liturgical Colours: A Summary - The Rose

  • At the midpoint of Advent and Lent, rose vestments are traditionally worn as a sign of joy:
    • Gaudete Sunday (the third Sunday of Advent)
    • Laetare Sunday (the fourth Sunday of Lent)
  • We rejoice at the midpoint because we are half-way through the preparation and anticipate the coming joy of Christmas or Easter.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Liturgical Colours: A Summary - The Purple

  • Violet or purple is used during Advent and Lent as a sign of penance, sacrifice and preparation.
  • Purple vestments may also be used for Masses of Christian Burial or Masses for the Dead.
  • Some parishes use a different shade of purple to differentiate the (usually) darker purple used for Lent.


Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Liturgical Colours: A Summary - The Green

  • Green symbolises hope and life, just as the hint of green on trees in early Spring arouses the hope of new life.
  • Green is used during the liturgical season called Ordinary Time.
  • This season focuses on the three-year period of our Lord’s public ministry, and the Gospel passages, particularly on Sundays, recount His teachings, miracles, exorcisms, and other deeds during this time.
  • All of these teachings and events engender great hope in the mystery of salvation.
  • We focus on
    • The life He shared with mankind during His time on this earth.
    • The life we share now with Him in the community of the Church and through His sacraments.
    • and we look forward to sharing everlasting life with Him perfectly in Heaven.

BO and MO during Confession?

Among the many challenges a padre has to put up with when it comes to confession, one which is just as potent and potentially pengsan-able...