Thursday, 28 January 2016

Let There Be Peace on Earth

How often do we get news about peace these days? More often than not, we get news through different media containing matters about conflicts, wars, murders, rape, torture, violence, terrorism and other similar negative news. Seeing how such news is being rampantly distributed, how can we as Christians make a difference? Can I make a difference, even if it seems to be a small and insignificant part, in efforts to bring about true peace?

To us, it may seem impossible. We may feel as if we are too few, too small or too weak to make a difference. But to God, everything is possible. We must believe that we can make a difference, and that we must start somewhere. It may be a small step, but it is still a step, and if we believe that we can make a difference, then there is hope.

To make a difference, to bring about peace, we need to look at two foundational and crucial aspects that help in the peace process. The two are love and forgiveness. True peace must be rooted with genuine, unconditional love for all, because it is only in love that we can reach out to others who are so different from us and accept them for who they are. Love breaks down the barriers of race and language that are put up by our prejudices. With love, true peace can be present even in the midst of our troubles and problems. True peace must also be rooted in forgiveness. Some people think that forgiving others is a sign of weakness. Some people think that to be strong, one needs to take revenge or put another person down. But true peace requires that we show our strength by taking courage to forgive others. Forgiveness is also about a healing of your hurts as well as a healing for those who have hurt you. Forgiveness sets us free and allows us to be at peace with ourselves and with others.

Today, let us be peacemakers in whatever way we can. Let us do our part in bringing about peace, regardless of how small or insignificant the part may seem. With a little effort, decision and commitment, we can and will make this world a better and more peaceful place to live in.

Sunday, 24 January 2016

Baptism: An Analogy to our Faith

Have you ever noticed how infants behave when they are about to be baptised? Some of you may wonder: "But infants are infants. They either sleep, feed or cry. What are you getting at?" Well, actually if you observe infants and how they respond when you baptise them, we could get some insights about ourselves, as well as how and where we are in our faith.

Among the many infants I have baptised, the ones I find quite interesting are the little ones who look at you with those big eyes, as if they are looking with curiosity and wonder. When you baptise them, they do not make much of a fuss, and it is a joy to see the reaction of the parents, godparents and others present. Sometimes, I hear a little chuckle or happy sound coming from the infant. Perhaps the infant might have experienced the Lord's presence, or the feeling of being redeemed by the Lord.

The second kind of infants I encounter are those who cry like crazy when they are about to be baptised. It sounds as if they are saying: "NO! Don't give me that! I don't want! Leave me alone! Go away! Arrgh! Water is coming! No good!" Some of these infants may be crying for a good reason: perhaps it is hungry, or has soiled its diapers, or something might have happened, but wow can they make a fuss. Sometimes, the infant continues crying even after the baptism, and some even cry louder, appearing as if they are trying to voice their displeasure or throw a tantrum. It is interesting to see the response of the parents and other family members, doing their utmost best to calm the little one down, while possibly getting stressed and frazzled as well.

The third kind of infants are those who sleep through the baptism, or just open their eyes for a little while, and then go back to sleep. It is as if they are saying: "Mmmh? What's this? Oh? A bath? Some water to drink? Some... zzzzz." These infants seem to be oblivious about what is going on, and they can really sleep, even long after the baptism has been completed.

Now what does all these have to do with our faith? If I may make an analogy, our faith could be similar to those infants who are a joy while being baptised, or those infants who make so much fuss, or even those infants who seem sleepy and oblivious to what is happening. Some of us are like the first kind of infants, curious and full of wonder of our faith, and we joyfully find ways and means to find out more about our faith, as well as being willing and enthusiastic in sharing our faith with others, while building a relationship with God and with others. Some of us are like the second kind of infants, and we seem to only know how to complain or grumble. When we don't get what we want, we kick up a fuss and create a ruckus. Some even begin to leave and go to some other denomination or even follow a different faith, feeling angry or disillusioned when things don't go our way. Some of us are like the third kind of infants, looking sleepy and fed up, or not interested in or bothered about anything. When asked to help out, some may shy away or do without any interest or enthusiasm.

Perhaps we should take a good look at ourselves. Are we falling more into one of these "kind of infants"? Have we been like one kind or another at different times of our lives? When we were baptised, we were given the Holy Spirit. May we utilise the Holy Spirit in our lives, and with enthusiasm, joy and curiosity grow closer to God, while we grow in love and friendship with others. Baptism was the start of Jesus' ministry, and He showed us many examples of how we ought to fulfil our duty as Christians. Let us not delay and do our part, for the greater glory of God.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Titles and Styles of Addressing For Roman Catholic Hierarchy

Noticed that some folks seem to be getting the proper terms mixed up, especially when it comes to titles used for church hierarchy. Some of you may wonder why we need to be so kiasu or gan cheong about such titles, but for the sake of protocol and decorum, we may need to take note lah.

Also, this bit of write-up is not about the difference or similarities between a deacon, priest, bishop, archbishop, cardinal or pope. The differences and similarities would require a different write-up, so see how later. So...

When it comes to non-clergy - those not ordained by the bishop

Sr. - Sister

Br. or Bro. - Brother

Note that strictly speaking, Diocesan seminarians are technically not "br." or "bro." or "brother." We call them as such out of courtesy or politeness, but they are not "br." or "bro." or "brother" because they have not taken any religious vows. Well, some say that the Diocesans are informally and cheekily known as "OOO" (that's Oh... Oh... Oh... or triple "O") - since Diocesans do not belong to a particular Religious Order, so "OOO" = "Out Of Order", but that's a different story ;)

Seminarians, men or women belonging to Religious Orders or Congregations may be called Sr. or Br. or Bro., depending on whether they have taken any religious vows and also depending on the governance of the congregation or order (how the congregation or order is run). In such cases, when it comes to religious orders or congregations, it is best to check with the leader, or superior.

When it comes to clergy

Rev. Deacon - Reverend Deacon

Priest - Rev. Fr. (Reverend Father), or just "Fr", or some may informally say "padre"

Bishop - Rt. Rev. (Right Reverend)

When addressing the Bishop formally and directly, we usually say "Your Lordship"
For example: Your Lordship Bishop ???, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

When addressing the Bishop formally from a third person perspective, we usually say "His Lordship"
For example: We now invite His Lordship Bishop ??? to come forth to give his opening address

Archbishop - Most Rev. (Most Reverend)

When addressing the Archbishop formally and directly, we usually say "Your Grace"
For example: Your Grace Archbishop ???, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen

When addressing the Archbishop formally from a third person perspective, we usually say "His Grace"
For example: We now invite His Grace Archbishop ??? to come forth to give his opening address

Cardinal - His/Your Eminence

When addressing the Cardinal formally and directly, we usually say "Your Eminence"
For example: Your Eminence ??? Cardinal ???, distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen (for example, Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle)

When addressing the Cardinal formally from a third person perspective, we usually say "His Eminence"
For example: We now invite His Eminence ??? Cardinal ??? to come forth to give his opening address

These are some of the more common titles used when addressing such folks. If you are not sure, it is best to check.

Saturday, 2 January 2016

To Sponsor or not to Sponsor?

A Bit of Background

There was a time in the past where Christians were facing tremendous persecution from the Roman Empire, especially before the year 313 AD (313 AD was the year when the Edict of Milan declared the Roman Empire neutral towards religious views, in effect ending the persecution of Christians). Because of such persecution, it was necessary for Christians to be cautious of who they admitted into their community, as well as how they went about in their tasks. Also, at that time, the Sacraments of Initiation (i.e. baptism, holy Eucharist, and confirmation) were administered together (all one shot) instead of separately.

So, to watch their back and to filter out potential Roman nasties (spies or infiltrators - you wouldn't want a T-800 or T-1000 or T-X from the Terminator series kacauing right? Just kidding!) bent on exposing and getting them persecuted, Christians introduced the role of sponsors. The role of sponsor had several tasks:

1. To vouch for the adult being baptised (in other words, the sponsor testified that the bloke or the lass is a-ok and not a Roman nasty).
2. To assist the person during the catechumenate in preparing for the Sacraments of Initiation, and in living a Christian life.
3. To make the Profession of Faith in the child's name (in the case of infant baptism) and accept the responsibility of instructing the child in the faith, especially if the parents played hooky and did not do their duty in doing so.

Though nowadays we often identify the sponsor of a child for baptism as the godparent (godmother or godfather or sometimes, both), the actual term (betul-betul, original) remains "sponsor."

Sponsor - Some Preliminary Tots

Now that we have some background on "sponsors," we will need to look at some "undang-undang meriam - oops... undang-undang gereja." Canon Law (Can. 872) tells us "Insofar as possible, a person to be baptized is to be given a sponsor who assists an adult in Christian initiation or together with the parents presents an infant for baptism. A sponsor also helps the baptized person to lead a Christian life in keeping with baptism and to fulfill faithfully the obligations inherent in it. So whether you are a big buffalo or a small buffalo, you need a sponsor, not only to witness your baptism, but to "take care" or "jaga" you, in other words, to see that you are kuai kuai (乖乖) and be a good Catholic.

Canon Law (Can. 873) also reminds us "There is to be only one male sponsor or one female sponsor or one of each." The reason this is stated is because in some cultures, folks seem to think "the more the merrier," and they have so many sponsors. No need so many sponsors lah. One enough, but if you want 2 also can, just make sure one male and one female lah.

Criteria for the Responsibility. Don't Play Play.

So how do we determine who can become a sponsor? What sort of criteria should we look at? Once again, Canon Law (Can. 874 §1.) tells us:

To be permitted to take on the function of sponsor a person must:

1. Be designated by the one to be baptised, by the parents or the person who takes their place, or in their absence by the pastor or minister and have the aptitude and intention of fulfilling this function;
This basically means, either:
a. The one to be baptised OR
b. The parents or person acting as the parent OR
c. The pastor or minister
chooses a sponsor. The sponsor is not one simply or suka-suka assigned to the one to be baptised. The sponsor must be chosen carefully.
Also, note that the sponsor may be chosen, but he or she would still need to say "Yes" and accept being chosen, and not only that, he or she must have the right disposition to be chosen. If, for example, the sponsor feels that he or she has too many godchildren already, or for some other reason, the sponsor can still say "No" to being a sponsor. Don't play play... sponsor cannot be forced to be a sponsor one.

2. Have completed the sixteenth year of age, unless the diocesan bishop has established another age, or the pastor or minister has granted an exception for a just cause;
You must be at least 16 years old to be a sponsor, unless otherwise stated by the diocesan bishop, or the pastor or minister has good and valid reason to choose such a young of age sponsor.

3. Be a Catholic who has been confirmed and has already received the most holy sacrament of the Eucharist and who leads a life of faith in keeping with the function to be taken on;
Certainly not an easy criteria. Not only the sponsor needs to be baptised and confirmed as a Catholic, he or she also needs to live an exemplary life as a Catholic. Some examples of an exemplary life include: regularly attending Mass; regularly receiving Sacrament of Confession; good prayer life; active in church, especially in one or two church ministries; just some of the many examples.

4. Not be bound by any canonical penalty legitimately imposed or declared;
Canonical penalty includes a person who has been excommunicated from the church due to some serious reason; and may other penalties too numerous to discuss here. If you want to know more, see your parish priest and/or read up on BOOK VI : SANCTIONS IN THE CHURCH. Quite a lot to read, and may be a cure for insomnia for some, since the text is legal jargon and requires time and effort to understand well. Certainly not an easy read.

5. Not be the father or mother of the one to be baptized.
Your fudder and your mudder cannot be your sponsor. This also includes the legal guardian of the one being baptised. Go laa and find someone else. Surely can find one.

§2. A baptized person who belongs to a non-Catholic ecclesial community is not to participate except together with a Catholic sponsor and then only as a witness of the baptism.
Christians who are not Catholics cannot be a sponsor, since they are not of the same Catholic faith, and do not share the same Catholic understanding of confirmation, Holy Sacrament of the Eucharist, and who leads a Catholic life of faith. These Christians can still be a witness to the baptism, no worries.


So you see, finding a sponsor for your child's baptism or the baptism of an adult (whether it is your spouse, a non-baptised parent, or some other adult) is not so easy. Being a sponsor is also not so easy or kacang (in other word, not a walk in the park). You are a sponsor not for fun, since you also need to walk the talk and show by good example. May we be careful who we choose as a sponsor, so that the child or adult being baptised would have a good companion to journey with, as he or she progresses in the Catholic faith.

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...