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Year of Mercy

The Lord tests our faith through times of suffering

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Priest has recently found he has lung cancer
By Father Peter Chiang

Caption: Father Peter Chiang, a priest for more than 60 years, was diagnosed with lung cancer in September. He said he considers the illness a way for him to grow in his faith and to be an example for others. BCC file photo.

I was diagnosed with cancer on my right lung in September. My reaction was quite calm; it did not come as a surprise! In fact I even told myself, "Why not me?"

I have absolutely no reason for wishing bad things such as this to happen to other people. Therefore I accepted it very easily and willingly. I did not complain, nor was I afraid, because I know Jesus really loves me.

I am now 86, and I celebrated the 60th anniversary of my ordination last year. What more can I ask for? These are real proof of God's great love for me. Now He has given me lung cancer, and surely I know He has His purposes for me.

First of all, He asks me to put my whole trust in Him, for I am powerless in the face of lung cancer; furthermore, He asks me to be an example for all those who are suffering one kind of sickness or another.

As a priest, I preach, encouraging God's people to build a good relationship with Him and He will console them; He will show them His abundant mercy. Now I must do what I preach.

Whenever people ask me how I feel after learning of my lung cancer, my reply is I must live in the Lord always, therefore I am optimistic. I continue to be active and have good appetite. I can walk, I can drive my car, and I am able to replace any priest nearby who asks for my help. Why should I be disturbed by my lung cancer?

I have heard of and I have seen many Catholics who could not accept serious sicknesses when they came, especially heart attack and various kinds of cancer. They complain to God, they stop praying, and some refuse to attend Sunday Masses.

Worst of all, some completely abandon their faith. And what is the result? They lose hope and live a miserable life.

We need the encouragement of others and good examples for us to imitate. Two men of God from the Bible are our inspiration; they were determined to do God's will in the most touching way even in the midst of great suffering.

First, the strong faith of Job. God tested him in the most severe way: within a short period of time he lost all his properties, his good health, and, most of all, his beloved children and family.

From the crown of his head to his feet, God inflicted him with severe boils, so bad that even his wife mocked him, saying, "Are you still holding to your innocence? Curse God and die."

But Job said to his wife, "Are even you going to speak as senseless women do? We accept good things from God; and should we not accept evil?" (Job 2:9-10).

Second, the great faith of Abraham. God promised him that, though he was childless, his descendants would be as countless as the stars of sky and the grains of sand on the seashore.

When he was 100 years old, God gave him a son, Isaac. Then God tested him again and asked him to sacrifice his one and only son. On the way, his son asked him, "Here are the fire and the wood, but where is the lamb?"

Abraham answered, "God Himself will provide."

Abraham obeyed God and was about to sacrifice Isaac, but God stopped him. We know that God would never ask him to kill his only son, but God just tested his faith (Gn 22:1-14).

How many times does God also test our faith? In such moments, Job and Abraham are our best examples.

As I often preach the good news of Jesus and encourage God's people to build a good personal relationship with Him, this is how I must practise what I preach. God's people must understand the teaching of Jesus, "I am the vine and you are the branches" (Jn 15:5a), so that we may grow in the Lord and bear plentiful fruit.

When a serious illness comes to us, it should not be an obstacle, rather it must become the best way for us to grow faster in the Lord and strengthen our Christian life.

It is my ardent desire and wish that whoever reads this short reflection may share with others, especially those who are suffering from a serious illness, and be inspired by my message.

If they can truly trust in the Lord, Who is the source of life and joy, they will receive God's infinite love and mercy and gain strength to do His holy will.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 March 2016 08:01
 

Conversion can happen when you least expect it

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Catholic Charities Justice Services Prison Ministry active during Year of Mercy
By Gabrielle Hoffer
Special to The B.C. Catholic

Caption: Visiting the imprisoned is a corporal work of mercy. Gabrielle Hoffer writes that prison ministry volunteers "bring the love and compassion of Christ with them." Malcolm Grear Designers / CNS.

Our Lord's tender invitation to conversion is unending. Sometimes it is in our darkest moments that we actually stop to listen. We may hear it in reading His word, or experience Him through the influence and faith of others.

It is no different for those who are incarcerated. They experience the same calling. However, some may not have the ability to read, so cannot read His word. They may never have heard anyone proclaim His word. There may have been too few opportunities for them to mingle with people of faith to experience the love and compassion of Our Lord.

This is where Catholic Charities Justice Services (CCJS) Prison Ministry finds its place, alongside chaplaincy. This Jubilee Year of Mercy provides a further invitation to extend mercy to others through our actions.

When proclaiming this special year of grace, Pope Francis said, "I am confident that the whole Church, which is in such need of mercy, for we are sinners, will be able to find in this Jubilee the joy of rediscovering and rendering fruitful God's mercy, with which we are all called to give comfort to every man and every woman of our time."

CCJS volunteers who visit the imprisoned bring the love and compassion of Christ with them. This can both initiate and feed a spiritual longing. Volunteers frequently comment on how richly rewarding it is for themselves as well.

Last summer three inmates were confirmed and another baptized at Mission Institution. On being asked what led to his conversion, one candidate said that he had been inspired by the qualities of a particular Catholic and wanted to be like that man himself. He then joined the RCIA program, run by CCJS volunteers.

Another inmate will soon be baptized at the institution, his faith having been strongly nurtured through interactions with CCJS volunteers, Bible studies, and RCIA.

Scripture tells us that the harvest is great, but the labourers are few. This is especially so in Prison Ministry. CCJS volunteers are present in as many areas as their numbers allow, but there is still a great need in each of the eight federal and five provincial institutions in the Archdiocese of Vancouver.

Approximately 25 per cent of the inmate population is Catholic.

In addition to visiting inmates, CCJS volunteers participate in chaplaincy programs, support the reintegration of released offenders directly or indirectly, and provide outreach to families and victims impacted by crime.

Maureen Donegan, the coordinator of Catholic Charities Justice Services, said, "Many of us have given food to the hungry, clothing to the naked, and responded to the other beatitudes, but most of us have had little opportunity to respond to the words, 'When I was in prison you visited Me,' and so I invite you to join us in visiting the prisoners."

The contact for more information or to volunteer is Maureen Donegan, 604-791-1864; maureendonegan@shaw.ca.

Hoffer is a member of St. Ann's Parish (Abbotsford) and a long-time prison ministry volunteer.

Last Updated on Friday, 26 February 2016 09:34
 

God reveals His mercy through the love of others

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Christ can only be within you if you choose to accept Him, and offer your pain and suffering to Him
By Nathan Rumohr
Special to The B.C. Catholic

Caption: Sometimes one can feel as if they walk along the beach of life lost and alone. However, this is a choice of our own, says Nathan Rumohr. Designpics.

From early 2013 until early 2015 I was in a deep depression. This affliction tortured me and I wanted to die.

I lost both my hope in Jesus Christ and my love for Him. Depression caused me to get angry with God because I felt He had abandoned me. He allowed me, for no apparent reason, to give up on life.

I hated that I went weeks when I barely got out of bed. I hated that I was a burden, both financially and emotionally, on my family. I hated that I couldn't hold a job. I hated that I couldn't love my fianc‚ the way she loved me.

I felt worthless. Not only did I not have any hope in life, but I lost hope in eternal salvation. I didn't want to be saved if God was like this and made people suffer so much.

Thankfully, things started to improve around Christmas in 2014. My fianc‚ and my family doubled down, helping and challenging me, to participate in life again. I still had days where I wouldn't get out of bed, or where I was too afraid to go outside and engage the world, but they became less and less.

I still felt abandoned by God. The faith that had been my foundation for so long was no longer guiding me. Out of love for my fianc‚, I would still go to Mass, but it was an empty experience most of the time and I couldn't figure out why.

Early in 2015 I moved to Marpole and started going to Mass at St. Anthony of Padua Church. Things started to change. Father Justin Huang, who had only started there as pastor a few months before, was, and is still, trying to cultivate a community of discipleship. I had no interest at the time of becoming a "disciple" because I felt Christ no longer dwelled in me.

However that changed when a group of CCO missionaries called Impact came to our church that spring to lead the CCO Faith Studies program (which the Archdiocese of Vancouver uses as the source material for Project Timothy).

Father Justin encouraged me, along with my fianc‚, to take the first Faith Study Discovery course. Initially nothing changed, and I still felt abandoned by God, but things improved during the fifth week lesson when I learned Christ wants to be the centre of our lives.

It was then I realized the reason Christ wasn't in me was because I had put Him outside my life. I had been so angry about suffering from depression that instead of allowing Christ to suffer with me, and lifting up all my hurt and pain to Him, I decided to do it alone.

I couldn't see that God had not abandoned me, but He was smothering me with love and mercy. He never left me alone because my family, friends, priests, and my loving fianc‚ were there the whole time.

I also realized during that lesson that I needed Jesus to help me move forward with my life and put depression in the rear-view mirror. The lesson quoted Rv 3:20: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with Me."

Walter Sallman's classic painting of the Bible verse, called Heart's Door, portrays Jesus knocking at a door with no handle. The door can only be opened from within.

I decided that lesson to open that door and let Jesus in, and I am so grateful He hasn't left!

It has been nine months since I last felt the deep despair of depression, and I thank my Lord for that. He has given me my life back and shown me that He never abandons us.

I am not yet "cured" of depression, and I will likely have to take medication and seek counselling the rest of my life, but I look forward to walking with Christ as a disciple and I strive to always accept His mercy.

Last Updated on Friday, 26 February 2016 09:33
 


 

 

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