The State of Virginity

The State of Virginity
I should like you to be free of all worries. The unmarried man is busy with the Lord's affairs, concerned with pleasing the Lord; but the married man is busy with this world's demands and occupied with pleasing his wife. This means he is divided. The virgin - indeed, any unmarried woman - is concerned with things of the Lord, in pursuit of holiness in body and spirit. The married woman, on the other hand, has the cares of this world to absorb her and concerned with pleasing her husband. I am going into this with you for your own good. I have no desire to place restrictions on you, but I do want to promote what is good, what will help you to devote yourselves entirely to the Lord. 1 Corinthians 7:32-35

Sunday, February 28, 2010

BERNADETTE'S BIRTHPLACE (BOLY MILL)


More commonly known as the "house where Bernadette was born", this modest two-storey building is at 12 rue Bernadette Soubirous. The Soubirous family lived in the Boly Mill when Bernadette was born on 7th January 1844. Her parents, Francois Soubirous and Louise Casterot were poor millers, and they were were generally known in Lourdes as the "Millers of Boly". The Soubirous family lived in the mill from 9th January 1843 until 24th June 1854 when they were forced to leave as they could no longer afford the rent of 250 francs a year. At that time, Bernadette was 10 years old.

Before the French Revolution, the mill belonged to Anne de Candebotte who married an English doctor, David Boly, and the mill was named after him. The mill was actually Anne de Candebotte's dowry when she married the doctor on 19th June 1645. Over the years, the mill had many tenants. Augustin Casterot was the miller when he died in a road accident on 1st July 1841. His widow, Claire, was suddenly on her own with four girls and two little boys to support. A man was needed to run the business as Claire was unable to run the mill alone. Her choice fell upon Francois Soubirous, an employee in a neighbouring mill who was still a bachelor at thirty-four. He was invited to court the eldest girl, Bernarde, the 'heiress' as was the custom. Francois, however, fell in love with the second daughter, 17-year-old Louise. Francois was told that the girl was too young but he was adamant to make Louise his wife. Having tried in vain to make him change his mind, Claire Casterot eventually relented.

The wedding took place on 9th January 1843. Having been entrusted with the management of the mill by his mother-in-law, Claire Casterot, he and Louise took up residence there. Francois Soubirous was a hardworking and honest man but not a man of great enterprise. Business at the mill deteriorated. A series of adverse circumstances finally reduced the Soubirous family to poverty and they had to abandon the mill.

Today, the Boly Mill has become one of the pilgrims' favourite places. On the ground floor to the right is the old mill. To the left is the room which was once used to load and unload cereals and flour but which now holds a small collection of memorabilia. On the first floor is the bedroom where Bernadette was born. The other rooms in the house were used by Louise's mother and her children. Since 1988, the Boly Mill has belonged to the "L'oeuvre de la grotte" and has been looked after by the Daughters of the Church. Admission is free. Opening hours: 9.00am-Noon; 2.00pm-6.30 pm.

Friday, February 26, 2010

BERNADETTE'S FATHER'S HOUSE (LACADE MILL): THE MAISON PATERNELLE


I took the above photo the day before I left Lourdes. I was very sad that day - just walking around looking for things to buy wishing that I could stay there forever and visiting all my favourite places again for one more time. I did a lot of shopping that day and I kept asking myself what was it that I have forgotten to buy.

Lacade Mill is very similar to Boly Mill (the house where Bernadette was born). There were around ten such mills at the time of the apparitions. Lacade Mill is situated at 4 rue Bernadette Soubirous and at the time of the apparitions it belonged to the mayor of Lourdes, Anselme Lacade. In July 1858, the Parish Priest, Father Peyramale, rented the mill for the Soubirous family. On 20th August 1867, Monsignor Laurence, the Bishop of Tarbes and Lourdes, bought the mill and gave it to the Soubirous family to rescue them from poverty.

Bernadette did not live for long periods in this house. At that time, she was a boarder at the hospice in Lourdes where she studied and received treatment for her asthma. However, she often came to sleep at her parents' house. On 4th July 1866, she left the hospice for the convent in Nevers, never to return. On the eve of her departure, 3rd July 1866, Bernadette went to the grotto one last time to pray and then visited the Lacade mill for a farewell meal with her family. That was the last evening she spent with her family.

The Lacade mill is a two-storey building. On the ground floor to the right you can see the mill and its machinery, where Francois Soubirous (Bernadette's father) used to work. To the left is the family kitchen where Bernadette bade farewell to her parents before leaving for the convent in Nevers. Going up the wooden staircase you will reach the bedroom where you can see a collection of memorabilia that belonged to Bernadette and to her family.

Here at the Lacade mill, Louise Soubirous (Bernadette's mother) died on 8th December 1866. Francois Soubirous died on 4th March 1871. One of Bernadette's brothers also died in this "Family Home". The mill has since remained in private hands and is still owned by a direct descendant of Francois Soubirous. Admission 1.50 euros. Opening hours: 9.00 am-Noon; 2.00 pm-7.00 pm.

Monday, February 22, 2010

THE SEVENTEENTH APPARITION: THE MIRACLE OF THE CANDLE


This apparition had a very special witness: Doctor Dozous, the disbelieving scientist who had also been present for the 7th apparition. He was lucky enough to witness the miracle of the candle; or perhaps we should say that he was lucky enough to receive God's grace. During her ecstasy, Bernadette was holding a big candle in her right hand with her left hand cupped around the flame. Those present were awestruck to see the flame licking her fingers without leaving any burns. Doctor Dozous observed the incident and timed it. The phenomenon lasted a good quarter of an hour.

"Do something! The girl is going to get burned!" a witness implored.

With an imperious gesture, the doctor quieted the murmurs and kept the well-intentioned from intervening. Bernadette did not seem to suffer. The physician's heart beat wildly. Perhaps he had finally witnessed his supernatural phenomenon.

When Bernadette had come out of her state of ecstasy, Doctor Dozous examined her hands. There was nothing. These little hands did not bear the slightest trace of a burn. He then put the flame near Bernadette's hands, but the girl cried: "Stop, you're burning me!". The doctor couldn't get over it. He openly declared: "Now I believe it. I've seen it with my own eyes!". He rushed to the Cafe Francais to announce the event and to proclaim his conversion, the news of which soon travelled around the town.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

WHAT IS SO WRONG ABOUT PRAYING TO THE SAINTS?

Not so long ago in the distant past, I had a heated argument with a Christian friend of mine about the issue of praying to saints. I don't quite remember which church she belongs to. This is because the name of this church is somewhat rather obscure and uncommon. Certainly not the Methodist Church. Neither is it the Anglican nor the Lutheran Church as far as I can remember. In Malaysia, anyone can rent a flat or a shop lot and call it a church and then call himself a pastor. And she belongs to this kind of church.

What did she say that started the argument? Well, she said that Mary and the saints are just human beings like us and there is no reason why we should worship them. She also said that Mary is not a virgin and that she also has other children. Her duty is to give birth to Jesus and that's all. She then said that her church is genuine because they pray in tongues. How childish and ignorant of her to say all these!

It seems that many non-Catholics still do not understand that we do not worship Mary and the saints. We only pray to them. It should be noted that 'worship' and 'pray' are not the same. True worship belongs to God alone. We do not worship the saints. Why do we pray to the saints? We pray to the saints to ask them for help, for their intercession on our behalf and to thank them for helping us. Praying to saints is just like talking to someone who is very dear to us. I am sure that some of you would talk to your dead grandmother and ask for her blessings even though she is not a saint. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Perfectly normal, I would say. In the Chinese community, there are people who like to buy lots of lottery tickets because they are so desperate to strike it rich and very often they would ask their ancestors to give them four digit numbers in their dreams. And of course there were instances when these numbers appeared to them in their dreams!

Now to answer the question that my Christian friend asked, "Why don't you pray directly to God. Why should you ask someone else to intercede for you?" Of course we do pray to God directly but we also pray for each other and surely there is nothing wrong asking the saints to pray for us. It is just like having another member of our church to pray for us. The saints are our friends and they will gladly help us if we ask them to intercede for us. Why do I say that the saints are our friends? Because they really are. I have prayed to St. Anthony for so many years and I find that he is always there whenever I need him. Hours before I boarded the plane to Lourdes in May 2008, I lost my keys. But I wasn't worried. I prayed to St. Anthony and somehow I got the feeling that my keys would be found on time. And I did find my keys on time! A few days ago, I lost my driving licence. I prayed to St. Anthony calmly knowing that it would be found and not long after my prayers, I found my driving licence in a very unexpected place.

I have been praying to Father Damien even before he was canonized in 2009. Why do I pray to him? Because he is a very holy man. Because he is like a friend to me - a friend whom I adore, love, respect and honour. In fact, I am so used to him that I just couldn't help feeling his intense presence in my life. Yes, he is there and I am glad that I have a good friend like him. Through him, I found a lot of inspiration and encouragement. To a greater or lesser extent, he does have an influence in my life.

Since I came back from Medjugorje, I have been praying to Father Slavko Barbaric too. Or to be more exact, I like to talk to him and for a long, long time too. Why do I pray/talk to him? He is not a saint yet. Because he is a priest who lived a very holy life. Because of his sacrifices for the Church. Because he is a very unique and yet adorable person. The truth is, you can only pray to someone who is good because you know that he will help you. And you can only pray to someone whom you love and respect. And this is what Father Slavko is all about. And he will always live in my heart.

The apparitions of the Mother of God are nothing new and we all know that She does visit the earth and that Her visits are often followed by many miracles. In Lourdes, Medjugorje amd Fatima, just to mention a few of the places that She has visited, many miraculous healings have occurred and these cannot be contested. What do these apparitions signify? The Mother of God is real. The Catholic Church is real. Can we say that She is human like us? Well, can we perform miracles like Her? Are we as holy as Her? To say that Her duty is to give birth to Jesus and nothing more reminds me of what the old-fashioned mother-in-laws used to do in the old cantonese movies. These irrational old ladies have the habit of taking away the baby (their grandchild) and dumping their daughter-in-law. What a pitiful sight! If we respect Jesus, we should also respect His Mother. Let us not be so inhuman as to take Jesus away from His Mother and then dump His Mother.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

THANK YOU ST ANTHONY


The grace that blossoms from the tombs of the elect is a continuous proclamation of truth. By it, God confounds the malice of heresy, confirms the truth of Catholic doctrine, renews the faith that is on the point of being extinguished and brings back erring Christians and even unbelievers to the feet of him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. (In praise of St. Anthony, Pope Gregory IX).

In times of trouble, St. Anthony always guides me. He nevers fails to assist me whenever I call on him. In particular, he always helps me to find lost articles. My grateful thanks to St. Anthony for helping me to find my driving licence just now.

Monday, February 8, 2010

HOW DO YOU KNOW IF YOUR SPOUSE IS CHEATING ON YOU?

Do you know that every line on our palms tells a story? Merely by looking at these lines on our palms, one who has knowledge of palmistry can interpret the signs and emblems that are indelibly etched on our palms. For instance, if there is a break in the line of life but the two fragments overlay each other, the subject will suffer from a very grave illness but he will surely recover. If the line is broken up and laddered then it means continuous ill health.

Now to answer the questions that some of my readers asked me regarding palmistry. Many think that palmistry is superstition and that Catholics shouldn't believe in that. To me, palmistry is a science which helps us to plan for the future and to avoid misfortune. Supposing the subject knows that he will suffer from a grave illness at a certain age, he can pay more attention to his health and diet and this would enable him to prevent or lessen the seriousness of his illness. The lines on our palms are inborn and they have nothing to do with any higher spiritual power. Knowing ourselves and our lives would ensure that we do not live blindly. We can allow something bad to happen if we want or prevent it and this is what palmistry is all about. Tonight I will discuss about the line of marriage and how it can help us to avoid a painful relationship.

Everyone wants a blissful marriage and to live happily ever after. Marriage binds two people together and children will strenghten the marriage. This is the ideal and fervent hope of any married couple. But how many of them actually live happily ever after with their spouse? Sad to say, many marriages do not turn out right. More and more people are getting divorced nowadays because of ignorance, incompatibility and worse of all, interference by a third party. Many marriages break down not because the husband is flirtatious but because of what is known as "bad luck" in a woman's love life because her husband is seduced by another woman and because she has no luck in love. Some men fall for another younger woman because they want to taste something new. Everyone loves new clothes. Every man loves young and beautiful women and this is human nature. If he is lucky enough to be seduced by a beautiful young woman, then surely he wouldn't reject this great opportunity!

I remember one of my students telling me about her parents' divorce a few years back. Her grandmother used to say that her father even knelt down in front of her mother to beg her to marry him. But after 16 years, the marriage has gone stale because her father has fallen in love with a woman who is much younger than her mother. Her mother said that she doesn't mind "bermadu" (bermadu is a malay word meaning sharing her husband with another woman as muslims can take four wives) but her husband's new love said "no" and forced my student's father to divorce his wife. Where is the love that he had for her sixteen years ago? After the divorce, he gives her RM400 a month to support his three children which is not even enough to rent a flat but he just couldn't be bothered about his ex-wife anymore.

Recently I read about a woman ( in her fifties) who jumped from the windowsill and died because her husband threatened to divorce her. He has found a younger new lover. According to their daughter, her father was sitting at the computer table and should be able to see what her mother was doing. So he saw her sitting on the windowsill but purposely kept his eyes closed. Or was it because he was hoping that she would die so that he could marry a younger wife legally? Ladies, think of it. Is it worth dying for a man who no longer loves you? No doubt, women need love. But I think it is better to become a nun than to suffer like this.

There is a time set apart in one's life to marry or not to marry, to separate or divorce. Whatever will be, will be. If the marriage is fated to break down, it will break down. This notion about Fate is also portrayed in the Bible where the hand of God preordaining human affairs can be seen from Genesis to Revelation. In Luke 24:44 Jesus says, "everything written about me in the law of Moses and the prophets and psalms had to be fulfilled." Thus we can see that even Jesus is not given much free will or choice during his earthly life as His life is predestined. The whole story of your life is written on your palms. In other words, the reading of the lines on one's palms can lead to accurate predictions of one's future.

How do you know if your marriage would last? How do you know if your husband is having an affair with another woman or whether there is third party interference in your marriage? Many women prefer to brush aside this issue in the hope that their husband would not cheat on them. It is wise not to be naive and believe that everything is all right until it is too late to save the marriage. I remember telling one of my friends about her husband's activities with a younger woman but she refused to believe me until it was too late. She kept finding excuses for herself saying that the girl I saw could be her husband's colleague or cousin sister and that she knew about it. Or was she trying to evade reality because she feared losing him? Even during the early days of her marriage, I have already warned her to be extra careful with her husband because she has a troubled marriage line. But she said she didn't believe in palmistry and she had confidence in her husband since marriage is based on trust. Her husband finally divorced her and she is now single again - a single mother with three young children to support. And her husband doesn't even bother to see them. What is she doing now? Trying to get a new husband but mother luck is never on her side and she suffers from one broken relationship after another. I told her to give up looking for a man as she is destined to be rejected by men but of course she wouldn't listen to me and is still hoping that she would find someone. This is what we call "women's weakness" and this is also what the men often take advantage of.

Why did her husband divorce her? She is a good wife and mother. She is not ugly. She is a good cook. She doesn't like to nag at her husband. She is an obedient wife. Sounds perfect, isn't she? Perhaps this question can be answered by reference to palmistry. The marriage line is like a mirror that can reveal events taking place in a relationship or marriage. It can tell whether a person will be disappointed in love. A clear marriage line indicates a blissful relationship. A marriage or relationship will be in trouble if the following signs are seen on the palm: a) an island on the marriage line b) the marriage line is criss-crossed by bars b) the marriage line is forked c) the marriage line is broken d) the marriage and heart lines have many islands on it (e) the marriage line divides at the end into a dropping fork sloping toward the centre of the hand. All these signs on the palms denote disappointments in love, divorce, unhappiness and outsiders interfering with marriage. When there are many fine lines running parallel to the marriage line, it denotes many love affairs outside the existing marriage.

My advice is take a good look at your marriage line before you get married. Study the marriage line before tying the knot. Know your partner before jumping into a marriage and do not be blinded by love. Below are some of the tell-tale signs of husbands who are having affairs outside the marriage.
(a) When a man starts complaining about the minor mistakes that his wife makes - this is because he is comparing his wife with another woman.
(b) When a husband becomes very particular with his looks, smell and dressing, something is amiss.
(c) When a man loses his temper at the slightest provocation and keeps telling his wife that they are not compatible.
(d) When a man dare not see 'eye-to-eye' with his wife.
(e) When a man gives all kinds of silly excuses to avoid having a sexual relationship with his wife.
(f) When a man often comes home late with the excuse that he has to work overtime.
(g) When a man is always busy smsing someone.

There are many marriages that break up after 10, 20 or even 30 years. All too often, the divorce is initiated by men. Why? Because men are very valuable. Why do I say this? Once, when I was buying my lunch at the restaurant near my school, I overheard the conversation between two 'Ah Peks' who are already in their sixties. Guess what they were talking about? They said that men are much fewer in number than women and that the government should change the law to allow every man to take two wives legally. These two 'Ah Peks' also said that they wouldn't mind taking a second wife in her thirties. It seems that our 'Ah Peks' here know how valuable they are!

The truth is it is almost impossible for a woman in her sixties to find a husband. Men of her age or older would prefer to go for younger women (in their thirties or perhaps younger) and of course younger men would definitely not fall for a woman of her age. He would rather be poor than to have an old wife. On the contrary, it is possible for a man in his nineties to marry a young wife in her twenties. In fact, I read about this some time ago. This man's wife who is almost his age, finds that she cannot tend to his needs anymore and got a young bride (who is still in her twenties) for her husband and this young lady gladly married him and vowed to look after him forever. As long as a man has money, he can easily find himself a young bride no matter how old he is. However, the opposite seems to be true for women. She may have a lot of money but she cannot buy a husband with her money. My advice to spinsters and divorcees is: Do not go all the way out to look for a man and in the process degrade yourselves. There is no such thing as one cannot live without a man. Think of the Lord. Offer your life to him. Believe me, you'll find real happiness this way.