The Church has many masses in a year, the regular Sunday mass, special occasions like church festivals, days of significants, Christmas or Easter. Among all the masses, the Easter Vigil is the longest mass of the year. Jesus was crucified and buried, his fellowers is waiting patient for his raise of death. Unlike normal mass that has only 3 readings, the Vigil has 8 readings and a Gospel. In additional, new adult Catholics are also baptised in the Vigil after studying the catechism since last September. The mass is 3 hours long and it’s starts at 10p.m. I think it’s a small miracle that I did not fall asleep.
Pat is the sponsor for her friend’s baptism. Since I am married with Pat, I am also a co-sponsor. Ada is our first god-daughter, although she is only a few years younger than us. It is a joy to see some one baptism and joined the family of the Church. When Ada shows up in Pat choir a few years back then, I image she would eventually drift away to join the more youth protestant church. Somehow to me, she doesn’t look like the type of people would become a Catholic. The profile does not fit but I guess there are always exceptions.
I felt very peaceful in the Easter Vigil. 3 hours passed surprisingly fast without even feeling bored. The first 3 readings was in darkness, the ceiling lights are turned off and we can only rely on the candle in our hands. Watching the candle fire dance in my hand and listening to the Latin chants gives me a mystical experience. My mind is drawn to the fire along with all my worries and let the worries burn in the flame. I didn’t pay much attention to the reading nor the homily, athough some words slip into my ear from time to time. My mind was wandering, thinkings pop up and go. All my worries, angers, expectations and contemplations flashed across my mind, until all my thoughts are exhausted. When the priest is preparing the eucharist, my mind was almost empty and sort of in a state of mediatation. I felt the Easter Vigil had gave me strength to live through the suffering in life.
I am not a good christian according to the Church’s standard. I don’t like going to church every week, although I don’t mind. Actually, I don’t even agree with the teaching that christians should go to church every week. However, Christmas and Easter are the two occasion that I believe all chritian should go to church. It is OK not go to church on normal days, but not on these two important days. That is the mininium requirement of being a christian.
Last night I went to a Good Friday retreat. The event was for young adults and the topic is on suffering. Father Justin had a talk on what suffering can benefits us and we can embrace suffering for Jesus. We listened to a suffering story by surviving POW prisoner in Vietnam and did a group sharing. Other than the presentation of the core message, there were also the usual activities of any retreat, like an ice breaker, Rosary, praise and worship.
The message of the night is about the usual fuzzy warm feeling about God’s love. We did not talk about the question of why suffering exists. I can see a positive altitude on suffering can help us coup better with suffering, especially those we can do nothing to change. It is true that suffering may benefit us, but it still does not explain why it should exists in the first place. It seems suffering has no intrinsic value but only instrumental value, it only serves the function to bring us closer to God. However it does not follow that is the only way or the best way. An almighty God should able to accomplish the same task without suffering.
One popular church saying is that God will not let us suffer that we cannot take. Maybe those who survived the suffering can thank God for the test to make him a better man, but what about those who can’t make it out. The POW prisoner did not regret his horrible experience in the POW camp that brings him closer to God. But what about his fellow prisoners who never get home. There over 2500 American soldiers captured by Vietnamese, after 5 years of in prison, only 300 are still alive, the mortality rate is over 80%. It is undisputed that those only who have faith can survive the suffering. But where is the meaning of the suffering of the dead whose life are lost in vain.
The take home message of the retreat is that suffering can make us a better person and closer to God. I do agree with this message, especially when it applies to others. There must some people really bothers you in your life, they did not intended to hurt you but it happens there are faults in their characters. If they can become a better person and closer to God, their problems, and yours, should go away. In this case, wishing them to suffer is not out of hate nor revenge, but sincerely for their own good so that they can learn some lessons from God.
Pat goes to the WCCCLC camp again this year and help out by being a group facilitator. I am exempted from going to the camp this year thanks to SoB’s and Derek’s visit. Still I drove in to give Pat moral support today. The camp site is not very far away, just outside of Chilliwack, took me 1 hours to get there. One of the special feature of tonight’s program is World Youth Day sharing. There are 6 people in the camp went to WYD this year, including myself, and two of them I never met before. Due to the extra two people, the sharing ran overtime and we have to cut back the words we originally planned to say. I made a conclusion on the pilgrimage with focus on God’s blessing. I will elaborate more on that when I write my article on the afterthoughts of WYD.
Finally I had received my iPod shuffle today in mail. When I got a call from the rental office saying there is a parcel waiting for me, I have no clue what I will receive. It has been so long since I open a bank account in TD just to get the free iPod shuffle, and I already gave up my home of getting the iPod, thought something has screwed up in the process. Anyways, now I have my first mp3 player, and I can say goodbye to burning CD. I must admit the design of Apple is very impressive, the iPod is nicely packaged. Even open the box taking out the iPod is such a pleasant experience. All the components sits nicely in their individual air tight seals, unlike other mp3 players that only sit in plastic bags in foam boxes.
In addition, I came across a wonder website www.pplive.com. This site broadcast TV channels from China live, including TVB and ATV. All you need to download their software than serve as a peer-to-peer middle man between the streaming server and your media player. The quality is quite good, some channels even in par with TV. Definitely worth to give it a try.
I am very exhausted today. After the auction dinner last night, I have to get up early at seven thirty this morning for another fund raising event, car washing at St. Paul. I think the word volunteer work or WYD promotion as a more appropriate description. The money we made today is nothing comparing to last night. We worked for the whole morning, and only washed 30 cars while people were attending the mass. Divided up the donation we got and the man hour we had spent, it is about the same as the minimum wage at McDonald’s. It could a team bonding event, but we are already seeing each others too often. St. Andrew is a pretty small church, the mass is not even half full, and most attendants are seniors. I worry that the church may get close when those old folks pass away. I didn’t fall asleep during the mass, probably it is because my body was still in working mode in between the car wash. Instead of listening to the homily, I was think about the idea of car wash as fund raising in general. Car washing is the most inefficient fund raising event I had participle so far, the return simply doesn’t justify the hard work. However I can see the other side of this event. It give the kids some outdoor exercise, working really as a team instead of having separated roles, and it seems always fun to play the water hose. I guess I’m too old for all of that and the manual work is too demanding. The worse part is I can’t stand the dirts on the car once I start cleaning it. The people should only get what they pay for, not the as my own car type service. Thus we end up spending a lot more time making the car really clean than doing a supposedly half hearted job. Yet, I think car washing could be a good idea for teenagers trying to do something together. If I have kids, I’ll encourage them to suffer in at least one of those events. Out of all these fund raising events I had went through, I start to appreciated the value of higher education. It is a good lesson to learn how the less fortunate people make their living in the hard way. I think it is just immoral in the society let people do all these lowly works. In my ideal world, all these unrepresented tasks should be taking care of by robots and computers. Humans are left to work on the most important and most value-added jobs, the advancement of science and technology.
I went to the 2nd faith formation session held by the Vancouver archdiocese for everyone who is going the World Youth Day. The topic is on prayers, presented by the Youth Ministry director and the newly ordinate deacon Anthony. Claymoo make a funny presentation, he make analogy of prayer to cell phone plans. Staring with the most basic plan cannot place out-going calls, can only able to listen incoming calls occasionally. One level up can only call 911 in the case of emergency. A higher level gives you unlimited minute on a weekend morning, but cannot place call during the weekdays. A better plan includes some minutes over the week and the best plan gives you 24×7 unlimited access but could cost quite some sacrifice . He put it in a very funny way, sorta like a salesman getting people to upgrade their cell phone plan. This kind of trick always works in preaching by trapping the audiences’ mind into pre-defined categories. I wonder in this analogy, what if I say I want to switch the carrier? Bro. Anthony talked about penance, and use his boring talk as an example. As a result I didn’t sleep in his talk this time, and offered all the boredom to God as my penance. Still, I don’t understand that why God wants penance in the first place. What good can my boredom brings to God?
What is freedom? Does a person has the right to think freely and act freely as long as it doesn’t cause any harm to anyone? In a relationship, why both partner had to think alike and act alike? Can two people with totally different character be in love and live happily and peacefully together? I think such relationship can exist, if both partners learn how to respect the other half. One of the evils of religions is that even though they all claim they are teaching tolerance, but in fact they all decline the right to exist of any thoughts contradicts to their core believes. Why can’t a good christian fall asleep in church if the priest is boring and he is tired? If God truly don’t want people fall asleep in church, he should simply keep everyone awake with supernatural means. I just couldn’t understand why Pat make such a big fuss about me sleeping in mass?
Recently, I got overwhelmed by church activities. There are too many meetings and events going on, and I am stressed out since it eats into my private time. Preparation for Worth Youth Day is good, but do we need to spend so much time doing all these things? Someone may prefer better prepare themselves spiritually, while someone simply don’t have such a need. Why force everyone follow the same path on spiritual quest? Tonight I had wasted 3 hours in yet another tumid meeting regarding the up coming St. Mary fund raising event, which should last no longer than 1 hour. I feel that we have way too many fund raising activities and it really bothers me. I rather spent the time working on my thesis or even sit back to relax a bit. All church activity should be on volunteer basis. Once someone committed the minimum effort, others should not push more works onto his plate than he is willing to take. Making everyone share the equal amount of work doesn’t make sense at all, since everyone’s expectation is different. Some people always complain they had did more work than others. But they gladly signed themselves for the job at first with no one forcing them. They never consider the option of doing less, which is perfectly fine with most people who want less work. Church stuff is not like real work, people don’t get pay for their service and there is no measurement on deliverable. I’m sure God doesn’t care how much time we put in, as long as we had made some effort. Serving God more may indeed accumulate more treasure in the heaven. The question is suppose that every resident of heaven is equally happy eternally, then what is the use of having more treasure if it can’t buy you more happiness?
Today is the first faith session organized by the Archdiocese of Vancouver for everyone going to the World Youth Day. Out of my surprise, everyone form our parish team went to the session, and we were probably the biggest group there. The session start off with ice breaking function, which it’s a good way to know more new friends that you may have to depend on in Koln. During the event, the MC tricked me to think that I have the chance to meet the new Pope representing Vancouver. I was over joyed and jumping up and down, then really let down after knowing it’s just a gag. The event is followed by a sharing from a guy, Paul, who walked from Vancouver to Denver as part of his pilgrimage in 1992 WYD. In his talked, he mentioned about how he learn the lesson of surrender to God and have to react upon surrender.
The 2nd part of the message about reaction to God enlightened me most. Usually the message about surrender to God stopped after the first part, only saying you have to listen to God and be glad on whatever he gave you. I never agree with the idea of predestination. It happened during his trip to Denver, when he and his friend rested in a national park and to prepare their spirituality, it was raining non-stop for the whole week. At first they pray for good weather, later they realize the heavy rain must be God’s will, so they started to accept it. They vowed to take everything God gave them gracefully without a question. After a few days, they finally able to start a fire to get warmth, somehow the wind just suddenly change direction and blow all the smoke to them. They try to accept the smoke at first, but realize they will be choked to death if they don’t move. Here the lesson of surrender to God take a new turn, after surrender and accepted what had happened is not enough, you also have to give a response to God. Suffering itself is only a mean to an end. The key is to find out what God really prepared for you, so you can skip or shorten the suffering part. Blindly take suffering as a gift per se is plain silly.
Today is the day before easter friday, according to the Bible, tonight is when the last supper took place. I went to the passover mass at St. Marks college in UBC tonight. On top of the usual rituals, there is a feet washing event in the mass. I had done feet washing a few years ago in the church camp. Washing others feet is not a big deal, as long as you got to clean your hands afterward. However, letting other wash your feet, which could be quite smelly after stuff in the shoe for a whole day, is quite embrassing. Moreover I think people shouldn’t show their toes in public, let alone show them in church, it’s really disrespect to Jesus. We should propse other more elagent ways to serve other, such as shoulder massage, instead of washing feet. We cannot follow the Bible literally in today’s world, feet washing needs a modern context. Worst of all, the father didn’t clean his hand after washing the feet before handling the eucharist, that poses a hygiene problem. I begin to think, church serving eucharist is like resturant serving food, the same hygiene standard should be applied.
I went to 3 farewell events for my colleagues in one day. First it’s the farewell lunch for Renee, then afternoon I went to beer and wings for Scott, and at least I hopped to the pub for Renee’s party again. There are many people leaving the company lately. Almost all the capable people are gone and join some startups. Somehow I have a feeling my boss will be next one to go. He was recruited into PMC by Scott, and now Scott and a VP who once wanted to promote him to manager had joined that startup, if they need a verification head, who are they going to hire?
Tonight is the final session of Life in the Spirt Seminar, I was expecting something exciting to happen. Instead of miracles from the Holy Spirit, all I got is a really boring mass with a long-winded priest. In conclusion, the only benefit I got from 7 weeks LSS is having a better relationship with Pat. I don’t think I had changed much spiritually. Since the average age of the class is over 50, maybe I’m just too young for these supernatural experience.