AUGUST 2006

READING THE TESTIMONY written by Denise Miranda (CN, Aug 6, page 16), I was touched - especially, with the aptness of the image of the Divine Mercy behind them with the words "Jesus I trust in you". She trusted in him all the way without any doubts whatsoever. It brings to my mind the wording on the wall of my church on my baptismal day: "Doubt no more".

The other incident I like to share with your readers was this breaking of the ice incident. While in the lift, after coming back from my church on Sunday, a loving couple saw the copy of CatholicNews in my hand and asked me which church I belonged to. I replied and they told me which church they belonged to and we had a conversation. The ice was broken and we made friends; we are one big Catholic family. I felt the bond was there in such a meeting.

    Paul Tan

I CHANCED UPON the book, "Going Forth..." whilst browsing for books at my regular bookstore.

Much later, and to my consternation and from observations made, most Catholics I spoke to have not heard of it let alone own one. Some say that they vaguely remember reading about a review or announcement in CatholicNews.

I feel that those responsible for the publication of this book should make a more concerted effort to promote it, such as giving a book review in the book-review column of our local newspapers or promoting it to our Catholic schools, junior colleges and churches, with someone giving a talk on the History of the Catholic Church in Singapore.

Presently this book is available at most Catholic outlets and retailed at $25 a copy. It is certainly distressing to note so few Catholics would take an interest in how Catholicism evolved and came into being in Singapore. In the words of our Archbishop Nicholas Chia, in his foreword, "we cannot, but be touched by the faith and zeal of the missionaries who left their homelands and ventured into the unknown. They had to make long and dangerous journeys, leaving the comforts of their countries, settling among strangers, learning new languages and adapting to different cultures".

A book of this calibre, beautifully bound on hardcover, would normally retail at $50. I should know as I am a collector of books. At this present price it is a steal.

Let not our inertia, our interest or the lack of it, mar our pride in our church's history in Singapore.

I would like to urge all Catholics to proudly keep a copy of this book as a reference of this legacy.

    Ronald Lee

    S140184

THANK GOD for the Daughters of St. Paul and their effort in bringing the Good News to so many people. Mainland China desperately needs the Good News of Christ. I pray that the Daughters of St. Paul will be allowed to evangelize in China in the near future.

    Chris Yeong

"If I forget you O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither" (Ps 137:5)

HL1.jpgFranciscan Friar Joseph Nasanathan is Commissary of the Holy Land representing the Dioceses of Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei. He shares his thoughts on the effects of the Mideast conflict. 

Left, Friar Joseph Nasanathan with the Palestinian Arab Catholic children who are taken care of by the religious congregations in the old historic city of Jerusalem

I HAD THE privilege of visiting the Holy Land together with a group of pilgrims from Singapore just after Easter this year. The trip was my first and what an experience it was for me! It was as if every valley and every stone was sharing with me that the Lord walked there 2,000 years ago.

As the guide explained the significance of the places, every little town and city in our Bible history came alive.

I must express gratitude to the Christians who have preserved these places of Christian shrines right from the early period of Christianity. If it isn't for this existing Christian population, we would have no trace of these significant pilgrimage sites whatsoever.

Indeed, the Land of the Lord continues to be the scene of a conflict that has lasted decades and deprives Catholic communities and institutions of the adequate means to maintain and promote religious, humanitarian and cultural activities. This distressing situation leads to poverty and unemployment, with serious consequences for families and for the entire population. It also increases the disturbing phenomenon of the constant exodus of Christians, especially young couples for whom there is no prospect of a safe and dignified future.

(continued on page 2)

During my visit to the little town of Bethlehem, the birth place of Jesus, I was taken aback that the town is surrounded by high walls not unlike a prison.

Imagine having to go through a military check point just to enter this Holy City to say "Hi" to baby Jesus! What a contradiction to the incarnation (God becoming man) that took place in Bethlehem that is to bridge mankind to God. As the late pope John Paul II said, "What they need are bridges of reconciliation, not walls of division."

During the pilgrimage, I had the opportunity to celebrate Mass at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre; it was done close to the rock (Golgotha) where Christians believe was where the cross of Jesus stood. During the Eucharistic prayer, I felt the Lord ever so present in our celebration and that he is still praying for the entire world to overcome the sin of selfishness and division.

That Mass was also a healing experience for me, filling me with an awareness of how much I need the Lord's peace to bring healing and reconciliation in my ministry.

It is ironic that the church of the Holy Sepulchre, which is also the burial place of Jesus (the tomb of the resurrection), has been divided and is controlled by various Christian Churches. This church is so sacred to Christians because of the significance of the paschal events that brings about unity and peace. So why does it now stand divided? How true the words of Scripture, "They divided my garment among them (Mk 15:24)."

The only thing that comes to my mind is the message of Pope Benedict XVI which he gave on Jun 23, 2005 at the meeting of the Assembly of the Eastern Churches.

"The hope that the day of reconciliation between the various communities working in the Holy Land will not be long in coming; for this, let us unceasingly pray with trust. This is the responsibility incumbent upon the universal church with regard to the Mother Church of Jerusalem, to which all Christians have an unforgettable obligation."

(continued on page 3)

Role of Singapore church

The churches in Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei have been very generous in their support of the call of the Supreme Pontiffs and they have always shown the greatest concern for the Christian communities in the Holy Land.

Every year during Lent/Holy Week, the entire church is called to make special prayers and to give financial assistance to the needs of the church in the Holy Land.

This year the collection from the Diocese of Singapore amounted to S$126,658 which will certainly be of great help for the upkeep of the Holy places and above all, the pastoral, charitable and social works which the Mother Church supports in the Holy Land for the welfare both of their Christian brethren and of  local communities.

With the present crisis they are facing, the war in the Middle East, their need will be even greater than before. What else can we do? Let us come together and offer prayers for peace in the region, for the welfare of the innocent who are caught in the conflict, for the safety and strength of the Christian community, the priests, religious, especially the Franciscan friars (OFM) in whose custody the Mother Church (the Pope) has entrusted the pastoral and spiritual care of the local Christian community and the holy sites.

The pilgrims I travelled with have suggested that we come together for a prayer vigil for these needs. I thought it was a brilliant idea! Our awareness of the needs of the suffering church should stir us to be in solidarity with them. Prayers offered either as prayer vigil, family prayer or personal prayer are great ways to share the spirit of faith and charity.

This brings to mind my journey in the Sea of Galilee, of the story of Peter and the early followers who once faced a violent storm. Their prayerful requests awakened the Lord to command, "Peace! (Mk 4:39)". If the Lord could calm the mighty power of nature and instill peace by the prayer of the church, surely he would do great things for this blessed land.

FHS1.jpg"Blessed are the gentle" (Mt 5:4) - this proclamation of the Gospel can be applied to any human relationship and especially to spousal relationship, says Father Henry Siew. 

THE MORE A couple learn to be considerate of each other, the more they can learn to manage their anger, and the more intimate they become. Have you developed the disposition of gentleness? Or has it been neglected?

After a hard day's work, Peter returns home exhausted. The last thing he wants to hear is a load of complaints from his wife: "Why are you home so late? You promised to come back early to have dinner with me and the children…Your son failed his maths test. I told you that we should control his Internet access time."

Peter would not be in a proper frame of mind to respond appropriately to his wife's complaints there and then. If he retorted with something like, "Is he not your son too? Why can't you do something?", they might have a big quarrel.

(continued on page 2)

Jenny damages the family car when she crashes it into a lamp post. Distressed, she rings her husband, only to be reprimanded by him: "How do you drive? Do you know how troublesome it is to have the car repaired and to claim insurance?"

How would she feel when she hears that? How will these angry words affect their relationship? Many of life's problems are related to children, work, parents, in-laws, church, and even to daily household matters. Nobody wants these problems. So when they happen, we get upset and anxious. But we should not vent our frustration and anger on those around us.

Take some time to ponder - would you like to be treated with harsh words from others? When an unpleasant situation arises in our life, we desire patience and understanding from others. This is especially true in close relationships, like that between husband and wife.

Even a few caring words, or a gesture of concern such as a hug, would make the distressed spouse contented. But more often than not, when one spouse pours out her woes, the other chides or ignores her. When this mode of response happens often, it is hard for the couple to maintain a loving relationship.

In some cases, the injured party may meet someone else who gives her the needed attention and consideration and become attracted to him. This may lead to an extra-marital affair, which was not desired initially.

(continued on page 3)

Do not focus on problems

If you do not know how to respond adequately to an outpouring of grievances, complaints or accusations from your spouse, just say or show something which expresses your acceptance. For example, say to your spouse "you are upset", "something is bothering you", or give her a tender hug or place your arm on her shoulder. Sensing your love, her load will be lightened and her wound healed. You yourself will feel good.

Don't let indignation and frustration take control of you, and especially do not condemn or berate your spouse. If that happens, do not excuse yourself with reasoning like "she provoked me... I just couldn't control my temper..." There is no need to defend yourself or to put the blame on someone else. Only when you acknowledge your bad behaviour and realize that it is harmful to the relationship with your spouse, can you learn gentleness and kindness.

No matter how big or serious a problem is, as long as the couple is of one heart, the problem cannot hurt the relationship. Be person-centered - focus on the relationship you want to maintain, not on the problem. When the emphasis is right, you learn how to forgive and give.

Think about which is more important in your life - is it your money, car, career, ego or is it the intimate bond between you and your loved one?

(continued on page 4)

You can be gentle

If your spouse does not know how to treat you with gentleness, tell him you need it. Tell him that when bad things happen, you need kind words and tender love from him, not solutions and big plans and certainly not harsh words or belittling actions. When your spouse asks, "What do you want me to do?" do not yell "You should know better". Instead, tell him what you need - love and understanding.

Of course you are not to take your spouse's kindness and gentleness for granted, repaying them with irresponsible and abusive behaviour. Goodness and kindness must be reciprocated. If you have been rough and ill-tempered, it may be difficult now to be considerate to your spouse, but it is not impossible.

FrHenrySiew.jpgDo not lose heart when you fail initially. What is important is for you to come to awareness. Once you desire it and make an effort to practise it, you are on the way to becoming a gentle and kind person. In the end, it is up to you to decide what kind of person you want to be! Blessed are the gentle!

Father Henry Siew, parish priest of St. Anne's Church, is spiritual director to Mandarin Marriage Encounter Weekend.