Thursday, July 27, 2006

Feasts of St James the Apostle (July 25), and Sts Joachim and Anne (July 26)

St James the Greater, patron Saint of Spain, is a fine model of apostolic zeal! A comprehensive post on him and his legend here. St James, we pray that inspired by your zeal, we may aspire to be a little more apostolic in our daily lives.

Sts Joachim and Anne: parents of Our Blessed Virgin Mary.
Yesterday Msgr Lau mentioned in his homily of St Anne, a patron saint for mothers and childless people. Tradition taught that she was childless for a long time, but what gracious answer God gave to them by giving them as their child the most perfect human being: Mary. She is often pictured teaching the scriptures to Our Lady as a child.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Sunday afternoon work note

Some things never change:

- qmail still rocks

Some things always change:

- Keep yourself updated: My last three Linux OS server installations were in early 2004; there were two RedHat 9 machines and before that, Mandrake 10. Since then, all RedHat's products have now become commercial, so we're left to use minimally Redhat-supported Fedora. Mandrake has closed down and been renamed Mandriva!

- Fedora Core 5 ships and uses GCC 4.1. Some applications (quite a few of them, eg: Java EE 5 package) that were compiled with an older GCC 3.2 will require compatibility libraries (such as: compat-libstdc++-33, compat-libstdc++-296)

- In Fedora, yum is recommended for package installation instead of rpm.

- In Fedora, yum needs an OS key before it can install or update any package. Key needs to be obtained using:
rpm --import /usr/share/doc/fedora-release-X/RPM-GPG-KEY*

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Placental Stem Cells

There seems to be a bias in MSM reporting against the less glamorous adult, or placental, or cord-blood stem-cells. I'm no expert in stem cell research: some have argued that while these placental stem cells' lack of plasticity seems to have avoided the cancerous growth, they may still face rejection from the body's immunity once they have differentiated into the different types of cells. Yet so far, it seems like these stem cells, not as plastic or totipotent as embryonic stem cells, have yielded concrete result in real treatment.

It is thus refreshing to read this article from, which is normally a very liberal outfit that is pro-everything-in-stem-cell-research.

Full article here

Monday, July 17, 2006

Fishy, fishy...

I was researching on the "morning after" pill after a friend enquired about the morality of taking this after a non-consensual intercourse took place. From my limited bioethics knowledge, as far as I know, the "morning after" pill almost never prevent conception; because by the 'morning after', it's usually too late. So taking this pill usually resulted in killing what life might have already been conceived. But I was curious...

Doing a Google search, I found a pro-life site at the top of the search result. This is an interesting description Google put underneath:

Site asserts that "morning after" emergency contraception is just another abortion approach that kills...

A little technical info: the description below a search result item is normally taken from a Meta tag of the site, or an excerpt (usually the first line) of its main page. Being a pro-life site, there is absolutely NO WAY that site would describe itself in that manner! Conclusion: somebody else put that description for them.

I think this may have to do with Google trying to be PC; after the snafu, where a customer complained that Amazon was being too 'right-wing' when his/her search for items on the subject of abortion, and the alternative suggested keyword returned by Amazon (usually when there is a spelling error/high correlation) was adoption! LOL.


I was initially hesitant to cite from this site, because it is taking data from 1999 and before... Looking up a recent 'morning after' pill product however: Plan B, explains how they prevent pregnancy (note: not prevent conception) in an almost identical language as the site described. So these assumptions still hold.

One page explains that this pill normally contains hormones (as found in birth-control pills) and works in three ways:

1. Ovulation is inhibited, meaning the egg will not be released;
2. The normal menstrual cycle is altered, delaying ovulation; or
3. It can irritate the lining of the uterus so that if the first and second actions fail, and the woman does become pregnant, the human being created will die before he or she can actually attach to the lining of the uterus.

A link from this site goes on to explain a possible case why the pill might just precipitate ovulation, and a host of other conditions, such as altering of the endometrium, which led to the failure of the fertilized ovum to implant. (Read: abortifacient)

Beginning four days before ovulation, the average likelihood of conception from intercourse jumps from 0% to 11%. It rises to 30% on the day preceding, and day of, ovulation, before dropping to 9%, 5% and 0% on the three subsequent days. ... If an ovum is in the Fallopian tube, the process of fertilization may begin within 15 to 30 minutes after intercourse. The 'morning after' is already too late for any contraceptive effect to intervene.

Citations are available at those links. Read it for yourself and marvel how much infanticide has prevailed.

Our Lady of Mt. Carmel

Yesterday the Church celebrates the (optional) memorial of our Lady of Mount Carmel. I confess I don't have as much devotion to our Lady as I should (I pray to grow every day); so when my godmother gave me a Miraculous Medal and a scapular many years ago, I wore them for a while, but soon put them aside, not being a medal-wearing kind of person.

But like all mothers, Our Lady loves her children, even if they may sometimes forget her while busy amusing themselves! Some years ago, I found a very arresting picture of our Lady with the Child Jesus (a painting, or rather, a picture of a sculpture) printed on the back of an edition of the Catholic News. I cut it out and although it makes for a tacky poster picture (I was a poor student, and am still poor) it has followed me through many address changes and has graced my room wall since the days of NUS.

Surprise, surprise: it turned out to be a picture of our Lady of Mt Carmel! (I don't have a camera to show how it looks like; and I couldn't find it online). Some months ago, I encountered an article about the Miraculous Medal and inspired by the stories of repentance & graces, I got myself one. This weekend, during my retreat, there was a little imposition ceremony where a priest prayed over and blessed some brown scapulars, and now I wear one :)

Moneybags has a devout post about Our Lady and the scapular and some history and stories about it here. What a wonderful Mother we have; may she intercede for us always.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Commercial break

While waiting for the server to go back up, I caught this little video. Apparently, it is not the first time such a 'prank' has been done. Amazing how easy it is to get people's signatures to petition to end their own rights.

Train bombing in Mumbai, India

Senseless. Let's remember the victims and their families in our prayer. May eternal light shine upon them, o Lord.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

'What could it hurt?'

I-AM-TIRED. I guess age is catching up and allnighters are harder feats each time. After a few days facing a PC and cellphones, it seems like a good time to switch off my connected self and think about my family and ruminate about the family and its values, especially after the 5th World Meeting of Families just ended (good roundup found here).

The Catholic Church, and our Pope, has always hailed the institution of the family as an earthly prefigurement of the 'love of God the Father made manifest and incarnate in Christ', and the perfect channel for transmission of Faith. "Defense of the family" these days, however, seems synonymous with what some termed 'bigotry' against liberal-championed demands for 'equality' in non-traditional 'unions': same-sex marriage, same-sex-parents adoption rights, etc.

In my work circle, I meet a lot of Indians and Indian ethnic who, coming from a land of long tradition of mixing cultures, pride themselves in being tolerant. Typical questions I hear when the gay subculture topic is broached range from: (1) "What's wrong with being gay?", to (2) "If they want to get married, why shouldn't the state accord the same privileges and rights to heterosexual marriage?", to (3)"If they can be as good as any husband and wife, why shouldn't they have the right to adopt kids?"

Those of you who have amused yourselves reading my erstwhile rants from waa...aay back would know many years ago, I asked myself Question 1 and came up with "Nothing." Outside its deviant character, I believed that being gay must be a cross to bear, and that being a celibate gay, must be an even heavier cross to bear. So I questioned the Church's teaching that homosexual intercourse is intrinsically evil. Believing that some gays were 'predisposed since birth', I wonder why not give them a small allowance on some earthly comfort since they were doomed to die and not propagate their deviant genes anyway?

On question 2, I am not qualified to offer any opinion. I'm not an economist or a political commentator. Here's an excellent article (written by a self-proclaimed libertarian) about why state-sponsored social changes should be treated with caution.

When it comes to the issue of children, I stopped myself. It was a slippery slope: let adults decide for themselves, but children should not be taught that it is normal to be gay. And how can this be avoided when both its parents (not 'father' and 'mother', but 'Parent A' and 'Parent B') are gay? And since procreation is a motivation (and a consequence) for heterosexual intercourse, why should gay couples, whom through their physical acts surely did not intend to procreate, want to have children?

So how does the mainstream acceptance of gay lifestyle undermine the family?

The Church is wiser than her children obviously. Gradually, through milestone events that happened all over the world, I realized that the deviant cannot be accorded the same recognition as the natural. Increasingly, the deviant is pushing to be the acceptable while the natural is increasingly painted as the archaic and bigoted. There is still sympathy, but looking at these people self-ridiculing and reveling in their degradation made me think they do not only want to be accepted but also for the whole world to be like them.

Take a look at possible results of the revolution pushing for gay marriage and gay-couple adoption: perhaps one day your child reaches a legal limit age and said, "It's time to decide whether I want to adopt a heterosexual or a homosexual lifestyle."; or maybe you are a teacher and the law forces you to teach that it is normal for human beings have two sexual preferences (or more?), and reproduction has nothing to do with sexual intercourse; or maybe the Church and Christians will be persecuted for 'hate crime'?

Mark Shea here has a concise post on "what could it hurt?" and expressed himself better in less words than I ever could with more.

My family isn't perfect; I'm fortunate to have a father and a mother who are still staying together. Thank God for my family!

Friday, July 07, 2006

5th World Meeting of Families...

... is underway in Valencia, Spain. I know this posting is a bit late; keep them in your prayers, especially as the institution of families is under attack everywhere.

St Joseph and our Blessed Lady, we pray that the Holy Family may be the paragon of family lives everywhere.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Everything is possible

A man comatose for 20 years has awakened and regained his capacity for speech. His brain has apparently regrown new neural paths. What a marvelous and amazing creature God has made in us! Long after medical science declared him lost, hope is rekindled.

Full article here

Monday, July 03, 2006

Faith on the high seas

I've always loved the sea, and love being on a boat, a ship, or for that matter, any a floating barge. I've always loved to read about naval expeditions, history of naval battles, and the lives (though sometimes fictional—as portrayed in Patrick O'Brian's books) of the thousands of sailors who found both deliverance and despair in the oceans. Needless to say, I've not been literally caught tossing about a floating tub in the middle of a raging storm (thank God!).

"Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World. ... And the sea will grant each man new hope ... his sleep brings dreams of home."—Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón)

Our life, a journey to our 'true home'—a place of unimaginable wonder—is very much like a sea-bound journey. In most seafaring civilisations, it is understood that a sea-bound journey could be a mortally perilous journey: treacherous seas (with mortal distractions like the Sirens in Odysseus' voyage), frequent squalls, and inevitable changes of route. The risk of lives lost during a sea-bound voyage had become tolerable, even acceptable.

How is our life like a journey on the high seas? Storms, lots of storms. Two Sundays ago, the mass readings painted storms in our lives as a way of life; that all storms are within God's power to invoke and to quell: it is sometimes given so that in our complete faith, we can cry out to the Almighty Father. And these two weeks' readings remind us of faith: faith when the waves seem to overwhelm the little fishing boat, faith of the leper, faith of the Roman centurion, faith of the haemorrhage-ing woman, faith of Jairus, the faith of St Peter, and today, the faith of St Thomas.

Some things in life seem to be like taking different boats to a known destination. Some liken dating different people to getting on different boats; if you don't like where it's going after some time, the common saying goes, get off and get on a new boat. Some liken professional vocation to different boats too. But really, how can we be on a few different boats ("love-boat"—out of lack of a better name, "work-boat", and "spiritual-boat") if we only have one destination? Maybe the metaphor isn't very accurate here.

The Church is the one true ark that will carry us home. Of that I am sure. So were any of the other boats imaginary? I was mulling over this (as some of you know, it is my primary timesink these days, thinking about Vocation in life), and one of the priests I talked to, kept saying that it is a great opportunity to meet many people of all walks and spread the faith. Hmm.. kinda far from the locus of the problem, don't you think? It took St Teresa de Avila to remind me that the Logos is revealed to many people through their professional vocation; but when we already believe, thinking (and worrying) about our professional vocation seemed unnecessary, or unimportant at best, in comparison with the need to find our way home and on the way, bring other souls along. So, Father was right...

About professional vocation, I still think it is important, albeit of secondary importance. There are days where I feel very much like an impostor—drifting about at work, doing what I've always done, yet not able to contribute more. Through a friend, I was reminded that it is through our weakness God manifests His greatness. Who am I to say that, if a day has been good because I did something, it did not come from God? The days when I think I've "relied too much on God", what I'm really thinking is that, there are days when I could've relied less on Him! And so, whether a day has been 'good' or 'so-so', what good we do that day comes from nowhere else but God! Deo gratias!

It has been a long post: every morning, we take out our boat and start again on our journey home. Rephrasing Christopher Columbus, I wish that each leg of your journey grant you a new hope.

A modern proverb says, there is no atheist at the trenches. To that I will add, there are no atheists at sea either! (Seen the movie K19: The Widowmaker yet?) I'd like to end this very long rambling post with a little note to honor (and humor) the Holy Spirit. (It is not applicable to the age of submarines, but hey, don't we all get on a boat sometime in our life?)

On a boat in the middle of a bight; we row, we row, and we row.
Not another ship was in view, And no land in sight.
The sun scorched our paint, and scourged our souls.
When the Spirit of God blows, like the westerlies
it delivers us from the bight, towards our true patria.
The Spirit blows again, and rainclouds fall to quench our thirst.
All we have to do, is billow our sail, catch the sweet water,
and hold fast our rudder to the one true North.
Because we know, we get closer to home every time the Spirit blows.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Music in the liturgy

Catholic Education Resource Center republishes a succinct, incisive article written by Pope BXVI, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, on spirit of the Liturgy when it concerns music.

Some quotes:

"[T]hese opportunities for artistic creativity and the adoption of secular tunes brought danger with them. Music was no longer developing out of prayer, but, with the new demand for artistic autonomy, was now heading away from the liturgy; it was becoming an end in itself, opening the door to new, very different ways of feeling and of experiencing the world. Music was alienating the liturgy from its true nature."

Liturgical music is not a channel for just anybody's creative musical expression.

"Wherever applause breaks out in the liturgy because of some human achievement, it is a sure sign that the essence of liturgy has totally disappeared and been replaced by a kind of religious entertainment."

Liturgical music is not a channel to showcase someone's musical talents (or the lack of it..)

"Doing really must stop when we come to the heart of the matter: the oratio. It must be plainly evident that the oratio is the heart of the matter, but that it is important precisely because it provides a space for the actio of God."

There is more to the eye in a Mass beyond the visible rituals.

"We are realizing more and more clearly that silence is part of the liturgy. We respond, by singing and praying, to the God who addresses us, but the greater mystery, surpassing all words, summons us to silence. It must, of course, be a silence with content, not just the absence of speech and action."

Silence in a Mass can constitute active participation: attentive listening and as its fruit, contemplation of the Heavenly miracle.