Monday, December 26, 2005

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God..

Merry Christmas to all!

I'm home and being with my family is exhilarating enough that I oddly.. don't miss not having access to the Internet all the time :)

I'm still reading How the Catholic Church Built the Western Civilization, and a few other things. I think there's a bit more reflection coming after the vacation is over.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Going home...

Tomorrow I'm going home to be with my family this Christmas. Home's just an hour half away (plus a few hours of waiting & transiting)... but I've been away for a year now and this song had never been more appropriate.

They say there's a place, where dreams have all gone
They never said where, but I think I know
Its miles through the night just over the dawn
On the road that will take me home

I know in my bones, I've been here before
The ground feels the same, though the land's been torn
I've a long way to go, the stars tell me so
On this road that will take me home.

Love waits for me round the bend
Leads me endlessly on
Surely sorrows shall find their end
and all our troubles will be gone
And I know what I've lost, and all that I won
when the road finally takes me home

And when I pass by, don't lead me astray
Don't try and stop me, don't stand in my way
I'm bound for the hills where cool waters flow
on this road that will take me home

Love waits for me round the bend
Leads me endlessly on
Surely sorrows shall find their end
and all our troubles will be gone
And we'll know what we've lost and all that we've won
when the road finally takes me home.

I'm going home
I'm going home
I'm going home
Going Home— sung by Mary Fahl (featured in Gods and Generals)

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Faith of the father

Recently I came across the issue of how important is the parents', or rather, father's influence on children's religious beliefs, and how to raise good Catholic kids, thereof.

At the present I'm reading Shusaku Endo's The Samurai and there are similar echoes in my own story of faith too. In this novel, the samurai expressed revulsion at first, later desperation at the thought of embracing a religion alien to his ancestors:

"I can't be the only one in my family to convert to a foreign religion that my father and my ancestors never knew"

"..back in the marshland, everyone shared in the lives of everyone else.. in the marshland, everything was as one.. [he] could not abandon the faith revered by his father.. That would be tantamount to betraying his own flesh and blood, betraying the [homeland]"

Refering to figure of Jesus on the cross:

"This ugly, emaciated man. This man devoid of majesty, bereft of outward beauty, so wretchedly miserable. A man who exists only to be discarded after he has been used. A man born in a land I have never seen, and who died in the distant past. He has nothing to do with me", thought the samurai.

There are 2 separate points here:
1. Influence of parents on the person's conversion
2. Influence of parents on the person's continuing belief (and subsequently, the influence of ancestors on future generation's belief)

"I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword"
Is the faith of our fathers important for conversion? In some cases, it could be discouraging in the case of Endo's samurai (which he claimed, was somewhat slightly autobiographical!), to break away from thousands of years of tradition. Stripped down to its essence, this could be just a matter of pride; the samurai was impressed by the charitable acts of the missionary, I was convinced by the teachings of the God who lived as man & died for Mankind, yet both of us did not (at first) want to be the first to abandon a practice that had served our ancestors for hundreds of years. Many Catholics I encountered on the blogosphere were mostly Europeans/Caucasians: former cradle Catholics who returned to the Church, or separated brethren who crossed the Tiber. In their cases, in spite of the seeming apostasy, they are able to say that they are returning to the 'faith of their (fore)fathers'.

Is the faith of our fathers really important for continuing belief? I'd often reflected how the Catholic faith is truly meant to be lived in a community, and what better way to start than in your own family! A lot of culture goes into cultivating religious beliefs, hence at times I felt that, being a first generation convert, my own faith lacks that cultural support. Discovering that the Catholic faith goes deep (in terms of practices, devotions and institutions) has helped me personally to provide the weight of history and point of reference. As I discovered many hidden facts about the Church's role in shaping the world and my worldview thus far, I felt a connection to the universal family who shared the same faith all over the world, over time. If ever I were to have children some day, I'd make sure they know their mother's faith doesn't separate them from society in general, but unite them to a great universal civilization born out of Christian faith.

"Late have I loved you, O Beauty ever ancient, ever new, late have I loved you!"-- St. Augustine

Monday, December 12, 2005

Into 3rd week of Advent

The 3rd week of Advent is associated with the theme of Joy (hence the single rose-colored candle amongst 3 purple ones). At times like these, when I feel nothing but exhaustion at the end of the day, I am eternally grateful for the faith that taught me to keep our eyes of faith fixed on the Light of the world.

Yesterday's first reading (Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11)

1 The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;
2 to proclaim the year of the LORD's favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn;

and the Gospel reading about John the Baptist proclaiming himself a 'witness to the light' (John 1:6-8), reminded me of the passage in Machabees which liken us to a pan of impure silver under purification over fire, and only when the silversmith (our Creator) can see a clear reflection of Himself in that pan of silver is the process complete.

So through fire we cling on to Him to whom we will come to at the end of this Advent, and at the end of our exile.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Comments on "How the Catholic Church built Western civilization"

This is not quite a book review!

I'm still currently reading this book; it has been a wonderful book so far, though its treatment of major issues is a little superficial. I'd have liked to read more details. Perhaps with a longer time at hand, Professor Thomas E. Woods, Jr. would have made a thorough historical treatise not unlike Harry Crocker's "Triumph". However I'm writing this short note just so that I don't forget a few threads I'd like to research deeper.

In particular, the chapters on "Church and University" & "Church and Science" made it clear that so many prominent scientists were inspired by their faith; and it is no coincidence he pointed out that some luminaries have been monks and priests. What I find incredible is that I've never heard of them! Sure one's heard of a few famous Catholic scientists like Mendeleev and Pasteur. But Fr. Nicolas Zucchi (inventor of the reflecting telescope, who took one to Kepler)? Fr. Macelwane of the field of seismology? Fr. Boscovich who wrote Theory of Natural Philosophy? Fr. Athanasius Kircher? The Jesuit Seismological Service? Perhaps my involvement in science doesn't go deep in those areas, and neither is, I suspect, the average college grad's general knowledge about the history of science. Yet the contrast between the magnitude of their contribution and the relatively scarce credit due to them is so stark.

The Church suffered from an unsavory and wholly unjustified reputation for repression of science. The author spent a large part at the beginning of this chapter just 'clarifying' the Galileo scandal! Few modern-day high school or even college grads are aware of the Church's role in 'depersonalization' of nature, modernizing the approach to enquiry and establishing a discipline called science. I find it extremely interesting that the author made a causal link that the Christian worldview of the ordered, mechanical universe having an intelligent Creator who has the 'complete creative freedom' and yet chose to create a universe that is 'rational, predicatable and intelligible', has inspired science:

(Page 80-81):

[This approach] avoids two potential errors. First, it cautions against speculation about the physical universe that is divorced from experience.
Second, it implies that the universe that God created is intelligible and orderly, since God possesses the raw power to bring about randomness and lawlessness in the physical world.
(and yet did not!)

and also on page 76, where the author quoted Fr. Stanley Jaki, a historian of science who wrote Science and Creation, that science has suffered a 'stillbirth' in non-Christian 7 'great cultures': Arabic, Babylonian, Chinese, Egyptian, Greek, Hindu and Maya, precisely because of the lack of conducive worldview that made 'formal and sustained scientific enquiry' such a success in Christian Europe—that is, one where the universe is seen as the work of a Creator who 'has endowed [it] with consistent physical laws', in contrast with the view of universe as having 'spirit' and will of its own, 'dominated by a pantheon of deities' who naturally, do not encourage observation and exploration of a regular pattern at work.

Being ethnically Chinese, reading this statement has a profound effect on me. As far as Chinese goes, it only comes to my look. My grandfathers came to Indonesia; both were from the merchant folk, and there's precious scant, if any, worldview prevalent in the family. There is a pantheon of gods, of course, coupled with a strong belief in fate and luck, and science (or pursue of natural philosophy) is nowhere in the picture.

It's getting late, but reading these chapters have definitely stirred a thread of thought.. more on this later.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Which Action Hero are you?

To those of you who know me, I simply cannot resist taking this quiz ;)

You scored as Indiana Jones. Indiana Jones is an archaeologist/adventurer with an unquenchable love for danger and excitement. He travels the globe in search of historical relics. He loves travel, excitement, and a good archaeological discovery. He hates Nazis and snakes, perhaps to the same degree. He always brings along his trusty whip and fedora. He's tough, cool, and dedicated. He relies on both brains and brawn to get him out of trouble and into it.

Batman, the Dark Knight


Neo, the "One"


Indiana Jones


Lara Croft


The Amazing Spider-Man


Captain Jack Sparrow


The Terminator


William Wallace


James Bond, Agent 007




El Zorro


Which Action Hero Would You Be? v. 2.0
created with

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Reading from memorial of St Francis Xavier

Right after the last post, I read today's Mass reading, and lo behold, is the First reading:

Isaiah 30: 19 - 21, 23 - 26

19  Yea, O people in Zion who dwell at Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry; when he hears it, he will answer you.
20  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself any more, but your eyes shall see your Teacher.
21  And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in You. Lead me to Your way.

My Second Holy Hour

Sometime ago, I mentioned chancing upon a Holy Hour when I intended to attend only the First Friday Mass, and had a wonderful time! Well last night is my 2nd holy hour throughout my life! (When was the last time you did something for the first time? Or the second time? :p)

Since my office has moved out of the NUS campus, the travel to Holy Cross Church took a while, and when I arrived, it was fifteen minutes into the Holy Hour. Apparently the program consists of 4 reflections on each week of Advent, and the format was: message by Fr. Richards, silent reflection, prayer and song, with all of us facing the Blessed Sacrament.

At this point, I'd like to say that I'm in the middle of an obvious crossroad, and this time I must absolutely make a choice of turning left or right. The Advent message thus hit home quite strongly, but there needs to be something from my part to digest it into something useful.

First message: missed out on this!

Second message: Peace

"Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, do I give unto you." John 14:27

This message speaks to me 3 things:
1. Peace is a gift,
2. Everlasting Peace is not to be found from the world,
3. Only from Christ and in Christ may I find peace.

Third message: Joy
Fr. Richards spoke of Joy as being distinct from happiness (I'm not sure they're that distinct; after all, we all strive for happiness in life, by which we probably meant joy), and that its source being found in doing the will of God. "For our heart is restless until it rests in Thee".

Fourth message: Love
Love must be the basis of our decisions when trying to discern God's will for us. Duh! But how do we know whether our decision is in the side of Love? If I'm choosing between keeping my current course and making a turn, how do I know in which does the path of Love lie? Perhaps the answer doesn't require rocket science, as Fr. Richards then said that one can simply see whether one's day is spent making others' lives better, more joyful.

So these three messages are knocking on my head.. but my denseness and distractions from the world still hampered my discernment process.

Is the desire to do God's will enough? What if it remains at mere desire and never actually realized? St Ignatius, you whose spiritual exercises helped countless souls unite themselves to God's will, pray for me.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Part 4 of J2ME-Servlet mystery [SOLVED? I think so!]

Using the various methods of reading at the Servlet, I found that none of them worked perfectly:

1. With getReader() and reading from the raw InputStream, somehow the last 40bytes are always gone!

2. With getInputStream(), BufferedReader's readLine(), it gave me an ArrayIndexOutOfBoundsException when reading! The logs traced it back to a possible mismatch in the number of bytes indicated and what was actually found, in
sun.nio.cs.StreamDecoder$CharsetSD.readBytes() method


All these servlets are running on Tomcat 5.0.28. When I copied the servlet to another Tomcat server, this time v5.5.9, the servlet receives whatever J2ME client sends perfectly!

Is this a bug? This is a possibility I haven't entertained before, but it's worthwhile asking, seeing the number of similar questions out there.


This whole thing started as a series of posts of frustration, but they might contain clues to help you solve similar problem, as I wrote about the steps/approaches I've used to try solving the problem:

Part 3, Part 2, and Part 1

Warning: They're RANTS!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Birth Verse Meme

I found out about this Birth Verse meme from Kevyn, and decided to look up my birthdate. My birthday's easy to remember and I assume, every book in the bible would have a Chapter 2, verse 2, no? :)

So here is what the 4 Gospels (Douay-Rheims) say:

John 2:2
And Jesus also was invited, and his disciples, to the marriage.
Matthew 2:2
Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the east, and are come to adore him.
Mark 2:2
And it was heard that he was in the house, and many came together, so that there was no room; no, not even at the door; and he spoke to them the word.
Luke 2:2
This enrolling was first made by Cyrinus, the governor of Syria.
(Well, this is awkward.. what does it mean?)

I've never managed to remember Bible verses by the book name and numbers... Interesting to see what verses turn up!

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Enter the Advent season... Week 1

Advent and Lent seasons have always been special period in the liturgical year for me. Not that reflection and introspection are not called for during any other times of the year, but there is always Something at the end of these periods to look forward to, that made reflection particularly imperative.

As I reflect on what my sister wistful desire to be born in a richer family, I realize that I hold a view that was not apparent nor conscious to me, and that is, life will always be both a struggle and a journey, in spiritual and physical dimensions. I firmly believe these two must go together.

How'd I treat the journey if there is no longer any struggle? There's nothing wrong being rich I'm sure, yet I think it's harder for the rich to find the way back Home precisely because the lack of 'physical' (read: economic) struggle often undermines the sense that this life is but a short pilgrimage and that we are on a journey to our true patria. I'm not saying that if somehow I had been born rich, it'd be impossible for me to find God in the Church; rather, I'm trying to tell my sister that what matters is actually finding that treasure in Heaven. If one is born rich, this statement is still true and he'd have to find the Way, but if one is not born rich, one shouldn't waste his life pursuing the earthly treasure before (and if ever) seeking that which is Heavenly.

This Sunday's Gospel reading about Jesus' advice for us to "keep watch", lest we are found asleep when the Master comes, is a strong affirmation of this view I hold. As St. John of the Cross once said, suffering is a 'ladder' for us to climb to Heaven, today's homily told me that our suffering helps to keeps me 'awake' until the moment we go Home.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

The illogic thickens..

3rd part of a frustrating technical rant:

I ran tcpdump on the server side, and what difference do I see between requests coming from J2ME client and a J2SE program?

The J2ME request has Transfer-Encoding: chunked at the header, and the body is cut into a few chunks, while the J2SE request is in one smooth body. Not that it should matter, because Tomcat 5.0.28 is supposed to be HTTP 1.1-compliant.

I didn't call OutputStream.flush(), but i suspect it'd have been called anyway because the request is more than 2048 bytes long.

It frustrates because I don't understand why it happens. Why can't Tomcat accept both requests and obtain the value for the getParameter(...) request in the same way? It's illogical. It defies common sense. What's next? Use StreamConnection? Just how does HttpServletRequest's getParameter(...) work anyway? How does it get parameters from a connection?

A few weird observations:
1. Content-Length != -1, despite the presence of chunking. Normally chunking would reset this header value.

2. A different source says 'do not set Content-Length' when using chunking... I wonder..

Unsere dame, Maria Knotenlöserin, Beten Sie für uns.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

... spilleth over!

Today's earlier rant is spilling over to this post. It has been, what, perhaps a year since I last ranted about work in this blog (it's not meant to be a rant page...) But I've been really busy lately (both at work and troubled somewhat in the heart), and this latest thing just irks me to no end, not to mention it sucked a great many hours!

OK, so for you folks out there who by weird chance might just end up reading this post because Google archive it or something, here are some things to take note when using J2ME client to do a HTTP POST to a servlet sitting on a Tomcat container trying to read a parameter using getParameter(...)

Things which a lot of sample codes probably don't tell you upfront:

1. Order of calls is important
setRequestMethod(HttpConnection.POST), setRequestProperty("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded"), and all setRequestProperty(...) calls must be made before calling getOutputStream()!

2. Sometimes calling outputstream.flush() may result in chunking that some application servers cannot handle. Check yours. Use outputstream.close() to be safe.

3. setRequestProperty("Content-Type", "application/x-www-form-urlencoded") MUST be called.

4. If you don't have setRequestProperty("Content-Length", N) , the servlet side sometimes sees 2 requests-- header & body, rather than just 1 request. (Hint: watch HTTP traffic on your server side)

5. Lastly, of course, don't be silly, remember what you write to outputstream must be in the form of this regular expression: [yourParameterName=yourParameterValue]+ [&nextParameterName=nextParameterValue]*

And don't forget to pray to our Lady, Maria Knotenlöserin


<start of rant>

For anyone who's struggled with J2ME-J2SE and servlet on Tomcat container, I wonder just how do you maintain your rational sanity when faced with problem like this:

URLEncoder.encode("param", "UTF-8")+ "=" + URLEncoder.encode(payload, "UTF-8") [WORKS!]


"param=" + URLEncoder.encode(payload, "UTF-8") [DOESN'T WORK!]

The doPost(...) method of the servlet is able to read "param" using request.getParameter("param") in the first method and not in the second method! Bloody nonsense!

And on top of this, both methods still could not work when the call to the servlet is made from a J2ME client. Woot!
<end of rant>

Seriously, I'm getting sick of this. Maybe I should study theology now.

Friday, November 04, 2005

From Wired: "Catholic Schoolgirls Unravel DNA"

Full article here

I've always believed Catholic education system has excellent standards :) Well done! On top of it, my alma mater in Indonesia is also named Sacred Heart.. cool!

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Year of the Eucharist concludes

Some useful document links:

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Close of Year of the Eucharist

Message of Synod on the Eucharist:
"Living Bread for the Peace of the World"

Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 31-36:
"Celebrations of the Word of God Are Also of Great Importance"
Propositions of the Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 26-30:
"Promotion of Greater Inculturation"
Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 21-25:
"Suggested That New Dismissal Formulas Be Prepared"
Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 16-20:
"Intrinsic Bond Between the Word of God and the Eucharist"
Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 11-15:
"Urging Pastors to Promote Priestly Vocations"
Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 5-10:
"Recognizing the Manifold Fruits of Eucharistic Adoration"
Propositions of Synod on the Eucharist, Nos. 1-4:
"Jesus Created a Radical Novelty"

I haven't read them yet; will find time to sit and read soon!

Update on "After Cologne"

I've been busy and distracted this whole month of October, trying to say more rosaries, amongst others :)

In any case, the response to After Cologne hasn't been exactly fantastic. I'm still working on it, the temporary location is here.

I am still looking for people who are interested to contribute to this project!

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Insight from All Saints & All Souls

As we celebrated All Saints' Day on Tuesday, I reflected upon last Sunday's Gospel reading. Our archbishop, who just returned from the Synod at the end of the year of the Eucharist, gave the homily that Sunday. It was a classic message of observance of the law vs. 'living it out'. It used to be clearly simple to me: love your God and love your neighbor. This law which Jesus left us, was a fulfilment of the Old Testament laws and customs.

Today I realized something for the first time about the saints. Most of us (I and most of the people I know anyway) go about life hoping that the end of it, we wouldn't end up in hell, and the other place to be would be, Heaven, of course. And that's it. Perhaps there's something wrong with me; I felt that my embrace of Christianity hadn't permeated strongly enough to see "the other side". There was something missing. Something was revealed to me today.

The saints wanted Heaven. The saints wanted God. GK Chesterton, in his short biography of St Thomas Aquinas wrote that St Thomas reportedly said "Thee" when God, in his vision, asked what he wanted (as a reward for his devotion). And so it was in other saints' lives too: they wanted God actively, and not because having Him is a consequence of not ending up in hell. St Therese of Lisieux was supposedly wishing her parents death so that they may go to heaven!

And today at the Mass for All Souls, Fr JJ's homily about the "faithful departed" as actually the "faithful returned (to God's house)", brought home this theme forcefully. I shed tears and said prayers for the living instead. I had understood (before) that life on earth is but a speck in our life's continuum, and that our true patria is Heaven itself. Yet how much time I have wasted agonizing over life's uncertainties, living as if "this (life) is it", and treating Heaven as if it were a luxurious retirement home—admission is difficult—with the catch that I pretend I'd never have to retire until time really bring me to that day of reckoning!

This attitude that denies the finite-ness of our lives was my downfall. It made for a lukewarm faith; one that settles for a minimalist dogma and very little thinking, because all around me things scream that God doesn't matter; faith is irrelevant and is not meant to be imposed on anyone but yourself. This week, it is going to change.

While I'm at this post, I'd also like to point out that this blog isn't going to get updated that often; I've discovered silence is beneficial more often than speech :)

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Bahasa Ibu (Mother tongue)

Last CHOICE weekend, I had to make a decision about whether to read my sharing in English, or in Bahasa Indonesia. I have 2 sessions' sharing all written in English, and to my horror, I could not translate them into Bahasa!

So, I thought, why not start writing in Bahasa? Since none of my blog readers seem to be from Indonesia, I can get away with little mistakes here and there ;) Disclaimer: my command of Bahasa Indonesia, I realize, tends to veer towards the dramatic, so for those who understand, forgive a little drama!

A little reflection from last CHOICE weekend:

Bahagia sekali rasanya mendengar bahasa ibu digunakan lebih dari beberapa menit, berturut2 selama dua hari lebih! Ada satu perasaan aneh, tetapi perasaan senang dan terharu lebih mendominasi. Mungkin tema weekend-nya juga membantu, lagian kan CHOICE bertujuan membantu pemuda-pemudi membuat pilihan hidup yang benar; jadi banyak session yang membuat kita semua sedih, karena mengingatkan kita akan dosa2 dan kelalaian diri kita sendiri.

Apalagi mendengarkan sharing2 dari Team Choice Indonesia dalam bahasa ibu sendiri! Sangat menyentuh sanubari (That's another word I didn't know exist, and have never used before until it pops up just so suddenly!). Yang unik adalah, aku baru menyadari kalau aku dapat mendengar kedua-dua bahasa, Indonesia dan Inggris secara langsung, tanpa 'menerjemahkan' di kepala! Lega rasanya menyadari hal ini, karena menulis/menerjemahkan Inggris ke Indonesia (dan sebaliknya) agak susah bagiku, tapi masih untung ada sebuah skill yang ternyata tidak hilang!

Tetapi ada sesuatu yang disayangkan: aku sadar kalau aku tidak bisa berdoa dalam bahasa Indonesia... sedih memang, karena sebelum aku benar2 tahu dan mengerti siapa itu Tuhan Allah, aku sudah diajari memuji nama-Nya melalui doa2 seperti Bapa Kami, Salam Maria, Kemuliaan. Secara simbolis, aku rasa, perbedaan berdoa doa2 lazim dan doa2 spontan, melambangkan 2 "era" dalam imanku: semasa aku kecil, imanku adalah iman anak kecil, dan ketika aku bertambah besar, imanku pun dibina, tetapi menggunakan medium bahasa Inggris.

Terima kasih Bapa, Engkau telah mengingatkan aku tentang kebahagiaan masa kecil-ku, seperti kita semua pun mempunyai kerinduan untuk dipersatukan kembali dengan Engkau, pencipta diri kami, di dalam surga satu hari nanti.

Nah, sekarang saatnya aku belajar bahasa lain, biar aku bisa memandang wajah-Mu dari segala penjuru!

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

20 reasons why I thank Thee

Just one of those days when I feel especially grateful!

  1. For the gift of my parents: You chose two wonderful people to be my parents and we have journeyed and grown together
  2. For the gift of my sisters: Without whom I would most likely forget what warmth is, without whom I would still live in darkness
  3. For enrolling me in a convent school: You taught me to say Your name, to pray to You, before I know who You are
  4. For the gift of faith when I was as a child: You made me see You through the eyes of faith before I could grow old enough to question whether You exist
  5. For the gift of intellect: You gave me intellect so that through my faith, I may strive to know You more
  6. For the gift of curiosity: You drew me to Yourself through the wonders of Your creation
  7. For the gift of languages: You gave me aptitude to learn many languages so that I may know You through many expressions
  8. For calling me to Singapore: So many things You have made me experience, taste, see and learn from this country
  9. For keeping me safe in Singapore: So many have come and felt only disappointment, but You have seen me through the worst of times
  10. For the gift of Auntie Dolly: You gave me to her and her to me when we need each other the most. I love her, You know that
  11. For the gift of optimism: I was a born optimist because You gave it to me to keep up my hopes
  12. For the gift of focus: You gave me focus so that I could keep my eyes always trained onto You
  13. For the gift of friends: Although I have not been a good friend to many, You gave them to me and I to them so that we keep each other company when we need friendship the most
  14. For the gift of courage: You gave me courage so I can embark on an adventure, a lifelong journey to return to You
  15. For the gift of your forgiveness: You forgave me first, and I learned how to forgive others
  16. For the gift of Eucharist: Need I say more?
  17. For the gift of John Paul II the Great: Through his writings, You revealed Yourself to me
  18. For the Internet: I have lost myself in the Web, and You reached out to me through the Web
  19. For the gift of CHOICE: I was lost and despaired, but through CHOICE, You found me
  20. For Your beautiful plan for me: You have made me live my life thus far, and brought me far away from my family, yet You have a beautiful plan from me!

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Baby step

I just came back from my first CHOICE weekend as a brand new presenter. It was for an audience of all-Indonesian students, and I was just happy and so blessed to be there.

It marks the first time ever I'm getting involved in a ministry, and this too, after the WYD!

Pathos vs. Logos:

We had an interesting discussion after the weekend programme is over. We agreed it was a very special weekend; it had a different feel, different responses. The question is, was it because: (1) the presenters were mostly a team of seasoned Indonesian veterans, OR (2) the presenters were speaking in the mother tongue of the participants (therefore 'reaching deep')?, OR (3) the participants were young Indonesian students/new graduates who were away from family and especially vulnerable, therefore more susceptible to the values that CHOICE was trying to impart?

We had this discussion because it is increasingly harder to get through more jaded, older participants that a typical local weekend has. The values of the world are different from that of the Church, and it's getting more difficult to share the Christian values of relationship and belonging to a youth population with minds which are increasingly cynical.

More on this later..

Friday, September 09, 2005

LATEST!! After Cologne 2005

"And they departed to their own country by another way" (Mt 2:12)

I've been thinking about this message after the WYD in Koln. While the experience has been so overwhelming, more than I've ever hoped it to be, it's a bit like Confirmation—the Holy Spirit doesn't light up in tongues above my head!

At the same time, I've been thinking about my present 'vocation', that is mostly getting busy with all sort of programming & designing for my startup's premiere product, XShare. While computer science is definitely more than a study of computers (just like astronomy is more than a study of telescopes), I'd say its place is more appropriately 'supporting' of other domain knowledge/sciences.

So, combining the two, a moment of inspiration came, and After Cologne is born! Basically, the idea is like Friendster for those who were there for the WYD '05. I've written in that blog, what are my hopes and objectives for this project.

If there's anyone out there reading this who's interested to participate in this project (sociologists, theologians, catechism teachers, web programmer, graphic designer?), do email me at antonia AT, and if you know anyone who went to Germany to attend WYD this year, ask them to watch out for After Cologne, a portal coming up soon!

Predominant Faults

"Predominant Faults"--from Fr. Jim Tucker at Dappled Things. Read the rest here! Just the reassurance I needed to hear ;)

I hear a lot of confessions. People will frequently mention their frustration that they find themselves confessing the same things over and over. "I've been working on and praying for patience for 20 years, and I still am an impatient person. What a failure I am in the spiritual life!" There is a certain discouragement, and sometimes a certain surprise, that we commit the same sins over and over again.

This shouldn't be surprising at all. In fact, this is one of the general patterns of moral life in a fallen race. It has to do with what is called one's predominant fault.
How long will we have to put up with the combination of temptations that fall along our crack lines? Basically, until death. Success in the ascetical aspects of the moral life does not bring freedom from temptations (although it will generally lessen their strength), it enables us to withstand the temptations more surely. The temptations will all be removed once the cracks are perfectly healed, in the resurrection of the just.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Which Saint are you?


You are Augustine! You are a great thinker, but be careful not to let your past immoderation freak you out about good times. It's really ok to take some pleasure in material things.

Which Saint Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

WYD Debriefing

From NCR's "Word from Rome" by John Allen Jr.

Some excerpts:

I had the opportunity recently to join a group of Canadians in Rome following World Youth Day. The Canadians, part of a group called "Catholic Christian Outreach Canada," were led by Basilian Fr. Thomas Rosica, who was the main organizer for World Youth Day in Toronto in 2002.

Bishop Renato Boccardo and I had been invited for a "debriefing" from Cologne with the group.

Boccardo has a long history with World Youth Day. When he worked in the Pontifical Council for Laity, he was in charge of WYD preparations. When he took over from Jesuit Cardinal Roberto Tucci as the pope's travel planner, he played a key role in the Toronto and Cologne events.


In his remarks to the Canadians, Boccardo described the heart of Pope John Paul II's vision for World Youth Day in three concepts.

Kerygma: The first purpose of the event, Boccardo said, is to come together to hear the gospel, and to reflect on what it means in one's life and circumstances. This is not just a matter of the pope's homilies, but also of the catechetical sessions that are carried out during the week.

Experience of the Church: What World Youth Day does for many Catholic youth, Boccardo said, is open them up to the breadth of what it means to be Catholic, exposing many for the first time to the reality of a global church. Among other things, Boccardo noted, this should make youth aware that their way of doing things is not the only one, and that their movements are not the only options for authentic Catholic living.

Mission: The point of World Youth Day, Boccardo stressed, is not merely to have a great experience of togetherness for a week. It's to energize people to go home and make a difference, bringing new energy to their local churches, youth groups, and other areas of their lives.

On this last point, I told the youth that World Youth Day has become the premier event for the Catholic church on the global stage, which means that it garners the attention of the world press. The question, however, that my colleagues always ask is, "What difference does it make?" Granted that hundreds of thousands of Catholic youth exhibit great passion over a week, does it change anything in the long run? Are these youth more likely to go to Mass? Do vocations to the priesthood and religious life go up? Is there evidence that these events have put a dent in runaway secularization?

These are legitimate questions, and unfortunately they're hard to answer in any quantitative fashion. To date, no one has carried out serious longitudinal studies about the impact of World Youth Day, interviewing participants before and after, following up six months later, two years later, etc., to get a handle on what happens to people who take part. It's a challenge to which one hopes a Catholic university or research body will respond.

In the meantime, I told the Canadian youth that it would be helpful if they went home and talked about what difference the experience made in their lives -- not just to reporters, but in their schools, in their workplaces, among their friends and family. Images of delirious youth greeting the pope along the banks of the Rhine will be greeted in some circles with skepticism until the church can establish that the effect "sticks."

(Emphasis mine: I'm going to do something about this! Watch out this space for the next announcement!)

WYD is an extraordinary event; an event which might just be an extraordinary memory for those who were there, if we don't bring to our homes and communities, the light of Christ!

Friday, September 02, 2005

Yet another divine intervention...

Today I was rushing out from the office to attend evening Mass; today being first Friday, and I was cross that I was going to be late again! My guardian angel had another plan though, and I arrived early instead, for there was a devotion to the Sacred Heart at 18:45, Evening Prayers at 19:15, and Mass only started at 19:30!

I'm sure some who read this wondered just how I could be so ill-informed about the mass times! The Church of the Holy Cross isn't my parish—it's the closest to the office, and I haven't been there since the last First Friday... but I digressed.

Whenever I find myself impatient waiting for some Thing that just doesn't arrive, the words of that visiting priest at St. Joseph's came back to me: "My time is Yours."

In Katrina's wake

As we start 9-day Novena to prepare for the Feast of the Holy Cross in the parish of the Church of the Holy Cross, we remember to pray for our brothers and sisters who are affected by the storm Katrina.

And to donate, (link via the Angry Twins):

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

La Esperantinis

A group photo of my volunteer team, after the mass at Marienfeld: 7 people, 6 nationalities, 8 languages! (And we speak Esperanto, hence Esperantinis!)

More reflection from Weltjugendtag 2005

I still find myself thinking back to the days of the WYD in Köln, and why it has been simply amazing despite the fact that most of the time I spent there was spent working, away from the Catechesis sessions, away from the Spiritual programmes. To my regret, I did not even go for a single reconciliation!

After some thoughts, I realized a few things in particular struck me deeply:

- Visible display of faith
When I departed for Köln, I had no idea what kind of event is the World Youth Day going to be. It exceeded all expectation, and I was moved to witness so many young people responding en masse to our new Papa Benedict XVI's exhortations. He is not Papa JPII, his speeches are entirely of different style, but he proclaims the Truth, and that is what young people want to hear. It is heartening to see and hear this hunger for Truth, this visible affirmation of faith from the young pilgrims, despite what the rest of the World says.

- Young Church
One of my team members come from a small German village where there is Mass only every two Sundays because of priest shortage. While this is generally still a malady, I was so happy to see so many young priests and seminarians from all over the world attending the WJT. (In fact +9,000 priests turned up, more than twice the number expected, and most of those I encountered are pretty young!) The springtime of the Church is before us!

- Meeting of other wayfarers
Although deep within my soul's subconscious, I know to trust God for "We come from God, we depend on God, God has a plan for us-- a plan for our lives, for our bodies, for our souls, for our future." (Pope John Paul II), I am made of weak flesh and blood. Often the worldly uncertainty in my own journey made me feel even more solitary. Meeting other 'wayfarers' during WJT reaffirmed that while it is not an easy journey, each of us is never alone.

Well, that's it for today's WJT reflection! I am currently reading a small book containing quotes of Papa JPII—"In my own words". In there I find two insightful quotes (amongst many!), that are particularly applicable:

"Everyone has a vocation: parents, teachers, students, workers, professional people, people who are retired. Everyone has something to do for God." ('95 Homily at Giants Stadium)
"The search and discovery of God's will for you is a deep and fascinating endeavor. It requires of you the attitude of trust expressed in the words of the Psalm... 'you will show me the path to life, fullness of joy in your presence, the delights at your right hand forever' (16:11). Every vocation, every path to which Christ calls us, ultimately leads to fulfilment and happiness, because it leads to God, to sharing in God's own life."

and then in EWTN's page of daily Mass readings, I found this quote:

The devil will try to upset you by accusing you of being unworthy of the blessings that you have received. Simply remain cheerful and do your best to ignore the devil’s nagging. If need be even laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Satan, the epitome of sin itself, accuses you of unworthiness! When the devil reminds you of your past, remind him of his future!
-- St. Theresa of Avila

Sunday, August 28, 2005

"Did you see the Pope there?"

"Yes! Three times on Thursday, and once at the Marienfeld!"

When the Pope cruised up and down the Rhein, there was a mass of pilgrims (and volunteers!) on both side of the Rhein hoping to catch a glimpse of him and to hear his welcome address. There were so many people there that I had no time to take out my camera; I'm sure my team members did take some picture of him! The first time I saw him, some of us were trying to climb onto trees, and I was hoisted up by a friend in my team! He was a white spot waving from on top of the boat.

The second time was when his boat turned around, and he was much much closer to the river bank that I could see his eyes twinkling ;)

The third time was quite a miracle. Our team split up, half was waiting on top of a Polizei van to catch a glimpse of the Pope traveling around in Koln to the Dom, while I went off with the other group to reach the volunteer center. Well the streets around the Dom were packed, and we were jostled, rather than walked, because it was impossible to cross the road. A few minutes later, there was a cheer and the Pope in his Popemobile crawled past us, not three metres away! *Snap, Snap* Again I was staring at him, and didn't have time to take out my camera (but my friends did have a good shot of him!)

At the Marienfeld, I saw him from afar, traveling in Popemobile to the hill of the altar. But so did one million other people!

"What do you think of the Pope?"

This is an interesting question that our team leader asked all of us the first day we met. What do they mean by that question anyway?? Of course we love the Pope! I don't know what kind of person the Pope is, but I love him for being the Pope. From his writings you get a glimpse of the kind of character and style he has, from his sermons and addresses you get to know about his concerns and his thoughts! I have never met nor seen the late Pope JPII, but Papst Benedikt XVI is his own person, and a great teacher too, even from what little I've heard from him!


Above are two pictures of the two Popes at the Domforum, at the Domplatz, behind the Dom itself. Here at night, often there was a Polish crowd (and all sorts of other nationalities!), alternating between "Giovanni Paolo" and "Benedetto".

Since most of my time in WYD was spent working and traveling between Koln and Dusseldorf, I heard only parts of the sermons in English, and read the transcript afterwards. Despite this 'delayed' experience, its effect on me is no less profound. I'll write more on the spiritual aspect of the trip later...

Friday, August 26, 2005

Some recollection from WJT2005

I haven't been able to stop thinking about Koln and Weltjugendtag since I came back... there's just so much to remember and write out that I don't know where to start!

I'll just write what I remember most then...
Seven masses in 11 days!

This has got to be an all-time high record for me. I arrived in Frankfurt at 5:40am, and in Koln at 8am. The volunteer check-in started at 10am, and I met a volunteer who helped me with my luggage and walked me to the check-in. They started each day with a mass, I was told, and the first thing that happened to me in Koln, was mass! It was an amazing mass, because for the first time, it had parts which weren't spoken in English or Latin, and the hymns sung (Abba Ojcze, one of them) were in Polish!

The rest of the day I was well, rather lost, because arriving at the volunteer accomodation (a Gesamtschule), there was no one to be found. I found two 'lost angels'—German volunteers who helped me find the deserted accomodation on their way to their own accomodation (Fuhlinger See). Tired after having walked for nearly two hours with my luggage, I waited in the deserted accomodation until the rain ceased, at which point somebody came out of the school building and kindly let me and two other volunteers keep our luggage in the school compound. I went back to Koln shortly after, because I hadn't had anything to eat since 3am airline breakfast :p At the volunteer center I was told there was no more food for the day, and decided to show two sisters from Mexico, the way to Koln Messe-Deutz, the volunteer check-in. It was by now was brimming with volunteers, most of whom queued for about 2-3hours.

While waiting for the Mexican sisters, someone approached me speaking in Chinese ;) Good thing I remember a little Mandarin, because it turned out to be Elliot of the blog FideCogitActio! Although I have emailed a few bloggers that I'd be going to WJT, I'm not expecting to meet any of them given that nearly a million turned up! Anyhow, Elliot was looking to gather a group of six to collect food, and I was desperately hungry by this time!

I made my way back to the Gesamtschule, and finally met my team members for the first time. It was good to see a group whom I can "belong to". I'm almost embarrassed to say I felt totally forsaken that day, it being the first time I stepped my feet in Europe! The school had only communal shower *_* (needless to say, I became less and less shy with the summer heat!)

Volunteer opening mass

The volunteer opening mass was held on Sunday the 15th at Bayer Arena, Leverkusen. It was great (again it was in German), with a few songs in other languages. To my horror, the choir sang "I don't know how to love you" from Jesus Christ superstar! My jaw nearly dropped open, but no one else next to me seemed to realize the inappropriate-ness of singing this song... ah well..

Also, that mass was where I heard for the first time the WJT theme song Venimus Adorare Eum, and it's still playing in my head now ;)

This has been a long post! A few observations:

  • German language is intuitive, and it was not at all difficult to pick up! I wish I had taken some effort to learn it before Koln; then I'd be able to understand most of the masses, and to communicate even better with all the volunteers and buses I've had to direct ;)
  • The organization was chaotic. Most of the days, our itinerary was centered around getting food :-( But it's been fun!

I'll write more when I'm less excited, and maybe post a few pictures on the places I managed to visit (despite the fact that my working station is backstage in Burgplatz, Dusseldorf!)

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Back from WYD2005

I left Koln on Monday night, arrived in Singapore on Tuesday night, back to work on Wednesday morning, and I've been feeling sleepy ever since!

It was wonderful, wonderful, really wunderbar! There's so much to write and share, but now I'm too sleepy :) I miss everyone of my volunteer team. We'll meet again soon!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

5 days more to Cologne

As the month of August begins, I realized that there are less than 5 days left before I depart for Cologne for WYD! These last few weeks of getting a visa and transport funding have put me on a roller-coaster journey; afraid of getting my hopes up, and mindful always to pray that His will be done.

Yet after all the worldly buzz that plagued my preparation, I finally get down to reading materials for the WYD; its history, its purpose and most importantly, why I'm going there.

I don't think I'll be writing from Cologne, though I might post a picture or two ;)

August 12th: Frankfurt to Cologne
August 11th-22nd: Cologne (I'm not sure where I'll be, since I have volunteer duties everyday. I hope to visit all 12 Romanesque churches in Cologne, and the Dom, of course!)
August 22nd night: Cologne to Frankfurt, and then back to Singapore

Well, those of you who are going, I hope we can somehow see each other there ;) If not, have a safe trip and may you find Him who invited you :D

Friday, August 05, 2005

How I ended up attending my first Holy Hour

I have always lamented the failure of Singapore's public transport to turn up when I most need them. And so, this afternoon, while trying desperately to catch First Friday mass and fulfiling my need to dutifully accompany my younger sister to go North of the border, I (silently) cursed the ever undependable public transport.

I wanted to attend 5:30pm mass at one of the 4 churches in town, all within "smokin' distance" of each other. Having arrived 15 minutes too late, I went to the next parish—St Joseph, and was happy to see that mass was for 6pm. Little did I know that this parish celebrates its Holy Hour every first Friday, and as soon as I got over the reluctance of having to sit through one whole holy hour (a pleasant surprise and a timely reminder that I should spend more time with Him), I broke into a wide grin :D

Eucharistic adoration was fantastic, especially so because there was sufficient time to sit down in quiet to prepare myself before it started. The following mass was said by a foreign priest—Filipino—as I found out later through his sermon, and boy, it was beautiful!

The pagan part of me was seething at being 'conned' into sitting for Holy Hour and Mass with a long homily, but the better part thanked the saints (whose statues were looking down upon the congregation) and the angles who must have intervened to delay the accursed public bus!

Fr. "Sam", the Filipino priest, talked about the preceding day's reading on the people of Israel tempting God in the desert, and a lot more about his personal conversations with our Lady. In earlier posts, I have written about how God is the one on whom we should put utmost trust in, and yet there are occasions when letting go is the last thing I'd intuitively do. Fr. "Sam" said, that when we do not trust in Him, we are putting Him to the test, because not trusting Him, we're not fully believing that He Can, and that's putting Him to the test. And finally, he sung the most beautiful prayer over consecrating of the bread and wine!

This has been a long post, and my thoughts aren't exactly coherent, yet I'd say that this minor incident is another Major illumination for me and it explained a lot of loose ends. And may it be the first of many Holy Hours to come :)

Thursday, August 04, 2005

(Wo)Man of little faith

Yesterday I went for prayer meeting and the gospel reading is this upcoming Sunday's: where Jesus walked on water, and St. Peter too, before his faith wavered. It was uncannily close to the story of my own journey of faith.

I just finished reading a short version of St Augustine's Confessions, and his and St Peter's words echoed back as I remember that I often think how meaningless and mundane people's lives are (especially those in developed countries), and how we get frustrated hearing about starving children in Africa but not doing anything about poverty in the world.

Like St Augustine, I sometimes said in my prayer, "Grant me <this> God, but not yet." The distraction would often be my current work and little start-up. Sometimes some big events happened, which would inspire me to ponder a bit further about Meaning, and then I'd remember the words of St John of the Cross, who said that through suffering we climb up the 'ladder' (the cross) into Heaven. Against wise advice of "pray that we may not be put to the test", secretly I wonder what harm could a little test be, if at the end of it, we find our true strength in Him?

Then jolly St Peter came into the foray, with his request that Jesus beckon him, only to falter and cry out "Save me, Lord!". How can one not identify with St Peter? Again and again, I remember wanting to commit myself to work in the field of the Lord, only to buckle under worldly demands and then having to say, "Sorry Lord, I can't take this, save me!"

"You man of little faith! Why did you doubt?" My first reaction to that would be to say I am no longer doubting. For many years prior to my baptism, I used to pray nightly to "Whoever is up there" for Him to reveal Himself. After baptism, I no longer doubt who He is. But there is a deeper dimension I am seeking.

"But who do you say that I am?" This is what I am trying to figure out now. Who is He in my life? What role do I see Him as? What do I want to see Him as, at the end of this life?

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Serious vulnerability in Cisco router!


A bug discovered in an operating system that runs the majority of the world's computer networks would, if exploited, allow an attacker to bring down the nation's critical infrastructure, a computer security researcher said Wednesday against threat of a lawsuit.

Michael Lynn, a former research analyst with Internet Security Solutions, quit his job at ISS Tuesday morning before disclosing the flaw at Black Hat Briefings, a conference for computer security professionals held annually here.

Read full article here

Finding a Treasure

Last Sunday's Gospel reading about a man finding treasures in a field made me reflect on a lot of things that have happened in my life. Reflection, I often tell myself, is a privilege of those who seem lacking in purpose in life, or those who have chosen contemplation as their vocation. Well, it doesn't have to be either, and life unreflected, I find, is like eating food that as no sweet juice left.

In early 2003, I discovered the world of blogging, and after scoffing at "rants of sweet young things", my resistance to blogging broke down and I started this very blog. What I didn't count on happening, is finding this whole community of Catholic bloggers, from whom I learned so many things about the Church's teaching and about living Christian life, that I otherwise wouldn't have picked up.

As this blog approached its 2nd anniversary, I'm reflecting upon finding treasures in the mother Church. For through the blogosphere, I found that treasure. There are many doctrines, many books and saints that I have since come to love, many habits, many devotions that I would never have encountered through Sunday mass attendance alone. Thare are many heretical beliefs—mostly Manichean—that I had unknowingly embraced, whose errors the Catholic community has shed light on.

That treasure is still there, like a gem shining beneath the soil. Yet I am ashamed to say that sometimes I take it for granted that since the treasure has been found, it is not going anywhere, hence the lack of urgency on my part to give up everything and buy the land of treasure. Recently, things in my life have sprung up — each demanding urgent attention. I only hope that it will not be too late: as St Augustine wrote in his Confessions, "'Let it be now, let it be now!', and merely by saying this I was on the point of making it, but I did not succeed." He was also the one who wrote: "How long, shall I go on saying 'tomorrow, tomorrow'? Why not make an end of my ugly sins at this moment?"

All it takes, St Augustine wrote, was an act of will. There is a quote that gave me comfort, of which I remind myself everyday; St Augustine quoted a friend, Ponticianus, whom he met just before his conversion: "[If] I wish, I could become the friend of God at this very moment."

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

A taste of home...

.. or what's left of it :-P

My mama and sister #2 came to visit the whole of last week. Sister #2 is still here, and she's craving for... durians!

So, my first yummy durians in a year, or what's left of it:

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Solar-powered sail spacecraft

Thinking about sail in space brings to mind the image of the ship from that sci-fi modern remake cartoon of RL Stevenson's Treasure Island. Can't wait for this to happen, hopefully in my lifetime :)

Two articles from Wired:
Launching solar-powered sail

Solar sail Lost in space?

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Praying for a Patron Saint

In some Catholic blogs I visited, there is a nearly daily discourse on the saints (whether saint of the day, or of the occasion). Last Monday (June 13th) was the feast day of St. Anthony of Padua. Lots of bloggers wrote a post in his honor. When I think about St. Anthony, my namesake, sometimes I wonder whether he is my patron saint, or another St. Anthony, or another saint.

When I was baptized, I had no idea what name to choose. The priest just told each of my family members (we were baptized as a family) to pick up a Christian name, and I chose Antonia after St. Anthony (I can't remember why exactly). I still did not know enough about the Catholic faith by the time I got confirmed. A few years ago, through Enbrethiliel, I found out that there is such a thing as patron saint, and that there is such thing as a patron saint received during Communion! (Such was the depth of my ignorance!) Like her, I don't recall when I was confirmed, much less when I was baptized. No family member was present to take photographs.

Anyway, I've decided to search for my patron saint. This time I said "search" and not "choose", again taking inspiration from Enbrethiliel, who wrote:

So much is made of choosing the right patron saint for oneself, but hardly anyone stops to think that patron saints can do some choosing of their own. It's almost as if we see the Communion of Saints as completely indifferent to the Church Militant until they are asked to intercede--or completely powerless until they are invoked below.

I have a few 'favorite' saints, but I'm not sure whether they're also 'patron saints.' After all, I like too few of them because there are too few of them whose stories of life I know beyond popular facts (and whose virtues in my vanity I might compare myself to... *bow head*), and aren't patron saints to be prayed to for their constant intercessions and auspices? A very POD blogger whose blog I chanced upon a long long time ago, wrote a short prayer to his patron saint in his very first post, asking that writing a blog may profit the soul of his and others :) Perhaps I have come to this time in my life where one realizes the need to rely more and more on prayers and less on one's own folly.

Searching "finding patron saint" in Google turn up a few advice; sound ones include lots of prayer and reflecting on which saint has what kind of virtues one likes to mirror, what kind of struggles in life that the saint could help with and so on. Perhaps the problem is lack of time (or more precisely, discipline) on my part to reflect on these issues. I hope that nearly ten years after my confirmation, I can still find my confirmation patron saint. I'm going to pray, that my patron saint(s) would choose me and promptly let me know who s/he is (or who they are!) and pray for me!

(If anyone has a similar story/advice to tell, do write me!)

Sunday, June 19, 2005

In the field of the Lord

The readings from the 12th Ordinary and last week's 11th Ordinary Sunday constitutes a special call for me, in particular because of the circumstances I find myself in. Last week, Jesus called his twelve disciples and sent them to reap the plentiful harvest. Fr. Adrian Yeo, who led in the prayer meeting reflection some two weeks back said that this passage gave great testimony to Jesus' universal call to all men and women. For the apostles were but simple men, sinners and even he who would betray Jesus. All are called to follow Him.

Often the thought of our unworthiness came up as an excuse not to serve. I, for one, am thoroughly familiar with passing on opportunities to serve in the Church because of 'lack of catechization' (my favorite escape), and 'lack of time & commitment to a particular place' (having moved to many places & parishes over the years). It betrays a deep fear of failure, and a less than trusting nature on God's providence. For no one will ever be "worthy" to gaze at God's face if not for the grace of Christ His son. Often I might think that a few more years of 'experience' would make me more suitable to serve, yet this short 'growing-up' while has proven otherwise, for I am now busier and no more wiser to serve than before. If anything, it might make me (mistakenly) believe that I can rely on my own strength rather than ask for His guidance.

So last Sunday's Gospel called out more strongly, this time Jesus said (three times!) "Do not be afraid!" Yes, what is there to be afraid of when God is there for us?

"I burn with zeal for Thy House" (Psalm 69:9)
This inscription is engraved onto a memorial plaque for a caretaker of the Cathedral of Good Shepherd. I see it each time I walk down the aisle, and sometimes I wonder what would it take to find and cultivate that kind of love that translates into fruitful service. The example of the late Pope JPII came to mind, and more recently, from a homily given by Fr. Frans De Ridder, of a Chinese seminarian he taught in Heilongjiang, who told him that he wants to experience how Christ lived in his earthly body.

"Do not be afraid."
Again, Jesus' voice echoed. Fr. De Ridder said that we have better things to do than to sin. Many, much better things, to do in the field of the Lord. I hear my name being called, not a shout above the din, but a persistent whisper and tugging: the CHOICE ministry has called again for renewal of zeal. Last year I failed to heed a call to be a RCIA sponsor, this year I am going to commit myself to this ministry as a humbler person, always remembering I am nothing without Him and that His will may be done through me.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

On the Languor of Youth

Some weeks ago, I wrote I was in the midst of reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, and in particular, quoted his memorable phrase "The Languor of Youth". I have since finished reading the book once, and I don't know what to feel about it. On one side, I am happy for the Flytes, that having gone through their life trials, they find solace in the Church again. On another side, Waugh painted a very bleak picture of pre- and post-WWII England.

I was browsing the old posts of Enbrethiliel's blog, and found a post on how the infamous gay-icon poster-child literary-genius Oscar Wilde was Catholic. No, I'm not trying to claim any famous persona for the Church; rather I was inspired reading a story of his lifelong relationship with the Church. Death-bed conversions have long fascinated and touched me, God literally snatched them from the jaws of hell! As I read the account of Wilde's last days, I could imagine the desperation and the depth of remorse from one who had wasted an entire lifetime not being in communion.

When my grandmother came to visit me for two weeks, slowed down by high blood pressure, high blood triglycerine, and once fractured hip, I observed how much her life has changed. I began to look at my own life, sometimes moments wasted in languor, taking for granted that tomorrow will come, and tomorrow my task will get done. When youth is gone, to see the sun rising tomorrow is no longer a guarantee. Each task carries an urgency that had nothing to do with its own nature, but an urgency that is borne out of perceived limited time one has to carry it out. Isn't our life too short to be wasted in youthful languor?

Tomorrow is a brand new day, and working in the field of the Lord, there is not a moment to lose!

"Hashing exploit threatens digital security"

From New Scientist: Hashing exploit threatens digital security

The affected algorithms potentially are MD-5 and SHA-1. This'd up the ante for the game of patch-and-hack... which reminds me of the rootkit episode!

When I wrote last week about getting rootkit-ed, I didn't mention that it was md5sum that helped me detect the changes made to the sshd binary. The attacker left a backdoor (/etc/; creates a /tmp/ that returns 0 when login/ssh daemon tries to look up a user's UID. It was admittedly, not a very deep attack (it was not even a Loadable Module Kernel-style attack), and the attacker did not even attempt to erase his footprint.

(More description can be found here)

Yet, it is a disturbing discovery that requires yet more vigilance on the defender's part. That's one tool less to fight attackers out there.

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Catholic Art: in tribute to the gift of the senses

From Fr. Jim Tucker's blog, there are 2 links to websites that host Catholic Line Art images. Simple and yet beautiful:

Two weeks ago, in a garage sale, I found a book titled "Evangelical is Not Enough" by Thomas Howard. Although I find that the book does not so much reflect on his reasoning process than describe the actual journey itself. (I found myself flipping back to the beginning of some chapters to see where and when the author had crossed the Tiber). In any case, I share his general view on the Form and Fabric of worship, or worshipful acts. Howard started describing Church buildings thus:

"[The] structure is tall and slender and graceful, made of gray stone in the 'gothic' tradition. [It] spoke clearly, simply and eloquently of the gospel mysteries in all of its design and its furnishings. ... Although I myself had always loved the great cathedrals of Europe, as most tourists try to do, I looked on them as enormous monuments to understanding. ... Those people should have been building with gold, silver and previous stones in their hearts, not in their cities. It should have been their hearts, not the ribbed vaulting, rising to God."

Like most conversion stories, he discovered the other side of the story:

"What I had missed was that one does not cancel the other. Faith, at least as I had conceived of it, was so exclusively a matter of the inner man that it could not possibly be given a shape in the physical world except perhaps by acts of charity, although I greatly distrusted any talk of good works since that seemed somehow to controvert the doctrine of grace. All was to be unseen. Once more, my outlook was unwittingly Buddhist or Manichean. ... To anyone who was swept away by the great cathedrals I would have pointed out crisply that Jesus built no such edifices. In so doing, I would have ignored the overwhelming fact that while He built no such edifices, He spoke words of such power and glory that they burned into the hearts of men and kindled all the skill and creativeness that was in them. ... They roused and vivified us and set us free to do all of our work for the glory of God"

Well well, I'm rambling away... What I'm trying to say is, we're creatures of the flesh. When we worship God, inevitably we worship Him with our physical form, whether in singing or in joyful tears. When we receive Jesus, inevitably we receive Him on the tongue, and not just spiritually. Just as there is a visible element to our worship, so are we stimulated and invited to the Faith through a physical channel, one of which is in the form of Art.

Without its symbolic elements, many would not have found the path of the Faith that easily. Once again I must dig up some memory of my convent school days. The Sisters of Our Lady of Sacred Heart ran the school I attended, Bunda Hati Kudus (literally translated: Mother of the Sacred Heart). Although in terms of administration, there was a lot to be desired, they continually amazed me with their faithfulness in their commitment to teach Catholic values and practices. If it weren't for the statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, the prayers before and after school, and the weekly masses in the Church adjoining the school building, I'd have never "seen" the Faith.

And speaking of Catholic Art, There is an upcoming exhibition of Vatican Artifacts coming to Singapore soon, between June 18th til September 2005. Don't miss it if you're in town!

Friday, June 10, 2005

MS: $1 for pirated Windows?


Microsoft has reached a deal with the Indonesian government on pirated software - which is believed to affect around 50,000 government PCs. Under the deal, Indonesia will pay $1 per copy and agree to buy legally in the future. Indonesia's information minister, Sofyan Djalil, said, "Microsoft is being realistic. They can't force developing countries like us to solely use legal software since we can't afford it. They want us to gradually reduce our use of it."

In Indonesia, I grew up on IBM PC-AT, first with MS-DOS (pirated), and later on MS-Windows 3.1 (also pirated). <sarcastic-mode>I suppose I have them to thank </end-of-sarcastic-mode>

From what little I know about my friends and fellow CS graduates, Open Source is thriving in Indonesia! Amongst the techies or semi-techies, Linux is one of the fastest growing OS-es and Indonesia even had a few of its own Linux distributions!

Why is the government bowing to M$? And Mr. Djalil gave a ridiculous statement.. "They can't force us to use solely legal software since we can't afford it." What is this?! Last time I checked, stealing is still illegal even in Indonesia! Go use Open Source!

Monday, June 06, 2005


My machine has been rootkit-ed!

Spent the entire day fixing it.
2nd lesson this year: take care of your old user accounts! :-(

Friday, June 03, 2005

Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Give us a heart of flesh, and make it Thine!
God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

Monday, May 30, 2005

Corpus Christi

In this year of the Eucharist, on the feast day of Corpus Christi, I found myself reflecting once again on the Body and Blood of Christ. This subject never ceases to amaze me, so great a mystery, yet so central to our Christian faith.

I was enrolled at a convent school until the 7th grade. Catholic Religious Education was enforced strongly, and I marveled (and still do!) at the overflowing grace that has been given to my family—my sisters and I in particular—that beckons us to embrace the Catholic faith long after we left the school, despite the heavily theoretical catechical lessons and corrupt nepotist practices abound.

It is in a crowded classroom of forty, under the guidance of an eccentric religious education teacher, that I first was taught what the Eucharist is: that it is Christ's own body and blood visible to the mortal eyes as bread and wine. We learned the facts of the Catholic teachings by rote, often not understanding the meaning of this doctrine, frustrated at this teacher's peculiar answer, and finally, resigning to the fact that either we must think with two minds—one for faith and one for the world, or to the conclusion that this is a mystery that my huble mind cannot fathom. Many many years later, upon hindsight, it was an occasion of grace. It marked the beginning of cultivation of my eyes of faith.

Year after year, in my journey the meaning of Eucharist was revealed to me bit by bit, splendor by splendor. I recall listening to a homily some years back, about the Mother Church knowing what is best for her children—that despite not understanding how the Eucharist truly came to be—it is necessary to attend Mass. There was a time when I went to Mass out of obedience, trusting that the Eucharist, born out of a sheer act of total love, feeds us during our spiritual journey, and that without this supernatural nourishment we can never hope to reach home safely.

Eyes of faith led me to 'discover' adoration; only eyes of faith could assert that truly, contemplating the Eucharist is the closest we could get to contemplating His Face while still one earth. Eyes of faith led me to seek what it means to be in Communion with the Body of Christ: (and I quote St. Thomas Aquinas the Poet)

A sumente non concisus,
Non confractus, non divisus
Integer accipitur.
Sumit unus, sumunt mille;
Quantum isti, tantum ille:
Nec sumptus consumitur.

They too who of Him partake
Sever not, nor rend, nor break,
But entire their Lord receive.
Whether one or thousands eat,
All receive the selfsame meat,
Nor the less for others leave.
Lauda, Sion

The Eucharist led me to re-discover Sacrament of Penance:

Sorte tamen inaequali,
Vitae vel interitus.
Mors est malis, vita bonis:
Vide, paris sumptionis
Quam sit dispar exitus.

Both the wicked and the good
Eat of this celestial Food;
But with ends how opposite!
Here 'tis life; and there 'tis death;
The same, yet issuing to each
In a difference infinite.
Lauda, Sion

And finally, when everything has been said,

Credo quidquid dixit Dei Filius:
Nil hoc verbo Veritatis verius.
In cruce latebat sola Deitas,
At hic latet simul et humanitas;
Ambo tamen credens atque confitens,
Peto quod petivit latro paenitens.

What God's Son has told me, take for truth I do;
Truth himself speaks truly or there's nothing true.
On the cross thy godhead made no sign to men,
Here thy very manhood steals from human ken:
Both are my confession, both are my belief,
And I pray the prayer of the dying thief.
Adoro Te Devote

Deus, qui nobis sub Sacraménto mirábili passiónis tuae memóriam reliquísti:
tríbue, quaésumus, ita nos Córporis et Sánguinis tui sacra mystéria venerári,
ut redémptionis tuae fructum in nobis iúgiter sentiámus
Qui vivis et regnas cum Deo Patre, in unitáte Spíritus Sancti, Deus per ómnia saécula saeculórum. Amen.

O God, who in this wonderful sacrament hast left us a memorial of Thy passion, grant us, we beseech Thee, so to venerate the sacred mysteries of Thy Body and Blood, that we may ever perceive within us the fruit of Thy redemption. Who livest and reignest with God the Father, in the unity of the Holy Ghost. World without end.

Truly, it is the Source and the Summit of our life!

Thursday, May 26, 2005

BitKeeper is out..

BitKeeper is a 'source-code management tool'— a sort of industrial-strength CVS-like tool that is used in Linux OS development. The Linux developers have been using it for free, and BitKeeper's creator has decided to withdraw its support. Costs $500,000 to run every year!

He said: "Let me know when your rent and college tuition are free, when gas and groceries are free, and when your girlfriend decides that you having no money is a great idea. When all that is true I'll get on the bandwagon, too."

I'm a benefactor of Open Source movement, yet i can accept that not everything comes free. I understand Linus Torvald's objection to paying for BitKeeper though. An Open Source effort should not have to pay for its development tool!

Full article from Forbes

Monday, May 23, 2005

Books galore!

Last week has been a biblio-philic week for me, I read 5 books!
Right now I'm reading Evelyn Waugh's Brideshead Revisited, having encountered its mention in some blogs recently and finding it available at a local library.

I don't have anything to say about Brideshead yet, having made it only a third of it, but I did find something interesting in Chapter IV:

The languor of Youth — how unique and quintessential it is! How quickly, how irrecoverably, lost! The zest, the generous affections, the illusions, the despair, all the traditional attributes of Youth — all save this — come and go with use through life. These things are a part of life itself; but languor — the relaxation of yet unwearied sinews, the mind sequestered and self-regarding — that belongs to Youth alone and dies with it.

Speaking of languor, it reminds me of all the time I have sequestered reading those many books I read last week:
GK Chesterton's St Thomas Aquinas, Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander, Far Side of the World, and Reverse of the Medal, and Gayle Lynds' Masquerade.

Back to work!

World Youth Day, I'm coming!

Did I say i volunteered for WYD '05 in Cologne? They called me up! Yay, yay, yay!
I'm in the midst of preparing for it, although I am not sure what exactly I should prepare for. Lots of prayer, definitely.

If anyone is reading this, and can recommend any resources, please do drop a line or two.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

The future of personal computers? (Part 1)

In the past few days at the office, there has been a few computer-related troubles. So what's new, some may wonder? Well, considering we're a bunch of very techie geeks here, the frustration is more like that of a doctor knowing that his patient has a particularly troublesome ailment that he cannot do anything about. Like migraine. In one of the cases, it turns out that a hardware component is causing the computer to reboot repeatedly. In the other case, it's plain ole' Windoze problem. The second problem is more likely (and some say, more justified) to rant about, because there are numerous alternatives to toss around.

At home, I run a Linux distribution on a plain vanilla PC. No troubles so far. No complaints of it being slow, nor viruses nor trojans nor spywares napping at its heels. Our servers at the office run Linux too, naturally. It is the workstation PCs that are giving woes, and one of the interesting ideas that have come up, is to rely less on the buggy OS, and run mini-apps or utilities on top of a platform running on virtual-machine. I refer, in this case, to the Eclipse IDE.

IBM 'donated' the Eclipse project to the open source movement, making it essentially free for anyone to use, and most importantly, to develop applications/plug-ins for it. Such is the level of community involvement that Eclipse could be used, reasonably well, for development of nearly any project in nearly any language. Some people have recently come up with non-development plug-ins that made Eclipse look like, well, a virtual computer running on top of the native OS.

Imagine this scenario: a barebone PC, running a barebone kernel, very tight and efficient ship, and Eclipse is running on top. Everything a serious user could conceivably want to do, or need to do, could be supplied by Eclipse, and a web browser of course (which can be invoked from Eclipse too, or made into an Eclipse plugin). That and good access to Google and we're ready to rock!

Critics may rightly point out that such a system appeals mostly to techies who, if they know what's good for development, would most likely be running Linux anyway. This therefore, doesn't solve the problem for the masses who use Windoze.

It seems like technology will divide the users into niches, and I have some idea what the PC for the majority of the users would look like, 5-10 years later. To be continued...

Monday, May 16, 2005

Fear of God—beginning of Wisdom

Last Sunday was the Feast of Pentecost. For the first time in many years, thanks to Angry Twins, I found out about the Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts.

I am not one who is familiar with Novenas, not having grown up steeped in Catholic tradition, and everyday it never ceases to amaze me to learn how rich is the Catholic worship tradition. EWTN explains that this Novena to the Holy Spirit is the 'oldest of all novenas' since it was first made at the direction of Our Lord Himself when He sent His apostles back to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit on the first Pentecost. It is also still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. Encouraged by such devotion of two thousand years, I took up the nine-day prayers.

Looking at the 'table of content', I saw that the novena first begins with a prayer to the Spirit of Fear (of God), and ends with a prayer to the Spirit of Wisdom. Forgive my naivete, for this is the first time I learned of this novena, and I think it is very, very "POD" to start such devotion rooted in the fear of God, and leading all the way to Wisdom.

"Fear of God": Fear of God is truly the beginning of our road back to Heaven, for why are we endeavoring to avoid sin and grow to know, serve, and love God, if we are not afraid of Him? Afraid of displeasing Him? Him who is all Goodness?
"Piety": St. Francis de Sales wrote that devotion to God made the martyrs of age embrace pain and torture. Piety sweetens and perfects our affection in service to God.
"Fortitude": The spirit of fortitude strengthens in times of trials and gave us courage to continue carrying our crosses after our Lord.
"Knowledge": The spirit of knowledge reveals to us the Ultimate Knowledge—that is the Truth Himself, above all the vainglory pursuit of worldly knowledge.
"Understanding": Enlightenment by the spirit of understanding nourishes our faith as we grasp the meaning of the Truth revealed to us.
"Counsel": The gift of supernatural counsel, the compass of Truth, may you always guide me to do Thy will.
"Wisdom": The gift of gifts, the apple of King Solomon's eye, wisdom reveals the mystery of the divine, increases our knowledge and love, fills our heart with joy as we strive to be united eternally with the Holy Spirit in the love of the Father and the Son.

Veni, Sancte Spiritus, veni!

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Scientism masquerading as scientific thinking

An article I read off NewScientist magazine is titled "Pheromone attracts straight women and gay men."

To start with, I am weary of such pronouncements, and this one reeked of gay rights activism. Sure one can argue that the scientists are merely looking for proofs whether homosexuality is due to 'nature' or 'nurture'. The Catholic Church itself never claimed to know exhaustively what gives rise to this phenomenon of homosexuality, and consulted 'experts' (to disastrous result!) on its scientific nature. What is troubling is the use of the seeming pattern of 'nature'-oriented 'scientific' studies results to justify the promotion and endorsement of gay lifestyle.

Looking at the article itself, I am shocked to see that this pronouncement is made on the basis of observing 36 (yes, that's only thirty-six) people! 36 people, to represent 6+ billions of people on Earth. Perhaps the scientists have somehow defended their thesis in the actual journal publication Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, but the general tone of the article reflects a decline of true scientific attitude and a rise of scientism. (I hesitate to put a link to this word; for I believe the source to be biased, but you can see for yourself—third definition)

St. Thomas Aquinas, whose short hagiography by the ever-witty GK Chesterton I am currently reading (again!), is known for his scientific methods and philosophy. He did away with the heresy that a man may have two minds—one to believe and one to disbelieve: 'that Christianity is all nonsense when being naturalists and that Christianity is all true when we are being Christian.' In his time, such false thinking is quickly pointed out as heresy, while today we live in a world where scientism masquerades as scientific thinking.