Monday, May 25, 2009

Three seemingly random events took place over the past week that now appear to be linked in some indefinite way after all.

Now I'm no mystic, not into any New Age mumbo-jumbo and I'm not particularly religious, but I do believe that from time to time, God speaks to us in ways that are not immediately obvious. Call it a sign from heaven or what you will. My phone connections to God have never been crystal clear and the reception is often poor with lots of static noise in between. So while I believe that nothing ever happens in isolation, I do find it hard trying to decipher the message (if any!) that He sends.

Case in point - these three odd events that took place recently.

First, on Wednesday last week, my colleague showed me photographs he had taken of the church St Mary of the Angels. Beautiful place. He lived in Bukit Batok and enjoyed walking around the neighbourhood, taking pictures of the people and the places he visits. On Sunday, he had gone to St Mary's and taken some pictures. He had taken some nice shots. As he was showing me the pictures, he paused at one bronze statue and asked: Do you know anything about St Bernadine from Sienna?

My first reaction was no, I've heard of St Catherine of Sienna and we visited Sienna and the places associated with her, but I'd never heard of St Bernadine. Curiosity piqued, I googled St Bernadine and came away with a cursory paragraph or two but nothing really stood out and I thought no more of it.

Later that same afternoon I was flipping through my church bulletin in search of Ascension mass times when the usual paragraph on saints' feast days caught my eye. There was that name again - St Bernadine of Sienna. And his feast day was - May 20, that very day. So imagine if you will, the swirl of 'coincidences' that already surround this - Sunday, the day I picked up the church bulletin from church was the same day that KJ my colleague took pictures at St Mary's; Wed, May 20 was when he showed me the pictures and pointed out St Bernadine to me and the same day happened to be St Bernadine's feast day.

Don't you feel a chill yet? It does not end there.

On Saturday while on our usual free time sans kids in the morning, instead of going to the Botanic Gardens where we usually go, KH suggested going further afield. We ended up driving past Upper Bukit Timah Road, towards Bukit Batok Park. I've been thinking hard about it and I'm pretty sure that it was KH who said casually: you know that church, the state-of-the-art one, where is it? Let's go check it out.

St Mary's was re-built in 2004 to a bold and fresh design which later won it architectural accolades. The premises housed the church, the friary for the brothers, a kindergarten and a columbarium. Sleekly designed with straight elegant lines, pared down minimalist in tone... it was quiet and understated but yet bold in many ways. While we've often said we'd visit it and see, we never did. It was just not in our neck of the woods.

So up we drove to the church - which was indeed inspiring and lovely. It didn't look like your typical church but it kept faithfully to Catholic church design requirements.

What threw me was when we entered the columbarium - a lovely airy space with lots of natural light, black stone wells of running water and sandstone niches. I was taking my time admiring the light and the feel of the place when KH called me over. He pointed to the small bronze statue perched on a marble pillar and said: Look at this! Sienna! Do you remember this saint?

I shook my head and corrected him: We visited St Catherine's house not St Bernadine. But it was all I could do to remain coherent - what was going on here? How many references have been made to this obscure little saint in the space of just one week? Hello God, are you trying to tell me something? Paulo Coelho where are you when I need some insight into deciphering this one!I've only won 4D once in my life but I know the feeling of thrill when luck or coincidence or a higher cosmic order comes into play in my life. And that was precisely what was going on then.

I went back and did some research on the net again, trying to find out more. St Bernadine was a dedicated lawyer, orator and preacher and he had refused Bishophood thrice. Yes, he worked tirelessly, selflessly and at great personal risk to himself caring for people during the plague, and his work had made a big impact against the encroaching tide of Protestantism, so yes, he was a good man etc. Yet, nothing particularly outstanding. Just like any old saint. Led a life of general good. That's it. Nothing stood out for me - what was the message? I felt there had to be something in there for me. I just wasn't sure what it was.

Only two possibilities. One, St Bernadine was known for his strong and harsh attacks against sodomy. Was that it? Was this all because I had blogged earlier about my views on homosexuality and how 'neutral' (so AWARE huh?!) I was in my views? Was God trying to give me a kick in the seat for that? Was I being a bad Catholic mummy in having neutral, even sympathetic views on homosexuality? Was this because I was so hooked on Coffee Prince and all its homosexual undertones? And was all this string of sneaky little coincidences God's way of telling me I'd better toe the line? If so, I wish He'd just come right out and say it. All this guesswork is tiring and a real hit-or-miss affair.

I also found out that St Bernadine is the patron saint of advertising, communications, compulsive gambling and respiratory disorders. Okay, if you count the fact that I had childhood asthma, worked in advertising and communications and get a kick out of making scissor-paper-stone bets with my kids (if I win, they give up the computer for the week and if I lose, I owe them a ramen treat) then yes already - I get it, St Bernadine has to be my go-to saint for life.

So which is it? Both? Neither? One or the other?

Like I said, there's no such thing as coincidences. Cosmic events harkening days, thoughts and actions to come? Bah, like tarot cards and other New Ageism - these hold no water with me. But I think I have enough of a streak of mysticism in me that says that nothing happens for nothing - after all, how did He call those other ancient prophets of His - through dreams and in their sleep right? And if we're talking mysticism, you can't go more mystical that St Teresa of Avila and her ecstasies. So He speaks through fuzzy dreams and big showtime productions like a burst of strong light, stigmatas, burning bushes and such. Mine must be somewhere in between because I stubbornly believe the Big Guy up there is trying to tell me something. Only thing is - what?

So frustrating. I wish He would hone His "God calling Earth" act to limit any comedy of errors that might occur and for me, I guess I really should start working on my listening skills.

Pay attention woman! He's talking...


ee lin said...

being part of the 'encroaching tide of Protestantism' i'm not so much into mystics n mysticism n cosmic events. but if you truly believe the Our Big Daddy Upstairs is talking to you, pray n read His Word, tt's where He can reliably be found. : )

Anonymous said...


It's called "synchronocity", coined by Carl Jung for such an event. A famous example is this:

The French writer Émile Deschamps claims in his memoirs that in 1805, he was treated to some plum pudding by a stranger named Monsieur de Fortgibu. Ten years later, the writer encountered plum pudding on the menu of a Paris restaurant and wanted to order some, but the waiter told him that the last dish had already been served to another customer, who turned out to be de Fortgibu.

Many years later, in 1832, Émile Deschamps was at a diner and was once again offered plum pudding. He recalled the earlier incident and told his friends that only de Fortgibu was missing to make the setting complete—and in the same instant, the now senile de Fortgibu entered the room

Google it.

Anonymous said...

oops, it is spelt as synchronicity

Momto5 said...

Thanks. I googled it. Very fascinating. I'm going to try and find out more about this.

makeupmag said...

At least you're open to His signs (I guess He's bludgeoning you with them, ha!). I'm choosing to be petulant...for now. :P