What a great grace to receive at the beginning of this New year. The Feast of the Manifestation of Jesus, Ephiphany, is quite a celebration here in Italy. I was invited by another sister in the community to attend Mass at St. Peter's Basilica with her, who was given 2 special tickets. To my surprise, as we were entering the Basilica with the crowd, we were led to walk in the middle aisle, which the Pope processed in. Then we were actually seated on the 3rd row on the left side of the altar. Though we were kind of blocked by the Pillar, we were near enough to see the Pope (but didn't get a chance to stretch out my hand). Thank you Jesus for this great grace.
Last day of the year ended with communitarian adoration led by our new general councillors and then with the usual wine and snacks. What's interesting was one of the sisters get orders from the sisters and cooked Aglio n Olio Spaghetti to mark the end of the year and prepared us for the viewing of the fireworks together at the rooftop. Couldn't take any pictues, of course, since I do not have any "powerful" camera to capture the spectacular. Amazing to see all the different fireworks around, even from private houses.
This afternoon, after lunch, I decided to make a trip around with another sister to look at the different cribs in Rome (of course not the whole Rome lah.) We managed to go over to the famous Piazza Navona, to be amidst the crowd of people shopping around the stalls. Wonderful to be with the people and see all the interesting stuff, with food and handicrafts. Then we were also able to see go into the Church of St. Agnes, St. Luigi and Trasportina to see the various cribs. The trip ended with the most interesting crib here, visited by the Popes every year. It was done by the workers taking care of the environment and the whole display is like a village, with the smallest details you could find in a house--even bread, sacks of salts…. If you come to Rome, you can always visit it anytime, open throughout the year.
Kind of settled down a bit, adjusting to the new timing here, except occasional confusion of our time difference between here and Singapore. Today, I managed to become "tour guide" for an aspirant from Taiwan and her mother, together with Sr. Ida. Well, I guess it is a privilege to be able to speak another language that almost all people couldn't here. So we became friends almost immediately. Last night, we planned to visit St. Peter's Basilica, then walk to Pantheon, Piazza Navona, San Agostino (to see remains of Santa Monica), so forth. Well, we ended up visiting the Vatican Musuem first and by the time we finished, it was almost lunch. After lunch, they did quite a bit of shopping at the famous Comandini and Soprani. I also managed to convince them to have ice cream at the famous Old Bridge--cheap and good. Can't believe I already had gelato 3 times since I arrived. Just on Sunday, with my group of Carism Course sisters, we went to the nearby gelateria, even though was closed, we waited until it opened at 4:30 pm. How to lose weight and face my challenge, my twin penguin?
Finally we visited the interior of St. Peter's Basilica. My first station was to visit Blessed Pope John Paul II. Managed to pray in front of him for some time, bringing all my intentions for my dear ones at home, for my closed friends and all I promised to pray for, yes, for all of you. Interestingly while praying there, I felt a strong sense of God's presence and rather familiar feeling. Somehow looking at St. Peter's Square, just feel so at home. It does seems a bit different from 2 years ago when I passed by with a group of young people. More crowded and of course now there are some fixing and cleaning work in progress. No matter how, Rome seems home for all of us.
Eccomi, Roma! Here I am, Rome, after about 15 hours' flight. Everything went well despite the fact that I was carrying such heavy load. LOL! Rome seems so familiar yet so strange. Airport was crowded and it took me a few rounds before I could locate the trolleys, which I had actually passed by without realizing it. Well, nothing is free. Have to pay 2 euro and now I really appreciate our airport (not that I want to compare lah!), with abundance of trolley, and freeeeeeee!
As always, our dear Sr. Paula was there waiting for me. Now have to switch my tongue and mind to italiano..... As promised to some of my friends, I wanted to take as many pictures as possible yet do not want to look like a freak. So here are some photos along the way to our convent.
Finally this day has arrived. Have been rather relax for the past 2 weeks because of vacation and took the opportunities of spending time with family and close friends. Glad to have spend time with mom and sis for a few days. Before that, catching up with a new friend whom we found that we can "click". Then the Choice community gave a rather beautiful "The Not Yet Party", bringing Rome to Bishan (sayang forgotten to take some pictures that reflect Rome, not mentioning the delicious local dishes that I would missed and the beautiful singing--Con Te Partirò.). Our community also spend 2 days out at Pasir Ris just to chill out and spend quality time together. So much of that, I really feel loved with all these gestures. It makes it harder for me to say good bye. So that left me with 2 days to pack and clear my room as much as I can. I love to travel, but really, I realized that I dragged the moments that leads to it.
Was so touched for the people who came to send me off, some really a surprised for me. Besides our sisters, Peter came with us, Ivan & Elena plus little Belle, Gregory, Alicia and my brother Andy and sister-in-law, plus the 5 legionaries from NTU. I was really moved by them taking the time to travel all the way--west to east. Thanks for making my day.
Somehow, this also taught me again about expectation. Things or people whom I have a lot of expectations usually ended up disappoint me more than when I do not expect anything from them. Lesser expectations most of the time give me more surprises and joys in life.
Last week I attended the funeral Mass of a sister from the Franciscan Missionary of Mary. I knew her way before I entered the convent, while in Church of St. Bernadette. We do not have much exchange but occasional greetings and I remember she was also hoping that I would someday joined them as a FMM sister. Well, guess God has another plan for me.
Anyway, quite a number of people I knew attended this service and at the end of the Mass, I was praying and a young man I knew (not so well though) stood beside me and ask: when is your turn, is it going to be at your convent's chapel? I was a bit stunned when I heard that and in fact was a bit agitated. In fact, I felt offended by the way he said it. Why would someone ask such a question? I felt him being so insensible and bluntly answered: well, I would not know where I would be.
Since then, I have been questioning my reaction to that. Yes, no doubt I felt so inappropriate and insensitive for that person to ask such a question. Maybe it is due to my "chinese superstitious" background. Afterall, we never know when our turn will come, right? I am not ready to face the word death nor I do not want to face it, despite the fact that I need to face it someday. I pray that the Lord will give me the grace and courage to prepare and to embrace with peace and serenity.
Few days ago I was sitting by the beach alone, looking at the sea, reflecting on the wonderful things and people God has given me in paticular these past 3 months. i started to feel a bit emotional especially for the love various people are showing me. Though the sea was calm, it somehow gave me a sense of insecurity, fear, doubt. Am I really that loveable? Do I truly deserve all these love and perhaps even attentions from people? Are they sincere not just because I am a sister? Am I willing to take the risk to embrace these love, friendship that others genuinely offer to me? Am I willing to be open to trust, to love and even to be hurt?
Funny, and even weird, you might think, that I am having all these thoughts. Isn't that I should be focusing in God and His business? Hey, don't forget, I am human too. I am vulnerable, weak and I do need love and affirmations and even closed friends (if God so will to give me.). Besides I always believe that God shows His love through the events and people He gives us in our lives.
Put into deep water... For me today, I feel the Lord is inviting me to trust, to have the courage to take the risk to reach out, to give my love and not to be afraid of rejections or the response of the others nor the unknown. Whatever He puts in my life, be it people, things or events, they are all signs of His love and presence.
The first time I "attended" the Choice Weekend in 2011, it was also the first time I was a presenter. Yes, I vaguely heard of Choice Programme when I was a young adult (I don't know what happened, but it seems back then, Choice seemed to have reached out to many people, in fact there were weekend every month). I guess despite the popularity, it didn't reach this "pumpkin". Instead, I heard so much about Engaged Encounter and Marriage Encounter, which had nothing to do with me back then (more so now, LOL!). So, with the intention of observing the weekend, I ended become the religious presenter. I was in for a surprise!
Like many others, I used to associate Choice with the Catholic SDU, thinking that it is a programme that help you to choose your partner (my choice friends must be laughing). It is all about making choices in our relationships with the significant people in our lives, be it parents, siblings, friends and even God. (ref: http://www.choice.org.sg/aboutchoice.htm). In the midst of preparing the presentations, I find myself not just giving, but rather receiving, because I learned more about myself and learn from the experiences of others. Not only that, through the sharing, we created a bonding among ourselves, a bond that no words could explain nor define.
Yes, when one participated in Choice, one enters into the Choice family, not only locally but across the borders. I personally experienced this when I was invited to participate in the 13th Choice Asian Conference in Bandung, where the different representatives from countries like Singapore, Malaysia, Hongkong, Taiwan and of course Indonesia, gathered once every 3 years to share their programmes and experiences. You can tell, everyone blended in so naturally, without reservation. It was as though we have known each other for years and we were able to talk about anything and everything. I know that a number of them still continue to keep in touch with one another and when someone came from another country, for sure, there will be a Choice gathering.
For me, somehow, not only I get to know more people, made more friends, but through the 2 weekends I presented, somehow God give me special friends from that group. Again, there is no explanation as to why I become closer to a particular person or persons, but there is a special bond that God has created in us. I believe this is God's gift for me, perhaps as an assurance and sign of His love for me. I don't know where these friendships will lead me to, but I pray that it will be a genuine witness of God's love for me and also for others.
During one of the morning Mases, Fr. Fred asked the congregation: When is the last time you look up at the moon, the stars in the sky? What is the last flower you saw?
Yes, in the busyness of our life, we may have lost the sense of living life simply. We make our life more complicated, when the simplest thing in life is in the ordinariness of our daily routine. It is true, I have not been taking time to stop by the garden to look at the beautiful orchids, that bloom in our compound. Sometimes, not even conscious of the little smile on the face of my sister beside. God's love is manifested in these simple, little things in life.