Friday, 23 September 2016

Be Careful, and Stay Pure

Once upon a time, in an environment of different leadership, in a parish not too far away, I came across a situation which to some may appear to be from the realm of make believe, or from some Hollywood or Bollywood thriller or drama, but what had come to pass was an actual incident which ought to remind us to be careful of one's conduct, and not end up in dire straits or in deep trouble (in Chinese, some would call it "chaaam laa" or "完蛋了 wan dan la" or "sei for loh").

I was in my office getting some things done, when a young man came to see me. He looked very distraught, distressed and haggard, occasionally glancing back, possibly in fear, to see if he was being followed. I asked him what was the matter, and he sat down and sobbed profusely. If you wanted to see a grown man cry, this guy was one example to behold. I did not know or recognise the man, nor did I have any idea who he was or where he was from, but he needed to see someone and there I was, in front of him, waiting for him to tell his story.

Then, after several soaked tissues later, he poured out his story...

It seems that this young man had met a young girl in an entertainment establishment, and after a few shots (not "tembak senapang" - other kind of shot, if you know what I mean), he became friendlier towards her, and she brought him to a different place, apparently to get to know each other better. One thing led to another, and according to the young man, they ended up "frying sotong" (ahem... ahem... - if you get my drift). When the young man woke up, he found himself in a strange and unfamiliar place, and went back to his home, not realising at that time, the consequences of what had transpired and what was to take place.

Then, many months later, the young man was shocked to receive several summonses for "roti dalam ketuhar" or "bun in the oven" support. Upon inquiring further, the young man found out that, to his utter shock, and dismay, that young girl had had the audacity to collect "wild oats" that had been sown, and distribute it among several of her associates, leading to several of them having "buns in ovens." How such things could happen, I do not know, but apparently it had come to pass, and this young man was now being hounded and sought. Why did that girl do such despicable things? I suspect that it could be for the money, and some could stoop so low just to gain some form of financial security.

The young man was desperate, and beseeched and begged me, asking me whether there was some way I could help. So how? I could not do much for him financially, and felt that one likely option was that he may need to make a police report and seek legal help, to see whether some way could be found to salvage the situation, or rescue him from impending disaster. After that, he hastily left my office, and I never saw or heard from him again. I prayed that he would be alright, knowing that he had landed himself in hot soup, and getting out of it would certainly be no walk in the park.

So what does this incident tell us? To put it simply, “don’t cari pasal,” “don’t mess around,” “look before you leap,” “watch what you do.” Words of caution become meaningless once a person has landed oneself in such a situation or such a mess. Why have a moment of pleasure, and a possible lifetime of suffering? I pray that we maintain our purity, and not endanger ourselves into falling in such a manner.

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

When the Time is Near to Say Goodbye

Every once in a while, I come across people who come and claim that a loved one has passed away and a funeral is requested in a Catholic church, because the next-of-kin claims that the recently deceased was baptised as a Catholic. While we empathise with such persons and offer our condolences, it may also be necessarily to furnish some proof or evidence that the recently deceased was indeed baptised and a practising Catholic, especially if we are not too familiar with the persons affected, or have not seen or heard of such persons affected.

Some of you may be wondering: "Are we being judgemental here?" Actually, no. As many of us know or ought to know, a person must be baptised and a practising Catholic before other sacraments or church rites could be administered. Also, some persons have, in the past, tried to find an easy way out or save cost by having a Christian burial, as a non-Christian funeral could rack up a substantial amount (for example, a funeral and burial according to certain Chinese customs could really burn a massive hole in your wallet, especially after taking into consideration the cost of the coffin, getting the services of a Taoist priest, Buddhist monk or some Chinese-belief religious leader; as well as other funeral expenses). Moreover, if a person has been found to have converted to a certain faith, the authorities of that faith would want to claim the body of the recently deceased for funeral rites of that faith, seeing how such issues had occurred in the not-too-distant past, and caused much consternation and anguish among the next-of-kin.  If such a scenario happens, a baptism certificate may not make much of a difference, though it may come in handy should it be somehow proven that the person's conversion to the other faith is null and void.

That is why, a baptism certificate is such an important document for all baptised Catholics. It seems strange that many of us would be careful not to lose our IC (Identity card, especially in Malaysia and in some other countries), or some other important document such as a driver's license or passport. Also, it seems strange that many of us would be extra cautious not to lose our ATM bank card, credit cards or debit cards, since we know the consequences of losing such important items. Yet when it comes to the baptism certificate, I wonder how many of us make the effort to keep it in a safe place where it could be retrieved and referred to when the need arises. Also, I wonder how many of us make effort to ensure that we have our baptism and other sacrament records kept up-to-date, and have a latest baptism certificate at hand, should the need to furnish one arises.

The question we need to ask ourselves is this: if tomorrow never comes, would our family members have the necessary documentation to proceed with the necessary preparations? Would we want to add to the anxiety and pain already being experienced by our loved ones? Let us not slack or procrastinate further, and do ourselves and everyone else some charity and mercy, by ensuring our baptism certificate and other sacrament certificates are up-to-date and accessible.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Painting Masterpieces Through Song

I sometimes cringe when I hear some musicians play at church. Some of these musicians are known as "music taugeh only" musicians. This means that such musicians are unable to play beyond the music notes and chords. Give them a hymn with no proper music notes or chords, and they will go into "Defcon 4" (in other words, they would seriously panic as they may have little idea how to play the song properly, even though it may be a common or easy to pick up after hearing a few times one). Such musicians are unable to play by ear, or have difficulty in doing so.

Another group of musicians I sometimes come across are those who we could classify as "pakai hantam" or "simply play" types. Their chording and melody line is sometimes "messed up" or just plain "out" (a slang for "not sounding right" or played incorrectly). Some of these musicians really butcher the hymn, even to the extend of rendering it unrecognisable. While we do get some of such musicians who are somehow able to "pakai hantam" and sound decent, we should make every effort to get the music and chording right, so that future musicians would be able to pick up the music and play properly accordingly.

When it comes to playing music in church, there is such a thing as art, some science involved, and finesse. One needs to learn the hymn well, and be ready to improvise and give the hymn extra oomph with a combination of proper melody, supporting expressive tones, and where possible, stylo-milo chording. We could get by with basic chords, but it may not bring out the full expression and beauty of the hymn.

That is why playing church hymns should be treated like one is painting a masterpiece. If we want to encourage our faithful to sing with even more gusto, and if we want to do justice to the hymns, we need to go beyond just playing for the sake of playing, or only depending on the written music or a certain fixated style of playing. The songs and hymns can be enhanced and improvised, if one makes the effort to learn the hymn well, and then make effort to enhance the sound with some flowing notes or "flowerly" playing, together with better chording. May our musicians see themselves more and more as artists, with the intention to glorify God through music.

To get an idea of how one could enhance or do justice to the songs or hymns, here is an example of how "Amazing Grace" could be played. This audio file seems to be fine when played on most browsers. If you are unable to hear the audio file, you could try viewing this blog on a different browser (I believe Google Chrome works great).



Also, here is a music notation of Amazing Grace for you to try out:


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