Monday, September 27, 2021

The call to be steady and constant as intercessors for one another in life is the shared call to all the Christian faithful.  


As people who are Christians, we all share a certain responsibility to be prayerful in our lives.  It’s not just that we should only be mindful that we need to be constant as people of prayer, but that in and through our prayer for the community, we are also interceding for others, even for those who we may not be physically close to in life.  We are reminded of this each time we bring ourselves to a celebration of the Eucharist at Mass, and the presider will bring this to our minds as our shared responsibility as people of a community who share the same faith.  We don’t have to look very far for such reminders.  


Just opening up a Roman Missal, which is the thick book that the Ordained Clergy uses at Mass and leaf through the pages of the Proper of Saints we will see plenty of evidence that the Church of Rome asks us to seek the intercessions of the many saints who have been canonized as part of their precious journey in life as the disciples of the Lord Jesus.  At the Mass for the memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels on 2 October, the words of the Prayer over the Offerings has the presider at the Mass praying that a we venerate the holy Angels, that God will grant that under the angels’ constant protection, we may be delivered from present dangers and brought happily to life eternal.  This shows that even right now here and in this life as we live it, we need the constant intercessions of the holy Angels in heaven.  And on 4 October, which is the memorial of Saint Francis of Assisi, the presider prays the introductory Collect, which says that by walking in Francis’ footsteps, that we may follow God’s Son and through joyful charity, come to be united with the Heavenly Father when our lives end.  On 7 October, as we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary, the words of the Collect at Mass hears the Presider pray a heartfelt prayer that as we are present at the Mass, that God will pour his grace into our hearts and that through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, by Jesus’ Passion and Cross, be brought to the glory of Jesus’ Resurrection.


These are not just a few examples of saints interceding for us while they are enjoying the heavenly embrace God gives them in heaven.  It means that heaven’s purpose is to make our lives here on earth meaningful and productive.  Moreover, it reminds us that if this is the shared call for those who have attained their heavenly reward, it tells us that our lives here need to be lived with the awareness that the intercessory aspect of our lives isn’t only something that we do later after we die, but that here and now is the time to practice it our sedulously and with love.


I know that many people pray for themselves, but this dimension of prayer should not be limited to praying for ourselves and our betterment.  There are plenty of reasons why the world needs more and more people interceding for them in all their aspects of life.  Right now, the COVID situation in the world is very expansive and the numbers are increasing as the days go by.  Yes, more and more people are getting vaccinated to protect themselves from the virus, but the rising numbers of those being vaccinated doesn’t seem to mitigate the spread of the virus in so many lands.  The Catholic Church has many Divine Mercy intercessory groups who get together (on ZOOM or in other ways) to pray for the many masses of people who are succumbing to the COVID virus.  It is just part of the way of life as Catholics, and it is something the world is desperately in need of.


What are we doing with our lives as we live more and more outside of the offices in life?  This is a valuable question that we need to ask ourselves each day.  Some people readily complain that our lives lived this way is something incredibly boring, but staying at home is a way of preventing the virus from getting to us.  Now while we are at home, there is plenty of opportunities to enter into prayer and to make of our lives something that benefits the many others who cannot find life meaningful outside of bringing themselves to places where there are other human beings.  If we were to pick up a set of rosary beads, we can use the time after a lunch or dinner to pray the entire five mystery of the decades and seek Mary’s intercession for the world.  This is discipleship in practice and all it takes is tender love of others who we may not be aware are experiencing life being low and melancholic.  When we do this, we are interceding for others in life.  And know this, that there are many others who are at the same time praying and interceding for us as well.


I know this for sure because I have been in contact with many friends and parishioners of mine from my priestly assignments who tell me often that they have been praying constantly for me in my recovery from the unfortunate accident that happened to me at the late part of May this year.  I am still in need of their generous prayers, and if you who are reading this happens to be one of them, please know that you have my heartfelt thanks for being my important intercessor in life.  I know that I cannot go through this upcoming surgery with confidence if nobody has prayed for me and for my surgeons’ deft skills. 


So please don’t stop interceding for the many who stand to benefit from your generosity in your prayer time.  Each day has many pockets of time where we can offer up our prayers to join the many who find life tough and perhaps even a chore.  God would want us to follow the lives of the many saints who have been canonized so that we can hold the world’s struggles as we live out our Christian lives with love and dedication.  

Monday, September 20, 2021

When the unexpected happens to us in life, it really isn't as bad as many may think.

I know that many parishioners who personally know me through my serving them as a priest have been praying for me as the days progress toward my planned surgery to replace the empty parts of my skull with two PEEK plates that are coming in from Switzerland happens.  This was arranged for me by the dextrous surgeons who in the last part of May 2021 performed the surgery to remove the two parts of my skull as they realised that the two parts of my skull were bleeding from the accident that occured to me while I was exercising early on 24 May.  I have no recollection of that accident having happened.  All I can recall is that one day I woke up after the surgery happened in Tan Tock Seng Hospital.

And I am profoundly grateful to my parishioners and friends who have been praying almost incessantly for the success of the second operation, after which I will slowly recover and get back into parish life to served them as one of their priests in the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish in Singapore.  Knowing that there are many who are praying for the intervention of the Holy Spirit as the surgery progresses gives me a tremendous amount of confidence.  The original date of the surgery was slated to be Thursday, 24 September, and it is also the feast day of St Padre Pio, whom many are praying to for his intercession for me.

I had set my heart on undergoing that complex surgery but I had also been nursing a coughing bout that was accompanied by the expectoration of thick phlegm.  On Friday, 17 September, I had an appointment to see the surgeon at the hospital for the pre-surgery interview where there was an analysis done to me to see if I was suitable and ready for the surgery on 24 September.  It was there that the anesthesiologist had a one to one with me and my brother, and patiently explained to us that with the state of cough that my body is going through, it is unwise to carry on with the surgery on 24 September.  There are complications that can result if what is infecting my lungs with this bout of flu affects my recovery process post surgery, and suggested (with consultation with his senior surgeons) that the surgery now be moved to a later date instead.  It will now most probably happen sometime in October to keep my post0surgery condition controllable and not be complicated due to me infecting the process of recovery.

I will admit that it sounded like a very positive thing that the surgeon was making with this arrangement.  Understandably, when I informed some friends of the movement of the ate, they were visibly disturbed and showed great concern for me.  I kept assuring them that this was most probably moved in order for me, the patient, to benefit in a better way post-surgery.

There will e moments in life when the things we have either been planned for or the things that we have planned for, get affected by a change of date.  It is tempting to blame anyone, including God, when such things happen to our plans in life. but this would be a dangerous thing to do.  God is ultimately in charge of what happens to us, and if the dates and time table changes, it is best to believe that God has allowed it to happen.  Blaming God with disdain impacts negatively our faith life, and ultimately our relationship with God.

There are many feast days that the church celebrates and observes in the month of October, and one of them is 18 October, which is the feast of my patron Saint, St Luke the evangelist.  I would have no qualms if the surgery is moved to that date.  I would be submitting myself to the patronage of my own patron saint who has walked with me through the many ups and downs if my personal life.

Other notable feasts in October are 2 October of the memorial of the Holy Guardian Angels, 4 October, the memorial of St Francis of Assisi, and 7 October, which is the memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary.

The hope of the surgeon is that as my coughing fit heals and I recover from it, there should be about a 14 day period where my body isn't plagued with the flu bug and they can carry on the planned surgery without the danger of my causing infection to my healing.  I even had to undergo a chest X-ray at the hospital just to be sure that my lungs are clear within.  I will only know the new date as the results of the tests that were done emerge.  Right now, the date of the surgery is still not confirmed.

Do I hope that my parishioners and friends will continue to pray for the success of my surgery?  I certainly hope so.  Nothing gives a patient who is undergoing an extensive surgery more that the confidence that those who know him are praying earnestly for his recovery and the deft skills of the surgeons.

Now, each day that progresses, I am constant in taking the medications that were administered to me by he doctor I went to see when the coughing started.  I am also praying daily for the help of both Mother Mary and the Holy Spirit to help me in my path out of the coughing and the amount of phlegm that inhabits my lungs.

If you whoa re reading this blog are one of my friends who are assisting me in prayer, thank you so much.  And may God gibe you the grace to continue in your prayer for me and give you the grace to continue in your prayer for me and for the success of the upcoming surgery to my skull.  Till I see you again after recovering from the work of the surgeons' hands, I want to wish you the choicest blessings from God.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

 When thing are not improving in life, does it mean that God is not working in and through us?


Anyone who is in some state of illness or suffering can come to the conclusion that just because things are not improving in life, that God has not worked in and through them in the way that many Spiritual writers had written about.


This of course, is a wrong conclusion, because it doesn’t mean that because one’s state in life has come to some standstill, that God has also faded into the background in life.  Our faith reminds us that God is constantly at work in our lives, and it shows in the fact that many of us are not really in a state of sustained suffering.  But this doesn’t mean that just because our state of suffering in life has come to a standstill, that it means that God too, has come to a certain standstill.  He does sustain us in each day of our lives, giving us the means to stay alive and to testify to his presence in our very lives.  


Yes, of course it can be tempting to make that judgment that God has removed himself from our lives if our state of suffering has somehow maintained through time.  No one rightly delights in suffering, even though many of the heroic martyrs in the history of the Church can testify that God had been with them even though their lives were a struggle of some sort.  


Why I am writing this reflection


I am writing this rumination on suffering because my body and its state of suffering in life has been extended since coming out of the hospital after the surgery to remove two plates of bone that covered my frontal lobe of the skull.  I am experiencing weakness in a physical way, and though I am trying my best to activate my life through the exercises that were introduced to me by my physiotherapy doctor, parts of my body tend to be aching in a disturbing way.  Does this mean that I am giving up?  Definitely not.  I will pursue in my activation of my life so that my body can enter into a state of repair and recovery.  


I do believe that God is providing me his Holy Spirit to get through each day in my life right now, and giving up on this can end up to be a disaster for me, both as a Singaporean and an ordained priest of the Catholic Church.  There are so many people who are constantly asking me how I am feeling, and all I can say is that my body is still in a state of disrepair.  There is nothing else to add to the reality.  It can end up with the listeners thinking I have given up, when it really isn’t the case at all.  


I am thankful for the many saints of the Church who had gone through suffering in many ways but always with a look of valiance and hope because of their belief in God.  Many had prayed for the intercession of the heroic saints in the likeness of Mary Immaculate, St Monica and her son, St Augustine.  I too resort to praying to them for their saintly intercessions.  Of course, the mysteries of the Holy Rosary help us to meditate on the sufferings which Our Lord went through to show great love for his Heavenly Father, in union with the Holy Spirit.


Perhaps it is timely for those who have been praying for me to recover to pray to those saints and to have a strong devotion to Our Blessed Mother.  This will end up strengthening our faith and to make us testimonials of heroic power in the providence of God.  I too, offer my daily sufferings for the benefit of the many souls who are suffering in many ways these days of the COVID pandemic.  It makes my daily struggles something worth going through in life.