Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Pulling One’s Weight Around?

Recently, I came across some persons who requested for a funeral to be celebrated for a relative who passed away while working at a distant place, and the immediate next of kin of the deceased happened to have recently moved from another town to the present town where the parish I am presently ministering to is situated. The deceased had never set foot in the present town where the parish I am ministering to is situated, and the deceased, I am told, went to another parish in a different town whenever the deceased returned from that distant place to visit the grandmother.

At first, I was a little hesitant to have the funeral celebrated, since I knew nothing about the deceased, as the deceased had no other connection with the present town other than only the next of kin who had recently moved to the present town. However, after speaking to a relative of the deceased, who sought my help, and upon getting some assurance from the relative concerning some spiritual background of the deceased, I then acceded to granting a funeral Mass. However, I was quite taken aback, when I received a call from my assistant, who was quite stunned, confused and puzzled as to why he was being dragged into a matter which he knew nothing about. It seems that certain individuals linked to the deceased had complained to the parish priest of a parish of that distant place, allegedly stating that my assistant had refused a funeral Mass, and that parish priest then complained to my assistant concerning such a refusal; but the fact of the matter was that a funeral Mass had been granted, and the whole matter had nothing to do with my assistant.

Moreover, I was quite shocked and disappointed when I received a call from a parish priest of another parish located in another town quite some distance away, asking if there was some way burial could be permitted for the deceased at the cemetery of the parish of the present town. Such request had been denied, and the relative I had spoken to understood and agreed, that the cemetery was reserved only for folks belonging to the parish of the present town, as that was the intention of the donor of the cemetery. It seems that other relatives of the deceased were unhappy that the request had been denied, and apparently they were in disagreement with the terms and conditions concerning the cemetery, and they had the audacity to involve another parish priest of another parish located in another town quite some distance away, to try and intercede for their cause. Naturally, to preserve the original purpose of the cemetery, such a request coming from the other parish priest was also denied.

This makes me wonder... why do people not get the message when no means no, and when a request had been granted at a slightly later time, there is no need to jump the gun and create a ruckus, involving other parties? One should not think that one can pull strings and get their way, or try to pull their weight around, even if pulling such strings or weight would be not right or unjust. After all, surely some things could be granted after proper verification, and certain things cannot be granted, lest the trust concerning such things would be broken, should such demands be given in to.

Sunday, 14 October 2018

Much Ado About Nothing?

I sometimes wonder whether some of us are jumping into conclusions so quickly without reading what was actually written or listening carefully to what was actually said. Do we assume that we know what was written or said, without verifying the actual and real meaning of what was written or said? It seems easy to come up with our own interpretations, but how many of us are willing to take the trouble to find out and be clear about what was written or said?

For example, when we say "John kicked the bucket," some of us may immediately jump into conclusion that John died. But does the sentence "John kicked the bucket" have only one meaning? Have we ever considered that such a phrase could mean something else; such as John had accidentally kicked the bucket or that he had kicked the bucket by accident, as the bucket was lying around and he had not seen it? Or perhaps John was not in a very good mood, and to let out some frustration, he kicked the bucket which happened to be at the right place at the right time? So as we can see, what was said or written may not necessarily be what we think.

Even in matters of faith and church, it is always good to be clear about what was actually written or said, since sometimes even the smallest matter could be blown up into a big issue or blown out of proportion, just because some had not taken the effort to read or listen carefully to what was written or said. For example, an announcement is made advising people not to feed their children during Mass, since there ought to be a proper time and place to do so, but some seem to interpret such an announcement as if the church is forbidding parents from feeding their children in any circumstances. Then some such persons begin to say that the church is being insensitive or not caring, but if we consider what was said, did the announcement state that parents were not allowed to feed their children at any time, whereas the church had mentioned that during Mass, children should not be fed? After all, if one could show decorum and respect when one is in a banquet in the presence of some VIP (Very Important Person) or even royalty, surely one could show some decorum and respect in the presence of the King of kings at Mass?

So let us make effort not to jump into conclusions so easily, and find out and be clear about what was actually said or written, since what was written or said could jolly well be quite different from what we think. After all, it is better to be clear about the fact of the matter, rather than to end up being misinformed or even unnessarily agitated over a matter which may merely be a figment of our imagination.

Saturday, 8 September 2018

Parking or Hogging? That is the Question!

I believe several parishes have got a big problem which seems not so easy to solve. Some of you may be wondering... what sort of big problem am I talking about? While there are different kinds of problems we face in a parish, one that seems pertinent is the big problem about car parking. Why is car parking considered a big problem? Allow me to elaborate.

We know that not many parishes are blessed with sufficient parking space, and from time to time, we come across certain folks who seem to not know how to park their car properly; or they can't find space to park and so they double park or even triple park; or they simply park their car as if it is their grandfather's road. Some even park their car in front of other vehicles, and remain in their vehicle, possibly waiting for a family member to come, and when they are asked to move their vehicle, they show a sour face, scowling face or monkey face, as if moving their vehicle just a few meters away so that another vehicle could come out is such a difficult or painful thing.

Then when the Mass is over and folks are exhorted to go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord, instead of having the presence of mind, or "cow sense," or even common sense; to remove their vehicle which could be blocking other vehicles, they dilly dally by chit chatting with other folks; or they go about in their involvement in other church activities; or some even walk to the shops nearby for breakfast or lunch, as it is convenient for them to go nearby instead of the "hassle" of driving out and going elsewhere. Sometimes, the vehicle of such folks could be just in front of them, and when irate owners of blocked vehicles begin to blast the horn, such folks carry on doing their thing as if everything was ok, or they pretend to not know or "buat tak tau," or they even give a dirty or disgusted look, as if they are not in the wrong.

When such folks do such things, what happens? Other folks who need to drive off may find their vehicles stuck, blocked by the vehicles of such folks. Then what happens? Instead of going forth to love and serve the Lord, as what the priest exhorts at the end of the Mass, folks end up fighting, arguing, cursing and quarrelling (sometimes even to the extent of using "flowery language") over a simple matter of just removing one's vehicle after Mass and re-parking it elsewhere, so that the vehicle does not obstruct other vehicles.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is this: have some of us become so self-centred and egoistic, not bothered about others, and only wanting convenience and benefits for oneself and perhaps for one's family? What sort of Christian example are we showing when what is supposed to be a simple matter such as parking becomes a sore issue, which causes other faithful to unnecessarily sin due to the selfishness and couldn't care less attitude of certain folks?

Friday, 7 September 2018

Making Time or Demanding Time?

Some people can be strange creatures... first they ask for the priest to come to their house for house blessing, then when the priest is free to come on a weekday, either morning or noon or, where necessary, in the evening, such folks then say they are not free on weekdays. Then such folks say that they are only free on weekends, and some even say only towards the evening on weekends.

Then when the priest tells them that the weekend is a busy time for priests, as there are weddings, funerals and weekend Masses, such folks rant and rave and complain beyond complaining that the priest is not fair, or too busy for them, or not sensitive to their needs. When the priest is free to come to bless their house, they say it is not convenient for them, then when the priest is not free to come on a weekend for their convenience, they blame the priest for not making time for them.

Surely when it comes to house blessing, one should make effort to be available on a weekday, even if it is in the morning, noon or evening, instead of only wanting thing's according to one's convenience or according to one's way. This same scenario also applies to marriage preparation, where some couples seem so busy, that they seem "married" to their jobs. This makes me wonder... if a couple cannot find time for marriage preparation and to meet the priest for an interview, then how are they going to survive in their marriage?

Besides, if you think about it, if one's loved one or family member is elderly and sick, or in hospital, or requires confession and anointing of the sick, would one conveniently insist on having such anointing of the sick only on weekends? Surely one would do one's best to get the priest to give anointing of the sick as quickly as possible. If one could be so "hardworking" in getting the priest to give anointing of the sick as soon as possible, then why can't one be just as "hardworking" in making oneself available for house blessing and other matters?

At the end of the day, there needs to be some compromise and understanding on the availability of the priest for house blessing, marriage preparation, and other matters. Remember that the world does not revolve only around certain persons, and that the priest has other matters to attend to. Are some becoming so self-centered and demanding, or have we learnt to be more charitable and amicable in our attitudes, behaviour and conduct?

Friday, 24 August 2018

Decorum and Civilised Attitude and Behaviour: Gone with the Wind?

Lately, I have noticed how some people behave at or near coffee shops. The coffee shop is quite full at the time of the day, and I see people hovering near other patrons, waiting for the opportunity to pounce on a table, and then suddenly, someone sneezes without bothering to cover the mouth. Also, some patrons get up and just walk away without pushing the chair or stool back towards the table. Near the coffee shop, someone spits on the ground with a loud and disgusting "haak kaaahpuui!" On the ground near the coffee shop, there are food containers with leftovers strewn all over the ground, as if someone did not have the time or decency to throw it properly into a rubbish bin.

Sometimes, we even see such behaviour too in church. People let their children eat in church and sometimes even adults too grab a bite, sometimes even while Mass is on, and sometimes even food is spilled on the pews; some even throw used tissue paper on the floor; some put on extremely strong perfume, causing others to suffocate or even sneeze, and once again without covering their mouth; I have even seen certain folks digging their noses for gold or do some other disgusting stuff. At the car park, some are so inconsiderate in the way they park their cars, causing congestion, anger and sometimes even shouting matches; and at times, even park right in front of the priest car, and when the priest asks the person to move his or her car so that the priest could drive out, the person gives the priest a dirty look or shows monkey face or a sour face. Even at catechism classes, we sometimes come across certain impatient parents who want their children taken out earlier so that the family could go somewhere else, possibly for a trip or shopping, or even for tuition class or some other extracurricular activities.

This makes me wonder: have some become so uncivilised or so uncouth that one can litter, spit, sneeze or do other disgusting stuff, without the least bit bothered about cleanliness and decorum? Have some begun to treat church as merely an obligation, and have become indifferent or insensitive towards decorum and decency? Has faith become so inconvenient for some, so much so that catechism becomes a chore or a hassle?

At the end of the day, such lacklustre and recalcitrant attitude, behaviour and conduct may lead only to selfishness, indifference or even lost of faith. Our attitude and behaviour are being observed especially by the younger generation, and also by others exploring the faith, and I wonder whether some of us are aware or even bothered about the kind of "witnessing" we are doing. Perhaps we need to take initiative and remind ourselves of who we are and how we should conduct ourselves, if we call ourselves brothers and sisters in Christ, sons and daughters of God. Let us make every effort to ensure our church remains a house of prayer, not a den of thieves, and bear proper witness for His greater glory.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018

Ramblings of a Parish Padre - Responsibility and Accountability

Seriously speaking, I do not wish to micro manage or keep on telling people what to do, but there are times where the persons affected or involved are unable to comprehend what they are supposed to do, or they seem to take quite some time to grasp their duties and responsibilities, and despite several attempts and reminders, mistakes are repeatedly made, incurring the wrath of affected parties; or some seem to think that the church should be lenient or some believe that compassion should be practised without compromise, come what may.

Also, finding persons willing and able to get the task done effectively and efficiently is not easy, especially when it comes to remuneration, where commercial rates are asked, though the church collection does not make such commercial rates viable. Besides, certain benefits that are to be expected in commercial circles, may not be entirely possible when it comes to a church setting. For example, how does the church deal with perks and bonuses demanded by certain folks, where such perks and bonuses are possible in the commercial world,

Moreover, I sometimes end up having to tell folks that a tree has grown too tall and should be trimmed, so that it does not cause damage to the awning above, as if no one else seems to be able to notice the offending tree involved; or certain facilities are damaged or need to be replaced, but folks are not being proactive or taking initiative or responsibility and informing the parish office; or even the door of the restroom is damaged, and somehow I end up being the one noticing it; or certain procedures are not being followed, and I end up having to do damage control or calm things down, and suggest solutions and viable alternatives.

So, how does one let others do their thing or maintain the status quo, when things are not being done properly in the first place? Do we just let folks do what they can, and let things be, even if it may cause neglect or serious problems at a later time? How do we ensure that roles and responsibilities are observed well, when certain parties are not "up to mark" so to speak, and finding "up to mark" folks is certainly no easy task? It seems easier to adopt a laissez-faire approach, but would that be a right or just thing to do?

Then when abuses, misconduct or malpractices occur; or when situations get out of control due to too much leeway or lack of accountability; who ends up taking the rap? Will the bishop go after the other parties affected; or would certain parties be willing to take responsibility and own up for what has come to pass? Of course not! You and I know whose head ends up on the "chopping block,"

The parish priest is the administrator and spiritual leader of a parish. Both areas need to be handled, and one cannot just focus on one, to the detriment of the other. If certain folks are consistently and faithfully doing their part, and doing it well, then certainly that would be a great help. But the reality is, not many of us are blessed to have such great help. So, though I may sound like a broken record or appear to be the "bad guy," it is not because I relish doing so. In a perfect world, everyone should be responsible, effective, efficient and dedicated, or as previously mentioned, "up to mark," but do we live in such a utopia?

Friday, 15 June 2018

Procrastinate At Your Peril

Father... please... hurry... come quickly... my mom/dad/whoever is in critical condition... doctors are saying she/he may not make it... she/he needs anointing... please help...

Such a scenario happens every once in a while and when asked when did the person begin having such a serious condition and/or is bedridden, or was warded in a hospital, the answer is sometimes: "Oh... about 2 weeks ago," or "warded last week," or "quite some time back."

Then when asked, "why did you not ask for the priest to come earlier, so that the person could have his/her confession heard, and then receive the sacrament of anointing and where possible, the Eucharist, some become emotional and blame the priest for being insensitive, or for not being caring or concerned. Some even think that the priest is to be called only when the last rites are to be performed, and calling the priest early would seem like taboo, or "pantang larang" (Malay word for "taboo"), or as if it were a death sentence for the person involved, or something undesirable unless absolutely necessary.

But the reality is this: when something important occurs, would one wait till the last minute then only do something about it? For example, if one has a toothache, one would not wait till the the pain becomes worse or even excruciating, then only go to see a dentist. Likewise, when one discovers that one has got a disease which has not yet reach a critical level, one would not hesitate to seek early treatment to improve one's chances of survival. When we have an exam coming up, we would not wait till the last minute to study and prepare for it. Also, when one discovers that one had left the fire on at the stove or the tap on at home, after coming out of the house and driven a short distance away, one would quickly drive back to the house to switch off the fire or the tap to prevent disaster from happening, or ending up with a hefty water bill.

If we can take precautions for such situations and many more, then surely we ought to take precautions and inform the priest early, so that the priest could provide the necessary pastoral care to the person while there is time and opportunity to do so. When we procrastinate and delay in seeking the priest, are we possibly jeopardising the person's spiritual well-being and putting the Lord to the test? Thus, let us not wait till the last minute, since by then, it may be too late.

Monday, 30 April 2018

Art Thou Rumour Mongering?

One day, I was on my way to the sacristy to vest for Mass. An old lady came running to me with a concerned look on her face. I was quite taken aback to see such an elderly lady running in this way, and I motioned her to slow down, lest she hurt herself or even trip and fall. She looked like she was in her late 70's and even then could sprint pretty fast.

The lady took a few deep breaths and said in an excited and exasperated tone: "Father aaa... I heard you are going to be transferred to another parish. Really ah?" I looked at the lady with amusement, saying: "Really? How come I didn't know about it?" The lady exclaimed with much consternation: "But I heard the news from so and so, and so and so heard from so and so, and so and so claims to have heard it from a reliable source. Is it true? Are you going away?" I responded: "Did so and so get the news from the Archbishop?" "I don't know wor..." came the reply. So I said: "Why not ask so and so to see me, and then we make a call to the Archbishop to verify. Want?" The lady, with an uncomfortable look on her face said, "Better not wor... afterwards he scold us for wasting his time. He so busy wan." I chuckled and said: "Next time, don't just believe everything you hear lah. If the news does not come from a reliable source, or through proper channels, with proper announcements made, don't just take other people's words for it." The lady looked sheepishly and said: “Ok lor." Then she went off her merry way.

While watching the lady scoot off, I prayed that she had learnt her lesson and not just believe everything she hears, and then start spreading such fake news or even lies. This incident reminded me of another incident where a parishioner called me on the handphone and his voice sounded quite distraught. I asked him what the matter was, and he exclaimed: "Oh dear! Oh dear! oh dear! I just got news that Fr. so and so has passed away." I smiled, and sighed, replying: "Don't worry... Fr. so and so is still very much alive. I am sitting next to his bed and he is still breathing and moving." The parishioner was stunned to hear such news, and he apologised quickly before terminating the call.

So what do these incidences tell us? It reminds us of the need to be vigilant and careful in discerning what we hear, and only share such news if it is proven beyond reasonable doubt that it is true. May we watch our tongue and check our facts and sources thoroughly, so that what we share is true, lest we get caught embarrassing ourselves unnecessarily.

Friday, 30 March 2018

A Complainer or a Contributor Art Thou?

I sometimes wonder whether some of us are complainers or contributors. It seems easy and convenient to complain and demand many things from the church, especially where one’s convenience or comfort is at stake, and some even seem to have a sense of entitlement to various services and assistance that the church, in their mind, is expected to offer. But how many of us are contributing a fair and just share for the growth and mission of the church?

For example, every once in a while, I hear of complains that the church toilet is dirty or some part is damaged, but how many are willing to help maintain proper cleanliness; or contribute to the cost of ensuring that the toilets are clean or even to the cost for repairs to be made? Some also complain that the weather is so hot, and that the church should be air-conditioned, but when such persons are asked whether they would be willing to contribute to the purchasing, maintenance, repairs and other expenses such as electricity for such air-conditioning to function reliably, such persons all of a sudden become mute or try to change the topic. Some even expect anything and everything concerning church to be free of charge, even though it is obvious that there are many kinds of expenses which need to be paid and money does not fall from the sky.

Also, I wonder whether there are some who are shirking in their duty and responsibility in offering a fair and just contribution for the upkeep of the parish. For example, supposing a parish has 10,000 parishioners, and supposing 5,000 are working adults (for the sake of simplification, students and those who are retired are not included, though if they are willing and able to help, then praise the Lord). Supposing each individual who is working contributes RM10 per month (not even a week, just a month, and what's more, what is RM10? For a person who has a salary of RM1,000, RM10 is only 1%. For those who happen to take home a much larger salary, RM10 is a mere pittance compared to what some seem to own, such as a fancy car, a big house, some luxurious club membership; branded clothes, bags and other accessories; holidays to exotic destinations; or even the latest and greatest gadget or gizmo). If everyone were to contribute a fair and just share, the parish ought to be having about RM50,000 (or more) a month in contributions for various parish expenses and mission efforts. But the reality is, how many of our parishes do get such contributions each month? Or have some persons become so used to conveniently offering pittance (some don’t even bother to contribute anything), instead of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and to God what belongs to God?

So what does this tell us? Complaining is easy. People can demand the sky for their benefit, comfort and convenience. But how many are willing and generous in contributing fairly and justly for the good of all? Remember that money does not grow on trees, and just as funds are needed to support yourself and your loved ones, funds as also needed for various needs in a parish. Are you willing to be a generous and willing contributor, for the good of all?

Friday, 2 February 2018

Watch What Thou Sayest

We sometimes assume that certain folks do not understand what we say, especially when we use a foreign language in their presence. For example, few would expect an Englishman these days, who has been residing in London for most of his life, to be able to speak Bahasa Malaysia or Malay language. But sometimes, what we assume may not necessarily be true, and we may end up embarrassed or red-faced.

One day, two students from Malaysia, studying at a University in London, were riding on a bus from their apartment to a supermarket to purchase some supplies. When the bus arrived at a certain stop, an Englishman boarded the bus. The two Malaysians were seated near the centre of the bus, and as the Englishman walked past them to take a seat at the back of the bus, one student remarked to the other: “tengok itu babi lalu?” (Translated as “look at that pig passing by” and it was a derogatory statement towards the Englishman). The Englishman did not say anything as he walked past, took a seat near the back of the bus and sat down, and the bus moved on.

At a certain location, the Englishman got up and rang the bell, as he wanted to alight from the bus. To the utter shock, surprise and embarrassment of the two Malaysians, the Englishman said to them as he passed by: “tolong ke tepi, babi nak lalu” (Translated as "please move aside, the pig wants to go past). Then he smirked and got off the bus.

What can we learn from this incident? Never assume that others do not understand what we say, especially when we use a foreign language in their presence. After all, it seems not only rude, and lacking of manners, etiquette and decorum; we may find ourselves embarrassed and eating humble pie, when we discover that the person actually understood what we were saying. This is also the case in church, when we are in the presence of faithful from other ethnic groups, especially during certain activities or functions. May we be mindful and respectful of what we say in the presence of others, and show good example to all.

Friday, 5 January 2018

Art Thou Reckless?

Nowadays, I see more and more people driving at high speeds, especially on the highway (North-South highway, LEKAS highway (some of the many highways in Malaysia), doesn't matter. You get Formula-1 wannabes). The speed limit is 90 Km/h or 110 Km/h, depending on which highway one is using, but these people seem to be going much faster than the speed limit. Sometimes, you get drivers who cut across from the left lane, right to the centre lane and to the right lane - almost in one motion, as if they are doing "sapu jalan tepi ke tepi" (driving the car as if sweeping the road sideways, in case you do not know the Malay language).

Why do people need to do such dangerous things on the road? Perhaps they are in a hurry; perhaps they want to show how canggih or sporty their vehicle is; perhaps they are suffering from acute diarrhoea and they need to get to the toilet quickly before they explode in their pants;  or perhaps some people have become more impatient, possibly due to the impact technology has on our lives and being quick, being fast seems a necessity.

When we are reckless on the road, accidents could happen. This picture I took while going to Jelebu to celebrate Mass at St. Augustine, a village church at Titi, is of a badly-damaged vehicle. This is a chilling example of what could happen.

Accidents could also happen to our souls, especially if we are reckless in the way we live. If we commit sins and refuse to be regular in our confession, then we could be reckless in our relationship with God. We do not know when we are going to "balik kampung" (depart from this world). Let us not wait until it is too late... Rather, let us strive to be closer to God and "love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind. And love your neighbour as yourself."

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...