Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mary, Mother of God

I busied myself working on this image for the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God. 

Initially, I wanted to pepper the image with selected Marian titles from the Litany of Loreto. But then, I decided against it since it would NOT just clutter the immaculate photograph of the Blessed Mother, but it will also make the concept altogether complicated. 

Hence, I settled with the one-liner "Nanay" ("Mom" in English) to make the theological concept rather appealing to human (and Filipino!) emotions, for all of us have got a link with a mother. 


And as we welcome the brand new year with a bang, let us also pause for a moment and remember the Mother who gave us her Son. 


Photo credits go to Funnylool.com

Saturday, November 09, 2013

A perfect garden




A butterfly delights in the flowers of the Butterfly Conservatory in Bohol. 

“A perfect garden,” my spiritual director once told me, “is not that which is filled with plants and has the most beautiful flowers.” He told me that a flawless garden is that which does not provide for any possible spot in which weeds may grow.

The gardens in the seminary may not be able to live up to that standard. For if you look around, you’ll notice that weeds co-exist with the beautiful plants you take care of.

Was it just years ago when an aspirant came to me one afternoon during work time with a  plucked out plant in his hand, asking me if it could be taken care of in the greenhouse. I had examined the plant before it took me sometime before I figured out that it’s just a weed.

The world is a humongous garden. And it is not a perfect one. We need to distinguish  plants which we need to take care of from those which need to be plucked out.

But it is not an easy task. 

We need to allow the small plants grow in order to determine whether they are real plants. If they are weeds, they need to be pulled out. This is important not just because they are out of place and they make the garden ugly, but, more importantly, they also steal away the nourishment which should be enjoyed solely by the plants.


The act of discernment can be likened to this. We need to know which are the plants from the weeds so that we can separate them. So that we can get rid of the weeds so that we could give proper care for the plants. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Story of Joan of Arc



The movie "The Messenger: the story of Joan of Arc" vehicles not just the struggle of one person, but also of the entire nation of France vis-à-vis in finding the will of God for them. Situated in the time of the Medieval Ages, when the Church and State were practically one, one definitely is at a loss in recognizing if an event divinely inspired, or merely conjured by the power-hungry machination of man. 
Joan, a young village lass, who was tasked by God to bring a message to the soon-to-be king of France, did not perform merely as a seer by what lies ahead nor a prophet by mediating her people to God. The French people, too much distressed because of famine and insecurity brought by the war, must have expected her to perform miracles that will improve their living condition.  And she did, through God's mighty intervention.

Throughout the movie, the concept that she is a 'messenger' figured prominently. And she was able to prove that she is an authentic one through the signs she did not perform, but the signs done on her by the Almighty. She reached the palace safely despite having to go through dangerous places threatened by the presence of the English forces. She was able to recognize the soon-to-be crowned king of France in the midst of people who wanted to dupe her.  She won the battle of Orleans single-handedly to the surprise of her people, majority of whom was expecting her bitter defeat.  

A movie, it is said, is a good one, if it has a good conflict that will make the protagonist live in order to battle it out, and find a logical solution to put an end to it. It is in this perspective that I consider this movie a good one as it opened the eyes of its viewers to the painful realities of the Church that goes out of its bounds to announce the coming of the Kingdom of God, but while waiting for its coming, has institutionalized a kingdom that runs contradictory to the values the Kingdom of God stands for.

Given this situation, searching for God's will has become a more complicated affair. Especially because those who had been tasked to discern and obey his will were all entangled with the affairs of man.

In the midst of this conflict is Joan, a young village girl who was given signs. 

But she, too, had a conflict to resolve, not just in the beginning of the movie, but throughout it. As she battled it out with her own conscience (shown in the latter part of the film). It was resolved when she finally confronted with it, and able to accept her shadows. 

She died violently in the smoldering stake prepared for her by the enemy, peacefully

Friday, April 05, 2013

Evangelizing Presence in the Online World


Pedro Calungsod’s sainthood highlighted the fact that Filipinos are capable of producing a saint in just 150 years as a newly evangelized Catholic nation. But what is more is that his canonization made us aware, too, that we are capable in spreading the good news to practically everyone.

Truth to tell, days before his canonization, I have never seen the cyberspace filled with so much information about a particular saint. People talked about him in their blogs. Facebook users mentioned them in their status updates. YouTube has been flooded with informational and music videos about his heroic sanctity. And on the day of his canonization, he was trending trended in Twitter.

Like the Resurrection narratives of Jesus, that good news on his canonization was not just some petty piece of information we could keep to ourselves. It felt a deep obligation for many of us to join the bandwagon in spreading the news of his sanctity to as many people we can reach.

I note that the first Christian community had to contend with the problem of how to bring the Gospel to people.However, the problem remains. How do we bring Jesus to people?

We have the advantage over our Christian ancestors in so far as we know where to reach them: in the digital continent.    

Evangelization

I know of Salesians who utilize their social media accounts to extend their pulpits in the online world. A priest sends a gist of the Sunday Gospel via SMS to his phonebook contacts; another one writes his reflection of the Sunday liturgy in his blog.

Some young clerics I know share their reflections online through their blogs or even in their Facebook walls.

A bishop I met last year revealed to me that he records lectio divina and sends a copy of it to his contacts via e-mail.

Young people, who have become experts in navigating the cyberspace, can surely be of help in getting across the Christian message. They can do this by using particularly the social media, in sharing their faith to others.

The transmission of faith to one’s Facebook contacts does not have to be conveyed in words. Others do it by sharing the stunning photos they took in their walls coupled with an inspirational message. Some share their favorite Christian music videos or some touching lines in an inspiring movie they last saw.

Some technically gifted individuals who are enriched by their faith, bring evangelization to another dimension by designing video games and handheld gadget applications that make the end users not just simply entertained but spiritually high.

Those who maintain online journals can surely talk about their faith. I am fascinated reading blog entries of people who reflect on how God has intervened in their lives. Those who talk about the  blessings they received, and even the difficulties they encounter.

Here lies one advantage in doing evangelization in the social media not because of the possibility of feedback, but also of the immediacy of it. Christians who are in doubt may be enlightened. And those who may have gone advance in their spiritual journey could help guide those who seem to lag behind.

My experience of maintaining a blog for more than five years now has led me to converse with people of various cultures and faith, having the same consciousness about the presence of a Designer in the scheme of things.


Participate

Let's face it. The cyberspace may offer us a lot of advantages, but it has also got tons of trash in it; it offers a wealth of information that may poison our minds and corrupt our values.

Seeing this reality, the Church, although taking a positive and sympathetic approach to it, asks us to be critical in evaluating its impact on the human culture (Aetatis Novae, 12).
Pope Benedict XVI, in his 43rd world communications day message, challenged everyone to evangelize this digital continent on which people today spend so much of their lives.  

But how do we take advantage of the social media in aid of our effort to evangelize?

To evangelize is to proclaim Christ not merely by word, but by the testimony of our lives.

Simply put, if our words and actions lead others to know, appreciate and fall deeply in love with Jesus, we contribute to this task of bringing people closer to the Father. Hopefully, being aware of our Christian identity leads us to a more virtuous use of the social media.

If we lead a life worth emulating in the cyberspace, then, we can positively influence the lives of others.

If this is so, then, we don’t have to wait for another canonization of a Filipino saint to fill the cyberspace with materials that inspire others to become saints, for our life is in itself a beautiful evangelizing message in the online world. 

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Why be happy?

Happiness. 


A cognitive researcher, Nancy Etcoff, believes that “the pursuit of happiness is obligatory.” She theorizes that “We are wired to pursue happiness; not only to enjoy it, but to want more and more of it.”  

True enough, Amazon.com has got over 2,000 titles of books with advice on the 7 habits, 9 choices, 10 steps, 12 secrets, and 14,000 thoughts that are supposed to bring happiness (Etcoff, 2004). 

Some believe that they can actually increase their happiness through medication. Hence, there are more than 120 million prescriptions for anti-depressants (Etcoff, 2004). 

On a purely experiential level, is it not true that we look for and, perhaps, even pursue individuals, endeavors, hobbies and whatnots that make us happy while we tend to avoid those which cause us pain and sadness?

Why Happiness?

Article 92 of our Constitutions tells us not just to imitate the virtues of the Blessed Virgin Mary; or to marvel at her fidelity at the hour of the cross; or just to follow her way of prayer. In concrete terms, we are also asked to contemplate and imitate her joy which is real, authentic, and genuine because of her experience of God. 

Because she encountered God, she no longer remained the same, even as gold touched by fire cannot not be different. The smoldering flame not only tests it, but also removes its impurities and transforms it.

Upon being greeted by the Angel, Mary’s happiness is initiated and cascades upon the people she meets along the way. 

I think of her cousin Elizabeth and the baby John the Baptist in her womb whose joy they couldn’t be contained because no less than the mother of their Lord visited them.

I think of the overjoyed newlyweds at Cana in the Gospel according to St. John who witnessed the first miracle of Jesus, thanks to the mediation of the Blessed Mother. 

I think of the first Christian community who must have been both nourished and edified immensely by the example of the Mother of Christ.


Calauan Experience
Upon arriving in Calauan last week, we received the bad news that a former driver of the community committed suicide by using a piece of electric wire to hang himself. When his relatives forced open the door of their toilet, he was already lifeless. His feet could touch the floor; but he chose to kneel down in order to not support himself. He was already determined to meet his end.   

Not having fully recovered yet from that news we were not aware that something else would come our way. The following day, Sunday, it was already past midnight when a mother’s loud cries broke the silence. She was asking for help. Her 14-year old daughter was stabbed seven times at the back and she was brought to site 2, where the convent is for some assistance. 

We were told that heart was still beating when she was brought to us, but it was already too late for her when she was rushed to the hospital. She was dead on arrival. 

I found myself asking, nay begging, for some wisdom from the Blessed Mother so that, somehow, she can help me grasp why these things have to happen. And if indeed, she really is the Help of Christians, what nature of help did she extend to these hapless individuals? 

When I arrived back in site 2, after assisting in the Mass held at site 1, I got the answer to these questions. 

It was shown to me in the countenance of the young people who seemed so happy in the company of the brothers who were assisting them. They were cheerful, their laughter sounded real, and as much as I tried to check some traces of fear in them, I couldn’t find any.  

I am sure that they learnt of the news that one of their friends died a gruesome death. And if security in the neighborhood will not improve, one of them could be the next. But I could read from their faces that they’re least bothered; mindless of the danger that may just snatch their life away. They’re simply happy.  

I found it really good to be with them, for unbeknownst to me, they were teaching me the value of trust and hope in the midst of a terribly frightening situation. 

That time, it hit me as to how daring I could be in remonstrating with the Blessed Mother as to the role she played in those difficult times, when in fact, I was reminded that she herself was no stranger of what it was to undergo pain; her only Son suffered a cruel death. 

And yet, she didn’t confront God or at least, it was not too important to be put on record; consistent with how she obeyed when the Angel relayed to her the good news of her divine conception, she maintained her serene, trusting composure. 

After all, God remains in control. 

And opening herself to God’s will, she was always happy to fully consent to His arrangements.