Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Catholic News has a Sports Section

It is not often that you see Manchester United and Liverpool mentioned in the Catholic News, much less have a photo of a football stadium and a Liverpool player. So I thought that CN might be starting a sports section when I turned to page 8 of last weeks CN and saw the familiar red jersey and a photo of Fr John Bosco in the Standard Chartered marathon. But the heading at the top of the section was still "News".

What made it more interesting was the contrast between the anti-Catholic Red Devils fans and the Catholic faith of a Reds player and his mother. But I shall not hit a team while they are "down", moreover the team can't really control the actions and words of their fans.

I seriously doubt that CN would be able to sustain a regular sports section, unless they started to cover the Vatican Football League (Clericus Cup) or our local Archbishop's Cup. Though to their credit, I remember that they have featured articles in the past such as the Olympics. The problem is that the sporting world these days have given up their sportsmanship values, and stopped being role models for the youth. Instead it has been corrupted by money and greed, doping and bribery. Players are more interested in fame and glamour, money, partying, drinking, drugs and sex. Setting bad examples with their arrogance, infidelity and lifestyle. Which is why examples such as Jamie Carragher are hard to come by.

Not taking into account the recent "goal" he scored, Carra has been one of Liverpool's most consistent players. Maybe he is spared the temptations of fame and wealth because he is not attractive to girls like Beckham or because he's a central defender, not the most glamourous of positions. More importantly it is his behaviour both on and off the pitch that makes him a credible role model. He is not only involved in charities, but in various programs to help kids stay out of gangs through sports.

One can't help but think that his Catholic background as well as the love of his family, especially that of his mother has formed him to be the man, footballer and role model that he is.

'My book of Revelations begins with the most dramatic:
if my mum hadn't been a Roman Catholic,
I might have been aborted.

Paula Carragher was given the option of a termination
due to complications halfway through her pregnancy.
She was told I had spina-bifida- a birth defect that affects
the spinal cord. She was too religious to consider abortion,
no matter how disabled I'd be.

'Our Lord told me to have the baby', she still claims.
She's the rock on which my family is built.
I owe everything to that decision
she took thirty years ago'.
That being said, not all catholic footballers behave the same way. I used to be so proud when I see the new brazilian stars, making the sign of the cross when the entered the pitch and after they scored a goal. How they were able to use their public roles to show the importance of their faith in their lives even on the pitch and acknowledging God's role in their success. But then I also began to realise, that as fame and greatness got to their heads, the sign of the cross disappeared, replaced by fingers pointing to themselves.

Luckily there was one professional footballer, Chase Hilgenbrinck, who discovered his calling while playing for the MLS team New England Revolution, and "retired" to join the seminary.

Lastly, the Church itself also is in strong support of sports, with the Pontifical Council for the Laity organising a seminar on sports and mission, and stressing the responsibility of sports stars.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Look Here Look There

While meditating on this morning's readings, one phrase from the Gospel caught my attention.

"Look here it is, look there it is
It reminded me of the time that I went on my graduation holiday to central australia with my friends from COSDU. We were out in the cold at night to look at the stars, and to keep my friend company as he was taking his photos of the stars.

The above picture was the outcome of us freezing out butts off, and must say it was quite worth it. On top of that, we also happened to be in the right place and time to witness a meteor shower. So there were shooting stars flying through the sky. So there were these bunch of crazy nuts in the open huddled together in our sleeping bags, shouting "there, did you see it", "over there". But of course by the time we responded to the other person's shout, the shooting star had vanished. So I realised that to catch the shooting stars, I had to keep my eyes focused on the sky, and not be distracted by the "here and there" shouts of my friends. And I would say I saw my fair share of shooting stars that night.

I guess that's pretty much how we should be looking for the kingdom of God too. It is present in our lives, and if we are focused in seeking it, God will reveal it to us. Let us not be distracted by the "here and there" shouts of others.

Thanks Kenneth for the photo, not too sure how the creative commons things work, so shall just credit you here for the photo ;Þ

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Prayer - B.A.P.T.I.S.M

Recently I came across this post in a blog by a seminarian in Miami. He managed to come up with an acronym, that he uses in his catechism classes to teach the different kinds of prayer.

What I've learnt in the past was that there were prayer could be classified into 4 main categories. Praise, Adoration, Intercession and Thanksgiving. But looking at his acronym B.A.P.T.I.S.M sounds like quite a good way to remember, with the few additions.

B = Blessing (to invoke God’s power for a person, place or activity)
A = Adoration (the “created” before the Creator)
P = Praise (glorify God)
T = Thanksgiving (gratitude)
I = Intercession (I ask God for OTHERS) + Petition (I ask God for ME)
S = “Sorry” (ask for forgiveness)
M = Mass (Eucharist source and summit of our faith)
I changed the "M" from Meditation to Mass, as I've always learnt that the Eucharist/Mass is the highest form of prayer.

Its great to see creative ways of making the faith easier to understand and remember. And also to make it more interesting to teach the faith. I remember doing one for a confirmation retreat, on Christian living using the acronym S.A.C.R.A.M.E.N.T. But can't really recall what each stands for. Must go and find if I still have the session notes stored somewhere.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Get Behind Me & A Confederate Soldier's Prayer

Yesterday at mass, the priest mentioned an example that gave me new insight into the the phrase "Get behind me satan" (Mt 16:23) I used to understand it along the lines of "get lost", a reprimand of Peter, in contrast to the "you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church" in vs18.

The priest gave the example of another time that someone wouls use the words 'get behind me' was a kindergarten teacher asking her students to get behind her and to follow her. The priest also said that the meaning of satan was the tempter. So putting both together, Jesus was telling Peter, to stop tempting him to go on a path different from that which the Father had set out for him, and to 'get behind' Jesus and follow Jesus in the path which is God's will.

Maybe that's the attitude that we should have when fighting with our temptations. Not just to battle with the temptation, but always with the mind of following the Father's will. Or when we have fallen to temptation or become the tempter ourselves, Jesus is giving us this constant command "get behind me".

Actually considering that the subsequent verses Jesus is telling his disciples to pick up their cross and following Him, its surprising that I've never seen the link between "get behind me" and the "follow me".

The priest also ended off his sermon with this poem/prayer which I have heard of before, but never recorded it down before.

Prayer by an Unknown Confederate Soldier

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve,
I was made weak, that I might humbly obey.
I asked for health, that I might do greater things,
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy,
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men,
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life,
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for, but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among all men, most richly blessed.
Praise God for his priests and their ministry of preaching that helps us to understand and enlighten us on God's Word in our lives.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

When things go bad in life

I read two interesting stories yesterday, from an email and a blog. Both about how when bad things happen to us in our lives, they may actually be good.

When your hut's on fire:

The only survivor of a shipwreck was washed up on a small, uninhabited island. He prayed feverishly for God to rescue him. Every day he scanned the horizon for help, but none seemed forthcoming. Exhausted, he eventually managed to build a little hut out of driftwood to protect him from the elements, and to store his few possession! s. One day, after scavenging for food, he arrived home to find his little hut in flames, with smoke rolling up to the sky. He felt the worst had happened, and everything was lost. He was stunned with disbelief, grief, and anger. He cried out, 'God! How could you do this to me?' Early the next day, he was awakened by the sound of a ship approaching the island! It had come to rescue him! 'How did you know I was here?' asked the weary man of his rescuers. 'We saw your smoke signal,' they replied.

The Moral of This Story:
It's easy to get discouraged when things are going bad, but we shouldn't lose heart, because God is at work in our lives, even in the midst of our pain and suffering. Remember that the next time your little hut seems to be burning to the ground. It just may be a smoke signal that summons the Grace of God!

Good, it is Good!
Once upon a time, there lived a tribal king who loved to hunt. Whenever he went on his hunting trips, he would bring along his able tribesman, who was very good at navigating the forests for game.

One day, while the tribesman was loading the rifle, he accidentally pulled the trigger, and he shot at the tribal king’s last finger. Upon seeing what he had done, the tribesman said, “Good, it is good!”

Furious and in pain, the tribal king threw the tribesman into prison, banishing him from his future hunting trips. But the tribesman said again, “Good, it is good!” The tribal king could not understand why he said that, and ignored him.

After recovering from his injured finger, the tribal king went on his hunting trip.
This time, he went alone. Because he was unfamiliar with the territory, he treaded on forbidden grounds and was captured by another tribe. This tribe was a carnivorous tribe…so you can kinda guess what’s going to happen from here…

The tribes people started preparing a cauldron of broth, ready to cook their new found “food”. While they were inspecting the tribal king, they found that he was short of a finger!

Now, these tribes people had a superstition…they cannot eat any human being who’s not complete. Disgusted and disappointed, they released the tribal king.

Upon his release, the tribal king ran back home gleefully to look for his tribesman locked up in prison. “Good, it is good! Now, I finally realize why you said that! My life was spared because of the accident!”

The tribal king released him at once, and apologized profusely for locking him up. The tribesman told him, “No, no, don’t have to apologise! Good, it is good that I was locked up! Cos if I went on the hunting trip with you…guess who would be eaten instead?”
I have previously posted another story also along this line about how good luck and bad luck.

So next time something bad happens. Look on the bright side of life, it could be a blessing in disguise.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Vocation Discernment and Kampung Punggol

A bit of advertisment here.
There are two vocation discernment events that are being organised these two months.

First would be the Vocation Discernment Tools Workshop.
In response to the question of "How do we discern God's call?" that many young people are asking today. The Seminary and Serra Club are organising this workshop for young people who are discerning, those working with young people, or vocation promotion teams.

Discernment Tools Workshop 2008
This Workshop is open to everyone of all ages and gender. You can register with the Serra Club at this website

The Second Event would be the Vocation Discernment Retreat in May
This Retreat is for young men over the age of 17, who would like to find out more about the priesthood, and to discern if God is calling them to the priestly vocation.
Vocation Retreat 2008
You can register for this through the priest of your parish, or email to seminariansonline@gmail.com

The Seminary also has a new website at www.sfxms.org.sg. Actually its been up for quite a while, just that I've never blogged about it. We are still trying to improve certain parts of it, especially the photo gallery. So if anyone has suggestions, feel free to email them to seminariansonline@gmail.com

And Lastly the Singapore Seminarians have come up with a blog, to share our life and reflections in this ulu part of Singapore that we affectionately call Kampung Punggol. So do give it a visit. The links are on the right side of this blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Feast Day

For nearly 30 years of my life, I have been living under the impression that there was no Saint by the name of Terence, I find out, with the help of the mighty GOOGLE that there indeed is a St Terence, in fact a few, depending on which source. Don't know if the Vatican website has a complete list of all the Saints of the Church.

Anyway I found on the Catholic.org list of Saints and the Patron Saints Index a few St Terences. One who I'm going to take as my Patron Saint, was one of a group of 50 Christians who were imprisoned in a pen of snakes and scorpions, and then martyred.

I chose him as his feast day occurs quite close to the date on which I got that mysterious call, that has led me down this path of my vocation. So now he has got to pray for me and my vocation. Too bad not much is known about him to write about.

Have a few more posts still on my PDA to blog, just haven't had the time to complete them... Really procrastinating a lot.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Jesus Knew

As I was preparing for the Holy Thursday Session, I was looking for a video on the last supper, and I found this ad on Youtube

While it looked interesting at first, but the tagline "3G - Changing the course of history" just doesn't make sense, for us Catholics at least. As if Jesus finding out about Judas' betrayal would have changed anything. Because Jesus knew, with or without 3G technology, He Knew what was to happen and who it was that was going to betray him. That was one thing that struck me in yesterday's Gospel reading

For he knew who would betray him; for this reason, he said, "Not all of you are clean." (Jn 13:11)
And despite this knowledge Jesus continued to do what he had to do, is something that has been coming to me this Holy Week, from Jesus' triumphant entry into Jerusalem, which the people saw as political freedom, yet Jesus knew what lay ahead, to the betrayal and the agony in the garden. Each and every action and decision Jesus made, was with the passion and death in mind. And yet he still carried on. We all know the dread we feel in our hearts when we know something bad is coming. And we do all we can to siam. But here Jesus shows us the courage, faith, obedience, total surrender and self-giving, which we are called to emulate in following the will of God. So difficult.

To end on a lighter note, I much prefer this humourous interpretation of the last supper, which shows Jesus really knew what was to come.

Going for the 3pm Good Friday Service now. Hope it storms, or at least the sky will darken.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


The Young Adults of Mustard Seed Community in St Francis Xavier Church are organising a series of talks under the name METANOIAto help young adults grow in their faith journey. The first set of talks fall under the theme "Finding God in My Life". For more info, see the ad below.
Metanoia Ad

Clinging on to the wrong things

Was inspired with this illustration for my vespers sharing yesterday.

14 years ago, on a hiking trip up Mt Ophir in malaysia, one of my friends got injured when he slipped and slid down a slope. His main injury was not on his body or legs, but on the palms of his hands, because as he was sliding down he tried to grab something to stop himself. Sadly, he grabbed on to a branch full of thorns, which gashed his hands severely.

Linking this incident with our lives, often we find ourselves during trials and difficulties reaching out and grabbing on to things for support, hope and help. Sometimes the things that we cling on to in dificult times are actually not good for us, things that take us away from reality, eg. addictions, virtual worlds. But in the end it ends up hurting us more.

Todays psalm 61(62) reminds us that it is only in God alone, that we need to rely on. In him is a hope that will not dissapoint, that will last. So instead of reaching for things that cannot heal, comfort, or support, let us reach out for our God who is our rock, on whom we can stand firm.

In God alone be at rest, my soul;
for my hope comes from him.
He alone is my rock, my stronghold,
my fortress; I stand firm.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Phoenix and Lent

On Ash Wednesday, we sang the song ashes, which has a line which goes "We rise again from ashes". This reminded me of the Phoenix, made famous in recent times by Fawkes from the Harry Potter series, and I was just wondering if it could be used to symbolise our lenten journey.

The Phoenix is a mythical bird, found in ancient Egyptian, Greek and Oriental cultures. It is supposed to live to 500 years, at which it will make a nest, set it and itself on fire, and from the ashes that remain lies an egg from which the phoenix will be reborn.

The interesting thing I found out in searching the net for info on the phoenix, was that because of this characteristic of rebirth of the phoenix, it was used by the early christians as a symbol for Christ and the Resurrection.

Anyway back to the Phoenix and the Lenten Journey. In the book, Dumbledore, tells Harry that Fawkes had been looking dreadful and was about time for him to be reborn. And so it is with us, who might have grown weary, sinful, distant from God. Lent is a time of rebirth, of renewal, although most of the time it seems like it is more burning than rebirth. But that is the purification process that we have to go through in our relationship with God. Prayer, fasting and almsgiving, may seem like fire, but only if we go through it do our impurities get removed and we have a deeper encounter with God.

Lent is spring, it is about new life. The movie got the rebirth of Fawkes slightly wrong, they skipped the egg part. But just think about it, out of the ashes of lent, comes the egg, which has been used as a symbol for Easter. An egg carries in it new life. So this lent, focus on rebirth, renewal, new life with God, and fan the flames of prayer, fasting and alsmsgiving.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Wild Eagle Chase

Eagle in Today NewspaperI just saw in Tuesday's Today Newspaper, an article about how this guy found two white-bellied sea eagles in his house and went on a Wild Goose Chase, trying to find the correct government agency to help him get it out of his house. So he called the MND, which directed him to AVA, which told him to contact the NEA. He also tried calling the Zoo, which told him to call the Jurong Bird Park.

Why I find this article amusing, is because I went through the exact same thing last year. We found in the seminary a white-bellied sea eagle that had injured its wing. My first thought was to call the Jurong Bird Park, who told me to call the AVA, they in turn told me to call the NEA. who told me to call the birdpark, and was surprised when I told them, that I had called them first and was finally referred to them. In the end, one of the seminarians, brought the bird to one of our neighbours who brought it to a vet.

The reflection of this whole "wild eagle chase" is the question of whether we know who we can turn to in terms of an emergency. I remember one incident in the past, where a homeless young man came looking for help. We tried calling various place, but couldn't find a place that would be able to help him. We did get similar referrals to "try this other place, they might be able to help". I did learn of places for runaway girls, unwed mothers and abused wives though.

It would be a great help in ministering to those in need, if we know who and what are the resources that people can turn to for their various needs in life. And in the past few years on this journey, I have encountered many such people and organisations, that help the deaf, rehabilitate ex-cons and drug addicts, provide nursing care, journey with the dying and their families, help migrant workers who are cheated by their employers, provide free meals for construction workers, and even bereavement services.

Many of them do run awareness and publicity programs, to educate and promote the services to the public, but sadly, we normally only take notice when we have a problem, I know I'm guilty of it. So hopefully, I will now be more aware of how and what is being done to help those in need.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Everybody is looking for you

In today's gospel (Mk 1:29-39), one line struck me. Simon and the other disciples telling Jesus that Everybody was looking for him. And yet Jesus decides to "ignore" these people and move to another town. But only today did it strike me, that although the disciples were referring to the people of the town they were in, the "everybody" was really a reminder, that there were more people who were looking for Christ, waiting to hear him and experience him. Which is why Jesus said "Let us go on to the nearby villages that I may preach there also. For this purpose have I come."

It is a strong reminder for me, to be more open to the many people who are looking for God. Or actually more to the fact that everybody is looking for God. This adds on to something that Fr Simon said to me when we went for the school missions earlier this month. He said that in our ministry, it is not always about helping people to find God. Sometimes we need to help people that they are searching for God in their lives. As someone once said, we all have a God-shaped hole in us, and because we feel that emptiness, we try to fill that hole. And yet not many people realise that
we need to find God to fill that hole. In the ways of the world, we try to fill it with money, power, pleasure, relationships, etc... but all these will never fill up that God-shaped hole.

Similarly, as Christians, disciples, and especially as I continue my formation as a priest, I need to be aware that this mission that Christ has given us is not just to baptised, but to the world. Just as Christ got up, and moved to other towns, I also need to work on this area, of bringing Christ to those who do not know him. As it is, it took a real transformation in my life to even start talking about Christ, and sharing my faith with my fellow Catholic friends. What more to my non-Catholic friends, or even to strangers. From some of the shocked reactions I get when I meet up with old friends when I tell them that I am in the seminary training to be a priest, I am reminded of my past. How I had failed to be a witness in my way of life, even less, sharing the faith.

But God is slowly changing me, and I really give Him praise and thanks for all that He is doing in my life. Especially the challenges and opportunities that he shows me. One recent incident, was on the last day of the Illuminate - Leaders For Christ Convention 2007, in my workshop on evangelisation. I shared, that for us Christians, there are 3 "target audiences" when we evangelise. Evangelisation is about bringing the Good News to others. So we need to evangelise to

  1. To the Non-Christians - we need to bring the Good News to those who have not heard of Christ
  2. To the Christians who have fallen away - we need to bring them back to the Faith
  3. To the Active Christians - Active Christians too, need the sharing of God's love and action in our lives to help us to grow in our faith too.
And I shared an example of how a priest once shared, that he sometimes dreaded to go for wedding dinners, because he would be seated at a table with people he did not know. But he nows see each dinner, and each stranger that he meets as an opportunity to share about Christ. I shared this because I was going for a wedding dinner that night, and prayed that I too will be able to put my words into action.

Little that I know, God really answers my prayers. The groom was my Secondary school classmate, and so I was seated at a table with my classmates who I have not met for 13 years since graduation. Lo and behold, I found myself seated next to one guy who I didn't know was Catholic, and I was sharing a bit of my conversion with him, and then the guy on my right, turned out to also be Catholic, and later on, told me that he had stopped going to church, because of a fallout with his priest. And near the end of the dinner, the guy across me was sharing how he was turned-off by a teacher who forced him to learn chinese by reading the chinese bible. And yet he also shared how he had visited Fatima and the Infant Jesus of Prague, and how he felt a totally different feeling there. I ended my wedding dinner that night, in total awe of God's Spirit working.

Now the real challenge for me is to continue to try and grow in this area of evangelising, sharing my faith, and being open to the many opportunities that God is showing to me.