Month: April 2016

Heaven

Saturday of the Fifth Week of Easter
30 April 2016

There’s this saying that “A man without a culture is like a zebra without stripes.”

Culture here should not be reduced as mere ‘refinement’ or ‘class,’ for it is more than these. Culture is the very fabric which influences us as a nation. But then again, we also influence it in return.

Think of the expressions which have seeped into our common lingo, “Ikaw na!” or “E di wow!” or “#hugot.” I am not here to assess whether they are good or bad. But this is my point, they have found a way, or better yet, we have allowed them entry to become part of our culture.

We’ll be able to appreciate the first reading (Acts 16:1-10) if we have a working knowledge of the culture of the Jews in the time of the first Christians. We heard that Paul wanted Timothy to join him in his missionary expedition. And in order for Timothy to be efficient in proclaiming the Gospel, Paul had him circumcised.

In the context of the 21st century civilization, nobody cares if one is circumcised or not. But circumcision heavily matters for the Jews, then, and even now. And for someone who claimed that he belonged to God, he needed to have a proof that indeed, he is one. For them, circumcision is an unmistakable evidence that one represents God. This would ensure Timothy’s acceptability to the Jews whom they would be evangelizing.

This is where the genius of Paul lies. His passion to propagate the Gospel transformed him to become someone who is sensitive to the dictates of the culture, yet without compromising the demands of the Gospel.

By virtue of the sacrament of baptism we received, we are not only expected to preach the Gospel. It is our duty to live it, in both our words and deeds.

Benedict XVI reminds us that the world offers us comfort. But lest we forget, we are not made for comfort. We were made for greatness.

This is why perhaps Christ in our Gospel today (John 15:18-21) prompts us to the truth that we do not belong to this world. In his letter to the Philippians (3:20), Paul confidently claims that heaven, not earth, is our home.

However, more than geographical, our Lord Jesus highlights the fact that because we are not of this world, our destiny should not be different to that of His. He too did not belong to “this world.” He too was hated. It is to be expected that being a believer will incite others against us.

The concept of Christians being persecuted is not a thing of the past.

Let us not just think of our Christian brothers and sisters in the middle east whose lives and limbs are in great danger because of the ISIS. Let us not just think our Christian brothers and sisters who cannot freely express their love for Jesus in countries which forbid this.

Let us also consider ourselves. We who are Christians in a country where Christianity is very much in the air we breathe. But we run the risk of not giving importance to it because it is just there.

Let us beg Jesus to strengthen us so that we could continue to preach His Gospel through our lives and that He may fill our hearts always with the thought that we are not of this world. This leads us to be more conscious of our baptism, and of our identity, and of our real abode.

Heaven.

bABBAd: Teaching the young to “Live simply so that others may simply Live.”

The author, Reginald Reyes, is one of the youth leaders of the Salesian Youth Movement (SYM) in the Northern Province of the Salesians in the Philippines (FIN). He is an alumnus of Don Bosco College in Canlubang.

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I just came home from a 13-hour ride from Albay in the Bicol Region, home of the world famous Mayon Volcano.  I went there not for leisure as most people do these days, but to immerse myself in the lives of ordinary people, of farmers and fisher folk, of those who are in the rural peripheries in this week-long process we call bABBAd.

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Babad is a Filipino word that literally means “to soak,” or “to immerse.”  Yet, the variation of the spelling gives a deeper meaning and perspective in order to see ABBA (Aramic of the word Father) at work in the ordinary daily life of His creation.

Long before Pope Francis wrote Laudato Si and called Christians to go to the peripheries, the Salesian Lay Volunteers of the Philippine North Province has already started stirring the hearts and minds of the young to “go out of their comfort zones” and open their hearts and minds to life’s many lessons and realities.

The bABBAd process involves five key areas.

bABBAd sa Sarili (immersion in oneself) allows the immersionist to look within one’s self and see his /her feelings and realizations before, during, and after the immersion process.

bABBAd sa Kapwa (immersion in others) allows the immersionist to relate with his /her fellow immersionists during the preparation and processing stages, and especially his / her foster family during the weeklong stay.

bABBAd sa Lipunan (immersion in the society) allows one to see the realities of the foster community (parish or barangay) not to impose abrupt solutions to problems but to merely observe and grasp how the people feel about the issues; and if given the chance give appropriate feedback to the authorities.

bABBAd sa Kalikasan (immersion in nature) allows one to marvel at the beauty of nature as one bathes day by day by the stream, goes fishing with the family or harvests crops in the field; and in turn realize the source of one’s daily physical nourishment and the value of caring for nature in view of the future generation.

Encompassing the above mentioned aspects is the most important, bABBAd sa Diyos (immersion in God), to see the Creator working in all creation day by day, realizing His hand and His will in everything and everyone completes the immersion process and hopefully makes the immersionist gradually change for the better.

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Bishop Joel Baylon of the Diocese of Legazpi joins the volunteers. Seated on his left is Fr. Mon Borja, SDB, FIN delegate for lay volunteers.

I was assigned in a vast parish by the sea dedicated to Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary in Badian, Oas where I stayed for almost four days and helped out in basic chores like washing the dishes or sweeping the floor.  In such a short time I saw the dedication of the parish priest, who despite his illness, still ministers to the many chapels under his care.  At times when his health does not allow him to celebrate Mass in faraway chapels, he requests neighboring priests or sends Eucharistic lay ministers to bring the sacrament to the people.

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The people in turn support the parish’s needs according to their means.  Some give crops or fish, others give wood for construction and repair, and some who are well off offer cash.

I also witnessed the “bayanihan spirit” (this refers to the spirit of communal unity, work and cooperation) of the fisher folk as both adult and young men tie the ropes of the nets to their waists and help pull the day’s catch to shore while the women wait with containers and scales either to sell the fish their husbands and brothers caught.

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The bayanihan spirit is alive!

The fish sanctuaries, cemented roads, new bridges, and new school buildings are also signs of development and local government support.  The people hope that these improvements will also raise their family’s income and living condition.

As I rode the bus coming back to my own reality, I bring with me the hopes and prayers of the people whom I encountered.  I have also realized that God indeed dwells within and among the simple people.  He indeed “fills the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:53) not just food for physical hunger, but the spirit of community for those who yearn to uplift the lives of one another, and faith that despite the literal and figurative storms that come their way they will not lose hope for a better tomorrow.

 

 

May 2016 FB header photos

It’s almost May and here are FB banner photos which you could use to “Announce the Gospel of the Lord,” even in the virtual world. I thank Paul Lopez, a young seminarian from Don Bosco Seminary for contributing these.

May 1

May 1, 2016   +   6th Sunday of Easter–Year C

May 6 - St_Dominic Savio

May 6, 2016   +   St. Dominic Savio –Year C

May 8

May 8, 2016   +   Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascencion –Year C

May 15

May 15, 2016   +   Pentecost Sunday –Year C

May 22

May 22, 2016   +  Solemnity of The Most Holy Trinity  –Year C

May 24 - Mary Help of Christians

May 24, 2016   +  Solemnity of Mary Help of Christians –Year C

May 28

May 8, 2016   +   Solemnity of the Lord’s Ascencion –Year C 

May 31 - Visitation

May 31, 2016   +   Feast of the Visitation –Year C 

Ang Bagong Utos

Ika-5 Linggo ng Muling Pgkabuhay—K
24 Abril 2016

April 24

Graphics by Asp. Paul Lopez, Don Bosco Seminary Canlubang 

May isang kaibigan akong nakausap nito lang. Taga-ibang bansa siya. Sa gitna ng tila pagong na usad ng trapiko, at sa dami ng hinanakit niya tungkol sa mga kalyeng hindi madaanan, sa sagwa ng serbisyo publikong natikman niya sa pamamalagi sa bansa natin, naibulalas niya, “Parang walang gobyerno ang Pilipinas.”

Mabilis akong nag-isip upang ipagtanggol ang bansa. Pero nanatiling tikom ang bibig ko; batid kong may punto siya. Kaya nga hindi din nakakapagtakang  isa sa pinakamatunog na political slogans ngayong halalan ay “Change is coming.”

Pero sa pagkakaalam ko, hindi naman ngayon lang sumulpot ang tema ng slogang ito. Bata pa lang ako, isinisigaw na ang “never again” o kaya naman ay yung mas pamilyar na “tama na, sobra na, palitan na.”

Kung tutuusin, ang bawat isa naman sa atin ay may hinihinging pagbabago. Ito rin ang masasalamin natin sa ating liturhiya ngayong Linggo.

Sa unang pagbasa (Gawa 14:21-27), si Pablo at Barnabas ay masugid na bumisita sa mga Kristiyanong komunidad na itinatag nila. Humirang din sila ng mga mamumuno sa mga ito upang higit itong maging matibay. Pinatatag nila ang kalooban ng mga alagad at pinagpayuhan na manatiling tapat sa pananampalataya. Ang paalala nila, “Magdaranas muna tayo ng maraming kapighatian bago makapasok sa kaharian ng Diyos,” turo nila sa kanila.

Marahil, isa ring mahalagang aralin ito para sa atin. Kung gusto natin ng pagbabago at kaayusan, kailangan nating magsakripisyo upang makamtan ito. Kung iniisip nating nasa isang tao lang nakasalalay ang pag-unlad ng bansa, mali ata ito. Tayong mga sumisigaw ng disiplina ay siyang dapat na manguna sa pagpapakita nito sa iba. Naka-park ba ng maayos ang sasakyan mo? Hindi ka ba nang-uumit ng mga bagay sa opisina at inuuwi mo sa inyo?

Mahirap na bagay ito, pero simulan natin sa ating mga sarili ang pagbabago.

Sa ikalawang pagbasa (Pahayag 21:1-5a), nakatanaw si Juan ng isang pangitain. Tumambad sa kanyang paningin  ang isang bagong langit at isang bagong lupa. Wala na ang dating pamilyar na lupang kanilang nilakaran. Bago na ang lahat. Ngunit ang pinakamalaking aspeto ng pagbabagong kanyang namalas ay ang pananahan ng Diyos sa piling ng mga tao! Hindi lamang Siya nakatanaw sa malayo upang magmasid. Siya na ngayon ay  nananahan kasama nila.

Ito ang pangako ng pangitaing ito “makakapiling nila nang palagian ang Diyos at siya ang magiging Diyos nila. At papahirin niya ang kanilang mga luha. Wala nang kamatayan, dalamhati, pag-iyak, at sakit sapagkat lumipas na ang dating mga bagay.”

Tila isang politikal na talumpati ito. Ngunit ‘di tulad ng pangako ng iba, alam nating ang Diyos ay tapat sa Kanyang pangako. Tayong umaasam ng pagbabago ay dapat humingi ng tulong sa Panginoon. Ang Diyos na lumikha sa atin ang Siyang tanging may kakayahang baguhin ang puso natin. Manalig tayo sa Kanyang hindi Niya tayo pababayaan.

Sa pagtatapos ng Mabuting Balita (Juan 13:31-33.34-35), mayroong bagong kautusang inihatag ang Panginoon: Mag-ibigan kayo!

Pero kung tutuusin, wala namang bago dito. Hindi nga ba’t ang buod ng 10 Utos ng Diyos ay  pag-ibig? Pagmamahal sa kapwa. Ultimo ang mga kapaid nating hindi naniniwala kay Kristo bilang Diyos o maging ang mga kapatid nating walang pinaniniwalaang diyos ay nagsusumikap na magmahal. Ano nga ba ang bago sa utos na ito ng Panginoon?

Ito ang bago sa kautusang ito ng Panginoon, “Kung paanong inibig Niya tayo, gayundin naman, mag-ibigan kayo.” Ang panuntunan ng pag-ibig sa iba ay hindi nagmumula sa atin, o sa katangian ng iba, ngunit nanggagaling sa mismong Panginoon natin.  Siya ang criterion ng pagmamahal.

Kaya nga kung nagpapatawad Siya ng paulit-ulit, dapat nagsisikap din tayong magmahal na nagbubunsod sa ating magpatawad ng paulit-ulit. ‘Yung pagmamahal Niya ay walang kondisyon, walang pagtatangi, walang hangganan. Kung ang Diyos nati’y si Kristo, dapat ganoon din ang kalidad ng ating pagmamahal.

At sa pamamagitan ng ating pagsusumikap na makatugon sa utos na ito ng Panginoon, hindi lamang tayo makikilala bilang isang tagasunod Niya, mahahayag din ang karangalan Niya.

 

 

 

 

FIN Province Begins its Chapter Next Week

Exactly one week to go before the Salesians of Don Bosco in the Philippines–North (FIN) officially commence their Provincial Chapter—and it’s all system go!

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FIN Provincial Chapter 2016: All systems go!

Following the ‘community discernment’ approach of the 27th General Chapter (GC 27), which is expressed in three consecutive and interrelated phases: (1) listening, (2) interpreting, and (3) way forward, the FIN likewise has taken up this stance even as it “prepared for GC 27 in the preparations and the celebration of the 2013 Provincial Chapter, and then, in the reflection done as a community and as a Province in the months immediately following GC 27, and finally, more intensely, in the preparation and the celebration of the 2016 Provincial Chapter” (FIN Provincial Chapter 2016 Working paper).

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Of these three phases however, the FIN Provincial Chapter 2016 is set to look into the last step more closely, which, in concrete, is stated thus, “What concrete actions do we propose for the Province or the local communities, given the deliberations of GC 27?” (FIN PC 2016 Working Paper).

The community reflections have been collated by the secretariat wherefrom the three working documents of the FIN Provincial Chapter have been based. Fr. Paul Bicomong, SDB, FIN Provincial Superior appointed Fr. Joel Camaya, SDB as the Chapter Moderator of the FIN Province.

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The FIN  Provincial Chapter 2016 Secretariat.

The Chapter secretariat is composed of young Salesians who are mostly just in their initial formation. Br. Jomar Castillo, SDB, is at the helm. Cl. Paul Dungca, SDB, the youngest member of the secretariat, designed the Provincial Chapter logo of the FIN Province.

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Logo of the Provincial Chapter. Graphics by Cl. Paul Dungca, SDB.

One innovation this FIN Provincial Chapter aims to undertake is to go “paperless.” Google Documents will be used for collaboration. Changes to the documents can be tracked down and teams can work simultaneously on a single document. Voting will be facilitated by Google Forms. The same will be utilized in the approval of the final draft of the directory.

Hence, the FIN capitular members have been reminded to bring their own laptops, tablets or smart phones which will be used for the plenary sessions. These will also their own repository of the digital files that will be given during the Chapter.

Let us accompany our confreres from the FIN with our prayers.

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“Show us the Father”

Saturday of the Fourth Week of Easter
23 April 2016

The first time I read our Gospel today (John 14:7-14), one particular line immediately jumped out from this pericope for me. This is the polite pleading of Philip to Jesus, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

“Show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.” I am certain that this desire of Philip is our wish as well: To see the Father, and all will be enough for us.

This is especially true when we are undergoing trying times. When life which used to be filled with meaning, seems to be empty; when the future appears bleak, and tomorrow is filled with great uncertainty.

In these times, we yearn more to see the Father. and perhaps, just this grace will be enough for us to combat life and its many challenges.

In the Papal indiction of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis tells us that “Jesus Christ is the face of the Father’s mercy.” He did not merely show the face of the Father to us. But His whole life has enabled us to experience the warmth of the love and mercy of the Father.

But it is sad that at times we are preoccupied with a lot of things that we tend not to see Him, or remain insensitive to His presence.

In our first reading (Acts 13:44-52), St. Paul reproaches the Jews by rejecting Jesus. He tells them that they were “to serve as a light to the pagan nations, so that you may bring my salvation to the ends of the earth.”

But instead, their pride prevented from seeing the Light, and thus, failed in their mission to become light themselves.

Brothers and sisters, we who have seen the Light and experienced its heat are not to keep it for ourselves.

The Mass derives its nomenclature from the very last line spoken by the priest or deacon “Ite missa est,” “the Mass is ended.” But we are commissioned to bring the Good News to others.

Hence, it is sad if we hear those who encountered us remark that “they do not see Jesus in us,” worse still if we hear from them that “they are scandalized by Christians like us.”

We are Christians. We bear the name of Jesus in our lives. Let this be a gentle reminder for us to be prudent enough in our way of relating with others.

May our sharing in His Word and His Body through this Eucharistic celebration make us see His Light so that we may be strengthened our resolve to bring His light to other.

May this simple prayer of Philip become a constant refrain today, and perhaps, better still, if it stays with us for our whole lifetime, “Master, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us.”

Postscript to Prenovitiate

I wrote this piece when I was a novice myself some eight years ago. I thought of sharing this here as I saw this photo of our incoming novices in the airport today as they gear up for their flight to Cebu for their novitiate formation. 

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Bon Voyage! Our incoming novices fly to Cebu this morning. They will be back next year, God willing, as Salesians of Don Bosco. Photo by Br. Jomar Castillo, SDB.

After four long years of labor to earn a bachelor’s degree, an extern student will have a wider choice of exploring the real world after college graduation. Having equipped himself with the diploma, he goes on achieving his dreams, typically of having a brand new car, a decent home, and soon, a family he can call his own.

But for us who graduated from being prenovices and who decided to continue with our discernment in following God’s call in the realm of the seminary, it is an entirely different story. We’re to be uprooted from our first seedbed of vocation (Carreno House of Formation) flown to another island (Cebu) and would be contained in a house relatively smaller than CHF (Sacred Heart Novitiate).

Experiencing novitiate for over two weeks now, I can say that our life is not far from being exciting. Unlike the general majority of male bachelors freshly spawn out of school we may not be able to land a job in our dream company and receive a hefty pay check every month (honestly, I did! But that was ages ago!), or see the latest movies every week, or even date pretty ladies night after night.

Two Saturdays ago, we were given the chance to go to Ayala Mall to buy personal stuff using our own money. The remaining amount would have to be surrendered to our Novice Master. Once upon a time, it was difficult for me to imagine myself penniless. But now, I don’t only imagine it. I live it. And believe me, I struggle. To put it more accurately, each day in the novitiate is a struggle: the pains of starting again, of detaching from people, places, things and relationships we need to set aside, albeit for a while. The fear of what tomorrow brings.

The road to adjustment is still a long way to go.

An e-mail I got from a close buddy strikes some sensitive chords in me, I cannot but get some dose of inspiration from it

issues and crises are part of this vocation. our novitiate initiates us to that. religious life is indeed a cavalry…it’s difficult…not that i am beeing pessimistic (although i am a pessismist)…what saves our vocation is the fact that we are happy despite the difficulties. kung hindi ako masya, hinding hind ako magtitiis ng ganito.

I can very well relate to what he’s saying. But apart from the “joyful serenity” I experience here, what consoles me and what makes me stay is my belief that God is pleased to have me in this place where I am now.

Three years ago, I should have been here. But I begged God to wait. I was not ready then. Now, despite the difficulties, and perhaps especially because of them, I am all the more convinced that God is brewing a special plan just for me. The only thing He asks of me is to rely on His Grace.

Back in Canlubang, I thought that becoming a prenovice was the most thrilling part in all the stages of the seminary formation. I was wrong. On the hindsight, prenovitiate is not that exciting after all, or it is the terminal end of an aspirant’s seminary sojourn. It’s merely a prelude to a new exciting beginning.

True, we may not be able to experience all the perks other may be experiencing at the moment, but modesty aside, we have the best.