14 February, Tuesday — He Listens, He Answers, He Builds.

14 Feb — Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd

The Cathedral of the Good Shepherd is the oldest Roman Catholic church in Singapore, built in 1847. It is located in the Museum Planning Area within the Civic District.

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 owes its name.

1 Kgs 8:22-23,27-30
Mt 16:13-19

“Listen to the prayer that your servant will offer in this place. Hear the entreaty of your servant and of Israel your people as they pray in this place.

Is there any doubt that our God listens to us? Is there any question that He turns a merciful ear to our petitions? Sometimes, I cannot help but wonder if He hears me. Surely I am not alone in thinking this way.

I don’t know who needs to, and is meant to read this today… perhaps my raw honesty will help someone. I re-wrote this reflection twice… yet feel called to share the two drafts I had:

In my first draft, I wanted to write about….

… The Feast of the Dedication of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd which we celebrate today. On this day we remember the Singaporean Catholic story and how the faith first landed on our shores. One of the missionaries who arrived from France was Father Jean-Marie Beurel. Fr Beurel, then 25 years old, was ordained as priest in 1838. He joined the Missions-Etrangeres (M.E.P.) in Paris in the same year and left for France on 28 April 1839. He arrived in Singapore on 27 October 1839 to work in the Mission of Siam (which included Singapore). On 23 April 1840, Beurel was appointed to serve the Catholic community in Singapore. He became the parish priest of the Good Shepherd Parish. This was only the beginning…

The princely Cathedral of the Good Shepherd today occupies this beautiful plot in the middle of the civic district in Singapore. 183 years on today, we get to celebrate this feastday marking the dedication of the Cathedral (which is also the seat of Singapore’s Archbishop). In the arc of God’s amazing plan, the Singapore Archbishop William Goh was recently installed as Cardinal by Pope Francis on 27 August 2022.

How did we get from Fr Beurel in 1839 to Cardinal Goh in 2022? Imagine the litany of petitions and prayers that the faithful have offered up to God to bring the Catholic faith to its present-day vibrancy? Then and now… surely this must be God’s will! Fr Beurel could not have expected then that there would emerge a Cardinal from a tiny island of Singapore. Yet, he still acted and persisted in faith to set up countless Catholic schools for the children here!

We are reminded that the prayers which God answers, sometimes takes some hundreds of years.

In my second draft, I pondered about how the passage of time might feel to a single soul…

‘Listen to my prayer, Lord. O hear my pleas for your mercy and help.’ What happens to one’s faith when they experience a landslide of disappointment and mishaps? How can one make sense of a pinball of bad news? Is God still listening and does He care?

I have experienced a fair share of setbacks. Losses and critical illnesses of various immediate loved ones, and have spent significant time as caregiver. Sometimes it feels like I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop even as I trudged on regardless. I wonder if Peter ever felt sheer exhaustion from being called “the rock”? Whilst his fellow apostles and disciples must have encouraged him, saying words like “I’m praying for you!” or “Prayers assured!” or “Let’s storm heaven for Peter!” (as I am sure many of us have either been sender or receiver of these words)… BUT how did Peter really feel?

Well, hindsight is always 20/20. But I’d bet my bottom dollar that Peter must have really wanted to throw in the towel on many days. Perhaps he scoffed, “what…. ‘You are Peter and on this rock I will build my Church. And the gates of the underworld can never hold out against it’ for reaalll?? How long more? I’m almost done with this rock business!”

Did Peter ever doubt? Damn right he did. So why are we able to visit St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City today? I guess it’s pretty obvious that Peter never gave up nor gave in eventually. Either that, or someone else helped pick up that limp towel and stuffed it back into his hands.

I think my question is… how does one not give up when every bone in their body screams “give up!” and “just leave me alone!”?

As I sat here numb tonight, I felt my feeble answer whisper: If you feel like giving up, someone else out there is definitely feeling the same. Don’t be ashamed. Share both versions of your reflections. Someone needs to read the joyous and jubilant story arc of the faith…. and also, the painful, anxiety-ridden, doubtful, daily-grind and waffling-words of a weak and uncertain grip on faith.

Because hold on, it’s not the end just yet. God has chosen you for a very special work. He has called you out into your deep and He will not leave you there alone. “When you go through deep waters, I’ll be with you.” (Is 43:2) Stay with Him. God always, and forever will, have the last word. Amen.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Debbie Loo)

Prayer: I pray for someone out there who may need to know right now, that things are not going to remain as bad as they are today. I know you may feel some things just aren’t ever going to look up for you, but hold on and think of Peter before he became a saint. You are as precious to God as Peter is.

Thanksgiving: I offer up all my present pain and stifled striving to you Jesus. Share this yoke with me because I know you are my divine brother and saviour. Hold my hand and walk with me as I face what seems insurmountable.


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