NOVEMBER 9, 2008, Vol 58, No 23

VATICAN CITY – Pope Benedict XVI denounced the continuing shortages of food around the world and said the causes included selfishness and "unbridled speculation".

At the root of global hunger is a prevailing materialist culture among developed countries, in which the needs of the poor are routinely forgotten, the pope said.

His comments came in a written message on Oct 16, World Food Day.

The pope said it was clear, even during recent months of food scarcity in places around the globe, that the international community has the resources to feed all the world’s people.

Instead, poverty coexists with abundance, he said, and he gave several reasons.

First, he pointed to the "race for consumption" that has not slowed even during the recent food shortages and that hurts the nutritional capacity of poorer countries.

Second, he said international negotiations have failed to "curb the selfishness of states or groups of countries or to put an end to the unbridled speculation that is affecting the mechanisms of pricing and consumption".

The pope also cited the lack of proper administration of food resources caused by corruption in public life, as well as increasing expenditures on weapons and sophisticated military technology to the detriment of basic necessities. n CNS

 

SINGAPORE – The remains of Father Anthony Schotte and Bishop Carlo van Melckebeke were installed at Church of the Holy Spirit’s columbarium on Friday Oct 24 following a requiem Mass. Both priests belonged to the CICM, an international religious missionary institute. Father Anthony Schotte founded Church of the Holy Spirit.

The Mass was concelebrated by CICM Fathers Frans De Ridder, Angel Luciano, Robertus Sarwiseso, Albert Brys and Holy Spirit parish priests Fathers Andrew Wong and Gerard Weerakoon.

It was Father Andrew’s idea to install Father Anthony Schotte and Bishop Carlo van Melckebeke’s remains at the parish columbarium as part of the parish’s 50th anniversary celebrations to be held in 2010. "It is through these pioneer missionaries in Singapore that we now have our present church," he acknowledged. "We need to keep their memory alive."

"Today we cannot help but recall the great distances these missionaries covered in their lives. The day they surrendered themselves to the Lord and left Belgium, their homeland, they never really stopped to look back," he added.

Father Schotte and Bishop Carlo were born in Belgium and were both missionaries in Ningxia, China – Father Schotte for 22 years and Bishop Carlo for 25.

Bishop Carlo was appointed Bishop of Ningxia in 1946 and forced to leave China in 1952. In 1953 he was appointed by the Holy See as Apostolic Visitor of the Overseas Chinese; he set up office in Singapore. He established the Singapore Catholic Central Bureau (today’s Carlo Society) for the diffusion of Catholic literature in Southeast Asia and initiated several Mandarin language publications including Hai Sing Pao, the archdiocesan Mandarin newspaper.

Father Schotte was also expelled from China and he lived in the Congo for six years before arriving in Singapore in 1958. He founded the Holy Spirit parish at Upper Thomson Road in 1960, and had the first church building completed in 1964.

Both missionaries were inseparable in life and, it seems, even in death. Father Schotte died on Sep 30, and the bishop one day after. They were buried at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

The remains of Bishop Carlo and Father Schotte had been exhumed on Sep 30 in the presence of Fathers Paul Staes and Andrew Wong. They had found Bishop Carlo’s thigh bone still intact and his pectoral cross still in one piece, although tarnished. Father Schotte’s body had disintegrated but his brain tissues were still intact, said Father Andrew.

The remains of CICM Fathers Jeroom Deblauwe and Marcel Wille were also exhumed on the same day since they were buried beside Father Schotte and Bishop Carlo. CICM priests are still deliberating if their remains would be kept at Church of the Holy Spirit or at Church of St. Michael.

Father Andrew recalled Father Schotte as a "mild-mannered man who had a goatee and a very pleasant smile on his face". Father Schotte had personally attended to Father Andrew’s late grandfather, an early pioneer-parishioner at the church, after he broke his hip and could not go to church.

"Unassuming and caring, Father Schotte’s treatment of my grandfather, Sunday after Sunday, made a tremendous impact on my young mind," Father Andrew said. "It sowed in me a seed for my priestly vocation. I remember wanting to grow up fast… to be like Father Schotte to serve God’s people."

At Holy Spirit, Father Schotte was assisted and then succeeded by Father Fossion, also CICM, who died a year ago, barely a month before the parish was to celebrate the 70th anniversary of his ordination. Incidentally, the requiem Mass and installation of ashes took place on the day that would have been Father Fossion’s 94th birthday.

Father Frans De Ridder, who preached the homily, told the congregation that some parishioners had suggested placing the ashes of Father Schotte and Father Fossion together. They would end up "fighting", just like how they used to quibble when they worked alongside each other at the parish, he joked.

"I remember Father Fossion said to Father Schotte, ‘You’re stubborn as a mule!’ and then Father Schotte said to Father Fossion, ‘You’re as stubborn as two mules!’"

Father Frans also shared an anecdote about Bishop Carlo: The bishop set out to make Pope Paul V – not known for smiling – laugh. Meeting the pope, the bishop said, "I’m Melchizedek from the Old Testament". The pope laughed and the bishop was victorious.

Father Frans said the requiem Mass was "like a celebration of the family … reconnecting with the people important to our lives". He closed the homily by playing the hymn "We Remember" on his flute to the applause of the congregation.

Mass was followed by the rite of interment of ashes and the placing of Father Schotte and Bishop Carlo’s ashes in the church’s columbarium.

Father Andrew, who also performed the rite, added, "These days our youth look for heroes to imitate. May they know that they need not look very far. In our columbarium are the remains of many who have lived holy lives, and if we should like to talk about others, let us talk about how we can imitate these holy people [instead]." - by Joyce Gan

VATICAN CITY – The archbishop who prepared the final message of the synod of bishops suggests reading the Bible like a love letter, such that each reader approaches it with the certainty, "It was written for me."

Archbishop Gianfranco Ravasi said this before the definitive reading of the synod’s final message, which was approved by the assembly.

The message begins by "propos[ing] a spiritual journey consisting of four phases" "that will carry us from all eternity and the infinite nature of God to our homes and the streets of our cities".

Its four sections focus on "The Voice of the Word: Revelation"; "The Face of the Word: Jesus Christ"; "The House of the Word: The Church"; and "The Roads of the Word: The Mission".

Laced with biblical citations, the message recalls the primary themes that have been constantly looked at by the synodal assembly.

"Our faith is not only centred on a book, but on a history of salvation and, as we will see, on a person, Jesus Christ, the Word of God made flesh, man and history," it begins by affirming.

The text rises above any division between exegesis and theology, or exegesis and magisterium, asserting that "exegetical knowledge must […] weave itself indissolubly with spiritual and theological tradition so that the divine and human unity of Jesus Christ and Scripture is not broken".

The message vigorously promotes catechesis and well-prepared and delivered homilies, as well as lectio divina.

The final section on the mission urges every baptized person to be a missionary of the Word in his environment, in dialogue with believers of other religions and particularly with the world of culture and art.

A final word is addressed to those "our persecuted brothers and sisters or those who are put to death because of the Word of God and because of the witness they render to the Lord Jesus: As witnesses and martyrs they tell us of ‘the power of the word’, origin of their faith, of their hope and of their love for God and for men."

The draft of the message was initially presented by Archbishop Ravasi on Oct 18. The text immediately brought agreement on two points: It was one of the most beautiful ever prepared by a synod and it was very long.

The archbishop explained before reading the definitive version that he had received 52 messages from synod fathers asking him to preserve the draft, making small adjustments. The prelates’ notes explained that they want to
use the message in writing their pastoral letters, giving retreats to priests and courses to catechists.

Nevertheless, so that the message could be more easily read, the synodal assembly suggested the publication of a shorter version, which was prepared by Archbishop Ravasi in two pages. It is not an official document, but it was distributed by the secretary-general of the synod as the "Summary of the Message to the People of God From the Synod of Bishops."

"It is a text with passion, with ‘pathos’," affirmed the archbishop, explaining that this style was chosen because of the genre – a message to the people of God – but also because "the approach to the Word of God should be warm, not just exegetical or theological".

Before the final reading of the message, the Italian prelate suggested this key for the synod fathers, citing Soren Kierkegaard: "As a lover reads a letter from his beloved, you must read Scripture … the Bible has been written for me."

The message was welcomed with a round of applause, which ratified the assembly approval. -
ZENIT

 

VATICAN CITY – Here is a summary of the concluding message of the 12th Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops.

The theme of the assembly was "The Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church".

 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

 

"WITH ALL THOSE everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord as well as ours. Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ" (1 Cor 1:2-3). With the Apostle Paul’s greeting – in this year dedicated to him – we, the Synodal Fathers gathered in Rome for the XII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, with the Holy Father Benedict XVI, address to you a message full of reflection and proposals on the Word of God that has been the centre of our assembly’s work.

It is a message that is entrusted to our pastors in the first place, to the many, generous catechists and to
all those who guide you in a loving listening and reading of the Bible. Now, to you, we would like to outline
the soul and the substance of this text, so that it may grow and deepen your knowledge and love for the Word of God. There are four cardinal points on the horizon that we invite you to know and that we will express through just as many images.

 


 

First of all there is the divine Voice.
It echoes in the beginnings of Creation, breaking the silence of nothingness and giving origin to the marvels of the universe. It is a Voice that penetrates in history, wounded by human sin and distressed by suffering and death.
It also sees the Lord walking with humanity to offer his grace, his Covenant, his salvation. It is a Voice that enters into the pages of the Holy Scriptures, which we read today in the church, guided by the Holy Spirit, who was given as the light of truth to it and to its pastors.

 


 

Also, as Saint John wrote, "The Word became flesh" (1:14). Here then the Face appears. It is Jesus Christ, who is the Son of the eternal and infinite God, but also the mortal man, tied to an historical era, to a people and to a land. He lives the exhausting existence of humanity till his death, but rises glorious and lives forever.

He makes our encounter with the Word of God perfect. He unveils to us "the full meaning" and unity of the Holy Scriptures, therefore Christianity is a religion that has a person at its centre, Jesus Christ, the one who reveals the Father. He makes us understand that the Scriptures are "flesh", that is to say human words to be understood and studied in their way of expressing, but that also preserve the light of divine truth within, which we can only live and contemplate with the Holy Spirit.

 


 

It is the same Spirit of God that leads us to the third cardinal point in our itinerary, the Home of the divine word, that is to say the church, which, as Saint Luke suggested (Ac 2:42), is supported by four ideal columns.

There is "teaching", which is reading and understanding the Bible in the announcement made to all, in catechesis, in the homily, through a proclamation that involves mind and heart.

Then there is "the breaking of the bread", which is the Eucharist, the source and the summit of the life and the mission of the church. Like what happened that day at Emmaus, the faithful are invited to nourish themselves in the liturgy of the table of the Word of God and Body of Christ.

A third column is "prayer" with "psalms and hymns and inspired songs to God" (Col 3:16). It is the Liturgy of the Hours, the church’s prayer destined to give rhythm to the days and times of the Christian year. There is also the Lectio divina, the prayerful reading of the Holy Scriptures able to lead, in meditation, in prayer, in contemplation, to the encounter with Christ, the living Word of God.

And, finally, there is "brotherly communion" because to be true Christians it will not suffice being "those who hear the word of God" but also those who "put it into practice" (Lk 8:21) through love’s labours. In the home of the Word of God we also can meet the brothers and sisters from other churches and Christian communities who, even in division, live a real unity, if not a full one, through the worship and love for the divine Word.

 


 

Thus we reach the last image of the spiritual map. It is the road the Word of God walks upon: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations [...] and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you... what you hear in whispers, proclaim from the housetops" (Mt 28:19-20; 10:27).

The Word of God must run through the world’s streets which today are also those of computer, television and virtual communication.

The Bible must enter into families so that parents and children read it, pray with it and that it may be their lamp for the steps on the way to existence (cf. Ps 119:105).

The Holy Scriptures must also enter into the schools and in the cultural areas because for centuries they were the main reference for art, literature, music, thinking and the same common moral. Their symbolic, poetic and narrative richness makes them a banner of beauty for faith as well as for culture, in a world often scarred by ugliness and lowliness.

However, the Bible also shows us the breath of pain that rises from the earth, goes towards the cry from the oppressed and the laments of the miserable. At the summit it has the cross where Christ, alone and abandoned, lives the tragedy of the most atrocious suffering and death. Because of this presence of the Son of God, the darkness of evil and death is irradiated by the Paschal light and by the hope of glory.

But on the roads of the world, the brothers and sisters of other churches and Christian communities walk with us also, even while divided, live a real unity if not a full one, through the worship and love for the Word of God.

Along the paths of the world we often meet men and women of other religions that listen and faithfully practise the commands of their holy books and who, with us, can build a world of peace and light, because God "wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim 2:4).

 


 

Dear brothers and sisters, guard the Bible in your houses, fully read, study and understand its pages, transform them into prayer and witness of life, listen to it with love and faith in the liturgy. Create the silence to effectively hear the Word of the Lord and hold a silence after the listening, because it will continue to dwell, live and speak to you. Make it resound at the beginning of your day so that God will have the first word and let it echo in you in the evenings so that the last word will be God’s.

"And now I commend you to God and to the word of his grace" (Ac 20:32). With the same expression used by Saint Paul in his farewell speech to the heads of the church in Ephesus, also the Synodal Fathers entrust the faithful of the communities dispersed throughout the world to the divine word, which is also judgement but above all grace, which cuts like a sword but is sweet as a honeycomb. It is powerful and glorious and guides us on the roads of history with Jesus’ hand, who you like us love with an imperishable love (cf. Eph 6:24).

 

VATICAN CITY – The Vatican has prepared three alternative endings for the priest’s words of dismissal at Mass, to emphasize the missionary spirit of the liturgy.

Pope Benedict XVI personally chose the three options from suggestions presented to him after a two-year study, Cardinal Francis Arinze told the Synod of Bishops in mid-October.

The Vatican newspaper, L’Osservatore Romano, published an interview on Oct 17 with Cardinal Arinze, head of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Sacraments.

He said, along with "Ite, missa est" the Latin phrase now translated as "The Mass is ended, go in peace," the new options are:

• "Ite ad Evangelium Domini annuntiandum" (Go and announce the Gospel of the Lord).

• "Ite in pace, glorificando vita
vestra Dominum" (Go in peace, glorifying the Lord by your life).

• "Ite in pace" (Go in peace).

The idea for alternative words at the end of Mass was raised at the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist. Many bishops wanted the final words to reflect a more explicit connection between Mass and the church’s mission of evangelization in the world.

Cardinal Arinze said the concern was that, for many Catholics, the present words of dismissal sounded like "The Mass is ended, go and rest."

The cardinal said his congregation undertook a wide consultation and came up with 72 different possible alternative phrases. Of these, the congregation chose nine and presented them to the pope, who chose the final three.

The three alternatives were published in October in the latest edition of the Roman Missal, along with "Ite, missa est," which has not been abolished, Cardinal Arinze said.

The cardinal said the congregation was still studying another suggestion made during the 2005 synod, that of moving the sign of peace to a different part of the Mass.

In 2005, the pope said the sign of peace had great value, but should be done with "restraint" so that it does not become a distraction during Mass. He asked for the study on moving the sign of peace from a moment just before Communion to another time in the liturgy.

Cardinal Arinze said that, after consultation, the congregation had written to bishops’ conferences asking their preference between leaving the sign of peace where it is now and moving it to an earlier moment, after the prayer of the faithful.

He said the responses from bishops’ conferences were expected to be in by the end of October, and the question would then be presented to the pope for a final decision.

Cardinal Arinze said that in addition to its timing some have suggested that the sign of peace be limited to an exchange between the Massgoer and those in his or her immediate vicinity. He said that in some churches today, the sign of peace is extended to the point that it becomes "almost a jamboree".

Cardinal Arinze said a third suggestion from the 2005 synod, a "eucharistic compendium", also has made progress and is near publication.

He said the compendium would include doctrinal notes on the Mass, as well as prayer texts, passages of papal liturgical teachings, canon law tracts and other explanatory materials. He emphasized that the compendium would propose ideas, not impose them.

Cardinal Arinze said a fourth project of the worship congregation, working together with Vatican congregations for doctrine and clergy, was the drawing up of a list of homily themes that correspond to Sunday scriptural readings and to the church’s doctrinal teachings.

"This is not a matter of model homilies, but general indications in which, for each theme, elements are furnished to be able to develop the theme," he said. - cns

SINGAPORE – As the song "Still" by Hillsong was played to the congregation, everyone was singing along except members of the performing group – they used sign language instead. The performers were members of the Singapore Catholic Deaf Community (SCDC) who were commemorating International Day for the Deaf at Church of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) on Oct 5.

The performance showed that hearing impaired people have the ability to participate in praise and worship using sign language.

Members of the society also put up a skit about a deaf man, on the brink of despair and frustration, who thankfully met someone from church who shared the Good News with him and restored his faith in God.

Brother Lionel Thomas, a seminarian from the Malacca-Johor Diocese, commented that he
was awed by God’s love for the deaf in giving them this wonderful tool for communication, and added
that it was "a humbling experience to be with this group as they display such strong unity, love and support among members!"

SCDC President Patrick Anthony was thankful to IHM for its support over the past few years. He hoped that more hearing impaired people and volunteers will join the community.

SINGAPORE – St. Joseph’s Institution won the 2008 Archbishop Nicholas Chia Inter-Catholic School Bible Knowledge
Quiz. CHIJ Toa Payoh came in second and St. Anthony’s Canossian Secondary School third.

Eleven teams from seven schools took part in the quiz which was based on St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. Pope Benedict XVI has declared 2008 to be the year of St. Paul. This Letter was chosen also because the early church in Corinth grew in circumstances similar to that of Singapore. The early Christian community there also had to grapple with many social issues – unity, morality and liturgical practices – that still challenge the church today.

 

 

SINGAPORE – The Archdiocesan Archbishop’s Cup Tournament, an annual football tournament for the archdiocese’s altar servers will be held on Saturday Nov 29 at SAFRA Tampines (1/A Tampines Street 92).

This year’s tournament organizers are the altar servers from Church of the Holy Family. There will be four categories this year, one of which will be a Parents/Priests Team selection. This was created to attract more parishioners as well as priests to attend the event, in addition to altar servers and their parents.

The four categories this year are:

• Under 20s: (9-a-side, with a maximum of 13 players)

• Under 15s: (5-a-side, with a maximum of 9 players)

• Under 12s: (5-a-side, with a maximum of 9 players)

• Parents/Priests: (5-a-side, with a maximum of 9 players)

The finalization meeting will be held on Nov 15 at 10.00am at Church of the Holy Family.

For more information, contact Joshua Maniar at 8100 4295. 

- Contributed By Joshua Maniar

THE NUN SIGNED the statement as Sister Meena. She was raped in the eastern state’s Kandhamal district on Aug 25, a day after Hindu fanatics unleashed a seven-week reign of terror on Orissa Christians. The violence left at least 58 dead and 50,000 homeless.

Expressing lack of trust in the state police, she asked for a probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, the nation’s premier investigation agency.

The following is the full (unedited) text of the nun’s statement.

 

ON 24TH AUGUST, around 4:30 pm, hearing the shouting of a large crowd at the gate of Divyajyoti Pastoral Centre, I ran out through the back door and escaped to the forest along with others. We saw our house going up in flames. Around 8:30 p.m., we came out of the forest and went to the house of a Hindu gentleman who gave us shelter.

On 25th August, around 1:30 p.m., the mob entered the room where I was staying in that house, one of them slapped me on my face, caught my hair and pulled me out of the house. Two of them were holding my neck to cut off my head with axe.

Others told them to take me out to the road. I saw Father Chellan also being taken out and beaten. The mob consisting of 40-50 men were armed with lathi (wooden sticks), axes, spades, crowbars, iron rods, sickles etc. They took both of us to the main road. They led us to the burnt down Janavikas building saying that they were going to throw us into the smoldering fire.

When we reached the Janavikas building, they threw me to the verandah on the way to the dining room, which was full of ashes and broken glass pieces. One of them tore my blouse and others my undergarments. Father Chellan protested and they beat him and pulled him out from there. They pulled out my sari and one of them stepped on my right hand and another on my left hand and then a third person raped me on the verandah mentioned above. When
it was over, I managed to get up and put [on] my petticoat and sari.

Another young man caught me and took me to a room near the staircase. He opened his pants and was attempting to rape me when [we] reached there. I hid myself under the staircase. The crowd was shouting "where is that sister, come let us rape her, at least 100 people should rape." They found me under the staircase and took me out
to the road. There I saw Father Chellan was kneeling down and the crowd was beating him. They were searching for a rope to tie both of us together to burn us in (a) fire. Someone suggested to make us parade naked. They made us to walk on the road till Nuagaon market which was half a kilometer from there. They made [us] to fold
our hands and walk. I was with petticoat and sari as they had already torn away my blouse and undergarments. They tried to strip [me] even there and I resisted and they went on beating me with hands
on my cheeks and head and with sticks on my back several times.

When we reached the marketplace, about a dozen OSAP (Orissa State Armed Police) policemen were there. I went to them asking to protect me and I sat in between two policemen but they did not move. One from the crowd
again pulled [me] out from there and they wanted to take us in their temple mandap [canopied pavilion for public rituals]. The crowd led me and Father Chellan to the Nuagaon block building saying that they will hand us over to BDO [block development officer]. From there, along with the block officer, the mob took us to police outpost in Nuagaon. Other policemen remained far.

The mob said that they will comeback after eating and one of them who attacked me remained back in the police outpost. Policemen then came to police outpost. They were talking very friendly with the man who had attacked me and stayed back. In the police outpost, we remained until the inspector in charge of Balliguda with his police team came and took us to Balliguda. They were afraid to take us straight to the police station and they kept us sometimes
in jeep in the garage. From there they brought us to the station.

The inspector in charge and other two government officers took me privately and asked what happened to me. I narrated everything in detail to the police – how I was attacked, raped, taken away from policemen, paraded half-naked and how the policemen did not help me when I asked for help; while weeping bitterly. I saw the inspector writing down.

The inspector asked me, "Are you interested in filing FIR? Do you know what will be the consequence?" At about 10:00 pm, I was taken for a medical check up accompanied by lady police officer to the Balliguda Hospital. They were afraid to keep us in police station. So, the police took us to the inspection bungalow where CRP (Central Reserve Police) men were camping.

On 26/8/08 around 9:00 a.m., we were taken to Balliguda police station. When I was writing the FIR the IIC (inspector in-charge) asked me to hurry up and not to write in detail. When I started writing about the police, the IIC told me this is not the way to write FIR, "make it short." So I re-wrote it for the third time in one and a half page. I filed the FIR but I was not given a copy of it.

At around 4:00 p.m. the inspector in charge of Balliguda police station along with some other government officers put us in the OSRTC bus to Bhubaneswar along with other stranded passengers. Police were there till Rangamati where all passengers had their supper. After that I did not see the police. We got down near Nayagarh and traveled in a private vehicle and reached Bhubaneswar around 2.00 a.m. on 27th August.

State police failed to stop the crimes, failed to protect me from the attackers, they were friendly with attackers, they tried their best that I did not register an FIR, not make complaints against police. Police did not take down my statement as I narrated in detail and they abandoned me half of the way. I was raped and now I don’t want to be victimized by the Orissa police. I want CBI enquiry.

God bless India, God bless you all.

Sister Meena

SINGAPORE – Archbishop Nicholas Chia has asked Small Christian Communities (SCCs) to be aware of realities confronting society and act in the light of Gospel values "to promote goodness and eradicate evil".

"Small Christian Communities deepen the faith... and build Christian communities to be beacons to spread the light of the Gospel," the Singapore archbishop said in his opening address for the second Archdiocesan Small Christian Communities Day, held on Oct 11. The first took place in October last year.

The archbishop said the neighbourhood church communities need to see and be aware of what is happening locally and in the world, "judge these realities" against Gospel values and reach out to the less fortunate – the poor, sick and elderly, the lonely and all those in need.

The half-day event, which the Singapore Pastoral Institute organized, drew 180 Catholics representing 13 of the archdiocese’s 27 parishes. The oldest SCCs in these parishes have been in existence for 25 years, while new ones are still springing up. The archdiocesan institute has in the past two years promoted SCCs within parishes as "a new way of being church", as opposed to more traditional activities centred on the parish as a whole.

Father Patrick Goh delivered the keynote address at the Catholic Junior College based on the 1988 apostolic exhortation "Christifideles Laici" (Christ’s faithful laypeople), subtitled "On the vocation and the mission of the lay faithful in the church and in the world."

The Holy Family parish priest said SCCs help to experience the church as "communion and mission", but he urged them to transform from exclusive groups that gather for prayers, fellowship and meals to small communities aware of their social mission. He also offered suggestions to enable them to carry out their mission in their respective locales, such as through reaching out to people displaced by urban redevelopment.

He encouraged the communities to get to know the people living in their area in order to recognize, assist and support those in need – latchkey children, youths at risk, elderly and physically or mentally disabled people, and all
who are marginalized.

The SCC day included group sharing on how the small communities can better identify persons with special needs and contribute to their neighbourhoods.

Homemaker Joanne Goh, 47, started the Elliot Small Christian Community in Holy Family parish to "bring into the neighbourhood a practical way of living out faith". She has found the SCC to be a good way to get to know people and have a more vibrant neighbourhood.

Another homemaker recalled that anger prompted her first participation in the local SCC. She went to share her woes, telling group members that one neighbour’s dog left droppings on her doorstep every day that she had to clean up, and a neighbour above her would throw dirty water down on her freshly laundered clothes.

The members of the community listened to her, offered some advice and invited her to pray with them for her neighbours. In a matter of weeks, she noticed a change in her neighbours’ behaviour and even started to exchange smiles and pleasantries with them.

Another woman shared how being in a small Christian community in her neighbourhood had helped her cope emotionally with being the sole breadwinner of her family, taking care of two elderly parents as well as her children. She also thanked the community for helping out with her housework.

Wendy Louis, director of the Singapore Pastoral Institute, pointed out that "not any gathering of people that feels close or has a common interest is an SCC". She defined the four marks of Christ-centredness, communion, mission and inclusiveness as necessary.

"We can measure our [Christian community] against this scale and see where we are," she said, observing that some groups call themselves SCCs but fall short. "Our aim is to encourage the neighbourhood groups to achieve the four marks of a true SCC."

Difference between a Small Christian Community and a parish-based ministry

Place
SCC: Neighbourhood
Ministry: Church

Qualification
SCC: Willingness to be disciples, no specific skill or interest Ministry: Specific skill or interest

Purpose
SCC: To represent the church at the grassroots level, to reach out to poor and needy marginalized, and lapsed Catholics
Ministry: To render specific service to the community

Function
SCC: Share the priestly, prophetic and kingly mission of Jesus in all that is said and done in the neighbourhood
Ministry: One or two specific functions

Frequency
SCC: Not specified
Ministry: Weekly to monthly

Focus
SCC: Centred on Bible, Community, Mission
Ministry: Centred on task

Activities
SCC: Held based on interests and needs
Ministry: Held once or twice a year

Formation
SCC: Continuous
Ministry: Ad hoc

Value and place
SCC: Being the presence of the church at the grassroots level; concrete expression of church in communion and mission
Ministry: Essential for worship or services of parish; serves parish needs

Nature
SCC: Basic cell of church
Ministry: Backbone of internal church programmes

Outreach
SCC: Limited only by capacity and commitment
Ministry: Limited to those with similar interests
 

by Daniel Tay

 

 

THE WORD EUTHANASIA comes from two Greek words, ‘eu’ and ‘thanatos’ which literally means good death. Etymologically speaking, euthanasia should even be seen as the natural desire of every person. Everyone wants a good death and we even pray for a good and happy death. But today no one uses the word in this sense anymore. Today it refers to an action by which a person is put to death painlessly, usually to avoid further suffering.

The Webster’s New International Dictionary defines euthanasia as, "A mode or act of inducing death painlessly as a relief from pain." Black’s Law Dictionary defines euthanasia as, "The act or practice of painlessly putting to death persons suffering from incurable and distressing disease as an act of mercy."

The Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (SCDF, now simply CDF) describes euthanasia to be commonly understood as: "…some intervention of medicine whereby the suffering of sickness or the final agony are reduced, sometimes also with the danger of suppressing life prematurely. Ultimately the word ‘euthanasia’ is used in a more particular sense to mean, ‘mercy killing’ for the purpose of putting an end to extreme suffering or saving abnormal babies, the mentally ill or the incurably sick from the prolongation, perhaps for many years of a miserable life which could impose too heavy a burden on their families or on society." (Declaration on Euthanasia, May 5, 1980).

There are other descriptions of euthanasia but all agree that it is an act of putting someone to death so that suffering will cease. Note must be taken that definitions must not be seen as endorsement of the practice of euthanasia.

The two ethical considerations when discussing euthanasia are the degree of consent and the manner in which it is carried out. The degree of consent refers to voluntary or involuntary while the manner refers to whether it is active or passive. It is true that these two terms "passive" and "active" in connection to euthanasia, are hardly used today. Nevertheless it is good to look at these terms because they contribute to a better understanding of the dynamics involved in the act of euthanasia.

Euthanasia is active and voluntary when a person explicitly requests help to die, for example by lethal injection. It is active and involuntary when the act is directed towards persons incapable of requesting for such a procedure as in infants, the unconscious, retarded persons and so on. The former is suicide and the latter is assisted suicide and even killing.

The church in Gaudium et Spes (‘Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World’) and again in SCDF Declaration on Euthanasia clearly condemns crimes against life, "such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or wilful suicide". Suicide is the deliberate and intentional taking of one’s own life. It is self-destruction. Assisted suicide is helping someone to take his or her life and morally it amounts to killing. For example, a doctor kills his patient if he gives him a lethal injection, withholds or withdraws treatment that should be given, provided that it is not reasonable to do so.

But killing does not apply to the act of withholding or withdrawing treatment that is futile and unreasonable because it is burdensome and no longer beneficial to the patient. This course of action is often termed "Allowing to Die". Some refer to this as passive euthanasia. (The term, ‘passive euthanasia’ is hardly used today as it creates confusion and gives the impression that some forms of euthanasia are allowed). It basically refers to stopping treatment which offers no reasonable hope of recovery so that death is not directly caused by an active intervention but by the patient’s fatal pathology.

This distinction is important because it differentiates deaths for which we are morally responsible and those we are not. This distinction also protects the overall respect for life because it recognizes that human beings are limited in their ability to control the ultimate progression of a fatal disease.

It also preserves the dignity of the medical profession as one being committed to caring and curing instead of destroying.

Pope John Paul II has clearly taught that a person may be beyond treatment but no one is beyond care. Many moral theologians are of the opinion that nutrition and hydration even when they are given intravenously does not constitute treatment but care. Whatever their condition may be, appropriate care should be provided for them.

In Christian understanding,
human life is the most fundamental of goods but concretely bodily existence is not the highest of values. Life is a relative good and so the church taking this position adopts the "middle path" between
what ethicists call "medical vitalism" and "medical pessimism". The former wants to preserve life at all cost while the latter destroys life when it becomes frustrating or burdensome.

Some have wrongly interpreted the church’s teachings as tending towards medical vitalism. The church teaches that benefits and burdens must be weighed in the choice of available treatment. This choice in traditional moral theology is referred to as Ordinary and Extraordinary Means. The principle of Ordinary and Extraordinary Means simply states that there is an obligation to use ordinary means but no strict obligation to use extraordinary means. On this issue, perhaps the teaching of Pope Pius XII is the clearest.

In his address to the International Congress of Anesthesiologists on Nov 24, 1957, he taught: One is normally held to use only ordinary means according to circumstances of persons, places, times and culture – that is to say, means that do not involve any grave burden for oneself or for others. A more strict obligation would be too burdensome for most men and would render the attainment of the higher, more important good, too difficult. Life, death and all temporal activities are in fact subordinated to spiritual ends.

This teaching is echoed again in the Declaration on Euthanasia when it teaches: When inevitable death is imminent in spite of the means used, it is permitted in conscience to take decision to refuse forms of treatment that would only secure a precarious and burdensome prolongation of life, so long as the normal care due to the sick person in similar cases is not interrupted. In such circumstances, the doctor has no
reason to reproach himself with failing to help the person in danger.

The above tries to show the difference between direct euthanasia which is a grave evil and morally wrong and not wanting certain types of treatment and allowing one’s disease to run its own course which is simply termed, "Allowing to Die".

Since euthanasia is totally non-therapeutic and does not benefit the patient in any way, we have the duty to find the required therapy for those suffering in pain. If this pain could somehow be alleviated, it would offer to dying patients who are in pain, an alternative to euthanasia. It is a fact that most people fear the pain and suffering of a prolonged illness more than death itself.

According to the Catholic Health Association of the United States, 75 percent of patients in pain are inadequately helped. Sixty to 70 percent of terminally ill patients experienced severe to moderate pain and 25 percent of cancer patients die with severe unrelieved pain. Physical pain is usually the easiest type of pain to control and yet it is often left untreated. There are helps and strategies for relieving pain because there is no such thing as intractable pain. Pain can be reduced or even removed in several ways.

For example if a tumour is pressing against a nerve and causing pain, it is possible to reduce the size of the tumour by radiation, chemotherapy, surgery or by laser. When the compression of the nerve is eliminated, the pain is reduced.

If the above procedure is not practical, there are other methods to block the sensory nerves. Every sensory nerve passes from the periphery of the body to the brain through the spinal cord and then to the cortex. At various steps along the way, the nerve can be blocked by anesthetic procedures or can be chemically destroyed. Many patients who have been given such pain relief procedures had gone home and died happy at home in the bosom of their family.

There are other strategies such as raising the pain threshold by the use of drugs, pharmacologically, sedatives and anti-depressant.

Other ways like massage, acupuncture, meditation and of course care, love and friendship have shown to help bring comfort to those who are suffering.

Proponents of euthanasia speak about the quality of life. They ask the question, "When is life considered no longer worth living?" The term, "Quality of life" is complex and it has different connotations. There have been attempts to define it from the social, economic, psychological and philosophical point of view. Hiltler for example, saw the quality of life in a person as intricately related to his or her usefulness in society. Such persons take the position that if someone is no longer "economically viable", that is, when he or she cannot make any useful contribution to the economy, the person is a burden to others and to the state. They conclude then that it would be better for this person not to continue living and be a burden to others and to the state.

The church condemns such a utilitarian perception of a human person. The church teaches that every person has an intrinsic and equal value regardless of age, perfection or the condition of that life. Human life is sacred by the very fact of its existence. Its value does not depend upon certain perfection of that life. Human life also has equal value. This means that we cannot decide whose life is of lesser value and be arbitrarily terminated. The value of a human life is intrinsic. It is not conferred by government or society. As such, government or society has no right to authorize anyone to take life.

It has been shown that countries that have legislated the living will (or Advance Medical Directive) eventually progress to legislate euthanasia. At the time of legislating living will, many of these countries have indicated that euthanasia is morally wrong and that it will not be legalized. These very countries have gone on to legalize euthanasia eventually. In legalizing euthanasia, certain so-called "strict guidelines" were adopted for its execution. Given the truth of the slippery slope argument, who can be certain that these "strict guidelines" will not be disregarded or changed from ending the life of terminally ill persons to ending the lives of the handicapped, the mentally retarded, comatose, Persistent Vegetative State (PVS) patients and all who are deemed idiots? The slippery slope argument has been shown to be truer than true. One’s conscience can become so desensitized that an immoral action can eventually become acceptable.

The Catholic Church joins the adherents of all other respectable religions and even those who do not have any religious affiliation to oppose the taking of an innocent life. The weakest in society are the ones who need our care and protection most. This is the most fundamental humanity we owe to ourselves.

This article ends with a quotation from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, number 2277 which states: Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable. Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering, constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. - By Rev Father James Yeo

BEFORE you can effectively help others, you must first find out what they really need, says Sherlyn Khong, a founding member of acts29 – a group that aims to bridge the gap through local and international outreach programmes. Its name symbolises a continuation of the Acts of the Apostles, a book in the Bible which ends at Chapter 28.

acts29 officially came together in 2003, but its work had already taken root many years earlier, when Ms Khong visited a dumpsite in the Philippines. What had once been a village in Quezon City in the 1970s and early 1980s became a dumpsite. Villagers were given compensation but, unable to build homes elsewhere, most made do with homes in and around the area. A school known as Paaralang Pantao – School for Humanity– was established to provide basic education for poor children aged five to 12 and it has since become the basis upon which acts29 has built its mission.

Trips to Paaralang Pantao are now organised twice a year during the school holidays in June and Decem-ber. Volunteers spend two weeks there, helping with classes, praying with the children and taking them on excursions. A small group that is not afraid to make big plans, acts29 piloted a project last year called “Through My Eyes”, giving cameras to seven children from the school to take pictures of the world outside the dumpsite.

Said Ms Khong, 33: “When they have a chance to go out and be exposed, they will have a better chance of adjusting to the world outside the only one they know.” Plans are in the pipeline for an exhibition and sale of these photos next year. “We want these children to be pro-active and realise they can do something to change their situation. Also, the photos give them a voice that allows others to see the world they live in,” Ms Khong said. The group is also commit-ted to raising money to obtain birth certificates for the children.

These can cost between S$30 and S$50, and Filipino children need birth certificates before they can formally register at public schools. That sum is too big for many poor families to bear. So far, acts29 has obtained birth certificates for at least seven children and hopes to raise that number to at least ten each year. The group is also working on keeping the children in school.

There is pressure from families to find a job. Many become garbage truck assistants or scavengers, and some end up as peddlers of drugs and illegal VCDs or child sex workers. To prevent this from happening, acts29 sources sponsors to keep the children in a public school for S$300 a year.

Aside from its work with the Filipino children, acts29 also runs its Angel Network project which sees members visiting flats in certain areas of Singapore and befriending residents, especially the elderly who live alone. Members provide whatever assistance the residents may need– help to go for a medical appointment, finding Teochew VCDs for those who do not understand English or Mandarin, or just keeping them company.

The Angel Network also links the elderly with nearby churches or community centres for support. The work is so fulfilling that Ms Khong left her job as a teacher to devote her time fully to the cause. “It has taught me to be less materialistic, and to look at the bigger picture in life,”she says.

What is acts29
A group of youth and young adults who see mission work as a way of life. They aspire to live a life of simplicity and believe in walking in solidarity with the less fortunate.Can you help?

Volunteers who have a willing heart are welcome.

Who to call Call
Daryl Spykerman at 9027 9475 or visit acts29’s website: www.acts29mission.org

2008 Committee
Spiritual Advisor:
Fr Terence Pereira Admin
Coordinators: Sherlyn Khong, Daryl Spykerman
Ministry Team Leaders (Evangelisation, Hospitality, Prayer, Service):Sherlyn Khong (coordinator), Sylvester Singh, Alvin Ng, Madeleine Tan
Finance Team: Daryl Spykerman, Ignatius Lee, Deborah Ho
Payatas Mission Team Leader: Maylene Grace Batol
Angel Network: Ignatius Lee
Support and Resource Team: Sherlyn Khong, Geraldine Teo, Jarvis Tan
Medical Advisor: Dr Victor Loh

- Source : CSCC

324,000 Catholics in Singapore (inclusive of foreigners)

130 priests in active service: 68 diocesan priests (inclusive of MEP priests); 62 religious priests

1 priest serves 2,500 Catholics

Average age of priests: 55 years

8 local seminarians

No ordination to the diocesan priesthood in the next 5 years

150 priests are needed by 2018 but we may have only 80.

"Only in a spiritual soil that is well cultivated can vocations to the ministerial priesthood and to the consecrated life flourish." – Pope Benedict XVI

Brief history:

In the beginning...

1665: The Paris Foreign Mission (MEP) establishes the Seminary of the Holy Angels in Ayuthia, Thailand, serving the regions of India, China, Japan and Thailand; the seminary is also known as the College General.

1808: The College General moves to Penang in Malaya.

1925: The steady increase in the Catholic population in Singapore leads to the establishment of St. Francis Xavier Minor Seminary in the grounds of Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Upper Serangoon. Seminarians spend the first four years of their formation here and then proceed to Penang College General for advanced training.

1960s-1970s: The political separation of Malaysia and Singapore makes it difficult for Singaporean seminarians to go to Penang College General for their final formation. The governments of Malaysia and Singapore impose quotas on foreign missionaries.

1983: The St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary is established by Archbishop Gregory Yong. It operates temporarily at the premises of the old Minor Seminary. Father Noel Chin is the first rector.

1988: On Jan 28 the new St. Francis Xavier Major Seminary at Ponggol Seventeenth Avenue is officially opened and blessed by Archbishop Gregory Yong (photo).

2007: The Major Seminary is affiliated to the Pontifical Urbaniana University in Rome, the academic institution belonging to the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples.

St Francis Xavier

St. Francis Xavier (1506-1552) is the Patron Saint of the Major Seminary. He is also patron of all foreign missions.

As a young man, Francis joined St. Ignatius of Loyola’s Society of Jesus and sailed to India. For the next 10 years he laboured to bring the faith to such widely scattered peoples as the Indians, the Malayans and the Japanese.

Wherever he went, he lived with the poorest people, sharing their food and rough accommodation. He spent countless hours ministering to the sick and the poor, and particularly to lepers. Very often he had no time to eat or sleep but he was always filled with joy.

Francis came to Malaysia, then to Japan where he preached to both royal families and simple folks. He wanted to go to China but he died before reaching the mainland. He was canonized in 1622.

Why the seminary is important

The seminary and the church are inseparably joined.

From the church, young men are called by God to enter the seminary.

From the seminary, priests are formed to be another Christ to their community and to serve the church.

If there are no seminarians, there will be no priests and hence no Eucharist.

Diocesan Priest

Catholic priests in Singapore are either diocesan or religious (e.g. Redemptorists, Franciscans, Carmelites, Jesuits and Dominicans).
However, they share a common identity as "Alter Christus" (Another Christ) and exercise common ministerial functions.

Diocesan priests:

• Commit their lives to serving the people of God in a diocese (a geographic area under the jurisdiction of a bishop).

• Make promises of celibacy and obedience (whereas priests from the religious orders take an additional vow of poverty).

• Live a life like their parishioners’– they can buy their personal things and plan their own recreation.

• Render pastoral care to parishioners from cradle to grave, administer the sacraments, lead in prayer and worship, give faith and moral formation.

Patron saint of diocesan priests

The Curé of Ars, St. John Marie Vianney, is the Patron Saint of diocesan priests. Through prayer, penance and works of charity, Father John Vianney transformed the French village of Ars from a rough and rowdy place with low church attendance to a pious village. He spent 16 to 18 hours in the confessional each day. He died in 1859 and was canonized in 1925.

"If we had no priest, we should not have the Lord in the Eucharist. What would be the use of a house full of gold, if you had nobody to open you the door! The priest has the key of the heavenly treasures."

– St. John Vianney

Be an example of embracing and living faithfully your own Christian vocation.

When we embrace our vocation with a spirit of joy and service we will help the young people see that joy comes from living out the will of God, not in looking for self-fulfilment.

Publicly support the vocations you have in your community.

Pray and support your priests and seminarians. Ecclesia de Eucharistia states: "Often it is the example of a priest’s fervent pastoral charity which the Lord uses to sow and to bring to fruition in a young man’s heart the seed of a priestly calling."

Offer prayers and sacrifices for vocations.

Pray for the young people, that the Holy Spirit will provide them with wisdom, courage, and the desire to accept God’s plan for their lives, as it is revealed to each of them. Enlist friends that you know to join you to pray for vocations.

Invite students and youths to serve the church.

Service in the sanctuary and in the parish will allow a young man to be formed by the graces flowing
from the celebration of the Eucharist and, at the same time, afford the priest an opportunity to mentor a possible vocation to the priesthood.

Support young people who are good candidates to priestly or religious vocation.

Let them know about spiritual direction, books and resources available. Many consecrated souls
have attributed their vocation to an invitation or a seed planted by someone (who is an instrument of God). As a start, encourage them to attend the vocation retreat.

Support and implement vocation promotion programmes.

You can incorporate vocation prayers in ministry events, conduct "Adoration for Vocations", offer Masses for vocations, celebrate ordination dates and help young people build a good catechetical foundation. You can also help your parish priest set up a Vocation Promotion Team in your parish!

 

Every parent’s desire is to see their children grow to be fulfilled and happy in life. If children truly seek and find God’s will for them, their lives will be fulfilled and happy.

"Parents have the mission of teaching their children to pray and to discover their vocation as children of God." (CCC #2226)

"They should encourage them in the vocation which is proper to each child, fostering with special care any religious vocation." (CCC #1656)

The Christian home is the first seminary where virtues such as faith, self-control, obedience, disciplined prayer life, Scripture reading, humility, generosity, and brotherly love are inculcated for the first time by word and example.

From birth to primary level

• Help your children to speak and listen to a loving God. Let them see and hear you pray.

• Pray as a family in the morning, at meals and at bedtime, when you travel, or have special needs.

• Say the rosary and attend Mass as a family.

• Pray that at least one of your children enter the priesthood or the religious life.

• Give your children an age-appropriate Bible and a book about
the saints. Read the stories to them.

• Welcome and support priests, religious and lay ministers in the church.

 

From secondary school to high school

• Continue to pray together. Invite your children to offer prayers.

• Attend Mass together and encourage them to receive the sacraments of the Eucharist and Confession regularly.

• Pray as a family for vocations and support your diocese’s vocation promotion efforts.

• Provide literature or media about people who have responded to God’s call to serve him.

• Go for pilgrimages to holy places as a family.

• Engage in open and healthy conversations with your children about their hopes and dreams.

• Encourage them to participate in and contribute to parish activities.

 

From university to young adult

• They are making important decisions about their future. Pray daily that they desire to give their lives in service to God.

• Encourage them to pray, reflect and listen to God’s call and, if heard, to respond generously and courageously.

• Discuss all options for your child’s future, including priesthood and religious life.

• Encourage them to participate in parish ministries and activities.

• If they have indicated interest in the priesthood or religious life, encourage them to attend vocation retreats or to visit religious orders to discern their calling. Help them to find a spiritual director.

 

Parents’ own faith formation

 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek answers to build up your own faith by attending faith formation sessions in your parish, Bible study and attending regular renewal retreats. You cannot give to your children what you do not have. Be patient with yourself and your child’s uncertainties and know that God is always present to help you with your call to parenthood.

THE SEMINARY HAS formed 35 priests from Singapore and 18  from other countries. Among the
Singapore priests are (by ordination dates):

John Sim (Jun 30, 1984)

William Goh (May 1, 1985)

Peter Koh (Jun 9, 1986)

Peter Tan (Feb 25, 1989)

James Yeo (May 1, 1989)

Michael Sitaram (Jan 7, 1990)

Eugene Chong (Jul 14, 1990)

Terence Pereira (Dec 28, 1990)

William Lim (May 20, 1990)

Henry Siew (Apr 14, 1991)

Cary Chan (May 1, 1992)

Edmund Chong (May 10, 1992)

Paul Yeo (May 17, 1992)

Richards Ambrose (Jul 28, 1993)

Erbin Fernandez (Jan 2, 1995)

Augustine Joseph (May 10, 1995)

Kenson Koh (Jul 25, 1995)

John Bosco Pereira (Jun 10, 1996)

Gerard Weerakoon Nov 4, 1996)

John Joseph Fenelon (Jun 10, 1998)

Stephen Yim (Jul 4, 1998)

Joachim Chang (Jul 20, 1998)

Albert Ng (Jan 19, 1999)

Adrian Yeo (Nov 6, 1999)

Alex Chua (Jan 2, 2000)

Luke Fong (Jun 20, 2001)

Frederick Quek (Jul 7, 2001)

Ignatius Yeo (May 27, 2002)

Brian D’Souza (Jul 7, 2002)

Stanislaus Pang (Jun 22, 2003)

Aloysius Ong (Jun 26, 2003)

Christopher Lee (Aug 28, 2005)

Damian De Wind (Aug 7, 2005)

Valerian Cheong (Aug 7, 2005)

Kenny Tan (Sep 4, 2005)

PARENTS TEACH US many beautiful truths but the greatest gift they can give us is a living faith and total trust in God. Many of us, I am sure, saw our parents turn to Jesus to draw strength from his sacred heart. They did not have to say any words. They just looked at him with expectation and trust, knowing he would provide. They believed that Mary was a good friend and mother who would never let her children down.

Are our children today learning this from us? Do they see us spend some time in silence, communing with God and listening to him as he speaks to our hearts?

There is vocal prayer that we recite with our lips. I heard my mother sing hymns to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, in a soft voice, many a time, as she went about her daily chores. She prayed with people in need before the picture
of Jesus or the statue of Mary, with simple faith. Mental prayer is using our minds and imagination.

We picture a scene from the Gospel and see ourselves in that scene and then read the word of God. Both vocal and mental are necessary and good. But we can also use contemplative prayer, when we allow the Spirit of God to pray within us: "Abba father." It makes a big difference to the atmosphere in our home. We open our lives to receive the fruit of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility and self-control to share with our family.

Many married couples today want to grow closer to the Lord. They want to experience deeper union with God. I have adapted these 12 steps from Father Jim Borst’s "Method of Contemplative Prayer":

1. To have some quiet time to relax and have inner silence.

2. To become aware of God’s presence in the cave of your hearts.

3. To have a deep longing for God’s presence and love, and express this desire: God loves me. With Jesus in my heart, what have I to fear? He is the Son of God. In my heart he is near. He is my good Shepherd who is accompanying me. Thank you Jesus for loving me. Holy Spirit, I need you. Let your mind and heart be purified so that they may become free and transparent to him.

4. Surrender to him all that you are and have and worry about. Let him carry you in the palm of his hand. Pray: "Abba Father, you are my father and I am your child. I am your own precious child."

5. Accept his love and forgiveness and see yourself as his beloved child.

6. Forgive from your heart anyone who has hurt you.

7. Repent of your sins and turn to the Lord to be saved. Come to receive from him, his love and grace and what he wants to give you to be a loving spouse and parent.

8. Ask in faith in Jesus’ name and listen as he tells you what he wants to give you to fulfil the mission he entrusts to you.

9. Contemplate yourself, your spouse and children in his loving embrace and allow him to provide for you and to love you all.

10. Receive the gifts, graces, blessings and crosses he gives you. Crosses are also blessings to save us.

11. Then thank and praise him.

12. Having sought God’s will and the coming of his kingdom, know that all you need and desire for yourself, your spouse and your family, according to his plan, will be given to you. Intercede in Jesus’ name.

Emphasize some steps one day and others on another day. Listen with your heart to Jesus who loves you and wants to live in you.

Of course, to make this time, we may need to prioritize how we budget our time. Maybe all you can find is 15 minutes for prayer; use it so that you may receive from the Lord the grace and the strength to be more loving and kinder spouses and parents. n

 

Note: Marriage Encounter Weekends are conducted on the first Friday of each month. For more information, visit www.marriage-encounter-sg.org.