Thursday, May 29, 2008

Institution vs. charism in the Church?

THANKS to God, this is not yet a hot and explosive issue, but it’s good to have some running concern about this because this is a continuing business in the Church.

The Church is a living organism, not only in the natural sense, but also in the supernatural sense. There is something stable in it, something permanent. But there is also something that changes all the time. And it’s subject to the constant inspirations of the Holy Spirit.

In fact, with the recent rise of ecclesial movements, knowing more about the dynamics between Church as institution and Church as charism cannot anymore be an exclusive affair of Church officials. It should increasingly involve everyone as well, the laity, especially.

Some guidelines are needed. At least the relevant basic principles and doctrine should filter down more widely to all faithful. And foremost among these should that while there is distinction between institution and charism, they should not be made to contradict each other. They need each other.

The time is ripe for it. We have to go past the anal stage, so to speak. It’s capital that we all have a sense of how the visible structural Church vitally corresponds to the Holy Spirit’s invisible promptings and charisms.

We cannot deny that tensions exist between these two dimensions, and we just have to learn how to grapple with them. Our consolation is that problems often contain the seeds for later enlightenment. They occasion growth and maturity in the Church.

The unfortunate split of the Couples for Christ, for example, together with the many irritants accompanying the relations between several charismatic groups and the parishes is a case in point.

And there are many others. How to handle emerging religious groups of men and women, with their respective spiritualities, that sprout in many places requires skills to effectively insert and harmonize these charisms with the institutional Church.

Thus, I was happy to learn that sometime in mid-May, some bishops gathered in Rome to study more about this issue. The seminar was aptly called, “I ask you to go out and meet the movements with much love,” words from Pope Benedict XVI.

It can be immediately gleaned that the Church is very open and welcoming to these new groups. These attest to the continuing vitality of the Church. Hopefully, the lessons learned can be disseminated more widely.

A lot of prudence, an abiding desire for dialogue should mark the relationship between Church officials and the faithful of these new ecclesial communities. There also has to be vigilance and discernment.

It cannot be denied that the initial stages of this relationship, often engaged in testing and probing, can be rocky. Prejudices, misunderstanding and narrow-mindedness can blight the attitudes of those in the parishes.

On the other hand, imprudence, inexperience and exuberance can give problems to the members of these new movements. Besides, charisms themselves seldom come in a pure and perfect state. They need to be developed, and this can create difficulties.

Charisms can also be distorted by the recipients and the followers. Thus, a lot of good discriminating judgment, patience and optimism are needed.

I suppose the whole idea is to see to it that the institutional Church with its structure and procedures get truly animated by the Spirit with his charisms, while the charismatic Church gets faithfully embodied in the institutional Church.

A continuing examination, checking and updating is needed here. We have to make our Church a true Church of the people and children of God. We have to rid it of dark-ages attitudes and practices.

One time, a friend told me this story. He wanted to organize a mass wedding for his farm workers in Mindanao . So after preparing the couple, he went to the parish to finalize it.

He was told the couples had to be members first of the basic ecclesial community. No problem, he said. But the problem came when he was told that membership meant not only some fees, which he was willing to foot, but payment of back dues, which totally turned him off.

I myself was scolded by a parish priest for baptizing a dying old man whose family prepared him for baptism. It was an emergency situation. Same reason. The family was no member of the ecclesial community. I was told I should not have done that. Unbelievable!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Graduations make me cry

WE just had another graduation the other day. About 150 boys finished their 3-year technical courses in information technology, electromechanics, industrial electronics and mechanical technologies.

As usual, I was asked to give the invocation. Through the years, I have learned to put this little prayer into writing and to stick to it when delivering it. Otherwise, I get into trouble.

This is because graduations make me cry. I can’t help it. And I stumble and get stuck at different points of my prayer when tears start to well up in my eyes.

As the boys march in, I first get amused to see them suddenly whipped up for the occasion, in their fancy “ukay-ukay” dress shirts complete with real orchid corsage, their hair done in the latest craze, obviously a bit self-conscious, and escorted by their loving albeit battle-scarred parents.

Then, thousands of thoughts and emotions flashflood my mind and heart. This is when I make a conscious effort to control my feelings. This is supposed to be a happy moment, but why do tears come? They seem to like to come together.

I’ve been talking to them during their study and have been privy to many intimate details of their lives—their struggles, fears, wishes and ambitions. I get to know the conditions of their hearts, the range of their minds.

Their daily drama at home and in school, mostly petty, is the regular stuff in our chats. I get to know their growing pains, their problems and frustrations, as well as their conquests and successes.

Personal progress—from seed to tree to fruit—takes a long time. Changes can be too subtle to be detected. But I know they are taking place. We just have to be patient, hopeful and focused, dutifully doing the watering, etc.

Disciplining and redirecting their emotions, hormones and blind impulses has been the tricky task to do. Opening new horizons, giving them reasons to hope severely test my creativity.

Crafting new and appropriate arguments, encouraging words and stories have to be done daily to nourish their spirits. They can be buoyant at one time, then sagging the next.

My consolation is that many of them have been trained in the school of hardships, and they know how to rebound easily. We just have to keep an eye on them. My prayer is that little by little they become more stable and mature.

Boys cry, and I have considered that a normal sign of a developing manhood. The idea that they don’t or should not cry is a shameless lie. They have a heart, and are quite simple and transparent, unlike some of our twisted politicians.

I think boys need to cry, otherwise, they won’t grow well. They too need some outlet, a vent to let off some internal steam. Wounds and pains are inevitable, and healing can involve intense anguish and torment.

On my part, I try to give them the tools and the weapons to grow and to face life in all its possibilities. These are mainly spiritual and supernatural—doctrines, skills in praying, making sacrifices, practices of piety, developing virtues, etc.

I’m most happy when I see they are learning to put Christian meaning to everything in their life—their work and study, their personal and social circumstances, their ups and downs, etc.

When I see that they know how to convert their defects and failures into sources of strength—echoing St. Paul’s “It’s when I’m weak that I’m strong”—because they are humble, they ask for forgiveness and do something about their mistakes, then I know they are truly maturing.

When some alumni come to visit, I am happy of course to learn that they have somehow prospered materially and financially. I share their thrill when they begin their career and start receiving their salaries.

But it’s their spiritual growth that I’m most keen at knowing. When the picture in this regard is not good, they don’t go without a strong reminder or even a scolding. In most cases, they are thankful for this treatment, and they come back.

That’s why graduations make me cry. It’s a joy drenched in tears. There’s a sense of fulfillment, even as suspense that seeks outlet in prayer rises to another level.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Recovering ourselves through Mary

FRESH and beautiful images of the popular Marian devotion, “Flores de Mayo,” still linger in the mind.

One time, after concelebrating a funeral Mass in a town parish at 1 p.m. the other day, I was amused and charmed to see little kids, mostly dressed in white and with angel wings, waiting for their turn to enter the church.

I later learned that their activity was to start 2 hours later yet. But a good number of them were already there eager to pay homage to our Lady with flowers they got from gardens not necessarily of their own homes.

One could see they came from all levels of the local families, judging by the way they dressed and moved. But they blended quite well. No divisive tension at all was noted. Everyone was happy.

The parish priest, my friend, told me it’s something completely supernatural to have this kind of phenomenon, because there were many reasons for these children not to come.

It was hot, if not wet in the afternoons. Inconvenience for them was all over. They had to go through some period of catechetical instruction, which must be a bore to them. And yet they came, and they enjoyed the whole thing tremendously.

How I wish we, the adults, can return to this pure, child-like state of devotion to our Lady! We need it. In fact, we urgently need it.

Our Lady is our mother entrusted to us by Christ himself on the cross. Those words he said to St. John , “Behold your mother,” have always been understood as words meant for all of us, and not just for him.

Our Lady takes good care of us. She makes sure we will always be close to her son. And she does this in her ever-sweet ways. Regardless of our abuses and infidelities, she will always stand by us.

I remember the apparition of our Lady of Guadalupe to Juan Diego. When the Mexican Indian peasant tried to avoid her because he was worried about the pending death of his uncle, she just appeared to him and said:

“I, who am your Mother, stand before you. You remain always under the shelter of my protection. Be aware of how fortunate you are to have access to my motherly care at all times.”

We need her especially these days, because we seem to be mercilessly bombarded with intoxicating elements that undermine our focus and attachment to God.

Again, the other day while on a one-day trip to an island province, it came to my mind that things seem to be done or arranged to prevent people from praying.

First of all, there’s already that weak set of attitudes and dispositions to pray. We really have to improve in this area. Our consistency as Christians gets shredded when prayer is not our default page. I

I cannot make judgments on actuations of specific people. But I make observations of the general environment, and what I saw was that the mind to pray or at least to be in God’s presence was simply not there.

Amid the vacation mode that seems to be how most of my co-passengers were, what was obvious was boredom. The Chinese movie, full of fighting scenes fantastically executed in the air, failed to remove them from their ennui.

And for those who might have wanted to pray, they were continuously distracted by all sorts of things, not the least of all was the constant flow of movies.

It would seem people are not allowed to have peace for their mind to think and their heart to pray. Their senses have to be kept engaged and aroused, while the spiritual faculties have to be sedated.

Devotion to our Lady can be a corrective to this anomaly. She reminds us to be always pondering in our hearts everything that Jesus said and did. She shows us how to be simple and full of faith and hope.

She is the strong proof that Jesus can always be found even in the littlest things of our day. She tells us where our peace and joy lie. She shows us the way to keep a supernatural outlook in the middle of our earthly affairs.

Our Lady teaches us what are the proper priorities in our life, snatching us from jaws of the ever-present threat of confusion and of developing all sorts of obsessions and compulsions.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Reporting on the Church

I WAS happy to learn recently that a university in Rome is organizing a week-long seminar in September aimed at educating media men on how to cover the Church.

“The Church Up Close: Covering Catholicism in the Age of Benedict XVI” is being offered by the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross on September 8-14 to aid English-speaking journalists about how to report Church issues.

I think that it is a widely held desire that this seminar be spread, echoed if not replicated wall-to-wall, since in spite of our long Christian tradition, we are still amateurish, bumbling and clumsy when it comes to covering Church life and events.

“Most journalists covering the Catholic Church have difficulty grasping the full scope of the institution they’re talking about,” said Fr. John Wauck, one of its organizers.

“They tend to write from a more narrow national or ideological perspective, and the real nature of the Church slips through their fingers.”

He said that since the Church is universal, it goes beyond merely ideological and political categories in monitoring its developments. He further said:

“Frequently, journalists covering the Catholic Church lack historical perspective. Nowadays, many are used to working within a time-frame that is limited to a few days, sometimes even a few hours.”

Thus, one often sees shallow and Pavlovian views and comments about Church issues in the press.

Actually, the Church is much more than just universal and historical. It is a society that is both human and divine, that covers both material and spiritual aspects of life, temporal and eternal, local and global, natural and supernatural.

It has to be treated not only with the tools of our human sciences, but also and most importantly with the vigor of our faith. Some philosophical and theological grounding is needed for journalists to write about the Church sensibly.

Unless this point is well understood and internalized, we cannot expect a fair and balanced reporting of Church matters. We’d be stuck with the negative things, and the ephemeral items like announcements of fiestas and the like.

This, I think, should be very much in the minds of Church reporters. They obviously can write about actual events and other transient items about the Church, but the Church’s true nature and purpose should not be lost.

In fact, they have to feel the responsibility, if they have to be consistent to their faith, not only to project the Church properly in the world of public opinion but also to help in carrying out the Church’s evangelizing mission.

To be sure, this attitude is not meant to weaken their objectivity and impartiality. On the contrary, faith drives them to the limits of truth and justice. It’s when faith is feeble or, worse, absent when their pursuit for truth and other Christian ideals is greatly compromised and prone to subjective forces.

What usually happens is that Church reporters seem to crackle to life only when there are scandals. In these instances, they go into a frenzy. Nothing wrong there, as long as they do not forget to respect and uphold the Church’s nature and dignity.

This anomaly is clearly seen when much of the Church items in the media are about negative things. There’s hardly anything done to deepen people’s understanding of a doctrine of our faith, their appreciation of a Church policy, for example.

In fact, while the other sections of the media are glutting with materials to the point of nausea, one can hardly see any serious article on theology and spirituality. At best, only some knee-jerk reactions to Church issues are played out.

One gets the impression that man is all about food, sports, fashion, entertainment, business, politics, etc., and he is hardly a creature of faith, a child of God meant to attain a supernatural, not just natural, life.

Even the legitimate debate about a certain Church issue, be it on doctrine or discipline, is often avoided. There seems to be in the media a generalized attitude of indifference if not of condescension toward Church affairs.

Hopefully, the seminar organized in Rome, and similar activities that should be held all over, can help in correcting this deficiency in our media today. This concern has been flying under the radar for quite some time already.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rural concerns

THE Philippine Church is preparing for the second Rural Congress, meant to mainstream the rural concerns in the Church. As we all know, because of rural conditions, these concerns tend to be taken for granted and neglected.

Thus, it’s a good and most welcome move. Everyone is encouraged to participate in any constructive or positively critical way he or she can. It surely will mark a step forward in the maturing process of our Church.

Thus, in a diocese where I visited recently, they held a presentation of what so far they had studied and gathered after a few months of consultation and dialoguing with several elements and players involved in this big event.

I must say that the group that undertook the study made a good, highly professional job. And to think that they did it all on purely volunteer basis! That was indeed very edifying. Let’s hope we can have more of this generosity!

Just the same, we have to say that in spite of the extensive coverage of the study that yielded many interesting findings, certain limitations and unresolved questions can still be noted.

In short, for any sociological study on certain aspects of Church life to be effective, it should have its due guidance from theology and other sciences related to faith.

This is because the social sciences are always in need of some proper moorings. By themselves, they cannot capture the intricacies of Church life that’s mainly governed by spiritual and supernatural realities.

I was immediately struck, for example, by the frequent and seemingly indiscriminate conclusion, after issues were discussed, that the “Church presence has to be felt more” in this area or in that aspect of rural life.

What is Church presence exactly? How is the concept of Church to be understood in the rural context? If Church presence is limited to presence of priests in an area, that would be wrong, since the Church is all the people of God, and not just priests.

It’s good that certain disturbing findings are brought out. Like, there’s an impression that priests seem to go to the remote rural areas only on “fiestas,” and after that, they are hardly seen. Also, that priests seem to say Mass in these places only when the “stipend is right.”

These are complex issues that need to be studied and tackled thoroughly. We should refrain from making rash judgments. For one, there’s a great lack of priests. But certainly, whatever can lead to these impressions should be removed.

But if by Church presence is meant that priests should now be more involved in social activities like organizing cooperatives and running business ventures, micro-financing outlets, etc., at the expense of their spiritual and pastoral ministry, then we have a violation of priestly identity and office.

I think what is needed here is to empower the lay faithful so they can be more active in triggering not only more economic activity and social justice in the rural areas but more importantly in infusing the proper healthy Christian spirit there.

In this regard, a lot of prudence on the part of priests and other Church leaders is needed. While problems and irregularities should be acknowledged, the abiding attitude to take should be constructive and unitive rather than divisive.

It’s a matter of coordinating with relevant parties, encouraging them to have the sense of solidarity to foster what would further authentic Christian development in these places.

It’s a matter of putting together for the good of all the rich and the poor, the city and the rural, the public and private sectors, and others. While we have to observe the distinctions, we should avoid putting them in conflict.

There are already many initiatives, NGOs and private foundations that are working for the good of the rural folks. The network of family farm schools and foundations like the Sugbuanon Foundation for the Development of Rural Resources and Effective Area Management are some examples.

They are doing a great job in rural development. Our Church officials should establish some relations with them. They should encourage these initiatives and inspire other people to do the same.

They don’t have to reinvent the wheel and stray from their proper roles in the Church and society.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Family management of media

Considering the confusing and dangerous stuff children are exposed to in the press and in the world these days, the families should be alerted and equipped to effectively handle the media for the good of everyone.

In the US and other developed countries, this concern is spreading and appropriate initiatives, mostly private and personal, have sprung up. Though things in general in our country may not be that complicated as in these places, we need to prepare because we are heading toward that direction.

First is to warn everyone about the nature and purpose of the media, and their potential to do good and evil. We need to go past our innocent, if not naïve stage, insofar as our attitude and skills on how to treat the media is concerned.

Everyone should be told to be vigilant and discerning, because the media today cannot anymore be treated as safe, neutral and impartial material. They have become significant shapers of our thoughts and attitudes toward life in general.

This is because a lot of factors go into their making and running, factors that affect us not so much physically as definitely emotionally, mentally, and socially. In fact, they can strongly influence us spiritually and morally.

The media nowadays just don’t report things anymore. They preach! They just don’t give out data and information, figures and statistics. They form our values and attitudes. They transmit all sorts of isms and ideologies. They are now a dominant force in our culture.

Even if in a particular paper, they are just showing pictures of beautiful men and women, there already are tremendous amount of unaccounted values, good and bad, being conveyed. They can powerfully affect our faith and morals.

I’m glad that more and more people are becoming aware of this disturbing drift of our media world. Sometimes this awareness was earned at a great price, as when a son has become obsessed with some harmful thing due to a large extent to the media.

People are complaining that there are now a lot of junk and bunk in the press, a lot of noise, inflated words and useless images. The news reporting cannot even be done straight without straying into editorializing.

And in the opinion sections, people notice that many claims and arguments, though flimsy, shallow and narrow, are unashamedly bloated to sound like dogmas themselves.

Many opinion-makers play God, except that they express themselves very poorly. Sometimes it’s obvious that they have deserted both logic and good manners in pressing their views.

The feedback section says hardly anything substantial. Some papers receive the views of the same individuals everyday. Their ability to present the general thinking of people is highly questionable.

This is not to mention what we see in the other sections like lifestyle and entertainment where all sorts of unchecked stories and images clutter with impunity.

We have more or less the same observations with respect to TV, radio, and, of course, the Internet that’s becoming the most treacherous of all the means of mass communication. There you can have porn and other dangerous stuff readily available even to kids.

The families have to face this challenge realistically. It obviously requires a lot of effort and resources, but it’s all worth it. When we organize ourselves better, we can do more in achieving our goal and ideals.

Family life should be nourished and strengthened with many and abiding practices, like parents spending time with their children everyday, having meals together, chats, get-togethers and praying.

Norms of prudence should be put in place. TV and the Internet should be in open common rooms, never in bedrooms. Their use should be regulated, especially when children are involved.

Parents should closely watch how their children are taking what they read and watch in the media. Are the children getting more responsible or more self-absorbed? Parents should be quick to give guidance, clarifying things and giving criteria for judgments.

Family organizations should be fostered to better cope with the rising challenges insofar as handling media is concerned. They can also influence the way our media are organized and how they do their work.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Lowering oneself

THIS may sound strange, given the mentalities of people today. But, hey, this is how our Lord lived, and what he consistently taught us.

Take the scene of the Last Supper. It’s said that when supper was done, Jesus rose, laid aside his garments, took a towel round him, put water into a basin and then began to wash the feet of his disciples.

Everyone was shocked. Peter asked, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Our Lord insisted that he be allowed to wash Peter’s feet also.

When he was done, our Lord said: “If I, being your Lord and Master, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you example, that as I have done to you, so you do also.” (Jn 13,14-15)

There’s no other way to imitate Christ and to effectively achieve sanctity and actively participate in his continuing work of redemption. We have to learn to lower ourselves to be able to serve.

All throughout the economy of salvation, this business of lowering oneself is consistently highlighted. First, God created us when he gains nothing from us. When we sinned, God was ready to forgive us and to undertake a very complicated plan to save us.

We have to be wary of our tendency to get self-absorbed, the very opposite of what we are supposed to be—to think always of the others and to serve them unstintingly.

That tendency is actually the stupidest thing we can get enmeshed in. But it’s kind of automatic in us to get self-absorbed. We have to be more aware of this disturbing reality and do something about it non-stop.

Obviously, we also need to think of ourselves. Our problem is that the distinction between what is proper and improper in this act is often lost to many of us.

An array of factors can account for this. There are wrong attitudes and dispositions. There are also hostile or at least uncooperative environments that precisely coddle self-absorption.

Many people are not thinking properly, let alone, praying. Rather, they allow themselves to be driven by their often-blind feelings and emotions. As a result, they find it harder to go beyond their merely personal interests.

To be able to serve others, we need to lower ourselves. St. Paul has this relevant point to say:

“Do nothing out of contentiousness or out of vainglory, but in humility let each one regard the others as his superiors, each one looking not to his own interests but to those of others.” (Phil 2,3-4)

We have to learn to look at others as better than us. But how jarring this idea is to most people nowadays! Everyone wants to be better, if not the best of all. If he happens to acknowledge others to be better, it is often out of envy. Thus, the thinking-of-others crashes into thinking-of-oneself.

Pope Benedict XVI also has something relevant to say recently. He said that loving others is the law God inscribed in our very nature. “Jesus teaches that this love calls us to lay down our lives for the good of the others,” he said.

He urged us that we make ourselves LESS than the others so as to minister to their needs, just as Jesus ‘humbled himself’ so as to give us a share in his divine life with the Father and the Spirit.

This lowering of ourselves can actually be done by us, and even with ease. First of all, because that’s God will and he gives us the necessary graces for it. Then, our nature is capable of it. We just have to actualize what we have the potency to do, what we are meant to be.

Our usual circumstances, our daily activities offer us endless possibilities to live out this God’s will for us and to actualize our potentials. We don’t have to wait for big opportunities. The little things of each day, carrying out our duties and responsibilities of the moment can achieve this goal.

Husbands can think of their wives in a more sustained way, and vice-versa. Same with parents and children, and among our colleagues and neighbors, and even those strangers we meet in the street. We can always think of them and start to serve them in some way.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Trinity and our social life

UP there in the Vatican structure, there’s an office that helps in deepening and developing the Church’s social doctrine and applying it in such fields as law, economics, politics and other social sciences.

This is the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, which do research, dialogue and teaching so that Christ’s gospel can shed light on our increasingly complex world.

Yes, we should never forget that in the end and always, Christ’s gospel should inspire our thoughts and actions, our personal and social life, our business and politics.

Recently, it held a plenary session, to which the Pope was invited. And the theme was: “Pursuing the Common Good: How Solidarity and Subsidiarity Can Work Together.”

First of all, I would like to say that activities like this should be given due space and attention in our media, so that everyone can have a chance to know the important and crucial role they play in our lives.

We have to overcome the bias that pits what is supposed to be theoretical against what is to be practical. That kind of thinking is wrong, because there is an objectively organic link between the theoretical and the practical, and we just have to discover that link.

It’s also a painfully outdated attitude, since with our rapidly changing world, we should feel more intensely the need for guidance, and that means relating theories with practice and vice-versa. As much as possible, we should avoid the random and trial-and-error approaches.

Besides, when media systematically ignore events like this, they can’t help but plunge into cheap gossiping, chaotic wrangling, and the like. Even if one may not completely agree or understand these matters, it cannot be doubted that these studies offer some light. They deserve media space.

In this particular session of the Academy, the Pope, ever so brilliant and rooted in the gospel, gave some interesting and intriguing remarks that I thought are worth echoing.

What he said are not exactly new, since they are part of Christian doctrine. They just sound new since many of us are not familiar with them yet, in spite of the centuries of Christianity that we have had so far. This is a predicament we have to correct.

Yes, there are still a lot of inconsistencies and gaps in our knowledge of Christian doctrine, let alone the lacunae between our knowledge and our behavior. Thus, the help of the media to fill up these loopholes can be great.

So, instead of dwelling much in shallow, insubstantial and inane matters, the press can do a great service by tackling this serious responsibility of tracing the tenuous relationship between Christian theory and practice, especially in our social life.

In his address, the Pope in effect said that God’s most intimate inter-trinitarian life is reflected in our efforts to live solidarity and subsidiarity in pursuit of our common good. These efforts also have the potentials to lead us to the sharing of that life, to which we are actually called.

“In choosing the theme,” he told the Academy, “you have decided to examine the interrelationships between four fundamental principles of Catholic social teaching: the dignity of the human person, the common good, subsidiarity and solidarity.”

“These key realities,” he said, “which emerge from the living contact between the Gospel and concrete social circumstances, offer a framework for viewing and addressing the imperatives facing mankind at the dawn of the 21st century.”

He mentioned some challenges, like reducing inequalities in the distribution of goods, expanding opportunities for education, fostering sustainable growth and development, and protecting the environment.

I think that all of us should try to familiarize ourselves with these concepts that are already defined in our Catechism. And then try to apply them to our concrete situations, personal and social.

This, of course, should be done with a lot of prudence by collecting data, studying things thoroughly, engaging in dialogue with the different parties involved, developing programs and strategies, implementing them and monitoring them.

What should not be forgotten is that our social life should reflect as well as lead us to God’s Trinitarian life. Let’s never forget that our life always has a religious dimension.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Nothing’s small

IF we closely follow our Lord’s footsteps, we will soon realize nothing in our life is too small to merit our attention. There’s really nothing of little importance. If there’s love, everything becomes great and significant.

We can gather this intriguing truth from our words of our Lord himself: “He who is faithful in little is also faithful in much. He who is unjust in little is also unjust in much.” (Lk 16,10)

He backed up these words with his deeds. First, he as the second person of the Blessed Trinity became man, in a phenomenon described in St. Paul ’s letter to the Philippians in these words:

“Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant…” (2,5-7)

He was born poor, he spent 30 of his more or less 33 years of earthly life doing ordinary little things as one more citizen in Nazareth , and even in his busy public life, he gave no signs he paid little attention to small things.

Though feeling the burden of his tasks, he always managed to show affection to everyone, to be meek and humble, patient and merciful. And his miracles were done with utmost discretion and naturalness.

These teaching and example of Christ were followed by saints and holy men and women, notably our Lady, St. Joseph , the apostles, etc. They were all ordinary, common people who found love in following Christ in the little things.

This is what we have to understand clearly, deeply and consistently. Unless we internalize this teaching, our effort to love and to serve God and others would be hampered and compromised. It could even be averted.

How can one sincerely say he loves God and others when he ignores and even ridicules the little things?

It is in our care for the little things that we show our love and build that love up. It makes our heart beat with love all the time. It is what feeds our heart and soul.

The little things offer us many occasions to develop all kinds of virtues, purifying and identifying us more and more with Christ. It teaches us order, tenacity and perseverance, spirit of sacrifice, temperance.

When properly pursued, the little things make us strong and prudent, and so assure us of our continuing presence of God that we grow in integrity and unity and consistency in our life.

Though we have our own share of frailties and weaknesses that make us prone to tiredness, laziness and vulnerability to temptations, if we take care of little things, we can manage to rise above all these conditions.

The care for little things is really necessary for us to learn and master. Especially today when we seem to be seduced to care only for the big things and the popular and what seem to be powerful, we have to rev up our will to focus more on the little things.

This duty is urgent. The big things mean nothing if not ably supported by the little things. And around us is a persistent bombardment, especially in the media, of the twisted value of puffing up the big things at the expense of the little things.

Let’s see to it that this love for the little things never escapes from our heart and mind. We have to nourish it with our prayers, with our constant efforts to make good use of our time and to be generous in the little details involved in our work and in our relations.

In our dealings with others, we should try always to smile and to be nice, going above our usual differences and conflicts big and small. Let’s see to it that we make daily resolutions to renew and refresh our love for the little things.

Let’s grow in the virtues of living in God’s presence, zeal to love others, warts and all, spirit of penance and hard work, by dint of the repetition of small acts.

This is how we build our spiritual edifice, putting one little stone on top of another or mixing them with sand, making and pouring concrete, placing those iron bars and thousands of other little items.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Stuck with the numbers

SNIFFING an opening in our current rice problem, clearly behaving like opportunistic parasites, rabid promoters of an unconditional, free-for-all approach to population control are escalating their campaign for the government to get “real” in this issue.

Some of them, generally well known and respected in our society, have openly called on the government to defy the Church. They are now abandoning civility in pushing their cause.

Are they now running out of valid arguments? It seems that to them, moral considerations are a luxury we cannot afford anymore.

And as if on cue, their massive propaganda machinery involving all sorts of human and material resources, hardware and software, etc., seems now to be in an all-systems-go mode.

Even Erap, for whom I and many others are praying, is joining their hysterics, by practically becoming a condom endorser. Oh, politicians! One thing is to tolerate one’s weaknesses. Another is to justify them.

I don’t know whether they really feel now the allegedly unbearable burden of our “overpopulation,” or some pressure from some alien powers who are now demanding results after giving whopping monetary support.

They seem to hone their skills in infusing panic and alarm by citing biased and partisan statistics, numbers that are actually at best questionable. If they have to be believed, the world would have already exploded long time ago.

Fortunately, many people are now aware of the politics involved in this issue. Many now know there’s a sinister global plot to subvert the Church making use of the population issue, among other things.

Sorry, this is an angle we cannot ignore, as pieces of evidence worldwide mount and point to this target. This is no paranoia. It’s getting more and more apparent that dark forces are cleverly pulling strings to advance their agenda.

As I’ve said so many times before, this attitude toward the population issue is stuck with the numbers. It’s what I call the technocratic syndrome, where people, especially when they are poor, are just statistics, seen mainly as consumers and wasters of resources.

They see the problem in purely technical terms, detached from other considerations like the cultural, spiritual and moral. Or at best, they make the numbers the dominant factor in resolving this problem. Everything else takes a back seat.

Everyone knows that numbers also play a part in any problem-solving. But when these numbers are people, then we have to be more careful and more wholistic in our approach. We cannot just see them as numbers.

Who in his proper mind can say that in his family, so-and-so is unwanted and should not have been born? Even if in a moment of pique, we may think that way, we know we just cannot treat that fellow that way.

Who is the bright guy who can say that we should limit our family size at two or four children each? What doctrine or dogma would be the basis for this? And to top it all, to achieve this we can use even the immoral means?

We have to leave the couples to decide on the size of their families. They have to be encouraged to be generous, not parsimonious. And they have to be given the proper means and support, all moral to say the least, to attain this end.

It’s amazing how some people can openly talk about following the one-child policy of China , when in fact China has admitted its mistake in that regard and has all but lifted that wrong policy.

In this, it would be good to scrutinize well the China experience. I believe we can learn precious lessons from the mistakes of others. The authorities have admitted their approach was not right and they are now correcting it.

The Church is concerned with the population issue. It is never insensitive to it. It is open to all suggestions and proposals to handle this problem, as long as they are within the purview of morality and human rights and dignity.

It only intervenes directly precisely when these basic requirements are trampled upon, when people are emptied of their spiritual life and diverted from their moral duties.

In this regard, the Church invites and encourages all to help and to contribute in any way they can, instead of doing things that clearly would undermine our dignity as persons and children of God.