Friday, February 26, 2010

IFFAsia Mission Intership - Mission as Witness and Dialogue

12 interns of the Institute of Formation, Fondacio Asia, hailing from China, Myanmar, Vietnam, Philippines, Japan and Malaysia attended a 3 day workshop-cum-course (from February 25 - 27) on theology of religions and interreligious dialogue conducted by Fr. Michael Chua, Ecclesiastical Assistant of the Archdiocesan Ministry of Ecumenical and Interreligous Affairs (AMEIA) and parish priest of the Church of Visitation, Seremban. They were hosted by families living in Bukit Rasah area of Seremban.

The course introduced the interns to the Catholic theology of religions,i.e. the way in which the Catholic Church perceives and relates with other religions. On the second day of the programme, they were also invited to reflect on the relationship between proclamation and dialogue within the larger context of evangelisation. This was followed by a session which helped them explore personal ethnocentrism and obstacles to dialogue. The last day of the programme introduced the students to the four fold typology of dialogue and challenged them to find ways of meaningfully applying the principles they had learned during the course in their own respective home environment.

Apart from the various talks and workshops, they were also brought on a study tour of a Sikh Gurdwara and a Hindu Temple. Upon their return, Fr. Chua helped them to develop a methodology of observation, reflection and analysis which could be used for future visits.

On the second day of the programme, Dr. Patricia Martinez, the first non-Muslim Malaysian to have received a PhD in Islam, gave them a brief summary of the religion of Islam, its main pillars, and shared her own personal experience of studying Islam as a non-Muslim.

The interns will remain in Seremban until Sunday, February 28. On the last day of their stay, they will be assigned to several upper secondary classes of the Sunday School to allow them to share their own personal experiences and to interact with the students.

First Parish Event: Formation on Catholic Social Teaching and Lenten Campaign 2010

Friday (February 26, Seremban) A team from the Archdiocesan Office of Human Development (AOHD) were invited to give a formation on the Catholic Social Teachings and Lenten Campaign 2010. 200 participants from 3 language groups were in attendance. Apart from the parishioners of Visitation, Seremban, there were also several participants from the Negeri Sembilan District,i.e. Nilai, Port Dickson, and Mantin.

The participants were introduced to the work and projects of the AOHD. In the morning, they were also exposed to the main themes of Catholic Social Teaching. The afternoon session were dedicated to a briefing and explanation of this year's Lenten Campaign. The participants viewed a DVD production where various priests of the Archdiocese of Kuala Lumpur, explained the major themes of this year's Lenten Campaign, which is based on the various parts of the crucifixion.

Announcements - February 27 - 28

Next Infant Baptism - 7th March 2010
Instructions for parents and godparents will be on 6th March 2010 at 7.30 pm. Baptism forms are available at the Secretariat by 3/3/10

Holy Hour - 4th March
There will be no morning mass. Morning mass will be celebrated at 7 pm followed by Holy Hour at 7.30 pm.

Formation: Introduction to Studying and Praying the Bible (English)
Date: 20th March (Saturday)
Time: 9 am to 1 pm
Venue: Visitation Hall, Downstairs
Speaker: Fr. Michael Chua
Registration fee: RM 3.00 per person
Open to all BEC and ministry members, Catechists, RCIA Facilitators, all parishioners.
Registration after all weekend masses (at Recreation Corner)
Contact: Jessie - 019-2524290/ 06-6789764
Doreen - 017-3326007

Chrism Mass 24-3-10 (Church of St. John Marie Vianney, Tampin)
This year's celebration will be brought to our district in conjunction with the Year of the Priest. Transportation will be arranged. Please look for details in upcoming bulletins.

Penitential Service for Easter 2010
Church of Visitation - 10th March, 7.00 pm
Tampin - 3rd March, 7.30 pm
Nilai - 5th March, 8.15 pm
Port Dickson - 25th March, 7.30 pm

SSVP Nation Youth Convention 2010
Theme: "Come and See:
Open to SSVP Members and Non-Members
Organised by SSVP for all Working Adults/ Youth (ages 23-39)
Dates: 25th - 27th June 2010
Time: 3.00 pm
Place: College General, Penang
Cost: RM 100.00 per pax
For more information, please visit their website:

Way of the Cross & Mass
The Devotion of Way of the Cross at Parish Level on Fridays during Lent will be at 1.00 pm followed by Mass.
All BECs are encouraged to have their own Way of the Cross every Friday evening during the Lenten Season.
Limited stock of "Stations of the Cross" booklets available for sale at RM5 each. Do get a copy for your own use.

IFFAsia Interns
We welcome 14 interns from the IFFAsia (Fondacio Asia) who had undergone a period of formation in interreligious dialogue and experienced homestay at our parish from 25th to 28th February.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Way of the Cross - Via Dolorosa

The Way of the Cross is also called by other names - Stations of the Cross, Via Crucis, and Via Dolorosa. These names are used to signify either a series of pictures or tableaux representing certain scenes in the Passion of Christ, each corresponding to a particular incident, or the special form of devotion connected with such representations.

The erection and use of the Stations did not become at all general before the end of the seventeenth century, but they are now to be found in almost every church. Formerly their number varied considerably in different places but fourteen are now prescribed by authority. They are as follows:

1. Christ condemned to death;
2. the cross is laid upon him;
3. His first fall;
4. He meets His Blessed Mother;
5. Simon of Cyrene is made to bear the cross;
6. Christ's face is wiped by Veronica;
7. His second fall;
8. He meets the women of Jerusalem;
9. His third fall;
10. He is stripped of His garments;
11. His crucifixion;
12. His death on the cross;
13. His body is taken down from the cross; and
14. laid in the tomb.

The late Pope John Paul II popularised devotion to the fifteenth station, which depicted "the Resurrection of the Lord."

The object of the Stations is to help the faithful to make in spirit, as it were, a pilgrimage to the chief scenes of Christ's sufferings and death, and this has become one of the most popular of Catholic devotions. It is carried out by passing from Station to Station, with certain prayers at each and devout meditation on the various incidents in turn. It is very usual, when the devotion is performed publicly, to sing a stanza of the "Stabat Mater" while passing from one Station to the next.

Inasmuch as the Way of the Cross, made in this way, constitutes a miniature pilgrimage to the holy places at Jerusalem, the origin of the devotion may be traced to the Holy Land. The Via Dolorosa at Jerusalem (though not called by that name before the sixteenth century) was reverently marked out from the earliest times and has been the goal of pious pilgrims ever since the days of Constantine.

Tradition asserts that the Blessed Virgin used to visit daily the scenes of Christ's Passion and St. Jerome speaks of the crowds of pilgrims from all countries who used to visit the holy places in his day. There is, however, no direct evidence as to the existence of any set form of the devotion at that early date. A desire to reproduce the holy places in other lands, in order to satisfy the devotion of those who were hindered from making the actual pilgrimage, seems to have manifested itself at quite an early date.

At the monastery of San Stefano at Bologna a group of connected chapels were constructed as early as the fifth century, by St. Petronius, Bishop of Bologna, which was intended to represent the more important shrines of Jerusalem, and in consequence, this monastery became familiarly known as "Hierusalem.” These may perhaps be regarded as the germ from which the Stations afterwards developed, though it is tolerably certain that nothing that we have before about the fifteenth century can strictly be called a Way of the Cross in the modern sense. Although several travelers who visited the Holy Land during the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries, mention a "Via Sacra,” i.e., a settled route along which pilgrims were conducted, there is nothing in their accounts to identify this with the Way of the Cross, as we understand it.[citation needed] The devotion of the Via Dolorosa, for which there have been a number of variant routes in Jerusalem, was probably developed by the Franciscans after they were granted administration of the Christian holy places in Jerusalem in 1342.

The earliest use of the word “stations,” as applied to the accustomed halting-places in the Via Sacra at Jerusalem, occurs in the narrative of an English pilgrim, William Wey, who visited the Holy Land in the mid-1400s, and described pilgrims following the footsteps of Christ to the cross.

During the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries the Franciscans began to build a series of outdoor shrines in Europe to duplicate their counterparts in the Holy Land. The number of stations varied between eleven and thirty. The erection of the Stations in churches did not become at all common until towards the end of the seventeenth century, and the popularity of the practice seems to have been chiefly due to the indulgences attached.

In 1686, in answer to their petition, Pope Innocent XI granted to the Franciscans the right to erect stations within their churches. In 1731, Pope Clement XII extended the right of all churches to have the stations, provided that a Franciscan father erected them, with the consent of the local bishop. At the same time the number was fixed at fourteen. In 1857, the bishops of England were allowed to erect the stations by themselves, without the intervention of a Franciscan priest, and in 1862 this right was extended to bishops throughout the church.

Catholic Social Teaching

Love for widows and orphans, prisoners and the sick and needy
of every kind, is as essential to the Church as the ministry of
sacraments and preaching of the Gospel.
(Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, no.22)

What is Catholic Social Teaching?

Modern Catholic social teaching is the body of social principles and moral teaching that is articulated in the official documents of the Church issued since the late 19th century and dealing with the economic, political, and social order. This teaching is rooted in the Scriptures as well as in traditional philosophical and theological teachings of the Church.

Does this mean that Catholic Social Teaching was non-existent before the 19th century? The answer is No. Catholic Social Teaching is as old as the Church and even predates the Church (i.e. Hebrew Scriptures). However, it was only in the late 19th century that such teachings began to be articulated in a systematic way in the official documents of the Church.

Catholic social teaching has been called "our best kept secret," "our buried treasure," and "an essential part of Catholic faith."

"Far too many Catholics are not familiar with the basic content of Catholic social teaching. More fundamentally, many Catholics do not adequately understand that the social teaching of the Church is an essential part of Catholic faith. This poses a serious challenge for all Catholics, since it weakens our capacity to be a Church that is true to the demands of the Gospel. We need to do more to share the social mission and message of our Church."

Sharing Catholic Social Teaching: Challenges and Directions
U.S. Catholic Bishops

Basic Principles of Catholic Social Teaching

1.Human Dignity - The person is sacred, made in the image of God.

2. Common Good and Community - The human person is both sacred and social. We realize our dignity and rights in relationship with others, in community. How we organize our society -- in economics and politics, in law and policy -- directly affects human dignity and the capacity of individuals to grow in community.

3. Option for the Poor - The moral test of a society is how it treats its most vulnerable members. The option for the poor is an essential part of society's effort to achieve the common good. A healthy community can be achieved only if its members give special attention to those with special needs, to those who are poor and on the margins of society.

4. Rights and Responsibilities - Human dignity can be protected and a healthy community can be achieved only if human rights are protected and responsibilities are met. Every person has a fundamental right to life and a right to those things required for human decency – starting with food, shelter and clothing, employment, health care, and education. Corresponding to these rights are duties and responsibilities -- to one another, to our families, and to the larger society.

5.Role of Government and Subsidiarity - The state has a positive moral function. It is an instrument to promote human dignity, protect human rights, and build the common good. All people have a right and a responsibility to participate in political institutions so that government can achieve its proper goals. The principle of subsidiarity holds that the functions of government should be performed at the lowest level possible, as long as they can be performed adequately.

6. Economic Justice - The economy must serve people, not the other way around. All workers have a right to productive work, to decent and fair wages, and to safe working conditions. They also have a fundamental right to organize and join unions. People have a right to economic initiative and private property, but these rights have limits. No one is allowed to amass excessive wealth when others lack the basic necessities of life. Catholic teaching opposes collectivist and statist economic approaches and also rejects the notion that a free market automatically produces justice.

7. Stewardship of God's Creation - The goods of the earth are gifts from God, and they are intended by God for the benefit of everyone. How we treat the environment is a measure of our stewardship, a sign of our respect for the Creator.

8. Promotion of Peace and Disarmament - Catholic teaching promotes peace as a positive, action-oriented concept. In the words of Pope John Paul II, "Peace is not just the absence of war. It involves mutual respect and confidence between peoples and nations. It involves collaboration and binding agreements.” Peace is the fruit of justice and is dependent upon right order among human beings.

9. Participation - All people have a right to participate in the economic, political, and cultural life of society.

10. Global Solidarity and Development - We are one human family. Our responsibilities to each other cross national, racial, economic and ideological differences. We are called to work globally for justice. Authentic development must be full human development. It must respect and promote personal, social, economic, and political rights, including the rights of nations and of peoples.

Visitation Parish Event
Tomorrow, February 26, we will be having our first Parish Event of 2010, a formation by the Archdiocesan Office of Human Development (AOHD) on the Social Teachings of the Church and the Lenten Campaign.

We are on our way home ... but not yet

Second Sunday of Lent Year C

There was a missionary priest who after having spent 20 years in Africa returns to his hometown. He had sent letters ahead of his return to old friends hoping to meet up with some of them. So, it came as a great disappointment when he arrived at the bus terminal of his little hometown to find no one waiting for him. As he began to walk to the parish church, he was puzzled to see a great crowd of people gathered around a big Mercedes Benz parked across the road. Some of the young girls were screaming in excitement. After inquiring with a passerby, he discovered that his hometown had another homecoming, it was Mrs. Lim’s son who had gone to Hong Kong and became a famous singer.

As he sat down on a bench in the park, the priest began to complain to God. “I’ve slogged for you these past 20 years, I’ve risked my life attending to the sick, I’ve given up everything to follow your call to Africa. And now that I’ve arrived “home,” is this repayment that I get? There was silence on the other side. Then God spoke: “Who ever told you were “home.”

What does it mean to be really home – to have really arrived at our final destination? Is this life all there is to it or is there something more? From young, we have been taught in catechism that our final destination is heaven, where we will be with God for ever. But over the years, we may have developed some doubts as to heaven’s existence or we may begin to doubt that we will be able to enjoy this beautiful paradise.

We must never deceive ourselves into thinking that this world is a permanent place, we must never deceive ourselves to think that we can prolong life without death. This life is good but it isn’t our final home. Today many people do not want to talk about death, they do not want to think about death. Its’ ‘pantang.’ We try ways and means to lengthen our lives – we acquire wealth, property, power – forgetting that we can never bring any of these things into the next life. The three disciples who followed Jesus up the mountain wanted to capture the event of Jesus’ transfiguration for eternity – they wanted to build tents for all of them. But Jesus refuses to allow them to remain at this level. The transfiguration points to Jesus’ resurrection and the glory of heaven, but it wasn’t the resurrection nor heaven. If Jesus had remained on the mountain he would be prevented from fulfilling his mission to bring about mankind’s salvation through his suffering, death and resurrection.

Similarly if we put our confidence only in the present life as if it was permanent, we would not be able to appreciate and receive the eternal life promised to each us. And the meaning of ‘eternal life’ is to know God, to love him and be with him for all eternity. God doesn’t promise any of us a long life but God promises us eternal life.

This understanding of eternal life will help us to understand that heaven isn’t a place. The movies and paintings give us a very wrong picture about heaven – its above the clouds, people are given wings, everyone is dressed in white. We really do not know how heaven looks like. What we can say about heaven is that we will be able to see God face to face, we will able to face him in all honesty without having to hide behind our fears and anxieties. In heaven, our eyes, our attention can only be on God alone because he is the fulfillment of our every hope, dream and desire.

We pray during today’s mass that we will be able to let go of our earthly securities, e.g. our riches, our health, our property, our power, and be like Abraham who was prepared to leave everything even in the time of his old age and follow God’s call.

IFF Asia Mission Intership: Mission as Witness & Dialogue

A multinational group of 14 students/interns from IFF Asia will be visiting our parish from the 24th to 28th of February and staying with host families in Bukit Rasah BEC. They are here as part of their second semester immersion programme and will be attending a 3 day workshop on interreligious dialogue given by Fr. Michael Chua.

The Institute of Formation (IFF) is the training arm of Fondacio Asia (IFF Asia), a new ecclesial movement of the Catholic Church based in the Philippines. The IFF Asia offers a 10 month intensive formation programme for young adults from Asian countries which hopes to transform them into young leaders for a renewed Asian Church and Society.

Let us extend our Visitation hospitality to these students during their stay with us!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lectio Divina for Second Sunday of Lent

Second Sunday of Lent
February 28
“The Transfiguration”

1. Lectio
Luke 9:28-36
28 About a week after he had said these things, Jesus took Peter, John, and James with him and went up a hill to pray. 29 While he was praying, his face changed its appearance, and his clothes became dazzling white. 30 Suddenly two men were there talking with him. They were Moses and Elijah, 31 who appeared in heavenly glory and talked with Jesus about the way in which he would soon fulfil God’s purpose by dying in Jerusalem. 32 Peter and his companions were sound asleep, but they woke up and saw Jesus’ glory and the two men who were standing with him.
33 As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, “Master, how good it is that we are here! We will make three tents, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” (He did not really know what he was saying.)
34 While he was still speaking, a cloud appeared and covered them with its shadow; and the disciples were afraid as the cloud came over them. 35 A voice said from the cloud, “This is my Son, whom I have chosen – listen to him!”
36 When the voice stopped, there was Jesus all alone. The disciples kept quiet about all this, and told no one at that time anything they had seen.

The disciples are not ready to accept the suffering and death of their Master, Jesus. Jesus has already warned them on two occasions and will do it a third time again. In order to encourage them and provide them with the strength to face this crisis, Jesus allows himself to be transfigured in their sight. Although the disciples would have wanted to prolong this experience, Jesus reminded them that they needed to come down the mountain, to the reality of daily life with its joys and sorrows, with its comfort and obstacles, with its trials and blessings. The transfiguration is a reminder that suffering are glory are intertwined, “that it was necessary that the Messiah should suffer (these things) and enter into his glory” (Lk 24:26). The transfiguration gave the right focus to the disciples in preparation for the crisis that they will have to endure: they always needed to focus on Jesus, God’s Beloved Son, and listen to him.”

2. Meditatio
1. Remember your peak experiences of God, when you felt very close to God and God to you. Remember how these experiences changed your life.
2. How did it feel after you have come down from your “mountain experience”? Are you able to continue encountering God and Jesus in your daily ordinary life?
3. Are you able to recognise God’s glory in the midst of your problems, difficulties and pain?
4. Listen now to the voice of Jesus, what is he saying to you?

3. Oratio
God our Father,
You have shown us the glory of your Son
So that we may never feel discouraged in times of difficulty
help us to hear your Son.
Enlighten us with your word
that we may find the way to your glory.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.

4. Contemplatio
Hold the image of Jesus in your mind. Gaze at him with love as he gazes on you with love.

5. Actio
1. Personal Life – Spend some time each day this week to pray and meditate before an image of Christ – crucifix, image of the sacred heart or divine mercy etc.
2. Communal Life – Pray for each member of the BEC, both active and non-active members, during this month, especially those who are facing some difficulties in their lives.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Y2Y - Creating Awareness and Appreciation Day - Feb 21

The Y2Y Catechetical Youth expressed their appreciation to parents, elders, catechists, priests and parishioners during the 9 am mass on February 21. This also served to promote the activities of the group and create awareness among parishioners.

Fr. Michael added that the entire parish must see the importance of this ministry which hopes to foster leadership among teenagers and instill in them a sense of community and church.

Y2Y is a catechetical ministry that meets every fortnight on Sunday and caters to secondary school students from Forms 1-5. It is animated by college-going Youth Mentors under the guidance of Mr. and Mrs. Peter T.

More Photos on Facebook. Join the Y2Y Facebook group and find out about the times for their gatherings and activities.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Feast of Chair of St. Peter the Apostle - February 22

Today, Februrary 22, is the Feast of the Chair of St. Peter the Apostle. This chair is the symbol of the authority of St. Peter's and his successors, the popes, and thus a key to the unity of all Christians. That is in part because it not just a chair, but a throne (θρόνος), or cathedra, i.e. a seat of authority.

The symbol of the throne as seat of authority is actually alluded to Christ, who is promised the throne of his father David:
"He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David." (Luke 1:32)

Christ rules the Church through the men He has entrusted with the keys of His Kingdom, and given them authority to speak in His name.

"And I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." (Matthew 16:18-19)

Christ has given stewardship of His Kingdom to His steward. This is the Petrine office, the chair of St. Peter the Apostle.

St. Cyril, bishop of Alexandria (375-444 AD), says: "That we may remain members of our apostolic head, the throne of the Roman Pontiffs, of whom it is our duty to seek what we are to believe and what we are to hold, venerating him, beseeching him above others; for his it is to reprove, to correct, to appoint, to loose, and to bind in place of Him Who set up that very throne, and Who gave the fullness of His own to no other, but to him alone, to whom by divine right all bow the head, and the primates of the world are obedient as to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself."

Although the power of binding and loosing was given to all the apostles in common, nevertheless in order to indicate some order in this power, it was given first of all to Peter alone, to show that this power must come down from him to the others. For this reason He said to him in the singular: "Confirm (strengthen) your brothers" (Luke 22:32), and: "Feed My sheep" (John 21:17), i.e. according to St. John Chrysostom [347–407 AD, Archbishop of Constantinople]: "Be thou the president and head of thy brethren in My stead, that they, putting thee in My place, may preach and confirm thee throughout the world whilst thou sittest on thy throne."

The signficance of today's feast, therefore, in addition to the tradition of the reverence associated with this chair, is the actual respect and obedience accorded to Peter's successors, the Popes, Vicars of Christ. The Pope remains the visible symbol of unity of the Church and, through his teaching authority, continues to guarantee the infallibility of the Church's Tradition and teachings.

We as Catholics should not fail to continue to pray for the man that occupies the Chair of Peter. It is through his ministry we are all called to freedom from sin and called to conversion. Pope Benedict XVI has asked for prayers as he began his Lenten retreat yesterday, February 21.

The Relic of the Chair of St. Peter

The Cathedra Petri (Latin) or Chair of Saint Peter is a relic conserved in St. Peter's Basilica, Rome, enclosed in a gilt bronze casing that was designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed 1647-53.

The chair of a bishop is a cathedra. The cathedra in Saint Peter's Basilica was once used by the popes. It was therefore often thought to have been used by Saint Peter himself, but was in fact a gift from Charles the Bald to the Pope in 875.[1]

This wooden chair is enclosed in a gilt bronze casing designed by Gian Lorenzo Bernini and executed 1647–53. The chair of St. Peter now sits above his bones in the Basilica of St. Peter.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Rite of Election 2

The second part of the Rite of Election was celebrated in the Church of Holy Family, Kajang, which saw 629 catechumens being enrolled by the Archbishop of Kuala Lumpur, His Grace Tan Sri Murphy Pakiam, as elect in preparation of the Sacraments of Initiation at the Easter Vigil. Apart from the catechumens (now called the Elect), their sponsors, godparents, RCIA teams members, parish priests and other parishioners were also present to lend them support.

35 candidates from the 4 RCIA language groups from the Church of Visitation were also present at the Rite of Election.

More photos can be viewed on Facebook.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Rite of Election

This weekend, we will witness the first part of the Rite of Election in our parish. The Rite of Election is the second rite to be celebrated in the RCIA process. The catechumens who are preparing to receive the Sacraments of Initiation (Baptism, Confirmation & Eucharist) during the Easter Vigil mass have completed a period of catechesis known as the Catechumenate.

The first part of this rite will be celebrated at the weekend masses of our Parish, English and BM group(sunset mass), Tamil group(Tamil Mass) and Mandarin group (Mandarin Mass). The first part of this rite is also called the Rite of Sending or the Rite of Enrollment of Names. As our parish is not the Cathedral Parish or the parish where the Bishop will be enrolling the names of the Elect (the new name given to the catechumens), as in the case of this year (Holy Family Parish in Kajang will host the archdiocesan level Rite of Election), the candidates will be prepared with this Rite of Sending.

At the Rite of Sending, the parish prepares to send the candidates to meet with the Bishop who will receive them at the Rite of Election. The Rite of Election is a testimony of their faithfulness to this process in the past year or so. This act of sending is done by the whole parish. Therefore, it is celebrated within the mass in the presence of sponsors and RCIA Facilitators. Another integral part of this ceremony is the signing of the book of the elect. As the candidates sign this book they will signify that they are prepared to seal their covenant with God.

On the First Sunday of Lent, the bishop will then receive contingents from all parishes with catechumens. The catechumens will then be presented to him by their sponsors who will attest that they have completed their Catechumenate formation. The sponsors will also affirm that these candidates have experienced a true conversion of heart, mind and soul. As the bishop signs the same book that was signed by the candidates in the first part of the Rite of Election (or the Rite of Sending), he is receiving the candidates into our family of Christ. The candidates are now called the “elect” and have been elected to receive the sacraments of initiation at the Easter Vigil mass.

The elect will now be given a more intense spiritual formation during the season of Lent. They will undergo further Rites of Scrutinies and Exorcism, a period of purification and enlightenment. Let us continue to support them in our prayers.

Are Priests Afraid of Facebook?


“Priests should use the Internet to evangelize more.” That’s what Pope Benedict’s World Communications Day message says. “But how?” That’s the question many priests have. The Register asked some experts. This is part three in a series.

Young people, above all, need us to be on the Web.

There are so many ways this can happen: personal blogs, participation on social networking sites like Facebook and even the community that Cardinal Crescenzio Sepe, archbishop of Naples, Italy, has set up.

In December 2008, he said, “I’m now on Facebook because I’m convinced that there is no limit to friendship, and that a pastor shouldn’t be limited in the ways he gets to know people. If the people are on the street, I’ll go to the street; if they’re on Facebook, I’ll get on Facebook.”

As priests, we’ve been educated in a community and we carry out our ministry for a community. That’s essential to keep in mind, since we’re leaders in the new virtual communities. We have to be able to enrich the virtual world with the real world. Our relationship with that “virtual community” will thus become true direct human contact, what’s necessary for evangelization.

A while back, I discovered that young people, especially in Latin America, were going crazy about, a social networking site like Facebook. I began to participate (, and I was impressed to see how quickly it was growing among our young people. I spend lots of time on the site, where I constantly find parishes, diocesan youth groups, friends and old students of mine.

It’s a community where people have asked me for prayers, for spiritual counseling, for help in their vocational discernment, and even for more specific answers on things like Mass and confession schedules. It’s unthinkable that someone not know what parish they belong to, right? Well, it’s often normal for young people. Just as they would “look things up” on the Internet, they want to be able to find and get to know their parish and its priests there too.

Then I launched a social networking site for priests ( to commemorate the Year for Priests. I invited the priests of my diocese and some priest friends with whom I study at the university. Many were called, but few chose to accept the call, and even fewer published articles, images and videos. Even though many young people and married people wanted to join, I only accepted seminarians and priests. Part of the reason why there was such a low response, I think, is a certain fear that priests have of being present on these social networks.

Something else: I help out with my diocese’s website ( I don’t write articles, since I’ve got so little free time, but I help out as a priest.

For years now, I’ve been offering Mass for the intentions of whoever asks. Between 30-50 e-mails get to me every day with all kinds of intentions, even from outside the diocese.

It’s not the only initiative of its kind, but it makes me think how much the people of our age need God. The good things the Church does aren’t news for the mainstream media — it’s not part of the logic of the news cycle — so it’s up to us as priests to get the news out. It’s not enough to do good; we have to communicate it using all the resources we can — even Internet — to shed light on the events that, even though they seem small, build up the Church.

The new means of communication allow us to be true “fishers of men” on the immense ocean of the Internet, but we have to remember what our priestly identity and mission is: Since we are “other Christs,” our ability to communicate will always depend on our ability to listen to Christ and contemplate him who is our model par excellence.

It’s not enough to have a computer linked to the Internet. You need a truly Christian education and mindset, rooted in a life of communion. But you also need to know how to get the greatest results for evangelization. Instruments are never good or bad in themselves, but moderation and self-discipline are particularly important in the case of the Internet.

The Internet gives greater speed and mobility to all kinds of written and audiovisual communication: Anyone can transmit anything on a global scale. Since the pace of culture creation and information access is constantly speeding up, the Church has a wonderful opportunity to deepen its dialogue with the contemporary world.

So even more important than designing a website is the content that will really help to create a “web of communion.” That content has to help people be more human.

Our Holy Father Benedict XVI, in his message for the 44th World Communications Day in the context of the Year for Priests, talks about “The Priest and Pastoral Ministry in a Digital World: New Media at the Service of the Word.”

The Pope realizes that priests today are called to their eternal responsibility of being “other Christs” in the great task of evangelizing new public spaces. They have to give witness of their self-giving and their love for the Church, and they have to transmit the Heavenly Father’s merciful love.

That’s why I believe that every priest has to take as his own the words that St. John Vianney puts on Christ’s lips: “I charge my ministers with proclaiming to sinners that I am always willing to receive them, and that my mercy is infinite.”

We need men who are able to cast this great “net” of Christian witness and to transmit a clear and specific message. We are called to cast a net to draw hearts to the Church; it has to be a net woven from living threads, from shows of charity and solidarity, examples of love.

Proclaim God’s mercy. Even online.

Father Jose de Jesus Palacios, a priest of the Diocese of Celaya (Mexico), studies Church communications at the Holy Cross Pontifical University in Rome.

Announcements: February 20-21

First Parish Event - Formation on Catholic Social Teaching & Lenten Campaign (3 Languages)
26/2/2010, Friday (Public Holiday)
9.00 am to 4.00 pm at Visitation Hall
Registration Fee: RM 3 per person
Closing Date: 15 February 2010
Registration before and after weekend masses.

ACTM Formation - 24-2-10 Wednesday
8.00 pm - 9.30 pm
Visitation Hall
All 3 language groups - BEC Coordinators, Assistant Coordinators, Youth Reps, Messengers and Liturgy are required to attend.
Lenten Campaign Tins may be collected on this day.

Formation: Introduction to Studying and Praying the Bible (English)
Date: 20th March (Saturday)
Time: 9 am to 1 pm
Venue: Visitation Hall, Downstairs
Speaker: Fr. Michael Chua
Registration fee: RM 3.00 per person
Open to all BEC and ministry members, Catechists, RCIA Facilitators, all parishioners.
Registration after all weekend masses (at Recreation Corner)
Contact: Jessie - 019-2524290/ 06-6789764
Doreen - 017-3326007

Catholic Students Society (CSS)
Inviting all College/ University Students and students waiting for SPM and STPM results to this fellowship/gathering:
Date: 27-2-10
Time: 3.00 pm - 4.30 pm
Venue: Visitation Hall (Downstairs)

Penitential Service for Easter 2010
Church of Visitation - 10th March, 7.00 pm

Clergy Monthly Recollection
23rd - 24th February 2010
No morning Mass
Mass in the evening, 24-2-10 - 7.00 pm

Way of the Cross & Mass
The Devotion of Way of the Cross at Parish Level on Fridays during Lent will be at 1.00 pm followed by Mass.
All BECs are encouraged to have their own Way of the Cross every Friday evening during the Lenten Season.

Carmelite Sisters on Retreat (20-2-10 until 2-3-10)
Please do not disturb them during the Retreat. There will be no morning mass on Saturday, 27-2-2010

ISSAsia Interns
We welcome 14 interns from the ISSAsia (Fondacio Asia) who will be having formation and homestay at our parish from 25th to 28th February.

Friday, February 19, 2010

'Nobody' in the eyes of men, but 'Somebody' in the eyes of God

First Sunday of Lent Year C

What are the criteria of a successful man? The answer seems obvious – having money, lots of money, power and popularity. No one will give you a second look if you are poor, weak, or unpopular. Yes? No?

Today’s gospel goes against this very trend of thinking. Jesus is also confronted by these 3 temptations – possessions, power and popularity. The temptation to change the stones into bread is the temptation to place one’s trust in riches, possessions and objects. We may be tempted to feel that if we have lots of money or that we have acquired a very good education, we are then somebody important – others will look up to us.

In the second temptation, the devil tempts Jesus with power. This is a very powerful temptation – many of us are tempted to control our lives, to control organizations, to control other people. We are tempted to think that if we are in control then we would be somebody important.

The third temptation is the temptation to be popular. Jesus did perform miracles but never to show off or to make himself popular.

We see Jesus rejecting all these 3 temptations because none of them could take away the fact that he was the Son of God. Nothing could change that. He was indeed the Son of God and there was no need to prove it by putting his trust in riches, power and popularity. For Jesus, the foundation and core of his whole ministry and identity is the Father’s love for him. We find this in the story of his baptism by John the Baptist which immediately precedes today’s gospel story. In that story, when Jesus comes out from the water, he hears a voice from heaven that says: “You are my beloved son, my favor rests on you.” What a wonderful thing – to be totally dependent on this knowledge that God loves us no matter. God does not want nor need us to prove it through our achievements. We don’t need to prove our importance by acquiring riches, power and popularity. Being God’s sons and daughters is all that we would ever need.

This is the reason why Moses wanted to remind the Israelites of their history and their identity in the first reading – they were ‘nobodies’ – they were ‘slaves.’ But God gave them an identity- he saved them, gave them a land which they could call home and made them His people. Without God they had no identity, no freedom, no riches, no importance. Only with God was this all possible.

So it is with us today. Let us pray for the grace to resist these temptations of riches, power and popularity, knowing that they can never promise us eternal happiness. It is only in God that we shall find happiness and everlasting life. That is all that matters.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Lectio Divina Meditation for First Sunday of Lent

February 21
“Victorious over Temptation”

1. Lectio
Luke 4:1-13
1 Jesus returned from the Jordan full of the Holy Spirit and was led by the Spirit into the desert, 2 where he was tempted by the Devil for 40 days. In all that time he ate nothing, so that he was hungry when it was over.
3 The Devil said to him, “If you are God’s Son, order this stone to turn into bread.”
4 But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Human beings cannot live on bread alone.’
5 Then the Devil took him up and showed him in a second all the kingdoms of the world. 6 “I will give you all this power and all this wealth,” the Devil told him. “It has all been handed over to me, and I can give it to anyone I choose. 7 All this will be yours, then, if you worship me.”
8 Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’ ”
9 Then the Devil took him to Jerusalem and set him on the highest point of the Temple, and said to him, “If you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here. 10 For the scripture says, ‘God will order his angels to take good care of you.’
11 It also says, ‘They will hold you up with their hands so that not even your feet will
be hurt on the stones.’ ”
12 But Jesus answered, “The scripture says, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”
13 When the Devil finished tempting Jesus in every way, he left him for a while.

We begin the season of Lent with a reflection on temptations. The three temptations point to three major temptations in the life of every person: possessions (bread), power (kingdoms of the world), and popularity (leaping down from the Temple). We often deceive ourselves into thinking that we can only be somebody important if we have one or all three of these things: possessions, power and popularity. We forget that we are already loved by God, and that is the very foundation of our worth. The three temptations also illustrate the core of every temptation: the desire to push God aside, to regard him secondary and redundant, to rely solely on one’s own strength, and to forget our identity as God’s beloved children.

2. Meditatio
1. Are we often tempted to forget about God? Are we tempted to believe that our worth comes from possessions, power and popularity?
2. Do we rely on our own strength and imagine that we can put right the problems of the world? Do we recognise that we need God especially when we are experiencing the desert or the emptiness in our lives?

3. Oratio
Your word is life and joy for me.
Fill me with your Holy Spirit
That I may have the strength and courage
To embrace your will in all things and
To renounce whatever is contrary to it.
Let me not fall into the temptation of believing
That my worth comes from possessions,
Power and popularity,
But help me remember that I am truly loved by You
In spite of my weaknesses and sinfulness.

4. Contemplatio
Imagine yourself in the desert, alone with God. Let go of images and words and just abide in God’s presence.

5. Actio
1. Personal Life: What is one area of my life that I would need to work on to free myself from the temptations of the devil? Possession, Power, Popularity?
2. Communal Life: Set aside a day or a few days for communal fasting, i.e. everyone in the group makes a commitment to fast on that day. Offer up this day of fasting for some intention: for the sick, the elderly, the lonely, for the country, etc.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Season of Lent

Lent is a season of soul-searching and repentance. It is a season for reflection and taking stock. Lent originated in the very earliest days of the Church as a preparatory time for Easter, when the faithful rededicated themselves and when converts were instructed in the faith and prepared for baptism. By observing the forty days of Lent, the individual Christian imitates Jesus’ withdrawal into the wilderness for forty days.

Lent, in Christian tradition, is the period of the liturgical year leading up to the greatest Christian feast, Easter. The traditional purpose of Lent is the preparation of the believer — through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial — for the annual commemoration during Holy Week of the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, which recalls the events linked to the Passion of Christ and culminates in Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Conventionally, it is described as being forty days long, though different churches and denominations calculate the forty days differently. The forty days represent the time that, according to the Bible, Jesus spent in the wilderness before the beginning of his public ministry, where he endured temptation by Satan.

This practice was virtually universal in Christendom until the Protestant Reformation. Some Protestant churches do not observe Lent, but many, such as Lutherans, Methodists, and Anglicans do.

Lent was also traditionally the term used to describe the period leading up to Christmas before the term Advent was officially recognized.

Where does the word "Lent" come from?
The Teutonic (High German) word Lent, which we employ to denote the forty days' fast preceding Easter, originally meant no more than the spring season. Still it has been used from the Anglo-Saxon period to translate the more significant Latin term quadragesima (French carême, Italian quaresima, Spanish cuaresma), meaning the "forty days", or more literally the "fortieth day". This in turn imitated the Greek name for Lent, tessarakoste (fortieth), a word formed on the analogy of Pentecost (pentekoste), which last was in use for the Jewish festival before New Testament times. In Bahasa Malaysia and Bahasa Indonesia, it is known as "Pra-Paska"

How is the 40 days calculated?

The Western Church
Because Sunday is the day of the Resurrection, we skip over Sundays when we calculate the length of Lent. Therefore, in the Western Church, Lent always begins on Ash Wednesday, the seventh Wednesday before Easter.

In many countries, the last day before Lent (called Mardi Gras, Shrove Tuesday, Carnival, or Fasching) has become a last fling before the solemnity of Lent. For centuries, it was customary to fast by abstaining from meat during Lent, which is why some people call the festival Carnival, which is Latin for farewell to meat.

The Eastern Church
The Eastern Church does not skip over Sundays when calculating the length of the Great Lent. Therefore, the Great Lent always begins on Clean Monday, the seventh Monday before Easter, and ends on the Friday before Palm Sunday—using of course the eastern date for Easter. The Lenten fast is relaxed on the weekends in honor of the Sabbath (Saturday) and the Resurrection (Sunday). The Great Lent is followed by Lazarus Saturday and Palm Sunday, which are feast days, then the Lenten fast resumes on Monday of Holy Week. Technically, in the Eastern Church, Holy Week is a separate season from the Great Lent.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The lesson of ashes

Ash Wednesday

It is interesting to note that no matter how beautiful, varied and different everything that we see may be, all are reduced to ashes when subjected to fire. A beautiful and priceless painting, a human body, stacks of money, expensive clothes and flowering trees, all become in differentiable when reduced to ashes. It may normally seem strange to admire ashes. It’s just dust – no shape, no beauty, no use, no value. Yet, ashes take on an entirely new meaning when we view it through the eyes of faith. Ashes remind us that all the things which we treasure in this life, our money, our possessions, our environment and even our loved ones are impermanent. Ashes then become our teacher – for they teach us to understand that we cannot place our trust and hope in things which will eventually disappear, things that will become ashes. Ashes point to our own mortal lives – in spite of how long we may live or how healthy we may be, one day, all of us, without any exception would become ashes.

Today, we celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the period of Lent. Ash has often been used as a sign of death and grieving. For us Christians, ash is also used as a sign of penance. Each of us may come from different backgrounds. Some of us are rich while others poor. Some may hold very important positions while others perform clerical task and other manual work. No matter who you are or where you come from, all are invited to come forward to place ashes on your forehead. Rich or poor, young or old, powerful or weak, stranger or friend - all equally sinners in need of salvation. In this way, we are all equal in the eyes of God. We all require forgiveness and redemption. We all need to die to our old sinful self in order to be reborn into the new life with Christ. When all is reduce to ashes, there are no longer differences among us.

This is season of Lent is therefore an opportunity for us to die to sin. When we die to sin we also die to the illusions and lies caused by sin. Sin tells us that we only need to think of our own needs without having to think of others. Sin tells us to make a big show of our spiritual exercises e.g. prayer, fasting, coming to church etc. Sin blinds us to the kingdom of God and tempts us with worldly values that are impermanent. Today, on this first day of Lent, let us pray that the Lord will burn away our sins and the illusions caused by such sin. Ashes reveal the truth. As our sin and illusions are reduced to ashes, our focus is now turned toward God. In God, we shall find everything that is good and beautiful. In God, shall we have the promise of eternal life which will not be reduced to ashes. In God, we will find a place where all are welcome, both sinner and saint, young and old, sick and healthy, poor and rich. In God, we will find our resting place and true home.

Every year, Lent is a period for us to examine our lives and experience repentance in order to make a new start. It is not a time for sorrow and false humility. Rather, Lent should be an occasion for joy. Let us therefore joyously begin our Lenten preparation for Easter with the call to “turn away from sin and be faithful to the gospel.”

Ash Wednesday

Ash Wednesday marks the beginning of the Season of Lent. This year Ash Wednesday falls on February 17. Lent is a season of penance, reflection, and fasting which prepares us for Christ's Resurrection on Easter Sunday, through which we attain redemption.

Why we receive the ashes
Following the example of the Ninevites in the Book of Jonah 3:6 (the act echoes the ancient Near Eastern tradition of throwing ashes over one's head to signify repentance before God), who did penance in sackcloth and ashes, our foreheads are marked with ashes to humble our hearts and reminds us that life passes away on Earth. We remember this when we are told

"Remember, Man is dust, and unto dust you shall return." —Genesis 3:19

Other formulas which may be used during the imposition of the ashes:

"Turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel." —Mark 1:15

"Repent, and hear the good news." —Mark 1:15

The distribution of ashes reminds us of our own mortality and calls us to repentance. The ashes that we receive are a reminder of our own sinfulness, and many Catholics leave them on their foreheads all day as a sign of humility.

Ashes are a symbol of penance made sacramental by the blessing of the Church, and they help us develop a spirit of humility and sacrifice. The ashes used in the Mass are sacramentals, not a sacrament. In other words, the ashes do not communicate saving grace as Sacraments do. But as a sacramental, the imposition of ashes 'excite' the faith that is already within us which is strengthened by the graces we received through the Sacraments.

The distribution of ashes comes from a ceremony of ages past. Christians who had committed grave faults performed public penance. On Ash Wednesday, the Bishop blessed the hair shirts which they were to wear during the forty days of penance, and sprinkled over them ashes made from the palms from the previous year. Then, while the faithful recited the Seven Penitential Psalms, the penitents were turned out of the church because of their sins -- just as Adam, the first man, was turned out of Paradise because of his disobedience. The penitents did not enter the church again until Maundy Thursday after having won reconciliation by the toil of forty days' penance and sacramental absolution. Later, all Christians, whether public or secret penitents, came to receive ashes out of devotion. In earlier times, the distribution of ashes was followed by a penitential procession.

The Ashes
The ashes are made from the blessed palms used in the Palm Sunday celebration of the previous year. The ashes are christened with Holy Water and are scented by exposure to incense. While the ashes symbolize penance and contrition, they are also a reminder that God is gracious and merciful to those who call on Him with repentant hearts. His Divine mercy is of utmost importance during the season of Lent, and the Church calls on us to seek that mercy during the entire Lenten season with reflection, prayer and penance.

Is Ash Wednesday a Holy Day of Obligation?
While all Roman Catholics are encouraged to attend Mass on Ash Wednesday in order to begin the Lenten season with the proper attitude and reflection, Ash Wednesday is not a Holy Day of Obligation. It is, however, a day of fasting and abstinence.

Day of Fast and Abstinence
Ash Wednesday is one of two days determined by the Roman Catholic Church as days where penance, fast and abstinence is to be observed (the other day being Good Friday).

The Church used to prescribe very rigorous rules for the Lenten fast (including abstaining from all meat and eating only one meal per day). The current rules, however, are much more lax. Catholics are only required to fast on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, and on Good Friday, the day that Jesus Christ was crucified. Anyone over the age of 14, but under the age of 60, should eat only one full meal on those days, although they can also have small amounts of food in the morning and the evening.

The Church continues to encourage individual Catholics to observe a stricter fast (e.g. extending days of fasting throughout Lent or other times of the year, although fasting is never permitted on a Sunday). Extreme fasting, however, can be physically harmful, so, as with all physical forms of penance and of spiritual discipline, you should consult with your priest before embarking on a very strict fast.

Fasting in the Catholic sense always include abstinence. Abstinence is a voluntary restraint from indulging in bodily activities that are widely experienced as giving pleasure. Inasmuch as abstinence signifies abstaining from food, the law of abstinence prohibits all responsible subjects from indulging in meat diet. Although, seafood and dairy products are not included as 'meat' in terms of this definition, the spirit of the law is promote self-restraint.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Chinese New Year Celebrations in Visitation, February 14

The parishioners of Visitation, Seremban, from different cultures and linguistic groups celebrated the Chinese cultural festival of the Lunar New Year or otherwise known as the Spring Festival. The celebrations kicked off with a lion dance performance that has been part of the parish celebration these past few years (with the exception of last year,where the lion dance was cancelled as a sign of respect and mourning at the demise of the late Yam Tuan of Negeri Sembilan). The lion dance symbolises the power of victory of good over evil, and therefore a symbol of joyful heralding in the New Year.

The climax of the celebrations was the bilingual mass presided by Rev. Fr. Michael Chua, Parish Priest of Visitation. During the homily, he reminded the congregation of the essential core of the Beatitudes which was read during the gospel, namely, true blessings comes from placing one's trust in God and God alone. Being the year of the Tiger, he used the example of the tiger as reminder that we should not be too self-confident as to believe in our own prowess, strength, capabilities, material wealth, success or popularity. "Today, the tiger is on the verge of extinction, precisely because of its strength. Here is an example where one's strength can be one's greatest weakness. Ultimately, one must find strength in God alone, the source of all blessings and goodness. Man curses himself when he places his trust solely on himself and his material wealth."

At the conclusion of the mass, the Chinese community also performed the traditional commemoration of ancestors. As the commentary noted before the rite was performed, this ritual has been approved by the Catholic Church as a valid cultural tradition of expressing filial piety to elders and ancestors. It is in no way to be confused with worship which is reserved only for God. More explanation can be derived from the website of the Singapore Archdiocesan Liturgical Commission.

At the end of the whole celebrations, oranges and red packet were distributed to members of the congregation, which has become a popular cultural practice among the Chinese community (and others too) in Malaysia and elsewhere in the world.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

The Real Valentine?

Saint Valentine's Day (commonly shortened to Valentine's Day) is an annual special day held on February 14 celebrating love and affection between intimate companions. The holiday is named after one or more early Christian martyrs named Valentine and was established by Pope Gelasius I in 496 AD. It is traditionally a day on which lovers express their love for each other by presenting flowers, offering confectionery, and sending greeting cards (known as "valentines"). The holiday first became associated with romantic love in the circle of Geoffrey Chaucer in the High Middle Ages, when the tradition of courtly love flourished.

Saint Valentine

Numerous early Christian martyrs were named Valentine. The Valentines honored on February 14 are Valentine of Rome (Valentinus presb. m. Romae) and Valentine of Terni (Valentinus ep. Interamnensis m. Romae).

Valentine of Rome was a priest in Rome who was martyred about AD 269 and was buried on the Via Flaminia. His relics are at the Church of Saint Praxed in Rome, and at Whitefriar Street Carmelite Church in Dublin, Ireland.

Valentine of Terni became bishop of Interamna (modern Terni) about AD 197 and is said to have been martyred during the persecution under Emperor Aurelian. He is also buried on the Via Flaminia, but in a different location than Valentine of Rome. His relics are at the Basilica of Saint Valentine in Terni (Basilica di San Valentino).

The Catholic Encyclopedia also speaks of a third saint named Valentine who was mentioned in early martyrologies under date of February 14. He was martyred in Africa with a number of companions, but nothing more is known about him.

No romantic elements are present in the original early medieval biographies of either of these martyrs. By the time a Saint Valentine became linked to romance in the fourteenth century, distinctions between Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni were utterly lost.

In the 1969 revision of the Roman Catholic Calendar of Saints, the feastday of Saint Valentine on February 14 was removed from the General Roman Calendar and relegated to particular (local or even national) calendars for the following reason: "Though the memorial of Saint Valentine is ancient, it is left to particular calendars, since, apart from his name, nothing is known of Saint Valentine except that he was buried on the Via Flaminia on February 14." The feast day is still celebrated in Balzan (Malta) where relics of the saint are claimed to be found, and also throughout the world by Traditionalist Catholics who follow the older, pre-Vatican II calendar.

The Early Medieval acta of either Saint Valentine were excerpted by Bede and briefly expounded in Legenda Aurea. According to that version, St Valentine was persecuted as a Christian and interrogated by Roman Emperor Claudius II in person. Claudius was impressed by Valentine and had a discussion with him, attempting to get him to convert to Roman paganism in order to save his life. Valentine refused and tried to convert Claudius to Christianity instead. Because of this, he was executed. Before his execution, he is reported to have performed a miracle by healing the blind daughter of his jailer.

Legenda Aurea still providing no connections whatsoever with sentimental love, appropriate lore has been embroidered in modern times to portray Valentine as a priest who refused an unattested law attributed to Roman Emperor Claudius II, allegedly ordering that young men remain single. The Emperor supposedly did this to grow his army, believing that married men did not make for good soldiers. The priest Valentine, however, secretly performed marriage ceremonies for young men. When Claudius found out about this, he had Valentine arrested and thrown in jail. In an embellishment to The Golden Legend provided by American Greetings, Inc. to and widely repeated, on the evening before Valentine was to be executed, he wrote the first "valentine" himself, addressed to a young girl variously identified as his beloved, as the jailer's daughter whom he had befriended and healed,[18] or both. It was a note that read "From your Valentine."

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year or Spring Festival is the most important of the traditional Chinese holidays. It is sometimes called the "Lunar New Year" by English speakers. The festival traditionally begins on the first day of the first month (Chinese: 正月; pinyin: zhēng yuè), which fall this year on the same day as Valentine's Day, February 14m in the Chinese calendar and ends on the 15th; this day is called Lantern Festival. Chinese New Year's Eve is known as chú xī. It literally means "Year-pass Eve".

Chinese New Year is the longest and most important festivity in the Lunar Calendar. The origin of Chinese New Year is itself centuries old and gains significance because of several myths and traditions. Ancient Chinese New Year is a reflection on how the people behaved and what they believed in the most.


According to tales and legends, the beginning of Chinese New Year started with the fight against a mythical beast called the Nien (Chinese: 年; pinyin: nián). Nien would come on the first day of New Year to devour livestock, crops, and even villagers, especially children. To protect themselves, the villagers would put food in front of their doors at the beginning of every year. It was believed that after the Nien ate the food they prepared, it wouldn’t attack any more people. One time, people saw that the Nien was scared away by a little child wearing red. The villagers then understood that the Nien was afraid of the colour red. Hence, every time when the New Year was about to come, the villagers would hang red lanterns and red spring scrolls on windows and doors. People also used firecrackers to frighten away the Nien. From then on, Nien never came to the village again. The Nien was eventually captured by hong jun lao zu, an ancient Taoist monk. The Nien became hong jun lao zu's mount.

Red envelopes

Traditionally, Red envelopes or red packets (Cantonese: lai sze or lai see) (利是, 利市 or 利事); (Mandarin: 'hóng bāo' (红包); Hokkien: 'ang pow' (POJ: âng-pau); Hakka: 'fung bao'; are passed out during the Chinese New Year's celebrations, from married couples or the elderly to unmarried juniors. It is also common for adults or young couples to give red packets to children. Red packets are also known as 壓歲錢/压岁钱 (Ya Sui Qian, which was evolved from 壓祟錢/压祟钱, literally, the money used to suppress or put down the evil spirit ) during this period.

Red packets almost always contain money, usually varying from a couple of dollars to several hundred. Per custom, the amount of money in the red packets should be of even numbers, as odd numbers are associated with cash given during funerals (帛金 : Bai Jin). Odd and even numbers are determined by the first digit, rather than the last. Thirty and fifty, for example, are odd numbers, and are thus appropriate as funeral cash gifts.

Chinese Zodiac

The Sheng xiao (Chinese: 生肖; pinyin: shēngxiào), better known in English as the Chinese Zodiac, is a scheme that relates each year to an animal and its reputed attributes, according to a 12-year cycle. The date of Chinese New Year and other traditional Chinese festivals are determined by a lunisolar calendar that assigns a zodiac animal to each year in correspondence to the appropriate 'earthly branch' and 'heavenly stem', both systems which allow Chinese to measure time.

Chinese zodiac signs represent twelve different types of personalities. The zodiac traditionally begins with the sign of the Rat, and there are many stories about the origins of the Chinese Zodiac which explain why this is so (see below). The following are the twelve zodiac signs in order and their characteristics.

1. Rat (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Water): Forthright, tenacious, intense, meticulous, charismatic, sensitive, hardworking, industrious, charming, eloquent, sociable, artistic, shrewd. Can be manipulative, vindictive, self-destructive, mendacious, venal, selfish, obstinate, critical, over-ambitious, ruthless, intolerant, scheming.
2. Ox (Water buffalo in Vietnam) (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Water): Dependable, calm, methodical, born leader, patient, hardworking, conventional, steady, modest, logical, resolute, tenacious. Can be stubborn, narrow-minded, materialistic, rigid, demanding.
3. Tiger (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Unpredictable, rebellious, colorful, powerful, passionate, daring, impulsive, vigorous, stimulating, sincere, affectionate, humanitarian, generous. Can be cold, restless, reckless, impatient, quick-tempered, obstinate, ruthless, selfish, aggressive, unpredictable, moody.
4. Rabbit (Cat in Vietnam) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Wood): ambitious, gracious, good friend, kind, sensitive, soft-spoken, amiable, elegant, reserved, cautious, artistic, thorough, tender, self-assured, shy, astute, compassionate, flexible. Can be moody, detached, superficial, self-indulgent, opportunistic, stubborn.
5. Dragon (Snail in Kazakhstan) (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Wood): Magnanimous, stately, vigorous, strong, self-assured, proud, noble, direct, dignified, jealous, eccentric, intellectual, fiery, passionate, decisive, pioneering, artistic, generous, loyal. Can be tactless, arrogant, imperious, tyrannical, demanding, intolerant, dogmatic, violent, impetuous, brash.
6. Snake (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Deep thinker, wise, mystic, graceful, soft-spoken, sensual, creative, prudent, shrewd, elegant, cautious, responsible, calm, strong, constant, purposeful. Can be loner, bad communicator, possessive, hedonistic, self-doubting, distrustful, mendacious, suffocating, cold.
7. Horse (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Cheerful, popular, quick-witted, changeable, earthy, perceptive, talkative, agile - mentally and physically, magnetic, intelligent, astute, flexible, open-minded. Can be fickle, arrogant, childish, anxious, rude, gullible, stubborn.
8. Ram (Goat in Vietnam and Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Fire): Righteous, sincere, sympathetic, mild-mannered, shy, artistic, creative, gentle, compassionate, understanding, mothering, determined, peaceful, generous, seeks security. Can be moody, indecisive, over-passive, worrier, pessimistic, over-sensitive, complainer, weak-willed.
9. Monkey (Yang, 1st Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Inventor, motivator, improviser, quick-witted, inquisitive, flexible, innovative, problem solver, self-assured, sociable, artistic, polite, dignified, competitive, objective, factual, intellectual. Can be egotistical, vain, selfish, reckless, snobbish, deceptive, manipulative, cunning, jealous, suspicious.
10. Rooster (Yin, 2nd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Acute, neat, meticulous, organized, self-assured, decisive, conservative, critical, perfectionist, alert, zealous, practical, scientific, responsible. Can be over zealous and critical, puritanical, egotistical, abrasive, opinionated, given to empty bravado.
11. Dog (Yang, 3rd Trine, Fixed Element Metal): Honest, intelligent, straightforward, loyal, sense of justice and fair play, attractive, amicable, unpretentious, sociable, open-minded, idealistic, moralistic, practical, affectionate, sensitive, easy going. Can be cynical, lazy, cold, judgmental, pessimistic, worrier, stubborn, quarrelsome.
12. Pig (Wild boar in Japan and Elephant in Northern Thailand) (Yin, 4th Trine, Fixed Element Water): Honest, gallant, sturdy, sociable, peace-loving, patient, loyal, hard-working, trusting, sincere, calm, understanding, thoughtful, scrupulous, passionate, intelligent. Can be naïve, over-reliant, self-indulgent, gullible, fatalistic, materialistic.

Rev. Frs. Michael Chua and George Packiasamy, Sr. Theresa Chua and members of the Parish Pastoral Council would like to wish all parishioners a very blessed and happy Chinese New Year!

Friday, February 12, 2010

Blessings and Curses

Sixth Ordinary Sunday Year C

“Blessings and Curses” – this is the main theme for today’s readings. Everyone desires blessings. No one wants to be cursed. A blessing is supposed to be something that is for our good. A curse, on the other hand, is something evil wished upon us. A blessing usually brings joy whereas a curse is a cause for sorrow. So far the difference between blessings and curses seem simple enough. But the truth of the matter is that we often mistake a blessing for a curse and a curse for a blessing. We make this mistake because we have a narrow understanding of God and his plan for us. We often interpreted our will as the will of God. We may conclude that when we get what we want from God that should be blessing. It is when our request is refused and rejected by God that we often see as curse. This kind of reasoning is simplistic. In fact, it is this kind of reasoning that underlies superstitious beliefs.

Today, we are reminded by the readings that God is the point of reference. It is God who decides whether something is a blessing or a curse. Our limited knowledge and human limitations prevent us from truly appreciating what is a blessing from God and what constitutes a curse. A blessing in the eyes of God often comes in the disguise of a curse in the eyes of men. The gospel gives Luke’s account of the Beatitudes. Luke’s version is different from the 8 beatitudes that we are often familiar with in Matthew’s gospel. Luke lists down 4 beatitudes and 4 woes (curses). Jesus tells his disciples that happy are those who are poor, the hungry, those who weep and those who are hated and abused on account of him. To the non-Christian, all these categories seem be examples of people who have been cursed. How can a curse be seen as a blessing?

The first reading taken from the prophet Jeremiah may help us to understand the meaning of these beatitudes. The prophet Jeremiah tells us that “a blessing on the man who puts his trust in the Lord, with the Lord for his hope.” On the other hand, “a curse on the man who puts his trust in man, who relies on things of flesh, whose heart turns from the Lord.” The poor, the hungry, the grieving, and those who are persecuted for the sake of the Lord are people who put their trust in the Lord. They have no other forms of security. They cannot rely on their wealth for they have none. They cannot rely on food, possessions or even the comfort of friends and loved ones, for these too will disappear one day. They cannot rely on popularity because we are never in control of how people feel about us. Some days, we are liked by others. Other days, we are hated and despised. If we place our trust in our wealth, in power and in popularity, then we have cursed ourselves. God does not want to curse us. We have chosen to curse ourselves. We have placed our trusts on things that do not last. We have placed our trusts on things that we cannot bring with us to the next life. We have placed our trusts on things and made them our gods. We have forgotten to place our trust in God who alone can save us.

Being poor is not something which should be praised. In fact, the poor remind us that the wealth of our country is not properly distributed. There is something wrong and unjust if 80% of the wealth of the world is owned by just less than 20% of the population. It is a sign of selfishness and exploitation. Likewise, being rich is not something which is evil. There are many good people who are rich. But sometimes, wealth, power and popularity make us forget about God and others. What we need to remember here is that everyone has the duty to share their wealth with one another so that there will be no one who is lacking in anything. We must also learn to place our trust in God and not on our possessions and capabilities.

Let us pray in today’s mass that we will recognize the blessings which God intends for us. We may not get what we had prayed for. We may not be rich or beautiful or talented. All these are nothing when compared to God’s love for us. God always intend for our ultimate good. He gives us what we need and not what we merely want.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Feast of Our Lady of Lourdes - February 11

History of Our Lady of Lourdes

The Shrine of Our Lady of Lourdes in southern France is the most visited pilgrimage site in the world -- principally because of the apparent healing properties of the waters of the spring that appeared during the apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to a poor, fourteen-year-old girl, Bernadette Soubiroux.

The first apparition occurred February 11, 1858. There were eighteen in all; the last took place July 16, of the same year. Bernadette often fell into an ecstasy during these apparitions, as was witnessed by the hundreds who attended the later visions, though no one except Bernadette ever saw or heard the apparition.
The mysterious vision Bernadette saw in the hollow of the rock Massabielle, where she and friends had gone to gather firewood, was that of a young and beautiful lady. "Lovelier than I have ever seen" said the child. She described the Lady as clothed in white, with a blue ribbon sash and a Rosary handing from her right arm. Now and then the apparition spoke to Bernadette.

One day, the Lady told the girl to drink of a mysterious fountain within the grotto itself, the existence of which was unknown, and of which there was no sign. But Bernadette scratched at the ground, and a spring immediately bubbled up and soon gushed forth. On another occasion the apparition bade Bernadette go and tell the priests she wished a chapel to be built on the spot and processions to be made to the grotto. At first the clergy were incredulous. The priest said he would not believe it unless the apparition gave Bernadette her name. After another apparition, Bernadette reported that the Lady told her, "I am the Immaculate Conception". Though the girl was unfamiliar with the term, the Pope had declared the doctrine of the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary in 1854.

Four years after Bernadette's visions, in 1862, the bishop of the diocese declared the faithful "justified in believing the reality of the apparition" of Our Lady. A basilica was built upon the rock of Massabielle by M. Peyramale, the parish priest. In 1873 the great "national" French pilgrimages were inaugurated. Three years later the basilica was consecrated and the statue solemnly crowned. In 1883 the foundation stone of another church was laid, as the first was no longer large enough. It was built at the foot of the basilica and was consecrated in 1901 and called the Church of the Rosary. Pope Leo XIII authorized a special office and a Mass, in commemoration of the apparition, and in 1907 Pius X extended the observance of this feast to the entire Church; it is now observed on February 11.

Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes, Sagga

One of the chapels which comes under the pastoral care of the Church of Visitation, the Chapel of Our Lady of Lourdes in Sagga estate celebrates its patronal feast too.

This year's celebration will take the form of a Triduum with the Eucharistic Celebration on each day as the highlight:
12 Feb (Fri) 7.30 pm
13 Feb (Sat) 7.30 pm
14 Feb (Sun) 10.00 am - Special Blessing for the Sick
10.30 am - Feast Day Mass

Services will be conducted in Tamil. This year the parish has invited Rev. Fr. Cyril M from the Diocese of Melaka Johor as the main preacher for the chapel's feast day.