16 December 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


St Andrew Christmas Novena

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

15 November 2021


Tags: Educators


Categories: Reflections, Saints

The teacher is like the candle which lights others in consuming itself.

– Giovanni Ruffini, Italian poet (1807-1881)


You have most likely heard of St Thomas Aquinas, the brilliant Dominican friar who wrote the Summa Theologiae, a compendium of all of Catholic theology. But do you know he was taught by St Albertus Magnus – Albert the Great?

As a young member of the Dominicans or Order of Preachers, Albert taught theology throughout Germany. In 1245, he became a Master of Theology and then a full-time professor in the University of Paris, where Aquinas began to study under him.

Albert was the first in medieval Christendom to produce commentaries on all of Aristotle’s writings, introducing Greek and Arabic science and philosophy to Europe. He was also a keen botanist, biologist, mineralogist and astronomer, studying the natural sciences. He is thus recognised as one of the 36 Doctors of the Church, as the Doctor of Science and the Universal Doctor, because of the depth and breadth of his knowledge and teaching. The word “doctor” is Latin for “teacher”. The Doctors of the Church are saints who made significant contributions to theology or doctrine through their research or writing.

Aquinas’ fellow students teased him for being rotund and reticent, calling him “The Dumb Ox”. Albert overheard them and said: “Ox he is, and his bellowing in doctrine will one day resound throughout the world.”

Building on his mentor’s work, Aquinas produced the pinnacle of scholastic philosophy, the Summa Theologiae, systemising Catholic teaching in harmony with Aristotelian principles, a profound marriage of faith and reason, the fruit of three decades of collaboration between Aquinas and Albert.

In 1260, Pope Alexander IV appointed Albert as the Bishop of Regensburg in Germany. Though he occupied an esteemed position, Albert refrained from owning or riding a horse, in accordance with his order’s vow of poverty. He walked all over his considerably large diocese, earning him the affectionate nickname “Boots the Bishop” from his flock. He also founded the University of Cologne, Germany’s oldest university.

Albert passed away on 15 November 1280, six years after his star pupil Aquinas. His body was discovered to be incorrupt upon exhumation three years after his death. Albertus Magnus is a patron saint of scientists, philosophers and students.

Reflecting on Albert’s life, we see how he gave glory to God through his vocation as a teacher, encouraging his students like Thomas Aquinas to reach their full potential and even surpass him. He was not just academically gifted, but also had a pastor’s heart, faithfully tending to the members of his diocese despite the daunting distance on foot. He is a shining example to teachers everywhere, to maintain the virtues of humility and charity while serving God, being a model of Christian discipline and bringing out the best in their students. From Albertus Magnus, we learn to appreciate God’s handiwork throughout all creation, from the tiniest plant or mineral to the glorious stars in the heavens.


Prayer to St Albert

Dear Scientist and Doctor of the Church, natural science always led you to the higher science of God. Though you had an encyclopedic knowledge, it never made you proud, for you regarded it as a gift of God. Inspire scientists to use their gifts well in studying the wonders of creation, thus bettering the lot of the human race and rendering greater glory to God. Amen.

9 November 2021


Tags: Students


Categories: Reflections

Just as people often mistake vibrant Sydney for Australia’s capital city, instead of quiet Canberra, many mistake St Peter’s Basilica for the pope’s cathedral. In fact, the cathedra or seat of the Bishop of Rome is found in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Saviour and of Saints John the Baptist and John the Evangelist in the Lateran, more commonly known as St John Lateran.

Founded in AD 324, when the emperor Constantine gave part of the Roman palace of the Laterani to Pope Sylvester I, the church is the oldest and highest ranking of the four papal major basilicas, holding the unique title of “archbasilica”. The word basilica comes from the Greek basileus, meaning king. St John Lateran is the oldest public church in the city of Rome, and the oldest basilica of the Western world. On its front wall is a plaque inscribed with the words SACROS LATERAN ECCLES OMNIUM VRBIS ET ORBIS ECCLESIARVM MATER ET CAPUT: “Most Holy Lateran Church, mother and head of all the churches in the city and the world.”

Dedicated by Pope Clement XII on 9 November 1735 to “Christ the Saviour, in honour of Saints John the Baptist and [John] the Evangelist”, St John Lateran’s titular feast is the Transfiguration of Christ on 6 August. As the seat of the Holy Father (the Chair of Peter), the archbasilica is a potent symbol of Christian unity under the teaching authority of the Pope, just as Jesus exhorted the Jews to obey the scribes and Pharisees who had teaching authority signified by the Chair of Moses (Matthew 23:2-3).


The façade of Archbasilica of St John Lateran


Jesus prayed fervently for unity among His followers, while sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane the night before His death (John 17:11). Sadly, this has not truly come to pass, with the numerous divisions between Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants throughout the centuries.

Even among the apostles there were disagreements and divisions, as with Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:39), as well as Peter and Paul (Galatians 2:11), but the apostles had robust discussions and came to an agreement at the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15). From the apostles, we have received the faith handed down (traditio) through centuries under the unbroken line of papal apostolic succession.

In school, we are often assigned group work, to learn how to cooperate with others in producing a unified piece of work. It can be frustrating when one thinks the others are going about things the wrong way, or when the others are lazy and leave one to do all the work. But the ability to discuss projects honestly and clearly is a crucial life skill.

Humanity has been able to survive through all sorts of adverse situations because as a species, we are able to collaborate and create better living conditions, which would be impossible to sustain individually. Every day, we cooperate with family, friends and strangers – doing the housework, organising meet-ups, following road rules, and so on. We build on the infrastructure fashioned by our forebears.



Our schools run smoothly because there is a symbiotic relationship between the members, with teachers imparting knowledge and modelling virtues to students, and other staff supporting the entire enterprise. Through our schools, we are connected with our alumni families, a history of generations formed through Catholic education, who grow up to serve in the wider community. May the Feast of St John Lateran remind us that, as the 12th century theologian John of Salisbury said:


“We are like dwarfs sitting on the shoulders of giants. We see more, and things that are more distant, than they did, not because our sight is superior or because we are taller than they, but because they raise us up, and by their great stature add to ours.”


Let us strive to be worthy of the gift of education bestowed upon us by our parents and teachers, using it for the good of others and for the glory of God.

22 October 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections, Saints

For many who graduate from school, what endures beyond the grades and accolades is friendship. True friends share in each other’s joys and support one another through challenging times; they help each other grow in virtue, knowledge and maturity. St John Bosco, an educator of street urchins and founder of the Salesians, counselled:

“Fly from bad companions as from the bite of a poisonous snake. If you keep good companions, I can assure you that you will one day rejoice with the blessed in Heaven; whereas if you keep with those who are bad, you will become bad yourself, and you will be in danger of losing your soul.”


Pope John Paul II, born Karol Józef Wojtyła – whose feast is on 22 October, the day of his papal inauguration – knew the importance of friendship as a young man. The German Nazis and Russian communists invaded Poland during his university days in 1939; the university was shut down and he was forced to work as a manual labourer, quarrying limestone. During that time, he met Jan Tyranowski, assigned by a Salesian priest as a student mentor. Jan introduced Karol to the Living Rosary youth groups, which continued to meet throughout World War II, keeping the faith while their priests were imprisoned.

Karol soon discerned a vocation to the priesthood, and Jan managed to attend his ordination on 1 November 1946 before dying of tuberculosis. As a young priest, Fr Wojtyła formed youth groups as his friend Jan had. These young men and women went hiking, attended retreats, and put on plays, despite being in a war zone. In these groups, the youth found freedom which was denied them by the oppressive regime which had seized control of all institutions, including schools. Through the apostolate of friendship, they were able to cultivate human flourishing in the midst of violent turmoil, helping one another grow holistically.


A young John Paul on a hiking trip. Source: voiceofthesouthwest.org


The word “friend” comes from a Proto-Indo-European word meaning “to love”. Pope John Paul II wrote in his book Love and Responsibility:


“Friendship, as has been said, consists in a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.”


This echoes St Thomas Aquinas, who said, “Love is to will the good of another.”

In fact, what Jan and Fr Wojtyła did reflected what Jesus Himself did during His earthly mission. He gathered a group of friends around Him (John 15:15), teaching them about God the Father through His words and actions. These friends of Christ spread the Word of God throughout the world, inviting each of us today to join them in becoming friends of God. The most effective evangelisation is based on a solid foundation of friendship, where one receives the love of God through a friend. How can you share God’s love with your friends today?

8 October 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

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

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

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


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

Archbishop Fulton Sheen reflected on the Rosary:

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

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

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

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

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

27 September 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

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

Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen wrote in Calvary and the Mass:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here is a description of them:

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

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

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

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

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

Such compassion is the fruit of a truly Catholic education.



15 August 2021


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

~ Archbishop Robert Carlson

6 August 2021


Tags: Students


Categories: Homilies / Messages, Reflections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

17 July 2020


Tags: Educators, Students


Categories: Reflections

By Seminarian Eugene Chan, former teacher in a non-Catholic mission school.

And Jesus came and said to them, “all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and of the holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always to the close of the age.” [Matthew 28:18-20]

If you have ever caught the “Our Catholic Light” video, one can learn of the history of how Catholic Mission Schools first arrived in Singapore. Brother Nicolas Seet (FSC) shared how Father Jean-Marie Beurel (MEP), realising the need, went back to Europe and came back with six Lasallian brothers and four Infant Jesus sisters to setup the first Catholic Mission Schools in Singapore. This was a three-month journey by boat and during the trip, one of the sisters passed away just two weeks before they could arrive in Singapore. In 1852, St Joseph’s Institution was founded and two years later, in 1854, the first Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus began. For Father Beurel, these schools were especially for the poor for he saw the value of education and thus education was provided for free for children of any background.

A century and a half later, we acknowledge their sacrifices and rejoice at the fruits of the many Catholic schools with their rich traditions. What is more, we can empathise with some of the hardships that they faced as we all live through a pandemic that perhaps has changed so much of how we live. It might be timely thus to look back and examine just what brought us to our current school of choice.

For students, some might have chosen to come to your current school. For others, perhaps the school that you are in was the alma mater of your parent. For others still, perhaps this school was simply the closest within a one or two kilometre circumference of where you stay. Regardless of the reason, now that you are in a Catholic mission school, have you ever wondered just what difference does it make? What elements of your school’s tradition have you drawn closer to? What virtues or values has your school challenged you to grow in? Compassion? Humility? Integrity? Perseverance? Faith? Care? Honesty? Service? What difference has your time in your school made for you?


For as much as our world is changing, somethings will always keep us in good stead. The values and principles that your school champions, these will be the keys that will help you reach for the higher things in life. For what does it matter how many more zeros you can add to your bank account, if all you spend them on is yourself? What good would it do for you if all your achievements only resulted in you becoming universally despised, with not a single person you have ever worked with willing to ever work with you again? Would there be any lasting satisfaction for achievements gained through wicked means?

Reach higher, aspire for the things that last! Your founders built your school on their relationship with Christ, may you too discover just what adventures a relationship with Him may bring you to.

For teachers, perhaps this is your first posting or maybe you have become an institution or a “legend” in your time with your current school. Perhaps you are intending to apply at the next open posting or even at the next closed posting phase. Still, it is not easy being a teacher. It is probably even harder to be a good teacher in this day and age, whereby almost every word and action that you do and say are taken to task. And yet, this is the vocation which you have responded to. One that requires countless hours almost every day of the week. (Usually thankless, sleepless and without re-imbursement.) Not to mention having to navigate the twists and turns of your own struggles. Truly, few other jobs ask for this much and at such cost. Thank you, teachers.

As St Jean-Baptiste de La Salle would put it “the ministry of teaching is about helping the young cross the threshold, from ignorance into enlightenment”. In this Information Age, the Internet and technology have changed just what it means to be ignorant. To find out about the life of St de La Salle, one need not pour through a 200 page tome, but simply watch a one hour video. Yet, what then are they to do with that information? How will they make use of it? To paraphrase the Venerable Fulton Sheen, we need to ensure that the next generation knows more than just the “price of everything but the value of nothing”. How can we empower the next generation to resist the traps of social media, of cyber-bullying or of gaming addiction?


This ministry can only happen with a continuity of teachers. For to combat the evil of ignorance, teachers cannot just instruct but role model. The values of respect, responsibility and resilience are not just words and videos that are used for our class contact time but real mindset changes and actions that we need to live out. Our students know the difference. The de La Salle brothers would thus show the students how to pray, not just give them the prayers, explain the Mass, not just bring them to Mass. Religious instruction was simply to know and to love God and one’s neighbour and as we definitely familiar with; your life maybe the only Gospel that someone might ever read.

We cannot give what we do not have. If we are to give the gift of faith, we need to have a relationship with the One Whom it comes from. If we do not know how to pray, how then can we expect our students to stay silent when it is time for school prayers? Let us progress along the two rails of faith and reason as a mission school community, faithful to the vision and mission of our religious founders.

Ad Dei Gloriam.

1 December 2017


Tags: Educators, Parents, Students


Categories: Reflections

The Christmas light-up at Orchard Road signals the start of shopping frenzy for gifts, new clothes, decorations and the like. It is such an exciting period especially when you think of your loved ones and consider what gift they may want to receive this Christmas.

Hustle and bustle before Christmas
You pull your hair out as you get your Christmas shopping list ready. The excitement rises as you hunt for the perfect gift within your budget (a tremendous feat these days). Hour after hour spent in shopping malls. Aching feet from walking. Tired hands from checking potential gifts, carrying tons of items bought and wrapping them nicely. Decorating your home with fairy lights, Christmas trees and mistletoes. After going through these intense physical and mental exercises, you are a few hundred (sometimes thousand) dollars poorer. Sorry wallet.

On Christmas day, you sadly find yourselves exhausted. The “merry” in the typical greeting “Merry Christmas” seemed to have lost its meaning. Is there a better way to prepare for Christmas?

A meaningful way to prepare for Christmas
Our Church knows our struggles. That is why it designated the period before Christmas as the Advent season, a time to meaningfully prepare ourselves for Christmas. Although there are different ways to do this, one suggestion is to pick up a copy of the Advent reflection booklet from your parish or you can download a soft copy here.

Of course, doing your usual Christmas shopping and decorations will still be a part of your pre-Christmas celebration. But you will be surprised on how truly joyful your heart is on Christmas day. A little spiritual preparation works like magic.