MARCH 2007

CATHOLICNEWS IS TO be commended for publishing articles relating to Lent for reflection (CN, Mar 18).

They challenge Catholics to pause for a moment during this season of Lent to think of those in society who are going through difficult times.

Of poverty, Blessed Mother Teresa once said: "There are many kinds of poverty. Even in countries where the economic situation seems to be robust, there are expressions of poverty hidden in a deep place, such as the tremendous loneliness of people who have been abandoned and who are suffering ."

Of money, she said: "Let us not be satisfied just by giving money. Money is not everything. Money is something you can get. The poor need the work of our hands, the love of our hearts. Love, an abundant love, is the expression of our Christian religion."

She had this to say about generosity: "I believe it was Saint Vincent de Paul who used to say to those who wanted to join his congregation: 'Never forget, my children, that the poor are our masters. That is why we should love them and serve them, with utter respect, and do what they bid us.'

"Do you not believe that it can happen, on the other hand, that we treat the poor like they are a garbage bag in which we throw everything we have no use for? Food we do not like or that is going bad - we throw it there.

"Perishable goods past their expiry date, and which might harm us, go in the garbage bag: in other words, go to the poor. An article of clothing that is not in style anymore, that we do not want to wear again, goes to the poor.

"This does not show any respect for the dignity of the poor; this is not to consider them our masters, like Saint Vincent de Paul taught his religious, but to consider them less than our equals."

All these and a lot more inspiring anecdotes and sayings of Blessed Mother Teresa are recorded in the book, "Mother Teresa - In her own words" by Jose Luis Gonzales-Balado.

This book, if read reflectively and prayerfully, should bring abundant blessings to Catholics who want to do something beautiful for the poor in Christ this Lenten season.

Nelson Quah

Singapore 650524

16.jpgFATHER DESMOND REID, S.J. went to his eternal reward at 5.20am Feb 20, 2007, in Mt Alvernia Hospital, in the company of his Jesuit brothers and parishioners. He would have turned 86 in May this year. Father Reid had been in poor health for many years but his condition deteriorated over the last couple of months. He succumbed to lung failure.

Father Reid was born in a family of 10 in Dublin, Ireland on May 14, 1921. He was educated by the Christian Brothers in Dublin. Father Reid was a sportsman in school, with football and boxing (yes, boxing) being his two favourites.

He entered the Society of Jesus on Dec 7, 1940, was ordained on Jul 31, 1953 and celebrated his first Mass at St. Agnes' Convent, Crumlin, Ireland on Aug 1, 1953. Before he left Ireland, he was a lecturer in the College of Industrial Relations, Dublin, and edited a major Jesuit publication.

His interest in publication never waned even when he was in Singapore. Since 1975, he patiently and painstakingly produced the much-loved parish publication of St. Ignatius - "Sharing". Up to the time of his death, the upcoming issue after Easter was being planned.

Father Reid was, at various times, the Parish Priest of the Church of St. Ignatius, Assistant Jesuit Novice Master, and Spiritual Director of various Legion of Mary Praesidia.

He was also a member of the first Senate chaired by then Archbishop Gregory Yong. Father Reid was instrumental in starting catechism classes for expatriate children, the only one in the archdiocese then. As prolific writer and avid reader, Father Reid began the very first parish bookstore-cum-religious stall.

Perhaps Father Reid will be best remembered for his untiring efforts as coordinator for the Jesuit Refugee Services at the height of the exodus of the boat people from Vietnam after the war. Father Reid would not only appeal for material donations for the refugees in the Hawkins Road Camp, he would personally go down to mingle with them, teaching them English.

Up to almost the day he died, in his own inimitable way, Father Reid was still "active" in the parish of St Ignatius. He wasn't "active" in the ordinary sense of the word; rather he was very much aware of happenings in the parish and Jesuit community, and maintained an interest in parishioners young and old.

A remarkably humble person, Father Reid had a deep compassion and love for people. He always had time for others, even when he was clearly unwell. He had a dry sense of humour which was always disarming and which delighted those who knew him. Not a food aficionado, Father Reid liked his food warm and loved eggs, especially egg sandwiches. Father Reid's life touched and turned around so many lives. This was so evident at the funeral Mass on Feb 22. He will be missed by many.

Father Desmond Reid, pray for us. Eternal rest grant unto him O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon him. May he rest in peace.

The Jesuit community thank all for their condolences and prayers.

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Quotable quotes from Father Desmond Reid

"I first came to Singapore on a charter flight for missionaries. At Karachi, we stopped to refuel and the temperature there was over 100°F. I remember thinking, "If Singapore is like this, I'll be dead in a week". It was a relief to emerge from the arrival hall into a mere 80°F."

"Heat suits me: I'm a hothouseplant. The weather warmth was matched and  surpassed by the warmth and friendliness of the parishioners in Singapore. Throughout my 36 years, this has never waned."

"I thank my God each time I think of you and when I pray for you, I pray with joy." Father Reid made these words of St. Paul his own.

GUEST COMMENTARY - Catholic San Francisco

CATHOLICS INVOLVED IN efforts to end capital punishment long have noticed an inconsistency among some of their fellow death penalty opponents - namely an unwillingness to extend the argument for life to the unborn. This inconsistency is counter to Catholic Church teaching, which calls for respect for life from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death.

Nonetheless, many people of goodwill continue to exhibit disconnect when it comes to life issues. This sad situation was highlighted in December 2006 by an extraordinary set of contrasting  developments.

In mid-December, death penalty opponents cheered the decision of a California judge who put a moratorium on executions in the state while the issue of execution protocols - whether pain was caused to the person undergoing execution - was resolved. Also, a judge in Maryland and the governor of Florida stopped pending executions in those states because of humanitarian concerns related to death by lethal injection. In California, U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel asked whether those executed suffered "unconscionable pain and suffering".

But just 10 days earlier, on Dec 6, the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act died in the House of Representatives when it failed to receive the two-thirds majority needed to break a procedural impasse. The legislation would have required that women undergoing an abortion 20 weeks into their pregnancy be informed that an abortion causes pain to the unborn child. The bill also would have given women the option of choosing anesthesia for their unborn child to lessen his or her pain during the abortion.

This proposed legislation - intended to provide greater information to women undergoing an abortion - was stopped, despite the testimony of objective medical experts, such as Dr Kanwaljeet Anand, a foetal pain researcher at the University of Arkansas, that foetuses as young as 20 weeks old feel pain.

In this contrast, the life-issue disconnect becomes obvious and cruelly ironic. On the one hand, executions of convicted murderers are put on hold out of concern that inmates may suffer pain during execution. On the other hand, the possibility that unborn children may feel pain is denied - and U.S. representatives demonstrate more concern for the treatment of research animals than they do for the pain felt by the unborn.

However, there will be an opportunity for U.S. senators and U.S. representatives to reconsider the issue of foetal pain in the current 110th Congress. Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., reintroduced the Unborn Child Pain Awareness Act on Jan 22. He said, "It's a scientific, medical fact that unborn children feel pain. We know that unborn children can experience pain based upon anatomical, functional, psychological and behavioural indicators that are correlated with pain in children and adults. Mothers seeking an abortion have the right to know that their unborn children can feel pain."

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While women who have experienced pregnancy are keenly aware of the sensory capabilities of a baby in the womb, medical researchers are not of one mind on the question of foetal pain. Some researchers - those not willing to admit the possibility that an unborn child in the mother's womb can feel pain - describe a baby's withdrawal from a probing needle simply as "a neurological response".

It is a sad irony that defenders of capital punishment have used this same phrase in explaining the final, fitful death throes of inmates undergoing execution.

On the question of foetal pain, we should remember that a baby in the womb at four weeks has a heart that has begun to pump. At eight weeks, the unborn baby makes spontaneous movements. By the ninth week, the central nervous system has functional connections between the sensory and motor neurons; and the baby is able to contract large muscles. At 20 weeks gestation, the baby's muscles strengthen, nerve networks expand and the skeleton hardens.

The baby in the womb is active and coordinated, capable of gymnastic feats. Ears are well developed and can recognize sound. After six months in the womb, the baby's movements are even more coordinated, pedalling feet and pushing against the uterine wall. The baby has developed a strong grip and vocal cords are functioning. Eyes can open and close and react to light. A child born at this point (about 26 weeks) can survive with intensive care.

If courts, legislatures and governors are willing to suspend capital punishment out of concern that criminals might feel pain in the process of an execution, surely we - as a nation - ought to have the same consideration for unborn children capable of entering this life. The foetal pain legislation now in Congress gives women additional information at a crucial time. It is a modest step that can be supported by all those who are concerned about the value of human life.

("Moral aspects of pain" first appeared in the Feb 23 issue of Catholic San Francisco, newspaper of the Archdiocese of San Francisco.)

THANKS FOR THE most enlightening question-and-answer article, "Does the Catholic Church allow organ donation?" (CN, Mar 4). It clearly gave the official position of the Catholic Church on this important issue. Of late there has been much debate on the topic of organ trading in the local newspapers.

Some readers felt that this should not be allowed as there are controversial moral issues involved. Furthermore it could lead to possible abuse and criminal practices.

What is the official stand of the Catholic Church on organ trading? It would be good if CatholicNews could shed light on this equally important subject for the benefit of its readers.

Nelson Quah

Singapore 650524

THE PUBLIC RESPONSE to the recent Lunar New Year $10 million TOTO jackpot was a phenomenon. Many Singaporeans had no qualms about spending hours queuing to buy TOTO tickets. Some even travel from afar to queue at perceived "lucky" outlets to buy their lucky ticket.

A friend of mine commented that it is indeed quite remarkable the things people willingly do and endure for the chance to get rich.

In a way, it reflects the motivation and wants of many people, not only Singaporeans; essentially it is money, lots of money. Has anyone done a check on how much Singaporeans spend on lottery annually? How many times have you heard someone say his or her biggest wish is to strike a lottery?

I think the reason why many people are so obsessed with the lottery is because, sad to say, striking the lottery may be the biggest hope that they ever have in life and, for some, probably their only hope. If it is indeed true, it is really very sad and depressing.

This could be made worse by the widening income gap, the rich being richer and the poor being poorer, the increasing competitiveness in the job market, the increasing demand of life and the rise in the cost of living, GST etc. So lottery naturally becomes the only hope of getting out of the situation or moving up the social ladder if you are not one of those blessed rich or a high earner.

What could be easier and faster than winning the lottery? But then again, are these people searching for hope in the right places? Will they truly be fulfilled and happy if they strike the lottery? Do they know and understand that true hope and fulfilment can only come from God?

During this Lent as we talk about prayers, fasting and giving alms, have we remembered the spiritually poor? Many of them are out there amongst us. Besides giving alms in terms of money or material to the poor; as Christians let us also not forget to bring and give hope to the spiritually poor by sharing God's love and spreading the word of God. Let us bring real hope to those who need it.

Quek Hong Choon

Singapore 498839