Friday, March 31, 2006

In Memoriam: Terri Schindler Schiavo

This year's March 31st marks the 1st anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death. She died of dehydration after being denied food and water for 13 days. Thirteen days! The cruelty surrounding her death circumstances was astonishing to the world: people have been known to fight for the right to humane death for prisoners on death row, and even animals.

Whether or not Terri was in a 'PVS' state, what she and her family went through was a cold wake-up call to respond to the growing voice that supports euthanasia, even involuntary euthanasia.

I don't know about my own country, but Singapore has Advanced Medical Directive that allows one to state that s/he should not be given "extraordinary life-sustaining treatment" in the event that one is incapable of making that decision (terminally ill or unconscious). I remember, many years ago—around '95-'96, our priest at the Cathedral spent months and months of homily to speak of this initiative.

I remember a story of a woman who was temporarily paralyzed and could not tell the nurses that she wanted to be fed (against a previously written directive) and not starved or neglected until death. When I look at this directive now, I wonder whether there are any directives that would protect my wish to be cared for (food & water & the rest) in the event that I become incapacitated?

I am sorry to hijack this thread about Terri; but I think everyone, even if incapacitated, has a role to play in their immediate family and in their circle of friends. The idea that fulfilment can be found only through fulfilment of self is distinctly self-centered. For what does our life mean if it is not to lived for others?

Cheers to Terri, who has lived her life to help her family fulfil theirs. May eternal light shine upon her, as we pray and act for the end of euthanasia.

Link: Terri's Fight

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Belated Annunciation reflection

How could I miss writing about the beautiful homily I heard for this year's Feast of Annunciation? (This only proved total absorption into my self-centredness!) As written in my previous post, I was in the midst of a Choice weekend this Annunciation.

Fr Frans gave the homily that morning. He didn't dwell much on the events of Annunciation itself (though it'd be good because there were non-Christians amongst us that day), but somehow carried across the message of how beautiful and profound is the mystery of Incarnation.

Like Jesus, who is a Word, the Word, made flesh, we too were once nothing but an idea in God's mind. But incarnate ('carne'—flesh) we became: something that Was Not became something that Was, something that could do so much for each other and to reflect the glory of its Creator.

Too often, my own postmodernist notion of existence understates the awe-inspiring depth of Creation. Too often, my own preoccupation with me, me, and me, has taken away the Mystery that before our thoughts were, we were; before our dreams were, we were, and before Jesus became incarnate, Mary said Yes to Him. And that being alive alone, rouses a sense of deep awe of a God who puts that life in us.

(Yeah I know I'm rambling; but who could help it, such is the mystery of Annunciation?)

Bioethics Forum 2006: Ethics at the beginning and at the end of life

The next Bioethics Forum on April 5th is going to discuss ethics of life from conception to death. Venue's at NUS Theatrette 2 (inside the Central Library). For more info, check out

Monday, March 27, 2006

Through the looking glass darkly

There are times when my journey to discern have brought me so low that I could only say "Help me, Jesus, I am stupid, blind and deaf; I know not what you are telling me." I'm not such a self-reflective person to realize I've spent too much time mulling over it. Rather, looking at my last few posts, one can say I have been very pre-occupied with this question. Very preoccupied, indeed.

Thus the last CHOICE weekend (March 24-26) in which I was part of the presenting team was a timely reminder from God to look at the situation around me. Vocation is one of the topics discussed in the weekend, and it has all to do with finding our role in any given circumstances. I met such wonderful people from all backgrounds and got to know a wonderful priest, a sister, another single presenter and two couples, and learned to listen to the 'now and here' promptings of the Spirit as I listened to participants' stories.

It was good to be instrumental for a weekend, to forget my own pre-occupations.

Like communication lines which are corrupted with noise, I got glimpses of insight and perhaps, parts of what God is trying to tell me? It started when Sister Fran 'raised an eyebrow' when I expressed my admiration for the lay vocation of Opus Dei. I told her I don't know much about it other than its general spirituality, and she contrasted how traditional it is, to the firebrand 'radical' Jesuits (hmmm... *raised eyebrows* :p).

Sister Fran seems to be on the side of the Jesuits as she said Christianity is still seen as a 'foreign religion' in Asia due to the lack of cultural component in its evangelizing approach, and began sharing how the Zen bell had been used in some of her retreats (which gave some people the goosebumps) and how localization of Masses is important (such as the need to have dancing in Africa...) that she bristled at a newspaper article reporting Pope Benedict's "Crackdown on Liturgical Abuses"... I was getting quite upset at this point, but I didn't want to ruin that weekend nor offend Sister, who obviously has good intentions.

Anyway, the last straw was when Sister said we cannot tell non-believers that Jesus is the only salvation, especially not to the Chinese-educated, because it may repel them into thinking "mo kau chou?!" (trans.: are you not teaching right??!!). Well, neither this blog post nor the weekend was about me & her, nor our doctrinal beliefs, so I decided to leave the conversation.

After this, it seems clear my vocation isn't about evangelizing through promoting common values that Asian cultures have with 'Catholic culture'; but rather through daily life example. That's why my journey has attracted me to 'lay spirituality' kind of vocation, like Opus Dei. I discovered my 'traditionality' was what led me to them, and not them influencing my Catholic outlook.

At the end of yesterday, I asked Fr Frans about the first steps for discernment (albeit not about the religious kind). He said to listen to our own physical response (somewhat like the Ignatian concept of 'desolation' and 'consolation'). I think I haven't given the leaving option much thought for it to be a viable alternative; sometimes I felt I am being lazy when I cannot bring myself to wake up in the morning to go to work I begin to dread.

And this morning I read an email from a friend far, far away:

"God is your strength and protector and He who started this great work through you will bring it to blissfull and flourishing heights. Heights unimaginable. Just do your best, knowing full well that God is in full control of all you lay your hands on."

Mother Mary, St. Joseph, Ora pro me!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Prayer for Choosing God's Will

Dear Father, you are the creative origin of all I am and of all I am called to be. With the talents and opportunities I have, how may I serve you best? Please guide my mind and heart, open me to the needs of my country and of the world, and help me choose widely and practically for your honor and glory and for the good of all those whose lives I touch. Amen.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Back to Linux: welcome back, evenstar!

These past two months I have been operating on a Windows machine at the office & at home (on a laptop) because my workstation's monitor has this need to 'rest' for a few weeks before it could power up... I feel absolutely schizophrenic!

Now I'm back on evenstar (my Linux machine) and oh boy, I can do so much more! ;)

St Joseph: role model of a discerning Christian

The solemnity of St Joseph (husband of our Blessed Virgin) is traditionally celebrated on March 19th. This year it is a Sunday, thus the solemnity is celebrated this coming Monday.

Today I heard a reflection about St Joseph, dubbed 'the Silent Saint' (because he was never reported to have said anything at all in the bible). From his introduction in the scripture, he was in a for a ride! First, he found his betrothed pregnant, then an angel of God told him to flee to Egypt indefinitely, and later, he lost the Child he was entrusted to protect when visiting Jerusalem!

And yet, not a single protest came from his lips. He received orders he did not understand, he went through trials he didn't ask for, but not a single protest came. St Joseph completely understood the nature of his vocation as a foster father to the Child Jesus and chaste husband to the Virgin Mary and the head of Holy Family.

Methinks St Joseph is the saint to pray for his intercession when discerning! For he is a humble man who faithfully accepted and accomplished his great mission through his persevering humble craft, devotion to the Child (have you seen the way he is always depicted to gaze at Jesus?) and total trust in God.

O St Joseph, ora pro nobis!

Prayer to Saint Joseph Before Mass

O Blessed Joseph, happy man, to whom it was given not only to see and to hear that God Whom many kings longed to see, and saw not, to hear, and heard not; but also to carry Him in your arms, to embrace Him, to clothe Him, and guard and defend Him.

V Pray for us, O Blessed Joseph.
R That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.
Let us pray.

O God, Who has given us a royal priesthood, we beseech Thee,
that as Blessed Joseph was found worthy to touch with his hands,
and to bear in his arms, Thy only-begotten Son, born of the Virgin Mary,
so may we be made fit, by cleanness of heart and blamelessness of life,
to minister at Thy holy altar; may we, this day, with reverent devotion
partake of the Sacred Body and Blood of Thy Only-begotten Son,
and may we in the world to come be accounted worthy of receiving
an ever-lasting reward.
Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Is Internet the answer to all communication problems?

Being an engineer and an entrepreneur and (almost!) a veteran when it comes to computers & Internet (had a PC when I was 7, went online when I was 14), I often felt an impulse to 'disconnect' from everything online: I switched off all IM after work, I don't check work emails on weekends. This is somewhat anathema, given my industry and what my company does! And yet, increasingly I find that I am not alone in having this sentiment.

The Internet ('Net) has seen two cycles of boom & bust, and all sorts of things have been introduced—some had failed, some had succeeded—and some of these innovative services seemed to have facilitate communication. Email, for instance, is one of those services which has helped me reach out to numerous countless relatives and new friends who are literally on the other side of the globe. The Web, had helped me start a business, found friends and formed networks (say, of bloggers reading this blog!) of individuals sharing similar interests.

But somehow, deep down, it hadn't really improved my quality of life. This response is a very rudimentary, draft-like, knee-jerk response of mine to these years of 'oppression'. Let me share a little about my life: when I get up in the morning, the first thing I do is check emails for my servers' security alerts, and then read the Daily Mass Reading, and then check more emails. And then I'm on the 'Net for the rest of my waking hours (minus the commuting duration, of course). My product is deployed on the 'Net, my development server is accessed remotely over the 'Net, marketing's done over the 'Net. Meetings & discussions are often conducted over instant messaging. I get to read news (on the 'Net!) & maybe blog a bit for about two hours before I go to bed.

All my friends are 'online': somewhere in my numerous IM clients' list. Granted that seeing them there means I can flag anyone and start communicating, but somehow that's not happening. Seeing them online all the time made me take it for granted that they'll be there ANYTIME I want them to be. Which is not the way networks or societies build.

In China, there are these facilities that claim they are curing Internet-itis, a form of addiction to the 'Net, whose 'victims' seem to be teenagers and young adults in their early '20s. Is what I'm experiencing a form of realization of the addiction? Or is it just disillusionment over what has been touted as the cure to communication barriers?

Like my company, businesses everywhere are benefiting from the Internet. This trend extends (or some say, imposes) itself to individuals. The use of Internet has helped my personal life in many ways: personal convenience in viewing/paying bills & funds transfer, ability to reach out to people nearly instantly, window to learning from the vast vault of information & instruction, and a window to a vast network of people out there. My grandma has been able to email her grandchildren from wherever she happened to be. But where it has helped, it has also undone quite a bit of discipline: it's easier to find ready-made solutions out there than learning one yourself (in particular, I refer to programming codes/algorithms to solve a problem), it's easier for your mind to wander off at one point reading Graham Greene because you know there are analyses and more background information about Greene, his life and his characters somewhere on the 'Net. Since going on the 'Net, I haven't been able to read a book without getting interrupted by doing several background searches on the 'Net. I haven't made better friends because of the 'Net (sure I've made new friends and re-acquainted with lost contacts).

The 'Net isn't to blame for all these human failings. I think I lack skills to socialize and interact, and being on the 'Net all the time certainly doesn't help. What is not good about this picture is actually the belief that everything can be done on the 'Net and can be made faster and better on the 'Net. Some things take time and discipline to develop (like social skills and systems architecture and religious discipline). I need to do all these properly.

This Lent I think I'll try putting some discipline into my own behavior: no more spending 18 hours online daily!

UPDATE: BusinessWeek article here on why you are probably not alone.

Drug trial gone wrong

Full article: Two fight for lives after drug trial poisoning

I once signed up to volunteer for a drug trial, forever a subject of controversy, emerged unharmed and $200 richer.. yet perhaps even this phase 1 trial isn't as safe as it is purported to be!

Hotch-potch of rumors & news today...

From the most shocking:
  • Rumors of Kimi Raikonnen joining Ferrari from next year:
    I sure hope not, Kimi! McLaren has a great car in MP4-21 (hey, he was 3rd in Bahrain after starting at the back of the grid!), but could do with more reliability.
  • Mayor of a town in Indonesia prohibiting women from being seen outside after 7pm without her husband (couldn't find the news source this yet)
  • RFID chips can carry virus: so much for these little things being too 'primitive' to do any harm..
  • Condi Rice visited Jakarta amidst protests: we Indonesians like to protest whenever some statespersons from the US come to visit... plus a visit to a madrasah and hear this—an additional $8.5 million grant "for a program to bring 'Sesame Street' to the schools of Indonesia." Sesame Street! Sounds ridiculous; but it was my first contact with the 'West', it was the first English language TV program I saw as a kid...

Monday, March 13, 2006

Wedding: A family affair

I just came back from my uncle's wedding in Jakarta this weekend. Traditional Chinese wedding dinners aren't exactly my favorite events (mediocre food, long wait, strangers at the table), but this time it was an exception. My uncle (mom's youngest brother) is finally married! At 47 (he's 48 this year), he's nearly a confirmed bachelor and everyone in the family tried to introduce him to some nice girls. His bride is a 36-year-old Catholic, smart & warm (career-)woman, whose family is also glad that she finally found 'the one'.

The timing is a little odd; being in the middle of Lent (at least it was not on a Friday). In any case, it was a pleasure dressing up, putting on super high heels & playing host to numerous family members from all over the place: Sydney, Canberra, Singapore, Surabaya, Yogyakarta, all over East Java (some of whom I haven't seen in 10 years!) as they came to celebrate my uncle's wedding. My sisters and I squeezed into our parents' room as guests poured into our house.

Though both bride and groom looked tired at the end of the evening, they were radiant with happiness (theirs is a love story of complicated twists that begun less than a year ago) and I wish them a happy and everlasting marriage!

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Discernment: Time for prayer

"Decision making is not always a crisis but is always a growth-filled process."

That's how a short article about discernment describes decision making. Although the term "discernment" is relatively new to me, it seems straightforward enough:

1. "The first is the awareness that an important decision needs to be made. It’s essential to be alert to the prompting of the Spirit"

2. "[make] a mental list or jot down the pros and cons of the various options"

3. "possible consequences for each option"

4. "check it out with a mentor, family member, trusted friend, or 'wisdom' friend who has gone through a similar life experience."

5. "taking action!"

Finally, when the decision is made and acted upon, a sense of true peace will prevail over you. Peace is the ultimate gift of a good decision - a peace no one can take from you.

Sounds easy? I don't have experience with this being an easy process... :p

While browsing the Pontificator's blog, I found an article by Fr. Richard John Neuhaus (a former Lutheran convert to the Catholic Faith), on why The Church "will never invoke her full authority to require anyone to believe what is false". He wrote about why he does not fear the Church to misuse her authority and use her claim to infallibility to deliberately mislead and teach fallibly. I quote,

To be obsessed with what ifs is to remain captive to fear. The apostle John tells us that "perfect love casts out fear." One finally makes a decision based either on fear and suspicion or on love and trust. It is true that by taking the first way one may avoid a great error; but, if the decision is wrong, one has suffered the loss of an immeasurably greater good. With respect to the big decisions of life, we each choose our own form of risk…
I can't believe my eyes when I saw this (well.. I should have known better; in Him anything is possible!); this is a key insight in my own process of discernment... I have been thinking and praying (and getting needlessly frustrated), but this differentiation of the source of a decision (fear vs. trust) has so far been buried in my list of pros and cons.

As we open up ourselves to joy and transformation in this Lenten season, I ask anyone who's reading this to please pray for me so that God's will be revealed, be mine, and be done. Thanks.