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.