Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A Day in The House of The Lord

The last Sunday was not a day a Torontonian would consider as normal for December: temperatures hovering at around 6 Celsius, overcast skies, and drizzles that turned into rain sometimes. With umbrella in hand, Josephine and I ducked our heads as we hurried past the scaffolding at the side entrance of St. Michael’s Cathedral where renovation was in progress, to merge into the Cathedral’s regular Sunday crowd consisting of curious tourists and regular church-goers alike. Many members of our family group had already arrived, either sitting in the pews to marvel at the art works in the ceiling above or kneeling down to pray. Our itinerary for the day was jam-packed: noon Mass at the Cathedral, lunch at Eaton’s Centre, the St. Michael’s Choir Christmas concert at 3 p.m. in the Massey Hall, and then dinner to conclude a long day. Still feeling the effect of the international Year of the Laity webcast we participated in several hours earlier at the Chinese Martyrs Catholic Church in the wee hours of 12:30 to 4:00 a.m., our heads were fogged with sleep and our legs a little wobbly. We could only hope we would have enough strength to finish the itinerary!

The timing could not have been more perfect: the noon Mass was about to begin in 20 minutes - just enough time for some of us to do the required obligations for obtaining the special plenary indulgence that the Holy Father granted the Church on the commencement of the Year of Faith (see my other post on this topic).

No sooner had we finished the indulgence obligations than the Mass liturgy started. Joining the entrance procession were almost 100 St. Michael's Senior Choir members who proceeded solemnly to the front with their eyes fixated on the crucifix at the altar. After the lengthy and orderly procession, the Mass celebrant stepped on the altar, turned to face the congregation, bowed to kiss the altar table, and began the Mass with that unmistakable voice of his - a voice that conveyed both love and wisdom; a voice that the City had come to know so well - the voice of Thomas Cardinal Collins!

Kyrie eleison! (Lord! Have mercy!)chanted the St. Michael's Choir; Kyrie eleison! the Mass faithful responded. The chant in Latin struck a chord in my heart because it was only two days ago that I explained to my Catechism Revisited class that Kyrie or Krios in Greek was from God's Hebrew name YHWH. It was used in the New Testament to address Jesus (e.g. John 20:28), suggesting its recognition of his divinity (see CCC 446). The Choir's heavenly chants in Latin and many other spirit-lifting hymns that followed turned out to be, as it were, a premiere of the afternoon concert.

The readings of the third Sunday of Advent were an exhortation on repentance and joy, both were long overdue and must be embraced by those who chose to follow God because the Messiah had come.

"Shout for joy, O daughter Zion! Sing joyfully, O Israel! The LORD has removed the judgment against you!" the prophet Zephaniah proclaimed joyfully in the first reading.

"Cry out with joy and gladness: for among you is the great and Holy One of Israel!" intoned the chorus of the responsorial psalm.

"Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say: rejoice!" St. Paul joined in in the second reading.

The gospel reading was from Luke 3:10-18 where St. John the Baptist gave the people of the time a stern and fiery admonition on the need of repentance.

Much to my surprise and delight, in his homily the Cardinal used St. Edmund Campion, to illustrate his message that joy was possible even in the face of severe hardships. St. Edmund - my saint - was a 16th century English saint who was accused of treason by the government of Queen Elizabeth I for opposing Henry VIII's schismatic Anglican church. He was brutally tortured on the rack with the tearing off of his fingernails, and was eventually executed by hanging, drawing, and quartering on December 1, 1581. The Cardinal pointed out that St. Edmund accepted his execution with great joy for, in the words of St. Edmund, "To be condemned with these old lights (i.e. all the ancient priests, bishops, and kings of England who defended the Catholic faith) is both gladness and glory to us" (Weidenkopf & Schreck, Epic - A Journey Through Church History Study Set, p.174).

I had to close my eyes to suppress the burning sensation that was beginning to erupt and spill over from my heart. Already my eyes were moistening up and I could feel the lump that was hardening in my throat. "Is this a mere coincidence, O Lord?" I prayed in silence. "Only a few days ago I was listening, while driving, to the story of St. Edmund. And here we are on the third Sunday of Advent, in a cathedral church designated by the Holy Father as necessary for receiving plenary indulgence, You told me his story again through the Cardinal's homily. Before that my heart was burning on hearing Kyrie eleison. How badly has my heart been yearning for beautiful liturgies and You granted me one today! Forgive me for being presumptuous, Lord, but I must take this as Your confirmation that my request for indulgence has been granted and I thank You! Blessed be the saints for it's on account of their merits and the merits of Christ in the treasury of the Church that You granted me the indulgence. How good it is to live in the house of the Lord! 'One thing I ask, O Lord, and this I seek: to dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life!' (Psalms 27). May the same grace be granted to Josephine and to all family group members who came before You today to seek this extra-sacramental grace of remission of temporal punishment for our sins! Amen! Amen! St. Edmund, pray for us!"

The same liturgical procession that began the Mass in great reverence and solemnity an hour ago now exited with joy. The Cardinal chatted lightheartedly with people whom he recognized, and blessed everyone as he left the church. As the crowd dispersed, we lingered at the altar and stayed for a group picture. When it was all said and done, we saw to our surprise the Cardinal strolling leisurely up the aisle again to greet us. He stopped to talk to Matthias, the 8-year old son of Dominic and Fanny, members of our family group. Matthias had just become a junior member of the St. Michael's Choir, and it was his very first concert that our group had come to see. "Are you the Pope?" Matthias asked the Cardinal, seeing that the vestments he wore were very unusual. "Well, not quite. I am, er, a Cardinal; the person who, er...," apparently at a loss of words as he struggled to explain his "complicated" position to a child. Suddenly his eyes lighted up and he continued, "Actually the Pope is my boss, you see, and I listen to him." We couldn't help but burst into laughter. So did Matthias, who seemed satisfied with the answer.

May your Christmas be filled with peace and great joy! May this New Year bring you hope and good health! Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Everyone!!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Fountain of Love and Life (FLL) Gala - What An Evening!

What an evening! It started out just like another FLL Gala: The attendance was impressive, but then people were used to seeing a big crowd at the Gala; the display booths had a good variety but overall nothing spectacular; the MCs,Christina and Hoppa, were a dynamite twosome as usual, but the long list of housekeeping items, sponsors and supporters that they rattled off got a little tedious and was soon drowned out by the chatters of the audience. I was thinking: if our goal was to avoid any unnecessary challenges or doubts by just going through the motions at a time when the new ministries and the new organization of FLL were mostly still in formulation, the result definitely had been so far so good.

Then the tide began to turn. When it did the impact was more like a tsunami than a mere tidal wave. First came Fr. Chui's sharing, whose quiet demeanor and down to earth language belied his passion and strong attachment to God that the audience would not have noticed if not for Christina's inquisitive questions and patient interviewing skills. I’m sure the Gala organizers didn’t mean to put Frances Yip’s witness story there to demonstrate the differences between a quiet and reserved speaker and a very expressive one. But people couldn't help but notice the differences when Frances Yip's interview appeared on screen. Was she good in expressing herself! No doubt she brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience. I for one was mightily impressed by her sharing and had to change my view about this singer from Hong Kong whom I had never thought too highly of. David and Christina’s heart-wrenching story brought an already quiet conference centre to a complete hush. I have attended all eight FLL Galas, but never have I seen an audience as subdued as the one last evening due to the seriousness of the matter being discussed! If doubts still lingered as to whether God was doing his work among the various Chinese Catholic communities, the powerful summation of the three witness stories with Frances Yip singing prayerfully in the background was more than enough to dispel them all.

Just when the audience thought it had had more than it could bargain for in as far as faith witnessing, Paul Yeung, the FLL Director came on stage to deliver the speech of his life. His passionate and spirit-lifting plea for financial support for the newly incorporated FLL, whose many-faceted ministries were nicely captured by the theme of the evening – Faith Mosaic, clearly had a powerful impact on the audience who on this evening turned up in more than 1,000 strong. It was not a scene I had seen very often, but one could hear a pin drop when Paul asked the audience, who had generously supported FLL when it started the TV/radio ministry from scratch 8 years ago, to once again support from scratch the new, many-faceted FLL evangelization ministries even if it meant no tax receipts for their donations due to the fact that the new entity was not yet a charity.

The dead silence of the audience, as it turned out, demonstrated not cynicism or distrust; but rather a concern out of love, a resolve to help, and a solidarity that translated into action. At least from where I sat, I could see many people opening up their wallets and filling out the donation forms with eagerness and unreserved generosity. Once again, when taunted - when trials and ordeals appeared to look us right in the eyes, we as a faith community were able to stand our ground, rising up to the occasion to confront the challenge out of love for Christ. I was so touched I had to go to the back stage to congratulate Paul personally. As I entered, he was there loitering around like a dazed man who had no idea what it was that he had just said. I gave him a big hug and told him his speech was outstanding because it wasn’t his. On this evening, in a conference centre filled will Chinese Catholics more than a thousand strong whose hearts beat as one, the Holy Spirit was a-movin'; He had spoken.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

The More Things Change....

Temperatures dropped noticeably in the last few days. Dotting the bare tree tops and the desolate shrubs here and there were sparse remnants of autumn leaves of various colours that hung tough stubbornly to brave the gusting winds that swirled around and about to clear the landscape for another winter.

Armed with a cup of coffee in hand and my jacket tightly zipped up, I stepped out from the warm and cozy interior of the Starbucks on Main Street Unionville to breathe in the chill of another crisp and windy November day, taking heed not to trip over the tiny Yorkshire terrier that kept poking its head inside the door to look for its owner. As I turned the corner to go into the parking lot, a Chinese woman who looked about my age came up to me wearing an apologetic smile.

“Do you know how to go from here to Feng Tai (Foody Mart)?” she asked in Mandarin. Feng Tai (Foody Mart) was a Chinese grocery in the neighbourhood. It took about 5 minutes to drive there.

“Sure! You take this road up there and go in that direction. At McCowen, you turn right until you reach Highway 7 and you will see it,” I replied using my very limited Mandarin, gesturing this way and that with my hand at the same time.

Her face lit up on finding that I was able to help. But a visible trace of doubt crossed her forehead as soon as she heard the English road names. Apparently she hardly knew any English. She repeated the road names with some difficulty, thanked me, and then walked away. I wished I could make it clearer for her, but unfortunately that’s the best my Mandarin would allow me to do.

As my car exited from the parking lot, I was surprised to see the same woman walking in the direction of Feng Tai (Foody Mart) together with a man who appeared to be her husband. It was only then that I realized the couple was not driving! They were about to go there on foot; low temperatures, gusty winds and all! I pulled my car beside them and told them I could give them a ride. They hesitated. But when I insisted they eventually got into the back seats with the expressed condition that they pay me.

On our way to Feng Tai (Foody Mart), we chatted. The woman told me they came from Beijing to stay with their son for good. They had one grand child; both their son and daughter-in-law were working. They had been in Canada for only a month and they found it very difficult to adapt to the new environment, the people, and the language in particular. Things didn’t really go too well for them in this foreign land; so bad they were wondering if they should return to Beijing.

Well, that sounded a lot like my mother-in-law some 20-25 years ago! We were then a young family with a baby – Michelle; she was a new immigrant trying hard to blend in to the kind of life in Toronto where her only daughter lived. Going back even further, didn’t this unhappy couple look somewhat like me – a foreign student in Windsor learning to master the language I needed to complete my degree, to cope with the “terrible” and expensive Canadian food of the university cafeteria, and to make sense of the “funs” of my fellow dorm residents whose after class entertainments were always hockey, hockey, and more hockey?

From foreign students in the seventies to Cantonese-speaking Chinese from Hong Kong in the eighties and nineties to now the Mandarin-speaking Chinese from China – the more things change, the more they stay the same! We Chinese immigrants in a foreign land, a land we now call home, have so many stories of tears and hardships - stories that are lived and re-lived year after year, generation after generation.

“Here we are! Thank you so much! We must pay you before we go!” the woman said cheerfully, waking me up from my deep reflection.

Desperate to stop her from doing any such things, I decided to appeal to her heart: “No, it’s not necessary! We are all Chinese!” On that, she gave me an understanding smile and a grateful glance, got off my car, and disappeared with her husband into the hustling crowd.

We are all Chinese - it's hard to believe I said that and in saying so put myself squarely in the same camp as the Mandarin-speaking people from China. Don’t get me wrong, this is no attempt on my part to put myself in a class superior to the people from Mainland China. Not when we share the same ancestors; not when their history is my history and their culture my culture; not when both of us take pride in the same ancient civilization; more importantly, not when we share the same tears and harships that most immigrants have experienced. It is rather an honest expression of a sentiment harboured by most people from Hong Kong who like me are accustomed to seeing ourselves as first and foremost the citizens of a free and democratic society, first of Hong Kong – our birth place - and now of Canada. Like my fellow immigrants from Hong Kong, I see my languages as Cantonese and English, not Mandarin. While we are all Chinese, there are also social, political, and linguistic differences between us that are more than trivial. My overture to put myself in their midst must have sounded a little unusual even to the said couple.

But then again, to really think about it: it is only my fault that I still can’t speak Mandarin, and it is not their fault that their country enjoys no freedom. Significant though they are, our differences can be bridged and, if not bridged, overlooked; but not without some effort and understanding from both parties of course.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

US Election

This is a message I sent to my Lo's family members in the States on election day. I think it's worthy of being posted on my own blog too:

I hope all of you would vote for Romney today!! The last time I checked, almost all of you believe in God. After 4 years of "Godless" policies and measures taken by a so-called "Christian" president, the Americans should vote for a leader who truly believes in God, who truly cares about God's will. Most countries in the world like Obama, particularly those who hate or loathe America including communist China. This is because he's a weak president. Who wouldn't like a weak enemy? Remember the Reagan years, my friends, or, I should say, my dear brothers, sisters and family members? Remember the kind of America, the kind of country, you used to be so proud of? Those glory days were no dream; they can happen again, only not under Obama. Hope the Americans would come to their senses today! At least I hope the Americans in Lo's would come to their senses when they go to the voting polls!!

Monday, November 5, 2012

Catechism Revisited Program DVD Part II Now Available!!

The Catechism Revisited Program (CRP) is a program conducted by Edmond Lo, the author of this blog, for the purpose of helping all Cantonese speaking Catholics to understand better and deepen their Catholic faith. It tackles head-on many key apologetic issues. For example:

- Does the Catholic Bible contain "apocrypha" (false books)?
- Is veneration of Mary a form of superstition?
- Is the doctrine of purgatory an unscriptural concept?
- Is the Roman Catholic Church instituted by Christ?
- Is the Catholic Church just a huge bureaucratic organization with multi-layers of power-hungry "office holders" that include the Pope, the Cardinals, the Archbishops, Bishops, etc.?
- Is the Mass liturgy filled with ancient, meaningless and superstitious rituals?
- Is the Eucharist a form of idolatry?
- Why is confession necessary? What about the believers of other Christian denominations who are not required to do confession? Will their sins be forgiven?

It also shows the program participants how to read the Bible properly so that their understanding of the Bible is derived from the Sacred Tradition of the Church and is in accordance with the teaching of the Church Magisterium.

In October 2011, the Fountain of Love and Life published and distributed the DVD of CRP Part I, which contained the first ten sessions of the program. One year later, CRP Part II, containing the remaining nine sessions of the program, has also been released. Both DVDs come with session notes and MP3 files that can be downloaded for listening. They are now available for purchase at $10/each (i.e. $20 for both Parts I & II) from the Fountain of Love and Life Bookstore. Please obtain the CRP DVDs now if you have not already done so. With the Christmas season drawing near, consider buying some extra copies as gifts for your friends and relatives. If the speaker's own personal experience is any indication, the program may just be the watershed of your spiritual life from where your personal faith will take off and never turn back!

Monday, October 15, 2012

Special Plenary Indulgence for the Year of Faith

The Holy Father has granted the Catholic faithful access to a special plenary indulgence for the Year of Faith (from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013) in his decree, URBIS ET ORBIS. Before giving you the instructions for obtaining this special plenary indulgence as per the said decree, here's a quick summary of the meaning of indulgence as explained by W.H. Kent of EWTN and simplified by me.


An indulgence is the extra-sacramental remission of the temporal punishment due to sin that has been forgiven. Its remission is granted by the Church in the exercise of the power of the keys, through the application of the superabundant merits of Christ and of the saints, and for some just and reasonable motive.

In the Sacrament of Reconciliation, the guilt of sin is removed, and with it the eternal punishment due to mortal sin; but there still remains the temporal punishment required by Divine justice, and this requirement must be fulfilled either in the present life or in the world to come, i.e., in Purgatory. An indulgence offers the penitent sinner the means of dicharging this debt during his life on earth.

A plenary (vs. partial) indulgence offers the remission of the entire temporal punishment due to sin so that no further expiation is required in Purgatory. Note that it presupposes the effects obtained by confession, contrition, and sacramental satisfaction (i.e. the temporal punishment of the sin is discharged by the plenary indulgence only if the sin has been confessed and absolved.) This indulgence is a plenary indulgence.

Some indulgences are granted in behalf of the living only, while others may be applied in behalf of the souls departed. Since the Church has no jurisdiction over the dead, she makes the indulgence available for them by way of suffrage, i.e. she petitions God to accept these works of satisfaction and in consideration thereof to shorten the sufferings of the souls in Purgatory. This indulgence is "applicable in suffrage to the souls of the deceased".


Throughout the Year of Faith — established from 11 October 2012 to 24 November 2013 — all individual members of the faithful who are truly repentant, have duly received the Sacrament of Penance and Holy Communion and who pray for the intentions of the Supreme Pontiff may receive the Plenary Indulgence in remission of the temporal punishment for their sins, imparted through God’s mercy and applicable in suffrage to the souls of the deceased:

a. every time they take part in at least three homilies preached or attend at least three lectures on the Proceedings of the Second Vatican Council and on the Articles of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, in any church or suitable place;

b. every time they go as pilgrims to a Papal Basilica, a Christian catacomb, a cathedral church, a sacred place designated by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (for example, the Minor Basilicas and Shrines dedicated to the Blessed Virgin Mary, to the Holy Apostles or to the Holy Patrons), and take part there in some sacred function or at least pause in recollection for a suitable length of time with devout meditation, concluding with the recitation of the Our Father, the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form, invocations to the Blessed Virgin Mary or, depending on the case, to the Holy Apostles or Patrons;

c. every time when, on the days determined by the local Ordinary for the Year of Faith (such as, for example, the Solemnities of the Lord and of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Feasts of the Holy Apostles and Patrons and of the Chair of St Peter), in any sacred place, they take part in a solemn Eucharistic celebration or in the Liturgy of the Hours, adding the Profession of Faith in any legitimate form;

d. a day freely chosen during the Year of Faith on which to make a devout visit to the baptistery or other place in which they received the sacrament of Baptism, if they renew their baptismal promises in any legitimate form.

Diocesan or Eparchial Bishops and those who are legally equivalent to them, on the most appropriate day in this period, on the occasion of the principal celebration (for example, 24 November 2013, on the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Universal King, with which the Year of Faith will end) will be able to impart the Papal Blessing with the Plenary Indulgence from which all the faithful who receive this Blessing devoutly may benefit.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Jason's Infancy Story

This is a video taken by Jason's uncle on a visit from HK 16 years ago. We finally received the video 16 years later! How time flew! We were all so young 16 years ago! And so many things had happened between now and then.

You don't see me until the very end of the video. But that person you see was not me! I mean spiritually I've become a very, very different person. Praise the Lord! The video means a lot to me because it allows me to catch a glimpse of the "me" who was on the threshold of the most important breakthrough of my life - a breakthrough comparable to the transformation of a caterpillar to a butterfly, a breakthrough made complete by a spiritual conversion that lasted more than a decade, a breakthrough that defined my life which would have been meaningless and futile otherwise.

And I look at the other people in the video: Josephine, Michelle, Jason, my mother-in-law; and think of our relationships then and our relationships now. And I thank God for giving us marriage and family. Yes, there's no better way to learn and to grow spiritually than having a family; there's no better way to force yourself to emerge from the false sense of "security" and "freedom" of being single than to accept and enter into the communion of conjugal and fraternal relationships.

How many 16 years do we have in our lives? How many 16 years do I have ahead of me? All I can say is make good use of the present and walk in faith and righteousness while we can before our time runs out....

For Josephine and me, there's the added pleasure of seeing Michelle and Jason then and now, knowing and recalling all the little things and events that had transpired in between, including the various moments of happiness and sorrows, anxieties and thankfulness; the sweetness and bitterness of parenting; the fulfilled hopes and broken dreams....

Before you watch the video, here's a picture of the family 16 years later:

Here's the video from 16 years ago on YouTube: (Please email me for link).

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Where Did Jesus' DNA Come From?

An inquirer from my Bible Study Program sent me a very interesting question:

For humans, our DNA comes half from our fathers and half from our mothers. I am getting confused here. My question is where is Jesus’ DNA comes from? Did it come from The Holy Spirit? Did Virgin Mary’s DNA form part of Jesus’?

The mystery of the Incarnation (i.e. Word became flesh) means that it is "in [Mary] that the Incarnation of the Word, the hypostatic union of the Son of God with human nature, is accomplished and fulfilled" (JPII, Redemptoris Mater 9). Therefore, Mary is not only "full of grace" (kecharitomene)(Lk 1:28); "because of this gift of sublime grace she far surpasses all other creatures both in heaven and on earth" (Vatican II:Lumen Gentium 53).

There were many different ways that God could have used to save us. In His infinite wisdom, God had chosen to send His Son to save us through the Pascal Mystery, i.e. through his suffering, death, and resurrection. The "critical path", if I may use this popular business term, for accomplishing God's economy of salvation was for the Word to become flesh and dwell among us (John 1:14). Mary was given the singular and sublime grace of being the "woman" from whom Christ took on his body and his human nature.

St. Paul highlighted the significance of the role that Mary played in giving Jesus a body when he said, "When the time had fully come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons...crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal. 4:4-6). "Born of woman" is significant in that it underscores the Incarnation - Christ taking on a human body and the human nature from Mary for the redemption of men and humanity. It was a true human body – “born of woman” as St. Paul said – for Jesus is true God and true man (CCC 464).

Having established the singular and significant role that Mary played in the economy of salvation - giving birth to Christ, giving him a true human body; now the answer to the inquirer's question - where did Jesus' DNA come from? - has become self-evident.

From the above scriptural analysis, it's clear that Jesus' body came from Mary - God made a point of seeing that it did: she was "overshadowed" by the power of the Holy Spirit; she conceived; and baby Jesus grew in her sacred womb. She is sublime and surpasses all other creatures on earth and in heaven because of this special vocation - giving birth to Jesus, giving him a human body and the human nature. It follows that Jesus' body had his mother's DNA since it came from her. It was God's will that Jesus had Mary's DNA!

According to the inquirer, biologically a child's DNA must come from a father and a mother. How is it possible that Jesus received his DNA from just Mary alone? The question is similar to Mary's own question to Gabriel: "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" (Luke 1:34). As a result, its answer also is similar to the answer that Gabriel gave Mary: "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you...for nothing will be impossible for God" (Luke 1:35-37).

Does this mean half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit? As a divine Person, the Holy Spirit is neither man nor woman. He doesn't have a human body. While it was the power of the Holy Spirit that caused Mary to conceive, it's wrong to say that half of Jesus' DNA came from the Holy Spirit. With humility, we have to admit that we don't know exactly how God did it, but we do know that "nothing will be impossible for God".

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Apart From the Holy Tradition the Bible Is Not the Word of God

Unlike our Protestant counterparts who promote "Bible alone" (sola Scriptura), the Catholic Church teaches that the Bible cannot be properly understood without the teaching and guidance of the Church Magisterium, which does so following the Holy Tradition. "[S]acred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Magisterium of the Church are so connected and associated that one of them cannot stand without the others" (CCC 95).

What on earth is the Holy Tradition?

According to Vatican II, Tradition (from the Latin ‘traditio’ – ‘what is handed down’) came from the preaching of the Gospel done by the apostles and other men associated with them, “who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit” (Dei Verbum, n.7).

In the words of Avery Dulles, S.J., a contemporary and well-respected mainstream Catholic theologian, “tradition involves a communal ‘sense of the faith’
aroused and continuously sustained in the Church by the Holy Spirit”; it is “grasped through familiarity or participation as a result of dwelling within the Church, taking part in its worship, and behaving according to its standards.” Tradition is “an organ of apprehension and transmission…the mode in which the Church perpetuates its faith and its very existence” (A. Dulles, The Craft of Theology, pp. 94,103).

Dulles contends that if "taken apart from the tradition in which it comes to the faithful, the Bible would no longer deserve to be called the word of God."

Strong words, and yet so true!

There are many different ways to understand the teaching and events of the New Testament books. If you follow the Catholic Tradition, you will see God as
Trinitarian, for example. Similarly, you will find strong scriptural support for the Marian doctrines of Immaculate Conception and perpetual virginity. This is not the case at all if the Bible is read in the light of, say, the Jehovah Witnesses tradition, which disputes the divinity of Christ. Also, according to the traditions of many Protestant churches the Bible is understood to teach that Mary was not free from sins and had other children. Tradition is like eyeglasses: what you see is determined by what you wear!

But how can the Catholic Church claim that her tradition is the only tradition that has the authority and ability to properly interpret the Scripture if hers is only one of many? Why are the Catholic “eyeglasses” necessarily better than all other
"eyeglasses"? How can Catholic theologians such as Dulles be so “puffed up” as to claim that the Bible is no longer the word of God if taken apart from the Catholic tradition?

For one thing, of all the Christian denominational traditions, the Catholic tradition is one of a handful that was handed down to us directly from the apostles,
who had first-hand experience in encountering the historical Christ.

More important, however, is the fact that of the few Christian traditions that can be traced back to the apostles (e.g. Catholic, Orthodox, Coptic, etc.), the Catholic tradition is the only one that came down directly from Peter and Paul, the two glorious apostles of Christ, through two thousand years of continuous succession. The other traditions, while apostolic and originally part of the integral whole of the Petrine Church, had at one point or another branched out to progress and develop on their own, picking up characteristics and faith elements that are sometimes foreign to the Catholic faith.

According to Irenaeus, a second century and much quoted saint, orthodox Christian faith is that which is believed in those apostolic churches founded by the apostles. But among all the apostolic churches, he offered to produce only the line of succession "of the very great, the very ancient and universally known church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul." It was this Church, concluded St. Irenaeus, that "by reason of its more excellent origin every church must agree", and it was in this Church that "the tradition which comes from the apostles has been preserved" (Against the Heresies 3.3.2)!!

This is no exaggeration, but when I, a rebel against the Catholic Church for years, first found out about this, I was absolutely dumbfounded. In fact, I was in fear: the way Peter feared Jesus when he suddenly sensed the holiness and divinity of the person standing in front of him, which were in stark contrast to his own sinful state and lowliness (cf. Luke 5:8).

In concluding this post, let me leave you with this closing thought: The Catholic tradition provides a certain approach, a sense of the faith, if you will, that the Catholics adopt in reading and understanding the inspired Scripture. It was based on this reading and understanding of the Christian faith as preached and proclaimed by the apostles, that the early Church determined the Canon of the Scripture, i.e. the official list of books deemed as inspired by God. Wouldn’t any attempt to read and understand the Scripture apart from this original reading and understanding render the Scripture unworthy of being considered the word of God? Remember, the message or teaching is not the book as such, i.e. the Bible, which is but a stack of papers; it is the reading, the understanding, and the teaching derived therefrom.

(Article originally made public in February 2008 as an email.)

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Meet Jim Caviezel (Passion of the Christ) & Be Converted to Holiness

It's been a long time since I watched Mel Gibson's Passion of the Christ. This Labour Day weekend, I had a chance to watch a video on an interview of the movie's actor, Jim Caviezel. I sat through all 49 minutes of the video, and was drawn to Jim's powerful sharing like Winnie the Pooh was to honey.

To Jim Caviezel, playing the role of Jesus was much more than mere acting. The whole filming process had been a prayerful experience that enabled him to obtain a deeper appreciation of our Lord's complete self-giving love for men and the agony He had to endure to remain steadfast in love until the very end. It was filled with contemplative moments when human consciousness and divine will appeared intertwined - sometimes it's hard to tell which was which. There were times when the experience was so real and his body battered so bad from acting that Jim was all but ready to give up his life on the cross if God's will was for him to do so for the glory of Christ.

In the interview, he described in vivid detail the last scene the filming crew did: the climax of the crucifixion.

He was affixed to the cross which was set on top of a hill. The weather was threatening and the clouds were very low that day as crew members raised up slowly the cross and his body. From atop the cross he scanned the rugged hillside over which the filming crew members scattered. His arms, locked up tight to the cross for a prolonged period of time, were so numb they could have been ripped off and he would not have felt any pain. In spite of the discomfort and the scurries of filming activities happening all around, a strange serenity settled on him to give him an eerie feeling that his body was strategically placed in the eye of a horrendous storm.

The atmosphere was charged and almost surreal. A couple of crew members standing not too far away from him were gazing up at him with tearful eyes. He felt very sick. He thought he might just die right there on the cross. But his concern was not for his safety and physical well-being. His utmost desire was to be able to experience the agony of our Lord to the full. Deep in prayer, he asked God to allow him to share Jesus' suffering on the cross; and if it meant death, then so be it. Then he thought he heard a voice that asked him: "Can you drink this cup that I am drinking?" And he said, "Yes, Lord! Every bit of it!" For there's nothing more meaningful than dying for Christ, he thought. Then suddenly everything lighted up around him as though he was in the centre of an illuminated apparition. Lightning had struck.

On completion of the film, Jim was as badly battered as a sacrificial lamb. During the filming process, he had suffered a dislocated shoulder from carrying the cross, pneumonia, and lightning shocks. His body, normally a hulking physique of 210 pounds, was reduced to a feeble frame of only 168. What's more, he had to undergo heart surgery. "If you want to be Christian, you are in for it," he joked, musing on his hardships.

Don't watch the interview if you are not in a prayerful mood. I don't want to spoil your fun by giving away too much of the interview, but I must remind you not to miss the end where Jim delivered a sermon-like concluding speech and repeated some of the Aramaic scripts in the movie - I can only guess that's what he did as I don't know the language. It was an overpowering performance that took everyone watching right back to the movie to behold once again the familiar image of the Jesus of The Passion; to the love that beamed forth from his face; to the conversing eyes that somehow displayed a trace of sadness: sadness from his suffering no doubt, but even more so sadness for the sins of the world, including yours and mine. It's one of those rare encounters when you don't need to know the speaker's language to appreciate his profound wisdom and irresistible charism.

The organizer of the interview and publisher of the video was the Rock church - an evangelical Christian church in San Diego. Jim Caviezel, as many of you know, is from a closely-knit Catholic family. Enjoy the video:

Jim Caviezel Interview

Thursday, August 30, 2012

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

It Hurts When You Don't Read What I Write

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 10, 2012

Cruise Trip Ending in Rome Where It All Began

Perhaps it was the influence of Islam and the ancient Byzantine culture; perhaps the religious separation of the nations from the Latin Church; perhaps the region's isolation geographically from western Europe - whatever the reason, the shroud of mystique covering the Turkey and Greece region tickled my curiosity and imagination as I stood with Josephine on the ocean-view outdoor deck of Celebrity Equinox. Leaning against the waist-high railing, we admired the golden hues of the setting sun on the distant horizon of the Aegean Sea.

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

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

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

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

If there's anything I didn't like about Celebrity Equinox, it was their very strong but tasteless coffee, which forced me to let go of coffee for several days. As a result, I was overjoyed when I found a good cup of "American coffee" at a coffee shop in Positano - another beautiful coastal town situated to the east of Amalfi.
People say that in ancient Europe all roads began and ended in Rome. So it was with our journey. From Positano Antonio drove us to his home town Sorrento, and from there we took a hydrofoil to return to Naples and our ship Equinox.

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

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

Monday, July 9, 2012

Living In the Holy Tradition

The registrants showed up for the first meeting as planned, a good 20 of them, dressed comfortably in casual summer clothes. As expected a few people had to miss the first meeting. It was after all summertime: vacations, visitors, other summer funs and commitments were rightful competition. I had made it clear to them that they should feel no pressure or obligation to attend every meeting as much as I liked them to. For one thing, this was only a pilot project, conducted to "fill in the gap" when my RCIA was in summer recess. More importantly, the course was designed in such a way that each meeting was essentially a self-contained topic of its own. Missing one meeting would not cause the participant any difficulty in understanding the next one.

Admittedly, partly due to the sheer numbers of the participants I normally had to deal with and partly my inability to remember well, I didn't always know the names of the people taking my programs. Not for this group though. All of them had attended either my Catechism Revisited Program or the Bible Study Program before and some of them were good friends from my family groups. The scriptural and catechetical knowledge they had picked up from such activities and their familiarity with my style made it easier for them to understand the materials of this program, which in many ways were more advanced. Needless to say, familiarity also bred mutual comfort.

We began by reviewing what the Church meant by the Holy Tradition. The understanding made it evident that any attempt to receive the revealed truth as it was given by Christ in its entirety to the Church and handed down faithfully by the Apostles and their successors to us must be grounded in the Holy Tradition, which explained why a deep immersion in the Church Fathers' writings and on-going reading of magisterial pronouncements and publications such as Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth was the best way to enable the Church faithful to understand the faith of the divine and universal Church of Christ without deviations and unnecessary detours.

Then, without further ado, we plunged right into the pages of the Holy Father's book, Jesus of Nazareth: From the Entrance into Jerusalem to the Resurrection, full of sweet insight and orthodox understanding of the Scriptures as it was. As I led the class to review and discuss the kingship of Jesus - the topic of our fist meeting - I felt like I was leading them to walk through delightfully a beautiful park full of colorful and exotic plants and flowers! No wonder the Scriptures were "fertile pastures and beautiful gardens in which the flock of the Lord is marvelously refreshed and delighted" to St. Ambrose (note 1); and to St. Jerome the experience of reading them seemed like "a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom" (note 2)!

Summertime to me was the time for preparing and promoting next year's programs, which inevitably involved meetings and lots of administration - not exactly the way I wanted to spend my time. At the same time, I realized such work was unavoidable. I wish I could spend more time to share the joy of reading the Bible, a wish constantly reinforced and heightened by the look of satisfaction exuded happily from the faces of the people fired up by the Holy Spirit to respond to the power of the word of God. By nature quiet and quite an introvert, I must admit I was never of any good in socializing: my hearing would go from bad to worse in noisy public places; my voice, soft and weak in velocity as it was, would get badly drowned out; and my head, devoid of topics for little talks that came so naturally for so many people, would go blank. But for some reason, the moment I stepped up with the Bible in hand to stand behind the lectern in front of a crowd, or stood in the middle of a room filled with people whose attention was generously given to me, I would suddenly feel perfectly at ease and comfortably at home. That was also how I felt standing in the middle of room 203 of CMCC yesterday, surrounded by a small group of people whom I knew intimately by name. Should you decide to join us to share the experience of "walking through a park", don't hesitate to join us next Sunday at 9:15 a.m.! Yes, we have plenty of room to admit some more participants, and absence from the first meeting would not cause you any hinderance.

Note 1: S. Ambrose in Ps. 118, serm. xix, 2.
Note 2: S. Jerome, Ep. 53, 10; PL. XXII, col.549; CSEL. LIV, p.463.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Cruise Trip to Istanbul, Ephesus, Athens, Corinth, Naples and Rome

After a 10-hour flight from Toronto Pearson, we landed in Rome at 7 a.m. and headed immediately to the port where our cruise ship, Celebrity Equinox, docked.
The last time and the only time our family had a cruise trip together was 12 years ago at the Caribbean. It was unfortunately a forgettable experience, so much so we thought we would never take a cruise vacation again: the ship was old, its amenities and services uninviting, and its passengers rowdy and rude. We found ourselves virtually "imprisoned" for several days with nothing better to do than counting the minutes and the hours, longing for the freedom of disembarkment.

Not this time.

12 days on board the Equinox flew by like a 12-minute merry-go-round, leaving us dazzled and wide-eyed. When it was all over, we left the ship like four little kids leaving a store full of goodies, clamouring for more of the thrills and the sweet moments that had gone by so swiftly.

For one thing, the ship was almost brand new - no more than 3 years old. It was spacious and well-designed, with 13 decks, beautiful staterooms, magnificent venues, fine dining and entertainments, and pleasing interior colors throughout. The feeling was more like staying in the safe and solid confines of a 5-star hotel than being afloat at sea.

More important, however, were the destinations and excursions carefully planned out and organized by Josephine. We stopped over and disembarked at Santorini, Greece; Istanbul, Turkey; Ephesus, Turkey; Athens/Corinth, Greece; Crete, Greece; Naples, Italy; and ended the trip at Rome. The temptation is to write a page or more for each destination, but to keep the length of this post readable I will discipline myself to show only a few pictures and to share some of the highlights and my thoughts. So here we go!

(1) Glimmering white and blue Santorini - it's so Greek!

(2) Istanbul , formerly known as Constantinople in Roman times, was a historic city I had read so much about: its strategic geographical location that spanned over 2 continents - Europe and Asia; its intense rivalry with Rome to become the centre of the Roman Empire; its ancient landmark "Hagia Sophia" - the epitome of Byzantine architecture and the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years....It's hard to believe but there we were, my family and I, setting foot on this very ancient city, experiencing the riches of its culture and history. Once a glorious Christian cathedral that showcased the world's largest dome and magnificent Christian paintings and mosaics, Hagia Sophia was taken over by the Muslims in 1453 and was converted into a mosque. Believing that human images would constitute idolatry and blasphemy, they covered up all religious art works with a layer of greyish plaster. As a result, the massive building, now a museum, appeared bare and gloomy. My heart sank as I thought of the grandeur and holiness that had once infiltrated the cathedral structure to render so many religious souls in awe and reverence.

(3) We also toured the Blue Mosque, which was located just next to Sophia; and got on board a ferry that took us to the part of Istanbul where "Europe meets Asia".
Knowing the stern and terrifying image that the non-Muslim world had formed, rightly or wrongly, against the Muslim countries especially since 9/11; our tour guide made a point of showing us the secular and westernized life style that the country had chosen to adopt, explaining that the Muslim faith that Turkey believed in was a moderate and inclusive one.

(4) The rest of our trip was like "a prayerful journey to follow the footsteps of St. Paul": the Arcadian Way and the amphitheater of Ephesus where Paul and his companions had survived unscathed the furious riot of the silversmiths who rose against them to protect the goddess of Artemis (Acts 19);

the Areopagus in Athens where Paul debated the Greek philosophers to help them understand that God, who had revealed Himself through Christ, was not an "Unknown God" (Acts 17:16ff);

the ancient city of Corinth where Paul established the Corinthian church and faced accusation by the Jews at Bema (the tribunal, Acts 18:1-17);

the beautiful little port near Corinth from where Paul set sail to Syria, Ephesus and then to Caesarea and Jerusalem where he was arrested and imprisoned (Acts 18:18-22, 21:1ff); and finally to Rome where he was martyred.

(5) While In Ephesus, we also attended Sunday Mass at the House of Virgin Mary,
and visited the St. John's Basilica, a once great church built on a 2nd century tomb thought to hold the remains of St. John. Praying at the tomb of the author who wrote the gospel I like the most was a moving experience that mere words cannot describe; a stone I picked up from the area will keep me physically in touch with this great evangelist to whom the 2 letters of John and the book of Revelation are also attributed. Seeing the ruins of the Church of Mary where the first ecumenical Council of Ephesus was conducted in 431 A.D. and the doctrine recognizing Mary as the Mother of God (Theotokos) affirmed was a spiritually stirring experience that I never thought could have happened. Suddenly the very venue of this significant event in the history of the Church that so far had been perceptible only from the pages of my theology textbooks was right there before my very eyes!

As the cruise trip concluded and we disembarked to Rome, my heart was still hovering over the densely populated coasts and glistening waters of the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, defying space and time to become one in spirit with myriads of people who in the course of time unstoppable had paraded across the stage of history and yet remained vivid and alive in the mysterious faculties of the human mind....

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Is Baptism Needed For Salvation? Part 4: Reconciling the Two Semmingly Contradictory Positions

Are we contradicting ourselves by insisting on the necessity of Baptism and acknowledging at the same time the possibility of salvation for the un-baptized and non-believers? No, what we are saying is that those who “seek God with a sincere heart and, moved by grace, try to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience” may be saved by virtue of their willingness to do God’s will (cf. Lumen Gentium 16, 1 John 5:1-3) even if they haven’t had the opportunity to receive Baptism. For “God has bound salvation to the sacrament of Baptism, but he himself is not bound by his sacraments” (CCC 1258).

Look at it this way: like all the other sacraments, Baptism is a better and more efficacious way for sanctification. “[It] is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257, cf. Mark 16:16). But God is just and merciful; he will not penalize those who, through no fault of their own, have been deprived of the grace of hearing the Gospel and receiving Baptism.

The other significance of the fore-mentioned JPII statement is that regardless of one’s religion and belief, if anyone is saved, it’s because of Jesus’ salvific grace. For Jesus is “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). In other words, Jesus’ redemptive sacrifice is necessary for the salvation of the whole world, including the baptized and the un-baptized, the believers and the non-believers, which is why he is the only Mediator between God and men.

It must be added in closing that it will be foolhardy to think that since the un-baptized and non-believers may also be saved, there’s no need to evangelize. The above-mentioned position of the Church does not diminish in any way the need and urgency of proclaiming the Gospel. This is because Jesus’ revelation is “definitive and complete”, made known to the Church “in the fullest possible way”. As a result, “she cannot do other than proclaim...the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Dominus Iesus, 5) to people all over the world because they still haven’t received the fullest of the truth. And when you don't have the fullest of the truth, which is Christ himself, it's easy to fall prey to the force of evil.

Is Baptism Needed For Salvation? Part 3: On the Salvation of Those Who Aren’t Baptized

In addition to affirming the necessity of baptism, there is a secondary issue (“secondary” in terms of being a derivative not in terms of its importance) from your question which requires serious consideration: If baptism is necessary for salvation, what about those who have never had the opportunity to get baptized due to reasons not within their control or discretion? Will they be saved? These people include the non-believers and believers of other religions, as well as the hypothetical case mentioned in your question, i.e. a believer who died after expressing publicly his faith but before receiving baptism. The Catholic version of your hypothetical case will be a catechumen who died while going through the RCIA process.

Before proceeding to answer this question, I must make something very clear because I don’t want you to think that I know who will be saved and who won’t. A few years ago, I attended a religious funeral in which the religious master in charge of the funeral took a moment to “touch and feel” the body of the deceased and then declared that the happy soul was already in heaven because the person’s body was “nice and soft”. As much as I loved the deceased, I found it hard to believe the religious master's claim. My point is this: Nobody but Jesus can judge; no mere mortal can claim to know how he is going to judge and what his decision will be. Baptized or otherwise, a person stands justified before Jesus only if he judges in favor of the person’s salvation. As holy and faithful to Christ as St. Paul was, he would not even pass judgment on himself and claim that he would stand acquitted (cf. 1 Cor. 4:3-5). For the final judgment rests in the hands of Christ, who judges people’s hidden works from his judgment seat (Romans 2:16, 1 Cor. 4:4, 2 Cor. 5:16).

As far as the non-believers and the believers of other religions who aren’t baptized, the Church’s position is explained by JPII as follows: “For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church…enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit…” (JPII, Redemptoris mission, 10).

The Catechism offers a similar explanation: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (CCC 1260). The same reasoning can also be applied to the fore-mentioned catechumen and the person in your hypothetical case.

Friday, June 1, 2012

A Reflection: Today's Mass Readings and Bill 13

In the morning Mass I attended today, the celebrant explained that the fig tree that Jesus cursed saying "May no one ever eat of your fruit again!" could be seen as the Temple of Jerusalem. A similar interpretation of the "fig tree" is often used throughout the Bible. The Jerusalem Temple, as we know, was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. never to be rebuilt (the Jews tried but every time they began the project, natural disasters followed; so they stopped). Therefore, the "fig tree" - the Jerusalem Temple - that failed to bear fruits did "wither", to be transformed by God into the New Jerusalem Temple (the Church) with its new High Priest (Jesus himself) and its new sacrifice (the Pascal sacrifice of the Lamb of God).

If revealed truths from the Bible such as this don't touch our hearts, so much so as to leave us shaken and dazed, I don't know what will!!

Also in today's first reading, St. Peter said, "Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly" (1 Peter 4:7-13).

The celebrant used this reading to warn us of the endless persecutions that the Church had been subjected to since its institution, including St. Justin's martyrdom (today is his feast day), those of the martyrs of the early Church and, most of all, the persecutions that she continues to suffer even today, right now in this age, right here in this place where we live, in the disguise of a government legislation - Bill 13 (parents can't even educate their own children the way they want!), in the form of suppression of religious freedom and conscience (the Church must accept the provincial government's moral values), ridicule of the Holy Father, banning of public prayers, discrediting of Church teachings...

"Do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ..."

Stay awake! Be Prepared! Rejoice in spite of the suffering!

View protest at Toronto Yonge/Dundas Square against Bill-13 on May 31, 2012.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Is Baptism Needed For Salvation? Part 2: On the Necessity of Baptism

Not all Protestant churches dispute the importance of baptism, only the more radical ones do. But it is also true that Protestant churches generally fail to see the ontological significance and symbolism of the sacramental economy, which is “the communication or dispensation of the fruits of Christ’s Paschal mystery in the celebration of the Church’s ‘sacramental’ liturgy” (CCC 1076). In other words, they do not believe the use of visible signs and symbols such as water, oil, incense, bread, wine, etc. in the liturgy can communicate and make present efficaciously invisible graces wrought by Christ’s Paschal sacrifice. With this critical belief abandoned, no wonder many of them see the Catholic Church’s use of sacraments as a form of superstition or even idolatry.

The efficacy of sacraments is affirmed by Christ and the apostles on many different occasions. As far as the sacrament of baptism Jesus confirms its necessity in John 3:5, as you pointed out; he commands his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to all nations and to baptize them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19); he also promises salvation if one believes and receives baptism (Mark 16:16).

Not only does the necessity of baptism have the support of Jesus himself, it’s of such paramount importance in the overall economy of salvation that its institution was already anticipated, foretold and prefigured in the great events of salvation history. The Noah’s ark, for example, is a prefiguring of salvation by baptism in the sense that people were saved through water and in the process a world corrupted by sin was purified and transformed to become a new creation (cf. CCC 1219). Similarly, the Exodus event signifies our liberation from the slavery of sin through water just as Israel was liberated from the slavery of Egypt through the crossing of the Red Sea (cf. CCC 1221). The need for purification and the symbolic efficacy of water as a source of life were already evident and emphasized in the Mosaic law of purification (cf. Numbers 19:11 ff).

If you think Mel Gibson was exaggerating when the blood and water that gushed out of Jesus pierced side were depicted to look like a heavy downpour, it’s because the redemptive and purifying grace of Jesus’ blood and water was what all of humanity had been waiting and yearning for ever since our first parents fell into Satan’s trap. When compared to the prophet Ezekiel’s vision of water flowing out of the threshold of the temple (Ezekiel 47:1-12), which is also a prefiguration and anticipation of the powerful baptismal, life and Spirit giving water that Jesus would bring, the fore-mentioned scene in the Passion of the Christ is actually quite an understatement!

Quoting Mark 16:16 (“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved”), the Catechism reaffirms in no unclear terms that baptism “is necessary for salvation for those to whom the Gospel has been proclaimed and who have had the possibility of asking for this sacrament” (CCC 1257).

That said, it must not be forgotten that while the Sacrament of baptism is a wonderful gift from God to help us live in sanctification, salvation for those who have been baptized is far from guaranteed. “Even though incorporated into the Church, one who does not however persevere in charity is not saved,” the Vatican II Fathers warned in Lumen Gentium 14. For it’s “not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthews 7:21, also see James 2:24). In fact, if even St. Paul was unsure he would ultimately stand acquitted before the judgment of God (cf. 1 Corinthians 4:3-4), who are we to boast of the certainty of our salvation just because we have been baptized?

At this point of our discussion, it’s only logical to ask this question: If baptism is needed for salvation, what do we say about all the good people from other religions and those with no particular religious belief? Do they have any hope of being saved? This will lead us nicely into the next discussion. Please stay tuned for Part 3 of this serial topic.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Is Baptism Needed For Salvation? Part 1: The Question and Its Purported Scriptural Origin

A CMCC Bible Study Program participant emailed me to ask the following question on the Sacrament of Baptism (reworded to simplify):

My Protestant friend believes one will be saved if he confesses publicly and sincerely that he accepts Christ as his personal savior. But what if the person dies after his public expression of faith before receiving baptism? Will he be saved? My friend believes so, explaining that this is because God is merciful. But what about John 3:1-7 in which Jesus says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit one cannot enter the kingdom of God? Also, how do we reconcile this with the Catholic Church’s position that people from other religions "may" also be saved (who obviously will not have received baptism)? My Protestant friend offers another reason why baptism is unnecessary: baptism does not wash away our sins - Christ's blood and His crucifixion is what washes away our sins. How do we answer this?

There are three parts to this question: (1) Is baptism necessary for salvation? (2) If yes, what about the unbaptized? Can they be saved? (3) How can the Catholic Church uphold the necessity of baptism and maintain at the same time that people who haven’t been baptized (i.e. those from other religions and the non-believers) may also be saved? I will answer the three parts in three other posts following this one. But first of all, let me explain why your friend believes inward faith (sincere adherence to Christ in one’s heart) and its outward expression (open confession by mouth) will lead to one’s salvation. Since the question touches on a number of theological issues, you may find the language I use a little theological. But I will do my best to lighten it up. Please bear with me.

The understanding that inward faith (sincere adherence to Christ in one’s heart) and outward expression (open confession by mouth) is all it takes to achieve salvation is rooted in a misinterpretation of Romans 10:5-10. In this passage, Paul repudiates the arduous nature of the observance of the law or “the righteousness that comes from the law” in order to bring to light the power and simplicity of the new way of uprightness, i.e. Jesus’ redemptive grace or “the righteousness that comes from faith”. To Paul, Deuteronomy 30:11ff - “the word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart" - anticipates Christ. “The word” is “the word of faith that we preach”; it is Christ who is near you and should be in your mouth and in your heart. Therefore, for you to be saved, you should “confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead” (cf. New Jerome Biblical Commentary, 51:102; R. Sungenis, Not By Faith Alone, p.35), which is what a baptismal candidate does in the Catholic baptismal ritual ("Do you believe in Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord who...rose from the dead...?"). By quoting Deuteronomy, Paul’s intent is to convey the message that “God is near to the person who lives by faith, but far from the one who bases his relationship with God on law” (R. Sungenis, p.26).

Did Paul suggest that the outward confession and inward faith is all it takes to achieve salvation? In other words, did Paul suggest faith alone - no need for works; no need for rituals; no need for baptism? By no means. No faithful reading of this passage in context will allow this conclusion. In fact, further scholarly research suggested that this statement was actually a traditional creedal formula from a baptismal liturgy commonly used in Paul’s time. Its purpose was to enable the baptismal candidate to rejoice in Jesus’ divinity, “Jesus is Lord”, and his resurrection, “God raised him from the dead” (see G. O’Collins, Interpreting Jesus, p. 14).

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Still Thinking Sola Scriptura?

Still thinking Sola Scriptura (Bible Alone)? The few words extracted below from the Catechism should be sufficient to refute the idea once and for all; it should be exceedingly clear by now that theologically Catholicism operates on a plane loftier, more profound, and more faithful to scriptural teaching than what Protestantism has chosen to operate on.

The Christian faith is not a “religion of the book”, but the religion of the “Word”; not a word written and mute, but the Word incarnate and living (cf. CCC 108).

Now let’s turn our thoughts to the Gospel of John, which begins with a big bang that resounds through all ages:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be… And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us…(John 1:1-3, 14).

Shall we say more?

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Spiritual Tea House - May 19, 2012

A few days after sharing on my blog my reflection on "The Summons" (http://elodocuments.blogspot.ca/2012/05/summons.html), my heart still resounds with the song's powerful tune and lyrics:

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?...Should your life attract or scare?....Will you use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around?...

Our Christian faith, if authentic, will constantly and repeatedly renew us, changing us drastically, rendering us transformed and reshaped. Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around? The divine summons challenges each one of us who profess to follow Christ. Have you responded to it? If you are finding it difficult, here's one suggestion that may help: bring a friend or a relative who is a non-believer or a non-Catholic or a lapsed Catholic to the Spiritual Tea House scheduled to be conducted at the Don Bosco Hall of CMCC from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 19. Here's a snapshot of what will happen if you follow our suggestion:

You walk into the CMCC lobby with your friend and immediately the Spiritual Tea House banner is there to greet you. Going down the stairs, you and your friend can sense the music and laughter that fill the Don Bosco Hall. A friendly FLL Outreach team member extends a warm welcome at the entrance and then walks you over to one of the many small tables where people are already seated, chatting away in small groups of 2 to 5. The hall is gleaming softly with candlelight; snacks and drinks are readily available.

Edmond Lo and Dr. Jason Kwok, representing the FLL and the 333rd Scouts Group respectively, are the MCs of the evening, which begins with a rousing and spiritually uplifting singspiration. Echoing the theme of the evening, "Seek and You Shall Find (Matthew 7:7)", Dr. Kwok shares his personal spiritual journey and how with God's blessing he was able to overcome his personal doubts to eventually receive baptism. You and your friend enjoy not only Dr. Kwok's story of baptism, but also a very entertaining performance in which Dr. Kwok sings and plays Tai Chi.

The lights are then turned on and the program breaks for a brief intercession. You find yourself surrounded by many familiar faces that you often see at church. You friend is very impressed by your church friends and the FLL volunteers who take the initiative to talk to him and make him feel at home. When the program resumes, a FLL representative makes some announcements and your friend is very much intrigued to learn that Chinese Catholic TV and radio programming is broadcast nationally across Canada. He is impressed even more by the FLL volunteers' strong desire to spread the Gospel. Then Dr. Kwok gets on stage again to share how he matures spiritually after baptism and his involvement in various parish activities. He also fields some questions from the floor. You are pleasantly surprised when your friend stands up and asks Dr. Kwok why as a doctor he would choose to use his precious personal time to serve God instead of using it to make more money.

The evening ends with another lively singspiration. You and your friend leave with the satisfaction that in 2 hours’ time you have been given a good glimpse of the faith journey of a good and active Catholic. While driving home, your friend asks you to explain what it is that makes the Catholic faith so important to Dr. Kwok and to you. Unprepared for his question, you don't know what to say and feel a little embarrassed. But deep inside, you promise yourself that you'll do better the next time…

Yes, that's typically how an evening of Spiritual Tea House will unfold. Can we count on your attendance and help? Will you bring a friend or relative? Let's work together to use the faith you’ve found to reshape the world around! Hope to see you there! If you can't go this time, at least help us spread the news. We know we can count on your prayer too!