Sunday, July 13, 2014

Evenings in Spiritual Conversation - Part 1

image taken from

Last Thursday, Maranatha Retreat House organised a session on 'Evenings in Spiritual Conversation' by Fr. Christopher Wee SJ which was really an introduction to Ignatian spirituality. 

I was torn as to whether to attend this event - hot off the heels of an extremely challenging day - but I made it and it was one of those serendipitous moments I cherish.

One of the key aspects of Ignatian spirituality is its focus on conversations - with God, with St. Ignatius, with self and with others. Informal, down to earth, as how we would speak to anyone.

As the picture above says, the conversation with God is the relationship - that we are no longer talking about God but engaging with Him, having a personal experience of God as a real presence. 

Likewise, the conversations with others are a journey of the heart - an opening up to each other in trust and there is no place for criticism and correction but a loving acceptance of what God is doing to us. We begin to fulfil the need and desire to make contact and for space and peace. How often do we hear the advice 'you guys need to talk' when faced with an issue or problem. So it goes. Communication at the heart of relationship building. 

Fr. Chris shared with us the story of St Ignatius' conversion and highlighted his cannonball experience i.e. something that breaks us and disturbs the flow of life. This is something I hope to explore more deeply in a subsequent post.

In reflecting on our life, it is important to reflect that we go deeper rather than further. This accords with what Fr Simon Yong SJ told a younger, more impetuous me when I asked him why did I have to go up and down the garden path to discover what God wants of me? Can't I just go from point A to point B direct? Wouldn't it be easier and more efficient? 
Fr Simon said the winding journey which seemed pointless at the time would lead me deeper in self-knowledge. I didn't understand him then, but I think I do now.  

I'm looking forward to the next instalment next month when we begin delving into the 3 main texts at the heart of Ignatian spirituality - A Pilgrim's Journey (St Ignatius' autobiography), The Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius and the Constitutions of the Society of Jesus. 

Meanwhile, I have some scintillating conversations to go and initiate and people to catch up with.
*Edit - in my previous post I described SFX as organising this event - Fr Chris has kindly highlighted that it is actually Maranatha Retreat House which organised this and I have made the necessary amendments above. Apologies for the confusion.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Quick updates on BIM / A session with Fr. Alberto

Hi there,

It's been certainly quite awhile since I last updated.
First things first, I managed to get my finisher medal for Borneo International Marathon - my very first 10k. 

I really do like this picture very much -  the effect and play of morning light and shadow on the grass contrasted with the red of the tshirt is quite striking. Was dog tired and close to collapsing, but the photo doesn't show that...! Taken while I was queuing up for Milo (2 cups, no less, I think I fully deserved it) 


The event of the year for Lifeline - our Lifecamp 2014 is fast approaching, and with it, the excitement of promo and content and planning meetings and getting things ready for the camp. This year, I take on the challenge of planning and coordinating camp content and briefing the facilitators. 

Over in my sub-ministry, things haven't been easy - 3 members quit my team and 1 told me he's now in the core team for RCIA i.e. he will have much less time to serve in Lifeline. It's only me and my faithful assistant who's been manning the fort. With the demands of work and other issues, it's really been very difficult managing the workload and the expectations of those around me, as well as my own. 

This wick began to smoulder ... and I thought He would quench it.  
But He didn't. 

We had a meeting with Fr. Alberto, our assistant parish priest who oversees Lifeline. 
And such words of wisdom he shared. Truly, it was balm to my soul. Here are some of the key points and my own reflections :- 

  • Support systems and coping mechanisms matter

We need to have our support systems in place when undertaking any kind of venture and more so in serving in ministry. Sometimes the support systems may take different forms and can be quite unexpected, but if they encourage us to do better and comfort us, then they are worth having. 

It's also important to have appropriate coping mechanisms. One of the things that struck me the most was avoiding negativity and empty talk from the people around me, possibly characterised as 'unhelpful chatter'. It only makes things worse. 

  • Remember our growth 

Never forget that all of us are growing, whether in our personal lives or in ministry or at work. Don't forget to take a step back and see how far you have come and know that you can keep on going 

  • Numbers aren't everything 
Ministry isn't a numbers game and as much as we help to sow the seed, remember that the growth of the seeds depends on God and we can never know how much of a difference we make in our efforts. 

  • Respect 
Always respect the other and yourself in all interactions. There's a reason why the saying 'familiarity breeds contempt' exists. 

  • We live in tension 
We all live in a tension between what we long to do and the realities we face - the secret of life is managing the tensions. 
Just knowing that frees me up a lot because I can acknowledge that I'm a complex person who faces conflicting emotions and this is absolutely normal. And this is where I am learning to depend on grace - the spiritual side of things - while also working on the material and concrete issues that demand my attention.