Saturday, January 12, 2013

women: teachers of peace

“Authentic peace is only possible if the dignity of the human person is promoted at every level of society, and every individual is given the chance to live in accordance with his dignity.  To teach people this truth is one of the most fruitful and lasting ways to affirm the value of peace.”

How far from relate this truth is today!  In many areas in our world, war, bloodshed and injustices are the common fare of the people.  In our midst, bank robberies, murder and rape cases scream in the headlines.  In our home infidelity, abandonment, cruelty and violence persists.  Reaching intolerable proportions, the pope in his message is calling all to renew their commitment to work for peace!


Going against the prevailing custom of choosing biblical phrases to mark the papal insignia, John Paul II chose “Totus tuus” (I am completely yours, O Mary), a Marian supplication, as the motto of  his papacy.  And it is not just a motto that marks his insignia as pope. It has become as it were a credo that permeates the teachings and pastoral activities of the pope, giving his papacy a distinctive Marian character.  His encyclicals and letters almost always have a reference to Mary and always ends with an invocation to the Mother of God.  For the pope this deep Marian devotion “not only addresses a need of the heart, a sentimental inclination, but that it corresponds to the objective truth about the Mother of God . . . the new Eve, placed by God in close relation to Christ.”(Be not Afraid) Thus in every reflection and in every activity the Pope turns to her with admiration and respect.  And when John Paul II reflected on the dignity and vocation of women (Mulieris Dignitatem) he once more turned his glance on this woman of the gospel which “all generations will call blessed”.

Why Mary?

Reflections on the Rites of Holy Week

Passion Sunday or Palm Sunday
The Rite

Passion Sunday or what we commonly call Domingo de Ramos is the sixth Sunday of Lent and ushers in the Holy Week.  It is called Passion Sunday because it is devoted to the contemplation of the passion of Christ.  This liturgy however is the most difficult in the Church calendar because of the opposite emotions it depicts in rapid succession.

The celebration starts outside the church commemorating the triumphal entry of Jesus.  It is a joyful ritual.  Palm branches are waved high in the air to welcome the messiah, and the atmosphere is full of jubilant hosannas which means “save your people.”  The atmosphere is mob like almost close to a riot (that is if we discard the Roman formality so typical in our liturgies).


This Sunday we celebrate the Feast of the Pentecost commemorating the great event when “on the day of Pentecost they were all in one place together . . .and what appeared to them tongues as of fire came to rest on them . . . and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.” (Acts 2. 1-4)

Originally, Pentecost was a Jewish feast (and still is) commemorating the time when the Law of Sinai written in tablets of stone was given to Moses in the desert 50 days after the first Passover meal in Egypt.  This is celebrated with pilgrimages and festivities in the temple for it is through this handing down of the Law that Israel realized its new identity as the people of God, “a people peculiarly his own."  It is by this Law that the covenant between God and man was established with its observance as man’s part of the promise.

Friday, January 11, 2013

liturgical renewal in jaro


Whenever the church gears itself for reformation, the first to be worked out for reform and the first to be affected by reform, is its life of prayer or the Liturgy.  There are two reasons for this and both are connected with each other.  First, it is because the Liturgy of the Church being the most familiar activity of the faithful and the activity where Christian life revolves, is the summation of all the official teachings and relevant theological reflections of the present, and the first to actualize it in its life.  How we view ourselves as church, how we view the hierarchy in relation to the laity in the church, how we regard the world as a church, find its first expression in the Liturgy.  Thus, if the church sees itself as the Church of the Poor, then the first part to be affected and the first to actualize such concept is the Liturgy.

ordination to the priesthood 2

I read last week a letter in the Inquirer written by a prayer group  from UP Los Baños in reaction to an article entitled  “Is it Good for Priest to be alone?” What touched me in the letter of this prayer group was their realization of “the importance of the laity’s continually building and sustaining a rampart of prayer and sacrifice for the priesthood, ordained by Jesus Christ and beloved by him.” 

ordination to the priesthood

Ordinations are nothing new to me.  Besides being ordained, I have been serving in the rites, which happens every year and sometimes several times in a year, ever since I was invested with the soutana ten years ago.  By now I consider serving in them as routine rendering every gesture, almost every word and every part of the rite familiar and almost second nature.  Familiarity however has its own disadvantage.  It could render the rites empty of meaning, where gesture remain as gestures and words remain mere words - all done in an effort to fulfill what was required flawlessly and rather quickly.  Even in my own ordination I found it hard to focus myself and imbibe the significance of the occasion as I got distracted from servers who seemed unfamiliar with what they were doing.

the need for community

A priest assigned to a city related once an experience he had while teaching what a community is among high school kids.  He picked out a girl from the class and asked her if something important should happen to her who would be deeply affected by her action?  The girl said, “You mean if I committed suicide or something?”  The priest said yes, and without thinking for long, she pointed to a friend, and said, “Mary here and my mother at home.”

That was all.  She could not think of any other person in that crowded room nor in the crowded neighborhood in which she lived.  Not even one in the class raised his or her hand voluntarily to state that they too would be affected by the decision.  Just two, “Mary and my mother.”

the holy week then

When we were children I remember quite well the way we celebrated holy week.  It was a week like no other week.  It was entirely different both in the atmosphere it created and in the manner we carried out our daily chores.  There were old people in the house then - people who, despite the steady encrouchment of modern culture, chose to uphold tradition at least for the duration of the holy week.  We call these practices then, mga panimad-on. 

The Holy Spirit – The Comforter

Two experiences

There are two activities in my priesthood that I find so rewarding.  Rewarding in the sense that it gives me a sense of fulfillment while actually doing so little.  Never anywhere else in the life and work of a priest is the law of proportionate returns so flagrantly repudiated. The result of such actions when done properly is so tremendous compared to the work expended.  If the priest is indeed “a pencil in God’s hand,” a mere instrument and channel of God’s grace, it is in these activities that one can see volumes done, a masterpiece created, a best seller hitting the charts . . . with just a little pencil lead. 

Permit me to tell you these activities in the concrete.

flores de mayo

When I was a little boy I remember vividly the Ist of May.  With the other children of the barrio, we woke up enthusiastically early in the morning, scouted around and looked for flowers (the weather was not as dry then and plants were beginning to bloom).  It was then an interesting month for us children.  We considered it then as our month.  It was the month when the church took us, little children, seriously;  focusing its attention on us for the rest of the month and providing us with catechesis and teaching us to pray.  Personally, it was in one of these months of May of my childhood years, when I realized that the church is not just an adults’ world, talking only their language, doing things only adults could comprehend.  It was also our church.  The church that taught us the truths of the faith in a medium we can easily understand -- stories. The Church that taught us to pray to God in a language that was clearer and nearer to our hearts -- the offering of flowers. 


Instead of reflecting on the meaning of the ashes, I would like to rather focus my reflection on something so important in our Christian practice.  It has no more value for most of us today.  But this doesn’t mean that if this practice has lost its value we don’t need it anymore.  I personally believe that at this time we need it more than ever.  The practice I am referring to is fasting.  Fasting – in catholic practice which means we eat one full meal in a day.  Others out of devotion forgo food altogether, others take only bread and water throughout the day. 

dedication of the jaro cathedral

The year 1965 was an extraordinary year for all Filipinos, especially for us in the Visayas.  It was a year of jubilees.  Nineteen hundred and sixty five was the fourth centennial of the “formal evangelization” of the Philippines with the re-discovery of our islands by Miguel Legaspi, Fray Andres Urdaneta and Fray Martin de Rada (the first evangelist of Panay) on February 13, 1565.  It also recalled the beginning of our devotion to the Sto. Niño when the statue purportedly given by Magellan to the wife of Humabon, was found in a burned hut in Cebu on April 27, 1565 by the soldiers of Legaspi.

crisis 2

She has told her story last two years ago on one of our issues on Motherhood.  However we would like to tell it again and view it from another perspective - from the perspective of a mother who searched not so much the “whys” of the disability of a child, but for “what” she can do for him and the rest who have the same disability.

crisis 1

Crisis is an English word that has one Chinese character with two meanings:  opportunity and danger.  Obviously the use of two meanings depends on one’s response to it - either as an opportunity to grow or as an irretrievable mishap in life.
All those who were called by God have one way or the other experienced it. Abraham experienced his when he was ordered to wander aimlessly to a “land that I will show you,” and when this “Father of all nations” was required to offer in sacrifice his only son.  Job experienced his in the “silence of God” while he was suffering unbearable pains he could not understand.  David experienced his in sinfulness. Peter experienced his when his Master whom he called “the Son of the Most High” was put to death, and after bragging that he was willing to die for him, was forced to run like any coward.


There was once a very austere man who let no food or drink pass his lips while the sun was in the heavens.  In what seemed to be a sign of heavenly approval for his austerities, a bright star shone on top of a nearby mountain, visible to everyone in broad daylight, though no one knew what brought the star there.
One day the man decided to climb the mountain.  A little village girl insisted on going with him.  The day was warm and soon the two were thirsty.  He urged the child to drink but she said she would not unless he drank too.  The poor man was in a quandary.  He hated to break his fast; but he hated to see the child suffer from thirst.  Finally, he drank.  And the child with him.

capital sins 2

In one of the retreats I gave, while I was preparing the retreatants for confession, a young man kept passing me by looking quite distraught.  From the way he looked at me he wanted to talk about something very important.  So I called him and asked him what was the matter.  He was rather shy which explained why he could not approach me in his own initiative.  However after much coaxing he explained to me his troubles.  Here he was preparing himself for confession and he could not think of anything to confess to the priest.  “Am I plain dumb or am I just as saint?”  Now I could not judge a man as plainly as that and so I told him to try to think of the  ten commandments and examine his conscience using them as a guide.  He said he did, “But surely I never committed adultery, I don’t even have a wife.  And I don’t have false gods either nor used His name in vain, whatever that means.” 

capital sins 1

I have just finished my retreat (last year in Manila) so I gave myself a treat by watching a movie.  I went to one of the malls where they have a least 12 movie houses in one floor.  Choosing one from this wide selection I excitedly went to a ticket booth and got myself a ticket.  I entered the theater and after ten minutes discovered that I entered the wrong one and am watching a movie I never intended to watch.  The title of the movie was “Seven.”  It was a psycho thriller, a movie I really never enjoyed watching (I prefer science fiction movies).  The story line tells of a soon to be retired cop introducing his rookie partner to the ways of police work in a big city.  Seven days before his retirement he and his partner were assigned to work on a serial killer who patterned his brutal killings to the punishment of the damned described in Dante’s Inferno (translate this as gruesome).  The reason for the torture and killings was of all things - the psycho killer played God and his victims committed the Seven Capital sins.

call for repentance

In the gospel this Second Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist appears for the first time in the scene calling everyone  to “repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.”  In times past we have understood this verse as merely a turning away from our personal sins most of which (forgive my observation as a three year old confessor) are sexual.  This is evidenced perhaps by our endless preoccupation of the morality of sexual behavior in sermons, pastoral letters and exhortations from the pulpit as if the whole of Christian morality revolves solely there.  I am not in anyway against such pronouncements, for indeed the problem related to it has reached a proportion that would make the much dreaded encyclical Humanae Vitae of 25 years ago seem prophetic in our now overly promiscuous society. 

vocation of a catechist

Life is a mystery.  It is full of surprises.  There are times when we ask ourselves, why does this thing happen?  What is really the plan of God for me?  How does He reveal His plan to us?
Many times in my life, God revealed his love through the people who cared for me.  The gift of life that he gave me, the joys and pains I encountered, strengthened my faith in Him.  In the depths of my being, He continues to inspire me through His words, “When you were in the womb of your mother I formed you to be my own and chose you to be the sharer of my kingdom.” 


Last week, in view of the first Parish Congress, I wrote about the importance of the community in the lives of individual persons whether he finds himself in the society or in the Church.  We all need to belong because there can be no real development and growth in the person if this is not directed towards the building up of the community, of him belonging to a community and of him taking part actively in the work of the community.  Person, as Fr. Donovan has said, “is a Christian word, the very meaning of which is defined in relation to a community, beginning with the Trinitarian community outwards.” 
However, especially now in the Church, we have with us this prevalent attitude of individualism - the desire to set ourselves apart from the community and to act individually whether it is in our relationship with God, in our struggle to imbibe a deeper spirituality and even in determining our own individual morality.

the agoo miracle

With the controversy surrounding the recent pronouncement of the Diocese of San Fernando regarding the Agoo Marian Apparitions as “far from being supernatural,”  and its supposedly visionary, Judiel Nieva committing “a grave dishonesty,” CL would like to clarify certain things, so that our readers and parishioners who have been like us affected by the “apparitions” will be guided accordingly.  The commission’s findings, as the newspapers present them (we have not yet received the full official document) were based on four premises. 

remembering lola paway

As I write this article, the eight o’clock night bells are ringing their familiar resonant tone.  It would be the last ringing of the bells for the day, a slow alternation of a big deep-throated clang and a tiny resounding ring that ushers in silence and slumber.  Day is done and the long wait for rest from my daily chores is about to end.  My bio-rythym almost always heed the sound of these bells as I begin to yawn and yearn for the comforts of a bed. 

Tonight, however, is different.  The sonorous sound of the bells did what they were supposed to do to me in the first place.  It called me to remember, and in particular it called me to remember my grandmother.