Thursday, August 30, 2012

Late Cardinal of Taiwan - Inspiring Article Written Shortly Before His Death

(Note to reader: The original title of this post ("Late Cardinal of Taiwan - Inspiring Article Written 3 Days Before Death") was incorrect. I do apologize for not verifying the wrong information that the original post title had used until a blog reader pointed it out to me.)

I don't know much about the late Cardinal Paul Shan Kuohsi. But his article below, written shortly before his death, touched me deeply. I have never heard his sermons or read his writings, but this article alone is enough to command a great deal of admiration and respect from me. Let's face it, each one of us may one day go through ordeals similar to his. In particular, he reminded me of my beloved Mom who passed away almost three years ago. Is this kind of experience very difficult? Sure it is, both for the dying person and for the family members. Is this humiliating? Extremely. Is this necessarily a bad thing? I don't think so. Just read the late Cardinal's witness story if you want to know why.

Like Jesus, the strength and holiness of the late Cardinal shone through in the most powerful way just when he was completely crushed by weaknesses and humiliations. "For when I am weak, then I am strong" (2 Corinthians 12:10). As I read his article, the thought that crossed my mind was this: If we are prepared to really follow Jesus, what's there for us to fear? Copied below is his article for your reflection. For blog readers who don't understand Chinese, I'm sorry: English translation is not yet available.

耶穌會在培育自己的會士以及聖職人員方面素負盛 名。藉著聖依納爵的神操和經驗豐富的神 師, 不但給受培育者奠下堅強的神修基礎,而且在 服 裝儀容以及待人接物處世的禮儀和態度等細節都 非 常注意。加入耶穌會將近70年, 聖依納爵神修的大原則和精神以及待人接物和處世的禮儀態度等細 節 已漸漸和我的日常生活整合,並且已漸漸形成一種意識:自己既是會士又是聖職人員,對外則代表 耶穌會和教會,對內則負有牧靈及領導教友福傳的 責任。靈修培育、品格修養、責任感、榮譽意識、學問的追求、做事的認真、重 視效率等,甚至整個人生的目的,按照聖依納爵的原則,都是為「愈顯 主 榮」和「拯救更多人靈」。這些都是「愈顯主榮」和使人接近天主的工具及墊腳石。但是脆弱的人性有時讓人忘記真正目的,而將達成目的工具當作目的追求,以增 加自己的聲譽、權威,受到別人的敬重。如果這樣質變,這些工具不但不能引人達到「愈顯主榮」目的,而且變成了接近天主以及和十字架上「掏空自己」的耶穌結 合為一的絆腳石。

加 入耶穌會將近70年, 每日祈禱、行神業,尤其 晉鐸後,每日 舉行感恩祭,感覺和天主相當接近。但是和胸膛被長槍打開,「掏空自己」(斐理伯書 第2章 第7節), 赤身露體,一絲不掛地懸在十字上垂死的耶穌,卻有一段距離。我只能站在距離祂三個台階的地方,哀傷地觀望祂,卻無法上到山頂祂的十字架傍陪伴祂。在日常祈 禱中,尤其在每年的 避靜中,多次反省 檢討。但是找不出真正的原因。感謝天主給我一個好機會。最近一個月,因治療宿疾,必須住院。住院期間有充足時間祈禱和反省上述問題。在祈禱時,「掏空自 己」、胸膛敞開,一絲不掛,赤身露體懸在十字架上垂死耶穌的形像時 常 出現。同時也有聲音說:「掏空自己,就能登上 加 爾瓦略山頂,和掏空自己的耶穌接近,並且和祂 共融結合為一。」

上 述的異象和聲音使我恍然大悟:原來我穿戴的 服 飾太多太重;耶穌會先賢所創造的偉業和榮譽、 聖 職人員的道袍、主教的權戒高冠、樞機的紅袍禮 服 等,將我整個人包裝得一層又一層,以致使我失去了原形。並且這些服飾已和我的日常生活整合,將其脫去,談何容易。人做不到的,天主做得到。最後只有求天主 伸出強有力的援手為我脫下這些沈重的服飾。天主略施小技,和我開了幾個玩笑,捉弄我一下,讓我出了幾次醜,就把我的問題徹底解決了。前三次醜事記憶猶新, 分別記述如下。6月 底,因肺部積水住進高雄聖功醫院。次日,醫生讓我吃了一種強烈的利尿劑,以便將肺部積水排出。我毫不知情,否則我可以換一下做彌撒的時間。正在舉行聖祭時 藥性發作。開始我強忍,讀經後褲子已尿溼一半,不得不去洗手間,去時地板上也撒滿尿水。這是晉鐸57年來,在舉行彌撒時第1次發生這樣的糗事,使我的尊嚴和顏面 盡失,在修女和醫護人員面前,真感到無地自容。這是天主治療我虛榮心的開始。

第2次出醜是由高雄轉到台北耕莘醫院後 發生的。因為兩天沒有大便,醫生讓我吃一些瀉藥。當天半夜,藥性發作,便叫醒熟睡中的男看護攙扶我去入廁。剛進入化粧室,還未到馬桶前,糞便不自禁地撒在 地板上。男看護不小心踏上一堆糞便。半醒的他滿腹不高興,一邊用水沖自己的拖鞋和地板上的糞便,一邊嘟嚷了許多我聽不懂的話。最後他將我弄髒的睡衣脫下, 讓我赤裸裸地坐在馬桶上,用水沖洗我兩腿上的糞便,同時如同大人訓斥小孩子一樣,教訓我這個九旬老翁:「離馬桶兩三步,你都忍不住!給我添這麼多麻煩!以 後再有同樣情況,要早一點告訴我,幫你早一點下床入廁!……」這時我感覺自己好似剛滿週歲的小孩子,無言以對。他的每句話猶如利刃,將我90年養成的自尊、維護的榮譽、頭 銜、地位、權威、尊嚴等一層層地剝掉了。清洗完備,他攙扶我躺在床上之後,他自己很快呼呼入睡。我卻非常清醒,有脫胎換骨的輕鬆感。現在胸腔被打開,「被 掏空」、赤裸裸懸在十字架上的耶穌又在我腦海中出現,向我微笑,示意和祂接近。我這時感覺自己身輕猶如一隻小袋鼠,一躍便跳到聖山頂十字架下。再一躍,兩 隻前掌已爬到耶穌雙足上。這時仰首看到耶穌還在微笑,並將肋膀聖傷打開,示意叫我跳進去。小袋鼠再一跳,便進入了耶穌洞開的心房中,猶如回到母袋中一樣。 感覺在這裏最安全,最溫暖,完全被耶穌的無限大愛所包圍,感到無限的滿足與幸福。這時,我的理智雖然清醒,但是我也分不清自己是在祈禱或是在做夢。次日早 晨那位男看護還是畢恭畢敬地照顧我, 好似不知夜間那件不愉快的事。感謝天主利用那位男看護不但治癒了我心靈的宿疾,使我煥然一新,恢復了兒童的純樸、天真、謙卑……,而且也治療了從小養成的 羞怯,絕對不要人看到自己赤身一絲不掛。自從那夜被脫去睡衣沖洗糞便以來,這種羞怯已完全消失。現在我纔真正了解耶穌所說的:「你 們若不變成如同小孩子一樣,你們決不能進入天國」(《瑪竇福音》第18章第3節)的意義。

第3次出醜是兩個星期前。那時我剛住進 耶穌會的頤福園內。因為腳水腫,早飯後,醫護人員在我不知 情下,讓我吃一種強烈的排尿劑。但是那一天上午9時30分 我必須去耕莘醫院接受放射性治療。一個排尿器具都沒有準備。在去醫院的途中藥性發作,強忍了10分鐘,但終於不能再忍下去,便尿溼 了半條褲子和輪椅上的坐墊。到了醫院後又要排隊入廁時,又有尿液排出,褲子更溼。就這樣上了腫瘤科放射台,醫護和技術人員看得很清楚,這時的我,連最後的 一點尊嚴也喪失了。其實九旬病翁一生所累積的榮譽、頭銜、地位、權威、尊重、敬愛等,對於牧靈、福傳、拯救人靈、愈顯主榮,雖然有了不少助益,但是有時, 至少在下意識裡,讓他自滿,洋洋得意,有時甚至成了他追求的目標。如此,這些「愈顯主榮」的墊腳石,反而成了他親近「掏空自己」一絲不掛懸在十字架之耶穌 的絆腳石。

感 謝仁慈天父用大能強力的手,將我從靈修途中的泥淖中拉出,並將絆腳石為我變成墊腳石。感謝「掏空自己」的天主聖子收納我,容許我和祂親密接近結合,甚至讓 我猶如小袋鼠一樣,隨時可以鑽入祂肋膀的聖傷內。感謝天主聖神用強烈的勁風,摧枯拉朽,將我這棵老樹枯枝上所留下幾片阻礙我和「掏空自己」之殘葉吹得淨 盡,連從小養成的羞怯及矜持自尊的性格也吹得無踪無影,使我煥然一新,返老還童。

上 述的親身經驗,使我領悟到靈修生活中三項重要事實:(一)如願和「掏空自己」或「使自己空虛」”HE EMPTIED HIMSELF”(《斐理伯書》第 2章第7節),一絲不掛,懸在十字架上的耶穌親密接近,結合為一,就必須仰賴天主助佑 先「掏空自己」。(二)慈愛的天主有時也給人開玩笑,讓人出幾次醜,就能治癒心靈的宿疾,清除靈修途中的障礙及絆腳石,甚至改變人自小養成不利靈修的積 習。(三)返老還童,讓身患絕症的九旬老翁,在數天內回歸兒童時的純樸天真無邪,掃除多年積累不利靈修的習性。這事「為 人是不可能的,但為天主一切都是可能的」(《瑪竇福音》第19章第 26節)。耶穌所說的:「你 們若不變成如同小孩子一樣,你們決不能進入天國」(《瑪竇福音》第18章第3節),確實是靈修生活不可或缺的一個 重要條件。        
2012年7月31日 聖依納爵慶節 完稿於頤福園

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It Hurts When You Don't Read What I Write

Those who are passionate and serious about writing - unfortunately there just isn't enough of them in this world - will know the meaning of this topic well. After reading and studying the Bible for many years, I'm totally convinced that there is no writer more passionate and serious than God the Divine Writer. When people don't read what the Divine Writer wrote - the Bible - He's understandably sad.

Yes, I've heard it too many times: the Bible is hard to read; it's boring; I don't see its relevance to what I do in my life; it's very unscientific; it's factually self-contradictory in many areas; it's full of violence....Comments such as these usually come from people who don't read the Bible. What about those who do? This is what they say:

"An inexhaustible treasury of heavenly doctrine" - St. Chrysostom in Gen. Hom. xx, 2.

"Fertile pastures and beautiful gardens in which the flock of the Lord is marvelously refreshed and delighted" - St. Augustine, serm. xxvi, 24.

"To live amidst these things, to meditate these things, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else, does it not seem to you already here below a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom?" - St. Jerome, Ep. 53, 10.

"If there's one thing that's capable of changing my life completely, turning me from a rebel against the Church to an apologist, from a life view that's completely self-centred to one that sees life as not worth living unless it's lived as a complete gift of self, it's the Bible!" - Yours truly.

Those who are critical of the Bible have to wonder why the saints are all in one accord in commending it.

I must hasten to point out: I put my comment up there together with the saints' not because I consider myself a saint, but because I'm truly one of those wretched souls who have benefited tremendously from the Bible. But whether a wretch or a saint, one can feel the full force of the Bible only if the Holy Spirit has touched his heart. Without Him, all attempts to read and understand the Bible will be futile.

But what should I do to make sure I have the Holy Spirit's guidance in reading the Bible? you ask. Find the right "tour guide"!

Just like the excursions mentioned in my two "Cruise Trip" posts, it makes a world of difference if an experienced person is there to lead and guide you when you journey through the Bible. It's even better if your guide is an authentic source of credibility, authority, and holiness. Over the years, some excellent "tour guides" I've used include: the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Conciliary documents (Vatican II, etc.), papal writings and pronouncements, and Church Fathers' writings. What all of these documents have in common is that they contain numerous scriptural teachings and insights that really enable the reader to understand the richness and vibrancy of the Bible. The understanding in turn will bring peace and happiness that make the scriptural books appear like "fertile pastures and beautiful gardens".

For beginners, your best "tour guide" is the Catechism of the Catholic Church. What is important is that you have your Bible handy as you read the Catechism. When the Catechism explains a certain doctrine or teaching, it often makes reference to some scriptural passages. Look those up to make sure you understand why the scriptural passages referred to support what the Catechism teaches. This is a rather arduous process; it takes a lot of going back and forth between the Catechism and the Bible. But if you adhere to this approach diligently, I can guarantee that before you are mid-way through the Catechism, you will have become quite a Bible expert! The greatest advantage of this method is that your understanding of the Bible will be rooted deep in the Holy Tradition because the catechetical teachings of the Catechism reflect faithfully the Catholic faith handed down by the Apostles and the Church Fathers over 2,000 years of the Church history.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cruise Trip Ending in Rome Where It All Began

Perhaps it was the influence of Islam and the ancient Byzantine culture; perhaps the religious separation of the nations from the Latin Church; perhaps the geographically off-centred location of the region if western Europe is seen as the centre stage of European culture and history - whatever it was, the shroud of mystique covering the Turkey and Greece region was something that tickled my curiosity as I stood with Josephine on the ocean-view outdoor deck of Equinox, leaning against the waist-high railing to admire the golden hues of the setting sun on the distant horizon of the Aegean Sea.

As the ship headed west toward the coasts of southern Italy, we entered into the last 3 days of the itinerary of the cruise: 1 day at sea, 1 day in Naples, and then Rome where the passengers would disembark. With all passengers on board, the ship was noticeably more crowded, but not so much as to cause any discomfort or inconvenience. Ever
so organized and attentive to the needs of the passengers, management of the crew took the opportunity to offer Dessert Extravaganza on the evening before the at-sea day, and then a formal dinner at the magnificent and luxurious Silhouette Dinning Room on the following evening.












The at-sea day also meant we had more time to explore the various venues and amenities offered by the ship. By this time of the journey, I had already adopted certain "daily routines", one of which was
waking up early in the morning to exercise on deck of the Lawn Club - a freshly manicured lawn on the highest deck of Equinox with a decidedly country club atmosphere that was just fantastic for outdoor activities. The Oceanview Cafe and Bar was only one deck below, which was where I would go for breakfast following morning exercise. I would find a table good for 4 people, open up the book that I had brought specifically for reading during this trip, and wait patiently for the rest of my family to join me. Sometimes they never did. If any family members ever showed up, it would be Jason who was more disciplined and predictable, followed by Josephine. Michelle? Well, it appeared her body clock always mistook lunch for breakfast....












At the port of Naples, we were picked up by Antonio, our driver and tour guide whose slender build, elongated face, slightly protruded teeth and seemingly mindless laughter reminded me of a good childhood friend named Hong Gor. It was simmering hot in Naples. There was not a cloud in the sky. Whatever remnants that remained from the morning haze were quickly burnt off by the rising sun that continued to pick up strength as the day progressed. Antonio, the Italian version of Hong Gor, was a cheerful young man who had just got married, and was extremely proud to be able to work for his new wife who was now his office manager. Driving us up and down the incredibly treacherous roads in the mountainous region of southern Italy, Antonio brought us safely to the scenic Amalfi Coast. While the ocean views of Amalfi were eye-catching and the beauty of its beaches stunning, what really took our breath away was something very humble and unnoticeable that sat in a quiet corner of the town.

Hidden in a curved corner in downtown Amalfi, the Cathedral of Amalfi looked small and was hardly detectable amongst a multitude of tourist shops jockeying for business and people's attention. But as soon as we had climbed its long stairway to reach the front door, we realized that it was anything but small. Standing there at the doorway to
greet every visitor was a sign that said, "Welcome to the Cathedral of Amalfi and the crypt with St. Andrew's tomb". St. Andrew? One of the twelve apostles? Indeed he was!! Having visited the house of Mary in Ephesus, venerated the burial place of St. John, and then traced the footsteps of St. Paul in Athens and Corinth, little did I know that our cruise trip would take us to the tomb of St. Andrew
- Simon Peter's brother who took Simon to see Jesus, the Messiah he had just found (cf. John 1:40-42). Without him, the first Pope of the Church could have been a different person! With my heart filled with thankfulness and my head overcome by incredulity, I did the only thing that was right: kneeling down at the crypt to thank God and St. Andrew for the blessings....

If there's anything I didn't like about Celebrity Equinox, it was their very strong but tastless coffee, which caused me to go without coffee for many days. As a result, I was overjoyed when I found a good cup of "American coffee" at a coffee shop in Positano - another beautiful coastal town situated to the east of Amalfi.
People say that in ancient Europe all journeys began and ended in Rome. So it was with ours. From Positano Antonio drove us to his home town Sorrento, and from there we took a hydrofoil to return to Naples and our ship Equinox.












By the time we disembarked to Rome, we had already had very blessed encounters with Our Lady and three apostles (St. John, St. Paul, and St. Andrew). On this second visit of Rome - the first one was in 2008 - we paid tribute to Scavi, the catacomb underneath St. Peter's Basilica, where we saw the bones of St. Peter placed in a crypt no more than 20 feet away from where we knelt. That brought the total number of apostolic encounters to 4! Adding to our blessings were a Sunday morning Mass at JPII's new altar and Angelus at noon with the Holy Father, whose books, Jesus of Nazareth I & II, I had just read.

A cruise trip like this for four people was not cheap obviously. But no money can buy the family time that we spent together; and nothing can compare to the blessings that God graciously bestowed on our family during the 15 days in which we as family members got to know one another a little better. At this stage of my life, knowing where I am spiritually
and where I once was, upholding a renewed understanding of the true meaning of life and its values, and doing what I've always loved to do - spreading the Good News of Christ, a trip like this really enabled me to reflect and come to realize "the breadth and length and height and depth" of the love of Christ (Eph 3:18), who has always been merciful, faithful, and steadfast in leading and guiding me in all these years. With a heart filled with thankfulness, contentment, and great joy, I conclude this sharing at our last stop in Rome, where it all began....