Saturday, June 30, 2012

For God and for others

WE have to be men and women for God and for others. That’s actually the objectively proper trajectory of our thoughts and desires. We have to be wary when we get trapped thinking only of ourselves, a constant danger to us.

            To be persons for God and for others is written in our nature. The structure and features of our life all demand that we actually need to get out of our own selves, otherwise we get short-circuited.

            Our joy, our fulfilment is in God, and because of God, it’s also in others, since loving God always passes through loving others. The gospel tells us that. “The greatest commandment is to love God with all your might... and the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbour as yourself.”

            We need to be prepared to do serious, constant battle against our tendency also to get self-centered and self-absorbed.  This, of course, is a very like possibility, easily and quickly verifiable around. That’s because we actually contend with a great number of hostile or negative elements.

            First, we have the very understandable basic human need to take care of ourselves. Since birth and during infancy and childhood, our tendency is to be self-centered as we need to be taken care of.

            Then, we have our own weaknesses—laziness, softness, attachments, etc.—that keep us thinking of our own selves, our own comfort, our own interests. If these are not corrected, unweaned from them, they become part of our system, and it’s going to be harder every time to get out of them.

            Babies need to be fed, bathed, clothed, doted, pampered, etc. Children always have to be watched and supervised. These obviously make them think of themselves, an understandable phase that should be vitally joined, never detached, to our need to think, love and serve others.

            We just have to make sure that children, once they reach the age of reason, should little by little be taught to think of others, until they get to understand that it’s when they think  of others and ultimately of God that they find their true joy. We should be clear about this right at the beginning, otherwise we will unavoidably spoil them.

            This task is not going to be easy. But neither is it impossible. We just have to see to it that all the elements that go into the upbringing of children—parents, home, teachers, school, etc.—are properly equipped to carry out this delicate responsibility.

            So important is the need to have the families and the schools undergo continuing formation to be able to cope with new and old challenges! How to form children in virtues to make them more mature and able to face life properly, how to help them make use of their time and overcome their weakness—these should be their constant concern.

            In school, while children understandably have to be given a protective and controlled environment, they also need to be exposed to the realities of life. It would be anomalous if they are quite good in school but seem not to remain so at home, and especially outside.

            We have to consider that nowadays the environment is saturated with a culture that fosters frivolity and easy-going ways, averse to any form of sacrifice, as if sacrifice is per se bad. We have to find ways of how to tackle this real threat to the proper development of children.

            There may be children who can be active, but active in a selfish way—pursuing only their own goals, interests and concerns, and never thinking in terms of God’s will and the common good. This is quite common also.

            We should not hesitate to introduce these realities to them. They are not mere theories or abstract values. The reality and immediacy of God’s will and the common good have to be shown to them as early as possible, done through personal witnessing and timely pieces of advice and reminders.

            Therefore, a lot of catechesis is needed, something that of course has to be done with a lot of naturalness, always respecting freedom, never using coercion or pressures. That’s why it is also important that warm human relations should be fostered and kept. We have to stay away from simply imparting things through lectures.

            We need to spend time and develop the true substance of friendship or paternity or filiation, etc. In these, we cannot cheat for long. It’s an investment worth making, for its dividends will always come, if not here, then definitely in our eternal life.

Thursday, June 28, 2012


I SUPPOSE all schools want to produce men and women of integrity. That’s the gem they want to extract from the ore that their students represent. This desire figures prominently in many of their mission-vision statements.

            In one school manual, for example, we read: “By ‘men of integrity’ we mean persons who have acquired fundamental qualities that will enable them to live morally upright, happy, fulfilled and useful lives.

            “We want to equip our students with the knowledge, skills, values, ideals and convictions that will make them truly human persons, able to use their freedom and their sense of responsibility to participate in the task of building the Filipino nation and to take their proper place and task in the world.”

            Nice words, indeed! But before they dry up simply as nice, but anodyne if not dead words good only for sloganeering, it might be good to examine once again the substance and context of this concept that’s even touted by dirty and cheating politicians.

            We have to realize that integrity has a long, complicated history. We need to know its drama so we would also know how to properly understand and handle it, and more importantly, how to achieve it.

            Integrity evokes a sense of completeness and wholeness as well as order, harmony, consistency, honesty. For us, it is crucial because it is something to work and live out, protect, defend and even fight for. It does not come automatically with our DNA.

            We have to know its real essence, its firm basis and real source. We have to know the different elements involved in achieving it, as well as the techniques and skills to get the act together. Hopefully we can develop a clear and correct science about it, both in its theoretical and practical aspects.

            Offhand, we have to be clear that the ultimate foundation, source and goal of our integrity is God, our Creator and Father. Hence, we have to understand that the pursuit of integrity cannot be done outside of this original religious context. Any understanding of integrity outside of this would be compromised right from the start.

            Even if our concept of God and of how to relate to him is not yet clear, we have to hold it as a necessary prerequisite, at least theoretically, because it would be funny to look for the origin, meaning and purpose of integrity simply in ourselves or in the world.

            That way of pursuing integrity would make it a mere human invention, and given the way we are, we could help but be subjective and therefore prone to have different versions of integrity.

            But all the elements that we so far know go into the making of integrity all cry out for the need of God. That we are persons, that we need to have the right values, that we form convictions, etc.—all these have God, not us, as their basis.

            Our integrity has to reflect the integrity of God because we have been created in the image and likeness of God. God’s essence and life are therefore to be known by us by necessity.

            More than that, we are supposed to participate in the very life of God, which is Trinitarian in nature—one God but never alone nor idle, because there are three persons eternally and consubstantially relating themselves with each other in the perpetual act of knowing and loving within God.

            We should not be afraid to enter into this mystery. We are asked to let ourselves be led by our faith, more than our reason, and much less by our senses and feelings. It’s faith, which requires humility on our part, that will bring us to an understanding and living with God that defy our power to describe.

            With our Christian faith, we know that the original integrity we had at our creation in Adam and Eve was lost because of sin, that of our first parents which we inherit, and that of our own.

            We have to understand then that the building of integrity would always involve effort, sacrifice, penance and atonement. We need to continually rectify our intention and go to the sacrament of confession to regain what we lost through sin.

            Another pertinent view would be that since we have been created in the image and likeness of God, we have to reflect the integrity of God also through our own efforts, but always with God’s grace. We can never do it simply on our own. But, yes, we have to do our part also.

            May we know how to use all occasions to build our integrity!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Forming character

ONE of the important goals of education is to form the character of children. It is that part of a person that provides stability and direction in his life and everything in it, starting with the way one thinks, his attitudes and his reactions to things in general.

A person, of course, is a very dynamic being, but he needs to have a sense of permanence and confidence. He needs to be rooted and moored in some sound foundations and oriented to some clear and good goals. He just cannot be drifting aimlessly, twisting in the wind.

A person needs to have an over-all view of life. He has to have a good idea of where he comes from and where he is supposed to go. He has to find meaning and purpose in everything. In fact, he has to know what man is really all about. In this, he cannot and should not be left in the dark for long.

Thus, we have to feel the need to be clear about who and what we are. This involves our core beliefs and faith. Let’s try to be professional and serious about this, avoiding being amateurish and sophomoric. And so we have to understand that we have to be committed to a global view of man and life.

For this, our Christian faith gives us the whole thing—from man’s creation to his eternal destiny. We have to be wary of some attractive ideologies that offer partial truths that often get distorted and exploited for some ulterior motives.

In short, we have to be committed to our Christian faith, for it contains the whole truth and mystery of man, and goes much further than any man-made ideology can offer. Commitment to our Christian faith should not remain on the intellectual level only. It has to involve our whole life with all our powers and faculties.

So everyone has to work to form the right character for oneself and for others. With respect to the children,  the task is a long, tedious process that has to go in several stages, typically slow, even meandering, in accordance to the rhythm of life itself, but it should be abiding and relentless.

Good knowledge on shifting gears is definitely a necessity here, since we are going to meet all kinds of terrains, challenges, circumstances and other factors and conditionings.

Since children are not aware of the need to form their own character, their parents and teachers have to gradually make them aware of it. In the end, it is the children themselves who are the primary agents in forming their own character.

The responsibility of the parents and teachers is undoubtedly big and indispensable, but at best secondary. To the children, parents are the primary educators. Teachers just help. Both need to coordinate very closely with each other.

For sure, they need to make time for this all-important duty. This cannot be treated as a sideline only. They need time to be with the children, and time for their planning and meetings.

For this reason, parents and teachers should be clear about what is involved in forming the character of the children. They have to know what education is really all about.

Then, of course, they have to know the many, endless details of the techniques and methods involved, when to be strict, when to be lenient, etc. They have to realize then that they need formation themselves and that their formation as educators also has to go on. It should be an endless affair.

For sure, education just cannot be understood as imparting some knowledge and skills to the children. It covers a whole lot more. Many considerations have to be made—the temperament and psychology of the children, the close monitoring of their behavior, etc.

As educators, parents and teachers have to be knowledgeable not only about the subjects involved in education, but also about the appropriate ways to educate children. They need to combine a wide range of qualities—patience, cheerfulness, toughness, optimism, naturalness, openness and flexibility, etc.

They have to be good at motivating, since children respond so favorably to this that we can say that their growth and development would depend largely on the motivation they receive especially from parents and children.

They have to feel appreciated and loved, needed and important. Even when they have to be corrected, they should realize by the way we do the correction that they are in fact loved and needed, never rejected.

This, I think, is how they form their character and acquire both human and Christian maturity.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

We should not judge?

“Do not judge, that you may no be judged.” (Mt 7,1) We should be careful when we read the gospel, otherwise we will come out with funny conclusions. With this passage, for example, if considered only in itself, then it’s clear we have to go against our very own nature. And that’s funny, indeed!

But the second line after that somehow puts those words in the right context. “For with what judgment you judge, you shall be judged; and with what measure you measure, it shall be measured to you.” These presume that we judge, but that we should judge properly. That’s the catch.

To be sure, as persons we are designed to think, judge and reason out, and together with these, we are supposed to love. All these are part of our human nature, part of what go into our being “image and likeness” of God in which we have been created.

We can’t help but do these, because they are our way of knowing and loving. We cannot know and love unless we think, judge and reason out. We just have to make sure that we think, judge and reason out with God, since he gave us these powers that have to be exercised under his law and terms, so to speak.

God is the very foundation of reality. It is from him that we come and to him that we belong. He is actually everything to us. It would be funny if we think otherwise, although that is entirely possible since we are capable to abusing our freedom, of thinking that we can be absolutely on our own.

Our usual problem is that we tend to think, judge and reason out, and even love outside the orbit of God, outside the purview of his laws and will. This is what our Lord meant when he said we should not judge.

We may be brilliant, with high IQ and all that, but unless we think, judge, reason out with God, unless our love starts with God, we cannot go far in our life without getting into some trouble or anomaly.

Without God, our life is already doomed. Without God in our thinking and judging, we are prone to be make rash judgments, to fall into fits of self-righteousness and into the subtle snares of envy, lust, deception, greed. In short, without God sin in unavoidable.

Without God our sense of justice would lack the elements of mercy, compassion and magnanimity. It would be a justice of vindictiveness, gloating and of furthering one’s interest at the expense of the common good.

The earlier we realize then that we need to train ourselves to think, judge and reason out with God always, the better for us. This is something that we have to teach around as widely as possible and as early as possible.

We need to break the barrier, cultural and ideological, that removes God in our thinking, judging and reasoning. This unfortunately is quite common, often reinforced by atheistic or agnostic biases, both theoretical and practical, that put the role of God in our lives as not important or practicable, at least.

Just look now at some current developments: political leaders trivializing the role of God when they do their oaths of office, a congressman proposing that God and religious images and activities be banned in public places, an RH bill that goes directly against moral doctrine, etc. These are a disturbing trend.

When we think, judge and reason out with God, we can tend to see things more clearly and completely. We can tend to approximate the truth, the common good and everything that is proper in our dealings with others.

Definitely, thinking with God enables us to go beyond mere knee-jerk reactions and even certain factors and conditionings, personal or cultural, that would make us miss what is proper in a given situation that involves persons and other circumstances.

Thinking with God will make us reflective and prudent, and will lead us gradually to the ways of wisdom. Our thoughts and judgments will be more balanced, the elements of truth, justice and charity well blended, able to ride out temporary difficulties.

We need to train everyone, starting with the young ones and in the basic things, like always thinking well of the others, learning how to think and even study and consult before we speak and do anything. We have to encourage everyone to develop virtues and to forge a healthy and balanced character.

The family, school and church play very important roles in this task. Let’s always strengthen them.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Again the priesthood

SOME friends of mine just celebrated the silver anniversary of their priesthood. Occasions like this are always happy moments of thanksgiving as we look back at those years of service that, more than our efforts, were made fruitful because of God’s grace and mercy.

            Of course, it should be a thanksgiving that goes beyond the sentimental. It has to be accompanied—that’s the unavoidable consequence—by a renewed and deepened sense of commitment and fidelity. If we have been giving our all these past years, we still have to give more and more for the coming years till death.

            That’s quite clear. We have to be ready to be squeezed like a lemon until our last breath.

            His Eminence Cardinal Vidal graciously celebrated the thanksgiving Mass for my friends and gave a beautiful homily about the identity of priests. Not that we did not know it. But it’s always good to be reminded even if we have our doctorates and quite a vast experience of pastoral work.

            Basing on Church teaching, particularly the documents entitled “Pastores dabo vobis” (I give you shepherds) and the Directory on the Life and Ministry of Priests, he reminded the jubilarians, one of them already a bishop, that a priest is not a man living on his own. He is to be with Christ. He is Christ’s minister. He has to be identified with Christ.

            Of course, when I heard that, I immediately thought that in fact everyone, priest or layman, does not and should not live by his own self. Our life is always a life with God, our Creator and Father, who does not stop being with us just because we seem to be able to live by ourselves.

            God is always with us. That’s the reason we keep on repeating at Holy Mass, “The Lord be with you, and also with you” (or now with the new English translation, “and with your spirit”). Everyone of us needs to relate himself with God. It’s our constant task, especially for priests who have to help the others to fulfil that responsibility too.

            The priest’s identification with Christ, as distinct from that of the layman, is that of Christ as head of the Church, not just as a member of the Church which is how the layman is identified with Christ.

            While there is fundamental equality between priests and laymen in the sense that everyone is called to sanctity and to participate in the apostolate or the continuing redemptive work of Christ in the Church, there is an essential difference in the way they are conformed to Christ, a difference reflected in their lifestyle and functions.

            Priests have certain powers the laymen do not have, but these powers are not for them just to enjoy and to use to dominate others, but rather to be of service to the laity. These are powers that require of them, us priests, to be most determined to identify ourselves with Christ all the way to be willing to wash the feet of the others, as Christ did.

            That’s why the good Cardinal, again echoing what the Church has been teaching, encouraged all priests to be resolute in taking care of their spiritual life that should be nourished daily and abidingly by a number of highly recommended acts of piety.

            He mentioned mental prayer, daily celebration of the Holy Mass that has to be prepared for adequately each time and other Eucharistic practices, spiritual reading, examination of conscience, holy rosary and other Marian devotions, the praying of the divine office which I’m afraid many priests have forgotten, etc.

            In fact, when the Cardinal rattled them off, I overheard someone sigh in disbelief as if to say, wow, that’s impossible! Of course, I understand him, but that’s the point. We just have to struggle to keep those practices of piety, otherwise we would just be like hired actors performing an act.

            Priests lend their head and heart, their lips and hands, their feelings and passions to Christ such that where they are and when they speak it is Christ that others see and hear. They should not see the priest as this or that individual, but Christ himself.

            So the need for the priests to know how to hide and disappear, how to avoid any possibility to show off. I know this is not going to be easy, and there now many instances when this ideal is openly violated. But there’s always hope. Continuing formation and constant prayers from everyone can help a great deal.

            Please pray for us, your priests.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Our sense of good and evil

            WE need to foster and sharpen our sense of good and evil. These days, our understanding of good and evil has been largely drugged, the distinction blurred. Many of us now base our idea of good and evil mainly on shifty feelings or fads. We hardly go further than that.

            For this, we have to make sure that we encourage everyone to get closer and more intimate with God. Our sense of good and evil depends on this more than anything else.

We can have our own philosophies, ideologies and other thought-systems that can give us ideas about good and evil, but unless all these are inspired by our living relation with God, they hardly give us anything valuable or lasting. They can even be dangerous.

God, our Creator and Father, is the author of all goodness, And evil is precisely known in the light of the good it lacks or goes against. Being intimate with God is vital in developing our sense of good and evil.

In this regard, we have to continually ask ourselves whether we are keeping the effort to maintain a lively conversation with God. This is crucial, because otherwise, we would just be at the mercy of whatever thoughts, feelings and perceptions can come to us.

It’s not enough to depend on some ideas of good and evil. Yes, we can and must study the doctrine and the principles of morality, the ways and methods, for example, but unless all these are animated by our living relationship with God, we would have a frozen understanding of things, prone to miss out many important if small details.

Thus, if we are still in doubt about the existence of God, or about the possibility of talking with God, then we really have a big problem that touches a fundamental aspect of our life. This matter has to be resolved early on, otherwise we would be coasting along dangerous zones in life.

Of course, to maintain an abiding relation with God requires effort and sacrifice. Some self-denial is involved as Christ himself said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Mt 16,24)

It stands to reason that we have to learn to mortify ourselves or deny especially our bodily senses, like our sight and also our imagination and memory, so that we don’t get separated from God or from his love or from the system his love generates in us.

It is understood also that we should try to avoid sin or even anything, no matter how small, that could displease God. So, we should try our best to shun from deliberate venial sins. For this, we have to make sure that we develop a growing fear for sin.

This may require some tremendous effort because nowadays the sense of sin seems to be disappearing or at least distorted. There are now people, even countries, who openly legalize sin. Somehow we need to ask God to grant us a real dread for sin.

Even more, we should make it a habit to do daily examinations of conscience so we would know the real status of our soul and nourish our sense of good and evil. Unfortunately, this practice is hardly known, much less appreciated and done. We need a real campaign to make this practice a regular part of our day.

In the examination of conscience we can probe more deeply on the real motives of our actions, whether they are good or bad, inspired by love or something else, like envy or hatred.

We can also get to see the roots of our defects and start to do something about them. Usually, the roots are our lack of faith and spirit of sacrifice that undermines our abiding and functioning love for God and others.

There are, of course, many other factors. One of them can be our tendency to trivialize our sins and malice, if not to refuse to acknowledge them, considering them only as imperfections, like simple warts and motes. It requires a tremendous amount of humility to be objective about the state of our soul, and to be realistic about good and evil.

We have to remember that in our spiritual life, there is never what is called a “steady state.” We are either growing or lagging behind, progressing or retrogressing, gathering with the Lord or scattering.

That’s why we have to have an abiding relationship with God. We have to be clear about this and about its feasibility, otherwise our sense of good and evil goes awry.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Beware of getting spoiled

            I KNOW someone who’s now a priest but whose life story has amazed me no end. Before priesthood, he was a professional man working in a number of companies, receiving very good pay and other perks, and had everything to point to a very successful future.

            But he took a drastic, sharp turn in life, chose to take the road less traveled and became a priest, contented with sitting in confessionals for hours to hear and absolve penitents of their sins, give spiritual direction, say Mass, and do all the other priestly pastoral work, to which he gave his all.

            He said it was a matter of a divine vocation which he could not refuse. He said he felt an urge, an attraction to the priesthood so strong he could not sleep until he gave in to it. He was fully convinced his true happiness lay there. Turning his back on his prosperous career was really not a big sacrifice for him. It was in fact a relief.

            Before the priestly vocation entered his mind, he was more or less a normal guy. He had been a good son to his parents, a good brother is his siblings, and a very good student since grade school, with honors always coming his way.

            In fact, he managed to get a full-tuition with free board-and-lodging scholarship for his college at a prestigious university. And he finally graduated at the top of the class.

            His godfather, a rather well-to-do man, was so impressed with him that he gifted him with large amount of money on his graduation.

            “My boy,” he said, “I know you are responsible, I know I can trust you. Here’s an envelope with my gift for you. Use it wisely.” When he opened it, his eyes popped out as he saw a check with 100 grands written on it.

            He was very happy, of course, with the gift, but soon after that, he was grappling with a terrible internal turmoil. The idea came to his mind that he should give that amount away. He should not use it just for himself.

            He could not understand how things turned out that way. The thought haunted, pestered and tortured him for a long while, until he finally decided to give all of it to charity. He was torn badly by that experience, but he said he really felt a big sense of ease and comfort after that.

            That was how he discovered his vocation. He was meant for something else. God sometimes makes things like this happen to some individuals. And, of course, for a very serious reason.

            When we seem to enjoy a lot of blessings in life, we have to make sure we understand all of these come from God. They are not just a matter of luck. All of them come within God’s providence that governs not only one’s life, but also the destiny of the whole of creation, of the entire universe.

            We have to be wary of getting spoiled by them. That happens when we fail to realize things come from God for a purpose and we just expropriate them as if they are simply our own to use and enjoy in anyway we want.

            That kind of thinking is actually naïve. We would be forgetting very fundamental truths about us like, that we are creatures and not our own creator, that because of our created spiritual nature we necessarily have to live with the original spirit—God—and not a so-called free spirit that can go just anywhere.

            We have to be especially cautious of the good things in life, because they have immense intoxicating and spoiling powers over us. They have a great capacity to seduce our freedom, leading us to misuse and abuse it as when we live it without anchoring it on God and his laws.

            That’s the reason we have to be particularly mindful of our need to develop, protect and deepen our humility. Our problem always starts with pride which makes us forget fundamental truths and start creating fantasies.

            Pride is always at the center of every case of disobedience, envy, greed, lust, etc., that we commit. We should fully acknowledge that pride is very attractive to us and thus we need to exert great, abiding effort to contain if not crush it.

            It’s humility that brings us always in touch with the truth and reality, and that enables us to love God and serve others from the heart—and to be truly happy, like the priest I know.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Continuing education and formation

            BECAUSE of the trimestral plan in our school, the graduation and the start of a new school year come close to each other in the month of June. The sharp transition of the old and the new gives me the sensation that education and formation never end. They just begin and begin, twirl and turn like a spiral.

            As I see the graduating class finish their course, I look back at the three years they spent in school and with me. I ask myself, have these guys really learned the skills imparted, and more importantly, developed the proper attitude toward life?

            It’s an intense moment of truth, fueling the need to hope and pray, and then review the record and the experiences, and to get another look at the conditions of today’s world to see if there are things to be improved, changed, deleted or introduced in the school.

            There are actually quite a lot to be done. Educating and forming students, while relying on some structure, past lessons and tradition, always involve new things and new challenges. It’s a very dynamic affair. And so, we just have to cope with them. We just have to learn to flow with the times.

            Truth is nowadays, at least for the young boys who graduate from our school, a big challenge is how to help them keep their humanity and Christianity intact, and also to help them humanize and Christianize the strong technological, not to mention, an increasingly secularized environment that they usually work in.

            It cannot be denied that they are very vulnerable to the trend of becoming automatons that undermine their being persons. Since many of them are pressured to work immediately so as to earn and help their family, they tend to disregard certain basic details that actually protect them as persons.

            Since they are young and still naïve in the ways of the world, plus a host of other factors like family problems, difficulties in one’s personal life, etc., they don’t mind dancing to the music of a technological culture that often has no human soul. In fact, this technological world offers them a Faustian bargain of some relief.

            They can easily compromise their faith, their morals and ethics, since they do not know yet how to assess the cultural and professional environment from the theological point of view. They tend to blindly follow the crowd.

            At least when they are still in school, especially when they undergo their on-the-job training (OJT), we take pains in monitoring the working conditions of the partner companies they train in, and we encourage them to talk with their respective mentors and with me regularly.

            Still, a lot more need to be done and improved. I, for one, feel that I need more time to be able to chat with the guys more often and more deeply. They have to be helped in maturing their virtues and values, and that just needs a lot of time.

            They have to learn how to pray, how to think properly, how to develop a good sense of priorities, how to grow in the virtues—all of them, from humility to order, temperance and chastity, hardwork, fortitude, etc.

            The education and formation of these boys go far beyond the textbooks and the classroom setting. A lot of personal interaction, mentoring and spiritual direction are needed. Each one has to be dealt with personally, and not generically.

            Each one has to be known as he really is, distinct and unique from the others, and therefore has to be dealt with, motivated according to how he is. We have to know each one’s potentials, and try to help him actualize those potentials. He has to be helped also in his defects and handicaps.

            Another important element to consider is the family. Many of the families of the boys are not exactly in the ideal condition. Far from it, though there are some that manage to remain simple and unaffected by the ills of today’s world.

            We should try to know the family background of each one, and by some program try to reach out to them. It’s important that close coordination be made between the school and the family, for a more wholesome and effective development of the students.

            Since many of the students come from the provinces and are simply boarding in the city, we have to know the conditions of the boarding houses, and again try to do whatever to make those temporary residences conducive also to the education and formation of the students.

The lawyer’s world

            THE other day I was asked to bless a young lawyer’s office. A friend naughtily asked me if I would do it since to his thinking blessing a lawyer’s office is like blessing a massage parlor.

            I told him straight that I have no problem either with blessing a massage parlor. At least that would give me the chance to tell those involved about the message of Christ and to show them the spirit of love and goodness of God in the context of their work of lawyers or masseurs.

            Everyone deserves to be given a chance to prove himself. He deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. That one would request for a blessing means there is an intention to make his work or business conform to God’s laws. And that’s good enough for me to do the blessing.

            Lawyering and massaging are not per se sinful. On the other hand, I also know that some of those who occupy supposedly sacred positions, like being a priest or nun, could even be greater sinners than the BIR agents or politicians.

            I don’t like to sound sarcastic. But this phenomenon comes straight even from the gospel. Remember our Lord telling the supposedly smart and holy guys of the time:

            “Amen I say to you, the publicans and the harlots shall go into the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of justice, and you did not believe him. But the publicans and the harlots believed him...” (Mt 21,31-32)

            And lest we also forget, among the closest collaborators of Christ, one of the apostles, Judas, was the one who betrayed him, who turned him in. Anything is possible with man. He can soar to glory or sink to ignominy. We just have to help one another become what is best for him.

            Our problem is that many of us are blinded by self-righteousness that would make us see others always in a negative light while we consider ourselves as totally ok. In our current culture, we usually are suspicious of lawyers, masseurs, tax collectors and politicians.

            If not self-righteousness, then we can be afflicted by a paralyzing cowardice that would make us consider certain situations as hopeless. We become cynical and skeptical, and we don’t anymore lift a finger to change things for the better. We have already surrendered without giving a fight.

            Lawyers, just like anyone in any profession, are necessary in our society. They help us live according to law which is our effort to put some order, uphold the demands of justice, defend the rights of persons in our society, and promote the common good.

            The imperfections of our laws and the defects of our lawyers do not detract from the fact that we need lawyers. In fact, it is ideal that all of us develop a legal mind, at least to some degree, because whether we like it or not, we cannot avoid living in a legal and judicial system in our society.

            The lawyers actually have a very delicate task to carry out. I would consider their work as very intricate, involving a lot of study and research that should be continuing.

            Not only that, they need nothing less than also to pray always, because with all the competing values that they have to sort out in their work, they really would need nothing less than divine assistance. They simply cannot rely on their intelligence or genius. Without God, their brilliance can be a very dangerous element in their work.

            But like everybody else, lawyers should go beyond legalistic considerations. They have to have a good over-all picture of the common good, seeing to it that their work really reflects the law and justice of God. While they defend the interests of their clients, they have to see to it that those interests foster the common good.

            In this task, they have to flow with the true spirit of the law and not just get contented with the letter. The letter of the law without the proper spirit is a dead letter that can be taken advantage of and abused by some powerful and influential men.

            They have to realize that human laws are never perfect laws. They need constant polishing and animation of the true spirit of justice that comes from God. We have to be wary of the tendency to fall into legal positivism that detaches our laws from their true foundation in God and would just depend on some human consensus.