Knowing God through Chinese characters

April 10, 2015 (Re-posting due to webpage construction.)

God, the Father Almighty, possibly taught me through Chinese characters.

I have been asked to speak at the small faith group at my church later in the month and I am planning to just share my faith story and some of my observations of the church as an immigrant. After all, what will I know that a group of Catholics who meet every week do not know already?

It is interesting how the preparation is leading me to find more about my roots and how I accidentally landed on a YouTube video titled “God in Ancient China”.  I must say that I do not have the time to fact-check the contents of the video.  However, the claims in the video are very interesting.  The “pastor” in the video talks about how records showed what we believed to be traditional Chinese religions (Taoism, Buddhism, Confucianism) all started at around 5 to 6 BC.  However, the history of Chinese went back to 2500 BC. Records also seem to imply that prior to the birth of Taoism, Buddhism and Confucianism, Chinese actually believed in ONE God and they called him Shang Di, which literally means “Lord above all”.

The most curious part of the video is the part where the pastor went on to explain how the Chinese characters were created at around 2500 BC.  As most people know, each Chinese character was constructed pictorially or by a combination of other characters which give its meaning.  I have never put much thought into the traditional characters that I learned to read and write as a child.  In the video, several characters were pulled apart and were shown to be constructed by a combination of characters that actually record the creation story in Genesis! For instance, the character for “create” involves three characters that mean “Clay”, “Mouth” & “Movement”, i.e. When God speaks to the clay, things are created, there is movement, there is life. Now, when we think about creation, we often think of using our hands to make things. In the character itself, there is no hint of “hands”, but “mouth”! Another example is the word for “Prosperity”, a very popular character that Chinese will post on their walls or doors during Chinese New Year or special occasions. The character for “Prosperity” can be pulled apart to give the characters for “God”, “one”, “mouth”, “garden”. It looks like the word “Prosperity” not only means wealth, but also means blessings. Wouldn’t “God” together with “one” man (“mouth”) in the “garden” be a wonderful picture of man’s special relationship with God in the garden of Eden? Later in the video, the character for a big ship was also split into parts that showed “boat”, “eight” and “mouth”. Wasn’t Noah’s Ark the boat that saved 8 lives (“mouths”)? Why would the number “eight” be used as a description for a big boat?

I do not know if any of the reasoning can ever be proven.  However, the possibility of the God that I know of actually had made himself known to my ancestors delights me! I also feel blessed that the Chinese characters that I learned long time ago might be a tool that He uses to reach me. Thank You, God!

Settings of Ave Maria

If the Bible is the book that is the most published and read in the world, then “Ave Maria” is likely the text that is most often set to music!

I am working on an “Ave Maria’ project.   You see, it doesn’t matter if one has a funeral or a wedding, people often request “Ave Maria” being sung at those celebrations in the church.  By “Ave Maria”, specifically they mean Franz Schubert’s setting of Ave Maria, though they don’t usually know that there are other settings in the world.  If you have ever “worked” at weddings and funerals in a Catholic church, like the parish priest, you would likely have heard “Ave Maria” being sung once a week on average.  After several years of hearing it, you will be so tired of Schubert’s tune that you will no longer pay attention to the text.  I have known four different settings of Ave Maria for a while. However, I have a hunch that there are more out there if I will only look for them.  As I don’t have a choir at my disposal, I only look into settings of Ave Maria for solo voice.  There are lots of music compositions bearing the title “Ave Maria” for choir of different number of voice parts, settings for duets, settings for instrumental ensemble and piano solo.  However, I think only those pieces with the text of the prayer should be counted as true “Ave Maria”’s.  In fact, some of those pieces might have an alternate title “Angel Salutation”.  There are also some pieces that repeatedly literally set the words “Ave Maria” to music, like Caccini’s Ave Maria, which will only serve as a meditative tool.   I am only interested in those pieces that include the entire prayer.

Originally, I had hoped to be able to find 10 settings so that I can make a recording of a decade of Rosary in songs.  It is my dream to have this recording played at my own visitation and that my guests will be invited to pray a decade of Rosary with me to get me out of purgatory quickly.  However, at this point, I have already collected 16 settings.  Who knows, I might actually be able to record two decades of Rosary in songs! It really is amazing to know that there is such a huge collection of Ave Maria’s out there.  Composers who have worked on this project include Rheinberger, Brahms, Abt, Franck, Gounod, Arcadelt, and, of course, Schubert.  There are also arrangements of the prayer with existing beautiful melodies by Bach, Gounod, Massenet, Mascagni, Donizetti, etc.

I have a little proposal.  Perhaps, if Catholics are shy to talk about Mary, Mother of God in front of other Christians, they can just sing a beautiful song of Ave Maria!  Recently, I was working with my vocal coach on a few settings of Ave Maria’s in a Lutheran church.  The pastor of the Lutheran church actually stopped what he was doing, stayed and listened to the songs.

By the way, singing Ave Maria might also protect you from the Satan. If the recent article on Catholic Exchange website is correct, then Satan does not like the Blessed Virgin Mary.  Of course, the Bible tells us that “[S]he is to crush his head.” According to exorcist Father Gabriele Amorth, it is most effective to use Latin in challenging Satan.  There you have it, singing Ave Maria just might be an effective way to drive away Satan! With so many settings of Ave Maria available, you can have fun while keeping yourself safe too!

Ave Maria, gratia plena, Dominus tecum.Benedicta tu in mulieribus,et benedictus fructus ventris tui, Jesus. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, Nunc et in hora mortis nostrae. Amen.

Welcome to WHY@Breakfast

I love to learn more about the Catholic Church teachings and love to learn with others!

A few years ago, while sipping my coffee in a local cafe on a Saturday morning, I saw a few parishioners who were enjoying their cup of Joe, reading the local paper.  I had this aha moment of why weren’t we all sitting in our church Parish Centre, sharing information with each other? 

As a cradle Catholic, I have always felt that I adopted a lot of “traditions” without asking, going along with the motions.  I am pretty sure there are meanings behind a lot of those traditions.  If they were taught to me when I was in elementary school, I am sorry to say I did not retain much from those years.  I was also confident that I was not the only Catholic in this predicament of ignorance.  If professionals need to take courses or attend seminars for continuing education points for the renewal of their status every year, it makes sense to me that Catholics should have some good system for their “continuing education.”

In December of 2011, with the question  “Why does the church talk about Mary if Jesus is our Savior?”, I organized the first WHY@Breakfast talk at my parish St. Michael’s Church in Waterloo, Ontario. I invited Anne Jamieson from the Catechesis offices of our Diocese of Hamilton to gave a presentation on Mary to about 30 parishioners on a Saturday morning.  It was a very enjoyable experience where everyone were enjoying their breakfast with coffee/tea, absorbing in valuable information.

Since then, I have been organizing two to three talks every year at St. Michael’s.  The support of my pastor and the sponsorship of St. Michael’s Catholic Women’s League for the speakers and  the food were amazing!

Our list of topics to this date include angels and demons, purgatory, human sexuality, forgiveness, recognizing Trinity in humanity, etc.

The goal of these presentations is to inform Catholics on our church teachings on various topics, dispelling myths and to give directions to those who would like to dig deeper into the topics.  I do hope to continue organizing WHY@Breakfast either at St. Michael’s or elsewhere.  It’s fun to learn and it’s so much more enjoyable to have others learning with me!

Soli Deo Gloria!