Be Still

There is a typhoon tonight. We have closed all the windows and doors, but you can still hear it - the rain battering down, yes, but the wind - ah, that incredible wind - a constant roar, all around you in the dark. It is the kind of wind that brings down branches of trees and rips off roofs. Still, what we have here is only what they raise a 'signal 2' warning for. 'Signal 3' is being raised down in the south, where the full strength of the typhoon is passing, and where there has already been fierce destruction.

Earlier today I had been frustrated about the slow progress of some work I'd been doing, intending to pick it up after dinner, but once the storm rose it hardly seemed important. We sat in the chapel for a while, lighting a few candles and simply listening to the storm. Prayer is wordless at a time like this, the words or concepts you might usually use dissolving in the raw power of nature around you. Your thoughts go to those who are suffering... But perh…

Living Liminal Space

'We keep praying that our illusions will fall away. God erodes them from many sides, hoping they will fall. But we often remain trapped in what we call normalcy—“the way things are.” Life then revolves around problem-solving, fixing, explaining, and taking sides with winners and losers. It can be a pretty circular and even nonsensical existence.

To get out of this unending cycle, we have to allow ourselves to be drawn into sacred space, into liminality. All transformation takes place here. We have to allow ourselves to be drawn out of “business as usual” and remain patiently on the “threshold” (limen, in Latin) where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin.'

So writes Richard Rohr in his beautifully insightful way. The various forms of 'lockdown' we have experienced in the past few months have cert…

Productivity at All Costs?

A friend of mine has a 2.5-year-old son who used to go to pre-school on weekdays while both his parents worked. When the circuit-breaker measures against COVID-19 recently took effect in Singapore, he and his parents found themselves - like most Singaporeans - confined to the house. As part of the nation’s home-based learning drive, his pre-school teacher emailed worksheets to his parents every day, which they ignored for a week while trying to juggle working from home and taking care of their toddler. Then, the teacher called and asked them to submit the worksheets. Nowadays, the parents (who thankfully still have a dose of common sense) take turns to do the daily worksheet and then let the child doodle on it before submitting it online, in what they call a “team effort”.

When I heard this story, I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. The idea of 2.5-year-olds having homework to submit everyday - not to mention in the middle of a worldwide pandemic - simply boggles the mind. Stories…

Which Pandemic Are You Living?

In the past weeks, I have often felt as if I was living in two worlds. When on the phone with family and friends in Singapore, while listening to international news, or joining in various prayer events against COVID-19, I am in a world where anxiety over the COVID pandemic is front and center, with its grievous toll of thousands dying alone, overburdened health systems, and the valiant sufferings of frontliners. This is a world of masks, hand-washing, daily case number updates, and - thankfully - inspiring acts of kindness between people.

Some of the people around me in Metro Manila, though, live in another kind of world. I became acutely aware of this on the first day that we were locked down. Jose (not his real name), a homeless man whom we knew, rang the bell. I had never seen him so terrified. The local officials were asking him to get off the street or be arrested. But where could he go? The street was where he lived and collected recyclables for a living. He needed rent money, …

What does it mean to be a witness of Christ?

Our guest writer is Leonard Mah S.J.

Many of us who are familiar with the Easter story and resurrection of Christ will generally identify the first witnesses to the Easter miracle as the holy women (Mary Magdalene being the most prominent) who came to visit the tomb of Jesus.  However, if we were to read the gospel account of Matthew, we would see that there were other human witnesses present too with the women. These would be the Roman soldiers who were assigned to guard the tomb of Jesus.  They were present when the violent earthquake struck and the angel of the Lord came and rolled away the stone (Matthew 28:2).

We can only imagine how these Roman soldiers would have felt when they saw the angel descending from heaven. It might have been the equivalent of watching a scene right out of a horror film for them (with the cast consisting of other-worldly beings), except that it was for real (there wasn’t a movie industry in those ancient times anyway).  St Matthew even notes that …

To Hope Means...

Our guest writer is Afra fcJ, who lives in Manila. Read her last post "To Be Humble and Not Know It!" here.

When the destruction is so overwhelming –           from smoky mountains of garbage and plastics,           to floods and uncontrollable forest fires,           and global warming – When divisions intensify (in families, work places, schools, the Church, and all around us),           radicalism is getting stronger and more powerful           and terrorism, violence           and harsh and doubting words even from those closest to me fill the air – To hope means           to choose not to be paralyzed by the size of the problem           not to close my eyes to the reality – both local and global –           but to learn what is happening around me           and take what small steps I can, today. It takes courage and it is a choice           to be positive today           to swallow the doubting words           to show appreciation instead           to …

In the Footsteps of Christ: Reflections from a Pilgrim

Our guest writer this week, Grace, is a Singaporean Roman Catholic. Her last post on this blog reflected on four years of law school. One and a half years later, she tries her best to capture her experience on "Sequela Christi": a Franciscan pilgrimage for young adults through the Holy Land, Rome, and Assisi. The photographs accompanying this post are her own. 

5.25am. I (not a cold-weather person by any means, and definitely not an early-morning person) trundle out of the hotel in the cold, my hands encased in gloves and shoved into my jacket pockets. I am joined by a few pilgrims, but for the most part, we’re too tired to talk. As we walk away from the hotel and get closer to our destination, the stones beneath our feet get older, our path more steeped in history. When, for a brief moment, we make a wrong turn in one of the Old City’s many alleyways, the brief sight of another group of foreigners is enough to orientate us. This early in the morning, in this place, we …