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!