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.