14 Feb — Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Bounded by the parallel Queen and Victoria Streets, and Bras Basah Road, the Cathedral sits within shaded grounds. Much of its architecture is reminiscent of two famous London churches namely St Paul’s, Covent Garden and St Martin-in-the-Fields.
The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is the cathedral church of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Singapore and the seat of its archbishop. It is the final resting place of Bishop Edouard Gasnier, the first bishop of the revived Diocese of Malacca and aptly houses the relics of Saint Laurent-Marie-Joseph Imbert, to whom the Cathedral owes its name.
“Take all this out of here and stop turning my Father’s house into a market.’
Whenever I come across this verse in the Gospel, I chuckle to myself and wonder what Jesus would say or do if He suddenly appeared at one of our church’s food and funfairs. Would He be queuing at the satay stall, attempting to dunk the parish priest, or flipping tables like what He did in the temple?
With the pandemic now in its third year, I don’t foresee any churches organising funfairs in the immediate future. To be honest, I am not really a fan of such events. I feel that sometimes the objective starts out well but like the fallen creatures that we are, pride and greed take hold and it may come to a point where there is a competition on which stall would have the highest takings. Kind of missing the point of it all, I feel.
But what I do miss — is the sense of community that sees most of the ministries coming together and the fellowship that’s created for this common cause. This is especially obvious and missing in the last two years of the pandemic.
On this day in 2020, Archbishop William announced, for the first time ever, that ALL masses will be suspended due to COVID-19. When I received news of that fateful announcement, my mind was spinning. “How can this happen? What do we do now? How will we be able to go to mass?” I am sure that I was not alone in having these thoughts and feelings. So, the physical church went from being the hub of our Sunday activities to becoming an empty building devoid of human activity, almost as silent as a tomb. One of the saddest and most poignant scenes that I have ever seen, was of Archbishop William processing into an empty Cathedral at the Maundy Thursday service. Where there would be a packed church normally, it was only him and an altar server.
I liken this period of ‘mass suspension’, as a kind of Egypt. This period of ‘exile’ from the physical church, however, allowed me to reflect how and what my faith meant to me. I realised that I did take my faith for granted, especially the easy availability of the sacraments, specifically the sacraments of Reconciliation and the Eucharist.
Like our Jewish forefathers in Egypt, we also had to find different ways to keep our faith burning. We really must thank Archbishop William and all the clergy for the different ways that they reached out to us lay people. The daily online masses and Liturgy of the Word were literally a godsend. It must not have been easy for them to come up with these activities in so short a time. I really appreciate the hard work and dedication that they put in. Especially Archbishop William, when he celebrated all the online masses, even though he didn’t have to. I could tell that it was really taking a toll on him but, by the grace of God, he had the perseverance and the strength to continue.
I was also in another Egypt, as I had been retrenched in June the previous year. While most of my friends and my wife were adjusting to the new working conditions, I was trying to find a new job during that difficult time. But God is good, as He showed me that my job during that time was to care for my wife in her transition to ‘working from home’. She initially found it difficult to transition and as I was not working, I cared for her by taking care of her physical needs while she helped me in strengthening my spiritual needs, ensuring that we were adequately prepared before online masses both weekday and weekend. We even burnt incense while participating in these online masses.
When we were finally allowed back to church for mass, and as I received the Eucharist for the first time in months, tears were streaming down my face uncontrollably and I knew that I had finally come home. I asked the Lord to never let me take my faith for granted as I never want to be without Him and His providence.
As COVID restrictions are relaxed, let us pray that more people will find their way back to the Father’s house. This is important as this is where we minister to one another and be continually filled with His Word and the Eucharist. This is where we pray together and for each other. If there are some of us who feel that we don’t want to come back to church because we feel that we are ‘unworthy’, there’s a saying from my previous parish priest:
“We don’t come to church to be holy. We come to church because we are holy, through Jesus’ death and resurrection. He has made us holy.”
(Today’s OXYGEN by Calvin Wee)
Prayer: Father in Heaven, we humbly pray for your grace and the strength to never ever take our faith for granted and that in whatever we do, we may look to Jesus to be our guide during our good times and the bad.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to Archbishop William and for all our priests who have been diligent in their efforts to enable us to still be connected to the Mother Church. We are many parts but we belong to the same body.