Thursday, July 26, 2007

Human Device

"Human device" seems like a term that non-humans use to describe mechanism/tools which are human, or for those who dismiss physical mechanism in spiritual endeavor. I encountered this term when reading up about prayer. When one is absorbed in the daily tasks and work, it can be difficult to keep the presence of God. There are ways to keep ourselves "rooted" of course, such as keeping a crucifix in clear view on our desks.

Now, for the digital age that made the computer desktop literally our "desk top", there are nifty things like widgets. I personally use Yahoo! Widget Engine (now re-named Konfabulator again, after a very unimaginative name change), and have a Picture Frame widget (prebundled when you install the Widget Engine) that sometimes displays a crucifix.

Based on an advice from my SD, I start using a digital equivalent of a click-counter to keep track of the aspirations (short prayers) that one can say (in order to better keep the presence of God) in a day, and found it very nifty indeed! It can be quite revealing however, when at the end of the day, my count remains in the single-digit range!

Very often, the number stared at me and I ran out of aspirations to say. Frankly, there are some days when saying an aspiration is the last thing on my mind. So I thought, why not stand on the shoulders of giants (in our case, the Saints), and mimic their impeccable devotion instead?

Out of this burst of inspiration, I made my very first widget ever: this widget displays a random aspiration from one of the saints (well, they are mostly from St Alphonsus Liguori, and then there are some from St Teresa de Avila, St Philip Neri, and many others I did not manage to discover). Admittedly, some of their spiritual ejaculations are so POD™ (pious & overly devotional) and almost outside-of-this-world, but they made it, eh? ;) This widget, called "Catholic Random Aspirations", also keeps a counter as to how many you have said today. Clicking on the red button increases the counter and gives you a different random aspiration. Right now it's only a static collection of slightly less than 200 aspirations and can be run OFFLINE.

Any comment or feedback regarding the use of this widget is very welcome! Also, I'd really appreciate it if you can send me more aspirations. The next version of this widget will draw the aspiration randomly from an online database so that the collection of aspirations can be updated without upgrading the widget itself.

I've submitted this widget for public download at Yahoo! Widgets Gallery and it's still now under review. (I will update this post when it goes live.) In the meanwhile, if you trust that I'm not going to run some malicious code on your machine, you can also download it here (old link removed, updated below). If it helps you keep Him closer, it's enough reward!

UPDATE! The widget is now available for public download at Yahoo! Widgets Gallery. This is the direct link. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

A generation waking up?

From Godsbody: "This is a double platinum album, and the number one iTunes download in ALL of Canada--not just the Quebec Province. i think it strikes the young single crowd profoundly."

Here's an alternative translation

"But he's got high hopes..."

I'm a big believer in self-motivation. That's why I'm such a sucker for things that can inspire. Take this song, for instance, a rendition of Frank Sinatra's "High Hopes" by a chubby guy in a goofy green t-shirt. If your day hasn't been that bad yet, it's ok, there'll be a time when you find this song cheers you up!
(HT to uncle jim of Adoro's blog)

Next time you're found, with your chin on the ground
There's a lot to be learned, so look around

Just what makes that little old ant
Think he'll move that rubber tree plant
Anyone knows an ant, can't
Move a rubber tree plant

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your gettin' low
stead of lettin' go
Just remember that ant
Oops! there goes another rubber tree plant

When troubles call, and your back's to the wall
There's a lot to be learned, that wall could fall

Once there was a silly old ram
Thought he'd punch a hole in a dam
No one could make that ram, scram
He kept buttin that dam

'cause he had high hopes, he had high hopes
He had high apple pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your feelin bad
stead of feelin sad
Just remember that ram
Oops! there goes a billion kilowatt dam

All problems just a toy balloon
They'll be bursted soon
They're just bound to go pop
Oops! there goes another problem - kerplop!

Monday, July 16, 2007

One Christianity or many?

I was reading an article by Fr. R. Cantalamessa, the Pope's Household Preacher, about the figure of Jesus: "between history and.. history". He references the Pope's latest book "Jesus of Nazareth" as an original entry in the field of those who search for the historical Jesus—because it is written from 'a genuinely theological interpretation', an obvious contrast from the many secular (sociological or anthropological or historical) treatises of Jesus—clearly limited in their own methods when they explicitly discount the actions of the Holy Spirit post-Resurrection as theological—which are unable to come to a coherent conclusion about who Jesus is: "a type of first-century shaman figure; [or] a Cynic-sort of wandering wise man; [or] a visionary radical and social reformer preaching egalitarian ethics to the destitute; [or] a Galilean regionalist alienated from the elitism of Judean religious conventions (like Temple and Torah); [or] a champion of national liberation and, on the contrary, [or] its opponent and critic."

This short post isn't about the book—which I have yet to read—it's about an interesting section of the article subtitled "One Christianity or many?" The inability to scientifically pinpoint and prove beyond doubt who Jesus is, seems to find a parallel in the Christian world today: between the Catholic Church and all the other Christian 'communities', there lies a difference of opinion about what and how to teach & spread Christianity. An outsider would say that if Christians can't even agree who Jesus Christ is, it stands to believe that there can be many (forms of) 'Christianities'. Others would say that the different non-Catholic denominations grew in rebellion to the orthodoxy that Rome allegedly imposes.

I still need to come to the issue raised by those who say that in the beginning there was not one Christianity, but many, that is to say, many different interpretations of Christ's message, gradually eliminated one by one by the growing weight of the orthodoxy imposed by the church of Rome. It is possible -- why not? -- to speak of different Christianities, but then of course we need to say the same of nearly every institution and of the great novelties of history. In that sense there was not one Jewish religion but many Jewish religions, nor one Renaissance but many Renaissances, nor one French Revolution but many French Revolutions, and so on, because each of these realities were the result of the processes of the interaction and refining of various factors and tendencies. Sociologists teach us that that is what usually comes about in a movement's development from its nascent status to the establishment that is its final result.


The notion of an orthodoxy that emerged victorious by eliminating its competitors under the powerful guidance of Rome is a pure legend. Orthodoxy was not established in its origins by way of a movement from the centre to the periphery, but on the contrary, by movement from the periphery towards the centre. The struggles against ebionite beliefs, docetism, and encratism did not move outwards from Rome, but all arrived in Rome from Antioch in Syria, from Asia Minor, from Alexandria in Egypt, from Carthage and from Lyon in France. Rome in the first two centuries and a half of Christian history was more the arbiter between the parties than a leading force in the struggles against heresy.

Read the rest of the article, and find his logical conclusion about this attempt to separate the 'historical' Jesus and the 'theological' Jesus, and the role of the Church in this quest.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Marian plug of the day

I remember seeing a Marian post every Saturday by Enbrethiliel at her (now defunct) blog Sancta Sanctis. I think it's a wonderful way to cultivate our devotion for her. Since right now I have nothing original to say about Our Lady, let me just quote this short poem (prayer, more like it) to her:

Our Lady of the Road (Patrice Garczinski, 1925-1950)

Our Lady of the Road,
Teach us not to rush to external roads
And to sometimes wait in silence for
“The One who must come, the One who cannot not come.”

Our Lady of the Road
I entrust myself to you, after having heard in silence the call of
“The One who must come, the One who cannot not come.”

Our Lady of the Road
When we must make a choice,
When we must journey outwards in order to fulfill our call, Pray for us.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The Motumania & the Papacy

Since July 7th, the Pope's Motu Proprio letter Summorum Pontificum had made headlines everywhere, prompting some poorly-researched, some hysterical (check here for Fr Z's excellent response), some trite responses from the usual suspects and the rest of the journalist denizens.

Yet, since mentioned before, I have not been to an "older" form of the Mass, nor have there been a mention of it by any of our parish priests in the last few days, this post isn't about joining the throng of voices that debate whether or not this is the right move for the Church to step into. No, I think the issue here is about the perception of power game and the lack of obedience. Does the average Catholic think that the Pope really just wake up one day deciding that he misses the 1962, older (more beautiful?) form of Mass and that those similarly inclined amongst the laity should also have this upon their whim? Or that he has been plotting all this while to 'turn back the clock'? More passionate & analytical minds have analysed the motives, better still, the Pope himself had written an explanation letter accompanying the Motu!

Once again, the little book Simon Peter offered a wonderful meditation about St Peter & the chair his successors inherit:

"The momentary weakness of Peter, foreseen by the Master, proves to us that in giving His Church a monarchical foundation, Jesus had weighed up all the risks. He knew that all the successors of Cephas would not be saints, that some would be the victims of ambition, of cupidity, or of less avowable passions still. However saddened we are by the indignity of a very small number of bad popes, it is a fact at least affirmed by historical documents, that not a single one of them was led away by the disorders of their private lives to relax the least precept of the moral law, not a single one among them tried to forgive their errors by letting the deposit of dogmatic truth be encroached upon.
Should the faults of some make us forget the virtue, the science, the zeal of so many other pontiffs?
A man, a single man, even if he is a saint, will never get rid of his personality. His opinions will always be influenced by his cast of spirit, his manner of governing will also depend on his temperament. ... It is true that every Pope, however respectful of tradition, directs the Church in a certain spirit, that each reign has its ruling idea or ideas, and once can see, without any difficulty, difference of orientation from one pontificate to another. Differences, yes; divergences, no, and contradictions, less still.
As to the fact of finding out whether, different as they are from one another, each is the authentic representative of the authority of Christ, history makes the reply that each pope comes at his hour, and that his genius accords providentially with the necessities of the moment.
The respect with which we speak of the Pope will dispose us to obeying him more perfectly. [L]ike true sons, we will listen attentively to the simple counsels of the Father of the faithful and we will apply ourselves to putting them loyally into practice.
It may come about that one or other of the pontifical directions may interfere with our spiritual habits or claim the sacrifice of temporal interests that we believed were basic to us. In such a case, instead of pretending that we have a monopoly of truth, would it not be wiser if we first of all tried to understand our head's thought well? The Pope sees higher and farther than us. This is why his word has an import that surpasses our particular views and such of his instructions as can astonish you respond in reality not only to the problems of today but also the difficulties of tomorrow.
Imagine for the moment the problems that pose themselves to the conscience of the Sovereign Pontiff. He knows that the least word he says will have gone around the world in a few hours: is he not going to weigh each of his words carefully—to avoid everything that might give rise to confusion—to soften, even if some (and there are always some) think the qualification excessive, to soften an expression which, incorrectly understood, might cause more harm than it would shed light? It is not only his authority that he exercises in issuing an order or a defence, he knows that his will shall be executed by hundreds of thousads of the faithful whom one inopportune command could put astray.

Do you not think he can forget his responsibility? If he were only a man like one of us, he would only want to open his mouth after having consulted and interrogated, collected all opinions, and having personally studied and reflected. Which of us would dare to raise our voice in such conditions? Would we not prefer to remain silent? The Pope only speaks because he has a duty to do so, an imperative duty attached to his charge. Also he does not content himself with these long conferences with his conscience; he converses longer still with God, in a prayer in which his whole soul gives itself over, and only wants to give itself over, to the Holy Ghost. What is at stake for those who will not obey his word, is perhaps their eternal salvation. Who would suppose that he is going to speak lightly, or under the influence of human considerations? It is on his knees that he meditates the doctrine of his encyclicals. The condemnation that he must issue would never see the light of day if he had not the certainty that he must speak in the name of Christ.

I am convinced, Brethren, that there would be no more dissidents among the Catholics of our day if all would only try to reflect on this: the Pope has a conscience, the conscience of an honest man, the conscience of a Christian, the conscience of a head (and what a head!) the representative of Christ before all Christians.

You need not look for any other proof that the Sovereign Pontiff is conscious of the other responsibilities that are his, than the insistence with which he demands that we fulfil our third duty in respect to him, that of praying with him and for him. No Mass is celebrated without our mentioning his name."

Oremus pro Pontifice nostro BENEDICTUS!

Monday, July 09, 2007

St Augustine Zhao Rong & 119 Chinese martyrs

Today in Singapore (and I'm not sure where else), we commemorate the feast of St Augustine Zhao Rong & 119 Chinese martyrs—commonly called the "120 Chinese martyrs", who died between 1648 and 1930.

The Catholics in China has had three centuries of suffering & persecution. These 120 are just a small number of native Catholics & missionaries, from as high an estimate of 30,000 Catholics killed in the Boxer Rebellion alone. Here are some remarks attributed to them:

"The door of heaven is open to everyone"
--Anna Wang, 14, before being beheaded.

"Every piece of my flesh and every drop of my blood will tell you again that I am a Christian."
--Chi Zhuzi, 18, as he was being skinned alive.

Our late Pope John Paul II canonized them in 2000, saying that he prayed for them daily, saying that they are "spiritually united with us", and that they "understand that this is a special moment of grace for the whole church and for the entire Catholic community in China". Our pope Benedict XVI recently issued a pastoral Letter to the Catholics in China (a letter which, the Great Firewall of China together with some government officials, tried its best to block from reaching the faithful). According to Fr Raymond de Souza, this marks a 'hard-earned victory' for the Chinese Catholics: (my quips in blue)

Some 50 years on, the situation has changed. China’s totalitarians have softened, permitting religious freedom in some regions in practice if not in law. More to the point, the clandestine church has not gone away — it is strong, vital and courageous. And the patriotic church, ironically enough, has clandestinely reasserted its union with and fidelity to Rome. All but a handful of patriotic church bishops have asked for approval from the Pope and thus been “legitimized.” It is not quite the ideal — secret union with Rome is not exactly full, visible communion — but it is clear that the patriotic church does not see itself as a Chinese alternative to Roman Catholicism. There are not two churches in China, but one, and one that is part of the Church universal. At the cost of great suffering and much blood, the Catholics of China have not permitted the communists to divide-and-conquer after all.

Well Done, good and faithful servants!

Benedict’s letter encouraged the Catholics of China to live now as they will one day live after the Chinese communists follow their ideological brethren into the dustbin of history. He judged that the Church in China is sufficiently united and faithful that it no longer needs the special provisions made earlier to accommodate what were perceived as two churches; Chinese Catholics can adequately function now with the same law as governs the rest of the Church.

Benedict’s letter encourages the large majority of “patriotic” bishops who are in communion with Rome to make this fact public. For the clandestine bishops, he asks the Chinese state to recognize them; after all, if the “patriotic” bishops are already in communion with Rome, why should the clandestine bishops have to remain underground to do the same thing? To the Catholic community as a whole, Benedict encourages them to reconcile with each other and to forgive the injustices of the past. It would hand the communists a belated victory if the divisions they sought to sow were allowed to produce a harvest of recriminations.

This reminds me of the time when the heretics of old renounced their heresy and wanted to be received back into the fold: there was much bitterness on the part of those who held fast & suffered. But Benedict is right: for the Catholic faithful to remain separate would constitute a victory for the communists.

There almost certainly are more Catholics in China than there are in Canada, and qualitatively, the Chinese Catholics are more vibrant and evangelical than their counterparts here or in Europe.

"Sanguis martyrum, semen christianorum"!

(Btw, the painting is done by Li Chien-Yi, a Buddhist painter. It hung at the Vatican during this canonization ceremony in all its 13-foot-high, 8.5-foot-wide splendor)

Sunday, July 08, 2007

MP: is it really here?

I first heard of the MP (motu proprio) (which could be about anything, but in particular here, about the derestriction of the Latin mass) from Fr Z at WDTPRS about nearly a year ago. He and other supporters of the 1962-style Mass, had been following the rumors and reading Pope Benedict XVI's chessboard-like moves to predict just when is this MP going to 'liberate' this 'traditional' Mass—currently, if I understand it right, priests require their bishops' permissions to celebrate Mass ad-orientem and in the traditional style. (Exactly what this means, I have no idea apart from the videos i've seen on Youtube, since I was born & later entered the Church way after the Novus Ordo Mass was established as a practice.)

After this letter was given to about 30 bishops last week and the release date set to be for July 7th, it's finally here! I don't know whether there are any 1962-style masses in Singapore, but it'd be at least interesting to attend one.

Friday, July 06, 2007

J2ME Woes

Have I ever mentioned I hate mobile phones? Yes, that's right. It's helped revolutionize our lives, I'm sure, but it's been a source of misery for the lot of developers who has the fortune (or mis-fortune) to attempt development of "write once, run everywhere" (i.e. the motto of Java programming). Not to mention I have been using so many test phones that I am nearly schizophrenic when it comes to phone keypads and most certainly paranoid when calls from unknown numbers (unknown, because the more recent contacts were not in the SIM card) arrived...

Before going further, it must be said that this is a late afternoon rant after a few days of being entirely submerged in the exasperating world of standard-less mobile devices. The landscape of software development for mobile devices today, looks a little like pre-DOS era of personal computers. Sloppy & non-compliant implementations of JVM on the mobile litter the mobile market.

Some J2ME Polish bugs encountered, either fixed or evaded:

losesFullScreen: an issue that affects Samsung SGH-D500, in which the screen rendered on the phone is cut-off at the top & the bottom. The catch is, using J2ME Polish, one has less control over the direct Canvas implementation. Hence even my Forms ended up getting cut.
Status: UNFIXED, left to the manufacturers to fix their device, or better, the mercy of God!

SoftKeyMappedToFire: an issue that affects the navigation keys of many Samsung devices--sometimes pressing the soft key results in the default command being selected. If the default command for that item is not defined, good luck to you :) Anything from screen freezing to a Samsung version of BSOD is likely.

MIDP2LayoutView: Pressing any key on any affected screen throws an ArrayIndexOutOfBounds exception. Initially I tried what the mailing list suggests, that is, to override J2ME Polish' MIDP2LayoutView class, but ran into further trouble trying to reference this class from the secondary compilation of StyleSheet. I gave up on this, threw "midp2" view out of the window.

There, here's a fulfilment of my quota at being Good Samaritan this week! (in view that most of this blog's visitors don't come here to read my spiritual blurbs but to read HOWTOs and battle stories about J2ME & Linux) If there's any bright lining in the dark cloud of J2ME woes, it'd be this maxim I've since taken personally: "Write once, pray it will work everywhere."

Thursday, July 05, 2007

When the night is catchless

The last Choice meeting was not the first time we discussed the lack of numbers; that caused three weekends this year alone to be canceled. The big question seems to be whether to concentrate on recruitment, or to concentrate on improving the quality of the weekends offered.

Personally I'm in favor of renewal of the program itself; because nothing works better than the word of mouth from "satisfied customers". 'Marketing' still needs to be done, but I believe that in apostolate, it is the Lord who sends us souls. So renewal and lots of prayers are in order! At the same time, I was reading a couple of chapters from Georges Chevrot's "Simon Peter"; and an excerpt here (heavily edited by me) seems very applicable:

"Master, we have toiled all night and caught nothing, but at Thy word I will let down the net." (Luke 5:5)
Men of any craft can never stand laymen giving them advice on matters relating to their profession. First of all, there weren't any fish; secondly, what a time to go fishing, in the middle of the day! They had just spent a wasted night and tiredness made them feel even more than they had given themselves bother to no purpose!
Jesus has to convince [Peter and his companions] that with Him they can even undertake the impossible. Simon had already understood it: "in verbo tuo (at Thy word)".
Begin again... the secret of all progress and of every victory is, in fact, to know how to begin again, to learn from a failure and to try once more. [Common sense and experience alone] should be enough to convince us that one needs to begin again. But there is the terrible contradiction of the facts, the 'bad luck' that dogs our footsteps, the very faults that are repeated, the failures that regularly bring our enterprises crashing down. There are also the days when one has a good mind to chuck the whole game. What good is it beginning again only to founder every time? Let us repeat [St Peter's] three little words: " In verbo tuo."
Yes, humanly speaking, everything is finished. I can do more, and I do not want to do any more. But it is You, Lord, who order me to set out again. I will set out again therefore, not because it seems reasonable, but because You order me to do so. We begin again, not in order to succeed, but to obey. It is not my work that I am accomplishing, it is Yours.
If we wish to obey God only, then we are on the true road to holiness. God raises us higher than our hopes. St Paul says it: "He whose power is at work in us is powerful enough, and more than powerful enough, to carry out His purpose beyond all our hopes and dreams." Similarly, He will perform marvels through our apostolate & ministry, if we are not preoccupied with succeeding but only with obeying.
When the apostle is not ambitious, when he is only absorbed in the sorrowful thought that precious souls are being lost, souls redeemed by Jesus Christ like his own, it is no longer the man who acts, but Christ Himself, and the unlikely [catch] is no longer impossible!