Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI released a Letter to Chinese Catholics, in which he asked that May 24 each year be celebrated as a World Day of Prayer for the Church in China. He chose May 24 because it is the Feast of Our Lady Help of Christians, who is venerated at the Shrine of Sheshan (佘山) in Shanghai.
The local Church, in response to His Holiness' exhortation, will be holding a Mass on Friday 23 May at 7.45 pm at St. Bernadette's Church to pray for this intention.
However, such a day of prayer for China is more than just a single event to be celebrated and then forgotten. Rather, it is to spur us on to show concern for the spiritual well-being of the mainland Chinese.
Indeed, it is our duty as Catholics who have received the gift of faith in Jesus who is the Light in the world, the Way, the Truth and the Life to share Him with those who are seeking for the fullness of truth, life and love.
What else can the Catholic Church in Singapore do in response to the Pope's call? We must reach out to migrant Chinese particularly, by showing them our genuine love and concern. We could also support and participate in charitable projects for the poorer parts of China, and bring the Gospel of Christ to those who have not yet heard of Him.
However, after all that is said and done, the gift of faith in Jesus as the Saviour of humanity is brought about not just by witnessing in word and deed, but faith is the work of the grace given by the Holy Spirit. Only the Holy Spirit can enlighten and convict the hearts of people and move them to faith in Christ. So besides evangelisation through proclamation and good works, we must pray fervently for their conversion as well.
I invite you to pray individually and as a family, so that you are conscious of the great number of souls in China that need to receive the Good News of our Lord. I encourage you as a community, whichever organisation or ministry you are actively participating in, to pray constantly for the Church in China. In a special way, you can use the following prayer which Pope Benedict VI has composed.
Together with you in prayer,
Archbishop William Goh
Prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan
Virgin Most Holy, Mother of the Incarnate Word and our Mother,
venerated in the Shrine of Sheshan under the title "Help of Christians",
the entire Church in China looks to you with devout affection.
We come before you today to implore your protection.
Look upon the People of God and, with a mother's care, guide them
along the paths of truth and love, so that they may always be
a leaven of harmonious coexistence among all citizens.
When you obediently said "yes" in the house of Nazareth,
you allowed God's eternal Son to take flesh in your virginal womb
and thus to begin in history the work of our redemption.
You willingly and generously cooperated in that work,
allowing the sword of pain to pierce your soul,
until the supreme hour of the Cross, when you kept watch on Calvary,
standing beside your Son, who died that we might live.
From that moment, you became, in a new way,
the Mother of all those who receive your Son Jesus in faith
and choose to follow in his footsteps by taking up his Cross.
Mother of hope, in the darkness of Holy Saturday you journeyed
with unfailing trust towards the dawn of Easter.
Grant that your children may discern at all times,
even those that are darkest, the signs of God's loving presence.
Our Lady of Sheshan, sustain all those in China,
who, amid their daily trials, continue to believe, to hope, to love.
May they never be afraid to speak of Jesus to the world,
and of the world to Jesus.
In the statue overlooking the Shrine you lift your Son on high,
offering him to the world with open arms in a gesture of love.
Help Catholics always to be credible witnesses to this love,
ever clinging to the rock of Peter on which the Church is built.
Mother of China and all Asia, pray for us, now and forever. Amen!
* Archbishop of Singapore