St. Francis De Sales’ Roses Among Thorns

Chris shares his reflection on a book by St Francis de Sales.

Recently as I was tidying up my Evernote database, I chanced upon the following excerpt from St Francis de Sales’ Roses Among Thorns – a very thought-provoking book that I completed numerous months ago:
Do not allow yourself to become angry or let yourself be surprised to see that your soul still has all the imperfections that you habitually confess. Even though you must reject and even detest them in order to amend your life, you must not oppose them with anger, but instead with courage and tranquility, so that you will be able to make a solid and secure resolution to correct them. (…) When we censure our neighbour or complain about him — something we should do rarely — we never bring it to an end, but are always beginning again and endlessly repeating our complaints and grievances, which is a sign of a nettlesome heart that has not yet regained its health. (16)
Embedded within the above excerpt are two striking issues worthy of exploration and further discussion. Firstly, Sales affirms a poignant reality of spiritual maturity i.e. that the further we traverse on this journey towards oneness and unity with Christ, the more aware we become of our soul’s “imperfections”. Indeed, I have been privy to the recurring emotions of anger and frustration whenever my imperfections, weaknesses and failings get surfaced. I often ask myself “Oh gosh, there you go again. Haven’t we been through this before? Why are you imbibing in these habitual, self-gratifying sins again, sins that serve no greater purpose and goodness than selfish pleasure? Don’t you know better? Didn’t you just go for confession and made a commitment to repent?”

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Teaching and St. John Baptist De La Salle

Chris shares more about St. John Baptist De La Salle and why he is one of Chris’ favourite Saints.

“You can perform miracles by touching the hearts of those entrusted to your care.”                                                                                                                                                                                      – [Meditations 180.3]

It is often very easy for us to get lost in our work – especially when we live in a fast-pace, productivity-driven society like Singapore. Amidst the hum-drums of routine work and key performance indicators (cue the dreaded “KPI”), it is often tempting to lose ourselves in our jobs, equate our identities with our professions and forget that we are so much more than what we do. In short, in losing ourselves to work, we lose our self-identities completely. Indeed it is often very tempting to get so caught up with the things we do at work on a daily basis that we forget the very rationale, purpose and objectives of our work as calling. Therefore, it is often necessary to re-focus and re-center our attention to first-principles; it is important to (re)anchor ourselves lest we get blown around in the turbulence of societal expectations and competing voices.

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A letter to Greg

Greg writes a letter to himself regarding the realities of leading a church-ministry and reminds himself to enjoy the (occasionally painful) process

Hey me!

I hope all’s well and congratulations on your election as the President of Knights*! Trust me, it’s gonna be a LOOONNNGGG journey, one with many hurts but equally as many joys. And in all things, God. Now, you probably don’t believe me when I tell you that you’ll probably rely on Him A LOT and not just on your ideas (which are still amazing by the way, up top!) But just some things I wanna share about the journey (not that it’ll avoid the falls because those are important for growth) that I hope you can take to heart and to remember (albeit hindsightedly) when troubles do abound.

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Will vs. Work

Greg makes the distinction between the works of God and God’s will in this article.

Ora et Labora.

If you’re from a certain secondary school in Singapore (and even if you’re not actually), then this phrase might sound familiar to you! It is Latin for “pray and labor”. In actual fact, it is more than just a simple school motto. It was first written in the Rule of St Benedict for instructions to monks. It’s been a saying that has always spoken powerfully to me (more than simply because of nostalgia though I admit a part of it comes from that!). And even more so in this musing that I’ve had. But to understand where I’m coming from, we need to rewind a bit!

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A letter to Chris

Chris writes a letter to himself regarding burnout, disillusionment and the importance of self-care.

Dearest Chris from 2007,

Are you aware that the growing resentment that you’re feeling in your heart — that gnawing perception that you’re being used and abused by this ministry; that you’re only wanted when there is a problem to solve and when someone else is having a problem— is reflective of months (perhaps even years!) of pent-up frustration? Have you not realised that you’ve neglected your own needs for quite a while now? Don’t give me the “it is in giving that we receive” narrative that you have so often used to justify your supposed altruistic and selfless actions in this ministry. Stop trying so hard! Stop trying so hard to please everyone around you. Stop trying to cater to everybody’s needs whilst neglecting your own. That really is an impossible feat! No water can be drawn from an empty well; you cannot give what you do not have.
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Turbulence

Chris draws some parallels between spiritual growth and his (negative) encounters with turbulence.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)

I hate turbulence. Ever so often, a sinking feeling of dread and ambivalence surrounds me whenever I see the seatbelt sign light up and I hear the pilot’s steady voice explaining the current plight of the aircraft. Everyone quickly scrambles to take his or her seats and there’s an unmistakable tension in the air. During such moments, I seem to go through a ritual: I buckle up my seatbelts, compose myself mentally and psychologically, furiously grab my seat and brace myself for an unpredictable roller-coaster ride. And as the contents of my stomach tussle to make a second appearance on the seat in front of me, I pray as hard as I can. Turbulence is something far beyond my control. And that very lack of control scares the daylights out of me; it generates greater fear and insecurity on my part. Yet every flight that I have taken seemed to have some kind of turbulence, every journey that I have embarked upon seemed to have some form of challenging and potentially destructive force, threatening to push me off course, away from my destination and further from my endpoint.

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A letter to Garrett

Garrett writes a letter to himself regarding personal growth and the importance of trusting God when leading a campus ministry.

Author’s note: This is a little spiritual writing exercise we decided to undertake as our first article – a letter to our past selves just prior to undertaking a ministry role. Therefore, I decided to write to the Garrett of 2014, right before I took the reins as President of my university Catholic community. 

A funny coincidence was that I wrote this letter just prior to serving another year in the committee. Though I am currently serving in a different role, I find the advice I gave myself still rather poignant, and just as hard to put into practice. I guess it’s true that some lessons take a while to internalize! Nevertheless, I hope that if you ever served or are considering serving in any ministry, that you’ll find that this letter resonates with you. God bless!

Dear Garrett,

Congrats on your appointment as President! Perhaps the best way I can start this letter is to affirm you for following God’s will in your life. You saw all the signs, and you made that decision to follow accordingly. Not everyone can say that. But more importantly, that feeling you have that things are gonna spiral out of control real fast? Yeah, about that.. Buckle up, kiddo. You’re in for some rough sailing ahead.

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