2021年4月7日 星期三

A Lesson on True Discipleship

 


 

As my Sunday school students are due to receive the Holy Sacrament of Confirmation in May, I have been pondering what more I can do for them in these remaining weeks. I am particularly concerned about enhancing their understanding of the need to be strengthened and bound more firmly to Christ in response to the call to a life of true Christian discipleship. And, to my great delight, they have recently been blessed with a related learning opportunity.

 

It was an activity known as “the Modern Man’s Way of the Cross” organized by the “Association of Lay Catholics in Macau”. It took place on the morning of Good Friday and involved a long walk from Flora Garden up a flight of winding stairs to the Guia Hill Muncipal Park, where five spots had been appointed to serve as the respective five stations. When I got the invitation for my students to take turns to carry the wooden cross on the Way, I worried about their lack of interest as teenagers had been used to the comfort of an air-conditioned environment. Fortunately, I managed to recruit nine volunteers.

 

Though the weight of the cross was shared by six carriers at each shift, the walk up the long staircase was quite strenuous especially with the scorching sun beating down. They were the first to arrive at the assigned station while the rest of the participants followed them in long queues at a snail’s pace. On account of the large number of participants, it was quite a few minutes before everyone arrived and a signal was given for the spiritual session to start. During the entire time, two of the carriers remained standing on either side of the wooden cross to keep it standing erect. Seeing their frowning faces, I kept praying that they would persist till the very end.

 

To my delight, they showed no sign of quitting. Neither did they complain about the task. Conversely, as I came to know later, the experience of the Modern Man’s Way of the Cross had turned out to be a treasurable spiritual lesson for them, a lesson no less inspiring than any I had taught them in the classroom. It was, in fact, a lesson on true discipleship.

 

By helping to carry the wooden cross, my students offered their service to the other participants, thus contributing to the accomplishment of the activity. This is one aspect of discipleship as Jesus has taught His disciples to serve one another.

 

In addition, a true disciple is committed to taking up his own cross and follow Jesus to the very end. By helping to carry the wooden cross that morning, my students were guided to enter into Jesus’ sufferings. The experience of the exhausting walk and the boiling sun has enabled them to understand better about the agony of Jesus and His selfless love for us mankind.

 

Most importantly, they were doing evangelical work, too, as they learned, probably for the first time in their lives, to proclaim their faith in public, bearing witness to Jesus Christ’s redemptive work. There were passers-by, for example, who would probably have asked curious questions about the procession and prayer chanting on loudspeakers. It is said that a true disciple will reach out to others, tell them the Good News and bring them to Jesus. My students were, in fact, doing this by participating in this activity.

 

I can conclude that in addition to the Catechism and Bible knowledge they have acquired over the past three years, my students will also benefit from life experiences like the above mentioned one. I, therefore, have confidence that they are adequately prepared for a new phase of their spiritual life and that God will continue to bless them with the ability to pursue on the path that will lead them closer to Jesus as His true disciples.

 

 

 

2021年3月10日 星期三

An amazing labour of love

 An amazing labour of love


On various occasions in recent years people who come to our church, Church of St. Francis Xavier of Mongha, for Sunday Mass may have been fascinated by a great number of decorative items displayed for sale on long tables in the church garden. The decorations are so artistically designed and skillfully made that they draw great crowds and it is often with great joy and satisfaction that the successful buyers take them home.

The articles for sale are the products of a makeshift factory, now known as the “Dream Workshop (夢工場)”. It is actually a small space occupied by a rectangular table in the lobby of our Parish Center. Most of the items for sale serve festive decoration purposes such as Christmas wreaths, Chinese New Year slogans and lanterns. There are also items with religious symbolism including Easter candles, baptism candles and even memorial crosses to be offered to the ancestors on All Souls Day. In fact, there are a wide range of products that appeal to parishioners who care to celebrate a feast day or a festive occasion with something of practical utility and of originality in design. Most importantly, they see it as an opportunity to help the needy as the items are all sold for charity.

Who are the makers of these fascinating articles? A team of about ten parishioners are seen sitting around the long table on Sunday and Saturday afternoons, often on weekday evenings, too, enthusiastically engaged in their work of painting, calligraphy, paper folding and mosaic tile crafting. Unwanted scraps are fashioned into beautiful homemade cards. CNY red packets, glued together in various patterns, are turned into artistic wall decorations, lanterns with red tassel pendants, and wind chimes with bells. The team is indeed greatly admired for their creativity and artistic talents. It is amazing how they turn discarded scraps into one-of-a-kind articles of tasteful beauty.

This is indeed a labour of love as the dedicated volunteers are willing to sacrifice some of their leisure time to help collecting fund to help the needy. Through their exemplary act of charity, they help spread love in the parish and beyond. And as some of the products bear a Bible verse label or a blessing quote, they serve to remind the users of God’s words, too. In this way the volunteers are somehow also contributing to the mission of evangelization.

In view of its growing popularity, the “Dream Workshop” is likely to increase productivity to meet the rising customer demand. Soon, this dedicated team will once again fling themselves into the production of Easter gifts. It is hoped that more people will be interested not only in the purchase of the products but will also join the dream team to get themselves involved in this amazing labour of love. 

2021年2月14日 星期日

All are welcome to the dancing floor




 As we tend to equate mobility decline with old age, a modern dance performed by a team of elderly people is beyond our imagination. But that is exactly what a storytelling dance show boasts.

The show “TREETALK” (《一隅樹說》), produced by Comuna de Pedra, has a unique genre. The performance features a dance with a pile of wooden bricks serving as the only props. The dance begins with the performers standing in a circle, each holding a wooden brick in her hands. In turn they speak out loud, sharing about what they observe on the brick and what they imagine themselves doing with it. Gradually the performance evolves into a pattern of body movements as the performers walk about, moving the bricks up and down and at various angles, throwing their arms out at one moment and holding them back at the next. While one gets bricks piled up one by one in her folded arms, another has hers lifted off her forward-bending back. To the accompaniment of cheerful light music, the pace of the dance increases steadily until the movements come to a sudden standstill and the bricks are laid on the floor noiselessly.

The name being “TREETALK”, the highlight is the storytelling by the performers. Standing on the bricks, now flattened on the floor to form a makeshift mini-stage at the hall centre, each performer narrates her own story, mainly an unforgettable life experience that brings cheer to herself and to the audience. The final narration is that of the lead dancer, who elaborates her story with very graceful dancing steps amidst the bricks arranged in a way to simulate a three-dimensional layout plan of Macau.

Frankly speaking, “TREETALK” falls short of the expectations of the ordinary audience about a glamourous show. It takes place in the old-styled parlour of the Lou Lim Ieouk Garden without the attractions of a glittering backdrop, bizarre props and flashing stage lights. And, with the exception of two young professional dancers, the performers are aged between 65 and 74. From an economic perspective, therefore, the show seems unlikely to be a commercial success.

However, the concept behind it fills me with great admiration for the producer, the choreographer, the dancers and, in fact, for everyone involved in its production. According to Mr. Yonglok Ong, the choreographer, the seniors and the underprivileged are a marginalized community because their reduced mobility or loss of speech has led to their being misunderstood, boycotted and isolated. In fact, what they need is empathy rather than sympathy. Every one of them has a story to tell about his growth and struggles through life. They crave for the opportunity for these stories to be listened to.

The inclusive dance featured in the show “TREETALK”, regardless of age or ability, draws attention to the possibility of finding an answer to this need. It shows how art can move individuals to great heights and inspire one to create change and overcome challenges. Isn’t it amazing how the elderly performers balance themselves on the bricks, making movements inconceivable for people of their age?

The show “TREETALK” delivers a very positive message. There should be no social exclusion. Instead of being marginalized, the seniors and underprivileged are entitled to the right to express themselves through speech and body movements. In brief, everyone is welcome on the dancing floor.

2021年1月10日 星期日

Helping Students Connect with God through Nature

 


 

As it is the mission of a Sunday school teacher to bring his/her students into close contact with God, there is something more I should do in addition to Catechism and Gospel teaching. I have indeed been trying to engage my students in establishing connections between God’s World and His Word. This involves guiding them to develop an awareness of God’s presence in a non-academic environment and, most importantly, in Nature.

 

Recently, I have watched a short film about a flock of migrating wild geese. In the film the geese are seen to be moving in a V-formation with the leader flying in front at all times. By adopting the cooperation strategy, they manage to extract the maximum benefit and put in less effort. They optimize their energetic and cognitive performances during the yearly longdistance travels by each playing the part of a cross-functional individual. They regularly change leadership and swap positions among the group members. Those flying in the rear will cheer for those at the front. When one member falls ill, two will slow down to take care of him until he recovers. They are tolerant of differences and face challenges through mutual companionship and support. It is evident that, divided, the wild geese cannot fly very far however hard they flap their wings. Together, however, they can travel great distances, soaring effortlessly over high mountains and deep valleys.

 

The film ends with a remarkable question: Besides their behavioural adaptations, what else also contributes greatly to their marvellous performance? It is the wind! Scientists have discovered that when there is a tailwind, the geese can fly up high to where they will be whisked along faster. This, coupled with their team spirit, can help them accomplish their dream with better ease and greater satisfaction.

 

I have been much impressed by the positive message the film delivers. Though there is nothing associated with spiritual thinking, it makes me reflect on God’s presence in Nature. The wild geese’s instinctive behaviour and inborn skills are evidence of the wonders of God’s creation.

 

Likewise, their team spirit also initiates thinking about the Early Church at the time when the disciples sought mutual support and encouragement through community bonding. In fact, wind is one of the Biblical symbols of the Holy Spirit. Like the soft blowing wind, the Holy Spirit breathes life into the Church and all spiritual communities, strengthening the bonding and fellowship of the members as St. Paul says in the Acts of the Apostles: “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts 4:32)

During one of my Sunday school lessons, I showed the film to my students and invited them to discuss in groups how the film inspired them spiritually and how the role of the Holy Spirit could be likened to the wind on which the wild geese depended for support and guidance. As expected, my students did not come up with very inspirational ideas, given their young age. My mere intention was to help them think a bit how God’s divine power is revealed in the very simple creatures we observe in our lives.

 

In brief, our students can benefit more from the Catechism and Gospel teaching if we can also guide them to think of God in Nature and to establish links between God’s World and His Word.

 

 2)

2020年7月5日 星期日

A unique love story – Movie Review: Beyond the Dream



A love triangle involving a young man and two girls is a very common film topic. But the story can be weird if the man’s two lovers, one existing in real life and the other in imagination, happen to be the same girl. In the film “Beyond the Dream” this is what happens to Ah Lok, a patient of delusional disorder, who craves for and experiences true love. The film, in fact, tells a unique love story, which keeps the audience emotionally engaged throughout the entire time.

Ah Lok is a primary sports teacher. On regular medication, he is a well-liked young man full of vitality. But when the disease gets out of control, strange things can happen; he cannot tell between what is real and what is imagined. And what triggers this may be a disturbing incident such as the one that occurs in the street at the beginning of the film and it is also where and when Ah Lok first encounters the girl.

Making frequent use of big close-up shots, the director wants to impress the audience with the characters’ inner feelings, such as Ah Lok’s helplessness when drifting in and out of half awake hallucinations, Yip Nam’s happiness when she feels Ah Lok’s love and the professor’s disappointment at Yip Nam's
determination to give up her doctorate.

There is also emphasis on the relationship between humans and the environment. The repeated top-view shot of the spiral staircase implies that a patient of mental disorder often finds himself subject to confinement. The same effect is also achieved with the scattered shots of the subway and the cruciform block of public housing estate. In addition, a light rail station appears several times, highlighting Ah Lok’s feeling of loneliness amidst the commuters hurrying past him. Moreover, the blurred shots imply doubt as to whether it is reality or imagination, comparable to Ah Lok's actual state of mind.

Above all, as the director remarks at an interview, the film is telling a love story. It delivers the message that patients of mental disorder are humans just like any of us. They also crave for love and are capable of true love. And, while Ah Lok is participating in the counselling project, we audience can join him as we also need counselling about genuine love, sacrificial love and accepting love.

2020年7月1日 星期三

A Comedian in Real Life - Movie review: Annie Hall






Annie Hall is a 1977 American romantic comedy film written and directed by Woody Allen. It is a film with so much to take in that it appeals for undivided attention so much so that even a slight distraction would leave the audience straying off the path.

In the first place, the movie is characterized by a copious use of dialogues. Everyone everywhere seems to be talking. Quickness characterizes the way people talk. This, indicating the quick change of time and place as well as people’s mood, can be confusing at times. The audience have to pay full attention to the dialogues to get the right message. And very often two persons are heard speaking at the same time, their words overlapping. More than once the subtitles show both the words on their minds and the actual words being spoken. Imagine the confusion!.

Split scenes are used a few times. At one shot Alvin and Annie are seen at different settings, displayed side by side, each discussing with his own therapist. It is thus apparent that they are both bothered by the same problem though they refuse to confide it to each other. Similarly, split scenes are used to compare Annie’s family with Alvin’s when discussing a situation common to both. If I am to watch the film for the second time, it would be to listen to the dialogues again for better enjoyment and understanding.

His career as a stand -up comedian is another interesting detail. Why has he been assigned this career? Not much stress is placed on the two cases in which he is sharing a joke on stage. The script he uses is too short to spark laughter though the audience seem to be enjoying it a lot. As I see it, it is in real life that he impresses the audience as a comedian. His humour, rightly deemed a kind of neurotic humour, using his frailties as fodder to make us laugh, is implied in the way he interacts with the people around him. One example is his annoyance at a guy talking incessantly behind him in a waiting queue. This causes bursts of laughter especially when he purposely brings the guy to the presence of the man who was his target of criticism. And Alvin may suddenly turn to speak to the camera or even ask the strangers on the street questions about the nature of love. The situation could very well be likened to his stage performance initiating responses from the audience.

The audience may wonder why Alvin has been seeking the psychiatrist’s advice for fifteen years. One detail associated with his childhood may be part of the reason. He caused trouble in class because of his innocent sexual curiosity. He also irritated his mother with his indulgence in fanciful thoughts about the universe. Now a grown-up, he still finds this behaviour of his well justified. Could this be the reason for his need for psychological advice?

In view of the name of the film, one would expect the main part of the story to evolve through the life of Annie. But as I see it, Alvin, instead, is the focus of the story. He appears in practically every scene. Conversely, Annie is hardly seen without Alvin. In fact, she is framed through Alvin's experiences. Little importance is attached even to her being with Tony Lacey, her record producer. Her part in the film, from my point of view, is merely to show that she is the most outstanding among the women Alvin has got along with as she is the only one to whom he proposes for marriage. Why is the movie not named Alvin instead?

Frankly speaking, to write a good review of the film “Annie Hall”, I would need to view it for the second, or even the third time, to support my analysis with well digested details. Nevertheless, the film is worth watching more than once just for its own sake.

2020年6月22日 星期一

My Appreciation for a Dedicated Team


In view of the expiry of Cinematheque Passion’s operating contract by the end of June, I would like to express my appreciation for the Association of Audio Visual CUT’s contribution as the operator over the past three years.
A film director had once said that in order for Macau’s film industry to develop, people need first to be taught to appreciate “good” movies. In this respect I hold in high regard what CUT Ltd. has been doing as I have personally learned a lot from my three years’ experience of being an audience member of Cinematheque Passion.
On top of everything else I have learned to respect movies as a form of art. Frankly, I used to prioritize TV programs over films as a kind of entertainment in terms of cost and convenience. And I found DVDs a useful source of interesting movies. However, I have not only learned over time to appreciate the joy of watching a film in the cinema but have also come to realize what it takes for a film to be classified as a good one.
This has been due to the exposure to a wide range of movies of intellectual depth and artistic value, most being award winners at international film festivals. Most of the films selected for screening are inaccessible in the main-stream cinemas, hence a treasured privilege for the audience of the Cinematheque.
In addition, CUT Ltd. is intent on providing opportunities for local filmmakers to exploit their skills and potentials by arranging special screening for their films. There are usually questionnaires for us audience to fill in, inviting opinions and suggestions about the movies we have watched, showing the team’s eagerness to satisfy our desire for quality films.
Besides, there are frequent free talks and seminars for audience participation. In a pro-screening talk, for example, we have the chance to interact with the speakers, usually the director himself and a few other filming participants. They help us understand the film in greater depth, share with us some interesting details behind the scene and patiently answer our curious questions.
In addition, there are training workshops for people of different age-groups to learn the basic filming techniques. One example is the yearly short course designed for Junior High students to be trained by professional directors to produce a short film on their own.
There are other workshops, equally informative and exciting, targeted at more mature learners with the aptitude. Personally, I will always be grateful to CUT Ltd. for having organized a Film Critics Workshop for each of the three consecutive years.
I have been greatly inspired by Mr. Fung Ka Ming, the instructor, whose excellent guidance has well equipped me to explore further on film analysis with confidence and to share my film reviews with other movie lovers.
This has convinced me that films, as a form of art, can be further appreciated through the beauty and depth of a film review. My special thanks goes to Rita and Vivianna for launching the “Film Critics Salon”, enabling film critics like myself to post our film reviews on a regular base.
And last but not least, it is at the Cinematheque that I have learned to adopt a respectful attitude as an audience member. Like the rest of the watchers, I remain seated till the end of the credits roll. Each time I see the long list of names, I cannot help marveling at the great number of people engaged in the different jobs involved. Do these people not deserve this simple token of respect for their contribution to film production?
For the past three years, Cinematheque Passion has been a place where movie makers are encouraged to pursue their dreams and where movie lovers have access to an endless source of quality movies. In fact, the team of the Association of Audio Visual CUT will always be remembered for their dedication and enthusiasm.