Thursday, January 27, 2011

St. Thomas Aquinas and the Eucharist

(Meditation during the Holy Hour, Triduum for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Sacred Heart Seminary, Palo, Leyte, January 27, 2011)

With your leave, Sovereign Lord Jesus present in this Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

With hearts and minds set as we enter into this earnest conversation with God who waits for us in the Blessed Sacrament this evening, in third day of the triduum that we have for the feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, we remind ourselves that traditionally the Church remembers on this day the institution of the Eucharist and of the Priesthood. Thursday has always been traditionally dedicated to these two great sacraments, because both have been instituted by Our Lord as he took his last Passover Meal with those whom he loved and trusted most, His Apostles. Tonight, in this final day of our preparation for the feast of the Angelic Doctor, we meditate upon the great mystery of the Eucharist, with St. Thomas by our side. St. Thomas had written considerably on every field of theological and philosophical thought that aside from being Angelic he was also called the Common Doctor of the Church. In common language a common doctor would be understood as one who is acquainted with every sickness so as to be able to cure them; in the realm of Catholic philosophy and theology St. Thomas occupies a place that is pretty much the same. We are referring to a man whose doctrine on the Eucharist was also very beneficial for the Church, for he had expressed what the faith of the Church is concerning the Eucharist, and he had illuminated her as she contemplates and gives thanks for this Mystery which is none other than the memorial of her Lord’s death and resurrection. The Eucharistic doctrine of Thomas is remarkable for its clarity and perception, its depth and fidelity to the tradition of the Scriptures and of the Church. However for us gathered here in worship, what matters to us most is that his teaching is one that is full of faith. It a fruit of his own faith, something which he nourished from the faith of the Church. His teaching about the Eucharist leads us likewise to share his same faith and ardent Love for the Lord who is a prisoner of Love in the Tabernacle for us. It is in this that we could understand that doctrine is a food that nourishes our piety, as the theme for this third day would suggest. Let us feed ourselves then, from this teaching of the Common Doctor, as we contemplate with love the Lord whom Aquinas also gazed upon with so much love and faith.

Adoro te devote, latens Deitas! Prostrate I adore Thee, Deity unseen! I devoutly adore you, O hidden God, truly hidden beneath these appearances! With these words of a famous anthem composed by St. Thomas we stare and contemplate with wonder at the humility of God, who comes to us, not in the appearance of his own flesh, which he shares with us, but even in a form that it much humbler than that, in the appearance of everyday nourishment, under the appearance of bread and wine. This is something more humble than when he first came among us, when he hid behind our own humanity his own divinity. No trace of this Divinity was visible when Our Lord lay as a newborn Baby upon the manger. During his years of ministry He was undoubtedly a strong figure who oozed gentle authority and power, but no Godhead was revealed here. Much less could we say this as we see Him hanging upon the Cross, when covered with wounds and spittle, we declare in him no beauty nor comeliness; despised and the most abject of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with infirmity…therefore we esteemed him not (cf.Is 53:2-3). No, no divinity was visible even there.

But here in the Eucharist, not even the humanity upon which depended our salvation is not seen; it has been hidden in the humility of God. In cruce latebat, solaDeitas, at hic latet simul et Humanitas…On the Cross was hidden your Deity; here is also hidden your humanity. Many things could be said of this Sacrament, I think I would not be heretical were I to describe it as the Sacrament of the Humility of God, a God who goes down in order to be seen under the appearances of something lower than man himself, something even more basic than the animals. He comes to us under the appearance of bread and wine, helpless in themselves, open to adoration and love, but also subject to the worst of abuses. This is the humility of God, a humility which is impelled by Love. Jesus Christ waits for us under the appearances of these humble elements; he waits to love us and also because he wants to be loved by us, who come to moved by both love and faith. The reality a humble and humiliated God waiting for us in this Sacrament teaches us a thing or two about humility and love; that these two always go together, for there could be no authentic love if it were to be proud and presumptuous, that humility is something which impelled by love, and not out of mere desire to debase oneself.

He has so humbled himself, so that man could be able to approach easily, so that he would be readily accessible to him. but he could not be approached in his humility and love by us without the faith that is needed in order to recognize him there. Only faith can give us the vision that we need in order to see and affirm His Presence there. It is no accident that in the Liturgy of the Eucharist, soon after the priest utters the words that bring God down to among and be among us, the priest exclaims: the Mystery of Faith!!! Mysterium Fidei. For this is precisely what the Eucharist is: it is a Mystery of Faith. Plagas sicut Thomas non intueor, Deum tamen meum te Confiteor. Thy dread wounds, like Thomas, though I cannot see, his be my confession, Lord my God, of Thee. It takes the faith of a doubting Thomas, who was confirmed in his faith when he touched the wounds of the Risen Christ, to see this Christ whose glorious wounds are hidden from us. In fact it takes even MORE  faith than that of Thomas to be able to confess Him to be present there, and since it requires more faith as a gift from God, the more blessed we are.

This is also a mystery of faith because not only does it invite our faith; it also increases it. It increases our life of faith, and our life of hope, and our life of Love. Before the Eucharist we repeat the same words uttered by the apostles who had once asked to be able to see the invisible Father: Domine, audage fidem nostram! Lord increase our faith! This sacrament, which is the nourishment of our souls, provides us with everything that we need in order to grow in our life of faith. St. Thomas prays:

I pray that this Holy Communion may not bring me
condemnation and punishment but forgiveness and salvation.
May it be a
helmet of faith and a shield of good will.
 May it purify me from evil ways and put an end to my evil passions.
May it bring me
charity and patience, humility and obedience,
growth in the power to do good.
May it be my strong defense against all my enemies, visible and invisible, and the perfect calming of all my evil impulses,
bodily and spiritual.

May it be that we learn to pray first and foremost with concern to that which would increase our lovelife with the Lord, that our life of charity in the Lord may increase as the first fruit of our communion with Him!

That our love increase is a prayer which is most dear to our Lord and that which brings us to the center of this great mystery of the Eucharist, because over and above all, the Eucharist is that great Mystery of Love. I say it because there is no other reason for its being but love, the love of our Lord that knows no limits, that takes all risks, that loses everything so as to gain that which for Him is everything: US. it is a love which makes him give even of himself for us, just like that pelican, which according to pious legend is always ready to feed its starving young with the force of its own life through the sacrifice of its blood. Pie pellicane, Iesu Domine! Like the good pelican, the Son of God offered body and shed blood on the Cross so us to give us life through the remission of our sins. He continues to offer Himself for us, present there day and night, whether we mind Him or not, the love-crazed prisoner of the Tabernacle.

It is a mystery of love because it has the power to increase our love. Just as the example of the Lover’s sacrifice done out of love is able to elicit a response of the same love from the Beloved, so too the love of the Lord is able to wound the soul who seeks him out in the Blessed Sacrament, in the Holy Eucharist. The love of the Lord in the Tabernacle increases the soul’s capacity to love. It makes one rabid for love. No wonder that the ones who learned how to love most—the saints—were those who shared the hours with the Lord in front of the Tabernacle.

Our time is nearly spent, and yet we have St. Thomas to be grateful for as he was our companion as we made this meditation. May this great lover of the Lord, hidden in the Eucharist, intercede for us and with his help obtain for us the grace to love the Lord more and more. We end with a prayer of his, which we direct to Our Lord:

Grant me, O Lord my God,
a mind to know you,
a heart to seek you,
wisdom to find you,
conduct pleasing to you,
faithful perseverance in waiting for you,
and a hope of finally embracing you.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011



Enough said.......


 I rememeber one of the first books I ever read when I was a minor seminarian, recently entered into the seminary. It was a dusty volume of Beauchesne-Thornton's biography of Pope Pius IX entitled Cross Upon Cross. I rescued it from the accumulated dust of the seminary library (and undoubtedly from years of oblivion) and began to devour the book (don't get me wrong. The food at the dining room may have been appalling compared to today's culinary standards in the seminary but it wasn't so bad as to make me actually finish off one dusty book). I've read and reread it many times throughout my eight-year stay in the Sacred Heart Seminary I've been able to memorize some of the lines I've encountered in the book. It was unfortunately lost when we renovated the library. I tried looking for the book, but I never found it again. Good thing I was able to salvage some other books which I also used to read time and again.
Pio Nono cuts a really interesting figure. Not only is he the longest-reigning pontiff in the whole history of the papacy, but I also believe that he is among the most misunderstood.
Pius' death mask
This is the picture which actually prompted this entry. I saw this photo while I was searching for another picture and it fascinated me. I never understood fully what people mean when they say "incorrupt". They say that when they opened his tomb more than a hundred years later at the church of San Lorenzo they found his body in a good condition. I'd say the Blessed's remains were perfectly mummified. It's interesting to note that his vestments are rather well-preserved. If you would look at the cadaver's wizened features and compare it with contemporary portraits of the last Pope-King, you could just be reminded of those words ritually uttered at any papal coronation before: Beatissime Pater, sic transit gloria mundi...Holy Father, thus passes the glory of the world!!!

Blessed Pius IX, pray for us!
The face of Bl. Pius covered with a silver mask

Give me an M, as in thousand

Let me proudly state that this blog has had a thousand views. To many blogs this won't mean much but I say this is undoubtedly a milestone: I've had my first thousand!!! Thanks to all who took time to view this humble blog and more power to you!!!

next numerical objective? 
my hundredth post!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Priest Thomas Aquinas and the love of Divine Wisdom

(A meditation delivered during the first day of the Triduum for the Feast of St. Thomas Aquinas, Sacred Heart Seminary Chapel, Palo, Leyte, 25 January 2011)

With your license, Oh Lord present in this most holy Sacrament of the Altar!

We begin this evening the triduum of devotion in honor of one of our holy patrons, St. Thomas Aquinas. Before the presence of Our Lord present in the Blessed Sacrament, we in the first place praise God who has blessed us with the life and example of so many of his friends, the saints. The Lord has never been known to be limited in his blessings, and in the saints he has blessed the Church exceedingly. They show to the world the holiness with which the Lord has blessed His Church; in their lives He continues to show his saving power that transforms man in his weakness and enables him to love and to be true to his human dignity, which is the dignity of a child of God. Furthermore, in the life and witness of the saints the Lord continues to call us all into an ever-intimate friendship with Him, something which is never beyond our capability, a friendship which ennobles us and makes us truly human.

These days we begin our local celebration of the feast of this great Doctor of the Church. The Angelic Doctor, as he is oftentimes called, has undoubtedly left a huge mark in the life of the Church. He was a big man, and in this I do not refer merely to his physical build—he was rather rotund if not fat, if we are to trust contemporary descriptions about him ; spiritually he was a giant, and it is this spiritual greatness of his that has left a huge imprint among us. One aspect of true devotion to the memory of the saints and the blessed is the inculcation of the virtues that they have showed in their lives here on earth and our imitation of them, aided by the grace of God. In Thomas of Aquino we could learn a lot of virtues for which he could be held up as a fine example of Christian holiness and for which he could be imitated. He was know for his angelic purity and chastity, for his meekness and obedience. But that which makes him most renowned is his wisdom, something which did not primarily come from his love of study and his hours of reflection (though of course these helped a lot), but rather it is a wisdom that comes from a loving relationship and conversation with the Divine Wisdom, who is the Lord himself. It is from this loving and sustained conversation with God that Thomas, even from his childhood years, became like the Lord himself, who grew in age and wisdom (cf. Lk 2:52).

One thing perhaps that we could meditate on is his love for wisdom, a love for wisdom all the more tempered by the fact that he was a priest of Jesus Christ. For us in this setting of seminary formation, what could the colossal figure of St. Thomas Aquinas teach us about the figure of a priest of Jesus Christ? How is the priestly figure of Thomas Aquinas, who lived in the 13th century, relevant to us at this moment, priests and aspirants to the priesthood of the Third Christian Millenium?

St. Thomas shows us that the priest is the one who seeks the Wisdom of God and is blessed because of it. He is the one of whom the Scriptures refer to when it says “Happy the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding” (Prov. 3:13). This wisdom does not entail knowing a lot of things; wisdom does not refer to any object that could be coldly assimilated by the intellect and expressed in rational speech. This is rather called knowledge and in itself, mere knowledge can never save, it never make us happy on its own, neither can it make us holy and truly happy. This wisdom is not merely an assimilation of things to be learned, but rather it means knowing and distinguishing those things that can really bring us happiness. In the final instance, this Wisdom is none other than God himself. This was the Wisdom which Thomas in all of his years of study and research had yearned to possess. It is said that after writing so much about the mysteries of the faith in his famous Summa, Our Lord made known to him how pleased He was for Thomas had written so well of Him. When Our Lord asked Thomas what he wanted in return for all of his labors, the saint is said to have uttered “only You, Lord, only you”. Thomas teaches us that the quest of the priest is not a quest for mere learning, but that of Wisdom, a wisdom that is eternal, the wisdom that has created the world; wisdom that has a face and a name: Jesus Christ, to see whom is to see the Father. The quest for wisdom ends, not in me knowing more than I had before, but in me entering into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the wisdom of the ages.

From another angle, being a lover of wisdom means that the priest, as with Thomas, must be able to share that wisdom and learning with the people entrusted to his pastoral care. This is not something new, but it could even be found in the priesthood of the Old Testament. The priest had to be wise and learned so as to be able to educate the people of God with the ways of God: “For the lips of a priest ought to preserve knowledge, and from his mouth men should seek instruction--because he is the messenger of the LORD Almighty” (Mal.2:7). Fresh from his encounter with God, with His commandments present in his heart, the priest ought to impart these same commandments to the people, in keeping with his identity as an angel, a messenger of the Lord to his people. Harsh are the words which the Lord directs to the priests who failed in their task to impart and teach wisdom through any fault of their own. In the lips of the prophet Hosea the Lord condemns his negligent priests for letting the people perish for lack of knowledge, knowledge which was to be imparted by them in the first place: my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. "Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God, I also will ignore your children (Hos.4:6).

It would be very hard—if not impossible—to imagine St. Thomas being the recipient of these reproaches, because by his teaching he had fed the Church from the springs of Divine Wisdom. Because of his writings and doctrine he had made clear the Word of God to the Church; he has fortified many a soul in its quest for God and in its thirst for God.

The responsibility of the priest now as before is to give true and substantial doctrine to the people whom he shepherds. This responsibility begins in the early days of seminary formation. In your dedication to study and learn you are teaching yourself to fulfill this priestly task of teaching. Let us not take our studies lightly; knowing that for a seminarian preparing himself for the priesthood, to study is a grave responsibility. Use all of the means that you have at your disposal to learn, for to be able to serve one needs to be ready, and one cannot be ready if he does not know. Furthermore, this study must be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church.

Let us continue to be guided by the example of St. Thomas Aquinas, and may the Angelic Doctor obtain for us the grace to be holy and learned priests should God will it so in the future, priests who would be vested with true and holy wisdom, who would place themselves in the service of a people called to be holy as the God who calls them. Amen.

Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul: IT IS THE LORD WHO MAKES US WORTHY WITH HIS GRACE

Today’s feast brings us before the colossal figure of St. Paul the Apostle. I dared to use the adjective since it aptly expresses what his figure means to the faith of the Church and to the spread of the Gospel among the Gentiles. His greatness as a messenger of the Gospel is seen in the fruits of his untiring ministry, which brought about the birth and establishment of Christian communities all over strategic regions surrounding the Mediterranean Sea within the confines of the Roman Empire. His letters to these communities, which compose the greater bulk of the New Testament, bring down to his apostolic preaching, fruit of his personal faith and love for Christ, and of his personal experience of faith in the Son of God. Though not belonging to the Twelve, nevertheless with Peter he is honored as one of the greatest Apostles of the Christian Church.

Yet we know that this greatness does not come from any accomplishment of his or from any capability that he may have had, though without any doubt he may have had many to mention. Paul’s measure of greatness stems not from the fact that he was exalted above any other men, but from the fact that in the very beginning he was smitten in a sudden and dramatic way by the Lord, brought low before the eyes of men, as he was on his way to Damascus, to pursue the Lord’s work, or so he thought. His conversion on the road to Damascus was that singular “kairotic” event that would make an indelible imprint on his life, something that would effect a change of seismic proportions, that from that time on, the moment he was lifted from the ground upon which he fell and guided by hands that he could not see to Damascus, his life and the meaning that he could get from it, was never going to be the same again. From being a feared persecutor of the Way and its followers he soon becomes a follower himself and later on one of its staunchest spokespersons and leaders.

It is needless for me to say that we could get a lot of considerations from this that would be beneficial for our own growth in holiness, as we answer our own Christian calling. As I make this meditation I am attracted to consider the known fact that it is not that which we do for the Lord that makes us great; rather it is the other way around: it is that which the Lord does for us that makes us worthy messengers of the Gospel; it is His mercy that makes us great in the His Kingdom.

Let us consider the figure of Saul, as he was commonly known back then, especially before he had that powerful experience en route to Damascus. Even back then he already cut an impressive figure. Once converted to the Faith he would give a list of his credentials: that he was a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, born under Roman law and enjoying all the benefits entitled to a citizen of the Empire. He was sent to study at the feet of one of the greatest teacher of the Law at that time, the rabbi Gamaliel, the very same who gave the wise solution which put an end to the dispute between the Temple and the followers of the new faith (cf. Acts 5:33-39), at least for a while. Saul would add that he was brought up according to the strict observance of the Law. Humanly speaking, in Saul of Tarsus we find an individual who was born to lead; he was fundamentally a well-motivated and driven person. As a consequence it was not strange to see him rise in power as a trusted deputy of the Temple, answerable only to the High Priest. His excessive and extraordinary personal ambition was also responsible or this. Furthermore, he was no friend of mediocrity. His knowledge of the Hellenistic world was valuable and extensive. He was a man of passion, firm and strong-willed. He had everything that one would need in order to be successful in whatever endeavor in life, and yet these things did not make him worthy before the Lord; not even these superb human qualities qualified him to be an apostle. It took the grace of the Lord to make him that. Despite of his human capabilities, Saul had to be struck down with his face to the dust in order that he may be able to raise children for the Kingdom of God; he had to lose his sight, if only for a short while, so that he may be able to see what God really wanted of him; he had to hear the voice of the Christ suffering in His members, so that he may be able to help build up the Mystical Body which is the Church.

It is the Lord who makes us worthy of Himself, not us in our human capabilities.

With regard to ourselves, we need to realize once again that our worthiness lies in the grace of God, not in what we may have or in who we are. Human perfection is not enough to transform us into vessels of grace and messengers of the Gospel. It is rather the Lord’s call and His grace and mercy. Those perfections that we may have undoubtedly come to us gifts from God; yet unless they are fortified by His grace and election we are weak. The experience of Paul the Apostle teaches us that in weakness, power reaches perfection, so long as this weakness is subjected under Jesus Christ, since his grace is enough for us (cf. 2 Cor 12:9-10).

Sunday, January 23, 2011


I was going through my daily "rounds" among the blogs which I follow when I came upon this niiiice article in Zenit.Org. Something which is worth taking note of, especially if you're a priest. The emphases are mine, and so are the commentaries in red:

More Than Words: External Signs of Faith by the Celebrant

The Significance of Genuflections and Other Gestures

By Father Nicola Bux

ROME, JAN. 21, 2010 ( Faith in the presence of the Lord, and in particular in his Eucharistic presence, is expressed in an exemplary manner by the priest when he genuflects with profound reverence during the Holy Mass or before the Eucharist.

In the post-conciliar liturgy, these acts of devotion have been reduced to a minimum in the name of sobriety (somehow he makes it sound like an accusation. The tone of reproach is not lost on me). The result is that genuflections have become a rarity, or a superficial gesture. We have become stingy with our gestures of reverence before the Lord, even though we often praise Jews and Muslims for their fervor and manner way of praying (He makes a very important point here, If you'll ask me).

More than words, a genuflection manifests the humility of the priest, who knows he is only a minister, and his dignity, as he is able to render the Lord present in the sacrament. However, there are other signs of devotion.

When the priest extends his hands in prayer he is indicating the supplication of the poor and humble one. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GRIM) establishes that the priest, "when he celebrates the Eucharist, therefore, he must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he says the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ" (No. 93). (As an afterthought to be able to bring about  this  combination of humility and dignity is altogether an art. I always believed what my professor in the weekly Liturgy Academy that we had in the seminary of Bidasoa called the ars celebrandi, or the art of celebrating. This was something which Pope Benedict mentions in Sacramentum Caritiatis.) An attitude of humility is consonant with Christ himself, meek and humble of heart. He must increase and I must decrease.

In proceeding to the altar, the priest must be humble, not ostentatious, without indulging in looking to the right and to the left, as if he were seeking applause. (This is a sad reality in many a concelebration that I've attended. Include idle chatter  in the repertoire. Yeah, we may consider fraternity among priests as a reason to chitchat in the processional but then, are we getting on to the liturgy  or is this just the usual thing that we priests do? you know, just another Mass to add to the various that I've had in the day) Instead, he must look at Jesus; Christ crucified is present in the tabernacle, before whom he must bow. The same is done before the sacred images displayed in the apse behind or on the sides of the altar, the Virgin, the titular saint, the other saints.

The reverent kiss of the altar follows and eventually the incense, the sign of the cross and the sober greeting of the faithful. Following the greeting is the penitential act, to be carried out profoundly with the eyes lowered (something which I always do) In the extraordinary form, the the faithful kneel, imitating the publican pleasing to the Lord.

The celebrant must not raise his voice (this is what I have difficulty in doing; of course I'm not shouting my head of all the time during the homily but then somehow it really difficult not to be impassioned at certain points...and then there's the issue of the microphone, well, sometimes) and should maintain a clear tone for the homily, but be submissive and suppliant in prayer, solemn if sung. "In texts that are to be spoken in a loud and clear voice, whether by the priest or the deacon, or by the lector, or by all, the tone of voice should correspond to the genre of the text itself, that is, depending upon whether it is a reading, a prayer, a commentary, an acclamation, or a sung text; the tone should also be suited to the form of celebration and to the solemnity of the gathering" (GRIM, No. 38).

He will touch the holy gifts with wonder, and will purify the sacred vessels with calm and attention, in keeping with the appeal of so many saints and priests before him. He will bow his head over the bread and the chalice in pronouncing the consecrating words of Christ and in the invocation of the Holy Spirit (epiclesi). He will raise them separately, fixing his gaze on them in adoration and then lowering them in meditation. He will kneel twice in solemn adoration. He will continue with recollection and a prayerful tone the anaphora to the doxology, raising the holy gifts in offer to the Father.

Then, he will recite the Our Father with his hands raised, without having anything else in his hands, because that is proper to the rite of peace (?...somebody clarify me about this please). The priest will not leave the Sacrament on the altar to give the sign of peace outside the presbytery (aprub!!!), instead he will break the Host in a solemn and visible way, then he will genuflect before the Eucharist and pray in silence. He will ask again to be delivered from every indignity not to eat and drink to his own condemnation and to be protected for eternal life by the holy Body and precious Blood of Christ. Then he will present the Host to the faithful for communion, praying "Dominum non sum dignus," and bowing he will commune first, and thus will be an example to the faithful (well you could tell this to the Misa ng Sambayanang Pilipino and its supporters).

After communion, silence for thanksgiving can be done standing, better than sitting, (if I were the celebrant I would prefer to sit, not that I'm less respectful, but then sitting in some instances is also a position of prayer)as a sign of respect, or kneeling, if it is possible, (this is something which I do whenever I concelebrate and we're situated in the pews with kneelers. It's useful for recollection and prayer after having communion, and prevents you from engaging in small talk with your brother priest-concelebrants)as John Paul II did to the end when he celebrated in his private chapel, with his head bowed and his hands joined. He asked that the gift received be for him a remedy for eternal life, as in the formula that accompanies the purification of the sacred vessels; many faithful do so and are an example.
Should not the paten or cup and the chalice (vessels that are sacred because of what they contain) be "laudably" covered (GRIM 118; cf. 183) in sign of respect (-- and also for reasons of hygiene -- as the Eastern Churches do? The priest, after the final greeting and blessing, going up to the altar to kiss it, will again raise his eyes to the crucifix and will bow and genuflect before the tabernacle. Then he will return to the sacristy, recollected, without dissipating with looks and words the grace of the mystery celebrated.

In this way the faithful will be helped to understand the holy signs of the liturgy, which is something serious, in which everything has a meaning for the encounter with the present mystery of God.
In accordance to the prescription given by Msgr. Bux, I might as well receive a grade of 90, since much of these things I've already been doing, not to brag about it. 

I've made a small realization as I watched the televised Mass in the Extraordinary Form celebrated by Fr. Jojo Zerrudo in his parish of the Divine Mercy this morning. I just came in from celebrating the 6 o'clock Mass at San Jose Parish and I came upon the rest of the seminary formators at the Father's Refectory watching the Mass being celebrated. 
At least he could've found a nicer antipendium for the altar...

To be frank my enthusiasm was quite dampened. Lest anybody get me wrong, I appreciate the Tridentine Mass for its beauty and solemnity (in fact I'm looking forward to celebrating it in the future), with its legitimate place side-by-side with the Novus Ordo of Paul VI. Fr. Zerrudo is doing a lot and is to be commended for all this effort to allow more people to get to know this great heritage of Tradition. But I found it less than my expectations. At least they could've gotten a worthier cloth for an antipendium, not that green flappy cloth which looks like it could might as well grace any billiard table. And that big thing that hung by the side of the celebrant's face...Fr. Jojo looked like one of those people in the takeout counters in MacDonalds. (no offense) These are just some of my personal musings, lest some disgruntled pinoy traddy jump at me from the  shadows and tear me to pieces. The rest of the priests who were with me and were watching the Mass as it progressed were no doubt looking for that same "dignity" and "quality" (words loosely used), but didn't find much.

This led me to think that it's not so much in the rite. I've known stories from the past about our old (and legendary) priests in the Diocese of Palo going their own way in the pre-Vatican II liturgy (yes, there were also liturgical abuses back then, whether you accept it or not). It's in the unction and care with which you celebrate the liturgy, whether Tridentine or Novus Ordo. At least this was something which I took very much in mind when I celebrated the 5:30 Mass in another parish this afternoon. It was no Tridentine Mass, but it sure was a Novus Ordo Mass which was really solemn as it could be, something which allowed all of us to enter into that spirit of prayer I believe (but don't ask the little children who were raising a din by one corner of the church during the homily, please).


This day finds me unwell once again, with the usual flu-like symptoms which used to be a familiar feature last year. I think I've taken a whole pharmacy of drugs I'm weary of being prescribed of them by doctors. Call this a contemporary case of Pharmacophobia --the fear of drugs (and their adverse effects, I may add). That's why 'm trying to cope with this latest onslaught (it feels so unfair!!!) in more natural and homey ways. Lots of liquid and rest is part of the plan. Please, allow my body to regain its immunity on its own : no more antibiotics for a while. Well, a lot of people I know are not feeling well these days. Blame it on the inconstant weather.

Third Sunday in Ordinary Time: Face the Lord!!!

We begin our reflection of the readings of this Third Sunday in ordinary with these words of the First Reading, taken from the Prophet Isaiah:
The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light
a light has dawned on those who live in the land of the shadow of death
We would remember Isaiah as the prophet who was among our companions when we made our preparations for the Christmas feast but a few weeks ago, the prophet who pointed out the promised Messiah who is to come. With this text we focus our eyes once again upon the figure of the Lord, who has come as the light to the Gentiles, the Light of the world who has come among us to cast away the darkness brought about by sin. He is the light that has dawned upon the people who have lived in the land of the shadow of death. We are reminded of this image of the Jesus of Nazaret as the Light especially as we see him begin his preaching throughout the country of Judea and Galilee, as he begins his hectic years of public ministry, years which would abound with his preaching and with the wonders that he would wrought among the people. The message that he preached is neatly summarized in the words that we hear in today's Gospel:
"Change your ways: the Kingdom of Heaven is near!
 These words are at the core of the Good News, and illustrate what Jesus Christ means for man with respect to God: in Christ man encounters his reconciliation with God. This is the work of reconciliation for which the Son of God came, that the abyss which once stood between God and man due to the latter's free decision to stray away from his creator has now been breached. This ministry of reconciliation Jesus would later entrust to His Apostles (St. Paul would later write to the Romans that his was the ministry of reconciliation as the work of an apostle), and this in our days is continued by the Church. This work of reconciliation brings us to consider therefore a necessary component of our lives as followers of the Lord, that of conversion.

Conversion is a word which actually means to "turn around" in Latin. This precisely indicates what we are called to do continually in our lives as Christians. By sin we have voluntarily stepped away from God, we have turned our backs on him and the light of his face. By converting ourselves time and again we turn back to God and allow ourselves to face God once again, and to allow our faces be illumined by the light of his face. In responding to the constant call of conversion we step back time and again into the light, leaving the darkness which is caused by our sins, and we step right into where God is.

It is in turning back to God and stepping right about to face him is what the Kingdom of God --Heaven--is all about. Heaven is wherever God is. That is why Jesus makes this announcement of the coming of the Kingdom, a Kingdom whose condition is precisely the conversion of the heart back to God (metanoia, a change of heart). To be able to enter into that promised Kingdom, it is precise to turn back to God in order that God may be able to enter into us, so that the seeds of His Kingdom may be planted and grow sturdy in us. 

This Sunday we are being reminded of something which is basic to our Christian life of discipleship: the fact that we are always invited to respond to the constant invitation to face the Lord.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

I sat this morning listening to confessions for nearly three hours. As I listened to the confession, my mind wandered and I asked myself what I could have been doing had I not been here sitting for confessions: perhaps reading the newspaper, adding new entries for this blog, eating, cleaning my car, relaxing. But then I realized: should I be doing anything else except that which I have been sent to do? What should a priest be doing, except that which a priest should normally do (and that includes listening to people's confessions, celebrating the Mass, teaching catechisms or giving doctrinal classes, which is what catechism classes are usually called nowadays)...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Humility in asking for pardon

What makes it so hard to go down on one's knees (whether literally or figuratively) in order to ask for forgiveness, and mean it sincerely, is that you need to bring down your whole universe down along with you, and place it at the mercy at the one from whom you are asking pardon from. When you do this, you begin to actually feel the added weight not only of your offenses, but also that of the universe which you call yours. What makes it arduous at times is the uncertainty of whether that act of humility would be accepted or not. I am referring of course to human forgiveness. For God this would be enough, seen in His Goodness and Mercy. We men tend to complicate things a bit (if not way too much). 

Pretty much another thing which shows that this world and this life is valley of tears. 

Wednesday, January 19, 2011


The measure of a man

What does it mean to be a man? basically, from the little that we’ve had, we could come up with the reality that that which especially distinguishes man from woman is the fact that he can he can be husband and father. A woman is a person, and everything predicated of a person could be said of her, but she could never be thought of as a father and a husband. The measure of manliness therefore, is that the male person is capable of assuming this responsibility in society. Basically, this points to his capacity in assuming responsibility, in his being able to be committed, in the capacity to give his word and to stand by it, which in other words is fidelity. His manhood is also seen in his capacity for paternity, to be a father.

I may seem to make it sound so easy here, but another added point for consideration that I wish to make is the fact that assuming the manly responsibility of becoming a husband and a father requires a strong set of moral shoulder and grit. Suffice it to say that it takes a man to be a husband and a father.

This is to be said of any man. These two realities are profoundly related to each other. What’s more, these roles –spouse and father—are descriptive of the roles for which men—males—were created. God made men to be fathers. He called men to be fathers, and our hearts are restless till we rest in the role for which we were created, body and soul, and for which we were called by God and His Church.[1]

Masculinity and priestly character

            As the man, so the priest. A man like any other, even the priest has this calling to be both spouse and father, but in accordance with the plan of the God in manifested in his life, this is fulfilled in a real, albeit different way. For his espousal to the Church which he serves is real, as real as his configuration to the person of Christ, in whose image he acts and in whose name and authority he speaks. There are other kinds of paternity, and biological paternity is just one of them. The priest is a real father; he begets real children, though of course this paternity is of a spiritual nature(it would have been scandalous were to be otherwise). Genuit filios et filias was how St. Josemaria Escriva would have it when he began to think of what to place on his tombstone when his time came; in the end his children in Opus Dei decided to place a more fitting (and concise) epitaph: El Padre (The Father). This wasn’t due to any sentimentality people may have had for the founder of Opus Dei: it was because precisely of what and who he was. 

In the seminary aspirants to the priesthood are being formed to prepare for this priestly life, this life of both spouse and father. A basis for this formation is that he is male and normally so. This may sound strange and contradictory (but then life is full of paradox and contradictions, ain’t it?), but one sure sign of priestly vocation is not an aversion to marriage and fatherhood (one who manifests that should be sent out immediately), but quite the opposite: that he appreciate it and even be attracted to it, but that in the long run, he be able to realize that he is called to fulfill it in a more special way, according to the priestly nature of his calling. If a seminarian does not have a deep desire to get married and have children, he might need to rethink his vocation, for these are the natural and healthy manly desires of the heart. He needs to recognize that; in actuality, the priest truly is a married man and a father[2].

As the priest stands "in persona Christi," he is called to embrace the Bride of Christ, the Church, as his own spouse. A great danger is for the priest to fall into a “bachelor mentality,” which can become a selfish, disembodied and non-relational life.

Instead, if he sees himself in a permanent commitment to the people of God, his life of sacrifice will have great meaning as he lives the nuptial imagery of Ephesians 5:25, “Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church and laid down his life for her.”

[1] Hahn, 23.
[2] Toups

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


It's been raining for some weeks now,and the skies haven't made known their intention of stopping. reports of floods not only around the country but also around the world are getting alarming and people begin to wonder whether the 2012 predictions are true after all. At least this was one musing that I saw in Facebook this morning. Take a look at this piece of news from today:
‘Strange weather’ –PAGASA
By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:12:00 01/18/2011

MANILA, Philippines—Provinces that are supposed to be dry this time of the year are experiencing heavy rains, another effect of the La Niña phenomenon in the Philippines, a weather official said Monday.
The weather has been acting so “strange” since the country entered the La Niña period that it changes almost every hour, said Graciano Yumul Jr., officer in charge of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
PAGASA also observed that provinces that are not usually affected by the cold front and the northeast monsoon, which bring rains, have been affected by these weather systems this year.
“This is really strange weather … There is just a lot of water,” Yumul said in a phone interview.
Palawan and Western Visayas are supposed to be dry during this month, Yumul said. But there were reports that parts of these regions—like Narra in Palawan; the cities of Talisay and Bacolod in Negros Occidental; and Iloilo City—were getting rains and flash floods, he added.
Palawan had been under heavy rains since last December, according to Yumul. Western Visayas has received light rains at the start of the year, but since last week, the precipitation has not abated, but even intensified, he said.
The cloud band from the cold front is expected to stay over Western Visayas until the middle of this week. These regions will experience rains until March, Yumul said.
Swift change
The changes in weather patterns have been swift, the PAGASA chief said. “Monitoring cannot be done daily anymore. What is true now may not be true in an hour,” Yumul said.
Manila, for instance, was only supposed to experience a “drizzle” last weekend. But in a matter of hours, the northeast monsoon moved upward, allowing the tail end of the cold front to hover above the city, bringing moderate rains, he said.
Contrary to forecast
In contrast, Mindanao was relatively clear last weekend, contrary to the forecast, Yumul said.
Weathermen announced that the Philippines entered the La Niña period last October. The phenomenon, the opposite of El Niño, occurs when the surface temperature in the Pacific Ocean gets colder. El Niño refers to the increase in the temperature in the oceans.
In the Western Pacific, the La Niña phenomenon results in stronger storms and heavier rains.
Weather officials said La Niña would continue until May. It is also expected to bring stronger and frequent storms in the country this year.
Since last December, parts of the country have been getting more heavy rains than usual. The eastern seaboard, particularly the Bicol region and the Samar-Leyte provinces, has been saturated by rainfall, PAGASA said.
Country cloudy
In a weather advisory issued Monday morning, PAGASA said the entire country would be affected by the northeast monsoon and the cold front in the next 24 hours.
“The combined effect of northeast monsoon and tail end of a cold front over the whole country will bring mostly cloudy skies with light rains over northern and central Luzon,” PAGASA said.
“Moreover scattered to widespread rains over southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao, particularly in Palawan, Bicol region, Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao may trigger flash floods and landslides,” it added.
 It's not only flooding in Brazil or in the desert (I haven't checked on that one yet), but even here in the seminary. There have been no casualties so far, other than the usual groundwork schedule of the seminarians:

The water level almost reaches the covered walk.

The covered walk soon to be a walk covered with water.

The College Building and the causeway leading to it (which has lately become a bridge)
kahit na malakas ang ulan, masarap pa rin ang kain namin.

  And for those who say that the world is ending very soon, this is what I'm going to say:

cause it ain't yet the end of the world.....


These days (and months) of Palo as a vacant see, I am made painfully aware of our being fatherless in the Archdiocese as of the moment every time I celebrate the Mass and come upon these words:

Lord, remember your Church throughout the world
make us grow in love, 
together with Benedict our Pope, N. our bishop
and all the clergy

May it not take long for the Holy Father to appoint another pastor for the whole Archdiocese, one who is worthy and who would be a father to us all, both priests and laity. 

And by the way, yesterday the Archdiocesan Consultors elected  Msgr.Jaime Villanueva, parish priest of Burauen and Vicar General under Archbishop Palma, as Archdiocesan Administrator, who will fold the Archdiocese in safekeeping until the arrival of the new Archbishop. No offense intended, Mons, but may you not stay long, since you vacating the post means the Archbishop has come!

Lord, grant your Church in Palo a worthy successor to the Apostles who will shepherd it!!!



black vestments

I usually celebrate Masses for the Dead wearing black vestments. I think black is a dignified color, and there is dignity in the sorrow of a Christian. However, I also believe that wearing black vestments do not rule out the message of the resurrection in funeral masses, as some would opine. We look towards the morning of the resurrection, a morning that is yet to come; we are still in the darkness of this world, that is why black is significative, more suitable for funerals than violet and white (though I also wear them in funerals, but only during Easter season) Violet is used for mourning, however it is also used as a color for penitence. Black is the only color exclusively used for the dead. 

"But isn't black a little too morbid?" someone may ask.
 To which I reply, "DUH?"  What could be more morbid than death?

Nowadays many people prefer to touch on the topic of death with pincers and gloves; they prefer to have a palliative view  of it rather than look at it straight in the eye. Perhaps one reason why so many people are afraid to live for real these days is because they are afraid of death. As I have always believed, though it is true that death could be thought of as the end of life, its termination, its antithesis, its opposite, nevertheless our faith in Christ risen and victorious allows us to realize that death is a part of life, a passage, a threshold to a new life, an invitation to a reunion of a definitive kind, something to celebrate. That's why the Catholic liturgy sees it as a celebration based upon the hope of eternal life. The Catholic Faith teaches us not to have any fear of death, but allows us to see it in its grandeur, its beauty, it tragedy, and not only that, but as also as a promise, a budding to new life.

This is the reason why, though as of now many priests do not appreciate the use of black in funerals for fear of stepping upon modern-day sensibilities fearful of death, I prefer to wear black in funerals over which I preside, because for a Catholic, even black is a color of hope.

Monday, January 17, 2011


(This is the first part of a conference given by me to the seminarians on my weekly Prefect's Conference)

Ask people what they think about who the priest is and undoubtedly you would get responses like: Man of God, Man of the Cloth, a man for others (this one comes from John Paul II), man of prayer, etcetera. Many things could be said of the priest, but in rounding all of these definitions and descriptions of who the priest is, whether in himself or for others, the first and most basic thing that we could get is that the priest must necessarily first be a man. This is something so evident that nobody gives as much as a second glance. Yet, that the priest be a man is very important, if the priest is to be what the Church needs him to be what he is: the one who continues the mission and action of Jesus Christ in the world and in these times, the one who acts and talks in the very person of her Spouse. Masculinity, manhood, being essentially male and human is very much an important part in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, in which every Catholic priest through the ages has shared.

Let us take this ponderance within the context of seminary formation. The priest is a man, and he must be man enough if he is to incarnate the Christ who not only is the Savior of the world but is also the Spouse of the Church, and who continues to act and save in her and through her. Only men could be called to the priesthood, and it takes a real man, with all that this supposes, to be able to assume the heavy responsibility of the priesthood. Suffice it to say that the seminary is not only training in the ways of the priesthood, formation in the supernatural virtues, in parish administration, or in philosophical and theological concepts. Among other things, it is also supposedly meant to be a formation which allows for growth in masculinity. An appreciation for what authentic Christian masculinity is a hallmark of seminary formation. Alongside other virtues, the seminary must be a place in which formable young men grow up into men, real and mature men, capable of taking up the responsibilities that would be thrust upon their shoulders the moment they are ordained. Otherwise, we would be remiss in our duty as formators, and we would be giving the world a new generation of problematic priests, who would go out into the world, not to spread the Good News of salvation, but generate more scandals in the Church. 

Crisis in Masculinity

But what exactly do we mean by masculinity? What does it take to be a man, especially in light of priestly vocation and ministry? The dictionary refers to the term as manly character, the quality or condition of being masculine; something traditionally considered to be characteristic of a male. These may be clear-cut definitions, but they don’t make things any clearer for us, do they? We would be able more to define and identify it by what we see and perceive in human interaction.

The media has done a lot in shaping our own perception of the world and ourselves. With concern to our topic, it has done its own share of defining what masculinity is. In this part however, the problem is not defining masculinity, rather, it is in determining whether that which it projects before us about masculinity is authentic or its mere stereotype.

Masculine stereotypes abound in society, and the media plays no small role in propagating them. Scott Hahn, in his book about the catholic priesthood entitled Many Are Called, observes that all the popular media, in fact, draw from certain stereotypes when they want to convey masculinity. Instead of the real deal, they give us machismo, which is a caricature of masculinity.

They show us men who are sexually promiscuous, physically aggressive, and ostentatiously wealthy. They would have us believe that the measure of manhood is to be found in a guy’s bedroom and backseat exploits, his fistfights (sublimated, perhaps, into competitive sports) or his prodigal spending. The stereotypes would have us believe that the Y chromosome –maleness—will remain unfulfilled as long as any of these things are lacking.[1]

This could be very much observable in our society and in our culture. In many instances, pagpakalalake may mean to be aggressive, be given much to drink and game, be very athletic, be popular with the girls (and even be unfaithful in one’s relationships), to do “guy” things with one’s circle of male friends(whatever that means). One perception of this brand of masculinity may be seen in the lyrics of Beyonce’s hit song If I Were A Boy (at least from a girl’s perspective).  Being a man means being able to do what I want, without even paying the consequences; it means chasing after girls, being able to lie as I wish, to make the rules as I go, to be able to take things for granted.

However, as I have said, these are stereotypes, and they are believable. Many times, however, their credibility resides precisely in the fact that they are stereotypes, counterfeits, and caricatures. All such falsehoods depend upon a basis of truth, which they oversimplify, distort or exaggerate[2].

It is quite evident that nowadays we are witnessing a crisis in masculinity, not only in the manner of understanding it. This crisis is perceived not only in how the media portrays it, but even in how it is perceived and observed in society and culture. This is immediately felt with regards to the priesthood, which holds the very concept of masculinity in its very core. This is what Fr. David Toups, the associate director of the Secretariat of Clergy, Consecrated Life and Vocations of the U.S. episcopal conference, author of a book entitled "Reclaiming Our Priestly Character”, said in an interview which he gave to Zenit on March 18, 2008, entitled Priestly Identity: Crisis and Renewal. He believes that there is a crisis of authentic masculinity in the world

There is a crisis of commitment, fidelity and fatherhood all rooted in men not living up to their call to be “real men” -- men who model their lives on Christ, who lay down their lives out of love, and who learn what it is to be a father from our Father in heaven.

So in the context of the priesthood, which flows out of society, there is a particular challenge to help men grow in manly virtue. The priesthood is not for the faint of heart, but for men who are up to the challenge of living as Christ in laying down their life on a daily basis.[3]

            Fr. Toups places a correlation with the crisis of masculinity with a crisis of that which is becoming of a man: commitment, fidelity, and lastly, fatherhood. Man as someone who could come up with a commitment and be faithful to it, a spousal commitment; as someone who could face the demands and responsibilities of fatherhood. These are things which would be expected of any grown man. I say this because another part of the crisis of masculinity is the fact that many men refuse to grow up, and continue to act and present themselves in society and real life as if they never left adolescence. In the Catholic blogosphere it took a woman blogger to express this in an entry. The Crescat has been known for her refreshing insights both as a catholic and as a woman. In one of her entries she expressed her exasperation concerning where all the real men had gone:

….it's as if they vanished over night leaving nothing but the stench of Hollister and Axe body spray to linger where they once stood.

Never before in my entire life has it been so hard to distinguish between a heterosexual male and a homosexual one. Boys, I call them boys because "men" does not apply, in their mid to late twenties are the strangest breed of effeminate creatures I have every seen. I certainly do not envy young ladies ten years my junior trying to find suitable mates. Not only do they have to decipher whether a man fancies them or not, they now also have to figure if the gentleman even fancies women at all.

At my age I am on the tail end of this gender blurring trend; however, to say I am completely immune would be an inaccuracy. Men in their early thirties, in attempts delay adulthood, have picked up on this trend... the castrated hipster in skinny jeans with the Beiber haircut. I'm not just referring to fashion trends but to the complete and total disappearance of manly demeanor and characteristics.[4]

            Reading her rant would have made guessing at the correlation between this crisis and the upsurge of homosexual subculture. It’s not so distant.

[1] Scott Hahn, Many Are Called, p. 20.
[2] Ibid, 22
[3] Toups
[4] Crescat