Nov 28, 2006

Caroling - How proper?

Christmas is just a month away. Yes, I’m excited. Who is not? For those who love Christ dearly, Christmas is an important season to look forward to. And for me, I’m looking forward to it as well – the grand celebration of my Saviour’s birth.

Caroling practice is in full blast in our parish now and more youths have joined in. I’m glad, because for the first few practices there were only 5 or 6 youths who came but their number have exceeded 15 last night. That is something to be thankful for.

This is usually the time when I enjoyed most, but not so this time.

Not that I’m getting older or growing less fond of caroling. I very much prefer the real Christmas carols which announce the birth of the Saviour, not the secular carols. But for the youth caroling which I’m helping out, they are singing mostly secular songs… “I Saw Mummy Kissing Santa Claus”, “Jingle Bells”, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town”, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” etc. The worst part of all is that even though we held our practices in the church just in front of the Sanctuary, the youths were not behaving. They misused the choir’s microphones to make weird sound effects for the secular songs we were practicing, causing much unwanted noise.

I’m very unhappy with the situation. The church is God’s dwelling place, where He is present in the form of Bread kept in the Tabernacle. Yet, people ignored this and instead of making joyful streams of praises and to worship His name, they sang stupid secular songs with the banging of electric guitars and tambourines, as if Santa Claus is the reason for the season, transforming the church into a… nothing but a structure where one can scream, shout, play, and jam as loud as one likes.

I couldn’t sing last night. Especially the secular carols. I gazed into the eyes of Jesus on the Crucifix and heard my heart breaking. And I knew that it is very improper to hold caroling practice like this one in the church. It was a total disrespect to the Lord.

Is it just me, or what I’ve felt is actually right? I’m still thinking if I should ask the conductor to shift the practice to one of the empty rooms instead of in the church. I guess if they continue making so much unnecessary noise and yet refuse to practice in another room, I might have to quit.

Oh Lord, have mercy on us!

Nov 26, 2006

Message of Our Lady from Medjugorje

Dear children! Also today I call you to pray, pray, pray. Little children, when you pray you are close to God and He gives you the desire for eternity. This is a time when you can speak more about God and do more for God. Therefore, little children, do not resist but permit Him to lead you, to change you and to enter into your life. Do not forget that you are travellers on the way toward eternity. Therefore, little children, permit God to lead you as a shepherd leads his flock. Thank you for having responded to my call.

Again, Our Lady reminds us to pray. Pray, pray, pray. To pray unceasingly so that we are always connected to God. Each one of us will experience spiritual dryness; when we feel like God is a million miles away and our spiritual lives start going downhill... then it is time for us to reflect on God's love again, surrender everything into His hands and ask Him to renew us.

I'm feeling spiritually dry this week, most probably resulted from my tight schedule - work, choir and caroling. I've started to feel kind of exhausted. Life has been so busy that I failed to slow down to enjoy every moment and to really care for everyone I met. I'm planning for a day or two away from home so that I may 'recharge' my Spirit in the Lord. I really need that before I stray further away from my Beloved.

Have a blessed weekend everyone! Do remember me in your prayers, as I remember you. Thank you and God bless.

Nov 23, 2006

My Vocation Story - The First Obstacle

My mother made the very first protest against my interest in joining the Carmelite cloister. A very big one indeed.

I went to the Carmelite Monastery two Saturdays ago together with my parents. I’ve promised one of the sisters to help them with photocopying of some books. We have the usual and casual talk; I told her of some happenings in my life, asked them to pray for my cousin for her forth-coming public exam etc. Suddenly, they requested to speak to my parents.

I was happy, of course, that they were willing to 'meet my parents. So after I got my parents to talk to one of them, I went off to the Chapel to say hello to the Lord. But I went back after 5 minutes to see how my parents were doing. I was eager to find out what they were talking about, because I knew that just before I walked off 5 minutes ago, the sister was talking about me. The sister was talking to my Mom. Dad whispered to me when he saw me reappeared, "Your mom is feeling very uncomfortable."

My parents then made an excuse to leave while I continued talking to her. She invited my parents to meet the whole community. As I am an aspirant, according to her, my family is given the privilege to meet the whole community of Carmelite nuns. I was excited, of course! I’m an aspirant!!! Wow!! However, my Mom refused their invitation. It shocked me, because all the while I thought that she’s dying to meet the Carmelite sisters.

"It’s ok, dear." said Mother Conceptual. "She’s just not ready. We don’t want to scare them." After thanking her for everything, my parents and I left for home.

After two days, my mom suddenly raised this topic. She blamed the Carmelite sisters for 'brain-washing' me and putting in me the desire of joining them. She even warned me that I should never visit them anymore. I got a shock of a lifetime. Is there something wrong with my mom? Why is she putting all the blame on the nuns because of me thinking about my vocation seriously?

"The nuns' fault? Mom, this is ridiculous!" I lost my patience, which I was not supposed to. She continued with her own theory. I started with my own reasoning.

"Sorry Mom. I can’t listen to whatever you’ve said. You don’t make any sense!" I ended our argument. That very instance, Mom started a cold war with me.

We did not talk to each other for 4 days. I tried to break the ice, but mom ignored me. These 4 days were really a torture. I lost my concentration during work; I lost my appetite, and even my will to go on. When I was on my way to the office one morning, I ran the red light and almost collided head-on with an on coming car. Normally, situation like this would freak me out. But that morning, I was just so calm, as if I I’ve lost all my senses. Fortunately, the both of us stopped our cars just in time. I simply raised my hand as a sign of apology without even looking at the driver, and quickly drove away. When I replayed the scene that night, my whole being was immersed in fear. Gosh, I could have killed the both of us! How very dangerous I have been!

Obviously, my mother's objection to my vocation has impacted me a lot. Far worse than I’ve ever imagined and expected. For those 4 days, it felt as if I was completely separated from the One I truly love, as if my soul had withered. It felt as though I was given 2 choices – 1. Give up my vocation to please my mother, or 2. Give up my mother (and family) to live a life I am called to live. A very tough decision but I’m certain, that if I was to be given these 2 choices, I wouldn’t hesitate to leave everything for His Kingdom. I could have just left home and went straight to the cloister the very moment my mother voiced her objection. However, when I look at my small family – my parents are retired, my brother is still in college and I’m the only source of income, I believe that this is not the time for me to give up everything behind yet. My heart told me that God is still preparing me for the future; only He knows what the future is like.

Finally, I took the initiative and with the help of my father, my mom and I started to communicate once again. Gosh, it was a great relieve for me! Everything went back to normal. My love for Christ has gone another level higher, realizing how much I needed Him right by my side. I’m trying my best not to mention Carmelite as not to trigger my mom’s anger. I was upset with her for her objection, but at the same time I thanked the Lord that, if it was not because of this test I would not have known how much I really love Him.

I believe that this is not the end. There would be more to come along the way. I need to stay closely connected to the Lord through prayers so that I can stand firm no matter what. Regarding my parents, I pray that I can understand how they really feel and I offer them up to the Lord. Somehow, I came to understand how Mother Catherine Thomas (the author of My Beloved: the Story of a Carmelite Nun) has felt when her mother did not approve of her joining the Carmelite cloister.

For those who are discerning, be assured of my prayers. Also, I sincerely request for your prayers for my family and I, and all who are discerning a religious life.

Nov 20, 2006

Church crisis?

Not just the Diocese of Orange. Somehow, somewhere around every corner of the world, a similar phenomenon may be present, whether we're aware of it or not.

Substitute the "Diocese of Orange" to your own diocese/parish. Is there anything fishy going on?

What am I thankful for this year? All you good Catholic parishioners who see my abuses and abominations in the Holy Trinity Parish and do absolutely nothing!

This is extremely scary for me. Apathy.

Nov 14, 2006

Something off-topic

Finally, I've successfully applied for broadband internet, which has taken about a few weeks. Thank God for that and I hope I can utilise this for His Glory alone. And hopefully too, that I can blog a little more often.

I've been travelling a lot these days, I keep going back to Bintulu, a small town approximately 45 minutes of flight from Kuching (where I live). For the moment, there is a pulp mill project going on so I have to go to the project site quite regularly. I'm not any important person; I'm just the assistance project coordinator. So far my job is just being the 'tour guide' of our sub-consultants or experts who work for us.

Here is how a longhouse looks like. I took this photo during my first trip to the project site (which is about 60 km away from the main town). It was my first experience communicating with the local people and being to one. During my second trip, I actually had a chance to dine with them.

These are how the local indigenous people look like. These are now modern longhouses. They have pour-flash toilets, electricity (generator-powered), engine boats, gas stoves etc, even handphones. Besides, they are nice and friendly too.

The traffic analyst, her 2 technicians and I (and my Caucasian colleague who took this photo) were heading back to the jetty after site visit. Do you know which one is me? Hehehe.

There you go. This beautiful British lady is my colleague. She's a Marine Biologist and her expertise is in fish fauna. She's been in Kuching for more than 6 years, and she knows her way around town better than I do!! So if you are planning for a holiday vacation in Kuching (Borneo, Sarawak), you can give her a call, provided she's not on travelling and is free. One sad thing, though, she's a lapsed Christian. That guy in blue suit was our fisherman and boatman then.

Tell me. Have you ever seen a prawn that big? The King Prawn. We caught 2 or 3 of these prawns, and later we had a good lunch over fresly cooked prawns. Yummy!

I noticed that my colleague was really facinated by the baby girl. That's why I took a photo of her with the local women. These women are really good at handicrafts, especially those having to do with weaving. They are beautiful people...

After 4 days of working hard, all of us took a group photo for remembrance. When I went back to the longhouse (the house of Thomas, first from the right) this morning, they people there actually called me Thomas' foster-daughter. Hahaha.

All in all, all the 3 trips have been real fun. I mean, fun in gaining some experiences and doing things for the first time. I thank God for all the nice people I've met... and also that I'm always in good hands.

God bless!

Nov 4, 2006

Holiness... is not easy

To be holy it is not necessary to accomplish extraordinary acts nor possess exceptional gifts. It is simply necessary to serve Jesus, to listen to him ant do follow him without losing courage when faced with difficulties.

~ Pope Benedict XVI's homily on the Solemnity of All Saints, November 1, 2006

At another time, I heard a similar saying:

Holiness means to do little and ordinary things with great love.

Don't you agree?

At times, I have big dreams. I dreamt of being rich; when there is no financial worry, I can do so many things -- helping those with financial problems, driving friends who are living so far away from church and with transport problems, to be there immediately when friends needed someone by their side, to ease the pain of people who are suffering from illnesses by buying them medicine or health suppliments, to travel all around the world and involve in missionary work... I wanted to make the world a better place to live in, and the list goes on and on...

But, no. These are no "holiness". I realized that I can't even do little things with love! I complained when my parents asked me to do some housework for them - washing the dishes, do the laundry, mop the floor, prepare dinner etc. And with non-Catholic friends, sometimes I took them for granted - being rude, not understanding, refused to listen but talked too much, being unsincere etc. Really, sometimes I just feel that I am a total hypocrite!

So, what is the use of desiring to accomplish great things when I can't even do small things well? No point, isn't it?

The first step to holiness is to do little things with great love.

Sounds easy, eh? *grin* It's not easy for me, though. I'm still trying my best to put love into EVERYTHING I do... but I tend to lose sight of God and when that happens, my human nature surfaced. I, a sinner, certainly cannot offer any good advice for anyone who are searching for ways to holiness. One thing, however, this poor heart of mine has been telling me is that:

  • Live each day as if it is our last.
  • Recite the prayers (esp. Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be) slowly and reflect on each word you're saying. Mean what you say and say only what you mean.
  • DO NOT lose sight of the Lord, because without Him we cannot do anything.
  • Give thanks and praise to the Lord for EVERYTHING we have received.
  • Be humble, as our Servant King is humble.
Or, here is a website that's all about Holiness.

Let us together follow the example of the Saints and live our lives for the glory of God alone!

God bless.