Monday, October 31, 2016

Death does not have the last word

NO, death definitely does not have the last word. It’s
life, everlasting life with God in heaven, or God forbid, eternal
condemnation in hell. Neither are pain and suffering the main
ingredient or the ultimate goal of our earthly life. It’s joy, peace,
victory, success, offered to us by Christ himself, our savior.

            We need to be clear about these fundamental truths, so we
be guided properly in our life, making the right choices, since our
life is also not a matter of fate or luck, but rather of choice, first
that of God who chooses to love us in spite of whatever, and that of
ours. But we have to learn to choose properly.

            Whatever situation we may find ourselves in, including the
worst scenarios possible to our human, earthly condition, we can
always manage to find joy and peace if we allow ourselves to be guided
by our Christian faith, rather than by our human estimation of things

            We have to look at death from the point of view of faith.
This gives us the ultimate measure of reality. Objectivity is not only
matter of the senses nor of the intellect. We cannot simply rely on
our feelings, our hunches, our reasoning. We have to use our faith,
which our Lord in the first place gives us abundantly.

            That faith tells us that we actually do not die, because
even if our bodily organism dies and disintegrates, there is something
in us, our spiritual soul, that simply cannot die. That´s the very
nature of things spiritual. They are beyond the wear and tear of this

            But it can suffer the so-called spiritual death, or the
second death, when it fails to get sustained by its ultimate proper
source of life who is God. The life of our soul is not just made up of
our ideas, plans and desires. These hardly survive the physical death.
Its real life-source is God.

            This is a point we need to be clear about. Our soul is not
the vegetative or the animal type that animates the living plants and
animals. Such life-giving soul dies and disappears together with the
death and decay of the plants and animals.

            Not so with our human soul. Ours is a spiritual soul that,
while distinct from the Spirit of God, nonetheless participates in
that Spirit. It is meant to be with the Spirit. And it´s the
separation from the Spirit, which we can freely do, that spells its
death or at least puts it in jeopardy.

            That is why our soul somehow feels a longing for God, as
expressed beautifully by St. Augustine once when he said: ¨My Lord, my
soul is restless until it rests in you.¨ There is a nostalgia for God
and things spiritual and supernatural, which we can also misinterpret
and misdirect, ending in some superstition. That´s because our soul
has God as its true home.

            We need to know the true nature and purpose of our soul.
While a lot of theories, ideologies and creeds can offer a variety of
ideas about this topic, we need to attend to this issue, because it´s
basic, it is what gives over-all meaning and direction to our life.

            We just have to wade through the many aspects involved in
this process. But it´s all worthwhile. And while we are at this stage,
we should not forget that a great source of enlightenment in this
regard is our Christian faith.

            There we are told that the very substance of our soul´s
life is love, the one that defines God himself (Deus caritas est, St.
John says in his letter) and fully manifested, made available and
freely given to us by Christ. For us who claim to be Christians, we
should not ignore the relevant doctrine and praxis taught by Christ
and now handed down by the Church.

            We have to bridge the gap between the faith we officially
profess and the life we actually live. It´s amazing that at this age
of supposedly dramatic progress in technology and knowledge, this
anomaly between faith and life not only continues but is actually

            We have to take our faith more seriously, and discover the
many happy, liberating truths about ourselves that can help us derive
good from the evil in this world, and eternal life with God from our
death. We have to free ourselves from the confinement of a
sense-and-reason-based worldview.

            Remember Christ saying: “Unless a grain of wheat falls
into the earth and dies, it remains alone. But if it dies, it bears
much fruit.” (Jn 12,24)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Beyond oneself

AS priest who spend a lot of time talking and listening to
people, especially in confession and spiritual direction, I try to be
most careful in seeing whether a person is too engrossed with his own
self, whether it be about his successes or about his own weaknesses,
limitations and sins.

            That would not be very healthy. It certainly is no way for
him to grow spiritually and otherwise. It can simply mean that he is
self-centered, stung with the perfectionist bee, or that he does not
want to experience any suffering, and that he is confining himself to
his own world.

            This would contrast with the attitude of Christ. As St.
Paul put it: “Though he was in the form of God, Jesus did not count
equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied imself, taking
the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being
found in human form he humbled himself, and became obedient unto
death, even death on a cross.” (Phi 2,5-8)

            I believe that our development depends on how we relate
ourselves with the others, and ultimately with God. This is what love
is all about, which is what we are meant for, and for which we are
actually equipped and showered with God's abundant graces. Thus, we
need to be weaned from an exaggerated concern about oneself.

            I also observe that persons who are too engrossed with
their own selves find it hard to move on, to go to the next level. If
they get stuck with with successes and victories, they tend to get
complacent and vain. If they get too affected by their failures, they
find it hard to forget what needs to be forgotten and to forgive
themselves and the others. They get fouled up in their growth and
become narrow-minded.

            I believe that at bottom the reason for this phenomenon
could either be ignorance or pride. There is also the possibility of a
deformed conscience that finds it hard to realize that it is ignorant
or proud or complacent.

            We need to overcome this subtle predicament which can
deceptively present itself as a good concern for one's own spiritual
life. Let's remember that the devil is always very clever, and his
lies can be very convincing. We cannot be naive. Thus, Christ wants us
not only to be “innocent like doves” but also “shrewd as serpents.”

            The truth is we are meant to think and to reach out to
others as far as we can get. We need to remind ourselves vividly of
Christ's marching order to his disciples before we ascended into
heaven. “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing
them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I commanded you...” (Mt 28,19-20)

            Whatever personal items we have, whether it be good or
bad, successes or failures, etc., should be viewed, understood,
pursued and resolved in the context of our relation with God and with
everybody else.

            This is the only way we can be on track toward our human
and Christian maturity. We need to develop a deeply missionary
attitude and lifestyle. We have to make some drastic updating of our
understanding of what a missionary is. We should not get stuck with
the common, textbook idea that a missionary is usually a priest or nun
who goes to a far-away place, and literally starts a settlement there.

            While this concept of a missionary is still valid—it will
always be—it now cries to be expanded to reflect its true character,
especially given today’s fast-moving and more complicated world.

            We have to understand that everyone, by virtue of his
sheer humanity and much more, his Christianity, is called to be a
missionary, and that he does not need to go to distant lands because
his immediate environment already needs a more effective,
down-to-earth evangelization.

            Yes, even the ordinary guy in an office, the farmer, the
businessman, the politician, the entertainers, artists and athletes,
are called to be missionaries. That’s simply because as persons with a
prominently social dimension in our life, we have to be responsible
for one another.

            It's for this reason that I usually encourage people to
forget about themselves, not to worry so much about their personal
mistakes and difficulties. Just focus on reaching out to others and to
God, especially, and things will just fall into place.

            That's also why I encourage them to have a sporty attitude
in life. As long as we play our game the best way we can, we always
win, even if humanly speaking, we lose.

Friday, October 28, 2016

We are assured of divine mercy

ZACCHAUES is a gospel character whose beautiful story (Lk
19,1-10) endears him to many of us. He actually typifies us who like
him also have our own defects and sins, and yet in spite of those,
continue to hold a deep admiration and love for God.

            Our sinfulness, defects and errors should not separate us
from God. If anything at all, they should bring us closer to him,
assured that God’s mercy will never be lacking.

            These two realities about our sinfulness and God’s mercy
always should go together. We should always strengthen our conviction
about the helpful relationship these two should have with each other
in our life.

            Whenever we feel the sting of our weaknesses and
sinfulness, together with their antecedents and consequences, their
causes and effects, let’s never forget to consider also God’s mercy
that is always given to us, and, in fact, given to us abundantly.

            What we have to avoid is to get stuck with one while
ignoring the other. Our sinfulness should be viewed in the context of
divine mercy. And vice-versa: God’s mercy should be regarded in the
context of our unavoidable sinfulness.

            And from there, let us develop the unshakable conviction
that no matter what sins we commit, no matter how ugly they are, there
is always hope. God’s mercy can take on anything.

            Let’s strengthen our conviction that Christ has a special
attraction to sinners, that he is ever willing to forgive us as long
as we show some signs of repentance that he himself, through his
grace, will stir in us.

            Let’s play the part of Peter who, after denying Christ
three times, realized his mistake and wept bitterly in repentance.
Christ looked kindly on him and forgave him and even made him the
prince of the apostles.

            Let’s avoid playing the part of Cain and Judas who, after
committing their crimes, ran away instead of going back to God
repentant. Of course, in saying this, I am not at all judging that
they are in hell. That judgment belongs to God alone.

            We just have to make sure that we do not get spoiled by
God abundant mercy, because even if his love and mercy is eternal, his
justice is never sacrificed. His mercy and justice always go together,
in proportions, if we have to speak in human terms, that are just

            That divine justice unleashes its power precisely when
with all the infinite goodness of God, we fail to return good with
good, love with love. Instead, we allow ourselves to get spoiled.

            Let’s not forget that getting spoiled is a human choice.
It’s not part of God’s plan and will for us. But since our freedom is
a real freedom, and not just an imitation, we also have the power to
return good with evil, love with hatred.

            It’s important therefore that we realize very deeply that
our true freedom is when it is lived with God, not outside of him. It
is lived when, instead of fleeing from him like a fugitive when we
commit sin, we go to him to ask for forgiveness and change our life.

            Let us also hope that God’s mercy would rub off on us too.
We have to learn to be forgiving, because Christ clearly told us that
it is when we forgive others that we ourselves can also be forgiven.

            “If you will forgive men their offences, your heavenly Father will
forgive you also your offences. But if you will not forgive men,
neither will your Father forgive you your offences.” (Mt 6,14-15)

            We have to be clear that his injunction is meant for
everyone, and not only for a few whom we may consider to be
religiously inclined. That’s why when asked how many times we should
forgive, he said not only seven times, but seventy times seven,
meaning always.

            That’s also why he easily forgave the woman caught in
adultery. And to those whom he cured of their illnesses, it was
actually the forgiveness of their sins that he was more interested in.

            To top it all, Christ allowed himself to die on the cross
as a way to forgive all of our sins, and to convert our sins through
his resurrection as a way to our own redemption. What he did for us he
also expects, nay, commands that we also do for everybody else.

             How beautiful our world would be if we can transmit the very mercy of
God to one another! Let’s be ever hopeful and train ourselves to be
merciful like God.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Abiding sense of purpose

THIS will definitely help us to have passion and direction
in our daily life. We need to develop an abiding sense of purpose so
we can avoid getting entangled in distractions or, worse, lost in the
maze of concerns or stranded in idleness, laziness, loneliness,
worries and the like.

            And what kind of purpose can this be that would keep us
going no matter what situation we find ourselves in? This could only
be God, our love of God, from whom we come and to whom we belong. He
is our beginning and end, our everything.

            That’s why we need to sharpen our awareness of him, feel
his presence and his abundant merciful love for us, learn to discern
his will and ways in every moment, and know how to relate everything
in our life to his ever-functioning Providence.

            We need to strengthen our faith that only in God can we
have the ultimate purpose in life. St. Paul said so: “Whether you eat
or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor

            Before that, Christ himself told us to “love the Lord your
God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your
strength and with all your mind.” (Lk 10,27) Nothing could be clearer
than this as to what final purpose we have in life. All other goals
and objectives we have in life should only be secondary and
instrumental to this ultimate purpose of our life.

            We need to find ways to correspond to this clear
commandment of God to us. That effort will help us to broaden our
mind, to continue making initiatives, to widen our perspectives, to
deepen our hope and inflame our charity.

            It will spur us to action always, not contented with
knowing things alone or having some theoretical attitude in life. It
will push us to develop a universal heart, capable of dealing with
everyone and of reaching out to everyone, including the most difficult
personalities and enemies.

            It will enable to have a sense of unity and continuity
among the different elements and the different occurrences in our
life, be they good or bad, favorable or unfavorable to us, etc.

            When we have love of God as our abiding sense of purpose
in our life, we would find it easy to go from thing to another, no
matter disparate they are from each other. We would find meaning in
everything, including what we consider to be human disasters in our

            The effort to make God our abiding sense of purpose in
life will identify us more closely with Christ who was also open to
anything in his earthly life, including the worst possible things that
happened to him, which was to die, and yet was consistent and ever
faithful in doing the will of his Father. “I do not seek my own will,”
he said, “but the will of Him who sent me.” (Jn 5,30)

            We would know how to handle all kinds of situations,
including the worst of them, like when we have deal with people who
are full of malice and deceit, etc. There is nothing that cannot be
taken care of by God when he becomes the abiding purpose in life.

            That effort will always fill our life with excitement.
There will never be a dull and boring moment, even when we are alone
or confined and restricted by sickness and other factors. Even when we
are resting or in solitude because of prayer or study, our spirit will
continue to be active and still in touch with God and others.

            As such, we can aspire to continue being filled with peace
and joy. We can more easily dominate the wayward impulses of the
flesh. We can enjoy what are termed as the “fruits of the Holy
Spirit”: love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

            For us to have God as the ultimate and abiding purpose of
our life, we need to avail of a certain plan of pious acts that will
always keep us in touch with God even in the midst of our most mundane
activities. These serve to keep the flame of love burning.

            Some moments of mental prayer everyday always help. A
continuing practice of reading and studying the doctrine of our faith,
the habit of living in God’s presence and doing other devotionary acts
like saying the Rosary, dealing with our guardian angels, going to
Mass and receiving Communion, etc.—these make us more discerning of
God’s will and ways in every moment.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Thinking with God always

PASSING by a school one day, I had second thoughts when I
saw its billboard ad that was supposed to express the school's
mission-vision. It said something to the effect that the school would
make the kids independent thinkers.

            I, of course, understood what the slogan wanted to say.
The kids would be taught how to think without undue influence by
unwelcome elements, like biases, prejudices and social trends, fads
and other not-so-healthy conditionings.

            I imagine that the kids would be taught how to think
analytically and critically in a constructive mode. They would be
guided to arrive at convictions on their own and must be responsible
for them. There can be many other positive corollaries that can be
derived from such catchy slogan.

            But the second thoughts that came to my mind were: how far
should the students' independence in their thinking go? We need to be
clear about what the kids should be independent from in their

            We cannot take this issue for granted, for many people
nowadays think that to be independent in their thinking, they have to
be independent from God, from teachings of our faith, from certain
authorities, and that's where we can have big  problems.

            We are now familiar with those people who brand themselves
as freethinkers. These are those who claim that they think freely and
independently, without any influence from any opinion and especially
from any religious beliefs. Many of these so-called freethinkers are
actually atheists and agnostics.

            This is the problem that we have these days. That's
because if there is no belief in God who is supposed to be the creator
and the very foundation of reality, then what would be our reference
of what is true and false, what is good and evil in our life here on
earth? If it's not God, then it can only be our own selves or certain
things in the world. In the end, we can just be subjective about

            Sad to say, this is what we are seeing in many places
these days. We have people who are trapped in their subjective mode of
thinking, practically incapable of transcending their purely human
estimation of things. They fall for that Cartesian principle—the
'cogito ergo sum,' or I think therefore I am—such that their
subjective thinking is prior to the objective reality of things.

            In other words, things are the way we consider them to me,
rather than the way they are. Said another way, things depend on how
we think of them. It's the things that have depend on our thinking,
rather than our thinking to conform to how things are as they are.

            This is the danger that can come when we have an unclear
understanding of what it is to be an independent thinker or a
freethinker. We have to be wary of this danger because nowadays there
are powerful groups that are promoting ideologies and isms that while
having certain valid points are in the end essentially subjective, not

            We are now entering a new phase in world development where
error can look good and attractive, practical and profitable, and can
have to power to assume a universal appeal and influence. It can have
a global network to spread itself and dominate the world.

            Some of these ideologies and isms, which are all human
constructs almost devoid of any reference to God, to faith, to piety,
etc., have already been proven wrong in recent history, like
communism, some aspects of socialism, etc.

            Others, like capitalism and democracy that are mainly
detached from the Christian spirit, are more tricky and deceptive.
They look good and acceptable, but they have elements that are
dangerous too. They can be sweet poisons.

            We need to reinforce our belief that only in our Christian
faith, in Christ can we find everything that we need to know and to be
as we ought. In the gospel of St. John, there is a passage that bears
this claim out: “He knew all men and needed no one to bear witness of
man, for he himself knew what was in man.” (2,25)

            That, after all, goes without saying, since Christ as the
Son of God is the perfect image of God, and since we have been made in
God's image and likeness, then we are patterned after the Son of God.
And since the Son of God became man to save us, we have to be with
Christ to be saved, since he is “the way, the truth and the life” for

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Abstracting and transcending

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 24, 2016

Pushing them to the next level

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Our defense mechanisms

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Simple, shrewd but not complicated

LET'S not be daunted by this undeniably difficult combination of
qualities we all ought to have. There's God's grace to help us. As
long as we also do our part, things would just jell.

The fact is that Christ tells it to us very clearly. “Look, I am
sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be as shrewd as
serpents and as innocent as doves.” (Mt 10,16)

Indeed, we cannot deny that we are in an increasingly complicated
world. There are now many smart people around, quick to rationalize
their actions. This is especially true among our political leaders,
who in their quest for power, will do everything—mostly unfair means
and reasonings—to gain or keep that power.

But it would be a disaster to us if we respond to this complicated
mess with our own version of convoluted self-justifications. This
happens when we start thinking, judging, reasoning and concluding
without God or, worse, when we think God's clear commandments are
already obsolete, irrelevant, a drag to our interests, etc.

Sad to say, there are now many people who think that God's clear laws
are out of touch with reality, and so they craft their own ideologies
that are mainly based on what is practical, convenient, popular, or
what can gain them power, etc.

In history, we have seen many cases like this. There was barbarianism,
massive persecution of Christians or people not in agreement with the
current administration. There was Nazism, Fascism, Communism and some
questionable forms of socialism and capitalism, and now, an unhinged

What could be worse were those instances when religion was used to
precisely go against God's clear commandments. Some people have gone
to the extent of using their religion to justify divorce, abortion,
ethnic cleansing, terrorism, etc.

Yes, we have to deal with the complicated and complex situations as
they come. That's what Christ warned us about: “I am sending you out
as sheep in the midst of wolves.” But we have to remain simple just
the same.

Simplicity is not naivete. It is not an excuse to escape from the
world and to isolate oneself. It just means we have to know how to
stick by God's laws no matter how difficult a situation may be. It's a
matter of conviction that knows how to reinvent itself without
compromising its essence as the need arises. It knows how to be
flexible, adaptable and versatile. This is precisely the shrewdness of

We get complicated when we detach ourselves from God and would just
depend on our own brilliant ideas. In this case, we become very
vulnerable to fall into deceit and duplicity, to having unfair
ulterior motives, as we get more concerned with our own interests than
with the common good. We get complicated when we are afraid to suffer
for truth, justice, mercy, in short, for love of God and others.

Being complicated springs from self-righteousness as well as
reinforces it. It can be so bad as to go to the extent of making
oneself his own god, creating one's own reality, his own law that
defines what is good and bad, right and wrong.

Being complicated only shows one does not have faith or, at least, has
a weak or distorted faith. That's why he considers the word of God as
ineffective to tackle the challenges of life.

But this is contradicted by what the Letter to the Hebrews tells us
about the word of God: “For the word of God is alive and active.
Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing
soul and spirit, joints and marrow. It judges the thoughts and
attitudes of the heart.” (4,12)

We need to understand that God's words, as revealed fully by Christ
and taught authoritatively now by the Church, can capture everything
that any human situation may present us and can lead us to understand
and resolve things as Christ himself would understand and resolve

Of course, toward this end, we need to be ready to suffer and even to
die as shown by Christ himself. That suffering and death can never be
taken as a defeat or loss, because if it is suffering and death in
Christ, the victory of the resurrection is assured to us. So, we need
a training in suffering by developing a spirit of sacrifice and
self-denial all throughout our life.

In all this, we should try to maintain a happy and hopeful
disposition, sporty in attitude, knowing how to look for Christ
always, so we don't get lost in the complicated ways of the world

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

IT'S all understandable, of course. Young people like to enjoy life. I
was also like them when I was at their age. Even if they carry some
heavy personal or family problems, they like to have fun every time
they have the chance.

Outside of my chaplain's office, I see young students, all boys,
sitting on the floor, invariably engaged in what I consider as
mindless chatter, pulling each other's leg, laughing or simply idling
away time, with looks that can only show purposelessness. I call this
the 'tambay' lifestyle, very common in many places.

I presume it's their break time, and you just have to let them be.
Like little children, they should not be over-supervised. Their
classes would take care of that, since discipline and meeting the
academic requirements would always be the order of the day there.

And yet, at the back of my mind, I worry that if they are not properly
attended to, this 'tambay' lifestyle would harden and become the
permanent feature of their character. When I was at their age, I
already worried about how to fill up my time more fruitfully and
meaningfully. I exerted some effort, though I must confess that the
motivation was not quite right. Self-interest fueled most of that

It was only later in life that I discovered the proper motivation for
working or studying or simply filling time. Only God, the love for him
and for neighbor, can be the appropriate motive. But how can you
transmit this truth to these young ones?

I remember that in my case, I had a regular chat with a priest who
taught me many things. I first went to see him because I had a problem
with my philosophy classes in school. He was very helpful in
clarifying my doubts and answering my questions.

But besides those, he taught me how to pray, to study the doctrine of
the faith more deeply, to appreciate the value of sacrifice, the
sacraments, the virtues, etc. What I learned was that I can only study
and work properly if the motivation is precisely the love of God and

That was when I could always find something to do, and I pressured
myself to fight against my laziness, excessive love for comfort and
pleasures, etc. I learned the importance of time—that it is the
occasion for us to attain the ultimate purpose of our life. I realized
it was a crime to waste time.

It was not easy. And even until now, I sometimes have to exert some
extraordinary effort to do things properly and to fill up my time. All
of us have to contend with our weaknesses and the many temptations
around. One has to wage a constant struggle to be able to use time

But how can I transmit these precious lessons to the young ones? Yes,
as chaplain, I say Mass for them everyday. There I can say something
in this regard during the homilies. But that would not be enough. I
also give some talks and classes, conduct retreats and recollections,
but then the effects and results are long in coming. These need a more
personalized and abiding attention.

It's good that many of the students come for a personal chat with me.
There I get to know them more closely and have the chance to encourage
them. They need a lot of clarification and motivation.

Trying to explain what loving God and others is, what it involves and
how it impacts on our use of time is not easy, especially when it has
to touch on an essential part of it, which is suffering and the need
for the cross. Christian charity has endless facets and practical

We have instituted a mentoring system so that each student is followed
up closely. And obviously, the task of monitoring the developments of
this system can be demanding. I am more and more convinced that more
than anything else, what are needed to keep things going are the
spiritual and supernatural means.

Without these means and when we rely only our human resources and
natural powers, we can only achieve so much. Worse, we can be deluded
into thinking that we are doing right, when in fact we would be doing

I hope and pray that while the general character of the young—their
attitude to take things easy and to have fun—should be respected, the
seed of a more responsible use of their time, talents and other
resources would be sown, take root and start to grow.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Stewards of God’s creation

THIS might be too big or too abstract an issue for a
newspaper column to tackle, but I think it is worthwhile to bring it
out if only to remind ourselves of our responsibility as stewards of
God’s creation whose integrity we have to uphold, enhance and defend.

            The world today is developing very fast, and we just have
to get a handle on these developments that clearly are not all that
right. There are many questionable things taking place, like the issue
of climate change etc. That’s why we now have a graver concern over
how we are taking care of our environment, with Pope Francis, for
example, issuing an encyclical on it entitled, ‘Laudato si.’

            As God’s image and likeness and redeemed children of his
through Christ, we are tasked to take care of God’s creation. “Be
fruitful and increase in number. Fill the earth and subdue it. Rule
over the fish in the sea and birds in the sky and over every living
creature that moves on the ground.” (Gen 1,28) That was God’s clear
mandate to our first parents. It continues to be ours too, till the
end of time.

            The world has been given to us by God as the place for us
to do our life’s test of whether to love him in return or not. As
such, it comes to us with a certain order, direction and unity. It
comes to us with laws that we try to discover and follow.

            As the masterpiece of that creation, we are made its
stewards who have to take care of it, always with the mind of God and
never just with our own ideas. That’s why we need to always be in
God’s presence, asking for his guidance. We can never overemphasize
our need for prayer, for studying the doctrine of our faith, so we can
discern God’s will and ways as we go through our earthly affairs.

            Offhand, the catechism tells us some basic indications of
how we can respect the integrity of creation. “Animals, like plants
and inanimate beings,” it says, “are by nature destined for the common
good of past, present, and future humanity. Use of the mineral,
vegetable and animal resources of the universe cannot be divorced from
respect for moral imperatives.” (CCC 2415)

            It continues by saying that “man’s dominion over inanimate
and other living beings granted by the Creator is not absolute; it is
limited by concern for the equality of life of his neighbor, including
generations to come; it requires a religious respect for the integrity
of creation.”

            In following these indications with prudence, I imagine
that aside from prayer and study, a lot of consultation among
concerned parties should be done. This is especially so when dealing
with legitimate interests and values that compete and collide against
each other.

            Let’s hope that we develop the appropriate attitudes,
skills and structures to put these ideals into practice. Leaders from
various sectors—church, politics, business, culture, etc.—should come
together to develop this greater sensitivity toward our duty to
respect the integrity of creation.

            St. John Paul II once remarked: “It is the Creator’s will
that humans should treat nature not as a ruthless exploiter, but as an
intelligent and responsible administrator.” We need to have a clear
idea of what would comprise keeping and enhancing the integrity of
God’s creation and what would harm it.

            In this regard, the Church is offering her social doctrine
to give some guidance. “The Church receives from the Gospel the full
revelation of the truth about man. When she fulfills her mission of
proclaiming the Gospel, she bears witness to man, in the name of
Christ, to his dignity and his vocation to the communion of persons.
She teaches him the demands of justice and peace in conformity with
divine wisdom.” (CCC 2419)

            It is important that the voice of the Church be heard and
considered with utmost respect. While human ideologies will always
have something valid to offer, it is our God-given faith that at the
end of the day contains all the truth about how we have to carry out
our duty toward the integrity of creation.

            It is our God-given faith that puts everything in order,
in unity and with proper direction. It covers all the needs of man and
provides the resources for any eventualities that can take place in
our earthly affairs, including our mistakes.

            This God-given faith, together with its necessary
complement of hope and charity, should serve as the spirit behind all
our temporal affairs that would need all the helpful contributions of
our sciences and technologies.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Sifting and discerning

I BELIEVE these are skills that are urgently needed these
days. With so many things competing for our attention, we need to know
which ones we ought to give priority or which ones are truly God’s
will for us. We cannot deny that there are many things that can look
like they come from God but are not.

            We cannot be naïve and just accept things as they come. We
need to check if the spirit behind anything that involves us comes
from God or not. We cannot deny that there are many things can look
good but actually are dangerous to us.

            In this, we have received enough warnings from Sacred
Scripture. “Beloved,” St. John, for example, in his first letter tells
us, “do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether
they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the
world.” (4,1)

            There are many kinds of spirits roaming around the world,
and we have to learn how to discern them. There is the spirit of God,
the spirit of Christ as opposed to the antichrist. There is also the
evil spirit, and the spirit of the world that is dominated by the evil
one. There is also the spirit of the flesh.

            St. John was explicit as to which spirit is proper to us.
“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that
Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which
does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of
antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in
the world already.” (1 Jn 4,2-3)

            St. Paul distinguished between the fruits of the Spirit of
God and the works of the flesh dominated by the evil spirit. The
former include love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. (cfr Gal 5,22-23)

            The latter include fornication, impurity, licentiousness,
idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness,
dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing. (cfr Gal

            To be able to sift and discern an ocean of things
properly, we need to be exert extreme prudence.            Prudence
is actually a very important virtue. It’s one of the cardinal virtues
to which all other human virtues are hinged. It enables us to view and
judge things properly and to act accordingly. It makes us plan things

            We just have to be more sensitive to what would comprise
its essential part that should not change, and its incidental part
that could change depending on circumstances and other relevant
factors. It’s important that we be clear about this, so we would not
get lost especially during these very dynamic, technology-driven

            Prudence, of course, presumes a certain hierarchy of
values that we should respect, uphold and defend. It should be vitally
connected with wisdom that in the end connects us with God and all
others, as well as all things in the world, through love and truth.

            We have to make sure that our prudence is not only
motivated by secondary criteria, like efficiency, effectiveness,
practicality, profitability, convenience, etc. If it does not lead us
to a closer relation with God, with others and the rest of the world,
then it would not be true prudence.

            For this virtue to grow, we need to meditate on the word
and very life of Christ, “the way, the truth and the life” for us. To
meditate is the serious business of reflecting more deeply on the word
of God, allowing the impulses of one’s faith and piety to go winding
and branching into considerations that can eventually lead to

            This kind of prayer is, I think, what we of this modern,
fast-paced age need to learn well.  From what we can gather, we are
wired for this activity. We are not just for action. Though often
frustrated, our spiritual DNA intends us to meditate and contemplate.

            This gives us a sense of anchor and root, a sense of
direction that can bring us where we truly belong—communion with God
and with others. It provides us glimpses of the complete view of
things, where the eternal becomes current and vice-versa.

            When we have this system of meditation and contemplation,
then it would be easy for us to sift through all the elements that
come our way and discern the will of God for us.

            We need to do everything so that this practice and habit
of meditating and contemplating develops even as we immerse ourselves
in the increasingly complicated world of ours.

Friday, October 14, 2016

We need to experience God

IS it possible to experience God, to feel his presence, to
know his will and to participate in his own life? To all these
questions, the answer is a loud yes.

            Not only is it possible, but also, first of all, it is
God’s will. Besides, he has endowed us with the power that would
enable us to achieve these feats.

            God as our Creator and Father always intervenes in our
life. He is never away from us even if we fall into the state of sin.
We only lose him definitively in hell. But in our whole earthly
sojourn, he is in us, right deep in the core of our existence.

            That’s because he is the giver and maintainer of our
existence. For as long as we exist, God is in us. Our existence does
not depend on our biological constitution alone, nor on food and air
and health only. Even before these things become indispensable to us,
it is God who gives and keeps our existence.

            And since we have been made in his image and likeness, he
links with us through our intelligence and will, through our thinking
and loving, and thus he comes to us as objects of our innate desire
for truth, goodness and beauty.

            That’s why we have to be most careful in the exercise of
our spiritual faculties—how we are thinking, judging, reasoning,
loving, etc. These human operations have to be firmly grounded on God,
and not just made to be mainly dominated by the twists and turns of
our bodily and natural conditions.

            Our thinking and willing, our knowing and loving should be
properly engaged and not allowed to just drift anywhere, and
especially when they are given only at the instance of our instincts,
emotions and passions. They have to be properly inspired and directed.

            The need to experience God has become an urgent necessity
these days because the spiritual and moral health of our life, taken
individually and collectively, depends on this fact and on no other.

            Pope Emeritus Benedict emphasized this point sometime ago.
In an address to some lay faithful, he said the following:

            “How do we reawaken the question of God so that it becomes
the fundamental question?...The question of God is reawakened in
meeting those who have a living relationship with the Lord. God is
known through men and women who know him. The way to him passes, in a
concrete way, through those who have met him.”

            This is just but natural. God is not just an idea, a
theory, a philosophical or theological term. Christ is not just a
historical figure nor an object of curiosity. God is alive. In fact,
he is the very foundation of reality and of life itself. It’s not in
his character to stay away from us or to hide from us or to play hard
to get.

            Thus, the Pope Emeritus said that God should be the
central point of reference in our thinking and acting. He warned that
ignoring God will harm our humanity. “A mentality that rejects every
reference to the transcendent has shown itself to be incapable of
preserving the human,” he said.

            “The spread of this mentality has generated the crisis
that we are experiencing today, which is a crisis of meaning and of
values before it is an economic and social crisis,” he added. How

            God actually engages us every moment of our life. This is
what providence is all about. We have to learn how to correspond to
that continual divine governance, by learning how to pray, how to know
and follow his will, how to offer whatever we are doing to him, how to
live in his presence all the time, how what we are doing at the moment
fits in his plan, etc.

            For this we need to study well the doctrine of our faith,
to have recourse to the sacraments, to develop the virtues, and to
commit ourselves to a certain plan of continuing piety so that
whatever may be the circumstances of our life, we can manage to be
with him always.

            To live with God is not an impossibility. Nor is it meant
only to some gifted if not strange people. It is for all, though we
need to help one another, since to achieve that condition involves a
lifelong process with endless stages, aspects and possibilities.

            To experience God should be second nature to us. With the
proper attitude and skills, with the relevant plans and virtues, this
is always possible. Nowadays, the world needs people who have direct
experience of God!

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Strengthening our faith

WE should always feel the need to sustain and ever strengthen our
faith which is the bedrock of our Christian life. Without it or with a
weak faith, we most likely will compromise our entire life.

    Faith, as taught by our Catechism, “is the theological virtue by
which we believe in God and believe in all that he has said and
revealed to us, and that Holy Church proposes for our belief, because
he is truth itself. By faith 'man freely commits his entire self to
God.' For this reason the believer seeks to know and do God's will.
'The righteous shall live by faith.' Living faith 'works through
charity.'” (CCC 1814)

    It's good that we go through this point slowly if only to draw
some practical implications to act on. That God is the truth itself
can only tell us that we have to do everything to know and love him,
since that would be the only way to be in the truth ourselves all the

    The task of knowing and loving him may be tremendous and
overwhelming, but it will all be worthwhile. Yes, there will be
mysteries involved that surpass the capabilities of our senses and

    But with God's grace, we can entrust ourselves to what is taught
to us with authority by the Church, and learn to live with the
mysteries of life, complete with their complement of suspense, thrill,
highs and lows. We just have to be game in all this.

    We have to be wary of our tendency to be mainly reliant on our
senses and intelligence. While always useful, they cannot fully cope
with the demands of faith. Remember that episode of the apostle Thomas
after the resurrection of Christ.

    When Christ first appeared to his apostles, Thomas was not around.
When the others told him of Christ's appearance, Thomas did not
believe what they said. “Unless I see in his hand the print of the
nails,” he said, “and put my finger into the place of the nails, and
put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (Jn 20,24-25)

    The next time Christ appeared to them, Thomas was already present.
So Christ told him, “Thomas, put your finger here, and see my hands,
and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not be faithless,
but believing.” To which, Thomas could only say, “My Lord and my God.”
So Christ clearly told him, “Have you believed because you have seen
me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (Jn 20,27ff)

    We have to remember that in developing and strengthening our
faith, we need to commit our whole selves to God. We should not just
be sentimental, emotional or intellectual about it. We have to give
our whole selves in good times and bad, 24/7. We have to involve all
our powers and faculties, our past, present and future.

    Faith is not simply an intellectual assent to some truths. It is
an act of our entire being wherein we integrally and entirely commit
ourselves. If we truly have faith, we will show it in every action of
our life.

    We will consistently refer everything to Christ, look for him,
find and talk to him, seek his guidance, follow his will and ways, and
put him as the goal of all of our activities. This has to be
distinguished from fanaticism, because faith requires a living union
with God, while fanaticism can mimic the appearance of faith, but is
not based on that living union, but rather on something else.

    If we truly have faith, we will always make Christ present
wherever we are. Irrespective of our human condition, we can always
exude a certain aura of wisdom, goodness, charity and kindness, mercy
and justice, and power, etc.

    Faith is something much deeper and more complete than a simple
affirmation of some truths. It produces an effective and operative
presence of the love of Christ among men. It makes us plant the seed
of love in each heart. It leads us to discover all the good things in
the world where God himself has placed us so that we may be holy. It
also points us where the dangers are.

    Let's strengthen our faith always by spending some moments
everyday in mental prayer, living always in the presence of God,
waging continuing ascetical struggle to develop virtues and fight
against our weaknesses and temptations, studying and assimilating the
doctrine of our faith, pursuing a lifelong plan of formation, etc.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Cultivating the virtue of penance

THIS is just to be realistic about our human condition.
It's not to paint a dark world for ourselves. If we believe in God, we
know that our life ought to be bright and cheerful, and that
everything, including our mistakes, works out for the good.

            But we cannot deny that we have weaknesses. There are
temptations around. And in spite of our best efforts, we know that
sooner or later we find ourselves falling into sin.

            We need to know how to deal with these conditions. We need
to find a way to derive some good from them, since if we have hope,
some good can always be achieved from them.

            We have to remember what St. John said about what we have
to contend with in the world. “For everything in the world—the lust of
the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from
the Father but from the world.” (1 Jn 2,16) With that warning alone,
it would seem that we are doomed to fall one way or another, sooner or

            St. Paul also points to us the tremendous evil spirits
that we always have to do battle with. “For our struggle is not
against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the
authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the
spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” (Eph 6,12) We need
to process these words slowly, and be prepared for them to happen in
our life.

            It's good that we never forget this reality. But we need
to prepare ourselves for it. Precisely, the virtue of penance starts
when we acknowledge these conditions about ourselves. We should be
humble enough to accept this reality.

            But the virtue of penance goes farther than that. It grows
when we put up the necessary defenses against these enemies of our
soul and wage a lifelong ascetical struggle. Yes, our life will be and
should be a life of warfare, a war of peace and love that will also
give us certain consolations in spite of the tension.

            And for this penance to be a true virtue, it has to
include an indomitable hope that can survive even in the worst of
scenarios. In fact, this hope gets stronger the uglier also the
warfare gets.

            It's a hope based on God's never-sparing mercy. Some
relevant words of St. Paul: “I am sure that he who began a good work
in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.” (Phil
1,6) It would be good if these Pauline assurance forms the deep
attitude we should have toward our fragile human condition.

            Besides, we should not forget that nothing happens in our
life without at least the permission and tolerance of God. And if he
allows something to happen, no matter how evil it is, it is because a
greater good can be derived from it. Precious lessons can also be
learned from our sinfulness.

            God predestines no one to fail definitively, although we
have the power, due to our freedom, to go against God's will and
saving designs. This truth of our faith should never be forgotten,
especially in our deep moments of misery and misfortune.

            The virtue of penance also includes the desire and
practice of regular and frequent recourse to the sacrament of penance,
where through the ministry of priests, Christ comes to us as father,
friend, judge and doctor. This sacrament not only reconciles us with
God, but also repairs whatever damage our sin would cause on others
and the Church in general.

            It's good that the practice of confession becomes a habit
and is approached with the proper dispositions and preparation, making
a thorough examination of conscience, contrition, purpose of
amendment, confession and acts of penance.

            As a sacrament, confession gives us, aside from
sanctifying grace, some special and sacramental grace that would make
us at the same time more sensitive and resistant to our weaknesses and
temptations. There is a kind of strength that it gives and that is
useful to our daily spiritual battles.

            This virtue of penance also includes the desire and
practice of continuing atonement and reparation. This can be done in
many ways—exerting greater effort to pray, being more generous with
our sacrifices and daily self-denials, especially in food, drink, and
comfort. It can be done also by doing many corporal and spiritual
works of mercy, etc.

            All of these should produce an inner joy in us. That's a
sure sign the virtue of penance is alive in us.