Thursday, October 25, 2012


WE are supposed to be burning with love. Away with complacency and
spiritual lukewarmness that, as some spiritual writers have described,
is actually the grave of authentic piety.

    The Bible has described this spiritual malaise as having the
appearance of life when one is in fact dead, and that’s why it is most
delusive. The Book of Revelation, for example, has this graphic
description for it: “Because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor
hot, I will begin to vomit you out of my mouth.” (3,16) Eww!

    Christ was seized with zeal himself in pursuing his sole mission on
earth, extreme suffering and all. “I have come to set the earth on
fire, and how I wish it were already blazing!” (Lk 12,49) If we are
conformed to Christ, as we are supposed to be, then we cannot help but
take part in that zeal ourselves.

    This is something we have to be more conscious about, since right now
I believe that many of us are buried under a heavy albeit deceivingly
sweet yoke of spiritual lethargy. We take things easy in our spiritual
and moral life. What would arouse us are mainly material and worldly

    We need to react to this stranglehold of our spiritual life, helping
one another to be more spiritually alive, considering each one’s
conditions and possibilities, giving good example and timely pieces of
advice and suggestions, and leading the way in actively cooperating in
this exhilarating divine adventure God is inviting us to join in this

    Everyday, we should be seized by that urge to “carpe diem,” to kind
of strike while the iron is hot. If we have faith, each day brings
with it its own adventure orchestrated by God in his abiding
providence, and we are invited to it since we are supposed to be
co-agents with God in our life here.

    To be sure, our life here on earth is never just an interplay of our
plans and the other natural forces. God is very much in it, a fact
that we have to be more aware of it and more importantly, better
skilled in handling. We cannot go on unmindful of this fundamental

    We should not be afraid to enter and take most active part in this
drama with God and others, because even if it involves everything and
all sorts of trials and difficulties, it is always worth it. This is
what our life is really all about. We avoid making a fiction of our
life, deluded by its false images.

    To top it all, if we have faith and trust in God, we know, in spite
of passing contradictions, that we get involved in is always something
for the good of all of us in all aspects of our life, from the most
personal to the most global.

    We know that with God, everything will always work out for the good.
Even our mistakes and failures, and even our own sins no matter how
big, if handled with faith and treated properly, can occasion greater
developments in our life.

    This is how God works. He allows us to go through the peaks and
valleys of life, but he always knows how to derive good from them.
Even death, the ultimate evil that can befall us, is emptied of its
sting by the death and resurrection of Christ himself. Thus, if we die
with him, we also will rise with him, as St. Paul tells us.
    Obviously, before all these wonderful truths our faith tells, we
cannot afford to remain passive and complacent. Before God’s
tremendous love for us, we ought to love him in return, for love is
repaid with love. God, who is love, loves us first, and we just have
to love him in return.

    It is in the very essence of love that it is given and expressed
without measure, without expecting recompense. Its language is
generosity, abundance, heroism to the point of the extreme sacrifice
of offering one’s life.

    It would be good if everyday we try our best to read what God’s plan
is for us. This should be the ultimate and constant context of
whatever plans we have for the day. Let’s never just make plans
without referring them to God’s plan.

    If we persist in this attitude, we can develop the skill and ease of
knowing God’s plan. We just have to overcome the initial awkwardness
and difficulties. In time, we would know how to handle them.

    Truth is, we need to have zeal, that consuming divine zeal driven by
love, and not by bitterness.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Much received much expected

THAT should be fair enough. If one is given a lot of gifts, blessings,
privileges, opportunities, etc, then a lot should also be expected of
him. Christ himself said so. “Much will be required of the persons
entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person
entrusted with more.” (Lk 12,48)

He reiterates the same idea a number of times in the parable of the
talents, the parable of the seed, the tenants in the vineyard, and the
different images he taught about the Kingdom of God. Even on the basis
of common sense alone, that idea should be a given, a no-brainer or
no-contest proposition.

We have always been taught to trade with our talents, to make the most
of what is given and entrusted to us, to be generous and magnificent
in the way we spend our life. Our life here on earth, after all, is a
test of love, the real love, which is love for God and others, and
never just self-love.

But nowadays, we need to be sharply reminded of these words which
actually indicate a very basic truth about ourselves, since we see
precisely the opposite of this truth in many parts of the world.

And this fundamental truth is none other than that all we have, from
our life to our natural endowments and to the good consequences these
endowments bring, are always a gift from God and should be used in
accordance to his will or plan.

We tend to forget this truth. We tend to expropriate these God-given
gifts as if they are simply our own, to be used in any way we want.
And, boy, how we use them!

We have great people endowed with great talents, intelligence, power,
fame and fortune, health and strength, who do not relate all these
gifts and blessings to God and his plan. They are never thankful to
God. They don’t even miss him. They use and tout their gifts as if
these are simply their own.

We can have a singing sensation, for example, with a tremendously
powerful and beautiful voice, and who now commands immense popularity
with many people practically swooning over her. And yet she flaunts
her talent is if it is just her own, the success she has achieved so
far in her career is simply of her own making.

She makes irreverent remarks about things related to God and the
spiritual realities, and has no qualms to show her rather irregular
ways and the fruits of such ways, practically burying any reference to
morality. What matters is that she is famous.

Then we can have brilliant politicians, very gifted in speech and wit,
with ample war chest, but who also take religion very lightly. If they
have to do something related to religion, it is simply to further
their political ambitions.

Religion to them has become only a political tool. No wonder that very
often, they take political positions inconsistent with their professed
faith. Hypocrites, in short.

And what is more disturbing is that these politicians have polished
their craft so well that they can distort truths of faith and morals
with lots of finesse. Like pied pipers they entice people to follow
them to their doom.

We have to reverse this sad phenomenon in our midst. We have to
highlight the basic truth that God is very much in our midst and is
very much involved in our life in all its aspects, from the most the
personal to the most global and even cosmic.

We have to bring to the fore the truth that we indeed are active
cooperators in God’s loving providence over us. We need to be more
aware of the truth that our life is always a life with God, never just
on our own.

We can do this if everyone of us who still cares for his or her faith
prays a lot, offers a lot of sacrifices, and launches into an endless
personal apostolate of friendship and confidence, supported by a
lifestyle consistent with the demands of our faith as shown in our
family, professional and social life.

Action speaks louder than words. And so we need to learn now to
sanctify our work, always offering to God which is what sanctifying
our work means first of all, and because of that, we try to do our
work as best as we can, although we know that our best efforts can
always be made better.

We have to learn how to establish the connection between our daily
work and concerns with God’s will and plan.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Magnificence vs. megalomania

    WE need to distinguish the two, for they can look alike and yet are
very different, if not opposed to each other. One is a virtue, the
other is a sickness. One has the substance, the other only has the

    In our current world environment where we are constantly bombarded by
sheer and confusing images and sound bites, thanks and no thanks to
our tremendous new technologies, it’s crucial that we know how to
identify the genuine from the fake.

    We should never forget that our life is always an arena for the
battle between good and evil, truth and falsehood, and the forces
behind can be many and can indulge in the most subtle and deceiving of
ways. In the end, we need to choose whether we are with God or we
simply want to be with our own selves.

    Magnificence is the bigness of heart that is filled with real love
for God and souls and that spurs us to action, to heroic action to
pursue grand projects or to tackle arduous trials and challenges.

    Our earthly life unavoidably involves these kinds of situations. For
us to progress not only spiritually but also materially, we need to
launch into great adventures and go after some noble if daunting

    It includes patience, understanding, magnanimity, mercy, tolerance,
as well as daring, foresight, enthusiasm. It does not shrink from the
great cost nor shy away from the immense, even punishing effort that
an undertaking or challenge may require as long that endeavour is
viewed as truly worthwhile.

    It is done always in the spirit of love, of self-giving and genuine
service to others. But it’s done always with charity, never in bitter
zeal, and it is always attentive to the little things even as it is
focused on the big goal it’s trying to reach.

    It is open to the possibility of human failure and the predicaments
of frustration, but in its core it will always burn with hope and
optimism, considering setbacks only as temporary and even as stimulus
to go on.

    We can even say that magnificence is the virtue that enables one to
dance very intimately with God in his providence. He is aware that his
projects, trials and challenges are not simply for him alone to face,
but always with God, the alpha and omega of our life.

    Megalomania, on the other hand, is an obsession that starts with a
twisted motive in us. It wants to play big, it wants to be the hero,
but is unwilling to base and orient is aspirations properly, that is,
God and souls.

    It is vulnerable to simply play games, and is very much averse to
encountering contradictions and setbacks. It often deteriorates to
bitter zeal and self-righteousness. It is also prone to be reckless
and unattentive to little details.

    There is, of course, the kind that is willing to go to some extremes,
and that’s why it can be very admirable. But its propelling motive is
deficient and in time—sometimes it can take centuries—it will just

    Its inherent infirmity cannot be hidden for long, and has a natural
dynamics to erode whatever facade of success it can create. We can see
this in those grand ideological projects that attempted to make a
human earthly paradise without God. Its archetype is the biblical
Tower of Babel.

    It’s important that we know how to distinguish between magnificence
and megalomania. For this, we always need to examine our conscience,
to rectify our intentions, and to see to it that we are always aware
that the undertaking we are pursuing is done always in the presence of

    We should never presume that everything is all right just because we
seem to feel good. Big things tend to put us in a state of
exhilaration and exciting suspense, but these are never sure
indicators that we are doing the right thing.

    We need to make deliberate effort to root our efforts on love for God
and souls. This effort in itself can require heroism because
especially at a certain point of success, we tend to get intoxicated
and start to see things differently.

    We have to be wary always of this possibility. And that’s why it’s
also good that we infuse our sense of magnificence with an ever
deepening humility that would lead to do a lot of things while passing
unnoticed and refusing to receive honors and privileges.

    It’s no accident that Christ washed the apostles’ feet before taking
on the grandest act of love by offering his life on the cross.

Friday, October 19, 2012

St. Pedro Calungsod

EVERYONE is called to holiness. Everyone can and should be a saint.
This is perhaps the main message, the good news that the canonization
of the Cebuano Pedro Calungsod is telling us today.

No matter how ordinary and obscure we are, like the new saint who
found himself in faraway Marianas Island working as a catechist and
helper to an equally holy priest, we can and should be a saint.

God is no respecter of persons. He shows no partiality to anyone or
class of persons. He calls everyone to holiness, whether rich or poor,
intelligent or not so, etc. All we need do is to make use of what we
have or are working at the moment, our ordinary daily duties and
chores, to be the vehicle of our sanctification.

In fact, God somehow favors the small and the lowly, the
underprivileged and suffering over the big ones and the mighty who
often are proud and vain in this game of life called sanctification.
Remember the beatitudes?

St. Paul reiterates the idea when he says: “The foolish things of the
world has God chosen, that he may confound the wise. And the weak
things of the world has God chosen, that he may confound the strong.”
(1 Cor 1,27)

And even no matter how sinful we may be, no matter how burdened we may
be with sins, mistakes, weaknesses, etc., as long as we do our part
seeking always the forgiveness of God whose mercy is forever, we can
and should be saints.

Just look at the saints. Many of them were great sinners, starting
with the apostle Peter who denied Christ. Then you have saints like
St. Augustine who even sired a child, St. Magdalene, a woman of
ill-repute, etc. But they repented and were forgiven and became great

There is always hope and likelihood for that, since in the first place
this is the will of God. Christ clearly says it: “Be you therefore
perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Mt 5,48) And St.
Paul seconds: “This is the will of God, your sanctification.” (1 Thes

We have to make this truth a common and constant guiding principle for
us. We should not think to be a saint is such a big deal as to be
reserved only to a few people who happen to have the appropriate
temperament and circumstances. No. To be a saint is our ultimate
common goal, achievable in various ways, ordinary ones more than the

We have to remember that more than us shaping our destiny, it is God
who does it with his omnipotent providence. All we need do is to
cooperate or to correspond to his promptings which is what our human
freedom is all about.

But alas, that is usually our problem. We tend to think our freedom is
absolutely ours alone. We can think it is self-generated by us,
driving God out, when our common sense can easily give the lie to it.

Our freedom simply comes from God. It can only be exercised following
God’s will. It can only be lived properly in God. Contributing to this
mess is the view that there is no God (atheism) or that God takes no
interest in our affairs (agnosticism). He leaves us completely alone.

We need to be clear about this fundamental truth and start to conform
ourselves to it. Thus, we need to take our faith and religion more
seriously. We need to be consistent to them at every moment. The
skills of prayer, meditation, contemplation, offering sacrifices, etc.
should be cultivated.

There may be difficulties, but these are understandable and in fact
should be expected. Christ himself warned us about them. “In the world
you will have affliction. But take courage, I have overcome the
world.” (Jn 16,33)

We should just trust God’s providence and correspond to it as much as
possible. Doing so will surely lead us to a divine adventure that will
always have its highs even if it will also have some low moments. But
definitely, it will be a drama with a happy ending. Evil will never
have the last word.

It’s good to meditate Christ’s words to boost our hope amid trials:
“There is no man who has left house or brethren, or sisters, or
father, or mother...for my sake and for the gospel, who shall not
receive a hundred times as much, now in this time: houses, and
brethren, and sisters...with persecutions, and in the world to come
life everlasting.” (Mk 29-30)

St. Pedro Calungsod lived these words.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Where one is coming from

I NOTICE with some pinch of joy that a good number of opinion-makers
often preface their views with the expression, “Where I am coming
from.” That seems to be the trend now, and it’s welcome. It shows a
certain gesture of fairness, a growth in maturity.

I suppose it is to provide a sense of transparency to those who hear
or read the comments. It’s a way to establish the opinion-makers’
credentials, their bona fides, their competence as well as their bias,
healthy or otherwise, as they frame and articulate their opinions.

In these times of rapid communication in the world of public opinion
where differences and conflicts flow galore, it is good to see some
efforts to maintain a certain level of civility. In this way, our
public discourse can go on smoothly despite the unavoidable

We need to reinforce this requirement as much as possible, since many
now are the elements that can plunge us into chaos and even violence
because of our exchanges. Especially in political discussions where
all sorts of unbelievable spins are made, emotions can easily flare
up, and from there the decline to disorder ensues.

Let’s hope that this little practice of transparency, and the many
other similar ones, continue and become a stable feature of our
journalistic culture. Let’s hope that everybody helps in cultivating
this sense of civility through the refining of ethical principles and
seeing to it that they are followed.

In this regard, I recommend the continuing review and assimilation of
ethical principles by the persons concerned as well as the improvement
of the different codes of ethics governing journalists and
opinion-makers by the pertinent bodies.

We have to understand that this is a continuing process that obviously
will have its moments of confusion, conflicts, errors, etc., but let’s
not get stuck by them. We just have to move on, and support our hope
with practical resolutions, both on the personal and collective

And what is most important to realize in this regard is that we need
to base our pursuit for ethics and morals in this human activity on a
vital and deepening relationship with God. Religion has to enter here.

We just cannot limit ourselves to our own devices. We have to see to
it that these devices are properly inspired by the spirit of God,
which is precisely the spirit of truth and love.

We need to overcome the initial awkwardness, of course. When we say,
“This is where I am coming from,” we have to make sure that what we
mean when we say those words should include first of all and always
our belief and adherence to God.

Otherwise, we would just be presenting ourselves on our own, and yes,
quite naked, without the necessary clothing of God on us. Not even our
best intentions and best efforts can hide the nakedness and can help
the situation.

Without God, we are nothing. It’s as simple as that. Despite our best
intelligence and all that, without God who has given us everything—our
life, our essence, our faculties, our freedom, etc.—we are nothing,
and much less, able to know the truth and practice justice.

And how about those who openly declare themselves as atheists or
non-believers of God? Well, even if they do profess that, they still
have God in them somehow. God is in everything and in everyone for the
sheer reason that he upholds everyone’s and everything’s existence.

That God is ignored or denied by someone does not erase his presence
in him. That person then is still capable of some sense of truth,
justice and love, and therefore worthy also to be heard.

But ideally, what should take place is that everyone who takes his
right to expression seriously should make a deliberate effort to base
his views and ideas on God, the source of all good things—truth,
justice, love, mercy, etc.

Ideally, we should make an effort to deepen our knowledge of God and
his will, knowing also that God actually continues to govern us, and
in fact the whole of creation, through his providence.

We, as image and likeness of God and children of his, need to
cooperate in that providence and take part in the divine adventure
that actually is what our life here on earth is all about. Let’s not
think that we are just on our own here. Our freedom to do anything
does not remove God’s providential designs for us.

So, when we say, “This is where I am coming from,” let’s make sure we
mean God first of all.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Divine paths of the earth

THAT’S an expression coined by St. Josemaria Escriva, the Opus Dei
founder whose 10th anniversary of his canonization was celebrated
recently. It refers to the fact that all human and world affairs, if
seen and handled with faith, can truly become pathways to God.

St. Josemaria was not just indulging in cheap rhetoric when he said
and wrote it. He was convinced God, our Creator and Father, is very
much in the middle of our very existence in all its aspects—personal,
social, economic, political, material, spiritual, etc.—and is just
waiting for us to deal with him.

As corollaries to this, St. Josemaria taught that God is in the little
things of the day—our work, our duties and chores—and in the most
material and mundane things. He liked materializing what was spiritual
and told everyone that unless one finds God in the little things, he
most likely would not find God in the big things.

Another similar expression he used a lot was “passionately loving the
world,” precisely the title of one of his famous homilies. It shows
how he so discerns God’s presence in the things of the world that
loving God is loving the world also, and vice versa.

His faith was such that he was constantly aware of God’s continuing
providence—his governance over the world and the whole of creation—and
he was also continually finding out what role he had to play in that
ever unfolding providence. He always wanted to be in synch with God.

That’s simply because as image and likeness of God and, in fact,
children of his, we are treated the way God treats himself. As someone
said, for us the sky is not the limit. It’s God. God is the limit for

St. Josemaria lived presence of God all the time and was forever
trying to conform his will to the will of God, no matter what it cost.
And so he was no stranger to great sufferings—misunderstandings,
persecutions not only by “bad” people but even by the “good” ones, and
all kinds of privations.

He considered all these as part of the territory, an unavoidable
feature in the life of someone bent in following Christ whose life was
filled with suffering all the way to the cross. He never wavered in
his charity in all these trials.

And so he coined another expression, “at God’s pace,” which served as
some kind of motto of his. He used it to encourage others to be more
mindful of God’s constant invitation to live and work with him. He
referred to such invitation and joint venture as a kind of adventure,
full of great and marvelous expectations, albeit with trials.

Truth is our life is always a life with God, whether we are aware of
it or not, whether we cooperate with him or not. Our relationship with
him is first of all that of the Creator and his creature, and as such,
he is the support of our very existence. Without him, we simply would
cease to exist, we simply would revert to nothing.

It’s a truth that we need to know and understand as soon as we can,
capturing its endless implications, both theoretical and practical.
It’s something that is supposed to shape our life, inspire our
thoughts and desires, leaven our acts.

Being aware of this truth, and more, making it a guiding conviction of
our life, will surely give us a full picture of what our life here on
earth is all about, removing us from a narrow, if not erroneous view
of life. It will give us the basis to be invincibly confident in spite
of the dizzying and sometimes ugly twists and turns of life.

Being aware of it will certainly show us we are meant to love the way
God is love. And that’s because our relationship with God is not just
that of a cold Creator-and-creature thing. It is supposed to be always
warmed up by love.

Our relationship with God is that of a father and a son, the father
loving the son no end, all the way to an endless promise of
forgiveness, while the son, being completely free, can choose to love
the father in return or not.

It’s indeed very important that we learn to see God in everything. In
short, it is to make ourselves real contemplatives in the middle of
the world so that we see that our ordinary affairs are actually divine
paths of the earth.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Our temptations and falls

WE need to know how to handle our temptations and falls. In these
days of massive confusion, many people do not know how to deal with
them such that they fall into all sorts of predicaments that many
times are useless, unnecessary or of little importance, like sadness,
depression and discouragement.

    Temptations and falls are very likely to happen to any of us at any
time. No matter how holy one feels to be, these possibilities are
always around. Christ himself warned us about them, but he also
reassured us not to worry much about them.

    “In the world you will have affliction. But take courage, I have
overcome the world.” (Jn 16,33) I suppose Christ refers here more to
our moral afflictions than to our physical or natural ones.

    St. Paul reiterates the reassurance. “For our present light
affliction, which is for the moment, prepares for us an eternal weight
of glory that is beyond all measure.” (2 Cor 4,17)

    Conclusion, let’s just take it easy when we are tempted or, worse,
when we fall. There is always hope. As long as we do our part also, it
will never be the end the road for us when these things happen. On the
contrary, they can occasion greater developments for us.

    This is how God, our Creator and ever-loving Father, deals with us.
Again, St. Paul expresses this wondrous divine love and mercy for us:
“He that spared not even his own Son, but delivered him up for us all,
how has he not also, with him, given us all things?” (Rom 8,32) Let’s
chew on these words really well!

    Fact is temptations are a normal occurrence. It only shows we are
human, made of body and soul that generates a continual tension that
in turn occasions temptations. This, plus the fact that we have devils
to contend with, and the allurements of the world that has gone astray
due to our own sinfulness also.

    Temptations do not deserve our anger or irritation. In fact, when
they come, we just have to laugh at them, because anger and
irritation, aside from being signs of pride, only facilitate the work
of the devil or the sting of our flesh in us.

    Neither should we be surprised when they come--and in a very intense
way at that—when we try to earnestly lead a holy life, since that is
the usual logic of our wounded flesh and the devil. The closer we are
with God, the wilder they also become.

    Let’s always remember that God is always in control. If temptations
come, it must be because God allows them. And if he allows them, it
must be because something good can be derived from them. He will never
allow temptations to come to us without any purpose, and without
giving us the necessary grace to tackle them.

    Temptations are God’s way of calling us to be with him more closely.
“He who is not with me is against me. He who does not gather with me,
scatters.” (Lk 11,23) These words should always be present in our
mind, so we don’t allow our thinking to stray into purely human
reasoning that can be impressive but lacks this truth from God.

    With respect to our falls and sins, we need to remember that these
too can happen to us. And again let’s remember that no amount of dirt
that a child can have can prevent his mother or father from cleaning

    And in front of God, we are always children, trying to behave well,
but failing to do so from time to time. He will never be scandalized
by our falls. If we react to them well, that is, with humility, we can
make those falls the deeper foundation on which to rebuild our
stronger spiritual edifice.

    Remember again St. Paul saying, “It’s when I am weak that I am
strong.” Saints, following the example and logic of Christ, know how
to convert all forms of human frailty and failures into shining
moments of greatness, leading death to the resurrection.

    To be able to do so, we need to be humble and sincere to accept our
weaknesses and falls, calling them by their names, and asking for
forgiveness always. God always forgives no matter how much we feel we
abuse his goodness.

    So, there’s really no reason to get stuck with sadness, depression,
and must less discouragement. These reactions and states of mind and
soul can be nothing other than expressions of our pride that erodes
our faith and trust in God.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pray more than ever!

THE gospels of these days, termed liturgically as the 27th week in
ordinary time, focus on the theme of prayer. They talk about the need
and requirements, importance and purpose, the nature, ways and effects
of prayer.

The story of the good Samaritan (Lk 11,25-37) tells us we need to care
for our neighbor, that is everyone, for that means we truly believe
and love God, the reasons why we have to pray. That of Martha and Mary
(10,38-42) highlights the priority of prayer over all our other human

That of a disciple asking our Christ to teach them to pray and our
Lord telling them the “Our Father” (11,1-4) illustrates what we have
to say and ask, what attitudes and dispositions we ought to have when
we pray.

That we need to “ask and it will be given to you, search and you will
find, knock and the door will be opened,“ in short, that we have to
insist when we pray (11,5-13), means that effort, sacrifice and
suffering are involved in prayer. We are usually restrained by our
weaknesses and the temptations around.

That discourse on the very astute ways of the devil after our Lord had
just cast out one from a possessed person (11,15-26) shows us the
powerful effect of prayer to cope with the most clever tactics of the
evil one.

That gleeful praise of the woman for the mother of our Lord, prompting
Christ to clarify that “happier still are those who hear the word of
God and keep it” (11,27-28), shows us how prayer is actually hearing
and keeping the word of God. It’s not just mumbling some words.

We need to pray, and at these times, we need to pray more than ever.
Prayer, of course, is our sublime act of worship, of thanksgiving, of
asking for pardon and favors. It is what keeps us spiritually alive,
vitally connected with our Lord, and in a very mysterious way what
keeps us properly linked to everyone else.

What eating, drinking and breathing do to our physical organism, is
what prayer does to our spiritual soul. It animates us, since it
exercises our faith, hope and charity that are the lifeblood of our
soul. Without these theological virtues, we would just get lost in
life, left kaput spiritually and morally.

When we pray, we dispose ourselves to receive the wisdom and power of
God, so important as we cruise through our very confusing world and
contend with the frailties of our flesh, the wiles and temptations of
the devil, the sweet but deadening allurements of the world.

The challenges of the times simply urge us to pray even more. A quick
look around already gives us very sobering thoughts and compelling
appeals for prayer.

Just in one newspaper recently, I read that 350 million people
worldwide suffer from depression. That tells us a lot about the
current world situation. Then another item reported that a third of
adults in the US under 30 openly declare themselves atheists or
agnostics, the highest rate so far, and it seems, as the report says,
growing fast still.

In Rome these days where they are holding a synod of bishops for the
new evangelization, the initial reports about the spiritual and moral
situation of the different parts of the world paint a very bad, ugly
picture, posing a formidable challenge to tackle.

In the local scene, with the election fever descending on us like a
virus, we once again see the muddling of the air, with political
operators throwing intrigues at each other, generating all sorts of
spins including the most ridiculous ones, as if to show there is
little difference between them and the mad dogs.

In the face of all these, we really have no other alternative but to
pray even more. Prayer will keep us human, taking us away from the
drop to brute animality. More importantly, it will keep our faith,
hope and love burning in spite of all contradictions and darkening

It helps us to be more prudent in our thoughts, words and deeds. It
will make us more understanding towards others, quick to forgive and
forget, and to reconcile rather than rut in anguish and hate.

We need to actively promote the culture of prayer, telling everyone
why we need it and how it can be done in the most varied and
accessible ways. Most of the prejudices and misconceptions about
prayer arise from the ignorance regarding prayer’s true nature and
role in our life. This has to be corrected.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Making God alive

GOD, of course, has been around. An understatement. He has been around
since eternity. But in our human world, He needs to be made alive,
because as image and likeness of God, we happen to have the capacity
to shut him off or shut him up. Yes, that’s the sad and painful

Remember that late 19th-century German philosopher, Friedrich
Nietzche, who popularized the brash idea that God is dead? Many now
are the disciples of that thinking, both overt and covert, dominant
and recessive. In fact, the world today is sinking in an ocean of
aggressive atheistic or at least agnostic ethos.

That’s why the Church has been cogitating deeply on how to face this
challenge. For this purpose, the Pope recently opened a synod of
bishops dedicated to the task of the new evangelization, a real tough
nut to crack. He also declared a Year of Faith.

These are some initiatives at the top level, but I suppose a lot more
need to be done. The idea has to trickle down to all the lower levels.
Let’s just hope, pray and work that it percolates organically and

The problem with how to make God alive among ourselves today centers
on how to make our preachers and evangelizers—from the clergy down to
the religious and committed lay faithful—credible.

That’s really a tall order. With all the scandals besmirching our
ecclesiastics nowadays, even the most basic requirement for
credibility is already blown away. This is not to mention the fact
that many of these official preachers have spotty doctrinal orthodoxy.
We really need a first-class miracle here.

The world today is so deep into worldly wisdom, what with all the
technologies and sciences developed, that it can easily detect whether
our preachers and evangelizers are just smart and clever worldlings
like themselves or are something else who bring some mysterious, if
not sacred message, that’s worth listening to.

Of course, the sector of the uninitiated, unchurched, ignorant and
confused, not to mention, the polluted and corrupted, those already
immunized from religion, is vast and extensive, and is growing fast.
How to contain it, and more, how to convert and transform it requires
nothing less than a till-death face-off.

Now is the time to rouse from complacency, and regardless of how
inadequate we may feel or how burdened and shackled we are with other
side issues, we have no alternative but to rise to the challenge, and
do what a state of war would require of us. As they say, all is fair
in love and in war.

This, I believe, is the martyrdom expected and in fact required of us
in these times. We have to remember that martyrdom, the cross,
suffering have always been a necessary ingredient in our lives here in
this world. We cannot prosper and develop, in the strictest sense of
these terms, without them.

We have to be prepared for this martyrdom. It has never disappeared
from Church life. And for this, not only should we be doctrinally
well-grounded, already a tough proposition. What is more important is
that we should be spiritually healthy and vibrant, and to keep it that
way all the time.

And mind you, that is always possible because unlike in our physical
and material life, our spiritual life has no limits and in fact has
the capacity to receive God’s grace that makes things always new and
us always young. Our spiritual life has the capacity to transcend our
very limited earthly conditions.

That’s what is called in philosophy as the obediential potency of our
spiritual soul. Our soul has the capacity to be raised to the
supernatural order. But things also depend on us. And so we just have
to constantly look for ways to “keep the music playing,” as one love
song would put it, amid the vagaries of life.

In the opening of that synod of bishops for the new evangelization
called by the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI mentioned two themes that
need to be thoroughly discussed: the passion for announcing Christ to
the world and the knowledge that God acts in the Church.

These themes, I think, are crucial given the temper of the times. To
proclaim Christ, his words and deeds, his presence and guidance,
should be a dominant passion in our preachers and evangelizers. This
has to be done with gift of tongues supported by credible lifestyle.

The conviction that God acts in the Church should also be reiterated
to reassure everyone that we as preachers and evangelizers are not
just acting on our own.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Work sanctified sanctifies

ONE of the first things I learned from St. Josemaria Escriva, the Opus
Dei founder whose 10th anniversary of his canonization was celebrated
recently, was that work that is sanctified by a person sanctifies him.
This was many, many years ago.

It was actually an eye-opener for me, a kind of game-changer. I
thought work was just any kind of work that had to be disposed of as
best and as soon as one could, and there was not much to it. What St.
Josemaria taught me was that work has tremendous sanctifying powers.

Work, any kind of work as long as it is honest and not sinful, can
relate us to God and to others. We are not meant to be by ourselves.
We have been made to be with God and with others. And while we can do
that through our intentions, we attain that goal more perfectly with
our work.

It can bring us to heaven. It can make us a better person. It’s not
just something mechanical, since it has a profound spiritual
significance that can enable us, with God’s grace, to be raised to the
supernatural order, which our Christian faith teaches we are meant

All this because first of all work is part of our human nature. It is
what God has given us. “Man is born to labor and the bird to fly.”
(Job 5,7) The difference between our human work and the bird’s
capacity to fly is that ours is done knowingly and freely if not
lovingly, while the bird flies by instinct alone.

Our work in its objectivity connects us deeply with God and with
others. It is a major component of our nature that is supposed to be
the image and likeness of God. In other words, it is our work that
makes us resemble God to a certain extent.

Our work is how our relation with God and with others is developed. It
is not meant only to serve our own personal goals. The birds, when
they fly, do so out of instinct, out of self-preservation and
interest. And that’s because they are not capable of knowing and
loving. When we work, we necessarily relate ourselves to God and

Even more, we can say that our work has the possibility of being part
of the abiding providence of God over us. No matter how small and
ordinary it is, if we go more deeply into the theology of work, we
can’t help but arrive at the conclusion that our work can also be part
of God’s continuing governance over the world.

Still, given our wounded human condition, we can distort and overturn
the objective design God has for us. And instead of doing our work as
a way to relate ourselves to God and others, we can do it just for our
own selfish purposes, thereby converting our work as an occasion for

This is where we need to be reminded as often as possible to sanctify
our work. That simply means that we need to offer our work to God and
others. That is what sanctifying one’s work means. It is when we offer
it to God and others with a pure heart.

Sanctifying our work or offering it to God and others converts our
work from something merely mechanical and human to something spiritual
with great supernatural possibilities. Even a very lowly work from the
human point of view, like washing dishes or sweeping the floor, when
offered to God acquires these spiritual and supernatural qualities.

And the immediate effect of this is that one gets to be sanctified
himself, that is, he is made a better person, becomes more and more
like God in terms of goodness and love, develops more virtues, becomes
more thoughtful and caring, etc.

We just have to be clear about the proper attitude. For us to sanctify
our work and to be sanctified by it, we have to offer it to God. We
should be careful not to work only for purely human and natural
motives, no matter how good and legitimate they are.

We have to say this because very often we get contented with abiding
by merely human and natural considerations for work, like efficiency,
effectiveness, self-development, even philanthropy, social concern,
justice, etc. These should come as consequences of our love for God as
motive for working, not the goals themselves.

In our current culture, we have to be wary of the tendency for
“professionalitis” and workaholism that empty our work of its
sanctifying potentials.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Revisiting marriage

    “WHAT God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Mk 10,10) We
have just been reminded of the bibilical basis for the indissolubility
of marriage recently.

    With all the forces and elements now undermining the true nature and
purpose of marriage, there is an urgent need to clarify and show the
real face and beauty of this human, natural as well as supernatural

    Countries and nations, supposedly developed and quite rich, are now
legalizing forms of marriage that really have nothing to do with
marriage. Same-sex unions, divorce, civil marriages among Catholic,
temporary unions and cohabitations are not only spreading but are also
getting legalized.

    The consolation so far is that they have not gone as far as to outlaw
marriage as traditionally understood and as a sacrament. But if we are
not careful, who knows what can happen in the near future?

    If they can legalize abortion, not to mention, contraception, there
is reason to suspect these distortions of marriage can also be
legalized sooner or later. So, we really have to keep close watch on
the RH Bill, because the bad spirit behind it is the same one that
animates all these disturbing developments involving marriage.

    In fact, someone just told me the Philippines is under heavy pressure
now because we seem to be the only country in the world that has not
legalized divorce yet. And there’s a bill already filed in Congress
seeking to legalize divorce.

    There are those who are quite convinced, and wrongly convinced, if I
may say, that marital problems can be solved by legalizing divorce. We
need to talk a lot about this issue.

    The statistics on the ground seem to favor divorce. Of 10 Catholic
couples, a friend told me, 4 are married in Church, 3 are civilly
married and 3 are simply cohabiting. That’s, of course, a big problem.
But it’s actually a challenge to face that requires more concerted and
comprehensive efforts from those concerned.

    We are contending with a world culture that has lost the capacity to
think deeply and thoroughly. It’s an ethos that is held captive by the
quick and easy way of thinking and reacting, dominated mainly by
worldly values like convenience, practicality, popularity, etc.

    The full and global picture of who and what we are is ignored if not
ridiculed. This, of course, determines our proper attitude and praxis
about marriage and the other institutions related to it—family,

    The spiritual and supernatural dimension of man is set aside. Instead
only the material and social aspects are considered. The dynamism of
today’s world, now heavily dependent on new technologies, has made
people to be less thinking and just to be more practical, if not more
self-absorbed and self-seeking.

    The objective, fundamental laws of our life, as written in our nature
and as given by God our Creator, are often glossed over. In their
stead are our mere estimations of things that simply come from purely
human criteria arrived at through certain consensus.

    In the effort to correct this anomaly, we need to learn how to
explain, with gift of tongues, the biblical basis of marriage,
connecting it with what our own reason can actually and easily

    Our problem now is that many people consider the Bible as remote, if
not completely irrelevant and just a trouble-maker. We have to correct
that by making an effort to meditate more deeply on God’s word,
knowing that it is a living word that will never become obsolete, but
rather will always be relevant to us in our varied situations.

    As Pope Benedict’s Verbum Domini puts it, we have to ask: What does
the Bible say about a particular issue, what is it saying to me now,
what is it trying to say to all of us now?

    From there, we can use all the human sciences and knowledge to
explain why marriage is between one man and one woman, why it is
indissoluble until death, why spouses have to live chastity just like
anybody else but according to one’s state in life?

    We have to explain why healthy marriages lead to healthy families
that in turn lead to healthy societies and a healthy world.

    I’m happy to know that certain groups are into busy advocacy for
healthy marriages. I can cite the Beyond-I-do group as one of them.
May more groups of this type come out.

    There’s a great need for them, even if the demand may still not be
felt. But with the challenges of the times, I’m sure many people will
realize the value of these groups.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

The folly of relativism

I WONDER if people in general are aware of the folly of relativism.
They may not even be aware of relativism itself, the menace we have
been warned about quite strongly since the pontificate of John Paul II
and now of Benedict XVI.

In spite of its dominant presence in the world today, I believe people
are still ignorant of it and therefore clueless as to what to do about
it. They seem unable to point what’s wrong. The anomaly has become so
widespread it seems it has become normal.

Its effects are actually all over. Abortion is now legalized in many
rich and supposedly developed countries. Divorce is, of course,
already a non-issue in many places. Contraception is also a given.

Marriage is now deformed and defaced in many ways as more and more
people and societies are approving same-sex unions and are even open
to have national leaders, let alone leaders of less stature, whose
marital status is clearly irregular.

There is now a growing sector of people who believe they should just
be left alone on practically whatever they like to do, including
infidelity, pornography, gossips, slanders, etc., as long as they
don’t cause public trouble.

All these are manifestations of a relativistic culture engulfing the
world today. It’s a mindset and attitude that is based on the belief
that everything is relative, nothing is absolute.

Everything is relative to one’s preferences or at worst the consensus
of the people. Relativism makes us in the great variety of our
situations and predicaments as the ultimate arbiter of what’s good and
bad, what right and wrong. It’s not God anymore.

Or, another way of looking at it is that we make ourselves our own
God. What’s right and wrong simply depend on us. They can be a
negotiable affair, a matter of consensus. There can be no intrinsic
good or evil applicable to everyone in all places at all times.

This is a very terrible predicament because in the DNA of relativism
is the inherent weakness that unavoidably would lead us to
subjectivism, disunity, fragmentation, conflicts. Everyone would be
left to his own preferences, often a result of feelings and other
conditionings. Differences and conflicts become inevitable.

And to resolve or soften the impact of these unavoidable consequences,
there can be no other recourse than to violence and even anarchy, or
to a drift toward totalitarianism.

It’s ironic to note that relativism is often invoked as the soul of
democracy. It gives the illusion that with it, people are respected
for what they are. It’s a very tempting idea but detached from the
fact that we are not our own being, but rather creatures of a Creator,

And so a democracy that upholds this rotten spirit and does away with
a transcendent God will be a democracy that will not be guided by an
absolute law that comes from God. It will be a democracy that will
surely contradict itself and plunge sooner or later to totalitarianism
to keep itself above water.

That’s because that democracy will not anymore work for the common
good, but rather for the good only of its stronger part, or the
majority, and not all, of its people. But as an aside, we can still
say that of all forms of government, democracy is still the best
because “it ensures the participation of citizens in political options
and guarantees them the possibility both of electing and controlling
their rulers,” John Paul II said.

As to why relativism is attractive to many people, we can posit the
idea that it appears respectful of the views and opinions of people.
The problem is that many people have lost the sense of the absolute,
have hardly any serious life of religion, and that’s why everything
seems to be matter of opinion only.

There are also those, more intellectually gifted and convinced about
relativism, who claim that if God exists then he is a God who is
constantly evolving because a God who is not dynamic cannot be God.

The flaw with this reasoning is that they equate the perpetual
dynamism of God with the process of evolution. But God, if he has to
be God, cannot anymore evolve even if he is also in constant dynamism.
That thought contradicts the very essence of God.

This is, of course, a mystery to us, due to the limitation of our
reasoning. But we cannot deny that if God is God, then he is both
stably perfect and dynamically acting. His action does not imply
change in him.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Good and bad poverty

IT’S important that we know there is good and bad poverty. At the
moment, it seems people know more about the bad one, the one that
demeans us as persons. There’s hunger, ignorance, inhuman conditions
that rightly need to be fought if not eliminated.

But while that concern is just perfectly fine, we should not forget
that it’s even more important to know and live the good type, because
it is truly necessary for us.

Our problem is that we seem to be exclusively concerned about bad
poverty and we appear completely clueless about the good one. We have
to exert deliberate effort to correct this anomaly.

The good poverty can be gleaned from one of the beatitudes. “Blessed
are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 5,3)
I’m sure many of us are familiar with these divine message, but I
wonder whether we take it seriously, aware of its practical
implications and really eager to attain the goal it is inviting us to

This good poverty is meant for all of us, and not just for some who
happen to be more religiously inclined. This is one of the first
battle grounds we need to win to have a proper understanding and
attitude toward this virtue.

The current world mindset seems to confine good poverty to convents
and monasteries. It does not allow this good poverty to breathe in
open air, in the middle of the world. It practically inflicts a stigma
on this kind of poverty. It paints it black and ugly.

And yet, hardly anything is farther than the truth. The good,
Christian poverty enhances our humanity. It frees us from unnecessary
and bad albeit sweet worldly allurements that separate us from our
true and ultimate source of joy and freedom, God.

Especially these days when the world is awash with the effects of
materialism and commercialism, this good and Christian poverty is
becoming an urgent necessity. We have to find ways to show its
authentic beauty and value that should attract all of us.

We can use the new technologies to do that, explaining its true nature
and our objective need for it. We have to wipe away the smudges of
misinformation about it that have hounded it for long.

Christian poverty is actually a happy poverty. While it involves some
self-denial and sacrifice, it on the whole and from beginning to end
is a very positive element in our life.

With it we free our soul, the very seat of our identity and the
linking point between God and us, from any obstacle that would impede
our relation with God and with others. With our wounded human
condition, we tend to have material and temporal concerns dominate our
soul, desensitizing it from its true source and end.

That’s why Christian poverty is not so much about poverty in material
terms as in poverty of spirit. It does not keep a negative attitude
toward material things, but rather considers them always in relation
to our duty towards God and others.

And so Christian poverty can be and in fact, should be lived even in
the midst of material prosperity. It is not averse to earthly wealth
as long as this wealth is taken as means in our total self-giving to
God and to others.

Thus one should not be afraid to be a millionaire or a billionaire as
long as he is detached from earthly things and his is heart to totally
given to God and others. Christian poverty is compatible with good
taste, good grooming and certain level of human comfort.

It is also open to any situation. As St. Paul said: “I know both how
to be brought low, and I know how to abound; both to be full, and to
be hungry; both to abound and to suffer need.” (Phil 4,12)

This is, of course, easier said than done, and so Christian poverty
demands of us constant struggle. We need to continually examine our
conscience, rectify our intentions, increasingly get involved in the
lives of others, always promoting religion and social justice.

This is the only way this Christian poverty can be lived regardless of
the situation. We have to see to it that everyday nothing earthly or
material or temporal detains us from keeping a lively relation of love
with God and others.

If we remain simple, humble and honest, it should not be difficult to
see if indeed such is our condition in any given day. The end effect
should be joy and an exquisite sense of freedom.

Dealing with kids

AS the new chaplain of a school for boys from Grade 1 to senior high,
I get to deal with boys as they grow from kidhood to adolescence. I
find it gratifying just to see their fast-paced development and

    There was even a time when I went out of town for a week, and when I
came back I had the impression the little ones grew an inch taller or
some pounds heavier. That’s how fast they change.

    Of late, I’ve been the doing the rounds of giving religion classes as
guest lecturer to each section. They have their regular teachers. It’s
a way for me to get a feel of how each class is and to see as much as
possible the different peculiarities of the individual students, etc.
And mind you, the variety can be mind-boggling.

    Most importantly, I get to know what lessons they are having. Since
this is my first priestly assignment in a boys’ school—I’ve been
exposed more to mature men and women and college students—I am not yet
familiar with their curriculum. In fact, I am not very familiar with a
boys’ school environment.

    What I immediately see is the need to enter into a friendly
relationship with each one of the students as much as possible. I’m
already a senior citizen. There are both advantages and disadvantages
to that.

    The boys don’t see me as their buddy, but I get the impression that
they treat me more like their grandfather. So I just have to squeeze
as much advantage as I can out of that situation. So far, I think I am
succeeding well.

    The primary school students don’t offer much challenge. They just
like to rush to me, to kiss my hand and expect a blessing from me.
They do this everytime I pass by their classrooms, and so I have to
tell them that they can do that only once a day, not many times. But
they often forget.
    The interesting challenge starts with the intermediate students. Here
you can already find boys having some little crises of identity, of
how to handle their energies, their mistakes and falls, and of course
their accomplishments and successes, etc.

    This to me is crucial because very often they fall into unnecessary
predicaments, more on the emotional and psychological aspects, just
because of problems and issues that are not really important.

    While the ideal is to help them develop a delicate and correct
conscience, the challenge is how to help them avoid developing a
scrupulous conscience on the one hand, or the other extreme, the lax
conscience, on the other.

    But first I have to win their confidence. What helps here is to make
myself always visible, and of course very friendly and welcoming. In
this regard, I have to adapt to their mentality and ways which
requires a lot of patience and understanding. I have to restrain my
tendency to be very assertive, and try to listen and to give

    They need to feel they are always understood and that no amount of
ugly things can scandalize me. They have to be encouraged to be open
and sincere, to avoid hiding things out of shame or fear. They have to
be reassured that there is always a solution to their problems.

    They tend to be simplistic in their vision of things and ironically
to easily fall into complicated and twisted reasoning. That plus their
instability typical of their condition often lead them to exaggerate
their problems to which they react either by getting depressed and to
clam up or by getting wild and rebellious.

    My experience is that boys do cry, even if they look tough on the
outside and have gained the reputation of being bad. They actually
have a big heart, yet untapped. And once that heart is touched, they
are capable of being driven in pursuit of high ideals. O, what
magnificent possibilities they actually possess!

    How important therefore it is to stay close to them and to help them
develop the sense that they need some intimate spiritual direction!
Their mistakes and falls are actually occasions for them to get closer
to God, to ask for more grace, to develop the appropriate virtues.
Errors can be turned into a very positive element in their lives.

    They need to feel that God is always a father who understands them
always, and who loves them no matter what. Once they see that and get
convinced by that, then they can unleash their energies that are still
in the pure and virginal state.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


THERE used to be some kind of fad on angels before. This was some
years ago when all of a sudden a lot people took interest in these
spiritual beings. Even the media reflected this phenomenon by
publishing pictures and articles about them.

But now, it seems this fondness has evaporated. And if there happens
to be some mention in the media about these spiritual beings, it
usually has something to do with some people’s encounters with
so-called “ghosts” or paranormal experiences that cannot be clearly

But angels really do exist. They are not myths, figments of our
piously fertile imagination. They are pure spirits, and that’s why
they cannot be perceived normally through the senses. We know them
more by faith and the devotion arising from that faith.

Our Catechism, for example, tells us that “the existence of the
spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls
‘angels’ is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as
the unanimity of Tradition.” (328)

Thus, the Catechism continues, we have abundant references to them in
the Bible. “They closed the earthly paradise; protected Lot; saved
Hagar and her child; stayed Abraham’s hand; communicated the law by
their ministry; led the People of God; announced births and callings;
and assisted the prophets.” (332)

“Finally, the angel Gabriel announced the birth of the Precursor and
that of Jesus himself.” (332) An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream
to tell him the real story about Mary’s pregnancy. An angel comforted
Christ after being tempted by the devil.

Our intelligence, of course, can somehow discern them. If we too have
something spiritual, precisely because of our capacity to think, know,
judge, reason, love, etc., thereby making us persons and not just
things, there must be beings too that are pure spirits, unlike us
whose spirit is integrated with our body.

Being pure spirit, angels live and operate in ways very different from
ours. They are created directly from God, unlike us whose life depends
both on God and on our parents.

And upon creation, angels immediately have to make the choice, being
free beings like us, between wanting to be with God or against God.
This is the peculiar property of spiritual beings. We, on the other
hand, make this choice in our whole lifetime.

But for angels, they make this choice upon creation, and their choice
determines their status as good or bad angels permanently. They don’t
change midway. In our case, we can change status many times in our
lifetime. And our choice becomes definitive only at death.

It’s good that we strengthen our faith in the angels and develop the
appropriate devotion to them. In fact, it would really be good if we
can spread this devotion more widely, because it would be a pity, a
real waste of precious resource, if we ignore them.

We are told that angels do nothing other than to serve in “the
accomplishment of the divine plan.” They serve the Church as well. “In
her liturgy, the Church joins with the angels to adore the thrice-holy
God. She invokes their assistance.” (335)

More, “from its beginning until death, human life is surrounded by
their watchful care and intercession. Beside each believer stands an
angel as protector and shepherd leading him to life. Already here on
earth, the Christian life shares by faith in the blessed company of
angels and men united in God.” (336)

Many saints have very interesting personal testimonies about angels.
St. Josemaria Escriva, for example, believed it was his guardian angel
who saved him when he was suddenly attacked on the road by a madman.

A stranger just came to his rescue and told him something that St.
Josemaria was telling to himself in private. “How are you, donkey with
sores?” In those years, St. Josemaria called himself “donkey with
sores” as some kind of ejaculatory prayer. He never told anyone about
this very private practice of his.

Our guardian angels can act as our security guard, our errand boy, a
finder of lost items, a memory guide, etc. A friend of mine once told
me that in a trip to Hongkong by boat, he arrived with his sick mother
at the port when a heavy downpour took place.

There were many passengers trying to get a taxi. Since he could not
get a taxi because of the competition and his mother was getting
tired, he prayed to his guardian angel, asking for a taxi. And behold,
in a few minutes, an empty taxi just stopped in front of him.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Love unites and builds

“WHOEVER is not against you is for you.” (Lk 9,50) What wonderful
words coming from the lips of Christ! He wants us to be broad-minded,
not narrow-minded, tolerant, not intolerant. He wants us to seek first
what unites us, rather than get entangled with what divides us.

With these words, Christ wants us to live the whole array of virtues
that organically flow from true charit: magnanimity, mercy, positive
and constructive outlook, optimism and affability, tact and decorum,
patience and self-restraint, discretion and good sense of timing, etc.

We have to learn how to discipline our mind and tongue. Remember what
St. James said: “The tongue no man can tame, an unquiet evil, full of
deadly poison. By it we bless God and the Father. And by it we curse
men, who are made after the likeness of God...My brethren, these
things ought not to be so.” (3,8-10)

Yes, we may be discriminating in our views in the sense that we should
try to give our best ideas when reacting to any issue or situation.
But we should never be discriminatory in the sense that we look down
on those views we consider to be inferior or different from ours.

True charity does not blind us to what is really wrong, immoral or
imprudent. It does not lead us to an anything-goes and anarchic world.
But it knows how to handle these situations properly, following the
principle of “fortiter in re, suaviter in modo.” It knows how and
where to be strict, and how and where to be lenient.

St. Paul has these pertinent beautiful words: “Charity is patient, is
kind. Charity envies not, deals not perversely, is not puffed up. It’s
not ambitious, seeks not her own, is not provoked to anger, thinks no
evil. It rejoices not in iniquity, but rejoices with the truth. It
bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all
things.” (1 Cor 13, 4-7)

We have to be wary of our tendency to fall into self-righteousness and
bitter zeal, the usual diseases of the so-called brilliant people or
those endowed with special talents and other natural gifts.
They—we—are prone to pride and vanity that lead us to these sweet but
toxic predicaments.

These questionable attitudes usually show themselves when we tend to
have the last word always, when we want other people to always defer
to our opinions, when we fail to consult others before making
decisions, when we feel we are superior to others, etc. We should
immediately shoot down any spark of these attitudes as soon as they

Humility is a must, because humility is the truth, as one saint put
it. It leads us to be objective and fair in our judgments and dealings
with others. It vitally connects us wih God always, the source of all
good things.

Especially in our days when our relationships are often marked by
differences and even conflicts of opinions, we need to be truly humble
to be able to hold our horses and conduct our exchanges in a truly
human and Christian way. Otherwise, we would just go ballistic.

We also need to understand that our differences and conflicts in views
and positions regarding many issues are not necessarily bad or
negative developments. They can be good, because they are really part
of our human condition. We are meant to have different views of

Imagine if we have a uniform or monochrome world! What a bore it would
be! What impoverished vision of things we would have!

In a way, it’s good to stimulate these differences even. These
differences and conflicts foster greater understanding of things,
detaching us from our own little world and narrow mindset to lead us
to the bigger, more universal picture. Indeed, they can be our good
and necessary teachers in life. They can broaden our mind and heart.

We therefore need to see to it that we are truly anchored on Christ,
on his teaching and example, as also shown in the lives of saints.
It’s only in that condition that we can manage, with God’s grace, to
have that love for others that truly unites and builds, rather than
divides and destroys.

Of course, we have to understand that this Christian way can involve a
lot of suffering, as in being misunderstood, persecuted, ridiculed,
mocked and insulted, ostracized and branded. We have to be ready for
these possibilities. And so it is good not to be too sensitive and to
learn how to be sport always.

Fortitude is another requirement in this game of our earthly life.