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

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)


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