The Prince and the Bishop

December 08, 2021 10:06
Most Reverend Stephen Chow Sau-yan, S.J., Bishop of Hong Kong. Photo:  Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong

Borrowing from Hamlet’s famous soliloquy "To be or not to be" may well fit into the situation faced by our recently-installed Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong.

While Prince Hamlet mopes about how challenging and difficult human life is, and how death and the finite departure would then be an ultimate option, would it not be similarly challenging and difficult for the most reverend Bishop Stephen Chow Sau-yan in forging a united front for the faithful local communities ahead?

To the half-a-million Catholic faithfuls in Hong Kong, the ordination of Bishop Chow may have sealed their wound of not having a leader, yet, it does not mean that their yearning for peace and unity can be easily achieved just by having one, as we have all been traumatized by political divisions, generational discords and wealth rifts in recent years.

Bishop Chow is a Jesuit, with his pastoral trainings received from the Society of Jesus. Prior to that, he had been educated by Jesuit teachings in Hong Kong since his primary years as a local student and subsequently as teacher and school supervisor as well as the Society’s Provincial of the Chinese Province.

He is an Ivy League-trained educator cum psychologist, and was once tasked with setting up the first Jesuit University in Hong Kong. The university project went well until the government had a change of heart and took back the assigned piece of land for housing purposes.

The decades-long training affords Bishop Chow the rare qualification and unique experiences that may come in handy when facing great challenges in bridging the great divide in modern-day Hong Kong.

Jesuits founder St. Ignatius of Loyola believes that Examen is a gift that comes directly from God. One of the few rules of prayer that the saint installed for the Jesuit order is the requirement that Jesuits practice the Examen twice daily — at noon and at the end of the day.

Simply put, the process is to become aware of God's presence; look back on the events of the day with gratitude; review and reflect; followed by a determination to amend and always look towards tomorrow as a new day. It is believed by so doing the Jesuits can achieve Magis (ad majorem Dei gloriam, a Latin phrase meaning "for the greater glory of God"), Society of Jesus’s motto.

We Chinese may find it very similar to Confucius teaching as recorded in The Analects where the great master advised us to “examine ourselves thrice a day”.

Religion aside, if any of our government officials can also adopt that teaching and constantly self-reflect, would we still be in such a sorry state of affairs now?

As Bishop Chow stated, “unhappy and uncomfortable” events that had gripped Hong Kong in the past should be put aside, he also pointed out explicitly that the church without the young has no future. Same for Hong Kong.

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EJ Insight writer