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!