A once in a while thing of all things big and small:
“If only she could manage to remember everything until tomorrow….
‘That’s how it is with children too,’ continued Ariel. ‘They’re the ones who come into the world first. The grown-ups always come limping after. Limping more and more the older they get.’
Cecilia thought that what Ariel was saying was so wise she wanted to write it all down in her Chinese notebook, so as not to forget it. But she didn’t dare do it while the angel was watching. She said, ‘But Adam and Eve were grown up.’
Ariel shook his head.
‘They became grown-up. That was the great mistake. When God created Adam and Eve they were inquisitive little children who climbed trees and played around in the big garden he had just made. There was no point in owning a big garden if there were no children to play in it.’
‘Is that true?’
‘I’ve told you, angels don’t tell lies.’
‘Tell me more, then!’
‘So they were tempted by the serpent to eat of the Tree of Knowledge, and then they began to grow. The more they ate, the more they grew. That’s how they were gradually driven out of their childhood paradise. The little rogues were so hungry for knowledge that, in the end, they ate themselves out of Paradise.’
Cecilia gaped, and Ariel looked down at her with an indulgent look.
‘But of course you’ve heard all this before,’ he said.
She shook her head.
‘I’ve heard that Adam and Eve were driven out of Paradise, but nobody told me that it was from their childhood paradise.’
‘You might have been able to guess some of it yourself. But humans understand only in part. You see everything through a glass, darkly.’
Growing up in the 70’s, a time when we were probably still unsullied, these three guys below provided me and my brothers with a barrel load of laughs every time they came on. “Happy hurts” – is the word that comes to me now, where pinching, banging and gouging on one another like they did was excruciatingly funny – until we started practicing on each other – which was not funny at all, especially when father found out what we’d been up to!
As time went on and innocence was lost, other kinds of hurts began to emerge. The personal, family, communal and global types; pains that hit too close to home; that are self inflicted, or done by others, to others and that gnaw at the back of my mind, thoughts and within my being.
Last month, a 60 something wife who had had her leg amputated below the knee in a hit and run accident poured out the pain she was going through seeing her husband suffer from a chronic illness;
I heard how another who at 75, was trying to make her life meaningful by reaching out in small ways to others, even though she herself was riddled by health problems;
Yesterday, thirty something Intan, who lives nearby, came round to thank us for some donations that had been collected for her. She’s suffering from cancer, has 4 children growing up, the youngest being just 1 year old. Yet, in spite of her obvious pain and seriousness of the illness, she was putting on a brave front and trying to be cheerful.
Pain – all around me, within me, outside of me. At the Olympics, in school, at homes, workplaces, churches, on the byways and highways, in the country, and in the world. Pain – anywhere and everywhere.
Yet – I am constantly being bombarded on how to avoid it. It’s as if by avoiding it, I can be happy, contented and secure. How can I, possibly? Because everything I have come to know points in the opposite.
“Pain insists upon being attended to. God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our consciences, but shouts in our pains. It is his megaphone to rouse a deaf world.” – C. S. Lewis.
In a macabre way maybe – I think we need pain – so as to remain human. Remove pain and we remove our capacity to love. Remove our capacity to love, and what becomes of us??
In a sense, like the Olympians and the women in the story above, all of us are also running a race. The race of our lives. Many of us may be running like South Africa’s blade runner – Oscar Pistorius, below:
handicapped, hurt and seemingly unwanted and unneeded.
Yet, the athletes in London are ample proof there is no gain if there is no pain. By persevering and going through the pain barrier they proved worthy champions – hence, even when they lost, dropped the barbells and crept in last – they were winners, and deserving of the standing ovations the crowds at the stadiums accorded them.
The women who wept tears for another and continued reaching out from the pain that was tormenting their own selves are signposts too as to how to live our lives – by remaining true to the tasks at hand and responding as best as they could with what they had -with an abundance of love, as the ancient Greek writer Sophocles reminds us:
“One word frees us of all the weight and pain of life: That word is love.”
The apostle, Paul seems to have been a fan of the Olympics too! In many of his writings, he alludes to life as to a race that had been run. Reading his words and in between the lines, he paints a vivid picture of the urgency of the race that he urges his readers to run.
Unlike the Olympics though, this is a race where no medals will be handed out at the tape – rather only a deep fulfillment that we have indeed “…fought the good fight, … finished the race… and kept the faith” – c.f. 2 Timothy 4:7 .
What has one got to do with the other? – was my first thought when reading this piece of news from Zenit, the non-profit international news agency.
Plenty – it seems, as explained here:
“The world’s media is presently covered with images of athletes whose talents and bodies have received immense care, support and specialized attention,” said James Parker, the Catholic Executive Coordinator for the 2012 Games and Chair of “More Than Gold’s” five social justice programs.
He goes on to add:
“The Christian community would be failing the Games as a whole, and failing the global family we seek to celebrate and draw together, if we did not draw serious attention to the plight of thousands of people whose talents and bodies are objectified and trafficked across the globe. This is not, as some might believe, someone else’s problem. It is everyone’s problem.”
As a young volunteer quoted: “….many of those who have visited are not aware of how great the problem of human trafficking is. “No one seems to know about this, and they just don’t realize that it is happening in just about every locality,” she said.
Just what is human trafficking?
What’s the difference between trafficking and smuggling?
Isn’t this just another illegal immigrant issue?
80% of victims are women; 50% children.
Human Trafficking generates $32 billion internationally annually, making it one of the top 3 international crimes, along with trafficking of drugs and guns.
This site will explain all these questions and statistics in detail.
Finally, a few famous last words, from John F. Kennedy:
“The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty, and all forms of human life”.
40 years after, those words have been prophetic. That makes what James Parker and others like him are doing so much more crucial in the kind of world we are creating.
Theme: Telling the story of Jesus to and by our children (Catechetics)
The celebrant, Fr. Mark, used a video clip by RSA.org based on a talk given by Sir Ken Robinson, to drive home the message of the understanding the true meaning of education, and linked it to how catechetics needs to be taught, or rather “caught” as one La Salle religious brother reminded me a long time ago.
The full video below:
I thought it was insightful. We spend a lot of time and money on educating our children. How much time and effort are we devoting to their holistic personal growth?
The signs of the times point to a culture that is rapidly changing known and accepted values. Issues that would have been kept behind closed doors a decade or two ago are being openly bandied and promoted through the use of social media communication means. Our children have easy access to them.
As Fr. Mark pointed out, these changing paradigms are exactly why we, parents, teachers, religious and priests need to keep up with the changing times. We need to learn, unlearn, and relearn.
Which reminds me of another story by another priest in another homily:
A stranger walks up and knocks on your door. You, the parent, answer. He asks if he could spend some time alone with your 5 year old kid. He wants to “chat”. What would you say? Most definitely, you would be shocked at such a question and immediately tell him to leave.
The priest continued, “If you said NO to that man’s request, why then do you parents continuously allow total strangers into your homes 24 hours a day and give them complete access to your children?? You are wondering, when, where, how did you ever do that?
Your satellite TV channel. Those are the complete strangers, with all kinds of motives and reasons, wanting access to your kids. 24 hours a day. And you let them in!”
Think its too tough? Maybe, but the alternative is even worse!
“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference” – Reinhold Niebuhr
The World Youth Day 2011 in Madrid came and went – with little attention from the mainstream media. All I saw was a 30 second or so clip on CNN sandwiched in between the more “important” news of money woes at Washington, the continuing saga of the Arab Spring and the London riots.
Strangely though, satellite tv did highlight the protests of the Pope’s visit to Madrid! Go figure.
As someone who was in Manila for the 1995 edition of the WYD celebrations, all I can say is if you’re old enough (16 and above) and who is “searching”, give yourselves a treat and attend one of these Days. It would be worth every cent of your money and time spent. You will be rewarded with much much more, believe me.
For a flashback on what happened at Madrid, go here for repeat webcasts.
For the benefit of those of us – like me – who may not be able to get to a church today for the Feast of The Assumption of Our Lady, here’s a short homily for your reflection. It was written by a close priest-friend of mine and appears here with his permission.
Mary – A Magnifying Glass to Jesus
What image comes to your mind when we talk about Mary?
For me, the image is the magnifying glass. In a sense, Mary is like a “magnifying glass”.
Today as we gather to celebrate the feast of the Assumption of Mary, we are celebrating the act of God to assume Mary, who is immaculately conceived, and Mother of God into heaven after her death.
The very word ‘Assumption’ is the exact opposite of ‘Ascension’ and denotes, ‘being taken’ and is appears ‘passive’ – thus there is minimum contribution from the person involved. Therefore, it is totally an act of God on the behalf of the person.
Ascension on the other hand denotes, ‘going up’ and thus asserts an active contribution of the person to the whole event.
As such, the Church draws a clear distinction between Jesus and Mary.
Thus, Marian doctrine and devotion, properly understood and practiced, does not lead believers away from, but rather magnifies and grounds us more deeply into the mystery of Christ.
First Reading [Revelation 11:19a; 12:1-6a; 10ab]
It is God who is in control and who undertakes the whole work of reconciling the world. The woman is only a means. That is why she cannot face or engage the dragon. Here we see the mystery of God who engages in the act of Redemption. This is the God who fights on the behalf of humanity.
Second Reading [1 Corinthians 15:20-26]
The second reading speaks of the victory of Christ over death. With Mary’s Assumption, this promise becomes real and open and possible to all who believe in Christ. So when we celebrate Assumption, we are actually celebrating the victory of Christ and our hope that we too like Mary will one day be united with Jesus. Mary’s glorification magnifies the victory of Christ over sin, suffering and death. However, it is Jesus who takes the centre stage.
Gospel [Luke 1:39-56]
In the Gospel Mary magnifies the mystery of Christ.
Elizabeth knew she was filed with Holy Spirit not because of Mary but because of the Child within her womb. Mary on the other hand sings her praises to God whom she knows is behind this entire work. Both glorify God.
And, rather tellingly, Mary magnifies our vocation as co-redeemers in Christ
We are challenged to become instruments of liberation. Mary announced and affirms four kinds of liberation which is essential in the ministry of Jesus:
1. religious liberation (v 50): to move from our tendency to be ‘exclusive’ to ‘inclusiveness’;
2. social liberation (v 51): to remain rooted in community and solidarity;
3. political liberation (v 52): to advocate right governance;
4. economical liberation (v 53): to be sparing or wise in the use of the resources made available to us.
At one point, Mary’s Magnificat became so dangerous until it was banned in Argentina for sometime because it provoked Catholic to be proactive, reformers and talk about changes.
Once again then, Marian doctrine and devotion, when properly understood and practiced, does not lead believers away from, but rather more deeply into, the mystery of Christ. We become clearer and convinced of our identity, vocation and mission as Christians. She is always assuring and ever ready to assist us in such undertakings, especially as our devotion moves from mere petitions or intercessions to meditation and finally to contemplation of the face of Jesus.
There weren’t many dry eyes after that. It got me thinking too.
I thought about my own father, who was in many ways my first hero and my other Father who art in heaven – who, in spite of my doubts, fears and failures has stood by and at times has had to carry me through the storms of my life. I remembered the many father figures who have walked through my life – among them cousins, godfathers and uncles who indulged me when I was a kid and took me to school on my first day, showed me there was such a thing as the BBC World Service on the short wave radio where I could listen to live broadcasts of the English 1st Division football matches.
Then there were those who introduced me to my first LP records and CCR, Bee Gees, Beatles, Dawn and so many more, from where there has been no return! Later, came the teachers, formators and youth leaders, who taught me how to lead by word and deed. When I moved away from home, in stepped neighbours and total strangers into my life at different times for different reasons, to keep me company so that for a little while at least, I would be alone but not lonely. Much later, as a young man searching for direction and meaning, I remembered the many seminarians, religious and priests, who let me into their world; who were patient with my questions and grumblings. Among them, a select few became close confidants and fellow travellers who encouraged and inspired me like I’ve never been inspired before.
It suddenly dawned on me how much I had a lot to be thankful for to all of these people. And now that circle has come round – I am a father, and I too have a responsibility to my own son. It’s to all these persons, past and present, far and near I have to look to. If I could just take a little bit from all the experiences from each of my “fathers” – and pass them on to my son – I think it would have been all worthwhile after all, which would make the following sobering thought from Charles Wadworth, a little more acceptable:
“By the time a man realizes that maybe his father was right, he usually has a son who thinks he’s wrong!”
Thank you all you fathers – who have come into my life, whether for just a little while or otherwise. Some of you are no longer here. Others are far away. Some, I have lost touch with. Wherever you may be now. God bless all of you today and everyday. I’ve been blessed by knowing you. Happy Father’s Day!
Catholics go to mass every Sunday and in many places now, Saturday evenings. Growing up, I remember towing behind my parents to church in tandem with my siblings. Mass was still in Latin back in the late 1960’s. At adolescence, I went alone. And later still, when I was working and transferred out, I experimented not going to mass on Sundays – just to see how it felt not do so. After all, as I analysed it, I had gone religiously almost every Sunday for 23 years!
I think I lasted about 3 months. There was this growing emptiness within me. When I couldn’t wrestle with my conscience any longer, I returned to church – and promptly found out that the times for the masses had changed! It was an odd moment, but it was sort of an Epiphany for me, for sure.
Sometimes I get asked this question: “Why is it so important to go to mass?” and there are some who tell me how this Sunday “obligation” seems like an albatross around their necks.
Taylor Marshall is a former Episcopalian priest who converted to Catholicism in 2006, and blogs at Canterbury Tales where he answers such questions and more. Check out “Why is Sunday mass an obligation?”, here.
I’ve come to appreciate that it is more an “Opportunity” than an “Obligation”. I picture it like this: This God of the Universe, the Omnipotent and Almighty God, whom you believe and who “comes down” to earth to meet you personally in the Mass and show how much He loves you; wouldn’t you run to meet him, to be grabbed up in his arms and be touched by Him?
If like me, you stumble from one chore to another at work while wondering what’s it all about anyway;
If like me, you want to pray for all things and everyone but don’t do it because you’re too busy chasing “time”;
Then these 21 ways to pray at work might help you a little bit. Beliefnet has 21 slides to remind you and me what and how to pray, even when pressed for time. All it takes is a little awareness and creativity.