10 November 2023


Categories: Reflections

Felicia Kuo reflects on how the hustle and noise of societal expectations and comparisons can draw us away from the one voice that patiently awaits us – God’s. She invites us to make time and space for God to help us to hear Him more loudly and clearly.

In the cacophony of our busy lives, many voices clamor for attention. Many human desires, our own or those of others, pull us in countless directions. It is easy to be swept up by waves of human desires that push for career progression, advancement, competition, staying ahead of the game, aiming for the next holiday destination, or upgrading to a bigger home. It doesn’t help that with just a few swipes, social media makes it so easy for us to compare our lives with others. Often, everyone else whom we compare with, seems to be doing better, going faster or getting further ahead.

When we navigate life’s challenges amid the noise of human desires, the soft promptings of God can be easily ignored. Luke 11:28 reminds us, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it!”

This verse reminds us of an important piece of work that we must do if we desire to reach God’s kingdom. This work requires us to actively seek out His will for us, to discern His voice amid the noise of our own desires. It requires us to carve out a space where the chaos of the world can be silenced into a distant murmur so that we can hear Him.

In Psalm 46, God called us to “Be still, and know that I am God” yet how often have we dedicated time for stillness and silence to hear the gentle promptings of God?

In recent years, I’ve stumbled upon this precious stillness and silence before and during the early 8am Sunday masses. The 1st Sunday mass is not the most popular of mass times for most families that must wake up in the early hours on weekdays for work or school. On early Sunday mornings, the roads to church are quieter, the traffic is less, the pews are not packed, the distractions from the congregation, negligible. I head to church earlier so that I can get in a good 20-30mins of solitude before mass begins. Although I wake early on a day that I can sleep in, I am motivated by the fact that I wake for God and not for work.

I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when I began to hear His voice during these early Sunday masses. It was a gradual realisation that if I listened attentively, there would be a line, in it the readings, responsorial psalm or gospel that was God’s response to an answer that I was seeking. A reassurance that He is still walking with me, a promise of hope of better days. Allow me to briefly recall 2 occasions this year:

1) In a week when I received a piece of disappointing news that an opportunity I had been waiting for was closed to me, I heard this at Sunday mass:

“And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body…” Matthew 10:28

I was reminded that no news, however disappointing, can crush my soul. Even if my opportunity had been killed, my soul will not be. I have God with me. I must continue to work for what I believe in, with the gifts that He has gifted me with.

2) In another week when I was deliberating about whether I should start a very difficult conversation with a colleague and possibly suffer the loss of an ally. I was tempted to let sleeping dogs lie because it was the safer non-confrontational option to just let it be. I heard this at Sunday mass:

“Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle in my path, because you are thinking not as God thinks but as human beings do…Anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16: 23-25

I was reminded of how my human instincts of self-preservation and protection run counter to God’s ways of upholding truth and justice, which are what I should truly strive to preserve, even if it must suffering other things to come.

At times like these, I am reminded of Luke 11:28, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God andobey it!”.

Don’t get me wrong, these moments don’t occur to me at every early Sunday mass. Most times, I seek comfort in the fact that I’ve found a pocket of silence and stillness in my life. I get to sit undisturbed, unhurried, in stillness and silence, in between sparser pews and look up to Jesus on the cross. I pray.

At times when God’s voice come as soft promptings, I feel a gentle nudge to my consciousness. Something in my consciousness clicks that the line I’ve just heard is God’s answer. I am quietly washed over with a sense of peace that God has spoken to me, given me a direction. There are other times when I’ve suddenly felt overcome with emotions when singing the hymns at mass. A prayer group leader enlightened me that these emotions could be a result of being touched by the spirit, evoked by the Holy Spirit’s presence over me. Little by little, I have come to recognise the signs of these gentle promptings from God when I still my own noise and listen to Him.

May I encourage you, who are reading this, to set aside some time for silence and stillness in your lives?

In the hustle of our daily lives, finding moments of silence is not easy. But it is important work that we must do, to anchor ourselves in our faith and to continue to find purpose in our work life. In quietness, we can hear God’s voice more clearly. By setting aside time for prayer and reflection, we create a sacred space where God’s whispers can be heard, guiding us away from the clamor of our desires. I’ve heard of some teachers using the time during their early morning commute to do this, in their cars, or in other forms of transport.

I’ve found that God also communicates His will through people around us—family, friends, mentors, or even strangers. These individuals can unknowingly become vessels of God’s wisdom. When praying for discernment at certain periods of my life, I’ve received a text message from a friend, only to hear the same message from a colleague who popped by my desk, and then to hear it again from a guest speaker/acquaintance whom I don’t often encounter. I’ve come to learn that recurring messages and patterns from people around me can carry God’s voice to me too. It is then up to me, to listen and obey with an open spirit.

Discerning God’s voice is a process that requires patience and perseverance. It will not happen overnight even if we change some routines/habits and make time for silence and stillness. But, it will happen someday, if we persist. Together, as pilgrims on this journey, let us be patient and trust in God’s timing. Through persistent effort and unwavering faith, His voice will become clearer amidst the noise of our human desires. Ultimately, discerning God’s voice requires surrendering our own desires and trusting in His divine plan. Let’s try to let go of the need for immediate answers and embrace the uncertainty that will hang around for some time. Let’s trust that God knows what is best for us and in His time, He will reveal His will with unmistakable clarity.

This November, as our primary six students wait for the release of their PSLE results, may they and their parents hear and heed God’s gently promptings as they discern what is most suitable for them in their next phase of education.

10 November 2023


Categories: Reflections

Marie-Therese Pang shares about how her encounter with a young pupil facing difficulties in his life helped her to realise the difference being in a Catholic school, and being a Catholic educator, can make.


When I was doing my teaching internship programme in a Catholic school, one of my students told me that he was not feeling well but no one was able to pick him up from school. He shared that his mother had cancer, and his father was busy working. He asked me tearfully, “Why do bad things happen to good people?”

His story broke my heart. I didn’t know how to respond except to tell him that I was sorry and that I would be praying for him and his family.

“Thanks,” he answered, “But how do you know God is listening?”

I shared with him that perhaps when we pray it feels like God is silent or not answering our prayers, but faith means trusting that God hears and knows what is best for us. For him, this might have seemed especially difficult because he was unsure about what might happen to his mum, but I told him that when we are hurting, God shares our pain. The student contemplated this in silence but the opportunity to connect with him and pray for him impacted me deeply.

This encounter happened when I was still trying to discern whether I should try teaching or pursue a more profitable profession. My conversation with this student made me realise that being a teacher would allow me to share about my faith and let students know more about a God who loves them. I evaluated my choices, acknowledged my feelings and desires, and prayed about this. In my heart, I knew that being a teacher would mean an accompanying increase of faith, hope and love in my life. I felt a sense of peace, trusting that my decision was from God.

For students who sat for their PSLE this year, they will have to make a decision about their next stage of education. As your child chooses their secondary school and evaluates their options, parents play an important role in guiding them in their decision. What do you want for your child now? What do you want for them as adults? We want them to be in an environment where they can thrive and harness their unique gifts, but they should also be able to grow spiritually. Daily exposure to the faith should be a priority, whether in school or at home. This will build their foundation in the Catholic faith that they will bring into their adulthood.

Thinking back to my own schooling experience, as a student in Catholic primary and secondary schools, what differentiated the education experience for me was beginning the day with a prayer, the weekly masses and the way faith was seamlessly integrated into all facets of our education. I am always thankful that my formative years were in a Catholic school, in a Christ-centered environment where my faith was nurtured.

The friendships I made in Catholic schools are particularly precious to me as well. God has reasons for placing different people in our lives, and these spiritual friendships help me strengthen my resolve to be a better Catholic. My Christian friends hold me accountable, listen lovingly and know when I need to hear hard truths even when it is difficult.

However, it is also important to communicate and listen to your child’s preferences. Each school has their own strength and unique programmes that might best fit your child and fuel their passion to learn. There are also other practical considerations, like the distance from the school to your home. The school they eventually choose should allow them to develop holistically and harness their potential to give glory to God.

In a competitive society like Singapore, hearing and obeying God’s word can be hard when a school that guarantees success or prestige seems like the most logical choice. But the ultimate purpose of our lives cannot be to chase worldly successes. God does not value success or prestige for their own sake; he cares about how we can grow and guide others to the love and truth of Christ. In Catholic schools, we are reminded that learning and good grades should never be the end goal, but the goal of all learning is obedience to God’s word, thus giving glory to his name.

Discerning God’s will requires us to acknowledge our desires, evaluate our choices and apply the information that we have before making a decision. We can hear the word of God in many different ways – through scripture, through prayer, through a community. For me, He spoke to me through a boy who was struggling. If we see an option that brings an increase of faith, hope and love to our lives, we can trust that we are obeying God’s will.

Regardless of which school your child goes to, pray for teachers and friends who will surround your child to show them the grace and love of God, and that your child will similarly be a beacon of light to others.

2 November 2023


Categories: Reflections

Catholic educator SYLVIA CHUA reflects on how Catholic schools can become fertile seedbeds, nurturing the saints of today and tomorrow.

“A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person and a good Catholic school, over and above all this, should help all of its students to become saints.” (Pope Benedict XVI, The Holy See’s Teaching on Catholic Schools)


What distinguishes a Catholic mission school from other schools – all of which seek to nurture students to be good people and develop them holistically?

It is this – Catholic schools and Catholic educators, even in non-Catholic schools, have the responsibility to nurture saints – holy men and women of God.

Here are some ways some Catholic schools have done so, based on the seven characteristics of saints suggested by Franciscan Media, a faith formation ministry of the Franciscan Friars of St John the Baptist Province in the United States of America.


Saints are filled with God’s love

Every person is created in the image and likeness of God. We must discover our identity as children of God before we can learn to love and be loved by our heavenly Father. Catholic schools endeavour to create a culture of love for God and His creation. When teachers love their students unconditionally and persist in reaching out to the most difficult child, our students come to know this love of God.


Saints love others

We help our students learn to be persons for others, to help the disadvantaged, and to always have a preferential option for the poor. At CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent (STC), our Values In Action activities go beyond just fulfilling time volunteering at a home or holding out a can for a small donation. STC helps students understand the people they are helping, and the difficulties they experience, so they learn how to show empathy and kindness to them, following in the footsteps of Jesus our Good Shepherd.

Saints are risk-takers

As Catholic educators, we must challenge our students to make a difference – to do more than what they are comfortable with. At STC, the Secondary 3 girls go beyond watching videos about poverty – they spend a week living on a sum of money that the poor have to live with. Their reflections after this experience not only show a deeper understanding of what it means to be poor, but also a greater appreciation of the blessings in their lives.


Saints are humble

The term ‘quiet confidence’ comes to mind. Humility is a difficult virtue to nurture – we want our students to realise their God-given talents and gifts, and at the same time, remember that they cannot bear fruit unless they remain in God’ (John 15:4-5). When teachers lead the way by being honest and humble in admitting their mistakes, students will learn to do the same.

Saints are people of prayer

In our Catholic schools, prayers and Masses are an integral part of the Catholic ethos. In this way, praying for one another comes naturally, even for the non-Catholics. When I told my Muslim colleagues that I was going on hospitalisation leave, the first thing they said was that they would pray for me.

Saints are not perfect

Saints were not holy all the time; some lived very sinful lives before their encounter with the Lord. Saint Augustine was highly intellectual but led a dissolute life and did not believe in Christ. His mother, Saint Monica, prayed fervently for years for his conversion. One day, he was inspired by the Holy Spirit to change his life. He was baptised, ordained as a priest, and later became a bishop and one of the greatest theologians of the Church. Although our students are not perfect, we encourage them to give their best in everything they do, depend on God for strength, and emulate St Therese of Lisieux in doing small things with great love and showing gratitude for God’s graces and blessings.

Saints are people of their times

While we remind our students of how the founders of our mission schools helped the disadvantaged of their time, we must also equip our students to face current realities. In the past, the founding Infant Jesus Sisters taught their students skills such as sewing and cooking so that they could make a living for themselves at that time. Today, we teach our students to seek and speak the truth, especially in their use of social media. In these challenging times, we can only pray that our students exercise discernment and demonstrate the values we teach.

Despite being God-loving, others-centred, humble, and imperfect risk-takers who read the signs of the time, not everyone is destined for canonisation by the pope. Yet, the Holy Father calls us all to be “saints-next-door.”

“Very often it is a holiness found in our next-door neighbours, those who, living in our midst, reflect God’s presence. We might call them the middle class of holiness.” (Pope Francis, Gaudete et Exultate 6)

As Catholic educators, we pray that Catholic schools will be fertile seedbeds of “middle-class holiness”, yielding an abundant harvest of saints-next-door.

Ms Sylvia Chua was educated at Canossa Convent Primary, St Anthony’s Canossian Secondary, and Catholic Junior College. A parishioner of the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea, she is the Religious Education Coordinator of CHIJ St Theresa’s Convent, and has been a Catholic educator for 27 years.



Sylvia Chua


26 October 2023


Categories: Reflections

“Anyone who has looked upon the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help will notice her eyes so sadly sweet,” gazing at us, while the child Jesus turns his upon the cross that one of the angels is carrying. Eyes are the windows into the soul, as
many would say, but to encounter Our Blessed Mother and her steady, inquiring gaze, is an invitation to look into our own. As much as her eyes plead for her Son, they ask something
more of us.”

Anyone who has looked upon the icon of Our Mother of Perpetual Help will notice “her eyes so sadly sweet, gazing at us, while the child Jesus turns his upon the cross that one of the angels is carrying. Eyes are the windows into the soul, as many would say, but to encounter Our Blessed Mother and her steady, inquiring gaze, is an invitation to look into our own. As much as her eyes plead for her Son, they ask something more of us.

For most of us who embark on the traditional nine-week novena to Our Blessed Mother, we are seeking her intercession for our petitions, which are often desperate. In that sense, we are asking for the help of our most gracious advocate, to bring our needs closer to God. And so it was that I ended up at Novena Church for the first time this year with two petition letters for my friends, and absolutely no idea how a devotion might work. Frankly, it took me a long time to get there and since God sees everything, I might as well admit that I was half hearted and full of excuses (it’s so far away, I can pray at home, I go to Sunday mass anyway). But because God sees right through us, and knows I am a compulsive micromanager of my schedule, somehow, I found myself between two meetings that required me to go up on the red MRT line, which is where Novena Church is. Meeting her eyes for the first time, in that intensely personal way in the Prayer Garden, would be the start of many encounters. What I’ve since realised is that when we bring our needs to Mother Mary, we offer up, at the same time, our heart and minds to our Lord Jesus, and so free ourselves to return to our lives, refreshed and strengthened. In a reversal of the usual sequence, I ended up writing a thanksgiving letter first – my petitions are still underway—but it was I who needed healing to begin with.

What kind of teacher was Mary? And what kind of educator can we be, following her example? We are more accustomed to thinking of Jesus as a teacher, among the elders in the temple, and later, speaking to the crowds who were drawn to him. Unlike our usual understanding of the classroom teacher who is the focus of everyone’s attention, Mary seems exceptionally silent. At the Annunciation and at the foot of the cross, she is often waiting, with deep patience and in quiet grace. If I can venture an opinion, Mary is the teacher who uses silence, not as a threat, but as an invitation for us students to reconsider how we are, and who we are. By extension, an educator in her example is someone who demonstrates an intentional, and at times, provocative listening.

Perhaps Mary’s gaze is not quite the death-stare we give that one student who habitually comes in late, but she reminds us that we have aspirations for our students that go beyond task-performance and academic learning. I wonder how often our questions (or our jokes) reach into a dimension of learning that touches the soul with all its living curiosity, its desire for knowledge and understanding; and a smiling sense of play. Just as the timetabled lesson does, the rosary, the devotion and the mass must end, though the icon of Mary and our prayers remain timeless. And so, we send our students away, and as educators we return again to the classroom, to do God’s work with words generously leavened with the most inviting silence.

26 October 2023


Categories: Reflections

In her reflection, Shirley Tan makes a case on how Catholic teachers can learn from Mother Mary to be like a nourishing and bountiful mother to our students. It is no wonder that ‘alma mater’ in Latin, literally means
nourishing and bountiful mother.


In the paper on the “Catholic Education in Singapore: Core Values, Common Purpose & Goals”, a few of the goals of Catholic Schools are listed as follows:

  • to give our students a sense of God;
  • to uphold a view of the Human Person as made in the image and likeness of God;
  • to provide young people with a view of life that is positive – based on faith, hope & love expressed in selfless service;
  • to bring the Gospel to life and bring Christ to a needy world; and
  • to provide a Catholic education for Catholic students.

As in all educational endeavours, our learning and growing, in personal and communal dimensions of life have benefited from the guidance of a loving friend, teacher, role model or mentor. The same holds true of our faith life. As Catholics, part of our upbringing includes rich traditions, and devotions to holy men and women – saints – who serve as role models and guides in our spiritual life. While each of us have our personal devotions to particular saints, as Catholics, Mary, has always had a special place in our hearts. Over two millennia, Mary has been mother and teacher to many, especially in hours of need.

In a world that often seems in need of consolation, guidance and wisdom it is only natural that we look to Mary, Our Mother and Teacher for this much needed guidance and wisdom. Who do we look to, then, to give our students a sense of God? Mary our Mother is a model of Faith.

At the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel told the Blessed Virgin Mary that she would be the mother of the saviour. Mary was the first to hear and believe that God would do what he promised the world. She also discovered that she would play a special role in God’s plan for salvation. Jesus would be formed in her womb, and she would care for him. Mary agreed to God’s plan because she wanted her will to be God’s will. And she was willing to accept the joy and pain that came along with it to bring Christ to a world that waited for him.

What a ministry Mary had—to raise the Son of God! There was no precedent she could look to for guidance. Her religious zeal, devotion, and insight were no doubt formative in Jesus’s life. While the Blessed Virgin Mary had no precedent then, we now have a precedent in the Blessed Virgin Mary, as Mother and Teacher. Mary Our Mother and Teacher lived out her faith amid a fully human life, that of an ordinary woman. God did not spare her pain, exhaustion in her work and trials of her faith. She gave birth to Jesus in a manger, and she had to flee with the infant Jesus to Egypt to live in exile during much of Jesus’ ormative years. Every aspect of faith in Christian life finds its example in Mary. Mary our Mother teaches us to be totally open to God’s divine will “even though it is mysterious, and often does not fit with our own wishes. At times, this divine will is like a sword that pierces our soul, as the elderly Simeon would say prophetically to Mary when Jesus was presented in the Temple (cf Luke2:35).

Mary’s complete trust in God’s faithfulness and in His promises never wavers, even when these were difficult or apparently impossible to accept. Amid the darkness of the Cross, Mother Mary’s faith and docility yield an unexpected fruit. In the person of John the Apostle, Jesus entrusted all men to his Mother, and especially his disciples: those who were to believe in Him. Jesus gives us his Mother as our mother; He places us under her care, and offers her as our advocate. Through Mary’s life, therefore, we are able to bring to our students the message of faith, hope and love embodied in selfless service.

Indeed, we are fortunate that in our Catholic schools, the culture of our Catholic faith presents us with a special relationship with Mary as Jesus had a special relationship with her being “theotokos” or Mother of God. In Latin, schools are referred to as “alma mater”, meaning “nourishing or bountiful mother”. It follows, thus, that the nourishing and bountiful mother that defines Catholic schools would naturally be Mary, Our Mother and Teacher who was presented to us as guide and advocate at the foot of the Cross.

Catholic Education in Singapore: Core Values, Common Purpose & Goals by Archdiocesan Commission for Catholic Schools; April 2012

12 October 2023


Categories: Reflections

Nick Chui revisits an occasion in school which presented him with a teachable moment to expound to his students his belief that there is no dichotomy between faith and reason. Nick models the adage that unless one is filled with the living water, one would not be able to be living water to others.

My teacher’s last words when he lay on his deathbed was “Jesus, I love you.”

These were the same words that he would have uttered as a child and a young man.

And at the end of his long life, it was the same words on his lips as he prepared to meet his Lord.

He had a number of students in his life time. One of them described him as “having the intelligence of 12 professors and the piety of a child at first holy communion”.

You would probably know him too. His name is Professor Joseph Ratzinger, otherwise better known as Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, who passed away on the 31 Dec 2022.

For him, his “father’s clear-sighted faith taught us brothers and sisters to believe and stood firm as a guide in the midst of all my scientific knowledge” and his “mother’s heartfelt piety and great kindness remain a legacy for which I cannot thank her enough.”

Elsewhere, he has stated that “Christianity was convincing because of the connection of faith with reason and by directing behaviour by caritas, by loving care for the suffering, the poor, and the weak, across any boundaries of class or status.”

He is my teacher, because he models for me the paradox that having a childlike faith, far from being naïve, is actually a form of intelligence.

And he points out the way for a Catholic teacher to be convincing. Namely i) A relentless commitment to faith with reason in the classroom. ii) A loving care for my students regardless of their achievements or social status.

Point two should be quite obvious to any educator. All educators would have heard the adage “students do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.”

In the “high performing” Catholic school, where I teach, the statement remains true, but also in need of a bit of modification. I also found the following also true.

“Students do not care how much you care until they know how much you know”. (H/T to the late pastor Tim Keller for helping me to formulate this.)

  1.  https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/elezione/documents/testamento-spirituale-bxvi.html
  2. https://inters.org/Ratzinger-Truth-Christianity
  3. In an interview, Pastor Tim Keller shares two different styles of pastoral ministry which he used when he was pastoring churches in rural areas, and in churches in big cities like New York. in a blue-collar town, your pastoral work sets up your preaching.” Unless congregants have gotten to know you personally, unless you’ve supported them through all kinds of problems and shown wisdom in the way you as a minister treat them, they won’t listen to your preaching. They have to trust you first. In a place like New York, however, “people look for expertise; they’re professionals, and they want to know you’ve got the goods; they want to know you’re really good at what you do. And if they hear you and they say, ‘Oh, that’s smart, that’s very interesting, that’s very skillful,’ then they’ll come and talk to you about their problems. https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/12/timothy-kellers-moral-universe/603001/

That is where point one, in Benedict XVI’s statement, becomes helpful.

I teach history to Upper Secondary students of the Integrated Programme. I make no secret of my faith. Before every lesson, I make the sign of the cross, bow before the crucifix and then greet the students.

We then jump into the history lesson where we discuss and dissect historical sources with analytical rigour.

The students know that I use terms very precisely. A typical exchange in class can go as follows.

“You said that this source is unreliable because it is biased. Could you clarify what you mean? Bias simply means that the source takes a certain point of view and it attempts to persuade. Unreliable on the other hand suggests that it is problematic for its factual claims. So which is it? Or is it both?”

I try to embody in the classroom, that for me as a Catholic teacher, there is no dichotomy between faith and reason.

This actually intrigues students. A recent incident brought this home.

The students of the entire Sec 4 level were herded into the auditorium for a vocation talk. Some were listening intently to what the Catholic nun was sharing. Others were distracted.

I was sitting behind. B & G, the distracted students were from my history class. B decided to talk to me instead, with G listening on.

Student: “Mr Chui I know people of faith like this Sister often talk about how God is calling them. But I am a
person who believes in science and reason.”

Me: “You know from my history lessons that I do too.”

B: “So how does that work for you?”

Me: “The scientific method is one way at getting at truth. But it is not the only way.”

B “What do you mean?”

Me: (grinning mischievously) “Do you love G?” (G is his best friend)

B: (laughing) “Of course I do!”

Me: (with an even more wicked grin) “Does G love you?”

B: “Of course he does!”

Me: “How do you know? Did you perform a science experiment?”

B: “No… but….well…. I trust him”

Me: “Is that trust blind or reasonable?”

B: “Reasonable”

Me: “This is what it means to have faith.”

There was a moment of silence. And he continued

B: “I never thought of it that way. That’s actually quite insightful.”

Me: In real life, “Faith comes before reason. My daughter is 3 months old. When she is 3 years old, I will tell her “Don’t touch the flask. It is hot.” She has not learnt science. But she will listen because “Daddy cares for me.” Later on, in Primary 3, she will learn science, and learn about heat. Then she will know the reason why Daddy said what he did.” At Secondary 3, she will do science experiments in a lab. While she is in the lab preparing to apply the scientific method to test for a particular hypothesis, she will nevertheless accept in trust, without using the scientific method, the safety instructions of the teacher/lab technician.” Faith is what facilitates reason. It is a different way of knowing. But it comes first.”

B: I am grateful for this conversation Mr Chui. I hope the Sister doesn’t mind if we were talking during her

Me: (laughing) Don’t worry, I will explain to her later if she asks!

When Jesus declares that the kingdom of heaven is opened only to those who “become like little children,” he is not asking his disciples to be naïve.

Elsewhere, St. Paul will actually urge the Christians of Corinth that the life of faith can and should mature “When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became an adult, I put the ways of childhood behind me: (1 Cor 13:2)

Rather, our Lord is drawing attention to the reality that the attitude of a child, i.e. relating to the world in trust, remains a foundational way of understanding the world and God.

A Catholic educator has that sacred duty never to destroy that trust through naïve presentations of the faith, which would shatter once brought to the bar of reason.

But neither is he to breed cynicism in students, as if methodological doubt, and sceptical questioning, is the sure-fire way to understanding reality.

Rather, he has the task to witness to the following paradox. The reasonableness of faith, and faith in reason.

By doing that, he participates in what Swiss Theologian Hans Urs von Baltasar observes when a mother smiles
at her infant.

“The infant is brought to consciousness of himself only by love, by the smile of his mother. In that encounter, the horizon of unlimited being opens itself to him, revealing four things to him: One that he is one in love with the mother, therefore all Being is one; Two that love is good, therefore all Being is good; Three, that love is true, therefore, all Being is true, and Four, that love evokes joy, therefore all Being is beautiful.”

At the end of his testament, Benedict XVI states that he has witnessed, over his long life, how “out of the tangle of hypotheses, the reasonableness of faith has emerged and is emerging anew. Jesus Christ is truly the Way, the Truth, and the Life – and the Church, in all her shortcomings, is truly His Body.”

May this also be our final and most important lesson and legacy to our students.

  1. https://theimaginativeconservative.org/2016/03/timeless-essays-uniting-faith-and-culture-hans-urs-von-balthasar.html
  2. https://www.vatican.va/content/benedict-xvi/en/elezione/documents/testamento-spirituale-bxvi.html


12 October 2023


Categories: Reflections

Timothy Wong shares his struggles with doubt and accountability. He reflects on his journey of darkness and hurt, and how he emerged stronger in the light, having relearnt to question.


About a month ago, I found myself at Esplanade watching a play that I wasn’t sure I was ready to deal with. Set in a Catholic school in 1964, the production of “Doubt: A Parable” revolves around the belief that the lead character, Father Flynn, is sexually abusing one of the altar boys, and how principal Sister Aloysius resolves to find proof to hold him accountable.

If, like me, you are one of  the many who has been affected by a scandal involving a “prominent Catholic figure” in Singapore that came to light last year, you may understand why it was a risk that I took entering the theatre to watch such a play. Fortunately, the magic of theatre gave me the space I needed to engage with the issues raised by the play from a safe distance. More than that, it gave me an opportunity to acknowledge the real struggles that I was going through the past year and a half.

The play starts off with Father Flynn giving a homily. He preaches that “Doubt can be a bond as powerful and sustaining as certainty”. It was only recently that I found this statement to make sense. At mass, I found myself realising that throughout my struggle through the hurt that I had experienced as a result of the scandal, I had stopped questioning. I stopped asking why this was allowed to happen, why it wasn’t brought to light earlier, and how the Church could have been a space for healing and pastoral support. I stopped asking how I can be a better teacher, how we can create safe spaces in schools and our Church, and how I might be called to respond to this whole situation. I stopped asking what or who the Church is, who God is, who He is to me and who I am to Him. It was easier to not engage and ask questions that I might not have the answers to or answers that I would rather not hear.

And when I stopped questioning, my conversations with God tapered off, which ironically resulted in me doubting myself and doubting His role in my life. In a way, this seems similar to how I always encourage my students to question even what I teach in class – not for the sake of argument but more because I know that the more they question, the more invested they are in what is being taught and their own learning. More importantly, I find that it is through the very act of discourse that we engage in that we end up learning more about one another, and learn to trust each other in the process. In the past year and a half, my interactions with God —when they did happen —were sadly superficial because I was no longer as invested in the relationship after what had happened, and the (lack thereof) events that followed.

This is not to say that all is lost. In this time of quiet, God gave me the space to just be me, watching from a distance and, ever so often, sending people to me to remind me that He is still there for me. He gave me the permission to be angry with the Church and to be upset with Him. He gave me the space to learn what it means to be real and to embrace all the imperfections in the world as well as mine. More than ever, I recognise what it means to be fully human in the way I feel, and hopefully in time to come, recognise that I need Him all the more in my life. According to John Bowlby’s theory of attachment, a secure base provided through an attachment figure is key for growth and development. This time and space away that God has gifted me is helping me rebuild or rediscover the secure base that He provides in our relationship.

Once again, I am reminded of my brokenness and that it is ok to be imperfect. Many a time, I have fallen short – responded with a lack of love to those around me, written off a “troublemaker” student when he/she is acting up, shown displeasure to a colleague who was not pulling his/her weight – but I have also learnt that the more I embrace the fact that I am limited, the more I open myself up to receive His unconditional love. And that fuels me to continue to love in the best way I can.

As I embark on this journey to rediscover myself, Church and God, I hope to return to a questioning disposition in my prayer and conversations with Him. If you are someone who has been hurt too by someone or the Church, know that you are not alone. Let us journey with one another and with Him so that we may experience His love more deeply and intimately, even in the toughest of struggles.

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the
Lord—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a
future of hope.

Jeremiah 29:11

12 October 2023


Categories: Reflections

Benjamin Gan muses on how teachers can mirror the love of the Holy Trinity. His poignant sharing on a recent incident when he chased a troubled boy up the staircase of a nearby HDB block after he ran away from school, exemplifies how we can live a life that reflects the communion of the Holy Trinity that dwells within us.


In a few days’ time, the church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity: a relationship of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God welcomes us into this communion of love: we are called to reflect this love in our own relationships with one another, whether with our spouses, family and friends, school, or community life.

While reading and reflecting on this month’s Sower’s article, I wanted to pay particular attention to how this relates to our role as educators. In particular:

  • the importance of love in our teaching vocation, and
  • how we can mirror the love and unity of the Holy Trinity

Loving in communion with the Holy Trinity

The English Language has only one word for love, but there are in fact different kinds of love: Eros (romantic love), Phileo (brotherly love we feel for friends), Storge (love among family members) and Agape (God’s love, which He commands us to give). Agape is love which is of and from God.

Through our teaching vocation, we are invited to show love and compassion – to our colleagues whom we work together with purpose, and especially to our students whose lives we have the privilege to influence.

Each day can bring about different challenges for us. Last month, I was chasing a troubled boy up the staircase of a nearby HDB block after he ran away from school. After running up many flights of stairs, I stopped chasing. I stayed where I was and prayed for wisdom and serenity. Then I started talking to the boy as though he was listening, when in fact I had no idea if he was even there! After some time, he came down from the next flight of stairs, where he was listening all along. He shared about the issues he faced staying in a children’s home – the bullying he faced and lack of freedom due to the rigidity of everyday routines. And, most of all, his incomprehension and anger about why his parents did not take him back even though they were still living in their old home. Through the conversation, it dawned on me that when students start running away from their problems, what they need is not to be chased back to reality, but an adult to show that they genuinely love.

Why do we do what we do, and where do we draw our energy and love from? It can only come

from God. Agape is the love God commands us to give. In his 2018 book, Love and Compassion: Exploring their role in Education, John Miller makes a solid case that if education is to be meaningful and “draw forth” the student, the underlying point and the means is love. Love is an important, albeit neglected, aspect of our identity as educators. Many of us have heard of the quote by American educator Nicholas Ferroni that “Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn. And students who aren’t, come to school to be loved.” Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr saw love as the basis for living and social change. They also showed how love and compassion require real strength and courage.

Indeed, love is the purpose and means of our vocation as educators. This love comes from God and is exemplified through the Holy Trinity.

Mirroring the love of the Holy Trinity

The unity of the three persons of the Trinity is based on a shared identity and purpose, and in the same way, we share a united purpose and duty of growing persons of God who will contribute to
the common good.

As teachers, we are called to imitate the love and unity that exists within the Holy Trinity to help our students grow in their understanding and love of God. What is God’s love like? 1 Corinthians 13 perfectly summarises the aspects of God’s agape love. Here are some relevant aspects: can we find these qualities in our hearts?

  1. Agape doesn’t give what we deserve, but what we need. It also espouses servant leadership: to serve and empower others and enabling our colleagues and students to achieve their full potential.
  2. Agape is not easily provoked. It is guided by God’s Grace and the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we can draw on this the next time we are driven up the wall in the classroom!
  3. Agape is humble. Let’s seek to give credit to God and others for their role in our work. Instead of avoiding areas of weakness, agape gives us the courage to take on a growth mindset to learn and grow alongside God.

As Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in thename of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” By living out our relationships as a reflection of the Holy Trinity, we can then fulfill the commandment and bring the love of God to those in need.

Further reading:

  1. Miller (2018) Love and Compassion: Exploring Their Role in Education. Toronto University Press.
  2. https://www.catholic.sg/12-june-2022-sunday-the-most-holy-trinity/
  3. https://holytrinitychristianchurch.com/n/what_is_agape_love.html

15 August 2023


Categories: Reflections

St Paul wrote to the Galatians about the nine principle traits of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit: “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (5:22-23) These attributes, coming from the Holy Spirit, reveal what God is like. Those who exhibit these characteristics will inherit the kingdom of God.

During the sacrament of Confirmation, we receive the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, fear of the Lord, and piety. These gifts are to be used, that they may bear fruit and usher in Christ’s reign on earth. By cooperating with the grace of the Holy Spirit, we grow in holiness and these fruits are strengthened in us.

Love: In Greek, agape or in Latin, caritas, this is the highest form of love, completely selfless in seeking the good of others and willing to sacrifice for them. It is expressed in service, giving freely and unconditionally, with neither consideration of whether the recipient is worthy, nor expectation of repayment.

As teachers, it can be tempting to treat students harshly if they annoy us in some way, but as educators of the youth, who are still maturing and being formed, we are called to demonstrate the love of Christ to our pupils, always acting for their greatest good, even if they do not seem grateful for our assistance and dedication. By treating students with love, teachers can create flow-on effects throughout their lives, as the students in turn will learn to put others first and treat them well.

Joy: Deeper than fleeting happiness, joy is a profound contentment that comes from being close to God, as well as proclaiming the truth and living an upright life.

Teaching, like every vocation, comes with challenges and stress, but we can maintain an abiding joy in the knowledge that these difficulties are transient, while our relationship with God is eternal.

Holy SpiritPeace: This is an abiding tranquillity rooted in God. It is the harmony that comes about when justice reigns. Fr Michael Van Sloun writes: “It happens when resources are shared equitably, power is used for service, interdependence is fostered, information is shared openly and honestly, the dignity of each person is respected, legitimate differences are tolerated, the disadvantaged receive help, hurts are forgiven and the common good is upheld.”

Teachers set the tone of the classroom. Some are fierce and hold unruly students in check through fear. Others are timid and undisciplined students may run riot. But teachers who maintain a peaceful temperament can diffuse this peace throughout the classroom, creating a nurturing environment for their pupils.

Patience: Sometimes translated as “longsuffering” or “endurance”, patience is the virtue that allows you to experience disruptions or setbacks without losing your composure. Fr Van Sloun explains: “It is also the willingness to slow down for another’s benefit, to set aside one’s personal plans and concerns, to go at another’s pace, and to take whatever time is necessary to address their need.”

It can be frustrating for teachers when students are slow to grasp a concept, or misbehave in class. It may be helpful to recall that children’s brains are still in the process of developing, thus they lack the self-control of adults. Taking a deep breath and exercising patience with struggling or wayward students is vital in the vocation of a teacher.

Kindness: A kind person acts for the good of others no matter what, even if the other person seems undeserving of being treated well. Kind people respect others, and do not expect any benefits in return for serving others.

Kind teachers are an enduring example to their students, modelling how to treat others in all circumstances.

Generosity: Generous people possess a mentality rooted in abundance, not scarcity. Unlike selfish people, those who are generous are able to freely share of their time and resources.

Teaching by definition involves sharing one’s knowledge, skills and time with younger generations. Giovanni Ruffini wrote: “A teacher is like a candle that lights others by consuming itself.” Educators spend their lives in service of the youth.

Faithfulness: Those who are faithful are reliable individuals, who can be trusted to carry out their duties and fulfil their promises. They are loyal to their family and friends.

Students are expected to complete their homework, study what is required, and meet deadlines. Likewise, teachers are counted on to conduct lessons according to the syllabus, complete their marking in a timely fashion, and guide their students. Faithful teachers are role models to students of how to responsibly finish their tasks on time and to the best of their ability.

Fruit of the Holy SpiritGentleness: A gentle person is sensitive towards others, instead of being pushy or riding roughshod over their feelings. Consideration for the wellbeing of the other person is key.

Just as water softly flowing over a rock can wear a new path for a river, gentle teachers are more likely to leave an indelible mark on their students, forging new paths for them over time.

Self-control: Fr Van Sloun elucidates, “Self-control is self-mastery regardless of the circumstances, to be in control of one’s self rather than to be controlled by temptations, events or other people, especially when under pressure or in times of crisis.”

In this age of digital distractions, teachers need self-control more than ever to carry out their responsibilities, particularly those which are tedious. They also need it while disciplining students who may pose a challenge, with the tendency of youth to act out at times.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit grows in those who maintain a healthy prayer life and are sustained by a life-giving Christian community. May our schools form beautiful microcosms of the Body of Christ, as it is from being connected to Jesus our true Vine that we can mature into fruitful Christians who can successfully share the Good News of the Gospel with others, through the conduct of our lives.

24 May 2023


Categories: Reflections

As Pentecost approaches, we reflect on how the Holy Spirit empowers us to hear God’s voice and heed His promptings in our lives. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the coming of the Messiah, who would be empowered by the Spirit of the Lord: “the Spirit of wisdom, and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel, and of fortitude, the Spirit of knowledge, and of godliness. And He shall be filled with the Spirit of the fear of the Lord.” (Is. 11:2-3)

As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, we too share in these gifts, though not to the perfect extent that Jesus embodies. They sustain the moral life of Christians, and they “complete and perfect the virtues of those who receive them” (CCC 1830-1831). We exercise the virtues with our human reason, prompted by grace, but the gifts of the Spirit operate on a spiritual level, wholly under God’s direction.


St Bernard wrote that the gift of Wisdom enlightens our minds and fosters an attraction to the divine. St Thomas Aquinas explained that it gives us the ability to discern and direct our daily lives according to divine truth, as well as exercising knowledge and discernment in our spiritual lives. The Dominican Fr Adolphe Tanquerey taught that Wisdom is “an experience undergone by the heart”; thus, Wisdom perfects the virtue of charity.

Pentecost - Descent of the Holy SpiritTeachers, as guardians of the developing minds, hearts and souls of the young, may pray for the gift of Wisdom to guide them in this crucial role, helping them to teach to the best of their ability and be a Christlike example to their students.


The gift of Understanding helps us comprehend the truths of our faith, which relate to our salvation. It helps us appreciate Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition, giving us insights through prayer, scripture and the sacraments, allowing us to see how Divine Providence is working throughout our lives. Thus, it corresponds to the virtue of faith.

Teachers may pray for the gift of Understanding so as to receive nourishment from the Word of God and share it with their students, maintaining a grateful and joyful disposition, knowing that God provides for us in every circumstance.


The gift of Counsel enhances the virtue of prudence, enabling us to decide swiftly on the right course of action, particularly in challenging circumstances. It helps us to act in accordance with God’s will.

Pentecost - Descent of the Holy SpiritTeachers may pray for the gift of Counsel, that they may be able to discern wisely and promptly while carrying out their duties, administering discipline justly and providing what their students truly require of them.


Originating from the Latin fortis, meaning “brave” or “strong”, Fortitude is a combination of courage and endurance, or firmness of mind, to withstand or avoid evil and commit to doing what God asks of us, no matter the cost.

Teachers may seek the gift of fortitude to overcome all challenges in their profession and persevere through difficulties.


Pope Francis said, “The gift of knowledge puts us in tune with God’s gaze on things and on people. Through this spiritual gift, we are enabled to see every person, and the world around us, in the light of God’s loving plan.” The gift of Knowledge enables us to prioritise God above created things, being able to evaluate what is truly of everlasting value. This gift also corresponds to the virtue of faith.

As purveyors of human knowledge, which can become enticingly all-consuming and puff one up, teachers ought to pray for divine Knowledge so that they can place the eternal things of God above the passing things of man, and demonstrate this to their students.


Just as we express filial piety towards our parents, we are to have piety for God our Father, giving Him worship and due honour. Aquinas propounded that Piety perfects the virtue of religion, which is an aspect of the virtue of justice, as it accords to God what is due to Him: our recognition of His awesome majesty and our total dependence on Him.

Teachers may pray that they act as worthy recipients of the respect accorded to them by students, and be excellent role models to their students in exhibiting piety towards God, devoutly leading lives of faith and wholehearted trust in God.

Fear of the Lord

The Fear of the Lord is the sense of wonder or awe in contemplating our Creator. Pope Francis said it “doesn’t mean being afraid of God, since we know that God is our Father that always loves and forgives us. It is no servile fear, but rather a joyful awareness of God’s grandeur and a grateful realisation that only in Him do our hearts find true peace.”

This spiritual gift makes us unwilling to offend God, not because we fear punishment, but because we love Him and do not want to cause Him pain upon the cross, where Christ suffered for all sins throughout the ages. It perfects the theological virtue of hope.

Pentecost - Descent of the Holy SpiritTeachers may pray for the spiritual eyes to encounter God in daily life, recognising His amazing presence, which establishes an unshakeable sense of serenity throughout the travails of this earthly pilgrimage.

Pray for the Gifts

A novena is a nine-day prayer. The first novena was made by the apostles and Our Lady in the Upper Room between the Ascension of Christ and the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). During this time of year, we too can pray the Novena to the Holy Spirit for the Seven Gifts.

A beautiful hymn for this season is the Veni Sancte Spiritus (Come Holy Spirit), attributed to the Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton, who painstakingly numbered every verse of the Bible. A lovely modern rendering of this hymn was composed by John Michael Talbot: