Become a ‘pray-er’, servers told
LIKAS: Hundreds of servers of St Simon Church Likas ministries and groups attended a recollection led by Fr Simon Yong, a Jesuit priest from Kuala Lumpur, on Nov 20-21.
On the first night of the recollection, Fr Simon emphasised on the importance of prayer, especially for servers.
He talked about a documentary on a group of monks in the French Alps who were featured in the “Into The Silence” movie. He showed a slide on a picture of a Carthusian monk’s cell. There was a monk in prayer.
“It (the picture) really highlights what theology is about. What is theology? Beginning of the Christian era, at the time when Christianity became established, from Jesus’ era until the 13th century, theology was always on the knees.
“Why? Kneeling invites us into a relationship with God. More than that, theology is always on the knees, because theologians were pray-ers before they became teachers and preachers.
“Theology was not just an academic subject. Theology is about God. And therefore, when St Thomas Aquinas talked about God, it’s not because he was teaching an academic subject. It is academic, yes, but he was ‘teaching’ – why? Because it was prayer first. Theologians, those who taught religion, were always pray-ers before they were teachers or preachers.
“So if you want to serve, you must be a pray-er. You have to be a pray-er. You cannot just say, ‘I want to serve’, because without being a pray-er, you become an activist. A lot of activists don’t believe in God. A lot of activists start off with ‘waaaa’ – a lot of oomph. But when they see a lot of bad people around, they ‘die’, bit by bit. And they become disillusioned and cynical.”
He earlier noted how the modern world slowly fell into the trap of secularism, especially in the West. He warned that with the advent of technology and justice for “human rights”, the secularised society finds ways to oppose the Catholic teachings, and as servers they must learn why faith goes deeper than what the eyes can see.
“If you look back in history, you’ll realise that from the 16th century onwards, Science became the only way we know things. If Science became the only way we know things, then how can I know what you believe in is objective?
“Anything that cannot be studied become useless. But if you want to make it useful, you must be able to study it. So after 16th century onwards, our problem was not ‘faith seeking understanding’ – faith is not objective.
“Faith cannot be admitted as studies, therefore, it has no face. That is the problem that the West is facing right now. (The educated would ask:) ‘How can you say that abortion (and homosexuality) are wrong? Because all the things that we say are wrong are coming from our faith. It’s not coming from Science. Does it make sense to you?”
He also challenged the participants to reflect on their service – whether it is out of duty or devotion. He used the comparison between Martha and Mary in the Gospel:
“If you want to serve, never forget that prayer is the foundation of your service. You love God, and that’s why you go out. Not you go out, therefore you love God.
“So where is God in your life? (St Luke talks about) Martha and Mary. For religious life, you think that Mary’s better because she is more contemplative than Martha. Actually, it has nothing to do with contemplation better than service. Because at the end, Jesus said, ‘Leave her alone, she has chosen the better part’.
“But it shows that duty is duty. What does it mean? I used to have an employee – the standard of the work was (not good). But he’s done the duty. What can I say? There was a Sunday school teacher whom I told to attend a formation, then the person answered, ‘I teach the children every Sunday, why do I need formation?’
“Duty is duty but devotion is love.”
He then went on to talk about a server at his parish. “No matter how much I humiliate her, no matter how much I scold her, she comes back to serve. Why? Because for her it’s not just duty. It’s devotion. She knows where her heart is.”
The following day, he talked about orientation/aspect of church style – in the aspect of “vertical vs horizontal” as well as “doers vs be-ers” among others.
Besides talks, the activities included “prayer time” in the chapel for the servers to reflect on their duty and motivation, group discussion and breaks for tea and lunch time. The recollection ended with a Mass celebrated by Fr Simon at the chapel.
The objective of the recollection is to help the parish ministry members prepare themselves to serve in the new term.