Thoughts Before a Confession

Greg writes about the feeling of futility he gets before a Confession and being unafraid to accept God’s Grace in this Sacrament.

And there I was again. Waiting outside the confessional, in line once again for my monthly reconciliation. Many things go through my head. I join the queue, rejoicing mentally when the queue is short and I don’t have to wait. Then, I look at the name of the priest outside the confessional. Sometimes, I would groan inwardly.

“Oh my gosh, this priest is NOT a good confessor.”

“Oh no, Fr _____ knows me too well!! Argh…it’ll be SOOOOO awkward”

“I hope they don’t recognise my voice”

And occasionally, “YES! Just who I was praying for!”

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Make Straight the Path

Greg ponders on what John the Baptist means when he asks us to “make straight the path” and talks about how he sometimes confuses the path for the end goal instead of simply that: a path.

A voice cries out:

“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;

make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”

Isaiah 40:3

In our Advent Gospels, we always hear of John the Baptist and his mission to prepare for the coming of Jesus. And part of this call is an echo of what Isaiah has foretold and what John the Baptist reaffirms in John 1:23:

“I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness,

‘Make straight the way of the Lord”

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Silenced by Truth: Zechariah’s response to Angel Gabriel

In the following article, Chris compares the differing responses of Zechariah and Mary towards Angel Gabriel’s proclamation of Good News.

As a child, I often wondered why Zechariah, father of John the Baptist and husband to Elizabeth – Mary’s cousin – was “unable to speak” and became “mute” after his encounter with Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:20). Correspondingly, I found it even more interesting to compare the aftermath of his response to Angel Gabriel with that of Mary. Therefore, in this Advent season, I found it timely and poignant to properly articulate my thoughts juxtapose these two pivotal characters of the Advent Narrative. Why did Mary’s brother-in-law, receive such a harsh treatment from Angel Gabriel and what made his response any different from Mary’s? What lessons can we then learn from both their responses?

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Placing the Inn Keeper in the Advent Narrative

Chris shares a bit more about the inn-keeper in the Advent narrative and wonders whether all of us are sometimes inn-keepers towards the Holy Family as well.

“While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child. And she gave birth to her firstborn son and wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.”  – Luke 2:6-7

I often wonder how Joseph must have felt when he received the news that there was “no place” for him and his pregnant wife from the innkeeper. Having travelled so many hours, in probably harsh and treacherous conditions, Joseph must have experienced immense disappointment, frustration and anger. Joseph possibily even panicked. Did he have a backup plan? He and his wife could not possibily stay on the streets right? And how about pregnant Mary? Surely traveling in her physical state must have been awfully tiring and painful. I wonder whether she cried out in helplessness upon hearing that there was “no place” for her and her husband. I wonder whether Joseph and Mary felt hopelessness and despair. Is it not interesting, then, to briefly ponder about how the Advent story – the often overly-cherry, merry-making and consumerist-laden narrative – began as a tale of rejection? On hindsight, would the innkeeper have created space and made room for Jesus, Mary and Joseph, should he have realised that he was actually rejecting the Holy Family?

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Make a Holiness Check! Tabletop RPGs and the Faith

Garrett writes on Table-Top RPGs, Imagination, and Moral and Spiritual Development.

A while back I came across a Reddit post by a user with the wonderful online moniker ‘Stirfriar’. Introducing himself as a Franciscan Friar, he went on to describe the many amazing experiences he and his brothers in the friary had while playing tabletop role-playing games in their leisure time.

These aren’t the RPGs one might think of – videogames like Fallout or Skyrim. Rather, these are more like elaborate boardgames – though not necessarily requiring a board. Dungeons and Dragons is the most popular example of such games, but there are many other examples. The basic setup is that a group of players come together, each controlling a single character. One player is designated the ‘Game Master’, and they are in charge of coming up with a story that involves the players, controlling any other characters in the game. There is a game mechanic for deciding the outcomes of player actions, – usually rolling dice – but I’ve seen playing cards used as well, and these successes and failures move the story a long.

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Creating Space for God

Chris shares about the importance of carving out time to reconnect, recalibrate and recenter one’s life in God’s love.

Lately, I’m noticing an invitation to actively create space and make myself available for God in my life. The availability that I actively consent to, the willingness to sit with my inner restlessness and resist the constant (and inordinate) desire to do something (for God, for the church, for ministry-related activities etc. in a knee-jerk and sporadic manner), better allows me to cooperate with God’s divine grace and trust in His perfect timing. Continue reading “Creating Space for God”

Faith and Horror Stories

Garrett muses on the appeal of horror stories, and the corresponding spiritual implications.

One curious fact about myself is that whenever I feel lost, or not in control of my life, I suddenly become an avid reader of horror stories. Though I generally prefer more cheerful types of fiction, as soon as my life takes a turn downwards, I find myself turning to stories of fear and hopelessness, until the my day-to-day commitments start to look a little hopeless too. Without excusing my own laziness and apathy, I thought it would be worth examining why horror stories have such a wide appeal, and also how that relates to us humans as spiritual creatures.

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The Legends of the Saints: A Reflection

Garrett shares about his love for the stories of the early Saints

One of the biggest blessings I’ve ever received in my life is a father who loved telling stories. It started with comics. He would tell me the origin stories of various superheroes from Spider-Man to Green Lantern, as I’d listen with rapt attention. But eventually, he started telling me stories of the Saints as well. There was, for example, St. Maximillian Kolbe, who so heroically gave his life for a fellow inmate in Auschwitz, and the three children in Fatima who received a visit from Our Lady. These tales were every bit as exciting to me as the comic book ones, and to me those Saints were every bit the heroes Batman and Superman were.

So having always loved the stories of the Saints, I eventually started to realize that some of the stories actually seemed to give them superpowers. From the ability to talk to animals to surviving grievous injuries, the further back you went it seemed like these stories grew more and more incredible. Then you start noticing strange things like the story of Saint Christopher – was his name literally ‘Christ-bearer’ even before his conversion? Were these stories true?

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Why Do I … Believe in a Holy Church?

Greg shares more about the blemished history of the Church and why he continues to believe in the Holiness of the Church

Now, I consider myself a bit of a gamer. (I say a bit because to be fair, I only play games during my semester breaks heh not enough to be considered a full-fledged gamer methinks) One of the games that I’ve always found incredibly exciting is Assassin’s Creed. I mean it’s hard for me to hate on a game that essentially allows you to be like a medieval ninja of sorts. However, one thing that’s always bothered me is how corrupt the Church seems to be portrayed in the games and now, in the movie. The worst part? It’s true. No, not the plot of the game but rather, the existence of corrupt and fallible Popes and bishops. Even now, the Church is facing scandals and accusations towards priests. How can we profess that the Catholic Church is holy when clearly, it doesn’t seem like it? For me, it is always a good reminder to look at our first Pope: St Peter.

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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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