Month: February 2016

Sino Siya? (Who is He?)

What follows is a reflection on weekend apostolate of John Paolo Romero on his weekend apostolate. Paolo is  a prenovice of Don Bosco Seminary in Canlubang, Laguna.

My classmates and I were formally accepted as prenovices of the Philippine North Province (FIN) of the Salesians of Don Bosco (SDB). I see my being a prenovice as both a privilege and a grace from God because of my unworthiness. But this feeling of unworthiness makes me more reliant to God’s grace and providence.

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As prenovices, we are sent to different Salesian Parishes every weekend to extend our help and to have exposure in the Salesian apostolate. I was assigned in St. Dominic Savio Parish in Mandaluyong together with Prenovice Romnick. The Don Bosco Youth Center in the parish is very dynamic that I got a bit of culture shock when I first arrived there. But this did not hinder me to express my love to the young people, and to experience the love of God through them as well. This desire manifests itself through my different experiences, both the good and not-so-good.

A 10-year old boy in St. Dominic Savio Parish, Dominic, who is also called, ‘the notorious,’ asked me a seemingly simple question during the catechesis, “Brads, sino po ang Diyos para sa’yo?” [Brother, who is God for you?] Thinking on how to please the boy and make him understand my concept of God in a very simple way, I answered, “Ang Diyos para sa’kin, parang syang hangin, hindi man natin nakikita, pero sigurado tayong nandiyan s’ya, kung wala, hindi tayo makakahinga” (God for me is wind, we may not see Him, but we are certain that He’s around. If not, we’ll not be abe to breathe).

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Deep within, I was not satisfied with my answer that I had to ask myself again, “Who is God really for me? The creator? The redeemer? The Father? A friend? Teacher or mentor? Who really is He?” I was thinking on how God is revealing Himself to me in the here and now. I admit that I have never been attentive to this matter before and it’s strange how a 10-year old boy made me seriously think about it.

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I note that God has given me what I do not like and has kept me away from the things I prefer – my apostolate assignment, my teaching loads and many other things. Sometimes I doubt whether God wants me to be in the seminary, because what I do not like is given to me. Just like putting a mosquito repellent lotion so the mosquitoes would go away because it drives them away. But looking closely on the situation, I realized that, perhaps, God is allowing me to experience such adverse things in order to stretch me and bring out the best in me. He may want me to be more obedient and stronger in will.

Now, who is God for  me? Who really He is for me? He is a God who challenges me so I may become stronger; a God who allows me to undergo desolations in order to relish His comfort; a God who burdens me with so many tribulations so I may emerge triumphant; a God who pretends to hate me so that I may strive with my utmost effort to win His love.

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Towards the end of the catechesis, Dominic shared his answer to the group, “Ang Diyos, para siyang kama, kapag pagod na pagod na ako, hihiga at magpapahinga na lang ako sa kanya” (God is like a bed. When I am already tired, I will just lie down and rest in Him).

Dominic, a difficult 10-year old boy, who has changed my perspective of God, of Love.

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Isa Pang Pagkakataon!

Ika-3 Linggo sa Karaniwang Panahon—Taon K
28 Pebrero 2016

Feb 28

Graphics by Asp. Paul Lopez, Don Bosco Seminary Canlubang.

Ang buong buhay natin ay isang paanyaya upang manumbalik sa Ama. At ngayong panahon ng kwaresma, mas ipinag-iigting ang panawagang ito para sa ating lahat.

Sa ating liturhiya ngayong Ika-3 Linggo ng Kwaresma, ipinapaalala sa ating ang Diyos ang Siyang palagiang gumagawa ng unang hakbang upang makasama tayo.

Sa Unang Pagbasa (Exo 3:1-8a. 13-15), nagpakilala ang Diyos kay Moises. Ngunit hindi lang sa simpleng paraan ng pagbibigay ng Kanyang pangalan, kung hindi sa pamamagitan ng konteksto ng Kanyang relasyon sa kanya: Siya ang Diyos ng kanyang mga ninuno.

Namalas ng Diyos na labis na pinahihirapan ng mga Egipcio ang Kanyang bayan. Hindi lingid sa Kanya ang hirap na kanilang tinitiis. Narinig Niya ang kanilang daing. Kaya naman bumaba Siya upang sila’y iligtas.

Narito ang imahe ng isang Diyos na hindi lamang bahagi ng ating imahinasyon dahil totoo Siya. Dahil ipinaranas Niya sa Kanyang bayan ang Kanyang pagmamahal.

Ang kuwentong ito ni Moises at ng kanyang bayan na naganap noon ay nagpapatuloy hanggang sa ngayon. Bumaba siya noon upang makasama nila at hanggang ngayo’y patuloy pa rin Siyang nakikipaglakbay kasama natin.

Nitong nagdaang Huwebes lang, sinariwa natin kung paanong ang mapayapang rebolusyong naganap sa kalye ng EDSA 30 taon na ang nakararaan, ay maituturing na isang himala. Walang baril ang pinaputok. Walang kanyon ang pinasabog. Wala ni isa mang patak ng dugo ang dumaloy. Hinangaan tayo ng lahat, sapagkat, ayon sa awit na madalas na pinatutugtog noon, “Kapayapaan ang handog ng Pilipino sa mundo.”

Isang batang hampas lupa pa lang ako noong taong iyon, pero sa unang pagkakataon, dahil sa mapayapang rebolusyong ito, naintindihan ko ang kakaibang sarap na tawaging isang Pilipino!

Sa karanasan nating ito bilang mga Pilipino, tunay nga na ang Diyos ay kumikilos kasama ng Kanyang bayan. Hindi Siya nagpapabaya sa atin. Patuloy pa rin Niya tayong iniingatan.

Ngunit imbes na pahalagahan ang kaugnayang itong meron tayo sa Diyos, marami sa atin ang nagpapatuloy sa pag-gawa ng masama. Maganda nga sana kung nakalimot lang tayo o kaya ay sadyang mahina. Pero iba po ano kapag alam nating masama na, tapos patuloy pa rin natin itong ginagawa.

Naiintindihan natin ang kasalanan bilang paglabag sa batas. Nagmura tayo, nagsinungaling, nag-isip ng hindi maganda laban sa kapwa. Naiintindihan nating masama ito ngunit sadya pa rin natin itong ginagawa. Ngunit dapat nating maintindihan na hindi lang tayo lumalabag sa batas kapag gumagawa ng mali, masahol pa dito, pinupunit natin ang puso ng Ama nating patuloy na nag-aanyaya sa ating gawin ang tama, ang nararapat, ang mabuti.

Ito ang konsteksto ng ikalawang pagbasa (1 Cor 10:1-6.10-12). Marami sa mga taga-Corinto ang nakalimot, ang mahina o ‘di kaya’y sadyang walang pakialam sa damdamin ng Ama. Sinulatan sila ni San Pablo upang himuking alalahananin ang nangyari sa kanilang mga ninunong nagpatuloy sa kanilang maling gawi habang naglalakbay sa disyerto.

Ang mensahe niyang ito na para sa kanila noon ay makabuluhan pa rin naman sa atin hanggang ngayon. Ang iba sa ati’y kampante nang makatanggap ng binyag o kuntento na sa pagsisimba lang o kaya nama’y masaya na dahil hindi naman sila gumagawa ng masasama. Para sa kanila, ‘yun lang ang kahulugan ng buhay Kristiyano. Ngunit kung ito ang iniisip natin, nagkakamali tayo.

Sa Mabuting Balita, ito ang nais na ipaunawa ng Panginoon: na hindi lamang tayo dapat na umiwas sa masasama, ngunit inaasahang mamunga rin tayo dapat! Gamit ang puno ng igos bilang halimbawa sa Kanyang kuwento, nais na daw itong ipaputol ng may-ari sa nangangalaga dito.  Kung sabagay, tatlong taon na nga naman niya itong dinadalaw ngunit wala pa rin itong ibinibigay na bunga. Ngunit sa halip na putulin na nang tuluyan, binigyan pa nila ito ng palugit—isa pang taon!

Ganito rin marahil ang binibigay sa atin ng Diyos: isa pang pagkakataon!

Marami Siyang mga ipinagkaloob sa atin—ang buhay natin halimbawa, mga taong nagmamahal sa atin, ang ating talino at kakayahan. Ang mga ito’y paraan Niya upang ipahatid Niya sa ating hindi Siya nagkulang ng pangangalaga sa atin. Pero inaasahan Niya ring sa pamamagitan nito ay makapamunga tayo. Sa pamamagitan nito’y matatagpuan natin ang landas pabalik sa Kanya.

Isang mensaheng pwede nating mapulot dito ang katotohanang hindi natin hawak ang panahon. Hindi habang buhay ay naririto tayo. At sa dami ng mga biyayang natanggap natin sa Panginoon, huwag po sanang masayang ang lahat ng ito.  Huwag nating sayangin ang awa at pag-ibig ng Diyos.

Ang panahon ng Kwaresma ay panahon ng paghihintay. Makatugon tayo sa panawagan ng Diyos na magbago, na magbalik-loob sa Kanya. Upang sa ating pagsalubong sa muling pagkabuhay ng ating Panginoon, maging tunay at lubos ang ating kagalakan.

Such evil

Friday of the Second Week of Lent

The saddest thing about betrayal is that it never comes from your enemies. It comes from friends and loved ones.

We find this nugget of wisdom embedded in the fabric of our readings today.

In the first reading (Gen 37:3-4; 12-13; 17-28), Joseph’s very own brothers sold him as a slave. This is of course a happy compromise because they initially wanted to kill him–only because he was their dad’s favorite.

Meanwhile, our Gospel (Mt 21: 31-43; 45-46) features a stinging parable about the wicked tenants who refused to give the land owner the harvest of his land. They seized, beat and stoned his own messenger

But apparently, these actions seemed only a groundwork for their most evil deed yet. For when the landowner sent his son, assuming that they would respect him because he is his heir, they killed him instead.

Indeed, such evil.

But these readings come more alive when we realize that this is not a story of the past, it is a story of today. The reality of sin and evil surrounds us: We read them from the news, we experience them first hand.

And what is more, these readings convey that we, too, are capable of selling our own brothers. We, too, have the capacity to murder someone by the sharpness and sting of our tongues. We, too, can betray those who have shown us goodness.

However, amidst this backdrop, we are reminded that in every act of evil committed, unleashes a million acts of kindness.

How, for example, could some brothers find reason to take care of our sheep—give them food and water regularly—when they are hardheaded, dirty, and stinky.

How, for example, could some brothers find reason to approach the warmers when everybody has already gotten food, and the best portions of the viands have already been taken away.

Amidst this backdrop of evil, our liturgy reminds us, through the responsorial psalm “Remember the marvels the Lord has done.”

We are here as one community of sinful men, basking on the fount and summit of God’s mercy, the Holy Eucharist. As we continue our Lenten journey, let us beg the Lord to make us instruments of His goodness so that in the face of evil, His glory continues to shines forth.

 

Monstra esse Matrem! … Monstra te esse filium!

Today’s the 24th of the month!

Here’s a piece in honor of Mary, Help of Christians, penned by Br. Alvin Francis F. Lozano of the Diocese of Paranaque. 

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In the Gospel according to St. Luke, we find Elizabeth astonished and filled with awe upon the visit of her cousin. Come to think of it, Mary was already pregnant. This would be enough reason for her not to visit her cousin. Taking on a journey to that hilly part of Israel would not be the most practical thing for a pregnant woman to do.

If Mary were just an ordinary woman, she would reason out, or even justify her point of not going. She is already the mother of God. She could just sneer on Elizabeth in order to rub this in. She could even say “I am already the queen of heaven and earth, I should not be the one visiting; they should be the ones to pay homage to me.”

But I believe that these thoughts were never present in Mary’s person. What she remembered were the words of the angel during the Annunciation, “And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren;” (Lk 1:36). The very thought that her elderly cousin was pregnant urged her to come rushing to her aid. In spite of the fact that she herself was pregnant, too.

She never considered that she was already the mother of God. That she was already a “somebody;” that all she should do was to enjoy the privilege of being such instead of undergoing suffering. This explains why Elizabeth, upon seeing her, showered her with praises, “And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1:43-44),

Because she was filled with the Holy Spirit, Mary was endowed with the gift of understanding, and consequently, mercy.  In Tagalog, these two are encapsulated in a term: Maunawain. Loosely translated as an understanding person. But, in the original, it means one who puts mercy first above all, that is, una ang awa. That is why, the righteousness of Mary is not mere human righteousness. For if it were, she would find a thousand reason to set aside concern for others in favor of convenience. Her righteousness is of God: mercy. And that is what Mary inherited from her Son, the very face of mercy.

That is why when we greet her during the Salve Regina, we sing of her as Mater Misericordiae, a mother who has a heart for those who are miserable and suffering. Indeed, Mary is our model in being configured to our merciful Lord. That is the real mark of a Christian: mercy. Mary is a person who values the good of others before her own. A real merciful person. A Christian, likewise, should have a heart and preference for those who are miserable, neglected, and marginalized.

Mary who is the mother of mercy is also … the Help of Christians.

In the prayer of St. Bernard, the Memorare, we recite the words “Despise not my petitions, but in your mercy, hear and answer me.” But to call upon Mary as the help of Christians entails a responsibility. If we call on Mary as help of Christians, it is our responsibility to be merciful for it is a mark of an authentic Christian. We need to follow Jesus who is the face of mercy through imitating Mary, the mother of mercy. By being persons who put mercy first above all in our thoughts, words and deeds.

In this way alone can we call upon Mary as our mother, as help of Christians.

In an old pious invocation, we call on Mary, Monstra esse Matrem! (Show yourself a mother!) We beg her from the depths of our hearts to be a mother to us whenever we implore her mercy. Today, as we honor Mary Help of Christians, we are challenged by Mary, as she responded to St. Bernard, the author of this invocation, Monstra te esse filium! (Show yourself a child!)

And we know what this means.

Let us strive to be merciful. So that we may truly, and rightfully, call Mary as our mother and help of Christians, and that we may be truly called Christians, followers of the face of mercy, Jesus Christ.

Mary, Help of Christians … Pray for us!

[Video] MHC re-enthroned at the Manila Cathedral

I posted the other day the account of the re-enthronement to Mary Help of Christians (MHC). But when I downloaded the photos I took from the camera to my computer, I found out that I managed to capture some video footage of the very enthronement rite of MHC in the side chapel dedicated to her.

The first part of the video is in slow motion. Br. Jerome Quinto, SDB, who edited the video used it as a last resort in order to get rid of and remedy the shaky parts. But the latter portion, which features His Eminence, Cardinal Chito Tagle reciting the prayer which St. John Bosco himself composed to honor MHC turned out just fine.

A photo montage which more or less rounds up the event last Saturday concludes the video footage, which is relatively short–just about 4 minutes!

MHC is re-enthroned in the Manila Cathedral

Whoever thought that once upon a time, in the pre-war Manila Cathedral, a statue of Don Bosco’s Madonna had been enshrined in one of its side chapels?
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Photos are courtesy of Mr. Alexander Amora Juni.

No one perhaps.

But if there is one thing that is most fascinating in the recent re-enthronement of the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary under the title Help of Christians (MHC) in her very own chapel last Saturday, 20 February, is that MHC is deeply venerated in one of the most historic churches of Catholic Philippines.

Hence, when the news came out that the MHC image would be re-enthroned, the members of the Salesian family along with devotees of the Blessed Mother under this title came in droves, packing the Manila Cathedral full. 
 
No less than His Eminence, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, presided the Holy Mass. He also led the rites of the re-enthronement of our Lady. In his homily, he thanked the “wide and dynamic Salesian family” for this “homecoming,” and clarified that “Mary did not leave the Cathedral for she never leaves any home. Symbolically, “This re-enthronement makes us feel more at home since we have an assurance that our Mother is our Helper, too.” 
 
After the post communion prayer, Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, Provincial Superior of the Salesians in the FIN Province thanked the Cardinal, and the rector of the Manila Cathedral Fr. Reginald Malicdem for their solicitude.  
 
Months ago, Fr. Malicdem immediately said yes to the request of Fr. Remo Bati, SDB, director of the Marian Affairs of the National Shrine of Mary Help of Christians if he could grant them the possibility of having the MHC image re-enthroned in the Cathedral. 
 
The rector, noting the historic value of the event, suggested to invite Cardinal Tagle to preside the celebration. Fr. Bati heeded the suggestion, wrote the Cardinal, and similarly, he also received an immediate affirmative response. 
 
In the event, Fr. Bati honored two Don Bosco alumni for their contribution in helping make the event possible: Mr. Tom Joven (DB Academy Pampanga) and Mr. Nolan Angeles (DB Mandaluyong). Mr. Joven was recognized because he was the one who carved the image. He did it for free. On the other hand, Mr. Angeles was recognized for his effort to help in spreading the devotion to Mary Help of Christians. 
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Mr. Nolan Angeles receiving the plaque from the Cardinal. Photo from the FB Page of Mr Angeles.

After the Mass, the statue was brought in procession to the side chapel dedicated to Her. One enthroned, the Cardinal led the prayer composed by St. John Bosco himself to MHC. The congregation sang in chorus “O, Help of Christians.”

Some farewell piece

You bid goodbye late last night. It’s a goodbye which was, in more ways than one, became true to its word: good.

Past 30 minutes since our coffees had been served, I note that we did not touch them. Perhaps, they could wait. My thirst in knowing how your discernment unfolded–and your desire to narrate it–seemed more urgent. It’s a ‘brand of farewell’ good friends wish to have. Just in case, leaving becomes inevitable.

That moment last night spelled the definiteness and the imminence of your departure.

I honestly thought that there would be crying. But surprisingly, no tears fell (Okay, there were moments when eyes welled up. They’re yours, let me just underline). I am consoled with the thought that though you’re heading to a different path,  we’ll still continue to keep in touch. 

Last week, somewhere in my homily, I said these lines:

Ngayong panahon po, sa seminaryo namin may mga kaibigan akong magpapatuloy. Pero mayroon din namang lalabas muna. Naalala ko po ang sabi sa akin ng isang pari noong papasok pa lang ako. Kapag iniisip ko na daw pong lumabas, alalahanin ko daw ang dahilan kung bakit ako pumasok sa loob. Alam po ninyo, isa po iyon sa mga bagay na inaalala ko kapag dumaraan ako sa pagsubok.

I think you also did the same. But you went deeper. I shared with you last night that whenever a seminary companion leaves, I cannot but breathe out a sigh of relief, with the thought that, “It’s over for him. He’s off to a new start.”

That same feeing I have for you. But with a tad more. After hearing your version of things, I am confident that you’ll do better. You’ll be better.

Nearly five years ago, I joined the seminary community in welcoming you. Now that you have made your decision not to continue, I am humbled that you’ve made me privy to this well-guarded choice. It’s indeed a priviledge.    

All good-natured seminarians who leave the seminary grieve. They show remorse over the thought that they betrayed their calling; that they turned their back on their friends who are still inside. I am sure that you, too, will experience this. Don’t worry. It it normal. Cry if you must. This is one ritual we humans do in order to heal our woundedness.

I’m just an sms/phone call/fb message and prayer away.