Showing posts from August, 2018

The Different Faces of Motherhood

My friends and I are at the age when many are starting their own families, and so it is a joy for me to see cute pictures of kids on facebook, visit them when I am in Singapore, and hear stories from friends about the early stages of motherhood.

It often amazes me how motherhood seems to bring out extraordinary strength, love and resilience in people. Friends who seemed to be perfectly ordinary mortals before are now selflessly putting their own needs aside for those of their babies. Their lives revolve around their children, and their conversations are about types of milk powder, baby-led weaning, comparisons of different approaches to early-childhood education, etc.

One of my friends commented jokingly the other day, "I used to like sleeping, but now it seems that sleep is for wimps." As much as I personally love sleeping, I am quite happy not to have to wake up for night feedings!

Living here in the Philippines, I also see other contexts in which motherhood calls forth e…

Typhoons and the Mystery of Suffering

As I sit here writing, rain is pouring in sheets outside. Not any ordinary rain, but what Filipinos call “habagat” (monsoon rain), made stronger by the tail end of a typhoon.

I had never feared rain before living in the Philippines, even the thunder and lightning storms that came so often to my native Singapore. However strong the rain, you never worried for your safety. Here, though, I have learnt a better reverence for the forces of nature. The Philippines experiences an average of 20 typhoons every year. I remember sitting and looking out the window during my first serious typhoon, with the electricity out, awed by the force of the winds lashing the trees outside. In the evening, when the storm had quieted and we could venture out again, the neighbours were also emerging from their houses and there was a sense of camaraderie on the street. People took out their radios and sat around. Later on, we heard the stories of trees falling across roads and roofs being blown off and, in pla…

Lessons from a Rice Field

In this reflection, a familiar rural scene in Indonesia leads our guest writer Wenny Lestari to ponder on periods of fullness and emptiness in life, and the mysterious freedom that lies in between. The biblical figure she refers to, John the Baptist, is a Jewish prophet who fluctuates between confident belief and wavering doubt in Jesus Christ as the One he has been waiting for. The original Indonesian translation follows.

How narrow the difference – boundary – distance – between being full and being empty.

In the time of fullness, when asked: “Who are you?”, John the Baptist answered, “I am the voice that proclaims in the desert…”

In the time of emptiness – doubting – it was John who asked: “Were you the One to come, or have we to wait for another?”

I have seen and heard: the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise, and to the poor good news is given. All this You have done for me.

In fullness or emptiness, You keep answering the question, givi…

The Two Worlds We Live In and the Imperative of Justice

Last week was quite a disturbing one. It had something to do with three scenes that I came across on the street.

The first happened when I was on my way home, sitting in a parked jeepney that was waiting to fill up with passengers before leaving. Three little urchins came up – the oldest couldn’t have been more than ten – and started calling out to passers-by to ride the jeepney. “Sakay na!” (“Ride now!”) This is usually done by men called “barkers” who help the jeepney drivers to call for passengers, and get some coins in return. These boys, it turned out, had no money to pay the fare and so were doing this in the hopes of getting a free ride. When the jeepney was full, they clung onto the back of it and rode along. They were in high spirits and joking among themselves. I was amused by their carefree manner even as I felt guilty to be sitting comfortably in the jeepney, having paid the fare, with them hanging onto it from the outside. They looked confident and resourceful in their p…

Building Community II: A Space to be Vulnerable

In the community where I live now, there are 9 of us from 4 different countries. I have been very grateful for my experiences in this community and for the people in it who are to me examples of generosity and loving service – and witnesses also to the importance of fun and humour in daily life.

My younger brother came to stay with us for a week back in December when I was about to make my first vows. On the last day he said, “I thought this week of living in a convent with sisters was going to be very difficult – but it turned out to be so much fun!”

His statement reminded me of my own surprise the first time I visited an FCJ community. I suppose what I had in mind was the image of serious, holy nuns in habits praying in choir… but the group of smart, capable, funny, joyful motorbike-riding women that I met amazed me and shattered that image for good. (Well, those "holy" nuns still do exist elsewhere perhaps – but not here.)

At the beginning of this year we had a “communit…

The Close of a Chapter

Our guest writer this week, Grace, is a Singaporean Roman Catholic. She graduated from the National University of Singapore, Faculty of Law in mid-2018 and recently entered practice. This reflection was written just before entering the working world, looking back on God’s hand revealed through four years of law school.

It’s been two months since my last university exam, and it’s now one day before I officially enter the work force. I thought I’d write a reflection on these past four years, and I thought I’d begin with a prayer I wrote just before entering university:

To remember what defines me: values, and not the institutions which uphold them. To believe the best in people: and include in those, myself. To remain open to the joys which God brings my way when I am not looking. To remain humbly, God’s servant: To remember my purpose, which must always be tethered to love and how best to serve. To be comfortable in the silence and allow God’s peace to transcend the noise of daily life.…

Building Meaningful Community

Two acquaintances of mine are going to set aside all other commitments this year to spend six months living with a small group of people from different countries, whom they don’t yet know. With this little international community, they will practice living simply, do some studying, and then go out to share their faith with other people.

I was surprised to hear of their plans, and even more to hear that in recent years more young Catholics in Singapore have been showing interest in similar ventures.

“It was really the idea of community that drew me to this,” one of them explained to me. Funnily enough, the other friend had the opposite perspective: “What made me doubtful about this was whether I could accept living in community,” she said. “I like living on my own and having my own space.”

Despite their seemingly different viewpoints, I think they were both united in realising the centrality of community in the work they were going to undertake. They could see that community living wa…