Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Abstracting and transcending

WE have to be more aware of these spiritual operations
that are involved in our thinking, judging, reasoning and, of course,
in our praying, desiring, wishing, etc.

            We actually have responsibilities toward them, since we
need to develop and use them properly. We just cannot take them for
granted and presume that everything would be fine simply by following
what we consider as 'what comes naturally' or thinking and reasoning
that are based more on feelings and emotions, instincts and social
trends around, than on anything else.

            These spiritual operations have requirements that have to
be met, and they can be tough, considering our human condition that is
wounded and weakened by sin. They also need appropriate dispositions
that have to be developed, and they can be difficult to acquire, given
a general atmosphere that is unfriendly and unhelpful to such

            They have their proper source and end that obviously can
only be God. And again, considering the way things are in the world at
present, this proper source and end may not be known and properly
appreciated. In fact, there are signs that it is ridiculed.

            To abstract is to discern the essence of things from their
external incidentals or the sensible and tangible properties of these
things. That's what we do whenever we say, for example, that something
is a chair when we see something that looks like a chair and is used
as a chair. When we abstract, we get what is the universal principle
behind things, removing it from the particularizing or singularizing
properties and qualities of those things.

            In other words, we consider things as they are in their
ultimate status and identity, without getting unduly entangled with
their properties, qualities and other incidentals. When we properly do
the process of abstraction, we avoid what Christ warned us about with
respect to judging things through appearance alone. “Do not judge by
appearance,” he said, “but judge with righteous judgment.” (Jn 7,24)

            To transcend is to go beyond a certain level without
necessarily leaving that level. In this article, I refer to going
beyond the material to enter into the spiritual world without leaving
the material, or going beyond the natural to go into the supernatural
without leaving the natural.

            This power to transcend has something to do with what
Christ once said: “Do not store for yourselves treasures on earth
where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and stead, but
store up for yourselves treasures in heaven...” (Mt 6,19-20)

            These spiritual operations are crucial for us to get in
touch with the ultimate dimensions and causes of what we consider to
be reality, and of course, in the last analysis, to get in touch with

            Our problem is that we fail to go deep and wide enough in
our consideration of things. We get stuck in some shallow levels—the
sensible, material or physical, or at best, the social and cultural,

            I am afraid that the younger generations today have
practically lost these capacities to abstract and to transcend. Many
people are mainly guided only by their senses, their feelings and
primitive instincts. They do not seem to have been weaned from that

            That is why we can observe many irregularities in their
thinking, judging and reasoning. If it's not rash judgments and all
kinds of fallacies that they fall into, it's biases and personal
preferences that shape their thoughts and desires.

            Nowadays, many are trapped by the allurements of the new
technologies that instead of liberating them from the limitations of
the previous generations are giving them with a new form of slavery
and bondage. From time-savers, these technologies have become

            Thus, they easily fall into narrow-mindedness and bigotry
in their thinking, and rigidity in their ways. They are into a
free-fall into self-indulgence. It goes without saying that they find
no value in praying and in cultivating a life of piety. They are at
the mercy of the worldly things. They have lost the sense of the

            It's a big challenge to parents and teachers and to any
authority, including the Church people, to recover these crucial human
powers. I would say that nothing less than a miracle is needed here.
Thus, we need to do a lot of prayer and sacrifices for this intention,
begging God to intervene in a more dramatic way.

            In the meantime, it would be good for individuals to
appreciate once again the value of abstracting and transcending, and
for families and schools to create the proper environment and systems
that would facilitate the learning of these basic human skills.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pushing them to the next level

WHENEVER I see students who appear to be simply loafing
around in school, I get challenged as to how to push these guys to the
next level. It kind of pains me to see them seemingly not knowing how
to make good use of time.

            I feel somehow sorry because I know these guys have great
potentials, considering that they passed the entrance exams and went
through the battery of screening exercises that would determine
whether they have the necessary aptitude, disposition and capabilities
to tackle what we offer in school.

            I imagine that the first thing to do is to pray for them
and then devise some kind of plan to get to talk to them personally.
Friendship and confidence is important in this concern because that is
how serious stuff can be effectively communicated to them.

            I want to enter into their personal lives, like knowing
how they think, judge and reason out, or whether they have some
rudiments of faith and piety, or what their concerns and difficulties
are, etc.

            Being a senior citizen, of course, gives me a bit of a
challenge to be able to deal with these young ones. But I just console
myself with the thought that I can be and should be the Good Shepherd
this flock needs. I just have to try my best to adapt myself to them,
not scaring them but rather attracting them.

            Truth is practically all of them do not know how to handle
their own lives, much less to turn dreams into reality, or how to set
goals with their proper means. Some of them suffer some serious
distracting problems, personal, family, economic, physical, emotional,
etc., and these have to given due attention.

            There are those who may have a good head but with an
attitude problem, those who appear to be nice but lazy, those who
appear to be energetic but do not think and plan things well, those
who are creative and artistic but terribly disorderly, those who are
very good in words but a failure in deeds, those who are good in the
little things but bad in the big things, and vice-versa, etc.

            They all need help. They all need to be properly
motivated. They need to be shown the way to outgrow their weaknesses
and reinforce their strengths. All these can be done if there is a
working relationship among us, a relationship nourished in trust and

            We already have a mentoring system where every student is
attended to by a mentor. The idea is to know the student well and help
him in whatever problem he may have that is other than just academic.
Of course, the mentors also have to be properly supervised so they can
carry out their task well.

            Students need to be constantly motivated and helped to
overcome their difficulties. They have to be encouraged to take on
bigger responsibilities. They need to be taught how to deal with their
problems and even their failures, and how to move on without spending
too much time brooding or regretting over their mistakes.

            It's important that they are shown and that they get
enthused with possible new horizons and new frontiers, after
considering their capabilities. Some of them are actually native
geniuses in computers, a rich ore that needed to be processed and

            They have to be prepared for the future whose temper can
already be discerned through the present trends. Thus, it is good to
encourage them to dream and to dream big, reassuring them that if they
trust in God and if they do their part, their dreams will even fall

            In this regard, I get very excited when I discover a
possible vocation to the priesthood. Yes, even in this unlikely
environment of a technical school, a priestly vocation can still be
found, validating my belief that God can call anyone to the priesthood
anywhere anytime.

            Most of all, I see to it that they acquire a healthy and
working spiritual life, a life of piety nourished in prayer and
sacrifice, in recourse to the sacraments and study of the faith, and
in an abiding struggle for virtues and against weaknesses and

            They need to get convinced that in the end and always, it
is the spiritual life that matters most because it is what would
relate and bring them to their eternal destination. All the other
aspects of life are simply secondary and instrumental in character.

            Once they get this point, I feel reassured they can handle
anything in life.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our defense mechanisms

WE all have our defense mechanisms. Since our life is dynamic, with
all kinds of movements, we need these mechanisms to keep us out of
danger and help us in our difficulties.

Some of them are naturally provided, like our instincts and immune
systems made up of antibodies and the like. They correspond to the
natural difficulties and physical dangers that can come our way. They
can be healthy or unhealthy, depending on circumstances.

But there are those that we deliberately cultivate and develop. They
correspond not so much to our natural and physical dangers as to what
we consider as our moral and spiritual dangers.

These latter defense mechanisms are human acts that are subject to the
moral law. They involve how we perceive, judge and react to things.
They can either be good or bad, depending on how we use them. There
are those that are just one-act affairs, sporadic in occurrence, and
those that are already habitual and therefore are either a virtue or a

It's good if we be aware of this latter kind of defense mechanisms,
making some kind of inventory and then a plan of how to cultivate them
properly. Especially these days when we are faced with complicated
situations and a lot of pressures, we need to be ready with our proper
defense mechanisms.

Some of the good defense mechanisms are our ability to be patient, to
bounce back immediately after a failure, to focus more on the positive
side of people and of things instead of getting stuck with the
negative, to disregard irritating and impertinent details, to
sweet-lemon, etc.

Some of the bad ones are the tendency to deny things and to lie, to
rationalize and find excuses for one's errors, to find fault and blame
others instead of owning up to one's mistakes, to sour-grape, to
gossip, to fall into self-pity and depression, to isolate oneself,

We need to know the workings of these defense mechanisms so we could
direct our own life toward its proper end. Especially when we do our
daily examinations of conscience, where we should try to see things as
objectively as possible, we have to be most aware of the subtle
workings of our defense mechanisms that may prevent us to see things
as they are.

In medical science, there is such thing, for example, as abdominal or
muscle guarding which is the tensing of the abdominal wall muscles to
guard inflamed organs within the abdomen from the pain of pressure
upon them. The tensing is detected when the abdominal wall is pressed.
(cfr Wikipedia)

This can happen in our examinations of conscience also. We can guard
and keep secret the anomalies of our spiritual life by doing the
spiritual equivalent of muscle guarding. Thus, it's important that in
our examinations of conscience, we should not shy away from having to
press hard on some aspects of our spiritual life to see if a spiritual
disorder is developing or is getting stable.

In this regard, it is recommended that we be severe in our
examinations, asking first for the light and guidance of the Holy
Spirit who will lead our probing to the sensitive areas of our
spiritual life.

We also have to be wary of our tendency to take our faults lightly,
treating them in a cavalier manner without making any effort to go
deep into their roots to remove them. That is why we should try our
best to be a severe judge of our own selves. And to help us in this
regard, it may be useful to avail of spiritual direction so that
someone whom we can trust can demand on us more.

We can also play deaf and blind in our examination of conscience,
especially because this spiritual activity is usually done at the end
of the day and therefore we are already tired. This is where some
extraordinary effort, as a manifestation of genuine love for God and
souls, can and should be done. We just have to convince ourselves that
that effort would be all worthwhile.

We should not be ashamed nor afraid to show ourselves to God as we
are, warts and all, because he is not only a judge. He is first of all
a father to us who loves us no end. He will understand us and will
always show compassion and give us mercy. Besides, he is the ultimate
healer of any spiritual and moral illness we may fall into.

Let's do away with our defense mechanisms that would prevent us from
seeing things the way God wants us to see them.