Wednesday, March 21, 2018

What to tell Grade 6 graduates?

I WAS asked recently to say the Baccaluareate Mass for the
Grade 6 graduates of a certain school here in Cebu. That immediately
brought me to think about what to tell these young boys and girls.
More precisely, I thought of what Christ would tell them especially at
this juncture of rapid world development.

            Definitely, these graduates have to be inspired and
encouraged to look forward unafraid to the next stage of their
education and to the future in general. They have to be reassured that
things are looking good and that there are now more and more
opportunities for them to grow in knowledge, to learn new skills, to
meet more friends and people, etc.

            But neither can we be blind to the dangers that also lurk
along the way. We cannot deny that these dangers are not only many but
also are most tricky and subtle. How to alert these graduates of these
clear and present dangers without frightening them is the challenge to
face. More than that, how to train and equip them to tackle the
challenges and trials of the times is an urgent task to do.

            But before anything, it should be made clear to them that
everything depends on their relationship with God. And precisely the
purpose of education, to put it bluntly, is to make the students know,
love and serve God.

            Another way of saying that is to tell them that they have
to aim at becoming ‘another Christ’ who is the pattern of our humanity
and the redeemer of our damaged humanity. It would be good that as
early as possible these young boys and girls realize deeply that their
creation by God is still ongoing and that the finished product of
their creation is precisely for them to be ‘another Christ.’

            They should be instilled with a deep sense of religion and
piety, especially these days when the culture of secularism and
worldliness is getting invasive and becoming dominant. They have to be
made to realize that everything has to have God as the constant
reference point. In this, we have to teach and show them how to do it.

            Aside from a deep sense of religion and piety, the
graduates have to be encouraged to cultivate a deep sense of family.
We cannot deny that there are nowadays very strong forces that tend to
weaken family life. There are now, sad to say, many broken and
dysfunctional families. This problem has to be addressed urgently.

            Things should be done so that the graduates can enjoy a
healthy family life where they can feel very much at home with
everybody, where they feel loved and grow in their love for the
others, where they grow in the virtues, especially order, hard work,

            And lastly, the graduates have to be taught to develop a
strong and healthy personal, spiritual life. In this regard, they have
to be taught the value and the art of prayer and sacrifice. This is a
very delicate affair that has to be handled properly, giving these
young boys and girls the proper motivations.

            They should be encouraged to open up with someone whom
they can trust—their parents, first of all, and then their teachers
who should try to be their mentors, perhaps some priests and friends
who have the competence to guide them. They should feel reassured by
the help these people can give them. They should avoid keeping things
to themselves, especially when they have problems and difficulties.

            There actually are many more and even endless things to
tell them, but we do not have enough space for them now. Let’s just
pray for them and wish them all the best!

The family as center of formation

THERE’S a certain urgency to make the family today an
effective center of formation. With all the growing developments and
complicated challenges of our times, we cannot afford to sit pretty
and just allow blind fate to take its course. We have to take the bull
by the horns.

            We need to remember that the family plays a very strategic
role in the development of a person and of society in general. It
should be able to handle the duties and responsibilities inherent to
its nature and purpose.

            We cannot deny the fact that many people have inadequate,
if not erroneous understanding of what the family and its closely
related institution of marriage are. In the US today, for example,
they are now legalizing and are openly promoting the soc-called
same-sex marriage and open marriages.

            It’s no wonder that we have many broken marriages and
dysfunctional families nowadays with matching complicated
consequences. Of course, the recourse to divorce does not solve the
problem. It can even make things worse.

            Everything has to be done to address this fundamental
problem. And all the subsidiary institutions and offices—the Church,
government, schools, NGOs, etc.—should lend a hand.

            Continuing formation and evangelization about marriage and
family has to be pursued without letup. Of course, the Church can take
the lead in this, but this can be done also by many other people in
the secular field. In this regard, the laity should also take a lot of
initiative, since this matter concerns them more than the clergy, and
they have the experience and the competence to talk about this matter.

            For one, couples planning to marry should be made to
realize clearly that their marriage brings with it the duty to make
their family the basic center of formation for their children. They
should be prepared and equipped to carry out this delicate duty.

            As the basic center for formation, the family that is led
by the parents should know how to lay the foundations of the human
virtues and the life of faith and piety of the children. It should be
well-versed with the doctrine of faith and the traditions of piety so
that as early as possible the children would have the right attitudes
and outlook in life.

            Parents, for example, should know how to distinguish the
different characters and temperaments of their children as well as how
to motivate each one of them as he or she is. For this, parents may
need some basic training themselves which can be offered by the
parishes and schools, and even public and private offices.

            Parents should be ready by acquiring the necessary
competence to face the modern challenges of raising children,
especially the teen-agers, today. They must know how to run a home,
how to be good administrators of money and the things of the house,
how to understand the character of the children, how to get the
children improve in their individual behaviours, etc.

            Parents should know how to inspire their children to pray
and work, to develop virtues and the skills in dealing with pressures
and temptations around. A clear plan of formation should be
articulated with due diligence such that in time a certain healthy
family life and culture are established.

            Parents should realize that their own formation is also
something they should take care of. They have to update themselves
regarding marriage and family life through an ongoing plan of
formation. In this, they can also take initiatives, with the help of
other parents and other experts, to organize classes, talks and chats
for this purpose.

            The important thing to remember is that the family is made
an effective basic center of formation for the children.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The great, simple man

I'M referring to St. Joseph, the husband of Mary and the
foster father of Christ. His greatness lies in his simplicity and in
the simple role he carried out with so much diligence in the life of
the Holy Family and of the whole world.

            He is worth emulating, worth giving more and better
attention than a cursory, casual one. His condition is very much
identifiable with that of the majority of the people all over the
world. Like him, many of us do very ordinary simple duties, with
hardly any public or social consequence. But the possibility of being
great, like St. Joseph, is always there.

            The secret is simply being faithful in obeying God’s will,
however it turns in the drama of our life. St. Joseph, for example,
just made himself completely available to God’s plan. He readily
accepted to be Mary’s husband even if at first he already planned of
separating from her. He readily fled to Egypt to escape Herod’s
madness when he was warned about it in a dream.

            To be sure, his total availability to God’s plans was not
something mechanical or passive. Knowing that he had to be father and
husband to the two most important persons in human history, he must
have continually renewed his eagerness to be faithful, obedient and
docile to God’s ways.

            It must not have been easy for him, given the human
condition to which he was also subjected. He must have to contend also
with all kinds of human frailties, like the tendency to take things
for granted, to lapse into routine and boredom, if not to betray and
to be unfaithful to his vocation.

            Let’s remember that even in those apostles who were
already very close to Christ, one betrayed him and another denied him
three times. It’s a common phenomenon in the spiritual life that the
bigger the role one plays in God’s providence and the more willing to
be faithful one is to his vocation, the graver also would be the
temptations and the trials that will hound him.

            In all these possibilities, St. Joseph passed with flying
colors. We can guess that his secret was precisely his simplicity and
humility that enabled him to be faithful, to sustain his love for God
and his spiritual life, even in the humdrum of the ordinary life that
he led. He conquered monotony with those qualities.

            It must have been these qualities that enabled him to see
the sacredness of what may appear to be ordinary duties according to
human standards. By being faithful to them and putting love into them,
he managed to touch heaven while here on earth. The many ordinary
little things he did somehow acquired eternal and redemptive value.

            Of course, it must have helped him a lot to be keenly
aware of whom he was taking care of. Proximity helps. But that should
not be an excuse for us to feel not as lucky as St. Joseph. Christ is
always close to us. He is always watching over us and guiding us all
the time. We just have to learn how to correspond better to that

            That’s why it’s important that from time to time we pause
and pray so that we can have or regain our spiritual and supernatural
bearing, and feel’s Christ’s continuous presence in our life and in
our affairs, and be moved to react accordingly.

            St. Joseph is showing us that the ordinary things in life,
the performance of the duties inherent to our state in life, are the
very occasions we can be with Christ and deal with him as we ought.

            That’s when, like St. Joseph, we can also aspire to
greatness in the very simple things of our life!