Monday, December 19, 2011

Handel's Messiah Is Not About "Happy Holidays"!

Christmas was only a week away. The days were short, the temperatures hovering around -5°C, and the mid-town streets buzzing with busy Christmas shoppers. There we were, Josephine and I together with two other couples, sitting in the pews of the Christ Church Deer Park, a mid-town Anglican church, eager for Michael Burgess and the Ontario Philharmonic to begin their performance of Handel’s Messiah.

In the last few years, Josephine and I had attended Handel’s Messiah during the Christmas season almost annually. Not only was Handel’s music incredibly talented, the Scriptural passages he used were also extremely powerful and spiritually stimulating, enabling the listener to experience once again history’s yearning and anticipation for the coming of the Messiah, and the great joy and jubilation that erupted when the waiting was finally over. For us, attending the Messiah concert was a wonderful way to really get into the Christmas spirit. In a society totally washed up by secularism and relativism, it was also a breath of fresh air to find ourselves sitting among so many people who deemed it more important and meaningful to take the time to enjoy this Christian tradition of Messiah than to do Christmas shopping.

Although the acoustics of the church were no where near the professional quality of the Roy Thomson Hall, where another Handel’s Messiah concert had also been scheduled to be conducted by the Toronto Symphony Orchestra, the church setting actually provided a touch of simplicity and humility that perhaps was more suiting.

The lights went dim; the audience settled into a complete silence; and the pastor of the church got on stage to offer his welcome:

“Good evening! I only have three simple things to say,” the pastor shouted without using a microphone. “Number 1, the washrooms are at the back, just down the stairs; number 2, please turn off your cells; and number 3, happy holidays and enjoy the concert!”

Happy holidays? What holidays? This was a concert about the Messiah, about Jesus: his promises and fulfilments; his birth, suffering, death, and resurrection. The people in the audience didn’t come to celebrate some unknown “holidays”! We were there to celebrate Christmas! Happy holidays? Coming from the mouth of a church pastor simply made things a hundred times worse! This little incident was enough to dampen the spirit of the whole evening, and caused me enough irritations to lose concentration for the rest of the concert!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Love The Bible!

For those who still don’t know why the Bible is such a treasure, I need to offer only one verse from Romans 12:1 to convince them of its divine supremacy.

I urge you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship.  

The term “spiritual worship” in its original rendering in Greek means “word-like” (logike latreia), worshiping God in the manner of the Word. Commenting on this verse, the Holy Father Benedict XVI explains that this verse is the existential dimension of the Cross. In other words, its exhortation is for us to bring the Cross into our lives and live it. How?

According to BXVI, the mystery of the Cross “draws us in and gives a new value to our life,” urging us to practise the “incarnate obedience” of Christ. The significance of the term "incarnate obedience" is meant to point us to the need of obeying God by “offering one’s whole existence to God…the whole person becomes ‘Word-like’, ‘God-like.’” Our physical existence - our body - is penetrated by the Word and becomes a gift to God. This, in a word, is the priestly charism of a Christian's baptismal grace: offering up one's body as a living sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to God - a religious practice faithfully followed by the Levitical priests in Old Testament times using animal bodies, which was but a transitory sign pointing to the eternal High Priest Jesus Christ's ultimate sacrifice of his own body on the Cross for all mankind.

What a meaningful way to live! Are you prepared to live this way? The Bible - not only does it offer us ideals loftier than we can ever dream of; it also challenges us to put them into practice, following "the man" (John 19:5) who was able to practise them all in a perfect way!

(Ref: Jesus of Nazareth II, p. 236.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Bordering on "Silliness"

With the help of very dedicated volunteers sent to us by God, year one of the 2-year Catechism Revisited Program (CRP) is now available on DVDs. The inaugural sale of the CRP DVDs was launched last weekend with the help of Fountain of Love and Life (FLL) and its volunteers, through the FLL network of distribution. 

People don't always take the time to give us their feedback. But when they do, it's a gesture we always appreciate, whether their comments are favourable or unfavourable. Yesterday we received one email from a person who bought the CRP DVDs. It was a very special email. I thought I should share it with the readers of this blog. I had the email sender's approval to publish it on condition of anonymity. Here it goes, followed by my reply:

From: [Deleted]
Sent: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 8:23 PM
Subject: Re: CRP DVD

Hi Edmond,

I listen to all CRP and BSP lectures on website and find it very valuable and it enhances my bible knowledge (I also downloaded all programs on ipod and keep listening on transit).  More important, I find bible reading very interesting.  I have completed reading the entire bible early this year and now I am re-reading it.  I am so happy the CRP is now on DVD and am very excited to watch it once I bought it last Sunday.  I truly thank the FLL and your efforts in promoting the bible study and hope more programs can be on DVD in future.
This is my reply:

Thanks for taking the time to provide your feedback. It was very encouraging - actually I was overjoyed - to know that you ENJOY reading the Bible after listening to CRP and BSP, which really is all we can hope for because our ultimate goal in conducting the two programs is to help our participants understand and appreciate better the revealed word of God. I'd also like to thank you for your strong support of the two programs, whether it be your downloading of our audio clips or your purchasing of our DVDs.

Yes, we will continue to produce more DVDs/CDs. At least we want to get the DVDs for CRP Part II done. By God's grace, CRP Part I has been very well-received so far. We take this as an affirmative sign from God that we are on the right track, and that DVD/CD production is an effective way to extend the reach of CRP and BSP one step further to include many parishioners who otherwise will not be able to join. It's all for the good of evangelization and for the building up of the Kingdom of God.

In addition to the Planning Committees of the two programs and the FLL who made the production and distribution of the DVDs possible, I'm copying this also to the attention of [names of 3 CRP volunteers] - three very valuable volunteers whose technical expertise and hard work have made it possible for people like you to benefit from our DVDs/CDs and websites.

In spite of all the people mentioned above, myself included, God is the only One who can take credit for whatever results the programs have achieved. For "Unless the LORD builds the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Psalm 127:1). I truly believe that it's the Holy Spirit who is doing all this work in your heart. Downloading ALL audio files onto iPod, listening to them while on transit - probably over and over again, watching the DVDs with excitement - that sounded a lot like me when the Holy Spirit ignited a fire in my heart to kick start a lengthy and life-changing conversion! No, it wasn't exactly an iPod that I used - only a lousy cassette player. DVD was unheard of back in the early nineties. But, hey, the "silliness" sounds familiar! The work of the Holy Spirit is unmistakable! I pray that He would continue to do His work in you until you are totally on fire and fully consumed to become a sweet-smelling oblation in holocaust (cf. Numbers 15:3), worthy of being accepted as a sacrificial offering to God!

Peace and blessings,

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Blog Pageviews

For someone who doesn't write or, I must admit, is not good enough to write to make money; my only goal is to share my thoughts with the readers, wherever they are. In this regard, I am very encouraged and thankful to see that the pageviews of my blog have gone up by leaps and bounds in the last couple of weeks, especially after the publication of Part V of My Early Retirement Story ( For whatever reason, visitors - mostly from Canada, some from the U.S., Hong Kong and the U.K. - are suddenly flocking to my blog to read all five parts of My Early Retirement Story, pushing all five posts to the very top of the pageview list. The pageviews of a few other posts also went up at the same time, reflecting the curiosity of the new visitors, I presume. Given my simple goal as previously stated, I can only hope that this increase in pageviews is more than a one-time blip, and that my readers will stick around to read this blog regularly.

Writing to me is not just another means of communication; it also allows me to express my thoughts in a more organized way, with more articulation, precision, and clarity. It is something I enjoy doing. It is as much an integral part of my lay apostolate as the other evangelization activities that I'm involved in.

Unlike the other activities, however, writing does not avail me with the opportunity to see the person with whom I'm sharing my intimate thoughts and reflections. In a way, this makes it even more intriguing because I know some people are interested in what I say: I can see them in the blog stats; I know they are there; I can even tell what countries they are from, what systems they use. They are there but then I can't really see them physically; the stats are there to suggest their presence but then I don't really know them in person. Visible or  undetectable, real people or cyber space stats, from Hong Kong or in my home town of Toronto; it's comforting to know that the thoughts in my hearts are somehow resonating in theirs, and that my little blog has somehow become a town hall meeting where discussions are conducted in silence.

Would appreciate a comment or two if you know how to do it. Failing that, you can still express your approval or disapproval by checking off "Like" or "Don't Like" in the bottom of every post.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 5 – What Do I Do on Retirement?

On a sunny day in Kingston after Christmas, all four members of our family were huddling for lunch at Kelsey’s after a 3-hour drive from Markham to return Michelle to Queen’s University where she was studying. I decided it was a good time to break the news to Michelle and Jason. It appeared they understood the gravity of the issue being discussed for I was given a good 15 minutes of their undivided attention, which as many parents would agree was quite a generosity on their part. Then came their reaction: “So are we going to have a retirement party?” blurted out Jason, with memories of our 25th wedding anniversary party still fresh in his head.

This pretty well sums up people’s general reaction when they learn that I am “retired.” Having read four parts of this sharing of mine, the reader probably knows by now that I don’t really consider myself “retired” as such. Rather, I see my lay apostolate as a special vocation, an opportunity to contribute to the building up of the kingdom of God before old age reins me in. At the same time, I also learned quickly that trying to explain my special situation to people who inquire casually out of courtesy is both futile and clumsy. To most people, a capable adult is either working, or unemployed, or retired. Therefore, no matter how I try my answer will remain incomprehensible unless I tell them I am “retired.” And that is what I have learned to say. But still, seeing that I am not that old many of them would marvel: “Oh, how nice! Now you can enjoy life early!” To that my typical response is: “Not really. It’s just a different way to work.”

“What work?” one may rightfully ask. No need to go into the details and bore every reader to death here, suffice it to say that it is indeed quite a list. In addition to the Catechism Revisited and Bible Study Programs, which are two very intensive programs that require a lot of time and work, my lay apostolate also includes many other evangelization and spiritual formation activities: RCIA, spiritual formation projects for my parish, speaking engagements, retreats or conferences, personal spiritual counselling, family group meetings, voluntary work for the Fountain of Love and Life media evangelization ministry, writing, etc. In the early going, I was keenly aware of my “opportunity costs.” My utmost concern, therefore, was to make sure that my time was fully utilized and well spent. As it turned out, the list of my activities kept growing and growing to the point that my concern now is more about leaving enough time for my family.

At the same time, as the Holy Father has warned, I was well aware that I must not “become utterly absorbed in activism…maintaining consideratio, discretion, deeper examination, contemplation, time for interior pondering…remaining with God and meditating about God” are just as important (BXVI, Light of the World, p. 71) if my goal is to lead a life of spirituality in a world fixated on corporeal matters, and to find detachment in the commotion of daily activities. This is why even when the weather is harsh, I do not want to miss the lunchtime opportunity of strolling around the Too Good Pond in contemplation, saying the Rosary as the Canada geese waddling around me and the birds in the trees chime in. (Read my reflection on the Too Good Pond.) In the austerity of winter, with the northern winds roaring, the paths full of snow accumulation, and the pond frozen, I often walk in solitude and find solace in the Lord’s agony and suffering, which in fact was a glorious manifestation of the power of weakness, the power of the Cross (cf. 2 Cor. 12:9-10).

I can’t possibly conclude this sharing without mentioning my gratitude for the support that Josephine has given me throughout this whole process. I truly believe that long before the two of us met in Windsor; God had searched long and hard, far and wide to find me a suitable partner whom I could enter into a lifetime communion with. And He found me Josephine. I am a very expressive person, and I can find no better person to listen to me than Josephine. She is a fantastic and intelligent listener, and she loves listening to me! Therefore, she was well aware of where my thoughts were heading and what my plan was long before this whole episode of my early retirement story had come to pass. We had dissected and anticipated most if not all of the implications of this new direction that God was taking us, and had been quite prepared to face them all. On that sunny day in Kingston after Christmas, we were just thankful that we also had the buy in of our children.

O Lord! If life is but a libation to be poured out as sacrificial offering until the last drop is consumed (cf. Phil. 2:17), may my lay apostolate be accepted as a self-effacing undertaking to empty my life of earthly riches and desires, of deceits and hatreds, of vanity and selfishness, until the core of my being is filled with peace, love, joy, gentleness, obedience, humility, and most of all, with Christ. Amen!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 4: A Cliff Hanging Experience!

At the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus’ call for vigilance to his disciples, who were drowsy, was repeated with great urgency. In discussing the hour of Jesus’ agony on the Mount of Olives, the Holy Father said, “Such drowsiness deadens the soul, so that it remains undisturbed by the power of the Evil One at work in the world…Yet this deadening of souls, this lack of vigilance regarding both God’s closeness and the looming forces of darkness, is what gives the Evil One power in the world” (BXVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part 1, p. 153).

A few days before my conversation with my former boss, Jeff, referred to previously in Part 3 of this sharing, I was praying before going to bed as usual. It was part of my daily routines, an end-of-the-day exercise that enabled me to refocus my heart on God and gave me peace. But on this night, my heart was anything but peaceful. My soul was agitated because it wasn’t at peace with the Holy Spirit who dwelled in me.

Apparently the Treasurer’s overt aggression and her self-serving tactics had induced in me a deep disdain, if not hatred, for her. Without knowing it, my survival instincts took over and all I thought about everyday was how to launch a counter attack: What were some of the things that she did wrong that would allow me to thwart her aggression or even remove her from the board? Who were the “allies” that I could count on for support? On this night, with drowsiness weighing heavy on my eyes, the forces of darkness were looming indeed. They were lurking in the shadows, waiting for the best moment to pounce on their long-coveted victim.

As usual, I read the Bible before I prayed. I normally selected a certain book of the Bible and followed it through by reading a few passages before each evening prayer until the book was finished. On that particular evening, with my heart filled with hatred and my head hollering for vengeance, I happened to be reading 1 Peter chapter 2. Looking back, I now realize that not only does God talk to us, He also knows how to do so effectively. He talks to us using a language or vehicle that we are sensitive to or interested in. In my case, it was the Bible. Just as He once communicated with St. Augustine, who before his conversion was a man of earthly ambitions and unchaste desires, by commanding him to read Romans 13:13-14(cf. Confessions, VIII.12); on that night, with the forces of darkness threatening and my body half-hanging on the edge of a cliff, He gave me a stern wake-up call through St. Peter:

Rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, insincerity, envy, and all slander; like newborn infants, long for pure spiritual milk so that through it you may grow into salvation, for you have tasted that the Lord is good… Beloved, I urge you as aliens and sojourners to keep away from worldly desires that wage war against the soul…Be subject to every human institution for the Lord's sake, whether it be to the king as supreme or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the approval of those who do good…Slaves, be subject to your masters with all reverence, not only to those who are good and equitable but also to those who are perverse…But if you are patient when you suffer for doing what is good, this is a grace before God. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example that you should follow in his footsteps (1Peter 2:1-21 underlining mine.)

The words pierced my heart like a thousand arrows, every one of them a swift and convincing retort to my well-conceived arguments for justifying deceit and retaliation!

I had to be honest with myself. In the ten years or so before my retirement, the divergence taken by my career and my mission of evangelization had become painfully clear. One was slowly going downhill, to the point that I had completely lost my enthusiasm. I felt like my time – my life – could be better utilized. I was hard pressed to come up with one good reason for continuing the status quo. Yes, the income was still tempting, but deep down I knew my time, or any person’s time for that matter, was far too precious to be spent just for the sake of making money.

On the other hand, I had become more and more convinced that God’s will was for me to make good use of the gifts or “talents” (cf. Mt. 25:14ff) that He had entrusted with me, and not to lay waste the time and work that He had invested in me to give me my conversion and to equip me well for evangelization. If my interest in my career was dissipating, my passion for evangelization was just beginning to soar. I was also keenly aware that the years that I had left that would allow me to use God’s “talents” effectively were very limited. It’s time I made a decision which was long overdue. I took the “prayer incident” as God’s very last push. My mind was made up: It’s time I left the company; it’s time I submitted my will to merge with His.

Dear Lord, how sweet it is to know that You, whose omnipotence incites great fears, will stoop low to communicate with us lowly mortals, not only collectively but also personally, doing so not only in your way but also in our way just so we will pay attention. Truly to know You presupposes communion with you; it presupposes oneness of being with You. Your thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are your ways our ways (cf. Isaiah 55:8). Only by wanting to be the little ones will we know Your will (cf. Mt. 11:27), and only by submitting our will to merge with Yours will our lives be brought to completion in You. Thank you for using St. Peter to reveal Your will to me, a little one, a slave. Thank you for stooping down low to talk to me. Forgive me, O Lord, for allowing the Evil One to enter my heart to fill it with vengeance and hatred. But “LORD, you brought me up from Sheol; you kept me from going down to the pit” (Psalms 30:4.) You lifted me up when my body was half-hanging on a cliff. Amen!

Friday, October 7, 2011

Canadian Thanksgiving

The weather was chilly and cloudy in the last little while. But since last Sunday, it has changed to become sunny. The air is a little crisp and dry and the mornings still chilly (I had to wear my hat and gloves when I went jogging this morning!). It's just autumn's way to say hello upon arrival, I suppose. However, they are predicting a summer-like weekend with simmering temperatures, complete with summer-like humidex! Jason came home from University of Western Ontario for the Thanksgiving weekend. So, we'll have all four of us at home for a change. I guess we'll have B-B-Q if possible, which will be our first in this whole summer!! It surely will also be our last before winter comes roaring in.

This morning as I sat and prayed before breakfast, my heart was filled with thankfulness for my family. Over the years without having to say much, Josephine and I have been able to teach Michelle and Jason many of our religious values and the way we see the meaning of life simply by living and interacting with them day in and day out as a family. We know that because it's showing in the way they behave, the way they make decisions, and the way they interact with other people. No parents can guarantee that their children will always stay on the right track. But we can honestly say we've done what we can, and we'll leave everything in God's good hands.

As I reflected over this, I couldn't help but also thank God for giving me the Lo's family. Flawed and full of hardships as it was, the Lo's family that I grew up from was nonetheless a warm and loving family with parents who loved each other deeply and believed in the value of marriage and family. It was a family that followed God's command to "be fertile and multiply" (Genesis 1:28) - we have 10 children in the family; a family with its door opened wide not only to its own members but also to its kin and even strangers; a family that was able to withstand all kinds of forces that threatened to pull it apart and somehow managed to stay together. Most of all, it is a family that kindles fond memories in my heart; it prepared me well to raise my own family, and to do so by modelling after in many ways the Lo's family.

So that was my prayer this morning, not only to thank God, but also to thank my parents who gave us the Lo's family....

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Life Is Like Jesus' Ascent to Jerusalem

The more I read about and reflect on our Christian faith, the more I'm convinced that life is like Jesus' pilgrimage to Jerusalem. It is an ascent to the Holy Temple where God dwells. The ascent is external and geographical: from the low-lying Sea of Galilee area (690 feet below sea level) to Mount Zion (2,500 feet above sea level.) It is also internal and spiritual: Jesus going up to his Cross out of obedience to the Father. 

As Jesus' followers, our external ascent is in our journeying to the Heavenly City of Jerusalem, i.e. what people mean by "heaven." What is more important though is our "inner ascent" that is accomplished only in our acceptance of self-offering, hardships, and sacrifices, and in our willingness to go up to our cross and share the Lord's suffering and self-offering out of love.

(Inspiration: BXVI, Jesus of Nazareth, Part II, p.2.)

Friday, September 2, 2011

The Best Amazing Grace

Definitely the best Amazing Grace that I've ever heard! The solo parts are deep, meditational, and filled with emotions: fear, a dark night waiting for the dawn, a lost soul longing for the truth....

But when the four men join force to sing in unison, it's like a huge explosion! It's thunderous, pounding on your heart until it's about to burst; it's overpowering, igniting your soul until it rises from its deep slumber. It's as though you were witnessing the splendour of the very first moment of Creation!

"When we've been there ten thousand years, bright shinning as the sun. We've no less days to sing God's praise than when we've first  begun." With the Scottish bagpipe bellowing in triumph and images of the Roman Colisium swiveling in the background, it's like two thousand years of Church history - the Apostles, the saints, the martyrs, the Church Fathers, the persecutions - are encapsulated in one moment of truth, in one unbelievable manifestation of the dignity of the human spirit. When it is all said and done, the listener is left speechless and totally awe-stricken!

(Copy and paste the above link onto your browser if clicking on the above doesn't get you there.)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Church Teaching On Sex and Marriage

Jesus says, "But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt. 5:28).Given the infiltration of indecent and sexually explicit materials in places all around us - movies, TV, newspapers, magazines, advertisings, commercial billboards, internet, etc., do you find yourself constantly having to "run away" from such temptations? Has life become a constant struggle for you because you feel worn out just doing things that this "run away" mentality requires of you? Maybe there are times when human weaknesses simply overpower your last line of defence and render you a victim of such temptations?

You are cordially invited to join the 2011-12 Catechism Revisited Program as we begin anew in September to study "The Church's Teaching on Sex and Marriage" based on John Paul II's Theology of the Body! From this program you will get to know among other things:

  • The real meaning of sex as you have never known before
  • That sex is not "dirty;" it is holy - it's through physical/bodily realities that we encounter God
  • The sacred meaning of marriage
  • That the whole reality of married life, including the marital embrace, is a sign that manifests the mystery of God's love
  • That you don't have to "run away" from temptations all your life; that a life of chastity, purity, and holiness freely and joyfully lived out in the Holy Spirit is possible if you adopt "the ethos of redemption" made possible by Christ's redemptive grace.

A similar program had been conducted last summer as a small pilot project, and it was very well received. Many of you have the unwarranted fear that this program may be very difficult and dry because it's "theology," and also because it's JPII stuff. Far from it! I can assure you that the topics are very understandable and practical, touching on things that you can relate to everyday. For example:

  • What should I do when I see a beautiful and scantily dressed young girl pass me by in the street?
  • Is it possible for me to commit adultery with MY WIFE?
  • My fiance and I are about to get married in a few months. Our private intimate moments together are getting more and more intense. Should I accept his advances unreservedly? We are getting married anyway.
  • Why aren't Catholic priests allowed to be married?
  • Isn't Natural Family Planning the most unnatural and inhuman birth control method that suppresses your natural desire just when the biological make up of the body system needs it the most?

At the pilot project of last summer, the participants and I were engaged in some of the liveliest discussions I had ever experienced, touching on issues similar to the above. This time we will do the same topics with a larger audience and in a somewhat more structured environment with the support of excellent research materials and references. Most of all, we have recruited a group of very strong and well-qualified facilitators, including doctors, nurses, personal counseling specialist, Billings Method instructor, Creighton Method consultant, FLL production team volunteers with expertise in producing episodes on NFP, converts who abandoned contraception to embrace NFP, etc.

It is no overstatement to say that these days Theology of the Body is the pulse of the Catholic world, the hot topic that keeps the Church buzzing. While some outstanding clergy, scholars, theologians, voluntary organizations of laity, etc. are actively promoting it across North America through universities, special conferences, forums, and the media; unfortunately I haven't seen too many programs similar to this being offered at the parish level, least of all in Chinese parishes. So please make good use of this opportunity and support our meaningful initiative! I look forward to seeing you in our first meeting on September 9!

A concurrent English program will also be conducted for young people aged 15 to 25. Please encourage your children to join (while you are attending the adult program!) so that they will grow up to live in chastity and holiness, which is of utmost concern to us parents these days.

For details and on-line application, please visit the Catechism Revisited Program web site at

You can also help us promote by referring this blog to your friends.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Pope's Reflection on the Feast of Mary's Assumption

While studying Mariology, one very scriptural teaching about Mary that I found really impressive, convincing and intriguing was Mary as the "new Ark of Covenant."

Some of you may be aware that the Ark is a very sacred and amazing object in the Old Testament. This is not the place to go into a full-blown discussion about the Ark. Suffice to say that its related scriptural passages, both in the Old and New Testaments, are numerous and highly fascinating. One main reason to see Mary as the New Ark is that in the Ark "were the gold jar containing the manna, the staff of Aaron that had sprouted, and the tablets of the covenant" (Hebrews 9:4), which signify the Body of Christ, Jesus as the eternal High Priest, and Jesus as the Word of God respectively. In other words, the Ark is considered a prefiguration of Mary, whose sacred womb holds the incarnated body of God, Jesus. Like Mary, the Ark was venerated as sacred and untouchable by Israel and was left in the most sacred place in the Temple of Jerusalem - the Holies of Holy.

Inspired by the Holy Spirit to understand the holiness of Mary, Luke described Mary using the same descriptions of the Ark that 2 Samuel used in its narration of David's effort to bring the Ark into the City of David. Let me just give you a couple of examples here:

1. "During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah" (Luke 1:39). In 2 Samuel 6:3 the Ark also appeared in the background of "hill country".

2. "Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice and said, 'Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb'" (Luke 1:41-42).In 2 Samuel 6:15, David also greeted the Ark "with shouts of joy."

In reflecting on the Feast of the Assumption yesterday, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned one more example:

When Elizabeth exclaims, "look, the moment your greeting reached my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy," St. Luke uses the term “skirtan” which translates to “bounce.” This, the Pope explained, is the same term used to describe the holy dance of King David in front of the Ark of the Covenant when it was returned to Israel in the Old Testament book of Second Samuel. "John the Baptist in the womb is dancing before the ark, like David,” he said. “Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, before which the heart leaps for joy at the Mother of God in the world”.....

For the complete article on the Holy Father's reflection, please read:

It is, therefore, no coincidence that the first reading of the Feast of the Assumption yesterday was from Revelation 11:19, "Then God's temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant could be seen in the temple;” followed by the famous Marian passage of Revelation 12 in which Our Lady, the New Ark of Covenant, appears in her assumed body in heavenly glory: "A great sign appeared in the sky, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was with child and wailed aloud in pain as she labored to give birth."

Devotion to Mary, my dear brothers and sisters, is not a "superstitious thing invented by the Catholic Church," as some evangelical, bible Christians have erroneously claimed. It is in fact a very scriptural thing!

Friday, August 12, 2011

15-Year Old Killed Herself After Gang Rape

On July 20, 2010, the National Post reported that in Winnipeg a 15-year old girl and her two teenage girl friends were partying with three new friends. They had a glass of vodka and Sprite and then quickly passed out. A few hours later, they woke up naked and realized that they had been gang raped. Later the 15-year old went home and hanged herself in her parents’ garage.

What a tragic story! Every time we hear something like this, we have to feel a sense of loss, perhaps even uncontainable anger. It was a life cut short meaninglessly. Like a growing flower nipped mercilessly in the bud, a young person at the prime of her youth was deprived of her right to live like a human person normally would. Many opportunities, adventures, achievements, and sweet moments of life that could have been were suddenly quashed, wiped out, and obliterated in a matter of days or, to be more precise, in a matter of a few moments of wild self-gratifications. It was downright brutal, barbaric, and senseless! And yet, how many stories like this are happening day in and day out all around us? Think about it and you will get sick to your stomach!

Although I’m saying this in the same breath I discussed the gang rape, you know I mean no disrespect. So many times I passed by our church on Saturday and a wedding was taking place. To be blunt and with all due respect to the young people contemplating marriage, I will even go so far as to say that the true meaning of sex is not what many of these newly-weds had in mind when they walked out from the church and legally became husbands and wives.

Using JPII’s words, we live in “a culture that largely reduces human sexuality to the level of something common place, since it interprets and lives it in a reductive and impoverished way by linking it solely with the body and with selfish pleasure” (Familiaris Consortio, n.37). Sex has its loftiest and most profound meaning that is rooted in the very nature of God and in the innermost life of the Holy Trinity, of which we are willed by God to be a part in all eternity. I can’t explain this any better or in a more definitive way than Christopher West, who says, “Virtually everything God wants to tell us on earth about who He is, who we are, the meaning of life, the reason he created us, how we are to live and even our ultimate destiny is contained somehow in the truth and meaning of sexuality and marriage” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, p.19).

This year (2011-2012), the theme of the Catechism Revisited Program is “Church Teaching on Sex and Marriage”. Many people look at this program and wonder why I am doing it. "Why waste your time to discuss chastity and sex issues with a group of participants, most of whom are already your age or older?" they ask. Put it this way: just like the fore-mentioned newly-weds whose notions about sex are all wrong, many people my age or older have got it all wrong too. Sex matters not only for the young people, but also - maybe even more so - for parents and the seniors. Christopher West likes to say that we are all driving around on flat tires and are led to believe that flat tires are “normal”. I’d submit to you that the older people’s “flat tires” are so worn out, it is even more urgent for them to get their tires inflated than it is for the young people!

The fact of the matter is: Whether you are young or old, single or married, JPII’s Theology of the Body is for you. “I would spend the rest of my life studying this pope’s thought and sharing it with others” (Good News About Sex and Marriage, p. 14). If sex and marriage is a life-time discovery and endeavour for Christopher West who is already an expert in this field, who are we to say that we have already got a good handle on this whole teaching? God willing, my hope is to conduct this program again and again. Next time I hope to see you there!

(Modified from an article I wrote on July 20, 2010, for the purpose of promoting this year’s Catechism Revisited Program, which will commence on September 9, 2011. Visit the CRP web site for details and on-line registration:

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 3: How It Happened

Lord Jesus! The Pierced and Crucified One! When I first came to you through the campus ministry of the Basilian Fathers in Windsor, I chose to do so by taking the road of glory. Silly and laughable was I! But my vanity and narcissism convinced me that I was a wise man just because I had some understanding of Philosophy. This time, after a humbling conversion experience that lasted more than a decade, You mercifully granted me the grace to understand and accept that the only way that a lowly mortal like me could behold Your face of glory is the way of the cross. Embracing the cross is indeed foolishness to the world, but I will gladly make myself a fool for “the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom” (1 Cor. 1:25)….

The Christmas of 2008 was still two weeks away but already patchy accumulation of snow on the ground was visible here and there. Everyone in the office was working away sort of half-heartedly, waiting for the company to close early for the annual Christmas lunch. With a coffee in hand, I walked casually into our CEO’s office and closed the door behind me, doing my very best to act nonchalant and downplay the significance and gravity of a conversation that I was about to initiate.

As contemporary business wisdom goes, no employee is indispensible. Although I was the Chief Financial Officer of the company and was one of the last three remaining, longest serving employees, I wasn’t so naïve as to think that my imminent departure would have any earthshaking impact. Still I knew it would cause more than just a few ripples. To make it sound as natural as possible, I started the conversation by commenting on the Finance Committee meeting held a few days ago, which was a rather rocky one both for Jeff, our CEO, and for me. In fact, the meetings had been less than congenial for several months, ever since the company’s plan to move to a new building got underway. The site renovations; dealing with architects, contractors, project management consultants, clients, landlord and bankers; budget planning and monitoring, etc. – everything was adding to the stress that the on-going operations already had on staff, management, and the Board. The relationship between the Treasurer and me had been particularly strained.

The Treasurer of the company was an aggressive and egocentric lady with a fiery temper, whose only interest since joining the Board as a volunteer was to draw attention to her consulting experience and professional qualifications, and to promote her personal business interests. To say that it wasn’t easy to work with her is perhaps too much of an understatement, but I somehow had managed to do so for more than three years. One day, she and I were having a telephone discussion when she suddenly began to swear, using all kinds of profane language. It was the second time she had done this to me. The first time it happened, it was milder but I was taken aback nonetheless. This time I was ready.

Having worked for almost 30 years, 25 of which in Toronto, it’s not like I had not heard other people swear at work before, but the experience with this lady was very different. As the listener on the receiving end, I felt that her profanity was more than a mindless outburst of anger. It was a deliberate attempt to insult. I decided that I had to draw the line. I told her to stop, reminding her that there was no place for profane language in a discussion that was purely business. What followed was a prolonged silence with theatrical intensity. What was racing through her head on the other end of the phone line I could only guess: Shock? Humiliation? Fury? A burning desire to inflict vengeance? I had no idea. The next thing I heard: She suddenly changed her tone to speak with a great deal of solemnity, in a voice that sounded like she had just dropped to the floor and got back up: “I think it’s time for this conversation to end. Goodbye!” The phone went dead; so did my career. OK, it wasn’t exactly the end, but it was at least the beginning of the end. From then on, the Finance Committee meetings became even more difficult because I was clearly targeted.

I told Jeff I was concerned that the endless accusations at the recent Finance Committee meetings; its members’ unreasonable requests, particularly those of the Treasurer; and its poisoning atmosphere of distrust could adversely affect my health. A life-time government bureaucrat and ever a pragmatic diplomat who sensed political expediency faster than a hound dog sensed blood, Jeff picked up the clue quickly.

“Is there anything we can do to end this impasse?” he asked.

“I certainly hope so. What do you think?” I passed him back the ball.

Not wanting to pass up on this great opportunity that found its way to his door, Jeff wasted no time to state the obvious, “Would you consider working out amicably with us a severance package that is mutually acceptable and beneficial?”

Before lunch time came around, Jeff and I had agreed on the general terms although the fine details remained to be ironed out by the lawyers after the New Year, subject to Board approval of course.

At lunch time, Jeff and I and the other members of the management team sat in the dinning room of an uptown restaurant together with all company staff, chatting away and enjoying good foods in a jovial party atmosphere as though everything was just business as usual. When it was over, the waitress came with the bill and asked for the company person in charge. Everyone looked at me, the CFO with the company credit card. I was happy to oblige but for the first time in 23 years I signed a company bill and felt at the same time that I had no business signing it. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jeff was thinking the same thing. Racing through the back of my head was a sudden realization that unofficially I no longer belonged! I wouldn’t say I was sad, but the feeling was a little weird – something that took me a while to get used to….

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 2: How God Walked Me There

I used to be a rebel of the Catholic Church, into whose communion I was baptized in 1977, through the Basilian Campus Ministry at the University of Windsor. Influenced by the prevailing liberal and individualistic thinking of the sixties and seventies, I was at odd with many core Catholic values and beliefs, but was hopeful that such “out-dated” teachings of the Church would eventually blend in with the unrelenting winds of change. Looking back, I realize I had terribly underestimated the perseverance of the Church. My naïve thinking was the result of a lack of understanding of the Scriptures and Church history. I mistook the transient – vogue and secularism – as everlasting, and saw the immutable – the Church and the truth – as a sand castle.

Eventually God in His unfathomable mercy decided to set me straight. He granted me a profound and lengthy conversion that began in the early nineties and lasted a good 12 to 15 years. I won’t go into the details here since many people have already heard my story on many different occasions. In hindsight, I can see how God’s rescue plan was perfectly executed as a Trinitarian effort:

It was the Son, the Word of God, who put me through an in-depth study of the Scriptures and Catholicism. It was a “sweatshop program” with intensity comparable to the crash course the two disciples received on the road to Emmaus (cf. Luke 24:13ff). When it was over, I was left stroking my heart in awe, wondering, “[Was] not [my] heart burning while he spoke to [me] on the way and opened the scriptures to [me]?" (Luke 24:32).

It was the Holy Spirit who gave me a complete heart transplant. Like a good surgeon, He wielded tenderly His scalpel through my heart; removing my heart of stone and giving me a heart of flesh (cf. Ezekiel 36:26).

Finally it was the Heavenly Father who granted me His forgiveness and grafted me, a dangling branch, to the tree – the Church, “the pillar and mainstay of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15) – with renewed sturdiness, enabling me to grow again in the holiness of her sacramental economy.

O Father! You who went looking for Adam and Eve when they hid among the trees of the Garden after disobeying you also did not give up on me. “Where are you?” (Genesis 3:9) You called out at me, a lost soul mired deep in heaps of sins and entangled in the tentacles of death. Your voice, O Lord, was thundering; Your tone punishing; and Your word fear-striking. You found me and rescued me from the depth of a dark valley; You then prepared me well and commissioned me to pursue a meaningful mission. I don’t know, my dear Lord, what my future holds. But I know You who walked me out of the dark valley and brought me this far will not abandon me no matter what comes my way. Your grandeur, O God, is beyond understanding, and the splendor of Your majestic glory beyond human word! My mouth will speak Your praises forever! (cf. Psalm 145).

As my business career plateaued, my many-sided lay apostolate was just beginning to pick up steam: RCIA, family Bible groups, Catechism Revisited, Bible Study Program, family conferences, seminars and speaking engagements, spiritual counseling….It was a joy unspeakable to be able to share with people what I had experienced and in doing so help them learn from my mistakes, especially my mistake in refuting the Church. I felt like I was on a mission – a mission propelled by an ardent love for Christ and for his Church. I could feel the full force of the fire that consumed St. Paul when he said, “For the love of Christ impels us…” (2 Cor. 5:14). As I engaged in these evangelization activities joyfully like a duck wallowing in a pond, it became clearer and clearer to me that in all these years God had been patiently waiting for me to return to Him. He mysteriously knew how to right every wrong I did to somehow derive good from it (cf. CCC 311), preparing me well to work at the evangelization and salvation of men.

For about 2 to 3 years before my decision to retire early, raging through my head was a constant debate between two theologians, one arguing for the necessity for me to lead the normal life of a family man, the other beseeching me to accept God’s calling for me to exercise a special apostolate of evangelization and sanctification (cf. Apostolicam Actuositatem, 6) before my still active and productive years fade into old age inertness. It’s not my plan to elaborate in here the details of my personal discernment, which deserves a more complete coverage in Part 4 of this series. Suffice to say that the latter theologian eventually got the better of me and convinced me that it was God’s will that I accept His calling for me to exercise a fully committed lay apostolate.

In the meantime, my working relationship with the company Board had gone from blunder to blunder ever since the company membership voted in a new Board in 2005. My working relationship with the company Treasurer and the Finance Committee was particularly uneasy. Even so, I could have hung in there for the sake of money to sort of “wait things out” until a new Board was formed. However, that would contradict the instruction I received from God in the fore-mentioned discernment. I was convinced that the time had come for me to turn a new chapter.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

My Early Retirement Story Part 1: Why Share the Story Now?

(In May 2009 – 4 months after my retirement – an earlier version of my early retirement story had been shared with a group of Family Spiritual Window friends at a family retreat.)

More than two and a half years after deciding to retire early in order to put to good use the gifts that God had given me, retelling my story now will not only add clarity and new insights, now that the emotions have subsided, but also answer the point blank question that so many people have asked me or have at least wondered aloud in their hearts: What do you do with so much time in your hand?

But why do I share to begin with? Do I share my story out of some self-serving motives? Is this urge in me to share my experience just a personal need for self-gratification or self-justification? It is no presumption on your part if you as a reader of this blog ask similar questions - they are questions I often ask God in my prayers and in examining my conscience. But time and time again, the reply that God gives me is this: “A king's secret it is prudent to keep, but the works of God are to be declared and made known” (Tobit 12:7). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus teaches, “You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lamp stand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father” (Mt. 5:14-16).

O Jesus, Most Humble Servant of the Lord! If it pleases you, please grant me a humble heart and the ability to communicate through my writing - crude and inadequate as it is - the many marvelous works that you have done in me! Protect me, O Lord, against personal desire for vanity; and turn my life and my witness into a mirror that reflects not my personal brightness, of which I have none, but only your radiance just as your glory once radiated from your servant Moses’ face (cf. Exodus 34:29). And I ask for no further grace than for me to be burned by the light of your Passion and in burning be transformed (cf. Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth I, p. 315)!

In this 5-part series on my early retirement, I will discuss the following topics:

1. Why Share the Story Now?
2. How God Walked Me There
3. How It Happened
4. A Cliff Hanging Experience
5. What Do I Do on Retirement?

With two consecutive very busy months ahead – August and September – I have no idea how long it will take for me to complete this 5-part series. I will not be surprised if the last piece cannot be completed until October. But I am hopeful that parts 1, 2, and 3 can be published shortly since their drafts are more or less in place. I hope those who are so kind as to follow my blog would bear with me and stick around to read the complete series.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sharing A Picture

Here's an interesting picture of mine, taken on July 9, 2011 by Donna Tse of CCMEA and FLL at the Spiritual Tea House. Either by chance or by design, my black outfit blended nicely with the darkness in the background as the spotlight was trained on me who was talking to the audience, creating a special - almost surreal - radiance from my face and my upper body that was further intensified by the surrounding blackness. The picture conveys an inexplicable serenity and a mystique that invites further discovery.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Family Group E 10th Anniversary

In this past weekend, Group E celebrated its 10th anniversary at Our Lady Du Cape in Trois Rivieres, Quecbec, which is about 2 hours north of Montreal. It was a pilgrimage filled with blessings and joys. We had 6 families and were assigned to stay in the Pavillion Hotel - a house near Hotel Madonna. Other than 1 elderly couple who stayed on the main floor, we basically had the whole house for ourselves. The basement became our meeting room, and we had two meetings there.

The trip was filled with fond memories: a pleasant drive of about 7 hours from Markham to Our Lady Du Cape on Saturday morning; group meeting in the evening in which everyone shared their feelings on the 10th anniversary and dug deep into nostalgia; Tai Chi and exercise early Sunday morning; delicious breakfast at the cafeteria of Hotel Madonna, chatting non-stop over coffee and tea; Rosary at the Mary Lake near Old Shrine; group meeting again Sunday afternoon in which we studied the symbolism of water in the Bible following Pope BXVI's Jesus of Nazareth; lots of free time; Mass and confessions in the evening followed by candelight procession around the Mary Lake; etc. On our way back to Markham on Monday, we visited St. Joseph's and St. Peregrine. Once back in the GTA, we had a delicious dinner at 味香村, where we had a good laugh at ourselves because everyone was terribly hungry after 3 days without Chinese food! Here's a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Conversion Story of Professor Emeritus, Faculty of Law, Western University

The National Post today publishes an article named My Path to Rome. It is an excerpt from That Time of Year - a book written by Ian Hunter, Professor Emeritus in the Faculty of Law at Western University. It discusses Hunter's conversion to the Roman Catholic Church and the four people who influenced his conversion story: JPII; his father, a die-hard Presbyterian; C.S. Lewis, a popular and distinguished Anglican writer; and Malcolm Muggeridge, also an Anglican scholar who converted to Catholicism at the ripe old age of 80. The article contains many beautiful lines; just to quote a few:

"For him, Christianity was not a convenience but a life creed; attending church was not a social outing but an opportunity to worship in the presence of Almighty God; religion was not a subject for social chatter, but a life changing commitment." - On his Presbyterian father who saw the Catholic Church as the enemy of Christianity.

"If C.S. Lewis were alive today, he would almost certainly be a Roman Catholic." - On the paradox that Lewis' writings had caused so many people to convert to Catholicism and yet he himself remained an Anglican all his life.

"I came to believe not just that truth is to be found within Rome but -something quite different -that in a unique way, the truth is Rome." - On his own conversion to the Catholic Church.

What is most striking to me, an RCIA catechist who often hears stories of Catholics abandoning the Catholic Church to join the reformed churches because "their ministers preach well", is the fact that on this two-way street of conversion the converts to Catholicism tend to be deep thinkers and intellectuals who have had the opportunity to examine and live both the reformed and Catholic faiths seriously and decided to settle with the latter. Yes, Catholicism is "deep stuff" that deserves more than just a superficial sermon that offers warm and fuzzy feelings, or entertains us with a good laugh. Before you go down the two-way street of conversion to join a reformed denomination, why not read and reflect more on your Catholic faith and save yourself an unnecessary trip?

Here’s the link to Ian Hunter’s National Post story:

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Does Jesus Speak in Parables Because He Doesn't Want Us to Understand?

Today's Gospel reading from Mt. 13 is one of the most difficult passages in the New Testament books. When asked by his disciples why he speaks in parables, Jesus replies:

"This is why I speak to them in parables, because they look but do not see and hear but do not listen or understand. Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in them, which says: You shall indeed hear but not understand, you shall indeed look but never see. Gross is the heart of this people, they will hardly hear with their ears, they have closed their eyes, lest they see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their hearts and be converted, and I heal them. "

On reading this Gospel passage, many people throw up their arms in disgust and say, "So this is your so-called 'Good News'. This is the sacred book that you Christians venerate. I am no Bible scholar and I know nothing about Theology. All I have is common sense, which tells me I cannot accept a God who chooses to speak in parables because he doesn't want them to understand him lest he heals them!"

Yes, we are no Bible scholars. This is why we need them to help us so that when we encounter difficult biblical passages, we won't throw away the whole book or even abandon our Christian faith altogether, which is like throwing the baby out with the bath water. For us Catholics, God has given us one of the most respected and distinguished Bible scholars in the world to guide us. Coupled with the treasures of the Holy Tradition and the authority of the cathedra of St. Peter, he is in fact as good a Bible scholar as we can get. He is none other than our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI (BXVI).

In addressing the fore-mentioned Gospel passage, BXVI points out in "Jesus of Nazareth - From the Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration" (see pp.188-191, 2-4, 236) that one very important promise made by God in the early going of the lengthy history of salvation is that He will send a prophet like Moses from among Israel (cf. Deut 18:15). Since then "there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face" (Deut 34:10). In other words, up until Jesus' time, history is hung in suspense; it is essentially a waiting game - waiting for the promised Prophet. Who is He? Will He come?

When Jesus enters into human history, he asserts in no unclear terms that he is the Prophet promised by God. He uses the parable of the sower to indicate that he is the sower who plants the seed of the Kingdom of God and brings salvation. More importantly, he is the seed itself. How? Like the prophets before him who had to suffer and often were forced to give up their lives, he, the ultimate Prophet, will also suffer and die, for "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24). Jesus' death will bring salvation to all men.

His assertion also takes the form of a "New Moses": Moses was the only prophet in human history who "knew God face to face" (Deut 34:10). Now the promised Prophet, the New Moses, is truly here. He knows God so well that he is actually His Word; and is so close to Him that he and the Father are actually one. Therefore he quotes the great prophet Isaiah to suggest that he is the Prophet of all prophets.

And what did Isaiah say that warranted Jesus' quotation? The Isaiah quote is essentially a prediction that Israel will remain deaf and blind in spite of all the prophets that God has sent. They will not be "converted" and "healed" by God in as far as their hardness of heart will not allow them to be converted and healed. So, eventually what will happen when this hardness of heart persists? They will crucify the promised Prophet. Result? Salvation of all men! Indeed "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains just a grain of wheat; but if it dies, it produces much fruit" (John 12:24). No wonder Jesus sees himself as the seed in the sower parable. Everything predicted by Isaiah has come true in Jesus. By quoting him, Jesus is only stating the obvious, and in doing so he makes it clear that he is truly the promised Prophet.

Hopefully you would understand and like this explanation, and the Bible that you were about to throw into Lake Ontario would remain safe on your desk for another day - until the next difficult passage comes along that is!

Friday, July 8, 2011

Refrain From Receiving Communion Distributed By Reformed Churches

At the last Bible Study Program meeting of June 24, 2011, I shared with the participants my experience in attending a wedding celebration of the Anglican Church, in which the presiding Anglican minister invited everyone present at the service - both Anglicans and non-Anglicans, believers and non-believers - to receive the communion. I explained in my sharing that Catholics are not allowed to receive communion distributed by the reformed churches because their ministers do not have the special grace of consecrating the Eucharist, which is conferred by the Sacrament of Holy Orders; and because their religious convictions have deviated from the Apostolic faith of the Church.

While re-visiting JPII's Ecclesia de Eucaristia this morning, I came across the following passages which I think provide further support to my position above:

"The Church is apostolic in the sense that she 'continues to be taught, sanctified and guided by the Apostles until Christ's return, through their successors in pastoral office: the college of Bishops assisted by priests, in union with the Successor of Peter, the Church's supreme pastor'. Succession to the Apostles in the pastoral mission necessarily entails the sacrament of Holy Orders...The assembly gathered together for the celebration of the Eucharist, if it is to be a truly Eucharistic assembly, absolutely requires the presence of an ordained priest as its president...

"The Ecclesial Communities separated from us lack that fullness of unity with us which should flow from Baptism, and we believe that especially because of the lack of the sacrament of Orders they have not preserved the genuine and total reality of the Eucharistic mystery...The Catholic faithful, therefore, while respecting the religious convictions of these separated brethren, must refrain from receiving the communion distributed in their celebrations, so as not to condone an ambiguity about the nature of the Eucharist and, consequently, to fail in their duty to bear clear witness to the truth."

(Ecclesia de Eucaristia, 28-30)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Spiritual Tea House - Sat, July 9

The Spiritual Tea House, conducted bi-monthly and alternately between CMCC and SAT, will be held at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 9, this time in the Don Bosco Hall of CMCC


As usual, the participants can expect to enter into a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of candle lights, snacks and drinks; enjoy entertaining performances; listen to beautiful music and moving witness stories; and join our host, the 333rd Markham Scout Group, in praising God and giving Him thanks. Unlike the other Spiritual Tea Houses, however, this one will take place in the middle of the FLL Summer Evangelization Festival, as a corollary of Fr. Kwan Kit Tong's seminars and a prelude to the pinnacle of the Festival - 愛‧擁抱我生命 A LIFE Show. All the more reason then for you to bring your neighbour who still doesn't believe, or to share the evening with a friend who has left the Church but is looking for an opportunity to ease back in.

Our theme this time: "Lord! Why Do You Fall Asleep?"

Sunday, July 3, 2011

FLL Retreat - A Message of Love and Life

I had a good time hosting the FLL retreat yesterday. The retreat was one of the events of the FLL Summer Evangelization Festival, which kicked off on June 18 with two seminars by Deacon Wu, followed by Fr. Kwan Kit-Tong's seminars and retreat, culminating in the "愛‧擁抱我生命 A LIFE Show" of Saturday, August 27.

The retreat began with a morning Mass celebrated by Fr. Kwan in the CMCC church. The participants were then invited to go downstairs to the Don Bosco Hall where the rest of the activities were conducted. Everything went as planned except for the crowd, which caught us a little off guard: we had more than 300 people in the audience! Can you imagine? That was the largest retreat I had ever hosted!

Ever true to his "fisherman" style, Fr. Kwan was very practical and down to earth. It was the first time I met him in person. In fact, we weren't introduced to each other until the activities of the retreat began in the Don Bosco Hall! And I was supposed to be his MC! His talk was very easy to understand, very lively, and very much in tune with the ordinary folks' daily life. He conducted two talks: one in the morning and one in the afternoon, plus an ad hoc Q&A session. The audience loved every minute of it. They just didn't seem to have enough of Fr. Kwan. He must be a very popular figure in the Catholic community of Hong Kong.

My other duty was to play the guitar and lead the participants in singing. Unfortunately I hurt my mouth accidently a week ago while leading the RCIA retreat. It was a freak accident which was a little unbelievable. No need to get into the details here. Suffice to say that the pain in my mouth was like a bad tooth pain. It healed somewhat a few days after the incident but it was still bad enough to discourage me from eating, drinking, and singing. To make things worse, my middle-finger had been somewhat immobile for several weeks. My physiotherapist told me I probably hurt its ligament by playing the guitar too much. Part of growing old I suppose! As a safe cushion, I invited Paul Tam and Rosa Tse to play the guitar together with me. Before going to bed I prayed my heart out asking God to take care of this problem for me.

When I woke up all the problems were gone. Right? Wrong! I found to my dismay that there was no noticeable improvement in my condition at all! If anything, it seemed to have gotten worse: my throat felt a little sore. Maybe the cold that Josephine had for a few days had finally found its way to sneak through the immune system of my body.

But surprisingly, for reasons unknown to me the moment I set foot onto the stage, I felt like suddenly all the ailments in my mouth and my throat were gone! I was able to talk and sing rather well, and my middle finger was moving freely with no noticeable difficulty! I wouldn't blame Paul and Rosa if they were wondering why they had to be there! For those who prayed for me, I owe you a big thank you! I know Paul and Bonny Yeung were in Medjugorje and they were probably praying for this retreat. Maybe that's the reason why!

It was a very powerful experience to lead more than 300 people to sing. We sang "愛是不保留", "為甚麼?", " 一點燭光", "可愛耶穌", "呈奉", "Pass It On", etc. Again, for reasons unknown to me people seemed to enjoy the singing experience very much. They were very loud and they apparently liked the songs. In the end, we did worship and praise using "You Are Near" as the background, ending with a rite that commissioned everyone to spread the Good News of Christ.

There's one more thing that I'd like to add: I think the event was very effective in introducing the FLL ministry to more than 300 people.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

RCIA Retreat Jun 2011

I created a blog today to store documents, writings, and pictures for posting to Twitter - another step in my "technology upgrade".

Posted here are three pictures of the RCIA retreat we conducted yesterday, June 25, 2011, at the Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church. About 150 adults, 50 children, plus volunteers were in attendance. Most of them newly baptised. This "Mystagogy Retreat" was one of two RCIA retreats that all RCIA participants must attend. The other RCIA retreat - the Pre-Catechumenate Retreat - is usually conducted in November of each year.

I'd like to express my sincere gratitude to the following people:

- Fr. Dominic Hoang and Fr. Joseph Ly who stayed late to hear all confessions
- The youth leaders who looked after 50 children and made it possible for the retreat to proceed without distractions
- The English RCIA group whose planning and participation made the Eucharistic Adoration and concurrent Confession session in the afternoon orderly and enriching
- The St. Cecilia Choir who provided great music and singing for meditation
- All volunteers and helpers from Sunday 9:15 a.m. RCIA

God bless you all for making the retreat another success!