Month: May 2014

Ascension Sunday–Year A

This Sunday is the Solemnity of the Ascencion of the Lord. Those who grew up hearing the Church catechism about Jesus’ Ascencion know precisely that this event is about His going up to heaven after His resurrection.

In the Gospel this Sunday, we are told not just of Christ’s return to the Father, but also His commissioning of the 11 apostles “to make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:16-20).

But how does one make disciples?

I heard of an anecdote of a teacher in a catechism class, who was baffled whether to give the best catechism award to a student who aced all her exams, answered all the recitation questions she would throw to the class, besting all her classmates—except that she’s not a Catholic.

‘To make disciples’ is not just to memorize the articles of our faith or to learn how to efficiently proclaim the Christian doctrine.

In one casual exchange, one priest mentioned that teaching the Christian doctrine will necessary come only after one is captivated by the beauty of a life of a person who has exemplified the essence of the doctrine. After being drawn toward it, one will be willing to learn it.

It was one Saturday afternoon— I was 12 years old that time, I still distinctly recall—when I noticed that my young friends had vanished from the street where we used to hang out. This surprised me because we used to be all out of our homes on this day of the week and at this time of the day enjoying ourselves since it’s a school-free day.

I would discover eventually that they had found another veritable playground: the parish—and a playmate: a Salesian of Don Bosco (SDB) in the person of then Br. Roger Miranda, now a full-fledged priest living in Papua New Guinea as a missionary.

But then again, they were not just there to play, they flocked to the parish to enlist themselves as altar servers. And because I was left alone by myself, I eventually joined the bandwagon.

The first time I attended the meeting, it dawned on me why my friends were all hooked to their new world: they played games, developed friendship with new kids of their same age, but at the middle of this was the person of Br. Roger, who was more than twice our age and yet was more like one of us.

I was fond of listening to his down-to-earth explanation of the Sunday Gospel and brief catechism lessons every Saturday afternoon. But more than these, I was drawn to listen to the words he did not utter—but which was more eloquently expressed—his mildness, his warm friendship, his presence which placed all of us at ease—Ah! He was indeed an epitome of kindness!

The mission of Jesus did not end when He went up back to heaven. His mission goes on, and is shared to us; but we can only carry it out masterfully if we live by His example, by walking the talk, by making our lives a beautiful model to imitate.

48th World Communications Sunday

48th World Communications Sunday

In one long drive back to the Parish, one lay person seated beside me shared his thoughts about the Holy Father.

He thinks that Pope Francis did not just start issuing messages of understanding, mercy and compassion when he succeeded Benedict XVI; he believes that as a young priest, then Fr. Jorge Mario Bergoglio—and eventually as a cardinal—had already spoken of these in his own local context.

The difference lies in the reality that being the Pope, his messages—and especially his deeds—are deemed worthy of attention given his stature as a leader of 1.2 billion Catholics. In fact, he is not just a Church leader but head of the Vatican City State.

But more than his towering figure, he has captured the imagination of the people by showing the world the beauty of Christianity. For through the help of various means of social communications, he made it possible to bring home the point that it has become “easier for all of us to be neighbors.”

Bl. Joseph Kowalski

Bl. Joseph Kowalski

Today, 29 May, we commemorate Bl. Joseph Kowalski.

He was a Salesian priest who was imprisoned in the concentration camp in Auschwitz. While an inmate, he willed to encourage and strengthen his prisoner-friends. After being discovered with a rosary, he refused to step on it, which resulted to his instant martyrdom.

St. John Paul II beatified him on 13 June 1999 in Warsaw, with a group of 108 Polish martyrs, victims of the Nazi persecution during the second world war.

 

Embracing Salesian life … always and forevermore.

This photo montage was made possible by my friend Itchan. He used the Dan Schutte’s “These alone are enough” which is rendered by the St. Louis Jesuits.

I suggested to him another song but he chose this one instead since it’s his favorite since way back the time he’s discerning to enter the seminary. The first time I heard it, I’d loved it.

The song is introduced by a tolling of the bell from a distance.

There is something in the melody which soothes one’s soul, and calms one’s spirit.

I learnt that it’s one song which is often used in funerals, which makes sense because the words of the song let out a tone of a quiet surrender not because the warrior waged a war that’s losing, but a fight that needs to be put to its rightful end.

Meditate on the lyrics:

1. Take my heart, O Lord, take my hopes and dreams.
Take my mind with all its plans and schemes.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

2. Take my thoughts, O Lord, and my memory.
Take my tears, my joys, my liberty.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

3. I surrender, Lord, all I have and hold.
I return to you your gifts untold.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

4. When the darkness falls on my final days,
take the very breath that sang your praise.
Give me nothing more than your love and grace.
These alone, O God, are enough for me.

Debunking ‘What’s forever for?’

What’s the glory in living
Doesn’t anybody ever stay
together anymore
And if love never lasts forever
Tell me what’s forever for
And if love never lasts forever
Tell me what’s forever for

The lines of the song I quoted were written by Rafe VanHoy and was popularized by Martin Murphy; it’s title: “What’s forever for?”

There is something in this song that makes me fall into a pensive mood. After all, it radically questions the meaning of forever which is the very essence of why we are all here.

What’s “forever” really… especially when we witness so many who have made “forever” come to be interpreted with limits … to be reduced only to temporary.

These thoughts have made me reflect as I confronted the realities of a religious preparing for the final vows. And the biggest and boldest question hung before me: “Will I last?”

But then, it hit me.

This year, we have said “goodbye” to two of our Salesians: Br. Ramon dela Cruz and Fr. Chris Kennedy. Both of them were not just names for me and for most of us here. These two, one lay brother and the other a priest, have left us a beautiful example of fidelity. They remained faithful to their vows up until their last breath.

We have seen how fidelity to one’s vocation has been a reality to them: but noting the example of these two confreres who have lived their vocation to its fullness up until their last moments on earth—they were found faithful!

About three months ago, I changed my cover photo in Facebook with a caption “Magpakaylanman“–forevermore.

Picture1

At the back of my head, I thought that perpetual profession is about me embracing God for all my life, forever more… but I believe I saw it with a wrong reflection as in a mirror when left becomes right…

It’s the other way around. God has embraced me first, insofar as He has embraced my co-perpetuandi: Brs. Noble, Matias, Wydi, Joseph, Yulius, Julio and Martino even before we came to fully recognize who God is.

Our first toddling and tottering in the Salesian society present in Vietnam, in Pakistan, in East Timor, in Indonesia and in the Philippines have made us encounter the Incarnated Christ who did not just become a human person–He became so real a person in the Salesians who have made their first approach, who have shared their lives with us, who have exemplified Don Bosco’s distinct brand of loving kindness, and fidelity.

His faithful love which we have experienced so concretely has so empowered each of us as to make us answer His embrace by offering our lives to be placed at His disposal, in the Salesian fashion, for the salvation of souls and for God’s greatest glory.

But then again, we know that we just cannot do it on our own. We are weak and sinful, and left to our own selves, we would crumble. And so, we have chosen this slogan from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “My grace is enough for you.”

His grace is not just present to comfort us, but to challenge us toward that maturity and perfection that Don Bosco would like His sons to strive for.

Dear friends, you have just witnessed our final vows. But for a Salesian, this is not the end, it’s just the beginning of our love affair with Jesus who has called each of us by name. Please pray for us as we keep your intentions in our prayers.

I began with a song, let me cap this off with another one, this time around with Carpenter’s “We’ve only just begun.”

Thank you very much.