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!