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Learning from each other’s riches

TAIPEI (SE): Speaking at a Mass celebrated on what Taiwan celebrates as Mission Sunday on October 16, John Cardinal Tong Hon paid tribute to the late Paul Cardinal Shan Kuo-hsi, from Kaohsiung, for inspiring him to challenge the Catholic people of Hong Kong to be outgoing in sharing their faith and inviting people to come to the Church with them.

He said that when he and Joseph Cardinal Zen Ze-kiun were ordained as bishops, Cardinal Shan made a point of being present and invited him to come and visit a parish in his diocese.

Cardinal Tong said that the people of Our Lady of Fatima parish had been divided on how to mark the 30th anniversary of its foundation and Cardinal Shan had suggested going out and bringing 30 new people to the Church, one for each year being celebrated.

He also recommended that they assist with the renovation of an old chapel in the mountains to encourage the indigenous parishioners to rejuvenate their faith, as a way of giving thanks for the blessings they had received from their community.

Cardinal Tong pointed out that both targets were met, but this experience inspired him to do the same thing, so whenever he visits a parish in Hong Kong for the celebration of an anniversary, he always challenges the people to bring in one new member for each year they are celebrating.

He said that spreading the faith has always been his priority in Hong Kong since he became bishop in 2009 and he gives thanks that people have responded so positively and with such generosity.

“Each parish has at least one catechumen class and the newly baptised are encouraged to assist the catechists during classes. That way they deepen their knowledge and faith in the teaching process,” Cardinal Tong explained.

He also spoke to the theme of Jesus words to the disciples about the need to pray always and never lose heart.

“Now will not God see justice done to his elect if they keep calling on him day and night, even though he still delays to help them?” (Luke 18:1-8).

Cardinal Tong pointed out that Jesus prayed constantly in his own lifetime on earth, especially at important moments: his baptism, while fasting prior to taking on his public ministry, in selecting his apostles and finally on the cross.

He also pointed out that the previous day was the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, who was a doctor of the Church, but also a master of prayer, who taught us the importance of both contemplative and vocal prayer.

He said that the two are different approaches to prayer—not contradictory, but rather complementary.

“Certainly, our prayer must contain the word of God, especially to draw strength from the Lord’s Prayer,” Cardinal Tong said.

He added that in writing about St. Teresa, Father Mark Fang Chih-jung says, “The word of God gives people power and confidence and resounds in our hearts, whether read or recited from memory, or like the early Fathers in the wilderness, repetition in reading aloud and memorising it.”

Father Fang also wrote, “At other times, if the Lord spoke only one word to me, ‘Do not be afraid’ (Luke 8:50), that one word completely cured me.”

Cardinal Tong then pointed out that October is the Month of the Rosary, which always reminds him of the late Jesuit, Archbishop Dominic Tang Yee-ming, from Canton (Guangzhou), who was jailed for 22 years in China, and Maryknoll Bishop James Walsh, who was held for 12 years.

“How did they get through their prison lives? They were praying the rosary with their fingers. The rosary gave them strength in their prison life, where they had nothing and the strength helped them endure a long period of imprisonment, experience the salvific plan of the Lord and have hope amidst difficulties,” Cardinal Tong said.

In describing the Christian life as an encounter with God, and prayer as an awakening and way of deepening our relationship with God, he said this is why all religions encourage prayer and the seeking of truth together.

And, in light of the symposium on Christian-Daoist dialogue where he was celebrating the Mass, he said, “Let us continue our exchange and dialogue with brothers and sisters of other religions and faiths, and learn from their experiences of spirituality.”

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