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It’s so inspiring to have the opportunity to talk to Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, the UNICEF Country Director for China, a year after the Sichuan earthquake. It’s really an eye-opening evening for me. I felt the click right away after our first conversation – perhaps because she was a geologist and can talk Bahasa Indonesia (she was UNICEF’s regional representative for Indonesia during the tsunami disasters couple years ago).

Below is the picture taken during the “An Evening of Ten-million Thank Yous” at The Richmond Gallery.

A special evening with Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF's country Director of China, who spoke about her direct experience in leading UNICEF's emergency response in Sichuan, helping the people of China rebuild their lives.

A special evening with Dr. Yin Yin Nwe, UNICEF's country Director of China, who spoke about her direct experience in leading UNICEF's emergency response in Sichuan, helping the people of China rebuild their lives.

 

I’ll write about her key note presentation in the second part.

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I went to the Friday’s 7PM Mass at St. Joseph the Worker Church – I used to do it on my birthday to give my gratitude to Him for all His gifts and blessings. The mass was also served as memorial mass for one of our deceased church members. There’s a very lovely poem on the distributed paper:

I am with you still

I give you this one thought to keep –
I am with you still – I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.

When you awaken in the morning’s hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone –
I am with you still – in each new dawn.

~ Anonymous ~

Father Mario gave a very touching homily. Catholic Christians cannot be dead because our body and soul will be united when we’re raised from the dead. A little bit consoling for the ones who’re left behind… The poem touches my heart deeply – I wonder how I’d take it when one day the people I love finish their pilgrimage in this world and leave me…

I posted the poem on my Facebook. Only then I knew from Kawamura-san that the poem has become a very popular song and loved by so many people there. I googled and found this lovely poem and song.

According to some information the evidence indicates that Mary Frye is the author of Do Not Stand at My Grave and Weep – although the origin of this poem is still in dispute. Mary Elizabeth Frye (1905-2004) was a housewife from Baltimore, USA. When a friend’s mother died this apparently prompted Mary Frye to compose the verse, which in various forms has for decades now touched and comforted many thousands of people, especially at times of loss and bereavement. Click this link for more info.  

I posted two versions of the song here (source: YouTube).

1. I am A Thousand Winds by Hayley Wistenra  – I bet you’ll cry when you listen to this song. *smile*

The lyric is as follows:
Please do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain

I am a thousand winds
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint on snow
I am a thousand winds that blow

Please do not stand at my grave and cry
I am not there, I did not die
I am the swift rush of birds in flight
I am the stars that shine at night

I am a thousand winds
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint on snow
I am a thousand winds that blow

Please do not stand at my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain
I am the gentle autumn rain

I am a thousand winds
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am the diamond glint on snow
I am a thousand winds that blow

I am the diamond glint on snow
I am a thousand winds that blow

 

2. Sen no kaze ni natte by the Japanese tenor, Masafumi Akikawa.  

 

I pray that I still have the time and opportunity to show His love to others that need it and to show my love to my loved ones. And, yes, please do not stand at my grave and weep… be glad, because I am a thousand winds that blow… *smile*

 

The Right to Live

A Letter to the Editor of the Newspapers in Toronto sent by A Parishioner of St. Joseph the Worker Catholic Church – I share the same opinion:

With all of the recent talk about euthanasia and giving people the right to kill others who may be terminally ill, suffering from chronic depression or simply unable to speak for themselves, if we as a society are really and truly concerned about preserving human dignity and offering compassionate care and support, we should rather be focusing on improving palliative care, and psychological and spiritual/emotional support options.

Speaking from experience, I have painfully but lovingly stood vigil with both my mother and father at their hospital bedsides in their last days before passing away. These difficult situations were indeed stressful but I can honestly say, also filled with deep love, respect and compassion for dying loved ones (which of course was shared by the medical and social work team as well). At times when pain started to become an issue, doctors and nurses where able to quickly and effectively administer pain management therapy to make this a non-issue, and a poor excuse to mercy killing. I cherish the memories of the last loving days and hours spent with my parents, and expressing nothing but love and kindness in ways that words simply cannot express.

So before we decide to legally allow the intentional killing of our most vulnerable citizens, let’s please give some really serious thought to how we can better extend palliative care and other treatment options which indeed offer the most compassionate care abd respect for human dignity, and life itself.

“Perseverence,” this is a translation of a Greek word that is rich with implications, including patience, constancy, resistance, trust.

Perseverence is necessary and indispensable when we suffer, when we are tempted, when we are inclined to be discouraged, when we are drawn to the seductions of the world, when we suffer persecution.

I think that you too have found yourself in at least one of these situations and have experienced that, without perseverence, you would have given in. Perhaps at times you did give in. Maybe now, at this very moment, you find yourself immersed in one of these painful situations.

What will you do? What should you do? Start again, and… persevere. Otherwise, the name “Christian” does not suit you.

You know that whoever wants to follow Christ must take up his cross each day, must love it, at least with his will. The Christians vocation is a call to perseverance.

The apostle Paul demonstrated his perseverance before the Christian community as a sign of Christian authenticity. And he did not hesistate to put it on the same level as miracles.

If you love the cross and persevere to the very end, you will follow Christ, who is in heaven, and therefore be saved.

It is possible to distinguish two categories of people: those who hear the invitation to be true Christians, but the invitation lands in their souls like a seed on rocky ground. There is a burst of fleeting enthusiasm, but afterward nothing remains. Then there are those who welcome the invitation, just as good soil receives the seed. And Christian life sprouts, grows, overcomes difficulties, and resists storms.

Christians have perseverance, and…

By your perseverence you will secure your lives. (Luke 21:19)

Naturally, if you want to persevere, it is not enough to rely only on your own strength. You must have God’s help. Paul calls God “the God of perseverance” (Rm 15:5).

You must ask Him for it, and He will give it to you. If you are a Christian, you will never be content with merely being baptized or doing some acts of worship or charity every now and then. You must grow as a Christian, and every growth in spiritual life can only come about in the midst of trials, obstacles, and battles.

Those who really know how to persevere are those who love. Love is never hindered by obstacles. It does not count difficulties or sacrifices. And perseverance is love that has been put to the test…

You should look to Mary, for she is the woman of perseverance.

Ask God to enkindle love for Him in your heart, and then perseverance, in all the difficulties of life, will come to you as a consequence, and with it the salvation of your soul.

And there is more. Perseverance is contagious. The person who perseveres encourages others to do the same… Let us set our sights high.We have only one life, and it is brief at that. Let us clench our teeth and stand firm from day to day; let us face one difficulty after another in order to follow Christ… and we shall persevere and our lives will be secure.

By: Chiara Lubich

The Word of Life, a sentence of Scripture, is offered monthly as a guide and inspiration for daily life. Its translation into 90 different languages and dialects reaches several million people worldwide, through print, radio, TV and the internet. From the Focolare’s beginnings, Chiara Lubich wrote her commentaries on each “Word of Life,” and after her death on March 14, 2008, her early writings are now being featured once again. This commentary, addressed to primarily Catholic audience, was originally published in January 1979.

If you would like to read experiences of life related to this or to past “Word of Life,” they can be found in Living City, the monthly magazine for the Focolare Movement (in print or online) or in books published by New City Press. Visit the website: www.livingcitymagazine.com; www.newcitypress.com. Visit the international website: www.focolare.org. You can subscribe to Living City magazine by writing to: Focolare Movement, P.O. Box 69523, 5845 Yonge St., Willowdale, ON M2M 4K3.

 

Do you know the context of this sentence in the Gospel? It is in St. John’s account of the Last Supper, when Jesus was about to wash the feet of His disciples and was preparing for the Passion. During the last moments that Jesus spent with “his own,” he revealed the love he had always had for them in the highest and most explicit way.

The words “to the end” mean to the end of His life, to His very last breath. But there is also the idea of perfection. That is, He loved them completely, totally with the greatest intensity, to the highest degree.

When Jesus would go on to His glory, the disciples would remain in the world. They would feel alone; they would have many trials to overcome. It is precisely in view of those moments that Jesus wanted to make them feel sure of His love.

In this phrase, can’t you sense Jesus’ entire lifestyle, His way of loving? He washed His disciples’ feet. His love made Him stoop to this lowly service, which in those days was done only by slaves. In addition to His amazing words, His miracles and all His deeds, Jesus was now preparing for the tragedy of Calvary in which He would give His very life for “His own” and for all people. He knew of their great need, the greatest need that people can have: the need to be freed from sin, which means from death, and to be able to enter into the kingdom of heaven. Only He could give them the peace and joy of everlasting life.

And so Jesus gave Himself up to death, crying out His forsakenness by the Father, until He was able at the very end to say, “It is finished” (John 19:30), that is everything is completed.

In these words we see both the tenacious love of a God and the tender addection of a brother. We Christians, since Christ is in us, can also love like this.

Now, I am not proposing, however, that you imitate Jesus by actually dying for others as He did when His hour came. Nor do I put before you models like Father Kolbe who died for a fellow prisoner, or Father Damien who contracted leprosy from his lepers and died with them and for them.

It may be that in the course of your lifetime you will never be asked to give your physical life for your neighbors. But what God certainly does ask of you is that you love them “to the end,” to the point where you too can say, “It is finished.”

This is what an elven-year-old Italian girl named Lisa did. She saw that her classmate and friend Georgina was extremely sad. She tried to comfort her, but it did no good. So she decided to find out what made her friend so sad. She learned that Georgina’s father had died, and that her mother had left her alone with her grandmother and had gone to live with another man. Lisa could sense the tragedy and decided to do something about it.

Even though Lisa was only a child, she asked Georgina to let her talk to her mother, but Georgina begged her to go with her first to visit her father’s grave. With great love Lisa went with her. There she overheard Georgina sobbing and imploring her father to take her with him.

Lisa felt heartbroken. The ruins of a little church were nearby and the two girls went in. The only things left inside the church were a small tabernacle and a crucifix. Lisa said, “Look, in this world everything is going to be destroyed; only the crucifix and the Eucharist will always be with us.” Georgina dried her tears and replied, “Yes, you’re right!” Then with tender love, Lisa took Georgina by the hand and accompanied her to her mother.

When they got there Lisa boldly told the mother, “I know this is none of my business, but it seems that you’ve left your daughter without the mother’s love that she desperately needs. And I’ll say one more thing, you’ll never find peace until you take her back to live with you, and are sorry and decide to change.”

The following day in school Lisa continued to support Georgina with her love. But something new happened. After school a car came to pick Georgina up; it was her mother. From that day on the car has kept coming regularly. Georgina now lives with her mother who broke off the relationship with the man she had been living with.

Looking at the small yet great thing Lisa did, we could say, “It is finished.” She did everything well, “to the end” and she achieved what she set out to do.

Think about it. How often have you started to take care of someone and then have given up using all kinds of excuses to silence your conscience? How many things have you started with enthusiasm and then not followed through in the face of difficulties you felt were beyond your strength?

The lesson Jesus is giving you today is this:

“He loved His own in the world, and He loved them to the end.” (John 13:1)

Love to the very end. And if one day God should actually ask for your life, you will not hesitate. You will be like the martyrs who went to their deaths singing. Your reward shall be the greatest glory because Jesus said, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:13)

By: Chiara Lubich

The Word of Life, a sentence of Scripture, is offered monthly as a guide and inspiration for daily life. Its translation into 90 different languages and dialects reaches several million people worldwide, through print, radio, TV and the internet. From the Focolare’s beginnings, Chiara Lubich wrote her commentaries on each “Word of Life,” and after her death on March 14, 2008, her early writings are now being featured once again. This commentary, addressed to primarily Catholic audience, was originally published in January 1979.

If you would like to read experiences of life related to this or to past “Word of Life,” they can be found in Living City, the monthly magazine for the Focolare Movement (in print or online) or in books published by New City Press. Visit the website: www.livingcitymagazine.comwww.newcitypress.com. Visit the international website: www.focolare.org. You can subscribe to Living City magazine by writing to: Focolare Movement, P.O. Box 69523, 5845 Yonge St., Willowdale, ON M2M 4K3.

Smile

I think many of you watched either live or via re-broadcast and news about Michael Jackson Memorial at Staples Center in Los Angeles today (July 7, 2009). His brother Jermaine sang his favourite song, Smile.

There are people who may hear this song but still do not know that the melody was originally Charlie Chaplin’s. You will know it if you watch Modern Times.

Smile was the theme music for Chaplin’s last silent picture Modern Times in 1936. It became official when John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons added lyrics to Chaplin’s composition in 1954. Nat King Cole recorded the song and it became a hit! It reached the #10 position on the Billboard Charts in 1954.

Over the years, it became a standard which many artists have recorded including Tony Bennett, Barbara Streisand, Michael Jackson, Rod Stewart, Josh Groban, Michael Bublé, Elvis Costello, and Michael Bolton. Latest to record Smile is Robert Downey Jr. on his The Futurist CD. Downey played Charlie in the movie Chaplin.

This tune was one of Michael’s favourite songs, and he recorded a version of it on his 1995 album HIStory. It’s a lovely song… There’s a sense of melancholy but also optimism, and to hear Michael sang it over Chaplin’s movie as appears  here, gives me that powerful feeling that there’s always hope and that there’s something in all of us that can always overcome tribulations.

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by…

If you smile
With your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just…

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just…

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by…

If you smile
Through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile…

That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just smile…

taken on July 6, 2009

taken on July 6, 2009

Rest in peace, Michael…
Never met you,
never knew you in person,
but you certainly put smiles on my face because of your songs.

Note: this post also appears on my Facebook’s Notes.

Are you young and aspiring to a life that has an ideal, is totally committing and calls for a complete change in you? Then listen to Jesus, because no one else in the world will ask as much of you. You are being given an opportunity to prove your faith, your generosity and your heroism.

Are you an adult, longing for a sound way of life that is serious, committed and will not disappoint you? Or are you an older person hoping to dedicate the golden years of your life to someone who will not deceive you, to live without worries that exhaust you? These words of Jesus are also for you.

They conclude a series of exhortations in which Jesus asks you not to worry over what you will eat or what you will wear, but rather to act as the birds of the air that do not sow and the lilies of the field that do not weave. Banish from your heart, therefore, all anxieties over the things of this earth. The Father, who loves you more than the birds and the flowers, will take care of you himself. This is why Jesus tells you:

“Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.” (Luke 12:33)

In its entirety, and in every word it contains, the Gosple demands everything from you, everything you are and everything you possess.

Prior to Christ’s coming into the world, God had never made such radical demands. In the Old Testament, earthly riches were seen as good, a blessing from God. Giving alms to the needy was demanded, but as a means to obtain the benevolence of the Almighty.

Later on, the idea of a reward in the next life became more commonly accepted among members of the Jewish faith. According to a rabbinical tradition, a king, who had been reprimanded for having given away his possessions, replied, “My ancestors accumulated treasures for this life, but I have accumulated treasures for the next one” (Babylonian Talmud, Baba Bathra 11a).

The word of Jesus are original because He demands a total gift. He asks everything from you. He doesn’t want you to be overly concerned about the things of this world. He wants you to rely on him alone.

He knows that earthly wealth is a tremendous obstacle for you because it can occupy your heart, whereas He wants to possess your heart for Himself. This is why He urges you: “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.”

If you cannot physically rid yourself of your possessions, because of family ties or other responsibilities, or if your position in life demands that you live in a certain way, you should still detach yourself from them spiritually, being no more than their administrator. In this way, while dealing with wealth you can love others, and by administering it on their behalf, you can accumulate a treasure that moths cannot destroy, nor thieves carry off.

How can you be certain about what you should keep and what you should share? Listen to the voice of God within you; if you cannot decide on your own, seek someone’s advice. You will discover how many superfluous things there are among your possessions. Do not keep them. Give them away. Give to those who have not. Put into practice these words of Jesus, “Sell … and give.” If you do thins, you will fill up bags that do not wear out.

Since you live in the world, it is only logical that you should be concerned with money and other material things. However, God does not want you to be preoccupied with them. So be concerned with securing only that amount that is indispensable for you to live according to your needs. As for the rest: “Sell your belongings and give alms. Provide money bags for yourselves that do not wear out, an inexhaustible treasure in heaven that no thief can reach nor moth destroy.”

Pope Paul VI was truly poor. The way he wanted to be buried (“in a plain coffin in the bare earth”) proved this. Shortly before dying he told his brother, “My suitcases for that all-important trip have been ready for some time.”

This is waht you should do, too: prepare your suitcases.

In the time of Jesus they may have been called “money bags,” but the meaning is the same. Prepare them day by day. Fill them with things that might be useful to others. For you truly possess what you give away. Think of how much hunger there is in the world, how much suffering, how many needs.

Put every act of love and every deed done for your neighbour into your suitcases as well. Do everyhting for God, telling Him in your heart, “This is for You.” Perform every action well, perfectly, because it is destined for heaven, where it will remain for eternity.

By: Chiara Lubich

The Word of Life, a sentence of Scripture, is offered monthly as a guide and inspiration for daily life. Its translation into 90 different languages and dialects reaches several million people worldwide, through print, radio, TV and the internet. From the Focolare’s beginnings, Chiara Lubich wrote her commentaries on each “Word of Life,” and after her death on March 14, 2008, her early writings are now being featured once again. This commentary, addressed to primarily Catholic audience, was originally published in January 1979.

If you would like to read experiences of life related to this or to past “Word of Life,” they can be found in Living City, the monthly magazine for the Focolare Movement (in print or online) or in books published by New City Press. Visit the website: www.livingcitymagazine.comwww.newcitypress.com. Visit the international website: www.focolare.org.  You can subscribe to Living City magazine by writing to: Focolare Movement, P.O. Box 69523, 5845 Yonge St., Willowdale, ON M2M 4K3.