26 May, Saturday – The Prayer Of The Faithful

May 26 – Memorial for St. Philip Neri, priest

Philip Neri (1515-1595) came from a poor family, though he was related to Italian nobility. His father, Francisco Neri, worked as a notary. Philip’s brother died in childhood, but his two sisters, Caterina and Elisabetta survived. He was a pious youth, and was taught humanities by the Dominicans.

He moved to San Germano in 1533 to help some family with their business and while there, would escape to a local Dominican chapel in the mountains. He received word in a vision that he had an apostolate in Rome. He cut himself off from his family and went there, where he was befriended by Galeotto Caccia, who took him in and paid him to tutor his two sons. He wrote poetry in Latin and Italian, and studied philosophy and theology. When he tired of learning, he sold all his books and gave the money to the poor.

He began to visit and care for the sick and impoverished pilgrims. He founded a society of like-minded folk to do the same. He was a friend of St. Ignatius. A layman, he lived in the city as a hermit. During Easter season of 1544, while praying in the catacomb of San Sebastiano, he received a vision of a globe of fire that entered his chest and he experienced an ecstasy that physically enlarged his heart.

With Persiano Rose, he founded the Confraternity of the Most Holy Trinity. He began to preach, with many converts. In 1550, he considered retiring to the life of a solitary hermit, but received further visions that told him his mission was in Rome. Later, he considered missionary work in India, but further visions convinced him to stay in Rome.

He entered the priesthood in 1551, and heard confessions by the hour. He could tell penitents their sins before they confessed, and had the gift of conferring visions. He began working with youth, finding safe places for them to stay and becoming involved in their lives.

Pope Gregory XIV tried to make him a cardinal, but Philip declined. His popularity was such that he was accused of forming his own sect, but was cleared of this baseless charge. In 1575, he founded the Congregation of the Oratory, a group of priests dedicated to preaching and teaching, but which suffered from accusations of heresy because of the involvement of laymen as preachers. In later years, he was beset with several illnesses, each of which was in turn cured through prayer.

– Patron Saint Index

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James 5:13-20

If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm. If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him. The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven. So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully. Elijah was a human being like ourselves – he prayed hard for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three-and-a-half years; then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops.

My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it, he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.

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Mark 10:13-16

People were bringing little children to Jesus, for him to touch them. The disciples turned them away, but when Jesus saw this he was indignant and said to them, ‘Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs. I tell you solemnly, anyone who does not welcome the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.’ Then he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them and gave them his blessing.

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“Whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child, he will not enter it.”

When my father was alive, there was a verse that we often shared around the dinner table, almost like our family’s code of living – “the prayer of faith will save the sick person” (James 5:15). Dad should know because he was always sick. He was no saint in life, but in his final months, his faith was unshakeable. He firmly believed in the power of prayer to heal, to soothe and to deliver. His greatest gift to us was his conviction that nothing was impossible for God. He lived it, and in so doing, passed his fervour along to us kids, and all of the people in his prayer group at church.

It seemed like we were always praying for Dad. He was always vacillating between being critically ill and recovering from episodes of it. Because of him, I believe in the power of prayer. I’ve seen God’s hand too many times in Dad’s life to doubt His divine presence. I believe that He hears the fervent heart’s longings, that He sees good intentions and listens to the cries of His faithful. I believe that He lifts us up when we’re laid low, that He guides us to right paths, that He calms our distress. I believe it because I’ve felt it, and I’ve seen it.

Looking back now, Dad’s illness helped to build a community of prayer. And that community was strengthened every time those prayers were answered. Towards the end, Dad held on only as long as he needed to – to witness the birth of his grandson. I know Dad prayed fervently for that and God in His great mercy granted Dad’s wish. Dad died a few days after my sister’s son was born. I don’t believe that was a coincidence.

When Jesus said “… whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God like a child will not enter it”, I think he was talking about the kind of faith that my father had, that child-like conviction in God’s deliverance, whatever the odds. Dad engaged God in every aspect of his life, through prayer, thanksgiving and scripture reading. Old age and illness robbed him of his independence and mental faculties but it blessed him with something infinitely more valuable – his faith. Faith truly is the gift that multiplies upon itself, the gift that has been passed down from Dad to us, and now to Josh, his grandson. Some families have precious jewels, beautiful homes, vast tracts of land as heirlooms. Ours? We have Dad’s faith. And I wouldn’t change a thing about it.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the gift of that child-like faith that believes nothing is impossible for God.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for God’s great mercy, for His unfailing faithfulness to us, even when we are fearful and doubting.

25 May, Friday – On Marriage

May 25 – Memorial for St. Bede the Venerable, Priest and Worker; Memorial for St. Gregory VII, Pope; Memorial for St. Mary Magdalene de Pazzi, Virgin

Bede (672-735) was born around the time England was finally completely Christianized. He was raised from age seven in the abbey of Sts. Peter and Paul at Wearmouth-Jarrow, and lived there the rest of his life. He was a Benedictine monk, and the spiritual student of the founder, St. Benedict Biscop. He was ordained in 702 by St. John of Beverley. He was a teacher and author; he wrote about history, rhetoric, mathematics, music, astronomy, poetry, grammar, philosophy, hagiography, homiletics, and Bible commentary.

He was known as the most learned man of his day, and his writings started the idea of dating this era from the incarnation of Christ. The central theme of Bede’s Historia Ecclesiastica is of the Church using the power of its spiritual, doctrinal, and cultural unity to stamp out violence and barbarism. Our knowledge of England before the 8th century is mainly the result of Bede’s writing. He was declared a Doctor of the Church on 13 November 1899 by Pope Leo XIII.

– Patron Saint Index

 Gregory (1020-1085) was educated in Rome, Italy. He was a Benedictine monk, and chaplain to Pope Gregory VI. He was in charge of the Patrimony of St. Peter. He was a reformer and an excellent administrator. He was chosen the 152nd pope, but he declined the crown. He was chief counsellor to Pope Victor II, Pope Stephen IX, Pope Benedict X, and Pope Nicholas II. He eventually became the 157th pope.

At the time of his ascension, simony and a corrupt clergy threatened to destroy faith in the Church. Gregory took the throne as a reformer, and Emperor Henry IV promised to support him. Gregory suspended all clerics who had purchased their position, and ordered the return of all purchased church property.

The corrupt clergy rebelled; Henry IV broke his promise, and promoted the rebels. Gregory responded by excommunicating anyone involved in lay investiture. He summoned Henry to Rome, but the emperor’s supporters drove Gregory into exile. Henry installed the anti-pope Guibert of Ravenna, who was driven from Rome by Normans who supported Gregory; the Normans were, themselves, so out of control that the people of Rome drove them out. Gregory then retreated to Salerno, Italy, where he spent the remainder of his papacy.

– Patron Saint Index

 Catherine (1566-1607) had a religious upbringing. She was initially sent to a convent at the age of 14, but was taken back home by her family who opposed her religious vocation and wanted her to marry well. They eventually gave in, and Catherine became a Carmelite of the Ancient Observance at 16, taking the name Sister Mary Magdalene. She as a mystic, and led a hidden life of prayer and self-denial, praying particularly for the renewal of the Church and encouraging the sisters in holiness. Her life was marked by many extraordinary graces.

– Patron Saint Index

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James 5:9-12

Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates. For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord; remember it is those who had endurance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the patience of Job, and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.

Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth, or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no.’ Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement.

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Mark 10:1-12

Jesus came to the district of Judaea and the far side of the Jordan. And again crowds gathered round him, and again he taught them, as his custom was. Some Pharisees approached him and asked, ‘Is it against the law for a man to divorce his wife?’ They were testing him. He answered them, ‘What did Moses command you?’ ‘Moses allowed us’ they said ‘to draw up a writ of dismissal and so to divorce.’ Then Jesus said to them, ‘It was because you were so unteachable that he wrote this commandment for you. But from the beginning of creation God made them male and female. This is why a man must leave father and mother, and the two become one body. They are no longer two, therefore, but one body. So then, what God has united, man must not divide.’ Back in the house the disciples questioned him again about this, and he said to them, ‘The man who divorces his wife and marries another is guilty of adultery against her. And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another she is guilty of adultery too.’

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“… a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”

I’ve always thought of marriage as a team sport; you’re only going to be as strong as your weakest link. To go the distance, you have to be a united front and this happens first behind closed doors. A friend celebrating his 30th anniversary said to me that the reason they never got divorced was because of timing – neither he nor his wife ever wanted out of the marriage at the same time. One person was always fighting to keep it alive, holding the fort while the other faltered. That’s a powerful statement of love – the willingness to persevere without knowing if your partner was going to hold up their end of the partnership.

We have been married for 4 years now. Enough time has passed for us to have observed the less rosy side of each other’s personalities. My friend was definitely on to something when he offered up that morsel of practical wisdom. There have certainly been times when we have had our differences. I expect that’s the case with most marriages. Which marriage has not endured setbacks and overcome hurdles?

Scripture uses the image of the bride and groom to describe the ideal relationship between God and the Church – loving, forgiving, thoughtful, gentle, persevering. “God made them male and female. For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh”. To leave your mother and father means leaving the familiarity of your childhood and all of your selfish, childish bachelor/bachelorette ways behind. From here on, hardship and suffering are to be borne and celebrated together. The easy thing to do when the going gets tough, is to complain and blame. But just like in team sport, we’ll be more successful if we supported and persevered with one another as good team mates do. We can take courage from the fact that we are not alone in all this. God did send us a helper, to encourage, comfort and inspire us. Every good marriage has three parties in it – a husband, a wife, and the Holy Spirit. Now isn’t that a ‘dream team’!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the faithfulness to include God in all of our plans, our hopes, our trials, our successes. We pray that He will be the cornerstone on which our marriages are built, that He be our foundation and our rock.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for our husbands and our wives, who endure our shortfalls with grace, love, patience and humor.

24 May, Thursday – On Parenting

24 May

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James 5:1-6

An answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you. Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths. All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days. Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content. It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.

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Mark 9:41-50

Jesus said to his disciples, ‘If anyone gives you a cup of water to drink just because you belong to Christ, then I tell you solemnly, he will most certainly not lose his reward.

‘But anyone who is an obstacle to bring down one of these little ones who have faith, would be better thrown into the sea with a great millstone round his neck. And if your hand should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life crippled, than to have two hands and go to hell, into the fire that cannot be put out. And if your foot should cause you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter into life lame, than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye should cause you to sin, tear it out; it is better for you to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell where their worm does not die nor their fire go out. For everyone will be salted with fire. Salt is a good thing, but if salt has become insipid, how can you season it again? Have salt in yourselves and be at peace with one another.’

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“You have lived on earth in luxury and pleasure; you have fattened your hearts for the day of slaughter”

For a religion that preaches ‘salvation by faith’, Christianity emphasizes acts of charity as much as acts of belief. Engraved on the front of our pulpit at church is the famous verse from the Book of James, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22). At different junctures of my life, those words have meant different things to me. When I was in my twenties, I took them to mean that I was to dutifully quell my hot temper and quick tongue, and turn the other cheek instead. In my thirties, they encouraged me to trust in God’s providence, that He would take care of my family and help my father ease into his last years with dignity and grace. Now in my forties, those words have found new meaning again. They serve as a reminder that I am to be a good steward of all His blessings. I’m a stepmother to two highly intelligent young adults. They could talk rings around me if they chose to. I would love to be an example of God’s ‘salt and light’ to them, but I’m not sure how. In my mind, a stepmother’s role only goes so far. I’m extremely careful not to overstep boundaries. And I try to avoid conflict as much as I can. I grew up constantly being chastised by my own parents, often dealing with double standards within our own home, and I remember how counterproductive that used to be. I don’t want the same for them.

I believe that the answer lies somewhere in Scripture. The gospel reading from Mark today reminds us what a great responsibility we have as stewards, not to mislead those who have been put in our charge – “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were put around his neck and he were thrown into the sea” (Mark 9:42). When I was their age, I sought role models furtively, looking for authenticity amongst those older than me. I don’t think that has changed. People are always looking for leadership. That doesn’t end even when one becomes an adult. Perhaps the best that I can do for them is to model with my own life what it means to live as God’s ‘salt and light’. I am, by nature, a flawed and angry woman. It will take God’s grace for me to be able to pull that off.

“You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead, they put it on its stand and it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:13-16).

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the grace and humility to be good parents and stewards to all the young people that God has put in our lives.    

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the Holy Spirit, who helps us to rise above our flaws, so that we can be the best versions of ourselves for our children.

23 May, Wednesday – Ephemeral

23 May

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James 4:13-17

Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money.’

You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears. The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that.’ But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked. Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin.

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Mark 9:38-40

John said to Jesus, ‘Master, we saw a man who is not one of us casting out devils in your name; and because he was not one of us we tried to stop him.’ But Jesus said, ‘You must not stop him: no one who works a miracle in my name is likely to speak evil of me. Anyone who is not against us is for us.’

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“You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow”

A burglary and assault case happened in my church’s parking lot last week. A 70-yr old parishioner, just done with mid-day mass, walked to her car as she had done so many times before. Unnoticed by her, she was followed by a young man. He made a move on her purse from behind, flung her to the ground and ran to a waiting getaway car. The woman broke her pelvis in three places. She is now in hospital, attempting to regain some form of mobility. Because of her age, there have been complications. Life will never be the same again for her.

Who would’ve thought that one could get mugged in a church parking lot, at 1pm in the afternoon. This is an idyllic neighbourhood, ‘safe’ or so we thought. Crime has never been an issue. It’s a community of soccer moms, loving dog-owners, seniors who have known each other their whole lives, kids who play together in the park. People are conservative, God-fearing and family-oriented. Everyone is in a state of shock from this. It could have been any one of us in the parking lot that day, or any one of our parents. “You have no idea what your life will be like tomorrow” (James 4:14).

The circumstances are not ideal, but our whole community has been dealt a lesson in humility and self-awareness. Don’t take things for granted. Cherish your friends and loved ones, because you never know when time is going to get taken from you. Life’s curve balls are that wake-up call we sometimes need, to jolt us out of our complacency. “You are a puff of smoke that appears briefly and then disappears”. We could be gone tomorrow if the wrong person walked into our neighbourhood and decided to throw us to the ground while snatching our purse or blow our brains out while we’re shopping for milk.

How would we conduct ourselves if we knew that this would be the last day, the last week, the last month of our life as we know it? How would our priorities change? How would our attitudes to our loved ones change? Most importantly, how would our relationship with God change?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all those who are dealing with sudden changes in their circumstances. May the Holy Spirit give them comfort, healing and help them to make good decisions.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for those who volunteer as first responders, who think of others before they think of themselves. God bless all the men and women who work for the good of others.

22 May, Tuesday – Filial Longings

May 22 – Memorial for St. Rita of Cascia, Religious

Rita (1386-1457) was the daughter of Antonio and Amata Lotti, a couple known as the Peacemakers of Jesus; they had Rita late in life. From her early youth, Rita visited the Augustinian nuns at Cascia, Italy, and showed interest in a religious life. However, when she was 12, her parents betrothed her to Paolo Mancini, an ill-tempered, abusive individual who worked as town watchman, and who was dragged into the political disputes of the Guelphs and Ghibellines. Disappointed but obedient, Rita married him when she was 18, and was the mother of twin sons. She put up with Paolo’s abuses for 18 years before he was ambushed and stabbed to death. Her sons swore vengeance on the killers of their father, but through the prayers and interventions of Rita, they forgave the offenders.

Upon the deaths of her sons, Rita again felt the call to religious life. However, some of the sisters at the Augustinian monastery were relatives of her husband’s murderers, and she was denied entry for fear of causing dissension. Asking for the intervention of St. John the Baptist, St. Augustine of Hippo, and St. Nicholas of Tolentino, she managed to bring the warring factions together, not completely, but sufficiently that there was peace, and she was admitted to the monastery of St. Mary Magdalen at age 36.

Rita lived 40 years in the convent, spending her time in prayer and charity, and working for peace in the region. She was devoted to the Passion, and in response to a prayer to suffer as Christ, she received a chronic head wound that appeared to have been caused by a crown of thorns, and which bled for 15 years.

She was confined to her bed the last four years of her life, eating little more than the Eucharist, teaching and directing the younger sisters. Near the end, she had a visitor from her home town who asked if she’d like anything. Rita’s only request was a rose from her family’s estate. The visitor went to the home, but it being January, knew there was no hope of finding a flower; there, sprouted on an otherwise bare bush, was a single rose blossom.

Among the other areas, Rita is well-known as a patron of desperate, seemingly impossible causes and situations. This is because she has been involved in so many stages of life – wife, mother, widow, and nun, she buried her family, helped bring peace to her city, saw her dreams denied and fulfilled – and never lost her faith in God, or her desire to be with Him.

  • Patron Saint Index

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James 4:1-10

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves? You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.

You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy. Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone? But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble. Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you. The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers. Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy. Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.

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Mark 9:30-37

After leaving the mountain Jesus and his disciples made their way through Galilee; and he did not want anyone to know, because he was instructing his disciples; he was telling them, ‘The Son of Man will be delivered into the hands of men; they will put him to death; and three days after he has been put to death he will rise again.’ But they did not understand what he said and were afraid to ask him.

They came to Capernaum, and when he was in the house he asked them, ‘What were you arguing about on the road?’ They said nothing because they had been arguing which of them was the greatest. So he sat down, called the Twelve to him and said, ‘If anyone wants to be first, he must make himself last of all and servant of all.’ He then took a little child, set him in front of them, put his arms round him, and said to them, ‘Anyone who welcomes one of these little children in my name, welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes not me but the one who sent me.’

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“You ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.”

I’m in the midst of planning a holiday in London for my Mom and I. I haven’t seen my mother since my father passed away 2 years ago. It is imperative that this trip be perfect. Why? Because Mom is constantly ‘apologizing’ to her relatives and friends for her children’s shortcomings. I know to some of her more ‘high-minded’ friends, we have failed her as dutiful children. According to them, we’re neglectful. We don’t go home to see her enough. We’re indifferent. We’re selfish, too opinionated, too westernized. One even told her that we’re “irresponsible”, something you simply don’t say to a Chinese mother. Mom comes from that generation of women who care about what people think. I know it hurts her when her so-called friends whisper amongst themselves that her children are ‘ng hou sun’ (Cantonese for ‘unfilial’). I want this trip to be a blowout success so that those critics will, once and for all, be silenced.

Reading today’s passage from James, it has also occurred to me that my motivations might be a little… self-serving. “You ask but do not receive because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions” (James 4:3). That is an accurate summation of my situation. I am asking God to let this trip go well because it is not just her pride that is at stake – mine is too. But pride is rarely a good motivator for any kind of crusade. Is trying to redeem family pride wrong? The Chinese part of me emphatically says no; the Catholic part of me isn’t so sure. “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:10).

Maybe I should stop focusing on achieving perfection and instead, reframe the conversation. The last time we saw each other, my Dad had just passed away. Mom and I were in the trenches trying to organize his funeral. The trips before that, we were also in the trenches, trying to cope with his illness. This will be the first time we’ll be together without having to worry about Dad’s situation. It’s going to be a strange feeling, not having that shared purpose to connect us. I’m hoping that we’ll let go of all the difficult emotions that arose from dealing with my father’s illness and death. Maybe being on neutral ground, we could learn to be kind to each other, to be kind to ourselves. I have not gotten over his passing. I wonder if she has.

I’m still hoping that God will grant us clement weather, a drama-free journey and peace of mind enough to be able to appreciate this time together. The whole ‘family pride’ thing aside, I want her to have a good time because she has earned it. She’s the lynchpin that has kept this family together. Maybe that would be ok with God?

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for all the complicated relationships in our lives. All things are possible with Him. He can unravel – and simplify – even our most complex emotional webs. We bring all of our baggage and all our burdens to the foot of the Cross and surrender it all to Him.  

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people who are constants in our lives, even if they live several time zones away.

21 May, Monday – Being Hard Isn’t Being Strong

May 21 – Saint Christopher Magallanes and his Companions

Cristóbal Magallanes Jara was born in the state of Jalisco in Mexico in 1869. He was ordained priest at the age of 30 and became parish priest of his home town of Totatiche. He took a special interest in the evangelization of the local indigenous Huichol people and founded a mission for them. When government persecution of the Catholic Church began and the seminaries were closed, he opened a small local ‘auxiliary seminary.’ He wrote and preached against armed rebellion but was falsely accused of promoting the Cristero rebellion. He was arrested on 21 May 1927 while on the way to celebrate Mass at a farm. He was executed without a trial, but not before giving his remaining possessions to his executioners and giving them absolution.

With him are celebrated 24 other Mexican martyrs of the early 20th century.

  • Universalis

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James 3:13-18

If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions. But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or a self-seeking ambition, never make any claims for yourself or cover up the truth with lies – principles of this kind are not the wisdom that comes down from above: they are only earthly, animal and devilish. Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done; whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it. Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.

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Mark 9:14-29

When Jesus, with Peter, James and John came down from the mountain and rejoined the disciples, they saw a large crowd round them and some scribes arguing with them. The moment they saw him the whole crowd were struck with amazement and ran to greet him. ‘What are you arguing about with them?’ he asked. A man answered him from the crowd, ‘Master, I have brought my son to you; there is a spirit of dumbness in him, and when it takes hold of him it throws him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth and grinds his teeth and goes rigid. And I asked your disciples to cast it out and they were unable to.’ ‘You faithless generation’ he said to them in reply. ‘How much longer must I be with you? How much longer must I put up with you? Bring him to me.’ They brought the boy to him, and as soon as the spirit saw Jesus it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell to the ground and lay writhing there, foaming at the mouth. Jesus asked the father, ‘How long has this been happening to him?’ ‘From childhood,’ he replied ‘and it has often thrown him into the fire and into the water, in order to destroy him. But if you can do anything, have pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can?’ retorted Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for anyone who has faith.’ Immediately the father of the boy cried out, ‘I do have faith. Help the little faith I have!’ And when Jesus saw how many people were pressing round him, he rebuked the unclean spirit. ‘Deaf and dumb spirit,’ he said ‘I command you: come out of him and never enter him again.’ Then throwing the boy into violent convulsions it came out shouting, and the boy lay there so like a corpse that most of them said, ‘He is dead.’ But Jesus took him by the hand and helped him up, and he was able to stand. When he had gone indoors his disciples asked him privately, ‘Why were we unable to cast it out?’ ‘This is the kind’ he answered ‘that can only be driven out by prayer.’

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Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister… and Mary of Magdala

This fall will mark the 5th anniversary of my ‘not-so-new-now’ vocation as a full-time housewife. It sounds so bad when I put it that way. In this age of female empowerment, it’s hard to explain to people why I made that choice, why I gave up a lucrative career to be a stay-at-home wife and stepmother. Time has flown by. If it wasn’t for all those birthday reminders that Facebook sends, I would hardly have noticed it. So why did I do it? And 5 years on, what do I have to show for it?

The story of Eve reminds me of how I used to be – the caricature of the ‘hard woman’, always reaching for the next thing, something bigger, something better, something brighter. She was ambitious and not afraid to express it. Eve epitomises the drive within us that, if unchecked, leads to discontent. Perhaps she did it out of love for Adam? Perhaps she did it for herself? Perhaps she wanted more for them than idyllic days in paradise? It’s hard to know. But she reached and in reaching too far, she lost sight of what was truly valuable. That was me before I quit my job. I lost time with family, time that I won’t ever get back. And all in pursuit of what?

I guess if I was going to be honest, I chose this path because I was curious. I was curious about the lives that were led by women like the three Marys at the foot of the cross. You attend mass often enough and soon, some of the sermons start to stick. What would it really be like to live like a good Catholic wife? What would it be like to be supportive even if you didn’t feel like it? To turn the other cheek sometimes? To be faithful and trusting in God’s providence and give up control so you can be led by Him? To be strong without being hard? To actually live out your faith? This was not the path I thought I would take, but it has, surprisingly, led to more personal happiness than the path I was on previously. That’s not to say that things have been easy. You exchange one set of difficult circumstances for another set of equally challenging issues. For a start, you deal with family more; and that’s never easy. And you can no longer hide behind your work; you actually have to face issues head on. How have I fared? I don’t know for sure but I’m more at peace than I used to be. I’m still working on figuring this new life out… but I think I’ve become a nicer person to be around. It’s small but that’s what I have to show for it.

“May be right, ooh it may be wrong; doesn’t have to be serious. Being hard isn’t being strong; doesn’t have to be serious” – ‘Serious’, Duran Duran.

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the fortitude to walk daily in our faith, to live as we preach, to be examples of Christ’s love.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the blessings and the gifts that God sends us to enable us to be that person He wants us to be.

20 May, Sunday – On Gifts

20 May – Pentecost

The Christian holiday of Pentecost, which is celebrated on the 50th day after the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread (Leviticus 23:15), commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles and other followers of Jesus Christ while they were in Jerusalem celebrating the Feast of Weeks, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Some Christians believe this event represents the birth of the Catholic Church.

In Eastern Christianity, Pentecost can also refer to the entire fifty days of Passover through Pentecost inclusive; hence the book containing the liturgical texts for Paschaltide is called the “Pentecostarion”. Since its date depends on the date of the weekly Sabbath during the Feast of Unleavened Bread, Pentecost is a moveable feast.

The holy day is also called “White Sunday” or “Whitsunday”, especially in the United Kingdom, where traditionally the next day, Whit Monday, was also a public holiday (now fixed by statute on the last Monday in May). In Germany Pentecost is called “Pfingsten”, and often coincides with scholastic holidays and the beginning of many outdoor and springtime activities, such as festivals and organized outdoor activities by youth organizations. The Monday after Pentecost is a legal holiday in many European nations.

– Wikipedia

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Acts 2:1-11

When Pentecost day came round, they had all met in one room, when suddenly they heard what sounded like a powerful wind from heaven, the noise of which filled the entire house in which they were sitting; and something appeared to them that seemed like tongues of fire; these separated and came to rest on the head of each of them. They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak foreign languages as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech.

Now there were devout men living in Jerusalem from every nation under heaven, and at this sound they all assembled, each one bewildered to hear these men speaking his own language. They were amazed and astonished. ‘Surely’ they said ‘all these men speaking are Galileans? How does it happen that each of us hears them in his own native language? Parthians, Medes and Elamites; people from Mesopotamia, Judaea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya round Cyrene; as well as visitors from Rome – Jews and proselytes alike – Cretans and Arabs; we hear them preaching in our own language about the marvels of God.’

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1 Corinthians 12:3-7,12-13

No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord’ unless he is under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There is a variety of gifts but always the same Spirit; there are all sorts of service to be done, but always to the same Lord; working in all sorts of different ways in different people, it is the same God who is working in all of them. The particular way in which the Spirit is given to each person is for a good purpose.

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ. In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

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John 20:19-23

In the evening of the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you’, and showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord, and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you.

‘As the Father sent me,
so am I sending you.’

After saying this, He breathed on them and said:

‘Receive the Holy Spirit.
For those whose sins you forgive,
they are forgiven;
for those whose sins you retain,
they are retained.’

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“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different workings but the same God”

When I was a teenager, I used to envy all the ‘cool kids’ in my Christian youth group who could speak in tongues. Sadly, I was never blessed with the gift. When you’re an awkward teenager, trying to fit in is something that fills you with much angst. I remember I was inconsolable! What more proof did I need?! Even God didn’t think I belonged! Imagine what that does to a 15-yr old’s self-esteem? I felt so cast out!

I’ve since come to understand that “there are different kinds of spiritual gifts”. Like the proverbial image of the body of Christ having many parts, each of us has a role to play, and He gives us gifts to help us to succeed – “To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit”. It’s taken some time for me to figure this out, but I think that mine might be the gift of nurturing. How can I be certain? Well, I can’t be for sure, but a deacon once told me to just ‘look at the fruit and see if it is good’. At the time, he was making a reference to a person’s authenticity. But the same filter can be applied to see if one’s pursuit is worthy of God. What is the fruit of our endeavour? Does it fulfil the conditions of what we know to be the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23) – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control?

I’m glad I can’t speak in tongues. I would have been too self-conscious to do anything meaningful with it; it would have been wasted on me. I’m glad that instead, He gave me the gift of baking, of making wonderful dinners and organizing big family reunions. I’m glad God gave me the gift of patience, for when I have to deal with people who don’t always think of others first. I’m glad God gave me the gift of encouragement, for when people sit around my kitchen table spilling their tears with their wine. I’m glad God gave me the gift of meticulous organization, for those times when I have to multi-task and still stay on top of everything. I’m glad God gave me the time, the means and the inclination to be that person who is there to listen and offer a slice of cake, a mug of hot chocolate and a loving hug just when someone needs it most. Because the joy of being that person – of doing what He meant for me to do – has been the most fulfilling thing I’ve experienced ever, and I am so thankful for it!

(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: We pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance in discerning the roles we are meant to play. Not everyone discovers it the first time around, but we pray that we all eventually find our way there.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the gifts He has bestowed on us, that help us to become who we were truly meant to be.

19 May, Saturday – Jealous Of The One

19 May

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Acts 28:16-20,30-31

On our arrival in Rome Paul was allowed to stay in lodgings of his own with the soldier who guarded him.

After three days he called together the leading Jews. When they had assembled, he said to them, ‘Brothers, although I have done nothing against our people or the customs of our ancestors, I was arrested in Jerusalem and handed over to the Romans. They examined me and would have set me free, since they found me guilty of nothing involving the death penalty; but the Jews lodged an objection, and I was forced to appeal to Caesar, not that I had any accusation to make against my own nation. That is why I have asked to see you and talk to you, for it is on account of the hope of Israel that I wear this chain.’

Paul spent the whole of the two years in his own rented lodging. He welcomed all who came to visit him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ with complete freedom and without hindrance from anyone.

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John 21:20-25

Peter turned and saw the disciple Jesus loved following them – the one who had leaned on his breast at the supper and had said to him, ‘Lord, who is it that will betray you?’ Seeing him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ Jesus answered, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ The rumour then went out among the brothers that this disciple would not die. Yet Jesus had not said to Peter, ‘He will not die’, but, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come.’

This disciple is the one who vouches for these things and has written them down, and we know that his testimony is true.

There were many other things that Jesus did; if all were written down, the world itself, I suppose, would not hold all the books that would have to be written.

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what does it matter to you?

I always thought that it is human nature to not be satisfied. I believe that it is alright to aspire for greater things. Better job, better status in life, everything better. But what if my being better means being greater than other people?

I sometimes feel envious of my workmates if they receive better projects and I got the lousier ones. And those small resentments sometimes lead to gossip about my colleagues. Don’t you sometimes think that life is so unfair? And coupled to it is the question, “Why God, why this fate?”

In the Gospel, Peter asked Jesus, ‘What about him, Lord?’ He was referring to John, the Beloved. Peter’s questioning John’s purpose can seemingly depict a jealous feeling. He shows curiosity in Jesus’ plan for John. Jesus replied, ‘If I want him to stay behind till I come, what does it matter to you? You are to follow me.’ Jesus is telling Peter that it is not his duty to know the plan for John. His primary task is to simply follow Christ. This signifies that we should not compare ourselves with others. We have our own different circumstances, our own way of following Christ, our own calling.

Whenever we feel that others are better than us, we must not question God. When we see our neighbours having more riches, let us think of it as they need those and we don’t. Let us look at things with a view that everything is in their proper place. And it is God’s way of showing that all things are meant to be. It is our own perspective that makes the difference.

If you are an employee, it is your duty to become a proper employee. Obey the company’s rule, do your job without stepping on anyone. If you are a business owner, make sure that your company is doing what is ethical for your employees and consumers. If you are a student, then it is your duty to study hard and not play around. If you are a parent, take good care of your children. Children, always respect your parents. If you are married or in a relationship, love and respect one another. And the list goes on.

Of course, everything must be Christ-centered. We must always pray. But it is not right to use our prayer time as an excuse to neglect our primary responsibilities. This pertains to us lay people. Religious and the clerics have different duties when it comes to their prayer time and other activities. We must always pray for contentment and not to feel bitterness to one another.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Dear Lord, have mercy on us for all our wrongdoings. Please grant a grateful heart to follow Your will.

Thanksgiving: We thank you Father God, for the tasks and responsibilities that we do every day.

18 May, Friday – Love And Lead

May 18 – Memorial for St. John I, Pope and Martyr

John (d. 526) was a priest in Rome, and became the 53rd pope in 523. Italy’s ruler then, Theodoric the Goth, was an Arian. For a while he left the Catholics alone, but in later life he became suspicious of everyone, imagining conspiracies and attempts to seize his throne. He tried to involve Pope John in his political machinations. John led a delegation to Constantinople to negotiate with Emperor Justin I; he was the first pope to travel to Constantinople, and while there crowned Justin. The mission was successful, but Theodoric though John and Justin I had plotted against him. While returning to Rome, John was kidnapped and imprisoned by Theodoric’s soldiers. He died of thirst and starvation while in custody in Ravenna, Italy.

  •  Patron Saint Index

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Acts 25:13-21

King Agrippa and Bernice arrived in Caesarea and paid their respects to Festus. Their visit lasted several days, and Festus put Paul’s case before the king. ‘There is a man here’ he said ‘whom Felix left behind in custody, and while I was in Jerusalem the chief priests and elders of the Jews laid information against him, demanding his condemnation. But I told them that Romans are not in the habit of surrendering any man, until the accused confronts his accusers and is given an opportunity to defend himself against the charge. So they came here with me, and I wasted no time but took my seat on the tribunal the very next day and had the man brought in. When confronted with him, his accusers did not charge him with any of the crimes I had expected; but they had some argument or other with him about their own religion and about a dead man called Jesus whom Paul alleged to be alive. Not feeling qualified to deal with questions of this sort, I asked him if he would be willing to go to Jerusalem to be tried there on this issue. But Paul put in an appeal for his case to be reserved for the judgement of the august emperor, so I ordered him to be remanded until I could send him to Caesar.’

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John 21:15-19

After Jesus had shown himself to his disciples and eaten with them, he said to Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me more than these others do?’ He answered, ‘Yes Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my lambs.’ A second time he said to him, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ He replied, ‘Yes, Lord, you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Look after my sheep.’ Then he said to him a third time, ‘Simon son of John, do you love me?’ Peter was upset that he asked him the third time, ‘Do you love me?’ and said, ‘Lord, you know everything; you know I love you.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Feed my sheep.

‘I tell you most solemnly,
when you were young
you put on your own belt
and walked where you liked;
but when you grow old
you will stretch out your hands,
and somebody else will put a belt around you,
and take you where you would not rather go.’

In these words he indicated the kind of death by which Peter would give glory to God. After this he said, ‘Follow me.’

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‘Follow me.’

What motivates us in doing anything? As I think about it more, I realise that I do things because of another thing. I do not just do things because I want to. I do things because I think it is correct or it is the right thing to do. It is correct based on something that has been formulated by others or by society. I am just merely following what must be followed.

In our Gospel today, we notice that it is three times that Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me?” We can recall that during Christ’s Passion, Peter denied Jesus three times. These scenarios clearly show that though we may turn our back from our Lord more than once, He is always waiting for our return. We sin, yet we are forgiven.

The phrases, ‘Feed my lambs’, ‘Look after my sheep’, and ‘Feed my sheep’ remind us that it is Peter whom Jesus entrusted to lead us. He was the one appointed to guide our nourishment and to live in accordance to God’s will. When Jesus first asked Peter if he loved him before giving him instructions, it implied that Peter’s obedience must be out of love. It is for the love of God that he will obey to feed the lambs, to look after the sheep, and to feed the sheep. In the same way, it is for the love of God that we have our priests, bishops, and the pope.

Saying that we love God is quite easy. But do our actions show that we love our Lord? Do we do things out of love? I myself struggle everyday to do things out of love for God. But with God’s grace, we can.

We are given the gift of free will. As Jesus said, “I tell you most solemnly, when you were young you put on your own belt and walked where you liked”. When we are still young and able, we can do whatever we want and go wherever we want. It is up to us how we are going to use this freedom. However, we must remember that our end time will come. And we cannot do anything about it. It is a great reminder that while we still can, we should use our free will to follow the will of God.

We are nearing the end of Easter. But let this be not the end of feeling alive. As we continue in our daily life, let us strive harder to do things out of love.

(Today’s Oxygen by Beryl Baterina)

Prayer: Father God, we are deeply sorry for all our sins. Please grant us the grace to desire to follow you always.

Thanksgiving: Thank you Father God, for giving us chances to renew our self, to be a better person.

17 May, Thursday – I Am The Father’s Gift

17 May

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Acts 22:30,23:6-11

Since the tribune wanted to know what precise charge the Jews were bringing, he freed Paul and gave orders for a meeting of the chief priests and the entire Sanhedrin; then he brought Paul down and stood him in front of them. Now Paul was well aware that one section was made up of Sadducees and the other of Pharisees, so he called out in the Sanhedrin, ‘Brothers, I am a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees. It is for our hope in the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial.’ As soon as he said this a dispute broke out between the Pharisees and Sadducees, and the assembly was split between the two parties. For the Sadducees say there is neither resurrection, nor angel, nor spirit, while the Pharisees accept all three. The shouting grew louder, and some of the scribes from the Pharisees’ party stood up and protested strongly, ‘We find nothing wrong with this man. Suppose a spirit has spoken to him, or an angel?’ Feeling was running high, and the tribune, afraid that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered his troops to go down and haul him out and bring him into the fortress.

Next night, the Lord appeared to him and said, ‘Courage! You have borne witness for me in Jerusalem, now you must do the same in Rome.’

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John 17:20-26

Jesus raised his eyes to heaven and said:

‘Holy Father,
I pray not only for these,
but for those also
who through their words will believe in me.
May they all be one.
Father, may they be one in us,
as you are in me and I am in you,
so that the world may believe it was you who sent me.
I have given them the glory you gave to me,
that they may be one as we are one.
With me in them and you in me,
may they be so completely one
that the world will realise that it was you who sent me
and that I have loved them as much as you loved me.
Father, I want those you have given me
to be with me where I am,
so that they may always see the glory you have given me
because you loved me before the foundation of the world.
Father, Righteous One,
the world has not known you,
but I have known you,
and these have known that you have sent me.
I have made your name known to them
and will continue to make it known
so that the love with which you loved me may be in them.
and so that I may be in them.’

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You have loved me before the foundation of the world

It is possible that we have heard this before, that “we are a gift from God”. Today’s reading stresses this point, that we are the Father’s gift to Jesus — He says that in today’s gospel. The love which Jesus speaks of can be a little complex. It is enormous and eternal in nature and something that the human mind may not be able to comprehend, nor the human heart hold.

Imagine the tender heart of Jesus when He says that each of us is a gift to him, though he knows our shortcomings and failures and even the parts of our lives which still displeases Him. My brothers and sisters, that is unconditional love.

He loves us so much that He wants to love us as much as the Father loves Him. Isn’t that simply an outstanding sort of love?

Can we, as human parents, wish to love the members in our ministry or our parishioners as much as we love our own children? Do we even desire to share this parental love which we have with others? It is not always easy, but we must try. Regardless of the circumstances, we are children of a Father with such great love that we must try and love at all times.

This, I admit is a struggle for me too. Though I know I am capable of great love, I withhold myself, selfishly choosing who should receive my love and whom I consider as the Father’s gift. That is certainly not the Father’s way of love. As His precious gift, I could and should do way better than this.

Sisters and brothers are loving only those who love us and those who conform to our ideals. Are we able to be an extension of the Father’s love to a world who does not know Him? Are we able to stand up with love together with those who have fallen, even those who refuse to return to the Lord?

How can we be a reflection of God’s love to everyone today?

(Today’s Oxygen by Josephine Dionisappu)

Prayer: Father, help us to love like you. Set your standard of ‘Love of the Lord’ in our lives, in our families and in this world.

Thanksgiving: Lord I thank you for loving me so very much and for claiming me as a gift to you.