Lent began early this year...

23 Feb 2009

Ash Wednesday which will be in a couple of days’ time on Feb 25, marks the start of Lent, the liturgical season in preparation for Easter, during which we are invited through prayer, penitence, almsgiving and self-denial to reflect and ponder over the self-sacrificial, victorious love of Christ culminating with Easter– in the hope that we too may embrace our crosses in life, rise from them and be living witnesses of Christ’s love to one another….All Catholics who attend a church service on Ash Wednesday will bear a mark on the forehead, somewhat resembling a cross (made from the ashes of last year’s palm leaves from Passion Sunday) – this will of course depend on the artistry of the priest or the one putting the mark. Sometimes you end up with a cute little cross while at other times, it seems like some Rorschach mark or weird blotch of dirt on your forehead! Usually the line that goes with the blessing of ash is “turn away from sin and be faithful to the Gospel” or “remember you are dust and to dust you will return.”

When I was in the Philippines, we always held book displays at the Baclaran Church in Manila on Ash Wednesday, and so while we helped the priests put ashes on people’s foreheads, we would joke among ourselves that we ought to say instead “turn away from sin and go buy the Gospel” since we were actually selling the bible and other spiritual books there! Ash Wednesday is also supposed to be a day of fasting and abstinence – to remind ourselves that ultimately only God can truly quench our thirst and hunger, and also to be in solidarity with those who literally hunger and thirst… Well again if we were having a book display the whole day at Baclaran Church in the Philippines, in the heat of the tropical sun, you’d find a group of nuns, rather than fasting, feasting surreptitiously on our lunch of adobo chicken and rice and other snacks in our van since we don’t want anyone to faint while working! And also because our founder, Blessed James Alberione, rightly said, our apostolate (which require sacrifices in other ways) is already our fast!

Yet it seemed like Lent began a little earlier for me this year especially when I got news that a dear friend of mine, Sr. Ursula Martin, fsp based in India, was seriously ill about a week ago. Miraculously, through the communion of prayers from all over the world (thanks to everyone especially our Sisters in the States who forwarded my request like wild fire!), she got through two surgeries conducted within days of each other and she now no longer needs the life support machine which had been sustaining her. She has since been transferred out of the ICU ward and is slowly gaining her strength. She will undergo treatment for cancer of her uterus soon. The fragility of life always comes to the fore when you face a serious illness and the suffering that comes with it (whether it’s yourself or someone close to you). As much as you avoid thinking about it, it WILL hit you and you realize that you’re no longer getting any younger and that illness and eventual death is imminent sooner or later – no one can escape it. The question is – are we prepared for it? Have I told those I love that I love them? Have I forgiven those who have hurt me and asked forgiveness from those I have hurt? Have I lived a life of love? Am I living a life of selfless love? The season of Lent is precisely a season in which we ask ourselves these questions...

Meanwhile, apostolate wise, two projects are keeping me busy – an audio bible (just the New Testament on CD) and a scripture music video based on the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32). We’ve started recording for the former using a male voice for the narration, and the recording sessions in our little make shift studio can get pretty hilarious as our narrator, Robert, sometimes ends up reading words that are not part of the script/scripture text. For example, once he said, “not a chair on your head” instead of “not a hair on your head”! And on an earlier occasion he said, “John was breastfeeding” instead of “John was baptizing”!! LOL! As for the video project, the song will be recorded soon and we’re in the process of gathering the cast and crew… Please pray for these two projects!

As part of our initiatives and activities to celebrate the Pauline Year, we have been holding exhibits on the life of Saint Paul in different parishes around the city of Nairobi. The most recent exhibit took place last Sunday Feb 1, 2009, in the city's cathedral, the Basilica of the Holy Family, where we were also invited to sing at two masses. Selected songs from our Pauline CD, His Grace is Sufficient were sung and after each of the five morning masses, a Sister gave a brief talk on the importance of the Pauline Jubilee Year and how our presence and exhibit was an opportunity for the parishioners not only to deepen their knowledge of Paul but also grow in their faith and love for Christ and the church.

Colourful banners on Paul's life and mission as well as a display of Jewish artifacts used during the time of Paul helped recreate elements of first century Jewish life and enabled those who visited the exhibit to rediscover Paul and his letters. Parishioners responded enthusiastically to the exhibit and also obtained many books and audiovisual materials related to Saint Paul. (see pics below)

Last week the CatholicNews in Singapore also did an article on our CD His Grace is Sufficient. The interview they conducted with me was via email. I didn’t expect a whole page on it but am very grateful for their kind support! Here’s the article for those who missed it (click the top right rectangle for a full view of the article):

I leave you with a favourite list of not only fasting but feasting at Lent (and even my friends of other creeds can appreciate these):

• Fast from judging others; feast on the Christ dwelling in them.
• Fast from emphasis on differences; feast on the unity of life.
• Fast from apparent darkness; feast on the reality of light.
• Fast from thoughts of illness; feast on the healing power of God.
• Fast from words that pollute; feast on phrases that purify.
• Fast from discontent; feast on gratitude.
• Fast from anger; feast on patience.
• Fast from pessimism; feast on optimism.
• Fast from worry; feast on divine order.
• Fast from complaining; feast on appreciation.
• Fast from negatives; feast on affirmatives.
• Fast from unrelenting pressures; feast on unceasing prayer.
• Fast from hostility; feast on non-resistance.
• Fast from bitterness; feast on forgiveness.
• Fast from self-concern; feast on compassion for others.
• Fast from personal anxiety; feast on eternal truth.
• Fast from discouragements; feast on hope.
• Fast from facts that depress; feast on verities that uplift.
• Fast from lethargy; feast on enthusiasm.
• Fast from thoughts that weaken; feast on promises that inspire.
• Fast from shadows of sorrow; feast on the sunlight of serenity.
• Fast from idle gossip; feast on purposeful silence.
• Fast from problems that overwhelm; feast on prayer that sustains.

May FAST and FEAST be not just for 40 days of Lent, but become a way of life for each of us! Wishing you a beautiful Lenten journey towards Easter!

Grace and Peace,
"Greater love has no one than this,
to one lay down one's life for one's friends." (John 15:13)

PS: So our sisters in LA hosted an Oscar night party! From the pics Phivan posted on FB, it looks like everyone had a good time! Even Fr Frank was there! What "award" did he win Sr Rose? Well I didn't watch the ceremony since it was in the wee hours of the morning here but I heard Hugh Jackman was briliant as host (had a crush on him some time back!) and am so glad Kate Winslet finally won! She's such an amazing actress! Sean Penn's win wasn't a surprise at all and it's great that Slumdog Millionaire had such a big sweep though there are thousands of other really good films that never made it to the academy list....Well if anyone else missed it you can read Sr Helena Burns' take on the highlights on her blog, hellburns! She also did a review of Doubt which I believe was only recently released worldwide... the film score for that was actually by a nun! Alwight!!

1 comment:

  1. Hi Wen!
    Thank you for your lovely and inspiring blog. I like your comments on fasting and feasting!
    We are proud of you at home. May you be blessed with lots of GRACES to continue with your work in Kenya. God Bless you a hundred fold and Peace be with you always.
    Love, Mom