Monday, December 22, 2008

Break from 'serious' blogging

Taking a break from Advent solemnity, this blog decides to publish something light & 'unserious' as my writing apparently is 'complex'!

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.

They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

Yeah right, short for: people don't really understand what you're writing about. So we'll call it complex!

Here's another snapshot of what the author's brain supposedly looks like when she's writing here:

Three more days to Christmas, people! Rejoice!

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Adult stem cells for animals?

No, no, not adult human stem cells for animals, but homologous adult stem cells for the animal itself. So says this article, about an elderly dog with arthritis in his leg.

According to the website of the firm that extracted the multipotent 'stem cells' from the fats tissue of the dog cured, adipose-derived 'regenerative cells' are more readily available than those taken from the bone marrow, and seem to be effective in repairing muscle and cartilage damages in those animals treated. Also, it seems like the application of the treatment is fairly straightforward: simple injection of the stem cells harvested, directly to the site of injury.

So one wonders again, why is there so much emphasis given to embryonic stem cells research when we could focus our attention to what has been proven to work?

Monday, December 08, 2008

The Immaculate Conception: our bearer of hope!

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary. It is a feast that some have anticipated for the last nine days in a novena; but its primary theme is thanksgiving, thanksgiving to the Trinitarian God. Every year it is celebrated during Advent, which gives this celebration a solemn flavor.

Someone once said that hell trembles at Mary's fiat. I'd add that "something flashed in the air" when the Immaculate Conception took place. For it is a divine move, in response to man's fallen state, and is something totally unmerited. Like all occasions of grace, it is first initiated by God.

Mary, bearer of our hope, is also the throne of grace, the star of the sea. Our pope Benedict XVI wrote a beautiful prayer to Mary, in the closing of his 2nd encyclical Spe Salvi:

"Ave maris stella. Human life is a journey. Towards what destination? How do we find the way? Life is like a voyage on the sea of history, often dark and stormy, a voyage in which we watch for the stars that indicate the route. The true stars of our life are the people who have lived good lives. They are the lights of hope. Certainly, Jesus Christ if the true light, the sun that has risen above all the shadows of history. But to reach him we also need lights close by — people who shine with his light and so guide us along our way. Who more than Mary could be a star of hope for us?"

Afterwards, our Pope reiterated that Mary, of all people, suffered what seemed like a betrayal of promises made to her by the prophecies, but her faith was one that shone even in the darkest moments below the Cross of her son.

In this solemn season of Advent, let us enkindle our hope for salvation looking to Mary, the first fruits of grace, who trusted Him, cuius regni non erit finis.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Pope's Message for Advent

We have a very good teacher in our Papa Benedict XVI. This is what he says about Advent and time:

Today, with the First Sunday of Advent, we begin a new liturgical year. This fact invites us to reflect on the dimension of time, which has always greatly fascinated us. Following the example of what Jesus liked to do, I would like to start from a very concrete experience: We all say "I don't have time" because the rhythm of daily life has become too frenetic for everyone. The Church has "good news" to announce about this too: God gives us his time. We always have little time. Especially in regard to the Lord, we do not know how to find him, or, sometimes, we do not want to find him. And yet God has time for us!

This is the first thing that the beginning of a liturgical year makes us rediscover with an ever new wonder. Yes: God gives us his time, because he has entered into history, with his Word and his works of salvation, to open it to eternity, to make it into a covenant history. From this perspective time is already, in itself, a basic sign of God's love. It is a gift that man can, like everything else, appreciate or, on the contrary, squander; he can grasp its meaning, or neglect it with obtuse superficiality.

Read his Angelus message for the First Sunday of Advent here

Read his homily here.

Review: Victory Over Vice

A little over a week over reading this book, I am convinced of the need of doing deeper examination of conscience, and how many ordinary situations we find ourselves in, can be occasions of sins—out of either malice or weaknesses.

To kick off Advent, here are the seven vices he mentioned, and what to keep in mind in our fight to prevail over them:

  1. Anger

    Here, as I wrote earlier, he mentioned that anger is not strictly a sin, and that rightly, it is a response to injustice. But it becomes a sin of lacking in charity, especially when we overlook the quality of mercy in dealing with the weaknesses of others.

    Point to remember: that we are ignorant, hence there is room for mercy. If we have perfect knowledge, we have no excuse for our faults, thus we'd be condemned.

  2. Envy

    Here, he gave the example of an extreme case of envy—where our lack of charity once again may raise indignance instead of joy upon the eleventh hour salvation of a sinner, such as that of the good thief crucified next to Jesus.

    To remember: mercy, once more!

  3. Pride

    Surely anyone who has had experience with the proud will bear witness to the truth of this statement: if my own eternal salvation were conditioned upon saving the soul of one self-wise man who prided himself on his learning, or one hundred of the most morally corrupt men and women of the streets, I'd choose the easier task of converting the hundred. Nothing is more difficult to conquer in all the world than intellectual pride. If battleships could be lined with it instead of with armor, no shell could ever pierce it.

    And a strong poignant warning:

    Self-praise devours merit; and those who have done good things to be seen by men, and who trumpet their philanthropies in the marketplaces, will one day hear the saddest words of tongue or pen: "Thou hast already had thy reward." (Matthew 6:2)

  4. Sloth

    Heaven is a city on a hill. Hence, we cannot coast into it; we have to climb. Those who are too lazy to mount can miss its capture as well as the evil who refuse to seek it. Let no one think he can be totally indifferent to God in this life and suddenly develop a capacity for Him at the moment of death.

    'Nuff said.

  5. Lust

    Here the bishop invited us to look at Christ broken on the cross. There is a higher Love there that demands the surrender of the lower. He portrayed Mary, refugium peccatorum, as a mother whom all of us should contemplate before we do anything that can make our mothers ashamed.

  6. Gluttony

    Labor for things that endure. He showed the distinction between the fasting and dieting:

    The Church fasts; the world diets. The Christian fasts not for the sake of the body, but for the sake of the soul; the pagan fasts not for the sake of the soul, but for the sake of the body.
    Darwin tells us in his autobiography that, in his love for the biological, he lost all the taste he once had for poetry and music, and he regretted the loss all the days of his life. Nothing so much dulls the capacity for the spiritual as excessive dedication to the material.

  7. Covetousness

    On this matter, he had something to say to both the rich and the poor:

    To the poor:

    [Covetousness] once was monopolized by the avaricious rich; now it is shared by the envious poor. Because a man has no money in his pockets is no proof that he is not covetous; he may be involuntarily poor with a passion for wealth far in excess of those who possess.
    There are very few disinterested lovers of the poor today; most of their so-called champions do not love the poor as much as they hate the rich. They hate all the rich, but they love only those poor who will help them attain their wicked ends.

    To the rich:

    [He] is a fallen man, because of a bad exchange; he might have had Heaven through his generosity but he has only the earth. He could have kept his soul but he sold it for material things.
    When a man loves wealth inordinately, he and it grow together like a tree pushing itself in growth through the crevices of a rock. Death to such a man is a painful wrench, because of his cose identification with the material. He has everything to live for, nothing to die for. He becomes at death the most destitute and despoiled beggar in the universe, for he has nothing he can take with him.

    And these, about eternity:

    That disproportion between the infinite and the finite is the cause of disappointment. We have eternity in our heart, but time on our hands. The soul demands a heaven, and we get only an earth. Our eyes look up to the mountains, but they rest only on the plains.
    Everything is disappointing except the redemptive love of our Lord. You can go on acquiring things, but you will be poor until your soul is filled with the love of Him who died on the cross for you.

I found so many insights to the human heart that it is impossible to leave this book! I think I'll make it a point to read this book again and again, especially during Advent and Lenten seasons. It'd also make a good gift for anyone this Advent.

Happy Advent to all!

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Novena to the Immaculate Conception

This coming December 8th, the Catholic Church celebrates one of the major feasts of Our Lady: her Immaculate Conception. I won't dwell much on it here; a prudent Google search would tell you what you need to know about this Dogma pronounced by the Church and the reasons behind it.

There are some people in the Church who anticipate this feast (like many other major feasts) by holding a Novena (which means a 9-day anticipation). This Novena traditionally means participating in the Holy Mass for 9 days until the feast day itself.

But there are many other ways to prepare ourselves for this feast. For those who find it difficult to convince their friends (or themselves!) of the good of taking the trouble of going to Mass EVERY DAY for 9 long days, there are other ways to honor our Lady. For some, it could be 9 simple Hail Marys or Memorares. For others, perhaps 9 decades of rosary. Or 9 whole rosaries. Or fixed prayers like these.

Our Lady is not known to do 'big' things in her life; only simple things done with much love. So start today!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

BBC puzzles over why "many" are "keeping babies with Down's"

At a glance this article is short and innocuous. The writer reports that the number of babies born with Down's Syndrome has increased between 1989 and 2006. And then it went on to puzzle over this fact, since methods used to detect Down's have improved, and the writer makes an implicit conclusion that people, conceivably and sensibly, should not "press ahead with a pregnancy" despite a positive test result.

The reasons cited for "pressing ahead" were mentioned: 20% cited that they had known somebody with Down's, 33% cited religious or anti-abortion beliefs, 30% felt life had improved for people with Down's, and almost 20% said they simply did not believe the results of the test. It was as if the article was trying to explain an inexplicable phenomenon. Not once they mentioned the fact that it is human life at stake.

It's amazing how this article managed to be callous without realizing it. "Pressing ahead", indeed!

Link here:

UPDATE: Check out the comments left by readers on the article.

Most are parents with a child or children with Down's Syndrome, and none of the mothers ever regret "pressing ahead" with the pregnancy! I wonder, then, just why it is those who favor eugenic abortion that seem most vocal in defense of the woman's "right". There was only one (thus far) anonymous commenter wrote that she chose to abort a baby detected with Down's out of misplaced sense of compassion—thinking that such a child would be a 'burden' to its older sibling, totally missing the point that in the families who chose to welcome the special child, life did not become burdensome but blessed and enriched instead!

Pride & Sloth

Continuing with Fulton Sheen's Victory over Vice, the good archbishop has this to say about Pride:

Surely anyone who has had experience with the proud will bear witness to the truth of this statement: if my own eternal salvation were conditioned upon saving the soul of one self-wise man who prided himself on his learning, or one hundred of the most morally corrupt men and women of the streets, I'd choose the easier task of converting the hundred. Nothing is more difficult to conquer in all the world than intellectual pride. If battleships could be lined with it instead of with armor, no shell could ever pierce it.
-- Victory over Vice, Fulton J Sheen.

On a related note, pride is sometimes manifest in refusal to serve; thinking that the one asking that service of us is not 'worthy' or 'beneath us'. "If God Himself, or the President, or the Pope asks me, then and only then I would do it." From another chapter ("Sloth"), this time about our laziness to work for Heaven, he wrote this:

Heaven is a city on a hill. Hence, we cannot coast into it; we have to climb. Those who are too lazy to mount can miss its capture as well as the evil who refuse to seek it. Let no one think he can be totally indifferent to God in this life and suddenly develop a capacity for Him at the moment of death.

Where will the capacity for Him come from if we have neglected it on earth? A man cannot suddenly walk into a lecture room on higher mathematics and be thrilled with equations if all during life he neglected to develop a taste for mathematics. And a heaven of divine truth, righteousness and justice would be a hell to those who never studiously cultivated those virtues here below. Heaven is only for those who work for Heaven.

Similarly, if we have refused to serve our brothers and sisters throughout our life, it will be inconceivable that we suddenly develop a capacity to serve God in Heaven...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Ave Christus Rex!

Today is the feast of Christ the King, also known as the last 'Ordinary' Sunday before Advent starts. It is not a title commonly referred to (at least not by me nor my friends), but it is one that demands response from us Christians. It is also quite a recent feast, instituted (only) in the early 20th century by Pope Pius XI.

Many years ago, I used to board with a Catholic family in Singapore. And since the lady was a catechist for children, I used to spend Saturdays preparing materials and/or artwork for the coming Sunday's catechism class. One of them, I remember clearly, was an illustration of Jesus entering Jerusalem riding on a donkey, followed by a hymn that says "we have a King who rides a donkey..." That was the extent of the significance of this feast to me then. Since then, many things have happened, to put it in brief.

Here's a King who proclaimed himself present in the least of our brothers. Here's a King who didn't shun the virgin's womb, a good King (and shepherd) who didn't shun suffering & humiliation on the Cross for the sake of saving his flock, his people. Here's a King who doesn't rule with mighty arms but with mighty love, who showed that the way to reign is by conquering one heart after another.

Is Christ really King in our life? Does Christ reign in our heart? Do I defer to Him when making decisions, when choosing between what's good and what's better, when deciding what to do with my time, with my talents, and in the way I respond to challenges?

We have a King who is victorious over the worst evil conceivable: for man to kill God. His victory should imbue all Christians with a sense of joy and optimism.

Pope Benedict XVI said, “Jesus is the Kingdom of God in person: the man in whom God is among us and through whom we can touch God, draw close to God. Wherever this happens, the world is saved.” Our Holy Father continued, "It means not losing heart in the face of resistance, adversity and scandal. It means overcoming every separation between faith and life, and countering false gospels of freedom and happiness."

Regnare Christum volumus!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Preparing for Advent: Victory Over Vice

Victory over ViceI'm currently reading a book by the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen, titled "Victory over Vice". It is a slim volume, and it lists the Seven Deadly™ sins —Anger, Envy, Lust, Pride, Gluttony, Sloth and Covetousness — and how to prevail over them.

The book began with "Anger", starting by clarifying that anger is not actually a sin, because rightly, it is a response to injustice. But the good bishop went on to explore the various causes of anger and various contexts that often self-righteously gave rise to unholy anger. He went on to discuss the many occasions where anger become occasions of uncharitability because we human are so blind to our own faults and therefore, wont to show mercy.

I'm right now reading the chapter on Envy. It is another gem. The bishop uses the example of the two thieves crucified next to Jesus, to show how envy led one to perdition and another to salvation. These two chapters have been extremely useful for my own examination of conscience.

I'll write again when I finish the book. It is highly recommended, and I personally will use this book in preparation for Advent.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Honoring Flash

It's been at least TEN YEARS since I last touched programming in Flash (back then, Macromedia Flash, now it has been acquired by Adobe). It was only Flash 0.9 or earlier, and since then the explosion of the Web had also resulted in the ubiquity of Flash applications and Flash websites.

I found a great Flash tutorial here (courtesy of Kongregate Labs). Surprisingly easy to get a decent game up in less than two hours...

What's great about Flash is that its runtime ships with most browsers, and easy enough to install with those without built-in plugins. It is amazing that such marketing achievement at such a primitive (browser!) level could propel Flash into the most preferred application delivery mechanism at major social networking websites!

Monday, November 03, 2008

Your Faith or Your Life?

Well, tomorrow is the Election Day in the US at last! Not being American, I reserve no comment. But being Catholic, there are obvious issues I'd been made aware of. Many bishops in the US have stood up and issued strong statements about many proclamations made by pro-abortion (self-proclaimed Catholic!) politicians and what "conscience" means when it comes to voting. I'm impressed! I don't recall such rallying in the last few US presidential elections.

Here is one of such recent ones, from Fr Z's blog (emphases and comments in red are his) :

We are edified by the courage of Eleazar and companions

BEND — Note that Eleazar has no illusion about the practical value of his fidelity. It would not cause the king to change the law, it would not cause his friends to convert, it would not result in a miraculous intervention by God. In worldly terms, his death is useless, his resistance futile. Yet, Eleazar states the hope implicit in his willingness to die: “I will prove myself worthy of my old age and I will leave to the young a noble example of how to die willingly and generously for the revered and holy laws.” This is what it means to be a witness, a martyr. It means leaving a noble example for the encouragement, the emboldening of one’s successors.

Another example is found in the chapter immediately following the story of Eleazar. It also happened that seven brothers with their mother were arrested and tortured with whips and scourges by the king to force them to eat pork in violation of God’s law. One of the brothers speaking for the others said, “What do you expect to achieve by questioning us we are ready to die rather than transgress the laws of our ancestors.” Then follows a description of a whole series of the most horrendous tortures which these brothers endured. All the while the mother watched and encouraged her sons. The Scriptures then rightfully recognize the dignity of the mother: Most admirable and worthy of everlasting remembrance was the mother who saw her seven sons perish in a single day yet bore it courageously because of her hope in the Lord. Filled with a noble spirit that stirred her womanly heart with manly courage she exhorted each of them in the language of their forefathers. The mother was the last to die after all her sons. None of these family members was given a name. In purely secular terms we could come up with all kinds of reasons why the mother and her sons should have feigned eating pork in order to spare their lives. These seven sons could have been valuable resistance fighters. They could have raised up faithful sons and daughters to assure the survival of Israel. It could be argued that their faithfulness, which led to the destruction of the entire family, was an exercise in complete futility and even foolhardiness. Was their witness foolhardiness or was it courage?

These Old Testament examples manifested wonderful and exemplary courage. Saint Thomas positions the Cardinal Virtue of fortitude or courage between fear and daring. Courage, he says, curbs fear and moderates daring. We would be more inclined to say that courage stands between cowardice and foolhardiness. A secularist looking at martyrdom would, almost of necessity, conclude that the death is the result of foolhardiness. Such bold actions, in our current, “can’t we all just get along” mentality, will always be viewed as imprudent, politically incorrect, and misguided. Such a disdain for martyrdom and for holy boldness is nothing other than a disdain for faith; a disdain for a hope in the Lord. It is perhaps, also a symptom of the hopelessness of which Pope Benedict XVI speaks in, Spe Salvi. In the case of these Old Testament examples it is clear that each was confronted with a very definitive choice. None of us have ever been confronted with such a dramatic choice but for these Old Testament heroes it came down to this, “Your faith or your life.” In a positive sense, using Pope Benedict’s words, the question would be: “In what do you hope?” We are edified, in the best sense of that word, by the witness, the martyrdom, the courage of Eleazar and companions. We could cite many such examples from the early years of Christianity. Even in our own day, the numerous saints canonized by Pope John Paul II, many of them martyrs, is a testimony to the fact that faith-filled courage is not dead. It is a testimony that hope is not dead.

When I consider the courage of these Old Testament figures and the firm witness of other saints and martyrs I would honestly have to say of myself, “I am a coward!” There are many times when fear impedes me from acting with what could be called holy boldness. The nature of that fear which impedes is perhaps different for each of us but I hope that each of us acknowledges such fear, grapples with it and even occasionally overcomes it, at least for a time. [This bishop is hitting the nail on the head.  Watch where he goes with it now.]

Unfortunately, for me, the nature of the perceived threat is so paltry that allowing it to impede correct acting can only be the result of profound cowardice. The most serious threat to my well being for acting with greater boldness has been an intimation that I will be rejected, hated, ridiculed, rendered ineffective, deprived of financial support, judged to be insensitive, misunderstood, or verbally vilified. [This is what has been aimed at the Church.  It is aimed at individual priests and bishops too, to intimidate them into silence and inaction.] In other words the threats, all things considered, are quite innocuous and yet these things generate within me a variety of fears and doubts and misgivings. At times they even paralyze me into a state of cowardly inaction. [But indeed… he has overcome it here!]

It might be the perception of some that the issuance of my 2004 document, Giving Testimony to the Truth, was a courageous act. Others would classify it as foolhardiness. This is the document which required that individuals serving in a variety of Diocesan Ministries must affirm some basic tenets of the Church in order to continue to serve. It is, however, very difficult for me to see how the simple fulfillment of the episcopal duty which I have to teach could be considered an act of courage. In that I would turn to the Gospel of Saint Luke, 17:10: “When you have done all you have been commanded to do, say: We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” It is a rather sad commentary for our age that a simple fulfillment of duty is mistaken for a courageous act. [A very good point.  He is trying, however, to put the outside pressures into perspective.]

It might be a perception that my boldness regarding pro-abortion politicians is courageous but in truth I only follow the lead of those who exemplify a boldness far greater than my own. [Well said.] The bold speaking out on the part of Archbishop Raymond Burke regarding the contentious issue of Catholic pro-abortion politicians and Holy communion emboldens cowards like me to follow his example. [God love this man.]  The firm and measured response of Cardinal Egan and a variety of other Archbishops and Bishops to misleading statements of the Speaker of the House emboldens others, like myself, to shake off the shackles of fear and to stand with them.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Pope Benedict XVI on the Rosary

In the last days of the month of October, here comes an insight from our Papa about the Rosary (emphases mine):

Rosary Is Anchored in Holy Scripture

VATICAN CITY, 19 OCT 2008 (VIS) - Before praying the Rosary at 5 p.m. today with faithful gathered at the Shrine of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Holy Rosary at Pompeii, Italy, Benedict XVI paused for a few moments in the chapel of Blessed Bartolo Longo. Subsequently, in remarks he made following the Marian prayer, the Pope asked: "Where did this great apostle of Mary find the energy and constancy necessary to achieve such an important enterprise? Was it not in the Rosary which he welcomed as a true and heartfelt gift from the Virgin?

"Yes," he cried, "that is how it was! ... This popular Marian prayer is a vital spiritual means to increase our intimacy with Jesus and to learn, in the school of the Blessed Virgin, always to carry out the divine will."

"Yet in order to be apostles of the Rosary, it is necessary to gain a personal experience of the beauty and profundity of this prayer, so simple and universally accessible. ... The Rosary is a school of contemplation and of silence. At first sight it may seem like a prayerful accumulation of words and hence not easily compatible with the silence which is rightly recommended for meditation and contemplation. In reality though, this regular repetition of the Ave Maria does not disturb inner silence, rather it ... nourishes it."

The Pope recalled that, as in the case of the Psalms in the Liturgy of the Hours, "silence rises up through the words and phrases, not as a vacuum but as a presence of ultimate meaning which transcends the words themselves and, together with them, speaks to the heart. ... Even when prayed in large groups ... the Rosary must be seen as a contemplative prayer, and this cannot come about if an atmosphere of inner silence is lacking." Furthermore, he went on, the Rosary "is interwoven with elements from Holy Scripture" such as "the enunciation of the mystery using ... words taken from the Bible. ... The first part of the Ave Maria comes from the Gospel; ... the second part ... rings out like the response of children who, addressing themselves imploringly to their mother, express their own adherence to the plan of salvation. ... Thus the minds of those who pray remain anchored in Scripture and in the mysteries it contains."

Finally, Pope Benedict spoke of World Mission Day, which is being celebrated today. Once again he evoked the figure of Barotlo Longo who, famous for his spirit of charity, wished the shrine of Pompeii to be "open to the whole world as a centre whence to irradiate the prayer of the Rosary and a place of intercession for peace among peoples. Dear friends," the Pope concluded, "I wish to confirm both these goals - the apostolate of charity and the prayer of peace - and entrust them once more to your spiritual and pastoral efforts."

The prayer over, Benedict XVI departed from the shrine of Pompeii and at 6.30 p.m. began his return journey to the Vatican by helicopter.

And.. you don't have to believe this, but tradition held that there are 15 promises made by the Blessed Virgin to St. Dominic and Alan de Roche concerning the rosary:

1. To all those who recite my Rosary devoutly, I promise my special protection and very great graces.

2. Those who will persevere in the recitation of my Rosary shall receive some signal grace.

3. The Rosary shall be a very powerful armor against hell; it shall destroy vice, deliver from sin, and shall dispel heresy.

4. The Rosary shall make virtue and good works flourish, and shall obtain for souls the most abundant divine mercies; it shall substitute in hearts love of God for love of the world, elevate them to desire heavenly and eternal goods. Oh, that souls would sanctify themselves by this means!

5. Those who trust themselves to me through the Rosary, shall not perish.

6. Those who will recite my Rosary piously, considering its Mysteries, shall not be overwhelmed by misfortune nor die a bad death. The sinner shall be converted; the just shall grow in grace and become worthy of eternal life.

7. Those truly devoted to my Rosary shall not die without the consolations of the Church, or without grace.

8. Those who will recite my Rosary shall find during their life and at their death the light of God, the fullness of His grace, and shall share in the merits of the blessed.

9. I will deliver very promptly from purgatory the souls devoted to my Rosary.

10. The true children of my Rosary shall enjoy great glory in heaven.

11. What you ask through my Rosary, you shall obtain.

12. Those who propagate my Rosary shall obtain through me aid in all their necessities.

13. I have obtained from my son that all the confreres of the Rosary shall have for their brethren in life and death the saints of heaven.

14. Those who recite my Rosary faithfully are all my beloved children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ.

15. Devotion to my Rosary is a special sign of predestination.

Now, go and pray the rosary! Even if you're busy and desk-(and computer-)bound, let rosary widgets help you to pray! (Just doin' my part to spread the rosary!)

Monday, October 20, 2008

You only need to succeed once...

When I studied computer security concepts in University, I found that it was an exciting field to be in: images of late night hackers 'rattling doors' of our servers and we patching up security in an attempt to be one-up against any malicious attempts may have conjured up some adrenaline and romantic thrill. But thinking about it after the adrenaline had worn off, it was a terrible industry to be involved in, unless you have an addiction to adrenaline or heroism.

The fundamental fact of life is this: the bad guy only has to succeed once, and you on the security side, have to succeed all the other times. Nobody's going to say you've done a good job if you thwart a thousand attack attempts, but that one time that you left a vulnerability open, a thousand eyes cast blame on you.

Needless to say, I changed my mind about being in computer security. I guess I don't want to be a person who sees and speaks of different 'zones': restricted, secure, demilitarized, public; when it comes to real people and places. I don't want to live with paranoia thinking that someone's out to get us — all the time.

Once in awhile though, we hear of clever stories like this (and another retelling of the story from another angle here): of British military intelligence thwarting terrorist bomb-making factories in North Ireland. Another story linking it mentioned this story: to install a bug in a house with motion and noise sensors, they started shooting mints to the windows during thunderstorms, thereby triggering the alarm and the security people — who predictably associated thunderstorms with false alarms and began to shut off the alarm system during thunderstorm. Thus the spying party was able to drill the bug into the house wall during a thunderstorm when the alarm had been turned off. Mints were used because they quickly dissolve in the rain. Clever!

In military intelligence, the stakes are thousands of lives, civilian lives. I always thought of people working in it to be truly heroic, despite the countless times that we wish the whole transport security farce would just cease.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Defending Cathedral of Neuquen, Argentina

I just saw this horrific video of a pro-abortion mob attacking youths who were defending the Cathedral of Neuquén, Buenos Aires, Argentina. The arguments said by the protesters are nothing new (except that they are in Spanish) that proper logic cannot destroy, but the vitriol is scary. Taunting, jeering, spitting, burning... they acted as if they were possessed. The defenders held their cool and kept praying Hail Mary's until the end (of the video, at least).

(It is interesting to see the comments at the end of the YouTube video)

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Of monkeys and men

Two monkeys are serving in a restaurant in Japan. They have learned how to serve hot towels and bottled drinks to customers, it seems! Funky!

Video link here:

And in other news, in India, some human have learned how to behave like monkeys to scare away the real monkeys.

Video link here:

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dark night in plainspeak

Somehow these images remind me of this passage. Or rather, this passage reminds me of this scene in the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship movie, where the company found a dead scribe clutching a book next to Balin's tomb, recording the last moments before the goblins overran and annihilate the dwarves in the mines of Moria.

We've tried to get out of this place but so far haven't managed to do so; all out attempts have come to naught, one after another. How should we react? By not losing our peace. We should continue to use all the available means and confidently place our hope in God. In the face of this situation do we become angry or give in to impatience and ill-humor?

No, from the depths of this darkness I'll trust in my God. Lord, may whatever you want be fulfilled. You know what is best for me. I only want to fulfill your Will.

I'll use all the means, and above all prayer, the most important one. But if our prayer and activity bear no apparent fruit let's not grow impatient. Let's know how to wait and always seek our joy in that aspiration which has often brought us peace:
"Fiat, adimpleatur, laudetur et in aeternum superexaltetur iustissima atque amabilissima voluntas Dei super omnia."

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

New, non-invasive prenatal testing method

Some researchers in Stanford had discovered that using DNA sequencing on a pregnant mother's blood, one would be able to tell whether the baby she carries is having Down's syndrome. Since it is still at experimental stage, the sample size was only nine women, with 100% accuracy.

While this is a good move to protect the baby from miscarrying (a risk that is present with amnioscentesis - a procedure that is synonymous with prenatal testing today), I think this might make it easier for pregnant women to 'screen early' (as early as 14 weeks, the study cited) for genetic disabilities in the baby and might, might, just increase their propensity to abort any less-than-healthy baby!

Article here:

Friday, October 03, 2008

Mobile rosary anyone?

So it felt like 35°C yesterday and I really wished the bus would come soon! Anyway, despite trying to forecast the arrival time of the bus from the IRIS system, I had no such luck and ended up waiting for close to 40 minutes in the sweltering heat. What's one to do? I had no interesting book with me, so I decided to pray the rosary.

The rosary, well, as any prayer, requires contemplation. It is easy to find myself already finishing the five decades without really getting into contemplation. So I whipped out my phone and started googling for "rosary reflection" on the mobile. All kinds of junk results were returned! I was frustrated beyond belief. And even those which are actually real reflections were not properly formatted for the phone screen...

"Ay, que calor!" was on the tip of my tongue. But yesterday was a good day to offer up the little suffering and a new idea is born! I'll start putting up mobile pages for reflection on the rosary. Let's see how feasible it is to do this...

Friday, September 26, 2008

Another advance in iPS research!

Researchers working on induced pluripotent stem cell (iPS) have announced another breakthrough today. Earlier results showed that organs grown from retrovirally produced iPS cells in mice grew cancer very soon after. This most recent methodology "added cell-reprogramming genes to adenoviruses, a type of virus that infects cells without affecting their DNA." The adenoviruses, after producing cell-reprogramming proteins, turning the cells embryonic, departed. The goal was to produce genetically unmodified iPS cells.

Link to paper abstract here.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I'm seeing stars

Most people coming to this blog aren't here to read my ramblings, here's one 'reminder-to-self' post with links of potential future interests. There are many exciting news from the tech front:

  1. The 3G iPhone

    iPhone - almost every developer's wet dream. Other than lousy battery life, lack of MMS, lack of copy-and-paste, and the fact that to use it outside AT&T you have to break the law (though the latest iPhone is now jailbroken), it's still a disproportionate leader in terms of mobile Internet traffic contributor. Also, the number of paid-apps on iTunes App store has now surpassed free ones. With 500+ apps and counting, you can't rely on stunts like "I am Rich" to get rich ;)

  2. Google Android

    The first Android phone, HTC Dream, is out now. With so many platforms available, it really makes any developer pause before committing to support a new platform. Is Android the future? Or iPhone? Or Symbian? The trends point towards the web app model. Companies everywhere are tired of releasing different versions of apps that need to work on thousands of OS & VM variants running on different phones. Write once, run anywhere? Write once, pray it'll run somewhere :) All in all it makes more sense, but not for another few more years...

  3. Mobi-ready?

    Interesting movement to make the Web (as we know it now) mobile-ready and mobile-friendly. Some sites here and here.

  4. J2ME Security Vulnerability

    Adam Gowdiak broke the JVM sandbox on J2ME architecture. Whee! This could be a cry of freedom for many J2ME developers, though it requires more than a wee bit of bytecode-level hacking to be able to commercially exploit this flaw. Also, if you can exploit this flaw, so could the malicious hackers.

  5. Facebook Connect

    Is this the "one ring to bind them all"? OpenSocial is another competitor. Much as this would be a boon for developers, I have reservations about using just one ID online. Plus Facebook wants every site to know your real name and identity.

I just came back from a trip to Vancouver, the world's capital of mobile and games developers, and San Francisco. Beautiful cities, great ideas, optimistic people!

Friday, August 15, 2008

Gratia plena

In the past one month or so, the topic of "grace" has been dominating my interest and reading. It started out with a simple question during a doctrine class in which a priest was teaching a bunch of us about sacraments - and in particular, baptism. I can't recall exactly what the question was -- I think it was adherence to natural law and the merits of non-Christians -- but the reply given was like a burst of light.

In short, he explained that in his experience, conversion to the Christian faith owes most of it to grace, rather than human merit alone. So, the non-believer or those who have never encountered the faith can be saved not only because they live in a just manner, but chiefly because God gave them grace.

Grace... what is that? Although I have been a Catholic for thirteen years now, the word "grace" has only been part of my familiar vocabulary in the last one year. Partly as part of discerning my vocation, the term "grace" entered my life through the various spiritual directors and mentors. And yet, its meaning was never made clear. At best, grace is defined as "participation in divine life." As if this definition would elucidate anyone...

Since then, I searched to find out more about Grace, and found an excellent primer in Charles Journet's "Meaning of Grace". He wrote brilliantly about grace - what it is, what it is not, and the role of grace in the Catholic interpretation of what some Protestants believe of 'predestination.' Pick it up and gain a deeper appreciation for the treasure that we have in earthen vessels.

And today, as we celebrate the Assumption of Our Lady, a day that has always been graced with signs thus far, I turn my thoughts to Our Lady, Our Mother, who is full of grace, gratia plena. Her immaculate conception probably meant that she never had to struggle against resisting graces. In fact, thinking about it, all we have to do is to NOT obstruct the workings of grace in our lives. Next to the Holy Spirit, she is our best teacher when it comes to cultivating disposition towards grace. Mater divinae gratiae, ora pro nobis.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Update on the rosary widget

The latest rosary widget is here... I know it has been a long time since I wrote here... here's one update I'd like to share with everyone.

What are the changes? I've put the rosary into beads-string form, and you can track your 'current bead' as indicated by a single rose. Also, I've added another link to reflection, not only to Fr Z's patristics rosary project, but to St Josemaria Escriva's Holy Rosary reflections.

You can download it from Yahoo! official Widgets Gallery here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

50 Reasons to pray the Rosary

Santiago passed me this beautiful link. Been immersed in work up to my neck. Since it's the month of May; it's too good not to pass it on. Pray the rosary today!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Did you know..

... that to run a console application on the phone you have to launch it using either a program like FExplorer or a remote console like QConsole? There is NO built-in way to execute a console application on Symbian.

I didn't, and spent almost an hour getting frustrated.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Lest I forget Heaven...

Tomorrow is the Feast of Ascension, and it marks the start of the decenary (10-days) to the Holy Spirit. I heard this story at Mass today, and I thought to share this here:

A monk was tormented by the dilemma of Eternity--he was continuously plagued by doubts about whether he could ever be happy contemplating just God and the angels for all eternity? A thousand years, maybe.. but for all eternity? Surely, man, so accustomed to variety on this earth, shall find something amiss? One spring evening, the monk went for a walk around the monastery and found himself entranced by the beautiful song of a nightingale. After what he thought were a few hours, he returned to the monastery. Passing through, none of the monks there were familiar to him. He walked through the different rooms, surprised at what he saw and realising that something strange was happening. When he at last realized that nobody recognised him, he went to see the Prior, who was astonished and remembered that a tale went that, a few hundred years ago, a holy monk had disappeared, thought to be eaten by wild animals on one of his spring walks in the woods. The monk then understood that when one is in Heaven, an eternity seems like but a few moment.
--similar story also found here

At Holy Mass today, I once again felt I am Loved. Utterly loved and uplifted from the shadows. Time does fly when one is in love, and conversely, it seems to expand to eternity when one is not in love, or separated from Love. What a loving Father we have; who came after us even if we forget Heaven!

Tomorrow is the feast of Ascension, when we celebrate Jesus' Ascension into Heaven. We celebrate this very much with the mind to follow Him there one day!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Path to happiness: the school of Mary

I'm currently reading this incredibly clear and inspiring book by George Weigel called "Letters to a Young Catholic". A dear friend had recommended it to me some years back, but I'm just recently discovering this gem.

Since I haven't finished reading, I'll just provide an excerpt from two chapters. The whole book aims to invite the reader to explore the richness of the Catholic faith and to invite us to contemplate and respond to our vocation; that call that each Christian receives from God. Weigel drew the example of St Peter and Our Lady in their discovery and the living of their faith.

In the example of St Peter, we are shown that faith in Jesus Christ starts as an encounter with Truth. And such is the quality of Truth that it demands we stake everything for its sake (vitam impendere vero).

One of the most important truths .. is this: the truth of faith is something that seizes us, not something of our own discovery (still less, our invention). The Peter who was led from Galilee to Rome did not make the journey because of something he had discovered and wanted to explore to satisfy his curiosity. Peter went from the security of his modest Galilean fishing business to the dangerous (and ultimately lethal) center of the Roman Empire because he had been seized by the truth, the truth he had met in the person of Jesus.
(p 27)
Being seized by the truth is not cost-free. "You have received without pay, give without pay," Jesus tells his new disciples, including Peter (Matt 10:8). In Peter's case, the call to give away the truth that had seized and transformed his life eventually cost him his life. And that, too, is a truth to be pondered: faith in Jesus Christ cost him his life. And that, too, is a truth to be pondered: faith in Jesus Christ costs not just something, but everything. It demands all of us, not just a part of us.
Peter, who has been given his new name because he is to be the rock on which the Church rests, is being told, gently but firmly, that his love for Christ is not going to be an easy thing. His love is not going to be a matter if "fulfilling" himself. His love must be a pouring out of himself, and in that self-emptying he will find his fulfillment—if not in terms that the world usually understands as "fulfillment." In abandoning any sense of his autonomy, in binding himself to feed the lambs and sheep of the Lord's flock, Peter will find his true freedom. In giving himself away, he will find himself. Freely you have received, freely you must give—if the gift is to continue to live in you.
(p 28)

Weigel also drew on the example of Mary, who remains a paragon of victory through self-giving and commitment, especially for our generation, who have seen the wreckage of 'modern loves' and have every excuse not to trust nor commit.

The first of the rosary's "mysteries" - the Annunciation - takes us back to Mary's fiat and reminds us that Mary as the first of disciples is also the pattern of Christian vocation. The Gospel tells us that Mary found the angel's greeting "troubling". And why not? But Mary's response amid her fears and doubts - Mary's fiat - vindicates the angel's greeting, that she is "full of grace". Mary doesn't' negotiate. She doesn't ask for a prematernal contract, unlike today's couples with their prenuptial agreements. Mary doesn't have an exit strategy. Mary doesn't "keep her options open." In fear and trembling, but with confidence in God's saving purposes, she gives the answer: fiat. Let it be. I am the Lord's servant and the Lord will provide.
(p 60)
"Keeping your options open" is not the path to happiness, wholeness - or holiness. That's an important Marian insight from the New Testament for every generation but perhaps especially for yours. We've all heard, time and again, that yours is a generation short on trust? If so, it's not hard to understand why. You've seen the wreckage caused by the sexual revolution and its dissolution of trust between men and women, both within marriage and outside of it. You've seen public officials betray their oath of office, and priests and bishops betray the vows they swore to Christ and the Church at ordination. You've seen teachers and professors betray the truth because of expediency, cowardice or an addiction to political correctness. If yours is a generation that finds it hard to trust and thus hard to "commit", that's understandable. But not persuasive.
(p 61)

He then next shows that despite our cynical propensity towards commitment, we are also drawn to figures which embodies commitment, like our Pope John Paul II of happy memory. How'd he do it? How did a priest from a Nazi-occupied and Communist-oppressed country manage to overcome the darkness that would naturally engulf anyone exposed to such suffering, to give himself totally? Weigel says, Mary is John Paul II's teacher.

Perhaps this 'trust deficit' is one of the reasons why so many young people found Pope John Paul II such a compelling figure. Here was commitment embodied in an irresistible way... Unlike popular culture, the Pope didn't pander to you - he challenged you: never settle for less than the greatness of soul that God has made it possible for you to live, because of Christ. At the same time, he demonstrated with his life that he asked of you nothing that he had not made, no struggle that he had not struggled through.

How could he do this? I think he gave the answer at Czestochowa, the great Polish shrine of the Black Madonna, Poland's most famous Marian icon in 1979. There, John Paul said, quite simply, "I am a man of great trust; I learned to be one here." I learned to trust here, in prayer before this image of Mary that draws us into the mystery of Mary's special role in the salvation history—which is the world's history, read in its true depth. I learned to trust, not in 'options' or 'exit strategies' but in the mother who always points us toward her son, toward the Christ who never fails in his promises.

That's why the inclusion of the wedding feast at Cana in the New Luminous Mysteries of the rosary is another invitation to think and pray about your vocation. Every Catholic, every Christian, has a vocation— a unique something that only you can do in the providence of God. That, too, can be disturbing thought until we recognize that that same providence will mercifully, repair and make straight whatever false steps we take in living out our vocational commitments. "Do whatever he tells you" That is Mary's message to us, as well as to the servants at the wedding feast in Cana. "Do whatever he tells you" is Mary's gentle invitation to make her fiat your own. Don't look for an exit strategy. Live in trust, not in calculation; stake everything on Christ.

In his embrace, to which Mary points us, you'll find the path to happiness, wholeness and holiness that you will never find by keeping your options open.

And all these, are just from the first few chapters! I'll continue writing as I progress through the book.

Monday, April 21, 2008

World Youth Day: fundraising

Carved Soap RoseI'm helping some friends to raise fund to go for the World Youth Day in Sydney. If you're interested to purchase these miniature roses (made of soap) for any occasion (Mother's Day, Father's Day, etc), do drop me a note at catholiclinuxmonkey AT gmail DOT com.

They are available at S$12 to S$20, depending on the size.

More photos here:

SMS Operations in Symbian 3rd edition

Some notes of experience (most likely for my own future reference) to accompany the Wiki entry on SMS Operations. In particular, this is useful for those who are new to Symbian. The above link gave example on how to send an SMS, and delete the sent message, but the code ( needs to be a slight tweak to make it work.

Problem Description: Usually applications that sends out SMS messages like to do so discreetly. The example given doesn't delete the SMS sent by your application?


1. At the sending of SMS,
Change: need to put the Application UID into the SMS created at CreateMsgL()

2. At the HandleSessionEventL() for the new message to move from "Outbox" to the "Sent" folder,
Change: need to match the Application UID (inserted in step 1) -- highlighted here in the code addition for HandleSessionEventL()

case EMsvEntriesMoved:
// Entry id is obtained from the session event arguments.
TMsvId* entryId = STATIC_CAST( TMsvId*, aArg2 );

// We are interested in messages that are moved to Sent Item Folder
if ( *entryId == KMsvSentEntryId )
TMsvSelectionOrdering sort;
// to handle also the invisible entries

CMsvEntry* parentEntry = CMsvEntry::NewL(*iSession, KMsvSentEntryId, sort);

CMsvEntrySelection* entries = parentEntry->ChildrenL();

for(TInt i = 0; i < entries->Count(); i++)
// iMtmData3 here must match your application UID, in which case
// variable 'KUidMsgTypeSMS' needs to be renamed accordingly
if( parentEntry->ChildDataL(entries->At(i)).iMtmData3 == KUidMsgTypeSMS.iUid )
CleanupStack::PopAndDestroy( entries );
CleanupStack::PopAndDestroy( parentEntry );

NOTE: there was a bug in the example given at the Wiki entry; I've changed this to help all newbies checking out this code.

Arrivederci, America!

Papa Benedict XVI has said "Tschuz" to America, after almost a week visiting the two cities, Washington DC and New York City. After he met hundreds of thousands of his flock as well as other Americans, the media pretty much decided that the trip has been a success. Well, there are always those who said the Pope didn't do enough. He can't please everyone!

Meanwhile, Americans and the rest of the world (aren't we all Americans last week? With Papa Benedict's appearance all broadcast almost live to everywhere the Internet reaches, we almost were), are going to have a good number of days, weeks even, to digest what the Pope has said, and to experience the fruits of his trip.

Here's an excerpt from a brilliant speech he gave at St Joseph Seminary, where he proclaimed the importance of freedom to be rooted in truth:

... The fundamental importance of freedom must be rigorously safeguarded. It is no surprise then that numerous individuals and groups vociferously claim their freedom in the public forum. Yet freedom is a delicate value. It can be misunderstood or misused so as to lead not to the happiness which we all expect it to yield, but to a dark arena of manipulation in which our understanding of self and the world becomes confused, or even distorted by those who have an ulterior agenda.

Have you noticed how often the call for freedom is made without ever referring to the truth of the human person? Some today argue that respect for freedom of the individual makes it wrong to seek truth, including the truth about what is good. In some circles to speak of truth is seen as controversial or divisive, and consequently best kept in the private sphere. And in truth’s place – or better said its absence – an idea has spread which, in giving value to everything indiscriminately, claims to assure freedom and to liberate conscience. This we call relativism. But what purpose has a “freedom” which, in disregarding truth, pursues what is false or wrong? How many young people have been offered a hand which in the name of freedom or experience has led them to addiction, to moral or intellectual confusion, to hurt, to a loss of self-respect, even to despair and so tragically and sadly to the taking of their own life? Dear friends, truth is not an imposition. Nor is it simply a set of rules. It is a discovery of the One who never fails us; the One whom we can always trust. In seeking truth we come to live by belief because ultimately truth is a person: Jesus Christ. That is why authentic freedom is not an opting out. It is an opting in; nothing less than letting go of self and allowing oneself to be drawn into Christ’s very being for others (cf. Spe Salvi, 28).

How then can we as believers help others to walk the path of freedom which brings fulfillment and lasting happiness? Let us again turn to the saints. How did their witness truly free others from the darkness of heart and mind? The answer is found in the kernel of their faith; the kernel of our faith. The Incarnation, the birth of Jesus, tells us that God does indeed find a place among us. Though the inn is full, he enters through the stable, and there are people who see his light. They recognize Herod’s dark closed world for what it is, and instead follow the bright guiding star of the night sky. And what shines forth? Here you might recall the prayer uttered on the most holy night of Easter: “Father we share in the light of your glory through your Son the light of the world … inflame us with your hope!” (Blessing of the Fire). And so, in solemn procession with our lighted candles we pass the light of Christ among us. It is “the light which dispels all evil, washes guilt away, restores lost innocence, brings mourners joy, casts out hatred, brings us peace, and humbles earthly pride” (Exsultet). This is Christ’s light at work. This is the way of the saints. It is a magnificent vision of hope – Christ’s light beckons you to be guiding stars for others, walking Christ’s way of forgiveness, reconciliation, humility, joy and peace.

At times, however, we are tempted to close in on ourselves, to doubt the strength of Christ’s radiance, to limit the horizon of hope. Take courage! Fix your gaze on our saints. The diversity of their experience of God’s presence prompts us to discover anew the breadth and depth of Christianity. Let your imaginations soar freely along the limitless expanse of the horizons of Christian discipleship. Sometimes we are looked upon as people who speak only of prohibitions. Nothing could be further from the truth! Authentic Christian discipleship is marked by a sense of wonder. We stand before the God we know and love as a friend, the vastness of his creation, and the beauty of our Christian faith.

Dear friends, the example of the saints invites us, then, to consider four essential aspects of the treasure of our faith: personal prayer and silence, liturgical prayer, charity in action, and vocations.


(more good things in the full speech)

His speeches and gestures revealed much of the person he is, and his words, source of inspiration. Read all of them here.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Our Pope turns 81 today!

Pope at White House South lawnPope Benedict XVI celebrates his 81st birthday today, during his first visit (as a pope) to the US. His visit to the US is a major event (like almost everything else, everything is bigger in the US!) and will be covered by major media outlets.

UPDATE: At the lavish White House welcome ceremony today, he was treated with a warm welcome note from President George Bush, a few songs and then the soprano sang him an impromptu Happy Birthday for him.

Pray for him, as it must be tiring for an octogenarian to make such intense schedule in this visit! And of course, for the many fruits of his trip.

V: Oremus pro Papa nostro Benedicto!
R: Dominus conservet eum, et vivicet eum, et beatum faciat eum in terra, et non tradat eum in animam inimicorum eius.

Ad multos annos!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

EWTN interview of George Bush prior to the Pope's visit

While checking out EWTN's coverage of Pope Benedict XVI's first visit to the US, I saw that the US President George W Bush had agreed to an interview with EWTN prior to the visit. Out of curiosity, I streamed and watched it. It's worth watching as Bush seemed to pull many firsts for the Pope's visit: the first time a President 'picked up' a foreign dignitary at Andrews airbase, amongst other special treatments.

Watch the interview yourself here, or read the transcript here. He sounded more Catholic than any Catholic (secular) leader did. And the interview ended with this question from Raymond Arroyo, "You said, famously, when you looked into Vladimir Putin's eyes you saw his soul. [...] When you look into Benedict XVI's eyes what do you see?"; Bush answered immediately, "God." Here's an interesting excerpt:

Arroyo: Even your critics say they are amazed by you, and baffled by you, because you remain so positive, so upbeat -- (laughter) -- so on point. How much of that is a function of your faith?

Bush: Well, that's a very good question. You know, I don't think you can disassociate your faith with how you live your life. I mean, I think it's all engrained. And I am optimistic because I happen to believe in certain universal principles, and I do believe that freedom is universal, and if just given a chance, people will live in a -- will self-govern and live in a peaceful, free society.


And my faith has -- you know, my faith has been so sustaining in the midst of -- in the midst of what is a pretty hectic life, full of flattery and criticism. And faith keeps a person grounded. Faith reminds people that there's something a lot more important than you in life. I've been inspired by the prayers from ordinary citizens. And I have come to realize one -- more clearly the story of the calm in the rough season.

Well, not being American, I reserve no comment for her president. Yet, after this interview, Bush did come across as either a really smooth politician, or a genuinely good man who believes that "there's right and wrong in life." Whatever misgiving some might have about his presidency, I think I'll miss him after his office term ends. And once again, he did sound more Catholic than many Catholic politicians!

If you're not going to any of the events the Pope will be at, watch his trip from EWTN and pray for the many fruits of this trip!

Friday, April 11, 2008

God willing...

... is a phrase that Christians (and also Muslims) use when praying to God to be delivered from a humanly impossible situation. It never ceases to be a mystery to me, this thing about God's will and the fact that we have our own will. It's a hard struggle to proceed from 'knowing' that God has a will that is good for us, to accepting and wanting our will to conform to His.

This Lent and Easter have been a period of personal purification for me. It hasn't been easy dealing with the will of God. Yesterday and today in particular have been difficult to believe that all will be well. So this article here gives solace and hope that for those who trust in God, all will be well.

Why, then, is it not enough simply to think "God knows best"? In a practical sense, since we do not know God's will, it is good to ask, without forgetting that if we are not heard, all the better, since God knows what we need better than we do.

Let us think of a mother praying beside her sick child. Even if the doctor says the little one has only a few hours to live, the mother does not give up. She keeps praying for a miracle right to the end. There is no doubt that this supplication is a real prayer. Will God blame the mother for going against the divine will? Oh, no! What God wants her to do is to go on praying with confidence; that is God's will at that moment.

There is mystery in this divine will that arouses desires it does not satisfy. It is the mystery of the cross. The fact is that the unfulfilled prayer of the mother and the death of the child were present in Christ's prayer in Gethsemane. Prayer is the cry of the poor to God, like the grass that, trodden underfoot a hundred times, still lifts up its head. As the lotus blooms on a stalk that is rooted in mud, so the prayer of Christ is rooted in the suffering of the persecuted, the helpless, the poor.


The uninterrupted prayer of the poor person crying out from the depths of his or her misery is worth more in God's eyes than any meditation or sublime contemplation, because it is united to the crucified Christ.

Read the short article here. And one last prayer,

De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine;

Domine, exaudi vocem meam.
Fiant aures tuæ intendentes in vocem deprecationis meæ.

Si iniquitates observaveris, Domine,
Domine, quis sustinebit?

Quia apud te propitiatio est;
et propter legem tuam sustinui te, Domine.
Sustinuit anima mea in verbo eius:
speravit anima mea in Domino.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

"20 Percent of Scientists Admit Using Brain-Enhancing Drugs... Do You?"

A recent online poll by the journal Nature found that 20 percent of scientists had taken drugs to boost their brains.

Now I know why I can't sit still and concentrate for a long time.. I haven't had my ritalin and adderall and ginkgo and caffeine fix of the day *deadpan*

More here; also on the April Fools' prank that set this off!

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Update on the Rosary widget

It's a little late.. I published an update to the Rosary widget some weeks ago. But as I'm sitting here with an unusual light-headedness trying to solve a bug in my Symbian project, I thought of how comforting is the prayer of the rosary, to have recourse to Our Lady, our most powerful intercessor.

So, in this latest build, version 1.0, I've put in some kind of identifier variable that'd automatically notify all the current users (version 1.0 onwards) if I've uploaded any updates. But it doesn't yet work for those who have downloaded the earliest version.

What's in this build? I've added two things:
1. The Litany of Loreto
2. Links to patristic reflections from Fr Z

The latter is meant to help you to reflect upon the rosary using materials Fr Z compiled from the Church Fathers' writings. All copyrights belong to him of course.

On my part, it's been encouraging to see people's comments on how beneficial they'd found the widget. Any comment or suggestion for improvement are welcome. So there it is... I'm just asking everyone who happens to see this post or use the Rosary widget, to remember to say a little prayer for me :)

Firefox add-ons woes

I've settled into a comfortable relationship with Firefox—the browser of choice for most tech-minded people. (No slight to Opera and Safari fans out there!) I've even got round to uninstalling Internet Explorer on my XP machine!

Well now, what makes online life good in Firefox, apart from its inherently good qualities, are the plethora of add-ons (user-submitted extensions) that made everything accessible at a single click. Let's see:
1. or Digg made bookmarking a breeze at a single button click,
2. The Session Saver or the Firebug debugger (essential for web developers),
3. Scrapbook allows me to download complete pages (JavaScript and all) to make it available offline for my students,
4. IE-Tab made it possible to request and render pesky websites as Internet Explorer--which I have uninstalled on my machine,
5. DownThemAll! accelerates those huge ISO downloads,
6. Most importantly, the Adblock and NoScript made me feel invincible (almost) surfing on a malware-infested digital jungle.

Now you can imagine my consternation when one day, after one of those automatic Firefox updates (it's now at version, none of those beloved add-ons work! Need less to say I felt absolutely naked and vulnerable going to the Internet. I managed to refrain myself from getting online for a couple of hours before I realize I had to do something! Here's the problem:

The extensions are still there, but they're not loaded. When I look at the extensions in the Tools -> Add-ons menu, all of them are marked such:

This add-on will be installed when Firefox is restarted.

And restarting Firefox repeatedly does nothing. A search in Google turned up a post back in July '07 (that's donkey years ago in tech world!!!!), that recommends deleting extensions.cache from the Firefox Application Data folder. Didn't work for me. I was dreading the prospect of having to reinstall Firefox and reinstalling all the extensions.. Another search turns up these posts and they recommended deleting the three extension index files:

from the folder C:\Documents and Settings\{username}\Application Data\Mozilla\Firefox\Profiles\{profile_salt}\, and restarting Firefox.

VERDICT: Works! I just hope the next time Firefox does auto-update, the extension disappearance and rediscovery won't be part of the routine.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

In memoriam: Servant of God, John Paul II

Today is the dies natalis of our beloved pope, Servant of God, John Paul II of happy memory. Here's a faithful servant, a man who let millions came into his heart, and brought them to Christ.

This video below is one of countless tribute to him, and contains many pictures of John Paul the Great that I've not seen circulated widely.

(Link here)

John Paul II, pray for us!

Monday, March 31, 2008

Et verbum caro factum est

Today we celebrate (belatedly) an extraordinary event that all mankind has been waiting for: a Savior that comes and lives amongst us. On the 25th of March, the Church celebrates this Joyful Mystery better known as the Annunciation. This silent but wonderful moment marks the time the Eternal one enters into time — for sure we have prayed for a savior, and Israel its Messiah, but to be 'reduced' to an embryo forming in the womb of a young girl from nowhere... no wonder we bow (or genuflect, even) when we recite the Incarnation in the Creed. So great is God's love for us that shows through this humility of our Lord!

At a glance, the world seems to say that we do not need a Savior. And like Lois Lane wrote, in the movie of Superman Returns, a Pulitzer-winning article on why the world doesn't need a savior, many of us or 'our brothers' have yet to face the fact that we do. Because our nature is fallen, we fail to redeem ourselves despite our best intentions.

It is a great feast day in the Church for many reasons. Just as we fall in awe of the Lord's goodness in this great mystery, this feast is also an occasion to reflect upon the humility of our Lady. It has been said many times that our Lady braved death by stoning if she were to be found pregnant and unmarried.

For those contemplating a Call from the Lord, our Lady is a paragon of a disciple and a shining star in your discernment. Was there euphoria at the annunciation? Perhaps, but I'd dare say there was more trepidation than euphoria for her. Was there complete understanding? Perhaps she understood better than the rest of us, as she is without original sin, her reasoning is not darkened by sins... yet surely she couldn't have anticipated the drama of the birth in a stable in a foreign unknown city, the prophecy of Simeon at the baby's presentation, the flight to Egypt, and lastly, the bitter Passion of her Son and His humiliating death. But none of that seems to matter. No lack of euphoria nor lack of complete understanding of her call prevented her, full of grace she is, to say her Fiat. St Bernard of Clairvaux imagined the entire heaven to be looking on, cheering her though no encouragement was necessary. And the entire heaven, which held their breath, sighed with relief, I imagined, when she said Yes. To bear the plan of God required her to say Yes everyday of her life. Victory of God's plan, one can say, was sealed with her obedience.

Again, to those who are contemplating the Call, temptations that it is perhaps 'better', that one is somehow more 'effective' being married and having a great family and raising many Christian children, sometimes do come. Is it possible to dedicate oneself joyfully and totally to God, and looking at having 'spiritual children' instead? Can one live renouncing earthly love to anticipate the heavenly marriage with the Lamb? The answer is yes, "possumus!" Not because anyone on their own is so strong but because God gives the grace to answer thus. I hear a resounding affirmation in today's Gospel:

“How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?”
“The Holy Spirit will come upon you... nothing will be impossible for God.”
--Luke 1:34, 37

Learning from the animals

After a week of solemnity and 40 days of penance behind us, let's celebrate life's little pleasures. These animals teach us how to live 'dangerously' and have plenty of fun!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Gaude et laetare!

Rejoice, O earth, in shining splendor,
radiant in the brightness of your King!
Christ has conquered! Glory fills you!
Darkness vanishes for ever!
-- from the Exultet

Pope Benedict with the Easter candle at Vigil Mass 2008
This year, the Alleluias sung during the Easter vigil, has got to be the sweetest, the most beautiful Alleluias I've heard in a long long time! Rejoice and be glad!

Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia;
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia;
Resurrexit sicut dixit, alleluia;
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia!
Gaude et laetare, Virgo Maria, alleluia;
Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia.

Happy Easter to one and all! Rejoice and be glad!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Holy Saturday

"What makes this night different from all the other nights?" -- this question is traditionally asked by the youngest member of a Jewish family during the Passover memorial meal. And for us Catholics too, we entered into the Easter Triduum asking the same question.

For forty days we have mortifed ourselves -- entered the desert, so to speak, and today, is the last day of that desert journey. It is an odd day of the calendar of the Church because today, God is not there in our tabernacles. What is a day without God? Technically of course, God is there. It's just that the second person of the Trinity, who have always been us throughout the year, is dead today.

We accompanied him in His Passion yesterday, today we await his resurrection. It's a strange day. Though we know he will rise on the third day, it doesn't make our loss any less.

In a few hours time, the first Masses of Easter Vigil would have begun. Let us await his resurrection!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Easter Triduum

Have a blessed Easter Triduum!
We're almost there...

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Women objectifying ourselves

I realized I wrote that I won't be blogging much this Lent, but this article ("Cashing in on Nude Lindsay Photos") is something I've got to comment on. Anyone who's been on the Internet long enough and not behind work-safe/child-safe firewalls would have heard that Lindsay Lohan, former child star in several family-friendly movies, recently posed as Marilyn Monroe, emulating her famous photo shoot just six weeks before Monroe was found dead of barbiturate overdose in 1962.

I confessed that I did see the New York magazine article and photos, but what is sad is Lohan's own response and her mom's response to this whole stunt. Both women said it was an 'honor' to pose as Monroe's character. Lindsay's reported response was: "Doing a Marilyn shoot? When is that ever going to come up? It’s really an honor."

Honor? Honor??? That was my response. Are we living in such a culture where a woman getting invited to pose nude (or nearly so) for millions of audience on the Internet is deemed an honor? Come on. Never mind that many commenters left on pages showing her pictures said that she looked old for her age, and all kinds of unkind remarks.

The article about cashing in was particularly telling. Posing Marilyn-esque was deemed such an honor that apparently Lohan got NO MONEY for baring herself. The article said that Bert Stern got a 'standard fee', and the magazine's website enjoyed millions of hits (translating to a CPM of a good $15) and potentially earned hundreds of thousand dollars of (undisclosed) advertising revenue.

We are indeed in a culture where women are fighting for the right to objectify ourselves and calling it an honor! Where showing more skin means more attention and more sexual power, radical feminists speak of a woman's rights to do whatever she likes with her body, including killing children in the womb and selling naked images for free. Such an honor indeed.

Never before is our late beloved Pope's Theology of the Body more applicable. That, and more prayer!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Lenten update & the Eucharist

It has been only a little bit over two weeks since Lent started, but this year it felt like forever to me. There are many things happening at work, in my family and in my spiritual life. I wish sometimes I could blog it, but I realize now that most of them should be kept private, so I'm not planning to blog any major reflection, at least not until Lent is over.

As for me, my only wish is to draw closer to our Lord this Lent. As cliched as this may sound, it hasn't been easy. For a start, daily mass—more reverent & attentive daily mass—is in order. And there is no better example to follow than that of the saints when it comes to adoring our Lord in the Eucharist, especially during the Mass. This website is one of my favorites, and I shall try to feature several 'eucharistic' saints (a euphemism, I think, since how can one be a saint without being eucharistic???) during Lent to learn how to love the Eucharist more deeply. Coming soon...

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

St Julian the Hospitaller

This year, I did not look for a patron saint until I came across Seminarian Matthew's update about it early this month. While it's not important, it's a kind of pious habit to rely on the intercession of those who 'made it'. So I promptly asked for one and guess who picked me... St Julian the Hospitaller, also known as St Julian the Hospitalarian or St Julian the Poor.

His origin is a little obscure, some legend says he was French, some says his hospital was in Rome, some says it was near the shrine at Santiago Compostela. The Golden Legend tells an embellished tale of heroism and charity of St Julian and his wife. It goes that a beast once foretold that he would kill his own parents, so St Julian exiled himself, until one fateful day when his parents met his wife and were taking rest in his very own bedroom. Out of jealousy, he killed both his parents, thinking they were his wife and her lover. Inconsolable with remorse, he & his wife traveled to Rome, asked for pardon from the Pope and dedicated the rest of their lives in continence to serve the poor and the sick. Now that the disclaimers are dispensed with, let's get on with the tribute.

Whether or not the legend is true, St Julian (and his wife) are famous for running an inn or a hospice, taking care of poor and sick pilgrims. The same pious legend says that one night an angel of the Lord visited St Julian as a leper pilgrim, asking him to ferry him across the river to where his inn was, and at the end of St Julian's selfless service, announced God's forgiveness for his past sin. There are many churches dedicated to St Julian in Paris, France, and in Macerata, Italy.

Legend or not, this Lent it is one story has particularly inspired me about what charity truly is.

Why me?
I once read an amusing story about the business of picking patron saints. Enbrethiliel told me that we should rather, pray that a saint would pick us up into his/her patronage. Going with the latter view, I realize I couldn't ask the saint "Why did you pick me?", but I need to ask "Why did you pick me?". Through the communion of Saints, we are grateful for any kind of intercession from any fideles: living militant, suffering, or triumphant. Still the question remains: what is our connection? Is it a reminder to cultivate and exercise Charity? Well, that is one task that will be with me til the end of time! Time will tell.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Graces from attending Mass

This being the first Friday of the month, I'd like to post a short note about going to Mass. Specifically, for those who are struggling to go to Mass more regularly. Three years ago, I read this devotion to the Sacred Heart in which the faithful are asked to attend 9 First Friday masses for 9 consecutive months. How I found it difficult to be faithful to such schedule.. for once you've missed a first Friday mass, the 'cycle' is broken and you have to start anew... but nothing is ever lost! Years later, I'm stil struggling, but now, to attend the Mass daily.

Just yesterday, I struggled to tear myself away from my work to make it in time for Mass. Many excuses played in my head (I'm sure some of you are familiar with them!) about why I don't have to go to Mass that day...
1. It's not an obligation
2. So what if you miss one, there's another one tomorrow...
3. Perhaps prayer is sufficient in place of going to Mass?
4. Your disposition isn't good enough for mass...
5. The bus has just left and the next one will get you to the Church late!

Then I remembered something I read just the day before about how the Mass went on in a church after a parishioner died of heart attack. While I think it's perfectly logical to carry on the Mass, the article seems to carry an indignant tone that it was not stopped to 'respect the dead'. That same blog post then copied 15 GOOD REASONS for attending Mass:

1. The Mass is Calvary continued.
2. Every Mass is worth as much as the sacrifice of our Lord's life, sufferings, and death.
3. Holy Mass is the world's most powerful atonement for your sins.
4. At the hour of death, the Masses you have heard will be your greatest consolation.
5. Every Mass will go with you to judgment and plead for pardon.
6. At Mass, you can diminish more or less temporal punishment due to your sins, according to your fervor.
7. Assisting devoutly at Holy Mass, you render to the sacred humanity of Our Lord the greatest homage.
8. He supplies for many of your negligence and omissions.
9. He forgives the venial sins which you have not confessed. The power of Satan over you is diminished.
10. One Mass heard during life will be of more benefit to you than many heard for you after your death.
11. You are preserved from dangers and misfortunes which otherwise might have befallen you. You shorten your Purgatory.
12. Every Mass wins for you a higher degree of glory in Heaven.
13. You receive the priest's blessing which Our Lord ratifies in Heaven.
14. You kneel amidst a multitude of holy angels, who are present at the adorable Sacrifice with reverential awe.
15. You are blessed in your temporal goods and affairs.

So remember good people, every Mass counts! Every Holy Mass that we miss cannot be repeated again in terms of the graces we received. I'm posting this just in case it can help anyone of you attend ONE more Holy Mass in your life :)