Monday, December 14, 2009

Waiting this advent

Despite the fact that I have always loved the season of Advent, and despite the fact that this year Advent in my life has all the characteristics of waiting, I don't feel at all ready to hear, much less live, the message of Advent. It makes me a little sad how frigid (well, the weather doesn't help) my attitude has been this advent. The birth of Christ, lovingly awaited by thousands of faithful, seems more than a million miles away from me. Even as I helped to put up several Christmas crib scenes around the residence, I wish, I just wish, I could feel a little more enthusiastic, more affectionate, more recollected, to welcome this great mystery of the God who was made man and dwelt amongst us.

For 'cultural' Catholics, this would be easy to identify with. After all, they have grown up surrounded by the myth, (but not quite the mystery) of Christmas, ever since they could remember. All that gifts and warm fire and general atmosphere of festivities may be all Christmas means for many. I count myself amongst them, although neither my family is culturally Catholic nor am I a cradle Catholic.

This year I have the unusual privilege of having nearly two weeks of 'relatively free' time to think (and prepare) about what Christmas means, or should mean.

Struggling to get back 'on track', I tried to imagine being on 'the other side', being the One who is coming to a people who has kind of forgotten him, or is growing tired of waiting for him. How suitably post-modern it is to try to understand a situation from the 'other' point of view.. well. Anyway, as I was saying, I read and prayed, and those exhortations to get prepared, to get ready to welcome God made man, God-made-child, could not lift me up through the thick stupor of routine.

But just imagine: how it'd be like for you, if you were the one waiting to be born, waiting to enter into time, waiting to walk amongst us, His ungrateful creatures, waiting to save us, since... since the beginning of mankind, since the fall of our first parents. Talk about waiting! Our 4-week long advent, or even a lifetime of waiting, is nothing, compared to the thousands of years (millions or trillions, if you are an ID-and-evolutionist like me) that He has been waiting to come into our lives.

Imagine His enthusiasm, His joy, and most humbling of all, His need, to be with us. As omnipotent God who made everything out of nothing, it is unimaginable, inconceivable (indeed, a folly to the Greeks and a stumbling block to the Jews), that God would 'lower' Himself to save creatures who sadly, do not always recognize Him and even when they do, do not always reciprocate, nor even appreciate, the magnitude of this gesture of love. It is mind-boggling, to think that, God's gesture to us almost says "I need you, I want your love", when it is us who should be saying all that to the One who brought us to existence. And He did come, two thousand years ago, and since then, waiting to come anew into our lives, every Christmas.

How fitting it is that December is filled with various feasts of Mary; from the 8th, her Immaculate Conception, to 10th, Our Lady of Loreto, to the 12th, Our Lady of Guadalupe. She knew all about waiting for the One. She knew He has waited much longer, with much more longing, than she, or anyone else, had.

Well. This is my short reflection this Advent. This has helped me a lot; this Christmas, I am going to try to be a little bit more conscious of this wonderfully stupefying fact, that God has waited for me first. May this Advent bring you truly closer to Christ.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Misdiagnosed PVS for 23 years

This man was extraordinarily lucky to be alive to tell his story: that for 23 years, they thought he was in PVS state, not realizing that he was actually paralysed but fully conscious of everything that happened around him. This news didn't come from a particularly pro-life publication; it just reiterates how flimsy are the criteria for brain death. It is particularly interesting to me as we now have classes about anatomy, pathology, and inevitably, organ transplant and the polemic around it.

This one is from LifeNews with some commentary on how this episode affects debate about PVS determination and ethical implication.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cada vida importa (17 Oct)

Tomorrow, in Madrid, there will be a pro-life rally "Cada Vida Importa" (Every life matters). Most of my friends who can squeeze time into their schedule are heading there to show their support. It is especially relevant in Spain, where there is currently an ongoing battle to liberalize abortion, seeing it as a 'necessary step' to be fully modernized like the rest of Western Europe. I, like a few others, won't be able to make it but will support them with prayers and ask you for yours.

More info here and here (in Spanish).

Just to recap on the topic of the scourge of abortion:
Last year abortion killed 41.6 million (report by Guttmacher!!!)

And last, but not least, you have to read this profoundly sad but hopeful reflection by an abortionist, Lisa Harris, who aborted 18-week baby even as she felt her own 18-week baby kicking. Excerpts (read in full here):

With a quick tug, I separated the leg. Precisely at that moment, I felt a kick - a fluttery "thump, thump" in my own uterus. It was one of the first times I felt fetal movement. There was a leg and foot in my forceps, and a "thump, thump" in my abdomen. Instantly, tears were streaming from my eyes - without me - meaning my conscious brain - even being aware of what was going on. I felt as if my response had come entirely from my body, bypassing my usual cognitive processing completely. A message seemed to travel from my hand and my uterus to my tear ducts. It was an overwhelming feeling - a brutally visceral response - heartfelt and unmediated by my training or my feminist pro-choice politics. It was one of the more raw moments in my life.


I thought to myself how bizarre it was that I could have legally dismembered this fetus-now-newborn if it were inside its mother's uterus - but that the same kind of violence against it now would be illegal, and unspeakable.


[...] the psychological burdens second trimester abortion care lays upon its providers, including "serious emotional reactions that produced physiological symptoms, sleep disturbances (including disturbing dreams), effects on interpersonal relationships and moral anguish."


Harris conjectures that the needs of abortionists in this regard are not met because "frank talk like this is threatening to abortion rights." "While some of us involved in teaching abortion routinely speak to our trainees about the aspects of care I've described, we don't make a habit of speaking about it publicly. Essays like this bring the inevitable risk that comments will be misinterpreted, taken out of context and used as evidence for further abortion practice restrictions," she writes.

"We might conclude at this point that a provider who feels that abortion is violent is simply ambivalent, conflicted, is not really committed to women's abortion rights, and just shouldn't be doing this work," Harris writes. "'Pro-life' supporters may argue that the kind of stories and sentiments I've relayed spell the end of abortion - that honest speech acts regarding the reality of abortion will weaken the pro-choice movement to the point where it cannot sustain itself any longer.

As you may very well imagine, my first response was, "How could this woman not see?!" All that she wrote was contradicting each other; how can she maintain that the pro-choice position is tenable for the well-being for women when it must be obvious even to her:
(1) the incongruous, injustice of born-alive protection and legal status of abortion, and
(2) her own 'visceral response' which she tried to rationalize and explain away, and (3) the 'psychological burdens' suffered by 'second-trimester providers' is precisely because our consciences know the action cannot be defended morally ever. EVER.

I feel very sad reading the article, but at the same time hopeful that she, like many other abortionists, will come to see the inconsistencies in her position and recant from this kind of work.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Short Update: Prayerbook now in ITALIANO, DEUTSCH & RUSSIAN

Just a short update: I've been down with cold lately and swamped with work.

An update to the Catholic Prayerbook is now available in iTunes (for iPhone users) or HERE (for Java users)

With this update, it is now available in English, Español, Latin, Bahasa Indonesia, Deutsch, Italiano, and Russian.

Also, there are now up to 28 prayers in each language. New additions include more thanksgiving prayers and novenas. Update your copy or Download it NOW here.

Any comments and suggestions are always welcome!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Open-Source Math Tool: Sage

So life as a student has begun.

But not quite the same. For instance, I still have work pending; I still have people chasing after me, I still have products in the pipeline while several hours daily, I am usually in class.

Several days ago, professors from maths class that I'll take next semester (next semester, mind you!!!), emailed us 4-pages "diagnostic" test of our level of mathematics. I swear cold chills descended upon my spine. Not that I hate math or anything like that, but it kinda reminded me of those days of math homeworks which took me hours to finish, not to mention those blasted complicated sums which sometimes, unfinished, crept into my sleep...

So I turned to wikipedia to refresh my 'math memory' - if there's such a thing, and lo and behold, it didn't turn out as difficult as I thought. Differentiation, all kinds of techniques to arrive at it, etc. wasn't quite as horrible as I thought. And then I discovered "Sage". After unsuccessful attempts to use Maple or Mathlab or something without paying thousands of dollars (hey I'm only a poor student), I discovered an open-source alternative. Somewhat thankful, I'd like to see how it compares to other packages. After several frustrating download attempts with a download speed in the range of 5Kbps, I finally found a mirror closest to where I am, that allowed the download (almost 400MB) to finish in about 20 minutes.

It's good enough for me to start writing this blog post :) Let's just say it appeals to the geeky part of me - it requires a mini-webserver to run at port 8000, and requires one to have accounts to 'log in', and its worksheet, was clean enough that I could verify my answers to a complicated differentiation in half an hour. Intuitive words such as "diff" and "sin" and "cos" simply work. Well, they need brackets. And I suppose a few helpful buttons wouldn't hurt. But hey, engineers love command-line interface, right? This package has all that we can ask for...

Just thought to recommend this nifty package.

Now back to the books...

Friday, September 11, 2009

iPhone scare: black screen

These past few days, the iPhone I use had a black screen. For all purposes, it looked like it's dead, or switched off. But the alarm, which is set to go off at 6 everyday, made it ring and vibrate like crazy every morning and I couldn't turn it off. Calls were still going in, but I could see nothing. I could still use the cable to charge it and to sync it with the laptop and I'd hear the "clink" noise coming. So it wasn't dead, but neither was it functional.

They say Google's your best friend, and today it proved to be. A quick search on "iphone black screen" returns this page: (The author had written, in his following post, that some site leeched off his post—I'm not going to do the same thing.. hence the link). But it basically says that you should hold down the "Home" round button at the bottom and the "Wake/Sleep" button on top, and the phone should reboot itself nicely.

It worked for me. Hope it saves someone the anguish, or having to find a pile of clothes or blanket in which to hide the vibrating iPhone. Read the comments in the link to amuse yourself :)

Thursday, August 06, 2009

How to explain yourself when asked about abortion

I've been intrigued by the whole abortion-prolife businesss since I first encountered it in 2003. At that point of time I was nominally Catholic, and held the view that choice is good, very good indeed, for a woman to choose whether she wants to abort her child or not. "Who's the state to say whether a woman should have a child or not?". I was also, at the same time and unsurprisingly, a nihilist. This learning about the arguments of prolife movement, based on natural law and then from the point of view of the Catholic Church, kind of "brought me back" to rediscover the joy of life within the Church. Hence this topic holds a special place in my heart.

It's July 30th when I began writing this. Not a particularly special day, but as I helped some friends to find facts to prepare a prolife presentation, I realize that despite a mountain of information available about abortion -- from both its advocates and from those who says it is a mortal sin, I haven't found one that summarizes it comprehensively. I suppose sometimes it seems too much to compress thousands of years of learning that support some of the arguments brought forth by its most vocal defender, the Catholic Church.

So I'm going to attempt to write a little bit more systematically, specifically about why abortion is not reasonably acceptable, not even mildly tolerable. Despite numerous 'rationales' proposed by its proponents, I am firmly in the camp that believes that it is an atrocity against the human race.

One last note: this is not meant as an attempt to 'win' anyone over. My treatment of the subject of abortion will spread over many areas but I will not elaborate too much, since my primary audience will be those people who *already* believe that abortion is wrong, but need a quick primer in articulating *why* exactly it is wrong, and how to answer common straw-fish arguments thrown by 'the other side' about any possibly good reason to support abortion.

So here we go; below are the common polemical arguments presented from the Pro-Choice Camp:

1. Fetus != Baby
I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. Within a few weeks, possibly before the woman realizes she is pregnant, what is growing in her womb is not a blob of cells. There is no logical or mythical line that a fetus must cross in order to become a baby. You want to talk about dependence? Then most kids don't cross that line until they go to college!

2. Fetus != Person, therefore it has no protection of a person under the law
There's no logical 'beginning' of a person before or after fertilization. A day-old baby is the same person as he was a day before his birth, the same person as he was 2 days before his birth, and so on, until we come to a logical beginning, which is fertilization. During fertilization, a new creature with a complete set of DNA is created - even as a single-celled organism before the cells multiply.
Historically, personhood doesn't begin until after the person is born -- like in Roman times, when the father has to 'lift up' the baby to proclaim it as his son, if not, to reject it.
Philosophically, that's bosh. We've established that the fetus is a baby, and that baby is the same person, before and after birth. That baby cannot, at some point of time within its mother's womb, suddenly become a rabbit or a bird at birth. A human fetus grows to be a human person. A Person has human rights.

3. It's just a blob of cells, a part of a woman's body; she decides what she can do with her body.
Yes, a woman, or any free person for that matter, has the right to do what she wants to do with her body. A fetus isn't a part of a woman's body the way an arm or an eye is.

4. It's just a blob of cells; it's not murder.
We've established that the fetus is a baby, and a person. Premeditated, deliberate, involuntary termination of a person's life, in any sense, is murder. There's a law protecting the eggs of a bald eagle. Clearly, everybody knows that destroying an egg of a bald eagle destroys one more eagle. That which is growing in a pregnant woman's womb, is a baby. Clearly, to destroy it is to kill one more person.

5. Every child a wanted child
Boy, this is a slogan from the Clinton era. Pregnancy is never accidental, just as sex is never accidental. Pregnancy is an intended end of sex, biologically speaking. Every couple who has sex should keep in mind that their action indicates biologically that they want to conceive a child.

6. Abortion is a healthcare right, a woman's right
Several movements have begun to push for abortion to be proclaimed as a woman's right, cleverly stowed under the slogan of women's healthcare – which has become synonymous with abortion and contraception. Pregnancy is not a disease. Human rights can never, ever, include rights that deprive another of his basic human rights. Even in the case of a pregnancy that "endangers" the health of the mother, abortion is still not a right - it is only a tolerably evil consequence of saving the life of the mother. (More about this myth of dangerous pregnancy: only in very rare conditions make pregnancy hazardous to a woman, which are certainly not present in the majority of abortion-for-health cases)

7. Abortion should be 'safe, legal and rare'
Another Clintonesque legacy. Stats showed that abortion numbers spiked during the Clinton years. Relative safety, legal status and easy availability (sometimes subsidized or covered by insurance) does not exactly discourage its practice, you see.

8. Abortion has helped curb crime in dangerous neighborhood
There is higher density of abortion clinics at poorer neighborhoods. In New York, under Rudy Giuliani, abortion was used as part of the zero-tolerance strategy. It is a form of eugenics, or baldly put, genocide. It is saying that 'poor people' should not be encouraged to have children, and this slippery slope will lead to a situation where poor people will not have rights to have children. Social determinism: not all who grew up in poor neighborhood grew up to be criminals. Guess which ethnicity has experienced the greatest number of abortions? 37% of all abortions are done on African-American women, more babies (nearly 15 million -- PDF!) have died through abortion in the last 36 years than the number that slavery killed.

9. Abortion helps us to be ecologically friendly
(I must admit this is one of the more 'loco' arguments) Are human beings parasites? Is the earth overpopulated? 40 years ago, scientists say that at the rate human beings are propagating, there will not be enough food for everyone. Well, they've been proven wrong. Human beings are not only consumers but also producers whose creativity transcend conventional growth projection. As a side point, artificial engineering of population, made countries like China, and a large part of Europe experience demographic 'winter'.

10. Abortion is Pro "choice"
When the other side talks about 'pro-choice', this choice is never the choice of the baby, always of the mother. Thus the strong wins. This is pure discrimination, dictatorship of the powerful.

11. Abortion is legal
Today, in the US and in many parts of the world, yes, it is legal. But abandonment is not. Abandonment of a newly born child, say in a trash bin, is a crime. Abandonment of a child that survives abortion, say in an abortion mill, is a crime. Is it not inconsistent, not to mention absurd, given the legality of abortion? Have you ever given it any thought? For many in the prolife movement, these laws are seen as steps towards more prolife legislation.

12. Are you ready to support the baby born out of wedlock?
This is a form of ad-hominem attack, which moves the argument from the morality of the act, to the person who defends or opposes it. In reality, the Catholic Church, being one of the most vocal opponents of abortion, is also the greatest provider of social & medical service in the US (and I suspect in many other countries as well). She walks the talk.

13. Prevention is better than cure.
#1 – Abortion is NOT a disease!
#2 – Stats show that free availability of contraception does not correspond to lower rate of abortion. It stands to reason that increased false sense of security gave rise to promiscuousness.

14. Morning-after pills are not the same as abortion.
Morning-after pills contain hormones that prevent implantation of a fertilized embryo, often given to victims of rape, or those who have had 'unprotected' intercourse. In other words, a baby may (or may not) have been conceived but could not 'latch' onto the mother's womb and is subsequently killed. While it is intended to prevent ovulation and prevent fertilization, taking the morning-after pills may be an abortifacient act if fertilization has already occurred.

15. I don't agree with it, but I will protect the woman's right to choose...
This is like saying: I don't agree with slavery, but I wouldn't help my neighbor's slave escape and I certainly won't vote to end it either. Bull.

16. I don't agree with it because I'm “Catholic / Jewish / Muslim / Evangelical / <insert your own faith here>” but I won't impose my belief on others
Public square is where faith & reason meets, to throw it out of public square is a form of dictatorship of laicistic relativism. Should we hang our faith at the doors when we step into our offices? Should the Church not build hospitals and schools, because that reflects their belief that nurturing the body and the mind are good works? Should Bl. Damien not have served the leper community in Molokai? Should Mother Teresa not bother to help the poorest of the poor in Calcutta? All beliefs influence public decisions.

Additional reasons why abortion should not be seen as a normal part of our lives...
Loss of protection of conscientious objectors (eg. FOCA)
If abortion gains status as a right, then as a consequence, medical professionals need to protect these 'rights'. A pharmacist cannot refuse to dispense abortifacients, and doctors have to supply abortion service on demand, because they are seen as basic rights of the patients, which must be upheld by adherents of these professional standards.

Aborted fetus as a source of embryonic stem cells
Aborted fetus is a source of embryonic stem cells (ESC). As long as there is a steady supply of aborted fetuses, there is a steady supply of ESC, hence perpetuating this vicious cycle of supply-demand that extols their price in terms of human lives.

Aborted fetus as a source of donated organs
Aborted fetus can been seen as a source of donated organs. And why not? If abortion is seen as a right, and not a tolerable evil as it is seen today, then logically, a utilitarian end can be found for these unwanted consequences. What's stopping them from being used as a source of organs?

That's all I have for now, I hope it helps somebody out there.

Monday, August 03, 2009

Aquí nació

On July 31st, the feast day of St Ignatius of Loyola, I (and 16 others from the residence) went to Loyola for a day trip. Our objective was to see the basilica of St Ignatius, built next to the Santa Casa (Holy House) where he was born and was 'converted', taking advantage of the fact that his feast day happens to be the day when we had a break during the summer course. We went with intent to have more leisure than to exercise piety, but we were quickly disabused of that notion.

We drove from Pamplona, and arrived a little before 1pm, and to our (well, mine really) surprise, the parking lot was full and there were throngs of people everywhere. There was a Mass (in Basque) being said, and when we came to the doors of the basilica, we had to be 'restrained' outside until hundreds of people streamed out at the end of the Mass. The next Mass, this time in Spanish, ensued at 1pm. I'm just plainly surprised that the local people are just naturally pious. To come to the basilica of St Ignatius on his feast day is the normal thing to do :)

We watched an introductory video about Loyola (more about Loyola than about St Ignatius) at the tourism office, which is just below the basilica. I didn't understand a single thing, since it had the style of Shakespearean Spanish.

After briefly seeing the basilica, taking a few hurried shots as the Mass was under way, we went to the Santa Casa, which is the center of attraction. The basilica in fact, was built just next to it. Admission costs 2€, and guided tour costs 3.5€, but somehow, just somehow, somebody managed to convince the counter guy that since there were 17 of us, we should be let in for much less. So we forked out 1€ each and got ourselves a guided tour ;) The guided tour really means that our group gets a card that is to be scanned by card-readers at every station (there are 12 in total) in the Santa Casa. When the scanner reads the card, an automatic voice recording plays and thus we heard the history of St Ignatius - from his birth until his conversion.

It was very well done. I am impressed at its quality and comprehensiveness. It informs us of the very well-documented facts of the life of St Ignatius, from the significance of the location of this house and its political alliance, to the significance of the construction of the house (which has no windows on the lower part of its walls—characteristic of a fortress), to the more elevated aspects of the life of St Ignatius, culminating (the tour, that is) in the Chapel of Conversion (the room where se entregó a Dios Iñigo de Loyola)

What impressed me most of all is the devotional and 'elevated' style of the guided tour. It has the style of a Christian meditation. In fact, some of my friends jokingly added "Amen" at the end of several of the stations. We heard through the recorded voice that Iñaki (Iñigo in Basque) asked himself - given that God had given him so much - what has he done for God? Then we were asked to 'reflect' what God wanted of each of us ;) Mind you, my friends are exactly some of these pious people who could appreciate such elevated discourse, but the unexpectedness of it all brought much humour to the situation. Indeed, we came out nearly two hours(!!!) later, having piously (and humorously) heard 'the meditations' and praying for the intercession of St Ignatius on behalf of all the persons & the intentions entrusted to us by our friends who couldn't be there, half-dying with hunger and had a picnic lunch in the park outside the basilica.

So far, this is one of the best excursions (not to mention the madness of Sanfermin!) I have had in Spain, very characteristic of this land — both playful and pious at the same time.

More pictures can be seen here

Sunday, July 26, 2009

The changing tide

For the longest time, any medical breakthrough achieved using adult stem cells are hardly ever reported in the mainstream media. If it does, it appears under the generic heading of "stem cells" carrying the ambiguity of whether it has employed embryonic stem cells or the adult stem cells..

Last week, I noticed for the first time, the phrase "adult stem cells" appear in Google News. Sure the news selection in Google News works 'randomly', sure these articles were not published in big-name newspapers, but there are some differences now:

1. The adjective "adult" appear alongside "stem cells" in the titles more frequently now. One doesn't have to scan to the last sentence in the opening paragraph to find out whether it's about embryonic or adult stem cell.

2. The article isn't ended off with a 'helpful' explanation of what adult stem cells are, and why they aren't as 'powerful' as embryonic stem cells.

Here are some latest articles about iPS stem cells being used in cardiac treatment.

iPhone versions are here!

I don't know if I should laugh or I should cry... but after more than 3 months of waiting & 10 rejections (for the Mobile Prayer app), Apple finally approved my application. Thank God!

Here they are:

Compendium to the CCC

What is it exactly? It's self-explanatory... it contains the Compendium to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. Costs $0.99 to cover my time (for the labourer has to be paid!)

Mobile Prayer app

It contains 24 prayers (22 for Bahasa Indonesia version) of various Catholic prayers and devotions in 4 languages: ENGLISH, ESPAÑOL, LATIN and BAHASA INDONESIA. Available only for $1.99, it's your forever. Or as long as forever goes :)

I hope you'll find it useful. Do help me spread the word :) If you have more things to feedback or comment, or say anything about the app, or other apps you would like to have, drop me a mail at catholiclinuxmonkey AT gmail DOT com.

More information here:

Friday, July 03, 2009

In the footsteps of a saint

Castillo de Javier, Navarra, Spain

Almost by chance, as I was browsing around the ancient bookshelves that clearly don't belong in a modern, brightly furnished study in this residence, I found a decent book titled "Set All Afire". Only the author's surname, De Wohl, attracted my attention since I have heard good recommendation about another book also written by him.

There being only a limited collection of English books here, I took it out and started reading. It was about St Francis Xavier, who by chance was born in Navarra, whose 500th anniversary of his birth was just celebrated, who by chance was thinking of becoming canon of Pamplona, and who by chance, is the patron saint of Navarra. Enough chances. I figure out that since I am very much surrounded by circumstances that led me to this book, I might as well read it well.

To my surprise, I soon found myself praying with this book. Well, at least, the first few chapters of it. While it is a fictionalized account of his conversion and initiation into the Compañia de Jesus (Society of Jesus), it moved me profoundly.

The zeal of St Ignatius (whom they called "Father") was palpable, and his love of God -- and with that, confidence in God -- can be summarized in one sentence, which often gave me consolation: "If everything I planned failed, all my wishes were thwarted and all my fighting were in vain -- a quarter of an hour in prayer would reconcile me and leave me as cheerful as I was before." The book is about St Francis Xavier, though one gets more than a good glimpse of St Ignatius of Loyola, his 'spiritual father'.

Well-educated men they were, these pioneers of the Societas Jesu, and it is exemplified by De Wohl's portrayal of St Francis walking up to an Indian temple full of Brahmans, very much reminiscent of St Paul at the Areopagus. Using reason, with fire - both figuratively and literally - when it is needed, or a gentle word when it is needed, he brought many souls to the true faith, a hallmark of all saints.

What I found extremely interesting were these two passages from the book, again fictionalized, but those which capture different ways of dealing with diversity of beliefs:

First was a lively discussion between St Francis and two Muslim clerics in an island off Mozambique, in the east coast of Africa, on the subject of declining numbers - something that we know very well in today's Churches.

Seventeen mosques there were in Malindi, but no more than three of them had worshipers and these were few in number. He could not understand it. How could it be? Why was there such a hardening of the hearts, such negligence and indifference? Surely it must be because of some great sin they had committed...

"The sin that was committed," Francis said sternly, "is that God's revelation brought to us by Our Lord Jesus Christ was not accepted by you."

"Isa ben Marryam," said the old man, "is to us a prophet - a great prophet - though not as great as Mohammed."

"There is your sin, old man," said Francis, "... . You are not like the poor heathen who have never heard of Our Lord and thus have had no chance to accept him in their hearts. You heard and you rejected him, you give a mere man preference over him. No wonder then, that God does not abide with you and takes no pleasure in your prayers."

"Allah is merciful, it cannot be that."


(After Francis reluctantly left these two Muslims to catch a boat to India, the imam reluctantly defended Francis' position to his fellow Muslim -- all highlights are mine)

The Imam gave a bitter laugh. "How right he is and how wrong you are, O Ali ben Mottaleb!"

"Allah!" The old man stared at him, aghast. "You, a Moslem can say such a thing?"

"I can say it because it is the truth. When we were children, O Ali ben Mottaleb, we learned that two and two is four. Not seven. Not even four and a half. Just four. And when the teacher asked us how much two and two made and we gave any other answer but the answer four, he would punish us, because we were wrong. Now if this is right and true in an everyday matter, how much more so must it be so in the things of Allah? Either we are right and the Nazarenes are wrong, or the Nazarenes are right and we are wrong. Of course, we may both be wrong. But one thing is certain: we cannot both be right! It is not possible that at the same time Mohammed is greater than Isa ben Marryam and Isa ben Marryam greater than Mohammed."

"That is true, but..."

"And it so happens that that Nazarene believes he is right, O Ali ben Mottaleb! So he must declare us to be wrong. It is true that his eyes are those of a prophet -- because his soul speaks through them with conviction. He feels sure that he has got the true answer. So how can he make any concession? By the beard of the Prophet, it is impossible! Don't you see what is wrong with us? It is that we no longer have real faith. If we had, we would not ask him questions. We would try to win him over to Mohammed and kill him if he resisted our attempt."

There are many things packed in this short conversation that could teach us about tolerance and truth! 'Religious' conflicts that happened (and still happen) in many places are, in my opinion, a little too unavoidable. The reasons are plainly obvious, as stated by the imaginary cleric in the imaginary conversation with St Francis. When two religions 'dialog', each must be aware that a compromise in each other's positions, or tenets of faith and liturgical practices, should never be only a part of the objective. To win the other party over - is always the objective, no matter how politically incorrect it sounds. Like De Wohl put it, "[with them - Christians] it is always everything or nothing."

I think it is futile to enter into a dialog when neither party believes that what he believes is sacred. It is also futile to enter into a dialog when both parties believe they are both right but not willing to declare the other to be wrong for politeness' sake. It is even more futile to desire peaceful coexistence without each party, or one, having to re-examine its own relationship to the Truth.

I wonder what St Francis would have said and done about syncretism and inter-religious "dialog" of today... something that many modern day institutions inherited by his fellow 'Iñiguists' seem to gain infamy for.

In the second passage, St Francis was talking to the first Brahman he encountered in India, who gave him presents of fruits, meat and pearls -- as a kind of 'bribe' for not inciting more unrest in a village of Sudras - one of the lower castes - who had been converting to Christianity in droves, depriving the priestly caste of tributes:

"Please accept in kindness these little tokens," said the Brahman, "tokens of our admiration and respect and the sign of the respect we servants of the gods have for each other."

"There is only one God", said Francis stiffly.

The Brahman smiled. "To the servant of Siva there is only Siva," he said. "To the servant of Ganesha there is only Ganesha. That is as it shold be and as the wisdom of the gods has decreed it. But confusion would result if we were to teach the lower castes that they must listen to us alone and not anyone else. We are resolved not to contradict your teachings, wise man from the West, and all that we ask of you is that you will not interfere with pious men and women rendering their tribute to the gods in our temple."

(Whereupon St Francis flatly refused to accept the bribe and said: )

"Truth makes no bargain with error. ... I shall not rest till all Paravas have become the servants of the one, true God."

Indeed. Truth makes no bargain with error.

The other 'mystery' I encountered in this book, is martyrdom and the mysterious way the Communion of Saints work. In one of the southern islands of India, as well as in many other places, hundreds of villagers were massacred because they would not renounce their Christian faith, they who had learned the Creed and believed in it for a very short while. A most powerful communion of saints strengthen and support the earthly journey of every Christian, never more strongly encountered than in those who have paid the sweet price of faith with their blood.

Another thread that is most apparent, is his use of intellect ad maiorem Dei gloriam. Like many Jesuits I know, Francis did not disdain human recourses, used strategy and never shied from using arms to the advantage. And coming from a military background, he knows the importance of discipline in an army, especially the army of God. This book also tried to explain the only possible reason why Francis wanted to set up a kind of Inquisition in Goa. The entry on him in Wikipedia implied that the Inquisition was directly due to Francis.

The other journeys of St Francis were described most poignantly. I was most touched reading the chapters of his arrival at Malacca, and afterwards, to the Moluccas islands, beyond the city of Amboina (now called Ambon), to the cannibalistic parts of those islands. To think that a saint had learned to speak my language... to think that a saint had set foot in my country to spread the Faith, and to think that today, the Moluccas Islands remain one of the most staunchly Christian part of Indonesia. Both India, Indonesia, China and Japan, countries St Francis visited, are still mission territories today.

Few of us are perhaps called to 'evangelize' the way St Francis did, to spread the faith with fire, but for the rest of us, our Jerusalem is "wherever work was to be done for the glory of God, in Siena or Calabria, in Ireland or in Parma, in Lisbon or in India. Even at this old desk in this old room..."

Monday, June 29, 2009

In defense of employers

Elbert Hubbard wrote an essay titled "A message to Garcia", about the virtue of getting the job done. An articulate defense of employers - who are often vilified and exasperated by the unwillingness of too many a worker - to concentrate and put his head onto a task.

(I don't know why this one surprised me, I guess I need to go and do my duties now.)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

This is frustrating...

... that the iPhone Developer Portal has not been accessible for the last one week (or more?!!).

I heard that the activation servers of iPhone OS 3.0 have not been accessible lately, but the portal too?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Tortilla de patatas, at last!

For those of you who know what's going on in my life, I'll say İHola! Today finally I had those tortillas de patatas. I must say that it has been better than what I expected: the people, the weather, even the food!

My journey started with a bang; there was no space in the cabin for my big fat hand-carry luggage and it ended up being taken away from me. It was an unfamiliar thing to me because: (1) I never carried a handcarry bag that is so fat that there was no space in the cabin for it, (2) I never carried anything remotely important for my life in a small luggage, (3) I never expected to lose sight of it for more than the duration of the flight. So I arrived at Madrid a little sleepy after a transit in London. Sans luggage. On top of that I lost the little baggage tag that was given to me in exchange of the custody of my handcarry luggage. Inside was my university certificate and birth certificate... Oh mother, pray for us!

After a little dilly-dallying and a mad dash for the almost-lunchtime Mass, I decided to proceed to my final destination sans luggage. That same day I took the bus to Pamplona, and would have slept throughout the 5-hour journey if not for the fact that I was carrying my last possessions on earth in a knapsack and that we had to stop and change bus halfway through the route.

Soon after I came to the warm embrace of those who picked me up that rainy freezing night in Pamplona. What their names are, I don't recall. Only that there was a Honduran... and that they thought I was a doctor... I fell asleep soon after.

Day #1: The day began with a meditation about the feast of the Visitation of Our Lady. That's about all I caught. I felt a kind of panic surging, a voice screaming, What the hell am I doing here? before reason took over and calmed me down.

Did you know that in most towns here you can only exchange US dollars for euros? I had half-suspected it but was too tired, back in Singapore, to realize I should not have carried singapore dollars with me... Bought myself los necesarios, amongst which was a little UK-to-Spain adapter for the computer. Unlike the train in Germany, (and like the rest of the world), it seems like you have to pay to take the train and buses.. and I got myself a bus card and a local SIM card.

After calling the airlines' lost baggage counter, finally I heard news that my checked-in luggage arrived this morning. I spent the day replying to my emails, reassuring everybody I was not lost in the middle of Spanish prairies, but merely incommunicado because the phone charger was in the handcarry luggage. After a day reading Spanish and listening to 30+ Spanish girls talking at the top of their voice, I retired with a headache.

Just before dinner, I was informed that my checked-in luggage had arrived. Thank God!

Day #2: Went to the town hall today to get my residence registration done. The Spanish understood English, spoken, much better than they speak or read. With my Indonesian passport before her eyes, the government officer took my word (a mistaken reply to a mistaken question) that my citizenship is Singaporean! Also, did you know Sarasate was Spanish? I didn't until today, where I took the bus to Calle Sarasate, one of many roads named after him. Passed by many fine old churches in the casco viejo (old town) of Pamplona.

Day #3: Went to the university's financial aid office. Was told I only qualified for one type of scholarship available, and that if I managed to somehow get it, the fund would be released only next year, halfway through the course... there's always part-time work available if I want to work... On the bright side, I found an English speaking priest in the chapel of the university.

When I came back to the residence, I found that the elusive handcarry luggage had arrived. I was just relieved at this point of time. Looking back at the whole episode I learned that I should never part with important documents, and that I should treat luggage tags as if they are as important as passports, and that I should have carried a slimmer handcarry luggage, and ultimately, that God is good. I traveled the whole journey: plane, train, bus, car, without having to carry luggage, and they were delivered to my doorstep, no less!

Food... hmm.. food was fine. Everybody had asked if I like Spanish food. TO which I replied that I didn't realize they were "Spanish" since they were very much similar to what we eat back home. Not the hawker center variety, but the home-cooked food variety. But today we had tortillas de patatas and gaspachos, which is never served outside summer. So today summer had officially begun here :)

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

iViaCrucis - now for iPhone!

My little pet project, the Way of the Cross (and Mobile Catholic Prayerbook), has been ported for the iPhone platform.

It is now available for FREE download here. (Only available in English)

Screenshot Screenshot

I know Lent is over, but you can always pray the Way of the Cross any Friday, or any day if you want. I know many saints who have grown closer to God by meditating upon Jesus Crucified.

I hope you will find this useful!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

A little adventure: porting from J2ME to iPhone

Three weeks ago, I began porting two of my J2ME applications, the Catholic Mobile Prayerbook and the Way of the Cross, into iPhone applications.

Week 1: Port to Objective C (and HTML!) - easy & fast
Week 2: Test on simulators and friends' iPhones - oh no, why won't it run? And there are NO error messages?
Week 3: Got my hands on an iPhone - took a day or two to get it to run a Release version

Status Now
: Uploading to iTunes' App Store ... waiting for review

Some useful links when you are on the last stage, about to submit your application to the iTunes' App Store:

1. "The binary you uploaded was invalid. The signature was invalid, or it was not signed with an Apple submission certificate."

2. Two different days, project unchanged, different errors?

3. OK... all done? Now for the money, wait a minute.. I'm not an American taxpayer; what are all these tax numbers for??!!

Hope it helps someone out there ;)

Easter people, Easter mission!

Happy Easter to everyone! May the resurrection of the Lord make us a renewed Easter people with a rejuvenated Easter mission to bring mankind to salvation!

Friday, April 03, 2009

Through the looking glass, darkly

Tonight I had the chance to stay up a little later and pray the Way of the Cross, although from outside the chapel. It was an interesting experience as the chapel was closed and pitch dark, except for a tiny light shining from the vigil lamp.

As I prayed the Stations, alternating between genuflecting, standing up and kneeling down, before a tabernacle I could not see, something interesting occurred to me. Looking at the dark chapel illuminated only by the vigil lamp reminds me somewhat of my faith. Often, at times like now, the only thing that indicates that there is a tabernacle there, and that Jesus is present in the Blessed Sacrament inside, is that vigil lamp burning throughout the night. Sometimes, the only indicator I had, that God is here despite, and in the thick of, all the human sufferings, are the faithful who gave witness to the goodness of God by their selfless service, burning through the darkness for the Lord whom they serve.

Secondly, the only time I could see (barely) the outline of the Crucifix and the Tabernacle, is when the lights outside the chapel are turned off. When we are preoccupied with our own 'stuffs', filled with the self-importance of our own ambition, we cannot see the presence of God who awaits us in stillness.

Well. It's past my bedtime and I'm still out. Enough rambling tonight. Here's wishing everyone a blessed Holy Week ahead! Antonia checking out for the night ;)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

A perfectly ordinary day

What makes March 25th a special day? Nothing. A little over two thousand years ago, on a day very much like today, ordinary, sleepy (or stressful... insert your own adjective here) and unassuming, something inconceivable happened.

An angel, not just any angel, mind you, an archangel — one of those who perpetually contemplate the face of God — was sent to a humble teenage girl, a teenage girl who had consecrated herself to remaining virgin, to ask her, if she would be the Mother of God.

This mystery in the God's plan of salvation has been the subject of many writings of the Church Fathers and theologians and saints alike. I am not going to pretend that what I write here will hold candle against any of their simplest quotes, but I would like to share this image (below) that I found of the Annunciation.

This is a painting set in the modern times, in a modern suburbia, and yet it captures the "ordinariness" juxtaposed with the loftiness of Mary's vocation. Many paintings of the Annunciation reveal the depth of the mystery beheld by their painters, of this divine logic. Imagine Mary as a young girl, going about her daily household tasks, or studying, or working, like what any of us are doing today. And then an archangel asked for her permission—we can imagine all of the inhabitants of Heaven holding their breath at this moment—for the Son of God to take flesh, to be amongst His people.

This "plan" of God to enter into time, into the lives of His people in carne, is nothing short of genius. Like told in the story of the Lord of the Rings, it was told that the Enemy could not conceive that the weak race of Man may seek to destroy the One Ring instead of wielding it for their own gain. Who'd have thought the Son of God would take on human nature and lay down his life to redeem a race of Lost Men?

The story did not end here. It did not end when Mary said yes. It did not end when the Savior was born. It did not end when He died and resurrected either. It is still happening in our days. Our perfectly ordinary days, like today. Each day the Lord is waiting to hear our assent to His will, and to gift us His graces. And each day we are invited to ponder anew and repeat, with Mary, fiat mihi secundum verbum tuum.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I didn't know I could make money praying!


H/T to TechCrunch.

As a business this is a novel idea. Solid business model too!

Now, can a thing without soul pray to God? Can a computer pray on our behalf? Can someone accept the Sacraments on our behalf? :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Aborted babies as organ donors anyone?

This bone-chilling suggestion was given by Sir Richard Gardner, an 'advisor to the Royal Society and the Human Fertilization and Embryology Authority' at an Oxford International Biomedical Center.

Another professor interviewed, Stuart Campbell, said he had no objection, since "if they are going to be terminated, it is a shame to waste their organs."

While this is horrifying and morally repugnant on so many levels, it comes as no surprise. Ironically, the argument of the "pro-choice" crowd is that it is no baby but 'a blob of tissues' that is being removed from its mother's womb. How can a 'blob of tissues' conveniently have organs that might go to many patients on the transplant waiting list?

Read the article here.

Once the baby is not treated as a person, it becomes either a property of its mother, or creatures made in the lab. Whatever happens next is anybody's guess.

Rosary Widget: crossing a milestone!

It's always an amazing discovery when you realize someone else is linking to your product without you asking your friends to do it :) (OK, enough narcissism for the day!)

The Rosary Widget, I just found out, has been made available for download from several websites, other than the original Yahoo! widget home. Technically, it is a form of content-leeching. But hey, since it is free anyway, they can do that even if none of these sites have asked for permission from the author.

They are linked from here: (338 downloads) (111 downloads) (467 downloads) (4,353 downloads)

In total, more than 5,000 people have downloaded the Rosary widget since it is first released! I hope it has helped many to discover the Rosary and pray it more fervently :)

OK, here's the end of this short post to encourage you to pray the Rosary this Lent. If you have been praying, please keep it up and remember to pray for me ;) If you have not, what are you waiting for?

Monday, March 16, 2009

A note from the desert

How's your Lent going? I dread this question, although my spiritual director had not asked this to me, as of today... I must confess this Lent has been difficult. Not that I've ever experienced an "easy" Lent. It's only slightly more than a week; and I'm already thinking of all the sharp and sarcastic things I could say after Lent, the things I could do after Lent, all the things I could allow myself to imagine after Lent. Unbelievable!

And then the moment of epiphany came when I read in one of Adoro's posts (in which she wrote about her discernment) that she hasn't been able to "give up sins" for Lent as she had planned. Duh! My first reaction was, how can we give up sinning for Lent when our feet are made of clay? And what's with this "attachment" to sins? I first encountered "attachment to sins" while reading about indulgences and conditions to gain the indulgences. Duh! Can anyone be attached to sins? How silly...

What an abrupt awakening I had when I realize that I too am attached to my sins. Attached to all those things that I told myself not to do during Lent. To these judgments, to these remarks that 'put people in their place', to these private thoughts that my way is the only correct one... The sharp retort that I swallowed back had no place neither during Lent nor after. Rich!

Embarrassment aside, thinking more deeply beyond a little suffering that we Catholics customarily allow ourselves during Lent, it makes no sense at all to be believing the way I had been acting. It makes no sense to tell myself to wait until Lent is over..., because Lent is not a period of self-imposed suffering that the Church made us go through. We have come to the desert voluntarily. Well, to a certain degree. When I consider how we have come freely to enter the Catholic Church, I remind myself how I *did* sign up for all these.

On the other extreme, before you examine how many donuts you did not pass, or how many times you said the rosary today, if you think your Lent has been going badly, let's take a look at the Mass reading from Monday 3rd Week of Lent, on the cure of Namaan, the Syrian (2 Kings 5:1-15ab):

Namaan, a commander in the Syrian army of the King of Aram, was struck with leprosy. His Jewish maid-servant suggested that he goes to Elisha the prophet, to ask for cure. Thus, with a letter from the king, and endowed with treasures in gold & silver, he went to Israel seeking for a cure. Elisha told him to bathe in the Jordan seven times, and this was met by a ludicrous response. Fortunately, he had wise servants who made him see the value of trying out this suggestion. He bathed, was cured and came back not only cured but enriched with the faith in the One God.

His story is amazing for its lesson in faith and humility: whenever we are tempted to think that God is asking us to do 'great acts' (of penance) to 'be cured' during Lent, only to be discouraged when we inevitably fall. For our lives, for whatever it is worth, are composed of 'little moments' of struggle fortified with grace. There is no shame in falling and rectifying all over again, since we know that Jesus had already won the battle.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

For the Holy Father...

I read the (English translation of the) letter of the Holy Father to the bishops, concerning the controversy surrounding the lifting of the excommunication of the 4 Lefebvrite bishops and the seemingly anti-Semitic statement made by one of them, released yesterday.

It was lucid, concise and brilliant, as usual :) But also heart-breaking to read (for me). In it he explained the rationale behind the lifting of the excommunication, what it meant and what it did not imply, what it effectively did for these separated brothers as well as what it cost him:

I was saddened by the fact that even Catholics who ultimately could have known better how things stand, have thought it necessary to strike at me with a hostility ready to attack.
Sometimes one has the impression that our society needs at least one group for which it does not reserve any tolerance; which one can unperturbedly set upon with hatred. And if someone dares to approach them - in this case the Pope - he too loses the right to tolerance and even he may be treated with hatred without fear and restraint.

Pray for him and show our support for him! Ora pro pontifice!

"What to Do if Your Startup Is Failing"

I used to think (well, I still do sometimes) that nobody likes failure and even more so, nobody likes to talk about failure. I must admit, that must have come from my own deep-seated insecurities :)

Jason Calacanis wrote in BusinessWeek, somewhat philosophically, but managing to be practical about the whole thing, about "What to Do if Your Startup Is Failing".

Coming from a first-timer scrawny start-up, I will say that my company has never been far from "flailing", and what Calacanis wrote has been somewhat the way of life around here. Even if you are not a flailing entrepreneur (perhaps you're just a flailing student, or a flailing office worker, or a flailing member of the Communion of Saints!), Calacanis' essay is still worth a read about how to handle such a difficult situation.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Relaunching Catholic Mobile Prayerbook

Mobile Prayerbook

... that even the Pope wants!
(if he only knew...)

Click here for FREE Download! (While Lent lasts!)

What is it?

It is a small mobile application containing the common basic prayers that Catholics commonly say. From your all-time favorite "Our Father" to various devotions you can think of.

Why would I need Catholic Mobile Prayerbook?

For those times that you have to wait, it is a handy aide to help you pray. It'd be useful also when you forget the Act of Contrition in the middle of the confessional booth. Also, when you are asked to say grace before meal. Or to lead any prayer. Wherever. Whenever. One doesn't need a reason to pray. But this app makes sure you have NO excuses for NOT praying.

What prayers are available inside?

The basics: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.
Devotions to Our Lady: Memorare, Angelus, Hail Holy Queen, Rosary
Daily Prayers: Morning Offering, Spiritual Communion, Apostles' Creed, Prayers before & after meal, Thanksgiving
Special Prayers: Act of Contrition, Adoro te Devote, Prayers for the pope, Te Deum, Prayer to St Michael the Archangel.

To request for more prayers to be made available, write me.

What languages is it available in?

English, Español (Spanish), Latin, and Bahasa Indonesia.
Coming Soon: Francais, Italiano and Deutsch.

For more information on how to install and whether it will install on your phone, go here

"Remember you are dust..."

Lent is here once again.

That time of the year in which the Church spends forty days in the desert (so to speak) is here and I'm putting down a few resources for those coming here to look for "Lenten homilies":

  • Click HERE for this year's Lenten message from Pope Benedict.
  • From an article by a Benedictine about just what is to be gained by "giving something up" for Lent?
  • From the website of the North American College in Rome, explanation of the ancient devotion of the "Lenten stational churches".  Each of the 44 churches are listed, along with their history and some pictures.
  • Godzdogz provides a "virtual Lenten retreat" being posted on the internet by a group of Dominican students.  Each day during Lent, a new entry will appear with scriptural readings, reflections, etc.

Wishing all of you a blessed & joyful Lent ahead.

Monday, February 23, 2009

So your child has a vocation...

I found this story when browsing the Dominican sisters' website Moniales.

So, your child has vocation. Congratulations! He or she has told you about the desire to enter a seminary, cloister, order, or monastery. This is wonderful news. You thank God for this gift to the Church; you make telephone calls to family and friends to announce the news. You find yourself busy with all that this decision entails. Eventually, in the days and weeks that follow you also find yourself pausing over a cup of coffee, lingering over your rosary beads and you find yourself saying to yourself, “What does this mean to me?”

It is really beautiful and moving to hear from someone whose child is called to serve God exclusively. I've never thought about how what they must be going through...

Blessings and grace to them :) Now they have powerful intercessors in the parents of St Therese of Child Jesus, Blesseds Louis and Zélie Martin.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A road to Damascus

After last month's retreat, which took place on the days during which we celebrated the conversion of St Paul, I have been eager to read about conversions to the Christian faith. I am currently reading two books, "The Road to Damascus" a collection of conversion stories compiled by John O'Brien, and another one, "Theology and Sanity" by Frank Sheed.

The first one tells of many paths different people took to arrive at Rome, and the second, of the role of intellect in our spiritual life. I happened to read these, as I commemorated the 13th anniversary of my first communion. (I know, how sentimental it sounds to be remembering dates like these!) After all, I waited almost seven months to receive communion after my baptism, and couldn't help constantly thinking that the craziest thing I have ever done was to convert to Catholicism. Reading these two, I was struck anew with an even greater marvel at the abundant grace behind each conversion.

From Theology and Sanity, I read Sheed's defense of the importance, if not necessity, of having solid intellect in order to love God:

"It would be a strange God who could be loved better by knowing less.
Love of God is not the same as the knowledge of God; but if a man loves God knowing little about Him, he should love God more from knowing more about Him; for every new thing known about God is a new reason for loving Him."

Indeed, reading each person's conversion story made me marvel anew at the great mercy of God who brought us home through the least expected path. In all, however, Reason was instrumental. I have been asked several times, to tell my conversion story, and each time, I discovered something new, yet another moment where grace surged in to 'lift' Reason where it could not rise to the occasion. Recently I realized that conversion is a work of a lifetime, that we are invited to keep "turning back to God" after every inadvertent fall, and that every 'new' truth I learn about God help me to grow in love and to fight for this Love once more.

Evelyn Waugh, the famous English author who wrote Brideshead Revisited (among other excellent works), wrote that he "lost" his Anglican faith through a well-meaning Anglican bishop who explained that none of the books in the Bible were written by their supposed authors and invited his students to speculate on the nature of Christ the way 4th-century heretics had. This experience convinced me afresh of the importance of having solid intellect to strengthen our faith; lest in our moments of weakness our will, the other human faculty, falters. He did however, have a high esteem for the supernatural efficacy sacraments of the Church, speculating that if he had been a Catholic boy in his childhood, "fortified" with the sacraments and securely watched over by someone sensible in a Catholic school, he would never have abandoned his faith. (Little did he know...)

"However learned you are in theology, nothing you know amounts to anything in comparison with the knowledge of the simplest actual member of the communion of Saints" -- Evelyn Waugh

Another person who found her way to the communion of saints was a self-proclaimed atheist journalist, Gretta Palmer. Her story really highlighted the struggle of an atheist to accept Truth like a sunshine through a small crack in an 'atheist cell'. Truth has this quality to shine from under the dirtiest facade. Palmer wrote of her "confusion" in her quest to perfect men; not being able to explain why it was not possible to socially engineer a perfect society, naively assuming that hostility towards one another can be cured as one treats as a physical malaise. "Original sin" was the answer given by a priest when she asked him. Her 'scientific' quest for the fons of 'goodness' took her to battle-weary soldiers, giving themselves completely in spite of all the suffering and behaving in utmost noble manner. Interested in social engineering? Palmer wrote that she had a fantasy of becoming Madam "Secretary of Social Evolution", but was soon disabused of this notion on her trip to China when, amidst great suffering and valor of the soldiers, she realized that the most 'useful' thing she could do was to pray for the soldiers. Once again, Reason rules and she soon ran into an inconsistency -- why pray, and to whom does one pray, if there is no God?

"When atheist scientists attempt to study man, they undertake an 'intellectual absurdity'. Man, studied as a creature separated from the God who is constantly communicating with him, can never be understood." -- Gretta Palmer

Reason alone does not provide meaning to one's life. Fulton Oursler, another whose story is featured in The Road, a playwright behind the radio program The Greatest Story Ever Told, lost his childhood Protestant faith and while being an agnostic, thought that science was the only true 'religion', until he concluded that they had "no head for synthesis [and] no heart for seeking a meaning in life." This reminds me of an anecdote told by Cardinal George Pell to an audience of (presumably Catholic) scientists about what "hell" possibly could be for scientists. It sounds something like this: a place where all facts could be known simply by looking it up on a book somewhere on its vast shelves, where all the instruments to measure any kind of thing or to observe any kind of phenomenon are available for use, where all the scientific unknowns could be found out by simply asking. And yet, there is no meaning behind all that. There is no reason to want to know why the number p is transcendent. No reason to know why space-time continuum is affected by mass. No reason to know how old the Universe is. No reason to know how many Universes are there. No reason to know anything at all, if God is not. Truly, speaking as someone who considers her profession "scientific", I am horrified at the prospect of ending up in such hell.

I don't recall exactly how I found my way to the Church, but there is always too much mystery for me -- I'd rather fall on my knees in thanksgiving than to analyze it -- but I'll end off this 'segment' of the Road quoting Fulton Oursler:

"Everyone who faces the blinding light of the Damascus road sees things in himself that he will never tell. On the other hand, I do believe that every man blessed with the gift of faith owes it to his fellow man to tell what he can of his conversion, in the hope that someone else may get from the story a glimpse, a little bit of help, and find for himself the same release."

Friday, January 30, 2009

Omnia cooperantur in bonum

"Scimus autem quoniam diligentibus Deum omnia cooperantur in bonum his qui secundum propositum vocati sunt sancti"—Romans 8:28

And we know that to them that love God, all things work together unto good, to such as, according to his purpose, are called to be saints.

Today I cannot write anything much, but this verse from St Paul kept coming back to console me and I ask whoever reads this to say a little prayer for me. Thank you.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

4 SSPX bishops "Un-Excommunicated"!!!

I just came back from a retreat over the weekend, and wondering if we have "missed" any big news, either from Singapore or from the world. Can you imagine my surprise when I read, from a blog, that Rome had lifted the excommunication sentence from the 4 bishops of the 'notorious' SSPX???

All week our priest spoke of St Paul as our 'role model' on various topics in the retreat. We also had prayed for "Christian Unity" 8 days before the feast day of his conversion. But this is more than I imagined the 'gift' would be!

Deo gratias!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Hot off the 'oven'

I'm raising funds to go to grad school this Fall. I'm putting up "Catholic Mobile Prayerbook" - available for download here.

What is Catholic Mobile Prayerbook?

It is a small mobile application containing the common basic prayers that Catholics commonly say. From your all-time favorite "Our Father" to various devotions you can think of.

Why would I need Catholic Mobile Prayerbook?

For those times that you have to wait, it is a handy aide to help you pray. It'd be useful also when you forget the Act of Contrition in the middle of the confessional booth. Also, when you are asked to say grace before meal. Or to lead any prayer. Wherever. Whenever. One doesn't need a reason to pray.

What prayers are available inside?

The basics: Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be.

Devotions to Our Lady: Memorare, Angelus, Hail Holy Queen, Rosary

Daily Prayers: Morning Offering, Spiritual Communion, Apostles' Creed, Prayers before & after meal, Thanksgiving

Special Prayers: Act of Contrition, Adoro te Devote, Prayers for the pope, Te Deum, Prayer to St Michael the Archangel.

To request for more prayers to be made available, write me

What languages is it available in?

English, Español (Spanish), Latin, and Bahasa Indonesia.

Coming Soon: Francais, Italiano and Deutsch.

Does Prayerbook support my phone?

Prayerbook is developed on Java ME Platform. Nearly all recent mobile phones support Java ME. Check here to make sure.

How do I install it?

  1. If you click the download link below, it'll take you to a payment page, and then ask you for your phone number.

  2. Enter your cell phone number as requested: Your country code, followed by your cell phone number.

  3. Eg: 441223472777 (if you live in the UK), or 6598765432 (if you live in Singapore).

  4. As soon as you enter your phone number, an SMS is sent with a link to the file.

  5. Click on the link to download the file.

  6. If permission is asked to open/run the file, do allow it: select "Yes".

That's it!

How big is it?

Depending on the version you download, it ranges between 60-80KB. That should translate to less than a dollar to download via your phone. If you'd like to save money on the download cost, download it to your computer and send it via Bluetooth!

It says installation was successful but I can't find it!

On different phones, Java applications are stored at different places. On most Nokia phone, click the Menu to see all the installed applications. Sometimes it will be shown under "Game", or "Application", or "Installations". On Samsung phone, do check out "Java World".

If you really can't figure it out, email me your phone brand and model, and the name of the file you downloaded.

How much does it cost?

A single-language version costs $1.99, a two-language version costs $3.00 and all-languages version costs $5.00.

To promote this amongst the Indonesian-speaking people, the Bahasa Indonesia version is now FREE!

Why do I have to pay?

As much as I'd really like to encourage people to pray, I need to raise some funds to go to grad school. So *PLEASE* support my fundraising effort! (The story of why I am going to grad school is topic for another post -- if you'd like to know, mail me)

For free download, I have made available a Rosary widget for Yahoo! Widget. Get it here.

I'm also available for any freelance work to develop web widgets, desktop widgts, mobile widgets, and mobile applications. Drop me a line if you'd like to help me put through grad school!

Download Section

To have me email it to you:

Single Language Version
Your Email (to which the app is sent):

Two-languages version
Alternative Email (in case your primary email doesn't work):

Alternative Email (in case your primary email doesn't work):


To Download directly to your phone: (pay via your mobile phone bill)

Single Language (USD$1.99)

Bahasa Indonesia (FREE)

Two Languages (USD$3.00)

English-Bahasa Indonesia
Español-Bahasa Indonesia
Bahasa Indonesia-Latin

All Languages (USD$5.00)


Learning Tip: document your steps!

These past few days I have been working on a little mobile app (J2ME / Java ME) that displays the various Catholic prayers and devotions. Simple stuffs like "Pater Noster" all the way to the mysteries of the rosary, and thanksgiving prayers, in multiple languages.

It started out pretty simply, and the complication happened only when I had to 'versionize' the source code and the resources used by different language versions. Some versions should be able to handle multiple-language requests from the user, some display only one language of choice.

Two problems: versioning and internationalization.

Internationalization has always been an interesting topic for most application developers because frankly, few of us bother to provision for Unicode display until the product is almost ready. Then began the scramble to make the application accommodate the havoc wreaked by the different encoding the input came in.

Versioning problems came about because I did not use CVS. Period. Well, there's more to the story than that, but bottomline is, there are existing tools that can track your files' changes.

During the course of this project, I have learned that Ant (which is the build tool I use to compile J2ME applications) is extremely nifty with multiple compilation paths. A little familiarity is required with the Ant build file, and more curiosity, to learn the various types of variable and property that are used to signal different customization and compilation paths.

For example (in J2ME Polish):

The element <sources> can be customized to point to different folders for different versions. So instead of re-naming your public classes, MyMIDlet_v1 or MyMIDlet_v2, you can stick with the same name in different folders.

The element <jarName> can contain references to other variables or properties, to be something like: "prayer-${}-${polish.locale}-${TwoLangCombi}.jar"

Those variables and properties can combine to indicate which resources folder you would like to use when compiling for a particular locale, or particular screen size, or particular handset brand.

Why am I writing this?
I have suffered greatly because I did not learn to use these 'best practices' in my daily work! I hope anyone of you who happens to read this and understand may benefit from my suffering and this little note ;)

Saturday, January 10, 2009


From the same book, The Soul of the Apostolate, I read a couple of stories of holy priests, both brilliant preachers, who each did seemingly "extraordinary" prayers and penances before their engagement commenced: a Father Lacordaire spent a long time before giving homilies and had himself scourged upon returning from the pulpit, while a Father Monsabre, was known to say all 15 decades of the Rosary on his knees before speaking at Notre Dame. When asked, he reportedly said that he was taking his "last dose of tonic".

Like many saints before them, these people have discovered the 'secret' to their 'success', in this case, in doing the apostolate of Christ, is to be found "at the foot of the Cross". Dom Chautard further added, that the Apostles were not asked to go to school in Athens, nor to study in Rome under the Caesars on how to conquer and govern empiers. Techniques of organization and fundraising and church-building and putting up school were not mentioned either. Only one thing is necessary: "Rogate" (Pray ye!).

Another modern apostle echoed the same sentiment, this time while encouraging us to have recourse to the Author of Grace Himself in the Blessed Sacrament:

It is impossible in human language to exaggerate the importance of being in a chapel or church before the Blessed Sacrament as often and for as long as our duties and state of life allow.

What I am expressing is not a pious practice or a luxury of the spiritual life. I am talking about its essence. Those who believe what I am saying and act on their belief are in possession of the greatest treasure available to man in this valley of tears. As by now thousands of saintly men and women have testified from experience, this is somewhere near the key to holiness. For this reason, I strongly recommend that each of us make a resolution -- no matter how much the decision may cost us -- to make a holy hour before the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved at least once a month or, if possible, once a week, and if we have the grace and our vocation in life permits it, even several times a week. Think of the empty hours that people spend weekly before the television screen -- an average I am told of some twenty hours per man, woman and child in America.

Someone may object, "But you are talking about mystics or saints, and I am neither. I am just an ordinary Catholic trying to save my soul." My reply: there can be no ordinary Catholics today, not with the revolution through which society is passing and the convulsion in the Church on every level. The Church today needs strong Catholics, wise Catholics, Catholics who are not swayed by public opinion or afraid to stand up for the truth. She needs Catholics who are willing to suffer for their convictions and, if need be, shed their blood for the Faith."

Read Fr Hardon's article here and an excerpt of The Soul of the Apostolate here.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Review: The Soul of the Apostolate

Happy New Year everybody! I know it is kind of 'early' to write about anything that says "you are dust and to dust you will return" - considering that Christmas season is still around for a few more days - but this is one inspiring writing quoted in the book I'm reading currently The Soul of the Apostolate, on the primacy of God in everything, and principally in the apostolic endeavor:

"[The apostle] acts as though success depended entirely on his own activity, but in point of fact he expects it from God alone.
He is always ready to say: 'O my God, Thou dost not will that the work I have begun should be completed. It pleases Thee that I confine myself acting valiantly, yet ever peacefully, to making efforts to achieve results, but that I leave to Thee alone the task of deciding whether Thou wilt receive more glory from my success, or from the act of virtue that failure will give me the opportunity to perform. Blessed a thousand times be Thy holy and adorable Will, and may I, with the help of Thy grace, know just as well how to repel the slightest symptoms of vain complacency, if Thou shouldst bless my work, as to humble myself, and adore Thee if Thy Providence sees fit to wipe out everything that my labors have produced.'"

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Is Christ in my city? Is Christ in my country?


Following up after the last post, I realized this Christmas, while spent also in the heat of Jakarta, is unique, like it has always been. My sister and I took the afternoon flight on Christmas Day and arrived before 3 o'clock in Jakarta. Apart from the usual spartan decoration of the airport and the occasional Christmas-themed advertisement billboards, there was little else to indicate that it was Christmas.

My dad was waiting for us with a huge smile on his face. My mom, as usual, was supervising wholesale distribution of all kinds of beverage at her 'shop' - come rain or shine, Christmas or no. So we spent Christmas at the 'shop', waiting for her business to conclude for the day and had a quiet dinner.

Grace awaited us
My confessor had reminded me to remember to pray while 'on vacation', so I went home with a little apprehension lest the laxity of being on vacation at home makes us forget Him. This year though, Grace came in a form of a person :) It was a friend studying in the university in Singapore, who also spent her Christmas with her family, in another city in Indonesia.

Daily she would text me with a short snippet of what is happening to her and around her. Inevitably it would contain a prayer request, a concrete reminder for me to not forget to say my prayers. Her first text message echoed my silent lament: In Singapore we were positively inundated with Christmas decoration at every corner of every shopping mall, albeit for commercial purposes. For a self-proclaimed secular country with a Muslim majority like Indonesia, Christmas atmosphere was strikingly absent.

A few years ago, I would have "complained" and told myself that it is not my fault if I can't "feel" Christmas back at home. If I did not feel particularly charitable nor joyful during these diebus nativitatis, I would have attributed it to the lack of Christmas atmosphere. I was naive and silly, indeed, for wasn't Christ born for all of us in the whole world? Not only for those who were fortunate enough to live in countries that celebrate Christmas properly.

Looking back at the story of my own conversion, I realize that Indonesia and Indonesian Christians have the missionaries to thank. It is these silent martyrs and heroes who, perhaps inspired to bring the joy of Christmas to the pagan East, brought the Good News to my country. The joy of Christ was not meant to stay only in Bethlehem, nor in Palestine, nor in Europe. In the stifling heat of Indonesia, Christ is proclaimed.

Soon night fell and my sister & I found myself waiting in darkness in the car with the radio singing quiet tunes. My parents were out buying the next day's supplies for their 'shop'. I could hear my sister's thoughts echoing my own and my friend's: what a way to spend Christmas day! Suddenly, as if upon a cue, the radio played a most beautiful rendition of Ave Verum Corpus! I didn't cry, but I must confess I leapt with joy upon hearing that hymn, for it was balm to a drooping spirit.

No matter what circumstances we find ourselves in, I know that Christ is in Indonesia, Christ is in my city, and Christ is in my family!