Tuesday, 31 March 2015

到底是圣堂还是多元用途的大厅?

什么是圣堂? 很多人会以为神父在开玩笑,提出那么简单的问题。到底你们对圣堂的了解有多深?是否有真正地把圣堂当着主的家庭?或者有些教友早已把圣堂当着是超级市场,购物广场,电影戏院,公众娱乐场或是其它的公共场所?是否我们之中有些人早已把圣堂看成世俗的建筑物, 并非一个神圣的地方?

从过去的经验来说,的确有些教友把圣堂当着公共场所,没有尊重它为清静圣洁的地方。为了一些不知情者,还是让我多唠叨几句。
  1. 不妨在每次弥撒结束后,你细心地观察圣堂座位之间,你可以发现到一些遗留下的纸巾或是糖果包皮等等。很明显的,这些教友们不会把自己的家庭当着是垃圾堆,但是为何不注意圣堂场所的清洁呢?
  2. 当神父站在祭台上做弥撒时,他能够一目了然地看到圣堂的每一个角落。曾经好几次见到年轻情侣, 为了要更了解对方,竟然躲到楼上后座去方便。其实,类似的勾当应该发生在一个更恰当的场所而不是在圣堂里。
  3. 有位修院的神学教授曾经批评说:有些圣堂的女教友参加弥撒时,穿着方面太过暴露性,她们好像是在参加时装表演。(尤其是进行婚礼弥撒时 ,新娘的礼服更是惹人遐思,想入非非呢!这种情况在普通主日弥撒中也不少见。)由于情况逼人,神父们只好避开视线,或视若无睹。有位神父说:当他派送圣体时,由于女教友穿着太惹火,神父手中的圣体竟然掉入女士的丰满胸脯里,而神父却不敢伸手取回圣体,只好叫她自行解决,以免产生不愉快的事情。
  4. 圣堂是教友祈祷或静默反省的地方。可是有些教友却在大谈阔论,没有顾及他人的感受,有时,他们声量更是骚扰别人 。
  5. 还有一些参与弥撒者在教堂内阅读报纸,或是发送短讯给朋友;有些母亲正在喂奶(一些孩子已经是长大了,不再是婴儿。)为什么不等到弥撒过后,才传短讯或是喂食呢?假如你们懂得尊重国家元首,苏丹或是其他高官显要,为何你们在圣堂里的行为那么不检点呢?到底教会的律法和尊严去了那里?
  6. 当我们在生理上有需要时,当然要到厕所方便。 而不是让小孩在教堂前面的沟渠旁或是教堂周围解决。难道你们可以随意把世界的任何角落当成厕所吗?
  7. 圣堂范围里的停车场空间通常是很有限的。有些教友却不顾他人的需要,只顾自己的方便,而随意泊车。当弥撒结束后,有些车主因为进退两难,而情绪高涨;也不记得大家都是主内兄弟姐妹。不愉快的事情就发生了。其实,弥撒最后时,神父都会吩咐教友们:“去吧! 为爱主和为祂服务”。一旦教友离开圣堂并在外时,一切教诲都化为乌有。哀哉!哀哉!
当然还有很多其它列子可以证明教友不尊敬圣堂。不过,我相信以上的看点,已经足够让我们来默想和反复思考。问题是到底我们有没有以身作则,崇敬和善用教堂圣所,去鼓励其它教友?或者是完全不闻不问?难道我们不是主内的兄弟姐妹吗?主耶稣不希望祈祷的圣所变成贼窝。因此,我希望教友们同心合力,建立一个有纪律,有崇敬,有好品德的信仰团体,恭恭敬敬地在圣堂作祈祷和朝拜耶稣圣体。

Saturday, 21 March 2015

聚集在一起祈祷或是误导?

通常每年的五月和十月,教友们在晚上会聚集在另外一位教友的家庭诵念玫瑰经。国内以及其它一些国家都有所谓( BEC )或是基层基督徒团体的组织。同一个社区里的教友家庭,将在每个月聚集在特定教友家里做祈祷或是做圣经及信仰分享的活动。

虽然类似的活动是值得鼓励。但是,很多时候这些活动变成社交而不是灵修活动。有些教友会认为神父太过主观和武断地评论。让我告诉你如何得到结论:
  1. 曾经在几次的集会中,在祈祷,反省和分享过后,有些教友们急不待缓地抢着发表伟论。他们滔滔不绝地对当今时势提出看法。(换句话说他们只是有兴趣谈论是非。)因此,祈祷的集会便失去了意义;结果就会产生互相妒忌,毁谤和背后中伤他人的事故。
  2. 在这许多集会中,主人免不了会准备食物和饮料来招待来宾。但是我注意到很多参与者对餐饮方面比起灵修活动更有兴趣。甚至有些人在聚餐祈祷前已经手不择食地狼吞虎咽。更有一些主人好像在比赛谁能提供更美味可口的食谱。结果我只好提醒大家集会的意义不在丰富的食物和饮料,重要的是不要加重贫穷家庭的经济负担。
  3. 有时候在集会之前,尤其是有关圣经分享的课题,有些教友毫无准备地参与。我觉得他们所分享的课题很可笑,简直听不出他们在说什么。当我在修院念书时,上圣经课,有位同学对一些课题发表了牛头不对马嘴的言论(因为他没有事先准备)。最后,使教授忍无可忍地大笑一场。该课只好提早结束。
  4. 有时候,我注意到有些出席集会者心不在焉。他们只是勉勉强强地跟随做灵修活动而已。其实他们出席集会是另有原因的。
  5. 在一些集会中,我感到非常反感的是竟然有人在推销产品和招募新会员, 因为他们是直销公司的成员。我觉得不应该在这些场合做类似的活动,应该到别的地方谈生意。难道教友们要把宗教活动变成生意交易的场所吗?
总而言之, 我们应该问问自己为什么主办或参加集会? 重点和目的是什么?是否要我们大家更接近天主?或是集会越来越世俗化?让我们改变态度和方向,成立一个专心祈祷和反省的基督徒兄弟姐妹信仰团体,并且仰望耶稣基督的领导。

Thursday, 19 March 2015

Searching and Retrieving Baptism Records

Most of the baptism records in churches are still found in books. This is because, to a certain extent, books and written text are still necessary to ensure that such important and significant information is not lost should something happen, as required by Canon Law (Can.  877 §1). Data stored on computers could be easily lost in many ways, and not many church parishes have got the proper personnel, funds and equipment to convert written records to computer data, and then maintaining and ensuring proper backups of such data.

Since such baptism records are still found in books, and some parishes have been around for decades or even more than a century, some of these parishes would have several books containing such baptism records. Naturally, this poses quite a problem trying to find a particular record, since so many faithful have been baptised over the years.

If you are looking for your baptism record, you would need to have as much information as you can recall and make available, to be given to the parish office, so that your baptism record may be successfully found. The best option would be if you have an old baptism certificate which you could show to the parish office, since such a baptism certificate would make finding your baptism record so much easier. However, not many of us may have been mindful or careful about preserving our baptism certificate, due to one reason or another. Thus, these are some of the suggested information you would need to provide:
  1. Full name (according to your birth certificate or identity card, whichever available)
  2. Date of birth (actual date of birth as stated on your birth certificate)
  3. Place of birth (Including hospital, clinic, where possible)
  4. Name of parents (Father's and mother's full name)
  5. Date of baptism (if cannot recall, approximate date)
  6. Place of baptism (church or chapel name and location)
  7. Christian Name (in full, not nickname or short form please)
  8. Name of God parent/s
Note that, unless you are willing and able to provide as much information about you as possible, it would be not possible to search and retrieve your baptism records successfully.

Saturday, 14 March 2015

你是否准备好面对死亡的到来?

每个人的一生,不管是否喜欢,都要面对两件事:第一件事就是政府的各种征税。在文明世界里,社会中各种交通,住宿,建设,服务,购物或是其他公共设备,免不了要征税的。拥有一辆汽车也要付出税务:汽油,路税和购车时付出的税务。当你到餐馆用餐时,除了服务税外,还有一些食物都要付出一定的税务。有些餐馆更有打赏服务员的习惯。难道这一切都不是“税务” 吗 ?因此,我们无论如何都不可避免征税:从头到脚,前后左右,都得付税。

另外要面对的一件事就是死亡。不管你是老少,健康或生病,总有一天都要面对死亡。这就是为甚麼我们要积极地准备自己面对生命终结的时刻。有些教友会认为神父太夸张了,吓坏人,为什麽对死亡谈个不休?就因为我们在世的生命是短暂的,我们无可奈何要注重这课题。我们是旅途中的教会,也是朝圣者,一定要妥善准备自己,在末日来临时去面对天主。但是,请大家不要太慌张,利用我们的时间来好好的准备就是了。我们都知道:"罗马不是一天就建好的。"只要我们天天地好好准备,积少成多。到时就可以无愧地回天乡面对祂了。下列一些建议可以供给我们作参考。

准备世俗的事情.

  1. 把一切在世间属于你的事情安排妥当:财产和债务等等.然后,立一份遗嘱,阐明如何分配你的财产。
  2. 我不须要在这课题上多作解释,希望你不会给你的最亲近者或 后代或亲属,在你归天后带来不必要的麻烦或困境。

准备灵修方面的事情.

  1. 时常参与主日和平日弥撒.我们可能每主日都参与弥撒和领圣体,但是,平日弥撒也一样重要.难道你们每天不想得到天粮或主耶稣圣体的滋润?
    • 我们非常注重平时所吃的食物是因为要使身体更健康强壮.不过,你有想到你的灵魂吗?难道我们不希望灵魂也一样健康强壮吗?
    • 有些人不惜长途跋涉,甚至不惜付出昂贵的代价,到某些地方品尝山珍海味.可是,主耶稣的圣体是在弥撒圣事中免费给我们领受的.
      • 假如一间餐馆提供免费食物时,我相信很多人都争先恐后地领取食物.
      • 虽然圣体是灵魂的食物,永久的天粮,很可惜的是,有些教友们不渴望,也不热爱领圣体.
  2. 我们每天都要作祈祷和默想.假如我们没有天天祈祷,或是祈祷时心不在焉,更没有诚意,那么我们如何接近天主?又如何能听到祂的声音?
  3. 我们要天天阅读圣经,或是有关教会教导众教友的书籍,圣人生活记录,或是提升灵修和信仰的记载.阅读记载圣人成圣前后的册子或书籍,会鼓励我们教友更积极地跟随圣人的好榜样而渐渐地成圣.
  4. 我们要时常去办和好圣事.每天我们都花了不少时间去照顾身体的清洁:一天冲凉三四次,过后又打香水,擦香粉或是喷香露等等.你们用多少时间去照顾灵魂的洁净?
    • 我曾经注意到一些教友一年之中,尤其是在降临期和四旬期间,只办一两次和好圣事;甚至有一些教友好几年才办一次告解.
      • 这些教友们可能没有事先好好准备去办和好圣事,寻求天主的宽恕和原谅他们的罪过;或者他们都认为自己是圣人或是天使了.
    • 教友们是否知道罪行就是罪行.不管是犯了大罪或小罪,一次,两次或三次,如果不去告解,我们的灵魂就受污染了.
      • 当你的身体或衣服受污染时,为了安全起见,你是否会立刻把它除掉?
      • 反观我们自己的灵魂,是否比身体或衣物更重要呢?
  5. 有关这些问题,教友们可以寻求神师的指导.想想看,我们可以大费周章和不辞劳苦地攻读大学而获取学位或是其它文凭,为什麽不给自己在灵修方面考获更多的“文凭呢”?
  6. 虔诚地守天主的十诫:爱天主在万有之上 和爱你的近人。假如我们细心地研究这两条诫命,我们会发觉不容易实行。就因为在这些方面,往往我们可能做得不周到或疏忽了,那么我们就需要去办和好圣事。
  7. 假如家中你或是成员们患病入院或是在家卧病在床,应该赶紧请神父给病者付油。神父或普通圣体派送员都可以为病人送圣体。
    • 当病人危在旦夕时,神父可以替病人付终油:也就是替病人准备好“回乡旅途中的食物”。
    • 最重要的是病人家属要通知本堂神父或是办公室,好让病者的灵魂也能得到应有照顾。
以上各项建议都可以让我们一生反省和实行。当时候到来时,我们是否可以无愧地,而且以纯洁灵魂面对天主?我相信每位教友都希望将来主对他说:“ 好,善良忠信的仆人,你既在少许事上忠信,我必委派你管理许多大事,进入你主人的福乐吧!”( 玛 25:21 )让我们不要再冥顽不灵了,赶快诚心诚意地做好必须的准备,痛悔前非,好好地办告解圣事,以期在末日时能听到主说:“来吧!参与主人的福乐。”

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Growing in Holiness in the Parish

“You have to be holy in your position as you are, and I have to be holy in the position that God has put me. So it is nothing extraordinary to be holy. Holiness is not the luxury of the few. Holiness is a simple duty for you and for me. We have been created for that.”
Mother Theresa

We know that we are called to holiness. “As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in every aspect of your conduct, for it is written, ‘Be holy because I am holy.’” (1 Pet 1:15-16). Some have the idea that holiness is just equivalent to being prayerful, religious, or even ascetic. While these can be part of being holy, these are not enough, especially if they are mere external practices.

Instead, embracing the reality of living in the parish, accepting the many joys and sorrows that come my way, and learning to love and serve all people as they are, are some of the ways which help me grow in holiness as I continue to serve God's people as parish priest.

Here are some of my thoughts of growing in holiness in the parish which I have internalised by using the acronym “H-O-L-I-N-E-S-S”:

H = Holy Spirit:
The Holy Spirit plays an important role as we grow in holiness in our family, community, parish, and society.
O = Old Testament:
In the Old Testament, God set apart a people not because they were holy, but in order to make them holy, through Circumcision and the Commandments. Holiness is to be set apart for the service of God rather than for the service of self.
L = Love:
Loving God and loving neighbour are the two equally great commandments which sum up the love we strive to give to all as we grow in holiness.
I = Internal Holiness:
While man looks at externalities, God is concerned with our deepest internal motivations, which is, why we do what we do.
N = New Testament:
If the Old Testament symbol of holiness is found in the commandments, the New Testament symbol for holiness is found in the cross. As disciples of Jesus, we strive to listen, understand and do God’s will as we take up our cross to follow him.
E = Emptying oneself
In our efforts to grow in holiness, He must increase while we decrease. This means emptying oneself and giving all glory to God.
S = Service:
As we grow in holiness, we give service to all without expecting fame or recognition, for if we wish to be first, we must first be last and the servant of all.
S = Suffering:
Suffering is an integral part of growing in holiness. We are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified in Him” (Romans 8:17).

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Coming Together to Pray or to Play?

During the months of May and October, we are encouraged to gather as a community to pray the rosary. In Malaysia and in some other countries, we have what is called "Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC)" where the faithful within a housing area are encouraged to come together (at least once a month) in a location or home (depending on the circumstances) within the housing area, to pray, to reflect, to have bible sharing, and other faith and community building activities.

While all these activities are fine and good, we sometimes come across situations where such gatherings are more worldly than spiritual. Some of you may be thinking: this padre is being too quick to assume things or to make comments, but allow me to elaborate further what I am getting at:
  1. In several gatherings, I have observed that there are some who come there not so much to pray, but to exchange juicy news. This happens sometimes after the prayers or reflection or sharing, where such people can't wait to begin their "marathon talking sessions" (in other words, they are merely interested in the gossiping, plain and simple). The whole idea of praying together becomes lost in translation, as such people begin to indulge in back-biting, making unkind remarks and other utterances about others.
  2. Many of the gatherings I have attended have food and drinks served after the prayers, reflection or sharing. However, sometimes I observe people coming more for the food than for the spiritual activities, as some would be so quick to get to the dining area and begin to tuck in, even before the prayer before meals has been said. In some instances, there seems to be some sort of competition between hosts of different houses to see who can serve the best meal. Sometimes, I end up having to remind people that the food is not so important, since some families may not be that well off and we should not cause them to experience financial burden by serving too costly a meal.
  3. Sometimes there is homework given before a gathering, especially if the gathering involves some bible sharing or bible study. I find it amusing listening to the excuses or comments of some people who have not come prepared, and end up trying to "smoke" their way through ("smoke" in this context refers to bluffing ones way through or saying things without having the faintest idea or foggiest notion what they are saying), when it is their turn to share or comment. I remember back when I was a seminarian, a fellow seminarian tried to "smoke" his way through during scripture class, and the scripture professor had great difficulty staying calm while the fellow was "smoking" excessively (resulting in a suffocatingly "smokey" situation). Eventually, the scripture professor could not take it any longer and burst out laughing till his sides ached, and class had to be dismissed.
  4. At times, I have observed people present at a gathering, but their minds are elsewhere. They go through the spiritual activities almost mechanically, but you can notice that they are not really interested and come for other reasons.
  5. At some gatherings, I was quite annoyed that there are some people who come with the intention to sell their products. Some of these people are involved in MLM (Multi-Level Marketing) and some even have the gall to try and recruit new people during such gatherings. Surely there are other times and places where such selling or recruitment could take place. Are some of us turning a religious activity into a marketplace (or "pasar malam" or night market)?
Ultimately, we need to ask ourselves honestly: why are we gathering in the first place? What is our priority and purpose? Are we coming together to grow in relationship with God? Or have our gatherings become more and more worldly? Let us change our ways and attitudes, so that together as a community of brothers and sisters of Christ, we would gather in prayer and reflection and let the Lord be our guide.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

House of God or Mulitipurpose Hall?

What is a church? Some of you may be wondering whether this padre has gone nuts or crazy for asking a question which seems to have an obvious answer, but sometimes I wonder. Do we know what a church really is? Do we treat a church as what it is supposed to be? Or have some of us begun to think that the church is no different from the supermarket, shopping mall, movie theater, public park, or some other place for general public use? Have some of us started treating a place which is supposed to be sacred, into something which is profane or secular?

Over the years, I have come across many instances where some folks have treated a church in a not so nice manner (okay, if you want me to put it bluntly, in a disrespectful and in some cases, a disgusting manner). Some of you may already know what I am writing about, but for those less enlightened, allow me to elaborate further what I am yapping about:
  1. If you walk along the pews or along the aisle, you may notice, if you are observant, pieces of sweet wrappings, tissue paper, or other bits and pieces strategically placed. Sometimes, such items are so blatantly obvious and yet, we still find folks who do not seem to mind throwing such things all over the place. Surely such folks would not treat their homes as a rubbish dump or a dumping ground, so why are these folks behaving differently in church?
  2. The place the altar is located is quite a strategic place, and the priest celebrating Mass can see practically everything that is happening inside the church. I have, in a number of occasions, seen young couples getting to know each other really or extra well upstairs at the back pews. Really, if such couples want to do such things, there are other more appropriate places to do so.
  3. A seminary professor once remarked that in some churches, people have dressed as if they were going for a fashion show or for a "censored." Some have been found to dress quite revealingly (especially at weddings, though at times, such incidences have happened during a Sunday Mass), that the priest has to look away to avoid looking at certain areas. One padre even remarked that it has happened before that during Holy Communion, the Eucharist had accidentally fallen in between certain areas, and the padre dared not retrieve the Eucharist from there and asked the individual to do so, so as to avoid any unwanted consequences.
  4. The church is a place where people may be praying or reflecting, and yet we come across people who seem to have much to chat about, and sometimes in their excitement, they talk quite loudly without giving any consideration about other people.
  5. At times, I observe people reading the newspaper, or texting on their phone, or feeding their child (in some cases, the child is already quite big - big buffalo already, not small one, as a padre once quipped), even while Mass is being celebrated. Surely the news or the text message or food can wait until the Mass is concluded. If people can be quite respectful in the presence of the king or sultan or some important dignitary and not do such things indiscriminately, it baffles me why such people could be behaving differently in church. What has happened to reverence and discipline?
  6. There is a proper place for people to relieve themselves when nature calls, and yet we sometimes find parents allowing their children to do so at the drain near the church entrance or sometimes even within the church compound. Have some people become so ignorant or not bothered that any part of the world has become their water closet?
  7. The church car park is not always a big place, and sometimes the car park could become quite congested. Unfortunately, from time to time, we come across folks who think that the car park belongs to them and they can park as they please. When people park inconsiderately, other people may end up unable to move their vehicle after Mass, and as a result, tempers begin to flare and people begin to be less brotherly or sisterly to each other. At the end of the Mass, people are sent forth to "go and love and serve the Lord." Then once they are outside?
There are certainly many other examples of how the church has been treated differently from what it is supposed or meant to be, but I trust these observations are sufficient for us to think about and reflect on. Do we care and treat the church with proper respect, reverence and encourage others to do the same? Or have some of us begun to adopt a "tidak apa" or "don't care" attitude, or "it's not my problem" attitude? Aren't we supposed to be brothers and sisters in Christ, and together help maintain proper discipline, proper decorum, proper reverence and proper conduct? If Jesus would not tolerate the temple being turned from a house of prayer into a robbers' den, surely shouldn't we be doing the same to our church?

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