saints

On St. James, Apostle

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Ipinagdiriwang natin ngayon ang kapistahan ni St. James.

May ilang mga bagay tayong alam sa kanya dahil mababasa natin ang mga ito sa Bibliya.

Kapatid siya ni St. John na isa ring apostle. At tulad ni St. Peter, isa rin siyang mangingisda. 

Lagi siyang kasama sa mahahalagang pangyayari sa buhay ni Jesus—tulad ng Transfiguration at Agony in the Garden.  Kaya nga masasabing sa 12 apostles, isa siya sa tatlong BFF ni Jesus.

Sa Gospel ngayong araw, narinig natin ang tanong ni Jesus sa magkapatid na si Sts. James at John kung kaya ba nilang inumin ang basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

Madalas, hindi tayo umiinom sa isang basong gamit na.

Ako, kung kailangang kailangang maki-inom sa baso ng may baso, sisiguruduhin kong hindi lang dapat kilala ko ang uminom dito, pero dapat, kahit papaano, ka-close ko ang taong gumamit nito.

Ito ang kahulugan ng pagsasabi ni James at ni John na kaya nilang tumagay sa mismong basong iinuman ng Panginoon. 

We celebrate today the life of the apostle James—and except for Judas—all the apostles are given much importance by the Church. The Mass that we are celebrating today is not just a mere commemoration, but a feast. Hence, we had the Gloria earlier.

You see, the apostles are not simply holy men, they walked side-by-side with our Lord Jesus. They witnessed to His life and teachings. They were His collaborators, and as such, we consider them pillars of our Church.

Let me highlight three qualities of James as an apostle: Prayerful, Courageous and Humble.

Prayerful

James’ first quality is his being prayerful.

When we speak of the prayerfulness of James, we do not merely speak of his strategy, or his skill, or his technique in praying. Ang pagdarasal kasi ay tumutukoy sa relasyong mayroon tayo sa Panginoon. At makikita natin kung gaano siya katinding magdasal sa pamamagitan ng pagtitiwala niya sa Diyos.

In the first reading, we heard from the second letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians a long list of difficulties which someone who belongs to Christ needs to undergo: trials, questions, and persecution.

James survived all of these. Not because of his own capacity, but because God provides.

By this time, you must have heard of the passing on of Br. Elmer Rodriguez. He’s that Salesian who was quiet, but had always that warm ready smile.

I remember that Br. Elmer also exhibited this trust in the Divine Providence. For almost 20 years, he took care of admitting poor young people to Don Bosco schools where he would be assigned. And because they were poor, he also would have to take care of looking for a roof over their heads.

Yesterday, a lay mission partner proved this to me, as he confirmed that Br. Elmer would sometimes borrow money from him so that he could support his poor scholars.

No wonder, many Salesians would hear Br. Elmer constantly repeating his favorite expression: God Provides.

If you pass by Bosco Hall, you will see his coffin. And you will realize that never for a moment it is alone. There are always people inside the Bosco Hall to see him off. In fact, countless people have been flocking there since the early morning of Saturday in order to see him for the last time.

Hindi natin masusukat kung paano natulungan ng Diyos ang hindi na natin mabilang na mga kabataan at ang kani-kanilang mga pamilya dahil nabigyan sila ng oportunidad na makapag-aral sa Don Bosco at makapaghanap-buhay ng marangal. At ito’y dahil sa isang simpleng Salesian brother na hindi mangiming magtiwala sa kabaitan ng Diyos.

When we speak of prayerfulness, we speak of trust. That’s the genuine way to pray. That’s how James—and Br. Elmer—showed their trust in Jesus.

Courageous

The second quality of James is courage.

Because James prayed fervently, he was ready to gulp down whatever was inside the cup of Jesus. His willingness to drink the cup which Jesus drank from was not just a mere issue of hygiene, trust or closeness.  It meant something else. It meant that he was ready to share in the destiny of Jesus.

And his courage to drink the same cup was such a real expression of his willingness to be with Jesus no matter what. He didn’t know what’s inside the cup. But when Christ had asked him if he could drink from the same cup he would drink from, he didn’t think twice. He immediately said yes. And when his Master Jesus was crucified, he must have an inkling that he would suffer the same fate.

Last year, I know of one of our teachers who braved the traffic and the distance just to drive to Don Bosco Batulao to visit his students who were having their retreat even if he was not given such a task. As the Christian Living teacher of the whole grade 10, he must have felt that he had to do it.

And as he drove to Batulao, he would tag along the respective advisers of the students. He covered all seven sections of them.

Last month, some of our lay mission partners were recognized for their perfect attendance. After the assembly, I asked him why he did not get the award. He reminded me, that at some point, he had to leave Makati for Batulao so that he could catch his students, effectively disqualifying himself from being considered for the award.

If James is dauntless in the face of death, Sir Alfie Rogel is courageous enough to spend some more on gas and toll, sacrifice the time which he could have devoted to his family and work and forego the possibility of receiving any recognition and cash reward given to our lay mission partners who register perfect attendance—solely for the reason to be with his students.

Humble

 The last quality of James is humility.

James showed us how the Kingdom of Heaven is far different from our world. That it is not given to the powerful, rich or those who are in control, but to a lowly fisherman who would be willing to humble himself, follow the instructions of the Lord, and serve others.

With his readiness to drink the chalice of Jesus, James gave his yes to the Lord whatever might come, as long as he was in His company.
But in the crucifixion scene, we learnt that out of the 12 apostles, only one stayed with Jesus at the cross—John! James also fled along with the rest. Hence, he failed.

However, James showed his love for Jesus by offering his life for Him. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read the account of His death, making him the first apostle who offered his life on account of his being a follower of Christ.

Ang pagpapakumbaba ay ang pagkilala na sa harap ng Diyos, ang talino natin, ang ating kakayahan—maging ang ating buhay—ay galing sa Kanya. At magkakaroon ito ng higit na kahulugan kung ipagkakaloob natin sa Kanya.

The apostles were imperfect men. Matthew was a public sinner. Thomas doubted that Jesus really was alive. Peter, the head of the apostles, denied Jesus three times. But because they were humble enough to recognize this, Jesus made wonders in their lives.

Today, we celebrate the feast of James. He is an apostle. An apostle is someone who is sent. As me reflect on these qualities, we also remember that we, too, are sent.

We are sent to live the Gospel, to embody Christ, to become a witness to the Kingdom that is to come.

Perhaps, Jesus is not asking us to follow the footsteps of James to offer our lives for His sake.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just spend some more time in being with Him in prayer.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us to just stand by Him, by choosing the right thing, even if it is not the easiest.

Perhaps, Jesus is asking us just to be humble in forgiving those individuals who have caused us so much pain.

The greatest form of devotion is by imitation.

Let us be like this apostle in his prayerfulness, in his courage, and in his humility.

Let us ask Jesus for such grace.

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Agere sequitur Esse

St. Pope Leo the Great
10 November 2015
Lk 17:7-10

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If there is one Latin dictum in philosophy which I know by heart, it is this: Agere sequitur esse—Action follows being.

Our philosophy teacher never missed a beat in making our class plumb the richness of this metaphysical principle, which serves as the foundation of the Church’s teaching on man’s inherent dignity.

The very first lines of the book of Wisdom in our first reading traces for us the source of this very dignity: God’s very own nature.

But what is God’s nature?

St. John Paul II, in his encyclical Dives in Misericordia (Rich in Mercy, 1981) taught us that mercy is “the greatest quality of God.”

Pope Francis, in his Bull heralding the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, tells us that Jesus Christ reveals to us the face of the Father’s mercy. And if we derive this dignity from God’s very own nature, what should that make of us?

The very saint we commemorate today, St. Leo the Great, in one of his sermons, reminds us thus, “Christian, remember your dignity.”

Hence, in our Gospel today, if we manifest this very quality—we ought to say that mere “ unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.”

Let this Eucharist bring us to beg the Lord for the courage to be merciful, or better yet, to send us His grace to cultivate  in us to act according to what we are, that is, agere sequitur esse.

#NoShaveNovember

Last week, I met some of our prenovices over dinner. They were on vacation. I noticed that most of them were sporting facial hair. When I took notice, one of them even narrated how he wanted to hide it from Fr. Prefect, though, to no avail since he was waiting at the table before they left for vacation, and so, the formator noticed and called him to task for it. Jokingly, he told us that he’s bracing for #NoShaveNovember.

I’ve been seeing this #NoShaveNovember advocacy for sometime in my wall. Former students and perhaps, even confreres would intentionally skip the razor in order to support it. It piqued my interest and googled it. I found out that the campaign is to raise awareness about cancer. Here below are some background info about it. I got it from this site.

No Shave November has been around for over 10 years, starting in 2003. At the time it wasn’t attached to men’s health, it was just a bit of fun with the mates, but now it has become one of the biggest yearly campaigns for awareness about men’s health issues.

The same site also lays out the rules for those who wish to participate in it:

  1. Grow an entire beard and when the month of November comes to a close you shave it into a unique mustache.

    2. No-Shave November has the main goal of raising men’s health issues awareness through embracing hair,
which many cancer patients lose, so let it grow wild and free!

   3. If you get supporters or want to help with a charitable cause then the No Shave November website suggests
men and women participating donate money they usually spend on shaving supplies to some kind of cancer
related cause.

 I created a meme to contribute to the cause, but I tweaked it a bit in order to highlight awareness to our proto-martyrs, Sts. Luigi Versiglia and Callistus Caravario who also have been epitomized as courageous missionaries willing not just to kiss the razor goodbye, but also, and more importantly, radiated the tender love of Jesus to their flock.

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Read more about them. Here.

“Kaya ko ring maging Santo!”

Kapistahan ng mga Banal
November 1, 2015

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“Kaunting bato, kaunting semento, monumento!” Madalas, ito ang tingin natin sa mga santo: isang statwa. Ngunit malayo ang kalagayan ng isang statwa sa isang santo. Malayong malayo. Graphics by Prenovice Jonas Lacson.

Ang sementeryo sa La Loma, sinasabing ang pinakamatandang sementeryo sa kamaynilaan, ang destinasyon namin ni Mama kapag sumasapit ang panahong ito. Bitbit ang mga biniling bulaklak galing sa Dangwa, mga kandila, at ilang makakain, gugugulin namin ni Mama ang pagdarasal ng rosaryo sa puntod ng aming mga yumaong kamag-anak.

Sa kapal ng daluyong ng mga taong pumapasok at lumalabas sa sementeryo, hindi ko maiwasang hanapin sa arko ng sementeryo ang mga salitang “Campo Santo,” isang posibleng salin sa Tagalog ay “kuta ng mga santo.” Hindi man kilalang santo ang mga nakahimlay doon, ngunit dahil binyagang mga Kristiyano sila, kinikilala ng Simbahan ang kanilang pagpupunyagi upang mabuhay sa daan ng kabanalan, sa landas patungo sa Panginoong Hesu-Kristo.

Ang litrato ay mula sa www.theurbanroamer.com

Ang litrato ay mula sa http://www.theurbanroamer.com

Ngayong araw, ginugunita natin ang kapistahan ng mga banal na katulad nila. At kung mayroong pinakamahalagang mensahe ang araw na ito sa bawat isa sa atin: Tayong lahat ay inaasahang maging santo!

Sa Unang Pagbasa, nahayag ang isang pangitain kay Juan. Tumambad sa kanyang mga mata ang napakaraming mga banal. Napakarami daw nila na hindi kayang bilangin ninuman! Inilarawan niya na “Sila’y mula sa bawat bansa, lahi, bayan, at wika. Nakatayo sila sa harap ng trono at ng Kordero, nakadamit ng puti at may hawak na mga palaspas.”

Isinulat ang Aklat ng Pahayag sa panahong dumaraan sa matinding problema ang bayang Israel. Sakop sila ng mga mababangis na kalaban, ngunit sa dilim ng hinaharap, mayroong kislap ng liwanag na nagbigay sa kanila ng pag-asa, “Ang kaligtasan ay mula sa Kordero, at sa ating Diyos na nakaluklok sa trono!”

Ang pagiging banal ay hindi naman ibig sabihin na wala silang pagkululang, na wala silang kasalanan. Ngunit ito’y pagpupunyagi na sa gitna ng mga pagsubok ng buhay, naroroon ang ang pagsisikap na sundin ang kalooban ng Diyos. Ang ganda ng linyang #hugot  ng manunulat na si Oscar Wilde. Sabi niya, “Every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.”

Sa Ikalawang Pagbasa, ito rin ang binibigyang diin ng sulat ni San Juan. Tayong ang inaasahan ang Panginoon ay tumutulad kay Kristo, nagsisikap maging malinis. Pinapaalalahananan niya tayong tinatawag tayong mga anak ng Diyos. Sa bawat pagpupunyagi nating daigin ang masama, lupigin ang kasalanan, pinapatunayan natin ang katotohanang ito.

Kaya nga, may mga kakilala tayong alam nating hindi naman mga talagang banal, pero andoon ang pagsisikap upang maging mabuti, upang maging “ilaw at asin ng sanlibutan,” pinapakita nila sa atin na higit na mas nagkakaroon ng kahulugan ang buhay sa bawat pagtindig sa sandaling madapa.  Hindi dahil kaya nila itong mag-isa, ngunit dahil mayroong Diyos na palagiang kaagapay nila. Tunay na tunay, mapapalad ang mga banal dahil mayroong Diyos!

Mayroon akong narinig na ganitong kasabihan “Kaunting bato, kaunting semento, monumento!

Madalas, ito ang tingin natin sa mga santo: isang statwa. Ngunit malayo ang kalagayan ng isang statwa sa isang santo. Malayong malayo. Sa liham ni Juan Pablo II, sabi niya, ang kabanalan ay hindi lamang isang antas ng buhay, ngunit isang tungkulin.

Ganito ang isinasaad sa ating Mabuting Balita. Malinaw na iginuhit ni San Mateo ang larawan ng mga banal na mismong halaw sa katangian ng ating Panginoon. Hindi lang dapat na mayroon silang personal na pakikitungo sa Diyos (5:3-6); ang relasyong ito ay mayroon ding dapat na kaugnayan sa iba (5:7-12).  At sa ating nakaganap sa hamong iyon, dapat tayong “Magdiwang at magalak, sapagkat malaki ang [ating] gantimpala sa langit.”

Kapag nagdiriwang ako ng sakramento ng binyag, madalas kong itanong sa mga magulang kung ano ang pangarap nila sa kanilang mga anak. Madalas, naibubulalas nila na gusto nilang magkaroon ito ng magandang buhay. Makatapos ng pag-aaral. Maging doktor, abogado, engineer. Ngunit sa mata ng Simbahan, ang pinakamainam namaaari nating pangarapin para sa isang mahal na buhay ay maging isang santo. Dahil sa pagiging isang banal, masusumpungan natin ang kaganapan ng buhay ng isang tao.

Habang nagpupugay tayo sa mga santo, hamunin din natin ang ating sarili, “Sa tulong at biyaya ng Diyos, kaya ko ring maging Santo!”

St. Justin Martyr

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Today, the first day of June, we commemorate the feast of St. Justin Martyr.

Hands down, St. Justin is one of the most significant personages of the Greek apologists, if not the most important. His sojourn toward the Truth led him to Stoicism, Peripateticism, Pythagoreanism and even Platonism. However, none of these would quench for the Truth. As he walked along the shore, he met a man who convinced him that nothing could satisfy him save ‘for the prophets who alone announced the truth.’

Here, we see how he donned the hat of a philosopher only to become a lofty theologian in the future.

The courageous example of Christians who showed no fear facing imminent death. After his conversion, he devoted his life living in Ephesus defending the Christian faith.

Justin had the knack for writing, and so, he also occupies an important niche in the early Christian literature. He used this giftedness in order to defend and spread the truth of the Christian faith. His most important writings being his two Apologies. In his writings we can also glean dogmatic doctrines about the faith. He embraced the fact that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and the Founder of the Christian religion revealed to us by divine prophecies. He also described thru his letters the description of the sacrament of baptism, Eucharistic service and the social life of the Christians.

The life of Justin leads us to appreciate the role of grace in one’s venture to defend the faith. It is not a mere human venture, but primarily and ultimately, God’s work. We could gather from his life the openness to cooperate towards the search for truth. But this search is something that can only be ignited by someone who is divine.

His thirst for the Truth made him passionate to lead others to it once he found it. And this is one great miracle we contend with when dealing with the issue of the God questions. The post-modernity makes us confront various neo forms of atheism which may put us in trouble once we neglect communing with the divine. The example of Justin in not only offering his time and talent all for the service of God makes us also appreciate the fact the he did not merely stop there. For beyond it, he showed a great readiness to surrender his life all for the service of the God who has loved him first.

This Venerable is actually a Saint

Drift Wood. Photo by Br. Donnie Duchin Duya, SDB Graphics by Br. Paul Dungca,SDB

Drift Wood. Photo by Br. Donnie Duchin Duya, SDB Graphics by Br. Paul Dungca,SDB

May 25 is the liturgical feast of Venerable Bede. The proper of the saints part of my Christian Prayer book tells me that he was not just a priest, but he is also proclaimed a Doctor of the Church.

Bede was born in 673. He himself tells us that he became a monk at an early age (some say he was just 7 years old) and lived most of his life at Jarrow located in Northeast England. He was ordained a deacon when he was only 19 years old, and became a priest at the age of 30.

Scholar, teacher and writer, he wrote biblical commentaries and other works. He has been described as the ‘Father of English History’ and is widely regarded as the greatest of all the English scholars. His use of anno domini contributed to its wide use now, though he did not invent that dating method, Dionysus Exiguus is credited for having invented it.

Some 40 books are credited to have come from his pen. He was deeply versed in the sciences of his times: natural philosophy, the philosophical principles of Aristotle, astronomy, arithmetic, grammar, ecclesiastical history and especially the Holy Scriptures.

The honorific title Venerable was conferred to him due to his being a polymath (a person of encyclopedic learning). This title is derived from the Latin inscription on Bede’s tomb:

Hic Sunt In Fossa Bedae Venerabilis Ossa
Here are buried the bones of the Venerable Bede

At a young age, he was entrusted the care of the Monastery of St. Paul in Jarrow. The combination of genius and the instruction of scholarly, saintly monks produced a saint and an extraordinary scholar. His intellectual acumen has led kings to seek his counsel.

Among his works, His Ecclesiastical History of the English People is commonly regarded as the most significant in the history of historiography. This work has become a key source for the understanding of early British history and the arrival of Christianity. This became widely read in Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages.

Bede’s teaching and writing were based on the resources of the library. These included Latin grammars, history, hagiography and patristic commentaries on the Bible.

However, he regarded himself primarily as a Biblical commentator.

He died in his cell in 735 on May 26, Feast of Christ’s Ascension.

Saints inspire others to be saints

Savio and Namuncura: Youthful holiness.

Savio and Namuncura: Youthful holiness.

Namuncura and Savio have got some things in common.

One is that the church recognized their sanctity. The latter was canonized, while the former was beatified.

Aside from this, they were both bosconians.

And your guess is as good as mine: They would have been splendid Salesians if God permitted them to live longer. But as we know it, they lived only a short life.

Savio met the Creator when he was just barely 15 years old. Namuncura, however, smiled goodbye when he was about my age: 19 years old. When he entered the Salesian school, it was not a walk in the park. He found it difficult to fall in line and to be obedient to the sound of the bell.

Picking up Savio as his model, Namuncura’s companions could no longer distinguish the former from the latter. He became a wonderful copy of him.

When a companion slighted him with the question “how does a human flesh taste like” inferring that he was a cannibal since he was an Indian, he responded with just a big tear.

Indeed, “The life of Zefferino is a parable of scarcely 19 years, but it was a life filled with lessons.”

In his letter to the Salesian Family, Fr. Pascual Chavez wrote, “A saint is never like a meteorite that unexpectedly flashes across the sky of humanity, but is rather the fruit of a long and silent gestation in a family.”

Let us learn from their examples: Saints inspire others to be saints.

This is an entry in the book Thoughts from the Seedbed. You can download it here for free.