Archive for August, 2010

8 Tips for Catholic Men

Posted: August 15, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

By Randy Hain, The Integrated Catholic Life

I had a recent epiphany as I was preparing myself for Reconciliation and realized that I was about to confess many of the same sins I have been struggling with for years.  I have made progress in some areas, but feel that I am going backwards in others.  Didn’t Einstein once say that the definition of insanity is “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?”

I spoke with a few Catholic brothers the next day and they readily confirmed facing the same problem: we all struggle to break out of repetitive sinful behaviors and avoid self-created obstacles to drawing closer to Christ.  We also agreed that we desire a closer relationship with Him, we all want to get to Heaven with our families and we all want to be devout in the practice of our Catholic faith.  So where do we slip up?  Why do we fall short?

I don’t often write specifically for a male audience, but I believe our gender has some particular and unique challenges to staying on the right path.  I hope to offer some useful insight which will help you, me and other Catholic men be more aware of these self-created challenges and take the necessary steps to overcome them.  Let me start by listing a few general observations about men which may be uncomfortable to read and acknowledge:

  • We often struggle with humility and let our pride and egos get in the way.
  • We like to be in control.
  • We can be stubborn and inflexible to change.
  • Our identities are often wrapped up in our careers.
  • We struggle to ask others (especially the Lord) for help.
  • We are often inclined to action when reflection and discernment are more appropriate.
  • We are usually uncomfortable with open displays of emotion (ours and others).
  • We may be overly concerned about the opinions of others (What will our buddies think?).

My wife would say this list accurately describes me!  What would your wife or girlfriend say about you?  Do these observations resonate with you?  My intent is not to make any of us feel bad, but to illustrate some of the obstacles between us and Christ.  OK, we have acknowledged the problem…now what?  Let’s explore how to get on the right path and stay there.

Over the years since my conversion into the Church, I have become increasingly self-aware about my shortcomings and how they negatively impact the practice of my faith.  Knowing my challenges is only half of the equation-I must be willing to address them (remember that guys are inclined towards action!).  Before we begin, let’s examine what we know for certain-we have a goal (Heaven), a road map (Scripture and Tradition), examplesto follow (the Saints), leadership (the Pope, Bishops, Priests and Deacons), clear teaching authority (the Magisterium of the Church), help along the way (the Sacraments) and we have Divine guidance (the Holy Spirit).  It is obvious that we have the tools and resources we need.

Let’s consider how we can make progress and stay on the right path.  I don’t know about you, but if I can’t form the solution to a problem into an actionable and achievable goal, I will often struggle.  Here is a list of eight practical actions I am working on which I hope you find to be helpful:

  1. Surrender. We have to surrender on an ongoing basis to Christ for His will to be done in our lives.  Guys, we are not in charge…as much as we want to be!  St. Ignatius of Loyola once said: “Few souls understand what God would accomplish in them if they were to abandon themselves unreservedly to Him and if they were to allow His grace to mold them accordingly.”
  2. Pray. Work on developing a daily prayer routine with the goal of at least an hour a day devoted to prayer.  Sound difficult?  Think about how much TV we watch a day.  Consider how much time we spend in our cars each day and how much time we devote to exercise.  We have more than enough time for prayer if we plan for it, schedule it and commit to it.  Pray the Morning Offering or other prayer before you leave home-10 minutes, Rosary in your car or while exercising-20 minutes, Daily Jesuit Examen-15 minutes, Prayer with all meals-5 minutes, Prayer with our children and spouse-10 minutes. Add it up-we just did an hour of prayer.
  3. Become passionate about the Eucharist. Want to fully experience Christ and be closer to Him?  Seek out the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist in daily Mass when possible and spend quiet time before the Blessed Sacrament in Eucharistic Adoration every week. St. Francis de Sales once said:“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”
  4. Go to Reconciliation more frequently-OK, we are hopefully praying and asking for God’s help with our burdens, but we are still saddled with the sins we commit daily.  Go to your Priest and partake of this wonderful gift we Catholics enjoy, but may not utilize enough-the Sacrament of Reconciliation.  Commit to going once a month.  A thorough examination of conscience and honest confession will lift your spirit and keep you on the right path!
  5. Accept and Study our Faith. Accepting the teaching of our Church is necessary, but so is the knowledge that our full understanding may take time.  Trust that two millennia of Church teaching is probably much more reliable than what you or I might conjure up on our own.  Go to a parish bible study, take apologetics classes, read the bible and catechism, and read great Catholic authors like Peter Kreeft, Don DeMarco, Scott Hahn, Francis Fernandez, G.K. Chesterton, Fr. Groeschel, Fr. Spitzer, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope John Paul II.
  6. Practice Detachment. Let’s ask ourselves if we really need “it”, what ever “it” is.  Let go of the material things that are in the way of our prayer lives, church attendance, charitable giving, friendships, volunteering and certainly our relationships with Christ.  The Catechism (2556) says, “Detachment from riches is necessary for entering the Kingdom of Heaven.”
  7. Understand our True Vocation. For those of us blessed to be married and have children, we must recognize that helping our families get to Heaven and being good husbands and fathers (and not our business careers) is our real vocation.  It is so easy to allow our family to serve our work (my issue many years ago) instead of having our work serve our family…and in turn, our family to serve the Lord.
  8. Be Courageous. Christians are meant to stand out, not blend in.  Blending in speaks to conforming and making sacrifices so our faith becomes part of the mainstream…and we need to fight it!  We live in difficult, trying times.  Families are under attack, our children are at risk, many people are blind to the need to respect and value all life and atheists are one of the fastest growing groups in the world.  We have an opportunity to be beacons of light and good examples of Christ’s redeeming love.  We will be judged one day on the fruits of our apostolate and hope to hear Jesus say the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

This list may look like a lot of hard work, but the real challenge is to practice these actions not as a bunch of new “to-dos,” but as part of a broader, unifying approach to a balanced and meaningful life that places Christ first in all areas of our lives.  I simply want to encourage all of us to remember that we are called to lead lives of holiness and we are made for Heaven, not this world.  As Catholic men, we have a responsibility to be strong fathers and husbands, leaders in our parishes, good stewards in the community and humble followers of our Lord.  Look to the example of St. Joseph, Patron Saint of fathers and the Universal Church for his obedience, humility, selflessness, courage and the love he showed to Mary and Jesus.  If we can emulate St. Joseph even a little each day, we will be that much closer to becoming the men we are called to be.

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To Priests in the Archdiocese of Singapore

Posted: August 12, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

A Letter from the Archbishop, Msgr. Nicholas Chia, to Priests in the Archdiocese of Singapore

8th December 2009

Dear brother priests,

The Second Vatican Council taught that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life.” In the liturgy, Christ is the celebrant. All of us are privileged to share in the prayer and sacrifice Christ offers to the Father through our baptism, which makes us part of the body of Christ, and through our ordination, which configures us to Christ the High Priest. As the visible body of Christ, the Church hence lays down how liturgy is to be celebrated. Our fidelity to the Church’s norms is a mark of our recognition that the liturgy is not our personal property which we can deal with as we please. Rather, it is a gift. In short, our fidelity to the way in which the Church desires us to celebrate the liturgy, is a mark of our love for God, God who loved us first, who now feeds us and his people with the body and blood of his beloved Son. It is also a sign of our love of the Church and our communion with each other. That is why, even as the Second Vatican Council sought certain liturgical reforms, it emphasised that no-one, not even a priest could alter anything in the liturgy on his own authority.

It is true that we do not like to be told what to do. Our fidelity to the liturgical norms demands something of us, it demands that we leave aside our personal likes and dislikes and do what the Church would have us do. It demands that we die to ourselves and to our thoughts of “improving” the liturgy by ad hoc changes on account of whatever we think best for ourselves or even for others. That demands conversion.

In 2002, the Church published a new General Instruction of the Roman Missal as part of the Third Edition of the post-Second Vatican Council Roman Rite Latin Missal. The General Instruction has been effective in Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei since 1 January 2009. In many respects, it is not too different from the earlier version. Nonetheless, its adoption for our region is an opportunity for liturgical catechesis and for renewing together our commitment to a worthy and dignified celebration of the Mass, as the Church wishes.

In the coming months, the Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission will be publishing a series of catecheses on various aspects of the General Instruction. In this, I would like to underline certain aspects which affect the whole body of the faithful, whenever Mass is celebrated, whether in a parish, school or religious community. I seek your co-operation in implementing these aspects in your respective communities.

[Liturgical Gestures and Posture.]

Liturgical gestures and postures performed by the entire congregation manifest outwardly the unity of the faithful in their baptism. I draw your attention to the following points.

– All are to strike their chest at the words “through my own fault” in the “I Confess” in order to express sorrow for sin.

– During the recitation of the Nicene Creed, all are to bow at the words “By the power of the Holy Spirit, he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man” to show our reverence for the mystery of the Incarnation.

– All are also invited to bow at the holy name of Jesus, for example, during the conclusion of the Opening Prayer of the Mass. In his name, the lame man walked and at his name, every knee shall bow.

– During the Eucharistic Prayer, all, other than the celebrating priest(s), are to kneel from the end of the Holy to the end of the consecration. In places where it remains the custom to kneel throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, this practice is to continue.

– The holding of hands during the Lord’s Prayer is not a recognised liturgical gesture and is not to be encouraged.

– The faithful may receive Holy Communion either kneeling or standing. Each communicant’s choice is to be respected. No-one is to be pressured to adopt one posture or the other. If a person chooses to receive Communion standing, he or she is either to genuflect, or if unable to do so, bow deeply, before receiving the Sacrament in order to express reverence for the Body of Christ.

– The faithful may receive Holy Communion either on the tongue or in the hand. Each communicant’s choice is to be respected. No-one is to be pressured to adopt one posture or the other.

[Liturgical Music]
Singing and chanting is another way in which we pray at Mass. There are different roles, each having their part, the priest, the cantor, the choir and the assembly, and these reflect the diversity of roles and gifts in the Church. They are not interchangeable at will. In terms of what is sung, I draw your attention to the following norms of the General Instruction:

– The above norm applies to the text of the Responsorial Psalm, which is to be taken from the Lectionary in the Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex. Our fidelity to the liturgy includes fidelity to the approved translations found in the Sacramentary and Lectionary. This applies to Mass celebrated in any language. A song may never be substituted for the Responsorial Psalm.

– Songs and hymns sung at Mass, other than those from the approved Latin chant books, i.e., the Graduale Romanum and Graduale Simplex, are to be approved by the Bishops’ Conference of Malaysia, Singapore and Brunei. The Liturgical Commission is working on a list of hymns to be submitted for approval.

– The lay faithful are to learn some common Latin chants in order to foster a common repertoire spanning all cultures, languages and regions. This is especially important given the great diversity of languages in which Sunday Mass is now celebrated in Singapore. We need to find a common repertoire which we can sing together. We should not become a Tower of Babel. If you or your parish choirs need assistance, please contact the Liturgical Music Committee.

– Musical settings for the text of the Mass, such as the Gloria, the Creed, the Holy, the Memorial Acclamation and the Lamb of God, must not deviate from the approved translation of the Order of Mass. Any element of paraphrase disqualifies a composition. A song may never be substituted for any part of the Order of Mass.

[Conclusion]

Our Lord’s prayer before he suffered was “that they may all be one.” The Church is the bearer of the hope for unity. To be a sign of unity and a beacon in the world, the Church must herself be united and her members united. We are sinners called to holiness and we know too well the effects of sin in our lives. Sometimes the worst quarrels are with those nearest to us, even in the Church. The liturgy can turn into an arena of conflict. But it should not be so, for we risk trampling on the great gift of the Father to us, the gift that makes us one, Jesus Christ, himself present in the liturgy through the Holy Spirit. The liturgy of the People of God is not a canvas for personal opinions, innovations and preferences, in conflict with the norms of liturgy. We should put our desire for unity in the Church into acts that build unity, a unity that is God-given in the first and with which we co-operate by opening ourselves to his grace. The implementation of this new General Instruction is an opportunity for us to respond in unity of gesture and voice, so that our outward actions may incline us more and more to conversion of hearts and a welcoming of God’s grace.

Yours devotedly in Christ,
Abp. Nicholas Chia

-Typed out by Jean Elizabeth Seah-

Jesuit Discernment Retreat

Posted: August 10, 2010 by piusranson in Uncategorized

“Dear God, which Way?”
Jesuit Discernment Retreat
Jesuit Novitiate; Church of St. Ignatius
6th August 2010 – 8th August 2010

After the many weeks of school work and presentations, the holidays’ arrived! It has been quite a period of time since I had a retreat, a  good one. I guess I have decided to come for this retreat not just to accompany a few other good friends but also for myself to learn more about the Jesuits and Ignatian methods of Discernment. They are very much known as the Masters of Discernment. Before going, I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to make use of Ignatian Spirituality to discern my life vocation.

The sixth day of the eighth month of A.D. 2010 was an interesting day for me. It’s one of the special days where I can hear God really calling me and trying to tell me something. The first highlight of that day was the reception of the Sacrament of Penance at St. Joseph’s Church, Victoria Street. I was on the way to St. Joseph’s Church, when my train on the circle line stalled at Esplanade Station for at least thirty minutes. For some reason, things always have to happen whenever I’m making a trip to St. Joseph’s for the Confession.

The last time when I was making my trip to SJC, there was an extremely heavy downpour and I do not have an umbrella. It seems like a rain that wouldn’t stop and if I waited for another 10 minutes, the Opus Dei Priest would have already left. While waiting at the Esplanade Station, the term “patience” just kept flashing in my mind.

O Lord, teach me Patience!

At that time, God seems to be asking why am I just so concerned about how fast I’ll be able to get to the Church. Ain’t I suppose to recollect myself for the Sacrament of Reconciliation later? The train finally moved…

As I went through the side door of St. Joseph’s Church, I smiled. I smiled because I saw at least ten people queuing for confession. When I go for Confession every other Fridays, it’ll the most be two to three penitents in the queue, sometimes none. I rejoice when I see people going to receive the Sacrament and be reconciled, just like at the Polytechnic Catholics’ Retreat. I was telling myself that morning that if I ever get ordained as a priest, I will spend most of my life as a priest, in the confessionals. The Church’s main mission is the Salvation of Souls and I pray that God will use me as an instrument to that mission.

There’s actually two sacraments going on at the same time! Quite very near of each other! The Sacrament of Penance and the Sacrament of the Eucharist! A requiem mass that is celebrated by at least six to eight redemptorists. Even though I only witnessed a very small part of the Mass, it was beautiful! Yes! There was no drums, no guitars, just an organ. It sounded sacred even though there wasn’t any Gregorian chants.

“I commit these mortal remains of Brother Joseph…” said a Redemptorist.  At that moment, I really felt God speaking to me again. I was like, “Hey! That’s the kind of thing I would like to do for God!” The attraction and calling to the priesthood was and is still very strong.

During Confession, Father reminded me that the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is fast approaching! August 15. As I step out of that mercy room, I saw at least another ten more penitents. I was late for my lunch appointment with Christopher Tan. Had awesome Fish Masala Crepe at “Out of the Pan”, and an interesting conversation probably not worth remembering.

After Lunch, I made my way back home to rest and to prepare myself for the Ignatian Retreat. I met Nicholas John Tan at Marymount Station before taking Bus 855, alighting at Block 6, some Block 6. Don’t really know where but we went looking for the Church of St. Ignatius. That Church sure wasn’t an easily accessible one.  After registering and collected my room key, we put out bags in our rooms before Brothers Leonard, Nicholas and myself went for the evening Mass.

Interesting Mass I must say. At entrance and exit, the priests, servers and lectors genuflected. Very nice gesture but why genuflect towards the altar? It was an organ-only Mass. After Mass, the retreat-ants met at the novitiate building for dinner followed by some Ice-breaking games. Following that was the first time doing the Examen (guided), a form of mental prayer, in the Ignatian Spirituality. The Examen is known as the Examination of Consciousness. Before this, I only know Examination of Conscience. We had to imagine a Beach while noticing our senses, sitting beside Jesus and talking to Jesus about my day. They mentioned that it’s the core of Ignatian Spirituality but I didn’t really find it good. Off to bed on day 1 at about 2am.

I woke up at 5am, well, not really 5am, but before 5.15am. Took my shower before going to the prayer room to say “Good Morning” to Jesus. Just started writing my Journal when I heard noises. I swear they were audible, some music. Went out of the prayer room to check but there wasn’t anything. Perhaps, it’s just due to my lack of sleep. I hope! Mass in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it being a Saturday, was at 7am.

To be continued…