Friday, June 29, 2007

Sts Peter & Paul

After two weeks of hellish schedule running around with my family members in town, I stumbled into an evening Mass yesterday at Novena, only to find that they were celebrating the feast of Sts. Peter & Paul. I did say I had two rough weeks, didn't I, but I think I know the feast was to be celebrated on June 29th and not yesterday.

It'd be interesting to know why the Church put the two saints, of different characters and at times, at odd with each other, together in their commemoration day. Anyway, at the same time, I'm in the middle of reading Georges Chevrot's book called "Simon Peter" (translated from French, originally Simon-Pierre). St Peter is an endearing figure to me, and many Christians out there I'm sure, the personification of a madly affectionate soul who is at the same time aware of his own weaknesses and wretchedness.

Simon Peter fell down and caught Jesus by the knees: "Leave me to myself, Lord", he said, "I am a sinner".
[S]imon Peter has another feeling, no less lively, for instead of backing away as his words might lead one to expect, he throws himself at the Saviour's knees. (St Luke does not say that he kneels before Jesus, but that he throws his arms around His knees). He tells Jesus to go away from him, and at the same time he stops Him by holding His legs. "Leave me to myself, Lord!" and he hugs Him tighter.
--Chapter 3, Simon Peter

Doesn't that resonate for you? I know for me it happens often!

Year dedicated to St Paul
And just yesterday, our Pope Benedict XVI jut announced a special jubilee year dedicated to St Paul, in order to 'invigorate' the Church, which 'needs modern Christians who will imitate the apostle's missionary energy and spirit of sacrifice'.

While I still don't know why these two illustrious pillars of the Church are put together, I think their working together in the vineyard of the Lord is a bit like faith & reason as two wings beating together to bring the soul up to God.

And this, is the beautiful solemn blessing at the end of today's mass:

The Lord has set you firm within his Church,
which he built upon the rock of Peter's faith.
May he bless you with a faith that never wavers. Amen.

The Lord has given you knowledge of the faith
through the labors and preaching of Saint Paul.
May his example inspire you to lead others to Christ
by the manner of your life. Amen.

May the keys of Peter, and the words of Paul,
their undying witness and their prayers,
lead you to the joy of that eternal home
which Peter gained by his cross, and Paul by the sword. Amen.

Sancti Apostoli Petrus et Paulus, ora pro nobis!

Friday, June 22, 2007

St Thomas More & St John Fisher

Today we commemorate the feast of St John Fisher & St Thomas More, more famous for his martyrdom than what he accomplished in his life. Read here for fascinating glimpse of his life, as well as some history about other English Catholics persecuted during the time of Henry VII and the secession of England from the Church.

I condemn no other man’s conscience: their conscience may save them, and mine must save me.
-- St John Fisher

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Pluripotent vs embryonic stem cell reseach

The US President, George W Bush, has just—once again—vetoed a bill that would allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. While it's probably not surprising, given his nominally pro-life voting records, it's curious why the same bill is "resurrected" over such a short period of time. So it got me started to read some recent news about ESC.

Some curious facts and issues surrounding this veto:

1. Renaming of the "Human Embryonic Stem Cell Registry" to the "Human Pluripotent Stem Cell Registry"

Along with the veto, he also signed an executive order, in support of so-called "pluripotent" stem-cell research— touted as alternative, ethical, sources of stem cell research.

2. Definition of Pluripotency

If my limited knowledge and memory serve me right, the term 'pluripotent' is typically applied to non-embryonic stem cells. An embryo is made up of totipotent cells, which contain the complete genetic information needed to 'manufacture' all the cells of the body, as well as pluripotent & multipotent cells. To simplify the meaning of this terminology: totipotent cells are found in the earliest stages, the pluripotent cells are found after 3 or 4 divisions, and multipotent cells are created after further divisions. Totipotent, pluripotent, and multipotent cells are all present in the embryo, but only pluripotent and multipotent cells can be found in adults.. How they differ exactly and why most supporters of ESC seem to be after the highly plastic ESC, are beyond my field.

It just seems as if the use of this term is deliberate, to stress that the source of this line of stem cells is not embryonic.

3. Definition of Embryo

The article above, seems to highlight recent discoveries of making adult stem cells behave like ESC through a process called "altered nuclear transfer". While stem cells obtained through this way is not technically destroying human embryos, there is a question of whether the adult cells reprogrammed to act like embryonic stem-cells are 'sometimes able to develop into full embryos again' by a process known as "regulation" - then what is present is potentially a human being... which makes this line of stem cells no different than ESC.

4. Definition of Life

It seems to me that restricting federal funding for ESC research is not sufficient if Bush truly believes that ESC are indeed human beings at embryonic stage! To still allow ESC research on private funding would be like saying, privately-funded killing is morally fine but the state will not fund such deeds. The supporters of ESC research would see through this duplicity and keep pushing the bill. To be consistent to the definition of life ("life begins with love"--George W Bush, 2006) at conception, it demands no less than a total ban.

Some links to articles that summarize the reprogramming of adult stem cells (in mice): here, here and here.

And a link to article about using the morality of using 'dead' ESC here.

More articles here & here.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Memorial: St Anthony of Padua

June 13th was yesterday: my namesake's feast day. Here's a quote attributed to him:

Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

The Hound of Heaven

"The Hound of Heaven" is a beautiful poem I encountered some years ago. Francis Thompson, the poet, seems to live an interesting, if too brief, life. For many who were enthralled by this poem of his, it would seem that Thompson fulfiled his purpose, if only one more soul finds God through this work.

I fled Him, down the nights and down the days;
I fled Him, down the arches of the years;
I fled Him, down the labyrinthine ways
Of my own mind; and in the mist of tears
I hid from Him, and under running laughter.
Up vistaed hopes I sped;
And shot, precipitated,
Adown Titanic glooms of chasmèd fears,
From those strong Feet that followed, followed after.
But with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
They beat—and a Voice beat
More instant than the Feet—
"All things betray thee, who betrayest Me."

I pleaded, outlaw-wise,
By many a hearted casement, curtained red,
Trellised with intertwining charities;
(For, though I knew His love Who followèd,
Yet was I sore adread
Lest, having Him, I must have naught beside.)
But, if one little casement parted wide,
The gust of His approach would clash it to:
Fear wist not to evade, as Love wist to pursue.
Across the margent of the world I fled,
And troubled the gold gateways of the stars,
Smiting for shelter on their clangèd bars:
Fretted to dulcet jars
And silvern chatter the pale ports o' the moon.
I said to Dawn: Be sudden—to Eve: Be soon;
With thy young skiey blossoms heap me over
From this tremendous Lover—
Float thy vague veil about me, lest He see!
I tempted all His servitors, but to find
My own betrayal in their constancy,
In faith to Him their fickleness to me,
Their traitorous trueness, and their loyal deceit.
To all swift things for swiftness did I sue;
Clung to the whistling mane of every wind.
But whether they swept, smoothly fleet,
The long savannahs of the blue;
Or whether, Thunder-driven,
They clanged his chariot 'thwart a heaven,
Plashy with flying lightnings round the spurn o' their feet:—
Fear wist not to evade as Love wist to pursue.
Still with unhurrying chase,
And unperturbéd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy,
Came on the following Feet,
And a Voice above their beat—
"Naught shelters thee, who wilt not shelter Me."

I sought no more that after which I strayed
In face of man or maid;
But still within the little children's eyes
Seems something, something that replies,
They at least are for me, surely for me!
I turned me to them very wistfully;
But just as their young eyes grew sudden fair
With dawning answers there,
Their angel plucked them from me by the hair.
"Come then, ye other children, Nature's—share
With me" (said I) "your delicate fellowship;
Let me greet you lip to lip,
Let me twine you with caresses,
With our Lady-Mother's vagrant tresses,
With her in her wind-walled palace,
Underneath her azured dais,
Quaffing, as your taintless way is,
From a chalice
Lucent-weeping out of the dayspring."
So it was done:
I in their delicate fellowship was one—
Drew the bolt of Nature's secrecies.
I knew all the swift importings
On the wilful face of skies;
I knew how the clouds arise
Spuméd of the wild sea-snortings;
All that's born or dies
Rose and drooped with; made them shapers
Of mine own moods, or wailful or divine;
With them joyed and was bereaven.
I was heavy with the even,
When she lit her glimmering tapers
Round the day's dead sanctities.
I laughed in the morning's eyes.
I triumphed and I saddened with all weather,
Heaven and I wept together,
And its sweet tears were salt with mortal mine;
Against the red throb of its sunset-heart
I laid my own to beat,
And share commingling heat;
But not by that, by that, was eased my human smart.
In vain my tears were wet on Heaven's grey cheek.
For ah! we know not what each other says,
These things and I; in sound I speak—
Their sound is but their stir, they speak by silences.
Nature, poor stepdame, cannot slake my drouth;
Let her, if she would owe me,
Drop yon blue bosom-veil of sky, and show me
The breasts o' her tenderness:
Never did any milk of hers once bless
My thirsting mouth.
Nigh and nigh draws the chase,
With unperturbèd pace,
Deliberate speed, majestic instancy;
And past those noised Feet
A voice comes yet more fleet—
"Lo! naught contents thee, who content'st not Me."

Naked I wait Thy love's uplifted stroke!
My harness piece by piece Thou hast hewn from me,
And smitten me to my knee;
I am defenceless utterly.
I slept, methinks, and woke,
And, slowly gazing, find me stripped in sleep.
In the rash lustihead of my young powers,
I shook the pillaring hours
And pulled my life upon me; grimed with smears,
I stand amid the dust o' the mounded years—
My mangled youth lies dead beneath the heap.
My days have crackled and gone up in smoke,
Have puffed and burst as sun-starts on a stream.
Yea, faileth now even dream
The dreamer, and the lute the lutanist.
Even the linked fantasies, in whose blossomy twist
I swung the earth a trinket at my wrist,
Are yielding; cords of all too weak account
For earth with heavy griefs so overplussed.
Ah! is Thy love indeed
A weed, albeit an amaranthine weed,
Suffering no flowers except its own to mount?
Ah! must—
Designer infinite!—
Ah! must Thou char the wood ere Thou can'st limn with it?
My freshness spent its wavering shower i' the dust;
And now my heart is as a broken fount,
Wherein tear-drippings stagnate, spilt down ever
From the dank thoughts that shiver
Upon the sighful branches of my mind.
Such is; what is to be?
The pulp so bitter, how shall taste the rind?
I dimly guess what Time in mists confounds;
Yet ever and anon a trumpet sounds
From the hid battlements of Eternity;
Those shaken mists a space unsettle, then
Round the half-glimpséd turrets slowly wash again.
But not ere him who summoneth
I first have seen, enwound
With glooming robes purpureal, cypress-crowned;
His name I know, and what his trumpet saith.
Whether man's heart or life it be which yields
Thee harvest, must Thy harvest-fields
Be dunged with rotten death?

Now of that long pursuit
Comes on at hand the bruit;
That Voice is round me like a bursting sea:
"And is thy earth so marred,
Shattered in shard on shard?
Lo, all things fly thee, for thou fliest Me!
Strange, piteous, futile thing!
Wherefore should any set thee love apart?
Seeing none but I makes much of naught" (He said),
"And human love needs human meriting:
How hast thou merited—
Of all man's clotted clay the dingiest clot?
Alack, thou knowest not
How little worthy of any love thou art!
Whom wilt thou find to love ignoble thee,
Save Me, save only Me?
All which I took from thee I did but take,
Not for thy harms,
But just that thou might'st seek it in My arms.
All which thy child's mistake
Fancies as lost, I have stored for thee at home:
Rise, clasp My hand, and come!"
Halts by me that footfall:
Is my gloom, after all,
Shade of His hand, outstretched caressingly?
"Ah, fondest, blindest, weakest,
I am He Whom thou seekest!
Thou dravest love from thee, who dravest Me."
Francis Thompson (1859-1907)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Corpus Domini in Rome

(All photos from Yahoo)
Pope Benedict XVI on Corpus Domini, celebrated yesterday, on Thursday: The procession would be made "as if to bring ideally the Lord Jesus through all the streets and neighbourhoods of Rome. We will immerse Him, so to speak, in the ordinariness of our life, so that He may walk where we walk, so that He may live where we live."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

On the wonder that is the Eucharist

Coming back from the first Triduum mass in which Fr Pereira gave a lively homily on the Eucharist, that wonderful Bread of Life, words fail me when it comes to this topic & I could only quote some of the beautiful writings of the saints, who found themselves lost in the Love that incarnates itself in the Eucharist:

"How many of you say: I should like to see His face, His garments, His shoes. You do see Him, you touch Him, you eat Him. He gives Himself to you, not only that you may see Him, but also to be your food and nourishment."
— St. John Chrysostom

"I throw myself at the foot of the Tabernacle like a dog at the foot of his Master."
— St. John Vianney

"If we but paused for a moment to consider attentively what takes place in this Sacrament, I am sure that the thought of Christ's love for us would transform the coldness of our hearts into a fire of love and gratitude."
— St. Angela

"Do you realize that Jesus is there in the tabernacle expressly for you - for you alone? He burns with the desire to come into your heart... don't listen to the demon, laugh at him, and go without fear to receive the Jesus of peace and love...
"Receive Communion often, very often... there you have the sole remedy, if you want to be cured. Jesus has not put this attraction in your heart for nothing..."
"The guest of our soul knows our misery; He comes to find an empty tent within us - that is all He asks."
— St. Therese of Lisieux

"In one day the Eucharist will make you produce more for the glory of God than a whole lifetime without it."
— St. Peter Julian Eymard

AND, AND, to encourage all to attend the Eucharistic procession:

"I especially loved the processions in honor of the Blessed Sacrament. What a joy it was for me to throw flowers beneath the feet of God! ... I was never so happy as when I saw my roses touch the sacred Monstrance..."
— St. Therese of Lisieux: Story of A Soul

Also, I was very touched to read this: what the Eucharist meant to the Church's latest martyr, Fr. Ragheed Ganni, a priest in Mosul (Iraq), who was shot along with three other deacons after celebrating Mass last Sunday, in a Eucharistic Congress in Bari (Italy), in 2005: (emphases mine)

Mosul Christians are not theologians; some are even illiterate. And yet inside of us for many generations one truth has become embedded: without the Sunday Eucharist we cannot live.

This is true today when evil has reached the point of destroying churches and killing Christians, something unheard of in Iraq till now.

On June 2004 of last year, a group of young women was cleaning the church to get it ready for Sunday service. My sister Raghad, who is 19, was among them.

As she was carrying a pail of water to wash the floor, two men drove up and threw a grenade that blew up just a few yards away from her.

She was wounded but miraculously survived. And on that Sunday we still celebrated the Eucharist. My shaken parents were also there.

For me and my community, my sister's wounds were a source of strength so that we, too, may bear our cross.

Last August in St Paul Church, a car bomb exploded after the 6 pm mass. The blast killed two Christians and wounded many others. But that, too, was another miracle—the car was full of bombs but only one exploded. Had they all gone off together the dead would have been in the hundreds since 400 faithful had come on that day.

People could not believe what had happened. The terrorists might think they can kill our bodies or our spirit by frightening us, but, on Sundays, churches are always full. They may try to take our life, but the Eucharist gives it back.

On December 7, the eve of the Immaculate Conception, a group of terrorist tried to destroy the Chaldean Bishop's Residence, which is near Our Lady of the Tigris Shrine, a place venerated by both Christians and Muslims.

They placed explosives everywhere and a few minutes later blew the place up. This and fundamentalist violence against young Christians have forced many families to flee. Yet the Churches have remained open and people continue to go to mass, even among the ruins.

It is among such difficulties that we understand the real value of Sunday, the day when we meet the Risen Christ, the day of our unity and love, of our [mutual] support and help.

There are days when I feel frail and full of fear. But when, holding the Eucharist, I say 'Behold the Lamb of God Behold, who takes away the sin of the world', I feel His strength in me. When I hold the Host in my hands, it is really He who is holding me and all of us, challenging the terrorists and keeping us united in His boundless love.

In normal times, everything is taken for granted and we forget the greatest gift that is made to us. Ironically, it is thanks to terrorist violence that we have truly learnt that it is the Eucharist, the Christ who died and risen, that gives us life. And this allows us to resist and hope."

May you find Him in the Eucharist always!

UPDATE: I realized that Corpus Christi is meant to be celebrated on a Thursday, that is tomorrow, but some of us will get to celebrate it only this Sunday! So for all of you out there who celebrate this solemnity tomorrow, here's wishing you a happy solemnity in advance!

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Corpus Christi celebration

It's almost the time of the year for the solemnity of Corpus Christi, one of my favorite feast days in the Church calendar (well, to be fair, all the feast days are great occasions to rejoice!)

If you're in Singapore, do join the following Triduum Masses & the Solemn procession:

Triduum Masses:
At Blessed Sacrament Church, there will be 3 evening masses from Wednesday (tomorrow) until Friday, at 8.00PM and the celebrant is Fr Simon Pereira CSsR. The themes for the Triduum:
- Wednesday, 6th June: "I am the Bread of Life"
- Thursday 7th June: "We Are the Body of Christ"
- Friday 8th June: "Do This In Memory of Me"

Corpus Christi Sunday (June 10th):
At the Church of St. Francis of Assisi (200 Boon Lay Avenue--near the Choice Retreat House) from 10:30am - 12:00pm, there will be a Mass followed by a procession with the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction.

If you've never attended a procession of the Blessed Sacrament, I encourage you to attend! As Catholics we believe that the Eucharist is the "source & summit" of our life, so do come & join this procession to show our love & reverence for our Lord this coming solemnity!

Monday, June 04, 2007

Embryonic vs Adult Stem Cells

I think most educated Catholics out there would already be familiar with the moral and scientific arguments against embryonic stem cells. This video produced by the Family Research Council put them in a nutshell. Just so you can spread this to others.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Prayer request

Would you readers and passers-by kindly do me a favor of offering prayers for an intention that has come up? Thank you so much in advance, no prayer is ever too small!