1 May 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

Being God, Jesus could have chosen to be raised by anyone, at any time in history – a king, a merchant, a doctor, a professor… but He chose a humble carpenter to be His foster father.

St Joseph was of royal lineage, being of the line of King David, but like humanity, fallen far from its heavenly inheritance, Joseph was a long way from being a king. He was a “nobody”, a labourer from a backwater town in the vast Roman Empire. Not a single word of his was recorded in the Bible.

Yet, as guardian of the Holy Family, the first domestic church, St Joseph is now a patron of the Universal Church; and by his quiet example, he has much to say to us today. In Matthew’s Gospel, he is described as a “just man”. Archbishop Julian Porteous explains that a just man is:

“… one who assumes his responsibilities without complaint or reticence, who is self-sacrificing and generous in his assistance to others. He is a man who is concerned for those in need.

Such a man looks beyond his own interests and is directed to the interests of others, indeed, to the wellbeing of the community and the broader society.”


Against Communism

The feast of St Joseph the Worker was instituted by Pope Pius XII in 1955, against the Labour Day celebration created by communists, who supplant the family with the state, seeking to control every facet of human life through the government.

Maria von Trapp, of the Trapp Family Singers fame – depicted in the classic film, The Sound of Music (1965) – wrote a poignant reflection titled “The Land Without a Sunday”, observing how in Soviet Russia,

“The people work in shifts. While one group enjoys its day off, the others continue to work in the factories or on the farms or in the stores, which are always open. As a result the overall impression throughout the country was that of incessant work, work, work.

The atmosphere was one of constant rush and drive; finally, we confessed to each other that what we were missing most was not a well-cooked meal, or a hot bath, but a quiet, peaceful Sunday with church bells ringing and people resting after prayer.”

It can be tempting to become completely absorbed in work and let it take over your life, as a kind of idol. But God commanded us to keep the Sabbath Day holy (Exodus 20:8). God rested on the seventh day of Creation (Genesis 2:3). Our work is a participation in the ongoing redemption of fallen creation, and as image-bearers of God, we are called to imitate Him. Even machines need a break from work.


The Most Important Work

C.S. Lewis observed in a letter:

“I think I can understand that feeling about a housewife’s work being like that of Sisyphus (who was the stone-rolling gentleman). But it is surely in reality the most important work in the world. What do ships, railways, miners, cars, government etc. exist for except that people may be fed, warmed, and safe in their own homes? As Dr Johnson said, ‘To be happy at home is the end of all human endeavour’.”

In Catholic social teaching, we observe the principle of subsidiarity: “nothing should be done by a larger and more complex organisation which can be done as well by a smaller and simpler organisation.” The word economy comes from the Greek oikonomia, referring to the management of a household. The family is the basic unit of society; it is meant to be the main reason we work – to support the flourishing of the family.

Nowadays, sadly the family is often neglected in the pursuit of career. St Joseph models to us how to be a virtuous worker and father, putting his family first before all else, promptly obeying the word of God when told to take the pregnant Mary as his wife, to flee to Egypt, and later, to return to Israel. All this moving about with a pregnant woman and then a vulnerable baby menaced by Herod’s soldiers must have been quite stressful, but with his profound faith in God, Joseph simply and peaceably did what he was instructed to do.


A Blessing

Work may be experienced as a curse, an onerous task after the Fall (Genesis 3:17), but when you are doing a job you love, it can be a joy and a blessing. However you may feel about your work or studies, you can offer it all up for the glory of God and the relief of the Holy Souls in Purgatory.

St Thérèse wrote to her sister Celine:

“We must not let slip one single occasion of sacrifice. … Pick up a pin from a motive of love, and you may thereby convert a soul. Jesus alone can make our deeds of such worth, so let us love Him with every fibre of our heart.”


The Morning Offering

One way to dedicate your work to God is by praying the morning offering each morning when you awake:

O Jesus, through the Immaculate Heart of Mary,
I offer You my prayers, works, joys and sufferings of this day
for all the intentions of Your Sacred Heart,
in union with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass throughout the world,
in reparation for my sins, for the intentions of all my relatives and friends,
and for the intentions of the Holy Father.

24 April 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections

While private revelation is not binding on the faithful – we are not strictly required to believe in it, unlike public revelation through the Church’s written and oral tradition as handed down by the magisterium – God continues to speak directly to us today through heavenly apparitions to the saints. One relatively modern vision was in 1931, when Jesus appeared to St Faustina Kowalska in the form of the Divine Mercy image which we see in churches today.


Sacred Art

Our Lord told her: “Paint an image according to the pattern you see, with the signature: ‘Jesus, I trust in You’. I desire that this image be venerated, first in your chapel, and then throughout the world. I promise that the soul that will venerate this image will not perish.”

As St Faustina did not know how to paint, she had to describe her vision of Jesus to art professor Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, who had to redo his work again and again until St Faustina was moderately satisfied that the painting was as close to her vision as possible – as depicted in the recent docudrama Faustina: Love and Mercy (2019).

Superimposed on the Shroud of Turin, this painting bears remarkable similarities to the image of the Risen Lord. It is a visual reminder for us to trust in Jesus at all times – which, like Peter walking on the water, we can all too easily forget to do when overwhelmed by the crashing waves of life, even though the Lord is right in front of us.

Divine Mercy, Eugeniusz Kazimirowski, Public domain / Turin Shroud, Dianelos GeorgoudisCC BY-SA


A New Feast

Pope John Paul II designated the celebration of Divine Mercy Sunday on the Second Sunday of Easter (Quasimodo Sunday) to re-emphasise how God’s mercy saves us from our sins, as shown in the resurrection of Christ, Who overcame sin and death. The opening prayer reads:

Heavenly Father and God of Mercy,
we no longer look for Jesus among the dead,
for He is alive and has become the Lord of Life.

You can obtain a plenary indulgence on this feast – it is obtained by observing the usual dispositions that are in place for the granting of this grace through the intercession of the Catholic Church:

  • Participation in the prayers and devotions held in honour of Divine Mercy in a church or chapel while completely detached from the affection for a sin, even a venial sin, or recitation of the Our Father and the Creed in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament exposed or reserved in the tabernacle, adding the prayer “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You.
  • Sacramental Confession
  • Holy Communion
  • Prayer for the intentions of the pope

The faithful who, for a justified reason beyond their control, are unable to go to a church or chapel, may obtain an indulgence with the recitation of the Our Father and Creed before an image of Jesus, adding the prayer “Merciful Jesus, I trust in You”, with the conditions of detachment of sin, and intention to fulfil the dispositions above as soon as possible.

If even this is impossible to achieve, the indulgence can obtained by the faithful who are united with those carrying out the prescribed practice for obtaining the indulgence in the usual way, and offer to Jesus a prayer and their sufferings, again with the resolution of fulfilling the normal conditions at the earliest opportunity.


3 O’Clock Prayer

The Divine Mercy Chaplet is shorter than a rosary and easy to pray, but if you do not have time even for that, you can simply say this short prayer once a day to recall God’s mercy – as Jesus died at 3 p.m. on Good Friday, we remember the moment of His passing with this prayer:

You expired, O Jesus, but the source of life gushed forth for souls
and an ocean of mercy opened up for the whole world.
O Fount of Life, unfathomable Divine Mercy,
envelop the whole world and empty Yourself out upon us.
O Blood and Water, which gushed forth from the Heart of Jesus
as a fount of mercy for us, I trust in You.

14 April 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections

As Holy Thursday, or Maundy Thursday, usually falls within the month of April, this month is dedicated to the Most Blessed Sacrament.

The night before He died, Jesus instituted the Sacrament of Holy Communion at the Last Supper. This was also when He gave us a new commandment (mandatum), hence the name Maundy Thursday for this day in Holy Week:

A new commandment I give unto you:
That you love one another, as I have loved you…
By this shall all men know that you are My disciples,
if you have love one for another.
~ John 13:34-35


Total Gift of Self

The Allegory of the Holy Communion by Konstantinos Kontarinis


I am the living bread which came down from heaven.
If any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever;
and the bread that I will give, is My flesh, for the life of the world.
~ John 6:51-52

For God, the Creator of all things, anything is possible. He is the Author of reality, the One Who made the galaxies and the giraffes, the oceans and onions; and He holds everything in being. He chose to become a baby in order to save us by His eventual torture and death on the cross – He chose to open the gates of Heaven to fallen mankind by taking on the wages of sin, that is, death.

So why can’t He choose to be a little piece of bread to sustain us through our earthly pilgrimage to Heaven? Christ is the ultimate Passover lamb, the Lamb Whose blood saves us and our families from certain destruction, Who sustains us as we cross over from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the Kingdom of Heaven.


“The deliverance of the Jews from Egypt was a foreshadowing of the Christian Pasch when through the sacrifice of the Lamb of God and the application of the merits of His blood, the human race would be freed from the bondage of the devil and of sin.

Good Friday in the early Church was called the Pasch of the Crucifixion, while Easter day was styled the Pasch of the Resurrection, the Sundays from Easter to Whitsunday were always referred to as ‘after the Pasch.’ Easter is the Christian Passover.”

~ Fr John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary


We believe that the Person of Jesus is present entirely, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament, in every small white communion host that we receive each Sunday (or every day, if we are able to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass daily). We take God’s word for it, that we can eat His flesh and drink His blood, and attain eternal life with Him.



Proof Positive

This wonderful Sacrament (sign) of God’s love has been confirmed down the ages by Eucharistic miracles throughout the world. When someone has doubted Jesus’ Real Presence in the bread and wine, the wheat host (victim) has turned into the living heart muscle of a man in his thirties, dripping AB+ blood, as confirmed by scientists. Of course, this does not mean that Christ in Heaven is missing a piece of His heart.

St Thomas Aquinas explained, using Aristotelian philosophical terminology, that the Blessed Sacrament has the substance of God and the accidents or appearance of bread and wine. Hence, his term “transubstantiation”, when the substance of the bread changes into the substance of Jesus when the priest speaks the words of Christ at the Last Supper: “This is My Body… This is My Blood.”


Quality Time with God

Just like when Jews celebrate the Passover, they are in a way present at the actual, original Passover – the salvific events are re-presented – so too at the Mass, since God is outside Time, He is able to make us present at the one holy sacrifice of Christ, the crucifixion. But we are also receiving a foretaste of the heavenly banquet, the Wedding Feast of the Lamb of God. Isn’t that mind-blowing? God comes in the ordinary form of a human, then in the ordinary form of bread and wine, to be with us and to save us, so that we may be with Him for eternity.

Knowing this, Catholics have the practice of Eucharistic adoration, where we spend time in quiet prayer before the Blessed Sacrament. We also have Eucharistic exposition and benediction, where the priest blesses us with the Eucharistic host in the monstrance. On Maundy Thursday, we can receive a plenary indulgence by singing the Tantum Ergo by St Thomas Aquinas, along with the usual conditions.

For those who are unable to receive the Blessed Sacrament at Mass, we can pray the prayer of Spiritual Communion:

My Jesus,
I believe that You are present in the Most Holy Sacrament.
I love You above all things,
and I desire to receive You in my soul.
Since I cannot at this moment
receive You sacramentally,
come at least spiritually into my heart.
I embrace You as if You were already there
and unite myself wholly to You.
Never permit me to be separated from You.

17 March 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

O blessed Saint Joseph, how great was thy worth,
The one chosen shadow of God upon earth,
The father of Jesus, ah, then wilt thou be,
Sweet spouse of our Lady, a father to me?

– Fr Frederick William Faber, Dear Guardian of Mary


March is the Month of St Joseph, whose feast is celebrated on the 19th. As the protector of the Holy Family, he became a patron of the Universal Church, as proclaimed by Pope Pius IX on 8 December 1847. He is also a patron of the dying, as Jesus and Mary were at his deathbed, and we pray to him for a good and holy death. And of course, as the adoptive father of Jesus, St Joseph is the pre-eminent patron saint of fathers.


Image of God

Parents are their children’s primary educators. It is in the home, the domestic church, that we first learn how to be virtuous persons; ideally, our parents are the ones who introduce us to the knowledge and love of God, modelling how to serve Him through fitting worship, as well as charity to those around us.

Under the guardianship of St Joseph, the child Jesus “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52). We are made in the image and likeness of God, and we tend to relate to God the Father through our experience of fathers – biological or adoptive, and spiritual. As we live in a fallen world, we may have imperfect or absent fathers. Thankfully, our spiritual family in the Church can often provide mentors and friends to make up for our biological family’s weaknesses.


Identity & Purpose

Traditionally, before the Industrial Revolution, the home was also the primary unit of the economy and principal place of work. Children usually learned their parents’ trade, inheriting the family business when they came of age – hence surnames such as “Smith” for blacksmiths, goldsmiths or silversmiths, “Taylor” for tailors, “Knight”, “Baker” and so on. One was identified by one’s father’s occupation.

According to tradition, St Joseph was a carpenter. There are a variety of paintings on this theme, with St Joseph teaching Jesus his craft, juxtaposed as a harbinger of Christ’s death on the wooden cross with nails in His hands. Jesus is identified by his local community as “the carpenter’s son”. (Matthew 13:55) As humans, we generally find our identity and purpose in our relationships – within our families, schools, workplaces, and ultimately, God and His Church.

St Joseph is also a patron saint of workers, with the feast of St Joseph the Worker being celebrated on 1 May. If you need help discerning your vocation or finding employment, say a prayer to St Joseph for heavenly guidance.

Last year we celebrated the Year of St Joseph: as a Lenten devotion, you can complete the Consecration to St Joseph.


Prayer to St Joseph

O St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interests and desires. Oh, St Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most loving of Fathers.

O St Joseph, I never weary of contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask him to return the Kiss when I draw my dying breath. St. Joseph, Patron of departing souls – pray for me.

3 March 2022


Tags: Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle,
than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God.
– Mark 10:25; Matthew 19:24

Can a millionaire become a saint? Yes. God calls everyone to be a saint – it is probably more difficult for those who are attached to earthly things like wealth and prestige, but Katharine’s rich parents taught her to find her real treasure in the kingdom of Heaven.

Train up a child in the way he should go,
And even when he is old, he will not depart from it.
– Proverbs 22:6


Formation in Faith & Generosity

Born in Philadelphia on 26 November 1858 to the extremely wealthy investment banker Francis Anthony Drexel and his wife Hannah, Katharine lost her mother five weeks post-birth. Her aunt and uncle, Ellen and Anthony Joseph Drexel (founder of J.P. Morgan, originally Drexel, Morgan & Co.), cared for the baby – then named Catherine Mary – and her 3-year-old sister Elizabeth for two years alongside their own children, until Francis married a lady called Emma Mary Bouvier.

Catherine and Elizabeth, along with their new sister Louise, were taught as children to share their good fortune with those in need. Emma invited the poor into their home thrice a week, distributing food, clothing, shoes, medicine and rent assistance.

The Drexels paid the rent for 150 families every year, spending $30,000 per annum on their home-based charity. Many of the clothes they gave away were purchased from impoverished women living at the nearby Convent of the Good Shepherd, so the Drexels helped both the women who sewed the clothing and the families who received it.

Knowing that some widows and single women did not want to lose face in coming to them for assistance, the Drexels discreetly sought them out. Emma explained to her daughters: “Kindness may be unkind if it leaves a sting behind.”

The girls’ father spent at least half an hour in prayer every evening, quietly impressing the importance of faith upon his daughters. Their mansion had its own family chapel, with the Blessed Sacrament.

Believing that his daughters should learn about geography from travelling, instead of just maps and textbooks, Francis took his family on regular tours of the United States and Europe. Thus, the girls grew up aware of societal conditions throughout their homeland and beyond. They were also given the best education available by private tutors.

The patient and humble endurance of the cross,
whatever nature it may be, is the highest work we have to do.
St Katharine Drexel



Noticing the Need

Catherine made her debut into high society in 1878. However, as she cared for her stepmother, who died of cancer after a three-year struggle, Catherine realised that money was no safeguard against illness, suffering and death.

After Emma’s death in 1883, the Drexels travelled to the Western states of America, where Catherine noticed the penury of the Native Americans. Having read about the injustices they had suffered, she felt dreadful for them. She became acquainted with the Chief of the Sioux, Red Cloud. A friend of the family, Fr James O’Connor, was appointed the apostolic vicar of Nebraska, and often sought donations from the Drexels for his pastoral ministry to the Native Americans.

Catherine also observed the ill-treatment of African Americans living in the Southern states, and felt that more priests were needed to care for them as well as the Native Americans. After her father died in 1885, Catherine and her sisters sailed to Europe, where they made a pilgrimage to Rome.

Catherine obtained an audience with Pope Leo XIII and implored him for missionary priests to staff the Native American missions of which she and her sisters were benefactors. The Pope replied, “Why not my child, yourself become a missionary?”

This surprise suggestion suffused Catherine with fresh purpose. Though she had received several marriage proposals, she decided to take up the Pope’s challenge, after consulting her spiritual director, Bishop O’Connor.

Catherine entered the Sisters of Mercy convent as a postulant in May 1889. This sent shockwaves through the upper crust of Philadelphia, with the local paper trumpeting the headline: “Miss Drexel Enters a Catholic Convent—Gives Up Seven Million.”

Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor,
and you will have treasure in heaven.
Then come, follow Me.
– Mark 10:21


A Life of Service

On 12 February 1891, Catherine professed her first religious vows, taking the name “Mother Katharine”. Along with thirteen other women, Mother Katharine established the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament. Besides the three evangelical vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they took a fourth vow, to serve the Native Americans and African Americans.

Mother Katharine’s fellow missionary educator Mother Frances Xavier Cabrini, foundress of the Missionary Sisters of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (later the first American citizen to be canonised), advised her on how to navigate the Vatican bureaucracy to have her new order’s rule approved.

While waiting for their convent to be built, the Sisters stayed in the Drexel summer holiday home. When work began on the new motherhouse in Pennsylvania, a stick of dynamite was planted nearby, indicative of the opposition Mother Katharine would face in her mission for social justice and equality. Not everyone recognised the face of God in those who looked different to themselves.

Undeterred, Mother Katharine forged ahead, founding 145 missions in 16 different states, 50 schools for African Americans, 12 schools for Native Americans, and the first Catholic college for African Americans, Xavier University of Louisiana. Her life of active service was born of her deep devotion and contemplation of the Blessed Sacrament.

All is vanity except knowing, loving and serving God.
This alone can bring peace to my soul.
St Katharine Drexel


Against All Odds

As with many works of God in this fallen world, Mother Katharine’s mission faced vicious opposition. In 1922, the Ku Klux Klan sent a threatening letter, stating that they would tar and feather the priest in one of the Sisters’ schools and bomb his Texan church.

Faced with this death threat, the Sisters prayed. It is recorded: “Days later, a tornado came and destroyed the headquarters of the KKK, killing two of their members. The Sisters were never threatened again.”

However, the Sisters still had to contend with racist government officials in Georgia, vandalism of Xavier University in New Orleans (someone smashed all the windows), destruction by arson of a school in Virginia, and segregation laws throughout the South.

Yet, they persisted cheerfully, and when Mother Katharine died at the age of 96 on 3 March 1955, having survived two World Wars and the Great Depression, there were over 500 Sisters serving throughout the USA. On 1 October 2000, she was the second American-born saint to be canonised, by Pope John Paul II. Today, the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament continue their work. Sadly, Xavier University recently received a bomb threat – the Sisters’ mission is still essential.


A Family Affair

Mother Katharine’s beloved Uncle Tony also founded a tertiary institution, Drexel University. Her older sister Elizabeth died in childbirth along with her baby, but before her death she established St. Francis de Sales Industrial School for orphaned boys.

Their little sister Louise married the Republican congressman Edward de Veaux Morrell, and together they built St. Emma’s Agricultural and Industrial School, a boarding school for African American boys. Building on Elizabeth’s legacy, Louise also started a home, the Drexmoor, for young men who had graduated from St. Francis’ and started work in the city. She was an early supporter of the Catholic Interracial Movement.

How much good came into the world through a single family, blessed with a solid relationship with God that guided the stewardship of their material wealth for the common good, for those who needed it most. Their profound love for God and neighbour transformed the lives of generations across their nation.

If we wish to serve God and love our neighbour well,
we must manifest our joy in the service we render to Him and them.
Let us open wide our hearts. It is joy which invites us. Press forward and fear nothing.
– St Katharine Drexel

22 February 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

Today’s feast celebrates the establishment of the Catholic (Universal) Church when Christ said to Simon Bar-Jonah: “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18)

The feast of the Chair of Peter has been celebrated in Rome from the early days of Christianity on 18 January, in memory of the day St Peter first celebrated the Mass in Rome. On 22 February, we celebrate the feast of the Chair of Peter at Antioch, where he also founded an episcopal see. In Greek, chair is kathedra, which is why we have cathedrals, where our bishops sit and teach their flocks.


A New Family

The Chair of Peter correlates to the Chair of Moses (Matthew 23:2), the sign of teaching authority for the Jews of old. Today, we give thanks to God for the mission He entrusted to the Apostle Peter and his successors, the popes.

“Pope” comes from the word “Papa”, that is, Father – God founded a spiritual family in the Church, where we learn to live in loving community with our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ, acting as a general for the King’s army. In the early days, to become a pope was a death sentence: the first 33 popes were martyred.


A New Name

Simon, son of Jonah, was given a new name by Jesus along with his mission: Peter, meaning “Rock”. Jesus is the cornerstone (Acts 4:11) and rock of our faith; He is identified with the rock which accompanied the Israelites through the desert and, when cleft by Moses, provided living water (1 Corinthians 10:4). In giving the chief of the apostles his name, that is, his identity, Jesus was giving him a share in His earthly mission of salvation, which was to continue until the end of time.


Saint Peter’s Basilica, the apse, showing the Cathedra of St Peter supported by four Doctors of the Church, and the Glory, designed by Bernini.


Authority to Teach

Just as we have accredited teachers, who are trained to teach us about languages, sciences, mathematics, the arts and humanities, as well as physical education, home economics, design and technology and other skills, we have our clergy who go through many years of training to be our pastors (shepherds) and priests (who offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass for us).

As teachers guide us through textbooks and workbooks, explaining the content to us and bringing it to life, so do priests guide us through Holy Scripture, particularly during the Mass, where we have readings from the Old and New Testaments side by side, showing us the pattern of salvation history.

It is because the Church has her teaching authority from Christ that she was able to canonise the books of the Bible. In the early days, various churches had different lists of scriptural texts. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church decided which books were inspired by God and which were not, at the Council of Rome in AD 382, under the authority of Pope Damasus I. The same canon was reaffirmed at the Council of Hippo, Africa, in AD 393 at the Council of Carthage, AD 397; also at the ecumenical councils of Florence (1442), Trent (1546), Vatican I (1870), and Vatican II (1965).

When you quote the Bible as the Word of God, you accept the authority of the Catholic Church. Furthermore, the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton (1207-1228) painstakingly numbered all the verses of the Bible. Anytime we mention a Bible verse like “John 3:16”, we are taking advantage of his great labour of love.


One to One

Philip the Apostle met an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading the prophet Isaiah, who is now known to have prophesied Jesus’ suffering and death. Philip asked if he understood what he was reading, to which the eunuch responded: “How can I, unless some man show me?” So Philip sat beside him and taught him about Jesus, after which he requested baptism. (Acts 8:27-39)

Hundreds of years later, when missionaries arrived in the area where the eunuch had travelled – modern-day Sudan – they found that the locals, though lacking much knowledge of Christianity as they had no priests to preserve and transmit the faith, knew how to make the Sign of the Cross.

Today, we are blessed to have resources like The Bible in a Year podcast by Fr Mike Schmitz, or the Jeff Cavins Bible study podcast. Delve into these to unpack the riches of the Word of God!


Collect for the Feast of the Chair of Peter:

Oh, God, who, together with the power of the keys of the kingdom of heaven, didst bestow on blessed Peter Thy Apostle the pontificate of binding and loosing, grant that by the aid of his intercession we may be released from the yoke of our sins.

11 February 2022


Tags: Students


Categories: Reflections

February is the month dedicated to the Holy Family, which is quite apt for those of us who celebrate Chinese New Year, which usually falls within this month too. The Chinese Lunar New Year celebrations are focused on family reunions, visiting relatives and cherishing your loved ones, displaying the virtue of filial piety.

Just like Catholics with our Octaves and liturgical seasons drawing out celebrations beyond a single day, the Chinese spend fifteen days feasting for the New Year. Each day has its own significance and rituals which bind families closer together. For example, on the eleventh day, fathers traditionally invite their sons-in-law to dinner. On the twelfth day, married daughters return to their childhood homes to visit their parents.

Since the 17th century, Catholics have devoted this month to celebrating the Holy Family, because the month began on February 2 with the Holy Family travelling together for the Presentation of the Child Jesus in the Temple (Luke 2:22). This feast, traditionally known as Candlemas, marks the end of the forty days of Christmastide in the old liturgical calendar. Until a few years ago, the Vatican kept their enormous Christmas tree up in St Peter’s Square until this day.


Missing Jesus

After the Presentation of the Lord, every year the Holy Family went back to Jerusalem to mark the Passover (Luke 2:41). When Jesus was twelve years old, Joseph and Mary went home after the ceremonies and only realised that their son was missing after three days of journeying. Travelling in the busy caravan with many families, they had not realised they had lost God!

Wrapped up in our busy lives, engrossed with study and play, we can also lose sight of God. Like Joseph and Mary, we should then hasten back to God’s house to find Him.


Familial Frustrations

It is said that “family” stands for: Father And Mother, I Love You.

As Catholics, we have been given the commandment: “Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.” (Exodus 20:12)

Sometimes, it can be very difficult to honour your parents, particularly when they annoy or frustrate you. Scripture reminds parents: “Do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord” (Ephesians 6:4), and “Do not provoke your children, so they will not become discouraged” (Colossians 3:21). At the same time, children are exhorted: “Obey your parents in everything, for this pleases the Lord.” (Colossians 3:20)

It can be challenging to obey your parents especially if they suffer from a mental illness or trauma making them act irrationally at times, or if they simply do not understand your perspective because of the generation gap. They grew up in a different time and went through their own life experiences. Even loving parents will upset their children at one point or another, as we each have different goals and preferences.

Jesus said to Joseph and Mary when they found Him: “Why were you searching for me? Didn’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” (Luke 1:49)

However, even though the Child Jesus was God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, He submitted Himself to the authority of Mary and Joseph (Luke 2:51). Thus in His human nature, He “advanced in wisdom, and age, and grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52). We can learn the virtues of humility and obedience from Jesus.

One way to honour your parents when they are frustrating you, is to distinguish the action from the person. You can still love and honour your parents, even if you respectfully disagree with them. Furthermore, as they have far more life experience than you, they can see pitfalls which you cannot, and it is usually wise to obey them.


The Domestic Church

Our parents receive their authority from God and are conduits of His love and grace to us, just as St Joseph was “the one chosen shadow of God upon earth”, as Father Faber calls him in his hymn to the saint.

God could have chosen to come to Earth as a full-grown man, but instead He became a little child, brought up in an ordinary family. Thus, He became truly as one of us. The family is the basic unit of society, the domestic church in which we learn how to love and serve God and others. It is meant to be a mirror of the Holy Trinity, a communion of love.

We can pray today for the Holy Family to intercede for us to the Blessed Trinity, that our families may be as loving and united as theirs, always putting God first in our lives, allowing Him to sanctify every aspect of our days, every interaction in our relationships.

Pope St John Paul II said: “From contemplation of the Holy Family of Nazareth, the Church draws the values to hold up to the women and men of all times and all cultures… At the school of Nazareth every family learns to be a workshop of love, unity and openness to life.

27 January 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

Strive to be faithful to that which God has called you.

– St Angela Merici


Angela Merici was a lay Franciscan who founded the Company of St Ursula – named for the legendary princess and virgin martyr St Ursula, patroness of universities – in 1535, with the purpose of educating girls.

Born on a farm in 1474, Angela was orphaned when she was ten years old. She and her sister were taken in by an uncle. When her sister died suddenly without the last rites, Angela was very distressed. She was comforted by a vision of her sister in Heaven with a procession of angels and virgins, like Jacob’s Ladder (Genesis 28:12).

A Solemn Vow

The 15-year-old Angela became a Franciscan tertiary, a laywoman living by the spirituality of St Francis. She was very beautiful, and people often complimented her lustrous hair. To avoid the attention, she covered her locks in soot. She had vowed to dedicate herself completely to God as a consecrated lay virgin.

When she was twenty, her uncle died, and she returned to live with her brothers, on her own property which would have been her dowry had she chosen to marry. She received another vision, that she was to establish an association of virgins who would devote their lives to teaching young girls, ensuring they received the Catholic faith.

In obedience to God’s will, Angela gathered twelve young women in the city of Brescia and began her life’s work. These women made a commitment of their lives on 25 November 1535, the feast day of St Catherine of Alexandria, another early Christian virgin martyr. They were the very first teaching order of female religious sisters.


Sanctifying Society

Angela’s aim was to nourish and sanctify families through educating future wives and mothers in Christian virtue. She observed: “Disorder in society is the result of disorder in the family.”

Angela also wrote in her Spiritual Testament: “Mothers of children, even if they have a thousand, carry each and every one fixed in their hearts, and because of the strength of their love they do not forget any of them. In fact, it seems that the more children they have, the more their love and care for each one is increased.”

She knew that the family is the domestic church, the first school of love for every child, and if she and her religious sisters could foster the faith and intellect of young girls, that would produce significant positive flow-on effects for future generations.

Charity Begins at Home

Angela made a pilgrimage to Rome to gain the indulgences of the Jubilee Year. Pope Clement VII had heard of her virtue, and invited her to expand her work to Rome. However, Angela disliked the limelight, and chose to return to her humble hometown.

Angela taught her religious sisters to serve God while remaining in the world, teaching the girls in their own neighbourhoods, meeting regularly for prayer, and practising a form of religious life in their own homes, following a Rule of Life emphasising celibacy, poverty and obedience. Pope Paul III approved her Rule in 1544.


Incorruptible Saint

When Angela died in Brescia on 27 January 1540, there were 24 communities of the Company of St Ursula serving throughout the region. Her body was clothed in the habit of a Franciscan tertiary and was interred in the Church of Sant’Afra, where Angela had spent many hours praying at the tombs of the Brescian martyrs. Her body remained there until the church was destroyed by bombs in World War II. Angela’s incorrupt remains survived the bombing, and are still available for veneration in Brescia.


Woman of Faith

St Angela Merici’s life is a testament to the good which can flourish when a single person assents to God’s calling, becoming a flame which lights other candles, causing a cascade of love throughout space and time. Today, the Secular Institute of Saint Angela Merici or the Angelines are present in 23 countries throughout the world, including Singapore.

How is God calling you to serve today? Are there ways in which you can display God’s love to those in your neighbourhood, as St Angela did?


Do not lose heart, even if you should discover that you lack qualities necessary for the work to which you are called. He who called you will not desert you, but the moment you are in need, He will stretch out His saving hand.

– St Angela Merici

11 January 2022


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections

With the commencement of the new school year, various school leaders have been reassigned to new posts. After eight years of service as principal of CHIJ Katong Convent, Ms Patricia Chan has taken on a new posting, moving to the Ministry of Education (MOE) as Director of English Language and Literature in the Curriculum Planning and Development Division (CPDD).


Sweet Memories

Reflecting on her time in the CHIJ family, Ms Chan shares that her favourite memory is of Book and Music Week (BMW), a well-loved school tradition dating back more than fifty years. She explains: “It is a time where the formal confines of the classroom make way for spontaneous and experiential learning through the love of music, the written word and the arts.”

The spunky principal has aimed to do something memorable for her students in commencing the festivities each year. “In my first year, I dressed up as William Shakespeare and delivered my opening in iambic pentameter, while for the SG50 celebration in 2015 I performed a soliloquy as a Samsui Woman to celebrate the pioneers of Singapore,” Ms Chan reminisces. “Last year, I donned the IJ uniform to mark my coming of a full circle as a student and a principal, to drive home the message of time and space.”

(Photo: CHIJ Katong Convent Facebook)


Recalling a more challenging task, Ms Chan says: “Moving the school to a holding site for two years, overseeing the re-building of the school and moving the school back to Marine Terrace to its newly renovated and refurbished campus was also quite an experience. Embracing all the technicalities of construction, engineering and design was not without its difficulties – I was a fish out of water – but keeping sight of the core focus that we are building a conducive environment for work, play and study made the process exciting.”


Trust in God

Ms Chan ponders how her Catholic faith has guided her through her career: “As a person of faith, I know that God has a plan for everything. His ways are not our ways, and He always makes things good in His time.”

Recognising the hand of Divine Providence throughout her life, Ms Chan states: “I have learnt not to seek answers or solutions readily when things don’t turn out right; over time, I know the Lord will provide, I just need to have the faith and trust in Him.”

“More often than not,” she adds, “The answers or a way out is frequently through words and actions of others, or a change in the course of events, or sometimes, an inspiration of a brainwave which comes during unexpected periods.”

Turning to Scripture, Ms Chan reveals how the Word of God has sustained her: “My favourite quote from Philippians 4:13, I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me, has given me the strength to embrace the unknowns or the seemingly dire situations.”


Hope for the Future

Ms Chan expresses her hopes for the future of CHIJ Katong Convent, that it may “grow from strength to strength as a Catholic IJ school.”

“Specifically,” she adds, “For the staff – that they continue to grow in spirit, mind and skills for themselves and the charges they care for, and for the girls – that the school develops in them the strength of character to lead with care, to learn with passion, and to live with purpose as contributing members of society.”

Ms Patricia Chan donned the IJ uniform at the opening of her final Book and Music Week as the principal of CHIJ Katong Convent and reflected on how an IJ school inspired by the spirituality of Nicolas Barré set them up for life. (Photo: CHIJ Katong Convent Instagram)


A New Leader

Considering her successor, Mdm Hilda Tan Hwee Tsian – who has been rotated from Meridian Secondary School – Ms Chan says: “CHIJ Katong Convent is blessed to receive another IJ alumnus as her new principal. As IJ alumnus, Mrs Hilda Tan already has a shared experience and a common identity she can tap in charting the next directions of the school.”

Ms Chan continues: “The appreciation (Mdm Tan) has of the school’s history and heritage enables her to write the present in order to chart the growth of the school for future generations. She will have a good starting point.”


A Great Responsibility

Contemplating how her time as a Catholic school principal has formed her as a person, Ms Chan shares: “The oft-said statement that with authority comes responsibility, couldn’t have resonated more.  As a Catholic leading a Catholic school, I take it as a personal accountability to uphold the Catholic ethos and identity of the school.”

Drawing upon a Biblical theme, Ms Chan continues: “I pretty much likened it to the parable of the talents, where I am privileged to be leading a Catholic school and therefore much is to be expected of me.  Leadership has forced me out of my comfort zone in making my own faith journey more visible.”

Referring to the founder of the Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus schools, she affirms: “Understanding the charism of Blessed Nicolas Barré has also led me to grow in faith and spirituality in the way I lead the school and interact with my students and staff. This mindfulness has helped me calibrate how I need to think and act, especially with others.”

She concludes, “Being Principal of a Catholic school has given me the lens to consider how I might create an encounter with Christ for the people with whom I interact. This is a gift which I will continue to treasure and take to wherever I am.”