The lover and the beloved

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Yes, I remember. This was my response more than a decade ago. I had been involved in retreat work but I was busy ministering to others who came to be healed and renewed. I had the grace to take time off and I signed up for a short retreat  which seemed to have been tailored for my needs.

It is not an exaggeration to say that the Cenacle Sister Bubbles who conducted the retreat was excellent as God’s instrument. She helped me and guided me so well that I came away enriched and empowered. How wrong I had been about so many issues, and how long I had been holding on to my own views.

It took a short retreat to help me have a paradigm shift, and I am so glad I went.

Praying Our Belovedness – The Unique Voice of Henri Nouwen – This was the title and I dare say that all would benefit from it. Praise God for Sr. Bubbles who incidentally is joyful and has a LOVELY voice to sing the hymns that are so very beautiful.

Retreats, long or short, are good for our well being. Truly it is a necessity to put time aside so as to enjoy a real vacation with the Lord. At the retreat, one is assured again and again of God’s unfathomable and immense love.

God’s  love is for all time, long before we ever get hurt by anyone or suffer any rejection. God loves us so much, and only poor creatures like us need to be convinced of the fact that we are God’s beloved children. Each person is so precious, so very precious in the eyes of our Lord.

Our true spiritual work has to do with letting ourselves be loved fully, completely and to trust that in that love, we come to the fulfillment of our vocation. This is Henri Nouwenʼs gift and challenge, his enduring legacy for all time.

I would like to comment too on the photo attached to this post. It was painted by my young friend Gerry and this was one of her earliest works and if I may say so, one of her masterpieces. The simple rendition seems to be an expression of her inner life. It is an honest rendition of one’s relationship with God, and this painting seems to say it all. One need only to look at the Good Shepherd and the sheep to see what kind of friendship is shared.

Yes, if one wanted to, it would be easy to pray one’s belovedness with the painting as well. Do try! Praise God!

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Follow your heart

I have often said this to some people: Follow your heart. Hopefully the person’s heart is in place. I spent two days trying to follow my heart and finally I gave an answer that was due. I had had another invitation to a pilgrimage. It was a place I thought I wanted to go years ago. I did make an attempt to sign up once but there were not enough people and so the trip was cancelled.

The invitation this time was totally unexpected. I prayed. I thought about it. I spoke to a couple of people who had been there more than once. I prayed some more. I thought about it. I weighed the pros and the cons. I asked myself what  it was that I could possibly benefit from the trip – spiritually. What was I seeking? Is it meant for me?

It sure was a long time before I finally made up my mind. To and fro my thoughts went. Ding dong ding dong like a bell gone crazy. But it was not so difficult really. I needed only to listen to my heart, and I had the answer there. Yet, it was essential that I took time to discern and to pray. Now I am at peace. The answer has been given. I am clear. Praise God!

There was a time when I came to a conclusion. This is a beautiful world. Earth has many lovely spots. There are gorgeous scenes that would take one’s breath away. But no one can see them all. Even if one were to say that one had seen many parts of the world, still it would not be true. What about those of us who have not the means to see even a few countries? Would that mean we have been deprived?

Not at all. There is no need to see everything. It is enough to be contented with what one can see and be happy about it. A journey, after all, is just one journey in one’s lifetime. Our final destination is not  any place on earth. It is our Eternal Home. That is where we should be heading. So let it be. Let it be. Praise God!

First Stop – St Pio’s Friary

Our first stop was at a place I had first visited some ten years ago. A priest had announced that the place to experience some poverty was St Pio’s Friary in nearby Ulu Tiram. I liked the idea of going where there was no tap water nor electricity. And the road that led to the friary was a mud track.

I had first gone there for the beatification mass of St Pio, the famous stigmatist Capuchin friar. I recall how at Holy Communion I had been blessed to have the sweet fragrance of flowers all around me. Someone told me that St Pio was around, and I did not  doubt that at all. His words of wisdom continue to guide me in my spiritual life. . . . don’t worry, just pray. God is merciful and will answer your prayer.

Is that not edifying? Praise God!

Today things are better.  This second visit was very different too. We were met by Fr Valentine. . . born on 14 February. He was most warm and we felt at home immediately. A great start was made when we celebrated Holy Mass, and our entire trip of five days went without a hitch.

Thank you, St Pio and all the saints and blessed of the Franciscan order for your prayers.  If God be willing, I should love to spend a few days here in the friary where people can make retreats. Wonderful place!

Praise be to God!

Precious child of God

Who sustains me? The Lord!

Who gives me life? The Lord!

Who nurtures me? It is the Lord!

Here is one precious child of God. Born pre term. Nurtured and loved. Deeply cherished. Her God-fearing parents prayed with trust and confidence.

In your presence O Lord. . .  you are always there for each of us!

Today this baby is more than a year old. A joyful baby. A sweet baby. See that radiant look on her face. Marvellous!

She is growing up to be a beautiful child of God!

Praise and thank God for the gift of life.

One life.

One hope.

One dream.

May the Lord sustain us all. . . . Praise Him!

Like a thief in the night

There are many things that we know in our heads but which we never or hardly care to bring down to the depths of our hearts. Tonight I am thinking of Sister Death. Yes, that is how St Francis of Assisi called our final end, at least, for most of us . . . since our Lord may come while many are still alive on earth.

Sister Death can come any time. Like a thief in the night – unexpectedly. She can come in the most unforeseen way too. And she did – today – to a church friend. My friend’s husband apparently had a heart attack and went right home to the Lord. This was how it happened to another friend’s husband. It happened in the early hours of the morning. There was only time for a quick cry to the Judge of the dead and the living.

This day we pray for the souls of those in purgatory. It is the eighth day of the Novena to the Divine Mercy. This was the day my mother went home to the Lord. In her case she had some time to prepare, and I was blessed to know that it would be on Friday that she would return to our Lord. She did – on 16 April twenty  years ago.

That brings me to my 20th year as a Catholic, and a very joyful one. I am grateful. One thing matters – that one lives the way one has been called to do so, and in that way no thief can come and steal one’s soul away. When it happens, it will be a day of HomeComing. It will be a day to look forward to. It will be joy forever with the One Who loved us first. Amen.

More reflections on the Stations

Ask and you will receive. Yes, I asked and the priest gave me his reflections to share with you. Here they are: the fifth and the fourteenth. I hope to be able to write all the fourteen stations one day, with the grace of God.

5th Station – Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry his cross

As a priest, I visit the sick and the dying, and I find this to be one of the most humbling experiences. It is always amazing to see how each person meets his or her final moments in so many different ways. How is it that some are ready to go and meet the Lord? Why do some hang on to life here on earth? Yet, that should not surprise us. It would be a reflection of how a person lives his or her faith life.

Yes, for me, it is really humbling to visit the sick and administer the Sacraments of Anointing of the sick, and Holy Communion. I admit my own helplessness. What can I do for a dying person? What words can I use to tell a dying person that he or she has not much time left? The news can be good or bad, depending on the person.

No medicine can restore your health. Be prepared to meet the Lord. Total silence. An awkward silence. A deafening silence. Some nod in agreement. Others turn away and keep mum. I am there, helpless as a man, humbled as a priest. But God is always in charge.

I remember a time when I spoke to a fervent Catholic who was dying. I said, “I know of no medication for you now. The only medicine is the medicine of eternal life – the Eucharist- that I am going to administer to you. ” The dying lady was joyful and serene. After receiving Jesus in the Sacred Host, the person died with a smile on her face. A happy smile. A smile of joy. She has gone home to her eternal reward.

As Simon of Cyrene helped Jesus to carry the cross, we too can do our part. I have my duties as a priest. You have your duties as homemakers, professionals, fathers and mothers, workers in the Lord’s vineyard.

Let us spend a moment of silence to thank God for giving us the grace to serve him. And let us also be mindful of the fact that it is our Lord we serve when we reach out to another person. Whatever services we may render, it is to the Lord. So, we ponder and ask ourselves: Do I do everything with all my heart, as working for the Lord, and not for people? Let us ask God for the grace.

Outdoor Stations of the Cross

Last night we had our outdoor Stations of the Cross. At least a hundred people came and spent two hours together. It was one of the most meaningful Stations of the Cross that I had made with the community. Usually I find it difficult to focus as we will simply go through the hymns and read the reflection from the book. Last night was entirely different. Two priests, a deacon, a religious sister and three lay persons shared their personal reflections. I was given the fourth and the eighth Stations to reflect on. . . Here they are:

4th Station: Jesus meets his Mother

Mothers. All of us have one. Our mothers carried us for many months, allowing us to take our nourishment from her, and in the pangs of child birth, they bring us into this earthly life. We remember for a moment our mothers by name, and we thank God for them.

I recall very vividly, 20 years ago, of the last 6 months of my mother’s life on earth. The sudden and unexpected news of her terminal illness shattered my world. How can this be? But it was so, and I prayed like I had never prayed before. I even attended daily mass and often shared with Fr Foission about my home situation. I had only one prayer to our Lord Jesus: Save her soul and then take her Home if you wish.

To make this story short, my mother received 4 sessions of catechesis and got baptised on 8 January. I was baptised on Easter Vigil night soon after on 10 April. Those were special moments of grace. A few days later, on 16 April, my mother was summoned home to receive her eternal reward.

Here in this 4th station, let us gaze with the deepest affection upon our heavenly virgin Mother of God, the model disciple, the one who said ‘yes’ to doing the will of God. Jesus meets his Mother. How did he look at her? Tenderly, with the deepest affection. A silent understanding, with no need for words. Both Son and Mother sought only to love and to do the will of God who so loved the world that he sent us Jesus, so that all who believe in him will not perish but have eternal life.

Yes, what must have been the pain in your heart, O Mother of Sorrows? What makes your Son go on step after step towards Cavalry if not for love of us, poor sinners? Be with each of us daily, that we may find ourselves also persevering to the end, without faltering. Daily we pray to you…Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, let us persevere even amidst the sufferings we have and let us never despair. Our Lord Jesus and our Mother journey with us…In heaven there are no tears, no sorrow, no pain and no suffering. Till then, let us keep nurturing the gift of our faith and persevere to the end. In this Year of Faith, we beg for the grace to seek God’s will and to find God in all things. We take a few moments of silence to speak to Jesus our Saviour and to Mary our Mother.

8th station: Jesus consoles the women of Jerusalem

I recall my very early days as a Catholic convert years ago, and the Sacrament of Reconciliation was very new to me. A parishioner here told me very seriously that it was a sin for me to jay walk. To cross the road even if the road was clear was also sinful. So I went for my confession. 

The old priest, dear Fr Loiseau, smiled and very gently explained to me about what were sins I had to confess and what would be more commonsensical. To cross a road when there were no cars was fine. I have had much to learn. I am still learning.

In this 8th station, Jesus tells the women of Jerusalem to cry for themselves and for their children. Yes, Jesus is the sinless one. We are the ones in need of forgiveness and healing.  How often have I stood in the queue at Novena Church and wondered if people were looking at me, a sinner?  I realized, of course, that the devil was putting thoughts into my head.

Why be ashamed of being seen to go for Confession? All saints are sinners turned good, and if one was not a saint, how could one go to heaven? It took me time to learn that it is God’s mercy and grace that draws me to the Sacrament of Reconciliation. 

So I learn to cry for my own sins. But, brothers and sisters, if we just cry and do nothing about our sins, it is not very helpful. We all acknowledge Jesus to be our Saviour. This is a fact. Do we know it in our heart and in our mind? Do we accept it? Do we believe that our sins, no matter how serious, can be forgiven, and that the Blood of Christ can make us clean? If we do, can we forgive ourselves for the sins we have committed?  Yes, these are questions we can ask ourselves.  Christ died for each of us even when we were sinners.

Let us pray for one another. As member s of the Body of Christ, we all need to be in good spiritual health. After all, though we are many, we are one body. When was our last good confession? Let us reflect for a moment and ask for the grace to make a good Confession in preparation for Easter.