6 October, Wednesday — Schadenfreude

Oct 6 – Memorial for St. Bruno, Priest

St. Bruno (1030–1101) was educated in Paris and Rheims, France. He was ordained in 1055. He taught theology, and one of his students later became Blessed Pope Urban II. He presided over the cathedral school at Rheims from 1057 to 1075. He criticised the worldliness he saw in his fellow clergy. He opposed Manasses, Archbishop of Rheims, because of his laxity and mismanagement. He was chancellor of the Archdiocese of Rheims.

Following a vision he received of a secluded hermitage where he could spend his life becoming closer to God, he retired to a mountain near Chartreuse in Dauphiny in 1084 and, with the help of St. Hugh of Grenoble, he founded what became the first house of the Carthusian Order. He and his brothers supported themselves as manuscript copyists.

He became assistant to Pope Urban in 1090, and supported his efforts at reform. Retiring from public life, he and his companions built a hermitage at Torre where the monastery of Saint Stephen was built in 1095. Bruno combined in the religious life living as a hermit and living in a community; his learning is apparent from his scriptural commentaries.

– Patron Saint Index

Jon 4:1-11
Lk 11:1-4

Are you right to be angry?”

My grandmother was a woman of colorful expressions. When I think of the word ‘matriarch’, hers is the face I see. She’s the benchmark, for what it means to be a resilient woman. Born a Buddhist, she became a devout Christian in the final decades of her life. She singlehandedly raised ten children and became the unofficial steward to a multitude of grandchildren after. I was one of those lucky grandchildren.

My first introduction to the concept of God and the Bible came from a leatherbound illustrated edition that she loaned me. It’s been lost since, but I still remember the watercolor drawings. I remember her flipping through it with me, then pausing at ‘Jacob and Esau’, the story of how a younger brother’s deception robbed an older brother of his birthright. And I remember her saying in Chinese – “I will lengthen my life so that I can watch them fail”. I thought it an odd, out of context thing to say at the time. But what does a child of six know anyway? It was only after I grew older, that I realised Grandma could carry a grudge. Grandpa, as it turned out, was that eldest son who was denied his birthright because my great grandfather’s second wife bore him the son that became ‘most favoured’ in the family, relegating my grandfather in the process. I would hear Grandma repeat that mantra many times more in her lifetime – “I will lengthen my life so that I can watch them fail”. And true to her word, she lived long and was quick to point out whenever the offspring of the other side of the family slipped up. She also made it clear to all of us that we were to “study hard, work hard and make something of yourself” so that we could “show it to them”. It sounds more colourful in Chinese, but you get the picture.  

Given her difficult circumstances at the outset, I would say Grandma was enormously blessed and lived a full life. We are a big family. I stopped counting when my first cousins numbered twenty, yet she somehow managed to keep track of all of us, and how we were each doing. She was the heart of our family. Those of us who experienced her presence firsthand love her deeply still. If I had one wish for her, it would be that she could’ve seen this while she was still alive. I wish that she could’ve let go of her anger and her penchant for schadenfreude long enough to see the fullness of her cup. But Grandma could hold a grudge and she chose to keep a running tally of all the wrongs that had been done to her, and all the karmic justices that had been served or were still outstanding. She found her validation in that, not in how much we cherished her. Like Jonah in today’s first reading, she defined herself through righteous anger and in so doing, missed the grace that God placed in front of her.

Grandma has gone back to God more than twenty years now. At Catholic funeral masses, the living pray, “Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them. May they rest in peace”. I hope God’s perpetual light is indeed shining on Grandma, and that she has found the peace that seemed to elude her in life. I hope she looks back on the life she led and sees how blessed she was, how full her cup was, and how much we loved her. I hope God’s mercy and peace rests on her now.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Sharon Soo)

Prayer: I pray for the departed soul of my grandmother, that she has now found peace. May God’s perpetual light shine upon her.

Thanksgiving: We give thanks for the people in our lives. May we appreciate them more now, while they are still with us, instead of living with regret over loving words unspoken.  


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