Reflections on the Retreat

Saturday, December 02, 2006

+J.M.J.+

Praise God!

The retreat was wonderful, I could feel the presence of the Lord in all my activities and the urge to be with Him was stronger than ever during my stay there. Never before, had I such a great desire to be alone with Him in the Adoration Chapel in the middle of the night and to take advantage of every moment of free time during the day to be on my knees in awe of His majesty. (There's was small 'private' Adoration Room- below my room- that I gladly made use off; it was cool to be alone with the Lord.)

The first thing that was mentioned to us was the need to be honest with the Seminary Fathers/Seminarians during our sharings with them and more importantly with ourselves. This may have been a grey area in my life; there are so many things that I feel are insignificant and aren't worth revealing but at the end of the day our decisions are not based on our superficial wants, fancies and desires, but rather our whole being and state of spiritual life.

Now, let me share what happened cronologicaly. The first day began in the evening with Praise & Worship, the opening address by the Seminary's Rector, Rev. Fr. William Goh. Followed by Fr. Aloysious Ong's vocation story and the importance of need to be able to find (and be in) the presence of the Lord during our stay (1 Kgs 19:4-13). Our rooms were allocated to us and we ended the first day by chanting the Compline.

The second day began at 0630hrs with Lauds, Meditation and Holy Mass. After the all important breakfast, we headed for the first talk of the day. The first talk was by the Vice-Rector, Fr. Ambrose Vaz (who is also the Pastoral Coordinator and teaches Scripture and Greek). He made us ask ourselves, "What am I doing here?" and "Where do I do from here?" Personally, the first question was naturally easy to answer. But the second was a challenge, both a spiritual and emotional one if I may say so correctly. This brings to mind my inclination to the Tridentine Mass. Fr. Vaz, explained that we should not be running from our fears... just because there are some problems in the Church do not justify our fleeing or seeking of an alternatively. Take the case a young man aspiring to be a doctor. No matter what scandals occur in the medical field will not change the fact that he wants to be a doctor (to the best of his ability) so that he can help others. These scandals have nothing to do with him offering his service to the people. This strikes me because all this while I've forgotten the very first thing that Jesus put into my heart when I first experienced His calling: it was (and still is) to serve the people in the Diocese of Singapore, nothing more, notheing less and this was why I initially hesitated to get in touch with the FSSP as they are not based here and the chances of them coming here are slim. (Shall not continue on this for now)

In between this and the next talk was a moment of self-reflection. I took this opportunity to visit the members of the Serra Club and pray with them. These selfless individuals have pledged to pray 40 whole hours (in Adoration) for us and with us. It was touching to see that ordinary people would devote so much of their time to pray individually (by name) for us. I asked myself what made me so special/cut out from the rest, that Christ would call me to spend my weekend with Him and have people pray for me for as long I was there.

The next talk was by Fr. JJ Fenelon. Fr. JJ explained the life of the Diocesan and it's unique charisms. He explained that the Diocesan charism is found fundamentally in the life of Christ. And since obedience (Lk 2:48) was the hallmark of Christ, thus, the Diocesans take their vow of obedience (to the local ordinary) very seriously... The Diocesan also is there to proclaim the Good News (Lk 4:38-44) to the people as Jesus Himself did. He is also a priest who is there for everyone; a pastor, just as Jesus was. Since I've always looked toward the Diocesan style of priesthood, I didn't have much problem(s) with the points Fr. Fenelon raised and talked about.

After lunch was a talk by Ignatian priest, Fr. Philip Heng. He talked to us on the 'Tools of Discernment'. He used one of the Ignatian contemplative prayers to help us uderstand the 'call' and see if the fire was ignited by the Holy Spirit or our own religious zeal. The 1 hour wasn't enough and I didn't really get much of it; to be honest, I was falling asleep... But now looking back, I kinna regreted not trying to stay awake and focused. The question of 'True Calling vs Religious Zeal' is one that I've always sought to to find out more about.

After a short break and tea, we went on a hike through the forest to Punggol Beach. It was a good time to 'de-stress' and take in some fresh air.

Returning to the Seminary, we refreshed ourselves and headed to the Chapel for Vespers.

Dinner was served soon after (the beef was good!). It was over dinner that I realized that there was another guy who had just graduated from college who shared the same interest in the Tridentine Mass & the Traditions of the Church as myself; there were a number of guys who wanted to see many of the traditions revived. There were 2 guys who expressed a great interest in attending a Tridentine Mass. Praise God! But as usual, I got flak from some others... It's amazing that these very people who attack the Tridentine (or Tradition for that matter) have never attended a Tridentine Mass or seen a 1962 Roman Missal! Anyway, we didn't get into any argument. On this note, I would like to reiterate that the Novus Ordo Mass is a valid Mass. Is neither herectical nor evil, and 'manufacturers' the same 'product' as the Tridentine Mass.

The last event for the day was Holy Hour and Reconciliation. This was probably the best part of the day. It was somehow touching to spend an hour before the Blessed Sacrament and then being able to go for the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This was the first time I did my confession outside the confessional box; there was a little anxiety and fear but it was overall a good experience.

And so, I leave the retreat with these questions/personal reflections:

  • If God has predestined us before all eternity (Eph 1:3-10), how can I reciprocate and to go into a deeper level of relationship with Him?
  • Baptism is our first call to sonship. How do I live it?
  • I have to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. I may be happy with all the other vocations in life, but which gives me the greatest joy and satisfaction?
  • All aspirants need to ask God for clarity in order to see His will for us. For the graces, so that we'll have the strength to do His will and for the help- through the guidance of the Holy Spirit- to make our decisions out of love for Him.

I will post the photos soon!

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