Monday, 30 May 2016

Attitude and Etiquette in Church

When you go for an official function in the presence of the king, sultan or some royalty, or if you are attending a function in the presence of a VIP (Very Important Person), quite likely you would observe a certain dress code, certain protocol, and certain customs. Surely you would want to carry yourself well and make a good impression, and not appear to be unkempt or in Malay: "kurang ajar" (brash, brazen, discourteous, or disrespectful) or "biadab" (barbaric, uncivilized, uncouth).

It is interesting how much effort we make to look good and put on a good appearance in front of such royalty or VIP, but how do we behave and act when we come to church? Do we prepare ourselves well before, during and after Mass, and observe the dress code, protocol and customs at church? Hopefully, many of us would be doing so, but once in a while, we come across people who are either ignorant of where they are, or just could not be bothered or could not care less. What do some of these folks do?
  1. Some dress in a revealing or improper manner. Wearing a singlet and shorts may seem fine when one is going to a market, but at church? Also, one padre once commented: "I have seen situations where the mother is dressed sexier than the daughter!" Sometimes, the cloth material could be inappropriate, especially when a person is standing near the light, since in some cases, the light could cause the clothing to become quite transparent, creating a revelation.
  2. It's a noisy world, as opposed to maintaining sacred silence. Already in our day to day living, we are bombarded with lots of noise all around us. Do we need to make even more noise with our talking in church and around the church grounds, while others are trying to pray and have some peace and quiet? Also, some seem to be addicted to their handphones and occasionally check for messages and updates, or trying to score in a new level in a mobile game, adding to the noise.
  3. Reading newspaper and church publications during Mass. As if one could not even afford an hour with the Lord and need to catch up with the latest news.
  4. Feeding young children during Mass. If we insist in feeding our children during Mass, then what sort of message are we giving them, that it is fine to eat and drink anywhere and any time one pleases? Are they that famished or dying of thirst that they must have something to eat and drink?
  5. Littering at the pews and church grounds. Occasionally, I come across a used tissue paper, sweet wrapping or some item at the pews or church grounds. Are some so uncivilised that the church grounds have become a rubbish dump? Would you indiscriminately throw rubbish anywhere and everywhere in your home?
  6. Arriving late for Mass and leaving early before Mass is concluded. If one could make much effort to arrive early for an official function, why not do the same for Mass? Also, would one leave early before the official function is over? Surely one would not want to offend the royalty or VIP by just getting up and leaving as one pleases. If so, why do some do so and disrespect the presence of our Lord?
  7. Chopeing or reserving seats in church. When you see a handbag, piece of tissue paper, or some item on the pew bench, quite likely some "clever" person or persons have reserved the pew for themselves or their family and friends. Sometimes, the pew is taken up by only a few people, but they prevent others from sitting at the other remaining space. The church pew does not belong to them, but they behave as if it does.
  8. Reluctance to participate at Mass. From the sanctuary, one could observe those among the faithful who are participating at Mass, and those who just stand there like a tree, not doing anything, not responding to the prayers or singing, just sitting and standing like robots. I have seen people looking so sour-faced, fed-up, monkey-faced or even zombie-like, as if coming for Mass is such a chore, or so excruciatingly painful.
  9. Not treating Catechism classes seriously. In certain parishes I have been to, I have noticed some parents being very impatient and wanting their children to come out of catechism classes as quickly as possible. It is as if some other activity such as tuition, shopping or a trip to some place is more important than learning about one's faith. Some parents have even fought with the catechism teacher for not allowing their child to leave. Would one leave as one pleases in an official function?
  10. Parking indiscrimately. I recall in some parishes where certain individuals parked their cars as if the road belongs to them. Not only that, there were occasions where they parked near the gate and blocked everyone else, or even parked in front of the priest's car, making it impossible for people to leave, and also making it impossible for the priest to drive out, especially when answering an emergency call. One wonders where such persons learnt their driving from, or it is simple a lack of common sense, or don't care or "tidak apa" attitude.
Such antics, attitudes and behaviour among some of our faithful happen from time to time. The question we need to ask ourselves is this: are some of us guilty in committing some of these? Do we reach out to such persons and try to help them in changing their ways or attitudes? Or do we just wash our hands and look the other way, only to allow such attitudes and behaviour to become rampant? As a Christian community, we cannot only expect the priest and church leaders to address such attitudes. Each and every one of need to do our part in enabling our church to be transformed into a place where all are welcomed, loved and cared for.

Sunday, 29 May 2016

领洗的正确用意(心态)

我观察到不时有人向我询问、有关他们年老及病重的父母,是否可以领洗的问题。虽然任何尚未领洗的人,皆可领洗是对的,但同时也存在了“领洗用意”的问题。这代表对方本身必须表达自己愿意受洗,同时也接受了某些程度的天主教教义。

教会法规,也就是天主教教规,很清楚的写明:

教规第865条
第一节:任何欲领洗的成年人,必须显示其欲领洗的意愿,接受了足够有关此信仰的真相,教友的义务和责任,并且通过了慕道时期有关基督徒生活的考验。该成人同时也必须为本罪感到痛悔。
第二节:在受到死亡威胁时,该成人可以在以下情况受洗:对信仰有基本的认识,曾以任何一种方式表达其愿意受洗,答应遵守基督信仰的条规。

为何我会提出这个事情呢?都是因为人们必须明白可能会出现的两种情况。我到底想说什么呢?简单来说就是两个字:“方便”。
  1. 因为一些来找我为他们父母施洗的家庭,主要成员是天主教徒和基督徒,万一父母过世了,他们不知如何处理非教友的葬礼。所以,为了“方便”,他们要求父母受洗。他们甚至可以达到威迫利诱的程度,以使父母受洗。
  2. ⁠⁠⁠我们当中可能知道或有所听闻,不同仪式的葬礼,有时候是相当昂贵的。这是因为棺木的成本,葬礼的安排,找宗教领袖来主持礼仪,和其它因素,可导致葬礼开销达到天文数字。曾有家庭成员告诉我:还是基督徒的葬礼便宜得多!

但这些原因和藉口是不足于成为一个人要领洗的理由。他/她必须自由地、真诚地、喜乐地愿意受洗。就算是对方病重和面临死亡,他不应该,也不允许被强迫受洗,只是为了使家庭成员开心。

“方便”不是领洗的理由。归根到底,我们对那个没有意愿领洗的人,是否有欠公道?却为了某些家庭成员的干涉和威胁,而心有埋怨地同意领洗?

因为如此,当我们面对这样的问题时,必须有所警惕。愿那些即将受洗的人,是全心全意、开心地、自愿地和喜乐地去领洗,不是为了取悦或方便某些家庭成员。

Saturday, 28 May 2016

Baptism With Right Intention

I have observed, from time to time, people coming to me and asking whether their elderly and seriously ill dad or mum could be baptised. While it is true that "Every person not yet baptized and only such a person is capable of baptism," there is also such a thing as "intention to receive baptism." This means that the person himself or herself must have voiced his or her intention to be baptised, and that the person has received some instruction about the Catholic faith.

Canon Law, which is Catholic church law, puts it clearly:

Can. 865 §1. For an adult to be baptized, the person must have manifested the intention to receive baptism, have been instructed sufficiently about the truths of the faith and Christian obligations, and have been tested in the Christian life through the catechumenate. The adult is also to be urged to have sorrow for personal sins.
§2. An adult in danger of death can be baptized if, having some knowledge of the principal truths of the faith, the person has manifested in any way at all the intention to receive baptism and promises to observe the commandments of the Christian religion.

So why I am bringing up this matter? It is because of two situations which have crop up which people should understand. What matter am I talking about? In a nutshell, it concerns a keyword: convenience.
  1. Some families have come to me asking that their dad or mum be baptised because most of them are Catholics and Christians, and they do not know how to go about conducting a non-Christian funeral, should dad or mum pass away. So, for their convenience, they ask that their dad or mum be baptised. Sometimes, they even go to the extent of convincing, coercing or even arm-twisting their dad or mum to be baptised.
  2. As some of us may know or have heard, conducting a funeral according to certain other rites could be quite an expensive endeavour. This is because the cost of the coffin, the funeral arrangements, getting the religious leader to conduct the rites, and other factors, could cause the funeral costs to become astronomical. Some members of certain families had told me: "It seems cheaper to have a Christian funeral."
But these reasons or excuses are not sufficient grounds for a person to be baptised. The person himself or herself must freely, genuinely and joyfully be willing to receive baptism. Even when the person is seriously ill and in danger of death, the person should not and cannot be forced to be baptised, just to make some family members happy. Convenience is not a reason for a baptism to take place. After all, are we being fair to the person, who has had no intention or desire to be baptised, but because of interference or threats from certain family members, agree (possibly grudgingly) to go ahead with the baptism?

Therefore, we should be vigilant when it comes to matters like this. May those who are to be baptised do so with full intention, full desire, happily, willingly and joyfully, not to please certain family members or for the convenience of such family members.

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...