Friday, 4 May 2012

It's been a very long time since I posted anything here.. Anyway, I've begun my degree and things have changed drastically for me. Moving to a different country, a whole new level of education, unfamiliar society and social circles, it really does get kinda stressful/depressing. It just isn't my natural habitat and at times giving up seems like such a good idea. And I do know that at times like this, I should keep to my faith and trust in Him to help me get through this but I haven't exactly been the best catholic of late.. I haven't been spending as much time as I use to with God and with our Saviour. I feel horrible about it and feel like I'm stuck in a pit. People say your university/college years are suppose to be the best couple of years of your life but at the oment I'm to really too sure about that. Maybe I'm not being patient enough and probably a sign for me to turn back to God in faith once again. Well, that was just something that came to mind at 2:30am in the morning. Signing off.

Monday, 28 November 2011

Auto Pilot

Yesterday marked a new start for Christians as a new year began. To mark the occasion, as many are aware, the new translation of the Roman Missal was used. In our parish, the new translation only started yesterday unlike some parishes in the world where they might have started using it before Advent. Nearly everyone who attended mass yesterday was a little lost because of the unfamiliarity with the new words. While some buried their faces in the missalletes and other said the words of the old translation. It wasn't the best/ideal worship for this week. But that got me thinking, those who were saying the old words despite knowing that the translation is new and that all the words were in the new missallete were just saying it for the sake of saying it. I myself had some instances where that happened. One example was "The Lord be with you" the previous response was, "And also with you". The new one as we all know is, "And with your spirit". It has become more like an automatic response without thinking to what we hear from the priest. Saying it without thought. I made this mistake a few times. This doesn't just apply to the new words but the creed we use to use, or the 'Our Father' prayer. Some of us say these prayers and words without thinking about the meaning behind it. It becomes a recital instead of prayers. Its probably not going to be easy getting in tuned to the new translation and may take a couple of weeks but I don't intend on making the same mistakes this time, hopefully. Auto Pilot. 

Monday, 7 November 2011

The Mystery.

If you attempted to evangelize an atheist and tried to explain the existence of God, how would you do it? What would you tell him to try to get him to even consider the existence of God? Its much easier to talk to someone who already has a background in some form of religion compared to an atheist. The thought crossed my mind when I was having a discussion with someone in church and I did some reading and research. 

Looking in the bible, in Romans 1:20, St. Paul asserts that belief in God is not unreasonable and that humans can rationally discover the hidden God because; "ever since the creation of the world, the invisible existence of God and his everlasting power have been clearly seen by the mind's understanding of created things" This MAY sound rather philosophical and distant to some people, so let's look at an example. A wealthy man who has much much more money than he needs to sustain himself and his family, lives in a ginormous mansion, owns luxurious car. The typical Richie Rich family.  They may be physically very very satisfied and happy with their lives but are they really truly happy from within? Sometimes we hear that, sometimes wealthy people don't feel satisfied with their lives for some reason. Probably the spiritual aspect of their life. This obviously isn't just limited to wealthy people but we commonly hear it from that particular group of people. We have an unquenchable thirst for happiness which nothing earthly can completely satisfy. God made us that way, implanted in us a homing device so that we'd find in him the happiness which we cannot find in earthly things. For him to fill up that empty box we carry with us that nothing can fill up. 

Another thing to think about is the sense of justice. Most/many of us have a fundamental feeling of justice that good will triumph over evil in someway, somehow, someday if not in this life, perhaps in the next. In those blockbuster movies, on many occasions, we assume or believe that the hero will eventually get rid of the villain. Why? And one more thing, Love. Love is a spiritual 'thing' where it cannot be really explained nor defined by materiality. It has to come from somewhere, ultimately from love itself, whom we call God. The water in the river has to come from a source which is water too. 

A great medieval theologian, St. Thomas Aquinas made a very logical conclusion to the existence of God. He has five 'proofs' and one of them was that all creatures had to come from a cause which itself was not caused. And this "Uncaused Cause" is God. Was the Big Bang really the start of everything? What about the cause of the Big Bang? The cause of the cause of the Big Bang had to have a cause or some reason that it happened, so what happened or what caused it which wasn't a cause itself? 

There have been so many theologians and other people who have tried to prove the existence of God but it also ultimately comes down to Faith too and thats what usually is missing from an atheist person. I believe it is a gift from The Lord our God which cannot be earned or created. I feel like I have indeed received that gift since my background wasn't the most religious background but I was still called to Christ. My mentor taught me about faith with a very interesting parable. There's a glass of water-like see-through liquid which is labelled as poison, but I tell you that it isn't poison and you drink it out of faith. Something to ponder on. What is faith to you? 

Are you completely happy now? Maybe you're missing something, or maybe there's something you can do to satisfy that restlessness to attain peace and happiness. 

How full is your life glass? What can you do to fill it up? 

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Conversion. (Final)

Things from there on was as good as it could get. I was finally having the community life I craved so much for. I was finally becoming more active in church and getting to know more people and coming out of my introverted shell. The verses in the bible about community worship were coming alive in me. In the entire week, I came to look forward to choir practice, altar serving (honestly, before everything, I thought it was easy and nothing significant to it, how wrong I was..) and most of all mass. I was craving for baptism and to finally be able to all myself a brother of Christ. I tried my best to keep my lenten 'obligations'. It was hard, but I also thought this was nothing and I was complaining for no valid reason compared to what Christ endured, and did for us all. 

We sung during Holy Week and on Good Friday. It was the best experience I had. I felt so good singing praises and with the choir and in LATIN too! It was just 1 day before Easter Vigil and I was looking even more forward to the next day. There was 1 person in my class who didn't make it but the rest of us made it, and the number was much greater than the initial number we had. From old to young, we all had various reasons coming together like this. 

The Easter Vigil this year was very very much different. Every year, I would sit in the gallery above alone but this year, FRONT ROW SEATS and the big night for all of us who were called. The mass went on until our baptism. I was nervous, overwhelmed with joy, and hopeful of the future I had as a part of the church, and with the whole community. When it was my turn, I had millions of thoughts running through my head, anticipation, anxiety to a certain extent. The moment of baptism was a very VERY emotional moment. To non-christians, its just pouring water over the guy's forehead. I'm privileged to have experienced it consciously. Most/ many Catholics were baptized as infants. At that moment, all the thoughts, the anxiety, anticipation I had flew out the window and I felt peaceful and calm as never felt before. Some readers might think I'm going over the top but it really was an unforgettable experience and one which I'd love to have again.I felt different after that. Like a different person. It could have been psychological at that point, but it might not have been 'psychological'. 

Things have changed so much ever since that day and my life perspective has changed so much. Going to church every Sundays aren't enough sometimes. Which is why I use to go for a number of weekday masses too in Penang. I am/was in dire need of spiritual food and really hope that other people would be able to have the same great experience I had in their own way. Life looks more hopeful and I have something to hold to in my times of distress now. I don't feel as isolated and as alone as I use to feel. A whole new perspective of life. 

I'm really grateful to those who supported me through my journey and those who still continue to be there and guide me deeper into the faith. I secretly wish that these posts, might help someone find their way to Jesus Christ our Lord too. (not so subtle and secret apparently.. =p)

Friday, 28 October 2011

Conversion. (Part 4)

Coming to sushiland, I immediately looked for a church I could go to. I managed to find one that was a 40 minute walk away from where I stayed so I visited the church for the Saturday evening mass one day. Everything was in Japanese, I wasn't part of the mass at all. Everything seemed to just go by without me being part of worship, prayers and it didn't feel particularly good. I asked the priest after the mass if there was any other church nearby where mass was in English and he recommended me one. I went, it wasn't exactly the same as back home, but it felt much closer to the church back home and I felt some comfort in my time of distress. But what I really wanted, was to continue my RCIA process. Unfortunately for me, the church I went to didn't have RCIA in English but the priest agreed to have me on a one-on-one class to prepare me for my baptism in Easter. It was great. I could ask all the questions I couldn't ask in class back at home and get answers directly from someone who consecrates the holy mass. 

I was still very unhappy about my situation and everything else but I felt peaceful within. I looked forward to coming to mass every weekend at this point and for my class. It was the only two things I found joy in. My burden seem to just float away on Sundays. From a faith that was based on understanding and logical thinking by the brain, the transition was happening to actual faith from coming from the heart and I really cannot describe how I was feeling exactly. After 3 months, I went back to Penang and my journey continued back in my first church. 

When I got back, I missed some of the topics they covered in class but it didn't really concern me because I was happier with what I learnt on my own journey in Japan with Fr. Leo. I had a reference letter from Fr. Leo and I was allowed to continue my preparation for baptism. Lent began and the three scrutinies too. After my first scrutiny, I met someone in church. Someone who gave me fresh things to think about which were never mentioned in class, and to help my faith grow through means other than black and white, paper and pen. My mentor. This was actually my second meeting with him. I didn't have a very good first impression after our first meeting due to certain things but this time it felt different. In a good way.  

Saturday, 22 October 2011

Conversion. (Part 3)

One saturday evening I was at mass at usual sitting in the gallery above in the corner quietly alone, the priest (at the time was fr. Gandalf) mentioned something about adult baptism preparation. RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). It was exactly the thing I was looking for. I've been going to church but not really feeling 100% apart of it since there were too many things I didn't know. I signed up for it immediately with my sponsor being my tutor in high school and the early part of college. I brought this back home to my parents thinking everything would be okay or they would've been pleased with my decision to take this next step. But no. I came face to face with strong opposition from my parents. I had my grandparents behind me though. The reasons of the opposition were exams, school grades, less study time, baptism wasn't that necessary to be catholic. Major disappointment for me. I don't disagree that all the things are important, but what could be more important than responding to a natural calling to Christ? My grandfather use to pray and read the bible everyday and he'd invite me to pray with him (I was 10-12) but I always refused saying I had homework. It seemed like the perfect flawless excuse not to join him. But thinking back, it doesn't make any sense. I believed I mentioned the same reasons for not going to church in my younger days. What my parents were telling me, was what I myself use to say to others but it was only at that point where I realized the ridiculousness of it. 

I had 3 weeks more until the first day of the commencement of the RCIA process and I still didn't have the 'green light' for it. I prayed tirelessly although I didn't exactly know what I was doing or who I was actually praying to for help. After much debate and discussion, I  forcefully turned the red light green. It took me about 2 weeks. It all began the following week. 

It wasn't the perfect in the sense that, it was all coming in black and white but it met what I needed/wanted being the very eager enquirer I was. My unanswered questions were starting to decrease. Although I do admit that my faith was still very shallow and it was all processed by my brain and I tried to understand it as logic. I wasn't feeling much connection or feeling much at that time despite my questions being answered. It took me awhile. 5 months into RCIA, I was shipped to sushiland. I despised it. I came feeling very lost, defeated, depressed, angry, frustrated, annoyed, and all other negative emotions you can come up with. My faith journey had seemed to come to a halt. 

Monday, 17 October 2011

Conversion. (Part 2)

This is a continuation from the the previous part 1 post. That year when my dad converted, my 2nd brother was born. He was immediately baptized at birth like many/most catholic families. 3 years later, I had another brother and he too was baptized at birth. I was 11. I felt nothing at that time. Things just went along for the next few years. At the age of 17, I made a few catholic friends. I guess this was the starting point for me. My first exposure to people my age who were practicing the faith. When I was 18, I went for a funeral mass at IC church for a former head master of my high school. The students who went, most of us were non-catholics. But there were a few of my friends who were catholics. This was the first time I went to church with anyone besides my family. My friends knew I attended church so when it came to holy communion, they went, turned back and asked why I wasn't going. (They didn't know I wasn't baptized) I just smiled, shook my head and waved them forward. Over the years, when people asked me what my religion was I answered, "I'm a catholic" but it never felt exactly right saying that. I said that because I went to church on certain occasions and my parents, grandparents and 2 of my brothers were catholics. 

2010. This was perhaps the best year in my life that I can remember. Anyway, I made more new friends. Friends from other schools for the first time. All my high school years, my circle of friends were confined to people in my own high school. I didn't attend group tuition like most high school kids did and wasn't a part of church. I had a tiny circle of friends but this was a whole new, fresh experience for me in college. Of course in my new group of friends, I had more catholic friends. Sometimes during break, I'd hear them talking about their church friends, activities, and even discussing certain religious topics, I felt envious of them. One conversation I remember clearly was, 

"Hey B, I don't see you in church so often anymore what happened to you? Noti boy. "
"I go laaaaaa. On Sunday evenings thats why you don't see me."
"Righttt.. You become so inactive I bet you don't even know what the 7 sacraments are also."
"I know okay? Its... "

He could only name 5 out of the 7. I was intrigued. Something just lit in me after hearing that short simple conversation. I wondered what sacraments were. What they meant. What else there was that I didn't know about without even bothering to try to find out about the Christ. And a realization that there may be something deeper than sitting in church, listening to bible readings, the priest's sermon, the breaking of bread and the cup with wine. 

I started going to church more often alone on saturday evenings. Why not sunday? Because I have trouble getting up early in the morning and I wanted to sleep in on sundays. Ridiculous reason, yes I know but I told myself start somewhere, better than nothing. I went as frequently as I could because no one else went to church and I couldn't drive so I had to take buses to and from church. I didn't feel as much resistance with myself as I use to. When my grandparents visited, they'd go for mass on the weekends, and they'd ask me if I wanted to go. The answer was always "No, thank you. I have homework to do". Thinking back, it was a stupid answer. In the beginning I went thinking it was all interesting. Then the sermons or homilies by the priest started making sense to me. The mass was finally starting to come alive in me. I saw things, heard things which were always there but I never noticed all the times I was there. I'd finally started climbing the first set of stairs towards something great.