CDM goes on Pilgrimage

12. May, 2018NewsComments Off on CDM goes on Pilgrimage

This year’s parish event planned by Fr Martin Arlando, parish priest of the Church of Divine Mercy, Penang (CDM) was to organize a pilgrimage of parishioners to four local less well-known churches in the Diocese. The churches chosen were ones with deep historical backgrounds related to the early growth of the Catholic faith in this part of Penang. The four churches were the Church of the Holy Name of Mary, Church of St Anthony of Padua, Church of St Joseph and Church of Our Lady of Good Health. The primary purpose of this pilgrimage was to give the pilgrims a quick course in local Church history, enabling them to appreciate the opportunities that were being provided by the Diocese to help in caring for the faithful and lastly, to compare the differences of each church in their way of catering to the needs of the people they serve.

The journey started in CDM with Fr Martin asking the pilgrims to focus their prayers on a single person or persons whom they needed especially to pray for. The recitation of the rosary began with the first decade. Subsequently, a decade was recited on the journey to each church also accompanied with a reflection question. Three bus loads arrived at the Church of the Holy Name of Mary, Permatang Tinggi, to be greeted by the parish priest there, Fr Augustine Wong. At the short briefing given by Fr Augustine, it was learned that the Church was built to cater to the largely Chinese community who came to work in the plantations around that place. The Church is nicknamed in Chinese as the “Church on the hill ” as it is built on a small sandy hill. The statute of Our Lady in the church is distinctly Chinese as she is dressed in pink, rather the usual white or blue. The church presently caters to about 1000+ parishioners. As the premises is small, plans have been made and some funds have been raised for a new RM6 million church to be built adjoining it. This cost will be reduced once they harvest some of the quality white sand on the land which the present church stands.

The Church of St Joseph in Bagan Serai was the second stop on the pilgrimage. Fr Arulnathan Joseph, the parish priest there was on hand to welcome the visitors. It was indeed a meaningful visit as the church was celebrating the feast of it’s patron saint. Mid-day mass was celebrated by Fr Martin with Fr Arul concelebrating. In his homily, Fr Martin related a story where a priest once asked the members of his congregation what saint’s relic would they most desire to obtain and why. The most significant reply came from one who said he would like to have a vial of the sweat from the brow of St Joseph. This was because this was produced as a result of his vocation of a carpenter. It represented the efforts he had put into his responsibility of a husband and father of the Lord Jesus. Fr Martin also mentioned that the Christian outlook on work had three facets. The first is that any occupation is a Vocation. Secondly, it represents Stewardship to execute our responsibilities to the best of our ability. Lastly, it is one of Service. To able able to serve others through our talents and energy. Fr also mentioned that Pope Pius XII had designated 1 May as the feast day of St Joseph, the Worker, in recognition of all working people. He said that there is very little mention of St Joseph in the bible except in the beginning of the Gospel of St Luke. This leads some to wonder what qualities did this saint possess. The story of the life of Jesus is the reflection of the things St Joseph did as a father to Jesus. The qualities of strength in times of adversity, loyalty to God and his mother even to the last and to be an advocate to the marginalized, poor and helpless. At the end of mass Fr Martin said a touching prayer regarding the palms of our hands. They are the gift from the Lord to enable us to seek a living and also to be an instrument to reach out to help others in service.

The third visit was to the Church of St Anthony of Padua, Nibong Tebal. Fr Arul mentioned that this was one of the oldest churches in the diocese of Penang, built in 1891. It catered to the Catholic Indian workers from India who come to work in the surrounding plantations. There were also plans to build a hall on the large piece of land occupied by the church. Fr mentioned that nobody lost anything in this church. If they left behind a personal item, it would remain where it was, until the owner returned to redeem it. People prayed for many things to St Anthony. Jokingly he mentioned some even prayed for lost wives to return. The Church is also a stop for many pilgrims during the feast of St Anthony where thousands of pilgrims camp around the church grounds. Many even gave gifts items of personal jewellery.

The last stop on the pilgrimage was to the Church of Our Lady of Good Health, Parit Buntar. The Divine Mercy chaplet was recited and Fr Martin reminded the pilgrims to pray for the person they had in mind initially. He asked them to pray not only for physical but spiritual healing. One pilgrim remarked that focusing on the other person helped her move away from distractions and allowed the Lord to answer two of her prayers that day. She also said that the short and continuous prayer sessions on the bus between the trips to the churches were beautiful and meaningful. It also gave adequate time for personal reflection.

The pilgrimage achieved its purpose of being an eye-opener to many. It showed the wisdom of the Catholic Church in earlier obtaining large parcels of land for future expansion. The preservation of the structural old buildings proved a challenge to the parish priests in those churches and the response of the faithful in safeguarding these emblems for their children. Many went away feeling a sense of pride of our Catholic heritage in Penang and with a silent resolution to make a return visit to these churches on their own.

Written by

Dr Ivan Filmer

3rd May, 2018

CDM Celebrates Feast Day

26. April, 2018NewsComments Off on CDM Celebrates Feast Day

In conjunction with this year’s parish focus on the Scripture of the Bible, the theme of this year’s celebration was decided as “… and God said…” Following this main theme, six sub-themes were also formulated. Our parish priest, Fr Martin Arlando was then given the task of sourcing appropriate Mass presiders to preach on each sub-theme. In doing so, he managed to encourage a Friar, a most senior retired priest, a young priest who recently returned from sabbatical leave, an Archbishop Emeritus and the Nuncio to come to CDM.

Much preparations were made to ensure that the feast day was another memorable one. A nine-day novena was started just before Easter to end on Divine Mercy Sunday. A large poster was displayed to show the parishioners the Mass schedule for the week leading up to the Divine Mercy Sunday. Invitations were also sent to the parishes in the diocese. In catering to the spiritual needs, the physical needs of the people coming for mass were also seen to. The BECs, Chinese, Indian, BM and Filipino Apostolates shared out the sponsorship of all the meals after each weekday Mass and Sunday breakfast. The parish catered dinner for all on Divine Mercy Sunday under two large tents.

On the Monday and Tuesday of the week, Fr Oliver Tham from the parish of the Church of the Risen Christ was the presider. He was given the task of preaching on the sub-themes of “… and God said, Do not be afraid.” and “… and God said, GO … and TELL.” In his first homily, he mentioned that the first words of Jesus after He had risen to two women were “Don’t be afraid”. Jesus had experienced all the types of suffering we have gone through and more. Besides the physical pains, He had suffered indifference, despair, discouragement, betrayal and disappointments. We should not be afraid to connect our wounds with Jesus and be proud of our Christian identity. This is because Jesus will always be with us. In his second homily, Fr Oliver emphasized that we need to recognize the glorified and risen Christ and go proclaim the Word of God. We need to remember that we are never alone and Jesus is always there on our journey, everyday of our lives.

Fr. Marshall Fernandez from the Church of St Michael, Kedah was the next presider. He was given the sub-themes of “… and God said … I did IT for you” and “… and God said … This is MY BODY… BROKEN for you”. In his homilies, he asked if we have met Jesus in our daily lives. If we have not, then we may not believe in God. Our God is an interpersonal God and unless we meet God personally we cannot grow. In this digital age, we must search for Him as we belong to the Emmanuel age of God with us. In doing so we must be a disciple of peace and live as Jesus wants us to live. We should practise the Divine Mercy in our lives everyday and then we will surely meet Jesus.

Fr Dominic Santhiyago of the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Butterworth preached on the sub-theme “… and God said … I am the DIVINE MERCY.” He mentioned three things. Firstly, God is love. Secondly, God is kind and lastly God is in control. Jesus was hung on the cross not by the nails but by his love for us. When Simon asked Jesus how much he loved him, Jesus opened his hands to show his wounds. Many of us have experienced the love and kindness of God through others in our lives. Why then should we feel shy of showing kindness to others to reflect the Jesus in us. In this way we can let others experience Jesus too. We need to remember that all things are possible with God. He is in control. So, invite Jesus into your lives and let Him take control and show the kindness within us to others.

Fr Martin Arlando, celebrated mass on Saturday evening. In his homily on the sub-theme “…and God said … I AM the WORD Alive.” He gave over 20 quotations from the Bible on the Word of God. He showed the various instances when the Word of God was important in our lives and how it fits into many aspects of our lives. “It is a double-edged sword … is fire burning in my heart “(Jeremiah 20:9). “… like food … “Matthew 4:4) “… a mirror …” (James1:23-24) “… cleansing…” (Ephesians 5:25-27). He emphasized that we need the Word of God as nourishment to grow. The Word needs to be taken and digested (Jeremiah 15:16) as it is alive (John 1:1). We need it as it nourishes and matures our spiritual life. It helps us stand strong against all spiritual attacks on our faith and helps us recognize the truth from lies. He said that it is the Holy Spirit that instructs the Word of God and that we should invoke the help of the Holy Spirit as we read scripture. When we find it hard to know the Word of God due to the demands of family and friends that tax us mentally and physically, we should seek a “break through” instead of suffering a “breakdown”. It is the time to pray the problem and pray the solution from the Word of God. For everything will be revealed through the Word of God if we are not too occupied or open to notice. We will experience the Divine Mercy in us as the Word of God is alive in our lives.

Archbishop Emeritus John Ha gave his homily on the sub-theme “… and God said … I AM the WORD Alive”. He began by saying that “Seeing” and “Believing” are two key words in the gospel that reflects the attitude of Thomas the apostle who insisted on seeing and touching the wounds of Jesus before believing. Seeing is not in the order of faith. It is not required. Faith comes into play when the reality is not visible. The Divine Mercy had existed at the beginning of time when God created man. Even though they betrayed Him, He continued to relate with them. When God promised a solution to them, the Divine Mercy began. God’s word had the power to bring that salvation into reality and it has proceeded throughout the ages through Jesus Christ. Our sin brought about death for us but Jesus took our place to pay that penalty with His Divine Mercy. Our sins were taken away and the resurrection brought eternal life to us. A share of this life with God. But do we see it or do we do want to be like Thomas as we cannot see that faith is required. We need that faith in Jesus as He is the Word of God in our midst. But St James has said that faith alone is not enough. We also need good works to keep our faith alive. So, we need to share this Divine Mercy with others with the help of the Holy Spirit. And with our forgiveness of others, we are reconciled with God to reflect the Divine Mercy in our lives.

In his Homily in the afternoon mass on Divine Mercy Sunday, the Nuncio, Archbishop Joseph Marino explained that the work of Jesus after his death was continued by his commands in his apparitions after he had risen. He breathed on his apostles and established the Church by saying, “As the Father sent me, I now send you.” To continue his work of touching people by forgiving sins, feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowful and healing the wounds of division. He sent them to continue his Word which is the face of mercy. The Church today is empowered by the Holy Spirit through the incarnation of Jesus in the Word of God and his Mercy. Mercy is the very foundation of Jesus who has an endless desire to show mercy. It is the message that sustains our work in the Church to do concrete works of charity. This is our primary mission. Our faith is active and we need to show concrete activities of mercy. To reach out to the marginalized and reinstate them. Whenever Jesus was asked to heal anyone in the Bible, we hear that Jesus was moved by compassion before he performed the healing miracle. This was because he felt the pain and suffering of the person. In the same way, it not the way of the Church to condemn but seek out those who are marginalized with compassion and restore their humanity within the community. Pope Francis has even said that the sign of a Christian in our world today is how we live with Mercy. The Nuncio ended by asking the parishioners to be a community of Mercy and be one with Jesus who is the face of mercy.

At the end of the weekend masses the parishioners were treated to a dance performed by the Youth Ministry on “Proclaiming the Word of God”. The audience were pleasantly surprised when Fr Martin joined in the last part of the dance to hold high the Bible.

A procession was carried out at the end of the 3 pm mass. It was led by the Nuncio who carried the monstrance with the consecrated host on a 1.2 km walk around the neighbourhood of Sungai Ara. He was assisted in turn by Fr Francis Anthony, Fr Joachim Robert and Fr Martin Arlando. They followed the flower adorned statue of the Divine Mercy carried by parishioners and pilgrims as they recited the Chaplet of the Divine Mercy. After the procession and Benediction there was the veneration of the relics of St Faustina and St Pope John Paul II. All who attended these proceedings were invited for an early dinner as many pilgrims from Ipoh and other outstation places had to journey back home after the celebrations.

Written by

Dr. Ivan Filmer

16th April, 2018.

CDM Penang Parish Retreat

16. March, 2018NewsComments Off on CDM Penang Parish Retreat

After focusing on Prayer last year, the Church of Divine Mercy (CDM), Penang turned its direction towards the Word of God. A one-day Scripture Centered Retreat was organized on the 3rd March at CDM. Fr Martin Arlando, the parish priest, sourced a former fellow coursemate of the seminary studies, Sr Sandra Seow to come all the way from Singapore to facilitate this retreat. Sr Sandra, is a nun from the order of Verbum Dei Missionaries (Word of God Missionaries). She brought along Sr Maria Jose Egido, who was responsible for establishing this religious order in Singapore in 1997. It was such a blessing for CDM to have these two persons share their faith vocation to an audience of 132 parishioners.

The retreat entitled “Jesus, the Living Word, Speaks” began with Sr Sandra explaining that this retreat was aimed at enabling us to have God speak to us in our lives in all situations. To know God in our our hearts and have an encounter with Jesus through His word. She then went into the four steps of Lectio Divina (Divine Reading) of first Reading a scripture passage repetitively as a means of being attentive to God in order to listen to Him. Secondly, to Meditate on the passage, to hear God speak to us through our fears, doubts, emotions and anxieties. In step 3, we Pray in a familiar and personal manner as a means by which we talk to God. We are encouraged to write down our reflections in order to stay in focus. In the next step, we Contemplate. This is where we find peace and rest in the God’s Word. Sr Sandra, however, introduced a fifth step, namely, Action. This is to have faith to put prayer into action and so to live our faith. She explained that this was ancient method used by monks as a means to an end, to listen to God using the Word of God to find the hidden personal message to each of us. It gives us a means to dialogue with God. Our success in this dialogue will depend on how open we are to the promptings of the Holy Spirit.

In the next session entitled “The Living Word, the Core of our Faith”, Sr Sandra explained that the Church teaches us that Jesus is present in the Word. The Liturgy of the Word at Mass is not just stories, science, or historical facts but a book of Faith for us to know Jesus more and cultivate a personal relationship with Him. Pope Benedict has said this in his book Holiness is always in Season when he said to read the scriptures not only as a word of the past but as it addresses today, that is, to understand what the Lord wants to tell us today. So the key element for us is to listen to what is God’s personal message to us. This is also emphasized by Pope Francis when he explained that the first duty of a Catholic is to listen to the Word of God. In this world of many external and internal distractions, a sincere and genuine listening is not easy. It requires a heart that is committed to understanding God’s message. Sr Sandra then went on the explain the parable of the Sower in Luke 8. She linked the different types of soils to the distractions in one’s life towards listening to God’s Word. In conclusion, she reminded us of the words of St James 1:22-24 “But you must do what the Word tells you and do not just listen to it and deceive yourselves. Anyone who listens to the Word and takes no action is like someone who looks at his own features in a mirror and, once he has seen what he looks like, goes off and immediately forgets it”. We cannot look into a mirror and just go away not doing anything to fix the way we look.

In the lively session by Sr Maria Jose on “Transforming Encounter with Jesus the Living Word”, she said that Jesus is the dictionary in which you can find everything. St Ambrose had said that the sacred scripture has been given to us so that God and man can speak to one another. St Jerome, in turn, said that ignorance of the scriptures is ignorance of God. The Word has the face and voice of Jesus. She emphasized that we need to encounter Jesus in a personal way and relate to Him. God takes the initiative to knock on our door repetitively but we don’t hear. She showed an allegorical painting by William Holman Hunt entitled The Light of the World representing the figure of Jesus preparing to knock on a weed overgrown and long unopened door. The artist painted this to illustrate Revelations 3:20 “Look, I am standing at the door, knocking. If one of you hears me calling and opens the door, I will come in to share a meal at that person’s side”. The door can only be opened from the inside as it has no handle. We are given the freedom of choice to open the door and let Jesus come in and share a meal with us. She remarked that when she was a young girl in Spain, a meal did not just mean eating. It was a time to share friendship. To have Jesus listen to us and to share with us His concerns and way of life.

She went on to explain the encounter of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector with Jesus in Luke 9. Even though Zacchaeus was known to be a public sinner, Jesus looked up to him not down. Zacchaeus, in turn, was determined to meet with Jesus and didn’t give up even though as a man of small stature and pressed away by the crowd, he climbed a tree. We need to be determined to encounter Jesus, and Jesus will call us by name, as He did Zacchaeus. Jesus does not judge us and gives us dignity by accepting us even though we don’t see the things we do wrong. He does not impose anything on us. The onus is on us to open the door to Him. What will our answer be? Sr Marie Jose captured the audience with her presentation that was peppered with many colloquial exclamations in various local dialects. This brought much laughter and amazement of her understanding of local culture and expressions.

In the last session of the retreat entitled The Journey of Prayer by Means of the Word of God, Sr Sandra invited the audience to draw a symbol of prayer in a handout. It was interesting to note that some symbols included a well that was visited only when help was needed, others drew a light, a compass, a signpost and two hearts joined together (God and me). She explained that Prayer is a lifelong Journey which is a communion with God resulting in a transforming union of growing towards others. She also referred to the CCC on three methods of prayer. She also explained some of the obstacles we could face along the journey and some ways to overcome them. The audience was also invited to share in groups the ways to continue on after this retreat and the meaning of the retreat to them. She also shared other methods of prayer like the Ignatian Contemplation of Imaginative Prayer by St Ignatius of Loyola that employed the use of creative imagination.

The overwhelming opinion of the audience was that the retreat had changed their perspective on the notion that the Word of God was boring and taxing to assimilate into our spiritual life. The explanation and use of Lectio Divina was clearly shown as an important means to reflect on the Word of God and to encounter Him. Each person was also given a souvenir of a bookmark of the painting of The Light of the World, each inscribed with a different scripture verse.

Written by

Dr. Ivan

8th March, 2018.