Thursday, May 31, 2007

Prayer of abandonment

Father, I abandon myself into your hands; do with me what you will. Whatever you may do, I thank you; I am ready for all, I accept all.

Let only your will be done in me, and in all your creatures. I wish no more than this, O Lord.

Into your hands I commend my soul; I offer it to you with all the love of my heart, for I love you, Lord, and so need to give myself, to surrender myself into your hands without reserve, and with boundless confidence, for you are my Father.
—Bl. Charles de Foucauld

Coolness defined

This is SUPER COOL!!!!!! If they could mass manufacture this at affordable price for mass market adoption, this could be UBIQUITOUS!

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

New template

After one-and-half year, this blog is looking a bit stale. I think it's time to change the look and feel of this blog. Advent's over, Lent's over and now Easter's almost over... :) The header of this blog is currently still yet to be conceived. Comments & ideas welcome.

UPDATE: Not being an IE user, I didn't realize the left part of the post is cut off when rendered in IE. Thanks to AE, it's fixed now.

UPDATE #2: The ugly monkey is gone. In its place, I've put a beautiful picture of sunflowers—my favorite at the moment. Here's the monkey saying Adios! (for now):

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Veni Sancte Spiritus

For the last 9 days the Church has been praying the novena to ask the Holy Spirit to come upon us once more and rekindle in us zeal for the Lord. In those nine days, the Mass readings have been accounts from the Acts of the apostles, which according to Msgr Lau today, should also be called Acts of the Holy Spirit! Today Pentecost is finally here.

No one can say "Jesus is Lord" except by the Holy Spirit.

Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Man & Woman: who needs' em?

I've been reading some blogs written by Catholic moms, and this reflection was particularly inspired by a podcast at (link from KM). Their blogs revolve much around family life: kids and marriage. If anyone's reading my blog long enough, you know family life has never been much of particular interest to me, not until recently.

"Family life" has recently entered (re-entered!) my life since my sister joined me in Singapore. It started out practically: household responsibilities division. Since then I've been reading and contemplating a little more, and discovering family, its meaning and its value, through the Theology of the Body. Perhaps it's for a selfish reason too: family life is so important in the formation of one's identity.

Since the TwoEdge podcast was about the increasingly emasculated identity of man and defective fatherhood, I'd start off by considering my own identity-forming years. A recent research about family life brought me to this article, in which I recognize the malaise of our age—of de-sexualization or unisexualization—in my own growing up years. All the symptoms are present: lack of feminine role model, tendency to assert ourselves outside, tendency to neutralize differences between male & female, tendency to compete—to out-smart, out-strength, out-do everyone, male & female notwithstanding.

On top of that, belatedly, actually just after a conversation with AE, I'm beginning to question the forces that form one's identity. Is it possible to be aware of all of them? Can we control/influence the contribution of each factor? Are they what determines who we are today? If yes, are we thus a product of those factors or are we able to determine for ourselves who we become, outside our conscious decisions?

So it was with this newfound awareness of these patterns in my adolescence and these possibly unknown forces forming my identity, that I am taking stock of my life: where am I going? Both personally and professionally.

In the little startup, my partner & I started out being "equal", but later I realized there are differences that are due to our sexual identity and cultural upbringing. For instance, I don't find myself drawn to compete in power struggles that my partner often experienced. Also, I find that being feminine in business doesn't mean using sex appeal to close deals, but rather, assessing the prospect and augmenting their requirements with insights from intuition, on top of the due diligence that we carry out professionally.

Perhaps circumstances might have played a role; despite the positive examples cited above, I find myself in situations where more often than not, I'm rewarded more when the 'masculine' traits are asserted: such as knowing how household things work, how to solve mechanical problems, how to read & write computer programmes, how to deal with people in a way that will bring business deals... On the other hand, the 'feminine' traits are hardly "useful" because their benefits are not perceived, and even if they are, not immediately. Therefore I find myself increasingly pushed to hone up these skills, to behave, and consequently, to adopt a more 'masculine' identity than what is good for me. In the meanwhile, interpersonal relationships suffer because of this desexualization of my personality.

But hey! I don't have to take this lying down! The point is now, being aware of these influences, I can ask myself: what do these skills prepare me for? Do they help me fine-tune my "compass" to find a suitable partner for a Christian marriage? Do they make me a better Catholic, a better woman, a better child of God? Do they prepare me to be a Christian wife & mother, or a consecrated woman who knows how to live her gifts?

So I guess the question now is what's the plan? Coming up soon...

Friday, May 18, 2007

Novena to the Holy Spirit

The Novena to the Holy Spirit begins today, the day after the Solemnity of Ascension. From EWTN:

The novena in honor of 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 still the only novena officially prescribed by the Church. Addressed to the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, it is a powerful plea for the light and strength and love so sorely needed by every Christian.

The entire prayer can be found here. Speak Lord, for Your servant is listening.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sanctification of time

Fr Dwight Longenecker wrote about how most of the dioceses in the US have shifted the time-immemorial celebration of Ascension from Thursday to Sunday out of utilitarian reasons to get more people to attend this feast day:

"As a layman, I used to enjoy getting to church for weekday Holy Days of Obligation. Somehow it made the feast all the more special. It made me feel like I was really getting into the sanctification of Time--which is, after all, what liturgical calendars and lectionaries are all about."

Well, the point of this post is not to affirm support for the moving of Ascension Thursday to Ascension Sunday. (Many blogger in affected dioceses have complained!) Rather, on this feast day, I'd like to reflect on the idea of "sanctification of time" and my encounter with this idea. A short essay I read, A Christian View of History by Fr David Meconi, SJ, (original source link recently found here) reflected on how the various belief systems view time.

"In Christianity, time has a fundamental importance."
--Tertio Millennio Adveniente #1

Fr Meconi wrote that in the Catholic Church, "faith is neither a mere remembrance of the past nor is it merely the waiting for things to come." In the same Apostolic Exhortation quoted, our beloved Pope John Paul II emphasised that the Divine is not seen as existing "outside of the here and now"; but rather, the Divine is "fully available and definitively present" to the faithful in the present time: in particular, through the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The essay went on to compare three views of time: paganism, protestantism and post-modernism; and how in each, time is the enemy of one trying to access the Eternity.

Lent 2006 was a beginning of a hitherto unknown journey of discernment towards the Unknown. Easter 2006 was the first time I started an attempt to attend mass daily. It's been a whole year now; a full cycle of the liturgical calendar. This is the first full year in which I encountered (and celebrated!) so many feastdays and memorials of martyrs and saints of the Church, majority of which were unheard of before. When I wrote in last year's post about being "trapped our own 'cycles' of giddy joy and lowly blues in our relationship with God" and consequently "find that the Church's 'peaks' over Easter does not coincide with our own peaks", obviously I did not breathe with the same rhythm as the rest of the Church!

In fact, earlier this year, I wondered just how in some communities, certain feast days could be occasions of great communal joy when obviously, the members come from all walks of life facing different challenges at that particular point of time.. Is it possible for everyone to be joyful at the same time? Isn't it more likely that there is someone who thinks to himself, at the beginning of Lenten fasting and penance, "God, hasn't my entire Advent and Christmas been one long trial?" And when it comes to the boundless joy of Easter, there may be some who just emerged, or entered, into personal trial...

Fr Meconi's essay made an important byline implication in comparing the three different views of time. He concluded that in the Catholic Church, God is ever present, here & now; not sometime in the glorious past (as in pagan worship of long-gone myths), and not only sometime in the past & in the second coming (as in Protestantism devoid of the Real Presence) and He is not impossible to perceive (as in post-modernism). Thus, the necessary consequence is that God doesn't depend on our faith to exist, nor the epoch of our life to reveal Himself. Just as He doesn't cease to exist because one person believes and another may not, His existence and ongoing salvation is not less available to us who are in time that came two millennia after Jesus.

Time is indeed fulfilled by the very fact that God, in the Incarnation, came down into human history. Eternity entered into time: what 'fulfillment' could be greater than this?
--Tertio Millennio Adveniente #9

Looking beyond the challenges of human daily life, the Church's liturgical calendar stood like a firm 'anchor' in the sea of time. The pagan view of time, I must confess, is one which I, of pagan birth, would find most natural to ascribe to: that everything will pass away and that there has to be something in the past to cling to. Yet the Christian view of time does more than offer a past to cling to; it immersed us in that very sea of time, time that is sacred: "created by God and as such, time is purposeful and a sacramental through which the Divine is seen". The seasons and the feasts helped to bind me to the most perfect of reality: that even as our professional and personal concerns seem to fill our lives and turn our dispositions away from that of the Church, there is an eschatological reality that is more real than the brief lives we lead here on earth. To believe and act otherwise (e.g., that I really can't celebrate Ascension because my day has been awful and aspiring to ascend into Heaven is the last thing on my mind), is somewhat subscribing into the motto: sentio ergo sum.

Sum, in nostra aetate, ergo cogito. Sum, in nostra aetate, ergo sentio. Pardon the bad Latin.

Monday, May 14, 2007

"Catholic" Ethics Part 2

To follow up from my earlier intention to study this topic, here's a filler post about The Acton Institute whose mission is "to promote a free, virtuous, and humane society" and whose direction "recognizes the benefits of a limited government, but also the beneficent consequences of a free market."

While I don't know much about Rev. Robert A Sirico, a Catholic priest, or anyone on board this organization, to form an opinion about the institute's conformity with the teachings of the Church, it provides an interesting starting point (yet again) for anyone learning about ethics & Christian views on it:
- Support for entrepreneurs
- Support of right to private property
- Markets & morality of capitalism

Reading an interview (PDF) of Fr Sirico from the year 2000, it seems like he was a passionate youth on the Economic Left in the 70's before delving into the likes of Hayek and Friedman, which helped to disabuse him from the notion that "some have because others don't".

"I support liberty; I oppose libertinism. The most freeing experiences of my life have been when I surrendered myself to legitimate authority
Liberty is logically ordered to the truth; that is, it is ordered to something beyond itself. [Lord] Acton's twin concerns in his writing of history was the importance of human liberty, but the equal importance of religion as the regulator of liberty.

Economic truth is truth, but it is not the whole truth. The talent for business comes from something that transcends economics; it comes from a culture that respects the human person."

I will read and review some of his articles and post them here in the coming few months. Meanwhile, any comments/insights/links to resources are always welcome.

Friday, May 11, 2007

99 Balloons

This video has been spreading around for awhile now. Found it through Stephen's blog. Beautiful witness of the parents of a miracle baby born with Trisomy-18, who found cause to celebrate for every day of the gift of his life.

Update: the video was removed, and another one is found here.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Memorial: Blessed Damien of Molokai

Today we commemorate Blessed Damien, whose selfless service and heroism encouraged many to heed God's call (indeed, this is true for every SSCC priest I know!). He ministered to the lepers in an isolated colony of Molokai, Hawaii, before contracting the disease himself and died. He is venerated even by non-Catholic ecclesial communities. Pray for us!

Anecdote: I found a letter attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson (of the Treasure Island fame), in defense of Blessed Damien, when in the course of the beatification process, a Protestant clergy wrote ill of him.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Admirabile Commercium

Our late Pope John Paul II, when he wasn't writing dense treatises, wrote in a poetic language that sings of abandon, steeped in love and awe: from "Gift and Mystery", on Admirabile Commercium:

"The priestly vocation is a mystery. It is the mystery of a 'wondrous exchange'—admirabile commercium—between God and man. A man offers his humanity to Christ, so that Christ may use him as an instrument of salvation, making him as it were into another Christ. Unless we grasp the mystery of this 'exchange', we will not understand how it can be that a young man, hearing the words 'Follow me!' can give up everything for Christ, in the certainty that if He follows this path, he will find complete personal fulfillment.

In our world, is there any greater fulfillment of our humanity than to be able to re-present every day in persona Christi the redemptive sacrifice, the same sacrifice which Christ offered on the Cross?"

One can sense the awe, from this short reading of his reflection (from many!) of the gift of vocation to the priesthood, that in this commercium, man is clearly getting 'the better deal'!

When I contemplate the meaning of vocation, I always remember the first time the question is presented to me, in a somewhat unusual fashion, because it really questioned the fundamentals: What is the question? It was during the CHOICE weekend, at the very first question in fact, when I as a participant was asked to look beyond myself, beyond my own inward-looking search for self, beyond the world's definition of "self-actualization".

When the focus of identity is shifted away from self, it was disconcerting to say the least. Glancing at my "Draft" posts in this blog, I saw an unfinished, unpublished entry about one of those philosophical conversations I had with my university friend (then also my housemate). She remarked to me, "Because you don't know what you want, your life seems, I'm sorry to say, to have no purpose". It hurt me, perhaps my pride more than anything, to have someone say this to my face. I was at that time still struggling with creating vision & running a young start-up navigating the rough waters of mobile business. I was pretty sure then (still am now), that a company is a vehicle for spreading economic good. So equipped with what skills my partner & I had, we started the start-up company in the hope that someday our product will be be beneficial for many in the world and profit as a necessary consequence, will be fairly shared amongst all those in the company who have contributed. Simple and noble?

But running a company, whether struggling or successful, is not it. I've had a taste of small victories & joys, as well as bitter defeats & discouraging moments. Sometimes, like these past few weeks, I can say that I feel the wood of the Cross close to me and very keenly too: its texture, its weight and its promise. No matter how successful, I think the reward from this enterprise will never be sufficient to fulfil a deeper longing, a longing which I'm more convinced is a part of my identity, hence a form of vocation.

And this is where the worldly vision of self-fulfilment falls short in my quest. At the time of that conversation, I happened to read Jonathan Kwitny's biography of our late Pope, and was struck by a theme that seemed to resonate throughout his life: he had plans, good plans, but Love struck him such that he abandoned himself, lost himself(!), to the plan of God instead. This is where we see again the sense of awe that permeates his book "Gift and Mystery". One who is not convinced of the existence of an eternal vocation from God would say that putting aside our own plans to heed this 'call' is either a great cowardice or a great folly!

A few more years since that conversation, I've become more convinced that to know and to fulfil God's design for us is the ultimate reality; living the life of a creature according to the design of its Creator is the creature's fullness of life! A few more readings I encountered lately seemed to confirm that this is quite a central part of the Church's faith:

Faith is obedience; it means that we relearn the essential form of our being—our nature as creatures—and in this way become authentic. It means that we recognize the relationship of responsibility as the basic form of our lives and that as a result, power changes from being a threat and a danger to hope.

This obedience is directed to God Himself—on the one hand it presupposes an attentive and vital relationship with God, and on the other hand it makes this possible, for only the obedient person perceives God.
--Joseph Ratzinger, in "God's Power—Our Hope"

Conversion means to seek God, to walk with God, to follow docilely the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ; to be converted is not an effort to fulfill oneself, because the human being is not the architect of his own destiny. We have not made ourselves. Therefore, self-fulfillment is a contradiction and is too little for us. We have a higher destiny.

We could say that conversion consists precisely in not considering ourselves "creators" of ourselves, thus discovering the truth, because we are not authors of ourselves. Conversion consists in accepting freely and with love that we depend totally on God, our true Creator, that we depend on love.
--Pope Benedict XVI, in Ash Wednesday address 2007
(All emphases mine)

So after this long rambling reflection, I am still not clear what specifically God is calling me to be, except that it is important to know and to live this! But I could see now the journey to that escathological identity had started: from a tabula rasa, to a 'baby' Christian, to a 'cafeteria' pro-choice Catholic, to a lukewarm pro-life Catholic, and hopefully one day, to a child of God enjoying the beatific vision of Him.