Contemplata aliis Tradere

A meagre contribution to the mission and work of the Order of Preachers: my reflections, thoughts, ideas and the occasional rant on matters mainly theological, philosophical and ecclesiastical, drawn primarily from my reading and experience of life and the world. Striving to be always Catholic, firmly Christian and essentially Dominican, flavoured with dashes of Von Balthasar.

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Location: Oxford, United Kingdom

A son of the English Province of the Order of Friars Preachers (Dominicans); born in Malaysia but have lived in the USA, Singapore, the UK & the Philippines for varying durations. A pilgrim and way-farer, a searcher for Truth on the journey of Life... "Wherever the Catholic sun doth shine, There’s always laughter and good red wine. At least I’ve always found it so. Benedicamus Domino!" - Hilaire Belloc

Friday, April 29, 2005

Life is a constant change...

Well... here I am back in beautiful Skipton and it truly looks as beautiful today as the photo above! It's strange to think that just two days ago, I was still in the tropical island paradise of Singapore and now I am here in the Yorkshire Dales, living in what I call "natural air-conditioned" comfort! It's strange to be back after 16 months away... I feel like I am in a dream. Here, nothing has changed very much; life has carried on while I have had such adventures in Manila and now I am back, a changed man with new perspectives.

Almost 48 hours ago, I arrived at Changi airport in Singapore, accompanied by a dear friend from my school days in Singapore, and was told at the KLM check-in counter that the flight was overbooked and they asked me if I would swap to a "direct" flight on Singapore airlines. I jumped at the chance and twenty minutes later, they confirmed that I was given a seat on the SIA flight... They also gave me a 300 Euro voucher on KLM in reparation which was a pleasant surprise! The flight was uneventful and I was kept well occupied by the 100+ videos on demend available! We all discovered at Zurich that direct flights simply mean one does not change planes but we did stop at the airport. Here, we were bizarrely asked to disembark and herded into the airport and directly to security screening to re-board the plane. Wierd! And why did we need to be screened again? We'd come directly from the plane! Zurich airport was shrouded in fog and the whole place struck me as cold, clinical and unwelcoming. It was all grey concrete and glass and chrome - which made me think of a fancy Nazi camp and was a far cry from the warmth and colour and bustle of Changi...

Returning to Manchester airport, my fatigue-addled brain was in a daze as I made my way through immigration, picked up my luggage and ran to the train station. The ride to Leeds was familiar yet seemed so distant in my memory; I watched it all go by as in a dream. In Leeds station, I waited for the Skipton-bound train and got on, only to be told that due to a train failure further along the tracks, no trains were leaving Leeds for Skipton. We waited another 30 minutes for this to be rectified before they finally announced the definite cancellation of the service. Frustrated, tired and desperate, I decided to take a taxi and pay the 40 Pounds Sterling fare to get home and to a shower!!

40 Pounds... that's almost a month's pay for the teachers at the school where I taught in Dagat-dagatan! It was an eye-opener! The journey by car to Skipton was progressively beautiful. One left the inner city squalor of Leeds and came upon more open fields and rolling hills. As we crossed the Ilkley moors, it was so pleasant and lovely to see sheep in the fields tending their gambolling lamb - idyllic indeed. Fr Peter was at the door to greet me with open arms and I was pleasantly surprised to see more parishioners inside the Presbytery hard at work, cooking for a fund-raiser today. There was no karaoke and no welcome party, as in Manila, but their smiles and sincere embrace was welcome enough.

I went up to my room, had that warm shower and unpacked, rooted out some of my stored CDs and clothes and prayed... so began another chapter of my life - back in Skipton, surrounded by all my (many) worldly possessions but somehow not home yet...

The words of one of my favourite childhood songs comes to mind. Incidentally it is by Jose Mari Chan, a famous Filipino singer and composer:
"We're on the road,
We move from place to place;
And oftentimes when we're about to call it home,
We have to move along:
Life is a constant change..."

On another note, today is not a bad day at all to begin my first full day back in Europe! It is the Feast of the great Dominican saint and Patroness of Europe, Catherine of Siena. May she pray for us. I also wish to remember especially the Siena Dominican sisters, named in her honour, who were such friends and an inspiration to me in the Philippines.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

OP? What is that?

When I was a teenager, there was a popular surfing wear brand called 'Ocean Pacific' or OP. In the Philippines, we joke that OP means 'Order of Pogi' or 'Order of the Handsome ones'; my students told me that OP means 'Original Priest'! A few years ago, when I mentioned the Order to some parishioners in Skipton, they asked me if it was a new order... only 800+ years old, I said!!

In fact, O.P. means 'Ordinis Praedicatorum' or Order of Preachers. More commonly, the members of this Order are called Dominicans, after their founder, St Dominic de Guzman. The picture above is a popular symbol of the Order based on a dream that St Dominic's mother, Blessed Jane de Aza had and also a pun on the Latin phrase "Domini canes" which means 'The Dogs of the Lord'.

In just 5 hours I shall be boarding a plane in Singapore and flying 6000 miles to England to undergo interviews and ask for admission as a Novice in the Order of Preachers in England.
I know some of you may be wondering about the Dominicans and these people I want to join in their work of praising, blessing and preaching. The BBC link given below is a good place to start.

In January 2005, the BBC produced an excellent little webpage that explained more about the Dominicans and their life. They are called 'Blackfriars' in England and to find out why, click on the link! Also view the video which is quite evocative and has scenes from Blackfriars, the Oxford hall where Dominicans are trained and study. God willing I shall find a home there too.

Please again, may I ask you all to pray for me in the months ahead. Thank you.

Our Lady of the Rosary and St Dominic, pray for us all, seekers for Truth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005


A few days ago a friend and I walked into a bead shop and I was entranced by the many strands of beads hewn from a variety of stone and crystal. I was particularly attracted to a marvellous blue stone called lapis howlite. Inspired by their natural beauty, I decided it would be wonderful to try and make something with them - a Rosary.

I went home and thought about it for a few more days, and decided that I could try to construct a full twenty-decade Rosary. Yesterday, I returned to the shop with a friend (armed with her discount card) and bought the blue beads, a string of larger pink stone beads (I forgot the name of the stone) and small sterling silver beads to space out the larger beads. The shop also sold the crucifix and connecting medallion for a Rosary and I bought strong nylon thread.

Finally, I had some time to myself at 9pm, so armed with some coffee and my MP3 player and listening to music from the Philippines, I started on my first beading project and Rosary ever. It wasn't too difficult and within 45 minutes I completed the first five decades. I decided then that they would make very lovely presents! I carried on threading - the silver beads were quite tricky - and my sister Bridget helped with one decade.

Finally at 1.15pm, I put the final knots on the Rosary, praying that they were secure enough and would not unravel! You can judge the results for yourself above. The whole experience was actually quite therapeutic, a 4 hour exercise of prayer and a labour of love. It's so much better than just buying one from the shop, which are so over-priced!

I love the Rosary as a way of prayer, especially when I feel tired or lost or ill at ease. Saying the Rosary helps me to feel like I am holding Mary, my Mother's hand and she is taking me to her Son, leading me into the mysteries of his life, death and Resurrection.

Would anyone like to commission a hand-made Rosary?!

Sunday, April 24, 2005

God bless our Pope!

"Full in the panting heart of Rome
Beneath the apostle's crowning Throne.
From pilgrims' lips that kiss the ground,
Breathes in all tongues one only sound.
God Bless our Pope, the great, the good,
God Bless our Pope, the great, the good!"

The words of that hymn by Cardinal Wiseman of Westminster (1802 - 1865) and its fantastic tune resounded at the end of Mass on Sunday morning in the parish here in Singapore where we prayed for Pope Benedict XVI and even made a public pledge of loyalty to the Holy Father. The last time I sang those words was in Skipton on the occasion of John Paul II's Silver Jubilee as Pope.

But the highlight of the day was the Papal Inaugural Mass when the Holy Father was invested with the pallium - a lovely large Eastern style one - and the Fisherman's ring. The large pallium is an important return to the ancient practice of the Church and a good sign of respect for the traditions of the Oriental churches; liturgically, it is much more obviously a garment and a very visible symbol of the pastoral office. Another sign of respect for the Eastern chuches was the reading of the Gospel in Greek by the Byzantine deacon; a traditional and unique ritual of the traditional Papal Mass. Gone is the Triple Tiara, replete with monarchial overtones but I must say I had hoped the Pope would be taken around the Piazza in the sedia gestatoria instead of the white jeep (which just looks a little tacky juxtaposed with the ancient vestments and the Baroque surroundings) but I suppose time had moved on and things have truly changed for good...

There was a lovely part of the old Coronation rite that I think should be re-instated: the Cardinal Deacon used to ignite a ball of flax as the Pope processed down the nave of St Peter's and he would intone three times: "Pater sancte, sic transit gloria mundi" (Holy Father, so passes the glory of the world). This symbolic act is a fitting reminder of mortality and humility and so evocative for a world all too caught up in its pleasures and glory.

The Holy Father's homily was beautiful, revealing the depth, humility and spirituality of the man. It was also full or erudition and insight, so typical of Ratzinger. In particular, I wish to highlight below these words:

"My real programme of governance is not to do my own will, not to pursue my own ideas, but to listen, together with the whole Church, to the word and the will of the Lord, to be guided by Him, so that He himself will lead the Church at this hour of our history."

Truly the Bishop of Rome is Servum servorum Dei and not the Re-fashioner of Christ's Gospel as some would will him to be. Pope Benedict has made it clear that he will teach and encourage only that which is faithful to the Gospel given to him from Christ and the saints in His Church.

An ancient text, from the 7th century used to be taken in oath by the Popes at their installation until 1978. It is a fitting reminder, in its solemnity of the limitations on the papal prerogative:

"I vow to change nothing of the received Tradition, and nothing thereof I have found before me guarded by my God-pleasing predecessors, to encroach upon, to alter, or to permit any innovation therein;

To the contrary: with glowing affection as her truly faithful student and successor, to safeguard reverently the passed-on good, with my whole strength and utmost effort;

To cleanse all that is in contradiction to the canonical order, should such appear; to guard the Holy Canons and Decrees of our Popes as if they were the divine ordinance of Heaven, because I am conscious of Thee, whose place I take through the Grace of God, whose Vicarship I possess with Thy support, being subject to severest accounting before Thy Divine Tribunal over all that I shall confess;

I swear to God Almighty and the Savior Jesus Christ that I will keep whatever has been revealed through Christ and His Successors and whatever the first councils and my predecessors have defined and declared.

I will keep without sacrifice to itself the discipline and the rite of the Church. I will put outside the Church whoever dares to go against this oath, may it be somebody else or I.

If I should undertake to act in anything of contrary sense, or should permit that it will be executed, Thou willst not be merciful to me on the dreadful Day of Divine Justice.

Accordingly, without exclusion, We subject to severest excommunication anyone -- be it Ourselves or be it another -- who would dare to undertake anything new in contradiction to this constituted evangelic Tradition and the purity of the orthodox Faith and the Christian religion, or would seek to change anything by his opposing efforts, or would agree with those who undertake such a blasphemous venture."

Severe words indeed!

Over the past few days, the Holy Father has shown to the world and the media his compassion and humanity, his gentleness and love. His warmth clearly came across in his smiles today and he has not been as severe as the words above (and the world's liberal press) would appear. I pray that he may also reconcile those who were at odds with him when he was head of the CDF. There are a few interesting and amusing articles around which speculate and mull over the future of this Pontificate. I love this one by Damian Thompson (whom I broadly agree with) but it should be read with Cardinal Cormac's article, both from The Telegraph. Others are too crazy for words; I am particularly dismayed by ex-Dominican Rev Dr Fox's words. Fortunately, the Order of Preachers got rid of him!! But the best compilation of all the articles on the Pope is still at His Holiness' fansite!

As Pope Benedict XVI, the first pope of the 21st century embarks on his Petrine ministry, an "enormous task, which truly exceeds all human capacity" let us pray for him, as he implored us today and to join the saints in heaven who are surely doing so too.

May Mary, Mother of the Church lead him into the Heart of Christ her Son and our Redeemer.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Soul space

A good old school friend of mine told me today that the inhabitants of the Island-City-State she calls home should not be called Singaporeans but Rushians... Here, in the nation that my family has taken to calling "Swingapore", life is certainly very fast-paced and the key word is 'efficiency'.

As a secondary school student here, I remember teachers barking at us: "Where's your sense of urgency?!!" if we were deemed to be a little tardy in getting from one classroom to another.

The days are certainly packed in Swingapore. There is one engagement after another and my friends who are working are frantically busy. It is a marked change from my sojourn in the Philippines where life is so relaxed (for most) that meetings can go on for as many hours as necessary (6 hours is not unusual) and the streets are full of unemployed youth loitering, playing basketball, flying kites or eating. Somewhere between the two lies a healthy via media.

For me, for the serious Christian, I feel that solitude and quiet is a necessity. Sadly in both places - overcrowded Manila and over-busy Singapore - this essential ingredient to the Christian life is in short supply. I personally find that without this time away with God, I become irritable and ill at ease with life. The Lord himself often went away to quiet places to escape the crowds and to pray. How much more would we need to do that...

At least the Philippines has places of quiet retreat and one need only venture into the beautiful province of Laguna, an hour or less out of Manila to find tranquility and peace, space and inspiration to reflect and pray. Not so in Singapore. There is no broad sweeping plains or high mountains, no monastery or convents to go away to. I imagine that the next best thing would be to escape into a boat and sail into the open sea! Or drive to Malaysia! In fact, the Gospels record how Jesus did the former to find peace away from the crowds!

Fortunately, many of the churches have an Adoration Chapel where one can retreat and have quiet time with the Lord. Without these oases of peace (quite unlike the artificiality of spas and the like, so much in vogue today) I reckon ones soul simply withers. As Henri Nouwen would say, prayer is like breathing for the soul. Without it, without solitude and peace, the soul is asphyxiated!

In moments of spiritual asthma, I hear the voice of the Lord, the Lover calling to my soul, the Beloved:
"Arise my love, my fair one, and come away..." (Song of Songs 2:10)

Friday, April 22, 2005


I personally find it hard to imagine a life without books and yet in the Philippines, I realised what a luxury they were. The poor school I taught in had a library stocked predominantly with old school textbooks and cast offs. There were no colourful children's books, visual encyclopaedias and beautifully illustrated children's Bibles or story books. The homes I visited had few books - maybe a set of old encyclopaedias if one was fortunate but mainly religious tracts and pamphlets and old school textbooks. The public schools I visited were even worse. A class of 60 may share about 10 of fewer textbooks.And without books around them, children did not develop a culture of reading. They watched TV, played computer games but generally did not like to read and did not read even signs - a visual people.

I have been blessed with books all around me from birth. As a child my grandfather, uncle and parents used to read to me every night; as I grew older, I learned to read these favourite stories for myself and I would exasperate my grandmother asking her to buy yet more books for me to devour... As a child I had bookplates with this phrase that captivated me: "Books fall open, you fall in". How true that still is for me and as my appetite for answers to my curious mind developed, I read more and more non-fiction. In this way, I discovered Catholicism!

Everywhere I go, I have an irresistable urge to enter a bookshop and browse... and my attention is drawn by a myriad subjects and topics - theology and religion of course and then philosophy, history, popular culture, anthropology, fine arts, architecture, poetry, popular science, computing, marketing and economics etc. It's odd but as I grew older, my reading taste veered away from fiction, although I do still enjoy (some) fantasy and Sci-fi, historical novels and the odd Asian novel.

One of the more fascinating books I read recently was about the "History of Reading" by Alberto Manguel. It was written by a bibliophile for bibliophiles and it was amazing to see how reading as a skill and past-time had developed and evolved. I often keep many books on the go, reading as many as 20 books concurrently. At the moment I am reading "Reformation" by Dairmaid MacCulloch and it is really interesting. I am also reading "Principles of Catholic Theology" by Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI), "Truth is Symphonic" by Hans Urs von Balthasar and "The End of Poverty" by Jeffrey Sachs.

Everywhere I go, I have accumulated a library of books around me. I had to ship a box of them back from Manila and I have three shelves full in Kuala Lumpur and boxes and boxes in Skipton. I recall one trip I made to London and Oxford and I bought so many books that in the course of lugging them from one city to another, train station after another, the wheels of my pull-along baggage broke! When I returned to KL from Skipton 2 years ago, I sent back 25kgs of books... I simply cannot bear to be parted from them!

I remembering reading once a caricature of the Dominican as one who is typically burdened with books and dragging them behind him from place to place. And yet there is a touching story of St Dominic selling a precious annotated book in order to give alms to a poor man...

As I continue to drag my books from city to city, I wonder if that is not the wiser action or perhaps I should establish a library somewhere, such as Dagat-dagatan?! My other vice is music and CDs... but I shall leave that for another day...

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Lingua Latina

Looking at the first papal Mass of Pope Benedict XVI, celebrated in the Sistine Chapel with the Cardinal-Electors, certain things are note-worthy.

The Ordinary of the Mass, sung in Latin,was the 'Cum Jubilo' Gregorian chant setting. This beautiful setting is traditionally used for important feasts of Our Lady. As such, the Mass was infused with her motherly presence...

The entire Mass with the exception of the First Reading was in Latin, the ancient and official language of the Latin rite Church. What was especially striking is that the Holy Father addressed the Lords Cardinal after Mass in Latin too. This is a reminder of the days of Vatican II when the entire proceedings and debates (with a few exceptions) were in Latin, a language which the body of bishops understood and could (with varying degrees of fluency) converse in.

It was reported only last month that His Holiness is one of the only remaining fluent Latin speakers in the Holy See, so I wonder what his Cardinals thought of his address. If I were them, I would brush up on my Latin!

Although I have not personally studied Latin formally, I have a keen interest and great love for this beautiful language and I was able to follow along with much of the Latin liturgy and prayers broadcast these past weeks.

The predominance of Latin in the Pope's first Mass is not surprising: most papal Masses are at least 75% Latin. Moreover this was a 'private' Mass among the Cardinals and their new Pontiff. However, the address in Latin may signify Benedict XVI's oft-published belief that Latin in the liturgy and the Church should be re-invigorated, although he did not think that Latin Masses should be a matter of course.

It is a fact that the 1983 Code of Canon Law drawn up by John Paul the Great still requires Latin to be taught in seminaries. The seminarians I met in Manila told me this is the case for them but I know many Western seminarians would have no clue whatsoever of Latin. My own attempts to study the language on a voluntary basis in seminary floundered because there was no official support or encouragement for this. I unnderstand that Dominican novices and student-brothers still study Latin, Hebrew and Greek and the prospect of having to do this makes me excited (and a little apprehensive too)!

I have written on the historical importance of Latin for Europe and I continue to believe that is has a relevance for the Church today. As we grow increasingly global, the need for a universal tongue (apart from English) grows. Latin has that capacity to be a 'neutral, non-nation-linked' tongue for the Church. Often when I travel to Germany or even the Philippines, I wished Mass was in Latin - I understood it better and could respond better than in Filipino or German!

For many, the preference for Latin can become a polemical issue or be seen as an indicator of one's 'churchmanship'. That is simply too convenient or simplistic a yardstick. I simply love the sound of the language and it venerable origins, I love music composed to Latin words and I feel it has practical uses. After all, did not Vatican II mandate that the faithful should learn and know how to respond to the parts of the Mass and sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin?

Whither that request of the Council Fathers? Perhaps the Holy Father will also turn his eye to this admittedly minor issue amidst the many pressing and more vital questions and challenges facing the 21st century Church.

In relation to my preceding Post, there is an excellent blog in Pontifications for April 21st...

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

This is the faith of the Church...

During the Easter vigil, some of you may have been fortunate to witness the baptism of adults or renewed your baptismal vows. What I love most is this proclamation after the baptised proclaim their Creedal faith: "This is our faith, this is the faith of the Church and we are proud to profess it in Christ Jesus our Lord!"

Our Holy Father, Benedict XVI is one such person who is truly proud to profess his faith in Christ Jesus and in union with the whole Church. All his priestly life, as bishop, as cardinal and now as Pope, he has done this. Like St Paul, he would say: "Woe betide me if I do not proclaim the Gospel!" (1 Cor 9:16b)

I truly am saddened when so many Catholics and other people expect this Pope or another Pope to radically challenge and change this common faith, this Gospel of salvation in Christ. Indeed as St Paul told the Church in Galatia: "But even if we or an angel from heaven should proclaim to you a gospel contrary to what we proclaimed to you, let that one be accursed!" (Gal 1:8) and he repeats this injunction.

Cardinal Ratzinger and indeed, Pope Benedict XVI preaches and teaches that which was proclaimed to him through the apostles and saints from Jesus Christ - nothing other. If he were to change this message or deviate from it, he would be accursed! There can nor will be no deviation from the essence of the Gospel and its message proclaimed consistently and over the centuries by the Church. John Paul the Great's Catechism of the Catholic Church is just such a compendium of this teaching.

Indeed, as His Holiness said at his first papal Mass yesterday: "The new pope knows that his task is to make the light of Christ shine before men and women of the world -- not his own light, but that of Christ,"

How then can anyone of Christian faith expect Benedict XVI to change the teachings of the Church? I understand that we are now in the 21st century but the human person, the human heart and the human condition has not changed since Adam. Christ's message and salvation addresses these essentials of humanity. I appreciate the need for openness to new science and discoveries, new methodologies and deeper fathomings of the mystery of God and humanity. I too hope for a Pope and Curia and indeed local bishop and clergy who are truly listening, concerned about our daily lives and compassionate. I believe the Pope will try his best.

But what some sectors of the Church want are just too far off the mark, too extrinsic to the core Gospel message of the Church. What some want is for Ratzinger to proclaim another 'gospel' and so be accursed in the eyes of St Paul. What some want is for the Church to deviate from the teachings of Christ, handed on by the apostles and saints to us. Sadly, they cannot say they are proud to profess the faith of the Church...

And that is simply not possible for Pope Benedict XVI and those baptised who truly are proud and happy to profess the ancient Creeds and to allow Christ and his grace to transform their lives. I, of all sinners, desperately need this grace. I admit my sinfulness and shortcomings, I confess that I often fall short of the mark, I know I sometimes don't understand what the Church or Christ himself is teaching because I am blinded by sin. And I ask for the grace of the Spirit to renew and transform my nature and infuse me with the virtues I need to live a better, more Christ-centred life, in line with the faith I profess.

What I don't do is clamour for change in the Church so that the faith fits my flawed and sinful life...

Friends, of your goodness and charity, pray for me, a poor sinner.

For a less theological and personal viewpoint but coming to similar conclusions, read Madeleine Bunting in The Guardian.

Posts and comments

I truly enjoy comments from people who read this blog and I appreciate intelligent questions and viewpoints. We are all seeking Truth and without dialogue, debate and even argument, we simply cannot arrive at it. The issue is not of anyone side or person winning but allowing Truth to emerge and (hopefully) become clearer.

Visitors are heartily invited to post a comment or email me:

Incidentally, an anonymous reader posted some interesting and important questions in Comment #4 to my post on 'HH Pope Benedict XVI'. I have replied to that in Comment #5 of that same post. It touches on questions of Ecclesiology specifically salvation and the role of Jesus Christ and his Church.

Do have a read if that is your area of interest! Thank you and keep the comments and emails coming...

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI

In my heart of hearts, I hoped that Cardinal Ratzinger would be elected to the See of Peter and I rather pessimistically did not think it likely or possible. Perhaps I was also being superstitious and felt that if I rooted for him, he would lose!! But the election of this humble and holy man shows the grace of the Spirit and the Church's fidelity to the Truth that comes from Christ and his Gospel.

For here is a man who for the last 24 years has defended that Truth, a man who for years more has studied, pondered and reflected upon and written and expounded on that Truth. And he has done so amidst great opposition, derision and dissent. I don't think these elements will abate with his election as Supreme Pontiff but I believe he will continue to hold fast to the Truth and boldly proclaim it.

As he said two days ago:
We are now witnessing the "dictatorship of relativism" which "does not recognize
anything as absolute and leaves as the ultimate measure only the measure of each
one and his desires..."
The new Holy Father will as a "simple humble worker in the vineyard of the Lord" continue to strive against this secular tendency and proclaim the teachings and loving example of Christ.

This man, whose books I have loved and read with keenness has been elected by the 115 voting cardinals as the 265th Successor of St Peter. I rejoice with the Church that we all have a new Shepherd on earth and I rejoice in particular in the cardinals' wise and prudent decision.

I watched on my knees and was overwhelmed with emotion as his election was announced live on CNN and indeed, I was in tears as it happened and his name was announced. Tears of joy...

May the Holy Trinity continue to bless this man, the humble worker of God and may the Blessed Virgin, Ss Peter and Paul and all the saints pray for him and his Pontificate.

Perhaps some of you may be wondering why I said in a past post that I did not think a "Ratzinger papacy would be all that good for the Church"... Simply because I think his Pontificate would drive even further the wedge between liberal and conservative Catholicism. As the symbol of unity, his role in that position would become even more difficult. However, I also believe his election signals a continuity with Vatican II. He was a peritus at the Council and made a cardinal by Pope Paul VI, he was a close collaborator with John Paul the Great and thus knows the mind and spirit of the Council and the Council Fathers. It would be for those at variance with him to reconcile themselves with the teaching of Christ and his Church and also for the new Pope to reach out in pastoral compassion and love to those who have been alienated.

Let's pray for him, our Holy Father, Benedict XVI.

On a more flippant note, St Malachy seems right again! Hmm....


As I write, I am watching CNN. My uncle rang from KL to tell me to switch it on. The successor of Pope John Paul II, the 265th Successor of St Peter has been elected. ALLELUIA!

POPE BENEDICT XVI, Long may he shepherd God's Holy Church!
May Mary Immaculate, Mother of the Church be his guide and model.

"...We're gonna find out who's naughty and nice..."

Two friends from the Philippines came to visit Singapore today and I was happy to be able to join my good friend and fellow Dominican Volunteer, Desiree in welcoming them to our part of the world. In that beautiful and evocative Filipino word, I wished them a great big "MABUHAY!"

We went on a pleasant bumboat ride on the Singapore river and watched the sunset. It was lovely to see the city from this perspective and a first for me.

However, what caught my eye was a this space-ship like monstrosity which was emerging from behind the lovely neo-Classical Supreme Court building of Singapore. This circular structure which is still being constructed stuck out like a sore thumb and blighted the skyscape. It also overshadowed the beautiful Empress Place building and the elegant old Parliament building. No one seemed to know what it was. If anyone can tell me, I would be grateful.

Left to my own imagination, I just surmised it was an observation tower for LKY to survey his realm. I dub it the "Minister Mentor's Monitor"... I fancy that it is 360 degree observation deck which can rise up and give views of the entire island... and perhaps have lasers installed to strike down recalcitrants, opposition and suchlike heretics!! Or perhaps just powerful telescopes to photograph and fine bubble-gum-chewers...

A flight of fancy? Perhaps but nothing's impossible on this sophisticated island-city-state!!

What do you think it is??

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Josef Cardinal Ratzinger and others...

A friend of mine who was also in Ushaw College with me recently sent me a rare email in which he said: "I am sure you have started your novena for Cardinal Ratzinger's election as Pope."

In fact, I did no such thing and I can publicly state that I am not convinced a Ratzinger papacy would be all that good for the Church. I believe most first-hand accounts that Cardinal Ratzinger is a wonderful and pastoral priest. I have caught a glimpse of this person myself in his many books and interviews. I am an admirer of his theology (in general) and I think we would find in him a thinker on a par with John Paul the Great. Interestingly, my (non-Catholic and Brethren-churched) uncle said to me two nights ago that he hoped Ratzinger would be the next pope. He felt someone who had a clear (and evengelical) stance on moral issues, like John Paul II would be a God-send.

However, I sincerely prefer not to hedge my bets anywhere. Maybe I am afraid of losing! My Dominican friends in Manila would probably be praying for Cardinal Schoenborn, as I am indeed inclined to but I think he may be a little too young... Maybe the next Conclave!

I have heard and seen Arinze in Rome and I was a bit taken aback by his forthright answers to some rather thorny issues thrown at him by American youth. Nonetheless, I think his approach is refreshingly African and his experience of inter-religious dialogue seems to me a great urgency these days.

On the others, I have few opinions. Suffice to say that the Archbishops of Glasgow and Westminster don't stand a chance in my eyes and I dare say I am far from a lone opinion in this!

There are other commentators far more experienced and expert than me. I only pretend to know. One such expert whom I respect is John Allen and I refer you to his insightful article. For those who are curious about Ratzinger, refer to his fansite for a comprehensive listing.

As I said earlier, I only pray that God's will be done. Whoever the man is, God will have given him to the Church and therefore, I trust there will be a good reason for his election. As St Faustina, so beloved by Pope John Paul II would have us say to Christ, the Divine Mercy: "Jesus, I trust in you!"

Who will be the next Pope?

Over the past week, my non-Catholic relatives and some friends have been asking me that question and my reply has been this: "If I knew, I would place a bet at a book-makers and win a million pounds."

"Who will be John Paul II's successor"? This is the question on everyone's lips and like the elector Cardinals themselves we will have to await the Holy Spirit's decision. Christ himself tells us that the Spirit is unpredictable (cf John 3:8) and so all would-be predictors should beware. I believe that in the 1978 conclave that elected John Paul II, none of the predictions were accurate. Of course, there are names who are more prominent than others, Cardinals who are more suited to such a responsibility.

Reading the various profiles and commentaries supplied by the world's media, it struck me that the manner in which the Press reports the matter of the conclave is just inappropriate. The secular Press simply looks idiotic when it tries to describe the conclave and papal election in familiar but secular political terms. Phrases asserting that Arinze would be "unacceptable to North America and Europe" because of his 'conservative moral stance' or polls asking readers to contribute views on what "policies" the next Pope should pursue are futile and off the mark.

I accept that the Holy See and thus the Papacy has a political role and I am realistic enough (and have been involved enough in parish life) to state that politics plays some role in the Church and its leadership. Politics and politicking is inevitable at any level of human association, especially when power, control and influence is involved...

However, it has to be said that the role of the Pope is to steer the mission of the Church, to preach the Gospel of Christ and to unify those who are profess Christ as Saviour. The role he is given severely limits any sense of setting personal agendas or policies. His policies are those of Christ and his Church. In the same way, there should be no talk of any pope being unacceptable to any group of truly faithful Catholics because he preaches the teaching of Christ, whether that is labelled as 'conservative' or 'progressive'.

John Paul II has left us clear benchmarks in his Catechism, and I don't see how any future pope could deviate radically from the clear teaching found therein. Yes, a future pope could allow more discussion, could listen and dialogue more attentively, could be more pastoral and compassionate. A future Pope could broaden our theological horizons and help us to face the challenges of Christian living in the 21st century. In short, any future Pontiff could be called on to be even more Christ-like. But at the end of the day, a Christ-like pope will still preach Christ's message and this will always be 'unacceptable' or 'controversial' to those who simply cannot and will not even try to conform their lives to the Gospel and allow God's grace and Spirit to transform their lives.

May this same Spirit rest upon the 115 Cardinals who gather tomorrow to elect the new Vicar of Christ and Servant of the servants of God. Whoever he is, the new Pope will be called to serve God's people principally by serving Christ's Gospel of salvation. He has no powers or authority to refashion the Gospel, only to give new vision and impetus to the Church in her continuing mission of salvation to all men and women, in her preaching of the message and policy which essentially is that of Jesus Christ.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Ecclesia in Europa

A few years ago, when the Preamble for the European Union's Constitution was in its initial drafting stage, mention was made of the Greek and Roman heritage of Europe but almost two millennia of Christian heritage was not even alluded to. The current Constitution rather diplomatically refers only to the "religious inheritance" of Europe. Nonetheless this does not do justice to the central role of the Christian tradition and the Church in the moulding of Europe.

Much of current European culture, arts, science and society has been affected or influenced by the Church, not least by the Papacy as a political entity. The current events in Rome underline to me this historical fact. The Pope's funeral which saw such a massive gathering of world leaders is only possible because of the status of the Holy See as a sovereign state. This in itself is linked to the role of the medieval Pontiffs with relation to Rome and the later Papal states. Of course many will say that the charisma and person of John Paul II drew these leaders to mourn his death and I would not deny that at all. John Paul was truly a great man and a sterling Pope. However it would be unrealistic to not see the politics at play too. Incidentally, there are some great pictures of the late Holy Father on this Mexican site.

Latin was predominant in the funeral rites of the Pontiff and this reminded me of the ancient language of Rome and consequently the Church and its usage throughout Europe as a unifying language of common faith, law, education, learning and diplomacy. It enabled pan-European study and cross-cultural exchange aided by the Church and her institutions as a unifying body. It also linked Europe to its Roman foundations which in itself built on the Greek tradition as well as giving rise to modern European romance languages. To this day the clerical roots of the law and academia are still evident due to the initially Church-motivated rise of universities in Europe.

The social structure of Europe - education and medical and 'social welfare' - was predominantly reliant on the Church and her monasteries to provide. The state most certainly did not provide these 'charitable' services. This still holds true in many cases today. When Henry VIII destroyed and seized the monastic foundations of England in the 1530s, his subjects suffered.

Even democracy has its roots in Christianity. The Dominican Order has been said, "by its composition, powers and functions", to be the "first democracy of the Church and the world." The Conclave, which will open on Monday and which all Catholics and men and women of good will should pray about, is in itself and in essence a process of democracy. I realize that many would challenge this idea but I think a historical understanding of the Conclave and Papal elections would reveal its democratic roots - the presbyters of Rome (themselves leaders of the Roman Christians) electing their bishop and leader and the process of the Conclave evolved in order to free the electors from the influence of the State and secular leaders.

Science, which is so often pitted as the antithesis of faith and religion actually has its roots in curious priests and monks, not least of which is St Albert the Great and even Western philosophy developed under the inquisitiveness and nurture of the Church through such men as St Thomas Aquinas. The modern scientific method of observation and experimentation began in Christian monasteries as did modern philosophy but now the baby has grown up and disavowed its mother...

Although both Europe and the Church are so intertwined and closely connected, it is disturbing the strongly secular Constitution chose (albeit after much debate and intervention by the Holy See) to gloss over the distinctively Christian roots of modern Europe. These reflections arose as I pondered the significance of the coming Conclave and the recent Papal funeral...

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

There are no twins!

Many of my friends, looking at my belly, ask me when the twins (or triplets) are due! So, rather fed up by all this and curious myself (anticipating a possible miracle), I went to the doctor today and had an ultrasound scan done!

Apart from discovering that I have healthy kidneys, liver and gall bladder, we did not find any signs of life... So sorry guys, no miraculous babies coming from me! Seriously though, I did the ultrasound and a series of other tests (ECG, chest X-ray etc) as part of a comprehensive medical exam prior to my applying to join the English Dominicans. It's a requirement these days for anyone who wants to become a priest or religious...

My blood pressure is a bit higher than desirable so I seem to have developed the Philippines' most common ailment: "High blood na ako" is a phrase I heard from all quarters in Manila! I am on some medication to lower it - the doctor suspects I am quite sensitive to sodium and she also gave me relaxants - I was rather nervous about them taking blood from me this morning! I had to warm my hands for 30 minutes (!) to aid this blood-taking because my veins were rather dilated. My blood tests come back on Monday. So, please pray for my health!

It was a rather interesting procedure. I have an aversion to doctors and their probing but I realised it was all for my own good (which is always a prelude to pain and discomfort anyway!) and allowed the process to unfold. As I sat still and had the various tests conducted, I thanked God that I had no truly serious ailments and thought of all those people who are in hospital. Funnily, I also thought of how an experience like today's may come in handy for a sermon some day!! Thank goodness they didn't scan my brain -- I have so many strange and tangential thoughts!

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

O sacrum convivium...

O sacrum convivium, in quo Christus sumitur: recolitur memoria passionis eius; mens impletur gratia et futurae gloriae nobis pignus datur.

"O SACRED banquet, in which Christ is received, the memory of His Passion is renewed, the mind is filled with grace, and a pledge of future glory given to us."

These words by St Thomas Aquinas and so often set to music by composers (one of my favourite settings being the one by Messiaen) are a concise summation of Eucharistic theology. What drew my attention was that word 'convivium' which is translated as 'banquet'. The notion of banquet is intrinsic to the Eucharist and even to Paradise. Jesus often uses images of a banquet to depict the Kingdom of Heaven (cf Matt 22, Lk 14 et al) and again, the wedding banquet image is found in the Revelations of St John (cf Rev 19). And again, in this Eastertide, the Vespers hymn: Ad cenam Agni providi begins with an evocation of the banquet of the Lamb in the new Jerusalem. This idea of the Lamb's Supper is reiterated at every Mass: Beati qui ad cenam Agni vocati sunt. (Cf Rev 19:9)

Here in Asia, banquets, food and feasting is a vital part of the social fabric. When I was in the Philippines, even our poor parish frequently had 'banquets' and food is essential to the celebration of life and its milestones. Unlike the Western penchant for wine and drink, the Asian obsession (so evident in Kuala Lumpur and Singapore) is for food. But to make up a banquet, both food and drink is necessary. In fact, the account of Jesus at the wedding banquet in Cana makes no mention of food but mentions the great quantities of wine consumed, apparently at the Lord's bequest!

But there is another, more important aspect of the banquet I wish to ponder: the people at that banquet. Given the right dispositions, a banquet or a party is a sacramental sign of what awaits us in heaven. Just as the Mass is a foretaste of the heavenly liturgy and banquet, so too I believe, a dinner celebration can be a dim foretaste of the divine reality. The word that strikes me is 'convivium' which is echoed in the English word 'convivial'. I may be wrong, but I think its Latin roots, can be traced to mean "to live with". As such, convivial means "merry, festive or lively". In short it is equated with having a good time with good friends. The song by Henry VIII, 'Pastime with Good Company' is a fitting description of being 'convivial' and having a 'banquet'. Incidentally, I named the wine tasting club I formed in the UK after this song...

What this suggests is that a banquet is not just food and drink. One may have a bounty of both and the richest feast but if there is not a convivial atmosphere, if one is not having a good time, then it is not a banquet. As such, I feel it is not the food and drink that matters as much as the company at the banqueting table. As Christians, the imagery of heaven as a banquet (and I recognise this is not exclusively Christian in conception) is replete with the ideas of communio, communion of persons, friendship, laughter and joy, unity and closeness. No doubt, John Paul II is now at table with the many saints he canonized and beatified!

Why this protracted commentary on the banquet? Well, I miss the dinners I shared in the Philippines with the Dominican fathers... I also miss the banquets we had as a parish, full of laughter, song and dance, truly convivial. For indeed these were the people I lived with (as 'convivial' literally means) and I miss the conviviality of the meals we shared daily in the Priests' House in Dagat-dagatan. Our fare was humble and sometimes even un-palatable but the company was always lively and fun. Our discussions at table were enriching, our debates were broadening and our laughter was genuine. I wonder how many of us are able to say that our family meals at home have this same conviviality... I miss that and long for what God has blessed me with these past 12 months.

I caught a glimpse of that same conviviality at dinner with the Dominicans in England and I hope to take my place at that banqueting table soon and to join the Pope at his in time to come!

Friday, April 08, 2005


Farewells are truly so difficult and such sweet sorrow. Today, the world watched as the Church buried their universal Pastor, John Paul II. It was a beautiful Mass, full of symbolism and moving in many ways, especially Cardinal Ratzinger's tribute. I felt both CNN and the BBC had good coverage and interestingly, the BBC left the Latin prayers untranslated. Quite the opposite of their over-commentating this past week. And what a fitting farewell it was for the Holy Father who as Cardinal Ratzinger says is now lookinng upon us and blessing us "from a window in his Father's house..."

I have had a farewell of my own as I left the Philippines yesterday, truly bringing to a close, my one-year mission in Dagat-dagatan as a Dominican Volunteer. My last days in the parish were difficult indeed. The problem with the Philippines and Filipinos is that they are so hospitable and lovable that when the time comes to go, one does so with a rent heart and many tears. The fact that Filipinos are rather emotional themselves and seem to delight in watching one reduced to tears only exacerbates the situation!

I spent my last days in Dagat-dagatan with some of my students from the Parochial School who have become like my own brothers. Many of the children in the parish have fathers who are foreign workers. As such they only see their fathers every two years for two weeks at a time. One student of mine has not ever seen his father who is an illegal worker in Japan and that is the only way he can support his family of seven. It has been my privilege to be a 'kuya' (Filipino for 'older brother') and even surrogate father to some of them. I miss them acutely... It was especially important to me that in those last days, I was finally able to visit them at home and sit down to a simple meal with their mothers. It gave me a chance to see where they came from and their backgrounds. The poorer students live in very small houses with maybe nine or more people per home. In one room, which is smaller than my bathroom here in Kuala Lumpur, three people share a bed and the floor and I can see the sunlight shining through holes in the rusted and hot tin roof.

As such, one of the last things I did in Manila was to establish a scholarship fund named in honour of San Juan de Macias, a Peruvian Dominican saint who helped the poor of his city. I hope that this fund would provide for some of the students who show potential but cannot afford to study or in many cases, are prevented from attending class because they have no money for fares to school or clean clothes or food. The fund is intended to aid such cases and I will do what I can to raise more for this cause. We have identified the first San Juan Macias Scholar and I was able to visit him at home and give him and his mother the good news. He is in the photo above.

On my last night in Manila, we walked around the Luneta park in central Manila where John Paul II said Mass in 1995. The park is flanked by neo-classical government buildings and boasts of fountains and monumental statues. But my eye was drawn rather to the many homeless families who slept here. It was a heart-breaking sight to contemplate and it is a fitting final impression of the Philippines. For them, the poor, I came to Manila one year ago and it is with them in my heart that I leave.

A year ago I came to Manila, and I counted the days until I could leave. But months later, I began to count the days with growing sadness and finally that day of departure has come. It was hard to pack my bags with teary eyes and I wept as we drove through the parish, past the squatter homes as we went to the airport and again as the plane took off and I looked down on the country I had called home for a year. For indeed, I am now with my family in Malaysia, but I don't quite feel at home. Surrounded by the comforts and trappings of wealth, I feel home is now miles away in a place where the floods are putrid and black, the air smells of burning and decomposing rubbish, the stray dogs are barking and the children wander around bare-footed and smiling. Home is with the people who have welcomed me and made me their own, the Dominican community I was delighted to be part of and the school where I taught in daily and spent afternoons at play with the children. Home is where I have poured my love and energies into these past 12 months.

They say, "home is where the heart is" and surely I have left a part of my heart in Dagat-dagatan. I feel I have come away a different person, with a different perspective
and I hope a better person. But, life has to go on for me and there is never really a good time to leave and so it is with hope and faith and trust in God that I take my next steps. I return to England at the end of the month and will undergo interviews to join the English Dominicans and serve the Church and nation I call my first adopted home; to serve the people who first claimed another part of my heart.

I entrust my future to Our Lady of the Holy Rosary, to St Dominic and I ask you, my friends, to please pray for me.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Media and John Paul II

I used to be a fan of the BBC, preferring to watch it rather than CNN in a nation which far prefers American journalism. However, I noticed during the recent Tsunami tragedy and again now at the Pope's death, the CNN coverage is far more extensive, intelligent, sensitive and professional.

Granted the BBC's coverage is far more comprehensive than I would have expected from a network that has been noted by some of harbouring an anti-Catholic bias, nonetheless it is still highly aggressive towards many of the Pope's more 'controversial' policies, and its coverage is at times rather inaccurate or plainly incompetent.

Last night, I stayed up to watch the Pope's body being transferred to the Vatican Basilica. It was a splendid sight, fully conjuring up the tradition and antiquity of the papal office. As I watched it I was aware that it would probably raise the ire of many evangelicals and confuse and annoy many secularists and Protestants but it had me quite simply delighted and moved. One saw the procession of religious, priests, bishops and cardinals (albeit all men) and the various Vatican and Papal Household officials and Swiss guards go in solemn procession through splendid halls to the largest church in the world. As the glorious chant enveloped the ceremony, one felt truly the weight of history and tradition on the papal office, the solemn sense of continuity for this, the 264th successor of Peter. Of course, I am grateful to the mass media for making it possible for us to view this ceremony in such un-precedented detail. It has been enlightening...

CNN broadcast all this without commentary except when strictly necessary or to translate prayers. This made it possible for viewers to feel they were actually there and to participate in their own way- I sang along and prayed along! When I occasionally switched over to the BBC to compare, the commentators simply talked incessantly on a series of inane topics and silly speculation which one had heard flogged for the last couple of days. I felt all the talk of the conclave etc could be left until later as CNN so sensitively did. Moreover, when the BBC later broadcast a part of the Vespers from Westminster Cathedral, they chose to speak just as the Cardinal began his prayer. Truly a stupid and irreligious decision! When they subsequently screened a documentary on the Church's needs and the problems the cardinals faced, I watched with mild interest. But looking at Africa, one was told that the Church there faced an "aggressively evangelising Islam."! I wondered exactly which Evangel (or Gospel) the African Muslims preached and annoyed by the BBC's incompetence and inaccuracy, turned off.

I would urge those who had a choice to do the same. The BBC is clearly still biased! I understand that many of my friends in the UK have no choice and are grateful for what 'service' the BBC provides on the Papal death but those of us who have a choice would be better served by going to CNN and John Allen's insightful and intelligent analyses and comments.

On another note, I was amused by these two comments in today's 'The Guardian':
John Hooper noted that the Prince of Wales has had to postpone his wedding in this way:
"Earlier in the day, the cardinals had heard their late pontiff's will and fixed the date of his funeral in a way that, no doubt unintentionally, snookered the wedding of a divorced English heretic."

On the other hand, a fuming Martin Kettle (and I am told there were angry Muslims in the Arabic world too who opposed all the media coverage) said:
"Even so, it is hard not to catch one's breath at the rupture with national history that all this represents. Ours is still, after all, legally established as a Protestant nation. Until very recently the mere idea that a prime minister or the head of the Anglican church might have any kind of dialogue with Rome - never mind rearrange the next Protestant king's wedding to suit the cardinals in Rome - would have been regarded as close to treason. Catholicism, in its time, was as anathema to the British state as communism was in a later era. Five centuries ago we broke with Rome so that a king could remarry. Today our re-embrace of Rome means that a future king's remarriage has to be postponed."

At least Mr Kettle is honest and recognises that the Church of England's break with Rome was not strictly theological or Scriptural but political. As I have heard it said, it was built on the "syphillitic loins of Henry VIII"! I may not wish to personally express it in quite that way, but the underlying truth is there...

Apart from all this, there has been all sorts of fascinating letters, opinions and comments. As an aspiring religious in 'secular' Britain, this gives me much food for thought, reflection, prayer and analysis. The candid views of people tells me what we do right or wrong and the sort of impression and view of (Catholic) Christianity some people have. Either way, our work as Preachers of the Truth is cut out for us.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Sede vacante

As the world now knows, thanks to the excellent coverage on CNN, the Bishop of Rome is now deceased and lies in the Apostolic Palace in the Vatican City. John Paul II, a great man, an exemplary spiritual leader, the world only brave moral voice and a Shepherd after the heart Christ and the footprints of Saints Peter and Paul. For 26 years, this pastor and Vicar of Christ shepherded, governed and pastored the flock of God from all kinds of attacks and dangers, he built bridges which had previously been scuppered and fostered reconciliation and peace. He set a clear path for the Church in the Third Millennium after the vision and authentic spirit of Vatican II and he was a faithful custodian of the Faith and Tradition of Christ's Holy Church.

With his demise, the Church and indeed the world enters a new era. John Paul II, you have been a tireless steward of the Lord's household. Now you have departed in peace. May you have eternal rest.

And so, we now enter that rare period called the Interregnum or Sede Vacante. The See of Peter is now vacant and awaits the outcome of the Cardinals' vote, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. For more on what this Sede Vacante period entails, check out this site... Incidentally, the arms shown above are used during an Interregnum.

This morning at 4.24am, my mobile phone rang - it was Fr Terry OP calling me (from downstairs) and he said quite simply: "The Pope is dead." I thanked him for informing me, said a prayer for the repose of the Holy Father's soul and lay in bed thinking. Another two SMSes would reach me with the same news before I decided to get out of bed. A part of me, as I was going to bed last night, though St Faustina would effect a miracle for the Pope and he would recover somewhat from his illness. But instead, the Divine Mercy enveloped him in an ocean of mercy and called Karol Wojtyla home. How fitting this Pope should die on the eve of a Feast instituted by him through the urgings of a Polish nun he canonized...

Even in death, the Pope aids the Church. The CNN's coverage as well as the BBC's has allowed the work, mission and message of the Church - the Gospel of Jesus Christ - to be broadcast almost 24 hours a day to the world. Never before have I seen such an onslaught of religious commentary and appreciation for the work of the Church and her ministers. How wonderful.

Apart from watchinng these events unfold, we Catholics and other men and women of good will can also pray.

As the Holy Father wrote in 1996 in his document regulating the election of a new Pontiff:
"In all cities and other places, at least the more important ones, as soon as news is received of the vacancy of the Apostolic See and, in particular, of the death of the Pope, and following the celebration of his solemn funeral rites, humble and persevering prayers are to be offered to
the Lord (cf Matthew 21:22; Mark 11:24), that he may enlighten the electors and make them so likeminded in their task that a speedy, harmonious and fruitful election may take place, as the salvation of souls and the good of the whole People of God demand."

Let us unite ourselves in prayer during this time and recall the inscription beneath the Divine Mercy image: "Jesus, I trust in you."

O God,
from whom the just receive an unfailing reward,
grant that your servant John Paul, our Pope,
whom you made vicar of Peter and shepherd of your Church,
may rejoice for ever in the vision of your glory,
for he was a faithful steward here on earth
of the mysteries of your forgiveness and grace.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Reportedly, 'Amen' was the Holy Father's last words. A fitting end indeed for his life's work is consummated. Amen. So may it be!

Friday, April 01, 2005

The impact of John Paul II

Despite the amount of work that I needed to do in preparation for my Despedida (Farewell party) tonight, I was glued to CNN and BBC for a few hours, watching and awaiting news on the Holy Father's condition. I was amazed to hear that on Friday, he managed to concelebrate Mass, pray the Office and the Stations of the Cross and then receive top cardinals...

The BBC has been reporting in rather ominous tones as if he were dead already or definitely going that way. One line in the news report said "... his life is ebbing away". CNN was far more balanced and pointed out that sick old men do have ups and downs albeit all rather suddenly and the Pope could go either way.

Nonetheless, I was interested in the many tributes that have poured into the BBC's website from Catholics and non-Catholics. He has truly been a beacon for our times and in his ill health continues to witness to the faith of the Church.

This Pope has shepherded Christ's flock for 26+ years. Many of my generation know none other... We are the children of JP2's era and if he should pass away, an epoch in our lifetimes will have passed too. It's food for thought...

Please pray for the Pope

It's never easy when someone close to you falls ill. Although I have never met the Pope personally, he is like a spiritual father to billions, a firm moral voice and authority in our world and a beacon of Gospel truth and Christian witness. The passing of this light will be the end of an era indeed for the Church and for our world. Somehow, it is hard not to be affected by scenes of his failing health, his increasing frailty and illness... I cried on Easter Sunday as I watched the live broadcast of his struggle to vocalize the traditional 'Urbi et Orbi' blessing.Watching his struggle with ill-health and age reminds me of the year I spent doing pastoral work in a home for the aged - it was tough.

Let us all, men and women of good will, pray for the Pope, for his health and for the Lord's will to be done in all things. May the Lord one day, say to him: "Well done, wise and faithful servant... enter into the joy of your Master." (cf Matt 25:23)

Happy New Year!

For readers who still cling to the Julian calendar, a happy new year to you! Unfortunately, to the rest of the world which has adopted the Gregorian calendar, you're just dubbed an April Fool. Well, it's consoling to know that the world of taxation generally follows the Julian year... but then we always suspected taxmen as being fools, right?!

It has been the custom on this day for media companies to engage in blatant false reporting and unlike other days of the year, they actually admit it the day after! It's all for a laugh and in keeping with the light-heartedness of the day. My favourite joke must be the 'Spaghetti Tree' report which also tops this list. Click on the link and look at some of the other pranks. Alternatively, try the quiz at 'The Guardian' and see if you were April Fooled!

Whatever prank you decide to play today or whatever fish someone slaps on your back, do have a happy and safe April Fools' day!