Thursday, 31 October 2013

A Prayer for Priests


Keep them, I pray Thee, dearest Lord,
* Keep them, for they are Thine —

Thy priests whose lives burn out before
* Thy consecrated shrine.

Keep them, for they are in the world,
* Though from the world apart;

When earthly pleasures tempt, allure, —
* Shelter them in Thy heart.

Keep them, and comfort them in hours
* Of loneliness and pain,

When all their life of sacrifice
* For souls seems but in vain.

Keep them, and O remember, Lord,
* They have no one but Thee,

Yet they have only human hearts,
* With human frailty.

Keep them as spotless as the Host,
* That daily they caress;

Their every thought and word and deed,
* Deign, dearest Lord, to bless.

Our Father...
Hail Mary...

Mary, Queen of the Clergy, pray for them!

*

[+Imprimatur: D. Card. Dougherty, Archdiocese of Philadelphia]

The priesthood is the masterpiece of Christ's divine love, wisdom and power.

Tuesday, 29 October 2013

My invaluable online faith community!


As a happy member of Generation Y, technology is my natural skill, like breathing. As someone who can be more than a little awkward at large social gatherings, technology is even more important for the sanity of my soul. And as someone who loves having friends from all around the globe, technology is just perfect.

And ever since I re-discovered the faith of my childhood around the year 2009, technology has been an inseparable part of my faith community. During my first days as a passionate revert in her faith-honeymoon period, it was the community at an online amateur apologetics forum that strengthened me. These people introduced me to my first Tridentine Latin Mass and the dazzling world of deep Catholic theology. Some of the forum members then became my Facebook friends. From these people I discovered awesome Catholic websites, both local and international, and since then my circle quickly grew.

Over the years, the online social media—which include Facebook, Twitter, and the blogosphere—has become instrumental in my personal formation towards holiness. I'm not kidding. Catholics are a minority in the country, and even more sadly, most of my offline Catholic friends are either lukewarm or inclining towards Protestantism. So great reading materials and meaningful discussions are mostly found online. I found Chesterton online. I found the Eastern Church online. I found the Dominican Laity online. I found chapel veil shops online. I found forgotten, beautiful ancient prayers online. I even found a faith-based writing job online!

I don't believe it one minute when someone says online friends are / can not [become] your real friends. Because, strangely enough, the relationships I formed online are the only real and lasting relationships in my world. The friends I first "knew" online have become my closest ones (especially after we finally met offline), while many of the ones whom I first met offline turned out to be fake and not having that much in common with me anyways. I think the online community has the benefit of unearthing a person's real intellect and interests, such as from the way he comments or what sort of things he posts or likes. Granted, they can fake things, and it's slightly easier on the internet, but my personal experience shows that offline folks can do as many, even worse, manipulations.

Additionally, the blogosphere has also influenced and encouraged my writings. For me, blogging is perfect: it's both personal and public, both a sandbox and a chronicle, both reflective and informative. I watch how my writing style gradually took flesh through committed blog writing. And I believe I don't publish my posts out of narcissism; I publish them publicly so that I'm responsible for what I write. If I knew my posts would get read by people, I would try to write carefully and meaningfully. Wouldn't you?

I thank God everyday for my online faith community. That means YOU, readers! :) Know that I value you and cherish you, and that without your presence I wouldn't be what I am now.

[Now I'm not saying that the internet does not have its criminals and weirdos—it absolutely does!—but in this age, the cyber world is not only very similar to the real world, it also supplements the real world! Just as we need to be careful on the streets, we too need to be careful when surfing the net. And just as we can find true friendships on the streets, we too can find true friendships on the net. How wonderful is God's work!]

I'm linking up this post over on Tiffany's blog. Linking up is an interesting blogging activity to foster good relationships between bloggers. Go join, it may make your day a little more fruitful!


Image: "Luncheon of the Boating Party", Pierre-Auguste Renoir, 1881

Monday, 28 October 2013

How to Discern: a Guide by St. Alphonsus de Liguori


If we are truly going to discern by focusing on the Lord, whether it be what our vocation is in life or whether or not we should go on that weekend trip, there are some practical measures we can take so that His will in our lives remains clear. Our friend the great Italian 18th century saint and moral theologian St. Alphonsus Liguori has a few pointers to help us. Comments by me, mostly from my own reflections, as my practical experience probably only accounts for a poor percentage of all this.

Remain pure of heart. 
Go to confession regularly and exam your conscience daily—essentially St. Alphonsus is reminding us that it is the "pure of heart that see God". This quite fitting because, naturally, only the pure of heart seek God. Confession and examination of conscience are essential for allowing God’s grace to make us "pure of heart". The more you know His ways, the more you understand what He wants from you.

• Grow in virtue.
Do spiritual reading, ask for spiritual direction, discuss God with others regularly, establish a regular prayer schedule and try to be as faithful to it as you can. If you can, find a community where you can strengthen each other and pray for each other. Ideally, this community should be like your second family, a place where you can feel belong. It's easier to grow in virtue that way.

Ask the Lord to call you to a particular state in life.
Just as Peter asked the Lord to command him to come out on the water, humbly ask God to call you to approach Him. As you fall in love with Love itself let Him fill your intellect, will and heart with the desire for a particular state in life. Do not expect your journey of vocation to be the same as your neighbour's. In all likelihood, it'll be unique and surprising. God knows you better than you do, and He will call you the way only you and He can comprehend (isn't He just the romantic!). So stop concentrating on the heights of the mountains or on the depth of the ocean. Who knows, you might hear Him speaking through a random burning bush.

• Do not put any obstacles in the way of grace.
Be open and ready to do the Lord’s will in all things—we ask the Lord daily to help us with our selfishness and concupiscence. Sins, especially ones that have become habits, are obstacles to grace. "Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice" (Eph 4:31), "of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind" (1 Pet 2:1). Be humble. A full vessel cannot be filled without first be emptied. So be that empty vessel into which God can pour out His generous grace.

• Carefully avoid overindulgence.
In our present culture especially, be aware of overindulgence. It’s everywhere. Keep everything in moderation. Know your limits. Overindulgence can make things seem better than they really are, and it makes unnecessary things become deceptively necessary. It will deprive you of the freedom you need in order to follow the Lord. Remember, in medio stat virtus—virtue stands in the middle. With self-control, comes self-knowledge, and with good self-knowledge, comes proper discernment, and hopefully, the clarity of your vocation follows not far behind.

Go on retreat.
This not only benefits religious and priests (they are required by canon law to do so) but for any lay person as well. And, if your schedule does not permit it at least find some time to think reflectively. Meditate and contemplate. Go about your life a little more slowly, a little more considerately. Learn to see God in all things and to see all things in God. Establish your own cloister in your heart, a place of solitude into where you can retire every now and then.

*

But why do these sound like general instructions on how to become holy? Well yes, holiness is the ultimate calling for everyone, that's for sure. But the practical, day-to-day "how", this is the one that needs discernment, in order to effectively reach that final goal of holiness. Each facet of a diamond is different, and will reflect light differently. Holiness unites us to God without losing ourselves. Unlike the Buddhist idea of union in nirvana, we don't "disappear" in God, but rather, we learn to be one of the thousand facets of a sparkling diamond.

*

Image: "Philosopher in Meditation", Rembrandt van Rijn, 1632

Saturday, 26 October 2013

It is She [Poem]


Who is she that cometh forth as the morning rising,
fair as the moon, bright as the sun, 
terrible as an army set in array?

It is she, most lovely bride,
adorned with grace and Spirit.
She steps with courage,
and desire in her heart—
on her head, red and white roses,
blooms of tears and blood.
They her ardent work of faith,
for a husband long sought,
a union long lost.

Where has your lover gone, most beautiful of women?
Which way did your lover turn, that we may look for him with you?

She runs with longing to
her King, waiting across
the great ocean,
between two columns.
Watchful of dangers,
yet trusting
she walks on water,
and the waves are
frightened, by the sweep of her veil.

How beautiful you are
and how pleasing, O love, with your delights!

Fairest woman,
chaste in conduct, faithful in love,
strong in word, meek in deeds,
you were chosen by the King,
seated on a throne of rock
to shine above all others.
Most wise, most valiant,
you put all harlots to shame.
All sons nurse from you,
after their empires you buried;
princes follow you close,
held captive by your beauty.

Awake, north wind, and come, south wind!

Guided by the Star of Sea,
shielded by truth, commanded by love,
she sails,
angels at her side,
flaming swords light the way.
Her enemies fall around her,
like dry leaves and broken twigs;
she is untouched by death.
O Lady, within you is safety,
outside you only malicious storm;
so keep us tied to you. O Bride, O Mother, O Bark of Peter!

*

by: Anna E - 26.10.13

Image: "After the Wedding", Adrien Moreau, 1882.

Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Terrifying Love


Once, love was too heavy a word to be uttered casually at random people and objects. Once, love was the object of contemplation by the wisest and keenest philosophers. Once, the subject of love was treaded upon very carefully lest it would catch fire. Nowadays the word and the concept of love have been reduced dramatically to mean a silly, fleeting feeling of infatuation that produces nothing more than giggling girls and expensive boxes of Valentine's Day chocolate.

Yet the true Christian love is not so trivial. It is really rather frightening.

Love is the power that created the universe, the world, you and me. Love is the strength that encouraged the ancient patriarchs and prophets to proclaim the truth; it is the shield that preserved a Jewish girl from sin and thus made her the enemy of Satan. Love is the unfathomable mystery of the Lord's Passions, Crucifixion, and Resurrection; and love is the terrible final chastisement that will befall Satan and his angels and that will renew heaven and earth.

Love is also the beautiful ideal that pours forth those ugly, boring, stiff, orthodox laws and doctrines of the Church. Love chains souls close to her so that they may not fall over the tall cliff. And it is love too that gives birth to the dark chamber of confession, the Sacrament of Penance. Love is stern in truth and merciful in forgiving. If only my soul isn't so pained by the infernal darkness of my own sins as to embrace the uterine darkness of the confessional!

If we were able to perceive love as it is, we would die immediately. Man cannot contain the fullness of Love while he's on earth. The love he encounters in his life is but a dim reflection of that Original Love, a thousand times more brilliant and a thousand times more overpowering.

The most terrifying character of love, though, lies not in its stubborn faithfulness or its piercing radiance, but in its transforming power. When we love, we risk ourselves being transformed, changed, by the one who is now integral to our being, identity, and existence. When we love, we empty ourselves and take on the identity of the beloved. In essence, by loving we become the beloved. By loving we dare to die to our old selves and resurrect in a new birth, a new self. God became man out of love, and died out of love, and out of this given love we now strive to live for Him and die for Him, so we may be perfect just as He is perfect.

And there is a point of no return in this: a point where, losing the beloved will not mean returning to the state before the union, just like the husband without the wife is not a bachelor, but a widower. Likewise, I can give many intellectual reasons why I stay Christian, just like I can enumerate some favourite traits of the person I love, but here's the terrifying truth: I stay Christian because love has transplanted me into Christ and Christ into me. If I cease believing, I cease existing, for there is no me without Christ anymore.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Eucharisto!


What is the Greek word for "Thank you"?

That's right. It's eucharisto ( ευχαριστώ ).

Last June when I went to Greece, I found myself saying "eucharisto!" casually to people, from immigration personnels to Orthodox nuns, from the hotel concierge to icon sellers. I couldn't shake the image of that round white bread the Papists worship every time I said the word. The image of the Blessed Sacrament automatically popped up when I bought a water bottle, an icon, a ticket, tissue paper, and an embarrassing amount of postcards.

Having the root word for the Holy Eucharist in one's language is a tremendous blessing in itself. One is able to frequently lift up his mind to the heavens whenever he receives something. Through the word "eucharisto", we are reminded that an object as humble as a shoestring or as noble as a crown, comes from God Himself. We are all recipients of God's generous gift. When we give, it is because we first received, we love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

In the simplest "thank you", even in a passing one, the speaker—the receiver of the gift—acknowledges the gift's worth compared to his own unworthiness. A reward is something given justly according to one's merit, but a gift—what is a gift but something given to an unworthy recipient?

What is, then, a better focus of thanksgiving than the Paschal Victim, humbly hidden in the lowly bread? It is from this Ultimate Gift that all other gifts flow.

How lucky are the Greeks!

*

Image: "Heavenwards", by Sophie Anderson

Friday, 18 October 2013

They Understand Love


I went on my first Lay Dominican retreat a few days ago in Purwokerto, Central Java. When we were on the journey back home, Selly, a participant, with whom I have made good friends, expressed her amazement that my parents were so generous and understanding as to contribute a car and a driver for the retreat (it was a long journey that took 12+ hours).

I told her that my parents aren't actually devout, and I wouldn't call it an action of understanding, because the fact is, the deeper I grow in faith, the less they understand me. I mused that although they don't understand, they must have seen my excitement about my faith (okay, my excitement about newfound crush in anything Dominican), and they get infected with it which prompts them to act accordingly.

And Selly nodded and concluded, "So they don't understand you, but they understand love."

Now this was a simple conclusion, and it could be pretty obvious to some people, but still it struck me. I couldn't help contemplating on it. Is there really a love visible in my eyes and reflected in my attitude that is so moving? How strong exactly is this love?

Pope Francis in his [in]famous interview expressed that the faithfuls "cannot insist only on issues related to abortion, gay marriage and the use of contraceptive methods". He emphasised, "The teaching of the church, for that matter, is clear and I am a son of the church, but it is not necessary to talk about these issues all the time."

Poor Papa, he thus gained the lesser reputation among traditionalists. But what he said was a simple exhortation to re-focus. He was right when he said that "the church’s pastoral ministry cannot be obsessed with the transmission of a disjointed multitude of doctrines to be imposed insistently". Yes, because the great, ancient, divinely-inspired doctrines of the Catholic Church will be disjointed and will seem imposing when the important keystone is removed; that keystone is love.

Love speaks in its own language. The language of love is foreign to this world, beautiful to the faithful ears and foolish to the evil ones. This language is translated through joy. Joy is love's megaphone and love's messenger; joy that stems from love is constant and stubborn, unquenchable in happiness and in sorrow. Men understand joy, and hence love, better than a series of cold facts and laws.

If I had tried to convince my parents by explaining in great details the Dominican spirituality and drilling God into them, they would have thought I was involved in some kind of fanatical cult. They would have been less open and less welcoming, and I would qualify as a proselytiser. But it was obvious that in order to make them see the face of God, I didn't have to start by saying anything: I only needed to be unashamedly joyful and positively transformed by love. This, they could understand.


"If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love,
I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal."

-1 Corinthians 13:1-

*

Image: "The Love Letter", by Jean-Honore Fragonard, 1780.

Tuesday, 8 October 2013

Aquinas's Prayer for the Attainment of Heaven


The theme of heaven, naturally, is nothing new in the Christian prayer life. Even in the most basic prayers, we say things like "Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil", "Have mercy on us", and "Pray for us sinners". They are, essentially yet implicitly, asking for heaven.

The Angelic Doctor's prayer, however, seems rather bold: he goes one step further and actually makes a list of honest requests. He does not shy away from enumerating specific things he hopes to attain in heaven. I'm sure he does not write it out of selfishness; he simply believes in Jesus's promise in Matthew 7:7 and asks with child-like hope and faith. After all, it is God Himself who planted the seeds of dreams and desires within each one of us.

St. Thomas's description of heaven is refreshing and inspiring, especially in a world where our image of heaven is dominated by fluffy clouds and baby angels playing lyres—a very secular picture! St. Thomas once again reminds us that heaven is not a cute place with pink unicorns and magical bowling alleys, but rather, being face to face with the Creator, a Beatific Vision that grants our entire being the immediate knowledge (in its deepest sense of word) of God, and thus perfectly and fully satisfied with Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. He must have understood that a clear aim is important: any human action that doesn’t keep sight of its goal is bound to fail.

*

Prayer for the Attainment of Heaven
[English]

O God of all consolation, you who see in us nothing but your own gifts, I entreat you to give me, at the close of this life, knowledge of the First Truth and enjoyment of your divine majesty.


Most generous Rewarder, give to my body also the beauty of lightsomeness, responsiveness of flesh to spirit, a quick readiness and delicacy, and the gift of unconquerable strength.

And add to these an overflow of riches, a spate of delights, a confluence of all good things, so that I may rejoice in your consolation above me, in a place of lowliness below me, in glorification of body and soul within me, in delight of friends and angels all around me.

Most merciful Father, being with you may my mind attain the enlightenment of wisdom, my desire, the fulfilment of its longing, my courage the praise of triumph.

For where you are is avoidance of all danger, plentitude of dwelling places, harmony of wills.Where you are is the pleasantness of spring, the radiance of summer, the fecundity of autumn, and the repast of winter.

Give, Lord God, life without death, joy without sorrow, that place where reigns sovereign freedom, free security, secure tranquility, delightful happiness, happy eternity, eternal blessedness, the vision of truth and praise, O God.

Amen.
*

Doa untuk Mencapai Surga
[Indonesian]

O Allah dari segala penghiburan, Engkau yang melihat dalam diri kami karunia-karunia pemberian-Mu, aku memohon dengan sangat, pada saat ajal kami, anugerahkanlah pengetahuan akan Kebenaran Pertama dan nikmatnya keagungan ilahi-Mu.

Pemberi Ganjaran yang paling murah hati, berikanlah juga kepada tubuhku cahaya yang indah, daging yang tanggap pada roh, kesiapan dan kesigapan, dan karunia kekuatan yang tak terkalahkan.

Dan tambahkanlah juga limpahan kekayaan, luapan kebahagiaan, kumpulan dari segala yang baik, sehingga aku boleh bersukacita akan naunganmu di atasku, akan kematian di bawah kakiku, akan kemuliaan tubuh dan jiwa di dalam diriku, dan akan para sahabat dan malaikat di sekitarku.

Bapa yang penuh belas kasih, bersama Engkau, semoga akal budiku memperoleh terang kebijaksanaan, hasratku memperoleh kepenuhan atas kerinduannya, keberanianku memperoleh madah kemenangannya.

Karena Engkau berada di tempat yang terbebas dari segala marabahaya, yang kaya akan tempat kediaman, yang segala kehendak menemukan keselarasan. Tempat di mana Engkau berada, ia penuh dengan keindahan musim semi, binar musim panas, semarak musim gugur, dan jamuan musim dingin.

Anugerahkanlah, ya Tuhan Allahku, hidup tanpa kematian, sukacita tanpa ratapan, tempat yang dikuasai oleh kebebasan yang berdaulat, keamanan yang merdeka, ketenteraman yang kokoh, kegembiraan yang berseri-seri, kekekalan yang bahagia, kekudusan yang abadi, dan penglihatan akan kebenaran dan keagungan, ya Allah.

Amin.

*

Image: "Rosa Celeste", by Gustave Dore.
Paradiso, Canto XXXI: Dante and Beatrice gaze upon the highest Heaven, The Empyrean, from the illustrations to The Divine Comedy (1866).

Monday, 7 October 2013

October art: Month of the Holy Rosary

I've been making some images with rosary-related quotes in honour of the Month of the Holy Rosary. It's simple, fun, and enriching! I started with collecting the quotes first; this has "forced" me to contemplate on these beautiful quotes and then interpret them visually. In a way, it's become an alternative way of praying when not praying, if it makes sense.

These are 403 x 403 pixels. Feel free to use these images on your websites or blogs, but please link back! :)

Pax Christi.




















Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Excitement: my first Lay Dominican retreat!

I should really be sleeping right now but I'm still so excited about what just happened, so I'll write a quick post to tell you all how GOOD God is! (and how awesome my brother St. Dominic is!)

So this month, there's going to be a national chapter retreat of Lay Dominican. All you Lay Doms, you know it's a biggie! The folks of Jakarta chapter informed me about this retreat last month and they were all expecting me to be there. The retreat spans a long weekend due to the Islamic feast of Eid al-Adha, during which normal people would have days off. I had told them that I would try my best to, because clearly my life isn't quite normal, and my schedule is irregularly irregular. I hadn't mentioned that the October schedule was already out, and all hope was lost even before it began.

Between our last meeting and today, sorrowful mourning was the overarching theme of my life. Mainly I was worried about the possibility of having to postpone my postulancy period because I don't attend a super-important event (hey don't blame me, I still have yet to figure out how this Lay Dom thing works!). I don't know why but I felt that this retreat was something very, very crucial for my journey as a Lay Dominican, something like a milestone.

This evening I had a chat with my dear friend and brother Harry, a future Dominican friar and the first person who opened up the way to this great vocation. Naturally we talked about the retreat, and yes, he's going to be there too. I told him again how sad I was (yeah I can be rather emotional online, but don't expect me to be like that offline). He suggested that I ask Mr. Theo (the "head" of the Jakarta chapter, although there's really no clear-cut hierarchy) if I could attend for just 2 days and leave earlier to do my shift. I jokingly said to Harry that I should ask Saint Dominic to obtain for me that one day that I need in order to have the full retreat.

I hadn't prayed to St. Dominic yet (was contemplating to) but here's what happened: one of my teammates suddenly messaged me and told me she was willing to change her shift with mine. It was all. so. sudden. And I didn't have a choice but to scream a [voiceless] happy scream!!!!!! :D :D :D

So that's that. I shall be there.

Thank you Jesus, for the sweet sweet surprise, with impeccable timing and a good laugh after that.

Thank you my brother Dominic, for the initiative to obtain for me what I wanted to request from you but hadn't. And for the speedy result.


Your baby sister,