Tuesday, June 30, 2009


IT’S traditional in schools inspired by the Christian spirit that a Holy Mass of the Holy Spirit is celebrated at the beginning of the school year. That’s what I’ve been doing these past days.

Obviously, the main idea is to remind students or to explain to the first-timers the relationship between the Holy Spirit and our studies. There is a passage in St. Paul’s second letter to Timothy that mentions a predicament that we should try to avoid.

“Ever learning and never attaining to the knowledge of the truth,” (3,7) he said. Sad to say, this anomaly is getting common. We can have an information overdrive, wallow in an ocean of data, and yet we can miss the point of it all.

For Christian believers, the Holy Spirit is the spirit of God, the spirit of truth and wisdom, of love and holiness that is meant to inhere in our own soul, since God wants to share what he us with us, his creatures, his children. God and us are meant to live in a communion of life and love in the truth.

No matter how mundane or worldly or secular our studies may be, no matter with what autonomy our studies enjoy, we have to realize that they can only come from and go to God. We have to learn to pursue our studies in this kind of orbit.

What this all means is that we can never really arrive at the truth of things if it is not in the Holy Spirit. At best, we can have some aspects of truth, but they can miss a number of things, like charity, integrity, holiness.

They can be truths that feed our weakness and malice, our pride and vanity. Instead of building us up, they can destroy us. We have seen this phenomenon repeated millions of times in our history.

We need to know how to study, what are involved in our study, what attitudes and habits should be cultivated. This is where the virtue of studiousness comes in. We need to be more aware of our need for it.

It’s something to be developed, since it does not come automatically, or as a result of external factors. It has to be deliberately cultivated from inside us, with our will and effort.

Studiousness stands right in the middle of indifference and apathy on the one hand, and inordinate, obsessive curiosity on the other.

To spur students to study, St. Josemaria Escriva offered a formula: “As a student, you should dedicate yourself to your books with an apostolic spirit, and be convinced that one hour added to another make up—even now—a spiritual sacrifice offered to God and profitable for all mankind, your country and your soul.” (Furrow 522)

Our studies should be properly contextualized by the fact that we are all children of God, meant for holiness and apostolate, that is, helping one another all the way to bringing everyone back to God.

We need to develop a strong, abiding culture of studiousness not only in schools, but also at home and in other places. Obviously, this has to be done in different ways and forms, but it has to be with us all the time. It’s dangerous for us to leave this virtue behind, since we are meant to know things always, and to know them properly.

St. Thomas Aquinas also warned us about the forms of unhealthy curiosity. Some signs of this anomaly are when (a) we seek knowledge to take pride in it; (b) we seek knowledge to sin; (c) we seek useless knowledge and waste effort that otherwise could have been used to study what we need to know.

He also said that we are over-curious when (d) we seek knowledge from unlawful sources, as from demons; (e) we seek creatural knowledge without referring them to God; (f) we may foolishly risk error by trying to master what is beyond our capacity.

Over-curiosity is also fostered when we have an excessive love of sight-seeing, neglecting to study to gaze idly on meaningless spectacles, observing others for the purpose of criticizing or condemning them.

I feel that these indications are never passé. Rather, with the temper of our times, they assume greater relevance and urgency for all of us, since we are often pushed if not harassed by a swarm of pressuring data and information.

We have to learn to tame the bullish urges of our modern information technology by this virtue of studiousness!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Rebels and radicals

IN our spiritual life, there’s no other way but for us to be genuine rebels and radicals. We need to fight not only from time to time, but actually all the time.

And we need to go to the roots, the “radices,” of our problems and weaknesses. If we are serious with our spiritual life, then there’s no escaping having to go deeper into the causes of our struggles. We cannot remain on the superficial level.

Our life is actually a warfare. Our heart is the battle ground between the forces of good and evil, between God and the devil. The struggle admits of no let-up, though it’s also true that we have to wage it with as exquisite a naturalness as possible.

In fact, waging our spiritual war with naturalness, even with poise and elegance, is the capping touch of the struggle. It can be the most demanding part, since it can be the most difficult requirement of charity, with which our struggles should be pursued.

This is because we are a precious object of desire, so to speak. We are nothing less that images and likenesses of God, children of his, meant to participate in the very life of God. In fact, we are meant to live the “fullness of God.”

For God, he’ll do everything to bring us to him. For the devil, he’ll also do everything to take us away from him. We, with our intelligence and free will, are at the middle to decide with side to take.

The choice can be difficult, precisely because we can tend, with our freedom, to complicate our life. This happens when we enter into compromises with sin and evil, when we are not clear about what’s right and wrong, when we make ourselves, rather than God, as the final point of reference in our decisions.

The struggle can take very subtle forms. The frontlines and the terms of engagement are always changing. As they say, all is fair in war as in love. We can never sit pretty and think we are already quite ok with any given “acceptable” situation.

New challenges will always come. If it’s not the physical aspect, then it can be the emotional, the psychological, then the social, professional, whatever. The permutations among these aspects can be endless.

If it’s not a matter of the flesh, then it can be a matter of our spirit. This happens when our intelligence and will refuse to gear to God as their proper object. The flesh will always find a way to dominate over the spirit. Just give it a little opening, and it surely will wedge its way to create a big fissure.

As to the spiritual enemies of our soul, they are the most treacherous since they can appear as angels of light, morphing themselves into attractive images to seduce us and drag us to their dominion.

We need to sharpen our skills and techniques for this spiritual warfare. We have to concretize our strategies, with clear goals, arms and means, and even a time frame. We have to descend from the level of generalities to that of specific details.

We have to be ready to go off-road and to cruise uncharted waters in these battles.

In this we have to carry St. Paul’s attitude. He once said: “I run not as at uncertainty. I fight not as one beating the air.” (1 Cor 9,26) We need to see to it that we leave no stone unturned in securing our victory in the struggle.

But in all this rigor of war, we have to realize always that the fight is a war of love and peace. When we are always with God, there’s always that interior peace that will accompany us, a peace that the world cannot give. No bitter zeal is involved. This is the most revolutionary aspect of this warfare.

Not only peace is enjoyed. In spite of our human limitations, with God we would know how to face all dangers. Again St. Paul’s words give us an idea:

“Who then shall separate us from the love of Christ? Tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or persecution, or the sword?...But in all these things we overcome, because of him that has loved us.” (Rom 8,35-37)

We have to listen to Christ’s reassuring words: “Don’t be afraid of those that kill the body, and are not able to kill the soul. Rather fear him that can destroy both soul and body in hell.” (Mt 10,28)

Friday, June 26, 2009

His ours, ours his

WE have just celebrated the feast of St. Josemaria Escriva, founder of Opus Dei. I remember very distinctly his message about divine filiation—that is, that we are all children of God. It made such impact on me that I thought it triggered a paradigm shift in my thinking and way of life.

It was in his use of “his-ours-ours-his” expression that made me probing newer depths and flying to discover hidden horizons about this basic truth about ourselves.

In one of his homilies, he said: “All men are children of God…We must try to be children who realize that the Lord, by loving us as his children, has taken us into his house, in the middle of the world, to be members of his family, so that what is his is ours, and what is ours is his…”

I immediately thought the words were not just some smart ideas coming from a clever theologian or intellectual, or some rhetorical flourishes of a poet or a journalist. There was something to them that suggested they came from a holy man.

They were simple words, with the fresh breath of earnestness, and the quality of the common touch, though definitely they contained an enormous wealth of theological truth.

I was quite familiar then with the truth that we are all creatures of God, and that we have been made in the image and likeness of God, and that through grace, we have been elevated to the supernatural order.

But I did not make the connection that with these fundamental truths, the logical conclusion is that God actually is sharing in a the most intimate way what he has with us. What is his is also ours.

He is sharing his very life with us, and in a most penetrating way, since the sharing involves our own knowing and willing, our own use of freedom and the very act of loving, which is the supreme act we as persons can do.

Objectively, we are living in the whole mystery of God’s life. Now it is up to us if subjectively we conform ourselves to that design that comes from the will of God.

God wants to enter into our mind and heart, in fact, into our whole being. But since we are free, we have to choose to let him in or not. Fact is, our Christ himself, the fullness of divine revelation, said: “I am come that they (we) have life, and may have it more abundantly.” (Jn 10,10)

There’s no other way to understand those words of our Lord. He wants to unite himself with us, but we too have to want to unite ourselves with him. This is what love is, which is also God’s essence and how we are supposed to be, since we have been created out of love and for love.

Much less did I realize that with the redemptive work of Christ, what is ours, including our sinfulness, has also been assumed by him, though he himself was sinless. Christ made himself like sin, died to it and rose from it, to free us from sin and to teach us how to handle our sinfulness.

He bore everything that we have, in a way that only divine love can do. It’s an act of sympathy, of compassion, that identifies God with us without degrading himself to be like us, but rather of upgrading ourselves in order to be like him.

It’s the same divine love that we are supposed to live, with him and with everybody else, if only we truly and wholeheartedly unite ourselves with him. This has a stiff price, since it can only be achieved, we can only live with him if we are willing to suffer and die with him.

The whole dynamics of our relationship with God involves a mutual loving with an upward movement, that is, toward God and not toward us. It’s God who is the initiator and main propeller of this process. Ours is simply to cooperate as willingly as possible.

I feel that this awareness of our divine filiation, which St. Josemaria preached far and wide, should be made known to as many people as possible. It’s the permanent context of our life and everything in it. St. Josemaria made it the foundation of the spirit of Opus Dei.

May we have no other goal, no other sense of joy, satisfaction and fullfillment that is outside of God and his will for us! Our earthly affairs should begin and end with God.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Can sanctity be mass-produced?

IN the Letter to Priests written recently by Pope Benedict on the occasion of the Year for Priests, he highlighted the saintly life and moving words, all gems and blockbusters of spiritual considerations, of St. John Mary Vianney, the patron for priests.

It’s amazing how this simple priest was so immersed in God, so identified with Christ that in spite of his obvious human limitations and shortcomings, he clearly exuded an aura of holiness that soon fascinated many people.

He was not intellectually gifted, he was not well endowed physically. His temperament indicated signs of fragility. But there was an X-factor about him that even made use of his weaknesses to become a great saint, a most holy priest, a most incisive confessor. He converted thousands of sinners.

His words, deeply theological, infused with faith and charity, were so human, natural, almost of the street language type, that went straight into the hearts and minds of people, both the ordinary and the special or elite. They were at once deeply spiritual, supernatural and common sensical.

To reassure the penitents of God’s mercy, he once said: “The good Lord knows everything. Even before you confess, he already knows that you will sin again, yet he still forgives. How great is the love of our God: he even forces himself to forget the future, so that he can grant us his forgiveness!”

The Pope is now holding him as model for us priests all over the world to follow. Of course, the official reason is that it’s his 150th death anniversary this year (in Church language, it’s referred to as dies natalis, date of birth, since a saint’s death is his birth in heaven.)

But I must say that the triggering motive for the celebration is the scandalous behavior of some priests all over the world that has deeply hurt all humanity. There’s now a deeply-felt need to address the question of how to help all priests become true, holy and effective ministers of Christ.

If only sanctity can be mass-produced, a matter of assembly-line techniques! If only holy priests like St. John Mary Vianney can be just cloned in some laboratories! But we all know this cannot be done. Sanctity, living identity with Christ requires not only hands-on attention and effort. It has to be translated into life itself of the priests.

We have to look for finer ways to help priests become priests through and through, and not just part-time priests, for official use only. For sure, I have met hundreds of good priests. But I’ve also met a growing number of priests, young and old, with strange quirks and weird behavior.

The on-going formation of priests should be given more teeth in terms of more updated structures and cutting-edge programs that really are sensitive to the day-to-day life and challenges of priests. Charity should be the lifeblood of these means.

I get the impression that there are thousands out there who dare to expose themselves to priestly duties without the sufficient spirituality to carry them through. Many do not know how to pray, nor understand the value of sacrifice, the need for continuing ascetical struggle…

Ask them about “plan of life,” as mandated in many Church documents about priestly life and ministry, and you’d get a blank stare many times.

When they get into some predicament, many do not know where to go or are simply left to fend for themselves. Priestly fraternity and family life are good only in theory, not in practice. Fraternal corrections, mentioned in the gospel, are hardly done. The practice of confession and spiritual direction is almost extinct.

I’ve attended some collective means of formation for priests, and I often get a bad taste in my mouth afterwards. They are just so shallow, full of beautiful slogans and pietistic clichés, you immediately get the idea they’re just that—slogans and words and smiles and jokes. They seem unable to graduate from that level.

How to handle this situation is, of course, no easy task, especially for the bishops who have to be on the frontline in this concern. Many things are needed and have to be coordinated. But something has to be done, to arrest the drift to dangerous areas that the clergy is moving these days.

May the Year for Priests occasion a true, massive conversion in all of us priests. May a quantum leap in priestly holiness be achieved!

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Spiritual discernment

WE ought to know that discerning things spiritually, and not just sensibly or materially, or even intelligibly or reasonably, is a function incumbent on everyone. The basis is that at bottom, we are not beings that are purely material or rational, but also spiritual.

The distinction of the different aspects and levels of our life is crucial. We, of course, need to give each one due consideration, but we also need to learn how to integrate them, observing a proper hierarchy or priority.

If we want to keep our humanity, nay develop it to its fullest potentials, this is what we need. We should be wary of being held captive in a certain level, not allowing full play to our best faculties and deepest longings, and ignoring the objective goal meant for us as revealed to us by our faith and convictions.

Sad to say, this is what we are seeing these days. People are contented to live at the “subsistence level” or hand-to-mouth existence not so much in the economic sense as in the anthropological sense.

Many are contented with living in the material or sensible level, cultivating a language and culture that are largely blind and insensitive to the higher levels. The spiritual is given only a formalistic attention, all form and no vital substance.

Of course, we grow by stages and we have to contend with all sorts of difficulties and challenges. There are those who, through no fault of their own, get trapped at a certain level.

But this possibility does not diminish our duty to grow all the way. We have to be reminded that as social beings we need to help one another in the common pursuit for full human development. We cannot be indifferent to the others.

It’s good to be clear about the distinction between what is a rational and what is spiritual. Both aspects are actually spiritual already, except that the former keeps its spirituality and develops it in itself, while the latter is in constant pursuit of the true, objective spirit outside of itself.

Spiritual discernment is this search for the true spirit, since there are all kinds of spirit hovering, so to speak, in our world and life. There are good spirits and ultimately the Holy Spirit. There are also evil spirits. Let’s not be naïve!

In our world today, we need to be keenly discerning of the evil spirits that play on us. It’s amazing how they are holding us captive in so many ways! Ever subtle and tricky, they harm us sweetly but effectively and with impunity. They delude not only individuals, but also entire societies.

When I see those billboards advertising all sorts of things, I cannot help but think that while there are good things shown there, there are also many other spiritual spoilers and malicious gate-crashers crowding them. But they are too subtle to be immediately noticed.

The human catastrophes and social upheavals that litter the history of the world are clear testimonies of the reality of these evil spirits tricking us. We really cannot afford anymore to be casual about this duty of ours to go into thorough and abiding spiritual discernment of things.

We need to go back to our Christian faith, one that is not invented by anyone but is revealed, not fabricated but given as a gift by God. We need to master God’s word to us, which as the Letter to the Hebrews said:

“…is living and efficient and keener than any two-edged sword, and extending even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints also and of marrow, and a discerner of the thoughts and intentions of the heart.” (4,12)

And as St. Paul said in his first letter to the Corinthians: “We speak not in the learned words of human wisdom, but in the doctrine of the Spirit, comparing spiritual things with spiritual.” (2,13)

We have to make a deliberate effort in developing this spiritual attitude in seeing things. We just cannot remain in the sensible or intelligible level. We have to examine things spiritually. In St. Paul’s terms, we need to be a spiritual man, not just a sensual man.

We need to be more aware of this need and duty. We have to know what are involved and required to achieve this ideal for us. I think that we already have all the means and materials for this purpose. It’s just now our decision to take up this challenge.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Tolerance and convictions

THAT unfortunate, controversial invitation to President Obama to be the commencement speaker, and then to be given an honorary degree by the Notre Dame University last May brought to the surface the ticklish issue of how to blend the requirements of tolerance and convictions, values that can compete with each other at some point in the life of a person and an institution.

The camp of Obama and the university officials said they just wanted to have openness and an appeal to dialogue and respect over a highly divisive issue of abortion and the like.

Those who criticized the idea of inviting and honoring Obama in a Catholic university, mainly bishops and prominent leaders, however thought that there was no question about openness, dialogue and respect. These can always be upheld in many other ways.

It was that, in its bare bones, the invite and the honor already meant a Catholic school was showing approval of an immoral policy. It was giving the wrong signals to the world, especially to the young.

I tend to agree with the critics. My reading of the whole affair includes an increasing suspicion that tolerance, otherwise a very desirable value given our social nature and the pluralistic society we are getting into, is understood as having nothing to do with convictions.

When I heard Obama’s views on religion sometime ago in a YouTube, I was deeply disturbed. He articulated an attitude, sadly getting common these days, that relegated religious belief as a strictly personal concern and an individual affair, if not one that tends to cause social division.

What those views amount to is not to take religion seriously, not to have deep convictions of one’s faith, so that we can avoid division. It’s just a short step shy of considering religion is non-important, irrelevant and destructive to our life.

I feel that Obama and the Notre Dame University officials were looking at things from a restricted point of view. It’s a valid view, except that it fails to give due consideration to other aspects.

By all means, we have to have tolerance in our dealings with one another. And over the years, this ideal has been defined and described even by high institutions like the UN. In spite of some dark spots, the world now tries to live that value as best as it could.

But tolerance should not be pursued from a void. It has to come from a clear foundation of well-defined convictions. Otherwise, the tolerance we get would be false and empty. It has no other way but to fall into chaos that can come in many possible forms. And these forms can include hatred and violence.

We have to be wary of this deceptive brand of tolerance that acknowledges no source of absolute values, but just floats on an ocean of ever-changing values, imprisoning itself in a world of pure relativism.

Our problem is that many of us believe we can manage to have peace and harmony, order and integrity without having to go to God. We think that just by ourselves, exclusively relying on our own powers, we can have unity. This is utopian—desirable, ideal but impracticable!

What we are seeing in the world today is us, at least a big part of us, quite contented with our own selves and feeling self-sufficient. We can manage to project an appearance of civility, but inside us are all sorts of tension, fear and anxiety. Without God, we are left only with a façade, but not the substance.

Some holy men have described this phenomenon as the empire of the devil in the world. We need to realize this sad fact. But alas, it requires a certain faith. Only those with faith can see this. They can see the false tolerance that’s actually a sweet poison.

Christian convictions do not hinder tolerance, but rather enhance it and put it in the right context and in the right direction. Christ himself was compassionate and merciful with everyone, even up to death. And he commands his followers to follow him even to that extreme point.

Tolerance should not be an anything-goes policy, whose supreme and absolute but false goal is to have an appearance of peace and unity. It has to endlessly move toward the attainment of the absolute truth and good, God himself. Not a man-made god, but the true, living God!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Fullness of God

THIS is what is meant for us. In his Letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul did not mince his words when he said: “May you attain to the fullness of God himself.” (8,19)

This is the ultimate goal of our life, and the backdrop and context of all our activities and human affairs—that we in the end may attain the fullness of God.

That is to say, that we should move toward reaching the fullness of God in our life. All our activities and everything else in our earthly life should be an occasion and a means to achieving this goal. They are subordinated to this end.

And yet how many people, even Catholics and Christians, are aware of it, let alone are doing something to achieve it? It’s amazing that even in these times of excess information, many still miss this basic truth of faith.

We have to spread this good news to many people yet, explaining why it is so and how it can be so. For we cannot deny the fact that not only are many people ignorant of this truth of faith. There are also many who are unbelieving about it. They even dispute it.

What is this talk about us meant for the fullness of God, they can ask. Isn’t that too much to claim? Isn’t our life just earth-bound and time-bound? Any talk about life after death is simply hallucinatory.

These thoughts and questions can describe the mind of an unbeliever, an atheist or agnostic, or a free thinker. But the thoughts and attitudes of an improperly grounded believer can be worse. He can say, I believe in God, but please don’t say I’m meant to reach the fullness of God in my life! That’s just…

As we can see, sometimes the greatest enemy of the best is the good. It is those who are near the truth, but not quite in it yet, who find it most difficult to reach the truth, precisely because of the traces of truth that they already have. Whatever good they have hinders them from arriving at the best.

We have to learn to effectively grapple with these questions, mindsets and predicament. We just cannot consume our attention trying to handle purely human and temporal concerns. We have to find precious time and resources to resolve a very basic, life-shaping issue.

Truth is God created us out of pure love. There can be no other first explanation of why we exist. That’s why in his first letter, St. John says, “God first loved us and sent his Son to take away our sins.” (4,10)

All creatures come from him and belong to him. The special element in our case is that our belonging to him acquires a most distinctive character, because we have been made in his image and likeness, and have been given grace.

This means our life is actually a participation in the life of God. It cannot be any other way, since we have been outfitted, so to speak, for this. Besides, this truth has been revealed to us by Christ not only with words, but also with his deeds—in fact, with his passion, death and resurrection.

We need to be aware of the true character of our life, and act according to that truth. We need to freely cooperate with him in his actions for us and with us.

That’s why the Holy Spirit is sent to us by the Father and the Son. It is for us to live the life of God, and to lead us precisely to the fullness of God.

What the gifts of the Holy Spirit do to us can give us an idea of this truth. As described by St. Josemaria Escriva, the following gifts have these effects:

Understanding, to perfect our perception of the mysteries of faith. Wisdom, to improve our loving knowledge of God and that leads to and comes from him. Knowledge, to make us understand properly what created things are and what they ought to be according to the divine plan of creation…

Counsel, so that by correctly judging God’s will at every moment and for each person, we may be able to advise others. Fear, to impress on us a spirit of adoration and humility by detesting all sin.

Fortitude, to make us steadfast in the faith, constant in struggle and persevering in our life. Piety, to teach us the meaning of our divine filiation.

We need to be more familiar with the meaning of “fullness of God” in our life.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Sense of the sacred

FOR one week after the celebration of the Solemnity of Corpus Christi, we had a daily solemn benediction to adore and venerate the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

Beautiful Eucharistic prayers, hymns and readings were made. Fragrant incense was swung and spread. The monstrance used was embedded with precious stones of rubies, emeralds and pearls. The cope and humeral veil were in resplendent gold thread.

Everyone tried his best to pray and behave. And then after the liturgical acts, a young fellow came, jolting me with a question: “Father, why do we do all this stuff? What am I supposed to think in all those acts?”

I immediately recognized ignorance and confusion more than unbelief and malice in the one who asked the question. For that, I was happy he asked. He voiced what I know was in the mind of many people. Instantly I was convinced it was an honest question that needed to be answered properly.

And so I had to muster all I’ve got to convey the proper doctrine in the proper spirit. I told him that the Blessed Sacrament is the real presence of Christ. How would you behave if you are right in front of Christ, I asked him in return.

Before he could form any word, I told him that we need to make an act of faith and love to enter into the sublime reality being presented in that liturgical act. Without that gesture, without that attitude, the whole ceremony would fall flat. We would miss the most precious reality we can be in.

Than I told him how important it is to take care of one’s faith, nourishing it to make it vibrant and expressive. I told him that the faith is the culmination of our knowledge of things, since it is the knowledge of God and of spiritual and supernatural realities that also govern our life. It’s God’s gift to us.

But that faith, I told him, should be kept in good condition and should grow. It should be made to embrace and affect all aspects of our life. It cannot be restricted into some areas of our life. That’s our problem and challenge, because our tendency is to confine it such that we live a double life or an unintegrated multi-sided life.

Then I told him what I consider as a sense of the sacred that everyone should always try to cultivate, by explaining some aspects of the ceremony. The prayers and hymns are taken from Scripture and writings of saints, and represent the purest and distilled expression of adoration.

When we pray, we should see to it that the words really spring from the heart, a heart already filled with faith and love for God, since out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks. The lips and the heart should be in harmony. And when many people pray together, the prayer should form a lovely symphony.

What can help is that when we pray we should think to whom are we talking, what are we saying, how should we say it, with what sentiments should accompany it, what resolutions should come from it.

I remember that as a kid I saw old women in the church praying, and I could not help but be moved to see their faces brighten and darken as they prayed. I understood then that they were talking to God, and what they talked about was reflected on their faces.

We have to remember that in any liturgical act, no matter how handicapped by our human limitations and mistakes, we are actually doing and participating in the act of Christ, the act of the Church with all the saints and angels and the Christian faithful.

It is our most social act, because it is a concrete articulation of the communion of saints that we are meant to live as Christian believers even while here on earth. We anticipate heaven on earth with the liturgy.

It is communion of life and love, and not just something external, something social or political. It goes deep into our heart where we become one in Christ in spite of our human differences and conflicts.
When we say the litany of praises, our heart should sing with joy. When we swing the incense, we should realize that we are offering a sacrifice that hopefully is pleasing to God. These are the thoughts we should have in a solemn benediction, I told him.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Corpus Christi

THAT’S the “Body of Christ” in Latin. But it’s short for the Body and Blood of Christ whose solemnity the Church celebrated recently. It’s a big event in the liturgical calendar, surrounded by rich tradition and practices of piety, all highlighting the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament.

In Rome and all over the world, processions of the Blessed Sacrament take place, with people, led by the Pope or the bishop or the priest, adoring the sacred presence in different stations along the way. Really moving!

I joined one of these processions in Rome. I was awe-struck at the carriage and monstrance used. They were literally covered with diamonds. The glitter was blinding if not for the thick billows of incense that surrounded them.

The Blessed Sacrament was placed under a beautiful canopy, carried by a number of priests. Eucharistic hymns accompanied it, filling the air with such piety and devotion that somehow called to mind another world, the one meant for us after our long and tedious journey here on earth.

Before the procession returned to the church, the final part was to pass by the church front ground which was entirely covered by a floral carpet, in different colors and fabulous designs. My heart was already twirling with unspeakable delight!

Yet in spite of all this, some naughty thought flashed. Is it worthwhile to have all this extravagant and lavish show of piety? The answer came strong and quick—Yes, but of course. What we have here is nothing and no one less than Christ himself!

This is what our Christian faith teaches. Christ, in the Blessed Sacrament, is not merely a symbol. He is real! All his body and soul, humanity and divinity throb alive in real time in what now appears as a piece of bread inserted for display in some gadget.

Of course, all this reality has to be accessed through faith. It cannot be seen and appreciated if we use our senses alone, or our feelings or even pure reason that is not infused by faith.

That’s why we need to make many acts of faith all throughout the day. In fact, this should be our abiding exercise. We need to live by faith. We can not remain in the level of human thought and feelings if we want to be consistent with our dignity as children of God.

And in the Blessed Sacrament we at least get close to the one who is everything to us. We just have to grow in our faith in it, such that a living and meaningful relationship exists between Christ and us, one that expresses itself in a continuous flow of loving thoughts, words and deeds.

We cannot doubt anymore about the truth of the real presence of Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. First, because it is Christ himself who said it: “This is my body…This is my blood…”

And then in the history of the Church, there already had been a number of extraordinary episodes corroborating this wonderful truth. Some people who had doubts about this truth were confronted with hosts that literally turned into flesh or that shed blood.

Even now, in a place which I will not reveal, there was this incident when the sacred host accidentally fell and was stepped on during the Mass. When the priest realized it, he was shocked to see the host shedding blood.

We have to live by faith, and we need to sustain that kind of life by making acts of faith. These acts of faith should not just be an added-on to our consciousness. It should be an organic part. In fact, it should be our life’s inspiring spirit, the one that gives origin, shape and direction to our thoughts, words and deeds.

This ideal, for sure, requires a bit of practice and training. But it should not be that difficult to do and achieve. We can always make use of the ordinary events of our daily life to exercise this faith.

Of course, we need to make that faith grow and take flight, until it becomes quite capable of entering and flowing with the mystery involved in our life with God. This is the challenge of today.

I suggest study of the doctrine of our faith, especially the one related to the Holy Eucharist. Then deep and continuing meditation of God’s word as written in the Gospel, and reflected in the writings of saints and some inspired vocal prayers in the Church!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Freedom gone awry

I REMEMBER that when the Iron Curtain collapsed, Pope John Paul II warned the world to the effect that while freedom was restored in the Communist bloc, freedom in the West needed also to be recovered. In fact, that is the more urgent and important task.

Implied was that the freedom in the West, heavily infused with the capitalistic ideology, was of the trickier kind, since it tended to scream that it was free when in fact it was not.

So the effort to recover it would be more challenging, more demanding, since we cannot easily point a finger at what’s missing with the freedom so far practiced and enjoyed in the West. In the communist and socialist system, these missing elements could easily be identified.

The Western freedom has the appearance and trappings of freedom but without its proper substance. It’s a self-generated freedom, which starts and ends with oneself or with a certain collective subject, as in a family, group, country or even the whole world. It’s a freedom gone astray.

It’s a freedom that refuses to acknowledge where it comes from and for what and for where it should be used and directed. It’s a freedom incapable of transcending itself.

That’s the meanest cut it inflicts on itself, the most subtle and pernicious virus that can attack it. With that understanding, freedom gets totally imprisoned in its subjectivity with no link to its objective nature.

It’s a freedom intoxicated with its own powers and privileges, very vulnerable to getting abused and spoiled. Detached from its basis on truth, from its proper origin and end, from God, it can easily get blinded. It gets its impulses from improper if not false sources.

This is the freedom we see in the world today, deeply embedded in the culture and people’s way of life. This is also the kind of freedom that gives shape and direction to the vision and authority of some world leaders.

It’s a freedom that acknowledges no absolute law outside of oneself or of some subject. Everything is made relative to the subject who now considers himself his own God, perhaps with some support from a consensus.

We need to recover the true and objective nature of freedom from the clutches of subjectivism, secularism and relativism. And perhaps the more challenging predicament from which freedom has to be extricated is the double-life culture so widespread even among professed Christians.

It’s this culture that fails either to distinguish or link, or both to distinguish and link God and us, what’s inside us and what’s outside us, the subjective and the objective, our freedom and autonomy in relation to law and the virtue of obedience, the mundane and the sacred in our affairs and concerns.

For me now, the US has become a big, interesting and illuminating theatre where the battle for the true nature of freedom is waged. Of course, the drama of freedom is played everywhere. But it’s in the US where this drama of freedom gone awry is writ large and closely monitored, as if you’re watching YouTube.

At the moment, I cannot get over that view of President Obama who says he is still for abortion but wants it to be as rare as possible. It’s a crude, Solomonic if foxy way of resolving an issue, as if a baby can be divided into two to satisfy the opposing parties.

And this mindset seems to be widespread, and even supported by a systematic ideology with practical script and methods. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, for example, is now promoting worldwide abortion-on-demand and other questionable causes.

A bill is now pending approval in the US Congress to create among other things an Office for Women’s Global Issues in the State Department, a thinly veiled effort to promote abortion all over the world and to overturn pro-life laws in other countries, including ours.

In fact, in our country there is already a slow but steady trend to approve population-control laws and decrees in the city level. Of course, the Trojan horse used are concerns like Reproductive Health and now, Health Care.

We have to help one another in understanding the true nature, meaning and purpose of our freedom. We have to learn how to overcome the obstacles to this understanding, exposing the many myths and lies about freedom and showing the practical ways true freedom can be lived and enjoyed.

But for all this, let’s never forget to pray, offer sacrifices, study and act!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


WE have to be more aware of this virtue. We need it. And as our world becomes more complicated, we simply have to know how to live this virtue so that we would know how to flow with the changing and multiplying things in our life without get lost.

First, of course, we have to know what it is and why it has to be lived, as well as what are involved in developing it. The time has come, given current world conditions, for us to deliberately live this virtue and to be knowledgeable about how to grow in it.

Gone now are the days when we could afford to take this virtue for granted, since things in general were quite clear and simple, and people more or less lived a more homogeneous way of life and culture. Everyone somehow knew what was right and what was wrong, what was good and what was evil.

Not so, these days. There’s a lot of confusion, ignorance and errors of all sorts floating around. And this predicament is sustained, even nurtured, by the emerging mentality of complete relativism, where the line between good and evil is blurred if not vanished, and everyone is free to hold on to any view at all.

Naturalness has something to do with how to handle our human condition considering what we ought to be and what we are at the moment. Fact is, we have a supernatural goal, nothing less than to be united with God, which we have to pursue in the context of our human and natural world.

Naturalness is about how to mix the spiritual and material dimensions of our life, our personal and social aspects, and other elements in our life that, given the way we are, appear to compete with each other. How to integrate and harmonize them is the task of naturalness.

Naturalness is a very active affair, lived day to day, moment to moment, as we grapple with the continuous flow of our concerns. It’s the front man who does the dirty job of the bigger virtues of discretion, prudence and ultimately charity, the foot soldier who does the hand-to-hand combat, the peddler who does the door-to-door selling.

It has to know when to push and when to pull, what to say and show and what to be quiet about and hide. Obviously, it has to follow a game plan, with a clear goal in mind and a detailed knowledge of all the elements it has to contend with.

It has to know when to be active and when to be passive, when to be aggressive and when to be patient and tolerant. Of course, in our spiritual life, these elements while initially contrasting, can be blended and lived simultaneously, obviously an effect of grace and our cleverness.

It also has to know how to project oneself to the future, given the data of the present and of the past. It has to learn how to relate history and current events with eternity. It should know how to connect the mundane with the sacred.

Naturalness is strengthened when we deepen in our convictions about our ultimate goal as well as in our continuing observations and growing wealth of experience of passing things.

In short, it knows how to blend what is necessary in our life with what is contingent, what has absolute value with what is relative, what is of faith with what is cultural. It knows what to draw and learn from experience, what to keep and what to discard along the way.

Nowadays, there’s great need to educate people about naturalness. This is actually a big battle now, since there are now many organized groups pushing all sorts of ideas about how naturalness ought to be.

We have to be wary of the lulling mantra on false freedom and deceptive democracy sung by different groups that confine the understanding of naturalness in what they call as “neutral and politically correct tones.”

These are clever tactics to dampen any earnest effort, always done in charity, to know the whole truth about this virtue. Alas, this is what we are seeing these days.

While it’s true that we have to respect one another in spite of our differences, we also have to understand that there’s a need to really know the truth, and not just opinions about a virtue that’s supposed to be intrinsic to us, given our human condition.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Relational by nature

NOT only rational, but also relational. That’s how we are. We actually cannot avoid it. Even between any two inanimate objects, when put together or compared with each other, a certain relation exists.

Except that in our case, our relational character is infused with rationality. Thus, we try to be conscious of all our relations, though that would not be possible, since it is a perpetually growing affair. More, we need to develop and manage those relations properly.

This is where we have to consider more deeply certain duties that we have. We cannot be passive and indifferent to our relationships. Our growth, our maturity and perfection depends on how well we take care of this essential aspect.

We have to actively purify and strengthen them, enhance and defend them. We just cannot allow them to drift in any direction, blindly obeying the forces and impulses of the flesh and the world. They have to be directed.

We have to understand we are made to enter into relations with others. Having relations is not a marginal or optional aspect of our life. It is essential to us. Even in our conception and birth, we need parents, we need a family, then a community, and all sorts of persons, both individually or collectively considered.

It is said that during the creation of man, God first made Adam. And though he already had relation with everything else in Paradise, God later thought Adam needed someone else “like him.” And so Eve came along.

The story tells us the kind of relationships we have. We have relations not only with objects, plant and animals, but also with other people, and ultimately, as well as primarily and constantly, with God.

In fact, the very basis of this relational character of our life is God himself. Though one, he is three persons. That’s because as God, he is never alone, nor idle and cold.

Within himself and with the rest of creation, his eternal being and activity produce the three subsistent persons who are in perpetual relation with one another, precisely because of the eternal activity of knowing and loving within him and with the world.

Of course, this is just a poor philosophical attempt to explain or describe the most central mystery of the Christian faith, the Most Blessed Trinity. But the whole doctrine is based on Christ’s revelation about him being the Son, who has a Father, and about the Holy Spirit who is sent to us by the Father and the Son.

This Trinitarian nature and life of God is the ultimate basis, pattern and goal of the relational character of our life. Thus, in the Catechism we are told: “The communion of the Holy Trinity is the source and criterion of truth in every relationship.” (2845)

And it adds something worth noting. “It (our every relationship) is lived out in prayer, above all in the Eucharist.”

That latter statement is crucial, because many times we do not know how to carry out our relations with God and with others in concrete terms. But we can always pray, we can also go to the sacraments, especially the Eucharist.

With these, we are at least keeping our relations alive and strong, and conforming them to the relational character of the Trinitarian life of God. We open ourselves and make ourselves more sensitive to the requirements of our relationships.

With this awareness of what are involved in the relational character of our life, we would know how to act and behave. We, for example, would realize that we should always expand our circle of relations, of course subject to our human conditions and constraints. But we should always have a universal outlook.

Another implication is that we should always ground and orient all our human relations toward God. Outside of that orbit, when we are just relating among ourselves in accordance to our personal and private designs, we would be courting danger.

This, I think, is no small reminder, since the current mentality of people all over the world is that while it’s true that ideally all our relations should be based on God, there can be occasions, and it also can be the right of men, to start and develop a relation without God.

We have to correct this attitude. We have to make everyone aware of the importance of this aspect of our life, and also of the practical consequences it involves.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Recovering wisdom

I’M afraid it’s increasingly looking and sounding like it’s just as a word. Wisdom is now confined and restricted to the world of vocabulary, to be used—molested and prostituted, would be the better terms—only when some formal occasion calls for it, which is obviously few and far between.

This is the tragedy of our times. Many of us don’t know anymore what it’s all about, much less, what it involves and requires. Worse, we don’t seem to mind. What’s supposed to be an object of intense desire is now practically dead and extinct in our minds and hearts.

Firstly, because we already are floating on a vast, almost shoreless ocean of data and information. We just take our pick, and we can already sound sensible enough to survive and make do with whatever situation there is.

Besides, the others don’t know any better. All play the same game. The prevailing mindset is that we just need to contend ourselves with opinions and views.

As much as possible, we should refrain from making categorical declarations of right and wrong, of good and evil. Our understanding of freedom now appears detached from its relation to truth. It has become purely subjective. This is the ethos now, what is in, what is politically correct.

What can still contribute and complicate the matter is that with all the problems and pressures we are facing these days, we seem to be forced to be simply practical in our reactions and behavior. We are always tempted to leave the high-sounding wisdom behind.

Wisdom is seen as something abstract not concrete, remote not immediate, idealistic not realistic. At best, only a few gifted and privileged individuals can worry about it. It’s not meant for all.

There can be many other factors. But what’s clear is that we should realize we need to recover this gift and virtue if we are to remain first of all human and then ultimately as children of God.

Our human condition needs wisdom. It is what connects us to the ultimate and complete truths that we can and ought to know. And not only to know, but also to love, to delight, because these truths are supposed to make us happy or to respond to the deepest yearning of our heart and soul.

For Christian believers, wisdom is understood as a “gift which perfects the virtue of charity by enabling us to discern God and divine things in their ultimate principles, and by giving us a relish for them.”

In the Book of Revelation, it is the light that abides in a person, such that “night shall be no more, and they shall not need the light of the lamp, nor the light of the sun, because the Lord God shall enlighten them.” (22,5)

Wisdom can be had by anyone, anytime, anywhere. Everything can be made use of to find, develop and exercise wisdom. The poet and the farmer, with God’s grace received with the proper dispositon, can have it. They can arrive at the same truth even if pursued through different ways.

Our predicament is that our natural tendency for truth, and everything that truth stands for—joy, peace, beauty, harmony, etc.—is almost always abducted and frustrated by an endless number of causes and factors.

We tend to get stuck at a certain point, or at a certain level. We don’t want to go on, since we tend to be held captive perhaps by comfort, laziness, ignorance, lack of faith, pride, greed, attachments to worldly things, anger and the unruly movements of our passions, etc.

In short, we use our powerful faculties not to seek and love God, who is the ultimate and constant truth for all of us, but to seek and love ourselves.

And so we fall into the predicament spelled out in the Letter of St. James: “Who is wise and instructed among you? Let him by his good behavior show his work in the meekness of wisdom.

“But if you have bitter jealousy and contentions in your hearts, do not glory and be liars against the truth. This is not the wisdom that descends from above. It is earthly, sensual, devilish. For where there is envy and contentiousness, there is instability and every wicked deed.

“But the wisdom that is from above is first of all chaste, then peaceable, moderate, docile, in harmony with good things, full of mercy and good fruits, without judging, without dissimulation.” (3,13-18)

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Year for Priests

POPE Benedict XVI has just declared a Year for Priests last March 16. It will start on June 19, both the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the World Day of Prayer for the Sanctification of Priests.

It is meant to celebrate also the 150th anniversary of the death of the patron for priests, the saintly Cure of Ars, St. John Mary Vianney.

In that announcement, the Pope said the year-long event is meant “to encourage priests in this striving for spiritual perfection on which, above all, the effectiveness of their ministry depends.”

I think it’s good for everyone to get involved in this Church happening. Everyone should have an abiding concern for us, priests, since we need to be nothing less than true ministers of Christ, and the only way to do that is for us to be really holy and competent.

Already the head of Vatican’s Congregation for the Clergy suggested that the year be spent in “prayer by priests, with priests, and for priests.” Let’s pray also for more priestly vocations and for the sanctity of priests all over the world.

We have to rediscover the great power of prayer. This simple conversation with God, that should spring from faith and love embedded in one’s heart, cannot fail to move God’s heart too.

Prayer is the language proper and indispensable in one’s relationship with God. With it one gets united with God. With it one not only enjoys God’s presence but also takes part in his potencies and activity.

Especially if coursed through the intercession of Our Lady and other saints, our prayers acquire such power that God could hardly refuse what we would ask from him. Prayer should be like the beating of our heart. It should be like the breath that we make.

It cannot be denied that in spite of our priestly limitations and shortcomings, our mistakes and failures, not to mention the occasional scandals that we cause, we priests do an irreplaceable work in the Church and society.

Conformed to Christ as head of the Church, we bring to the present the very redeeming sacrifice of our Lord on the Cross every time we celebrate Mass. The celebration of the Holy Eucharist is the summit of our priesthood. Every other priestly ministry flows from it and leads to it.

It is for everyone’s benefit that the priestly conformation to Christ, while objectively effected through the sacrament of order, be corresponded to with a progressive subjective conformation by the priests themselves, supported by all others.

We priests need to be experts in prayer, to be truly men of God, so identified with him we could easily discern his will for us, for the Church, for the world.

This will require nothing less than continuing formation that should always be provided and equipped with adequate plans and programs, personal and collective. Every priest, like every Christian faithful, is expected to have a personal plan of life that nourishes his spiritual life everyday.

For this purpose, the head of the Vatican’s clergy congregation precisely suggested that the event be an occasion for “intense appreciation of the priestly identity, of the theology of the Catholic priesthood, and of the extraordinary meaning of the vocation and mission of priests within the Church and in society.”

“This will require,” he said, “opportunities for study, days of recollection, spiritual exercises reflecting on the priesthood, conferences and theological seminars in our ecclesiastical faculties, scientific research and respective publications.”

I wish that the Year for Priests be an occasion also to review every aspect of priestly life and ministry, as contained in the Directory for the Life and Ministry of Priests, published by the Vatican years ago.

The sad fact is that there’s still a big gap between the factual and the juridical, the real and the ideal, in spite of the rich experience through the centuries within the Church with regard to priestly life and ministry.

We are already in the 21st century, enjoying so many technological advances, of course with some accompanying problems that are more complicated and subtle. It would be an anomaly if these achievements are not taken advantage of for the good of the priesthood.

While its essence has to be kept and strengthened, the priesthood too has to get updated, making use of the good things progress has achieved and quick to identify and tackle the subtler problems and more complicated challenges of the times.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The so-called “sexual rights”

I JUST read the executive summary of “Sexual Rights: An IPPF Declaration,” a document of the umbrella organization globally promoting family planning, abortion, etc., called the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF).

I think it is an important document because it puts together the core principles of this group. It contains the federation’s DNA or its identity, and the source of its life and energy for its worldwide campaign.

I don’t need to summarize it again here, but rather to focus on its disturbing and highly questionable features. Hopefully, more people can be made aware of this organization and its maneuvering agenda that’s responsible, let’s call a spade a spade, for the spread of immoral sexual morality all over the world.

In our country, for example, its fingerprints can be found in the now-pending bills in Congress: the Reproductive Health Bill and the Bill for the Magna Carta for Women.

In purely political issues, I respect plurality of opinions and can accept positions contrary to my personal political views. But in issues that directly involve morality, universal and absolute in nature, we should be do our best to arrive at the right position. This so-called “sexual rights” is one such issue.

The document obviously has very good features, and this is where the danger is at its worst. The devil, the father of lies, is an expert in sweet talk, expertly blending the good and the evil, and craftily covering lies with a patina of truths.

Remember that in tempting Christ, the devil also quoted Scripture. The document bears the same character. And sad to say, my observation is that many people now are talking in that way, even coming up with massive and systematic logic and rationalization, but corrupted at the root.

What I find as very alarming provisions are the following sections as presented in the executive summary:

- “Principle 4. Sexuality, and pleasure deriving from it, is a central aspect of being human, whether or not a person chooses to reproduce.”

- “The entitlement to experience and enjoy sexuality independent of reproduction, and reproduction independent of sexuality should be safeguarded, paying particular attention to those who, historically and in the present, are denied such entitlement.”

These provisions detach human sexuality from its proper context and purpose. They make sexuality just a tool for any arbitrary purpose, including aberrations and perversions. Thus, we can have same-sex unions, and the like.

- “Principle 6. Sexual rights may be subject only to those limitations determined by law for the purpose of securing due recognition and respect for the rights and freedoms of others and the general welfare in a democratic society.”

- “All persons have the right to be recognized before the law and to sexual freedom, which encompasses the opportunity for individuals to have control and decide freely on matters related to sexuality, to choose their sexual partners, to seek to experience their full sexual potential and pleasure…”

- “All persons have the right to exercise freedom of thought, opinion and expression regarding ideas on sexuality, sexual orientation, gender identity and sexual rights, without arbitrary intrusions or limitations based on dominant cultural beliefs or political ideology or discriminatory notions of public order, public morality, public health or public security.”

These provisions remove sexuality and sexual rights from the sphere of morality and confine them strictly to the field of legality and the democratic system, or the law of popularity and consensus. This is outright relativism, which accepts no absolute rule to govern us.

In this relativistic frame of mind, every position is just as good as any other. There’s no more right or wrong, outside from what may cause some public disorder, which now becomes the supreme criterion for any claim at human right.

As long as a person considers something—anything at all—to be his right, provided it does not go against public order, then it is a valid human right. In fact, it would be against human right to consider such claim of human right as wrong.

There are more questionable features, but I think these provisions will suffice to give us more than enough reason to be afraid of this document, and the ideology that underpins it.

All of us need to be alerted by what appears now as a global conspiracy to infuse our world with the principles of moral relativism, a morality without God, who’s supposed to be the source and end of our morality.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Aspirations in school

ANOTHER school year has just begun. In the papers, the focus is how to contain the spread of the dreaded H1N1 virus. Also the glut in the public schools is noted, due to transfers from and closure of private schools that in turn may be due to the global recession, already biting in the US, but not yet that bad here.

It looked like, for amusement, the papers were one in splashing pictures of little boys having their haircut accompanied mostly by mothers. Their faces betrayed traces of little suffering as they now have to interrupt their summer fun and go back to some serious business.

Everyone, I suppose, is now trying to fulfill his duties toward the never-ending task of educating children. Government, NGOs, parents, school management and, of course, the students themselves have to do their part.

In my case, as chaplain of a technical school I’ve been through several meetings to lay out our plans and programs for the school year. I had to coordinate closely with the personal formation office (PFO) and the student affairs office (SAO).

We reviewed these plans and programs, pruning those elements that now seem irrelevant and adding others that appear to be needed. I was impressed by the collegial discussions and decision-making process.

It’s nice to know that the young staffers can give fresh insights and new readings to current developments affecting students. I feel updated, and quietly take note of the subtle changes taking place among the young. Yes, there are changes, and some of them look major even if they are not in the open yet.

We have both expanded and tightened our network of personal tutorials and mentoring. Each student will be assigned a tutor, and groups of tutors will be trained and supervised by mentors.

So it seems that the structures and calendar of activities are already in place. We have considered the requirements of the different aspects of formation: human, spiritual, religious-doctrinal, professional, and apostolic. Now comes the harder part, the task of implementing, of converting ideas and goals into tangible effects.

This, I think, is where the heart of education lies. It is in the spirit that inspires one to carry out his task and the energy he exerts to pursue that task. Education is not just a mechanical transmission of ideas. It is taking care of souls, nourishing them with their proper food that ultimately is God.

I saw the other day a mother carrying in her arms her two-year-old little girl. They were walking by the road when I passed by in my car. The mother was talking to her daughter, smiling, and the little girl was expressionless, but with her little arms around her mother’s neck.

I, of course, did not hear what the mother was saying, but I was sure that whatever it was, there was already a very intimate bonding between the mother and child, an invisible interflow of spiritual loving.

To me, it was an eloquent image of how education ought to be done. I like to imagine that in that moment, the seed of education is taking root in the tender heart of the little girl, thanks to the generous heart of the mother, who is always our first teacher.

I think we have to find a way to continue with this invisible interflow, obviously in a manner proper to our human and natural conditions. Unless this takes place, I don’t think we can talk about educating children properly. Education is like journeying with the students, but understood more in the spiritual and moral sense.

Of course, we need some practical guidelines for this, and also standards to measure in some way the effectiveness of our education work. We have to continually renew and update them so they can truly reflect the state of the student’s mind and heart.

For me, what gives joy and satisfaction is when students on their own come to have a heart-to-heart talk not only about personal and family matters, not only about academic issues, but also about their faith and their love for God and others.

Through the years, I have seen, thanks to God, an increase of students who see me for this purpose, and a marked improvement in their behavior, showing a greater consistency between what the faith teaches and their day-to-day life and activities.

I see them learning how to pray, understanding the value of sacrifice, going to Mass and confession, doing their work and study with responsibility, etc.