I BELIEVE that we are called to live a spiritual life. That God has planted in each of us a seed of His divine nature. This seed is meant to be nurtured, to grow and blossom into a tree of life that is truly in God’s image. And I believe that we humans and all of creation are bound together in a great bond of blessing.
Dominican mystic Meister Eckhart (1260-1329) called creation “the first grace”. Hence, Creation can be understood as God’s original gift to us. We experience the gift of creation in our sense of wonder at the birth of a child, for instance, and awe at the sight of a stunningly beautiful sunrise or sunset. There is, in each of us, a yearning to experience all that is good, beautiful and true – echoing the divine nature within.
“We and all creatures are here to connect to the grace in one another and to the Source of all things,” says Matthew Fox, on interpreting Eckhart’s creation spirituality. Eckhart’s spirituality is one that is steeped in a passion for creation and rooted in compassion. It carries with it, as in biblical tradition, the responsibilities of justice-making.
How is it that many in today’s world do not seem able to live the spiritual life – one that acts on the values of love, justice and peace, one that is clearly Christlike? How is it that our hearts have so hardened, that we appear to absolve ourselves of any sense of responsibility for what is happening around us – the injustices and imbalances in our world?
Friar John-Paul Tan explains to the German visitors how Small Christian Communities work in St Mary of the Angels parishTwo-week-long visit aimed at helping them meet challenges facing their archdiocese
A team of German Catholics, comprising three priests and eight lay people, were in Singapore recently to learn about the workings of the Small Christian Communities (SCCs) here.
Their aim: to learn how to build up a sense of community in their Archdiocese of Freiburg in the wake of a dramatic decrease in the number of priests there.
During their Oct 26-Nov 8 visit, hosted by the Singapore Pastoral Institute (SPI), they visited SCCs, stayed with host families, and met up with Archbishop Nicholas Chia and Vicar General Msgr Eugene Vaz, among other Church people.
“The Gospel sharing, the openness ... and the fellowship among the members of the SCCs are very impressive,” the group, which included three women, told CatholicNews in emailed responses to questions. “We have been very excited about the engagement and the activities of the groups.”
Students starting their meditation session during the school’s Catholic Day Camp.
Primary Three and Four students of CHIJ St Nicholas learnt Christian meditation as part of the school’s recently conducted Catholic Day Camp.
Infant Jesus provincial Sr Maria Lau explained to the students during the camp, held on Nov 4, 11 and 12, that meditation was one form of prayer.
She then went on to explain the subsequent need for silence for the students to feel the presence of Christ. To illustrate her points, the students were shown a video of other students from around the world meditating.
Participants were then divided into groups, led by either a parent volunteer or an IJ Sister, for a nine-minute session of prayer and silence.
Archbishop Nicholas Chia speaking at the meeting of Alpha facilitators on Nov 11.
Catholic practices are allowed in parish-run Alpha courses despite its roots as an Anglican programme, says the archdiocese’s Alpha Advisory and Coordinating Team (AACT).
Making the sign of the cross and the use of Catholic prayers are allowed when Alpha is being run in a Catholic parish, said AACT member Derrick Chee.
Mr Chee, an AACT member, was speaking to 60 Alpha facilitators from 15 parishes and two church groups at Blessed Sacrament Church on Nov 11.
The meeting was to review the results of a survey of Alpha groups held earlier this year and study the positioning of Alpha within the Catholic Church. It was also to see how to run the programme, aimed at presenting Christian principles to non-Christians as well as act as a refresher course for Christians, more effectively.
Students take part in a ceremonial walk to their new school site on Nov 16.
Students and staff of St Anthony’s Canossian Primary School at Bedok North Avenue 4 found it hard to keep emotions in check when the school closed its doors for the last time on Nov 16.
The event marked the closing of a chapter in the school’s history here as lessons will now be conducted in a temporary holding site at Bedok North Road for the next two years. The building will be refurbished as part of the Education Ministry’s plans to improve and upgrade its facilities.
The Nov 16 ceremony began with a commemoration of the history of the school, which used to function at Middle Road.
A bell and a key brought from the Middle Road campus were presented to Mrs Eugenie Tan, the principal, as a symbolic representation of the school’s heritage.
Darius Lim conducting a Divine Mercy church choir
Five secular choirs will sing with choirs from the Church of Divine Mercy to raise funds for Timor Leste in a special upcoming concert.
Proceeds from donations during the event, to be held on Dec 5 evening at the church, will be channelled to Casa de Produção Audiovisual (CPA) to help fund TV programmes aimed at increasing children’s literacy in the country.
The event, themed From the Secular to the Sacred – A Christmas Festival of Choirs, will feature over 200 participants performing both sacred and secular choral works to celebrate the joy of Christmas.
A Catholic Faith Exploration (CaFE) programme discussion group. Many participants say the programme has helped them make a better connection between their faith and lives.
Participants of the Catholic Faith Exploration (CaFE) programme say that the course has helped them to rediscover and renew their Catholic faith.
Ms Gwen Pinto, a participant turned facilitator, said that as a cradle Catholic, she had taken the “aspects of our faith for granted”. “All my life, I thought I was a ‘good Catholic’ … I did all the things – attend Mass on Sunday, go communion … But it was just a ritual in many ways which had no real meaning in life.”
The CaFE programme, Ms Pinto said, helped her to make a better connection between her faith and life. Now, she is able to reflect on what is God is trying to tell her in a trying situation and is less prone to losing patience, she said.
Sr Christine Chia (left) and Sr Maria Ng pose for a photo with Archbishop Nicholas Chia during the FMM nuns’ golden jubilee celebration on Nov 17.
Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM) Sister Maria Ng had been a globetrotter.
She had spent 12 years of her religious life crisscrossing 46 countries, visiting her congregation’s communities for a first hand view of their mission, encouraging them, finding out their needs and helping them.
Sr Maria, who celebrates her golden jubilee this year, was the first ethnic Chinese Sister to be elected as one of the General Councillors of her congregation to assist the Superior General. She held the post from 19902002.
Her travels took her to both developed and third-world countries. The Sisters in Japan were “serious and conscientious”, and despite not being in good health due to the effects of the atomic bomb, contributed their efforts to medical, social and education causes, said Sr Maria.
I never want to give up my vocation because I love the life of an FMM Sister, declares the quiet and soft-spoken Sr Christine Chia who celebrates her golden jubilee this year.
A convert, Sr Christine, said she was attracted to both the prayerful and missionary aspect of the FMM congregation.
She said the FMM Sisters are adorers of the Eucharist. During the day hours, each Sister takes turns to adore the Blessed Sacrament. There is a need to fill oneself with Christ first in order to have the strength to give Jesus to others, Sr Christine said.
She says she likes to help people. For example, she had brought a friend to stay in the convent after finding out that she had nowhere to sleep after her home was damaged in an incident.
The possible negative effects arising from the setting up of two casinos in Singapore were a discussion point during a Social Justice Day organised by the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary (FMM).
Thirty-five people, including FMM Sisters and Catholics from 11 parishes, took part in an afternoon of reflection, sharing and inputs on Oct 30 at the FMM House of Prayer and Formation.
Sr Mary Soh spoke about the principles behind Catholic social teaching and helped participants discuss the issue of casinos in Singapore. Many were convinced of the dangers of gambling and its destructive effects on relationships, family life and society. Two participants shared the experiences of the pain their families suffered due to members who gambled.
There was an overall disapproval of the building of the casinos in Singapore and participants said that Christians need to take action before more families are destroyed.
Among the suggestions raised were:
• Organising social awareness seminars regularly in parishes to conscientise people and to reach out to those in need of assistance.
• Catholics should be more assertive and not be afraid to express their views on social issues.
• To avoid going to casinos as a collective action.
• There should be dialogue with government authorities, such as Members of Parliament, on issues people are concerned about. By Sr Liza Tan, FMM
Photo: Charles Wong
As witnesses of God’s mercy, Catholics have to proclaim how God has blessed them not only by word of mouth, but also through the Internet and other media, said a Filipino bishop at a Divine Mercy retreat recently.
Jesus came to liberate people from their poor self-image and a false understanding of God, Bishop Teodoro C. Bacani Jr (right) told some 150 people from various parishes at the Oct 29-30 retreat held at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat House.
There is no greater dignity than being children of God, said the bishop, a well-known speaker at conferences for the clergy and laity and the author of several books on spirituality and pastoral concerns.
Participants said the retreat, organised by the Archdiocesan Divine Mercy Apostolate, inspired them. Shirley Yeo, 68, said it motivated her to work on her spiritual growth.
The Divine Mercy devotion is currently present in 29 parishes in Singapore. By PTan
Most people are convinced that an HIV-infected person who has sex should use a condom to protect his partner from infection. Whatever one may think about a promiscuous lifestyle, about homosexual acts or prostitution, that person acts at least with a sense of responsibility in trying to avoid transmitting his infection to others.
It is commonly believed that the Catholic Church does not support such a view. [...] The Church is thought to teach that sexually active homosexuals and prostitutes should refrain from condoms because condoms are "intrinsically evil." Many Catholics also believe [...] that the use of a condom, even exclusively to prevent infection of one's sexual partner, fails to honour the fertile structure that marital acts must have, cannot constitute mutual and complete personal self-giving and thus violates the Sixth Commandment.
But this is not a teaching of the Catholic Church.
"The pope cited a 2005 Vatican document that drew a sharp line against priestly ordination of homosexuals. He said the document emphasized that homosexual candidates cannot become priests because their sexual orientation interferes with "the proper sense of paternity" that belongs to the priesthood."
VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- In his new book, Pope Benedict XVI strongly reaffirmed church teaching that homosexual acts are "disordered" and said homosexuality itself is "incompatible" with the priesthood.
The pope's comments came in his new book-interview, "Light of the World: The Pope, the Church and the Signs of the Times," which was published Nov. 23.
The interviewer, German journalist Peter Seewald, asked the pope whether the church's teaching that homosexuals deserve respect isn't contradicted by its position that homosexual acts are "intrinsically disordered."
VATICAN CITY, 24 NOV 2010 (VIS) - During his general audience, held this morning in the Paul VI Hall in the presence of 7,000 faithful, Benedict XVI focused his catechesis on St. Catherine of Siena (1347-1380), declared a Doctor of the Church by Paul VI and co-patroness of Europe by John Paul II.
At the age of sixteen she became a Dominican Tertiary, dedicating herself to prayer, penance and works of charity, especially towards the sick. "As fame of her sanctity spread", the Pope explained, "she became intensely active in the spiritual counselling of many categories of peoples: nobles, politicians, artists, common people, consecrated persons, ecclesiastics, and even Pope Gregory XI who at that time resided in Avignon and whom Catherine energetically and effectively encouraged to return to Rome. She also travelled widely to promote interior reform of the Church and peace among States". She expounded her doctrine in three works: the "Treatise on Divine Providence", her "Letters" and a collection of "Prayers".
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