Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Extraordinary August

August seems to be the most eventful month of the year for me. This blog, for instance, was started in August 2003. My parents' birthdays are both in August. My country's independence day is in August. The country I am staying in right now has its independence day in August. I received the Sacrament of Confirmation in August. My first holy hour ever was in August. The trip to the World Youth Day in Cologne last year was in August. My Choice weekend was in August 2004. This year, I attended Choice Asia conference in August.

August: when flowers and bloggers bloom
Soon I'll join my family for a break and begin a blogging hiatus. Friends and lurkers and random readers, wouldn't it be great if, for one week, you can drop me some comments to introduce yourself: where do you come from, what do you do, how did you come to know this blog, and just a sentence to say (eg: Antonia, you write crap!), etc.? I know some of you have your own blogs, but you don't write nearly enough for me to know what's happening in your lives! Don't be shy ;) This week is this blog's "de-lurking" week: come out and bloom..

Monday, August 28, 2006

Late have I loved Thee

As we celebrate the feastday of St Augustine, I recall certain phrases when reading his Confessions: "Sero te amavi, pulchritudo tam antiqua et tam nova, sero te amavi!", that never failed to rouse me. For it reminds me that my life is finite—I have wasted so much time in my past, first as pagan, and then through all that lethargy and indifference after my conversion—too finite not to dedicate myself to a Mission entrusted to every Christian.

What is our mission really, for each one of us? On my way to catch a flight to Taiwan last week, the taxi driver remarked (somewhat uncannily, now that I'm looking back), that it seemed like my trip would be for a mission rather than a leisure trip. I affirmed, because I wasn't going on a holiday.. but a mission? It is not a claim I dare to say.

Having seen a little of the Choice Asia Conference two years ago (hosted by Singapore), I didn't think there'd be anything exciting to look forward to. I was prepared to sacrifice five days getting bored to death, if only so that the Singapore delegates could somehow benefit from my presence. But the Lord is good and generous...

Bravo had to skip his Jesuit retreat this weekend to come for the conference, but he confessed (after the trip) that the conference was worth going. The Taiwanese were most gracious and enthusiastic and warm; they cheered for us whenever we arrived and left the university dorm where we stayed, as if we have been their dear friends for the longest time! I was very happy to catch up with some old friends from Choice Indonesia who were in Singapore last September for the pioneering Bahasa Choice weekend, and met lots of new ones :)

The conference began with evening mass, and the next day we were treated to a rare 'spiritual enrichment'—in which the (now former) Choice Asia Team priest, Fr Daniele Cambielli, meditated upon the Crucified Jesus as the center of our missionary apostolate in Choice. I must confess I was blown away and very humbled. For it is as if I, who went with less than a full heart, had my darkness enlightened and cynicism healed.

Fr Daniele started with motivation for a life of mission, and asked us to identify our personal mission and our specific message ('gospel') in the Choice ministry. He then went on to compare Jesus' vision about His mission on earth and what the world teaches about our goals: relevance vs. contemplation of God's love, popularity vs. ministry, and leadership through power vs. leadership through being lead. The next challenge is to think and to see like Jesus does, by meditating about the different groups of people who mocked Jesus in his last hours hanging on the Cross. The short retreat ended with an affirmation that contemplating the Crucified Jesus gave us the necessary strength to serve our baptismal call: to let our old selves die and start a new life loving as we are loved. (I know this short summary does not do it any justice, it only served to show the depth of the reflection...)

The next day we started with mass again, and spent the day sharing with the other countries' Choice representatives about how the weekends are held, challenges they face in executing the weekend, getting presenters and participants alike; as the main national delegates 'talked business'. It was amazing, as we discovered how joyfully and faithfully they serve in the weekends (a stark contrast to my dispositions each weekend I served), and how creative they could get in solving problems on their weekends.

My personal zenith of the conference was when Fr Daniele drew a parallel between the Eucharist and the structure of a Choice weekend (something that I'd never had dreamed of on my own!) What a beautiful way to look at our mission...

The cultural night on Saturday night marked the end of the conference; it was wonderful: every country squeezed their creative juices to dress up and perform an item for all the participants. There were many other wonderful things during the five days we were there: not least of which is the Missionary Sisters of Providence (who ran the dorm)—who had perpetual eucharistic adoration on Saturdays, btw— and the countless volunteers who danced and cheered and took us out for a few hours on a city tour. The Masses were said in English, with some songs in Mandarin and Bahasa. I had great five days to practise my embarrassing Mandarin (under the excuse that I am self-taught and a recent learner).

Overall, it had been a fruitful trip (although I could not visit anyone else given the packed schedule and I'm down with flu now). Late have I loved Thee indeed, but as for realizing our mission and going through conversion again and again to serve our mission better, "Let it be now, let it be now!"

Back from Taiwan...

... the Lord is generous; everything is better than expected! More on this later.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Did anyone 'get' it?

I watched Doctor Zhivago last night. Awful stuff. It's about glorified adultery between a married man (a poet & a doctor) who couldn't resist temptation (He ran out of a train, despite danger surrounding his wife and child, just to walk through sunrays-lit forest), and a married, impressionable woman who couldn't say no to awful men, set in Russia pre- and post-Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

Critics seemed to love this movie, adapted from a Boris Pasternak novel, lauded as a post-Soviet literary star. Maybe I should've read the book first; but what is the point the writer is trying to make? I don't get what's so great about it...

Friday, August 18, 2006

Never again...

I just came back from a Choice meeting and saw this post on my RSS feed reader, where Jean quoted from the book The Truth About Abortion: Confessions of Abortion Workers & Doctors.

A very deeply moving collection of reflections from those involved in this horrific 'industry'. Most are honest about their consciences in a knee-jerk reaction to what they know to be a heinous murder, but sadly, after the first few, most people quoted developed mechanism to protect themselves (thereby weakening their consciences) from the truth that the 'blob of tissues' is a human being getting ripped apart!

There's one medical student's testimony that gives me hope of the conversion of these abortion practitioners:

To begin, I must say that until yesterday, Friday, July 2, 2004, I was strongly pro-choice. I am a pre-medical student, and being very scientific, I understood that the mass of cells that forms the fetal body is not often capable of survival before 24 weeks in the womb. I am also somewhat liberal, and I believed that every woman should have the right to choose what she did with her body and one that could potentially be growing inside of her.
The cervix was held open with a crude metal instrument and a large transparent tube was stuck inside of the woman. Within a matter of seconds, the machine's motor was engaged and blood, tissue, and tiny organs were pulled out of their environment into a filter.
The tube was removed, and stuck to the end was a small body and a head attached haphazardly to it, what was formed of the neck snapped. The ribs had formed with a thin skin covering them, the eyes had formed, and the inner organs had begun to function. The tiny heart of the fetus, obviously a little boy, had just stopped—forever. The vacuum filter was opened, and the tiny arms and legs that had been torn off of the fetus were accounted for. The fingers and toes had the beginnings of their nails on them.
Never again will I be pro-choice, and never again will I support the murder of any human being, no matter their stage in life.

Our Lady, protector of the unborn, we pray for the conversion of these people!

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

August 15th

August 15th through the years: some trivia...

August 15th, 1549: St Francis Xavier arrived in Japan
August 15th, 1945: The end of World War II in Asia (with the unconditional surrender of Japan)

August 15th, 2005: I attended my first Mass in German during the feast of Maria Himmelfährt in Düsseldorf
(Updated) August 15th, 2006: I am 'liberated' from a hitherto unknown bondage, Deo gratias!

Magnificat anima mea Dominum
But most importantly... on August 15th, we celebrate the joyous occasion of Our Lady's assumption, body and soul, into Heaven. What a great hope it gives to all of us in the church militant to remember that a humble creature (albeit immaculate) is so honored by the Lord! Her mantra, simple lines we repeat in the Angelus daily, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it done unto me according to Thy word", echoed through the ages to help us in our struggle with our earthly desires for temporal achievements, suffering anxiety through it all. Mary taught us how to live in complete trust, as one who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled. Her life was not easy, but great is the reward for she who trusted in the Lord and prayed!

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my Savior
for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me
and holy is his Name.

Tonight I'm experiencing a newfound feeling of freedom and pondering its meaning. Mother of God, handmaid of the Lord, pray for us!

Monday, August 14, 2006

Preparing for the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption

I'm too sleep-deprived to write anything. This post (homily from the Feast of Transfiguration) however, remind me, that tomorrow, August 15th, is the Feast of Our Lady's Assumption.

Remembering the nuclear holocaust in Japan that ended the World War II, Fr Weinberger drew parallels between the events of August 6th, August 9th, and August 15th 1945, to the feasts of Transfiguration and Our Lady's Assumption. He also mentioned specifically a inspiring tale of a survivor, Dr Takashi Nagai.

Indeed, if our souls were lukewarm, may these stories bring us closer to Him. For me, for many years, these feasts of the Church went by unnoticed. For so many years, our Lord's sacrifice meant little to me. What opportunities to grow in holiness have I missed, but may we start anew everyday! Ad Jesum per Mariam.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Firewall tracing

I learned how to configure and deploy an application server the hard way (some say, the proper way), because I had to do it over a command-line console. Yes, a web visual interface is available, but the port it's running on is behind several of the firewalls, and there are no other well-known unused port numbers I can run the service on. Saturday morning musing...?

Three years ago I wrote a patch for SSHD that a paranoid network admin (or any paranoid single-server owner) can deploy on their Linux machines to track exactly which terminal host a remote user logs in from, rather than the immediate host. (Actually, not quite the terminal host, but the last unpatched machine outside his network)

Some would argue of course, "If I'm not allowed to log-in to the DMZ host from my home PC, how'd any sysadmin do their jobs from home?" (I did mention upfront that it is for the paranoid, and therefore, will often stand on the way of the practical!) Specifically, this patch would protect against hosts in the 'grey area' (not quite trusted as in the DMZ, but not quite untrusted either—example: campus network)

Now I have a new problem: tracing firewalls. Often, my servers sit behind several subnets' firewalls: one on the machine itself, one of the immediate subnet, and maybe one more, that of the ISP's. For a development server, many ports often need to be opened to the public. Now, how does one know which firewall blocks which port? I need a traceroute-like utility (for *NIX OSes) that can track which ports are being blocked at which subnet... If anybody knows, please write me, else it's another project in the works :)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

The Compendium

Copies of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) in English are sold out as soon as they hit the bookstores.. I've been trying to find one; and an online version is now out here!

Man's Search for Meaning

Fr Frans has mentioned Viktor Frankl in more than one occasion, and today I finally managed to read Frankl's book called "Man's Search for Meaning". (It is not his only book, and after this I think I will read more of his works on logotherapy!)

A very short introduction on logotherapy set against the backdrop of his first-hand experience surviving not just one, but four, Nazi concentration camps including Dachau and Auschwitz, it makes for a very quick yet significant reading for anyone. In particular, Frankl emphasized on the lack of logos (meaning) as a source of ill in the many groups of patients he encountered (back in the '80s—and truer still today!)

I don't know whether Frankl was a practising Jew or a Christian; what he wrote in Man's Search sounded a lot like coming from a Church father, and echoed what the Church teaches about sanctification of our life, as well as about the incomparable worth and dignity of the human life despite, or in spite, of suffering.

"[It] did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life and instead to think of ourselves as those who were being questioned by life—daily and hourly. Our answer must consist ... in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answer to its problems and to fulfil the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual."

I've read the book only once and some of his words are quoteworthy enough to brace myself in times of trials, but not enough to comment on such profound insight. There are many resources out there: this page gives a good round-up of the various ideas he mentioned in this very slim volume (which Frankl supposedly dictated in just nine days!)

Coincidentally—as if there's such a thing as coincidence!—a person I met during a meeting with the Choice group yesterday was reading the exact same book and found good things to recommend about it.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Memorial of St. Teresia Benedicta a Cruce

Seven years ago, on this date, I received the Sacrament of Confirmation. For a long time, I could not remember the date, until last year when I started looking for my confirmation patron saint and found that the memorial of St Edith Stein, also popularly known as St Teresia Benedicta a Cruce (her Latin title, while the English spelling is "St Teresa Benedicta of the Cross"), is celebrated on this date, August 9th.

(Needless to say, I was overjoyed to 'discover' this saint, learning that she was canonized just one year before my confirmation, and to visit the city of Cologne, where she spent her days as a Carmelite nun—though I missed the sculpture of the 'Saint without a grave')

In many ways, St Teresia Benedicta is a model for our generation, a generation that often prides itself in being a thinking generation. In times when rationalism and intellectualism are often used to ridicule faith, St Teresia Benedicta showed how fides et ratio are not only not opposed but how our thinking faculties lead us to seek and contemplate our Creator.

Read here a short hagiography of her life.

St Teresia Benedicta, pray for us.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dreaming of Transfiguration

Last week, my little prayer group reflected on the Feast of Transfiguration, last Sunday's Gospel reading, and shared several stories of moments when they saw (or felt) the transfiguration of the Lord in their own lives.

I cannot personally recall of any moment in my life when I perceive God to reveal Himself in such splendor as described in the Gospel passage of transfiguration. Not being a native speaker of English, the word "transfiguration" has always meant for me, Jesus' transfiguration, and is not linked to any experience I've ever had, but perhaps I can identify with "epiphany", or in my case, mini-epiphanies...

To look upon the face of Christ, to recognize its mystery amid the daily events and the sufferings of his human life, and then to grasp the divine splendour definitively revealed in the Risen Lord, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father: this is the task of every follower of Christ and therefore the task of each one of us.—Rosarium Virginis Mariae (no. 9)

While in exile on earth, many of us have to rely on dark faith, a sometimes truly opaque faith, that believed that beneath our exterior appearances, there is to behold, the divinity of each soul. The three apostles were the lucky ones to behold Jesus in His glory while still on earth!

Yet fret not, we who have not ascended the mountain, for each of us indeed has a capacity to behold hidden glory! Naturally, our feeble senses cannot perceive the glory of God, but our eyes of faith could "see". My epiphanies consist only of fleeting moments when, gazing at the face of God, He deemed to unveil Himself and made known His will for me.

For me, after those all-too-short epiphanies, come an awareness of new eyes of faith. Through these, I began to 'see' that beneath each person's appearance, there is a being of infinite worth. Each person becomes more than an accident, more than a statistic, more than an irritant, more than an economic unit, more than another pair of hands; he is a child of God! It is ironic that our bodies, meant to 'make visible the invisible', could limit our views to what our physical senses perceive.

"St John tells us that the other enemy is the lust of the eyes, a deep-seated avariciousness that leads us to appreciate only what we can touch. Such eyes are glued to earthly things and, consequently, they are blind to supernatural realities. We can, then, use this expression of sacred Scripture to indicate that disordered desire for material things, as well as that deformation which views everything around us — other people, the circumstances of our life and of our age — with just human vision."—St Josemaria Escriva, Christ is passing by

Our cry Domine, ut videam! becomes a proclamation of faith, a faith that has not yet seen but seeks to unveil the face of God.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Memorial of St John Vianney (Aug 4)

St John Vianney, famously known as the Curé of Ars, wrote Instruction on the Catechism, one of the first few spiritual works I've read on my journey to become a little more than a Sunday Catholic.

His life of humility and devotion made for a good role model.

St John Vianney is also a patron saint of parish priests and confessors. St John Vianney, pray for my confessors.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Upcoming Day of Recollection (August 20th)

The theme is "The Vocation and the Mission of the Lay Faithful in the Church and in the World"; it is a short recollection with a talk by Prof. Donna Orsuto of the Pontifical Gregorian University.

 More details here

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Easier and more systematic infanticide...

... if the FDA approves "morning-after" pill to be an OTC item.

More news here and here.

MSM reporting cites pregnancy as a 'risk' and another claims that Plan B 'prevents conception'.

Check out the arguments brought forth in support of this abortifacient being available for anyone of any age, and how it has instead increased occurrence of STDs.

On Chastity

As the Church celebrates the memorial of two great saints, St Ignatius of Loyola (July 31st) and St Alphonsus Liguori (August 1st), I found some articles which helped me contemplate this virtue of chastity.

I had a harrowing experience recently, which led me to this contemplation. The Church's teaching on Chastity, often misunderstood and deeply maligned, is beautifully summarized by the Cathechism:

The Integrity of the Person

2338 The chaste person maintains the integrity of the powers of life and love placed in him. This integrity ensures the unity of the person; it is opposed to any behavior that would impair it. It tolerates neither a double life nor duplicity in speech.

2339 Chastity includes an apprenticeship in self-mastery which is a training in human freedom. The alternative is clear: either man governs his passions and finds peace, or he lets himself be dominated by them and becomes unhappy. "Man's dignity therefore requires him to act out of conscious and free choice, as moved and drawn in a personal way from within, and not by blind impulses in himself or by mere external constraint. Man gains such dignity when, ridding himself of all slavery to the passions, he presses forward to his goal by freely choosing what is good and, by his diligence and skill, effectively secures for himself the means suited to this end."

In an epoch where one can get embarrassed (if not downright ridiculed) if he or she is found out to live a chaste life, or worse, a self-proclaimed virgin, it is useful to analyze why and how the world came to resent this virtue of chastity.

While some would argue that to the choice to live chastely (ie: celibate if one is not married) is partly upbringing, partly cultural, and partly natural; most would need intellectual and perhaps even supernatural insight to rediscover the importance of this virtue.

Fr. John Hardon, in his article on Chastity and Eternal Life mentioned that St Alphonsus Liguori has written that in his judgment, most of the souls in hell are there because of unrepentant sins against chastity, and that St Ignatius converted from his former unchaste life largely due to his fear of losing his soul.

The Church reminds her children that chastity is important because chastity protects our love from our concupiscence, and love as we all know, is what we need to practice in order to gain eternal life.

2346 Charity is the form of all the virtues. Under its influence, chastity appears as a school of the gift of the person. Self-mastery is ordered to the gift of self. Chastity leads him who practices it to become a witness to his neighbor of God's fidelity and loving kindness.

2347 The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality.

Lastly, I am reminded that our fallen nature made us so susceptible to self-love. Thus chastity is a virtue we can pray for and ask from God, especially through the intercession of Christ's Holy Mother Most Chaste.

2345 Chastity is a moral virtue. It is also a gift from God, a grace, a fruit of spiritual effort. The Holy Spirit enables one whom the water of Baptism has regenerated to imitate the purity of Christ.

SELinux: is it really more secure?

If you're out of touch with recent Linux development (like me), chances are you might have encountered SELinux—Security-Enhanced Linux (probably in a bad way) while trying new distros or maintaining/updating your favorite packages.

I'm all for better security, having been a sysadmin in the past, but I must confess SELinux baffles. The idea seems simple enough: introduce security context for subjects (processes/users) and objects (files/devices), utilizing all 'the security-relevant information available', and not just rely on 'authenticated user identity'.

What I still don't understand (I'm a little lazy right now to sit & read through mountains of documentation) is how older programs and packages are supposed to work with SELinux? Last week I installed Qmail+Courier+Squirrelmail, and every individual package troubleshooting page would contain a note about disabling SELinux!

This is reminiscent of how J2ME security model ends up being an obstacle to user adoption rather than increase the sense of users' security when installing an application on their mobile...

More links here on SELinux.