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Friday, May 6, 2011

Simply A Blessed Blogosphere Year...

“People travel to wonder at the height of the mountains, at the huge waves of the seas, at the long course of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motion of the stars, and yet they pass by themselves without wondering.”
- St. Augustine (354 - 430)

Exactly 12 months ago, on 11th May, 2010, I, a pilgrim, simply a nobody in this world, took courage and posted my very first journal on this newly created blog.  Today, this anniversary posting will carry the same familiar quotation as denoted above.

This is the place in the Blogosphere universe where I simply jot down my humble thoughts so that I can hear and listen to myself better, to proclaim God in my life, to wonder - putting down into words, as simple that I possibly can, thoughts that otherwise, might have just drifted or fade away.

The web media platform simply facilitated the sharing of my thoughts with many others who journey the same; bringing a kind of solidarity to this community of pilgrims - sharing God's gifts manifested in our lives.

I was particularly careful to ensure that I do not lose sight of this fundamental objective.  If not, I might become self indulgently addicted to blogging, for the sake of blogging.  Instead, I try to become more aware of my life’s journey – my simple ‘being’, reflecting on these quietly in my heart rather than merely ‘existing-to-blog’ or even ‘blogging-to-exist’ – the ‘doing’.

Sometimes, when there are just no words in my heart, I will pray and all you will find is just a scriptural verse, a tune, a quote, a book, a poem or just a relevant clip; at other times, simply a pure and full filling of emptiness...of pure silence.

As crazy as it might sound, after this one year journey, I have been able to see my life with more clarity and hope, through the experiential lenses of “SimplyQuiet’.

I am just a pilgrim, a sojourner through life…no name to identify me, no title to distinguish me, no origin as I see all of us as one people of the world, one humanity.  I am no smart-aleck trying to ‘lecture’ others on the ‘how-to’ of living.  This simple pseudonym is preserved because, although I blog to listen to myself, by the grace of God, I pray that He uses me as His humble instrument to be a reflection to others, a mirror to shine His light to brighten the paths of many other travelers through inspire in any small way.  All glory to God, Alleluia!

For the past year, God has blessed this site with the ‘presence’ of many visitors (or ‘searchers’) from around the world; for this, I find much solidarity and hope.  This number is minute as compared with the mega millions of internet hits (in mere hours and days!) to President Barack Obama’s speech on the brutal killing of unarmed Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan.  But then, we must acknowledge that this is the sad state of the world we live in today - cruel, vengeful, barbaric, noisy, distracting, seductive, sexual, conspiring, destructive…so-called values which the bulk of the world promulgates…‘values’ (or search words) which optimizes search engines’ traffic.  This world seems tired of faith...tired of God.

“the world of the media can sometimes seem indifferent and even hostile to Christian faith and morality…”  (Pope John Paul II, Message for the 35th World Communications Day)

Amongst the many visitors of this blog over the past year, there are so far, 14 ‘followers’ who are constantly kept updated of this humble community; a phenomenon as far as I am concern because of the overwhelming existence of ‘similar’, ‘bigger’, if not, more ‘commercial’ blog sites out there in the blogosphere.  I am continually sustained and encouraged by these ‘friends’ who gives me strength and inspiration to continue…  For the many who have left a word of hope and inspiration, my sincere prayers, love and gratitude goes out to you.

My topics of reflections are simple but definitely not unique to the blogosphere; what I am committed to share is a genuine part of myself, my feelings, my frustrations and my weaknesses…my own unique journey through life back home.  I believe, in that sense, there’s only one real ‘me’ on the world-wide-web (hopefully)!

“The Church sees these media as ‘gifts of God’ which, in accordance with his providential design, unite men in brotherhood and so help them to cooperate with his plan for their salvation.” (Pope Pius XII's 1957 encyclical letter, Communio et Progressio)

My ultimate hope for this blog is that the number of followers and audience of this blog can multiply many folds, so that, one day, we truly become a community of pilgrims journeying as ONE human race back home…encouraging, lifting, supporting each other along the way.
Thank you, fellow pilgrims, wherever you may be, for a blessed year on Blogosphere!  May God continue to touch you gently with the message of the Gospel through SimplyQuiet!

“…For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself.  But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them…”
(Acts 5:38-39, NAB)

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

St. Monica…The Secret of Motherhood

“…You were within me but I was outside myself…You were with me, and I was not with you…You have called, you have cried and you have pierced my deafness.  You have radiated forth, you have shined out brightly and you have dispelled my blindness.” – St Augustine

Amidst all the secular commercialization of Mothers’ Day and the more popular association of this blessed day with the Blessed Virgin Mother, I will simply reflect on the simple life journey of St Monica this time.

Perhaps, this familiar Saint also reminding me of my late relative nun, who embraced the Franciscan Spirituality in the footsteps of St Francis of Assisi to follow Christ more closely and intimately for the rest of her life; 61 years of obedient service.  She had also served as the Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters of St Francis of Sarawak, on the island of Borneo, Malaysia; even had the blessed opportunity to meet Pope John Paul II in Rome.

Saint Monica was born, in 322, of Christian parents in North Africa.  Her parents selected a husband for her.  At seventeen, she married Patricius, a forty-year-old pagan Roman official, known for his dissolute habits, unfaithfulness and violent temper.

It was not a happy marriage and Monica turned more and more to her religion for strength and patience to bear his abuse, his criticism and his anger.  His only ‘virtue’ was that he did not beat her.  (She pointed out to other complaining wives that often, their sharp tongues were more to blame for the beatings they got than their spouses’ ill tempers.)

To add insult to injury, her cantankerous mother-in-law, who taunted her and told lies about her, lived with them.  But Monica ignored the indignities they heaped on her, and practiced good works instead, giving to the poor and helping the sick while, still caring for her family. Monica and Patricius had three children – Augustine (brilliantly clever but was a source of constant worry for Monica), Navigus, the second and a daughter, Perpetua.

Simply through her patience and prayer, she was able to convert Patricius and his mother.  She was widowed and for many years, prayed for the conversion of Augustine, who from the time he went to study in Carthage when he was seventeen lived a wayward life, abandoned the Christian faith and embraced Manichaeism, dabbled in other philosophies and had a mistress with whom he lived for fifteen years and despite never marrying, bore him a son.

Monica discovered the way of life of Augustine and was simply heartbroken.  She began her prayers for his conversion, her tears, vigils and fast which would last seventeen years.

She followed him to Rome, prayed constantly for him to turn to God, and then to Milan where he embraced Christianity and was baptized on Easter of the year 386 at the age of thirty-three by St Ambrose. (Her son became so strongly drawn to the faith that he was eventually canonized as St Augustine.) She lived with him in a community life of prayer and meditation.

She died in Italy, on the way back to Africa.  Augustine closed her eyes, restrained his grief in public, but wept unabashedly in private “for a mother who for many years had wept for me, that I might live, O Lord, in thee…”

St Monica is the patroness of married women and regarded as a model for Christian mothers; especially of all parents whose young are off today on a scary adventurous roller coaster journey through life.

I trust that many parents today, especially mothers, can relate to this; facing similar challenges and problems.

However despairing Monica must have felt, she never ever gave up.  She realized that she could not do everything on her own and was not afraid to ask others for help, even when it embarrassed her.  As we recall how St Monica persevered, I also remember how my auntie nun would pray for me throughout my life especially during my exams, ‘formed’ me through her letters and spiritual books; never fail to offer a simple Eucharistic Mass for me on my birthday.  Now, with her ‘higher’ connections, I pray that she will continue to do the same for my remaining journey.

The story of St Monica, reaffirms for us today that, with God, all things are possible!  In the remaining week leading to the Mothers’ Day weekend, embraced by the joyful Easter season, we remember our mother, our spouse, the gift of motherhood to humanity, as we pray…

O Lord, who taught Monica to persevere for the good of her family, help me to be a better parent to my children.  Help me to have patience with them when they misbehave and give me the strength to guide them gently to the right path.  Permit me always to forgive their misdeeds and keep me from speaking harshly or punishing unwisely.  Please help me to be a beacon of goodness for them as they grow to adulthood and to be a good example to them in all that I say and do.  Amen.

“Bury my body anywhere; it does not matter.  Do not let that disturb you.  This only I ask - that you remember me at the altar of God wherever you may be.”
- St. Monica to her sons as she lay dying far from home

This World...Tired of Faith?...

I opened the newspapers today and saw, splashed across the front pages...the headlines...

President Barack Obama announced, “Tonight, I can report to the American people and to the world, the United States has conducted an operation that killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of al Qaeda…  Over the last 10 years…the killing or capture of bin Laden the top priority… After nearly 10 years of service, struggle, and sacrifice, we know well the costs of war.  …Americans understand the costs of war.  …Today, at my direction, the United States launched…killed Osama bin Laden and took custody of his body. …today's achievement is a testament to the greatness of our country and the determination of the American people.  …Let us remember that we can do these…because of who we are…under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” – CNN


Words can not describe my thoughts. I reflect quietly on this event...joyful, for some...tragic, for the rest...

“Pilate said to (Jesus), “What is truth?”…” (John 18:38, NAB)

Just not so long ago, on Holy Thursday, April 21, 2011, Pope Benedict XVI asked whether Western society has lost interest in the Christian faith that shaped its culture.  The people of the Western world now seem to be “to a large extent a people of unbelief and distance from God.  Is it perhaps that the West, the heartlands of Christianity, are tired of their faith?”

In the Urbi et orbi (to Rome and the world) message for this Easter, Pope Benedict XVI shared that on the day of the Resurrection, when heaven rejoices and “all is peace and gladness”, this “is not so on earth!

Here, in this world of ours, the Easter Alleluia still contrasts with the cries and laments that arise from so many painful situations: deprivation, hunger, disease, war, violence.  Yet, it was for this that Christ died and rose again!”

Are the actions of governments taken today, in the name of counter terrorism, shining examples of faith?  Well, I am in absolutely no position to comment on this…not having been there during the 9/11 attacks…not there when the Twin Towers collapsed to the ground…Ground Zero…not seeing the rescue workers, inhaling the toxic fumes, digging the mangle of steel and concrete…trying to save lives.

As part of the one human race, created in the image of God, it saddens me that during this Holy Easter season, after journeying through the 40 days of Lent…the Holy Week…witnessing how Jesus journeyed the Via Dolorosa, washed the feet of His disciples, agonized in the Garden, and freely died on the Cross to redeem humanity, we still hear the clear echoes of “Crucify him, Crucify him!”...we continue to witness the scourging of human dignity in the world today...we witness political superpowers playing judge and "God".

Well, has the 10-year pursuit and killing of this one symbol of terrorism, put a closure to this continuous destruction of human lives?  Has this brutal act of an-eye-for-an-eye, heal the wounds of humanity?  Put a closure to the pain?  Brought back lost lives?  Has the lost of this one life and sacrifice of so many other innocents made this world a safer place??  Has selfish political agenda triumph over humanity again?  What is it that is truly terrorizing the world today??

We take some quiet time and simply ponder on Scriptures...

“But understand this: there will be terrifying times in the last days.  People will be self-centered and lovers of money, proud, haughty, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious, callous, implacable, slanderous, licentious, brutal, hating what is good, traitors, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, as they make a pretense of religion but deny its power…” (2 Timothy 3:1-5, NAB)

“…wisdom from above is first of all pure, then peaceable, gentle, compliant, full of mercy and good fruits, without inconstancy or insincerity.  And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace for those who cultivate peace.” (James 3:17-18, NAB)

“Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Romans 12:19, NAB)

We must remember that vengeance, if any, belongs to God alone, who always judges with ultimate fairness and equity.

This Easter season, as we recall the Divine Light that dazzled the guards at Jesus’ tomb, we must also ensure that this Light, traversing time and space, continue to shine through our lives today, as pilgrims on this earth, journeying home, lighting up the darkness of death and bringing about in this world the true splendor of God.

As finite human beings, we will not have the answers to many questions and sufferings but we simply know that innocent Jesus suffered as we do, in fact, so much more on the path to Golgotha, and He will always be faithfully by our side to help us, to heal be our companion throughout this journey.

“Yet the world and its enticement are passing away.  But whoever does the will of God remains forever.” (1 John 2:17, NAB)

“…Father, forgive them, they know not what they do…” (Luke 23:34, NAB)

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Divine Mercy Sunday…A Refuge for Sinners…

The spirituality of Pope John Paul II was deeply influenced by the devotion to the Divine Mercy.  Even as the Archbishop of Krakow, Poland, he promoted the beatification of Sister Faustina Kowalska and on the occasion of her canonization in April 2000, he announced that the Second Sunday of Easter would be the Feast of Divine Mercy.

Fourteen times in the Diary of St. Faustina (Divine Mercy in My Soul), Our Lord was quoted as requesting a “Feast of Mercy”.  This was why Pope John Paul II proclaimed, “I give thanks to divine Providence that I have been enabled to contribute personally to the fulfillment of Christ's will, through the institution of the Feast of Divine Mercy”.  Our dear Lord insisted that it be celebrated on a specific day - the Sunday after Easter!

This same Second Sunday of Easter, we will also have great joy in celebrating the solemn beatification of Pope John Paul II - on the very day in which he himself wanted the whole Church to fix her gaze and prayers on this Divine Mercy; this same Mercy also available to us through all the Holy Sacraments of the Roman Catholic Church.

Jesus Christ left all the details for the whole world, in a diary that He commanded Saint Faustina to write, back in the 1930’s.  She was chosen to document everything that Jesus wanted mankind to know about His mercy before He returns to judge the world.

In order to receive this great promise of complete forgiveness of all sins, one has to go to Confession and then receive Holy Communion on this Feast of Divine Mercy, which is now known as Divine Mercy Sunday throughout the whole Church.

Jesus said, “Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.” (Diary, 300)

The promise for a complete forgiveness of all sins and punishment on Divine Mercy Sunday was made by Jesus, extended even to the most terrible of sinner imaginable.  God in His great mercy is giving mankind a last chance for salvation.

This Easter season, we remember that on the evening of His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His Apostles and the first thing that He did was to give them the power to forgive sins (John 20:19-31).  This same power has been transmitted and handed down through the various generations of the Church in the form of the Sacrament of Confession.

Most of us probably have not spent much time thinking about the future.  Why worry?  In all our worldly pride, some might even be complacent enough to think that they are so brilliant and successful in this life; everything is under their control.

But then, what is all these ‘worldly’ successes, compared to eternity?  Very often, the father of lies, Satan, has everyone focused on this life so much so that people are not thinking about what happens in the eternal life.

How often have you reflected on where you are going to spend eternity?  One thing is certain, we will all be there for quite a long, long time.  Today, many are proud and do not believe in the fires of Hell.  Unfortunately, those are the ones that usually will end up there for eternity.

Be wise today, be humble; think about it and believe, as we reflect on the words of Sr. Faustina…

“I, Sister Faustina Kowalska, by the order of God, have visited the Abysses of Hell so that I might tell souls about it and testify to its existence...the devils were full of hatred for me, but they had to obey me at the command of God, What I have written is but a pale shadow of the things I saw.  But I noticed one thing: That most of the souls there are those who disbelieved that there is a hell.” (Diary 741)

“Let the sinner know that he will be tortured throughout all eternity, in those senses which he made use of to sin.  I am writing this at the command of God, so that no soul may find an excuse by saying there is no hell, or that nobody has ever been there, and so no one can say what it is terribly souls suffer there!  Consequently, I pray even more fervently for the conversion of sinners.  I incessantly plead God's mercy upon them.  O My Jesus, I would rather be in agony until the end of the world, amidst the greatest sufferings, than offend you by the least sin.” (Diary 741)

Therefore, wake up...pilgrims of the world…turn back and repent of your sins, this might just be the last hope of salvation!  Learn from the beloved disciple named Thomas, who put his finger in the wounds of Jesus, doubted no more and instead confessed out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28)

From the death bed of Pope John Paul II, we also remember these last written words that he had prepared to be read on Divine Mercy Sunday; the day after his passing.  They were read, as follows, directly on Divine Mercy Sunday:

“As a gift to humanity, which sometimes seems bewildered and overwhelmed by the power of evil, selfishness, and fear, the Risen Lord offers His love that pardons, reconciles, and reopens hearts to love. It is love that converts hearts and gives peace.

How much the world needs to understand and accept Divine Mercy! Lord, who reveal the Father’s love by Your Death and Resurrection, we believe in You and confidently repeat to You… Jesus, I trust in You, have mercy upon us and upon the whole world. Amen.”
 As the Chaplet of Divine Mercy goes…

“For the sake of His sorrowful Passion have mercy on us and on the whole world.”

“Eternal Father, I offer You the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.”

“Holy God, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Have Mercy on us and on the whole world.”

The doubting Thomases is each of us must be touched by Jesus, through His Holy Sacraments, on this special Sunday of Divine Mercy.  Let us make it a point to be present for Jesus, to reach out and touch Him today and everyday...