Category Archives: Feature

The internet: an ecclesiological perspective

Internet cafe, Mega Qmart Edsa Cubao, Philippines, 13 Apr 2018.   Photo by Mike Taboy

We live in a period when it has become possible for people to communicate with one another instantly, no matter the distance. People can exchange ideas and experiences, thoughts and feelings, wherever they are.

They can engage in dialogue and conversation even if they live in different parts of the world. People can initiate, sustain, and deepen friendships even from a distance. They can even act together to further a cause and effect social and political transformation.

The internet has made all this possible through social networking platforms. Social communication is changing patterns of relationships and praxis in society and the world.

How does this affect the life and mission of the Church? What are the opportunities and possibilities that this technology presents?

A dominant ecclesiology promoted by the Second Vatican Council and the Second Plenary Council of the Catholic Church in the Philippines is ecclesial communion. The Church is communion in a state of mission. Ecclesial communion is based on Trinitarian communion — the indivisible and loving union of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.

The model of ecclesial communion is based on the Johannine image of the vine and the branches and the Pauline image of the One Body of Christ. It is, above all, based on the Lucan idealised portrait of the first Christian community that emerged after the Pentecost and recorded in the Acts of the Apostles.

The Koinonia model is associated with the unity, fellowship, friendship, sharing and participation that characterised the relationship within each Christian community and between the Christian communities. Thus the early Church is understood primarily as a network of Christian communities, a communion of communions.

This is what Vatican II and post-conciliar ecclesiology tried to recapture. This ecclesial communion is to be experienced at various levels: in the home (the domestic church), in the neighbourhood in Basic Ecclesial Communities, the parish, diocese, regional and national levels, and at the universal levels.

The Church can therefore be regarded as a web of relations — a network of relationships.

For ecclesial communion to grow and develop, communication is necessary. Interpersonal, social and dialogical communication among the members of the Church can lead to authentic communion.

As early as 1971, the role of communication for fostering communion was recognised in the ecclesiastical document, Communio et Progressio, which states, “The unity and brotherhood of humanity are the chief aims of all communication and these find source and model in the central mystery of the eternal communion between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit who live a single divine life.”

Communication among members is given priority to deepen ecclesial communion, “The Church looks for ways of multiplying and strengthening the bonds of union between her members. For this reason, communication and dialogue among Catholics are indispensable.”

Dialogue between lay faithful and their pastors is also an aspect of ecclesial communion: “The normal flow of life and the smooth functioning of government within the Church require a steady two-way flow of information between the ecclesial authorities at all levels and the faithful as individuals and as organised groups. This applies to the whole world.”

The document Aetatis Novae reaffirms the right of the lay faithful to dialogue and information within the Church through the use of the media of social communication as a concrete means of realising ecclesial communion.

“It is necessary to recall the importance of the fundamental right of dialogue and information within the Church … and to continue to seek effective means, including a responsible use of media of social communications, for realising and protecting this right,” it reads.

“This is a matter of maintaining and enhancing the Church’s credibility and effectiveness. But more fundamentally, it is one of the ways of realising, in a concrete manner, the Church’s character as communio, rooted in and mirroring the intimate communion of the Trinity,” it added.

The internet can, therefore, be a concrete means of communication that can enhance communion at various levels of the Church, especially at the diocesan, national, and universal levels. This was pointed out by the Pontifical Council for Social Communication in its document on The Church and Internet.

“It has a remarkable capacity to overcome distance and isolation, bringing people into contact with like-minded persons of good will who join in virtual communities of faith to encourage and support one another,” reads the document.

The internet can provide the technological means for realising the vision of the Church as communion. Through the internet, members of the Church can actively participate in the mission of new evangelisation and in social transformation that can bring about justice, peace and the integrity of creation.

The challenge for Church leaders and lay faithful is how to make use of the available social media technology and social networking to enhance ecclesial communion. This is what we have been trying to do in our efforts to promote the formation of Basic Ecclesial Communities. Fr Amado Picardal (used with permission)

–Fr Amado Picardal, CSsR, is known for his activism and advocacy for human rights. He is executive secretary of the Committee on Basic Ecclesial Communities of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.

Mexican beauty queen makes ‘radical’ move to religious life

MEXICO CITY – Esmeralda Solís Gonzáles is a young Mexican woman who was crowned last year as a beauty queen in her native town – and now she’s joined the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament.

Twenty-year old Gonzáles has watched her story go viral over the last week on social media over a post on the Miss Mexico Facebook page.

Esmeralda was born on 12 April 1997 in Valle de Guadalupe, Jalisco State, to a Catholic family. She currently resides at the convent of the Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament of Cuernavaca in Morelos State, after leaving her career as a nutritionist.

“You really don’t know what religious life is until you’re within it. So far I have been able to see from another perspective what the world is and what it offers you,” Esmeralda told CNA.

“I was very happy with everything I had, but it does not compare with the happiness that God now places in my heart.”

The young postulant met the Poor Clare Missionaries some five years ago at 14, when her concern for a religious vocation “was awakening” through “vocational days, missions and camps.”

In addition, she pointed out how it was hardly a month after this process of discernment concluded  when in March 2017 she gave her first yes to her vocation on the Feast of the Annunciation.

“God’s timing is perfect. During this time (of discernment) he allowed me to have some experiences such as being a beauty queen, and other experiences, which forever left their mark and which allowed me to learn a lot for what was to come later.”

The discovery of the vocation to which she had been called was always present in her life like a “little thorn,” Esmeralda said.

“I realised that I had to make room in my life to know what it was that God had planned for me. In the process of discerning my vocation there were also fear and doubts, but the love that Our Lord was showing every day made me overcome any feeling of discouragement,” she said.

Esmeralda said she had discovered that God was calling her “to serve him in a radical way,” that is, changing her “life to embrace the cross of Christ and live it more closely.”

“I have been in religious life very little time, but I truly have been very happy,” she said.

In order to discover her vocation, Esmeralda spent a lot of time in prayer and charity, “knowing from the outside or from the world” what this change would involve.

“Change is hard for the family because it involves detachment, but I have always had the the support of my parents, siblings and true friends. Even though I could have developed myself in some other setting, I feel that if the Lord needs me then I can bear fruit in a different way,” she told CNA.

Esmeralda had a few words for young people and said that in any vocation they will find difficulties, “but if you go and take God’s hand, you’ll always be able to take the next step.”

“In religious life every new day is a new beginning and a new opportunity to extend the kingdom of God. This involves making a lot of sacrifices but they are always rewarded with happiness,” she said.

The young postulant also said that it is true that “the reality and the supposed happiness that the world sells  is very attractive” but “it is necessary to fix your eyes on what lasts.”

“You mustn’t be afraid. If God is calling you, he’ll take care of everything. All you need to do is receive him with a lot of peace, joy and confidence. I believe fear is a big excuse that is responsible for truncating the true happiness that only God can offer,” she said.

The Poor Clare Missionaries of the Blessed Sacrament are a Religious Institute of Pontifical Right founded by Blessed María Inés Teresa Arias in 1945 in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

The spirit of the Institute is Eucharistic, Marian, priestly, missionary, and is centred on Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament.

The missionaries work in clinics, youth groups, preschools and schools, university dorms, centres for the spiritual exercises, missions, among others. They are present in Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, the United States, Spain, Italy, Ireland, Russia, Japan, Korea, Indonesia, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Vietnam and India. – CNA, 30 Apr 2018

Music at liturgy: full expression of faith

Credit: Pexels

In a recent US Catholic survey, eighty percent of those questioned said that music at Mass was very important to them. However, only thirteen percent were totally satisfied with the music that they have and actually sing. The music at Mass is important, very important! It is not simply a performance by a soloist or choir, a background to accompany our prayer, a means to create a mood, or an incentive to shout and clap our hands. Music is integral to our liturgical worship.

Pope Francis has clearly defined the purpose of music at Mass. He said that it is “first of all a matter of participating intensely in the mystery of God, in the ‘theophany’ that takes place in every Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord makes himself present among his people, who are called truly to participate in the salvation realized by the crucified and risen Christ” (Homily at Santa Marta, December 12, 2013). The Second Vatican Council called for full, active and conscious participation of the laity at Mass. Like the introduction of the vernacular in liturgy, music is meant to foster this participation.

However, Pope Francis has noted that the very “introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy has raised many issues: of language, form and musical genre. At times, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations” (Pope Francis, Address to Participants in the International Conference on Sacred Music, March 4, 2017). Good liturgical music should be both aesthetically pleasing and theologically correct. For example, any song that refers to the Eucharist as bread and wine has no place in Catholic worship. The Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus and the songs we sing should express this reality.

Lifting our hearts to God in liturgy always goes beyond the boundaries of human speech. Thus, liturgy, by its very nature, calls upon the help of music and song to praise to God. Music varies from culture to culture. And so do the musical instruments. In liturgy, it is possible to enculturate the many types of songs and instruments in as much as they enhance the celebration and lead us to focus on God.

When it comes to the musical instruments that are played at liturgy, the pipe organ holds a primacy of place in the Latin Church among all other musical instruments. Like no other musical instrument, it can express the full range of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to sorrow. Invented in the 3rd century BC, by the Greek engineer Ctesibius of Alexandria, the pipe organ was introduced into our churches in the 10thcentury. It has become the desired instrument for sacred music. With its variety of sounds and tones, it reminds us of the immensity of God. The pipe organ has the ability to surround us with the beauty of music that leads us to experience the presence of God who holds us in the embrace of his love, bringing harmony and joy into our lives.

Music plays such an important role in our worship of God because we are both body and soul. Prayer rises from the depths of our heart. Words alone do not suffice to express all that we wish to say. But, music has the power to communicate the messages and emotions that words cannot capture. Music is a bridge between the world of matter and the realm of the spirit. It transforms our life path into a conscious spiritual path. Music takes us out of ourselves and opens us up to God. Sound liturgical music, therefore, never centers on the community. Liturgy is not about what we want. Liturgy is, first and foremost, praise and worship of God and our entering into what the Lord himself wants for us.

Many great composers, such as Beethoven, Bach, Mozart and Brahms recognized that their musical talent was not enough to produce good music. They needed divine inspiration. God himself loves music! After all, the Book of Psalms is a song book. Music comes from God, and when we participate in it – whether by writing, performing, or even just listening – we are receiving a gift from God.

At Mass, there are times when we may choose to simply listen to the music and let our hearts rise in praise of God. But, moments of silently listening to music and song at Mass should be rare. Not joining in the songs of the congregation limits and diminishes our participation in the liturgy. The walls of our churches should reverberate with the sound of our singing at liturgy. In the words of the Letter to the Ephesians, we should “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with your heart…” (Ephesians 5:18-19). – Bishop Arthur Serratelli, CNA, 2 May 2018 

OLL organises talk on Malaysia’s electoral system

KLANG – The Church of Our Lady Of Lourdes here organised a talk “ Malaysia’s Electoral System: A constitutional perspective” on 22 April 218.

The main presenter was Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi, a Professor of Law in the University of Malaya and currently holding the Tunku Abdul Rahman chair as Professor of Constitutional Law.

Also present was Archbishop Julian Leow, parish priest Father Frederick Joseph, Alex from Pemantau the watchdog for Bersih and lawyer Sangeetha Jeyakumar who spoke on PACA

“Allowing the people to elect their governors is one of the finest achievements of democracy. The idea that the government must be elected and representatives be answerable, responsible and accountable to the wishes of society is a beautiful ideal,” said Emeritus Professor Datuk Dr Shad Saleem Faruqi.

Regrettably, he said, even in the liberal democracies of the North Atlantic, the above ideals of representative government are realised only imperfectly.

He added though democracy is the best form of government, there can be no denying that behind the folklore of democracy stand many myths and many utilitarian compromises. “Democratic” electoral systems often lead to undemocratic results.

Dr Shad Saleem cited that the electoral exercise in all democracies is so colossal, involves so many details, so many officials, and so much money that democracy’s undoubted virtues get sullied.

For example, he said, the 13th general election in Malaysia involved 240,000 workers, thousands of polling booths and a budget of RM400 million for the electoral exercise.

“How many millions or billions the political parties spent collectively is unknown because the disclosed election expenses are only for the campaign period and not for the expenses incurred and inducements offered before and after the campaign period. Regrettably, around the world elections have become an exercise in cheque book diplomacy,” he said, adding what happened in the USA during Barrack Obama’s campaign period. (According to published reports and campaign fianance data, the Obama campaign cost the incumbent president, the Democratic Party and the primary super PACs supporting his candidacy more than $1.1 billion in the 2012 presidential race.)

Coming back on the issue of our electoral system, Dr Shad Saleem highlighted that in Malaysia as in UK and India — it is “ single member, simple plurality system” meaning the candidate obtaining the most votes is declared elected.

He pointed out with graphics that in Malaysia, except for 1969 and 2013, the ruling coalition has secured absolute majorities of the votes polled at eleven out of 13 elections.

While explaining to participants on electoral law and that of other countries, Dr Shad Saleem summed by saying, “ There are no ideal systems and no quick-fix solutions to defects. The law walks a tightrope between what is ideal and what is workable; what is just and what is feasible. More than in other fields of law, the world-wide attitude is “that is best which works best.”

He spoke extensively on an impartial Election Commission:

— to draw up the electoral register impartially to ensure that no one is denied the right to vote
— No phantom voters or persons who have died
— No non-citizens are allowed to register Voters satisfy the requirement of residence in their constituency
— No one registers in more than one electoral district.

Fair principles for delineating constituencies

Dr Shad Saleem also stressed on fair principles for delineating constituencies as it should be about equal in population size so as to give reality to the principle of one person, one vote, one value.

“What is notable is that the rural weightage has ethnic implications because of the concentration of Malays in rural areas. But population patterns are changing. Rural areas are dwindling from 66 per cent in 1980 to 49 per cent in 1990. In time the ethnic significance of rural weightage may diminish,” he said.

He cited examples of malapportionment such as Kapar Parlaimentary constituency in Selangor having 144,369 voters as compared to Putrajaya’s 15,355 voters and Gopeng in Perak having 97,243 electors and Padang Rengas 28,572.

Sadly he said, almost all the re-delineation cases brought to court recently had failed.

He said wherever parliaments are involved in the drawing up of electoral districts, suspicions are aroused about the possibility of gerrymandering.

While calling for those aged 18 and above to be automatically registered as voters as per the current system, he said, this was to ensure that more come out to exercise their right to vote or more so to increase the proportion of voters.

The eligibility of voters

“We had 14.6 million registered voters in June last year who constitutes only 47.5 per cent of the 30.72 million population (2015 figure). If out of these 47.5 per cent eligible voters, one were to deduct 20-25 per cent voters who do not or could not show up, this leaves only 38 per cent of the population that participates in democracy’s show-case event! We must find ways to increase this proportion.”

Dr Shad Saleem is also of the opinion that bankrupts (those declared for standing as quarantors etc) should be allowed to vote besides the homeless, differently abled and criminals (need to be narrowed down as to who can vote). He also touched on rules for the eligibility of candidates, system of political parties before touching on pre-election and campaign period issues with emphasis on dissolution of parliament, caretaker government, rules about nomination and election, conduct of election campaigns, election expenses and election offences, right to speech, processions and assemblies, counting of votes and secrecy of the ballot.

In 1955, the campaign period was 147 days and then it became shorter to 60 days and now the minimum period is 11 days.

Election offences

Dr Shad Saleem said for Parliamentary elections in Malaysia, the maximum sum that can be incurred is RM200,000 under the Election Offences Act 1954, sections 17-27 and for state seats the limit is RM100,00.

“A glaring omission in the law in the UK and Malaysia is that while limits are placed on the expenditure of individual candidates, there are no statuory limits on how much a party can spend on its candidates. There is no control on what political parties may spend or receive by way of donation. There are no requirements for parties to submit audited accounts and to disclose the source and amount of donations received. The campaign expenditure limits apply to the campaign period, not to the period before or after,” he said.

This, he added, has aroused the criticism that electoral battles have degenerated into struggles between cheque books … giving of money, free transport, food and bribes to the electorate is forbidden.

But, he further added government after government gets around the law by promising or delivering “development aid” just before election.

He also stressed that under the Election Offences Act no bribery or undue influence or misuse of government machinery is allowed.

“Tampering with ballot papers, prevention someone from voting, permitting disqualified people to vote, arranging for phantom voters are all offences,” he said, adding racist and divisive speeches were illegal and any violation of the Act is a crime.

He stressed that enforcement of the law is the responsibility of the Commission.

“In Malaysia media monopoly is a serious problem. The internet is, however, open to everyone and provides an alternative, though not always reliable, source of information,” he said.

He told participants that the law requires the secrecy of the ballot and violating it would be a criminal offence.

Post election issues
Talking on Post-Election issues, Dr Shad Saleem explained on what is a Hung Parliament, the appointment of Prime Minister, summoning of parliament, double dissolution, crossing the floor, election appeals and vacancies.

He closed his presentation with the words, “I join you in fervent prayers that the forthcoming election will be incident free, that our racial and religious harmony will be maintained, and that the victors and vanquished will gracefully accept the results of the electoral process.”

He then took a few questions from the floor before the session came to an end at 5:15 pm with Fr Frederick presenting him with a Certificate of Appreciation. – Annie Cruez, Herald Malaysia

A guide to Catholic voting

“An authentic faith … always involves a deep desire to change the world, to transmit values, to leave this earth somehow better than we found it … . If indeed ‘the just ordering of society and of the state is a central responsibility of politics,’ the Church, ‘cannot and must not remain on the sidelines in the fight for justice.’”

This May, citizens across the country will gather in schools, civic centres, and city halls to cast their votes. They will stand in line and slip into voting booths, where they will help choose our next line of leaders at the national and state levels.

For many trying to live out our Catholic faith, discerning for whom to vote can be challenging. To help Catholics better form their consciences during this election year, they should know what the Church teaches — and why — regarding our civic responsibility.

Why should I vote?
Voting: It is one of our most important responsibilities as citizens. Indeed, the Church teaches (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2240) that there are three primary responsibilities of all citizens:
–to pay taxes
–to defend their country
–to vote

Each of these responsibilities asks us to put the good of society and our fellow citizens above our individual desires and needs. Thus, a primary question we must answer as Catholic voters is whether the needs of the weakest and most defenceless among us are being addressed. In the voting booth, we have a privileged opportunity to contribute to our nation and promote the common good by bringing the values and teachings of our faith to bear on the issues facing our society.

Does the Church tell me whom I should vote for?
No. The Church does not tell us whom to vote for when we enter the voting booth. It does not endorse an official list of candidates or tell us which party Catholics should join. Instead, Catholics are to use their judgment and follow their consciences as they apply the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and the core faith values to the choices they make in the voting booth.

As Catholics, following the challenging path of discipleship, we need to evaluate the issues and candidates in the light of our Catholic faith. Then, we are challenged to live out our faith by getting actively involved — by voting and engaging in other civic activities.

How does my Catholic faith help me to make these choices?
We are taught from an early age to form our consciences in the light of our Catholic teaching. “To follow one’s conscience” is often misunderstood as something that allows us to do whatever we want, following the “feeling” we have that something is right or wrong.

But our faith teaches us that “conscience is a judgment of reason whereby the human person recognises the moral quality of a concrete act that he is going to perform, is in the process of performing, or has already completed. In all he says and does, man is obliged to follow faithfully what he knows to be just and right. It is by the judgment of his conscience that the person perceives and recognises the prescriptions of the divine law’. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 1178)

It is our responsibility as Catholics to form our consciences by developing the virtue of prudence to discern true good in circumstances and to choose the right means of achieving it by maintaining a willingness and openness to seek what is right through studying Scripture and Church teaching, using our reason to study key issues in light of this teaching, and by prayerfully seeking to understand the will of God.

What about the separation of Church and state? Can the Church ask me to vote according to my Catholic principles?
Four principles of Catholic social doctrine are key to making practical judgments to do good and avoid evil in voting:

1. Promoting and defending the dignity of the human person
2. Supporting the family and subsidiarity in local, state and national institutions
3. Working for the common good where human rights are protected and basic responsibilities are met
4. Acting in solidarity with concern for all as our brothers and sisters, especially the poor and most vulnerable (Faithful Citizenship, Nos. 40-52 and also EG).

If all of these are priorities, what is most important?
All of these issues are important, but they are not all morally or ethically equivalent. “Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves the creative action of God and it remains for ever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can under any circumstance claim for himself the right directly to destroy an innocent human being.” (CCC, No. 2258).

At the same time, issues such as war, the death penalty, racism and care for the poor and the immigrant are enormously important. “These are not optional concerns which can be dismissed” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, No. 29).

The moral teaching of our Church is about more than prohibitions. We Catholics are encouraged to respond to the basic needs of human beings — food, shelter, healthcare, education and employment. We are called to welcome refugees and immigrants, defend religious freedom, support marriage and family and protect the environment.

Four steps before voting

— Inform yourself about the Church’s teachings. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is a great place to start.
— Inform yourself about the issues. Listen to the candidates. See where the candidates stand on critical moral and social issues.
— Seek input from Catholics you respect.
— Pray. Take your hopes, concerns and worries to the Lord and ask for his guidance.

This seems hard
In today’s political environment, voting as a Catholic is hard work. It takes serious reflection, knowledge of Church teaching and awareness of who the candidates are and where they stand on the issues.

The Church challenges us to vote for what is best for society and all of its members, particularly those least able to speak up for or defend themselves.

The great privilege of democracy is that we, as citizens and religious believers, can have a voice in the direction of our country by voting for the common good; this is both a right and a responsibility. The great privilege of being Catholic is that we have a community of faith and a body of teaching, going back to Christ himself, that can help us make good decisions in the voting booth.

Where can I find out more?
— Our bishops have issued a detailed reflection on Catholic teaching and political life, called Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship:
— Catechism of the Catholic Church
— United States Catholic Catechism for Adults (USCCB Publishing)
— Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church
— Laudato Si’: On Care for Our Common Home, by Pope Francis

Check your voter polling station online now
PETALING JAYA: Malaysians eligible to vote can now find out where they can cast their ballots during GE14.

Information on voters’ polling stations and channels were placed online Monday (April 16). The information is available via the following channels:

the Election Commission website at the MySPR Semak mobile app (available on the Apple App Store and Google Play) call 03-8892 7018 send an SMS to 15888.

The polling date for GE14 on is May 9, nomination date is on April 28, while early voting is on May 5.

May 9 has been declared a public holiday for the whole country in conjunction with polling day to enable Malaysians to exercise their right to vote. – The Star, Herald Malaysia

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