16 December 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

Happy New Liturgical Year! Advent marks a new year in the Catholic Church. This is an important time of spiritual preparation for Christmas. Just as we prepare for the glorious joy of Easter with Lenten fasting and penance, so do we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ with the quiet contemplation of Advent.

“Advent” is derived from the Latin ad venio, “to come”. This liturgical season anticipates the Adventus Domini, the coming of the Lord. The sublime secret is that Christ is already here: He has been present in Mary’s womb since the Annunciation on 25 March.

Pope Benedict XVI taught us in his book Dogma and Preaching:

“Advent” does not mean “expectation,” as some may think. It is a translation of the Greek word parousia which means “presence” or, more accurately, “arrival,”, i.e., the beginning of a presence. In antiquity the word was a technical term for the presence of a king or ruler and also for the god being worshipped, who bestows his parousia on his devotees for a time.“Advent,” then, means a presence begun, the presence being that of God. Advent reminds us, therefore, of two things: first, that God’s presence in the world has already begun, that He is present though in a hidden manner; second, that His presence has only begun and is not yet full and complete, that it is in a state of development, of becoming and progressing toward its full form.

His presence has already begun, and we, the faithful, are the ones through whom He wishes to be present in the world. Through our faith, hope, and love He wants his light to shine over and over again in the night of the world.

That night is “today” whenever the “Word” becomes “flesh” or genuine human reality. The Christ child comes in a real sense whenever human beings act out of authentic love for the Lord.


Advent is also a time in which we call to mind Christ’s Second Coming and prepare our hearts to receive Him at the end of days. We look forward to the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come, with the restoration of all creation ending our exile in this vale of tears. Various Advent traditions include the Jesse tree, which traces salvation history through Jesus’ genealogy; the Advent calendar, with a surprise for each day we count down to Christmas; and the Advent wreath, with candles representing Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. Does your family practise any of these traditions? They can be both a fun and prayerful way to anticipate the magnificent celebration of Christ’s birth.

A beautiful Advent prayer is the St Andrew Christmas Novena, which encapsulates a deep longing for God’s arrival in the dark night of a world in need of a Saviour, a world hungering for Love. This Advent, let us be open to God’s quiet presence amidst the hustle and bustle of life, making room for Him to be born in our hearts so that we may bear Him to every person we meet, irradiating their lives with joy.


St Andrew Christmas Novena

Hail, and blessed be the hour and moment
at which the Son of God was born of a most pure Virgin
at a stable at midnight in Bethlehem in the piercing cold.
At that hour vouchsafe, I beseech Thee,
to hear my prayers and grant my desires.
(Mention your intentions here)
Through Jesus Christ and His most Blessed Mother. Amen.

8 October 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

In school, teachers often repeat learning points so that they will sink into our heads and hopefully surface when required. As we study at home, we memorise and exercise knowledge through repetition. This also applies to muscle memory, as exemplified in the 1984 movie The Karate Kid. Musicians, dancers and athletes train for hours, going through the same motions over and over again, until they perfect their performances. Acquiring basic life skills like cooking, riding a bicycle or driving a car also entails repetition, until the actions and knowledge involved become second nature.

The same principle applies in the spiritual life. In Jewish custom, ancient prayers like the Psalms are recited every day. Catholic monks and nuns continued this tradition through reciting the Divine Office eight times a day, praying all 150 Psalms every week in the Middle Ages. As laypeople were mostly illiterate and could not learn the psalms, they began to pray 150 Hail Mary‘s in honour of the Incarnation (based on Luke 1:28 and Luke 1:42), interspersed with the Our Father and Glory Be to the Holy Trinity. These are said while contemplating the principle events in the lives of Jesus and Mary. The Rosary is a thoroughly scriptural prayer.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus cautioned us not to pray “vain repetitions as the Gentiles do” (Matthew 6:7). He was an observant Jew and would certainly have memorised the Psalms through many days of prayer; indeed, He quotes them while dying on the cross. In this Gospel, He was warning His disciples against the superstitious ways of the pagans, whose idea of prayer and sacrifice was simply to appease their capricious gods by saying the “right” words, regardless of their inner dispositions.


Jesus goes on to teach His disciples to repeat His personal prayer, which we know as the Our Father or the Lord’s Prayer. In this prayer, we address God intimately, identifying ourselves as His children. The Our Father contains the four cardinal points of prayer: adoration, supplication, repentance and thanksgiving. By reciting this prayer with sincerity, we learn how to speak with God the Father as Jesus does; we are drawn into the divine life of the Holy Trinity. This simple prayer is so rich that the early Church Father Origen wrote a whole treatise on it.

Archbishop Fulton Sheen reflected on the Rosary:

‘The beautiful truth is that there is no repetition in, “I love you.” Because there is a new moment of time, another point in space, the words do not mean the same as they did at another time or space.

Love is never monotonous in the uniformity of its expression. The mind is infinitely variable in its language, but the heart is not. The heart of a man, in the face of the woman he loves, is too poor to translate the infinity of his affection into a different word. So the heart takes one expression, “I love you,” and in saying it over and over again, it never repeats. It is the only real news in the universe. That is what we do when we say the Rosary, we are saying to God, the Trinity, to the Incarnate Saviour, to the Blessed Mother: “I love you, I love you, I love you.”

Each time it means something different because, at each decade, our mind is moving to a new demonstration of the Saviour’s love.’

This month of October is the Month of the Holy Rosary. Even if you cannot commit to five decades a day – which takes about fifteen to twenty minutes – try meditating on one decade a day, perhaps while travelling to school. St Louis de Monfort suggested: “In each mystery, after the word Jesus, add a word to recall and honour the particular mystery. For example: Jesus incarnateJesus sanctifying, etc. as it is indicated at each decade.”

As St Josemaría Escrivá said: “Blessed be that monotony of Hail Mary’s which purifies the monotony of your sins!” The Dominican friar Lacordaire observed: “For Christians, the first of books is the Gospel and the Rosary is actually the abridgement of the Gospel.” Deepen your relationship with God and His mother with this timeless prayer.

27 September 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

September is the month of Our Lady of Sorrows, whose feast was celebrated on the 15th of this month, the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. Mother Mary, the first disciple of Christ from the moment He was incarnated in her womb, is the pre-eminent example of compassion, the ability to suffer with another person. Her Immaculate Heart was pierced by the sharp sword of sorrow as she watched her only son, her beloved God, suffer and die on Calvary.

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote in Calvary and the Mass:

“Have you ever remarked that practically every traditional representation of the Crucifixion always pictures Magdalene on her knees at the foot of the crucifix? But you have never yet seen an image of the Blessed Mother prostrate. John was there and he tells in his Gospel that she stood. He saw her stand. But why did she stand? She stood to be of service to us. She stood to be our minister, our Mother.

If Mary could have prostrated herself at that moment as Magdalene did, if she could have only wept, her sorrow would have had an outlet. The sorrow that cries is never the sorrow that breaks the heart. It is the heart that can find no outlet in the fountain of tears which cracks; it is the heart that cannot have an emotional break-down that breaks. And all that sorrow was part of our purchase price paid by our Co-Redemptrix, Mary the Mother of God!”

Today is the feast of St Vincent de Paul, a saint who also exemplifies compassion, known for his charitable works. Vincent’s father paid for his education by selling the family’s oxen. His father believed that a good ecclesiastical career would enable Vincent to be financially independent and help support his family.

Educated by Franciscan friars in France, the young Fr de Paul was captured by pirates and sold into slavery (like St Patrick). His third owner had forsaken Catholicism, but Fr de Paul brought him back to the faith; they fled by night over the sea to France, from whence Fr de Paul accompanied a cardinal to Rome. From there, in 1609 Fr de Paul was chosen to go on a secret mission to the court of Henry IV, King of France. That’s when he met Queen Marguerite and became her almoner, that is, a chaplain who is in charge of distributing money to the poor.

In 1617, Fr de Paul established confraternities of charity for the spiritual and physical relief of the poor and sick of each parish. From these, with the help of St. Louise de Marillac, came the Daughters of Charity, “whose convent is the sickroom, whose chapel is the parish church, whose cloister is the streets of the city.”

Fr de Paul organised the rich women of Paris to collect funds for his missionary projects, founded several hospitals, collected relief funds for the victims of war and ransomed over 1,200 galley slaves from North Africa. Fr de Paul reflected:

“It is not sufficient for me to love God if I do not love my neighbour. I belong to God and to the poor. God loves the poor, and consequently He loves those who have an affection for the poor. For when we love anyone very much, we also love his friends.”

The Daughters of Charity were long renowned for their work in orphanages, homes for the aged, and hospitals. They were the first active Order created for women and their particular style of dress reflected the clothes worn by peasant women in St. Vincent’s native Normandy. Yet their most important contribution, perhaps, is the fact that they were among the first professional nurses. Until Florence Nightingale came around with the Red Cross, nursing was strictly an occupation that was left to women religious and others who could share in their work. In this, the Daughters of Charity were truly pioneers.

Here is a description of them:

The Daughter of Charity is one of the sights of Paris, the city of her birth. She is more omnipresent than the gendarme. In her billowing blue gown and white headdress she walks the boulevards, the back streets, the alleys. She descends into the depths of the metro and climbs to the heights of the garret.

She is never without the huge market basket slung over one arm, and packed with the foods and medicines of her trade, nor the black cotton protect her starched white linen from the sudden rain. She moves ceaselessly, silently, seemingly unaware of the bustle and roar about her, seeking her quarry; and her quarry is always the same: the poor, the hungry poor, the sick poor, the evil poor – but always poor.

Her convent is the house of the sick, her cell the chamber of suffering, her chapel the parish church, her cloister the streets of the city or the wards of the hospital; obedience is her enclosure, the fear of God her grate, and modesty her veil.

May we learn from St Vincent de Paul and his Daughters of Charity to be truly compassionate disciples of Christ, bearing love for every person. As the hymn to his compatriot Father Nicholas Barré says:

“Touch many hearts to follow in your footsteps
To dedicate their lives to youth and poor
Drawn by the Lord to make Christ known and loved
Fill us with zeal, humility and faith
Pure love and strength and courage without fear
To keep your spirit alive in our hearts.”

Such compassion is the fruit of a truly Catholic education.



15 August 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

The name of today’s feast comes from the Latin assumptionem, meaning to be taken up or received. Mary, as the Ark of the New Covenant, having borne the Word of God, the Lawgiver and the Bread of Life in her womb, is taken up to Heaven by God upon her death (Revelation 11:19).

If the patriarchs Enoch (Genesis 5:24) and Elijah (2 Kings 2:11) were taken up body and soul into Heaven simply for their faith, obedience and zeal, what more the Mother of God herself? As God is outside Time, the saving grace of Christ’s sacrifice could be applied backwards in time to Elijah and Enoch, just as God’s grace applied to Mary’s Immaculate Conception.

This feast reminds us of our mission, to be tabernacles of Christ like Mary. Our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16) and we bear the image of God (Genesis 1:27). What a glorious identity and dignity we possess as sons and daughters of God. Yet, we often fail to live up to our calling. We still suffer the weaknesses of our fallen human nature, and it is easy to forget our eternal end in the midst of the stresses and distractions of life on earth. How then can we cultivate a mindset befitting our true worth and the worth of those around us?

A rich prayer life helps us be mindful of the presence of God at all times. Traditionally, Catholics prayed “mini-prayers” or aspirations throughout the day, calling God to mind. For example: May the Holy Trinity be blessed; O Heart of Jesus, I place my trust in Thee; my God and my all; as the Lord wills! Some Bible verses are particularly suited for this mode of prayer: “O Lord, increase our faith (Luke 17:5); my Lord and my God (John 20:28); stay with us, O Lord (Luke 24:29).”

Another prayer tool to keep walking closely with God is the Divine Office, or the Liturgy of the Hours. Just as the Jews pray the scriptures several times a day, so do Catholics (Psalms 118:164). Monks used to pray all 150 Psalms in one week. Since Vatican II, the Liturgy of the Hours was reorganised so that the laity can join in this universal prayer of the Church as well, with the psalms distributed across four weeks. Making a habit of stopping throughout the day to pray helps you re-centre yourself in God and reminds you to offer every thought, word and deed to Him for sanctification.

Assumption of the Virgin – Painting by Domenico Capriolo (1520). Photograph: Didier Descouens

About half a century ago, Catholic schools in Singapore used to pause at noon to pray the Angelus, a short prayer with three Hail Marys in honour of the Incarnation. Although this has fallen out of practice, you can always revive the tradition with a group of friends, stopping by the school chapel to honour God’s great love. By remaining close to God, one day we shall be with Him in paradise, just like Jesus and Mary.

“Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. Then Mary, who received the Word of God and observed it, followed Him: she was assumed body and soul into heaven. Now, that’s God’s hope and plan for each of us: to receive Jesus into our souls, like Mary; to be obedient to Him, like Mary; and to be taken, one day, body and soul into heaven, like Mary.”

~ Archbishop Robert Carlson

6 August 2021


Tags: Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

Today is the Solemnity of the Transfiguration of Our Lord, when Jesus gave His three closest disciples a peek at His divinity, a confirmation of His identity as the Messiah (Mark 9:2-10). Universalis notes: “The true miracle of the Transfiguration is not the shining face or the white garments, but the fact that for the rest of the time Jesus hid His glory so well.”

In his book The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis reflects:

“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

“All day long we are, in some degree helping each other to one or the other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all of our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilisations – these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendours.”

In the stress and hurry of everyday life, absorbed with studies and other activities, it is easy to forget  that the people around us, and indeed we ourselves, are destined for, as Loki likes to say, a “glorious purpose.” God created us in His own image and likeness (Genesis 1:26), and Jesus came to redeem us, restoring us to that original image of God, and enabling us to participate in the life-giving love of the Holy Trinity.

By practising little habits of respect and love for one another, we can maintain a sense of our ultimate destiny, allowing God to sanctify every action and moment in our days, no matter how mundane. The Franciscans of the Immaculate greet each other with the joyful words Ave Maria!, recognising the likeness of Mary – the beloved daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and spouse and temple of the Holy Spirit – in one another. In this way, they also remind each other of their vocation, to become ever more like Mary, bearing Christ to the world.

Similarly, in Asian cultures we are expected to greet our elders; it is considered rude if we do not, which can be difficult for a shy child – but that simple act of greeting is an acknowledgement of the other person’s presence and their human dignity. We stand to greet our teachers as they enter the classroom, respecting their authority as our educators.

Greeting our parents, siblings and friends can be a simple act of love. I used to have an exuberant classmate, Vanessa, who bounded into class every morning with a loud, “Good morning everyone!” Her cheerful greeting set a positive tone for the start of each day, and became one of the rituals which cemented our classroom atmosphere of friendship and mutual encouragement.

What other small but important habits can you think of, which can foster an environment of love and respect in your classroom or at home? How can you help the people around you get closer to Heaven?

12 July 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages

Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 5, we contemplate how to build supportive school communities which provide meaning and comfort for students, especially in their times of trial.



The mark of a Catholic school is whether it is a loving community, a community that embraces every human person. Those who are intellectually strong, those who are intellectually weak, those who are financially wealthy, those who are poor – every person is accepted, respected, regardless of race, language, religion. Every person is given the encouragement, that no students should ever give up hope on themselves.

A Catholic ambience means we will keep on encouraging the person – no-one is hopeless. It’s a place also where there is forgiveness. People make mistakes, we are learning, we are all growing, nobody is condemned, nobody is humiliated. We have to treat people gently, be compassionate.

Everybody has his or her dignity. If we need to correct someone, we correct them with gentleness, with firmness.

And also, because we are a Eucharistic community, we are called to share Christian values to make sure the community, the students, are growing in selfless service. Most of all, if they are ambitious – it’s good to be ambitious – but not for yourself, not for one’s glory, but for the growth and the good of the community.

Forging Fellowship

So, this is what the Catholic ambience is all about, encouraging our young ones to help each other. You know, in many schools today, we have some of the students bullying each other – this is where we need to help them to be sensitive, because many are broken also, many are wounded, and this is where we are called to help them to build fraternity.

And what a greater way to celebrate, to help people encounter God, through the God experience: liturgy, prayer sessions, festivals – the Church has many feasts, because it is in the celebration of these feasts, that we come to encounter Jesus.

On founder’s days or patron saints’ days, these are all our heroes that we are called to imitate.

And so, I want to remind you all, be careful, don’t remove all references to the sacred in our schools and in your life, because without God, there will be a vacuum in the lives of our young people. Life is reduced to pleasure, success, but will they find meaning? Will they find purpose? Would they be happy? Will they live a life of fulfilment? That is the whole purpose of education.

Support and Meaning

Not so long ago, our minister Lawrence Wong in 2019, he said, “94 young people between the age of 10 to 29 committed suicide. Of these, 19 were aged between 10 and 18 years old.

Today our students are very stressed. Two weeks ago, we had a professor from IMH – he was writing an article that, the only way to deal with a loss of faith and the will to live, is to help people to find faith.

He made it clear, those who are suffering from depression are less likely to commit suicide if they have religion, than those without, because those with religion, they have purpose and meaning in life, they have spiritual and emotional support.

We need to provide our young people with a strong Catholic school community and spiritual support, so that they will not feel alone. This is why, my dear brothers and sisters, we need to uphold Catholic schools’ values and our mission, to continue to help these young people to grow, to become great leaders for tomorrow.

Let us go back to basics, let us go back to our founders and learn from them how to bring the Gospel into the lives of our students and so prepare them to be leaders of tomorrow and, most of all, to be people who live life with purpose, meaning and fullness.



Reflection Questions:

  1. Teachers – do you remind your students that, despite our performance-driven culture, there are more important things than grades, and ultimately success can come in many different ways? How do you care for your own mental and spiritual health?
  2. Students – how do you cope with the pressures of study? Are you aware of mental health and spiritual supports provided in school and the wider community? Whom can you talk to if you are going through difficulties?
  3. Parents – life can be stressful juggling work and family duties. How do you maintain your family’s mental and spiritual health? Are your children comfortable opening up to you about their struggles? Do you know where to seek help if you or your family members require more support?


If you need more support in maintaining your spiritual or mental well-being, you may reach out to Catholic Family Life or helplines by various community care organisations in Singapore.

28 June 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages

Following a successful Catholic Education Conference 2021, we are proud to present a five-part series based on Archbishop William Goh’s address at the conference. In part 4, we focus on how Catholic schools can provide a space for encountering the Divine.



How can we create this God experience? Actually, “creating” this God experience is a fallacy – we cannot create a God experience, because if we do, then we are artificially creating an experience through a program or technique. It becomes something psychological, as if we can condition a person to encounter Jesus.

If it is through techniques alone that we make God appear and disappear, that cannot be God. God is ultimately free.

A God experience is primarily a gift from God: it is God’s prerogative for Him to reveal Himself or not. It is like in a relationship, it’s up to the person to reveal himself. That is why in the relationship we are not in control; it depends on the person who wants to reveal himself.

What we mean, according to our theme, “to create this God experience” – to create this God experience is really to provide the ambience for people to encounter Jesus, to encounter God in a very concrete way.


Facilitating Encounters with the Divine

To create a God experience is to provide first and foremost, a sacred presence in our schools, that when you enter a Catholic school, immediately you must feel a big difference than when you enter a secular school. When you enter a Catholic school, do you feel there is something different? The atmosphere.

That is why in creating a sacred presence in school, it is certainly appropriate and necessary to have a chapel. Of course, we know that it is very costly to construct a chapel – those schools that have them, praise God for your benefactors.

Even if we cannot provide a chapel, a prayer space, a prayer room is necessary, because students have many issues in their life, they have lots of struggles and sometimes you need to have a sacred space to be alone. Not just to be alone, but alone with God.

God’s Comforting Presence

I’m sure many of you who came from Catholic schools, you all know that. In those times, even in my own life, when I was sad, when I was discouraged, when I was bullied in school, when I failed my exams – sometimes no human words can console you. You go to the church; you just sit there and the Lord speaks to us.

So, don’t ever think that having a prayer room is a waste of money, it is not, but you need to make sure it has a sacred presence. That is why in our Catholic churches we always have the Blessed Sacrament, because somehow when the Blessed Sacrament is present, we feel very different, we know that God is there.

Of course, supplementing the chapel or the prayer room, we should have statues, prayer cards, prayer books. Do you know that when I visited one mosque, even the imam provided a Bible for Christians who need that space to pray!

My dear brothers and sisters, sometimes when we are looking for something, we go to a prayer room and there is a card, there is a prayer book, there is a Bible, and we are inspired.


Daily Inspiration

God comes to us in very different ways – sometimes it’s the placement of inspiring scripture texts in school. These are all important catechesis to Catholics and to those who wish to know Christ. Try to get all the students, and parents especially, to be more involved in the work of catechesis, because it is a win-win situation. The best way we can increase our faith is to impart it.

It is not just all external. When we talk about the incarnational presence of Christ, it is more than all these statues, images and scripture texts. What is more important, is that this must be translated into daily life, and so, for me the mark of a Catholic school, is whether it is a loving community, a community that embraces every human person.



Reflection Questions:

  1. Teachers – what are little ways in which you can help your students and colleagues build a relationship with God? Are you able to take time out of your day for prayer to deepen your own spiritual life?
  2. Students – do you have habits or sacramentals which help you grow closer to God during your studies? Are there particular saints whose example helps you in your faith journey?
  3. Parents – how do you inculcate habits of faith in your children? Is there a prayer space or family altar where your children can spend time with God? Do they have access to the Bible and the lives of the saints?