Tag Archives: faith journey

23 November, Friday – Words of Truth

23 November – Memorial for St. Clement I, Pope, Martyr; Memorial for St. Columban, Abbot

Clement (d. 101) was the fourth pope, and an apostolic Father. The Basilica of St. Clement in Rome is one of the earliest parish churches in the city, and is probably built on the site of Clement’s home. He is the author of the ‘Epistle to the Corinthians’. His name occurs in the Canon of the Mass. Origen and St. Jerome identify him as working with St. Paul the Apostle.

– Patron Saint Index

Columban (543–615) was well-born, handsome, and educated. He was torn between a desire for God and easy access to the pleasures of the world. Acting on advice of a holy anchoress, he decided to withdraw from the world. His family opposed the choice, his mother going so far as to block the door. He became a monk at Lough Erne. He studied Scripture extensively, and wrote a commentary on the Psalms. He became a monk at Bangor under abbot St. Comgall.

At middle age, Columban felt a calling to missionary life. With 12 companions, he travelled to Scotland, England, and then to France in 585. The area, though nominally Christian, had fallen far from the faith, but were ready for missionaries, and they had some success. They were warmly greeted at the court of Gontram, and the king of Burgundy invited the band to stay. They chose the half-ruined Roman fortress of Annegray in the Vosges Mountains for their new home with Columban as their abbot.

The simple lives and obvious holiness of the group drew disciples to join them, and the sick to be healed by their prayers. Columban, to find solitude for prayer, often lived for long periods in a cave seven miles from the monastery, using a messenger to stay in touch with his brothers. When the number of new monks overcrowded the old fortress, King Gontram gave them the old castle of Luxeuil to found a new house in 590. Soon after, a third house was founded at Fontaines. Columban served as master of them all, and wrote a Rule for them; it incorporated many Celtic practices, and was approved by the Council of Macon in 627, but was superseded by the Benedictine.

Problems arose early in the 7th century. Many Frankish bishops objected to a foreign missionary with so much influence, to the Celtic practices he brought, especially those related to Easter, and his independence from them. In 602, he was summoned to appear before them for judgment; instead of appearing, he sent a letter advising them to hold more synods, and to concern themselves with more important things than which rite he used to celebrate Easter. The dispute over Easter continued for years, with Columban appealing to multiple popes for help, but was only settled when Columban abandoned the Celtic calendar when he moved to Italy.

In addition to his problems with the bishops, Columban spoke out against vice and corruption in the royal household and court, which was in the midst of a series of complex power grabs. Brunehault stirred up the bishops and nobility against the abbot; Thierry ordered him to conform to the local ways, and shut up. Columban refused, and was briefly imprisoned at Besancon, but he escaped and returned to Luxeuil. Thierry and Brunehault sent an armed force to force him and his foreign monks back to Ireland. As soon as his ship set sail, a storm drove them back to shore; the captain took it as a sign, and set the monks free.

They made their way to King Clothaire at Soissons, Neustria and then the court of King Theodebert of Austrasia in 611. He travelled to Metz, France, then Mainz, Germany, Suevi, Alamanni, and finally Lake Zurich. Their evangelisation work there was unsuccessful, and the group passed on to Arbon, then Bregenz, and then Lake Constance. St. Gall, who knew the local language best, took the lead in this region; many were converted to the faith, and the group founded a new monastery as their home and base.

However, a year later, political upheaval caused Columban to cross the Alps into Italy, arriving in Milan in 612. The Christian royal family treated him well, and he preached and wrote against Arianism and Nestorianism. In gratitude, the Lombard king gave him a tract of land call Bobbio between Milan and Genoa in Italy. There, he rebuilt a half-ruined church of St. Peter, and around it he founded an abbey that was to be the source for evangelisation throughout northern Italy for centuries to come.

Columban always enjoyed being in the forests and caves, and as he walked through the woods, birds and squirrels would ride on his shoulders. Toward the end of his life came word that his old enemies were dead, and his brothers wanted him to come back north, but he declined. Knowing that his time was almost done, he retired to a cave for solitude, and died as he had predicted. His influence continued for centuries as those he converted handed on the faith, the brothers he taught evangelised untold numbers more, and his brother monks founded over one hundred monasteries to protect learning and spread the faith.

– Patron Saint Index

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Apocalypse 10:8-11

I, John, heard the voice I had heard from heaven speaking to me again. ‘Go,’ it said ‘and take that open scroll out of the hand of the angel standing on sea and land.’ I went to the angel and asked him to give me the small scroll, and he said, ‘Take it and eat it; it will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.’ So I took it out of the angel’s hand, and swallowed it; it was as sweet as honey in my mouth, but when I had eaten it my stomach turned sour. Then I was told, ‘You are to prophesy again, this time about many different nations and countries and languages and emperors.’

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Luke 19:45-48

Jesus went into the Temple and began driving out those who were selling. ‘According to scripture,’ he said ‘my house will be a house of prayer. But you have turned it into a robbers’ den.’

He taught in the Temple every day. The chief priests and the scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, tried to do away with him, but they did not see how they could carry this out because the people as a whole hung on his words.

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“…the people as a whole hung on his words.”

Yesterday, I wrote about how I was recently on a pilgrimage that spanned France, Spain and Portugal. We were truly blessed to have had a tour leader who knew so much about each shrine we visited as well as the stories of the various saints we venerated. Each day, as we were making our way along the road towards our destination, he would regale us with all sorts of stories about where we were going and help us to focus our attention on that particular town or saint.

Truly, if one has a compelling story to tell and speaks from the heart, the audience is certain to be spellbound and will listen to every word that is uttered. Jesus, during his ministry, is certainly the prime example of what ‘speaking from the heart’ means. After all, He was divinely connected with God the Father and the Holy Spirit; what more could one ask for!

During our pilgrimage, we had private masses each day celebrated by our spiritual director. And while his homilies were centred around each day’s readings, I appreciated how he was mindful of the purpose of our pilgrimage and kept reminding us about how God called each of us on this journey. Looking back, I am grateful for the words that were spoken to us each day (there was even a mass before sunrise) and also recall other pilgrims who joined us on two occasions when we were doing our Stations of the Cross. An Irish couple even approached me the next day and asked for the printed text, which I gladly tore out from my book.

Brothers and sisters, when we are ministered to with words spoken from the heart, it is inevitable that they will resonate deep within our own hearts. I am constantly amazed at some of our priests, who can speak so passionately for an hour or more (especially when they come to CSC) without any notes in hand. It is on such occasions that I notice the congregation literally hanging on their every word, unlike at Sunday mass when there just seem to be distractions aplenty. Maybe ‘the people’ are not as engaged or are just there for the sake of fulfilling an obligation.Or perhaps some priests have ‘the gift of the gab’ more than others.

Nevertheless, our anointed brethren face countless challenges each day of their ministry. So let us all keep our brother priests in our prayers.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Desmond Soon)

Prayer: Heavenly Father, we pray that you always watch over our brother priests and continue to inflame their hearts with your Word.

Thanksgiving: We thank you for the gift of our shepherds.

15 November, Thursday – Walking the Road

15 November – Memorial for St. Albert the Great, Bishop, Religious, Doctor

Albertus (1206-1280) was the son of a military nobleman. A Dominican priest, he taught theology at Colgone and Paris and was the teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas. He was an influential teacher, preacher, and administrator, and became the Bishop of Regensburg. He introduced Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to medieval Europe.

He is known for his wide interest in what became later known as the natural sciences – botany, biology, etc. He wrote and illustrated guides to his observations, and was considered on par with Aristotle as an authority on these matters. He was a theological writer, and was proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

“It is by the path of love, which is charity, that God draws near to man, and man to God. But where charity is not found, God cannot dwell. If, then, we possess charity, we possess God, for “God is Charity” (1 John 4:8)” – St. Albert the Great

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Philemon 1:7-20

I am so delighted, and comforted, to know of your love; they tell me, brother, how you have put new heart into the saints.

Now, although in Christ I can have no diffidence about telling you to do whatever is your duty, I am appealing to your love instead, reminding you that this is Paul writing, an old man now and, what is more, still a prisoner of Christ Jesus. I am appealing to you for a child of mine, whose father I became while wearing these chains: I mean Onesimus. He was of no use to you before, but he will be useful to you now, as he has been to me. I am sending him back to you, and with him – I could say – a part of my own self. I should have liked to keep him with me; he could have been a substitute for you, to help me while I am in the chains that the Good News has brought me. However, I did not want to do anything without your consent; it would have been forcing your act of kindness, which should be spontaneous. I know you have been deprived of Onesimus for a time, but it was only so that you could have him back for ever, not as a slave any more, but something much better than a slave, a dear brother; especially dear to me, but how much more to you, as a blood-brother as well as a brother in the Lord. So if all that we have in common means anything to you, welcome him as you would me; but if he has wronged you in any way or owes you anything, then let me pay for it. I am writing this in my own handwriting: I, Paul, shall pay it back – I will not add any mention of your own debt to me, which is yourself. Well then, brother, I am counting on you, in the Lord; put new heart into me, in Christ.

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Luke 17:20-25

Asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God was to come, Jesus gave them this answer, ‘The coming of the kingdom of God does not admit of observation and there will be no one to say, “Look here! Look there!” For, you must know, the kingdom of God is among you.’

He said to the disciples, ‘A time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it. They will say to you, “Look there!” or, “Look here!” Make no move; do not set off in pursuit; for as the lightning flashing from one part of heaven lights up the other, so will be the Son of Man when his day comes. But first he must suffer grievously and be rejected by this generation.’

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“I have received much joy and encouragement from your love”

The path that we are each called on by God to take is never an easy one. It is one thing to say “follow your passion”, but another to follow your passion with perseverance. If it were easy, everyone would be doing it. If it were easy, we would find no satisfaction in our toil, we would not rejoice after sweating it out, nor understand what rest would mean after a hard day’s work. If only it were easy… but it never is.

I would like to think that when we surrender ourselves to God, asking Him to show us the way, He does not answer so directly or so suddenly, like a jolt of awakening. I think He gently but persistently introduces the path to us, knowing that if it was otherwise, we would pursue it headlong without a plan. God wants us to be aware, and be comfortable – yes, comfortable – with the idea of it, and also with the discomfort that will most inevitably come with it.

That is not to say that we should be careful what we wish for, or that we do not ask God for a revelation of His path for us. Rather in our doubt and fear, we go forth anyway in faith, for that in itself is part of the journey, our journey, wherein the experiences gleaned are unique to us.

Again, that is also not to say that we will be alone. Yes God is with us all the way, but He will send us the encouragement and support that we need through others. He will send us the help that we need at the right time, when we least expect it. We fear to take the step perhaps because we know not what waits in the wings or if anyone will be there to help us along. What if doors don’t open? What if things don’t work out? What if…? And perhaps, also in our fear, that on our journey there may be no path, no guide, no encouragement, we also forget to be the encouragement to others that God wants us to be.

There is a saying that we should be kind to others because you never know what battles others are fighting. Be kind yes, and also encouraging, because we are each walking our own roads, and though our destinations may be different, the journey is nonetheless daunting. But if we spur each other on, the road is a little easier to walk, and the joy of reaching the destination is sweeter for the sharing.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Annette Soo)

Prayer: Lord, as I take my first tentative steps on this road you have laid out before me, don’t let me go, I pray, but hold my hand steadfastly lest I should fall.

Thanksgiving: Lord, I prayed for a path and you revealed it to me; I prayed for strength and you walked it with me. Thank you.

24 December (Sunday), Vigil Mass – Tick Tock

24 December

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Isaiah 62:1-5

About Zion I will not be silent,
about Jerusalem I will not grow weary,
until her integrity shines out like the dawn
and her salvation flames like a torch.

The nations then will see your integrity,
all the kings your glory,
and you will be called by a new name,
one which the mouth of the Lord will confer.
You are to be a crown of splendour in the hand of the Lord,
a princely diadem in the hand of your God;

no longer are you to be named ‘Forsaken’,
nor your land ‘Abandoned’,
but you shall be called ‘My Delight’
and your land ‘The Wedded’;
for the Lord takes delight in you
and your land will have its wedding.

Like a young man marrying a virgin,
so will the one who built you wed you,
and as the bridegroom rejoices in his bride,
so will your God rejoice in you.

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Acts 13:16-17,22-25

When Paul reached Antioch in Pisidia, he stood up in the synagogue, held up a hand for silence and began to speak:

‘Men of Israel, and fearers of God, listen! The God of our nation Israel chose our ancestors, and made our people great when they were living as foreigners in Egypt; then by divine power he led them out.

‘Then he made David their king, of whom he approved in these words, “I have selected David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart, who will carry out my whole purpose.” To keep his promise, God has raised up for Israel one of David’s descendants, Jesus, as Saviour, whose coming was heralded by John when he proclaimed a baptism of repentance for the whole people of Israel. Before John ended his career he said, “I am not the one you imagine me to be; that one is coming after me and I am not fit to undo his sandal.”’

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Matthew 1:1-25

A genealogy of Jesus Christ, son of David, son of Abraham:

Abraham was the father of Isaac,
Isaac the father of Jacob,
Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers,
Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah, Tamar being their mother,
Perez was the father of Hezron,
Hezron the father of Ram,
Ram was the father of Amminadab,
Amminadab the father of Nahshon,
Nahshon the father of Salmon,
Salmon was the father of Boaz, Rahab being his mother,
Boaz was the father of Obed, Ruth being his mother,
Obed was the father of Jesse;
and Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon, whose mother had been Uriah’s wife,
Solomon was the father of Rehoboam,
Rehoboam the father of Abijah, Abijah the father of Asa,
Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat,
Jehoshaphat the father of Joram,
Joram the father of Azariah,
Azariah was the father of Jotham,
Jotham the father of Ahaz,
Ahaz the father of Hezekiah,
Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh,
Manasseh the father of Amon,
Amon the father of Josiah;
and Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers.
Then the deportation to Babylon took place.
After the deportation to Babylon:
Jechoniah was the father of Shealtiel,
Shealtiel the father of Zerubbabel,
Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud,
Abiud the father of Eliakim,
Eliakim the father of Azor,
Azor was the father of Zadok,
Zadok the father of Achim,
Achim the father of Eliud,
Eliud was the father of Eleazar,
Eleazar the father of Matthan,
Matthan the father of Jacob;
and Jacob was the father of Joseph the husband of Mary;
of her was born Jesus who is called Christ.

The sum of generations is therefore: fourteen from Abraham to David; fourteen from David to the Babylonian deportation; and fourteen from the Babylonian deportation to Christ.
This is how Jesus Christ came to be born. His mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph; but before they came to live together she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Her husband Joseph; being a man of honour and wanting to spare her publicity, decided to divorce her informally. He had made up his mind to do this when the angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, ‘Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because she has conceived what is in her by the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son and you must name him Jesus, because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins.’ Now all this took place to fulfil the words spoken by the Lord through the prophet:

The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son
and they will call him Emmanuel,

a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’ When Joseph woke up he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do: he took his wife to his home and, though he had not had intercourse with her, she gave birth to a son; and he named him Jesus.

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“I will not keep silent.”

As we wait for the coming of Jesus into the world, I sometimes imagine a life without a relationship with Christ. A world where the law of man is absolute, a finite world that only matters during our lifetimes, a world where we stand alone in the blizzard. A world without purpose. Even with Jesus in our midst, I struggle to overcome the challenges of each day. So why then do we anticipate the coming of Christ with such fervant longing?

Waiting on Christ builds faith. Faith gives us a vision for eternity. An eternity spent in the loving arms of our Father where we will experience unfathomable peace and love. A gift which he bestows willingly on the undeserving from the font of his abundance. When frustration about my faith journey sets in, I realise that my behaviour smacks of entitlement. How can a sinner like me get upset for not receiving what was never mine to begin with?

Brothers and sisters, ‘waiting on the Lord’ doesn’t fully capture our commitment to Christ. The faith journey requires patience, pro-activeness, and perseverance. As we stand ready to welcome Jesus into the world, let us not stand on the sidelines in passive aquiesance, but let us actively wait for Christ by preparing this world for his coming.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Anonymous)

Prayer: Dear Lord, give us the courage to proclaim your bountiful works.

Thanksgiving: We are so grateful for your providence Lord. Thank you for giving us the fortitude to journey with you.