Month: August 2015

The sweet after taste of Coetera Tolle

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Don Bosco: God’s gift to the young. Photo by Renzo Pangilinan

Fr. Dennis Paez’s introductory remarks pays tribute to the young people who have been part of the production. But his opening spiel was also a form of ‘managing’ the youthful audience who may not be familiar with the theater culture: What they’re about to see is not just something similar with the spectacle they see on their gadget screens. Thus, their response as an audience affects the performance of the performers.

I find Fr. Dennis’ ringing the hand-held bell very Salesian during the intermission to remind the students that they’re supposed to be back already inside the theater for the second act.

This gesture must have brought the Bosconians back to their respective “homes” telling them to fall in line outside their rooms for the break is about to end, and they need to prep up for their next class.

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Scene of Dream of Two Columns. Photo by Renzo Pangilinan

Watching the play is synonymous to, let me use the cliche, a roller coaster ride of emotions.

A cursory survey in the row of seats where I was seated, people laughed and shed tears in moments when these emotions were called for.

I was told that one of the crucial scenes was just finalized on the penultimate day before the first performance took off. I agree with Br. Migs how the genius of the execution of that scene dexterously put a neat solution to the issues of the play.

The #hugot lines in the play were really that, hugot from the real world. One may wonder how in the world could someone who has been shielded by the walls of the seminary could masterfully conjure such powerful lines which young people could relate to. Indeed, the script was simply remarkable. Take a bow, Br Paul Dungca!

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Photo by Renzo Pangilinan

Sure, there were notes which were not reached, lines that were not delivery with gusto. But these are negligible if one looks at it as one seamless art piece staged by the young, for the young, and with the young.

I dropped by a number of times in their rehearsals. I witnessed first hand how they had to be corrected for the nth time in order to execute the act properly. Their performance last Friday made me compare how the rawness of their talents blossomed into a beautiful fabric of artistry which, I am certain, would have moved Don Bosco in tears and gratitude, witnessing how his life could inspire the talents and virtues of these young people to assemble a work of art, and a school of virtues, to honor him on his 200th birth anniversary.

I was glad to realize that the masterful play just unfolded before my eyes was a production which my good friends and confreres were all involved in.

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The staff, some performers and the guests at the set of Coetera Tolle.

But I felt that I was happier because I am a Salesian of Don Bosco. And as such, the stories of the young people and of the Salesians on the stage, are something that is not just a mere work of fiction. The characters and stories do exist. Albeit, in different names and circumstances.

And as a Salesian, I feel blessed recognizing that God has been using my life as a channel of His love and grace.

Here is a synopsis of the play.

St Augustine

St_-Augustine

28 August 2015
1 Thes 4:1-8
Mt 25:1-13

The instructions of St Paul on how to live a life pleasing to the Lord in today’s first reading (1 Thes 4:1-8) were all disregarded by the saint we honor today.

He lived an immoral life. He stole. He gave in to his lustful passion. He embraced other faiths. These admissions have been properly been documented in his very own autobiography called appropriately thus, “The Confessions.”

But the Lord who fashioned  our hearts knew the right moment on how to approach him. Just like what we heard in our Gospel (Mt 25:1-13), God knows the right time when to come.

Augustine was in search for the truth. This was accompanied by the Grace of God. In God’s time, this longing for the infinite knocked down Augustine to his right senses. Right there and then, he made a swooping turn around.

And the rest is history.

We are invited to do just that.

Ang Batas ng Diyos ay Landas ng Kaligayahan

Ika-22 Linggo sa Karaniwang Panahon—Taon B
30 Agosto 2015

Aug 30, 22nd Sunday OT-B

Mapanganib na isipin na ang ating pagiging isang Kristiyano ay nakabatay sa pagsunod lamang sa batas ng Diyos. Ngunit hindi ba’t mga anak ang turing sa atin ng Ama, at hindi alipin? Kung ganoon pala, ang dapat nating pagtuunan ng pansin ay ang kalidad ng ating relasyon sa Panginoon. Likhang sining ni Mark Anthony Ramos.

Kapag nakakatanggap ako ng balitang may isang seminarista ang nagdesisyong lumabas na ng seminaryo ng tuluyan, nalulungkot ako.

Ngunit mas nalungkot ako nang marinig ko ang dahilan ng isang personal kong nakilala kung bakit siya lumabas: Ang pakiramdam niya daw kasi ay nasasakal na siya sa mga policies ng seminaryo. At pagod na daw siya dahil sa pakiwari niya, pinapatakbo ng iskedyul na nakasulat sa bulletin board ng seminaryo ang buhay niya.

Naalala ko ito habang pinagninilayan ko ang liturhiya nating ngayong Linggo.

Sa unang pagbasa (Deut 4:1-2.6-8), nangangaral si Moises sa mga Israelita na unawain nilang mabuti at sundin ang tuntuning itinuturo niya sa kanila. Kapag magkakagayon, makikita ng ibang bansa ang kanilang karunungan at lawak ng pang-unawa.

Dito, binibigyang diin ni Moises na ang pagtupad sa mga tuntunin ay hindi paniniil sa kanilang kalayaan. Bagkus, ito’y isang panuntunan ng isang buhay na ganap, isang buhay na malapit sa Panginoon.

Kung paanong ang isang manual ng isang gadget ay isinulat ng siyang gumawa nito, tayong mga nilikha ng Diyos ay makakasumpong lang ng isang buhay na may kaganapan kung susundin natin ang panuntunan ng Siyang lumikha sa atin.

Halos ganito rin ang tema ng ikalawang pagbasa (San 1:17- 18.21-22.27). Sa kanyang liham,  hinihimok tayo ni Santiago na buong pagpapakumbabang tanggapin ang Salita ng Diyos na naitanim sa ating mga puso, sapagkat ito ang makapagliligtas sa atin.

Konkreto ang binigay niyang halimbawa ng isang taong nagsasabuhay ng Salita ng Diyos:  tumutulong sa mga ulila at mga babaing balo sa kanilang kahirapan, at iniingatan ang sarili na huwag mahawa sa kasamaan ng sanlibutang ito.

Sa Mabuting Balita (Mc 7:1-8.14- 15.21-23), nailagay naman sa alanganin ang Panginoong Hesus nang may makapansin sa Kanyang mga alagad na kumain nang hindi muna naghugas ng kamay sa paraang naaayon sa turong minana nila mula pa sa kanilang mga ninuno. At dahil disipulo Niya ang mga ito, maituturing na Siya mismong pinuno ay pinagsasawalang-bahala ang kautusan tungkol sa paghuhugas ng kamay.

Kung susuriin, ang paghuhugas ng kamay ay hindi naman isang batas na nakasaad sa kasunduan sa pagitan ng Panginoon at ni Moises. Ito’y bahagi lang ng matandang kaugaliang naging bahagi na ng kanilang tradisyon, na ayon sa mga Pariseo at eskriba’y kailangan ding tuparin tulad ng Batas ni Moises.

Katulad ng mga Pariseo at eskriba sa Mabuting Balita, may mga pagkakataong ang marami sa ati’y ang turing sa relihiyon ay isang listahan ng mga bagay na dapat gawin at iwasan. Sa katunayan, sa pagtatapos ng pagbasa, may mahabang listahan ng masasamang gawi ang sinabi ang Panginoon: pakikiapid, pagnanakaw, pagpatay, pangangalunya, pag-iimbot, pag-gawa ng lahat ng kabuktutan, tulad ng pagdaraya, kahalayan, pagkainggit, paninirang-puri, ka­palaluan, at kahangalan.

Ngunit ang ipinaparating sa atin ng ating liturhiya ngayong Linggo ang isang bagay na mas mahalaga dito: Ang kalidad ng ugnayan natin sa Panginoon.

Mapanganib na isipin na ang ating pagiging isang Kristiyano ay nakabatay sa pagsunod lamang sa batas ng Diyos. Ngunit hindi ba’t mga anak ang turing sa atin ng Ama, at hindi alipin? Kung ganoon pala, ang dapat nating pagtuunan ng pansin ay ang kalidad ng ating relasyon sa Panginoon.

Kung Ama ang turing natin sa Kanya, hindi tayo mag-aaksaya ng panahong pagtuunan ng pansin kung mali o tama ang ginawa natin. Ang dikta ng ating puso’y nakatuon sa kung paano tayo mas magiging mabubuting mga anak dahil sa ganitong paraan lang natin Siya mabibigyan ng kasiyahan.

Coetera Tolle: A synopsis

I am sharing this space to a confrere, Br. Paul Dungca, SDB, for the synopsis of #CoeteraTolle, the FIN musicale in honor of Don Bosco’s 200th birth anniversary.

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A scene in Coetera Tolle. Photo by Fr. Vester Casaclang, SDB

This play finds its rationale in the celebration of the 200th birth of St. John Bosco whose life has touched the lives of its characters—both fictional and real. As this momentous event coincides with the Philippine Church’s celebration of the Year of the Poor, it is but fitting that the narration of the story of this saint is woven with the stories of poor young people he lived and died for. This play is presented by young people, insofar as it is inspired by them.

The story is bracketed by two tearful events in the life of Don Bosco.

He shed tears was when he was nine years old. As a young kid, he did not understand anything from a dream when the wild wolves turned into meek lambs. He cried for he did not understand, but despite this dream-riddle, he followed, he surrendered. “Take away the rest.”

He wept when he was in the final years of his life as he understood everything from the hindsight. He saw how God had prepared him to realize his mission to carry out God’s own will. God planned everything in his life, from his birth to that moment. Everything fell into it proper place. Everything was carefully designed and did not happen by chance.

No one escapes this seeming reality of life’s ambiguity.

Centered on the life stories of five poor young people who, like their father, are riddled by circumstances of life. Kiko is a confused young man who, unknown to his friends, lives a double life. Issay, a teenager girl, finds the real definition of beauty in place of the actual search for true satisfaction out of abandonment. Jessa, an older sister of a paralyzed lass quests for reasons for the painful question “why.” Benjo, whose anger directed at an imperfect Church, longs for healing and coming home, and JP his friend helps him find his way home.

Their life stories are interspersed with the life of Fr. Carlo, a Salesian priest who is far from perfect and is haunted by the memory of his brother who took his own life.

The stories are linked with one incident that has affected each character. The whole play is peppered with three dreams of Don Bosco–the dream at nine, the dream of the two pillars and the dream of the roses and thorns.

The story rests on the realization of the Salesians, that it is the young who are their “burning bush.” They see God in the young people. The Salesians help the poor young people save their souls, but likewise, the young people, without them knowing it, help the Salesians save their souls as well.

The Salesians have envisioned themselves to be signs and bearers of God’s love for the young. But also, young people are the signs and bearers of God’s love for the Salesians.

“Panginoon, kanino po kami pupunta?”

Ika-21 Linggo sa Karaniwang Panahon—Taon B
23 Agosto 2015

Aug 23, 21st Sunday OT-B

Ang mga tauhan sa ating pagbasa ngayong Linggo ay pumili at nanindigan.

Sa ating unang pagbasa (Jos 24:1-2.15-17.18), ang kahilili ni Moises, si Josue, ay tinipon ang 12 na lipi ng Israel upang tanungin sila kung sino ang kanilang paglilingkuran: ang Panginoon o ang mga diyos-diyosan.

Ngunit bago pa man sila makapagsalita, nanindigan na si Josue. Wika niya, “Ako at ang aking angkan ay sa Panginoon lamang maglilingkod.” Ito rin ang tugon nila,  “Wala kaming balak na talikuran ang Panginoon at maglingkod sa mga diyus-diyusan … Kaya’t kami rin ay sa Panginoon maglilingkod.”

Sa pamamagitan ng kanilang pagbabalik-tanaw sa kabutihan ng Diyos sa kanila bilang isang bayan, nagdesisyon silang si Yahweh ang Siyang tanging kanilang paglilingkuran lamang. Ang tagpong ito ay isang pambihirang pagkakataon upang muling sariwain ang kasunduan ng Diyos at ng bayang Israel.

Sa ikalawang pagbasa (Ef 5:21- 32), nagpapatuloy si San Pablo sa kanyang paglalahad ng pamamaraan kung paano mamuhay ang mga Kristiyano. Sa siping ito, pinagtuunan niya ng pansin ang pagmamahalan ng mag-asawa. Totoo, kailangan sa samahan ng isang mag-asawa na mayroong pagpapasakop, pag-galang at respeto. Ngunit ang maituturing na basehan ng pagsasamang ito ay pag-ibig.

May mga pagkakataong susubukin ang kanilang pag-iibigan, at hahamunin ang sumpang binitiwan nang sila’y ikinasal. At sa ganitong sitwasyon, patuloy pa rin ba nilang pipiliin ang bawat isa?

Ang punto ni San Pablo ay ganito: Ang bawat mag-asawang nag-iibigan ay maituturing na buhay na sakramento ng pagmamahalan ni Kristo at ng Simbahan. Ang pag-ibig ng mag-asawa ay kailangang pagtibayin ng paninindigang patuloy na piliin ang bawat isa sa mukha ng bawat pagsubok na darating sa kanilang pagsasama.

Sa Mabuting Balita (Jn 6:60-69), matutunghayan natin na ang mga alagad ng Panginoon ay kinailangan ding mamili: kung susunod pa rin sila sa Panginoon o babalik na sila sa mga datin nilang buhay.

Sa nakaraang apat na Linggo, pinagnilayan natin si Kristo bilang isang pagkain. Maraming sumunod sa Kanya dahil binusog Niya ang mga tao. Ngunit nang sinabi Niya sa kanila na Siya ang Pagkaing nagbibigay-buhay, marami sa kanila ang nahirapang tanggapin ang aral na ito ng Panginoon, at hindi lang iilang sa kanila ang tumalikod sa pagsunod sa Kanya.

Sa gitna ng pagbubulung-bulungan ng Kanyang mga alagad tungkol sa aral Niyang ito, diniretso Niya sila: “Ibig din ba ninyong umalis?”

Dito natin masasalamin ang pag-ibig ng Diyos sa atin. Iginagalang Niya ang ating kalayaan. Sa Kanya, walang pilitan. Ang mahalaga sa Kanya ay ang kakayahan nating pumili.

Katulad ng Kanyang mga alagad, tayo man ay tinatanong ng Panginoon kung Siya ang ating pipiliin. At dumarating ito sa mga pagkakataong mas madaling suwayin ang utos Niya, sa mga sandaling mas mukhang kapaki-pakinabang ang pangakong binibigay sa atin ng kalaban.

Ang tanong sa atin: Iiwan din ba natin Siya?

At kapag nakita natin ang ating mga sarili sa mahirap na sitwasyon upang bigyang tugon ang tanong na ito, humingi tayo ng tulong sa Kanya upang katulad ni San Pedro, maibulalas din natin, “Panginoon, kanino po kami pupunta? Nasa inyo ang mga salitang nagbibigay ng buhay na walang hanggan.”

On Dependence on God

Tuesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
18 August 2015

Judges 6:11-24
Matthew 19:23-30

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Photo from the Facebook page of Societas Verbi Divini (SVD) – Philippines

Our readings today prompt us once more on the importance of our dependence on God.

In the first reading Israel was conquered. Gideon is on the verge of hopelessness, until an angel of the Lord appears and commands him to save Israel from their oppressors. But Gideon appears to be uneasy with the mission being entrusted to him, reasoning out that his family is poor, and he is the least in his father’s house.

But the angel assures him that the Lord will be with them.

Our Gospel today continues the account we heard yesterday. Here, Jesus points out the need to depend on God and not on the promise of security brought about by wealth. He did not say “it is impossible for the rich to enter the Kingdom of heaven”  it’s just that, it is hard for him, given his probable reliance on his riches and not on God’s providence.

Wealth and abundance may be a sign that God blesses us, but we are challenged to recognize
as well the dangers that material wealth brings.

For these may hinder us from pinning our hope on God especially so because we know that we have other options to go to.

Years ago, when I was doing BEC in a parish, I found myself in a small shanty. It was a very small house where the living room, the kitchen, the dining room, and the bed room are all in one place. The house belonged to a 70-something woman.
She was living there alone.

She shared with us that she’s grateful because of the many graces she received from God. She could not ask for more. While she was saying these words, I could not prevent my eyes from looking at the immense poverty surrounding her and asked myself whether the woman was just being sarcastic.

But I saw in her eyes the authentic and profound gratitude brought about by her dependence on God. She sees herself blessed by God. On His providence, is her security, his stronghold.

She has found in Jesus the Grace. the rest doesn’t matter any longer.

Don Bosco the Educator (Part 3 of 3)

Today’s the third day of the triduum in honor of St John Bosco’s 200th birth anniversary. To honor this great a saint whom I have come to consider as a father, I am sharing this essay which I wrote when I was in the philosophate, some seven years ago.  This is the final piece of three parts. You may read the first part here and the second part here. 

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The Value of the Playground

A shrewd philosopher once noted that “If St. Francis of Assisi sanctified nature and poverty, St. John Bosco sanctified work and joy. I would not be surprised if he would be proclaimed protector Saint of Modern Games and Sports. ”[1]

Don Bosco believed that the playground is an important component to the educative process because playgrounds are venues when young people are not restricted to speak and act.  One can win a friendly informal relationship with the boys, especially in recreation. This explains why all his schools consider the playground as a basic facility that the school must have.

 

His Preventive System

On the centenary of his death in 1988, then Pope John Paul II wrote “One may say that the peculiar trait of [Don Bosco’s] brilliance is linked with the educational method which he himself called the “preventive system.” In a certain sense this represents the heart of his wisdom as an educator and constitutes the prophetic message which he has left to his followers and to the Church, and which has received attention and recognition from numerous educators and students of pedagogy.”[2]

The Preventive System, a handiwork he left to his Salesians has in its core three elements: Reason, Religion and Loving Kindness. This pedagogical method brings together educators and young people in a family experience of transparency and respect. The practice of the preventive system demands an empathy with the young and a willingness to be with them, not only as a teacher, but also a friend.

Don Bosco passed on this technology to his Salesians, not merely by talking about it, but by allowing them to see how he lived it. In his school, he cultivated an environment of spontaneity. He developed a personal relationship with his students. He treated his students with respect. And he strictly taught his Salesians not to humiliate the young in public. He was for the kindest love. He is their father and friend.

In return, his students loved him. When he was critically ill, his boys stormed the heavens with their prayers just so he would survive. They accompanied their prayers with vows and promises to become better boys. Not a few of them promised to pray the holy rosary all their life while some offered to only eat bread just so Don Bosco would retain his health.

Hence, when he miraculously got well, one of the first things he had to do was to change something manageable all the vows and promises which many had, without due thought, when his life was at stake.

Blessed Michael Rua, a young by who grew up beside Don Bosco and who would succeed him after his death has to say: “Don Bosco took no step, spoke no word, undertook no work that did not have the salvation of the young as their object. He left it to others to go after money, comforts and honors. As for himself, he never had anything truly at heart, except the salvation of souls. In word above and above all in deed did he live by the motto ‘Give me souls take away the rest.’”

Don Bosco’s earthly sojourn ended for more than 120 years now. But we still hear the repeated cries of the young people all over the world “I am 16… and I don’t know anything.”

He responded to this plea by providing them education, not only by teaching them how to read or write, nor by merely teaching them some basic skills in order to live. More importantly, he taught them how to love by exactly showing them a clear example how.

[1] Peter Braido, Don Bosco’s Pedagogical Experience

[2] Pope John Paul II,  Iuvenum Patris, 1988, 8.