Tag Archives: Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

Lent, superstitions & a reminder for penance

Last Wednesday I attended an evening mass nearby. I normally avoid this church because the choir’s too loud. They have complete drum sets and very powerful speakers. They remind me of born-again services I attended as a child during my summer vacations in Cavite. The singers, some Filipinos, have great vocals. Maybe I just prefer the more traditional music from the choir stalls—but that’s just me. It’s Ash Wednesday, with little time in my hands I had to go to where’s convenient.

Neo gothic beauty. Small but lofty ceilings with intricate leaf and vine artworks on its columns. Classic English Catholic church as can be seen in the positions of its auxiliary altars, apse, chancel and aisles.

 

I used to frequent an older church from the north east part of the island, not really far from where we are now but it takes two bus rides. I have written about this beautiful neo gothic church here established 150 years ago to serve the fishing Teochew communities. I still visit this church from time to time. Last month, I paid my last respects to a Burmese parish priest, Fr. Peter Paul, who recently passed. He was interned in Myanmar but services were held in Nativity to honor his memory.

I don’t know Fr. P that well but I attended masses he celebrated since 2009. The last time I saw him was a memorable interaction, my confession after so many years. Prior to this the last was back in grade school, that’s almost 30 years. He had a good laugh about it but then reminded me to do it more often. Which of course I still haven’t done and so Fr. Peter P. was my last confessor.

I’m a superstitious person. I was raised this way but interesting is that my siblings grew up unlike me. They took up from my father, an extreme opposite of my mother when it comes to superstitions.

One of my favorite superstitions is avoiding sleeping without eating something. The soul, Mama said, would look for food when your already in deep sleep. The danger is that it might not find its way back to your body! Why? The soul might get trapped inside the caldero ng kanin!

I remember being given pieces of bronze and all sorts of coins when I would wonder around our hilly property in Olongapo. I was told these metals makes you heavy and elemental hates the smell of tanso (copper). Hence, they can’t mess with you or put a spell on you.

Some are really scary. My mother would all wake us up if there’s a funeral procession passing by. According to her spirits possess powers that can lure our souls. When you’re asleep that’s when you’re soul’s vulnerable. Look, these all my sounds strange but believe you me, we have tons of it. Filipinos, like most orientals, are very superstitious.

Many of the superstitions I grew up with revolves around out witting evil spirits. Funny as it may sound that’s really what they were. But how can mortals out smart the devil? The whole idea sounds absurd but many of these are deeply embedded in Filipino tradition.

So are demons or whatever they are true?

I believe so.

I’m sure the good priest will be missed by his parish. It was nice meeting Fr. P. Rest in peace.

Now, back to my long over due penance with the late priest. There was this interesting coincidence that took place that made that day all the more unforgettable.

I normally don’t share these kind of stories here but here goes:

Fr. P and I had a brief chat after my confession. He said even he tries to do it weekly, twice if possible. He needs it because like me, he said, he’s a sinner too. He’s humble, happy, very accommodating guy. After the absolution, he gave me a list of prayers. So I started, and the good priest walked away. This took place near the altar, right after the afternoon mass.

When I was done with the prayers, which were surprisingly short (I was expecting a longer list after all those years of not doing it) I left hurriedly. It was pass 6PM, the skies still lit but the sun had set.

These days I listen to podcasts more than music. My playlist includes mostly stand up comics and educational podcasts like Freakonomics and NPR’S Radio Lab. When I left the Church’s premises I decided to listen on my ride back home. I lost track what I had on but was surprised that there was this comedians mocking priests and the Catholic Church. They were brutal, all the bad press you hear about the church and its priests. They were howling in laughter!

I’m inclined to think that’s just another coincidence?

Descanse en paz Fr. P.


The Most Amazing Scene…

The local priest this morning brought the monstrance in the altar to promote the practice of Eucharistic adoration. Many Catholics, including me, are not familiar with its theological meaning. This priest is articulate and explains things in a very simple and straightforward way. But I’m not referring to him when I thought of the title for the blog, although priest that communicates this effective are a rarity,  I meant to share something that almost moved me to tears this morning (Ok, I did teared up a bit).

While explaining the early tradition and the relevance of the Eucharistic adoration in our lives as Catholics, the priest asked for a volunteer to demonstrate in front the proper way of showing respect when you’re in the presence of the Eucharist. The adults were all too shy and embarrassed to actually go up and join the priest in the altar. Grown ups are all too afraid to make mistakes – as if committing one is fatal (well, sometimes they are) – but there are those that are not afraid nor intimidated in committing one. People were hoping for that one brave soul come up to the altar…

The most amazing scene of all followed.

A little girl, wearing the cutest white dress I’ve ever seen. With a face so serene and glowing, stood up without hesitation, and walked straight to the altar! That was so amazing to see – a child, whose probably, what, 4 or 5 years of age, fearless, so confident.

The priest with great relish, exclaimed: “A child shall lead us!…”

There she knelt and bowed her head. The priest, who stood possibly stood four feet taller, followed the little girl.

God just sent everybody a message that very moment.

Reminds me of that story of Christ telling his disciples not to forbid the children that wanted to come to him. Reminding his apostles that, “the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children”.

Yeah.

Now I can understand those words better.

This picture has nothing to do with my churchly experience this morning. I took this one right after mass. This massive pond is located at the side of the church. I usually walk around here to, you know, relax the mind, and find my zen moments.

It’s rare that I talk about my personal faith here. I don’t want to impose my belief system to other people. I believe that everyone should look for what they want. If it makes you a better human being then stick and grow with it. Or, if you could improve yourself without the need to follow established religion, there’s nothing wrong with that.

Ok, I’ll no longer bore you with these things.

Happy Sunday everyone.


Singapore’s Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

I often wander around the neighborhood to look for anything that would interest me. I’m drawn to places with deep history and culture. And you’ll find many such places dotted throughout this island nation.

Some of the Catholic old churches stands in the middle of clusters of modern buildings and flats. Like the splendid Gothic church of the Church of Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary I recently visited.

The church bell tower as seen from a distance.

Its story is one of the many great examples of the missionaries sacrifice in Asia. The first church was constructed in 1853 to serve the fishing village of Awkang. Its people are the immigrant Teochew. The church was later replaced by a “brick chapel named St. Mary’s Chapel”. Fr. Jean Casimir Salelles [parish priest 1881-1922] built the present church and named it the Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

The church continue to offer Catechism classes to those who want to hear the teachings of Catholicism. Interested individuals can complete a form and request a class from Catechist. Unlike in our country where Catholicism is widespread, here it feels like the church is just beginning to take form. Such labor is reminiscent of the original missions in the 18th and 19th century.

Catholicism, although a minority, have several 18th century churches serving a significant number of Catholics, both local and foreign, around the island. These churches are among the most fascinating historical sites in the country.

While I was attending mass I saw countless Singaporeans of different ethnic backgrounds. Mostly Chinese and Indians. I imagine them to be descendants of the original Catholic converts in the islands. Its fascinating how an old religion can be communal, cultural, familial – although not a local, there exist a bond that makes me feel I’m no different from anybody else.

A beautiful Gothic

Intricately designed post

Tiles similar to ones you see in our old churches.

The lofty interior

A bronze angel stoup

The base of the foundation

Their version of an historical marker

Church of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary

1259 Upper Serangoon Road

Singapore 534795


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