A Letter to Saint Francis of Assisi

Garrett writes a letter to Francis of Assisi, his patron saint.

Dear Francis of Assisi,

Greetings, my patron saint! I believe this letter is long overdue. We’ve already had a long and interesting correspondence across the span of 800 years (and my comparatively shorter 25 years). You’ve definitely had a very strong influence in shaping my faith when I was younger, and your example continues to inspire me in various ways.

I think my first encounter with you was as a teenager reading Carlo Carretto’s fantastic book I, Francis. In this book, Carretto addressed the reader with your voice, giving an introduction to your life and thought. What I really took away from reading that book was your joy and appreciation for God’s other creations. At the time, I was struggling a lot with the question of how to make people see the beauty of the faith when it seemed as if no one was interested or had other things preoccupying their time. Thus, when I read your story, and learned about how you were so willing to be a fool for Christ in order to get people to pay attention and hopefully open their eyes to consider higher things. So when it was time to pick a confirmation name, for me the obvious choice was, of course, Francis.

However, I confess that I find your life, inspiring as it is, a little difficult to distill lessons from. Books upon books have been written upon the subject. I think part of the reason, of course, is that I personally do not have the same single-minded devotion to the Lord that you had. Not yet, at least. But I think another part of the reason is that it’s hard to pin down the specific charisms you used to serve the world – there were so many! Was it your famous love for animal life? Your embracing of ‘Lady Poverty’ as part of your call to holiness? Perhaps it is simply your infectious joy that led you to dance and sing the praises of God.

If I had to hazard a guess, I think I would say that more than all of these, you showed the world what it’s like to be a saint. Or at least, what embarking on that journey of sainthood looks like. Just like we do, you lived in a time of great turmoil (perhaps every era is, in its own way). Political unrest, civil strife, corruption, greed – all these things were not foreign to you, just as they aren’t to us. And it’s easy to deaden oneself to it all, live for the moment, and resign ourselves to not being able to make a difference.

But that was not the path you chose, was it? You decided to respond to God’s call to fulfill the purpose He called you to. And that call led you to a life that touched the lives of everyone – Pope and pauper, lord and leper, soldier and Sultan. Reading your life, it seemed that no one who met you came away unchanged. And although I know that your own spiritual journey had its own valleys and pitfalls, the joy that radiated from you showed the world that true joy and contentment really came from doing God’s work.

I know that everyone’s call to holiness is different. God created us all individually, and gives each of us unique gifts. But I think whatever form holiness takes, it bears something of the… ‘feel’ of your life. A saint channels the life of Jesus Christ, bringing light to the world in gentleness and truth, as He did. Please continue to pray for us, to discover our own calls to holiness, and to pursue this call with courage as you did.

Yours in Christ,

Garrett

© 2019 Christ Centered Conversations/Garrett Christopher Ng

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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Letter to St. Teresa of Avila

Chris writes a letter to St. Teresa of Avila — a Saint whom he considers very very intimidating.

“Let nothing disturb thee; let nothing dismay thee:
All things pass; God never changes. Patience attains all that it strives for.
He who has God finds he lacks nothing; God alone suffices.”  –
St. Teresa of Avila

Dear St. Teresa of Avila,

I hope this letter finds you well. I have a quick confession to make: I find you incredibly intimidating.

Your writings are always so fiercely passionate and incredibly firery; they have pierced the depths of my soul, over and over again. Paradoxically, however, my trepidation towards you does not stem from fear but more from awe. I am awed that a living, breathing individual like yourself was able to reach such immense depths of union with Christ whilst on this earth. I am awed by how you remained steadfast and convicted to our Faith despite the numerous trials and tribulations that you experienced both from the world and from our very own Church.

Though I find you very intimidating, I must also add that your writings and ideas have aided me enormously and have drawn me closer to God. Indeed, you have been a very effective instrument of His will, and a very clear signpost pointing towards God to so many people. Some of my friends even consider you as their closest spiritual companion, and I know a couple of them who have entered Carmel, so moved by your life and intimacy with Jesus Christ.

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Letter to Pope John XXIII

Chris writes a letter to Pope John XXIII — a Saint whom he finds very jolly and jovial (with a very important lesson to teach!)

“Consult not your fears but your hopes and your dreams. Think not about your frustrations, but about your unfulfilled potential. Concern yourself not with what you tried and failed in, but with what it is still possible for you to do.”  – Pope John XXIII

Dear Pope John XXIII,

Congratulations on your recent canonisation four years ago! I hope that all’s well with you in Heaven and that you’re enjoying yourself immensely with the communion of saints as well as the perpetuation adoration of our Lord, God and master, Jesus Christ.

I must be honest: I write to you today not because I have loads to share with you nor do I have any particular prayer intention that require your assistance. Pope John XXIII you must forgive me: I hardly know you and only just read about you the other day whilst completing the book The Ascent of Mount Carmel: Saint John of the Cross Reflections by Friar Marc Foley, OCD. That being said, after chancing upon one of your quotes and reflecting on it deeper in prayer, I must say that I felt a stirring in my heart to get to know you better. I will share your quote momentarily but before that, I just want to say that I’m moved by how light-hearted you seem to be. Reading up on you has allowed me to get a better sense of who you are. Yet, most – if not all – of the quotes that I’ve read about you seem to paint you as an exceptionally jovial and joyful person. Pope John XXIII, your personality speaks to the depth of my heart simply because you don’t take yourself too seriously; you seem to exude a distinctive childlike aura that I find deeply alluring – one that painfully reminds me just how “adult” I’ve grown to become.

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A Christmas Song for Three Guilds: An Analysis (Part 2)

The analysis continues as Garrett moves on to Saint Joseph’s address to the Carpenter’s Guild.

If you’re coming here after reading Part 1, welcome back! If not, do be aware that this is Part 2 of four-part series where I’ll be analysing G.K. Chesterton’s A Christmas Song for Three Guilds. We’re taking it one stanza at a time, and the first part does establish some very important context for us while reading this poem. So I’d highly recommend giving it a read-through to avoid any confusion. Part 2 will still be here when you’re done!

In Part 1, we talked about the birth of Jesus being a challenge to us to lead inspiring Christian lives, no matter where we are in life or what profession we are in. In this next part, we will be examining this through the life of St. Joseph, the foster-father of Jesus, and whom we know of course, Jesus inherited his first profession from. So who better to look to when asking how we can live authentic Christian lives in the secular world? Without further ado, let’s dive into the poem, and let St. Joseph teach us a thing or two about the virtue of Kindness.

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A Christmas Song for Three Guilds: An Analysis (Part 1)

Garrett begins an analysis of Chesterton’s poem, “A Christmas Song for Three Guilds”.

What does Advent mean to us, on a personal level? How does this brief season, where we prepare for the coming of Jesus, relate to how we live our lives for the rest of the year? Before the dawn of Advent proper, we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, where we recognize the sovereignty of Jesus in our lives, in preparation for his coming as the newborn king. But many find this idea of Jesus as ‘King’ problematic – in a democratic era, kingship can easily be seen as something oppressive and tyrannical. Therefore in this Advent season, I’d like to turn to G.K. Chesterton’s poem A Christmas Song for Three Guilds, which I believe suggests a much more egalitarian idea of the Kingdom of God than we are likely to picture.

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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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